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Chapter 18: Surprises; Part Three
(I am not even going to try and make excuses about my long absence. I'm just going to hope that this long chapter make up for it. It is a very belated birthday present to roseweasley_03. It was originally going to be even longer but I realized that it probably wouldn't all fit. So, next chapter the games begin! Ha Ha! Also, make sure to check out the bottom of this. Until then, enjoy!)
Chapter 18~ Surprises; Part Three
Seventeen, I was living life
Chasing dreams and my hopes were high
Trying to get around my fear of
When and where do I go from here ~ Seventeen, Simon Webbe
The torture continued as the slideshow of my life played out in chronological order. He’d even gotten hold of the video of me singing at age three, giving my own little concert. And the one when I was eleven singing with little Rosaire. The sentimental music even cut out during these video clips so that everyone could hear what we were singing.
What had I done to deserve this?
My pimply preteen face changed at an agonizingly slow pace to my young teenage (and still pimple riddled) face. And then the soft tear-jerker of a song ended on a sickeningly sweet piano note.
My heart lifted, because- as if to assure me everything would be alright and restore the confidence I was struggling to maintain a firm grip on- my fourteen year old self appeared on the screen.
Hair curled to perfection (no doubt by Bee), wearing a V-neck blue dress and no make up, her eyes danced in the artificial light of Grandmere’s château sitting room. An electric guitar began to play the opening rift to another familiar- but far less sappy- song and then she spoke.
“Hello ladies and gentlemen, you wanted Allie?” the younger me gave a come-hither look to the camera. “Well you got her.”
The song morphed into something new and then took off with a smash and so did the embarrassing pictures. In their place were video of my friends and I dancing (okay, so some of that was a bit embarrassing as well), pictures of the Angels from years past, pictures of the lot of us playing on the beach I so loved at Beauxbatons, and even more of us at various formal events the school held, dancing like maniacs once more. I noticed that a good portion of these had been filched from the room we Angels shared in the château and made a mental note to investigate everyone who had contributed to this embarrassing (if slightly funny) display.
Even though I still loathed surprises, I couldn’t help but smile as the sixteen year old Archer threw the fourteen year old me over his shoulder, interrupting whatever conversation I was having with one of the seventh year girls and ran with me kicking and screaming into the salty sea water. Or the fifteen year old versions of Tre and I danced like we’d had far too much sugar in our formal wear at the annual Christmas ball. There was a video at the beach of me on Tre’s shoulders and Lynnie on Adam’s, we were playing chicken in the water; I knock Lynnie into the water and threw my arms up in victory as Tre spun me around. There was a picture of Andre and me by one of the many bonfires and another of us waltzing at some ball or other. There were several of Henri and me making goofy faces or being ridiculous in general together. There were even pictures of me alone, either posing like some sort of model or making funny faces at the camera. In one of these, I looked over my shoulder at the camera mischievously flirtatious in my Beauxbatons uniform. And there was even one that I wasn’t even looking at the camera for; instead I was staring into the distance at something with a slight smile playing on my lips (I had absolutely no recollection of this being taken). Even my family got in on the action with summer pictures of the lot of us here at the château. There were clips of me playing with my little cousins and singing at the top of my lungs into hair brushes with the older ones. There were a ton of pictures of Brigitte and me laughing and posing. And even several of me with my siblings (taken over Christmas and Summer holidays).
It was encouraging to see the vibrant girl in the pictures and videos, so completely happy with life. In the recent chaotic frenzy of family drama I’d lost my grip on her a bit. It was like she had come to remind me of who I was now and to tell me to stop being so melodramatic. The scenes of myself dancing, laughing, singing, playing, and just being happy seemed to truly remind me of why I had left England to begin with. I found myself smiling for real now, instead of forcing it.
When the video ended, everyone clapped and marveled about how good, sweet, adorable and “kick ass” (Adam’s words, not mine) it was. What a wonderful birthday present from my friends.
I went to hug Henri and whisper in his ear. “You are so lucky that I’m not about to kick your ass right now.”
Tre chuckled, “I told you, man.”
“You liked it though, right?” he grinned.
I sighed in a resigned sort of way. “Yes, I liked it.”
My friends laughed at my martyred expression.
“But, I mean it, no more surprises!” I warned them severely.
“Um, Allie?” Brigitte was at my elbow. “You’d better come here.”
I looked at her face and my anxiety immediately returned, as if it had been waiting in the wings all along. Something was very wrong; I knew it without even having to be told. I followed her and didn’t even bulk when I realized where she was taking me. We were heading towards our family’s table, which was currently surrounded by Hogwarts people at neighboring tables. Whatever Brigitte had to show me was urgent and I trusted that she wouldn’t lead me into the lions’ den if it wasn’t an absolute necessity.
We stopped in front of a table with many Hogwarts Alumni from my brother’s class, and it was a few moments before I realized that my brother was sitting at the center with his are slung around a blonde girl I vaguely remembered him dating at Hogwarts. Marianna something.
He had a cocky smile on his face that I didn’t like at all. I barely recognized him as he lounged lazily in his chair as the blonde hung on him like a love-starved lap dog. He was bathing arrogantly in the attention both she and the rest of his former schoolmates were showering upon him. This was not my brother. This was some twisted, distorted version.
Michael had never been cocky or smug with his popularity. But now, it was radiating from every pore in his body. I felt nausea roll through my stomach as I watched the blonde whisper something in his ear.
I now had an idea about why Leah had disappeared in the middle of my party and was struck with the urgent need to find her. What I would be able to do for her in her time of need was uncertain but I knew that I had to be there for her anyway. I didn’t bother catching my brother’s eye to glower at him. I didn’t bother marching up to him and smacking that smug smirk off of his face like I wanted to. I didn’t even go yell at him for his audacity, for the utter nerve he had bringing another girl to my party when he knew without a single speck of doubt that Leah would be here and would be even more heartbroken when she saw them together. I wanted to do these things but I put them off for later because my main concern was finding my broken friend immediately and doing everything I could to piece her back together again, at least for tonight. I would deal with my dear brother later.
“C’mon,” I muttered, grabbing Bee’s hand. “We have to go find Lay.”
We set off together, determination in each of our steps. But before we’d gotten barely five of those steps towards the opening of the tent, someone called my name.
It seemed the members of my family were feeling particularly brave tonight. Though I had embarrassed my mother as thoroughly as possible earlier in the night and made my distaste for her friends and their spawn known, she still called me over to her at this most inopportune moment.
I was about to turn around and continue on my quest as if I’d neither seen nor hear her when a cool hand closed around the one that wasn’t clutching Brigitte’s. I looked to my right to see my Tanti Ingrid.
“Come on, sweetheart.” She murmured to me in what I guessed was supposed to be a soothing voice. “Might as well get this over with now.” Her firm grip told me that this was not a topic open for debate. I was going to have to surrender and suffer through this before I could dart off to find my best friend and commiserate with her.
I clutched Brigitte’s hand even more tightly as my Tanti led me towards the place where my parents stood, surrounded by their friends. We reached them and I stood, most unwillingly, next to my mother as she introduced me to boys I’d already known at Hogwarts and their parents.
“This is Duncan Frenzel,” she simpered. “He’s in your year at Hogwarts and these are his parents. Mrs. Frenzel works with me in my Department.”
“It’s nice to see you again,“ Duncan Frenzel smiled charmingly.
I held in a very unladylike snort. She forgot that I’d gone to that hell of a school? Not likely. I was disgusted at how pleasantly fake all of these introductions were. Drowning in my own disdainful thoughts, I failed to notice the boy a few people to the left in the little circle. He stood with his parents, like the rest of them; a familiar redhead on the arm of an even more familiar man with hauntingly emerald green eyes.
“And, of course, you know James and his parents as well,” my mother practically purred to me. It was all for show. I knew, in that moment, exactly where Saundra had gotten her uncanny ability from. My mother was all warmth and politeness as she reintroduced me to the most famous family in the Magical World. She knew exactly what she was doing and she knew exactly how to pretend that she had no clue whatsoever.
“It’s lovely to see you again, Allie,” said James’s mother.
“You as well,” I told her, not meeting her son’s eye. It wasn’t a lie. I did like to see her again. It was her son that I wished would drop off the face of the Earth.
“Happy Birthday,” Harry Potter grinned at me.
I blinked. It was very bizarre that the Chosen One was at my birthday party to begin with. But it was a whole other kind of surreal being wished a happy birthday by him personally. I couldn’t think of anything to say until my mother stepped on my foot beneath our elegant gowns.
“Ouch!” I shot her a look of severe annoyance. Then turned back to the famous Harry Potter and stammered, “Th-thanks.”
To my mortification, as I looked at the floor evasively, I spotted Mrs. Potter stepping on her own child’s foot and heard James exclaim in pain, as I had. Then he spoke in a very unenthusiastic tone for the first time since my mother had dragged me over to this not-so-cozy little social circle.
“Happy Birthday,” he muttered begrudgingly, as if he wished me nothing of the sort. Which, I am sure, he didn’t.
“Thank you,” I replied even more grudgingly, trying more to avoid my mother’s three inch spike heels than to be polite.
“I have a marvelous idea!” My mother declared and I immediately knew that I would not agree with her definition of ‘marvelous’. “Why don’t you and James dance and get reacquainted?” She said to me as if this had just occurred to her. I glowered at her, not even bothering to hide it. I knew better than to believe her act, she’d planned this. Why? I had absolutely no idea, except that maybe she harbored some sick dream of having one of her daughters marry into the Potter family (in which case she’d have much more luck with Saundra). “Alexa, loves to dance,” she told the Potter’s.
I saw Ginny Potter subtly step on her son’s foot again. He sighed heavily, looking as if he’d rather be locked in a broom closet with a dementor, before offering his arm to me. I stared in utter horror for a long moment. Then, my own mother pushed me towards him and I was forced to catch his arm for balance.
I cursed my reflexes as he led me out to the dance floor. I would rather have fallen flat on my face in front of all of these people and ripped my gorgeous dress in the process than dance with James Potter.
I gritted my teeth, fighting the urge to hit him as he put one hand dangerously low on my back. My stomach turned sickeningly, a side effect of being touched by a loathsome git. My heart slammed against my chest bewilderingly, though I suppose it had something to do with the angry adrenaline rushing furiously through my veins. To make matters worse, one of my absolute favorite slow songs began to play. I fought a grimace; I would never be able to listen to this song again without this unpleasant memory intruding. I leaned in close- closer than I ever wanted to be to Potter (though he smelled surprisingly good for a foul wanker) - and put my lips near his ear (well, as near as I could get them seeing as he was a head taller than me). To anyone watching, it would probably look like I was whispering sweet nothings to him (ew).
“If you want to keep that hand, Potter,” I warned him in a threateningly cheerful voice, “I suggest that you move it higher.”
He pulled back and looked at me with an infuriating grin. “I like my hand where it is, thanks.”
I locked my jaw, gritting my teeth again to keep a stream of very unladylike curse words from escaping my lips. I was fairly certain that at least three couples near by us on the dance floor were listening intently, hoping to catch a juicy bit of conversation between the birthday girl and little prince of the wizarding world. I was absolutely determined not to be provoked by him. I was going to show him just how blasé I could be. I was going to show him he couldn’t get to me anymore.
“Quite the party you throw, Crow.”
I ignored him, counting how many choruses and verses were left in the song before I was free again.
“Though, I have to admit, I’ve never really fancied French food.”
I glowered at nothing in particular. I didn’t like agreeing with Potter. Even if he wasn’t aware that I wasn’t very fond of French food either, it made me feel dirty…almost violated.
“The slideshow was… interesting,” he continued persistently.
I sighed in an annoyed sort of way and he chuckled.
“Though I have to say that song you sang was my fa-“
That did it.
“You seem to be under the delusion that I actually want to make small talk, Pothead. So let me set you straight. I do not want to talk to you. I do not want to get ‘reacquainted’” I sneered at my mother’s choice word, “with you in any way. All I want is to finish this dance and get as far away from you and your friends as humanly possible. I didn’t invite you, my mother did. And, had I known you and the rest of your cronies and admirers were going to crash my birthday party, I probably wouldn’t have even shown up.”
He opened his mouth to reply with a strange expression on his face. However, before he got out even one syllable, someone was taping on his shoulder.
A delighted grin spread on my lips as my rescuer said, “May I cut in?”
And, just like that, James Potter stepped aside and Archer was taking his place as my dance partner. Without another word he began to whirled me around the dance floor and away from Potter.
“You’re an angel,” I laughed gratefully.
“No, that would be you, Ange,” he corrected slyly.
I rolled my eyes. “You know what I mean. You saved me. You’re my hero,” I amended cheerfully.
He grinned, “I dunno, it looked like you were handling yourself pretty well. But I reckoned you weren’t too keen on finishing the dance with James Potter.”
“You reckoned right,” I grinned back.
He twirled me around and I laughed playfully, incredibly relieved to be away from my old enemy. I was elated for a few minutes more, riding on the high of telling Potter off and then being saved before he had a chance to retaliate, joking and laughing with Archer. Until Brigitte found me again and the quest I’d been on before my mother had derailed me came flooding back.
“Oh!” I gasped, astonished that I’d forgotten.
“What’s wrong?” Archer asked.
“I- I have to go. Something important,” I answered breathlessly. “I owe you another dance later though, okay?” I didn’t wait for his reply. Instead, I ran to my cousin and Lynnie and we set off towards the château.
As expected, we found Leah in the château, shut away in our room. She sat on the floor, at the edge of one of the beds, her pretty gown flared out elegantly around her. Her face was in her hands, muffling the quiet sobs that shook her shoulders. My heart ached at the sight of her.
She jumped at the sound of my voice and hastily tried to wipe away all signs of tears.
“H-Hey guys,” she said in a nearly chipper tone.
I felt a pitying look, identical to those that Brigitte and Jocelyn were wearing, on my face.
“Oh, Leah,” I repeated, rushing to her side there on the floor, my dress poofing out around me, too. Bee and Lynnie followed suit. All four angels sat on the floor in a pool of colorful fabrics. “I’m so sorry about my brother,” I told her earnestly. “If I could kick him out, I’d do it in half of a heartbeat but my batty mother has this delusional notion that he deserves to be here.” My tone made it abundantly clear that I did not agree.
Her spluttering laugh told me that I’d said the right thing. But it died quickly and her face became pained as she said, “He does, Angelique.” The sorrow in her voice was unmistakable. “I broke up with him and he is your brother.”
I scoffed, “He doesn’t deserve to be here. He’s a- wait, you broke up with him?” I blinked in surprise as her words processed.
Leah nodded sadly, looking shamefully down at her perfectly manicured fingernails.
“But…why?” asked Brigitte, sounding as baffled as I felt.
“He- he,” she took a deep breath, trying to control her trembling voice. “He just made me so angry.”
“How?” Jocelyn prodded.
Leah closed her eyes tightly for a moment, evidently fighting an internal struggle. She took a deep breath and then told us, “I asked him what your row had been about and he said ‘Saundra’. I asked him why you were rowing about Saundra and he told me. Then he told me what he said and what he was going to say before you stormed off. And I- I dunno…I just snapped.” Her eyes were wide as she recalled the tumultuous night at my parents’ house. “I started shouting at him about all you’d been through and telling him Saundra needs to grow up and be happy for you like a real sister. And he told me that Saundra is your real sister. Your only real sister, no matter what anyone else might think. I told him that a real sister would actually spend time with you and jump at the opportunity to get to know your friends instead of just sticking her nose up every time we’re around. And then, he said that you barely gave Saundra the chance and you’d gotten so wrapped up in the ‘Angels’ that- well, that was the last straw,” her lips puckered sourly at the memory. “So, before I knew what I was doing, I told him that- if he disliked les Anges so much- perhaps he shouldn’t be dating one. And then,” her voice shook as she remembered, “I heard myself tell him we were finished and I slammed the door in his face.”
“Oh, Leah,” I groaned, with a dreadful sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. It was my fault after all. “I’m so sorry.”
She blinked at me blankly. “What are you sorry for?”
“For coming between you and Michael. I never dreamed you two would split over me. I-I-“
“Alexa Diabolique Swan,” she looked at me, suddenly stern. “Not everything is about you.”
It was my turn to blink, not only at the use of my full name, but also at her harsh words. She sounded like Saundra.
“I’ll have you know that it was entirely my decision to break up with your brother. You couldn’t have broken us up, even if you wanted to, and- don’t lie- you know you thought about it in the beginning.”
“Well, the two of you were rather disgusting,” Lynnie interjected.
“Yes, I broke up with Michael largely because of how he treated you that night,” she continued, ignoring Lynnie. “But, the fact remains, I broke it off, not you.”
“Yeah, okay Lay,” Brigitte sighed in slight exasperation. “We get it; you’re a big girl who makes her own decisions. But do you want to be broken up with Michael?”
Leah was silent for a moment, her bottom lip quivering. She sobbed, the flood gates finally bursting. “NO!”
We converged into a group hug around her, each of us making soothing sympathetic noises. When we had finally got her tears to subside I told her.
“There is really only one thing left to do then.”
She looked at me with a befuddled expression. “What?”
“Fight back,” Brigitte and I answered intensely in unison. If it hadn’t been such a tense sort of moment we probably would have laughed as we usually did when this unintentional synchronization took place. But none of us did.
“How?” She asked in a defeated voice.
“Well that’s easy,” Lynnie shrugged. “Make him jealous. Let him see you with a fit bloke. It drives them mad.”
Brigitte looked like she might explode with pride at Lynnie’s love saaviness. “That’s brilliant, Lyn!”
Jocelyn shrugged again. “It’s what he did, isn’t it? He brought some slag to make Leah jealous and it worked.”
“I dunno,” Leah and I said together reluctantly.
I was all for Leah fighting to win my big brother back but I wasn’t sure that both this was the way to do it. Fighting fire with fire usually tended to leave both parties burned.
“Desperate times,” was all Bee had to say in response before she began to fix Leah’s disheveled hair and make up. She didn’t even scold her or complain about having to redo it.
I sighed and, knowing I would lose the battle anyway, decided to drop it.
The four of us reentered the party fifteen minutes later, radiating confidence and fully versed on the plan. It was beyond convenient that Leah had the perfect guy to make my brother jealous right at her fingertips. Both Leah and I voiced our apprehension at using Derrill in such a manner. But Lynnie and Bee quickly reminded us that he would be a more than willing participant and he wasn’t exactly innocent.
So, with the air of four girls who knew that they had the entire world at their fingertips, we sauntered back to our table.
“Where the hell have you lot been?” Roxanne asked with a suspicious look when she saw us.
“Just freshening up,” I answered with a cool smile.
She rolled her eyes at us. “Yeah, like you four really ever need to ‘freshen up’,” I could hear the air quotes in her tone and smiled for real. She and Lynnie may have both been tomboys but they’d both proved tonight that they were just as intuitive as any girly girl.
We stepped easily back into the circle, mingling and laughing and dancing like nothing was wrong. I glanced towards my brother surreptitiously and instead locked eyes with a pair of icy blues.
Saundra was looking directly at me from her spot at my brother’s table. Her expression was blank but I could read it perfectly all the same. With a pang of discomfort, I realized I was acting a bit like her, sitting here pretending the world was perfect when it most certainly wasn’t. I was pretending Leah was flirting with Derrill because she wanted to, pretending that there weren’t any people here who I hadn’t invited, pretending I wasn’t fighting with every single member of my immediate family. Maybe it was a genetic trait.
I was consoled by reminding myself that I hadn’t been in the hospital hours before this party. Nothing was seriously wrong with me, it was just teenage drama. My best friend and brother trying to make each other jealous and my family finding ways to infuriate me were not equal to a hospitalization.
I stuck my chin out in a look of defiance at my sister and the accusations of hypocrisy I could feel her hurling at me mentally, then turned back to my friends just in time to see Derrill lead Leah to the dance floor for a slow song. From the corner of my eye, I saw Michael stiffen ever so slightly. If I hadn’t been waiting for it I would never have noticed.
Here we go, I thought. There was no turning back now. I looked at Bee and could tell she was thinking the exact same thing.
I watched my brother’s expression with baited breath as Derrill twirled Leah around and then held her close. He whispered something in her ear and an utterly effortless laugh rang like a bell over the music. I could practically feel my brother’s jealousy seething underneath his carefully cool expression from across the room.
Good, I thought, trying to reassure myself. That means its working.
I looked over to get a better view of Michael’s expression, unable to resist, and saw something else instead. Saundra was no longer watching me gravely but talking animatedly and laughing with James Potter. My stomach did a sickening flip and I fought back the wave of nausea it brought. It took me a moment longer than it should have to realize that, not only was Potter flirting with my unstable little sister, but there was a small blonde boy on his back looking beyond thrilled to be there. I looked a bit closer and realized it was one of the twins that I saw run to him at the wedding. The scene was so strange that I had to look away; Potter was a sleaze, not someone who played with kids. People who played with kids were funny and kind-hearted, Potter wasn’t.
I didn’t look away fast enough. Potter slid the little boy off his back and the two did some sort of secret handshake before the boy ran off. Once he was gone, Saundra got up and began to lead him from the tent.
I couldn’t watch anymore. I tore my eyes away and fought the dreadful feelings in my chest. I would not go after her. My sister had made it very clear that she neither wanted nor need me. When my mother came to ask me where she was later, I would tell her I didn’t know. When she cried over this horrible mistake of a fling, I wouldn’t be here to hold her this time. My sister was on her own. I felt a pang of sadness as my heart had hardened but refused to worry a second longer about it.
I looked at Bee instead and saw that she’d gone rigid and was looking at the dance floor with wide, dumbstruck eyes. My head whipped around to see that Leah and Derrill had stopped dancing. Instead, they were snogging passionately for everyone at the party to see. Everyone, including my brother.
The sunlight peaked through the curtains knowing it was unwelcome and my head pounded a steady rhythm. My lips felt swollen and my eyes ached under thin lids.
“Uuuuungggh,” I groaned, and then asked in a fading, raspy voice, “can pizza give you a hangover?”
“Yes,” Leah replied her voice cracking on the word. I opened my eyes a fraction and could see her sprawled out on the bed next to mine, next to Lynnie. I noticed that her lips were also swollen- though I suspected it wasn’t a pizza hangover, in her case.
“It was the bacon,” rasped Bee.
“No, it was the olives,” Lynnie moaned.
“Lynnie, it was the bacon.”
“Olives. Definitely the olives.”
Leah made a noise between a laugh and a groan, “Maybe it was the champagne.”
“ No, I still think it was the olives.”
I felt Bee lift herself slightly and heard a thump as the pillow she’d thrown hit Lynnie in the face.
“It was the bacon.”
The next day, I sat at the breakfast table with Bee, Lynnie and Leah discussing whether or not to go shopping in Paris today or take the Floo Network to Tre’s family’s summer house on the beach. We were in the middle of setting up a Pro-Con list when a low swooshing sound interrupted us. The family owl dropped a letter into my lap before going to Grandmere for a treat.
I stared down at the familiar handwriting suspiciously. Why would my father be writing me?
I glanced apprehensively up at Bee, Lynnie, and Leah.
“Qui est-ce à partir, Angélique?” asked Bee.
“My dad,” I answered in a dazed voice.
Even Grandmere turned around to gape at me.
“Eh bien, c'est ouvert!” Lynnie exclaimed.
So, I did. I opened it.
It was the biggest mistake of my life.
(There are certain songs that I imagine to be playing during the slide show thing that Henri makes for Allie. Specifically during the part where the song changes to a rock song and her Post-Hogwarts pictures and video come up. I thought I'd share a few with you lovely readers....
Ça Plane Pour Moi – Plastic Bertrand
The Great Escape- BoysLikeGirls
Just Can’t Get Enough- Sam Walker
Love Like Woe- The Ready Set
Get Out of London- Intaferon
Firework- Katy Perry
Dog Days Are Over- Florence and the Machine
Animal- Neon Trees
Kids in Love- Mayday Parade
Around My Head- Cage the Elephant
Grace Kelly- MIKA