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Chapter 14 : Interlude
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EDITS for Mods: This isn't even the same chapter. I took out both chapters where any child abuse happens, and though there is a little gore at the end, it's the aftermath, and you see no violence/abuse.
“Al, honey, can I come in?” a voice asked, and Albus sat up on his bed. He had spent most of the holiday in his room, avoiding not only Lily and James but his parents. His dad knew about Nick, he knew that from his letters, and Albus couldn’t help but blame him. He was Harry Potter; he should have done something. He should have done something years ago.
“Fine, Mum,” he replied, quickly hiding the letter he had been writing to Piper under his pillow. His mother entered, before putting her hands on her hips. That was never a good sign.
“Are you just going to hide in your room the entire holiday?” she asked, and Albus sighed. He didn’t reply, though, just stared at the floor. “I know something’s wrong, you know. Contrary to what you think, I’m not an idiot.” Ginny Potter still received no reply, and it was her turn to sigh. She sat down next to Albus, and he immediately looked away. Of all her children, Al gave her the most trouble. There was something going on that she didn’t know about, that much she could read. But, in all honesty, there wasn’t much else she could.
Ever since his first term at school, he had come home and hidden in his room. James, with whom he had been so close, had neither spoken more than three words to him at a time, nor Albus to him. There was a rift in her family; he and Piper acted as if it were them against the world. His other friend, Nicole, did too. Ginny had only met her once or twice, though she asked Al every summer if he wanted to invite her over. He’d always clench his fist then walk out of the room, though. Ginny knew that Nicole was a ward of the Ministry, but she never really understood why Albus was so angry about it during the summer. She had asked Harry, who refused to tell her.
But Ginny was done playing nice. Something was obviously wrong, at it was eating Albus up inside. She could tell; his father had been the same way.
“All right. I’m done playing games with you, Albus Severus Potter. You are going to tell me what the hell is going on with you, because I did not raise you to mope in your room like this,” she ordered, and Albus looked at her in pure shock. “That’s a start. You’re at least looking at me when I’m talking to you. Now what’s wrong?”
Albus laughed bitterly. “You wouldn’t understand,” he said, and Ginny wasn’t used to seeing her son’s eyes so ... cold. They were unforgiving. A seventeen-year-old shouldn’t look like that.
“Really? I went through some pretty scarring stuff in my day, you know,” she said, but nothing changed. “Seriously, Al, I doubt-” Ginny noticed the fire in his eyes too late.
“No! You don’t! You don’t get it! You were always a bloody hero; you never had to worry about if you would get hexed if you stepped out of your Common Room! You never had to worry about if your friend would come back alive from summer holidays! You never had to fight a thousand times as hard as everyone else just to move an inch forward!” he shouted, standing up and facing his mother. When he was done, he just looked out his window. He didn’t notice the door open.
“Sorry to burst your bubble here, Albus, but she does know,” his father’s voice said. Albus immediately whipped around at his dad’s presence. His eyes were angry. “She was at Hogwarts for a year where if she stepped one toe out of line she’d be tortured. When Voldemort was around, she had to worry every time someone left the room if she’d ever see them again. And living with her brothers covered the last one,” he said, his voice deathly calm. “So think before you disrespect your mother.”
“It’s not the same,” Albus said bitterly, and his father sighed.
“I can see there is no point arguing with you. When you decide to act like a mature adult, come find us. We’re just trying to help. And don’t lie,” he said coldly, but Albus just stared out of the window again. He didn’t turn around until he was sure they had left.
I knew they wouldn’t get it. I knew they wouldn’t believe me.
An hour later, Albus was sitting on the sofa in the living room, reluctantly playing wizard’s chess with Lily while they waited for their extended family to arrive, as well as the Scamanders and Longbottoms. It was the annual Christmas Eve party, and this year it was at the Potters, so Albus couldn’t even escape. While playing silently except to say his next move, Albus occasionally snuck glances at his parents, where were blatantly staring at him with a knowing look in their eye.
“Checkmate,” Al muttered, before getting up and leaving the room before his sister could whine or protest. Once he was safely in his room once more, Albus saw Piper’s owl sitting on his bed. He had left the window open; he needed to know what Piper’s reply to his letter was. So Albus hurried over to the bird, which Nick had called ‘Birdy’ so many times she thought it was her name. Officially, her name was Ariadne, but she only responded to ‘Birdy’. When he detached the parchment from Birdy’s leg, Albus saw there were only three words hastily scrawled on it.
We’ll talk tonight.
That was never a good sign. But Birdy just flew out the window, not waiting for a reply. Albus just sighed and watched her fly away, as James appeared silently behind him in the door frame.
“Replying to your little girlfriend?” he taunted, and Albus turned around slowly to face his brother. James wore the same cocky smirk that made Albus want to smack it off his face. It had always had that effect; it was bloody annoying.
“At least I can write,” Al said coldly. “I heard your conversation with mum and dad a few days ago. They weren’t so happy with your marks, were they?” With satisfaction, Al noted the angry flush rising on his brother’s face.
“Tell me, how’s your little friend? The poor one? I mean, have you seen her clothes! They must be ten years old. She didn’t look too good before holidays. I saw her crying her eyes out in a corridor. Was she finally-” James replied with equal coldness, but Albus could take no more.
“Shut it! You don’t know a thing about Nick!” he roared, furious with his James. His brother didn’t know a thing; he should feel lucky he got new clothes whenever he asked. He should feel blessed to have parents.
“Ah, there’s the temper. At least you’re finally growing a backbone ... somewhat,” James sneered, just before their father appeared.
“What is all this noise about?” Harry asked, his gaze cold and unforgiving. “James?” he prompted, and James’s face paled, but he didn’t answer.
“It’s nothing,” Albus shrugged, before brushing coldly past both of them and walking back down the stairs. Most of the family was there, and Al saw Rose, who had brought Scorpius, sitting with Piper in a corner away from the rest of the family. Immediately Albus made a beeline for them, but he was stopped by his Godbrother.
“Mate, if you lot are talking about what I’m guessing you are, you might want to go listen to Dominique and Lysander for a moment. Might learn something,” he muttered, and Albus smiled slightly. Ted loved Nick; he found her highly amusing. They had met when Albus had brought her to his house for Christmas third year. Plus, Teddy was an Auror, so he generally kept tabs on Nick during the summer and told Albus when something inevitably went wrong.
So Albus, knowing he could trust Teddy, did as he suggested. Pretending to go and innocently get a Butterbeer, he got Uncle Ron going off on a tangent about some time or another, and just pretended to listen as he tuned in to what Dominique was saying.
“Something just didn’t feel right. Believe me, I know that kid, she’s one of the most emotionless people I’ve ever met, but she was literally shaking when I brought her there. And after the first time, she was so beat up, but he said it was from tripping and running in the forest. I believed him, but now I just don’t know. He was just ... creepy. And when I went to check up yesterday, something was off. The girl looked fine, but there was something different about her. As if it wasn’t really her,” Dominique said, her face creased with worry. “I don’t know what to do. I shouldn’t have done this. No matter what I thought, or think, she’s still a kid.” Then she put her face in her hands, looking almost like Nick had the month she wouldn’t speak to anyone.
Albus was surprised at this; he had never seen Dominique like this. But what really shocked him was that she actually gave a damn about Nick after all. He wondered what could have made her change her mind about Nick ...
But he needed to share this with Piper and Scorpius. It could mean nothing, but it could mean everything. So he walked over, and cut to the chase. When he was done, Piper paused for a moment. She looked stunning in a pure white dress, her hair thrown into a careless ponytail, but it still cascaded in beautiful curls.
“Well, we all knew, or now know, why Nick was so scared. And even though Dominique said she looked fine, I don’t believe it. Maybe he used Polyjuice or something,” Piper theorized, biting her lip. Rose nodded in agreement, while Scorpius gripped the edge of the sofa so hard his knuckles turned white.
“I’ve never been this worried about her before,” Scorpius admitted, his eyes far away. “Even my parents know something’s wrong.”
“Mine, too,” Albus and Piper answered at the same time. Rose shot Albus a knowing look, but he ignored it. Yes, he fancied Piper, but he wasn’t going to do something about it right now. Albus had promised Rose that if Nick came back after break, he would. But she was still pushing him.
“Why do you all look like you’re at a funeral? It’s Christmas tomorrow!” Uncle George said suddenly, causing them all to jump. “Oh, you’re up to something,” he said, winking. “If it’s a prank, just make sure you get Percy. I’ll leave you to it ...” And then he walked away, swaying slightly.
“That was close. And if Uncle George can tell we’re doing something secretive ...” Rose commented, and Piper looked grim.
“Then we’re not being secretive at all,” Piper finished, and Albus put a protective arm around her. While Scorpius smiled slightly, nudging Rose, Albus ignored it.
“Meet me in the garden. Then we can talk about the letter,” he muttered, the reasoning behind the affectionate gesture. Piper nodded slightly, before Albus stood up. Uncle Ron was shooting Scorpius death glares, but Al had some business he needed to do. Besides, if Uncle Ron weren’t shooting Scorpius the death glares, that would be the signal that something was wrong. He went up to Aunt Hermione, who was talking to his mum.
“Erm, can I talk to you for a minute, Aunt Hermione?” he asked, and his mother raised an eyebrow at him. Aunt Hermione looked slightly confused, and smiled.
“Of course,” she said. “We’ll continue this talk later, Ginny.” His aunt’s voice was stern, but Albus’s mother just rolled her eyes. Albus followed his aunt into the hallway where the drinks were, and sighed. “All right, what’s the matter?”
“Erm, I was wondering what you thought of the new section of the educational part of the law. B-17,” Albus said, and his Aunt’s eyes widened.
“I fought Cormac on passing that law with everything I had. It’s wrong; in America it would be considered unconstitutional. It’s just a way for some petty people to take revenge on children to hurt their parents, whom they also wronged,” she said, before her brow creased. “Why do you ask?”
“Erm, I,” Albus stuttered, before taking a deep breath. “I have a friend. She’s in trouble with the law; she might be arrested at the end of Christmas holidays,” he explained. Hermione nodded.
“Nicole Warrington. She’s somewhat famous around the department,” she said, and Albus nodded. “And you’re extremely worried because of her track record and how the person she’s with is certifiably insane, but no one can prove it.”
“What ... how ...” Albus stuttered, and his aunt grinned.
“The Ministry knows a lot more than you think. We just haven’t been able to prove Justin’s unfit to be a foster parent. There’s this young lad in Social Services that is working really hard to prove it; Liam Dalton is his name. Bright kid,” she explained, and Albus felt anger bubble up. They knew ... but they couldn’t do anything to help. But there was something familiar about that name ...
“Is there anything you could do to help her? Would you defend her in the Wizengamot if it came to that?” he asked, and his aunt smiled.
“Of course. Your father and I already decided that a long time ago. And Albus,” she started, her face going from helpful to parental, “don’t be so harsh on your parents. They know more than you think, as well.” Then she left, leaving Albus standing there, slightly bewildered. He knew he needed to share this with Piper, so he walked out to the garden in the back of their house. Piper wasn’t there.
So he just sat out there, and watched time go by as it snowed lightly, dusting everything. After an hour, he heard footsteps behind them. It wasn’t Piper, though, it was Scorpius.
“Hey, Al,” Scorpius greeted, sitting on the frozen grass next to him. He looked up at the sky.
“She would have loved to be out here right now,” Al said, and Scorpius nodded.
“I was serious, back there, you know. My parents are scared; they talked to the Montagues. She’s like a sister to me; they consider her their daughter. Her mum and my mum were best friends, before everything happened. You don’t know how many times I wanted to show her a picture; my mum has tons lying around,” Scorpius said, and Albus nodded.
“My parents know what’s going on, too. But they won’t tell me. They keep trying to talk to me, though, and are completely oblivious to what’s going on. I can’t believe they don’t know what goes on at Hogwarts. It’s obvious,” Albus confided, and it was Scorpius’s turn to nod.
“I think they do; they just don’t want to accept it. They fought for a better life for us, and we’ve gone and mucked it up horribly. Especially the Ministry,” Scorpius mused.
“Do you know where Piper is? She was supposed to meet me- she wouldn’t reply to my letter- just said we would ‘talk tonight’,” Albus asked suddenly. Scorpius knew why he wanted to change the subject. He was angry. Simple as that.
“I think she was heading out here when she was stopped by one of her brothers. They got into some sort of a fight, and her mother sent Piper home. I’m sorry, Al,” Scorpius explained, and Al cursed.
For a while the two just sat there in silence, watching the snowfall, until a shrill, terrified scream rang through the night. Albus immediately looked up to the forest that bordered Godric’s Hollow. He could just make out figures on the cliff. Someone was up there. Albus and Scorpius immediately took off, running to the path they had taken so many times before. Just as they entered the forest, two figures came running at them.
“Albus? What are you doing?! Go back!” It was his dad, as he tore past them, Uncle Ron in tow. Ignoring them, Albus and Scorpius tore past them, knowing they were much faster and had a much better chance.
After a minute or two, they came to the cliff. As Albus overtook Scorpius, he sprinted towards the figures, and reached them first, but almost threw up at the sight. He ignored the man lying with the knifepoint sticking through his back; he ran straight to the first figure. It was Nick. She was almost unrecognizable, and blood covered her shirt. Her lips were blue, and her eyes were sliding shut. When she saw Albus, though, Nick smiled, but her eyes were a million miles away. Fumbling around in her pocket, gasping in pain, Nick tried to find something, but Albus gripped her hand, as her eyes started to water with tears.
“It’ll be alright. It will be fine. Just stay awake, Nick. Help is coming; you’re going to make it,” Al told her, and just kept repeating the same things. Just as her eyes were closing, Nick, her arm shaking with the effort, reached her other hand into her pocket and pulled out a photograph, slowly tracing something onto the back, before handing it to Albus.
“Happy Christmas, Al” she whispered, before her eyes slowly drifted shut. By this time Scorpius had caught up, as well as his father. Harry Potter immediately knocked his son out of the way and scooped Nick into his arms, before disappearing with a crack. His best friend stood over the man, and turned to Scorpius and Al. Scorpius had tears in his eyes, as he saw the dark stain of blood marring the pure white snow.
“He’s dead,” Ron croaked, but Al wasn’t looking at the man. If he was still alive, Albus would have killed him himself- of that he was certain. He was the one who had done that to Nick. Instead, Albus looked into his hand. There, smeared with blood, was one of the photographs Albus given Nick. It was of him, Piper, and Nick. Before he knew it, there was a teardrop on the photograph. Albus couldn’t bring himself to look at what she’d written on the back.
“Good riddance,” Albus spat, before turning to stalk away.
“Where do you think you’re going?” his Uncle Ron asked, and Albus turned around for a split second.
“Where else? St. Mungo’s; I need to know Nick will be all right. Scorpius, are you coming?” Albus said coldly, and Uncle Ron looked even more bewildered.
“You know her?” his uncle asked, his eyes widening, as Scorpius jogged to catch up.
“She’s my best friend,” Albus said, and his voice was colder than ice. Ron swore, before running after them. His face was grim, but there was a hint of mischievousness in his eyes.
“Well then, I know a quicker way. Do you two know how to Apparate yet?”
A/N: Okay ... that was not what I expected.
I have two chapters that go in between the one before this and this. I forgot when I started posting this story here that child abuse is not accepted, but if any of you want to read them, shoot me a PM on the boards (same username). All right. Down to business.
Who expected Justin to be him? What do you think happened with him and Nick? What WILL happen to NIck? What about Dominique? (Is she growing a heart?) Al's relationship with his family? Al in general? (warning: rest of story is from 3rd person)
Oh, and I was shocked at the lack of reaction to the Owen/Nick kiss last chappie. So, thoughts on that?
I'm sorry this took so long; I had a one-shot I really wanted to post, because an idea in it means a lot to me, but it's really long. Thanks, and please review! (and then a few issues with this chappie)
Also ... thanks a MILLION (squared) to BKL8008! Even though in the end the chapter was too dark, he was just .... amazing. I can never thank him enough. :) So go read his stuff and review it like crazy ... please? He's an amazing author, too.
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