Chapter 1 : Valerie
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James, eyes still closed but slowly waking up, groaned and pushed a hand through his sweat-drenched hair. It was never this hot in his room, even in summertime.
But as James came fully awake, he realized that he couldn’t possibly be in his room. For one thing, he was lying on the ground. For another, his quidditch themed sheets and comforter weren’t wrapped around his body. And, his mum wasn’t bustling about telling him loudly how lazy he was. She did that every morning, without fail.
Opening his eyes, James stared at the room, body tensing at the unfamiliar setting. He pushed himself up on his hands to get a better view and then chewed his lip at his surroundings.
The room was square, with no windows and no decoration to hide the stone walls, floor, and ceiling. There was a closed wooden door opposite him, and a fireplace to his right, from which the stifling heat was emanating. The flames seemed unnaturally high, though truth be told James really had no idea how flames ought to behave.
James pushed his hair back from his forehead again and wrinkled his nose as he considered his situation. Was this some sort of practical joke? His cousins were prone to pull that sort of thing, and his birthday was coming up. But for a joke, it wasn’t all that funny. They could certainly do better than that. But if not a joke, then what? Kidnapping? It was a definite possibility, considering his father’s celebrity status.
James tried to remember the previous night—or had he slept through several days? He had no way of knowing. The last thing he remembered was...dinner…dinner with his mates from school. They hadn’t seen each other since their June graduation, and the dinner had been a great success—ending with a rousing chorus of “My Patronus is You”.
After that, he had apparated home. He was sure of it—only come to think of it he couldn’t remember arriving. He had twisted into the air and…nothing. His mind was blank after that point. Looking down, James saw the same dark blue t-shirt and khaki shorts he had been wearing, and his trainers were tucked together against the wall just past his sock covered feet.
Well, there was no point in any more sitting around and wondering what had happened. James stretched his arms forward, wincing at the crack of his joints and then sprung up from the floor and rapidly tucked his feet into his shoes, only pausing to tie them sloppily. He then slipped his hand into his pocket automatically, reaching for his wand.
It wasn’t there.
With panicked hands, James searched his other pockets, fruitlessly. Then he froze, one hand still in his rear pocket.
“You’re daft, James S. Potter,” he said aloud. Neither kidnappers nor practical jokers would leave his wand on him. Although his panic abated, an uneasy feeling clung like a cobweb to his stomach. Being without a wand felt so wrong.
James crossed to the wall with the fireplace, but backed up as the heat of the fire intensified. It was searing—causing sweat to pop up on his arms and face almost instantly. So he backed up and moved to the side, approaching the corner between the fireplace wall and the door wall. Running a hand along the wall, James felt the strangely smooth stone and then let his hand fall. There was no sign of irregularity, and the stones were too hot to touch as he moved sideways towards the fireplace.
For the next ten minutes or so, James examined the other walls, with no more result than his first study. The heat continued to grow, and by the time James had made a full circuit of the room, it was nearly unbearable.
Breathing heavily, James leaned against the door. It seemed he wouldn’t have a clue what was going on until whoever his captors were made themselves known. However, if they didn’t come soon and the heat kept increasing, he was going to be roasted alive.
For a brief moment, James closed his eyes.
His eyes sprung open immediately at the roaring sound and James stared in horror at the flames that had leapt from the fireplace and were now somehow crossing the stone floor.
“Merlin’s Pants,” James swore loudly, turning in desperation to the door. “Hello? Can you hear me? SOMEBODY HELP ME I’M GOING TO DIE!”
Clutching at the door handle, James suddenly found himself falling forward as the door swung open unexpectedly.
He managed to catch himself on his elbows as he fell and flip over, kicking the door shut as he turned. The bolt clicked into the frame, and James’ heart began to slow down. Cautiously, he stood up, unsure of whether he ought to still be worried about the flames.
The door looked unharmed from this side, which shouldn’t be possible considering the intensity of the fire within the room. The door didn’t even seem to be giving off any heat. The air was deliciously cool, a welcome change for James’ flushed skin.
James stood up and brushed the last drops of sweat from his arms. Then, he carefully placed a hand on the door, fingers splayed.
It wasn’t even warm.
James pulled his hand away uneasily. There was something off here. The door could be fireproofed, but the feeling was something more than a cold door. It was as if the very air had a different composition or the colors were just slightly too dull.
The hallway was built similarly to the room—smooth orange stone. James turned away from the door and glanced to both his right and left. Both sides ran for about another fifteen yards or so, before turning a sharp corner, both to their own right.
With another prickle of unease, James realized that there was no light source, but there was light. Back in the room, he had simply attributed the light to the fire—although had he considered it more carefully he might have realized that firelight couldn’t possibly be so uniform.
His palms were sweating again, this time in nerves. It was entirely possible that there was a spell to light the hall without any visible source, but James had never heard of one. However, that wasn’t saying much. He had never been one to search out extra spell knowledge beyond the classroom back at Hogwarts.
After a moment’s deliberation, James turned to his right and strode down the hall towards the corner. Exploration was more interesting than sitting outside the door waiting for whoever had brought him here to come along—if they ever did.
Once he reached the corner, James paused and cautiously ducked his head out, only to find another door, only a few feet away. He approached the door and grasped the handle, pushing it outward and stepping into the adjourning hallway.
Before he had a chance to turn around from closing the door behind him, James felt something slam heavily into him, knocking his knees out from under him. With an inarticulate cry, James fell to the floor, head slamming against the door and knees smarting with the pain that only comes from hitting a kneecap against a stone surface.
Still trying to catch his breath, James felt with horror the something that had crashed into him move. Quickly, he heaved his shoulders upward, causing the thing to roll off. Scrambling upward, James found himself staring down at a winded looking girl. He reached automatically for his wand, but upon remembering its absence put his hands on his hips—hoping he didn’t look too much like his mum when he did it.
“Who are you? ‘Cause if you’re supposed to be a guard, you’re doing a rubbish job.” The girl, still breathing heavily on the floor, tried to answer but James cut her off. “I mean really, what sort of idiot attacks someone bigger than them? Why didn’t you use your wand?”
Once again the girl opened her mouth to answer, but James ignored her and kept talking. “Unless you’re a muggle—but there’s no way you kidnapped me if you’re a muggle. I’d never hear the end of that—James Potter, the boy who got kidnapped by muggles. It’d be the highlight of Fred’s Christmas, telling that story over and over again. But seriously, who are you?”
“Valerie Meghan Carmichael. You see that mist? It’s going to kill us. OPEN THE DOOR YOU MORON!”
James, whose eyes had been fixed on Valerie, followed her finger that pointed down the hallway to a curtain of approaching mist. It certainly looked deadly—a sickly green color with no transparency.
“Holy Hippogriffs!” James exclaimed, turning back around and pulling the door open. “Why didn’t you say so?”
Valerie, picking herself up from the ground and darting through the doorway, raised an accusatory eyebrow as she passed James. He followed her through the door, pulling it shut and then staring in disbelief at the hallway they were standing in.
It wasn’t the same bare stone hallway he had first come through. It wasn’t even the same layout. The hall extended in a straight line for at least a hundred feet until it reached another wooden door.
The biggest difference was the wide windows on the left side of the hallway that let a bright sunshine stream through and illuminate the heavy tapestries that hung on the right wall.
Valerie, who had started walking down the hall, paused for a moment and looked back at James, who hadn’t moved since closing the door.
“Do you want to get caught by that mist? It’ll get through under the door!” She said.
“No, it won’t. In fact, ” James said, eyes widening and a smile creasing the corners of his mouth. “I bet it’s not even there any more.” With that, he turned and grasped the door handle and pulled it open, ignoring Valerie’s warning shout.
The hallway that the door opened to was completely mist-free. James hadn’t noticed what the previous hall had looked like, but he was willing to bet it hadn’t been a cramped, dirt tunnel.
“That’s…” Valerie said, joining James by the door, her eyebrows raised and lips parted. “That’s not the same hall.” Her eyebrows came down now and she turned to look up at James. “How did you know that?”
“Because this isn’t the same hall I came from,” James said. He closed the door and gestured at the wood paneled sunlight corridor.
“Right,” Valerie said. “So closing a door switches whatever’s behind it?”
James shrugged. “Something like that. What’d you say your name was?” Now that the initial shock and danger were over, James could properly focus on his companion for the first time.
“Valerie Carmichael. And you’re James Potter,” she replied.
“Right, I said that, didn’t I—"
“Maybe you did, but that’s not how I know,” Valerie broke in, folding her arms across her chest.
James looked quizzically at her. “You’re not one of those creepy stalker girls are you? Look, I’m really not interested in a relationship right now, especially with someone I only just met.”
“No, I am not a creepy stalker thank you very much,” Valerie said, eyes narrowing into a frown. “Guess again.”
“Uh, you’re the one who kidnapped me? That’d be really embaressing I have to say. No offense and all but—"
“I didn’t kidnap you Potter!” Valerie interrupted again.
“That’s it then, I’m all out of ideas.”
Valerie rolled her eyes. “We went to school together for seven years!”
“Oh, right!” James said, rapidly trying to place her reddish brown hair, slightly freckled face, and grey eyes. They were vaguely familiar, but he couldn’t remember ever having a conversation with her. “Of course, you were in, er, Ravenclaw?” He hadn’t meant it to come out as a question, but he didn’t have a clue what house she had been in.
“Hufflepuff,” Valerie said, clearly not buying that he actually remembered her.
“Hufflepuff,” James mused, drawing out the syllables. “Were you one of those girls in that sort of…herd…that always did everything together?”
“Excuse me? Herd? That’s a word for cows, Potter.”
James waved a hand in the air. “You know what I mean…group…conglomerate... syndicate.”
“Yes, I suppose I was. Why?”
James didn’t want t explain that he had never really thought much about the Hufflepuff girls and had always just lumped them together in his head. “I, uh, remember you hanging out with them.”
Valerie didn’t look entirely convinced, but she must have decided there were more important things to discuss. Unfolding her arms, she asked, “Did you wake up in a bare room without your wand?”
James nodded and related the events that had followed his awakening, leaving out only the rather unflattering details of him not trying the unlocked door until the very last minute.
Valerie had much the same story to tell—the only difference being the mist rather than fire and a differently built hall. When she had finished, she crossed to the window and James followed, both silently mulling over the puzzling events.
The view out the windows was strikingly beautiful—a pine forest growing against the slopes of an iron gray mountain. The summer sun was barely showing from behind puffy white clouds, which caused the forest to seem to be constantly shifting as sunlight and cloud shadow slid across it.
“Recognize it?” James said at last.
“Not a clue. What d’you reckon this is all about?” James turned away from the window and leaned against it.
Valerie continued to stare out the window, her brow furrowed in concentration. “I don’t know. If it was only you I’d think it was just a standard let’s-kidnap-celebrity-kid operation, but I’m here too.”
“What do your parents do? Maybe it’s more important than you realize.”
“It’s definitely not,” Valerie said firmly.
“What is it though?” James asked, determined to find some sort of significance in her parents.
“Do they work in muggle government? Or…” James didn’t really know what sort of other jobs might be important in the muggle world. So he said the first thing that came to mind. “Are they farmers?
“No, they aren’t. Not either of those.” Valerie said, still looking determinedly out the window.
“What then?” James persisted.
“My dad works at a place that makes toilets. My mum’s the secretary. Nothing big.” Valerie glared at James, as if daring him to say something.
“Toilets? I didn’t know that was a job,” James said, curiosity replaced by fascination.
“How do you build a toilet? What’s a toilet even made out of?
“Of course it’s a job! Did you think toilets just sprung from the bathroom floor? Anyway, my parents aren’t important. Not like yours.”
“Well I dunno, I’d say toilet-makers are pretty important. Where would we be without toilets? Can you imagine just—"
“Moving on!” Valerie said loudly.“Let’s just try and get out. We don’t need to know why we’re here to do that."
James pushed himself off the window and followed as Valerie headed down the hall towards the door. “You’re sticking with me then?” He asked.
“Are you sticking with me?” Valerie asked.
“Do you want me to? Need protection? A Potter boy to keep away the monsters?”
“Considering I got along fine for seven years without you knowing I existed, I think I’ll be fine,” Valerie said as they reached the door.
“I knew you existed”, James protested. “I just didn’t know you were you.”
Valerie raised her eyebrows and laid a hand on the door handle. “Because that’s so different. Just accept that you’re a bit of a git. It’s ok, lots of boys are.”
“If you had wanted me to know your name, maybe you should have done something other than giggle with your five identical friends!” James said, eyes narrowing and nose wrinkling.
Valerie took her hand away from the door and crossed her arms across her stomach. “Are you serious? That’s so sexist. First of all, we didn’t just giggle—we barely even giggled at all! And we’re not identical—two of my friends were blond, and one was taller and does my hair look blond to you? And even if we did have the same color hair, that doesn’t make us identical,” Valerie said rapidly, her face darkening. “Why am I even discussing this? You’re such a moron Potter.”
James scowled. “Look it’s not my fault you were boring at Hogwarts. Can we just go through the bloody door and get out of here?”
“I was boring? Well I’m glad I was boring if it means I’m not like you. All you did in Hogwarts was goof off and THROW THINGS AT FIRST YEARS! THE ONLY REASON ANYONE KNEW YOUR NAME WAS BECAUSE YOU’RE HARRY POTTER’S SON!” The hallway echoed her voice oddly, making it even louder than her shouting.
If there was one thing James hated, it was people telling him he was nothing without his dad. His eyebrows dipped downward and he felt his face reddening. “YOU HAVE NO IDEA WHAT YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT! JUST SHUT IT AND OPEN THE DOOR!”
“FINE!” Valerie yelled and grabbed the door, pulling it open and rushing through to the next hall.
James grabbed the door as it swung towards him and followed her through, closing the door behind him. He didn’t really want to follow her, but without knowing what was going on, it made sense to stick together. Even though she was annoying.
He half expected her to continue shouting at him—he was happy to keep shouting at her—but instead found her frozen in place, her head tilted towards the ceiling.
James followed her gaze upward and felt his mouth drop. “What in the name of…what is that?!”
Author's Note: Hello! Thank you for reading! Please let me know what you thought of this first chapter. Does it make you want to keep reading? Thanks!
The world of Harry Potter belings to JK Rowling. Only this story is mine.
Beta'd by the wonderful AlPotterFan!
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