A month later, I stumbled into my room and fell face first into my bed. Sleep came almost instantly and I knew I’d wake up without concerns of what I’d gotten into that night. The hangover I’d face in the morning was well worth the escape it offered the night before.
Clearly, I wasn’t in a great place back then. What happened with Logan didn’t just break my heart, it broke all of me. Her rejection was one hurt to process, but worse was the hurt I inflicted on her. A hurt she’d never even know and still carry around with her every day.
At first I thought I could cope. They were just memories after all and why couldn’t we just make new ones? If anything it could have been a fresh start right? But memories are the worst form of torture.
I quit the museum after the first day going back. I stopped by the water cooler and she didn’t even glance my way. Turns out there isn’t a pain in this world as crushing as being ignored by someone you have feelings for.
This wasn’t a break-up. It wasn’t rejection. It was a violation and it was my fault.
So I quit. And I sulked. And I drank.
“James...Mate you’ve had enough, yeah?”
Freddie put a hand on my shoulder, but I shook it away and knocked on the countertop to signal the bartender that I wanted another round.
“I decide when I’ve had enough. I decide. It’s my choice. You don’t get to take that away from me.”
I couldn’t even bring myself to look at him. Instead, I stared at the small glass in front of me before downing the brown liquor in one go.
“Come on, Potter, we can have it out back at the flat - don’t do this here.”
I noticed the bartender was leaning against the counter across the center with a towel slung over his shoulder. He seemed to have a conversation with Freddie through a couple of expressions - he was cutting me off.
I rolled my eyes and huffed, “Why not here? S’as good a place as any I reckon...”
“You don’t want this in The Prophet, mate...come on, let’s walk a bit yeah?”
In that moment I hated my best friend. Because he was right.
I started to get up and stumbled, he held out a hand to catch me, but again I shoved it away. I could feel the eyes of all the wizards in the pub staring at me.
Something about their stares just made me snap. Because it was their fault to begin with. If wizards didn’t care who I was I never would have made the bet with my father. If they just let me live my life without note I wouldn’t have fallen for a muggle.
Did they want a show? Did they want something to read about in The Prophet over their morning tea? Why not have it out here Freddie? Everything I say and do is scrutinized - why not yours? Why not the Ministry?
“Why didn’t you stop them?!” I spun away from the glaring eyes and instead looked at friend for the first time in weeks. “How could you just let them do that to her?! And for what?”
I shoved him for even attempting to give me an excuse - there was none.
“I could have just left, Freddie. I would have done - if that was the consequence!” I shoved him again, “Suspended my wand, pay a fine...they didn’t have to obliviate her!”
“Lay off him Potter!”
Gemma rushed between the two of us before I swing at him again.
“This isn’t his fault!” She shouted loud enough to tell me she wasn’t afraid to cause a scene.
“He was just doing his job - which you wouldn’t understand seeing as those are really just hobbies to you. The rest of us have responsibilities. We don’t get to pick and choose which orders we follow - we just have to put food on our table.”
Her voice had fallen slightly in volume, but its sternness was still unwavering, “She’s perfectly healthy. The same person she was before she fell for your games so she might even be better off.”
She decided to finish off her tirade by shoving me in return, which caused me to stumble back in my drunken state.
“Gemma don’t-” Freddie caught me again, but again I pushed away from him and found my own feet to stand on.
“No. I’m not going to let him rant and rave to you about how unfair this world is and then blame you for it! This is his own damn fault and he knows it!”
Freddie had given up on helping me and instead seemed to decide his time was better spent holding back his girlfriend who was now in full assault mode.
I didn’t need any of this. I definitely didn’t need to hear from the woman responsible for what happened. I left her with Gemma. I trusted her to take care of her, to fix the mess I made - and what did she let happen?
“I told him to stay away from her!”
Gemma shouted again and I had to fight back tears that were welling in the corner of my eyes from the frustration of everything. I huffed angrily and headed for the doors, pushing both open to exit.
I clenched my jaw to bite back the emotion trying to escape, but Gemma was right out the door behind me.
“You messed up, Potter! Welcome to the consequences!”
Freddie grabbed her arm before wrapping her into a bear hug to hold her in place as I continued down the pavement. It didn’t matter that Freddie had kept her away, her words were what cut me.
“If anything about this world is unfair it’s that you’ve only just now had to face any of them.”
The next four months were the longest Freddie and I had ever gone without talking. Again, my fault. Rose and Scorpius bought a cottage out in Chudleigh to be closer to his team so I took advantage of my brother’s now empty room. Freddie tried to reach out, to apologize, but I couldn’t hear any of it. Because the truth of it was that Gemma was right. She and Freddie weren’t authorized to perform obliviations - neither of them could have performed it. This wasn’t my friend’s fault - or even the ministry’s. I knew the risks of everything I was doing and thought I knew better. I was acting like a petulant child - but knowing that didn’t resolve anything. I had already given into despair.
And despair does a funny thing to a person. It hides under anger and fear until it’s conquered enough of your heart and mind to show its true face. By then it’s convinced you that isolation is safer than friendship. That numbness is better than the pain. That there is no escape, there is no getting better. It carves out your dreams, your passion, your hope and leaves you hollow so now the pain just echoes around in the emptiness.
And it’d be one thing if people saw the shell of the person you’d become. Anyone with a heart would try to help - but they don’t see that do they? Because depression doesn’t look like tears or tantrums. Loneliness doesn’t want company. It tells you to smile so people don’t ask you what’s wrong. It convinces you to stop going out every night because it draws attention. Instead you blend back into the crowd. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps and trudge forward. But you’ve built up walls and pushed out the dangerous people. The ones who could actually help.
I was headed for this existential crisis long before everything happened with Logan - if anything she just staved off the inevitable. I filled the void of magic with Logan and now the void of Logan with alcohol.
I’m not really sure what snapped me out of that darkness. I think Albus should get a lot of the credit. A part of me thought I was in love with Logan. I always said I loved my family, but those months living with Albus I gained a new understanding of the word. I was an unmitigated ass during that time. But never did Albus hold it against me. Never did he turn it back on me. Albus didn’t put restraints on people. He didn’t judge people. He was the most annoying person in the world because he truly loved people. When given the chance to meet frustration with fury he instead chose kindness.
And there isn’t really anything that fixes you. There’s not a book to read or a tea to drink. Maybe there is a conversation you could have, some words put in the right order to snap you back, but I didn’t hear any of them. For me it was just time. Time to get perspective. Time to actually be alone rather than just think I was.
My brother was great at being alone. He was comfortable with who he was and he seemed to have a good grasp on what he wanted for his life. One day it just occurred to me that I was proud of him. I’d resented him for so long for being put together, but I suddenly admired him for it instead.
Albus helped me learn that I didn’t have to live in the guilt I felt. That, even if I did something awful, the only way forward was to try and be better for it. What happened, happened. There was no taking it back - not even for a wizard. So forward was the only direction possible.
And then one day I caught myself smiling and I realized it wasn’t me pretending to smile. And I heard myself laugh at my sister for mispronouncing a word. And I found the strength within me to forgive myself - and knew that I needed to ask forgiveness from others.
Of course Freddie hadn’t held anything against me. Things would never be back to how they were, but that didn’t mean they still couldn’t be good times. Gemma and I still had some tension, but I could see she was trying just as hard as I was to stay civil - and not just for Freddie’s sake.
Gemma was the one who saw the potential in me and she’d been right. The few months I worked translating those runes was the most satisfying work I’d done - but I still wasn’t one for an office setting.
She was able to get my job back at the museum, but with the ministry’s team rather than the muggle’s. Logan had started her fellowship, so there was no fear of running into her - but her memory still haunted the halls. So I was chuffed when my supervisor suggested I start a field rotation.
I was still a rebel after all - but at least now I had a cause.
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