Chapter 1 : First Impressions
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Cicily had a talent for souring you to a man before you got a chance to judge him for yourself. She was my friend and I loved her, but there were times that I wanted to wave my wand and stick her tongue to the roof of her mouth.
The main reason I didn’t was that I doubted very much that it would stop her, and I preferred her speech to the wide eyes and sickly sweet smile she would likely adopt instead.
Cicily had a fiance. She had no business following this Tristan Potter around.
But that had not stopped Cicily Bones yet, and if I was being truthful, I don’t think I ever really expected it to.
My opinion of Tristan Potter did not rise in the coming weeks. Cicily became sillier and sillier whenever the subject of Tristan Potter came up, which she managed to make a surprisingly frequent occurrence.
And she was not the only one.
“Have you met Tristan Potter yet?” Beatrice asked offhandedly one day. We were in McKinnon’s Potion Supplies examining newt eyes and wondering whether substituting them for frog eyes would really be so detrimental to our potions. We usually didn’t like to substitute inferior ingredients when we could help it, but frog eyes were just so very expensive, and making potions was not as lucrative as it had been before Hogwarts had started offering it for sixth and seventh years.
I frowned up at her as I straightened up. “Is this really the time?” I asked incredulously. Discussing men in the dusty, deserted shop with drawers and containers of every potion ingredient you could possibly want and some that I was fairly sure were just there because old Simon McKinnon thought they sounded exotic seemed wrong to me, somehow.
She shrugged, but I could see a faint flush rising in her cheeks. “I was just wondering, Iz,” she said casually.
I decided not to comment. Beatrice was an excellent potions partner, and she was usually quite level-headed, but apparently she was more susceptible to a handsome face and questionable charm than I’d thought. “No,” I said shortly, and turned back to the newt eyes.
It seemed to me that from that day onward, it was very difficult to get away from Tristan Potter, despite my continued success at avoiding an introduction. I learned a great deal more about him from Cicily than I had ever wanted to know about anyone in my entire life.
I learned that his father was a Cursebreaker for Gringotts, and had a brother who was several years younger than Tristan himself. I learned that his mother was half-Basque and also rather sickly. I learned that Tristan had recently quit the job he’d had at the Ministry of Magic and was not especially concerned about finding another one. Cicily was surprisingly nonspecific about what exactly the job was, which made me think that it was either something very boring that either she or Tristan had decided to leave out, or exactly the opposite.
Bea was more subtle, but she still dropped more comments about him than I had any desire to hear. Eventually, even my mother couldn’t stop herself from mentioning him.
“Isolda, have you met that young man who recently moved to the village?” she asked me one day as I poured her tea in the cozy sitting room I’d whittled away half of my childhood reading in. I missed that sitting room. There was nothing like it in my little cottage on the other side of the village.
It took real effort not to sigh. “No, Mum,” I said patiently.
My mother has always been a bit concerned about what she calls anti-social behavior and what I call discerning taste. She seems convinced that if I don’t even bother to smile at men, I will never find a husband.
I am convinced that it will not bother me much one way or the other.
My mother thinks that I am too young to be making such a bold statement, but I think that I would much rather live out my days alone than be trapped in a union of lies like I have no doubt Cicily’s will be. I would certainly much rather live out my days alone than have to resort to killing my husband to escape him, as everyone jokes - and half-believes - my aunt Ethel did.
“He seems very nice,” she pressed, reaching out to grasp my hand once I’d put the teapot back down.
“Mm,” I mumbled noncommittally. “How was your day?”
She ignored me. “Iz, I don’t like the idea of you living out your days in that cottage alone. You know that half the village already thinks that you’re a malevolent, nasty sort of witch.”
“And yet they come to buy potions from me anyway.” I withdrew my hand and picked up my teacup. “As long as they keep giving me business, I don’t much care what they think.”
She sighed, but allowed me to turn the discussion onto less contentious subjects.
I managed to avoid Tristan Potter for almost two months following his arrival in Godric’s Hollow, but eventually he tracked me down as I was searching for new potions ingredients in McKinnon’s.
“Good morning,” I heard a deep, unfamiliar voice say behind me as I examined batches of unicorn hair.
I stuck the braid of hair I had chosen in my basket and turned around. “Hello.”
The first thing that I noticed about him was that he was not quite as tall as I had expected. The second thing I noticed was that Cicily’s bad poetry that praised his eyes to the high heavens was wrong: they were hazel, not brown.
“I haven’t met you,” he said after a moment, when it was clear that I was not going to say anything more.
“No,” I agreed.
He stuck out his hand. “I’m Tristan Potter.”
I eyed it carefully, and decided not to take it. I was not given to shaking strange men’s hands. “Yes, I know.” I hoped that being unfriendly would make him would go away.
I do not tend to be especially friendly to strangers in the first place, and while I was willing to admit that perhaps the odes to Tristan’s eyes from Cicily and the off-handed comments from Beatrice about how very charming he was had probably soured me to him somewhat, there was also simply something about his demeanor that I found extremely unappealing. Everything that I had heard about him pointed to the same conclusion - that he was charming enough that people found his arrogance endearing rather than abrasive.
I doubted that I would feel the same way.
“You’re Isolda Winters,” he said cheerfully.
I looked at him carefully. He had a pleasant, open kind of smile, which I had not been expecting. “Yes,” I answered simply, and turned back toward the shelves to examine the banshee fingernails.
He persisted. “I’ve heard a lot about you,” he said, circling around me to lean on the bookshelf.
My curiosity was piqued. I looked over at him. “Oh?”
He seemed pleased with himself for capturing my attention. “I’ve heard that you’re a genius at potions and generally exceedingly unfriendly.”
“And that you use the blood of virgins to make potions that you bathe in to keep your youthful appearance.”
I glanced back at him. He seemed serious. I hadn’t heard that one before; either he was making it up to have something to say, or the imaginations of the residents of the village had taken a turn for the insane. I was in my early twenties, and they knew it; I was hardly in danger of turning into an old hag anytime soon. “Yes. I do.”
“Nasty habit,” he commented lightly.
“You needn’t be afraid that I’ll use your blood,” I said pointedly. From the way the female members of the village had responded to his presence, the sky could only be the limit when it came to his paramours.
“You can use my blood if you like,” he said brightly. “A vampire once told me that I had excellent blood. It just seems unsanitary to me.”
I smiled despite myself. “What do you want, Tristan Potter?”
His hazel eyes glittered. “I would like to get to know you, Isolda Winters.” I regarded him sceptically, and he added, “Very much.”
“Why?” I asked flatly. I didn’t think I’d ever met a stranger who wanted to get to know me.
“Because you seem interesting.”
Well, at least he was honest. “I’m not here to serve as your amusement.” I moved past him to the basket of fire crab claws and began to pick them out.
He followed me. “I’ve been told that I’m amusing, too,” he said.
I muffled a laugh. I had heard very little to suggest that Tristan Potter could possibly be amusing to me. To Cicily, perhaps - but not me. “I doubt that.”
“You can’t know unless you give me a chance.” This time I really did laugh, but rather than retreating to lick his wounds, as I was expecting him to do, he smiled broadly.
I found myself liking him a little more.
“Really,” he said. “I’m a very fascinating person, deep down.”
I sighed and rubbed my temples. He had a very persuading voice, and a very handsome face. He also seemed like the sort of person who was accustomed to getting what he wanted, which I tended to find thoroughly irritating. “Why should I give you the chance?”
“Because I’m rich and handsome,” he answered, and I turned away again. “And I made you laugh,” he added quickly, before I could walk away. “I don’t really want you to give me a chance because I’m rich and handsome. That would be a disaster.”
I glanced back at him. He looked earnest. “Because you’re not really rich and handsome?”
He smiled. “No. Because I am.”
I looked at him carefully. Tristan Potter was more than a little cocky. I could already tell that he would probably prove to be a constant headache for whatever woman decided to marry him.
But he was more entertaining than I’d expected him to be, and there was a part of me that wanted to spar with him again.
“All right,” I agreed before I could change my mind. “One chance.”
It would be more than enough.
A/N: This story takes place in the very early 1900s, since James's parents were supposed to be quite elderly when they had him.
This was my first first-person fic on the site, and also my first other-era fic. Way out of my comfort zone, but I decided to challenge myself. I’d really love feedback on how I did, if you wouldn’t mind taking a moment to tell me. :)
Thank you so much for reading!