"Pride," observed Mary, who piqued herself upon the solidarity of her reflections, "is a very common failing, I believe. By all that I have ever read, I am convinced that it is very common indeed; that human nature is particularly prone to it, and that there are very few of us who do not cherish a feeling of self-complacency on the score of some quality or other, real or imaginary. Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person may be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us."
C H A P T E R T W O
For all the talk that traveled at an uncanny rate across the Hogwarts populous, James Potter was rather amused at the various inaccuracies. He was not so foolish as to correct the gossiping females that he in fact made fifteen thousand a year, and that he was not the proud owner of a summer home on the French Riviera (though it was a splendid suggestion). The passing of his father, while sad, was not unexpected. The fact that he had spent the majority of his education years at Hogwarts, however, meant that he knew very little about running his family's estate, and was very thankful that his mother seemed to be as healthy as anyone, and would be there to guide him after graduation.
Reality comes to many at different ages, and for different reasons. Some could say that James Potter had not changed at all since the end of his sixth year, while those closest to him knew that his fathers death had made him realize how very serious life was. And while his vanity was as it ever was, he was not half as prideful.
One resident of Hogwarts refused to see it that way. She firmly believed that James Potter was the same person she had detested four months ago when she gleefully said goodbye to him at the end of term. Though the term 'gleeful' suggests cheerful civility, and James Potter was most definitely not the recipient of even a smile; merely a huff and a 'no you may not write me, Mr. Potter, I will be too busy enjoying my summer away from you.' At which point she strode proudly away, and Sirius was apt to point out that correspondence with her was not the smartest of ideas, as much as James wished to press that Lily was only a 'valued acquaintance.'
'Valued acquaintance,' was even a term that was exaggerating at best. It was an entirely one-sided relationship, in which Mr. Potter, secretly, admired her fine emerald eyes, tenacious wit, and undeniable intelligence, while Miss Evans hated his existence from afar. He supposed that were she pureblood, and possessed a higher opinion of him, he would be in extreme danger of perhaps falling in love with her.
These very feelings caused a one Miss Verity Chase a great deal of grief in Defense Against the Dark Arts class, a few weeks into September.
Professor Fitzwilliam was teaching a segment on the history and origination of the dementor. It was mildly interesting at best. The man flicked his wand towards the chalk board, instructions for the incantation Expecto Patronum appearing. He instructed his students to practice, then strode to the back of the room to look through one of his text books. Everyone read the instructions to the spell then got to practicing it.
A happy memory? James supposed that he had plenty to go around, but Fitzwilliam insisted that it had to be powerful. Nothing that came to mind seemed to be powerful enough, and the most he produced being a silvery mist that evaporated almost instantly. Eventually he gave up, seeing that many other people were having the same problem, most not even getting any sort of result.
He turned to Sirius Black and eagerly asked him when the next full moon was instead of participating in the doomed attempt at advanced magic.
"Prongs, mate, we only have a week. We really must start planning," Sirius insisted, reclining lazily into his chair. James ran a hand through his unruly hair with a grin on his face. He loosened his cravat and joined his friend in the seat beside him, prepared to indulge in the planning of gallivanting with their lycanthropic friend, when a ringing laugh captured his attention.
Across the room, Lily Evans was twirling her wand in random patterns through the air was a pseudo-serious countenance, saying something to her friends that he could not hear. The group of girls burst into a fit of laughter, and he was captivated by the color of her eyes today, a darker green than normal, but still shining brightly—
"And where might your thoughts be, Mr. James?" The young Miss Verity Chase inquired as she sidled up beside him, too close for comfort.
"Hello Verity," Sirius said in a tone that implied he was offended by her lack of greeting to her own cousin.
"Sirius," she nodded in his direction, but her rather dull, in comparison to the finer subject across the room, brown eyes snapped back to James and she smiled thinly. Verity Chase was known for her greed and coveting of any man in possession of, or future possession of at least seven thousand pounds per annum. She had a frail beauty about her, but frailty had never been attractive to James, and therefore Verity Chase had never had much of a chance in winning him over. Unfortunately, James's mother loved her, and heavily hinted on many occasions that 'Verity Potter' sounded splendid. She was invited to Pemberley far more often than James felt comfortable with, and had deluded herself into possessing a particular intimacy with him.
"Are you thinking how dull the company is here at Hogwarts is, James? I am of the same opinion." Verity's whispery voice proclaimed. "The same sordid people—how very dull indeed," she drawled, and he felt himself becoming annoyed, wishing that she would find someone else's fortune to drool over.
"Quite the contrary, Verity. I was just wondering about the kind of beauty a pair of fine eyes can bring to a lady." He turned and gave her a smile that wasn't in the least bit friendly, but she hardly picked up on that fact.
"Oh?" She inquired, stupidly batting her eyelashes that had been quite obviously magically thickened. "And who might this lucky lady be?"
James could see Sirius restraining from derisive laughter at the embarrassing antics of his cousin from the corner of his eye. James himself peaked an eyebrow and replied with a hint of a smile, "Miss Lily Evans."
The woman in question was rifling through her school bag now, searching for something as her friend, Miss Collins, talked to her without seeming to take a breath. Verity's eyes narrowed and followed his gaze, but before she could say anything in response to his shocking admittance, Professor Fitzwilliam called the class to order. Verity returned to her seat, glaring contemptuously at Lily Evans, while Sirius leaned over and muttered, "You're going to regret this James. Verity will chew her out, and she won't even know why."
"Not if she knows what's good for her. I reckon we still have some dungbombs left?" He inquired of Sirius, who immediately grinned.
"Thank the Lord, I thought this innocent streak of yours was never going to end."
James was leaning back into the most comfortable arm chair, in exactly the way his mother always reprimanded him for. He had disposed of the stuffy cravat that was unfortunately part of the men's uniform. "Do you suppose we should start our assignments then, lads?" Remus asked, pulling a roll of parchment towards him. It was N.E.W.T. year, and that meant that despite only being two and a half weeks into the semester, they were already behind on work, and stayed up until all hours of the night attempting to complete it.
Sirius groaned after only ten minutes of silence in which they all attempted to tackle a Charms essay, and there came the sound of crumpling paper. James looked up in time to see said crumpled parchment being lobbed through the air and making impact with a certain red-head.
She turned her head with an entirely haughty atmosphere, not looking the least bit amused. "Yes Black?" She sounded as if she were refraining from using language that would be, as society would have it, 'unbecoming' of her.
"Care to be of assistance, Evans? I can't seem to grasp this theory nonsense."
"What class?" she asked, peaking an eyebrow before turning her back to them and returning to whatever it was she was occupying herself with.
Lily set her things down in front of her and rose from the couch. James watched as she seemingly glided towards them with the almost gleeful expression that came whenever she was asked to assist someone with their work. She hid it well, however. "I was not aware we were in the same class. Which household spell are you having trouble with?" she said slyly, and Peter started laughing from his own chair to James's right. He himself had trouble hiding a smile.
"You never told us Padfoot. Embarrassed?" He asked, and Sirius shot him an irked look.
"Come off it Evans, I know you've studied our book you. Charms are your natural calling so I've heard." It was true. Even in the male Charms class Professor Irving went on and on about Lily Evans and her spectacular wand-work.
Lily sighed, color rising to her cheeks. He thought about the little things she had let go of from her muggle world, such as the much stricter rules of propriety. Those things didn't count for as much in the wizard world, which was often part of the trouble with blending in. She leaned over Sirius's shoulder at the assignment he had written out, grabbed his book and opened it to page 394. "This is the theory behind it, however I have my own Charms book that goes into more depth with this particular type. The wandwork is extremely precise, an extra degree in wrist rotation could ruin the whole thing."
"I do believe I just got my opening sentence. Mind if I borrow this book Evans?" Sirus flashed her one of his winning smiles that never had an effect on her anyway.
She walked away without a word, disappearing up the stairs to the women's dormitory. James watched her leave before attempting to do his own Charms essay, but his concentration seemed to be lacking, and so he pushed the parchment away with only three inches completed.
"When am I to wish you happy?" A voice came from behind him. He closed his eyes for a moment in exasperation before answering. Verity had not let his slip up in Defense Against the Dark Arts the day before go unnoticed. She teased him at every opportunity.
"Whatever could you mean, Miss Chase?" He asked, attempting to keep the impolite sarcasm from dripping into his words. He could not understand how the woman couldn't grasp his dislike for her. Lily had returned to give Sirius the book, and Verity lowered her voice, whispering in what she might have thought was an attractive voice, but mostly it gave him the chills.
"With such eyes, you should make your offer before someone else does."
For an insane moment, the idea gripped him. But it was mostly gone from his mind in a second. "Do not be silly, Verity, she has not even met my mother." He had meant it as a playful retort, to clearly assert that his making an offer to her would never happen. While this point may have been made, she took it another way as well.
"I have." She moved into his line of vision, and he suddenly felt the necessity to sit up straight. Acting so casual around Verity was a dangerous game. She was short enough that they were nearly eye-level even with her standing straight-backed and dignified. "Your mother and I are the best of friends." She said with a smile full of too-many teeth.
He searched for a way out of this conversation, as it was headed to very dangerous territory, but his mouth was ahead of his mind, as it was apt to do, and said the first thing it could think of to divert the conversation. He was not quite sure which topic was most terrifying; marriage to Verity or marriage to Lily. "Yes well, I guess I could always offer her a stay at my home over the holidays."
He regretted his words instantly.
Her mouth curved into a humorless smile, and she laughed just as emptily. "Oh James, you are indeed most amusing." She said it rather loudly, he noticed with vexation. Lily looked up with barely contained disgust, before continuing to compose her own essay, occasionally answering Sirius's questions.
James wished he had not been raised to be a gentleman, or else he might have told Verity straight out that he had no wish to talk to her, but that he did have a wish for her to leave.
Lily reflected on her time spent at home over the summer, being frequently reprimanded for her brashness. Being at Hogwarts she was often encouraged to loosen up, speak what was on her mind and to not as closely guard her emotions and facial expressions as much as she was used to. It was her nature to be judgmental, though she liked to assume she was not ungenerous or unfair in her forming of opinions. It just so happened, however, that Verity Chase was one person she could not, for the life of her, stand. She knew right away that the girl was from money, and that she judged others who were not, which of course made Lily and Verity of natural, if not enemies, conflicting energies, for lack of a better word.
Lily was fiery and energetic, though she tried to contain it, and inquisitive. She trusted no one unless they earned it, but was kind to all. Verity was calm and composed, though she lacked motivation and was rather dull to talk to. The only time she showed interest was when there were men involved—particularly wealthy men, which brought them to Verity's second characteristic failing. She refused to associate herself with the less-privileged, and when forced, her civility had an undercurrent of malice and contempt.
Still, Lily went out of her way to treat her like any other of her mere acquaintances, but she couldn't help a barely hidden glare now and again.
"Oh James, you are indeed most amusing!"
Her voice was like nails on a chalkboard, grinding against Lily's final nerve. Her day had been stressing, and she couldn't help the look she shot across the room. She quickly recovered herself, however. What did she care if Verity Chase flaunted her imaginary relationship with James Potter? In her opinion they deserved each other in all their Pride, even if the girl couldn't see James's utter disinterest in her.
Putting the finishing touches on her Transfiguration essay, she leaned over the back of the couch slightly to inquire if Sirius was finished with her Charms book.
"Thank you kindly, Evans. I'm sure Professor Irving will be pleased with the end result." He handed her book back to her, and she stood up to leave, just as James did.
It was just a coincidence that they both decided to get up at the same time, but he was forced to awkwardly acknowledge him and Miss Chase.
"I'm going to the kitchens Padfoot. Care to join?" Potter asked as he stood, and Lily was faced with waiting for him to depart or circling ridiculously around the many chairs, students, and tables between her and the dormitory.
"Lily," James said with a nod towards her. It was still disconcerting to be addressed so informally, but she shook it off, with a nod and civil smile in return. Verity shot her a momentary glare before making a shocking move.
"Miss Lily, might you sit with me for tea tomorrow? I fear we've shared a dormitory these six years or so, and barely know each other."
Did everyone look as shocked as she assuredly did? She could hardly think but to give an assenting nod. Her words were almost forced out. "I—I would be delighted."
"Excellent." Verity exclaimed, seating herself in the chair recently vacated by James, and pulling her school bag to her to begin work. That seemed to be the end of that discussion. James and Sirius departed, talking quietly to themselves, while Lily ascended the stairs to the seventh year girls dormitory wondering what on earth she had just agreed to.
The very next day at breakfast, everyone seemed to be talking solemnly (or in the Slytherns' and a few others' cases, excitedly) about the recent headlines of The Daily Prophet.
"Seigneur,le volde mort's forces cross the Channel into England."
A small army of 30 Mangemorts attack. 4 dead, 13 injured. »
James read no further, feeling thoroughly disgusted with the world. Blood supremacy was unfortunately something many people believed in, though the majority of those same believers accepted muggle-borns into the community. The rest thought all those of non-magic pure blood were to be eradicated. James felt a part of neither of these groups. He didn't see what the difference was in witches and wizards because of their parentage—magic was magic. He didn't even see the fault in muggles to be fair. This Vol de mort was taking things too far, wreaking havoc over France with his Mangemorts, or 'Death eaters.' Now that the idea had stained Great Britain, his armies were expanding here.
He looked to his left where Verity and her closest friend Marianne sat. They seem hardly perturbed by this mornings paper, and were in fact reading it as if it was the latest copy of Witch Weekly. To his right, Lily Evans had a harassed look about her, head bent close to her fellow muggle-born Elizabeth Darcy, and half-blood Alice Purchase (pronounced 'per-chase'). He felt bad for them, though he looked away with a seemingly indifferent look. What did the future hold for muggle-borns and half-bloods? Or even muggles themselves?