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Chapter Fourteen:
The Subtly (or lack there of) of Albus Potter

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Part One:


Alex looked up from her book as a shrill scream ran past the closed compartment door. There was a sudden rush of footsteps as more people ran past and curious, she stood and stuck her head out of the compartment. As the hall once more grew quiet, she turned and looked in the other direction.

The moment was here; the moment she had dreaded since the eagle owl had left her bedroom. The pink highlights once more in her hair, Alex watched James running towards her from down the train’s narrow hallway. Trying not to look too obvious, she ducked once more into the cabin. Maybe he would just go by, or maybe he was too afraid to talk to her…then again, this was James Potter.

She hid her face behind a book, which was upside down, and avoided the strange looks from her friends. The seconds ticked by, each taking longer than the one before when suddenly, the silence was broken, “Well good morning ladies!”

Halie and Naomi chimed together, “Hello James!”

Alex cringed and slid lower in her seat as James continued, “Well, I just wanted to say hi, but now I have to go find Albus… apparently, Charlie saw him being chased down the train by the Malfoy kid…again.”

James turned and left the compartment. Alex stared at the place in the door where he had just disappeared; open-mouthed, she wondered what the hell had just happened.

“Alex, are you okay?” asked Naomi.

“I…um...no…I mean yes…wait, no…erg…WHAT WAS THAT?!”

“Umm…what was what?” said Halie confused.

“James!” she pounded her fists on the train seat, “I mean…he ignored me!”

“Isn’t that all you wanted for the last four months?” said Naomi over her copy of the Quibbler.

“Yeah, I know, but I didn’t actually think it would happen,” said Alex as she looked out the train window to the snowy countryside.

Naomi’s hands fell to her lap and Halie looked up from her journal that she had been scribbling in. Their looks were filled with understanding as Halie spoke, “It sounds like somebody is a little…I don’t know…upset.”

“I am not upset!” said Alex looking cross.

“Sure…whatever you say,” Halie and Naomi said in unison as they returned to what they were working on.

Folding her arms across her chest, Alex resumed her glaring out of the train window. She did not mind that James wasn’t interested in her anymore. To be honest, it was a relief not to be continuously pestered by him…honestly, she had never been so happy…yeah. For almost an hour, she watched snowflakes drift lazily past her window then there was a knock on the door and a kind voice cried, “Lunch trolley!”

With growling stomachs, all three girls stood and began to buy something to snack on. With their hunger now satisfied, the girls began to talk.

“So Alex what did your parents get you for Christmas?” asked Naomi.

“My mom got me this diamond necklace thing and my Dad got me a broomstick,” answered Alex.

Just to prove how different they really were, Naomi replied, “A broomstick!” and Halie replied, “Diamonds!”

Laughing, Alex pulled out her trunk and began to shuffle the contents around. As she went to pull out her gifts, Naomi closed the cabin door. Alex handed Halie the jewelry box and then pulled out the broomstick from its protective case.

Naomi was about to exclaim with excitement over the fantastic broomstick when a shrill scream once more filled the hall and something very solid slammed into the compartment door, making the glass shatter as it burst open. Halie and Naomi screamed and backed away as Alex lunged forward to help the young boy who fell into the compartment. He couldn’t be more than a fourth year and as he lifted his slightly bleeding head, Alex realized it was Albus Potter.

He, however, was too distracted to notice who she was, as he goggled, open-mouthed, at the broom that was thrown haphazardly on the seat.

“That…that’s a Thunder…” but he was interrupted by James who now came skidding into the compartment.

“Albus! What could you possibly be thinking about…! Oh my god, that’s a THUNDERBOLT!” James finished, completely distracted.

“Whose is it?!” said Albus as his index finger lingered closer to the broom’s varnished surface.

Alex rolled her eyes and began to repair the door that Albus had left in shatters.

“Naomi, is this yours?” asked James as he rotated the broom in his hands.

As the glass pane flew once more into the door, Naomi responded, “No, Alex got it for Christmas…” but she trailed away realizing her mistake.

“Alex’s…” he looked up at her confused, “You never said your parents had connections with the quidditch world?”

She froze to the spot where she sat on the floor…crap, that’s why you shouldn’t lie…because it always comes to bite you in the arse.

“Umm…A client of my dad knows a man, whose son, has a cousin who is a player for a team in Bulgaria and she was able to get one, you know…before they were out on the market…” she finished, hoping he was thoroughly confused.

“Oh…” said James, puzzled, “What?”

“Never mind… it was a friend of a friend of a friend thing,” answered Alex.

At that moment, James realized that he was talking to Alex and that wasn’t a part of the plan. Stumbling over his words, James continued, “Umm, Halie, can you keep an eye on Albus for…”

“I don’t need to be watched!” shouted Albus standing on his feet.

“Oh right, I leave you alone for five minutes and you manage to de-feather Malfoy’s owl and start a war with the Slytherin fourth-years…”

Albus opened his mouth and closed it, then opened it again but this time, he sat down with his arms crossed.

Taking advantage of the silence, James continued, “Halie, Naomi, do you mind keeping him out of the way of the Slytherins while I go sort this out?”

“Sure, James, whatever you need,” responded Halie distracted once more with her journal.

Again, James turned on his heel and left the compartment as though Alex were not even there. Trying not to dwell on the cold silence that left the room with him, Alex turned to face Albus.

“Come here Albus and I’ll clean you up,” said Alex.

No longer bleeding, Albus sat in the unoccupied seat and began to flip through one of Alex’s old quidditch magazines. She stared once more out the window when her thoughts were interrupted.

“You know…I know someone who got that same exact broom for Christmas,” said Albus randomly, peering intently at Alex.

Alex laughed nervously, “Yeah… that’s odd.”

“What did you say your name was again?” said Albus as he threw the magazine aside.

“Albus…don’t be rude!” chided Halie, not looking up.

“No, it’s okay; my name is Alex Cunnings?”

“You look really familiar, Alex. Have I met you before?”

Alex swallowed slightly and Halie and Naomi both looked up from what they were doing. “Umm…I don’t think so. I am new at school.”

“So then why does your name sound so familiar…?”

“Umm…” said Alex sweating slightly.

“Wait I know!” Albus interrupted, “You’re that Alex girl James moons over whenever he comes home. Wow, you are just as pretty as he says.”

Alex rolled her eyes; another Potter with a thing for her…what else could she ask for? But Albus chose that moment to continue, “Yeah, my mom told him that if he ignores you, you will probably be a bit keener to like him…”

A few things began to click in Alex’s head and she looked across at Halie and Naomi, who both wore knowing looks. But apparently, Albus wasn’t done yet, “I suspect, however, that you are too clever to fall for that…you of all people will probably see right through it.”

He had finally finished and with a final nod he picked up the magazine and continued to read.

“I…I think that I am going to go use the bathroom,” said Alex and she stood to leave.

“But who is going to watch him?” asked Halie.

Albus stood and shouted, “I’m not four you know!”

“Yeah Halie…he’s not four you know!” said Alex with a laugh.

“Whatever,” said Halie as she returned to her writing.

Albus sped from the compartment as Alex followed close behind in the direction of the bathroom.

~


Alex rested her hands on either side of the sink and took a deep breath as she went over every event that had occurred over the past four months. She was sorted into Gryffindor…became a keeper on the quidditch team…was forced into tutoring James…went to the masquerade ball where she had ended up dancing with James…helped James pass his Transfiguration exam…snuck out of school with James…was caught in a broom closet with James…caught James kissing another girl…was found out by her two best friends …received a very thoughtful gift from James…decided to forgive him in hopes that a friendship was still possible…and now, he was ignoring her but not because he was mad at her but because he thought it would make her more interested in him.

Alex’s head gave a nasty throb and she splashed some cool water onto her face. So there were only two questions that remained; now knowing James’s intended plan to woo her, how was she going to handle this AND was there a possibility that she actually wanted to fall for him…again.

Alex shook her head to physically banish the thoughts from her mind…of course she didn’t want to fall for James, she had learned her lesson the last time…hadn’t she?

Suddenly, the unbidden thoughts of her mother floated before her mind, “Alexandra honey…boys like James Potter just like the chase, if you give him what he wants, he will turn tail and run.”

The only differences from that situation to the present was that, Alex was now almost sixteen not thirteen, she was now Alex not the famous Alexandra, and of course, the obvious difference that Alex wasn’t just a conquest for James…he actually like liked her.

All questions still unanswered, she retreated from her bathroom hide out and headed back in the direction of her compartment. She was almost there when the shrill, excited scream once more met her ears. She turned to find Albus, mouth opened wide, running top speed down the hall. She had no time to react and was consequently thrown sideways into a closed compartment door. She didn’t dare move from the awkward and unbalanced position as a dozen or so boys rushed passed her.

~


James was silently sitting in his compartment with Josh and Charlie contemplating his next plan of action for Alex; it was a little something he liked to call “operation jealousy.” Suddenly, his thoughts were interrupted by the shrill scream that he knew belonged to his younger brother. Giving a weary look to his friends, he realized that Halie must have let Albus leave her compartment, which meant that he was most likely in trouble…again.

He had just gotten to his feet when the shrill scream had reached its maximum and he heard something solid slam against to compartment door. He waited until the scream faded away completely before he decided to open the door.

~


The last of the boys had passed and Alex was about to steady herself when her only means of support gave way. James, who had not been looking forward when he opened the door, was suddenly overtaken by the falling stranger. There was a tangle of limbs and Alex opened her eyes to realize she had, of all people, landed on James Potter. He wore the familiar goofy look upon his face and Alex rolled her eyes in response.

“I knew you couldn’t resist me, Cunnings,” he said.

“In your dreams, Potter!” said Alex as she made to stand but was prevented from doing so by James.

James froze with stunned excitement as he noticed Alex’s face drawing closer to his. But he was up for more disappointment when she merely whispered in his ear, “Two can play these games Potter.”

With a wicked smile, she freed herself from his grasp and left a confused James in his compartment. Alex still had no idea how she felt about anything that had happened between her and James, but she now had a plan of action. If James was going to play games that he hoped would win her back, she was going to fight it every step of the way.

Halie and Naomi heard the compartment door slide open and looked up to see Alex enter. Confused, they took in her complete change in demeanor.

“Alex, is everything okay?” asked a worried and confused Halie.

“You guys…I need your help.” replied Alex simply.

Halie and Naomi exchanged worried glances. Naomi was the first to respond, “Help with what precisely?”

The wicked grin found its way onto Alex’s face once more and she responded, “help to drive James Potter completely insane.”











Part Two:


“Do you realize we only have eighteen weeks until the O.W.L.’s?!” added Alex frantically as she shuffled through endless piles of notes.

“Oh my gosh, Naomi! It’s Alex…the old Alex…the quiet nerd who came to Hogwarts to learn,” said Halie as both girls began to laugh.

“You guys…shut up! Do you even realize how far behind we are…? If I hadn’t been distracted by all that James stuff, I wouldn’t be so behind.”

“Speaking of James…” said Naomi.

“Oh and look who he’s with.”

Alex spun in her chair to see James enter the Library hand in hand with Ella Zabini. Groaning, she turned back in her seat, “If it wasn’t so obvious what he is trying to do…I might actually be upset.”

“What is he doing that is so obvious?” asked Halie.

James chose that moment to sit at the table beside Alex. She cringed as the sound of Ella’s scraping chair met her ears. “I can’t take this…he is just using her to get to me,” with that she gathered her stuff and left the library.

Alex was halfway up the corridor when Halie and Naomi caught up. “Alex! Are you telling me that you think James is dating Ella Zabini, one of the most popular Slytherin girls; to…what make you jealous!” asked Naomi.

“You heard Albus on the train…this isn’t all in my imagination,” said Alex, throwing her hands in the air.

“Are you sure your not just-you know…jealous?” Halie trailed away at the furious stares that both Alex and Naomi were giving her.

“Look guys…I have known James for almost my entire life…this is something he would so do!” stated Alex plainly.

“Yeah but as Alexandra Wood not Alex Cunnings!” said Halie.

“Shhh! Halie…do you want everyone to know!” hissed Alex, “God! He is driving me insane…if I didn’t see him everywhere before; I do now!”

“Well then do something about it!” said Naomi.

“Like what?!” asked Alex.

“You said it before…you wanted our help to drive James insane,” added Naomi.

“Yeah, you should do the same thing that he is doing to you!” said Halie jumping up and down with excitement.

“Are you guys telling me to make James jealous” said Alex and much to her displeasure, Halie and Naomi nodded vigorously.

By this point, the girls had reached the Great Hall for lunch. As they took seats, Alex asked the question that she knew she would regret later on, “Soo…who would James hate enough to get that jealous…I mean Lyle is out of the question.”

Halie and Naomi gave each other a knowing look and turned once more to face Alex, in unison, they said, “Chase Masters.”

“Who?” asked Alex completely confused.

“Chase Masters, captain of the Slytherin quidditch team, one of the smartest guys in our year…and he dated James’s cousin Rose for a few months last year; drove James insane,” said Naomi.

“And… Chase and little Ms. Ella have a history, too…so she won’t want to be anywhere near you when Chase is around; so it makes it all the better,” added Halie.

“So how are you going to introduce yourself to Chase?” asked Naomi.

Alex took a second to think and putting down her fork, she said, “Honestly,” she added plainly, “If James hates Chase this much, chances are Chase will be more than willing to get back at him.”

“Good-bye old Alex…Hello fun rule-breaking Alex…oh how I missed you!”

“Oh, don’t think this gets you out of studying…we can drive James insane and study for the O.W.L.’s at the same time.”

~


Alex was tucked in a corner near the entrance hall, silently waiting for the Slytherins to return from their quidditch practice. The oak doors suddenly opened and a crowd of dirt-smudged and tired Slytherins traipsed across the hall.

This was her chance; Chase was taking up the rear. Alex ran across the hall grabbed him by the lapels of his quidditch uniform and pushed him into a broom closet on the other side. Alex closed the door with a snap and lit her wand. Chase was staring at her with a look of stunned disbelief.

“Sorry…I don’t think I know you.” he stammered.

“My name is Alex and I have a proposition for you,” she said with a wicked smile.

“Umm…okay, what is it?” he said uncertainly.

“How much would you like to get back at James Potter?”

“Well, it’s not a priority or anything…but torturing Potter is always a plus.”

“So you’re in?”

“Sure, what can I help with…?” he said with a slight smile.

~


James was sitting in the courtyard during break; he was freezing but it was the only place that Ella would not follow him these days. It had been nearly four weeks since he had retuned from Christmas break and had made little to no progress with his “Alex” problem. Actually, his progress was set back even further now that she was hanging out with stupid, Chase Masters. He was now reduced to pondering what his next move would be in the freezing courtyard… attempting to avoid his “girlfriend.”

A cheerful laugh broke him from his dazed state and he turned to see none other than Alex and Chase entering the courtyard.

Alex saw James from the corner of her eye and she smiled inwardly…this was going to be fun. They walked hand and hand across the frozen courtyard and were about to once more enter the castle when James interrupted, “Hey you two wait up!”

“Oh hey James, I didn’t see you there,” Okay, now she was just being cruel.

The look of sad anger only lingered on his face momentarily when he spoke again, “Oh I just wanted to tell you that Lyle was fired as Gryffindor quidditch captain.”

“What…Why?” said Alex aghast.

“Got in trouble for something and McGonagall replaced him.”

“Replaced him with who?” she asked dreading the answer.

“Me…just until the end of the year.”

Alex smiled falsely and responded, “James that’s fantastic…you’ll do a great job!”

“Well, I am glad that you think so, because I am scheduling the first quidditch practice this Saturday at nine…it’ll be an all day practice.”

“What are you talking about James? This Saturday is the next trip to Hogsmeade; everyone already has plans.”

“Oh, so your plans are more important than the quidditch team?” he said knowing very well what kind of predicament he was forcing her into.

The red began to grow in Alex’s cheeks when she was rescued by Chase. He smiled cleverly and she couldn’t help but notice that he was indeed rather good-looking.

“James, I am sure that something can be worked out…I mean you’re dating Ella aren’t you?”

“Sure, but what does that have to do with quidditch practice?” he said, not bothering to hide the bitterness from his voice.

“Why don’t you postpone the quidditch practice until the afternoon and we can go on a double date; you, Ella, Alex and myself…surely one practice can be put off for a few hours.”

She had to admit he was clever too. She took that moment to comment, “Yeah James I haven’t seen Ella in awhile…everything okay with her?”

James looked as though he were going through a great internal struggle; convince Alex that he was really dating Ella or spend the afternoon with one of the two people on this earth he couldn’t stand. Finally, he broke and said, “Sure, why not…Ella and I would be thrilled to.”

With that, he turned on his heel and sped from the courtyard like he was being chased from it. Alex still stood there with Chase; and when she was sure James was out of ear shot, “You are enjoying this far too much.”

“Oh can you blame me…the look he gets every time he sees us is-is-”

“Priceless?” added Alex in an attempt to finish his sentence.

“Yeah…definitely, priceless.”

They broke into quiet laughter when Alex shivered violently from the cold, “G-good Merlin, it’s freezing out here!”

“Here, come closer…” he said and with strong arms, he pulled her into his grasp.

As Alex was enveloped by his warmth, something strange happened at the pit of her stomach. She smiled nervously as she looked up into his vivid blue eyes.

“Come on…let’s get you inside,” he said as he led her in the direction of the castle.

As they went to pass the entrance to the Great Hall, they found James and Ella in a full out argument. But when Ella caught a glimpse of Alex out of the corner of her eye, she plastered a false smile across her face and gave a friendly wave. She felt Chase lean towards her and he whispered, “She’s not at all happy!”

A shiver went up her spine and smiling, she responded, “Tell me about it!”

~


“Hello love!” greeted Chase as she neared where he stood in the great hall with James and a sulking Ella.

“Hello,” she said as she was once more enveloped by one of his hugs.

James squirmed uncomfortably and said, “Come on…we haven’t got all day.”

As the four walked quietly in the direction of the village, Ella maintained her stony silence, while James shot nasty looks at Alex who held tightly onto Chase’s hand. They wandered around the village for awhile and then made their way into the Three Broomsticks to warm up. As they settled in their seats, Ella chose to speak for the first time, “So isn’t the next quidditch match Gryffindor vs. Slytherin?”

Alex gave Chase a weary look and replied, “I think we are all rather excited for the first game of the New Year.”

“It’s a pity really that you have practice this afternoon…we won’t be able to spend more time together.”

An awkward silence fell among the group as they all sipped on their drinks. After a few more moments, James spoke, “so tell us how you two met.”

Alex shot a nervous look in Chase’s direction and that clever smirk once more crossed his face, “Well, it’s a funny story really, see, one night I was on my way back to my common room after a quidditch practice, when this girl comes barreling up the hall. She has her nose stuck in a book, reading, and before I could do anything about it, she had flattened me to the floor and there was a lump on my head where her book had hit me.”

“Then, I realized that she was reading Quidditch through the Ages and I knew that she was the one for me.”

“That’s so sweet…” chimed Ella falsely.

“Ella, why don’t you tell us how you and James met?” asked Alex as she quickly took a sip of Butterbeer to hide her smirk.

Beneath the table, Chase gave her knee a friendly squeeze and gave her a look that said, “I can’t wait to hear this.” Alex slipped her hand beneath the table and reached out for his. He accepted it warmly and began to stoke it gently with his thumb. Then it hit Alex…this thing with Chase was an arrangement to drive James insane. Holding hands and hugging was defiantly not a part of the deal…so why were they doing it?

Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted by Ella who chose that moment to respond, “I have known James forever…I was at his parents’ Christmas Party this year and things just clicked.”

Alex smirked to herself as she remembered the desperate blonde at the Christmas Party…she hadn’t known Ella then, but now she could see the similarities. The rest of the morning went by rather uncomfortably until it was a little after twelve and James offered to refresh everyone’s drinks. As he and Ella stood and walked in the direction of the bar, Chase turned in his seat to face Alex.

“Oh, she is going to kill him when this is over…” he said off-handedly.

“I suspect so,” snorted Alex.

“Do you see the way he keeps looking at me?”

Alex laughed and answered, “He looks like he is about to lunge across the table at you…and we can’t have that, can we?”

“Oh and why can’t we have that?” he asked with a smirk.

“We can’t ruin your pretty face now, can we?” she said sarcastically, while pretending to slap him across the face.

He caught her hand mid-air and replied smoothly, “So you think my face is pretty, do you?”

Alex realized in that moment that he was no longer joking. The conversation had turned from playful banter into a real conversation. The red began to creep into Alex’s cheeks and she responded, “Well…you’re not that-”

Her words, however, were cut short as Chase leaned forward and kissed her firmly on the lips. Alex resisted her first impulse to pull away only by freezing where she sat. He pulled away slowly and looked into her eyes. She didn’t flinch; she merely looked into his face, was this just another act to drive James insane or did he actually like her. Something stirred at the pit of her own stomach when suddenly, the sound of breaking glass met her ears.

Alex pulled herself from Chase’s grasp and whipped around to see James clutching at the broken shards of a butterbeer bottle, the amber liquid lingering with the blood that now dripped down his fingers. She had no idea how long he had been standing there.

“James…I-I-”

James threw the other butterbeer he was clutching and it smashed against the ground. With an angry glare, he turned on his heel and sped from the bar, leaving an equally angry Ella in his wake.

Alex sat dumbstruck in her chair, a million things running through her mind at once. Chase had kissed her…but was it all a part of the act to make James jealous? Well, only thing was for sure, she was successful in making James jealous…but at what cost?

As her attention once more grew on her surroundings, she realized that Chase was still sitting across from her merely waiting for her reaction. Then the words finally came out, “What the BLOODY HELL was that?”

“You’re going to tell me that you didn’t like it?” he said with that attractive smirk.

Alex couldn’t help but let a slight smile slide across her face as she replied, “Well, it was perfectly lovely but don’t you think it was a bit much just to make James jealous?”

“Well I wasn’t doing it just to make stupid Potter jealous…” he replied, losing some of his cool confidence.

“What?” asked Alex, completely confused.

“Alex, I didn’t do any of this to mess with Potter; I did it because I like you…” he trailed away at her confused and bewildered look and then continued, “Can you blame me? You are the best keeper the school has ever seen, you’re one of the top students, and you’re not that hard on the eyes either.”

Her mind was working fast trying to determine exactly what was going on, while simultaneously, resisting the desire to run after James…

Why was she working so hard to drive James insane? Well, it was simple; really, she was doing it to him because he was doing the same to her. But why did James dating Ella drive her so insane? Could it be because…no, never! But regardless of how she felt for James, here was Chase Masters, cute, smart, athletic…but still there was something missing.

“Umm…Alex?” he said, the look of concern growing more pronounced on his face.

Alex was starting to get dizzy…when had this all become so complicated? All these questions danced around her mind until suddenly the sounds of a chiming clock met her ears; it was one o’clock…

“Crap! I have quidditch practice in twenty minutes!” and without even looking back at Chase, she ran from the bar.

A/N: So this, I believe, was the longest chapter to date…and it was action-packed if I do say so myself… If you haven’t caught on yet, this is really the turning point of the story. The next chapter is even more exciting… and I won’t even tell you what happens in the chapter after next, which hasn’t been written, but let’s just say you will all be in transports of delight when it is over! Okay, okay enough evil hints… here is a sneak peak for your trouble.

Sneak Peak:
The truth was, of all the people in her life, James may be one of the only people who would understand who she really was. What it was like to be famous for events that occurred before she was even born; famous for things that she couldn’t even begin to understand. He and he alone, in all of Hogwarts, would understand what it was like to be judged before someone had even met you.









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