Chapter 13 : True Romance
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Disclaimer: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR. I also don't own the rights to the song True Romance by She Wants Revenge. Enjoy!
I wish I’d never had to see Fred’s expression when he heard her scream.
I was still on the ground, eyes wide open, when James came to his senses and yanked me to my feet. We ran out the door pell mell, thoughts of defense completely gone from our minds. Her screaming kept getting softer, as though she were moving farther away, and Fred’s panic turned into utter terror as she moved farther from his grasp.
“ALEX!” he yelled, “ALEX WHERE ARE YOU? ALEX CAN YOU HEAR ME?!”
I’d never seen him this unhinged, and even James looked disturbed. We trailed her screams the best we could, until finally James came to his senses and whipped the map out of his pocket. Fred snatched it from him immediately and pointed his wand at it. “WHERE’S ALEX?”
The map surprisingly responded, turning Alex’s dot a bright green. “In the dungeons,” he said. “COME ON!”
Fred immediately sprinted away, turning corners so quickly that I thought he was going to start flying. I had no idea how she had gotten down four floors so fast, but whatever was happening to her I was sure Ivan was behind it.
Fred all but dove behind a tapestry that was actually a chute down to the first floor, a fact I discovered after I tried to walk and ended up flying head first down it. James caught me like something out of a romantic film but I barely had time to register before we were once again chasing after Fred.
We navigated the dungeons as quickly as we could but it was like a labyrinth. The deeper we got, the grungier the walls and the darker the lighting became until we were nearly in pitch black and the light from our wands could barely keep us from running into one another.
Fred stopped to consult the map once more and James and I bent over our knees, trying to catch our breath. Fred was getting desperate and things seemed pretty hopeless until all of a sudden her screams came once more, this time almost on top of us.
I exchanged a look with James as Fred took off again. However we found Alex, I knew he would be out of control. We rounded what seemed like the hundredth corner, and we finally saw her. A flood of light illuminated her limp body, held up by Ross and Carl. Blood splattered against the ground as Ivan stepped forward.
“NO!” Fred roared, charging straight at them. He hit an invisible wall at top speed and flew backwards, scrambling to regain his footing. “TURNER! LET HER GO!”
Ivan smirked, pivoting slowly on his heel to face us. Now that he had his audience, he seemed to be enjoying himself so much more. Like a showman, he rolled up his sleeves and cracked his neck. He looked like he was preparing himself for a fight, not that Alex was in much condition.
“Help me!” Fred screamed at James, the veins in his forehead bulging. Daley had obviously created some sort of shield around them that was impervious to the typical spells. I joined the duo in shooting off every hex, jinx, and curse I could think of, including the most powerful reducto I could summon, but nothing worked. The spells simply hit the shield and evaporated right into it, leaving it unscathed.
Fred began to beat at it with his fists, ramming it over and over again until his knuckles were bruised and bloody. James still held up his wand, dutifully sending spell after spell at the invisible wall, concentration etched on his face.
“TURNER YOU SON OF A BITCH! I’LL KILL YOU, DO YOU HEAR ME? I’LL KILL YOU AND YOUR ENTIRE FUCKING FAMILY!” Fred yelled, ramming his shoulder against the force field. Ivan laughed and more blood hit the shield.
I tried to use my wandless magic, thinking that maybe Kevin hadn’t been completely thorough with his defensive spells, but that proved fruitless. I tore at my hair in frustration. Ivan was laughing, his smile sinister and his eyes unforgiving. This is exactly what he wanted.
Ross and Carl set her down on the stone floor and her head lolled to the side, eyes fluttering shut. The sight of her beautiful blond hair soiled by blood and dirt and her pale, delicate skin bruised and bludgeoned sickened me. Ivan stepped over her and I knew what was coming next, and there was nothing we could do. I sank to the ground, my legs giving out on me.
James used all of his strength to turn Fred away from the sight, his muscles straining as Fred fought with everything he had, trying to get to her. Ross and Carl’s jeering and Ivan’s grunts made me flinch repeatedly, like it was me getting abused. Finally Fred broke down and started to cry. I’d never seen him so emotional, so unraveled.
I sat against the wall, knees drawn to my chest, and tried to drown it out. I stared straight ahead, my eyes not quite seeing what was in front of me. Alex moaned slightly, struggling to remain conscious. “No… please…Fred…”
Fred fell into James, who held him as he sobbed, his face grim. My nails drew blood from the palms of my hands in fury. Alex was the good one. The one without hate in her heart. The one filled with kindness and compassion, the one who stopped to fix a butterfly with a broken wing or a first year with a splinter in their finger. This was my fault. If it weren’t for me and my stupid mouth, she would have been safe. He was still trying to get to me, doing whatever he thought would hurt me the most.
Ivan finished up and stood with a sick grin on his face. “It was a pleasure,” he said to Fred with a wink. Then he spat at her lifeless body, put his hands in his pockets and sauntered away with his thugs, whistling a Weird Sisters tune. I choked down the bile in my throat.
The wall was still up and all Fred could do was kneel on the ground parallel to his girlfriend, one hand pressed against it. He moaned over and over, shaking his head and pounding his fists into the stone floor. I couldn’t watch.
James sat down beside me, and laid his head in his hands. We remained in these positions until eventually the wall faded away, and Fred dragged us back to the present.
“Alex, please, Alex, wake up,” he begged, scrambling over to her. He kissed her bloody cheeks, nose, arms, hair.
James turned to me. “I’m going to get Albus and Louis. Stay here, and stay on guard.”
I nodded, my head swimming. Alex remained limp, her breathing unsteady. I kept my back towards them as I scanned the corridor, but I heard Fred shouting out every healing spell he could think of. Some of it helped, getting rid of the blood and bruises, but it was obvious that they’d used a potion to knock her out. Realizing this, Fred simply gathered her into his chest protectively and cradled her, stroking her hair.
Footsteps pounded down the corridor and the light from the tip of my wand illuminated the sprinting forms of James, Albus, and Louis.
Louis took one look at her and shook his head. “We can’t take her to the hospital wing. Her mother can’t see her like this, and her father can’t know.”
“You’re right,” James nodded, his fury barely contained. I noticed his left hand shaking.
Albus dragged a hand across his face. “When I get my hands on those sons of bitches-” he said, starting to step down the hall.
I gathered as much force behind myself as possible and pushed my hand forward, making him stop short. “No. If you go after them, not only are you giving them what they want, but they will retaliate! People will die. You will die! And they seem to like going for the girls,” I pointed out. “Do you want Lily to get caught in the crossfire of this? Roxanne, Molly?”
He gritted his teeth but stepped back in acceptance of my words. “Right. So who’s going to call Teddy?”
“I’ve got the mirror,” James said quietly, taking a different mirror out of his pocket than the one he used in the library. “I’ll call him, but let’s start walking. We have to get out of here. It’s nearly curfew.”
Carefully, Fred lifted Alex bridal style and walked down the corridor, with Albus in the front and Louis in the back. James handed me the map and I navigated, keeping us out of the way of prefects and professors. I could hear James mumbling in the back, his voice urgent.
We ended up at the Room of Requirement, Louis making the executive decision to not let the other Gryffindors see her like this. It would give them too much victory, and the news would reach her parents in a matter of minutes.
There was a mock-hospital bed in the center under dim lighting, with shelves upon shelves of potions and healing supplies lined up. Fred set her down and stared down at her helplessly. “When’s Teddy getting here?” he asked frantically.
“Right now,” came a deep voice from behind. I whirled around to find the most aesthetically pleasing man I’d ever seen in my life. His hair was a golden blond and his eyes cerulean blue. His skin was tanned, his shoulders broad. And he walked with a confidence I’d never seen before. This was the man rumored to take over Harry Potter’s position as Head Auror in a few years’ time.
Teddy jogged over to the bed, dropping a pile of dusty books onto a table that appeared out of thin air. He turned to James. “I need you to go to Gryffindor Tower. Check on your sister, and tell Rose where we are. Use the map and the coins to check on everyone else; we don’t know if they’ve planned multiple attacks. Once you have word that they’re safe, come back here as quickly as you can.”
With a nod and a brief hug between the two, James slid his wand out of his pocket and sprinted out the door. I’d never seen him take orders from someone before, but then again, I’d never seen someone as authoritative as Teddy Lupin.
Immediately he began waving his wand over her body, which glowed red. “Not good…” he muttered to himself. “Albus, the purple potion on the second shelf on your side. Louis, likewise, but the green one. Clara, I need you to extract exactly a milliliter of both into the needles. We’ll have to inject her.”
I was stunned that he knew who I was, but shoved the ridiculous thought of James gushing to him about me to the back of my mind. Just as I was attempting to figure out how to set up a muggle IV, Rose burst in, tying her hair back as she ran.
“Godric! What happened to her?” Fresh tears streamed down her face as she caught sight of her best friend.
No one spoke. Everyone deferred to Fred, who had now collapsed into a chair at her bedside and was looking mournfully at his girlfriend. Teddy had forced him back so he had space to work. “Turner,” he said hoarsely, not taking his eyes off of Alex.
Rose sighed and shut her eyes. “I knew it,” she whispered to herself. “Ted, how can I help?”
I was amazed at how quickly she gathered her wits about her. I stepped back, giving her room by Alex’s bedside and watched as she expertly attached the IV to Alex’s arm. She made it look so simple. My guess is that after all the years of tending to her friends and family, she was almost as experienced as a Healer at St. Mungo’s.
The night wore on, the moon casting an eerie glow into the room through the sole window above the bed. Teddy’s hands never stopped moving and he hardly blinked, moving almost like a robot. Various other Potters and Weasleys trickled in and out of the room to check on her. Roxanne was now seated next to Fred, rubbing his back and leaning her head on him. She was saying something to him softly and she was the only person besides Alex that he would pay any attention to.
Alex’s breathing steadied as the hours went on, after she’d had a liter of blood and nine different potions injected into her. Now that her breathing was stabilized and the cuts and bruises were healed, she almost looked like she was sleeping peacefully.
“Okay,” Teddy said, speaking for the first time in several hours. “That’s all I can do for now. The rest is up to her. Although I’d have to say, Fred, that she probably doesn’t want to wake just yet. She went through an incredible amount of trauma, and she went into shock. Expect her to wake in five to six hours. If she doesn’t, you know where to find me.”
The auror extended his hand to Fred, who grasped it and bowed his head onto it, murmuring thank yous and Godric bless yous. I felt a little embarrassed at this display of affection, never having seen two males act this closely in front of others, but Teddy simply smiled and squeezed Fred’s shoulder before disappearing out the door with the promise to keep his mirror on him.
After he left, everyone else began to retreat for the night, until Fred, Rose, James and I were the only ones left at her bedside. An invisible clock seemed to be ticking in the corner, time passing incredibly slowly as we all stared at Alex, eager for her to wake. I tapped my fingers against the arm of the chair I was rigidly sitting in. I picked at my cuticles viciously. I chewed my nails. I plaited and unplaited my hair until all the ends were split and my fingers felt numb.
Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer. James was leaning against the farthest wall looking out the window and acting like nothing had happened. Fred hadn’t moved a muscle since he’d sat in that chair. Rose was still crying. And the longer I looked at Alex, lying on that bed, her skin so pale it looked translucent, the more I hated myself. If I had stayed away from them, if I’d done what James said, none of this ever would have happened to her. It would have been me.
I stood from my chair so suddenly that it tipped over, startling Rose and James but I didn’t care. I didn’t look back as I ran out the door. I ran down the hallways, my breathing ragged as I felt a build up in my chest that made it hard to breathe. I didn’t care that it was the middle of the night, I didn’t care if I got caught, I just had to get away from that room.
I ran to the other side of the castle, to the Astronomy Tower. As I pounded up the steps I was reminded of the day I agreed to date Ivan to protect James. How I’d come up here to beg for forgiveness and he’d walked out on me. I should have let things be.
As I reached the top I leaned over my knees to catch my breath. The air was icy and I reveled in the sharpness of it. I cast a silencing spell on the tower, knowing what I was about to do.
My footsteps were heavy as I walked across the room. With every step I was reminded of someone who’d gotten hurt because of me. In second year when Rose was dragged into the loo by Maggie, who cursed and hexed and hit her. Third year, when Albus was pushed down a flight of stairs by Ross. Fifth year when I watched Molly get turned to stone. September, when James was lying in a corridor nearly unconscious. All because I’d done nothing. I was a bystander.
Now that I decided not to be a bystander, people were still getting hurt. First there was Hugo, innocent little Hugo with his big brown eyes and his positivity that kept Lily from crying when she got hexed. And Alex. One of the few people I gave a damn about.
I couldn’t win. I realized this now. This world we lived in, this society, it was cruel. It was mean, it was harsh, it was dangerous and terrifying. And I would never win. I stepped up onto the ledge of the tower, feeling the wind whip through my hair. I looked down across the sprawling grass. I was certainly high up. I leaned forward to embrace the height.
“Clara,” came from behind me. James. Of course it was James. The boy who screamed at me and made me feel like nothing. The boy who was my friend in secret. The boy who ignored my existence for weeks, then kissed me like I was the only thing that mattered. The boy who knew who I was, every horrible part of me.
“Clara, don’t do this,” he said in a steady voice. “Please.”
But he couldn’t stop me now. I came up here to do one thing, and one thing only.
It was a scream that scattered birds from trees, a yell that echoed across the grounds, a shout that stirred the Forbidden Forest to life. I screamed long, and I screamed loud. All the pain, anger, and sadness that I’d felt…the betrayal, frustration, and hurt…I was letting it out.
When I was done, my lungs were filled with the chill from the air and my throat burned like it was filled with Fiendfyre.
I stepped back off the ledge and turned around to face him.
His body sagged with relief. “Oh thank Merlin,” he breathed. “I thought you were going to-”
“I can’t do this anymore James,” I said softly, cutting him off.
He stepped towards me and I stepped back. “Stay away from me. You’re just like him. You’re just like Ivan! You used my weaknesses against me. You looked me right in the eye and tore me to pieces, in front of the only people in the world that I care for. You brought up my father. Things that were told to you in confidence because I trusted you.
“And you know what?” I continued, my voice raising as the adrenalin started pumping. “You treated me like shit. You kept me on a leash, like Ivan. You didn’t want anything to do with me, but you were right there, saving me, protecting me, telling me you cared for me but couldn’t be with me… I could never do anything right. Everything I did made you sick. I disgusted you. But you know what James? I love you. I love you so much it hurts. Every day that I have to go through, apart from you, makes me ache all over.”
For the first time since I’d known him, James Potter was taken aback. He looked stunned. “You love me?”
“Of course I love you, you damn idiot! Why else would I have allowed myself to be…to be touched by Ivan? Why would I have endured that? Why am I still standing here talking to you, in the hopes that you won’t walk away again?” My chest was heaving and I was terrified, but I looked at him defiantly, standing my ground.
James ran a hand over his face, and his voice shook when he spoke. “Clara, you don’t understand. Please, let me explain,” he begged.
“What is there to explain James? I’ve risked everything just to be your friend. And now, Alex is lying unconscious and Fred looks like he’s been stabbed in the heart. Everything is my fault. I know it is! I’m not good for you, or your family. I’ll do what I should have done in the first place. I’ll stay away,” I vowed.
“I’ll go back to,” my voice trembled, “I’ll go back to Ivan. He’ll be so thrilled to be able to get his hands on me again that he’ll forget about you, and Alex, and Fred, and everyone else. I’ll keep him occupied.”
Just the thought of it made me want to throw up. My knees weakened as I thought about the knife. At the thought of the scratchy sheets of his bed. The taste of blood. I managed a small smile at him as I walked toward the door. I’d been selfish before. I’d forced my way into their lives, and for the worse. But I could fix it. I would fix it.
James reached the door before I did and held it shut with his hand, to prevent me from leaving. “Like Hell you are, Clara. I swear to Godric, if I have to see his arm around you ever again… If I have to watch you wince in pain as you walk… If I have to watch you be controlled by that knife… It’s not worth it. Nothing is you fault. It's mine.”
My mouth parted in surprise as I looked up at him. For once, he looked apologetic. And shamed. “I’m sorry if I made you feel like you didn’t belong with us. I’m sorry for making you feel horrible about yourself, and for not appreciating what you did for me with Turner. I’m sorry that I blamed you for things that were beyond your control. I’m sorry that you feel this way right now, sorry that you have the weight of the damn world on your shoulders…”
His hand brushed against my shoulder as he spoke, drifting up to my cheek and through my hair. “But the one thing I won’t apologize for is kissing you,” he whispered, his breath coming out in puffs of white. “It was selfish of me, and reckless, and stupid…but it was also the best moment of my life.”
Every inch of me shook. He was right in front of me, telling me everything that I’d wanted to hear for six years. Hardly daring to believe it was real, I reached out my right arm and wrapped it shyly around his neck. He watched me carefully as I slowly brought my lips to his, drawing out their warmth.
He was still being careful, still thinking about every move. I opened my eyes and saw the conflict on his face. “Don’t hold back James,” I whispered. “Just give in.”
I placed my other arm around his neck and pulled him to me, kissing him hard. My mouth moved over his greedily, and I slid my left hand into the hair at the nape of his neck, gently grazing the skin there with my nails.
He was starting to respond. His lips moved back, sending a shiver all the way down my spine. I wanted more. I pushed my body flush against his, running my hand down his back. After another moment I pulled back slightly to catch my breath.
His amber eyes stared straight at me, and he looked unsteady. Still he was restraining himself.
“Now you kiss me,” I said, placing my lips inches from his, just out of reach. “Kiss me James,” I begged.
And he did. He pulled me to him to tightly that the air was pushed from my lungs. His open mouth found mine before I had time to take a breath and his tongue immediately tangled with mine, tracing patterns in my mouth that left me lightheaded.
His hands slid underneath my sweater and up my bare back, and he groaned at the contact. I found myself against the wall, the chill from the stone a sharp contrast from the heat of his body. My knees weakened as he pressed his body against mine, and I could feel him against my thigh.
His lips moved from my mouth to my neck, melding against the skin behind my ear, causing me to gasp. His tongue traced every inch of my collarbone, and his hands gripped the bare skin of my hips. I could feel the calluses on his fingers.
He pressed me against the wall so hard that I started to be lifted off my feet, and I wrapped my legs around his waist, dragging his mouth back to mine. He responded eagerly, gripping my thighs tightly. He began to pant, and as his head dropped down towards my breasts, he suddenly stopped, letting my legs drop to the ground abruptly.
“Alex,” he said, turning away from me. “She’s probably awake.”
I blinked, the only thing going through my brain that I wanted more. “Um…yeah, we should be getting back.”
I straightened out my sweater and ran my icy hands over my face. My cheeks were burning. We’d been snogging like a pair of rabid animals injected with hormones.
He took out the map and concentrated on its words, and I figured it best not to say anything.
“Coasts clear,” he said abruptly, and set off down the steps.
I had no choice but to follow him, though I found I couldn’t keep my legs steady underneath me.
The walk back to the Room of Requirement was a silent one. James pretended to be focused on the map, but I knew he just didn’t want to look at me, let alone speak to me.
I retraced the steps. How he’d felt my cheek so tenderly, how I’d begged him to kiss me back. How he shoved me against the wall and snogged the living hell out of me, feeling every inch of skin he could get his hands on.
I barely noticed when we reached the stretch of wall, and James bumped into me as he was striding back and forth.
“Sorry,” we said at the same time, and after a moment of awkwardly staring at each other, he stepped around me and continued walking back and forth until the doors appeared.
Silently he pulled open the door and held it, gesturing for me to go in first.
“Oh good, you guys are back,” Alex said, sitting up.
A smile spread across my face. “Alex!” I sprinted over and hugged her as gently as I could.
James bent over and kissed her cheek. “I’m so glad you’re okay.”
I looked over at Fred, who was looking at her like she was the best thing he’d ever seen. He was damn near star struck.
“So,” she began, smiling grimly. “Do you want to hear what happened?”
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