Chapter 11 : Shattered
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“Because . . . everything’s more intense when you have a time limit.”
“Wh . . . what?” Albus asked, his face pale and worry etched into his every pore. But James had slid down the door frame, his eyes blank once more. He was shaking his head, as if he was trying to convince himself he hadn’t done something. Charlie let out a silent gasp . . . had he given his life to save hers? He wouldn’t . . . James would never do something as stupid as that. Charlie knew that much about James. Or she thought she did . . . it turned out she didn’t really know him at all, so who knew what James would do? (In short, she was confused)
“James . . . what did you do?” His father asked slowly. James just shook his head, before putting it between his knees. Albus, Lily, and Harry rushed to his side. James was coughing again.
“No . . .” Lily whispered, kneeling beside her brother. His father rubbed his back as he hacked and hacked. When it was finally over, his lips glistened with a red substance. Blood.
“I wasn’t lying,” James said, looking Albus in the eye. “You need Charlie, but you can get on without me.”
“That’s not true, James!” Albus exclaimed, while Lily just stood there, as empty as James. “We need both of you!”
“But if it came down to it, you would need Charlie more,” he persisted.
“You’re my brother! Of course I need you!” Albus exclaimed, but he looked so much smaller than Charlie ever remembered. She couldn’t believe what was happening; everything was so much simpler before the coma.
“NO YOU DON’T! STOP LYING!” Charlie thought James would put his hands over his ears and start rocking back and forth, that’s how unstable he sounded.
“It’s the truth, James!” Louis said exasperatedly, while Laurel laughed at James. Charlie shot her a glare for her new levels of extreme insensitivity, before turning to Louis. He was always so quiet . . . especially today.
“If you don’t stop this the healer will remove you from the ward,” Teddy warned him, and James shot him a glare, but calmed down.
“How long?” Fred croaked. That was his best mate and cousin sitting there, telling everyone he was dying.
“Two weeks. I made an exchange; I drank the poison, undiluted, unlike the one the guy controlling Montague slipped into Char’s cold potion. After I drank it, he gave me the antidote. I could choose to save myself, or save Charlie. I made my choice,” James said, looking at everyone. Harry Potter looked like someone had told him Voldemort had returned. His eyes found Charlie’s. How could Charlie hate him after that? He was exhausted. Suddenly everyone gasped; James’s face had changed. It was as if a spell had disappeared; the dark circles under his eyes had darkened and intensified a hundred times over. He didn’t notice this, but everyone else did.
“James?” Lily asked, petrified. “What-” But she was cut off by her brother, as James’s face paled further.
“I know what’s going on. His concealment charm has disappeared. James is an-” James looked frantically at Teddy, at everyone.
“It’s not true! I-” James defended himself, but his eyes were filled with fear. Charlie could understand why; yet another thing wrong with him. Yet another thing everyone knew about. Another weakness. To think he had looked so perfect the last time she had seen him; now he was literally falling apart before Charlie’s eyes.
“James-” Teddy started, but was cut off by his godfather.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL ANYONE?” Harry roared, his anger finally breaking. “THERE’S A REASON WHY YOU SEE TEDDY EVERY WEEK! THIS ISN’T HEALTHY!” Charlie had never seen Harry so furious.
“WHY DO YOU THINK?” James shouted back.
“YOU KNOW THAT THIS ISN’T RIGHT! YOU KNOW IT’S NOT HEALTHY! WHY DIDN’T YOU FIX IT? WHY DIDN’T YOU TELL TEDDY! THAT’S WHY HE’S YOUR-” He replied quietly, but James cut him off before his father could say the word James would never accept.
“BECAUSE WHAT NORMAL PERSON WOULD? ALL THAT WOULD HAPPEN IS THAT THEY’D BE SENT TO THE LOONY-”
“YOU’RE NOT CRAZY, JAMES! YOU COULD HAVE TOLD SOMEONE! YOU COULD HAVE TOLD ME!” The hurt was now evident in Harry Potter’s eyes. His son was breaking, shattering into tiny pieces, and there was nothing he could do.
“You need to calm down, mate,” Professor Longbottom told his friend. “Go floo Ginny. I’ll stay here with them.”
“We could try to recreate the antidote,” the Healer fumbled nervously, but James shook his head.
“This batch is too strong for that antidote now. If I had taken the antidote the within the hour of the poison, it would have worked. Not now,” James shot that idea down as his father left the room.
“Teddy?” James asked wearily, knowing his therapist would have something to say.
“You really aren’t good with feelings or general conversation, are you?” was Teddy’s dry reply.
“Nope,” James said slowly, popping the ‘p’ and his face finding a faint smile, if only for a second.
“He’s right, you know,” Teddy started, trying to gauge James’s reaction.
“It doesn’t matter. You can’t fix me; I have two weeks,” James said coldly.
“No, Teddy. It’s over.” Teddy looked to Professor Longbottom, who just sighed. He and Teddy left, leaving an awkward silence. Then it was filled with shuffling and moving; everyone watching both James and Charlie. Austin struck up a conversation with Charlie, and everyone but James, Albus, Lily, Louis, and Fred jumped in immediately. It was meaningless; mainly comprised of people asking how she was. The Potters and Weasleys just sat there; James determinedly looking at no one, Albus and Lily trying to catch his eye. Finally Lily spoke.
“James?” she asked quietly. It was so silent Charlie almost didn’t hear it, but James’s head turned around as if someone had announced Voldemort had returned. When he saw her face, his eyes became unreadable. “I don’t want you to die.” James was unresponsive verbally, but his eyes swirled with worry, guilt, and pure love for his little sister. Charlie would have taken a picture; it was the most emotion she had ever seen out of James. It was as if his hazel eyes were a potion, constantly being stirred with new emotions brought on by his baby sister.
“Come here,” he said, and Lily sat next him. Then James hugged her, and Lily broke down. It was raw emotion, and her brothers surrounded her, trying to shield her from the truth.
“It seems that the charms are doing their work. I can now take off the Silencing Charm, but please don’t stress yourself,” The healer announced, trying to ignore the emotional scene going on around him.
So now Charlie could speak, but she hadn’t a clue what to say. Everyone stared at her, James included. His gaze was harsh, as if he was daring her to say something cruel.
“Why would you do that? The truth, not all this dragon dung about not being needed,” she ended up with.
“Why do you want to know?” James shot back. He couldn’t tell her. He just couldn’t.
“I think I have a right to deflect, don’t you?”
“James-” Albus warned cautiously.
“No. The first thing she says is condescending and downright mean. I save her life, yet I just can’t win with her, can I?” he said bitterly. Charlie felt the sting of that comment one hundred times over.
“I didn’t mean it like that; I just know that knowing you, you have to have a better reason. The whole ‘not being needed’ thing is too selfish. My crazy Quidditch captain was all about being a team, and I remember running laps for not playing like one. And of course the captain must represent the team,” Charlie rambled hastily. Austin laughed.
“You ran laps because you pulled dangerous stunts that could have got you killed,” James reminded her.
“Why would you care?” she shot back, smirking. James laughed bitterly.
“Albus would never forgive me if you got killed on my watch.”
“It’s more than that . . .” Charlie replied, and James’s face changed just for a second.
“It’s really not . . .” But even that sounded weak.
“No . . .” she breathed. Charlie knew that couldn’t be it. She didn’t think of him like that. She was so confused . . . she needed her best mate’s help. She grabbed Albus’s hand. At the touch, he looked surprised, worried, and annoyed at the same time. James just walked out of the room. Teddy cursed.
“I’m going after him,” he said with a twinge of annoyance, directed at Charlie. When he left Albus turned to her. Everyone else mumbled something about tea and left as well, Rose giving her a suggestive eye wink.
“He already knew that. Why did you feel the need to pour salt on the wound?” he said coldly.
“I’m sorry . . . I just don’t know what to do. I don’t fancy him, and I can’t tell him, after all that . . .” her eyes were brimming with tears.
“He’s my brother. He just gave his life for you, and you can’t give him a chance?” Charlie’s face flushed with embarrassment and anger.
“I can’t. It’s James . . . and would the lie be worth it? It’s hard enough dealing with the fact that he did that for me!” Charlie retorted immediately.
“So? James is dealing with a lot more. He knows he’s going to die, so he’s probably terrified. Everyone knows his darkest secrets, something he spent his entire life trying to hide, so James is also really embarrassed. Add that on top James knows he has to tie up every loose end he’s created in two weeks,” Al replied with his dry humor. Her best friend wasn’t taking her side.
“So why would I add one more thing he has to worry about? James is still James. He wouldn’t want me to lie to make him feel better,” Charlie shot back. Albus sighed.
“I hate it when you use logic. You’re right, James would be furious if he knew you were lying. It’s just that he’s my brother, and he’s always protected me . . . and I was talking to him before. He knew it would come down to him or you for me sometime or another. And he knew what choice he would make; he was convinced I needed you more. My brother chose to die because he thought it would make me happier with you.” Albus took a deep breath. “I’m not saying that I wish you died, but . . . I feel horrible because I know it’s true. With James there can be closure, but if you died . . . I would never have let it go. With James I can learn to accept it, because I know he’d tell me to pack it up and just live twice as hard, so I can live for him as well. With you . . . you’re my best mate, and-” Albus just kept rambling.
“Believe it or not, I know. If I had a family, especially one like yours, we would be closely knit. There’d be nothing I wouldn’t do for them. And if one suddenly died . . . it would break me.” Charlie decided she could bear to have a ‘girly’ conversation with Albus. They’d had them before.
“You do have a family; Rose, Scorpius, Laurel, Austin, Skye, Fred, Louis, Mum, Dad, Lily, James, and me. You’re family’s almost as big as the Weasleys!” Charlie laughed. She really did have a family.
“Did you grow a sense of humor while I was asleep, Allie?” she asked, while Al scoffed at the use of the horrendous nickname.
“You’d be surprised how little we laughed when you were gone. James, especially. It was like he was there . . . but he wasn’t. He wouldn’t talk, he wouldn’t eat, he wouldn’t pay attention in classes, and he didn’t even care about Quidditch. It was like he had given up. We were all worried that he’d do something stupid,” Albus replied. “It just wasn’t the same without you. Gryffindor was hollow.”
“Shut it with the flattery, mister. I may not have been playing Quidditch, but I can still pack a hex,” Charlie warned. Albus had a retort rolling off his tongue when the doors to the ward burst open.
“YOU CAN’T GO!” James yelled, his father storming in ahead of him.
“WHY NOT? HE’S GOING TO AZKABAN FOR MURDER!” Harry replied.
“WHO DID HE MURDER?” James asked.
“THEN I CHOOSE NOT TO PRESS CHARGES!”
“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND!”
“WHAT DON’T I UNDERSTAND? IT’S NOT SAFE! YOU CAN’T GO!”
“I NEED TO: HOW COME YOU DON’T CARE? YOU’RE GOING TO DIE BECAUSE OF THAT-”
“JUST PROMISE ME YOU WON’T GO!” The two continued arguing, until a red-haired lady walked into the ward, her face flushed with anger.
“WHAT IS THE MEANING OF THIS?” She screeched, and both James and Harry fell silent immediately.
“Hi, mum,” James mumbled quietly, Harry mumbling something similar.
“YOU FLOO ME AT WORK, RANTING ABOUT IT BEING URGENT, YOU TELL ME YOU’RE AT ST. MUNGO’S, AND I COME HERE TO FIND YOU BICKERING LIKE LITTLE GIRLS?” She continued her rant, her voice reaching octaves Charlie hadn’t thought possible. James then chose the perfect time to start coughing. After she heard how hard and heavy it was, her voice and face immediately softened.“What in the name of Merlin is going on? James, honey, are you all right?” James managed to nod his head through his coughs. Even when he was dying he was still trying to be tough.
“Ginny . . .” Harry started, looking incredibly grave. “Something has happened. James is . . .” But he couldn’t bring himself to say it, not in the face of his wife. “James is . . .” he tried again, but to no avail.
“That’s not funny, Albus Severus Potter. Now what happened?” Ginny Potter asked, as her daughter slipped into the ward.
“He’s not joking,” Lily said simply, standing next to her taller older brother.
“Stop this, Harry. You’re not being funny,” she denied, but her eyes looked worried. “James?” Ginny practically pleaded with her son.
“It’s not a joke,” James said simply, wiping the blood from his mouth. His mother saw and paled visibly. Charlie suddenly felt extremely awkward, and tried to get out of bed and leave, but found there was a charm that stopped her from getting out. So she was stuck in the middle of a family moment.
“No . . . it can’t be . . .” Ginny mumbled, but her eyes didn’t leak any tears. She was strong, Ginny Potter was.
“I’m sorry, Mum,” James apologized, embracing her in a hug. Until today, Charlie had never seen James Sirius Potter hug anyone and actually mean it. Today she had seen it twice.
“Don’t be sorry. It’s not your fault,” she murmured, standing taller than her son in her heels. She smoothed his hair to find it pop up again.
“Actually . . .” Albus started, and Harry coughed awkwardly.
“It is. James decided it’d be better to off himself and save Lottie here,” Lily explained, with sarcastic cheeriness.
“Charlie?” Ginny Potter asked, looking at me.
“I’m sorry!” Charlie blurted out an apology, her rant continuing long after the initial apology, the words exploding from her mouth. She had no idea what she was saying, only that she stumbled a lot.
“CHARLIE!” She shouted, cutting the girl off. “It’s not your fault. You couldn’t have known; you were in a coma. I know, Harry here was working on the case.”
“I’m sorry . . .” Charlie whispered, ashamed. If she hadn’t been so stubborn and quarreled with James in the first place, none of this would have ever happened.
“James made his own decisions. And I know someday I’ll be proud of him for it.”
“But if I hadn’t been so stubborn-”
“It’s not your fault,” Ginny reiterated, before turning to her son.
“She’s right you know,” Albus whispered in Charlie’s ear, before walking over to his family. Charlie’s heart weighed a million pounds. Harry and Ginny Potter were going to lose their son, after all they had lost in the war. Albus was going to lose his older brother, who was always there to help him. Lily was going to lose her partner in crime, but also her comforter. James was her teddy bear. He was hugging her right now, surrounded by his family.
It broke Charlie’s heart. No, it shattered it. James had given up so much for her, and all she did was argue with him. James’s family was going to lose so much, all because of her. But she knew she couldn’t possibly relate to them.
It was one thing to never have known a real family, and therefore never have seen it break, but it is an entirely different matter to watch a family shatter as they mourn a son they had to watch die.
And just like that, Charlie wasn’t so happy she’d woken up after all.
A/N: Don't kill me! Please!
Now that you're done throwing tomatoes me, I actually have something serious to say. This is one of the hardest parts of the story for me to write, and your reviews make my day. (Seriously . . . I had a horrible day and when I saw the review on a chapter I nearly cried)
Speaking of reviews, I need to mention someone. LillyLover22 had reviewed on EVERY SINGLE CHAPTER, and it really helps me. :) So thanks a million to her!
Seriously, though . . . you need to review. Help a crazy thirteen-year-old girl feel not as bad because she posted her chapter instead of writing her History speech.
Another tomatoe moment: This is my last completed chapter, so updates will once again go back to being funky, depending on school/violin/basketball/choir/the musical.
Thanks a million for reading this super long one! I have one question for you:
Who do you like better . . . James, or Charlie?
I really must do my history now, but please leave a review, dear readers. It makes me smile even when everything is falling apart) (It has happened . . . but I'll tell you later. (IF YOU REVIEW!) (Can you believe this is already chapter eleven?)(Sorry, done.)
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