I had the strangest feeling gnawing at me as I walked through the deserted corridors of Hogwarts on the night of my return after my weekend at home. My time in Ireland had rushed by so quickly that I was having difficulty adjusting. I had gone through something entirely momentous in my life, but it seemed so trivial. In a way, it was like nothing had happened at all. I hadn’t had some great revelation or gone through this huge emotional upheaval. I had struggled, certainly, but compared to some of the other experience I’ve had this year, finally coming to terms with Joy’s death seemed almost… easy.
Maybe I had made it out to be harder than I thought. All these years, I’ve been clutching onto the idea that there was no possible way for me to get over the loss. But here I was, feeling at peace with the world for the first time in a long time. I reached up to touch Joy’s locket. And I smiled a real smile.
I was so lost in thought that when I rounded a corner, I collided right into a hard chest. Stumbling back slightly, I found myself looking at Teddy. He glanced at me and muttered, “Sorry.”
My heart sank slightly and my smile faded as he made to continue past me. I’d nearly forgotten that it was the entire Weasley/Potter family that was feeling a bit antagonistic towards me. I had more work ahead of me than I’d anticipated. But then Ted stopped and looked at me again with a slight frown.
“You look different,” he told me, seeming a bit puzzled.
My smile found its way back onto my face. “I feel different.”
“I mean, you look the same,” he said. “But also different. There’s just something…”
“Different?” I finished, amused. “I went home this weekend. I talked to my parents and did a lot of… healing, you could say.”
Teddy scrutinized my face for a moment. “You look happy.”
“I am happy. Because I’m moving on, Ted. And I’m letting go.” The words felt good to say. Happy. I’d forgotten what that felt like.
“Merlin,” Teddy breathed. “You’re happy.” He hugged me very suddenly. “You’re happy!”
I laughed. “I’m happy! Or at least, I will be soon.”
He let go of me. “Soon?”
“There are some people I need to talk to,” I said determinedly and with more confidence than I’d had in ages. “A messy-haired, hazel-eyed person in particular.”
Teddy grinned brightly and hugged me again, picking me up. “I’m so proud of you! I don’t know what you did this weekend, but I’m glad you did it! Because let’s face it, the entire family has been miserable without you. I don’t know how you managed to become so important to all of us, but you did. That messy-haired, hazel-eyed person most especially.”
I laughed again. “Blame Victoire. She was the one who became friends with my sister and consequently began to assimilate the entire family to me.”
“You’ll have to let her know it’s all her fault this weekend,” Ted replied, setting me back down the three inches he’d lifted me off the ground.
“What’s this weekend?”
Teddy stared at me incredulously. “What’s this weekend?” he repeated. “Toire would kill you if she’d heard you say that. The wedding? You know, the one you’re a bridesmaid in? Is this ringing any bells?”
I blinked. “Is it really that soon? Oh my God, where did the time go?”
Teddy shrugged. “Not sure. Just make sure you don’t forget now, eh? Vic will never forgive you if you miss the wedding. Anyways, I need to be going, but it was good to talk to you. I can’t tell you how good it is to see you smile. See you, Val.”
“Bye, Ted,” I said and we both continued on our separate ways.
Right then. That’s one Weasley/Potter down – well, technically Teddy’s a Lupin – and only about one hundred more to go. I felt fairly confident that I could get most of them to come around. There was really only one person I was worried about. And he, of course, was the most important one by far. Such is life, I guess.
Fate once again decided to throw exactly one of the people I was looking for at me, because when I was about to reach the entrance to Ravenclaw Tower, Fred walked out, probably having just been visiting Rhiannon. He nodded to me in acknowledgement, wearing that same inscrutable look he’d had for the last few weeks, though it was tinged with a bit of curiosity. I stopped him before he could walk away.
“Hold up, Fred, I want to talk to you,” I said, putting my hand on his shoulder.
“Hey, Val,” he said carefully. “How are you?”
I hugged him suddenly. He clearly wasn’t expecting it because he began to splutter in surprise. “Merlin, woman! I, bloody hell, I just asked you a polite question! There’s no need to get all touchy-feely. What are you – I don’t – why are you hugging me?”
“You’re a good friend,” I told him. “I want to let you know that I value you and your friendship and I won’t ever take it for granted. And I’m very glad you and Rhiannon are dating, you two make a lovely, albeit unexpected, couple. And I’m sorry I’ve been such a bitch but I just went home and figured out my life, so now I’m going to apologize to everyone because you all mean so much to me and I just want us all to be friends because you all make me so happy and I just figured out how to be happy and I know that I can be happy even without all of you, but I don’t want to be happy without all of you, so please start talking to me again.”
Fred just stared at me, wide-eyed. “Who gave you drugs?”
I laughed. “No one. I just… did you listen anything I just said? I’m sorry for everything that’s happened Fred, and I promise that I’m going to fix things. But I miss you, so will you please start talking to me again instead of just always watching me with that weird look on you face?”
“You look happy,” he said dumbly. Really, Fred? That’s all you have to say?
“I am happy,” I replied. Teddy may not be blood related to Fred, but they certainly are alike.
“You’re happy!” he exclaimed, and this time he was the one who hugged me. Okay then. Apparently people think that me being happy is a reason to hug me. All right.
Fred sobered up after a moment. He looked at me seriously. “How do you feel about James?”
“What do you mean?” I said evasively, looking away. I have to say, that isn’t something I’d ever expect to talk about with Fred. It’s especially awkward when you stop to think about the fact that he is both James’s cousin and my ex-boyfriend.
“Oh no, no, no, no, no,” Fred said. “Don’t you get all coy and clueless now. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Look, Val, I’m happy to see you happy and everything and I was never mad at you, I was avoiding you for the same reason Rhiannon was. But no matter how old we get and despite the fact that he’s only a year younger than me, I’ll always see James as my little cousin. And you’ve broken his heart. You said you were going to apologize to everyone and fix things. Is James included in this?”
I bit my lip. “He’s the number priority. And he’s the one I’m most worried about. But I’m not… I’m not scared anymore. Well, I am scared, but for a different reason.”
He stared at me for a moment. “I’m a bloke. I’m rubbish when it comes to feelings. So I’ll let you talk to Rhiannon about all the emotional tosh and whatnot. But it’s good to see you smile like that, Val. And just… talk to James.”
“Thanks Fred,” I said, and he patted my on the shoulder slightly awkwardly before he left.
I walked into the Ravenclaw Common Room and glanced around quickly. When I didn’t spot Rhiannon, I headed up the staircase to the girls dormitories. With a bounce in my step, I pushed open the door to my room, calling, “Rhiannon you beautiful human being, where are you? You are the most wonderful, intelligent, fabul – oh. Hi.”
I stopped abruptly when I saw Rhiannon sitting with Lessie and Jessamy, all three of them staring at me curiously. I waved uncomfortably. I’d decided to give up on being mad at Lessie. Yes, what she did was wrong and terrible and she had absolutely no right, but… it’s just not worth the energy. Besides, life’s too short to hold grudges.
“How are you all?” I said, trying to cover up the painful silence. “Uh… have a good weekend?”
Rhiannon raised her eyebrow and gave me a knowing look and Jess looked at me apologetically. She clearly was feeling guilty about everything that had happened. She’s never been good with confrontation. But Lessie was staring down at her lap, where she was twisting her fingers.
“What’d you do, Val?” Rhiannon asked me, gray eyes twinkling. Clearly she could see the apparently noticeable change in my demeanor that both Teddy and Fred had been able to pick up. And let’s face it, if it’s something that Fred notices it’s going to be pretty obvious.
I smiled – I’ve been doing that a lot – at her. “I fixed myself. Just like you told me to.”
“And do you understand everything I had been talking about?” she asked.
I thought back to the seemingly cryptic comments she’d made before I went home, the ones I hadn’t been able to figure out. About how I could be happy if I wanted and how she didn’t want to be my next replacement, the person I depend on for happiness instead of creating it on my own.
“I do,” I nodded. “You gave me the push that I needed to take care of it all. So thank you.”
I had really wanted to talk to Rhiannon about everything that had happened, but it felt too weird to talk about it in front of Lessie. I had given up being mad, yes, but that didn’t mean that things were okay between us. And while I knew that I had to talk to James and the rest of his family, I wasn’t sure it was my job to fix things between Lessie and I. But I was going to do it anyways. Like I said, life is too short.
“Lessie,” I said in a low voice. She looked up, apprehension shining in her eyes. “I’m sorry about everything that happened. I felt that it was my right to keep those very personal parts of my life to myself, but I’m sorry that doing so hurt you. That was never my intention. Despite the fact that I was hiding behind a façade for these past years, I did genuinely care about you. I know things aren’t going to be like they used to, and honestly I don’t want them to be, but I would like it if we could be civil to each other, at the very least.”
Lessie nodded slowly. Then, without warning, tears filled her eyes and she burst into tears before jumping off the bed and into my arms. I held her in surprise – seriously, what is with all these people hugging me – and patted her back, holding back my confusion.
“I’m so sorry,” she wailed. “I was so awful to you. I was mean and heartless and I totally invaded your privacy and I was wrong and I’m just so sorry! Please forgive me, please! I promise I’ll never do it again!”
“Uh, it’s okay, Less,” I told her hesitantly. I don’t like people crying on me. “I’m not mad about it anymore.
She sniffed, looking up at me with watery green eyes. “You’re, like, the best person in the world, you know that?”
“Nah, I’m not,” I contradicted. Not even close. “But thank you anyways.”
The four of us then all sad down on Rhiannon’s bed and I told them about my weekend. I felt warm inside as I took in the proud expression Rhiannon was wearing and the way Lessie and Jessamy were listening closely to me. I think that I’ve finally found a proper friend in Rhiannon. She’s someone I feel close to and believe I can tell anything to, but I don’t blindly depend on her. And though I may not truly be friends with Lessie and Jess right now, I think that, over time, there is potential for that to change. And that’s perfectly all right with me.
Down in the library, I was scanning the tables for a head of messy black hair. I had been back for two days now and had sought out the majority of the Weasley family and bridged the distance between us. Things were going really well for me at the moment, but there were still a few people that I needed to talk to, one in particular. I finally spotted the hair I was looking for, but unfortunately it was attached to the wrong head.
Al was sitting over near the Charms section with Rose and another boy from their year – I think his name was Brendon Waters. I may have been searching for James, but I still needed to talk to Al. Besides James, I think he was the angriest at me. I guess it’s time to set things straight with him.
I walked over to where the fifth years were sitting and dropped into the vacant seat. They all looked up at me. Rose smiled, Brendon looked puzzled, but Al just stared. He’d probably heard from his cousins what had happened. I glanced down at the essay he was writing.
“You used the wrong form of 'your.’” I told him, catching the error out of the corner of my eye.
Al raised an eyebrow. “Uh, thanks. You know you were only my Defense tutor, not grammar.”
“My boundless intelligence encompasses a wide variety of subjects,” I replied dryly with a shrug. “I feel I should pass on all aspects of my expert knowledge.”
Al snorted. “You know, most people would just sound conceited saying that, but you’re so self-depreciating that it’s practically a joke.”
“It actually was a joke,” I corrected. “You need to practice detecting sarcasm. I can tutor you in that, too, if you’d like.”
“You need it,” Rose threw in, smirking at Al. He rolled his eyes at her.
I turned to Brendon. “Sorry, didn’t mean to be rude. I’m Val Sullivan, it’s nice to meet you.” I offered him a hand to shake, which he took tentatively.
“Yeah, I know,” he said slowly. “I think everyone in the whole school knows who you are. You’ve got quite the reputation.”
I winced. “I’m sure I do.”
“Oh, no no!” he said quickly. “I didn’t mean that as a bad thing. I mean, you’re a prefect, Ravenclaw Quidditch captain and star Chaser, and well, you’re really tall for a girl. So you’re pretty hard to miss.”
I raised an eyebrow in amusement at him. I think I might like this kid. “Thanks. It’s nice of you to point out only my fairly good, non-offensive traits and identifiers. Your tact is admirable.”
“Er, your welcome?” It was more like a question than a statement. “Or… thank you? I don’t know how to respond to that.”
“Don’t worry about it.” I clapped him on the shoulder. “But I would like it if you could do me a favor. You too, Rosie.”
“What do you need?” Rose asked, though she looked like she’d already guessed what it was.
“I’d like to talk to Al for a moment, if the two of you wouldn’t mind me stealing him from you. And if you’re okay with it as well, Al.” I nodded at him.
He watched me for a moment before acceding. “Yeah, that’s fine.”
Al and I both got up and moved to a different, empty table, leaving Rose and Brendon to continue working on their Charms. We sat down opposite each other and I looked at Al, feeling slightly baffled. He was neither being antagonistic, nor friendly. He just looked like he was… waiting for something.
“Look, I know I messed up,” I began, but Al held up a hand to cut me off. I waited tensely for him to speak.
“You don’t have to tell me about it,” he said. “I’ve heard already, from Rose, from Roxy, from Fred, from Molly, hell, from half of my family. And I’m glad you’re going around to all of us, I am. We’ve all really missed you and it really wasn’t easy to be mad at you, especially when Fred heard from Rhiannon that you were in the Hospital Wing. But you know, there’s really only one person you should be explaining yourself to, and it certainly isn’t me.”
“I know,” I told him earnestly. “I’m going to, I am. I guess you could say I’m just… working my way up to James. No offence, but he’s the one that really matters. Which is what makes it kind of scary.”
Al smiled at me then. “And why is it that you’re scared?”
You know, he and Rhiannon are kind of alike. That’s definitely something she would’ve asked me. Luckily, I knew the answer to that one. “I’m scared because I love him and I’m afraid that after what I did and said, he won’t feel the same way anymore.”
Al’s grin stretched even further so that he was practically beaming at me. “Just tell him that and everything will be okay. It’s good to have you back, Val.”
I reached out and took his hand. “I missed you, kiddo. I need my Ally-wally in my life.”
“I could do without the nicknames, though,” he laughed. “Either way, it’s good to see you smile like that. It’s not something I’ve seen before.”
I shook my head. “Everyone feels compelled to point it out. Even Professor Longbottom commented on it in Herbology.”
“It suits you,” he shrugged. Then something seemed to catch his eye over my shoulder. I turned to see what he was looking at.
James was looking through a bookshelf that was mere feet from where Al and I were sitting. He didn’t seem to have noticed us. But when he turned around his eyes fell on me immediately. He stood perfectly still and his eyes flashed down to where I was still holding Al’s hand. I felt the smile fade from my face.
James’s eyes met mine and we stared at each other for a silent moment. His jaw clenched. “Hi, James,” I breathed.
He inspected me warily. He must have found something in my face that upset him because his hands curled into fists and something seemed to shatter in him. Then he turned and stalked away.
Bitterness flooded my veins. That really wasn’t very reassuring. I glanced at Al. “What was that you said about everything being okay?”
I’m so glad I got your letter. I’ve really missed talking to you, sis. Since you told me you never read the letter I sent you (hurtful. Tsk tsk.) I’ll just relay the main message: I’m sorry.
I feel like I kind of failed you as a brother. I knew that you’d been struggling, but I didn’t do anything to help you. Yeah, you might have told me you didn’t want me to, but I should have anyways. And for that I really must apologize.
However, hearing about what you’ve done to turn your life around makes me so proud. You’re a truly remarkable person, Val, and I’m proud to say I’m related to you. I love you, sis, and I’ll see you at Teddy and Victoire’s wedding. Miss you.
I smiled as I read the letter. It had come a little bit late – today was the day of the wedding. I was currently at the church where the wedding would take place, getting ready with the rest of the bridal party. My hair had been curled and partially pulled back. The dress that we had all eventually decided on was really quite lovely. It was strapless and formfitting to the top of the thighs, from there flowing gently to the floor. A large bow accented the waist. It was a deep teal blue – the only color that Victorie deemed suitable for her wedding that also worked as a color for all the bridesmaids. It wasn’t easy to find a good color, as we were a rather diverse group, with brunettes, redheads, and blondes alike.
Joy’s locket was nestled just under my collarbone. It had been a bit of an issue with Vic at first, considering it was gold and the accent color for the wedding was silver. But she’d consented to overlook my faux pas seeing as the necklace was rather special to me. It’s odd to think that I’d only been wearing it for a week.
I was standing a bit apart from the rest of the bridesmaids and Victorie, looking in the mirror, David’s letter loosely grasped in my hand. It seems odd, but I think I can see what Teddy and Fred and everyone else had been talking about. I do look different. It’s a subtle thing, but still noticeable. There just seemed to be more life in me. My white skin looked healthy and there was a sparkle in my eyes that hadn’t been there before.
I saw Hope come up behind me in the mirror. “You look beautiful,” she told me.
“Thanks. You too.”
“I’m really sorry about everything,” she said, keeping her voice low so the other girls couldn’t overhear.
I took a step back and leaned against Hope. She rested her head on my shoulder. “Yeah, me too.”
I may have lost one of my sisters, but I think it’s about time I really start to appreciate the one I have. Before, I’d only ever seen a resemblance between me and Joy, and then a resemblance between Joy and the rest of the family. I myself didn’t really look like the rest of them. But as I stared in the mirror, I saw that I was wrong. Hope and I had the same nose and the same cast to our eyes. I’m sure if I looked longer, I’d find even more similarities. The same goes for the rest of my family.
There was a knock on the door, and poked his head in. “Girls? It’s time.”
The wedding was beautiful – extraordinarily so. All of Victoire’s stressing and freak out moments had paid off. The church was lavishly decorated, but entirely tasteful. Everything had come together perfectly.
James and I still weren’t talking. Throughout the week, I’d tried to approach him, but he’d avoided me. He never gave me a chance to apologize to him, brushing off my every attempt.
Everything else in my life had straightened out. I had reconciled with my family and sorted things out with my Ravenclaw friends. The Weasley/Potter family was being exceptionally wonderful. And I had finally confronted my past and learned how to deal with Joy’s death, six and a half years later. But despite the fact that for once I was actually trying to be happy, it still wasn’t quite right. Because there was one thing left for me to do.
Everything had felt so awkward during the wedding. When we walked down the aisle together, James’s arm had been rigid, unrelenting. His smile was forced. It wasn’t an obvious thing, but I could see it. I knew James.
I stared at him through the whole service, silently begging him to look at me. He didn’t. He kept his eyes fixed on the floor. I doubt he was really paying attention to the wedding. I know I wasn’t.
James was unhappy. It was upsettingly obvious. I knew that I was the only person that could make it better, as conceited as that may sound. I had caused the problem, therefore it was my job to fix it. I just couldn’t seem to figure out how.
The wedding flowed into the reception flawlessly. I sat at the high table with the rest of the wedding party during the meal. I picked at my food restlessly. Glancing around, I saw Fred waving at Rhiannon, who sat with George and Angelina. I saw Professor McGonagall chatting with Harry, who was holding hands with Ginny. And then, just a few seats down from me, I saw the couple of the moment. Victoire was playfully feeding Teddy bits of food off her plate, laughing, while Ted stared at her adoringly. They were so in love it almost hurt to watch, but entirely adorable at the same time. I looked away.
I wanted that. I wanted to be so in love with someone who felt the same way that people couldn’t help but smile when they saw us. I wanted to have someone to go to when I was happy, sad, angry, or any other emotion. I wanted someone who would always be there for me and for whom I could do the same. I wanted it all.
And the sad thing is that I’d nearly had it. The loving look in Teddy’s eyes as he gazed at Toire was familiar – I’d seen James looking at me in the same way. I just hadn’t realized it at the time. But after our stupid fight, he stopped looking at me altogether, except for the one time I caught him staring in the library. And that hurt more than I’d ever thought it would.
Once the dinner ended, Ted and Vic took to the dance floor for their first dance as husband and wife. Halfway through, the wedding party joined in. I felt a twisting, stabbing sensation in my stomach as James unwillingly took my hand in his, the other at my waist, mine on his shoulder. He kept his gaze fixed over the top of my head, still refusing to meet my eyes.
“James,” I said softly. I saw him flinch almost imperceptibly, so I continued. “Please talk to me. Please.”
“I have nothing to say,” he muttered.
“Don’t be like this,” I pleaded. “I need to talk to you.”
He stiffened. “You’ve already told me all I need to hear. Look, just… dance, okay? That’s all we’re required to do.”
I lapsed into silence, trying not to feel hurt. This was my fault. I had been such a daft idiot. Everyone else had seen how James felt about me, but I was too far gone in denial to accept it. I had been afraid.
When the song ended, James let go of me, quickly taking a step back. He nodded at me once before walking away. As I watched his retreating back with a sense of déjà vu, I expected to feel another stab of rejection and pain. But I didn’t. Instead, I felt a swelling of courage and determination. I wasn’t giving this up without a fight.
As a new song started up, I pushed through the people joining in on the dance floor to where James had gone. He had swiftly made his way off to the side, grabbing a flute of champagne from a passing server. He didn’t see me approach.
“Put that down and come dance with me,” I said, pulling the champagne from his grasp. He looked at me in surprise.
“I thought we already went over this,” he mumbled irritably, running a hand through his jet black hair.
I shook my head stubbornly, grabbing his hand and pulling him back onto the dance floor. “Too bad. I don’t care what you said. Right now I am going to talk and you are going to listen.”
James raised his eyebrows, but obliged, placing his hands on my waist as my arms slid around his neck. Our dance was much less formal that it had been previously. We were both silent for a moment as I collected my thoughts.
“I’m sorry,” I began. James snorted and I glared at him. “Are you going to keep on being an arse or are you actually going to listen to me?”
He looked at me incredulously. “Are you being serious right now? You started all this. Trust me, this is nothing compared to how you treated me.”
“I’m trying to apologize for that!” I shot back. “God, do you have any idea how absolutely awful I felt, and still feel, for saying that stuff to you? I’ve wanted to take it back this whole time, but with you acting like a right prat, I’m not sure I want to!”
That was a lie, but I decided to just go with it. My voice had risen, attracting the attention of the people near us. I inhaled deeply before I said, in a much softer tone, “Please. You’re not you when you do this. You’re not my James.”
“I don’t think you have the right to call me your James anymore.”
“But I’d like to,” I whispered, not quite meeting his eyes. His hold on my waist tightened slightly, and not in an unpleasant way. Rather, I felt tingles spreading though me from the contact. When I chanced a glance at James, I saw the hard look on his face had softened. Taking this as a sign of encouragement, I continued.
“James, I am so sorry. I never should have gone off on you like that. It was just… everything about Christmas just… caught up with me. And I snapped. Again. I didn’t want to talk to my family, I didn’t want to talk to Lessie, I didn’t want to deal with the fact that things were changing between us. So it was you I started shouting at. But those words I said… believe me, if I could take them back, I would. Please, please don’t hate me. You are easily the most important person in my life and when I see the hurt in your eyes, knowing I put it there… I feel sick.”
James nodded his head slowly. “You know, I was out of line as well, at the end. I didn’t have to say some of the things I did.”
“But I needed to hear them,” I insisted. “Listen, James. I hate what I said to you, but I wouldn’t change the aftermath of it at all.”
“Why?” he asked, tilting his head to the side.
“Because I was taught the best lesson I think I’ll ever learn in life,” I said simply
I thought back over those days following my fallout with James. They were miserable and awful, but then I was able to change. I figured out a lot of things about myself. And I did so much. It’s amazing.”
A slight smile was creeping onto James’s face, though he tried not to let it show. “What happened?”
“I found Faith,” I said with a rueful smile. “It was you who once said that if I couldn’t be Tina and I didn’t want to be Val, then I had to find Faith. And I did.”
“You see, James, I learned a lot important things. After Joy died, I gave up. I didn’t see any reason to be happy, so I wasn’t. My happiness was purely dependent on Joy. But then you came along.” I paused, looking at him.
“James, you changed everything for me. I was so… resigned to the fact that I would forever be miserable. But you were the flaw in my plan. You gave me a reason to be happy again. With you, everything seemed to brighter, better. You were my savior, James.”
As I continued to look at James, his beautiful hazel eyes seemed to grow watery. I tightened my hold around his neck before surging on. “I wouldn’t trade those months for anything. You showed me how to smile again. But James, I never could have kept that up. Because once again, my happiness was based solely on one person.”
“When you walked away from me after our fight,” I said, my voice growing choked, “it was like losing Joy all over again. I had once again lost who I was. Because I need you too much.”
“I never wanted that,” James whispered hoarsely. “I wanted you to be happy, but I wanted you to be happy for yourself, not for me.”
“I’m not blaming you,” I said quickly. “James, you were the best thing to ever happen to me. But I was emotionally deficient. It was my issues that caused the problems.”
He tried to argue with me, but I interrupted. “It’s true. I’ve always said that I’m a mess, but I never knew just how bad it was. And after talking to Rhiannon, I decided that I didn’t want to be like that anymore. I went home. I talked to my parents and wrote to my brother and sister. We talked about everything. And… we’re okay now.”
“That’s great, Val” James said quietly.
I smiled. “For the first time, I feel okay about Joy’s death. I’ve made up with my family and my friends. But most importantly I’ve learned that happiness is a choice. Bad things happen to everyone. It’s up to you to look past them and find things to be happy about. And I’ve finally done.”
“I’m really glad,” James said, that same sad, strange little smile on his face.
“I went home,” I repeated. “For the first time since Joy died, I spent the night in my bed. I looked at the old pictures and went through her old clothes. I finally opened the present she meant to give me on our birthday.”
James gestured at the locket that was around my neck. “Is that it? It’s beautiful.”
I nodded. “Yeah. It makes me feel a bit silly when I think that I could have been wearing it all this time. I’m okay with that, though. I’ve taught myself how to be strong.”
“I can see that,” James replied, the sadness now reaching his eyes. Why was he sad? “You’re strong, confident, and capable. And you did all that without me. I know what you’re going to say to me, Val. You don’t need me anymore. Let’s face it, you never really needed me. You always had this potential. In fact, you’re really better off without me.”
I felt my heart sink. What? What was he saying? Shock and disbelief spread through me, along with hurt. James continued to talk, breaking my heart a little more with each word.
“You said that you regretted what you told me in our argument, that you wish you could take them back – but you never said they weren’t true. I get it, Val. You don’t… feel the same way I do. You don’t love me. And I’m okay with that. Or at least, I’m trying to be. You don’t have to let me down easy. I understand.”
I gaped at him. He though I was trying to be nice about rejecting him? The idea was so ludicrous that I almost laughed. But James stepped away, breaking our dance and waved feebly. “I’ll see you around, I guess.”
With that, he turned to leave. I blinked once, not quite able to process what was happening. But then I snapped into action. I’d had enough of watching James walk away from me. There was no way in hell I was letting it happen again.
I put my hand on his shoulder and James twisted his torso to look back at me. I saw my opportunity immediately. “You don’t know a goddamn thing, you stupid, stupid boy,” I told him.
I snaked my arm over his shoulder and took hold of his silver tie. Then I jerked his body around so that he was facing me once more and I pulled his head down to mine. And I kissed him.
I placed my other hand on the back of his neck to hold him there, moving my lips against his softly. James froze for a fraction of a second before I felt him smile against my mouth. Then he wrapped him arms around my waist and pulled me against him tightly.
There is no way to describe the feelings that coursed through me as James gently caught my lower lip between his teeth. I’ve heard that when you kiss that one perfect person, your heart will race, fireworks will explode, heat will spark between you two and a million other clichés. But as we deepened the kiss, I knew none of those descriptions could even come close to the reality.
The rest of the world faded into the background and all I could think was that in that moment, as I kissed James with every bit of passion I had, I finally understood how it truly feels to be happy. Not because I was dependent on James for happiness or that I was foolishly needy, like I had been in the past. I was happy because I had finally accepted love. And think that right then, when I kissed James and chose to be happy, Joy was watching me. And she was happy, too.
James and I broke apart when we heard the sound of applause. We looked around to see Fred, Al, Rose, Rhiannon, George, and Ginny all clapping and cheering at us. Fred and George wolf-whistled simultaneously. A few of the other wedding guests looked over in curiosity. Hope winked at me.
I turned back to James, who was starting to turn red. “Merlin, my family is so embarrassing,” he muttered.
I laughed loudly, drawing even more looks. I cupped James flushed cheek in my hand and smiled at him. “In case you haven’t figured it out, I’m not trying to let you down easy. The only reason I hadn’t yet told you that what I said in our fight wasn’t true was because I was afraid you were still mad and would be the one to reject me. But I’m going to go ahead and assume that isn’t true. And that means there’s only one thing left to be said.”
I ran my fingers through his messy hair, rejoicing at what I was about to say. “I love you.”
James leaned his forehead against mine and closed his eyes. “You have no idea how long I’ve waited to hear you say that.”
“I love you,” I told him again, and he grinned.
“Shut up!” I exclaimed excitedly. “You did not just pull a Han Solo on me! You really are perfect for me, James Potter.”
He threw his head back and laughed, picking my up off the ground and twirling me around. “You really are the most amazing girl I’ve ever met, Val Sullivan.”
I rested my head against his shoulder in contentment. Things had finally – finally – fallen into place for me. There was just one thing nagging at my mind slightly because of James’s last sentence.
“You know, I’ve been thinking,” I said contemplatively, “maybe Faith isn’t such a bad name after all.”
And there we have it. That, my wonderful readers, is the conclusion to this story. There will be one more chapter, an epilogue, but this is technically the end of it all.
It’s a bit cliché, I’ll admit, but I’m really happy with how this all ended. Everything’s come full circle. The first sentence is something along the lines of Val not liking her name. And even the chapter titles coincide, being “Joy” and “Happy.” And the funny part is that was entirely coincidental, something I thought about long after I named this chapter.
I’d like to thank you all for reading, you’ve been wonderful. I’ll post a longer thank you on the epilogue, as well as details for what I’m planning on doing next. I’d love it if you would all let me know what you thought in a review. Until then, stay beautiful.
Also, Han Solo is a character from Star Wars and I therefore do not own him. But I'd like to. And the "I love you. "I know." bit is from Episode V The Empire Strikes Back. George Lucas owns it - or he did. Now it's all been sold to Disney.