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Chapter 4 : Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word
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“What do I do to make you want me? What have I got to do to be heard? What do I say when it’s all over and sorry seems to be the hardest word?” – Elton John, 1976
James Potter’s eyes slowly fluttered open as he awoke the next morning with an extremely large hangover. He squinted and fumbled around for his glasses, licking his dry lips. After knocking over a glass tumbler, he retrieved his frames and slowly sat up to survey the damage; the empty classroom was littered with discarded cups, empty goblets, and cigarette butts. He tilted his head to the side to crack his aching neck when he spied Marlene and Dorcas sleeping on each other. James raised a quizzical brow and looked past them to see Peter curled up in a corner next to Remus. Several meters away from them, Sirius and Gio had passed out on the stage with full shots of firewhiskey in their hands.
James rubbed his temples in order to calm his throbbing head and noticed that he had ripped his black dress slacks at some point during the party. As he leaned towards his right to find out how big the tear was, he realized he didn’t remember damaging his pants at all.
“Bugger,” he muttered.
He took a deep breath and coughed several times. After grunting to himself, James ran a hand through his extremely messy jet-black hair and slowly blinked several times to adjust to the blinding light. He desperately needed a glass of water and a shower. As he reached out to find his wand, he heard excessive stomping coming from outside the classroom and immediately froze.
“I KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE JAMES POTTER! OPEN THIS DOOR RIGHT NOW!”
As Lily beat her fists against the door to the old classroom, several students groaned and slowly opened their eyes. Marlene and Dorcas sat up, stretched, and smiled at each other as they threw on their cloaks; Sirius growled, rolled over, and put his hands over his ears as Lily knocked louder. Remus was the first to stand up but immediately sat back down when he almost lost his balance. He was still drunk.
James frowned deeply and used the chair next to him for support. As Lily called his name several more times, he stood and dejectedly muttered to himself as he approached the door. Before opening it, James took a deep breath and braced himself for the uncoming shit storm he was about to encounter.
“Look Evans, I can expl-”
“Don’t even bother, Potter,” Lily fumed as she brushed past him. She began to examine remnants of the party - a disgusted look plastered on her face - and he placed his hand over his eyes and muttered obscenities. She whipped around and before James could react, pushed his chest.
“Are you mental? Seriously, I want to know.”
He stumbled backwards and grabbed the side of a table to keep himself from falling over. His hand brushed against an ashtray and several old cigarettes dropped to the floor. Lily scoffed at him and placed her hands over her chest.
“You know what? There’s nothing to explain. You clearly can’t handle responsibility,” she said, throwing her hands up into the air. “You just do whatever you please and expect the rest of us to pick up the slack.”
“Lily, please -”
“No,” she spat, “you’ve gone too far this time, James Potter. Last night, my entire dorm room was empty. Completely empty! When I woke up this morning, I found Alice sleeping next to one of the toilets. She started puking slugs when I asked her where she’d been and that’s when I knew you were behind this. The situation had your childish behavior written all over it.”
She whipped out her wand and forcefully said several cleaning spells. Peter yawned as Marlene and Dorcas made their escape out the door and James gulped several times as tears began to prickle his eyes. His tried to move his lips to form a brilliant, romantic apology but his tongue was stuck to the wall of his dry mouth.
He couldn’t speak. He couldn’t move.
“You don’t know how much I want to report you to Dumbledore,” Lily said furiously as she pocketed her wand. “I could have you expelled.” James sucked in a large breath as his eyes widened. He was petrified. “However, I’m prepared to make a deal with you.”
“A deal?” he squeaked.
“Yes, you toerag! I won’t tell Dumbledore if you leave me alone for the rest of the year,” she answered and tapped her foot against the stone floor.
His chest felt tight. He felt like he was underwater and gasping for air.
“And I mean alone. No more Quidditch moves to impress me. No more asking me out. No more proposals. We will only talk when we have to. Otherwise, I don’t want you anywhere near me. You got it?”
He blinked several times in confusion. She snapped next to his left ear, causing him to yelp in surprise.
“Yeah, I got it,” he whimpered as he rubbed the side of his head. “I’ll leave you alone.”
“Good,” she said smugly, “now go clean yourself up. You have vomit on your shirt.”
She turned on her heel towards the door and he looked up at the ceiling, internally berating himself. On her way out, she glared at Remus, who was busy drinking a large glass of water. He looked up at her with pleading, glassy eyes. She sighed, shook her head, and slammed the door loudly when she exited.
James immediately deflated and collapsed into a chair next to a large circular table. Sirius grunt softly as he shook Gio awake and slowly stood up; the Hufflepuff opened his eyes, consumed the full shot in his hands, and gasped as he joined the other boys at the table. Soon, Peter led Remus over to join them. They sat in silence for several minutes as they adjusted to the early morning hour.
James held his chest as he took several deep breaths and felt an invisible hand unclench his lungs. He closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, trying not to think of Lily’s piercing green eyes.
“What happened last night?” he finally asked.
“I’ve got no bloody clue,” Remus grimaced as he took another sip of his water.
“Neither do I,” Peter groaned as he placed his head on the table and closed his eyes. “I just want to sleep forever.”
“My, my,” Gio laughed as he kicked up his heels and leaned on the back legs of his chair, “you Gryffindors like your liquor. I’ve never seen so many firewhiskey bottles in one room.”
The boys chuckled softly and then silence enveloped the room for several more minutes.
“I’m so sorry, Prongs,” Sirius finally confessed as he threw his hands on the table, making Peter jump. “I didn’t mean for Evans to explode and blackmail you to fuck off, I swear!”
“It’s ok, Padfoot,” James sighed as he held his head in his hands. “It’s my own bloody fault. You didn’t make me drink an entire bottle of firewhiskey, I did. I should have been more careful.”
“Careful?” Gio grinned as he set his front chair legs back on the ground. “You lot were anything but careful last night. You were completely shit faced.” He summoned his cloak, put it around his shoulders, and stood up. “Well, it’s been a pleasure, boys. Let’s do this again sometime. I got a lot of positive feedback last night.”
“Is that what you call snogging groupies these days?” Sirius called over his shoulder as the Hufflepuff opened the door to leave. Gio snorted and waved goodbye before leaving the classroom.
James placed his glasses on top of his head and rubbed his eyes sluggishly. He heard Sirius pull out his wand and mutter several spells; he pulled down his glasses and after blinking several times, focused his eyes on the object in front of him. It was a cold glass of water. Using his Quidditch reflexes, he quickly reached out to grab it and the water trickled down his throat.
James felt instant relief.
“Thanks, Padfoot,” he said in between gulps. Sirius nodded to him and conjured up two more glasses for Peter and himself. The room fell silent again as the Marauders quenched their thirst and when James finally set his empty glass down on the table, it instantly refilled itself.
“I’ll pay you to make mine do that,” Remus muttered as he placed his empty glass on the table. As Sirius began to charm the object in front of him, James coughed several times and hit his chest to loosen up his airway. He felt like shit, but the water was helping his headache. His ears, however, continued to ring.
“Well according to Giovanni,” Peter began, “we all lost our minds last night. How did that happen? I remember when the band started playing but I don’t remember much after that.”
“That’s your own fault, Wormtail,” Remus said, rolling his eyes. “You got drunk because you had all the liquor around you. Everyone else got sloshed because of your extremely large pours.”
The werewolf hiccupped and Sirius laughed and pointed at his mortified face.
“I remember enjoying the band and then talking to them at the break,” said James, scratching his head, “but then you found me, Padfoot. I was in a shitty mood and wanted to get really drunk ... if I remember correctly.”
“Why?” Remus said after sipping his refilled water. “You looked like you were having a blast.”
“Well I was,” James replied, “but then I remembered that I was Head Boy and I was breaking the rules by drinking at an illegal party on the second night of the term.”
He sighed and buried his head back into his hands. The negative feelings from the night before washed over him and he felt defeated and depressed. It hurt to breathe. He ran his hands through his messy hair and reached out for his water. After several gulps, he continued.
“You know the saying ‘heavy hangs the head that wears the crown’? Well it’s true. All I want to do is prank the living snot out of Snivellus but I can’t. I have sit in meetings and plan things. I have to be a role model. I have to be responsible.”
He caught Remus’ forlorn look out of the corner of his eye and grimaced.
“Fucking hell, I’m sorry Moony, I shouldn’t have said those things. I know how much you wanted to be Head Boy. Merlin, I really don’t deserve this position! I’m a failure!” He collapsed onto the table with a huff.
“No,” Remus said softly as he placed a hand on his shoulder and hiccupped again, “don’t say that, James. I’ll admit I was angry when I didn’t get the Head Boy badge and blamed my lycanthropy … which is probably why I drank more than I should have last night. But I figured it out when I was watching you dancing on top of one of the tables.”
James sucked in a breath; dancing on a table was another thing he didn’t remember doing.
“Dumbledore would never deny me a position just because I was bitten. He knew I was the best candidate, but had never experienced real failure. He also knew you always mucked around and didn’t learn from your mistakes. Don’t you see, James? He’s testing us both.”
“You should have been a Ravenclaw, Remus,” Peter guffawed as he took a sip of his water. “You can decode any puzzling situation.”
“He’s just thinking differently because he’s still drunk,” Sirius muttered.
“You’re right, Moony,” James said as he lifted his head up off the table and smiled. “He is testing us, isn’t he?” He took several unimpeded breaths and felt the color rush back to his face. It was going to be ok. He was going to be fine.“This is only a minor setback, not the end of the world. I’m not a failure, I’m just a beginner. I can learn.”
James' smile turned into a large grin as he closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair. Relief washed over him and his breaths were deeper and more confident. He could be an excellent Head Boy; he just needed to practice being responsible first. It was a challenge he was willing to accept.
“At least Evans didn’t expel you,” Peter said with a small point of his finger. “That would have been the end of the world.”
“Merlin, she really did almost expelled me, didn’t she?” James joked as his hands fell to his sides. However, his laughter quickly died on his lips when he realized the implications of their deal.
No more love letters. No more trying to eavesdrop on her conversations at mealtimes. No more tantrums when she showed another male student affection.
James clenched and unclenched his fists.
Every fiber of his being told him to keep pursuing Lily Evans but his brain felt exhausted. He was tired of chasing her when nothing seemed to work. Maybe he needed to apply his responsibility logic to his unrequited romance - maybe it was time to grow up and actually listen to what she was saying instead of making wild judgments about her feelings towards him. He’d never stop loving her but if she wanted him out of her life that badly, then he would leave her alone.
He suddenly felt something rise up from inside him. What if she was testing him too? He couldn’t be sure; critical thinking hurt his brain when he was this hungover. He rubbed his temples and out of the corner of his eye, saw Sirius frowning. James nudged his best friend playfully.
“You alright there, mate? You haven’t said a lot ... if my memory is correct, you weren’t in a splendid mood either. Where were you before we found each other?”
“Around,” Sirius grumbled as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“Around?” James questioned. “Moony and I just bared our souls here, you’re going to have to come up with a better answer than that.”
“Fine,” Sirius huffed as he rolled his eyes, “I snuck away from the party with Gio’s friend - you know, the blonde who hangs around with the band, the one with the rose trellis tattoo.” James saw his stormy grey eyes flash and became concerned. “We … we shagged. And I can’t stop thinking about it.”
“It was that good, eh?” Remus joked and James glared at him when Sirius didn’t laugh.
“It was more than good,” Sirius said with a sigh. “It was the best I’ve ever had. I don’t know what it is about her - she's bloody bonkers but - but … I can’t get her out of my thoughts. Her laughter is still bouncing around in my head and it’s not helping my hangover. At this point, all I want to do is stick my head in a bag of cinnamon.”
He slumped in his chair and James felt his eyes pop out of his sockets. This was not typical Sirius behavior.
“Sounds like someone is in love,” Remus slurred as he ruffled Sirius’ long hair. The werewolf laughed as the boy glared back at him. “Come on, Sirius. Do you hear yourself?”
“What do you know about love, Remus?” he countered icily. The sandy hair Gryffindor paused before masking him grimace by taking a sip of water.
“More than you know,” he muttered. James raised his brows in alarm.
“Look, I’m the only one with a girlfriend. I should have the final say here,” Peter said as he rose from the table and waved his arms around. He began to unknowingly rant. “Sirius, you’ve flittered around from bird to bird - sure you’ve had girlfriends before but the relationships have never lasted very long. So you fancy this one? Stop moping and go get her! Enjoy female company for once.”
He then turned to James and pointed his finger in his face.
“We all know you’re in love but you just don’t know how to contain yourself. Take Evans’ advice and leave her alone. It might do you some good.”
The boy then wheeled around to Remus.
“And you? I haven’t figured it out yet but I’ve been watching you. You’re depressed all the time. You’re not telling us something.
"But don’t you see? It’s simple. Love is like a game of wizard's chess - it’s about self-preservation and waiting for the opportune moment. Once you find it, you take it. That’s the only way to win and get what you want!”
“Merlin Wormtail, how are you so honest and passionate at this early hour?” Sirius said as he mimed cleaning out his ears.
“I’m sorry,” Peter huffed and sat back down, shaking his head. “I’m just hungover and in a bad mood. Aeryn got a little mad at me last night for not wanting to sleep in the same bed as her. I didn’t mean anything I just said. Don’t listen to me.”
“No, he’s right,” Remus said softly. “Sometimes you have to do the hardest thing because in the end, it will be better for everyone involved.”
The boys fell silent again as they processed their conversation. Sirius ran a hand through his hair and exhaled. Remus slowly took another sip of his water. As Peter leaned back in his chair with a slight smile on his face, James straightened his glasses to hide the tears that prickled his eyes once again.
He knew Peter and Remus were right but he still felt empty, cold, and hollow. He gulped and then held a hand to his chest to slow his breathing. He looked up at the ceiling and tightly gripped the side of his chair with his other hand.
“Goodbye my Lily Flower,” he whispered as tears began to pour down his cheeks. “I’ll always love you.”
Author's Note: First of all LOL AT SNARKY DRUNK REMUS. I originally had him doing a lot more stupid shit but I cut most of it out.
Poor panicattack! James. I wanted to hug him this entire chapter.
Aaaaaand here comes evil Peter! I had a really hard time writing this chapter because I didn't want to give anything away too soon. He's cracking but he's mostly good at this point – the next chapter in his POV should make things more clear.
Thank you to the people who have reviewed! I love hearing from you guys :)
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