Chapter 6 : F is for Family
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Charlotte Present Day
All she had wanted was to get out of the hospital wing, and now all she wanted was to get out of the common room. Standing in front of her were four worried people who would only pity her once they found out what happened. She didn’t want pity.
Charlotte fidgeted; wringing her hands together she stared at the floor. “Charlotte?” Talia said more gently this time, “What’s happened?”
It was impossible for Charlotte’s lips to form the words. Instead she sat in her spot on the windowsill.
“No one’s told you?” She managed to ask the group.
“No,” Rose said, “We’ve been to the headmistress and Teddy; he’s postponed the field trip by the way. I’ve wrote home to mum and dad, but they said that it was you who should tell us.”
“Right,” Charlotte said awkwardly. She looked at the ceiling and bit her lip. A few more seconds passed.
“Well the suspense is killing me!” Liam said throwing his hands in the air.
“Tactful,” Talia hit him over the head.
“No its fine,” Charlotte mumbled, “I’m sorry, but I just can’t do this.” She got up and walked back towards the portrait hole.
“No Charlotte,” Al spoke for the first time all evening. His voice rang out in the room, clear and sharp as a whip.
She paused, but didn’t turn around.
“You don’t get to run away anymore.” Al said.
“Well you don’t get to tell me what to do!” She turned around and yelled at him, “or you know, force me to do something.”
“Are we really going to fight about that right now?” He knew she was talking about the calming draught.
“Well why not?”
He didn’t answer, but instead walked over to her and held out his hand. She looked at it and then at him confused. He raised his eyebrows—a challenge.
She took it grudgingly and he walked them out of the room. “We’ll be back in few.” He called over his shoulder to the others.
“Its past curfew,” She mumbled, “maybe we should just—“She stopped when he shot her a look.
He led them to the narrow staircase concealed by a tapestry. Not many people knew about this passageway so he must have thought that it was safe for them to talk there.
He sat down on one of the steps and pulled her besides him. Then he waited. Charlotte started picking at her nails and biting her lip again, she couldn’t help it.
“Oh,” She whispered and her eyes started to fill with tears. She wiped them quickly with the back of her head. She still wanted Al to think she was tough.
“Come on Charlie,” he said gently, “say it.”
“You already know,” She wasn’t sure why she said those words, but the moment she did she knew they were true.
Al had an unnatural gift for knowing more than he should.
“Say it anyways.”
The words echoed off the walls and seemed to burn themselves into Charlotte’s heart. She felt dread and pain seep over her. Granny was dead. It still hadn’t sunk in until then.
“Oh Merlin,” She gasped out. She ran her hands nervously through her hair and felt the urge to pull it out by the fistful. Her breathing was irregular and choppy.
“Charlotte,” Al said, “look at me.”
She locked her wild grey eyes with his calm green ones.
“Good,” he said soothingly, “now try to match your breathing to mine…that’s right. Keep doing that.”
She inhaled when he did and forced herself to exhale only when he did. After a minute or so she felt her heartbeat slow down.
She had her mind back and was feeling remarkably better having told Al…even if he did already know.
She realized then what she just thought. She felt better. She was an awful person, her Granny was dead and here she was feeling okay? She was disgusted with herself.
Jumping up she looked down at Al, “I can’t do this!”
“I can’t be around you right now.”
“I can’t be around you because you make me feel better. I don’t want to be okay right now. I’m mourning, I’m miserable, I’m a mess. You’re fixing me, but I don’t deserve or want that.”
“Granny wouldn’t want you to be miserable.”
“Please,” she said pinching her nose, “Please don’t talk about her.”
“You don’t need to suffer anymore.”
“I’m going to suffer for the rest of my life!”
“You’ve suffered enough today already!” He finally raised his voice, “Let me help you.”
“You don’t know anything about today.” She snapped.
“Actually I do,” He said, his voice was even again, “As you well know.”
“What are you talking about?” She was losing her patience.
“Do you not remember anything from today?” He asked surprised.
“No,” She cried, “Not before this evening around ten. Pomfrey said that my brain was blocking the memories.”
She might not have remembered, but he did.
Al Earlier That Morning
It was early, but Al was wide awake. He had been sitting at the Gryffindor table in the Great Hall alone for what seemed like forever. After he, Rose, Talia, and Liam failed to get any information out of Headmaster Boot he sent out three letters from the Owlery.
What’s going on? Is Charlotte okay? I assume she was headed home when she snuck out of school. Has she arrived safely? Have you seen her? Will you go check if you haven’t? Let me know right away.
He had waited an hour for her response before giving up and writing a letter to Teddy.
I assumed that since I went to you for help you would have the common courtesy to let me know what the hell is going on. Respond quickly.
Another agonizing hour passed by (the smell of owl shit seemed to be going to his head) before he did what he should have done all along. He wrote to his dad.
I’m shocked at you. After all those times you were kept out of the loop at Privet Drive, here you are doing the same thing to me. You have less than an hour to respond before I take a leaf out of Charlotte’s book and come to you. I’m serious.
He sent this around five-thirty in the morning and then went to wait in the Great Hall. It was exactly forty-five minutes before something happened.
The doors to the Great Hall opened and in walked his dad. “Dad?!” He said astonished. He had expected a letter not a personal visit.
“Hey Al,” his dad said and grasped him on the shoulder for a second. “I’ve got something to tell you.”
Harry explained how Charlotte and Teddy had arrived moments before Granny passed away. Upon hearing this news Al shuddered visibly; he had known Granny all his life and she was like a second Grandma to him. After his initial feelings of sadness for himself she shifted his thought to Charlotte.
“Charlotte,” He said urgently to his dad, “Where is she?”
“Hospital wing,” He said. Al made his way to get up and go there immediately, but Harry pushed him back down, “She’s not well, for the past few hours she’s been having these fits.”
“Panic attacks,” Al cut in.
“Yes, she doesn’t seem to be coherent. And whenever the attacks end her body is so drained that she falls right asleep; however, she also seems to be suffering from night terrors.”
Al’s fists were clenched on the table.
“She made Teddy promise not to take her to St. Mungos so we took her here about an hour ago because she was asleep again.”
“An hour ago,” Al said flatly, “An HOUR ago? And I’ve been sitting here completely clueless and she got here an hour ago, you got here an hour ago?”
“I’m sorry Al but there were some things I had to take care of. Daisy only had a small supply of calming draught and Charlotte’s already used it up. I went to see Baddock about it. He’s brewing up some more right now…what?” He asked seeing his son’s face.
“You gave her calming draught?”
“I need to go see her.”
Harry looked at Al for a few seconds and then nodded. “I need to speak with Boot, I’ll check on you in a few hours.”
Al walked quickly to the hospital wing. He took a deep breath before stepping inside.
What he saw was a complete shock to him. Charlotte was curled up in a ball on one of the white beds. Her face was pressed tightly into her knees.
He thought his dad said she was asleep.
Rocking back and forth, she was sobbing uncontrollably.
The nurse looked frightened and was awkwardly patting her on the back.
“Char!” He choked out and rushed over to her.
She didn’t even acknowledge his presence.
He acted on instinct. Ignoring Madame Pomfrey’s protests he scooped her up into his arms and carried her over to an armchair. Hew knew how much she hated white beds because it reminded her of Mungos so he thought this might help. He sat down cradling her in his lap. She was still grasping for air but she let him tuck her head under his chin.
Over time he managed to get her hands away from her face. Red lines and dents covered her skin from her nails.
“I can’t,” she gasped out, “I can’t, I can’t, I can’t. I just can’t.”
“Can’t what? Charlie” He said quietly.
“I can’t do this anymore, I can’t live like this.” She let out a horrible scream and clutched at her throat, “Can’t breathe.” She rasped out.
“Al,” Madame Pomfrey said sharply, “I’m sorry but I need to body-bind her until we have more calming draught. Will you put her back in bed please?”
He lifted her up again and carried her over, but he blocked her from the nurse’s view. “Charlotte” he said evenly, “if you don’t calm your breathing she is going to body-bind you. Focus Charlie you can do it, slow your breaths. Follow me.” He waited until she was doing it, “Brilliant.” He smiled at her.
Her attempt at a smile was so pathetic that it physically hurt him.
The next eight hours were agonizing. Al felt like he had aged ten years.
When his dad arrived with the potion after two hours it should have been over, but Al had already forced her to drink it once. He would never let her be force-fed it again.
Without the potion she was a million times worse.
Completely helpless, the most he could do was hold her hands while she slept, smooth her hair back when she was ill, make sure she didn’t hit her head when she passed out, and hope that she would snap out of it soon.
Finally she fell into a deep sleep that was uninterrupted by nightmares. By this point Al was completely mentally and physically drained. He slumped over in the armchair he had dragged near her bed.
“Go get something to eat and some rest Albus,” Daisy Pomfrey said after smoothing Charlotte’s covers.
“I’m fine,” he said without opening his eyes.
“Now,” She said in an unusually stern voice. And then she started healing the wounds on Charlotte’s face.
Al was too tired to argue. He walked out of the room and saw that his mum and dad were sitting on the floor outside the door.
“Mum?” He asked tiredly. She jumped up and took him in her arms. He was taller than her, but there was no mistaking that she was the one holding him.
“Oh Al,” She said, “You are so brave and such a good friend.”
“I should have been there,” He mumbled in her ear. His guilt was still eating away at him. He knew why he had to send Teddy; he could get there faster than Al could. Charlotte had a huge head start and Al never would have gotten there on time if he went after her. But he should have found a way.
She pulled away and took his face in her hands, “Don’t let me hear you say that again,” she said sternly, “You did exactly the right thing.”
“Okay,” He said. He felt like he was going to fall asleep right there. Ginny kissed him on the head and told him that she would write to him tomorrow, “Go get some rest.”
He kissed her cheek and then embraced his dad briefly, “You did good Al.” His dad said and then the two of them left.
“Right,” he said sourly under his breath.
Charlotte Present Day
“Al?” Charlotte brought him back to the present.
“That’s probably for the best though don’t you think?” He said vaguely.
“What? That I don’t remember?” She asked sharply, “Do you know something?” She asked.
“No,” He said and closed his eyes, “Never mind, I don’t understand anything.” She opened her mouth to argue with him, but then shut it abruptly. She just noticed how worn out he looked.
“Are you okay?” Charlotte asked, concerned.
“Fine,” he said, but she noticed that his eyes kept drooping closed.
“Let’s go back to the common room,” She suggested.
“You know that everyone will be there waiting for an explanation.”
“I can do it,” she said distractedly. She was more concerned about Al, “Come on.”
They walked back together and sure enough the other three had barely moved. Liam was standing behind Talia’s chair rubbing her shoulders, and Rose was running her hand through her hair absently.
Charlotte told Al to go to bed. He argued but she gave him such a look that he went without further complaint.
Once he was gone her sense of purpose vanished with him, now she had to talk to the group.
“Right,” She said sitting in her spot on the window sill, “I’m sorry for worrying you guys.”
Then she told them everything.
Author’s Note: So…what do you think? There was a lot of Al/Charlotte in this chapter! A review would be great and would probably help me get over this writer’s block I’m having…
See you soon spoon
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