The first thing I became aware of the next morning was the muttering of voices.
“Nice work getting her here, mate, but you do realize you’re supposed to be in bed with her, right?”
“Har har, Simon. Really witty. Why don’t you tell her that? I’d love to see her punch you in the balls again. “
“Nah, he’s right, man. You have been hanging around with the hottest girl in the school for how long now and still nothing’s happened? What happened to that Potter charm?”
“Just shut up, okay? There’s nothing going on between me and Val. So drop it.”
I sighed softly, shifting around in my bed. I didn’t know where those voices were coming from, but I was too tired to care. Right now, all I could focus on was how good my bed smelled. It was familiar and welcoming, but not how I remembered it smelling. Oh well. I could definitely get used to this.
“I think she’s waking up. Will you two bugger off?”
Odd. That sounds like James. Come to think of it, my bed smells like James, too…
“Ooh, do you need some time alone with your lady love?”
“Longbottom. Thomas. Go away before I hex you.”
I burrowed my head deeper into the delicious smelling pillow. Right now, I was just too tired to care about the unexplained voices that sounded like James, Simon Longbottom, and Royce Thomas.
I was vaguely aware of the sound of retreating footsteps when I felt part of my bed sink lower, indicating that someone had sat down. I squeezed my eyes tighter, not ready to get up.
“Val?” James’ voice was soft, gentle. “You awake yet, Val?”
I didn’t really feel like answering, so I didn’t. A warm hand began to softly stroke my hair, locks of it slipping between long fingers. It felt soothing, natural, and my scalp began to tingle pleasantly. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on, but I hoped it wouldn’t stop.
“I guess you’re still asleep,” James continued to murmur, my hair now being brushed away from my face with the same careful strokes. “You look so peaceful when you sleep. All the tension, all the sadness just melts away. I hate it that you still look sad all the time. Granted, you look a lot happier than before, but still sad.”
My mind sluggishly thought over those words. I suppose I was sad. Although right now, I was pretty content. I vaguely wondered if I was dreaming. I remembered feeling so tense and uncomfortable yesterday. Surely there was no way I could feel this relaxed if it wasn’t a dream.
“I want to make everything better for you. You know that, right? It’s all I’ve ever wanted ever since last June. I told you back then that I would fix you. And I’m trying. But it’s just so hard to be around you sometimes.”
I frowned into the pillow. Why is dream-James telling me this?
“I think about that day in Uncle Ron’s old room all the time. The day that we almost kissed. I can’t tell you how much I wish your sister hadn’t shown up when she did. But maybe I should be glad. Things are so… strained between us right now. I’m sure you’ve noticed. I mean, last night we could barely even talk to each other. I miss you. And now, I’m just sitting here, talking to you and watching you sleep like some sort of creepy stalker.”
My lips twitched slightly, but I was still slightly disturbed by his words. He wished Hope hadn’t come into the room… does that mean he wants to kiss me?
“It’s a good thing you can’t really hear all this. I mean, despite your tendency to be observant, you seem to be the only who misses the obvious. But you’re smart. If you could hear me right now, you’d surely be able to put it all together. Merlin knows I’m not very subtle.”
Now I felt insulted. Because I could hear him. But I had no idea what dream-James was talking about. What is it that everyone but me apparently seems to know about him? I really wish dreams could make sense.
“Every day that passes by with things still the same between us kills me. God, I sound like such a sappy, unmanly fool when I say this. But it’s true, I suppose. Sometimes I think my life would just be so much easier if I wasn’t in love with you.”
I felt my heart stop beating. Okay, now I knew that it must be a dream. Because James would never say that in real life. He’s not in love with me. He can’t be. But then, why would I dream about James saying that? I’m not in love with him, either. Am I?
I figured it was time to wake up, pull myself out of this dream, before things continued. I was scared of what dream-James might say next, so I forced myself into lucidity.
I tensed my muscles slightly before relaxing them. I heard an intake of breath from next to me and the extra weight left my bed. I rolled over onto my back before slowing peeling back my eyes. Once they were open, I was met with an unexpected sight.
Red. That was the overwhelming feature that I saw. I was used to waking up to blue. But instead, I found myself looking around at a dormitory filled with red. Where was I?
“Er, Val?” My head snapped to the side at the sound of James’ voice. Just like the one in my dream.
“James,” I breathed in surprise, taking in the sight of him. He was dressed in his school uniform, his red and gold tie loose around his neck. His hand ruffled his hair in what I had come to realize was a nervous habit and he was watching me warily. I felt confused. “Where am I? And why are you here?”
“Uh, you’re in my room Val. You came here last night because you didn’t want to stay in your own room. Remember?”
And that in all came flooding back to me. I knew yesterday had been tense. The fights with Lessie. Sitting in the Astronomy Tower. The awkwardness with James. I blinked at him. “Oh. Right.”
“Yeah,” he agreed. Why did he look so scared? I watched as his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down as he continued to regard me with discomfort.
“What’s up with you?” I asked curiously.
He jumped slightly. “Nothing! Nothing at all. I just – er, did you hear anything? Like before you woke up? Someone talking or…”
I shook my head and he looked relieved. “I was having an odd dream though. It was really… just unexpected.”
“Oh?” he asked. “What about?”
I thought over the whole thing, of dream-James’ confession of love. There was no way I was telling him that. “Fred was being chased around by a bottle of butterbeer that was holding a giant pair of scissors. Weird, right?”
James laughed, life coming into his face. He looks attractive when he laughs. Like, more so than normal. Because let’s face it, James Potter is an extremely handsome bloke. It just becomes even more prominent when he laughs.
But why was I noticing all this now? I mean, yeah, I’d have been an idiot if I’d never thought that James was good-looking, but it had never really garnered any extra attention. At least not from me. Well, except for that time when I saw him shirtless. Or when Lily threw that bucket of water on him on Christmas morning. Mmm, the way his shirt had clung to his muscles was unbelievably sexy. You could literally see the ridges of his abs…
What is the matter with me? Why am I thinking about this? I shook my head, trying to dispel the thoughts. I glanced at James to find him staring at me warily once more.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Fine, fine,” I replied quickly. “But I should probably get back to my own dormitory. I’ve got to get ready for class and all that.”
“Right,” he responded, nodding hastily. “Um, do you want to borrow the Cloak? I mean, so people don’t wonder…”
I caught on to what he was saying immediately, my cheeks flaring up in a flush. “Oh! Yeah, that’d be great, thanks.”
James rummaged through his trunk briefly before pulling out the silvery cloak he’d inherited from his father. He handed it to me silently as we both avoided looking at each other. It was almost painful how uncomfortable around each other we now were. I glanced at him briefly, meeting his eyes and shooting him a half-smile of gratitude. He inclined his head and looked away.
“I’ll just… return your clothes later than?” I asked, plucking at the t-shirt he’d lent me.
“Nah, it’s fine, you can keep it,” James said quickly. “Really, I don’t need them back.”
“Okay,” I mumbled. “Thanks.”
“Yeah, no problem.”
We lapsed into silence once more and I had to resist the urge to smack myself in the face. What on earth had possessed me to come here of all places?
Because James makes you feel safe and loved, an unwanted voice whispered in my head. I tried to ignore it. Loved? Why would I feel loved? I don’t. Because James doesn’t love me. And I don’t love him.
I rejoined James when I made it down to breakfast. While I sat at the Gryffindor table, as per usual, he and I didn’t speak to each other. Instead, he was talking to Roxy and Maisie Finnegan about a new play he had come up with while I asked Fred about his dad’s joke shop.
“Recently, Dad’s been working on developing a new line of products. I don’t know what it is though – he refuses to tell anyone – but it’s going to be big. And I think he has a new idea for a Skiving Snackbox as well,” Fred told me, buttering a piece of toast.
“I see,” I said, nodding. “And what new illness has he come up with this time?”
Fred shrugged. “Don’t know. Once again, he’s being all hush hush about it all. In the past he always told me about his ideas, but he stopped giving out specifics… yesterday, actually. He’d been telling me all about them on Christmas, just in general, and then yesterday he told me that was all he was going to tell me about it.”
“I know right!” Fred said, after taking a large bite of his toast, subsequently showering me in a spray of crumbs. I brushed them off me absentmindedly, only feeling mildly disgusted.
Suddenly, I grinned. “Tell me Frederick, do you think it possible that your dad didn’t give you the details because he knew you might pass them on to me?”
“Uh, well he knows we talk a lot,” he replied, frowning slightly in thought. “In fact, just before he refused to give me more information about his new products, he was asking about how much time you and I spend together…”
“Well that explains it,” I said, smirking. “Your dad may or may not have reason to fear being blackmailed by me and was probably worried about information of any kind be leaked.”
“And why would Uncle George be fearing blackmail?” James asked, jumping into the conversation. I wasn’t aware he had been listening.
I gave a noncommittal jerk of the shoulders. “No reason, really. Just a joke I made after we had a conversation about Fred.”
“You guys were talking about me?” Fred said in confusion.
“Not you, Fred, your Uncle Fred. His brother.”
“He talked to you about Uncle Fred?” James looked surprised. “He almost never talks about him.”
I gave James a skeptical look. “While I don’t doubt that’s true, why would it surprise you that he chose to talk to me about it? Also, thanks for telling me that your uncle had a twin brother that died in the war. It’s not like that’s a topic that I’d be interested in, or anything.”
“I figured you’d know,” James mumbled.
“Well next time don’t assume,” I responded sharply.
James frowned and we both turned back to our previous conversations, though we had drawn some startled glances. “Trouble in paradise?” Fred muttered under his breath.
“Don’t know what you’re talking about,” I responded airily.
“I’m not stupid, Val,” Fred continued seriously. “I can tell something’s off between you and James. And as your friend, and James’ older and much wiser cousin, I feel it is my right to know.”
“I… it’s nothing,” I said, forcing myself to sound cheerful. I took a large bite of eggs, trying to eat quickly. My stomach felt raw and empty. I knew I hadn’t really been eating as much as usual for the past few weeks. I tried to ignore the fact that my clothes were a bit looser than usual.
Fred raised his eyebrow at me and I sighed. “Just leave it, it’s not a big deal. We’ll figure it out, okay?”
“If you say so,” Fred acceded. “But if you ever need anything…”
“I’ll find someone much more able to help me,” I said primly, causing him to laugh.
“You’re so mean to me, Val,” he pouted. “Anyways, I’d better go. I was going to meet Rhiannon before class.”
“Whipped!” I called to him as he walked away. Fred made a rude hand gesture and I grinned briefly before turning back to my food.
From the corner of my eye, I could see James glancing at me occasionally, but I tried not to pay attention to it. Is it weird to say that I miss him? Because I did. I missed how James and I had been. I wanted the closeness and the trust we’d had before Victoire’s bridesmaid meeting over break. But it was gone. And I had a horrible feeling that we wouldn’t be able to go back – there was only moving forward. But I didn’t where that would take us. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s change.
I had reached for a bowl of fruit, spooning some onto my plate when my owl flew over. I only had to glance at the writing on the front of the letter to know how it was from. My stomach dropped.
“Of course,” I spat under my breath. James and everyone else turned to look at me. I detached the letter that Mathilda was carrying, allowing her to fly back to the owlery. I stared briefly at the parchment in my hand, my name written on it in my mother’s careful handwriting. Then I promptly tore it to shred without even looking at what it said.
“Are you sure you want to do that?” James asked carefully. “You might want to read what she has to say.”
He clearly could tell who it was from by the look on my face. I stared down at my plate. “No, I really don’t.”
I pushed my food around with a fork for a moment before pushing my plate away from me. My stomach, which had felt almost painfully empty moments before, tightened. There was no way I could eat now.
“I’m not hungry,” I said, shaking my head. James frowned.
“You need to eat, Val,” he insisted, putting a hand on my shoulder. I shook it off.
“I’m fine, James,” I replied through gritted teeth.
He sighed. “With all due respect, no you’re not. You’re too thin. Eat.”
“Just eat, Val!” James’ voice got louder and he was looking at me in frustration. “And you should talk to your family. They’re probably worried about you.”
I felt anger flare up inside me. “Just drop it, okay? I’m a big girl and I can take care of myself.”
“I’m just trying to look out for you!” he protested.
“Well, stop it!” I snapped. “Can’t you just… leave me alone? It’s my problem, not yours.”
With that, I sprung off the bench, pulling my bag onto my shoulder in jerky, agitated movements. Then I strode swiftly out of the Great Hall, ignoring the thunderstruck looks the Weasley/Potter family was giving me.
I was feeling really annoyed as I walked up to my dorm. Everything just seemed to grate on me today. The nerve of my mother for actually trying to contact me now – was there a particular reason she decided to wait so long before deeming me worthy enough to write a simple bloody letter to? And then James. I know he was just looking out for me and trying to help but I really don’t care. It’s my life. He can just butt out.
Considering how pissed off I already was, it really was no surprise that I utterly freaked out at the sight that greeted me when I walked up to my dormitory. Lessie and Jessamy were huddled around my trunk, flipping through my photo albums. The ones of me and Joy.
“What the fuck do you think you’re doing?” I demanded, blood immediately pounding through my veins as I flushed in anger. They were going through my stuff. I was beyond mad – I was bloody furious. And, if I’m being honest with myself, hurt.
The three of their heads snapped up to look at me. Rhiannon and Jess looked guilty. But Lessie… she met my furious gaze with a look of defiance. “You wouldn’t let us look and you didn’t talk to us – what were supposed to do?”
“Gee, let’s think,” I said, my voice bitingly sarcastic. “Maybe, I don’t know, respect my privacy?! I watched my fucking twin sister die – did it ever occur to you that it’s not something I particularly like to talk about, you fucking bitch?”
“So you can’t talk to us, but you’re perfectly fine telling all your secrets to James bloody Potter?” she shot back hotly. My vision went red, I was so angry. My hands clenched into fists and I could feel myself shaking.
“WHY THE FUCKING HELL SHOULD IT MATTER?” I screamed. I was done.
“Because I’m supposed to be your FRIEND!”
“Really? Then you’re a really fucking bad one! What kind of shitty friend goes through their friend’s stuff after they explicitly said they didn’t want them to?” My voice was shaking too. I honestly couldn’t believe this. How could they do this to me?
“Val, try to understand it from our point of view –“ Jessamy began, but she broke off when I rounded on her.
“You want to see it from your perspective? Are you fucking kidding me right now? Maybe you should try and see it from my perspective. You want to know about my life? Fine. I spent two weeks watching my best friend in the entire world waste away. I was holding her hand when she died. I’ve been depressed for six years. I hated life and everything about it. End of story.”
“Except for the part about James,” Lessie muttered stubbornly.
”WHAT is your bloody DEAL about him?” I shouted in complete frustration. My hands gripped at my hair, tugging at it violently.
“I just want to know why you told him all this before me?” she whined, wearing a look of betrayal. I wanted to hit her. To punch her or slap her across the face or something. She was mad because I told someone else before her? How bloody selfish can a person be?
“That’s all you care about?” I asked, my voice deadly quiet. “You don’t care about any of the stuff that I went through, only the fact that you weren’t my number one confident? Fuck you, Alessia Karalis. Fuck you.”
And I walked out. Out of that room and out of her life. I said it before: I was done. Done with that argument and done with that girl. She was no better than my own goddamn family.
I was roaming the corridors, blindly looking for the only thing that would help me. “JAMES!” I shouted. “JAMES I NEED YOU!”
I continued walking around, searching for the boy that had become the center of my life. I didn’t care that I had previously been annoyed with him. Because I needed him. I needed James Potter more than I needed air.
I finally found him in the corridor outside the Defense Against the Arts classroom. There were several other people milling around. I rushed to him, sighing in relief as I threw my arms around his waist. “James, thank God.”
“Woah, hey!” he said in surprise, arms coming around me automatically. “What’s up?”
I shook my head, my nose grazing his neck as I buried it into the hollow of his shoulder. “Nothing,” I mumbled. “I just need you.”
I felt him stiffen at my words, so I pulled my head up so I could look at him. Due to my unusual height for a girl, he was only an inch taller than me. It’s a good thing I never wear high heels. Slowly, James pulled my arms away from him and took a step back. I stared at him in hurt confusion.
“I’m not just going to accept that,” James said, a hint of defiance in his tone and his expression hard. “You can’t just rush up to me like this and say nothing. We’ve gone over this, Val. You have to talk to me.”
I felt myself bristle. I had been so on edge as of late. I’d thought the fight with Lessie had been the worst of it, but now I wasn’t so sure. Because something told me this conversation with James was not going to end well.
“Excuse me?” I said icily. “You’re the one who’s always insisted that you want to help me. Talking about it won’t help.”
“Is that so?” James responded, looking frustrated. “Because I seem to recall that the last time you thought that, you spent six years wallowing in misery.”
I gasped. How… how dare he? I felt my gaze flatten into a harsh glare. “I’m sorry, do you want to repeat that?”
“My pleasure. Perhaps if you learned to live in a world where other people exist, you’d actually know how to be happy.”
I shoved James, anger boiling over. I haven’t felt this angry at him in months. Not since we became friends. “And what is that supposed to mean?”
James’s hands flew up into his hair, running them through it almost violently. “It means that I care about you, Val. I want to help you, I do. But when you act like this, you’re not letting me. And I’m not the only one. People do care about you – your friends and your family. But you’re so good at shutting them out. Your self-destructive.”
“You think I asked for all this?!” I cried. “You think this is how I wanted my life to turn out? Because I wish that every single day that had happened since my tenth birthday didn’t exist!”
We were heading into dangerous waters. A crowd was gathering around James and me, watching in perverse fascination. James and I were dancing very delicately around the subject of Joy’s death. If we weren’t careful, one of us would let it slip. And then it would be all over.
But sudden hurt was shining in James’ eyes. “Every day?” he asked quietly. “Even these last two months? You wish that they would go away?”
I opened my mouth to say something, but James cut me off. “I thought you were happier? You told me so yourself! Or was that all a lie? Were you just using me to distract yourself from Joy?”
I glanced around at the crowd in panic. “Shush! Don’t… don’t talk about that right now. It’s not the place for it.”
“What good does it do you?” he questioned. “Hiding behind false happiness? How does that make your life better? Why won’t you talk about it to anyone?”
“Because everyone disappoints me! Lessie, my parents, everyone! I shouldn’t have told them and I sure as hell should NEVER have told you!” I shrieked, tears beginning to well up in my eyes from the rage. I was just so angry. My vision blurred and my hands shook. I don’t know why this all hurt so much, but it did.
Conversely, James’ face was now completely devoid of emotion. “What?” he asked blankly.
“I shouldn’t have ever told you,” I informed him furiously. “It’s brought me nothing but trouble. I was better off without you.”
“That’s not true,” he said quietly.
“Yes it is!” I shouted, completely opposite of him. “I was comfortable! I was sad, but I was comfortable! Everything’s had to change because of you and I hate it! I hate my life and it’s all your fault!”
“That’s not true,” he insisted again, his voice breaking. “Stop it, Val. Don’t say things like that.”
“Why?” I asked, laughing bitterly. “Do you want me to lie to you like you’ve lied to me?”
James shook his head, slowly, despair spreading across his face. “C’mon, Val. Don’t be like this. I just want to help. That’s all I’ve ever wanted was to help you. I put aside everything I felt just to make you better. Don’t do this to me.”
I snorted in derision. “Oh, I’m sure you’ve given up so much just to help me. Don’t make me laugh.”
“I have,” he continued, all hope dimming from his face. It made me feel a cynical sort of happiness. If I was going to be miserable because of him, then he should feel the same. “I ignored how I felt because I wanted to fix you.”
“How you felt? Please. You felt nothing.”
“Yes I did.” James looked me deeply in the eye, golden hazel boring into turquoise blue. “I love you.”
I froze. I felt my heart stop for a split second before picking up double time. My eyes went wide and I could do nothing but stare. Around me, I heard everyone that had gathered to watch the showdown gasp, but I paid them no mind. Because James loves me.
It was just like my dream, I realized. I had heard it this morning. Which meant, it really wasn’t a dream. It was real. Because James loves me. He just said so.
But… no. No. It was a dream. And now… now James is lying. Because he doesn’t love me. He can’t love me. It wasn’t possible.
“That’s not true,” I said, my tone devoid of any warmth. James’ face fell. “That’s a lie. A horrible, sick lie. You don’t love me.”
“Yes I do,” he said softly, taking a step towards me. I backed away quickly. “I love you, Val. I’ve loved you since second year.”
“No. No you don’t.”
“I love you.”
“Well, I don’t love you!” I shouted, everything seeming to break. The look of devotion on James’ face crumpled and faded away, being replaced by a deep hurt. “I don’t love you and I NEVER WILL!”
I continued, feeling a vindictive pleasure at the words. “I don’t love you, James Potter. You’re not good enough. You’re arrogant and I liar and I really can’t see a reason why anyone would love you!” I twisted smile found its way onto my face as a tear rolled down his cheek. “You’re nothing. Nothing to me and nothing at all. You’ll never, ever –“
“STOP!” James roared suddenly, whirling around and punching the wall next to him. I jolted backwards a step, fear flooding through my veins. “Just. Stop.”
He rounded on me, the anger I had previously been feeling shining clearly out of his eyes. “You’re wrong. You’re WRONG! You’re the one who’s not good enough! You’re selfish, Val. Selfish! Everyone is always doing something wrong in your eyes! They upset you so much because we can’t magically understand what you’re going through. Well, newsflash! If you don’t tell anyone, who the fuck are they supposed to know?”
My mouth hung open, but no words found their way out. Even if I could have spoken, I really don’t think there was anything I could say. But James plowed onwards, stuck in the rage that had consumed me moments before. “You were so hurt that your family didn’t realize how sad you were. But who’s fault was that really? YOURS. So they reacted badly when you told them. Well, boo-fucking-hoo. What did you really expect? And same goes with your friends! You expect everyone to accommodate your every need, regardless of whether they know about it or not!
“And then there’s me. You’ve treated me like shit. I have been at your every beck and call for MONTHS because I love you and I wanted you to be happy. Well, I’m done now. Because you don’t deserve it. You’ve used me this whole time and never felt a thing!”
I felt like I was choking on nothing. James had said some horrible things to me before when he was trying to wake me out of my stupor of misery, but this… this was something else. Because this time, he actually meant the words he was saying. And he still wasn’t done.
“What are you going to do now, Val, huh? What are you going to do? You’re no longer on speaking terms with your family, every conversation with your friends ends up in a fight, and me? Frankly, I really don’t want to see you ever again. I’m done with you. Done. And you? You have nothing.”
He approached me then and this time I didn’t move. I couldn’t. He leaned his face right in close to mine, his breath tickling my cheek. When he spoke, his voice was deadly quiet. “You have nothing.”
And then he walked away. I stood, rooted to the spot, staring at his retreating back as my eyes began to sting. I was vaguely aware of the crowd dispersing, everyone completely silent. Some people threw me sympathetic glances, but most glared. I didn’t care. I no longer had the capacity to.
As James rounded the corner and disappeared from sight, I felt something break inside me. A sudden, violent detachment that shook my very being, rocked through me. I had felt this only once before, in the last second of Joy’s life. It was the feeling of completely losing yourself.
My knees grew weak, so I took a few stumbling, shaky steps over to the nearest wall where I collapsed to the ground. With my hands pressed to my temples, I hung my head between my knees. Huge, wracking sobs caused my entire body to tremble. A weight that I hadn’t felt for two months descended upon me, crushing me. I knew this feeling well. But I really wished I didn’t.
“What have I done?” I whispered to myself in anguish. That was an easy question. I had just destroyed James, and done the same to myself in the process. He was right. I was self-destructive. Every good thing I had going for me, I had shattered.
I have nothing.
…er, hi? How’s it going? …please don’t hate me. I had to do it! Really, I did! This scene has been planned since, like, chapter 14! It’s necessary to the plot. I mean, I really wish it wasn’t, but it is!
Poor James. Val was really awful in this chapter. Like, really really awful. When was writing this, I was like, “No, Val! Don’t say that! You do love James! Stop being so mean!” But unfortunately, she didn’t listen to me. She doesn’t really listen to anybody. So now things are really sucky for her. Blah.
Er, would you all still be kind enough to leave a review? Every review is like giving ten hugs to James! And he really needs a hug right now. Please? Do it for James!
Also, I just posted a new story called In My Life. It's going to be a series of one-shots revolving around Lily and James. It would be awesome if you would all give it a read!
Also, I can answer any questions people have over at my blog. Look at my author's page for the website.