How Hogwarts sees the marauders vs how they see themselves:
James Potter could be defined as a walking catastrophe.
All long-limbs and noisy remarks, he smiles widely and talks loudly and runs a hand through hair that is never ever neat.
And yet, that’s part of his charm.
The boy doesn’t tie his shoes, the frayed edges of the shoelace tripping him up at almost every corner, and of course his mother taught him the spell to keep them double-knotted but does he remember that?
On top of whichever catastrophe Peter’s told him about, the plan for fifth period that Sirius is swearing will be the best yet, the silences Remus is leaving in his wake that he’s trying to decipher, and the homework that was due in for… yesterday? No.
James is quick, a ‘flash in the pan’ according to some, and maybe he doesn’t know how to pace himself, wheeling around corridors and skidding to a stop only when he’s about to collide with someone he should not be colliding with - namely Minerva McGonagall - but you have to hand it to him.
That boy can run.
And that’s the way everyone else sees him: ruffled hair, windswept and messy, glasses balancing on the bridge of a thin nose, constantly being pushed higher, an untucked shirt and golden eyes and lateness
Because he absolutely, positively, cannot tell the time: he’s a little slap-dash, that James Potter.
He liked the look of the watch that was hanging in the window, dragging Sirius along to Diagon Alley for his expertise and for the fact that if Sirius hated something, he’d tell him
“How about this shirt, Padfoot?” Pulling a paisly design from a rack, thinking that if anyone could pull it off, it’d be him.
“That’s fucking grim. What’s wrong with you? Put that back.”
But Sirius liked that watch, appreciating the way it hung on James’s wrist, and then shoving it away, asking him why he dragged him all this way for a watch
It worked and it looked good and most importantly it made James look like he knew what was going on.
Because most of the time, James Potter has absolutely no idea what’s going on.
He can fill silences. He can laugh at whichever joke is being told. He can notice the temperature of a room, pull Peter in if he thinks he’s being left out, shove Sirius to his feet when he’s being lazy, share split-second eye contact with Remus that conveys all the words he wants to say to him
But what James wants to say?
He’s not really sure
But to the rest of Hogwarts, he’s the man with the answers.
The one who turned Professor Binns’ toupee into a live ferret and lived to tell the tale. The one who can make an exploding ink quill look good, shoving his darkened hands into faces of First and Second Years:
“This is what happens when you write too many essays, children. Severe Essayus Decayus. The doctors at St Mungos say I have two days to live.” His eyes wide, forcing a cough, keeling over at them
“Really?” They’d sneer, and yet James could see the fear in their eyes, the sharp of raised eyebrows and not-so-sharp words
“Really really.” He’d grin, waving his hands in their face and laughing as he chased them.
“Watch out! I’m contagious!”
And when he’s sat in detention, writing lines to be sent to Madame Pomfrey on how illness is not a punchine, he’d still be humming to himself, feet tapping a rhythm dancing inside of him.
And when those kids passed by him, he’d wave at them, cheery, showing off brown, unblemished skin and appreciating the fact that they’d smile, a little self-conscious, before they’d turn away.
If anyone lived for others, it was James Potter
And that was why it was difficult to place the real him: the jokester, the leader, the boy who spoke in his sleep, and chased after the quaffle with his teeth bared, who loved puns and who couldn’t bear to have anyone angry at him…
He didn’t understand seriousness. But when it punched him in the face, when his friends told stories about who they were and what they hid, he found he really, really did
It just didn’t understand him
Because he’d be chasing after Lupin asking about the phases of the moon and whether he knew that Wyrd Sisters song with that very line in it,
“It goes like this!” And he’d be singing, off-key, voice hoarse and husky and just so loud
“I don’t know it James! Shut up!”
“C’mon, Remus!” He’d run after him, placing two hands on his shoulders. “It’ll make you feel better! Sing with me!”
“I don’t know the words!” Remus, shrugging him away, trying to make it to the library, “Now, shhh!”
“Well,” He’d roll his eyes. “Shush yourself.”
And then he’d be off again, leaving Remus to the library, humming loudly, fingers trailing on the cold of the stones that made up Hogwarts
And Remus, watching him go, seeing him go for a high-five with a teacher, miss, and still yell ‘nailed it!’ chuckling to himself
And James, knowing that that laugh would come, even if he wasn’t around to see it, would be quite happy to bother someone else for a little while
Only it was never ‘bothering’ to him: it was intuition.
It was seeing what someone wanted and working out a way to give it to them
It was standing at the edge of a fight that didn’t involve him and knowing that it could. If the other person needed him. If someone said something that just didn’t sit right.
It was rousing the Quidditch team in a pre-game chant because it was raining and wasn’t it better to be sodden and happy than sodden and miserable?
It was ignoring the way Lily Evans glared at his shaking leg, disrupting the table she was trying to write on, and laughing when he was in a full-body hex, trying to mouth how much he loved her technique
James didn’t know much. But he tried to learn, tried to pronounce the question of who he was whilst filling in the answers for everybody else
And somehow, that helped. It always felt like the right thing to.
James Potter, a walking catastrophe to everyone who didn’t know him.