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Chapter 4 : Sins of My Youth
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"Call me crazy, I was born to make a mess. Would you love me still, if I were to confess?" — Neon Trees "Sins of My Youth"
James was stuck in that awkward place after an argument. The one where nothing is resolved and he didn't know who needed to apologize. The uncertainty prevented him from sleeping through the night. He kept visualizing his next encounter with Al. He would probably pretend like nothing had happened. That, in itself, would be punishment enough for James. Al was the type of person who came to a slow boil and then erupted in an apocalyptic way over something that could be construed as miniscule--like the time James "borrowed" Al's invisibility cloak without asking.
Al acted like it was no big deal (although he did use the word "stole"). It apparently wasn't as offensive to Al as when, two days later, James had knocked Al's goblet of pumpkin juice over during dinner. Al had reacted by hitting him so hard that James fell off the bench and cracked his head on the stone floor with enough force to give James a concussion.
James gave up on sleeping at quarter to six. At quarter past he slumped into a vacant seat at the Gryffindor table. He was one of three Gryffindor students in the great hall. One of those students was Lorelei Wright, her head buried in a book like the Ravenclaw students behind her, seated at the end of the table nearest the staff table.
Breakfast arrived not too long after James sat down and he finished a hearty meal before any of his Weasley cousins had arrived to keep him company. He rested his head on his arms while he waited.
He woke up when the post arrived. A school owl dropped a thick stack of parchment on James' empty plate with a clatter, startling him into consciousness. James wiped his face for any crumbs or drool and then apprehensively fingered the twine bow that held the rather large package together. With a sigh of resignation he pulled the string until the bow came undone. James, feeling as though he had bit off more than he could chew this time, began to flick through the tattered pages. The ink was faded in places, but James could see areas where Neville had filled in new information and scratched out other parts.
James, a small note in the margins began.
I recommend you go in the order of the pages. If you need anything, let me know. This student is very bright and will be able to tell you what they need from you. Good luck!
"What's that?" James' eyes flicked up to Rose as she slid into the seat across from him. James pulled up the sleeve of his robe and checked the time on his watch--the one he received from his parents upon coming of age.
"Cutting it close again, Rosie?"
"Actually, no. I had breakfast with Al at the Slytherin table. You might not have noticed, Jimmy seeing as you were dead asleep. I'll ask again. What is that? Is that your homework? Is that really what seventh year is going to be like?" James rolled his eyes at his flustered cousin.
"This may come as a surprise to you, Rose, but I'm actually tutoring someone." This information did surprise Rose. Her jaw became slack, her eyebrows crinkled in confusion. Yet there was something lacking in her response, something that nagged at James. Rose was very good at presenting a calm and collected front. She was able to prioritize her feelings, something James admired. He always thought Rose might make a good Minister of Magic.
"Who on earth are you tutoring? And what are you tutoring them in? No, wait--why are you suddenly interested in tutoring someone anyway?"
"Okay, I have no idea. Herbology. I wasn't interested, but Neville asked." James ticked off his fingers with each answer and then smirked at his flummoxed cousin.
"Merlin help that poor student," Rose muttered. She began to pick at the wood of the table, a nasty habit that often ended in slivers and uneven surface.
"Something the matter?" James asked, not out of cousinly duty but genuine concern. Rose stilled under his gaze, looking down at the table determinedly where her fingernail had dug into the soft wood. She cleared her throat and mumbled something to herself. "What was that?" James pried.
"I said that Al's angry with me. We've had one of those bloody passive aggressive arguments he favours. It's no big deal, James. Don't worry. Al and I will sort it when he's calmed down." She dismissed the issue with a wave of her hand, but continued to pick at the table until they left for their lessons.
James didn't end up seeing Al until after dinner. He was leaving the hall as his brother was arriving with his friends. James received a nod of acknowledgement from Scorpius Malfoy and a warm smile from his younger sister (Sarah? No, that's much too normal for a Malfoy. Spartacus? No, that's too masculine. Circe? Could be that). James was sure that, had they not nearly collided with one another, Al would have walked right by him without pausing for a hello.
"Al, could I have a word?" James asked, hating how formal he sounded. Al waved his friends on without him, reluctance etched in the contours of his face. Once they were more or less by themselves, the Potter sons stared at each other. Al looking at James with exasperation and James running his hand through his hair with uncertainty. He was tempted to ask about the disagreement with Rose, but James wasn't certain where he stood exactly.
"Can we talk about what happened yesterday?" James finally asked. Al raised one eyebrow and cocked his head to the side. A light smirk pulled at his mouth.
"I don't recall anything happening yesterday." He was cool, dismissive and even a bit taunting with his reply. James rose to the bait, growing snappish immediately.
"Oh, cut the fucking crap, Albus. I want to talk about you avoiding the family. I want to talk about the god damn argument. I want to talk about the conversation you had with Lorelei fucking Wright yesterday. I want to talk about what the hell is going on with you and Rose. Bloody hell, Al. I don't care if it's not manly. I just want to talk to you. It doesn't have to be right now. Just... you're my brother and I love you. I just want to fucking know what's going on with you!" Al's lips pressed tightly together. For a moment James was sure that Al would slug him. Instead, his brother nodded stiffly.
"Alright. When do you want to do this?"
"Erm, well I'm just on my way to get prepared for tutoring." Both of Albus' eyebrows disappeared under his messy fringe. "Yeah, I know. No one expects me to be a tutor. It's for practical work in Herbology, no essay writing involved. Wouldn't be doing it if Nev hadn't asked me to. But after that? Can we talk after that?"
"Half past curfew in the usual place, then?" James grinned and nodded. The brothers parted ways, Al dragging his feet and James with a spring in his step. It seemed to take him no time at all to arrive at Gryffindor tower. In a rare fit of organization, James' herbology equipment was already sitting on his bed along with the package Neville had sent during breakfast.
James arrived in greenhouse two a full half hour earlier than his student (were they called a tutee?) was due to arrive. He took this time to organize Neville's notes and to make sure the plants they were working with were up to snuff.
"Hello?" The voice was feminine, soft and tentative. James checked his watch. She was early, that was a good sign, wasn't it? He turned to greet his tutee with a warm and welcoming grin. He faltered and nearly dropped the watering can he was holding (some of the plants had felt a little dry to the touch).
Lorelei Wright had squeezed her eyes shut at the sight of James as if she could blink him out of the greenhouse. Her arms crossed over her chest, each hand gripping her opposite arms tightly. She showed no reaction when she opened her eyes again. Her lips were pulled tight in her typical indifferent expression, dancing the line between a frown and a smile. James supposed it was a matter of perspective on whether or not she was frowning or smiling sadly. The silence dragged on between the two.
"Right then. I suppose we should get started?" James had intended for it to sound confident. Instead it had come out as more of a half-hearted question. Awkwardness set in and it remained for the duration of his lesson. James tried to capture the same authority he demonstrated on the quidditch pitch, but his heart wasn't in it. It was disconcerting how Lorelei kept as far from James as she possibly could. He kept glancing at her while he took her on a tour of the greenhouse, trying to gauge her reaction while he showed her where supplies were located and introduced her to all the plants housed in this particular greenhouse. She avoided his inquiring gaze, staring down the entire time.
"Er, so I suppose we should get on our gloves and get down to the dirty work. You may want to roll up your sleeves unless you know a good spell to get out stains?" James cringed as his direction came out as a question again. James unbuttoned the cuffs of his sleeves and began to push them up his arms. Lorelei didn't meet his eyes while she did as he suggested.
James swallowed hard and his mind tried to make sense of what he was seeing. Each fold of her sleeve revealed the yellow outline of a hand mark. All at once it clicked. The outline matched his hand, a partially healed bruise that he had been the cause of. He had been too rough, too caught up in the moment. Had she cried? Had she told him to stop, that he was hurting her? James couldn't remember.
"I'm sorry," fell from his lips without any real thought. "I didn't think I had grabbed you so hard. That's no excuse. I shouldn't have touched you at all. I feel awful, truly awful." And he did. If anyone had done something like this to Lily, accident or not, James would curse them. James would give anything for someone to curse him right now. He bloody deserved it.
Lorelei gave a half shrug in response, her hand covering the exposed bruise. Her cheeks were flushed red as if she were merely embarrassed. "Don't worry about it." She said to the floor.
James stared at her, dumbfounded. Don't worry about it? His mouth opened and closed, but he couldn't find the way to put what he was thinking into words. How could he not worry about it? How could she not be angry or concerned? He shouldn't go around hurting people without consequences and she shouldn't let people hurt her like it's nothing.
But hadn't he been telling himself last night that she deserved pain? James felt sick. He didn't know how to make this better. He would need some time to think about it.
"How about we call it a night." He suggested weakly. "When do you want to meet again?" Lorelei gave James a sideways look. The left side of her mouth was pulled to the side in an expression of suspicion.
"You still... want to... tutor me?" She asked slowly.
"I said I would. And it's not as though you're stupid, is it? You don't even really need me, except for supervision purposes. Ne-Professor Longbottom would probably get sacked if a student were strangled to death in one of his greenhouses." If he were being honest with himself, James expected at least a hint of a smile at this. But Lorelei just continued to observe him in her strangely neutral way.
"When do you have your herbology class?" She asked, finally.
"End of day Monday, Wednesday and Friday." James answered promptly, clasping his hands behind his back. He began to lean forward on the balls of his feet only to fall back heavily on his heels. He repeated this process. His mum always told him off for it. Said it made him look nervous and fidgety (and a bit like Uncle Percy).
"Maybe we can meet for an hour after classes on Monday and Wednesday, so I don't interfere with your quidditch practices." James had nearly forgotten about quidditch practices. He hadn't begun to think about tryouts or booking the pitch. He gulped and gave her a wobbly smile, his mind occupied with all the things he now had to do.
"Sounds like a plan."
There was a large lecture hall exactly halfway between the Gryffindor and Slytherin common rooms that went overlooked by everyone at Hogwarts. Everyone except for James, that is, who had entertained himself by watching the Marauder's map recreationally over the years.
It probably had to do with the state of the room, James thought as he pulled a cobweb from his hair. A cupboard against the back wall rattled ominously and James could hear rats scurrying away as he moved further into the room. Not a minute later Al entered through the door on the other side of the room, punctual as always.
"Okay, let's get this over with." Al griped, pulling a cobweb away from his face. He and James walked around the room, setting up precautionary security measures. They sat across from each other at what would have been the teacher's desk and unfolded the Marauder's map between them so that they could keep watch. The invisibility cloak sat between them in case they needed to hide quickly.
"Okay, tell big brother what's yanking your wand." James badgered, lightly jabbing Al in the shoulder. His brother smirked and shook his head chuckling lowly. Before James' eyes Al deflated. His head dropped down, his shoulders slumped and he leaned forward as if the weight of the world rested upon his shoulders. He looked truly worn out and it was only the fourth day of lessons.
"I don't know how to say this. Seeing her sucks. I had kind of forgotten about her, you know? Or at least I wasn't bloody thinking of her all the time. It was so hard to not remember stuff about her when I was at school. And now I can't fucking get away from her again--she's everywhere! She's in my classes--she fucking sits in front of me in Potions. She's at the Gryffindor table sitting near my family. She's in the corridors looking through me." Al thumped his fist against the desk and paused to collect himself. "And the bloody worst part is Rose." Albus sneered as he said his cousin's name. The expression made his face ugly.
"Rosie? What's Rosie got to do with this?" James asked, interested in the conversation for the first time. Yes, he cared that Al had to see his ex-girlfriend, but big deal. A lot of guys had to see their exes everywhere. James' ex was in all of his classes and he learned to deal with it! What he really wanted to know about was the bad blood between Al and Rose.
"She's agreed to tutor Lorelei. She is always with her in the library. They're potions partners and they sit together in some of our classes. She's friendly with her. How could Rose do that to me? Do you know that she had the fucking nerve to ask me if I'd consider tutoring Lorelei in transfiguration? Like it's not bad enough seeing Lorelei already. Rose is my cousin. She's supposed to choose me." Al gripped the edge of the dusty table, growing more frantic as he spoke.
"Have you told Rose how you've been feeling?" James asked diplomatically. It went without saying that in an argument James would side with his brother, but he owed Rose a lot. He often mediated when Al and Rose fought. Al smirked, but refrained from teasing his older brother for being soft.
"Yeah, this morning at breakfast. She said she'd try to be more sensitive towards my feelings, but she won't stop tutoring her." Al scoffed and rolled his eyes. "Some cousin, aye?"
"Well, I actually heard Lorelei asking Rose to tutor her. Rosie seemed conflicted about it. I think... were they friends? Before, I mean. They shared a dorm. Were they friends before you and Lorelei... you know? Or did they become friends after you?"
"They were friends before. She was probably her best friend. It's part of the reason I'm so angry with Rose. Lorelei hurt her, too! Why is she going out of her way to help someone who hurt the both of us? Let her get straight Ts for all I bloody care. She left." James gulped. Al was clearly very pissed off with Rosie for tutoring Lorelei. James had been looking forward to having a laugh with Al about tutoring Lorelei in herbology.
Telling Al didn't seem like quite a laugh anymore.
"You know Rosie, Al. She's a nice girl. Even though she has a temper, she's quick to forgive. And... I think she missed her, a bit. Even if she didn't, Rose will always help people, especially when it comes to schoolwork."
"Right, I forgot she tutors you." Al taunted meanly. James scowled, but refrained from rising to the bait this time.
"Listen, Al. I think that avoiding your family is stupid. You can pretend all you like that you're strong and holding it together, but I can tell that you need your family right now. Lily and I were there for you the first time. We're here for you now."
Al smiled, a real genuine smile that transformed his face. At school Al often hid behind a Slytherin facade. James understood the necessity of putting on a show. All the Weasleys and Potters did. Sometimes it felt like they were all on display. There was always one mention of a Potter or Weasley in the Daily Prophet, without fail. Most recently an engagement announcement for Victoire and Teddy. A few weeks ago a story about James entering his seventh year at Hogwarts.
"Thanks, James. I appreciate that." James met Al around the desk and pulled him roughly into a tight hug. For a moment James was lost in a memory. This was exactly how he had held Albus after Lorelei broke up with him. This time Al wasn't crying and did not cling to James like a scared child. Al sank into the embrace and let all of his guards down. Then he was pushing away, tense and strong. Ready to face the school again.
Al walked James back to Gryffindor tower under the invisibility cloak before heading to the dungeons. Guilt for three different reasons kept James from sleeping peacefully for a second night in a row. He felt bad for keeping things from Albus (the first in many bad decisions to come, he expected). He felt like a monster for laying a hand on a woman (Godric help him, what kind of Gryffindor did that?). And to top it off, he felt like a shit quidditch captain (people were counting on him, damn it).
Seventh year was proving to be very stressful, indeed.
Author Note/Disclaimer (as of Dec. 9, 2012):
Thank you to those who have added this story to their favourites! (AccioPixiex, AccioTeddyLupin, aisha123, FOREVERwithYOU, HarryPotterFan_1, hiddenbyhair, limwen, pinkpanther16, SydneyBlack, TimeSeer)
Because I have been writing so much content for future chapters there may be some inconsistencies. Do be dears and leave me a review if you find any errors. I appreciate the criticism.
So what do we think? James is being bogged by all sorts of guilt. Guilt for lying to Al, his treatment of Lorelei, and for not taking his captain duties seriously. Should James had told Al he was tutoring his ex?
The Sins of My Youth belongs to Neon Trees. J.K. Rowling created this really awesome world of witches and wizards and these characters. She owns them. I just own Lorelei Wright (and some other characters you haven't met yet). Also I made the chapter image of our Rosie.
Thanks for reading. Please review.
xoxo The Tired Magician
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