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Falling Back In Love by Hasane
Format: Short story
Chapter 1: let the disappointment set in
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James was always an enthusiastic and confident child growing up. He grew up around Auror Harry Potter, who showed him the wonders of magic, had showed him how it fluttered around people faintly and played cloying games with them. Quidditch Reporter Ginny Weasley taught him how to be self-assured, to be sure in any decision he made in the present and future.
The both of them together took pleasure in teaching James the how to's and why's of quidditch, bringing him quidditch play sets, and acting out how the game works.
James, being the excitable child he was, immediately took on to quidditch like a moth to a flame.
He had once watched his mum and dad play, with the other adults while his cousins and siblings watched.
Out of all of them, James was predictably the most enthusiastic, rambling on to any poor soul seated next to him. To their credit, they merely nodded and hummed when need be, only sending exasperated looks to him once or twice. They understood that James was going to always be like this.
He absolutely loved how both his parents looked in the air, as if there was no place in the world they'd rather be. Their burdens of being the famous people they were seemed to vanish in thin air, and they flew freely on their brooms as if the possibilities were infinite.
James looked at them in awe, and thought to himself that he wanted to feel exactly like that, through any means possible, like the world was completely his for the taking. Quidditch happened to be the first chance he could get at it.
So he asked his parents—anybody who was the slightest bit willing really—to teach him how to fly a broom and actually play. And asked. And then asked some more. After a near week of his pestering, his whole entire family seemed to be wearing down slowly. The first to break was his dad. His dad couldn’t ever deny his children what they wanted, especially when they wanted it so bad.
Of course, James wasn’t any less happy at this; he had after all gotten what he wanted.
The day before his dad promised to teach him, James couldn’t sleep, for the excitement gave him too much energy.
He stayed up well into the night, for his jitters didn't let him sleep.
He woke up the next Saturday morning, practically jumping in his chair at the dining table, barely catching the food intended for his mouth.
His parents gave him an exasperatedly fond expression, and his siblings looked on in confusion.
James waited eagerly for his dad to finish his breakfast—honestly, how long does it take to eat eggs? Five minutes probably, if you eat like some kind of egg goblin. This was James’ train of thought at the prime age of ten. A little old to be starting to learn how to ride a broom, but not uncommon.
“Are you done?” James asked for what must have been the hundredth time.
His dad simply gave him an unimpressed look, and pushed away his plate.
James beamed at him, and darted outside, to their private quidditch pitch. He assumed that his dad had followed.
Waiting at the edge of the pitch, James bounced on the heels of his feet until his dad came into his view.
He approached, and promptly told him, “You forgot the broom. How can you fly without a broom?”
James shrugged, answering, “Wingardium Leviosa?” He had once seen the spell in a spell book, and it was the only spell that came to mind.
His dad cracked a grin, and shook his head. “I’ll go get the broom, and you wait here.”
James waited, taking pleasure in observing the quidditch pitch. It was empty, and few birds perched on top of the goal posts, and some took off alone. He admired them for a bit before his dad came back with the broom in hand.
He set the broom down in front of him, and began, “First thing’s first: rules.”
James almost groaned but refrained with immense effort. He had to be good if his dad was going to teach him.
“Don’t do anything I tell you not to. It’s important that you don’t fall off and break your arm or your leg. Also, since you’re just beginning—”
James couldn’t help it this time. He quipped, “But I’ve been on one of those kiddie brooms!”
His dad smiled a bit. “I know Jamie, but those automatically keep you safe from falling or crashing, and they’re charmed to go at certain speed without control. The one we’re going to use doesn’t do that.”
“Oh,” James said. It made him all the more excited, since this one was clearly for the ‘big kids.’
His dad clapped his hands, and said, “Alright! Ready?”
James jumped happily and nodded.
“Okay, first, say ‘up’ and that will bring the broom to your hands. Like this.” His dad demonstrated, putting his arm out up above the broom and doing what he said. “You try.”
James did what his dad said, saying “Up!” as confidently as he can. He frowned when the broom didn’t come to his hand like it did when his dad did it.
He glanced up at his dad, who gave him a reassuring look. “Try again,” he said.
James did try again. Once again nothing. He tried again, but louder, thinking that would help. James blinked rapidly. He kept shouting ‘up’ repeatedly. He only stopped when his dad put one arm around his waist, the other rubbing his back.
“It’s alright, Jamie,” his dad said soothingly, “nobody ever gets it right the first time. We’ll try again tomorrow.”
It was at this point that James realized that a few tears had leaked out in his frustration, and hid his head in his dad’s neck out of embarrassment.
“Okay,” James agreed meekly, nodding into his dad’s neck. “Tomorrow it is.”
The next day, James waited for his dad all the same, but except maybe a little less ecstatic. He still ran out the front door before his dad could, and his dad walked after him.
The broom was in front of him again, lying on the grassy ground innocently.
James was about to yell ‘up’ again, but he faltered, and frowned. Just to make sure, he asked, “How do you do it again?”
“Like this,” his dad told him patiently, demonstrating once more.
James nodded, taking in a shaky breath. It did nothing to calm him down, but he couldn’t give up, not now, and definitely not in front of his dad. He had to prove he could do it on his own.
“Up!” James said determinedly, jutting out his arm the same as he needs to. His determination wavered when it stayed steady on the ground. His eyebrows furrowed, and couldn’t help his quivering lips. He blinked rapidly again like yesterday, and asked in a small voice, “Why isn’t it working?”
For once, his dad’s pleasant expression faltered, briefly expressing worry and sympathy. It was gone as fast as it came. “I’m not sure, Jamie,” he said carefully, trying not to make his son burst out into tears as he was close to doing.
Suddenly, an idea popped into his mind, and his dad flashed a smile at him. “Hey, why don’t we ride the broom together? I’ll fly it, and you sit in the back. You can see what it feels like to fly. How’s that?”
Slowly, James’ sad expression cleared up, and a tentative smile took its place. He nodded slowly, saying, “Okay.”
His dad picked up the broom and swung his leg over it. He sat comfortably on the floating broom, hands clutching it tightly.
“Get on,” his dad told him.
James did as told, and winded his arms tightly around his dad’s waist.
“Ready?” he asked.
“Yeah,” James murmured, resolutely looking at the ground.
The broom slowly ascended, and went higher and higher into the air until the grassy pitch looked like a giant green blobby mess.
His dad leaned forward slightly, and James tightened his hold for fear of falling off. Flying was a sensational feeling, but ultimately a better feeling when you’re not falling your death.
The broom sped up, and James closed his eyes for a quick second, and then opened them again to be met with his surroundings blurring around him. The wind was slapping him on the face, and gasped for air involuntarily, but the feeling subsided.
Was this how his mum and dad and all the others felt? A pleasant feeling bled through him, not quite yet reaching his tingling toes. This must be it, that breathtaking feeling that courses through nearly everyone. Right?
They were making rounds around the pitch, and everything below him looked so small, caricatures compared to how real they were on the ground.
James let out a peal of laughter, and feeling of flying ultimately made him course with excitement.
After a few more rounds around the pitch, his dad descended, and they both set their feet onto the steady ground.
James’ balance was wobbly for a moment, but caught it in a second.
His dad asked him, “How was that?”
James smiled widely, and told him, “I loved it! When can we do it again?”
He let out a breathy laugh, relieved, and answered, “Maybe tomorrow.”
James nodded happily, and walked back home alongside his dad. Maybe tomorrow would be a better day to learn how to fly a broom.
It wasn’t. Neither was the next day. Or the next day. It took him weeks but after one particular learning session, James merely walked away after he didn’t get it the first time. He’d tried this many times, so if he tried again, where was the guarantee that it would be the next one he would get it?
James gave up. He was a persistent and tenacious child, but he had exhausted all of his tenacity, persistence, and energy. He’s fully into the idea that putting any more effort into something that he just won’t get isn’t worth it.
These are his thoughts, but he’s inexplicably saddened by the thought that after he outgrows his dad, he wouldn’t ever know the feeling of having the world in his hands anymore.
In the next month arrives the day he’s been waiting for: his eleventh birthday, August 25th. He might not know how to fly, but he is sure that he will experience the wonders of magic in the safe haven of Hogwarts.
He was sure of this. But he wasn't so sure when both his parents give sympathetic and saddened looks the day he turned eleven.
James ignored them steadfastly, and waited by the window all day, even when they told him they were having cake. Truly a selfless sacrifice, since cake was amongst the top tier of his favorite foods.
He waited. All day. But no hooting of owls signaled him to the deliverance of a letter, and there wasn’t any tapping on windows.
His parents pulled him back from the window and sat him down, and then sat down on the coffee table in front of him. James doesn’t like the faces they’ve donned, like the spent the whole day accepting… something. He’s not exactly sure what. He has a feeling they’re going to tell him now.
“James…” His parents shared a worried look.
“What?” James asked warily.
“I don’t—we don’t think you’re going to get your letter today,” his mum said softly, taking both of his hands in hers.
“Today?” James asked hopefully, latching on to it like a lifeline. He knew almost what was coming for him, and he wanted to avoid it all costs. “So it’ll come tomorrow? The day after? September first?”
His mum’s expression broke with each question, coming close to looking quite despairing. His dad on the other hand, hasn’t yet dropped his piteous look.
"No, James,” his dad said firmly, as if it was fixed in place. As if nothing could change it. Reality will hit him like a freight train, James was sure of this. He wishes he wasn’t. “You aren’t getting your letter at all. I don’t… I don’t think you’re going to Hogwarts.”
“Why?” James asks. He needed to hear the words. He needed an anchor to let himself know that, yes, this is all real. He has to know before everything under him shifted and cracked like cement.
His mum’s expression strained. She answered, “Because you’re a squib.”
James nodded frantically. He nodded so much, it’s almost as if he was a bobble head. He’s desperately trying not to cry, but ultimately he fails. Just like he failed at being a wizard. Just like he failed at flying.
Tears fell, and suddenly he’s crying, not able to keep in his cries, and he’s pulled in to the waiting arms of his parents, who stay with him the whole night. They didn’t move from the sofa, they simply sat there, letting James cry it out, and then sleep the rest of the night.
The day before any student at Hogwarts was to leave, James was at the Burrow, sitting next to his mum, who was sitting with the adults.
They were chatty as always, talking about some ministry business or quidditch teams as they were to do. Of course, most of them threw baffled glances at James, as they were surprised he wasn’t with Fred, or any of his other cousins outside.
James grimaced, and wondered how they were still able to talk so animatedly, not when he felt so miserable.
He sighed, and looked longingly out the window, to where all his cousins were. He wished he could be with them, but he didn’t think he could face them, even if it might be that last time in a few months he might get to see them.
It was tradition to meet at the Burrow the day before everybody leaves for Hogwarts, to have one last day before being subjected to the horrors of school.
Although, James would do anything to have the chance to suffer it.
"James, what are you still doing here?” the slightly haughty voice of his Uncle Percy asked.
James looked at him, surprised, not expecting anybody to actually address his presence.
“I was—” He halted, and shook his head. “I’m not feeling too well Uncle.”
Percy shot him a puzzled glance at that; James almost never called his uncles ‘uncle.’ It was mostly by their first name, or some variation of it.
His mum gave him a look she hoped told Percy to leave it alone. He did, slowly immersing him back into the conversation.
James spent the rest of the time laying his head on his mum’s shoulder, and drifting off occasionally, but being woken up by some loud noise. He ate dinner absentmindedly, quietly, once again to the surprise of his family. His mum and dad were the only ones who let him do so, knowing what’s wrong with him. They understood.
He quietly excused himself from the dinner table, and went to his designated room in the Burrow, and slept until the next day.
The next day, predictably, was cacophony of chaos. There were children screaming for their mothers to find this or that, and others frantically searching for an obscure item they had unfortunately misplaced. Some had even left the task of packing their clothes until today.
James, on the other hand, watched all of this happen on the sofa, leaning his head onto his propped arm. He sometimes gave away a half-smile at something one of his cousins said, but quickly faded once he remembered that he would not ever be a part of the chaos.
He waited for the chaos to subside, and for everybody to be seated in the ministry cars waiting to take them to King’s Cross.
The ride to the station was not quiet by any means, but James chose to keep his space.
This got him more attention than any one of his antics did, and James rolled his eyes, but he did not call them out on it.
Finally, they'd come to a stop at King's Cross, and James waited with his parents, who wound a comforting arm around him.
They'd crossed the gateway to Platform 9¾, and waited awkwardly for everybody to finish their goodbyes so he could just go home.
That is, until, Teddy had to break the silence.
"James, aren't you coming with us?" he asked.
James winced, and shook his head no.
"Why not? Your birthday was last... You didn't get your letter?" he asked, as realization dawned on him.
James once again shook his head no.
"Oh," Teddy said, somehow conveying his sadness in this one syllable. He turned to his godfather, and asked him, "Why didn't you tell me? I could've... I don't know, stayed with him—or, or something!"
Harry looked at him a little strangely, and then answered, "I didn't think it was my place to."
"They're gonna find out, you know," Teddy said warningly, eyeing his godfather suspiciously. "What are you going to do when the tabloids find out? They've been waiting for this day for so—for so long. They'll come for him like... like vultures."
His dad shook his head, and said, "I'm not—I'm not sure. Regulate it the best I can? Throw them a bone? I... I don't know. Get on the train or you're going to miss it."
Teddy gave him a long and hard stare, and then finally spun on his heel to leave, but not before tightly hugging James.
"I'll write to you," Teddy whispered in his ear, "I won't be gone long."
James nodded, not feeling much better. Teddy never promised to write, he just wrote random letters here and there to keep his family in the loop. Not to people specifically.
The ride to King’s Cross might’ve been quiet, but the ride back home certainly wasn’t.
It was a pretty big deal to everyone that this was the year that James Sirius Potter was going to Hogwarts, so naturally, everybody was going to be surprised that he wasn’t one of the students on the express. Including his siblings. It seemed that the concept of a squib was foreign to them, since the thought of there even being one in the family—in any wizarding family—was practically nonexistent.
They wouldn’t stop asking why James was coming home for a solid hour, and he tried to ignore them, he really did.
A sharp jab to his side from Lily was what made him crack.
“Quit it Lily!” James snapped. “I’m not going to Hogwarts!”
Ginny turned around and glared, a warning making itself known. James backed down.
Lily made herself smaller, but kept up her questions. “Why? Did you not get your letter? Are you not going because you were naughty?”
“No,” James said, still rather irked. “I don’t have the magic.”
“Don’t have the magic?” Lily tilted her head curiously.
“No magic?” Albus quietly said. “Like a squib?”
James’ façade shattered at the question, and dejectedly nodded yes.
Albus gave his older brother a sad look. James seemed to be getting a lot of those these days. “Oh.”
"Yeah," he muttered sullenly.
The moment James got home, he locked himself up in his room.
That was the plan at least until his dad called him down.
Both his parents were seated at the dining table, murmuring quietly in between themselves.
James sat in front of them, face already set in an unpleasant expression.
Before they could even speak a word, James asked, "Is this more bad news?" He remembered that this situation is frighteningly similar to when they told him he was a squib.
His mum opened her mouth to answer automatically but closed it. “Depends.”
That didn’t make James feel any better.
“So, we’ve decided you probably need to start muggle school,” his mum started. She paused here, thinking of whether to say her next words or not. “Well, since… since you won’t be attending Hogwarts, you won’t get an education. You still need a well-rounded education,” she finished, nodding firmly at the end, and James wondered whether she was trying to convince him or herself.
“Like what Aunt Hermione teaches me,” James said apprehensively.
“Yeah,” his dad agreed. “Exactly like that, except maybe a bit more fast paced.”
“Is it a boarding school?” James asked curiously. One of the allures of going to Hogwarts was that a student essentially has to be able to take care of themselves, and not to mention the amount of freedom they had. He wondered whether he would get a similar experience in a muggle boarding school.
“No,” his dad replied, with a wry twist to his lips, as if he knew exactly what James was thinking, “You’ll come home every day.”
James thought he doesn’t particularly have a choice in the matter; his parents telling him beforehand was merely a formality, if anything. A heads up. Just like he would have had to attend Hogwarts, even if threw the biggest temper tantrum in his repertoire, screaming he didn’t want to go. Well, under certain circumstances. One couldn’t attend if they were a squib.
James scowled at the thought, as it came in unwanted. “Alright,” he replied roughly, and clambered up the stairs to his room.
He could hear his parents calling from behind him, but he couldn’t figure out why. He had agreed to go, so why should the matter have to be discussed anymore? They’d gotten what they wanted.
James fell asleep early in his bed, but he doesn’t get much sleep before he’s woken up.
He blinked blearily, trying to get rid of the haze of sleep surrounding his mind.
“Hello?” He called out quietly into his seemingly empty room.
“Jamie,” Albus whispered frantically, “I’ve gotta talk to you!”
“It couldn’t have waited?” James asked, rubbing his eyes.
“No—well, yeah. I guess,” Albus told him. “I don’t know… I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”
“Well, ask away, since I’m already up.”
“I…” Albus trailed off, looking slightly apprehensive. At least, that’s the face James thought he would have made. It was hard to see anything in the dark. "Why didn’t you tell us you were a squib?”
“I did tell you,” James said, annoyance coloring his voice. “Seven days after.”
“But I think you weren’t going to tell us at all… We had to push you for it.”
James shook his head, and sighed. “I don’t—I don’t know… It just—it seemed that everyone around me is magic. And it felt shameful for something like me to even have existed… I—how was I supposed to tell you? I’ve never heard of someone without magic, but there have been people since there’s a name for them… But how much do you have to hate something for it to be erased, have no trace of it at all? Or for it to not even be talked about? I’m—I’m going to be a laughing stock… There’s no doubt about it. I didn’t want my siblings laughing at me too.”
“I didn’t laugh,” Albus tried to defend himself.
“No, you didn’t,” James agreed. “I don’t know how Lily’s doing.”
“I think she’s okay,” Albus said, tiredly curling up into James’ body to fall asleep. “Just a little confused. I think we’ll be okay.”
And so, James had to wonder why there had to be a question of whether they would be okay at all. It was a mark to truly show how much squibs are scorned and hated in the Wizarding World.
James’ thoughts were left unsaid, unheard.
James sat uncomfortably in the chair, fidgeting. He observed the muggle classroom with a sort of bitterness; he supposed that the classrooms in Hogwarts would look nothing like this, not so… ordinary.
He genuinely did attempt to pay attention in his classes, but the concepts flew over his head, and often had many questions for the teacher. Even the teacher was a little irked at James’ inability to grasp simple concepts, but he could not help it if his Aunt Hermione had taken her time teaching him, until James understood.
James’ dad was right: muggles’ school was fast paced.
It was not as excessive as staying up all night, but it did bring much frustration to him. He was lucky to have his Aunt Hermione, but she was not as present to help him. She too had a life of her own, often rushing in and out of her home for cases Magical Law Enforcement had assigned.
His mum, being of wizarding descent, did not know how to help him. His dad had left muggle school much around the time James had started.
Instead of spending his weekends with his cousin—not that he could anyway, he was up there at Hogwarts—James now spent them with his homework, cooped up in his room.
He of course has some understanding of how important an education is in his life, and he understands how lucky he is to truly have an opportunity.
James tried to cherish it. He really did. But it’s hard when his school is a manifestation of everything he hates.
He couldn’t have imagined school to be… this hard. Hogwarts would have been easier, simply because it lived in a world he grew up knowing, unlike this unfamiliar muggle world.
James sat in the chair of his classroom, his head cradled in one of the palms of his hands. Mostly everyone else was able to mill around for a bit, since they had finished their lessons.
He stared, narrowing his eyes at the maths problem he had been given, as if the action magically would give him the answer.
James’ attention flittered to another phrase: space shuttle.
What even was a space shuttle? James had never heard of it, not in his life. He concluded that it must be muggle. Of course it would be; it was on a worksheet given to him by a muggle teacher in a painfully muggle school.
Not wanting to spend more time on the word than he should, he focused on the problem again, trying to reread it over and over, until it maybe finally clicked.
He tapped rhythmically on top of his desk, thinking.
His mind wandered back to the words ‘space shuttle’ again.
Frustrated, James took out his Oxford dictionary his Aunt Hermione gifted him, turning to where the words beginning with ‘s’ might be.
Surprised, James jumped out of his seat, and his head snapped up, looking for the source of the sound. When his eyes met the slightly annoyed ones of his teacher, he smiled nervously, and made to awkwardly shuffle up to the front.
When he reached the teacher’s desk, she addressed him. “So, James, I’ve noticed you’ve had some trouble with school.”
James nodded, trying to keep his smile on his face.
The teacher sighed. “Well, I’ve found someone that may be able to help you, so instead of asking me, you can go to them.”
James stayed silent, mulling it over. Is it worth it? Is it worth risking being friends with them?
But he really couldn’t sacrifice his grades for a secret. There are ways to work around it.
“Alright,” James conceded. “What’s their name?
“Emerald,” the teacher responded. She gestured over to their specific direction. “He’s over there.”
James nodded and made his way to the presumed Emerald, and took a seat next to him, at which point James noticed the boy had shoulder length red hair.
He had to keep in a laugh. A Potter boy making friends with a red haired boy? How ironic.
“Um,” James began nervously, “Hi.”
The long haired boy glanced up and blinked. “Oh. Hello.”
“Hiya,” James greeted again. “I’m James.”
“I know. The teacher told me,” Emerald said owlishly.
“I see,” James replied slowly. “So you know why I’m here.”
“Yeah,” Emerald said. “By the way, I go by Em. Or Rald. Whichever.”
“I think I’ll call you Em,” James decided, fidgeting in his chair. He had no idea how to speak to people outside of his family, considering his whole family was the size of a small country. He never needed to talk outside of his family because his family was all he needed.
“Cool,” Em said. Nodding over to James’ desk, he said, “You wanna get your work here? We can start now.”
James nodded, sighing with relief.
He looks tiredly at Em, and wonders if he'll be any help.
I thought of this idea at night and I just had to write it down. I'm aiming for this to be at the max three chapters.