The rest of the train ride passed without incident. I ate some chocolate from the trolley like Mr. Potter told me to and I managed to ignore Alessia’s continued worried glances in my direction. The opening feast went typically, though I could feel more eyes on me than usual. Word of my fainting spell seemed to have spread quickly. Several people from each House had approached me, wondering how I was doing. The aging matron, Madam Pomfrey, had also checked me over, ensuring that I was in good health.
I suppose it’s nice to have a lot of people who like and care about you, but it was all so fake. The girl everyone thought I was… she disappeared six years ago, before any of these people had actually met me. Sometimes I really hate the perfection that everyone seems to think I am. If they knew the real me, the callous, bitter creature I’d become over the years, they’d surely run in the opposite direction.
Later that night, I was lying in bed, trying to forget the odd way James’d looked at me earlier. I’d thought everyone else was already asleep – it was, after all, well past midnight – when Lessie crawled into my bed beside me. I looked at her in confusion, but she just stared up at the blue hangings above my bed.
“Lessie… what-“ I began, but she cut in before I could ask her why she was there.
“So, do you want to tell me what’s going on between you and James Potter?”
“What? What are you even talking about?” I asked in fake confusion, although on the inside I was panicking. “I don’t think I’ve ever spoken to him before.” That was a lie, of course, but no one knew about the incident last May. There was no reason for Alessia to be suspicious.
“Oh, cut the crap,” Lessie scoffed impatiently. I blinked at her in surprise.
“On the platform today, you got all weird when Mike mentioned him, and you passed out when James looked you in the eye. He was staring at you all through dinner tonight, too.” Lessie had an accusing glint in her eyes.
“A lot of people were staring. They all heard about me fainting. Which, incidentally, has nothing to do with James Potter.” I looked Lessie in the eyes.
She looked at me skeptically. “…Right. You know, just because I’m Greek, doesn’t mean I’m stupid.”
“What does being Greek have anything to do with a person’s intelligence level?”
“Nothing.” Lessie paused. “Well, I don’t think so, anyways. I just needed something about me that was unusual to use for an example.”
I snorted. Yeah, because there aren’t any Greek people in the world. Except, you know, everyone in Greece.”
“Well, how many Greek people are in Hogwarts?” she asked defensively.
“Other than you? Hmm, let’s see, how about your six brothers and sisters? Not to mention the three that has left already.”
“Yeah, well it’s not my fault I have enough family to rival the Weasleys.” Lessie muttered under her breath. Then she glared at me. “And speaking of the Weasley family, that was a nice attempt to distract me.”
I looked her dead in the eyes. “Alessia. There is nothing going on with me and James Potter.” Not right now, anyway. But judging by the looks he’s been giving me, something was going to happen. But I doubt it would be anything like Lessie was insinuating.
Lessie’s eyes softened and she sighed. “Alright, if you say so.” She got out of my bed and started to walk away before turning around again. “If there was anything, you know you could tell me, right? You’re my best friend; you can tell me anything.”
“Of course. You’d be the first to know. For any guy, not just James Potter.”
As Alessia crawled back into her own bed, I felt a wave of guilt crash over me. Best friend. I’d never really applied that term to Lessie and I. But, looking back on the past few years, that must be how it seems to everyone. I certainly spend the most time with her out of everybody else. I tried not to think about how hurt she’d be if she found out how much of my life I hid. She had absolutely no idea about Joy. No one did. Except… never mind. Don’t think about that.
I rolled over, still troubled. Maybe… maybe it wouldn’t hurt to open up a little. Let myself need someone. Maybe Lessie and I really could be best friends – no. I can’t. As soon as I let myself need her, trust her, put faith in her… she’d be gone. She’d end up leaving me somehow. Just like Joy. My Joy.
I told myself I could never have friends. Not really. And I was going to stick to that decision.
I awoke early the next day, after a night of fitful sleep plagued by dreams of watching Joy die, again and again, while I did nothing to stop it. I just sat there praying as though it would actually do some good. Who needs faith anyway?
As everyone else in my dorm was still sleeping, I dressed quietly, deciding to go for a run before heading to the Great Hall for breakfast. I walked down to the Black Lake, before taking off at a quick jog, pacing myself for several laps around the lake. I had been running for about 20 minutes, building up my endurance level, and wasn’t really paying attention to my surroundings, when I suddenly slammed into someone and both of us were sent sprawling to the ground. I landed on top of the other person, smacking my head against a very hard, muscled chest.
“Oww,” I moaned before quickly scrambling to get up. “Sorry about that,” I said holding my hand out to the person I had knocked down.
I gaped in horror when I was James Potter sitting up, rubbing his chest, and glaring at me. “Bloody hell, can’t you watch where you’re going?”
“My apologies,” I muttered as he ignored my proffered hand and heaved himself up from the ground.
He scoffed. “’My apologies?’ What is this, the 1800s?”
“Well excuse me for having some manners,” I spat. Oh yeah, Lessie, James and I are definitely having an illicit love affair. Please.
“Since when do manners include rudely running into someone trying to have a relaxing walk around the lake? Especially when drenched in sweat. Dear Merlin, woman, you look disgusting. Not to mention smell.”
I clenched my jaw. “It’s called a work out. Maybe if you tried it sometime, Gryffindor wouldn’t suck so much at Quidditch.”
Instead of getting angry at my jibe, however, James just smirked. “Well, well, well. Someone isn’t very joyful today, now are they? Did your so called friends finally figure out what a phony you are?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, my throat going dry. Ignore it, ignore it, ignore it.
“Oh, I think you do,” James replied maliciously. “Not forgotten about our little meeting in the astronomy tower last year, have you? I thought you might be a little more grateful. After all, I did stop you from committing suicide.”
I growled. “Shut. Up. You have no idea what you’re talking about. I was NOT going to kill myself, I wasn’t even considering it. I would never do that. You’re just a manipulative creep that thinks he’s God’s gift to the world.” Too bad God would have to exist to do that. But “He” doesn’t. If he did, he wouldn’t have taken Joy away from me.
James just laughed sinisterly. “Really? So there’s no one you were hoping to join by killing yourself? No one you cared about who you want to see again?” I flinched at his harsh tone. “Oh wait, that’s right. You don’t care about anyone. Never have, am I right? You’re a just a selfish bitch who pretends to care about people, but on the inside, you’re just a soulless, cold-hearted, little slag, who sucks the life out of everyone around you. I don’t know what people see in you.”
I felt myself shake with anger. How dare him. How dare he imply that I never cared. My vision flashed red as I once again saw Joy in front of me, her lovely hair falling out from the futile and desperate chemotherapy, her wan, but still beautiful face drawn as she whispered her last words to me. Before I knew what was happening, my fist lashed out so fast it was a blur through the air.
My fist crashed into James’ nose, shattering it, and James was once more reacquainted with the dirt. I was breathing heavily, desperately trying and failing to hold back the tears that had begun rolling from my eyes.
“You-fucking-little-bastard,” I seethed, my entire body trembling with my rage. “You don’t know a goddamned thing. So shut the fuck up and never, ever, speak to me again.” To make my point clear, I rammed my foot into James’ stomach with all the force I had. He cried out in pain, his breath whooshing out of him. Then, without a backwards glance, I stormed back up to the castle.
I found myself a secret little niche on the second floor and, casting a silencing charm around the area, I let the tears flow freely, my whole body wracked with sobs as I begged for my sister. That’s all I wanted. I just need my Joy back.
But no one knew about her. Joy was my secret, the secret I could never tell anyone. No one knew my secret. No one could.
But the memory from last year, the one I had been suppressing with all my might ever since I saw James at Platform 9 ¾ yesterday overwhelmed me.
James Potter knew my secret.
Wow. That was dramatic. I know James seems like a real jerk right now, but he has his reasons. It’ll all be explained later. Next chapter will feature the return of Val’s other friends and the start of classes. And maybe the full story of what happened between Val and James during fifth year. I haven’t quite decided…
Anyway, thoughts? What do you think of the relationship between Val and Lessie? Feel sorry for Lessie? Think Val is a jerk?
Also, Val makes several anti-God/religion/faith statements. She made quite a few in this chapter and will continue to do so for the next several chapters. Just to make things clear, these are NOT my views. I believe myself to be a relatively religious person. Val is just in a very dark place and has spent six years unable to cope with the loss of her sister, the person she most loved in the world. Obviously, she’s going to have some issues.
And now… another sneak preview!
Lessie was looking at me strangely. There was an appraising look to her eyes and her lips were pursed in thought. It was as though she was examining me for any unusual behavior. She was probably trying to see if James’ injured state upset me, since she was clearly still hung up on the idea that he and I were up to something together.
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to the wonderful, fabulous, and effervescent Joanne Rowling.