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Chapter 30 : In Which Everyone Sleeps in the Hospital Wing
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The actual fall only lasted seconds, but it felt like it happened much more slowly. I saw James twist his broom around and soar desperately towards his younger brother, devastation and desperation blazing across his face as it quickly became obvious that he was too far away. Laura Brogan flew close behind him, her expression difficult to read under her face paint but her tense, white knuckles revealing her stress as she clutched onto her own broom.
Jason was right at the other end of the pitch, with Joey and Oz beside him. Joey had been holding the Quaffle, ready to shoot while everybody was distracted by the Seekers, like I’d done in our Match against Ravenclaw. Now, the Quaffle slid through the crook of his arm and floated leisurely towards the ground. Nobody moved to catch it.
Derek and Alex were staring at each other. Alex looked horrified at what his teammate had done. His bat hung limply from his fingers and his mouth was half open as he watched his friend. Derek was chewing his lip, bat still extended from where he’d reached to hit the bludger.
I screamed, knowing that it wouldn’t help the situation but unable to do anything else.
Al’s head flopped backwards as he fell, his body limp and frightening. He was close to the ground now, too close, and James was still too far away.
Scor shot down at the last moment, reaching out to grasp Al’s robes with one of his hands. Al stopped falling and dangled in the air below Scor. I could see Scor’s shoulders rise as he took a deep breath, and then he leant forward from my broom, letting go of the wood with his other hand to wedge his arm under Al’s shoulder.
I wanted to feel relieved that Al hadn’t hit the floor, but even from my place a dozen metres away I could see his chalk-white skin and the dip in his forehead where the bludger had hit him.
Scor lowered him carefully to the ground and then stood in the middle of the pitch with Al slumped against his chest.
Scor looked completely lost and Al looked completely lifeless.
I felt sick.
“Somebody help!” Scor’s voice sounded strangled and raw.
And then everyone was moving at once. James dropped down to the ground and pulled his brother away from Scor, stroking his hair back, looking completely distraught. Three teachers were almost immediately beside them, surrounding Al so that I couldn’t see him any more and starting to move him towards the castle. The rest of the players made their way towards the ground.
Jason flew over to me and held onto the end of Scor’s damaged broom, pulling me down to the floor with him. As soon as we landed, I ran after James and the teachers who were carrying Al.
I paused when I reached the stands. Cassie was still sat in the Slytherin section, looking straight at me as if she wanted to say something, but my gaze was drawn towards the sobbing girl a few rows behind her.
“Here, Lily,” I called out, reaching my hand out towards the younger girl. “Come with me.”
Every part of me was desperate to keep running, to get to Al as soon as possible, but Lily was shaking and scared and I knew I couldn’t leave her behind. I waited for her to climb down to me and took her hand.
It was hard to run while holding hands, but Lily’s fingers were twined tightly around mine and she clearly didn’t want to let go, so I accepted the fact that we were going to move more slowly than I’d planned to.
We didn’t speak while we ran. I don’t think either of us would have known what to say.
James was outside the Hospital Wing, slumped against the wall. The door was closed.
“Mum and Dad are in there,” he told us. “They were watching the match. Bulstrode says we need to wait outside while she examines him.”
Lily’s sob was jagged and made me jump. James wiped his own eyes and then held his arms out to his sister. She let go of my hand to reach him.
Without Lily, I suddenly felt a little bit out of place. Al was inside somewhere with his parents, and his siblings were both panicking. I wasn’t sure I was meant to be there when everyone else was part of his family.
“I, um, I’ll…” I looked at James.
“Stay,” he told me. “Please stay. You should be here.”
I nodded and moved to stand next to him. Lily looked small against him, red hair clashing horribly with his scarlet Quidditch robes. James looked a bit dazed. I looked down at the floor. I felt bad watching their pain.
“You can come in,” Madame Bulstrode’s voice sounded from across the corridor.
I looked up at her. Her face was expressionless but I could see her fingers drumming agitatedly against her side. Behind her, Ginny Potter was standing and watching James and Lily.
“Perhaps we should just have family…” Ginny began.
“Liv’s coming,” James said, sounding strangely sure of himself. I wasn’t sure why he felt so strongly that I should be there, but I was glad. I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
I followed them into the Hospital Wing. Harry Potter was sat next to Al’s bed, his head in his palms. Ginny sat down next to him, James at her side. I wasn’t sure where to go, but Lily grabbed my hand again and pulled me over to sit next to her on another mattress. I didn’t let go of her hand when we sat down, and she leaned against my shoulder.
Al’s head wound had disappeared. He looked like he was sleeping, but Madame Bulstrode quietly explained that the damage he’d sustained was considerable. At the moment, she was keeping him unconscious to try to give his brain a chance to heal. She didn’t say what would happen if it didn’t work and none of us asked.
Lily sobbed again and James stood to come over and sit on her other side, taking her other hand.
We sat like that for a long time, nobody speaking. Al’s cousins and friends came in one by one, each wanting to see how he was, but none of they stayed very long. They didn’t want to overcrowd the Hospital Wing, and Harry and Ginny didn’t look like they could cope with too many people being there at once.
Rose and Louis arrived together. Rose gave everyone hugs and Louis passed around a bag of sherbet lemons, and then they sat down together on another empty bed. Louis curled up in a ball, his head on Rose’s lap, and Rose took out a book. I thought they were probably used to coping with things together. They didn’t look like they needed anyone else to talk to them, but showed no intention of leaving the Hospital Wing.
I didn’t pay much attention to the steady stream of visitors until Laura Brogan stopped in front of me, a large bag hooked over her arm.
“What are you doing here?” James muttered.
Laura rolled her eyes and took a step closer to me, pulling a packet of face wipes out of her bag. Without speaking, she took one out of the packet and started to wipe my Slytherin face paint away from my cheeks. When my face was clean, she stepped back.
“I brought you some clean clothes,” she said, dropping her bag at my feet. “Figured you’d still be in your Quidditch stuff, and if you’re planning on sitting here all night you probably want to get changed.”
I frowned and looked suspiciously into the bag, finding a soft pink top, grey leggings and thick, fluffy socks. Laura had also thrown in deodorant, moisturiser and some Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes ‘Showerless Soap’. It was an unexpectedly kind gesture.
“Why are you being nice to me?” I was genuinely confused. “You hate me.”
Laura rolled her eyes again. “I never said I hated you.”
“It was heavily implied,” I said. I was aware of the Potters listening to our conversation, and suddenly felt strangely vulnerable. Across the room, Louis had sat up and was watching us, eyes narrowed. Beside him, Rose’s eyes were fixed on her open book but weren’t moving.
Laura tossed her hair back behind her shoulder and reached out to give me a somewhat patronising pat on the shoulder.
“I don’t like you very much,” she told me. “But despite what you think, I’m not a completely horrible person. Al means a lot to you and this can’t be easy. I thought this was a way I could help out.”
“Right. Um...thanks, then.” I wasn’t sure how to respond.
There was a fairly awkward silence, and then Laura flicked her hair again.
“Well, I hope the clothes fit you, anyway,” she said, her voice quickly regaining its usual venom. “I brought the biggest sizes I have but they might still be a little bit tight. See you later.”
I watched her leave the room and then Ginny sniggered.
“I never liked her,” Harry said, managing a small smile.
I pulled the curtains around one of the empty beds and washed and changed into Laura’s clothes. She confused me, but I was glad she’d come. I felt a bit calmer once I was out of my Quidditch gear.
The next visitor was less unexpected but came with a stranger message.
Scor had showered already. He was wearing clean jeans and a green jumper and his hair was damp and smelt like lime and ginger when he hugged me. I held onto him for a long time, closing my eyes and trying to pretend that the Potters weren’t all there watching us.
Scor kept one hand on my arm even after I’d pulled away but his words were for James.
“I took your broom in for you,” he said, not making eye contact. “And straightened out the twigs that got bent when you landed.”
“Thank you,” James said.
Scor kept his eyes fixed on the floor. “It’s in the Slytherin lockers. I couldn’t find anyone from your team to give it to. Just ask me when you need it. Or Ollie can get it for you.”
James looked like he had something he wanted to say but Scor turned his gaze back to me.
“Can I get you anything? I’m assuming you’ll be here for a while,” he said, squeezing my arm.
“I’m okay,” I mumbled, but the tears welling up in my eyes again made the words pointless.
Scor hugged me again and then pulled off his jumper. I raised my arms to let him tug the wool down over me. It smelt like him.
“Do you want me to stay with you?” He looked earnest but tense. It wouldn’t be easy for him to stay here with James, and if I felt strange being surrounded by Al’s family I could only imagine what it would be like for Scor.
“I’ll be alright. I’ll come find you if I need you,” I told him.
Scor gave me a gentle kiss on the top of my head and nodded to James and Lily on his way out. I sat back down and Lily took my hand again.
Jason delivered sandwiches for all of us, scavenged from the Great Hall. He looked like he didn’t know how to manage James’s utter dejection, and left once he realised he couldn’t help. We’d all stopped talking. It didn’t seem like there was anything to say.
After what felt like a very long time, Madame Bulstrode told us we had to leave.
“It’s late. Guests aren’t allowed to stay overnight.”
I think we were all ready to argue, but it was Ginny Potter’s face that made Bulstrode change her mind. I could see why Ginny had a reputation as one of the most intimidating witches in Britain. Her face went chalky white and she stood up. She wasn’t tall but Bulstrode seemed to wilt under her gaze.
“He’s my son. We’re staying,” Ginny said as if her words were obvious.
“I see. But I think the others should…”
“We’re not going anywhere,” James said, backed up by his cousins.
Again, I wasn’t sure I had the right to still be there, but nobody acted like I should leave so I stayed.
“Well, I suppose you can stay in the empty beds,” Bulstrode said with a frown. “It is the weekend, after all.”
I felt a little bit guilty that everyone was invading her domain, but I couldn’t imagine leaving the Hospital Wing when Al was still unconscious. And then Bulstrode turned out all the lights without giving us any warning and I stopped feeling bad.
I shuffled over to the next bed along, leaving James and Lily on the bed we’d been sitting on. To my surprise, Lily followed me over, curling up on the mattress next to me. She’d obviously decided she felt comfortable around me and I was glad for her company.
It was hard to tell who was awake in the gloom, but I didn’t think sleep came easily to anyone. I closed my eyes but couldn’t turn off the images flickering around my mind, pictures of Al falling and blood pouring and feelings of utter helplessness.
I couldn’t tell whether I’d been to sleep. I thought my thoughts might at some point have shifted into dreams, but I was still seeing the same horrible memories over and over again. Sleep, if it came, was agitated and painful.
The Hospital Wing was quiet, silence broken only by the deep breaths and gentle snores of sleeping patients and visitors. Next to me, Lily’s breaths were even and snuffling. She’d cried for hours. I carefully extricated myself from her grasp and swung my legs over the edge of the background.
Laura’s socks cushioned my feet, making my footsteps soft as I tiptoed over to Al’s bed. I hadn’t been able to sit beside him earlier on, wanting to leave the chairs to his parents, but now I sat down beside his pillow.
It was gloomy but I could make out Al’s features, pale and slack. His face was expressionless. I thought about how irritating I found it that he smiled all the time and felt a stab of something shoot up my spine, wishing I could see his smile now.
I reached for his hand and linked my fingers through his, using my other hand to close his fingers around mine so that I felt like he was holding on to me.
I wished that I’d listened to Amethyst and Lily and sorted everything out with Al before the Quidditch Match. I hated that I didn’t even know what was happening between us and now I might not even get the chance to fix it.
I hadn’t let myself cry earlier on but now the tears fell freely, spilling down onto our clasped hands.
“You really care about him, don’t you,” Ginny said, taking the seat next to me.
I hadn’t realised she was still awake. I swallowed my tears and nodded.
“Lily told me what happened with James and your friend,” Ginny continued, speaking quietly so that the others wouldn’t hear our conversation even if they were awake. “She explained why you and Albus fell out.”
“Are you going to say I should forgive him?” I muttered, holding onto Al’s hand more tightly.
Ginny sighed and rested a hand on my shoulder. I was sort of embarrassed by how comforting I found her touch.
“No,” she said. “No, I won’t tell you what to do.”
I turned to face her, trying to make out her expression.
Ginny smiled sadly. “He’s a good boy. He didn’t mean to hurt you. But I understand why you’re angry. And you shouldn’t feel pressurised into forgiving him before you’re ready.”
“It made me feel like I couldn’t trust him,” I whispered.
Ginny nodded. “I can see that.”
I wasn’t sure how to respond but she didn’t seem to expect me to.
“For what it’s worth,” she said. “If you do manage to forgive, I think you’ll be very good for him.”
“You hardly know me,” I said.
“Maybe I know you more than you realise,” she said cryptically.
I frowned at her, waiting for her to explain, and she sighed.
“I saw something of myself in you today, Olivia,” she told me. “Your face, when you got here. It reminded me of the way I felt every time I watched Harry get hurt.”
I felt a little bit awed by the idea of Ginny Potter thinking I was like her.
“I know I will forgive him,” I confessed. “I don’t want to lose him. He’s one of the best people I know.”
Ginny smiled. “He’s one of the best people I know as well.”
She looked at her son with such tenderness that I again felt like I was intruding, and she didn’t turn back to me. It was obvious our conversation was over and I didn’t want to get in the way of her moment with Al.
I extricated my fingers from Al’s and stood up, planning to go back to the bed I’d been sharing with Lily. But Rose sat up in the bed she was sharing with Louis, and I instead made my way over to them. Louis was curled up in a ball on one side of the mattress. There was space between him and Rose and I climbed onto the mattress to lie down on top of the covers. Over the year they’d become some of my closest friends and I wanted to draw comfort from their closeness.
Louis stirred as I lowered myself onto the bed. He reached out and put one arm around me, pressing a sloppy kiss onto my cheek. He smelt like gin and his own cheeks were wet with tears. Usually I’d find his drunken closeness uncomfortable, but tonight it was comforting.
Rose shuffled closer and linked an arm through mine. She smelt like vanilla and when she spoke, her voice was husky with sleep and tears.
“You okay, Liv?” she mumbled sleepily.
“I hope so,” I whispered.
“S’gonna be okay,” Louis murmured without opening his eyes. “Will be alright. Always is.”
I knew his optimism and confidence came from his alcohol consumption rather than from any genuine conviction, but I let his words soothe me.
This time, sleep came deeply and brought me dreams of Al smiling and healthy and loving me.
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