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Cheating the Bet by Ryebread
Chapter 12 : Ordinary Miracle
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6

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Thanks to VeeKAY for the awesome image :)

James was a complete and total wreck.

I mean it.

His normal hazel eyes that were so full of life and mischief had bags under them. His jet black hair was messier than usual, hair flying every which way as if he rubbed a balloon on his head. It looked as though it needed to be washed as it was greasier than oil. Al told me that he suffered in quidditch practice and with schoolwork, playing with less determination and his grades were slipping.

When he wasn’t in the hospital he would try and do both those things, but without success, as he was worried about Claire and just ended up thinking about being with her. He spent every waking minute that he could by her side. If he had the option, he would be there day and night, without sleep until his body was too exhausted to keep him awake, but Professor McGonagall and the healers wouldn’t let him. He was self-destructive.

He had to be forced out of St. Mungo’s when visiting hours were over every day and he only slept a few hours per night. Every day he usually grabbed a cup of coffee or tea to wake him up and a piece of toast, but that was all he ate or drank. He was suffering because Claire hadn’t woken up since the day we arrived to see him weeks earlier and the healers weren’t sure how this would affect her recovery.

It was now the last day before the holidays and we were to be leaving from Hogwarts to King’s Cross tomorrow morning after packing up. This just proceeded to make James even more stressed and worried. He didn’t want to leave her alone for the holidays for fear that she would wake up with no one familiar to care for her, seeing as her parents weren’t going to visit. He adamantly wouldn’t pack until she woke up from her slumber.

Al was worried, too, but not as much about Claire as he was his brother. James hardly ate, slept, or smiled and he never laughed. In the weeks that Claire Corner was hurt, he didn’t do anything, but sit by her side until the healers forced him to leave; sometimes they had to drag him out of St. Mungo’s. Whenever it came time for visiting hours to be over, the healers and some guards came in with pitying looks on their faces and requested he leave. Most times he put up a fight.

Because of this, Al and I requested permission from McGonagall to go with him to see Claire for his health and sanity. After class each day, we went with him to St. Mungo’s and did our homework while we sat by the two ill people.

Today both Al and I sat on the left of Claire’s bed, frantically trying to finish a two foot long essay for Transfiguration, and James on the right. He was clutching her hand and never taking his eyes off of her face, desperately hoping she would wake. Occasionally he would squeeze her hand or touch her face or speak her name, just to see if she would stir, but so far it was unsuccessful.

“Okay, James,” said Al. “I’m getting tired of watching you sit here and neglect yourself. We’re getting you something to eat and then you’re going to take a nap.” James looked up from Claire to glare at his little brother, but his hand never left hers.

“Al, not only am I your older brother, but I’m of age. You can’t just tell me what to do. You’re not mum,” he said agitatedly.

“Mum would say the same thing, mate,” Al reasoned. “You’re torturing yourself being here, just waiting for her, James. You need to take your mind off of Claire. She will wake up and when she does, the healers will let you know. You aren’t helping in the least. In fact you’re making the healer’s jobs harder every time you fight back to stay here. You can’t just neglect your health and your hygiene and your sanity just to see her wake up. You can see her when the healers say that it’s okay.”

“I’m fine, Al. Let it go and sod off,” James warned.

“You are not fine, James. I mean yesterday, at quidditch practice, you called me Cole. He’s black! How could we look anything alike? And you really smell. It’s bloody awful. Claire would have a heart attack if she woke up seeing you and smelling you like this.” James faced me. The last statement got his attention.

“Do I really smell?” he asked worriedly. I nodded sheepishly.

“And your hair looks really greasy, James. You need a break,” I backed Al. James sniffed his clothing and shuddered.

“Okay, I get your point, but I have to be there when she wakes, Al. I just have to. I can’t leave her alone during the holidays. At a time where she is supposed to be with people who love her. When she awakes, I’ll ask her to join us at the burrow and then, I’ll leave and shower and eat right after I ask her that and make sure she’s alright. You have to understand, Al. How would you feel if this was Allie, huh? You’d do the same thing as me, yeah?” he interrogated. Al hesitated for a moment.

“Well... I guess you’re right, James,” Al admitted and James went back to staring at Claire. Al wasn’t finished though.

“But, James, face it, you’d be doing the same thing as me,” he stated, a little smugly I might add, as he knew he was right. His big brother cared about him.

James hesitated, but eventually nodded and admitted defeat. The two brothers walked out of the room to the St. Mungo’s cafeteria to grab a bite and then would head to Hogwarts so that James could catch a wink of sleep. Before he left, James paused and turned to me.

“Look after her while I rest, okay, Allie?” I nodded and smiled to perk up his mood.

“Of course, James. I was already planning on it.” He looked relieved as he headed out the door.

When they were both gone, I set aside my schoolwork that I was doing and grabbed Claire’s hand as James had done and kept watch on her.

I sat like this for a few hours, tentatively watching her when her hand stirred. She gripped mine tightly and her eyes fluttered open.

“Claire? Claire Corner?” She turned her head to me at the sound of her name.

“Who’re you?” she asked groggily. “Can I have some water?” As I grabbed her some water, I answered her question.

“I’m Alice Longbottom. I was watching over you in the hospital along with Al and James Potter. You’re in St. Mungo’s.”

“Oh. You’re Professor Longbottom’s daughter and Al’s girlfriend. I know you,” she stated, bring a blush to my cheeks.

“Oh, no. We’re not... I mean... We...” I stammered.

“Sorry, I just assumed. The way you two look at each other, even when you were fighting. I was sure you were in love.” My eyes widened and I changed the subject.

“Do you remember what happened?” I asked. Claire nodded and looked at me curiously, noticing my obvious change of topic, but she went with it.

“I was in Hogsmeade with my friends when Death Eaters attacked the village. My friends ran, but I tripped over something. A Death Eater got to me and used the Crutiatus Curse on me. It was so painful. I couldn’t stop him,” she said, fighting back tears. “I blacked out and ended up here. I fell asleep again. How long have I been unconscious?”

“Well, the first time you were asleep for a little over a day, but you’ve been sleeping for weeks since then. James hasn’t left your side since then either,” I informed her.

“Why was James Potter here?”

“If anybody is in love, it’s you two.” I said with a smile.

“Never would I ever. James is an arrogant prat that flaunts his quidditch skills in my face, which are mediocre at best. He always brags every time he wins and makes me want to kill him. He’s just so... so... ugh!” I smiled at her sympathetically.

“You know what? I used to think the same of Al Potter. Every word that came out of his mouth was irritating and grated on my nerves. He was the devil reincarnated and was born to make me want to commit murder, but this year, something changed. He acted more mature, not that he will ever be fully mature, but he was different. At first he still irritated me because I couldn’t get passed old prejudices, but now, I really like him, and even if we aren’t officially dating, I want to be with him.” Claire looked deep in thought, but said nothing so I continued.

“James has matured, too. The whole time that you were here, he’s been at your side. In fact, he was the one that rescued you. James even sent a letter to your parents when you--” She interrupted me.

“Ha. My parents would never come visit me in the hospital on one of their many vacations. He shouldn’t be so stupid.”

“James isn’t stupid. He cares for you, Claire, and if you’re too bloody ignorant and dense to see how amazing he is, then he shouldn’t waste his time with you.” She looked shocked, but I wasn’t finished.

“He was pissed when your parents declined to come and he vowed that if you woke before our break that he would invite you to the Burrow for Christmas so that you wouldn’t be alone. If you didn’t wake, I’m positive he would have stayed in the hospital for the holidays.” Tears glistened in Claire’s eyes.

“He really said that?” she whispered, looking ashamed. I nodded seriously. We didn’t get a chance to discuss if further because James and Al walked back in, James looking clean and much more refreshed than he had previously. He also had a huge smile on his face when he saw Claire, but it quickly turned to concern when tears rolled down her cheeks.

“What’s wrong, Claire?” he asked and sat at her side.

“I’m so sorry,” she blubbered and wrapped her arms around him, pulling him in for a tight hug. “Thank you for everything, James. And I would love to come to the Burrow with you.” James looked stunned, but childishly happy as he hugged her gently in return.

“It was nothing, Claire. I’m happy to have you over. I didn’t want you to be alone during the holidays.” While they hugged Al and I slowly crept out of the room.

As we walked down the hall, arm in arm, Al asked me a question.

“Did you mean what you said in there?”

“Mean what?” I asked, genuinely confused.

“James and I heard your whole speech. James wanted to thank you for what you said about him. It was very nice of you and he’ll thank you when he’s done in there with Claire.”

“Oh. Well of course I meant that. He’s a great guy.”

“No,” Al said. “Did you mean what you said about me? That you want to be with me?”

I blushed crimson and looked down at my shoes, my blond locks hiding my face.

“Well, yes,” I mumbled, but then looked at his face and his warm green eyes. “Of course I do, Al. You should already know that.” Didn’t he see how obviously I lov— I mean liked him?

“But, I didn’t, Allie. I didn’t know what you wanted. Did you still want to just snog or did you really like me for me? I asked myself that daily. For all I knew, you thought of me as a friend who was around for a good snog.” I laughed.

“The famous Al Potter is insecure? Where did your ego go? I know I can find it somewhere,” I joked looking around the room intensely as if searching for it. “You’re everything I want. You’re a fit, famous bloke. What else could I ask for?” I teased him.

“Oh I see,” he said. “That’s why you went on a date with me.” I laughed again.

“No. I was just taking the mickey out of you. I love you because you’re brilliant, make me laugh, you’re sensitive when I need it, and you get me. You’re not perfect by a long shot. Your ego is enormous, but that’s okay. Perfect is boring.” Al got a strange look on his face.

“Why are you looking at me like that, Al? Don’t go getting a bigger head because I complimented you because it--” he stopped me by putting a hand over my mouth.

“You love me?” he asked, a half smug, half giddy smile appeared. My eyes widened and his hand left my lips.

“What did I say?”

Oh, that was intelligent, Alice. Bloody genius, you are.

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