Chapter 5 : Mr. James Potter and Miss Emma Carleton
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Disclaimer: James, etc belong to the wonderful JKR and Anne of Green Gables is all Lucy M. Montgomery's. If you haven't read Anne of Green Gables yet, go read it now.
James made his way through the crowd, darting through tables and around waiters, attempting to get to the door. It was a nice enough restaurant, he thought, but completely packed. As he waited for a large group to enter, he became aware of a young couple arguing beside him.
“Get away from me.”
“Come on, Emma, you can’t just walk out on me like this.”
“How long will it take you to get it into your head that I. Broke. Up. With. You. We’re no longer dating!”
The entering group was crowding the entrance, forcing the couple closer to James. The man reached out and snaked an arm around the woman’s waist. “Come home, love,” he said coaxingly. “We’ll talk things through, and you’ll see what a mistake you’re making.”
“Get away from me!” She tried to shove him away, but it was too crowded. Her eyes searched for help, finally landing on James.
He had no idea who she was, or what that man had done to make her hate him so, but despite everything, James Sirius Potter was his father’s son, and he was not about to watch her be carted off unwillingly. He strode over and tapped the man on the shoulder.
“Excuse me,” he said in his haughtiest voice (and everyone knew that he could be haughty when he wanted). “Would you mind releasing her?”
The man looked at him. He was a big fellow, far taller than James’ five and a half feet*. Scowling, he demanded, “Who are you?”
“Leave him alone,” the woman (Emma he had called her) said.
His eyes filled with a sudden suspicion, the man whirled on her. “Who is he?!”
She didn’t flinch as she said, with utter confidence, “My boyfriend.”
The man turned back to James. “Is that true?”
Behind him, Emma’s mask slipped and James’ saw her desperation. “Of course,” he said calmly. “Now, if you’ll excuse us…”
“I don’t believe you,” the man snapped. “You’ve never seen each other before now. You just made it up on the spot!”
“I assure you,” James said, “we’ve been dating a considerable time.”
“A considerable time, eh?” the man roared. “And you accuse me of cheating!”
Emma stood tall beneath him. “A month is a considerable time,” she said.
“Oh, yeah? Well, I don’t believe you. What’s her name, then, huh? I betcha you can’t even tell me her name!”
“Emma,” James said, praying he had heard right. “Emma Carleton.” It was lucky the man wasn’t looking at Emma just then, for the look on her face would have given them away for sure. “Now, we really must be going.” He took Emma by the arm and led her out into the parking lot. The man tried to follow, but was stopped by the hostess telling him his table was ready.
“I don’t care!” he yelled at the unfortunate woman. “I’m going to get you!” he hollered after James. “You ain’t got no right to my woman!”
In the parking lot, Emma stopped at a small red car. She unlocked it without a word, and slid into the driver’s seat, leaving James to follow.
When the doors closed, they knew they couldn’t be overheard, but there was something that made them unwilling to talk. So long as they had had a part to play, they could play it, but when their lines were taken from them, they were left in silence.
“I’m not usually a damsel in distress,” Emma finally said. “Do you often play Prince Charming?”
“Sort of,” he said. James’ mind was scrambling, wondering what on earth he had gotten himself into. “It’s kind of a… family thing.”
“Really? That’s cool. Do you make a habit of stalking people?”
He looked slightly taken aback. “Only my cousins and their potential significant others.” She laughed, and he felt himself smile. It was nice to talk to someone, if only for a moment, who would laugh with him, and be natural, as opposed to the fangirls who always fawned over him at Hogwarts. “Do you?”
“Me? Stalk people?” That made her laugh even harder. “Oh, no. I just wondered how you knew my name.”
He grinned. “It was actually pure luck. I happened to overhear the waiter calling you Miss Carleton. Then that bloke called you Emma. It wasn’t that hard to piece together.”
“How exactly did you overhear that?”
“You’re a redhead,” he said, as though that explained everything.
James laughed. “Practically my entire family has red hair,” he said. “We tend to be on the lookout for kindred spirits.”
“Kindred spirits,” Emma said dreamily. “I always loved that phrase. Did you ever read Anne of Green Gables?”
“Anne of Green Gables? About an orphan girl in Canada? No?” She laughed disbelievingly. “You’ve never heard of Anne of Green Gables.”
“I don’t, um, read much,” James said, cursing his lack of muggle education. Where was Rose when you needed her? She was the one who read all those books.
“You should,” Emma said, looking at him sternly. “Reading is good for the soul.”
“I know,” he said. “It’s just that I’m, um, busy. Yeah. I’m busy. Very busy. Like, really busy.”
“You really have a way with words,” she said, leaning back against the seat and looking at him with laughter in her eyes.
“So I’ve been told,” he said, grinning. Wait. Grinning? He was grinning? He, James Sirius Potter, was actually having a normal conversation with a girl that he wasn’t related to? He hoped he wasn’t related to her. Oh, Merlin, what if she was a witch and he just didn’t recognize her? Or if she was in disguise? That would be just the sort of trick that someone like Anna McLaggan would pull.
“Calm down, mate,” a voice that sounded like Fred’s said in his ear. “Stop being so paranoid. She’s just a muggle.”
But James couldn’t shake the feeling that he had met this woman before. “So, if you’re not a stalker, who are you?” he asked, still grinning at her.
“A good little girl, who dated the same guy for eight years and fully intended to marry him,” Emma said, rolling her eyes.
“Eight years?” James said, trying to wrap his head around that concept. “Wow.”
“I know, it was pathetic,” she said. “But, I guess, all things considered it wasn’t any more pathetic than the spot I put you in tonight. I’m sorry about that, really.”
“It wasn’t a problem,” James said, his lips twitching. “If you ever need a fake boyfriend again, feel free to let me know.”
“Oh, I will,” she assured him. “In fact, I have a family party tomorrow where everyone expects me to be bringing Tim. They don’t know that we broke up.”
“Families are a pain,” he said without thinking.
She laughed. “Yeah. They were all expecting us to get married, and now…”
“Do you want to talk about it?” he asked. Again, his mouth seemed to be functioning independent of his brain. What was it about this woman? “Not, I mean, that you have to, I know we just met and it’s kind of awkward…”
“It’s fine,” she said, laughing. “I expected you to ask long before this, actually.”
“I don’t mind telling you,” she said. “And if anyone has a right to know, you do.”
When she didn’t continue, James prompted her. “Well?”
“There’s not that much to tell, really,” Emma said. “Tim and I grew up together in the US.”
“Where?” James interrupted.
“San Francisco Bay Area,” she said. “Don’t interrupt.”
“Wait, you’re American,” he said.
“I told you not to interrupt!” she said, looking at him sternly. “But yes, I am American.”
“I never would have guessed,” he marveled. “What happened to your accent?”
“I’ve been here almost three years and worked very hard to get rid of it,” she said. “Now do you want me to explain myself or not?”
“Go on,” James said meekly. Meekly. Since when was he meek? She turned everything upside down.
“Anyway, we were high school sweethearts and all that. We decided to come here for university together, and everything was going great. Everyone assumed we’d get married, and I guess I did too. But exactly a month ago, I found out he was cheating on me. Had been, the whole time.”
“Prat,” James muttered under his breath.
“But wait, there’s more!” Emma said. “I planned to break up with him at dinner that night. It was the end of term, the obvious time to make big life changes and all that. But apparently I wasn’t the only one thinking that.”
“He was going to break up with you?”
“Worse. He was going to propose.”
James laughed. “Wow. Great timing. Who said their piece first?”
“Me. I basically got through saying that I had found about the other girls –“
“More than one?”
“Oh, dozens. Eight years is a long time. But anyway, I told him I knew, and then he proposed.”
“Nope. He got right down on one knee and talked about how it was fate that I had found out, how he was going to tell me tonight, how he was sorry, yada yada yada.”
“Did you hex – I mean slap him?”
“You bet I did. And stormed right out of there.”
“Good for you,” James said appreciatively.
She smiled, then said, “If you don’t mind, I’ve got a question for you.”
“When you asked me if I slapped him, you said something else first. Something about hexing.”
James stiffened. “I would forget that, if I were you,” he said.
“Because I can’t tell you,” he said. “It’s nothing personal, but there’s a lot of stuff about me that… confidential.”
She fixed her eyes on him, their deep blue piercing him to the soul. This is what Dad means when he talks about Dumbledore’s eyes, James thought dizzily. He blinked, and things shifted back into focus. She was just a girl, and a muggle on top of that. Chances were that he would never see her again. Something in his chest felt strange as he thought about that. “What time is that party you mentioned?” he found himself asking.
“I don’t even know your name,” she said wonderingly.
“James Sirius Potter,” he said, half bracing himself for the “OMG YOU’RE HARRY POTTER’S SON!” that usually followed this announcement. But Emma just asked,
“Do you always include your middle name when introducing yourself?”
James cringed. “I guess?” he said. “It’s just that my grandfather was James Potter, and so I like to differentiate myself.”
“Serious,” she mused. “Spelled like the state of being?”
“S-I-R-I-U-S. It was my dad’s godfather’s name.”
“So you’re named after your dad’s father and his godfather. That’s a heavy burden to carry.”
“You have no idea,” James said. “My brother has it worst, though. He’s Albus Severus Potter.”
“Albus Severus?” Emma laughed, a loud hoot that made something stir in James’ stomach. “That’s horrible. What were your parents thinking?”
“He’s named after two of my parent’s headmasters,” James said, realizing as he did exactly how little Emma knew of him, of his world. She didn’t know that there was so much more to Dumbledore and Snape’s relationships with Harry. She didn’t even know what quiddich was!
“And how much do you know about the muggle world?” a voice that sounded scarily like his Aunt Hermione demanded.
So James asked, “What about you? Have any siblings?”
Emma shook her head regretfully. “Only child, I’m afraid.”
“Lucky,” James said, not bothering to hide his envy. “I wish I was an only child.”
She stared at him incredulously. “Are you kidding? It stinks. Everything’s always so quiet when it’s just you and your parents.”
James laughed. “My mum had six older brothers. Quiet is considered either a sin or an unattainable blessing in our family.”
“Yeah, but one…er…two of them never got married. But my dad has about ten zillion really close friends, so if you add them in…I think I’ve got something approaching twenty cousins.”
“God,” she said. “And I thought my family was dysfunctional.”
He laughed. “You’ll have to work hard to beat me at that. I mentioned that they were all redheads, right?”
“They’ve got the temper that goes with it.”
Emma laughed. “You win that prize, then. Say, do you want to go get some ice cream or something? The least I can do is treat you.”
James shrugged, but his heart was leaping. “Okay.”
“It’s your turn now,” she said as she began to drive. Her eyes were now focused on the road, and James found himself missing them. “I told you an embarrassing story about me.”
“I rescued you!” James protested as he ran through his most humiliating moments and tried to imagine how he could muggle-alize them.
“So?” she said. “You still have to go.”
“What if I don’t have any stories?” he said challengingly.
“Everyone has stories. It doesn’t have to be super embarrassing, just something you regret.”
“There was this one girl,” James said slowly. No one knew how much she had hurt him, not even Fred and he told Fred everything. “I started dating her when I was around fourteen and she was my first serious girlfriend. I was stupid and naïve and thought that she loved me.”
“What was her name?”
“Miranda Skeeter. I suppose I should have known. She was the illegitimate daughter of a journalist that had made my dad’s life miserable a few years back, but I didn’t think about any of that. I was head over heels in love. And then one day I walked into my dorm –“
“Dorm? You went to boarding school?”
“Yeah,” he said, half of him glad for the interruption, the other half just wanting to get it over with.
“And?” she prompted.
“I found her and my cousin Fred tangled on his bed. She claimed he had raped her. The next day he said that she had been coming onto him for a while and that she finally, er, drugged him into obedience. I laughed in his face and told him to go to hell.”
“Was he telling the truth?”
James laughed, the bitter laugh that was the only one most got from him. “Of course. I heard other rumors that she was cheating on me, but turned a blind eye. And then I found out that the same thing had been going on with all of my other male cousins that were at school, from Louis, who was three years older than us, down to Hugo, who was three years younger. I turned against them all, started spending all my time with her. But then she began to back away, saying I’d changed, that I was being too possessive. Finally my cousin Roxanne just got sick of it and kidnapped me – literally snatched me from my bed – and she and all my female cousins sat down and screamed at me for an hour and a half.”
A snort emited from Emma. James looked over at her to see that she was shaking with laughter. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. “It’s not funny… but I think I like your cousins.”
He grinned. “Yeah, they’re great. They also wrote to my mum and I got an earful from her, too. And they shoved all sorts of evidence under my face and eventually wore me down.” James paused, thinking. That was when it all had started: the girls, the alcohol, the disinterest. He had kissed another girl to show Miranda he didn’t care, and it had all spiraled out of control. Because if the girl he loved had only been dating him because of his last name, then what was the point? That was all they all wanted, anyway. The chance to say that they had dated Harry Potter’s son. Let Albus deal with that, or Fred, or any of the others. While James had never stopped “dating” girls, the word took on a new meaning, a more transient one.
“Hey,” Emma said softly as she pulled into a parking spot. She turned to him and laid a hand on his knee. “Not all girls are like that. You know that, right?”
“Course,” he said, avoiding her eyes. “My family would never forgive me for saying they were.”
He didn’t have to look up to know that she was staring at him. “That party?” she finally said. “The one that my family thinks I’m bringing Tim to? It’s at noon tomorrow. Meet me here?”
Slowly, James raised his head, dreading what he would find. But he needn’t have worried. There was no pity in Emma’s eyes, just a fierce determination. “Okay,” he said, wondering what had happened to him.
She smiled, and his heart swelled with joy. “Come on,” she said. “Let’s go get some ice cream.”
Emma bounded out of the car, darting to the back to grab her bag. James got out more slowly, watching this enchanting muggle girl and the way her fiery hair danced in the wind.
* I don’t even have to convert it to meters because in the wizarding world, they don’t use the metric system! They’re just as far behind as we are.
A/N: So, a couple of things.
1. I CANNOT BELIEVE THAT I FINISHED THIS STORY. Siriusly. I know I’ve been really slow at updating, but this is probably my favorite story that I’ve ever written and now I’m really sad cause it’s over. BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE. (see #2)
2. Emma and James. I’ve had the idea for them in my head for a very long time and I am very excited to have finally gotten them down on paper. But the thing is, I love them too much. I have too many wonderful ideas for them, and there’s no way they can all fit into one story. So, it is very likely that they will be showing up in some of my other stories. This chapter will be the basis for all of their stories, but the other chapters will have nothing to do with each other. Like, I’ll write Emma meeting the Weasleys ten different ways, or something like that.
3. The next place where Emma and James will be showing up is in my story The Burrow, the first chapter of which will be up soon. They don’t make an appearance for a couple chapters, but I would love you forever if you’d take a look at that.
4. This A/N is ridiculously long, so I’m going to stop now.
***I JUST WANT TO GIVE MAJOR THANKS TO EVERYONE WHO COMMENTED, FAVORITED, OR FOLLOWED THIS STORY. IT MEANS THE WORLD TO ME.***