Chapter 8, Simply Complicated

James Potter considered himself probably the simplest person he had ever met; he just had some complicated issues surrounding the simple bit. He turned on the shower.

Essentially, he had decided, the main bits of him were made up of; the bit that liked excitement, the bit that needed food, the bit that loved Quidditch and the bit that wished Lily Evans would go out with him. James didn’t really want much from life; he wanted to play Professional Quidditch and have a great girlfriend, preferably Lily. Other than that he wasn’t exactly bothered about the details, although playing for England would be awesome.

The problem came when you added in all the things he done so far.

Sure, he was pretty confident of getting a place on a Professional Team; on the other hand, his parents thought he should get a ‘proper’ job. Proper jobs bored the hell out of James; who would want to sit in the Ministry or a shop and go over accounts and useless, bureaucratic paperwork. Most of which contradicted itself and didn’t actually mean anything, or help anyone; sometimes he wondered what it was the Wizengamot actually did and how they came up with some of their most ridiculous laws. He was sure there were better; if not more exciting things he could be doing with his life. Besides, all his Father had done before he retired was complain about the nonsensicality of half the work he had to do.

James’ parents expected him to either follow his Father’s footsteps or have the ingenuity to start his own business. James thought it sounded like hell. He couldn’t really do anything about it until he left school though, so he had given up thinking about that kind of stuff; focusing on what he enjoyed. Besides, as a Quidditch player, he could do what he loved doing, get paid for doing and have the spare time to see and help his friends. What more could he ask for?

Lily was another problem though, and far more complicated.

It had started in First Year; before they even got to Hogwarts, he had insulted Snape, and that had annoyed Lily who had seemed to like the slimy bastard. It had only got worse that year when Snape and his Slytherin mates attacked Sirius and James had punched Avery in the face. James smiled as he stepped into the shower and stuck his head under the spray; that had been one of the finest moments that year. Avery’s bleeding nose, his own raw knuckles and the first true grin he ever saw on Padfoot’s face; they couldn’t help but be friends after that.

Of course, Lily had always thought that they had just been picking on Snape and that they had started it; it had actually begun with the Slytherins jumping Sirius. Of course, Sirius had probably known more hexes, jinxes and curses than the five Slytherins combined; but they hadn’t known that. It had been a brilliant moment though, even if they had got into a lot of trouble.

And there was always Peter. James had found him on the train and immediately guessed he was in their year; someone that small had to be. He had looked so lost until James had sidled over and suggested they found a compartment together.

Everyone always thought of him as “poor, little Peter Pettigrew”, but to James he was always Wormtail and his Animagus really said a lot about him. He was intelligent, maybe not clever, but intelligent all the same and resourceful; he had a habit of picking up snippets of gossip and stringing them together to find out things. He was quiet though, and in a school like Hogwarts people then assumed if you weren’t in Ravenclaw and quiet, then you were probably too stupid to have proper friends. The Marauders had found out how wrong those people were on several occasions; who had figured out where the entrance to the passageway to Honeydukes was? Who had realised that Filch always had a set patrol route for each day of the week? Besides, if Peter was really as stupid as people thought he was: would the other Marauders have stuck so close to him? It was an uncomfortable truth James realised, but truth nevertheless.

Then came Moony’s furry little problem, James sighed under the warm water; that had changed all of their lives. What else could they have done though? Four twelve year-olds could never have come up with a cure for lycanthropy; becoming Animagi had literally been their only option and he hadn’t regretted it for a moment. The look on Remus’ face when he realised that they had actually done what he had thought wasn’t possible: the sheer adrenalin of walking along the Whomping Willow tunnel to play with a werewolf.

Everything after that just got stupidly complicated; James had got onto the House Quidditch team that year, they had started the Animagus process, they had invented the whole cover-up story to keep everyone distracted and somewhere along the way James had become the person he was pretending to be. Looking at Fifth year, there were times when James was disgusted at his own behaviour; how honourable was it to jinx Third Year Slytherins? Snape and his cronies were fair game; Snivellus was always pulling out his wand behind James’ back, but he had gone too far sometimes.

Now all Lily saw was the arrogant, smart-arse persona the Marauders had created. James and Sirius were popular, but they didn’t have any real friends outside of the Marauders; there was too much at stake there. Remus was popular by association, but he always stayed out of the limelight for obvious reasons and Peter tagged along with everything they did, helping and staying in their protective shadow.

Looking over the Quidditch Pitch that morning, James had felt sick of trying to be someone else, but he just didn’t know how to go about reversing everyone’s opinion of him without tearing apart the whole, elaborate scene the Marauders had wrought. He felt tired of it all, he made up his mind; he’d sit down with Sirius and Remus and talk to them about it.

Suddenly he felt as though a great weight had been taken off him and he stood up in the shower, an odd smile gracing his face and he reached for the soap; between them the Marauders could solve any problem. That reminded him of the questions about the Map; they needed Remus to get books out the library for them. Maybe McGonagall would give them a note for any Restricted ones; she looked as though she could have hugged him and Sirius that morning. He might want to stop looking like such an arrogant prick, but Hogwarts was Hogwarts and there were still hundreds of secrets to be unravelled.

They had that new Defence woman after lunch too; that would be amusing. James and Sirius always had a Challenge to see who could push a new Professor the furthest, within limits; they couldn’t disrupt other people’s school progress. Yes, the Marauders had a certain code; not written down or anything stupid like that, there were just things you didn’t do. No one, in their right mind, would walk into a classroom and dump a whole bag of Ever-Bouncing Bouncy Balls onto the floor; the class would never start. However; swapping out the chalk by the blackboard for an Erkwell’s fake was always amusing. A dusty explosion, a surprised Professor and a good laugh later they would be getting on with the lesson. There were definite limits, and although they might have crossed the line once or twice, they now knew where it was.

He turned off the shower and grabbed his towel; he had a whole list of things to do, including asking McGonagall about Quidditch Trials taking place early. He had to find half a team from somewhere and get them up to scratch; he’d be damned if he didn’t win the Cup this year. Slytherin took it last year, Ravenclaw the year before that and then Hufflepuff had been unbeaten for years before that. James’ eyes narrowed as he remembered last year’s match against Slytherin; he should have seen it coming really. Slytherin had won by twenty points, and only after the Gryffindor Seeker had taken two bludgers to the head; they had smashed heavy iron ball after heavy iron ball at Rochfield and it was only a matter of time before the first clipped him and the second put in the Hospital Wing. Even with a secondary seeker who had barely played before James, Dorcas and Sarah Huntly, the other Chasers, had kept them ahead of Slytherin by miles. Slytherin had got the snitch just in time though and had taken the Cup through what James considered as unsporting play.

This year though; he could feel it and he knew they could win; besides James had more tricks up his sleeve than a court jester.

He rubbed the towel through his hair, folded it round his waist and stepped back out into the dorm; Sirius had disappeared and Remus slipped into the now free bathroom. James spotted something on his bed; it was a letter.

He closed his eyes and sighed; in Sophie Carson’s handwriting on the front it said neatly, James Potter. It had been a great while it lasted; but James just wasn’t as committed as Sophie and he could almost feel her beginning to like him far too much. Still, he couldn’t deny he hadn’t loved having a proper girlfriend; it was a hell of a lot better than the week or so of tense denial before he had broken up with the other one or two he had gone out with.

Still in his towel he collapsed on his bed beside the envelope but didn’t pick it up; there had been something essentially good about the way he had just been himself around her. She had been in Ravenclaw and probably knew more about the Marauders than any other person, which wasn’t exactly much, but marked the level of trust James had put in her. Lying on the lawns by the lake in the sun a month or two before exams, James closed his eyes and remembered.

Sophie was lying on her back with her arms behind her head, her T-shirt had ridden up slightly and her belly button was on show; she was completely relaxed and for once so was James. Slytherin had won the Quidditch Cup and James wasn’t thinking about the exams; he was watching Sophie’s pale, flat tummy rise and fall as she breathed. He was lying beside her, propped up on an elbow; it was a Sunday and the Marauders were taking a day off.

‘What are you thinking about?’ she asked softly, brushing a stray hair back from her face.

James gave her a slow smile and said, ‘Just how beautiful you look right now.’

Her face lit up at the compliment and James meant it; she did look beautiful. Her tongue flickered out slightly and wet her lips; James leant over and kissed her. But he wasn’t thinking about her at all.

It had ended badly, or quite well, depending on how you looked at it; Sophie had been distraught, confused and upset or James’ apparently sudden change of heart. She had shouted at him, cried bitter tears and asked him so many times, “Why, James, why?” He had stood as she shouted, hugged her when she cried and maintained an awful silence when she asked, staring into the distance and hating himself every minute. But she wasn’t for him. She was an amazing girl; she was pretty, intelligent and funny, but she wasn’t Lily Evans.

James sat back up, he’d read the letter later; Sophie had seemed happier recently, she’d got a job working with a magazine and said she was enjoying it. James thought about Lily though; he didn’t know what to make of her, he just found her captivating. He could watch her for hours; the way she wet the end of her finger with the tip of her tongue before she turned a page, or the way she frowned, blinked and looked down at her desk for a moment before she answered a teacher’s question.

Yet she had just as strong principles as James did; they were the same as James’, but James stuck to his in a slightly different way. Lily wasn’t to know that though. He just wished he could have with Lily what he had had with Sophie, even for a day; then she might see who he really was. But then if she saw who he really was, she would see the whole Marauder deception and that simply couldn’t be done; Remus, Sirius and Peter came before anyone else in the world.

James stood and got dressed; life was far too complicated for someone simple like him.

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