Chapter 9 : Anything Could Happen
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR! I also don't own the rights to the song Anything Could Happen by Ellie Goulding. Enjoy!
My breath was coming out hard. The air was suffocating me. I desperately reached out for her hand, finding it and holding on for dear life.
“I’m right here Clara, it’s okay. You don’t have to be afraid.”
“I can’t do it. I can’t do it Alex,” I managed, feeling panicked.
She gripped my shoulders and forced me to look at her. “Listen to me Clara. I’m right here. I’ll be talking to you the whole time. Rose is guarding the door. No one knows where to find this room. It will be okay. I promise. Just take it slow. First things first, get in the shower.”
What the hell was wrong with me? I was Clara damn Sullivan! I took on Ivan and I made James Potter run away from me every time we were in a room together. The least I could do was get in the sodding shower.
“Right. Okay.” I tucked my dark locks behind my ear and pulled back the shower curtain, half sure someone was going to be waiting for me there.
My left foot delicately stepped in, then my right foot.
Gingerly, I put the curtain back in place and turned on the water.
I jumped as the frigid water hit my shoulders.
“Everything all right Clara?”
Swallowing, I nodded before remembering she couldn’t see me. Thankfully. “Yes. Yes, thank you.”
“Good.” Her voice took on a mischievous tone. “So…what went on with you and James yesterday? He was awfully put off today.”
He’d said all of one word to me today, which was, ‘left,’ warning me of a Hufflepuff on my left who had his wand aimed at me. “Well, it seems we aren’t on speaking terms. You know, the usual.”
“And why is that?”
As I lathered my hair with shampoo, my mind wandered to last night’s events. “Because for the last five years I did nothing but watch while you were all tortured.”
Alex sighed. “But I thought his whole big mantra was that he wanted you to lay low so you didn’t get hurt.”
“I know, I’m so frustrated! All he said was that he ‘had a lot of feelings that needed sorting’ and that he ‘knew it was confusing but there was nothing either of us could do about it’. So I’m cut off. Again.”
All of a sudden I froze. I was in the shower, washing my hair, like nothing was wrong! “Alex, it’s working!”
I imagined her smirking. “I knew it would. You just needed to be distracted. I’m always right.”
“You definitely wear the pants in your relationship with Fred.”
“Oh definitely,” she started, “just don’t tell him that!”
We both laughed. I was amazed at how easy this was. With Maggie, or Tamara or Sierra everything had always felt so forced. Fake. With Alex, it was like we’d been mates for years.
I finished up and turned the water off, stepping into my robe. “Thanks for doing this Alex. Really.”
She shot me a small smile. “Anytime. I’ll be out here with Rose okay? We’ve got a load of Charms homework to do.”
I nodded and she scurried out the door, closing it behind her. I sighed and shrugged my shoulders back, looking at myself in the mirror. I looked ghastly. My skin was too pale. I’d lost weight. You could see the terror in my eyes. The wounds from the poison were still healing, and the gash on my cheek looked horrid without a concealment charm.
But for ten minutes I’d completely forgotten everything. Forgotten to be afraid. Forgotten to loathe myself. I almost felt like my old self.
Alex was so easy to talk to, and she made it seem like all of my problems went away. I had a real friend. One who wasn’t going to desert me. I allowed a small smile before I got dressed and plaited back my hair, joining them on my bed to help them with our homework.
“We’re so lucky you’re a wiz at charms Clara,” Rose said, passing me some chocolate from her secret stash. “Alex here is rubbish at it.”
Alex tossed a pillow at her face. “I am not!”
I grinned. “Charms is my favorite subject. When Professor Peridon showed up at my house to take me to Diagon Alley, the very first thing we bought was my Charms book. He lost me for an entire hour because I snuck into Florean Fortescue’s and read the entire thing. I thought it was so cool that there were magic ways of doing…everything. Did you know there’s a spell that can levitate up to 2,000 kilograms?”
Rose frowned. “I know you’re a Muggle-born, but why did Professor Peridon take you to Diagon Alley?”
Alex shot her a warning look. “So! Clara, I’m having trouble on the Anteoculatia charm.”
I took in my surroundings. Rose was looking at me curiously, as though she were trying to figure something out. Alex was giving me a sympathetic smile, looking slightly embarrassed. But the three of us were huddled together on my bed, talking and laughing like real friends.
I’d never had a friendship like this before. With James, we barely talked, instead choosing to throw our emotions into quidditch; that way, no one’s feelings were ever hurt, at least until now.
“No, it’s okay. We can talk about it.” I took a deep breath and gave the pair a reassuring smile.
The wax on the candle we’d lit melted more and more as the night wore on. I told them about my past. About how my father had died, and my mother went to a psychiatric facility for five years. About the various foster homes and the orphanage with its cracked, concrete walls and cockroaches scurrying across the wooden floorboards. About the abuse.
Eventually my nerves subsided, which may or may not have had something to do with the fact that Alex kept handing me bits of chocolate.
“Clara, I had no idea. I mean, I figured your life wasn’t exactly easy, or else you’d be more like Greyson and Greene and the lot, but still…I’m so sorry,” Rose said, slightly in awe.
I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “It’s all right, really. It’s been years since any of that happened. And even though sometimes it turns out to be hell, being a witch is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me.”
My eyes strayed to the picture frame on my desk. Inside of it was a very recent picture, one that Lily had taken of James, Fred, Alex, Rose and I. In the photograph, my eyes were glued to James.
Rose and Alex began to stretch, collecting their various books and bits of parchment.
As they walked towards the door, Alex turned around. “Don’t worry Clara, I have a feeling everything is going to work out.”
I smiled, but as the door shut it quickly turned into a frown. It was sweet that she was so positive all the time, but in this case I believed things looked pretty bleak.
I sighed and dumped my books unceremoniously on the floor before falling into bed. I’d gotten better at sleeping at night, sometimes getting four or five hours.
After blowing out the candle on my nightstand, I settled back against my pillow and stared up at the canopy, awaiting nightmares of whips, fists, and demonic smiles.
It was freezing when I woke up at 4am. Shivering, I frantically scurried around in the dark, throwing on layers of clothing underneath my jumper and track pants.
Eventually I made my way out to the pitch, my breath forming smoky clouds in front of me. It was mid-November and the chill went straight to my bones.
When I saw who was standing in the middle of the pitch, I blinked and rubbed my eyes a few times. “James? What are you doing out here?”
A breeze ruffled the slight curls on his head and he was wearing a grey jumper that looked absolutely wonderful on him. “Making a peace offering.”
I smiled as he held out a mug of steaming hot chocolate. “Does this mean you forgive me?”
James sighed as I sipped the liquid greedily. “I’m really trying Clara, I promise. It’s just… It’s too hard to ignore you.”
My heart began to beat more quickly. “Because I’m so beautiful right?”
“More like because you smell like a troll in the middle of the desert,” he muttered, nudging my shoulder.
I laughed and handed him the mug, trying not to think about the fact that his lips were touching where mine had just been. “Well if I smell like a troll, you smell like an entire army of Inferi. And look like one too.”
“How about we settle this feud with a game of one on one?” he asked, eyebrow raised. “Whoever makes it to the posts first gets possession.”
I grinned so widely I think my face split in half. “You’re on.”
As he made to grab his broomstick, I stuck my foot out and tripped him, laughing while I got on my own Nimbus and flew to the posts.
“That’s it Sullivan, you’re done for!” he called, hopping on his broom.
Rolling my eyes, I threw the quaffle at him. “In your dreams, Potter.”
He ended up winning. But I won the day after that. And the day after that, and the day after that. Things were slowly improving. James and I went back to playing quidditch and teasing each other, and I even sat next to him in Charms some days. Ivan loved that.
Alex and I were growing closer. She continued to talk to me while I showered, and she’d even taught me how to do a new style of plaiting for my hair. I went to the library each afternoon with Rose and helped her with Charms, and sometimes Fred even joined us, even though I was pretty sure his intelligence far surpassed mine.
The end of November was coming and the leaves had all fallen. Quidditch season was picking up the pace and practices were absolutely brutal. Getting hit with a bludger hurt about a million times worse when there was frost on the ground.
I limped my way back up to the castle with Vincent Chang and Scorpius Malfoy. I don’t know what James or Fred said to their friends, but during every practice someone was there to keep watch and walk me to and from the pitch. To be honest, I was pretty sick of it.
Ivan’s mood always worsened when he would have the beaters send bludgers careening at me and they would suddenly change course for him, Carl, or Ross. It was then that I would find myself getting smashed into the stands or sent skidding into the rock hard ground.
Plus, it wasn’t as though any of the other Pures would talk to me. To them, I was still a heartless Muggle-born. The only ones besides Fred, James, Alex, and Rose that spoke to me were Lily and Hugo. I’d actually grown quite fond of James’ sister. The other day she painted my nails in spirit for the upcoming Ravenclaw-Slytherin quidditch match.
My joints groaned in protest as I finally entered the common room, and as I walked past, Alex looked up from her place in the corner. Everyone else either sneered or completely ignored me, minus the fifth year that threw an inkwell at my head. He missed.
“Ivan in a foul mood again?” she asked with a sigh, placing her books into her bag and standing. At my nod, she wrapped an arm around my waist carefully. “C’mon then, let’s get you upstairs.”
After a painstaking effort, she decided to just levitate me to the top. Once we were settled into the bathroom, she released me, sucking in a few deep breaths.
“Sorry,” she managed, “it’s not like you’re heavy or anything, that just takes a lot of energy.”
I frowned. “I have some chocolate, if you want some?”
“No, no that’s quite all right. Let’s just get you squared away. Where does it hurt today?” Immediately she began to rustle around in the drawers, pulling out various lotions, potions, and first aid supplies.
I nearly laughed aloud. Her determination was endless. “I got a nasty hit from a bludger on the back of my shoulder…and I had to pull some wooden bits out of my leg after Carl bodychecked me into the stands.”
“Right then, so we’ll start with-”
She was cut off by the sound of the window opening and closing. “Alex? Alex are you in here?”
The bathroom door flung open and James was standing there, his clothing rumpled and torn in some places.
“James, what’s going on?” She dropped the supplies back onto the counter. “Is it Fred? Rose?”
He shook his head. “No, it’s Hugo. We got jumped on the way back from the library. A bunch of Ravenclaws took Polyjuice Potion so we didn’t think they were a threat, until Hugo was face down on the ground. He’s conscious now but I think you should go see him.”
Immediately she sprinted out the door, yelling at me to apply the green lotion to the bruise. I turned to face James.
“Are you okay? Your clothes…you look like you got hit with a few Stinging Spells.” I lightly fingered the frayed material of his uniform shirt.
He stepped back, placing his hands on my shoulders so that he could look me in the eye. “I’m fine Clara, it’s you I’m worried about. You’ve come back from practice every day this week looking like you’re about to pass out. Alex hasn’t said anything but even she looks concerned.”
I rolled my eyes and jerked away, wincing in pain. “What is there to be concerned about? I can handle a few bludger hits.”
“Clara, it’s not just a few bloody hits and you know it,” he started angrily. “You could have permanent damage to your body!”
My hazel eyes turned to slits. “So what do you want me to do, huh James? Quit the team, stop doing the only thing that keeps me sane, and let Ivan win? Because if that’s what you recommend then you’re a sodding lunatic.”
Furiously I ripped off my shoulder pads, biting down on my lip to keep from shouting out.
He sighed and wiped a hand across his face tiredly. “I’m not doing this. We’re not going to have another row. Aren’t you tired of fighting?”
“Of course I am, but you’re the one that keeps trying to control my life, James,” I pointed out to him, stripping off my layers until I was in my undershirt so I could see the bruise. It blossomed like a gruesome black flower, just above my right shoulder blade.
“Control your – you’re insane! I’m only trying to-”
I cut him off with a grin. “Help, I know. I’m joking Potter, Merlin.”
His expression turned into one of indignation. “Oi, I thought we were really going to have another go at it!”
Shrugging, I handed him the bottle of lotion. “We could if you’d like…or you could stop being an arse and help me with this bruise. I can’t quite reach it.”
James made a big show of it, sighing and rolling his eyes, but moved behind me, looking at me in the mirror. Ever so slowly, he reached out a hand and brushed my ponytail out of the way, gently pulling the cotton material of my shirt to the side so that he had access to the bruise.
My heart began having palpitations as he took some of the lotion and began to softly massage it into my back, one hand holding the shirt and the other caressing my bare skin.
He caught my eye in the mirror, then gradually lowered his face until I could feel his hot breath spreading across my collarbone.
I was having trouble breathing, but this time it was for all the right reasons. My right hand gripped the counter so tightly that my knuckles turned white, and I turned around to face him, tilting my chin up towards his face.
James gently brushed a strand of hair off of my forehead, his fingers trailing down my jawline until they lightly gripped the base of my neck, his thumbs creating an imprint on my cheeks.
I was trying not to shake. My hands reached out and wrapped themselves in his tattered shirt for support. My palms were sweaty and I couldn’t remember which way was up and then his lips were on mine and then they weren’t.
He pulled back quickly, looking horrified. “I-I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have…I’m sorry, Clara,” he muttered, turning away and bolting out of the bathroom. I heard the window open again, and I knew he was gone.
My breath was coming out in short, quick gasps and I sank against the counter, my fingers resting gently on my lips where just a moment ago, I could have sworn my dreams were coming true.
Had James and I just kissed?
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