Chapter 5 : Starting Over
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“Well this is cozy.” James grinned from his plush armchair. We were sitting in a corner deep within the library. This was our first get-to-know-you date, and so far things were going pretty well. Then again, we only just entered the library, which doesn’t close for another two hours. Who knows how much damage I’ll do in that short amount of time.
I grinned over my potions book from my own comfy chair. I had finished my double potions reading during one of my free periods, and now I was triple checking the ingredients needed for our pre-mature polyjuice potion. One pinch of powdered horn of a Bicorn that has been, and I quote, lunar extracted? What was a bicorn again? It was something scary, but also so bizarre it was almost laughable.
James, probably seeing my ‘oh so attractive’ constipated look of confusion, strained his neck to see what I was reading. “Bicorn’s are particularly dangerous and kind of look like cows. Their horns fall off annually and are usually collected when the creatures are looking the other way. Lunar extracted most likely means they were collected at the full moon, just like the fluxweed. I doubt Slughorn is going to pull what he did with the plants since Bicorn’s are so hazardous. He probably has that ingredient in the student cupboard for you guys.”
My mouth dropped and I looked up at him. “Did you seriously just say something intelligent?”
James looked affronted. “First of all, I normally say intelligent things, ask your brothers. Secondly, it’s hardly considered intelligent. It’s common knowledge if you simply pay attention in class.”
It was my turn to be insulted. “I do pay attention in class, but we learned about that in, what, second year? How can you remember something like that?”
James gave a small shrug. “I don’t know. I just do. It comes with the territory of being related to Hermione Weasley.”
“Great. So you simply share her blood and are unfairly gifted with intelligence. Where as I, a normal, hard working girl who is best friends with you whole lot, attempts a polyjuice potion and ends up with a broken spirit and a tangle mess of curls.”
James had a strange look on his face and I was torn between blushing and laughing. “What in the bloody hell are you talking about?” He asked.
I decided on the former, seeing as we had only been in the library for ten minutes and I had already embarrassed myself. “Never mind, never mind,” I said, waving my hand dismissively.
James chuckled, “You’re always doing that aren’t you? Ever since we were kids. You say something completely ridiculous and then act as if nothing happened. It’s so funny to watch you.” A sexy smirk slipped onto his face and I was momentarily dazed.
I regained my composure and nodded. “And you’re just funny looking.”
James’ chocolate brown eyes widened. “Excuse me, but I am damn sexy, thank you very much.”
I groaned and rolled my eyes. “And who told you that absurd lie?”
James frowned. “Pretty much every single girl I’ve ever dated.”
I snorted. “Well, considering they were under the imperius curse, don’t you think that their opinions of you might have been tampered with?”
James watched me as I went back to my homework, a knowing look on his face. “I think you know their opinions of me were completely their own.”
I gave another snort. “And why do you say that, Mr. Potter?”
I could see James’ grin widen. “I happen to know for a fact that back in fourth year, you told Al, and I quote, ‘James is about as sexy as it gets.’”
I could feel my face slip from its peachy complexion to a deep red. Had I said those exact words? I mean, I compliment James’ looks on a daily basis; while he is absent of course. It doesn’t seem unlikely that I would say something similar to that. I buried my face deeper in my book hoping, I could hide my blush. “Note to self. Kill Albus.”
James pulled down the book from my face, smiling. “It’s no crime to think I’m attractive. You aren’t the first girl to think so and you won’t be the last.”
Annoyance flared in the pit of my stomach. Reason one why James Potter the second is a prat: his ego is bigger than his hair and he only thinks of himself. I slammed my potions book shut, causing James to jump. “This is why we don’t hang out anymore. You are too damn arrogant for your own good. You would think with humble parents such as yours, you would learn a thing or two. Just because a gaggle of stupid girls think you’re attractive you gain an ego the size of a... a hippo!” Lame, but I got my point across.
James looked thoroughly stunned. “Why are you so upset about this?”
“I’ll tell you why, you’re one of those kids whose personality is only so-so and yet everyone adores you because you have a pretty face. Where as me, someone who actually had to develop a personality due to their lack of looks, goes completely unnoticed.” I sat there seething.
James’ face contorted in rage. “You hardly talk to me for six years and you have the nerve to criticize my personality? You know what, some people might see you and think you’re mental but I have the sense not to judge someone by their cover. Why do you think I’m taking the time to get to know you again? And who told you that you weren’t attractive?”
“You did!” I snapped. James looked alarmed. His eyes quickly softened into a look of sadness. Any anger I had previously felt bubbling in my stomach disappeared. It was as if someone turned off the fire that was boiling my insides red hot. When I spoke, my voice was softer. “Well, not directly. But you only hang out with pretty girls. I kind of put two and two together in my third year.”
“Bethany,” James lightly cupped my cheek and held my gaze. The skin underneath his fingers burned, and tingles ran up my spine. He was so close I could feel his breath on my lips. “Don’t you ever think you are unattractive. You must be the one under the imperius curse, because that is the stupidest thing I have ever heard.”
My heart probably skipped three beats, which cannot be healthy. How long had I dreamed of James calling me beautiful? How long had that idea lulled me to sleep, only to be ripped away with the light of each day? James Potter the second has an ego bigger than his hair and can only think of himself?
James let go of my face and I found myself still stupidly leaning forward, anticipating a kiss that would never happen. I sat back in my chair, trying to make sense of my muddled thoughts. All was silent for some time, and then finally, “Is your favorite color still sunset red?”
“Huh?” I turned to James, hardly having heard what he asked me.
“I’m asking about your favorite color. I remember when we were kids it used to be sunset red. It used to be bright green before we climbed up onto your roof and watched the sun set on the summer solstice.”
He still remembered that? It is one of the best childhood memories I possess. The summer before my eighth birthday, Rose’s mum told us that it was the longest day of the year. It was a long, detailed explanation involving a lot of words I didn’t understand, but once Ron had shut her up all the kids went outside into the Potter’s back yard. We all talked about wanting to witness the sunset on such a special occasion. To get the best view for the show, we decided to climb out of my window and onto the roof.
I was too scared to do something so dangerous, so I was the one who went last. I stood in front of my open window, unsure of what to do when James popped his head back in. “What’s the matter?”
“I-I don’t know if I want to go up anymore.” I stammered.
James cocked his head to the side. “Why not?”
I looked down at my tightly clasped hands and whispered, “I’m scared.”
James laughed and smiled, exposing a few missing teeth. “Well that’s no reason not to do it! You’re going to be a Gryffindor aren’t you?” I nodded earnestly. “Well come on then! Show me that red and gold bravery!” When I still didn’t move he held out his hand. “I’ll help you.” I gingerly grasped his hand and he pulled me onto the roof. We didn’t break our grip until we were safely back in my room.
I shook myself out of my memory. “Yeah, it’s still sunset red. Well, I like all of the colors in the sunset. The deep dark blue at the top of the sky that fades into deep purple, and the clouds that reflect soft rosy pink, and the red that changes into intense orange. And to top it all off, there’s a splattering of stars all over. Everything is so raw and beautiful.” I was grinning now. “The colors just take my breath away.” I sighed, remembering the sky when James led me up onto the roof. “What about you?” I turned back to the current James who seemed enraptured by my description, a slight smile on his face.
He was staring so intently that I felt slightly uncomfortable. Besides, creepily staring at him was my thing. “Why are you staring at me like that?”
James seemed to shake his head. “What?”
“I was asking about your favorite color. I assume it isn’t pink anymore.” I gave a little grin.
James’ face turned the shade of his former favorite color. “No, actually. It isn’t anymore. I’m more of a dark green person now a days. Although, I still have a soft spot for the color pink.”
My grin widened. “Green used to be my favorite color.”
James’ face darkened, “I know.” Why was he turning red? Was it ‘cause he was embarrassed about his secret affair with the color pink?
I gave his arm a slight nudge. “Hey, pink is a pretty manly color too you know.”
His grinned changed from bashful to bright. “Thanks, Beth.”
* * * * *
“Oh, man did you see the librarians face when she found us?” James’ laugh echoed around the empty hallway, earning him more than a few angry glares from the portraits on the walls.
I rolled my eyes. “Her name is Madam Pince, James. And I think she might have been a little more forgiving if you had used her name instead of saying, ‘Oh, um, sorry head librarian, lady, ma’am.’” I dropped my voice a few octaves, attempting to sound like James. It failed miserably. Seriously, I think I saw a suit of armor wince. That’s how sad it was.
James laughed again. “Okay, I’m sorry but you have to admit that the look on her face when she found us was pretty damn hilarious.”
I bit back a laugh. “It was pretty funny.”
James and I had lost track of time because we were too busy goofing off. Apparently our visit to the library surpassed two hours and Madam Pince nearly had a Bicorn when she found us doodling in our comfy chairs an hour after curfew. Her face was screwed up in pure rage, and her eye was doing this weird twitch thing. We made a beeline for the exit of the library before she could give us a detention.
James and I were still chuckling over Madam Pince when we heard quick footsteps coming around the corner. Our laughter died almost immediately. James cursed under his breath. “It’s probably Filch. We need to get out of here quick or he’ll find us.”
He began to jog the other way. Meanwhile, my feet seemed to be glued to the floor. I had never been caught out of bed before. Scratch that, I had never broken curfew before. Make all the jokes about my lack of social life that you want. I’ve already heard from my brothers. But, unlike them, I was never invited to party it up in the room or requirement, nor have I snuck down to the kitchens for a middle of the night snack.
I don’t break rules, ever. No. Like seriously, check my record it’s squeaky clean. So the prospect of being caught doing something frowned upon, or even- dare I say it- against the rules, terrifies me. My darn Hufflepuff nature just won’t allow me to run around the corner to safety.
James seemed to have realized this and was quickly by my side once more, tugging my hand and hissing in my ear, “Beth, we need to go, now. I don’t suppose you’d like to serve detention would you?”
Detention? Oh, good Merlin. I would not like that. What would my poor mother say? She would probably cry and take up drinking to sooth the pain. While my father would look away and growl, “I have no daughter.” I would be forced to live on the street, groveling for money and begging every passerby for a measly piece of bread.
This fantasy of mine seemed to wake me up, and I quickly turned to run away. However, I turned a little too abruptly and smacked my face into James’ hard chest. He was in the process of giving me one last strong tug and was unprepared for my sudden movement. He fell backwards and slammed against the wall. I stumbled after him and he had to grab me around the waste to keep my face from smacking into the ground.
He pulled me into an upright position and pushed some hair out of my face, leaving a trail of heat where his finger grazed my skin. “Are you okay?” He asked, slightly breathless.
I moved my mouth uselessly for a few seconds until I found my ability to speak again. “What are you two doing out of bed?”
Huh? That’s not what I wanted to ask. Maybe my brain is malfunctioning from all of this excitement. It took me longer than I’d care to admit to figure out that it wasn’t me who had spoken. The thing is, it didn’t sound like Filch either.
Rebecca looked a little more than stunned to see James and I together at a late hour. She held up her wand in front of her, providing a source of light. Her green eyes shot between both of us, drinking up the scene. Then she placed a hand on her hip and adapted her face as if to say, “I’m head girl so you better listen to me.”
“Do I need to report you both for inappropriate behavior after curfew?”
Inappropriate behavior? What was so inappropriate about James and I hanging out in the library? Granted, she didn’t know we were coming from the library, or that the sound of her footsteps had scared me and forced me to bump into James, causing us to fall back into this tight embrace. Oh, this probably looks a lot worse than it is.
I quickly pushed myself away from James, blushing furiously. “Oh, no, no, no, Rebecca. We were seriously walking back to our dormitories from the library. We weren’t doing anything inappropriate. I swear.”
She cocked an eyebrow. “You two looked pretty cozy pressed up against that wall.”
“No, Rebecca. I swear we weren’t snogging or anything.” It was James who spoke this time.
She snorted. “Right, and I’m supposed to believe this coming from the schools biggest playboy?”
James looked a little more than hurt. “Yes, you are. I don’t do that stuff anymore. Beth has been teaching me that snogging the pants off of someone isn’t the best way to show affection.”
Rebecca’s green eyes widened in shock, “I-is this true Beth?”
Huh? I had only told him that once… which was yesterday. But okay, I’ll play along if it gets me out of a detention. I nodded, “Yeah, kind of.”
She nodded slowly, lowing her wand. “All right then. I’ll let you lot go. But this is where you part ways. Beth, come with me back to our dormitory. James, go back to Gryffindor tower. I’ll let you give her one last kiss goodnight.”
I was about to protest, but Rebecca was staring at us expectantly, her hip cocked. I glanced at James who gave me the same odd look I was giving him. It was all so awkward, and I kind of felt like laughing. James felt the same way. I could tell by the slight twitch of the corner of his lips.
Finally, after a few agonizingly slow seconds, James placed a hand underneath my chin and kissed my forehead. I closed my eyes and held my breath, enjoying each second that passed. All too soon, his lips left my skin and he was squeezing my hand with his free one. I opened my eyes and met his own. “See you tomorrow, Beth.” I nodded and watched him walk the opposite way down the hall, wishing he could stay.
I bit my lip and was surprised to see Rebecca smirking at me. “What?” I asked her.
“You deserve an award. You’ve been dating the bloke a total of two days and you’ve managed to completely turn him around.” She gave my shoulder a playful nudge.
I grinned feebly. “It wasn’t that hard to do. I mean he’s a pretty great guy already,” I said, remembering the plan to convince Rebecca to fall for James.
She shook her head. “Who would have figured James Potter was a good guy.”
“I’ve always known.” I blurted out before I could stop myself. The thing is though, I was telling the truth. Even though the kid pissed me off and I complained about him daily, I always knew he was a good guy- just a little confused.
Rebecca grinned and began to walk back toward the Hufflepuff common room. “You are a much better Hufflepuff than me, Beth. Sorry, I know you probably didn’t want to hear that.”
I fell into step next to her. “No, it’s fine. I have a theory that the sorting hat was hopped up on dust when he sorted me into Hufflepuff. Al always said one ripped eye did look bigger than the other.”
Rebecca let out a tinkling laugh. “That’s the thing. I don’t think it was a mistake that you’re in Hufflepuff. I mean, sure you exemplify more than a few Gryffindor qualities - bravery, chivalry, and strength. But you also epitomize all the qualities attributed to the house of Hufflepuff. You’re loyal to your friends. I had written James off as a prat for so long, yet you knew deep down he was good. You’re patient,” she ignored my snort, “and you have a strong work ethic.” I couldn’t argue with her on that one. How do you expect I’ve managed to survive my N.E.W.T classes? “Plus, you’re meek and humble in your accomplishments.”
I snorted once more. “Hardly.”
“Really?” Rebecca cocked an eyebrow. “Because I’ve heard you were a pretty phenomenal hockey player when you went home for the holidays. And didn’t you dance on the side as well?”
It’s true. I used to dance and play hockey during my holidays. I know, I know. They’re basically complete opposites, but I love them both. I had to stop after I started my fifth year, because it was too much of a hassle to rush from Hockey practice to a ballet recital during my summer holidays. Sure I would practice when I could at school, but it was too much of a commitment to do one, let alone two demanding outside activities and still go to Hogwarts. I shrugged. “I was alright at both.”
Rebecca snorted. “A little better than all right from what Al told me.”
I ignored her comment. “So what are you saying? I’m both a Hufflepuff and a Gryffindor?”
“Well, yes. I mean, if you can’t be just one, why not be both. After all, you’re the most Gryffindor Hufflepuff I’ve ever met.”
I smirked, “I like it. The most Gryffindor Hufflepuff you’ve ever met.” I repeated softly.
Rebecca and I walked past the portrait that led to the kitchen and up to a pile of very large barrels on the right hand side of the corridor. I counted two barrels from the top and two from the middle of the second row, and then tapped the rhythm, “Helga Hufflepuff.” The barrel opened to reveal an earthy passageway sloping slightly upwards. Rebecca and I proceeded to walk into the tunnel as the barrel slid back into place behind us.
We walked forward, the cool earth causing the hair on my arms to stand on end. “So,” Rebecca started out. “I couldn’t help but notice that you and Cal haven’t been talking much the past two days.”
“We haven’t been talking at all, actually.” I corrected her.
Rebecca nodded. “I was trying to be polite. Why the sudden change? You two were inseparable from the moment you both were placed into this house.”
Actually, Cal was inseparable from me for the first few days. He just eventually grew on me. I decided not to correct Rebecca again, and instead answered her question. “He thinks I’m stupid for dating James.”
“Well, we all kind of think you’re stupid for dating James.”
“Thanks for that vote of confidence, Rebecca. I knew I could count on you.” I spoke sarcastically.
“Let’s face it. The bloke’s been a playboy ever since he arrived first year. Who would have thought James would turn around once he started dating you? He actually seems serious for once.”
My heart thumped painfully against my chest. The plan was working; Rebecca was beginning to view James in a new light. I should be happy right? Wrong. I felt scared. So far James’ plan was going swimmingly whereas my plan wasn’t. Every time I found a flaw in James, he flipped everything around and I found myself flat on my arse feeling stupid. James Potter is stupid? Wrong. James Potter has helped me with my homework at least twice this week. James Potter only thinks about himself? Also wrong. In the last two days, he’s asked me at least three times why I haven’t been talking to Cal. The only negative I can find against him is his ego, and even that is starting to fade.
Was I really turning James around? That would be all jolly good and such except I’m changing him for another girl. Would we still be friends after this? Would I still want to be his friend after this?
Rebecca and I entered the common room; a small, round, low ceiling area filled with yellow and black furniture. The whole idea is that the room is supposed to resemble a badger den. It does actually, and it’s a very comforting environment for times like these when things aren’t going well.
The round doors, which lead to the boys and girls dormitories, were closed so it was safe to assume that everyone had gone to bed. This was strange considering seventh years had N.E.W.T’s coming up. Normally, there was the stray student staying up till the wee hours of the morning.
A few of the many plants circling around the room waved at Rebecca and I from their shelves as we passed. Rebecca, not wanting to feel rude, waved back. I always thought it was kind of creepy how some of them wave and dance, so I generally try to ignore them. The ferns and ivy hanging from the ceiling tickled my hair as we passed underneath them.
The small round windows, which were level with the grounds at the foot of the castle, showed a large, bright, almost full moon. My thoughts briefly flitted to Teddy Lupin. The time around the full moon never really was a period of comfort for him. I’m sure Victoire was helping him deal with his headache’s.
We opened the round door that led to the girl’s dormitories. “So what are you going to do about Cal?” Rebecca whispered.
I shrugged. “Apologize? Ask him to have a little more patience with me? Isn’t that what Hufflepuff’s are known for?” Rebecca nodded and I continued. “Well, I’ll just throw that in his face. He’s really proud to be a Hufflepuff and tries his hardest to represent all the characteristics valued by our house.”
“That’s because of his mum, right?” Rebecca had the sense to ask this slowly and kindly.
“Yeah, it’s because of his mum.” I found out later in my first year why Cal kept going on and on about his mother’s house the night we were sorted. Evidently she was a gifted witch who was an unspeakable in the department of mysteries. Apparently, something went wrong one day and Cal’s mum never returned home from work. His father is a muggle, so Cal was kind of separated from the wizarding world after that. That’s why Cal was thrilled when he was accepted into Hogwarts. Not only that, he made it into his mother’s house. Coming here and making friends was a dream come true to him.
My heart ached at the thought of Cal. I had protected him for so long. Now that he was trying to protect me I was shutting him out. I stopped in front of my dorm room and sighed. “You know what, I think I’m going to apologize to him first thing tomorrow.”
“Good.” Rebecca gave me a small smile. “I mean, what are we if we don’t have friends? Good night my Gryffindor Hufflepuff.” She turned around, letting the darkness swallow her up.
That night I burrowed deep into the patchwork quilt that was given to each Hufflepuff. I lay awake, thinking of the day's events. Although it was nothing romantic, I had felt something when james and I were goofing off in the Library. Granted, I always feel something when I'm with James, but I think- and call me mental- James might have felt something, too. I turned to my bedside table and looked at my calender. Eight more days till I need to pick the fluxweed.
Wow! Over 600 reads? Guys, you're too much. :)
Disclaimer: The Hufflepuff common room is all J.K. Rowling's. It's exactly how she pictured it from the tunnel to the decoration to the dancing plants. :)
Also since someone asked I thought I'd let everyone know. Next chapter will start off with a James POV. Woot, woot.
Now that that's all out of the way... Review!!! Seriously, I'd love to hear your feedback.
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