The stench of bleach and other chemicals hit me like a well-placed hex - the smell filled my nose making me feel like I was drowning. My mouth was sticky and I could tell my lips were chapped. I tried to swallow but my mouth felt incredibly dry, like I hadn’t drank liquid for days.
I slowly lifted my eyelids feeling as though I had to pry them open.
My stomach plunged.
I wasn’t in my room.
I was not in my room!
I WAS NOT in my room!
I closed my eyes inhaling deeply to calm my nerves but a surge of pain in my stomach hit me so aggressively and intensely that tears pulled in the corner of my eyes. I tried balling my hands into fists and grimaced at the pain in my left side. Panic rose up from my toes threatening to paralyze every inch of my body.
You’re a Nott! Get your shit together!
I held my breath afraid of causing pain again.
First, where am I? I asked myself trying to remain calm.
I opened my eyes again and took in the ceiling above me. I was staring at a large rounded stone roof with intricate cravings and designs. Relief washed over my body as I allowed myself to exhale slowly. Hogwarts. It was obviously Hogwarts.
The strong odor lingered into my nostrils again getting more intense, more pronounced as my breathing returned to normal. Clean. That was the only way to describe it. It wasn’t like when Mandy would spray air freshener around the dorm telling Ama, ”Your nail polish smells like rotten eggs and arse!” This was an industrial kind of clean. Not only could I smell bleach and other chemicals, but I also felt like I could taste and feel them too.
I was cold, the sheets covering me were flimsy and scratchy. Everything was dark except for some moonlight peaking through the windows.
I shifted my body, turning my head to the left.
I don’t think I had ever been happier to see James freakin’ Potter.
He was sitting in a chair by my bed with his eyes closed - I could hear soft snores rumbling through his body. I blinked my eyes a few times to adjust my vision to the darkness. He was sitting upright, rigid and his head kept falling forward then jerking back. He was dressed in slim, dark jeans and a large bright green and yellow “Holyhead Harpies” sweatshirt. The hood was up so I could only see a few strands of his dark hair peaking through.
“James,” I croaked out, my voice sounding like someone else’s.
He shifted in his seat but didn’t respond.
“James,” I tried a little louder, feeling panic rise through my fingertips this time. Waking him seemed so important, vital - I needed answers.
His body shifted a little more but he didn’t answer.
I looked around the room trying to steady my breathing, trying to focus on something, anything. My eyes landed to the table on my right - there were cards, flowers, treats, and chocolates. I could see that there were a few empty chairs scattered around my bed too.
I made to move my left arm but I couldn’t, finally taking in the sling that my arm was in. I closed my eyes tight for a brief moment trying again not to panic. I grabbed a chocolate frog with my right hand. I tried to muster the little strength that I had and loped it toward James. I held my breath as I watched it sail through the air and… hit his right shoulder.
James started and his eyes popped open. He squinted a little looking around taking in his surroundings.
His hazel eyes met my greens ones and it seemed like time sped up while also slowing down. There was a palpable electricity surging between us making me feel light-headed but also numb, his eyes both relaxed and excited me.
“Cassie!” He jumped up scooting his chair closer to me.
“Hi,” I said awkwardly trying to adjust myself to sit up. I ignored the bandages digging into my skin. I already knew something was wrong with my arm. I couldn’t yet bring myself to consider and process the other injuries I clearly had.
“Hey,” James said watching me carefully.
I finally sat up and took a deep breathing ignoring the pain that seemed to be surging up and down the left side of my body.
“Hi,” I said again finally exhaling.
“Hello,” he responded to my awkward double-hi, smiling as if he were enjoying a private joke.
“What time is it?” I asked starting with an easy question, the basics. My brain could process that, at least.
James stared at me for a beat clearly not expecting me to ask about the time, before slowly looking down at his watch. “It’s 2:32 in the morning.”
I nodded observing the multiple beds around the room - the sheets were so white they looked like they were glowing under the moonlight. “And I’m in the Hospital Wing?” I knew the answer but saying it out loud was helping me process.
James opened his mouth but closed it quickly before nodding his head. He took a deep breath before pushing his hands through his hair causing his hood to fall back. “I should get Abbott,” he said moving to leave.
“Wait! James!” All facades of being calm fell away quickly as I reached for him frantically with my good arm.
His eyes flashed but remained on me as he started breathing uneasily. “Cassie, I promised that I’d get someone…”
“Please, stay,” I begged. Apparently all of my dignity had fallen away too. “For… for five seconds? I’m trying really hard not to…” I trailed off fidgeting and tapping my foot.
James nodded his head once and sat down in his chair. He grabbed my hand and rubbed his thumb across my knuckles. “Okay.”
I breathed out again trying to recapture my mirage of calm. “Why are you here at 2:30?” I asked.
His eyes left mine for the first time since I woke him up and I felt immediately queasy like I needed to see his honey-kaleidoscope eyes to keep sane while trying to piece together what the heck happened to me. “I didn’t think you should be alone,” he muttered. “Neither did anyone else,” he said finally looking back up at me again. I felt some tension in my body release. “But visiting hours ended a while ago.”
“How did you get here without getting caught?”
He smirked and leaned in a little and I took the opportunity to inhale…him. Broom polish. Cinnamon. Firewood.
“Well, I… Cassie, are you sniffing me?”
“Yes,” I admitted only feeling slightly embarrassed. James’s eyes were wide and his mouth was in an O but he didn’t recoil in disgust which I took as a win. “I need to replace the stench of industrial cleaner in my nose.”
James smirked at me before letting go of my hand and swiftly sliding off his sweatshirt briefly revealing a few ab muscles between his belt and his red t-shirt. “Take care of this. My mum gave it to me.”
My mouth fell open as I took in what he was giving me. “Is that a vintage Holyhead Harpies official team sweatshirt? As in the year they won the Cup with your mum as captain? As in the one only made for players and family?” I gasped out in one breath.
James played with his lips a little, clearly trying not to laugh at me. “Yes. It’s my mum’s actually. I did an enlargement spell when she gave it to me,” he said with a causal shrug that infuriated me an unacceptable amount.
“I can’t take it,” I said shaking my head. Was he mental? “I can’t believe you’re wearing that sweatshirt instead of having it framed, preserved, and hung up somewhere so that people can bow down to it in awe giving it the glory and honor that it deserves.”
“You’re a little odd, huh?” he deadpanned.
“Take the sweatshirt.”
“Take the sweatshirt.”
“Avada yourself,” I instructed in response to his too proud smirk.
He rolled his eyes and carelessly folded the sweatshirt in his lap as if he weren’t holding a national treasure worth thousands of galleons to hardcore Harpies fans around the world. He sighed but grabbed my hand again making my shoulders relax even more.
“So, how did you sneak in here?” I asked again.
“I have my resources,” he drawled annoyingly.
“I don’t know what that means.”
“That’s the point of being evasive, isn’t it?”
I quirked an eyebrow.
“By the way, did you really throw a chocolate frog at me?”
I let out a laugh but groaned when I felt a sharp, prominent pain in my side again.
James’s nostrils flared. “I could get Abbott,” he offered. “She can give you more pain potions.”
I shook my head and held onto his hand tighter still not wanting to be alone. “It’s not that bad. So I broke my arm?” I asked lifting the sling up a little.
James swallowed. “Sprained it.”
“And my ribs?” I said feeling the bandages around my middle.
“You bruised the ones on your left side,” he reported tapping my knuckles with his thumb like he was playing an instrument.
“What else?” I asked, swallowing.
The tapping on my knuckles got faster and more erratic. “Dislocated left shoulder and superficial bruises but Abbott was able to fix that while you were unconscious.”
“How did this happen?” I asked finally getting to the question that was gnawing at me.
He stopped moving his thumb across my hand. “You don’t remember?”
I shook my head.
He blew out a breath. “It’s all my fault, Cassie…”
I turned to see Madam Abbott walking out of her office wearing light yellow silk pajamas and her hair in a messy bun.
“Were you talking to someone?” she asked approaching my bed in a tone that said she was a little bewildered.
“Umm,” I said turning toward where James was sitting but he was… gone. I gasped wondering if I imagined our entire conversation.
Abbott looked at me strangely before putting the back of her hand to my forehead. “I’m going to give you more potion for the pain. We shouldn’t take any chances. How are you feeling?” she asked smiling at me but in a way that was a little “oh, you poor pathetic thing”-esque.
“I’m okay, I guess, I don’t really remember what happened.”
Abbott nodded her head while mixing the potion. It was an odd sight to see her in her pajamas and slippers mixing potions while yawning loudly. “You fell off your broom, dear,” she explained simply. “I can’t say much more because there’s an active investigation open regarding the incident.” She seemed like she was bursting at the seams ready to reveal more if pushed carefully. Abbott was known to be a bit of a gossip - more than once she was chastised by McGonagall for revealing too much about staff gossip to her patients.
I frowned as she handed me a potion that looked puke green. “An investigation?” I whispered hoping it would urge her on to tell me more.
She sighed. “I’ve already said too much but you were hit by a Bludger,” she explained.
I looked down at my injuries. “I don’t understand. I’ve been hit by a Bludger before.”
Abbott swung her arms back and forth. “The Bludger was twice as strong as a regulation one and someone had removed the safety spell on the Pitch.”
“What?” I asked feeling my stomach churn.
She shook her head. “Thankfully, that Potter boy was able to get that cushioning spell off but still there was extensive damage. Such a shame. I really thought these days of horror were over.”
“Yea,” I said breathlessly trying to process what she was saying. “Shame.”
“Well drink up, dear,” she instructed in a surprisingly cheerful tone. “I added some pomegranate flavoring to mask the taste and smell.”
“Thanks,” I muttered bringing the potion to my lips. “Eek!” The potion actually tasted like dirt. Dirt mixed with weak pomegranate flavoring which somehow made it taste even worst.
Abbott grimaced at me a little before taking the bottle from my hands when I had finally choked the potion down. “Night,” she said before walking back to her office.
I laid back on my pillow my head, arms, and legs feeling too heavy for my body.
“I can’t believe she still calls me ‘that Potter boy.’ There are three of us!"
I jumped taking in that Potter boy’s reappearance.
“Godric! I’m hallucinating!” I said reaching for his face, touching his scruffy five o’clock shadow before my arm felt too heavy to hold up.
“Why do you always accuse me of being a hallucination?” he asked grabbing my hand before it dropped and giving me a broad smile that Cruio-ed my freakin’ heart.
I gasped, my vision getting blurry and going in and out a little.
“Are you okay?” he asked coming closer, his smile faltering.
“It’s just cold,” I said shivering a little as I felt the potion cooling some of my injuries and making me tired. “And.. and.. your smile,” I said yawning loudly. “It’s like an… Avada curse to every girl’s heart… guys too I bet. You need to put that thing away.”
He let out a deep, raspy laugh from the back of his throat that made my toes tingle and my cheeks burn. “Isn’t this the pot calling the cauldron black?” he muttered.
Before I could ask him what that meant, my eyelids felt too heavy to keep open.
“I can’t believe Potter didn’t tell me that Cassie freakin’ woke up. I’m her freakin’ sister! Her freakin’ sister!”
“Maybe he was scared of what you would do if he woke you up at 2:30 in the morning,” I heard Freddie muttering.
“I will kill you.”
I popped my eyes open taking in my surroundings. Addie was standing at the head of my bed staring Freddie down. Freddie somehow positioned his big body in the fetal position at the end of my bed. Ama was sitting in my bed next to me reading a book. Josh was sitting in a chair, reading a magazine. The sun was out, warming my cheeks and making me feel relaxed.
“Hey,” I said weakly to no one in particular.
“She’s alive, she’s alive,” Josh yelled, throwing up his hands and tossing the magazine behind him.
Ama hugged my side, careful not to touch any bruises or injuries.
Freddie fake-sobbed. “Thank Merlin! Thank Godric! Thank Helga! Thank Rowena! Eh, I guess we can thank Salazar too,” he said eyeing Addie suspiciously.
“You’re never playing Quidditch again,” Addie stated while pacing. “I’m going to kill all the McLaggens. You’re not allowed to talk to any Wotters. They are all fucking insane. Especially this one,” she muttered pointing toward Freddie.
“How long have I been here?” I asked looking around the room.
“It’s Thursday, so four days,” Ama explained - she looked happy, content to have me back. She linked arms with my good arm and sighed. “It’s so weird hearing your voice. Weird in a good way.”
“Wow,” I said feeling strange and just… off. “Four days.”
Ama nodded her head confirming.
“You really couldn’t have timed it better,” Josh said clearly trying to perk me up. “We leave for break on Monday! You’ll be so well-rested, it’s really incredible. You’re such a lucky betch.”
I smirked at Josh’s twinkling deep blue eyes - he seemed excited, thrilled to be in the middle of some drama that didn’t actually mean I’d be seriously and permanently injured yet allowed him to gossip, speculate, and throw out crazy theories for hours… days.
I laughed at him. “Nice to know you missed me, Joshua,” I teased.
He waved me off. “I ugly sobbed when I first found out, Cass. Ugly sobbed in front of people. My reputation is garbage,” he sighed throwing his blonde strands back dramatically.
“I’m so happy you are awake,” Ama muttered squeezing my arm. “Josh is fucking mental,” she complained. “We need you.”
Josh scoffed jerking his head up.
“He wore all black the other day like you were dying,” Ama continued.
“Josh!” I said horrified.
“Rat!” he accused Ama. “What? It’s how I process things!” Josh said defending himself to me.
I gave him a small smile communicating that I wasn’t actually mad at him.
“How much work do I have to make up?”
“Nothing for Potions,” Freddie said looking incredibly proud of himself. His long, strong limbs were hanging off the sides of the bed as he was now positioned spread out horizontally across the bed. I wondered for a brief moment if the bed was strong enough to hold all three of our bodies.
I groaned ignoring the concern. “Did you ruin our perfect O?”
Freddie scoffed. “How dare you ask me that question.”
I let out a breath, relieved.
“Of course I did!”
I groaned again.
“E plus and E minus,” he said cringing a little.
“Freddie!” I said jumping a little. “That’s so good! I’m so proud of you.”
Freddie smiled at me like a child being congratulated for eating all his peas.
“How’s maman?” I asked Addie as it fully dawned on me that I didn’t know what had happened to her in the past 96 hours.
Addie shook her head. “No change,” she said quietly.
I sighed nodding my head.
Freddie suddenly jerked his head back a little and squinted at me. “Holy hairy Merlin, is that James’s favorite sweatshirt that he never lets anyone wear?”
“What? No-ahhh,” I said as I looked down to see that James’s or Ginny freakin’ Weasley’s Holyhead Harpies sweatshirt was definitely on me. “Oh.”
Josh squealed like an actual Harpy putting his elbows on my bed and resting his head in his hands. “Tell us everything. You’re such a femme fatale, wrecking havoc, and stealing sports sweatshirts and hearts as you move from jock to jock.”
Ama clicked her tongue looking down at my sweatshirt. “You should probably take that off before Grayson’s shift,” she advised.
Ama shrugged her shoulders. “Abbott doesn’t allow more than a couple of people in here at a time so we take shifts.”
I frowned and eyed the flowers, cards, and treats on the table next to me. It warmed my heart a little - I didn’t realize that so many people cared.
“Why are we not talking about how we are going to murder the McLaggens?” Addie suddenly snapped stomping her foot.
“She’s so damn scary,” Freddie muttered.
“Welcome to the fam,” Josh said spreading his arms open toward Freddie.
“Why are we killing the McLaggens?” I asked.
Everyone’s heads snapped toward me with varying degrees of concern and surprise.
“You don’t remember?” Freddie asked quietly.
I shook my head. “Abbott said there was some type of investigation and that I got hit by a Bludger but I don’t remember that. I kinda remember flying but that’s it.”
“Will that affect the investigation?” Ama asked looking at Freddie in particular.
“It shouldn’t. James was there. His account should be enough, right?” Addie asked with a hand on her hip.
Freddie chewed on his lip. “He was watching from the locker room. He didn’t run out until he saw her falling from the sky.”
Falling from the sky? I knew from what Abbott told me I had fallen off my broom but I hadn’t considered what that looked like.
“The Auror Department should just force them down and steal their memories, get it over with,” Josh muttered crossing his arms.
“Chill, man, we only need one mental person in the crew,” Freddie said nodding toward Addie.
Addie rolled her eyes and then started pacing agin. “I’m not going to let the Aurors talk to her then. I don’t want it on record that she can’t remember,” Addie replied like I wasn’t sitting right in front of her.
“That’s a good idea,” Ama agreed. “Sometimes memories come back after…”
“You-all know it’s like you’re speaking a different language, right? About me? In front of me!” I finally interrupted.
“Wait,” Freddie warned before anyone said anything else. “Anything we say can be seen as influencing her testimony.”
I groaned, frustrated that I couldn’t recall what happened and my friends were talking about me right in front of my face. Apparently, something horrible happened to me and the events surrounding it were completely blank in my head.
“Sorry, Cass,” Josh offered with a sad smile on his face. “But, welcome back,” he said giving me a wink.
“Shit. Longbottom said we couldn’t miss anymore classes this week,” Ama said getting up and frowning at her watch. She gave me another hug before grabbing her stuff. “We will talk, after class,” she promised before heading toward the door.
“Remember everything that happens when Grayson comes. I need to live vicariously through your boy drama,” Josh said kissing both of my cheeks before following Ama.
“Hurry up and recover, I can’t keep these stellar Potion grades up for too long,” Freddie said giving me a cheeky grin before he followed them.
Addie took a deep breath and plopped down on my bed. Ama looked stressed - too stressed for a seventeen year old trying to finish her last and Seventh Year of school. She was looking at me like I’d somehow fall to pieces if she stopped watching me closely.
I squinted at her noticing that something was different. “You cut your hair?” I asked noting that her straight, golden blonde strands seemed to stop just under her shoulder blades.
She looked down at the tips of her hair and shrugged. “Jay said he liked it at this…”
“You’re still dating Stretton?”
She rolled her eyes at me like it was the dumbest question she ever heard. “Yes, he got you some chocolates,” she said as if we were discussing the weather and motioning toward the table by my bed.
I frowned at her and raised my eyebrows. “When did you become a one-man woman?”
“When did you get so many weird friends?” she deadpanned as one of her thin eyebrows quirked up.
“I’ve always been friends with Ama and Josh,” I said nudging her leg with my foot.
“Oh my Merlin, I wish it was just those two. Freddie, James, Al, Grayson, Dom, Louis, Hugo, Rose, Lily, and I swear to Salazar, I almost killed Tay,” she complained as if she went through war and back.
I scoffed. “Excuse me for being nice to people.”
“You’re not forgiven.”
“Did you know,” Grayson asked me while chewing on a mouthful of chocolate, “that chocolate frogs now come in different chocolate flavors?”
“Yes,” I said happily. “White chocolate is my favorite and also milk chocolate with the nuts.”
“When I was little, I didn’t want to eat these…”
“…because you thought they made them from real frogs, right?”
Grayson’s “shift” came right after Dom and Tay’s. The sun was starting to go down and the room was bathed in golden sunlight. I thought I would be too tired to talk to anyone after hearing the latest celebrity gossip, clothing trends, and four days’ worth of Hogwarts gossip that they just had to catch me up on. But talking to Grayson just felt… easy. I wasn’t anxious, tense, or annoyed. I was just completely and utterly… comfortable.
“Are you excited for the break?” he asked tossing me another chocolate frog.
I shrugged looking down at the chocolate sitting in my hands. “I don’t know,” I admitted. “I don’t remember the last time I was at Shell Cottage. I just don’t want to step on any toes.”
Grayson nodded his head. “Keep me updated on how it goes?”
I smiled at him. “Sure. Any plans?” I asked.
Grayson was sitting Indian style at the end of my bed - he was wearing a dark grey cashmere sweater with the collar and cuffs of his royal blue button-downed shirt peaking out through the top and sleeves of the sweater. He started fiddling with a non-existent loose thread at the end of his sleeve.
“I’m going to America,” he stated quietly, the invisible loose thread apparently becoming even more interesting.
I stopped chewing wondering what was making Grayson uncomfortable. “Josh will be there too,” I offered trying to move the conversation forward. “In New York. Maybe you two will cross paths.”
He let out a long breath and looked up at me, not quite meeting my eyes. “We won’t be close. I’ll be in California,” he explained.
I nodded my head slowly. “Do you have family there?”
He let out a humorless laugh that shocked me a little - it didn't fit with the Grayson I knew. “Something like that,” he muttered.
“Well, we should hang out before you leave,” I offered trying to change the topic.
He nodded once. “Yes, we should. When do you get out of here?” He asked looking around. Every bed but mine was empty. An hour or two ago, there was a 2nd Year who came in with bats coming out of his nose. Otherwise, I was the only one “lucky” enough to get myself injured.
“In an hour or so,” I said excited to get out of the Hospital Wing.
“We should sit together on the train,” he said looking down again.
I looked over at the end table with all of the treats looking for another chocolate frog with nuts. “We should sit on the train together,” I agreed looking through the debris of candy wrappers. “Josh and Ama would kill mmm…”
Grayson’s lips connected with my face but because I was turned away, his lips mostly connected with the side of my lips. I giggled as he sat back on his legs red-faced, clearly embarrassed.
“Sorry,” he muttered refusing to look at me at all.
“It’s fine,” I assured him pulling him toward me with my good arm. “You just caught me by surprise.”
His blue eyes looked at me with so much earnest it made my heart squeeze. He pushed up the sleeves of his sweater before his lips fully connected with mine. My hand wrapped around his neck and I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to lose myself in the kiss. Grayson grabbed my shoulder and pulled me closer, deepening the kiss. I delighted in the dull tingling emanating from my fingertips and the warm feeling radiating from my stomach.
The sound of someone clearing her throat sent Grayson jumping far away from me. I opened my eyes and frowned at his beet red face — he was already about 10 feet away from my bed and shuffling back further.
Abbott was looking at both of us with a sour, deep frown on her face. “This is highly inappropriate behavior,” she chastised weakly before bringing me my next rounds of potion.
Grayson mumbled an apology, staring at his shoes while Abbott rolled her eyes in response.
I opened by mouth to say something but Grayson was already shuffling toward the door. “I’ll see you later… on the train… or earlier… or something,” he said before leaving and muttering to himself.
I ignored Abbott's commentary as I took my last round of Potions in the Hospital Wing. I stared at the door Grayson just rushed out through trying to focus on Grayson's kiss, ignoring and pushing down the urge to grab a bright yellow and green sweatshirt I had tucked under my pillow.
A/N: I feel like this is kinda short but I felt like if I didn't cut it off here it would get a little ridiculous. Good news though, next chapter should be up soon - it's already half written!
Let me know what your thoughts are on the current James/Cassie/Grayson craziness?
Also, I'd love to know what people do during winter vacation. I have a few ideas for fun with the Wotters but for some reason, I'm drawing a blank on how I spent my winter breaks!
Thanks for reading :D
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