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Chapter 18 : The Detention Party
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The first surprise Albus got the first Friday back at school was a silent changing room. Normally, everyone would be mucking around - throwing things, drawing on the chalkboard - but now not a single person moved. Five sets of eyes stared emotionless, following Al as he made his way to the sit down by them. Albus had been putting this meeting off for far too long; the match against Hufflepuff was in three weeks and Slytherin was short a beater. Temporarily.
It hurt, though, having to face this. Nick should be there with them all, tossing a Quaffle around while smacking Kenzie upside the head for something stupid he’d said. Was it really only two months ago that they had won the match against Ravenclaw? No. Albus couldn’t think about that, just like he couldn’t put off this meeting any longer. It just wasn’t something they could afford to do, not with everything. Luckily for Albus, after the first day the bruises and hex marks for him had slowed down to only a few per day. Others weren’t so lucky.
Paige’s tightly plaited hair had been that way for three days to let a cut she’d gotten from a nasty hex heal, Kenzie had been limping for the past two, and Rhys was sporting a black eye. It seemed that no one was unmarked, and Albus doubted it would change any time soon. The other houses were angry at the death of a war hero, Slytherin had lost the only person the others were truly frightened of, and no one felt like fighting back. They knew they were being thick; it was nothing compared to what Nick had faced. It was like trying to compare a flower to a lion, but it didn’t make it any easier on either end. Because as much as the Slytherins wanted to, they couldn’t help Nick.
That was what got to Albus, the fact that no matter how hard they tried nothing they could do would change what had happened, or what will happen. So, clearing his throat, Albus finally found the will to say what needed to be said.
“So, erm, we need to find a temporary beater. We have a match in a few weeks,” Al started, and the only response was blinking for a minute. “Come on, you lot. We need to talk about this.”
“We’re not giving up her spot,” Rhys elaborated, seeing the beginnings of anger in the clenched jaws and fists beginning to emerge amongst the other four players. “But we know that she won’t be back by the end of the month, and besides, she’ll murder us when she gets back if she finds out we lost because of this.”
“What if she doesn’t come back?” Jasper asked, and everyone turned around at his raspy voice. He usually didn’t say much, if anything, at team meetings, or in general.
“She will,” Kenzie said forcefully, glancing at Rhys and Al for confirmation. “It’s Nick, after all.”
“Right,” Albus said with a nod, smiling slightly. “So we don’t want to deal with formal trials, because we all know those would be pointless and a pain in the arse. Let’s choose someone to fill in right now, so we can practice tonight.”
“By tonight do you mean…” Paige trailed off, the traces of a smile appearing on her crimson-stained lips.
“Yeah. Piper and I have detention, so be at the pitch by one o’clock.” Albus loved night practices more than anything, but he had to get through detention first. It was with Owen, and there was no doubt Owen would press further about what was going on.
“Okay, so who do you have in mind?” Rhys asked, as Piper quietly slipped in the room. They had been camping out in the common room all week, but last night was the first night all week she’d slept soundly, so Al had been extra careful to not wake her up.
“Maybe Lottie?” Alyssa suggested, immediately causing a look of panic to spread through the small group.
“You lot need a clean game,” Piper reminded the team, sealing the decision.
“Why does it even matter? We aren’t going to win.” Paige’s voice wasn’t whiny or condescending, but as if she had simply given up. Albus noticed that the make-up around her eyes was a lot heavier than it had ever been (she used to not wear any at all), and the scar just above her lip was completely concealed.
“I’ll get to that later,” Albus said, an idea suddenly coming to him as he stood up and went to the chalkboard. “But now I need names.”
“Arabella,” someone prattled off, and Albus scrawled her name at the top of the board.
“Okay,” Albus said, after he had written out the last name. Immediately, Piper walked up and scratched out Flynn’s name.
“Absolutely not. He’s a first year,” was her explanation, and Alyssa nodded in approval. “Also, do you really trust Thomas, after we said we couldn’t let Lottie?” The murmurs of agreement were instantaneous, and Albus drew a line through his name as well. Smiling to let Piper know Albus appreciated her help, he turned to the team. His team.
“So what now?” he asked, and again it was Jasper who spoke up.
“I love Emily, but I honestly don’t know if she could handle being a Beater. She’s more of a Chaser, to be honest.”
“All right,” Albus conceded, marking her off as well. “That leaves us with Finn, Ben, Flynn, Arabella, and Ryder.
“What about this?” Kenzie suggested, his voice shaking a little. “I know Arabella is a brilliant Chaser. She could take my spot, and I’ll shift to Beater. Merlin knows I’ve learned enough about it from all the arguments you and Nick got into.”
“Are you sure?” Rhys asked, carefully reading the fourth year. There was something odd about his strained face, and Rhys was determined to find out what. However, he couldn’t think of a better alternative, so there was no choice but to give an approving glance toward Albus. He thought Al was a good captain - brilliant, really - but there was just too much strain on him to truly be focused on Quidditch. What was a game compared to the mess his best friend was in?
“Yeah,” was Kenzie’s reply, and everyone in the room forced a smile. “So does anyone disagree?”
Again, Albus thanked Merlin for the silence. “I’ll pass the message along to Arabella. See you all tonight.”
“How many more detentions do we have?” Piper asked as she and Albus meandered through the corridors. Their last lesson of the day was finally over, and even then it was uneventful, so Piper was practically skipping back to the common room. Albus was more cautiously optimistic, but he had to admit it was nice not to have as bad of a day as the rest.
“I believe only three more,” he replied, and tried to ignore the slight flutter in his chest when his friend started smiling so broadly Albus didn’t even think it was possible.
“Don’t speak too fast, though, or Creevey might pop out from behind a gargoyle to give us another week,” Piper said lightly, before doing an odd sort of run that ended up in her tripping and falling face first onto the floor. Despite all of the elegance you would think Piper would possess, being the girl who taught Al to waltz before Ted and Vic’s wedding, this sort of thing wasn’t uncommon, so Albus merely laughed before pulling Piper to her feet.
“You know, you really are exceedingly clumsy,” Al commented as Piper continued down the corridor. “And the sad part is Nick’s clumsier.”
“I know,” Piper commented, but the smile was gone from her face as she looked down at her hands. “Merlin, is she clumsy.”
“Have you talked to Owen?” Albus was trying to divert the conversation. He was mentally cursing himself for bringing up Nick when Piper was finally not thinking about her, and he was going to try his hardest to force her to forget about it for a little while.
“No. I think we have detention with him tonight, though. I feel horrible because of what happened that day we got back; I shouldn’t have pushed him away, because he just wants to help-“ Piper rambled, the far too familiar creases of worry appearing at her temple.
“It’ll be fine. Promise,” Al cut her off, before grabbing her hand and dragging her down the last few corridors to the common room.
When they entered, the normal few spatters of chatter were present, but otherwise everyone was quietly working on essays (or in the case of Lottie and Thomas huddling over a mysterious contraption that appeared to be emitting various colours), and the tension in the room was obvious. The two sixth years didn’t have time to worry about the scene, though, because Rhys and Alyssa beckoned them over immediately upon sight.
“How bad was it today?” Al asked as soon as they sat down in the far corner of the common room.
“Not horrible. There were a few hexes, but no injuries. What we’re worried about is Flynn. Have either of you talked to him since the train?” Alyssa voice seemed more strained than normal, as her eyes wandered the room in vain. Flynn just wasn’t there.
“No,” Piper whispered, and Albus knew she was already in the self-blaming phase, something she couldn’t handle right now, and acted fast. Without thinking, he put his arm around her shoulder and squeezed, even forcing a smile. They couldn’t afford to lose Piper to herself, not now.
“He’s been spending all of his time in his dormitory, and his friends are scared as hell. They don’t know what’s wrong, only that he, and I quote, ‘gets real angry whenever we try to help’,” Rhys summarized, locking eyes with Albus. We’ll talk more later when Piper isn’t around, he seemed to say.
“Do we need to have a family meeting about this?” Piper asked quietly. “If he’s really this bad, we can’t afford to wait. I remember in our first year when we didn’t do anything, and Hunter ended up at the bottom of the Black Lake. I can’t let that happen again.” It was obvious Piper was rambling, and her breath kept getting shorter and shorter, but the tears threatening to spill out never came. And again, Al couldn’t help but marvel at how bloody strong she was.
“But would talking about it with everyone really help? Don’t we need to talk to him?” Alyssa’s voice was kind, and Piper merely nodded as she continued to take calming breaths.
“Yeah. We’ll talk with him tomorrow,” Rhys agreed, before standing up and facing the entire common room. “Anyone who has detention better head off now.” Sure enough, over half of the common room stood up to leave, and Piper and Al looked to each other.
“Wish us luck. We’re going to talk to Owen there,” Al said before nudging Piper’s shoulder and joining the horde in the corridor. They walked in silence for a while, but Albus knew it was because Piper was racking her brains for every encounter she’d had with Flynn to search for anything that would have hinted to him retreating into a state like Nick’s.
When they were almost to Creevey’s room, however, a hand suddenly jotted out from around the corner. Albus found himself nose to nose with his brother, who looked worried. That alone shocked Albus into silence, but the familiar anger still bubbled in the pit of his stomach as it did whenever he was in the same room as James.
“Do you know where that first year is?” James’s voice was low and urgent, and he constantly checked over his shoulder.
“Why do you care?” Albus responded coldly, and saw a flash of anger in his brother’s eyes. “Going to hex him, too?”
“No. Merlin, Al, I would never-“ James tried, but was cut off by Albus’s hysterical laughter.
“Really? You would try to claim that you wouldn’t hurt a first year? Are you a liar as well as a conceited arsehole then?” Albus couldn’t believe his brother. After everything, he would try to play innocent? And he thought Al would fall for it… The anger was at a point where Albus couldn’t really function. It was just too much.
“No. Listen, I was walking back to the tower with my mates when he was walking alone in the corridor. Luckily, they decided to leave him be - he kind of looked like shit - but he just turned around and barrelled at them,” James explained, and watched as all the colour slowly drained from his little brother’s face. It was then he noticed everything that was wrong with his brother… all the little bruises and scars, the huge bags under his eyes and the emptiness that had taken over. Had he done that? No, he couldn’t have. James couldn’t blame himself now. The past few years he’d been a prick, but he was trying now, right?
“Is he all right?” All the strength Albus could muster into his voice managed to hide the quavering. This wasn’t good. At all.
“Yeah. They just threw him off and kept going. But you need to keep an eye on him,” James finished, blinking and shaking his head.
“Why?” was the only response. The coldness behind someone he had thought he knew so well frightened James. It was like Albus didn’t want to know James at all, much less be related to him. That was understandable, though couldn’t he see James was trying? That’s more than Albus could say.
“We’re not horrible people. We get that Nick’s issues have fucked you lot up, but she killed a war hero. They’re not happy, not nearly, but they wouldn’t attack Flynn. Everyone can see he’s not great right now, and he hadn’t done anything to us before that. We only go for justice.” James knew that was a shit explanation, but it was the best he had. How could he justify hears of torment and hexing, how you needed to do that to not be on the other end of the wand?
“Yeah. Right. See you, James.” It was only then James noticed the blond girl standing next to Albus the whole time, and Al grabbed her hand and dragged her off.
Since when had Albus and Piper been dating?
“…and don’t you dare think of using magic. I’ll be back in four hour’s time,” Creevey droned, before giving an extra menacing glare at Albus. Then, he left, leaving three sixth-years alone in his classroom with piles of dirty cages to scrub clean.
“You shouldn’t have shrugged off your brother like that. He’s-“ Piper started immediately, but Albus didn’t even look up. His eyes were fixed strongly on the cage he was scrubbing, and anyone could tell he was either about to spontaneously combust with anger or was trying to piece together what the hell James was playing at.
“What did James do?” Owen’s voice was quiet, but it sent a scared flutter through Piper’s heart, before causing her to smile slightly. She hadn’t expected Owen to care, not after the first day back.
“Erm, he just stopped Al and I in the corridor. It was a bit odd, really,” she answered, and Owen nodded grimly.
“He’s not as bad as you lot think. Actually one of the tamer Gryffindors,” he added, and an understanding passed between them through the awkwardness. Whatever had happened in Charms a week ago was gone. They couldn’t dwell on petty squabbles like that.
For a while some more awkward chatter occurred between Piper and Owen, but they were both just glancing at Albus. A few times, he’d given up and thrown the cages at the wall before swearing and grabbing another one, but he refused to say a word.
“Why? Why the hell does he think he can just turn up out of nowhere and say that? I don’t know what he’s playing at, but he’s just trying to fuck us up. We’ve seen him. He’s helped beat the shit out of me before, so he can’t play the goddamn tame act. So what was he playing at?” Albus said, but his stare was blank and his eyes emotionless. Piper and Owen exchanged glances, wondering if he was ranting to himself or if he wanted a reply. “What the fuck was he playing at?” This time there was anger in his voice, and Piper cleared her throat.
“Maybe he was trying to help,” she whispered, forcing a smile. “Maybe he’s growing up.”
“No,” Albus said, shaking his head profusely. “That can’t be it. I know James, and he’s nothing but an arrogant toe-rag who hates anything to do with Slytherins.”
“She might be right,” Owen interjected calmly. “If you look around, you’d see he’s not all-“
“No. That can’t be,” Albus cut him off. They could see the debate inside him flashing through his eyes, and Al winced as if someone had struck him in the head.
“I’d love to argue with you about your family issues, but shouldn’t you be more worried about something else?” Owen’s voice had risen, but Albus didn’t even look up.
“You don’t think I know? But there is nothing we can do for Nick. Nothing. The ministry doesn’t care what a few students think, and even then most of them think she’s Voldemort reincarnated,” Albus said calmly, but his eyes flashed with anger. “Did you honestly think that if there was anything I could do to help Nick - to help my best friend - that I would be here scrubbing these damn cages?”
“Yes, because you’re sulking like a six-year-old!” Owen exclaimed, and Piper’s eyes kept shifting from Al to Owen. “You can’t believe that perhaps James isn’t as evil as you thought, and you’re letting everything cloud your judgement! This isn’t about you any more! If James can help keep Nick out of prison, you sure as hell better ignore any selfish hate for him, because I’m not going to sit by and watch you destroy Nick’s chances because it messes with your view of the world, or some weird shit like that!”
“Owen,” Piper interjected softly, before turning to Al. “Al, please stop. I know you want to help Nick, but we can’t do it on our own. We need to clue Owen in, and if James wants to help…”
“No.” Albus said. “Not to Owen, but to James. I can’t believe you would side with him, after everything he’s done? He sent you to the hospital wing, Piper!”
There was a tense silence as all of them stared at each other, willing someone to back down. Finally, Owen opened his mouth.
“Fine. I get it, believe me. Your brother is an arse, and I do want to help. I can’t just let this happen to her.” There was some tension behind his voice at the beginning, but it was still doubtful. Accepting it, Albus gave Owen a quick bro-hug.
“So what can we do?” Piper asked, putting her hand into Albus’s, squeezing it to remind him to stay calm. They would talk about James later, but Owen was right; Nick came first.
“I don’t know. Maybe I should just owl Liam and see what’s going on, so we can help?” Owen suggested, and Albus nodded.
“Yeah. Thank you, Owen.” Albus’s voice was filled with gratitude.
The rest of detention passed smoothly, with a few jokes to fill the otherwise gaping silence that consumed all three of their thoughts.
When Liam Dalton received the letter from his brother at two in the morning, he was still awake. The healers had decided to try a test that day, to heighten the sedatives to the point where she couldn’t hear anything, but it had been horrible.
He saw Nick writhing and screaming out of undiluted pain and fear, and no one was there to help her. The healers had stopped him, and he was forced to sit there and listen to it. It was just so wrong… the girl was in so much pain, and no one could help her. Liam had screamed at them to lower her back into less sedation, to end the agony, but they wouldn’t. He’d been forced to clench his fists and try to block it out, but it was impossible. What was Nick reliving?
After that, Harry had given him a lecture. He couldn’t act out like that again, even when it was as horrible as that. Otherwise he wouldn’t be allowed in ever again.
So Liam just replied to his brother, giving them a way to help out the poor girl who was probably still screaming.
A/N: What did you think? I feel horrible for doing that to Nick, but well... sometimes I think the characters are controlling me instead of it the other way around.
In other news, I finally know the exact ending of this story. Take with that what you will.
I am, however, curious to see what you lot think about what the ending is. What ships do you think will prevail? Will Nick be sent to Azkaban? Will the Potters make up?
I promise I'll be better with updates. Like I've said, it's been a rough year so far, but I'm just glad to be back. Thanks, and please leave a review!
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