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Chapter 24 : Of survival and solace
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Dom and Toni eventually went back to Hogwarts after a few hours, once the Healers had announced that Nicky was in a coma and they had no idea if or when she would wake up. McGonagall had stayed with Fred, Hayley and James as they told their tale of woe and she sat listening with pursed lips. The three knew they were in deep shit. But it meant nothing compared to how much they were punishing themselves. Josh had sat by Nicky’s side as soon as the Healers had let him in. He had cried a lot, but then they all had. McGonagall had eventually announced that as the incident hadn’t taken place at Hogwarts, it was beyond her jurisdiction. She did however, give Fred and she quoted: “As much detention as it was possible to give someone” for his little stunt with the Veritaserum. James and Hayley were clear in terms of Hogwarts, but it was clear they weren’t exactly getting off scot-free. After all, their parents would arrive as soon as they could and that would be when the shit really started to fly. But the truth was nothing anybody did could change what had happened and nobody could even come close to punishing James and Hayley as hard as they were punishing themselves.
Fred’s parents turned up a little after 2pm. George was very quiet but understanding, knowing that his son’s stunt was stupid but well intentioned and nothing worse than some stupid things he had tried to do. Angelina however, let rip, screaming herself hoarse at her terrified son. Fred returned to Hogwarts with McGonagall but James, Hayley and Josh weren’t budging. Nicky’s parents had sat by her bed with Josh until his parents also turned up and said very little, before he too returned to Hogwarts. Nicky’s mum and dad had said very little to James and Hayley, who had sat together in the waiting room, neither of them daring to enter the room for fear of what they might see. Neither of them were able to find sleep either, they were simply sat, cuddled together, holding each other gently because in truth, it was the only way they could feel safe. They didn’t speak to each other either, merely exchanging the odd glance before holding each other tighter for a few seconds.
They sat there for the whole afternoon and then evening, and it was near midnight when their parents finally arrived, together as always. James had never been scared of Amy or James Black-Hunt but he could see that for once in her life, Hayley was. James however, was scared of Ginny Potter and she was not looking like a fantastic prospect right now. Fortunately for James, his father reached him first and pulled him onto his feet, into a light hug. James let tears fall onto his father’s shoulder as Amy reached Hayley.
“What the bloody hell were you thinking?”
The voice could have been either of their mothers, or in truth, anyone’s. The fact of the matter was, they had been asking themselves the same question for months, but so much more in the past day. The next hour or so passed in a blur for James and Hayley. Their mothers shouted themselves hoarse, bouncing suitable punishments off each other with their fathers occasionally adding a helpful comment which would earn them a glare from their respective wives. Eventually, Ginny and Amy wore themselves out and then just slumped. Hayley looked at James. James looked at Hayley.
“Look Ginny,” Harry said gently, for the first time making sense to her. “What’s done is done, both of them are clearly intelligent enough to realise what they’ve done. The truth is, they’ve been punishing themselves for the last day or so, and will no doubt have been imagining ways to help poor Nicky ever since they first made that stupid curse. But they can’t change it now, and no punishment we give them can do anything to them anymore.”
“He’s right,” Amy sighed. “Young lady, I know you better than anyone and I know you never meant to cause this. But cause it you did. You are grounded for ever. And ever. And I think all of us agree when we say that as far as we know, you two can have no contact with each other at all. Easter, Summer, none. Obviously we can’t stop you at Hogwarts but while you are under our roofs, there will absolutely no contact between you. No owls, no Patronuses, nothing.”
It was a blow they had both been expecting, but one that hit them like a freight train. James’ instant reaction was to grab Hayley and pull her away from her parents, as if the minimal distance between them would somehow rescue her from their presence.
“I know,” she whispered as he clung to her, almost daring his parents to drag him off with a vicious glare that stated his intentions clearly. “But we’ve got Hogwarts, we can last the few weeks we can’t see each other.”
“The last summer I spent without you almost killed me!” James growled. “And this one is what? Ten weeks? What am I supposed to do without you?”
“You’ll find a way Trouble-Maker,” Hayley smiled. “But we’ve got another few weeks with each other yet, til Easter at any rate. That damned Banquet hardly seems worth it anymore.”
“Nope,” James replied sourly.
Their parents had left shortly after but they had stayed, more engaged in each other’s company than ever before. At around 2am, they were approached by a young healer, who informed them that the majority of the healers around were heartless and pissed off but that she felt for the young couple and after feeding them up with some free chocolate and tea, she found them a bed each to sleep in. They lay in one together, finding some sort of solace in each other’s warmth, but not saying a word and definitely not sleeping. The next morning, they were woken by another, older healer who explained that the Unbreakable Vow hadn’t killed Nicky because it had been performed ineffectually, presumably with someone else’s wand. Hayley cast her mind back to that night and confirmed these suspicions by stating that she had used James’ wand to cast the spell, not her own.
That morning was again spent the same previous one, with sitting and waiting. By noon, a different healer advised them to go back to Hogwarts, it could be weeks, or even months before Nicky woke up, assuming she ever woke up and them waiting there could do nothing about it. Armed with the knowledge that they were powerless, James and Hayley finally went in to see Nicky. She looked like a wreck, still giving the outside appearance that she was a boy, although Hayley’s various enchantments to conceal her body had now gone. Her parents said nothing as James and Hayley said a teary goodbye to their friend and finally returned to Hogwarts. The return to the castle did little to change either of their moods. Most of the other people in the school were in lessons, so they went up to James’ dorm and tried in vain to sleep on his bed, still unable to leave each other’s side.
“You guys can’t sleep either?” Fred quizzed in a quiet voice as they came down to the common room later that evening. “None of us can.”
“This was all our fault,” Josh said hoarsely. “We did that to her.”
“Yep,” James said bluntly and they all exchanged a look. Toni had her head on Fred’s lap and Hayley rested herself on James as the three boys played a game of Exploding Snap. Rose, Lily and a couple of others came over to offer their condolences but most people were too shocked to say anything to them. Whilst the details of what had happened were unclear to most of the castle, the group had lost a friend and caused it themselves, that much everyone knew. As the evening passed, more and more people came over to wish the group luck and say nice things about Nicky. All their words of comfort meant nothing.
“What’s happening with you and Dom?” James asked quietly, directing his question at Josh as he dealt another hand.
“I don’t know mate,” Josh replied equally quiet, shooting the blonde a glance as he did so. She was sat in the corner of the room with Rose, as deathly quiet as everyone else. “I spent so long with Nicky and I think Dom realises how much I care for her. I think I realised how much I care for her. If Dom and I aren’t already over, I’m going to make it clear to her it is.”
“I think she knows,” Hayley said, even quieter than the boys if that was possible. “Every girl knows.”
It was as if a drunken stupor hung over the group for what seemed like an eternity. In reality, it was only several weeks, but time really had stood still for that time. It was March by the time they were finally able to see the light at the end of the tunnel but even then it seemed like every day was a chore. Fred hadn’t spoken to anyone since that first evening, keeping to himself, shutting out even Toni as the pair spent less and less time together. Toni tried herself to hold it together but she couldn’t, Fred was so single-minded in his determination to be alone. As a result, Toni spent a lot of time with Josh, the pair often visiting Nicky, although they had no desire to dwell on it and wanted to move on. This was easier said than done. James and Hayley were back to spending almost every second together, their parents threats of separation fresh in their ears.
Dominique was devastated by what had happened, taking the hit almost as badly as the others. She couldn’t help but feel personally responsible for what had happened, telling Rose that her actions around Josh had driven Fred to make his mistakes, as well as creating the barrier between Josh and Nicky in the first place. Nobody else even considered blaming Dom, she had no idea what was happening, but she felt responsible nevertheless. It was safe to say, she had stayed well away from Josh in the weeks following, confirming any lingering suspicions that there was no hope of them staying together.
“Are you alright James?”
James looked up from the letter he had been reading. Hayley was sat opposite, her eyes rimmed with red and her makeup stained. She’d been crying again, that much was clear to James but he didn’t comment, they’d made an unspoken agreement not to mention their tears anymore. The letter itself was of more consequence.
“Teddy wants me to be his best man,” James replied, a smile playing on his lips. “It’s hard to believe he’s finally going to be married to Victoire, it seems we’ve been predicting it for years.”
“They were made for each other,” Hayley agreed. “They’re like soul mates.”
“Do you think we both have soul mates?” James asked. The butterflies he had been feeling around Hayley were only aggravated by the time they had spent together recently, especially as almost every other feeling had gone numb.
“What do you mean James?” Hayley asked, sitting beside him as he looked at his letter.
“I mean do you think we have soul mates out there somewhere? Or somewhere nearer?”
“I think that you’re my best friend but I hardly think we are Teddy and Victoire,” Hayley replied, raising an eyebrow. “If that’s what you meant.”
“No!” James replied hastily. “God no! You’re like a sister to me! A sister it’s okay to snuggle in bed with because there’s no chance anything could happen and stuff like that.”
Hayley shot James a peculiar look. It was questioning yet understanding, caring yet deeply troubled. James smiled nervously, knowing he had fucked up. Hayley knew him better than anyone and could read him like a book. But surely even she couldn’t know how he was feeling could she?
“You’re being weird Potter,” she said eventually. “I’m not sure I like it.”
“Sorry,” James chuckled. “All this talk of weddings is making me fucking sentimental. You’re invited to be a bridesmaid by the way. Victoire loves her bridesmaids, you, Lily, Rose, Dom, you all get to wear the same dress.”
“Fantastic,” Hayley replied, her voice laced with sarcasm. “I’ve always to be a bridesmaid. If it was anyone other than Teddy…”
“Yeah I know,” James laughed. “You’d tell them where to shove it. I’d let you be my bridesmaid but you need to be my best man.”
“Fred will be devastated,” Hayley giggled, punching James on the arm as he laughed with her.
“He’ll get over it,” James smiled, realising that for the first time in weeks, he was genuinely happy.
“Are you alright Albus?” Scorpius called, popping his head through the tent entrance. Albus nodded, smiling wearily. He put the finishing touches on his letter to home, and then stepped out into the bleeding evening sun.
“Gorgeous view,” Al commented, staring out over the mountain top. “Good choice Scorp, you win this round. Tomorrow, I truly have a treat lined up for us. I’m thinking Egypt, relaxing on the River Nile, with a terrific view of the pyramids, what do you think?”
Scorpius smiled knowingly and agreed with the raven haired boy. It may have been Scorp’s idea to leave home but the novelty was starting to run thin. He wanted to get home, not because there was anyone there he missed, just because he missed having somewhere that wasn’t a tent to stay.
“We can’t run forever Al,” he replied wisely, indicating to the letter in Al’s hand. “You must have realised that by now, otherwise you wouldn’t be owling home. There’s only so long we can keep doing this, then we’ll have to face the music.”
“What music?” Albus replied. “I’m just fine doing this. If you need to Scorp, we can go and stay in a proper hotel, have a bed to sleep on. I know a great place.”
“I want to settle down Al,” Scorpius replied exasperatedly. “Meet a girl, start a family. And running around the world with you… it’s great but I want to take it slower. Stay places for weeks on end, bleed them dry before moving on. At the moment, it feels like we’re on the run. And before you say anything, I know we are sort of on the run, but it shouldn’t feel like we are, you know what I mean?”
Albus nodded appreciatively. He smiled and then grabbed Scorpius’ arm. “Egypt it is,” he said cheerfully. “And this time, we’ll stay until we get sick of watching Egyptian women in bikinis!”
“We’ll be there a while,” Scorpius muttered as Al handed the letter to the owl he had recently acquired then apparated off into the air.
Dear Mum and Dad, and I suppose Lily and James too, if you’re there.
I’m sorry I ran off, but Scorp and I are having the time of our lives. We’ve seen things ordinary muggles and even wizards can scarcely dream of. We haven’t been fighting dragons or anything, but we’re determined to visit every country in the world and soak up its unique atmosphere. So basically, I don’t regret running away, and I’m not planning to return any time soon. But that doesn’t mean I don’t love you all, you are my family and I care dearly for you all, I think about you every day. But these past months, I’ve been free and I never want this feeling to end. Scorpius is getting restless though, I can tell he needs a proper bed and a stunning chick to cheer him up. I’m sure James can appreciate that. Love you all so much. Al.
Just reading the letter brought a tear to Ginny’s eye and she threw it down, looking at Harry.
“I know,” he said quietly. “We might have lost Al to the world, but James and Lily are still here Gin. And we still have three children, even if at times it feels like we have two. Al will come back, he’ll be fine, you know it. You know him. He always was too restless for his own good.”
“I always thought…and now with James…”
“James is a good kid,” Harry reassured her. “He just made a mistake or two along the way. But he’s learning. His grades have always been good, he has good friends, a good heart, and the brain of a wicked prankster. He might be trouble, but he’s never showed any signs of going off the rails. I have faith in him, so should you.” Ginny nodded. Harry smiled and hugged her. “And I think we were a bit harsh about him and Hayley,” Harry added. “She’s his best friend, they have a real connection, it just seems so unfair to break them apart, especially when she’s such a good influence on him.” This earned him an incredulous look. “Well she’s not exactly a negative influence. What happened didn’t happen because of her, or because they were together, it happened because they’re young and made a mistake.”
“I don’t blame her,” Ginny replied. “They just always seem to be in trouble together.”
“That’s because they’re always together,” Harry laughed. “The trouble bit comes from being a Potter, we only have ourselves to blame for that.”
At this, Ginny could only smile.
A/N: Well Nicky's not dead! Surprise! Sorry, bit of a moment there xD Hope you enjoyed this chapter, please please review :) HP
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