“They’ll be warming up.” I deduced. “I hope they’re warming up properly. They’ll be alright, won’t they? I mean, they know what they’re doing -”
“They’ve been doing it for the past five years, Ren. If they don’t know by now...”
“They’ll know.” I nodded fervently. “What’s the time now?”
“Nine oh six. Exactly one minute since you last asked.” Luc sighed tolerably. “Seriously, Ren. It’s just a game. Like any other. No one’s going to get hurt -”
“You don’t know that.” I said, defensively.
“I can guess. They’re all perfectly capable of flying a broom -”
“Rob and Roxy’s job is to hit heavy balls at people! With the aim of knocking them off their broom.”
“I know. Just the same way it’s always been. And none of them have been hurt yet. Badly, anyway.”
I scowled. He didn’t get it. Stupid pure-blood – utterly unfazed by unruly teenagers flying around on a piece of wood – fifty metres in the air, might I add – pelting balls at one another. It’s been seven years since I was introduced to the idea. Three since I’ve had both my boyfriend and two best mates to worry about.
I would never get used to it.
“Can we just get down there now?” I whined, impatiently. It made me more anxious not being able to keep an eye on them. Not that there’s be anything I could do if anything did happen. But still. It would stop my brain creating worst case scenarios that could be currently occurring.
This, in combination with the ever-present head-twinges... an uncomfortable state of mind. For me. And probably for Luc too. Judging by the way he was tiredly rubbing his temples. And looking shiftily over his shoulder.
“What are you looking at?” I demanded, peering behind him.
“No one. Nothing.” He picked up his goblet and took a swig, nonchalantly. Except his goblet was empty.
I squinted in the general direction he’d been looking. “Bonnie?” I shrewdly deduced, spotting the back of a shiny blonde head at the Hufflepuff table. I think she was blonde, anyway. I’d gotten used to Luc leering at so many girls over the years they tended to blur into one.
“What? No.” He picked up his goblet again, then seemed to remember it was empty and put it down again with just a tad too much force.
I narrowed my eyes. “ You’re blushing.”
“I’m not.” He said, quite comfortably.
Damn. It was true, I’d taken a stab in the dark to try and ruffle him. His caramel complexion was smooth as ever. I’d envied it, in the way I’d envied Roxy’s, on so many occasions. Even at the height of summer my skin could never reach the golden/bronze colour of theirs. It was infuriating.
“You’re not going to ditch me for her are you?” I asked, suddenly struck by the fear of abandonment. “You can’t – I need you. Who will I sit with? Who will tell me I’m being pathetic when I worry? Who -”
“Relax.” He cut me off, hurriedly. “I’m not going to ditch you. Bonnie was simply wondered whether it would be ok to join us today.”
I blinked. “She was?”
“And you were ok with that?” I was more than aware that I was not the coolest of friends to introduce your girlfriend to at the time point in time. Or at any Quidditch match, for that matter. I was annoying and pathetic. I knew that.
Luc grinned, “I’ve told her you’d be a blithering mess. She thought it was sweet that you were so concerned for the love of your life.”
I winced, as a head twinge coincided with the ‘love of your life’ phrase. The timing of these twinges hadn’t escaped me. But I couldn’t very well make an announcement that nobody was to mention the L word or any of its associates in my presence for ever more.
I pulled a face to disguise the wince. “What’s the time?”
Luc just sighed. “Alright, let’s go. Bonnie will meet us down there.”
The bite of the November air was good. Cleared my head a little. Both from frantic worrying and head twinges.
I could see some vague royal blue shapes in the air above the stands, accompanied by the scarlet of Gryffindor. At least it wasn’t Slytherin – with their reputation for dirty tactics. Around this time before a Ravenclaw – Slytherin match I’d probably be hyperventilating.
Luc lead the way to the middle of the Ravenclaw stand in the bottom row, where he’d told Bonnie to meet us. I was actually quite looking forward to it. Not the third-wheel part, but having a new person to interrogate... I mean talk to... would take my mind off the worry a little. Maybe.
The narrow wooden staircase leading up to the viewing platforms was hidden beneath a thick canvas bearing the Ravenclaw crest. It cast a dull blue light where the winter sun had manager to force its way through the more worn areas, making the stairs dappled and distorted.
The air was less fresh in here, which made me headache all the more prominent. I had to grip the cold steel rail to stop myself feeling dizzy. Luc was still nattering on about something. Probably Bonnie. It was like I’d opened a gate by interrogating him in Charms yesterday. Now it was alright to have every conversation looping back to Bonnie somehow.
That was mean. I scolded myself. Luc was happy. Luc actually genuinely liked someone, for once. He was, in those brief moments where he let down the ‘Cool Lucas Da Costa’ guard, vulnerable. For once. It was quite endearing.
I hoped Bonnie appreciated that. I hoped she wouldn’t keep secrets from him and expect him to still love her in return. I hoped she was a better girlfriend than me.
“Are you coming or not?” Luc paused at the top of the staircase, framed in sunlight streaming in from the outside.
I blinked. The sunlight hurt a little. I hadn’t realised I’d stopped, gripping the rail, with other students streaming past me into the stands.
“Come on, or we won’t get seats.” Luc only looked at me strangely for a couple of seconds, before towing me up the remaining stairs into the sunlight.
I closed my eyes against it. I hoped he didn’t notice.
“Are you sure you’re alright?” As we waited for the people in front of us to stop rabbiting on about where to sit and just choose somewhere, Luc looked me up and down again. “You look... pale. Again. You’re not feeling faint again, are you?”
I rolled my eyes. “No Dad. I’m fine.”
Well, fine was a lie. But I wasn’t feeling faint. If anything I was feeling all too aware. The light, the head-twinges, the heaviness of my winter coat, the sharp bite of the November breeze.
I turned away before he could insult my appearance any more as we shuffled towards the front of the stand, and watched the pitch.
Chris. The sight of him gave me the very strange combination of comfort and guilt. Comfort - he was whole, healthy and on the ground away from danger. Guilt – I’d never explained my weird behaviour yesterday after the hospital wing. I’d essentially ignored him throughout dinner and focused on some trivial conversation with Roxy.
He still loves you, I told myself. He said so. He loves you and you love him. He forgives you.
I don’t deserve it.
As Chris and the Gryffindor captain flipped a coin to decide on ends, the glint of the sun from the coin seemed to blast straight into my eyes, making me wince again. Now I could see blue and red spots wherever I looked. I blinked again, trying to get rid of it.
After the toss, they shook hands and it was time for them to get back to the changing rooms with their teams before coming back onto the pitch for the match. Chris glanced up before he turned back for the changing rooms. He knew where we sat – these had been our seats for years.
He caught my eye. I smiled, automatically, and raised a hand to wave.
He would blow an exaggerated kiss. That was what he did. That was what he always did.
He caught my eye. He turned around. Walked back to the changing rooms.
My heart sank. I was supposed to be forgiven. I knew I didn’t deserve it. Had Chris now figured that out?
Luc was on the lower step, just in front of me. He’d noticed too. He turned back and frowned at me, noting my crestfallen expression. “What’s up with Chris? Are you two... Ren. Seriously, you look even worse than before. Are you...”
I blinked and shook my head, still unable to get those damn red and blue spots out of my eyes. “I’m... I’m fine...” My voice sounded distant. I blinked again, hard. All that did was make the sunlight seem even brighter.
My head twinged again. I bowed my head and rubbed my temples hard, hoping some outside pressure would get rid of the vice-like internal pressure I could feel.
“Have you two had a fight? You don’t fight. You never fight. What’s -” Luc was still rambling on. He looked concerned, I think. I don’t know, his face was starting to swim in front of me and the light was just so bright and...
A carpet. Grey and worn with the occasional piece of trodden in gum.
My shoes in from of my eyes. Boots. Snow boots. Slightly damp and stifling.
Jolting. The train. The Hogwarts Express.
Another vision. My stomach churned. Another one that had forced itself upon me. Out of control.
Only this time... this time I could hear. Sort of. It was muffled & distant. Almost like when my alarm clock ran out of battery and informed me of the time in a low-pitched, slow, warped kind of voice. Barely audible but there. This was new. I never ever heard anything in my visions before.
Out of control.
I wasn’t looking up. Staring down at my feet. I could see tiny damp spots appearing on my boots. Tears. I was crying.
Another pair of feet just in front of me. Trainers that I’d know anywhere. Chris.
I wasn’t looking up. Why wasn’t I looking up?
Why... why, why, why. It echoed, the voice I could hear. That was the one word I could make out.
Then, without warning, I looked up. Chris’ expression. Stony, cold, hurt.
My mouth was talking. I was talking. But what? What was I saying? Too fast, I was talking too fast to make out.
Chris’ mouth moving. I couldn’t make it out. I couldn’t. All I could hear.
Who... who, who, who...
I looked down again. Looked up. Chris’ face. Pain. The floor, The chewing gum. Chris’ face.
I was jolted back to reality with a start.
I felt cold, beneath my coat. Cold but clammy. I was breathing rapidly.
Something was on my cheek. Something rough and something cold.
Canvas. A zip.
Luc. Luc’s coat.
I pulled my face away and staggered back. Luc was still holding my arms. He stopped me backing into the railing. His face anxious.
“What the hell?” He shook me. Probably not intentionally. It hurt my head, though. “What the hell just happened? You were fine, you told me you were fine and then...” He shook his head. “Fuck this. Fuck this, Ren. We’re going to the hospital wing.”
“No. No I’m -” I wanted to say I was fine again. But Luc’s narrowed eyes stopped the lie.
“Don’t you dare say you’re fine again.” Luc pulled me back towards the stairs. “You just fainted for the second time in two days. You are not fine.”
I was still breathing quickly – quicker now, trying to make my legs function properly and keep up with him without tripping down the stairs and killing myself.
“I know. I know I’m not.” I felt dangerously close to crying. It was the helplessness. The lack of control. I was supposed to be the Seer. I was supposed to be in control.
Now the visions were controlling me.
My mind and my body. They were nearly killing me.
“If you’d been at the top of the steps, what do you think would have happened if I wasn’t there? You can’t just pretend everything’s alright. You’re sick. I don’t know what you’re...” Luc was shaking his head.
“Please, just -” I was struggling to keep up with him, tripping as we reached the grass.
He realised. Slowed. Looked down at me. Was he angry?
“Are you mad at me?” I asked, my voice unintentionally small.
“Yes. No. I don’t know.” He shrugged, and rubbed his head. “I’m pissed off that you lied. I could see yesterday that you shouldn’t have left the hospital wing but you kept saying over and over that you were fine. I could see you were lying but I just let it go. And then you just about go and kill yourself today. I’m kind of pissed off with you. I’m also pissed off at myself for letting you.”
It worried me that Luc was so worried. I must have been a state. He could barely look at me.
We reached the castle without saying anything more. I stopped at the corridor before the hospital wing.
“Luc, I don’t...” I couldn’t. I couldn’t go back to the hospital wing. Any test that Madam Bones did could tell her what’s been happening to me. No one could know that I wasn’t in control of the visions.
Had I been seeing myself telling him? I couldn’t work it out. Whatever it was, neither of us were happy. The train home. Winter. Christmas. It had to be. I was telling him something on the train home in... in three weeks time. Something that neither of us liked.
Was I telling him the truth?
It terrified me. Both that I might tell him, and that I might not.
“I don’t want to go back to the hospital wing.” I said to Luc.
“Ren, you’re -” He stopped and stared at me. I could feel my hair sticking to my clammy forehead. I could feel that I was on the brink of crying – my eyes were probably bloodshot to hell. “You have to.”
He wasn’t going to give up. This had ruffled Luc more than I’d ever seen before. Cool Luc was nowhere in sight.
He wasn’t going to let me leave.
No. He’d tell Chris. The three of them told each other everything. They were almost worse than me and Roxy. He could never keep it to himself.
He didn’t tell Chris about Bonnie.
He could keep a secret.
“Luc, I haven’t been...”
He studied my face. He could see that something wasn’t right. He wasn’t a genius for nothing.
“Ren, what the fuck is this?” He asked, bewildered.
“I’ve-been-Seeing-things-again.” I said, all in a rush. I half hoped he wouldn’t follow.
For a second he looked perplexed. Then he raised his eyebrows. “Does Chris...?”
“He doesn’t know.” I said firmly. “He can’t know. These haven’t been... they haven’t been normal visions. I haven’t been trying. I don’t want to... I never wanted to. It’s just -”
“Whoa, whoa.” Luc held up a hand. “Slow down. Start again. From the beginning.”
“I accidentally saw something. In Divination. I only meant to look to see if it snowed at Christmas but it... Roxy shouted something and I accidentally... I can’t tell you. I can’t tell you exactly what it was. But it was bad. And since then I’ve had these headaches and I’ve been... I’ve been accidentally Seeing things. I don’t mean to. I don’t want to. They just... the headache will get really bad and then it just happens. And I don’t... I don’t know how to stop it.”
Luc processed all of that rambling for a second, while I covered my face with my hands, willing my breathing and my head-twinges to slow down.
“Have you told Madam Bones?” He asked.
“No. And I can’t. Because if Chris finds out he’ll...”
He’ll hate me, I wanted to say.
“And you can’t tell me what you saw.” Luc said.
I shook my head.
“And you can’t tell Chris.”
I shook my head again.
“Have you told anyone?”
I nodded, slowly. “Roxy.”
“And Roxy says...”
“That I should try and forget it. She thinks it’s because I’m thinking about it that it keeps happening again.”
Luc exhaled heavily. “You know this is beyond us, Ren. Rox is trying to help but she doesn’t have a clue. None of us have a clue. What if there’s something seriously wrong with you? You can’t just not get checked out if you might be seriously ill.”
“You think I’m seriously ill?” My voice got a bit high-pitched.
“No, I... I don’t know. That’s my point. Please, just... just go to Madam Bones again. We’ll tell her... we’ll tell her it’s something else. That you haven’t eaten. Just so she can check.”
“What if she knows? What if this has happened before to some famous Seer and she can tell...”
“She won’t. Not if we don’t tell her you’ve been Seeing anything. Do any of the teachers even know you’re a...”
“I’m not a Seer.” I said, firmly.
Luc rolled his eyes. “No. Sure. Whatever. Prophetic visions aside. Do they know you can -”
“No.” I shook my head. Even Trelawney didn’t know what I was fully capable of. I was careful to play it down so that she didn’t make an example of me in class. Sure, she knew what I’d been able to do back in third year. But for all she knew, I’d been ‘stifling my talent’. She hadn’t been impressed by that decision but had helped me nonetheless, declaring airily that the responsibility of the inner eye is beyond most mere mortals.
Something along those lines anyway.
“Great. So can we please just go in there and tell her you haven’t eaten and fainted. And just check that you’re not...”
“Dying?” I supplied, blithely.
Luc’s face darkened. “Not funny.”
I blinked. I’d been joking. Surely if anyone can joke about my condition it’s me.
“In.” He pointed towards the door at the end of the corridor.
I gave in. “Ok.” Then he turned around. “Wait, where are you going?”
“To get Chris.”
“What?” I felt betrayed, after all I’d just said.
“Not to tell him everything.” Luc saw my expression. “but do you really think my best mate will forgive me for not telling him is girlfriend’s fainted again?”
“Can’t we just not tell him?” I suggested.
“He’s not blind. He’ll see we’re not there. And after that weird look that passed between you two earlier...” I could see him battling over whether to push that one or whether to let it slide. I didn’t want to ponder whether I deserved my boyfriend again right now.
“The match will have started.” I pointed out.
“Then I’ll wait till someone calls time. Or I’ll make someone call time.”
“And drag him away from the match? And ruin it for the team?”
Luc narrowed his eyes. “Like you’ve ever cared about Quidditch.”
“Of course I don't.” I conceded. Idiot. “But Chris cares. And Roxy and Rob.”
Weak argument, I thought.
“Weak argument.” Luc echoed my thoughts. Damn it. “You – in. I’ll be back with Chris.”
“Luc, please don’t -”
“I won’t say anything. “ He said, with a tiny smile. “Promise. Just call me Mr Mystery.”
"How do you know he'll even come?" I protested. Surely he would be in game zone by now. I doubted Luc could drag him away without an explanation.
"Because it's Chris." Luc said. 'All I have to do is say your name, Ren."
By the time the cavalry arrived, Madam Bones had finally ceased her twenty minute lecture on my eating patterns. Turns out it had taken a while for Luc to catch Chris’ attention.
“She’s making me keep a food diary.” I hissed at Luc as he lead the way over to my bed in the corner. Oh god. It was actually my bed, now. Great.
He shrugged helplessly but couldn’t come back with a retort before Chris reached us.
Chris. Chris was here and not mad at me and holding my hand.
I was forgiven? Who knew. All I could feel was the panic and axiety taking a back seat and the... relief, comfort... i don't know.
Just... Chris. Chris was here so it would be OK.
Wordlessly, he sat on the edge of the bed beside me, his arms around me fitting just right. I closed my eyes as he kissed my (thankfully no longer sweaty) forehead. This was what I needed. I couldn’t handle Chris mad at me. I needed...this.
“Again? Seriously, you can’t remain conscious for one whole day?”
Unfortunately, Chris wasn’t the only visitor.
“What the hell are you two doing here?” I demanded of Roxy and Rob. “Don’t you have a match to be finishing?”
Roxy waved a hand dismissively. “I claim as much right to be here as Chris. Rob’s just a follower.”
“Hey, I care.” Rob protested, roughly ruffling my hair. Comforting. Not.
“But you guys will have to forfeit. Or something.” I said, accidentally leaking my non-knowledge of any sport ever.
“Well, after fifteen minutes.” Rob said, an eye on his watch. “We have nine left. Not that I’m counting. Fully on board with your health coming first.” He gave a cheery thumbs up.
“Obviously.” I cracked a smile. It felt strange. But not. This was the most comfortable I’d felt today, crap banter between my friends and all.
“So what happened? Luc said you skipped breakfast. Are you an idiot?” Roxy asked, looking entirely sceptical.
“I was... worried.” I fake-explained, trying to convey shut the hell up in a single look. “You know. Standard Quidditch worries. So I wasn’t hungry. I guess I just wasn’t fully recovered from yesterday.” Bizarrely, my story was making sense.
“Well that’s stupid. And you,” Roxy turned on Luc, ‘Why didn’t you make her? Huh? Too busy dreaming about Billie?”
“Bonnie.” I corrected, absently.
“Whatever.” Roxy still had her angry face on.
“I’m not her babysitter.” Luc held up his hands, just in case of a surprise Roxy attack. Stranger things have happened.
“Well, she needs one! Apparently.”
“I resent that.” I said. But apparently my opinion didn’t matter.
“Seven minutes.” Rob announced, then it was his turn to raise his hands in defence, as he received both Roxy and Chris’ angry faces. “What? She looks fine. You’re fine, Ren. Right?”
“Sure. Fine enough for you all to get back to the game. I’m just fairly certain that Madam Bones won’t let me watch. She’s ‘supervising’ my lunch. You know, to make sure I’m not slipping it up my sleeve or something.” I glared at Luc.
“Are you sure?” Roxy peered at Rob’s watch. “I mean, we can still technically tell the others to carry on. Just... without beaters. And one less chaser. But they’ll be alright...”
“No, you should play.” I assured her. “I mean, otherwise people will ask you why you left. And I don’t want to be Hospital Wing Girl.” The thought of other people finding out I was here faintly horrified me.
Not that I had a reputation to ruin. I just didn’t want to gain one of any form.
“Absolutely. I’m fine.” I stopped myself before pleading.
“And you’ll be allowed to come back to the dorm later?” Roxy asked, ever-so-subtly widening her eyes indicating that I had to talk to her later or else.
“Bloody hope so.”
“Right. Well in that case... five minutes, guys. And it took us that to get here.” Rob straightened up. “Get better, Ren.” He added as an afterthought without looking back.
I just rolled my eyes as he and Roxy backed towards the door, clearly itching to get back to injuring people with heavy balls.
I looked up at Chris, who hadn’t moved from by my side. “Chris.” I said, quietly. “You should go too.” I still wasn’t sure what he was thinking. The arm around me and head stroking was very much back to the old Chris. But keeping quiet... wasn’t.
He looked at me for a very long time. Concern was all I could see in his eyes. But I could feel it - that something still wasn’t right. And that made me feel sick.
“Chris. Mate, we can’t play without a captain.” Rob said, from the doorway.
“You can.” These were the first words Chris had said since he got here and they weren’t even directed at me.
“We can’t win without you.” Roxy corrected. “Is what he meant.”
Chris stared at them for a couple of seconds. Than at his feet. Then at me. Ask me to stay, he was saying. Ask me to stay and I will.
I wanted him to stay. I wanted to freeze this feeling with his arms around me and the feeling that I was safe.
But it wasn’t real. The visions controlled me. I wasn’t in control. I wasn’t safe from them and for once I wasn’t sure how my boyfriend actually felt.
“Go.” My voice was almost a whisper. “You should go.”
Then he looked at me for a long time. Kissed my head, lingering.
And left without another word.
A.N. What do you think? I'm slowly getting back in to writing and this story is slowly but steadily moving on, I promise! Please leave a review, and thanks for reading! Rx.