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Masquerade by dracoismyboyfriendguys
Chapter 4 : Touché
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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When I come to, my head is pounding, and my throat feels like it’s been caked in concrete from the inside. I try to open my eyes but a blinding white light forces them shut with a sharp stinging sensation.

“Hello?” I moan blearily, attempting to sit up.

There’s a chuckle and then a voice calmly replies, “Hello.”

“Where am I?” I ask, trying to prise open my eyes and adjust them to the bright room. 

“Heaven,” the voice replies placidly. 

For a second I’m panicked. “What?” I whip my eyes open, ignoring the shooting pain that goes through my head as a result of this. I’m lying in a white bed, in an incredibly dazzling room and there’s a man with dark hair sitting in a chair next to me, grinning at me mischievously. “James?” 

He raises his eyebrows. “No, it is I: Wizard God.” Then he smirks. “I take on the appearance of the most attractive person you’ve seen in the past twenty-four hours.”

I (painfully) roll my eyes. “Nice try, but I distinctly remember looking in a mirror yesterday.”

“Touché.”

I pull myself up into a seated position on the bed and try to take in my surroundings. The last thing I remember is being in the spa, about to have a massage with Lily, and then everything seeming to close in and my world going black. And now, I’m somewhere inhumanly light in a bed with ridiculously crisp sheets. 

James is watching me, clearly finding me trying to place myself funny. “You’re in Mungo’s,” he tells me finally. 

“Why?” I ask. I seriously must be the first person to wake up in hospital and not have a clue how they got there. Apart from the people in the ‘Memory Loss and Restoration Department’, I suppose. 

“I think someone said something about an allergic reaction?” James says. “Mum knows more, I think.”

“Shit.” I’ve had a nut allergy since I was a child, which has only got worse as I got older. But I really don’t remember eating any nuts, and the only reactions I’ve had in the past came on pretty quickly after. 

“Lily saved your life, apparently,” James continues. “Whipped up some kind of antidote at the spa, then and there, and then they brought you straight here.”

I feel a pang of affection for her and take a second to send my thanks to the real Wizard God that she was there. “Where is she?”

“Her, Mum and Dad went to get some food. With Al,” he says, emphasising the last word. Fuck, probably a bit strange that I haven’t asked about my fiancé yet.

“Oh yeah, was wondering where he was,” I say weakly, forcing a smile. James doesn’t look like he buys it.

“He couldn’t think of any allergies you had,” James tells me, narrowing his eyes, trying to read me. Contrary to current popular belief, I’m not much of an actress, and I’m praying he won’t see straight through me. Although, I’m not quite sure why he seems so suspicious. 

“Must have forgotten to mention it!” I titter, which doesn’t seem to satisfy him at all. Then trying desperately to change the subject, I ask, “Do you have any water?” It’s not too radical a diversion seeings as my throat literally feels like a goblin is sticking a bony finger down there.

Without speaking, and holding my gaze, James takes out his wand, conjures up a glass and produces a spout of water. He hands it to me and I gulp it down, only now realising just how thirsty I am too.

“What time is it?” I ask, filling the silence. I look down at the sheets on the bed, determined not to stare back at James in the way he’s looking at me.

“Nearly nine o’clock. The others had all been here for a few hours so I said I’d stay with you while they ate.”

“Thanks,” I smile. 

He shakes his head. “Well I couldn’t just leave you alone.”

A healer suddenly bustles over, noticing I’m awake. She offers me a potion for the pain in my throat, which I gratefully take and drink in one, long swig. She then asks for a list of any known allergies I have, and I explain about the nuts. Someone else then cries out in the ward, a few beds down from my own so she hurries over to deal with them. 

“So,” James says with a smirk, “allergic to nuts, hmm? That must be an inconvenience.” He wiggles his eyebrows.

I stare at him for a few seconds and then, despite everything, I laugh, harder than I’ve done for ages. The potion which soothed my throat a few minutes ago is made redundant by the hoarse way I’m snorting. When I’m finally done, my eyes are starting to water and I wipe them with my hand, still giggling. James is looking at me like I’m a crazy person, and I suppose that’s a pretty fair assessment of the way I’m acting.

“Okay, so I know I’m funny but…” he trails off and gives me a bewildered look, which only sets me off again. I’m not sure exactly what I’m finding so funny, I think it’s partly just a release of the tension I’ve been holding in for the past few days. 

“I’m sorry,” I say, steadying my breath. “It’s been a long forty-eight hours.”

“Right.” He pauses. “Everything alright?” I don’t know what to say, so I just nod. “Because you seemed pretty upset the other night, Fletcher.”

“Oh, well yeah, I’m sorry about that.”

“Don’t be sorry, you idiot. But you okay?” His hazel eyes are furrowed in concern. There’s something about the way he’s watching me that makes me want to laugh and cry in equal measure. I also have a desperate, burning desire to tell him everything. 

But I can’t. 

So I swallow and take a deep breath. “Yeah, just a bit over-emotional.”

“Well, hey,” he says, “I think emotions are great and everything. But crying alone in the middle of night when your fiancé is literally in the next room seems a little outside the bracket of ordinary.”

What an excellent summary for this whole situation.

“Did you talk to Al about it?” he asks. Then he shakes his head and pinches the bridge of his nose, looking away from me. “Nah, actually, you don’t have to answer that. It’s none of my business.”

“No, James look,” I start, and he looks into my eyes again. But I don’t know how to finish it, so I just sit there, in the bed, staring at him. He looks like he hasn’t shaved for a few days, the dark stubble around his mouth becoming more prominent.

His hand finds mine, which is gripping the edge of the bed and for a second I think he’g going to lean over and kiss me. 

Before I can stop myself, I’m whispering, “Look, James, there’s something I need to tell you.”

And then a voice from the other side of the ward cuts me off. “Issy! You’re awake!” It’s Lily, running towards me, flanked by the rest of her family. Her dark red air is bouncing around her and her hazel eyes bear exactly the same look of concern as her brother’s. James drops my hand and if it weren’t for the slightly clammy feel still present on my fingertips, I wouldn’t be sure he had even held it at all. 

Lily pulls me into a tight hug. “How are you feeling?”

I manage a smile. “Yeah, okay thanks. James told me what you did, I seriously can’t thank you enough.”

Lily shakes her head. “It was nothing. Nut allergy, right?” I nod and she continues, “Thought so. Victoire said that there was almond oil in the potion they used for the massage.” She then turns to Al, who’s walked up and is standing on the other side of my bed. “You were supposed to tell us about her allergies, Al!”

I glance up at him; he looks thoroughly uncomfortable, his skin paler than usual and his black hair even more rumpled than usual. “I’m sorry, I didn’t-“

“I didn’t tell him,” I interrupt. I feel awful letting him take the fall for this. “It was stupid of me not to mention it, I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry,” Ginny says, echoing her older son’s earlier words. “Are you sure you’re okay? Has the healer been to check up on you?”

“Yeah, she said to just get some rest.”

“Oh, of course,” she says. “We’ll be waiting upstairs if you need us. Is there anyone you want us to contact?”

I don’t even want to imagine trying to explain this situation to my mum. She wanted me to come here for an experimental treatment that claimed to completely get rid of allergies when I was at Hogwarts. I refused, frankly not wanting to subject myself to something that labelled itself as ‘experimental’. Ever since then, she’s been pretty unsympathetic every time I can’t eat something because of the nuts in it. Besides, I don’t really feel like outlining exactly why I was enjoying a massage with Lily Potter in Penzance to her either. 

I shake my head, and Ginny and Harry leave, after giving me a supportive hug each. Lily says she’ll go to talk to the potioneers at the hospital and see whether they know when I’ll be released. James hasn’t said anything since his family walked in, and I’m uncomfortably aware of how he’s pulled away from me, scooting the chair backwards. 

“I’ll be going then,” he mutters after a few painful seconds, with Al standing silently next to me. 

“Thanks for being here,” I call after him. It even sound pathetic to me, and he clearly doesn’t think it warrants a response, as he continues to stalk out of the room without looking back at me. 

“I’m so sorry, Issy,” Al says, collapsing into the seat on the other side of me. He runs a hand through his dark hair tentatively.

“It’s fine,” I tell him honestly. “It’s my own stupid fault, and I’m right as rain anyway!”

“About what happened before,” he says, shifting his body so we’re facing each other straight on. “I think you’re right, we should just finish off this week.”

“You do?” In all honestly, I’d almost forgotten about the discussion we’d had before Lily and I left for the massage. Dragging out this whole situation for the sake of getting an internship seems pretty ridiculous right now, I guess waking up in a hospital bed does that for you. 

“You don’t?” Al sounds confused. “I thought that’s what you wanted.”

“No, it is,” I say. “If that’s what you want.”

“Well, it was just Dad was asking me about you when we were upstairs and I realised it was just so easy, you know, talking about you.” He looks up at me with his big, green eyes and their expression is almost pleading. I break my gaze and stare back at the sheets, unsure of what to say.

“Look, Al,” I start, but he cuts me off. 

“Let’s just do the rest of this week. Just do it, you know.” He’s talking quickly and seems almost breathless. I’m a bit freaked out, if I’m being honest. 

“Okay,” I say slowly. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, yeah?” He’s nodding furiously, his eyes wide. “I’m a bit tired, Al. I think I’m going to try to get some sleep.”

“Oh, sure yeah,” he says, standing up. “I guess I’ll go and find the others.” 

I force a yawn and roll over, my eyes shut tight. I’m pretty sure Al is still standing there for a good few minutes, but I can’t carry on this conversation right now. So like the mature adult I am, I lie as still as possible and pretend to be asleep.

At some point, I must fall asleep for real, because the next time I open my eyes, the ward is dark and silent. I sit up in the bed and reach to my bedside table for the glass of water James produced for me. 

James.

It’s crazy, insane and just outright ridiculous. I’ve been spending time with the Potters for one day. One sodding day and it’s just such a mess. I don’t even want to think about what Al was trying to imply earlier in a strikingly similar way to how I don’t want to remember the conversation I had with James before that. Or how when he was looking into my eyes, all I wanted was to lean over and kiss him.

I’m probably still upset about Mark. There’s a pang I get in my stomach whenever I think about him too. But, as far as I’m concerned, I’ve hopefully seen the back of him. The biggest part of me knows I deserve a thousand times better than a man like that. Yet there’s a small part of me that wants to climb out of this bed, walk down to the hospital lobby and floo back into our flat. Crawl up into bed with him and just laugh about something Janelle the receptionist said at work until we fall asleep. 

And then I remember what happened the last time I wanted to do that with Mark. I walked in and found him already in bed with someone else. So surely there’s nothing wrong with wanting to kiss James. It’s probably a rebound. He and Mark look pretty similar: they both have the tall, dark and handsome thing going on. But it is wrong. Because, as far as James knows, I’m engaged to his brother. 

His brother.

I feel ridiculous and melodramatic, like I’m a guest star on some kind of muggle soap opera. I bet I’m the type to get killed off after a season, probably get mowed down by a lorry or something. I like to think they’d refer back to me in future episodes, though. “Remember crazy Issy- you don’t want to end up like her,” they’d say to each other.

I finish the rest of the water, and look up and down the ward. There’s no sign of movement. Then I spot a note on the bedside table.

 

Issy,

Lily and James have gone back to the hotel. Me, Mum and Dad are upstairs. The healers have given you the all-clear so you’re okay to come up whenever you’re awake. Lily grabbed you some clothes, they’re on the seat.

Al

 

Shit, I must have been brought in here just wearing my bikini, which somehow makes this situation even more awkward. Sure enough, on the chair where James was sitting earlier, Lily’s left me a t-shirt, underwear and a pair of jeans. I grab the clothes and pad through the dark ward, until I find a toilet located in a hallway. I change quickly in a cubicle and throw the paper hospital gown I was wearing into a bin. Looking in the mirrors at the sinks, I splash some cold water on my face and tuck my dark hair behind my ears. It’s looking rather lank and stringy and my face is pale. 

Upstairs, the Potters are sitting in the café, Ginny and Harry flicking through The Prophet and Al intently stirring a mug of coffee. They also look weary and worried. A pang of guilt floods through me.

“I’m sorry,” I say, as I approach. 

“Don’t be silly, dear,” Ginny says, standing up and walking towards me. “The healer said that you might suffer some drowsiness from the potions they had to give you.”

“How are you feeling?” Harry asks.

I smile as brightly as I can. “Absolutely fine. What time is it?”

“About six,” Ginny tells me. 

“Oh Merlin, I’m sorry.” They must have been awake the whole night. “You shouldn’t have stayed.”

They shake off my apologies once more and we head downstairs to floo back to the hotel. Harry asks me whether I’m sure I wouldn’t rather go home, but considering I don’t have a home right now, I say I’m fine to go back to the hotel. Only I conveniently leave out the part where the alternative would be curling up behind a dumpster. 

We’re walking through the hospital lobby, which is as grand and impressive as ever, when Al puts his arm around my waist. He smiles at me and I look back at him, confused. Ginny and Harry both look far too tired to take notice of whether Al and I are acting ‘in-love’ enough so I have no idea why he’s doing this. Well I do have an idea, but let’s not get into that. 

It’s then that I hear an all-too familiar voice say, “Isadora? What are you doing here?”

I turn to face a woman of about twenty-three looking incredulously at me. “Oh, hi, Amy!” I try to sound casual, but it definitely doesn’t come out like that. 

Amy folds her arms and raises her eyebrows, looking like she’s about to scold me for something. Even though she’s only eighteen months older than me, Amy’s always been very, ahem, stern with me. “Well, are you going to tell me what you’re doing in a hospital in the early hours of the morning with…” she trails off and her mouth forms a little ‘o’ shape when she sees who I’m with. 

“It’s a long story,” I say. Ginny and Harry have turned back and are standing, waiting to be introduced. “Eh, Harry, Ginny, Al, this is my sister, Amy. Amy these are the Potters.” I group them together because it’s not as if she really needs an introduction anyway.

They make small talk for a couple of minutes before I interject. “Amy, they’ve been up all night, let them leave now.” Harry laughs awkwardly but I’m sure he’s grateful. I know I would be grateful to get out of speaking to Amy. “I’ll meet you guys in a few minutes.” Al looks like he might stay behind, but thinks better of it and follows him parents into the emerald flames. 

“What the hell was that about?” Amy says, rounding on me as soon as they’ve disappeared. “Are you dating Albus Potter? What about Mark? Where is Mark?”

“Oh, yes, my darling sister, I’m very well thank-you, how are you? Just fancied a quick trip to the hospital in the wee hours,” I say sarcastically.

“Oh yeah! Why are you here?” she asks, evidently having forgotten where we are. 

“I had a reaction to nuts,” I tell her. 

She smacks me on the arm. “Idiot! You know you’re allergic, why did you eat nuts for?”

“I didn’t do it on purpose!” Does she think I have some kind of death wish? Although, if life gets much more complicated, I wouldn’t rule it out.

“So?” Alas, the nuts couldn’t distract her.

“Look, Amy, it’s really complicated.” I sigh, unsure of exactly how much to tell her. On the one hand, she is my sister, but on the other hand she’s Amy. 

She lets out a single laugh. “Your life can’t be that dramatic, Issy.”

Oh, sister dear, how wrong you are.

Realising she’s not going to be easily perturbed, I decide to give an as abridged version of the whole fiasco as possible. “Mark and I broke up, Al’s an old friend so I’m staying with his family while they’re on holiday and I had a reaction to some almond oil so I had to come here. Happy?”

“You broke up?” She sounds genuinely concerned, it’s slightly disconcerting.

“Yeah, it’s okay, though.” The pain in my chest suggests differently, but I don’t really want to get into that with Amy right now. 

“I didn’t know you were close with the Potters.” 

“Neither did I,” I mutter darkly.

“What?”

“Nothing. Just please don’t tell Mum, okay? I need to tell her about everything in my own time.”

Amy nods. “Okay. But you have to tell me exactly what’s happened at some point. I am your sister.” Like I could forget. “My shift starts in a couple of minutes so I’ve got to run.”

“I’ll see you soon.” There’s an award pause where neither of us are sure whether we should hug. Amy eventually squeezes my arm, before turning around in a flourish of emerald robes and heading across the lobby. 

I practically collapse into the fireplace, say “West Way Spa and Spring” with as much conviction as I can muster and let the green flames whisk me away.





 

I spend most of the next day sleeping, which has many a perk. Firstly, I don’t have to see Al or think about the weird way he was acting as we left the hospital. Secondly, I don’t have see James and actually force myself to think about how I feel about him. Thirdly, I can pretty much avoid the Potters as a collective clan, and not be subjected to a million and one questions about how I’m feeling. Not that I don’t appreciate everything they’ve done for me, but it really is emotionally easier to just lie in this incredibly comfortable bed in a blanket cocoon and ignore my problems. Perhaps it’s not a ‘mature’ or ‘reasonable’ way to handle a situation, but, for now, it’s working.

It’s not until about eight o’clock that evening that Al tentatively knocks on the door, and I call him in. I don’t think he’s slept at all in the past forty-eight hours, and even in this low-light I can see his exhaustion in his face. There are dark circles around his eyes and as he crosses the room towards me, I can see his hands shaking. 

“You need to sleep. You look awful,” I say to him, my voice cracking from lack of use.

“Hello to you too,” he whispers back, grinning. He leans against the bed frame, looking at me wrapped up in the blanket. “Comfy?”

“The comfiest,” I tell him. “But seriously, you should have the bed now.”

“I’m fine,” he says, but the yawn he tries to suppress suggests otherwise. 

Sure,” I say, sarcastically. He laughs but still doesn’t make any movement. I crawl out of the bed, silently saying a goodbye to my temporary paradise, and gesture towards the now empty space. “In. Or I’ll literally stupefy you and put you in there myself.” 

Conceding, he climbs into the bed and pulls the duvet over himself. “It smells like you in here,” he murmurs. I try to force a laugh but nothing comes out. “Sorry. That was creepy.”

I sigh and take his vacated position by the bed-post. “Not creepy,” I say, “but I think you should get some sleep now, Al.”

I’m beginning to leave the room when I hear him whisper, “Issy?” I turn over my shoulder and face him. The only part of him visible is the top of his head, where his messy black hair stands out against the white bed sheets. He looks so tiny and fragile, so I walk back towards him.

“Yeah?”

“I’m sorry if I- you know,” he starts. 

“It’s fine,” I say, biting my lip. I don’t want to get into this now. All I want to do is last through this week. 

“No, wait. It’s just, I know you’re probably thinking… well I don’t know what you’re thinking-“ you and me both, Albus- “but I just need to explain. With Emily, she was great, she really was. But the whole time there was just this nagging thought like, what if she doesn’t actually like me for me, you know. What if she only likes me because I’m Albus Potter rather than just Al?” He trails off, and I sigh and kneel down next to the bed. I loop my fingers through the lace detailing on the bedsheets and look up at him.

“Well, I think ‘just Al’ is pretty great,” I tell him. For a second, I think I should reach up my hand and comb it through his hair. It’s something I remember my dad doing when I was really little and I’d had a bad dream. But Al carries on before I can. 

“But you’re different, Issy,” he whispers. He has the pleading look in his eyes again. 

“Go to sleep,” I murmur back. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

He looks like he might protest, but his eyes start to droop shut, so I tiptoe out of the bedroom and shut the door quietly behind me. 

It’s when I see the kitchen that the gnawing pain in my stomach kicks in. I’m halfway through a liquorice wand from the mini-fridge when I hear a door click open. Spinning round, I see James come in through the main entrance. He’s dressed in a tight grey t-shirt and jeans, and I’m suddenly uncomfortably aware that I’m wearing my old Wimborne Wasps pyjamas. He pales slightly on meeting my eye and starts walking towards his bedroom quickly, not looking at me. 

“James,” I call after him, and he pauses, his hand hovering above the door-handle. “I’m sorry about earlier.”

He turns around slowly, and finally peers up at me. “I don’t think it’s a good idea for me to be talking to you, Fletcher.” The way he’s looking at me isn’t like how it was in the hospital, or the other night after I spoke to Mark. It’s more disdainful. 

“Why not?” I ask. There’s a thick feeling in my throat, which I swallow down.

He glances towards Al’s bedroom door and then looks pointedly back at me. “I think you know why.”

“I can explain, James.”

“Explain what?” He’s walking towards me, his eyes wide with concern. 

It’s like my body is being torn into two pieces. Half of me is screaming to tell James everything, that he’d understand while the other half of me is thinking about the way Al looked when I left him in the bedroom, delicate and vulnerable. Honestly, I’m not quite sure why I’ve ever thought that a situation in my life has been complicated before. This literally trumps it all. 

“Nothing,” I finally mutter. James’s whole body visibly droops and there’s a twisting feeling in my stomach. 

“Fine,” he says coldly, turning away and storming across the room. 

I’m left, leaning against the countertop, as the door slams behind James with an echoing bang. 





A/N: Oh wow. I'm sorry about that. Anyways, I'm so happy to be getting this up before my exams start because there's probably going to be a bit of a break now before the next update. I'd love to know what you think with a quick reviews! Al and Issy? James and Issy? Amy? 

Thank you for all of the support I've received so far- it means the world!

Alice xx


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