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Chapter 8 : Memories and Making Up
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I wake up at 4:37 in the morning, my heart pounding.
I dreamt of Jacob again.
I fling myself out of bed, pulling on boots over my leggings and a sweatshirt over my tank top, feeling like I can’t breathe.
The door slams behind me as I sprint out of the dorm, then down the stairs, then out of the common room. I run even faster in the open halls, down hundreds of stairs and countless hallways, all the way to the first floor, where I throw open the door to the grounds.
Run, don’t think.
So I do. I run.
I run all the way past the quidditch pitch, past Hagrid’s cabin, past the Whomping Willow, into the Forbidden Forest. I am wheezing for breath, but I can’t stop, not yet. Keep going. Almost there. Keep running.
Then, finally, I am deep in the woods, where no one can find me, no one can see me or hear me. I stop suddenly, hands on knees, hyperventilating.
Then I scream.
I scream and I scream and I scream and I scream until all sound dies in my throat. I scream until some of the pain, the sorrow, the misery, is gone. I scream because I will not cry.
And then I fall to my knees.
I will not cry. I have cried enough for him. He would not want me to cry anymore.
He would not want you to scream, either.
This is why I’m damaged, see. It isn’t only my overly-strict parents, or how my family treated me when I was young, or even the endless loneliness of what was supposed to be called home. That’s all a part of it, yes, but not the biggest part, if I’m being honest.
The biggest part is Jacob.
I clench my teeth, hard. I will not cry.
I open my mouth to say it aloud, but no sound comes out. I’ve screamed myself out.
My eyes close, and a drop of water runs down my cheek.
I’m not crying.
I look up, and realize that it’s raining.
Great. That’s just great.
This is shaping up to be a very bad day.
I stand and do my best to wipe the dirt off of my knees, just as the rain comes thicker and faster, and it starts to pour. Sighing, I look around. And that’s when I realize.
Yeah, I’m lost.
Fuck. Everything is horrible.
I clench my teeth. I will not cry. So what if I dreamt of Jacob again, that same horrible dream I used to have every night. So what if I can’t talk to my parents about it, or my brothers. So what if I don’t have anyplace I can truly call home.
I have me, and I have my friends. That’s all I need.
Wrong. Right now I need a way out.
At least I know how to get that. Clearing my throat (rather painfully) I cup my hands around my mouth and let loose a long, shrill shout. Too bad I don’t have any raw meat to offer, but the call alone should work. A few seconds pass, and I make the hoarse yell again. Wait a few seconds. And repeat.
Out in the darkness, a pair of glittering, ghostly-white eyes blinks.
“I need a ride out of the forest,” I croak, holding out a hand.
Out of the fog a black, skeletal horse glides, the bat-like wings on its back unfolded.
The thestral approaches me and bows its head, nudging my outstretched hand. I stroke its muzzle, an odd feeling, as it does not have any hair. Stepping closer, I run a hand down the thestral’s neck.
“You’re Tenebrus, right?” I murmur, glad that animals don’t care about voice cracks. The thestral inclines his majestic head.
“Hagrid mentioned you were his favorite.”
Tenebrus skewers me with glowing eyes, then slowly and deliberately sinks to his knees.
“Thank you,” I whisper. I climb onto his back without hesitation. I’ve never ridden a thestral before, but I’ve interacted with them, and I’ve ridden unicorns. How different can it be, really?
The thestral abruptly breaks into a gallop, straight from a standstill, and I am forced to grab onto his mane to keep from falling off.
Smooth gait, I admire. Even Sunlight can’t make a gallop feel like gliding on air. Tenebrus is fast, too. The trees and bushes and roots blend together with the rain and fog, into a gray-green mass that flies by too quick to catch. Within a minute we are out of the forest, the rain now free to hammer down on us unobstructed by a thick layer of foliage.
“Thank you,” I whisper, sliding off the thestral’s back. He nods his head, as if to say ‘anytime’.
I stroke his neck one last time, closing my eyes. I hate to let Tenebrus go, as he is the only thing that made me forget, even for a second, about Jacob. Once he leaves, though, I know that I will be plagued by memories all day. For a moment I gaze longingly at the Forbidden Forest, wishing that I could take a day- just a day!- off from my normal life, to live out there in peace with all the magical creatures that I love. They wouldn’t hurt me, I know. Not like this world has hurt me.
I sigh, and the presence under my hand disappears.
When I open my eyes, the thestral is gone.
Time to face reality.
Why do I have a feeling that today is going to blow?
I begin the muddy trek back up to the castle, shivering. My baggy sweatshirt, though warm, is plastered against me due to the heavy rain. I probably resemble a wet rat right about now. Lifting a hand, I drag a lock of soaking-wet hair out of my face and look up at the sky, squinting.
I do love the rain, though.
As I lower my gaze back to the castle, I catch sight of a lonely figure out on the quidditch pitch, shooting a quaffle into the center hoop, time and time again.
Walking faster, I pull the wet hood up around my face, hoping that James doesn’t see me. ‘Cause it can only be James out there, practicing obsessively at five o’clock in the morning. And I don’t want to have to deal with him, not now.
I just can’t.
I start to run, my boots slapping against the mud, which sucks me down and slows my way. I feel like I am getting nowhere.
The universe is conspiring against me.
“Jack! Hey, Jack!”
Through the rain, I see a black-haired boy on a broom sweep down and dismount in front of me, cutting off the route to the castle. I stop, my depression and suppressed sadness suddenly turning to inexplicable rage.
“Jack, I want to talk to you. I am so-”
“Forget it, James!” I yell, the edges of my vision going all black and fuzzy when I scream. That really hurts.
“I want to apologize! I’m sorry, Jack, really!”
“Save it!” I shout hoarsely. “You were supposed to be my friend!”
“I am your friend, if you would just let me-”
“A FRIEND would never say that to me!”
“I am so sorry, I was drunk and I wasn’t thinking, I-”
“SHUT UP!” I roar. I am aware that my anger is quite unprovoked, but I just can’t. I can’t.
I have rage issues, okay?
And the dream I had didn’t help.
James frowns at me, but somehow he doesn’t get mad. That confuses me. He’s usually not the calm-and-collected one.
“Jack,” he says, his voice so quiet that I have to step closer to hear it past the thundering rain. “What’s wrong?”
I clench my teeth.
I will not cry.
“You were supposed to be my friend!” I scream, losing it completely. “Do you even know what that MEANS to me? I know you have some huge family you can turn to, but I DON’T! Friends are ALL I HAVE! And YOU! You- you-” I break off, before I start to cry. Because I won’t. I refuse to.
“Jack.” James grips my shoulders and looks me in the eyes, his hazel eyes burning. “I am so sorry. Please. Tell me what’s wrong.”
I look into his eyes, so intense, so sincere.
I will not cry.
So there’s really only one thing else to do.
I pull back my arm and punch James right in the jaw.
“OH MY GOD I AM SO SORRY!” I scream as sense catches up to raw emotion.
“WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!” James yells, all that tenderness gone. “I WAS TRYING TO HELP YOU!”
“I KNOW, I’M SORRY!” I pull out my wand, then pause. I’m frankly terrible at healing spells.
“I’m sorry, James,” I say more quietly, and wince as even that rasps against the sore walls of my throat. He rubs his jaw, wincing himself as he moves it back and forth.
“Are we even now?” he asks drily.
“Is it broken?”
“Nah, don’t think so. I can just rush to Madame Triste and get it fixed.”
“She’s such a downer, she’ll just depress you and maybe even make you miss the game. Come with me, I know a girl,” I say cryptically.
“Okay, then.” So James and I start walking up to the castle in the pouring rain right after I punched him in the face; yet for some reason this is the calmest I’ve felt with him in... well, ever.
Funny how that works.
“So are we even?” James asks again, but this time he actually sounds serious. And I believe him, finally. I believe that he meant it when he apologized.
“Yeah, we’re good,” I say, bumping shoulders with him.
“Finally,” he sighs dramatically, but I can’t bring myself to laugh. Now that I’ve stopped screaming at James, the memories of my dream are rushing back in. I can feel myself tense, as if they are a physical onslaught.
James looks at me, curious and concerned. I can feel his eyes boring into me.
“What?” I finally snap.
“What’s wrong, Jack?” He stop and grabs my arm, forcing me to stop as well. I pull my arm out of his grip forcibly.
“Nothing,” I say stubbornly.
“C’mon. I know as well as you do, that back there wasn’t just about me.”
I pause for a second, hesitating.
Should I tell him?
Fuck it. I’m doing it.
No regrets, right?
“I, um, I- I had a... bad dream last night.”
“That was about a nightmare?” He sounds incredulous, and rightly so. Nightmare? Please. This is much worse.
“No, not a nightmare. A bad dream; you know, reliving bad memories. The worst memories.”
“Oh.” He looks slightly put out. Oh yes; he wouldn’t know how to help, as he probably has no fucking bad memories.
“About Jacob,” I volunteer. I’m not sure why. I’ve never told anyone but Clark and Grant about Jacob, and that’s only because they met him. Not even Lars or Rose, both of whom I’m pretty close with, know about him.
“Who’s Jacob?” James wonders.
“Jake’s my brother,” I murmur. And all the rest comes pouring out. How he was the only one, out of all my brothers and all my family, who ever loved me for me. How he was the only one who I loved. How, during my first year at Hogwarts, while I was having the best time of my life, Jake was diagnosed with cancer. I tell James about Jacob’s sickness, how it lasted for two exquisitely painful years, how I sat by his bedside over the Easter holidays in third year and listened to him tell me that he had been waiting for me. Waiting for me to come say goodbye, he said. And how that night, as I watched, crying, he died.
I tell James about how after that, my family had blamed me for Jacob’s death. How they told me that god was punishing me for my sins, and Jake was suffering for it. How I refused to believe that anyone who was professed to be merciful and kind could do that. How I had given up that day, on any hope of having a family. About how everything comes together; that this is the reason I value friendship so much- my friends are my family, and they are all I have left.
When I am all done telling, James says nothing. He just pulls me into his arms and holds me to him.
And there, in the rain, in front of the castle, we stand together.
“How is a raven like a writing desk?” the bronze eagle knocker asks in its smooth, clear voice. I glare.
“Oh! I know! Ow,” James rubs his jaw.
“If you know it then say it, dumbass,” I tell him, amused. “Don’t just stand there rubbing your jaw like an idiot.”
“I’m only doing that because you punched me!”
“Hey, we’re even now!”
“You punch way too hard for a girl,” James mutters darkly, which I take as tantamount to a concession.
“So how is a raven like a writing desk?” I ask him, a bare smile gracing my face. I know the answer, and I have a sneaking feeling that he has it wrong.
“They both start with the sound rrr.”
I raise my eyebrow, disbelieving. Seriously? How can he be that wrong?
“Um, no,” I tell James, feeling a little bubbling of laughter in my chest. That is good. I’ve been feeling absolutely horrid since I woke up.
“Oh yeah then? What’s the answer?” James challenges. I smirk at him and turn back to the eagle knocker.
“The answer is... it’s not.”
“Clever,” the eagle says drily. Is that sarcasm I detect? In any case, the door swings open, and I turn to stick my tongue out at James.
I beat him.
“So who’s this healer-girl?” he asks as we approach the stairs.
“Hold on,” I say, holding up a hand. “I’ll get her; you can’t go up the staircase.”
“Oh, your dorm has that too?” James asks curiously, peering at the steps.
“Stay here.” I ignore him and sprint up the stairs, eager to leave this morning behind.
“Laela!” I whisper, too soft for mere mortals to hear. But Laela Williams has super-slut-powers. Her narrow brown eyes blink open, and she yawns, propping herself up on the pillows.
“What the hell, Jack?”
“I need your help,” I breathe.
“Why not Clark?” She rubs her eyes and glances at the clock. It’s only 5:29.
“Because Clark and healing go together like fire and water,” I say flatly, and Laela immediately understands.
“I’m coming, I’m coming,” she sighs, rolling out of bed and catching herself just before she hits the ground. She grabs her arm and leads the way out of the dorm. I pause at the door, making a deal with myself. As soon as I walk out, I will forget about this morning.
I take a deep breath and exit.
“Oh, what do we have here?” Laela grins.
“Laela is the girl you were talking about?!” James is flabbergasted.
Good word, Jack!
Thank you, Jack!
God, I have problems.
“James. Nice to see you again.”
“But she’s not even that smart!” he protests, turning to me. Then he winces (yet again), as his jaw throbs.
“Laela is the best at healing spells,” I tell him. “Especially deep bruises and fractures.”
“I wonder why that is,” James mutters sarcastically, and I roll my eyes. Yeah, Laela may be a slut, but I’m pretty sure she’s not into anything that freaky.
“Should I punch him?” she asks me lazily, shooting James a glare. I don’t have to ask why things between them are so, um, pinched. They went out last year, and it didn’t end well; namely, with both of them cheating on each other. It was rather funny to watch, actually.
“Beat you to it!” I smirk, and Laela offers me very sincere congratulations.
“Can you just fix it so I can go already?” James asks, annoyed.
“Of course,” the slutty seventh year tosses her silky-straight brown hair over her shoulder and grabs James’s jaw.
“Ow!” he complains loudly, until I smack his arm, ordering him to shut up. Laela mutters a few spells and prods James’s sore jaw, while I watch on. I don’t even bother trying to listen to the spells. I’m even worse at healing than Clark. I think it’s because the two of us generally don’t heal.
“All finished!” Laela announces, stepping back.
“Great,” James mutters reproachfully, glaring at her. She rolls her eyes.
“I’m going back to sleep, Jack. I’ll tell Clark you’re at breakfast.”
“Thanks!” I call out as she climbs up the stairs. She waves her hand in response. Laela has never been the most talkative person in the world, especially early in the morning.
“Huh. She actually did it.” James sounds surprised as he works his jaw around, testing it.
“Of course she did. I said she could, didn’t I?”
“And since when have you been the most reliable person in the world?”
“Since never!” I say brightly. “But I’m making an effort to be nice to you, James. Don’t ruin it.”
James just grumbles and stalks toward the door. But right in front of it, right as I think he’s going to leave without saying goodbye, he turns around and gives me a half-smile.
“I’ll see you at the game, right?”
“Steadfastly supporting Slytherin!” I reply with a smirk. He throws his head back and groans loudly and obviously.
“Shut your fucking mouth, you’re going to wake up the entire House,” I mutter, only half-kidding. James sticks out his tongue at me.
Real mature there, hun. Real mature.
“Bye, James,” I say pointedly. He rolls his eyes, but says goodbye and leaves without further complaint.
Say what you will about James Potter- and I’ve said more than my fair share- but he has a knack for cheering people up.
For a second there, I forgot all about Jacob.
And that’s all I’ve ever wanted in life: to forget about the pain, and only feel the joy.
A/N: What do you think of Jack forgiving James? About time? Or should she not have done it? R&R :)
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