On the afternoon of the day poor concussed Sienna Pullman is supposed to be released, I march up the boys’ dormitory stairs and alight at the threshold of the sixth door. I knock, because I have walked in on too many things I’d rather not have walked in on because I didn’t knock, and Louis Weasley answers. He is one of the people who still think I may bear James Ill Will. Always a fun speedbump to hop over.
“Oh, come on,” I whinge spectacularly when he refuses to let me pass, stomping my foot and everything. “I need to talk some sense into him.”
Louis exhales through his chiseled nose. “Hah. Fat chance. You just want to–”
“What, seduce him?” I chortle. “For God’s sake, I’m trying to help him.”
“Oh, yeah, because you’ve been so helpful in the past.”
“If you’re talking about Amy, I’d just like to remind you that none of us knew she had a wicked super-Catholic stepmother, so that’s not my fault.” Amy Donnelly was the last girl James fell in love with, back in fifth year. It was a whirlwind romance, totally lovely to behold. Now she goes to some Irish Magical Nunnery school.
“Forget Amy. You started this,” he sneers. Typical. “If you hadn’t overreacted when James was just explaining his stupid song, Fawcett wouldn’t have thought it meant something and we wouldn’t be in this mess.”
I’m not going to fall prostrate in front of him, as the last thing Louis needs is someone to stroke his ego, but I would like to. “If I can talk sense into him so he realises the consequences of the dumb things he says and does and doesn’t say and doesn’t do, he’ll realise he needs to stop the madness, and–”
“You never ever manage talk any sort of sense into him, you just say you do. And think you do, which is that much worse. You’re a useless, puffed-up bitch.”
“Takes one to know one, yeah?”
“You just don’t give up on babysitting him, do you?”
My eyes roll of their own accord. I suppose by now it’s a bit of a default. “I’m only trying to fix things I admit I may have had a role in starting. And really, I don’t see you doing such a good job of keeping him from fucking himself and all of us over.”
“One day, Parrish, you’re going to–”
“Death comes to all of us, mate. You better hope yours doesn’t arrive via a stampede of fifth-years when they narrow down which Weasley is hiding their collective true love.”
That does the trick quite nicely.
Anyway. James. There he is, sitting all hunched and downtrodden, playing with his cousin’s toy Snitch (Louis is a failure of a Seeker, and everyone knows it, which is why he’s no longer on the team). He barely even notices I’ve come, not until the Snitch rams into my leg and swoon-smashes on the floor. I step delicately around its feeble little wings to sit down across from him.
“Want to talk?”
“Louis tried to keep me out.”
“Louis wants to lock me up in his closet and steal my youthful essence for his daily beauty regiment.”
I stifle a giggle. (I do giggle sometimes. When I need to). “But you’re older than him.”
“Not in spirit.”
This is fair. Louis has the spirit of a stolid, sneering fortysomething who gets off on judging plebes from his mountain throne, all the while running from the truth of his imminent midlife crises. Yes, the plural. “What’s the beauty regimen?”
James shrugs. “I’ve just heard his sisters talking about it. They say they’re saving it for really serious blackmail when he gets married. Charming anecdotes. Toasts. They’re very excited.”
I choke back a pointed cough because there’s no way Louis isn’t listening at the door. The image I have in my head of his face right now could get me through a thousand conversations with Ivy Fawcett. “You need to get me an invitation to this rehearsal dinner. I’m not going to rest until I hear about it with my own ears.” James smiles, for once not all that concerned about his cousin’s feelings.
Which reminds me, I’m here to wipe away all smiles forever.
“But, uh, seriously. You can’t hide here forever, especially not if Louis is going to imprison you.”
James tosses the toy Snitch up and down and up and down. His reflexes are pretty good, of course. Maybe not up to Seeker standards, precisely, but I suppose he could do it in a pinch. He’s a Chaser, which somehow is considered the most glamorous of positions, even though it’s always struck me as the most pedestrian. Anyway.
“Is it Sienna? And the rest of them?”
He nods. And even as a narrator without certain biases, I think it’s in my job description to mention that I’ve never seen anyone who pulls off morose as well as this bloke. “This is going to hurt them, isn’t it? It already is?”
There’s no point sugarcoating it for him. “I know it’s not totally your fault–” I leave an opening for him to glare at me, but he doesn’t even take it. “It’s not your fault, but you’re not helping things, either, ‘cos you’re kind of leading them on. There’ll be more than minor head injuries if this goes on. Emotional injuries.”
He turns his eyes to me for the first time today, and they’re all honey soulful and remind me of a doe. “You know what the craziest part of this is?” It’s very sweet, and a little heartstring tugs in my heart. My poor best friend. “I… I kind of want to not lead them on. I kind of… want it to be real.”
Oh, no. No no no no no. “That… ahem, that is certainly crazy.”
He doesn’t know how to articulate what he feels; he hardly knows what to do with himself. “I want… I think I want it to be… love, or something. I dunno, with… Ivy. With Claire. Neither. Someone!”
I hear Greek choirs ringing in my ears. They sing of doom foretold and apocalypses and stuff.
“What about the, uh, the song.” All I can think of when I try to think of the storyline of the song is Please Direct Your Attention to the Stage!, and I know that’s not what I should be thinking about, even though I just know it would be a great musical. “You said it’s not a metaphor.”
“It’s not a metaphor. It’s got nothing to do with anything.” He does look at me now, a little more firmly than before. “It’s about a mermaid and a human.”
“Merperson.” I can’t help myself.
“Yes, right.” He’s so agitated he doesn’t even seem to notice he’s being less than accommodating towards merpeople. “I’m not in love or anything. I don’t think so. I just… want to be. I mean, take Ivy, for example.” It does not bode well for me that Ivy Fawcett is the first name to come to his mind. “She’s so fun, and she’s a great teammate. And look at Claire.” The second name, as expected. “She’s always looking out for other people. Complete sweetheart. I could be happy with either of them. Or, I dunno, someone else. I really could. I just want to be happy with someone.”
James could be happy marrying a glumbumble if he could be convinced that even those miserable insects deserve love too. James could be happy with anyone if he really set his mind to it.
But could he fall in love?
I stare ever more deeply into his soul through his eyes. The sad, sad eyes that are the window to the sad, sad soul that apparently yearns desperately for love and companionship. And not just the love or companionship of mere friends, oh no. James Potter wants a relationship.
And I had no idea.
I would cross myself now, but that would probably freak him out. He doesn’t always grasp the magnitude of things he does or says or wants. Seeing reminders that I literally have to pray to God for help puts him on edge, and since he’s already on the edge of Louis’ bed (and liable to fall off if he does freak out), I hold back.
“Help me, Augusta,” he pleads.
I am going to repeat this ad nauseum, but I do not worship James Potter.
This does not mean my heart is made completely of stone.
Author's Note I'm well aware this chapter is a bit overdue, but it does represent something of a shift that will get us barreling into the next bit of plot, so I hope you'll forgive me! What comes next is just as ridiculous and hopefully hilarious as you'd expect the plan of the brain trust of Augusta, James, and pals would be. Thank you all for reading and especially for reviewing -- and please do review! How else will I know what you like and what you don't, or which supporting characters need more space or less, or even what stupid things James says are the most adorable?
Hope you've enjoyed, and will continue to do so!
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