Chapter 21 : The James Factor
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Hands on his knees, Albus had to try hard to focus his vision at the ground. The entire week he’d been getting dizzy during practice, and during his own workout his vision would just start to tunnel. Luckily, Al had been able to push through it, but after he was done he knew he was seconds away from passing out. The nagging voice in the back of his head that sounded oddly like Piper was telling him he needed to sleep, but the voice didn’t get it.
He couldn’t sleep. Everyone told Al he had to, but they didn’t understand. He couldn’t. It didn’t matter how hard he tried; Al couldn’t get his eyes to close, apart from either knocking himself out with potions or the days his body’s exhaustion finally override his brain. The memories would just ambush him when there was no Quidditch or Piper or Flynn or Slytherins to worry about. And Albus couldn’t block it out. Hell, it was becoming harder and harder to choke down food.
After the dancing black dots finally left Albus’s vision, he shakily stood upright and went about cleaning up after himself. Slytherin was out of running for the cup - they had no need to practice anymore - but he still went to the pitch every morning. It kept him busy when everyone else was sleeping, and it managed to reign in all of Albus’s emotions. Because feeling would be even worse than this perpetual haze of exhaustion.
“Hey, it’s going to be Gryffindor’s… Al?” a voice asked, and immediately Albus shut his eyes, hoping in vain it would make his brother go away. A fight was the last thing he needed right now.
“I’m leaving,” he replied, before turning to walk off the pitch. These days he had no clue what to expect from James; he didn’t trust him, but there were times when it looked like he was actually, dare he say it? Changing. Or at least trying. And that scared Albus, because he didn’t want to hear James out only for the same thing to happen again. Before he could leave, though, his brother grabbed his arm as he brushed past, stopping Albus in his tracks.
“Albus, wait.” James’s voice was low, and looking around he saw that – as usual – none of his team was on time. “Please just listen to me.”
“Why now? Because all of your Gryffindors aren’t here?” he replied, his voice as cold and sharp as a knife.
“Goddammit, Al, will you just listen for once?” There was anger in James’s voice now, and it made his brother whip around to face him.
“Why should I? Because of how brilliant of a brother you’ve been?” Albus replied, but there was nothing in his voice. It was just hollow. And that scared James; Al should be shouting right back, like he had for so long.
“I’m not trying to trick you,” James said, swallowing his anger. If he wanted his brother to even hear him out, he couldn’t yell at him, no matter how much he wanted to.
“Then what are you doing?” Albus turned to leave again, but James just lightly grabbed his arm again.
“Will you please just listen?” The agitation was obvious in James’s voice, and Albus fought the anger flooding his chest. He didn’t want to make himself more of a target, and when he inevitably truly pissed off his brother there would be hell to pay. So he needed to get out of there.
“No,” he replied quietly, and it was then he realized that his vision was tunnelling again. Focusing on the ground, Albus’s only thoughts were of regulating his breathing so that he didn’t faint.
“Something’s wrong,” James commented, studying his brother. “What’s happening?”
“I’m fine,” Albus replied through gritted teeth, still blinking back stars. He knew he should have brought food after the time he actually had fainted. “Please, just let me go.”
“You know what? No. I am sick of seeing you like this,” James shot back, trying desperately to figure out what was wrong. “Merlin, just let me help you. You need it.”
“I don’t need you’re help. I’m fine,” Albus dismissed, finally managing to clear his vision. “Your team is going to be here soon.”
“Why were you out here? It’s only five o’clock.” James seemed genuinely confused, and Albus’s only reply was a dirty look. Suddenly, James swore, as he finally put all the pieces together. This is what Albus did when normal people slept… play Quidditch. James didn’t know much about this kind of thing (Molly was the one who did) but he was positive that intense exercise and little sleep did not mix well.
“Just practising. I have to go.” It was the way that Albus avoided his brother’s gaze, the way he ran his hand through his hair nervously that opened James’s eyes. His glances at his brother had been brief, but now it felt like he was seeing Al for the first time. Albus was thinner than he had been at Christmas, his skin paler and his normally tired eyes horribly so. Anger and guilt flooded James, but there was something else. He no longer wanted to try to talk to him. He needed to help his brother, because Al was dancing along the edge of a cliff. For a while James had seen his brother getting slowly worse, but he had no idea it was to this degree. Someone needed to stop this, to help him. He no longer cared what Albus thought, and James’s mind was only focused on confronting Al about this, because someone needed to. Albus had helped Lily when James couldn’t. Now it was his turn to repay the favour.
“No. Albus, this isn’t healthy,” James said quietly, and his brother turned around out of shock. “You need to stop coming here this early… you need sleep.”
Albus let out a hysterical laugh. “Will you just stop pretending to give a damn? I’m fine, so just leave me be.” It was impossible for Albus to hold back all of the anger building up inside of him any longer. This was why he hated feeling, because emotion took control and forced you to care. What Albus would give to simply not be able to care…
“That’s not what Rose said,” James calmly stated, his voice the warmest Albus had heard it.
“Well, I-“ Albus started, but couldn’t even bring himself to deny it. Shaking his head, he forced his eyes to meet his brother’s. “You know Rose. She worries too much.”
“Stop pretending to be so aloof. You know you care, so stop trying to hide it.” There was agitation in James’s voice as he watched his brother try to rebuild the wall that had temporarily fallen.
“Then leave me alone,” Albus replied coldly. “Just stop pretending that you give a damn.”
“No! You want to know why I’m worried about you? Look at yourself,” James exclaimed, unable to hold it back any longer. He couldn’t afford to prance around the elephant in the room any longer.
“Stop. Just stop. Go back to your little utopia and leave me the hell alone. I can handle it, and I don’t need your help. So can you just fuck off?” Albus replied, his voice dangerously low and cold.
“You don’t need my help? Well you sure as hell need someone’s.” James’s voice was borderline hysterical and he ran his hand anxiously through his hair. “You know what? I don’t care. I don’t care if you won’t even give me a bloody chance, I don’t care if you’re still convinced I hate you. Just get some help. I don’t care if it’s the Queen. Just do something.”
“I don’t need help!” Albus’s voice was a roar now. “This is fucking nothing. And you don’t have the right to care now; you helped break Nick, you’ve hexed and tortured all of my friends, and there’s so much worse than a little sleeping problem. So if you really want to do something good to try to clear your conscious or whatever you’re trying to do, help someone who needs it.”
And then, Albus stormed off. The Gryffindors were just starting to arrive, and when Albus tried to brush past them one tripped him up, causing him to face plant into the dirt. Laughing, they went to meet James to start practice, but his gaze only followed the shape heading up to the castle.
“What was with that, mate?” one of them asked. “Why was it here?”
“Nothing. Just had to kick him off the pitch,” James dismissed. “I got in a good hex, though,” he added, so that they wouldn’t give him more hell.
And this was why Albus hated him. James would try, but he was too much of a coward to admit it to anyone else.
“Hullo, Piper,” Owen greeted, a smile on his face as he sat down for Charms. Albus hadn’t bothered showing up for the lesson, but no one really blamed him because, well, after that day Creevey decided to make Albus’s Charms lessons living hell. He couldn’t breathe without being yelled at. So, Piper was pretty sure Al was at the pitch, slamming Bludgers into the Gryffindor section of the stands.
“Hi, Owen.” Piper forced a smile, trying to push her worry about Albus down. She didn’t want to burden Owen with that, too. He was already so worried about Nick…
“No Albus, I take it?” he asked, spreading out his books. It never really annoyed Piper that he took up most of their desk, because she would just have to steal a piece of parchment or quill rather than dig through her bag to find it.
“Nah. Apparently he had another James encounter so he decided he didn’t want to ‘terrorise the village’ today, to quote him,” Piper replied, smiling when the Hufflepuff let out a laugh.
“Creevey’s in a pissy mood as it is today. I thought he was going to self destruct when he found out the Quidditch team got detention for beating up one of you lot after the match,” Owen commented. “Who was that, by the way? They wouldn’t say who it was.” As always, he sounded genuinely concerned, and waited eagerly when Piper looked down at her hands.
“Erm, it was…” Piper tried to say, but she just ended up sighing.
“Al,” Owen finished, his face darkening. “Shit, Piper. I’m sorry I brought it up.” Then, true to what he was, Owen smiled. “So you want to enchant Creevey’s chalk so it writes whatever we write on this parchment?”
“Some people actually have to focus, you know,” Piper replied lightly, but Owen’s smile still hadn’t dropped off his face.
“And you’re not one of them. Come on, Piper. It’ll be fun, and if he does anything I’ll take the blame,” he tried again, but the girl next to him just shook her head. She was normally pretty reserved, so Owen was just happy she was talking to him. Most days Piper just sat there, occasionally glancing at the other Slytherin in the room.
If Nick were here, she would have immediately agreed and then continue to sass the magic out of Owen. He thought her best friend was brilliant, but Merlin did he miss Nick.
“Just for a little bit?” Owen pleaded, putting on his best puppy-dog face. “Mum.”
“On your head be it,” Piper resigned, but the smile slid off her face when the professor entered the room. The minute he was making progress, getting her to relax, Creevey had to ruin it. That was Owen’s job, now, getting Piper to smile. It used to be to get Nick to smile.
“Why are you so scared of him?” Owen whispered, and surprised, Piper turned to face him.
“I’m not,” she replied, but didn’t elaborate.
“Well, I’m confused.” Owen’s voice still held its normal playfulness, but he was genuinely curious.
“Dalton, if I hear your voice one more time you’ll join our missing friend in detention,” Creevey called from the front.
“Sorry, Sir,” Owen apologized, but once the professor had turned back around he blatantly flipped him off, causing Piper to have to stifle a laugh. Still smiling, she dipped her quill into the inkpot in the centre of the desk before quickly writing something on the corner of Owen’s parchment in her neat, slanted style.
It’s just easier not to cause trouble.
Owen hastily scrawled back that she should cause more trouble, but Piper just shook her head and started copying down whatever it was their teacher was harping on about, so Owen took the time to draw more crude images of his head of house.
“Ms Longbottom, care to enlighten us about what is so enthralling about Mr Dalton’s parchment?” the professor suddenly called, but Piper just did her little smile that she was so fond of.
“I missed what you said about the Merlin’s Third Law, so Owen let me copy his notes,” she lied smoothly, and Creevey surprisingly backed off. Piper took the opportunity to subtly wave her wand at the chalk, and sure enough, Owen’s doodles were forcibly drawn on the board by the professor’s hand.
Owen’s jaw just about hit the floor. He would expect this of Nick, never of Piper, but then again, Piper had a fiery side, too.
“I think I might love you,” he blurted out, but Piper just blushed slightly before regaining her composure.
“But I didn’t do anything,” she replied, and Owen smiled broadly as their professor wheeled on the class.
He should have known the morning was too good to be true.
For the second time that day, Albus found himself walking back from the Quidditch pitch. And again, he was alone. Which made him nervous. Far too nervous to be normal… his hands were shaking, and he kept glancing around, making sure that no one was around. Then that thought scared him, that he was that so nervous about simply walking around the grounds in broad daylight. This had been his life for six years, but it was just now getting to Albus. Everything was heightened now: the snow was too bright, the normal nervousness was anxiety, and the being alone was now loneliness. Albus was fine with being alone, but he didn’t fancy being lonely. And that was what he felt, loneliness so overwhelming him that it was physically crushing his chest.
All he could think as he hurried to the lake was that he was almost there. He could see the short path up to the Entrance Hall, and if he could just make it back there… he could get to the common room without anything happening. And then, Albus wouldn’t try to stay awake any longer. He’d collapse into a fit of dreamless exhaustion. Because, honestly, he couldn’t care less about DADA with Patil or Herbology. Piper had Scorpius and Rose in those lessons, anyway, so she would be safe.
“Oi, Potter!” a voice called, and Albus visibly winced. The worst group - the seventh year Gryffindors - were sitting by the lake, bright pink plants sitting on a blanket next to them. But Professor Longbottom was nowhere to be seen, and Albus already knew this wasn’t going to end well.
“Please just fuck off,” Albus whispered, but mostly to himself. Already most were standing up, but Al saw his brother staring pointedly at the tree. Anger flooded Al, and any doubt he had that James had been honestly trying disappeared, because if he truly cared, he wouldn’t sit there and watch this happen.
“Does the little snake not want to play?” one mocked, not even drawing his wand. From his spot by the tree, James merely sighed as he watched the raven-haired Slytherin stiffen, but not do anything, as the group of five advanced.
“Albus just wants to go back to his common room,” Al replied, not even putting any force behind it. That was when the Gryffindors realized they wouldn’t have to deal with the sixth-year fighting back, and the one closest to Albus sent his fist flying. With a crunch it connected with Albus’s nose, making him stumble backward from the force. The tripping jinx didn’t help, and suddenly Albus was on the ground, staring up at five much larger boys.
“He’s not even trying anymore. Well, I wouldn’t either, if I’d let myself be beat up by Hufflepuffs,” one said, and Albus was dragged to his feet by his collar, and found his face inches from Lewis’s. But he didn’t spit, didn’t even meet his eyes. Just stared at the ground when a few hits connected with his skull, and ignoring it when a hex hit him in the back, causing his skin to erupt into boils.
“What’s it going to take to get you to fight back? Or are you a coward, Potter?” Already Albus was blinking back stars - the knocks to his head not helping matters - but he just stumbled away, trying to make a break for a castle. It was in vain, though, because before he could react he was sent flying backward, the back of his head connecting with the tree next to James with a dull thud. Silently, Albus sent a plea to where his brother had been moments before, but found he was gone.
The worst part was that when he tried to stand up, Al couldn’t even lift his arm. Everything was fuzzy, but fear gripped his stomach with an iron fist. He was completely and utterly defenceless, and already he could vaguely hear them approaching while a crowd started to cheer.
Then he was lifted off the ground, his arm held behind his back. Slowly it was dragged upward, and Albus couldn’t help but scream in pain. There was a snap, and Albus’s world exploded into bright colours as a kick to the knee brought him to the ground again. Then, a bright burst of light hit him in the face, and Albus found himself lying in the snow, struggling to breathe. In seconds they were on him, hexing and punching every inch they could, but Albus didn’t feel it over the agony in his knee and elbow. His eyes were starting to slip shut from the dizzying pain, and the voices were becoming more and more faint. There was a scream, though, and then a yell, and suddenly the world went white as the blobs that had been the people disappeared from his view. Then, it all turned to black.
The minute James saw his brother try to hurry up to the castle, James felt his heart drop into his stomach. If possible, he looked even worse than that morning, and it was obvious why. He had been playing Quidditch again.
He knew he couldn’t interfere, not if they were just taunting Albus, but frankly James didn’t want to stick around to see if it would get worse. His brother had made it pretty clear that he didn’t want James’s help, and James knew how shit of duellers his friends were. Albus could easily disarm them.
But then came the crunch. After almost successfully slipping away, James heard it. And saw his brother stumbling backward. Letting out a strangled cry, James hesitated to stop him. Surely Albus was going to pull out his wand and be done with it; he had seen him in action, and the rage of Al was not something he would want directed at him.
Albus didn’t do anything, and now they were all leering over him. A crowd was starting to form as they trickled down from lessons for their break, his sister among them. She silently pleaded with James to help him, because he knew she couldn’t stand owing Albus for what had happened, but James was willing Albus to fight back.
He had to. He was Albus, and even half-delirious from lack of sleep he would never just give up. It just wasn’t Albus. So why wasn’t he doing anything?
Now James was scared. His brother was in horrible shape, and it never stopped. He didn’t pop up and send them all flying like he was supposed to, Albus was just lying there.
When he heard the bone in Albus’s arm snap, so did James. He finally understood - and saw - just how much pain Al dealt with, and that was nothing compared to Nicole Warrington. This was why he was fucking insane, why they all were. They just were forced to handle things no human being should have to bear, and then go on the next day. It was a miracle Albus had hung on for so long.
But now he needed help. James could finally see how his little brother had gone over the ledge, had lost hope to the point where he couldn’t even fight back. And no one was stepping in, no one was at all disturbed by the fact that a student was being beaten to the point where James didn’t know if he could recognize him under the layers of hexes, blood, already blossoming bruises.
And he’d had enough. He couldn’t watch this any longer, because they just weren’t stopping. Albus probably wasn’t even conscious anymore, but they didn’t relent.
“STOP!” James bellowed, pulling them all off of his brother. Shocked, they all just stood there. “Is there a professor coming?” Trying not to look at his brother, James scooped him up into his arms. The sight made him want to vomit, and he knew that image would never leave his brain. Albus was just mangled. There was no other way to describe it. Not one person in the crowd answered, but James could see the head of Slytherin fast approaching.
“Now I’m going to take him to the hospital wing, and none of you are going to leave until he deals with you. Do you understand?” James didn’t even try to mask his rage, instead staring at the blank faces. It didn’t even phase them, in fact most looked angry or annoyed at James. Except for Lily, who mouthed ‘thank you’, before turning back to her friends. But to her, Albus was practically dead again. Her debt had been repaid.
“What is going on here?” he asked, the danger in his voice contained. Immediately, James spoke up.
“I’ll explain later, Sir. May I just-“ but the professor waved his hand, dismissing James before he could finish, the colour starting to drain from his face when he saw the state his student was in. So James hurried off, and heard from a distance as the professor began to yell.
He couldn’t focus on that, though, because Albus still hadn’t stirred, and just sprinted up to the castle, ignoring every odd glance and stare as he ran up the Grand Staircase. At one point, he saw a green and silver tie, and knew that the word was being spread to the Slytherins as he hurried.
After far too long, James burst into the Hospital Wing, panting and terrified. Luckily, he didn’t even have to yell before Madam Bones came hurrying out of her office, gesturing to a bed, which Albus was immediately laid on. But before he could even protest, the healer gently pushed James to the door before turning to her new patient.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t let you stay. It’s just not allowed, and I doubt you want to see this,” she explained in a rush, but James merely offered her a weak smile.
“I understand. Thank you,” he said gratefully, before exiting the room. Once he was alone, though, James sunk against the wall, putting his head into his hands. He didn’t understand why he had just sat there for so long, he didn’t understand why they would do that, and he didn’t understand Albus.
Mostly, he didn’t understand how his brother could look like that. It was like the pictures from his History of Magic textbook from the war, but the only difference was Albus was alive. James just couldn’t string his thoughts together, and the only thing he saw was what happened… over and over and over again until he wanted to scream.
Why hadn’t he done something? This was why Albus couldn’t trust him, why he couldn’t trust their dad, or anyone. Because they just fucking stood there and did nothing while, while, while… but that’s where James’s thoughts stopped. He tried, but he couldn’t force them further. And he didn’t know why. It was like he just kept ramming into a brick wall, desperately trying to break through.
James didn’t know how long he had sat there staring at the wall, but it was quiet. Far too quiet, like the entire castle was empty. And that just made the voices in James’s head even louder, yelling at him that he should have done something, that he should have done this years ago. Why the hell had it taken watching Albus fall into whatever this was for him to see it?
Was he any better than the Death Eaters he had thought his brother to be? No. And that was what caused the first tear to roll down his face. But then he couldn’t stop. He cried. He cried because he couldn’t help his brother, he cried because he didn’t even know who that person was, but mostly he cried because he hated himself. He hated what he’d done to Albus, to all of them, and how nothing he did would matter, the past was the past. He let it all out in huge, wracking sobs until there was nothing left, until he was staring numbly at the wall ignoring the pounding in his head that wouldn’t go away, or the choking feeling that wasn’t loosening.
“You’re still here. Okay, I’m going to make this quick because I don’t have time for your shit.” Looking up, James saw Rhys Montague staring down menacingly, but James just looked back with his jaw set, nodding. He couldn’t stand Rhys, he was just one of those people that didn’t care about anyone, but this wasn’t about that.
“Yeah,” he replied, standing up to be even with the Slytherin. There was a protectiveness in Rhys’s stance that made James double take… was he really that close to Al?
“What happened? Please make it a short story, because Professor Zabini’s just barely managing to keep Piper in the common room as it is, and he won’t make it much longer. And I need to know what happened before she gets here,” Rhys explained quickly, his eyes silently evaluating Albus’s brother as he stood there.
“Okay. I’m not going to fight you, if that’s why you’re so hostile. Not while-“ James started honestly, hiding any agitation at Rhys.
“Skip the part where you claim to care about Albus. Just tell me what happened.” Rhys’s voice was cold, but it didn’t startle James. Instead he took a deep breath, trying to organize his mind enough to explain what happened accurately.
“It was by the lake. The Gryffindor seventh-years approached Albus. I stepped in after a while, because I thought he was going to defend himself. But he never did,” James explained quickly, searching Rhys’s face for any softening. “And then I brought him here.”
“Why? Why wait to step in, why even do it?” While there was some slight softening to Rhys’s tone, it wasn’t much at all. “Professor Zabini said you carried Al all the way from the lake.”
“Have you seen him? He’s just… I don’t even know what to say,” James exclaimed, running his hand through his hair. “It’s like he’s not even there. He didn’t even try to stop them. He just stood there and took it. And he just looks like hell? Why would I want to see him go through that?”
“Forgive me for being blunt, but you’ve been a prick for the past six years, so excuse me for not believing you,” Rhys countered, but then he shook his head. “Now I’m being a prick. Look, I get that you’re worried about Al - we’re all pretty fucking terrified of what’s going on in his head - but I won’t deny I’m more than pissed off that you waited that long. After last week-“
“What happened last week?” he asked immediately, his face creasing in genuine worry. That was what stopped Rhys in his tracks. There had been a twinge of hope that James was honestly trying to help before, but that sealed the deal. The seventh year sounded so genuine, and it was obvious that he had been sitting outside the Hospital Wing for a while.
“Something pretty similar. It wasn’t as bad, but this was the last thing he needed. I knew we shouldn’t have let him skive off Charms.” There was anger in Rhys’s voice, and he looked to the ground. It was then James remembered that Rhys was only his age, even though he acted much older. He was just as lost as James was about all of this, and was only trying to help his friend. And the rest of them.
“He’ll be okay. Madam Bones will-“ James tried, but Rhys just shook his head.
“She can fix him up, I know it, but I’m worried about what will happen after. How many times this will keep happening, how he’ll just keep getting worse.” There was this sense of sadness mixed with care in Rhys’s voice that made James want to not meet his dark brown eyes. This was the person who had taken care of Albus since he was eleven. He was the older brother.
“I can help. I’ll try, I’ll keep an eye on him and make sure the Gryffindors stay away. All the ones on the Quidditch team will be running until they drop at the next practice, anyway,” James immediately said, forcing a smile.
“Let’s just wait and see, yeah? I have to get back to the common room, but Piper will come running up here any minute, so I might clear out if I were you. I’ll be back to check on her later, so don’t worry about that.”
“I’ll stay, to make sure she’s all right,” James immediately offered, and he swore he saw a hint of a smile on Rhys’s face.
“Thank you.” But with that, he was gone again, and James alone with his thoughts. They just kept attacking him, and it was only the remembrance that Piper would be coming that kept him from bursting out into tears again. He couldn’t handle it; it was like his mind was chanting at him over and over everything that had happened. You didn’t help him. You don’t care. Why do you even bother? You’re not a good person, so admit it. Just stop. He has a new family now.
Suddenly, a figure came running down the corridor toward James, but not at him. As it drew closer the messy mop of blond curls only confirmed that Piper was here, but she didn’t even seem to register James. Her hand just went to the door, and when a pull wouldn’t open it, she just leaned her head against the wall. It felt awkward watching this, as with the failure of getting in all the energy seemed to evaporate from Piper, and he could tell from her shaky breathing and slumped shoulders that she was barely biting back tears.
“Why is it locked? It’s only six,” she muttered to herself, still with her head resting on the oak. “Why would they lock it?” Now her voice was louder, and she turned to face James. Apparently she had noticed him after all.
“Erm, I-“ James started, but words failed him. He had no idea what to tell this girl, who had practically been glued to Al’s side since she was born, what had happened. It wasn’t because he was worried about how she’d take it - she’d dealt with worse - but because he couldn’t. How far away was she from flying off the cliff that Albus had?
“Just tell me. How bad was it?” Piper’s voice wasn’t cold or angry, just desperate. Silently studying her, James knew he had to tell her. She could take it. While she looked more sickly and paler than usual (James always thought she was too tall and skinny), Piper wasn’t about to go off the deep end.
“Pretty bad. He just, he didn’t try,” James explained, and Piper slid down next to him, just nodding.
“I know. Look, I’m not going to sugarcoat anything because you decide to just walk back into Al’s life, but I frankly still don’t trust you as far as I could throw you. You’ve hurt him too much, and I’m only being nice because I know you saved him. And if you hadn’t…” Piper trailed off, her voice down to a waver by the end. “I guess I’m trying to say thank you.”
“I know, and believe me, I understand. I don’t trust me either right now, but I’m going to stay here and wait until he wakes up. I’ll drive off the pricks, too,” he promised.
“Ah, you’re on ‘watch Piper’ duty. It’s always someone when something like this happens,” Piper realized, before looking away. “Just remember. Al will still be Al when he wakes up, and he’s frankly beyond pissed at you. And he doesn’t need anything more to deal with, so please just… if you’re pulling some kind of trick, just leave. I don’t think he can take it anymore.”
“Piper,” James said with grave seriousness, his hazel eyes betraying every ounce of pain that he felt. “I just watched something fucking terrifying and horrible happen to Albus, and I didn’t stop it until it was too late. I know I fucked up, and I know that, but I have to try. I have to try to fix this, because he’s… he’s just so… I know you think that I don’t care about Al anymore, and believe me I tried to, but I can’t. Not when I’m too scared he’s going to throw himself off the Astronomy tower.”
“I might believe you.” Piper offered, giving him a weak smile. “It’ll take time, but I might just believe you.”
And then they sat in silence.
Four days later, Albus was still asleep, and Flynn couldn’t take it any longer. He’d learnt the spell, and this was the tipping point. He saw what happened to Albus, not just physically, but in how he wasn’t there anymore. The pain never stopped. Not here, not at the ‘homes’, not anywhere in this hellhole of a world. There was only one way out.
No, Flynn wasn’t going to kill himself. He was too much of a coward to, because he was scared of pain and scared of dying. It was why he couldn’t handle it anymore; he couldn’t handle a few punches from an old man when Nick was still fucking unconscious from what he had done to her. He couldn’t even run away for two weeks without crawling back to them. Nick made it a month.
His own weakness disgusted Flynn; it made him want to tear himself to pieces. But that was merely the icing on the cake compared to what was swirling around. He deserved it, every last slap and hex, because he was scum. His father was a horrible person, and Flynn would turn out just like him. He was a Slytherin, and he just felt so much hatred towards all of them that it scared him. He didn’t want to be bad; he just wanted the pain to stop. But there was only one way to do that.
So tonight, Flynn was going to make sure that he got out. If he died during the spell, even hell would be better than here. But Flynn had hesitated before Albus, before everything happened. He knew how Slytherin would take it… he didn’t want to hurt them anymore than they wore, but he just couldn’t handle it. There was this just crushing weight that kept digging into his chest, and Albus was the breaking point. There was nothing to look forward to, no light at the end of the tunnel. Flynn could only see two paths: Nick or Albus. And he didn’t want to go down either one.
At around midnight, he opened the book and started chanting. Immediately Flynn felt a burning pain that made him want to scream, but he just kept chanting. This was the only way to end it, and either way they would find him sleeping peacefully tomorrow morning. Peacefully. He knew his family would understand, they would know why he was leaving them.
Now the searing pain hand turned into knives, and it took everything Flynn had to finish the enchantment. When it was done, he saw white before he vaguely felt himself crash into the floor. Everything was fuzzy, and he only prayed he wasn’t screaming, because he didn’t want to be saved.
He wanted the magic out of him. Flynn was done.
But before he completely lost consciousness, as the pain spread through his blood like venom, he felt a strong pair of arms scoop him up, screaming. Something in the back of his mind told him it was Rhys, but Flynn found he couldn’t even try to reply.
Luckily, darkness warmly embraced him. It was finally over.
A/N: I understand if you're angry at me for what just happened, and you should tell me about it in a review. I especially want to know your thoughts on Flynn and James. I wasn't intending to make James so... likeable, but I knew I had to round him out and then he just took control and made me write him crying and aslk;dgjas;fjsak. I'm sorry. Thanks for sticking with me, and the next chapter will be up as soon as this one is validated!
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