Chapter 1 : The Catalyst
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It is common knowledge throughout the large, expansive halls of Hogwarts that I, James Potter, am desirable. Perhaps not quite as desirable as my best friend, whose floppy dark hair and ignorant disposition give him that “rebel” look, but I at least have the quidditch thing going for me. Girls throw themselves at me on a regular basis, bright eyed and consumed with undying love, and I could have any of them. They come from everywhere; the bottom of the barrel in Slytherin all the way up to a few beautiful belles that reside in Hufflepuff. Merlin, the dreams I’ve had about Tatiyana, a buxom, voluptuous Ravenclaw, with almond shaped chocolate eyes and long shiny black hair.
But all of those girls, even Tatiyana the Ravenclaw, pale in comparison to the beauty and grace of Lily Evans. She may not have the body of Tatiyana because, let’s face it, who does, but she carries herself in such a way that it grabs my attention every time she walks by. She is a goddess among commoners, and I am unabashedly an ardent worshipper.
And yet here I am, holed up in the damn library again, revising for O.W.L.s. I don’t even know where my friends are at this point, which is slightly frustrating given we are meant to study together this afternoon. Remus and Peter are most likely outside somewhere enjoying the beautiful spring weather, and God only knows where Sirius has run off to. I am supposed to be reading about different cheering charms, but instead I’m staring at her again. It’s my personal and most treasured past time. I sigh heavily, squeezing my eyes shut in frustration. I want be the one next to her, brushing her arm gently while she giggles about something I’ve said. I want to be the one that points out the engaging line in the potions text in order to have deep and meaningful conversations about the best ingredients. I want to use her quill to write small notes in the margins of her textbook so she’ll remember the smart things and inside jokes I say while we study.
For all intents and purposes, it should be me. James Potter always gets what he wants. As an only child, it’s basically my God given right. So why, now, am I staring across the room at the woman that should be mine, rubbing elbows with that stupid, greasy, git Severus Snape?
Everyone in the entire school knows he is the bane of Slytherin, a great oil spot on the pockmarked face of awkwardly forced evil. I feel ill when he flaunts it, glowing with pride when she laughs, like he owns her. I bet he doesn’t even care for her; he’s just using her to piss me off. I wouldn’t put it past that bastard, not even for a minute. Snape knows that Lily is my weakness, and by all accounts the fault there is my own. I’ve never been bashful when it comes to proclaiming my undying love for her.
I glance down at my charms text, the long, narrow calligraphy blending together in an unintelligible jumble of horrendous monotony. Anger begins to pool in my lungs as I hear the harmonious sound of Lily’s quiet giggle. I cast a furtive look in their direction, noting Snivellus’s smug grin. He knows I am here.
I feel my distaste for him slip slowly to Lily, and instantly I am ashamed. She does not deserve my skepticism. Yet, I wonder how she can turn such a blind eye to his activities. He exudes maleficence with his every breath. The only potentially positive aspect of his ongoing quest to be the most evil piece of shit at school is his occasional disappearing act from Lily’s life. It hasn’t escaped my notice that she has started to turn inward to her own house, looking to replace the friendship that seems to be slipping so easily through her fingers, but Snape would never let her go that easily. And even though I’ve seen Lily getting chummy in the common room with Mary McDonald, Snivellus is still glued to her side like a virus during the day. That is, as long as he isn’t leering at other students like a creepy circus clown.
I can tell this is all just a game to him. If he really cared about Lily, he wouldn’t hide in the shadows with his Slytherin friends, mocking the rest of the school as though they were brainless idiots. No, the morons have been and always will be the Slytherins. The house as a whole is completely rotten, and the fact that Dumbledore keeps it around is honestly deplorable. Sirius and I do the best we can at reigning in our anger when it comes to those disgusting vomit green and dull silver clad evil apprentices, but sometimes we let things slip. Most often, we let things slip toward Snape. If he didn’t make himself such an easy target, maybe we’d find better things to do, but with the way he is looking at Lily right now, it makes all his marauder-created-difficulties worth it.
I stifle the urge to shoot a spell toward him under the table. Lily will instantly know where it originated from and then once again I’ll be in trouble with her. If it wasn’t the only way I could get her to talk to me, then maybe I might leave him alone. But she won’t even look at me unless I’m turning him upside down or hexing him. When those deep green eyes do turn to me though, I am malleable putty in her hands. She can do with me what she wishes, whether that be scream, yell, or threaten. She’s so absolutely perfect when she’s threatening me.
Swallowing, I force myself to look back at my study materials. O.W.L.s are only a month away, and my usually perfect grades have not been up to par this year. I blame my questionable learning conditions, what with the whispers of mounting violence outside the grounds of Hogwarts and in Britain at large. However, as Sirius has obnoxiously reminded me on more than one occasion, that excuse will not be good enough for my parents. And so, I am faced with the conundrum of having to stay inside during a brilliant spring day, listening to the gorgeous girl that should be mine fall head first into the welcoming arms of catastrophe.
But then, most curiously, I hear a frustrated sigh. Snape has pulled away just slightly from Lily’s side, his judgmental finger pointing authoritatively down at the text. Her perfect jade eyes are wide in surprise as he begins a loud tirade.
“No, Lily. That is one of the most ignorant things you’ve said all year. We have been through this at least four times on three separate occasions. Crushing the root will give you more juice, not cutting it. I don’t care what the book says, the book is wrong. Just because you read it in a book doesn’t make it so. Lies can be printed in books just as easily as they can be spoken. I’ve shown you this in Potions. Why do you continue to question my judgment?”
Trouble in paradise. His voice slices through my thoughts like a clumsy monkey holding a machete. My head snaps up in time to see Lily’s cheeks warm with embarrassment. The anger that had slowly begun to sizzle has now boiled into unbidden rage. His words are a cacophony in the nearly silent library.
“Well, Severus, I am well aware of what you are saying. I watched you crush the root and I saw the results, and I never said that cutting was better. I was actually going to suggest grinding the root, as I have tried it in my own studies, in those days when you have been conspicuously absent from class. It seems to work well for me, not that I would expect you to ever consider a technique that you haven’t come up with first, because you are so pretentious and self-absorbed.”
Her reaction to his outburst is strong, and yet I still feel bitter jealousy that the acerbic fire of her temper is being thrown in someone else’s face. I curl my long fingers into a fist so tightly that my joints pop. Studying will be out of the question for me today.
“I-I’m sorry Lily,” Snivellus is groveling, and I am sick to my stomach. Lily begins to close her books with vigor before reaching down for her bag, earning several glares from the librarian for the disruption.
“Save it, Sev. I’ve got a headache; I’m done revising for today. Maybe later this week, ok?” She stands, slinging the sleek black bag over her shoulder. Her auburn hair is loosely weaved in a braid, and her eyes are sparks.
“Lily, please!” He pleads, and I abruptly stand from my chair, closing my book in the process. “I really am sorry, I don’t know why I said that. Lily please sit down, we haven’t even been through transfiguration today!”
“Later, Sev.” She puts her hand up in farewell and begins to leave the room. Severus is left at the table, eyebrows furrowed in anguish and disgust. I feel gleeful and celebrate this turn of events by putting myself immediately in Lily’s path as she tries to exit the library. She sighs heavily and tries to step by me.
“What do you want, Potter? Just get out of my way. I have things I have to do.”
Despite the fact that she is running from her problems, I desperately need to show her that, not only is her relationship with that parasite toxic, but that putting me in his place is a smart move.
“You shouldn’t let him talk to you like that, Lily,” I start, preparing a long, important speech filled with metaphors and examples.
“Save it, Potter. I don’t want, nor do I need, your advice. Why don’t you go back to looking at Tatiyana Landau’s ass? Sirius says you have her measurements memorized. I’m sure that will help you study for your O.W.L.s.” She pushes past me, shoving roughly into my shoulder. My mouth drops open in surprise. I can’t believe that loose lipped prat actually told her that! And it didn’t escape me that her words had a slight hint of bitter jealousy. Excellent. I’ll have to make sure to oggle Tatiyana more frequently.
“I haven’t looked at her all day! You know I only have eyes for you!” I call as she steps out of sight, earning my first ejection from the library in a whole week. Shaking my head, I grab my bag and follow suit, intent on finding Sirius so that I can give him a good hex. The afternoon is slowly fading to evening, but it’s possible that they are still stretching lazily on the lawn outside.
A few steps into the Great Hall, I feel a hand on my shoulder. My spirits lift immediately with the realization that she has come back to me. I have always known that there would come a day when she would bend to my will and finally understand that she can trust me implicitly, and today is apparently that day. Spinning around with a sloppy grin on my face, I come face to face with the great slimy monster himself.
“You listen to me,” he threatens, his voice low and what I assume to be menacing. “Stay away from Lily. She hates the ground you walk on, she hates the air you breathe, she hates the space you take up with your life. And so do I. Leave her alone, or so help me I will make life hell for you.” Severus’s black beady eyes are narrowed. He smells like soured laundry and decay, and I nearly choke on the stench. Suddenly, all I can do is laugh in his face.
“You are the most absurdly awkward person on this planet,” I say, the ghost of laughter evident in my tone. “You smell like moldy shit, and you could not take me by yourself if you had all the knowledge in the world. I will always beat you, Snape. Because not only am I athletic, popular, well-connected, and nice, which, admittedly, probably annoys you a great deal, I am also smart. And that is what irks you most of all. Because even though I have all the rest going for me, it’s my intelligence that really bothers you. And you know what else bothers you? Deep down, in the very depths of your soul, you know that one day, you are going to do something so vile that Lily is never going to take you back.”
“You son of a--”
“But that’s not the worst of it. She’s not going to take you back and she’s going to come straight to me. You watch, Snape. So really, there isn’t much I have to do. All I have to do is wait for you to fuck up, and then I’ll be waiting for her with arms wide open. She will be mine, Snivellus. You’ll try to hold on as hard and as long as you can, but eventually you are going to stray far away, and she won’t follow you. Not into evil.”
Snape is white as a sheet and his breathing has become slightly irregular. He looks like a blubbering idiot, and I know I have hit his greatest fear and insecurity. How long have I been waiting to give this speech? Warmth floods me as I laugh again. I am unstoppable, and he knows it.
“You don’t know anything about me! You think you are a God, Potter, but you are just as human as anyone else. And one day you will fall down, and you won’t get up. You think you can sit here and judge me? You jealous shit. You will resort to the most abhorrent behavior just to continue to try and express power over me. But there is a greater power than you can ever--”
I felt a genuine yawn coming on--I swear it is genuine--and I decide to seize the opportunity.
“I’m bored,” I say, and then blissfully I hear the raucous noise of heavy footfalls behind me and a smile melts across my face like warm butter. “Oh look, my friends are here, and they want to play. Sirius?”
Sirius appears beside me, his hair a wild nest of onyx curls. I take an opportunity to punch him in his arm.
“That’s for telling Lily about Tatiyana,” I spit out, and Sirius shrugs noncommittally. Remus and Peter are slower to arrive. Once they survey the situation, Remus gives me a stern glare before turning to ascend the stairs to the common room.
“What has wee wittle Snivellus done this time?” Sirius coos once the prefect threat has gone.
I don’t bother to fill him in on the pointless details before our wands are at the ready, and we are poised for attack. The rough, gravelly screech of Snape’s scream fills the cavernous hall then, and I am vindicated. This detention will be well worth it. My smile is never wider than when, once again, I am proven right. I am stronger, I am smarter, and I am victorious. One day Snape will crack for good, and until then, I will be the catalyst that destroys his relationship with Lily. She doesn't know it yet, but she will be mine.
A/N: Hello everyone! Wow, ok, so this is quite a departure for me. After writing on this site for over 7.5 years, this is my first experiment with first person point of view. And my first ever experience with writing in present tense. I started this story approximately one year ago, and I don't remember exactly why I started it, but I think it was after a conversation with acciohpff regarding the way people see James vs Snape.
I also have to thank Giola for being my inspiration for first person POV. I consider her to be the master of writing in this POV and she has encouraged me in the past to go for it, so here I am!
I wanted to convey a possibility of James' frame of mind about a month before taking his O.W.L.s and thus Snape's worst memory. I think James gets treated very uncanonly a lot in his formative years, so I wanted to take this back to show how much of a bully he might have been. I think I hit a few popular cliches too, which I really enjoyed writing to be honest :)
Special thanks to Thatguy at TDA, and FallenTruths for betaing my story for me :) I appreciate the time that they spent in helping me to get this finished!
Finally, this story is dedicated to #da3.