He watched, as if in slow motion, Calla mutter the incantation under her breath, saw tears stream down her face because of reasons he knew didn’t have anything to do with the spell, and observed in awe as she dropped her wand and flew from the room.
In an instant, the class was in uproar; every student talking about what had just happened, swapping theories as to why, even his friends, and McKlean yelling after her “Matthews, you do not leave my class without permission!”
Through the turmoil, James managed to weave his way through the room and out the door without anyone noticing, only stopping to grab Calla’s stuff for her. Once in the corridor, he stared desperately left and right, trying to determine which way she’d gone. Choosing the left side at random, James hurried down the hallway.
He actually didn’t even know why he was following her; sure she looked upset, but this was no way to get over her; comforting Calla now would probably just make it worse! And wasn’t he supposed to hate her right now?
But as he assessed himself he realised that he wasn’t running after Calla because he fancied her, but because he cared about her, just a kind of caring feeling a friend might have. It was strange and alien to him, but it seemed like the better option; it actually felt good; it was so brilliant to be able to detach that part from himself and just throw it away. This was it: James Potter no longer fancied Calla Matthews.
So why was he still running after her? Shouldn’t he want to ignore her after all those years of rejection? The concerned sensation flooded over him again and he knew why. She was always going to be a person he cared about, and so he had to follow her.
He almost missed her, too. As he sped down the corridor, James barely heard the sniffling from behind a tapestry. Skidding to a halt several feet past the concealed opening, James backtracked and pulled aside the curtain.
She was there, alright, hugging her knees to her chest, leaning against the wall with sobs racking her body. She didn’t seem to notice him come in, so he just walked over and sat by her in silence. He didn’t know what to do after that; James had to admit that when he’d followed Calla out of the classroom he hadn’t really thought through what he’d planned to do when he caught her. They sat there for several minutes in silence.
She hadn’t heard his footsteps over her blubbering, but Calla had noticed when light had flooded her little hidden corridor and James had stepped in and sat by her. He just sat there; he didn’t try to put his arm around her; he didn’t say anything; he just sat there. And it felt nice. It felt comforting. If James had come in a thrown his arms around her and rattled off a condoling speech, she probably would have punched him and ran away... again. As it was, he didn’t do anything, and maybe it was this, this action, or rather lack of action, of James’s that made his presence comforting.
Or maybe she was just going crazy.
Whatever it was, it left plenty of time for Calla’s thoughts to overwhelm her mind and sink her into a place within herself. Her thoughts were racing, and it was hard to focus on one thing. She assessed what had just happened.
She’d had a breakdown in D.A.D.A. and then run out of the room to continue the breakdown in a deserted corridor, only to be followed by none other than James Potter, probably looking to be her angel of comfort and possibly to score some brownie points. One thing was sure, though: she needed to tell someone what Maggie had told her at the funeral. It was ready to burst from her; she had been holding it in so long it was like a heavy weight on her mind, sitting there day and night. There was no way that she couldn’t tell someone.
But to Potter? Of all people she would tell this to, would it really be James Sirius Potter instead of one of her friends? True, she had barely spoken to her friends for several days, but still, Potter seemed like a new low. She had to tell someone, though, and no matter how much of a prat Potter could be, he’d have to have inherited something from his father.
At least she hoped that was true.
Steeling herself for what she was about to do, Calla cut her sniffling off and lifted her head. She attempted to dry her eyes and make her appearance seem somewhatless unkempt than it probably was and sat up a little straighter, using the wall for support. James noticed in an instant. He always did.
“You alright?” he asked.
She chuckled weakly and wiped her nose attractively. “I don’t think I’ll be alright for a long time James.”
He didn’t respond, possibly because of the shock that she had called him by his first name. After several moments, she continued. “Thanks, though.”
He snapped out of his revere. “No problem.”
They sat again for some minutes in silence. Calla fidgeted nervously. Had he just come to sit awkwardly by her? Well if that was the case, she should probably be on her way. She’d been such a fool to think that Potter would be able to offer her the impossible comfort she so craved. She’d have to tell someone else.
“Potter, if you just came here to-”
“So we’re back to you calling me Potter now are we?” he snapped. She wondered at his suddenly angry tone. “Because I thought we were past that. You want to know why I came here? I followed you because you looked upset and I care about you, maybe not the way I used to, but I don’t like it when anyone is upset and so I came to see if you were okay. But I won’t argue with you; I’m done with that. So if that’s what you want to do...” He stood up; Calla stared at him in shock.
“James. James, wait. I’m sorry? I’m just so used to people not really caring right now and I’m-”
“Forget it.” And they were back to square one. They sat in silence as Calla had an inner battle about whether she should tell James or not; she had to say, the side for James was winning. How in the world was she going to say this, though? She hadn’t talked about it since the funeral! She took a deep breath.
“So you wanna know why I just had a complete meltdown?”
James looked at her for the first time, truly looked at her, and nodded. She sighed again. She couldn’t believe she was spilling the beans to James Potter. “I couldn’t think of a happy memory.”
He snorted; so much for compassion. “That’s it? You couldn’t think of a memory so you had a breakdown and ran out of the room? That’s just pathetic, Matthews! I never pinned you as that type.” He laughed.
She ignored him. This was hard, and most people would think that he was making it harder to talk, but she believed otherwise, which was absolutely ridiculous. Perhaps it was his blunt, no-nonsense manner instead of the usual sympathy song and dance she was so used to. How cliché.
“You didn’t let me finish.” He sobered up. “I’ve got plenty of happy memories and I bet if everything hadn’t happened, I would’ve been able to beat even you in completing the charm-”
“Doubt it,” James interrupted.
“Potter, a toad would’ve been able to beat you in that spell, and I’ve got loads more happy memories than a toad.” How did his mere presence bring her from a totally depressed mood to a joking one?
She continued, “But every time I’d try to think of something happy, my parents’ faces would keep cropping up. Everything just came crashing down on me- Ambs, my parents, y-you, my friends - and I couldn’t take it anymore. I just felt myself breaking down.” It was a miracle: James Sirius Potter was actually being quiet and listening to someone other than himself! “And this thing that I found out at the funeral from a family friend, Maggie, has just been weighing on me and I haven’t told anyone and I couldn’t... well I couldn’t deal with it.”
James was oddly silent. He waited for her to continue, seemingly to find it prudent not to respond until he knew everything. Well that was annoying. That wasn’t how her friends would have solved it. They’d be hugging her right not and tell her everything was going to be alright. Potter’s approach was... unsettling.
Finally he broke the silence. “Are you going to tell me what you found out or am I supposed to just join your pity party no questions asked?”
Exasperated he still managed to make her smile. What the hell! He had a point, though. She should probably just be out with it instead of beating around the bush. Say it quickly to minimize the pain, like ripping off a plaster.
“Fine, you’re right. I found out... well, that I’m... I was adopted,” she said finally.
Silence. Nothing but complete and utter silence. James’s face was impassive, but inside he had to be feeling like a nuclear bomb when off. At least... that’s how she’d felt when Maggie had told her. Admittedly, Maggie had told her more kindly, but still...
“Well? Say something for Merlin’s sake, James!” She was frustrated. Why wasn’t he responding? He’d had enough time to process the news! It wasn’t like it actually affected him! He needed to say something! If he didn’t, she might just explode!
James remained silent. That’s it; she was exploding in five, four, three, two... “Damn it, James, just say a bloody word! It can be anything. You could even say ‘well that explains a lot. I wondered why you were so messed up when you had such good parents’. I don’t give a damn! Just say something!”
He turned and stared at her. “What do you want me to say, Calla? Hmm? Would you like me say how I’m so sorry that you had to lose two types of parents? Would you like me to give you a big hug and tell you that it’s all going to be alright?” Actually, she sort of did want the last suggestion...
“Because I won’t. I’m not that kind of person and we both know it. So you’re parents were murdered. Big deal. My father’s parents were murdered by Lord Voldemort before he even knew them; at least you go to spend time with yours. So your friends left you because you were acting like everyone should just join in a Calla-sympathizing. Too bad. You need to get a taste of making it on your own. So Ambs is a complete bitch to you. Get over it. Plenty of people are going to hate you because of who your family is. Plenty of people hate me and my family right now just because my parents did what was right, but I’ve learned to deal with it. If they care enough to be prejudiced against me when they don’t even know me than I’m better than them anyway.
“I won’t sit here and feel sorry for you Calla. I won’t tell you how much it sucks that you’re adopted and you didn’t find out until the only parents you’ve ever known were dead. You already know that and it won’t help you one bit to hear it again. So what do you expect me to do?”
It took awhile for the shock of what he’d said to wear off, but afterwards, she realised he was right. When Ambs was a bitch, she blamed it on the father. When Andie had shouted everything, Calla may have thought that she didn’t blame her, but deep down she knew that she believed Andie was being an absolutely bitch. Maybe that was all she wanted: a pity party. Both Andie and Beth had attempted to tell her this, but it had taken Potter to put it in perspective for her. How odd...
He was also right that she shouldn’t expect him to just sit there and try to brush all her worries away. That wasn’t going to help her. Constantly thinking about the whole ordeal wouldn’t do her any good, either. So why did she continue doing it? She’d always come up with the excuse that getting used to the idea would help her overcome it, but now she knew she had no valid reasons.
She needed to lock the memories in a drawer, put that drawer in a trunk, seal the trunk in a ten-foot-thick concrete vault, blow up that vault with several sticks of dynamite, scatter the remains into the ocean, and then erase her memory so she couldn’t remember where the ashes were and Reparo them. Metaphorically speaking, of course.
It took several minutes for her to come to this conclusion. Instantly, part of the weight on her mind lifted. The barrier that was preventing her coming to terms with her parents’ deaths was removed. Unfortunately, this was only a miniscule part of the weight that had plagued her since the funereal.
Time to get the dynamite.
She ploughed on.
“You’re right,” Calla said finally.
James looked startled by her admittance. Calla Matthews admitting she was wrong? Unheard of! He revealed his perceptiveness again next. “But that’s not the reason that you can’t get over them is it?”
Silently, Calla shook her head. They remained silent. How was she going to tell him? She didn’t want someone to just tell her it wasn’t her fault; she’d believe them for awhile, but eventually she would go back to the truth that it was her fault.
“Damn it, Calla, just tell me! I can’t help you if you don’t tell me whatever’s bothering you! And mind you, I’m starting to think it’s a really stupid reason.”
She tried, and failed, to find her voice. Calla gulped several times, and yet she still couldn’t get it out. James threw his hands up in the exasperatedly.
“Let me guess; it’s a really something enormously thick like you somehow blame yourself for their deaths.” Damn this boy was good at guessing. He must be an accomplished Legilimens... Or she was just really obvious. Calla went with the first option.
He took her silence as an affirmative. “Are you joking? That’s the densest thing I’ve ever heard! How in any way would you be responsible for your parents’ deaths? And what in the name of Merlin does you being adopted have to do with it?!”
“Did you read the Daily Prophet article? He said he killed them because they knew about magic! And how did they know about magic? Because of me! Bloody me! If I hadn’t been a freaking witch, if they’d never adopted me, they wouldn’t be dead. My brother would have parents. Britain would have its prime minister. Everything would be bloody brilliant if it weren’t for me. If I’d never come into their lives, they’d be fine!”
“You’re just getting thicker by the minute! Don’t you realise that they chose to adopt you! They- picked- you! You! And they must have loved you! They were you’re parents for Merlin’s sake!”
“Not my real parents,” Calla muttered.
“Who gives a damn?!”
“I do! I’m the reason they’re dead and I know it! If my birth parents hadn’t been bloody purebloods who gave me the magical gene, this never would have happened!”
“You’re a pureblood?” he asked, momentarily distracted.
“Right, a freaking pureblood. It makes it even worse because of all the ‘purebloods should be the only wizards alive so let’s kill Muggles’ mania from Voldemort’s time."
“My whole family fought against Voldemort and my mum’s side is all pureblood,” James said. “But that’s not the point! It doesn’t matter whether you’re a pureblood or a half-blood or even if you’re a Muggleborn! You’re parents picked you and that’s what matters. Out of everyone, they chose you!
“And you’re father was the bloody prime minister. I know for a fact that the Muggle prime minister knows about magic! My dad tells each of them about Voldemort every time they’re replaced!
“And another thing, my grandparents were murdered by Voldemort just because he wanted to get at my dad. He could easily blame himself, but it doesn’t. Why? Because he knows it’s not his bloody fault! Things happen because mad people decide they have the right to make a decision about who dies and who lives and we can’t go blaming ourselves for things that were out of our control!”
She was silent for some time. He would never understand, so she didn’t see the point in trying to make him.
James on the other hand, chose to use this time to think. How did she know that her birth parents were purebloods? Hadn’t she said a family friend had told her? How had she known about magic?
“How did Maggie know about magic?” he asked.
“She’s a Squib, knew about me since day one.”
“Well that right there makes you even more mental than I previously thought. Maggie would have known you were a witch before they adopted you, which means she would have told your parents! Thus, they already knew the risks they were taking on when they adopted you!”
When she didn’t respond, he ploughed on.
“Not to mention you’re metamorphic abilities would have appeared as a child! I know a metamorphmagus and his did the bloody day he was born! They would have completely given you away!”
“But-” Calla started.
“But nothing. It’s not your fault and you know it. And if you really want to get over this you’re going to need to stop pretending that it is. You’re parents knew the risks, but they took you on anyway. They knew what having a witch meant, and I’m sure that they think you’re as much of an idiot as I do for blaming yourself for their deaths. If they were here, they wouldn’t blame you at all.”
“James, I can’t just-”
“No. You can and you will. End of discussion. End of story. Goodbye. Finis. The End. You better be feeling better now; that was the speech of a lifetime.”
Calla chuckled and surprisingly, she did feel better. Maybe it was Potter’s tough-love approach that had jogged her senses. It had just been so different from anything her friends, Maggie, or David would have given her. Andie, even with her no-nonsense attitude, wouldn’t have been able to compare to James. His no-excuses attitude had suddenly thrust her onto the road to recovery. Already, she could feel the weights she’d been unknowingly dragging all this time begin to lift.
Merlin, how had Potter done that?
“Thanks James,” she muttered.
“Sorry? Didn’t catch that,” he said, grinning.
“You know bloody well what I said,” Calla grumbled, but she shoved James playfully.
The strangest sensation was flowing through her. She was here, sitting in an empty corridor, with James Potter, the boy who’d fancied her for years, having just been comforted about a huge issue by said boy, and not once had he tried to make a move.
Was this really the James Potter she had known and hated? Was it possible, but this was going way out on a limb here, that Potter had... matured? Or, at the time when he had finally grown as a person enough that she might (highly unlikely though it was) give him a chance, had he not finally given up on her and shuffled her off to the friend zone?
She was standing excitedly on Platform 9 ¾, practically bouncing with glee at the thought of going to Hogwarts, when she saw a family come through the barrier; the males with black hair and the females with flaming-red. As they entered, she noticed a slight hush fall over the platform, immediately replaced with hundreds of voices whispering the name “Potter”.
Excitedly, Calla sat on the bench at the Gryffindor table as she watched her peers being sorted. She had been put in what she considered the best house of all! This was the most excited she’d ever been! Suddenly, a boy with jet-black hair and brown eyes was called. “Potter, James” was what Professor Longbottom had said, a slight smile on his face when he had.
There was that hush again, except it was total and complete, spreading across the Great Hall. Again the silence was broken as “Potter” was whispered amongst the students. Many craned their necks to try to catch a good look at the boy while others murmured to their friends “Did he say Potter?” or “The Potter? As in Harry Potter? Is this his son?” or “Yes, it’s got to be Harry Potter’s son! He looks just like him!”
Calla wondered what was so special about the name Potter. She turned to the girl next to her, a girl with dirty blonde hair and green eyes. If Calla remembered correctly, her name was Elizabeth. “What’s so special about him being a Potter?” she asked.
The girl turned to her in surprise. “Don’t you know? Harry Potter was the one who defeated You-Know-Who, the most powerful dark wizard of all time!”
Calla made a mental note to look up who Harry Potter and You-Know-Who were in the library later just as the Sorting Hat shouted “GRYFFINDOR!” barely five seconds after it was placed on James’s head.
She eyed this boy who apparently had a famous father, noting the smug look on his face and the swagger with which he walked. She grimaced; she’d encountered many people like him at events she’d had to go to with her father and she’d never liked them.
Calla eagerly checked the common room board to see when the next Hogsmeade weekend was. She’d be able to get up bright and early- and by default wake Beth up and drag Andie out of bed just as early- to get her Christmas shopping done early on.
Calla made her way back to the table in the corner where she and her friends loved to do their work, hoping Potter wouldn’t cause any trouble tonight. Unfortunately, she was stopped by the James Potter himself: magical prodigy and son of two leaders in the anti-Voldemort movement extraordinaire. Also: the arrogant berk who thought he was better than everything else for above reasons... oh, and because he had a small talent on the Quidditch field. She knew she hadn’t liked him since she’d first laid eyes on him without a good reason...
“Hullo Calla, what brings you to this part of the common room this lovely evening?” James simpered. His voice had switched to an oddly more mature version of its normal tone.
“What do you want, Potter?” She wasn’t going to let him beat around the bush.
“Must I always want something?” She just raised her eyebrows, so he went on. “Well, if you must know, I’d like to present you with the honour of going to Hogsmeade with me this weekend.”
“Is that right?”
“Of course! So I suppose I’ll pick you up at ten and we can go down together,” he finished and began to walk off.
“Hold it, Potter! I haven’t given you an answer yet!” Did he honestly believe he had a chance?
“I wasn’t aware there was a question,” he said, actually seeming mildly confused.
“Well just in case you can’t remember, you asked- rather poorly I must say- if I wanted to go to Hogsmeade with you. By which, I’m assuming, you meant as a date.”
“Yes well spotted, Matthews. Fine, though, I’ll play your game.” He was acting like she was just toying with him, never dreaming that she would ever say no. Merlin, how much more of a git could a person be? “Right, will you go to Hogsmeade with me, Calla?”
“No,” she said simply. His eyes widened.
“No?” What d’you mean ‘no’?” Potter’s expression was priceless. Clearly, he wasn’t used to any member of the female population refusing to go on a date with him. It was extremely satisfying.
“I would’ve thought it’d be quite obvious, Potter. I will not go to Hogsmeade with you; I won’t be your date. Cheers!” She smiled sarcastically, revelling in the pleasure of having wounded Potter’s ego, although quite disturbed that he had asked her in the first place.
“Now wait just a moment Matthews! I’m not done!” Potter said loudly, perhaps a bit more loudly than he had intended, as most of the crowded common room were now watching them.
“Yes, you are, Potter. I have nothing more to say to you, and thus you could not possibly have anything more to say to me. I will not go out with you, and that is that.”
She turned away, leaving Potter standing dumbstruck in the middle of the common room. His friends’ faces were a mix of grins and sympathetic looks as the Gryffindors erupted into a wave of mutterings. This was certainly a piece of news that would set the gossip mill on high. James Potter had asked out Calla Matthews and she had turned him down!
Calla ignored them and her friends shocked faces and hushed queries as she sat down.
The rejection routine began again for the hundredth time at the end of sixth year. Potter had asked her out for, and she was actually counting today, the seventy-sixth time in the last twenty-four hours. Her temper was already high and so close to her boiling point that she was about to explode.
Number seventy-six had probably been the worst of the day; he had smuggled in some Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes Fireworks into school and enchanted them to spell the words “Fancy a butterbeer, Matthews?” They’d appeared right in front of her around a half-hour ago and hadn’t left her alone yet. She was ready to throw something.
Potter appeared in front of her, grinning. “So Matthews,” he began.
“What the hell, Potter? Get these bloody fireworks off me!”
“No can do, Matthews. See, they only go away if the girl their designed to follow agrees to go on a date with the caster. That means you and me,” he said, the smirk on his face growing wider.
“You are absolutely the biggest arse I’ve ever met! You’re arrogant, you’re rude, you’re head is so big I’m surprised your broom can get off the ground!”
“Aw, you don’t mean that, Matthews. C’mon, give it a go, one date.”
“I’d rather snog a Death Eater!” Potter winced. This was probably the worst insult anyone could throw at someone who fancied them. Instantly, though, she regretted it; she did have some form of a heart, especially considering to whom she was speaking. But this wasn’t the time to apologize to Potter; she’d do that later... maybe.
“Right, well...” Potter didn’t seem to be able to articulate the right words, so Calla pulled out her wand and decided to end this.
“Just take the bloody spell off me, Potter.” She pointed her wand at him.
“No,” he said, regaining his maddeningly arrogant air.
“Potter, I will give you to the count of three to take this curse off before I hex you so badly that your own mum wouldn’t recognize you.”
“It’s not that bad, Matthews.”
“One...” she began. Potter eyed her wand warily; he’d been on the receiving end of one of her curses one too many times to not be cautious.
“Two...” Potter pulled out his own wand.
“Oh c’mon, Matthews, don’t make me hex you!” She just smirked; as if he could get past one of her Shield Charms long enough to actually curse her. He pointed his wand at her, still looking worried. Everyone around them was looking excitedly between the two of them. A Matthews-Potter duel was always worth a watch.
“Three!” And before James could so much as twitch his wand, he had been thrown backwards by the force of the Bat-Bogey Hex Calla had sent at him. It was quite comical: Potter sprawled on the ground with bats coming out of his nostrils and swarming around his face.
The surrounding crowd laughed- although some girls were glaring daggers- and Calla joined in. Potter would have been a bright scarlet if his face could have been seen.
“Alright, alright, I’ll take it off Matthews. Merlin...” he said before waving his wand and promptly making the fireworks disappear.
It was so odd remembering all those times and realizing that she had just shown the most confidence in Potter than she had anyone else before. To try to grasp the fact that she was now sitting in a corridor with him, acting like they were friends- or Potter just not acting like a git- was unthinkable. This whole experience was totally mind-boggling, yet oddly, it felt nice. It felt good to get things off her chest and to have someone who’d actually try to help her fix them instead of just giving her comfort.
As they sat in silence, Calla realised that there would be very few people who could have helped her with this, and they actually didn’t include her friends. Andie and Beth, wonderful as they were, would never have been able to change her mind like James had. Perhaps it was because they’re opinions were completely biased and they would just be saying what she wanted to hear.
Potter, for some reason, gave her the feeling that his opinion was impartial. It could be because she no longer believed that he fancied her as much as he had; it could also be that he knew what he was talking about, his own father’s parents had been murdered, his family were nice purebloods, everything. James understood; for some odd, inexplicable reason, he understood, and that was enough.
James smiled at her and stood up. “Well,” he said as he offered her his hand. “I think we’ve been sitting on this floor for much too long. What say you to getting out of here?”
Calla grinned, truly grinned, for the first time in a long time and grasped his hand to pull herself up. “Sure,” she said, and James pulled back the tapestry and they left the corridor.
A/N: BOOM: Calla's adopted! Story-changer! Was your mind blown? Probably not- I'm not that awesome. So what do you think about that? Did you expect it? Why or why not? What d'yall think about James's involvment? What do you think will happen next? Tell me everything- the good, the bad, and the ugly- in a review! I seriously love them!
I really hated writing this chapter, but as it's one of the most important in the novel, I had to suck it up and write it. Let me tell you, I didn't enjoy it.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of you in the States (or if you celebrate it in another country). Thanks for reading, please review, and I hope you liked it!