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Finding Grace by arctic pheonix
Chapter 21 : Chapter 21-Hogsmade Part III: Weeping Willows
 
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A/N: Ok, so I know it has been AGES since I've last updated and I'm soooo sorry for that. This semester has been killing me. With all the work I've have to do along with a bunch of trips to the doctor I had to make recently, I haven't had the time to write. Forgive me and enjoy the new chapter? Unfortunately I can't give a real good picture of when the next chapter will be published but I promise you that this story is NOT abandoned, nor will it ever be. I'm always thinking about how I want this story to evolve and the places where I want it to go and I hope that all of you reading enjoy it.

 Willow, where the heck are you? I thought to myself for perhaps the thousandth time of walking around the side streets of Hogsmade hopelessly. Ever since she ditched on the Potter’s get together it has been impossible to find out where she went. Granted I don’t know where Willow liked to go whenever she came here, but it’s almost like she vanished into thin air, which is rather problematic for me at the moment. First of all I wanted to know what the in the world was going on between her and Teddy and if that was the reason why she left. And then of course there was the latest exchange between Al and I about something as innocuous as my hairstyle which had turned into a complete fiasco leaving me burned and looking like a complete fool. If someone where to objectively observe my life they would probably make the argument that I should be used to playing the role of the fool. I’m the girl who got her hopes up so high that she almost allowed herself to be used by a complete jerk, and that’s not even touching on my lack of social finesse and overall state of being that awkward girl who reads too much.

Absentmindedly I took a right down an alley that looked vaguely familiar; knowing my luck I had probably already searched it twice looking for Willow. After having already spent a good half hour searching I stopped thinking about where I was going and let my mind wander and wherever my feet carried me I went hoping that by not trying that I would actually be successful. If it wasn’t for the fact that everything went wrong in the Three Broomsticks, today would’ve been a perfect day. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a door slowly swing open but didn’t think anything of it until I felt a sharp jab above my right ear while my legs franticly tried to regain balance. My palms stung and turned bright pink from where they scraped against the cobblestone while the knee of my jeans ripped and my knee was bleeding. Absently I felt a large hand around my shoulder helping my up. Feigning an absent minded turn I saw that it was someone from my year, and to my relief, someone from my own house. If I could remember his name that would be even better, but beggars can’t be choosers.

“I’m so sorry. Here let me get your bags for you.” Even his voice sounded familiar, but for the life of me I couldn’t connect the dots. I felt my bags placed in my hand where they hung limp by my side.

“Look, I’m fine. It’s not a big deal.” I brushed the dust off my jeans and tucked my hair behind my ears, all minor fidgeting that I used to avoid making eye contact.

“I hit you in the head with a door and you expect me to let you act like it’s not a big deal?” He asked me incredulously. Unfortunately he had a point.

“That’s exactly what I expect.” I stated curtly all while trying to ignore him. Brushing past him I turned out of the alley and somehow found myself back on High Street and from my minimal navigational skills, I was well on my way to be on the outskirts of Hogsmade.

“Not happening. Where are you heading?” I heard his feet lightly hitting the pavement as he did a quick jog to catch up with my brisk pace. Honestly, the guy couldn’t take a hint that I wanted nothing to do with him. All I want right now is a very large, very dark coffee and a fresh bagel. And to get back into clothes that don’t make me feel completely ridiculous. And then soak in a bubble bath for hours where I can forget about everything that has gone wrong today.

“You know, I really don’t know where I am going. I was trying to find my friend and I managed to get myself twisted up in back streets.” Frustration was beginning to creep into my voice as we continued walking in step with each other.

“Does this friend of yours have a name?” Rationally I knew that he was being friendly and conciliatory considering the circumstances, but his voice was just infuriating me slowly. Does he want me to rip my hair out in large chunks and shower him with it yelling ‘confetti attack’?

“No. It’s one of the many delusional fantasies that I concocted in order to pretend that my aimless wanderings were in fact motivated by something.” The sarcasm dripped from my voice venomously as I picked up the pace of my walking. I’m also sure that I looked extremely peeved off about something. Real attractive look, I know.

“I know this is going to sound really awkward but who are you?” He was blunt and straight to the point, and somehow had managed to end up in front of me without me noticing. He was about three or four inches taller than I am, with short, dark brown hair and equally dark brown eyes, looking remarkably average in a dark button down shirt and an old pair of jeans that were probably his favorite. He definitely isn’t going to win Witch Weekly’s heart throb or best smile awards any time in his life, but he wasn’t completely unfortunate to look at either.

“I feel awfully tempted to ask you the same question. Although you have no idea just how bizarre this is for me.” I honestly told him while making no effort to hide my irritation.

“I asked first you know, it’s only polite to answer.” He cheekily told me, I merely rolled my eyes and mentally pictured myself projectile vomiting on him.

“Fine, Grace Adler. Your turn.” I spat rather viciously while picking up my pace hoping desperately to be left alone. Clive kept in stride with me acting as though nothing were out of the ordinary until he finally registered what I said. That’s when he decided to stop dead in front of me and stare agape.

“You can’t be Grace Adler.” He brilliantly concluded before I side-stepped him and continued walking down High Street, now paying more attention to the houses with the quaint little gardens that contained friendlier plants than Professor Longbottom’s greenhouses. Well that was certainly news to me, and ironically true, I mused to myself humorlessly.

“Really? Why not? I certainly am clumsy enough to be her.” I stated rather sardonically until a jolt of adrenaline shot down my spine as my brain finally decided to work. Suddenly everything sort of connected in my head. Clive Connelly! That’s his blasted name! He played Quidditch for us for half of a year before quitting and taking over the Charms Club…Go figure.
“For starters she would never be stupid enough to die part of her hair blue; it would be showing too much house spirit.” Clive paused looking amused with his index finger pointed up. He then brought his middle finger up and said, “Second, you never see her anywhere these days other than in a library or within five feet of a Potter.” He began to pace around me forcing me to stand still while he continued to try and convince me that I’m not me. Throwing up his ring finger he gained confidence and his eyes began to show a look of amusement. “Third, Grace would never be flirting with a guy she doesn’t know. I live in the same house as her and all I see her do is homework, and she has maybe, and I say maybe cautiously, gone to Hogsmade all of one time since our third year. That girl is just too weird to be you!” he concluded brilliantly. Surprisingly it wasn’t completely humiliating to stand there and hear the general consensus of what Hogwarts thought of me. In fact it was kind of liberating; no one really knew me and I could continue living in relative anonymity or do something completely unexpected and open up to other people.

“Sorry to disappoint but I really am Grace Adler.” Deciding to mimic him I put my index finger up, “The hair got dyed blue because Lily has an eccentric hair dresser who did it as a favor in order to add drama into my otherwise drab wardrobe.” My mind reeled at a thousand thoughts of what I could say but I forced myself to pause and throw up my middle finger before continuing. “As for the part of always being in a library or within five feet of a Potter, well, that’s not completely accurate. I try to avoid Albus but he always has a tendency to find me, it’s rather annoying.” I started feeling confident of where this was going and began walking again before I threw both of my hands up in frustration and let a miniature, well thought rant loose. “And that whole line of ‘not flirting with a guy she doesn’t know’ I’m going to point out that we are not flirting and you are the one who chose to follow me even though I said I was perfectly fine after you assaulted me with that door. I put in a lot of effort into my homework because I plan on getting into Brown and go on to specialize in Arithmancy and I need to have top grades in order for my application to not get rejected off the bat. Also, this is the seventh time I’ve been to Hogsmade. And for the record, I do have house spirit even if I’m not like every other mindless dolt in this school who insists on going to Quidditch games.” I finished breathless and feeling far more satisfaction than I probably should from telling off a guy.

“Oh Merlin. You are Grace.” The look on Clive’s face was priceless for me, and I had to stifle a giggle while he quietly mumbled something nondistinct to himself.

“We established this five minutes ago. And I finally remembered your name in all of this time. Clive Connelly. Everyone’s been joking that you should join the Chudley Cannons when you leave Hogwarts.”

“Of all the things that made you remember my name that was it?” He looked completely miserable and I couldn’t help but laugh. Slowly a grin crept to the corner of his mouth before he started shaking his head in what I was hoping was amusement.

“Well there was the fact that we sat next to each other in Charms throughout our fourth and fifth years because Walker instituted a seating chart or the fact that we talked for all of a week during our first year.” Thankfully my brain decided to cooperate and not forget what made him so familiar. It’s embarrassing enough to have someone who is in your year and your house basically is a complete stranger. The only way to make that worse is by forgetting what little bit you could remember about them.

“You really do look different Grace. Plus the attitude is unexpected.”

“I don’t have an attitude.” I replied far too quickly and defensively. The all too familiar tingling sensation in my cheeks flared and I was probably magenta, unless Lily’s magic earlier prevented that from being shown. God I hope so. “I’m merely no longer serving as everyone’s doormat. If that’s a problem then go find someone else to bother. I was perfectly content aimlessly wandering the village without your accompaniment.”

“I said the attitude was unexpected, not unwelcomed.”

“Right.” We continued walking in silence finally passing some familiar land marks like the Shrieking Shack and Weasley’s Wizard Wheezies. I actually enjoyed the silence and took in the crisp autumn day, well mostly the chirping of the birds and the way the breeze messed up my hair and the feeling of the sun beating down on me. Slowly the irritation from before evaporated. “Look, you really don’t have to walk with me.” I finally broke the ice when we were around The Hog’s Head.

“You’re rather eager to lose me. Please tell me that you aren’t afraid that Potter is going to judge you if he sees you talking to another guy?” He jokingly asked me. I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of what Al would say if he saw us considering what happened the last time I forayed into the world of flirting.

“I just figured you have better things to do with your time than hang out with the socially inept book worm that would never make impulsive decisions or want to be known for something other than just how awkward she is.” I tried being congenial considering how horrid I had been earlier with him.

“Clearly I didn’t start things out right. First I assault you with a door and then I say everything negative I could because I couldn’t believe that you are the same person.” The slightest look of guilt had crept into his face before he started looking at me critically. “No one is going to recognize you.”

“That’s exactly what I wanted you know.” We left it at that and fell back into mutual silence. Well I guess it’s time to face the music, I’ll just have to wait for Willow to find me, I thought to myself before I looked in the window of an old book store where I saw a flash of brilliant brunette hair that I knew had to be Willow. “And this is where I leave you. I found my friend.” I stopped quickly in front of the door but Clive was off in his own world.

“Wait!” He called back to me right whenmy hand was on the door knob.

“Yes?” I had waited for him to get back to where I was rather than having a conversation with someone halfway down the street.

“Can we, you know, do this again?” He looked at me hopefully.

“Which part? The part where you assault me with a door or the part where we reintroduced ourselves?” I lightly joked.

“Those events aren’t mutually exclusive. But yes, can we have a redo?” He asked again.

“You act like I didn’t like being hit with that door Connelly.” I tried acting serious and it seemed to work because he looked at me dumbfounded. “By the way, that was me trying to flirt, for future reference.” I added as a tidbit before quickly opening the door and hiding behind it before

“I’m taking that as a yes then.” I distinctly heard from his side of the door. Either my people skills have improved or he just really likes kooky people.

“Well, well look at you Grace. And here I was thinking you were only interested in dear Albus.” Willow was standing in front of the store with an incredibly amused look on her face that I wanted to wipe off with a good hex or two…or ten.

“If you knew what it took for me to find you here you wouldn’t be smiling. And now spill the beans! Why the heck did you leave the Potter’s thing?” I rounded on her.

“Oh you noticed I left? I thought I got out undetected. Well darn, I guess I’ll throw my ambitions of being an Auror out the window.” Willow flipped her hair distractedly before picking up a book pretending to be interested in its contents.

“You’re being evasive and it’s not going to work. I’m the master of rhetorical evasiveness. I practically wrote the book on it.” Snatching the book out of her hand I placed it back where she found it and stared at her waiting.

“Why couldn’t someone else have found me?” She asked me darkly while retreating further into the shop.

“I’ve been searching for at least a good hour. You managed a good get away. I just got a head start on everyone else who would be looking for you.” I calmly stated following her. It was a royal pain, literally and metaphorically, finding her.

“And now you as well. Al’s going to be pleased when he sees you again.” Willow shot back at me instantaneously all while refusing to look at me.

“I don’t care what Al has to think right now. Right now I’m interested in what’s going on in your head Willow. You’re always dealing with my problems and if we’re supposed to be friends I believe it is now my turn to deal with yours.”

“That’s a brave assumption on your end.” Willow turned to me aggressively

“You’re just trying to push me away by saying hurtful things Willow. Like I said, I wrote the book on rhetorical evasiveness; it’s not going to work.” It certainly didn’t when I tried to get rid of Clive. Or maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough.

“YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON IN MY HEAD! YOU CAN’T UNDERSTAND!” Willow screamed at me passionately.

“Tell me then! I want to know what’s going on! I want to help.” I pleaded with her feeling helpless about everything.

“CAN’T YOU TELL I WANT TO BE ALONE?” I started looking around the shop nervously wondering where the owner was and what he would say to the start of World War Three in his shop.

“Under different circumstances I would listen to you but there is something you aren’t telling me and it’s killing you.” Before I knew it Willow had her wand pointed straight at me while fighting back tears of anger.

EFFLECT-”

PROTEGO!” The bookcases shook and the entire wall of books were their shelves like large, rectangular (and painful) snowflakes. Sharply turning around I found myself looking at a rather furious Lily Potter who still had her wand brandished at Willow.

“What’s going on here!?” The old store manager tottered over to us. He was ancient, or at least looked like he belonged in an antique store and was shorter than all three of us. As soon as he saw Lily and Willow with their wands pointed at each other and the pile of books on the ground he pulled his own wand out and with an annoying flick the books zoomed back into place. “Now I’m only going to ask you three once to get out of my shop. If you don’t leave I’ll get the new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher down here. He owes me a favor and throwing you hooligans in Azkaban would certainly call us even.”

“Wait, there’s a new Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher?” I asked dumbfounded. Granted if I had gone to class in the past couple of weeks it would’ve helped but how did McGonagall find a replacement so fast?

“Are you daft girl? That’s what I just said. Harry Potter has come to teach Defense Against the Darks here at Hogwarts as a special favor to McGonagall.” I continued to stare at him dumbfounded and wasn’t aware of the arm that was dragging me out of the musty shop and it was only once I smelled fresh air that I realized that Willow was gone again and I was standing with Lily. I tried running down after her but felt a sharp tug on my arm which Lily still had a good grip on.

“Grace, don’t, let her go.” She said coldly. I stopped fighting and looked at her confused.

“But Lily, something is wrong. Shouldn’t we be helping her?” I asked desperately.

“I’ve seen Willow like this before. The only one who can help her is herself and that’s when she gets around to it.” Lily said succinctly and left it at that. Neither one of us had moved far from the front of the shop we were just thrown out of.

“What’s going on with her?” I wondered aloud while watching her retreat.

Lily had a look of hesitation on her face and began fidgeting with her shirt that was probably at most a millimeter out of place. “It’s complicated,” she offered up lamely.

“Like I didn’t recognize that before she tried to blast me through the front of the shop.” I replied dryly and unsatisfied.

“Look, I don’t even know the entire story, and the bit I got out I had to resort to desperate measures to get.” She warned me right off the bat before she decided to guide us back to the center of town.

“Go on.” I encouraged her, mainly to fulfill my own curiosity. Plus it would explain why she almost hexed me into oblivion.

“Fine…Willow had a thing for James. And in case you went temporarily brain dead or forgot, my darling brother went and got himself engaged.” Lily started and then ended rather unsure of where even she was going with what she was staying.

“That’s it?” I asked exasperatedly.

“Well not entirely. There’s the whole Teddy issue as well.” She chimed in, this time much more brightly and sure of what was going on.

“What exactly is their beef exactly?” I asked curiously. Lily apparently never heard of people having ‘beef’ with each other because she looked at me like I was crazy.

“Before I met Willow I was surprisingly shy and not exactly the most confident person in the world.” Lily started out while trying to avoid eye contact with me.

“I find that hard to believe.” I interjected sarcastically. The image of Lily Potter being like me was farfetched, if not impossible.

“Keep in mind I did have two older brothers who loved to tease me mercilessly.” She smirked before continuing. “But when I got on the train our first year I met Willow and it was just so different. She is an only child and her parents are constantly trying to get her to pick which one she wants to live with once the divorce is finalized, not exactly a healthy environment for a kid to be in. We couldn’t have been anymore different yet when I was around her I felt completely free to be myself and not what my mother and father wanted me to be.”

“I’m still not connecting the dots here.” I interrupted her once again because I couldn’t see where this was going. Clearly I’m not a good listener when it comes to story time.

“Of course you aren’t because I’m not done and you keep interrupting!” Lily lightly smacked the back of my head much to my head’s dismay. As if the door didn’t cause enough problems to my head, now I have an abusive friend adding to the problem. “Anyways, Teddy has always been around our house; he’s practically an older brother to all of us and all of the extended family accepted him into the fold so to speak, that was before he married Victoire and actually became family. To make a long story short, I separated myself from my cousins and brothers and basically ignored them and made new friends with Willow and made myself an identity that was outside of being a Potter or related to the Weasley’s.”

“So Teddy blames Willow for your decision of wanting your own identity?” I asked uncertainly. It just sounded so farfetched and illogical.

“Big time. I tried explaining it to him but he said I could have just as easily made my own friends without throwing my family under the stampeding hippogriffs. He thinks that Willow convinced me to spend all of my time with her and people she knew instead of finding time to hang out with my family. Apparently the holidays aren’t enough.” Lily dryly informed me. We were clearly in the same boat on this one.

“And I take it that Willow knows of this.” I offered up, not as question, but rather an observation. It would certainly explain the stare down that happened earlier today.

“Oh yeah. She stayed with us last summer and it came up. Let’s just say that dinner was very awkward for about a week.” She left it at that and took the nearest left and I immediately recognized the Three Broomsticks and two people who were standing outside of it having a rather intense conversation.

“If I’m not mistaken your two brothers are a block ahead of us coming our way.”

“We’re doing a quick detour then.” Lily quickly grabbed my arm and cut across the street before scanning up and down the buildings looking for something.

“What for?” I asked incredulously. I mean, while I wanted to avoid Al and James, we could’ve walked past them without being noticed. Well…maybe not with my blue hair.

“I still get to tell you about my mother’s reaction to Adia, and of course your little show up and disappear act.” Lily informed me like I was completely daft. Maybe I was after the multiple blows to my head.

“Is this really necessary?” I whined rather pathetically. My feet were killing me, plus I was on information overload.

“Yes, because we are at that clothing store that we were supposed to meet Willow at. I’m finishing this makeover if it kills me Grace.” Lily told me rather threateningly. That immediately shut up any future complaints I could have voiced and I quickly followed her inside.

“Fine. Carry away of genius of gossip and fashion.” I bitterly told her, submitting my fate to Lily Potter and whatever her mind came up with.

“I shall!” She declared triumphantly while thrusting a hanger with a black and white geometric top into my arms followed by a pair of dark blue skinny jeans. “My mother doesn’t approve of Adia.” She informed me while throwing sweaters and skirts at me indiscriminately. Perhaps there was a method to the madness. At the end of the day its still madness I grumbled to myself as I found a purple dress added to the pile.

“That’s not a shocker. She practically tried mauling Al’s face off in front of her.” I offered up in small talk as I struggled with a new pile of jackets added on top. Lily wanted me to go bankrupt from this trip.

“She told him that his girlfriend was a brainless tart and that he embarrassed his nice friend with the odd hair.” Lily brightly informed me while eyeing shoes rather critically. If she picked up a pair of heels I would have to stab her in the head repeatedly with them. Assuming I didn’t break my ankles.

“And by the nice friend with odd hair you mean me don’t you?” I struggled getting the words out as boxes of shoes were added. Somehow I managed to keep the balancing charade up.

“The one and only. She thought it was a shame that you felt unwelcomed by all of us and had to run off and would like me to apologize on her behalf. Really though she blames Adia. And Al’s poor taste in girls.” She was sympathetic until the last bit she added in sardonically. From what I’ve noticed, Lily normally doesn’t spend too much time interfering with Al’s relationships unless he interferes with hers. She thinks fair is fair, which I guess it could be. Although eventually someone is going to have to be the bigger person in order to end the vicious cycle.

“So when did your dad drop the bombshell that he is teaching Defense?” I muffled out trying to figure out where Lily was and prevent having any sharp metal racks jabbing me while I navigate blind.

“That’s not the only bombshell. My mother is going to be here in Hogsmade. Apparently the Daily Prophet purchased a building on the outskirts of town that they plan on using for publishing a news paper specifically about on goings at Hogwarts because the parents are interested in what’s going on. And naturally my mother is one of the people they picked to help set the place up and get it running efficiently.” She driveled off while I began examining what exactly was in my arms and was pleasantly surprised that she wasn’t going too far out of my comfort zone with something like a micromini skirt or anything extremely asymmetric.

“Isn’t this like every kids worst nightmare come true?” I asked even though I wasn’t really interested.

“Yeah well what are you going to do with your magic situation?” She cut me off before I could continue.

“Oh crap.” I muttered, more out of the tottering pile of clothes rather than the fact that I’m still having difficulties with magic. Thankfully it seemed to be getting better, but I’m still dead clumsy with my magic; more so than usual that is.

“Trust me; my dad will not be pleased if you skip.” Lily offered up simply. Words of wisdom by Lily Potter.

“But I can’t do magic! Well, that’s a lie. If I really wanted to I could but I can guarantee you I would probably be in the Hospital Wing by the end of his lesson though.” I honestly told her, mainly because I didn’t know what I was going to do with my dilemma.

“How long do you plan on keeping this up? I mean, if you go any longer without going to lessons you’ll end up getting suspended.” Of course I had to be informed of what I already knew. Like that thought wasn’t the first the thing to greet me in the morning and the last thing to visit me before drifting off to lala land.

“Don’t remind me. I suppose I could use my thesis as an excuse.” I offered up lamely. At least I can say that I used the time productively and got tons of research done while staying on top of the essays despite not being in class. Although I doubt that they appreciate me sending in my homework by owl post.

“That only works if you have progress on it.” Lily politely informed me. As if I didn’t already know that. Actually I had planned on sending Professor Key the current state of my research and see if she wanted me to continue working at it or just write the thesis on what I have and call it a day. Knowing my luck I would have to keep going, but the optimist in me said that what I have is good enough for the admissions board for Brown.

“I actually do. My conclusion is anomalous.” I informed her brightly. It was actually the first time that someone other than Al or Professor Key inquired about what I was ‘slaving away in the library’ for according to Clive.

“You’re doomed.” Lily politely told me. Clearly she wasn’t being sarcastic at all.

“No, you don’t understand. It’s anomalous because the hypothesis is simultaneously proved and disproved in one go.” I started excitedly before I managed to see Lily looking at me like I was an alien.

“You’re not making any sense.” Lily stared at me with a deadpan look.

“It’s simple.” Well it was simple for me, and if this was Al and not Lily I’m sure he would have at least understood where I was going or wait for me to elaborate. But Lily was already shaking her head pushing me into a dressing room and closing the curtain.

“No, what’s simple is color and pattern coordinating. Now shut up and try some of these clothes on.” She barked at me.

I sighed in defeat and began the defeating process of pulling on clothes that actually fit me much better than anything I had magically shrunk down before coming back to school. I went through pants, skirts, dresses, shirts, jackets with Lily deciding whether or not she liked the way it looked or waiting for her to run off to find a necklace or bracelet or purse to add or made me make a change of shoes. Frankly it was exhausting, but after what felt like hours of suffering I walked out with a money bag that was significantly lighter than what it was when I had started but as Lily told me after I coughed up the money, I was hot. I think she was trying to be nice and give me a confidence boost, but I do have to admit that she really had a knack at what she was doing and what I own now is infinitely better than what I was wearing. Now if I could figure out how to deal with Al, Willow, and surviving Defense Against the Dark Arts and not getting thrown out of school for truancy, life would be perfect.

A girl can only ask for so much I suppose.


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