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Albus awoke the morning of the Gryffindor versus Slytherin Quidditch match to the sound of wind howling past Gryffindor Tower. He climbed out of bed, shivered when his feet hit the cold floor, and crept over to the window. He pulled the curtain aside and stared outside, but couldn’t see a thing. There was so much snow and rain blowing past that it made it impossible to see anything.

The weather had been threatening to storm this badly all week. James had held practice every single night and on Monday it had only been flurrying. The storm then built up until yesterday, when it had decided to snow and rain at the same time. Today, it seemed, wind was added to the mix. All in all, it looked like worse weather than Albus had ever played in before.

The match was scheduled for ten, due to the afternoon’s Apparition lesson. Albus glanced at his watch and saw it was just past eight. The rest of his roommates were still asleep. Sighing, he threw on clothes and walked down to the common room, where he saw James climbing through the portrait hole, his clothes drenched.

“Conditions are bloody awful,” James muttered. “It’s going to be a tough match. But, the good news is that the Slytherins will also have to play in it. So it’s not like they’ll have an advantage.”

“Do you think Kendrick would cancel?” Albus asked.

James laughed. “Quidditch has never been canceled due to weather in all of Hogwarts’s history.”

“You think the scouts will still show up?”

James nodded. “They’ll be eager to see how I play in these conditions.”

Albus wandered over to the window, but couldn’t see any better than he had in his dormitory. “James, you’ll never see the Snitch in this.”

“You just worry about the Quaffle,” James said. “Leave the Snitch to me. Honestly, it’s the wind we’ll have to worry about more than the visibility. It’s practically hurricane force out there. Flying’s going to be tricky.”

Within half an hour the rest of the team had woken up and were congregated in front of the fire in the common room with James and Albus. No one was pleased about the weather, but all wore the same look of grim determination. Despite the wind, rain, and snow, they would beat Slytherin. Although Albus didn’t mention it, he was a bit worried about Grace Hinman. She was so tiny she’d probably be blown off course the entire match.

The team ate breakfast together and the rest of the Gryffindor table remained sparse. In fact, the entire Great Hall was emptier than normal for the day of a Quidditch match. Albus assumed it was because of the weather and the time of day. Morning matches never boasted as high of turnouts as afternoon matches.

Rose, Amanda, and Kaden turned up despite the weather. All three were bundled in what looked like a dozen layers each of clothing, hats, and scarves. Rose informed Albus that Madam Pomfrey had once again banned Matt from the match, lest he get ill so soon before the February full moon.

Half an hour before the match Albus and the rest of the team headed down to the pitch. When they stepped outside, Albus had to steady himself against the wind. Within seconds he knew these were the worst conditions he’d ever played in. By the time they reached the changing room, all seven of them were soaked to the skin and shivering.

“All right,” James said once he’d shut the changing room door against the wind. “Drying and heating charms. Then water repelling charms. “If you can’t do them, I’ll do them for you.”

James and Janie wound up doing everyone’s charms since they were the only two who knew the appropriate water repelling charms. Albus and John were supposed to know them, but neither had mastered them yet.

“Is everyone riding something in the Firebolt series?” James asked, once everyone was dry. “Anything below that and you’re going to have a really hard time maneuvering in this wind.”

Everyone except Grace nodded. “Mine is a Nimbus,” Grace said quietly.

James sighed. “The school brooms are all Comets. They’ll do even worse. Switch with me. You fly my Firebolt and I’ll fly your Nimbus.”

Albus stared at his brother. “But James, there’s at least one scout out there. I’ll fly her Nimbus and she can fly my Firebolt.”

“No,” James said. “I’m the captain. I’ll take the Nimbus.”

“But James-“ Grace began.

“If you fly your Nimbus in this you’ll wind up in the Forbidden Forest,” James interrupted. “I cannot let you fly it in this weather. I’m twice your size. I’ll be okay. And Slytherin’s Seeker isn’t great in good conditions. I’ll be fine.”

“If you’re sure,” Grace said.

“I am.” James got up and returned with his state-of-the-art broomstick and handed it to Grace, who gave him her beat-up, hand-me-down Nimbus. It reminded Albus of the old brooms in his grandparents’ broom shed.

James checked his watch. “All right. Keep a sharp eye out for the Bludgers. They’ll come out of nowhere in this weather. Don’t hesitate to ask for time-outs. Time to go.”

James led the team out onto the pitch and Albus was immediately hit in the face with sharp droplets of freezing rain. He was grateful for the water repelling and heating charms. Despite the cold, he still felt warm.

The roar of the crowd was dulled by the howling wind. Albus couldn’t even see the stands and had no idea where the scouts were, but could tell James was trying to locate them. Albus wished James had let him take Grace’s Nimbus instead. James was nervous enough, and now he had to fly an inferior broom.

The Slytherins looked even more apprehensive than the Gryffindors, which made Albus feel better. Desdemona Cletus, their Keeper and captain, looked like she was about to throw up as she shook James’s hand.

Professor Oteski blew the whistle and Albus took off. Immediately, he felt the effects of the wind on his broom. It shuddered as he forced it to fly toward the Quaffle, but it wasn’t fast enough. Marshall Belby caught it and flew toward the Gryffindor goal posts. A Bludger hit him and he dropped it. Niamh fumbled it, but managed to hold on, and sped toward the Slytherin goal posts.

The wind was even worse up in the air than it was on the ground. Albus almost felt as if he were playing Quidditch in slow motion. His broom was only going half the speed it normally did, but fortunately everyone else was having the same problem. He could only see as far as a three foot radius around him, and had no idea where the rest of his teammates were.

The commentary was barely audible, but Albus was able to hear that Niamh made it to the Slytherin goal posts and scored the first goal of the match.

Albus dodged a Bludger, then the second Bludger, and attempted to find the Quaffle. It was becoming increasingly apparent that working as a team with the other Chasers was impossible in this weather. Without being able to see anyone else, Albus couldn’t possibly accept passes or pass the Quaffle to someone else.

Albus managed to take hold of the Quaffle when Elsie Willinson got caught in a cross wind and dropped it. He urged his broom forward, the Quaffle held tightly against his side. The wind picked up and Albus was thrown off course. It took a few minutes to get back on track, but soon the Slytherin goal posts were in sight. Desdemona Cletus was hovering around the left goal post, her broom flying a few feet to the right every few seconds. James was nearby, near the right goal post, trying to stay out of the way so he could look for the Snitch.

The wind picked up again, this time pushing Albus toward the goal posts. He took advantage and threw the Quaffle into the middle goal post, while Cletus attempted to keep her broom within the boundaries of the pitch.

“Albus Potter scores! Twenty-zero Gryffindor!”

The wind howled in Albus’s ears as he tried to turn his broom around, but it wouldn’t budge. The wind was too strong. He flew lower, in an attempt to get out of the cross wind. A sudden gasp from the crowd made him swing his broom back around to face the Slytherin goal posts.

He turned just in time to see James, whose broom must’ve gotten caught in the same gust, slam into the right goal post, with a crack loud enough Albus could hear it above the wind. James then fell to the ground, while Grace’s Nimbus disappeared into the fog.

“James!” Albus shouted, his heart sinking into his stomach. He willed his broom forward, and soon landed a few feet from James.

Professor Oteski’s whistle blew in the distance while various professors, including Albus’s father, ran onto the pitch and surrounded James. By the time Albus arrived, the crowd was so thick he couldn’t even see James.

“Let me through!” he shouted, his heart pounding. “Let me through!”

Professor Callahan turned around. Her expression was grim, which made Albus feel slightly dizzy. “Albus,” she said quietly. “You need to stay back.”

“He’s my brother!” Albus shouted. “Is he okay? What’s happening?”

“Come with me, Albus,” Callahan said, putting her arm around Albus’s shoulder.

Albus shrugged out of Callahan’s embrace. “No! I need to see James!”

“No, you need to stay back,” Callahan said, her voice sharper. “Madam Pomfrey is assessing James as we speak.”

The rest of the team came running toward them, John in the lead. Grace looked like she was about to cry.

“What happened?” John asked. “I saw him fall-“

“They won’t let me see him!” Albus shouted. “I- I don’t know.” He whirled around and stared at Callahan, whose now serene expression only served to make Albus more angry. “He…is…my…brother! I need to see him!”

Rose, Amanda, and Kaden came running up behind Callahan. “Al!” Rose shouted. “What happened?”

“I don’t bloody know!” Albus said. He felt dizzy again, like he needed to sit down right there in the middle of the muddy pitch. “No one will tell me anything or let me see him and he fell from hundreds of feet and there was a crack and-“

“Al,” a quiet voice said from behind Albus.

Albus turned around and saw his father, mud covering his robes, looking more terrified than Albus had ever seen him in his life. But rather than upset Albus more, it calmed him. That was the appropriate facial expression, not the fake calmness Callahan wore.

Albus let his father embrace him and the dizzy feeling subsided. His breathing returned to normal. His father would know what to do.

“Madam Pomfrey is escorting him to St. Mungo’s as we speak,” Dad said quietly. “Mum will meet them there.”

“B-but why?” Albus asked. “Why can’t she just fix whatever happened?”

“He…he hit his head pretty hard. Twice. Once on the goal post and then again on the ground. Madam Pomfrey…she’s worried about permanent damage.”

“Permanent damage?” Albus repeated.

“Head injuries are tricky,” Dad said. “It’s best for a healer to take over from here. Let’s go back to the castle. We could both do with showers before we head to Mungo’s. Come to my office when you’re cleaned up and we’ll Floo from there.”

Albus nodded. He felt better knowing there was a plan, and knowing he’d get to see James, too. He stepped away from his father and was surprised to see that everyone had cleared off. He didn’t know where the rest of the team or Rose, Kaden, and Amanda had gone, but didn’t particularly care. He supposed Callahan had cleared them off.

Albus was bombarded with questions as soon as he reached the common room. News of James’s accident had spread to those who didn’t attend the match and everyone wanted to know if James was okay. Albus ignored them all and went to his dormitory. When he emerged after his shower, the same thing happened, but still, he said nothing. Lily was there this time, and she joined him without a word. None of his friends were there, but he supposed they were in the Marauders’ Den. He’d see them later, after he saw James and figured out what was going on.

***


Mum was waiting for them at St. Mungo’s when Albus, Lily, and Dad Flooed. She looked like she’d been crying, but had hastily wiped away the tears moments before they arrived. Albus hoped that wasn’t a bad sign. She gave Dad a hug, then Lily, and then Albus.

“Thank God you’re okay,” she said to Albus.

“What’s happening?” Dad asked.

“The healers haven’t told me much. They’re assessing him now. We’re all supposed to go to his room and they should have some news.”

Mum led the way to James’s room, which was located on the ground floor. She walked alongside Lily, who had her arm around her.

“Did you see it happen?” Dad asked quietly. “I can’t figure it out…James is an excellent flyer. A Firebolt wouldn’t have given him trouble like that.”

Albus swallowed. “He wasn’t flying his own broom. He lent his to Grace Hinman, one of the Beaters. She’s tiny, and he was afraid she’d get blown away on her own broom. She flies a beat-up Nimbus. That’s what James was on.”

Dad sighed and shook his head. “That was very chivalrous.”

Mum stopped in front of a closed door. A sign on it said ‘Artefact Accidents - Intensive Care Unit.’ She knocked softly. A minute later a bald man dressed in lime green healer robes stepped outside, shutting the door behind him.

“Mr. and Mrs. Potter,” he said. “I am Healer Murdock, head of neurology.”

“How is he?” Mum asked anxiously.

“Stable,” Healer Murdock said. “Serious condition, but stable. Poppy Pomfrey was right to bring him here.”

“Can’t you just heal his head and he’ll be better?” Lily asked.

“Even as wizards, there is very little we actually know about the human brain. Unlike a broken arm or a cut leg, cranial injuries are not straightforward. Each one presents differently and healing them without understanding what is going on underneath can do more harm than good. Unfortunately, James sustained two cranial injuries in a matter of seconds, which has resulted in an increased chance of permanent injury.”

“Permanent injury?” Mum repeated, her voice quiet.

“Traumatic Brain Injury,” Healer Murdock said. “I cannot diagnose it until James wakes up and I do a number of assessments, but based on his current scans, it is a possibility.”

“But what would that mean?” Mum asked.

“It presents differently in every patient. Patients can have trouble walking, talking, swallowing, difficulties with coordination, memory loss, seizures, dizziness, nausea, and a variety of other issues.”

“Oh my God,” Mum said.

Dad put his arms around her and rubbed her back. “We don’t know anything yet, Ginny. Healer Murdock, what happens next?”

“I have put James in a medically induced coma. This will allow the brain to heal on its own. After taking scans, I was able to heal the cranial injuries with magic, but the scans showed a possible traumatic brain injury. We will know more after he wakes up. I’ll leave him in the coma for at least two more days, taking scans each day to see how well he is healing.

“He’s also sustained some serious damage to his right hand. His wrist and hand were shattered. I repaired the bones within seconds, but the nerves worry me. Nerves are tricky. Unlike bones, they react to magic differently, depending on the person. Some respond well, others don’t respond at all. 98% of cases require physical therapy after spells. We won’t know until he wakes up.”

“And it’s possible he’ll wake up and be fine? With no traumatic brain injury? And his hand fine?” Mum asked.

“It’s possible,” Healer Murdock said. “But not likely. I need you to prepare yourselves. However, with physical and occupational therapy, James will improve.”

“What about Quidditch?” Albus asked, suddenly remembering the scouts at the match. “How soon will he be able to play Quidditch again?”

Healer Murdock was silent for a few moments. “If he has a traumatic brain injury, it would be foolish for him to continue playing Quidditch. If a person with a TBI hits their head again, it can result in irreparable damage, even with magic.”

Albus nodded, his stomach feeling very uneasy. Quidditch was everything to James. What would he do if he woke up and found out he couldn’t play again?

“Albus,” Dad said quietly. “Don’t mention this to James when he wakes up. He needs to be told under the right conditions.”

“Can we see him?” Albus asked.

“Briefly,” Healer Murdock said as he opened the door.

The room contained eight beds, but only James’s was occupied. It was on the far right corner, surrounded by various beeping machines. Albus walked closer and looked at his brother. Other than a white bandage wrapped around his head and one around his right hand and wrist, he looked fine. And in his medically induced coma, he was unaware that his life had been irrevocably changed.

***


After Albus returned to the castle that evening he went to the Marauders’ Den, where he found all his friends sitting around pretending like they were doing homework.

“How is he?” Rose asked as soon as Albus shut the door.

“Stable,” Albus said as he sat down on the couch. He felt exhausted, as if he’d just run a marathon and then played five Quidditch matches.

“And…” Rose prompted.

Albus sighed and launched into the long explanation of James’s condition and what most likely would happen after he woke up from his medically induced coma. After he finished, Rose looked like she was about to cry. Matt rubbed her back

“The coma isn’t a bad thing,” Matt told her. “It’ll let him heal on his own. I was in one after I had to transform with all those werewolves.”

Rose nodded. “And…you were okay?”

“In a sense,” Matt said. “That’s when the anxiety issues started…but physically I was okay. The healers thought I might have a traumatic brain injury because some of the psychological symptoms are the same as PTSD. Traumatic brain injuries are essentially a death sentence to werewolves who don’t use wolfsbane. Once you get one, if you hit your head again, you can do even more damage or die. And since werewolves can’t exactly control themselves during full moons…well you get the idea.”

Rose looked even more alarmed than she had before Matt explained this. “Have you ever gotten one?”

“No. They’re mostly a concern for werewolves who transform in small spaces. The Shrieking Shack is plenty big and I transform in a padded room at home.”

Rose nodded. “And if James does have one? What will happen?”

“Depends on his symptoms,” Matt said. “A lot of them can improve with therapy. But the most important thing is that he not hit his head again, which means-“

“No more Quidditch,” Albus finished. “And if his right hand doesn’t heal right…well, he wouldn’t be able to catch a Snitch anyway.”

Rose gasped. “No. That’s all he’s working toward. And he’s got a pretty good shot at it. Tutshill will take either him or Lisa Galivant.”

“Now they’ll take Lisa Galivant,” Albus said quietly. “The healer said it’s pretty likely he’s got a TBI.”

“Who’s his healer?” Matt asked.

“Murdock,” Albus said.

“He’s the best,” Matt said. “He’s the one who assessed me and said I didn’t have a TBI.”

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Albus said. “There should be some spell that can fix it.”

“The brain is a mystery,” Matt said, sounding very much like Healer Murdock. “Magic can only go so far with the brain. I think it’s because everyone’s brains are different. The neurons have different pathways. It’s not like a leg, which pretty much works the same way for everyone. Nerves are connected directly to the brain, so they’re tricky, too. Magic can’t fix the brain because there’s no one way for it to work.”

Albus nodded. It made sense, but it also didn’t make sense. And either way, it wasn’t fair. James had been working toward a career in Quidditch since he first joined the Gryffindor Quidditch team in second year. Now it was gone, in a matter of seconds, all because of a freak storm and an act of chivalry and kindness.


A/N: Don't hate me. I had to do it. It's all set-up for another fic I have in the works (that won't be posted for quite a while). Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I hope everyone is staying warm. Wind chills here have been in the -30 to -35 Fahrenheit range.

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