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Stronger by classicblack
Chapter 22 : Change
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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James paced nervously across the dorm floor. Fred was acting bored, lying on his bed, flipping through a Muggle magazine filled with girls in their bikinis.

“James, mate, will you relax?” Fred said in an uninterested voice.

“Relax? You want me to relax?” James cried hysterically. “She’s in the Hospital Wing, Fred! She’s just been tortured by the Cruciatus Curse for who knows how long! This is not the bloody time to relax!”

“She’s not dead or seriously injured. She’ll probably be out of there in a few days, a week tops.”

“Do you even know what the Cruciatus Curse is, Fred?” James growled, pacing more frantically.

“Our parents and aunts and uncles have survived worse. Anyway, there isn’t anything Madam Pomfrey can’t fix. You should know, James,” Fred said slyly before flipping the page of his magazine.

James was briefly accosted by the memories of all the Quidditch/ prank injuries that he’d gotten over the years before shaking his head. “She’s unconscious, Fred. Lying somewhere in the Hospital Wing with no one but the bloody Slytherin who saved her!

Fred rolled his eyes as James stormed around the room. “Look, if you really want to see her, why don’t you just go down to the Hospital Wing and see her?”

James threw Fred a look that clearly showed that he’d never thought of the idea, before scowling. “I can’t,” he said.

“Why in the name of Merlin’s pants can’t you?”

“It’s complicated,” James said, glowering at Fred.

Fred laughed, which only deepened James’s frown lines. “Merlin, sometimes I think you’re secretly a woman.”

James all but growled before stating, “Even if I could visit her, I can’t. Madam Pomfrey won’t even let Andie and Beth in. That clearly means that she’s so bad, Madam Pomfrey doesn’t want to scare them by allowing them to see her!”

And James was back to being frantic again, his thoughts clouded with Calla.

“Or, like Andie told me when she and Beth came back, Calla is fine, but she needs rest. You know how the old bird is when it comes to her patients’ rest...” Fred sighed, hoping that his friend would calm down now.

“Since when have you and Andie been on speaking terms?” James asked, momentarily distracted.

“We’re not, but I think she had forgotten for about five minutes. Anyway, I’ve got you to blame for throwing under the bus with that one. If you hadn’t kept it a secret about why Calla-”

“It wasn’t my secret to tell!” James exclaimed.

“Well, whatever. Andie’s a bit psycho either way,” Fred said, grinning cheekily. Unfortunately, James’s momentary distraction was gone.

He stared blankly at Fred smiling before sitting on his bed and placing his head in his hands. “What am I going to do, Fred? I can’t just sit by and do nothing. This is Calla we’re talking about!”

Fred sighed again and put down his magazine. He swung his legs over the edge of his bed and turned to face James. “James Sirius Potter- you’re not doing yourself or Calla any favours by acting like the twat you’re currently acting like. When she gets out of there, she’s going to need a man, someone she can rely on. So I’d suggest you stop being a berk and focus on how you’re going to get her back.”

James stared blankly at Fred as his cousin reclined back onto his bed and pulled out his magazine. Then, something inside James clicked and he realised that Fred had given him some of the only good advice that was ever going to come out of his cousin’s mouth. He also realised why Fred had been his best mate since the sandbox.

~

The next time Calla awoke, it was to find, not Sam Samuels reading Witch Weekly, but Andie falling off a chair as she and Beth decorated Calla’s general area with balloons and a plethora of ‘get well soon!’ cards from, she recognized the handwriting, Maggie and David, amongst others. Calla wondered how they’d found out before realising that Flitwick would have told them, as her closest family.

As Beth helped Andie up, laughing as she did it, they both noticed that Calla was watching them with her eyebrows raised and a smirk.

“Thank Merlin, you’re awake!” Andie shrieked, throwing her arms around Calla.

“Can’t... breathe...” Calla wheezed before Andie let her go. “How long have I been out?”

“Two days and Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t let us in until a few hours ago!” Beth said. Calla pretended to agree with that; she didn’t want them to know about Sam just yet, nor did she want them to find out that she’d been awake and hadn’t demanded that Madam Pomfrey let them in.

Instead, she said, “Feels like it,” and rubbed her eyes for good effect before sitting up.

“We didn’t mean to wake you, but Andie just insisted on hanging these up,” Beth said, obviously worried that Calla hadn’t gotten enough rest. Calla stifled a laugh.

“Nah, it was time for me to wake up. Thanks for the... er... lovely decorations,” Calla said, grimacing just a bit as she took in the full effect of the glaring colours surrounding her bed. Her friends stared at her like worried nurses from a 1950s sitcom. Calla knew that if Sam were here, they’d be laughing together about it, and wondered why she already felt like she’d known Sam for years.

“So... erm... what’s been happening while I’ve been out?” Calla asked, breaking the uncomfortable, at least for her, silence. She’d never known Andie to be so patient and... not talkative.

“Oh plenty of things!” Andie began, clearly excited to relay the latest news to Calla. “First off, the school knows. About what happened, I mean.” Calla saw Beth grimace apologetically. “At least, they know you were cursed and are in the Hospital Wing. Some of the leading rumours are that you went insane or that you and Ambs had a dramatic duel during which you endeavoured to avenge you parents.”

Calla let out a dry chuckle.

“We haven’t really tried to dispel them,” Beth said hesitantly. Calla smiled, always sweet and caring Beth. “We figured it would be worse if the school actually knew the truth- that Ambs had done the Cruciatus Curse, I mean.”

Calla silently thanked the wizard gods that she had such fantastic friends before noticing their attempts to hide their curious faces. She sighed. “I suppose you want to know what happened?”

“Only if you want to tell us,” Beth said, clearly trying to contain her interest.

Calla exhaled and relayed to them everything that had happened. The narrative ended with a typical load oath from Andie and a frown from Beth.

Calla knew she had to ask the question that was burning to be asked. “Does James know?” she asked tentatively.

Her friends exchanged glances. Andie sighed. “Yeah, we told him what happened. Sorry if you didn’t want him to know...”

They both looked apologetically at Calla, but she just waved it away and smiled. “No, I’m glad that you told him.” And she wasn’t lying.

They spent the next half hour joining together and rousing game of Ambs-bashing. The visit only ended when Calla laughed so hard that she seriously began to feel pain in her chest and Madam Pomfrey shooed Andie and Beth from the Hospital Wing.

Calla decided things might just take a turn for the better. Finally.

~~

The next time Calla awoke it was to find Al and Sam sitting across from each other. Al looked extremely uncomfortable, staring at the blond boy across from him. Sam didn’t seem to care as he leisurely flipped through a copy of The Quibbler.

It took them both a while to realise that she was conscious. Al started in his seat before turning to Calla, obviously glad that he didn’t have to sit in awkward silence with Sam anymore.

“Calla, you’re awake!” he exclaimed. Sam glanced up and smirked at Al before turning to Calla.

“Hey, Matthews,” he said simply. Calla grinned.

“Hi Sam, Al.” Calla didn’t know why she always seemed to put Sam first nowadays. She supposed it was something psychological, with him being her saviour and all.

“How’re you feeling?” Al asked worriedly, shifting in his chair.

“Fine,” Calla said, wondering why Albus had visited her. They weren’t extremely close or anything. She glanced between Al and Sam, who seemed to be sizing each other up. “Sorry, d’you two know each other? Al this is Sam Samuels. Sam, this is Al Potter.”

They just continued looking at each other until Albus broke the silence. “We’ve met. He’s in a few of my classes.” He smiled at Calla. Sam leaned back in his chair and opened the magazine again. “Anyway, James sent me,” Al continued, eyeing Calla for some kind of reaction. Her face remained impassive. She didn’t know what to make of James sending his little brother to check up on her. “Just wanted to make sure you weren’t secretly dying or anything. I guess I’ll be able to give him a good report. Feel better, Calla.”

With that, Albus stood up hurriedly and sped towards the exit, clearly glad to leave the awkward environment. In the spur of the moment, Calla called after him. “Al!” He turned around. “Tell James that he can visit... if he wants to...”

Al nodded in understanding and left. Sam threw down The Quibbler.

“Thought he’d never leave,” he said, fixing his hair in the reflection on one of the balloons Andie and Beth had set up.

“You don’t like him?” Calla asked curiously. She wondered how anyone couldn’t like Al.

“I don’t mind him. He’s not my type, you know? He’s too perfect, follows the rules all the time and doesn’t get into trouble. I like to live on the wild side,” Sam said, his eyes twinkling.

“I bet you do,” Calla laughed. “So, have found your inspiration yet?”

“I believe I just might have,” Sam answered, adjusting his scarf, which was yellow today. “It’s really quite... inspiring.”

Calla laughed again. “Really? I never would have guessed. Do I get to see your artwork when you’re done?”

“Well, I suppose so,” Sam teased. At that moment, Madam Pomfrey bustled in and again began feeding Calla various potions, most of which tasted like goblin piss. Sam laughed at Calla’s expression before saying he needed to finish a Potions essay due the next period.

Calla was settling in to read the copy of The Quibbler that Sam had left behind when the door opened and in walked Connor Smith, carrying a stack of papers, a smug look plastered across his face. Calla groaned inwardly as he approached.

The look on his face when he came forward clearly said that his low opinion of her had been lower further by the news of her parentage and, now, her hospitalization. She rolled her eyes.

“Miss Matthews,” Smith said stiffly.

“Smith,” Calla said tiredly, rubbing her temples and knowing she’d probably have a migraine when this was over.

“I just thought I’d pop in and see how you were doing,” Smith said. Calla raised her eyebrows. There was no way that Smith had simply decided to “pop in” for a visit. Realising that he wasn’t fooling her, Smith continued. “Yes, well, I decided that as you’re obviously going to be out of action for at least a week as result of recent... unfortunate events, I’d bring you your paperwork for Heads’ duty. I can’t be expected to run the whole school by myself.”

Smith sighed pompously and Calla fought the urge to laugh. “Yeah, of course not, Smith. Whatever was I thinking? Thank you,” Calla said through clenched teeth, her voice dripping with sarcasm.

“Alright then, that’s all Miss Matthews. I hope you have a speedy recovery. I shall be back in two days time for the paperwork!”

With that, Smith sauntered out of the Hospital Wing. Calla was tempted to tell him not to let the door hit him on the way out. As soon as the door swung shut, she let out a high-pitched giggle before shifting through the boring papers Smith had brought her. Deciding that she had better start them now because she had nothing better to do, Calla grabbed the first piece of parchment and the quill Smith had left and began signing.

~

James had been wary to believe Al when he’d told him that Calla had said James could visit it. Sometimes, it sounded too good to be true. Nevertheless, four days after she’d been cursed found James sitting in an uncomfortable chair by Calla’s bedside. She was currently sleeping peacefully and James stared at her with a small smile on his face.

She awoke with a gasp and stared frantically around herself. What James wouldn’t give to be able to comfort her at that moment. Calla’s eyes landed on him and widened ever so slightly. She sat up and stared at him expectantly.

“Hey,” he said hesitantly. “I see you’re feeling better.” She remained silent. He decided to try again.

“Listen, Calla, I’m so sorry about everything. I handled everything so badly, but I hope that one day, you might be able to forgive me for it...”

Calla tuned him out. She was overwhelmed by the sudden feeling of anger against the boy sitting next to her. She was angry, not because he had been her distraction and had left her vulnerable to Ambs’ threats, but because he had caused her to rely on him. He had caused her to build up her strength and then left at the first test of honour. He’d betrayed her trust.

He’d caused her to become stronger without him. For that, at least, she was grateful. But she was angry that he was here now, begging her forgiveness and trying to fix the relationship they had once had when all she really needed at the moment was a friend. She didn’t need James Potter the boyfriend; she needed James Potter the boy who comforted her all those weeks ago after Defence Against the Dark Arts. But she knew she wouldn’t get him, because that was who James was.

James trailed off in the middle of his speech as he watched Calla’s eyes narrow and her brow crinkle like it did when she was thinking hard. Again he longed for the days when she would have told him everything that was one her mind. Something told him he wouldn’t get that back today, though.

She sighed and began to speak, staring ahead at the window, looking at the expanse of the Hogwarts grounds.

“You know, I used to be teased as a kid,” she said as she sat partially up in her bed, not even looking at him. “Some of it was because sometimes I’d lose control of my metamorphic powers. I’d come to school with bright red hair if I was angry because my parents wouldn’t let me have the cereal I wanted for breakfast that morning. Or my hair would be neon yellow if I was happy because my mum said that we might be able to go down to the shore that weekend. People would eventually brush it off as an accident, but they always talked about those times.” She chuckled dryly.

“But mostly, I was picked on because of who my parents where,” she continued in a monotone. James flinched, but still stared intently at her as she gazed out the window. “I think half of them thought I thought that I was better than them because my dad had a fancy title before his name and some power in government and had everyone call him ‘sir’. If I’d do something well and be happy about it, they’d think I was bragging or full of myself. Or sometimes kids would come in and say my father was stupid and a horrible prime minister- or at least that’s what their parents said. They’d say that my father was probably the worst dad in the world. Sometimes I’d get so angry I’d lose control of my powers- I think I made a toilet blow up on a boy once when I was seven...” She trailed off, evidently lost in memories, but he didn’t dare speak.

“But you know what I think really bugged me about the whole thing? It was that these kids only judged me like they did because of who my parents were. They never bothered to get to know me, even though who my parents were wasn’t something I could control. And even now, with everything that’s happened and everything that I’ve learned, I still would say that who you are is not defined by who raised you. It’s who you grow up to be, you know? What you do with your life; the people you meet; the places you go; the things you accomplish. You get that, right? I mean, you’ve got to live under the shadow of your dad.

“So what I’m saying is that, even before this year I never understood why anyone could hate a person just because of who their parents were, instead of who that person was...” Calla finished, sighed, and leaning her head back against her pillow. She continued to stare at the window across from her as if it were the most interesting thing she’d ever seen, her eyes swimming with past sadness. James gazed at her, wishing that what she’d said hadn’t been true.

She took a deep breath, but still didn’t glance at him. “But I’m not really angry about that anymore. About how you acted. It’s just... I trusted you, James. I really did, but I don’t know if I can anymore. I’ve got so many things to figure out and I don’t know what we’re going to do. I don’t really know much about anything at the moment.” She laughed softly to herself. “But I’m sure we’ll figure something out.”

“I’m so sorry...” James pleaded and stared at her, hoping for an answer. He didn’t receive one.

He took her silence as his queue to leave and James silently stood up and crossed out of the Hospital Wing. She didn’t look at him once.

 

A/N: We're winding down to the end now. There's only one more chapter and an epilogue until the end. But don't worry, you guys have a semi-sequel/ short story to look forward to after that! I hope you enjoyed the chapter! The empty box below is quite lonely, it would appreciate some writing about the chapter in it, as would a certain author's MTA page... *hint, hint*

~cb ")
 


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