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A/N: Another big chapter! Thanks for reading; please remember to review… ENJOY!

Chapter Seventeen:
Payback is a Witch
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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 her pale cheek and she whispered, “James, I have to tell you something…” James was silent.

“I-I…”

“Alex, just say what you need to say!” encouraged James.

“I-I…”

He just stared at her concerned.

“I-I…I love you!” it came out before she even had a chance to stop it.

James blinked several times then, with a look of relief, he said, “I love you, too, Alex…but that’s what this all was about?!”

“Sorry,” she said with a weak smile…but even James could tell there was no heart in it.

“Alex, why don’t you get some sleep…you look terrible.”

“Thanks,” she replied sarcastically.

“You know me…always tell the truth!” Her heart sank at his words, but he continued, “I’ll get some breakfast for Halie to bring up to you.”

He stood and kissed her on the forehead; she smiled weakly at his gesture and watched him leave the room. Once he was gone, both Halie and Naomi rushed back into the room. But halfway through, Naomi seemed to remember herself and stomped back the way she had come. When silence once more fell, Halie came to sit on Alex’s bed and said, “Not that that wasn’t beautiful Alex, but what’s really wrong.”

“Lily knows…”

“Lily knows what?” Alex gave Halie a meaningful look, “Ohhh.”

“She says I have to tell James or…she will!”

Halie responded with silence so Alex continued, “What am I going to tell him…”

“Surprise…I live in a bigger house than you!” Halie guessed.

Alex laughed, “No, how about…surprise, I’m an A-list celebrity that you’ve known for years…”

“Somehow, I don’t think that would go over well…”

“I don’t think anything will go over well.”

“Do you think if I just charm McGonagall’s hair pink she will just expel me and I can get out of it?”

“While that is one plan of action, maybe the truth is preferable…and sooner will be better than later.”

Alex sighed and fell backwards on her bed so that she was staring at her canopy, “This is going to suck, isn’t it?”

“Yep!” said Halie brightly.

“Great, just great!”

~


Alex sat in the Great Hall for lunch on Wednesday; James sitting loyally at her side while munching through some apple pie. Alex had been acting weird for days and when he leaned forward to give her a kiss…she turned her face away. Straightening, James felt someone staring at him and looked up to find Lily giving Alex a dark look from down the table. Alex also looked up, but paled markedly when she saw who was staring at them.

“Alex, is my sister mad at you?”

She paled even further if it were possible, “N-no, why would you say that?”

“Because she is trying to burn holes through you with her eyes.”

“I don’t know what you are talking about…” but she said and then attempted to distract him with a kiss.

After several pleasurable moments, James pulled away and said, “Are you sure…?”

“Oh look at the time! I have to use the bathroom before Transfiguration!” And she stood and swooped from the table leaving a confused James in her wake.

Alex made it to Moaning Myrtle’s bathroom just as her knees gave out and she sank to the floor…what had she gotten herself into? After a few quiet moments, she heard footsteps on the other side of the door as someone else entered her safe haven.

“James sent me to come check on you,” said Halie, depositing her own books in a nearby sink.

“Was he worried…?”

“More confused than worried…but Alex if you keep this up he’s going to know that something is wrong.” she spoke with her face full of concern.

“I just can’t face him anymore…I feel like a lie!”

“But you did it before…”

“I know but it’s different now because…because-”

“You love him?”

“How on earth did it get this bad?” she said with a sigh.

“Alex, you have to tell him…do it tonight if you can; if he truly loves you, you will find a way to work it out.”

Alex gave her a doubtful look and Halie continued, “I didn’t say it would be easy...”

“Come on…we need to go to Transfiguration,” she said with a resigned sigh as she headed out of the bathroom stall.

Seconds later, Cali Sapphire stepped down off the toilet in the last stall of the girls’ bathroom where she had been hiding. So Alex had a secret, she thought with a wicked smile…this was going to be fun.

~


If Alex hoped that Transfiguration would provide her a much needed distraction, she was sadly disappointed. As Professor Marks passed out the O.W.L. practice essays from the last class, Alex accepted her outstanding without a second thought. She was sitting next to James, her stomach was a knotted mess, and she couldn’t think straight. James kept stealing sideways glances at her in a way that made her the utmost uncomfortable. It was like he could see through her…that suddenly under his gaze her skin turned to saran wrap and he could see through to her soul.

She was going to tell him.
She was going to tell him tonight.
She was going to tell him and accept the consequences of her actions.
She was going to die.
Yep…she was going to crash and burn.


“Miss Cunnings!” Alex jerked from her trance.

“It is your turn to state the seven laws of Transfiguration…” said Professor Marks.

She could do this…

Oh, who was she kidding!


~


James blew the final whistle, ending quidditch practice. Alex hurried off to the changing rooms…the boys would have to wait.

She was going to try and sneak away, but realized that that wasn’t fair to James; who was, despite her weirdness the last few days, incredibly understanding. She sat in the stands and watched the other teammates wander toward the castle for dinner. He was the last to come out and she was sure that her insides were about to become outsides despite the fact she hadn’t eaten since breakfast.

“Hey you!” he said cheerfully and kissed her gently on the lips.

She pulled away a little sooner than normal and said, “Let’s take a walk and go to dinner late.”

“That sounds lovely,” he said cheesily, taking her hand in his own.

Guilt surged up around her; her resolved stiffened…she was going to do this. They were halfway around the lake when Alex broke the uncomfortable silence, “James…I have something to tell you.”

“Does this, by any chance, have to do with whatever was wrong with you on Sunday?”

Alex sighed, “You figured it out, huh?”

“You are the most stable person I know, Alex. If whatever it was had you running scared, I was in no rush to know.”

“James, I am not who I say I am…” she said in a rush.

“Right and I’m not James Potter!” he laughed bitterly.

“James stop…” she said it weakly and he turned to see her basking in the newly risen moonlight.

“Alex what is-” but he froze.

As if the clock had struck midnight on her Cinderella fairytale, 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.

“James, my name isn’t Alex Cunnings, it’s Alexandra-”

“Wood…” he said, plainly realizing the implications for his recent discovery.

“I am so sorry I-”

“So…that’s why you didn’t like me when we first met because…you already knew me.”

She nodded in silence.

“Who else knows?” he still hadn’t looked at her.

“Halie and Naomi found out around Christmas time…”

“Christmas…It was you at Christmas…I mean, in my room?” his eyes snapped upward, “You were asking me about the girl in my life when you already knew the answer!”

She replied with silence. so he continued.

“So why are you telling me this stuff now…since it is obviously one of the best kept secrets at Hogwarts,” the words were licked with bitterness.

“Because…I…I-”

Comprehension shone on his face, “Lily figured it out!”

Alex nodded in agreement.

“The only reason you’re telling me now is because my little sister threatened to tell for you.”

“James-”

“Tell me I’m wrong!” he shouted, red creeping up his neck.

“You’re not wrong…” she said weakly.

“How-how-HOW COULD YOU DO THIS TO ME!”

“James, I’m sorry!” she shouted back, tears streaming down her face.

“Sorry that you hurt me or sorry that now your secret may come out?!” he said fiercely.

“James…I DON’T CARE ABOUT MY SECRET! I just can’t stand to lie to you anymore!” She sobbed and was surprised to find it was true.

“It’s too late, Alex! I’m already hurt!” And he turned on his heel and marched in the direction of the castle.

Alexandra stood there in shock, but was surprised when he stopped and turned to face her again, “It must have been really witty to watch me introduce you to your own father at the quidditch match.”

Her stomach crumbled as James just stood there completely lost.

He went to turn around but thought better of it and faced her once more, “Oh and Alexandra,” It was her name, but the way he said it cut her like a knife, “Don’t worry about your secret…I won’t ruin your precious lie…I mean life.”

Then he was gone.
And she was alone.
Like so much of her life previous to this school year.

She was a mere island in the river known as life…as things bobbed and flowed around her she was still unable to overcome her grief to move on. She didn’t know how long she stood there, but when she snapped from her revelry it was pitch black…how appropriate.

She lit her wand and using the mirrored surface of the lake she morphed back into Alex, the pink highlights feeling like more of a lie than her true identity.

~


Cali Sapphire was exiting the Great Hall when James came stomping into the entrance hall. He looked upset; perhaps he learned the lie of a certain pink-haired demon…it was too much to hope for. With a fleeting glance, she headed toward the dungeons; opportunities like this deserve special planning.

~


Somehow, even though she couldn’t quite remember it, Alex made her way back up to Gryffindor tower. She whispered the password, tears brimming in her eyes, but stopped.

What was she doing?
She was stronger this!
Alexandra Wood crying…like hell!
She would face this disappointment like every other in her life…with her teeth bared and her fists flailing.


Stepping into the common room, Alex was met immediately by Halie, and surprisingly, Naomi.

“Alex, what happened?” they said in unison. It was a taste a bitter taste of what used to be.

“Nothing…I can’t recover from…” she said morosely as she headed up to the dorm.

~


Alex felt like she was suddenly living in a fish bowl. The news of her and James’s breakup had spread faster than the news of their relationship. People whispered and pointed as she passed, but she barely noticed as depression weighed heavily on her. It was breakfast on Friday; she had endured James’s stony silence for an entire day and now she endured the gossip.

Pushing around her eggs, Alex sighed heavily and set down her fork only to find Naomi take the seat in front of her. Naomi paused for a second, “Alex, I’m sorry for the way I’ve been treating you for the last few weeks…”

Alex didn’t respond, picking up her fork and pushing around her sausage.

Naomi continued, “But I am really sorry about how James reacted to the truth…I know how much you cared for him-”

She faltered as James passed the table going to his own seat for breakfast. Alex sniffed and a single tear trailed down her cheek, but she hastily wiped it away and responded, “It’s okay, I understand…”

“I bet it will be nice to get away for Easter break…”

Alex nodded.

“Are you going to Hogsmeade tomorrow?” asked Halie hopefully.

Alex snorted derisively, “Why, so everyone can ogle at me there, too?”

“Come on, Alex, it’ll be fun!” Naomi chided.

Alex cracked a brief smile, “Sure, why not, it couldn’t get any worse, right?”

~


Cali Sapphire had a perfect seat; one side she could see Alex Cunnings sniffling, and on the other was James grinding his teeth. She looked up as the morning owl post flew in the vast windows. She looked among the rain speckled wings and found what she was looking for.

A large black owl swooped down upon her table and set down a very large package. Severing the tape with her wand, she opened the box to find a stack of sweaters and a tin of homemade cookies. She frowned and rooted through the box, but did not find what she really wanted. Knocking on the bottom of the box, she heard the hollow chink of glass against glass.

A wicked smile spread across her face as she closed the box and went to take it to her room before classes. The plan was in motion; by this time tomorrow, Alex Cunnings would no longer be a problem and James Potter would be all hers.

~


James was a ghost drifting at the edge of conversations, not eating, and sighing morosely. Dinner had finished a few hours before and he was content with wandering the castle on his own. He had seen Alex, or rather Alexandra forty-eight times…yes, he counted because that is exactly how many times his teeth clenched and his fists bared. Truthfully, he was too scared to face the Gryffindor tower, to afraid to see her in her own depressed saddened state.

James knew why he was angry, and felt that his fury was justified; but something tugged at the pit of his stomach. He felt that if he was to face her, his anger would waver and he couldn’t help but forgive her…he wanted to forgive her. As he was about to mindlessly climb the stairs a voice rang out behind him, “Hey James!”

He turned to find Cali Sapphire near the open main doors to the school, “I’m not really in the mood Cali…sorry.”

She frowned and held out two bottles of amber liquid, “Not in the mood for a gift?”

His jaw dropped, “Cali, what are you doing?!”

“I was just going for a walk around the lake, would you care to join?” she said with a flirtatious smile.

“I don’t know-”

“Come on, Jamesie, give your self a break,” she whined.

He began to walk forward, “Fine, but only if one of those bottles is for me.”

~


It was almost midnight; the moon was nearly full and high overhead. Alex couldn’t sleep; guilt and regrets unrelentingly tugging at her mind and heart. She sighed as she watched a pair of students down by the lake. Something was familiar about one of them but she brushed it off as she imagined that it was her and James down there…sitting in the moonlight and enjoying the free time together.

Tomorrow would be Hogsmeade; she didn’t want to go but she had promised Halie and Naomi that she would. Alex sighed deeply and wrapped her robe tighter about herself. One of the figures by the lake had jumped into the icy waters and was now coming to rest on the shore. Well, at least not everyone was miserable, she thought as she stood and went to bed…a little sleep was better than none at all.

~


James was laughing heartily; the empty glass bottle toppled to the ground beside him. Cali was dripping wet and laying beside him; laughing equally as hard.

“I can’t believe you did tha-” his words slurred.

“Okay,” she said, “your turn, truth or dare?”

James thought for a moment, “Dare!”

“You have to do at least one truth, James!”

“FINE! Next time…this time I want a dare.”

“Okay,” she bit her lip seductively, “I dare you to kiss me-”

James eyed her unsure then he crawled over to where she lay and gave her a fierce kiss on the lips. They pulled apart; Cali slightly out of breath, “James, you didn’t let me finish. I was going to say that I dare you to kiss me here,” she said, indicating her neck.

James smiled, “My apologies; let me fix that…”

He trailed kisses down her neck in his drunken state; little did he notice Cali’s nearly untouched bottle. He pulled away again and said, “Okay, Truth or Dare?”

“Truth…” she said unsure.

“Umm…” he had to think, and that was hard to do with a near alcohol-induced coma, “Why did you come find me tonight?”

She smiled a small smile, “I heard about you and Alex breaking up and I saw how upset you were…I just wanted to make you feel better.”

He nodded barely comprehending.

“Your turn…Truth or Dare?”

“Dare.”

“JAMES!” she yelled.

“Fine…truth!” he ceded.

Cali pretended to think for a moment, “What was Alex’s big secret…you know the one that made you two break up.”

She was suddenly serious; her speech clear and authoritative.

“I can’t say…” he trailed away weakly.

“James,” she pouted, “Here, have some more rum…it must have been awful!”

He nodded; downing more alcohol.

“I’m sure if you talk about it you will feel better,” she coaxed him.

“I told her I wouldn’t tell anyone.”

“Do you really think she deserves that loyalty, James?” she smiled kindly.

James shook his head no.

“Just think of how much better you will feel once you get it off your chest…”

James nodded dumbly.

“Come on, James, tell me,” she rested a pale hand on his chest.

“Alex Cunnings isn’t her real name,” he was scared by his own actions.

“What?!” said Cali shocked, “What is her real name?”

James shook his head again; somewhere he knew that what he was doing was wrong. Then the clouds shifted overhead and moonlight spotted the ground; it took him back in time to the night that he had found out. His heart ached and anger rattled around in his chest.

“James, what is it?” she said trying her best to hide her eagerness.

“Her real name is Alexandra Wood…” he sounded defeated.

Cali’s eyes nearly popped out of her head but her astonishment was quickly replaced by excitement.

Several hours later, when she had managed to get James back to the castle, she set out to the Owlery; she had work to do and fast.

~


Alex woke up in the same depressed state that she had gone to bed with. Swinging her legs out of bed, she shuffled away to the bathroom; if she was going to be forced to enjoy herself she may as well have a good hair day. An hour later, she was eating breakfast with Halie and Naomi. James was nowhere is sight, which was both a blessing and a curse.

The hall was filled with the excited chatter that usually marked the start of a Hogsmeade weekend. Alex felt someone staring at her and she whipped around to see Cali Sapphire looking sleep-deprived and smug. The black-haired girl gave a vicious smile and a little wave. Alex responded with a snide look and turned back around in her seat.

Before she knew it, she was being led down the road to Hogsmeade, silent and depressed. They were halfway there when it began to rain; lightly at first, but then it was a right downpour. Alex jammed a hat on her head, hiding all her pink streaks; well at least the weather reflected the mood.

There seemed to be more people in the village than usual; in fact, a lot of middle-aged men, bald, with bags slung over their shoulders. The three girls pushed against the storm and Halie said, “I really need to find a dress for my and Charlie’s anniversary.”

Alex didn’t respond so she continued, “That means I need your help…Alex!”

She nodded numbly.

Halie and Naomi groaned in unison and pushed her forcefully into the nearest dress store. The store was deserted and the painted front windows blocked the milling street from view. Alex tossed aside the rain soaked hat and headed down the nearest row of dresses. Pulling out a few, she headed off to the dressing room where Halie was waiting for the perfect dress.

Alex was about to sink into an armchair when Naomi called out, “Alex, you have to come see this!”

It took her a few minutes to find exactly where the voice had come from, but she found her in the back of the store where all the vintage clothes were stuffed onto one rack.

“Depressed times call for new clothes,” Naomi announced as she held out ripped skinny jeans, a torn lace shirt, and a pair of black kitty-cat heels.

“I am supposed to wear those?” said Alex with an arched eyebrow.

“Come on…it screams you!”

“It screams something…not sure it’s me though.”

“You are buying it and wearing it out of the store…make James sorry he broke it off with you.”

“If you haven’t noticed, James isn’t around today.”

“Charlie told me he’s sleeping off a hangover…got totally plastered last night,” said Halie appearing from around the dressing room door.

“Oh…” Alex heaved a sigh; and grabbing the clothes, went to the nearest changing room.

An hour later, the threesome left the shop; new outfit on and rain hat once more firmly over her head. Not remembering just how crowded it was, she plowed into another middle-aged bald guy with a bag.

“Watch it little missy; I’m workin’ here!”

She took a step back and continued on her way as the man said to the guy next to him, “Nearly all of the students are down here…still no sign of her; how reliable was that source anyway?”

Alex thought hard…what was going on here? Then, Halie yelled into her ear, “Hey, let’s get a drink at the Three Broomsticks; it’s too crowded out here!”

The rain pounded harder against the ground so the girls pushed forward into the cozy, warm dryness of the pub. Naomi went to go pick up drinks as Alex and Halie picked a booth far removed from the other tables.

“Do you see all those old guys?” asked Naomi returning with their drinks.

“Must be a convention or something,” added Halie.

“What an old bald guy convention?” asked Alex with a snort.

“Ha ha,” sighed Halie, “All I’m saying is that it’s weird.”

Outside the window Alex watched as lightning forked across the sky…it really was a miserable day. An hour later, the girls ceded their attempt to “wait out” the storm and decided to cut their losses and head back to the castle for a late lunch. They donned their rain gear and tromped from the pub. If it were possible, there were even more people waiting in the pouring rain.

Then, the most unfortunate series of events unfolded right before Alex. First, a great gust of wind picked the hat of her head and blew it away. As she jumped to grab for it, the heel of her new shoes got caught in the cobble stones. And as she overbalanced and fell over, she gave a small shriek and landed in a puddle of mud with a splash. Every person waiting in the square turned at that moment to find the source of commotion and that’s when true hell broke loose.

The middle-aged balding men simultaneously reached for the bags over their shoulders and pulled out cameras. With pink-streaked hair, mud covered jeans, and a broken high heel, Alex was suddenly aware of the voices screaming at her.

“Look, it’s Alexandra Wood!” screamed several people in unison.

Naomi pulled her upright despite the missing heel.

“It’s true she’s been parading around Hogwarts with a different name.”

“Nice HAIR!” screamed another reporter with a wicked laugh.

A crowd of her fellow students began to encircle her, curious as to what the commotion was about.

“Does you mother know about your makeover?” screamed another voice.

Alex paled; her blood running cold, this had to be some kind of nightmare. She pinched herself to wake up…it didn’t work.

“So this is where you have been all year!”

It was all too much, how could they have found out? Halie and Naomi wouldn’t have told, Lily wouldn’t have told either because Alex had already told…James. Her stomach plummeted and she suddenly felt like she was going to be sick.

“Alexandra…why all the secrecy?”

She had had enough; reaching downward she pulled the remnants of her shoes off her feet.

The crowd began to push in; the screaming grew louder.

She ripped off her coat and poised herself to take off.

The screaming had reached a fevered pitch, the cameras flashed brighter, the crowd had grown bigger.

“Alexandra…why all the LIES?”

She had lied to James and he had betrayed her in return.

Tears streaked down her already wet cheeks.

And then she did what she had been dying to do for a week…she ran. Pelting forward, she managed to bowl over a few reporters along the way as camera flashes trailed her progress.

Her heart pounded; tears and sweat mingled downward on her cheek, and her bare feet splashed around the muddy ground carrying her away from the mess that she had made.

It was over, her secret was out…

A/N: I am too afraid to ask…how terribly do you hate me right now? Yes, James is a fool and Cali is a bitch, but Alex had to go out with a bang (or in this case a shrieking tumble to the muddy ground). So I would really like to know what you think of this latest twist. For those of you who are calm enough to read, here is a sneak peak.


Sneak peak:

James froze and he realized just how deluded Cali truly was. Then, he laughed the most infuriating little chuckle that it made her snap.

“What the hell are you laughing about?!”

“You selfish bitch…you did this for you…because Alex is ten times prettier, smarter, and nicer than you will ever be,” he said in barely more than a whisper.

He turned on his heel and walked back in the direction of his bed, still laughing hysterically.











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