The Goblin’s Amulet
Chapter 14: A Love Unseen
The sleep Albus was in was so powerful, he stayed asleep for a long time and his near-coma state only made things worst. He did not awaken for a very long time. His near coma state only made the sleep longer though Albus’ dreams did not cease. Eventually, they restarted too. Albus’ dreams, however scattered they were, had clear images too. Mist spreading through slums, Dementors soaring into a village, a wave of cold, a jet of green light, a duel through a row of cubicles… and as dreams, no sense could be made of them.
Though Albus was in a deep sleep, he started tossing and turning. A voice was calling him but he could not answer. The images kept coming in. An image of Hagrid crashing through a forest, wolves clashing with pale-faced figures, white-robed figures charging through a forested terrain, a great speech being made for order… they were like dramatic scenes from a war movie. The voice kept calling him. He tried answering. The voice changed words, “I know you’re trying. Just… wake up.”
Albus’ eyes snapped open, blinking furiously. His vision started coming back, slowly getting used to pictures again. A sigh of relief sounded but he did not see anyone staring over him. For a second, he had forgotten why he was asleep to begin with but when he looked over at Alexis’ bed and saw her sitting up, he remembered.
“Well, well, well, a Christmas miracle,” Scorpius said, leaning against a wall between the two beds.
“Scorpy, we still have two weeks,” Mark yawned from a ways away. “Welcome back, Al. You… gave us all a scare.”
“Off him, Mark,” Alexis muttered from her own bed. “Let him adjust.”
Mark went red as Madam Pomfrey poked her head out of the curtain, “OUT!” she yelled at Mark and Scorpius. “You should’ve left the second he woke up. Out, now! He has immediate recovery to do! Out!”
Albus had enough to take in as he watched Scorpius and Mark leave. Madam Pomfrey fed Albus an immediate Calming Potion to soothe his senses and he felt tired again. He rested his head up on the pillows like Alexis and sighed and Madam Pomfrey straightened up, “Mr. Potter. How are you feeling?”
“Ok, I guess.”
“Are you of clear mind?”
“Yeah, I think so,” Albus said, and considered. “Head hurts a little.” He tried recalling some earliest memories. He still remembered James’ cloth prank on Albus, his first year, his fights with Mark, the Quidditch match and the Jinx. The Jinx. He almost forgot. The jinx and… and Alexis. Alexis had saved his life. “Is my broom”-
“It hasn’t come back yet,” Alexis said simply. “Neither has mine. Being checked for any more Jinxes. Matches were cancelled for the rest of the term though.”
“Did they discover who”-
“They administered Veritaserum on every living soul in Hogwarts School,” Madam Pomfrey said. “Even the most accomplished Wizards at Occlumency were present and no one, no one was convicted. Incredible!” she said more to herself. “This school never gets safer, does it?”
Madam Pomfrey walked away into her office, muttering about lack of safety to students. Soon enough, Albus and Alexis were left alone. Albus knew they had to talk. Since waking up, he felt something between them was missing and he knew she felt it too. For the very first time, she clearly looked uncomfortable around Albus. She kept her eyes on him, steadily and calmly, as always, but in them lacked a certain spark, a certain twinkle he loved.
“This year has been hard on both of us,” Alexis said bluntly. “Don’t let it worry you.”
Albus stared, “You have problems too?” he asked, not sure why this did not come as a shock to him. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Alexis did not give him her usual smile, or even her usual laugh. It was as if this was an entirely different Alexis and the other one, the one he knew had died in the air. She shook her head, sighed and said, “Al… there’re some things not everyone can help with… or I would have helped you a long time ago. Thing is, Al, I know I told you one day, I would need you…”
Albus froze in his breathing, slowly remembering her words the previous year. They hit back painfully, because they were memories of a time when Alexis was Alexis Ackerly, his personal guardian angel, before he came to a hard realization that he could not rely on her forever.
“Al… no more weakness, ok? Or, I’ll hex you. I’m trusting you. You’re stronger than this. You’re better than this. If your best friend can’t understand, get a new one. Because frankly, we’re all growing up. We need support. If Scorpius can’t fill that role, someone else will.”
Albus of course knew everything she meant to imply. His support was her. That much was clear. She was all he had sometimes and at times in the two years he knew her, she was his lifeline. And yet… she never asked for anything in return. And if there was anything he learned about the world, Scorpius, Mark, even best friends, it’s that a reward was expected.
“So, who’s yours then?” Albus asked casually.
She laughed the laugh he loved, nudged him in the shoulder playfully and said, “You, silly. Who else?”
“I am your support?” Albus repeated.
She nodded and said, “And one day… I’ll hold you to that.”
“I know you’re in some kind of bind. I don’t know what… but you have no idea how many people in the school are ready to give their lives for you, and you alone,” Alexis told him quietly. “Scorpius saved your life last match… and Hagrid… oh, Al, Hagrid was blubbering in tears. And since we’ve been asleep, there have been major developments that will only increase the tension. Without a support, Al, you’ll never be happy.”
Imagining Hagrid crying over Albus’ lifeless body hurt Albus. Hearing Alexis talking the way she was hurt him as well. Since he woke up, something between them had snapped and though they were talking easily, she did not fully meet his eyes this time. Not as she always did. No, there was something very different. Like the Jinx had done something to her that neither of them could put their finger on yet.
“My point is… I’m not the only one looking out for you,” Alexis reminded him.
Somehow, Albus understood exactly what she was saying. After two or three dates with her in Hogsmeade and Alexis talking him up, cheering him up, and caring for him like a sister, he knew she was basically saying that if she failed on one area, there were others, namely someone like Scorpius or Hagrid. She was saying nothing more or less than that her help was now obsolete. Yes, something between them had snapped.
“I don’t need looking after,” Albus said lowly. “I can- I can look after myself this time around. It’s not me this time.”
“Oooh, so, you’re being noble, you are looking after another person…”
“It is me?”
“No, it’s not you,” Albus said shortly, unable to go any further.
“Then, what’s your problem?” she asked and she asked it so boldly and hotly, like she was personally upset with him for being more withdrawn with her than before.
Albus caught her retort too and responded as firmly as possible, “Alexis, it’s dangerous, ok. I- look, even if you’re furious with me, if it means your safety, after everything you’ve done for me, I’ll take it!” he said dramatically. “You’ve done enough for me. Don’t ask to do more. Let me help you.”
Albus would have given anything to stop her saying the next words, because they hurt him more than anything anyone could say, “Merlin, that was offensive,” Alexis said quietly, visibly offended at his last comment. “Does- does being friends mean anything to you, Al? Even after all the trouble you had in second year?”
A part of Albus wanted to take it back and beg for her forgiveness. He felt horribly guilty over this after everything she had done for him. However much he owed her; however, he could not risk her safety. Not when it involved Soto. Whatever was bothering her was clearly not as horrible as Soto anyways or she would have been plenty more distraught and withdrawn.
Even with this justification entering his mind, Albus still had to screw his face up against tears over how much it hurt for him to hear that, “Fine,” he said so quietly, she needed to ask for a repeat. “Fine,” he said a little more loudly, voice still cracked over the weight of her words.
Alexis sighed and shook her head. “Good luck, Al.”
He had to be honest. It hurt. It hurt a lot. He was not a fool. He knew exactly what she was saying to him. That without him being open and honest about what was hurting him, she could not do anything about it. That until he could be open, she could not be there. And if he ever chose to tell anyone, he had Hagrid. He knew it hurt but he also knew it was inevitable. He nodded, “I get it. But… I still can’t…”
“Don’t,” Alexis said frankly. “But watch out, Al. Or we’ll both regret it.”
Before Albus could say anything else, the doors burst open and a flurry of people flooded in; James Potter came in first with Lily and Hugo and the threesome were backed by Rose, Scorpius, Walter, Riley, Malcolm, Jennifer, Lorcan, Lysander, Mark, the twins, even Aries V. Kimble, little Laura Creevey, her older brother Colin or as was commonly called Nigel, and a vast array of sweets held by all of them which were subsequently poured onto Albus’ lap.
Alexis was right. She always was. There were people who loved him… and they numbered much more than he thought. Alexis flashed him a quick smile before lying down. He knew she was listening, but her face was turned the other way.
Mark pat him on the back, James gave him a quick grin, even Samuel nodded approvingly, and to Scorpius chagrin, Laura seemed to have eyes all for Albus, but no hug, embrace, kiss, or pats were as heart-wrenching as Lily’s. Albus could feel the worry inside her, the shaking tension building up as she hid her face in his chest. He could feel the sob inside of her, as if Lily had taken his Jinx harder than anyone else. He had words just for her, quietly and mouth barely moving so no one in all the fuss and commotion could hear, “I’m fine, Lils.”
He spoke too weakly to sound convincing but she broke off from him and with great effort, nodded. She was quickly overtaken by other visitors and Hugo took her tightly and protectively by the shoulders. Mark was right, Albus thought. Lily did have protection. Not only were Mark and James looking out for her, but Hugo too and Hugo, Albus knew, cared deeply for Lily and was incredibly protective of her. After Malcolm’s recent yet failed attempts, no doubt Lily was harder to touch than ever.
Albus tried to calm everyone’s worries by assuring them he was fine, awake and strong enough to move (though the latter was a lie.) Seeing them all was warming. Seeing Aries and Mark, for once in perfect unison suggesting different techniques to get his body back from moving, Rose was lecturing him on the dangers of being comatose for over a week (And that did not help Albus when he discovered just how long he had been asleep for,) or James publicly declaring Albus under his personal protection (something Samuel assured him was a great protection indeed,) or even Scorpius and Laura sitting near his bed, their arms on each other’s shoulders but eyes only on Albus.
It was great while it lasted but as expected, Madam Pomfrey opened her curtains, staring angrily and furiously at them all. Albus could feel the screaming coming. After she kicked Scorpius and Mark out mere minutes ago, a horde of students charge in to challenge her rules.
“OOOOUUUUUUUUTTTTTT!” she raged. “DO MY RULES MEAN NOTHING TO YOU? GET OUT AND LET THESE TWO REST!” She shooed them all out, even firing spells at all of them to force the more persistent ones out. Madam Pomfrey shook her head. “Why do you not ask them out yourself?”
“I like the company,” Albus shrugged.
“It jeopardizes your recovery!” she argued. “Having so many in at once.”
“Well, can I stay, then?” a familiar voice went from behind Albus’ bed. Albus widened his eyes. He thought the one to stay would be Mark or Scorpius, or probably rule-breaking James but it was Hugo. It appeared he ducked down during Madam Pomfrey’s tirade. “I’m his cousin and I’ll be very quiet. I just need to talk to him for a bit.”
There was a tense moment where Madam Pomfrey’s eyes pierced through Hugo’s. She regarded him warily before finally ceding, “Very well. Fifteen minutes.”
Hugo started with a note, “From Uncle Harry and dad. Just a quick get-well note, I think. Didn’t read it.”
Albus read it but they might as well have said ‘you’re dead’ than ‘get well.’ It read Brace yourself, Al. The worst has not yet come.
“How long was I asleep for?” Albus asked.
Hugo sighed and sat down beside the bed. “Erm… two weeks, I think. Madam Pomfrey had to inject protein in to keep you alive. We nearly transferred you to St. Mungo’s if you can believe it. Her too,” he added, motioning his head to Alexis. “But she woke up two days ago.”
Two weeks. It was already December. The holidays were almost upon them. “How’s Lily?” Albus asked quietly. Alexis was sound asleep now, full face covered as if fully comfortable in bed. Still, he did not want to wake her.
“Not good at all,” Hugo said frankly, face screwed up. “She’s feeling it. We took care of Malcolm now, but… well, I’ll be happier when we’re home for the holidays. She’s terrified and she got all broken up when…” he bit his lip against an outburst and instead yelled, “why’d you have to get Jinxed, huh?”
“Sorry, cuz,” Albus said sheepishly.
“You have to take care of her, Al,” Hugo said bluntly, eyes watering. “I’m trusting you. I can only sleep half the night because I know James and Mark are on her too. I need you.”
“She won’t leave my sight, I promise,” Albus swore.
Hugo seemed a little calmer but still a little troubled, “James is weak now. Someone stole his map.”
Albus knew that if he told Hugo the truth, the secret was safe with him. He had a sly grin on his face as he looked Hugo straight in the eye, as if to say I am totally in control of the situation. “I have it. I nicked it before the match.”
Watching Hugo’s face light up with relief and joy was heartwarming. “You… Oh, Merlin’s beard. That’s a relief. It’s actually better off with you. Al, can you just… tell me where Lily goes when she’s not with me? So, I’ll know. Please?”
“Can you promise me something?” Albus asked bluntly as he lay back down. “Don’t let her go without you.”
“Promise, scout’s honor,” Hugo said confidently.
The door opened a fraction and in walked Rose, Hugo’s sister and Albus’ cousin. “Did Hugo stay- oh, Hugo, honestly. Leave Al alone and get out.”
“Madam Pomfrey said I could stay,” Hugo said defiantly, arms crossed. “You get out.”
Rose widened her eyes as Albus nodded guiltily but made a look to suggest he may talk to her when he was out. Rose, dejected left them in the room and Hugo sighed in relief. Albus turned back to him. “Now, what happened while I was asleep?” Albus asked, changing subject.
That was when Albus saw it again. The indication that something big had gone down as he had slept. Hugo sighed and took out of his bag, as if anticipating this question, articles cut from the Daily Prophet and lay them on Albus’ bed, an unmistakable smile on his face.
Hugo, though young and not yet a teenager, was an introvert and as such, he knew things. He heard things he kept to himself. And somehow, this time he was the best person to ask for updates. Mark would have given it dramatically as he built it to a tragic conclusion, Scorpius would have given it in a biased version, but Hugo came out with the truth, as printed starting with what Albus wanted to know, the conclusion.
“For one thing, we’re winning…”