Things That Tie Us Close
A HariPo freeverse piece
Note: The Harry Potter characters belong to J.K. Rowling, not me. This pairing was discovered by me, so please gimme a little mention if you write them! Thanks! It is one of many of Mew and Mor's Weird Pairings, which you may find in Mor's and my forum, "Mew and Mor's Weird Pairings Fan Stories," found here (Just take out the spaces!): http : / forum. fanfiction. net/ forum /Mew_and_Mors_Weird_Pairings_Fan_Stories /76194 / Read, review, and enjoy! And check out and join the forum FUN! This is a SEQUEL: It follows the first Jamestin oneshot, "Let the Light Shine In," so I strongly suggest you read that first.
For jojor99, HarryPotterResidentEvilFanJnL, Morghen, and Bethhhhhhh. Because they all love Jamestin so much—but not as much as me! Jamestin's MINE! XD
Somehow, James Sirius Potter had made it through the end of his sixth year.
Yes, this should be considered a regular, attainable achievement to most wizards and witches James' age. James would've once thought so, too. But things had certainly become topsy-turvy after he'd started dating his Muggle Studies professor in secret.
Somehow, Justin Finch-Fletchley had made it through another school year, as well. These kids seemed to be turning more and more unpredictable as the years went by, but Justin had found an outlet in a new addition to the adult Wizarding world. Yes, Justin had a new, energizing companion.
James had turned seventeen months ago, and Justin was Hogwarts' Muggle Studies teacher.
And now it was summer, when James wished most he was anywhere but home.
"It's—It's like a rite of passage," Harry told his eldest son as they stood in the backyard of the Potter family's Godric's Hollow house. "The Patronus Charm is almost like our family's trademark."
James sighed, trying to focus and once again trying to conjure a fully corporeal patronus. His father's cajoling wasn't helping at all. James—and his siblings—knew all too well that Ginny and Harry had managed such charms at a very young age, younger even than James was now. But it wasn't any help to see a large white mare and an equally luminescent stag every time the boy glanced over his shoulder.
"Try again," Harry ordered. He toned down a bit when Ginny gave him a stern look. "Er, just one more go," the father suggested.
The hazel-eyed wizard sighed again but lifted his wand nevertheless. "Expecto Patronum!" The spell was strong and massive…but the light emitting from James' wand's tip refused to become an animal. Seeing that, James frowned, and the spell fizzled out.
Harry ran a hand through his graying hair; more of it looked gray now than it had before tonight's little "lesson." "That's enough for tonight," he said, and Ginny and James were equally relieved. Ginny took the chance to feed her son some small slices of chocolate cake, whereas Harry just took a bar of Honeydukes' best out of his pocket and bit into it. His habit, thanks to the late Remus John Lupin, was something that would never be broken.
"I wish the school year would hurry up and arrive," James grumbled to himself under his breath.
"What?" Harry asked.
His father eyed him a moment longer before relenting and sitting down on the deck on the other side of Ginny. "James, the memories you're focusing on… Aren't they strong enough?"
James bit back a retort that no, obviously they weren't, otherwise he'd have a little patronus critter running around already. "You forget, Dad. I'm not growing up in a war like you and Mum. I don't have anything terrifying me to the point where I'll wish for 'the good times.'" He frowned. "Not much happens these days."
"I know," Harry admitted. He turned his eyes skyward and James knew the night was over. There was no budging Harry was he stared at the stars and thought of fallen friends.
James hadn't lost anyone. Justin had almost left Hogwarts to help a friend's business, but he'd stayed to do what he did best and teach. For that, the eldest Potter considered himself very lucky, so he kissed the top of his father's head before hugging and kissing his mother and wishing both of his parents a good night's rest. As he disappeared into the house, he glanced once more at his parents, both of whom were now watching the heavens.
More than "Harry Potter's first child," James was just James. Looking on his parents, he didn't see a mare and a stag. He saw a man and a woman, plain and simple. And that was fine to him.
The new school year finally arrived, and James felt as though it hadn't been all that long ago when he'd been taking a carriage from the castle instead of to it. But it was good to be back, and his friends Troy Finnigan and Lania and Curtis Jordan agreed.
"It's mental to almost be done with school," Lania said from beside her brother as the group traipsed up to the castle. "You three are all in your last year… I'm in my sixth already…" She didn't say more as she met up with some of her female friends, leaving the boys to head to the Gryffindor table alone.
"I've had to listen to that for the good part of the summer," Curtis said. "Even when we went to Greece for a vacation."
"Ah, cut 'er some slack," Troy said, dismissing him. "We really are going ter be thrown out into th' real world after this. Speakin' o' which…" He turned to James. "Why so many N.E.W.T.s?"
James laughed. "It's because I'm bloody brilliant," he answered, but he shushed them as Headmistress McGonagall got up and spoke. As she weighed heavily on practical jokes and their costs, James mentally ran through his classes… Arithmancy, Charms, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Transfiguration, and Muggle Studies were all N.E.W.T.-level. The only regular class he was taking was History of Magic, which James knew he could count as a break to get other homework done. He still felt iffy taking McGonagall's class this year, but she said he'd managed to squeak by. Je had a feeling that she'd drop him if there were even one slip-up, though.
Some of these classes were for fun. But mainly… James grinned, determined. He'd made a few prototypes over the summer and then visited Ollivander when the family went to Diagon Alley to buy new school supplies. Though he hadn't confirmed anything, Ollivander had eyed James' wands with a wry smile and told James to come see him when he was done with school. The young wizard knew Ollivander's apprenticeship was within reach; he could feel it.
The rest of the opening feast was fair and fun as usual. On his way to bed, he scanned the faculty table and met the brown eyes that caused his pulse to quicken. Justin smiled warmly and nodded to him.
Seventh year, James thought, here I come.
The first month and a half flew by nearly as fast as a Snitch. James was beginning to wonder where the time went.
"It only seems fast now," Justin said, not looking up from an essay he was correcting. The two of them were in the professor's office during James' break and James was sitting across from him, tipping back in a chair in front of his desk. "You don't want to do that," the older wizard stated. He looked up, saying, "You'll—"
"—fall." Justin sighed to hide the chuckle in his throat as he magically righted the chair with James in it.
"Oh, just laugh," the Potter growled, his cheeks redder than the other's. "Anyway, the last year always goes by fastest."
The Muggle Studies teacher fixed him with a stare, his expression something akin to you-always-think-you-know-best. "My last year wasn't," he corrected softly.
James blinked. "Well…yeah, your is an exception…"
"It's all right, James. It's not as sensitive a topic for me as it is for your parents." He stretched and peeked out the window to glimpse the setting sun. "Since I'm Muggle-born, there was no way I could've come here for seventh year. I stayed hidden with my family for a very long time. Luckily I was of age and could thus use magic to better protect us."
"Your whole family?"
James, who had his own heroic ambitions despite not wanting to follow in Harry's footsteps, whistled appreciatively in amazement. "But you came back."
"For the Battle of Hogwarts, definitely. Even to this day—" Justin produced an old coin from his pocket and placed it in James' hand. His eyes were heavy and wistful. "'Dumbledore's Army.'"
The seventeen-year-old gazed at it a moment longer before returning it to his companion. He squeezed the teacher's hand a moment longer than usual. "Hopefully you'll never need it again."
James hopped up then, as the break was almost over. "Well, I should probably go. Charms is next and I like to be on time to see Flitwick explode at those who are tardy. He's a funny little bundle of energy, y'know?"
Justin laughed. "Always has been and always will be." He watched James fidget. "Something else on your mind?"
The Muggle Studies professor raised an eyebrow, though his face took on a little color, as well. "It's perfectly fine as long as my students don't barge in, James."
James froze, nervous and still new to how they'd act at school. "Oh. Well. In that case…" He walked around and pecked Justin's lips lightly. "I'll see you…" He snuck in another smooch. "…around." Okay, so he went back for one more and then lingered. His brain began to liquefy and Justin—typically the one in control—responded positively and kissed back with a little more fervor. Right as one's tongue began to slip into the other's mouth, James stopped him. Justin pouted and the younger wizard laughed. "What can I say? Flitwick will think I'm feverish if my face gets any redder. I'll see you tonight, Jus." So finally he departed for class.
And oh, how quickly things turned from heaven to hell.
"Today, we'll be perfecting the Patronus Charm," Flitwick squeaked once the N.E.W.T.-level class had filed in.
It was the very last thing James wanted to hear. He'd been doing so well in this class until this point. He could summon something like a patronus, but it was nowhere near what Flitwick was bound to expect. With glum thoughts, the eldest Potter son settled in for a surely uncomfortable class.
Perhaps Charms…was the first domino pushed over.
Just a year ago, Al had been telling James not to slack off. Well, also just a year ago, Justin had begun the tutor sessions that had led to a friendship and eventual relationship with James. And back then, Muggle Studies was the only subject that James would've considered in the least bit "troublesome."
So first went Charms. Then came Defense Against the Dark Arts.
No one very much liked the ever-scrutinizing gaze of Professor Parkinson-Zabini. She'd been described as "pug-faced" in her youth and she was no better now years down the road. Also, Parkinson-Zabini had an extreme distaste of the Potter and Weasley families, even if—according to what James' cousin, Rose, said—her husband, Professor Zabini (of Ancient Runes), had come to let bygones be bygones. With such a lovely disposition, Parkinson-Zabini nearly jumped on James like a newborn dragon on an unsuspecting unicorn when he messed up a practical test.
"Too arrogant to listen in my class, are you?" she taunted with a sneer. She sat the rest of them down after James' spell had rebounded.
James bit the inside of his cheek. He knew from experience that to respond was certain death—er, detention.
"Perhaps you just pay attention when Daddy stops by for a class or two?" Parkinson-Zabini's eyes were lit with annoyance as she successfully used a Placement Charm to bridle the young kelpie. She levitated the creature into its tank and turned back to James. "Well, guess what? Daddy's. Not. Here."
He almost remarked, almost. They all knew Harry still dropped by fairly often for guest lectures, but James treated Harry's visits as he did Parkinson-Zabini's classes: They were just another part of his school day.
Seeing that she wasn't getting a reaction out of him, Parkinson-Zabini sighed exasperatedly and waved him to sit back at his desk. "Oh, bollocks… Just—Everyone do the fifty questions at the end of the chapter. And I want sixteen inches on what happens when you can't guard again kelpies."
The rest of the class groaned and James shrank back in his seat. He really would've rather had the detention.
At the rate he was going, James felt embarrassed to spend any time at all with Justin. He actually tried to avoid Justin, to no avail. All that did was earn him Justin's concern and irritation.
Justin frowned. It was the night after Halloween and the rest of the castle still felt giddy from the celebrations. The two of them, however, were mulling over James' situation. "It's—It's just a bad start," the teacher told his student.
"It's not just a bad start," James growled, loosening his tie. It rather felt as though everything were caving in on him, from all sides. "But I do blame it on that ruddy Patronus Charm."
"Well, I agree with you there." The older wizard yawned and stretched his arms. He leaned back in his chair and pushed the papers on his office desk to the side. "I don't understand what Harry was thinking. You can't force a patronus on someone. It took many of us in the D.A. years and still only a few can do it."
James jumped up from his spot in the window. "Wait. You were in the D.A. You learned it." He grinned madly, something he hadn't done in a while. "You could help me with it."
Justin raised an eyebrow. "Er, sorry?"
"Come off it—you heard me, you git. You could help me work out the Charm. You have the experience and clearly we've seen that I work well under your advice," he finished, gesturing between them and not hiding the twinkle in his eye. "Come on, Justin."
"You know you want to. The concerned part of you which is always ready to assist is screaming at you to aid me."
The older wizard sighed and stood. "Fine." He brandished his wand and concentrated. To James, the expression on the professor's face was pained, as though Justin were trying to remember some horrific memory. Then Justin relaxed and seemed to grow confident. He flicked his wand—Justin cast it nonverbally, James noted—and a silver ball of flickering light joined them in the middle of the room.
James closed his slightly gaping mouth. "Wow… That's a lot better than what I can do." He turned back to Justin, smiling. "Can you do it a—? Jus…?"
Justin was frowning, clearly disappointed in himself. "That's odd."
"What is?" the Gryffindor asked. He walked closer to his companion and tugged his wand arm.
"I can usually get a fully corporeal patronus when I cast it…" He smiled wanly. "I suppose I'm just not up for it tonight."
James didn't press him further. He collected his things, pausing only to yawn. "That's fine…" Justin walked him to the door and gave him a quick kiss." One thing, though."
"What's your animal?"
Justin laughed softly, a bit of color dusting his cheeks. "A badger."
"Oh, for Merlin's sake. You're so predictable, Mr. Finch-Fletchley."
"And you're irresistible, Mr. Potter."
The Gryffindor laughed as he teasingly tried to pin the other wizard against the back of the door. "If I'm so irresist—"
"James," Justin said in a stern voice. He grabbed the student's hands and pushed them away. "Good night , James."
"Tease," the Potter griped, but he playfully stuck out his tongue. "Good night, Justin." And yeah, as he headed to Gryffindor Tower, it really did feel like a good night.
His classes got worse, but James became determined not to let that get to him. He took Justin's courage and mixed it with his own to push through the school day. Al gave his brother credit; the O.W.L. classes that Al, Rose, and their friend, Scorpius, were taking were pushing them to the limit, too. Exams were a long way away, but all the fifth and seventh years were feeling the pressure.
In late November came the first Hogsmeade trip, for which James and his friends were thankful. Snow wasn't falling, but there was plenty of it outside. James wrapped his scarf around him twice before he and Troy left the dormitory.
"Actually, mate," Troy mumbled abruptly. He didn't open the door and his eyes were on the floor. Troy was blushing furiously.
James had no idea what would force his usually boisterous best mate to turn tight-lipped. "What the…? What's wrong? Curtis and Lania are waiting for us down in the Entrance Hall."
"Tha's th' problem," Troy retorted and he walked over to the window, as though he were double-checking to make sure they were alone. "They're both there."
"But…I thought you and Lania were, ehm, starting to hit it off," James said. He could clearly remember one time just last week when he'd walked into the common room after a good moment with Justin and had stumbled across Troy and Lania snogging each other's face off. Awkward, much?
Troy sat down on the nearest four-poster and brought up his foot to fiddle with his trainer's laces. "Ha, yeah, we were. But I'm 'ittin' it off wit' someone else, too."
James' eyes widened. "Troy! No wonder you don't want to be near Curtis right now. I'd kill Lily's boyfriend if he was cheating on her."
"Heh, Lily would 'ave ter land 'erself a boyfriend first," he remarked. "But tha's not th' point. Curtis does know."
"So does Lania."
The Potter son took off his glasses and rubbed his temples. "Okay, now you've lost me. Are they both okay with it or—"
"They're th' ones toying wit' me!"
James stared at his best mate for a full five minutes. Huh. His brain was processing things really slowly today… "Wait. What?"
Troy grinned. "I like Lania—a lot. I also like Curt—a lot."
"Yeah…" The half-Irish lad stood and paced in front of the door. He paused. "I weirded you out, dinnit I?"
James immediately shook his head, though no words came out. To find out that he actually had a close gay friend—possibly bi, James mentally corrected—made him feel relieved. He hadn't really thought of himself as gay, just in love with someone who happened to be a wizard. Although, more than the realization that it was really homosexuality he possessed, James couldn't believe he'd just admitted to himself that he'd fallen in love with Justin. The thought made him squirm for both positive and negative reasons, on which he'd dwell later… "You didn't," he finally answered verbally. "Really, you didn't."
Troy relaxed; his shoulders visibly slackened. "Good. Because I'm really confused and I'd like an ally."
"And it's nice ter know tha' you like blokes, too."
"'Course—hold on!" James practically yelped, realizing what Troy had said. "What the—? You just—? How come—?"
Troy snorted. "You and Professor Finch-Fletchely? I'm smarter than I look."
James raised his eyebrows. "Your marks are in Moaning Myrtle's toilet."
"Maybe not book smart, but people smart." Troy sighed as they finally headed downstairs. "I'm good at observin' others and figurin' them out. It 'elps when you're, uh, confused as I am. It 'elps ter read people and see if they, um, know. So far, no one does. Well, you do. Curt obviously does. Lania, too."
"And she still wants you?"
Troy nodded. "Th' part tha' bugs me is tha' she and 'er brother are playin' a—a game and I'm nuthin' but th' prize!"
James ducked his chin closer to his scarf as they neared their destination. He saw Justin in passing and nodded, to which Justin waved back and moved on. James gave Troy a look when he saw his friend smirking. "Back to you, git. Do you like one more than the other?"
The Finnigan son frowned, quiet. "I can't decide. They keep, ah, tempting me, so…"
"Yeah, I see your dilemma."
Troy lifted his head up and pointed out that the Jordan siblings had gone on ahead without them. "Give me some time ter ask about your life," he stated with a mischievous expression on his face.
James sighed. "There's…There's not much to tell. I just lo—like him a lot." He'd caught himself, and now that realization was bugging him again. "I couldn't help it."
Troy scrunched up his nose. "Tha's nothing! Where are th' juicy details? All th' 'private sessions'?"
"There were private lessons, but they weren't what you're imagining, you arse. And now I might've convinced him to help me with the Patronus Charm."
"Ah, still can't get tha' up, eh?"
"Don't worry, then—you'll be able ter get it up fer 'im!" Troy laughed heartily…until James did as Ginny and placed a lovely Bat-Bogey Hex on him.
James' blood turned to ice as Professor McGonagall stopped at his desk and eyed the broomstick that was still half fox. "Yes, professor?"
"A word after class."
The end of the lesson came all too soon. James had barely finished jotting down the night's homework when he noticed that his classmates had all disappeared. Suddenly conscious of himself, James hastily gathered his materials and approached McGonagall's desk.
"I'm sorry about—" But he was cut off before he could continue.
"I don't want apologies, James," McGonagall said and he groaned, for he knew it to be serious when first names were pulled out. "I'd just like to remind you that you barely made it into my N.E.W.T. class to begin with and you were actually doing quite well at the start of this year. Has something happened that requires my intervention?"
He hesitated. Truly, this was all it came down to: Could he get by without any "aid"? Justin was one matter; James had gone to him first and their relationship had formed of its own accord and of James' free will. However, the kind of help McGonagall was offering was only partially based on her acquaintance with her Gryffindor student; the rest was because of that dreaded thing—family history.
When it came down to it, his whole family got this treatment. It was worse (or better, depending on the opinion) for the three Potter children; they were Harry's kids, after all. Lily didn't care about it. She acted as though she didn't get any extra coddling at all. Al saw its benefits and rolled with it when it was most advantageous for him. For James, though, it had always bothered him. Maybe it was because he was the first born, maybe it was because James was more Weasley than Potter which unsettled Harry—whatever it was, James had always felt that he'd be that spoiled brat everyone thought the Potter children ought to be ("Well, with a dad like that," they'd heard) if he accepted such help based on family history alone.
The brunette licked his lips and gave her, what? The trademark James or Sirius smile? Merlin, family history was taking over again… He had better things to worry about, like Justin and his feeble patronus and Troy and his love triangle. Hell, there were James' classes! And really, if he just pushed himself a wee bit more, then he would (should) be back to where he started. Resigned to that positive notion, James shook his head. "Nah, 'course not. I've just hit a rough patch."
McGonagall quirked an eyebrow, thoroughly doubtful. "A 'rough patch'?" she echoed.
"A rough patch."
"And are you going to do something about it?"
The elderyly witch sighed exasperatedly and turned her face, but he knew she was rolling her eyes. "All right, then, Potter. Have tonight's assignment done and ready to go for tomorrow. Off you go."
"Oh good Merlin. HELP ME!" James was damn near ready to clonk his head against the castle's stone wall. He gritted his teeth and shook his wand out away from him. "Expecto Patronum!"
There it was again, that bloody puffball of silver light.
James grunted and marched over to the basket lovingly known as Justin's sweets stash. The Potter son grabbed a handful of the mini pumpkin tarts—his favorite—and crammed them into his mouth all at once.
"You're going to get fat," Justin warned as he Concealed the basket. When James whined upon seeing its disappearance, Justin's eyebrows knit together in concern. "James…"
The younger wizard swallowed. "I won't; I have too high a metabolism."
Justin sighed. "And here I thought you might break down into my arms…"
"I'm no girl," James growled.
The teacher locked eyes with him. "I know." It was said so strongly and surely that, despite all his masculinity, James felt a shiver play up his spine and across his arms. Sometimes it was a real wonder which one of them was the stronger personality. The seventeen-year-old looked away.
"So…any plans for Christmas?"
Justin smiled. "I'll probably have a visit or two with Hannah and Ernie. Although, it'll be interesting seeing her for the first time after messaging her about…well, her being right about my feelings for you." He blushed healthily. "Your break?"
"Ah… It'll just be family, as always. I might visit Troy at least once, to make sure Curt and Lania aren't torturing him too much." He half-grinned. "I still can't believe Troy's predicament."
"Mmm," Justin responded, not really listening. "By the way, could you leave the twenty-sixth open?"
James' heart leaped into his throat. He'd never been so excited for a date before.
"I think I've figured out something to help you with the Patronus Charm."
"Oh." James' face fell.
"What? You sound disappointed." Justin stopped packing his bags; the last day of classes before the break was tomorrow, after all. "I thought you'd like that."
It took a lot of willpower for James not to point out just how oblivious his companion could be. "No, no, I would like that," he answered honestly, because he really did want to fix his academic track.
Justin smiled. "Great, then. I'll pick you up for our little field trip."
What does one get the man who is comfortable with everything he already has?
It was the question nagging James all throughout his classes and the first few days of vacation. It was nothing new that he couldn't get his mind off Justin, but—buying presents for him? James' family was lucky if they got a coupon for one free chore.
Also, James couldn't really go to anyone for advice. He tried messaging Troy about gift ideas, but all he got back was a note about Troy leaning towards Curt, about which Lania had several "choice" words. James sighed as he bought the clichéd scarf from a nearby store. The only excitement he had before Christmas was hiding the gift and dodging questions about James' intended receiver.
Christmas morning itself was a whole hell of a lot better than last year's. For one thing, Harry was actually home and not on-call for the Auror Department. The atmosphere in the Potter household was lively and jubilant and it reminded James of when he and his siblings had been a lot younger.
At the last minute, James remembered Justin's plans. "Mum, can I go out tomorrow? I'm expecting a friend."
Ginny's eyes lit up. "A witchy friend?"
"Nah, just a mate of the wizarding variety."
She grimaced. "Damn. You haven't had a girlfriend since that Alethea girl a couple of years ago."
James waved her off. "Okay, Mum. Thanks anyway." And he traipsed up to bed, where he pondered whatever Justin had in store for him.
"I thought you were expecting someone," Harry asked his eldest son at about halfway between lunch and breakfast. "Troy's running really late today."
James looked up from his Charms notes. "Troy?"
"Yeah, your mate. Or are you going someplace with Curtis?"
"Oh." He blinked, realization dawning on him. Of course his parents would think he'd be hanging out with Troy or Curt today…although, in his opinion, it was probably better they thought things were that way. At least for now.
As lunch drew near and there was still no notice from Justin, James grew antsy. Ginny offered him a sandwich, but he lacked an appetite. "I'm going out for a walk. If I see him, I'll send a message that I'm staying out." He didn't wait for a response, choosing instead to grab a thick jacket and head straight outside.
At the end of the street, James felt a little more relaxed. It was probably since he'd left the house, but his mood dampened when he thought why he'd left. Where the hell was Justin? So much for pro—
James jolted out of his thoughts. Not only had he reached the end of the neighborhood, but he'd reached a tall, darkly-cloaked figure, too. Justin beamed at him.
"Happy Christmas, James."
The Potter's first reaction was to melt on the inside. Then his anger flared to life. "Where the hell were you?" He punctuated each word with a sharp jab of Justin's left arm.
"Hey, hey, ow!" Justin caught his hand and gave it a squeeze. "I'm sorry, I really am. Hannah and Ernie kept me a while longer than planned. I meant to arrive around here hours ago and send you a message to meet me." The cold had nothing to do with his cheeks reddening. "I doubt Harry and Ginny would want to see me land on the stoop to spend the day with their son. They're much too shrewd for their own good; they'd be suspicious of such a…one-on-one field trip." He finished with a lightly-barked laugh.
James gave him a look and sighed before they began to walk out of Godric's Hollow. "Well… You're here now. Oh!" He paused and cast the Avis Spell, sending a striking cardinal flying back to his house. "I told Mum I'd send her a message that I'd be staying out," he explained.
Justin nodded. "That spell is similar to a patronus, a unique bird to each unique wizard and witch…"
"Yeah, I know. The irony. I can cast that and not the Patronus Charm." He made a clucking sound with his tongue. "Life's a wanker."
He grinned, glad to have the upper hand. "Anyway, nice plan. My parents thought I was going to meet up with Troy or Curt. I think they were more convinced I was going to cause some trouble with Troy somewhere," he added, to which he laughed.
"Er, yes… So, my plan was to take you to an old friend, one whom you've might've met a few times," Justin said, changing the subject as they left footprints in the snow across the town.
"The Minister of Magic?"
It was a short, Apparation's-ride away to London and the British Ministry of Magic. Justin got out to James that, through Neville and the D.A. and the post-war tumult, Justin was sort-of friends with Kingsley. James had met the Minister only a few times when he was younger, even though Harry often worked directly with him. As always, Kingsley was just one of those family friends, so it was strange to be going to him under very different circumstances.
Justin understood James' nervousness. "Meeting someone of great power always seems weird, but don't let it get to you. I'm sure it'll only take a few minutes before you feel like you're mates."
James snorted. "Uh-huh. It only took us a couple of months."
"Shut it, you git."
"Temper, Mr. Finch-Fletchley!" he teased. Before they were too close to the entrance, James unlinked their arms and tried to smooth down the back of his hair. Albus might've gotten their dad's dark hair and green eyes, but James had gotten Harry's and Grandpa James' ever-messy hair.
Inside, Justin led him through the Atrium and to the lifts. They were crushed together by the other passengers, which both excited James and made him uncomfortable. Hmm, maybe he…ought to rethink a few things… No, he told himself. What's there to "rethink"? It'd be stupid to throw away this…contentment. Besides, look how far we've come. It's take a lot of effort to make things work. He blinked as Justin's forehead rested on his shoulder. It couldn't have been the most comfortable position for the older wizard, as James was a few inches shorter. Nevertheless, the Gryffindor smiled discreetly. Moments like this—no matter how small—made it all worthwhile when he could feel his heart swell in his chest.
Too bad the moment would have to fade under the looming shadow of the necessity of learning that bloody stupid Charm.
The level for the Minister's floor was nice, but it looked a whole hell of a lot like the other floors to James. Classy, sleek, black tiles; antique-looking furniture; more-antique-looking workers… As they neared the office, a dark-haired Indian woman rounded the corner and looked up. Her lips parted to form an "O." "Justin?"
She put her files on the nearest desk and grabbed Justin for a bear hug. When she pulled away, her plait almost hit him in the face. "Haha, oh… Merlin, how long has it been?"
"A couple of years. I only ever see you at the war anniversary memorials on the decades," the teacher replied. He shrugged out of his over-robe and draped it over his arm. "So, is Kingsley in?"
"Yes," she said, nodding. "Ugh, he only told me you were coming this morning. He left me to rearrange several meetings and—oh, don't think you're an inconvenience!" she hastily added when his face fell. "It's not you, it's the minister!"
"What's the minister?" came a throaty voice. The office door clicked and there stood Kingsley Shacklebolt, a mischievous smirk playing on his lips. "Miss Patil…"
She nodded and rolled her eyes before she faced her boss. "Minister Shacklebolt, Justin Finch-Fletchley is here to see you, as is…aw, you must be James Potter!" Padma grinned. "I remember when you were this little!"
James fought the urge to groan; if he had a Sickle for every time he'd heard that… He chose to be awed by Kingsley instead. "Hello, minister."
He smiled broadly. "Ah, James. You know and remember me, too. Please—just 'Kingsley.'" He beckoned to the duo to follow him into his office, where they'd get away from the Ministry hubbub and Padma's remarks. "So, Justin, to what do I owe the pleasure?"
Justin placed his cloak on a free chair. "It was as I addressed in my missive, Kingsley."
"Really? That's all?"
Justin shrugged. "Sorry to disappoint."
"No, no… It beats a hectic day of Ministry work." He rolled his shoulders and drew his wand.
James froze, instinctively drawing his own wand. "What the—?"
Justin put a hand on his chest to calm him. "James, James… Breathe. He was just going to summon his patronus."
"Wha—? Oh—oh, yeah, yeah… I knew that."
His companion gave him a look, one eyebrow raised ever-so-carefully.
Kingsley continued as though there'd been no interruption. In the blink of an eye, a gorgeous, bright, white light filled the room. Soundlessly, the light formed and a graceful lynx prowled around the room before stopping to sit patiently in the middle of the three wizards. The lynx gazed expectantly at the Minister.
"Still awe-inducing," Justin commented.
The black wizard nodded in thanks. "I showed you mine now you show me yours."
Justin half-heartedly smiled. He produced his wand as he had recently and made the movements. Also just like last time, he only created a silver ball of light. "Ah, hell…"
Kingsley's face faltered. "That's odd. I didn't realize this was happening. This is why you wanted to present James with a crash-course?"
The Muggle Studies teacher sighed and tucked his wand up his sleeve. "Yes. It's strange. I haven't been able to summon the badger at all."
"Is that right?"
"Yes! And my mate, Ernie Macmillan—another in the D.A.—he can still conjure his boar just fine!" Justin frowned. "So, any tips for James?"
James, who'd been watching this with increasing curiosity, suddenly straightened. "Er, uh, yeah, yeah! That was really quick and better presentation than even my dad has. How do you do that?"
Kingsley leaned back against his desk and crossed his arms. His tone was even, but he certainly looked pleased at James' words. "It's a funny thing, the spell. Most of the time it's cast in high-stress situations. Yet, the spell works best when you release your fears and stress. Obviously you can't 'let go' of yourself completely; you do still need an excellent memory to help you through. But the Patronus Charm doesn't work on memories alone. You've got to feel it. Right here," he finished, patting his chest where his heart resided.
He frowned. "Ha…you don't think it's because there really nothing to scare me, like Death Eaters or a war?"
"No, you're right about that. There isn't anything to petrify your generation—that's been the goal of my Ministry. But your generation is somewhat worse for the wear in that regard. With no real experience comes a lack of confidence that only hinders in real battle."
James stared at him a moment before speaking. "Wow… Are all your speeches like that?"
The surprise lesson finished not long after that, to which James felt empowered. After all, the Minister of Magic himself had taken time out of his busy schedule to help James! He was starting to understand—just a little—how Al saw all the attention…
On the way out, Kingsley pulled Justin aside for a word. James waited and then he and Justin left faster than they had arrived. Outside the building, James dragged his feet.
"Come on, James," Justin pushed. "We've been gone for a couple of hours. I should get you home."
James grimaced. "Yes, this was such a wonderful excursion."
The Hufflepuff Head sighed. "Agh… What? Kingsley was no help at all?"
The hazel-eyed teen softened. "No, he did help. A lot. I do appreciate you getting an appointment with him."
"Good, because it was for you, to aid you."
They walked into the city, not saying much. When the silence grew unbearable, Justin groaned. "All right, what is it? Were you upset I exchanged words with him at the end? He's just a friend."
"It's not that," James answered. He drew his scarf around him—and paused. He felt in his pocket and…yes. There it was: a small, wrapped parcel. He frowned as he took it out. Feeling upset, he shoved it at Justin without a word and sped up.
"What the—? James? James!" Justin jogged to catch up. He tore open the present as he followed behind the younger wizard. "James, what is this? A—oh." There was a silent beat before Justin effortlessly took a few steps to close the distance and stop James by grabbing his arm. "James, I—I'm sorry," he said, cheeks warm and hanging his head in shame. "Thank you. I'm sorry… I should've gotten you something."
James determined that he had excellent self-control, because he was sorely tempted to hit Justin. "That's. Not. It," he hissed through gritted teeth.
"Then will you please just tell me? I'm not a bloody mind-reader!"
James drew in a deep breath. "Jus, it's the day after Christmas and all you can think is to take me out for an academic field trip?" Try as he might, he couldn't keep the hurt from leaking into his tone.
Justin looked as though someone had just yanked on his drawers. "Oh, Merlin…! James, I'm so sorry!"
Seeing the apologetic expression, the Gryffindor turned away and kept walking. "Forget it. Just take me home."
"No, you're right. I can't believe I was such a complete idiot. Ern and Hannah and my other Housemates used to tell me all the time how oblivious I am. Hell, Ernie and Hannah still tell me that."
"Justin, please, just take me home."
James huffed and stopped. He stepped to the side to get out of the way of the Muggles and Justin followed suit. "Just drop it."
Justin did the very un-Justin thing to do and glared at him. "And I said no. You're right. It's the day after Christmas and we should be enjoying a date like all these other couples around us. Really."
"Well, now I'm not really in the mood for—"
He was cut off when Justin snatched him and snogged him right there in the busy Muggle street. James struggled at first—they were starting to catch everyone's eye, for Merlin's sake!—but Justin did not let him go. Oh, how easy it was to relax in the older wizard's grasp…it was a lot more comfortable than it probably should have been. But hell, it was nice. When Justin finally broke away to rest his forehead on James', James let out a small moan despite himself and Justin chortled. "Still not in the mood for a date, are you?"
Justin sighed. "All right, then. James, would you please go on a date with me? The kind of date that's over-the-top, overly-mawkish, and entirely overdone?"
Well, Godric, when put like that, how could he possibly refuse?
"Merlin, you're home late," Harry yawned as he nudged Ginny awake. "We fell asleep watching footy."
James grinned ear-to-ear. "Sorry about that. We—err, Troy and I—got a bite to eat."
Ginny rubbed her eyes and followed her husband out of the living room and into the vestibule. She stopped James on the first stair. "Did you have a fun day, darling?"
"Best day ever."
She nodded and smiled. "Oh, let me get your jacket and scarf for you."
"Ah, no, no, it's okay, Mum. I'll hang them up later."
Ginny reached for them regardless. "Nonsense. If I leave it to you, they'll end up rolled in a ball and wrinkled somewhere in the deepest, darkest depths of your room."
"Mum, no, I—hey!" James blushed a shade of red deeper than his sister's hair as the scarf slid from his neck. He hit his face with his palm as he exasperatedly sighed.
Harry coughed to hide his chuckle. "So, uh, is there something we need to know about Troy?" He did snicker until Ginny smacked him.
"James," she said, "it's all right if you have a girlfriend, you know."
He slowly started up the steps. "Yeah, I know…"
"Bring her around next time!" she called up the staircase.
"I'll see what he thinks," James muttered under his breath to himself. Surely it would be the event of the year if he brought his "girlfriend" home for a visit and a chat. Shyeah. …oh, bloody hell.
"HAHAHAHAHA!" Troy's laughter filled the entire compartment on the ride back to Hogwarts.
James glared at him. "Will you shut up?"
Troy wiped away the tears streaming down his face. "I—I—I'd say I was s-sorry if I w-were—but tha' is too fucking funny!" He ended in another peal of laughter.
"Is not! You'd feel scared and embarrassed just as I did if your parents caught you coming home late, your neck covered in hickies!" He felt embarrassed just saying that aloud. At the time, James had been…well, floating on a lovely high and neither of them had thought to use a Concealment Charm on the little "love bites" Justin had left. Oh, Justin was as marked up as James, but Justin didn't go home to inquisitive parents, and Hannah and Ernie had already visited with their mate, so there was no need for Justin to see them again after the date. But…hell. What a time it had been. Once Justin had gotten his attention with the kiss, they'd returned to a more amicable atmosphere and eaten before continuing to stroll through London, which was a truly great sight. Justin even took him to the museum there and that was where they'd whiled away the day, alternately missing over bits of history and finding quiet, unobtrusive corners and hallways so they might become better…"well-acquainted."
"Ahh…wow…" Troy finally regained control of himself. "'ey, if I were you, I would've enjoyed tha' gift, too. Tha's one 'ell of a Christmas pressie."
James rolled his eyes. "You're such a git… I'm sure you had as fun a holiday."
Troy winked. "Wouldn't you like ter know."
"Actually, yes, I would, seeing as Curt and Lania have disappeared again."
"Eh, not 'disappeared.' They went ter entertain Lania's mates. I figured they've 'ad about enough of me fer now."
"Enough of you? Shouldn't they be tearing out each other's throats?"
The half-Irish lad shrugged. "You'd think so, but apparently they're a bit sick of squabbling over me. So they're cooling down."
Troy smirked. "Curt." He licked his lips teasingly and laughed.
James cupped his cheek and sighed, though a smile hinted at his lips, too. "Ah, life is so easy if we allow it."
Such a statement was true. The school year flowed with better ease upon everyone's return, and many of James' classes appeared to have lessened in term of stress. Arithmancy, Potions, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Muggle Studies, and even Transfiguration were looking up. Charms was still troublesome, but James ignored any negative thoughts. Whenever a bout of panic threatened to overcome him, he dwelled instead on the Quidditch season or Lily's latest detention or what he wanted for his upcoming eighteenth birthday.
Ah, yes, his last Hogwarts birthday. Funny how it came so fast. His last birthday had drawn him and Justin closer together; perhaps this one could do the same.
Minus the momentary distance, he thought to himself as he left the Quidditch pitch from a brief flight; he'd dropped Quidditch years ago as it had fallen off his list of priorities, but he still liked the feeling he got from flying. 'Course, flying couldn't keep his mind from wandering to said momentary distance that had occurred last year, when he'd asked Justin to reveal that Hannah and Ernie had—essentially—predicted their relationship. That distance had stemmed from Justin's reluctance to tell James how Justin's mates saw things.
This, however, brought to mind a minor question from the holiday break. Keeping it on the tip of his tongue, James changed directions, going to Justin's office instead of the library for the rest of his break.
Justin was there, lost in his work. He didn't even look up until James' voice spooked him.
"Justin, would you please go on a five-minute walk-date with me?" He laughed when the teacher jumped and scattered papers everywhere. "Merlin, if you're that opposed to the idea—"
"Har, har," the older wizard scoffed with a roll of his eyes. "But, really, you scared me, James. My heart's pounding."
"All the more reason to enjoy a little stroll, then." James went to him and yanked on his arm to get him up. "Come on, mate."
Justin acquiesced and the two of them journeyed outside into the cold, empty corridor. As they round the corner, the professor relaxed and continued at a leisurely pace. "This…is quite nice."
"Mmm," James mumbled in agreement. "It's rare to get a chance like this and not feel on edge here in the school."
James scuffed his shoe on the floor. "So. You've seemed almost as stressed as me as of late. What's got you buggered?"
Justin ran a hand through his hair. "It's nothing much. I can't believe I can't summon my patronus."
"That's what's getting to you?"
The older wizard nodded. "Essentially."
"Well, then, what did Kingsley say to you? It was about your patronus, wasn't it?"
Justin grimaced. "Godric, you always know which questions I don't want to answer."
James let a silent moment pass. "Does that mean you won't tell me what he said?"
He heaved a sigh as they made their way back to his office. "He just…reminded me that…patronuses can change."
Now the Gryffindor grew concerned. "That only happens when the wizard is suffering from some kind of emotional distress." Justin made no sound. "Justin, is your patronus changing?"
"So what's really bothering you?"
"It's nothing much. Petty things, here and there. Nothing to be worried about."
"Justin, it's changing your magic!"
"Why won't you just be honest with me?" James griped as he closed the door behind him. Justin strode across the room quickly, away from the hazel-eyed wizard. "Please, tell me!"
"Why should I have to?" Justin growled.
"Because—!" James froze, his mouth suddenly dry. He'd been a second away from saying that squirm-ish four-letter-word, in that defining three-word-sentence. A lump lodged itself in his throat. If he dragged this response out, it could drastically change things. "No," he croaked, forcing the answer from his gob. "No, you're…you're right. It's none of my business."
Usually Justin would see this reaction and rush to fix things. But today wasn't usual. Today James left the office, crushed under a multitude of mixed emotions. Justin remained where he stood, silently fuming.
James had just learned that not all things were [so easily] fixable.
The end of March passed simply, James' birthday merely a quiet pause of thought for those around him. He had been in no mood for celebrating, certainly not with Justin.
But that was working under the assumption Justin wanted to see him. Just like the last time they'd had a topic to avoid, Justin kept his distance. It was history repeating itself for them…but James was partially all right with the space this time. It was giving him time to think.
He was eighteen years old. In those eighteen years, James had spent most of his time with his family—Merlin knew he had enough family to go around. Then when he'd discovered witches, they, too, took up a lot of his time, but he'd still left his schedule open for his family. But with Justin… With Justin…
James sighed and stared at the fabric draped over his four-poster. He knew that, with Justin, everything was different. Justin was not just a happy magnet who drew James in with his charming kindness and unique, quiet vivacity. When James thought of him—even for a minute—his whole world became Justin. He could see, smell, hear, touch Justin. He could taste him on his lips… And Justin, only Justin, could get him to have a care in the world. Even now, he cared…and his mind was focusing on Justin.
The Gryffindor wished he could see that glad face right now. Because to get him to care so much, too much, that it hurt—
It meant that James was deeply in love with Justin.
There. It was mused. Finally James allowed that heavy little word to be used in the same sentence as the Muggle Studies teacher's name. And Merlin, it only made him yearn more for that embrace which soothed his raging heart and soul. It oft soothed his mind, too…but now that he'd fully, truly admitted to himself that he loved Justin, there was much to consider.
On the one hand, no one made James feel the same way. No one ever had. The eldest Potter didn't just feel more himself, but he felt so much for another person, something he hadn't thought possible. Justin was also a rock to ground him (…excusing, of course, actions of late). No one but Justin could ever evoke the same emotions in James—the teen was sure of it.
What he was not sure of, however, was the downside to such a relationship. When it'd first occurred to him that this was love, back at the year's first Hogsmeade trip, a red flag had gone up. Victoire going after Neville had been the first thought to come to mind, and it still made his stomach queasy. Looking at his cousin now, he acknowledged that they worked well together. No one could've seen her going for…well, Neville's type, but when they'd gotten together, Victoire's sunshine had reached out of its own accord and made Neville shine like the brightest star one could find on a clear night atop the Astronomy Tower. Somehow…they just worked, and James had a sinking feeling it was not a comfy idea that he was comparing himself to his semi-home-wrecker cousin (semi, as Justin had told him that Hannah had never had the most pleasant of marriages to Neville). What it came down to was that James' family really didn't need another teacher-student romance scandal to handle. The hazel-eyed wizard couldn't begin to imagine his parents' reaction to his relationship with his teacher.
As he turned to his side, James couldn't begin to imagine the school's reaction, either. Victoire and Neville had kept things secret while she'd attended and when they'd announced their relationship publicly a year after her graduation (and three years after Neville's divorce, but who's counting?), there was nothing to be done. There was no way to prove they'd been together at school, so Victoire couldn't be forced to take her Herbology O.W.L. and N.E.W.T. again. As far as the school was concerned, they'd fallen in love after she'd been his student.
The case was sorely the opposite for James. If he wasn't careful, he'd find himself one N.E.W.T. class short and probably with a year's worth of detention. And that was all before he went home.
At home, he'd probably be a major disappointment. Harry and Ginny would try to be angry with him for "hooking up" with a professor, but he could feel that it'd be a greater disappointment that their eldest, the child who was supposed to set examples for his younger siblings, had fallen for a wizard, not a witch.
Huh. Maybe there was a little more to his desire to become a wandwright. Being around wands all day… Ollivander's almost-apprenticeship suddenly took on many hidden, vulgar meanings at which James winced.
But he winced again and sighed as he recalled his mother's reaction over the Christmas break, her remark that he'd last dated that witch years ago. Now if his family found out, he was sure that most would feel squeamish around him and the rest would say, "Well, that makes sense." Lily was bound to never let him live it down; for years he'd teased her about liking the many-years-older Teddy. Now she'd have a lifetime of ammunition since James loved the much-more-many-years-older Justin. As for Al—well, he'd probably become their parents' new hope, even if it was the daughter of professors Zabini and Parkinson-Zabini, Calytrix (Al's classmate) whom he liked.
Yet, all things considered, the more James tossed around the implicating sentence in his head, the more comfortable he grew with it. It felt…natural, just like their first kiss. Even though he'd never used "love" around his companion before… Maybe it'd be okay to start using it now.
"Now I just have to see if I'll ever get the chance to use it," James grumbled to himself as he fell asleep.
The Easter holiday came and went like a Snitch flying by, and finally the atmosphere in the castle grew serious. May was dragging on, much to the students' dismay. James and his classmates were preparing for the upcoming N.E.W.T.s and studying was a daunting task.
"Holy shit, that stack of notes is as thick as Hagrid's torso," Curtis stated. James was in the library with both of his best mates, and each of them had their books and papers spread out. James' pile, however, was the largest…and messiest.
"And that's just for Transfiguration," the Potter son pointed out. He gestured to a pile of notes one and a half times as big. "That's for Arithmancy."
"Better you than me," Troy said with a pained look on his face. "I'm 'aving a 'ard time wit' 'erbology alone."
"Well, Arithmancy isn't so bad. It just makes sense to me, so this large stack isn't as intimidating as the Charms one half its size."
"I'll leave you to it, then," Curt said as he grabbed his things. "I'm feeling a bit tired… I might go to the Hospital Wing…" He jerked his chin towards Troy. "You coming?"
"I've still got a Potions essay ter do, so maybe later," the Finnigan son answered.
Curt nodded and left them in peace. Once they were sure he'd gone, James raised an eyebrow. "Was it just me or was that an invitation-invitation?"
Troy shrugged. "Oh, Curtis is reliable and loyal, but it keeps things sizzlin' ter throw in a bit of rejection every now and then ter fuel tensions. Tensions are hot," he added with an eyebrow waggle, emphasizing his "h" on the last word.
"They're only hot if they haven't continued for months on end," James groused.
"Agh, 'e still not budging?"
James frowned. Of course Justin hadn't budged. James had been trying every which way possible to patch things up with him, but Justin ignored him outside of class. Even in class, James felt ostracized…
"You know what you need ter do?" Troy abruptly asked, forcing James to glance up at him from his notes.
"What?" the hazel-eyed teen prompted.
"Go in fer a little seduction," his friend answered with a jackal's grin.
James held his head as he sighed exasperatedly and his face grew red. "Oh my… Troy, that would not help things. It'd—It'd only push him away more. Or, hell, make him angrier."
"But sometimes arguments fuel th' best make-out sessions!"
"Talking from experience with both Curt and Lania?"
Troy huffed and crossed his arms in front of his chest. He leaned back in his chair. "What, are you scared you won't be able ter appease him?"
James' cheeks flushed and he glared at the other wizard. "I think I'll do fine in that regard, thank you very much."
Yet Troy's blue eyes danced with glee. "Tha's right! You two got together over a disagreement, but this is yer first big fight! Oh-ho, this could work fer you!"
James scrunched up his nose. "What do you mean, Troy?"
"I mean learn a few tricks," he continued in a very low tone, leaning across the table so only James could hear him. "Improve yer snogging experience."
"I have snogging experience!" James hissed.
"But not a lot wit' wizards."
The Potter son pursed his lips. Troy had a point there. "What, then? Are you propositioning me?"
"Me? Nooo, of course not. I'm merely offering you some 'elp." Troy looked both ways before he whispered, "There's one way I can get Curt ter forget a whole fight and melt at my trainers."
James' heart leaped into his throat. If something really did work that way—! "What is it?"
"You just vary th' pressure wit' yer whole face, not just yer lips."
"Oh, fer Merlin's sake…! Do you mind if I just show you?"
"'ey, we're in a corner of th' library. No one's gonna fall on us."
James grew quiet, his mouth twisting into shapes one would interpret as sickly. This was probably his worst decision since stealing the Marauder's Map from his father's things (which Harry had discovered soon after, obviously)… The real question wasn't the action itself—instead, could he bet his broom on it to work? Anxiety gave way to agreement, and James finally nodded.
Troy quietly cleared his throat. "Uhh, all right then… Just so you know, you an' I are only mates—even if you do turn out ter be a good snog."
The older Gryffindor intended to reply, smiling, but no sooner had his muscles tugged the corners of his mouth than Troy's faces was suddenly right there, near his. It almost didn't register that their lips had met, until Troy did as he'd said and put more weight onto his face, allowing gravity to have him lean on James slightly. James was astonished and excited; this not only worked, but it was something very new to him—something very likeable. He half didn't want to stop, and he tensed when things seemed to push forward. Troy was one hell of a player…but his kiss just wasn't Justin's.
That was a funny thought, too, bringing up Justin… Because right as Troy had given James a "lesson," Justin had been walking down an aisle in the library, talking to Neville behind him. And as karma would have it, that same aisle led to James' and Troy's corner, where Justin stopped, Neville crashed into Justin, and Neville's "Oof! Godric, my nose is sore! Why'd you stop so suddenly, Justin?" caught the two teens' attention and had them pulling apart as though they'd been zapped with a Jinx. Neville hadn't seen them, but the look on Justin's red face was enough. He was livid.
"Mr. Finnigan, Mr. Potter," the Muggle Studies teacher stated in a very clipped tone. He flicked his wand and adjusted their loose ties and un-tucked shirts (which, unbeknownst to him, had been that way before any snogging had entered the equation). "Detention. Friday night."
The boys gasped and Neville looked at his friend and colleague. "Friday night? Justin, it's the night before their last Hogsmeade trip."
James, who had turned sheet white, remained quiet. He watched Justin as he turned a little to the Herbology professor.
"Indecent exposure in a public place, Neville," he retorted, ignoring James' pointed glare as both he and Troy blushed. "Usually Potter is not so bad, but I suspect it was Finnigan's influence. Every teacher has told Mr. Finnigan to be tidier this year."
Neville gave Justin a look. "…all right. It's your call, since I couldn't see around you. I just think that Friday night is a bit much."
Justin grimaced and turned away without another word. James exchanged a look with Troy, and then asked, "Professor, is he all right?"
The Herbology teacher sighed. "No, he's been dodgy lately. I'm sorry about that, but just go along with it. I'll make sure you get your last Hogsmeade visit, in any event." He gave them a sympathetic nod. "Study hard, boys." He, too, turned and left, and James was unsure if he felt worse than before.
When Friday arrived, Justin appeared just as angry as if the "incident" had happened at supper on Friday night. James and Troy entered his office and Justin separated them by putting them on opposite ends of the room. Both set about cleaning up lines and margins of old textbooks by hand, while Justin sat at his own desk, correcting papers.
The work was fine enough, but the silence was awful. Several times James found himself tapping his foot to one of his mother's favorite oldies by the Weird Sisters that he had stuck in his head, but Justin gave him a halting look every instance.
By the eighth or so time this happened, Justin slammed his hand on his desk. "James!"
Both James and Troy looked up. James watched the professor, not only noting that Justin had lost his cool but also that he'd used James' first name with an audience. And Justin didn't know that Troy knew of their relationship…well, at this point, former relationship, probably.
The rest of the time eventually passed and the Hufflepuff heaved a tired sigh and rose from his chair. "That will be all, Mr. Finnigan, Mr. Potter."
Troy hopped up from his seat and stretched, but he left without a word. He paused by the door and glanced at James, but his friend just nodded him on. The sound of only Troy's footsteps could be heard in the otherwise empty nighttime corridor.
"Good night, Mr. Potter," Justin said. They locked eyes and Justin frowned; however tired he was, he didn't look away.
"Can we talk?" James asked quietly.
Justin hung his head and rolled his shoulders. "I don't think now's the best of times, James," he mumbled softly.
"There's no better time, while we're both awake but calm…levelheaded," the Gryffindor tacked on.
James remained seated, but he followed Justin with his eyes as the teacher put things away for the night. "Why the detention?"
"I'd think that's apparent why."
"That was extreme."
Justin stilled and James thought he was thinking. In actuality, Justin was struggling to control his anger. "'Extreme'?" he hissed through gritted teeth. He looked up and the fire in his eyes roared lion, not badger. "'Extreme'?" he repeated.
James, though unnerved by the Head's attitude, swallowed past the lump in his throat. "Well, the old you would've just stopped what happened. Not freaked out as though I'd pissed on some yellow and black banner."
"The 'old' me?" Justin echoed. His jaw was set and his arms remained rigidly by his sides. "And you called me thick for not realizing things?"
There was a reason why James took so many N.E.W.T. classes: He was bloody smart. But he felt fairly stupid right now. He thought on exactly what he'd been doing and felt his cheeks burn. "It wasn't what it looked like," James croaked, feeling the full burden of his conscience weighing in and doing an I-told-you-so dance.
"Oh? What did it look like?"
"It—It's hard to explain—"
"There's nothing to explain!" Justin's words rushed out of his mouth, but the heat had all but disappeared from them. Anger was giving way to hurt and confusion. "There's nothing to explain," he repeated. "It was quite obvious where your interests lie."
"Where my 'interests lie'? That's bullshit, Justin!" James got up and pounded the ground to quickly close the distance. "How can you even say that?"
"All this year, every other thing out of your mouth was Troy or Troy-related," Justin blurted.
"Wellm yah. He's my best mate."
"I know that. But it changed things when he told you—which you told me—that he likes witches and wizards. How did you expect me to react to that?"
"You seemed fine and sure of yourself, of us, to me," James replied as Justin began pacing in front of him.
The teacher paused. "But on the inside, I was anxious and scared. Anxious that you might see more to Troy and scared that…that I'd become last year's novel idea."
Now it was James' turn for his temper to flare. "You really think I'm that shallow? I'm not Victoire, for fuck's sake," he hissed. "I'm not a womanizer or a man-whore."
"You look more than cozy with your best mate," Justin said hotly, narrowing his eyes.
"Fuck you!" James had had enough. He slapped the older wizard's arms away and backed him up against the nearest table. He placed his right hand on Justin's stomach and slowly, seductively moved his hand north, drawing his thumb along the buttons. When he reached his neck, he moved his hand behind Justin's head and cupped it to bring him down to meet his lips. It took little energy to knock the memory of Troy's kiss out of his mind; the electricity from Justin's mouth on his was unmatched and forever would be. Justin's side was where he belonged.
"I…love you, you bastard," James whispered along Justin's jaw. He placed a sweet kiss on that clean-shaven cheek before taking a step back and smiling. Maybe Troy's "lesson" had worked, maybe it hadn't. James was happy to have finally gotten those three words out, though.
Emotions flitted across Justin's face, all of them undecipherable. He said nothing after James spoke, nor after the teen had backed off. He remained tense against the table, but his hand had gone to his throat and he rubbed the ski James had touched before turning away.
James gave him one last, wan smile before collecting his things and leaving. He rubbed the sleep dust from his eyes as he made his way back to Gryffindor Tower. Godric, he was tired…
Finally, a week later, the moment of truth arrived.
James squirmed in his seat in Charms as the Ravenclaw beside him placed his wand back on his desk and beamed at Professor Flitwick. The student had just successfully cast a fully corporeal patronus in the form of a herring and now it was James' turn.
To fail once more, he thought to himself as Flitwick gave him a sympathetic look. Ever since the Patronus Charm had been pivotal in Harry's win over Voldemort, full success in learning the spell—mastery of it—had been added to the list of things required to earn the Charms N.E.W.T. James grimly smiled at the thought. Thanks a lot, Dad.
Flitwick gestured to him. "All right, James. We've saved the best for last. Give it a go." What Flitwick didn't have to remind him of was that only a little more than half of the class had succeeded. James prayed he would, too.
The eldest Potter nodded and breathed in and out deeply. Somewhere in the back of his brain, he heard Kingsley's voice telling him to focus and relax. Hearing the Minister's voice, he thought back to what Kingsley had told Justin about his dodgy magic, which brought to mind the stifling situation with Justin and the release—at least on James' part—of that awkwardness.
But that awkwardness from before… It filled him with such positive, strong emotions. He remembered his impromptu date with Justin over the December break and all the time spent in Justin's office, the two of them enjoying each other's company. He thought of every last touch and taste and smell…of every waking moment. His mind even brought forward their quiet, content walks from the year before, before they'd even romantically come together.
James let the picture of Justin's delighted face feed his being, and he let the feeling overtake him as he raised his wand.
There was no bright and blinding light as with his father or mother, nor was there the slightest awe-inducing or silencing whoosh. James felt his stomach do a small flop.
Instead, a light had quietly popped into the room and grown. After a few moments, a sleepy-looking bear turned its head and opened its mouth as if to roar. It silently padded over to Flitwick and James and sat down in midair, looking at them for further instructions.
James released a breath he didn't know he'd been holding and gave a shuddering laugh as scattered applause sounded around him. Flitwick squeaked something about "Well done!" but James didn't really hear him as the reality of the achievement hit him. He barely heard the bell, too, but when James swiped up his rucksack, he knew he wasn't going to Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Almost as quickly as if he'd Apparated, James found himself in Justin's classroom. He quickly, but quietly, closed the door while the Muggle Studies professor's back was still turned. Then he couldn't hold it in any longer. "I can do it now!"
Justin jumped a bit and faced him with wide eyes. "James, you—wait, what?"
James walked to him, momentarily forgetting Justin's silent rejection from the previous week. Hey, even if things could never settle romantically between them, they would always be mates. So James didn't feel awkward about dropping his bags on the floor and drawing his wand. "Look! Expecto Patronum!" And for the second time, James summoned a giant, shimmering grizzly bear.
Justin gawked at him, momentarily forgetting past events, too. "That's amazing!"
"I know!" And then he collapsed.
The hazel-eyed Gryffindor awoke half an hour later proper up on a couch with a cloak over him. After the stars faded from his vision, he realized from both site and smell that the robe was Justin's.
A sigh loosed beside him. "Godric… All right, then, you idiot?"
James saw Justin in a chair about a meter and a half from him. The Hufflepuff was leaning on his elbows with his hands joined. Behind him was a bit of a mess, pots and spatulas skewed across part of a desk. James understood it must've been a kind of tabletop stove minus the electricity; Justin may have been Muggle-born, but even he knew electricity didn't work within the castle. But something worked, for the next thing the teen knew, the older wizard was shoving a fudge brownie at him.
"I can't believe you…," Justin grumbled as he pointed his wand over his shoulder and cleaned up after himself.
"Dish ish gud," James garbled around the bit of food.
"It better be," the teacher replied. "That probably has the most cocoa per cubic centimeter packed in it. It should help with the wooziness."
"'What happened'? What happened, you twit, is that you cast a full-form patronus twice in very close time!" Justin was frowning, but he didn't seem angry like James had seen recently. "Why would you do such a thing?"
James stared down at the cloak. "I'm sorry. I…I'd finally gotten the hang of it, and I wanted to show you."
Justin heaved another great sigh and came and knelt beside the couch which dawned on James as being in Justin's room. "You're a right git for scaring me."
The older wizard's shoulders sagged. "No… Well, yes, I accept your apology. But no, I'm sorry, too. I think we're just about even now."
James frowned, everything catching up to him now. "Oh… No, it's fine. I wasn't trying to even the playing field. Forget about it." He swung his legs off the piece of furniture, but Justin put a hand on his leg to stop him.
"No. James, there's something I need to show you."
"James opened his mouth to stop him, but he shut up when Justin drew his own wand and pointed it at the middle of the room. A soft glow emitted from the point and grew so strongly it almost hurt to watch. A ribbon of silver shot out and danced around the room before twisting and growing into the form of a medium-sized dog. The dog pranced over to them and sat down with its mouth open, silently panting. It looked oddly familiar to James…
Justin gestured to his patronus with an unsure expression. "Notice anything?"
The Potter blinked and dropped to a kneel beside the whispy canine. "It—Sirius!"
Justin nodded. "I thought it looked like him, too. I've seen a few of Harry's pictures from the second Order's time. I reckon this is damn near a ghost of Sirius' Animagus form."
"But that doesn't make sense. Why would Sirius the dog be…your…patronus…" James thought about it and ended up laughing. "Oh, Merlin—how priceless! 'James Sirius Potter'! You just can't get enough of me then, huh?" he finished softly, removing his glasses to wipe his giddy tears from the corners of his eyes.
The professor held his head in his hand, his face burning Gryffindor maroon. "No, apparently not."
"So I caused you all this emotional distress?" James furrowed his brow in concern.
"Yes! Because—Because you drove me mental with the constant mention of Troy! And you…you are always driving me crazy mad. So much sometimes that it's a wonder how one person can love another so much."
James blinked. He nervously laughed; there were loopy butterflies in his gut. "Jus, d'you mean—?"
As Justin drew him closer, the older wizard's voice tickled the younger's ears with the most melodious sounder ever: "I, Justin Finch-Fletchely, effing love James Sirius Potter." His kiss was merely extra proof of that.
HOLY CRAP. If this doesn't deserve a review, I don't know what does. This was about 50 pages long…now my longest oneshot. :O But there's so much I love about it… I could ramble about Jamestin forever…! I've fallen in love with Justin all over again! Anyone think their issues wouldn't be resolved? Anyone like their patronuses? …Anyone realize as I had when I was typing that James' friends accidentally came out of nowhere? XD They're OCs, yes, but trust me when I say that James wasn't on his own in the first fic; we just didn't really see Troy or Curt or Lania.
Anywho… 0.0! Pleasepleaseplease review—Jamestin needs the love! The sequel is just a short drabble: "20 something potatoes of love," and it's posted. But I have Jamestin 4 in the works, so please stay tuned!
I'd like to give a shout-out, too, to BlueMango, Morghen, and jojor99, for helping me decide if Troy was just gay or bi. I think he adds a nice flavor to this, *lol*
Also… I found another M&MWP by accident when doing this fic: Padma/Kingsley. So I wrote them a oneshot—"Usurp"—which basically is the background for the Ministry scene seen here. Please check it out to see just how hectic things were for Padma! Thanks! XD (Oh, and I'd appreciate a little mention if you used Padmingsley, of course! Thankies!)
Thanks for reading and please review!
-mew-tsubaki 8D X3