Chapter Eight – Family, Home and Making Up
The next few days pass in a confusion of tears (when I am alone), arguments (with James about why I am not talking to him) and confessions. The last one is perhaps the most frightening. Ever since I realised how I felt about James, I have never told a soul. So why on earth should I have to change that now? Why on earth should I have to confess out loud to another human being how I am in love with my best friend? Rob Watts is why.
“Eloise…” he sighs. “Just tell me the truth.”
“The truth?” I ask, trying to stop my voice from squeaking. We are in the library ‘studying’ for NEWTs. I was happily lazing through my Charms textbook when Rob came in and dumped his bag at my feet before taking the seat across from me.
“The truth Eloise… And you know what I am talking about,” he rolled his eyes as I shook my head. “What is going on between you and James Sirius Potter?” he asks when I make it clear I am not going to reply. His question causes my eyes to narrow and I return my gaze to my textbook.
“Nothing,” I snapped. It was the truth. He asked for the truth.
“I don’t care about labels or things being ‘official’ or any of that crap. I just want to know what you really feel for him,” Rob sighs, waving away the superficial tags that dominate our modern society.
“What I feel for him is a different question to what is going on between us,” I reply with a frown.
“Just answer it Eloise,” Rob sighs again, running a hand through his hair in a way that reminds me painfully of my best friend. The best friend that I am in love with.
“I could never tell you how I feel for James…” I whisper and Rob is about to protest when I continue. “There aren’t words to express what I feel for him,” I shrug, looking away from Rob again. Rob doesn’t say anything but watches me for a while until I finally lift my eyes to his.
“Do you love him?” he asks plainly.
“Yes,” I reply with equal frankness. “I’m sorry.”
“Oh, don’t be sorry about me,” he waves his hands around and leans forward to rest his elbows on the table. “I’ll get over it… But you? I don’t think you will.”
“What do you mean?”
“I don’t think you will ever get over James, will you?” Rob asks but I can see by the look on his face he has already made up his own mind. He is right of course. I could never get over James. Shaking my head slightly I bite my lower lip to stop the sudden rush of emotion that is threatening to pour from my eyes.
“Merlin, I love him Rob,” I sob. It feels oddly liberating to say those words aloud to another human being. I never thought I would ever reveal my secret but at the end of the day, what use is a secret if you never share it with anyone? “I love him. I love him. I love him,” I repeat, relishing the sound rolling off my lips. This must be some kind of masochistic form of relief.
“So what are you going to do about it?” Rob asks gently, placing a hand on my arm comfortingly. This guy should have been a Hufflepuff. Dammit Merlin, why couldn’t I fall for someone like Rob Watts? Why did I have to go and fall in love with my insufferable and unattainable best friend?
“Nothing,” I choke out.
“Why?” Rob frowns, puzzlement written across his face. I turn my watery eyes onto his.
“Alice,” I shrug simply before sweeping my books into my bag and getting up to leave. It is all too easy to shut out the already dull pain in my chest. I am becoming accustomed to feeling numb these days, ever since Alice told me to stay away from James. Believe me, it is easier this way. It is impossible to turn your back on someone and see the hurt and confusion in their eyes when all your emotions are running amok inside you. It is much easier to just turn them off and walk away.
NEWTs come and go and before I know it, I am wandering down the corridor of the Hogwarts Express for the last time. Glancing into compartment after compartment, I try to find a vaguely empty one. Eventually, I find an almost empty compartment with a single girl facing the window. To my surprise, I realise it is Jena. My sister.
“Jen?” I murmur so as not to startle her. She turns around in surprise and I notice the tear tracks on her face. “Hey Jen, are you alright?” I ask, abandoning my trunk and going to sit beside her. Pushing her blonde hair from her face and wiping her freckled cheeks dry. “What happened?”
“Hey Lou,” she mumbles as she presses herself against me. I wrap my arms around her automatically. “I’m sorry, it’s just… Urgh, I don’t even know where to begin,” Jena sighs.
“How about you begin at the start?” I tease.
“I don’t know when the start is Lou,” she pulls away so I can see her frown. “I just know the end was about five minutes ago when Nate said he wanted to be single for the holidays and that he just didn’t see us working out,” she narrows her eyes in what I know is the face she uses to try and hide her pain by turning it to anger.
“Well then Nate is a complete moron,” I exclaim. Nate Wood had been dating Jena since sometime in their second year, I’ve met him a couple of time and he seemed nice enough but even if Jena can get under my skin sometimes, anyone who hurts her, is immediately the ‘enemy’.
Jena and I are interrupted by a gentle knocking on the open compartment door. I glance over my shoulder to see Rob standing there, looking a little embarrassed.
“I’m sorry, am I interrupting?” he mutters awkwardly, his cheeks a little pink.
“Not at all,” Jena interjects before I have a chance to reply. She wipes her face with the back of her yellow trimmed school robes and smiles at Rob. “Come in,” she offers.
“Thank, I just wanted to check our Lou here wasn’t doing anything daft like sitting alone somewhere,” he teases, instantly more at ease.
“Shut up,” I sneer, trying to supress my smile. “Why aren’t you with your friends?” I ask.
“They’re your friends too Eloise,” Rob raises an eyebrow pointedly and I instantly feel a flash of guilt for how I have neglected my friends over the last month or so. “And I got bored and wondered where you were,” he tags on, causing Jena to wiggle her eyebrows at me. “So are you going to introduce me to your little friend or do I have to keep guessing?”
“Oi!” Jena protests. “I am not little! I’ll have you know I am taller than Eloise!”
“Really?” Rob smirks. I frown. Unfortunately, it is true. My fifteen year old sister is taller than me. How pathetic is that? “How taller are you?”
“One meter, seventy-eight,” Jena grins proudly. “Whereas Eloise is only one meter, sixty-eight… I’m a whole ten centimetres taller than her already,” Jena pokes her tongue out at me, much to Rob’s amusement.
“Well I beat both of you,” he grins. “I’m one meter, eighty.”
“Only two centimetres taller than me?”
“So it appears, Miss Macmillan…”
“I don’t believe you Mr… Crap, what is your name?” Jena blushes slightly.
“Watts, Rob Watts,” he says pompously.
“Please tell you you’re not doing a Bond on me,” Jena rolls her eyes and Rob looks impressed. He will figure out soon enough that my slightly insane sister has a weird fascination with muggle films. “And I still don’t believe you.”
“Would you like me to prove it?”
“Stand up,” he grins. “Eloise, you will be the measurer,” he instructs as they both stand up. Reluctantly I push myself off the bench with a smile tugging at the corners of my mouth. I thank Merlin for sending Rob here to distract Jena from her heartache. I’m starting to think there is something saintly about Robert Gregory Watts.
A slight cough at the still open compartment door alters me to the presence of a rather awkward looking Alice. Over the last few weeks our friendship has been, unsurprisingly, a little strained. While I have not be hostile to her, or even stopped talking to her, we have reduced to just polite conversation. Nothing like the friendship we used to have.
“Hey Eloise, I was wondering if I could talk to you for a minute,” she mutters hesitantly. Rob looks up from his game of Exploding Snaps with my sister. His sees Alice and his eyes immediately flicker to mine, I cannot read the expression in them. I nod to Alice and she steps back from the doorway, indicating she wants to talk to me in private. I oblige reluctantly.
“Hello,” I mutter stupidly as she slides the compartment door closed.
“Look Eloise, I’m sorry,” she turns to face me and I can see genuine regret on her face. “I should never have said what I did after that Hogsmeade trip and I really hope you can forgive me. It really wasn’t your fault and I never should have blamed you. I mean, it is so obvious that James likes you and I should never have tried to come between that. I’ve known him longer, yes, but you are his closest friend – closer than Rob even – and you have more of a right to him than I do. I just wished that for once things would go my way because I always seem to be the one who gets forgotten or cheated on or lied to… I just hoped that with James it would be different but he can’t help that he is in love with someone else and I have no right to come between that.
“So I really hope you can forgive me because I miss your friendship Lou and these last few weeks have sucked, quite frankly. I’ve spoken to James, I told him that I couldn’t be his girlfriend when his heart was otherwise occupied, I told him that he was one of my closest friends and that I hoped things wouldn’t be too different between us because I like him Eloise. I really do. But it would never be enough to compare to how he feels about you. There was no point in competing so I’ve bowed out as gracefully as possibly considering… and I hope that even if you can’t forgive me today, you might find it in you to forgive me one day. That’s all I’m asking Eloise because, hell, let’s face it – you’re my best friend.” Alice looks on the verge of tears. “Dammit Lou, I’ve missed you,” she sobs.
I stand there, paralyzed. My mind cannot process what she has just told be. The words are just spinning around in my head, creating a whirlpool of confusion. I cannot comprehend what she has done.
And then Alice bursts into tears and I react with the instinctiveness that defines Hufflepuff House and wrap my arms around her, soothing her and letting her sob onto my shoulder. I do not know how long we stand there like that but we are eventually jolted apart as the train comes to a somewhat abrupt halt and I realise we have arrived at King’s Cross.
“Alice, we’re here,” I mutter. She nods and wipes the tears from her face before straightening her robes. “And of course I forgive you, you are my best friend too you know,” I fake a chuckle, pushing all her words to the back of my mind. “Look, let’s get out of here before we are over run by students…” I quickly grab my trunk from the compartment as students begin to fill the corridor. Alice already has hers. Linking arms, we head towards the nearest door and step of the Hogwarts Express for the very last time.
“It’s weird isn’t it… the feeling that we are never going back,” Alice sighs quietly and I just nod. “Thank you Lou,” she whispers. I just smile as Jena and Rob climb off behind us and Alice waves goodbye, pulling me into a quick hug before disappearing into the already crowded platform.
Linking arms with both Jena and Rob, I force Alice’s words from my head entirely. They would be dealt with another day. Right now, I needed to focus on getting through this crowd without tripping over some small unsuspecting child.
“Uh Lou… I’m not sure what Alice said to you… But I’m not actually coming home with you,” Rob comments in amusement as I guide him towards the exit. “My parents are over there, looking a bit confused.”
“Right, yeah, sorry,” I mumble, quickly releasing my hold of his arm. “I’ll see you soon. You should come round sometime.”
“Okay… well see you Lou, Jena,” he smiles at us both before disappearing into the crowd with a wave over his shoulder. Oops. Jena elbows me in the ribs and gives me her ‘knowing’ look.
“He seems rather nice, especially for a Gryffindor,” she teases and I nudge her back. “Come on Lou, you’d tell me if there was anything going on between you two right? I mean you did invite him round...”
“Jena Macmillan, I can assure there is nothing between Rob Watts and myself. We are just friends. That is all we will ever be,” I laugh back. It is good to laugh a little. I rarely do it these days.
“What is it with you and having hot male friends? I don’t get how you can spend so much time with them and not fall helplessly in love with them. I mean first it’s James, now it’s Rob… Seriously girl, I think you have a problem!” Jena laughs but I turn my head away so she cannot see the expression on my face. If only I could tell her. If only I could tell her that I have fallen helplessly and hopelessly in love with one of them. Because as insightful as Jena can be, even she has not been able to read past the lie that adorns my face whenever James is around.
The kitchen in my home always smells of vanilla. I have no idea why, we hardly ever even use vanilla, and when I asked my mum, she either could not or would not tell me why. So to me, the smell of vanilla is the smell of home. This is the reason the first room of the house I always go to when I get back from school, is the kitchen. Straight into the kitchen and on with the kettle for a cup of tea.
Have you ever noticed that when something bad happens, someone will always offer you a cup of tea? Whenever you are miserable, you drink tea? Whenever there is a problem that needs solving, there is always a cup of tea involved somewhere along the road? I never understood why that was until today. Standing in the kitchen with a freshly brewed cup of tea in my hands, even in the middle of June, was the most comforting thing I have experienced since Alice first told me she was seeing James.
Of course, tea is a problem solving agent and therefore, I need a problem to solve. And that problem? Well, that problem is easy to identify but seemingly impossible to solve. You see, Alice’s words from the train are still echoing around inside my head despite my attempts to banish them.
It is so obvious that James likes you… He can’t help that he is in love with someone else… I couldn’t be his girlfriend when his heart was otherwise occupied… I’ve bowed out as gracefully as possibly…
No matter which way around I play those words, I cannot escape the truth within them: Alice has ended whatever she had with James because she thinks he is in love with me.
Eloise Grace Macmillan.
His best friend.
Alice has lost her fucking mind.
“Eloise! I will not tolerate that sort of language in my house!” mum snaps suddenly from across the room where she is preparing dinner. Shit. Apparently I said that last bit allowed. “And why exactly do you think that Alice has lost her mind?” my mother narrows her eyes at me.
“Eloise, you would tell me if something was the matter wouldn’t you?” mum asks, the stern look vanishing from her face and being replaced by one of concern. “It doesn’t matter what it is honey, you know you could tell me, right?”
“Yes mum, I know,” I reply truthfully. Or at least half-truthfully. I could tell my mum absolutely anything… Anything except my feelings for James. Currently I am still adjusting to the fact that Rob (another, live, human being) knows my deepest secret. I cannot tell anyone else, at least not yet anyway.
“Good. I’ll be here whenever you need me okay?” she smiles and I just nod, starring into my almost empty tea cup. “And we are having dinner The Grange tomorrow, okay?” she adds on, changing the subject. The Grange is my mum’s dad’s house and at the beginning of every summer, we have a big family meal there. Which means Alice will be there.
My mum’s side of the family was the side I had considered the normal side. Apparently I was wrong. While my Grandmother, Jena Abbott, had been murdered during the war, my Grandfather, Jack Abbott Sr, was still lively as ever, dancing around with my mum, Gemma Macmillan, while my mum’s older sister, Hannah, and her husband, Neville Longbottom (my Herbology Professor) were already slightly tipsy on the punch. Hannah and Neville are Alice’s parents. Which means Alice is also around here somewhere.
“You look very deep in thought, Eloise,” a voice murmurs as the woman so strikingly similar to my mum that had I not grown up with the two of them, I would not have been able to tell them apart, takes the seat beside me.
“Hey Jasmine,” I smile at my mum’s twin. “I’m just contemplating the quirks of our family,” I half laugh. “Looks like Anthony has joined Hannah and Neville at the punch bowl,” I snort as Jasmine’s husband spills punch down the front of his robes.
“You’re father isn’t much better off,” Jasmine laughs. “Poor Ernie never could hold his drink.”
“How’s Charlotte?” I ask.
“Enjoying married life apparently, I hardly see her anymore. Her and Will are already talking about having children. I mean it Lou, I am not ready to be a Grandmother just yet!” Jasmine exclaims, a look of false horror covering her pretty features. “How’s your brother doing? Got a girlfriend yet? Surely a handsome boy like him isn’t going to stay single for long?”
“I think Rob is seeing a girl in my year called Martha Finnigan but he hasn’t given me the details yet.”
“Oh and what do you think of Frank’s new girlfriend, Dominique Weasley?”
“Unexpected but somehow they seem to fit well together,” I shrug, watching as the said couple share a discreet kiss by the trees on the opposite side of the garden. “Did you hear that Jena and Nate broke up?”
“I did, bless her soul, I hope she isn’t taking it to hard. Mind you, at that age, people seem to recover an awful lot quicker than us poor old things,” Jasmine teases.
“I would hardly classify you as old, Jas,” I reply. “Middle aged, perhaps, but not old.”
“You’re too nice to me Eloise,” Jasmine chuckles but her laugh is cut off as another couple walk out of the door. “Oh look who it is, my darling brother and his little wifey,” she practically snarls. It is a well-known fact that Jessica Watts (or Abbott, technically) and my mum and Jasmine do not get on in the slightest. They try to keep things cordial at family events but on more than one occasion, it is ended up with Jessica leaving in a huff and dragging her husband, Jack Jr, and her son, Jack Jr Jr, away with her.
“Try not to throw the punch bowl at her this year,” I murmur beneath my breath and Jasmine shoots me a wicked look. Oh Merlin.
“But what about yourself, Lou,” she changes the topic back to our gossiping conversation. “Anyone you’ve got your eye on that you need to tell old Auntie Jas about?”
“Nope,” is my automatic reply.
“Oh look, it’s Charlie and Lucy,” Jasmine grins, beckoning to her son and his girlfriend, Lucy Weasley. Charlie ignores the summons and just waves at his mother before directing Lucy over to where my brother is trying to start the barbeque. Knowing my brother, it is probably all going to go up in flames. Which is most likely what Charlie is trying to prevent, he is a Ravenclaw afterall. “Cheeky sod.”
“How’s Lucy?” I ask, noticing the distant look in my cousin’s eyes as he talks to his girlfriend.
“Lovely as ever. But I’m worried Lou, I mean they’ve been together for so long… What if he suddenly realises that she isn’t what he needs? Or vice versa?”
“Charlie’s a sensible kid, he’ll be fine. You’re lucky, you ended up with two Ravenclaws, they know how to take care of themselves. My mum ended up with three Hufflepuffs. We’re all hopeless!”
“You’re right. By the way, where’s Alice? You two are normally glued to each other at these events,” Jasmine enquires.
“I haven’t seen her yet. Did you notice is she came in with Hannah and Neville?”
“No… How odd, I’ll ask Hannah where she is. Enjoy your contemplations Eloise and keep an eye on that brother of yours.”
The rest of the evening goes by without any major mishaps. Hannah says Alice is a home with a headache; Jasmine and mum manage to upset Jessica by rearranging her place settings and Rob sets fire to his napkin… So really, it was a pretty relaxed evening. Of course, while on the outside, I appear calm and collected, inside I am a mess. When you stripped everything of all the extra fluff, at the end of the day, James has been dumped and I am not there for him. For the first time. Ever.
Which somehow seems wrong.
So as Jena and I dump a slightly drunk Rob on the couch in our sitting room while my parents stumble upstairs to bed, I glance over at the fireplace and make a snap decision.
“Jen, I’ve got to sort something out, I won’t be long but don’t bother waiting up for me,” I instruct my sister who yawns and nods, heading towards the stairs as I take a handful of floo powder and scatter it on the dying flames. “Pendragon Place, Godric’s Hollow,” I state into the now green flames before stepping in and allowing them to envelope me and transport me through the myriad of houses connected to the floo network.
“Shit! Lou! You scare the ghoulies out of me!” a female voice squeals as I step out onto the Potter’s sitting room carpet. “What are you doing here at this time anyway?” Lily asks with a suspicious look on her face. “You’re not like, planning to, you know… with my brother right?”
“For crying out loud Lily! I am not here to have sex with your brother! What the hell do you take me for?” I sigh exasperatedly, waving my hands around like a lunatic.
“Uh… Lou?” Fuck.
“James…” I turn away from Lily’s bemused face to see James standing in the doorway, looking utterly confused. “Hi.”
“Um, hey?” he frowns.
“Well I’ll be going then…” Lily mutters into the awkward silence. “Just don’t soil the couch, mum will go ballistic,” she murmurs under her breath as she dodges James’ pathetic attempt at a punch.
“So…” I begin.
“So….?” James repeats. We stand there in awkward silence for a few minutes, something that has never happened between us before. Ever. “Fuck Lou, I’ve missed you,” he breathes at last and I am suddenly engulfed in a pair of familiar arms that make my heart spasm and at the same time, feel completely at home. “Can we make a deal never to not speak for so long again?”
“Of course James,” I laugh into his hair. It is the first proper laugh I have let out in over a month. “Damn I’ve miss you,” I whisper into his neck. He just continues to hold me close to him, one hand latched tightly around my waist and the other stroking my hair.
“I’ve been such a mess Lou…” he murmurs and I can feel his breathe tickle the skin on my neck. My heart quivers. “I don’t know if Alice told you but we’re not together any more. She said she couldn’t be my girlfriend, not when my heart was otherwise occupied.” My heart jumps into my mouth. Could Alice have been right? Was there even the smallest chance that James felt the same way about me as I did for him? “I didn’t realise she could tell I was still in love with Vivian.”
So you probably want to rip out my guts. How about a review instead?