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The Fluidity of a Stone by RonNiffler

Format: Novel
Chapters: 4
Word Count: 11,489
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Strong Violence, Scenes of a Sexual Nature, Substance Use or Abuse, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: General, Romance, Angst
Characters: Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, OC
Pairings: OC/OC, Rose/Scorpius

First Published: 07/20/2010
Last Chapter: 08/02/2013
Last Updated: 08/02/2013

Summary:
Banner by: Drowned @ TDA
Beta: megthechef43




They told me it was a gift, that I was special.

It ruined my family, drove my mum away and practically my father too.

But they will never fully understand just how wrong they were. If this is my gift, then I want a refund.

This gift is killing me.

Fred II/ OC 


Chapter 1: Brother of Mine
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I’ve never seen my brother cry.

 


When my mum left us screaming about how we would ‘burn in hell’, he just held my hand and led me upstairs. The first time we saw daddy drunk he grabbed my shoulder and squeezed, as if to say ‘it will be ok’. When life turned to pieces, he took care of me.

I’ve never seen my brother cry. But at this moment it looks like he will never stop. He doesn’t grab my hand and tell me ‘Everything will be ok Collette’.

Why doesn’t he hold me? Why doesn’t he make it go away? I love his hugs. I used to hate them, but then I realized every time he hugged me, it meant he would never let anything hurt me. So why doesn’t he hug me now? Though I ask the question, I fear the response. He can’t stop this from hurting me.

How does one even save someone from their own body? It’s kind of funny, if you think about it. He’s spent his whole life protecting me, and now it’s like my body wants to say: "Screw you Andrew!

My throat is raw and I feel as though there is a cheese grader slowly rubbing away my insides from my mouth to my lungs. My head pounds loudly in the back of my skull, and despite my fever my body shivers.

I lick my chapped lips… All I want right now is to stand in the shower with the water so hot it burns my skin. Not in a sick way, just so I can wash everything about today down the drain where it can never return

Andrew can’t even look at me. His hands are shaking convulsively. He just stares, mouth agape at his hands, unable to talk.

I look at his trembling hands and then to mine. They’re shaking worse then his. I try to knot them together to stop the fear that washes over my body. My nail polish is all chipped away, and blood hides in the crevices of my hands.

My poor brother. He’s so ugly when he cries. I’m so use to him being the flawless child, and seeing him now a complete mess I just can’t take my eyes off of him. His dark brown hair is knotted. He has bags under his eyes like he has been crying for five years straight. And that sparkle in his eye, that woos all the girls, is missing.

If this is what he looks like after just an hour of bad news I cannot imagine what tomorrow has in store for him.

My fingertips go to touch my own face. Am I ugly when I cry? Or maybe I look like one of those people in magazines, an elegant crier.

But as my fingers trace my cheekbone, I feel nothing.

For once in my life, I can’t cry.

*Earlier that day*

“Andrew…” I cautiously call. Andrew doesn’t even have the decency to open his eyes.

Prick.

I fight back the urge to roll my eyes; my brother takes things too seriously. I mean it was only a game; who cared if they lost one when they have won dozens?

“Andrew,” I sing throwing myself onto the bench whilst poking him in the arm. “Oh Andrew…”

My oh-so-lovely brother just grumbles in response as he crosses his arms over his chest. Well now he is just being stubborn.

“Oh come on grumpy! It was just a game.” Andrew’s eyes shoot open at this remark. Why men obsess over sports I have never understood. Yes, I can be competitive too, but I have never sulked in the back of a sweaty changing room acting like the world is over.

“Whatever.” I throw my long chestnut hair over my shoulder with a huff. Andrew is being a prat and I’m not in the mood to give a care.

Andrew sighs, “Collette, wait.” I stop, but don’t turn around. If he has the nerve to glare at me, me his sweet loving sister who was only trying to help, then he can give himself a pep talk.

“Collette… Turn around.” I think not dear brother, better luck next time.

“Collette!” Andrew whines his voice getting to a pitch I don’t think I can even reach. I can’t help the smile that creeps upon my face; I may be stubborn, but I can never stay mad at my brother. It’s that darn puppy dog look; it gets me every time.

I turn slowly trying to put on my best ‘angry’ face, but fail miserably making Andrew smile sheepishly at me.

“Don’t think I’m not mad at you.”

Andrew throws his highly tanned and muscular arm over my shoulder making me crinkle my nose, “Didn’t you take a shower?”

“And shower away the smell of a loser? Never.” my brother replies bitterly. Looks like Andrew’s pity train isn’t over just yet.

“Oh come on Andrew, it was only a game.” I don’t know why I bother saying this; he never does listen.

“You just don’t get it,” Andrew exasperates, “It’s more than a game… I let the whole team down.”

“How did you let the team down? You’re the Beater, not the Seeker...” Maybe I should save the lecture and just give him a good slap in the back of the head and knock some sense into him.

Andrew crinkles his slightly freckled nose. “If my aim had been more precise, she would have been able to get to the snitch with no competition.” He cracks his knuckles, a nasty habit we both have picked up. “I shouldn’t have missed. If I hadn’t been so distracted...” he mutters under his breath.

“Wait a second. Why were you so distracted? And please don’t tell me it was a girl, ‘cause I really don’t want to know about you and the latest bimbo-”

“No, no, it’s nothing like that.” Andrew waves off giving no hints as to what had distracted him enough for Hufflepuff to take the victory.

“Then what is it?” I question raising my left eyebrow.

He shakes his head, “It’s nothing.”

I nearly growl. Yes just like a dog. It just sounds slightly pitiful, but only slightly. “To hell it’s nothing. I think I have the right, as your loving sister, to know what could distract you from something you love more than life itself.”

“It’s nothing rea-“

“To hell it’s nothing!” I cut him off not wanting to hear his excuses. “It is a girl isn’t is??” Andrew tends to have a new girl every week. It’s not that he is a bad guy… He just sleeps around a lot.

“No nothing like that.”

“Then what, are you doing drugs?” I am getting hysterical at the thought of my brother doing drugs. I know he has not had the best life, but would he really stoop to drugs? “Oh my god that’s it, isn’t it?” I cry. “You’re a pot head!”

Andrew shakes his head frantically. “No, no, of course not.”

“Then what is it? Are you part of a gang? Are they threatening you? If they are you should tell somebody! Why haven’t you told anybody?” I tend to babble when I am nervous. I always knew Andrew would crack one day from all the pressure.

Andrew grabs a hold of my shoulders as I ramble on, unable to control myself.

“Oh my god, you got someone pregnant, didn’t you! Who is it?”

“COLLETTE!” My mouth hangs open ready to say my next guess, but I shut up at my brother’s scream.

“It’s nothing like that! If you must know, I got a letter today informing me that our father has been driving drunk and ran into a light post. Dad’s fine,” Andrew says quickly when he sees panic starting to rise on my face, “but the car is wrecked and he got his license taken away from him. He lost his job Col… almost two weeks ago.”

I stay silent for a moment letting it all sink in. Dad lost his job… How was he suppose to support himself not mention us?

“Why didn’t you tell me?” My eyes start to well up as I try to blink away the tears. I tend to cry when I’m overwhelmed; which is usually not the best response.

Andrew sighs, “I didn’t want you to worry.”

I pull at the top of my sweater, suddenly feeling very hot and sweaty from the recent news. “What are we going to do?”

Andrew ruffles his hair. “I have some money saved up for when I graduate, I’ll give that to Dad.”

I gasp, “You’ve been saving that money for the last three years; you can’t do that.” Andrew works every summer at a little restaurant down the street from our home.

“It’s not like I have much choice. It should last him at least a little while. We’ll be there in two weeks for Christmas break and I can try to find a job that will hire an idiot like him then. We just can’t make any huge investments any time soon. We’re going to have to make some budget cuts, but we should be fine.” Yeah we would be fine; of course we would be.

I fan myself with my hand still feeling like the room is on fire. I have nothing to worry about right? I mean we’ve had times like this before when Dad had lost his job, this is no different.

“Collette?” Andrew’s voice sounds fuzzy as though it is off in the distance. “Collette are you ok?”

My body starts to sway. Was I fainting? Was I, honest to God, fainting because I was freaked out? This was a new low, even for me.

“Colle-“ I don't hear the rest of what my brother is going to say because my eyes roll to the back of my head and everything goes black.

*

 

 

 

The woods were dark and only the faint moonlight guided my path. I knew these woods well; it was where I spent my summer days dreaming up a big happy family. It was where I went when I felt down like when my brother left for Hogwarts and I was left alone with my incapable father.

It was my oasis. My happy place. But now it felt off… it was not the safe place I had grown up with.

A dark feeling hung over my shoulders as I followed the path that led back to my home. The sky was cloudy, and only the brightest stars could be seen peeking out of the rain clouds that promised a thunderstorm. The moon half covered dimmed the light even more making it nearly impossible to see.


That eerie feeling hung over me, like a constant reminder that something was wrong. The house was close now, no more then a few feet away. I peeked around the low branches in order to see better.

The house was illuminated by all these little dots. At first I was confused as to what it was, but as I walked closer I saw that there were dozens, maybe even hundreds, of plain white candles lining up the steps, windows, porches, everything casting a low glow on the vacant house.

It made no sense. Why would someone cover my house in candles? And on top of that, why was this vision so clear? The blurrier the vision the more likely it is to occur; so why is this one so vivid?

I walked closer watching each flicker of the candle. They were beautiful in a strange way, each candle holding its own flame, so precious and fragile, but at the same time so strong and beautiful.


The door didn’t squeak when I opened it, for the first time since I was five. I crinkled my nose slightly, but didn’t give it much thought as I walked into my living room. What I walked into, however, wasn’t my living room. No, for my living room was always a pigsty, beer bottles always littered the ground, but here seemed to be an alcohol free zone. The cabinets and tables were always layered in dust, but in here there was not a speck in sight. Our old moth infested curtains were now replaced with silky burgundy ones. If I didn’t know better I would have guessed I stumbled into the wrong home.

Instead of the stench of beer, and whatever else was in this god-forsaken house, there was the smell of newly baked foods: cookies, lasagna, brownies, pasta, and many others.

Hundreds upon thousands of flowers decorated the house; roses white and red were upon the most common. There were some with messages that were too blurry to read. Was this some type of wedding? A party? Since when did my house look so elegant? I mean lilies tied together with black ribbon? It was so beautiful, so un-Roberts like.

I ascended up the stairs shocked at how many pictures lined our walls. My father had shattered all of our pictures the day our mother left, but now our staircase was aligned with photos of my brother and me. They were cute, the pictures of us as toddlers. Some were slightly embarrassing of my brother and I in the tub, but I shook away the blush and replaced it with a smile at how happy we both looked.

I hadn’t noticed how quiet the house was ‘till now as I stepped on one of the rickety stairs. Finally, something was normal. I gave a thankful sigh that finally something was familiar, but then reality hit that there was no noise in the house other than that squeak.

Father, dearest, wasn’t passed out on the couch with the TV blaring, I wasn’t trying to block out that noise by blasting my music, and my brother wasn’t yelling at us both to turn down the volume. It was unnaturally quiet, and it made goose bumps erupt from my arms.

I looked back to one of the pictures of me on my first day at Hogwarts. I looked so happy, yet worn. I was only eleven, but I had already seen the cold hands of betrayal. Most children go to Hogwarts in hope of adventure. I went there in the hope of my life settling down.

It didn’t look right in this house. My father never put pictures up of us. Pictures were something parents used to show how proud they were of their children. Pictures weren’t meant for parents who believed their children had ruined their lives.

It wasn’t natural in this house. The pictures should have been crooked, at the very least. They should have had dust on them from being there so long, but they didn't. These pictures were just for show, and they meant nothing. I longed to reach out and just move the frame slightly to the left to make give the appearance it had been there for a while, but I couldn’t.

This was a vision and in visions I was unable to change anything. I could neither touch nor talk. I was an invisible phantom watching scenes unravel, with no way to change them.

It was a curse, but a curse I could not change.

I continued up the steps in search of another normal thing. I needed something I could rely on, even if it was the simplest of things.

My room.

A place no went in, beside myself and remained untouched whenever I left for Hogwarts. If there were anything that had stayed the same it would be my room.

*

I blink away the vision, becoming very aware of the throbbing pain in the back of my head. The second thing I notice is that I am staring up at the quidditch locker room’s ceiling with my brother hovering over me anxiously.

I blink again and sit up slowly rubbing the back of my head where it ached. “You ok?” My brother asks nervously, as he flitters around like a bird, trying to help me.

I smile slightly at my brother’s behavior; he has always been like this since before I can remember. Always there to protect me no matter what happened. “I’m fine.”

Andrew holds out his hand for me to take, which I ignore and get up myself brushing off the nonexistent dirt from my clothes.

I wince slightly as I move my head a bit too fast making it start a whole new uproar of pain. My brother of course goes into full freak out mode. “What wrong?” He questions looking me over for any visible injuries.

“Just a headache.” More like little men have invaded my brain and are attempting to create a band. “Probably hit the bench when I fell.”

Andrew lectures the whole way back about how I should go to the Hospital Wing, but I choose to ignore him. He really needs to learn how to keep calm.

As we enter the front doors we are greeted by a squeal. I gag slightly, have people never heard of silencing spells?

My brother and I exchange glances as we look around for the source, and find a familiar mahogany door.

Every one knows what goes on in a broom closet. Bimbos give up their morals the moment one of the many ‘players’ of the school look their way. I am not one of those girls who believes romance is being pushed up against dusty shelf while you get your feet stuck in mucky water buckets with the stench of who-knows-what in the air.

“Bets on who’s in there?” Andrew asks.

“It’s either Fred, James, or Adam.” I list off with my fingers.

Andrew crosses his arms stubbornly. “Why is it all my friends?” In response I give a ‘you’ve-got to-be-kidding-me’ look.

Andrew, Fred, James and Adam love the ladies and the ladies love them. I mean I can understand why, I have been drooling over James since the day I could walk. If Andrew ever found this out though he would cut James into tiny little pieces.

“I’m voting on Potter. He always seems to have a new piece of meat each week.” I say bitterly hoping Andrew doesn’t pick up on my disappointment. I could find closets romantic, just throw in a shirtless James Potter and I won’t even notice where I am.

Eight and a half seconds later: “James!” a high pitch squeal erupts from the cupboard.

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner.

Andrew just glares. “Whatever too easy.”

Soon we are approaching the Great Hall and Andrew is still slightly grumpy while the mental images of Potter, and who ever that girl is haunts me.

“Oi, Roberts!” Both Andrew and I both turn simultaneously, revealing a cheeky Fred Weasley.

Fred grins revealing a chipped tooth that he has had for almost a week but is too stubborn to get fixed. I think his words were ‘I have to show people that the other guy got at least one punch, before I landed him a date with Pomfery.’

“Errr... male Roberts.” Fred cocks his head letting the fringe of his dark auburn hair fall into his eyes, my hands twitch to fix it, but I control myself. Honestly I think my brother and all his friends need to learn about hair products, or at the very least a brush.

“What Weasley?” Andrew addresses his best friend.

Fred grins again; even with a chipped tooth he still looks attractive. “Want to go crash the Hufflepuff party?” I chew on my lip knowing this is going to end in a disaster.

Andrew seems to be on the same brain wave as me. “I don’t think so.”

“Oh come on man it will be fun! You know you want to.”

My brother mulls the idea in his mind weighing his options: have fun or sit with sister. Hm, hard choice. “Okay I’m in.”

“Great! You can come along too little Roberts.” Fred says noticing I am still here.

Usually I would say no, but I honestly have nothing better to do.., Rose and Al have locked themselves away to study, and Scorp is in a mood lately. Plus there is always the chance that I will get to stare at James arse.
“I’m in.” Fun never did anyone any harm right?

“Let’s go find Potter, he has the cloak.” James had stolen his dad’s invisibility cloak back in third year and we have all been using it since. I try to hide my grin over the fact that James will be joining us.

“Well then let’s go pry him off of some girl's face and go!” Andrew grins evilly.

“Time to party lads!” I say enthusiastically.

A/N: Thank you all for reading! I really hope you all liked the first chapter and will continue reading. Please leave your comments!
 


Chapter 2: Once Upon a time
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Once upon a time.

That’s how all the good stories are supposed to start right? And if your story begins with ‘once upon a time’ then the end has to end in ‘happily ever after’.

So just this once let my story start in: Once upon a time. You don’t even need to give me a prince charming, or a furry animal that can talk. Just give me a happily ever after. Fine! Not even: happily, I will settle for just: ever after. Just please universe…. Give me an after.

We never made it to crashing the party. Shit I already forgot this is now a fairy tale. Let me reword: we never made it to the ball.

My brother, I guess we can call him my fairy god-mother, caught me, the princess, fainting.

And I can’t do this. I can’t even pretend my life is a fairy tale because it’s not. I can’t pretend my story starts with ‘once upon a time’. So you want my story world? Why my brother is crying and I can’t stop shaking?

I’d been sitting here at St. Mungos for what felt like hours. A few awkward words are occasionally exchanged, but mostly we just sit in silence.  

“Collette.” The healer tries to get my attention, but I am too busy staring at Andrew’s shaking hands.

What a weird action.

Shaking.

Dogs shake. Take for example the Chihuahua; these creatures shake all the time out of fear. But a Chihuahua is the weakest dog on the totem pole. Hence fear is weakness. So why the hell is my brother shaking. My brother is not weak. My brother is my hero, the one that protects me from harm. So why on this sick cruel world is Andrew shaking.

He is weak. He couldn’t protect me now and I needed someone to save me. I need someone to rescue me from what is happening and yet my brother just sits staring at the wall shaking.

“Get out.” The first words I have spoken in an hour and my voice sounds horse from tears that have yet to come. Both Healer Proctor and Andrew look up at my sudden order.

Andrew still just sits there shaking and everything else leaves my mind all I knew is that I wanted him out of this room more then anything else. “I said GET OUT!” A single tear escapes from my left eye, but only one before I am screaming at the top of my lungs, “Get out, get out, GET OUT!”

Healer Proctor lightly puts his hand on my shoulder. “Would you like me to leave Ms. Roberts?” I shake my head no and push his hand off my shoulder.

“Not you.”

Without a word Andrew leaves the room, I avoid eye contact with him not wanting to see the pain in my brother’s eyes.

“How long?” My words surprise even me.  Did I want to know? Did I want to know how many years until I was… I can’t even think the word. How am I suppose to accept my fate if I can’t even think of the word?

Proctor leans against his desk and runs a hand through his greying hair. His face looks worn and tired. I wondered how many times he has given this speech. How many times he has watched a life be sucked away.

“It is hard to determine Ms. Roberts-“

“Col,” I interrupt, “If you are determining my fate you might at well call me Col.”

He smiles a sad smile before continuing. “Col, you have an amazing gift. There are not many people who can see the future. Being a seer is a gift Ms. Collette you can never forget that.”

My body starts to shake, but not out of fear or anger, but from hysterical laughter. “Ah your right. Who doesn’t want a gift like this.”

Proctor ignores my laughter and proceeded to talk over me. “Collette, no one is arguing that this isn’t fair, it isn’t. But you need to listen to me ok?” I nod my head, though I am not fully listening, my feet were much more interesting. “I’m going to try and put this in a way you will understand… Ok? Your visions are putting stress and built up tension in your body. This is a very common thing that usually ends in insanity or in other cases death… Collette your body is slowly shutting down. Your visions have affected more then just your brain and because of that your organs are going to shut down.”

I wonder what it will feel like to have your body to fail on you… Not being able to depend on your own body to keep you alive. I lift my eyes from my feet; Proctor looks so professional he must do this often.

“Collette. You are dying.”

Ever realize people use your name a lot when giving bad news.

“When your organs fully shut down though is not determined. We have medicine that will help prolong your life. Yet even with the medicine Ms. Roberts- Col, we are talking about a year at the longest… but probably closer to six or seven months.”

“Did you become a Healer because your last name rhymes with doctor? You know like muggles have. I mean doctor Proctor. It has a ring to it. You should consider working with muggles…”

I start to pace the room rambling on about rhyming and how there is no job that rhymes with Roberts.

“Collette is there someone you want with you? Someone we should inform?” I shake my head no. Andrew already knew and my father wouldn’t show up even if I asked.

“Collette I’m going to ask that you come in every two weeks for now on. I’m going to do everything in my power to try and help you. But for now I want you to go back to school and enjoy what time you have left with friends and family. It is up to you if you continue Hogwarts, but I would strongly recommend it. And as for your father, if you’d like I can inform him of your condition or you can tell him.”

“I-I’ll tell him… Christmas break is coming up… I’ll tell him then.”

Without another word Dr. Proctor squeezes my shoulder and walks out of the room.

I probably sat there for half an hour not moving an inch. There is only one word stuck in my head. Months.

I had months to live. Months to whither away from life and those I love. When I finally got the courage to stand up my legs crumble under me and I fall to the cold tiled floor. This is all I was now, a crumpled up mess on the floor. I knew he was there before I even heard the squeak of the door. Andrew kneels beside me and kisses my forehead.

Tears run down his cheeks, and I reach up to wipe his tears away, almost fascinated by the emotion he is feeling.

We sit together for a while holding hands, we don’t need words, just the occasional squeeze of the hand to remind each other we are there for each other. My hands have dry blood from earlier that day.

Have you ever coughed so hard blood came out?

Yeah, not a pretty thought. I remember so vividly heading to crash the party with the guys. I’d been starting to regret going to crash their victory party; I mean that is a bit cruel right? They didn’t deserve it… and with the guilt coursing through my body I started to drag my feet.

Andrew, James and Fred didn’t even notice me starting to chicken out. I don’t know why I bothered with them sometimes; they just treat me like the younger sister all the time. All they do is yell at boys that talk to me and give me wet willy’s.  They were only one year older than me for crying out loud!

They were all joking around; all three boys tipsy from whatever James had managed to sneak them. Someone had said a stupid joke and they were all laughing hysterically when everything started to get blurry.

It felt like a vision, but different… all I wanted to do was sit down, somehow I got to a wall and started sliding down it. My head pounded and all I could hear was a high pitch buzzing noise in my ears. I think my eyes were shut, either way everything was pitch black. My throat burned as I coughed into my hands. I could taste blood from my raw throat coming out with each burst of air.

But none of that mattered. There was a blinding hot pain in my left temple. As if someone had branded my brain. I was crying from pain, and it was only then that the boys turned around to notice me. But before they could reach me the most amazing thing happened, the pain went away… but that came at the price of blacking out.

Andrew squeezes my hand pulling me out of my memories, but this time he doesn’t loosen his grip.

“I love you Col.,” It sounds final. And it hurts. As if I am dying right now, at this very moment.

“Can I go to bed now…” Andrew doesn’t respond, the tears that have fallen are finally dried on his face and now he just looks solemn.

The amount of medication and potions they give me barely fits in both Andrew’s and my arms. With it came a pamphlet. ‘What to expect in your final months.’

I just want to go home…

Andrew carries me to bed and tucks me in careful not to wake any of the boys in the dorm (we are in his dorm since he can’t walk up the girls stairs without them turning into a slide). 

Usually here is where I would insert some witty comment about how boys are slobs, but I feel hollow. No room for laughter, sarcasm or even my wit. Just sorrow with a dash of angst.

There is the loud snoring of Fred from the bed over, or maybe it was James, as Andrew shuts off the lights. “I’ll be back in a little while,” He mutters as he walks out the door.

I stare at the ceiling for a long time that night. It is pitch dark, but somehow I have convinced myself all the answers to my questions are on that ceiling.

I want to sleep, but at the same time shouldn’t I be taking advantage of every waking moment I have left? I want Andrew to tell me what to do like he normally does. Yet it is three in the freaking morning and he was still ‘out’. He has no right to leave me to mend to his own emotional problems! I mean I should be the one going ‘out’ for the night, not him. 

Another snore stops my angry glaring at the ceiling. That is James. I can tell because even in sleep his snores are arrogant.

My hands are shaking; I am not sure if it was from self-pity, fear or anger, but what ever the emotion is all I know is that if I stare at this quite, stupid wall for one more second I will have to strangle the next person I see. The floorboards creak under my bare feet as I start to pace back and forth.

I crack my knuckles as I walk debating on who I should tell. I can imagine the conversations now. ‘Oh hey Albus! Remember how we promised to move in together after graduation with Rose and Scorpius? Yeah, rent may be a bit higher since it will now just be the three of you. Surprise! I’m dying!’ I can’t tell them… It’s just not something I can bring up. Plus why should I let them suffer all this time waiting for me to kick the bucket. What about the day I die, they can find out then! That sounds so much easier. It is concluded no one will ever need to know that in a few months I’ll be vamoose, no more, vanished, six feet-

“Cols?" 

James sits up in his bed, I should have noticed the snoring had stopped. From the small crescent of the moon shining through the window I can see his puzzled expression. I must look like a deer in the headlights. But there is something else I notice along with his expression James Sirius Potter is shirtless and ripped. Sweet Merlin quidditch does amazing things to the male anatomy.

I have made a lot of regrets in my life, many I’ll never be able to take back, but tonight regrets are suppose to be made. Soon there will be no more time to make regrets, and what will my life be if I don’t make a few stupid mistakes here and there.

Well this is one of them…

My feet take control of me turning me into a temptress. And believe me Collette Roberts is the farthest thing from a temptress, but at this moment while I push James against his bed one could believe I have done this for years.

James has been with a thousand girls, he gets a new one each week. So why tonight can’t I just be another girl.

As I kiss his collarbone and his stubbly jaw I become just another girl. I wasn’t the ‘girl who was dying’, but ‘a girl getting with James’ and that made me just one of hundreds.  

James has a shocked expression, but I know he won’t say no to me, “Cols, you’re Andrew’s sister. This isn’t right! It’s a mistake.”

I kiss his lips to quiet him. There is no spark, or tingly sensation it is just two people’s lips touching. And that’s all I need right now.

I shut the curtains around us as I swing my leg around him. “Tonight is a night for mistakes.” 

I did not lose my virginity that night to James Potter, we kissed and fooled around, but that was all. I spent the night ignoring what I would have to face in the morning. But as he nips at my neck and holds me tight I realize this was the beginning of the end and I was lying in bed with the horn dog of Hogwarts.

Once upon a time…

A/N: A real quick thank you to ScorpiusRose17 for all the extra help she gave me with this chapter! Please leave me a review on how I’m doing! I love to hear your guys feedback!


Chapter 3: One Big Mess
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Focus Collette. Focus… You can get out of this…

James’ arm hangs limply over my bare stomach, while his chest hairs tickle my neck. With each snore his body inches closer. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I swear I can feel the out line of his boxers on my hip.

Did I mention he was missing his shirt…and pants?  

The night, well the night had been many things: incredible, passionate, fierce, and so many other thing I have yet to decipher.

I stare at his body, which leaves all the proof that last night did in fact happen.

There are scratches covering his chest and if he flipped over one could see that his back isn’t much different. He has a really nice body, it’s a shame I had to go and leave scars.  There is only one noticeable hickey on his left collarbone, but I on the other hand resemble a leopard.

The comforter rests just barely past both our hips as I delicately lift his arm off of me.  If only I didn’t have to stare at my freckled, boring-underwear-taste, chubby body compared to James’ flawless chest.

I hear a creak as someone wakes up, “Morning Fred.” I hope he doesn’t catch how my voice trembles and I avoid all eye contact. I wonder if Fred is judging me; maybe he thinks I am just like all the other girls that crawl into James’ bed.

Maybe I am. Maybe I am worse then those girls because I still have respect for myself, but choose to do those things with James.

I try to ignore his shocked eyes full of questions and how his mouth resembles a fish opening and closing over and over.

“Don’t say a word,” I hiss under my breath careful not to wake James. Fred goes to open his mouth again. “Not one word.”

I carefully slip out from between the sheets and snatch my shirt from the floor. Fred seems sorry for me.  And I hate it; I despise the pity. If this is how he looks at me for fooling around with his best friend how will he look at me when he learns I’m dying.

And there it is: the fact my brain had been trying so hard to ignore. I was dying. What did it matter that Fred caught me with James or that I had done thing with him things that would make Andrew blush.

“Andrew is going to kill James you know….” Fred awkwardly averts his eyes while I put my shirt back on. I know my whole body is blushing, but I try to not notice.

I glance back at James to make sure he is still sound asleep, which he is, before turning back to Fred. “Andrew can do what ever he wishes. And I can do whatever I wish.”

As much as I want to pretend that I’m okay with all I did last night I can’t.  How could I be so stupid?

I can feel my face getting redder and redder the more Fred stares at me. I have never regretted something more in my life, but I couldn’t let him know that. All I want is to get out of this room and go hide under my covers.

“I’m sorry Col… I didn’t mean to pry. I won’t tell Andrew.” I refuse to make eye contact as I walk away. Why is it always the nice boys who see me as a screw up?

“Fred?” My voice is shaking. I’ve messed up so bad. Why couldn’t I have just gone to my bed last night and cried like a normal person? Instead I had to have a night of meaningless fooling around with my brother’s best friend.

Fred looks at me with the most endearing look. He is sitting up in bed now wearing a white t-shirt that is wrinkled from what looks like a rough nights sleep. I feel like crying, I just want someone to hold me and tell me everything is going to be ok. That Andrew will come back to me, that James will forget about last night, and that I’ll live a long happy life.

And Fred is right there with care in his eyes even though he probably thinks I slept with his friend…Why shouldn’t he be the one I trust?

“I- I don’t know what I was thinking. I just need to talk to someone-”

I stop mid sentence noticing the snoring that was bouncing off the walls of the room has stopped.

“Col, come back to bed.”

 James is awake. He is still lying shirtless in bed giving his signature smirk. “Sorry mate, mind if I steal her back.” I use to find that attractive… That confidence use to make my legs wobble and my heart skip a beat, but now it just makes me sick.

James winks at me. Apparently he is not on board with the plan of pretending last night never happened. I blush again for what feels like the millionth time this morning.

I’m standing in the middle of the room with Fred staring confused and James Potter winking. Not knowing what to do, I just stare at the floor biting my lip.

Collette you are a mess.  A down right mess.

Apparently my lack of a response hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Col?” James comes up behind me and puts his jacket around my shoulder. Why is he being sweet? Why can’t he just treat me like another one of those bimbos? I feel disgusted as the cloth touches my bare shoulders. I can’t help but wonder how many other girls have worn this jacket after waking up in Potter’s arms.

“I have to go.” I mutter not looking up from the floor. If Andrew comes up right now I’ll be having an earlier funeral then expected.

I leave the room as quickly as my feet will let me. The moment the door opens I start to cry. Not full on waterworks but just a few teardrops rolling down my face as I try to catch my breath.

Sometimes your body just needs to a have a long hard sob for hours until there is no more tears left to fall, sadly though, this is not that moment.

I sit down at the top of the stairs. Breathe in. Breathe out.  My legs shake uncontrollably and I fear that I will be right back on the floor the moment I stand up.

“What were you thinking,” I hear Fred shout from behind the door, “that’s Andrew’s sister.”

I know it is bad to eaves drop, but I am stuck here until my legs stop convulsing… I might as well listen.  

“Andrew is going to kill you. That’s his little sister you prat! Have you already slept with the rest of the school’s female population that you had to sleep with Col!” I press my ear closer to the door.

And here is the protective brother act Fred likes to put on whenever a boy dares to touch me. I never thought he would say these words to James, but heck I never thought James would be covered in my love bites.

“Relax, it’s not a big deal!” For the record James didn’t sleep with me, but apparently he forgot to correct Fred. “She just crawled in my bed last night, was I suppose to say no?”

My legs stop shaking enough that I think I can make it downstairs without breaking my neck. If I have to hear one more of James’ big mouth, I might just murder him myself.

I venture outside deciding I can’t get into too much trouble out there. It’s amazing how fresh air can make everything seem right again. I take a large breath not caring about how the cold air makes my lungs feel like they are freezing over.

I’ve always hated the snow. It is cold and wet and makes me bloody miserable, but watching it now dancing through the branches and taking rest on the stairs of the castle, I cannot remember a time so beautiful. No body has walked through it yet leaving muddy footprints behind. Instead it looks like a giant pearly white blanket hugging the surface.

The balance of comfort is yet to be disturbed and just for these few seconds the world around me is safe and perfect. There are no snowmen from the greedy hands of first years that want the snow to look different. No snowball fights to make this beauty into a weapon. No sun to melt all the perfection away and revealing the trampled earth below it. No snow angels-

I’m taken out of my deep thoughts by something cold and hard colliding with the back of my skull. At my feet now rests a snowball and there goes my perfection. I turn my head in the direction of where the snowball had been thrown to find a very cheeky Albus Potter smiling at me.

“Albus!” I screech upset that he has ruined my metaphor for life. “You prat can you not see I was in deep thought and-“

I’m hit again this time in the shoulder. I whip my head around, probably giving my self whiplash. She stands there with a grin bigger then Al’s. Her red hair is pulled into a messy ponytail and her cheeks are rosier then when I had been blushing half an hour ago. She is bundled up in one of her Nana’s sweaters and her scarf looks like it is about to fly off in the wind.

This unfairly beautiful child is Rose Weasley also known as my best friend.

I don’t even get a chance to defend myself as I am bombarded from a third direction. I know it is Scorpius without even looking. Snow is coming from every direction; I have no time to retaliate so I take off sprinting.

My breathing is labored as I run faster and faster. Rose is hot on my heels, Albus not too far behind her. I don’t know why I even bother, Rose is athletic; I haven’t run in over a month.

A few seconds later my face is being shoved in the snow making me gag as I take a quick inhale. My nose is freezing, and I’m pretty sure I may have left it behind in my face print as I push Rose into the snow.

She screams loudly, but is still laughing as she flicks snow in my face in order to get away. We are laughing hysterically even though snow is by this point down our shirts and shoes.

I, Collette Roberts, am laughing. After yesterday I never thought I would laugh again, yet staring at Rose covered from head to toe I laugh even harder.

Rose stands up first shaking the snow off and trying to get it out from under her shirt before offering me a hand.

The moment I’m standing I am right back down again; Al and Scorp shove handfuls of snow down my shirt. I shriek loudly, but none the less am laughing so hard I may piss myself.

Maybe I was wrong… Maybe it is the tracks left behind in the snow that make it so beautiful.

We all end up back in the boys’ common room drinking hot chocolate and snuggling under the blankets. Rose and I are wearing some of the boys clothing being too lazy to go back and get are own. Rose being the skinny stick she is looks like she is drowning in Scorp’s robes. I probably don’t look much better in Al’s oversized t-shirt and checkerboard pajama pants.

I don’t know why we choose to go to the Slytherin common room instead of Rose and I’s. Gryffindor at least knows about heat; here is almost colder then outside.

“Why didn’t you come back last night?” Rose asks, ruining the   silence. I knew Rose would ask about this, yet I have yet to come up with a good enough excuse and neither ‘I’m dying’ or ‘I was with James’ is an answer I’m willing to give.

So instead of answering I pretend as though I didn’t hear her. This earns me a whack, as obviously Rose wasn’t going to give up easily.  “Are you deaf? Where were you last night? I waited up till midnight and you still weren’t back?”

I can feel all of their eyes on me making me ridiculous uncomfortable. Okay Collette time to think on your feet…. “Andrew and I were just up talking last night.”

Scorpius is now the one to give me the questioning look. Scorpius was my first friend I met at Hogwarts and has stuck around ever since. We both have screwed up parent stories that we like to swap. He is that go to guy when you just need a nice long rant about how the world sucks. Plus the cherry on top, I introduced him to Rose, the women he is madly in love with, a fact that she doesn’t know. Hence us being best mates.

Scorpius is the best guy. Honestly Rose couldn’t find a better guy, “Andrew was in here all night,” Arse! That prick, how dare he give up my excuse the rest were believing it.

You know that moment when you know you are so screwed there is no way to get out of it? Yeah well I’m right in the middle of that with three hungry people ready to wear me down for answers.

I can’t tell them. I trust them with my life, I honestly do, but the moment they learn that I’m kicking the bucket soon they will just stare at me with pity. Rose will burst into tears and throw herself into finding a way to save me; Albus will first go kill his brother, James, and then act very similar to how Andrew took the news; and Scorpius would turn into a mess. I can’t do that to them. It’s too cruel, this is my problem and I will handle it myself.

My mouth hangs wide open as I try to think up a good enough lie. “If you don’t close your mouth flies will get in.” I whip my head around to find my wonderful, amazing, superhero brother standing behind me. He looks furious; his face is red from anger and there looks like there is dried blood on his knuckles. I suddenly wish I was dealing with the vultures I call my friends instead of seeing the fury in my brother’s eyes.

Though I know already what is wrong, it still shocks me to see Andrew in this state. We are all standing now the same look written across all of our faces. Andrew is breathing heavily and looks like he has gone mad.

“Collette, outside. Now.” I know he won’t hurt me, but still the venom in his voice makes me want to run the opposite direction.

Albus stands between us, “Whoa calm down man.”

Andrew is not in the mood to take orders though as his fist collides with Al’s jaw and a sickening crack echoes throughout the room. I have never seen Andrew hit someone. Shit, I have never seen him kill a bug.

“Andrew!” I scream and rush over to where Al is on the floor. Albus spits out blood onto the floor along with fragments of a tooth. “What the hell is your problem?”

“You think you can sleep with my sister,” Andrew stands over him his foot ready to collide with Al’s ribcage the moment he talks back.

Andrew thinks I slept with Albus…. It all starts to make sense; he probably heard I slept with ‘Potter’ and obviously assumed it was Al instead of the cocky older one. “Andrew! Stop it wasn’t Al!”

Everyone looks up at me now and Andrew takes a step back from Al’s bleeding form. “It was James.”

I could cut the tension in the room with a knife. Nobody says anything. “I didn’t sleep with Al, it was James.”

Andrew stares at me coldly no love in his usually warm brown eyes. “Andrew, listen!” Andrew has not intent on listening and starts to storm out of the door. I chase after him leaving my drop jawed friends behind me.

“Andrew!” I scream down the hall. He stops but doesn’t turn to me as his body shakes. “I didn’t sleep with James… I just needed a distraction! Please believe me nothing really happened.”

I decide not to tell him that I practically did everything else with James, that’s hardly going to save his life.

Andrew turns around the hate is gone from his eyes and all that is left is disappointment. “I’m such a screw up,” I cry.

Andrew catches me as I crumble to the floor. I start to cry and I mean really cry for the first time since I found out. “You must hate me.”

He strokes hair making me cry even harder as he whispers ‘it’s going to be ok.’ Over and over again lost for any other words. We rock back and forth, I hear him sniffle every once in awhile trying to hide the fact that he is also crying.

I am fully aware that my friends are staring at us about twenty feet away panicking, but I don’t care. Andrew is holding me and I know he forgives me for being dumb and that is all that matters.

I bury my head in his shoulder leaving stains as I cry until I am out of breath. “I can’t do this.”

Andrew forces me to look in his eyes, the sparkle is still missing, but I think it will return soon…At least I hope it will. “Look at me Collette.” He orders as I stare at my feet.

“I’m here for you.”

I realize I am no longer upset about dying. I’m upset that Andrew is dying emotionally right along with me. 

“I’m so sorry.”

I don’t know if Andrew understands the depth of that apology. Yes, I’m sorry about what I did with James, but I am more sorry that he is the one that has to pick me up from the broken pieces I have become. And most of all I am sorry that no matter what I say by the end of all this I will be gone and unable to put my brother back together.

“I’m so sorry Andrew.” 


Chapter 4: Guilt
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“How was it?” 

This is the first question Rose can think to ask after seeing me sobbing in the hall after my confession to Andrew. Not an ‘are you okay?’, or a ‘what’s wrong?’ just a desire for the dirty details.  

We were all sitting back in the Slytherin common room, except for Andrew. I have a feeling he has gone searching for James. It could only be avoided for so long.

“Please do not answer that,” Albus groans looking a bit green. I think the news hit him the hardest. His face is stuck somewhere in the middle of confusion and disgust.

I try to avoid all eyes contact. “I am really sorry Al-“

“Stop, stop, stop!” Al turns to the fire to avoid looking at the girl that fooled around with his brother, “I’m going to be sick, can we please change the subject?”

Everyone nods and mutters a few ‘fines’; although, Rose gives me a look that clearly tells me I will not be getting out of this conversation later.

After a few painfully awkward minutes, conversation drifts to winter break plans. I have been dreading the return. Tomorrow we would all be headed back to our homes and I would be telling my father about my fate. 

I try to push the thoughts away; I imagine how he will scream, or worse say nothing at all.

“Will you be coming?” Rose pulls me out of my thoughts. I had been so distracted I didn’t even notice how everyone was staring at me as though I was mental. 

I try to read Al’s face for what Rose may be asking, but only receive an open mouth and raised eyebrow.

“Coming to what?” I ask. Rose rolls her eyes clearly annoyed that I was not listening to her. She tends to think everything she says is of the top importance, when in reality she can drone on for hours about shoes and boys.

“My grandparents house for Christmas. Everyone else is coming, well except for Scorp since his parents are nut cases. But everyone else! All the cousins and your new man toy,” she says with a wink. I truly am never going to live this down.  

Of course I want to be there; the Weasley’s have the best Christmas parties, but with the news I have to give my dad…well I just don’t know if I can leave him.

“I’ll have to see,” I answer. Nobody questions me and they go back to talking about the break.

Time seems to fly by and soon another day is over. How can time go so quickly? I have so few days left, how can they just disappear in the blink of an eye? 

I feel the depression creeping up on me, ready to consume me whole, but I shake it off and just focus on tomorrow. Since that is all I can do is be excited for what I still have left, instead of mopping about the time I have lost.  

Rose and I are lying on my bed and I can tell she is just dying to start questioning me, yet she waits for me to say the first word.

A few minutes tick by and I know I cannot get out of it. Rose’s stubbornness can only be matched by Scorpius and I am no Scorp. 

“Rose?” She turns to look at me. It is so dark in the room I can only make out the rough outline of her face and the glimmer of her eyes.  

I can tell she is happy that I have started the conversation, “Yes Collette?”

I take a deep breath. My eyes feel heavy and I know my body wants all the rest it can get, a side effect of this whole dying thing, “I’m really glad you’re my best friend.”

Rose whacks my shoulder, “Oh shut it. You are not getting out of talking about James that easily.”

And so I tell her. I tell her about the things we did and how awkward it was, but also how some of it was sweet and romantic. I tell her very clearly there are no romantic feelings and that I did it because I was tired and wasn’t thinking straight. She seems to believe me for the most part; although, some parts I have to lie and come up with excuses. I manage to avoid anything that has to do with my secret and Rose seems content after asking me over a hundred questions.

I want to tell Rose everything, but I know the moment I do she will cry and make me tell Scorp and Al. So for now I avoid it. 

Rose eventually curls up in her own bed and drifts off to sleep. My brain screams at me to go to bed as well, but instead I stay up watching Rose’s resting form. 

Not in a creepy way, merely just in a way of trying to catch as many images in my brain of my best friend before she pities me and becomes depressed. It is hard to explain, but I want to remember Rose this way, happy, not a friend waiting for me to kick the bucket.

I try to picture what she will be like once I’m gone. Will she find someone to replace me? I hate to think of that, but whom else is she going to talk to about clothes and boys. Al and Scorp may be good friends, but they are also men who refuse to gossip.  

I fall asleep imagining what Collette number two will look like. And for the second time today I feel the depression creeping up.

Morning approaches much too quickly and my back aches. Andrew has all my medications and potions and I fear without them I may not be able to get out of bed.  I try to sit up, but a shooting pain goes up my spine. I gasp out in pain and bite my lip to prevent myself from crying.

My hands are shaking; I cannot tell if it is from the pain or just another side effect.

I can hear Rose in the bathroom and know I have to be quick if I want to avoid her seeing me like this. I yank myself up and off the bed, the pain continues up my spine. Each step feels like a stab in the back as I walk as quickly as possible down the steps.

By the time I reach the last step my eyes are filling up with tears as I drag myself to the couch. There is no way my body will let me go farther and so I end up lying on the common room couch. The room is empty and there is no sign of my brother anywhere. 

I grit my teeth together as the clock ticks by, it feels like an hour till Fred pops his head in.

“Fred!” I scream, thrilled at the prospect of this pain ending. Fred jumps not having seen me, “I need you to go get Andrew. Like right now.” I flinch as pain shoots down my back with each syllable.  

Fred stares at me in shock his light green eyes fill with worry. He is kind of cute when he’s scared.  Whoa, this pain is making me delirious, focus Collette. “Fred now!”

“Are you okay? About yesterday, I’m sorry about how I reacted. I’m really happy about you and James.” He starts to stutter as he sits where my feet are.

So not the time to be sweet Fred! Maybe when I am not about to barf from this pain you can be all cute and kind. “Please,” I beg, “go get Andrew.”

Fred seems upset, but frankly my head is starting to turn and I think I may black out.  He hurries off and in a couple minutes Andrew arrives alone.

Andrew must have run here. He is sweating and gasping for air. Before he can even open his mouth I cry out in pain, “the potions!”

The tears start to roll down my cheeks and I am clutching my body by the time Andrew returns. “I’m so sorry. I forgot,” he repeats over and over again as his hands shake to find the right vial.  

After a few seconds he hands me a dark green one and helps me guide it to my lips. It taste like battery acid as it goes down, but the moment it does the pain stops.

I sit up slowly and wipe away my tears. “I should have given you one last night, I screwed up Col…I am so sorry.”

I hug my brother tight until he stops shaking, I hated that I was now a responsibility. That he has to be the one to make sure I get my medication, comfort me, hold the secret, and watch me die.  

“Shhh, I’m okay. Honestly it hardly hurt,” I lie. Andrew seems to calm down after this and gives me the potions to pack for our trip home.  

There are so many…I am suppose to take them three times a day, and then there are extra ones for when certain side effects pop up. I read a couple of them: seizures, headaches, numbing, pain killer, nausea, and so many more fun side effects I get to look forward too. Each with their own pretty color. My favorite is the dark orange one; it is made to strengthen my lungs. I shake at the thought of when I have to use all these potions.

 “Are you really not dressed yet!” Rose runs into the room, “The train is about to leave, get your arse up!”

Within a few moments Rose has me running down to the train with one of my sneakers still not fully on and my hair un-brushed.  

We end up getting stuck in compartment with Scorp, Al, Andrew, Fred and James. The awkwardness consumes the room as everyone tries to avoid the topic of James and I.

“Hey babe,” and yet again James misses the memo. His cocky grin does not go unnoticed. All eyes are on James, some with glares and others with shock. 

“I am not your babe.” James seems taken back by my tone. It’s my fault for giving him the false message the other night, but still he surely couldn’t think of it as more then a little fun.

Andrew starts to get up, ready to teach James a lesson; I raise my hand at my brother and shake my head no.

“Can we talk James?” I ask. Andrew does not seem happy with this idea, but says nothing as we walk out of the apartment and into the empty hall.

I have to put an end to this. I think up a speech in my head: James, you are a nice guy and I am sorry I took advantage of your reputation. Honestly I just wanted to have some fun-

James grabs me by the hips ending the speech I was creating in my head. He caresses my cheek as my mouth hangs limp. His hands are rough with callouses from quiddich. He pushes my knotted brown hair behind my ears and smiles. Not a cocky smile, but a real smile.  

“Your ears are cold,” he whispers. I don’t reply I am still trying to think up how to explain our night together, “You are so beautiful Col, even with knotted hair.”

“James-“ his lips are on mine before I can even reply. This boy really needs to stop interrupting me.

 His lips are chapped and I feel uncomfortable as he holds me tighter to deepen the kiss. Just like our night together his lips distract me from the real world, but I still cannot shake the guilt I feel for giving him the wrong impression.

I yank away my face apart from James with a quick gasp, “James we can’t.”

There is pain in James’ eyes. I want to tell myself it is pain of rejection for the first time, but somehow that does not seem right. “Did I do something wrong?” He looks frantic as he searches my eyes for an answer his arms still around my waist.

“It’s hard to explain…” I trail off looking for the right words.

“Hard to explain? We spent the night together…It was romantic and good,” I blush remembering everything, “And then you leave in the morning without a word and don’t talk to me for the whole day? I don’t understand what I did wrong. Did I not treat you right? Was I bad? I thought you liked me-“

Now it is my turn to interrupt, “James, please listen. You did nothing wrong.” 

“Then why have you avoided me? I thought you liked me.” James rambles.

My eyes fill with pity, “James I just needed a distraction I didn’t mean to use you…” 

James looks confused, “a distraction from what? Cole please answer me?” 

I stare down at my fingers. “Are you okay Collette?” 

I shake my head no. “I’m not okay….” I mutter for the first time.

James lifts my chin to make me look him in the eye. “Tell me why you needed a distraction Cole.” 

“I’m sick James.” My heart starts beating faster as I say the words to someone else for the first time. I swear my heart may just jump out of my chest at the rate it’s going.

He looks confused and worried as he strokes my cheek, “I don’t understand, how are you sick? You look fine…  You aren’t coughing or sneezing.”

I give a halfhearted laugh. He thinks I have the common cold, if only life were that easy.

“No James, like really sick.” James resembles Andrew this morning when he saw me on the couch. He strokes my hair and holds me to his chest, not in a romantic way, but as a friend.

I sniffle slightly trying to hold strong, but a teardrop escapes onto my cheek.

“You are going to get better though right?”

I bury my head into James’ chest and don’t reply. He already knows the answer. 


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