Chapter Five – Mending Friendships and Painful Confessions
I can feel the dried tracks of my tears still plastered to my face as the morning sun trickles into the room. Thank Merlin it is the weekend, I don’t think I could have handled going to lessons today, especially those with Gryffindor. Somehow I managed to find my way back to my dorm through the haze of water streaming from my eyes last night and I am now curled up, fully clothed, under the deliciously warm duvet. I don’t feel warm though. There is an icy chill where my heart is. James’ words from last night play over and over again in my mind. Was he right? Had I told him to end things with Alice? I can’t remember. All I know is that I would never have told him to hurt her. She is my best friend and I would do anything for her, just like I would do anything for James.
I cannot recall ever fighting with James before. He would get moody sometimes and I would just back off until he was feeling better, occasionally I would snap at him if I was tired but he never retorted and he never blamed me. We have never fought before.
“Eloise?” asks a quiet voice from above me and I feel my mattress sink as someone sits at the foot of my bed. I am torn between responding and pretending I am still asleep when they speak again. “Lou, I know you’re awake,” Alice murmurs. Well that’s my decision made then.
“Morning Alice,” I mumble into my pillow causing her to giggle slightly. It is not her normal laugh, just a shallow echo of it. James must have really hurt her.
“Lou, I don’t know what to do…” Craning my neck I see the frown etched on her forehead as she twiddles with the hem of her shirt. I give her a grunt telling her to continue. “Frankie just came up, she said James is outside the common room, she said he wants to talk to me and that he won’t leave until he does.” I study Alice’s face and I can tell that a part of her is dying to just run to James. “Should I go and see him Lou? I’m not sure…”
“Alice,” I sigh, sitting up at last. “What James did was wrong. He hurt his friend and that’s not on. But he is going through some shit at the moment and I don’t think he really knew what he was doing or how much it would actually hurt you. If you don’t want to talk to him, that’s fine, but James is stubborn and if you don’t talk to him now, he’ll find a way to talk to you. He won’t give up. Look at it this way, he has already hurt you, surely whatever he has to say can’t be any worse?”
“It’s funny isn’t it,” Alice says after a while. “I’ve known James my whole life… but you still know him better. I wish I could be like you Eloise, you always know what to say and you always know how everyone else is feeling even if they try and hide it.” She continues to fiddle with the hem of her shirt.
“Yeah well, my life’s not perfect either,” I mumble, half to myself. “Just go talk to James.” Alice glances up at me with her large blue eyes and I can see the hope shinning out of them that my approval awoke. “Just tell him from me that he is a prick,” I laugh before hopping out of bed and heading for the showers as Alice nods and runs out the door.
Alice returns while I am still in the shower but thankfully, I cannot hear her sobbing. When I emerge in my towel, I find her lying on the bed staring at the ceiling. Deciding I’ll wait until she’s ready to tell me what James said, I go over to my bed and rummage through my trunk looking for something decent to wear. I always make extra effort to look decent when I’m a mess inside. It makes me feel better. Finally, I settle on my favourite skinny jeans and floaty white blouse.
“He said he was sorry,” Alice mutters at last. “He said he was sorry for hurting me and for making me think we had something. He said he never meant to lead me on and that he hadn’t realised that he was giving the impression he wanted something more from me.” Her voice remains monotonous as she talks and she doesn’t take her eyes from the ceiling. “He really didn’t care about me at all,” she sighs and I wonder if she is about the cry again.
“He does care Alice, you’re his friend, of course he cares,” I send her a comforting smile which she doesn’t notices as she is still inspecting the ceiling.
“Yeah… just a friend. A friend who he flirted with and snogged and snuck out with,” she snaps. “He never really cared, not properly. I don’t want to be his friend Eloise. I want to be his girlfriend. Someone he tells everything too, someone who he wants to spend all his time with, someone he would do anything for. Hell, you’re more like a girlfriend to him than I ever was and you’ve never even kissed him!”
Somewhere in the middle of her little rant, I froze with my shirt half way over my head. We were heading into dangerous waters. Her words caused my heart to unwillingly quicken its pace. This is really starting to get ridiculous. She needs to stop saying stuff like that. Can’t she see it’s killing me inside? No, of course not. I have grown far too accustomed to hiding my feelings for James from the rest of the world that she cannot possibly have any idea how her words affect me.
“Don’t be ridiculous Alice,” I force a laugh. “I’m like his sister.” How those words have tortured me over the last few years and now here I am, using them myself. What is my life coming to?
“Eloise… He’s closer to you than to Lily for Merlin’s sake, they hardly ever talk about things but he talks to you about everything! You are the only one who can make him see sense in a situation… Sometimes I swear you too a secretly dating – seriously, if you are, just tell me now to save me any further embarrassment!” Alice almost yells and I thank Merlin we are the only two people in the room so her ridiculous ideas do not spread. Because they are ridiculous… Absolutely absurd.
There is a moment of silence before Alice speaks again, her voice calmer than before. “I’m sorry, that was ridiculous… You and James are just friends, I know that, I know you don’t have those sorts of feeling for each other, I’m just being cranky,” she laughs but I can tell it is forced. I almost laugh in return at the irony of her words. “He wants to talk to you too by the way,” she adds on and I almost run from the dorm, eager for an excuse to get away from her and her words.
The common room is almost empty as I stop dead in my tracks. Should I really be running to him? After what he said last night… shouldn’t I be angry with him? And why do I feel like by running to him, I am betraying Alice’s trust? She told me he wanted to see me… she knows. This is insane. Shaking my head, I continue to the exit, emerging to find James still waiting, leaning against the wall. The boy must have been there for a least an hour already. He folds a piece of parchment after muttering something under his breath and turns to me.
“Eloise…” he practically chokes.
“I’m so sorry, I was an idiot, I didn’t mean any of it, I swear, I know you are angry and I can’t blame you but I swear I didn’t mean any of it. I’m so sorry…” his trips over his words in his hast to get them out. “You were right Lou, I was an insensitive jerk, I hope Alice will forgive me and understand I didn’t mean to hurt her.”
“Oh James,” I sigh, opening my arms. He is immediately in them, squeezing me tightly. “You’re hopeless,” I laugh, the feeling of his arms around my waist sending my heart into a furious dance that I am terrified he can hear. I suddenly understood why people say that making up is one of the best bits in a relationship… It is the kind of feeling you get when you lose something and then someone returns it to you, like the part of you that was missing is back again. Except, this isn’t a relationship. Not in that sense. We are just friends.
“I honestly don’t know what I would do without you Eloise Grace Macmillan,” he murmured into my hair and the butterflies in my stomach erupted. This boy might just be the death of me. He moves away slightly, smiling down at me before pressing his lips gently to my forehead. I take that back – this boy will be the death of me.
It took a few weeks for the awkwardness between Alice and James to evaporate but now that it has, I am left with more worries than before. Because one thing is now crystal clear to me: Alice Longbottom has fallen in love with James Potter. It doesn’t matter that he broke her heart and lead her on, she has still gone and fallen in love with him… But then again, I suppose it is not really her fault, you cannot chose who you fall in love with, you just do. Trust me, I know.
The worst part is, however, that I cannot talk to her about it. I’ve tried multiple time but I cannot bring myself to ask her directly. I think it would hurt too much to have to definitely add another reason to my list of why I can never be with James. This is a figurative list of course, I could never write it down for fear of discovery, not that I would want to… Imagine how depressing that would be.
“Lou..? Are you in there?” Someone waves there hand in front of my face and I blink to see the very guy I had been thinking about, standing before me. “I was saying… Do you think that I should ask Alice on a proper date?” Huh? Excuse me? Did I miss something? I thought he didn’t like her that way? Well… I guess that is another reason to add to my figurative list.
“Huh?” I respond unintelligently. There was a reason I was not sorted into Ravenclaw. Or Gryffindor. Or Slytherin. He rolls his eyes. “I thought you didn’t like her like that?” I frown.
“Well… I think it might be good for me…” he trails off and I can tell by the glazed look in his eyes that he is thinking of Vivian. “You know, to get out there again… I know you probably think I’m being stupid but I need to get over her Eloise. She is with Al now and I know he will look after her… She doesn’t need me there to make things complicated. And Alice is nice, she’s a friend, we could take things slow and she’d understand that it might not work out. Besides, I already know she doesn’t just want the status of being Harry Potter’s son’s girlfriend… She has her own ‘status’ so to speak. I don’t know Eloise… I just know I need to do something and dating Alice seems like a good idea… Please say something before I ramble on all day.”
“I… I don’t know what to say James. I mean, you really hurt Alice, I don’t know what she would say if you asked her on a date,” I muttered, aware that that was a lie. I know exactly what she would say: yes. I just don’t want to see her hurt again because I know that James is still in love with Vivian and a part of him probably always would be. I don’t think Alice could understand that. “Couldn’t you try dating someone else?” I ask vainly.
“I like Alice and I think she likes me too, I could at least give it a go,” he shrugs and I can see that he doesn’t really believe that it would ever work out between them but she appears to be the girl he is pinning his hopes on. “I just wanted to know you didn’t completely disagree with it.”
“I just… I don’t want you two to end up hurt again,” I explain.
“I know but I have to try something Lou or I’ll go mad,” he confesses quietly.
“Just do what you think is best then James,” I sigh, aware that what James often thought was for the best was not always the case. He smile and tries to ruffle my hair, I duck and he chases me down to the lake.
I rested my chin on my palm as I stared at the translucent figure of Professor Binns as he droned on about some revolt or rebellion or other. Across the classroom, Amanda and her boyfriend Lewis are flicking bits of paper at Lewis’s best friend Antony Ferrars who has fallen asleep on his desk.
“Psst,” Alice hisses behind me and I turn to take a bit of paper she is holding out under the table for me. Opening it, I read the words in her almost illegible scrawl: James asked me on a date. What do I do? Oh for the love of Merlin’s underwear. Why do they keep asking me for advice? If everything was down to me, I would have Alice dating some nice, older guy and James running in and sweeping me off my feet. I do not want to help them get together for Godric’s sake.
I hastily scribble: I don’t know. There. My temper is unusually short today and this whole Alice and James thing is just getting ridiculous. And I have to study for my NEWTs for crying out loud. I’m not going to be a relationship adviser when I am older so I could really do without these questions. Folding it up, I pass it back to her.
“Helpful,” she mutters under her breath. I just shrug.
As it turned out, Alice agreed to James offer just like I knew she would and they are planning to go to Hogsmeade together this weekend. I can tell Alice is far more excited about this than James is but there is nothing I can do about it now. They spend more time together now too. It’s funny in a way, I never realised that most of my time was spend in either the company of Alice or James or both until they both started spending more time alone together.
Currently, I am sitting alone in the library pouring over some charms textbooks and trying to ignore the heavy feeling in my stomach. It seems to be growing heavier and heavier as the days go by. It is odd to be honest, I mean I have always hidden my feeling for James why should I feel any different because he is now seeing Alice? Would it be the same if it was someone else, someone I did not know?
A giggling catches my attention and I look up, hiding behind one of the bookshelves is my best friend and the love of my life. Alice has her back pressed against the books, it was her giggle. James was leaning against her, kissing her neck. His hands were resting on her waist. They looked happy. I suppose if James is happy… I should be happy too. James pulls away and Alice begins to nuzzle into his neck, planting little kisses along his collar bone. James glances to his left, as if looking for someone and I suddenly realise he is not half as into this little rendezvous as Alice is. I think he is looking for Vivian.
My heart leaps into my mouth as he turns his head to the right, his eyes again searching someone out. When they do not find Vivian, they fall on me. My face turns crimson and I snap my head back to my books but it is too late. He saw me looking. Merlin knows what expression I had on my face.
“Eloise?” he asks and I notice Alice give a moan of irritation as he pulls away. “What are you doing here?”
“Uh… working?” I mutter, refusing to look up at him. “That’s generally what libraries are for,” I cannot help the tone of disapproval that laces my words and he flinches slightly at my obvious dig at his behaviour. Alice comes over to join us after straightening out her shirt and tie, something James appears to have forgotten about as his tie is still crooked, making him look painfully attractive. “Hey Alice,” I give a half smile, uncomfortable with James steady gaze on me. I just wish he would leave.
“Right, well I’m going,” he says abruptly, moving away from my table. Alice make to follow him. “I’ll see you later,” he says decisively, dismissing her advances. Looking dejected, she returns to my table as James struts out of the library. Flopping down onto the spare chair, she begins to drum her fingers on the table. After a few minutes she speaks.
“It is just so annoying!” she whines. I do not bother asking what is annoying as, knowing Alice, she will tell me anyway. “We were just sitting in the Great Hall for lunch and everything was fine, he was paying attention to me and being all flirty and everything but then she goes and walks in and he freezes up and practically stops talking to me, just staring down at his plate.
“I was humiliating, so I dragged him out here but he just seemed distant… Although I suppose he seemed quite glad to get away from her which I guess is a good sign but still… Are you even going to ask me who she is?” Alice rants.
“Who is she?” I ask obediently even though I know perfectly well who the ‘she’ Alice is referring to is.
“Vivian Nott!” she answers, the expression on her face suggests she is scandalised by her own words. “Can you believe it? I mean, I know he was like seeing her or something at some point but really… To still be acting like that when she comes into the same room… It was the Great Hall for Merlin’s sake; of course she was going to come in there at some point… Besides, isn’t it kind of incest? I mean she’s pregnant with Al’s kid, isn’t she?” Alice ponders, oblivious to the fact I am hardly listening. The image of James kissing her neck refuses to leave my mind. “You know, it kind of makes me feel like his rebound girl,” she says at last. “I figured you’d done that for him and now he was free to move on… I mean, I know you guys were never actually a couple but I figured you talk about this sort of stuff and that it was kind of like what a rebound girl does…
“Merlin’s pants Eloise! What if he is still in love with her?” Alice gasps, horrified at the thought. For the love of Merlin, now she is referring to me as James’ rebound girl. To begin with, that sort of thing is a load of rubbish and labelling people like that will get her nowhere and does she not realise that those sorts of thing should just not be said around me? No, of course not. Alice never was very good at judging other people’s emotions.
Alice continues her rant about Vivian while I sit and stare at her blankly, pretending to listen. She thinks James is still in love with Vivian. I know he is still in love with Vivian.
Thankfully, Alice’s rant is cut short by the arrival of James’ friend, Rob Watts.
“Hey, Eloise… I was wondering if I could talk to you?” he asks hesitantly. Without thinking, I scoop my books into my bag and say goodbye to a confused Alice who did not even appear to notice Rob’s arrival.
“Sure,” I smile, thankful to get away from her endless chatter.
“What was she ranting about?” Rob asks as we make our way out of the library.
“Oh, Merlin only knows,” I shrug. “When she goes off on one, it’s best to just tune out… She can never remember what she says anyway so it doesn’t really matter,” I explain, half truthfully.
“Right,” he nods, clearly not too interested in Alice. “Look Eloise, I was, um, wondering if you had a date to Hogsmeade this weekend?”
“Uh… nope, why?” I ask dumbly.
“Uh… I was wondering if, maybe, you wanted to, uh, go with me?” he mutters. Oh. I guess I should have seen that one coming. A date with Rob? I have never been on a proper date before. I was never really interested, preferring to just hang out with the Frankie and Alice or James and his friends. I guess that included Rob. I mean Rob was nice… We always got on well… But did I want to date him? Was it fair on him? I mean wouldn’t I just be leading him on because my heart was already somewhere else? But then again, my heart was a hopeless case… I might as well give it a try and see if it is possible for me to get over James.
Because James will never love me.
Not the way I love him.
So why should I waste my whole life on someone who will never give me what I want? What I need? Shouldn’t I at least try to get over him? Don’t I deserve to try? And dating Rob was as good an idea as any.
So I do something I never normally do, maybe it was the stress of NEWTs, maybe it was the scene I witnessed between Alice and James or maybe it was just a random impulse, but I made a rash decision.
“Sure, okay, I’ll give it a go.”
Hello there, it has been far too long and I apologies for the length of time it has taken me to update this chapter. But here it is. Please let me know what you think. Thanks for reading,