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Two nights after my tumultuous visit with my mother and my outrageous outburst with Professor Ritter, I said goodnight to Victoria before heading to the greenhouses to serve my detention with Neville. With my gloves in hand, I wondered what I would be doing. I didn’t mind Herbology lessons, so perhaps this detention wouldn’t be so bad after all.

I arrived ten minutes early. Neville was at his desk, reading The Evening Prophet. The man’s face was on the front cover again.

“Amelia! I wasn’t expecting you so soon. Come in and take a seat to wait for the others,” he greeted, waving me to an empty chair.

“Others?”

“Yeah. I’m doing some collective detentions. Kirby Williams and James Potter.”

I raised my eyebrows. It was no surprise that James Potter would have a detention, and I thought I knew Kirby Williams as a third year Ravenclaw. “I see. Then I best wait... Oh, by the way, I apologized to Professor Ritter today, as you told me.”

Neville smiled. “Good. I’m glad that you took that responsibility.”

“And,” I continued. My eyes wavered from his. “And I would like to thank you for intervening for me. You didn’t have to do that.”

Neville nodded slowly. His round face studied me for a moment before replying. “You’re welcome, Amelia. In normal circumstances, this wouldn’t be the case, as I suspect you know. But Professors Ritter, McGonagall, and I agree that you were put under unfair stress from your mother’s visit.”

I nodded, at a loss of words. I knew that this sentence was light. No more lost points. No detention with Ritter. Neville must have really advocated for me. I finally caught who was on the front page of Neville’s newspaper. “Have they caught him?”

“Caught who?” Neville asked. He followed my gaze. “Ah, Cassius Vaisey. No, I’m afraid. But he was sighted in London. The Ministry is on high alert.”

Cassius Vaisey’s photograph sneered, revealing his silver tooth. He was a face that was hard to forget, even though I knew I saw him as a child at Neville’s wedding. I swallowed, looking back at Neville. Perhaps he knew something that the newspaper didn’t.

“Do you know what he did? Why he was in Azkaban?” I asked.

“He killed someone. His brother, I think, about six or seven years ago,” Neville answered.

“Did you know him?”

“Did I--? Why do you ask, Amelia?” Neville asked, putting down the newspaper.

Before I could answer, a knock came at the door. Kirby Williams, a blonde, scrawny Ravenclaw, peeked his head inside.

“Hullo Professor,” he said dully. “Can I come in?”

“Of course you can, Kirby. Just waiting on one--”

“Sorry I’m late, Nev--Professor!” panted James as he ran into the office. His breath caught in his throat upon seeing Kirby and me. “Oh brilliant. Others!”

“Good evening, James. Let’s get to business, shall we?” Neville said. “Come and bring your gloves and your cloaks. You have a project in greenhouse six to do.”

We followed behind Neville. James scrunched his face as I walked in front of him, as if he was wondering why I was even here. Kirby was directly behind Neville, keeping his head down.

“Right, you lot. As you know, winter is on its way. We have to plant some Arctic ferns. I want to do them with the second years in January, so it’s best to prepare now.” He paused outside the greenhouse. “It’s chilly inside. I have some scarves and hats for you to use if it’s too cold for you.”

He opened the door, and we went inside. In the dim light, I could see my breath erupting from my lips in icy swirls.

“I’ll come back in an hour to see your progress, and also to give you a break from the chill. I advise you to not talk too much, but also use each other’s company to get the work done.” He winked. “Scarves and the like are over there. Shovels and spores over here, next to the empty patch, where you’ll be planting. It’ll be tough work to loosen the hard soil. Any questions?”

“Yes, Professor,” James said. He leaned towards Neville. “What do you say when you give a hippogriff named Lilac to your girlfriend?”

Neville sighed, shaking his head. “All right, I’ll bite. What?”

“Take-a-sniff of this hippogriff!”

I snorted. “Really? That’s not even funny.”

“James, you really do have an interesting imagination,” Neville chuckled, “But I’m afraid it won’t get you out of this detention. See you in an hour.”

“Aw, Professor, I had to give it a try,” James said, grinning broadly. “You never know if a joke is the right one until you say it!”

“Maybe next time say ‘Take-a-whiff’!” Neville called over his shoulder as he closed the door.

“Damn,” James said, looking over at Kirby and me. “That’s loads better than sniff, don’t you think?”

“I think you should do less sniffing and less whiffing,” I muttered as I walked over to the box with scarves.

“Is that sarcasm I detect?” James asked, laughing. “You’re full of surprises, Fortescue. Keep ‘em coming. It’ll make this detention pass quicker.”

“Hey guys, should we get started?” Kirby asked quietly. “I will do this section here and work towards the middle, okay?”

“Rock on, Kirby!” James said. “You do what you gotta do to get it done. But after a few more detentions, you’ll learn to appreciate and savor the commitment of manual labor.”

“Far out,” I exclaimed, lifting a pair of earmuffs from the box. They resembled a galaxy of stars and supernovas. “If I had a pair of earmuffs, these would be the pair!”

James appeared at my elbow. “Nice! I always knew that Longbottom had a killer fashion sense. Are there any more?”

“I haven’t seen any,” I told him as I put them over my ears. I smiled at the sudden warmth. “Kirby, I’ll start on the over end of the patch, okay?”

“‘Kay,” he said glumly. He was already on his knees packing loosening the soil.

I gingerly put on my gloves and picked up a gardening shovel to get to work. Mere moments into my task, James appeared beside me again.

“You got the coolest pair of earmuffs. Thought you’d like to know,” James informed me as he, too, picked up a shovel. He sprouted a pair of bright red earmuffs and a black and white striped scarf.

“Uh, thanks. Do you mind?”

“Only a little bit. I don’t think I could pull off the astronomical look.”

“I meant the workspace,” I said, looking up at him. His brown eyes flashed mischievously as he grinned. He had some freckles dusted across his face.

“Between you and me,” he whispered, “I think our friend, Kirby here, is a bit distressed that he’s in detention. I want him to sweat it out a bit before breaking the ice with him.”

“And I’m better company?” I asked him.

“Fair point,” he said, shrugging. “But I’m curious to know why you’re here, Fortescue. What happened to the bacon-snatching, authoritative prefect?”

Rolling my eyes, I went back to loosening the soil. “That gossip hasn’t reached your ears yet? It’s all over the Slytherin common room.”

“Leave it to the Slytherins to keep gossip to themselves,” he said. He angled his shovel to the near-frozen earth and began to dig.

“You could’ve heard it easily from your brother,” I said. “He’s a Slytherin, too.”

“Don’t remind me,” James groaned. He sighed. “I’ll never understand that one… But I’m only joking a little bit. I heard some...vague rumors.”

“Then let them remain vague,” I said. I furrowed my brow, keeping strict eye contact on my work.

“That’s no fun,” James complained. “Fine… How about I tell you why I’m here?”

“Does it involve throwing bacon?”

“Surprisingly, no.”

“Then telling bad jokes?”

James laughed. “Most of my jokes are irresistibly funny! But no. I’m here because the bucket of water intended for Peeves landed on the librarian.”

“Was that why she had wet hair and a foul mood yesterday?” I asked.

“In retrospect, throwing a bucket of water on Peeves is probably not the best thing to do to a poltergeist, but he was pelting chalk at us again, so I wanted to inconvenience him back. Perhaps next time I’ll think of something better.”

“And have another poor soul take Peeves’ punishment?”

“I wouldn’t necessarily describe our librarian’s soul as ‘poor.’ More like ‘withered’ or ‘pruned,’” James explained matter-of-factly.

“She is a very lovely soul once you get to know her!” I protested. My hand shovel hit a large pebble. I lost my grip and the shovel flung towards James.

“Wotcher!” he exclaimed, catching it. I then knew why he played Seeker. “Here you go. Watch out there.”

There was a lull in the conversation as we worked silently next to each other. James, of course, was the first to break the silence.

“So, are you going to tell me why you’re here tonight?”

I shook my head. “Vague rumors are best if unconfirmed.”

“Well, what about you, Kirby?” James turned towards the quietest member of our party.

The Ravenclaw jumped at being addressed. “Erm,” he said nervously, “I tripped a girl when we were walking from Defense Against the Dark Arts. My mum sent me a Howler yesterday at breakfast.”

“Oh, that was you?” James asked interestedly. “I’ve gotten a couple of those in my time. Did the girl deserve it? To be tripped?”

“Yeah,” he said darkly. “She made fun of my boggart.”

“She did not!” James gasped in a mocking yet supportive outside. “What’s your boggart?”

Kirby began to blush. “A butterfly,” he grumbled before turning back to his digging. He approached it with a little too much vigor.

“A creature worthy of fear,” James nodded. “My boggart’s a giant scorpion. Wicked creatures. What’s yours, Fortescue?”

I paused my digging, looking back at him. Even Kirby stopped to listen to my answer.

“Are you sure you want to know?” I asked.

“Yeah!”

“Small talk.”

A pause and then a boisterous laugh. “Merlin, Fortescue! You’re good,” James said. “Where was this attitude when you took away my bacon?”

“You’ll never let that go, will you?” I rolled my eyes and went back to my task.

“Never.”

I shrugged. “Well, I guess now I give fewer shits than I did back then.” It was true enough. Memories of my mother’s unannounced visit set my teeth on edge. What was the point of following the rules and always being polite when people dragged you into their shit anyways?

I resisted the urge to fiddle with my grandfather’s pendant, still hidden underneath my clothes.

“Bravo,” James said. “Well, this attitude suits you, anyway. But really, why are you here? They don’t hand out detentions for giving fewer shits.”

I sighed, putting down my shovel. “For the sake of some inner peace, I’d rather keep this brief and move on. I exchanged a few cross words with Professor Ritter before ditching the rest of the Transfiguration lesson.”

“Blimey, you’re on a roll. What did you say to him?”

“Enough to get me here tonight,” I told him. I gave him a warning glare. James received it and changed the subject to Quidditch.

Soon, the conversation lulled into silence. Neville soon joined us in the greenhouse.

“How’s it going?” he asked brightly.

“Good, sir!” James enthusiastically replied. “We’re about finished with the soil, and soon we’ll start planting the spores.”

“Excellent! How is everyone handling the chill? Need a break? Let’s get some tea in my office.”

“Why are we getting tea?” Kirby asked. “Aren’t we being punished?”

“Yes, you are living out the consequences of your choices, but that doesn’t mean getting frostbite. Tea is purely for your wellbeing.”

And so it was. Neville gave us the blandest tea, but I was thankful for a reprieve from the cold.

“Oh! You found some earmuffs, I see,” Neville said, smiling. “They used to belong to a good friend of mine, Luna Lovegood.”

“Why would she ever give these up?” I exclaimed. “They’re marvelous.”

Neville chuckled. “I think she found some that helped keep away Wackspurts or something of the sort. Anyway, I forgot I had these. Did I ever tell you about the time when…?”

At half past nine, Neville ushered us back into the greenhouse.

“This shouldn’t take too long,” he said kindly. “Once you’re done, come to my office and I’ll mark you off for completing a detention.” We started to go inside. “Amelia, can I have a quick word?”

James gave me a curious look before Neville closed the door between us.

“Yes, Professor?”

“I wanted to check with you about before, about Cassius Vaisey. Why did you ask if I knew him?”

My heart began to pound quickly. Should I tell him? “I…”

“You what?” His face, normally kind and warm, was stern and unyielding.

Silently cursing myself for my blank mind, I decided that that truth couldn’t hurt. “Well, I was wondering because… well, it was a long time ago, and it was night, and I was only a little kid…”

“Amelia, what’s this about?” Neville’s deep concern caused me to take a step back.

“I thought I saw him a long time ago. At your wedding.”

“You what?” Neville asked. “Are you sure?”

“No…” But his face wasn’t one that I would forget anytime soon. “Yes? I don’t know. I was about eight at the time, so I can’t really be sure. He was standing outside of the party tent, anyway, talking to someone.”

“Who was this someone? Do you remember what they were talking about?” Neville asked.

I shook my head. “No… I couldn’t see the other person. It was a man, I think. I don’t think I remember what they were talking about. Maybe about someone. And Hogwarts? I… It was so long ago, and I could be terribly wrong.”

“Amelia, why didn’t you tell anyone?”

“I-I don’t know! I thought that you or Hannah knew him, that he must’ve been a friend.”

Neville sighed, closing his eyes. “Thank you, Amelia, for telling me. I might share this information with some of my friends at the Ministry. Is that okay?”

I paled.

“You won’t get into trouble, I promise,” Neville said reassuringly.

“Okay then... Can I get back to work?”

“Of course, of course. See you in a bit,” Neville said before heading back to his office.

When I reentered the greenhouse, James swore.

“My mum’s going to kill me!” he cried, examining a tear in the side of his cloak.

“What happened?” I wondered, inspecting it with him.

“Got caught on a nail! Bugger.”

“I’m sure you could sew it back up,” I said confidently, putting my gloves back on.

“First I’d have to learn how to sew!” James said. “Anyway, this cloak’s new. I got it a couple weeks ago for my birthday… Gah!” He swatted the torn bit away.

“Happy belated birthday,” I said, taking a bowl of spores. “You’re lucky yours is in the fall. Mine’s on Boxing Day, so it gets overshadowed by Christmas festivities.”

James raised his eyebrows. “That sucks. The attention you get on your birthday is awesome. I’ve gotten some pretty wicked gifts…” James quickly changed the subject to something I was sure he was dying to discuss. “Say, what did Nev--Professor Longbottom-- want with you just now?”

Kirby took a brief pause in the rhythm of his work, intrigued. I gave a small smile. “He wanted a prefect’s perspective on things.” True enough, I thought. “It seems like we’re nearly finished...”

When our work pleased Neville, he released us back to the castle. I must admit, it was hard to part with those earmuffs, much to James’ amusement. Kirby, James, and I walked in silence. It was past ten o’clock, and we were tired from working the hard soil.

“Well, this is me,” I said when we came to the entrance hall. “Dungeons. Lovely place for a common room, isn’t it?”

“The loveliest,” agreed James. Kirby muttered a goodnight. The boys turned to continue to their dormitories. I finally plucked up the courage to say something.

“Potter? Er, James?”

He stopped, turning around. “What?”

“When you said that… that my new attitude suits me…” I paused, formulating the right words in my mind.

“Yeah?” he prompted. In the distance, Kirby looked uncertain if he should have stopped to listen in on this conversation.

“Well, I want you to know that I like who I was when I was an authoritative prefect just like how I like myself now as a cheekier one. I don’t need to seek approval from my peers.”

James cocked his head to the side, seemingly at a loss for words. At first, I thought that I mussed up our new flow, but what he said erased my doubts.

“I appreciate you telling me this, Amelia. I don’t want you to seek my approval for your cheeky behavior. I want you to be cheeky because you seem happier when you are.”

“Okay, then.” My relief was unexpected. “I’m glad we cleared that up. Good night.”

“Good night, Amelia.”

The memories from detention stayed with me long after that night. When I saw James in Ancient Runes class, he greeted me kindly. Even little Kirby threw me a smile when we passed in the corridors. But Neville did inform his Ministry friends about what I might have seen. I was asked to give an official statement (with Aunt Susan present since I was underage) one Saturday afternoon, in Professor McGonagall’s office to keep it quiet from the student body. The Auror was nice enough. She asked me to recall the events, and I repeated what I had told Neville.

Both recounts, though, I glossed over the end, when I made eye contact with Cassius Vaisey.

I had been too terrified to move as they continued to talk in the shadows outside of the wedding tent. I could tell that what the two men were saying was not good. The excitement from the game I had been playing had been consumed by a paralyzing terror.

“Amelia? Where are you? We’re playing a new game now!” a voice had called behind me.

Vaisey had turned around at hearing the voice, and I knew then that he saw me. He smiled at me, and it was all that I could do to look away in terror.

“Amelia!” The voice had found me.

“Yeah?” My voice was shaky.

“Louis and Dominique are setting the rules. Let’s go play! Come on!” James Potter, aged nine, led the way back into the party tent, to where the other kids were waiting to begin a new game. When I had looked back to see the two men, they were gone.

--

It’s morning. A numb disbelief throbs throughout my body. How can I be here, right now? It was so real; I felt like I was back in fifth year again, in detention with James.

James.

The Resurrection Stone sits on my nightstand. I quickly snatch it and place it in my jewelry box, securing a lock. A shoddy hiding place, I know, but for now, it’s the best I can do.

I walk over to my wardrobe and open its contents. Searching, I finally find what I’m looking for. I put my pair of galactic earmuffs on and crawl back into bed.

It was so real. But it was a dream. Or a memory. I can’t tell.

The earmuffs are soft beneath my fingertips and too hot for my ears, but I don’t care. These earmuffs are what I have left from the detention.

No, these aren’t the ones that Neville had in his storage. No. These are perhaps the most perplexing thing from detention because when it was Boxing Day about seven weeks later, or my sixteenth birthday, I received these earmuffs as a present.

I remember what the card said.

Happy Birthday, Amelia! I was out shopping with my family, and I saw these. I remember how much you coveted the ones from detention. Hope these fill the gaping hole that was left by the original pair and the fact that your birthday is the day after Christmas. Have a good rest of your holiday. James.


---

A/N: Anything you recognize is JKR's.
What are your thoughts? Lots of James in this chapter (finally)! And who is Cassius Vaisey? Does anyone else want a pair of galactic earmuffs? Please leave a review. Your thoughts are most encouraging!

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