Chapter 3: Hypocrisy
The last person that she had expected to roll up at her door was James Potter. The word had spread quickly, though, probably reaching every family member in less than ten minutes. But for Hermione Weasley to open her door and see her godson looking not at all ashamed, sheepish or pleased to see her was certainly not on the cards. Fighting the urge to both slam the door in his face and hug him intensely, she instead opted for the stringent parent and crossed her arms tightly across her chest.
“We’ve done that bit,” she said, glancing down to her watch nervously. “What do you want?”
“Mum won’t let me stay at home and I was wondering whether you’d got a spare bed?” he managed to force out after he’d unknotted his tongue and, more to the point, his brain. Begging and pleading was far from his usual line of business.
“Right. And what makes you think we
are going to give you a bed?” she hesitated. “And if you use that ‘because you love me’
nonsense, it’s a straight no.”
“Just for the night, Aunt Hermione. Please?”
“Better.” The word had been forced from his mouth, she was well aware of that from the twist that his nose gave as he wrinkled it in mild disgust. She stepped away from the centre of the door and grabbed his trunk. “God, James, what have you got in that? Did they not teach you how to lighten things at school?” She groaned as she let the case drop to the hall floor and turned to see him shutting the door after them. Plunged into what was now just a strange isolation, they had little to say to one another.
“Where’s Uncle Ron?” James prompted, unable to hear any trace of his uncle in the house.
“Work,” his aunt replied, turning her back on her nephew and walking back into the kitchen. She bent over the steaming pan, prodding whatever was inside with a knife before replacing the lid. It rattled a little and then calmed, the only noise in the room the gentle bubbling of boiling water.
“On a Sunday?”
“Dark wizards don’t take days off and nor do Aurors.”
Her clipped tone was almost hard to ignore. She’d put what Hugo called her Annoyed Phone Voice
on, slow and perfectly formed consonants cutting short just a split-second before her normal tone. She sank into the chair by the stove and looked up at him. He’d filled out since she’d last seen him. At twenty, he’d been just shy of fitting his build perfectly. His face had thinned out, his eyes widened, his shoulders broad and stomach three steps too far away from being toned. Now, getting on for three years later, he looked like nothing of the boy/man/lad that she’d watched grow up. No, now he was a man and he was in control and it was, frankly, terrifying.
“Do you think he’ll –” James trailed off, nonchalance bordering on worry and that would certainly not be a wise thing to give away.
“Furious won’t cover it,” his aunt said. “What you did borders on despicable, okay? In fact, it probably crosses the line into disgusting. The only reason I’m letting you stay is because in spite of that, I don’t want to see you on the streets.”
Silence. Not even contemplative, it was almost bored, almost ignorant. He nodded his head at the right places, forced his lips down, but that was not going to change his opinion. He was not ashamed of what he had done, merely angry that it had not quite worked out the way it should have. He should not have been begging for a shelter. He should not have been wandering around with his tail between his legs looking like he didn’t belong.
He did belong.
He had to.
“You can have Rose’s room. I’ll explain to Ron. Have you eaten?”
“Sandwich on the train,” he responded, standing up and tucking his chair neatly under the table. She didn’t reply, but turned out of her seat and back to tending the stove. He watched her for a moment but she made no other move and after checking his wand was in his pocket, he trudged back into the hallway.
Hearing the door clicking shut, Hermione turned around. The faint stubble across his chin, the bored, empty stare that looked straight through you as if you were made of the finest, thinnest crystal. He was a man in everything but mind and he needed to grow up.
Rose’s room hadn’t really changed since she was a teenager. White walls plastered in pink stars that he remembered Lily colouring in one summer, it was a girl’s room through and through. A towering wardrobe that he was sure would still be full of clothes from the previous decade, too small but too adorable to throw out to the rubbish, stood proudly against one wall, the bed opposite. He dropped the trunk in front of the wardrobe doors, the floorboards groaning in protest, and threw his rucksack down beside it. His trainers – far past their best – scuffed against the floor and he kicked them off with such luxurious freedom that the fact that one muddy sole was against the impeccably clean skirting board barely even registered as he flung himself down on the double bed.
“Roses for Lily, lilies for Rose,” he murmured again as he glanced around more. He twisted and turned his body on the mattress, lying still almost as big a problem as sitting still. The photo collage that his cousin had made in the break between fifth- and sixth-year had been removed, the only trace of it ever existing being the tack marks on the wall and the trace of a memory as he tried to fix the puzzle pieces together. Jigsaws were always easier if you had the picture in front of you to copy. They would be easier again if he could look past the cloudy film that was slowly overtaking each part of his ability to recollect even a snapshot of a moment.
He didn’t know how long he’d lay there trying to work out whether the star on the wall opposite had always had a black edge or whether it had been a later addition, but the sound of a man’s voice roaring through the house soon snapped him out of it. Like a child caught in the midst of a juicy bit of playground gossip, James leapt off the bed and crept to the door, twisting the handle so he could hear better. Calm, for now. He couldn’t make out what they were saying but Hermione’s voice was placid and soothing and that could only mean that the explosion was yet to come.
Nothing. Not a single raised voice or yell or crash of plate meeting floor or wall. Hard to believe didn’t quite cover it. Clicking the door back into place as the sound of china softly clanking down on the worktop drifted upwards to him, James collapsed down onto the bed. The full length mirror that stood in the near corner of the room caught his eye. Around the edge there were black marks, each one a different shape, size, shade. His brow furrowed as he tried to remember, just for a moment, what used to be there, what Rose used to frame her reflection with.
Grabbing his wand from his pocket, he first rustled his hand about in his rucksack, finding a last bottle of Turkish Firewhiskey and packet of dodgy looking cigarettes that he’d bought from a woman with a rather striking beard. He unscrewed the lid and lit up a cigarette then tapped the trunk with the tip of his wand. The clicking of locks sliding in and out of place lasted far too long and once it had finished, he scrambled to lift it open.
Clothes. Clothes. Clothes. Deodorant. Clothes.
The exasperated groan drew itself from the very base of his throat and he pulled at the dozens of robes that filled the case up. Not so much as a Knut was rolling around in the bottom, and the only thing possible to consume was a bottle of greenish liquid that smelt strangely of three-day old lettuce.
“James, can I come in?”
In his hastiness to shove the clothes – at least two sizes too big for him – back into the trunk, putting out the cigarette before his aunt could see it didn’t even feature in his mind. The door opened as he slammed the lid shut and stood up, swaying a little with the influence of the drink.
“Put that out now,” she said, pointing to the thing between his lips. “And give me that.” She held her hand out for the bottle which was swinging loosely at his side like a hapless sidekick and he stroppily let her snatch it from him. “You need to get your act together.”
“No, you’re not,” she corrected though didn’t lecture him on it. “I’ve spoken to your uncle. You can stay here until Friday. After that, you’ll have to leave.”
“We’re not being the bad guys in this debacle. We’re giving you five days to sort yourself out. Find a friend, a flat, anything.” He said nothing but gave a small nod, looking over to the window where the sun had grown a purplish colour now and then back to his aunt as if to ask what she was still doing there. “I’ve brought you dinner.” She placed the plate and cutlery on Rose’s desk. “I was going to offer you a drink but I think you’ve had enough, don’t you?”
With one last pointed look at James, she left. As she walked downstairs, she glanced to the bottle then up to the ceiling. The question didn’t need to be asked.
“…is he there?” was the cry that James was woken up by the next morning. Only in his boxers and lying on top of the pale pink sheets, he rolled to grab his watch off the nightstand. Half eleven. He rolled again until his body lurched and his feet hit the floor. Grabbing his jeans and shirt, he pulled the door open to hear Victoire’s voice – decidedly less shrill than in their youth but still firm and unyielding – racing up the stairs.
“He needed a place to stay. I said he could stay here.”
“Nobody else would have him,” Ron interjected and James couldn’t help but wince a little. Buttoning his shirt, he shut the door and crept downstairs, the voices still for a moment.
“They’ll go mental when they find out, you know that?” Victoire said, and he could almost visualise her stood there with her short blonde bob and hands on hips. His hand rested on the kitchen door and plastering his best morning smile on his face, thrust it open.
“Vicky, Vicky, Vicky!” he exclaimed, grinning broadly and throwing an arm around her shoulders. “Fancy seeing you here, kid.” She writhed away from him and looked almost pleadingly to her uncle who did nothing but turn around and pick up his mug of tea. “Suit yourself.”
“Victoire, just go and do what you came to do and then go back to your Nanna’s,” Hermione said, not taking her eyes off James who was glancing somewhat nervously around the room. Victoire glanced between each of the three and left in a fairly impressive flounce. “I tipped it down the sink.” His eyes narrowed and he felt his mouth drawing into a pout. “Breakfast was two hours ago. Maybe you should go and have a shower then try and find a place to stay at the end of the week.”
“Can I at least have a drink? Coffee?”
“No milk, no sugar,” Ron mumbled, sipping at his own mug.
“I’ll have it black, then.”
“No coffee,” he added, looking at his godson then to his wife, who had started flicking through the newspaper on the desk.
“Mature, Uncle Ron,” James snapped, sending one last pleading glance to his aunt who didn’t so much as flinch. He shook his head in mild disgust and left, ensuring the door slammed shut behind him with impressive finality.
His aunt and uncle looked at each other, the word lingering in the air between them, unspoken.
A/N: So thoughts? I hate writing any members of the trio, really, and have a horrible feeling that Ron and Hermione are very OOC so if you have any thoughts on my characterisation of them, I'd love to hear them.
Other than that, I'm suffering from horrible writer's block at the minute on almost everything so I can't guarantee when the next update will be
. Hopefully the end of exams will mean time to sit and write, but who knows?
Thank you for reading and a quick thank you to marinahill for quickly checking my dialogue for me ♥