Chapter 5

Damage Control

True to their agreement, James was standing dutifully outside the train, waiting for Ana, and ignoring the constant stares and whispers of passerby. There were a few sympathetic glances….mainly given by Ella…and Natalie had the sagacity (A/N: Sagacity means sense, basically.) not to look at him as she led second years to the carriages for the first time. But all in all, his wait was short, due to the fact that rather than spend time greeting teachers and getting 'on the good side', Ana chose to find him and drag him out of the public eye. She met him with a smile, somewhat forced, and he, also smiling in an unnatural way, offered to take her bags. She accepted, and together they walked quickly to an empty carriage, smiling at people as if nothing was wrong. Once they had gotten in a carriage together and locked everyone else out who might want in with them, Ana was furious.

"Who started that horrible rumor, James?"

"I don't know, Ana, don't you think that if I did, something would have happened by now?" James said through gritted teeth.

"You'd better find out! I've never had to work so hard to fake a smile...I just happened to hear about it when I was coming through a corridor trying to find you. Two….little third-years were gossiping about it, louder than anything, and didn't seem to know who I was."

Ana calmed down slightly as the carriages started to move, and a little of the color started to fade from her cheeks.

"It's really kind of comical, actually, to think that you would do something like that…I mean, for Merlin's sake, she's your cousin! Who would actually be that sick? And to prefer her over me, well, that's just nonsense." Ana said, reaching in her bag for a mirror.

"You aren't mad, then, I take it?"

"Oh, I'm furious, but not at you…I know you didn't start it….you looked like your jaw was going to break, it was so stiff. You don't think she started it, do you?"

"Who? Natalie?"

"Yes…she could have…"

"Never. Natalie's on rocks with Will as it is."

"You seem pretty interested in her relationship." Ana said, raising an eyebrow.

"I'm not. She's…you know…family and what-not, so of course I hear about things…Ella's in love with gossip…talks about things all the time." James rambled.

"Yes, I'm sure. She's a real little spitfire, that sister of yours….such dirty looks at such a young age."

"Dirty looks?" James laughed. "Ella? You should see her with a wand…that girl can jinx faster than anything…she must've inherited mum's knack for hexes."

"It could be your fathers….from what mum says, he was an excellent teacher…great at hexes."

Ana smiled. "I love how our parents used to date. It's like a sign that we were meant to be together, you know? Of course, it didn't work out, but mum had all those emotional problems after Cedric died and seeing your dad made them worse. Anyways, mum's over it now, she talks all the time about wanting to have dinner with your dad. And your mum." Ana added as an afterthought.

"Yes, well, the thing is Ana, mum and dad don't exactly know who your mother is…they only know your father."

"Why didn't you tell them? Are you ashamed of who my mother is?"

"No, no, of course not! It's just that your mum has such a rocky history with my dad and mum that I thought it would be best if they didn't find out until a later date…" James trailed off warily.

"Oh, I see! You want your mum and dad to think we've lied to them! How on earth are they ever going to like me then, James? Your mum already hates me! I can tell it by the way she looks when I'm around."

"She doesn't hate you!" James said quickly, as the carriages pulled to a stop.

"She does! And your dad's no better! He ignores me completely!"

"He's ignoring me, Ana!"

"Whatever James. Just…let's not talk about our parents anymore tonight. It's going to be tough enough in the Great Hall with everyone staring."

"What makes you think that they'll all be staring?"

"They're all talking about us, I know you noticed. Now," Ana stood up and opened the door to the carriage. "I want you to go first and make sure that we get a seat as far away as possible from your cousin, and whoever else is there that I don't like. I'm going to go and chat with the girls. I need to get Snape's essay from Serena and copy it before tomorrow."

"Serena Beauvard did her homework for once?" James asked in surprise.

"Don't be silly. Her little sister, Maria is here now and she's got heaps of brains. She did it, and Serena's letting me copy. Don't tell me you actually did any of your work."

"Well, no, but—"

"Then don't judge."

Ana waved at him as she pushed her way though the crowd that was milling about the carriages, leaving James to find her belongings.

A/N: Who hates Ana? I do, I do!

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"And so, it is without further ado, that I introduce our newest additions to Hogwarts security! Mr. Harry Potter and Mr. Ronald Weasley!"

"What?" James choked. He, of course, hadn't been paying any attention to what McGonagall had been saying, so this last announcement came as a complete shock. He turned quickly to look down Gryffindor's table at Ella, who also was staring, mouth wide open in surprise, at their father. Ana, however, was clapping dutifully, and nudged James.

"Look happy, will you?"

"Why should I look happy? My dad and uncle are here, like they're babysitters or something! That's…that's complete rubbish!"

"Oh, you heard McGonagall, they're just security."

"Yeah," James said darkly, as he watched his dad and uncle sit down, "tell me that tomorrow when they're watching my every move."

"Can you blame them? You cut class more than anyone I know! And don't get me started on pranks."

"Listen, I don't need a moral lesson from you of all people."

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"You know what it means."

"No, James, I don't'." Ana said in a deadly voice.

"Oh, yes, yes, you do. Don't play dumb with me Ana. You might manage to hide it better than me, but you're not the little miss goody-goody everyone thinks you are. You're a snob, a fake, and it shows more every day that I'm with you."

"I'm warning you James, one more word and we're over and you can kiss that internship goodbye. In fact, you can kiss ever getting a job anywhere goodbye. I'll slash your name all over the papers. No one will hire you, ever." Ana threatened.

"Do it., I dare you."

Ana smiled sweetly for a minute then stood up, taking care to make certain that her plate and goblet fell to the floor with a crash. The formerly deafening Great Hall fell silent as she drew a ragged breath, tears instantly springing to her eyes.

"I can't believe you would do this to me!" She cried, in a ringing voice laden with distraught. "I was patient with you! I heard whispers, rumors, but I pushed them all away. I was faithful to you, James! I can't believe you would be as inconsiderate to run around with HER, when I was pining away for you! You're sick, and twisted, and my heart has broken a thousand times waiting on you to love me! Why are you breaking up with me like this, after stringing me along for so long??" Ana was sobbing now. "I just wanted you to love ME!" With one last sob, and a fleeting glance at James's shocked face, she turned on her heel and ran out of the Great Hall.

James happened to glance over at Natalie, foolishly, because thousands of eyes were on his gaze, and at once, conversations jumped to life as they watched him stare at her.

o----------------------------------------------------------o

James left with the rest of Hogwarts and kept his chin up, eyes facing forward, fixed on an imaginary object in the distance, ignoring all the whispers while he was secretly boiling inside.

"What a jerk—"

"He's sick, you know it? Running 'round with his own cousin while he had Ana—"

"Poor girl! He's a git—"

He couldn't take it anymore.

"SHUT UP!" He roared, turning round, to find loads of people staring at him, frozen. "JUST SHUT UP! YOU DON'T KNOW A THING…YOU—YOU ALL OF YOU! TALKING ABOUT ME LIKE I'M SOME KIND OF—!"

"Mr. Potter!" Professor McGonagall was coming down the main staircase, with Ron and Harry at her heels. "Please cease disrupting the peace and quiet of this school. I wish to talk to you."

"Yes, I'd very much enjoy speaking with you as well." Harry said, looking angry.

"Bloody fantastic." James muttered.

"What was that, Potter?" McGonagall asked sharply as she led the way to her office.

"Nothing, professor."

"Droobles." McGonagall said to the stone gargoyle. It sprang to life and the four quickly made their way up.

"Now then," McGonagall sat down behind the great desk and surveyed James, "What, may I ask, was that little outburst about over dinner?"

"I was…I suppose breaking it off with Ana and she seemed to take it rather badly and decided to ruin my reputation." James said through gritted teeth.

"So you broke it off?" Harry asked, his piercing green eyes staring deep into his son's. "You really meant it when you said you were willing to try it with Natalie?"

"Well—um---yeah…yeah I did." James lied quickly.

"Good. I thought it would be much harder than that."

"And so it shall be. The very idea of two cousins marrying is absolutely preposterous."

"You would rather Voldemort come back, Minerva?" Harry asked, raising his eyebrows as McGonagall winced.

"Nooo, but I think that the idea of another boy being plagued by a prophecy is a sad and terrible thing. Your life was certainly no picnic, Potter, and I personally would strangle whoever made the prophecy."

"Well, you'd be short a teacher then." Ron spoke up.

"It would be no loss, Mr. Weasley, however interesting the subject is to so many of our students."

"At any rate," Harry interrupted, "I think we need to make sure Ana doesn't add to this flame. Its going to seem odd enough when you have to marry Natalie."

"I didn't think that was completely settled." James said.

"Of course it is. That's what it means, trying this thing with Natalie."

"No, 'trying this thing with Natalie' means trying to keep you all happy. I've had enough of this."

James leapt to his feet, and before he could be stopped, had left.

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A/N: Hunh. I actually could have sworn this chapter was already up, but as i just now realized, my computer made a whoopsie and posted one chapter twice. i am SO sorry about that! PLEASE REVIEW, however, b/c its driving me crazy wanting to know what you think. Oh, and this story might be on hold for just a teensy bit b/c i'm starting another story and i'm really running with it, so just be patient!