Chapter 2 : Mistakes & Regret
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James moved across the dance floor with Norah in his arms. He had one hand firmly on her hip, the other holding out her hand with their fingers entwined as they danced gracefully to the music. They were thankful for such a serene song at the pub after hours of such loud, obnoxious music blaring in their ears. They danced with her head against his chest, just moving slowly, one of the few couples actually on the dance floor.
All too soon, the song ended and James pulled away from her. He placed chaste kiss on her lips before saying in her ear before the loud music could resume, “I'll go get us another round.”
She opened her mouth to speak, but the loud beat of a new song filled the room, so Norah just nodded. She remained on the dance floor as it quickly filled up once more. The pub was always fairly busy, even on a weeknight, but tonight, Norah's office at the Daily Prophet was holding a get-together. As such, the pub was unusually crowded. James knew she would be fine on the dance floor alone and would still enjoy herself while he went to get their drinks, for she was surrounded by her co-workers.
He got two butterbeers from the bartender and headed back to the dance floor. He weaved his way through the maze of the crowd, seeking out Norah on the dance floor. He finally spotted her brown curls tossing about on the dance floor, and as the crowd parted, he made out the figure of another man dancing behind her. He had his hands on her hips, and she seemed to be happily moving against him.
James felt his cheeks flush as he grew stiff, jealousy and anger boiling through him. Norah's hands moved into her hair as she danced with a wide grin, the man's hands moving across her hips to her stomach. Before he could watch another moment of it, he took an assertive step forward and cleared his throat.
Norah abruptly stopped, her eyes flying open, and her cheeks flushed a deep crimson.
“Hey, thanks,” she said, her voice cracking as she spoke.
She jumped forward and snatched the butterbeer from his hand, as if to take in more alcohol to forget her embarrassment. She took a deep gulp and wiped the foam from her upper lip. With her free hand, she grabbed Jamie's and led him away. With her drink in hand, she waved goodbye to the other man, not giving James and the man a chance to properly introduce.
James looked over his shoulder to the man, who seemed to hold a proud smirk. He shot the man a disgusted look before Norah tugged on his neck, forcing him to look in the other direction.
“Who the hell was that?” asked James in shock. “And what the heck was that all about?”
Norah downed the rest of her butterbeer and abandoned the mug at the bar. She wiped the sweat from her brow and tried to seem calm. “That was my co-worker. Kiernan.”
“Co-worker?” gaped James. “Is that how you act with all your co-workers? You let all of them dance with you like that?”
“No, of course not! I'm sorry, James. I know he got a little hands-y. I should have been paying more attention. I don't know what came over me,” she said. She rose on to her tiptoes and pressed a kiss to his lips, clearly trying to make him forget it and think nothing of it. “You know what? I'm tired. Let's just go home.”
“Yeah, okay,” he said uneasily.
He knew she was trying to divert the conversation, but he could tell she felt guilty for dancing with Kiernan like that, so James tried to tell himself a fight or confrontation wasn't worth it. Norah had always been faithful to him. Ever since they had begun dating, he hadn't had any reason to worry. He doubted he had one now either, and it was probably the Kiernan guy who started it anyway, and a little alcohol was to blame as well.
So he let Norah take him home, shower him with kisses, and make love to him until the early hours or morning. He convinced himself it was nothing more than the bad mix of alcohol, dancing, and co-workers at that party.
He didn't know how truly wrong he was. He should have known then that her unusually persistent affection that night had been to draw his attention away from her actions with Kiernan.
It was two weeks later when James had completely forgotten about Kiernan and was painfully reminded of him.
It was his birthday even. Despite the fact that Norah had an important deadline for a column in the Prophet and had to work throughout the night, she threw a surprise party for James' twentieth birthday. He had come home after a long day in the Department of Mysteries and was pleasantly surprised by his party. Being her partner for that particular column, Kiernan had been there to work on it with Norah in between the birthday festivities. And James hadn’t minded that. He was enjoying himself by laughing, talking, and drinking with his friends.
Norah had slipped into the study a short while ago with Kiernan to continue her work for her deadline, and wondering how things were going, James decided to check on her. He set his drink down and dismissed himself from the party. He opened the door and stepped in, asking into the darkness of the study. “Hey, baby. Everything going okay?”
The light from the hall illuminated a pathway into the study. The light came to shine on the far wall lined with bookshelves, and two figures were suddenly cast into the light. Their limbs were intertwined, lips meshing and hands everywhere, but the long, brown locks were what gave away Norah’s identity.
“N–Norah…?” James choked painfully.
The two figures jumped apart, and Norah held her head low, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand. James felt his heart drop to the floor, and he forgot to breathe. Kiernan remained leaning against the wall, panting and desperate for breath. He tossed his head to the side, sending his copper hair out of his vision.
“That your boyfriend?” he panted.
Norah eyed him uneasily, thinking to herself that Kiernan was only making matters worst—and intentionally, it seemed.
James pursed his lips, fuming. How could Norah do this to him? How? After so many years together? After moving in together a year ago? After their promise to one another at Azkaban? How could she do this?
He hissed to Kiernan and Norah. In the heat of the moment, he didn't think and he had no regrets. “Not anymore.”
“I was just leaving,” he answered in an undertone, not daring to meet her in the eyes.
“Merlin, you can't even look at me…” she said in a painful voice.
James took her words as a dare, and slowly he raised his gaze to meet hers. His hazel eyes collided with her oceanic blue ones, which were swimming with tears. He tried to ignore the pang in his heart as he saw her pain.
“What do you want?” he asked quietly.
He found that he released the door handle. Despite how much he told himself he didn't want to see her or talk to her, his body said differently. If he really didn't want to see her or speak to her, he would have been gone by now.
“Is it always going to be like this? What—our friends have to have separate rooms for us because we're that immature?” Norah asked, and while James knew she was nearly reprimanding him and testing him, daring him to take the high road, her tone was soft as it always was.
Despite how distraught she appeared, she looked as beautiful as ever to James. She had grown her hair out; her long, auburn waves now reached her hips, and her heart-shaped face was kissed from the sun due to her recent trip to Shell Cottage with Dominique. As always, every emotion she held could be seen in her eyes.
James forced down the lump in his throat. He wished she didn’t have the hold over him that she did.
“We're doing this, here? Now?”
“We have to do it sometime.”
“No, I don't think we do.”
“James!” Norah said quickly.
She stopped him as he reached for the handle again. She grasped her face out of worry and fear. Her fingers tried to seek purchase on something, just to give herself something to do with her hands. She grew fearful of losing James forever, and tears threatened her eyes. “Please, James. I can't...I don't…I—”
“What, Norah?” he snapped. “Is there something else you forgot in my flat when you moved out? Because if that’s not what you want, then I can’t help you.”
He wanted to believe his own words, and he knew they were harsh. In fact, he probably shouldn’t have said them, but he couldn’t tolerate having this conversation with Norah. Not today. Not at Dominique’s party. So if she wanted anything more than getting something from his flat that she may have forgotten when she moved out after their break up, then he didn’t want to deal with it.
She took a step back at his outburst, her mouth dropping in shock. “You...I can't believe you. What's with you?”
James only deeply exhaled. Out of habit, he began to rub his right wrist. He didn't know what to say to her. Inside he was fuming, but he just couldn't find the strength to turn away from her. They were at a party, for Merlin's sake. If he wasn't going to have fun, then he didn't want to hang around.
Norah, sensing that their conversation wouldn't be going anywhere, changed the subject. She pointed to his wrist. “Does it still hurt?”
“All the time,” he muttered.
Seeing the rubbing wasn't doing any good, he resulted in scratching. He didn't know why his right wrist was always hurting him. He just assumed that it had been damaged while he was unconscious that day in Azkaban and had never properly healed, but it was beginning to hurt more and more these days.
“Haven't you had it looked at?”
“No. No need to. It just never healed right.”
“Getting it looked at could help,” she suggested.
He didn't say anything, and after another moment of silence, she quietly added another suggestion.
“Look, it's your cousin's birthday. You should be able to stick around for a while comfortably. I've been here for a good portion of the party. So if it makes you more comfortable, I'll take off. G'night, James.”
“Woah, woah, woah. Wait.” He found the words falling out of his mouth before he had even thought it through. “T–That’s not necessary. I mean, we can handle being in the same room for one night...?”
“Of course we can,” Norah nodded. “Stay. Have fun. I’ll mind my own business. We don’t have to speak.”
She hated how immature the conversation sounded, but they were agreeing. This was a step in the right direction.
James gave a small smile and a reassuring nod before he finally let go of the door knob and turned to return of the party. He smiled at Dominique and went to make himself another drink. This time, he found Lorcan and Teddy and joined in on their conversation. Breathing a sigh of relief, Norah returned and went to stand by Dominique's side.
“Holy crap,” Dominique breathed in surprise when she realized James was staying. “How did you manage to get him to stay?”
“No idea,” she answered honestly. “I just said we didn’t have to speak. But he seemed willing to stay before I even said that…But, please, tell me more about the wedding before I go crazy.”
Now that was a subject that bring a smile to Dominique’s face within a second. She and Teddy had been engaged for five months now, and they were well into the wedding planning. While Dominique wanted something simple yet elegant, her mother wanted to go all out and had taken the matter into her own hands. There was a part of Dominique that was actually relieved about that; it took a huge weight off her shoulders, and she trusted her mother with any decision she made.
Eagerly, she began chatting away to Norah about her Christmas wedding.
The party once again took on a happy, care-free atmosphere. James had a great time catching up with his cousins and friends, who he got to spend less and less time with these days. Roxy, Lucy, and Hugo were having a great time dancing, and Norah and Dominique settled down next to Molly on the couch beside the arm chairs Teddy, James, and Lorcan occupied.
James found that he was able to forget about his grudge against the girl who had been his reason to avoid the entire party. Just talking with Ted and Lorcan, it felt like old times again. For the first time in a long time, he was care-free.
James even shared a few laughs as he listened to Lorcan go on about a girl he had hooked up with at a pub two weeks ago.
“All right, but enough about that,” Lorcan finished excitedly. “What about you, James? How about that Clancy?”
His eyes grew wide at the mention of his client's name. He didn't want her to be brought up. Not at Dominique's party. Not when Norah was within ear-shot. He was vaguely aware of how Norah began to tune into their conversation when the subject had changed to James and any romantic interests. Norah grew still and uneasy as she tried to listen, and James peered at her from the corner of his eye.
Before he could stop Lorcan though, Teddy took a swig of his beer and encouraged the both of them. “Woah, woah. Clancy? Who's this? You hooked up with someone, James?”
“Erm,” he coughed, unsure of how to go about that question.
“Yeah, he did!” Lorcan answered enthusiastically for him. “While back, though. You still—”
“Shut up,” James hissed to Lorcan in a whisper.
He and Norah were broken up. He was an adult and he could have whatever relationship he wanted with whomever he wanted, so why did he feel so uneasy about Norah knowing that he had been with someone since their break up? He couldn't quite understand why he felt the way he did.
“What?!” Lorcan asked, rolling his shoulders carelessly. “It’s not a secret. Everyone already knew you shagged her.”
James quickly looked back to the couch where Dominique and Norah had been sitting, only to find Norah gone. He quickly looked about the room and saw her bolting out the back and onto the back patio. He pursed his lips, knowing the conversation had upset her.
“Not everyone, clearly…” he muttered under his breath to himself.
He sighed in defeat, but knowing she was out of ear-shot, he decided to tell Teddy.
“Yeah,” he finally answered, raising his voice once more. “I'm surprised Dom didn't tell you. I slept with someone a few months back.”
“Ah. You gonna see her again?” Teddy asked after a casual sip at his drink.
“Well, I kind of have to. But not in a romantic way. You see, she...She's kinda my client,” he said, adding on his last statement with an embarrassed tone. He knew that, if he was embarrassed to share with his closest friends, then it was obvious he shouldn't have done it in the first place.
“Oh, wow,” said Ted with a low whistle. He snickered. “You sleep with all your clients, Jamie?”
“No!” he blurted out, offended. “We...I can relate. She's a seer, also epileptic like me. We just connected, and we can relate. It was a heat of the moment kind of thing.”
Teddy made a noise of acknowledgement, and seeing that the conversation was over, James dismissed himself. He quietly slipped out of the living room and let himself out onto the back porch.
He looked around for Norah. Seeing the porch empty, he jogged down the steps and strolled through the garden. Winding through the bushes and flowers, there was still no sight of her. He questioned his intentions again as he continued his search for her. After being so irritated with her, why was he suddenly wishing to patch things up? Now after everything, why did he want to reason with her?
He turned a corner, winding down the path that led to the creek, and there she was. She sat on a bench near the water with her feet pulled up to her chest, her face buried between her knees, and the sounds of her cries filled the air around them.
James pursed his lips and took two bold steps forward, letting the leaves and twigs snap beneath his weight to signal his presence. She gave a jump at the noise but didn't need to look or question the identity of her visitor.
“Just leave me alone...” she muttered.
“Norah, I—” he began. He what? What did he have to say to her? After months of being a jerk to her? After months of not giving her a chance to explain herself? After months of both of them intentionally and deliberately avoiding the other, what could he possibly say?
“You what, James?” she finally snapped. James flinched at her outburst; they came so rarely from her. Out of habit, he rubbed his wrist in apprehension.
He didn't answer. What was he doing? Should he just leave? He stood there for many moments, debating what to do. There was nothing but the sound of Norah's quiet cries, the rustle of the wind against the trees, and the lapping of the river water along the shore.
He was just turning to leave. Then finally, she spoke.
“You told me nothing happened between the two of you,” Norah said. Her voice was suddenly harsh and accusing.
James whipped around, his brow furrowed with his anger. One of his hands was raised in a fist as he clenched it with his anger. “We were broken up! I had no obligation to tell you. Especially after what you did to me.”
“Fine. You may be right, but you at least owed me the courtesy of telling me the truth,” she said.
Her anger seemed to diminish and was instead placed with that of disappointment. She watched him move about the garden. He paced while Norah simply sat motionlessly.
The moonlight illuminated his expression as he turned toward her again.
“I did not. After what you did? I didn't owe you anything,” he said painfully. “I thought...I thought we were different! After everything we've been through, I didn't think that we would ever have this problem. We had gone through enough. I thought we were done with our troubles. I thought, when I first kissed you and the pieces finally fell into place, that you were the one. That I had found you. Then you...did this! But I should have known better, I guess.”
Norah gasped at his sudden turn in tone. He snarled, “When you were dating my brother, I had to be the one to keep you from kissing me. You were hardly faithful to my brother; I shouldn't have expected any different.”
“James!” she cried out. She rose from her spot and went to follow his steps.
He did not look at her as she followed him. His pace picked up and she got the feeling he wished to be alone, but she wouldn't allow that. Not now. Not after such a cruel accusation.
“How dare you! I can't believe you would say that to me, that you would use that against me. You know how I felt about you! How I’ve always felt about you!”
“If you loved me, then why did you do this to me?! You kissed him! And on my birthday!”
“He kissed me!” she shouted back with tears forming in her eyes.
“It doesn't matter who started it! You’re not getting away with this on a technicality!” he roared.
He found that all his anger over Norah's kiss with that man, which had been bottled up for months now, came rushing forward. He had never confronted her about it; he had never let her say her piece. He had walked in on them, and furious, he had simply broken up with her in that moment, leaving the room just as soon as he had entered.
“What matters is that I saw what I saw! The two of you were kissing, and you certainly weren't trying to stop it.”
“James!” she moaned again, this time now distraught. Still following in his footsteps, she reached out to his back and clenched his shirt in her fist. She pulled on it as if it would bring him closer to her or make him come to terms with her mistake. Tears ran down her cheeks as she found herself begging. The warmth of his back against her hand only refueled her want for him to return to her. “It was a mistake. Please! I'm so sorry. I know I can't do anything to earn your trust back, and I know I can't convince you that it was all him. Because I would be lying if I did. But I regret every moment of it. I don’t know why I did it, and I wish I could take it back! But I can't, and now I have to live with my mistake.”
“Merlin, Norah,” James hissed. He finally came to a standstill, and he let her hands rest against his back. He could feel her gaze averted to the ground, her body so close to his. She pressed her forehead between his shoulder blades and convulsed gently.
“Jamie,” she whispered softly. One of her hands moved to his arm, and she let it stroke his warm skin. She could feel his anger begin to diminish. He was cooling off, and he wasn't refusing her touch. At least this was progress.
“Please,” she muttered again. “We did go through too much to let go of the relationship we worked so hard to have. I nearly lost you forever. When we kissed for the first time, I also knew that you were the one. That you were it.”
“Then why did you do it...?”
She could hardly make out his words; they were so quiet that they were nothing more than whispers to the wind. But he turned to face her, and his hands found hers. He entwined their fingers, sighing at the familiar feeling of her fingers, how they were long and smooth, their fragility. He gave a squeeze.
“I don't know,” she answered painfully. Tears pushed their way down her cheeks, and she looked to the ground, full of guilt. “I told you. I have no excuse. I got caught up in the moment. He was trying to seduce me; I think I wanted that rush again, that excitement. I–I…I don’t know! I can’t tell you how guilty I feel!”
He suddenly dropped her hands and retreated from her. “Excitement…? So, what are you saying? We were too boring? Was I boring you?”
“No!” she declared quickly, trying to recover her words.
“You wanted something new and exciting because I was getting too old and boring?!”
“No, James! That’s not what I meant! I don’t know how to express it! Please!” she begged desperately. She reached out for him again, but he refused her touch.
With his anger returning, he bit his lip in frustration. “Goddammit, Norah! I don't get you! I just don't understand. How am I supposed to trust you after this?”
She raised her hands with an unknowing answer. Her tears had generated a steady flow, had blurred her vision. She could no longer see his infuriated face, but she believed that to be a good thing. She didn't know if she could tolerate his anger anymore. It only made her want to crawl into a hole and suffer her guilt alone. When she couldn't see anything but the hazy night sky and her body was shaking with her cries, she shook her head and knew there was nothing more she could say. She would never have an answer, and she wasn't brave or strong enough to fight him. So she gasped out, “I guess you're not.”
And she turned away from him, doing her best to come to terms with leaving her relationship with James in the past. She stumbled away from him in the garden, feeling as if she was struck with more and more pain with each step. It became unbearable, but she had to. She couldn't stand his retorts anymore, his methods of shunning her. She had put up with it for too long.
She couldn't hear him, but she believed he stood still in disbelief as she moved away from him. He watched her go, mostly overcome with shock in leaving him behind, but he was surprised with another emotion that hit him. It was pain. Pain to see her go, pain in knowing that she would no longer bother him after this conversation. Pain that he knew he would lose her forever if he didn't do something about it in that moment.
And he knew what he had to do.
He couldn't lose Norah. She was right. They had gone through too much to simply begin the relationship they had shared for two years. Even after their ordeal with Elias Namken, their feelings had remained strong for one another. Even through the troubles Albus brought upon the family when he had been Imperiurised. They had been hit with what James thought could be everything possible in the book. They were James and Norah. They were supposed to get through anything.
He couldn't lose her.
“Norah!” he called after her.
She only shouted her retort, refusing to look back or acknowledge him. He ran after her, and when she heard him approaching, she finally turned around. “No, James! I've had it. I can't put up with you anymore if you won't begin to forgive me! It's just too—”
He cut her off. There was no way he would let her finish that sentence. They had a lot of ground to cover, there was much to be discussed and a lot of trust to be earned back, but he knew he had to act off of this impulse. If he didn't, he didn't know when the situation would arise again. If it ever did.
As soon as she was in his reach, he opened his arms and engulfed Norah into his embrace. He pressed his lips against Norah's and kissed her with everything he was worth. He could feel her gasp of surprise, but she did nothing to pull away. In fact, she did the exact opposite. She melted against him, sighing, and her arms threw themselves around his neck. She jumped into his grasp, and he pulled her closer. He helped her with the task of removing any space between their bodies. She stumbled back on her feet with the force of their kiss, but James steadied her and finally pulled her off the ground.
Suddenly those past months seemed to fade away into nothing. There was no tension, hate, or distrust in their actions. They kissed with perfect rhythm, remembering the way the other moved, the feel of the others’ lips as they molded against each other. He inhaled deeply against her, his grip on her waist tightening.
“Oh, Jamie,” she exhaled against his cheek.
His mouth moved to her neck, and their actions became heated. Her fingers knotted themselves in his hair, and she became lost in their touch. She was no longer aware of where his hands were, or where his mouth was, or what either of them were doing. She only knew that he had kissed her; that she wouldn't throw away her second chance. That she had him back.
She was vaguely aware of one of his hands finding hers. He entwined their fingers, and then Norah felt that pull in her stomach and knew James was apparating the two of them out of there. She separated from him just long enough to apparate to wherever he wished. They materialized in the bedroom of his flat—her old home—with that loud crack.
His grip on her loosened, and she found her feet touching the ground once more. She felt them briefly stumble around until he roughly pressed her full against the wall of his bedroom. She stumbled, but James wouldn't let her fall.
He held her steady and did not trouble himself with anything but the girl in his arms. She knew what he was after; her hands moved to hold his face in her hands, giving James easy access to her blouse. When he knew she had steadied herself against the wall of his bedroom, his hands moved from her hips to the front of her shirt. He didn't even take the time to fiddle with the buttons. He grasped either side of the fabric and ripped it right off of her. The buttons clattered to the floor, and he shoved the rest of the fabric down her shoulders. She made a noise of surprise into his mouth, but it only spurred her on further. They had had a few nights like these during their relationship, fueled by passion, lust, want, and nothing but. But those nights had never been anything like this.
When she was free of her shirt, his lips finally left her skin. He stood up straight just long enough to grab the bottom of his shirt and pull it over his head. He tossed it on the ground, and in the next second, his hands returned to her body. He gripped her by her hips and pulled her off her feet. Knowing what to do, she wrapped her legs around his waist and let him lead her away from the wall and to his bed. When his knees hit the mattress, he fell onto the bed on top of her. His full weight pressed against her, and his hands traveled down the smooth plane of her stomach to the waistband of her jeans.
Her hot breath escaped into his mouth, his tongue feeling the crevices he thought he had abandoned. Her hands were feeling his chest as he unbuttoned her jeans and pulled them down her legs. He disposed them next to his t-shirt and let his body return to pressing against her. He fell into the crook of her legs, which locked about his waist with the perfect fit. Their lips met again with equal force and passion. His lips moved against hers like they were desperate for the moments to come.
She was surprised at the initiative he was taking. Sure, he had made all the first moves in their relationship, but he was rarely so straight-forward about these things. He was normally cognizant of her thoughts and feelings, respectful of her boundaries. Anything sexual they had shared in the past had been mutual agreements after subtle notions, something like nodding whenever their eyes met. But this time there was no stopping, and there was no delaying those moments when they would finally be together again. She loved this new side to him; it excited her—that feeling of being guided by nothing but passion. She lost herself in his kisses, her nails embedding themselves into the flesh of his back.
When his lips created a trail down her jaw to her collar bone, his fingers working at her clasped bra, she finally caught her breath and gasped out, “James, I'm sorry I ev—”
“Shush,” he cut her off abruptly.
He didn't want to hear any more apologies. They would ruin the moment, and he didn't want to be reminded of her mistakes. He was acting on impulse, and he didn't want any thoughts that would make him regret his decision to come to surface. As if his interruption wasn't enough, he gave her a long kiss for good measure to silence her.
She made a noise as if she wanted to continue her apology, but she eventually gave up trying to express her guilt and fell back into his kiss. Her chest was freed of her bra, and he sat up to fumble with the buckle of his belt. She touched his stomach, looking up to him and allowing herself to say only one more thing. “I still love you,” she whispered over their heated breathing.
He slowed himself and found her eyes. They were swimming with her tears, but they were no longer of frustration or sorrow. They were happy tears. With his jeans loose about his knees, his hands went to embrace Norah's, and he pulled it against his rapidly beating heart. It slowed until it came to a soothing beat and he caught his breath. He tipped his forehead to hers until their breathing and their beating hearts were one and the same. “I still love you, too.”
A/N: Edited 9.16 for grammar and accuracy.
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