Took a bloody long time, but here you are! The final chapter about James (: Thoroughly enjoyed writing this, and I hope I didn't disappoint anyone with the ending...
I've been MIA lately; I know. School's kicking my arse, and I participated in NaNoWriMo just now. Will be scarce updates here, but please to keep a lookout! Lots of love to you all!
James opened his eyes and stared at the canopy above his bed, his heart beginning to race immediately. I can't actually believe it. The joy and excitement he was feeling was slightly tarnished by a jab of sadness. He had just slept through his last night in his dorm, the room where he'd spent most nights for the past seven years. I can't believe it. This can't be happening.
He carefully sat up and noticed that the other boys were still asleep. Glancing at the clock he noted it was only just past seven. The graduation ceremony would be held at two o'clock in the Great Hall followed by a gathering of all the NEWT students, their parents and the professors by the lake. James felt as though he would be able to relax a lot easier if he'd already been given his grades, but no. At least, unlike the OWL students, he would get them handed to him when he graduated, rather than having to wait through most of the summer.
Swinging his legs over the bed he stood up, quietly changing from his pyjamas to his uniform. He tried not to look at the ceremonial Hogwarts robe hanging on his dresser. He would put it on later, of course. Deciding he couldn't bear waiting for Michael, he tied his shoes and left the dorm, heading for breakfast. In the Common room, he found Albus, reading a book, and a few third year girls having got up early (probably without noticing it) for some reason.
"Morning," he greeted his younger brother, who looked up and broke into a wide grin when he spotted James coming closer.
"Morning. How does it feel?" he asked, his eyes gleaming with excitement and… pride. James felt a bit bad for all the times he'd been a prat to Al. Little Al, he thought with amusement.
"Odd," James answered truthfully. "Amazing, exciting. A bit sad, y'know," he added sheepishly, scratching the back of his head.
"Naturally," Albus nodded, closing his book. "Mum's going to be in tears. Grandma too," he added thoughtfully. James groaned and slumped down on the couch.
"I know," he replied through his hands which he was using to cover his face. "This is so odd. I can't explain it to you."
"I won't say I understand, 'cause I don't," Albus commented with a hint of amusement. James snorted. It really was strange though. Of course he was excited. He was seventeen, had finished school. An adult, ready to go and start working, make his own way through life. But he loved Hogwarts, and it'd feel completely alien to leave his siblings there. And moving out? How the hell was he going to manage at all? "Come on, James, don't look so frightened," Albus chuckled, earning a glare. "Did you send the application for the Higher Wizarding Academy?" James shook his head, and Albus gaped in surprise. "What? But it's too late now!"
"Shut it, Al, I know," he growled.
"But, but, you were, I mean…" Albus stuttered, his eyes still wide. James sighed and ran a hand down his face.
"Listen, Al, we all know that wasn't for me. Come on, I was never the studying type." He prodded his brother who eventually shrugged in response.
"But then what are you going to do?" he asked, incredulous.
"Dunno really," James replied. "I have some money saved, and I know dad's going to give me some today," he added with a grimace. "I'll find a job somewhere, move out as soon as possible and then go from there." Albus sputtered. As someone who had planned out his whole life, and his future children's, James' spontaneous decisions were hard for him to grasp. The older sibling clapped his brother on the back. "It'll work out, Al," he said reassuringly, though with a hint of sarcasm. Al sighed and shook his head.
"Does mum and dad know?" he inquired, running a hand through his hair, as was the trademark for the Potter lads.
"I haven't exactly told them, but I doubt they'll be surprised," James grimaced in response. "Come on, let's have breakfast," he continued, hoisting Al up by his arms, draping his left arm across his brother's shoulders.
"Yeah, sure…" he replied, tucking his book under his arm as they ducked out through the portrait hole together.
"Last breakfast here," James sighed nostalgically. "It's going to be sad," he added, but smirked at the same time. Albus, knowing his brother, instantly grew suspicious.
"What's that smirk for?" he asked as they started down the main staircase.
"Hmm? Oh, no, nothing," James replied merrily, bounding ahead like a rambunctious dog. "Come on!" Albus huffed, not satisfied with James' answer, but figuring he'd leave it. It was, after all, James' last day. He would obviously be a bit… off.
They entered the Great Hall, and Al was taken aback by the amount of students already there. At least a third of all places were taken by the four tables, students chattering casually, not paying anyone any mind. He glanced over at James, ready to make a remark about this, but found his brother smirking again. Frowning, he said:
"James… What's going on?"
"What?" James sang back, firing a smile at his brother before swaggering over to the Gryffindor table and sitting down, waving for Al to join him. Al, still quite suspicious, headed over to his older sibling and sat down opposite him.
"You're up to something," he stated, narrowing his eyes.
"I'm always up to something, Allie, get used to it."
"Allie? Did someone put some Insanity Blend in your juice?" James laughed, reaching over and ruffling Al's hair.
"I'm going to miss you, mate," he said with a sigh, shaking his head.
"Neither of us are dying, James, so stop being so damn melodramatic," Al said grouchily as Lily bounded up to them and sat down.
"Hey James! Ready to leave the hell hole?"
"Obviously," he replied with a raised eyebrow as his sister high-fived him.
"James is up to something," Al informed their sister as they snatched up a couple of slices of toast.
"Isn't he always?" she pointed out, reaching for the marmalade.
"Lily!" She laughed, and Al realised she was probably already in on the secret. He groaned.
"Come on, tell me! You're always planning stuff behind my back."
"That's because you're ickle prefect Allie," James said with a matter-of-fact voice.
"Doesn't mean I'm a snitch!"
"It does," Lily nodded seriously, gazing mirthfully at her brother as she bit into the orange marmalade slathered bread. She patted him. "Don't worry. We love you anyway."
"Well that's lovely," he muttered. James laughed and winked at Lily. This is wonderful, he thought with amusement as he watched more students pouring into the Great Hall. It had been difficult to keep all the Prefects and Professors in the dark, but he'd succeeded in the end. He would be leaving in style. Well, hoping that he couldn't be given detention on the last day. He doubted it. Besides, Professor Longbottom had humour. Hopefully the other professors did too. Merlin knew they'd been seen smiling patiently at his antics over the years. And his Uncles Fred and George before then. And his granddad James before that. Yes, they'd be smiling about it, certainly.
He grabbed a boiled egg and chopped the top off it with a knife, humming quietly.
"James…" He looked up at the pained face on Al's face and sighed.
"Calm down, Albus. I swear I'm not murdering anyone. Or hurting anyone, or…" He was about to say embarrass, but he wasn't sure that was true, so he shut up. It depends on the person, he mused silently.
"Well, I'd best be off," Lily declared, licking some marmalade off her thumb as she stood up. "You fixed everything, yeah?" James nodded in response, before his red-headed sister skipped out of the Great Hall, whistling merrily.
"You two really are the most obnoxious people in the universe," Al exclaimed. "Why do you think I couldn't handle being in on the secret?" James laughed.
"I'm sure you could. But you might try to stop me. Well, maybe not. It's funny. Or so I believe…"
"Whatever," Al muttered, clearly giving up, and stood up to leave.
"I'll see you later!" James waved his brother off. Upon being left alone, he could finally go through the plan in his head.
The first he'd had to do was to change all the clocks in the castle, making them show the time as two hours later than it actually was, simply to get people up earlier. The spell would wear off during the day, and the time would be put right before the graduation ceremony, so as to avoid any confusion. This had been done the previous afternoon. After that, he had, with Lily's help, spiked about a hundred people's evening tea or drinks with a handy little potion which would show its effects around the time breakfast would normally be served. Which, today, meant in about an hour.
James looked around to see a few of the people he knew would feel the effects of the potion. It was frowned upon, really, spiking people's drinks. But, as James saw it, they'd be rid of him after today, so what did it matter?
Of course, there were a couple of more spells that needed to be performed to complete what he had planned. And so he finished off his egg, dusted the crumbs off his robes, and rose to start the day's work.
"I've no idea!"
"What happened to you?!"
"Did you dye your hair?"
"Since when are you bald?"
"What in Merlin's name are you saying?"
James had to work hard not to laugh hysterically at the horrified students charging around the corridors of Hogwarts. Regularly, one would spot someone looking distraught at their own appearance. Some people had minor changes, like their hair turning bright green, or their eyes starting to blink with different colours. Others were less fortunate: some had lost all hair, some suddenly had an extra arm, some could only speak in rhymes, some could only say words backwards, while others were, all of a sudden, fluent in Swahili. On the whole, it was all harmless, but it did cause some distress which was highly amusing to watch. Of course, James knew he'd be one of the ones incriminated, and so he had done the natural thing: spiked his own drink, and Lily's. Not Al's. Mainly because he wasn't sure his younger brother would find it particularly amusing. It wasn't as though anyone would think he'd done it anyway.
Sporting two small horns and bright green hair, James wandered through the castle, attempting not to look too pleased with himself. Lily was going to meet him outside the library, to help him with all the other small steps. In all honesty, his plans where not exactly some destructive prank. He just wanted to mess up as much as possible during his last few hours at Hogwarts. To make sure it would take a while to put things right. And he thought he had a pretty good idea of what needed to be done.
"JAMES!" James jumped about two feet into the air, turned 180 degrees and faced Lily. "Bloody hell. I had to call your name about five times before you replied.
"Oh. Really? Are you sure?"
"Yes," Lily said with a huff, crossing her arms. "Are we going to do this or not?"
"Of course we are," James replied haughtily, pulling the invisibility cloak out from under his robes. "Here we are." He threw it over the two of them and they slipped into the library.
When the two emerged, they wandered a bit before discarding the cloak behind a suit of armour.
"Lovely," Lily said contently. "I'll do the paintings, and you do the doors, yeah?"
"I think so. Don't think you'd manage the doors," James said.
"Oi! I'll have you know that my spell work is extraordinary."
"Extraordinarily ordinary," James scoffed.
"Don't make me turn you into a hinkypunk."
"As if you'd manage that."
"Cocky 'til the end, Potter."
"More than you could ever claim, Potter," James replied before turning on his heel and stalking off, smirking at the banter between him and his sister.
"Mr Potter!" He groaned under his breath at the sound of Professor Cooper's voice. Turning to face the cloaked man approaching him, he put on an innocently surprised face.
"Just what is going on around here?" he asked, waving his hand around emphatically. James hadn't put anything in Cooper's drink, but not for lack of trying. That was the problem with Defence teachers. They were way too bloody suspicious and prepared.
"I don't know," he said, pointing to his head. "I sprouted horns earlier. At least the green hair is funny." Cooper narrowed his eyes at James.
"Are you telling me you don't know what's going on?"
"Not a clue," James said, trying to sound dejected. "I wish I knew though. I'd send the chap flowers and thank him for causing such wonderful mayhem."
"Chap? So you know it's a male student?"
"Can't say I know anything about it, sir. And what makes you think it's a student? Might have been a teacher, just like you."
"Watch yourself, Potter," he said sternly, pointing his finger at James' chest. "If I find out you have anything to do with this I will –"
"Give me detention?" James asked, looking fearful.
"I said watch it," Cooper repeated, glaring at James as he stalked off.
"Nice talking to you, sir!" James called after him, before he kept walking, a smile on his face.
"Merlin's beard!" Ten rubies dropped down, giving Gryffindor another ten points. They'd been awarded points at an extraordinarily high rate; and the teachers had no clue why. They couldn't seem to find out which students were being awarded them.
If they day had seemed odd at breakfast, when random students had undergone various physical changes, it got stranger as the day progressed. Suddenly, all the paintings were turned upside. Quite literally all of them; not even the locked classrooms and offices had escaped. The library was now home to the school's owls, and all the books had somehow been crammed into the owlery, and the Sorting Hat had gone missing.
"I want to know who is responsible for this!" the Headmaster shouted furiously, yanking a door open, only to have a cheerful voice say "Isn't it a splendid day for door-opening!" and to find all the paintings there, too, hanging upside down, their inhabitants calling desperately as they clung onto curtains and chimneys. Emitting a noise sounding oddly like a growl, he banged the door shut again, and continued down the hallway, a number of his professors following him. The Headmaster himself had, around breakfast, suddenly got pink hair and a long fox's tail sticking out from among his robes. As he stormed down a hallway, he saw a flick of red hair disappear around a corner. Speeding up further, he spotted the youngest Potter child, her black cloak flapping behind her, her wand in her hand. Stopping abruptly, the Headmaster fumed.
It was about lunchtime, and James was floating on clouds. Lunch was being served, and following it, all the seventh year students would change to their ceremonial robes and prepare for the graduation ceremony. He was giddy with excitement and nerves, but at least he'd managed to cause complete havoc in the school. With some help from Lily of course. Michael had said he didn't want to have any part in it and run away when James had suggested it, but things had worked out fine anyway. Of course, James hoped no one figured out it was them, as Lily still had three years left at Hoggy, and he didn't want to get her into trouble. Well, perhaps a little would be good for daddy's little girl, he thought sarcastically as he shovelled some food into his mouth. The professors' table was oddly empty, with only a handful of teachers present, looks of irritation, amusement and fear spread among them. Suppressing a chuckle, James reached up and felt the small horns he was sporting. The potion should wear off about in time for dinner, he recalled. It had been difficult to fix everything; most especially Confunding the point-system to award points at every mention of "Merlin". But despite all his hate for studying, James was a rather talented wizard, and had never really had problems with his spell work. Neither had Lily or Albus, and so Lily's help had been most welcome. Perhaps even more so than Michael's would've been. He snorted, and got up from the table.
With long steps, he raced back up to the Gryffindor tower, and ran smack into his sister, who was on her way out of the Common room.
"Lils! Brilliant work, I can't—"
"Less talking, more moving!" she hissed, quickly shoving him inside and slamming the portrait shut, to the Fat Lady's irritation. "The Head's onto us," she muttered as she pulled him with her up to his dorm. Glad to find it empty, she locked the door and cast a curt silencing spell over it.
"No, really?" James said, looking disappointed.
"Yeah, I had to fix one of the paintings which I'd forgotten, and I think he saw me running off. Reckon he knows you're behind it though; can't see why I'd want to cause such a mess on graduation day." James sighed and flopped back on his bed, dejected.
"Ah well. Too bad. But they can't prove anything." Lily raised an eyebrow at him.
"They bloody well could," she protested. "And I'll be the one in trouble when you're gone." James grinned at her.
"Nah, I'll take full blame." They sat in silence for a moment.
"It'll be weird when you leave," Lily said eventually. "Empty."
"Don't go all soppy on me, Lils," James warned her, sitting up. "I can't handle it today." Rising, he held up the ceremonial robes in front of him, looking himself up and down in the mirror on the wall. "Looking rather dashing, eh?" he said sarcastically. The black material of the robe was soft to touch and would probably move gracefully when worn. It had maroon trimming, and both the Gryffindor and the Hogwarts crest on the breast. Weird to get something as fancy as this and wear it once, he pondered.
"Gee, sorry," she replied. "I should be happy; at least now I won't have half as many detentions."
"Reckon you do pretty well on your own," James retorted. "Now get your backside out of here; I need to change." As the word "change" left James' mouth, his sister dashed out of the room without a word. James grinned again.
"James Potter, Gryffindor." They had gone through half of his year by the time they got to his name. Despite himself, James blushed a red to match his cousins' hair as they erupted into applause and whistles. The Head handed over the parchment, sealed with the green, waxy crest of Hogwarts, and smiled tautly at him.
"Thanks, sir," James said in a low voice, grinning. The teachers had managed to conceal all the strange physical changes in time for the ceremony, but James could spot several odd-coloured heads and tails amongst the crowd. It was just after four in the afternoon, and so he was positive that it would wear off within an hour. He still had his green hair and horns, but under the pointy black hat he was wearing, they weren't visible.
They went through the rest of the year, and then the Headmaster held a speech. James didn't really listen. Instead, he watched his family; his dad looked like he was about to burst out laughing, his mother was crying and the Weasley clan were all grinning madly. It was always odd, seeing his family on school grounds, but this time, it was even stranger. This is it, he thought as the Headmaster droned on about academic excellence and magical achievement or something along those lines. He was about to graduate from Hogwarts, after which real life began. He had no clue what he wanted to do. Suddenly, it all came crashing down around him. The fact that, unlike, Al, he had no plan, whatsoever. It was all well and good to talk about being spontaneous when one was in the safe confines of Hogwarts, but when push came to shove… Did he know how the hell to survive on his own? I'd probably forget to eat and starve to death, he thought, somewhat miserably.
Eventually, he heard the Head clear his throat as he prepared to say the magic words. All seventh years, in their brand new robes and hats, stretched a little bit taller, tilted their heads up, started breathing more rapidly.
"It is my greatest pleasure," he said, in a voice very much like how James had imagined Dumbledore would have spoken, "To present to you all, the NEWTs of 2023. Hereby, these young witches and wizards are relieved from their obligations towards Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Class, you are dismissed. Congratulations." James, along with the rest of his year, broke into ecstatic cries of joy, and they all streamed off the podium and went to meet their families.
As soon as James reached all his people, he was engulfed in a hug.
"Mum?" He realised it was in fact his father that was hugging him; Harry held his soon at an arm's length. "Have you gone completely barking mad, boy?" he said, shaking his soon before bursting into laughter and hugging him again. "I can't actually believe it," he muttered, holding onto James for a bit longer, before composing himself and letting go. James then passed from one set of arms to the other, facing congratulations and pats on the back wherever he turned.
"How're you feeling?" his Uncle Ron asked, putting an arm around his shoulders. "Scared? Terrified?"
"Ron!" Hermione admonished. "Don't be silly."
"Knowing James he's probably already planning a new way of tormenting the professors," Ginny said with a smirk.
"Or, knowing James, he has no clue what to do," Harry laughed. "But how do you feel, son?" he asked, repeating his best friend's question. James looked from one of them to the other.
"Absolutely bloody brilliant."