A Marriage Most Convenient

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Chapter 45: Up in the Air and Down on the Ground


If I loved you less, I might be able to talk about it more.” – Jane Austen.


If I acted like less of a fool, she might know how much I love her.” – James Potter


If I could only examine every little thing he’s ever said and done, and evaluate it, then and only then might I be able to come to a conclusion as to whether or not he really loves me. I already know I love him, but that proves nothing.” – Alice Malfoy


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Alice!” James called out before she could walk away.


Against her better judgment she turned to face him. “Please,” he said softly, bringing the broom back down, and then sliding off effortlessly. “I won’t take it up high. That was always the problem before, when people tried to teach you. They always took it up high. This first time, we’ll stay really low, near the ground, and I’ll stay right behind you and hold you tight. I won’t let anything happen to you.”


She dropped her book and said, “JP, why does this matter so much to you?”


He reached out again and touched her arm. His hand traveled down the sleeve of her heavy jumper, to find her hand. “Because you’re important to me, and I want to share this with you. If it becomes too much for you, or too scary, I’ll bring you back down. I would never, ever let anything bad happen to you.”


Do you promise?” she asked.


He smiled widely. “Is that a yes?”


Is that a promise?” she countered.


Yes, my sweet Alice, I would promise you anything.”


She took a deep cleansing breath, to steady herself.


Alice recalled that she wanted to be brave and she gave in much too easily that day, and the reasons were complex. Her mother was always brave and fearless, except when it came to riding brooms and heights. Alice was never brave or fearless, (she was cautious and fearful) but like her mother, she was also smart, and even she knew that brooms were safe, in theory.


She also trusted James to take care of her and to watch out for her. He had been doing so since she was four and he was five and a half. That was the main reason she did it. She did it for him.


She said, “I should go inside and get a jacket on, because it’s bound to be colder up on the broom, even if we aren’t very high.”


He slipped his corded jacket off his arms and said, “Take mine; I’ll be fine in just my jumper.” He didn’t want to give her time to go back inside and change her mind. He helped her slip it on her arms. He reached behind her and flipped her long, blond, curly hair out of the collar. He even buttoned the second to the top button.


She looked down at his hands as they moved from the button to the lapels and held them, bringing her closer to him. “If at anytime you want to stop, you just have to say it, and I’ll bring you down, this I promise you.” He leaned down and kissed her forehead.


Then he reached down for his broom.


Alice began to regret her decision right away. He stepped over the broom, brought it between his legs and said, “The cool thing about this one is the large seat, so there’s room for us both. Sit on the seat, and hang onto my arms, not the handle or else I can’t steer, and I’ll hang on to you with one hand, and the handle with the other, then I’ll kick us off.”


She walked, with trepidation, to the broom. She stepped over the slender piece of wood, and brought her back up against his chest. He moved the broom firmly between their legs. She placed her hands on his forearms, and closed her eyes.


His breath was warm against her cheek, and his body was firm against hers. She felt one arm snake around her middle. James Potter had touched her all her life, but this felt different. This felt intimate and personal. He said in her ear, “Open your eyes.”


She turned her face slightly and said, “How did you know I had my eyes closed?”


He just laughed and said, “Here we go.” He kicked off before she could change her mind. She closed her eyes again and squealed. He laughed harder.


Open your eyes again,” he urged, “and you’ll see that we aren’t that high, Alice.”


She opened her eyes, her legs dangling precariously against nothing, her back against his chest, her hands digging into his arms. They were barely off the ground. She turned to look at him and smiled.


He smiled back, kissed her cheek and then said, “Now for the fun.” He tilted the broom and they flew in the air. She turned her head, looked in front of them, took a quick look below, and then screamed.


Eyes closed, teeth clenched, she said, “I hate you James Potter!”


We still aren’t very high, so open your eyes. I haven’t lied to you. Come on, give this a chance,” he said, moving the broom easily along the tops of the trees. “I won’t go higher than the trees if you don’t want me to, okay?”


She sighed a sigh that sounded close to a cry, and he almost tilted the broom back toward the earth, but then she opened her eyes and said, “This isn’t that bad.”


That’s the spirit,” he said in her ear. He took everything slowly. He moved around the courtyard, never going higher than the trees. People smiled and waved at them. After a while he said, “You know, I’m making a right spectacle of myself. I have a reputation to uphold, and flying no higher than this, and no faster, is seriously damaging my reputation.”


What’s more important, your promise to me or your reputation?” she asked.


He recalled that when she put it like that, he felt slightly ashamed, even though he was joking with her.


As a joke, he said, “My reputation, of course.” He flew straight up, but his intention was to fly up only for a mere second, and then go right back down. However, it was spring, and the winds of spring are so famous that poems and stories have been written about them, and a strong wind picked up the nose of the broom, tilted it slightly higher than he intended, and while Alice screamed, James scrambled to hold on to both her and to maintain the integrity of the broom.


James looked quickly from the Alice and James in the air to his Alice. She looked as scared as he imagined she looked that day. He wanted this memory to stop right now, but he wasn’t in control here, she was.


Alice let go of his arms and gripped the handle of the broom. James could not control steering with her hands on the handle, and just as he was about to tell her to hold on to him, not the broom, another strong wind picked up the tail of the broom and Alice slipped forward.


James watched in horror as Alice slipped from the broom. She screamed and he was so filled with dread and panic that he didn’t even have time to process a scream. He tried to lower the broom at the same time that he reached for her, grabbing only the back of his jacket. He had only buttoned one button, and though he gripped the jacket with one hand, with all his might, the button gave way, and Alice slipped quickly to the ground, with a loud, soul-piercing scream.


James watched her fall, and after the fall he tried to process what he saw: Alice on the ground, limp like a rag doll, her arms and legs at odd angles, her hair all round her, motionless, no longer screaming, not moving, not doing anything, and he froze in the air.


Several students heard her screams and witnessed the fall and were already running to the scene. He finally lowered the broom, and he watched as a few of them fell to their knees to examine Alice.


James felt as if he couldn’t breathe. He dropped his broom and finally rushed to her side. He pushed a boy away from her, turned her around to her back, (even though a few of the students told him to not touch her) and he cradled her in his arms until several professors arrived to escort her to the hospital wing.


Alice didn’t recall the rest of this memory. She barely recalled falling. She was unconscious during the worst of it. However, she didn’t really come back to this memory, or even the school dance memory, for herself. She came back for him. She knew James had come along for the ride, no doubt he was watching all of this under his dad’s old invisibility cloak. She wondered what he was feeling right now, watching all of this again. She felt bad causing him any undue pain at watching old, bitter memories, but she had a rather important point to make.


James watched the rest of the memory with a pained expression. He was glad that Alice couldn’t see him under the cloak. He remembered that the Headmistress Floo’d both sets of their parents. He was afraid to face them. His father yelled at him and called him reckless. He told him he was banned from riding his new broom. James remembered that at the time he didn’t care, because he never wanted to see that broom again as long as he lived.


The rest of the day went by in a blur. She suffered from a concussion, a fractured pelvis, a broken collarbone, a broken arm, and a ruptured spleen. She was transferred to St. Mungo’s.


Since the memory went there, he went along.


He watched the younger James as he sat in the corner of the waiting room, surrounded by her grandparents, little brother, and his family. No one was talking. No one was asking him what happened, because he had already told them the entire story. He had already taken all the blame. He already hated himself, and in a way, he still did.


Her mum and dad were in the room with her, which was good; because James recalled that he didn’t want to face them. He watched the younger him walk out of the lobby, alone, and start toward her room.


James looked in the door of Alice’s hospital room. Hermione was sitting in a chair by her bed, but Draco wasn’t in there.


He felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned to face her father. He assumed Draco was going to yell at him, shout at him, and tell him that he was ashamed of him and that he could never associate with his daughter again. Instead, Draco pulled the younger man into his arms, patted his back and said, “She’ll be fine. Don’t beat yourself up over this. Everyone makes mistakes, and I know you would rather cut out your right eye than hurt her.”


James nodded. If he spoke, he would probably cry.


Draco said, “If you only knew how many times in my past I hurt Hermione, you would probably be ashamed of me, and every time I hurt her when we were young, I was cognizant of what I was doing. Every evil act, every harsh word, was deliberate, but somehow, later in our lives, she learned to forgive me, and she learned to love me for the man I had become, not for the boy that I was.”


James could only nod again.


Draco concluded, “I’m not comparing you and me, because I know everything I did to Hermione was deliberate, and what happened here today, and things that have happened with you and Alice in the past weren’t done maliciously, or with evil intent, but with her best interest at heart, but that’s the thing, isn’t it James? You still feel like shite, you still regret it, but in the end, she’ll still forgive you.” He patted the younger man’s arm twice and walked toward the lobby.


Alice smiled. Her father was so sweet to James. Even though he never cared for Harry Potter, he had always been decent to James. She was still watching her father walk down the hallway, when she heard a rustling sound beside her. She knew her James was close by. She realized something. She and James weren’t seeing these memories the same way…James was seeing them with regret, and Alice was seeing them as missed opportunity. It was time they began to see things the same way. *


Later that night, when his mum and Uncle Ron had left with the younger kids, James went back to her room. Her mum was still sitting by her bed. She saw James and motioned him into the room with her hand.


She’s sleeping and she can’t tell if anyone’s here or not, but I’d rather not leave her alone,” Hermione said. “But I would appreciate if you would sit with her while I go to the tea room.”


Again, James remembered that he couldn’t even speak to Hermione for fear of crying. He watched as Alice’s mum left the room and then he watched the younger James sit down on the side of the bed. Poor little Alice. She looked so broken and bruised. He looked once more at his Alice. He knew she would finally hear his confession from that night, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that, but perhaps it was time.


James reached for her hand, held it gently in his, and bent over her body. He began to cry. “I’m so sorry, Alice,” he said between his tears. “I would never, ever intentionally hurt you, and I broke a promise to you today, when I said that I wouldn’t hurt you, and I did. The bloody wind came up so fast, but that’s no excuse. You’re the most important person in my life. I think, well, I think I have deep feelings for you, Alice.”


Alice started to cry, while watching the younger James cry. She never knew any of this happened. She never knew he came into her room, held her hand, and apologized to her. She never imagined that the cocky, self-assured, strong James that she always had known would cry because he felt sorry that he had hurt her. She immediately regretted coming to this memory. She did it to make him feel bad; not knowing that he apparently had ALWAYS felt bad at this memory. She almost said the incantation to start the next memory, when instead her attention went back to the younger James and Alice.


He wiped his tears from his cheeks with the back of his hands, embarrassed. “I haven’t cried since I was eight, and that was your fault, too,” he said with a laugh. “Remember, we painted my baby sister’s face red and gold, Gryffindor colours, don’t you know, and I promised you if we got caught, and got in trouble, that I would take the blame.


My mum was so angry when she saw Lily’s face, and I told her Albus did it, and she was just about to punish him, when you came forward and admitted to her that you and I did it. You were always such a good person, even when you were six. I got a paddling and for your punishment, my mum set you in the corner on a little stool and you cried and cried, because you didn’t think you should have been punished, since you told the truth.”


He laughed and said, “Well, I agreed with you, and I went and told my mum that, and that’s when I cried. I cried because you were crying. I didn’t cry when my mum paddled my bum, because let’s face it, she didn’t have the heart to really hurt me, but I cried because you were so tender hearted, and you were so sad sitting there all alone in that corner, and I felt it was my fault, because I should have protected you, and taken all of the blame, like I told you I would.”


He didn’t know why he was telling her all of this. She couldn’t even hear him. Finally, he stood up, leaned over her and kissed her forehead. “I should take all the blame for this, too, and I will. I’ll never force you to ever do something you don’t want to do again, I promise. I love you, Alice.”


The older Alice stood by with her mouth open, shocked. That was apparently the first time James had told her that he loved her, and she didn’t know! She really didn’t know. Now she was glad she came to this memory. She watched the younger James leave the room. She wondered if the older James was still watching. She didn’t even feel as if she needed another memory. He had told her he loved her a full year before he officially told her at his graduation. She felt like such a fool.


She closed her eyes, decided to follow through with the next memory, but instead of the graduation memory, she decided to let him see something else, something that just happened. She got to hear him tell her that he loved her, so he should get to hear her confession, too.


She said the incantation and they were gone, and instead of standing in the bright sunlight in the courtyard of Hogwarts, on the day of James’ graduation, they were at the Potter’s house, and it appeared that it was only yesterday. Now James was very confused indeed.

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