A chilly evening in mid December found me curled up in an armchair by the crackling fire in the Gryffindor common room. I hid myself behind a large book, which I was meant to be reading to help me with my Charms homework. I wasn't concentrating on the words though, just skimming through them and darting sneaky looks in James' direction as he sat further along from the fireplace, laughing with Freddy and Albus.
My life seemed to have taken a drastic turn towards the worst in the last month or so. Since Alice and Drew's relationship had begun, and the secret rendezvous between Nick and Bea had been discovered, my friendship group had disentigrated. I spent some time with Bea, who was just as lonely as me, as she refused to speak to Alice and Drew, as well as avoiding Nick. Nick, who I'd never considered the type to hold a grudge, seemed determined not to be in the same room as Bea, let alone speak to her. Drew was simply angry with Bea for the Nick and Alice hating, and he was also miffed with me as I was now ignoring Nick (for Bea's sake) and Alice (for the Naomi comment) as well.
Alice seemed just as miserable as Bea and I were, which was a consolation to the both of us. She only ever returned to the dormitory when she thought we were asleep at night, spent most of her time with Drew, and any time Drew spent with Nick without her or at Quidditch practice she was forced to hang around with Naomi. I could tell from the frequent pleading gazes she would send in Bea and I's direction that she didn't enjoy Naomi's company and that all she wanted was to be friends again, but Bea and I were so hurt by her actions that night almost a month ago now, that we couldn't really let it go.
To top things off, Naomi was acting like the smuggest bitch I'd ever met, as I wasn't talking to James and it appeared he was ignoring me now too. Freddy had said it was because he was hurt that I would just do what Naomi told me too within an instant, and James felt that our friendship obviously didn't matter to me as much as it did to him. Of course, he was completely wrong. All in all, the only person I had any contact with regularly was Freddy, who darted between the separate sides like a lost puppy, although he spent a lot more time with random girls, possibly to avoid having to choose which of his best friends to spend time with.
I was watching James, I did this regularly now when Naomi wasn't around, because that was when he became himself again. I missed everything about James, after all, he was my best friend and I found it hard not to be able to talk to him about anything and everything, whenever I wanted to. It made me smile when he smiled or laughed, his eyes twinkling at something Freddy had said, or the way he smirked as he teased Albus in the brotherly manner he always adopted around him.
I was curious when I watched his face fall, peeking further over my book, craning my neck around to see what had made him look so anxious all of sudden. I should have guessed really, that it was his crazy red-headed sister. After all, it was only ever Lily or Mrs Potter that could ever create that petrified look upon his face. Of course, his other feisty female relatives could scare him a little, but none could in quite the same way as the Potter woman could.
"You invited her to stay for Christmas?!" Lily hissed as he waved a piece of parchment underneath her brothers nose.
"Lily..." James sighed warily, glancing at Albus for support. Albus however, only leant towards Lily, as if interested in what she had to say. I retreated to my book, it was obviously a family matter. I missed knowing all of James' gossip.
"But what about Lise?"
I snapped my head up at the mention of my name, looking quizzically in Lily's direction.
"Lily, she's my girlfriend I had to invite her..."
My heart smashed through my chest in an agonising manner. James had invited Naomi to the Potter's for Christmas? He always invited me, it was a tradition, I'd spent Christmas at the Burrow with them all for six consecutive years now!
"But what about Lise?" Lily repeated, a lock of auburn hair falling into her face.
James shrugged and she glared at him.
"James! You didn't invite her?! She's practically family!"
"We're not on the best terms right now Lils..." he murmured.
"Oh, and who's fault is that? Your stupid girlfriends fault!" Lily slapped James across the head and he winced in pain. "Lise is your best friend! What is wrong with you?!"
"Lily, chill out. Stop causing a scene" James tried to grab at her wrists but she moved away before he could reach her.
"What's she going to do for Christmas then?" Lily demanded. I adored Lily, although she was three years younger than me, she was always the one looking out for me. She was such a fierce fourteen year old.
"Why don't you ask her yourself?" Albus said in an amused voice, nodding his head in my direction. Their heads snapped towards me and I froze in panic. I'd been trying to sneak up to the dormitories undetected while they argued, my book held in front of my face.
"What are you doing this Christmas Lise?" Lily reached over and pulled me by the arm to join their small group. I shifted uncomfortably and blushed.
"I was just going to have a quiet one at school."
"You can't do that! You're part of the family! You can come stay with us! Be my guest!" Lily glared again at James and I shook my head frantically.
"No, no, really Lily, it's fine. I want to spend it at Hogwarts."
"But you have to come stay with us!" Lily pouted. "It doesn't matter if slutty Naomi is there too!"
"It really does. Sorry Lily, but I'll just stay at Hogwarts for the holidays. It's fine, honestly."
I made as if to move away, retreating towards the girls staircase before Freddy stuck an arm out and hit me in the abdomen.
"Stay with me then" he smiled.
"Come stay with me. Roxy's spending her holidays with her friend so the house will be really empty, and you can spend Christmas at the Burrow with us like normal."
"That sounds great!" Lily clapped her hands enthusiastically and Albus rolled his eyes at her. I caught his eye and he smiled encouragingly, nodding his head at me.
"Thanks Freddy, you sure you don't mind?"
"Of course not! I'd love to have my favourite Titch to stay!" he grinned and I smiled, a genuine smile, something I hadn't really done in weeks. I didn't dare look over at James, I knew he'd be furious at Freddy and his siblings for inviting me to spend Christmas with them, but I ignored the sickening feeling of hurt in my stomach. I didn't care about James, if he wanted to be with Naomi then I wouldn't stop him. I loved the Potters and Weasleys, and I wanted to spend Christmas with them. Because even if Naomi was there, as James' guest, so James was there when we obviously weren't getting on with one another, they were all like family to me, and you can't ever abandon family.
Naomi, it seemed, was out to get me. She sent me flying in the corridor the other day, aiming a hex at me when I had my back turned. Luckily, Rose Weasley was just beside her and aimed a Sheild Charm at me so Naomi's hex was useless. She then took twenty points from Ravenclaw and gave her three nights detention. I love that Rosie's a prefect.
This, unfortunately, seemed to spur Naomi's anger further and I couldn't escape from her fierce glares or threatening mutterings at mealtimes. It was such a shame she spent meals at the Gryffindor table with James now, she always put me off my food. I also didn't really have anyone to protect me, Lily, Albus and all the Weasley's would help me out if they spotted any trouble, and Freddy had told her to shut up every time she loudly commented on the things she hated about me. But Bea, my fiercest friend, still wasn't back to herself, spending all her time gazing mournfully at Nick, so she didn't do much in the way of defending me like she usually would.
The most disappointing thing was that James seemed to become deaf whenever Naomi turned particularly nasty to me, and it was at those moments that I realised how much Naomi ruled James. I didn't know what she had over him, but he never stuck up for me, the girl who had been his best friend for six years now. He was probably getting some now, that would be typical boy.
Today's dinner began in the usual manner, Naomi sneered at me as she announced herself to James, slipping in beside him on the bench, helping herself to tit-bits of food as she loudly told everyone that she was 'watching her figure' and that some people should follow her lead (at which point she would look meaningfully at me and tilt her head in my direction.)
I would always smirk and continue to eat my average plate size, which always seemed to wind her up. Nobody at the Gryffindor table ever found her digs at me amusing either, I suppose it was simply a form of house unity, and I noticed Naomi always found this quite off-putting.
However, as we approached the beginning of dessert Naomi turned slightly more nasty.
"So Freddy" she flashed Freddy one of her sickeningly sweet smiles as she turned to face him. He seemed slightly repulsed by her smile and leant away slightly. "I hear you invited Anneliese to yours for the holidays!"
"Yeah, I did" he replied in a stiff voice, so unlike him that even Bea looked up from her depressing staring contest with her plate.
"So we all get to spend Christmas together at the Burrow?" she knotted her eyebrows together as she looked at me scathingly.
"That is the general idea" Lily leant towards Naomi, breaking away from her conversation with Hugo and flicked her hair off her shoulder.
"How nice" Naomi smiled but she narrowed her eyes.
"Isn't it just?" Lily smirked. "See, Lise is like family to us, so we couldn't very well have her miss out on Christmas just because James decided to invite you."
"I hope you don't mind me coming to stay though Lily?" Naomi widened her eyes in supposed innocence and Lily rolled her eyes.
"It's not me that will be driven mad by you is it, it'll be James."
"Driven mad by me?"
"Well, you've always been a bit demanding haven't you Naomi?" Freddy asked her and she pursed her lips at him.
"I'm not demanding! Am I James, babe?"
James looked slightly uncomfortable as Naomi demanded an answer from him and he ruffled the back of his hair before clearing his throat and avoiding his sisters and cousins glares.
"Course not Naomi."
"I mean, honestly, the only thing I want is for you to stay away from Anneliese, it's not much to ask is it?" Naomi clicked her tongue, ignoring the deathly glares that Lily and the rest were sending her way. James however, blushed quite deeply and turned his head away from my burning stare.
"You can't just ask him to stay away from Lise!" Lily exclaimed angrily.
"I'm his girlfriend!" Naomi answered, as if that meant something.
"She's his best friend!" Lily stood up from her seat and moved menacingly towards Naomi. Hugo grabbed at her wrist and wrenched her back to her seat, everyone was fully aware of the damage Lily could cause if she wasn't restrained when she was angry.
"All she wants is to get into his pants!" Naomi flailed her hands about, glaring at me as she did so. "Imagine all the opportunities she'll get with mistletoe hanging around!"
"You're such an idiot!" Lily spat, struggling in Hugo's firm grasp.
"Actually, I'm a Ravenclaw sweetie" Naomi winked and Lily turned so red I was sure she was going to explode. Girls with attitudes like Naomi's drove her mad.
"Naomi, don't wind her up" James sighed, glancing warily at Lily who was now being restrained by Freddy as well.
"I'm not! Honestly James, sometimes you act as if you're not on my side! I'm your girlfriend!" she put a hand on his shoulder and stared him hard in the eye. "Or do you care more about Anneliese?"
I groaned as James shuffled in his seat, my head falling into my hands. I felt Bea's hand latch onto my other underneath the table for support and even Alice, Drew and Nick were watching James with baited breath. Because as hard as I had tried to avoid this situation, it had come. James had to choose between Naomi and I, and everyone knew who James would choose. Like I had always known, right from the start.
"Naomi, please this is ridiculous" James tugged a hand through his messy raven crop in frustration.
"Well James? Me or her?" Naomi took turns to glare at James, and then at me. I watched James intently as he seemed to suffer from inner struggle, before he met my gaze and held eye contact with me for the first time in months. I flinched under the intensity of his apologetic frown and I knew what was coming.
"Naomi, you're my girlfriend, of course it's you" he grabbed her hand. She willingly stood up with him, but pulled away and approached me with a smirk plastered all over her evil face.
"Told you I'd win" she whispered maliciously before grasping James' hand once again and dragging him from the hall.
I remained in my seat at the long Gryffindor table as a long held sob broke through, racking through my body painfully as the tears slipped down my cheeks.
"Lise, please don't cry" Bea murmured. "He's not worth it" she kept repeating as she rubbed my back soothingly. I shook my head at her, wiping at my cheeks angrily, but the tears never stopped.
"He's my best friend! How is this fair? How could he just choose her over me like that?!"
"It can't of been easy for him Lise..." Freddy reasoned, but I scoffed and he stopped sticking up for his best mate and cousin.
"Of course it was. We've all known that he'd choose her over me eventually, it was just a matter of when and where!"
"They won't last Lise" Alice moved to sit next to me and I gazed at her in wide eyed wonder as she wrapped a slim arm around my shoulders. "She's a bitch and you're so much better. He'll realise it soon enough."
"I don't care if he realises it or not" I spat. "It's not like I'm ever going to forgive him for it."
"I'm so sorry he's such an idiot" Alice whispered and I leant my head on her shoulder as I continued to cry. "I'm so sorry I was an idiot too" she added, and I felt her catch Bea's nervous gaze as well.
"I think you're forgiven Al" Bea murmured as she pulled Alice into a hug, squishing me in between them. "We've really missed you."
"You have no idea how much I missed you too" Alice sniffed as a small tear escaped her eyes and we all grasped onto each other in a circle of tears.
"Girls" I heard Freddy exclaim with a sigh.
"They're bloody mental" Drew added, and I could head the disbelief in his voice.
"I am going to murder my brother Lise" I heard Lily snarl. "He is going to rue the day he ever chose that bint over you. And I'm going to kill her too!"
"Lily" I looked up from Alice's shoulder. "Don't fight with James because of me, please?"
"It's not because of you, it's because of him! He's such a bloody idiot! Mum's not going to like him at all once I've told her what he's done!"
"Lily, please don't" I pleaded with her and she smiled slightly at me, shaking her head.
"Look at you, look what James has done to you and yet you still don't want to get him in trouble. He does not deserve to have somebody like you in his life Anneliese Lynch" she kissed my head as she left the group of us, tugging Freddy along behind her, presumably to find James.
Lily was right, I shouldn't still care for James as if he had done nothing wrong, as if he still treated me as his best friend. But I couldn't help it. Because I loved James so much that my instinct took over, and whatever he did I would automatically forgive him for. It was dangerous.
A/U just to say hi, I hardly ever do! Firstly, hope you're enjoying the fic, I spend a lot of time on it and I'd like to think some people do read my stuff! Related to that, I'm churning out the chapters as speedily as I can, with validation timings and all that, in the hope that I can jog For The First Time along a bit, as I am already writing another fic and I don't want to have two stories on the go at the same time. So anyway, please review, hardly anybody does and I'd love some feedback and some response! Lots of love to those that do read xxxx
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