A/N: This chapter I am dedicating to the lovely lilylunapotter26 for her kind words and her generous reviews. Hope you like it! ~K :D
I have never considered before how utterly miserable I might be if I ever lost my best friend. There wasn’t any need to before because we were so tight, we did everything together, and we rarely fought. We were both stubborn really, and independent minded, but we fit together so nicely that losing him had always been inconceivable. But now that I have lost him, and now that I am working my way through this self-assurance resolve or whatever, I really do feel his loss.
It was there at the beginning of course, mostly because he crushed my hopes and dreams of being with him, at least without any struggling, but after a month without him in my life there’s this hollow feeling where he used to be and I can’t seem to fill it. I’m not despairing because I love him and he loves someone else, not really. Mostly I’m saddened by the truth that even if we get past this one thing and become friends again, which doesn’t seem to be anywhere on the horizon, we’ll always have it between us.
If I get past Nikki’s netting that she’s laid up all around Jase, and I fight past the thorns and venomous looks that she gives me and if I somehow find the courage to talk to Jase again, it’ll never be the same, and that hurts more than anything else in the world right now.
Empowering me isn’t very hard when I have four really upbeat friends beside me to help. It’s easy to forget about the pain and hurt that this falling out has caused me, and it’s easy to be happy and laugh all the time. But that doesn’t erase those deeper feelings; it just covers them up for a while.
I got to think about those kinds of feelings a lot during my week of detention with Professor Longbottom. I wrote lines for the first couple of nights, helped other detention students polish the trophies and plaques in the Trophy Room for the next two nights, and come Friday I felt like Professor Longbottom was feeling sorry for me and he let me go an hour early. I hadn't made a single complaint. I took the unfair punishment for the crime I did not commit, letting Nikki get away with her cruel schemes, and I suppose Longbottom took pity on me.
Three or more hours every night didn’t seem very fair to me, especially since the homework I received in all of my classes was punishment enough and I had to do that after getting back from detention each night. But I took it lying down. I wouldn’t fight a teacher because I knew that Nikki had gotten her hooks in him long before he came and found me. I didn’t put my back up or defend myself when Longbottom told me to write: I will not cause bodily harm to my fellow classmates, mostly because I knew winning wasn’t an option, and a week of detention wouldn’t really make any difference in the long run.
Besides, my fight wasn’t with the Professor. It was with Nikki, and I wouldn’t waste perfectly decent energy beating against a brick wall when I really needed to shatter the fancy crystal vase that was Nikki’s world. I just hoped that breaking her would be as easy as breaking one of my Aunt Barb’s crystal vases back in my fourth year.
Over the five nights I had detention I thought a lot about Jase and the memories we’d gathered over the years. Even in my misery of being without him, I was still able to smile and remember all the good times we’d culminated. It felt good to reminisce, even if I was doing it by myself. There was still a large chunk of me without my resolve that longed for his company, even in a friendly capacity.
I came to the conclusion that I should talk to him. We should definitely work things through, to get to where we had been before. I didn’t want to pressure him into going past that, especially with Nikki sniffing around, but I really needed my best friend.
The week was over and it was the middle of January. Despite my feelings and my need for a best friend though, I wasn’t free to talk to Jase, not really.
First there was the obvious reason that Nikki was out for blood, my blood, and she would go to any lengths to get it. We were going to start stretching those lengths out and looking very closely at them very soon, as far as the girls and I went, and if we found some skeletons then all the better. I wasn’t able to speak to Jase freely though for my fears and my irritations regarding Nikki. She would come at me tenfold if she found out I was talking to Jase again. It was past the time for innocent friendship pretenses and so she would make her hatred of me known as sure as the sun rises and sets each day.
Second there were my friends, who were all in agreement that Jase hadn't really tried that hard to talk to me a few weeks back when we’d returned from the Christmas break. I felt kinda upset about that as well because he hadn't tried any harder. Of course Gigi had been pretty scary when she’d slammed the door in his face that night, but it didn’t seem like that was enough to stop Jase. He had always been a fighter and his lack of fight for our friendship was a little harder to stomach that the fact that Nikki was holding him back.
My friends collectively decided that if Jase wanted to talk to me he would come and until then I shouldn’t be putting myself out on that limb to work things out if he wasn’t making the same effort. But then I thought that because we were both so stubborn we would never work things out because neither of us would care to admit we’d done wrong. And that, in short, scared the hell out of me.
Finally, the last reason I wasn’t free to talk to Jase, which really was as pathetic as any excuse I could imagine, was the load of homework that had piled up in my week of detention. Several essays and papers were due daily, assignments, charts, spells and charms to practice were all any of us really had time to talk about. What’s the answer to number 3? How many fly-wings are in this potion again? Did you say really hard or mealy and hard, when referring to this particular plant? Homework, the lamest excuse in the world not to talk to my best friend, was tying me down left, right and center.
And it just kept on coming. I got up and dressed every day, went to breakfast, first classes of the day, got at least four assignments to do that afternoon, due in a few days. Then lunch was next, and every day except Friday, I dreaded the classes that came after my egg salad sandwiches or Tuscan meatball soup with farfalle noodles because I was sure to get four more assignments plus a bonus one if Professor Alcott or Professor Longbottom was feeling generous. Then I would homework from four in the afternoon, sometimes skip dinner I was so engrossed in it, and work right until ten or eleven at night.
One week would end and I would have a few moments of freedom to be with friends without the homework handicap and we’d talk and relax or go into Hogsmeade. But then Sunday night would bring the eventual Monday morning and it would start all over again.
It was Valentine’s Day before I knew it and I had to watch a very disgusting although very cute show of devotion from Starr and Andy as they gave each other heart-shaped cards with little reminders of how much they loved one another inside. There was chocolate and pink hearts everywhere, and even a hearsay rumor about a few love potions being mixed into unsuspecting victims drinks. Come February 15th there was a record amount of seven fights in the Great Hall at breakfast from all the ‘love’ the previous day, another one at lunch that involved two girls instead fighting over the same guy, and then two in the library after classes that had some girls throwing books at their guys. Needless to say that somewhere in the back of my mind I was glad that I wasn’t involved in any of the Valentine’s Day festivities.
Oh, and some more news, Melody and Chase are indeed an item now. Its very different for those two however, as they seem to almost hide the fact that they’re together, but at the same time everyone knows that they are. I label what they have as a ‘Mature Relationship’ despite the fact they’ve only been back together for a couple of weeks. They hold hands, but they don’t cuddle and they don’t have great snogfests where everyone can see them. Sometimes Melody would come back to the dorm and I would know exactly where she’d been, with Chase of course, but she wouldn’t blab about how romantic he was or how hot he was or any of the things that other girls said about Chase Hamilton. It was more like she and Chase were an old married couple who didn’t fight or act like an old married couple, but understood the wants and needs of each other enough to get along famously. It was really cute.
February slipped away into March as silently as a ghost and to everyone’s surprise the homework load lessened.
“It’s weird,” Starr was saying one day in the library as she shuffled away all her books. “I had one assignment to do today and it was totally easy. What is going on with the professors?”
“I know,” Vic agreed sitting beside Teddy. “Nettles gave us one charm to practice for the weekend this morning and I mastered it over lunch.”
Melody moved some of her papers around as she organized them at the table. “Sometimes I think that the Professors are cruel sadists who like playing God and watching lesser people suffer.” She looked up and grinned. “But not today it would seem because I didn’t receive a single assignment. I am home free for the weekend.”
I laughed, “Same. I don’t even have anything to work ahead on I’m so home free.”
“Work ahead?” Teddy gave me a questioning look. “You actually do that kind of thing?”
I nodded, “Yep. Not in the past month or so, but I have done it before.”
I shrugged, “Something to do.”
“You’re weird!” Teddy exasperated.
“You’re a mutant,” Alec agreed.
“She’s Superwoman without the underwear over her tights,” Gigi chimed in.
I snorted in a very unladylike manner and laughter went up around the table.
These were the friends, along with Andy who was an extension of Starr these days, who had remained my friends after word got around that I supposedly beat up Bradley Coogan.
Nikki of course had spread that one and it caught on faster than wildfire. Since the girls were on my side and Andy and Teddy would get their asses whooped if they thought any different, they’d also stuck up for me. Jase had been pulled away even though I got the funny feeling that he didn’t buy it either. He hadn't voiced his opinion, no one really had, but then again I didn’t expect anyone to. Alec was in agreement for two reasons; because Nikki’s story had holes in it, and I would never beat anyone up ever in my life. He seemed to think I was a kindred spirit who wouldn’t hurt a fly, which was very flattering really.
But as a refraction of those events, Nikki and Jase had moved to another table, Brad had healed and done the same. The three of them sat over at the table across the library from us looking very discontent, save for Nikki who always seemed very pleased with herself, and not talking to any of us. Brad still communicated to Alec, Teddy, Starr and Andy because they were on the Quidditch team together, but he wouldn’t have anything to do with the rest of us, and I didn’t find that such a tragedy in the slightest. I was just sad that Jase had taken the bait and pulled away.
Just then Gigi spoke up in a sort of hushed tone that brought everyone closer to the center of the table. “Hey, is everybody up for a little spy work this weekend then, especially if homework is light?”
“Spy work?” Alec asked.
“Yeah, we’re going to expose Nikki for the mean and nasty person she is,” Melody said. “We’re going to dig some dirt up on her and fry her ass.”
“Sweet,” Andy expressed enthusiastically. “What’s the plan then?”
“Tail her, in secret of course,” Starr said. “We’ve also got a kind of lead, right Allie?”
“It was mentioned earlier, yes,” I nodded. “When Brad and I ‘broke up’,” for a lack of a better term, “Nikki looked super pissed not just at me, but at Brad as well. We got to thinking and decided that maybe Brad was fooling around with Nikki and doing her favours like keeping me away from Jase.”
“What could Nikki do to convince Brad to do that though?” Vic asked.
The guys looked at each other and then answered all at once, “Sex.”
“Sex?” Melody looked disgusted. “With that thing?” she nodded over in Nikki’s direction.
“It’s a powerful thing,” Alec finally said flushing red a little. “Sex with Nikki to someone like Brad or any average human being would seem like walking on Cloud Nine.”
“Of course,” I smacked my hand to my forehead.
“‘Of course’ what?” Teddy asked. “You look happy about this. I don’t get it.”
“Me neither,” Alec admitted.
However the girls didn’t seem to think as the guys did, as the case always was, and both Starr and Gigi started rubbing their hands together greedily, “Ooh this is going to be good,” Melody voiced.
“What’s going to be good?” Andy asked. “God I’m so confused.”
Victoire laughed, “You guys wouldn’t get it. Of course the actual act isn’t good, obviously, but if we can catch the two together then we’ll have evidence enough to win back Jase.”
“Jase has crossed to the dark side, I’m afraid,” Alec said. “He’s a good guy and a good friend, but when it comes to that woman, she’s got a hold of him by the balls. You had better gather lots of evidence against her or else Nikki’s claws won’t loose on Jase even a single inch.”
I grimaced. I hated to think about it, but Alec was right. Jase would follow Nikki around like a little lost puppy and defend her honor till his death, so if we found anything on Nikki it had better be good, concrete stuff or else it wouldn’t hold worth crap. “I suppose it can’t all be simple then,” I released a sigh.
“What about the whole jealous thing?” Gigi asked. “Like Andy and Starr with Chase and Melody tag-teaming them. For this we don’t need two, just a guy who’s got balls enough to cozy up to Nikki when she asks.”
I shook my head, “I’ve already thought of that. If Jase catches Nikki with someone else he’s sure to go after the guy over Nikki. It’d be way too risky. We need something sneakier.”
“Well she won’t trust any of us,” Melody pointed out, “so there’s no use in trying to befriend her in any way.”
“No, you’re right there as well. I think the only thing we can do is follow her around and see what she gets up to really.”
“That’s not going to be very easy,” Alec said.
“What else have we got?” I asked him. “We’ve already spent every other option. Maybe something else will present itself later. Right now we’re going to have to stick to following her around; keeping a set of eyes on her everywhere except for the classes we’re in where she can’t get into trouble and her dorm room.”
“Who do we know that bunks with her in the dorm?” Starr asked.
I blinked at Starr, “I’m not sure. Do you think any of the girls she’s rooming with would trust us though?”
“Can’t hurt, can it?” Gigi pointed out. “I mean we’ve known anyone else in her dorm for longer than they’ve known her. It’d be worth a shot.”
“Okay good, we’re going to have to work that one out though because I couldn’t honestly tell you who else is in that room,” I laughed a little.
“Isn’t Amy Roberts in that room?” Victoire pondered. “I seem to recall watching her drift in there.”
“And Jessyca Simmons as well,” Gigi added. “Jess and Amy are really good friends.”
“Shit!” I muttered.
“What’s the problem?” Alec asked at my sudden curse.
“Amy and Jessyca both used to date Jase. Either they love Nikki for being on his ass now or they hate her. Either way neither is going to help us out. They couldn’t think less of me than Nikki does, but it would be close I’m guessing.”
“Scratch, scratch,” Melody figuratively ticked off Amy and Jess from our potential list of allies.
“Two down, two to go,” Victoire sighed. “We’re running out of options here.”
“Well, who else is in that dorm then?” I asked.
“Lydia McCormack,” Gigi snapped her fingers when it came to her. “She’s in that room. She’s in our Transfiguration class before lunch on Wednesday’s. Is she safe?”
I laughed, “I'm sure she’s safe Gigi, it’s a matter of if she is a plus or a minus on our ally chart. Lydia’s nice, a sweet girl. She’s really smart too. She must have a hell of a time hanging out in that dorm room.”
“Yeah,” Melody agreed. “Her and Alisha are always going on about how Nikki, Jess and Amy are the bitchiest people they’ve ever known.”
“Alisha? Why didn’t you mention that to us before?” I asked her raising my eyebrows at her.
Melody shrugged, “It just came to me now. They’re in Ancient Runes with me. Alisha Sanderson and Lydia McCormack, the two unlikeliest friends are tighter than sisters but once in a while I strike up a conversation with them. Do they have any offense against you, Allie?”
I rolled my eyebrows, “No. Neither of them has dated Jase, and I don’t think either of them has been in serious like with him before to even consider dating him. They could help. It also looks like they hate Nikki as much as the rest of us.”
“Nobody can hate Nikki as much as you Allie,” Gigi said giving me a solid pat on the back. “But I’m sure they come pretty close.”
I gave her a quick smile, “Aww, thanks Gigi.” Laughing I then said, “So we’ve got a few friends on the inside. Let’s use it our advantage ladies.”
“Hey!” Teddy exclaimed. It was almost like us girls had forgotten the guys were there.
I reached out and patted Teddy on the hand and said, “Don’t worry Teddy; your secrets are safe with us.”
Melody and Starr burst out laughing. Starr one arm-hugged Andy who hadn't taken any offense to being called a lady and Alec’s eyes just sparkled so I knew he was just amused by Teddy’s reaction.
My eyes slid in Jase’s direction. His back was to our table with Nikki beside him. This was one of the things I hated about not talking to Jase; that we would plan these kinds of things against his girlfriend. It seemed so backstabbing, and I’m sure if he overheard us then he’d see it that way, but really it was for his own good. I hoped he’d see that in the end. I hoped that he would come to me in the end and tell me what an asshole he’d been this entire year and that Nikki had poisoned his mind. Wishful thinking, I know, but it felt wrong to be without my best friend. I would reclaim him at whatever costs, and if that meant his anger and hatred when we finally torched the bitch at his hip then fine, but at least she’d be gone. He’d be able to regain consciousness away from her sexy body and remember the person he’d been when we were together.
His head turned to the side and I got a good view of his profile, his brow set in a firm line at whatever he was working on. His eyes darted to the side I could see and I could have sworn there was some kind of regret there hidden behind those lids as he looked at me, but it was gone before I could even register it. I could feel something between us still, I just wondered if Jase would ever be man enough to admit that it was more than the friendship we’d forged for the past six years.
“We’ll meet here tomorrow morning after Quidditch practice then?” I asked the others who had started up another conversation in my thoughtful absence.
“Sure,” Alec nodded his head. “Can Tracy come along?”
“By all means,” I agreed. “The more the merrier. We girls will keep tabs on Nikki in the morning and then we’ll split up with different assignments etcetera, blah, blah, blah, and all that jazz.”
“I’m impressed, Allie,” Victoire commended.
“You’re really up on those ‘blah, blah, blah’ details aren’t you?”
The joking look in her eyes couldn’t hide any more and we all burst out laughing. I crunched up a piece of paper that was in front of me and hurled it across the table at Vic’s face. It hit Teddy instead. Teddy chucked it back at me and hit me square on the nose saying, “You’re aim sucks, Graham.” Sticking my tongue out at him the rest of the table just continued to chuckle.
For a studious group of seventeen-year-olds it wouldn’t look like it from an outsider’s perspective. We were goofing around, making jokes and laughing our butts off. We didn’t get rowdy enough to get kicked out, but the stern looks that the librarian was giving us came close to scaring us off in any case. Nobody would ever guess that we were all straight ‘O’ students with the exception of a few ‘Es’ in certain subjects. And they would certainly never know that we’d just been plotting a major emissary scheme against our friend’s girlfriend.
A/N: There you have it. The gameboard is set. Now it's time to play. Watch Nikki crash and burn in the next few chapters. Next chapter is entitled: Provoking a Dragon. Please leave a review!!!! Thanks a million ~K :D
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