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Coming Back a Swan by Ginny_RED_Potter

Format: Novel
Chapters: 19
Word Count: 80,599
Status: WIP

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Strong Language, Scenes of a Mild Sexual Nature, Sensitive Topic/Issue/Theme

Genres: Drama, Humor, Romance
Characters: Teddy, Scorpius, Albus, James (II), Lily (II), Hugo, Rose, Victoire, OC, OtherCanon
Pairings: James/OC, Teddy/Victoire, Lily/OC, OC/OC, Other Pairing

First Published: 02/10/2008
Last Chapter: 05/19/2012
Last Updated: 05/19/2012

Summary:
 *Flawless banner thanks to Lyzettyne at TDA! - Banner line thanks to Bookwyrm!*






Alexa Swan had escaped hell, also known as Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. And she never looked back. Three years later, the world is at her feet. She's got beauty, brains, the lust of every boy around and the best friends in the world. But when her sister needs her- her father decides it's time to face her fears.


Chapter 1: Unfortunate Beginnings
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*Disclaimer:  I'm not J.K. If I was, I'd probably write on this anyway just to see if anyone could figure it out, but alas, I'm not. I doubt I have to tell all of you that.*




Fear is that little darkroom where negatives are developed.


~Michael Pritchard 



~

I, Alexa Diabolique Swan, am a wierdo.

First of all, my middle name is Diabolique. Do you know what Diabolique means in French?

Satanic.

Yep you read that right. The official English translation is diabolic. As in devilish or satanic.

That is what my mother named me! Who puts satanic in their kids name? Honestly! What the hell is that?

But for the first few years I wasn't upset by this little detail because I didn't really care enough to think about it.  Seriously. Even though I have known French my whole life. Even before I knew English. But I never really thought about my middle name. It never phased me.

And then I turned eleven and it all just got worse.Worse, even, than having your middle name mean satanic. 

 But first I should start at the beginning.

I started out pretty normal. Or as normal as a half-blooded witch can be, I suppose. I got a taste of life from both perspectives. The magic and the non-magic. My dad was a muggle but my mother was a pureblooded, born and raised, witch. Her mother was from Paris, France and her father was born here. In this very house. In this small rainy village an hour away from all of London's choas.

I went to muggle school until I was eleven because I could always control my magic. More so than other witches my age. It drove my big brother mad because I was already better at magic than he was. I never knew why but I went with it. I made muggle friends and managed to keep my secret at the same time.

Everything was great. Until that morning. The morning my luck changed. The morning an owl swooped in and gave me a letter with a fancy H on it.

At first I was ecstatic. Thrilled, in fact.

My older brother, Michael had gotten his letter the summer before. I'd watched him buy his school supplies, I watched him get fitted for his robes and then when the day came I watched him ride off in that scarlett train. 

His letters came less and less as the year went on and my yearning to hear more about the amazing castle my brother now inhabited only grew.

That's when I found my first love.

Books.

I went to Flourish & Blotts and devoured every book I could get my hands on. I read about it all. Every spell, every teacher, and every one of the extrodinary features Hogwarts posessed.

Finally, the day came.

A week later I was buying supplies. Then I was getting fitted for school robes. I met a girl while I was there too.

..... "Just stand on that stool honey and I'll be with you in a moment."

I did as I was told. Clumsily climbing onto the stool and struggling to get upright. On the stool next to me was a girl with honey brown hair and pretty green eyes with gold flecks. She looked about my age.

"Hi," I said breathlessly.

She smiled at me. "Hi"

"I'm Alexa." I told her.

"I'm Alice."

We shook hands and then began to talk about Hogwarts. The houses, the rumors, the ghosts and how excited we were to be going there soon. She had an older brother too. One of Michael's mates. And he'd told her the same lies as Michael had tried to tell me. But I'd read so much about Hogwarts I could usually sort out the truth. And Alice's dad, I learned, was the Herbology teacher there.

I walked out of the shop feeling optimistic. This year was going to be absolutly amazing.....


I thought that every night before the actually day. I thought that all day. My daydreams were almost ridiculous at times. All of them revolving around the brilliance of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and the adventures I'd find there. I thought all these wonderful things about the glorious, exciting place, until I actually got there.


..... "Firs' years! Firs' years!"

I looked around to see a huge man calling all of us over. He was so big. Huge, in fact. I was terrified.

Alice, who I'd found and sat with on the train, pulled me by the elbow towards him. As we reached him, I tripped onto the wet stones. Soaking wet, I scrambled back to my feet.

Several of my new classmates were laughing at me.

I felt my cheeks get warm. It was not uncommon. The blushing following the ever embarassing falls. I should be used to it. But I wasn't. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes and I rushed to keep them from falling.

"Alrigh' you lot," the large man said, "Calm down."

We did as we were told. And he began to lead us to the castle. No wait, he was leading us to the
lake. Gah. Water did not agree with me.


My boat flipped. And it had been my fault of course.

What else was new? My balance problems always got me in trouble.

A redhead, a pretty girl with carmel colored skin and a blonde, who had shared the boat with Alice and I, glared in my direction. I'd already made enemies. Not a good sign.

So far, I was wet, laughed at and glared at. If it had been any other day I'd have been very depressed. But seeing as I was going to be sorted, I was too excited to be too upset. Though embarassment trickled through my blood stream like snake's venom.

On the train I'd found out more about all four of the houses.

I knew the most about Gryffindor. Because it seemed to be the most sought after and my brother had been sorted in there last year. But I was fascinated by my mother's old house. Ravenclaw.

The house of wit and cleverness.

I wanted to be in Ravenclaw so bad I could taste it.

I already imagined myself in Ravenclaw colors and Quidditch robes giving my big brother (who'd tried out his second year and become a chaser) a run for his money. Winning the house cup. Making prefect and Head Girl. It was ridiculous. But as we entered the hall and approached the hat, I had a flash of myself sitting amongst the Raveclaws, happily eating and chatting with all of my smart new friends.

I watched as on by one my fellow first years were sorted. It was agonizing. The long wait. The burning anticipation, like acid in my stomach.

"....Covington, Elisa."

"HUFFLEPUFF!"

"...Curry, Alexandra."

"RAVENCLAW!"

My stomach lurched with longing as the girl grinned and scurried over to her new table. I wanted it bad. So bad.

Soon we'd reached the E's.

"...Ebbs, Georgiana."

"SLYTHERINS!"

The worst house. I shuddered involentarily.

"...Echols, Elaine."

"RAVENCLAW!"

My heart jumped back into my throat as the girl went to join 'Curry, Alexandra'.

"... Finnigan, Patrick."

One of the boys who'd laughed at me stepped forward and went to sit on the stool. I glared at him, surprised that my look wasn't burning off his strawberry blond hair and freckles.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

"...Frenzel, Duncan."

Another one who'd laughed at me.

"RAVENCLAW!"

I groaned.

"... Greengrass, Evera."

"SLYTHERIN!"

"... Harrington, Bree."

"RAVENCLAW!"

Another flip of my stomach. The suspense was killing me.

"...Kamp, Jennifer."

"HUFFELPUFF!"

"...Kane, Lila."

"RAVENCLAW!"

Before I was ready they were calling, "... Longbottom, Alice."

Alice left my side and stumbled up to the stool where- after a quick glance at her father- she sat shakily.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

My heart sank as Alice went over to sit next to, 'Finnigan, Patrick'.

After alice I'd stopped listening for a time. When I tuned back in they had just sorted the last of the N's an had moved on industriusly to the P's.

".... Parkingson, Freesia."

"SLYTHERIN!"

"...Potter, James."

The hall grew silent at first and then broke out in whispers as a boy I recognized- to my absolute horror- as the boy who'd laughed the loudest when I'd fallen stepped forward.
He is a Potter? The boy who I already loathed because of his malicious cackling was the oldest son of the Harry Potter? I shuddered. Obvilously nobility didn't run in the family tree. Maybe it skipped a generation.

The hall grew quiet as the hat deliberated for a moment. They were all holding their breath. Waiting to hear what house would get the first of the famous Potter children. I prayed that it wasn't Ravenclaw.

"GRYFFINDOR!"

I sighed with relief as the Gryffindor table errupted with cheers and applause and the evil boy who'd laughed at me skipped happily over to his new table to sit next to Alice.

When we got to the R's the blonde who'd been glowering at me earlier went up. Her name, I learned was, 'Rosier, Celia'. Ugh, even her name sounded snotty. She would definitely not be one of my friends. I was pretty secure in that fact. Because, judging from the seething looks I'd been getting I had more chance at becoming friends with James Potter. And I was also just as secure in saying that I, Alexa Swan would never become friends with James Potter.

At long last, they reached the S's. "....Sadden....Sutton....Sullen...Stalt."

Then finally, "Swan, Alexa."

I stumbled on my way to the hat and sat down. Then it all went dark.

"
Hmmmmm....." a voice in my ear said and after a second I realized it was the hat, "Heart set on Ravenclaw, have you?..... yes, yes..... you certainly are clever enough.... hmmmm.... very difficult.....so much wit but so much nerve...hmmm..... bravery... you've got quite alot you know..... hmmm.... Well. I'm afraid you might not like this very much but I feel you'd go best in..."

And then- to my absolute horror- he yelled, "GRYFFINDOR!".....


It only got worse as the days went by.

I had three friends total by the end of my first year. Dominique Weasley- who may or may not count because she's nice to almost everyone she meets, Alice, of course, and Roxanne Weasley

Roxy had hated me for half of the year because of the boat incident- she was the redhead- and then, very slowly, she warmed up. But before that she'd been an absolute horror. Everytime she came near me she'd jinx me. But I could never prove a thing so she never got in trouble for it.

The rest of the school pretty much saw me as an on going joke. My awful mousy brown hair and flat gray eyes that hid under my bulky glasses. And my clumsiness didn't help at all. I was uncordinated and unfortunate looking to say the least. And that made me an easy target.

Unfortunatley, Roxy, before she became my friend, had run her mouth off to her dear old cousin James about her methods of tortuing me and he of course, adapted them to fit his own torturing styles.

This pretty much garenteed that I spent at least an hour of time total on my knees holding in tears and gathering up my scattered books as people stepped on them and occasionally on my hands too. Meaning that I also spent quite a bit of time with Madam Pomfrey while she healed my bleeding hands. You may say that they didn't know they were stepping on me - that it was an accident- but believe me, they knew. All of them knew. They did it on purpose. Which is why it was so awful.

I was made fun of. A lot. By everyone but Alice, Dominique and Roxy. I was called so many names I lost count of them all. Everyday at Hogwarts for me was dismal. I was miserable. The only time I ever got a break was when my brother or one of his three best friends (Emmett Haze, Frank Longbottom II and Bryan Finnigan) would come to my rescue. Because first- I was very close to my big brother and second- my brother and his friends were loved by everyone and no one wanted to get on their bad side.

But I was still depressed. And the tenor of my letters alerted my mother.

When I came home for the summer I could see how worried she was. Worried about the purple shadows under my eyes and how weak I looked. She was worried that I barely talked anymore and that my skin was sallow. I looked sickly and even thinner than I'd been before I'd left and I was always hunched over as if I was anticipating a slap. Which I was at some points. I winced alot- especially if someone shouted- and I stopped listening to music like I had my entire life.

Singing, before I'd gone to Hogwarts, had been a passion of mine. I loved it more than books even. And I was good. Really good. But I'd stopped. I couldn't find any strength or reason to sing anymore.

And my mother watched all of this. She watched how my disposition had changed. How I'd gone from bubbly and talkative to skittish and tacitile. And even though I knew she was watching I couldn't fake it. I couldn't get the energy to pretend to be happy for her sake. I tried but I couldn't. Michael didn't help by telling me that I was a terrible actress either. So, as the summer months withered all too quickly, she continued to watch me. Much closer than she watched Michael or our little sister, Saundra. And it was annoying.

My second year was almost worse. Any hope I'd had of it being any better was squashed the minute I had human contact.

...."Ouch!"

My suitcase had fallen on top of me. What else was new?

I heard laughter and turned my head to see the smoldering hazel eyes that I'd come to loathe so deeply.

"Jeez, crow. You get more and more uncordinated everyday." James Potter was standing in the doorway with a familiar sneer on his face. Then to his friends I heard him say, "What a freak." This was followed by an uproar from his little posse. They all thought he was hilarious.
I thought he needed new material.

All last year he'd made jokes about my last name,
'The crow that called herself a Swan' that sort of thing, and about the reason I needed the ugly glasses and about my clumsy and awkwardness. He was as bad as the Slytherins. Particularly, Clarissa Zambini and Celia Rosier, along with their posse of religious followers. They had also decided to make my life a living hell as well and it soon became one of their favorite pass times.

As I pushed my suitcase off of me I heard a familiar snicker.
Think of Satan's evil spawn and she shall appear, I thought acidly.

"Honestly, mudbloods." Clarissa shook her head at me, "You're all hideous and thick." Behind her Celia cackled at this and then with one more sneer they were gone.

I sighed. I suppose it didn't matter that I was a half-blood. I shook my head and attempted to push my suitcase back up into place, futily.

It was going to be another one of those years.... 

Third year was no better. My classmates kept taunting me and this year they had finally gotten some new material because my little sister was entering her first year and capturing the hearts of everyone. With her pretty green eyes and her silky blonde hair, I'd expected this. And I was happy for Saundra.

I really was. Happy that her expierience was better than mine. But her presence just made things even worse for me.

People constantly compared me to my siblings. Every time I stood next them I saw the looks of those around us and couldn't help but cringe. My sister was gorgeous and blonde and bubbly. The air around her sparkled. And my brother had the electric charisma too. He was tall and muscular and handsome with dark hair and blazing sapphire eyes.

Next to them I looked deformed.

With my triangle shaped hair, big glasses that were constantly sliding down my nose, my practically albino skin and my awkwardness. I looked nothing like my beautiful siblings with all their dazzling personality and charm.

I could practically hear everyone thinking, What happened? 
The only upside of my third year was the occasional Hogsmeade visit. And even those had a way of going wrong for me.

I cried whenever I had a moment where I was completely alone. And buried myself in books any other time.

At least I was smart. I could do spells in my third year that most seventh years had trouble with. That was the only thing I had going for me and I held on to it like a life jacket.But it just gave everyone else another thing to mock me for. 
And then, at the end of November, an idea graced me with it's presence.



.... "Please, Allie?" my sister begged. She only used the affectionate family nickname for me to make her pleas sound more innocent. But I, Alexa Diabolique Swan, was not- nor would I ever be a cheater. I refused.

I told her this just as Professor Flitwick was walking by so she had to switch to French.

"
S' il te plait, Allie ? Je n'ai besoin que tu m'ecris une dissertation/ redaction et  apres ca je ne te demanderai encore jamais."

"No." "Brigitte would do it for me." she muttered. Adopting a heartbreaking pout and crossing her arms.

I'd been thinking about how much I wanted to get out of Hogwarts as she said this and something inside my head seemed to click. At the mention of my favorite cousin it all came together in my head. It was almost audible, the click inside my head.

I had a way out.

There was a way to escape this hell after all. And things were beginning to look up for me at the thought.....


So when Christmas rolled around, I had everything figured out. I'd thought it all out. Every single thing was done on my part. All that was left to do was convince my parents.

And that proved to be the toughest part.

Not really convincing my mother. She was all for it. She just wanted to see me happy again. 

 Convincing my father. Now that part was tricky.

He believed in seeing things through. Facing your fears rather than running from them. I, however, didn't share that philosophy.

My mother liked my idea. My Grandmere was thrilled with it. But my father and Grandad, they were stubbornly set on me staying at Hogwarts. No matter how much I begged.

But I was stubborn too. And I had and advantage. Cleverness.



.... "Allie?"

I looked up. My eyes were bloodshot, my nose had turned into a faucet and my face was paler than normal.

"M-Mi-Michael," I wiped my eyes quickly, as if I was mortified, even managing to blush. I channeled ever ounce of frustration and misery I'd built up over the past few years. Channeled all of it to my tear ducts.

I could see the torment and worry on my big brother's face immediately. I didn't like worrying him like this. But it was nessecary.

"Allie, what's wrong?" he knelt beside me, his voice anxious. 

My brilliant plan was working like a charm but it hurt to make my brother unhappy.

"N-Na-Nothing." I managed to wail.

"Don't give me that, Al. It's insulting. Somethings wrong, I know it. Tell me." He demanded. I really loved my big brother.

"I- I- It's j-ju-just..." I sobbed for dramatic effect and through my tears said, "E-Everything!"

My brother grimaced in pain. He didn't like seeing me this unhappy. Which was exactly my reason for letting him. If he saw how unhappy I was, my plan would work and, eventually, I'd be happy. It was a win-win.

"Anything I can do?" he whispered, putting a comforting arm around me. This is why I truly love my brother above any other human being alive. He's the best, sweetest, most caring older brother a girl could ask for. I felt a sharp pang of guilt for decieving him this way.
Technically you aren't lying, I reasoned with my self, you are unhappy. You're just letting him see just how unhappy you've been. I felt wicked. I felt the mostungrateful, wicked little sister ever born for doing this to my brother just so I could leave here and never have to see this stupid castle again.

I sobbed into his shoulder for a moment. Ruining his shirt, staining it with snot and salt water tears. I felt another pang of guilt. It bit into my chest like a vicous viper, tearing me up.

"N-No," I managed. I tried to keep thinking about my goal. I tried not to think about what I was doing to get there. It turns out I'm pretty good at repressing things when I really want to.

I managed to keep my inner eye on the prize. Smothering the guilt and self-hatred I felt at the moment.

Then I sat up and wiped my eyes. I pretended to force myself to take a few deep, calming breaths.

Then I told him, "I just
hate this place!"  Not a lie. " I need to get away from it. Far, far away." I pretended to be frustrated. "But dad's just so- s-so s-stu-stubborn!" I collapsed into another fit of tears.

"I know," his voice was soothing,he hugged me to him and rubbed calming circles on my back, "I know Allie. It's gonna be okay. It will. I promise."

I buried my face back into his shoulder so he couldn't see my smile. My guilt was strong but my victory was stronger.

Who said I couldn't act? .....
 

The next week I got a letter from my frantic mother.
 
My protective big brother had done just what I'd expected him to. He'd written a long scathing letter to my parents. My father, actually.

And my mother had reacted as I knew she would, too. 

She overruled my father and owled my Grandmere in Paris to ask her to contact her best friend, Madame Olympe Maxime. 

The highly esteemed headmistress of Académie de Magie Beauxbâtons.
***



( Hey All! 

          I know that I should NOT be starting another one and I wasn't planning on posting another story until my others were done but for some reason this one just wouldn't rest until it was posted. I have many others that have been patiently waiting but this one butted in line.  This means updates might be a bit slower so please bear with me and thanks for reading my story (stories)! 

           Don't forget to REVIEW! Tell me if I should keep going with this one.
                              RED)


Chapter 2: New Beginnings
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Chapter 2~ New Beginnings 

A pigeon is the same thing as a dove. Did you know that?

~Bridget Vreeland, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, By Ann Brashares 

~


Summer came and my family and I went to visit our relatives in France. We stayed in the house my Grandmere had inherited-that was only ever used in the summer when we all came down- like always. It was just outside of Paris and the high ceilings and windows allowed the inhabitants to gaze upon all the wonders around them.




.... "Bee!" 

"Allie!" 

I ran at my cousin and hugged her as tight as I could without crushing her. Of all of my cousins, Brigitte was my favorite. 

She was just as gorgeous as my siblings, with her mahogany hair, the same brilliant baby blues as Michael and the same exquisite bone structure as Saundra. But Brigitte wore her beauty differently than Saundra. Because Bee truly didn't care what she looked like. 

Which was another reason she attracted everyone. 

"Ah! It's so great to see you! You've got no idea!" 

"Well get used to it 'cause from what I hear we'll be dorm mates come September!" 

I blushed but grinned just the same. 

"Uah! When mum told me you were trying to get your parents to let you switch to Beauxbâtons I was so happy!" she chattered. Bee could talk very fast at times. Even though she spoke French at school she always spoke English in the summer and she didn't even have a French accent. "And then I heard that Grandad and Oncle Edward both said no. I was so disappointed but I knew if you really wanted it you'd find a way and you did!" her voice got high and she threw her arms back around my neck and hugged me tight. "I'm so excited!" 

"Me too!" 

I saw my sister frown. She wasn't happy that I was leaving. But I couldn't worry about it. Saundra would adjust. She always did.....
 



After my parents and siblings left, I stayed with Grandmere and Brigitte and the rest of my family and began the preparations. I spoke in French rather than English, I went to get fitted for new uniforms and bought a ton of new books. 

Three weeks before school started, my cousin told me that her two very best friends were coming to the cottage to spend the rest of the summer with us. 

Their names were Jocelyn de Lancret and Leah Kline. 


.... "Bee Bee!" 

We turned around and I saw a blonde barreling our way. She was gorgeous of course. A sparkling grin on her full lips and her greenish blue eyes alight with excitement. If she'd gone to Hogwarts she'd be just the kind of girl I avoided at all costs. 

As she tackled my cousin and started rambling in very fast French I saw another girl lugging two suitcases behind her and shooting the blonde an annoyed look. But even though she looked a bit exasperated she was just as gorgeous as the other. But in a completely different way. 

She had lips that were just as full but curved differently and long curly black hair and dark glittering eyes. 

I felt extremely self-concious all of the sudden. 

Even if you're mildly pretty you'd feel self-concious standing next to these three. In comparison I was absolutly hideous. These girls were the kind of girls that made every other girl around take a hit on her self esteem automatically. No matter how pretty they were. 

"Oh no," the exasperated one said to them, "I'm fine. No help needed here. You two just go on and have your happy little reunion and I'll just keep lugging these heavy-" 

"Chill Lay," Bee said to her, "you know I missed you too." 

The girl's eyes narrowed. "Well if you missed me so damn much then why don't you help me with these bags." 

Brigitte and the blonde one laughed and went to help her. 

I reluctantly followed them. 

"Guys," Brigitte said, taking one of the bags and standing upright, "This, "she gestured to me, "is my absolute favorite cousin, Allie." she told them happily "Allie, that's Jocelyn-" she pointed at the blonde. 

"Lynnie." The girl corrected. 

"-But we call her Lynnie." Bee laughed, "And that's Leah." 

I gave them both a timid smile and then the most amazing thing happened. They both laughed and hugged me. 

And the rest was pretty much history....


Lynnie, Leah and I were fast friends. Before the day was done we were chattering at each other like we'd known one another our whole lives rather than a few hours. 

I began to cautiously feel optimistic about the coming year. 

It was clear that these three were the darlings of Beauxbatons-even if they never said it, I could tell- so I figured, with them around, at least people would be semi-civil to me there. 

The next week Lynnie asked a question that started an inexplicable process. 



... "Al?" 

"Hm?" I didn't look up from my book,
Love in the Time of Cholera. 

"Have you ever considered contacts?" Lynnie was a half-blood like me so she knew all about the muggle world. 

I looked up and saw that her face was thoughtful. 

I wrinkled my nose. "I have but the idea of sticking something in my eye every morning isn't an appealing one. Ya' know?" 

"Hmm." 

" 'Hmm' what?" 

"Well... it's just... you've never tried them." 

"Your point?"
She reached in her bag and pulled out a box. 

"Try." she told me. "Just once."
..... 


I did. The effect was surprising. 

With the glasses gone, my eyes were no longer flat. They sparked actually. Really, they kept glittering in the light. It was oddly liberating. It didn't make me beautiful. But it was a nice improvement. 

And that's when it began. My morphing process. 


..."Here." 

I looked up. It was Bee. I'd known that before I'd even looked. But I did not know what she held in her hand. 

"What's this?" 

"Shampoo. Just take it. Mum said it's brilliant." 

My eyebrows pulled together in confusion. 

"You said you didn't like your hair. This'll help." 

My eyes narrowed, suspiciously. "Muggle or Magic?" 

She understood, "Muggle." 

"What's so brilliant about it?" 

She shrugged, "How should I know? Mum's the one who gave it to me." 

"Then why aren't
you using it?" 

" 'Cause she gave it to me to give
you." 

"How'd she know I didn't like my hair?" 

"Because I told her! Would you end the Spanish Inquisition already and take the damn shampoo!" 

"Alright, alright!" I laughed, "
Gosh, Bee. You don't have to get snippy with me." 

She shot me a whithering look over her shoulder and then she was gone....


I used it. 

Tante Ingrid was right. It was amazing. 

Within the week, my hair was changing from flat mousy brown to full-on mahogany locks, like Brigitte's. And the more time I spent outside with my cousin and new friends and the more miracle shampoo I used the curlier and shinier my hair became. Before long I had shiny mahogany spirals dangling around my shoulders and down my back. And after Lynnie, Bee and Leah got their hands on it, it was styled perfectly.
I felt a lot less self concious now, standing next to my cousin and friends. I wasn't anywhere near their calibur of beauty yet, but I no longer felt hideously deformed while standing among them. 

I was transforming. And I loved it. 

Maybe it was my new found confidence or the fact that I'd gotten taller as the days went by but I found that I had gotten fairly graceful. Or at least I tripped alot less than I used to. Graceful might be a stretch. 

I could tell that my sister and brother both missed me from their letters but I was far too excited to worry about them. Gorgeous One and Gorgeous Two would survive without me. This was my chance. My chance to start over. My slate was clean. I was free and I wasn't going to let them make me guilty about it. 

Soon, after much coaxing from Leah, I wore make up. Not much. Just a stroke of lip gloss and a bit of eyeliner. But the change was unbelievable.

Finally, my robes were ready.

....They were perfect. As light as my new optimistic mood. Made of exquisite baby blue silk that moved with me, fluidly as I walked. They seemed to inspire an easy grace in me that I'd never managed in my Hogwarts robes. I couldn't even imagine tripping in these. 

"
Wow!"  Leah exclaimed stretching the word into three syllables. 

"Perfect!" Lynnie sang. 

"Allie!" Bee exclaimed, "You're a Beauxbatons girl!" 

Grandmere looked close to tears. "Lovely. You sparkle."  Was all she could manage. 

I stared in awe at the girl in the mirror. 

Grandmere was right. 

I couldn't believe it was even me. It seemed so impossible. 

Six months before, this girl I saw staring at me would've been exactly the kind I avoided. Six months ago, if I'd been told that I'd look like her I'd've thought it was a sick joke at my expense. Six months ago, I'd been hideous. Clutzy with sallow skin and hopless hair. 

But the girl staring at me now was none of those things. She had a pretty complexion- complete with a faint natural blush smattered across her cheeks, her eyes burned brightly with excitement and her hair was the farthest thing from that depressing mouse brown color. 

The powder blue color of the robes complimented her ivory skin and made her eyes stand out. In a good way. The robes themselves did wonders with her figure. The silk hugged every one of her curves in the perfect spot and accentuated her legs. They looked longer. She looked taller. 

She wasn't perfect. But definitely an upgrade from what I'd seen a month before when I'd looked in this very mirror. 

And then as I murmured, her lips moved too, "I'm gonna be a Beauxbatons girl.".....
 



.... On September first my Grandmere, Brigitte, Jocelyn, Leah and I were taken to Beauxbatons in a powder blue carriage. I had donned my blues robes that morning with excitement trembling in the pit of my stomach.

It was finally here. My new beginning. I was actually getting a do over. Something that I'd thought impossible.

I was euphoric.


And then I saw it.

Beauxbatons.

It was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen.

It stood at the climax of a giant hill that looked over the breathtaking blue waters of the Mediterranean- or, at least, it looked like the Mediterranean.

The palace itself glittered in the sweltering sun and it seemed to almost dance with excitement at our arrival.

I heard myself gasp.

Grandmere smiled warmly. This was her home. It was Bee's home. And now it was mine, too.

I realized, in that moment, that my choice had quickly- and unintentionally- made me her favorite grandchild.

Bee's mother was French so her parents had decided to put her in Beauxbatons. And none of my other cousins had actually chosen. But I had. I had chosen, begged and plotted to get here. And Grandmere was proud.

When the carriage stopped, we stepped out into the warm sunshine. A breeze came off the glittering waters and sprayed my face with a calming sort of mist as I entered the palace.

I stepped inside, behind Grandmere, and gasped yet again at the high ceilings and equally tall windows. It made the whole atmosphere light and happy. It didn't hold the sense of foreboding or mystique that Hogwarts did but the magic was staggering.

Brigitte, Leah and Jocelyn were led away when we got to the door. As they walked in the opposite direction, they wished me good luck.

I smiled at them shakily. Nervousness rushed upon me as I watched their retreating backs.

This was it. My do-over had finally come at last and I was terrified that I'd mess it up. That I'd end up miserable here too.

I was pretty sure I'd snap if that was the case. I just wouldn't be able to take that. I'd end up in St. Mungo's by the end of the year.

I shook my head and forced myself to swallow. A knot had formed in my throat, my heart was pumping faster than normal and my legs quivered as I followed Grandmere through the palace.

Eventually, when I began to pay attention to where we were going, I saw that we'd passed through severel grand archways And we were now ascending a spiral staircase.

At the top of the staircase, was a room that reminded me of some of the rooms at Hogwarts. It was cozy and darker and a fire place crackled at the other end of it. I shivered as I thought about my own personal hell on earth, praying silently that here, things would be better for me.... 


I wasn't asking for perfect. Just better.

I would've taken even the most minor of improvements from my last dwelling. Anything would have been better than Hogwarts. Especially a place where I already had three best friends before the term even started. I was hopeful that my luck had changed at last.


..... Grandmere crossed the small cozy room until we were standing in front of a book case. She pulled on a thick, old looking volume at the top right corner and I heard something clink from behind the shelves.

To my amazement, the book case swung forward and revealed another corridor, as airy and open as the rest of the castle. I gaped at it as Grandmere stepped through. When she looked back and saw my gawking she chortled and said,
"Allons chéri, nous ne voulons pas nous attarder."  ("Come along, sweetheart we don't want to linger")

I shook my head and followed after her. Would I ever get used to magic? I sincerely doubted it.
We ascended another staircase and reached a painting. It was of a very beautiful blonde. She was bathing in a large porecelin bathtub filled with bubbles galore.

"
Bonjour, Babette," Grandmere greeted her.
"Bonjur, Madame Gardiner" the blonde said cheerfully, "Mot de passe ?" ("Password?")

"Bouillabaisse."

"Entrez."  ("Enter")

"Merci."

She swung forward to reveal another opening in the wall behind her. I didn't gawk this time. This had happened all the time at Hogwarts. The common rooms were behing portraits and so was the kitchen and several other rooms. I shuddered at another hellish memory.

I followed my grandmother through the portrait hole and into another Hogwarts-esque room. But this time she strolled over to a staricase and I followed closely behind her, not wanting to get lost.

At the top of these stairs was a door which my Grandmere promptly rapt on three times.

"Entrez." said a woman's voice on the other side.

My grandmother opened it and suddenly sqeals of joy and alot of frantically fast French ensued. Grandmere rushed to hug a very large woman with midnight blue robes and jet black hair that was in a knot at the base of her neck.

I had only ever seen one person as big as Madame Maxime- headmistress of my new school. And that was Rubeus Hagrid, the Hogwarts grounds keeper. But despite her massive size she was uncommonly beautiful. Her dark eyes glittered with excitement as she and my Grandmere embraced.

My Grandmere was beautiful too, I realized, as I watched them chatter happily to one another. She was like Saundra. Tall, silvery blonde (which in my grandmother's case was becoming more silvery with age), with a dazzling smile and enchanting green eyes. A statuesque beauty.

Once they'd each inquired about how the other had been and told one another how much they'd missed eachother, they both turned to me.
"Oh! Elvera! Ce quelle est belle" ("Oh, Elvera! How beautiful she is!") My new headmistress exclaimed, "Elle a tes pommettes saillantes! Elle a aussi tes grandes jambes et un long cou. Les garcons ici auront des problemes avec concentrant sur autre choses." ("She has your structure of exquiste bone! And your long legs and the neck. The boys at my school are going to have a problem concentrating on anything else!") The two women laughed, those laughs that sounded like they belonged to another era. 
"Oui, je suppose qu'ils en auront" (" Yes, I assume that they will") Grandmere replied, "Elle est ma petite- fille bien sur. Si tu te souviens d' annee d'ecole cheri peut-etre tu te souviens de filles qui ont occupe aussi l'attention des garcons?" (She is my grandaughter after all. If you remember our school days, Olympe,dear. You may remember a pair of girls that also made the males have trouble concentrating?"

Madam Maxime trilled with laughter. "Oui je me le souviens bien. Brigitte et elle feront trebucher les garcons ici ("Yes I do. She and Brigitte will have our boys tripping all over themselves!")

I could feel myself getting redder and redder as the conversation contiunued....

I highly doubted their predictions about the members of the opposite sex. Seeing as how no boys I'd ever come in contact with had ever shown the slightest interest in me before. They avoided me like a plague. But I thought it might be rude to tell them this.

It turns out that I'm not much of a fortune teller.


... "I don't believe it." I murmured at the breakfast table two weeks later. "I really don't believe it."

"I don't see what's so unbelievable about it,
Ange." Lynnie said to me, using my new nickname.

It seemed that someone had found out about my middle name and decided that I was exactly the opposite of satanic. So I began to be called '
Ange' which meant angel and 'Angelique' which basically meant angelic.
 
An older boy had called me this first about a week ago and it stuck, much to my amazement.

Leah, Bee and Lynnie, however, didn't seem even a trifle surprised at my new found and entirely inexplicable popularity. And they couldn't see why I was so shocked by it.

I'd been right about my cousin and her friends. They
were the darlings of Beauxbatons. Everyone loved them as far as I could see. They were the three most beautiful girls there- though there were a ton of pretty girls- and their charm dazzled everyone. 

And my friendship with them seemed to elevate the school's oppinion of me too.

I was still quite the novelty to the lovely student body of Beauxbatons Academey of Magic. Rumors flew and I was stared at a lot. The Hogwarts transfer, Brigitte Gardiner's cousin from England. I was the main topic of conversation. It was a bit unnerving to say the least.

But with Brigitte, Leah and Jocelyn by my side, my first couple weeks at this new school had been beyond amazing. It was loads better that any fortnight I'd ever spent at Hogwarts.

My sister and brother wrote to tell me that they were getting a lot of questions about my whereabouts (I felt a pang of guilt for not telling Dominique, Alice and Roxy that I was leaving) and that they both missed me more than ever. Probably just because, now that I was gone, they didn't have anyone to help with their essays.

The curriculum at Beauxbatons was slightly more advanced than Hogwarts but a cake walk for me. I'd easily become every teacher's favorite student. But Leah, Lynnie and Bee were right up there with me. Together we were probably the four smartest witches of our year.

Life at Beauxbatons was very different than at Hogwarts.

For one, there were no houses. We sat at tables divided by years. First and seconds, thirds and fourths, fifths and sixths and then the seventh years had their own table.

Our dorms were different too. The boys on one side of the palace and girls on the other. The girl's common room was gorgeous. It had beautiful views and tall ceilings like the rest of the palace and it already felt like home. Each year had their own dormitory that branched off the common room in some strange magical way.The first years were behind a picture of the Greek island of Santrini, the second years tapped three times on a stone in the far right corner and the third years always disappeared behind a mirror by the fire.

The dormitory I shared with my cousin and friends was up a winding staircase and through the statue of a serene looking angel (ironically enough) we had to tap her wings with our wands twice each and then a hole would appear in her and we'd climb through into our dorm. It was gorgeous. We had our own little common room and then it branch off too. Bee, Leah, Lynnie and I slept in a room behind another mirror while the other girls in our year all had their rooms behind more illusions and paintings.

The fifth years came up the same staircase but went to another painting and tickled the mermaid in it, the sixth year had to pull on the third book on the third shelf of a bookcase then answer a question-as it was their exam year- before they could be allowed to climb through. And the seventh years always disappeared behind a door, I had no idea what waited them on the other side but I guessed it was some sort of obsticle to get to their bedrooms.

On our free days at Hogwarts- if it was nice enough, of course- there was a lake that no one ever dared to swim in. 

But at Beauxbatons it was always nice and sunny out and we trotted down to the beach. We frolicked in the cool blue sea water as the sun kissed our skin. It was heaven and I never wanted to leave.

"Yeah,
Angelique." Leah grinned, "we all knew the boys would fall all over themselves when they saw you. How come you find it so impossible?"

"Because," I told them, "-we've been over this already- at Hogwarts, I was a freak. No one liked me.
Especially not a boy."

"Ah, yes. But your forgetting something,
mon amour ." Bee grinned, "This," she looked around at the tall ceilings and the glittering views around us pointedly, "is not Hogwarts."

"Tell me about it."......


***


Chapter 3: Les Anges de Beauxbatons
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


(Hey my lovely readers! 
   Sorry it's taking me so long to update but it has been crazy busy around here! Anyway, this is the third chapter of this story, I hope you like it! It's really just an introduction to Alexa as she is now, three years later and what her life is like. It also introduces her main friends a bit more and sets us up for things to get more exciting. So I hope you enjoy!
                 ~RED)

Chapter 3~ Les Anges de Beauxbatons


To look almost pretty, is an acquisition of higher delight to a girl who has been looking plain the first fifteen years of her life, than a beauty from her cradle can ever receive.
                          ~Jane Austen 


 



~


"Oh Angelique! Sortirez-vous avec moi?"

"Lynn, if you do that imitation one more time, I swear, I'm going to hex you!" 
My friends laughed musically at my obvious annoyance. They'd been at this for hours, it seemed. Ever since stupid Bayard Dubose asked me out in front of everyone in the Salle à Manger last night at dinner.

Well, asked, isn't exactly the word I'd use to describe it. 

He actually shouted it at me while I was sitting there innocently eating my Bouillabaisse.

Mortifying. The only word that properly discribes it.

Bee grinned, "I think it was cute. Him shouting out his undying love and devotions for you like that in front of everyone."

I gave her a disparaging look, "First of all, he did not confess undying love or devotion in any way and second, it was not cute." I made a face at the word because that was about the last thing I'd ever associate with Bayard Dubose. He was so the opposite of cute with the lack of height, his red-brown hair and creepy snake-green eyes, that matched his creepy personality. And that little assault of his in the Salle à Manger- so not cute.

"What I don't understand, Ange, is how you're not used to this by now?" Lynnie said-her tone thick with amusement- as she coated one of her perfect nails with shiny blood-red polish.

I crossed my arms tightly over my chest. "Easy for Miss Veela to say." I muttered darkly, "You can turn it off."

She rolled her eyes at this, "I'm only like, a fourth veela. And I hardly ever use it thankyouverymuch."

I smirked. It amused me immensely when my extroidinarily beautiful best friend tried to justify her veelaness.

"My cousin, Victoire, on the other hand..." she trailed off suggestively with a dark look.

We laughed at this.

Jocelyn never understood her older cousin.

Victoire Weasley was much, much too girly for Lynnie, Miss Quidditch Extroidinare. She was an avid fan of the Hollyhead Harpies because they were the only all-girl team around.

It exasperated her how prissy the rest of her female relatives were (all except Dominique). But she especially hated being compared to Victoire. Especially, when it was her Tante Fluer making comments about how she and Dominique (yes my old friend, Dominique I'm-nice-to-everyone-on-the-planet Weasley) needed to wear more pink and rubbish like that.

"Well, I don't get it either, Allie." Bee grinned at me "How are you not used to being adored by now?"

"I'm not adored." I snapped defensively. It was a lie of course. I knew what a lie felt like and I was fully aware that I was somewhat adored but I wasn't about to admit it when she made it sound like that was a bad thing.

"Oh no?" She raised one of her perfect eyebrows at me in challenge, "Angelique?"

Dammit. She had a point.

It wasn't like that was my actual name or anything. I  certainly hadn't introduced myself on my first day as 'angelic' but that's what I became known as.

"Angelique" Swan, one of the four Anges de Beauxbatons.

I'm not even kidding.

Not only was I known as angelic but after fourth year some wise guy had made the observation that our whole little quartet was angelic and therefore decided to christen us the Beauxbatons Angels.

Hilarious, right?

We sure thought so.

We laughed until we were crying when we first heard it.

It was so ridiculous that they refered to us as the Angels of Beauxbatons. And everytime one of us would do something even slightly mischievious or naughty we'd crack a joke like 'Yeah, Angels my ass.' Or something like that. 

But it actually stuck.

Not even kidding! It actually caught on and didn't die out like we'd expected it to.

Not even close.

Everyone began to use that little name for us.

And I do mean everyone.
Even the teachers called as les Anges. And that included Madam Maxime. No joke! Only she calls us her angels most of the time. Not even bothering to conceal her obvious favoritism.

I've always found it a bit hard to believe, if we're being honest. It doesn't seem like the kind of thing to happen to the girl unlucky enough to get stuck with a middle name like Diabolique. But it did.

I was living a dream that I'd had since I was twelve. Seriously! I was living a strange sort of fairy tale.

The kind that goes; Ugly girl goes to school. Ugly girl gets spit on at said school. Ugly girl's little sister gives ugly girl an idea. Smart ugly girl does her research. Smart Ugly girl's father is a hard head and shoots down idea. Smart ugly girl executes flawless plan. Smart ugly girl gets two new friends + her cousin = the three best friends ever. Smart ugly girl tranforms over summer. Former ugly girl goes to new school. Former ugly girl lives happily ever after.

That's my kind of bedtime story.

But it's still hard to believe that I'm at the end of my fourth month of sixth year and having the best time of my life. Beauxbatons the capital of cute boys (just not Bayard Dubose). I have amazing friends from every year. Not so wonderful food but awe- inspiring views. And a beach. What more could a girl ask for?

I narrowed my eyes at her. "You aren't funny." I told her biting back my smile.

Her dazzling grin widened. "I'm very funny and you know it."

"Lay, honestly! How many times a day do you write to that boy?" Lynnie said propping herself up on her elbows.

Leah was at the table in our little sixth year girls common room, bent over a piece of parchment, quill in hand. She looked up long enough to shoot Lynnie a whithering look and say, " 'That boy' has a name in case you've forgotten. And I don't write him that much."

" 'That boy' " I said, "Is my brother and therefore it is my duty to inform you, that you two are positively nauseating."

I was happy for Leah and all but it was true. 

They were completely nauseating, ever since they'd gotten together they'd been digustingly mushy. It was repulsive!

Leah had come to stay with us for the entire holiday at Grandmere's summer cottage last summer because her parents had gone on holiday to Egypt. That's where she met my brother and sparks flew.

They were each oblivious to how the other felt about them- even though Bee, Lynnie and I had figured it out by the second day- and once they each did finally figure it out they'd tried to keep a secret.

The reason was me.

Leah was terrified that I'd be mad at her for snogging my big brother on a regular basis. When the secret did finally get out- after my cousin Andre walked in on them- I told her that, though I was nauseated, I wasn't mad.

Ever since they've been together. Four months later they still write to each other every day. More than once a day.

If it wasn't my brother, it'd be sweet.

It would probably be one of the cutest thing ever.

But it is my brother.

Therefore it is something I definitely prefer not to think about too terribly much. It's just too wierd. Much too wierd.

Leah's eyes narrowed infinetesimally at me.

I grinned at her.

She never shot back at me with any of her satire like I knew she would've if it were about another boy. 

But since it was my brother, she chose not to respond to these.

Maybe because she wanted to stay on good terms with me (I being his favorite sister and all) or maybe she knew I was right. About it being nauseating, I mean. Because it really was. To Bee and I, at least. And appearantly to Lynn, too- if her scoff-and-eye-roll was any indication. 

But over the past couple of years my brother had spent most of his holiday in France to see more of me, and Jocelyn actually doesn't live all too far from Grandmere's cottage so she got close to Michael too. Only in a platonic, sisterly way.

So the fact that my brother was being mushy with anyone wasn't exactly fun for Bee, Lynn and myself. Because there are just some things you don't ever want to know about your big brother/cousin. You just don't.

"I'm hungry." Bee declared.

"You're always hungry." Lynnie and I said together. It was too easy of an opening.

"Je peux prendre aussi un morceau" ("I could go for a bite too") Leah said and then she looked up as a wide grin spread across her face, "À moins que... Angélique s' inquiete par un garcon qui lui chante une serenade." ("Unless... Angelique is worried about being serenaded this afternoon.").

I threw a pillow at her.

She screeched as it hit her head and pulled some of her hair out of it's ponytail. Then she blew the chunck of misplaced hair out of her eyes and burst into uncontrollable giggles. And the other two followed.

After my friends were done sharing a laugh at my expense and Leah fixed her hair, we headed down to the dining hall ( les Salle à Manger).

"Vos viola! Ce n'est pas trop tot pour vos etes  arrives!" ("About time you all got here.") A boy with my piercing blue eyes and mahogany hair said as he saw us. "Quoi? Allie avait-elle peur d'être attaquée par un autre de ses admirateurs cette fois?" ("What? Was Allie afraid of being attacked by another one of her admirers this time?").

My friends and the table surronding him burst into giggle fits. I smacked the back of my cousin Andre's head before sitting next to him at the table. "It's not funny."

"Yes it is, Ange," a blonde boy across the table said through his unrestrained laughter.

Henri Andreas Beaufort was one of Andre's best friends.

He was also tall, blonde and handsome with the killer swimmer's body that most guys at Beauxbatons had. If I hadn't known him when we were in diapers and trying to knock each other off of our training brooms, I'd definitely be mad about him. He and my cousin (along with their other two best friends) owned the hearts of nearly every girl around -myself and Leah not included.

"Yeah, Ang." The black boy next to him told me, "If you'd seen your face..." He trailed off, obviously laughing too hard at the memory to finish.

I glared at the other strikingly handsome boy acidly.

Tre Voltaire was another one of Andre's best friends. He was just as tall and handsome but in his own way. He had carmel colored skin and perfect pillow lips, topped off with dark unfathomable eyes that seemed too young and too old for the high cheekboned face they were set in. His muscles flexed, deliciously, as he picked up his fork to take another bite of food.

"Qu' est-ce que j'ai manque? Un autre amoreux d' Angelique qui declare la flamme?"

I whipped around to shoot the owner of the deep, smug voice the most whithering glare possible.

Adam Everett DeGhent was the fourth member of the group and, by far, the biggest. He was extremely tall and intimidatingly muscular (he reminded me alot of Michael and Emmett in that way) and also, of course, devistatingly handsome, in his own way. He had green eyes, dark hair and an eye for mischief.

Actually, all four of them did.

Adam grinned wickedly at me, unfazed by the acid in my glare.

"No," Henri answered, "We were just laughing over yesterday's serenade."

I narrowed my eyes at him and stabbed my salad with more vigor than really nessecary, making the rest of them laughed even more.

"Oh C'mon, Allie," Bee said, "You've got to admit it was a little funny."

I chose not to respond.

"It could've been worse." Andre reminded me with a smirk.

I stared at him incredulous, "How?"

My cousin grinned, "He could've used your full name."

"I don't even think he knows her full name." Leah scoffed.

"Yeah," Lynnie agreed and then felt the need to add- in a misty voice, "I bet he thinks her name is actually, Angelique."

I couldn't help but laugh with them on that. Because it was entirely possible that Bayard Dubose- along with half of the school- actually believed my name was Angelique.

I mean, it isn't like I've gone out of my way to correct them.

Because when someone would rather call you an angel, instead of freak, you let them. You just do.

"Hey guys."

We looked up to see a pixie-like blonde girl with familiar emerald eyes and famous coveted beauty.

My little cousin, Rosaire.

In looks, she was Saundra's exact miniature. But she had Brigitte's fiesty attitude and inexplicably- out of all of her cousins- she most wanted to be exactly like me.

She was in third year and trailed us whenever she got the chance. Had it been any other third year, they wouldn't have dared. They'd have been terrified to talk to us. We were Les Anges. 


But it was Rosaire. And she was allowed to trail us as long as she liked, being the least annoying underclassmen and all. The rest of the school called her L'Ange Miniature.
Her best friends were Chloe Burke- a quirky little blonde with sparkling green eyes- and Elvira Webb -a girl with long raven curls, glasses and a sweet smile. They reminded me a lot of my friends actually.

"Hey Airy." I greeted her with a grin, "Hi Cee, Ellie. What are your three up to?"

"Hiding from Alain Blake." Chloe answered sitting next to Lynn and taking a bunch of grapes from a basin in front of her.

"Clo!" my little cousin exclaimed.

"Like cousin, like cousin." Adam muttered as he prepared to take another fork full of food.

I kicked him under the table.

"Ow!"

"Wimp." Lynnie smirked.

"Why are you running from Alain Blake?" I asked Rosaire curiously.

" 'Cause he fancies Air and she's embarassed." Elvira answered with a wickedly amused grin.

"See." Andre told us, "It's like I always say. She's Saundra in looks but the personality is all Al."

"Who?" Tre asked in mock confusion. He knew very well what my real name was.

I threw a grape at him.


***

"Rudolphe Noel Theodore Voltaire III !" I shouted over the crashing of the waves.

It was Saturday and most of us were lying on the beach with plans of starting a bonfire as soon as it got dark. The boys were flirting (as always) with some fifth year girls while Bee, Lynn, Leah and I were lying out- with several of our other friends- on the sand letting the sun kiss our skin (a ritual that Andre and the rest of them found incredibly difficult to comprehend) and sooth our muscles.

On these sunny afternoons at Beauxbatons, homework sat untouched, the palace glittered in it's virtually empty state, and laughter carried in the wind over the crashing waves and call of the birds. I'd gotten used to the sun and the breeze and the laughter. They brought on a sense of home and belonging with them. The sand softened my skin, the water tickled my feet and I was content.

Tre looked up and glared at me.

I grinned. Mission accomplished.

"Comment? Alexa Diabolique Swan," He retorted, quickly settling the score.

"If you don't want me to use your real name, then answer to the nickname the first seventeen times I call it." I snapped at him, annoyed that he'd settled the score so quickly.

"Si tu ne sais pas, je suis un peu occpe." he said, annoyed. He gestured at the three girls he'd been chatting up before I'd interrupted.

"No. I noticed." I grinned cheerfully, "I just wanted to interrupt."

He glared again-though I could see he wasn't serious- and turned back to the pretty fifth year batting her entirely fake eyelashes at him.

My friends laughed.

"You know," Lynnie said after a few moments, "I think I'm going to dye my hair."

This was met with several noises of protest from the rest of us.

"Why would you ever do that, Lynn? Are you mad? You know that does major damage to your hair, right?" I reasoned. I swear, that sorting hat is crazy I should so have been a Ravenclaw.

"Easy for you to say," Jaclynn spat, "Your hair is gorgeous. Your hair changes on it's own. See-!" she pointed an accusing finger at me as I turned my head to stare at her and make sure she hadn't sprouted a third head. "-It's turned red since September!"

"It has not," I scoffed. But I knew I was lying. I'd noticed my hair changing again too. With each passing day it was getting redder. I was getting used to the fact that my hair would probably be changing colors for the rest of my life. As long as it wasn't mousy again I was okay with that.

"Actually it has," Leah said, lifting her Chanel (a Muggle designer) sunglasses and squinting at me.

"Hey!" I exclaimed indignantly, "Who's side are you on?"

They laughed.

"Seriously, Ange." Bee told me, "It actually does look red today."

"You're all insane." I told them lying back on my towel and closing my eyes behind my new Donna Karans (another Muggle designer).

They laughed again.

"Yes," Leah agreed, "But if we weren't your life would be very boring."

"Touche."

Another ripple of laughter.

"Oh! I can't believe that we're almost seventh years!" Brigitte sighed.

"In, like, eight months!" Jocelyn laughed.

"Yeah well." Brigitte waved this away.

We laughed at her expression. And a wave crashed upon our feet making us shriek happily and giggle about how riddiculous we were.

"Les Anges?" a voice interrupted our laughter.

We looked up to see a little second year girl, looking terrified.

"Oui?" We answered in unison.

She handed the piece of parchment she'd been clutching in her shaky hand to Leah and scampered away as quickly as her legs would carry her, without another word.

"What's it say?" Jocelyn asked.

"We need to go see Madame."

"Now?" Brigitte asked, "We've got to go see Tante O now?"

This is what Brigitte, Rosaire, Andre and I were told to call Madame Maxime outside of school but we used it loosly during the school year as well. Never in front of an adult though. Had we ever used this name for our headmistress in front of a teacher we'd probably have been put in detention.

Well, maybe Brigitte, Rosaire and I wouldn't have (being "angels" and all) but Andre probably would.

" 'Parently." Leah sighed.


***



I sat there, unsure if I'd heard my headmistress correctly. When I realized my jaw had dropped, I snapped it shut.

I looked at my cousin and best friends. Their expressions all mirrored my shock. Then I looked back at my beloved headmistress again.

"C-Congradulations!" I sputtered after another moment of astonished silence. "Wonderful! Really brilliant! C'est stupéfiant! Nous sommes si heureux pour vous! "

"Donc le ferez-vous ? S'il vous plaît, filles ?" She asked hopefully.

"Oui!" Bee and Leah replied in unison.

"Oui! Bien sur!" Lynnie and I told her.

"Magnifique! Excellent!"

***


"I can't believe Tante O is gettting married."

We sat in our dorm, later that evening, discussing the information we were now privy to. Bee twirled a strand of her mahogany hair between her fingers as she said this. She was lying with her head hanging off of the edge of her bed, facing me. Her nose wrinkled at the last word.

"I can't believe we agreed to be her 'junior bridesmaids'" Lynnie mimicked her tone, making air quotes around the last words.

"You're just mad 'cause you'll have to wear a dress." Leah smirked smugly, she enjoyed the idea of seeing Lynn squirm in discomfort because she was forced to wear a gown.

The mental image amused me, too.

Brigitte and I laughed but Jocelyn shot her a whithering look.

"And you are only going along with it 'cause you'll get to be all done up and see Michael."

Leah grinned in response to this.

"I'm happy for Tante O. She deserves to be happy." I said decidedly. Trying to ignore the suggestive glint in my best friend's eye as she thought about seeing my big brother.

"Easy for you. You know the bloke." Brigitte scoffs.

"Not well," I hedge.

"Dee says he's nice," Jocelyn qualifies.

"Dominique knows him?" Leah asks.

"Well, duh. He is the Care of Magical Creatures Professor at Hogwarts." I laugh lightly.

"And he's friends with her family."

"Ah, yes. The infamous Weasleys." I grin, "How are Roxy and Dominique? Oh, and Alice too. How is Alice?"

Try as I had to disassociate myself with Hogwarts, I couldn't bear to cut ties with the girls that had been my three best friends at Hogwarts -the only light I'd had during my own personal dark ages.

I wrote them letters and sometimes saw Dominique when I went around Jocelyn's house. The summer before last, though, I got to see all three of them when I went over to Alice's house for two weeks.

"Good." Lynnie yawns. "Appearantly, Roxanne has broken up with Duncan Frenzel and now has her eye on another Hogwarts bloke- whose name I've forgotten."

I laughed. "Well, good. I never liked Frenzel." My nose wrinkles as I say the name.

"You didn't like anyone at that school." Leah teased, grinning mischieviously. She knew she had a point.

I grinned but said, "Not true! I liked Michael and his friends- most of the time. And I liked Roxy and Dee and Alice, of course."

Brigitte laughed, "Notice she never said Saundra." She pointed out with a smirk flitting acrossed her perfect lips.

"Weeeeell," I scrunched up my nose and smiled. "Saundra was....not my favorite person at Hogwarts. Let's just say that."

"And why was that?" Jocelyn grinned.

I wrinkled my nose again and answered, "She squealed too much."

We laughed again.

"You think Saundra will be a 'junior bridesmaid'?" Leah asked, curiously.

"Nope." I said confidently, "Tante O doesn't know her all that well and Hagrid is just her professor. Same for Michael. He won't be in it either." I add, before she asks the question.

Because it was true. My siblings were- for once- not the beloved ones.

I was the adored Swan here.

I was the admired child in this case. The darling in everyone's eyes. 

For some inexplicable reason my clumsiness was seen as endearing here. I was actually wanted and valued here. I was viewed as witty and charismatic. People greeted me in corridors, I had more friends than I could count, my grades were impeccable, my teachers loved me and I was infinantly happier than I'd ever been before.

No one here knew my sister and brother. Nor did they care to. They were perfectly content with knowing me.

As much as I love my siblings, I was happy at the thought of being the favorite for once. I couldn't help it.

I couldn't help being happy that I would be the Swan that everyone looked at. I would be the one in the bridesmaids gown with my mahogany curls pinned up perfectly and a bouquet of fresh flowers in my hand.

No one would think,What happened? or look at me like I belonged anywhere but among the pretty people I was related to. No one would pointedly ignore my presence or jinx me as I walked by. No one would even think of it.

I'd be awed and admired and revered.

My siblings would be there and, of course, they'd be charming-as always- but I would put the sparkle in the eyes of everyone around. I would make them throw their head back and laugh with my savvy remarks. I would make them grin when I got up on stage and sang the first dance that the bride and groom would sway to(Tante O had pulled me aside after she'd asked us to be junior bridesmaids and asked if I'd sing the song they danced to). I would do all of this and no one would compare me to my siblings and say that I didn't measure up.

My heart lept with joy at this fact.

No one would compare me to my dashing big brother and say I didn't have his wicked humor. No one would look at my gorgeous little sister and think that I hadn't gotten the allure. No one could scoff and say that I hadn't inherited the Swan family charm.

A fourth of the guests probably would have no idea that I even had siblings. Much less that I wasn't as gorgeous and talented and wonderful as they were. They probably wouldn't even realize that I was related to the absurdly lovely blonde and the young man with perfectly chisled features.

When I talked to them they'd assume we were being polite. When Michael asked me to dance, they'd assume he was trying to woo an angel. When Saundra rushed over and gushed about all of the cute guys they'd assume she was just another giggling fifteen year old who wanted to be firend with the "Angels."

And when they found out the truth, they'd be mildly surprised but not shocked.
 
They'd see the piercing sapphire eyes Michael and I shared. They'd spot the small clef in the chin that Saundra and I had inherited from Grandmere. They'd assume I'd always been beloved and that it was a family trait of charm and wit that we'd all gotten.

I smirked, a little bitter at this. And also a little satisfied.

No one could say I wasn't a Swan anymore.

Leah's full bottom lip jutted out a bit in disappointed.

I could tell she'd already fantisized about walking with him down a long isle or walking down the isle herself, looking into his loving eyes. She'd be especially gorgeous with her beautiful raven hair pinned up in sleek spirals and her sparkling dark eyes going off like fireworks. And I knew it was every girl's dream to have the boy she was in love with see her like that, Lay was no exception.

"He'll still see you, Lay." Brigitte told her, "Our whole family will. Grandmere is Tante O's dearest friend."

Leah looked slightly mollified.

"So, when did she say the wedding was gonna be anyway?" Lynnie asked grimacing.

"Weren't you listening?"

"No."

" 'Course not." I laughed.

"Well! I'm not exactly a lace and flowers kind of girl, alright?"

"I think she was forced to be in too many weddings when she was small." Leah laughs. " 'S given her a complex."

Bee and I laughed so hard we had tears in our eyes.

"Alright! Pick-on- Jocelyn time is over! Let's go eat. I'm hungry." She got up gracefully and floated towards the door in a way that would break any ballerina's heart. Her blond curls billowing after her in a dreamlike way.

"Surprise, surprise." I muttered, as the three of us followed her down the stairs.

"I heard that!"


***


The first week of December was our trip to the Ville de Fourchettes the very, very small Muggle village nearby. It had a sort of Diagon Alley thing going on though because the little inn, L'Oreiller de Chocolat, is a wizard pub and it has another door that leads to a few wizard shops in a different part of the village.

To the Muggles that lived in the Ville de Fourchettes, we were from a snobby, ultra-exclusive boarding school for very rich kids, so we often got glared at when we went in school robes.

But today we wore casual attire. And, despite the fact that it was December, the sky was a clear blue and the sun was sweltering.

I donned a dark blue tank-top and a white flippy skirt, pulling my hair up into a sophisticated ballerina bun. I didn't bother with make up because none of my Beauxbatons friends cared if I wore it, plus I really didn't need it. And I had decided to break in my new black ballet flats.

Brigitte wore a slightly longer (but not below the knees) black skirt and her favorite shirt, white eyelet lace with tattered sleeves. She'd decided to let her long mahogany locks hang around her delicate shoulders and had her designer sun glasses perched on the top of her head and flip flops with jewels on the straps to decorate her feet.

Jocelyn had opted for comfortable jeans and a green t-shirt that made her eyes pop. She'd also pulled her long silvery hair into a curly ponytail. And, of course, being Lynnie, she carried her worn out flip flops in her hand and walked around barefoot.

Leah had her shiny black locks weaved into a long braid and my brother's watch on her left wrist (I rolled my eyes when I saw it). She'd slid into short pink shorts and a little white t-shirt with a Muggle rock band my brother liked on the front.

There was only one similarity we all had.

An elegant silver bracelet on our right wrists with a small charm dangling off of it. The same charm on each one. A pair of angel's wings.

Jocelyn had found them when Victoire dragged her and Dominique shopping (in Diagon Alley) one afternoon the summer after our fourth year and she'd bought them for all of us.

"So," Lynnie said as we skipped down the lane, "Quelle marchand terroriserons-nous d'abord ?" ("Which shopkeeper shall we terrorize first?")

We all laughed.

"How 'bout we look at jewelry first? I was thinkin' of buying Saundra a necklace or something."

"Jewelry it is." Lynnie grinned and she skipped ahead of us.

"You think she'll ever slow down?" Leah asks as we trail after our absurdly gorgeous friend.

Bee and I exchange a look and then say, "Non"
Laughing we followed her.

***


"Oooo! C'est délicieux! Allie, l' essiae." Lynnie shoved an unidentified sweet at me. I broke off a piece and popped it into my mouth- aware that several of the village muggle boys were watching with lust filled eyes.

The morsel melted deliciously on my tongue and filled my mouth with an incredible flavor, considering it was a Muggle sweet.

"Mmm! Vous avez raison, Lynnie! C'est magnifique! Viola, Leah, l' essiae" I told them.

Leah laughed and did so. She agreed with our assesment.

So then Brigitte said, "Oi! Let me have a bit!"

We laughed as she broke a hunk off and bit into it aggressively.

"Yummmm! Qu'est-ce que cela ?"

Lynnie shrugged and we all burst out into giggles again.


When we'd regained control of ourselves, we paid for our sweets, winked at the gawking Muggle boys and left the shop.

"So I need your advice on something." Leah told us. We all hummed a response to show we were all ears and she continued, nervously. "Well, I need to know what to get Michael for Christmas. I have no clue and I'm freaking out about it a little."

I laughed, "Don't worry, Lay. I'm positive that whatever you get my brother will thrill him. For the simple fact that it was you that gave it to him." I told her confidently.

"Really?"

"Well, obviously," Brigitte rolled her eyes."Honestly, do you not see how infatuated our dear Michael is with you? He's head over heels, poor thing. I mean, I'm pretty sure that at this point it's causing him physical pain to be away from you right now."

"Face it, Leah," Jocelyn says, shaking her head mock seriously, "The bloke is mad about you."

Leah smiled coyly. She blushed a lot more now, than she ever had before she'd met my brother. She still looked unsure, though, to my amazement.

"Oh, c'mon! Leah Rose! You cannot possibly tell me that you haven't noticed! I wouldn't be surprised if he proposes after we finish school! He's completely in love!" I told her, "Believe me, I know Michael. And whatever you get him, he'll be euphoric."

"Ya' think so?"

"I know so."

She sighed, semi-relieved. "Good to know."

We grinned at her.

"What?"

None of us said a word. We just stood there grinning at our impossibly lovely best friend, mischieviously.

"What!?"

"I think you're in love too, LayLay." Jocelyn giggled.

My friend blushed scarlett and ducked her head.

"OOOOOOOOHHHHH!" All four of us laughed, and then we broke into a chilish chorus of, "LEAH AND MICHAEL SITTIN' IN A TREE, K-I-S-S-I-N-G!"


***

"Ugh!" Jocelyn groaned the morning of December twentieth, "Idonwannago!" She moaned.

"C'mon, Jocelyn. It won't be that bad." Leah laughed. She was already fully dressed for her journey back to England (her mother and maternal relatives we all English). She'd borrowed my long sleeved blue shirt - with the green flowers on it-and paired it with a pair of bright green sweats. Her long hair fell in curly tendrils to her waist and her coat was lying beside her trunk on top of her bare bed.

"Easy for you to say. The only reason you're so chipper about Christmas holiday is because you're going to see Michael on Friday. You won't have to spend it with Vicky and Tante Fluer, the shopaholics of France."

We laughed.

"You'll have Dee to keep you company." I reminded her.

She simply glared.

Lynnie was not the most pleasant morning person. She had to be dragged out of bed by one of us everyday. She was extremely lucky that she was drop dead gorgeous, otherwise she'd have to go to breakfast looking terrible. But Lynnie simply threw her uniform on and brushed her silvery hair and she was ready to dazzle every male around.

"Besides," I continued, "Victoire can't possibly top Saundra." I told her. "I swear, that girl goes through Galleons like designer perfume."

They laughed.

"Yeah, it disgusts Airy. She was completely appalled" Bee grinned, "She tagged along once with us and you should have seen her face!"

"Priceless." I laughed.

"I bet." Leah grinned, "Rosaire is the one who's always called her look-a-like."

"She's more like, Ang." Lynnie said, "She's shy with boys and blushes constantly. But she does trip alot less." She grinned.

"Hey! Just because I'm practically disabled doesn't mean you should make fun. You've got the veela thing to make you graceful."

The grin disappeared and was replaced with a fierce scowl.

I smirked with satisfaction. "And I'm a lot less gracefully-challenged than I used to be."

"True." Bee agreed.

***


"So you're coming back for La-Saint-Sylvestre, yeah?" Bee asked, as we stood in front of the fire place at Grandmere's summer house.

Both she and I were in our Beauxbatons clothes, having packed the rest of our wardrobe in our tunks the night before without thinking and being too lazy to dig something out that morning.

Leah wore my shirt and her sweats and Lynnie was in pyjama pants and a hooded sweatshirt.

The fog and mist from the sea had made it chilly today and the clouds had decided to block the sun all afternoon.

"Right." Leah and I both answered.

"And we celebrate at -"

"Andre's, yes." Leah finished.

"Tante said yes?" I asked her.

"Appearantly so." Brigitte shrugs.

"Hm."

"Alright." Leah sighed. "I s'pose I should go." She looked at the fireplace apprehansively, then heaved her trunk forward. She took a fistful of powderand threw it in. As she stepped in she said to me, "Tell Michael I love him, 'kay."

"Um, ew, Lay. Write him a letter or something. You're gonna see him the day after tomorrow."

She rolled her eyes at me and then said, "GENTRY PLACE!"
And she spun out of sight.

I sighed and said, "Me next."

I gave Lynnie a hug and promised to write. Then I pecked Brigitte on the cheek, telling her I'd see her at Christmas. Before I stepped into the fire place and yelled, "ROSE PLACE!" And with a woosh I was on my way home.


                                                                         ***

(OKay, so that was chapter three! If anyone wants to make a banner, I have a few pictures of Alexis Bledel for it, I have no clue how to make one so it would be much apprieciated! Also, while you're waiting for an update check out my other two stories! And don't forget to REVIEW!

                     ~RED)


Chapter 4: Temptations with a Splash of Anger
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Chapter 4~ Temptations With a Splash of Anger 

When angry, count to four. When very angry, swear.

~Mark Twain


~



I closed my eyes and waited for the dreadful spinning to stop.

When it did, I peaked an eye open. I was standing in a place I hadn't spent much time in over the past three years. My house.

I felt exhaustion set in and all I wanted to do was change out of my robes into my favorite pair of pink sweats and the huge purple T-shirt I slept in on hot summer nights so I could happily collapse into my bed.

It wouldn't be nearly as comfortable as my bed at school- or the one I had at Grandmere's summer house- but it would do.

I'd been in my house for all of two point four seconds before my mother interrupted my daydreams.

"Oh! Alexa! You're home!" she exclaimed in surprise as she barreled down the staircase looking flustered. My dad walked slowly down the stairs behind her.

"Hey Mum. Hiya Dad." I smiled crookedly.

I'm not sure what I expected. But I did expect something. A question about school. Grandmere. Maybe my friends. Or Brigitte. Andre. Rosaire. Tante O, even. Something.

But what I got was, "Scorgify."

The soot I'd been covered in vanished into the tip of my mother's mahogany wand.

"Allie, darling, c'mon -don't linger! I'm afraid you won't have time to change, sweetheart. We're running late already." She prattled, "Come along!"

"'Come along' where?" I asked, confused.

"To King's Cross, of course." she answered, as if this was the most obvious thing in the world. "We've got to go pick up Michael and Saundra."

I blinked. "Can't I stay here?" I glanced down at my powder blue robes. I definitely didn't want to go meet the students pouring out of the Hogwarts Express. Even in these.

My dad spoke this time. His voice was stern and reproving. "Alexa." he said firmly. "I think it would be nice if you came with your mother and me to greet them. Don't you want to celebrate their homecoming? Haven't you missed them?"

There were so many things wrong with that last part I couldn't even respond at first.

Wasn't my homecoming worth celebrating? Hadn't they missed me? I was, after all, the one who'd been in a different country. Michael and Saundra were just coming home from Hogwarts.

I may have been a Beauxbatons Ange, but at home I was- in my father's eyes at least- the daughter who'd runaway from her problems. 

The girl who'd let fear chase her off.

I narrowed my eyes at my father and then started speaking rapid French.

Even though I knew he didn't understand a word I was saying, it felt incredible to remind him of the reasons I left Hogwarts. The reason I wasn't getting off of that train in an hour with my siblings. The horrendous way I was treated. I loved reminding him of the scar on my hand I'd gotten after a particularly nasty jinx hit me. I was happy that I could tell him about how friendless I'd been there and remind him of how peaky I'd looked. How completely miserable I'd been. And tell him how the last thing I wanted to do was see the people who'd made my life a living hell for three agonizing years.

His face was perplexed, as it always was when I switched languages, and -like always- he turned to my mother for translation.

My mother was biting back an amused grin. She gave him a look that I took to mean I'm-not- telling-you- anything and then said to me in a gentle voice, "C'mon, love. It won't be that bad."

Knowing that I wasn't going to win this one without a major tantrum (that I had no energy for what so ever), I heaved a giant sigh and followed her out the front door.

***

As my parents talked with a man and a woman who I recognized vaguely as Mr. and Mrs. Finnigan a few meters away, I leaned against a pillar, looking resolutly bored.

I wished, more than anything, that my silky blue robes would be slightly less ostentaious. I was getting gawked at alot.

I was used to this, of course. First, when I was with Saundra and Michael stares from both genders were inevitable-some not so nice. Then Bee and Leah and Lynnie. And finally, once I'd gotten myself together, I got them too. They followed me everywhere, but today I wished they wouldn't.

Most of them were parents or relatives of people I'd hated. Still hated. Those awful, arrogant, prats I'd spent three terribly long years putting up with. Tolerating gracefully.

I'd been made fun of, tripped, stepped on, hexed and jinxed and hospitalized. I'd sobbed and ached and screamed into my pillow and cried myself to sleep every night. I'd had to lie and decieve my favorite sibling and then go through the aftershock of it all (thank God for Brigitte and my friends).

I'd always been incredibly proud that, on my very last day at that wretched school, I'd managed to stay calm. I'd stayed in my compartment and resisted the violent urge to track everyone of those miscriants that had made my life hell and jinx them into nothingness.

I'd been able to walk away without resorting to petty violence and stooping down to their incredibly low levels.

But now the temptation was dangling in front of me once more. And it was so powerful it almost intoxicated me.

I was stronger now. I was better at magic than all of them combined. I'd risen above them and become a lovely, well-educated, charming Beauxbatons Angel.

The temptation tore through me, ripping my resolve in half.

Part of me wanted to parade it in front of them, rub it in their faces. Show them how I'd bounced back and what I'd become.

But another, more noble (or frightened) part of me wanted to crawl under a rock until all of those horrible monsters were gone and never see them again.
 
Never. Ever. Again.

I thought about my friends and my cousins and Grandmere and Tante O. What would they say if they knew where I'd been forced to come the very minute I arrived at my parents house?

I wouldn't call it home, really. It had been once but it really wasn't anymore. Because my definition of home was somewhere to escape the world and feel safe and comfortable. Somewhere you were accepted -no matter what you did or how you looked. Somewhere you could laugh and smile and be genuinly happy.

I'd found my home at Beauxbatons.

Among people who loved me, accepted me, valued me. At school I had friends. I was lively and cheeky and cheerful all of the time. My oppinions were wanted and my laughter was contagious.

I'd never had that before. Especially not at Hogwarts.

Definitely not at Hogwarts.

So I wrestled internally with myself.

Graceful or Vengful. Indifferent or Enraged. High Road or Revenge.

And then I heard it.

At first, I thought I was hallucinating. Imagining things. 

But then as my head whipped up in alarm and panic, I saw the others around me turn toward the shrill noise I'd heard.

And then I saw it. Saw it for the first time in three years with my piercing blue eyes.

That hideously familiar scarlett train.

***

(Hey readers!
       So I know this chapter is super short but I just had to cut off there. It was too good of a chance to pass up. The perfect cliffy! So there it is ENJOY! 
        If someone could PLEASE make a banner! I will dedicate a chapter to you.... lol ... seriously though it's in major need of a banner- I have some pictures for it I just have no clue how to make one! If you're interested PM me! 
                                          *~RED~*)


Chapter 5: Nightmare in the Flesh
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(I orginially called this chapter - French Disses,Christmas Kisses and Uncomortable Sisses - but I thought this sounded better! Enjoy!)

Chapter 5~ Nightmare in the Flesh


"Oh my God! If you say you're in love with my brother, I'll barf. I swear it!"

~Jessica Mastriani, Missing you (the 1-800-WHERE-R-

YOU series) by Meg Cabot



~



I didn't rush forward like my parents and everyone else around me did.

Not even when Saundra appeared, bubbly and beautiful as she always was. She hugged my parents, babbled something to them and then took off into the crowd once more.

I stayed put.

Just waiting, keeping my blank, uninterested expression firmly in place. 

To everyone around me, I was sure I looked like a spoiled little French snob. But I could've cared less. I stood there leaning casually against the platform looking indifferent.

I didn't really worry about being recognized as the clumsy know-it-all with bulky glasses and bad hair because I looked nothing like her anymore.
 
But even if I had been recognized by some of my old schoolmates I wouldn't have cared (as long as I didn't have to actually talk to any of them and they stayed out of arms reach). It didn't matter to me what the vile students of Hogwarts thought of me anymore.

I was a Beauxbatons Angel. I didn't need their approval. Or at least that's what I kept  silently telling myself.

As I casually searched the many faces-looking for one in particular- I recognized several of them and resisted the impulse to glower.

Most of them were gawking at me. Intrigued by the lovely but very bored looking foreign girl standing alone on the platform. None of them had ever seen a "Beauxbatons beauty" (the ridiculous nickname Wallace Farebush -a fifth year when I was in third-had labeled a girl named Estella -who I'd later become friends with- he'd followed around like a ridiculous puppy for an entire summer) before.

But I really didn't care.

There was only one person in the entire station that I really wanted to see at the moment. One person I'd actually missed on this horrid platform.

"Hello."

The voice was low and unfamiliar and directed at me.

I could tell -from experience (Hey, you try spending most of your time with three of the most well trained hot bloke detectors in Europe and not pick up some of the gifts)-without turning around that it belonged to a tall male. Cute but cocky. Also used to females swooning at his feet. The voice was sensual. It had a smooth texture to it, like velvet. Seductive. And much too confident for his own good.

Puh-lease. I already knew that he wasn't for me. 

I turned, annoyed and very unwilling.

I'd been right. Of course. The owner was a tall boy with spiked jet black hair (that had a reddish tint in the flourescent light) and nicely toned Quidditch muscles. He grinned at me crookedly. It was a mischievious, cocky grin that was used to getting it's way with women.

I was bored already.

Choosing not to respond to his very smooth opening line of 'hello', I began searching the faces around me once more. Ignoring the cute stranger trying to flirt with me.

"So," he continued when I didn't reply, "You got to Beauxbatons, yeah?"

I held back a wince at the butchering pronounciation of my wonderful school's name. I managed to contain my horror at his dreadful accent enough to remain tacitle and keep looking bored and uninterested.

To be perfectly honest, I was.

Uninterested, I mean.

Sure, he was definitely built and incredibly good looking but so were most of the boys at Beauxbatons.

And none of them had made fun of me when I was a frump.

This stunningly handsome male looked about my age, so there was a pretty good chance that he had. He'd most likely been one of the wankers who'd tormented me on a daily basis for three years. 

Oh, ugh. Fabulous.

Several meters away, I realized, a pack of boys-most likely his pigheaded friends (who also very likely made fun of me)- were watching wistful and eager. They nudged each other and laughed and stared at us with hungry eyes.

Ew.
I raised an eyebrow at him and then turned my head pointedly to continue my interrupted scan through the array of faces.

"Do you have a name?" the persistent boy tried again.

I sighed, exasperatedly. He was beginning to get on my nerves.
 
"Je ne vous dirais pas, même si vous ne le saviez pas déjà."
"Oh. You don't speak English. That explains it." He muttered, then his forehead creased with concentration and he took a deep breath, "Hmm... Votre nom?"

I resisted another eye roll. Was he for real? Pretending he was fluent.

Psh. Um, hello!  If he was he'd've known what I said. And therefore, he'd know that I knew English. Moron.
"James!"

He turned around.

Answering to the call. Answering to that name.

My eyes buldged out of their sockets with shock and my jaw fell open. I blinked as rocks weighed in my stomach sickeningly.

A redhead woman was motioning to the boy in front of me. She stood with a tall man that was attracting even more stares than me. He looked similar to the boy but much different at the same time.

They were of similar height and Quidditch build, identical bone structure and they had the same hair but that was really where the similarity stopped. The air around them was completely different. The boy had an arrogant, cocky, playboy air. The man had a grounded, humble, giving air.

And suddenly, recognition hit me like a wrecking ball. 

Only a million times more violent. Those liquid golden-brown eyes with the green flecks and sparks of mischief and that insufferable mess of black hair. I recognized him.

James Potter.

Satan. The devil himself. The sadistic boy who'd gotten so much pleasure out of hexing me and watching my books fly everywhere as I scrambled to pick them up. Who'd laughed as I got stepped on. Laughed when I cried. 

The boy who had been ten thousand times worse to me than any Slytherin. Or anyone for that matter.

And here he was, three year later. Actually trying to FLIRT with me.

Oh that was just disturbing on so many levels.

Sick in so many ways. Twisted in every way possible. But, to be perfectly  honest, if I hadn't been so shell-shocked, I probably would've laughed. Someone up there definitely had a pretty good sense of irony.

He held up a finger to the lovely redhead woman (his mother, I was pretty sure), signaling to her that he'd be there in a moment. And then, he turned back to face me again.

Luckily, I'd managed to clutch at some of my bearings, composing my features before he noticed.

"Dites-moi s'il vous plaît votre nom?" He asked, in that atrocious accent.

"Angélique" I was too shocked to resist his question.

It was the very first time, I realized belatedly, that I'd ever actually introduced myself as 'Angélique'. But I knew that I couldn't tell him my real name. I just couldn't.

"Angélique." He repeated, more to himself than to me. "Angelic. That's fitting." He muttered, then to me, "Si Angélique-"

"OY! JAMES!" a boy, I recognized as Albus Potter, James's little brother, bellowed from where he and a sea of mostly redheads- the Potter/Weasley clan- stood.

I thought I spotted Roxy and Dominique among them. But I was glued to my spot against the wall. I couldn't move. I was still shocked. Of all the people from my past that could've approached me it had to be the one I loathed the most of all. What the hell?!
"Stop flirting and get your a-"

I didn't hear the rest of his brother's demand because, at that moment, I spotted the face I'd been looking for earlier.

"MICHAEL!"
I forgot that I was in shock. I forgot that James Potter didn't know who I was (nor did anyone else for that matter). I forgot that I wasn't supposed to speak English. And I ran at my brother, jumped into his arms and threw mine around his neck.

"ALLIE!" He spun me around.

"I missed you!" I squealed.

"Missed you too, Al." He set me down and held me at arms length. Gradually his face grew skeptical.

"What?"

"Did you get taller?"

I smacked him playfully.

"Ouch!" he rubbed his arm as if I'd hurt him.

"Wimp." I teased.

He grinned and then his eyes shifted. His grin got wider and positively wicked.

"What?" I asked him again, not sure if I wanted to know this time.

I didn't, it turns out.

He looked at me, blue eyes alight with mischief and amusement. "Seems my little sister is causing quite a stir," his clear blue eyes shifted back to something behind me.

I rolled my eyes and turned my head around to see what on earth he was talking about. And then groaned.

Standing about four and a half meters away from us was a group of rowdy boys. All leering in my direction. They were the same ones who'd been watching eagerly as James Potter had attempted to hit on me. But the group had gotten considerably larger. 

Ew. Hogwarts boys were pigs. 

With the exception of my brother and his three best frends. 

The rest of them though, Ew.

"Ugh," I scoffed, disgusted.

James Potter was giving all of them the scoop on the Beauxbatons girl he alone had been brave enough to talk to.

I turned back to my brother. "Well they can all just roll their tongues back inside their heads because I've sworn off boys for a bit." Not that any of them had a chance anyway but whatever.

"Aw. Why? Did things with John Claude von Frenchie not work out so well? Did the name finally get to you?" He teased wrinkling his nose in mock-sympathy.

This was his lovely nickname for my last boyfriend. Drew LeFarge and I had dated for two months last summer but when school started it didn't go so well and I broke it off with him. I regretted that decision when Bayard Dubose started following me around because Drew was -like most of the guys I knew at Beauxbatons- extremely fit and could've scared Bayard of easily.

I hit him.
 
"His name was Drew!" I squealed, "A perfectly normal name, thank you very much! And it wasn't his name." I wrinkled my nose, "He just got too clingy once we got to school. Possesive, actually."

"And no bloke controls my baby sister."

"That's-right." I poked his chest with each word for ephasis. And we laughed as I gave him a mock-punch on one of his big muscular arms. Truthfully, it kind of hurt, but I wasn't about to tell him that. Because I'd seriously never hear the end of it. So I just laughed.

But our laughter was interrupted by three familiar voices, "BEAUXBATONS GIRL!"

I whirled around to glower and instantly spotted the three frighteningly tall males-around my brother's height- pushing through the crowds, passed the hord of moronic oglers and the wasps' nest of glaring females (who I'd just noticed).

All three of them had broad shoulders, thick bands of muscles and a good two feet on me. And all three had these big mischievious grins plastered on their faces as they approached.

"Must you three call me that every time you see me?" I called loudly as they strutted over, sighing wearily.

I saw- with periphial vision-some of the boys (especially James Potter) blink in surprise when I spoke in English (with out even a French accent) and felt a twinge of smugness.

"Well we definitely are if you're going to wear the uniform around all holiday." The middle ( and slightly taller) one laughed deeply.

I narrowed my eyes at him fiercely. "For your information Emmett, I didn't get any time to change into my normal clothes before we had to come meet you lot. I wanted to stay home but I got chastised for even suggesting such a sin."

His grin widened.

In three long strides he was in front of me, swooping me up into a vice-tight bear hug.

"Emmett... Can't... Breathe!" I gasped.

He chuckled and set me down.

Just as my lungs began to expand again, I was scooped into another set of bone-crushingly strong arms. Bryan Finnigan had pulled me into a rib-cracking hug too.

"Hiya Allie," he chuckled.

My sapphire eyes became slits and I smacked one of his hard shoulders. Futile, I know, but whatever.
 
"Hi." I tried to keep my glare in place but I couldn't help it, I had to grin. I hugged his neck and laughed.

When Bryan set me down, my eyes met a pair of sparkling hazel ones. Frank Longbottom II grinned genuinely at me. He had always been one of my favorite people.

I laughed, "Oh what the hell," And the I threw my arms around him.

He chuckled and lifted me off the ground. I promptly screeched as he spun me around and laughed.

When he put me down I saw the pack of guys beginning to disperse. Being beckoned over by their anxious mothers or dragged off by insecure girlfriends. Finally.

I didn't like being watched by the students of Hogwarts. Especially the male ones. It only made me mad. My temper threatened to gush over the edges and my eyes twitched, wanting deperately to glower at them until they were burned through from my furious gaze.

I wanted to stay in control of myself.

And, as was to be expected, James Potter's constant glances were making that shockingly difficult. I turned my back on him and the rest of the leering individuals(as most of them were finally leaving), wanting to break that strong, angled jaw of his. So it's an extremely lucky thing (for him) that his family began to make their way out of the station.

"Alexa?" A voice said behind me. 

It was truly a question. There was an incredulous note in the saprano's tone. As if the owner thought she was hallucinating or something.

I turned back in the direction that James Potter had been moments before to see, instead, a pixie-like figure with short chocolate brown hair and vividly familiar golden eye (with the accenting flecks of brown in them).

"ALICE!" I ran and very nearly tackled one of my very best friends, exictedly.

She laughed- a twinkling, happy laugh. It brought back the few cheerful memories I had of Hogwarts.
 
"It is you!" She exclaimed happily, "I thought so! But the hair kind of threw me off a bit."

I grimaced, "Yeah, too much sun I s'pose. It's gotten a rusty tint, yeah?"

She scoffed, "No. It looks reddish. Gorgeous, of course."

I rolled my eyes at her and we both laughed again, unable to keep the smiles from our faces. The giddiness of the reunion was tangible in the otherwise muggy King's Cross air.

"What are you doing here anyway?!"

"What? I can't come see all of the lovely students of Hogwarts?"

She heard the sarcasm and gave me a look, biting back a smile. "Well...no. It's not really something you'd do willingly, Alex."

I grinned. 

This also struck the only ounce of nastalgia I had for my old school. Alice was the only one who'd ever called me Alex.

"No. You're right. I would never come here willingly" I agree, still grinning.

She grimaces and then inquires, "So, what did they threaten you with to get you to come, Beauxbatons Girl?"

I laugh and narrow my eyes at her lovely mischievious features.

"Well! You are wearing the uniform!"

***


"Nuh-uh!"

"Yep."

"No way!" 
"Not kidding."

Alice laughs out loud as we sit in my old room later that night. 

Emmett, Bryan and Frank were staying with us over the holiday, so Alice had begged her parents to let her come as well.
 
We'd played Quidditch with the boys (Saundra had went to spend the night with one of her friends) until dark and then the two of us had sat up in my room prattling on to each other about everything we'd done since our last visit.

"Of all people! It's hilarious!"

I shrug, biting back my smug smile.

"And James actually tried to speak French to you?"

I nodded. And then ask, "How did he know the little that he did anyway?"

"Dee." she answers, simply. Then she smiles, wickedly, "It's been quite entertaining actually."

"Really? How so?"

"Well, you must have heard the dreadful accent he-"

"Ugh! Yes! It was absolutely atrocious!"

"Yeah," Alice laughs, "Dee thinks so, too. She cringes everytime."

"Why does James Potter want to learn French anyway?" I ask her inserting acid into the name as I uttered it, my eyebrows knitting together in confusion and my nose wrinkling from disgust.

"Parler à de jolies filles françaises comme vous, évidemment. Oh, et injurier sans la connaissance de Professeurs" She laughs lightly.

"Figures." I mutter. "I should have known, seeing as it's James Potter. Some things never change."

She looks suddenly uncomfortable.

'"What?"

"He's not thirteen anymore, Alex."

"Well duh! I kind of figured that out already!" I laughed, "He's not as... scrawny."

She shook her head, "No, I mean," she sighed,"he isn't as bad as he used to be."

My eyebrows furrowed, "What d'ya mean?"

"He's a playboy, yeah. He likes girls, but so do half the blokes in Europe-"

"Only half?" I raised a perfectly sculpted eyebrow and the corner of my lips curled into a smile.

She laughed and said, "You know what I mean." She sighed, her face getting serious, "James is a decent bloke. He was immature." She shrugs "What thirteen year old boy isn't?"

My eyes narrowed for half a second.

Immature? James Potter was brutal! Satanic, even!

But I wasn't about to argue with my friend when I hadn't seen her in nearly a year so I said, "Whatever you say, Alice," in Michael's patronizing way.

She knew this and laughed.

"I'm hungry." I told her, simply to change the subject.

"When are you not hungry?" She rolls her eyes playfully.

"Hey!" I laugh, "It's all that French food," I wrinkle my nose, "too light. It doesn't make me full at all."

She laughs, "To the kitchen then?"

"To the kitchen!"

***

"Waffles."

"No way! Pancakes are so much better!" Alice protests.

"Alice, are you serious?!" Bryan blinked at her, incredulous. "Have you hit your head on something extremely  hard lately?"

I looked at Emmett and we both burst out laughing.

"You can make anything sound kinky with those minds can't you?" Frank asked with an amused glint in his eye.

"Yes!" I gasped through my uncontrollable giggle fit.

"You've got a twisted mind, Alexa Swan." Frank told me, the corner of his lips twitch upward but he manages a semi-straight face none the less.

"Whatever, you prat! You're worse than I am!"

He considers this for a moment, "True."

We joked around like this every morning. It was almost routine. And then, after the boys devoured a good portion of food-enough for about five elephants (Where do they put it all?)- someone would inevitably say, "Who's up for a game of Quidditch?"

The teams were Emmett, Frank and I against Bryan, Alice and Michael. Alice and I had a blast dominating the pitch. We were smaller and faster than any of the boys so we flew circles around them.

On the last morning of Alice, Frank, Emmett and Bryan's stay we headed out to the pitch for the last game. It was freezing, snow sloshed under my feet and fell into my hair. 

I hated it. I shivered convulsively and the chatter of my teeth was painfully audible.

Ther rest of them laughed at me. They were used to the cold weather. They teased my about being a Beauxbatons girl and said that France made me soft. 

I glowered in their general directions, wondering why the heat from my gaze wasn't burning them alive.

We took our positions on the field half a mile from my house and on the count of three we were off.

Flying was exhilarating.

I'd never been much for Quidditch at Hogwarts, but anywhere else I was addicted. I loved the breeze tangling my hair, even though today it was so cold my fingers were about to fall off. I loved the competition, the adrenaline rush. My heart sped up, my pulse thumped behind my ears. It was great.

I assisted Emmett twice and made three goals of my own. Frank made two as well and we won. We had to end it there because my Mrs. Longbottom had arrived to take Alice and Frank home.

I hugged my friend tightly and promised to write her tomorrow then gave her brother a hug too before our mothers were done chatting and they had told leave.

As the green flames flickered away, I sighed.

Thank God I'd see Leah and Bee tomorrow. 

Being with Alice had made me think too much. I was second guessing my decision to flee the hell of Hogwarts. Crazy, I know. But spending all my time with Alice and my brother and his friends made me wonder if I really couldn't have stuck it out.

I shook my head at these thoughts and went to fix myself a drink in the kitchen. All of the Quidditch had made me thirsty. I poured the orange juice into the fun shaped glasses my mother had bought three years before and replaced the carton into the fridge. I sipped at it for a moment as I leaned against the counter. 

And then I heard it.

"Lav!" My mother squealed "How are you darling?!" I heard a woman's voice answer and then picked out the name Bryan as she prattled away at my mum. 

Then I heard three sets of footsteps clunking down the stairs.

I let out another heavy sigh and set my glass down. Might as well go see Bry off. I pushed off the counter and went into the living room.

And stopped dead in the door way.

Standing in my living room was my mother,brother, Emmett, Bryan, Mrs. Finnigan and two others standing to her right. 

Two atrociously familiar young men .

One was Bryan's younger brother. I recognized him immediately- though, he looked considerably different from the strawberry blonde freckle-plagued,crinkly faced git I'd disliked so strongly.

He'd gotten much taller. His shoulders were broad but not quite at Emmett's level yet and his biceps were much larger than they'd been three years ago. His green eyes were happy and kinder somehow, with more gold flecks than I remembered. His hair had turned more strawberry than blonde. He was grinning widly at Emmett, Bryan and Michael. 

They were all chatting away over there. Traitors.

The second of the two was The same height, with even more familiarity in his features. None other than James Potter.

Oh my God! Bloody hell! James Prick-Head Potter was in my living room! No. No. No. No. No! Not happening! This is NOT happpening.
For a moment, I stood there like a complete idiot.
 
Frozen with panic. A fresh wave of terror washed through me, the salt water licking at my wounds-reopening them. Pain shot through my chest as flashes of every old emotion rushed back into me. Every terrible feeling, every horrible memory that I'd repressed rejoiced in it's revival. 

I hadn't felt emotions like this in a long time. 

Terror, rejection, worthlessness, insecurity, pain.

None of these feelings plagued me among my friends at Beauxbatons. I was never rejected. I was never treated terribly. I never sobbed uncontrollably into my pillow at night. Quite to the contrary. I was treated like a princess there. Everyone was wonderful and  those who weren't were shunned. No one there would ever dream of making me cry.

I stared, horrorstruck, at the one person who'd been responsible for the majority of my depression. The one who'd caused those tears.
 
A painful tear in my chest rippled. The fault line awakened. I started shaking as the ghost of the hole in my chest echoed around me. 

I stared at my tall,dark and handsome nightmare in the flesh.

Not only in the flesh, in my living room of all places!

At the station, he'd been just another half wit vying for my attentions. He'd been a very handsome, tall pretty boy that bored me. Because I could find many others at school just like him who would be a thousand times more appealing based on location alone.

And once I knew his name, I hadn't had time to recover from the initial shock to realize that the former hollow spot of my chest was threatening me. That the phantom of my pain hovered in the air, cotemplated suffocating me, waiting eagerly to return.

But now, I felt it. 

It was strong. Probably because I hadn't even had a whisper of this threat for so long that now it came back, full force. Overwhelming me.

James Potter was here. James Potter was standing three meters away. James Potter and I were in the same room. 

For so long it had seemed like he'd only been a nightmare. One that would never haunt me again. It was like he'd been on a different hemisphere. Like he was in another universe. So far away that he was practically nonexistant. 

But now he stood in my house.  And he was definitely real. 

And then, I realized that none of them had seen me yet.
 
It wasn't too late to get out. 

So that is exactly what I did.

Yes, I'm a coward alright? But I like it that way. Running is my solution and it's worked quite well. Until now, of course.

I scampered from the room and darted behind the wall.

That's when I heard my mother say, "Well come have a drink! Come! Come!"

Ugh.... Not. Happening
.

For three whole years I'd managed to successfully elude my past. I'd carefully avoided my ghosts. But now they were catching up with me. Gripping at my heels. Cackling as they finally found me again. And I didn't like it one bit.

I darted into the hallway just in time.

"Michael?"

"Yeah, mum?"

"Is this your drink, love?"
My heart lurched and slammed into my chest with unnessesary force. 

I was an idiot. A complete and utter moron.

"No." He told her, "S'probably Allie's. She said she was goin' to get a drink earlier."

"Where'd she disappear to, I wonder?
" My mother pondered.

I squinted my eyes tightly shut. Wishing I could do my thing and disappear. Cursing whoever had made the law about apparition before you turn seventeen.
 
This could not be happening to me. It was just too bizarre.

My brother must have shrugged or something because my mother just laughed and started chatting happily with Mrs. Finnigan once more.

That's when I realized, I was panting. 

I sucked in air and held my breath. Thank heavens I've got excellent lung capacity.

They babbled on and on and on. They drank their drinks at the table and talked about Hogwarts. N.E.W.T. exams O.W.L. results. Endlessly, endlessly talking. I was not a patient person this afternoon.

I still couldn't believe that James Potter was sitting at my kitchen table. The shock was too enormous.

He had the audacity to compliment my mother on the decor of the house and the nerve to laugh with two of my brothers (I say "brothers" because Bryan, Frank and Emmett might as well be- they're certainly around enough). To sit in my house as if he was human. As if he wasn't Satan. Urgha!

Stupid git.

It had been bad enough to have him hit on me. I'd felt dirty the entire day-showering like seven times. The boys laughed at me -because I hadn't been to keen to share why exactly  I felt so violated- with them. Alice just rolled her eyes. But now he was sitting in my house. I was sooooo washing that chair off tonight.

Finally the Finnigans and the Potter got up to leave.

"Where's Allie?" Bryan asked, "I wanted to say goodbye to her."

My heart jumped back into my throat. Oh God, oh God, oh God,oh God, oh God! Bryan you're killign me here!
"No clue, mate," Michael answered- I could almost hear him shrug. "I'm not her keeper. She probably went off to owl one of the 'Angels'" 

Their was an audible eye roll in these words and my eyes narrowed at the blank wall in front of me. I resisted the impulse to shout out a reminder to him that he was dating one of those "Angels".
Bryan laughed, sighed and said, "Well tell her I said bye. And good game, will ya? She kicked your arses on that pitch today."
Michael laughed but didn't protest this as I'd expected him to. He just said, "Yeah sure, mate."  And then I heard them filing out the door.

I thought it was safe. I really did.

I went to go grab my orange juice and as I looked up there was Potter. Bryan was in front of him with his back to me clapping his brother on the back about someing but I couldn't hear him anymore. I could only stare like a doe in headlights at Potter. Standing in the doorway, eyes wide with shock. And then he was pulled through the door and they left.

Ugh! Why me?!

***



"ALLIE!" A small figure latches onto my leg.

I look down to see a mop of long chestnut curls and a pair of gorgeous emeralds, set in a face constructed of high cheek bones and alibaster skin. A mixture of every amazing family trait on this side.

"Gabby!" I swooped Rosaire's little sister into my arms and rained kisses down on her rosie cheeks.

She giggled happily. 

The sound floated into the air weaving in and out of the beautiful day. I breathed in the delicious scent of France. Even though it was Northern France and freezing-it was still home. It was still where my friends were and where I'd found myself. It was still where I'd found happiness and was able to sing again.  I was finally home.

"Comment ça va, chéri?! Comment est l'école Muggle? Avait un problème gardant votre secret? " I asked her.

Gabriella was six and a lot like me already. She was shy when she first met people but when she trusted them enough she'd talk their ear off. She was always happy humming to herself and looking at pictures in picture books. She complained that there weren't hard enough words in them. She also had that knack for controlling her powers that I had at her age. 

So her parents had enrolled her in Muggle school so she'd get social skills before heading to actual school. Hopefully, it would help her more than it helped me. Lucky for her, she'd be going to Beauxbatons so she was a million times less likely to start out as terribly as I did.

She shrugged and played with my necklace. But before I could tease her about the pouty lip or ask her what was with the expression, the rest of the family came top greet me.

Grandmere was among the first. "Allie, mon chéri! Oh nous vous avons manqués, l'amour! Joyeux Noël!"
"Joyeux Noël!" I said back giving her a peck on each cheek as she squeezed Gabby and I to her.

Gabriella giggled again.

When Grandmere let go, other various family members stepped forward top kiss my cheek and marvel at me say thigns like 'vous devenez plus jolis chaque jour férié' and 'vous brillez la chaque fois nous vous voyons maintenant, comme une belle pierre brute!'. 
I blushed a lot when these comments were made. 

And then, they  would inquire about school and my friends and called me things like 'le bijou' and  'l'ange' and 'joli'.

On the one hand, all of this endlessly pleased me. I was happy because I was back to the place where I was loved. I was ecstatic that I could generate such a response in my family for simply being there. Being me.

But on the other, I was extremely aware that my sister was right behind me. Standing there in silence. Listening to my family praise me and take an interest in me. She listened as they called me the endearing pet names and watched as each kissed my cheeks and hugged me tight.

I could almost hear her thoughts. Thoughts of neglect and unhappiness.

Saundra was still not used to being second.  Whenever I was around I felt it. She wasn't happy about taking the back seat. She wasn't used to having her older sister dominate all  the attention and recieve all the praise, like most little sisters would've been.

It bugged her.

I could tell. 

But it was more than just attention and praise that she wanted. She knew they loved her just as much, but it bugged her that they were closer to me.

She got annoyed and envied that Brigitte and I were more like the sisters and that she was excluded. She didn't like it when my Beauxbatons friends were around because it reminded her that I had a life entirely separate from hers. That there was a billion things she didn't know about me that others did. 

Tante O's wedding was going to be excruciating for her. She groaned when it was time to go see my mother's family on Grandmere's side- time to go to France- every holiday, because then it reminded her that I was a virtual stranger to her now. It reminded her that I'd chosen here, over being at Hogwarts with her.

I hated hurting her but there was no way around it. 

Not without sacrificing myself completely and that was something I couldn't do. Not now that I'd finally found myself again. Now that I'd came into my skin.

"Come, Come!" Grandmere urged pulling me into the house.

I pushed the feelings of discomfort from my head, telling myself that Saundra was a big girl and she could handle it. That if this was the only unpleasant thing, the only tragedy in her life she'd survive.

Inside, it was warm and comforting. The feeling of home was even stronger. The air tasted of sweet homecomings, vanilla and cinnamon. Music played, one of my favorite Christmas songs by a famous French witch. Laughter floated throught the rooms with happy voices of my family all speaking my favorite language.

I greeted everyone and sang along with the familiar music, still aware of Saundra trailing behind me. But I was unable to be tense about her insecurities anymore. I was inwardly rejoicing at being home. I was too happy for worries to intrude.

There was still one person I wanted to see though. And as I wondered aloud where she was I heard two shrieks of joy at the top of the stairs. Before I knew it I was tackled and swimming in a sea of excited babbling and perfect hair.

Leah and Brigitte were on either side of me frantically inquiring about everything I'd wrote to them and demanding for more details.

And then, Leah remembered what my arrival meant and she asked anxiously, "Where's Michael?"

I grinned and nodded my head in the direction of my beaming brother, standing under the mistletoe.

She shrieked once more and ran into his arms. 

He wrapped them around her tightly and right there, in front of all of the family, he kissed her, deep and full on the mouth. Tongues and all.

Ugh. My stomach rolled.
 
It was not that kissing bugged me, really. But my brother and my best friend being all gooey and romantic was just gross. Completely revolting. It just was.

"Ew. Uah! Allez faire vous deux recevoir une chambre d'hôtel déjà ?" I interrupted them.

They both smiled but continued sucking face as if I hadn't spoken at all. As if our entire family wasn't sitting there cooing at them. My family loved Leah. 

They loved Lynnie too. The angels could do no wrong in there eyes, just like at school. So rather than being  revolted at such a public display, they thought it was sweet and wonderful. They couldn't wait for Michael to pop the  question one day and make Leah an official member of our family rather than just honorary.

I exchanged eye rolls with Brigitte

When he and Leah finally broke apart, they went for a walk.

So, Brigitte and I babbled happily- enjoying our little reunion- and made our way upstairs. Saundra, reluctantly tagged along as we went down the red painted hallway to the room we shared every summer. On the cream colored door was a familiar inscription in blue. It had been put there by Grandmere the summer after fourth year by magic. It read; Les Anges. I saw Saundra tense at yet another reminder of my seperate life but I chose not to acknowledge it. Like I said earlier, if this was the only tragedy my little sister had to endure in her life, she'd be perfectly fine.

When I entered the room another rush of familiar scents and feelings happily greeted me. The scent of Leah's perfume mingled with that of Lynnie's broom polish and Bee's favorite hair potion.

My favorite candles that had colorful flames and comforting aromas, were all around the room as well as posters of Bee, Lynnie and my favorite football and Quidditch teams. There was a big book shelf on the East wall filled up with every one of my favorites.

Two queen-sized beds were up against the North wall facing the South where the window seat was looking out at the beautiful view. The sheets on both were blue and they head tons of fun pillows tossed hither tither on them, yet they still managed to look perfect.

My trunk was sitting in it's usual place in the huge closet next to Leah's and acrossed from Brigitte's. We'd sent it here this morning, as this would be where I spent the remainder of my holiday.

This had been a last minute decision of mine.
 
I was far too homesick to stay in England longer than absolutly nessecary. I would be endlessly bored there anyway. And because of my decision, Michael had decided to spend the rest of his holiday in France, too. 

Whether that was because he missed me or Leah I didn't really know.

There was a flat-screen Muggle television on the West wall - that Lynnie and Brigitte had insisted we get the summer before fifth year- and a little sitting area that we had spent so many nights in giggling endlessly over how ridiculous we were and watching sappy romantic movies simply to mock them or horror flicks for the thrill.

Pictures were everywhere, all of them moving. They laughed and screeched slilently as they made faces and waved at the camera. They  were everywhere, framed and hung on the walls or tapped to the mirror of the dresser or propped up on the bed-side tables. Or on the entertainment center by the television. 

I smiled as the memories flooded my mind.

Our whole group frolicking the sparkling water, splashing, squealing and shouting over the crashing of the waves and laughing happily. That had been at the end of fourth year, one of the happiest years of my life. My fourteen year old self ran from Tre as he chased me with a crab, splashed Brigitte and Andre, picked up Rosaire and threw her into the water. Then she waved happily at me with her arms around Lynnie and Leah (who was next to Bee) smiling madly.

Andre, Bee, Rosaire and I out in the sun, wearing sunglasses, waving happily to the camera. I had another flash of that day, Andre's sixteenth birthday, when we'd had a party in the boys' dormitories and gorged on cake and butterbeer. Giving us splitting headaches and heavy stomaches the next morning.

Adam slinging me over his shoulder one blistering Saturday morning as we were trying to tan and running into the ocean with me as I hit him on the back, laughing, but still screeching in protest. 

Andre, Adam, Tre and Henri flicking off the camera. I remembered rolling my eyes as Lynnie took it and teasing them about beign nice young gentlemen. And I remembered Henri scooping me up and runnign me into the water. I had water in my nose for hours.

The four Angels, Rosaire and her friends all on a straight line of towels lying out in the sun in our fifth year. Smiling and talking. I remembered marveling at how simple and wonderful my daily routine was at Beauxbatons. Breakfast, boredom (a.k.a. classses), beach, bonfire and bed. "Beauxbatons's five B's."

A large group of us, all of our friends from every  single year- at one of the many bonfires that the whole school attended-acting ridiculous, waving at the camera, pouring water on eachother and dancing to the various rockbands on the radio that we liked and mocking those we didn't. 

Henri and Lynnie sticking their tongues out at our friend Estella's seventeenth birthday bash.

The lot of us dancing out in the rare rainstorm. Laughing like small children. Simple and happy. Barefoot and free.

Adam giving Leah and Bee bunny ears, as they made faces at the camera around Christmas last year.

All of us smiling sweetly, being normal for once, at lunch one afternoon.

Andre, Tre and I in varous silly poses, as a cure for our insane boredom. Laughing happily at how stupid we were. Delighting in that fact.

All of us playing Quidditch on the beach. Playing Muggle sports happily on the sand below. Throwing our hands up in victory when we made a good play or scored a goal on the other team. 

Tre and Adam giving Lynnie and I piggyback rides on the grounds one cloudy afternoon. Then demanding that we give piggyback rides to them- acting put out when we bluntly refused through our giggles.

Andre carrying an eleven year old Rose up the Grand stairs, because she fell asleep at the bonfire. It had been her very first and she'd been so mad afterwards that she'd dosed off.

Bee and I arm in arm strutting down the cobblestone streets of the Ville de Fourchettes. All four of us, with our arms linked. The angels and the boys-as they pretended to act like girls and join with the strutting and the arm linking.

Drinking butterbeers at L'Oreiller de Chocolat in the Ville de Fourchettes. Shopping later the very same day. Trying on the most ridiculous clothes we could find without the intention of purchasing a single item.

The four of us showing off our bracelets the first day we got them, laughing and moving our wrist to watch the wings sparkle in the light. We'd done that so much that day that it really began to annoy the boys.

Lynnie giving me a piggyback as I ate slurrped an ice cream that the two of us were supposed to be 'sharing.'  Lynnie giving me an evil-eye later when she firgured out i'd eaten the ice cream already.

Eating food at the big round back booth in L'Oreiller de Chocolat -the only booth that would or possibly could begin to hold all of us- the "Angels" and the rest of our amazing friends. We ate eachother's food without asking and we laughed at the clumsy moments of the day like only family could. 

Andre, Henri, Adam, Leah and I the last day of fifth year, still dressed in our powder blue robes. Looking ever the model students.

Leah and I both in casual clothes by the fire on the beach one night. Looking completely exhausted from such a hectic day of fun. I felt totally comfortable walking around without a smidge of makeup on at school, no one really cared. Even though the two of us had faint purple bruises under our eyes due to a full weekend of sleep deprivation.

Me, reading, unaware that Andre was playing the role of stalkerazzi and fully engrossed in the pagesof my new book. My mind deep within another world not paying any mind to this one.

Lynnie and I acting silly, as we  pointlessly raced eachother down the corridors.

All of us- looking stunning and lively- at the annual Halloween ball. Our hair sleek and perfect, our gowns gorgeous and flowing. The boys' in very handsome dress robes, managing to look suave and heart-melting even at the age of fifteen.

So many pictures, I realized with a twinge, that Saundra had never seen before. She avoided this room, normally. She studied each one of them, as Bee and I prattled on about the non-awkward topics we could think of. Her face was expressionless but her eyes were wistfull and sad. She saw how happy I was at Beauxbatons and wished I could be that happy around her. Wished that I'd come back to Hogwarts and give her piggyback rides through Hogsmeade and laugh with her about riddiculous outfits in the shops.

I felt a pang in my heart but there was nothing I could do for her. I wasn't going to be unhappy. If I was to go back to Hogwarts, I'd only be a ghost of  my happy, lively self. I'd be like a zombie. Nobody wanted that. And there was no way I could ever be happy at Hogwarts.

And then the door burst open.

"Look who I found," Andre demanded and he pulled a glowing Lynnie into the room. He covered his ears just before the shrieks of joy rang out but I spotted his fingers spread apart.

"Faker." I teased him.

We laughed.

"Oh my gosh!" Jocelyn gushed, "What happened at the train station?! Give me all the dirty details!" She ordered excitedly.

I shot a sideways glance at my sister and answered, "Later."

I wasn't about to bash one of Hogwarts golden boys right in front of her. 

I didn't know if they were friendly or not. Michael sure seemed to be so who knew? I wasn't taking my chances. If Potter hadn't figured out who I was yet (most likely he hadn't because the boy is incredibly thick) I didn't want my sister blurting it out to him. I didn't want him to think I talked about our brief encounter at all. I didn't want him to know it had phased me.

I would remain the mysterious snobby French girl who hugged Michael and his friends at the station. He'd probably assumed I was Leah, coming to meet my English boyfriend and being a faithful girlfriend by snubbing him.

"I'm hungry." I lied.

"When are you not hungry?" Andre, Bee and Lynn said together. 

The fault line in my chest rippled and Alice's face flashed in my head as they repeated her exact words.

I narrowed my eyes at them and Lynnie smirked, "Sorry, Angelique. C'était trop facile. "My sister tensed at Jocelyn's use of my school nickname. Yet another thing she disliked. Surprise, surprise.

I smiled ruefully, "Yeah, yeah. Let's go get some food, already. "

***

Later that night I sat in one of the other sitting rooms of the house- cozier than the rest- with my cousins, Lynnie, Leah, my brother, my sister and our most recent batch of arrivals. Henri, Tre, Adam, and little Chloe and Elvira had come to spend the rest of the holiday at our house after spending the day with their own families.

Rosaire sat with Chloe and Elvira on the carpet in front of the fire and listened to our banter as little Gabby slept on my lap.

Henri, Andre, Tre and Adam began teasing me about Bayard Dubose's persistent endeavors and other boys at Beauxbatons who'd tried to catch me lately and my brother (Leah on his lap) listened and laughed as they filled him in on my most recent mortifictions. Saundra didn't say much.

We discussed Tante O's wedding a bit and I found that Hagrid had not yet informed all of his students of his impending numptuals. My brother and sister were shocked but happy for their lovable professor.

And then Lynnie blurted out (with a grimace) that we'd been asked to be the Junior bridesmaids ('whatever that means' she added sourly) and that I was going to sing at the reception.

I blushed. 

My brother congradulated me and beamed. Michael was beaming quite a lot today. 

As was Leah. She was thrill to be back in his arms. 

I was thrilled that he fit right in with us.

He joined the silly banter and kept up with our fast pace. He took interest in every ridiculous topic we giggled over and didn't seem like he felt the least bit left out when we gabbed about people from school or repeated stupid inside jokes. Instead he asked questions and listened to all of our hilarious stories with interest. 

He was Michael Jamison Swan, charming and vibrant as always. He fit in with us like a glove. And I couldn't be happier.

Unfortunately, not everyone was like Michael. He joined in and laughed with the rest of us. But this was the one place in the world that Saundra Adelaide Swan was uncomfortable.

It made me incredibly sad. 

My sister felt like she didn't fit among us. She felt like an outsider with me.

Before Christmas holiday in my fourth year, I thought my new makeover would make us closer. That my new outgoing, happy go lucky persona would make us the closest sisters on the planet.

I was very, very wrong.

But what else is new, right?

Saundra didn't like my new confidence for some reason. 

Straight after Christmas, she left to spend the rest of the holiday with one of her friends. Michael had his friend come to our house and they were constantly getting visits from various Hogwarts bimbos. And my father was bugging me to death about socializing with my old schoolmates.

I fumed in my room for two days-furious with my family- before I realized something. 

I had my own life now. 

And in that life I could forget about my siblings and my father entirely. Saundra and Michael had chosen to spend the holiday without me (despite that they hadn't seen me in ages)- goofing off with all of their friends that they saw on a daily basis. So I decided to go and see mine.
 
I was extremely homesick as it was. I went back to France, where I was happy. I went home. Where I felt appreciated.

And Saundra and I had spent little time together since.

So I watched her now. The insanely gorgeous, bubbly goddess I was related to couldn't even keep from fidgeting when she was around me anymore. Was it that unbearable for her to see me happy?

At this thought, my anger flared. 

I had to get out of her presence before I did something drastic. Something I might regret later. I saw her so little as it was, I didn't want to get in a fight the night before she left for England again and I wouldn't see her for months.

So I said, "Hé gars ? Je suis épuisé. Je crois que je vais éviter au lit maintenant."

The boys were obviously confused- they all knew I was a hopeless night owl, Saundra was indifferent, Airy and her friend had long gone to her room- taking a still slumbering Gabby up with them- but Bee, Lynnie and Leah had knowing looks in their eyes.

We knew each other so well that it was almost like we could read one another's minds. Like each other's thoughts were as clear as our own sometimes.They knew I wasn't really tired, but they knew something was bothering me and I had to get out of there before I regretted my actions in the morning.

"Goody- two shoes." Michael teased.

"Says the Head Boy of Hogwarts." I retorted. 

Jocelyn stretched and faked a huge yawn, "I'm tired too. I'll see you lot tomorrow." She stood up and met my gaze with a 'You're-going-to-spill-everything-when-we're- in- our-room' look.

"Yeah, I think I should get some sleep too." Brigitte agreed, "I plan on dragging you all along for a shopping spree tomorrow, anyway. Got to have my strength for it," she grinned at the rest and then turned to me with the same piercing look Lynnie had fixed me with.

I answered them with my own eyes, that I'd explain upstairs. 

And then the three of us looked at Leah and grinned.

She wasn't coming upstairs for a while. Not while her Michael was still here. I doubted either of them would sleep a wink tonight anyway. I just hoped that she wouldn't lose anything between now and the next time I talked to her.

When we got upstairs, we locked the door (which had a perminant Muffliato spell put on it) and it all gushed out. Everything.

***

"I still can't believe you didn't set him straight." Lynnie told me, slightly exasperated, the next day. After I  had recapped to Leah everything I'd told her and Brigitte the previous night.

We sat outside a little cafe, eating ice cream and people watching.

"I mean, the bloke tortured you for three years. You had a chance to completely gloat and rub the stupid prick's nose in it but you don't. Have we taught you nothing?" She rants.

Bee and Leah laugh at this.

I bite back my smile. "What could I've said, Jocelyn?"

"Oh I dunno!" Her voice drips with sarcasm, "How 'bout 'Ha ha you stupid git, who's the crow now?' or 'I'm Allie Swan, you prick. Now bugger off.'"

I laughed with them this time, "I'm not you, Joce." I told her, "I wasn't just going to be like 'Oh yeah, you know what? I'm Alexa Swan the girl you made miserable, your arrogant arsehole.''
"Why not?" Jocelyn demanded. "You had the perfect apportunity, Ange! He was hitting on you! Which means he obviously thought you were-"

"I know what it means." I interrupted her. "But when I insulted him in French I didn't know he was James Potter. I thought he was just some random bloke. If I'd known-"

"If you'd've known you'd've started cussing him out in French rather than just blowing him off." Bee cut across me with and amused sparkle in her eyes.

"Exactly." I grinned.

"No she wouldn't've." Leah shook her head.

We all looked at her, confused.

She grinned, "She would've cussed him out in English so he'd understand."

We all laughed.

In all honesty, though, this wasn't true. 

I didn't know what I'd've done if I'd known. But I highly doubt I'd've gotten the courage to cuss out the Potter legacy in front of all those people. No matter how brutal he'd been to me.

Had my friends been there, though, there was no doubt in my mind they'd have done it all for me. They weren't particularly fond of James Potter. Or anyone at Hogwarts other than Michael, Roxy, Dee and Alice (they'd never met Michael's friends).
 
Mainly because they loved me. And, therefore, they hated anyone that tormented me. No matter how long ago it was and the fact that I now live in an entirely different country. They still hate them.

"Yeah, well, I'd've liked to take a whack at the prat." Brigitte's wistful tone amused me. She'd never met the eldest Potter child but she still dreamed about taking a crowbar to his manhood.

"I'm just happy that Michael showed up when he did so I didn't have to talk to him anymore. And that I had the sense to run and hide when he showed up with the Finnigans."

"Imagine the look on his face though." Lynnie grinned off in the distance as if looking at somethign far waay that none of the rest of us could see. She saw our confused expressions and elaborated. "If wonderboy had seen what he missed out on." her grin widened.

"He did see me though."

"Yes, but he didn't know it was you."

I shrugged, it really made no difference anymore.
 
It was just an semi-entertaining story that I could laugh about with my friends. Maybe once the twinge of pain had evaporated, I could recount it at parties when they got dull. Perhaps, in time, it would become an inside joke when some loser tried to make a move on one of us 'what a James Potter'. 


And then maybe this would be the last time I ever gave it a second thought. Perhaps I'd grown enough in the past few years that I could forget it completely. I highly doubted the last part.

But I also doubted that I'd ever collide with the arrogant prat anyway.

James Potter was truly in my past now. 

And I definitely prefered it that way.

***

(Hey readers, 

This chapter is extremely long to make up for the very mean cliffy I left you with in the last one- sorry! I couldn't help it!- I'm not sure if I like it or not but there it is. I hope you guys liked it... And while you are waiting check out one of my other stories! lol shameless solicitation, I know! Don't forget to REVIEW!

~RED)


Chapter 6: Plans
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Chapter 6~ Plans 

I have always been amazed at the way an ordinary observer lends so much more credence and attaches so much more importance to waking events than to those occurring in dreams... Man... is above all the plaything of his memory. 

                       ~Andre Breton





~


"Why hello, crow. Fancy mee-"

"What do you want, Potty?"

Silence.

I smirked with vindictive satisfation when I realized why he wasn't speaking anymore.

That had been the very first time I'd ever shot back with anything remotely hostile. To anyone. Normally, I just took everything they threw at me and kept my mouth shut.

Not today, though.

I had two days left in this hell hole and then I was gone forever. I'd never have to see his arrogant, narcissistic face ever again. I wasn't going to take it from him anymore. Him or anyone. But especially not him.

I looked up, a smug smile still hovering at the corners of my lips. There he was, just standing there with this surprised look on his face. His mouth hung open and his golden eyes frozen on me.

I looked back down at my book, feigning boredom, biting back my satisfied grin. "We all know you've got the intelligence of a baboon, Potter. You don't have to make yourself look like one too." I told him.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw his mouth snap shut, his eyes narrowed, "What's gotten your-?"

I cut acrossed him. "I'm trying to read, troll-breath. Don't you have a quaffle to go hump or something?"

My heart swelled with happiness. I could barely contain all the joy I felt. I could hardly keep myself from beaming. I felt like I was going to burst. I'd waited ages for the courage to say that to James Potter and I'd finally gotten it out. It was invigourating.

He stood there for another moment, still shocked that Alexa Swan had actually stood up for herself. Then he huffed, turned
on his heel and walked away as fast as he could.

I stared after him, hoping that that would be the last time I ever spoke to James Sirius Potter......


"Aaaallieeee? Wake uuuh-uuuup." a voice sung.

"No." I groaned.

"Oui. C'est le temps. Et je ne suis pas debout ici en essayant pendant toute la matinée de recevoir votre âne indolent du lit. Maintenant ou jamais, chéri. Autrement vous manquez le petit déjeuner." Brigitte babbled.

"Je ne veux pas de petit déjeuner. Il est surestimé." ("I don't want breakfast. It's overrated.") I told her.

"Le repas le plus important d'entre eux le jour." ("The most important meal of the day.") Lynnie sung.

"Non ce n'est le dîner." ("No It's dinner.") I argued.

"Non ce n'est le petit déjeuner." ("No it's breakfast.") Bee told me.

"Pour un couche-tard, c'est le dîner." ("For a night owl like me, it's dinner.")

They laughed at me and then Brigitte said, "Get up!"

"Uuuurrrgggha." I groaned.

***


Tante O's wedding was to take place during Easter break. And in the months leading up to it we; Brigitte, Jocelyn, Leah, Rosaire and I were spending more and more time off campus. Tante Olympe took us for constant fittings and wedding plans were all we heard about.

It was at one such fitting that I heard Madam LeFarge, the wedding planner (and my exboyfriend's aunt) say the unthinkable- in French of course. Ugh.

"Olympe, darling," She simpered as her assistant pinned the bottom of my dress. "Is it true what I have been hearing? Is Harry Potter and his family going to attend?"

Tante O's laugh twinkled in the air as every muscle in my body tensed. "Yes, yes. My Rubeus is very dear friends with the Potter's and their family. They will of course attend."

I could feel three pairs of eyes boaring into me as this answer was given but I couldn't meet my friends' eyes. Panic had risen in my chest. I was having difficulty catching my breath all of the sudden.

"Really?" Airy cooed excitedly, "Oh I hope we get to see him!"

Tante laughed again. "I'm sure you will darling. I'm sure you will."

I didn't hear Rosaire's squeal of delight. I didn't hear anything anymore. A roaring sound had begun to monopolize my eardrums. My pulse thudded so loudly that I could barely think.

How could I not have guessed this before?

Of course hords of Hogwarts people would be there. He was a professor there for crying out loud! He was an intimate aquaintance with the Weasleys and the Potters. I'd seen this first hand during my three years there.

I'd been an idiot not to know this before. A complete and utter moron.

Ugh.

Now, like my sister, I was also dreading this joyous event.

***


Dear Allie,

Yes I know, shocker isn't it? I've actually sat myself down, quill in hand, to write to my favorite baby sister. I can't believe it's March already. How's school going? How's Leah? Hagrid says the wedding plans are coming along nicely. How many fittings have you had to grit though? Leah said you've had several. How many fittings do you need for one dress?
Alice, Dominique and Roxy send their love. And Emmett, Frank and Bryan say hello.
Anyway, I'm writing to tell you what our dear mother is up to. She's already planning out our summer holiday. She's decided to have a coming of age party for me. Again.
She's inviting all of the Muggle relatives this time and everyone else we know so brace yourself. Seriously, everyone we know! The geust list is four rolls of parchement! Not even kidding. Even the Stebbins family is coming! No joke.
She's also been discussing your magical coming of age bash with Grandmere as well. And that guest list is three rolls of parchment long. Be afraid, very afraid.
Give the Anges my love.

Your favorite brother,
Michael



I laughed lightly in Transfiguration as I finished my brother's letter. I hadn't had time to read it that morning. I'd had to dodge another wooing attempt by Bayard Dubose and then Tante Olympe had called me to her office to give me the song I'd be singing for the first dance.

I wrote my reply to him in Charms.

Dear Michael,

You feeling alright? Perhaps you should go see Madame Pomfrey. You actually wrote some one other than Leah. Which, by the way, makes me a bit miffed. Favorite sister? Psh. How come your girlfriend hears from you more than I do?
School is fantastic! As always. Leah sends her love (Ew, by the way). And Brigitte and Jocelyn are making kissy faces at her. Andre, Henri, Adam, Tre and Airy say hello. And Airy says you owe her a ten galleons. I won't even ask on that one. Give Alice, Dominique, Rox and the boys my love. And Saundra too when you see her next.
Lynnie is annoyed because we're being dragged to dress fittings in the
Ville de Fourchettes every weekend. But the good part is that we get to shop more than normal too. And the dresses are gorgeous. They're rose red and strapless (much to Jocelyn's dismay). The bodice is tight and the skirt is puffy, but not in an annoying way.
And about the party for you,
must we? You already had one! Why do you need another? Tell them that I'd like mine to be and Grandmere's summer chateau, in France. 
And I'm not worried about that because mum knows my taste and Grandmere knows all my friends. Yours is the one I think I'll have to pass on. The Stebbins family?
Really? But dad hates them! Wondering if mum has cracked but not adequately afraid.

Your angelic sister,
Allie


When I finished I tucked it into my latest book, Les Froids; Vampires de l'Amérique du Nord-ouest, and made a mental note to send it off with my owl, Gwenog, later.

***


"So, You're leaving for-"

"Is there any particular
reason you're trying to talk to me?" I said in a bored voice, not bothering to look up from my copy of, The Beginner's Guide to Mermish. I didn't need to look to know that James Potter was standing over me with a very bewildered look on his famous face.

It was a nice sunny day. The day before I left Hogwarts forever. Maybe the weather had decided to mirror my mood. Or maybe it was hoping the sun would burn me alive so I'd turn into ash and could never leave.

But whatever the reason, everyone was happy. My brother and his friends were flirting with a pack of their admirers. Alice and the Weasley girls swam- screeched and giggled- in the Great Lake. And I'd found a spot in the shade of my favorite beech tree to read. I laid on my stomach, wearing a pair of sunglasses, thinking about tomorrow. Dreaming, really.

Until Potter had to ruin it, of course.

"Well, I was wondering i-"

"Yeah, I didn't think so." I cut acrossed him, not interested in anything the git had to say to me. "Now could you move? You're in my light."

"
What?"

I looked up to see him above me, as I'd expected. But what I didn't expect was his facial expression.

He looked injured.
Hurt.

Like my cold, dismisive manor had effected him. Ridiculous. You're just day dreaming. Wishful thinking that's all. A voice in my head chastised.

"You're in my light." I told him icily. Even though it was sweltering I could feel the freezing, hostile wave rolling out of me.

I didn't wait fo him to speak again. I didn't bother to see his expression, fearing that I might go soft. I just returned to my book until I felt him slowly walk away.

I raised my head, slightly, to watch him leave.

He had his back to me and he was runing a hand through that insufferably thick mess of inky black hair.

Hopefully he wouldn't bother me tomorrow.....

"Réveillez-vous, Allie. " Brigitte's voice ended my REM cycle.

"Non." I groaned.

"Oui."

"Non."

"Vous ne voulez pas aller à la maison ?" ("Don't you want to go home?")

"Pas particulièrement."
This was met with a chorus of giggles.

It was true. I didn't want to go home.

I was home.

If she'd meant Grandmere's chateau, I'd have answered differently. But she meant the place where my parents lived. The place where I'd grown up. The place where I wasn't adored but seen as the coward.

I did not want to go there.

"C'mon, Allie." Leah prompted.

I felt someone poke me and I whacked their hand.

"Ouch!" Jocelyn exclaimed, "Cette blessure, Diabolique! "

"Call me that again and it'll hurt worse." I threatened.

They laughed.

"Up, lazy arse!" Lynnie demanded with the air of a four year old. And then she jumped on me. Yes, she jumped on me. Tackled me like a linebacker. Right there in our dorm.

"Ah! Get off! Get off!" I screeched, "Malade mental Français idiot! Descendez de moi!" ("Crays French mental patient! Get off me!")

"Never!"

And then all four of us collapsed into a pile of giggles.

***

(Ha ha so this is a filler chapter to get us to Madame Maxime's wedding! But I hope you like it!

xoxo
RED

P.S. 01/11/09: Sorry, this one had problems too and once again I had no idea! )


Chapter 7: Haunted
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Chapter 7~ Haunted 

Your chances of getting hit by lightning go up if you stand under a tree, shake your fist at the sky and say "Storms suck!"

~Johnny Carson 

~

I spent a grand total of thirty seven hours at my parents' house before wedding plans called me away. And I was ecstatic.

Michael had abandoned me and spent the beginning of the holiday with Emmett and his family. Saundra had her three best friends over and they were all driving me mad.

I thanked the heavens that Rosaire and her friends weren't nearly as annoying as these four. They prattled on and on about Hogwarts as if the sun rose and set on it. Gossiping and swapping the latest scandals. Feeding off every 'he said, she said' story they could think of. It was ridiculous.

I made myself scarce during this time, determined not to become their next subject of gossip 'The crow that came back a Swan'.
And then, that morning at breakfast- as I read letters from Henri, Tre, Leah and Jocelyn- they finally got to the inevitable topic (among these four, at least) of boys.

"...Did you hear who broke up?" My sister's friend, Janice Smith asked with the glint of a scandal in her dull brown eyes.

"Who? The other three asked eagerly.

I couldn't resist an eye roll at this point. I was only half listening but what I'd caught so far was incredibly shallow. The worst part was that not even half of it surprised me coming from this group.

"Livie Dashwood and-"
"Nuh-uh!" Julia Perks gasped.

"No!" Tina Broklehurst exclaimed.

"Well obviously." Saundra scoffed. "James Potter never sticks with one girl for more than a month. He's way too good for Livie Dashwood, as it is." She wrinkled her nose at the name.

I tensed. James Potter. Ugh.

It seemed that, no matter how hard I tried I couldn't escape that wretched name. Ever since I'd blown him off at King's Cross it was like the bloody prat had decided to haunt me. 

In January, articles had come out in the French papers declaring that the Potters had attended a New Years Eve Party in France (thrown by Jocelyn's grandparents no less, while Lynnie spent the evening with our gang at Andre's). Two pictures had been plastered on every copy in the country. One of Harry Potter and his wife, embracing Lynnie's grandparent's warmly. And the other of Lynnie's cousins, Victoire, Dominique and Louis; Victoire's boyfriend, Teddy; Lynnie's two older brothers, Edouard and Antoine; Albus Potter standing next to a pretty redhead girl. Who had an arm around none other than James Potter himself. 

Lynnie had sent Edouard and Antoine very long howlers in very rapid and annoyed French. And rambled on- about not being there to take a crowbar to James Potter's manhood- for a month 

In Febuary, my issue of TeenWitch had almost an entire issue (the one with the top ten hottest young wizards in Europe) devoted to the Potter boys. Going on and on about what great catches they were and what they were worth. And nauseatingly praising them for all their talents. 

Last month, I'd sat through that tramatic dress fitting while Madame LeFarge and my beloved headmistress went on and on about what charming children Harry Potter had. And my little cousin squealed in excitement at the thought of meeting them. 

And now, I sat at my own kitchen table listening to my sister talk about getting him to ask her to the next Hogsmeade trip. Someone up there was having a very sick laugh at my expense and I didn't like it. Not one bit. 

"...now that he's ditched Livie and all." 

Julia laughed, "If anyone could keep that boy's interest it's you." She encouraged. 

My stomach rolled, as a traumatic image of my sister in a stunning wedding gown, marrying James Potter flashed in my head. I had to leave before I heaved all of my breakfast on them. 

That would not be a story I'd want traveling back to Hogwarts with them. 

Once I was outside in the fresh air I tried to shake off the nausea that my sister's latest ambition had produced. It was shockingly difficult. Mainly because, I was certain she'd succeed. 

And the idea of James Potter coming to meet my family next Christmas or visiting us at Grandmere's chateu in France this summer, was beyond horrifying. I could see him turning on the Potter charm for all of my mother's relatives, giving Grandmere her favorite flowers, discussing Quidditch with Grandpere and playing sardines with Gabby and the rest of the little ones. It was my worst nightmare realized. Having James Potter invade my sanctuary. 

And I might actually have to act civil to the git! Ugh! 
No that'll never happen. I shook my head. 

Even when he became Saundra's boy toy I knew I'd never manage to be nice to him. I'd insult him as much as possible, loathing him even more because he was after my baby sister's virginity. 

My only hope was that Saundra got bored with him quickly and ditched the worthless git. But it was a very small hope and not likely at all. 

I shuddered to think how my friends were going to react. 

Lynnie turned seventeen in a month and then she wouldn't need a crowbar to cause damage to his pretty face (and/or other valued appendages). And Adam had already had his seventeenth birthday in Febuary- not that he really needed a wand or a crowbar to do a whole lot of damage anyway but still. 

Just as I got a vision of Adam cracking his knuckles menacingly over a cowering and blood soaked Potter brat, Gwenog landed on my shoulder with a letter in her beak. She'd gone off to hunt and brought back a letter. It was just like her, always dutiful. 

I took it, smirk still pirouetting at the corners of my lips from my lovely day dream, and said, "Thanks, Gwen. Treats upstairs." With that she flew off in the general direction of my bedroom window as I ripped the letter open. 

It was from Grandmere. The last fitting was today and I was needed.
 
I was going home again. Yipee!
***

"And Edouard actually said that? He actually called James Potter a decent bloke?" 

I groaned. Would it never end?! 

"Yeah. I think he's been hit by one too many stupifying spells if you ask me though. Occupational hazard." Lynnie replied. This was her excuse for everything her Auror brother did that she thought was ridiculous. 

"And what's Antoine's excuse?" Leah laughed. 

"Too many bludgers to the head." Bee smirked. 

Antione was the Seeker for the Quiberon Quafflepunchers. And he was an excellent seeker at that. He'd graduated Beauxbatons last year but had been the Quafflepunchers' Seeker for three years already. Getting excellent tickets to games was never a problem over the summer. 

"I vote for a subject change please!" I interjected, crossly, as a jumpy little assistant pinned the back of my bodice. 

I hadn't even told them about the nauseating conversation my sister and her posse had that morning and yet he'd still come up! I decided to wait it out and pray for a miracle. Hoping to high heaven that Saundra wouldn't follow through with it. That she'd reconsider, come to her senses. Realize that no self-respecting girl would date James Potter and she could do much better. 

They both grimaced at me sympathetically. 

"Sorry, Allie." Bee said and then she did as I'd asked and changed the subject. "So, guess what Grandmere told me this morning?" 

"What?" all three of us asked her. 

She grinned, "We get to bring dates." 

"Is that all?" Leah scoffed, "I already had one." 

Brigitte grabbed one of the flouncy feminine pillows next to her on the small sofa and chucked it in Leah's direction. 

"Ha. You missed," Leah teased juvenily, sticking her tongue out like a bratty five year old. 

"Told you," Jocelyn shook her head as she caught the pillow, "you should've let me teach you how to aim." 

Brigitte sighed heavily. "You of all people should be excited about this, Lynn." 

Jocelyn's forehead creased in confusion. "What? Why?" 

The three of us grinned wickedly at our oblivious best friend. She'd walked right into it.
 
"Because now you've finally got a reason to ask Andre out." I answered, shrewdly. 

"WHAT?!" 

*** 

The next day was the dinner rehearsal. 

Where we were told how not to trip over our expensive dresses in our feet-murdering heels and given an array of things to eat. 

Tante Olympe had bought us new outfits for the occasion the day before. She said wanted us to look fabulous. And we did. 

Leah had a lovely blue dress that flowed around her knees like it was on water. Brigitte had a green mini with a square neck that drew a scadalous amount of attention to her delicate collarbone. Airy had gone for a breezy pink dress that complimented her petite figure. Then we'd forced Jocelyn to go for a white halter that hugged her perfectly. And I'd gone for a simple red spaghettis strapped dress with a slightly teasing V-neck. 

We looked like angels. Obviously. 

It was exactly what my Grandmere, Headmistress and their best friend, my Tante Colette wanted. You could tell by the glittering in all three sets of eyes. They saw themselves in us. 

In their day, they'd been the beloved quartet of Beauxbatons. Theirs' was eerily similar to ours too. 

Tante Colette and Grandmere were the cousins of the group, they looked almost as identical as Brigitte and I. Only they were both enchanting blondes like Saundra, with those gorgeous green eyes and perfect figures. 

Then Madame Maxime was like Leah, the exotic raven haired beauty. Her size made her even more interesting and her beauty stunned even when she wore a look of annoyance. 

The completion was, Corrine Lovett. She'd been the tomboy like Lynnie. And, like me, a half blood with two heritages. Her mother was French and her father was English. After Beauxbatons she'd become an Auror. And then, one night, she and her husband, Thomas and their daughter, Rachel were murdered by You-Know-Who. 

I knew that was one of the reasons that Grandmere and my Tantes were so thrilled with our little group. They loved to see themselves as they were once. Before the war ripped one from the rest, before the silver hair began invading their temples, before they got stretch marks from babies and wrinkles from laughing too much. 

They loved their glorious past. 

"Remind me why we're doing this again?" Jocelyn muttered, tugging at her dress uncomfortably. She looked amazing, her blonde hair tied back in a curly ponytail, her greenish-blue eyes flecked with amber under the mascara we forced her to wear. 

"For the food." Leah grinned. She was too excited to see my brother to care about much else. She was practically skipping and the floating fabric of her dress just enhanced the lightness in the air around her. 

"For Tante Olympe." I corrected, shooting a reproving look at both of them. I flipped the braid I'd wound my hair in, over my shoulder. 

"Well," Brigitte grinned. "I'm in it for the dress." 

"Bee!" I laughed. 

She just grinned and skipped ahead of us. 

"Allie!"  a voice exclaimed.

"Gabby, marchez! Ne courez pas! Gabby!" 

She didn't listen to Rosaire's order. She ran head long, right into my arms. 

"Hiya baby!" I greeted her, "J'aime votre robe! Votre grande soeur vous a-t-elle aidés à le choisir ?" "Oui. Mais je l'ai trouvé. Supposition que ?" 

"Que ?" 

And then she started babbling in French about school and her friends. She even told me about a book she read, all by herself. By the time she stopped to take a breath we were joining Grandmere and Tante O where they sat with a group and sitting next to them was a dreadfully familiar woman. 

Lavender Finnigan. 

Oh no.
No, no and no. This could not be happening. There was no way that Mrs. Finnigan was the wedding planner. 

"Angelique!"  Tante O squealed. She pulled me closer with a long white finger and gave me the standard peck on each cheek. "Oh! Brigitte and Leah! And Lynnie, too! How are you, darlings?! 

"Good." we answered together. 

"Are these the Angels?" Mrs. Finnigan asked. 

My stomach drops. Stop it. She won't recognize you. You're being paranoid. A stern voice chastised. She didn't recognize you at the station, she won't here in France either. 
"Yes." Grandmere answers, "These are our Angels. Et nos Anges Mini-aussi." she squeezes one of Gabby's cheeks and pats Airy's head. 

"Very nice to meet you." Mrs. Finnigan smiled. 

No recognition flickered in her eyes. Not that I really expected it too. I was eternally thankful Grandmere hadn't indroduced us individually. I didn't want Mrs. Finnigan to remember the awkward little sister of Michael who was in Patrick's year. "Well let's get started then." 

*** 

"Mmm," Jocelyn sighed as she took a bite of roast. 

"I know." Leah agreed. 

"It's excellent." Brigitte commented. 

"Delicious." I groaned. 

The four of us sat at the end of a long table. Seated all around it were Hogwarts teachers, Harry Potter and his wife and several other highly esteemed members of the wizarding world. 

But none of us were star struck. It didn't matter that half of these people had had their pictures on the cover of magazines and had books written about them. We were too busy paying attention to the lucious array of edible masterpieces around us. None of us had eaten since breakfast. 

A few minutes later, I finished. Almost immediately I was pounced on by my cousin Nanette. The frazzled first time mother of newborn baby, Elise. "Allie, tiendrez-vous le bébé pendant que je reçois une plaque ?" 
"Évidemment!" I took the tiny baby from her and cradled her gently. 

Lynnie rolled her eyes and sighed as a grin crept onto her lips. "Alexa, ever the maternal one." 

We laughed. 

"I like babies!" 

"We know." They said in unison, followed shortly by more laughter. 

"You've got to be the most motherly sixteen year old on the planet." Brigitte laughed. 

I smiled, allowing this as I rocked little Elise. "Vous êtes si adorables et petits, je ne sais pas comment quelqu'un ne pourrait pas dire à la possession de vous!"  I cooed at my newest cousin, not even a month old yet. And then to my friends I said, "You have to admit, she is one gorgeous baby girl." 

"She's absolutely precious." 

My head whipped around to see a beautiful redhead standing next to me. Her glittering chocolate eyes were set tenderly on the tiny person sleeping soudly in my arms. 

Mrs. Ginevra Weasley-Potter

I froze. Not happeningNuh-uh. No no no no no! I was dreaming! A nightmare! I had not been this unfortunate for three years!

I swear that someone up there was out to get me. Loathed me so much that they took insane pleasure in toturing me with old ghosts. There I was with the cutest baby on the planet lying contentedly in my arms and the mother of the person I hated and over all, feared, the most had to come up and ruin the happy moment. Of all people! It had to be her! 

"What's her name?" 

Brigitte, Jocelyn and Leah watched with wide eyes. They knew who this woman was too and they were almost as shocked as I was at my terrible luck recently. They were all three torn between sympathy and amusement. The latter was winning. 

"Elise. She's my little cousin." I added, to make things clear. I'd had people ask if I was Gabby's mother before and I hated it. 

"She's just adorable." 

"She is." I agreed. 

"Sorry, " Mrs. Potter laughed lightly, " 'Fraid I've forgotten my manners. I do have some you know. My name's Ginny. Ginny Potter." She stuck out her hand in a very friendly way. I could tell that Ginny Potter was one of those adults that could easily relate to teenagers. She had an air about her the radiated ease and welcome. Had she been anyone else I would've loved the new aquaintance. But, as she was James Potter II's mother, my stomach rolled queasily. 

"Allie." I hesitated then took her hand and shook it. Just because her son was a complete idiot didn't mean she was. I didn't dare utter my last name though, it would be like signing my own death warrent. "And that's my cousin Brigitte and our best friends, Jocelyn and Leah." 

"Are you the Angels Madame Olympe talks so much about?" 

All four of us grinned, blushing furiously as we always did when someone from the outside called us by our Beauxbatons name. 

"The very same." I told her. 

"Well it's just lovely to meet you." She laughed. 

"You as well!" Lynnie chimed in. "We're fans." 

Ginny Potter, back when she'd been Ginny Weasley, had been captain of the Hollyhead Harpies. And any captain of the Harpies was a heroine to Jocelyn. We laughed, knowing this. With her hunger taken care of, she'd finally gotten star struck. Oh Joy.

"Really? You like Quidditch?" 

We all nodded. 

"Well we'll have to have a chat some time. I'll show you some of my old moves and we can have tea afterwards, yeah?" 

"Yeah, sounds great!" Lynnie agreed enthusiastically. The rest of us shot warning looks at her. There was no way I was stepping one foot near the Potter's house. Nuh-uh. No way. 
"Oi, Gin!" A familiar redhead man called her over. 

"Guess I'd better go see what my brother wants. It was nice meeting you girls though. Remember, tea. Anytime, girls. Cheers!" And with that she floated gracefully away. 

I breathed a sigh of relief and sadness. Why did his mum have to be so incredibly nice? 
"Bizarre, eh?" Bee said as we watched her go. 

"Yeah." I answered faintly, "Bizarre." 

Chapter 8: Don't Trip
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Chapter 8~ Don't Trip 

Edward; Are you refering to the fact that you can't walk acrossed a flat, stable surface without finding something to trip over?
Bella; Obviously.
                 ~Twilight by Stephenie Meyer


Premiere: Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, Blake Livley, America Ferrera and Jenna Boyd at the Hollywood premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures' The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants


~

"Réveillez-vous, amour!" 

I sighed. I hated those words. Getting up was so not what I wanted to do today. Especially when dreams were so much kinder to me than reality at the moment. It was like I'd accidentally tripped with a Time Turner in my hand and now I was back in the time of misery and depression. Where seeing the people I hated was a daily routine and disappointment and unease was a part of life. 

I wasn't sure I could handle it. Maybe France had made me soft. 

I lifted my head groggily and looked out the window with glazed eyes. 

"Uaaagh," I groaned. It wasn't even light out yet. 

Something about getting up before the sun just seemed unnatural to me. Like sticking your finger up a total stranger's nose or something equally bizzare. I didn't like it at all. 

"C'mon, Angelique." Leah muttered sleepily. She yawned and stretched her long limbs. "We've got to go meet Madam LeFarge at the salon." 

"Yes." Brigitte yawned, "Cause, lord knows, it'll take us hours to get pretty." Sarcasm rang in my cousins hazy drawl, voicing the exact thoughts able to break through my sleepy stupor. 

"Tooo early." Lynnie whined, following this with a string of incoherent French mutterings. I'm pretty sure a few cuss words made their way into the mix, actually. None of us were thrilled about waking up before dawn. 

"This is a bad day." I moaned into my pillow. "This is a very, very bad day." 

Brigitte yawned once more, "And it's barley even started yet." 


*** 


My hair was too tight, the rose red strapless dress was slightly too revealing and my matching heels were too high. 

Lynnie, Leah and Brigitte were wearing identical gowns. A corsetted bodice that had small beaded flower detailing down the front and a big elegant skirt. The kind that tempted me to spin around and then fall suddenly to the floor just to watch it poof around me. 

They were miniature versions of Tante Colette's and Grandmere's. 

While Rosaire and Belle Paramount (Tante Colette's granddaughter) were both in spahgetti strapped dresses that only came down to their knobbly knees. 

Gabby, however, had been forced into a demure little white number that she kept tugging at exasperatedly. 

We stood nervously in Grandmere's cottage (the decided upon wedding facility because of it's huge land and excellent views) waiting to start the ceremony. Waiting to be ushered forward and make our way down the isle. Tante O was being fawned and fussed over by my grandmother and Tante Colette. Lavender Finnigan was standing at the door giving directions and waiting to cue the music. 

Finally, we were ready. 

Mrs. Finnigan ushered us forward and lined us up in order. Then she started pushing people forward. 

First, little Gabby was nudged forward. She reluctantly carried a basket of rose petals with her, sprinkling handfuls blithly on the floor as she went. Her curls were twisted into a complicated sort of bun at the back of her neck and a crown of small white flowers (that she kept trying to remove despite the charm the hair lady had put on it) had been placed on top of her head. 

We could hear the guests ooohh and aah at her and Bee and I giggled, imagining our sassy little cousin's face of disgust. There was no doubt in my mind she, like Lynnie, viewed this as a traumatic event. 

Then nine year old Belle (Her long chestnut locks pinned half way up and an identical hallo of white flowers atop her head-which she was just as eager to remove) was sent out disgruntly on the arm of Louis Weasley (Dominique's charming eleven year old brother). 

And then Rosaire stepped forward. Her response was the exact one that Saundra got every time she was asked to be a flower girl or somethign equally warping. Everyone was in pure awe at the angelic blonde. 

Finally, the first of the angels was called upon. 

A very giddy Leah gave us each a quick hug, "Good luck!" She whispered excitedly. 

"Go! Go!" Bee and I hissed at her. 

She laughed, a twinkling laugh and then turned to go. But just as she reached the door she whirled back around, "Oh and, Swan?" 

I laughed at her use of my surname-it was so rare. "Yeah, Kline?" I retorted. 

"Don't trip." 

My reflexes were like lightening. I pulled a fairly small, frilly, decorative pillow from the couch and hurled it at her. 

She moved and I missed. 

"Should have let Lynnie teach you how to aaaa-aim!" she sung cheekily. And then she blew us a quick kiss and disappeared through the door. 

We laughed and then listened for the wedding guests to respond to the saucy raven haired beauty currently floating down the rose petal coated isle. It was clear- by the fawning we heard- that she was a big hit. 

Then we shoved Lynnie forward. 

She swore in French and then snapped at the two of us, "I hate you both." 

We just grinned. 

"It won't be that bad, hon." 

"Yeah! As long as you think tall, you won't trip and they'll love you." Brigitte told her cheerfully. 

'Think tall' had been Mrs. Lavender Finnigan's catch phrase yesterday and we'd quickly jumped at any chance to mock it that we could. It was our latest inside joke. 

Brigitte glowered as the two of us beamed. "I already am tall, you halfwit." She reminded us acidly. "I feel ridiculous. Like a sodding cupcake. And these damn heels add about four bloody-" 

"Go!" we hissed in unison through our hysterical giggles. And with one last push, she was forced into the spotlight by two of her best mates. We were such traitors. 

After the initial gasps could be heard at such a stunning statuesque, fair haired beauty. Brigitte volenteered to go next saying, "We're saving the best for last." She waggled her eyebrows at me. 

"How am I the best?" 

"Alexa Diabolique! The shy demure duckling!" She said dramatically, "Coming back a swan! No. An angel!" She announced. Then she said in a normal voice, "Kick some Hogwarts arse, yeah?" 

I laughed and chucked another of the frilly uncomfortable pillows at her. It missed of course. 

"We really should've let Joce teach us how to aim." She concluded. Then she hugged and kissed me on each cheek. "Good luck!" 

"You too!" 

"Don't trip." 

"I'll try." I told her wryly, rolling my eyes. 

And then there was one. 

In those few moments, without my best friends to distract me, as the crowd outside marveled at my closest cousin's sheer beauty. My thoughts were free to wander. And that's when I started to panic. 

At the station, I'd been gawked at and hit on within just a few moments. None of them had had time to mentally rummage through their gossip bins and remember that Michael and Saundra's frumpy sister had escaped to Beauxbatons. None of them had been around me long enough to realize that last time they'd seen me I'd had glasses and stringy mouse-brown hair and a book permanently glued to my hand. 

This time, they'd see me in this stunning gown with my glossy mahogany curls in a gorgeous updo (with those same tiny white flowers placed strategically in it and a few tendrils left loose to frame my face). They wouldn't recognize me, I knew, at first. 

But when they spotted me talking with my parents or my siblings. They might not catch on until Emmett, Frank and Bryan pulled me into insufferable bear hugs. They probably wouldn't think of it, until Alice, Dee and Roxy rushed over to me happily. They weren't all idiots. 

I was sure more than a few Ravenclaws would be in attendance. And then, all bets were off. My cover would be blown. And then the students of Hogwarts would finally see what had become of Alexa Diabolique, 'the crow'. 

"Allie? Allie?" It was Grandmere. 

I snapped out of my silent hysteria for a moment to look at her. 

The sheer terror must have shown on my features because she looked slightly confused at me. "Don't worry, love." she cooed, "You're ravishing, my darling girl, don't be nervous. You'll stun them all." 

Oh, no doubt about that. 

"Just don't trip." 

I gave her a disparaging look before turning on my heel and stepping out into the yard.

*** 

(He he he, I had to cut off there. So I know this is incredibly short but Chapter nine is coming very very soon and by then we should have a banner! Til then, Patience is a virtue!

~RED

P.S. If you haven't read Settling the Score by A Foutain Pen look it up now! It's probably the best Fanfic I've read! )

Chapter 9: Confidence and Epiphanies
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Chapter 9 ~ Confidence and Epiphanies

Afterwards, the universe will explode for your pleasure. 

~ Douglas Adams
 


~

You know those moments when everything and everyone but you just seems to freeze? Where the whole world just stops and, as if someone accidentally hit the pause button but you didn't get the memo? 

Then, when it does actually move, it's almost like slow motion? 

That's what kind of moment this was. 

My strappy heels clicked on the concrete, as I stepped out onto the back stairs and everything haulted. Time stopped. It literally seemed to stand still, giving me time to think- to observe. 

And if the idea of being thrust into a glaring limelight with all of my old enemies sitting in the audience horrified me before, it was nothing compared to now. Nothing compared to the terror that washed over me, as I stepped into that rose covered isle. 

It was surreal actually. The very people who'd made my life a living hell intermingling with the ones who'd hoisted me up with the angels. Those demons who'd dug their nails roughly into my delicate fair skin sitting alongside the wonderful people who welcomed me with open arms and made everything heaven on Earth. 

Completely bizarre. 

Could this get any worse? 

Stupid, stupid question. Because the answer was yes. Yes it could. 

I'd highly doubted it as I hesitantly stepped forward. But then I noticed the groomsmen. All standing next to Tante Olmype's husband-to-be, Rubeus Hagrid, my old professor. I saw Professor Longbottom (Alice's dad) and a few others. I saw the giant one, Hagrid's brother. But they weren't the ones that caught my eye. 

No, my eyes were more drawn to the four firey red heads. Weasleys. 

And next to one of them stood a familiar man. Not because I'd seen him a whole lot. Because I hadn't. But everyone knew the face of Harry Potter. 

Oh perfect. Just fabulous

Before now, I'd harbored the smallest hope. There were easily two hundred wizards and witches in attendance. I might not even see James Potter. Or any old enemy from Hogwarts for that matter. 

But now, forget it. That hope had most definitely been snuffed out. 

Because, if his famous father was in the wedding party as well as several uncles, their family's table would be horrendusly close to the Head table. And the Head table was where I was going to be. 

Dammit.

Just as this sunk in, I caught sight of my three best friends. My sisters in so many ways. They stood there at the end, beaming madly at me. They were radiant. Even more gorgeous than usual. 

Next thing I knew, two mental images of myself flashed, side by side in my head. A before and after picture. 

The before was of my thirteen year old self. Sallow skin, unhealthy undereye bruises and much too thin. Meek, skittish and anxious for someone to like me. Pining and craving for the approval of those who abused me. 

The second-the after- was a memory of my reflection just an hour before. I'd studied myself in the full length mirror upstairs after all my preparations were complete. A natural pink tinting the delicate skin on my high cheekbones, blazing sapphire eyes gazing intently back and a near perfect figure accentuated by the breath-taking gown I was wearing. Beautiful, happy and in need of no one's approval. Surrounded by people who loved me for me. 

A swift rush of confidence swept upon me. 

I don't have a clue where it came from but I was ecstatic that it did. 

I felt my shoulders pull back, perfect posture and I beamed back at my friends as I began my confident glide down the isle. They noticed the change and grinned wider. I was glowing with confidence, I was not a scared little weakling anymore. I was a force to be reckoned with and I dared any one of those Hogwarts horrors to try. 

I could tell by the delighted reaction of the guests that I was a knock out in their oppinions. And I could also tell, as I scanned the faces, that not one of them could tell I was the sad girl they'd gotten so much amusement out of torturing. 

I did, however, spot one or two boys who'd gawked at me in the station a few months previous recognize me as the tacitile Beauxbatons beauty they'd ogled wolfishly. The jaws (much to my amusement) dropped. I wondered idly at how they'd react if they knew the truth. 

And then I saw him. 

James Sirius Potter, in the flesh. And he was looking directly at me, of course. 


***

"Allie! Allie!" 
"Yeah, Grandmere?" 

"It's time for the first dance." 

I nodded. That was my cue. 

The reception (taking place under a gigantic white tent-not far from the actual wedding spot- filled with floating lanterns and lush red roses) had gotten well under way an hour before and everything was perfect.
 
I ate up at the Head table-which was elevated slightly higher than all the rest on a fancy sort of platform a couple meters high- laughing and chatting happily with my friends. They laughed at me for groaning euphorically as I ate the good kind of food I'd missed since my escape to Beauxbatons. They had French food too but I wanted the delicous English morsels. The people were nasty but the Hogwarts food was excellent and I'd bet ten galleons this food came directly from the Hogwarts house elves. It certainly tasted like it.

The confidence hadn't abandoned me yet. I could feel more than one pair of eyes on me but I didn't shy away. I let them look. I let them wonder. I was oddly unafraid, strangely secure. 

I continued to ignore the many prying gazes as I carefully descended the stairs of the platform and crossed the dance floor to the stage. 

"Good luck, Allie, "  Bee, Lynn and Leah said together. 

We laughed and I gave them a quick wink. 

Once I'd gotten on stage and the rather famous band (The Wicked Wizards)was ready, I cleared my throat daintily and began the announcement- my voice enchanted to be louder so all could hear. 

"Bonjur, everyone. I'm-" 

"Angelique!" 

I laughed, a twinkling laugh, as I heard Claude Van Damme yell the nickname he'd given me in fourth year. I followed the sound and found him grinning at me his arm around Estella Gerard (a.k.a. the original Beauxbatons beauty for the Hogwarts boys). 

"Merci, Claude." I laughed lightly, and then I continued, "Most of you know me as Angelique Swan." Not a lie. 

I heard several cheers and over them all I was sure I heard Bee, Lynnie and Leah. 

I laughed but went on, "I'm the bride's surrogate niece."
 
I met Tante Olympe's eyes to make sure she approved of the term. She did, of course.
 
"And many of you probably don't know this but, I was also once a student of Professor Hagrid's, as well." 

I saw several faces flicker in confusion and a satisfied smile sort of brushed my lips. I noticed that James Potter was one of those very confused individuals and resisted the childish impulse to stick my tongue out at him. 

I spotted Alice, Dee and Roxy and they beamed ecstatically back at me. I saw that Brigitte, Jocelyn and Leah looked shocked. Shocked but very impressed. They hadn't expected me to disclose such information to this crowd. It was giving away too much. 

But I almost wanted them to figure it out now. I wanted them to realize that the young bridesmaid with the delicate shoulders and killer blue eyes was the same girl who'd once had those bulky black framed glasses and pallid skin. I wanted them to choak on every insult they'd ever spat at me and grovel at my feet. I wanted to have the satisfaction of seeing their shock. I wanted it but I didn't. 

"And I've been asked to sing this song as they share their first dance as husband and wife. So, allons faire nous? " 

Several people cheered again as Tante O and Professor Hagrid made their way to the floor. Grandmere flicked her wand subtly and the lanterns dimmed seductively as the introduction music started. 

I waited for my beat and watched as my wonderful headmistress stared lovingly back into the glittering black eyes of my old professor (who cleaned up pretty nice when he cut his hair). It was strange to watch that kind of love up close. I wondered idly, as their song began, if I'd ever get to experience that. 

And then it was time to sing. 

"In the circles I been runnin', I've covered many miles. And I could search forever, for what's right before my eyes..." 

Tante Olympe whispered something that made Hagrid grin and several guests moved forward to the edge of the floor to snap pictures of the two. I watched as they kissed gently, feeling half- grossed out and half -gooey and romantic at the scene before me. 

"...Here with you I feel it, close my eyes and see it. In midnight talk, in a morning kiss, when I'm in your arms that's where it is..." 
I felt some eyes on me. Several in fact.
 
From the corner of my eyes I saw people nodding in approval as I demonstrated my excellent lung capacity. But I was too engrossed in the sight of such a happy newly wed couple to pay much attention to anyone skirting the dance floor. 

Tante Olympe was stunning in her grand off-white dress. Her hair was in a complicated sort of bun and a big white flower-that matched the tiny ones in my own updo- was pinned and charmed to stay right above her ear and hold one half of her long viel to her head.

I could see their lips moving occasionally as they murmured sweetly to each other and I wondered what they were saying. Everytime they'd beam at one another and then kiss as if there was no one else around but them. 

A few couples joined in the dancing half way through the song and I spotted my sister for the first time all day. 

She looked gorgeous, of course. She was wearing a spaghetti strapped white dress (appearantly she missed the rule about no one wearing white but the bride) and a green clip or something was holding back one side of her billowing blonde curls. My stomach rolled with nausea as I realized she was eyeing James Potter. 

And then it did another sickening turn as I noticed him eyeing me. 

Oh this could not be good. 

At last, I hit the final note and the song ended sweetly. With it, I found, had gone my enormous rush of confidence. 

I rushed off the stage as fast as I possibly could without tripping in my dress and heels. I wanted to get back to Leah, Brigitte and Jocelyn so they could sooth my sudden intruding panic attack. But I didn't even make it half way to the Head table before a voice behind stopped me directly in my tracks. 

"Alexa Diabolique Swan, I know you are not going to saunter off to that Head table again without saying hi to me." 

I whirled around and saw a girl that bared a striking resemblance to Jocelyn. The long silvery blonde hair and high cheek bones. The perfectly angled nose set directly above the full lips. The only two differences were her outfit and her eyes. She wore an off the shoulder blue dress that draped gracefully on her perfect figure and her chocolate eyes sparkled mischieviously. 

The girl was flanked by an unusually tan redhead wearing a short purple dress and silver heels and a girl in orange one who I hadn't seen since Christmas holiday. 

I couldn't help but grin, my panic attack forgotten. Seeing the three people who'd kept me going  during my own personal dark ages made me almost forget about all the ones who'd made it that way in the first place.
 
"Of course not!"  I exclaimed in mock- indignance and I rushed over to hug my old friends excitedly. We screeched happily at our reunion.

Just as I threw my arms around Roxy's neck I saw what table I'd come far too close to. The very table I'd vowed to stay far, far away from for the entire evening. Then my eyes met with a familiar pair of liquid gold ones. 

Everything about that all too well known face was confused. And then, as comprehension dawned and recognition flickered in those smoldering eyes, I realized what Dominique had just called out in front of so many of the Hogwarts people I used to hate. 

She'd said my full name. 

Well, an inward awareness sighed, it had to come out eventually.

And as if they'd been waiting for some sort of cue, three voices suddenly exclaimed the inevitable. "BEAUXBATONS GIRL!" 
I whipped around and there was my brother (his arm slung around a positively glowing Leah) rolling his eyes at his three burly best mates. While Emmett, Bryan and Frank grinned at me, impishly. 

Then Emmett held out his arms, "What I don't even get a hug?" 

None of them seemed to notice the several wide-eyed, slack-jawed faces at the tables near enough to hear. They hadn't realized yet that Dominique had just set off a ticking time bomb and that I probably wasn't going to be left alone for the rest of the reception. 

They all just grinned, happy to see me. 

And that's when a cool breeze seemed to brush the back of my long neck. It was like the sea breeze, spraying soothing mist my way. Calming me. And I realized something. It was one day, I'd held out for three years. I laughed at how stupid I was being.  France hadn't made me that soft had it? It was only today. I could handle it.  And after today the people I loathed (one in particular) would never see me again. Unless, a few years down the road, Tante Olympe and Professor Hagrid decided to have their  vows re-newed (Please, dear God, no). 

And it wasn't like any of them could try anything anyway. 

If one of them dared to jinx me I was willing to bet there were a hundred more (from Beauxbatons mostly) that would have their head on one of those fancy silver platters our meal had been brought out on. I knew that my friends and family would hex them with every vile spell in the books if they even so much as pinched my delicate porcelin skin. 

And if one of them had the audacity to hit on me again, all I had to do was wave over one of my lovely beach-bodied guy friends from Beauxbatons (particularly Adam) and they'd be running in the other direction with their tails between their legs. That, or I could scream rape and have them pulverized by twenty of them in a millisecond.

So why was I being so ridiculous about the whole thing? They couldn't hurt me anymore. Not even if they tried. 

"Earth to Allie," Emmett laughed, ripping me from my epiphany. "Hug?" 

I grinned at him and sighed, "You're going to anyway. Why not? Just don't mess up the hair, it took them an hour." 

And as my brother's best mate swooped me into a crushing bear hug and Jocelyn and Brigitte came over to greet their cousins, my eyes locked with that same pair of smoldering hazel ones. 

This time they were carefully calculating, reliving the train station and the kitchen diabolical no doubt. 

And this time, my gaze was solid, no fear. James Potter couldn't get near enough to make my life hell anymore. I was untouchable but in a far different way than before. 

My last thought before I broke the steady gaze between sapphires and topaz, was enough to make me laugh out loud in pure unadulterated happiness. 

I think I just had an epiphany. 

*** 

( Alright, so I know it's short but I have a lot to say about this. Originally, I didn't plan to have them hear who she was until Michael's upcoming eighteenth birthday bash. But for some reason I decided to make Dominique the one to let the cat out of the bag. This is the reason it has taken so long for me to update. Indecision. I wasn't sure if I wanted to give away the surprise just yet. I am sorry about that, it's a flaw of mine. But I want to know what all of you lovely readers think... Should I have kept it how I was going to or did you like this way? Review!

Love, RED 

PS. By the way, I do NOT own those song lyrics. They're from the Carrie Underwood song, That's Where It Is.... I chose that one because Alexa has a very good lung capacity and I've seen Carrie Underwood preform before and that girl has the lungs of life!)


Chapter 10: Keeping Count and Crowbars
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Chapter 10~ Keeping Count and Crowbars


Jess; Oh c'mon! Let me see your whithering stare! 

Rory; It's dangerous, I could hurt you! 

~Gilmore Girls 





"Alright everyone," Glenndolph Silverstone, The lead singer of the Wicked Wizards said not long after my glorious epiphany. "It is time for the wedding party to have their dance. Everyone from the wedding party, grab a partner and get out onto the floor."

I saw an astonishing amount of male eyes travel hopefully towards our little group as Leah and Michael went towards the dance floor. No doubt they were hoping to be ask to dance by an angel. Most of them, I noticed, were Hogwarts boys and the majority of them were eyeing me.

Ha! Right. Me and a Hogwarts boy, that was likely.

They huddled in packs, occasionally throwing me a quick glance over their shoulder. No doubt they were discussing the changes in me over the past few years away and my scandalous escape from Hogwarts. Who said boys didn't gossip as much as girls?

Brigitte linked arms with Henri, "Shall we?"

"Of course."

Jocelyn coyly took Andre's hand and they followed.

I looked at Emmett, "Care to dance, Mr. Haze?"

He grinned, "You just don't want to be asked by any other blokes and have to politely crush their hopes, do you?

"More or less, " I managed with a straight face before my lips split into a large, mischievious smile.

He sigh, "Ah well, how many times in his life does a man get to dance with an angel?"

I laughed, "It's a once in a life time opportunity, " I teased, "so try not to step on my feet, alright?"

He lead me out onto the floor not far behind Lynnie and Andre, as we laughed at this. "I'll try but no garentees."

Just as the music started, I caught the eye of a very pretty redhead woman with her arms around the most famous wizard in the world. Ginny Potter waved to me and I couldn't help but grin.

Especially when I saw her eldest son's reaction to such an exchange in my periphial vision. I felt an almost vindictive satisfaction as I watched him squirm while I bathed in all my confidence and flaunted my French renovations. He tugged at his tie hotly. Oh yes, he was definitely uncomfortable. Writhing under his new knowledge. Priceless.

James Potter looked from me to his mother in a very befuddled way. I could tell he was still in shock from the realization that I was in fact the girl he'd once called a crow coming back to haunt him.

Because, I'd decided, that's what it was.

I was haunting him. Not the other way around.

If he'd changed like Alice said (and I highly doubted it), then I was a ghost from his evil, malicious, bullying past coming back to haunt him. In the form of a girl he'd hit on without knowing who she actually was.

I was his nightmare. The girl he'd tortured because she wasn't like any of her family. Teased because she wasn't particularly special. Not athletic or incredibly gorgeous. The girl he'd asked countless times whether she'd been switched at birth or perhaps adopted, going away a gawky awkward little ugly duckling; coming back a Swan.

I liked this theory much better than my previous conclusion. I'd become a very big fan of the epiphany experience in the past few minutes. It was a beautiful, invigourating thing and I highly reccomend it.

Confidence washed upon me like the waves of the ocean. It was resealing my old wounds and filling my lungs with power. I realized that my Hogwarts scars only served to make me that much stronger. France had most definitely not made me soft.


...


"Hey Alexa, remember me?"

"Twenty."

That was the twentieth time I'd heard that sentence in the past hour and a half. Not that I was counting or anything, but Jocelyn sure was.

I shot her a whithering look but she only smirked. My friend was getting far too much pleasure out of this. She was finding it extremely amusing that I was no longer fearful but agitated with my many old schoolmates.

Not just schoolmates, males. They were all the idiotic boys who'd once taken extreme pleasure in jinxing me on a daily basis.

It was making this wedding much more enjoyable and entertaining for my tomboy friend. Everytime one would get that cocky determined look in his eye and begin to head our way she'd nearly wet herself with excitement.

She was really waiting for me to lose my short temper and stomp on their feet with my heels or knee them in the groin. She informed me that she highly prefered the latter.

It was all I could do to keep her from aquiring a camera and documenting the whole ordeal. But even that was difficult, she really wanted a souvenier of this.

"No." I sighed exasperatedly to the latest wanker, "Nor do I care to. Goodbye."

And with that I'd link my arm with Adam's or Tre's and they'd give the sod a menacing grin. My ridiculously large group of friends would chuckle as the bloke slumped back over to his sleazy friends and then they'd bet on how long it would take the next one to get up the nerve.

The one person who had yet to try something was the owner of those golden brown eyes, whose cousins (and Alice) were laughing and chatting happily with all of the people who'd made my life a happy event. James Potter just sat at his table with an expressionless face, turning down dances and staring directly at me.

Thankfully, my sister had not asked him yet. If he'd turned her down (as he had to all the others) and continued staring in my direction, I feared it might send her over the edge. And the last thing I needed today was to cause a scene with my little sister at Tante Olympe's wedding over James Potter.

I noticed that very few Hogwarts students danced the formal dances, as all of us did. This made me feel smug, among other things. I knew Hogwarts didn't have the number of parties and balls we had. They only had feasts. No Hogwarts student attended a ball until their seventh year, so none of them knew how to dance properly.

I laughed at a joke Adam made about one of the Wicked Wizards and twirled around like I was supposed to. It was then that I saw something so strange it took my breath away.

Two identical little blonde boys- adorable in every way- in blue robes both running into the waiting arms of James Potter.

I peered over Adam's shoulder (these heels made me tall!) and watched as James beamed, hugging them both tightly and then set them down. They weren't allowing this. Each of them climbed onto his lap happily and he laughed. Then their mouths started moving very fast and I could tell they were chattering his ear off, though I wasn't within hearing distance (drat!). But he just listened carefully, concentrating as if they were telling him how to prepare a very tricky Potion for his N.E.W.T.s.

I mentally snorted. He probably had to concentrate so hard because he was thicker than a troll. Wanker.

When they were finished he grinned real wide and made a very big deal out of whatever they'd said. He said something that made them beam proudly and gave them high fives. Then he ruffled their white-blonde curls playfully. They giggled at the attention and something in my chest twisted with discomfort.

It wasn't long before he stood to greet a pretty blonde woman in an eccentric dress and earrings shaped like turnups. And then her husband who look equally unforgettable. It was strange to see the esteem in the smiles they were flashing brightly at him. Odd to see the glint of pride spark in their eyes.

Surely this wasn't for James Potter.

But as he scooped one of the little blonde boys up onto his shoulders I wondered. Had James Potter, prince of the magical world- adored by almost all who'd met him (with the exception of me),  in fact changed?

But just as the ludicrus thought brushed my mind, he looked at a fourth year girl named, Courtney van Lauer from Beauxbatons. And I saw that the dress she was wearing had a teasing slit up the side coming to a scandalous stop at her upper thigh. As I'd expected, he looked right at it then winked. 

Nope. Not at all. 


*** 


"I can go get a crow bar from the broomshed!"

"No."

"Why not?"

"Because, I only agreed to letting you kick his arse if he hit on me again," I told Lynnie firmly, "and he hasn't. So no."

Lynnie huffed unhappily and settled her gaze in his direction again.

I chuckled as I wondered what James Potter would think if he looks over at us, only to find the beautiful blonde of our group glowering directly at him.

He knew her, of course. They were both cousins to Victoire, Dominique and Louis after all. When they were little they'd play with each other at birthday parties for the three at Shell Cottage. But they hadn't seen each other since Victoire's seventeenth. And therefore, Jocelyn hadn't got the chance to take a whack at him for what he'd done to me.

I smirked at the mental image of her walking up and slugging him with that excellent right hook of hers. It was tempting, but- as this was a high profile event with many celebrities present-there was a ton of reporters skirting the edge of the tent with eyes like hawks. I hardly wanted my best friend on the cover of TeenWitch for ruining James Potter II's perfect smile (gag me). Or worse, The Prophet for smashing the beloved little Prince's face in with a crowbar. They'd probably say it was a love spat or something, which would just infuriate my tomboy friend anymore. I wasn't going to be the reason for Jocelyn being hauled off to St. Mungo's.

But when I explained this to her, she made another 'humph' noise and two voices behind us chuckled. 

"Ange, you should know they'd never be able to drag our baby sister off to the loony bin. She'd knock their lights out if they even touched her." 

"Yeah, and then I'd have to come bail her arse out of Azkaban
." 

I whirled around to see a pair of tall blonde boys. They were like the older versions of little Louis Weasley. Edouard and Antoine de Lancret were both grinning at us mischieviously.

"Hey Ed," Dominique greeted, pausing from her arguement with Tre and Frank about whether or not the Wierd Sisters should have another reunion concert, "Antoine, you still owe me six galleons."

"I do not!"

"Yes you do. I told you at New Years that the Snitch Stallions would beat the Bludger Bombs, but you had to be a troll and bet me. So pay up."

The rest of us laughed as Antoine shot a glare towards the Stallions' Seeker, Gui Norcross and shelled six gold coins out of his robes.

"Merci," Dee grinned cheekily, and then she continued her arguement with Tre and Frank.

I laughed and went to give my best friend's older brothers each hugs and the standard peck on each cheek. Leah and Brigitte did the same but when we looked at Jocelyn expectantly she just gave her brothers a scathing glare.

"What's got her knickers twisted?" Antoine asked me.

"She's just mad cause I won't let her fetch a crowbar from the broomshed and beat James Potter senseless." I shrugged.

"Ah," Antoine grinned, "So the usual."

"Pretty much."

"And why does she want to light into The First Born again?" he chuckled, using one of the Daily Prophet's many nicknames for Harry Potter's son and slinging a muscular arm around my shoulders.

"Because he taunted me at Hogwarts," I shrugged. With my new confidance came a strange sense of acceptance. My own personal dark ages were no longer something I flinched at, I wasn't afraid anymore.

"Yeah," Edouard piped in, "think she mentioned something about that in the howlers." He shot us both disparaging looks.

I held up my hands, palms out, "I didn't put her up to that."

"Well," Roxy said, putting a comforting hand on Lynnie's shoulder, "You've got my permission to knock 'em all out if you like." She grinned wickedly. "My git of a cousin still owes me ten galleons."

"What for?" I laughed.

"Stupid troll can't accept that the Cannons have made their come back and bet me that Puddlemere would beat 'em." Roxy rolled her eyes.

"Oo-oo! I love this song!" Bee exclaimed, grabbing my wrist. "Let's go dance."

It was a fast beat that had been played incessantly on the radio all month but Bee and Leah couldn't get enough of it- no matter how much the rest of us begged them to shut it off.

I dragged Antoine out with us and several others (including Leah and my brother, and Andre pulling a slightly softened Lynnie) followed. Before I could even start swaying my hips to the pounding beat we were surrounded by a hord of people. I had to laugh as I noticed that the only Hogwarts attendees in the middle with us were my brother and his friends and my old friends. The rest were timidly on the edges of the dance floor.

It didn't take long for us to get into it and start to act playful. We acted ridiculous, to be perfectly honest. Twirling and shaking around each other, laughing like we did at school. We hardly paid attention to those watched from the sidelines. We were used to the stares.

It wasn't until Antoine spun me around that I noticed Saundra.

She looked away immediately, pretending that she wasn't interested. Pretending that our fun didn't bother her. I knew better, of course. I'd seen her eyes. They looked almost exactly like they had as she'd gazed at our many pictures at the house. But the seering emotion was a hundred times more evident as she watched our entire flock in person all giggling and gabbing and dancing to the hypnotic, pulsing beat.

I watched her go over to her own wasp's nests of friends- who watched us with the rest. I wondered curiously what she was whispering to them with the glow of artificial confidance as she flipped her cascading blonde curls.

And then my blood went cold. 

It literally froze in my veins as she got a blazing determined look in those eyes -once filled with strong emotion- and sauntered in the direction of James Potter.


*** 

(So there is chapter 10. I hope you liked it. I already have the next chapter in the works. I'm really excited for it too because it involves angels and eavesdropping. He he he. Alright so for now tell me what you think of this lovely filler chapter. Was it worth the read?
<3 RED )

Chapter 11: Angels and Eavesdropping
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( So, I've had many of you comment on the fact that you either don't understand or don't like Saundra. Which is understandable. But this chapter may give you a little more insight into that mystery. Though, I do plan to elaborate eventually. But, without furthur delay, I give you Chapter 11.


Chapter 11~ Angels and Eavesdropping 


"I'm not surprised you heard something you didn't like. You know what they say about eavesdroppers." 

           ~Bella Swan, Twilight by Stephenie Meyer 



~

They were gone.

My little sister had disappeared with James Potter.

I watched her from the dance floor as she murmured seductively in his ear and he grinned at her. He let her lead him out of the big white tent and that was the last I saw of them. By the time I could slip away from the dance floor they were no where to be found. They'd disappeared.

Which is how I ended up pacing in our room up at the house, a mile away from where the party was going on. Brigitte, Lynnie and Leah sat on the bed before me, watching as I walked in tight circles. Listening to me rant.

"You know, this is just like Saundra. She's so irresponisble and boy crazy. What is she thinking? James Potter?! Honestly! She could do so much better! Ugh!"  My stomach twisted as I pondered what my little sister and James Potter might be doing at this very moment.

"Saundra isn't stupid, Al." Brigitte reminded me. "She is your sister. She knows consequences and she wouldn't let a bloke get the best of her. I'm sure she'll be fine."

While this was semi-reassuring a part of me wondered. Would the fact that he was the Golden boy-the oldest Potter spawn, catch of all catches, the creme de la creme- make this time different? Would his fame and popularity cloud my sister's-otherwise good- judgement?

"Ange, I'm sure she'll be fine." Leah told me, "No way would she risk getting caught in an awkward situation with your entire family present. Michael would kill any bloke if he caught them with one of his baby sisters."

"I'm not so sure. He seemed pretty friendly with Pothead when they were at our house." I told them flatly.

"But he hadn't been with one of Michael's sisters back then. Now..." Brigitte trailed off, delighted at the possibilities. I knew she'd be thrilled if Michael gave the git a good beating (and frankly so would I) but I still didn't want my sister with James Potter.

From what I'd seen of him lately, Saundra would be just another knotch on his bedpost. A slag he'd shagged. Nothing out of the ordinary. And I didn't like this option.

Especially when I considered the consequences. The last thing I wanted was a little Potter niece or nephew. A shiver ran down my spine just thinking about it.

"He hit on me and he still had all his limbs." I told them.

"Yes, but did you inform your brother about this?" Leah asked, already knowing my answer.

"No," I conceded, grudgingly.

"Exactly."

I sighed. This was not supposed to happen.

"What's up here?"

The voice made my heart jerk. I exchanged wide-eyed looks with my friends before signaling that we should be quiet with an index finger to my lips.

"Just bedrooms and such. Nothing special." My sister answered flirtaciously. As if her thoughts weren't ecstatically roaming all the possibilities of being alone in a bedroom with The Chosen One's devistatingly handsome offspring.

I heard the direction of the foot steps. Closer and closer.

"That's my grandparents' room and those are the four guest rooms. The main upstairs bathroom." I heard Saundra tell him.

"What's this?"

"A closet."

They laughed together.

And that's when a horrible realization hit me. My home- my sanctuary in every way- was being invaded.

I hissed frantically and pulled my friends into the big walk-in closet with me. I shut the door as quietly as possible and peaked anxiously through the keyhole, straining my eagle ears to hear everything.

I'd been wrong before, I realized. This was my worst nightmare.

Not just having to see James Potter again, but having him come to the very place where I'd found myself again. Having him stroll into the room where I'd, at last ,found a good night's rest- free from tears and reckless sobbing.

"What does this door say?" I heard him ask curiously.

Saundra sighed. "Les Anges. It means 'the angels'." I heard him chuckle softly. And I could almost see his eyebrow raising inquisitively at her tone.

"My sister and cousin and their friends sleep in there. Every holiday." She told him tonelessly.

"Are we allowed in the sactuary or is it holy ground?" He asked her.

The question made my heart sputter frantically. I could tell he was trying to lighten the mood but I also heard the genuine curiousity burning under the surface. He honestly wanted to see where we slept.

James Potter, my enemy, was going to be in my bedroom. He was going to see all the pictures- embarassing, formal and everything in between- of me with my new life. He might even spot the bra that Jocelyn had left hanging on the back of the desk chair and assume it was mine. He would see my glasses and Leah's side by side on the desk and all of my books on the shelf.

Maybe he'd even venture into the adjoining bathroom. And see our colorful toothbrushes, our toothpaste that never had the cap on, our bakinis drying one the shower door, the towels with our initials on them and the many tubes and bottles of sweet smelling beauty products, perfumes and lotions.

This whole thing was awful. Mortifying and invasive. My sanctuary was going to be violated by one of the vile creatures that had so loved to torment me. This was just terrible.

Saundra sighed resignedly. "Yeah, I suppose I can show you. As long as the 'Angels' are all back down at the reception."
I felt a sharp blow as she sneered the nickname. The air quotations around the word hurt me for some reason. The feeling was similar, I noted, to the one I'd gotten after a punching telescope was planted on my desk one morning. Only this time there were no physical bruises to be cackled at.

And that's when the door creaked open and my very own sister led the invasion on my safe haven. I suppose it could've been worse. She could've let Bryan's little brother and the rest of their ghastly cronies in my sanctuary too. But having it violated by James Potter was still unbearable.

Every muscle in me itched to burst out of that closet and shoo them away. But, miraculously, I stayed where I was. And I watched through the keyhole as one of the bullies I'd loathed for so long blinked at the sight of such a room.

"Wow."

"Yeah." Saundra agreed flatly. "Elaborate, isn't it?"

"I'll say." Potter agreed. "My sister's room isn't even this done up."

Saundra sighed for about the fifth time, "Only the best for the golden quartet. Beauxbatons's princesses. The angel children." I didn't miss the hint of bitterness in her tone.

Neither, appearantly, did he. "Your sister seems pretty happy." He stated.

"Obviously." Lynnie muttered.

The three of us shushed her silently.

"Well!" She hissed, "It is!"

"Yep." Saundra agreed acidly, "She finally escaped the nasty Hogwarts people and got everything she wanted."

"What d'you mean 'escaped'?"

"Well, as I recall, someone appearantly gave her a hard time." Saundra told him.

Was it my imagination or was he blushing at this?

"Under statement of the century," Jocelyn hissed disguntly. "Hard time my arse. Bloody tortue is what it wa-"
Leah clamped her hand over Lynnie's mouth to shut her up. Earning a very scathing look from the blonde beauty and a soft chuckle from Bee. But I ignored them, too entranced by what I was hearing to pay my friends' antics any mind.

"So she begged my parents to let her transfer. When dad said no and mum was for it she let Michael catch her crying. He wrote to my mum and mum wrote to Grandmere and the next thing I knew my big sister was abandoning me for her new French friends."

"Abandoning you? That doesn't sound like her. How'd she do that?"

I blinked at the bizarre turn this conversation had taken. I'd abandoned her? And was James Potter- the devil, ringleader of all those evil pranks and jibes at my expense- actually sticking up for me?

"She changed."

"Well, obviously. But what's wrong with that?"

Saundra took a deep breath and explained her twisted take on my tranformation. "Not just the way she looked. She didn't write as often and she spent more time here than anywhere else on holidays. She' more interested in all of her new friends than in seeing her family. I barely see her anymore. And then that ridiculous nickname." I could hear the eyeroll.

"Jealous are we?" I heard him tease.

I almost gasped. This took nerve. Saundra was just as capable as Jocelyn when it came to enssuring he never reproduced.

But, to my utter shock, she just laughed. "Maybe a little."

I saw her plop down on the bed Bee and Leah shared as my enemy began to study all of the pictures placed around the room.

"It just bothers me that she spends all her time with them and barely any with me now. A hord of total strangers know her better than I do! And she seems perfectly fine with that. I just don't understand what's so awful about staying with me."

"Well..." His tone was teasing and he trailed of suggestively. I could see him grinning at her.

"James, I'm serious!"

He sighed and chuckled, "Have you told her any of this?"

Saundra scoffed, "No. I never see her. And if I do, there's always a hord of her devoted fans around fawning all over her."

"Devoted fans?" I saw the eyebrow raise again.

"Yeah." Saundra laughed, "Everyone here just loves her to pieces and she loves all of them. She's always grinning madly and laughing and that. But when, Merlin forbid, she had to stay at the house for a week. She's always getting letters from everyone or in her room reading or out playing Quidditch with Michael and his friends. She can barely be in the same room with me. Or dad- though I can sort of understand that part. I just don't get why it's so awful to be with me is all."

"I'm sure she doesn't mean it. She probably doesn't realize you get your feelings hurt. But why would she be like that with your dad?"

Saundra shrugged, "They've been rocky ever since she made her little escape. Dad was against it."

"But it made her happy."

"Which is why mum overthrew him. She was unhappy at Hogwarts and she was, well is, incredibly happy at Beauxbatons. I was shocked when I heard she actually came to see us at King's Cross. But dad forced her."

"Which would explain her mood when she was there."

"Yep."

There was a moment of silence. 

My mind was frantically trying to keep up, to absorb all of this information. It was ridiculously difficult to process everything I was hearing.

"You wanna know the ironic part?"

"What?"

"I'm pretty sure I was the one who gave her the idea." Saundra laughed ruethlessly.

"Yeah, that would be ironic."

Another silence ensued and James Potter continued to study all of the wonderful memories we'd chosen to immortalize with photos. All the images of me and my new life. Of all of my friends and I; laughing and screeching without a care in the world.

We were the golden children. I knew he'd see that from our displayed memories. We were the beloved of Beauxbatons. The very essence of youth and joy there. It was so painfully obvious that I almost cringed. 

Saundra had made this all sound like such a bad thing.

She'd cast a dark shadow on my blissful new existance. A wicked twinge to my happiness. A nasty catch.

Had I really abandoned her? Was I really as awful as she'd made me sound just now?

My agonizing was interrupted when my sister sighed. "I'm thirsty. Let's go get a drink from the kitchen, shall we?"

"I'll meet you down there in a minute."

"Okay."

And with that she got up in one graceful movement and bounded fluidly out of my sanctuary all too eagerly.

I felt Jocelyn jerk beside me and I suddenly felt my temper flair as if I was channeling her or something. Who was he but some spoiled little famous boy? Why should he have gotten such a confession from my sister? It should have been me. And what right did he have to invade the new life I'd built for myself after he systematically tore the old one to bits.

I straightened up from my crouch by the keyhole and squared my shoulders as my stomach twisted with rage. Before I could give it another thought, I twisted the knob and stepped out of my hiding place.

"You know, it's rude to enter a bedroom without it's occupants' presence or permission even."

He whipped around and saw the four of us standing there with our arms crossed and faces cold. I saw Jocelyn giving him a menacing look that could rival Adam's. After a second, his eyebrow rose- just the one- and a smirk played at the corner of his lips.

"It's also rude to pretend you don't speak English when someone tries to talk to you." He countered effortlessly.

I narrowed my eyes at him, "Hit on me, is more like it. And, last I checked, taking down someone's vanity wasn't a crime. If it was, you'd've been thrown in Azkaban years ago."

Jocelyn let it out a laugh but it was cut short by Leah's elbow connecting with her ribs. "Ouch!"

"Seems you've recovered." He retorted calmly, still smirking. "So, I couldn't have done that much damage."

"Oh of all the- Ow! Dammit, Lay! Stop that!" Lynnie was once again cut off by Leah's elbow.

We ignored her again. We had a score to settle. 

"I've always been strong. It'd take more than a few idiot boys to break me."

" 'S that why you ran away?"

My anger flared again, I could feel the fury on my face. My eyes blazed viciously. I didn't want to admit it but that one hurt for some reason. My stomach rolled sickeningly.
"I transfered to Beauxbatons because they're more advanced and Hogwarts was hardly a challenge. A bunch of trolls could do your work and it looks like they are." I let my eyes travel up and down him pointedly.

It was the first time, I realized, that I'd actually looked at him. Really looked.

He was in his dress robes, of course. They were an expensive set of midnight blue that looked amazing on him. I could just barely see the defined muscles of his stomach and his toned Quidditch biceps. He was incredibly handsome, I could almost understand why all those girls fell for him so hard. Almost.

"Not according to your sister, as I'm sure you heard." His smirk grew more pronounced.

"My sister and I have always looked at things differently." I told him cooly. "Like with you, for example." It was my turn to smirk. "She sees a handsome bloke who she may want shag in the near future and I see a spoiled little prince who's riding on his daddy's coat tails. She thinks you're someone who she can- not only flirt with- but confide in and I think you're a masochistic womanizer who gets everything he wants because of his unearned fame and uncanny ability to bully anyone remotely threatening to him."

"Bully? Ouch, Allie, that one hurts. Bitterness really is as unattractive as they say. But, I have to know, how on earth was I threatened by a friendless, anti-social, know-it-all such as yourself? Do enlighten me. I'm dying to know."  He shot back at me acidly.

I raised an eyebrow at him, "I beat you at every test, did I not? Out shined you in front of every teacher. How disappointing for the tabloids that someone was smarter than the precious Potter child. How unimpressed they were with The Chosen One's son. Greatness really does skip a generation, I suppose."

It was his turn to glare.

I felt my insides warm at the smugness that rushed upon me. I'd waited so long to put James Prickhead Potter in his place. It was so invigourating to know that I was winning. He could not intimidate me anymore. I had changed.

"Now." I continued, "I believe you made a promise to my baby sister that you'd meet her downstairs. And, Potter, this is your one and only warning." I informed him. 

"You break her heart, I break your face." I threatened cheerfully, "Or I get someone bigger to do it for me. And believe me, I'm no longer friendless, I've got loads of people who'd be more than willing to enssure that the First Born can never get a date again. Or reproduce." I smiled tightly. "Lynnie's been dying to take a whack at you for a couple years now." I nudged my head in Jocelyn's directions.

His stony gaze  flickered to her momentarily and then back to me.

 "And next time, I won't stop her. So, go make my baby sister happy. But take her virginity or hurt her in any way and my threat is a promise. Got it?"

"Got it." He said coldly. "I hurt her and you cheerfully beat me to death."

"Very good, Potter."

It wasn't me this time, it was Lynnie.

"Not as dumb as you look, are you?"

He didn't reply, he just stalked from the room icily.

I felt a wieght lift from my chest. I was flying. I'd finally gotten rid of my demons. No one from Hogwarts could tell me I was worthless anymore because I had a whole hall of French people who'd make them sterile if they did.

***

(There it is. The confrontation you've all been waiting for- there will be many more where that came from lol. Hope it lived up to expectations! Review and tell me what you think so far! Shall I give it up now or dod you want me to continue?

         <3 RED)


Chapter 12: Exams
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(Originally, I planned to give you a much longer chapter- but the OCD part of me could not have it on an odd number for long! lol. This chapter is dedicated to the lovely plainInsane18 who has been graciously editing my French mistakes. Thanks Grace!  So anyway, this is really a filler chapter, but it's nessecary. The next chapter will be ALOT longer and I will try to post that one soon- for now, ENJOY! Oh and don't forget to review! 

xoxo RED )


Chapter 12 ~ Exams

Alice: "No one will dare to call you plain when I'm through with you."
Bella: "Only because they're afraid you'll suck their blood." 

~Breaking Dawn by Stephenie Meyer 

~


The rest of Madame Olympe's wedding was fairly uneventful.

My friends insisted on having a round of butterbeers and chocolate in the kitchen, to celebrate my liberation. They were thrilled that they'd gotten to watch- up close- as I finally told James Potter off once and for all. I blushed at these congratulations and told them to keep our little interlude to themselves. The last thing I needed was for everyone to find out I'd ripped into the First Born after eavesdropping on him and my sister.

When we returned to the tent, Potter and my sister were sitting among a group of Hogwarts people. A pang of revulsion surged through me when I spotted her hand on his knee. He said something and they threw their heads back in laughter but his answering smile didn't quite reach his eyes.

Perhaps I had managed to knock his ego down a notch or two. Take that insufferably big head that was so used to being fawned over by pretty girls and pop it like a balloon- or at least let some of theair out of it. I'd definitely hit a nerve, it was obvious.

Had I been too harsh? After all this time, had my grudge ceased to be relevant? Was I dwelling in the past too much? Maybe I was a tad hasty when I lit into him like that. After all, it was three years ago. Alot could happen in three years (I was living proof of that fact) and Alice said he'd changed. I started to feel slightly uneasy. Maybe I'd made too big a deal about the whole thing.

"Don't worry," Jocelyn whispered, when she saw the direction of my worried gaze, "He wouldn't dare call you a crow again. Not after what you said to him up there and how you shine now, Ange." Her voice was smug and her grin was gleeful.

I rolled my eyes. "Only because he's probably terrified, now, that you'll break his bloody knee caps." I laughed dryly. I didn't want to think about James Potter anymore. I wanted to move on.

So that's what I decided to do. I was going to let my past be in the past and focus on my present. I would forget about my dark ages, leave them behind me. I'd leave them with James Potter and hope to never see him again (pray he and Saundra did last long enough to do the whole meet-the-family thing).

From that point of the evening on, I kept my distance. Ignored him entirely. Even when I felt him watching me- those smoldering eyes burning into the back of my head- I didn't look. I didn't want to.

Instead; I mingled, I laughed, I let myself relax into the normally happy-go-lucky girl I always was. I greeted family members ethusiastically and friends that had already graduated from school. I marveled at their engagement rings and cooed over their new babies telling them they looked even more adorable than in the pictures they'd sent to us. I played the part of the beloved well and took a comfort in the fact that Brigitte and Jocelyn were right there with me (Leah had gone off somewhere with Michael -I didn't dwell on what they might or might not be doing where ever they were).

Finally, I stood against an elaborately decorated table chatting with friends and gently rocking baby Elise into a contented slumber on my shoulder. I liked feeling the little breath on my collarbone and the tiny heart beating with mine. It was just as soothing to me as the silky tones and gentle swaying was to her appearantly.

Even the curious eyes of the First Born (as I kissed my sweet cousin's head tenderly) couldn't make my heart quicken while I cradled the tiny baby girl in my arms. He was like the sun, I'd decided, if you didn't look at him he couldn't make you blind. And, even if I'd wanted to look, I wasn't about to move my head from where it was.

Elise's tiny forehead rested against my chin and I was worried that one movement would send her wailing. I wasn't about to have her cry on me because there was no way I was giving her back to her mother while she sat over at the table my sister sat at. Granted, Saundra's chair was turned around and it looked like she was too absorbed in whatever Patrick Finnigan was saying to notice much else. But it was very likely that if she heard a baby wailing she'd at least glance to see and I wasn't taking my chances.

I was avoiding Saundra too.

I was feeling a ridiculous amount of guilt in regards to that particular Hogwarts's princess. Her words echoed annoyingly in my head, knawing at my insides and pulling relentlessly at my heart strings.

But at the same time, another part of me- the less compassionate part, I suppose- was outraged. It longed to light into Saundra the way I'd lit into Potter. I wanted to set the record straight and abolish her 'woe is me' act once and for all. I had not abandoned her.

She was the one who avoided me those first several holidays. She was the one who wrote vague, distant letters in response to my enthusiastic, vivid discriptions about the happiness I'd found and how I wished she could share it with me. She was the one too busy and caught up in her perfect existance to care about her sister, not me.

And why shouldn't I be happy? Why shouldn't I have gotten everything she and Michael found at Hogwarts? Why was it so wrong that I was laughing and grinning all the time now? Shouldn't I be allowed friends and admirers too? She and Michael had plenty at Hogwarts, why couldn't I have them at Beauxbatons?

I'd been so depressed before I came to France. Wasn't it better that I was back to being the happy-go-lucky, songbird older sister that she'd known before I went off to school? Appearantly not.

But I refused to be sorry for that decision I'd made three years ago. It was the best choice I'd ever made and I wouldn't repent for it. And I refused to back away from the spotlight I'd been bathing in for three years. I would not give in just because my little sister wanted me to, this was not like all those times she'd gotten me to write her essays against my better judgement.

She wasn't asking me to sacrifice my principles, she was asking me to sacrifice myself. And that was just something I couldn't do. I was not giving my new life up. I was not giving up my happiness. She'd have to pry it out of my cold dead tenacious fingers before I gave it all up willingly.

It was good for Saundra, I'd decided.

Everything about her world was so perfect. She had all of Hogwarts wrapped around her finger, our parents and family adored her (especially dad) and boys threw themselves at her feet constantly.

She needed to know that she couldn't get everything she wanted. That the whole entire world did not revolve around Saundra Swan and her posse. She needed to learn that she would be sharing the spotlight with me every holiday from now on and she might as well get used to it, those were the breaks. She'd just have to come to terms with it all somehow. I was her sister and I wasn't going away.

And so, I was back to my prior conclusion. If this was the only heart ache my little sister suffered, she'd survive indefinitely.

***

The rest of the holiday followed as they normally did.

We spent days in the city; shopping, people watching and meeting up with friends who lived nearby for lunch or dinner. Paris buzzed vibrantly during the day and took my breath away at night. I almost wished I still had a boyfriend to share the intoxicating romance of it all with. But a boyfriend would've thrown of the blissful flow that my friends and I had found during this particular holiday. And so I was happy that there were no boyfriends around to divert attetion. It was just us girls.

I felt exilarated. My dark ages would soon be forgotten because I left them with James Potter and he'd taken them back to England with him.

I had a plan, I would not go back to England if I could possibly help it. Just in case my old memories found me there. 

Instead, I would weasel my way into staying the entire summer with Grandmere. Or maybe even say that Nanette needed me to help with Elise and I had to stay with her. Nan would understand. She'd seen what Hogwarts had done to me. And her attitude towards the individuals who'd done the damage was much similar to Jocelyn's. She would be more than willing to be my alibi for a while.

And then, when summer ended, I'd go to Beauxbatons for seventh year. We'd spend our very last year bathing in the sun and laughing over the whole Angels thing as we always did. And it would be time to pass the torch and start a whole new life as adults. I already knew I'd be staying in France.

I figured that, I'd started a new life before, how hard could it be the second time around? I would be what I'd wanted to be since fourth year (ever since Edourd talked my ear off about it one holiday at Lynnie's), an Auror. I'd have a little cottage on the beach and a peacful, happy life- surrounded by those I loved.

All I had to do before I could live out this little fantasy was finish sixth year.

Turns out, for a Beauxbatons girl, that is far easier said than done.

***

"What is the key ingredient in-?"

"No moooore. Brain overload." Lynnie groaned.

"I feel like I've gained ten pounds in my head. Just my head." Leah told us, "My head feels heavier. Does your head feel heavier?"

"Yes." Bee told her disgruntally, "And I think I've permanently lost all feeling in three fingers of my right hand"

"Allie, can we please take a break?" Leah moaned wistfully, giving me the puppy-dog eyes.

"Les examens sont la semaine prochaine!" I informed them pointlessly for the millionth time.

They were fully aware of this fact. It was the reason every sixth year could be found either in the library of the Dorms Wing, studying rather than on the beach at the bonfires and in the Salle à Manger. It happened every exams year and we'd always watched with immense sympathy and a dash of smugness (due to the fact that it wasn't us having panic attacks and mental breakdowns) before. Now it was us and I was in full panic mode. They knew this too.

I was the bookworm after all. And these were my big exams. This was the year that would dictate the rest of my life.

I'd tried to study in October but Lynnie kept poking me or hitting my head with a pillow until I gave up the attempts. She told me she wasn't letting me become a hermit all year. But now I was panicked. I felt unprepared and unqualified for the task that faced me and it scared me to death.

They gave me disparaging looks.

I sighed, "Fine. You can go ahead, I've still got to work on Defense."

Brigitte's eyes widened, "You can already produce a bloody Patronus! What more could you possibly need to pass?"

"Loads!" I defended myself. "Lynnie, you wanna be an Auror too! Tell them it's bloody hard!" I looked at my friend who was faced down with her arms on the table and her head resting in them.

"Can't" Her muffled voice told me. "My brain's too full. Vous avez poussé trop dans là, Ange. "
I huffed and stuck my chin out defiantly, "You all go on to the bonfire, I have to keep studying. Je refuse de rater ces examens. Ils comptent trop."

"Ugh," Leah moaned but I heard the faint trace of humor. "Why must you embrace your inner geek? Why can't you smother it and conform like all the rest of us?" She teased.

"C'mon, Ange." Brigitte stood. "Nous tous descendons au feu de jardin pour une pause d'étude. Vous pouvez réorganiser votre notecards demain. " "Yeah, you're coming, Al." Leah demanded, "Les Anges n'abandonnez pas l'un l'autre dans leur temps de besoin. "
"And face it, honey." Lynnie's voice was back to normal, "Vous êtes dans le besoin désespéré. You've filled enough brain cells for tonight, time to give it up."

And then, before I knew quite what was happening they were pulling me from the library kicking and screaming. Literally.

"Let go of me, you bloody lunatics!" I ordered futily as I wriggled beneath their grasps. "I need to study! Let go of me, you lazy arse slackers! Let go now, bloody wankers- Ow! That hurts! Quit digging your claws into me, Leah! Oh, in the name of Merlin's saggy left testicle let -me -go!" I followed this with a string of profanities in French.

And they dragged me like that all the way down to the beach.

***

I'd had to put myself under a sleeping charm the night before exams because I couldn't drift into careless slumber by myself. My back was a wreck from all the stress and my neck was full of knots, as Tre felt obligated to point out that morning as he massaged it. They all could tell that I was by far the most stressed, they just couldn't understand why.

My classmates and friends were just as nervous as I was but they couldn't understand why I, Beauxbatons resident bookworm, was freaking out so much. They thought this would be a piece of cake for me. I, however, thought it was going to be the hardest test of my life.

"I think I'd give just about anything to not have to take this test right now. I'd run through the halls in my knickers if it meant I got to skip them."

"Je pourrais me mettre derrière cette idée." (I could get behind that idea. ) Adam grinned suggestively.

Lynnie punched him for me.

"Ouch." He glowered at her.

"Serves you right, perv." Lynnie smirked.

"So you're saying you'd go through torture rather than pass this exam with flying colors like we all know you will?" Henri asked with humor in his eyes.

I glared but answered just the same. "Oui."

"Even another year at Hogwarts?"

Three hands smacked Andre over the head. And I smirked as he yelped. Leave it to Lynnie, Leah and Bee to get violent. The mention of Hogwarts didn't even bug me like it normally would've. No dark shadow crossed my face, my eyes lost none of their shine.

I was perfectly unphased and able to grin at him amusedly. "Bien, je devrais penser à celui-là. But given my recent experiance, I think I could handle it." I winked at Lynnie, Leah and Bee.

The boys gave us confused looks but they'd learned that it was just safer not to even ask anymore. They'd had way too many 'it's a girl thing' diabolicals to step into that mine field again.

Adam sighed, "C'mon, Ange's got some exams to fail."

"ADAM!"
The same three hands smacked him.

The rest of us collapsed into giggles but Henri managed to choak out. "Three times in ten minutes! That's a record, mates!"

***

Chapter 13: Dread
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(Hello my lovely readers {if I still have any that is},
First of all - I need to apologize perfusely for neglecting you for so long. So, this is me groveling- you can't see it but I am. It's been so busy lately and then I started school on Monday so I haven't had a whole lot of freetime.
 
Second- I also need to let you know that the rating is going up to mature but don't worry it's a precaution, I won't get too graphic. It's just due to some plot developments. 

Which brings me to number three- I want to thank the very talented
Nora for being my Beta and for making the rocking chapter banner! You're the best!
I should be updating my other stories very soon if all goes well and I'm not bombarded with mountains of homework! So keep an eye out!  And now without further ado I present unlucky number thirteen! )





Chapter 13 ~ Dread 


I wanted to be loved, to be adored....I was silly and shallow, but I was content.

~Rosalie Hale, Eclipse by Stephenie Meyer


Photobucket
~

My exams were finished, my trunk was almost packed and- according to Michael and Saundra- my transformation was the talk of Hogwarts. Fabulous.
Appearantly, those who'd been in attendance at the wedding filled in the ones who hadn't and I'd become a favorite topic of gossip around my old school. Michael had heard countless moronic theories about how I'd managed it, each more outrageous than the last. 

A fourth year girl told her friends I'd gone to Egypt and had sphinx blood injected into me. The seventh year Hufflepuffs had their money on the made-a-deal-with-a-dark-witch-in-China theory(my soul for popularity and beauty). Or- my personal favorite- the Ravenclaws were convinced I'd found a book in the Beauxbatons library with a potion in it and now I drank it every other hour to keep myself this way (or I'd sprout disgusting warts and boils all over my body and die within twenty-four hours).

According to Michael, I was a regular topic of conversation in the castle at this point (insert Emmett's amused chuckle here).

But I didn't dwell on what James Potter might be saying about my little episode or what bollocks Saundra was no doubt spouting on how abandoned she was and how (Merlin forbid!) she had to write all her own essays now. I just concentrated on the glittering summer I had ahead of me. I wasn't a part of their world anymore, I lived in a blissful blur of sun, waves and shopping. I stifled any concern I might have about my old world- pushed all thoughts about Hogwarts into the very back chamber of my mind and tried to forget it.

"Ange?"

"Hm?"

"Avez-vous vu ma jupe bleue ?"

"Non."

Leah sighed frustratedly.

"Have you checked in the bathroom?"

"Pourquoi serait-il là ?"

I shrugged as I folded my favorite pair of jeans into my trunk delicately.

She rolled her eyes and laughed, "You're a lot of help."

"Aren't I?" I grinned cheekily.

"How much time do we have left?" Brigitte called from the bathroom, where she was throwing her blonde locks into a bun and carefully applying a light swipe of mascara to each set of long fanning lashes.

I glanced at the watch I never wore still sitting on my end table. "About an hour."

"An hour!" She sounded flustered and I heard something clatter in the marble of the sink.

I laughed as the clinking sounds continued. "I told you not to leave all your packing till the last minute, Bee."

"Since when do I ever listen to you?" she retorted playfully, despite her obvious panic at the time.

"Never. But you should every once in a while." I laughed casually, this had been an on going joke since we were children. Ever since the day that Bee decided to jump off of the broomshed roof- broom in hand- to flaunt her quick reflexes. The only thing her stunt proved (as I'd told her it would before she did it) was that her so called reflexes were nonexistant.

"So what are we doing for your birthday, Allie?" She asked, I'm assuming to steer the subject off of her procrastination and to avoid getting teased about her clumsiness as something thumped loudly. Lynnie stifled a giggle in her pillow and Leah rolled her eyes.

I smirked, she was so obvious. No subtly what so ever- acting definitely wasn't a career option for my cousin. But I answered the question anyway, "I think Michael said my mum and Grandmere are planning a big bash for me already."

"Oh that's trouble," Lynnie grinned wickedly. Amusement glittered on her features- I could almost hear her imagining my mother ordering people around, scaring all of the people she would hire to hang the elaborate decorations with various threats. She might even have added my mother speaking in rapid French when she was annoyed as an added mental detail. It made me smile too but I felt a surge of sympathy for anyone who got in her way on that particular day- they might very well end up with a shriveled head (and other rather important appendages, depending on the severity of their crime).

I shrugged, still smiling lightly at the thought of what monstrous ideas would be dreamed up by my mother and Grandmere. And how frazzeled everyone would be the morning it was put into action. "All I care about is having you three there. Other than that, I'm good."

She put a hand to her chest. "Aw, that was cute, Ange. I'm touched." There was mocking under the surface of her cooing tone.

I shot her a playful glare before throwing a pair of socks into my trunk blithly. Truthfully, it didn't matter to me how we spent my seventeenth birthday. As long as I was in France with my two cousins and our best friends- possibly my brother and his friends as well- I was fine.

"So you're saying," Lynnie began again after a moment. Her tone was dangerously thoughtful. But the pensiveness was an act, I could tell by the vague amusement just below the surface.

I don't know what, but something within me sensed the danger. Instinct (please)? Supernatural ability of some sort (I wish)? Whatever it was, I knew something unpleasant was coming. My stomach churned, waiting for the wrecking ball to crash into me. Waiting to get the breath knocked out of me.

My breath hitched with anticipation as Lynnie continued. "That you wouldn't even be bothered if your mother invited the Hogwarts horrors?"

And that's when it all hit me. The missing link in my brain clicked into place and I groaned at the utter hopelessness.

"Calm down, Ange." Lynnie laughed, "I was only joking. They wouldn't dare show their smarmy faces at your happy seventeenth. If they did they'd have to be complete idiots."

Brigitte and Leah laughed, knowing exactly why Lynnie had added the last part. It wouldn't be nearly as challenging if they were morons.

"But you and Adam would still have fun cracking their heads open, eh?" Bee grinned wickedly, imagining the scene Lynnie would make I guess.

This did not help any. Because I wasn't even groaning over what she said really, but what it reminded me of. The awful sinking sensation in my stomach wouldn't stop and I felt dizzy.

How could I have been so incredibly thick? Of course I'd have to go back to Hogwarts. My brother would slaughter me if I missed his eighteenth birthday party and all of my Muggle relatives would be in an uproar (they hadn't seen me since Christmas).

And there wasn't even a spark of hope inside me that Michael might have adopted some tact since I last saw him. No doubt he'd be inviting every Hogwarts student fourth year and up that was mildly tolerable to him (and Michael liked everyone). I knew they'd all come too. No one would dare turn down an invitation from the beloved, Michael Swan. If he invited you to attend a party, you did. End of story. I may not go to Hogwarts anymore but I was positive that fact had certainly not changed - not even slightly.

They had too many reasons to attend.

There would be another compelling element to this particular party. Perhaps even more compelling than the fact that a the ever beloved Swan boy was throwing it. And that element was me.

If what my brother said was true in those ridiculous letters, the students of Hogwarts who hadn't been at the wedding were itching to see if the rumors about the sickly Swan were true. If the girl that had escaped them three years ago had actually changed at all. Was it even possible that Alexa Swan had grown out of her awkward, clumsy, ugly phase? Was it possible that she was no longer socially challenged and accident prone? I knew the attendance of this event would be bad. Very, very bad.

This sickened me. Literally. I ran into the bathroom and out came my breakfast.

Lovely.

***

It wasn't until a gray owl swooped into Grandmere's house three days later that I got some reassurance in regards to my brother's second 'coming of age' party. I'm surprised I hadn't thought of it before.

"What is it?" I asked with an eagerness burning in my eyes and voice as Lynnie, Leah and my Grandmere all opened their letters curiously.

"An invitation to Michael's eighteenth." Leah answered with a shrug as Grandmere went upstairs. Then she resumed eating her breakfast as if nothing remotely interesting had happened in months.

My eyes bulged as I choaked on my own siliva. "You-you got one?"

I'd neglected to tell my friends about my horrifying realization. About how I was dreading Michael's party to the point of insanity. And it would be even worse because it was a Muggle party, meaning every one of my old classmates would look normal in the sea of people.

I don't know

She flicked her raven curls and scoffed indignantly, "Of course I did! I'm his girlfriend, you halfwit."

I hadn't thought about that. It was still so strange for me to have my best friend romantically involved with my big brother. Truthfully I'd been doing my very best to block it out as much as possible for the sake of my own sanity. I was happy that Leah and Michael were happy. But it didn't change the fact that the idea of the two of them shagging in a broomshed was beyond repulsing.

"And Jocelyn amuses him." She added nonchalantly. As if this weren't a sentence that -had the boys been present- could be translated in several different ways. Some of them less than flattering.

Lynnie raised an eyebrow at her as Bee and I laughed.

We really did have sick minds. But Leah didn't seem to get the joke.

"What? It's true. Your crippling fear of dresses and anger management issues are quite entertaining."

"Yeah, that's true." Brigitte and I agreed together, still chortling over our own translation. The fact that Leah remained oblivious made it even more funny for some reason.

"He invited Henri, Adam and Tre too." Leah told us matter-of-factly, popping a grape into her mouth. She was utterly clueless on the dirty minds of her three best friends but an effing encyclpedia when it came to my brother's guest list. It baffled me.

I gaped, "How do you know this and I don't?"

She smirked and pointed a finger at her chest, "Girlfriend."

Jocelyn snorted, "Yeah, she snogs him for information."

"Ew! That was not the mental image I needed!" Brigitte squealed with revulsion.

"Me either." I agreed, pushing my plate away to illustrate how digusted I was with that sentence. Loss of appetite was a rare occurance for me.

But the smell of Grandmere's cooking was unbearably mouth watering and it wasn't long before I'd subtly slid the plate of delicious food in front of me again and snuck a bite. My stomach was pleased with my weak will power as the warm morsel slid down my throat, pushing all images of Leah and my brother out of my head. My disgust wasn't nearly big enough to justify missing this lovely breakfast.

Lynnie just chuckled. Whether it was at me for my weak will, or Leah as she glowered acrossed the table at her I'm not exactly sure. "What? It's true." She grinned with a positively wicked glint in her eyes. "Don't tell me that you two just vanishing during Madame's reception at the same exact time was a coincidence, Lay. 'Cause we all know better than that."

My stomach protested her comment by heaving tempermentally. I was sorry about those last few bites I'd stolen as they threatened to come back up.

Leah looked outraged, her rosebud lips parted into an 'o' of indignation. And then she tried to defend herself, "We were-!"

"DO NOT FINISH THAT SENTENCE!" Brigitte and I shouted together in panic. The last thing either of us needed or wanted to know was what they'd done during their mysterious dissappearance that night. That was definitely something I was working to block out along with my encounter with James Potter.

"Wow." Lynnie blinked, "Did you two plan that?"

"No." We answered in unison.

And that's how the four of us collapsed with giggles at the kitchen table. With the surprising revelation that Michael had at least been considerate enough to invite my best friends (though whether he was thinking of me or Leah I'm not entirely sure), came a strange sense of ease. Who cared who else was there if I had Lynnie and Adam to kick their arses?
***

Despite the small comfort of having my friends at the party, I was still dreading the event. I had to return home on my own, without my best friends flanking me on all sides.

It was not a nice feeling. My stomach twisted uncomfortably, my muscles were tense and my neck made a sickening crunching noise when I moved too fast- due to the sleep deprivation, I suppose. I was jumpy and agitated all morning and everyone knew why. Which only served to annoy me even more.

But my heinous mood didn't stop Grandmere from fawning over me or Lynnie's teasing or the bone crushing hugs my friends and aunt and grandmother pulled me into before I stepped into the fireplace.

With a very pained grimace I shouted flatly, "Rose Place!"

The spinning sensation was not one I'd ever really enjoyed. No matter how many times I did it, I always felt woozy afterwards. I didn't like how the walls spun and my insides turned to mush inside my tingling skin. It made me disoriented and annoyed. This morning, it was worse.

When it stopped I prayed no one would be in my path, waiting to pounce the second I came home. For once, I was glad they'd forgotten about my arrival. I was thrilled to be left alone for the first time in three years. I began trudging up to my room where all my trunks had been sent this morning, but I had no intention of unpacking. At all.

I would make this trip as short as humanly possible. I'd stay here until the party, play the lovely hostess role when the day came. And then- the second that blasted party was over and all the Muggle relatives and friends had left, I'd get one of my seventeen year old friends to send my things back to Grandmere's and side-long apparate to the chateu once more. It was a fool proof plan.

Or, so I thought.

***

I don't know when I fell asleep exactly or how long I was out for. But all I know is that, when I awoke, it was dark outside my window, crickets chirped annoyingly loud and every muscle in my body was stiff. Even more rigid than this morning. I lifted my heavy head and found that I'd drooled all over myself as I slept. Fabulous.
I got up slowly, stretching and yawning. Nurturing a sore shoulder because I'd slept on it wrong- that was going to be fun. I groaned and dragged my feet over to stand in front of the mirror then groaned again. I was a horror.

The little makeup I'd worn was now crusty and gross, my hair was a catastrophe and I looked like the bride of Frankenstein with the exhaustion enduced under-eye circles. Yeah, England definitely did not suite me.

I took a warm shower and let the water relax my knotted muscles, melt the kinks out of my sore neck. I washed my hair- which had grown about half way down my back now- indulgently using a ton of my beloved miracle shampoo and tried to think of happy things. Finally, when I could avoid it no longer, I stepped out of the shower and got dressed.

I was sure my family would tease me about coming home and passing out before even saying hello to them but I could handle it. I was certain my mother would be worried about me or something ridiculous, like she always was and that Michael would be annoyingly giddy to see Leah in a few days. I convinced myself that I could handle all the gushy stuff as well. I was even prepared for my father and sister's infuriating indifference.

They would be unbearable. All week. I was sure of it.

I told myself that I could avoid it completely and just play Quidditch with Michael. Make myself scarce by heading to Flourish and Blotts and buying the thickest most interesting book there so I'd have an excuse to shut myself in my room and read. Elude the inevitable awkwardness and the hurt that would follow.

But a part of me knew that would just add salt to the wound. I'd still be the cowardly daughter and the absent big sister.

Saundra would whine to everyone even more about what an awful person I was and continue to ignore the actual issue. Refuse to say it to my face, refuse to just talk to me about it and continue to confide in idiots like James Potter- who already hated me to begin with.

Either way I lost. So I'd suck it up and keep telling myself that it was just one week out of my very young life and once it was over I would never come back. (They'd just have to come visit meet me in France.) I could survive this- what didn't kill me would make me stronger.

I lied to myself all the way downstairs. Prepared to take anything my family threw at me this week.

But what I found when I went into the kitchen was nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was empty. I tried the living room. Zilch. The study was completely void of all human life. The bathrooms were unoccupied. Every bedroom was vacant.

And finally, panic rose in my chest. My heart fluttered frantically and a knot was lodged in my throat, refusing to go back down. I ran through the house again, calling their names, but no one answered. Though I wondered if I could hear them over my pulse thudding loudly in my ears. The beds were unmade, the televison was on, a newspaper was open on the kitchen table - as well as a glass of pumpkin juice but no one was there. It was like they'd just up and left- dropped everything. I checked the yard but the crickets chirpped derisively at me. No one else was there.

I was close to tears during my third desperate search. And- as a part of me knew I would- I found no one. The Swan household was unnaturally quite. Goosebumps rose on my arms and the hair on the back of my neck stood up. I didn't like this at all. Not one bit. Soemthign was very wrong. Where had everyone gone? I froze in my tracks as a thought horrid thought occured.

Had something happened to them?

Of course not. A cynical voice in my head scoffed. It sounded alot like my younger self actually. They forgot about you. They're off doing some fun family thing without you. Anger flashed through my entire body. It was like a shock to my heart- a direct bolt of lightening. My eyes clouded over in a strange way and angry tears spilled over. My tearducts had always been hard wired to my short temper. But I didn't have the metal space in my exploding brain to care much. Rage was all I could feel. Pure, undiluted rage coarsing determinedly through my viens. It was accented with annoyance and seasoned with pain. Pain of the acutest kind.

I expected this kind of thing from Saundra and my dad. They no longer cared about me. I didn't fit into their perfect ideas and plans. I wasn't complying with their selfish aspirations so I wasn't important. But what was with my mother? And where the hell was Michael?

Stupid git, I was here for his birthday after all. That was the only reason I'd left the comforts of my real home. It was his whole fault I had to come back here and he didn't even have the decency to remember me? What the bloody hell was that?

I was going to throttle them. I was going to murder them all. But Avada Kedavra would be far too quick- I would make them suffer. This was low- even for them. How could they possibly forget me? I know I'm in France most of the time but shouldn't this fact have the opposite effect? Shouldn't they be glad to see me, breathlessly anticipating my arrival? I mean, was it so much to ask for a little enthusiasm. Not even just enthusiasm, I just would've settled for one person simply being there! What kind of family forgot one of it's own members?

In hindsight, I'm shocked that- through all my rage- I managed to notice the small, flashing green light on the recorder. I jabbed the button bitterly to hear the message- thinking it was probably one of my spacey Muggle relatives asking what time tomorrow again or one of Saundra's more technology savvy friends calling to gossip shamelessly about who'd broken up for the summer (she was so superficial. Could we really share genetics?).

But I blinked in shock when I heard my mother's voice.

"Allie, sweety? Are you there, baby? Pick up, hon, it's mum.... I'm sorry we weren't there to welcome you home but...but the-there's been a-a bit-a bit of a pr-problem. It couldn't w-wait."
I would've scoffed bitterly and made some snide comment but the weak, shakiness of her voice, the broken tones- had me frozen with stress and shock. My first theory was right. Something had happened. And it was bad. But what could possibly be wrong?

"Baby, when you get this, call daddy, okay? Y-Your sister's in S- St.Mungo's...." The last sentence rang in my ear, though my pulse crashed in my ears, drowning out the end of her message. Dread seeped through my pores and into my blood stream- so much heavier than the kind I'd felt over the stupid party- and the echo of my mother's broken voice was crystal clear.

'Your sister's in St. Mungo's.'
Words no big sister ever wants to hear. 


***

Chapter 14: The Observation Wing
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(New Note; Hey guys,     I just realized that- for reasons still unknown- you've got to go back to the main page to get to CHAPTER 15 ~Faking It... I will try to figure out why it isn't showing on the scroll thingy but for now I thought I'd let you all know! Anyway, enjoy Chapter 14!

~RED)



Chapter 14~ The Observation Wing


There's no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes round and everyone will lift their heads
But I'm thinking of what Sarah said
That "Love is watching someone die"
-Death Cab For Cutie

Photobucket

***

She wouldn't talk.

Yes, hell had become an ice rink and Saundra Swan would not say a single word. She looked terrible too- though no one told her that of course. Because you just can't tell a person they look awful when they look so... broken.

Her body looked fragile and her shoulders were hunched- like she was anticipating a rebuff at any moment. Her face was puffy and pale with splotches of pink, and her eyes and lips were unnaturally swollen. She had most definitely been crying, the thought sent chills down my spin. Saundra never cries.

Her eyes were dull- the normal sparkle and shine was gone. Completely vanished, leaving her green eyes looking brackish and hollow. Dead.

And that scared me more than anything else.

More even, than the description Michael had given me of her (when I'd arrived in a panic at the hospital demanding details), before she'd allowed the Healers to tidy her up- slightly.

Bruises and cuts, blackening and slashing all over her porcelain skin were nothing compared to the dead look her once vibrant eyes now held. Her hair was in a disheveled bun, she didn't say a word, no smile graced her lips, no glitter danced in the air around her. She looked like the living dead. Just lying there, motionless- expressionless. Hearing nothing and seeing nothing.

Saundra had always been so untouchable. She bounced back from things faster than anyone I knew. When we were kids she'd taken a nasty fall from a tree she'd been attempting to climb (a ridiculous dare from Emmett, the moron.) and received a gash dangerously near her left eyelid and a broke arm. But she hardly even cried. Our mother fixed her up and she was off again; running and playing and getting in all sorts of trouble once more. She'd been tenacious as hell and welcomed even the most impossible of challenges. Who could've done this to her? Apart of me didn't really want to know, the thought of it made me sick.

But my worries were pointless; Saundra wouldn't tell anyone who had done this. No one. Not us, not the Healers, not even her friends who'd been at the hospital for hours after my mother called them in an act of pure desperation.

The only thing we knew was that she'd been found huddled in a dark corner between Knockturn and Diagon Alley, barely clinging to consciousness. The Healers hadn't been able to really inspect her yet because she'd freak out every time they tried. And they tried every single day for an entire week. Every. Single. Day.

They'd come in and not-so subtly slip their wands out and start the examination, but the second she realized what they were doing she's thrash and scream semi-incoherently (ironically half of what she'd screech was in French). And every single day for that entire week, I stayed by her side, unwavering and stubborn as hell.

Every bone in my body ached with guilt. It squirmed in my stomach like a virus, making me ill. I swallowed it though, making this situation about myself would just make the guilt all that more intense. So I sat there, staring at my sister as it ripped through my insides. And I wasn't the only one either.

I recognized the same look on Michael's face as I wore. Twisted with pain every time he looked down at Saundra on the hospital bed. I figured his was due to some stupid misconception that the big brother should always be there to protect his baby sister and he'd somehow failed his job or some rubbish.

But my guilt was so much stronger.

How could it not be? I'd abandoned her in every way and lashed out when she told the truth. I'd blanketed myself in my own world of friends and France and Beauxbatons and ignored my sister when she needed me.

I was a monster. I was a terrible, awful, atrocious person. And now she was in here and all I could think about when I'd been in an empty house was why no one had been there to welcome me home. I was a horrible, dreadful excuse for a human being. A failure for a sister.

I tried not to let her (or anyone for that matter) see the tears streaking silently down my cheeks as the Healers did their best to figure out what happened without having to force her. She freaked every time they attempted it and, honestly, I couldn't blame her. I wouldn't want total strangers poking and prodding at me either. Not that it stopped anyone from trying. My mom and dad were constantly pestering her for answers while she shrugged them off. Even Michael tried a couple of times. I had managed not to ask her what had happened, even though a part of me wanted to shake the answers out of her myself.

My mum was distraught, my dad was furious, my brother was pacing- constantly clenching and unclenching his fists. We all wanted answers. But I was the only one who knew we weren't going to get them. I simply sat in a corner- just watching until I finally fell into an uneasy asleep.

On the third morning, Grandmere and Grandad came, as well as Brigitte, Rosaire and Andre with their parents but I wasn't in the mood for kisses and rapidly spouted French. I didn't want the endearments and questions or the fawning and praise. When Grandmere commented about me being a good big sister a pang resounded in my chest and I mentally scoffed. But my outside remained frozen, completely blank. I didn't even respond when they pleaded for me to come and eat something. I wasn't leaving my sister, why couldn't they understand that?

I only ate when Saundra, herself, finally made me.

She shoved half of her uneaten food towards me and poked me until I picked up the fork. I wasn't hungry, I hadn't had an appetite in days. Not that I would've eaten the hospital food anyway because, Muggle or Magic, I'm convinced hospital food is universally repulsive. I'd only prodded the food with the fork when Saundra shot me a sternly disapproving look and ordered, "Eat."

It was the first thing she'd said since her admittance, and I felt the shock cross my face momentarily. I couldn't disobey such a simple request, especially since she hadn't talked all week. Reluctantly, I took a bite.

The food felt wrong sliding down my sore through. So dry and lumpy. It was completely disgusting.

I made a face and, to my surprise, Saundra smiled. She looked like she might even laugh. But I was in too much shock to take advantage of the opening and do something else relatively amusing. So instead, she took advantage of my surprise to make me eat some more. So now I was making her feel guilty. Perfect.

The week passed slowly and she still looked pale and broken. But the Healers finally made her eat on the fifth day, forcing her to swallow some disgusting looking gray potion. She glowered at them as the color returned to her cheeks and she seemed to get stronger-right before my eyes. But she still refused to talk, her eyes were still dead and she still wasn't Saundra yet.

When she slept in the afternoon, a Healer with long blonde hair coiled into a tight bun and plain, uninteresting features checked in and I took my chance. I'd wanted to ask for a while but every time one of them came near my sister she was awake.

"Don't you have any guesses? About what happened to her, I mean." My voice cracked from disuse and the desperation was transparent in my tone.

The woman smiled sympathetically at me and sighed. "We have a few theories on what happened. But we can't say for certain because she won't sit still for a proper examination."

"Oh." I looked down at my hands, eyebrows knit together. "Well, what do you think happened?" I looked up after a moment of silence and saw her face twisted. She wanted to say something but she was torn, it was plain on her face. "You can't tell me, can you?"

She smiled and shook her head before walking away. I glared at her back as she retreated. I wanted to run after her and demand to know what had happened to Saundra, to scream every profanity- in every language- that I knew. What right did she have to keep information about my sister from me?

But I just sat there like the useless lump I am, wondering if things would ever be the same again.

That night I heard Saundra cry again. But this time I was sure of it because, not only was I fully conscious, but also a small broken sob escaped her lips right as I woke. I looked at the lump on the bed and saw her trembling. Convulsing, actually.

My heart cracked and pain shot through every part of me. Flashbacks flipped by like a rapid slideshow in my mind. I knew that her reason for crying at night was the same as mine had been so long ago. She didn't want anyone to know how much she was hurting. Saundra and I finally had something in common (as twisted as it was).

But what kind of big sister would I be if I let her sob into her pillow all night by herself? My mum had gone to get some rest, my dad went to work and my brother went Merlin knows where. They'd all been reluctant, but I'd assured them I'd be here. I wasn't leaving. So only I could comfort Saundra at the moment.

After a moment of hesitation, I whispered, "Saundra?"

A small keen cut off abruptly and I saw her sit up.

"A-Allie, are you a-wake?" she croaked, the first full sentence she'd said all week. Her voice was strained, rough, hoarse- like her throat was sore- far from Saundra's normal simpering, silky, soprano trill. "Y-you're a-awa-wake?"

"Yeah," I whispered back as I came cautiously closer. She'd been so skittish over the past few weeks that I didn't want to scare her, but when she pushed back her hair and revealed a series of cuts on her ear, I couldn't hold it back anymore.

"Saundra, what happened to you? You can tell me. Please?"

She gulped audibly, her throat obviously dry, and her face twisted with pain.

"I was - It was - He..."

And then, she surprised me again. Astonished me, actually. Something Saundra rarely does.

Saundra Swan, my standoffish little sister- who'd avoided me like a plague for so long- threw her arms around my waist and continued to sob. But this time, instead of into her pillow, she was sobbing into me. It took me another moment or two to recover from pure shock. After all, this was not only out of character for Saundra but she'd been so angry with me for so long. We didn't do this kind of thing anymore. Neither of us were comforted by the other's presence, most of the time it was what caused our discomfort. Yet here she was leaning into me, sobbing over whatever she'd been through into my shoulder.

Once the shock wore off, my instincts kicked in. I wrapped my arms around her tightly and murmured soothingly in her ear. "I'm here now. It's okay. I'm here, I'm here." Over and over.

And as the sun came up, my little sister quieted and fell asleep in my arms.

Neither of us mentioned why I'd been in the hospital bed with her while she slept on my shoulder when everyone came later that morning. We didn't mention how she'd sobbed or how I'd held her. In fact, neither of us talked at all.

But when there was discussion of canceling the party the next day, her face twisted even more and she shook her head weakly but determined. She also shook her head when her friends mentioned telling people- she didn't want anyone to know about this, obviously. It was a little late for the latter but a very reluctant Michael had agreed to let the party go on. Against his will and better judgment- seeing as my mother was shooting him a look that clearly said 'give Saundra what she wants or die a very painful death'.

It was only as I saw Saundra argue silently, using sour looks and a lot of hand waving, that I fully comprehended why she hadn't used her vocal chords in all this time. Last night had opened my eyes to my sister's motives, she wasn't entirely opposite from me after all. She wouldn't talk because she didn't trust herself to. She was afraid of weakness, scared of showing her real emotions to others. She was terrified of falling apart.

So as my mother prepared for the tomorrow and my father argued with the Healers for the billionth time ("You're magic! Can't you do something? Give her a bloody potion! Wave your damn wand! I don't care! Just find out what happened to my baby!"). They couldn't find out what happened without the examination and my mother refused to let them do anything against Saundra's will (besides feed her) and my brother had been sent to get the party decorations up at the house, I sat by my sister's side as she slept. Holding her fragile hand in my own and staring unfathomably into her face.

It was well past noon now. I'd have to sleep eventually, I supposed. But I was unwilling. Last night had brought on another thick wave of determination. I didn't want to sleep. I wanted to know what had happened to my sister first. I wanted to know who'd done this to her. What they'd done. But I couldn't ask her again because I was afraid she'd break down completely this time.

My nap had helped on the first day (during my first vigorous wave). Almost like something in my subconsciousness knew I'd have to get my rest because I wouldn't be sleeping for a while. But now I'd been up for too long and my eyelids were fighting me. So there I sat, staring drowsily at a face I didn't know anymore- she looked so drained, not like Saundra at all- listening to my dad in the hall blundering at witches and wizards alike. Proving that dads were willing to do anything for the daughters they loved- even if it meant threatening someone who could incarcerate you in an instant.

I wondered idly, if he'd ever do that sort of thing for me. Something in me severely doubted it.

I tried to stifle the pain this thought brought me. I needed to focus on Saundra now; there was no time for self-pity. I tried to think of ways to get her to tell me when she woke. Some involved shameless trickery; others included begging, pleading with her to tell me what happened. But I had to shove down another wave of self-pity as I realized I was the very last person she'd want to tell.

Sure, she held my hand and let me comfort her when we were alone but I'd 'abandoned' her. No way was she going to spill her guts out to me now; last night had been a fluke. I'd been the only one there. Pain shot through me and tears spilled silently down my cheeks. This was why I detested England. It rained too much, my hair frizzed and every emotion was dreary and agonizing. Hell. Torture. Completely horrendous in every heinous way. I wanted out and I wanted out now. When my dad had finally given up on the Healers, he came back into the room muttering unintelligently. He looked up at Michael and I and his face turned stern. I knew that look. That was the look he adopted when he was about to demand me to do something he knew I'd protest to. No mistaking it.

"You two should go home and get some rest now." My dad finally choked out. His voice was strange and he looked sick to his stomach- like I felt. I could tell that he was as frantic with worry as the rest of us. But he looked up with authority. "Go home," he ordered, seeing me poising to protest.

I don't know how it came on so quickly. Sleep deprivation mixed with stress does that to me, I suppose. But all of the sudden I was completely overtaken with a violent gush of emotion. Fury. That's all I could feel.

It surged through me like an electric jolt. I wanted lunge at his throat and tear it out. My vision blurred with anger and I realized that tears were pricking my eyes. My temper was hard-wired to my tear ducts. Ugh.

I didn't have room in my head to dwell on mortification though. I was too angry. It consumed me.

How dare he?! Did he seriously think he had a right to make me leave? Me. The one who hadn't left her side for a moment during this whole ordeal- not even to eat! Did he honestly think he was sending me home without any arguments? Did he really expect me to listen to his command?

No. A voice that sounded a lot like Lynnie said firmly in my head. Hell fucking no.

I glowered at him, hostility rolling off of me in waves. Had it been my mother-with her infinite amount of tact- I may have been more reasonable, butt not with my dad. I was not obeying him. Nuh-uh, forget it.

"No."

He and Michael both looked at me in surprise, appearing even more shocked when they saw the furious expression on my drained features. It wasn't really something I'd get mad about on a normal basis. Saundra and I were never particularly tight knit, so why should it make me so upset to leave her?

"What?" They both asked in tones of confusion only the male species could master.

"I'm not going home."

My father's features were like stone. "Yes, you are."

You know the whole pick-your-battles thing? Yeah, I picked this one. Normally I don't argue past the second rebuff, not even when my absentee father insisted I go to King's Cross. But this one was my battle and I wasn't going to back down. I was not going home and there was absolutely nothing he could do about it.

So I fixed him with my most withering glare and argued. "You can't seriously think I'm leaving now. I wouldn't leave if you locked me in a closet full of inferi. I'd electrocute everyone in this room before I'd leave and I don't need a wand to do it either."

They could tell I was serious. I could see it in their eyes that they knew I wasn't joking. I wouldn't hesitate to follow through with the threat; it wasn't like I hadn't done it before. And I could tell Michael remembered what happened the last time by the look of discomfort on his face. But, in my defense, I gave Emmett fair warning.

But, obviously, I'd inherited my stubbornness from my father. Because he didn't back down like a normal person would in this situation (maybe he had a death wish). Instead he continued pretending he had an actual authority in my life still. Deluding himself into thinking it hadn't disappeared when I was fourteen.

"Alexa, you're going home now." He told me firmly, "I'll make you if I have to."

I scoffed, "I'd like to see you try."

And then I was off, cussing him out with every French word I knew and telling him how impossible he was.

Once again, I took the chance to vent every frustration he'd caused me in the past few years. I told him exactly what I thought about how he treated me for escaping a school I was miserable at and how much he'd failed as a father- when it came to me, at least- after that. I told him just what I thought about his aversions and how he'd blatantly ignored me half the time.

And then I got to the issue at hand and reminded him that he hadn't been the one sitting with her at all hours and holding her when she cried at night. And how I had no intention of following orders from anyone , least of all him. He didn't have those rights with me anymore- he'd done nothing to deserve them. I also threw in how much I detested the tie he'd been wearing all day for good measure, simply because it was another insult I could hurl at him.

They both stared at me in shock again, but a hint of a smile twitched on my brother's lips. Michael may not be as fluent as I was and his accent was atrocious but I was pretty sure he knew what I said for the most part, and he liked it. He always did like it when I stood up for myself.

But our father looked irritated, I knew why. He knew I'd cussed him out and that I'd insulted him in every way I knew but he couldn't prove it because he didn't know French. He hated when he missed a chance to berate me.

I huffed down in my seat- trying not to smirk- and crossed my arms pointedly across my chest, daring him to try and move me. He didn't - and the issue was quickly dropped for the time being.

But around six in the morning, my weary and distressed mother made me go home. Unfortunately, I was still obligated to listen to my mother. Plus, as much as I didn't want to admit it, she meant well. She wanted me to get some rest.

Like I could sleep after this, please. My eyelids had given up the fight now and I was wide-awake. But there was no telling her that. No arguing. So I went, grudgingly.

But when I got home and trudged unwillingly up to my room, I found that it wasn't vacant like I'd been expecting. There was an absurdly lovely brunette lounging on my bed- face tight with stress.

"Bee?" I croaked, my voice tense from disuse. "What are you doing here this early? The party isn't for hours!"

Her face softened, muscles relaxed. She smiled sadly and rose gracefully from my bed. Before I knew it she'd wrapped me in a tight hug. And it was my turn to sob in the arms of my sister.

I should have known when I saw the dress bag and hat box on my desk. Those should have been my first clue. But I didn't catch on until Bee said, "You need a day away from this mess."

I pulled back from our prolonged hug and stared at her in confusion. Sniffing like a five year old and wiping tears from my cheeks I blinked at her thickly. "What, you mean, go out? With you lot?"

She grinned but not without effort. "That, my fair cousin, is exactly what I mean. But I don't mean going just anywhere."

My eyebrows knit together even more. "I don't understand." The sleep deprivation was making my normally sharp mind fuzzy and slow. I could hear the words but I struggled to make sense of them all.

"I'm kidnapping you." She smiled stunningly this time, real excitement glittering in her eyes.

A groan escaped me as I finally figured out what she meant.

She was taking me back to the place I wanted desperately to go. But I couldn't let myself retreat while my sister was in such a state. I realized though, that I no longer had a choice. My cousin was determined, there was no arguing with her just like my mother, she meant well.

So I didn't try, because- despite the guilt- I really did want to go. I tried not to let on though. "You're dragging me out and you want to dress me as well?"

"Course, you can't go to Paris looking like that." We both turned to see Lynnie standing in the door, looking effortlessly put-together, as always.

Bee sighed and says, "Not sure that was exactly helpful, Lynn."

Lynnie simply shrugged and walked over to us. She held out her arms and hugged me tightly, reassuring me like Bee had. Her words may have been slightly indelicate but she held me with a maternal tenderness that rarely surfaced in Lynnie.

I sighed, knowing full well that I had no choice in the matter either way. It was no use fighting it. I'd only lose. And I didn't have the energy to keep my dignity in the process. So I muttered, "S'pose I'm not going to get any sleep anyways. Can I at least shower first?" I really needed one. Badly. My hair was greasier than a fast food restaurant. It was pretty repulsive; I shuddered trying to imagine what it looked like.

"You can shower at Grandmere's." Bee told me impatiently, pulling me from my room and down stairs in record timing. She was heading for the fireplace. "Leah and I take longer to get ready than you and Lynnie anyway. And we'll just give her something shiny."

"Oi! I'm right here!" Lynnie exclaimed indignantly behind us as she grabbed the dress and box.

Brigitte ignored her as she muttered something about "bloody makeup" and "sodding heels" and pulled us into the fireplace. She grabbed an outrageous quantity of Floo Powder and we were off. Three hours later, I'd showered -letting the warm water work the knots out of my horrendously wrecked back and neck- and let Leah and Bee pluck, pinch and yank me back into near perfection.

I tried not to think about my sister, who would be getting out of St. Mungo's right about now, because it only depressed me. I wasn't happy about this but it hadn't exactly been my choice. Brigitte had written my parents a note (while Lynnie grabbed my outfit off my desk) telling them that they'd kidnapped me and they'd be sure to have me back by Michael's party- so at least they knew it hadn't exactly been my idea to leave this time. The outfit they'd forced me into was rather adorable so I couldn't really complain.

Apparently, Bee and Leah had been in a bizarre cowgirl mood yesterday (when they bought our loosely themed outfits) after seeing a model in a fashion show they'd attended wearing one of the hats. Because all four of us were wearing cowgirl hats and some very fancy boots (French tags. They had French tags. So I'm pretty sure they don't count).

But Lynnie was the only one who wasn't forced into some form of skirt. She wore tight jeans and tube top with hers (magically tightened by Grandmere to hug her perfectly rather than sliding south), while Leah wore a siren red halter dress and Lynnie donned a very flippy forest green mini skirt.

My aforementioned ensemble was an off the shoulder dress that reached about four inches about my knees (thank Merlin I shaved). It had intricate blue flowers all over it that were supposed to make my eyes pop. I loved it but my appreciation of my cousin's fashion sense was marred by the guilt.

I should be with Saundra, this was wrong. I should be helping my sister.

"She's fine, Allie."

"Huh?"

I met Brigitte's knowing gaze in the mirror as she fussed with my hat, again.

"Saundra's probably sleeping right now anyway."

I didn't bother pointing out that this was wrong. Saundra would be home by now and probably wondering where the hell I was.

Leah chimed in at this point with, "I'm sure she doesn't expect you to be there every single second. Honestly Allie! You haven't left her side at all - not even a nanosecond! You deserve a break before you have to play charming hostess at Michael's party tonight, or else you'll be the one twitching in the fetal position over in the corner. "

I sighed. She had a point- in fact, I knew she was right- but that didn't make me feel any less guilty.

***

"Ange!"

"Adam.... can't ....breathe!" I choked as Adam gave me a rib-cracking squeeze. "Oh. Right. Sorry, Ange." He cleared his throat and set me on me feet. Then he grinned boyishly. Only Adam could manage to look like a little kid with all of his hulking muscles and ridiculous height.

I rolled my eyes and turned to give Tre, Andre and Henri hugs that didn't cut off my air supply.

"We missed you, Angelique." Tre said as he hugged me, slightly gentler.

"I wasn't gone that long." I muttered, blushing at the nickname. It was nice to hear again. Even such a short time away from this amazing place made me feel like it was all a dream. It would take an hour or two to get used to everything again.

Tre smiled crookedly at me. "Still missed you, though."

I smiled at this too, unable to help myself. It was just like Tre to say something so innocently sweet and make me feel better instantaneously. Sometimes I almost forgot he was such a notorious flirt. Almost.

"I missed you lot too."

"Yes, yes, that's all good and well," Lynnie huffed impatiently. "Mais Je suis tres affame et si tu ne me trouves pas un restaurant rapidement, Je vous mangerai," She grumbled, but before anyone could respond she pointed at the boys threateningly. "Don't make that dirty, it's too easy."

They sniggered anyway, of course. But before they could make any further repulsive comments, Brigitte and Leah were steering us towards a particularly good restaurant to ward off Lynnie's hunger fit. "Are you going to be able to handle tonight, Ange?" Andre asked me anxiously once we'd all gotten our food. "Because we don't have to go. We can stay here with you, I'm sure Michael will-"

"Well, we'll stay but Leah won't. " Adam smirked wickedly. Tre and Henri caught onto this meaning before the rest of us and wide evil grins spread across their faces. As was only to be expected after such a comment. Really, they take any chance they can get to make someone blush.

Comprehension dawned and Leah glowered at them, "I would stay! If Angelique needed me I'd stay here with the-"

The point was moot so I sighed and interrupted her speech, "I'm not staying here guys. I'm not going to hide. I've got nothing to hide from."

Famous. Last. Words.

***

We arrived at the chateau around sunset and I sighed as I stood up from my chair at the kitchen table.

"You ready?" Andre asked me as I clutched his arm. He looked as anxious as I felt.

"I've had about three hours of sleep and that was twenty-one hours ago." I answered flatly. "I'm pretty sure I'm as ready as I'll ever be." He chuckled and put his arm around my shoulder, "Don't worry, Allie. We'll all be right there, with you the whole night. Promise."

"Good because if you lot left me I'd hex you into next century," I joked weakly.

He laughed again, a bark like cough. "You can't. You're still sixteen, remember, Allie?"

"Only for another month," I muttered disgruntled- feeling like a six year old instead.

"C'mon, Andre, Ange. We'd better get going or we'll be late!" Leah called from the living room.

"Late my arse!" Andre called back. "Don't get your knickers in a twist, Lay. You'll see Michael soon enough."

Everyone snickered as we entered the room. But Leah shot him the most dirty look she could manage before throwing her shoulders back, stepping into the fireplace and yelling, "Rose place!" and vanishing into the green flames.

Lynnie went next and Adam quickly followed. Tre flashed me a wicked grin before he disappeared (now I was scared) and Bee hastened after him at my request to make sure they didn't cause any chaos before I got there. I made sure I was the last one to leave- insisting my Grandparents go before me too.

I needed a few moments to myself to hyperventilate in peace. I groaned with relief once they all left and flopped down onto the couch, putting my head between my knees and breathing through my nose. It was several moments later that I heard a soft whoosh and someone sit beside me. I didn't have to look up to know who it was. "Adam and Tre aren't causing the apocalypse yet are they?" I asked after another long moment of silence.

"No." Bee answered sounding amused, "They've only tripped one or two old ladies but they forgot to bring the Fanged Frisbees to chuck at Hogwarts people."

"Not funny."

She laughed once and sighed, "Don't worry, Allie. They're behaving themselves because Lynnie's threatening to break their shins if they embarrass you today."

I laughed weakly but it trailed off in the next second.

"I can't do this." I told her, still not raising my head from it's place between my knees.

"Yes! Yes you can," Brigitte reassured me. "You're Allie Swan. Everyone who knows you, loves you to bits! You can have any bloke you want like that," I heard her snap her fingers to illustrate. "And, you've got a band of best mates ready to kick anyone's sorry arse if they mess with you."

I smiled at that one but still couldn't make myself lift my head. It felt heavier than usual and the extra weight made me feel dizzy. I could tell that if I looked up the walls would be spinning.

"Plus," she added after another moment. "You look bloody fabulous, if I do say so myself."

We laughed together and sighed.

"You ready now?"

I sighed again, low and heavy this time. Resigned to my fate. "I suppose so. As ready as I'll ever be."

" 'Kay, c'mon." She took my hand pulled me up from the sofa to the fireplace and before I could even blink we were whirling in the green flames. I waited for the horrendous spinning to stop, squeezing my eyes shut and tucking my head into Bee's shoulder. The whirling did not help my already dizzy head. It made it a thousand times worse. I felt like someone had dropped an anvil on me and my head was throbbing. Even when we stopped I felt woozy. It was sort of like being knackered. Wobbling on legs that just wouldn't go straight. Brigitte had to steady me before I tripped over the lip of the fireplace. I took a deep calming breath as I straightened up and my cousin whispered, "It's going to be okay, Allie."

"Yeah. Just brilliant." I replied flatly.

~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.~.

Hello my lovely readers,

I'm extremely sorry that it's been so long since I've updated - feel free to throw rocks if you must- but my beta and I have finally gotten all the kinks worked out and hopefully you enjoyed the final product. Now, I don't know if you've noticed, but a very considerable chunk of my reviews has vanished after that site malfunction a while back. So reviews would be much appreciated! *Shameless hinting*
Love from,

RED

P.S. I want to give a shout out to my beta, the lovely Nora, for not only helping this chapter coherent but also for this chapter quote, title and banner!
~zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz~

Muahahahha.

This is the beta, Nora. Rae is having me post that chapter, and I was feeling extra evil, so I decided to put my own little note at the bottom here. You Harry Potter fans best be reading and reviewing Rachel's story. We put a lot of time into this, and while she's working hard on the writing, I am taking my time to prep for beta-ing. It is a little known fact, but a professional beta's diet consists of a 10,000 calories a day. It's a hard life, I can't lie. Sometimes I have to actually read things and tell people what I think about them. So appreciate your betas, and give Rachel a review.
Cheers,

Nora

Chapter 15: Faking It
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(UPDATED NOTE; Okay guys, here's the deal. The lovely chapter image that was up here was too big so the chapter was unvalidated and I didn't realize it until people reviewing Chapter fourteen were saying "Update soon" that something was wrong. So, I'm putting this up- not only to say sorry for the mishap but also to warn recent readers that it may've also happened with Chapter two- New Beginnings... so I recommend that everyone check to make sure they read that one as well- otherwise some things probably won't make much sense and we can't have that now, can we? Anyway, here's the next chapter, sorry for the mix up, EnjoY!

P.S. - UPDATED AGAIN! Sorry, also check to make sure you read Chapter six because it was also deleted for some reason! And thanks to the people who were paying attention and pointed out to me cause lord only knows how long it would've taken for me to figure it out! lol

xoxo RED)



Chapter 15 ~ Faking It


And you're tied together with a smile but you're comin' undone.

                     ~Tied Together With A Smile by Taylor Swift
 
~

Around me, the party was in full swing. People came in and out of the house with huge grins on their faces, greeted each other warmly with hugs and kisses and laughter filled the air. As Brigitte pulled me to the backyard, I gasped.

Soft spheres of light hung above every table- it took me a moment to realize that they were lanterns hanging on thin (almost transparent) strings that interlaced with each other forming a kind of canopy over the large yard between the trees and the house. Round tables dotted the space, covered with silky cream colored table cloths and a vase of some exotic yellow flowers was on each one. A dance floor was on one end, as was a stage and a large table weighed down with an elaborate array of food was on the other.

The air was cool, crisp- helping to clear my fuzzy head. The air smelled faintly of lavender, citrus and something else I couldn't identify. The trees swayed smoothly in the breeze, it caressed my face comfortingly. The stars winked at me cooingly from the velvet midnight sky- seemingly making a promise that this night wouldn't be as dreadful as I imagined- and the full moon bathed everything in it's soft pale rays. It was extra bright tonight- I hoped that was a good omen of some sort, but I wasn't counting on it by any means.

The music swelled in the air above and shimmered through the breeze. I looked to see a violinist playing and a small smirk twitched on my lips.

Emmett hates violins. No doubt, he was somewhere fidgeting and complaining about wanting the real music to start. But even Muggle music would make him groan.

We moved through the packs of people until we reached a table that I noticed a lot of my family sitting at. Everybody seemed to be there, except Leah. I didn't even have to ask where she was - nor did I want to dwell on her location at the moment because I was certain I’d throw up all over my new dress. In which case Bee would kill me, and then my mother and Tante would get upset (because, after my murder, Bee would get chucked in Azkaban), and Saundra would be pushed even farther into insanity. My father would probably leave the family because of all of the stress, and poor Michael…

Okay. Point is, I really shouldn’t let my mind wander to what my brother is doing with my best friend. I'd find Michael later to wish him a happy eighteenth and avoid his bedroom at all costs (because, if I fail, it could mean the complete decimation of the entire Swan family).

It didn't take long for my horde of Muggle relatives to notice my arrival and come to squeeze me to death with their over-enthusiastic hugging. I hadn't seen them in ages, so I forced myself to be gracious and make conversation- vaguely answering their questions about school and life in France. For some inexplicable reason, they seemed fascinated with my life abroad. Most of them were under the impression that I'd received a scholarship to a prestigious boarding school near Djion. I could never remember the name of the school my mother had told them so I simply avoided saying it's name.

Not long after that my mother’s relatives rushed up to give me hugs and kisses. My French family complimented Bee on the ensemble (knowing full well I would never pick this on my own) and laughed when grimaced. They babbled conspiringly to me in French about the packs of cute blokes in attendance (gag me) and how we- Brigitte, Lynn, Leah and I- were the most gorgeous girl here by far (to which I promptly rolled my eyes).

My cousin, rushed up to me, her curls bouncing as greeted me in a rapid string of French endearments. Only when I took little Elise from her arms that I caught the amount of looks I was getting.

A group of boys, who looked about fourteen, had already tugged their ties loose in an attempt to look older- cooler- were looking directly at me (and no where near my face), whispering in enthusiastic tones. Some girls in ridiculously short dresses with too much purple eye shadow smeared on their lids were shooting me glares, as if I were the slag throwing myself at boys. (A few choice cliques at Beauxbatons had also adopted this very annoying habit.) I resisted the urge to stick my tongue out at them.

They weren't the only ones though. Some were even pointing in my direction as they spoke to their mates in low, eager voices. None were even bothering to hide their curiosity.

No doubt, these were the Hogwarts students Michael wrote to me about. The ones that had been speculating about the transformation rumors for months, wondering allowed to each other- when things got dull- about whether it could be true or not. And now they knew for sure.

Ugh. Did they have nothing better to think about? Irritation flared in my stomach instantly.

It was beyond frustrating. I pictured myself as I was at thirteen next to myself now and my temper burned, blistering and white-hot. It wasn't that much of a change! You could see my eyes because I no longer wore glasses. Big deal! My hair was styled rather than thrown into a ponytail all of the time. So what? And I was wearing designer instead of vintage. Who cares?
I was getting angrier by the nanosecond. Why did such insignificant little tweaks of appearance matter so much to them? They hadn't mattered to Bee or Lay or Lynnie. The only reason they'd even made me try contacts, new shampoo, make up and designer clothes was because I complained about my looks. So why did the Hogwarts lot insist on emphasizing looks? I wasn't any different, really. More confident, yes. But that had come from having practically an entire palace of friends and learning to be comfortable with myself. Other than that I was exactly the same person I'd been three years ago. I still loved books, I was still a klutz, I still babbled incoherently when thrust in an awkward situation and I still hated being ordered around.

I honestly would respect them more if they were treating me the way they did before I had left for France – as if I were a leper. Instead, they were treating me like a shiny new toy. And, to be completely honest, I really wasn't sure which was worse.

After nearly twenty minutes of being gawked at, I finally spotted the birthday boy with his arm draped around my dazzling best friend, as he introduced her to various acquaintances. (He'd been dying to show her off for ages.) But, by that time, I was so annoyed that I didn't even bother going to greet him. I just sat with my other friends and sipped my glass of water, counting to ten in my head whenever I spotted another group of my brother's guests shooting furtive glances my way for the billionth time, to calm myself. I'd already snapped at an absurd amount of them, you'd think news would travel that I didn't fancy catching up, but it didn't. It was the wedding nightmare all over again.

"Deja vu," Adam chuckled in agreement, when I voiced the comparison. "And you said Hogwarts people weren't friendly." He waggled his eyebrows in that exaggerated fashion only Adam could manage to pull off without looking sleazy.

I threw him a withering glare, not amused in the least by the joke.

"Allie Swaaa-aaaaan," a voice sang from behind me.

Almost immediately, I whipped around and jumped from my chair. When I saw the owner, I ran headlong into her and hugged her excitedly. I didn't even care that my hat had fallen off in the process because one, it was (technically) my backyard and two, Bee had put some weird charm on my hair to make it stay in place (hat-hair wasn't an option with Brigitte Gardiner).

"Al..." Roxy choked, her voice strained for some reason. "Can't.... breathe... Alllieee!"

Oh. Right. Lack of oxygen. Bad.

I let go instantly. "Right. Sorry." I blushed, "I'm just so happy to see you!" I looked behind her and was delighted to see that on her flanks were two other people. "Dee! Alice!" I threw my arms around Alice's neck excitedly and then moved to Dominique's.

"Well, you look just fabulous!" Dee commented, "Brigitte's doing, I'm assuming?"

"But, of course," Bee had appeared at my side with the hat in hand. I'm pretty sure she wanted to put it on my head herself, so it'd be perfect for her. But I took it before she could and held it instead.

My cousin and Lynnie hugged my three friends enthusiastically. Lynnie and Dee caught up on family gossip while Roxy and Brigitte started discussing some fashion designer and I talked to Alice as we made our way back to the table. They pulled up chairs and it wasn't long before the boys had joined Roxy and Lynnie in a heated Quidditch debate.

Adam was, like always, on the opposing side and sure to lose the argument.

I was so enthralled with the conversation that I almost forgot where I was. I nearly failed to notice the willowy blonde across the yard, looking like a fallen goddess amongst mere mortals. I wouldn't have notice her at all, actually, if her trilling laughter hadn't carried over the violins to my sharp ears. (I'd always had brilliant hearing skills, they were almost scary sometimes.)

My head snapped up and my eyes quickly scanned the crowd. It took less than a nanosecond to pick her out. Saundra had never managed to blend in (which suited her just fine).

I gawked, jaw nearly unhinging. I honestly couldn't believe my eyes.

How in the-? Wha-? I couldn't even manage a coherent thought; much less voice the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach and the ultimate confusion that now clouded my mind. What was going on?

There was Saundra, beautiful and confident as always.

Except....Hadn't I just seen her in a hospital bed this morning?

Had the stress finally broke me – was this just an illusion? Was my unstable mind playing tricks on me so I'd start ranting like a mad woman and be thrown in the St. Mungo's Psych ward?

I double checked.

Then triple checked.

No. I could not possibly have dreamed up such a nightmare. She was definitely there; I could practically smell her perfume. She was even wearing the same glittery pale pink lipgloss she always wore on special occasions.

It just seemed so strange. I'd thought Saundra might have trouble getting on a train in September or, at the very least, she would lock herself away in her room for the next few weeks.

Yet, there she was. Laughing and talking with her friends, like nothing had changed.

Her hair was luscious and golden once more, not a strand was out of place. The deep purple bruises under her eyes had vanished and she'd traded the ratty gray sweat pants for designer jeans and a scandalously low cut top. Everything about her was back to the way it had been before she'd been hospitalized. She didn't even look like she was in pain anymore.

There was only one thing that remained of the broken shell of a human I'd seen all week. The eyes.

Empty. Unfeeling. The glitter in them was entirely artificial, fogging over whatever dismal emotion was supposed to be there.

"Allie?" Bee was so in tuned with me that she'd already been watching my expression before I stood up. She looked even more worried now.

Alice turned at the anxious sound of her voice and took in my expression. "Alex, what's wrong?"

Soon they were all voicing their uneasy questions and inquiring after my health (as if I was the one who had been hospitalized), asking what I was looking at. Unable, because of the crowds, to figure out where exactly I was staring, horrorstruck. But I barely heard them. I wasn't the sister they needed to worry about and I couldn't tear my eyes away from the one they should.

Without a word to my friends, I began to move numbly- but determinedly- through the congested backyard, towards my sister. I pushed through the Hogwarts students- ignoring their pathetic greetings- and zeroed in on the group of pretty people that flocked around Saundra. I was no longer intimidated by them.

When I got to her, I leaned in to whisper, "Can I have a word?" in her ear.

Her friends, at my approach, had ceased their inane chatter and were now staring at me with excitedly wide-eyes. I suppressed my annoyance; there were more important things to deal with at the moment.

"What do you want, Allie?" Her tone was slightly defensive and slightly weary.

She didn't bother introducing her friends (most of whom I remembered- not fondly, I might add) but I had no desire to be properly reintroduced to them anyway (which, I guess, she knew).

I gritted my teeth, not liking the powerless feeling of confusion. Why was she making it so difficult? And what the hell had happened to her?

"I need to talk to you."

"About?"

Everyone in her group looked at me with the same expectant look as she did- though, admittedly less hostile- as if it was any of their business what I needed to discuss with my sister.

"In private, Saundra," I muttered through my teeth.

She gave a labored sigh and charmingly excused herself from the flock of admirers around her. My stomach heaved at the fake smile, the empty spark. It wasn't real, she wasn't real. This gorgeous lively creature before me no longer existed. She'd been replaced by a broken mute who shook with fear when anyone unrelated came too close. So, what was going on?

I grabbed my little sister's wrist and marched her into the house. But there wasn't a vacant room on the first floor. Everywhere you looked there were people laughing and chatting like they didn't have a care in the world. But I did, and I was determined to find out what I wanted to know.

So, with Saundra's wrist firmly in my grip, I went directly up the stairs and into my room. I pulled my sister in behind me and shut the door. Then, I turned to face her.

I was surprised to see her glaring.

Saundra and I had never actually gotten on completely well but we'd never been openly hostile towards each other. I'd never seen her seething glare directed at me before, especially without even provoking her.

"What?" She finally said, after a long silence.

"What happened, Sissy?" I asked desperately, using her childhood nickname. "When I saw you this morning you were-"

"I'm fine." Her face was hard, stubborn.

But stubborness must run in the family because I wasn't letting her get away that easy. I didn't had my answers yet.

I shook my head, throat thick, feeling like I was going to cry just remembering her face this morning. "You're not. And I need to know what's wrong and how y-"

"I'm fine, Al. Nothing is wrong with me."

" 'S not what it looked like this morning, " I countered, still determined to get answers out of her, "If you could’ve seen yourself them or earlier in the week you wouldn't even try that excuse. Because, obviously something happened and-"

"Nothing happened," she growled through her teeth. She closed her eyes and pinched the bridge of her feminine nose in frustration.

I blinked at her. Was she seriously going to stand there and tell me no one had hurt her when I'd been in the hospital with her the entire week?

"What do you mean 'nothing happened'? Of course something happened! You've been in the hospital all week, for Merlin's sake! And we're not leaving this room until you at least tell me what monster did th-"

"It was nothing." she snarled, carefully avoiding my eyes.

"Bullocks," I crossed my arms over my chest. I could feel anger tighten in my chest. Why wouldn't she just tell me? "If nothing happened, y- you wouldn't have to fake that smile you had plastered on down there. If everything was fine than that fake laugh wouldn't have drawn my attention to you a few minutes ago, in the first place! A-and if you were really, honestly alright you wouldn't even bother ar-arguing with me right now. You'd know I'm just as stubborn as you and you'd be laughing at me right now for being so ridiculous." I told her, "But- but there is something wrong, Sissy. And all you've got to do is admit that you're not alright and tell me whose head I’m smashing with Lynnie’s crowbar and I'll let you go out and fake-laugh all you want."

She growled, "You know what my problem right now is? My nosy, absentee sister who for once in her superficial existence won't mind her own fucking business and leave me the hell alone!" And with that, she shoved past me and stomped out of the room.

I flinched as the door slammed and collapsed on my bed with a huff.

Well that went smashing.

I found that just a simple row with my stroppy, secretive, in-denial sister had sucked out all my energy. I felt achy and worn, like I'd just swam across the Channel or something. I stared, unseeingly at the ceiling for Merlin knows how long, letting my thoughts reel uselessly, groping for answers they wouldn't find.

What the hell had happened to Saundra? And why was she pretending she hadn’t been in the hospital all week? How could she fake coherent so well when she could hardly muster up a single word this morning?

After what seemed like ages of recovery and thought collecting, I made my way back downstairs, finding that the sky was darker than before. More people had arrived and some had even left, the violins had ceased and they were now playing regular Muggle music. People had relaxed themselves into the atmosphere and had begun to dance and eat and drink accordingly. As I descended the back steps my mother caught me.

"Oh, Allie! There you are! Where've you been, love? I've searched high and low!" She told me. Then she waved it off, "No matter. C'mon, there are some people I want you to meet." She slipped her arm around my waist and led me to a table near my friends.

I tried to mask my horror. She was going to introduce me to people. Ugh.
There was a time I would've bathed in such attention ecstatically as I was proudly introduced by my doting mother. But now was definitely not it. All I wanted was to find Michael, drag him away from his fawning guests and demand to know what the hell had happened while I was gone. What had I missed after Bee kidnapped me? Because it seemed like I'd missed a lot.

I hadn't realized I'd forgotten my hat upstairs until I saw Bee, Lynnie and Leah all staring at me anxiously. Wondering where I'd gone, no doubt.

I was so distracted  by their worried gazes that I almost missed the fact that I was being introduced to- not only a ton of my mother's friends from school and the Ministry- but none other than Mr. Harry J. Potter himself. I only noticed this fact when his wife laughed.

"We met at Olympe and Hagrid's dinner rehearsal," she told my mother.

"Nice to meet you, Allie." Harry Potter smiled warmly and stuck out his hand to shake my own, "I've heard a lot about you."

My mind was momentarily occupied with calculations. How different he was from his son. Rather than arrogance in his air there was humility, rather than malicious intent in his eyes there was a sparkling good humor and earnest nature. I decided I liked the father and mother far better than the son. How, in Merlin's name, had James Potter turned out to be such a bully with such nice parents?

When he said the second part my stomach twisted and I said (seeming perfectly at ease with a glittering grin stretching my lips- Saundra wasn't the only one who could fake composure), "All good things, I hope."

They laughed, as did several other people standing around (my mother's other friends- whose names I'd already forgotten).

"Of course," Mr. Potter answered but I wasn't entirely sure on that fact.

He was a public figure- he had to be good at keeping cool and that meant lying with ease on occasion. I was positive that if his son had had anything to do with it, he hadn't heard good things about me at all. In fact, James Potter was probably spreading the word of what a frigid bitch I was even as I spoke to his incredibly kind parents.

"Have you met our kids?" Ginny asked, chocolate eyes glittering with pride-much like my own mother's were as she watched me mingle with the most famous couple in the wizarding world. I tried not to notice that those eyes were exactly the same shade as her son's.

"Um," Panic gripped me as my eyes darted to her side. I was immediately relieved to see a pixie-like redhead and an exact copy of  a younger Harry Potter, rather than a tall, handsome prat, draped in arrogance and smirking with disdain.

"We went to school with her, mum." Albus Potter sighed, though I noticed how his dazzling emerald eyes glimmered with curiosity.

"Well, I didn't!" the redhead scowled at her brother. She seemed annoyed at being spoken for.

Everyone but her and I laughed at the defiance of her statement.

Ginny laughed, gazing at her two children lovingly and amused. "She left the year before you came." Then to me she added, "This is our youngest, Lily."

"Hi," Lily Potter was a strikingly pretty girl, unlike most from Hogwarts. She couldn't be more than fourteen and yet her curves were already as well as her fiery personality. She looked exactly like her mother but with a darker shade of red curls, more of a scarlet. Her skin was all cream and roses with a light dusting of freckles on her nose. She was a tiny thing but I had a feeling she could take care of herself. With two brothers like hers, this was no surprise.

"It's nice to meet you," I told her politely. But, strange as it was, I was already returning her devious grin. She seemed to know much more about me than I knew of her. No doubt due to her unfortunate relations. But, despite the horrid things I'm sure her brother spouted to her, she seemed to approve of me.

"You as well." She beamed, "I've heard more about you than he has."

I grimaced, remembering all the people from Hogwarts still gaping at me, "I'm sure."

She laughed, knowing exactly why I grimaced.

Apparently, her dad did too because he grinned mischievously and chortled, "You know Hogwarts. News travels fast."

I held in the massive groan but I couldn't help the sour twist of my face again. So he had heard from his son.

Great. Bloody fantastic. The Chosen One knows that myself and his son are mortal enemies. Perfect.
"Tante! Oncle Edward!" My mother and father turned to see Bee greeting them warmly.

I caught her motive immediately.

She was saving me, and once I was saved she was going to make me tell her what was wrong. Because we angels always knew when something was wrong, even if it was sugar coated with a glittering smile and a trilling laugh.

"Bonjur, mon cheri!" My mom greeted her, following it with a long string of French I'm sure no one else but Bee and I could follow.

Brigitte answered my mother's enthusiastic questions with enthusiastic answers. Then, very smoothly, she asked if she could borrow me for a moment. Without even waiting for an answer she began pulling me away by the wrist back to our table.

"Where's your hat?"

***

After recounting the encounter with Saundra and discussing it in hushed voices with my friends my throat was killing me. I got up and told them I was going to get a drink and if I wasn't back in five minutes they needed to send someone to rescue me again.

"Good luck," Adam grumbled, "There's no pumpkin juice up there."

"It's a Muggle party, you dolt." Lynnie reminded him, swatting him on the back of the head.

"Ouch!" He rubbed where she'd smacked gingerly, "Stop it, woman!"

We laughed.

"While you're up," Bee said, "Go find your hat."

She was exasperated because, when Lynnie had seen I'd ditched mine she'd put hers on Andre, who'd just left it on.

"I'm not putting the hat back on, Bee." I laughed, and I turned to make my way to the table of beverages.

I was enjoying my first sip just as a dreaded velvet voice behind me interrupted my satisfaction, "So I've been wondering something."

I inhaled through my nose and exhaled heavily. I was not in the mood for this right now. Well, I was never in the mood for this honestly but especially not at this moment. I had too much to worry about.

It was inevitable. You knew it would happen today, remember? A methodical voice in my head reminded me. I scowled, both mentally and physically. To say my body language was unwilling and hostile as I turned to glare at him would probably be an understatement.

He grinned wickedly.

James Potter was an eternal thorn in my side. Sure, the pain had been numbed back in France but the morphine had worn off and the thorn was now digging in more than ever. The problem was that my head was already throbbing from the mystery that was my sister and this ridiculously pointless "coming-of-age" party for the brother I had yet to see today.

"What?" I growled through my teeth.

"How come you didn't tell me who you were at the station and shut me down that way?" His voice was teasing but his eyes were burning with genuine curiousity.

I glowered, "Because I didn't want to speak to you at all. Obviously."

"Aw c'mon, Crow." He laughed, "You can't tell me you didn't miss me."

My eyes narrowed even more, "Actually, I can, Pothead. And I'm very proud of that fact."

Not many girls, I was guessing (by the withering glares I was receiving just talking to the idiot), could say they had absolutely no desire what so ever to be with in fifty kilometers of James Sirius Potter.

"Hm, could that be because you've succeeded in suppressing your immense attraction to me?"

My jaw dropped open. I was so horrendously appalled at the audacity and falsehood of this repulsive statement that I'd been rendered temporarily speechless. How could anyone be so god damn cocky? 

"Thought so." He smirked even wider.

My fists clenched, I wanted to knock it right off his face or to wrap my hands around his neck and strangle him- but there were too many witnesses.

"So- honestly, why didn't you tell me your name that first day at the station?"

I continued glaring, imagining daggers shooting from my eyes and piercing his most prized appendages.

"I mean, you obviously knew who I was. So how come you didn't just tell me who you were? Afraid it would scare me off?"

My fury reigned, every part of me screamed for his immediate impalement.

"Yeah, you're probably right about that." He went on, those warm chocolate eyes glittering gleefully, "I normally avoid getting involved with the temperamental girl. You know - the stroppy sort, who're always shouting about something stupid."

He seemed to have some sort of death wish.

I vaguely wondered if the fame and expectations were becoming too much for him and he'd become suicidal. Maybe I wouldn't have to scratch his eyes out with the fake nails Leah had glued on, maybe he'd save me the trouble and jump out of the Astronomy Tower when he got back to Hogwarts. Better, maybe some poor tormented soul would push him off instead (hey, there had to be someone sane enough at Hogwarts to detest him as thoroughly as I did).

"But I might make an exception for you though. You seem to be a big deal at Beauxbatons," I flinched at his accent, like I had at the station. “You must be one hell of a shag.”

That did it.

"You conceited, chauvinistic arse! H-"

"Hiya Jamsie," Roxanne and Dominique had popped up on my flanks just as I was about to light into their cousin. They were obviously the rescue party I requested but I no longer wanted to be rescued. Nor did I need to be.

All I wanted and needed at this moment was James Potter's smarmy head on a diamond encrusted silver platter. After my row with Saundra I needed to let off some rage and Potter had just given me a golden opportunity.

I began to wonder if I requested a guillotine for my birthday if Grandmere and Grandad would know where to find one. A dull-bladed one preferably. More painful that way, not as quick. Maybe I'd just ask for an executioner's sword instead. Portable and easier to gift wrap.

"You aren't bothering Allie, are you?" Rox asked with a menacing glint in her eyes.

And I vaguely remembered it from the time she took to beating James senseless for announcing the arrival of her "Aunt Flow" one morning at breakfast for the entire Great Hall to hear. (He'd eavesdropped on her conversation with Dee, Alice and I.)

"Course not," He batted his long eyelashes innocently.

I scoffed.

Dee smirked, "Voulez-vous que nous vous sauvions ou planifiiez-vous sur le fait de le castrer bientôt ?"  ("Do you want us to rescue you or were you planning on castrating him soon?")


"Ew," I wrinkled my nose in disgust, "je n'irais pas près de ses bijoux de famille avec un pôle de cinquante-cinq mètres."  ("I wouldn't go near his family jewels with a fifty-five meter pole.")

"Pas même pour les couper ?"  ("Not even to cut them off?")

I considered it for a moment and smiled amusedly. "Bien, peut-être pour les couper. Mais je crois que je me contenterais du fait de le décapiter. Coupez la tête sans laquelle il ne peut pas vivre."  ("Well, maybe to cut them off. But I think I'd settle for decapitating him. Cut off the head he can't live without.")

"Je ne suis pas sûr qu'il pourrait vivre sans autre un non plus."  ("I'm not sure he could live without the other one either.")

"EEEEEEEWWWWW!" We burst into violent fits of giggles as Rox and Potter stared, eyebrows knit together in mirroring confusion.

But my laughter stopped abruptly when I spotted a certain individual in my peripheral vision. "Excusez-moi. Je vous rencontrerai en arrière à la table, vraiment ?"

"Où allez-vous maintenant ?" She sighed.

I answered in English this time, "I think it's time I had a chat with the birthday boy."

***


"Hey, Allie! 'Bout time you came and said hi!" Michael scolded teasingly. But I could hear a question like 'what the hell took you so long?' lurking underneath his joking demeanor. I'd hurt his feelings.

"Yeah, Beauxbatons girl! What took you so long? Some sister you are."
 
Trust Emmett to be blunt about it.

I was so focused on getting my answers that I barely noticed this, nor did I pay much attention to the crowd of vaguely familiar individuals from my past. Even with them studying me curiously (or gaping unashamedly; however you want to put it).

I didn't even pay attention to the funny look Leah was giving me. Of course she could tell something wasn't right and she was silently asking what was wrong, but I didn't answer. I'd fill her in later. The only thing I was concerned with was getting my big brother alone so I could interrogate him.

"Can I talk to you, please?" I muttered through my teeth, not liking the crowd around us. It was almost as bad as the people surrounding Saundra had been.

Had it been just Leah, Emmett, Frank and Bryan there, I would've just asked him outright what the hell was wrong with our little sister and why she was acting like her whole hospital stay never happened. But there were others around and I could see James Potter and Bryan's brother, Patrick approaching too.

No way in hell was I discussing family matters in front of Pothead.

"What's wrong?"

I heaved a frustrated sigh and switched to French- as I always did when I was annoyed- so only Leah and Michael would understand. "Merlin, sont pourquoi des garçons s'stupide!!"
Leah gave me a half-hearted smirk, not fooled by my attempt at a joke. She knew something was wrong and she knew I was freaking out inside.

"Alright," my brother said quietly. He'd finally caught on. "C'mon."

He pulled me inside and up the stairs. When we got to his room he shut the door and said, "You saw Saundra didn't you."

"Yes," I huffed. I almost sat on his bed but then I spotted the mussed sheets and thought better of it. Instead, I started pacing. "What the hell happened to her? This morning she was-"

"I know. She woke up, asked about you and mum told her she made you go home and get some rest. We ate at the hospital and then, when we got home dad found Bee's note."

I winced, of all people to find it.

"Yeah," Michael agreed with my reaction. "He wasn't happy. But mum calmed him down and said that you deserved some time away from this mess. All the rest of us had taken some, why shouldn't you?"

I gulped, knowing my father and Saundra obviously disagreed.

"Mum asked Saundra if she was going to be alright or if she wanted to skip the party. But she said she'd be fine. So we all started getting ready," he sighed, sat down on his bed and shook his head as if trying to get rid of the memory. "When she came out it was like nothing had happened. She wouldn't even acknowledge that she'd been at St. Mungo's. We didn't know what to do. Dad decided we shouldn't bug her about it tonight."

" 'Cause Agrippa forbid anyone but I should feel the wrath of Edward Swan's power trips," I spat bitterly. Knowing I was being selfish with this comment but unable to hold it in.

Michael sighed, "That's not fair, Allie. She's been through a lot."

"I know," I conceded close to tears. "Sorry, I'm mad at dad not Saundra. I just wish she'd-"

"Tell us who the bloody hell we're decapitating?" he snapped, finishing my sentence. “Yeah, me too. I'm hoping if we leave her alone long enough she'll be more willing to tell us-"

"What happened? Don't count on it." I scoffed, "I tried to get it out of her an hour ago and she nearly bit my head off."

"Did you really 'spect her to tell you, Allie? I mean..." he looked uneasy, "you haven't exactly been close f-"

"I know," I glared. "But I'm still her sister, I still love her and I still want to know what happened."

"I get that. It's just... Saundra's had a rough way of it. After you left for France she-"

My temper flared. Did anyone in my family care that I transferred to Beauxbatons because I was miserable at Hogwarts? How come every catastrophe was my fault? How could anyone seriously sit there and put this all on me when someone had savagely beaten my sister?

"DON'T YOU DARE!" I shouted, unable to control my sudden rage. "Don't you try and blame this on me, Michael Swan!"

"Allie, I just-"

"Not every dysfunction in this family can be my fault! I know that dad and Saundra like to delude themselves into thinking I'm always the villain but I thought you, of all people, had better sense than that! Have you forgotten who helped me get away from that hell-hole? Have you forgotten your determined, anal-retentive, big-brother protectiveness that spawned that letter to mum? I never would've gotten to Beauxbatons if it weren't for you! I would've rotted at Hogwarts forever! So, if the one root of all evil of this family's existence is my moving to France to make myself happy for once, than dammit you'd better be prepared to take some of the blame too!"

I didn't wait for him to respond. Instead, I stormed from the room and into the hall, slamming the door as hard as possible behind me- just like Saundra had done to me over an hour ago.

There was Leah, looking stunned.

I understood her stricken expression. It was rarely that I, of all people, had these kind of outbursts. I never had the reason to behave this mental. But now, I had every reason for it and my friends weren't sure how to react.

"I'm fine," I muttered, before she could ask. I avoided her eye and brushed past, still angry. "Just go take care of your good-for-nothing boyfriend."

I swallowed the anger as the traitor tears that threatened to spill out and fled downstairs. I went into the bathroom, locked the door and hyperventilated. For the second time that night, I felt drained from fighting with one of my siblings. Though, this time, I'd been the one shouting like a mad woman. I'd never yelled at my brother like that before.

Feeling thoroughly robbed of every ounce of the energy I'd possessed this afternoon. I was sleep deprived, pissed off and completely sick of England. I wanted out, immediately. I was even ready to admit that with the happiness I'd achieved in France I'd gone completely soft. I’d give anything to get the hell out of this place at the moment.

It made me irrational and stroppy. My stomach was in a constant not, my chest was tight and every breath I took felt shallow and unsatisfying.

I checked the light house clock my mum had hung on the wall during one of her themed phases and sighed. It was only nine-thirty. I would have to stay for at least another hour and a half. Otherwise I'd be battling with my mum and dad as well tonight and I currently had no fight left in me.

So, ignoring Bee's warnings about keeping myself presentable, I splashed a palm of refreshingly cool water on my face. I groaned when I realized my makeup was waterproof. Well, at least my cousin wouldn't get in a strop with me too. I'd had enough fights tonight to last me a month. I'd reached my quota. As I wiped my face dry, someone knocked on the door.

"One moment," I called to the knocker.

I gave myself one last glance in the mirror, tucked a stray curl behind my ear and prepared for an hour of fake calm. If Saundra was going to act like all was back to normal than so would I. I was good at acting (I played the Bumblebee #2 in my summer camp’s performance of It’s a Wonderful World when I was eight) I had to act like my father and sister didn't agitate me, I'd had to act like I didn't loathe everyone at Hogwarts when I went there, I'd had to act like certain suitors at Beauxbatons didn't completely creep me out and that a few choice individuals didn't annoy me. I could pretend to be the lively little sister of the birthday boy, couldn't I?

I stepped out of the bathroom and was just about to go find Lynnie, Brigitte and the boys until a voice behind me said, "Are you following me, Crow? 'Cause we seem to be running into each other an awful lot lately."

I stopped dead in my tracks and groaned, "Why me?"

Exhaling in a great puff, I turned around unwillingly to see James Potter wearing a gigantic grin on his smarmy face. He was leaning against the wall stoically with his arms crossed over his chest (subtly showing off those Quidditch acquired biceps) and his deep chocolate eyes smoldered sneakily. He looked expectant for some reason-almost smug. I remembered this look- it had been a trademark of his. That cocky demeanor, insufferable conceit was his specialty. It was not an expression I particularly liked on him (I had to override the urge to smack it right off that pretty face of his). I preferred pain and defeat. It suited much better than the former.

"Well-" he began to answer but I cut him off.

I knew the git well enough to know that whatever he'd planned on saying would just infuriate me. And as I was in a rather violent mood at the moment and didn't fancy going to Azkaban for the result of my homicidal rage, I knew it wasn't good to let him continue.

"Rhetorical question, Pothead," I sighed agitatedly.

"You know, I never really got the point of those," He informed me, still grinning.

"I'm not surprised," I said flatly. I crossed my arms over my chest and my eye narrowed.

And that's when I realized he was no longer looking at my face.

A disgusted noise erupted from my throat. "My face is up hear, dung beetle."

His eyes flickered upward, "Sorry?"

My glare intensified, "I said, my face is up h- Oh forget it! Why am I even talking to you?" Frustrated, I turned on my heel and stomped away.

He followed me silently and I could feel the amusement rolling off of him without having to see the smirk he still wore. I was determined to ditch him out in the yard, where the party was still alive and well. I'd had quite enough arguing tonight and- though I would love to rip into him- I had no intention of getting into anymore.

"Oi, Potter!" Someone called.

I didn't turn to see who it was or if he would even acknowledge them, I just kept walking. My hands curled into fists and my nails were digging into my palms. The urge to hit something was almost overpowering - which surprised me because (usually) I'm not one to resort to my fists. I prefer words and wands (or fists, since i couldn't use magic in front of all the Muggles present).

"James Potter!" the voice shouted again, letting me know that the idiot was still silently following me. What a stalker.

Just then, a hand closes around my wrist. A strange surge shot through my veins and my hands instantly started tingling, like it had fallen asleep. (I hate that feeling.) Surprised by the electric current in my arm, I whipped around to see Potter smirking and a horribly familiar sandy-haired boy jogging our way.

Ugh.

Not. Happening.

For a moment, I seriously considered decking him and darting in the opposite direction before Patrick Finnigan could reach us. But, for Merlin knows what reason, I hesitated a second too long and it's too late. The youngest of the Finnigan brothers (the one I've loathed since I was eleven) is in front of us, arm slung around his mate- who's still practically holding my hand.

Realizing this, I jerked my wrist out of his grip and glowered at him wordlessly.

"Jamsie, you've forgotten your manners," Finnigan chided him, mockingly. "You can't keep this lovely lady to yourself all night. It's not fair to the rest of us." He grinned crookedly at me, clapped his insufferable mate on the back and then stuck out the same hand to greet me. "Hiya, you probably don't remember me. I'm-"

"Little Finnigan. Yeah, I remember," I told him flatly, referring to him by the nickname Emmett gave him years ago. And, while I know that me calling a guy who towers as high above me as this one does "little" is rather comical, I could tell by his expression he knew (by my tone of distaste) that I remembered everything.

That ridiculous grin on his face faltered. He was clearly not a fan of the nickname. Ultimately, he managed to smirk and say curtly "Nice to see you again then, Little Swan."

Eh, it's better than crow. A voice in my head concluded and I found myself loathing Little Finnigan slightly less for the gesture.

It was right about that time that I realized he's still got his hand out for me to shake. As it's the one he just touched James Potter's back with, I seriously considered just leaving him hang there. But then, I remembered the impeccable manners that had been drilled in my head and that old saying about 'taking the high-road'.

Damn my stupid values to the most fiery, torturous pit of hell!

And, despite the fact that that rather large hand was contaminated by Potter germs and attached to the wrist of an old enemy, I took it. Politely shaking the prick's hand.

I spotted Potter's eyebrow raise at this but I ignore him.

"There you are, Ange," a familiar voice says.

Tre, obviously sent to rescue me, wrapped his arm around my shoulders and grinned mischievously at me, adding a wink for good measure. I roll my eyes.

Subtle, Tre. Real bloody subtle.

"We've been looking for you for ages" He continues, as if reading from a script. "C'mon, I think Lynnie was just about to break some bloke’s bloody kneecaps." He laughs and I can tell this part is real.

I glanced towards our table and, sure enough, Lynnie was glaring at some scrawny idiot who was obviously trying (and failing) to chat her up. This maked me smile, despite the fact that I was standing in front of Finnigan and Potter for the first time (together at least) in three years.

"What are we going to do with her?" I shook my head, mockingly, still grinning.

"No idea. But it'll take Adam, Henri and me to hold her back if the moron goes too far, so c'mon."

"Mind if I tag along? That sounds really entertaining and I'd love to see Avery get his arse kicked by a girl."

My stomach plummeted. Yes, I was feeling slightly less hostile towards Patrick Finnigan but that didn't mean I wanted to be friends with the git. Because this was still the nasty little redhead kid who'd used numerous hexes on me back at Hogwarts meaning (as far as I was concerned) he was still a git.

Tre looked at me and shrugged before dragging me back to the table. To my chagrin, Finnigan and Potter both followed.

Not happening, not happening. Not. Happening.
"There you are!" Bee grinned when she saw me.

Remembering my resolution in the bathroom, I faked an excited grin.

But it didn't fool her. Her face faltered and she gave me a questioning look, silently asking 'What's wrong?

I silently answered her with an, 'I'll tell you later' shake of my head. I was still hyper-aware of James Potter's melting brown eyes burning into the side of my face, no way in hell was I going to tell her my latest sibling drama with him sitting right there.

"Where'd Leah go?" An oblivious Adam asked, between bites. "She came lookin' for you."

I sighed heavily, "She's upstairs helping my brother retrieve his balls."

Everyone laughed, except Bee.

Comprehension flickered and suddenly she stood up. She came around to my side of the table and grabbed my arm. With a blithe, "We're gonna go freshen up!" She dragged Lynnie and myself into the house.

Jocelyn was ecstatic to escape the boy called Avery (who I assumed went to Hogwarts- though I had no recollection of him whatsoever) but I really didn't want to talk about my family drama at the moment. All I wanted to do was forget this night ever happened and get my ass back to France. Immediately.

As we got to the bottom of the stairs we heard shouting. I exchanged glances with my cousin and Jocelyn. We knew that voice.

All three of us hurried up the stairs as the voice continued and my stomach did more back flips. This was not what I'd wanted to happen, not at all. With my excellent hearing I heard another voice answer- not nearly as loud or as angry, more drained. And something else too... pleading?

Oh no.
I knew that voice too. 

Not good. Not. Good.

We raced to the top just in time to see Leah slam the door to my brother's bedroom, tears streaming down her face looking more furious than I'd ever seen her. Before it banged shut I caught a glimpse of Michael too. He didn't look much better. He was on his bed, eyes wide with shock and just before he vanished from view I saw his face drop into his hands.

Immediately, we engulfed Leah in three sets of arms, forming a group hug. We didn't have to ask to know what had just happened. Part of my heart ached for my brother, this would break his heart. But, as he and I were still fighting and I was probably the cause of this as well (and therefore the last person he'd want to see), I stayed with my friend and held her.

A small sob escaped her before she managed to choke out, "A-are wa-we r-ready to g-ga-go now?"

"I'll go round up the boys and tell Grandmere we're leaving early," Lynnie said quickly. She was never good with the super emotional stuff. And then she disappeared down the stairs as Bee and I pulled Leah into my mum and dad's study (the only upstairs room with a fireplace).

Within the hour, were back at the chateau in our room holding Leah as she wailed her broken heart out.


***


The next morning we proceeded with caution.

We let Leah in have a lie-in- not that she would've woken up anyway. She was out cold from sobbing until four in the morning.

None of us spoke all morning, hearts aching for Leah and Michael- a match made in heaven gone terribly wrong.

Anguishing guilt -almost as bad as the guilt I'd felt at the hospital- was attempting to drown me. I was getting pulled under, crushed by it. Michael and Leah were over and it was entirely my fault. And, though I was praying they'd make up, my hopes were not high.

None of us could stomach breakfast, we attempted to watch a movie but it wasn't interesting any of us. We stared without seeing a thing on the screen. I doubt if any of us could even say what the stupid thing was about (something about a lady who fell in love with a dinosaur). I knew my comprehension level was about zero at this point- especially since it was the morning.

And finally, Leah appeared.

Or, it looked like Leah anyway.

Not the Leah from last night; puffy eyes filled with agony, tear-stained cheeks and hair looking more like a wild bush. But the Leah from before; glowing with beauty, radiating happiness and blowing in like the breeze of perfection itself.

Jocelyn, Brigitte and I exchanged confused and anxious glances. Had we hallucinated last night? What the hell was going on?

And with a chill of realization I shuddered into a flashback of last night. Grief overtook me as I mentally compared my shell of a sister to my freshly heart-broken best friend. Déjà vu attacked.

Exactly the same. Shattered one moment, grinning madly the next.

I caught Bee's eye and watched as the realization hit her as well.

"Bonjour, everyone!" she greeted us cheerfully.

We muttered back various acknowledgements but said nothing about the dramatic change in her mood. All three of use knew that she was faking it.

*** 

(Dear Readers, 

I'm very very sorry for the long gap in updates but I'm hoping this long chapter makes up for it, at least a  little. At first, I didn't like this chapter but with the help of my wonderful and quirky beta, Nora it's become something I'm relatively pleased with. I'm just hoping that you all think it's worth the wait! So leave a review with your thoughts in the box below!
Now, moving on. For all of you who were wondering when the heck we're going to get to the main part of the story- with far more James/Allie action- I'm just going to say that I'm working on it. I should get around to the first plot twist within the next couple of chapters. But I plan to make this story fairly long ( maybe a little more than thirty chapters at this point, roughly)  so no worries, we aren't even half way done! 
Anyway, next update shouldn't take as long but I may have a random fit of OCD-ness and decide to re-write everything. So we'll see. But, for now, I hope you enjoyed this chapter!

xo RED ox 

P.S. I did the final edit at like 2 a.m. so there are probably a ton of errors but I'm too lazy to fix them at the moment. )


Chapter 16: Surprises; Part One
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Chapter 16
~ Surprises; Part One


The clouds never expect it when it rains
The sea changes colours but the sea does not change
And so with the slow graceful flow of age
I went forth with an age old
Desire to please
On the edge of seventeen
~Edge of Seventeen, Stevie Nicks


~


Over the next week and a half, I didn't talk to either of my siblings and they didn't give any indication that they wanted to talk to me. Leah went on pretending to be normal and none of us had the nerve to confront her (especially not me- because one, I was pretty sure this whole mess was my fault and two, I'd had more than my share of confrontation this month- and they didn't go so well). But, with the exception of my faking friend, things got too hectic for any of us to stop and think about that disastrous night at my parents' much. Because it was August and that meant my birthday was approaching.

Not just my birthday, my seventeenth-the biggest birthday of them all.

My mother had come to France the day after Michael's party to tie up some last minute loose ends in the planning and Grandmere was busy making sure that the hill housing the gigantic blue tent repelled all of the Muggles. I wasn't allowed anywhere near the tent (because they didn't want me to see how they were decorating it) nor was I allowed to go shopping with my friends when they went to Paris for my birthday gifts.

The only one who didn't go was Henri, which instantly made me suspicious of course. But when I asked him why he was staying all he'd say was "Well someone's got to make sure you stay out of trouble."

So the pair of us walked down to the smaller village nearby and spent the day debating the sexual orientations of every mildly decent looking person (male or female) that walked by.

"I'm telling you, he's straight. And, by the looks of it, ready for commitment."

"How could you possibly know that?"

I sighed heavily, wondering how he could have spent even more years with my cousin and best friends and not know this. Blokes were so dense sometimes, it was really quite embarrassing. "One, he's well-groomed-"

"That could just mean he's narcissistic."

"All men are narcissistic," I told him disparagingly. "That doesn't mean they dress well, shave or practice personal hygene and the like."

"Fair enough. But doesn't that just prove that he bats for your team, not mine?"

"No," I rolled my eyes. "It means that he's mature and knows how to attract women. And two, his left ear is pierced which mean he knows how to handle pain and he's bought jewlery before. Perfect candidate for marriage."

Henri rolled his eyes at this assesment but chose not to argue it further. Instead he persued a new topic, "So, have you had any say in this party so far?"

I took another sip of my drink then answered, "Um, no. Well... I did get to pick out my own dress."

He laughed, "Aren't you worried?"

"About?"

"I dunno, the guest list or the decorations or the fact that, knowing your luck, the tent might very well blow away in the event of a natural disaster?"

I laughed and roll my eyes at his attempt of a joke. "No, no and no. Because Grandmere is perfectly aware of who I'd want to come, mum and Brigitte know my taste in decor and that tent has had so many charms and spells put on it I doubt a giant could move that thing."

"Touche. So what do you think you'll do first?"

"I dunno," I smiled bemusedly. "I s'pose hexing Bayard Dubose might be fun."

He laughed, "While your at it will you get Gigi Montreal as well?"

"Gladly," I grinned. Gigi was one of the very few people at Beaubaxtons that I'd ever truely disliked. And it was safe to assume the feeling was mutual, if the nasty looked she and her friends always shot us when we passed them were any indication. "Though, I highly doubt that either Bayard or Gigi will be at my party. So, it probably won't be my first act of magic."

"True," he shrugged. "What about that girl over there?"

I scanned the face he'd indicated in mild confusion. "Are you sure she's a she?"

He grinned wickedly, "Not entirely."

And just then a girl in a very short skirt walked up and planted a giant sloppy looking kiss on the person in question.

"Guess that answers what team their for."

I stifled a giggle, "Now the question is, what gender are they?"

"One of the great mysteries of life I'm afraid."

***

"Suck it in, you cow!"

"I am! But you’re hurting me, you mental bint! I don't want my ribs crushed!"

"You're the one who insisted we wear these to begin with! Quit whining!"
 
Lynnie gave Bee's dress a vicious tug and I stifled a laugh. They were so juvenile.

"Can somebody please do my make-up? The liquid liner keeps picking a fight with me."

"I'll do it, Leah," I said.

"You can't!" Bee objected indignantly.

"My nails are dry," I told her. "And I'm bored just sitting here."

Even though my party didn't start until eleven tonight, they'd woke me up at six a.m. Then, they'd proceeded to pluck, pinch and polish every inch of me all day; until they were satisfied enough to start getting ready themselves. I'd been ordered to sit there and look pretty until they were all finished and then they'd help me into my dress.

Yes, they had to help me into my dress.

Grandmere had insisted the party be a black-tie event so the dresses we'd bought in Paris were even grander than the ones we'd worn for Tante O's wedding. It was going to be the birthday ball of the year, if she could help it.

The plan was for guests to arrive at eleven and mingle for an hour while swanky waiters and waitresses walked through the throngs with trays of hors d'oeuvres. At eleven thirty I was supposed to be making my big entrance and then a meal would be served. The birthday cake was to be brought out at midnight and then the party would truly begin.

Apparently, their were also a few surprises planned for me- and I can't say I wasn't horrified. I loathed surprises, but their intentions were good so I decided to suck it up and just focus on the vague curiosity rather than the mortification I was going to feel.

How I was going to stay up into the wee hours of tomorrow morning- seeing as I'd been ambushed at six a.m. - was beyond me though.

"But you’re the birthday girl!"

"Technically not til midnight," I smirked.

Realizing she was going to lose this one, my cousin heaved a particularly annoyed sigh. "Fine. But I swear to Agrippa if you mess up any of my handy work I will throttle you." She threatened.

"Relax, Bee." I laughed, grabbing the tube of makeup and began meticulously lining Leah's lids. "If I break a nail Lynnie can fix it."

"I don't know the spell."

"Then I'll wear white gloves to cover it." The sad thing was, they wouldn't stick out at this party.

Bee glared as Leah laughed but I could feel her shaking. No doubt, this was why she couldn't line her own eyes, she couldn't keep her hand steady. It was the first real indication I'd gotten since the night of Michael's party that she really still cared. Not that I didn't already know this, but still.

I could tell by the tense way her shoulders curled- as if she expected a blow to the head any moment- and the loud swallowing noises she was making that she was nervous. It was, after all, her ex's sister's birthday party. And- even though I hadn't spoken to either of my siblings since that night and had absolutely no intention to whatsoever - he was going to be there without a doubt. There was only a very slim chance that - due to the obscenely long guest list- they wouldn't see each other. But it was extremely slim, as they were my brother and best friend and would probably both be in the nucleus of activities.

I felt something in my chest tighten. Whether it was a result of the sympathy for my brother or my best friend, I had no idea. But I was almost as anxious as Leah seemed to be. This was exactly what I'd worried about when they started dating. And now I faced the question I'd asked myself a thousand times, who did my loyalties lie with? Did I side with Leah, one of the friends who'd helped me come out of my shell and had been more like a sister than my real one had? Or did I side with my big brother, the one who'd protected me from the jeers and bullying I'd endured at Hogwarts? The dilemma of all dilemmas. Though Michael was making it slightly easier since he hadn't talked to me in weeks.

But it was only one of the many questions swirling dizzily in my head.

Would they get back together? Would they fight again? Or would they both pretend they'd never known each other to begin with? This thought saddened me; even though it was better than the fighting option I still didn't like it.

"Allie, soutene ta tête!"

I'd clearly zoned out so thoroughly that I'd missed my friends finishing their party ensembles and retrieving my enormous dress from the closet. (Seriously, I've seen wedding gowns with less fabric.)

As they strategically maneuvered the dress around my form I felt my cheeks heat up. Suddenly wishing Grandmere would've made my party less of an affair and feeling ridiculously overdressed for anything but my own wedding, I was zipped and tied tightly into the gown and pushed towards the mirror.

Stunned.

That would be the only fitting word for my reaction.

Because I could hardly believe the girl staring back was me. Sure, I'd improved significantly over the last three years, with the help of les Anges. I could even be considered pretty now. But I'd never looked like this before. Lynnie's temporary hair darkening charm had made the ringlets piled atop my head- accented, not by the wretched itchy tiara Brigitte had fought to have me wear (for once unsuccessfully) but with little pearls Leah had suggested placing throughout- a startling jet black that contrasted with the blue in my gown and the unyielding paleness of my English skin (honestly, after three years you'd think I'd be tan by now) nicely.

I'd been worried about the lack of straps but the intricate bodice held so tight to my form (by magic, no doubt) that I doubted even starting a conga line would make it slip. I'd been unsure about the amount of cleavage the bodice gave me but, looking at it in the mirror, I realized it was just the right amount. Not slutty or not desperate, as I'd worried it would look. I fingered the flaring fabric of the skirt curiously; it felt like a cloud at my fingertips.

My eyes were the exact same color as the gown, I realized, as I searched the face looking back at me. She blinked in astonishment at my friends' handy work. Well, I had to hand it to them; they knew what they were doing. I looked exactly how I'd always wanted to at seventeen. Like a sophisticated, proper adult. A young woman of purpose with grace and composure.

And that made me panic. A large knot began to form in my throat as I realized I wasn't going to be able to live up to this look. It was too elegant, too sophisticated, too adult for me to handle.

"Je vais de ce voyage," I wailed.

Immediately they were clucking around me like a bunch of mother hens. It took me a second to realize that my mother, grandmother and aunts had all arrived upstairs to check on our progress and had joined in the fussing. A chorus of, "You won't trip!"s and "Don't be ridiculous!"s, met my exclaimation quicker than I would have believed possible.

It took me another several minutes to realize my sister was leaning in the door frame, the massive skirt of her pink gown blocking it completely. A vision if I ever saw one.

The knot in my throat swelled as I remembered the last time we'd been in the same room together.

"You know what my problem right now is? My nosy, absent sister who for once in her superficial existence won't mind her own fucking business and leave me the hell alone!"
The words had cut deep, as- I was sure-they'd been meant to. They'd swirled around in my head for the past few weeks in an endlessly dizzying circle. Ringing in my ears agonizingly. In every spare moment, I'd analyzed, criticized and cried over them unable to help myself and entirely unsure of what to do. How was I supposed to help Saundra if she wasn't going to let me? And, after that horrid encounter at the party, should I even try?

Regardless, her presence wasn't exactly soothing.

I tried to ignore her sulking as best I could, force myself to breath and not cry my makeup off (as if there was a chance Bee had used non-waterproof mascara). But the tears came without my permission, a salty mixture of birthday jitters and sibling sorrow.

"Don't cry!" Brigitte blubbered, eyes getting shiny. She was mistaking the reason behind my tears, no doubt. She probably thought it was just because of my coming-of-age. "You'll- I- you're going to make me cry!"

Everyone but Saundra let out a shaky laugh.
 
Her eyes got, if possible, darker. But that didn't surprise me. Saundra had never liked it when Brigitte acted more like my sister than she did. Though I didn't see how she expected me to do anything about that. The fact remained that Brigitte and I were as close as sisters, and Saundra resented me too much to even come near that affinity.

I wondered vaguely, in a detatched chamber of my mind, if this was what my coming of age party was like; what kind of chaos, tafetta and emotion would be flying when it was my wedding?

"I can't help it!" I managed, voice cracking. I didn't bother correcting her assumption. "I'm just- I'm just-"

What was I? I had no idea.

Happy? With my sister, Saundra the Secretive and my brother and best friend broken up? Not bloody likely. Sad? It was my birthday and I was only standing there in the most gorgeous dress I'd ever seen! Overwhelmed? Most definitely, but not because of the grand affair my party was turning out to be. It was more the emotionally charged atmosphere the night was adopting already. I mean, we hadn't even gotten to the tent yet and it already felt like something out of a bad Rita Skeeter novel. It was almost too much for me to take.

Without having a clue as to why, I felt my knees wobbling beneath me- threatening to drop my weight completely. My face was in flames at my ultimate embarrassment. Why was I crying? It was such a cringe-worthy overreaction because I was not normally a crier (I rarely had a genuine reason to cry anymore) and I took pride in that fact.

"It's a big day," my mother said empathetically. The rest of them nodded in agreement. Seriously, you really would think I was getting married or something.

I mean, I know adulthood is big but I'm not so sure that it's black-tie-elaborate-gown big. A simple dance floor with music and cake would have sufficed.

"Now," my mother said, eyes shining with tears. "I want to give you your present."

Before I could make a syllable of protest, she'd grabbed a small velvet box from thin air and was handing it to me.

"Open it," she ordered.

I obliged, feeling the looming dread of my first surprise of the evening settle around me like a thick fog. I could tell that this wasn't something she'd bought at any old jewelry store. It was more likely to be some family heirloom that was to be passed on to me- the oldest daughter- and would drive an even deeper wedge between my sister and me. It was going to be a very long night.

The brilliant blue sapphire caused everyone but my mother and Saundra to gasp in awe, including me. It was flanked by two glittering diamonds hanging from a thin silver chain.

My mother beamed. "Do you like it, mon cheri? It was Grandmere's and her mother's and her mother's. It's been passed down through the generation for centuries. To every oldest daughter on her seventeenth birthday."

What can I say? When I'm right, I'm right. I'm not a Seer, but I do know my mother's family. They like the whole passed-down-for-generations thing, it suits the extravagance they surround themselves with. An extravagance I'd grown somewhat found of over the passed few years. The only problem that I kept getting stuck in on my way to happiness was tip-toeing around Saundra.

"I love it, mummy. Thank you," I faked a glittering smile. Trying deperately and failing, not to meet my sister's eyes. She was surprisingly indifferent, cold and untouchable as ice, just as when I'd last spoken to her. My mother took the necklace from the velvet box and fastened it around my neck delicately before I could say anything else.

"Lovely."

"Belle."
"Stunning."

"Magnifique."

"Gorgeous."

"Un vrai Cygne."

It seemed that every single one of my female relatives had some adjective or phrase to describe how I looked. But all I could think was, Merlin's beard, I'm going to trip in this thing and then I'll be laughed at from here to Australia. "Okay, I'm ready," I announced unnecessarily.

And then, it went dark.

Yes, Lynnie had whipped a blindfold out of Merlin only knows where (since her dress definitely didn't have pockets) and was tying it at the back of my head as my female relatives all giggled themselves out of the room.

"What are you-?"

"We want it to be a surprise," Bee informed me.

I groaned, "I hate surprises."

"You'll like these," Leah said with forced eagerness. There was not a doubt in my mind that she was thinking about Michael rather than the torture they were subjecting me to at the moment. Needless to say, I didn't exactly believe her.

They led me down the stairs- telling me when to step in and out of the château. They made me walk all the way up to the tent that way. I stumbled over stray sticks and abandoned burrows, listened for sounds of the party but heard only crickets and the devious laughter of my three friends. The night was a beautiful one, I could tell just by stepping outside. The breeze caressed my cheeks, trying to sooth me and the crisp air had a confidence about it that just declared beauty. I didn't have to see the stars twinkling in the sky to know they were there, the crickets seemed to be serenading them as we walked.

After what seemed like hours, we reached the tent. Giggling, my friends led me inside, where an array of sounds assaulted my ears, and I felt fingers at the back of my head, untying the blindfold. It fell away from my face and I gasped.

Blue. Everything was my signature color. More shades of blue than I knew existed adorened the room. The table clothes, the inside of the tent, the flames of the candles that floated through the air, even the roses in the elaborated center pieces on each table were blue. The whole room seemed to sparkle.

There were people mingling everywhere. Women looking breathtaking in an array of exquisite, and even some exotic, gowns and the men were all swoon-worthy in their dress robes. House-elves had been hired to carry trays of hors d'oeuvres and drinks in tall wine glasses around to offer to the guests and they bobbed in between the crowds of people eagerly serving.

There was a very large stage on one end of the tent with instruments and a background that looked like a projector screen (why was that there?) and even a giant dance floor waiting to be ambushed. And the whole room smelled of roses and lilacs and coconut and cookies and every other delicious aroma you could possibly think of.

All in all, Grandmere had thoroughly out done herself.

It wasn't more than a few seconds before I was being ushered through the crowd of well-wishers to a table right in the center of things. My parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles were all at the next table and my cousins sat at the table next to them. I didn't ask where my siblings were, nor did I have any desire to run into either of them. If I went through the whole night without having to communicate with Saundra and Michael, I would be a very happy girl.

"What do you think?" Brigitte asked eagerly.

"It's- it's," I struggled to find a word for it. And, ridiculously, felt tears spring to my eyes.

"Don't cry!" Lynnie laughed. "You'll mess up your makeup and Grandmere will think you don't like it." She dried my tears with one of the fancy napkins on the table maternally before saying, "You do like it, right?"

I laughed. "Of course! It's brilliant!"

Brigitte was positively beaming, though how she could've possibly been worried I wouldn't like it was beyond me. She'd always been excellent at knowing exactly what people liked, what their style was. It was something she paid meticulous attention to and one of the many things that made Brigitte... well, Brigitte. She noticed minute details, even if it occasionally meant she missed the big picture.

"Now," Lynnie said in a businesslike voice, linking her arms with mine and Leah's. "Let's go mingle, shall we?"

"Yes, let's." My cousin agreed, neither of them seeming to notice how quiet Leah was being. She just linked her arm with mine and then she and Bee pulled Leah and I into the throngs of party guests.

It was then that I got that horrible sinking sensation in my stomach, as if someone had shoved rocks in my mouth and they'd dropped down my esophagus to my stomach without my knowledge. My heart jumped to my throat, which had gone suddenly dry. And a strange rushing was in my ears blocking all sounds of the babble around me.

And that was due to the fact that I'd just spotted a pack of wretchedly familiar teenagers that did not attend Beaubaxtons. My eyes darted around the room, only to see more and more of them. They were everywhere! How had I not noticed them beforehand?

Oh. Right. Blindfold.

I tried to swallow but my mouth was a desert. My mind reeled as it tried to either wrap around the realization or block it defensively, I wasn't quite sure. My vision fuzzed around the edges and my breathing quickened. Yes, it was safe to say I'd gone full-on panic attack.

My friends were too wrapped up in greeting people we knew to notice the ones that we didn't. But I noticed.

And as my thoughts stumbled over each other and tried to untangle, tried to make sense of something, one question pushed to the forefront of my chaotic brain.

How the hell had my seventeenth been plagued by fucking Hogwarts students?

***

It was official. I now had a serious gripe with every single member of my immediate family.

My father was distant and couldn't bother trying to understand me. My sister was secretive and hated me for being happy. My brother had lost all of his loyalty and broke up with my best friend. And now my mother. My mother!
Ugh! I didn't even want to think about it. It was making me sick. My resolution not to confront people anymore had gone completely out the window.

But how could she do this to me? How?!

Once I stumbled over this revelation, I'd broken away from my friends, gone to my parents' and grandparents' table and demanded in a hushed voice that my mother tell me what the hell was going on. I spoke in French so the vaguely familiar woman she was talking to (I was almost positive she was a Hogwarts mom that I'd seen at King's Cross when we'd gone to get Michael and Saundra) wouldn't have the faintest idea what I was saying.

My mother gave me an innocent (too innocent) look with those wide blue eyes I'd inherited and told me (in English) that she'd invited some of her friends from work and their families.

This just infuriated me more. 

A few friends my arse. It looked as if the whole bloody Ministry had showed up- even a reporter or two! What the hell was this?! A charity ball? A high society banquet? One of those snooty rich-people-parties thrown for absolutely no reason at all?

I was beyond furious. Fury didn't even begin to cover all the different ranges of blood-boiling emotions I was feeling at the moment. Several very unladylike French swear words slipped through my clenched teeth but my mother didn't bother reprimanding me, or perhaps she was afraid to. I would've been.

I mean, she had to have known I'd be angry. Angry to the point of tears (which I was stubbornly holding in at the moment- Birthday girl or not, Bee would murder me if I messed up her handy work. And I wasn't even going to try that whole It's-my-party-I-can-cry-if-I-want-to bit). Yet, she'd still invited them and now she had to face me. 

Face me and tell me that she'd invited the people who'd hurt me, the people I loathed and their parents to my seventeenth birthday celebration for her own selfish reasons.

"Combien?" I demanded gritting my teeth.

"How many, what?" Her eyes widened like a faultless doe, but I wasn't buying it. I could see Grandmere in my peripheral vision looking half-worriedly, half-angrily at us, and I knew she was on my side. Had she warned my mother against this heinous betrayal and now mentally danced the I-told-you-so tango in her head? Most likely. And I didn't blame her in the slightest for it.

"Combien d'entre eux avez-tu invite? Combien de mes amis de votre travail?"


She looked uncomfortable. I already knew the number was ridiculous, I could tell by looking around - which was why I'd asked. I wanted her to squirm. To feel guilty about the number of people she'd invited to my party that I hardly knew. People that were her friends, not mine.


"I thought so," I said letting my disgust color my tone.

The people around us had started to notice and were clearly eavesdropping, but I no longer gave a damn. What did I care if my conniving mother saved face (or lost it, in this case) in front of her friends? She'd invited them, not me. Besides, it was my party and I would do exactly as I pleased. But that didn't involve crying.


"Pourquoi? Pourquoi tu fais cela pour moi?"



"Sweetheart, I-"



But I didn't want to hear her excuses- I already knew why she'd done it anyway- so I stormed away without waiting for an answer.


I went to my friends, pretending as though nothing had happened and hated that I was reminding myself of Saundra; some spoiled queen bee who could act all sugary and sweet, even after something awful. Maybe we had more in common than either of us had realized. Maybe that was part of the problem.

"Hey, birthday girl!" Andre beamed, pulling me into a bear hug.

"Andre, I swear to Fifi. You mess up her hair, I mess up your face," Brigitte threatened shortly before turning back to the conversation she was in.


Despite the soap opera my life was becoming, I laughed. Only Brigitte would swear on the name of her favorite author. She'd been trying to get me to read the 'Enchanted Encounters' series by Fifi LaFolle for ages but I'd always blown it off as pointless fluff (which it was, according to Lynnie).

"Calm down, Brigitte. Don't get your knickers in a twist. I'm not going to mess up Allie's precious hairdo." He told her, rolling his eyes.


She stuck her tongue out at him childishly and something tight in my chest seemed to loosen. This was one of the reasons I loved my friends so much, they could make me forget about the unpleasant things as easily as breathing. Even the fact that about fifty or so Hogwarts students were currently skulking around the tent doing Agrippa knows what.


Adam, Henri and Tre all hugged me next, careful not to mess up the fragile state of beauty that my three best friends had worked since sunrise to get me in. I casually greeted my other friends (including Alice, Roxy and Dominique- who'd made their way through the crowd and took their rightful places at our table) with the standard kiss on each cheek and waited for the rest of the tightness in my chest to disappear all through the very late, very fancy, meal (consisting of all of my favorite foods -both French and English). But it never did, because I could still see the hordes of Hogwarts people in the corner of my eye. Soon the three courses were finished and the mingling was in high gear, but I couldn't fully enjoy anything with so many of my mother's guests sitting close by (some obviously scrutinizing me with the rest of their table if the not-so-subtle gawks were any indication).


This was a nightmare! The day I'd dreamed about for nearly a decade was being tainted by all the people I couldn't stand! And their parents!


My family was absolutely impossible. Selfish to the highest degree and completely irrevocably-


"Ladies and Gentlemen," I hadn't noticed Tre had left our little circle until I turned to see him on stage, wine glass in hand. He'd straightened his dress robes but left his tie untied, giving him an air of cool. A smile was on his lips as he looked each person directly in the eye with a confidence that only a seasoned politician's son (which he was) could pull off without seeming too cocky. His voice seemed to have been magically enhanced in some way and it resonated over the crowd of chattering guests, making the tent fall almost completely silent. "It is eleven fifty-nine-" How he knew this I'm not sure, as there were no clocks anywhere to be seen. "So, if you could all raise your glasses-"

Oh Merlin. My cheeks began to burn. I knew what was coming and the shy little girl still burrowed within me felt nauseous. They were going to toast me. I'd expected this so I grinned and shook my head as my friends all nudged me and raised their glasses.


"Let's all toast to the lovely angel-" Scattered laughter from Beauxbatons people. "Who is officially a woman in ten, nine, eight," he took his watch from inside of his robes and counted down ("Doesn't he know she became a woman in fourth year?" whispered Lynnie). I laughed quietly with my friends as the rest of the guests joined in the count down, "three-two-one! TO ALLIE!" He raised his glass towards me and everyone else followed suit.


"TO ALLIE!"


There were even a few people who shouted, " Pour Ange!" or "ANGELIQUE!"'

And then, everyone took a swig of their drink, nearly spitting it out all over themselves when they saw Tre's new bubblegum pink hair and fake eyelashes.


I smirked in a satisfied bordering-on-smug way and twirled my wand expertly in my hand as the rest of the party (and my first victim) realized what I'd chosen for my first act of legal magic. A few of the people I didn't know (no doubt guests of my mother) looked in a panic between me and my friend, wondering if they were about to witness a row between the birthday girl and her friend. I could feel the shock radiating from those individuals as Tre grinned and began to retaliate before Brigitte intervened ("Rudolphe Noel Theodore Voltaire III, don't even think about messing up her hair!"), then decided to give me a bear hug instead. But those who knew us just laughed along.


Then the lights were put out and two men in tailcoats brought out the cake.


The most elaborate cake I'd ever seen in my life. I had yet to see a wedding cake with this splendor. Five tiers high and adorned with so many candy flowers and icing vines you could hardly see what color the base was. Candles spiraled up the tower and the flames flickered several different colors each. It was almost too beautiful to eat.


But of course, after the singing was finished (Tre, Adam and Henri being the last done with their very slow and morbid version of the birthday song) and I had blown out the candles, Grandmere handed me held out a large knife for me to cut the cake with.


I smiled wickedly and shook my head politely. I still had my wand out, so I flicked it towards the edible masterpiece someone had decided to call a cake and it cut itself into perfectly portioned pieces then floated to the plates of the guests one by one. Everyone laughed at the obvious delight I took in my new freedom.


The breathtaking cake was devoured within minutes and Henri, Andre, Adam and Tre rose from their seats across from me.


"Where're you going?" Dominique asked him curiously.


Tre grinned teasingly. "The toilet. Why? Were you planning on going with us?"


"In your dreams, Voltaire," she scoffed confidently and I longed to have those spell binding eyes and enchanting blonde curls. No matter how attractive I was now, I'd never hold a candle to Dominique or Jocelyn.


"Wait, aren't girls s'posed to be the gender that go to the bathroom together?" Lynnie asked, a smirk identical to her cousin's playing on her lips.


Henri, Adam and Andre just shrugged and turned to leave while Tre made a gesture his mother would have been outraged to see (good thing she was too busy talking to the British Ministry's Head of the Magical Law Department- Roxy and Dominique's Aunt Hermione) then followed the rest of them.


"Well that's trouble," Roxy thought allowed as we watched their backs retreat into the throngs of party guests.

"And you're not?" Alice teased.

Roxy shrugged angelically and took a sip of her wine.

"Speaking of trouble, where are your brothers?"

"Mine's off being nauseating with his date somewhere," Roxy answered.

"Mine is at a table with your brother," Alice said, a bit timidly. "I dunno if he'll come over or not. I know he wanted to though. He doesn't completely agree with Michael."

"Who does?" Bee snorted.

My eyes found Leah, frozen in her chair. The smile on her face was strained, the muscles in her shoulders tense and those big dark eyes were strangely glassy. I could almost feel the pain rippling in her chest at this very moment.

"And where are your brothers, Jocelyn?" I asked tightly, solely to change to subject. I'd seen Edouard with a bunch of Auror friends and Antoine chatting with his fellow professional Quidditch players (both current and retired had showed up it turns out) but I needed to move things along quickly and save Leah, at least a little bit, from the heart wrenching conversation I knew she'd rather fling herself from the top of the Eiffel Tower than listen to.

"Oh they're-"

But she never got to finish her sentence because, just as my cousin, Adam and Tre returned to the table, Grandmere's abnormally loud voice hushed the party guests.

"Bonjour. Je vous remercie, au nom de Allie et de notre famille pour venir. "
Tonight, we have some very special guests. As a surprise for Alexa they have taken time out of their very busy schedules to be here. They were friends with Allie at Beaubatons before they graduated and moved onto bigger and better things. But they still were happy to come out and play for Alexa's birthday. So it is my pleasure to present to you, The Asphodels!"

I stared at the stage in absolute shock as three of my old schoolmates and their two other band members walked out on stage to the shrieks of nearly every teenage girl in the room and whoops of every Beauxbatons bloke who had frequently partied with them.

Little did I know, these were just the first few surprises of many.

***

( Alright, I saved this rant for the end because I knew it would be LONG. I've got a lot to tell you! 
So, on to our first subject- The Fates have something against me and Nora, I swear.
 Nora had wine spilled on her laptop! The poor thing has been taking college courses this summer so I'm sure a wet laptop didn't help matters at all!  And the email she sent me with her original edits for this chapter got lost in cyberspace somewhere. Whether it was my computer's fault or her's is a mystery though because I came back from my trip and my computer had some collosal virus that wiped out several more recent updates I'd done to stories and things. Not to mention screwed with my computer! 
Stupid hackers, why must they annoyingly prey on other people's computers? If there are any hackers reading this I'm telling you to stop it! It's rude and annoying and it puts people {especially me} in an extremely bad mood! Plus I don't want to lose my iTunes again! There is enough stress in the world today without you idiots adding to it. I don't even have credit card numbers on my computer! 
Seriously, why can't criminals just go out and get a job like the rest of us?
Speaking of which, work has also been depleting my writing time as well. And I'm pretty sure at least one person I work with is plotting my death. But anyway, about the chapter.
Originally it was just one long one of all the chaos that goes on during her birthday, but it started getting a bit ridiculous both in length and drama so I've split it into three parts. So, until I post the second part enjoy  this!

10 THINGS I LEARNED IN EUROPE
1) European Traffic Laws are like the pirate code. They are merely guidlines. 
2) Groups of three or more are forbidden in Harrods. Don't ask me why. 
3) Keep away from Parisian pigeons.
4) Don't be afraid to use self-defense tactics on the vendors outside the Eiffel Tower illegally selling mini keychain Towers at night. They will grab boobage and/or hit you when you tell them no. 
5) It is VERY entertaining seeing said illegal vendors run from police.
6) MIND THE GAP! Ha ha!
7)
Pickpockets come in all forms. Even German Tourbus drivers.
8) Some girls are pathetic and can't live without their boyfriends for 10 days- at least, not without some major crying jags.
9) Getting buzzed off French wine at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant while wearing heels is not such a clever idea. 
10) Germany and Britain are the places to go for eye candy. French guys, however, can be cute but most of them think that since you are American, you are also a slut and therefore will hit on you and gross you out.

Told you it would be long! Hope the chapter was worth the wait though! Don't forget to review!

<3 RED
P.S. Alright, alright I just thought of  more so make it "12 Things I learned in Europe"! 
11) DO NOT under ANY circumstances watch The Reader, He's Just Not That Into You or Atonement on an eight hour plane flight while sitting next to your history teacher!!!! 
12) Groups of drunk Dutch guys think that singing "YMCA" in the underground is the way to woo a bunch of American girls. Haha! )


Chapter 17: Surprises; Part Two
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 


 

(Okay guys, I know it's short and I know it took forever. BUT I just got back into writing my fics again after fighting through the hardest year of my academic career- though I'm positive college will be much worse- and everytime before this that I've sat down to right I just couldn't. And if I tried to force myself to write it comes out crappy. I didn't want to give you a crappy chapter.

 


 

However, this is not edited or beta'd and it was written over a long period of time so it might be crap anyway. {Let me know if it is.} I couldn't make you wait any longer though so here you go... I really hope you enjoy it, no matter how mad you are at me =[

 


 

Love RED


 

 


 

P.S. I have songs I imagine are playing during some of this and songs that are similar to the ones I imagine playing and when the next chapter comes out I'll post a list of those too =]  AND I also had formatting issues as I was trying to post. Which would be why it's all spaced out so much.)




 

 

Chapter 17~ Surprises; Part Two
 


 

Seventeen, livin’ on crazy dreams
Rock and roll and faded blue jeans
And standing on the edge of everything
Seventeen
~ Seventeen, Tim McGraw


 

 


 

~
          Unsurprisingly, the ear-piercing screams coming from both Beauxbatons and Hogwarts girls (though I suspected the two groups were screaming for entirely different reasons seeing as most of the girls from my school had been present for belching contests involving certain band members) nearly drowned out what my old friend, Archer Delray, the lead singer, said as his band mates got ready. Melinda Marquis waved excitedly from behind her fancy drum set at me and Derrill L'Angley (the older version of Tre) winked -whether at me or the hordes of teenage girls yelling for him remains to be seen- while he began tuning his bass. The other two band mates, Samir Remi and Kyle Channing- who I'd only met once or twice- got on keyboard and another kind of guitar that looked identical (to me at least) to the one Archer was holding. 
 


 

          Archer, Melinda and Derrill had been the resident music geniuses at Beauxbatons until they graduated in my fifth year. None of us had been surprised when they'd made it big after acquiring two more band members they met in some German hostile. But all of us had been surprised- pleasantly so- when we heard old songs that they'd played and written (with the help of several others in this room-including me, ahem hem) at countless Beauxbatons balls and bonfires playing over our wirelesses. Those, along with all of the new ones they'd popped out over the past year or so had made them a sensation in nearly every country in Europe. For the past few months they'd been touring in North and South America, furthering their success.
 


 

           Yet, here they were, back in France on stage at my seventeenth birthday playing their latest hit Rudiments. Melinda's short fire truck red curls bounced with her to the beat and her dress poofed around her chair so much that I was surprised she could see what she was playing. Derrill and Archer both wore new dress robes that looked far more expensive than the ones they'd donned for the parties and balls at school. 
 


 

          I cheered loudly for my friends once the song ended but stopped mid-scream when Archer pointed one finger at me then curled it towards him.


 
 

 

          Oh no. No, no, no, no, no, no! No and NO!
 
I was NOT, under any circumstances going up there. Had it been just my friends and family I would have jumped up immediately. But as this party had turned more towards an event held by my mother to show off to all her friends there was no way in hell I was going to entertain them too.




 

 

          "Allez, Angel. Vous savez que vous le souhaitez," ("Come on, Ange. You know you want to") Archer said to me in his magically enhanced voice.




 

 

          I shook my head tenaciously




 

 

          "S'il vous plaît, Angélique? J'ai besoin de vous pour celui-ci. Et vous êtes la fille d'anniversaire! Vous devez venir vous!"




 

 

          "Do not!" I yelled to him.

 


 

          Everyone who knew French laughed at my petulant reply. But I was not joking. There was no way in hell I was going up on that stage with all of these people here. Especially when I'm almost positive I saw Rita Skeeter and a few other journalists lurking around here somewhere (due to the amount of high profile witches and wizards who decided to come).

 


 

          "Do too!" Derrill yelled back making our audience laugh again.
 
 


 

          "Vous êtes international superstars! Qu'est-ce que l'enfer de sang avez-vous besoin de moi?" ("You're international superstars! What the bloody hell do you need me for?")
 


 

          "You wrote one of the verses!" Archer exclaimed, sounding indignant that I even had to ask.
 
 


 

          "And we need someone to blow the whistle!" Melinda added with a wicked grin.
 
 


 

          This simple statement- that I was absolutely positive made no sense to anyone but the Beauxbatons students- caused an excited uproar from my current and former schoolmates. Because that could only mean one thing. The song that, for some reason, had yet to be released to the public- a particular favorite at bonfires- was going to be played for the first time outside of Beauxbatons' walls. It was practically a historical moment. How could I resist that?



 

 

          "You lot don't play fair!" I shouted back, as I grabbed Bee's wrist and began to drag her up on stage with me. She grabbed Leah and Leah quickly latched onto Lynnie's hand. A low chuckle echoed throughout the guests as they watched all four Beauxbatons Angels end up on stage. How all of the other people that were there with us by the end of the song did I'm not sure.




 

 

          "Never said I did," Archer grinned cheekily as I stomped up the stairs, making sure to mind my dress in the heels Bee made me wear. 
 


 

          "Alright let's get this over with," I grumbled holding in the smile that was always contagious when around them. "Where's my whistle?"

 


 

          A smatter of cheers from the Beauxbatons students erupted again at this statement. Derrill handed me the familiar silver signal and Melinda counted off the beat with her drumsticks.




 

 

          The music started singing the song we'd informally dubbed "The Escape Song". I felt blush stain my cheeks as the verse I wrote echoed off the tent walls, to the ears of the very people I thought would never hear it.
 
                   Misery and darkness. 
 


 

                    Clouds in my eyes. 

 


 

               But I found an escape route. 


 
 

 

                   Took me by surprise.
 


 

             Now you're probably wonderin'.

                   What became of me. 



 

 

                And I just sit here laughin'. 
 


 

               In a world you'll never see. 
 


 

                       Escaping you.



 

 

            Was best thing I could ever do. 
 


 

                       Escaping you. 
 


 

             Now I'm happy and carefree. 



 

 

                      Escaping you. 
 


 

             Found my own kind of paradise. 
 


 

      And now the only thing that I worry about. 
 


 

         Is why I never thought of getting out. 
 


 

                  Before escaping you
 



 

 

          Cheers from my current and old classmates rang out singing the little bridge Melinda had started as a joke "Ooo-wooah- ooo woaaa-aaaoh! Ooo-woo-o-o-oaaah!" 
 

 


 

                   Now I see things clearly. 



 

 

                      No fog in my eyes. 
 


 

              You caused me pain for pleasure. 
 


 

                         Not very wise. 
 


 

          Cause you sing along as we carry on. 

                And you know I mean you. 
 


 

             You never tell that when I fell,



 

 

                 You used me like you do. 

 


 

           Ooo-wooah- ooo woaaa-aaaoh!
 


 

 


 

                  Ooo-woo-o-o-oaaah!
 



 

 

          The voices got more excited, knowing what was coming. And right before the second chorus I blew the whistle, the signal for all who knew it to sing along. They did so, with the rowdy enthusiasm and electricity that we had on so many occasions at bonfires on the beach. If I didn't know better I would have sworn I could hear the old fire crackling and the waves crashing onto the shore near us.



 

 

          Then, as Archer sang the chorus again, the jesting crowd repeated after him, a cappella. Derill, dropped his instrument, as if he and Archer had planned it (which they most likely had, knowing them) and came behind Leah, taking her arms and waving them in the air to the beat Melinda was playing. Samir and Kyle following suit with Bee and Lynnie and Archer doing the same with me.
 


 

          "Escaping you!" Archer sang.  
 


 

          The crowd repeated, "Escaping you!" 
 


 

          "Best thing I could ever do!" I sang loudly, beating Archer to the punch.
 
          We laughed together and I was so into the old favorite that I forgot about all the people I'd escaped from that were standing in this tent hearing the song I'd helped pen, thinking of them with the sweet venom of escape in my words. I forgot I was no longer a fourth year, sitting next to Archer at the dinner table, our heads together over his parchment. I forgot that I wasn't a wild fifth year elated and free, dancing around the fire. I forgot that it wasn't just my friends and I singing at the top of our lungs, voices getting carried off on the waves of the sea.



 

 

          "Best thing I could do!"



 

 

          "Escaping you!" Archer and I yelled together.
 


 

          "Escaping you!"



 

 

          "Now I'm happy to be!" we sang, dancing like maniacs.
 


 

          "Happy to be-ee!" 
 


 

          "Away from you!"
 


 

          "Far from you!"   



 

 

          "Found my own kind of paradise."



 

 

          "Pa-aa-ra-dise!"
 


 

          "And you'll never know!"
 


 

          "Never know!"



 

 

          "Just how good it feels ---after escaping you!"



 

 

          Whoops and hollers from the Beauxbatons people filled the tent as the song ended and I wasn't sure if my face was hot from dancing or embarrassment as realization brought me back down to Earth and the reality of the situation.
 
 


 

          I'd just sang the song, I'd been sure-at the time that we'd written it- no one at Hogwarts would hear, in front of them. Or, at least, I'd thought if they heard it they wouldn't know that a fair bit was written by me with the bitter aftertaste of their bullying still in my mouth. They wouldn't know that it was a way I'd tried to grasp some of the revenge I would never have. But there they stood and now, if any of them had half a brain (which was admittedly debatable), they would know.
  

 


 

          I tried to flee off the stage to go drowned in my embarrassment in a dark corner somewhere but putting the strappy heels I'd kicked off back on proved to be difficult and my friends wouldn't let me disappear. Instead, we stayed up there as Archer sang the next few songs. I sang along and put on a happy face as my mind whirled.



 

 

          Why was I worrying about the people my mother invited thought of the song I'd helped write? Why did I care if my old classmates knew that an internationally famous band was singing about what scum they were? Why were my cheeks still flushing bright red at the thought of being watched in my natural habitat by people who I'd harbored a justified grudge against since I was eleven?



 

 

          I shook myself mentally. I shouldn't care and I wouldn't let this ruin my party. I was seventeen, for Merlin's sake! This was my prime and I intended to take FULL advantage of it!



 

 

          I swallowed my mortification and let defiance seep into my chest, for my parents and my siblings and for all of my old Hogwarts schoolmates who were not welcome here. This was my party and I would not retreat like I would have done when I was eleven. Especially not when they were on my territory. I called the shots on this Quidditch Pitch and if they didn't like it, they could leave.



 

 

          After several songs, Archer announced that the band would be taking a break. As I'd expected, he came directly to me. Swooping me into a hug and spinning me around. I shrieked in childish delight and tried not to blush upon meeting the doting eyes of several onlookers. 
 


 

          I knew what they were thinking. It was what people always thought when Archer and I were together. And it was quite possibly the single most hilarious concept on the planet.



 

 

          Me and Archer, a couple? Ha! It was absurd.
 


 

          Not that my friend wasn't attractive because (as the thousands of squealing fans he now had proved) he was! But we were and had always been purely platonic. He was too much a big brother type to ever catch my interest in a romantic capacity. Plus, I had also been present for the aforementioned belching contest.
 


 

          "So you don't write for months, get too big for your trousers while touring the world and show up here singing my favorite song and expect me to forgive you?" I teased, "I don't think so, Mr. Delray."


 
 

 

          Melinda laughed maniacally, "Told you it would be the first thing out of her mouth! Pay up, boys!" She held out her child like hands and the three of her band members present dropped three galleons into them.
 
          "Three galleons?" Jocelyn said dryly raising a perfectly arched eyebrow. "International wizard rock stars and you still only bet three measly galleons?"



 

 

          "Hey," Melinda chided, "three times four is twelve, missy. And once Derril pays me that is what I will have. Do you know how many pairs of dragon hide heels that can buy?"


 
 

 

          "One."



 

 

          I turned around to see Lynnie's brothers grinning at me.
 
 


 

          "'Bout time you stole yourselves away from the International Professional Quidditch Players' Convention over there and came to greet the birthday girl," I said, the defiance I'd let sink into my chest bringing out my usual knack of sarcasm.

 


 

          "You’re very bossy tonight, Ange. I like it,” Archer teased, wiggling his eyebrows. This is why people always thought we were together. The boy was a flirt with a dirty mind to rival even those in the boys at Hogwarts. 
 


 

“How d'you know how much dragon hide heels cost?" Melinda teased Antoine after giving her old classmate a hug. 
 


 

          Antoine shrugged, "Had to buy them for a girl once."



 

 

          "Sure you did," Lynnie smirked dubiously.

        "Your mother?" I asked at the same time. 

        Everyone laughed and a warm sort of glow settled into my chest, replacing my anxiety.
 


 

          "Where'd Leah run off to?" Derrill asked coming up to the group with a mountain of food piled onto the plate in his hands. Did he ever stop eating?



 

 

          "Hi Derrill, nice to see you again too!" I said in fake cheerfulness. "Too bad all your owls got lost, never can rely on those animals they see a piece of meat and there goes the attention span!"


  
 

 

          "That doesn't count, Mel! It's not the first thing she said to Archer!" he defended quickly.



 

 

          Mel just grinned wickedly.



 

 

          Knowing why immediately, Derrill swore and dug in his pockets for three gold coins. "I was going to use it to take this fit girl from our Marseille concert out tomorrow night!"
 


 

          "Three galleons for a date?" Brigitte smirked. "Classy, Derrill. Real classy."
 


 

          He stuck his tongue (which held a lump of half chewed food on it) out at her. After several exclamations at how disgusting he was he said, "Yeah, yeah, I know I need manners. Now seriously, has anyone seen Leah?"



 

 

          It didn't seem to surprise anyone that Derrill was inquiring after his ex even though he'd just said he was taking a girl out tomorrow night. It was how he worked. He was a strangely lovable playboy who'd taught Tre everything he knew. But, to the surprise of no one, he'd always had eyes for Leah. When they'd dated in our fifth year he'd been the most faithful and loving boyfriend I'd seen. She'd been heartbroken when they'd decided to end it once he graduated and I'd always thought no one could compare to Derrill in her eyes. No one, that is, until Michael came along. Thinking of it now gave me an uncomfortable twinge, despite how angry I was with my brother.


 
 

 

          What if he and Leah hadn’t broken up? I couldn’t image how awkward it would’ve been for Michael to see an internationally famous musician flirting shamelessly (because the boy had no shame) with his girlfriend (though, in all fairness, Derrill was with her first).



 

 

          Looking around the tent, all of us gave him clueless shrugs and confused looks before concluding that she must've gone to the bathroom to wash up or something.
 


 

          It was in the absence of any If-she-messes-up-her-ensemble-I'll-strangle-her speeches (from Bee) that I knew my fellow Anges were both thinking the same thing I was.



 

 

          Something was wrong. Very, very wrong.
 


 

“Allie!” Grandmere simpered over before I could suggest to my friends that we go look for Leah. “Allie, come here. Sit down.” She put her long fingers on my shoulders and steered me gently towards my table, to the chair I’d been sitting in earlier. I noticed in my peripheral vision, Henri making his way towards the stage and my stomach dropped to my toes.
 


 

I groaned. This could not be happening. Wasn’t I supposed to enjoy my party? Why then, did my friends and family keep surprising me? I was worried about Leah, Annoyed about the Hogwarts people and I couldn’t handle anymore tonight.
 


 

NO. MORE. DAMN. SURPRISES.



 

 

Bonne soirée à tou.” (Good evening everyone) He said with a crooked grin. The tent went quiet. “Mon nom est Henri. Je suis un ami d'Allie et j'ai un petit cadeau pour elle.”
 


 

I groaned. This is exactly what I’d feared.
 


 

Je pense que vous serez tous en profiter aussi,” he told them.



 

 

I noticed that he did not say that I would enjoy this. Which I doubted was a coincidence. So, why exactly did he think this was okay? I would have been perfectly happy if he’d given me a book or candy or even one of those little Eiffel Tower key chains that those pushy African guys are always selling in the touristy parts of Paris.
 


 

“C'est quelque chose que j'ai mis en place, avec l'aide de beaucoup de personnes proches de Angélique, pour commémorer dix-sept ans de sa vie.” (This is something I put together, with the help of many of the people close to Angelique, to help commemorate seventeen years of her life.) 
 


 

Oh. My. God.



 

 

I finally knew what the damn projector screen was doing there but it was too late to stop it. So, I sat there frozen. I felt my face getting hotter and knew it must be the color of a tomato right now.



 

 

A sweet, familiar melody began to play as the first of my baby pictures appeared on the screen. The party guests cooed and I felt my stomach roll nauseously.
 


 

This… could not… be happening.



 

 

I felt like I was having a bad dream. Maybe I hoped I was having a bad dream. Some nightmare that I’d soon be roused from so that I could start getting ready for my real party. A Hogwarts-free, surprise-free, embarrassment-free party.
 


 

But, unfortunately, this was creation of my subconscious. This was horrifically real and all of my old Hogwarts tormentors and all of my new Beauxbatons saviors were currently watching every awkward stage of my life unfold on that giant screen for them in high resolution pictures and videos.



 

 

Shoot me. Someone just shoot me and stop the torture already.


Chapter 18: Surprises; Part Three
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]


(I am not even going to try and make excuses about my long absence. I'm just going to hope that this long chapter make up for it.  It is a very belated birthday present to roseweasley_03. It was originally going to be even longer but I realized that it probably wouldn't all fit. So, next chapter the games begin! Ha Ha! Also, make sure to check out the bottom of this. Until then, enjoy!)





 

 

 

Chapter 18~ Surprises; Part Three




 

 

Seventeen, I was living life
Chasing dreams and my hopes were high
Trying to get around my fear of
When and where do I go from here ~ Seventeen, Simon Webbe




 

 

~



 

 


The torture continued as the slideshow of my life played out in chronological order. He’d even gotten hold of the video of me singing at age three, giving my own little concert. And the one when I was eleven singing with little Rosaire. The sentimental music even cut out during these video clips so that everyone could hear what we were singing.



 

 

 

What had I done to deserve this?



 

 

 

My pimply preteen face changed at an agonizingly slow pace to my young teenage (and still pimple riddled) face. And then the soft tear-jerker of a song ended on a sickeningly sweet piano note.




 

 

My heart lifted, because- as if to assure me everything would be alright and restore the confidence I was struggling to maintain a firm grip on- my fourteen year old self appeared on the screen.




 

 

Hair curled to perfection (no doubt by Bee), wearing a V-neck blue dress and no make up, her eyes danced in the artificial light of Grandmere’s château sitting room. An electric guitar began to play the opening rift to another familiar- but far less sappy- song and then she spoke.


 

 
 

 

“Hello ladies and gentlemen, you wanted Allie?” the younger me gave a come-hither look to the camera. “Well you got her.” 
 

 


 

The song morphed into something new and then took off with a smash and so did the embarrassing pictures. In their place were video of my friends and I dancing (okay, so some of that was a bit embarrassing as well), pictures of the Angels from years past, pictures of the lot of us playing on the beach I so loved at Beauxbatons, and even more of us at various formal events the school held, dancing like maniacs once more. I noticed that a good portion of these had been filched from the room we Angels shared in the château and made a mental note to investigate everyone who had contributed to this embarrassing (if slightly funny) display.





 

 

Even though I still loathed surprises, I couldn’t help but smile as the sixteen year old Archer threw the fourteen year old me over his shoulder, interrupting whatever conversation I was having with one of the seventh year girls and ran with me kicking and screaming into the salty sea water. Or the fifteen year old versions of Tre and I danced like we’d had far too much sugar in our formal wear at the annual Christmas ball. There was a video at the beach of me on Tre’s shoulders and Lynnie on Adam’s, we were playing chicken in the water; I knock Lynnie into the water and threw my arms up in victory as Tre spun me around. There was a picture of Andre and me by one of the many bonfires and another of us waltzing at some ball or other. There were several of Henri and me making goofy faces or being ridiculous in general together. There were even pictures of me alone, either posing like some sort of model or making funny faces at the camera. In one of these, I looked over my shoulder at the camera mischievously flirtatious in my Beauxbatons uniform. And there was even one that I wasn’t even looking at the camera for; instead I was staring into the distance at something with a slight smile playing on my lips (I had absolutely no recollection of this being taken). Even my family got in on the action with summer pictures of the lot of us here at the château. There were clips of me playing with my little cousins and singing at the top of my lungs into hair brushes with the older ones. There were a ton of pictures of Brigitte and me laughing and posing. And even several of me with my siblings (taken over Christmas and Summer holidays).


 

 

 

It was encouraging to see the vibrant girl in the pictures and videos, so completely happy with life. In the recent chaotic frenzy of family drama I’d lost my grip on her a bit. It was like she had come to remind me of who I was now and to tell me to stop being so melodramatic. The scenes of myself dancing, laughing, singing, playing, and just being happy seemed to truly remind me of why I had left England to begin with. I found myself smiling for real now, instead of forcing it.


 

 

 

When the video ended, everyone clapped and marveled about how good, sweet, adorable and “kick ass” (Adam’s words, not mine) it was. What a wonderful birthday present from my friends.


 

 


 

 


 

I went to hug Henri and whisper in his ear. “You are so lucky that I’m not about to kick your ass right now.”


 

 


 

 


 

Tre chuckled, “I told you, man.”




 

 

“You liked it though, right?” he grinned.


 

 

 

I sighed in a resigned sort of way. “Yes, I liked it.”



 

 

 


 

My friends laughed at my martyred expression.




 

 

“But, I mean it, no more surprises!” I warned them severely.




 

 

“Um, Allie?” Brigitte was at my elbow. “You’d better come here.”




 

 

I looked at her face and my anxiety immediately returned, as if it had been waiting in the wings all along. Something was very wrong; I knew it without even having to be told. I followed her and didn’t even bulk when I realized where she was taking me. We were heading towards our family’s table, which was currently surrounded by Hogwarts people at neighboring tables. Whatever Brigitte had to show me was urgent and I trusted that she wouldn’t lead me into the lions’ den if it wasn’t an absolute necessity.




 

 

We stopped in front of a table with many Hogwarts Alumni from my brother’s class, and it was a few moments before I realized that my brother was sitting at the center with his are slung around a blonde girl I vaguely remembered him dating at Hogwarts. Marianna something.



 
 

 

He had a cocky smile on his face that I didn’t like at all. I barely recognized him as he lounged lazily in his chair as the blonde hung on him like a love-starved lap dog. He was bathing arrogantly in the attention both she and the rest of his former schoolmates were showering upon him. This was not my brother. This was some twisted, distorted version.




 

 

Michael had never been cocky or smug with his popularity. But now, it was radiating from every pore in his body. I felt nausea roll through my stomach as I watched the blonde whisper something in his ear.





 

 

I now had an idea about why Leah had disappeared in the middle of my party and was struck with the urgent need to find her. What I would be able to do for her in her time of need was uncertain but I knew that I had to be there for her anyway. I didn’t bother catching my brother’s eye to glower at him. I didn’t bother marching up to him and smacking that smug smirk off of his face like I wanted to. I didn’t even go yell at him for his audacity, for the utter nerve he had bringing another girl to my party when he knew without a single speck of doubt that Leah would be here and would be even more heartbroken when she saw them together. I wanted to do these things but I put them off for later because my main concern was finding my broken friend immediately and doing everything I could to piece her back together again, at least for tonight. I would deal with my dear brother later.




 

 

“C’mon,” I muttered, grabbing Bee’s hand. “We have to go find Lay.”



 

 

 


 

We set off together, determination in each of our steps. But before we’d gotten barely five of those steps towards the opening of the tent, someone called my name.


 

 


 

 


 

“Allie!”


 

 

 

It seemed the members of my family were feeling particularly brave tonight. Though I had embarrassed my mother as thoroughly as possible earlier in the night and made my distaste for her friends and their spawn known, she still called me over to her at this most inopportune moment.




 

 

I was about to turn around and continue on my quest as if I’d neither seen nor hear her when a cool hand closed around the one that wasn’t clutching Brigitte’s. I looked to my right to see my Tanti Ingrid.




 

 

“Come on, sweetheart.” She murmured to me in what I guessed was supposed to be a soothing voice. “Might as well get this over with now.” Her firm grip told me that this was not a topic open for debate. I was going to have to surrender and suffer through this before I could dart off to find my best friend and commiserate with her.




 

 

I clutched Brigitte’s hand even more tightly as my Tanti led me towards the place where my parents stood, surrounded by their friends. We reached them and I stood, most unwillingly, next to my mother as she introduced me to boys I’d already known at Hogwarts and their parents.


 

 


 

 


 

“This is Duncan Frenzel,” she simpered. “He’s in your year at Hogwarts and these are his parents. Mrs. Frenzel works with me in my Department.”




 

 

“It’s nice to see you again,“ Duncan Frenzel smiled charmingly.



 

 

 


 

I held in a very unladylike snort. She forgot that I’d gone to that hell of a school? Not likely. I was disgusted at how pleasantly fake all of these introductions were. Drowning in my own disdainful thoughts, I failed to notice the boy a few people to the left in the little circle. He stood with his parents, like the rest of them; a familiar redhead on the arm of an even more familiar man with hauntingly emerald green eyes.





 

 

“And, of course, you know James and his parents as well,” my mother practically purred to me. It was all for show. I knew, in that moment, exactly where Saundra had gotten her uncanny ability from. My mother was all warmth and politeness as she reintroduced me to the most famous family in the Magical World. She knew exactly what she was doing and she knew exactly how to pretend that she had no clue whatsoever.




 

 

“It’s lovely to see you again, Allie,” said James’s mother.




 

 

“You as well,” I told her, not meeting her son’s eye. It wasn’t a lie. I did like to see her again. It was her son that I wished would drop off the face of the Earth.



 

 

 


 

“Happy Birthday,” Harry Potter grinned at me.





 

 

I blinked. It was very bizarre that the Chosen One was at my birthday party to begin with. But it was a whole other kind of surreal being wished a happy birthday by him personally. I couldn’t think of anything to say until my mother stepped on my foot beneath our elegant gowns.





 

 

“Ouch!” I shot her a look of severe annoyance. Then turned back to the famous Harry Potter and stammered, “Th-thanks.”





 

 

To my mortification, as I looked at the floor evasively, I spotted Mrs. Potter stepping on her own child’s foot and heard James exclaim in pain, as I had. Then he spoke in a very unenthusiastic tone for the first time since my mother had dragged me over to this not-so-cozy little social circle.




“Happy Birthday,” he muttered begrudgingly, as if he wished me nothing of the sort. Which, I am sure, he didn’t. 


 

 

“Thank you,” I replied even more grudgingly, trying more to avoid my mother’s three inch spike heels than to be polite.


 

 

 

“I have a marvelous idea!” My mother declared and I immediately knew that I would not agree with her definition of ‘marvelous’. “Why don’t you and James dance and get reacquainted?” She said to me as if this had just occurred to her. I glowered at her, not even bothering to hide it. I knew better than to believe her act, she’d planned this. Why? I had absolutely no idea, except that maybe she harbored some sick dream of having one of her daughters marry into the Potter family (in which case she’d have much more luck with Saundra). “Alexa, loves to dance,” she told the Potter’s.




 

 

I saw Ginny Potter subtly step on her son’s foot again. He sighed heavily, looking as if he’d rather be locked in a broom closet with a dementor, before offering his arm to me. I stared in utter horror for a long moment. Then, my own mother pushed me towards him and I was forced to catch his arm for balance.





 

 

I cursed my reflexes as he led me out to the dance floor. I would rather have fallen flat on my face in front of all of these people and ripped my gorgeous dress in the process than dance with James Potter.
 

 


 

I gritted my teeth, fighting the urge to hit him as he put one hand dangerously low on my back. My stomach turned sickeningly, a side effect of being touched by a loathsome git. My heart slammed against my chest bewilderingly, though I suppose it had something to do with the angry adrenaline rushing furiously through my veins. To make matters worse, one of my absolute favorite slow songs began to play. I fought a grimace; I would never be able to listen to this song again without this unpleasant memory intruding. I leaned in close- closer than I ever wanted to be to Potter (though he smelled surprisingly good for a foul wanker) - and put my lips near his ear (well, as near as I could get them seeing as he was a head taller than me). To anyone watching, it would probably look like I was whispering sweet nothings to him (ew).



 

 

 

“If you want to keep that hand, Potter,” I warned him in a threateningly cheerful voice, “I suggest that you move it higher.”




 

 

He pulled back and looked at me with an infuriating grin. “I like my hand where it is, thanks.”



 

 

 


 

I locked my jaw, gritting my teeth again to keep a stream of very unladylike curse words from escaping my lips. I was fairly certain that at least three couples near by us on the dance floor were listening intently, hoping to catch a juicy bit of conversation between the birthday girl and little prince of the wizarding world. I was absolutely determined not to be provoked by him. I was going to show him just how blasé I could be. I was going to show him he couldn’t get to me anymore.




 

 

“Quite the party you throw, Crow.”




 

 

I ignored him, counting how many choruses and verses were left in the song before I was free again.





 

 

“Though, I have to admit, I’ve never really fancied French food.”





 

 

I glowered at nothing in particular. I didn’t like agreeing with Potter. Even if he wasn’t aware that I wasn’t very fond of French food either, it made me feel dirty…almost violated.



 

 

 

“The slideshow was… interesting,” he continued persistently.




 

 

I sighed in an annoyed sort of way and he chuckled.




 

 

“Though I have to say that song you sang was my fa-“




That did it.


 

 

“You seem to be under the delusion that I actually want to make small talk, Pothead. So let me set you straight. I do not want to talk to you. I do not want to get ‘reacquainted’” I sneered at my mother’s choice word, “with you in any way. All I want is to finish this dance and get as far away from you and your friends as humanly possible. I didn’t invite you, my mother did. And, had I known you and the rest of your cronies and admirers were going to crash my birthday party, I probably wouldn’t have even shown up.”



 

 

 

He opened his mouth to reply with a strange expression on his face. However, before he got out even one syllable, someone was taping on his shoulder.





 

 

A delighted grin spread on my lips as my rescuer said, “May I cut in?”




 

 

And, just like that, James Potter stepped aside and Archer was taking his place as my dance partner. Without another word he began to whirled me around the dance floor and away from Potter.




“You’re an angel,” I laughed gratefully.
 

 

“No, that would be you, Ange,” he corrected slyly. 

 


 

I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean. You saved me. You’re my hero,” I amended cheerfully.



 

 

 


 

He grinned, “I dunno, it looked like you were handling yourself pretty well. But I reckoned you weren’t too keen on finishing the dance with James Potter.”




 

 

“You reckoned right,” I grinned back.





 

 

He twirled me around and I laughed playfully, incredibly relieved to be away from my old enemy. I was elated for a few minutes more, riding on the high of telling Potter off and then being saved before he had a chance to retaliate, joking and laughing with Archer. Until Brigitte found me again and the quest I’d been on before my mother had derailed me came flooding back.


 

 

 

“Oh!” I gasped, astonished that I’d forgotten.


 

 

 

“What’s wrong?” Archer asked.


 

 

 

“I- I have to go. Something important,” I answered breathlessly. “I owe you another dance later though, okay?” I didn’t wait for his reply. Instead, I ran to my cousin and Lynnie and we set off towards the château.



 

 

 
 


 

As expected, we found Leah in the château, shut away in our room. She sat on the floor, at the edge of one of the beds, her pretty gown flared out elegantly around her. Her face was in her hands, muffling the quiet sobs that shook her shoulders. My heart ached at the sight of her.




 

 

 “Leah.”



 
 

 

She jumped at the sound of my voice and hastily tried to wipe away all signs of tears.




 

 

“H-Hey guys,” she said in a nearly chipper tone.



 

 

 


 

I felt a pitying look, identical to those that Brigitte and Jocelyn were wearing, on my face.
 

 


 

 “Oh, Leah,” I repeated, rushing to her side there on the floor, my dress poofing out around me, too. Bee and Lynnie followed suit. All four angels sat on the floor in a pool of colorful fabrics. “I’m so sorry about my brother,” I told her earnestly. “If I could kick him out, I’d do it in half of a heartbeat but my batty mother has this delusional notion that he deserves to be here.” My tone made it abundantly clear that I did not agree.




 

 

Her spluttering laugh told me that I’d said the right thing. But it died quickly and her face became pained as she said, “He does, Angelique.” The sorrow in her voice was unmistakable. “I broke up with him and he is your brother.”




 

 

I scoffed, “He doesn’t deserve to be here. He’s a- wait, you broke up with him?” I blinked in surprise as her words processed.



 
 

 

Leah nodded sadly, looking shamefully down at her perfectly manicured fingernails.




 

 

“But…why?” asked Brigitte, sounding as baffled as I felt.




 

 

“He- he,” she took a deep breath, trying to control her trembling voice. “He just made me so angry.”




 

 

“How?” Jocelyn prodded.



 

 

 


 

Leah closed her eyes tightly for a moment, evidently fighting an internal struggle. She took a deep breath and then told us, “I asked him what your row had been about and he said ‘Saundra’. I asked him why you were rowing about Saundra and he told me. Then he told me what he said and what he was going to say before you stormed off. And I- I dunno…I just snapped.” Her eyes were wide as she recalled the tumultuous night at my parents’ house. “I started shouting at him about all you’d been through and telling him Saundra needs to grow up and be happy for you like a real sister. And he told me that Saundra is your real sister. Your only real sister, no matter what anyone else might think. I told him that a real sister would actually spend time with you and jump at the opportunity to get to know your friends instead of just sticking her nose up every time we’re around. And then, he said that you barely gave Saundra the chance and you’d gotten so wrapped up in the ‘Angels’ that- well, that was the last straw,” her lips puckered sourly at the memory. “So, before I knew what I was doing, I told him that- if he disliked les Anges so much- perhaps he shouldn’t be dating one. And then,” her voice shook as she remembered, “I heard myself tell him we were finished and I slammed the door in his face.”





 

 

“Oh, Leah,” I groaned, with a dreadful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was my fault after all. “I’m so sorry.”


 

 

 

She blinked at me blankly. “What are you sorry for?”




 

 

“For coming between you and Michael. I never dreamed you two would split over me. I-I-“





 

 

“Alexa Diabolique Swan,” she looked at me, suddenly stern. “Not everything is about you.”



 

 

 

It was my turn to blink, not only at the use of my full name, but also at her harsh words. She sounded like Saundra.



 

 

 

“I’ll have you know that it was entirely my decision to break up with your brother. You couldn’t have broken us up, even if you wanted to, and- don’t lie- you know you thought about it in the beginning.”




 

 

“Well, the two of you were rather disgusting,” Lynnie interjected.



 

 

 

“Yes, I broke up with Michael largely because of how he treated you that night,” she continued, ignoring Lynnie. “But, the fact remains, I broke it off, not you.” 

 

 


 

“Yeah, okay Lay,” Brigitte sighed in slight exasperation. “We get it; you’re a big girl who makes her own decisions. But do you want to be broken up with Michael?”



 
 

 

Leah was silent for a moment, her bottom lip quivering. She sobbed, the flood gates finally bursting. “NO!”


 

 

We converged into a group hug around her, each of us making soothing sympathetic noises. When we had finally got her tears to subside I told her.



 

 

 

“There is really only one thing left to do then.”



 

 

 


 

She looked at me with a befuddled expression. “What?”



 

 

 


 

“Fight back,” Brigitte and I answered intensely in unison. If it hadn’t been such a tense sort of moment we probably would have laughed as we usually did when this unintentional synchronization took place. But none of us did.



 

 

 


 

“How?” She asked in a defeated voice.



 

 

  

 


 

“Well that’s easy,” Lynnie shrugged. “Make him jealous. Let him see you with a fit bloke. It drives them mad.”



 

 

 

Brigitte looked like she might explode with pride at Lynnie’s love saaviness. “That’s brilliant, Lyn!”



 

 

 

Jocelyn shrugged again. “It’s what he did, isn’t it? He brought some slag to make Leah jealous and it worked.”



 

 

 

“I dunno,” Leah and I said together reluctantly.


 

 

 

I was all for Leah fighting to win my big brother back but I wasn’t sure that both this was the way to do it. Fighting fire with fire usually tended to leave both parties burned.



 

 

 

“Desperate times,” was all Bee had to say in response before she began to fix Leah’s disheveled hair and make up. She didn’t even scold her or complain about having to redo it.



 
 

 

I sighed and, knowing I would lose the battle anyway, decided to drop it.



 

 

 


 

The four of us reentered the party fifteen minutes later, radiating confidence and fully versed on the plan. It was beyond convenient that Leah had the perfect guy to make my brother jealous right at her fingertips. Both Leah and I voiced our apprehension at using Derrill in such a manner. But Lynnie and Bee quickly reminded us that he would be a more than willing participant and he wasn’t exactly innocent.



 

 

 

So, with the air of four girls who knew that they had the entire world at their fingertips, we sauntered back to our table.


 

 

“Where the hell have you lot been?” Roxanne asked with a suspicious look when she saw us.




 

 

“Just freshening up,” I answered with a cool smile.


 


 

 

She rolled her eyes at us. “Yeah, like you four really ever need to ‘freshen up’,” I could hear the air quotes in her tone and smiled for real. She and Lynnie may have both been tomboys but they’d both proved tonight that they were just as intuitive as any girly girl.



 

 

 

We stepped easily back into the circle, mingling and laughing and dancing like nothing was wrong. I glanced towards my brother surreptitiously and instead locked eyes with a pair of icy blues.



 

 

 

Saundra was looking directly at me from her spot at my brother’s table. Her expression was blank but I could read it perfectly all the same. With a pang of discomfort, I realized I was acting a bit like her, sitting here pretending the world was perfect when it most certainly wasn’t. I was pretending Leah was flirting with Derrill because she wanted to, pretending that there weren’t any people here who I hadn’t invited, pretending I wasn’t fighting with every single member of my immediate family. Maybe it was a genetic trait.



 

 

 


 

I was consoled by reminding myself that I hadn’t been in the hospital hours before this party. Nothing was seriously wrong with me, it was just teenage drama. My best friend and brother trying to make each other jealous and my family finding ways to infuriate me were not equal to a hospitalization.




 

 

I stuck my chin out in a look of defiance at my sister and the accusations of hypocrisy I could feel her hurling at me mentally, then turned back to my friends just in time to see Derrill lead Leah to the dance floor for a slow song. From the corner of my eye, I saw Michael stiffen ever so slightly. If I hadn’t been waiting for it I would never have noticed.
 

 


 

Here we go, I thought. There was no turning back now. I looked at Bee and could tell she was thinking the exact same thing.



 

 

 

I watched my brother’s expression with baited breath as Derrill twirled Leah around and then held her close. He whispered something in her ear and an utterly effortless laugh rang like a bell over the music. I could practically feel my brother’s jealousy seething underneath his carefully cool expression from across the room.




 

 

Good, I thought, trying to reassure myself. That means its working.


 

 

 


 

I looked over to get a better view of Michael’s expression, unable to resist, and saw something else instead. Saundra was no longer watching me gravely but talking animatedly and laughing with James Potter. My stomach did a sickening flip and I fought back the wave of nausea it brought. It took me a moment longer than it should have to realize that, not only was Potter flirting with my unstable little sister, but there was a small blonde boy on his back looking beyond thrilled to be there. I looked a bit closer and realized it was one of the twins that I saw run to him at the wedding. The scene was so strange that I had to look away; Potter was a sleaze, not someone who played with kids. People who played with kids were funny and kind-hearted, Potter wasn’t.



 

 

 

I didn’t look away fast enough. Potter slid the little boy off his back and the two did some sort of secret handshake before the boy ran off. Once he was gone, Saundra got up and began to lead him from the tent.



 

 

 

I couldn’t watch anymore. I tore my eyes away and fought the dreadful feelings in my chest. I would not go after her. My sister had made it very clear that she neither wanted nor need me. When my mother came to ask me where she was later, I would tell her I didn’t know. When she cried over this horrible mistake of a fling, I wouldn’t be here to hold her this time. My sister was on her own. I felt a pang of sadness as my heart had hardened but refused to worry a second longer about it.
 

 


 

I looked at Bee instead and saw that she’d gone rigid and was looking at the dance floor with wide, dumbstruck eyes. My head whipped around to see that Leah and Derrill had stopped dancing. Instead, they were snogging passionately for everyone at the party to see. Everyone, including my brother.



 

 

 

***





 

 

The sunlight peaked through the curtains knowing it was unwelcome and my head pounded a steady rhythm. My lips felt swollen and my eyes ached under thin lids.




 

 

“Uuuuungggh,” I groaned, and then asked in a fading, raspy voice, “can pizza give you a hangover?”




 

 

“Yes,” Leah replied her voice cracking on the word. I opened my eyes a fraction and could see her sprawled out on the bed next to mine, next to Lynnie. I noticed that her lips were also swollen- though I suspected it wasn’t a pizza hangover, in her case.



 

 

 


 

 “It was the bacon,” rasped Bee.



 

 

 

“No, it was the olives,” Lynnie moaned. 


 


 

“Lynnie, it was the bacon.”




 

 

“Olives. Definitely the olives.”




 

 

“Bacon.”




 

 

“Olives.”



 

 

 

Leah made a noise between a laugh and a groan, “Maybe it was the champagne.”




 

 

“ No, I still think it was the olives.”



 

 

 


 

I felt Bee lift herself slightly and heard a thump as the pillow she’d thrown hit Lynnie in the face.




 

 

“It was the bacon.”

 


 

***




 

 

The next day, I sat at the breakfast table with Bee, Lynnie and Leah discussing whether or not to go shopping in Paris today or take the Floo Network to Tre’s family’s summer house on the beach. We were in the middle of setting up a Pro-Con list when a low swooshing sound interrupted us. The family owl dropped a letter into my lap before going to Grandmere for a treat.



 

 

 


 

I stared down at the familiar handwriting suspiciously. Why would my father be writing me?


 

 

 

I glanced apprehensively up at Bee, Lynnie, and Leah.



 

 

 

Qui est-ce à partir, Angélique?” asked Bee.


 

 

 


 

“My dad,” I answered in a dazed voice.





 

 

Even Grandmere turned around to gape at me.





 

 

Eh bien, c'est ouvert!” Lynnie exclaimed.



 

 

 

So, I did. I opened it.



 

 

 

It was the biggest mistake of my life.





 
 

 

***


 


 

(There are certain songs that I imagine to be playing during the slide show thing that Henri makes for Allie. Specifically during the part where the song changes to a rock song and her Post-Hogwarts pictures and video come up. I thought I'd share a few with you lovely readers....

SONGS





Ça Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand





The Great Escape- BoysLikeGirls





Just Can’t Get Enough- Sam Walker





Love Like Woe- The Ready Set





Get Out of London- Intaferon





Firework- Katy Perry





Dog Days Are Over- Florence and the Machine





Animal- Neon Trees





Kids in Love- Mayday Parade





Around My Head- Cage the Elephant





Grace Kelly- MIKA






<3 RED)





 


Chapter 19: The Falling Angel
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

 

(To all of my readers,

I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! But summer is here, I survived my freshman year of college and I am now celebrating by posting a chapter! Originally, I was going to make this MUCH longer but if I am going to do it in a way that makes sense it has to be like this. So, I hope you enjoy! Keep an eye out for more chapters (especially if you read my other stories!) 

Love always, RED)

Chapter 19~ The Falling Angel 

Can't you see I'm dying here?
A shot of broken heart that
is chased with fear
Angels cry when stars collide ~ Angels Cry, The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus


~

I read the letter in stunned disbelief. 

 

“What does it say?!”Jocelyn asked anxiously. She had told me to open it and now wanted, understandably to know what it said. They all did. Even Grandmere. 

 

I had to read it a few more times. I couldn’t comprehend it. It made no sense. 

 

“What does it say?!” Bee asked impatiently.

 

I was rendered speechless by my confusion. 

 

“What is it, mon cheri?” Grandmere repeated the question but her voice was all concern.

 

“I have to go to England. He says its urgent and I must come home.”

 

Bee scoffed scornfully. 

 

“He’s ordering me to come back,” I said, anger beginning to build in my chest. “The letter says ‘this is not a request’ and ‘it isn’t optional’.”

 

There was a moment of charged silence in which I seethed and my companions contemplated. Then, Grandmere broke it with words I did not want to hear. 

 

“Then you must go.”

 

 

Up in our room I seethed with rage. I paced back and forth and threw my possessions into my trunk with unnecessary vigor. My friends watched with cautious faces. They knew that I was getting ready to blow. 

 

“Uurrrgha!” I screamed. “I hate this! I hate this! I hate this! I don’t want to go back there! I don’t want to be forced to spend time with them! I just want them to leave me be! I just want them to leave me in peace! Why is it so hard for them to understand that I’m happy here? Why is that such a baffling concept?” I was ranting and I knew it but I couldn’t stop myself. I was being a drama queen but I couldn’t help it. I was a train speeding down the tracks toward a cliff but I couldn’t be stopped.  “Summoning me like I’m a house elf! Expecting me to drop everything at his beck-and-call! UGH!This could not get any worse!” 

 

I saw a dark look pass between my three best friends and stopped dead.

 

“What?” I demanded flatly. Perhaps I’d spoken too soon. “What are you three not telling me?”

 

They looked wide-eyed and totally guilty.

 

“What do you mean?” Leah said, a bit too innocently.

 

At the same time Lynnie said, “We’re not hiding anything from you.”

 

I looked at Bee, who grimaced under my gaze. 

 

“Leah got her latest issue of TeenWitch before we came up here.”

 

“Okay,” I said slowly, carefully. I still wasn’t getting what this had to do with me. “And?”

 

“Well...” She hesitated. 

 

“Brigitte, just tell me,” I said sharply.

 

“Perhaps I should just show you,” she answered before rising from her seat on one of the beds and crossing the room. She approached the desk and picked up the magazine in question. She turned a few pages and then turned back to me. She handed it to me cautiously and I took it just as carefully. 

 

And for the second time this morning, I read in disbelief. I read it several times, staring at the page in even more shock than I’d stared at my dad’s letter. My dad’s letter fit into a schema, my brain could eventually handle it because it fit his personality, his pattern. But this did not fit a schema, this was completely foreign to me. I didn’t know how to process it. 

 

The article that Brigitte had turned to was titled, “HAS OUR PRINCE FOUND HIS PRINCESS?” It read;

 

Sorry ladies, recently the first born son of the Chosen One has been spotted at several 

high profile events with eyes for only one girl. Just last week, he attended her seventeenth birthday bash in France. It seems that James Potter, the “Prince of the Wizarding World” has found his princess, Beauxbatons beauty, Alexa Swan (who was also once linked to the lead singer of the Asphodels, Archer Delray, who just so happened to sing at her previously mentioned birthday bash). 

 

The romance between the two is rumored to have started when they met at King’s Cross this past December. But we at TeenWitch  have done some digging and found a far different love story. Sources have revealed that the fancy started long before this Christmas Holiday. 

 

Before Swan was Beauxbatons’ most lusted after young beauty, she inhabited the same castle that James Potter does. She spent her first three years of magical education at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry where, sources say, she and James were not only in the same house (Gryffindor) but always spotted in the corridors together. 

 

“Everyone could see that they’d eventually end up together. It was so obvious,” a Ravenclaw girl in the couples’ year insisted. 

This seems to be the unanimous conclusion among both current and former Hogwarts students who remember the two in their early years.

 

“They always used to bicker like an old married couple. It was adorable!” said one former Gryffindor who was a few years ahead of the two in school. “I think James was really torn up when she transferred.” 

 

Bright Alexa left James, her friends, and siblings (one older brother and a littler sister) and transferred to Beauxbatons Academy of Magic in France to study under the watchful eye of headmistress, Madame Olympe Maxime, a close family friend. So close, in fact, that Alexa was recently a bridesmaid in her wedding to Hogwarts teacher and (incidentally) close family friend of the Potters’, Professor Rubeus Hagrid. She even sang at the reception and enchanted all by the lovely ballad that was clearly meant for only one. James was also, of course, in attendance and it was noted by one guest that the two were both conspicuously absent for part of the celebration (held at Miss Swan’s grandparent’s chateau). Coincidence? We’ll let you be the judge. 

 

What we do know is that only the best will do for the First Born of the Chosen One. Sources tell us that Alexa Swan is the crème de la crème of Beauxbatons Academy. There she and her three best friends (her cousin, Brigitte Gardiner; Jocelyn de Lancret; and Leah Kline- who is rumored to be dating Derrill of the Asphodels {see sidebar on page 30}) have affectionately been dubbed “Les Anges” meaning “The Angels” in French. A most appropriate nickname for these four stunners. Alexa, herself, is known as “Angelique” (“Angelic”) among the Beauxbatons set. But, we at TeenWitch think that her surname says it even better. “Angelique” has all the beauty and elegance of a swan.  And we’re just as enchanted with this new couple as the rest of the magical world is soon to be. 

 

“What?!” I finally managed to exclaim after the fourth reading. “Are they on crack?! What moronic Ravenclaw said it was ‘obvious’  that James Potter and I were going to be a couple? This is ridiculous!” 

 

I looked up from the article to see my friends with worried, apprehensive looks on their faces. They got even more concerned a minute later because I began to laugh.

 

Ange?” Lynnie said uncharacteristically tentative.

 

“That is so...” Laughter. “That is so.... James Potter and me in...” Fits of laughter. “So ridiculous... Potter and me a...” Peels of laughter. “Love story... preposterous...rubbish” Giggles. “What a load of...” More giggles. “...dragon dung...this rag...” I doubled over and completely collapsed on the floor in uncontrolled, manic laughter. 

 

Ange, are you okay?” Leah asked, her voice sounded worried but I couldn’t see because of the tears streaming from my eyes. 

 

“I’m...” More laughter. “I’m fine...” Giggle fit. “I just...can’t...breathe...” More laughter. 

 

At that, they began to laugh with me. We laughed and laughed, leaning against each other, clutching our sides, until my grandmother knocked on the door. 

 

“Alexa, darling, are you done packing, yet?” She said, voice muffled. “Your father sent another owl saying he expects you to be there before noon.” 

 

I stopped laughing instantly.

 

“I’m not done yet!” I called back, attempting (unsuccessfully) to keep the irritation and anger from my voice. It wasn’t Grandmere’s fault I had to go back, after all. I turned back to my suitcase and began slowly packing again. Noon my ass. I’d be there when I was good and ready. It was bad enough he was ordering me to come back to begin with, he wasn’t going to dictate the time of my arrival to me as well.

 

“So, you’re really not angry about the Potter article?” Brigitte asked. 

 

“No,” I scoffed. “It’s rubbish and it just makes them look like a rag. The Quibbler is more credible.”

 

“I still say that we should NOT let her read Rita Skeeter’s article,” Jocelyn said. 

 

“How d’you know Rita Skeeter wrote an article?” 

 

“Because, her article from the Daily Prophet was syndicated in le Présage,” Brigitte told me. 

 

“Ugh,” I groaned because I had a feeling that her article would not make me laugh. Rita Skeeter was notoriously vicious. “Yeah, I think that one I can go without seeing, thanks.” 

 

“Probably a wise decision,” Leah replied. “It wouldn’t improve your mood. And we don’t want to send you back to your parents in a homicidal rage.” 

 

They laughed but I didn’t. I didn’t want to be sent back at all. 

 

My bad feeling about this summons was increasing by the hour. What could he possibly want? Why would my father, of all people, want me to come back to England? He was far more comfortable having me in France, despite his clear disapproval, it meant he was spared at trying for an actual father-daughter relationship. 

 

I grudgingly stepped into the fireplace at half past noon (no way was I arriving on time, it was bad enough I had to go at all) trying to calm myself. I was unsuccessful. My nostrils flared, my pulse quickened and my jaw locked as I spun round and round. When I arrived, Saundra and my parents were there in the sitting room.

 

“Alright, what is so bloody important that I had to be summoned back here?” I demanded, brushing off my clothes. 

 

When I got no reply, I looked up to see my parents on one side of the room, each standing with their arms crossed across their chests and eyebrows knit together, and Saundra on the other sitting on the couch with much the same body language. Her chin stuck out stubbornly, as if she was defying someone but that would mean-

 

A few seconds too late, it dawned on me that I had just interrupted a very rare situation. Saundra and my parents were arguing. And, by the looks of it, they were currently at an impasse. 

 

Upon my arrival, Saundra looked at the fireplace and the disgust that crossed her face made something inside me ache. 

 

“Oh, of course, by all means, call the golden child home!” She exclaimed in outrage, rising to her feet. “As if we didn’t have enough drama! Heaven forbid the angel miss all the fun!” And with that, she turned on her heel and stormed from the room. 

 

The three of us stared after her for a moment, me in shock and my parents in something like resignation. 

 

“What was that all about?” I ask, breaking the silence. Completely forgetting that I was also supposed to be angry about being here to begin with.

 

They looked at me and my stomach sunk into my shoes. It was bad. 

 

Whatever they’d brought me here for, it was bad. I was not going to like it. 

 

I was about to dart head-first back into the fireplace before they could give me this news that I was not going to like but they were too fast.

 

“Sit down, Alexa,” my father ordered gravely.

 

I raised an eyebrow at him.

 

He sighed irritatedly and barked, “please.” 

 

I shrugged, that was about as good as it was going to get, and sat down in the seat my sister had just vacated. My heart was beating so fast that I could feel the pulsing in my temples. I braced myself for the unhappiness that their news would bring, what I did not brace myself for was the next sentence out of my father’s mouth. 

 

“Your mother and I have decided that it would be good for you and good for your sister if you returned to Hogwarts for your final year.” 

 

BAM. 

 

Just like that my world did a back flip. It blew up and froze over and then blew up again. 

 

‘Your mother and I have decided that it would be good for you and good for your sister if you returned to Hogwarts for your final year.‘       

‘Your mother and I have decided that it would be good for you and good for your sister if you returned to Hogwarts for your final year.‘      

 ‘Your mother and I have decided that it would be good for you and good for your sister if you returned to Hogwarts for your final year.

 

RETURNTOHOGWARTSFORYOURFINALYEAR!         

 

My body processed the statement before my mind did. Without orders to do so, it stood and grabbed my bags then ran to the fireplace, shouting the name of my destination before they could stop me. 

 

I was in too much shock to be nauseous like any other time using Floo Powder, it wasn’t until I’d stopped spinning and stepped out onto the hearth that I had my breakdown. I collapsed on the rug and began to sob, alerting my friends and Grandmere to my return. In nanoseconds, they’d converged on me, hugging me and uttering words of comfort that I did not hear. 

 

They stayed up all night trying to calm my hysterics when, finally, around dawn, I had cried myself dry and fallen asleep. I slept a lot over the next few days, perhaps my mind was using it as a defense mechanism. Shutting down my brain to help me cope with the inevitable. And, while I was sleeping, the rest of my family was arguing. 

 

In between long naps, I gathered information from Brigitte. She informed me that the reason my parents wanted me back at Hogwarts with Saundra, was that Saundra didn’t want to go back there at all. When my mother had suggested to her that she attend Beauxbaton with me in the coming year, she vehemently refused that option as well. My father also opposed this, apparently saying that he didn’t want to teach his children that running away from their problems was okay.  And that’s when he came up with his own option. I would return with Saundra to Hogwarts and we’d both face our problems with the place (“whatever they may be” said my father) head on, together. Right, that was likely. 

 

But, evidently, he had dug his heels in on the issue. My mother, Grandmere, and (shockingly) Michael argued that it was hardly fair to rip me from Beauxbaton when I was entering my seventh year just because Saundra was having problems. My father and Granddad, however, were firmly convinced that this was the only fair solution. Despite this fact, Saundra was insisting that she was not going back to school, no matter what they did and most especially if I was going with her.  

 

I didn’t bother arguing. They couldn’t make me go back if I didn’t cooperate. They couldn’t force me to do anything if I didn’t budge. I was NOT going back to Hogwarts. I remained firmly set on this for the next two weeks. While the rest of them argued, I planned how to evade capture. I was not going to go quietly. They were not going to take me alive. I was staying in France if it took every ounce of my will and determination to do so. I was confidently and fully prepared for my parents to come to the chateau and attempt to drag me back to England kicking and screaming. I was fully prepared to outsmart them when they did. I was fully prepared to escape them and end up back at Beauxbatons for my seventh year. 

 

What I wasn’t prepared for was what actually happened

 

I woke up midmorning with the rest of them (a rarity these days) and we went downstairs to eat breakfast together. We were raving over my Grandmere’s excellent cooking and I was actually laughing with my friends (another rarity in recent weeks) when we heard a swoosh. And, to the shock of the room at large, out of the fireplace stepped my brother, Michael. 

 

There was a long silence during which most of us looked from Michael to Leah and back and the two of them just stared back into each others’ eyes. Then, Grandmere cleared her throat and the two seemed to snap out of their trance. Michael tore his eyes from Leah and spoke, and what he said surprised everyone. 

 

“Allie, can I speak to you?”

 

I blinked back at him in confusion. 

 

“Alone?” He prodded. “Please?” 

 

I shook my head, trying to get the cloud surrounding my comprehension to dissipate. I rose and,with a quick glance back at a crestfallen Leah, proceeded to lead Michael out of the chateau, into the garden. 

 

We walked in silence for several more minutes before he finally realized I was waiting him to speak. He had after all been the one who had interrupted my morning and said he needed to talk to me.

 

“So, I know the last time we talked we both said some things,” he began. “Some things we didn’t really mean.”

 

I remained silent. Waiting.


“And I just wanted to let you know that I don’t blame what happened to Saundra on you,” he went on, looking down at his shoes. “But, she’s having an incredibly hard time right now.”

 

“I know,” I replied defensively.

 

“I know you do. And that’s what makes this so hard to say...” he went silent. 

 

“What?” I said after a moment. “What is hard to say?” 

 

“I-I think you should go back to Hogwarts.” 

 

Silence. Deafening silence. 

 

“B-but-” I sputtered in confusion. 

 

“I know,” he says. “I know that I’ve been fighting Dad on it with Mum and Grandmere but I talked to Saundra last night-”

 

“She doesn’t want me there either,” I cut across him, a bit venomously. 

 

“I know that, too. But I think you should go just the same.” He told me. “Yeah, she doesn’t want you there. But she needs you. She doesn’t want to admit it but she needs you. I can’t help her the way you can.” 

 

“Michael, I can’t help her at all,” I tell him in disbelief. “She’ll barely speak to me.” 

 

“You can help her. You have no idea how much you can help her, just by being there.”

 

“She. Doesn’t. Want. Me. There.” I repeated through gritted teeth. 

 

He sighed. “Will you promise me that you’ll just think about it?” 

 

His eyes pleaded with me and, despite the fact that I was mad at him just half an hour before, I couldn’t say no to those eyes.

 

I huffed in irritation. “Fine. I’ll THINK about it,” I lied. 

 

“Thanks, Allie.” He grinned at me, leaned down and kissed my cheek then gave me a hug. 

 

“Yeah, yeah,” I replied flatly with no intention of actually giving it a second thought. 

 

 

However, that night, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I couldn’t turn my mind off. My brothers words echoed in my head, making it impossible to sleep. 

 

She doesn’t want you there. But she needs you. She doesn’t want to admit it but she needs you.

 

You can help her. You have no idea how much you can help her, just by being there.

 

But how? How could I possibly help someone who does want my help? 

 

You have no idea how much you can help her, just by being there.

 

I huffed in frustration, punching my pillow into a new formation and turning onto my side. Saundra didn’t want me there, why was I actually taking this seriously? What did Michael know? He was probably just looking for an excuse to see Leah. 

 

Of course! 

 

Michael had just been looking for an excuse to see Leah! Why else would he come all the way to France to convince me to do something he’d been arguing against to my father? Why would he try to make me go back to Hogwarts when he was the one who had helped me leave to begin with? Stupid git, messing with my head just because he wanted to see his ex-girlfriend rather than growing a pair and just talking to her. 

 

Gosh, it was probably because of that stupid article that mentioned her and Derrill. Rita Skeeter probably followed suit and harped on their fake relationship just as much as she had harped on my supposed romance. My stupid brother had actually believed that twit. Ugh!

 

Cursing my brother’s stupidity and renewing my vow never to go back to Hogwarts, I finally went to sleep in peace.

 

***

 

When I woke, my peace was shattered. 

 

As much as I wanted to believe that Michael’s motives for coming to the chateau were completely selfish, I knew my brother better than that. He would not dangle both of his sisters’ futures over the edge of a cliff just for a glimpse of a girl. Any girl. Even Leah. 

 

She doesn’t want you there. But she needs you.

 

The words seeped under my skin and into my bloodstream like audible poison. I sighed and felt a heavy sense of dread settle back into the pit of my stomach. My heart seemed to freeze and then shatter in my chest, leaving it hallow. 

 

Michael wouldn’t lie about something like that, something so serious. I knew my big brother and he was as noble as his house at Hogwarts suggested. With this certain revelation, I began to cry silently because I knew what I had to do. 

 

I wasn’t dangling at the edge of the cliff any longer. I was falling off of the edge. 


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