Chapter 17 : Goodbye Little Brother
| ||Rating: Mature||Chapter Reviews: 8|
Background: Font color:
He had listened to his brother go on about the most random things that day, and he had enjoyed it. He liked listening to his brother's voice.
And then James had demanded the future. Al's future. He had demanded to know, and it had been given to him. And he heard. Every. Word.
Al was going to die. And soon, too.
He didn't know how he felt about that. At first he was frantic. He had panicked and tried to cry, but then it settled in. He accepted it for what it was. His fate.
And what had his life been the last three years anyway? He had been a depressed teen who felt guilty for a boy's murder and always would.
What else was he doing with himself? He would never recover from what he did, and he knew that. Maybe it was better this way.
Besides, James had prophecized that he would return in his brother's darkest hour. While he had no idea what that truly meant, he did know one thing: he wouldn't be gone for good. Some part of him—somehow—would come back to James. But how? And what part of him? Albus found this to be the center of his thoughts, instead of his fear of dying.
He tried to determine just how he would return. Albus knew James had a horcrux residing in him; he had heard his brother share that with him as he listened to James. He had yet to understand how it was possible, but that meant James couldn't die until the horcrux was destroyed. Not die completely, at least. Perhaps that was the case with Albus. Maybe he had something in him like that, too. It was wishful thinking, and a bit far-fetched, but it was the only thing that made sense.
Al knew one thing: when he died, he wouldn't be gone forever. Not completely. He would see his brother again.
So, he had accepted his sentence to be condemned to death in two days’ time.
It was Scorpius and Lily who found James later that evening. They came by to tell the unconscious Albus goodnight, and when they entered the ward, they were surprised at what they saw.
James was lying on the floor, his limbs spread out wildly, and completely unconscious. Lily gasped, frantic, and she ran forward to James’ unconscious side. Scorpius followed in shock, and Lily gathered her eldest brother into her lap.
“Jamie,” she begged, tears in her eyes. “Jamie, what's wrong?! Jamie, please!”
She hated how vulnerable and emotional she had become over the course of three years. She used to always be so strong, so seemingly invincible, and now she couldn't withstand anything. She was lucky to have Scorpius as her constant rock these days.
She shook James in her arms, desperate for him to wake up. What had happened to him?
She shook him harder, feeding off the support she received from Scorpius with his hand on her shoulder.
“Jamie, wake up!” she cried out.
She gave his cheeks a few pats, and finally he came to. His eyes fluttered rapidly, and he awoke groaning.
“Ughhh,” he moaned, rubbing his eyes as he lay in his sister's arms. “Holy fuck…”
“Jamie, what happened?” she asked.
He groaned and tried to move, but as soon as he attempted to put his muscles to work, his body gave out and he collapsed back into Lily's arms.
He thought about what happened before he had passed out. He could hardly remember. The pain of his seizure was too great. He had never recalled having such an intense and painful seizure. Never. And never had he passed out afterward either.
Then it all came rushing back to him. His demand for a prophecy. How it had finally come to him at his command. And then he remembered what the prophecy consisted of.
Albus. And his fate. That he would die in two days. Nothing could be done to save him now.
Before he could speak, James immediately began to sob. He took his face into his hands and cried like he never had before.
“Please,” begged Lily, “tell me what it is.”
“A–Albus,” he finally managed with a hiccup. “I made a prophecy. It was about him. It was about Albus.”
James was aware of his sister's grip tightening on him as she held him. He could feel her fear, her worry.
“What did it say?” asked Scorpius, concerned for the well-being of his best friend.
“He's going to die...” cried James. “In two days. He's going to die. We can't save him.”
“No,” whispered Lily in disbelief. “That's not true. D–Dad’s out there right now looking for a phoenix. He'll find one. He has to. Al can't die...”
“He will,” said James in defeat.
Then he suddenly remembered something. He didn’t know what triggered it—perhaps it was having Al’s death confirmed by prophecy—but he suddenly remembered something else. Something he had seen. More than three years ago and had never given a second thought.
The Great Hall
A vision of Albus passionately kissing Norah flashed before his mind.
James swallowed and tried to ignore the confused and worried expression of his friends, siblings, and cousins around him. He was aware that their end of the Gryffindor table had quieted. James tried to swallow down his fear, tried to muster up that smile once more, but he couldn't. As he whipped his head about, he looked to his brother, wondering if it really was Albus he had envisioned Norah kissing.
As he did so, his vision flashed again. He was staring at his brother, sitting adjacent to him, before everything faded black once more and then Albus was lying in a bed, his surroundings white, Albus pale and still as death, his veins pulsing a sickly, dark blue. James could feel his skin rise with goosebumps at the picture of his brother lying there helplessly, but once again, just as soon as it had come, it left.
The Great Hall returned, only to fade from his vision once again to be replaced by something else. Lily was sobbing desperately. Then Norah was diving into icy, black waters. Then Dominique was beating her fists against a door and crying out for Teddy.
James gasped in horror as he relived those visions. It had started with Albus—or perhaps it was truly James—kissing Norah. Then he had seen Albus as he was now, lying in the hospital bed with his sickly blue veins.
He had seen Albus three years ago as he was now, and James had done nothing about it. Guilt and fury ran rampant through him. What if he could have done something? What if he could have prevented this if he had only remembered his vision?
He had seen Norah diving into the oceans at Azkaban before it happened, and he never realized it. Even Dominique’s capture.
Lily shook her head before James, rambling and unaware of his epiphany.
“There must be a mistake,” Lily rambled. She refused to believe that her brother, only nineteen-years-old was dying in two days’ time. “It's a mistake. How do you know the prophecy was really about him?”
“I just do,” said James, despite how greatly he wished he could say he wasn't sure. “I made myself have the prophecy. I had to know if he would be okay. I had to, and I made myself do it. Then I seized and passed out.”
“You can make yourself have prophecies on demand?” asked Scorpius, stunned.
“I guess,” said James.
“I can't...No. I don't want to think it. Albus,” she moaned, and she left James on the cold, tile floor to move to Al's bed.
She crawled up onto the bed like she was a little girl again and lay by her brother's side. She placed her head on his chest and held onto him in tears.
James tried to sit up again, but he groaned when he was unsuccessful and fell back to the floor.
“A little help please,” he choked in an embarrassed fashion.
Scorpius was the one to react. He nodded and moved to James. He went behind him and heaved him up by the underside of his arms, and he carried James to the chair by Al's bed. Scorpius set him in the chair as gently as possible, and when James knew he was situated, he asked again.
“My pocket,” he said, feeling his words slur as he grew weaker. “My elixir. My right pocket.”
Scorpius nodded again and he reached into the right pocket of James' jeans. His fingers fished around until he grabbed hold of a small glass vial. He pulled it out and uncorked it. James opened up his mouth readily and allowed Scorpius to pour it into his mouth.
James relished the feel of the liquid as it ran down his throat. He immediately felt his strength beginning to return, and he gave a sigh.
“Thanks,” he finally managed, and he took the vial from Scorpius' hand and returned it to his pocket.
“You're welcome,” said Scorpius sincerely as he sat in the chair next to James. They entered a silence in which nothing could be heard but the sound of Lily's cries. Finally, Scorpius spoke again. “We were told about everything today. Your scar. What it is. And about Dominique.”
Reminders. That's all they were. Reminders of the hell they had all been so violently thrown into.
James only nodded.
He didn't know where to go from here. Where were you ever supposed to go when a sociopathic killer had it out for you and your entire family while your brother had been condemned to die?
James had long ago come to accept that the words that came out of his mouth in prophecy were set in stone. There was no changing them; there was no trying to fight them. But could he really sit back and allow his brother to die? How could he change it, though, if he even tried?
He was lost. Absolutely lost.
He finally knew there was only one thing to do. He had to tell his father. He had to bring Harry home from his searching, and he had to bring his family to St. Mungo's. Just so they could be with Albus in his last days before he died.
Clancy had taken Parker's departing statement to her—that she wasn't a prisoner here, that she was allowed to wander the house as she pleased—quite seriously. And the following day, she did just that.
She awoke early, finding that the dark bedroom was all too cold and lonely for her. She took a long shower, dressed, and found herself wandering about the house. It was still in the early hours of morning, so she passed no one in the corridors or anywhere else in the house. She was thankful for this; she had seen a few strangers when Parker dragged her to her room in the separate wing, and she hadn't liked that. She knew there were tons of people in this house, outlaws Parker was aiding, Death Eaters, prisoners who had escaped Azkaban three years ago. She didn't like being in the same house as them, and she sure as hell knew she wouldn't like sharing a table at breakfast with one.
She found the kitchens and helped herself to some breakfast. Then she continued her exploring before the house's residents would begin to wake up. She found herself in a wing on the far opposite corner of the house from where her and Parker's wing was, and she wandered down the dimly lit hall. She passed door after door, debating on opening each one and looking into the room's contents, but she feared she would walk in on a sleeping Death Eater. So she refrained.
Her curiosity spiked, though, when she heard crying come from one of the rooms at the end of the hall. Unable to resist the urge to further explore the matter, she followed the sound of the cries.
When she located the door, her hand involuntarily reached for the knob. Her palm wrapped around it and turned. There was the audible click of failure as she realized the door was locked. She looked for a way in and found her entrance with the deadbolt at the top of the door. She unbolted it and let herself in.
The room was similar to hers in every way. A bedroom, plain and simple, with no windows. The only available light was from the dim candle light that spilled in through the hall. In the darkness, she was able to make out a shadow on the bed: a figure, curled up, and crying.
“Are you all right?” Clancy asked.
The figure gasped and jumped, crawling up against the pillows and pulling her knees to her chest in fear. Clancy could tell she had startled her; clearly she wasn't expecting visitors.
“Who are you?!” the voice of the crying woman demanded. “What do you want?!”
“Just to see if you're okay,” Clancy said gently. She could tell the woman was traumatized and scared. Just by her voice, Clancy could tell that she wasn’t here of her own free will.
“And why the hell should you care?” she snarled. “Who are you anyway?”
“My name is Clancy,” she answered as kindly as possible.
“Clancy?” she asked in surprise. “O’Dell?”
“Yes,” she answered, albeit uneasily. “How do you know my name?”
“Because you hooked up with my cousin and best friend!” she shouted, acidity in her voice.
“Oh,” gasped Clancy as she recoiled in shock. “You must be a Weasley.”
“Dominique,” she said in reply with a strong voice, as if she was proud of who she was. And she was.
“But what are you doing here?” asked Clancy in surprise. She thought it was only her, Parker, and whatever followers he had in this house. This was wrong. She already knew Parker was twisted and she felt guilty enough for loving him; she didn’t need to know anything worse about him. She hoped to God that Dominique wasn’t trapped here like she thought.
“What do you think I’m doing here?!” snarled Dominique again, the edge not leaving her voice. “Your sociopathic boyfriend hi-jacked me in my sleep, that’s what I’m doing here!”
“What…?” gasped Clancy, her mouth agape, but she knew she was only trying to convince herself that it wasn’t true. “No, he didn’t. He wouldn’t.”
“Sorry to break it to you, sweetheart,” mocked Dominique, “but he did. He stunned my fiancé and had one of his Death Eaters drag me screaming from my bed.”
“I’m so sorry,” she apologized, as if it were her duty to apologize for Parker’s behavior. “Really, I’m so sorry.”
“Save it,” she snapped. “I don’t want your sympathies or your apologies, and you may think that you’re innocent in all this because you didn’t know who he truly was, but to me, you’re just as guilty as Parker is. So why don’t you just go and leave me alone? Your boyfriend will do what he wants with me in his own time; I don’t need to be tormented by your presence as well.”
“I–I…” Clancy blanched. She had no idea what to say to that. What was she to say? She did think herself to be innocent, but when Dominique put it like that, she did seem to understand Dominique’s point—how Clancy could be held just as guilty as Parker was. She found that she couldn’t argue her position; she could only offer what help she could. “I just wanted to help you.”
“I don’t believe you,” said Dominique in a cool voice. “How do I know for sure that you aren’t just playing a role in Namken’s grand scheme? How do I know you aren’t truly working for him? I can’t trust you, and you fucked up my cousin’s life. More than you could possibly imagine. You just walked right into his life, with your abilities as seer and epilepsy! You used what you are to get closer to him! You knew he had no one like him, so what did you do? You used that as an excuse to get close to him! Then you went and ruined his relationship with his girlfriend even further!”
“T–They were broken up!” blurted Clancy.
She didn’t know what she was doing now. Her reason for coming into Dominique’s room seemed to lose its purpose as Dominique picked a fight with her. Clancy found herself truly hurt by Dominique’s words. They weren’t true. Not in the slightest. She hadn’t intentionally used her abilities as a seer or her epilepsy as an excuse to get closer to James. She had only taken in his friendship, and her infatuation with him had developed because they truly were so similar; they were the only two like that in the world. How were they to not bond over what they were?
“Still! James and Norah are meant to be, and you fucked that up,” snapped Dominique.
“I had no intention of doing that!” Clancy cried out. She felt tears reach her eyes, and she forced them not to fall. She wouldn’t cry in front of Dominique, not when she was being so stubborn and rude to her. She would not let Dominique see her weakness; she wouldn’t let her win like that. “You have to believe that I believed them to be broken up! And I didn’t use my abilities to get myself closer to James! And I never knew about Nolan! I didn’t know he was Parker Namken until yesterday! Now, all I wanted to do was to see if you were okay and perhaps help you, but forget it! Screw you, Dominique Weasley!”
With that, Clancy whipped around. She stalked off for the door and abandoned the room. When she was in the hall, she slammed the door shut and locked Dominique inside once more. When she heard the click and it left a satisfying feeling in the pit of her stomach, Clancy felt herself tremble. She leaned against the door and felt herself sink to the floor involuntarily. She pulled her knees up to her chest, buried her face between them, and cried.
Albus possessed a strange mix of emotions and thoughts over the next two days. He knew he could do nothing but lie there in the bed, and after knowing his death was imminent, all he wanted to do was sleep. He didn’t know why, but when he was asleep, he didn’t have to think about dying and what death would bring. He didn’t have to think about all those he would leave behind, and he didn’t have to listen to his family crying by his bedside. And he hoped that—just maybe—he would wake up again in a bigger, better, and more peaceful place, one in which his pain was gone.
Then he faced the complicated polar opposite of wanting to be awake for every moment of the next 48 hours he had to live so that he could drink in the presence and love of his family. It was a very complicated and painful situation to be in, but Albus found himself managing.
He had panicked at first, but as the hours passed, he grew more and more comfortable with his fate. He would never recover from what he did to Alaric Rousseau three years ago; his murder of the fourteen-year-old boy would always be on his mind, and he would never live a normal life. He knew that much; he would wallow in his guilt for the rest of his life. At least death would take that guilt away from him.
Albus had been careful to pay close attention to James after he had given the prophecy. He had inwardly panicked while he knew James was unconscious on the floor after the most painful and extraneous seizure he had ever had; he had panicked because he wished that he could help his brother. He feared no one would find his brother and no one would be able to help him, but he had relaxed when he had heard Lily and Scorpius enter the ward and help his brother. He had listened for a good while until he heard James scribbling away on a piece of parchment to owl their father while he was in search for a phoenix.
Albus knew what James had written. He didn’t need to be awake to know; he was telling Harry to give up his search, that Al’s fate had been determined in prophecy. That he would die in two days, so he should return home to spend time with him.
And he did. Later that night, Harry and Ginny came into the ward in surprise, and James had explained to them what had happened while in a mess of tears. None of them left his side that night. His parents, brother, sister, and even Norah and Scorpius fell asleep by his bedside. Each fell asleep touching him in some way; his mother and father held one of his hands, James had fallen asleep while squeezing his shoulder, Lily had taken his other hand, Norah with her head on his arm, and Scorpius had even fallen asleep with his head resting on Al’s thigh.
He loved the feeling of drinking in their love. He listened to the five of them each snoring gently as they slept beside him, and with the reassurance of their love, he too had drifted into a comfortable sleep. Surprisingly enough, it was the most comfortable sleep Al had in months. It was a strange feeling, but he knew if he had been able to, he would have awoken with a smile on his face.
The following day, the Potters slowly told the rest of his family that Albus would be dying soon, and family by family, they had come in and said their goodbyes. It was heartbreaking to Albus, to know this would be the last time he heard any of their voices or felt their touch. He tried to memorize the feel of each and every one of them.
Finally the next day came, and Albus knew what it meant. This would be the last morning he ever awoke for. The sun was rising for the last time during his life, and he wouldn’t be awake to watch it. His family didn’t leave his side the entire day, neither did Scorpius or Norah.
Albus wondered when death would take him. He thought more on the prophecy James had given and what it meant; how would he return to his brother in his hour of need? He tried to piece together that puzzle, but it was all too complicated for him. He knew fate would work out how it was supposed to.
When evening came, Albus was ready for death. Death would bring him far better and greater things than any here in this hospital bed could offer him. The only thing he didn’t wish to part from was his family. His mother cried against his chest, Harry silently held his hand, Lily tried to be strong, and James sobbed from beside him.
He didn’t know when James started speaking, but he listened carefully to the voice of his brother. James had moved closer to him, and he was whispering in his ear so no one else could hear. “I’m so sorry, Al,” moaned James. “We tried. Dad tried, but…it was a prophecy. There was nothing we could do.”
I know, thought Al, wishing he could say these things to his brother. Don’t feel guilty, don’t feel ashamed. It’s fate. You can’t change it.
“So sorry…” cried James. “I’m so sorry.”
Don’t be sorry, Albus cried inwardly. I’m ready to die. As ready as I’ll ever be.
“I love you, little brother,” whispered James in his ear.
I love you, too, big brother, Albus thought.
There was silence then until he heard a startled gasp from his sister. Albus strained to listen, and then he felt the tips of his sister’s fingers on his cheeks. “He’s crying…” said Lily.
He felt the others move around him to look for themselves. James raised his head from beside Al’s to look, and then Albus felt his brother’s fingers on his cheeks. They dried the tears Albus knew he had shed.
“Don’t cry,” begged James. “Don’t cry, Al. Please.”
Albus couldn’t help it. He felt his tears continue, and he felt the hands of his brother and sister dry them from his cheeks. Albus begged to speak. He couldn’t leave them like this. Not like this. He thought he was ready, and he was, but he couldn’t leave his family without letting them know he had made peace with his fate.
He tried his absolute best. He did his best to move, to open his mouth, and to speak. He knew that any attempt at speaking was extremely unlikely as his death drew closer, but he was desperate to speak now more than ever. And then, with all the strength left in his bones, his mouth opened. The sound that emerged was weak and hoarse, but it was enough.
“I’m—ready,” Albus breathed. He heard his family gasp in bewilderment, but they all quieted to listen. “Ready…to die. I love you. All—of you.”
He listened to his family give him their love in return, and Albus knew his time had come.
Those around him knew that his time on this earth was coming to an end. They all looked to one another, eyes red and cheeks wet with tears. James squeezed Norah's hand in reassurance as he watched her cry. Norah rubbed Al's chest as she hiccupped. She watched James nudge his head in Al's direction, and she tried to decipher just what James meant. Then she knew. He was giving her the okay. Actually, he was suggesting it.
A kiss goodbye.
“Are you sure?” whispered Norah uneasily.
“Certain,” whispered James through his tears. “He has a special place in your heart, and we know his feelings for you never left. His time is coming. Give him something to take with him.”
With that, Norah nodded. She didn't mind the idea; in fact, she rather agreed with it. James was right. He still held feelings for her, and she had turned him down only weeks ago. She could correct that embarrassing memory of his and leave him with a better one before he died. And it would be something of her to take with him to the afterlife, and if James approved, then there was no reason not to.
Completely aware of everyone else around them watching with interest, Norah moved to a better position. Then, ever so slowly, she leaned down and pressed her lips to his still ones. She exhaled against his skin, trying to kiss him as sweetly and gently as possible.
Albus had been surprised when he felt Norah's lips against his, but he was grateful for that kiss. He took in the feeling of Norah kissing him one last time, and he felt a sweet release within his bones once she pulled away.
“Goodbye, Al,” she whispered gently into his ear.
He had only moments left, but he felt a sense of peace reach him as his family knew that he was ready. His parents wrapped their arms around him, Lily took one of his hands, and James placed his head against Al’s shoulder.
Albus listened to James whisper in his ear. “This isn’t goodbye,” cried James. “It isn’t. Not for good. I prophecized that you will come back to me. I’ll see you again. Some day. Some how. I love you, little brother.”
“I—love—you…James,” Albus whispered in return.
Then he released a heavy exhale, and he let fate take charge. He felt his body slacken, his heart slow, and his breath escape him. He soaked in the feel of his family around him, expressing their love, and he held it close to his heart. He cherished it as he welcomed his death.
A/N: Edited 9.25 for grammar and accuracy.
Previous Chapter Next Chapter
Other Similar Stories
A Life So Un...
To the Guilt...