Chapter 11 : Youth
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The ice cold metal of the counter helped to spread the goosebumps that were already overtaking my body. My head spun slightly and before I knew it my complete and utter confusion turned to giddiness. James had just kissed me! Did this mean he fancied me as much as I fancied him? But why did he run away? Did that kiss prove he didn’t feel anything for me? What was going to happen now?
“Stupid,” I muttered to myself. I shook my head. Why was I being such a cow? Hugo was unconscious!
After quickly regrouping, I gathered up some first aid supplies and potions I thought Alex could use, and raced down the stairs. As usual, several jinxes were shot at me, and I swiftly ducked out of the way of the orange and purple lights.
As much as I hate to admit it, I sprinted up the stairs not just to get to Hugo faster but because I was afraid of who might come out of their dormitory. I gritted my teeth in anger at myself and entered James and Fred’s room without knocking. It was total chaos.
“Towels! Wet towels!” Alex barked at someone. Towels were magically flown across the room.
Lily, Lucy, and Molly were pouring over medical textbooks looking for solutions, shouting out random bits of information they thought might be helpful.
Fred and Albus were in the corner with Louis and Roxanne, quietly explaining what happened. Rose was assisting Alex, who was kneeling on the floor next to James’ bed, where Hugo lay.
Alex had yanked her hair into a hasty knot and sweat was gathering on the creases of her forehead as she mixed potion after potion and waved her wand around in complicated patterns.
Sparks of blue, green, gold, and silver cut through the air faster than my eyes could follow and I was once again amazed, not only by Alex’s healing abilities but by how independent and strong the Potter-Weasley clan was. They were a team, one I actually wanted to be on. My own team pretty much sucked, seeing as how Ivan was the captain of it.
Despite the panic in the room, I managed to notice without even trying that James was not here. I frowned but sped across the room to Rose anyway, unloading the supplies.
“Clara!” she said in surprise, taking the lot with a grateful look. “How did you know about Hugo?”
Fred had finished speaking, and so now everyone with the exception of Alex and Hugo was looking at me. I flushed. “Erm, James came into my room to find Alex…”
“Oh that’s right. Well, where is he?” Rose questioned me while sorting through the hasty first aid kit I’d put together, tossing some things behind her and handing others to Alex.
“Yes Sullivan, where is he?” Albus asked smoothly, folding his arms across his chest. His tone sounded accusing.
I was never very good at lying. “I don’t know. He came into my room, screamed at Alex about Hugo, and took off again.”
Fred eyed me like he knew better but chose not to out me. “Maybe he went after the Claw bastards. Who has the map?”
Lily produced it from her satchel, tossing it to Louis. “How’s he doing Alex?”
She didn’t respond for a moment. “Not sure. This is unique. They somehow combined two jinxes into one spell, and neither counter-curse is working!” She tossed her wand aside in frustration and resorted to simply placing wet towels on his forehead.
“Alex, please. You have to keep your head. You’re the best healer of all of us, you’re probably a better healer than Madam Bones for Merlin’s sake. If anyone can figure this out, it’s you,” Fred said, walking across the room to sweep her into a brief hug.
She relaxed against him immediately, burying her face into his chest as he rubbed her back. Something inside of me twisted, and I realized that I wanted that, with James. Me, who had never needed anyone in her entire life. It’s amazing what the touching of lips can do to a person. Focus Clara!
“Erm, I don’t know much about healing, but perhaps if we could figure out which two jinxes were used, we could combine both of their counter-curses into one spell and try that?” I winced slightly as everyone’s head whipped around to look at me. It was silent.
“Clara, that’s brilliant!” Alex finally burst out. “Molly, Lucy, come over here. Between you two, Rose, and me, we should figure out which jinxes were used in no time. Albus, Louis, you two go see if you can intimidate the Claws into telling us anything. Roxanne, I need you to go into my dormitory and bring me every healing and spell book you can find.”
Fred plucked the map out of Louis’ hand. “Clara, you’re coming with me to find James.” I didn’t miss the sly look Albus and Louis exchanged as he said this. Whatever they thought about me, I was sure it wasn’t nice.
Everyone else jumped to their task, and I watched Albus slip a few murky-colored potions into his pockets before he and his fellow villain set off. I shuddered, thinking about what types of dark magic the two of them knew. While Fred and James were magically advanced, they used their powers for defense, attacking only when provoked. Albus and Louis seemed to be the dark horses of the family, using their magic skill and brute force to do everyone’s dirty work. There was something about their cold demeanor that gave me the chills.
With a sigh, I walked after Fred, who was waiting for me by the door. He set up a force field around us as we exited the common room, and I breathed a sigh of relief once we were out in the corridor.
“We’ll have to hurry,” he said softly, “it’s nearly curfew, and we don’t have the cloak with us.”
We walked faster. “Where exactly is he?”
“Fifth floor. We set up a classroom as a sort of training facility. We’ve got all sorts of stuff in there. Dummies, boggarts, a grindylow. We’ve even got some muggle stuff, like punching bags. That’s where James goes when he wants to be distracted for a while.”
Of course. Because who wouldn’t have their own personal training area at wizarding school? Then again, I supposed that the Potters and Weasleys needed training more than anyone else. There goes that guilt again.
Fred held up an arm to stop me as we came to a corner. He looked at the map for a moment, then nodded and continued walking. “Professor Longbottom’s walking around tonight. We’ve got to be careful.”
“Would he punish us?” I frowned. Fred must know the headmaster pretty well, seeing as how he had been dating his daughter for three years.
Fred shrugged. “Probably not, but he would mention something to my parents, and they would be wondering why we were wandering around looking for James in the middle of the night, and I can’t exactly say it’s because Hugo got attacked now can I?”
I sighed. “I suppose not. But can I ask a question?”
“I’ll even let you ask another.” His response was swift, but he didn’t allow himself to even crack a smile.
I rolled my eyes behind his back. “I’m just curious…why haven’t any of you ever said anything to your parents? I mean, your family’s basically got the control of the entire Ministry. I’m sure they could help.”
He immediately stopped walking and turned to face me, his face stony. “Clara, do you know who our Minister is?”
“Percival Siren,” I said, “but what does he have to do with anything? He’s just a useless old man.”
Fred started walking again, and I had to jog to keep up, as he quickened his pace. “A useless old man whose son is the reason Pures started getting attacked here.”
My brows furrowed as I tried to remember just who Percival Siren’s son was. “Okay, but what does his son have to do with telling your parents?”
“None of us have the heart. Our parents lost so much during the war fighting for peace. Some of them lost everyone that they loved. My father lost his brother. My mother lost my grandmother. Uncle Harry lost more people than he can count. How could we tell them that every single one of their children was living a life of abuse? Can you imagine what it would do to them if we told them we had retrograded to the times of Voldemort?”
His blue eyes pierced into me and for a moment I felt the burden that Fred must have been bearing for the past seven years. “It would destroy them,” I whispered, shame settled at the core of my stomach. Every time I breathed now, I could feel it, pressing against my internal organs and reminding me of what terrible things I had done in the past.
“Yes,” Fred continued. “And on top of that, James said he overheard a conversation between his father and mine this past summer. They suspect that the Minister might not really be the Minister,” he said softly, brandishing his wand as we stepped through a tapestry.
“Does this conversation have anything to do with why James was in Azkaban for three months?” I asked, something clicking in my brain.
Our footsteps reverberated off of the stone and I focused on quieting my stride. “That’s not for me to say,” he said carefully. “Azkaban was by far the worst thing James has ever been put through, and I don’t necessarily think he wants it being brought up.”
“All right, so back to Minister Siren not being Minister Siren.” I acted calm, like I was focused on the topic, but internally I was screaming. I was so close to finding out what really happened this summer. I had spent the break scouring over every wizarding newspaper and tabloid possible, trying to find answers. I’d owled reporters trying to get the scoop, and had even sent letters to James at the prison under a false name, all to no avail. And yet that conversation had been tabled once again.
“Oh, it’s still Minister Siren,” Fred corrected.
Suddenly it felt as though my heart plummeted twelve stories. “What do you mean?”
“I mean, Alistair Siren is impersonating his father and has complete control of the Wizarding world.”
We came out of the tapestry as silently as we could but I was fairly certain my breathing was so loud that the citizens of China could hear me. Fred shot me a look and I gave him one back.
“You just dropped the biggest sodding bomb on me Weasley,” I hissed. “Sorry I can’t be completely calm about it!”
Now I remembered. There were pictures of Alistair plastered all over the castle. He practically had a whole shelf dedicated to him in the Trophy Room. Prefect, quidditch star, Head Boy…he was every student’s idol, at least on the outside. And yet in all the pictures, you could never seem to find an ounce of true happiness. His eyes were too cold, his smile too practiced. Alistair Siren was someone to be feared.
Due to the fact that I was still trying to process this vital bit of information I had been missing these past six years, I walked straight into the wall, missing where Fred had turned the corner.
He sighed and shook his head, dragging me down the corridor faster. We came to a stop outside an old Transfiguration classroom, where he waved his wand in a hexagonal motion, muttering an incantation under his breath. I couldn’t be sure, but it sounded like Latin.
Finally there was a soft clicking sound, and he pushed the door open, motioning for me to step inside.
My head was almost taken off by a red jet of light and I yelped in terror, dropping to the ground.
“OI!” James yelled, “WHAT THE BLOODY HELL DO YOU THINK YOU’RE DOING JUST RUNNING IN HERE?”
Fred snorted in laughter as he shut the door behind him. “My mistake.”
“You knew that was going to happen,” I muttered angrily, shooting him a death glare as I got to my feet. He smirked.
“Fred, I could’ve killed her!” James shouted again, shoving his cousin in the chest.
Fred knocked James back into the wall. “Mate, calm down. She’s fine. And it’s not like you practice the Unforgiveables in here.”
James was breathing hard and he clenched his fists. “No, but if that jinx had hit her, it would’ve taken her face off.”
“Okay, you’re right, I’m sorry.” Fred held his hands up in surrender. “Won’t do it again.”
He nodded shortly. “Fine. Now what are you doing here?”
I turned to Fred expectantly. What were we doing here?
“I need you to get a book,” he said simply as he ignored our stares, kicking back against a dusty desk.
“Okay, care to be more specific?” James asked churlishly. He was being a bit of a prick.
Fred realized this and waved his wand like a whip. A rope appeared out of nowhere and tied James’ legs together, causing him to stumble and fall.
“Really mate?” he asked, grabbing his wand to undo the spell.
“You were being a prick,” I offered, and he looked at me for the first time since we kissed all of an hour ago.
Something flashed across his eyes, but before I could figure out what it was his typical blank countenance was back in place.
James crossed his arms and cocked a brow. “Was I talking to you?”
My mouth dropped open in indignation, but before I could scream at him Fred intervened. “As much as I’d love to listen to you two have yet another row, Hugo’s laying in your bed unconscious and what Alex really needs is a book from the Restricted Sections of the library.”
James sighed like he knew exactly what was about to happen. “All right, fine, what’s the plan?”
Twenty minutes later we were breaking into the library. Thanks to the Marauder’s Map and Fred’s concealment charms, it had been a pretty quick trip. The only scary moment was when I somehow managed to step on the back of James’ shoe (ahem) and he tripped. He flipped me off and Fred decided to magically bind me to him until we were out of the corridors.
“All right,” Fred whispered. “I’m going to stay here and stand guard. If I see anything on the map, I’ll let you know with the mirror, James.”
I was confused (shocker, I know) but James simply nodded and patted his chest pocket, making sure whatever was in it was still there.
“Clara, you need to go with James to the Restricted Section. The faster you can find this book, the better.” Fred handed us the title on a scrap of parchment and James immediately headed for the back of the cavernous room.
Even though we treaded lightly, making sure not to brush up against any shelves or tables, our sound somehow seemed to fill the library and Fred kept shushing us from his post by the door.
The light from the end of James’ wand led the way as we reached the dusty gate in an area that was almost never used. Why did the school even have it? As far as I knew no teachers ever used it, and they had to know that students broke in at every opportunity.
The gate opened with a rusty creak and we hurried inside, eager to get the book and get out before Quimby, our creepy caretaker, or his trusted pet falcon found us.
“Right, you take that side, I’ll take this side,” James whispered.
With a sigh, I began to scan the rows, careful not to touch anything. Apparently, one time Alex and Rose had come in here and Rose had left with her nose damn near bitten off.
“Fred told me about the minister,” I muttered. I internally winced; I was not planning on telling him that.
“And?” I couldn’t see him but I could tell he was tense, trying hard not to get angry.
I took a shaky breath. Well, I’d already come this far; might as well ask before I lost the nerve. “He said it had to do with you going to Azkaban. What happened James? What happened to you this summer?”
His amber eyes turned molten and they flashed dangerously. “Clara, get back to looking for the damned book. We’ve got maybe another two minutes before we’ll be caught.”
I scowled but did as he said. If I got detention and had to miss practice, I would most likely find myself lying in a pool of my own blood. But hell if I was letting this go. I was so close.
After a moment, my eyes spotted the thick, red tome. “Got it,” I said triumphantly. “Now you better sodding tell me-”
“Catch it!” he shouted as I tripped and let the book fall from my grasp, and I dove for it hurriedly. I didn’t make it in time and the book dropped open with a loud ‘thud,’ causing a steady stream of powder to rise into the air and swirl around us.
James had his wits about him, fortunately for me, and slammed it shut, shaking what he could of the powder off of us. I was getting quite tired…
“Clara, stay with me, Clara!” I smiled as he gripped my shoulders. He was so handsome. So smart. So brave. Then I got a blast of water to the face.
I spluttered. “Wh-what?” Ice cold water streamed down the crown of my head and landed in my lap.
“Sorry,” he began, “but the book had sleeping solution-” James cut himself off and grabbed a shard of mirror out of his pocket. Fred’s face appeared on the other side.
I was extremely bewildered, but James held the shard up to his face so he could hear. “Bollocks, Quimby’s coming!”
With an agility I didn’t know he possessed, James grabbed the book and rolled over against the shelf, pulling me tight against his chest. With his wand between his teeth, the light now extinguished, he yanked out his invisibility cloak and wrapped us in it.
I had to cradle myself awkwardly so our feet were covered, but I could hardly concentrate on the cramping because I could feel James’ heart beating against my back. He gently placed a hand over my mouth to cover my loud breathing (I really needed to fix that) and I squeezed my eyes shut, willing myself with all my might to calm down.
Please tell me that Fred managed to lock the gate, I prayed. If the gate was still wide open, Quimby would find us in no time, invisible or not.
“Clara,” he whispered, his breath hot against my neck, “can you reach the mirror from my pocket? Fred will let us know when the coast is clear.”
I swallowed and nodded, bending my right arm back awkwardly.
“No, that’s not it,” James said through gritted teeth, and I pulled my hand back quickly, glad he couldn’t see the flush in my cheeks.
Did I just…? “Merlin, sorry!” I apologized, being much more cautious in my blind quest for his pants pocket. I located it just as he told me careful, but I’d already cut my finger on the shard of glass.
“You heard the noise from here, you say?”
The two of us froze, blood gushing from my right hand. Quimby was here.
“Well, it’s still locked…but let’s just take a peek inside, shall we?”
His falcon, Johnson, soared ahead of him while he took out his ring of keys and searched for the right one. I didn’t know if the damn bird could see through the cloak or not, but it could probably smell the blood. I hastily stuck my finger in my mouth, blanching at the taste of iron.
Quimby finally managed to get the gate open as Johnson settled on a shelf directly across from where we were laying. It stared at us like it could see us lying on the ground. Shit, bollocks, piss, we were completely and utterly –
All of a sudden there was a loud smash, followed by a series of slightly louder booms. Quimby took off, Johnson flying over his balding head, and we wasted no time.
James gripped my arm and pulled me out of the Restricted Section, somehow finding his way in the dark. I couldn’t exactly see what was happening but it sounded like the bookshelves were all falling over like dominoes.
We burst out into the corridor with frightening speed and we nearly smacked against the wall.
“Oi, morons, get in here!” Fred hissed from behind a painting of Herb the Heavenly.
As the portrait shut behind us, Fred slapped James over the back of the head. “What part of quickly and quietly don’t you understand?”
James growled slightly but I cut in before he could lose his temper. “It was my fault. I dropped the book. If it weren’t for James I would’ve been caught for sure.”
Fred pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Fine. No harm done except for to hundreds of ancient spell books. Let’s just get back to Hugo before Quimby, or anyone for that matter, finds us.”
I touched James’ arm, intent on apologizing, but he shrugged me off angrily and followed after Fred. My heart sunk slightly as I headed after them. Why did I always muck everything up? I would never be anything to James except a nuisance. I should really just stop trying. I was wet, freezing, and bleeding and all it had gotten me was two very angry teenage boys.
A/N: Thanks for reading, and thank you all for being so patient with me! College students have 15 page term papers (that I should be writing right now) and presentations and all sorts of irritating educational things going on! Next chapter should hopefully be up soon!
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