Pink Silk

Water surrounds them, enveloping their whole body until they are completely submerged, hair floating eerily about their head like a kind of distorted, tilted halo, the gilt wearing off it; gold worn down to silver. Fading, they think absently, fading fast – would there be any of the original colour left, anything still there to burnish at the end of it?

How morbid, they sigh, a small stream of bubbles – oxygen, life-giving – floating out of their mouth and off, off away into the rest of the bath.

Watching the bubbles drift away, one after another, heading up to the surface, to freedom, they feel themselves relax; there’s something so soothing about the patience of luxury, about having all the time in the world to lie back, warm and loose-limbed, close their eyes and studiously not think about anything at all. A kind of reward, perhaps, a reminder that they haven’t quite lost everything – there are things left in the world for them.

They are healthy. They are safe. They are loved. Aren’t those the important things?

The problem is that when you have the important things, the obvious things, it’s so difficult not to want more – and once you had had more, but had lost it, how could you not want it back? They lost so much in one blow, so much so that the pain itself is almost insignificant and utterly irrelevant. It sears sometimes, aching with a constant tremor they can’t get rid of, but the despair, the sheer terror and heartache when they look at the future and see nothing…

That, now that cuts through the bone to their very soul.

How are you meant to move on from that? Are you ever meant to? Or are you supposed to just be satisfied in life, never entirely fulfilled, never as happy as you know you can be?

They don’t know. No one else seems to know either.

Pushing upwards, they turn onto their back, wet hair, long and light, plastering across the side of their face, and breathe out, the sound echoing softly in the bathroom, bouncing off windows and walls and silver-edged mirrors.

“Cato?” a voice calls from outside, accompanied by a hard knock on the door. “You in there? Do you need any help?”

“One minute!” they shoot back, reaching a hand out over the edge to scramble for their wand, fingers grappling and rolling and then snatching. With a swish, the bath begins to drain itself, gently setting them down on the small step inside it (the last remnants of its previous incarnation as a Jacuzzi), and they can just stretch out an arm and grab a towel.

“Okay, I’m good!”

“Thank god,” Scorpius grins at them as he walks over, shirt sleeves rolled up as always, still dressed in his lime green Healer’s robes, the door swinging almost shut behind him. “I’m not in the mood to be scarred for life today.”

Cato doesn’t bother to reply, too busy setting their teeth and already tensing their muscles in preparation for what is about to happen. Today is the last day – they promised themselves that when the Healer gave them the estimate what seems like a lifetime ago – they won’t have help, not to do something as simple as this.

“Are you sure?” Scorpius murmurs, a worried frown creasing his brow delicately, and for a moment his mother’s face, lined and blue-eyed, flashed on top of his. “You don’t have to if you don’t think you can. It’s not a bad thing.”

“I can,” they insist, though the rest of it went unspoken. I want to. I need to. I have to.

They know from the look on his face that Scorpius doesn’t believe them – cynic that he is, he always advises caution, always advises never rushing, never hurrying. Medicine is Science, exact and calculating, he would say, you can’t push Science because you want it to go faster. It doesn’t work like that.

Although, if they’re being flippant, they’re giving it a damn good go.

Pressing the heels of their palms into the edge of the bath, towel pinned in place by a handy charm, they take a deep breath, focusing on lifting up and out of their ribcage, imagining themselves standing again, on two feet, firm and steady, and push. Knees creak, their back screams, their eyes screw shut, but they do it.

They’re standing unaided. Half the battle won.

Their right knee wobbles, a shooting pain glancing up the cruciate ligament, setting the joint on fire. Raising it, they grip Scorpius’ proffered arm (that isn’t giving in, isn’t failing, they tell themselves firmly), and step, their left foot joining their right foot in a flash, just as their right knee crumbles, and Scorpius’ arm shoots about their waist.

“Thanks,” they mutter, concentrating too much on keeping their voice even and their stinging eyes from overflowing to really feel bad about it – that, they know, will come later.

“Anytime,” Scorpius tells them, supporting them carefully out of the bathroom, careful not to put pressure on the base of their spine, timing his steps perfectly so they match with theirs, limp included, trying to take as much weight as possible.

Outside the bathroom – the air inside it is hot and muggy now they’re out of the bath and cooling down, water evaporating off their skin in waves – it’s cold and they shiver, their toes sinking into the thick, plush carpet in a way they’d have loved before, but now just makes their steps harder, bigger, more jarring to take. Their right leg is beginning to feel a bit like a dead weight, something just waiting to be snipped and cast away, left adrift in the sea of caramel brown behind them.

Their room, unhelpfully, is at the end of the corridor, long and thin and lined on either side by pairs of opposing maple doors. There’s nothing to mark that it’s the only room on the corridor to be inhabited, only that it has the dubious honour of being framed on either side by ugly pictures of gardens: in one, a laburnum in flower flutters in a gentle breeze, a forest of daisies at its feet; in the other, a swallow chirps and rustles his wings in an ivy-wrought hollow.

Beautiful, Cato has always thought, but so very boring.

Eventually, they reach it – a minute’s journey morphed into at least two, possibly three – and Cato gratefully collapses on the bed the moment they get inside, feeling the towel slip from around their waist and hearing Scorpius swear in a tone half-disgusted, half-long-suffering.

“Put some clothes on,” Scorpius instructs, a creak suggesting he’d ensconced himself in the window-seat again – Cato’s favourite chair, with a view of the fake pond (which had before been a real pond, before their father had decided to expand it), and the small gaggle of ducks which live there.

If you’re lucky, sometimes the swan would glide out, but not often.

“Yes, mother,” Cato groans into the mattress, rolling onto their back and giving their wand an idle flick, catching the underwear it flings at them with relative ease. Slipping them on is harder than it seems while lying on a bed and not really capable of wriggling, but they manage quicker than they had done before.

Socks follow, and then they hesitate.

Days like this are hard, and it’s mostly the simple things, the littlest things which get them. What should they wear? How do they want to look? What are they feeling most like now; what would they be feeling most like later?

Just an extra boatload of questions on top of the normal worries – would it suit the place, the event, would it look good, would it clash with anything, would it be a hit or a miss with the general public, which sponsor do they need to appease this evening…

Well, they suppose they can rule that last one out. They aren’t even sure if they have any sponsors any more.

Hovering, wand poised to summon, they stare at their wardrobe, arranged neatly along the colour spectrum, and then flick. 

They are they today, and that is that.

Soft pink clothes land on the bed, a pile of silk, shimmering under the light, followed by a white shirt. Normally they wouldn’t, but this time they have to – they’ll need the supports this evening, the charms woven into them and pressing into their skin to make sure they don’t collapse. There’s not any need to advertise them, though, especially not when they’re fantastically horrible-looking things to wear, somehow managing to be garish and plain at the same time.

They supposed it’s the fact that they’re orange, really, and almost fluorescent.

Once they’re dressed, they stood up, their spine tingling as the magic in the supports lock in place, keeping them steady, knee and back encased in angora-lined steel, protective and gentle. It won’t be quite so comfortable at the end of the evening, the angora sensation slipping as the pain returns, but they figure they could live with that for a little fun.

“Okay, what time are we meeting everyone?” they ask, absently arranging their hair back over their shoulders, weaving strands into a fishtail plait with a twirl of their wand.

“Half eleven, so no rush,” Scorpius replies, glancing up. “You look good. Need anything else?”

Cato knows exactly what Scorpius is offering – the numbing potions, addictive and strong, are locked carefully away in their dad’s study downstairs, the keys entrusted to their mother and Scorpius – and it’s tempting, it really is, but they shake their head. If they’re going to move on from this, try and find a way past this, that means no potions when the Healers say it’s time.

And, you know, it’s time.

Date: 18th July 2026

Healer Name: Suggitt, Miruna (Senior Consultant, Physical Damage)

Patient Name: Greengrass, Cato Jovian

Date of Birth: 16th April 2002

Diagnosis: Cruciate ligament tear to the right knee; multiple spinal ligament strains; four compression-torsion-translational fractures to the spine (lumbar)

Preliminary Notes: The patient was admitted unconscious, having been treated at the pitch by medical staff provided by the stadium services. Breathing and heart rate were normal; condition stable. Assessment at the scene suggested multiple fractures to the spine and cruciate ligament tear to the right knee, and mild concussion (the patient had been hit with a halting jinx before impact by the match referee, Mrs Anna Kowalski). No medication had been given.

Damage of the spine found after a scan to be four compression-torsion-translational fractures to the lumbar region of the spine, none impacting the central nervous system. Additional examination of the patient, and understanding of the spinal injury, revealed likely multiple spinal ligament strains resulting from the impact, though the location of such strains not wholly known – some obvious.

Examination of the patient’s knee confirmed scene diagnosis: cruciate ligament tear in the right knee. No further damage visible.

Treatment Given: Anaesthesia administered upon arrival of the patient to allow for manipulation without the patient becoming conscious.

After examination and diagnosis given and confirmed, patient set MALRAP course for the cruciate ligament tear, prescribed numbing potions (Type 4 and Type 2A, a dose every four hours) upon regaining consciousness.

Recommendations: Recommended course of action is aerial kyphoplasty surgery as soon as patient is able, pending approval of parents and patient. Rehabilitation of the spinal fractures and knee will be required; extended physiotherapy is recommended.

Patient is recommended not to play Quidditch again due to risk of further damage to the vertebrae and ligament, leading to potential death or permanent loss of mobility in the spine and leg.

Nota Bene: Surgery performed successfully on 27th July 2026; rehabilitation to begin following recovery from the operation.)

It’s the calm before the storm, as it always is: tucked away down a corridor which runs along the side of the stadium, all glass panels and sleek metal railings, enchanted to be opaque – solid white – on the outside and transparent on the inside, with people bustling around them, double- and triple-checking that everything is in place, that everyone who needs to be there is there. Clipboards are zooming past, self-inking quills attached to them by string, notes scribbled on the parchment, checklists all ticked and struck out.

The walls are bare, the brick painted white and the mortar black, but there aren’t any pictures there, nothing to look at. In the past, it had been comforting, almost, to focus on nothing, but now it’s just terrifying.

Scorpius is off to one side as always, reading a Quidditch magazine he’d picked up from the entrance hall when they’d come in, and on the other side is Oliver Wood, who hasn’t managed to wipe the disappointed and sympathetic look off his face since the whole thing had started, sombre in black-based robes today rather than his usual white.

Team colours: black-and-white, white-and-black; amidst it all, in soft pink, they feel like an imposter.

They essentially are, now, they think.

“Remember, you don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to,” Oliver reminds them quietly, watching them with a beady, knowing look. “They’ll try and press – you know how it is, you’ve done this before – but no one’s going to blame you for refusing to answer. Me and Eilidh will try to field as many of them as possible, and we’ll stop it from getting too personal, but I just want to warn you beforehand.”

Cato nods once, slowly. They know interviews can be bad – two seasons ago, Holyhead Harpies’ Rehan Hussain had endured a horror of an hour fielding questions about her messy, public break-up from Kitty-Mae Carmody, and had ended up storming out of the interview halfway to tears – and they know this will be the worst they’ve ever done. Even without the journalists and the photographers, it would be the worst.

“Two minutes until we go out,” Eilidh, her thin face tired and tight, passes by them, business-like as ever in a muggle skirt suit and shirt, holding a folder in one hand, the word ‘media’ and the date scrawled across the top of it. “Are you sure you’re ready?”

It’s a bit of a throwaway line, over her shoulder while she finalises the details of the day, running a quick eye over the first page in the folder, but it’s as close as anyone ever gets to sympathy and warm feelings from her.

“Does it matter?” they answer waspishly, trying not to think about whether or not this was a good idea, whether or not this was the right decision to make so early on – maybe something would have changed, some medical advancement, the Healer would realise she’d been wrong…

Eilidh sighs, and glances up from her folder, and there’s a small, kind smile on her face.

“Look, it’s hard – trust me, I know,” she begins, and there’s a personal note, a tone in her voice they’ve never heard before. It sounds strange coming from her. “If you’re not ready, we can postpone it – no one will be that surprised or bothered. It’s a non-story; no point in running it. It’s up to you.”

“No, no, I – I should do this now,” they swallow, the words sounding more confident than they feel – but isn’t that always the way? “It’s not as though there’s going to be a different response in a week’s time – or even a month.”

She nods, the smile flickering brighter for a moment before vanishing.

“Right, I’ll go in first, you and Oliver follow – as always, okay?” she tells them, as though they don’t know, haven’t done this a hundred times before, but they murmur ‘sure’ all the same.

“Hey,” Oliver presses a hand on their shoulder just as Eilidh grasps the handle of the door and it turns, the buzz from beyond turning into a roar and the camera flashes beginning to start up, silver and yellow-white and blinding. “One more thing – if they ask you what you’re going to do afterwards, say you don’t know. It’ll be easier in the long run, trust me.”

They don’t have time to say anything, as then they’re stepping through, Oliver and a security wizard following.

The light in the room is strobing, flashes going off everywhere, constant and bright, an assault which is made all the more eerie by the silence which falls as they all sit down, Cato in the middle, flanked by Eilidh and Oliver.

They’ve never sat in the middle before; it only makes them all the more nervous, feel all the more that this was a mistake, such a mistake…

On the desk in front of them is a sheaf of parchment, the statement they’d carefully prepared with the club inked out on it in neat, block capitals, the black ink shining in the light. It looks stark, as though the contrast is too high, and the letters soften, their edges fading and spreading until they run into each other, a mess of black ink spotted across cream. Somehow, it seems as though the letters are buzzing, a mass of white noise – clicks and whirrs and scratches – filtering in from beyond the dais they’re sat at.

They blink, then, and the world clears.

Distantly, they hear their own voice, smooth and steady, reading out the words on the page, one by one by one, with a confidence they don’t feel and a blunt sort of acceptance. It sounds removed, feels removed, like they’ve slipped inside their own body, feeling the undulations of their throat as they speak, the ripples in their vocal chords with each breath, and the gentle rise and fall of their chest.

Then they’re done, their last words spoken. Eilidh and Oliver take their turns to speak, but everything they say fades into the background, leaving Cato cocooned in silence and numb. The world seems to be moving too fast, spinning just that second quicker to leave them dizzy, nausea beginning to swirl in their stomach.

There are no questions – well, none directed at them, at least – and they escape outside the room as soon as they can, heading down the corridors which have been most of their life for the last two years, and round, through the belly of the stadium. They pass the locker rooms, the coach’s office, the broom repair workshop, the ice baths and the sauna, the doctor’s office and the physio’s room; portraits of squads, photographs of players mid-flight, posters and articles celebrating famous wins, famous faces, all zoom by on the walls – and everywhere, black and white, white and black, and a magpie in flight, wings outstretched.

“Hey,” Scorpius has been following them the whole time, two metres behind, and when Cato looks at him, his Healer’s mask is fixed firmly on his face: perfectly composed, the right amount of sincere concern in his eyes.

It makes them want to cry.

“I’m okay,” they reply, the words automatic – they knew the question even before it was asked, and doesn’t that say everything about how people are overusing it? Always asking, always endlessly asking; they’re never sure what they expect them to say. “I just… I dunno.”

On the wall opposite them a portrait of Lennox Campbell smiles thinly from where he’s lazing next to a podium, the number seven emblazoned on a poster on the wall behind it, the Golden Quaffle award resting on it glinting in the sunlight dotted down from the top-left corner. Brown hair windswept, Campbell’s wearing the uniform of the team of 1999, who won the League and then the European Cup too for good measure. There’s a plaque underneath, and Cato knows what it’d read if they looked at it: Lennox Campbell was presented with the Player of the Year Award 1999 from the International Quidditch Association.

Only three missed catches, in the British and European Cup combined: a world record.

It never mattered that the pundits all claimed Cato would be the one to beat that record – it didn’t matter that they’d come close, already (four missed catches in their break-out season with Bigonville, five last season, and only one in the run-up to the injury). It didn’t matter that they would have, that they’d had only three more matches to go before they’d have done it officially; that they’d have done it better, by playing every League match and every Cup match.

Really, it didn’t; not at all.

They shift, and a bolt, hot and fierce and blazing, shoots up through their knee, setting their spine on fire as it goes, and they bite their lip hard, letting out a soft, strained noise.

Scorpius is there in a flash, arm grabbing their waist and it helps a little, but not much: there’s nothing Scorpius can do about it, but the bones of his arm press against the realigned vertebrae, against the healed muscles and tendons and flesh, and it all aches and whines and cries again. He’s calm and patient, though, guiding them out with a gentle sort of presence which only makes Cato feel worse.

The Healer is round that evening, measuring out a dose of Sleeping Potion, while Scorpius and their mother listen in the background, rapt with attention and nodding gravely.

Honey-coloured, it tastes sweet and silky on their tongue, sliding down all too easily, and when they close their eyes against the world, it fills the rest of their senses completely. They’re warm and comfortable, the roar in their body dying down to flickers and twinges as they move, tugging the duvet tight around them.

They know it’s a defeat, really, to resort back to potions again, but it’s a blissful, saccharine defeat, so easy to give in to.

A/N: for those of you who are football/soccer fans (and even if you're not), the Golden Quaffle award is a (bad :P) nod to the Ballon d'Or, which is a prize awarded to the best footballer in the world every year.

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