"Bishop to B6," James Potter said nervously, hoping against hope that Ron wouldn't go for his—
"Knight to B4," the redhead replied instantaneously.
James cringed as he watched the white figurine of the knight savagely slay his black queen. The figurine let out a shrill cry that made him seriously reconsider the advantages of Wizarding chess.
"It's impossible to beat Ron Bilius Weasley at chess," a melodious feminine voice informed him.
"It's a well documented fact," Ron agreed from across the table, a smirk tugging his lips.
James pouted, then rapidly stopped when Hermione sat down next to him in the couch.
He didn't want her thinking he was childish.
Because he was his son's girlfriend, you see. He had to give her a good impression, after all.
"Oh, really?" he replied as he commanded his tower to crush one of Ron's bishops.
"Yes, really," Ron stated with a maniacal grin as his horse slew James's king. "Oh, checkmate," he added as an after thought.
James crossed his arms and grumbled darkly.
Hermione stifled a giggle.
"Aw, don't be such a sore loser, James," Ron laughed as he raised and pulled a burgundy Weasley sweater over his head. "I think I'm going to join Harry outside," he said, grabbing his broom—Harry's old Firebolt—on his way out. He turned before he closed the wooden door behind him, sending Hermione a hopeful glance, "Will you come, too, 'Mione? You owe me, you know…"
"Ugh, Ron, don't remind me," the girl moaned, covering her eyes with a hand. She sighed theatrically, as though she was doing him a great favor, before she added, "I'll go after tea."
"Fine, but you said two hours, remember!" Ron called as he closed the door.
Hermione laughed and turned to eye James, who was watching her, wanting to tell her how pretty her laugh was.
"Nice weather, huh?" he said instead.
Merlin, he sounded lame.
Bugger, he was so good chatting up girls at Hogwarts, what had happened to that James?
Not that he was chatting up his son's girlfriend, of course not.
He only meant that— well, he used to be so smooth, damn it! What was it with this girl that brought out the moronic, self-conscious part of himself?
"Oh yes, beautiful," she replied, and smiled again.
She had a really pretty smile too. White, even teeth and full rosy lips. She seemed to be wearing some kind of sparkly lip gloss…
Suddenly realizing he had been staring at her mouth for entirely too long, James rapidly tore his gaze of her face, and fixed his eyes on something else… anything…
The ceiling… no, that would look silly… a lamp… no… er… the chessboard. Perfect.
They fell silent. For some reason, James was extremely uncomfortable, and tapped his fingers on his knee to avoid fidgeting.
Where had 'arrogant, self-confident James' gone, for Merlin's sake?!
Hermione didn't seem to mind the silence, though, and she seemed content to watch out the window, where Harry and Ron were tossing a quaffle to each other.
"It's on days like this one that I know it was all worth it," the brunette said softly, almost to herself.
"Worth it?" James asked, his interest piqued.
"Yes. Worth the war, worth the deaths, worth the pain, the fear and the dread…" she replied vaguely. She turned to face him and smiled sadly, "it was all worth it if only for us to enjoy quiet afternoons like this one… for Ron to be able to beat everyone at chess once more… for Harry to be able to catch another cold flying without a sweater on…" she finished with a grin James felt like simulating.
"I'm sure your parents would be proud of you," he said impulsively, regretting his words as soon as they left his mouth.
Her parents' death was a very sensitive subject for Hermione, especially because she felt it had been her fault for not being there to protect them against the Death Eaters.
Why the hell he had felt compelled to remind her again of her loss, James didn't know, it had just felt like the right thing to say.
He bit his lip and looked at her anxiously, Hermione's eyes were fixed on her best friends, who were still goofing around outside, but her stare was unfocused and James could discern tears welling up on her dark brown eyes.
She was crying! He was such a stupid, idiotic, foolish, daft, dim-witted, brainless, Slytherin—
"Thank you," she whispered softly, her voice tinged with more feeling than he would ever expect to be directed to him.
Hermione turned to stare at him fully. A small, delicate-looking smile grazed her lips.
He started to speak again, not in the least knowing from where these words were coming.
"We were proud of Harry—Lily and I—when we were… when we weren't…"
She nodded understandingly, her smile growing absentminded. "Of course, that's part of the reason why I worked so hard to bring you back—so that you could show Harry how proud you were of him."
A cold wave of an irrational disappointment hit him hard in the gut. "Of course," he agreed bitterly.
She nodded and closed her eyes, that dreamy smile still playing in her lips. "So where's Lily?" she asked, her eyes still closed.
Feeling oddly unsettled by his wife's name, James scowled to the though of who Lily was spending time with at the moment.
"Visiting Sniv—Snape," he said crossly, "She's inviting him to join us for dinner tomorrow night at that new italian restaurant Emmeline Vance was raving about the last Order meeting—Lucernario, was it?" He sighed, and racked a hand through his messy black hair. "Padfoot and Lupin are going too—it's not going to be pretty."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at his choice at naming his werewolf friend, but besides eying him speculatively, she did nothing.
She was quiet for a second and joined him at staring at the chessboard—he had started to do that whenever they fell quiet so that he wouldn't be distracted by Hermi—stuff.
"You're much like your son, you know?" She said out of the blue, not noticing his subtle cringe.
It's not that he wasn't extremely proud of Harry turning out like him; he loved it. But that was exactly the point! Harry was like him. He was sick of people saying things like "Oh my, you look so much like Harry Potter! You could pass as his twin!"
It didn't help that he had died young so that when he was revived he was merely six years older than his son.
James scowled and looked out the window to catch the sight of Harry diving for the quaffle and missing it.
A smile crept to his lips. His son was a brilliant Seeker, but a mediocre Chaser and for that he was glad. He didn't think he would stand being compared to him in Quidditch too. This way Harry could shine, and he could be proud, not bitter.
Suddenly, he realized Hermione hadn't expanded on her observation. "Why do you say that—that I'm much like Harry, I mean?"
"Oh, well, many reasons," She was quiet and thoughful for a second. "But I mentioned it because you seem to hate that Lily's friends with Professor Snape just as Harry hates that I'm friends with Draco," the girl explained, as she gathered her toffee-brown hair and braided it with care.
"Well, that's different—you dated Malfoy, didn't you? As your current boyfriend it's only natural that he is displeased that you still spend time with your ex," he defended Harry, not knowing exactly why. Must be a fatherly thing. "And I'm pretty certain Lily hasn't dated Sni—Snape behind my back."
He let out a nervous laugh. He was pretty certain, right?
Hermione looked pensive again as she finished her braid and tied a bright blue hair band around it. "Maybe, but it can't be the whole reason, he hated that I was friendly to him even before we started dating." She turned away to watch the boys out the window. "And the thing is, Draco was pretty pleasant at that time—not at all the obnoxious git he was before he joined the Order."
"Well, maybe Harry resented him for all of those years he was an obnoxious git," he replied.
"Of course he did, but I always wondered why. Ron holds on to grudges, but Harry is very forgiving," she said with a worried frown, "I think it's the Slytherin thing. Potters, Weasleys—old Gryffindor families—are as prejudiced against Slytherins as Slytherins are against Gryffindors."
James lowered his eyes, suddenly feeling ashamed of the pranks he had played at school.
He had started the life-lasting hatred between Snape and the Marauders, after all.
"Hey, you were young. We all make mistakes," she said softly, reading his mind and reaching out to hold his hand.
James raised his head and met large, worried coffee-colored eyes. Her small, delicate hand was warm, yet the contact sent shivers down his spine.
His throat went dry as he felt the atmosphere of the conversation change quite suddenly.
Hermione looked confused as her eyes focused on his lips this time, a pretty blush coloring her cheeks.
He found himself inevitably pulled towards her...
She smelt of the rose parfume Harry had given her last Christmas...
He stopped approaching her and just contented himself with gazing into her beautiful eyes.
Hermione cocked her head to the side and watched him as though she was entranced by his features.
Instead of smirking like he would have at Hogwarts, James felt himself blush.
The door being opened with a bang interrupted the moment.
Hermione and James jumped apart just in time as a laughing Harry and Ron returned from their flying.
"Liar! I caught it sixty-eight times!" Harry protested, Lily's emerald eyes shining merrily.
"Yeah, out of what? Three-hundred times?" Ron snickered and shook his head before he acknowledged the couple that still sat on the couch. "Oh, hey there, I thought you would have gone to talk to Lily, 'Mione."
"Um, yeah—she is visiting Professor Snape, though," she answered, her eyes still a little unfocused.
"Ugh, I don't know why the hell she's friend with the old bat," Harry said, shaking his head in wonder. "Anyways, Hermione, I was going to take a stroll around the new gardens, want to come?"
"Sure!" the girl replied all too quickly as she jumped to her feet. "Just let me grab my sweater," she said, and didn't spare James a glance before she bolted to the hall, long brown braid bouncing behind her.
"I'll wait for you at the main door!" Harry yelled after her.
"Wow, she seems anxious to spend some alone time with you, mate," Ron chuckled and raised a suggestive eyebrow as he placed his broom near the door.
"Oh yes, she's an eager little thing," Harry grinned and winked at James, who suddenly felt very ill.
This is my son, wanting to beat him to a bloody pulp is something I should not be feeling.
Harry laughed and placed Aerian—the new custom-made broom he adored to the point he had given it (her, he insisted) a name of its own—next to Ron's.
He then took his jacket from the divan and left the room with his ginger-haired best friend, but not before shouting over his shoulder "Ah, and Dad, thanks for entertaining Hermione!"
It was a good thing Harry didn't turn to see his father wince.
Entertaining Hermione... his son's girlfriend. Right.
The worse thing was, he looked forward to entertaining her some more.
Bloody. Effing. Hell.
A/N: I know last chapter I said this one would have much more action. Well… it had some, didn't it? Much more action next chapter! MUCH more action the chapter after the next! By then you'll know why James is going to hell!
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. I already have more than a thousand hits for this chapter so I really demand more reviews, you lazy people!
So last time it didn't work very well, there must be something wrong with my wand: