James Potter POV
I was confused. I was pissed off. I was sad. And I was hopeful. Is it normal for a bloke to feel this many bloody emotions at once? Or am I turning into a girl or something? Dear Merlin, I hope not. Fred would never let me live it down. Neither would Al, or Louis, or Hugo, or Ted, for that matter. Heck, even Lily would mock me mercilessly. I’m actually quite proud of how she’s turning out. She’s a feisty little bugger that won’t take crap from anyone. I’ve trained her well.
But, anyways, that’s hardly the point. The point is, Val freaking Sullivan is messing with my head. Seriously, I just feel like banging it against the wall every time I see her. Or think about her. And that happens a lot more often than I’d like to admit.
Perhaps I should explain. I’ve had a crush on Val since we were both second years. It all happened during the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw Quidditch match that year. We had both made our respective teams as Chasers and were facing off for the first time. Although Gryffindor won the Cup, Ravenclaw had won that match. And a lot of it fell down to Val. The girl was insanely talented, even as a newbie. Her aim was dead accurate and she had quite the throwing arm. I don’t think she’s missed a single shot since she joined the team. But I digress. The point is, during the course of the match, Val ended up knocking me off my broom, trying to get in one last shot before the snitch was caught. She’d made the goal – of course – and then taken me to the hospital wing, rushing me off before anyone else could get to me. She didn’t even stay on the pitch to celebrate her team’s victory.
She hadn’t stuck around though. I had passed out about a minute after hitting the ground and didn’t come to for about 15 minutes. I’d woken up in the hospital wing, surrounded by the team and my enormous family, but Val wasn’t there. That evening, however, I’d received an unsigned note reading Sorry. Great game today.
It was right about then that I felt the figurative sting of Cupid’s arrow. I didn’t talk to Val, I was frankly too much of a pansy to, but I did start noticing her more. How genuinely kind she was to everyone. How she excelled in every single subject. I already knew how gifted she was on the Quidditch pitch. People from every House flocked around her. She was bright, bubbly, and pretty much perfect in every way. I was a goner.
It was always a bit of a godsend to me that she dated so rarely. But it was a slap in the face when she dated Fred in fourth year. I was furious with Fred, although it was kind of unjustified. I hadn’t told him how I felt about Val. I hadn’t told anyone. The way I had seen it, I had zero chance with her, so why bother looking like an idiot. I wonder now how things may have been different if I had spoken to someone, or acted on my crush somehow.
Then… everything changed. I decided to go up to the Astronomy Tower one night as my fifth year was coming to an end, hoping to clear my head from the pressure of my O.W.L.s. I had been completely shocked and rather frightened to see Val perched precariously on the edge of the window ledge, crying. Naturally, my mind jumped to conclusions and I rushed over to her to, I believed at the time, save her life.
Of course, my little heroic bubble had been popped when Val, the lovely sweet girl I was so enamored with, had denied my accusations of suicide and turned cynical and bitter. I couldn’t believe the words that had been coming from her mouth. And then… then, she told me about her sister. Joy. It was only then that I was able to see past the twisted mask she wore on her face and see what lurked beneath it. Pain. Torment. Guilt. And a sadness so heartbreaking it made me want to cry myself.
I tried to make her understand. I needed her to understand. I felt her loss in that moment. I felt it so deep that, for a moment, I felt as though I had lost one of my own siblings. But when I tried to tell her that, she’d snapped. The rage on her face left me shaken. It was so clear to me that she couldn’t deal with her loss. That it’d been following her, haunting her, ever since it happened. So, I tried to tell her to let it go, to stop suppressing her memories. Instead, she’d slapped me across the face.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I kissed her. It wasn’t a long kiss, but it was long enough. It was long enough for me to know that I had to help this girl. I knew that somewhere inside of her was the person she’d been pretending to be. I knew that she was just as wonderful as I’d always thought her to be, even if she wasn’t at the moment. The kiss was also long enough for me to realize that I’d stopped fancying her long ago. The kiss was long enough for me to realize that I was in love with Val.
In that moment, I decided that she was going to get better. I was going to help her accept her sister’s death; help her see that letting go won’t mean she doesn’t love her sister. And I was going to do this by any means necessary.
“Oi! Earth to James. Hello, anyone in there?”
I blinked, and looked at Fred, who was waving a hand in front of my face. “What?” I asked, slightly annoyed.
“Dude, you just blanked out there for about 10 minutes,” he said raising his eyebrow. “What’s going on in that big head of yours?”
“Yeah, because you’re one to talk,” I muttered, slightly embarrassed. Truth was, I had zoned out, staring at Val. But if I told Fred that, I’d have to turn in my man card. Yes, I have an actual man card. Fred made it for me when I was a fourth year. It’s a laminated piece of paper with the word “man” written on it in large, red letters. Don’t ask me what its significance is. Fred’s a bit odd. He decided that, as my older, supposedly wiser cousin, he need to mentor me in the ways of being a man. When he thought I was ready, he gave me the card and warned me that he could take it back if I compromised my man status. Whatever that meant.
Fred and I were sitting in the library. I was frankly rather shocked that Freddy was willing to go to the library. Although, I’m pretty sure he has his eye on that Ravenclaw girl, Val’s friend Rhiannon. I suppose he thought that Rhiannon might be here, as a studious Ravenclaw.
Too bad for Fred, she wasn’t. Val, however, was. She was sitting with Roxy, May Finnegan, and two other girls I didn’t know. The girls kept up scattered conversation while they worked, although Val didn’t really participate. And this was what had me worried. She’d been… off ever since the last time we’d spoken.
I jumped as Fred snapped his fingers in front of my face. “You’re doing it again,” he sighed.
“Sorry, man, I guess I just can’t concentrate.”
“Oh, really? No kidding,” he scoffed. “What has you so distracted anyway?” Fred began craning his neck around in search, rising to his feet.
I pushed him back into his chair. “Nothing,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t notice Val. Too late.
“Aha! It’s Val, isn’t it?”
“What does Sullivan have to do with anything?”
“Alright, seriously James. What the hell is going on between you two?”
I laughed bitterly. “Freddy, you’d have to be crazy to think something happening between me and Val Sullivan.” She probably hated me anyways. I’d been a bit of an arsehole. Well, a huge arsehole, actually.
“Really, now?” he asked skeptically. “Then I suppose you wouldn’t have any issues telling me the meaning behind that little fight you guys had on the first day of school, now would you?”
He had me there. But I couldn’t tell him about Joy. It was in no conceivable way my secret to tell. Val clearly did not want anyone to know about her sister. So why she told me, I have no idea. And if anything, the way I’ve treated her will have done nothing but encourage her not to tell anyone.
Ah, there it is again. The guilt. After I’d first found out, after I’d kissed Val, I had been willing to do anything to help her. Now, however, I couldn’t help but think I was too harsh. I’d hoped that by antagonizing her, forcing her to remember her sister, maybe Val would come out of her shell. Open up to someone. Namely, me. Yet, I’d watched her for this past month and if anything, she’d gotten worse. Looking at her now, she seemed sad and ill. And still completely, utterly… faithless. And it was my fault. What had I been thinking? How the hell would making her feel like complete and utter shit help her come to terms with her grief? And why would she feel like opening up to me, anyways? In her eyes, it hadn’t really worked out all that well the first time. God, I was so stupid.
“Fred,” I began, but we were interrupted by the sound of a slamming book. Roxy, it seemed, was fed up with Val’s defeated attitude. She began demanding answers from Val, her voice verging on a shout as she tried to get Val to talk. I felt my blood run cold as she mentioned me.
“You know who I mean. James! Fred told me about that little shouting match you two had during the first week of school. He stares at you all the time, and recently he’s been looking like someone cancelled Quidditch! What the hell is going on?”
I felt Fred’s eyes on me. I determinedly averted my own eyes, focusing back on my work, but straining my ears so I could catch Val’s answer. What would she say?
But Val just shrugged off Roxy’s interrogation and walked out of the library. I kept my eyes on my Transfiguration essay, firmly telling myself that I couldn’t run out after her. Footsteps stormed over in my direction and I felt a hand roughly grasp my hair and yank my head up.
“Ouch! Merlin, Roxanne, what the bloody hell is wrong with you?” I asked, meeting Roxy’s glare.
“Fix. It.” Her voice was a snarl as she jabbed me in the chest with her finger.
I opened my mouth in confusion, but Roxy jumped in before I could speak.
“Val. Whatever you did to her, fix it. Now.”
“Woah, woah,” I held up my hands. “I didn’t do a damn thing.” Lie.
“How stupid do you think I am?” she seethed. Maisie came up behind her, arms crossed, looking upset. The two unknown girls had apparently left.
“James,” May said quietly, “we’ve never seen Val like this. It’s been going on for far too long. We don’t know for certain it’s you, but you’re the only person we know that has antagonized her.”
Before I knew what was happening, I found myself nodding. “Okay, yeah I’ll fix things.”
May nodded before gently pulling Roxy away, who was still glaring at me. I gathered my books together and said goodbye to Fred, my mind too occupied for school work.
Fix things. Fix Val. That had been the plan from the start. But my first attempt had clearly failed. So ends Plan A, now it was time to move onto Plan B. The problem? I have no bloody clue what Plan B is.
At about 10 o’clock that evening, I was wondering around the castle, paying no mind to where I was going. Frankly, I was putting off having to go to bed. Every time I closed my eyes, I would always see the raw pain in Val’s eyes when I mentioned Joy. Needless to say, I completely regretted everything I’d said to her this year.
Well, not everything. The jibes about her sister, bringing up the Astronomy Tower incident, all the insults I’d thrown at her, those I regretted. Except one. Calling her fake. Because that one is actually true. Sure, she’s not a fake in the typical sense, but she is still is one. She puts on airs, pretending to be what she isn’t, fooling other people about what she’s really like. Yeah, her persona is who she was before Joy died, but it’s still not who she is now.
There are few things I hate more than fakes. And unfortunately, due to my unearned fame, I had to deal with a lot of them. People constantly tried to be “good enough” to be my friend. Girls tried to make themselves “perfect” so I would want to date them. I hated it. There was a reason most of my friends were family.
Val is just so freaking complicated. She’s not being herself, but at the same time she is. It’s like, on the surface, she’s one thing. The charismatic, kind, lovely girl everyone loves. But underneath that is a deep layer of hurt, pain, and cynicism. Dig even further, though, and there was another, deeper layer that was exactly like the surface. Like a pie.
I leaned against a wall, trying to silence my thoughts, and glanced around at my surroundings. It seemed that I had unconsciously wandered to the corridor leading to the Ravenclaw common room. I used to come here all the time in my third year, hiding by the entrance, hoping to catch a glimpse of Val. What? I know it was stalker-ish, but I was thirteen. All blokes are a bit creepy at that age. Just look at Hugo. He’s thirteen right now and is a complete freak when it comes to the opposite gender. The kid stole the socks of a girl he fancies and smells them every night. He smells her socks. That definitely has to be Uncle Ron’s influence. Aunt Hermione’s way too hygienic for a sock fetish.
I whipped around as I heard footsteps approaching from around the corner. I cursed under my breath, looking for a spot to hide. Al had the cloak tonight, so I had no cover. There was a niche about 10 meters away from where I was, but there was no way I’d be able to make it in time. I shrank back into the shadows, holding myself tense.
I felt a shock run through me when I saw Val rounding the corner. She still looked tired, sick, and upset, but there was a slight smile on her face and a vaguely… hopeful glint to her eyes? She stopped dead when she spotted me, halfway down the corridor.
“What are you doing out this late?” I blurted suddenly. She raised an eyebrow.
“I could ask you the same question,” she said, her mouth set into a frown. I stared at her lips for a moment. They were full and lightly pink. I knew from experience that they would be soft and warm against mine… I shook myself slightly, realizing she was talking.
“At least I’m actually near my common room. You’re a long way from the Lion’s Den, aren’t you?” I smiled slightly at her analogy. “Besides,” she continued, “I’m a prefect. What’s you’re excuse?”
I looked at her blankly. “You may be a prefect, but you’re not scheduled to be on patrol tonight.”
“And how would you know that?”
Because I know everything about you. At least, everything I can without talking to you or anyone you’re close to. “I happen to know that the fifth years are patrolling tonight. My cousin was complaining about being paired with Scoripus Malfoy. You know Rose?”
“Of course. Sweet girl, excellent Keeper, and top of her year. I know Scorpius as well. Kind-hearted boy, though most people don’t see it, brilliant Seeker, second in his year behind Rose, and the first decent Malfoy in centuries. He and Rosie are so meant to be, even if she doesn’t see it. Stubborn little bint,” she added with a slightly affectionate smile.
“You’ve talked to her before?” I asked. I hadn’t known that. I knew she got on well with a fair few of my cousins, but I hadn’t known Rose was one of them.
Val rolled her eyes. “Yeah. She’s close with Dom, so Dom introduced us back when I was a third year.”
“How many of my family members are you close with, anyways?” I asked, my curiosity piqued. I hadn't known she was friends with Dom, either. Dom was three years older than us. I didn’t even stop to think how bizarre it was that Val and I were having a relatively normal conversation that didn’t involve any violence, yelling, or personal insults.
She looked away. “None of them. I’m not close to anyone. But I know Toire, Dom, Louis, Fred, of course, Roxy, Rosie, and Molly. Oh, and Al, too, now.”
“Really? Vic and Molly?”
Val gave me a look that immediately made me feel like an idiot. “Victoire was the first Weasley I’ve ever met. She’s only best friends with my older sister. Toire came to my house back when I was seven. And Mollzers is the coolest third year around. Nothing like your Uncle Percy is rumored to be.”
My brain was starting to ache. “How do you know about Uncle Percy? We may all agree that he’s a right old stick in the mud, but there’s still no way Molls would say anything bad about him.”
“She didn’t have to,” she said, rolling her eyes again. “I heard all about him from Rhea.”
“Don’t you know anything about your own cousins? Rhea Karalis, Alessia’s sister? Also the sister of one of your Beaters? She’s Molly’s best friend. Just because you’re too afraid of being used by other people to give them a chance, doesn’t mean everyone else in your family is.”
Now I was really dumbfounded. My jaw dropped and I looked at Val in incredulous shock. “What?”
“You’re a wimp, Potter. You’re too afraid someone will try to use you because of your dad’s fame to allow other people to befriend you. Newsflash, not everyone cares. The only people you hang around with are your cousins and family friends, like the Longbottoms and the Scamanders. Yeah, I get it; there are people that only like you because you’re a mini-celebrity. But that doesn’t mean you should shut everyone out. You’re too presumptuous, thinking the worst of everyone. Maybe you should try giving someone the benefit of the doubt for once in your life.”
She paused to take a breath before plowing on, a vicious glint in her eyes. “When was the last time you talked to someone new in the Great Hall? In class? The library? Heck, even your own common room? Do you even know everyone in Gryffindor? Or even in sixth year? I bet you couldn’t name more than 10 people outside your little circle. And there’s no excuse for that. There are good people in the world, in this school. You just have to suck up your irrational fears and deflate your head.”
Val may as well have punched me again. She was right. I tended to ignore anyone I wasn’t already acquainted with. Anytime someone made a friendly gesture, I just brushed them off, assuming they wanted something. I didn’t even know who my own cousins were friends with!
Val smirked. “It’s not fun having someone point out all your flaws, is it? But, see, here’s the difference between you and me; I already knew what a fucked up person I am. But for you… reality stings, huh?
A choking noise was coming from my throat. In all honesty, while I felt like a jerk for how I’ve acted toward other people, it wasn’t truly a big deal. Not in the long run, and not when it could be so easily fixed. But as Val had said, someone viciously pointing out your faults isn’t exactly a pleasant experience. And if someone were to tell you about how your inability to recover from the loss of your sister makes you a horrible person… well it would be that much worse.
“What,” Val asked, “No clever comeback? No comment about me to deflect from yourself? You’re not going to start ripping into me about things that are none of your business?”
I shook my head slowly. “I’m sorry,” I whispered.
“What?” she said in astonishment.
“I’m sorry,” I said louder, full of sincerity. “I shouldn’t have done what I did. Said what I did. I was wrong.”
Val stared at me for a moment, a flurry of emotions flickering across her face. Without warning, she turned and punched the wall. I took a step forward in shock as she let out a quiet hiss, shaking her hand. She whipped back around to look at me when I gently took her hand to assess the damage. It was broken.
“Let me heal you,” I murmured, pulling out my wand. Before I could do anything, though, Val shoved me away.
“Stop messing with my head!” she growled, now kicking the wall. Huh. I hadn’t really pegged her as the violent type.
“What do you mean?” I watched her warily as she threw her hands in the air, a frustrated look on her face.
“You’re bloody bipolar! We basically ignore each other for almost five years, then suddenly – Bam! – you’re saving me from what you incorrectly assumed to be a suicide. Then, when I slap you, you kiss me! And this year, you constantly stare at me! On the first day back, you gave me the weirdest looks, but the next day you yell at me and insult me, throwing my sister’s death in my face! I break your nose, but you refuse to get it healed. You insult me some more. You spend a week glaring at me until you confront me in the library. You start off all mysterious before you lapse back into the insults until I end up curled in a ball in the Room of Requirement, sobbing and shaking from buried memories. And then – nothing. Nada. We ignore each other for a month and a half. Nothing but stares on your part. But now? Suddenly you’re apologizing and trying to help me? What gives?”
She was breathing heavily by the end of her rant. Oh, hello, guilt. I missed you. Val was completely right. I was kind of being a jerk. No, not kind of. I was being a jerk. My eyes were closed, but they snapped open when she stalked past me.
“By the way,” she snapped, before flinching slightly, for some odd reason. “I was talking to Professor McGonagall.”
Then she proceeded to answer the riddle the eagle knocker asked her and storm into her common room. I leaned back against the wall once more. God, I was an idiot.
And… ta da! There we have the mystery of James Potter. Not so mysterious anymore, is it? I know, it’s a bit cliché, him having a long-term crush on Val, but I like to think his ways of dealing with her are a bit unorthodox. Most guys wouldn’t think “Hmm, this girl I like can’t deal with the demons of her past. I should be a huge jerk-face meanie butt to her so she gets better and then falls in love with me.” At least, I hope they don’t think that.
All in all, I’m not the happiest with this chapter. I’ve been working on it for a while, but I still feel like I don’t quite do James justice. I have a very clear picture of how my characters are in my head. Val, I think, translates very well from thoughts in my head to words. James, however… I don’t know. What do you think?
We’ll be back in Val’s perspective for chapter ten. Here’s a bit of a preview of what’s to come:
I sat up in shock and locked eyes with my brother, David. “Ho-how long have you been there?”
“Awhile,” he replied, sitting down next to me. “I came in when you started talking about our little sojourn into Mr. McCormack’s backyard."
“You mean when you got treed by his dachshund?” I asked, smiling slightly.
David groaned. “Don’t remind me, that thing was vicious. I had been so excited to go on that ‘spy mission’ with you two. I’d spent the last week hearing about your little adventures. But it seems that fate declared that would be my first and last time joining you two."
Disclaimer: James Potter II is a character born from J.K. Rowling’s mind, just like anything else you recognize. And the "like a pie" line and comparison is from Dr. Horrible's Sing- Along Blog. If you haven't seen that movie, you have to check it out. It's hilarious and Neil Patrick Harris sings. Enough said.
Just a side note, despite the chapter title, this song was not inspired by, nor is it related in any way, to the song “Turning Tables,” by Adele. But I do love that song.