“Where were you?” she hissed angrily.
Hollis’ hostility caught Amelia completely off-guard.
“Ben s-surprised me,” Amelia stammered in confusion. “What’s wrong?”
Amelia was truly nervous – Hollis never got this angry with her.
“Where were you last night? And this morning?” Hollis demanded again.
“Come into my room, please,” Amelia pleaded, not wanting to attract the attention of nearby students.
Hollis followed her in wordlessly, though her stomping spoke volumes.
“We had plans last night, Amelia.”
Shite. Shiteshiteshite. I completely forgot!
“Oh, Hol, I’m so sorry,” Amelia cried. “Ben surprised me for my birthday. He took me to-“
“I. Don’t. Care. How many times have you blown me off this year? How many times have I tried to make plans with you and you’ve made excuses? I moved across the effing ocean to be closer to you and I barely see you. We communicated more when I was still in America!”
Amelia’s gaze shifted to the floor. She’s right. I’ve been a terrible friend.
“I-I know, Hol,” she said quietly. “I’m sorry… things have just been so-“
“So Ben,” Hollis finished bitterly. “You spend nearly every waking hour with that man.”
“Look at yourself. Just stop and look at yourself, Amelia! You’re exactly the kind of girl we used to laugh at – the kind we used to pity. The kind of girl who doesn’t know how to brush her teeth without her boyfriend. The kind who forgets her own name if it isn’t attached to her boyfriend’s. It’s not healthy.”
Amelia felt as if she’d been punched in the stomach. Hard. Bearing the brunt of Hollis’ anger was difficult. Dealing with the realization that she was right, at least partially, was even more difficult.
But Hollis wasn’t done.
“You’d think you would’ve learned the first time. It’s like Davis all over again!”
“No, it’s not,” Amelia said forcefully. She would admit that Hollis was right on a number of things, but Ben was not Davis.
“Yes, it is. You follow him around like a lost crup, even after he kicks you!”
Amelia regretted confiding in Hollis the last time she and Ben had fought.
“And to make matters worse,” Hollis continued, “you take advantage of your best friend who has been with you through everything. You push me aside when you don’t need me, but the minute you fight or break-up you expect me to coddle you.”
Amelia sank onto the sofa, resting her elbows on her knees and her face in her hands. She had nothing to say to Hollis.
Actually, she had a number of things to say. She wanted to apologize; she wanted to scream at her for ruining her perfect birthday; she wanted to explain rationally where Hollis was wrong.
But she couldn’t. It hurt. It actually physically hurt to be attacked like that by one’s best friend.
“You know, Amelia,” Hollis began again.
“That’s enough,” Ben commanded from the doorway where neither Amelia nor Hollis had heard him enter through.
“We’re having a private conversation,” Hollis argued.
“A conversation involves two people speaking,” Ben replied. “From what I can tell, you’re the only one speaking while your best friend is breaking down on the sofa.”
Hollis stared at Ben for a moment then turned to look at Amelia. Had Amelia not had her own face buried, she would have seen the panic and regret in Hollis’ as she confirmed Ben’s statement; she had indeed reduced her best friend to sobs.
Ben pushed angrily past Hollis and knelt in front of Amelia, trying to soothe her.
Hollis began to move quietly toward the door.
“Hollis,” Ben called from his perch by the sofa.
She turned abruptly.
“You’re wrong,” he said coldly. “We haven’t lost our identities in each other. We’ve found them.”
Hollis watched sadly as Amelia wrapped her arms around Ben, then departed.
“She’s right, Ben,” Amelia said quietly, after she had calmed down in Ben’s arms.
“She’s absolutely wrong, Amelia,” Ben countered.
Amelia sighed. “No, she’s right – at least partially. I have been neglecting her.”
“Not intentionally,” he insisted. “We’re nearing the end of the school year when there’s a great deal more pressure. Plus, you’re worn out. Hollis can’t know that; she hasn’t been teaching all school year.”
Amelia said nothing, which amounted to an admission that he was right.
“We’ve had a lot of Order-related issues that have caused a lot of stress and taken a lot of time,” Ben continued. “Again, Hollis doesn’t understand that.”
Again, Amelia said nothing.
“And, let’s not forget all you’ve been through in the past few months. You’re allowed to seek comfort wherever you may find it. You’ve told Hollis about the Halloween attack, your secret coming out, Christmas Eve… but she didn’t see it. Anyone who saw you go through that knows that those are things that you’re going to need time to deal with.”
Amelia sighed and leaned back against Ben’s chest.
“Still, I have been neglecting her.”
Ben kissed the top of her head and tightened his arms around her.
“Then fix it. People make mistakes. Just fix it.”
“If she lets me,” Amelia snorted.
“She will,” Ben said confidently. “Though I’m not sure she’ll ever love our relationship.”
“She was always jealous,” Amelia admitted. “She’d even get angry if I revised with someone else at Salem.”
Ben nodded. “I got that impression, yeah.”
“If I was seeing someone, it was even worse.”
“Amelia,” Ben asked quietly. “Who is Davis?”
She closed her eyes. How do I explain Davis?
“Davis was someone that I was seeing for about a year,” Amelia responded, her eyes still closed.
“Why is Hollis comparing me to Davis?” Ben continued to prod.
“It’s an inaccurate comparison,” Amelia insisted. “Hollis was right about a lot today, but she was wrong about that.”
“But how does Hollis see it?”
Amelia sighed heavily. She really did not want to get into this, but it wasn’t fair to leave Ben in the dark.
“Hollis saw me ‘fall in love’ with Davis and submit to him completely. I allowed him to control me because I thought I loved him and I was willing to do what I needed to do to keep him. It was my first serious relationship and I was naïve.”
“You thought you were in love with him?”
“I did. I know now that I was wrong… what I felt with him is nothing compared to what I feel with you.”
“Oh,” Ben replied, apparently appeased.
“Hollis hated Davis, with good reason though. He wasn’t a good person, but I was blind to that.”
Ben’s arms tensed around her.
“Did he hurt you?”
Amelia smiled to herself at Ben’s protectiveness. She’d bet several Galleons that, if she told him where he was, Ben would see to Davis himself.
“Not physically,” she said soothingly. “Mentally, emotionally… yeah. But not physically.”
She felt Ben relax slightly.
“So Hollis thinks that I am mentally and emotionally abusing you?” Ben asked, anger becoming evident.
“I don’t think so,” Amelia hedged. “I think she sees me as being too dependent on you. She’s probably afraid that you’ll take advantage of that.”
“Nice to know she thinks I’m such a great person,” Ben snorted.
Amelia spun in his arms and kissed him gently.
“She’s just protective,” Amelia explained. “She’s the only one who ever looked out for me.”
“Well, you’d think we’d be able to bond over that,” Ben teased wryly.
“I suppose she’s not used to sharing the position of ‘Amelia-minder.’”
“Mm,” Ben replied vaguely.
The clock on the mantle chimed noon and Ben groaned.
“I promised Minerva I’d be at lunch today… part of her stipulations to us leaving.”
“Me, too?” Amelia asked, dreading the answer. She felt better, but not quite ready to face Hollis yet.
“I’m sure it’s fine. You’ll be okay here on your own?”
Amelia grinned at his concern.
“No, Ben,” she replied, feigning seriousness. “I’m not sure I can manage by myself, in my own rooms, for a whole hour.”
Ben rolled his eyes and pecked her on the forehead before leaving.
After a half hour of staring into the fire, Amelia grew bored and pulled her robes on. She scribbled a note to Ben in case he returned before her and headed out the door.
She slipped through the quiet Entrance Hall, intending to have a meal delivered to the Staff Lounge across from the Great Hall.
Just as she reached the door, the entrance to the Great Hall opened and Amelia could hear Hollis’ voice. She ducked behind a gargoyle without a thought. Even her subconscious knew she didn’t want to see Hollis yet; she just didn’t have the energy for another fight.
Amelia only meant to hide, not to eavesdrop, but she couldn’t help but overhear Hollis’ conversation.
“Don’t presume to know her better than me,” she heard Hollis say to an unknown companion.
“I’m not saying that I do,” the other person argued. Ben. They’re arguing about me.
Amelia groaned silently.
“You’ve known Amelia a lot longer than I have,” Ben admitted. “But I’ve been by her side, whether you like it or not, for the past seven months and I’ve watched her go through a great deal. I know her present state of mind better than you.”
“Only because I was in America,” Hollis countered.
She’s really got to work on that jealousy, Amelia thought miserably.
“Obviously,” Ben said in exasperation. “I’m not blaming you for not being here. What I’m trying to explain is that Amelia has had an incredibly stressful year. She’s doing the best she can and she doesn’t need you adding to her load.”
“Don’t lecture me on Amelia,” Hollis replied angrily.
“Then stop acting like a child in need of a lecture!”
“I know what Amelia has been through.”
You’ve been told what she’s been through,” Ben disputed. “But you don’t know. You didn’t watch her spend a week in hospital recovering from repeated Cruciatus Curses and you didn’t hold her at night to keep the nightmares at bay. You didn’t listen to her tell the story of her family’s deaths for the first time in her life and you didn’t comfort her while she mourned them.”
Amelia couldn’t see it, but she sensed by Ben’s pause that Hollis had tried to interrupt.
“No,” he said forcefully. “You didn’t find her half-frozen in the snow with clothes soaked in her own blood. You didn’t clean the blood off her body and you didn’t hold her hand while she told everyone her experience.”
Amelia heard Ben take a deep breath.
“You didn’t stand by her side when she returned to her adoptive parents and you don’t sit by her side at meeting after meeting where we are told how dire circumstances are and how the Death Eaters are actually gaining ground.”
Amelia held her breath. He’s not supposed to tell her that.
“And you don’t hold her at night when she can’t sleep because she’s so afraid of what the future will bring.”
Amelia wished she could peek around and see what Hollis was doing during his rant.
“And on top of all that,” Ben continued, “she somehow still manages to be absolutely briliantl and a smashing teacher.”
Though hidden behind the gargoyle, Amelia blushed at his praise.
“You have no idea of the pressure that she is under. You can’t even imagine it, so stop criticizing her and attacking her because she’s doing the best she can.”
Amelia felt tears spring to her eyes at Ben’s impassioned defense.
“You can tell me you’re her best friend until your blue in the face and you can tell me you have her best interests in mind, but maybe you should prove it instead. You certainly haven’t been acting like Amelia’s best friend.”
Amelia strained to hear Hollis’ response, but there wasn’t any.
“You ruined her birthday,” Ben said and Amelia could tell he was seething and she didn’t blame him; he went through a lot of trouble for her birthday and Hollis definitely struck a blow.
“She didn’t deserve that. If you’re angry, blame me. I took her away last night. I surprised her with a night away from the castle. She needed to relax and refresh… and you know what? She did. She came back feeling great and you ruined that.”
Amelia was shocked that Hollis still hadn’t said anything. She even wondered for a moment if Hollis was still there or if Ben was talking to himself.
There was a lengthy pause, then Hollis finally spoke.
“And what I keep hearing is how dependent she is on you,” she said.
Oh, Hol, Amelia sighed. After all that Ben said, that’s what you took away?
“She is dependent on me,” Ben said confidently. “But that’s all right. Let me assure you that I am not Davis and I will not take advantage of Amelia.”
Amelia could almost hear Hollis’ doubtful expression.
“Hollis, don’t you get it? I’m just as dependent on Amelia as she is on me.”
“I’m just trying to protect her,” Hollis said meekly – which Amelia could scarcely believe.
“This isn’t just about protection; you’re jealous. And that’s fine, I’d be jealous if the situation were reversed. But realize that we both care for Amelia and neither of us want to hurt her.”
“But both of us seem to do so from time to time,” the American admitted. “I need to talk to her. Do you know where she is?”
“She was in our rooms. I don’t know if she’s ready to talk yet though. You really hurt her, Hollis.”
Ben’s tone was honest, but not accusatory.
“Okay,” she murmured sadly.
Amelia heard her footsteps grow further and further away.
“You can come out now,” Ben called.
Amelia sheepishly stepped out from behind the gargoyle.
“I didn’t mean to eavesdrop,” she protested. “I was just going to get lunch in the staff lounge.”
“Then let’s get you that lunch.”
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