(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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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."
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!"
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.
"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!"
"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.
"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!
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.
"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.
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.
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!
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