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Second Choice by GirlOnTheSidelines
Chapter 4: Tears and a Trip to Hogsmeade
Chapter Four - Tears and a Trip to Hogsmeade
I roll over for the hundredth time that minute. Grabbing my wand, I light up the little clock on my bedside table – 01:17. Great. Shrugging on a jumper and some big woollen socks, I creep out of the dorm. The castle is completely deserted at this time and I have to find my way in the dark so as not to disturb the portraits lining the corridors. A cool breeze greets me as I climb out onto the Astronomy Tower. James showed me this place back in our First Year and we had taken to meeting up here over the course of the years. We had been the unfortunate witnesses to many a late night rendezvous between unsuspecting couples, including some of James cousins and many of our classmates – they always did wonder how their secrets were discovered. The memories bring a smile to my lips.
“Lou, is that you?” I jump in surprise, thinking I was the only one up here.
“What are you doing up here?” his voice sounds rough and taunt.
“James, are you alright?” I move closer to the sound of his voice and find him slumped against the wall. “James…?”
“I don’t understand Lou… She loves me, I know she does…” my heart constricts, I have never seen him look so broken; the silvery moonlight casts fragmented shadows on his perfect face.
“James honey, what happened?” I ask as I slide down the wall next to him.
“I was looking at her name of the Map,” he waves the ancient looking Marauder's Map slightly and I know at once he is talking about Vivian. “She came up here and I thought I’d meet her… I did.” He takes a ragged breath before turning to look at me like a helpless child. “She ended it with me Eloise. She said she couldn’t do it. She didn’t even give a reason!”
Oh Merlin. I just want to find this Vivian girl and shake her – how could she do this to James?
“Oh, Jamsie,” I sigh, pulling him into my arms like a child. He buries his head in my jumper and I can feel his body shaking as he lets silent sobs escape. “It will be okay… I know it doesn’t feeling it, but it will.” I hate myself: I’m such a hypocrite. I always tell people off for using those lines, they are so unoriginal and meaningless, yet here I am – using them myself. The truth is: I just don’t know what else I’m supposed to say.
“I just don’t get it…” he sighs, wiping his faces with the sleeve of his robes.
“I’m sure she has her reasons, maybe one day she will be able to explain them to you…” my words do little to cheer him up and he stares out into the darkness with a blank expression on his angelic features. I can feel the corners of my heart crumbling as I watch him suffer; wishing desperately I could do something to ease his pain, knowing the pointlessness of that wish as nothing can ease the pain of a breaking heart. I would know – my heart is breaking all over again for him.
“I love her Eloise…” A tear leaks from my eye, rolling down my cheek and disappearing into the material of my jumper.
“I know James,” the force of truth in his words was bitterly overwhelming. “I know.”
“Will it go away… the pain?”
“In time…” I hope.
The biting wind tugs at my hair, dragging me from my sleep. Every muscle in my body aches; the cold stones of the castle wall drain the remaining heat from my frozen body. I breathe in deeply, stretching my arms to the sky.
“Umph,” James mutters in his sleep as my actions jostle him slightly. He snuggles deeper into the folds of my overlarge, muggle jumper. My stomach squirms. His head is in my lap, an arm thrown carelessly over me… we must have fallen asleep while he was crying into my front, I am holding him like a mother comforts her child. But I am not his mother.
Tilting my head back against the wall, I try to steady the erratic beating of my heart, terrified that he can hear it. My breath is ragged and unsteady: he sleeps peacefully. The sky is a pale blue, with a few traces of cloud trailed across its otherwise unmarred surface. Everything is perfect: the sky, the warm breeze that ruffles the trees in the distance, the presence of James so close to me… There is just one flaw: we are only here because James is in love with another girl.
“Lou…?” he mumbles into my stomach.
“Yes, Jamsie?” a smile slides onto my face at the sound of his voice.
“I’m cold.” Putting my arms around him, I pull him close, tucking his head under my chin and letting him fall back to sleep. I sit there, rubbing my palm up and down his arm to warm him, staring out over the low wall and watching the birds greet the morning sun. Time doesn’t seem to exist when I'm with James, it faded from minutes to hours without me noticing but it passes all too quickly. The sound of students waking throughout the castle drags my attention momentarily from the warm body in my arms. Lessons will be starting soon.
A part of me is desperate for James to wake up so I can look into his warm brown eyes but a larger part of me wants him to stay asleep in my arms so I can continue to imagine all the things he will way to me when he wakes… things I know he will never say anywhere but in my dreams. Keeping track of the sun as it drifts across the sky, I decided we must have missed first lesson. I cannot move because that would disturb James and he looks so peaceful when he sleeps, entirely carefree, no sign of heartbreak on his rugged features. I wish desperately that the smile on his face is caused by dreams of me… But I know in my crumbling heart that they are caused by dreams of Vivian. Holding back tears, I realise how much he is going to hurt when he awakes and remembers Vivian has left him and that he has only me for comfort. I may be one of his best friends but I am not Vivian Nott and he does not love me.
“James!” I squeal as he splashes me once again.
“Come on, Lou, you came in the other day, why won’t you come in again?” he shouts from the lake, his torso gleaming with droplets of tantalizing water. “Please.”
“Fine,” I sigh, pulling off my clothes and following him into the icy depths. “The things you make me do,” rolling my eyes at him, I send a scatter of water in his direction.
James awoke a little after second lesson (I could tell because of the movement in the grounds) and had immediately suggested we go to the lake, I think he just needs as many distractions as possible and lessons just wouldn’t be enough. Occasionally, he goes quiet and stares off into space and I have to come up with tactful ways of distracting him again. So far, I have managed okay but the pain still shows in his eyes.
“Where did you go…?” he asks, waving a hand in front of my face. Crap, I'm the one trying to keep him from thinking not the other way around.
“Uh… nowhere,” I reply stupidly and he just chuckles and splashes me. “Oi!”
“Sure, sure… bet you were just dreaming about Louis’ hot body,” he winks.
“How did you guess?” I fake embarrassment which sends him into fits of giggles. Suddenly, he comes closer and sinks into the water. What. Is. He. Doing.
“Haha!” he yells, grabbing my legs and throwing me over his shoulder like I weigh little more than a child. Pummelling his chest, I demand he puts me down. I am, of course, ignored.
“James you dick! The blood is rushing to my head!” I scream. Eventually he puts me down but doesn’t let go of me, I can feel his hands on my waist, resting gently. He is so close; I can feel his breath tickling my nose. His lips are right in my eye line and I have to look away, biting my own. Oh James, if only you knew how much this is killing me.
“What would I do without you, Lou?” he asks, smiling down at me. I thank Merlin I have an excuse for having a red face because I can feel I blush crawling across my skin. He tilts his head forward. For a moment, however stupidly brief, I think he is aiming for my lips. He isn’t of course, and plants a light kiss on the tip of my nose. “You’re the best, Eloise, no one compares,” he winks cheekily at me before another handful of water lands in my face.
I think my heart just failed.
“Macmillan?” Professor Smith shouts across the common room. I turn to look at her and she beckons me over. “The Headmaster would like a word with you in his office,” she smiles kindly but my heart picks up its pace. Of course, I have been in trouble before but I’ve never skipped a whole day of lesson. I follow her up to the ugly gargoyle leading to the Headmaster’s office and she mutters the password and leaves. The gargoyle jumps aside and I hesitantly walk forward.
“Come in Miss Macmillan,” the Headmaster’s voice sounds from the other side of the door just before my knuckles come into contact with it. How does he do that? “Sit down,” he indicates to the single chair in front of his desk. “I suspect you know why you’re here?”
“Yes Sir,” I say calmly.
“Would you like to explain?”
“Because I missed my lessons today.”
“Yes, indeed you did,” he leans forward and rests his elbows on the desk. “May I ask why?”
“I- I was helping a friend,” I stutter weakly.
“And this friend was James Potter?”
“I hope you two weren’t…”
“Oh no Sir!” I exclaim, horrified. “It was nothing like that, he was just feeling down and I was worried about him…” I stumble over my words to get them out in a rush. How mortifying.
“I see,” he seems satisfied and I relax. “Well, I suggest you do not do so again, Miss Macmillan, we wouldn’t want your grades to slip would we? Next time I won’t be so lenient,” he looks at me over his thick glasses before leaning back in his chair and indicating that I can go with a wave of his hand. I quickly jump up and leave, wanting to get out before he changes his mind and gives me detention or knocks off House Points. Wow, that was lucky.
He’s right of course – if I skip anymore, my grades will suffer; I’m not one of those lucky people who doesn’t have to work to get good grades. I hate skipping lessons; I never normally do it… But James needed me and I know, however sad it may seem, that I would do anything for James, I always have and always will.
The little village of Hogsmeade looms before us as Alice, Frankie and I make our way towards the Three Broomsticks. Alice is complaining about a burn on her hand from one of Hagrid’s many bizarre creatures and Frankie is nattering away about next week’s Quidditch game – Gryffindor vs. Slytherin – it should be an interesting match.
“Oi, Frankie!” someone yells from behind us. “Wait up!” we turn in unison to see Callum Jenkins, Rob Watts and James coming towards us. Callum winks at Frankie who blushes furiously in return. “Hey,” he grins at her.
“Hey,” she smiles shyly. What in Merlin’s name is going on here? Frankie is never shy! “You alright?”
“Not bad,” he literally cannot keep his eyes off her. I shoot a glance at James who smirks back at me. I shall be interrogating him later.
“Uh… Let’s go,” I hastily distract the attention away from Callum and Frankie (who is still blushing like a First Year). James throws an arm over my shoulder and remarks on the lovely weather we are having. I raise an eyebrow at him and he tries to mess up my hair.
“Can we have six butterbeers please?” Rob asks as the rest of us move off to find a vacant table. Callum pulls Frankie into the seat next to him and starts whispering in her ear causing her to giggle in the most un-Frankie like way. I seriously have to ask her what is going on between them. “Here you go,” Rob smiles, handing us all a butterbeer each before sitting next to Alice. James has squeezed in next to me on the bench.
“You’re wearing you hair down,” he mutters in my ear.
“Yeah… so?” I ask, tilting my head to look at him and trying to fight the butterfly tumbling through my stomach – I cannot believe he actually noticed, James never notices anything.
“You never wear it down…” he leans back to look at me fully. “It looks nice; you should wear it down more often…” Deep breathes, Eloise, deep breathes. Oh Merlin – why are you doing this to me?
“Whatever,” I grin, hanging my head forward so he cannot see me blush… Having you hair down is useful after all. He picks up a strand from my back and begins threading it through his fingers, my body tingles all over. Seriously, why is he doing this to me?
We talk about a myriad of insignificant things; James continues to play with my hair and I vow to myself I will only ever wear it down again if I want to torture myself, really, it’s not worth it; Frankie and Callum pay us no attention what so ever, too wrapped up in their own little world and I cannot help but wish it was me in her place, with James instead of Callum of course; Alice moves closer to whisper something in James’ ear and despite the fact he is practically sitting on my lap, I cannot hear what she is saying over the noise of the pub. James finds it hilarious, whatever it was, and I am so glad to hear him laugh as if his heart had not been broken just a few days earlier.
“I’m just going to have piss,” he grins at me and I am so caught out by the emptiness I feel as he lets go of my hair and stands up that I forget to duck and for the first time in seven years, he manages to ruffle my hair. “Ha! I knew I’d get you in the end Macmillan!” he squeals in absolute glee at his achievement. I glare at him and he backs away, still laughing to himself.
I turn back to the table to see Rob giving me a sideways glance and I hurriedly look away – I’ve made it this far without anyone guessing my secret, I’m not about to just let this brawny Gryffindor suss me out.
“Do you know what’s going on with them?” Rob leans towards me, indicating at Frankie and Callum who are now practically sitting on the same chair, still deep in a conversation that concerns no one else.
“No idea – I’ve never seen her like this before, she never blushes or giggles like a First Year…”
“Same, Cal is normally pretty chilled; he’s never really focused on just one girl before.”
“Maybe they’re growing up,” Alice joins us. “It’s kinda sweet really.” Rob and I both make gagging noises before bursting out into giggles. “What? It is!” she huffs. “Don’t you ever want to find that special someone? The one who makes your heart flutter and your stomach churn…?” Well she just summed up how James makes me feel – great, now I know I’ll die alone. Rob gives me another sideways look and I break out into giggles again to hide the pain in my chest.
Speaking of James – he is taking an awful long time on the loo. He must have bowel problems.
“Lou, do you recon some of us are going to grow up and get married?”
“I mean, to each other?”
“My parents did, they didn’t date in school but they ended up getting married… How weird would that be if one of us married someone in our year, someone we don’t really know very well but are still sort of friends with.”
“I guess that would be pretty weird, my dad married his best friend’s sister… That would be like me marrying Frank,” I giggle at the thought – as attractive as Frank Longbottom may be, I think he has eyes only for Dominique Weasley at the moment and besides, we all know I’m actually in love with someone else already… Well, maybe not all.
“Ew, that’s gross Lou… It would be like me marrying Rob-”
“Why would it be like marrying me? As far as I know, I'm not your brother…”
“Not you, Lou’s older brother, Rob,” Alice laughs. “But maybe you’ll marry Lily.” I snort at the thought: James would kill Rob if he so much looked at his little sister. James… Where are you? I look over my shoulder towards the bathroom doors. No James. He has been gone far too long.
“I’m going to go see what’s taking James so long,” Rob pushes back his chair and frowns at me. Fucking hell – why does he keep doing that? Alice just nods and goes to order another butterbeer. I sit impatiently while Frankie and Callum continue to ignore me… is he holding her hand? Rob comes up behind me and whispers in my ear: “James isn’t in there; Rosmerta said she saw him leave a while back.”
“I’m going to find him,” grabbing my cloak, I make my way to the door… If he has done something stupid, I’m never going to be able to forgive myself, I was supposed to be keeping an eye on him. Running from the pub, I look around – no sign of him. Think, Eloise, think… Where would James have gone? I check the surrounding shops – nothing; the main street – nothing; the Shrieking Shack – nothing. Eventually, making my way to the Hogshead with the hope that he may have gone there to meet some other people, I see him.
“James!” I shout as I approach him, he is slumped into one of the sparse benches lining the narrow street. “What the hell? Where did you go?” I rant at him. Crap. Is he… crying? “Jamsie,” I say again, softly this time. “Are you okay…?” He doesn’t even look up as I sit down next to him and putting an arm around him. “Hey, James, it’ll be okay,” I murmur into his soft hair, cradling him to me. “It’ll be okay…”
He shakes his head.
“It will, James, it will…” I say, trying to convince myself the words are actually true.
“No it won’t… She’s pregnant, Lou.”
I don’t need to ask who ‘she’ is. Who else could tear him up like this? Who, other than Vivian Nott?
Thanks for reading, apologies for the choppiness of this chapter but I wanted to give you as much as I could in one go. Please leave a review,