Chapter 1 : A is for Anxious
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Charlotte Present Day
Helpless. Charlotte had been feeling helpless all summer. She stared at her Granny and felt as though there was an elephant sitting on her chest. Her Granny had been staring out the window for fifteen minutes, her tea and biscuits completely forgotten.
“Al’s going to be here any second,” Charlotte broke the silence.
Granny didn’t say anything. Then the doorbell rang and Charlotte leaped up to go let her best friend Al in. She tapped the doorknob four times before letting him in. Four was a good, even number.
“Hey freak,” he said brightly and let himself in, “how’s Granny?”
“Go see for yourself,” Charlotte said shortly, slightly put off by being called freak. He walked to the back room where she was sitting and kissed her on the cheek.
“Wotcher Granny,” he said, “You look fantastic!” He wolf-whistled after making a point of looking her up and down.
This effectively snapped her out of her trance, “Albus Severus! Don’t you forget this old lady could beat you in a duel, from this chair, without uttering a single word.” Granny said with some of her usual spunk.
“Shall we?” He challenged her.
“Don’t test me,” she said waving her wand at him, “I doubt sweet Charlotte would be happy with me if I put you in St. Mungos.”
“Debatable,” Charlotte said. Al clutched his heart and threw her a fake hurt look. She mouthed the word freak at him over her Granny’s head and raised her eyebrows.
Al made himself comfortable in Charlotte’s chair so she was forced to sit on the floor and lean against his knees. She wasn’t complaining though, Al had gotten her Granny to smile for the first time today. Now she was telling them both a story about the time she met a vampire at the Leaky Cauldron and they spent the summer together in Prague.
Al was often the exact thing the Walker ladies needed.
Charlotte Age Seven
Charlotte was riding her new two-wheeler bike down the street much faster than was safe—just because she could. It was the first time her Granny had ever left her home alone while she ran errands.
At that age she could still let go completely. She peddled faster and faster until her skinny legs seemed to be caught up in the circular motion. She didn’t think she could break if she wanted to without flying over the handlebars.
She streaked by the Potter’s house again on her way back down the street. At that age she was already quite close with Al. She passed a few more houses and turned around again. The turn was quite sharp, but she managed.
This time when she flew by the Potter’s, Al ran out into the street, pulling his bike along with him. “Catch me if you can!” Charlotte dared him and kept going. She knew without a doubt that Al would be gaining on her by now. He had always been stronger than her.
She sneaked a peak back at him and stuck out her tongue. At first he just grinned at her, but then his eyes widened with horror. She turned around just in time to see the car she was about to collide with.
Her bike hit the parked car at full force and she flew forward, hitting the windshield, and then sliding off and hitting the asphalt.
Tears flowed down her cheeks. Her head still hurt even though she was wearing her helmet and her elbows and knees were skinned.
Al had reached her by then. She tried to stop crying, she wanted him to think she was tough. Her bottom lip quivered with the effort.
“Charlie! Are you okay?”
“Alby,” she whimpered, “I want my Granny.” Then she couldn’t help the tears that spilled over.
“Good thing you wore your helmet!” Al yelled wildly, “you know what, I’ve changed my mind. Helmets are cool. Helmets are not dorky; I’m going to wear a helmet every day for the rest of my life!”
She laughed through the tears—Al was crazy.
“You’re bleeding!” he realized, “Awesome!!” He then, with astounding surety for a seven year old, helped her up and onto his handlebars.
He peddled her down the street and back to his house. “Don’t worry Charlie, my mum will help.”
She smiled, even with her scrapes hurting more and more and the car alarm sounding down the street; it was hard to worry when Al was around.
Charlotte Present Day
“Enough questions,” Granny cried, exasperated, “I’m going to go for a lie down. Go outside and swim or something, it’s a beautiful day.” She looked out the window again with a wistful expression. Charlotte was pleased her Granny suggested they get up. She had been feeling really restless. Her fingers had been taping against her leg for the past half hour.
They offered to help her get into bed, but she was a stubborn old broad and insisted on doing it herself.
“Want to swim at my place today?” Al asked once she was up the stairs, “Rose is coming by later.”
“Sure,” Charlotte said excitedly, she missed Rose, “let me just change.” She threw on her bikini and a cover-up and headed back downstairs.
“Nearly,” she panicked for a second because she thought she left the lights on, “let me check something.” After checking that all the lights were switched off she bounded down the stairs again.
“Ok let’s go,” she said, but then she was afraid she left the tap running in her bathroom, “um, one more second.” She ran off again and checked all the sinks for good measure.
Al was waiting by the front door now looking at her with a thoughtful expression. “Sorry,” she said a little breathlessly, “I’m ready.”
She tapped the doorknob four times and then they both crossed the street to the Potter’s house. Halfway across Charlotte started to feel a little anxious, “should I go back and check that Granny’s okay?” She asked Al.
Al saw the raw panic in her eyes, “Charlotte, Granny’s fine, toughest witch I’ve ever met.” He said sincerely. They had reached his house by then and they let themselves in.
“Mum!” Al called, “Char’s here, we’ll be outside.”
“Did you get your letter yesterday?” Charlotte asked Al conversationally as they were stripping into their bathing suits.
“Yeah, eight O.W.L.’s. One better than my dad,” he grinned smugly, “what about you?”
“Seven!” Charlotte said shaking her head at him, “it was History of Magic that tipped you over wasn’t it? I’ll never know how you stay awake during that class.”
Charlotte never caught his response because strong hands picked her up and tossed her into the pool.
“JAMES YOU TOSSER!” she yelled once she bobbed back up. James Potter had a talent; he pissed people off better than anyone else Charlotte had ever known. He and Al were chuckling at the edge of the pool.
“Well are you guys going to join me?” she laughed, “or are you both big pansies?” She taunted.
The Potter boys took off at the same time leaping into the pool.
Later that night Al, Charlotte and Rose were all sitting in the Potter living room. Rose had out The Standard Book of Spells, Grade 6.
“Avis” she mumbled under her breath. Charlotte was killing Al in wizarding chess. It still made her chuckle that his chess set listened to her more than they did to him.
James apparated right on top of Rose. She was not happy. “JAMES!” she yelled furiously, “look what you’ve done, all of these pages are bent now.”
“Sorry Rosie,” James said with ease, “I’m still getting the hang of it.”
“Well get the hang of it somewhere else, AND DON’T CALL ME ROSIE.” By now Al and Charlotte were chuckling along with James.
At that moment Ron Weasley stuck his head around the corner, “Everything okay Rosie?”
Rose let out a wordless shriek and the rest of us burst out laughing, “Not helping dad.” She said. He went back to the other room grinning, Charlotte was pretty sure he did that on purpose.
“On that note,” Charlotte said once catching her breath, “I’m going to head home.”
“Bye Charlotte,” Rose said, “See you at the start of term.”
“Bye Rosie,” Charlotte said in her ear while they hugged goodbye. She jumped out of the way before Rose could hit her…she wasn’t above it.
Then Charlotte went into the other room where the adults were, “Thanks for dinner Peasleys.” Harry and Ron groaned at the nickname while Hermione just shook her head, but really it was much easier just to group the lot of them. Not to mention Peasleys was much funnier than Wotters.
“Seeya tomorrow Charlotte,” Ginny said, “Tell Granny I say hullo.”
“You got it Mrs. P.” Now it was Ginny’s turn to groan. Charlotte walked back to where the others were, James gave her a high five saying goodbye and Al offered to walk her home.
“Look at you being all chivalrous,” Charlotte teased on their walk back. He ignored that. “Something wrong?” She asked carefully.
He ignored that too. Once they reached her front porch he tugged her arm and sat them both down on the bench.
“Seriously Al,” she said impatiently, “what’s wrong?”
“Don’t get mad Charlie,” he used her childhood nickname to soften her up, “Is it getting bad again?”
She froze. How could Al know that she was getting worse by the day? Was he going to tell anybody? What if they locked her up again? She couldn’t leave Granny now. It was getting hard for her to suck in a breath, but she couldn’t let Al know that she was bad again.
She remembered the last time.
Charlotte Age Thirteen
The healer said that Granny was deteriorating. He said Charlotte should only expect a few more years with her. Charlotte took Granny for a routine checkup but she left with a death sentence.
Four more years.
Four more years.
Four more years.
Granny had four more years thought Charlotte as they were leaving St. Mungos. Four more years. Four more years left with the woman that raised her. She started to get really hot and sweaty. At first she thought it was just because of the summer heat, but then her vision started to go fuzzy. Her head was spinning out of control and her mouth felt extremely dry.
Her eyes darted around the lobby of the hospital. All these people, she thought. All these people are dying. She looked around at everyone again, death was everywhere. The room was spinning.
She couldn’t get a breath. Why couldn’t she breathe? Her nails clawed at her throat drawing blood but she didn’t care.
She saw Granny’s lips moving, but Charlotte couldn’t hear a thing. Then her stomach lurched, she was sick all over the lobby floor...she passed out.
She woke up some time later committed to the mental ward. She heard healers throwing around words like “panic attack,” “acute anxiety,” “norepinephrine,” and “calming drought.”
She had to spend the next month there so they could monitor her. Al visited every day. She was the most like herself when he was around. Something had changed within her though: she became obsessed with the number four, she often had minor panic attacks, and she had anxiety about everything.
This lasted for almost the whole summer.
It was only at the end of summer, right before her fourth year that Charlotte seemed to snap out of it. It was apparent that Granny was doing fine, great even. She finally accepted that her Granny wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon. She was finally able to leave her house without taping the doorknob four times and do things without hyperventilating.
That summer had been terrible, but she knew that without Al keeping her busy it would have been a million times worse.
Charlotte Present Day
“Is it getting bad again Charlotte?” Al asked again. Charlotte knew deep down that Al wouldn’t tell anyone if she asked him not to, but she also knew that he would betray her trust if it meant keeping her safe.
“No Al,” She lied with complete confidence, “I’m fine.” She smiled at him, he didn’t return the smile.
“I saw you tapping the doorknob.”
“Oh please,” she said, “that’s just an old habit, no big deal.”
“You tapped it four times,” he noted.
Ah, the number four. Just hearing that number made Charlotte’s palms sweaty. “Like I said, it’s an old habit.” She got up as a way to end the conversation; she needed to get inside so she could go to pieces. He got up too and reached for the door before she could tap it.
“Here,” she said impatiently, “your being ridiculous.” She said, but she was thinking something else entirely. She needed to tap the doorknob before going inside. She needed to tap it four times. Why was Al doing this?
He unlocked the door and gestured for her to go inside. She paused hating the situation she was in. She finally took a deep breath and walked inside.
“I’ll see you at ten tomorrow,” Al said, “we’re going shopping.”
She turned to face him, “what if I don’t want to go shopping with you?” she asked.
Albus Present Day
She was bad again.
Author’s Note (part 2): Hope you liked the first chapter of my new story! I expect I’ll have the next chapter up in about a week (maybe sooner.) Reviews would really make my day!
Seeya Later Alligator
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