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A/N: I came to the realization that I may have hyped up this chapter…which made me very angry with myself because writing is hard enough to do without overwhelming expectations. I sank my own ship…quite sad actually. So in my defense the content mentioned in the chapter is something you have all be waiting for, as for the writing, however, I can make no promises. I hope sincerely that you enjoy it **crosses fingers**


Chapter Sixteen:

All Kinds of Places

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“Mr. Potter…I told you an hour ago that you could leave the hospital wing. If you don’t leave now, I will give you a legitimate reason to be here,” said Madam Pomfrey, angrily tapping her foot against the floor of the hospital wing.

James, who was sitting at the foot of Alex’s bed, turned with an innocent look that fooled no one, and said, “Umm…a few more minutes, please?”

“Miss Cunnings needs her rest to get better.”

Alex rolled her eyes.

“You need to leave…now!”

“I don’t really need to be here…” said Alex to the nurse hopefully.

“Nice try, Miss Cunnings, but you still have a broken leg…and if Mr. Potter doesn’t leave now…I will floo his mother.”

Yep, that worked. James turned to face Alex and said in a false valiant tone, “I must leave you now…but I shall return.”

He leaned forward and gave her a very awkward hug and then stood and dashed from the hospital wing. Alex sat in bed and gave the school nurse a dark stare; the only reason the hospital wing had been bearable for the last five days was because of James’s presence. Sighing, she shifted downward in bed and drifted into a fitful sleep full of falling off of broomsticks and the smiling face of James…somehow strangely synonymous with one another.

Some time later, Alex awoke to a chorus of, “Wake up ALEX!”

Alex cracked open her eyes to find Halie and Naomi leaning over her, “Don’t you guys have any other friends to bother?” But the comment was ruined with a slight smile.

“Oh you know you love us!” said Naomi playfully, taking a seat on the bed.

“So how was Transfiguration?” asked Alex.

“Yet more O.W.L. work,” said Halie rolling her eyes and dumping several pounds of school books before Alex, “But we didn’t come to talk about school…we CAME” to talk about James.”

“What about James?” asked Alex calmly.

“He was in Transfiguration-” said Naomi.

Alex cut in, “I thought we weren’t talking about Transfiguration.”

` “HE seemed happy…too happy,” finished Naomi.

“I know nothing about that. Is this really all the work we have to do?” she asked indicating the mountainous pile of books.

“Yes and stop avoiding the topic!”

A staring contest ensued, Halie and Naomi on one side and Alex on the other. Alex broke first, “Fine! What do you want to know?”

“Did you guys make up?!”

“Did you make out!?”

“Are you going out?”

“I can really only answer one question at a time.”

“Arghhh! Just tell us what happened!” screamed Halie.

Madam Pomfrey stuck her head into the wing to check what was going on, then disappeared shaking her head as Alex began to divulge exactly what had happened between her and James. Some time later Halie asked, “So do you…you know…like him?”

Alex sighed and with slight hesitation nodded her head to the affirmative.

“Oh My God! You two are so cute together!” screamed Halie and the girls broke down into fits of cheerful laughter. They were interrupted by a slightly impatient cough, “I must insist that you ladies leave so Ms. Cunnings can be rested enough for her discharge tomorrow.”

Three pairs of eyes turned to look at her, “Can we please have another ten minutes?”

Going against her better judgment, she replied, “Fine; but in ten minutes I want to hear silence.”

Halie and Naomi picked up their bags and faced Alex, “It’s okay; we really do need to start on our O.W.L work…we’ll see you tomorrow!”

As the pair turned to leave, the bottom seam in Naomi’s bag, already strained from carrying around Alex’s books gave way, spilling its contents into Alex’s lap.

“Bugger! I knew that was going to happen!” cried Naomi.

But Alex was too distracted to notice. In her lap, amongst the books and rolls of parchment, were a dozen or so very crisp envelopes with thick letters inside. Alex recognized the stationary on which they were written and she knew the untidy scrawl that had scratched “Naomi Longbottom” on the envelopes. Naomi was frozen with what seemed like a mixture of terror and despair.

“Alex, what is it?” asked Halie not privy to the same knowledge that the others had.

“Alex, I can explain!” said Naomi.

“Oh really!” said Alex a fire burning in confused fury, “You can explain why you have letters written by my brother?!”

“Oh,” said Halie simply.

“He wrote me after the Christmas Party-”

Alex interrupted, “And you had to write back?”

“Yes!” defended Naomi.

“Naomi, I told you my brother does nothing but hurt the girls he dates.”

“He says I am different!”

“He has said that to every girl since he was fourteen,” said Alex her anger being replaced by confusion.

“I didn’t think it was a big deal!”

“A big deal, a big deal!” she was angry again, “WHAT ABOUT JOSH!”

“What about him?” she replied her cheeks reddening.

“Don’t you think he deserves to know?!” shouted Alex.

“What about James! Huh Alex?! Doesn’t he deserve to know?!” threatened Naomi.

“You have to tell him, Naomi,” said Alex weakly.

Naomi gave one more outraged look and stomped from the Hospital Wing; Halie, who seemed completely lost, gave Alex an apologetic look and took after her friend. Needless to say, Alex didn’t sleep very well that night; questions kept bouncing around in her mind. The biggest one being: since when did her brother write letters?!

The next afternoon after Friday’s classes, James was surprised when he entered the hospital wing to find an exhausted and irritable Alex.

“Hey Cunnings!” he said cheerfully.

“Hey yourself, Potter” she said with a wince as she stood and steadied herself.

“Umm…everything okay?” he asked unsure if it was okay to approach her.

“If by okay you me currently in a fight with my best friend and am in an extreme amount of pain, then yeah, I am just dandy!” she replied sarcastically.

“I will take that as a no then.”

Alex’s eyes softened, “Sorry…I didn’t sleep well.”

“I can see that.”

“Thanks James!”

“Would you rather I lie?” he replied innocently.

“Just…let’s go before robo-nurse makes me stay,” she said, wincing again.

“Okay,” said James Grabbing her rucksack, before following close behind her.

The walk back up to Gryffindor Tower was a long and awkward one. He was intentionally standing close to her in order to catch her if she fell and his hand kept swinging and bumping hers. By the tenth time, Alex blurted out, “James, if you want to hold my hand, just do it, for Merlin’s sake!”

James was silently reprimanding his hand as he outstretched it to encompass hers. And as his face filled with delight, Alex was kicking herself for coming across so harshly, but was nonetheless enjoying the consequences. The rest of the trip seemed to pass by rather quickly as they came to the portrait of the Fat Lady. Muffled screaming met their ears through the common room door; the pair paused and Alex pulled her hand from James’s warm grasp…there was something very familiar about one of those voices.



With caution, she gave the password to the Fat Lady and pushed into the common room. The usually buzzing space was frozen as onlookers stared; gaping at two people in the center of the room. Naomi and Josh were having a full blown argument and as Alex entered the space, their words met her ears.

“So you have been writing him for how LONG?!” shouted Josh.

“Why does it matter?” yelled Naomi as Alex circled the room and came to rest next to Halie by the girls’ staircase.

“It matters because I want to know how long you have been cheating on me!”

“How is it cheaing?!”



“Tell me you don’t Love him!”

A very telling red flush was growing on her checks, “Fine…you know what, I do…I do love him!”

Alex’s mouth fell open…the next time she saw her brother she was going to kill him for this. Silence pounded around the space and suddenly Halie walked forward and said, “Come on Naomi, you need to calm down.”

Naomi gave in to Halie’s persuasive grip and was pulled in the direction of the fifth year girls’ dorm. Naomi was passing Alex when she stopped dead and seethed, “This is your fault Alex.”

Alex was speechless.

“You have to tell him!” she said in a mocking voice, “you’ll pay for this, Cunnings!”

“Come on NAOMI!” And with a final disgruntled tug, Halie managed to pull her friend up the stairs.

Alex was pale and dumbstruck…this was bad; very, very bad. But her panic was interrupted by James who walked up to her.

“What was that all about?”

“I-I have no idea…” Alex trailed away.

“Alex, you obviously know…”

“Fine, Naomi has been writing letters to Ace Wood.”

“So?”

“He’s been writing back.”

“Oh.”

“Yeah,” she said darkly.

“How long have you known about this?” said James with just a slight hint of accusation.

But it was enough, “I just found out last night…god, Potter.”

“I can’t believe that she did that to Josh…” he trailed away.

“I wouldn’t blame her entirely…”

“Are you saying that this is somehow Josh’s fault?” James seethed.

“NO!”

“Then what are you saying?!”

“I am saying that Ace Wood is a conniving, chauvinistic pig!”

“HOW WOULD YOU KNOW!” shouted James…this was turning into a full out argument.

Alex froze her eyes as wide as dinner plates…OH CRAP…how can she get herself out of this one?

“I- umm…Why are we arguing about this? The fact is I found out yesterday about Naomi and Ace…I told her that she was being unfair to Josh, and that she should tell him what is going on. I guess she took my advice; which is probably what lead that argument that we just witnessed. I am afraid that if you want any more answers, James, you are going to ask Naomi yourself!”

James was silent then with a slight smile he said, “Why are we arguing?”

“Because we are good at it.”

Alex turned on her heel and hobbled away…

“Where are you going?” asked James confused

“I am going to write a letter”

“To who?” asked James as the portrait hole closed…it was probably best not to follow her.

Alex continued her way to the Owlery and wrote a letter to her brother, most of which should never be witnessed by any decent person, but included sentiments such as:

@%&*@^@@?!%&. You are a despicable disgusting excuse for a human being. *%^@$%&@. I can’t believe you did this when I told you she had a boyfriend! &*#&@%$#&^@! If you hurt her, I will kill you and if my secret comes out because of this I will dig you out of your grave and burn your remains. @&*(!^#(&@@&^*! *$#^&@!?+_@%&Q^!@*@& !$%!*!%@$*@&*@%$!# @&^@*_+! I am disowning you as my brother!

I hope you rot in hell

–Alexandra Wood.


She finished the letter with a flourish and sent the hate-filled note on its way. If Friday was any testament to how horrible the weekend was going to be, she was not disappointed. On Saturday, Halie rushed up to her at breakfast as whispered, “Look Alex, I completely agree with you when it comes to everything about your brother, but I need to stick with Naomi…I am really, really sorry.”

As she rushed away, Alex thought Great! My lunatic best friend who knows all my secrets is stark raving mad at me and now I have no friends for the rest of the weekend.

The owl post chose that moment to make its entrance and an envelope drifted into her cereal bowl. Alex ripped open the soggy mess and read the note it held:

I LOVE YOU TOO, SIS! -Ace.

She heaved an angry sigh and shoved the note into the dregs of her cereal and with satisfaction watched the ink bleed from the note.

“Hey ALEX! How goes the weekend?”

Alex nearly jumped from her skin and turned to face James who was smiling broadly.

“James! Don’t do that to me!”

“Sooorryyy!” he replied throwing his hands in the air in mock surrender.

“Did you need something, Potter?” She returned to her cereal, but then remembered the letter floating in it.

“A whole bunch of us are going to study in the library and I was wondering if you wanted to join us?”

She returned the invitation with a suspicious glance.

“I swear it’s just studying!” he said innocently.

~


A few minutes later, Alex found herself alone in the library with James.

“So where are all these people we are supposed to be studying with?” she asked mockingly.

“It’s not my fault if they chose not to come,” he said, plainly not looking up from his Charms essay.

“James-” but she was cut off.

“Honestly! She sits in the dorm and tries to blame me from what she has gotten herself into!” said Halie coming out of nowhere and slamming her books on the table, “I just want to know when this became my fault.”

“She is still upset?”

“She is more than upset…she’s livid; but I can’t begin to understand it…she brought this on herself!”

“Shhh!” said the librarian from across the room; so they all ceased talking and returned to their work.

After awhile, Alex looked up from her own essay, once more distracted by Halie who was muttering something along the lines of, “Stupid…her own fault!”

She noticed that James was no longer studying but doodling in his Potions book…the picture looked similar to Naomi with her head exploding. Alex gave him a playful kick beneath the table and he looked up at her with a wide smile and a wink. She couldn’t help herself a dull red flush grew in her cheeks. Then he leaned over and in a voice so low only their table could hear he said, “Alex, do you mind explaining this Potions’ theory to me?”

He spun his book around and indicated a scribble note in the margin:

Come up with an excuse and I will meet you in the History section…no one ever goes there.

Alex looked up at him horrified; what kind of girl did he really think she was anyway?! But he gave another playful wink and against her better judgment, she said, “You know what, I think I saw a book explaining that the other day…I’ll go see if I can find it.”

Alex stood and James watched her and her torn, bleached jeans retreat down one of the endless aisles. After another five minutes, James stood and announced that he had to use the bathroom and also retreated down the passage of books. Halie and Charlie looked up at each other with a knowing smirk…well it was only a matter of time.

~


Alex reached up to place a book back on one of the upper shelves. She was too distracted to hear James sneaking up behind her. He grabbed at her waist and whispered, “boo.” She was startled and spun on the spot so that his arms slipped downward, but now they were facing each other. He was close enough to smell…in fact…for the first time she observed the smell of some mysterious cologne. She looked into his eyes and realized she was close enough to count the freckles that specked his nose and cheeks.

The breath caught in her chest and her head was suddenly full of cement; the only thing she could register was how close he was. He stepped closer, Alex tried to step backwards, but was prevented from doing so by bookshelves. One of her hands rested against his chest and she felt the rapid beating of his heart beneath her fingertips. He brought his hand farther up on her back and felt her shiver at the light touch.

They were so close but they seemed so far, what would have been seconds dragged on for what felt like hours. Their eyes were locked; neither able to recognize anything but each other’s passion. He began to lean still closer; their lips were nearly touching, neither able to breath for the sheer ecstasy of it all.

Then, it happened, it started with the lightest of all touches; his lips held her soft pink ones for one pure moment, but the kiss slowly grew deeper and more passionate. They stood like that for several seconds, both caught up in the finality of their actions, or at least Alex was. Quite suddenly, the realization that she was kissing the boy she had vowed to hate forever broke through her cement-filled head. James felt her pull back and step out from beneath his grasp. Both were slightly out of breath as she circled back around behind him.

The fierce battle going on inside Alex’s head shown plainly on her face. James’s face fell as he watched her continue to pace around the area. It was James! She couldn’t like him of all people! But it felt so right. But this was the boy who made her life hell! But, but, but, “Screw it!” she said beneath her breath. And before James even knew what was happening, Alex had wrapped her arms around him and began to kiss him. It was different than before; it was as though her touch sent an electric spark through his body.

They spun on the spot and he once again pressed her into the bookshelf. Her hands slipped beneath his shirt; their coolness sending shivers up his spine. He had one hand on her waist and the other on the back of her neck, bringing her still closer. Her mouth roamed his, desperate for the taste of his lips. He felt her tongue beg entrance to his mouth and parted his lips with eagerness. Alex was lost in it all and broke off only to let him trail warm kisses down her neck to her shoulder.

She was crazed by the tingles he sent down her spine as she reached once more for the comfort of his lips. They had barely a chance to breath as the kiss continued. Alex forgot all her reservations about the boy who made her feel so confused but more alive than she had ever expected. The confinement of his warm body was all she needed in that single moment…to lose it would be hell.

A polite and comic laugh sounded out of nowhere causing James and Alex to break apart.

“So where you able to…umm…find that book James?” said Charlie with a chuckle.

James pulled a book off the shelf behind Alex and said, “Yep.”

And smiling, he continued to kiss Alex, who after so long, couldn’t find a reason to resist.

The next few weeks were the happiest Alex could remember. Spring had begun to chip away the icy March weather and Quidditch practices became more frequent. One in particular was quite memorable. James had asked her to stay after practice to help him put equipment away. When they were done, they sat together in the stands in a comfortable silence when James suddenly burst out, “DYOUWANABMAGRLFRIEND!”

“Excuse me?” said Alex with an arched eyebrow.

James took a deep breath and tried again, “Do you want to be my girlfriend?”

Alex couldn’t help herself and with a brilliant smile, she pushed him down on the bleachers and kissed him quite ferociously. They broke apart smiling and Alex said, “It took you long enough to ask!”

But all together it would be a lie to say that all things in her life were going as well as her love life. Naomi was still not speaking to her; but there had been no headlines of Alexandra Wood’s secret whereabouts, so she took it as a good sign. Halie was still bouncing between the feuding sides so Alex was able to spend less and less time with her best friend.

O.W.L. work had reached its overload point and she realized between sleep, food, homework, James, and Quidditch that she had less then no time to do anything else. But this all was incomparable to the wrath of Cali Sapphire. The news of James and Alex’s relationship had spread like wildfire through the school and since that fateful day, Cali had Alex put in detention twice and lost house points daily for meaningless infractions. Between Cali’s death glares and Naomi’s stony silence Alex wasn’t surprised that they hadn’t joined forces yet.

Now, however, it was the second to last Saturday in March. Next weekend was the final Hogsmeade visit; the first week of April was Easter break (Alex was being forced to go home) and the end of April marked the beginning of O.W.L.S.

Alex and James were sharing a sofa; James was snoring slightly and she was using him as a book stand for her Transfiguration book. The fire cracked happily a few feet away and she put a few final touches on her Transfiguration essay, which was due the following Monday. Then, she felt someone’s eyes burrowing into her. Lifting her eyes from her essay, Alex looked about the room, expecting to find Naomi glaring at her but instead saw Lily. The young girl had an unusually dark demeanor that did not at all reflect her normal self.

“Everything okay, Lils?” said Alex quietly.

Lily stood and walked away; not once saying a word…now that was strange. A few exhausted hours later, Alec planted a gentle kiss on the sleeping James who jerked awake.

“I am going to bed…I’ll see you in the morning” and she disappeared up the girls’ staircase.

She entered her dorm and quickly changed into a pair of shorts and a tank top. Alex then threw herself into bed, but found something was poking her head. Lighting her wand, she found a tightly bound scroll sitting, now crushed, on her pillow. Breaking the seal, she allowed the note to unfold and then read the only line on the entire page,

I know your secret…Meet me on the Astronomy tower tonight at midnight!

Alex stared at it blankly for a few moments then looked over at her alarm clock…it was almost eleven thirty. Against her better judgment, Alex but on her bathrobe and grabbed her wand as she headed out her dormitory door.

With one near miss with the caretaker, Alex found herself on the Astronomy tower just in time to meet the mysterious note writer.

“Hello,” said Alex wearily.

From the shadows a small cloaked redheaded figure appeared, “Hello, Alexandra.”

Alex’s jaw fell open for before her stood little Lily Potter looking deadly serious.

“L-Lily?”

“What…are you surprised?”

“Well…yeah!” said Alex.

This was met by silence before she continued, “did you need something, Lily.”



“Yes…I need you to stop lying to my brother,” she said quite seriously.

“Lily what are you-”

“Alex,” Lily cut in, “or should I say Alexandra…please don’t try to lie…”

Alex was quite literally lost for words but then broke, “Lily, please try and understand…”

“Oh, I understand Alex…You don’t think I understand what it is like to live in other people’s spotlight.”

“So you won’t tell?” she said with false hope.

“Merlin knows that if I were offered a different life that I would take it…so no…I won’t tell anyone. But only on one condition.”

Alex swallowed hard and responded “oh yeah what’s that…?”

“You have to tell James the truth.”

“The truth?”

“Who you are…what your real name is…he deserves to know.”

“And if I don’t?” she replied a little more daring than she felt.

“Than I will tell him for you,” Lily continued seriously.

Alex stared for a few moments, then in silence, turned on her heels and walked toward the door.

“Oh, and Alex,” she stopped and turned to face the young girl, “You have until Easter or I tell James myself.”

Not saying a word, Alex left the rooftop and headed in the direction of the Gryffindor Tower. She didn’t even bother trying not to get caught…it would be easier if she just got expelled…then she wouldn’t have to worry about James.

Nonetheless, she arrived safely back in Gryffindor Tower still stunned and silent. She sat down on her bed and ceased movement…this was bad; really, really bad. Vaguely, a few hours later, she noted that the sun had started to rise…and yet even longer after that, the other girls began to stir… still she herself had not moved.

Naomi was the first to wake and find Alex in her petrified state…it was so worrisome in fact that she forgot all her anger and rushed over to where she sat.

“Halie! Halie, something is wrong with Alex!”

Halie stirred and woke, slowly registering what was going on around her. She, too, rushed to Alex’s side and attempted to make contact with her friend. In Alex’s head, she had connected telling James her secret with everyone else finding out her secret…either way, she had one week to enjoy the life she had built at Hogwarts before it all disappeared.

“James…” she trailed away with one quivering note.

Halie turned the rest of the fifth year girls who were all awake now, “Can someone help James get up here without making the stairs freak out?”

A few minutes later, James flew in on his own broomstick and the rest of the girls filed out of the room. Alex seemed to finally break from her trance as James knelt down in front of her and took her hands into his own.

“Alex what’s wrong…everyone is worried.”

A single tear trailed down Alex’s pale cheek and she whispered, “James I have to tell you something…?”


A/N: Hello all…so how did you like it? Please bear with me; I must confess that my writing pace has slowed to that of snail. I beg for your patience as I strive to produce the ending of the story you have all loyally read. And now, for bearing with me through these extremely long author’s notes, here is a sneak peak for you pleasure.



Sneak peak:


As if the clock had struck midnight on her Cinderella fairy tale, the magical disguise fell away from her features. Her hair lay in dark curls down her back, her brown eyes reflecting her slightly freckled nose. She wrung her hands together praying that he would just say a word…a single word.











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