“Tell me what happened,” Ben demanded as soon as they reached their sitting room.
Amelia sighed heavily, but relayed her story anyway. She skimmed over the story, not wanting to upset Ben and not wanting to get into the details herself. She briefly explained that she had been trapped and threatened by Nott.
“I just don’t understand,” Ben interrupted. “How did you get trapped in the first place?”
“I was in the alleyway and had no way out.”
“You were in an alleyway? You know better than to let yourself get cornered like that! “
“Ben-,” Amelia attempted.
“No - how stupid can you be, Amelia? You could have been killed!”
Amelia was surprised, and saddened, by his anger. The word ‘stupid’ felt like a physical blow to her already exhausted body.
Really, I just want to be comforted, she thought miserably. Why does he always do this?
Too tired to argue and too bored by having the same argument time after time, Amelia stood wordlessly and walked upstairs to her bedroom.
“Amelia,” she heard Ben call after her, but kept walking.
Amelia stepped out of the bathroom after a long, hot shower to find herself all alone.
He just left? Without even telling me where he was going?
Dejectedly, Amelia pulled a chemise on and climbed into bed.
Amelia must have been sleeping an hour when she woke to the shifting of the bed. Ben was there, she sensed him in the dark.
“Will you finish telling me what happened?” Ben asked directly.
That’s it? No apology?
“No. I’m tired,” Amelia replied shortly, turning on her side so that her back was facing Ben.
“Where did you go?”
“Some people were celebrating at the Three Broomsticks…”
Lovely. I’ve been sitting at home feeling lonely and sorry for myself while he’s been out carousing with friends.
“I walked to Hogsmeade,” Ben continued. “And I stood outside the pub, but I just couldn’t get myself to go in.”
“I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
“I’m sorry I ruined your night,” Amelia replied coldly.
“Please, don’t do this. Let me apologize.”
“You haven’t apologized yet!”
“I-I know, but I’m trying,” Ben stammered.
“You’re not doing a very good job of it.”
Ben sighed heavily.
“Yeah, well, I’m good at mucking things up, aren’t I?”
Amelia turned on her back and looked at him blankly.
“I’m sorry,” Ben said genuinely, taking Amelia’s hand tentatively.
Amelia closed her eyes and sighed.
“Ben, I just wanted to be comforted. Why couldn’t you just hold me?”
Her voice cracked.
“I-I know it’s not an excuse… I was just so frightened when you were gone.”
“And I wasn’t? I had a wand at my throat and a Death Eater threatening to rape, torture, and kill me.”
Ben’s head snapped up at that comment.
“He said what?” he asked sharply.
Amelia rolled her eyes.
“He said exactly what I’d expect any Death Eater to say to me.”
“Still… Tell me the rest, Amelia. Please.”
“Must I?” Amelia practically whispered.
“I need to hear it.”
She took a deep breath and began from the cry of help that she heard from the alley.
“Wait, you didn’t tell me that before,” Ben gasped.
“Ben, if you keep interrupting me this will take all night and I’d really like to get some sleep.”
“I’m sorry, it’s just… I didn’t realize someone had called for help.”
“What difference does it make?”
“Well, the difference is that everyone in the Order would have fallen for that trick. Which makes my statements from earlier even more idiotic.”
And Amelia continued her story right up to Draco’s rescue. Ben was left nearly speechless.
“W-wow,” he whispered. “I owe that prat everything…”
“You and me both,” Amelia said, sadness evident in her voice.
“Oh, Amelia, this is a good thing. You were right – he’s not his father.”
“But he’s still caught up in this mess! He could be killed… I could kill him.”
Ben opened his mouth to respond, but thought better of it. Instead he pulled her into his arms and let her cry softly. In short, he did what he should have done two hours earlier.
The morning came too early for Amelia, but she found that once she awoke she could not fall back asleep. Though Ben still slumbered next to her, Amelia soon gave up on sleep. She wriggled out of Ben’s hold and quietly crept into the loo where she readied herself for a new day.
Well, can’t be worse than yesterday. I hope.
Amelia glanced at the clock and sighed. Seven o’clock on a Sunday?
She found herself too antsy to grade papers in her sitting room and to unfocused to read a book. Deciding to go for a walk, Amelia left Ben a quick note and grabbed her cloak and boots.
She had just reached the Entrance Hall when footsteps startled her. Most of the school was still asleep this early on a Sunday.
“Amelia,” Hollis cried from the top of the stairs.
Amelia smiled and waited for Hollis to clamber down the steps.
“Morning,” she said breathlessly.
“Good morning,” Amelia replied, suddenly feeling shy. Which is ridiculous because this is my best friend, she grumbled internally.
“I was just going for a walk,” Amelia said awkwardly. “Do you want to come?”
“Sure,” the blonde replied enthusiastically. She pulled a handkerchief from her pocket and transfigured it into a cloak easily.
Amelia had always marveled at Hollis’ Transfiguration skills.
The pair walked down to the Black Lake in silence, at times companionable, at times awkward.
Once seated on a bench and warmed with a strong charm, Hollis’ shoulders slumped forward and she sighed heavily.
“I’m so sorry about all those awful things I said to you, ‘Melie,” she whispered sadly.
“Hol-,” Amelia began, but was interrupted.
“No, just let me say this. I’ve been an awful friend. I came here and I thought it would be like Salem all over again and I got upset when it wasn’t. I was so stupid.”
“Not stupid, Hollis.”
“Pretty stupid, yeah,” Hollis disagreed. “I was jealous that you weren’t spending all your spare time with me a-and I got really resentful of Ben and basically anything that was taking your time.”
Amelia listened in silence. She had never heard so Hollis speak so openly and honestly about her mistakes.
“We’re not teens anymore though, and this isn’t Salem,” Hollis admitted.
“That’s certainly true,” Amelia agreed. “When you and I are together though, it’s easy to forget that.”
“Even so, I was so ignorant! I had no idea what you were going through… not until I talked to Ben. I should have been trying to help you cope with everything… not make things worse!”
Hollis paused and wiped a tear from her cheek.
“I was so frightened yesterday… and you deal with that basically every day. And that’s on top of everything else you have to put up with... school, and your whole family thing, and having a relationship. I-I don’t know how you do it but I know that I certainly haven’t been helping.”
Amelia reached out and took Hollis’ hand. The tears had begun to stream steadily from the blonde’s eyes.
“A-and I ruined your birthday,” she hiccupped.
“Hollis, you weren’t wrong though… I have been neglecting you. Just… just tell me you don’t really think that Ben’s a bad person.”
“I was wrong on every point,” Hollis countered. “And of course I don’t think he’s a bad person. He’s not Davis. I know that, honest.”
“You’re sure, Hol? I don’t want there to be tension between the two of you...”
“The man loves you more than life,” Hollis stated bluntly. “He would do anything for you – he would die for you. When you were missing, Ben was… I don’t know. He was so distraught, so desperate. It was like someone had just completely ended his world.”
Amelia nodded wordlessly.
“Okay, so I need to try and make time for you and you need to know that, no matter what, you are my best friend and that won’t ever change.”
Hollis threw her arms around Amelia’s neck and squeezed her until Amelia had to push her away.
“Oops, sorry,” Hollis giggled. “Here – I brought your birthday present.”
Hollis pulled a tiny box from her pocket and used her wand to return it to its original form.
Amelia enthusiastically began to pull away the ribbons; Hollis had great taste in gifts.
Once she had cleared away the ribbon and paper, Amelia opened the box that remained.
Hollis watched excitedly as Amelia pulled a heavy, intricately designed snow globe from the box.
It had a glossy mahogany vase and a glass globe the size of a Bludger. Inside the glass sat a perfect replica of the Salem Academy of Magic covered in a film of snow.
Amelia’s eyes filled with tears. “Hollis, it’s beautiful!”
“Do you like it? I thought it would be a nice reminder of Salem and Salem’s so special to our friendship…”
Now it was Amelia’s turn to hug her friend.
“I’m glad you like it,” Hollis gushed. “And guess what? It's charmed to mimic Salem’s actual weather!”
Amelia murmured appreciatively as she turned the globe over in her hand, admiring the different aspects of the trinket.
“So what else did you get for your birthday?” Hollis asked conversationally.
Amelia opened her mouth to reply, but was interrupted by the clock tower chiming eight times.
“How about I tell you at breakfast?”
“Sounds good – I’m starving.”
Amelia hummed in agreement.
“Ready to face the school?”
“Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Um,” Hollis said, smirking, “You and Ben were practically making out in front of half the school, or did you forget?”
“Shite. I did forget,” Amelia sighed. “And we were not making out and it was not half the school.”
“Whatever, the whole school knows by now.”
Amelia groaned as she pushed the doors to the castle open.
“Between smug Ben and this gossip-driven school, I may go mad.”
Ben had met Amelia and Hollis outside the Great Hall and the trio had entered together. Amelia secretly hoped that having Hollis with them would diffuse some of the giggles and stares.
No such luck. Amelia and Ben were indeed the breakfast entertainment for the entire Hogwarts population. The couple was subject to constant stares, incessant giggles, low whispers and even some blatant finger-pointing.
“They’ll lose interest,” Ben said encouragingly.
Amelia just glared at him. She decided that she would blame him for the whole fiasco. Ben didn’t seem to mind bearing the blame though; he was quite pleased that the secret was out.
“Stop being so cheerful,” Amelia grumbled in return.
Ben just hid his grin with a bite of toast.
The gossip took a little over a week to die down. Amelia’s classes were consistently with whispers, snickers, and even outright questions. The worst backlash came at breakfast the first Monday after the ‘Hospital Wing incident’ as Amelia had termed it.
The owls brought the mail in per usual and Amelia was surprised to see that she had several letters land on her plate. Since she normally received no mail, this was highly unusual.
Amelia picked up one of the letters carefully but had it snatched out of her hand before she could open it. Severus had taken her small stack of letters and run a short series of spells on it.
“Oops, I suppose I should have thought of that,” Amelia said sheepishly.
“We’re still at war, Amelia,” Severus lectured. “Though mad, Moody’s obsession with ‘constant vigilance’ is not without merit.”
Amelia nodded, chastened, and took her letters back, now that they had been determined to be curse-free.
A small audience watched while Amelia opened her mail: Ben, Severus, Hollis, and Evander all paid close attention.
Plucking the first letter of the envelope, Amelia began to read silently.
My name is Meriweather Baxter and I am the father of Saffron Baxter of Slytherin House. I was most horrified when my dear Saffron reported to me that two of her professors, whom she had previously held in high esteem, were engaged in an illicit affair within Hogwarts’ very castle.
Amelia stopped reading after the first paragraph and frantically sorted through the other letters sitting next to her plate.
Every last one of them was from disgruntled parents of her students. Every last one of them chastised her for her ‘affair’ and reproached her for her ‘astonishing lack of morals’.
Amelia put her head in her hands and fought to keep the tears in her eyes from falling down her cheeks.
She sensed Ben take the letters and ruffle through them, swearing under his breath as he read them.
“Amelia, go to the Staff Room,” he said quietly. “I’ll follow shortly.”
Amelia nodded, her head still down. She rose quietly and pulled her chin up. She walked out of the Hall with her head held high and slipped into the empty Staff Room.
Not five minutes later, Ben entered the room and strode toward her, quickly pulling her into a tight embrace.
“Ben, what are we going to do?” she asked desperately.
“Nothing,” Ben responded simply. “We are doing nothing wrong, love. If a few parents take issue with it, that’s their problem.”
“But the students…”
“Our relationship does not affect our teaching or our duties. Therefore it’s not the business of our students or their parents. The only person with the right to take issue with it is Minerva and she condones our relationship.”
“Of course she does,” Ben admonished. “She was at Christmas and New Year’s Eve – she’s known for a while. She linked our fireplaces, remember? And she gave me permission to take you away for your birthday...”
Amelia nodded, feeling reassured and relieved.
Ben pecked her on the forehead gently.
“Besides, most of those parents were from Slytherin. They’re probably targeting you because you’re Muggle-born more than anything.”
Though it shouldn’t have, it actually made Amelia feel better. She began classes that day with a much brighter outlook.