Written for the Ron/Hermione "Through the Eyes of Another" Challenge on Checkmated.
Character chosen: James Sirius Potter
"It's just…you and Aunt Hermione were best friends before you got together, right? So when did you know you wanted something more?"
James accidentally witnesses Ron and Hermione doing something they shouldn't be doing and ends up learning a thing or two about friendship and love.
Chapter 1 And Only - In Which James Is An Unwillingly Witness
"James Potter, you're a complete and utter prat."
And with that, she left him standing there, her light-brown hair sashaying tauntingly across her back, his mouth agape and his heart beating erratically.
Cecilia Longbottom, the girl he grew up with, one of his best friends, had just come up to him and told him she fancied him. James had never seen it coming.
How was he supposed to deal with that? She had surprised him with her little confession, then she had just stood there looking earnest and - James hated to admit it – very cute, while he gaped at her as if she had just popped out of a suit of armour wearing only a Gryffindor scarf wrapped around her neck.
Which would've been a less shocking option, now that he thought about it.
"James?"She had pressed him to answer.
"I, uh, well…" The ever confident James Sirius Potter had never stuttered before in his life. Something warm pooled on his stomach as her sea-green eyes stared at him with hope and confidence. He really liked her eyes. "Thank you?"
She had done a double take, but the words had come out before James could stop himself, and Cee's eyes hardened. Then she called him a prat and walked away without so much as a backwards glance.
At least she hadn't yelled or slapped him, which considering her temper, was quite a feat. Now, James realized he had probably hurt her feelings. It wasn't as if, given the chance, he would've reacted differently, told her he fancied her back. He'd been dating Annie Fawcett for two months now, and he had never considered Cee as an option before.
He was pretty sure Cecilia would come around, though, once she realized he had acted out of shock. He wasn't interested in her like that, and she hadn't really given him a chance to absorb her words and answer appropriately. Not that he would've anyways.
Chances were he would screw it up horribly, in a similar fashion to his previous reaction. Sensitivity wasn't one of his strong suits, as Al never failed to remind him whenever one of his blunt remarks to his female cousins earned him the Bat-Bogey hex, or worse, a punch in the face. Roxanne had a mean left hook, and Lily once had broken his nose when he had told her she looked horrid in a pink dress she had wanted to wear for Scorpius' birthday party.
No, Cee would come around. They had been friends since they could barely remember, and had seen each other at their best and their worst. She was the one that was as obsessed about the Wasps as he was, and he was the one that was frolicking with her outside of the tent during the last Quidditch World Cup when she had had her first period. He had taunted her about it until she'd hit him in the family jewels and stormed out crying.
His mom had made him pay for that dearly, by making his dad give him the talk again, with excruciating details, marking that moment as one of James' most embarrassing experiences. He was also pretty sure his dad wasn't very fond of that particular memory either.
And if that hadn't forever harmed their friendship (though it had done a great job of scarring him for life), why would something as silly as a fleeting fancy?
A month later.
The Christmas party showed no signs of dying down, and James just stared at the tree as if it was the one that had done something to aggravate him.
His family bustled around in the garden, creating a warm buzz of energy despite the several feet of snow covering the village of Ottery St. Catchpole. A transparent bubble enveloped The Burrow and kept the guests safe from the insistent blizzard, making the house look like a snow globe from the outside.
James lingered in the living room, refusing to join the party. He knew he was being childish, and Cee would probably nag him about it. That is, if she ever bothered to talk to him again, something that wasn't looking very promising right now. She was outside, talking to Lysander animatedly about something that, judging by the glint in her eyes, could only be either Quidditch or Herbology. She was an ace on a broom, one of Gryffindor's best Chasers in the last ten years, and she sure had a way with plants. They just rejoiced under the care of her gentle, capable hands.
"Ron!" He heard Aunt Hermione say, trying to sound stern but failing miserably by giggling like a teenager the next second. James rarely heard her sound so…carefree. It was downright scary. "This is too risky. I'm sure we'll be missed, and someone might come in to check on us!"
"Humph. Like you really care right now." James couldn't figure out his aunt's next words, muffled by a kiss, no doubt. Gross. What were they doing inside the house, instead of enjoying the Christmas party outside?
"Oh, Ron! This is amazing." An audible, satisfied sigh followed the statement.
"Let's go to a more private place, luve. How about my old room?"
GAH! James was nailed to his seat, transfixed. But it is my room that used to belong to Uncle Ron! No, no, no. In the name of Merlin's right elbow, please don't let this mean they'll go at it there!
"Anyone could catch us there, and can you imagine the indignity of it? I'm never taking part in one of your crazy plans again! This is mad!" But his aunt sounded pleased, and blimey, flirty. Muffled sounds ensued. "If we're quick, we can do it right here, and I'll Scourgify us so we can leave without attracting too much attention. We don't want anyone finding us in this position, especially your mother. Or George."
"Stop worrying, Hermione, I know you're enjoying our little adventure."
"And why, may I ask, do you make that assumption?"
"You're flushed." Ron's voice sounded delighted. "Who knew that sneaking around in my parents' kitchen could get you this excited?"
James closed his eyes and chanted under his breath.
Please, let this be over soon. Please, make them go away.
"Ron! Get your hands away from it!" Hermione's scandalized yet fond outburst made James cringe at the sudden and undesired mental imagery. "Don't you have an ounce of self-control?"
"C'mon, Hermione!" His uncle whined. "Why are you holding out on me? You know you want it as bad as I do." The muffled sounds returned. "Stop being such a spoilsport and grab this sausage for me."
"What?" James gasped and accidentally fell off the loveseat he had been sitting on horror-struck silence. When I open my eyes again, I'll realize this was just a nightmare.
"What was that sound?" His aunt's voice was getting closer. James remained rooted to the spot, suddenly wishing he was sitting detention with Professor Parkinson instead of being caught eavesdropping on his godparents getting it on. "It came from the living room. Ron. Stop stuffing your mouth with the mince pies and come see."
"James!" He opened his eyes and saw his aunt flush an impressive shade of Weasley red. "How long have you been in here?"
His uncle joined them in the room, towering over his wife's petite frame. He was looking at James, an amused expression gracing his features, his mouth busy with chewing an impressive amount of food and his jumper littered with crumbs.
"For a while," he managed to get out, even though he was pretty sure his ears were catching on fire with embarrassment. They had only been eating in the kitchen. James had misread the whole thing, thank Merlin.
"Well, you see, Jamie…" Hermione hands were clasped in front of her body and she was shifting her weight from one foot to the other, mortified. "Your uncle and I were late coming here, and we hadn't had a chance to make a snack before leaving our house, and your grandmother was angry at us for being late so she wouldn't allow us to eat anything when we finally got here, and…"
"Hermione," Ron finally said, after swallowing a mouthful of pie. "I think James gets the picture. It's not like we were shagging in the kitchen or something…"
"Ron!" Hermione shrieked.
"Bloody hell!" James winced. His aunt's shrieks rivalled his mother's screeches when she had learned he was serving detention three nights a week until May for a prank he pulled on some Slytherins at the last Halloween feast.
"What? It's not like he's an innocent little boy anymore." Uncle Ron patted Hermione's head, and she glared at him. "He won't snitch on us, will you Jamie?"
"Trust me, I'm taking this to my grave," James swore fervently. It was true. Nobody deserved this kind of trauma; not even Lysander, Hogwarts' biggest git.
"See?" Uncle Ron gave Aunt Hermione a lopsided grin. "Don't fret, wifey."
"Do not tell me what to do, Ronald Weasley." James' aunt was giving her husband the scariest 'eye of doom' that James had ever seen, but Uncle Ron merely shrugged. He must have been either loony, fearless or blind. James fought the urge to scream at him to run for his life, or maybe James should run for his. Once Aunt Hermione got at it with Uncle Ron, mortal peril was a certainty to everyone around them. His father had told James that once he was accidentally hit on the back of his head by a lamp that had been meant for Ron.
His aunt could reduce a proud man to tears in court, but she sure had a lousy aim that James was very glad his cousin Rosie, thank Merlin, hadn't inherited.
"But you love it when I do, Hermione." His uncle's cheeky words would cost him, James was sure, but his aunt merely glowered at him before huffing out of the house. "She's a firecracker, your aunt, but that's why I love her. Life never gets boring around that woman."
James sighed in defeat, way past being horrified, accepting that this clearly wasn't his night, or that someone up there was having fun watching him squirm.
"So, chum," Uncle Ron took a seat across from James in a plump green armchair by the tree. "What's gotten into you? I thought you were outside, pranking your cousin Molly or buggering your Uncle Bill into teaching you some new jinxes."
"Nah," James shrugged, not bothering to get up. He would probably end up back on the floor later anyway, with the night he was having. "I don't feel like pranking anyone tonight."
Though I could probably make an exception for Lysander.
"What's gotten your knickers in a twist?"
"Nothing much," said James vaguely, but Ron snickered, and James remembered that apart from being potentially mad, his uncle was someone he used to come to when he had problems, both little and big. "It's just…you and Aunt Hermione were best friends before you got together, right?" His uncle nodded, though it was unnecessary. James had heard the stories countless times. "So when did you know that you wanted something more?"
"Oh." Ron gave him a knowing look. James decided that staring at The Burrow's worn out floor could be quite fascinating. "You and Cecilia, then?
James' head shot up. The wood floor didn't look twice as absorbing now. His uncle was smiling quite smugly, and James felt his face heat up.
"Of course not!" He was an accomplished liar, but he knew he was doing an awful job of it at the moment. "She's just my friend. I mean, we've known each other since we were in nappies. I was with her when she had her first period, for Merlin's sake! She's like a sister, or a cousin, to me!"
His stomach was in knots. Lies, lies, lies. Cee was anything but those things to him. A normal person doesn't fantasize about his sister or cousin stripping for him to the rhythm of the sexiest song on the wireless, "Your Body Jelly-Legs Jinxes Me" by The Fwoopers.
"James." Ron looked amused. "Give me a little credit, mate."
"Fine!" There was no escaping this. "She told me she fancied me a while ago."
"And what did you say?"
"I, erm…" James fidgeted on the floor, taking an interest in his fingernails. They were much too big. Maybe he should trim them when he got home.
"Oh. I kind of…I might've thanked her."
"You might've what?" It was James' turn to give his uncle the "look of doom", which ranked an impressive 7.6 out of 10. "That was, er…polite." James shot him an incredulous look. "I probably would've reacted the same way."
"Don't take this the wrong way Uncle Ron, but you're not exactly a role model to follow when it comes to women."
"I'm hurt," joked Uncle Ron, "but even though I'm not the most sensitive bloke in the world, I've learned some stuff from being married to your aunt. For example, I know there's more to your story than that."
"Alright," James sighed defeated. "I've been sort of having interesting…dreams about her."
"Oh." His uncle had the decency to blush. "And that's bad?"
"It isn't good. I sort of have a girlfriend. And Cee is, or at least was, my best friend. But after she told me she fancied me, a month ago, things have gone…odd. She's awkward, and the more I keep trying to make things go back to the way they were, the more angry she gets at me." James snorted. "Girls are barmy. She told me she just wants to forget the whole thing, but then she scowls every time I'm with Annie. I thought she gave up on me, or something. I mean, she's being all girly over Lysander of all people, touching his arm and laughing at his jokes. She used to laugh at my jokes; she used to touch my arm!"
Cee's obvious flirting stung, and he didn't understand why. Granted, he was finding himself more and more attracted to her. She was pretty, he would admit to that, and the strange yet intriguing way her mind worked fascinated him. Her one of a kind sense of humour didn't hurt either.
But she had ignored him all night, barely acknowledging he was alive; when he could only watch the gracefulness in the way she danced, or how her laugh made him tingle everywhere, or how her smile made the warm feeling in his stomach return with a vengeance, even when she wasn't smiling at him.
"If someone wrote a book translating the mad things girls do so blokes can understand them, this person would be very rich."
Somehow, his uncle thought this was very funny. A nice, clear laughter joined his, and James grimaced. His Aunt Hermione had returned and had probably heard the whole discussion about him and Cecilia.
This clearly wasn't James' most fortunate night.
Guffawing, Uncle Ron fondly patted James' shoulder with more force than necessary. Aunt Hermione sat next to him, and James couldn't bring himself to look into their eyes. He was being humiliated. What was next? Would Albus, of all people, finally manage to prank him? Would he make it through this Christmas alive, though not unscathed, since his godparents had already managed to cross that one off the list?
"Jamie, can I have a say in this?" He nodded. It wasn't like his aunt was one to keep her opinions to herself. "I couldn't help but overhear, and I must say you're far too much like your uncle Ron for your sake."
"But what it seems to me is that Cecilia's feelings for you run deep, and that you might feel the same way about her."
"I don't fancy her!" But there wasn't any vehemence in his voice, any passion, and the truth hit him like the Hogwarts Express. "I mean, I can't…she's my best friend. And what if she doesn't fancy me anymore? What if it ruins us?"
"Mate, for the way she kept stealing glances at you when you were distracted, she does fancy you back. I mean, even Percy noticed, and he's quite dense. Ow, Hermione!" His aunt whacked Uncle Ron on the back of his head. "He is!"
"Stop harassing your brother, Ron. If you turn into George, you're sleeping on the couch." But everybody knew that was an empty threat. It was clear, even to James, that Hermione and Ron were still completely smitten with each other.
Even when they argued – which his mother once sickeningly joked was sort of foreplay for them – the love that shone through their eyes told everyone they wouldn't have it any other way. The way they kept touching each other without a reason, the way they always looked for the other's eyes whenever they were apart, made it clear they belonged together. James wasn't a romantic, this was Al's thing, but it was obvious to him that Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron were, as Lily called it, soulmates.
"James, look. At some point, you have to decide if what you feel is worth risking your friendship for." Aunt Hermione smiled at him softly, and he couldn't help but notice that when she abandoned her stern posture his aunt could be quite pretty, for an old woman. Merlin forbid her from knowing he thought of her as old, though. "It may seem easy, but it isn't. Your uncle and I are very happy now, but it wasn't always like this. We used to argue all the time –"
Ron snorted, and Hermione playfully slapped him on the arm.
"And Ron once dated a girl named Lavender just to spite me –"
"You mean, Margo's mom?" James gaped at them. It was one of the most unusual pairings he could think of. "But she's so pretty, and Uncle Ron is…not."
"That's true," his aunt agreed, a playful smirk gracing her lips.
"Please. We all know I'm the good-looking one of this couple."
"Sure. And I'll have you know, Jamie, that there was a time that dear Lavender couldn't get her hands off me. Called me her 'Won Won', if you have to know."
"But now you do." Ron smirked. "And your aunt isn't half-bad herself."
"Watch it, Ronald." Hermione looked torn between annoyance and amusement.
"I mean, she's bloody gorgeous, especially when she's nagging me about re-arranging the books into publication order or other rubbish like that."
"That's too much information." James covered his ears. "Can we leave it at this? I think I've suffered enough tonight." His aunt got up with an understanding smile, but Ron remained sitting, all of a sudden looking very serious.
"There wasn't a pivotal moment that made me realize I wanted more than friendship with Hermione. It was more like a slow realization." He stroked his chin, deep in thought. "I think I sort of knew since we were fourteen, but back then I was too stubborn and thick to admit it. But I remember this random moment, on our fifth year, when we were having one of the last Dumbledore's Army meetings of the year that changed everything."
"Hermione was practising her Patronus Charm, and she had the most adorable look on her face. Her hair was a menace, more than usual, and her tongue kept darting off to wet her lips. I was enthralled, and right before she cast her Patronus, she looked at me and gave me a dazzling smile that made my heart drop to my knees, and my brain turn to mush. It was then I knew it was pointless to fight the way she made me feel, because it was so... right."
"It was then I knew our friendship was worth risking it, if I got to see her smile at me like that every day." A ghost of a smile still lingered on his uncle's face, though the faraway look on his eyes was now gone. "I'm sorry I can't help more this time, but it's a gut feeling more than anything else. If it's right, if it's worth it, be sure you'll have your moment of realization too."
Surprisingly, this made James feel a whole lot better. It didn't matter that he still had a girlfriend to deal with, or that the sight of Cecilia flirting with Lysander made him want to hex someone. It didn't matter that he was slightly scared of losing their friendship, one of the most important things in his life, because sometimes, growing from friends into something more didn't necessarily meant the end of the world as they knew it.
They friendship would always be there, no matter what, anchoring them to each other. She was the one that gave him a hard time whenever he was being a difficult git, not that he would ever admit that to her. Cee was his best friend, and James wondered if she might be more too. If she could be as important as his aunt was to his uncle. If he would also have his moment too.
James wasn't a child anymore. He was nearly a legal adult, and he was no longer terrified at the prospect of having already found the girl he was meant to be with. He grew up surrounded by love, and loving was a natural thing to him, a big part of who he was. Besides, Teddy was the coolest guy alive and he had married James' cousin Victoire, and they had known each other their entire lives as well. It wouldn't be so bad to have something like Teddy and Victoire did, something like his Uncle Ron and his Aunt Hermione had.
It would be a great thing, actually.
So James would wait for 'the moment'. He would make himself available to Cee, make her know that he fancied her as well, and he would bide his time. There wasn't a war raging on their doorstep, there was no rush, and he and Cee had all the time in the world to figure out if they way they felt about each other now would turn out to be just a momentary thing or something more, something worth risking sixteen years of friendship for.
March 15, 2029 (Seven Years Later)
James Potter had never been more ready to stand in front of a congregation of sixty-five close friends and relatives in his entire life. He had been waiting for this moment ever since he proposed to her three years ago, and now he just wanted to get this part done with and start his life with the one he loved, Cecilia Longbottom, soon to become Mrs. Cecilia Potter.
Though he was ready, James was still nervous. A mutation of gigantic butterflies was currently nesting on his stomach and his hands were sweaty. He could swear that everybody at the tent situated on the outside of his parents' house, Potter's Den, was staring at him. When he quietly questioned Albus about this, his best man and brother chuckled in the most infuriating way.
"Of course they are. You're groom, aren't you?" Albus told him as if James' question had been quite a pointless and moronic one.
He couldn't understand what was taking Cee so long to get ready since she had started this morning. What could possibly take fourteen hours to get ready? Cecilia was naturally beautiful to him, and no amount of make-up would make him want her more as his wife than he already did.
Bored, James stared back defiantly at the patient crowd. He wished he could be as cool and collected as them, but he was growing rather disgruntled. Sitting on the first row were his parents and godparents, whispering amongst themselves.
James smiled at them, and his parents beamed back at him. His Uncle Ron and his Aunt Hermione seemed quite engrossed with each other. James had nothing to do except wait. And because he couldn't leave his place without causing a fuss, he sneaked a pair of Extendable Ears (he never left his house without one) for him and Al. Uncle Ron was bragging about James and Cecilia's wedding, as usual. Ever since they'd got engaged, his uncle kept telling anyone within ear-shot that his was the one responsible for making it happen.
"I think I had a hand in orchestrating this wedding, don't you, Hermione?" James saw Ron's big, calloused hands enveloped Hermione's soft ones with tenderness. "If I hadn't, and I quote, traumatized the hell out of him that night, this might've never happened. He is Harry's son, after all."
James thought he had a point about that, but Al's snort told him otherwise.
"Please, Ron." His aunt sniggered. "Everybody can see that Jamie was every bit as thick as you were at his age. It took him seven years to realize he liked Cecilia as well. At least, from what I heard, she wasn't the one to kiss him first."
That's not exactly true. But it wasn't like James went around advertising it.
"Oh, spare me, Hermione. She was the one to make the first move."
"She did not!"
"She did too! She told him she fancied him. Unlike some people I know, she was smart enough to understand that subtlety doesn't work so well with blokes like Jamie and me. Plus, she didn't have some world famous Quidditich superstar chasing after her to confuse him."
"Won't they ever stop having this same discussion?" Albus asked James the question he had always asked himself.
"Yes, but he had a girlfriend of questionable reputation as well, didn't he?" Aunt Hermione reminded him.
Music flowed from the orchestra's side of the tent. It was Cee's cue. James was lost in his anticipation, and Al wisely pocketed the Extendable Ears. The guests stood up, with the exception of Ron and Hermione. But James could barely see them, because his eyes were turned expectantly to the entrance.
Cecilia was about to walk down the aisle.
They were about to become husband and wife.
His uncle's next words resonated through the tent, making the orchestra stop their skilled execution of The Wedding March. Everyone's heads turned to the couple arguing on the first row of chairs, oblivious to the stares, sighs and resigned whispers.
Great. James thought, unhappy. They'll probably start screaming at each other. Merlin helps us now.
"In the name of Merlin's saggy left –"
"Watch your language, Ronald!"
"Oi!" Harry snapped at them, before they broke out into a full-blown argument on the biggest day of his son's life. James shot his father a grateful glance. He couldn't love him more. "There's a wedding going on here!"
"Sorry, mate. Force of habit."
The orchestra resumed its work, and Cecilia looked astoundingly beautiful as they were officially bonded for life. They had made the transition from friends to lovers, then from lovers to something more. Now they were man and wife, free to start the next great chapter of their years together.
A/N: Loved? Hated? Think is bearable, but nothing much? I don't care, review and let me know, loves! I ain't too proud to ask. ;) Credit where credit is due goes to my very helpful and patient beta, Lisa Harvey. She's awesome, but I don't let anyone else borrow her, so don't bother trying. A huge 'thank you' also goes to Honda, for helping a fellow writer in a time of need, and for always supporting me and my stories. And cyber hugs to every one of you out there reading this, for taking your time with this story as well.