For omgjamespotter and DancingMooncalf.
I was late.
Really, really late.
By the time I found Amy’s room at St. Mungos, the waiting room was packed with friends and relatives. People stood and read magazines. Others paced the room and the hall.
Avery spotted me and leapt from her seat. “Where’ve you been?” she whispered.
“Only just got the note,” I said softly. “Practice. Stopped by the pub to see Bink. What happened?”
Bink joined us, having heard his name and spotted an opportunity not to talk to Amy’s Uncle Clemmon. “Is Gaia peeved? I spaced and forgot to owl when I got the note.”
“She’s getting heels to properly kick your ass,” I told him.
“As she should.”
I turned back to Avery. “Where’s Freddie? What happened?”
“We don’t know,” she said, keeping her voice down. “Freddie’s in there with her and her parents right now. I overheard something about a bad fall and something to do with a head injury.”
I frowned. That was nothing to mess around with.
We sank against the white wall and I noticed several Ravenclaws in attendance. Some from the Quidditch team (no sign of Abigail). Haley Star slept in the corner, her head on the arm rest. Even Lily, Albus, Paloma, and Wesley were playing chess at a coffee table.
They all heard before me. They had time to set up a chess board and have a match before I arrived.
Worst friend award.
“Have you seen him?” I asked, leaning closer to Avery.
“Once. He walked out of the room for a moment to use the loo. His eyes are red.”
I wasn’t surprised. Freddie wore his emotions on his sleeves – even if they weren’t proper emotions like the ones he had for Abigail and Kay Davies. He was honest and kind and had addled brains.
We stood against that wall for another hour, watching Lily kick the shit out of everyone in chess. Haley Star woke and came to give us hugs.
When the door opened and Freddie walked out, I took the opportunity and told the others to stay where they were. I rushed up to him and put an arm around his shoulders, which were sunk into his body. His hair looked unwashed and he had stubble where none had been before. How could he get stubble in one day?
Had it been going on for more than a day?
“Freddie,” I said.
He looked over, eyes focusing. It actually took him a moment to recognize me.
That was how bad this was.
“James,” he said. “Hey.”
“Mate, what happened? Do you mind me asking? I want to see if everything is all right.”
“It’s not.” His voice was weak. When was the last time Freddie’s voice was full of pain? He didn’t do pain. He just ignored the problems and kept moving. He kept his head up. He didn’t let torment get to him, yet here he was with glossy eyes and a trembling chin. “It’s not all right.”
I steered him away from the gaze of the waiting room and embraced him. “Can I do anything?” I said.
“Stay here?” he said.
“Anything, mate.” I hugged him tight. I didn’t let go for a long time, partially because he was my friend but also because I thought I might cry if I did.
It hurt so bad to see him broken like that. Like he might never smile again.
After a cup of tea, Freddie told me Amy fell a few days ago while they were volunteering at the shelter. Down a flight of concrete stairs. She hit her head, but she said she was fine. She laughed it off and picked a few flowers and tucked one behind his ear. She told him she loved him and kissed the tip of his nose.
Freddie stared off into nothing as he recounted the story.
He went to her house last night to bring her roses because he passed a shop after his shift. She wasn’t there. No one was there. He got worried, so he checked her friends’ houses. The restaurants she frequented. Nothing. He tried to drive away his paranoia, so he came to St. Mungos. She was there. She had been for hours after slipping into unconsciousness while watching a movie with her parents.
“It’s my fault,” Fred breathed. “I should have made her see a Healer. I shouldn’t have let her laugh it off – it was serious, you know? I just let her brush it off because she smiled at me. How could I be so inconsiderate?”
I slapped him on the shoulder. “It’s not your fault,” I said, even though I wasn’t certain he was actually listening. “I promise. You couldn’t know it was serious. She could have just scraped her ear and you wouldn’t have known the difference. You can’t pin this on yourself.”
“The flower’s on my bedside stand,” he said.
I frowned and put my hand over his. “She’s going to be all right.”
“How do you know, James? Seriously. She hasn’t woken up. She’s not conscious. This happened yesterday. Amy is just in there breathing.”
I squeezed his hand. “I know because it has to be all right. If things don’t work out for someone as good as you, then someone like me has no hope.”
He laughed at that – just a little. “We could make it through her last two years at Hogwarts, you know.”
“I have no doubts.”
“I was going to marry her.”
“You’re going to marry her,” I assured him. “And if you make me wear pink I will lose my shit on you.”
“Amy’s choice,” Freddie insisted with another small laugh. He looked over his shoulder at the closed door. “I should go back in. You know, in case she wakes up and has questions.”
“She’ll probably want to know how the movie ended.”
Freddie smirked and squeezed my hand back. “Thanks for being here, James. I know you’re busy.”
“I already owled Lindt and told him I won’t make practice in the morning.”
“What? You can’t do that. Seriously. You’ll get in trouble.”
I shrugged. “So what? This is important and I’ll stay as long as you need me to.”
Freddie nodded and we hugged before he returned to Amy’s room.
I didn’t trouble him with the drama of my life – the David Flynn / Mason debacle. The career nonsense. None of it.
Even though I was certain things were going to get rocky for me very soon, I couldn’t bring myself to create a storm in Freddie’s hurricane.
I walked back to Avery, who had lost in glorious fashion to my baby sister in chess.
“She’s starting to play people a second time,” Avery said, joining me against the wall. “That’s how many games she’s played where they start with people – playing the winner.”
“Rubbish. How’d she get that good?”
Bink huffed. “I’m going to find her weakness.”
“I’ll physically harm you,” I said out of habit.
That was when I realized Rose wasn’t there. Not that Rose was a good friend of Amy’s, but they’d hung out several times this summer together and were on good terms at Hogwarts. They were about as close as Lily and Amy. Or Albus and Amy.
I didn’t ask Bink where she was. His vacant expression told me not to.
Avery put her head on my shoulder. “Owl?”
She pointed to the window, where someone let in a barn owl. It flapped its wings (causing a few feathers to float onto the chess board) and, unsurprisingly, dropped a letter at my feet.
“Yes, this is exactly what I need,” I muttered and ripped it open.
I expected it to be some form of threat from Mason, but instead I found my Captain’s handwriting.
Tomorrow’s practice is mandatory. Please be in attendance like you agreed when you were signed to the team, or your consequence is to be benched from our second exhibition game as well as the first.
Captain Henrik Lindt
I sighed and showed Avery the letter.
“Then you have to go,” she said. “You can’t be benched again. How else are you going to show them what you can do?”
I didn’t reply for a while. Instead, I peered around the room as the owl left. Amy’s mum walked out of the room, retrieved a glass of water, and returned. The door was loud as it slammed shut.
“If playing means I can’t be there for my best mate while he goes through this, then I don’t want to play.”
She laced her fingers with mine and we slid to the tile floor to wait for news.
It amazed me that one practice (after missing zero) could mean being benched. Artemis had missed a total of four. AliCat missed one when her mum was in the hospital back in the States. Smoke and Monroe had both missed two. Jack and Henrik were the only players with perfect attendance – besides me.
I tried not to worry that David Flynn had something to do with this.
I actually didn’t believe he did. I believed Henrik was still onto Avery and me. Like we were cheating his system and he wasn’t happy about it. I didn’t blame him. We were cheating his system. Not on purpose, but if the shoe fit…
Cinderella shit up in this team.
We had another two weeks to stay married. So far, things were fine. Like Avery said in the interview – everything was the same except her last name. Which she hadn’t even legally changed yet, so technically she was still Avery Flynn. But Potter helped us sell the whole thing.
Two weeks and then we would see just how hard Henrik Lindt came down on me for breaking the Code.
Stupid fucking Code. I was sick of the Code. That’s why I stopped it for the Gryffindor team. Sometimes it works – like in the case of Bink and Meta. That straight fucked up our team. And my friendship with Bink for a while.
But sometimes, in the case of Avery and myself, the Code doesn’t work.
This Tornados Code doesn’t work.
I’m not the Captain, though. I can’t just tell Henrik to stick the Code somewhere unpleasant, because he’ll give me all sorts of laps and tell me to give Mason a call myself so he can have my slot.
I got on the team because of Ballo.
Henrik Lindt wasn’t going to show me the same compassion if I was messing with his team. Especially if I was a rookie famous Potter messing up his team.
AliCat told me once that though Lindt was a pure legend, he worked his way up. He played at Hogwarts and then in the rec leagues. Then on the farm team. Then on the reserve team. Then he got the call for the pro leagues.
I flashed a smile and skipped all those steps.
Okay, it was a little more complicated than that. I took a chance on a ruined career and it paid off. Henrik didn’t show up to open practice and challenge a pro player.
Then again, he wasn’t desperate. No one told him he couldn’t play Quiddich.
And Godric, that was happening again. Again David Flynn was behind the pure ruin of my career. Frankly, it was getting old. How many times did I have to panic and find a plan to keep my head above water?
Maybe this plan would end that. And me.
Dark stuff. I didn’t like dark stuff.
Avery nudged me and pointed to the entrance to the waiting room. Rose stood with her hands in her pockets. She looked nice and I remembered Albus saying something about an interview. She had those black interview-y pants and a nice pleated shirt.
Ugh. I knew what pleats were.
Too much time alone with women.
Bink looked up and said nothing.
Rose sank down on the side opposite Avery and leaned her head on my shoulder. Apparently my shoulders had a lot of comforting abilities today. “Sorry I’m late,” she said. “I didn’t realize until I got home. How is he?”
I thought about Freddie’s red eyes and lifeless face. “He’ll get through this.”
She sighed. “I was packing and went for a jog because it’s such a nice evening… then I was trying on interview outfits for tomorrow and saw the note… This is dreadful.”
“Interview outfits for tomorrow?” Avery prompted.
“I have to interview for Greece,” she said. “I’ve already accepted, but out of those people they narrow it down to certain fields. There are ten slots and twenty people.”
“You’ve got it in the bag,” I said and patted her head. “You’re a Weasley. Charming, kind, and sometimes a little mean when you’re talking to your cousins.”
“Not my fault you make terrible decisions,” Rose mumbled into my shoulder.
“Pot calling kettle,” I said and almost nodded to Bink, but I didn’t. He was having a hard enough time dealing with the idea of Rose leaving. I couldn’t keep up with it. One day they fancied each other and the next they weren’t speaking. Too dramatic for me.
Why were both of my mates having major issues right when I was about to get offed?
“Yes, well, hopefully in Greece I’ll get my head on straight.” Rose laughed a little.
“You think so?” I said softly. “Or you think you’ll just distance yourself and get a distraction and oiled up Greek men?”
She shrugged. “Either is better than where I’m at now.”
Bink stood up and went to the loo.
“You could be a little nicer,” I whispered.
Rose huffed. “James, listen. I’m not trying to keep you out of my personal life – which I’m not sure is a place you actually need to be – but please don’t try to understand what’s going on between myself and Bink. He isn’t ready for a relationship and I’m not sure he ever will be. I don’t even know that we’re right together. We just have problems controlling our lust.”
I grimaced. “Come on, Rosey.”
“I need to leave,” she said firmly. “Then he can find a nice girl he fancies properly and I can focus on myself instead of forgetting I have other job interviews because I’m waking up hungover in his bed.”
“It’s for the best,” she said.
Avery nudged me since Bink was returning.
“Whatever you say, cousin,” I replied and we fell silent.
After another hour, a group of us found the café and there weren’t many choices in the middle of the night. Just pre-packaged salads and stale donuts. I ate four glazed and Avery had three with sprinkles. Like we were going near the salad.
“Maybe we shouldn’t be down here too long,” said Avery. “Fred might need us.”
“Everyone knows where we went,” I assured her. “Besides, that room is too quiet now that half the people fell asleep in their chairs.” I tucked Lily in with my coat before coming down to the café.
“You think she’ll be okay?” Rose slid beside me at the table to avoid sitting next to Bink. Haley Star, Albus, and Paloma had joined us.
“Wish I knew.” I shrugged. “I just wish Freddie wouldn’t blame himself. He couldn’t have known.”
“Wouldn’t you?” Avery said, her eyes fixing on mine.
“Yeah,” I replied. “I suppose I would.”
We let the conversation wander into Quidditch and Hogwarts and the train back to school – what it would be like not to be on it.
“Give me a ceremonial seat,” Bink said. “Like put a sign with my face on it so no one sits there. Then tell me how handsome I am for the entire trip.” I wished the smile would reach his eyes.
“I already have the signs printed,” Paloma said with a smirk.
“Have you been practicing?” I said.
I grinned. She was all right, that Paloma Dove.
Rose and Bink continued to pretend the other wasn’t there.
We fell asleep in the waiting room around two in the morning, letting Rose have the sofa since she had to leave early for her interview. I caught Bink draping a jacket over her and he told me to shove off and fell asleep with his knees pulled to his chest in the corner.
I wasn’t woken for a few hours, until Freddie shook my shoulder.
“Eh, mate?” I said, groggy and trying to figure out where I was and why my back had shooting pains. Right. I slept on a tile floor.
I didn’t wake Avery and got to my feet, letting him lead me down the hall away from the snoozing waiting room. “What’s going on?” I said.
“I just spoke to one of the Healers.” Freddie’s eyes were redder than before. They had purple lines around the bottom.
“They say she’s probably not going to make it through the night. They’re trying everything, but apparently the brain bleeding is really bad and it’s getting into some bad areas… I don’t know. I didn’t listen to most of it.” He wrung his hands together. “James, they think she’s going to die.”
I was speechless. My jaw fell and I stared at my best mate so hard I found myself tearing up. “Freddie…”
“I’m not prepared for this,” he whispered, voice shaking. “Not now. Not when I just found her.”
It was all I could think to do – I hugged him. He cried onto my shirt and I just hugged him and patted his back and smoothed out his hair because I literally had no other ideas. I wanted to be there for him and tell him everything would be fine and that he could borrow one of my ties for the wedding, but even that wouldn’t do any good now.
Freddie was at the lowest point I’d seen him and there was nothing I could do but watch it happen.
“Tell me something,” he said.
“What would you like to hear?”
“Anything. Distract me. Tell me a story. Tell me what’s going on with your life.”
I actually laughed at that. “Freddie, you don’t want to know what’s going on in my life.”
“Tell me. I want to know. Really. I’ve been a shit friend lately.”
I snorted. “You? Come on, mate. You’ve been the best friend. I’ve been a rubbish friend out at all those practices and gallivanting around town with Avery. You’ve been the best.”
“You were gallivanting?”
“Absolutely. Professional gallivanter right here, folks.”
Fred drew away from my embrace. “Did something happen other than the Mason kidnapping thing? Does this have to do with what Nia said? Avery said she took care of Edwards. It’s very like her to do that. You should keep her.”
“I plan on it,” I said. “And yes, it has something to do with what Nia said.”
“Before the first exhibition game… what’s that mean?”
I groaned. “Freddie, this isn’t the kind of thing…”
“Tell me right now or I swear to Godric Gryffindor I will toss Falcon Cat right onto that tree with TomCat.”
“Do you admit there is a TomCat?”
“Fine.” I groaned. “The basic version is Avery’s father is working through Mason to get something – I’m assuming, related to him getting out of Fern – and in turn, he is helping Mason get rid of me so he can play on the team.”
“Get rid of you? What’s that mean – can’t you just try out for another team?”
“It means get rid of me,” I said. “So I can’t try out for another team. Which, I’m sure, is a perk for Flynn.”
Fred let himself fall against the wall, hands in his pockets. “You really think they want to off you?”
“I don’t know what they want,” I said. I glanced over my shoulder to make sure we didn’t have company. “But I know it’s not just telling people not to give me a look anymore. It’s real.”
He rubbed his eyes. “Are you scared?”
My first instinct was to tell him of course not. I was James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team of Fucking Awesome. I owned a cat named after a bird of prey. Also a pink pygmy puff, but she had a lot of sass. I was a Potter. My father beat the Dark Lord. My Grandmum killed a woman.
Of course I couldn’t be afraid of some twat in prison and the Captain of the Hurricanes.
“Yeah,” I said. “Really scared.”
Here’s something that happens when someone else is in the hospital.
Your mind always wanders to yourself. What if this happened to you?
As I tried to get comfortable on the tile floor long after Freddie returned to the hospital room, I switched places with him in my mind. I was the one who watched Avery fall and hit her head. I went to find her at her mum’s flat and they weren’t there. I checked everywhere – even went to Cooper’s office, but Avery wasn’t there. I considered maybe she left me for Twitwards, but decided to try St. Mungos. You know. Just in case.
She was in room 728.
Unconscious. Lifeless body positioned neatly in the center of a bed with blankets tucked around her up to her middle. A white hospital gown. Pale. So pale.
Freddie was handling this much better than I would have.
Had Avery been in that bed, everything would freeze. My life and my career and my family. Nothing would feel real anymore.
I would cry. I was sure of that.
Something that was not very common (or at least not admittedly so).
That’s when I got to thinking, which is a really bad thing. What if that scenario was flipped.
What if it was me in the bed and Avery in the chair beside me, hand in mine? She’d seen me countless times in the Hogwarts hospital wing. None of those injuries were serious, were they? Just some blood loss, cuts, and a few things Madam Bones thought were worse than they actually were.
I probably could have left after ten minutes for a few of them.
Madam Bones probably had a crush on me.
What if I was the one unconscious? I very well could be. What was this plan? What was this rubbish being cooked up by David Flynn?
I started to sweat.
Would Avery be beside my hospital bed before the first game? Crying? Clutching my hand? Avoiding the waiting room?
My eyes stung more now. Thinking about her blaming herself. She would, too. She’d think it was all her fault for not solving the puzzle or blowing up another block to protect me. As much as I tried to shield her from the world, she did a pretty good job of showing it who was boss.
I sat up in the dark waiting room.
If I was going to beat this, I had to pull my resources. At least try.
“James. It’s five in the morning. The sun isn’t up.”
“The sun’s a lazy bastard,” I said.
“Language.” Dad rolled away from me. “And it’s not Christmas. There are no presents.”
“Except for a kick in the ass,” Mum muttered from the other side of the bed. “I am actually plotting your death, James.”
“Funny. You’re not the only one.”
That woke Dad right away. He sat up and grabbed his glasses (still round, yeah) off the bedside stand. “What’s that mean?” he said. He had his Auror voice on now.
I used to pick on him about that.
Firstly, sorry for my poor attempt at answering reviews. It turns out life is insane, but I do promise to get to EVERY SINGLE ONE of the unanswered ones. I will always respond to reviews. The problem is I don't have a boring office job anymore ... all day I'm out and about and have no computer access. So I promise to get to ALL of them.
Secondly, welcome to the new people who just found BTQC/DTTT!
Thirdly, sorry about the sad chapter. Except not really.
Fourthly, someone better be glad (GAIA) James finally went to Harry.
NEXT UP: A talk with the 'rents, back to the hospital, Breaking News, and the Healers rush into Amy's room.
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