A/N: for a challenge set by AliceSpeak on the Hogwarts Online forum, with the prompts: burning, second chance, red rose, crumpling; "I did it for you." "No! It's never about me! It's always about you! You did it for you!"
This was supposed to be a LysanderDominique, LucyLorcan or LilyScorpius, but James and his apparent best friend Jenny just leapt off the page at me. Sorry.
and i do remember thinking
that your world will go on spinning
- Twilight, Thriving Ivory
He cuts her a lot of slack because she's his best friend and because his family tends to be quite judgemental and he hates being a stereotype. The thing with her is that she's awfully Gryffindor but she's got this selfish streak and he knows, he knows she can't help it but sometimes it's a little hard to deal with.
See, she's loving and she's calming and she's witty and funny and, God, she's everything he ever wanted in a girl – but she's also just a bit manipulative and he wishes he didn't have to admit it but he does because it's starting to go too far.
"Jenny," he calls to her, catching her hand as she breezes past him in the corridor, all long hair and glitters of mischief and laughing brown eyes. "We need to talk."
"Okay," she replies, a chuckle breaking her voice as she wraps her fingers firmly in his, following him into an old, empty classroom. "What's eating you?"
He lets go of her hand and starts to pace, the fingers of his left hand clenching and unclenching with agitation.
"Jesus, James, did you kill someone or something?" she says eventually, sinking into a chair and gazing up at him, her hair a pretty straight waterfall down her back. "You're kind of freaking me out."
"No, Jen – it's just…" he trails off, because he knows already that this will be a touchy subject and he hates arguing with her – but this has to be done, because she's crossed a line. "I heard about you breaking up Sebastian and Dominique," he blurts out suddenly, and he's a Gryffindor so he shouldn't be inwardly screaming with fear about what she's going to do.
"So?" she replies, and she's remarkably calm as she examines one red-painted nail absently. "What's the matter with that? Dominique didn't like him, I checked."
"But, Jen, that's not the point," he says, crossing the room abruptly and collapsing into a chair next to her. "The point is that it's not up to you to break them apart. It's their decision. You were… I hate to say it, but you were kind of Slytherin about it."
Her eyes are flashing suddenly, no doubt about it, and James wonders if that's a female trait because his mum and his sister can both do it too but he's never managed to.
"Take it back," she demands, her gaze fixing onto his slowly and determinedly. "You're my best friend, James, but if you don't take that back so help me I'll hex you into next week."
"I won't," he retorts firmly, Potter stubbornness combining with the Weasley short temper and Gryffindor courage. "You know it's true. And, Godric, Jen, I adore you and you know that – but, I'm begging you, give it a rest with the manipulating people thing. It freaks me out."
She leaps to her feet, and there's fury flashing across her face – but not quickly enough to hide the hurt.
"What the fuck, James? I thought you were my friend!"
"I am!" he exclaims, and he's thinking back to all those times she's saved him from detention by talking teachers out of it and the person she's helped him to be today and, fuckitall, he feels like a truly horrific human being. "But it's not nice, what you do. And you're so nice, Jenny, you are. But you're making yourself a bad name and it kills me because it's not you. You don't realise what you're doing, because you're good at it and it feels natural to you, I guess."
"So now it's natural for me to be a sneaky Slytherin?" she screams at him, and somewhere in the dim recesses of his mind James notes simultaneously that this is the worst argument they've ever had and that her hair is catching the sunlight streaming in through the window with little shimmers of copper.
"No, I didn't say that!" he yells back, and suddenly he gives up on diplomacy because this isn't fair, he's been trying to be nice about it but she won't listen. "For fuck's sake, I'm trying to help you!"
"Well I don't need your help!" she shrieks, and he's just a second too late in reaching for his wand because the next thing he knows he's being swarmed by angry, biting insects and she's disappearing out of the door in a haze of tears and crumpling spirits.
He doesn't go to apologise because he's a Gryffindor and he has pride – but she won't talk to him the next day, or the day after that, or the one after that.
"You should just say sorry, mate," Sebastian Greengrass advises him at breakfast when he's sitting watching her, disconsolately picking at a piece of toast while she chatters and laughs with her younger brother at the Ravenclaw table. "Girls love it when you're 'man' enough to do that."
"I'm not apologising," James retorts darkly, tearing his eyes away from her and biting savagely into his toast. "She yelled at me."
"Really?" Sebastian is amused, and James shoots a glare at him as he leans forward. "What for?"
"I was cross with her for breaking up you and Dom," James says after a short pause, talking more to his plate than his friend, a little embarrassed. "I mean, it was none of her business, she shouldn't have got involved."
Sebastian doesn't say anything, and when James catches his eye he hates the smirk spread across the other boy's face.
"Well – is it really any of your business?" Sebastian inquires, holding his hands up in defence as James' expression goes murderous. "And besides, you've always hated me going out with Dom. You've said on many an occasion that it weirds you out."
"Yeah, but…" James trails off pathetically, torn between being put thoroughly in his place and being really angry. "But she shouldn't have got involved! She's too good at getting people to do things she wants them too, and it's not right."
"Actually, it's a bloody useful life skill," Sebastian retorts through a mouthful of bacon and eggs, pouring himself a glass of pumpkin juice at the same time. "And I happen to know that it's got you out of trouble more times than I can count."
"You're a dick," James comments to him conversationally, and then sighs and runs a hand through his already-messy hair. "Okay then, Mr Relationship-Wonder. Tell me how to make up with her."
"Don't ask me!" Sebastian replies, wide-eyed. "I don't know how the female mind works. She might just laugh in your face whatever you do."
"Gee, thanks, helpful."
"Oh, I don't know, man," Sebastian sighs, gulping down some pumpkin juice. "Buy her chocolates, give her a bunch of red roses, write her poetry – just do something."
"I might try talking to her," James comments thoughtfully, leaping to alertness as she gets up from the Ravenclaw table.
"Let me know how that works out for you," Sebastian mutters with a smirk, clapping his friend on the back. James gives him the finger and then follows her out of the Great Hall.
He manages to corner her in the Owlery – finallyfinally – and when she's staring up at him with narrowed, suspicious eyes and crossed arms, he swallows and starts.
"I'm sorry for what I said, Jen," he begins, wondering what it is about this girl that strikes such fear into his heart. "I don't think I was wrong, but I hurt your feelings like I worried I might, and I really am sorry."
"Why'd you say it, if you knew it would hurt my feelings?" she inquires tightly, her breath puffing out in front of her on the cold wind.
"I wanted to stop you being mean," he tries to explain, opening his hands helplessly. "People were being cruel about you. I did it for you, Jenny."
"No!" she replies, and she's passionate now, hair swishing and eyes sparking and foot stamping and all. "It's never about me! It's always about you! You did it for you!"
"What?" he cries, and he's bewildered because when did this conversation start being about him? "What the bloody hell are you talking about?"
"What am I talking about?" she repeats in a shout, and she shoots daggers at him as her pretty mouth forms ugly words. "I'm talking about the fact that you're so bloody wrapped up in your perfect self that you barely notice me when I don't shove myself in your face! We're supposed to be best friends but I'm the one who makes the effort to hang out with you, I'm the one that covers for you when you get in trouble, I'm the one you just abandon when you go off with one of the many, many girls that takes your fancy. And what do I get out of this? Nothing!"
Her voice is an impassioned cry by the end of her little tirade, and she brushes at her cheeks irritably as she turns away from him. He can see the tips of her ears flushing and he knows her so well that he's aware that she's already embarrassed by her little outburst.
"I… I'm sorry, Jen," he says quietly, and this isn't going right at all because he's not supposed to be feeling this guilty. "I didn't realise that's how you felt."
"Yeah, well, there's a surprise," she retorts, not turning to face him, her voice thick with tears. "James Potter not noticing someone else's feelings."
"I'm not that insensitive," he says, stung, and she doesn't even bother to reply.
There is a silence that stretches out uncomfortably, until James just can't bear it any more and he steps forward and wraps his arms around her slim waist, placing an affectionate kiss on the top of her head.
"I'm sorry," he tells her sincerely, bending his forehead to press against her shoulder. "I'm an idiot. How about we try this again? Second-chances and redemption and all?"
She turns to him slowly, still in the cage of his arms, and rests her chin against his chest to look up at him better. She looks for a moment like she might fight him, but then she's blinking and smiling and her thin arms are snaking around his waist and his heart is stuttering in a typically clichéd and arrhythmic fashion.
"Okay," she murmurs, and the stars in her eyes are suddenly burning again, all firefirefire. "I'm sorry I was mean. And I'm sorry for yelling at you the other day."
"Ditto," James replies, grinning down at her, tightening his grip on her almost reflexively. "I'm sorry. I was a dickhead."
"Yeah, you were," she laughs, and then it seems like a perfectly natural moment to just bend down and kiss her. So he does.
They break apart and her fingers fly to her lips, and there in his arms she's all fragility and long legs and shiny hair and sharp angles.
"Hmph," she says eventually, and there's the hint of a smile tugging at the corner of her lips. "That certainly took you long enough."
And then she's darting up on tiptoes to claim him in another hungry kiss, her mouth on his searing and blazing and belonging.
A/N: please don't favourite without reviewing.