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A/N: Well, it all comes down to this…the final chapter. Nothing much to report on other than please remember to read and review! Thanks for all the support and advice you have given me along the way I really hope this story turns out to be what you all hoped it would. Okay, enough talk… get reading!

Chapter Twenty:
Let the Games Begin
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Alexandra looked down dismally at her finery; expensive designer jeans, pale gold silk top, fashionable heels. For some ungodly reason, Ace had insisted that she do her hair and makeup. When she had refused, he had stooped to a new low and brought their mother in on it.

So there she was looking nearly irresistible with the exception of the pronounced scowl on her face, trying to understand why her brother had been so insistent about her looks. Now, she was sitting in a lobby of an all too expensive five star hotel wondering where the hell Halie and Naomi were.

“Excuse me, Miss,” a young waiter, adorned in a green vest, offered her a glass of champagne for the fifth time. She looked up to tell him, once again, that she was too young to drink, when she spotted something over his shoulder. In a moment of sheer panic, she hurtled herself up and over the back of the leather couch she had been sitting on. Peeking around the edge of the couch, she once again spotted Lily Potter dragging a reluctant James across the hotel lobby.

How could she have not thought about this; how many high-end hotels did this remote part of Ireland have anyway? Alex was quickly attempting to assemble an escape plan when two figures stepped into her line of vision.

“Alex, what are you doing behind that couch?” asked Halie.

“Did you know?!” Alex accused.

“Did we know what?” answered Naomi with a bit too much innocence.

“Did you know that the Potters were staying at this hotel?”

Alex had expected looks of guilt or at least looks of polite shock; what she had not expected were her two best friends to roll their eyes in unison.

“Honestly, you’ve been telling us for the last four months that you are over James Potter!” said Naomi.

“This doesn’t look like ‘over it’ to me, Alex!” said Halie with her hands on her hips.

“I AM over James. But excuse me for being uncomfortable with the fact that we are staying in the same hotel!”

Naomi sighed, “Forget him, Alex; come on, the match is going to start soon… let’s head up to the box.”

“Go ahead; I’ll catch up.” Alex mumbled, sinking once again behind the couch.

“So you’re just going to stay behind that couch?” asked Halie.

“Yep!”

“Fine, see you later…” Naomi grabbed Halie and walked away.

Alex continued to sulk behind the couch. She was over James Potter; ‘over’ in the sense that she realized they would always be good together, but also that it would never last…someone or something would always get in the way. That no matter how much she cared, which was a lot, (and she didn’t see it decreasing any time soon) things would always end badly. No matter how great the good times were she would always come back to this pain. Learning to live without him would be better than having her heart broken repeatedly; because no matter how much he changed, he would always be James Potter. So yes, in the sense that she would never be over James, she was ‘over’ him.

“Excuse me, miss?” The server peeked around the side of the couch.

“WHAT?!”

“Would you like a drink?”

Alex took a deep breath and calmly replied, “No-thank-you.”

Though she had managed to maintain her temper, she really just wanted to be left alone but this guy was just not taking a hint. “Is there anything I can get you?” he repeated.

Alex heaved a sigh; apparently, the middle of a hotel lobby wasn’t the best place to seek solitude. So shaking her head, Alex stood with her back still facing the lobby and smoothed out the wrinkles in her clothes. With another sigh, she began to turn…

“Alex?” said a familiar voice.

Alexandra froze, screaming retributions in her head; why this, why now, why here…?!

Still standing behind the couch with her back facing the rest of the room, she replied, “Hello James.”

~Thirty minutes earlier~


It was moments like these that James truly questioned Lily’s sanity, “Lily, what are we looking for?”

“A door…”

“A door?”

“More specifically a door with a lock…”

Nothing good could come from this search…Lily had been plotting for hours and had yet to tell him the entirety of the plan.

“Are you going to tell me what’s going on-”

“AHA!” Lily cut him off.

They had been wandering around beneath the stands of the pitch since breakfast. As they turned the last corner, they walked out into the sun-filled stadium. Lily walked pointedly to one of the walls in the lower stands; she poked it with her wand and it sprung open.

“A broom closet…really, Lily?!”

“Well, James, you haven’t really given me much time to work with!”


“I don’t want to work at all…I’ve begged you to let this go!”

“Don’t be ridiculous, James, we both know you’re lying to yourself!”

“How am I supposed to get her in there?!”

“You don’t need to worry about that…you just need to think about what you are going to say.”

Sure, it was easy for her to say; what do you say to a person who has ignored you for the last four months? What was left to say that hadn’t already been said? Despite Lily’s reassurances, he was positive that Alex hadn’t responded to his letters because she had moved on. And he was starting to think that this “plan” to win her back was like kicking a dead horse.

“JAMES!” Lily snapped her fingers in front of his face.

“Lily, this isn’t going to work.”

She sighed and patting his arm, she said, “How will you feel if you never try to win her back? Now, stop questioning the plan and go get ready!”

Sighing, he wandered from the stadium and walked back in the direction of the portkey. How Lily had managed to get them a portkey here in the first place mystified him. When she caught up to where he stood, she grasped the portkey and they traveled back to the broom closet of the hotel lobby. Both Quidditch teams and a select few families were staying here; it was about an hour away from where the actual game was being played.

James froze in the front of the hotel lobby and Lily, reading his mind, began to pull him towards the elevators, “No second guessing, James. How many chances do you think you’ll get!”

When he didn’t respond, she slowed and looked around the lobby. “Dammit! They said she’d be down here…by herself.”

“What?!” James came back to life.

“The plan is still okay…just go get ready.”

The moment James disappeared behind the elevator doors, Halie and Naomi appeared.

“Where is she?” Lily hissed.

“She jumped behind the couch when she saw you guys,” replied Naomi.

“This is not going according to plan…” mumbled Lily from behind her hands.

“Were you able to find it?” asked Halie.

“Yes…here” Lily extended a delicate silver charm bracelet.

“Oh, come on! How are we supposed to get that on her?!” whined Naomi.

Lily snapped, “You’re her best friends…you figure it out!”

Silence fell amongst the three girls; each contemplating the seemingly impossible task ahead of them. Could they really pull this off?

“You guys look nervous,” James said when he appeared a few moments later.

“Not nervous…just confident,” said Lily crossing her arms.

“Right,” he mimicked her and folded his arms, “are you going to tell me what I have to do next or am I doing this blind?”

Lily was thinking fast; she needed to get Alex to come out of hiding and on the way to the pitch; AND she needed to fill James in, “Halie, Naomi, why don’t you go wait outside for what we were talking about. James, I have to go get something; why don’t you go sit on that couch and wait for me to come get you”
.
They all separated. James sighed, and muttering something that sounded like “useless” beneath his breath, he headed toward the couch his sister had indicated. It was only when he had reached it that he realized there was a server ducked behind it.

A resounding, “WHAT?!” came from behind the leather sofa. The voice was too high-pitched to belong to the masculine server still standing there. Looking slightly affronted, the waiter straightened and walked away. A few seconds later, a sigh emanated from the space and a figure appeared. She smoothed out her snug fitting jeans, straightened her flattering gold top and fixed her hair. She began to turn; and James felt all the blood drain from his head and rush to his heart as it skipped a beat. Before he could help himself, he stuttered out, “Alex?!”

Closing her eyes tight, she turned to face him completely.

James swallowed nervously; they hadn’t been this close in months. His emotions flipped from nervous, to joy, to the desire to kill Lily, and all the way back to apprehension in just a few seconds.

James then took her in fully. She looked as beautiful as ever, but somehow different. He knew that when she was happy she seemed to glow; and he couldn’t help but notice that she wasn’t shining. He had the desire to shake her and kiss her all at the same time. But all the words halted on his lips when she opened her eyes and said, “Hello James.”

Before he could even begin to form a coherent sentence, she walked away. Yep, he was definitely going to kill Lily for sending him into that blind. Luckily, a few seconds later, he was given his chance as Lily stalked back into the lobby looking impatient.

“Did you know she was back there?!”

“Yeah, so…”

“I can’t believe-”

“Shut up, James… we’re on a tight schedule; now MOVE!” and he was rather indelicately shoved into the broom closet. A jerk behind his navel told James that he was being led back to the quidditch pitch. When he landed, Lily dragged him into a thick throng of people, trying to get into the stadium. After a few minutes of pushing and shoving, he found himself outside the broom closet they had found earlier that morning.

“James, I need you to go get the silver charm bracelet I set on the self in there earlier.”

He looked at his youngest sibling with incredulity but today, he had learned better than to question her plans. So obediently, he opened the door and stepped inside. The second he was over the threshold the door slammed behind him and the lock slide deafeningly loud into place. Thrown into pitch black, James walked toward the door. Unfortunately, upon further inspection, he realized that there wasn’t a handle on the inside.

“Lily, when I get out of here I’m going to kill you…”

Outside the door, Lily was smirking, “No, James, when you get out of there you’ll be kissing the ground I walk on.”

And before she could listen to his further protests, she disappeared into the growing crowd… the plan was officially out of her hands.

~


Alex sped from the hotel lobby.

“Hey Alex…wait up!”

She slowed to a stop and allowed Halie and Naomi to catch up. “You dropped this…” Halie held out the charm bracelet.

“What are you talking about? That’s not mine.”

“I know,” Halie shifted uncomfortably, “you asked me if you could borrow it.”

“I did?”

“Do you want to wear it or not?!” Halie tapped her foot impatiently.

“Whatever,” Alex held out her wrist, “if we don’t hurry up we’re going to miss the match.”

The girls were walking side by side toward the place where their portkey was waiting; Alex wasn’t talking and nothing about her demeanor read that she was going to enjoy the very exciting match to come. They were just about to crest a final hill when she was overcome by the strangest feeling. She stopped dead in her tracks as she looked down accusingly at her wrist. The tugging sensation in her stomach increased painfully. She looked up to meet the triumphant looks of her former best friends, “You guys what the hell-”

Alex never got to finish her thought, however, as she found herself being launched toward who knows where by her charm bracelet portkey. Her world spun mercilessly; the light warm air of the outside world being replaced by the cold, dark, and damp of an enclosed space. She landed hard on her feet and sunk down onto her knees. Ripping the bracelet from her wrist, she chucked the traitorous object into the darkness with every ounce of strength she possessed.

“Oww!” exclaimed something from darkness.

Alex’s eyes roamed the pitch black area and whispered, “Is someone else in here?”

“Yep…I’m here” said a resigned and all too familiar voice.

“James!” she hissed incredulously.

“Hey Alex.”

There was no response to this just the shuffling of feet, the sound of someone tripping, and the clatter of crates being knocked over.

“Bloody hell!” Alex hissed as she hit the floor again.

“Are you okay?”

“Just grand…where the hell is the bloody door?”

“There isn’t one.”

More silence…

Alex probed the dark pointlessly for some source of light or better yet a way out. She grabbed at her back pocket for her wand but it was gone. Frantic, she checked all her other pockets; her wand was nowhere to be found…she was going to kill Halie and Naomi for this.

“Potter, light you wand!”

He blinked a few times at the use of his surname, “Umm…Lily stole mine before she locked me in here.”

Alex snorted, “Are you trying to say that this isn’t your brilliant plan?”

“Believe me; I’m just as surprised as you are.”

“So there’s no way out?”

“Not until Lily comes to get us.”

Alex plopped down on the dusty floor of the closet and tucked her knees to her chest; all the time wondering how, after so long, she still managed to get stuck in a broom closet with James Potter.

“Alex-”

“Please, James, don’t make this harder than it has to be…”

“How can this not get harder? Alex, we have to talk sometime.”

There was a shuffling and Alex felt someone come to rest beside her. Every muscle in her body froze at his close proximity; it was like a spark flowed between them.

“Alex…” he had said it softly; and with the caress of those words she relaxed.

As soon as she realized what was happening, Alex snapped open her eyes and stood up, “James, I can’t do this.”

“Can’t or won’t Alex?” he asked standing up.

Alex heard him stand and backed into the furthest wall, “can’t.”

James sighed this was his last chance and he was blowing it, “How can you just forget everything?”

Alex sighed, did he really think that she could forget everything they had shared; like he didn’t haunt her dreams? “I didn’t forget, James,” she said as she rested her head against the wall.

He stepped closer toward where her voice was coming from, “Alex, why won’t you talk to me?”

“Because James, there’s nothing left to say,” she answered quietly.

They stood in silence for a few minutes; Alex taking slow and deliberate breaths as questions started to bubble at her lips, “H-how could you tell Cali…”

James lowered her head; he had been prepared for this, “I don’t have an excuse, Alex. When you told me the truth, I was hurt. I felt betrayed. You seemed like every other girl who ever wanted me only for my fame. I got drunk and I made a mistake, but it wasn’t until you were gone that I realized you were never like the other girls…you never wanted to use me…”

Silence fell among them again and James fought the urge to ask a completely irrelevant question and lost, “Alex, you and I have a past; I understood why Alexandra hated me but as Alex…why did you ever give me a chance?”

To anyone but them that question would have made absolutely no sense in the least. Alex opened her eyes, “You and I have more in common than we pretend to James. At some point, I realized that I was judging you like every other person had done to me when I was Alexandra. Plus, you seemed different than the James that glued his lips to mine when we were younger.”

“Alex, I still love you-” the words came tumbling over his lips before he could stop them.

The truth…the truth; she still loved him; the most impossible kind that caused her heart to ache. Panic rose in her throat, she could feel the words on her lips, she could feel them echoing inside her head. She realized the only thing that stood between her and James was her reservations and she was so temped to overlook those.

Alex froze for a second in shock; and then realized that she could no longer be stuck in a broom closet with James. She stood and frantically began to search for a way out.

“Alex?”

Her hands fumbled over the rough walls, looking for a way out, but her desperate fingers landed on nothing of use. She could feel him drawing close behind her and her search reached a fever pitch…she needed to get out of here.

“Alex, please just talk to me…” he whispered a few inches from her ear.

All of the tiny hairs on her neck stood on end as he spoke. Her fumbling hands had not yet given up looking for their escape.

“No…”

James was starting to get frustrated; he just wanted her to stop moving and talk to him. He gripped both her shoulders and spun her around. He heard her breath catch in her throat when he forced her backwards into the wall.

Alex could feel him press into her, she could feel his hot breath on her face as he spoke, “Alex, tell me the truth…why won’t you talk to me?”

She closed her eyes; she was teetering on the very edge of indecision, something about this felt so right and something screamed inside of her that this was so wrong.

James was beginning to get impatient, “Fine, don’t say anything…”

In a mixture of horror and shock, she felt him leaning closer still to her. His lips were an inch from her own when she whispered, “p-please stop…”

Suddenly, the cramped space was lit with brilliant daylight, “No worries, Stan; I’ll get the mop to clean the spill in 4G-”

But the janitor stopped dead at the sight of Alex and James. Alex immediately came to her senses, and with a not so gentle shove she pushed James away. Not daring to breath, she grabbed the charm bracelet off the floor and stalked out of the broom closet. She received many curious glares as she stomped up the stairs towards the top box, but she really didn’t care at the moment.

When she pushed open the door, everybody turned to look at her. Heading straight towards Halie and Naomi, she held out her hand, “Give me my wand.”

They looked at her with something similar to fright so she repeated, “GIVE ME MY BLOODY WAND!”

Naomi quickly grabbed the extra wand from her pocket and handed it over. With a look that could set the box on fire, Alex chucked the bracelet at their feet and swept back out of the box. At the door, she met James. Averting her eyes, she slipped past him and left the stadium, not even bothering to get the score of the game.

~


Ireland had won. And with the exception of Alex, the spirits at the victory party were very high. She was averting her eyes from anyone who would want to talk and mindlessly mingled around the room in the new black cocktail dress her mother had bought her. She was attempting not to think because every time her brain started working she got angry. She and James were never meant to be and the fact that her own best friends had tried to force her into a situation she had been avoiding pissed her off.

There was a sudden increase in noise and Alex turned to see the Potter family enter the party clad in their finest. Grabbing a glass of champagne from the nearest server, she downed it in one breathe. The sooner this night was over the better off she would be. Setting down her glass, Alex realized that Lily Potter was heading in her direction. Having had enough abuse for one night, Alex left the party before anyone could corner her.

The desire to do only one thing settled into Alex’s brain…she wanted to fly. She needed to get on her broomstick and leave everything that had happened behind. So she left; grabbed a portkey that had been set up for the players to return to the stadium, and disappeared from the party. Leaving one, Lily Potter, to realize how much she had screwed up in one day.

The stadium was empty and quiet when Alex had arrived. She strode into the Ireland locker room and grabbed one of the spare brooms. Kicking off her heels, she mounted the broom and took off in a lap around the space. She left everything on the ground where she had taken off and for the first time all day she felt free.

~


“James!” Lily said as she came into sight.

“Not now, Lily, you’ve done enough for today.”

“You’re coming with me…” she said grabbing his hand and pulling him out of the party.

“No, Lily! No more schemes!”

“You’re right, James, I’m done playing games.” She spun around a poked him in the chest, “Do you realize how many tramps you have dated? A lot, James; you have dated a lot of stupid girls who never liked you. The first one I’ve liked, the first one who’s truly cared about you, and you are just going to let her walk away?! No; I don’t care how many times you try and fail; I don’t care how many times she walks away…you’ll be lucky if you ever find someone like that and I will be damned if I let you throw that away…so no, James! No more schemes you’re going to the pitch and you’re going to make her see sense because you will not lose the love of your life…not because of me!”

Chest heaving in anger, Lily slammed a portkey into his hand and they were taken to the top box of the stadium. Without giving James a chance to mutiny, she grabbed his wand, ran from the box, and locked it. Alex, who was not yet aware of their presence, was flying circles around the pitch. With a wave of Lily’s wand, every single entrance and exit in the pitch slammed closed and locked. At the noise, Alex had halted in mid-air and turned towards Lily. The two shared a glance; Alex’s angered and Lily’s repentant, “I’m sorry, Alex, but it has to be done.”

With that, Lily disappeared and Alex looked toward the top box where James was watching her. She was locked in a stadium with a boy she could barely resist, and all she really wanted was to be left alone. Drifting toward the ground, Alex dismounted and stalked toward the nearest row of chairs. There was no getting out it this time…she would have to wait it out.

~


James paced the top box for a second; this was it…the only chance he would get to make her see that he couldn’t just move on. Stopping dead, he took in the magical microphone that sat there taunting him, a blinking neon light that screamed, “You can’t do this!”

He stepped forward to the glass window at the front of the box, a yearning bubbled at the pit of his stomach. She sat in a seat in the very first row. Her chin pressed on her knees that were bent to her chest. James wanted nothing more than to run his hands through her hair, to whisper in her ear, to make her see reason, but this was what he had to work with.

With reckless abandonment, he grabbed the microphone and flipped it on. An echoing, taunting scream echoed around the space, announcing his presence. James watched as she froze; her slender shoulders becoming stiff and tense. He sighed internally, not wanting to feel the sting of rejection; but in this case, the possibilities definitely outweighed the consequences.

“Alexandra?” No, that didn’t sound right.

“Alex,” he tried again; the pain breaking through his voice.

Even from here he could see her drop her legs to the floor and press her palms flat against her ears. He could imagine the tears streaking down her face…tears that he had put there.

“Alex, I love you…” His voice cracked as he spoke in barely more than a whisper.

~


She knew it was childish to sit there with her hands over her ears, but she couldn’t take it any more. Hadn’t they all told her this…hadn’t she known it from the very beginning…that James Potter would never stop chasing her…no matter what her name was.

His voice cracked; the pain magically magnified to echo inside her head, “Alex,” he all but whispered. Something attacked the inside of her ribs, a terrible beast ripping and tearing to get out. It was her heart; the organ that had been seemingly still and cold for the last four months.

“Alex, I love you…” Didn’t he realize by this point that she knew that. James Potter loved her so completely and recklessly that the innocent injured bystanders couldn’t be counted on one hand. His love…so complete that when he took it away she felt hollow; a shell of the person she had become.

She would gladly surrender herself to him now…to be swept away in the thrill of something so flawless, but she couldn’t because no matter how hard she held on, the thrill would always end. Something would always get in the way; she would always come back to the way she felt right now, hurt, broken, and hollow.

“Tell me what will take the pain away.” he asked, sincerity clouding his voice.

No, not the pain…the pain was the only thing that secured her in this spot. It was the only thing that prevented her from marching up to the box and taking him into her arms. She had to get out of here; she needed to be gone before he tried to take the pain away. Because he could…a few soft spoken words and she would be dough in his hands. He could take the pain away.

Alex stood; and abandoning all reason, fled toward the gate at the end of the pitch. The wrought iron held firm in her hands they could not be moved. She struggled against it; desperate to be gone from this place.

~


The sting of rejection firmly planted itself in James’s mind as he watched her flee across the field; running from the pain and running from him. His chance was slipping away and he was letting it go like water through his cupped hands.

“Alex!” fierceness burned in his voice, “When I found out you lied to me, I thought you were like every other girl in my past; the ones who only saw me as handsome and rich and…famous. It took me awhile, but then I realized as Alex or Alexandra you never liked my fame…my money ceased to mean anything to you and my looks were nothing because you saw through me to the very core of my being. You loathed me for my ego, my arrogance, and my pride. And yet, despite all my obvious flaws and all the horrible things I had done to you, you loved me.

He sighed and watched as she continued to fight against the gate that Lily had undoubtedly sealed.

“I don’t care if I can never have you in my life; I don’t even care if you can’t forgive me, but please I can’t stand to think that you’re in pain.” His voice cracked again, “Just tell me how I can make this better.”

~


He wanted to make things better…something she had covertly dreamed of since the whole ordeal had begun. Sure, she had never allowed herself to dwell on it because that thought would always be impossible. But she could feel that his words were beginning to create large cracks in the cold protective shell she had built for herself. His presence, like the sun, was beginning to warm her skin…the last thing she knew would be good for her. But all the fight had gone out of her, she had never wanted to resist; it was only the fear of future pain that had kept her away the entire summer.

Her hands fighting the iron gate stopped their desperate attempt and fell limply at her sides. She leaned heavily against the gate and sighed; hesitation was slipping away and it scared her to death.

~


James watched her stop fighting. She slumped against the gate that prevented her swift exit. A strange sensation swept through him…anger…why wouldn’t she just stop and give him a chance? With this new sensation firmly implanted in his brain, he chucked the magical microphone at the glass of the box and it shattered into a million tiny pieces. The sound of the shattering glass echoed around the stadium with the aid of the magical microphone.

He stared out of the broken window; Alex hadn’t even moved an inch as the glass settled. The anger faded and was replaced with a feeling of eagerness; she had stopped after all. He allowed his feet to take control and they led him swiftly forward. He jumped over the shattered mess and sprinted down the steps. He was across the field before his brain had entirely caught up.

“Alex?” The desire to see her face was overwhelming him.

She still hadn’t turned around so he spoke again, “Alex…would you ever be able to forgive me?”

If possible, she seemed to become tenser. Then, the sound like a chorus of angels met his ears. A sound so beautiful that he wondered how he had lived so long without hearing it, “James…I’ve already forgiven you.”

~


Alex felt the words, choked and small, flow over her trembling lips. Like before, she was all too aware of his presence behind her. He made a sound like he was going to speak again but she had to interrupt, “James…please don’t.”

He hadn’t moved yet, “Don’t- what?”

“Don’t make me do this…” The tears were evident in her voice.

As if he could sense her pain, he stepped forward; and with warm strong hands pulled her into his arms. “I don’t want you to do anything, Alex.”

~


He could feel her flinching away from his touch but he couldn’t understand why. Then, she spoke again, her words like cement bricks dropping to the pit of her stomach, “Stay mad at me…go find some stupid bimbo…forget that I exist…don’t let me forgive you…please just keep hating me.”

He could feel her trembling…he had to stop her pain, “I never hated you…”

That wasn’t the right thing to say. She started to try and pull away, but he wasn’t finished and he wasn’t going to let her get away. So, he asked her the next logical question, “Why?”

Her body stilled and she pressed her hands into her face, “Because…b-because I love you, James.”

He was speechless; those were the words that he had so desperately wanted to hear but now they sounded wrong.

“Alex, that doesn’t make any sense-”

She cut him off “I-it will never matter how much we want this to work…something will always be in the way…James, the pain will always be there.”
And then he finally understood.

~


It was like she could hear the cogs in his head click into place as he realized what she had said. His body, trembling seconds before, calmed and he pulled her impossibly closer to his own.

“Is that all you were worried about?” He breathed into her ear.

Alex was totally distracted; all she could do was nod numbly. He wasn’t going to let her get away…he wasn’t going to let go that easily. Half of her mourned the pain that she would someday feel but the other half rejoiced that he would not let her cowardice control her choice.

He ran a warm hand through her hair and whispered again, “Alex, didn’t anybody ever tell you that the best things in life are the ones worth fighting for…”

Then, with both hands firmly planted on her face, James leaned in to kiss Alex. She could feel the restraint in his hold, but she had no intention of running. For the moment his lips touched hers, the hollowness that had plagued her for so long fell away. Reaching up, she held his neck, bringing him as close as she could; trying to allow this moment to drown out four months of misery.

In the pit of her stomach, she felt the familiar fire of desire and she realized that it was worth it. All the pain, all the future effort it would take to keep them together was completely worth it. James Potter…her James was worth fighting for.


Epilogue:


At first glance, you would think her a Greek goddess; she knew she was beautiful and she had finally learned to embrace it. Peering at her reflection, she smiled at the haughty, formidable stance and face that stared back at her. She stood before the elegant floor length mirror, mechanically smoothing out the creases of her pale gold dress. The dress’s sleek and shiny fabrics fell away from her hips and were draped gracefully from shoulder to shoulder.

The dress was, as her mother would say, “Made for her and only her.” She smiled at the thought of her mother. A gentle knock sounded at the door as she lifted a gentle hand to push strands of long, straight red hair back behind her ear. Turning, she faced her latest visitor; who looked back, smiling from ear to ear at her appearance. Alex gave her mom a quick hug and her mom said, “Alex…don’t forget you wanted to wear the bracelet.”

Standing in the golden dress was Alex Wood, and she was weeks away from starting her sixth year at the famous Hogwarts. Inheriting all of her mother’s good looks, her father’s quidditch skills, and their combined intelligence and dedication, it was hard not to admire the sheer perfection of her genetic makeup. If the wizarding world had Kings and Queens, she would undoubtedly be royalty. She would not be a princess, no, that would be a Weasley or a Potter, but she would at least be a duchess or a countess. She would be invited to all the balls and would sit along the high table with all her fellow royals. Alexandra accepted her position and had learned to embrace it. She would always be defined by her surname, and it was up to her to do as much with it as possible.

Alex let go of her mom and quickly ran to her bathroom. On the counter sat the pink cow bracelet that she never forgot to wear. She was slipping it onto her wrist when her father walked in.

“Not fighting are we, ladies?” said Wood as his wife swooped down and immediately began to straighten and fix his tie.

“Not at all dear, just having friendly conversation.” said Mrs. Wood with a cheery voice.

Just then, the bedroom door flew wide open to reveal the fourth and final member of the Wood family. Alexandra’s older brother, Ace, strode uninvited into the room holding four very thick pieces of parchment.

“Oi, we better get ready; it’s almost our turn.”

With this announcement, each member took an invitation that had their name written upon it. Each invite was an individual portkey and would take them directly to the exclusive party. The party was in honor of her mother’s newest magazine launch called, “Underage Magic: The magical magazine for teen witches.”

Seconds before they were about to depart, Mrs. Wood looked up and hurriedly said, “Now remember, we will be appearing in a tent just outside the red carpet. Alexandra, please remember to smile, every reporter this side of the Alps will be there. It is a party thrown by my company and this launch is very important.

Rolling her eyes playfully, Alexandra fixed her grip on the invitation. Even after all these years of traveling to parties in this manner, she still hated it. Her brother began to count down, “5…4…3…”

Just as he had finished saying three, an odd tingling sensation overcame her that had nothing to do with the portkey. As the world began to spin and blur and that all too familiar jerk came from behind her navel, Alexandra let out an earth shattering sneeze. As the world righted itself for the other three family members, Alexandra’s continued to spin. Unable to regain her balance, she fell, eyes still closed. But then, she felt someone catch her and push her gently upright.

Smiling, she opened her eyes to find James still holding onto her shoulders with a grin of his own plastered across his face.

“Somehow, I thought that might happen,” he laughed as he leaned forward and gave her a peck on the lips.

“Whatever would I do without you?” She said, faking a swooning fit.

“Umm…Alex, what is with the hair?”

“You don’t like it?” she asked protectively clutching her red hair.

“No, I love it, but I was wondering why you chose it.”

“Kind of appropriate don’t you think? I mean Alexandra Wood was a brunette; Alex Cunnings had pink hair; and now, Alex Wood has red hair a slight mixture of both.”

“You do know that the last two generations of men in my family have married redheads, right?” he said hesitantly.

“Me, marry you?!” She let out a derisive laugh, “In your dreams, Potter.”

She flashed him a beautifully wicked smile and James, smiling, leaned in once more to kiss her.

“Okay, you two, save it for the cameras…and Potter, do I need to remind you that she’s still my little sister?” said Ace as he walked closer.

“Merlin, Ace, don’t be such a prude,” said Naomi as she grabbed onto Ace’s hand.

Alex punched her brother on the arm, and then was pulled into a romantic kiss by James who was being quite daring in front of her family.

“For Merlin’s sake, James, you’re going to mess up her makeup!” shouted Mrs. Wood. And this time, James did detach himself.

The attendant by the door indicated that it was time for them to walk down the red carpet. James put his hand out and Alex took it in hers, allowing its warmth to overcome her. She saw her mother and father walk out of the tent and knew that in a few moments it would be her turn.

Then, the magically magnified voice of her mother came over the air. “In honor of the launch of Underage Magic, I have a special announcement to make…”

Alex turned to James and said, “Do you know what this is about?” He shook his head with a look of confusion as complete as her own.

“I have the great honor to announce that this year’s Witch Weekly’s Cutest Couple award goes to my daughter Alex Wood and the one and only James Potter.”

Open-mouthed, Alex stared up at James who looked utterly surprised by what had just been announced. Then, the curtains to the tent were held open and she and James were blinded by the excited flash of cameras and deafened by the roar of the paparazzi. They began their slow journey down the red carpet, which took forever because James insisted on stopping by every camera to show off his “girl.”

In the next hour, Alex shook more hands and spoke more politics and Quidditch tactics than she was pleased to admit. In no time at all, a small dinging bell announced that dinner was being served. Dinner in itself was uneventful; James, who was sitting beside her, was for once on his best behavior. As desert was finally served, James felt something run the length of his upper thigh. He jumped and knocked his water glass over; the entire room turning to stare at him. Alex tried to suppress a laugh as he began to turn bright red.

The night was beginning to draw to a close when Alex realized she had not seen James in a while…never a good omen. She was walking down a narrow hall with many doors leading off of it. As she ventured around a corner to find her missing boyfriend, a door to her left suddenly flew open and a hand grabbed her wrist. Before she had even realized what was happening, Alexandra was pulled haphazardly into an empty room. Slamming into a wall, her momentum finally slowed enough for her to regain her balance and stand upright.

James stood before Alex with a self-satisfied look upon his face topped with that irritatingly messy head of hair. Alexandra gave him one last look of contempt at his unorthodox method of getting her alone before she launched herself upon him. James only hesitated for a moment recognizing that almost a year ago to the day this is all he really wanted from Alex Wood. And now, an entire year later, he wanted so much more than to kiss her…he wanted to really know her. They kissed passionately as James held her in his arms; he was grateful for her touch. And Alex was grateful that this time James had remembered to pull the blinds closed.




THE END
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