When Nautica awakens, she's unsurprised to find herself surrounded by people in the Hospital Wing. The entire Ravenclaw team is sitting about her bed, worried and anxious expressions on their faces. It looks to be nearing dusk, the sun barely lighting up the windows of the Wing.
"Nautica you're awake!" Samantha cries, grabbing hold of her hand. The others jump up in surprise, looking elated by her conciousness. They had been there from the moment she had been transferred from the Pitch to the Wing.
"What happened?" She asks, her throat feeling dry. She peers at her fellow teammates, wandering what could have possibly warranted her to pass out. The last thing she remembers is seeing Matthew reaching for the snitch.
"Well, you sort of passed out..." Santiago explains, his dark eyes peering into hers with concern. "It happened right before Matt caught the snitch--"
"We won?!" She says elatedly, sitting nearly upright in her bed, only for Tess to push her back onto the pillow. "What was that for?"
"Madam Pomfrey said for you to rest," She says with a sigh. "Yes, we won, but what happened? This is the second time you've fainted in as many weeks. We're all worried for you." Her words appear to be true, they all stare at her with questions in their eyes. Sighing, Nautica knows that she cannot keep it a secret any longer. Especially, when the entire school saw it happen.
"You know that whatever it is, we'll be here for you," Santiago says quietly, grasping her other hand. She smiles wanly at him, knowing that without a doubt, he would be there for her. She remembers to this day how he'd cursed a Gryffindor who had knocked her books out of her hand. She knew he had noticed that she hadn't been quite right in as many weeks.
"I'm sick," She lets out quietly, watching their reactions. "I have a Muggle Cancer, but we're treating in a non-Muggle way. That's why I haven't been eating, and why I can't play any longer." A look of frustration and pain crosses both Santiago and Tess' faces. The others just look shocked.
"I-I'm sorry," Erica lets out after a very pregnant pause. The others echo her words, quite unsure of what to say. For what does one say to somebody who might possibly be dying while their whole?
"It's okay," She waves away their apologies. They had no reason to be sorry. It was her body failing her, not theirs. "Look, I think I'm going to go back to sleep. You all head back to the common room and celebrate."
Having been dismissed, they all give her a quick hug, their eyes noticing for the first time how much their Captain had changed in the last few weeks. She had always been on the thin side, but she was so much more bonier. Her cheeks hollow. The only one to remain with her is Santiago, who looks to be holding something in. He is quite literally biting his lip to keep quiet. It isn't until the door swings shut behind him that he glares at Nautica.
"I get not wanting to announce it, but why not tell me?" He asks, anger coloring his voice. Before she has a chance to answer, he continues on, "I have been your best friend since first year. Did you not think I'd want to know? I've been watching you struggle these last few weeks without understanding why! It's been hell not knowing what was happening. That was selfish of you!" His words, though true, are harsh and hit her like tiny little bullets. She flinches, her lower lip trembling.
"Damn right, you're sorry!" He is nearly yelling now, glancing behind him to make sure Madam Pomfrey is still tucked away into her office. "I thought we were closer than that, Nautica!" His words, despite the sting, are so completely and truly right. They are closer than that.
"SHUT UP!" She says through a sudden rush of rage. He stares at her, shocked by her sudden ferocity. "You don't think it's been hell for me?! My body is failing me, Santiago! FAILING ME! I have a mass inside of me that these stupid potions might not be able to help. I'm always sick, my body hurts, and my hair-- it's falling out!" Her hands gesture wildly as her face reddens. "I can barely fathom why the hell this is happening to me and I AM SORRY that I didn't tell you, but how could I? HUH? How could I tell someone when I could barely face it myself?" Having let it all spill out of her, she falls back onto her pillow, suddenly exhausted from the energy spent.
"Oh," And with that, he leans forward and wraps his arms around her, pulling her into a hug. He barely squeezes her, so afraid he'll hurt her. Her hands grasp his shirt, as she sobs against his chest. It isn't until what feels like hours pass, that he lets go of her.
"I'm sorry I reacted that way," He says quietly, peering at his hands in shame.
"I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
With that, they both chuckle weakly, unsure of what else there is to say. It's as a few minutes pass that she blinks wearily. Seeing this, he grins. "I'll let you sleep," Standing up, he leans over and kisses her softly on the forehead. "Good night."
She falls into a deep sleep, dreaming of Quidditch and bludgers chasing after her. It's as the dream morphs into her being drafted onto the Holyhead Harpies (which is entirely made up of Ogres) that she is awakened by something touching her forehead. Blinking blearily, the dim lanterns lining the Hospital Wing help bring into focus someone leaning over her.
"MERLIN!" She cries out, sitting up quickly, the action sending a wave of dizziness over her. The person sits back quickly, an appropriate expression of embarrassment on his face. "James, what are you doing here?" Distress leaks into her voice as she stares at him in bewilderment. It's cleary well past curfew and not only that, why was he here anyway? Everything she's ever thought about James Potter seems to be flying out the bloody window.
"I just wanted to make sure you were okay," He says quietly, biting his lip as he ruffles the messy mop of hair atop his head. "I saw you collapse and I didn't want to sit around with the team... and so I-I just came to make sure." She quite possibly feels less at ease with his words. Where was the arrogant toerag he's always been?
"Why do you care?" The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. Her cheeks get hot as she realizes what she's just implied. His own face turns a faint red in the dim light, but maybe she was just imagining it.
"I've always noticed you..." His words are quiet as he clasps his hands together in his lap. "You're passionate about Quidditch and you don't give a damn what anyone thinks of you. You have few friends, but that doesn't seem to bother you." She takes a deep breath, trying to steady her frantic heartbeat. Because this couldn't be happening. Right? James did not just admit to noticing her? Like actually seeing her?
"You're supposed to be a right ass," She says with a sigh, toying with the thin blanket in her lap. "I've always hated you. Like always. You're irritating, arrogant, and you think your God's gift to women. Why say this now?"
He smirks, a bit of his normal self peeking out. "There's a fine line between love and hate." She groans, leaning her head back with exasperation.
"See that's the James Potter we all know and hate."
"I'd say hate is a pretty strong word for a guy you barely know," He points out, leaning toward her as though he is about to kiss her. She can't help but to lean forward, her chin jutting out. "I mean, Nautica. You see what everyone likes to see. I bet you've never wandered if maybe I'm more than what I show."
"You're right," Her words are soft. This close, his eyes, which had appeared darker than usual in the low light, seem clearer now. Their warmth reaching for her. He's closer now, his hands on either side of her legs. If she just moved a little closer, they would be touching lips.
"Nautica, I want to get to know you," His voice is a whisper, husky. It seems to draw her in, her nostrils breathing in the smell of broomstick polish and some sort of cologne. It's almost intoxicating. Her breathing is shallow as he presses his forehead to hers. "What do you say?"
It's almost unfair that he is asking this question now, when she can barely think straight. All she wants to do now is grab him by his collar and pull him as close as he can get to her. The ferocity of the passion that has been lit inside of her makes her want to reel back in terror, but she can't pull away. But it's as he closes his eyes and one hand reaches up to cup her cheek that something inside of her clicks.
She's sick. She might very well be dying if these potions don't work their literal magic. He'd be dating a dying girl. Her imagination goes into overdrive, picturing them suddenly falling in love and then his crushed face when she is dead. Stiffening, she pulls back, shoving him away with both of her hands.
Her intention had been to create some distance between them so she can think clearly. Not to shove him off the bed. He lands on the cold stone floor with a groan, his brows furrowed in confusion by her reaction. "Leave me alone," her voice is shaky as she catches her bearings. "I'm not someone you should be getting to know. Okay?" A part of her wants to admit about the illness, because Merlin knows that everyone would know by tomorrow's end. But something inside of her stops her from saying it to him. What would be the point? To see the pity in his eyes? To be rejected because who wants somebody whose broken?
"Nautica?" He asks questioningly, standing up slowly. "I'm sorry-- I didn't mean to push too fast."
"Just go away," She says, her lower lip trembling as she lays back down and turns away from him. "Go back to your Gryffindor tower and just leave me the hell alone." She doesn't see the hurt expression on his face. She doesn't want to see it anyway. She doesn't hear him walk away and turns her head to tell him to get hell away again, but he's already gone. Her heart sinks at the realization as hot tears burn in the back of her eyes.
Pulling the blanket tighter, she sobs into her pillow.
Wow, this was an emotional chapter that was challenging to write. But I hope you all like it! Thank you so much for the reviews, I appreciate it so much. And I can't believe it, but this story is already at over 800 reads. I'm excited to continue on this journey with you all.