Chapter 13 : The Fighter
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Great CI by chocolate_bunny @ TDA
The next time I truly regained consciousness, Piper and Al were there. Both their faces were creased, as if they had just argued, or were talking about something unmentionable. Immediately, my heart plummeted into my stomach. To think that a day ago I had no idea my heart was functional, and now it was causing a pain I had never felt before. I could handle physical pain, but I just needed whatever pain this was to stop. It was breaking me. But I knew how to heal this.
I had to ... I had to stop clinging onto them. It was destroying them; I was destroying everyone. I was like a deadly disease ... I needed to be quarantined, to be shut off from the world. It was the best thing for them.
“Nick,” Piper breathed, and Al’s face snapped towards mine. He had been staring off into space, I guessed.
“I’m sorry,” I whispered. It was time. “I’m so sorry.” I wasn’t exactly sure what for; for ruining my life and signing my own death warrant, or for what I was about to do.
“What happened?” Al asked, with a bit of awe in his voice, before it turned slightly bitter, but mixed with fear and worry. Why was it always worry? “Professor Zabini walked up here, carrying you, but you were unconscious again. The only thing that he said was that you had been crying until you passed out. Then he left, looking fit to murder.”
“It’s fine,” I told him, trying to force a smile. “I’m fine.”
“I beg to differ, sweetheart. You managed to re break your ribs, before stressing yourself to the point of exhaustion. Your shirt was soaking with tears. You’re not okay,” Al replied, and I knew he was right.
“It’s nothing,” I replied, looking down at my hands again. It was killing me; I just wanted to break down, to tell them what happened, what was going to happen.
“NO IT’S NOT! HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT? LOOK AT YOURSELF! SOMETHING HAPPENED ... I’VE ONLY SEEN YOU CRY ONCE, NICK! AND THAT WAS AFTER YOU TOLD US ... SO SOMETHING HAPPENED. WE’RE YOUR MATES, NICK, YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO TRUST US! BECAUSE KEEPING IT INSIDE ISN’T HELPING ANYONE ... DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH WE WORRY ABOUT YOU? HOW MUCH EVERYONE DOES? SCORPIUS THOUGHT YOU TRIED TO KILL YOURSELF LAST NIGHT; RHYS SAID YOU DIDN’T EVEN FIGHT BACK. WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU? THIS ISN’T THE NICK I KNOW!” Al shouted, standing up, and for a moment I swore I saw his eyes moisten. “You were doing so much better this year, Nick ...”
Al was torn up; I had never seen him that angry. Even at Professor Creevey, it wasn’t like this.
I had done this to him. Another reason that I had to do what I did next.
“I’m sorry,” I started, looking them both in the eyes, as I felt my heart plummet, even heavier than before. “I can’t tell you; I can’t hurt you anymore. I can’t be a burden anymore. Please, just go. You deserve so much better than this, to be happy. You deserve so much better than me,” I said, my voice barely above a whisper. It was for the best.
If I say it enough, it’ll make it easier. It’s the best for them. I had to get them to let go; I was hurting them. And odds were I wasn’t going to survive this; I didn’t want them to hurt.
“Oh, Nick,” Piper started, tears in her eyes. I knew she was hurting, but this pain was temporary. She’d be able to get over this. If I’d told her ... I wasn’t sure Piper could handle that. I knew I couldn’t.
“Please ... just go,” I told her. “Don’t make this harder. It’s for the best.”
“Fine,” Al said bitterly. His eyes were full of hurt and sadness, though, and I knew he was being tough for Piper. “Come on, Piper. Let’s go.” I closed my eyes, and heard the door slam loudly as Al left.
With their absence, the guilt started to recede off my chest. It was quickly replaced when I realized I had just lost my best friends. Al and Piper, who had been there from the beginning. Albus had been my partner in crime; my brother. And Piper, she was my giggly, sugary-sweet genius of a best mate. I needed them. I needed them so much right now; I couldn’t do this by myself. It was too much to bear.
But it was the right choice. To try to hold onto them would have been worse than selfish. I knew that, but it didn’t make it any easier to bear.
I was going to die. I would never complete Hogwarts; I would never, as stupid as it sounds, snog a boy; I would never see Al and Piper’s wedding, or their inevitable children. I had no future. It was as simple as that. And no one would care. Sure, the Slytherins would be sad for a while, but they’d move on. I’d be nothing more than a faded face in a photograph.
But, the tears I expected didn’t come. I just felt empty. I honestly didn’t remember what happened after that, other than Madam Bones declaring me fit enough to leave. She did think I looked a bit peaky, though.
So I meandered my way down to the dungeons. I received many glares from passing Hufflepuffs, as well as a good amount from Ravenclaws and Gryffindors. One kid actually threw a book at my head.
I didn’t care, though. Let them throw stuff at me, maybe one would throw something sharp enough to kill me.
When I found myself in the common room, it was empty. I guessed it was dinner, but I didn’t feel like going. I didn’t want to face them, and food had no appeal. I just felt ... hollow. Like someone had carved me out; I guess without Piper and Al I really was heartless.
So I crawled into my bed, drew my curtains, and fell asleep again.
But the nightmares came. They hadn’t come for a while, but they were back, and more horrifying than ever. The worst part was that I knew they wouldn’t be dreams soon; it would be reality.
A few weeks had passed since that day. I had fallen into a steady routine; leave my dormitory as late as possible, go to classes, hide in my dormitory during lunch, more classes, go sneak food from the kitchens, if I was even hungry, go to my first detention with Professor Zabini (where he made me do my essays, but most of the time I ended up staring at a blank piece of parchment), go to my normal detention, and go back to the dormitory, when Piper was already sleeping. I usually just sat there, trying not to sleep. Because when I did, the nightmares always came. I was sure Piper heard the screams, but she ignored it.
During lessons I usually sat by myself, or sometimes Scorpius and Owen would and try to talk to me. I avoided Al and Piper like the plague, and I never gave anyone a chance to catch me in the Great Hall or in the common room. I still felt empty, though. I had no emotions left; there was nothing left for anyone to hurt. Or to care about. But there was nothing I could do to hurt anyone at the same time. And that was what mattered.
And so here I was, sitting in Professor Zabini’s classroom once again. Today he had given me a different task; correct my essays from him. They all had D’s or T’s in red ink at the top, the ones I did anyways. I knew my marks were beyond below average, but I didn’t care. And every other professor didn’t either ... except for Professor Zabini.
“Nick, I’ve noticed you’ve been acting different lately. You’re never with Al or Piper, or anyone else for that matter. You haven’t said more than two words at the same time, and it’s only when someone asks you. I’m worried about you, Nick. Christmas holidays start tomorrow; are you going to be okay?” Professor Zabini asked suddenly, and I lifted my head from my essays. “I haven’t seen you in the Great Hall, either, or the common room.”
“I’m fine,” I replied, trying to smile. It didn’t work. “I’ve just been ... studying.” But in my mind, I was panicking. I hadn’t realized that this was the last week before holidays.
“Nick; I’ve seen your marks. I don’t think you’ve been studying. What’s been going on? You seem tired lately,” he persisted, leaning on the desk in front of mine, his hands clasped. This was odd; Professor Zabini was never this ... cryptic. He usually just said what he was thinking and got on with it. Like Al did.
“I’ve just had a few bad dreams, that’s all,” I dismissed. I didn’t need him worrying about me, too. Anymore than he normally did.
“What about Piper and Al?” Professor Zabini asked.
“Nothing’s wrong,” I replied. “We’re perfectly fine.”
“You and I both know that’s a downright lie. If you and Al aren’t causing downright havoc, something is wrong. I haven’t even seen you with them besides from classes, and even then it’s because of my seating chart. And they’re worried about you, Nick. We all are; even Flynn came up to me and asked where you where and what was wrong. And that was before they approached me in a group. The entire house, Nick. I’m worried about you; what’s going on? You can tell me,” Professor Zabini said, his voice heated at first, but softened when he talked about them worrying about me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t make them forget about me. They needed to; it was the only way. Why couldn’t they just move on? I’m not worth it!
“I’ll tell you if I come back after break,” I said before I could stop myself, laughing shakily. What had I done? The look on Professor Zabini’s face said it all; pure shock. And something changed. I felt a tear slip out of my eye. He really cared? So I took a deep breath, and launched into a story I had only told once before.
“There’s has to be something I can do. Arrest him, certainly,” Professor Zabini said when I was done. “You can’t go back there.”
“Unless I want to get arrested, I don’t see what other choice I have,” I replied, running my hand through my hair.
“Why didn’t you tell me sooner? I’ve dealt with this stuff before, Nick. I could have done something. Plus, It’s not good to keep it inside. Have you told anyone else?” Professor Zabini asked, now sitting next to me. I was staring at the desk. I still felt empty, but I felt like a small piece of me had been returned. Someone gave a damn. Someone who didn’t pity.
“Only Al and Piper know. And they’ve only known since the beginning of the school year. I just couldn’t face it. But this year ... well, a lot’s changed,” I admitted, looking him in the face. His eyes were full of sadness.
“And for whatever reason you’re not talking to them,” Professor Zabini muttered to himself. “Nick, I’m sorry. I don’t know what I can do, but I can’t let you go back there. It’s wrong.”
“It’s okay. Better me than some little kid,” I told him, smiling weakly. “I’ll be fine.”
“You told me you thought you were going to die. That doesn’t sound like okay to me, Nick,” Professor Zabini said. In that moment, he reminded me so much of Albus. He always told me that I wasn’t okay. And he was always right.
But hearing it again, someone telling me what I felt, with that pity in his voice, made the anger that had been lost in my numb state boil over. It was rushing to my head, and I could feel my heartbeat in my ears. God, I hadn’t felt anything in a while, and the anger seemed to warn me. I actually felt alive.
“I’m fine!” I shouted, finally voicing what I had been thinking, going back to even when I told Al and Piper. “I don’t need your pity! I don’t need you to worry about me; I don’t need anyone to worry about me! I’m fine!”
“Nick-” Professor Zabini started, but I was sick of it. Everything was boiling over, exploding in my face. And I felt such a rush, feeling something, that I couldn’t let it end.
“THIS IS WHY I DON’T TELL PEOPLE! BECAUSE THEY ACT LIKE THIS! I’M STILL ME; THERE’S NOTHING DIFFERENT ... SO WHY DO PEOPLE TREAT ME LIKE I’M A TIME-BOMB!” I shouted, before grabbing my bag and storming out. My heart was still pounding in my ears, and when I opened the door, Albus was waiting outside. I looked at him for a second, scared and embarrassed, before I brushed past him and kept walking. I didn’t care where I was going. I just needed to get out. It was suffocating me again; everything I had tried to hide was back to the surface. I was alone, I was going to die, and if I didn’t I was going to be arrested. By the time I stopped walking, I was in the Astronomy tower, and I was breathing heavily. I couldn’t breathe; I couldn’t handle feeling. It was too much.
I just wanted to be empty again. That way there was no pain. I wouldn’t care that I just told a professor that I was going to die, I had screamed like a three-year-old at him, because he reminded me of Albus. Albus, who was right outside the door at the time.
By the time I had control of my breathing, I had sunk to the floor. I looked out at the edge, and something Albus had said came back to me.
SCORPIUS THOUGHT YOU TRIED TO KILL YOURSELF
I felt drawn to the ledge, and I started walking towards it. Could the solution to all this really be that simple? I was already dead inside; this didn’t count as living. It was surviving, yes, but not living. And it wasn’t like I was going to survive to see the new year, so why not end it on my terms? It would be easy. I could jump right now.
But I knew I couldn’t. It turned out some people gave a damn, and a suicide would be messy. It would be harder to move on from, say, an accident, which would surely happen to me over Christmas holidays. The ledge still tempted me.
No. I at least had to say goodbye. I owed them all that much. They had done so much for me, and to kill myself, without so much as a note, would be wrong. I owed it to them; Piper, Al, Scorpius, and even Owen. They deserved to know the truth, no matter how much it hurt to tell them. I owed them that much. But how to tell them without making them worry during break?
And, suddenly, I realized the emptiness wouldn’t come back. I wanted the oblivion, because right now the pain was agonizing. How did people deal with having hearts? It was excruciating.
So I sat there on the ledge, looking up at the the sky. It was just as beautiful as it was that night on the Quidditch pitch, but there was a light snowfall that made it seem surreal. In that moment, I realized it would probably be the last time I’d be able to stargaze at Hogwarts. Tomorrow I would be leaving, and the chances that I was going to return were as likely as Slytherin winning the house cup. I felt an odd sense of peace, though, so I just stayed there. I didn’t give a damn that I had completely blew off detention, or walked out on Professor Zabini.
It was my last night at Hogwarts, and I was going to spend it up here. Screw everyone else. I didn’t care if it was winter, either. Plus, there wasn’t much more they could do to me anymore.
And that was what I did. I had no idea how much time had passed, until I saw the sun was peeking over the horizon. I still had to figure out how to say goodbye, and I had to pack, so I sighed and started the trek back to the common room.
When I got there, it was obvious that Al and Piper had been talking about me. They were the only two in the common room, and when I entered they jumped and started talking about chupacabra animatedly. I just looked at them for a second, debating whether or not to tell them right now. No, there had to be a better way. A way that didn’t let them worry, but let them know. Something they could find ...
Suddenly, I knew what to do. I walked up to the dorm, my heart beating fast. I dug out a quill and parchment and set to work.
When I was done, I had four sheets of parchment sitting in front of me. I already knew where I was going to put the one for Al and Piper, and all I needed was to perform the charms on Owen’s and Scorpius’s, so they would appear just after they left.
Then I took the one for Albus and Piper and went into the bathroom. I looked at shower stall 17 in the girl’s lavatory; the stall Piper and I had squabbled over for years. There were quotes and names, and countless swearwords, covering it, and I carefully pinned the letter there. She would find it when she came back. Looking at the wall, I smiled slightly, before taking out my wand and casting a spell. Now my name could join the legacy.
So I headed back to the dormitory, and found Piper packing as well. So I grabbed my rucksack and threw in my few pairs of clothes.
“Nick?” Piper asked, seeing what I was doing. “You never go home for Christmas,” she said, and I felt my cheeks burn. “Where are you going?”
I didn’t respond, but just kept packing.
“Nick?” Piper asked, her voice shaking. “I’m going to go get my toiletries, but when I come back you are going to talk to me.” Now her voice was stern, and I felt my lips twitch a little at her voice, even though I was scared for what was to come. It was then I realized my mistake. I ran after Piper, before tackling her to the ground.
“What?” Piper exclaimed. “Nick .... what .... stop!” Then she wriggled out and ran for stall 17, where I had forgotten her stuff was. She would find the note. “Nick?” Piper asked, holding the note. I panicked, and bolted. I grabbed my rucksack and ran.
I knew where I was supposed to go. Because he lived in such a remote place, I was flooing with Dominique directly there, instead of taking the train. So I waited outside of the Headmaster’s office, my thoughts racing.
Everything was crashing down. Piper and Al would know, and then they would tell Owen and Scorpius. They would all know. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. My breathing was becoming shallower and shallower, as I added in where I was going to go. And I couldn’t fight back. Pretty soon, I was practically gasping for air.
Until someone sat down next to me, and started rubbing my back. By the time I had calmed down enough to look up, I already knew who it was.
“Hey, Nick,” Owen said softly, the letter in his hand. “I already knew. I heard Professor Zabini talking to Stebbins about bringing it up, after that day in Potions, but I guess now I know the whole thing.”
“You knew?” I gasped out, looking him in the face.
“Yes. But that’s not why I’m here. It’s going to be okay; you’re going to make it through this. It’s only for three weeks. And, if you need to, just run away,” he told me, and I looked him in the eyes.
“It’s not that simple. And I’m going to die, Owen, there’s no getting around it. He hates me, and he’s not going to let me get away,” I said, but Owen just put his arm around me.
“No, you’re not. Because you’re a fighter, Nick. One of the most stubborn people I know. So cowboy up and accept it,” he told me, looking into my eyes. Our faces were inches apart. Then, his lips met mine, and I could feel his fear and his sadness, and I was sure he could feel mine. But it was still sweet, and I felt my heart jump. I hadn’t felt this way in a while. I was ... happy.
Eventually, he pulled away, both of us blushing like mad, but his lips were still near my ear. “A fighter. Remember that,” he whispered, before dropping something in my lap and walking away.
“Thanks, Owen,” I whispered, but he still heard. He smiled at me. When I looked down, I saw that there was a new pair of trainers in my lap. I laughed, as my trainers had been the subject of ridicule all year, and he smiled again, before continuing to walk.
“I’ll see you after break,” he called, and I almost had to laugh again at his optimistism. I just sat there after he left, smiling slightly at the thought of him. Could I survive this?
Maybe not, but Owen was right. I couldn’t give up; I couldn’t just let him win. I needed to fight, and if I died, at least I fought to the very end. God, Owen had given me at least something to live for. A kiss, as sweet as candy, but it was a promise. A promise that hope still existed, at least in that silly Hufflepuff’s mind.
Just then, Al and Piper came around the corner. I stood up, looking down. Until Al pulled me into a bone crushing hug. When he finally let go, Piper did the same, but she was crying.
“You’re not dying on me, Nicole Warrington,” she got out. “I won’t allow it.”
“You’ll be okay,” Al said, and I had a feeling he was going to say more, but then Professor Zabini walked up.
“Did someone finally knock some sense into that girl?” he asked, but his smile was strained. “Nick, we have to go up now.” Al and Piper gave me one last hug, and I felt a tear slip down my face. I was going to miss them so much.
“Okay,” I said, and Al handed me my rucksack.
“Give him hell,” Al whispered. “Make him remember why he should never have messed with Nick Warrington.” I didn’t understand how they were being so optimistic, but I suspected it was for me. It made me feel better, but that was all going to change in five minutes. When they were gone, and it was just me facing him.
“See you. Don’t worry about me, I’ll be fine,” I managed to get out, before Professor Zabini herded me onto the staircase.
I knew what was coming was going to be horrible, but thoughts of my friends seemed to lighten the load. They thought I could survive this ... maybe I had a chance.
One thing was for sure. I was going to fight, with every last ounce of energy I had. I wasn’t going to let him win. And if .... if I did lose ... I would go down fighting. Because that’s who I was.
I was Nicole Warrington. I was a stubborn, violent, angry fighter.
I was a fighter.
A/N: Last chance to guess who hE is!!!! Thanks, and please review! I'm off to go swimming!
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