The beginning of December rolled around and everyone was still avoiding me like the plague. Arya’s pissed, because of what happened between me and JT and Persephone took her side. Arya has always had it out for me anyway. Artemis won’t allow JT to speak to me. Troy hates me. Albus is obsessing over Aisling. The Dons are all avoiding me.

I haven’t been this alone since both of my siblings left me to go Hogwarts. I walked into Potions and the people already in class turned their heads to look at me. My heart stuttered as I saw Persephone and Arya had allowed Lennon Luck to fill my usual seat between them. Persephone gave me a pitying look as I approached and she mouthed, ‘Sorry.’ She tilted her head indicating a seat across the aisle from her. I narrowed my eyes at Lennon, placing my hands on her desk.

“Excuse you,” the younger Luck sister replied.

“You’re in my seat.” I growled.

Lennon leaned back in her chair, crossing her arms over her full chest. “Sorry, but I’m sitting here.”

“Right—” I smiled at her. “And that’s the problem. Move your fat ass,” I snarled, dropping my tone so no one would hear.

She tilted her head. “Why don’t you make me?” She laughed in an airy tone like if her boss had told a joke that wasn’t funny, but she wanted a raise. Arya snickered with her while Persephone glared at them.

“And stay away from my brother while you’re at it.” Arya smiled at me, but I could hear the threat underneath her honeyed tone.

“Why don’t you let JT tell me that himself? You might not think so, but what happens between me and your brother has nothing to do with you. Stop putting yourself in other people’s business. But I know your life is sad and lonely, so I’ll try not to hold it against you.” The rebuttal silenced her. Arya ducked her head, avoiding my gaze.

I just leaned closer to Lennon and placed my lips as close to her ear as I could. “I know that you made the video. I can see what you’re trying to do. And all I have to say to you is, watch your fucking back. I will enjoy tearing you to pieces,” I whispered in my most menacing tone. A tone reserved for my enemies and slow food industry workers.

I leaned back and walked away taking a seat in the back of the room beside a blonde girl in Gryffindor robes. She looked up at me, startled. Her platinum blonde hair looked unbrushed and her face was free of make-up.

“What?” I snapped.

She then shrugged. “Sorry, I jumped. It’s just no one ever sits by me. I don’t want them to.” She then looked back at her book, doodling in the margins.

I blinked in surprise. “Oh well, sorry. My seat was stolen.” I glared at the back of Lennon’s head. “I’m Maxima by the way.”

“I know who you are,” she replied and continued to doodle. I noticed it was a picture of a group of girls sitting around talking. “I guess it doesn’t matter, you won’t be here long anyway.” She shrugged. I looked at her in anger. This little nobody bitch thinks she can talk to me like this.

“Miss Brankovitch?” Professor Baddock called. I looked up. “You’re needed in the Headmaster’s Office.” He motioned for me to go. I stared at the girl, but she didn’t look up. How did she know that I was getting called to the office? I nodded and got to my feet. Only Godric knows what this is going to be about.

I didn’t want to fucking go. I didn’t want to go to St. Mungo’s, but here I am. At least it was better than Hogwarts. My feet carried me down the halls of their own accord. The Healer in front of me stopped and turned to me. She smiled and gave my arm a gentle pat.

“This is her room, poppet. Your family is already inside,” she told me before disappearing. I saw my dad’s security guard sitting a few feet away. He was reading the latest Daily Prophet, but looked up and saw me.

“Max, what happened to your face?” He asked in a worried tone. His American accent was strange to my ears after all this time with Brits. He started to get up, but I waved my hand.

“It’s nothing. How’s Dad been?” I asked prying the words from my throat. I’d almost forgotten about the black eye and split lip Weasel had given me. After the initial shock, everyone at school just ignored them.

He nodded. “He’s doing well. No episodes since you called me,” he reassured me. He stood up and patted me on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Maxima. I’ve been looking after him.” His green eyes were so reassuring it reminded me of being a little kid again. Wilkes had been more of a father to me than anyone. Not that I’d ever admit it. Especially to him.

“Thanks,” I replied, brushing his hand away. I ignored his hurt expression as his phone rang, and he took it from his pocket.

“Wilkes Ackerman,” he said as he walked away from me down the hall. I looked at his retreating back then at the door to my grandmother’s room. I didn’t want to go in there. If I went in, it was admitting defeat. It was admitting that my grandmother is going to die in this hell hole.

The door swung open before I reached for the knob. I blinked in surprise to see my sister standing before me. I hadn’t seen her since she ran off to be a Curse Breaker after her Hogwarts graduation. I’ve been protecting myself for eight years without so much as a letter from her. Her dirty blonde hair was in a funky up-do and she wore a vomit-inducing bohemian outfit.

“MB,” she whispered and wrapped me up in a hug. “Honey, what happened to your eye and your lip?” I didn’t respond or hug her back, just stood still staring at the wall. She pulled away, frowning at me. “C’mon Max, don’t be like this. I’ve missed you.” She narrowed familiar green eyes at me. I hated how similar we were excluding for our hair. We may look alike, but I wasn’t a coward like her.

“Funny way of showing it.” I snapped. “Where’s Hadrian?” I looked past her. My older brother may have been strung out on drugs and neck-deep in gambling debts my entire childhood, but at least he was there. He was with me in the trenches known as Briar Mount Estate.

She shook her head. “The Trinity workers made him go back about an hour ago.” I scowled even further. I had forgotten Hadrian had been checked back into the Trinity Rehabilitation Program. Mom found cocaine in his jacket pocket at a dinner party and shipped him off again. I crossed my arms across my chest. I wished I hadn’t come.

“Gigi?” Mom called from inside. “Is that Maxima?”

“Yes,” she replied and turned on her heel. She walked back inside. I dragged myself after her and took my time shutting the door behind me.

I turned back to see my family minus Hadrian sitting in the room. Gigi was leaning against the wall looking uncomfortable. Mom was standing by the foot of G-Ma’s bed. Her hair must’ve been recently highlighted, it looked more blonde than usual. She didn’t seem drunk, so that was a step in the right direction. Dad was standing motionless beside G-Ma’s bed. His eyes were fixated on her sleeping face. He looked exhausted and he had to have lost over twenty pounds since I last saw him. He must have had an episode recently. He often got so worked up that he stopped eating, because he thought people were trying poison him.

M3 was sitting in the chair by G-Ma’s bed and the expression on his face knocked the breath out of me. He looked so utterly defeated like he was already a dead man walking. I tore my eyes away from him, but my gaze fell on G-Ma’s arms or the absence of them. I almost choked. She couldn’t hug me again. Or play tennis again. Or golf. Or ride horses with me. She was about to leave forever. Just another person leaving me behind.

“I’m s-sorry,” I stuttered. “I-I can’t do this.” I turned on my heel and ran out of the room. I heard Wilkes’ voice calling after me. And then Gigi. I ignored them both and just kept running. I ran through the halls not caring where I ended up. I just ran until I couldn’t anymore before I stopped. I was panting and sobbing. I’m sure looked ridiculous.

“Maxima?” I heard an incredulous, but familiar voice. My shoulders sank in defeat. I was so fucking tired. Tired of appearances. Tired of people. Tired of pretending I didn’t give a shit. I just wanted to be left alone to wallow in self-pity for once. I turned around anyway plastering a smile on my face.

I tilted my head. “Albus?” I questioned. Albus Potter was standing before me at the door to the therapists’ offices. “What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same thing,” he drifted off probably taking in my puffy eyes plus my still blackened eye and split lip. They mirrored his own bruised face.

“I was visiting my grandmother.” It felt like someone else was talking instead of me. I blinked and said, “It’s worse.”

He flinched at my words. “Godric, Maxima. I’m so sorry. I didn’t know.”

I shrugged in response and asked, “So, what about you?”

He startled. “I uh was uh shadowing a Healer.”

I raised an eyebrow at him. “You’re a shit liar,” I told him. “And I wouldn’t have called you out on it normally, but right now, you’ve caught me in an unexpected mood.” I looked at him and the expression on his face was one I didn’t expect. He smiled at me.

“Finally,” he said. “You’re being real with me. You’re being yourself. I thought I’d never see the real you honestly.”

I blinked. “What?”

“Max, I’m not an idiot. Just because I’ve been into you for years doesn’t mean I’ve been blind to everything you’ve done. I know what a bitch you are, but I know that someone made you that way. I was just waiting for you to open up to me. To be honest with me.” He smiled again and something that I’d repressed for so long stirred. I didn’t even recognize the feeling. “I can see that you’ve been hurting…for a really long time.”

“It’s just so…” The words felt painful. “H-hard to be nice. When bad things are going to happen anyway,” I confessed, the syllables felt like swallowing cotton balls. “I try to control them, to crush them, but they ha-happen any-wa-way.” I pressed my lips into a thin line, biting down so hard I soon tasted the rust and salt of my blood as tears clawed their way to my corneas. I hated crying. It felt like a betrayal to cry. Like defeat. I felt something move my hand and looked down.

Albus slid his fingers through mine and intertwined them. He gave my hand a gentle squeeze. He didn’t let go of my hand. It felt like he was an anchor, making sure I didn’t blow away into oblivion. Making sure the storm raging inside didn’t sink me. He looked down at me with a sad expression.

“What?” My voice rasped. I didn’t want his sympathy. I didn’t need sympathy.

“You know,” he began and his thumb stroked the skin of the back of my hand, “it’s okay.”

I looked at him in confusion. “What’s okay?”

“To be hurt. To be upset. To be screwed up.” His tone was dangerously revealing. “It’s okay to look in the mirror and not like what you see. It’s okay to be angry and scared and sad and not know why. Or to know why. It’s okay to think that there’s nothing left here. Nothing better. That there’s no reason to fight or care or live.” My mind stuttered for a second. Just how depressed was Albus Potter? “Because I’ll be here to tell you that you’re wrong.” His eyes were so bright. An earthy familiar green like freshly mowed grass, but so alive and vibrant as if a whole spectrum of color lived in his corneas. “You’re so wrong, Max.” He brushed the hair behind my ear.

My whole body went rapt with attention. There was a humming in my ears that I’ve never heard before. It was like everything else went silent.

“I’m not an idiot. I could always see through your act.” He chuckled and leaned close to my face. “I know who you are. But you know what?” He paused and I held my breath. The hallway so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I wanted to scream the word ‘what’ at the top of my lungs. “I’m not fucking scared of you,” he whispered in my ear.

I shivered all over, but when I looked up Albus was looking at me. He didn’t look away or through me like everyone else. I just stared up at him in shock.

“I’m not scared of you, Max. Because I know what it’s like to pretend that everything’s fine and you’re in control, but I’m here to tell you, it’s not worth it. Godric, it’s not fucking worth it. Don’t let it consume you.” His eyes were full of warning. “I want you to know that it’s okay not to be okay and that there’s someone here who sees you and cares about you.” He squeezed my hand once more before letting it drop. “Don’t be afraid to come talk to me. I’m here for you, if you want.” He gave me a gentle smile. “See you back at Hogwarts.” And with that, he turned on his heel and started down the hallway.

I stared after him for a long time. Holy fuck. Albus Potter just said everything I’d ever wanted Troy or JT or any boy to say. I’ve never had someone see both sides of me and not freak out. I ached all over like I’d just run a marathon.

“Wait! Albus,” I called and raced after him. I grabbed his hand and pulled him to a stop.

“What is it?” He asked and I wondered myself. What was it about Albus Potter that I couldn’t get him out of my head? Couldn’t bear for him to walk away from me?

“I just…” I drifted off and looked up at him. I threw my arms around him and kissed him. Kissed him like I’d never kissed anyone else. It was all-consuming. Like a portal to another world had opened up.

When our lips parted, Albus looked at me wide-eyed. “Max,” his voice was shaky and breathless. Just that one word made my heart thrum.

“MB!” My sister’s voice came from behind me. “Where the hell do you get off running away like that? Now Dad’s in an absolute panic talking about the people listening in the ceil—” She barely looked winded, but her up-do was falling now onto the tops of her bare shoulders. “Oh hello, you’re one of Teddy’s little brothers, right?” She looked at Albus.

“Yeah,” he replied. “I’m Albus Potter.” He looked at me in confusion.

“This is my older sister,” I told him through gritted teeth. “Gigi Brankovitch.” I then glared at her. “Who I’m not talking to, because she has no right to even address me at this point.” I snarled.

“Max, you can’t still be mad at me for graduating.” She sighed.

“I’m not mad at you for graduating,” I snapped. “I can’t believe you don’t see anything wrong with what you did.”

She rolled her eyes. “You know what, I’m just gonna go back to G-Ma since you won’t even be mature about this.” She turned on her heel and strode away.

“Fine! Go ahead and leave that’s all you’re good at anyway!” I screamed after her. Gigi shot me a glare over her shoulder. I scoffed, but the minute she was gone it was like the puppeteer cut my strings. I sat down with my back against the hospital wall and buried my face in my knees.

“How do you do that?” Albus asked as he sat down beside me.

I looked up at him with tired eyes. “Do what?”

“You know, be two completely different people. Cut that switch on and off like it’s just putting on a mask.”

I shrugged. “Practice.”

“Well, I like it when I’m talking to just you,” he replied. “And I’d like to do it more often.”

I looked up at him and managed to muster up a smile. “I’d like that too.”

Author's Note: Hi! I bet you thought I dropped off the face of the earth... Tbh I did. I have been way too busy recently! But anyways I decided to post this chapter even though I wasn't completely satisfied with it. Something about it just bugs me, I don't really know. I rewrote it a few times, but nothing really helped, so I really want y'all's opinion this time! Did you like Maxima in this chapter or not? How did you like Albus? Was his confession a little too over the top or just what Maxima should hear? What did you think of Persephone staying kind of loyal to Maxima? I really love hearing from you guys and it gives me so much motivation to write, so thank you so much to those of you who review! It means more to me than you'll ever know! Sorry this note is super short, but I'm tired and running low on time! But thank you so much for reading! I hope you enjoyed it!

Face Claims:
Wilkes Ackerman is portrayed by Jeffery Dean Morgan
Gigi Brankovitch is portrayed by Hilarie Burton

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