Chapter 31 : Of wise words and true love
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Toni had been knocked out with simple sleeping potions and healers were certain she was fine and would wake up soon enough. Darren had taken a couple of nasty curses, which James was more than happy to take the credit for and they weren’t sure how quickly he’d recover. James told them himself that he was fine and Hayley was the one they were worried about. James point-blank refused to move from her side though everyone he knew tried and failed, his parents, Teddy, Fred, Nicky and even Toni when she was awake. They all spoke in tones that made it clear James was a hero and lucky and that he needed rest. Nothing anyone said would shift him, his hand had been locked around hers for hours now.
“You know,” said a voice that James scarcely recognised. “You remind me of someone I knew I knew a long time ago.”
James turned to see Hayley’s grand-father, Jake Hunt standing behind him. He had been in his own grandfather’s year and had ended up marrying Hayley Potter. To James’ knowledge, James Potter and Jake Hunt had never really gotten on well.
“Who?” James asked suspiciously.
“Me,” Jake smiled, sitting down beside James. “Well I suppose this is different in many ways, but my best friend Amelia was attacked by a group of Slytherins.”
“Amelia who gave birth to Hayley’s dad?” James asked quietly. “The one who got it on with Sirius?”
“I prefer to remember her as the person who was my best friend for so long and my rock and the person I needed the most until I left Hogwarts,” Jake replied. “But she was killed by Remus Lupin and that’s a whole other story. My point is, I wouldn’t, couldn’t leave her side and when she died, my whole self just shut down for a while. But anyway, this isn’t about me, and I’m sure you and Hayley have a much different relationship to me and Amy.”
“I love her.”
“I know you do.”
“No I mean I love, love her!” James insisted. “I couldn’t tell her, because of well, because of the whole family thing. Your wife and my grand-dad being siblings. It could never work between us. And besides, she doesn’t want that, she made that clear after we almost kissed once.”
“James,” Jake said gently. “I want you to meet Hayley Potter, now Hayley Hunt, my wife. And she’ll say the same thing I’m saying. You aren’t related, not really. You’re not brother and sister, you aren’t cousins, hell you’re not even second cousins. You’re distantly related going back two or three generations and amongst the Wizarding world, hell even in the muggle world it’s not exactly uncommon. Hayley’s great-grandparents, the parents of Sirius Black were the same. Look back through Wizarding timelines, we all stem back from a couple of great families, inter-marriage isn’t exactly a sin. It used to be done out of necessity and money but hey, why not just do it for love? It’s not wrong, it’s not unusual and you can’t let you and her use it as an excuse. You’re plainly in love with her. So tell her.”
“You’re sure?” James asked quietly.
“He’s sure,” said a voice behind him. James turned and had to blink. It was as if he was looking at an older version of Hayley. Her sleek black hair was tinted with grey but there was no mistaking the blue eyes, the piercing blue eyes that made her look almost identical to the delicate girl lying on the bed. “I know my brother wouldn’t have cared either. For all his faults, he was a good guy, man. It’s hard to think of him as anything other than a child actually, we didn’t speak between him leaving Hogwarts and being killed by Voldemort, thanks to someone I could mention!”
Jake tried not to look guilty, but his wife was smiling. James looked away from the married couple, who so long ago had fallen in love and back to the love of his life, who was lying in bed, so delicate and yet so alive. She was his, always had been and he couldn’t imagine her with anyone else.
“What if she doesn’t feel the same way?” he whispered.
Both grand-parents snorted with laughter. James looked confused as Hayley explained.
“The amount of times I’ve seen her over the last six years or so, and all she’ll ever talk about is James Potter, her best friend. James and I did this, James did that. Especially when she was younger, she adored you. She still adores you. She loves you James, you’d be mad not to recognise that. She cried her heart out when you stopped talking, bless her. Don’t you think it’s time you fixed things?”
James nodded and smiled, and then went back to staring at his best friend, who was still as beautiful and delicate as the first time they’d met.
“Oh bollocks to this!” Hayley sulked, her dark hair forming a sheet as she stomped her foot.
“You’re not doing it properly,” James laughed, guiding her hand back onto his hip and taking her hands again. “Step, step, twirl, it’s not hard Undies.”
“I can’t believe that you of all people know how to dance,” Hayley laughed as she tried to keep in step with James, stumbling all over the place as he steadied her, grinning like an idiot.
“I grew up in the Potter/Weasley clan; social events are inevitable, learning to dance is imperative!” James teased, leading her gently as she tripped over again and hit the floor, swearing and sulking. James sat beside her, pulling her into a seating position. She rested her head on his lap and he stroked her hair gently until she looked up at him curiously.
“When did we get so…you know?” she asked gently.
“Close?” James laughed. “I dunno, we’ve always been, you know connecting. I guess it’s only natural that physical comfortableness follows emotional comfortableness.”
“That made little sense,” Hayley laughed, shoving him gently. “I want a new dance teacher, someone who isn’t a prat.”
“Oh?” James mocked. “You want to lock hands and be this close to someone else do you? Someone who will take advantage of the fact your body is so close to his and that top you’re wearing is ever so slightly revealing? Okay fine, I’ll go find someone else.”
Hayley shoved him again and laughed, resting her head on his lap once he was sat upright again. They sat there for what seemed like an age until Teddy and Victoire fell into the room, their lips locked as their hands ran wild around each other’s bodies. Hayley’s jaw dropped in shock and James winced as the pair collapsed onto the bed. James coughed slightly and Teddy looked at him, dropping Victoire’s bra guiltily as the blonde tried to cover up.
“Well this is embarrassing,” James noted, making a conscious effort to shove off Hayley as Teddy raised an eyebrow.
“You’re 13,” he pointed out. “Why is her head in your lap?”
“Why are you taking off the bra of someone two years younger?” James countered as Hayley went bright red and sat up hurriedly.
“Leave them alone,” Victoire punched him gently as James and Hayley looked increasingly awkward.
“I have intentions for taking Victoire’s bra off,” Teddy said proudly. “I intend to take away her…”
“Teddy!” Victoire yelled, punching him harder as James burst into laughter and Hayley went pale.
“Too much information Lupin,” James grinned as he pulled Hayley to her feet. “We’re going now; leave you two love birds to it.”
James and Hayley were still giggling as they left the room, and carried on giggling, as the sounds of Victoire squealing and moaning quickly filled the house…
Hayley hurt everywhere. Every bone, every muscle, every part of her was on fire. She had been cut, beaten and crucioed and she could almost still feel it happening to her. She couldn’t open her eyes, for fear it was still happening. She shifted, tried to make the pain go. It was less than before. It was like a dull, nulling pain, as opposed to the horror it had been before. Maybe she was healing, maybe she was okay. Hayley’s eyes flickered open and they found James Sirius Potter looking over her, a relieved smile on his caring face.
“James,” Hayley whispered, the effort it took to talk staggering her. “You saved me.”
“Not this time Hayls,” James replied quietly, kissing her forehead. “This time it was Molly believe it or not. If she hadn’t gone to get my dad… But I’m here now and I’m not letting you out my sight again.”
“What happened James?” Hayley asked quietly. “Between us? Why is it that it took me being kidnapped and tortured for you to even talk to me?”
“You have every right to be angry with me,” James said in a low voice. “I messed up, big time by not telling you the truth. I was never angry about Kassie, in fact I loved it. I loved that you would do that for me. I made a mistake. The truth is I didn’t want to see you because I couldn’t live with the fact that I love you.”
“I love you too you idiot, what’s that got to do with anything…oh.”
Realisation hit her and she opened and closed her mouth, before looking at James, who looked sheepish. The kiss. It had all been about the kiss. He’d wanted to kiss her; he wanted to kiss her now. And rather than try to put their friendship through that, he’d ran away, tried to face it all alone. She loved him and she hated herself in that moment.
“James…” she said quietly. “I do love you. Of course I do. You’re my best friend and you always have been. And in that moment, when we almost…you know, I felt something. But I was scared of it. I pushed it away because I didn’t want to love you, it just seemed wrong…”
“It felt wrong for me too,” James smiled. “But we can’t pretend it isn’t there. We can’t pretend our friendship can just carry on unscathed. We both have feelings for each other, that much is obvious and we can’t just overlook them. I love you and you love me, so let’s not beat around the bush and pretend it’s anything but.”
“James, what about our families…”
“I spoke to your grand-father, this was all his idea to be honest with you. Not that Teddy didn’t think I should tell you the truth as well. In fact to be honest, I’d be surprised if we weren’t the last two people on the planet to realise it, everyone else seems to have realised how much we care for one another.”
“But a relationship…” Hayley coughed, feeling weak again as James held her hand tightly.
“We’ll talk more when you’re feeling better,” James whispered. “Just focus on getting healthy again for now and remember, I’m not going anywhere, I’m not making that mistake again.”
Hayley smiled weakly.
The next few hours were a blur of visiting relatives and friends, all of whom were worried about Hayley and wished her well. A few of them of spoke to James, some of them were looking for him anyway. He never left her side through the entire thing, no matter who came through the door, be it her parents or her cousins or anyone else. A couple of people asked him to leave, but he politely declined and Hayley made it clear she wanted him to stay. He smiled at her a lot and she smiled back, the pair slipping easily back into their old routine, with the prospect of a relationship bubbling near the front of both their minds. Hayley eventually managed to shake off her relatives and well-wishers and got some sleep, James finally napping, but still in the chair beside her.
The next day was more of the same, except the healers finally removed all her tubes and the like and James got into bed with her. The two talked more on the second day, of which he spent most of the time either cuddled up to her or sat on the end of her bed chatting. The thing that struck Hayley was that they were doing couples stuff. The sort of things they were already doing were what couples did, cuddling and talking and laughing and sharing physical contact. And not only did it feel right, but they’d been doing it for months, maybe even years. They’d been best friends for so long that they had practically become a couple without even realising. When she voiced this thought to James, he smiled and replied: “I know.”
“So what do we do?” Hayley whispered when the healers and visitors were finally gone.
“Well we can’t just go back to normal,” James replied gently, his arm slung around her. “With all these feelings around, it would just be weird.”
“Should we go for it? You and me?” Hayley was asking herself as much as James and the reassuring squeeze he gave her seemed to tell her everything. Why couldn’t they do it? Nothing much had to change, did it? “Let’s do this.”
Fred popped his head in the room. Toni was awake and she glared at him as he attempted to sidle in the room, flowers in one hand, chocolate in the other. She continued to glare furiously, wanting nothing more than for him to leave as he approached the bed. He smiled sheepishly as he sat beside her, putting the flowers in a vase on her bedside table and offering her a chocolate. She paused for a second, then took a handful and smeared them all over his head. Fred smiled ruefully and she couldn’t help but giggle as he tried to clean himself up.
“Okay,” he said. “I deserved that and a whole lot worse for what I did to you. I let you down; I betrayed you and I hate myself for it.”
“Good,” Toni retorted. “You should hate yourself, you messed everything up between us. And for the record Fred, coming here and admitting you fucked up isn’t going to mean I’m going to come running back into your arms. You hurt me, really hurt me. I know I can’t trust you not to do it again. I can’t do it Fred. I can’t do this and let you destroy me.”
“I’m not going to destroy you,” Fred replied eagerly, sitting forward and recoiling as she squirmed away from him. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“And yet you managed it,” Toni sighed. “You spent so long with your head in the gutter, ignoring everything I did, even when I just wanted to help you. All this time, you’ve been so selfish when I’ve thrown myself out there for you. And then…Kassie…Of all people Fred. And I know that you were going through stuff and I know that it was a drunken mistake, but it killed me Fred. How can I honestly say I know it won’t happen again?”
“I know,” Fred replied sadly, his tone resigned and desolate. “I can promise all I want, but it’s not enough. I made mistakes, I get that and now…now I just want to make things up to you Toni, starting now.”
“If you want to help, you can fuck off,” Toni sighed. “I’m sorry Fred, I need to be alone.”
Fred opened his mouth then closed it again, nodding sadly and standing, turning away from Toni and composing himself as he headed into Hayley’s room, where she and James were sat on her bed chatting.
“Alright love-birds?” Fred greeted them, slouching in his chair as James and Hayley shared a look and started laughing. “I’ve still got fucking chocolate in my hair haven’t I?”
“It’s not that,” Hayley grinned. “Although that is an interesting look for you.”
“What is it then?” Fred snapped, losing his temper easily, a sign of his fragility.
“Nothing Fred, really,” Hayley smiled as James whispered in her ear. “No James, definitely not. Although keep saying things like that, and I might consider telling Teddy.”
“You’re doing that thing again,” Fred snarled. “That thing where you tell each other something and then rub it in my face that I don’t know. Oh and since when does Teddy get to know?”
“Don’t tell Teddy,” James was whining. “He’ll say ‘I told you so’ in that smug voice he loves doing so much and he knows I hate!”
“Well he did tell you so,” Hayley giggled, completely ignoring Fred who was getting more agitated. “Maybe you should’ve listened to him sooner, he always seems to know what he’s doing. Except when it comes to Victoire of course.”
“What are you talking about?” Fred yelled and they both looked at him, fidgeting nervously and glancing at each other. They were having a silent battle with their eyes and Fred grew more annoyed as they continued to ignore him before Hayley finally sighed and turned to him.
“Fred,” she said slowly and carefully. “What I’m about to tell you cannot be told to anyone else. This is information me and James are planning on telling people ourselves, do you understand?” Fred nodded. “Okay then, James and I are an item. We’re together.”
Fred just sat there. His eyes popped and his jaw dropped and he managed to shut his mouth long enough to stammer a couple of inconsequential nothings but returning the ‘O’ shape his mouth had formed. He looked at James, then at Hayley, then back at James then pulled his two friends into a hug, blabbering like a maniac until they pushed him off, laughing. James took another glance at Hayley before placing a tongue-tying curse on Fred, who fell back confused.
“Sorry buddy,” James smiled apologetically. “That just means you can’t tell anyone about us who doesn’t already know. Nothing personal but you’re not exactly trustworthy.”
“That’s what Toni said,” Fred said sadly, his face darkening as James winced.
“I’m sorry about her mate,” he said quietly. “I know you care about her loads. She’ll come around, don’t worry about it.”
“But you two,” Fred muttered. “Fuck me. I thought you’d be nothing more than best friends forever, I mean the amount of beating around the bush you idiots have done…I’m proud of you, for finally realising what a pair of absolute pillocks you’ve been.”
“Thanks Fred,” Hayley replied, pulling a face as James snorted with laughter. “I think.”
A/N: Yep after all the fighting, all the will-they/won't-they, James and Hayley are together. Nuff said. HP
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