Chapter 14 : Stumbling
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And I don’t own Harry Potter, JK Rowling does, blah de blah sad times ON WITH THE DRAMA.
I skipped breakfast and went straight to class, sitting in Potions on my own.
Professor Gardner didn’t question me, but I did catch her curious glances and was glad my red, puffy eyes deterred her.
When Lily finally stormed into the room, she near threw her unfinished essay at Professor Gardner and ran to me, I could barely breathe with the suffocation of silence.
“What happened last night?” she hissed at me, dropping her bag to the floor. “Al just went to the hospital wing to get pretty much all of the bones in his left hand fixed and get rid of a black eye, Riley went with him to get some scratches and bruises sorted, and James was trying to convince Dom to heal his broken wrist when I left!”
“Al figured it out,” I breathed, closing my eyes and trying to stop the tears escaping.
“About him... kissing me.”
Lily frowned. “So how did three guys end up beaten into pulps?”
I shook my head and looked to my lap, where my hands were lying limply. Her hand softly reached out and took them, and I abruptly felt my arms throw around her shoulders and I sobbed into her shoulder, crying from the fear and pain of it all.
“I don’t understand.”
I shrugged half-heartedly, staring into space.
“But... what made him so mad? How can anyone get so angry about it, much less Al? Surely he realised you had good reason not to tell him...”
I shook my head at her, tears still falling. It was as though I had an endless supply, which I was sure I didn’t. We were sat in a spare classroom- Professor Gardner had excused us from the lesson before it had even begun, claiming the last thing I needed was to finish a Drought of the Living Death potion. She’d have Sammy or someone do it instead.
“But I didn’t, Lily. I don’t have a good reason. I didn’t tell him because I was scared. I was scared he’d hate me, he’d blame me... that he wouldn’t like me anymore.”
He was so angry. The only explanation I could think of was that hated the idea of me- the idea of us. I was repulsive and vile and not his expectation for his rebound. At least when he didn’t know, I had a slither of hope he felt the same way. Now I felt unimportant and irrational.
She shook her head. “Fuck it. Fuck him. Fuck this.” She stood up, grabbing her bag. “I’m going to find him.”
“No, Lily, you can’t,” I said desperately, also standing. “You didn’t see him, he looked... oh Merlin, Lily, don’t bring it up-“
Lily’s nose flared. “I’m not going to turn into a fucking victim, and if he even tries it I swear he will regret it until the day he fucking dies.”
I had followed Lily all the way to Transfiguration, Al’s supposed first lesson, where Lily found out he and Riley had never showed up after being healed. We then went, me thirty paces behind her, all the way back to Gryffindor tower.
Lily went up the boy’s staircase and I followed her closely. She had clearly stormed in and left the door wide open, so I whipped past the door up into the seventh year’s room, only listening.
“WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU DO THAT TO MY BEST FRIEND FOR, ALBUS SEVERUS FUCKING POTTER?!”
“I was drunk, Lily. I can’t give you-“
“I DON’T MEAN WHEN NYX CHEATED ON YOU, I MEAN LAST NIGHT YOU TOSSER!”
“I didn’t mean-“
“SHE LOOKED TERRIFIED!” Lily roared. “SHE TRIED TO TELL ME WHAT HAPPENED, AND YOU WHAT SHE DID? SHE BROKE INTO PIECES RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME! ELLIE! MY ELLIE! HOW FUCKING DARE YOU?! I DON’T KNOW WHAT THE HELL YOU WERE THINKING LAST NIGHT, BUT IF YOU DON’T MAKE THIS RIGHT AS SOON AS YOU FIND HER I AM GOING TO TELL MADAME PATIL YOU NEED SOME MEDICATION FOR YOUR ANGER!”
I tried not to see the ironic side of that statement, her yells almost hysterical.
“What can I do?!” he threw back, his voice ripping horribly. “There is nothing I can do or say to make this right, Lily! I don’t even know... shit, I don’t even know how she can look at me.”
“SHE COULD LOOK AT YOU UNTIL YESTERDAY!”
At that, I had to chuckle darkly, if only to myself.
“She never did, Lily! That’s the thing! I always wondered why, but she never looked me in the eye and I didn’t know why, but now I get it! I remind her of that, of what I did-“
“THAT’S BECAUSE SHE’S IN LOVE WITH YOU, YOU ARSE! You messed with her head and she loves you and you’ve never even noticed her!”
“She doesn’t love me! How the hell can she love me?”
“She has done since the-“
“I RAPED HER!”
Silence. Total and utter silence. Even the beating in my veins stilted.
“What?” Lily whispered. I didn’t understand.
Al spoke very fast, the venom and disgust lacing his voice. “All I remember is grabbing her, forcing her against a wall, shoving my tongue down her throat, her trying to push me away, me completely disregarding it and throwing her onto my bed before trying to yank her top off. She wasn’t there the next day. You figure it out.”
Someone stood up, and judging by Al’s continued speech I assumed it was him pacing.
“I can’t... I just can’t. I can’t believe what I did, and to her, of all people... I can’t... hell, I can’t even understand myself. I don’t know how I could have-”
“Al, you didn’t have sex.”
Riley finally spoke. “Yeah, mate, I was there and awake the whole time... you didn’t have sex with her. I mean, you tried to get her top off, but she slapped you away so you just snogged a lot and fell asleep.”
“I didn’t... what?”
“She told me everything,” Lily said faintly. “You kissed, and slept in the same bed... but you never did more.”
I could barely hear Al, because his voice scratched and was so small. “We didn’t... I didn’t do it?”
“No, Al. Never.”
There was a huge stretch of nothing, in which I fiddled with my shirt.
“But why... why didn’t she tell me?”
“She felt terrible. It was consensual, and she thought you were still dating Nyx... she called herself ‘morally guilty’ or something. And then she kept ranting on about taking advantage of you, because you were drunk, and she didn’t want you remembering and... well, doing what you did last night.”
“Yeah, Al, what was going through your head yesterday?”
“I... I thought I raped her,” he trembled. “I thought she should have... hated me, or hurt me, or told someone, or just anything. She looked so fucking fragile, and I just wanted her to punch me. But she just stood there, looking like she expected me to do it again or something. I didn’t want... I wanted her to defend herself. I wanted her to tell me why she’d let me do it- like she had any power over it- well, shit, I just wanted someone to blame.”
“You are the least romantic screwup I know. Now go find her and tell her everything.”
I don’t know if you’ve ever spent more than five minutes in a constant state of ‘alert’ when trying to hide from someone, but I have and it’s bloody tiring. I spent three days skipping breakfast, staying in abandoned classrooms during the evenings and finding a new common room each night to sleep in. Ravenclaw was the obvious choice, because it was apparently a theme that Potters were absolutely shit at riddles, but after a day Rose kept trying to encourage me to talk to him.
Convoluted twists of the truth spread throughout all of the Weasleys, but they had the sense to keep it to just family. Al was confronted by James, Fred, Dom, Rose, and Lucy separately, but I was barely spoken to.
I was even avoiding Lily. I only needed time, and space, but it appeared they were luxuries I couldn’t afford.
Al thought he had sex with me, so he yelled at me for not defending myself because he needed someone to blame. I couldn’t look at him without seeing that contorted, deranged face he pulled when he punched the wall.
It was messed up. This whole thing was messed up, and so was I.
When I really wanted company, I went to the Owlery to talk to Amata, who was more patient than Lily could ever be. I was heading there when, out of nowhere, a hand grabbed my arm.
I jumped and leapt away, slapping at my captor’s chest.
I was on edge.
“Calm down, Ellie- please, oh shit, please, Ellie, just let me-“
It was Al himself. The moment I shrieked in shock, he let me go.
“Please, Ellie- let me explain, please-“
My breathing was unsteady, heart erratic, and I took several safe steps away.
“I already know, Al,” I mumbled.
“No, please, you don’t-“
“You thought we had sex. You thought you raped me. You took it out on me.”
He paused, staring.
“I followed Lily the other day, and listened.”
His eyes were full of shock and then confusion. “So why’ve you been running away?”
I bit my bottom lip. “Because, Al, I don’t know how I can trust you anymore.”
“What if Riley hadn’t turned up?”
His beautiful green eyes narrowed in uncertainty.
“What if he hadn’t defended me? Would it have been the wall punched- or would it have been me?”
His jaw slacked. “I- I don’t... oh shit, El, no. No. I wouldn’t have... it wasn’t really you, you know-“
“But you wanted someone to blame,” I said softly. “I was that person. Would you have hit me until I answered? Would you have-“ I winced “-yelled at me until my head rung and I couldn’t cry anymore? Would you have given me any consideration so long as you conscience was clear in that moment?”
He remained quiet, the floor clearly the friend he wanted to look at.
I took another step back, then turned to walk away.
“Please don’t go,” he said, taking a few steps after me. “Please. I... oh, Ellie, I need you.”
“I don’t need any more drama, Al,” I said, still walking and him following. “I’m an orphan living at your house eating your food and using your money-“
“Ellie, you’re my mum’s best friend’s child. It’s all yours, and you know that.”
“But it’s not, not really,” I told him, turning to face him. “You know what I’ve wanted since the moment I slept at your house? To sleep in my own. To go back home. To have a mum and dad again. To not be the only one in the house with a different surname. And I feel shit about it, I really do, because I love all of you and I love sharing with Lily and the space outside and the fact that I can get up whenever I want to a family who always seems to be happy no matter what. But you know what? After five years, I’m still not really a part of you. I’m not a Potter, I’m a Wood. Guilt is a bitch from where I’m standing, Al, and I have too many emotions without you messing around with them. Do you even like me, Al? Do you fancy me or have I made the whole thing up in my head?”
Gingerly, carefully, he took a step forwards, and lightly cupped my face.
“Ellie, I’ve fancied you since you and Lily were in third year and you challenged us to a Quidditch match. You’re beautiful and amazing and I... Ellie, I thought I’d destroyed the only girl I’ve ever loved.”
The moment when you are told you’re loved by someone who isn’t obligated to love you, you’re supposed to suddenly see the world in rose tinted glasses. Every sin is forgiven, every flaw is unnoticed.
Yet, standing before me, was the boy who had just declared his love for me; what I had wanted since the moments he kissed me... I could see nothing but flaws. The belief that he’d always protect me and I would always feel safe in his arms; that I was worth saving was gone.
It was faith I no longer had.
I brushed his arms away.
“Give me time,” I whispered, and then walked away from Al, trying to hide my tears. It was the last time I ever walked away from him.
I was talking to Amata when a brown school owl floated into the Owlery and handed me a letter. It was a note from Ginny, who had heard there were some nasty rumours circulating and she hoped I was okay.
She had included a pack of homemade cookies, so I began to nibble whilst I responded with Amata that I was fine and took a deep bite when I reached the top of the steps, vaguely considering finding Lily and updating her.
My vision began to swim, and I reached to the wall to steady myself. I dropped the packet and the half-eaten cookie.
I stared at them, but they blurred out of sight. I felt myself stumble backwards, tripping slightly, and then forwards, and I was falling and I heard the crack but felt nothing after.
A/N I have a long chappie next.
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