A. BEWARE THE DRAMA/TEARS THIS CHAPTER HAS. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.
B. Please review? I'm begging you with puppy-dog eyes right now!
C. HP = J.K.
“Charlie!” Charlie immediately turned around. It was Rose; she was crying.
“What is it? What happened?” There was only an hour before the match. Rose just cried harder, eventually she looked at Charlie, her eyes wide with fear.
“James?” Charlie asked, not believing what she was hearing. “James is fine,” she said, but she couldn’t even convince herself.
“No,” Rose said, eyes welling with tears. “Let’s go!” Rose didn’t want to cause a scene. James was so private with his personal life; he wouldn’t want it circulating around the entire school.
“What about Lily and Albus?” Charlie said in a low voice.
“Trust me, they know. Now come on!” Rose urged, but Charlie was still full of questions.
“Where is he? What’s happened? What about the match?” she asked.
“Just come on. I’ll tell you along the way,” Rose said, and Charlie finally obliged. For a few minutes they just walked in silence, but then Charlie could take it no longer.
“What happened? Where’s James?” she asked, searching for a clue in Rose’s expression. She found nothing. Rose didn’t respond for ten seconds, leaving Charlie to believe she was ignoring her. Then, Rose answered.
“He’s at St. Mungo’s. Uncle Harry was looking for him for the match, and he was passed out on the pitch, and Uncle Harry got him here as soon as he could, but-” Rose sounded like she was hyperventilating, and was struggling to breathe.
“What, Rose?” Charlie pressed.
“They think he’s dying, Charlie!” Rose gasped out. Charlie was speechless. She was terrified for James, and her mind was filling with questions. Does he still think I hate him? We’ve gotten on better this week, but does he know? But Charlie knew this wasn’t about her and James. It was about James and James alone.
“Is he . . .” Charlie couldn’t finish her sentence. There was so much that was unsaid between her and James, and what if she never got the chance to tell him?
“I don’t know,” Rose said, looking hardened. Charlie nodded, before saying:
“Let’s go.” And both girls took off running down the corridor.
“James,” Charlie breathed, entering the the ward. Albus, Lily, Teddy, and James’s parents were already there. They all turned around, but all Charlie see was James. He was unconscious, and looked so tiny and frail, hardly disturbing the sheets. But it wasn’t a peaceful sleep, James was constantly thrashing and coughing, his mouth and face red with blood.
“Rose, Charlie,” Albus greeted, but there was nothing but pain and sorrow behind the words.
“Albus?” Charlie asked, and she could feel her eyes watering. Charlie hadn’t cried since she was ten, until The James Incident before everything, but even then it wasn’t like this. There was a weight pushing down on Charlie’s lungs; she couldn’t breathe. All she could think about was James; how he should be on the Quidditch Pitch right now, how it should be her lying there, how he smiled, how he picked on Albus, how he talked about the most random things, and what he did for that Slytherin only a few days ago. She remembered how he always smelt like the grass on the pitch; sweet, but kind of musky, and she remembered how he’d pick up Lily and spin her around, laughing and smiling.
How could she remember all this, and still treat him like filth?
Then, the tears came pouring down. Charlie couldn’t stop them, and to be honest, she didn’t want to. The tears showed that she cared. She cared for James Sirius Potter, something she knew was always true. He was dying, just so Charlie could live. And suddenly, there came Charlie’s epiphany.
For the first time in a long time, something felt right between her and James. If James lived, there would be no more fighting. (all right, maybe a little) Charlie had given in to herself.
“I swear to Merlin, Albus, if James survives this . . .” Charlie managed through the tears.
“I know, Charlie,” Albus said, and there was warmth behind his eyes as he put his arm around her. He tried to turn her away, and then to go back to his family, but Charlie needed to say something. Because James had saved her, she was the one who put James and his family through this.
“I’m so, so, sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Potter. I’m sorry for being fighting with your son, and I’m so sorry that I caused this. I’m sorry I killed your son. It should have been me.” Then Charlie broke down. Only one sob escaped before Charlie left the room. She didn’t belong here; this was for his family. As soon as she was sure she was alone, she sank against the wall, feeling her world spin. The guilt and the pure despair was consuming her, crushing her from the inside out. She and she alone had caused this, and she didn’t deserve to live. James did.
“Charlie?” A voice asked, and Charlie could only make out jeans and trainers squatting next to her. “It’s me, Albus.”
“You shouldn’t be here,” Charlie answered, trying to keep her voice calm. She couldn’t.
“It’s you who shouldn’t be here. You should be with the rest of us.” Albus’s voice was compassionate and warm; he was using his voice that always made Charlie feel better. Except this time.
“Go back to your family. They need you. James needs you,” Charlie said, before breaking down again. She couldn’t even say his name without crying. Albus sighed.
“They need you, too,” he said calmly.
“Liar,” Charlie accused, but Albus just sighed again.
“Look, I was hoping we could do this the easy way, but I guess not.” Charlie snapped her head up, but it was too late. Albus had picked her up and slung her over his shoulder.
“Put me down!” Charlie almost screamed. “I can’t go back in there!” She was hysterical. Albus didn’t respond, he just kept walking. When he reached James’s door, he put Charlie down, but only so much so that he could talk to her but still restrain her.
“Now, are you going to go in their like a good little girl, or do I need to get a Healer to sedate you?” Albus asked, breathing heavily as Charlie struggled. At his words, Charlie calmed. He put her down. “Good. Listen . . . are you okay?” he asked, seeing that his best friend was still crying. Charlie just nodded. “No, you aren’t.”
“I’ll be fine, Al. It’s you I should be worrying about right now. You can’t be okay right now,” she said.
“It’s James. He wouldn’t want us to fall apart because of him. He knew he was dying and he accepted it,” Albus said evenly, but Charlie could tell he was lying. She could always tell.
“That doesn’t make it any easier,” she said. Albus looked at her and nodded. She could see the worry, fear, and sadness swirling around in his eyes.
“He’s my big brother. We grew up together,” Al said, his voice shaking. “I always thought I’d get to watch him graduate, see him get married, have a family. And now he’s dying.” Albus’s voice cracked with the raw emotion, and Charlie could tell he was fighting tears of his own.
“I know. Together?” she asked, and he nodded. They entered the ward.
Seeing James the second time wasn’t any easier than the first.
“Albus,” Rose said, “and Charlie,” she amended. “The Healers sedated him, to stop him from coughing. Thought you’d want to know . . .” Albus and Charlie just nodded. While Albus went back to his spot next to Lily, Charlie just stood in the doorway. She felt awkward and unneeded; she had been horrible to James . . . why did they let her in here? Even Fred wasn’t allowed in, and they were best mates!
“Charlotte?” Charlie looked up. It was Mrs. Potter. She couldn’t call her Ginny, not after what she’d done. “May I talk to you for a moment?” It sounded like a pleasant request, but Charlie could tell it was anything but.
“Sure,” Charlie said quietly.
“Let’s go out into the hall,” Mrs. Potter responded, pity now blending with the sadness and worry that was ever present. She left, and Charlie followed, looking at James once more. Though he was still, his face was contorted in pain. But he was alive, and fighting.
“Charlie,” she started, looking motherly. This surprised Charlie. “I’ve known you a very long time, since the first summer you stayed with us. I remember how quiet and polite you were, always thanking me and Harry. But then I saw you with my sons, and how truly fiery you were. Then,-” but Charlie cut in. She was worried about James, and was positive so was Mrs. Potter. She didn’t want to waste Ginny’s time, it could be the last she had with her eldest son.
“I’m sorry, but what does this have to do with anything?” she asked. Mrs. Potter just smiled weakly.
“See? You’re spunky. Which is why I’m surprised you said what you did before.” That was what this was about. “This wasn’t your fault, Charlotte. James made his choices . . .there was nothing you could have done to stop him. Harry and I aren’t mad that you’re here right now, or that you’re alive. You’re like our second daughter, Charlie, and that’s why this is so hard. Knowing that we were going to lose one of our children, and there was nothing we could do. You should have seen them all when it was you in James’s place; they were lost-” but Charlie couldn’t let Ginny continue. It was her fault, simple as that.
“How can you say all that? How can you be so nice to me, when I was absolutely horrible to James? How can you call me your daughter, when all I do is tear apart your family? How can you even look at me, when you know I’m the one who put your son there in the first-”Charlie ranted, the hot tears escaping once more.
“Charlie!” Ginny Potter said, “It’s not your fault. You can’t keep blaming yourself, when there’s nothing you could have done. Merlin, you remind me so much of Harry at your age. But, you need to stop putting this all on you. And, no, I don’t hate you because you bickered with my son, because Merlin knows someone had to bring that boy down a peg. I know you won’t believe me when I tell you this, but you need to hear it. James didn’t hate you, and he wouldn’t want you to blame yourself for this. He’s dying to save you, Charlie, and you shouldn’t forget that, but you can’t let it consume you, either. Yes, it will be hard for me, for everyone, to let James go, but I don’t wish it was you.”
Charlie finally understood. “Thanks, Mrs. Potter,” she said weakly, wiping away her tears.
“No problem, Charlie. Like I said, you’re like another daughter to me. Now let’s go back. Oh, and do I need to remind you again to call me Ginny?” she replied, giving Charlie a hug. Then they both reentered the room, to find everyone, even the males, at the point of tears.
“What happened?” Ginny asked, rushing forward. Harry embraced her.
“The Healers couldn’t do anything. They said, they said that James is fading fast. He only has a few minutes,” Harry said, his voice cracking. Ginny’s eyes started to fill with tears, and she rushed forward to her son. She stroked his hair, whispering to him.
“No, no, it’s not true, James, you can do this,” she whispered, tears streaming down her voice.
“Mum,” Albus said, his normally bright eyes dull and emotionless. “there’s nothing we can do. It’s over.” Charlie never thought Albus could sound so hollow. It was scary.
“Don’t say that!” Rose and Lily pleaded, but Albus just shook his head as to say they were crazy.
“It’s something called hope,” Lily said, shooting a nasty look at her brother.
“WHERE’S THE HOPE? BECAUSE I DON’T SEE IT! JAMES IS ALMOST DEAD! AND THERE’S NOTHING ANYTHING ANY ONE OF US CAN DO! NOTHING!” Albus roared, standing up. “DO YOU SEE HIM? HE’S MORE GONE THAN HERE! JAMES . . . IS . . . DYING! YOU NEED TO ACCEPT IT!”
“Albus Severus Potter,” his dad said in a low voice, but Albus didn’t flinch. “Don’t ever talk like that again, or I’ll lock you out of the room. He is your brother. Family. So be there for him. ” That shut Al up. He was so close with James, so was Lily, and Rose; accusing them of not being close to James was a low blow.
“Like you can talk,” Albus eventually spat back. Now it was Harry’s turn to look ashamed.
“Don’t talk to your father like that,” Ginny said sharply, and Charlie could sense a family fight coming. She needed to stop it; this was about James. Not any one of their personal issues.
“Why shouldn’t I? He fought with James almost every week! And he has the nerve to tell me I’m not acting like a good brother?” Albus said, and everything exploded. Eventually Charlie couldn't take it anymore.
“STOP FIGHTING!” sharlie shouted, and (surprisingly), they all quieted.
“Thank you, Miss Grace.” Charlie’s head whipped around, along with everyone else. It was the Healer. The same one who was in charge of Charlie. He walked over to James, but then suddenly backed away. “I’m sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Potter, but there was nothing we could do. James is-”
But he never finished his sentence. In that exact moment, James broke out into a fit, jerking and coughing all over the place.
“Don’t crowd him!” The Healer shouted, rushing to James. He and three other healers surrounded James, and suddenly Charlie found herself outside of James’s room. She looked over: everyone else was there. Ginny was crying, her head on her husband’s shoulder, who had wet eyes as well. Charlie sat next to Albus and Rose, and didn’t say a word. There were no tears were streaming down her face this time, because she was too numb. Lily was crying, and was curled in a ball. Albus had his arm around her, but he was staring vacantly ahead. Rose’s eyes looked watery, but she was holding them in. Once again, Charlie felt awkward and unneeded. But that soon vanished, as Albus broke down. It started slowly, just him moving his legs and heads fast.
Then it turned into putting his head in his hands, before standing up and pacing. Teddy, Harry, and Charlie both jumped up, looking uneasy, but they knew it wasn’t the time to interfere. Charlie just watched until Albus stopped pacing in front of the wall, muttering under his breath before he shouted:
“STUPID!” Charlie knew what he was going to do. So she tackled him, but he didn’t take kindly to it. Thank Merlin Teddy Lupin came.
“Albus!” he shouted, and Albus calmed. “This. Isn’t. Helping,” Teddy gasped from the effort. Albus calmed, before bursting into tears. So Charlie did what any friend would, she hugged him. He needed it; no matter how much all of scared Charlie, Albus needed it. She just sat there, letting him cry into her, while she murmured nonsense. Rose looked even more worried than before, and Lily just sat there, glancing back and forth between Albus and her parents.
“It’ll be okay, Al,” she whispered, but she couldn’t even convince herself. Everyone was breaking, shattering into tiny pieces. Just then, The Healer came out of James’s room, his face grim.
“I’m so sorry, Mr. and Mrs. Potter. He didn’t make it.”
And just like that, the world came crashing down, every last hope Charlie had disappearing. Charlie cried, and Albus just looked at the healer with wide eyes. Teddy hugged Lily, who had started sobbing, but he was crying as well. Everyone was.
“I’ll let you say your goodbyes,” was all The Healer said before walking away. No one moved, so Charlie said slowly:
“I know you all know James better, but if it’s okay, can I go first? It’ll only take a minute, and then I promise you can all have as long as you want.”
“Of course, Charlie,” Ginny said softly, her eyes filled with sorrow. Charlie just nodded, the tears streaming faster. She turned and walked silently into James’s room, scared of what she might find.
It was just James, though he looked tinier and paler. She sobbed; she would never see James again, or fight with him, or see him play Quidditch, or do anything. And all of a sudden, Charlie knew what she had to do.
She let out a shaky breath before walking up to James. Tears still streaming down her face, Charlie looked at James for one last time, and felt a flood of emotion. He had given everything for her, and she could give him nothing. Her mind on James, of everything he did for her, she leaned over.
“Goodbye,” she whispered, before placing a kiss lightly on his lips. Then she turned around, walking out of the room. She thought she saw a flash of red, (like Lily’s hair) but it was probably just her imagination. But one thought still plagued Charlie’s mind:
Maybe she had felt something stronger for James.
I'm sad. :( James was one of my favorite characters . . . but his death is really important. And . .. GASP! Two kisses in two chapters! (after none in the previous thirteen . . . )
Seriously, what do you guys think? I really need to know, because this story means a lot to me, and I'm not sure if you like it or not if you don't review.
AND .. . you know the guy I like? Everyone makes fun that we should get together, but then he goes crazy and gets mad at them, while I'm stuck thinking that maybe we should . . .
It's been a bad week. (But this story is almost at NOVEL length! Gasp!)
So: TACO for like, and CRUSH for didn't. Thanks a million!