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A Different Kind of Magic by unjellify

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Chapter Notes: The chapter title comes from "I Was Once A Loyal Lover" by Death Cab For Cutie. I am still not J.K. Rowling. Thanks to Soraya for her usual masterful editing.

When James was a child, he had spent a great deal of time on his toy broomstick. His parents had acted as though this were the first time any young wizard had ever done such a thing. Both expressed the conviction that he was going to be an international Quidditch star someday, or, as his mother was quick to remind him, succeed at anything else he might want to do.

James had never really cared about his parents’ approbation because he had never been without it. Their praise was a given, just like the sky would always be blue and the grass would always be green. He loved flying around, even though he had risen barely two feet from the ground, but as selfish as it sounded now, he did tire of everyone exclaiming over him incessantly. Whenever he wanted to be alone, he went down to the river and sat and thought.

Now, it appeared that he had slept there the previous night. James groaned and rolled over, the vertebrae in his neck crackling, and sat up, his hands scrabbling at the ground beside him until he found his glasses. Pine needles and pebbles had left their imprints in his cheek, a rancid taste lingered in his mouth, and he was sure his hair needed to be washed. It wasn’t as though he had paid much attention to his appearance lately, but today was the funeral.

“Oh, shit,” he muttered, squinting upwards. James had barely got an ‘Acceptable’ in his Astronomy O.W.L., since that was usually the lesson he skipped with Sirius, but even he could tell that when the sun was directly overhead, it was around noontime.

Noon. He scrambled to his feet. If it was noon, he had seriously screwed up.

As he left the shadows of the trees, the sunlight and the multitude of somber mourners already in the garden combined to make him cringe. I’m late to my mother’s funeral, he realized, numb with shame. Of all these people who had never come to visit his mother in her final days, he was the one who had committed this final dishonor to her memory. He hadn’t even had a chance to say goodbye”she had died in her sleep in the early hours of New Year’s Day”and thus ignominious tardiness was his farewell gesture.

More out of self-punishment than anything else, James took the empty seat at the front, next to his father, and heard the susurrus begin behind him.

His father gave James the once-over out of the corner of his eye and his lips tightened. “Are you drunk?” he hissed, so softly that James had to take a moment to process the question.

Though he wasn’t drunk”not anymore, anyway”James apologized and put his head in his hands as an ancient wizard whom he had never seen before assumed his place at the front of the group congregated there. To the best of James’ knowledge, this wizard had never met James’ mother, and the eulogy that the man delivered did nothing to convince him otherwise. His mother’s body lay at the front, but James was too consumed by the knowledge that he had irretrievably let her down to look at it.
Mourning with his father had been difficult even before the final disappointment of James’ lateness. Mr. Potter was the sort of man who ate pizza with a knife and fork, and his wordless yet unequivocal position was that Potter men did not cry. For the duration of the service, they remained taciturn and dry-eyed, avoiding each other’s gazes. Thus, James watched silently as his mother’s body was entombed, reminding himself that she was already dead as her body was consumed for a moment by flames.

Afterwards they ate, the mourners descending upon the food and then clustering like vultures around those who were especially grief-stricken. James thought that this buffet was a terrible idea, as he had never felt less hungry in his life, but he knew that it was traditional and that cooking made Lindy happy. Judging from the spread, she had been up all night.

James retreated as far away from the buffet table as possible until he was at the edge of the yard, almost returning to the forest. He let out a deep breath, and then realized that someone was leaning against a tree right beside him.

“Padfoot!” James said in surprise. “What are you doing here?”

“Here in the trees, or here at the funeral?” Sirius asked coldly, without looking at him.

James was about to respond with the latter, but something in Sirius’ tone made him stop. However, his hesitation was apparently enough of an answer.

“I came to offer my condolences to your family,” Sirius said, in the same impersonal tone.

James turned and faced him dead on, frowning. Sirius turned his head away, but not before James saw that his friend’s features were set into an expression of proud haughtiness that had been passed down through generations of Black family members”an expression that had never before appeared on Sirius’ face.

You didn’t invite him, a small voice inside James’ head whispered.

Yes, James admitted, but he can’t be cross at me. An angry Sirius is a noisy Sirius; everyone knows that.

This was true. The time when James had set fire to Sirius’ favorite Wasps jersey during a particularly disastrous third-year Charms class, the time when one of Sirius’ sixth-year girlfriends”Lydia, maybe?”had cheated on him, the time when Snape had hexed him and Slughorn had given Sirius a detention”all of these had resulted in riotous fits of temper from Sirius, characterized by a slew of curses both magical and colloquial. If Sirius were furious at James, every one of the funeral’s attendees would know by now.

Yet, James realized, that isn’t always the case. During the few times that Sirius and Regulus passed each other in the corridors, the frigidity that emanated from them sent a palpable chill through the entire hall. Each pretended that he did not see the other.

Now, James felt the panic rising in his stomach. It cut through the dulling effects of both his sadness and his hangover. “Sirius, I’m sorry,” he said. “I thought you wouldn’t want to come.”

This time, Sirius tilted his head infinitesimally to the side and regarded James, without any change in his demeanor.

“I didn’t want anyone to see me like this. To see my life like this. I’m a mess,” James confessed, swallowing, rubbing the back of his head, and feeling a leaf in his hair that he had neglected to remove.

“Look, what do you want me to say?” James continued, when no response came. “I’m sorry! I’m sorry I didn’t invite you around for Christmas, and I’m sorry I didn’t invite you to the funeral. I’m sodding tired of everyone just feeling so sorry for me, and I don’t want anyone’s pity. I don’t want it.”

“Well, you haven’t got mine,” Sirius yelled, his façade breaking at last. “You’re so bloody self-centered, James, that you’re only making it worse. I’m just another one of those mourners who comes round the house to tell you how sorry I am, am I?”

“No, Sirius, I never said””

“You as good as did. D’you know how I felt, James, after my mum blasted me off that stupid tree and forbade anyone in the family to speak to me?”

“I do. My mum is”she’s dead. Godric, at least you still have two parents.”

In what James judged to be the pinnacle of insensitivity, Sirius turned and walked away. James followed, his own temper rising now. “I know you’re wallowing because your parents disowned you and your brother is a Death Eater and you’re just oh so misunderstood.”

Sirius continued walking farther into the forest.

“You know what, Sirius? I think you’re the one who’s bloody selfish. You have a family. You have a girlfriend. Yeah, I’ve been a bit preoccupied with my mum’s terminal illness! So what? I don’t have any of what you have, only a dad who’s completely disgusted with me at the moment.”

“And now you don’t have a best friend, either,” Sirius said coolly, and he Disapparated.

James simply stood and stared for a moment. They were all best friends”James, Sirius, Remus, and Peter”but the kind of best-friendship that James and Sirius had was slightly different from that of the others. They were”we’re like brothers, James thought, and in that moment, he realized the full enormity of his colossal mistake.

Sirius hadn’t brought up his mum to make James feel the loss of his own mother all the more keenly. Mrs. Black was Sirius’ mother in the biological sense only. How could James have forgotten that? He had been distracted, distracted by guilt and defensiveness and his own stupid attempts to elicit any reaction from his now former friend. Sirius was, for all practical purposes, a Potter, except, unlike the Potters, he had had no chance to say goodbye. He had received news of Mrs. Potter’s death from James’ father, and to top it all off, James had insulted him, told him that he was wallowing.

James rested his head against a tree and sighed. He wished he had a Time-Turner, or anything to help him restart this disastrous day. If he kept this up, he would soon be entirely alone.

He tried to move without success. Remorse was clawing away at him, more viciously than it ever had before, and he dropped to the ground and closed his eyes tightly. Potter men don’t cry, he reminded himself. He didn’t feel so much like crying, though, as screaming. Not even Firewhisky would help this. He wanted out, out of this crippling emotion, and out of life altogether.

Then he realized, finally, what he had been overlooking these past few days. There was an alternative, an escape, and at the moment, James couldn’t think of anything more wonderful. He stumbled to his feet and concentrated.

A moment later, there was no grief, no guilt, nothing except a stag bounding away into the forest.
Chapter Endnotes: Thanks for reading! The next chapter will be from Lily's perspective, and also contain the moment we've all been waiting for - James' return. Please review: a lot went on between James and Sirius in this chapter, and I'd really like some feedback.