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After the sleepless night I had, I could scarcely enjoy Christmas morning. Like usual, Aunt Eliza had been abnormally chipper, rushing about the house like a chicken with its head severed from its body. It was entertaining to watch, true enough, but it was not enough of a distraction.

Every time I let my thoughts stray, all I saw was that kiss. All I could feel was his warm, soft mouth moving roughly yet delicately against mine. All I could feel were his hands buried deep in my hair, travelling down the sides of my body. The feel of his open palm, his splayed fingers, against my breast; the electrical current that pulsated through my veins like a burning fire, a wild flame that could not be extinguished by any force known to man.

. . .

Okay, so maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. Right, what gives? I’m just trying to convey how much that stupid snog as addled my brain over the past few days.

Honestly, on Christmas morning, I kept zoning out throughout breakfast. So much so that I emptied half a bottle of ketchup on my eggs before I noticed what I was doing. I’m sure that if it weren’t for Aunt Eliza’s shriek of surprise, I would not have even noticed it. When I was pouring myself a fresh glass of pumpkin juice, I completely missed my glass and ended up getting it all over the table. And as you might have guessed, I didn’t notice that either.

Yep, that’s how badly The Snog was effecting me.

After the slightly awkward breakfast, Aunt Eliza suggested that we open our presents. With a nod of my head, I followed her into the living room, Rufus hot on my heels.

Ever since I could remember, my Christmases were short affairs, consisting for a few gifts from both my aunt and my dad (when he had been alive, obviously), and occasionally the florist down the lane. So, it’s suffice to say that when I saw the mountain of gifts beneath the tree this year, I was a little more than taken back. I couldn’t prevent my eyes from widening greedily at the pile as I plunked down eagerly on the couch.

Aunt Eliza separated the presents into three piles: hers, mine, and Rufus’s. Not surprisingly, Rufus had quite the stack this year - no doubt he received a good many of them from Aunt Eliza. I couldn’t blame her for giving him so much, he made a really good companion when you needed one.

“Oh Ella!” Aunt Eliza exclaimed, her hand flying to her mouth to stifle a gasp.

I looked up from the parcel in my lap, which was proving very difficult to open without the wrapping paper nipping at my fingers; I knew this gift was from Aunt Eliza. “What?” I asked, panicked. “What is it?”

She was holding up her hand where something was dangling from her fingers; it was the amulet I purchased for her in Diagon Alley.

“It’s supposed to be a protective amulet,” I explained as she motioned for me to fasten the necklace around her neck. “At least, that’s what the vendor said when I bought it from him, but I highly doubt it.” Unhooking the clasp, I draped the necklace around her neck, pulling the chain back around to reconnect the clasp. “Really, I only bought it because I thought it was pretty.”

“It’s beautiful, that’s what is it,” Aunt Eliza gushed, her cheeks flushing as she leaned over and wrapped her arms around me in a tight hug. I, too, found my face colouring as she pulled back from the embrace and looked down at the charm hanging around her neck. “What sort of stone is this?”

I shrugged. “I’m not sure, actually,” I replied. “The vendor didn’t tell me. I’m assuming that it’s a sapphire, but I could be wrong.”

“Regardless,” Aunt Eliza said. “It’s wonderful; I love it, Ella.” She giggled in her schoolgirl way and clapped her hands together excitedly. “All right, open yours!”

Turning my attention to the parcel in my lap, I started to unwrap it. The Flesh Eating Wrapping Paper slashed viciously at my fingers and I winced a few times, quickly pulling my hand back. After several attempts, I was able to rip the paper enough that it lay still, the enchantment being lifted.

“What could it be?” I mused out loud, making Aunt Eliza laugh. As I pulled the paper away from the box, I saw that there were tiny holes puncturing the sides of the box as well as the lid; I was more than curious to see what lay inside. I tore the top of the box away from the base and let out a gasp.

My eyes met Aunt Eliza’s over the box and I saw that she was smiling widely, her blue eyes twinkling with mirth.

“Do you like it?” she questioned coyly.

“I love it!” I exclaimed happily as I reached into the box and tenderly scooped up the small, grey tabby kitten in my hands. A tiny paw lightly scratched the side of my thumb and I released one of the most startling noises - a coo. I didn’t normally coo over things, but this little kitten, this tiny animal was, perhaps, the most adorable thing I had ever beheld.

“Martha’s cat had a litter and she was giving them away,” Aunt Eliza said as I lifted the kitten up to my face, gazing into its bright yellow eyes. “Since you’re not allowed to have puppies at Hogwarts, I figured that a kitten was the next best thing. Especially since you hate toads and for some reason that is beyond me, have an aversion to owls.”

“It’s because they have sharp beaks and might peck off my thumbs,” I answered simply, not tearing my eyes away from the kitten. “Is it a boy or a girl?” I asked.

“A boy,” Aunt Eliza replied as she picked up another one of her gifts and began to unwrap it; it was a book from Martha, that same lady whose cat had had kittens. “What’re you going to name him?”

I stared at the kitten, my heart leaping momentarily as it gave a small, happy sounding mew. I never liked naming animals because, well, it was a hard thing to do. It was sort of like naming a child, but not as big - well, not to most people anyway. But the way I see it is that the animal - or child - is forced to live with your decision for their entire life - unless, of course, they do the sensible thing and change their name. Basically what I’m trying to say is that I don’t want to give him a stupid name, only to have him hate me for the rest of his nine lives.

I was still considering an appropriate name for my new kitten when an owl appeared in the front window, a letter attached to its leg. Curiosity sparking within me, I rose from my position on the couch, the kitten mewing quietly in my hands as it toyed with my thumb, and went to open the window. The owl looked very regal indeed and my stomach flopped. I tried not to get my hopes up that it was an owl from. . .well, I don’t think I need to elaborate on who it might be from, as I had been thinking about him and his bloody perfect lips all morning.

The owl stared at me hungrily. At least, I thought it was staring at me hungrily. In truth, the owl was gazing longingly at my brand new kitten, whom was small enough to be an appetizer for the lunch I knew that bloody owl was planning.

I glared at the owl. “He’s my kitten,” I said defensively, shielding the kitten in my arms. “Not yours,” I added pointlessly as I took the letter from the owl’s leg and opened the window further to allow him entrance. He swooped into the house and flapped his great wings once, landing on the perch in the kitchen beside Leonidias; the pair put their heads together as though they were planning a mutiny against me to get to my beloved-

“Cappa!” I cried suddenly, exuberant.

“I beg your pardon?” Aunt Eliza squeaked, her eyes round with surprise.

“That’s his name,” I said in an explanatory voice as I sat back down on the couch, my newly named kitten still in my arms and the letter in my hand. “Only his name will be with a ‘C’ instead of a ‘K’.”

My aunt stared at me for a few moments. “I like it,” she said, bobbing her head. “It fits him.” She smiled at me before gesturing to the letter in my hand. “Whose it from?”

I shrugged my shoulders somewhat helplessly.

“I’ve no idea,” I answered slowly, even though I did have hopes as to whom it could be from. I set Cappa down in my lap and he walked around cautiously, taking carefully measured steps before taking a great leap off my lap. He hurried over to where Rufus lay sleeping on the couch and began to swipe at the dog’s ears.

Deciding that I would open the rest of my gifts before I opened the letter, I set it aside and pulled the rest of my presents onto the couch beside me.

It was all over rather quickly. From Alice, I received an enchanted hairbrush that got rid of tangles with little to no pain at all. James gifted me with a book entitled Quidditch Through the Ages with a note attached, saying that it would help me better get into the sport. Having seen the book in my lap, Aunt Eliza shrieked and briefly fawned over James, saying that I should try to snatch him up for myself. I ignored her as per usual when she made silly remarks like that and continued opening my stack of presents. Peter gave me three Sugar Quills and a package of Chocolate Frogs, which I’ll have to admit, was a wonderful present. From Lily, I received a beautiful, leather bound book and when I opened the pages, I saw that they were all empty. Inside, a note was scribbled in her scrawl and I found my eyes watering as I read the text.


I hope you enjoy this scrapbook to catalogue your most cherished memories in. Our friendship may be new, but the memories we’ve shared at already record-worthy! Thanks so much for being such a wonderful friend. Have a Happy Christmas and don’t you dare forget to owl me back -

Love,

Lily.

Wiping my eyes, I set the book aside and glanced at the letter beside me; it was more than likely, I realized, that the letter was from Lily confirming our plans for New Years Eve. I should’ve been much more excited than I was, but I had been so hopeful. . .

I picked up the last two presents and opened the one in my right hand. It was from Remus. A huge amount of pressure settled on my chest and my stomach sank. A peculiar yet familiar feeling began to spread through my body. I realized what it was at once.

Unwillingly, images of Sirius’s lips against mine, his hands in my hair, on my body, flashed quickly through my head. I squeezed my eyes shut tight, I attempted to staunch the guilt that was flowing into every particle of my being. Nothing was working. Faster and faster, the images flickered in my mind, occasionally accompanied by a gush of heat and a flip of my stomach.

It was guilt for what I had done the night before - the unforgivable thing that I had done to Remus. I was the one who had responded to the kiss. I encouraged Sirius to continue to snog me. It was all my fault; the blame rested in my hands, the hands of a sinner.

It’s not like you’re dating Remus, the Voice reminded me. You just went on a date with him. And snog him more times than necessary. Besides, I think we both know which of the two you fancy more.

The Voice’s presence in my mind was not the least bit comforting. If anything, it made me feel much worse than I had only moments ago. The heavy lead bullet that was guilt sank deep into the pit of my stomach, churning around in the acids within.

So, I might not have been going with Remus, but that still doesn’t mean that what I did - what we did was justified by any means. Sirius had a girlfriend, for Merlin’s sake! Conveniently enough, she also had it out for me, just waiting for me to slip up. And this was a pretty big slip up, if you ask me. This was the sort of act that tore apart friendship - not that it matters in the case of Sirius and I, as I was more than sure that our friendship was shot to hell the moment his lips brushed against mine. . .

Another wave of unwanted images washed over me and I brutally shoved them aside. No, I wouldn’t let them get to me. I couldn’t, not now and not ever. There was a small possibility that I would be able to put this all behind me, but I knew what I had to do first. I didn’t like it in the slightest, but I knew it was the only way that I would be able to get rid of this immense weight, this pressure that was constricting my heart.

“Eleanor?” Aunt Eliza asked, her voice faint as I pulled myself back together. “Are you alright?”

Swiping at my eyes, I turned to face her and nodded my head briefly. “Yeah, I’m fine. Lily’s note just got to me,” I answered smoothly, and it was true - her note had gotten to me.

Once Aunt Eliza took the photo book from my hands, my gaze was redirected to the parcel in my lap. With hesitancy I didn’t normally display toward the prospect of opening a gift, I unwrapped the small, but oddly heavy package. An affectionate sigh escaped my lips once I saw what was inside the box. A book as thick as a dictionary was nestled in red and green tinsel paper, the book itself full of crossword puzzles, brain teasers, and everything else in between that could keep someone like me busy for hours on end. Beside the book, there was also a set of three beautiful Eagle Quills along with an inkwell full of ink that changed colours according to the writer’s mood.

Out of all my gifts, this, by far, was the best. It was just so. . .personal, that I couldn’t handle it. My hand flew to my mouth, just barely stifling the sob that escaped me. Painful tears stung the backs of my eyes and I didn’t bother wiping them away. Instead, I rose from my position on the couch and hurried out of the living room. I raced up the stairs and into my room, slamming my bedroom door shut behind me just as another great sob tore through me.

X - - X

“D’you have everything?” Aunt Eliza questioned from the doorway.

Her voice startled me and I jumped in surprise, my hand leaping nervously to my throat where a heavy amethyst pendant hung from an extraordinarily crafted silver chain - a gift and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out who had given it to me.

“Sorry,” she added, smiling sympathetically. “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

“It’s alright,” I said, chewing on my lip as I surveyed my bedroom. My hands found my hips and I nodded my head to myself. “Yeah, I think I have everything.”

“Good,” Aunt Eliza said, her smile still intact. “Mr. Evans said that he’ll be here around three o’clock this afternoon. It’s nearly that time, so I suggest we go downstairs.”

With a wave of her wand, my trunk followed her out the door and down the hall. I struggled to keep up with her, Cappa wedged under my arm. “You talked to Mr. Evans?” I asked as we walked down the stairs.

“Of course I did,” gasped Aunt Eliza dramatically. “You honestly didn’t think I would let you spend the rest of your holiday there without talking to either of her parents, did you?”

When I didn’t say anything in response, she reached back and slapped me lightly, playfully, on my arm. “I’m not that irresponsible!” she half-shrieked. “For all I know, you could be having scandalous parties while her parents are away!”

I rolled my eyes, trying very hard not to think about the party that I was forced to attend. There were times such as now when I really hated having friends. I clobbered down the rest of the stairs, though I really couldn’t explain the suddenly foul mood I was in. Praying that the sight of Lily would cheer me up, I plopped down on the couch in the living room and began to play with the adorable little kitten named Cappa, who was delighted to have my full and undivided attention.

Ten minutes later, the doorbell rang. I leapt out of my seat faster than a curse off the lips of James Potter. Cappa mewed, apparently annoyed that I tossed him aside unceremoniously in order to get to the door before Aunt Eliza could embarrass me. Quickly running a hand over the top of my head to make sure that I didn’t look ridiculous, I pulled the door open.

Two things happened at once. There was a loud, ear piercing shriek of delight and I was being crushed to death in the arms of my best friend.

“Can’t. . .breathe,” I wheezed into Lily’s ear as she continued to squeeze my eternal organs to the point of near combustion.

Finally, she released me, gripping tightly onto my elbows. She let out another happy shriek and jumped up and down on spot. “It’s so good to see you!”

I couldn’t stop the smiling from consuming my face. An intense feeling of relief washed over me as I stared into Lily’s gorgeous emerald eyes. “I know!” I found myself crying happily, throwing my arms around her once more.

Behind me, someone cleared their throat a bit more dramatically than necessary and I found that I was rolling my eyes playfully. “Lily, this is my aunt, Eliza. Aunt Eliza, this is my best mate, Lily Evans,” I introduced them to one another, making the appropriate hand gestures show that they could clearly establish who was who.

Instead of shaking her hand like I thought she would, Aunt Eliza pulled Lily into one of her infamous bone crushing, coma inducing embraces. She pulled away quickly, though, her face flushed.

“It’s so good to finally meet you,” Aunt Eliza gushed. “I’ve always wanted to meet my niece’s best friend.”

Lily grinned from ear to ear. “The pleasure’s all mine - er - Eliza.”

Aunt Eliza nodded in approval. “Won’t you come in?” she asked with a sweep of her arm.

“Oh,” Lily said, gnawing her lip as a look of apprehension spread across her face. “I’d really love to, but we can’t stay very long.” She looked genuinely upset at the prospect of having to leave. “We’ve got to pick my sister up from her boyfriend’s house.” There was a barely concealed bitterness in her voice, but if she was feeling particularly bitter, her face showed no sign of it whatsoever.

“Don’t be sorry,” said Aunt Eliza, a false smile on her face. It looked convincing enough to anyone else, but I knew what her real smile looked like and that certainly was not it. Turning toward me with her arms held open, I gave her a hug.

“Take care,” I muttered softly to her. She squeezed me tightly before releasing me.

“I’ll see you in June,” she replied, tears gathering in her blue eyes. At her heels, Rufus barked loudly and I obliged to bending down to his level to give him a sloppy hug and to drop a kiss on the top of his head. Once I was back at human level, Aunt Eliza added, “Keep safe.”

“I promise I will,” I said.

“Don’t worry,” Lily quipped from beside me. “I’ll make sure she’s all right.”

Aunt Eliza offered the vibrant redhead a watery smile before she handed over Cappa the Kitten. It really made quite the name, didn’t it?

“Just. . .,” Aunt Eliza trailed off, wiping at her eyes. “I love you.”

I smiled faintly at her. “I love you, too.” I gave her a quick hug, unable to stop the salty water from gathering in my eyes.

Wedging Cappa under one arm and grabbing the handle to my trunk with my other hand, I hurried out of the house; Lily had a hold of the other handle. From the doorway, Aunt Eliza stood with Rufus ready to wave us off. Lily and I heaved my trunk into the back of the car before climbing into the car ourselves.

I felt a tear trail down my cheek as we pulled away from the house, the sight of a crying Aunt Eliza waving farewell imprinted in my head.

X - - X

I quickly found out that Lily was every bit like her father and absolutely nothing like her mother. Even though Angela Evans was a very polite, very kind woman, Lily not only looked like her father when it came to physical appearance, but she acted like him, too. It was odd, watching the pair of them go back and forth with their witty remarks and jokes. It felt as though I were watching from the far end of a prism, observing things at an arm’s length instead of up close. I felt like an intruder upon their lives.

However, Lily’s good humour quickly diminished once Petunia, her older sister, piled into the car. I’d never asked Lily about Petunia, but from what I gathered from Alice, she wasn’t a very nice person or a very pretty one at that. Normally, I wasn’t very critical of the appearances of others, but I could not stop myself from mentally agreeing with Alice - Petunia really did resemble a horse.

I’m assuming that Petunia didn’t know that they were picking me up from my aunt’s house because she sent me one look before shrieking, “She’s one of them, isn’t she?” She whipped her head to Lily and added, “She’s a freak like you, isn’t she?”

I felt my cheeks flush and beside me, Lily stiffened considerably. I knew she was ready to open fire upon her sister, something I wished she wouldn’t do, but Mr. Evans spoke before anything could happen.

“Petunia!” he exclaimed, a note of warning in his voice. “You do not talk to Lily’s friends - or anyone - that way. It was rude and uncalled for. Now, apologize to Eleanor.”

Petunia leaned over Lily, who was sitting between us, and glared into my face. “Sorry,” she ground out viciously. Folding her arms over her chest, she sat back in her seat and turned her hard gaze to the rear view mirror. “Happy now?”

Those were the last words anyone dared to utter for the rest of the car ride, which, thankfully, wasn’t very long at all. I couldn’t help releasing a sigh of relief once the car started to slow.

When we pulled up to the Evans’ house, I had to bite back a laugh. It was as picturesque as any house could be. It was a modest two story made of bricks with black shutters and a white door. A white picket fence surrounded the front lawn, which featured a small rose garden off to the side. It looked like the type of house where many good memories had been made. I smiled as I stepped out of the car, Cappa cradled in my arms.

Mr. Evans walked around to the back of the car and opened the trunk where my belongings were stowed away. A look of consideration flashed across his face.

“Do you need any help with that, Mr. Evans?” I asked, my fingers absentmindedly stroking the top of Cappa’s fluffy head.

He laughed. “Heavens no. The day I start asking a guest for help is the day the world goes up in smoke,” he chuckled, shaking his head. “No, you go on inside with Lily, Eleanor. Make yourself at home. I think Angie’s going to make some cold cuts for lunch.”

“Are you sure?”

“Positive,” he said as he reached into the trunk and grabbed the handle of my trunk. “Run along now.”

I offered a soft smile before hurrying after Lily, who was already on the porch, waiting for her sister to unlock the front door. When I came up behind her, she grinned at me. As soon as the door was unlocked, Petunia flew into the house, thundering up the stairs to her bedroom.

“Sorry about her,” Lily said as she walked deep into the house.

“It’s no big deal, Lils,” I replied, glancing at the pictures hanging on the walls.

The hallway walls were covered with family photographs. They looked like such a happy family. I was surprised to see more than one photograph where Lily and Petunia had their arms thrown around one another, huge smiles on their faces, the laughter evident in their eyes.

Lily caught my lingering gaze at the pictures and snorted. “Weird, isn’t it?”

“What’s weird?”

“These pictures,” she said, placing her hands on her hips in a casual fashion as we looked at the framed, unmoving photographs. “We used to be best friends, you know.” She sighed softly. “I just wish that things could go back to the way they used to be. Before Petunia stopped thinking of me as her sister and started thinking of me as a freak.”

I wasn’t sure what I could say to that, if there was anything at all for me to say. I was at a loss for words, but for some reason, I felt guilty that I wasn’t saying anything. I turned toward Lily, my mouth opened and some lame response on my lips. Thankfully, her mother called out from the kitchen that lunch was ready before the words could leave my mouth.

Relieved, I followed Lily into the kitchen and we sat down at the kitchen table, ham and cheese sandwiches set out on plates with condiments at our disposal.

X - - X

My first night at the Evans’ house was a sleepless one. Every time I closed my eyes, I would see The Snog. I couldn’t get it out of my head, no matter how hard I tried. It didn’t help that I knew what would be happening in several days‘ time. We would be going to James’s house for his New Years Eve party, which not only made me feel nauseous, but scared the shit out of me. I wasn’t prepared to deal with that sort of stress.

Not many people had the stomach to face someone who Disapparated after you snogged. I, for one, certainly didn’t possess that sort of gall. The thought of having to see his face made my stomach turn uncomfortably, making me physically sick. I wasn’t going to be able to do it. I might as well tell Lily that I wasn’t going to the party. I already knew what her response would be. That I was letting everyone down, that I had promised James I would attend. I was already aware of that, but this was my sanity on the line here. Sure, I questioned my sanity nearly every day, but I knew that if I went to the party, I would definitely lose it.

With a sigh, I turned over and punched the pillow beneath my head. I knew it was a fruitless attempt to try and go back to sleep, but what other option did I have? 

- - 

All right, so this is the chapter! I know nothing exciting happened, but that's because I thought it best to cut it off here. It was already eight pages long and if I tried to include the party, well, it would be much too long to read. So, that being said, the next chapter shall include the party and all the dramatic joy that comes with it. I hope you all liked this chapter and I'm sorry it took so long for me to update - I was just busy with my schoolwork and such. Hopefully, the next chapter won't take as long to write.

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