Chapter 16 : Late Night Chats and Insomniac Stats
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I stepped through the now repaired doorway and saw Alex standing up by her bed getting wrapped up. She was only wearing a sports bra, as her scar now stretched all the way down across her abdomen. Madam Abbott and her assistant were passing a bandage roll back and forth to wrap her torso.
Alex saw me and smiled with a shrug, standing there with both her arms outstretched. I walked over and took a seat at the end of her bed, holding a sandwich I had brought for her. Her face lit up even more when she saw it.
“Eric you are a life saver. I’m starving,” she said chuckling, though instantly regretting it judging by the pained look on her face. Alex smiled painfully at me before looking at Madam Abbott hopefully.
“Can I go to charms today?” she asked in as innocent a voice as she could manage. “Please Madam Abbott. I’ll be really careful, and I’ll walk slowly, and I’ll avoid all physical contact. I can’t stay in this Hospital wing another night, please?”
“Miss Wood, if you were to have another nightmare, the safest place for you to be would be here,” Madam Abbott said quietly, glancing over at me. “You know that.” Alex reddened slightly, with embarrassment it seemed, yet she continued to plead with her with her eyes. “Fine Miss Wood, but you had better be in here every morning to get your bandages changed, you hear me?” Alex nodded excitedly and hopped on the bed next to me, grabbing the sandwich. She leaned over and gave me a peck on the cheek.
“Thank you,” she said with a smile. Madam Abbott cleared her throat. I turned and held out my hands for her.
Madam Abbott unwrapped them slowly. She shook her head in disappointment when she saw the state of my newly broken right hand. My left one was at least losing the purple coloring, but my right was still swollen from my punch to the corridor wall two days before. Alex nudged me.
“You didn’t tell me what happened to your hands Eric…” she said, quietly examining my hands. Madam Abbott gave me a look. I shook my head quickly at her. Alex looked back up at me.
“I wrestled a Hungarian Horntail,” I said with a chuckle. “Eat your sandwich and I’ll get you up to the common room.” Alex just rolled her eyes and shoved my shoulder lightly. She hopped off the bed and dug through her knapsack, pulling out her Falcons jumper and putting it on. One sleeve hung off her shoulder, suddenly reminding me very much of Christmas Eve. I must’ve been slightly in a daze, because Alex laughed loudly, before wincing horribly. I looked up at her.
“You’re staring again,” she said with a pained smile, clutching her stomach. I felt my face redden slightly.
“Can’t help myself,” I said, looking back down at my newly wrapped hands. “All done?” I asked Madam Abbott. She nodded rolling her eyes.
“Both of you get out of here,” Madam Abbott said cheerfully. Alex grabbed her knapsack and carefully one of my forearms and dragged me out into the corridor.
“Come on you cripple,” Alex said with a contained smile. I laughed and put a heavily bandaged arm around her shoulders.
“Yes well I wasn’t the one in the Hospital Wing for two weeks,” I said chuckling. Alex laughed and imitated my motion, putting an arm around my waist. I didn’t miss the pained expression that crossed her face as she laughed her tinkling laugh.
“I would have to disagree with you there,” she said coyly, smiling again. It was so good just to see her so happy. And awake. Though, she didn’t seem to remember me sitting at her bedside every day. At least, she hadn’t mentioned it. She looked up, caught me staring, and chuckled. She put her hand up and turned my face forward. “You have such a problem with the staring,” Alex said smiling to herself. I just shrugged.
“ALEX YOU’RE ALIVE!!!” I had literally just opened the dormitory door to Gwen jumping on me.
“Hullo Gwen,” I said, my voice muffled by her shoulder. She had squeezed just a little too tight. Gwen let go suddenly.
“Oh duh! Alex I’m so sorry, I forgot for a moment,” Gwen said quickly, a guilty look on her face. I just waved a dismissive hand at her as I grabbed my stomach painfully.
“It’s alright,” I said walking into the room. “Let me just change and we can head down to the common room.” She nodded eagerly, hopping onto her bed. I went over to my wardrobe, tapping a finger on my chin in thought. I decided quickly on my usual loose v-neck white tee, dark skinny jeans, and slouchy boots. I heard Gwen gasp when she saw how far down my bandages went.
“It’s all the way across your stomach now?” she asked quietly, her eyes wide. I just shrugged.
“What’s another foot of scar?” I said with a smile. I wasn’t going to let this tear me up again. True I couldn’t sleep at all without having a fit, but that was something I could handle: I just wouldn’t sleep. Yes, it was completely irrational, but what else was I going to do? If I didn’t, I would just keep everyone else up. I yawned widely. After one of my nightmares the night before, I hadn’t gone back to sleep. That was eight hours ago. I turned back to Gwen, grabbing my bag and throwing it over my shoulder.
“Let’s get down there then yeah?” I asked heading to the door. Gwen nodded and hopped up after me. We headed down the stairs and into the common room, where I was met by yet another overly-tight hug.
“Reid I can’t breathe,” I gasped as he hugged me with a death grip. He let go quickly, a panicked look on his face. I patted him on the shoulder heavily, turning my head and coughing heavily to the other side. “You people are going to be the death of me I swear,” I said in a pained voice. Reid just smiled sheepishly.
“Just good to see you awake and kicking,” he said rather seriously. I rolled my eyes.
“You saw me yesterday you dolt,” I said with a chuckle, knocking Reid in the head lightly as I walked past him to the table in the corner where Eric, James, and Fred were sitting. Gwen followed closely behind me and grabbed a seat in Fred’s lap, who was pleasantly surprised by her sudden entrance. I just laughed and took a seat between James and Eric. I looked at what the two of them were doing.
“Homework?” I asked in disbelief. “Already?” Eric gave me a worried look, before turning his attention back to his work. I leaned over and read what he was doing. “You can’t find the last question?” I asked kindly.
Next to me James shook his head. They were doing the 100 question charms study guide that was due in about fifteen minutes that I had finished about three weeks ago. I sighed and pulled Eric’s book from him, and both their study guides from them. I looked them over for correctness as I flipped through the charms book magically, just with the flick of my finger. Fred watched in awe.
“I hate that you can do that,” he grumbled, before Gwen turned his face toward her and kissed him. I rolled my eyes.
“Come off it you two,” I said as I finally found the page with an explanation of the Augmenti charm on it. “It’s not as if you didn’t see each other ten minutes ago.” Eric laughed at this and pulled his book back.
“Thank you,” he said, trying to avoid the still disturbing state of Fred and Gwen. “Any problems with the study guide?” I shook my head slightly.
“It looks pretty good to me actually,” I said with a surprised smile. I hadn’t really expected it to be perfect, which it was. James’ face lit up.
“Fantastic,” he said quickly, grabbing his study guide back and copying down the final answer. Eric followed suit, though a bit more slowly as it was rather difficult to grip a quill with his broken hands (the ones I still didn’t know how he broke as no one was telling me). That was why it had taken him so long to finish it, he could hardly write. And knowing him, he wouldn’t ask for help from anyone. I sighed deeply and gently took his paper and quill away.
“Alex I can do it,” he said, sounding a bit irritated. I shushed him and scribbled his answer quickly. I rolled up his parchment and walked around to his bag, putting everything in it neatly. I pulled him up and handed him his bag.
“Come on, let’s get to class yeah?” I suggested quietly. Eric just nodded and followed me out the portrait hole. I knew he was incredibly frustrated. The moment we were out in the corridor I turned on him.
“Why won’t you tell me what happened to you?” I asked tentatively. Eric avoided my eyes. I grabbed his face gently. “Will you just look at me?” He did, his eyes filled with anger. I let go and took a step back, which only seemed to turn him from angry to ashamed at his almost outburst. He looked to the ground, and then back up to me.
“I’m sorry… He just, he was hurting you,” he said quietly. “I had to make him stop.” His voice cracked slightly. My expression softened immediately. Eric looked back down at his hands and smiled slightly. “As useless as I feel having these all bandaged up, I would do it again and again and again, if it meant he could never come within a mile of you.”
I bit my lip and walked towards him again. I carefully took his face in my hands, stood on my tip toes, and kissed him gently, before wrapping my arms around his neck in a hug.
“Thank you,” I mumbled into his shoulder. He hugged me tightly and laughed suddenly.
“Oh come off it you two!” Gwen drawled sarcastically from behind me. I turned and gave her a mocking dirty look before looking back to Eric. He smiled at me and turned me so that we were walking to the staircase, putting an arm around me.
“Off to charms we go then,” he said chuckling.
“Something fishy is going on with those two,” I whispered to Fred. We were sitting in the back row in Charms, watching Eric and Alex shoot water at each other out of their wands, practicing the Augmenti charm. Professor Flitwick waddled over.
“Will you two kindly cut that out?” he squeaked at them. Alex’s eyes went wide. She immediately dried herself off with her wand (one of the few times we ever see her use it) and sat back down. Eric, however, sat down and had to muffle his laughter by shoving his head beneath the table.
Professor Flitwick continued to the front of the room and tapped his wand on his podium
“Quiet down everyone, we’re done practicing now!” he squeaked, sounding a bit frazzled. “Time for lecture.” The whole class groaned, the loudest being Freddie and I. Professor Flitwick squinted his eyes at us. “I’m preparing you students for your N.E.W.T.s! Lecturing is required!” I stopped listening as he began to drone on, explaining the theory of the Augmenti charm. Fred nudged me.
“I dunno what you’re talking about Jimmy,” he said quietly, pretending to take notes, when in reality he was drawing pictures of him hexing Daniel Nott. Sodding git he was. I rolled my eyes.
“Come off it,” I hissed at him. “It’s so blatantly obvious he likes Alex, I’m surprised it hasn’t hit her square in the face.” Fred chuckled.
“Yeah well, what’s your point?” he asked glancing at me. I threw my hands in the air with frustration.
“Why aren’t they together yet? That’s my point,” I said a bit loudly. Gwen turned around in her seat right in front of Fred and put a finger to her lips. Freddie completely lost focus at this point.
I glared at him before I noticed Flitwick’s sudden squeaking again.
“Miss Wood!” he squeaked jumping up and down. “Is my lecture so uninteresting that you feel this to be the most ideal time to catch up on sleep?” Fred and I looked up to see Eric nudging Alex awake, who practically jumped out of her chair.
“Sorry Professor,” she mumbled quickly, rubbing her eyes. Professor Flitwick stepped down from his podium and walked over to the front of Alex and Eric’s table.
“Are you quite alright Miss Wood? This is very unlike you,” he squeaked a bit more quietly. Alex nodded vigorously and ignored a questioning look from Eric.
I woke up with a start. I had been dreaming about showing up at double Defense and having to duel a death eater dressed as clown. Bloody confusing. Then I remembered that tomorrow was Friday, and we only had regular defense and death eaters were not, in fact, clowns. I hadn’t really slept well since St. Mungo’s. Probably the weird healing potion Madam Abbott had given me to help heal my hands. I usually just made myself a cup of tea and sat in the common room by the fire until I got drowsy.
I hopped out of bed quietly and tiptoed to the dormitory door in my plaid pajama pants and white under shirt. I had gotten the bandages off my left hand earlier that day, which was a serious relief, but I was still right handed, and needed to keep those bandages on for another week. Alex had been a great help that week. She would make a copy of her notes for me after each class, but I thought maybe she was taking on too much work. That or it was the ten potions she was taking every day to heal her up. She just looked exhausted all the time.
I walked down the stairs and entered the common room, only to see Alex herself, sitting cross-legged in her chair at the corner table, surrounded by papers and books. She was wearing a loose Tornados shirt and grey sweat pants. She looked about ready to doze off, but jumped up the moment her head drooped to one side. I looked up at the clock. Three a.m.
“Alex, what’re you doing?” I asked sleepily, dragging my feet over to her table. I took the seat across from her. She looked up at me through her black plastic spectacles and smiled.
“Just catching up on some work,” she said rubbing her eyes. Even from a few feet away I could see that her eyes were bloodshot. I looked over some of her parchment.
“Alex some of this stuff isn’t due until the end of next week,” I said quietly. “And you only missed one class on Monday.” Alex just shrugged and rested her head on her chin, her eyelids drooping every few seconds.
“Oh, well I’m just reading ahead then,” she mumbled, pulling her spectacles off and rubbing her eyes again. I sighed, realizing something.
“Have you been sleeping?” I asked concernedly. She rested her chin on her hand again and thought for a moment, before shaking her head.
“Every time I close my eyes, I see his face,” she said quietly. “And if I actually sleep, I wake up screaming. I’ve tried that dreamless sleep draught Madam Abbott has, but it hasn’t worked. Saturday night I woke up and realized that I had ripped the bed curtains down.” Alex sighed. “I figured if I didn’t sleep, I wouldn’t have to deal with it.” She half-smiled before summoning over a tea cup that had been sitting across the room, filling it as it landed in front of me.
“Thanks,” I said sleepily, taking a sip of the tea. Then I looked to her. “You need to sleep Alex. You look like the walking dead.” Alex smirked at me.
“You don’t look so bad yourself,” she said chuckling.
"Don't you start to go loony after a few days of no sleep?" I asked. Alex shrugged.
"You know I do think I saw a unicorn in here earlier," she responded.
I took another sip of my tea and sighed. Thinking quickly, I stood up and started grabbing up Alex’s books and parchment and piling them up. “What’re you doing?” she asked, though not attempting to stop me. I threw all her stuff into her bag with my usable hand, walked around to her, and pulled her up.
“You’re coming with me,” I said cheerfully, grabbing her hand. She stopped me from leading her away. I looked back to see a fearful look in her eyes.
“Eric I can’t,” Alex said quickly. “You don’t understand the nightmares that I have… They’re so… so real.” She gulped and bit her lip. I walked forward and took her face in my hands.
“I’m not going to let anything happen to you alright?” I said quietly. “You can thrash around, scream, doesn’t matter. I just want you to get some rest love, alright?” Alex sighed and nodded, leaning into my left hand.
“Alright Mister Stretton,” she said with a small smile. “Whatever you say.” I laughed and shook my head, taking her hand again and leading her up the staircase.
“Really? Whatever I say?” I asked chuckling, looking back at Alex. She rolled her eyes at me and reached forward with her free hand to open the door. She tiptoed into the room, letting go of my hand and hopping onto my bed. I chuckled quietly and followed her, watching her shove her face into a pillow exhaustedly. I dropped her knapsack on the floor and muttered a Muffliato charm on my bed hangings, in caution for the worst case scenario that she did have a nightmare and wake up screaming horribly. I snagged a pillow and moved to sleep on the floor but she grabbed my good arm.
“Don’t be silly Stretton, I’m not kicking you out of your own bed,” she whispered with a small smile.
I chuckled and walked over to the right side of the bed and lay down to face Alex.
“You’ll be just fine okay?” I told her quietly. She nodded and scooted closer to me. I slipped my hand under her head so that she was resting on my arm.
“Thank you,” Alex said quietly. “You’ve just done so much for me.” I shook my head.
“Sharing my bed isn’t a big deal,” I said with a chuckle. Alex frowned slightly.
“Not that,” she said with a small smile. “I heard you. I heard you sing to me, and talk to me, and tell me how important it was that I got better. I felt so trapped, but you were always there for me. Merlin, that first night in St. Mungo’s I was so scared, and you stayed there the whole night. And if you hadn’t shown up when I woke up in the Hospital wing, I don’t know where I would be right now…” I touched her face, making her stop talking.
“You know you don’t have to thank me for any of that,” I said smiling. “I’d do it again in a heartbeat you dolt.” She laughed at this and hugged me. I wrapped my good arm around her and pulled her closer. She was so comfortable. It felt so right having her there, just having her around.
“Just get some sleep love,” I whispered, kissing her on the forehead. She nodded sleepily.
“You’re actually a fantastic singer by the way,” she mumbled into my chest with a chuckle. I smiled and closed my eyes letting sleep take over.
A/N: Totally advertising for myself here, but I have also posted a new story called Through The Veil. Read and review please :)