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There wasn’t much time left in my fifth year. O.W.L.s were rapidly approaching, and Gryffindor was going against Hufflepuff in the Quidditch cup. When James and I managed to find a time to meet between my revision sessions and his practices, we didn’t have much motivation to do further research on the Hallows. Mostly, we filled our time with snogging, which added blazing fuel to the rumor mill and to Victoria’s absolute delight. “I’ll hex all the haters!” she had proclaimed as she embraced me with such force that we fell onto her bed after I had told her what had happened underneath the Invisibility Cloak.

The rumor mill also embraced me with as much gusto as Victoria, but it wasn’t of the ‘Oh-my-God-tell-me-everything’ variety.

“What the hell does Potter see in you?” sneered Fallon Gamp as I passed her in the Great Hall about a two weeks after James’ and my first kiss.

“That’s her! Potter’s girlfriend! A Slytherin. Can you imagine?” some fourth year Gryffindors said to themselves. I got the sense that they hadn’t intended for me to hear, but their whispers weren’t quiet enough.

“Yeah. They were partners in Ancient Runes and now this.” “How romantic!” This exchanged came from a couple of Hufflepuffs, who didn’t notice that I was walking behind them.

“She’s rather sullen for James Potter, don’t you think?” debated a group of sixth years of a variety of Houses when I walked past their table in the library.

“What do you see in my brother?” Albus Potter directly asked me one evening at dinner.

I told myself that the rumors and these comments would eventually pass, which didn’t make it easier to ignore. James didn’t seem to care as much I did. “Let them talk,” he declared, rolling his eyes.

“But do you hear anything like that?” I asked. We were walking to the grounds after lunch; James had Care of Magical Creatures, and I had Herbology.

James shrugged. “Not really,” he admitted, “but being a Potter means that I’m used to being in the spotlight, so maybe I just filter those comments out.” He smiled down at me. I didn’t return it. “Come on, Amelia. School’s almost out. People will calm down soon.” I didn’t really find that particularly comforting, but I let the topic drop, especially since we had to part ways to our separate classes.

During the last day of school, James and I found some time together. Summer was just around the corner, and the sun graced the grounds of Hogwarts with pleasant warmth and cool breezes. We found a spot under some birch trees, which gave us from privacy from the other students enjoying the good weather. My O.W.L.s were finally finished, which meant I could focus more on the Hallows. James had other ideas.

“Okay,” I breathed, breaking apart from James. “I have to figure out what I’m doing this summer for the Hallows. I think I have to continue finding out about the schools... ”

“Amelia,” complained James, kissing my forehead, “you just finished your bloody O.W.L.s and instead of spending some quality time with me, you want to talk about doing more work.” His finger messaged my left temple, and I had to swallow down the urge to kiss him again.

“As much fun as the past… Merlin, however long this afternoon has been, I have to have some idea of what I’m going to do before I leave Hogwarts, otherwise I fear I may not do anything at all over the summer.”

“Except write to me, of course,” James said, wrapping his arm around my shoulder. Behind his confident tone, I could tell there was a tiny plea for reassurance.

I nodded into his arm. “Yeah, of course…” I trailed off for a moment. “James,” I began slowly, “I’ve been wondering…” I leaned forward again, facing him.

“Yeah?” He rested his back against a tree.

I tucked some dark strands of hair behind my ear, biting my lip. “Well, it’s kinda about writing to you over the summer--which I want to do,” I added hastily at seeing the worry in his eyes. “But I’m wondering if that makes us… I dunno… something.”

“Something?” James furrowed his brow.

“Yeah, you know… like more than just two people who snog,” I said awkwardly, trying to keep a blush from spreading across my face.

“‘More than just two people who snog?’ Crickey, Amelia, you have a way with words.” James chuckled softly. He picked up a long blade of grasses and rubbed it between his fingers.

“Well, what am I supposed to call this?” I wondered, crossing my arms. “We were study partners and then… Hallows researchers and now… two people who spend a lot of time kissing! Like, are we ‘official?’ Or is this casual dating? Or are we friends with benefits, or…?”

“I thought it was obvious,” James said, casting aside the blade of grass. He leaned forward on his knees and adjusted his glasses.

Heat spread across my face. “Er, not to me, sorry,” I told him softly.

A small flush crawled up his neck. “Well, I thought you were my girlfriend,” he admitted.

I raised my eyebrows. “Oh,” I said.

“What?” James reached out an arm to me but retreated it on a second thought. “You aren’t?”

“Er, not sure,” I muttered, twisting my robe’s fabric in my clammy hands. “I mean… we haven’t been on an actual date. We missed the last Hogsmeade weekend.”

“What do you call this, then?” James wondered.

I shrugged. “I dunno. Hanging out?”

“Hanging out?” James repeated.

“Yeah… I mean, I feel like we’re pretty casual… “ James gave me a sharp look. “And I wasn’t sure if we are casual… or something more serious… “

He thought for a moment. “Well, do you want to be boyfriend and girlfriend?”

The question burned in the air between us, despite the cool breeze. I wondered if the flare of panic on James’ face was reflected on mine, too. I took a deep breath.

“On one condition,” I said.

“Which is what?” James asked, alarmed.

I scooted closer to him, gazing at him suggestively. “You must promise me that if it ever comes down to us wanting to finish the last piece of bacon, I get to be the one who does,” I said smugly.

“Ah,” James said, keeping down a smile. “You drive a tough bargain, but I accept--though I won’t promise to make it easy for you.”

“Good,” I smiled, learning closer to him. His scent made me dizzy, but his touch grounded me with its zaps of tingling energy. James rested his arms on my shoulders and pulled me to him.


--


The Muggle law enforcement sirens blare all around us. I keep my wand hidden in my robes, though I know I shouldn’t be loitering in Muggle London much longer because of how un-Muggle-like I’m dressed. I find myself unable to leave.

Aurors are dashing around the place, finding crying Muggles and wounded witches and wizards. Healers in lime green robes assemble a first aid area, treating both magical and nonmagical people alike. Victoria, who has found her grounding now that the fighting is over, has pulled me to the curb as she examines me. I let her poke and prod me; my eyes are on Harry Potter, who is standing at the spot where James stood minutes ago. An older Auror and a wizard I recognize as Ron Weasley stand with him. They appear to be in deep conversation.

“Ow!” I hiss, turning to Victoria and pulling my arm away from her.

“Hold still! You scraped your elbow when you fell,” my friend says sternly, pulling my arm back to her. She rolls up my sleeve, and I notice blood has mixed from the dust of the explosions.

When I look up again, my heart seizes. The Minister for Magic, Hermione Granger-Weasley, has joined Harry… along with Ginny Potter, who shaking her head repeatedly and covering her mouth with trembling hands. Harry reaches hesitantly towards his wife’s shoulder, but she moves out of reach, lowering her hands to say something that makes Harry and Hermione step back as if physically stricken. Ron embraces his sister, who begins to weep into his shoulder.

Chest heavy, I look away from the shattering family and take shuddering breaths. Not enough oxygen is coming into my body.

“There, there,” Victoria says as she finishes putting a bandage on my elbow. “It’s going to be okay, Amelia.”

I shake my head and look down at my trembling hands. “C-can’t breathe…” I gasp. “Why...can’t I breathe?”

Victoria sits next to me and rubs my back. “It’s okay, Amelia. You’re having a panic attack,” she says soothingly.

This… is NOT… a panic attack!” I wheeze, throwing her off of me. My heart and lungs shrivel inside of me, and the world pulsates around me. My stomach twists in painful knots. I begin to dry heave.

“Can we get a Calming Draught over here?” Victoria bellows as she kneels in front of me. “Amelia, it’s okay… It’s going to be okay…”

“Stop fucking saying that!” I shout, holding my head in my hands. My cheeks are wet, and that’s when I realize that I’ve been crying. I let out a loud sob. Whenever I close my eyes, I see James standing among the NeoGrindelwalds.

A goblet is brought to my lips. “Here. Drink this,” Victoria says, tipping it into my mouth.

In moments, my breaths settle and a gentle numbness controls my limbs and head. My heart and lungs feel like they’ve expanded again. My thoughts are still of James, but they’re able to focus on what’s happening right now outside of myself.

“Better?” Victoria asks.

I nod weakly. “Thanks,” I murmur. I’m able to glance around again. Rescue workers are combing through the collapsed building across the street. The Aurors are speaking with the Muggle authorities. The Potters and Weasleys have moved from their spot, and I look up and down the street for any sign of them.

“Let’s get you back to Diagon Alley,” Victoria says as she lifts me to my feet. My legs stagger forward until I find my footing again.

“How come you’re so calm?” I ask her as we walk past a group of Healers who are fixing up some cuts on people. My stomach sours at seeing the blood. Did James inflict any of these injuries? Any of these deaths?

I race over to a rubbish bin and vomit.

“Well, there goes the Calming Draught,” mutters Victoria as she lifts my hair back for me. I dry heave a couple times, shakily clutching onto the bin. The smell makes me even more nauseous. “Let’s get out of here.”

As we near the entrance to Diagon Alley, I hear my name being called. We turn around to see Harry rushing over to us. I am lightheaded again, and my stomach churns uncomfortably.

“Amelia! Sorry to catch you like this,” he says as he gets a better look at me. I probably have blood and dust and vomit all over me. Harry readjusts his glasses, and his frown deepens.

“Hello, Mr. Potter. I’m sorry, too,” I tell him. My focused tone surprises me, but I’m thankful for it.

“I… I just need to know…” Harry trails off. His posture is hunched; his demeanor reminds me of a wounded animal trying to hide its injuries. “Did you have any idea that… that James…?“

I shake my head, forcing back tears. “No,” I say. “No. I had no idea that he would be here today… with them.”

Harry massages his temples. “Right. Thanks. I needed to hear it from you,” he says.

“You don’t think James was doing this on his own free will, surely?” Victoria asks. I’m torn between being grateful that she has voiced this burning question and wanting to throttle her neck for asking a question that can lead to the possibility that James, in fact, was here today voluntarily.

Harry sighs. “I don’t… We don’t know yet,” he tells her. “Our investigation of this incident has only begun.” He returns his piercing green gaze back to me. “Again, let me know if you receive any tidbit of information regarding the NeoGrindelwalds… and James. And remember what you promised me.”

I slowly nod, thinking of my promise to not go looking for the other Hallows. “Yes, sir.”

“Good. Now I think it’s best for you to go home and get some rest,” he tells me. “Goodbye.” And like that, Harry rejoins the Aurors, delegating tasks as Muggles and wizards alike try to put this little corner of the world back together again. I ponder if he’s tried putting back together his own world. I’m not convinced that his marriage is in a good spot right now and wonder how he’s able to parent his two younger children with everything that’s happening. But who I see here, right now, is Harry Potter, Head of the Magical Law Enforcement Office, taking the lead in defending other people’s lives and building peace. Not the Harry Potter who may be losing his own family.


--


When James and I came home for the summer holidays at the end of my fifth year and his sixth, his first letter arrived a few days into our break.

STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING. READ THE LIFE AND LIES OF ALBUS DUMBLEDORE BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING ELSE.

His second later came a day later, which apologized for the brief message from the day before.

Dear Amelia,
I’m sorry if my previous letter seemed a bit rushed and impersonal. I wrote it in a hurry because my parents wanted to take us to Diagon Alley, and I was in the middle of freaking out about the book. I started reading it because our research about the Hallows has made me wonder what has happened to the other two (the wand and the stone). I know Voldemort used the wand, but what happened to it after he fell? And where is the stone? I hoped reading this book would be a good start, since my dad always references how Dumbledore told him everything that he needed to know--and that my aunt used this book to help them win the war. Please tell me that you’ve started to read it. Take a look at Dumbledore’s youth. He was friends with Grindelwald! And look how Dumbledore signed his name… Can you believe that he knew about the Hallows? And that he had anti-Muggle sentiments? My dad always has talked so highly of him--he named my poor brother after the man, for Merlin’s sake. It seems like Dumbledore had a change of heart at some point in his life…

Anyway, I hope that this news is helpful to you. I’m not sure if it answers any of your questions about what your mother is doing, and I’m afraid that the answers you’re looking for will not be happy ones.

How is your summer going? Lily and I have played Quidditch everyday. We even coaxed Albus into playing once, but that’s mostly because I confiscated his favorite set of Wizard’s chess and wouldn’t give it back until he played. I love doing magic while he can’t! I’m going to see my cousins later today at my grandparents’ house. Have I told you about that place? They call it the Burrow, and it’s a house that’s expanded as my grandparents had kids--seven of them! I’m looking forward to seeing the cousins, and even Teddy, who officially isn’t a cousin, but I overheard my mum talking to one of my aunts saying that she expects him to soon propose to my cousin, Victoire.

Please write back soon. Hope you’re doing well.
James.


My response, sent a day later:

Dear James,
Thank you for both of your letters. The first one was startling and confusing, but I found a battered copy of the book in my aunt’s things and started to read. I was as shocked as you were to read about Dumbledore and Grindelwald… how horrible that their friendship ended at the death of Dumbledore’s sister. But seeing the Hallows hidden in Dumbledore’s past makes me wonder if my insistence to read about Hogwarts and Durmstrang is even worth it--and wipe that smug smile off your face.
Hogwarts, A History will remain one of my references throughout my research whether you read it or not! Maybe I can persuade you to finish reading it, somehow…

My summer is rather dull. I’ve been doing some research into the Hallows, but your discovery has proven to be the most helpful. My foreseeable future will involve researching about Dumbledore and Grindelwald, so perhaps not much is different while I’m at home than if I were still at Hogwarts.

Your gathering at the Burrow seems to be quite the event. I’ve never really been to such large family gatherings, so I can only imagine the hoards of cousins roaming around the place. I bet that this fact provided you with countless hours of entertainment while growing up. Do you have a particular favorite memory of time with your cousins?

Anyway, I should be going. Aunt Susan and Uncle Michael like to promote a strong family atmosphere, so I’m due to help in the garden. After getting used to the hot sun, it hasn’t been so bad. Have a good week, Amelia


There were a few more letters between the two of us, talking about nothing and a little bit of everything. Then one day, I wrote:

James,
Have you read through
The Daily Prophet lately? There have been a couple magical attacks throughout Europe recently, and they’ve all been against Muggles. There have been mentions of how these are similar to the times of Grindelwald. Do you think there’s a connection there? I remember my mother telling me to ignore what newspapers and even my teachers said about The Cause, and I’m beginning to wonder if these attacks are what she was implying…

I’ve stopped wearing my grandfather’s pendant. It belonged to him, and I wish I could wear it because of that, but since it was locked in his Gringotts vault, I’m beginning to understand why he didn’t wear it himself: it was Grindelwald’s sign.

Oh, James, I feel so ill when I think about it all.


His response, sent later the same evening:

Dear Amelia,
I must admit, I haven’t been reading
The Prophet at all this summer. I looked through my parents’ latest edition and found something about an attack against Muggles in Munich. ‘A band of wizards in dark green robes.’ That surely suggests that something is brewing. When I asked my dad about it, he said that it is probably only a matter of time before things happen in Britain, and that he reassured me that the Aurors are doing all they can to stop these attacks before they happen. I hope you can glean some comfort from that. It’s too early to say if your mum and The Cause are directly involved, so try not to worry, okay? Sincerely, James

His next letter contained several more developments.

Amelia,
I hope you’re feeling better about everything. I think I found something that could be useful for our search for the Hallows. Every year, my dad takes us to Godric’s Hollow, where he lived as a baby before Voldemort killed his parents. We visit our grandparents’ graves. This year, I was looking at other tombstones, and I found one with the symbol of the Hallows on it! The name is Ignotus Peverell. His dates are 1214-1292. I wonder if any wizarding genealogy books will connect his family with yours? Who knows? He might be the reason why your family is tied up in the Hallows!

Anyway, I have some other exciting news! Teddy is finally proposed to my cousin, Victoire! And he’s asked me to be his best man in the wedding. Me! It should take place this winter, we think.

Also… Teddy’s found out about you. He’s keen to meet you, but I think he may have something up his sleeve. At the start of my third year, I sorta barged in on him and Victoire snogging. I was so taken aback and scandalized at the idea of snogging that I gave him a hard time, and I don’t think he’s fully forgotten about it. So don’t be shocked if he says or does anything to make you uncomfortable--it’ll be directed at me, I assure you.

And I think I’ve had a change of heart about snogging, don’t you agree?

The rest of my time is filled with Quidditch. I’m determined to have Gryffindor win the Quidditch Cup this year, and maybe I can even get into the leagues when I graduate. That would be awesome! I have all these new ideas for the team (which I can’t tell you, seeing as you’re a Slytherin, sorry), so it’s a good thing that we’re returning to Hogwarts soon. I also look forward to catching up with you properly. See you soon, James


My response:

Dear James,
Thank you for the new tidbit of information on Ignotus Peverell. I know exactly the book I want to use, but it’s at Hogwarts! So I’ll have to wait to find out any more about that. Otherwise, I’ve been reading about the rise of Grindelwald. Did you know that he went to Durmstrang and was expelled? It makes me wonder if my mother’s intention to send me to Durmstrang is somehow related to this… Anyway, the whole topic is too grim to write in a letter, so I’ll leave those explanations for later, if you’re willing to hear them.

Congratulations on being asked to be best man! I’m sure you’ll do the job well. If you’re worried that Teddy will somehow make me uncomfortable in order to make you embarrassed, you can always remind him that you have the prime opportunity to embarrass him back at his wedding as his best man. This will make it his choice on how to proceed, ha!

I’m counting the days until Hogwarts. My cousin, Helen, is starting her first year there, and that’s all she ever talks about. It will be nice to get back into the swing of things--with you and everything else. And if you have changed your mind about snogging, as you’ve claimed in your last letter, then clearly you haven’t done enough to see how scandalous it can be.
Scandalously yours, Amelia



--


When Aunt Susan rushes inside a little while after Victoria escorts me home, she finds me sitting on the staircase. Her reaction tells me that she’s heard about today’s attack outside of Diagon Alley.

“Amelia!” she exclaims, dropping her bag and rushing to me. She hugs me to her and sits next to me on the top step. “Thank Merlin you’re okay!” She pulls me closer to her, and I wrap my arms feebly around her.

“Aunt Susan…” My voice cracks.

“My girl, my dear, dear girl,” she coos as I begin to sob. She massages small circles on my shoulders, making soothing noises.

“All my fault!” I choke. “He was there… and he wouldn’t’ve been… if it weren’t for me!”

Aunt Susan pulls back the hair in my face and lifts my chin, so I can meet her eyes. “Amelia,” she begins firmly, “what happened today is not your fault. What happened to James is not your fault. We still don’t know if James was in his own mind this afternoon. There’s still hope.”

I shake my head. “It’s never going to end,” I wail. “The NeoGrindelwalds will fight to the death. Look at what happened with my father! Look at what my mother has done!”

Aunt Susan lets me cry until all the energy I have left is to curl up to to her and lay my head in her lap. “Amelia, I know it hasn’t been easy. First with your mum, then with your dad, and then with James… You’ve done everything that you can do. Now, it’s time for you to let go and move on.” I open my mouth to retort, but no words come. “I know that this isn’t what you want to hear,” she continues, stroking my hair. “But it will be good for you to start establishing your life, so you can find some happiness… I love you so very much, and I hope that you’ll one day be able to fully accept my love.”

After a little while, Aunt Susan leads me into the bathroom and draws me a bath. Numbly, I allow her to take off my filthy robes. I’m too tired to be bashful of my nakedness. I see her face when she glances at the tattoo I got a few weeks back, but it’s mostly surprise and she doesn’t say anything about it, but I can tell that she wants to. I let her guide me into the hot bath.

“I’ll go downstairs to make some tea, for when you’re done,” she says gently, kissing the top of my forehead. She closes the door behind her.

The soapy bubbles smell of lavender. I sit motionless in the warm water until I can feel that my fingers are pruned. The water doesn’t get cold; Aunt Susan must have put a charm on the bath. I put my head under the water, letting the fluid surround me, letting it dull the world around me, letting it hold me in its hydrous embrace.

I reemerge to the surface, gasping for air. Now, more than ever, I am confident about this: despite everything that has happened, I am still in love with James Potter.

“It’s still my fault,” I say aloud.

It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. All of it. My fault. Everything. Mine.



---

A/N: Anything you recognize belongs to JKR.

Another chapter! I had to divide this up. Originally, this chapter was supposed to take us to Hogwarts for Amelia's sixth year, but it has grown to be so long!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this installment. Amelia (in the past) is getting closer and closer to the truth of the Hallows; I loved writing the letters! In both the past and present, I feel like this has been a huge chapter of growth for Amelia, though there are still some things she needs to work on. I drew a lot of what Amelia is feeling from my own guilt from previous relationships. I'm happy to say that I'm much better now, and it's been so insightful to write some of this guilt into a character like Amelia. And I'm thankful I get to share this with all of you!

I would love to hear your thoughts. :)

[Edit: Chapter previously titled "This Thing Called Love." All content has remained the same.]

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