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Whims (James/Ruthless) - The Phantom Librarian
Spewing out too many words since November 2003
fernwithy
fernwithy
Whims (James/Ruthless)
Well, after the challenge call last month, a few people asked for some James/Ruthless. The problem with these two is that they're both sarcastic and unserious, and firmly resist any attempt at giving them an epic love story. So instead of trying to make up a falling-in-love moment, I figured I'd just write them as I see them. I don't think Harlequin is going to call me in for their reserve writing team any time soon, I'm afraid. ;p




It had begun with mistletoe and a good mood, and was never meant to be more than a passing whim.

At the time, James had still thought of Ruthless as his favorite of Teddy's old girlfriends, even though Teddy had been married to Victoire for four years and had three children with her and a fourth newly on the way (or, as it had turned out, a fourth and a fifth). James was in his seventh year at Hogwarts, and enjoying his last few weeks of being the only one of his siblings to be of age. He'd Transfigured all of Al's scarves into feather boas before a particular young lady came to visit, and set an alarm on Lily to go off every time she lied about what she was going off to do... though the latter had backfired when she'd figured it out and just announced blithely that she was planning to go to Diagon Alley and snog her boyfriend until they melted the snow on the eaves.

Christmas Day was going along smashingly, with all of the cousins in attendance. Teddy and Victoire and the children were there, and James had passed on several secrets of eldest-hood to Mira (including the Marauder's Map, which he'd showed to both Mira and Fred; Fred would be the next master, come September, and Mira would become the first Map-mistress in due time). He and Teddy had planned out their next novel--in which their thinly veiled versions of the Marauders would be sucked into a vortex that pulled them back in time, where they picked up a Shapeshifting demigoddess (Dorea) who would eventually fall madly in love with Raymond, and Jason had to enlist Violet's help again to rescue Sir Ryan from a warlord he'd magically taunted. Hagrid had brought a nice barrel of mulled mead, and the family had been sitting together by the fire, getting quite cheerful before they went back to the Roost with Teddy to prepare for the very large party they'd be having in the ballroom there that evening.

Unfortunately, Dad had a habit of bringing work papers home, and Ruthless, who'd traded Christmas morning to get Christmas evening free, had come by to pick up some bit of processing on a prisoner. James had answered the door. The charmed mistletoe had flown after him, and he'd leaned in to kiss her without even thinking about it.

"Sorry," he said lightly when he finished. "It's the only way to defeat the evil shrubbery."

She narrowed her eyes. "I suggest you learn to think of more creative ways around things, Potter, because that one's going to get you hurt."

By all rights, that ought to have been the end of it. James certainly hadn't been committed to the idea, and Ruthless was openly hostile to being kissed by someone she still thought of as Teddy's tag-along baby sort-of-brother.

How they ended up kissing again later that night--for quite a long time, under brilliant auroras at the Roost--was still a mystery, though James didn't remember thinking much of it, and Ruthless hadn't mentioned it again, or brought it up as a possible conflict when she'd been named as his mentor in the Auror Division a few months later. And it hadn't been a conflict. The increasingly frequent (if discreet) kissing breaks of the past few years had no effect on their work, and as far as James knew, no one in the office suspected, including Dad. It had seemed like a natural and normal thing to do, just one more way they conducted what had turned into an easy friendship over the years, except that they'd been careful to keep that particular sort of camaraderie a secret. The issue of Teddy had seemed huge at first--what would they say to him, how awkward it would be--but had at some point faded far into the background. James thought Teddy might have a good idea what was going on, but of course, it was never openly discussed. James's best guess was that Teddy was as afraid of jinxing it as he and Ruth were.

Now that he'd finished training, he supposed there wasn't a rule against it anymore, but he didn't fancy coming in to work to leering looks from his fellow Aurors. Which was why he was quitting his job.

He stared, dumbfounded, at the parchment in his hand, not knowing quite how it had come to the point where, in a choice between Ruth Scrimgeour and his career as an Auror, he'd chosen Ruth without even thinking about the question. As soon as he'd seen that Robards was quitting his post as Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher, James had thought: Oh, good. That's the answer, then. I knew something would come along, at least until the books start to bring in enough to live on.

He felt like he was looking at the letter he'd received at the age of eleven--the official green ink of Hogwarts communications, the school crest, the congratulatory message. Both letters had even been signed by Graeme Gardner, though the first had been in his capacity as deputy headmaster, and the current one identified him as "Headmaster, Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry." Professor Sprout had retired. Neville was deputy headmaster now, though he was no longer head of Gryffindor House, since he and Hannah lived in London and he wasn't there at night. There was grumbling about his appointment to the deputyship, as the deputy headmaster had always been part of the live-in staff, and some people were sniffing disdainfully that he was still riding waves of glory from the war.

He didn't know when he'd started catching up on the gossip and politics of the Hogwarts staff, but it seemed to all be there in his head. He'd even, at some point, learned the House affiliations of all of the resident staff, and he thought that, if he lived at the school for a year or two, he might be the only Gryffindor available for the Head of House position.

Except that he wasn't sure he wanted to live on the grounds, at least not alone.

Someone cleared his throat, and James turned to see Dad standing at the door--well, opening--of his cubicle, smiling faintly. "You got the job, I see."

James hesitated. "I, er... well, I was going to mention it, but I didn't know if it would go through, it was just a whim, really..."

"James, I'm your boss. They contacted me for a reference three weeks ago. I was starting to wonder when you'd get around to mentioning it."

"Oh."

Dad Conjured a chair and sat down, his smile more open now. "I gave you a lousy reference. Told them the only thing you were interested in around here was finding out everyone's story."

"Dad!"

"And that you used all of the stories to train people older than you were to spot patterns. And that you're a much better teacher than you are an Auror, and they'd be very smart to put you on staff."

"Oh," James said. "Thanks. Sorry you wanted to get rid of me, though..."

Dad shrugged. "I'm sorry you thought you had to come here to impress me. I'm not sure you know it, but I've been rather impressed with you since the first time you spit up on me."

James looked down. "That's not it, Dad. I just thought I should. You always said you didn't take this job -because people needed you to do what you were doing."

"It was. But things have normalized, James. We'll still need Aurors, but we've got most of the Dark wizards under control, and we've got the department under control. Maybe some of the children you teach will be more inclined to a career here than you are, and I know you're more inclined to teaching than you are to this business."

"Teddy tried to tell me that before I started training. I didn't listen."

"You needed to find out for yourself." Dad reached for the letter and James handed it to him. He read it. "I wanted to take this job so badly. I'm glad you're doing it. And I think you'll be better at it than I would have been."

"Well, I'll still have you in for lectures."

"If you didn't, I'd have to invade once a year anyway, and I have a great deal of experience at invading Hogwarts when it becomes necessary." Dad set the letter down. "They offered it to me when I first married Ginny. A nice little suite of rooms in the staff wing." He examined James's face. "So if you were thinking that there's someone you might want there with you, of course..."

"Oh, there's no one," James said quickly.

"Mm-hmm." He nodded toward Ruth's cubicle, his eyes twinkling, then leaned forward. "James, I'm a very good Auror. Do you really think I can't see what's under my nose?" He handed back the letter, rolled his eyes, and left.

James stared after him for a long time, not sure whether he was glad that his father wasn't blind to his life or slightly disappointed that Harry Potter had ignored his own rules for personal reasons. He shook it off, and looked over at Ruth. She was bent over her paperwork, one leg curled under her, the other swinging restlessly as she chewed on her quill. She was thirty, but whenever she sat like this, James thought she looked like she was still in school.

He went over to her and leaned over the cubicle wall.

"I haven't really got anything for you to do," she said without looking up. "Story might have something."

James held out the parchment from Hogwarts.

She took it and read it, then looked up at him. She was wearing her glasses today, and her tawny eyes seemed huge behind them. "You're really doing it."

"Yes."

"I knew you would. I have a wonderfully useless talent for knowing when the men in my life are about to scarper." She sighed deeply and affected a melodramatic pose.

James considered pointing out that he was scarpering from the job, not from her, but he could tell by the way her mouth was twitching that she meant to treat it all as a joke. Frontal assault wasn't the best way around a determinedly cheerful Ruth. Better to take a sideways approach. "I'm not sure whether I'm going to live at the school, or stay up at the Roost."

"In that shack Teddy used to live in while he was building the big house?"

"Well, he did give it to me. Or, well, sold it to me for the princely sum of, 'whatever you've got in your pocket just now, if you insist.' Thought I might fix it up a bit, put on a wing or some such thing."

"Do you plan to keep the Sirius Black Memorial Tattered Tartan Recliner?"

"Of course. Right along with the Remus Lupin Memorial Rusty Bed Springs, and the Nymphadora Tonks Memorial Broken Vase. I'm thinking of putting up plaques." She kicked out a chair for him, and he smiled and took it. "Honestly, we made it their secret hide-away for the books, and it helps both of us keep track of what's there. And from what I understand, Sirius would appreciate a hideous Memorial Recliner. I'd probably actually live in the new wing, once it's built."

"Well, then, why not live at the school while you're building it?"

James shrugged. "I wasn't sure how you'd feel about being surrounded by school kids."

Ruth's grin stopped partway up her face, like she'd been hit with a Freezing Charm. "What?"

"When you come to visit me, of course."

"Of course."

"And when I finish up at the Roost--are you comfortable up there?"

"No, I hate it up there. You know that. That's why I'm always about."

"So you wouldn't mind... visiting... there?"

"You're getting some very googly-eyed notions in your head, Potter."

"True. You're going to have to be quick to stop me saying that I love you. Oh, wait, already missed it." James could hear his heart pounding in his ears, though he'd forced his tone to stay light. It wasn't that it was a new fact, or that she didn't suspect it, but he'd never said it to her before, and he knew Ruth Scrimgeour's beliefs about anything that might be seen as sentimental or romantic. The Ruthless Rules on the subject were the stuff of legend. Telling Ruth that he loved her was a good way to get her to show her claws.

Of course, there was also the worse possibility: That she'd smile kindly and tell him that she was sorry to have confused him, but he knew she was in love with Teddy and always would be, and all James would ever be was a friend who happened to kiss well, and...

She frowned. "You know you're in imminent danger of serious bodily harm, right?"

"I'm a Gryffindor," James told her, concentrating on the joke to avoid the rabid butterflies currently gnawing at his innards. "I'll risk it."

He mouth twitched, then she laughed. "You're mad, Potter. I love that in a man."

"So... Hogwarts for a year or two, then the Roost? Should I get down on one knee to ask?"

"One knee to ask where you should live?"

James dropped to his knee. "No. One knee to ask if you want to live somewhere with me. In the most traditional manner possible for two people trying to make a joke of the whole business and failing badly."

"Well, in that case, I'll wave my hand around as if it had a ring on it and say that it sounds like a good plan."

James Conjured the most obnoxious diamond ring he could imagine and slipped it onto her ring finger. "I'll get you a real ring this afternoon," he warned her. "Last chance to avoid it."

"Well, I'll have to run away then. Possibly all the way to the Memorial Recliner."

"Careful of the spring on the right. It pokes through."

"Good to know."

He squeezed her hand and said, "Just so I'm sure you know, I am serious."

"Of course. It's your middle name."

"Ruth--"

"I know. And I... well, yes. For real."

He looked at her for a long time, taking in her wild, curly red hair, her light-colored eyes, the freckles on her nose, the edge of her bra strap peeking out from the wide collar of her robes. He didn't know exactly when or how this had all come about, but he did know that he couldn't imagine not seeing her every day, not knowing what odd constellations he could make from the freckles on her arms (his favorite was The Sorting Hat, which was a grouping of seven large freckles on her left bicep), not being able to recognize the smell of her shampoo. And it would have been excessively odd to have fallen in love with someone who expected poetry instead of pranks.

"Well," Ruth said, extricating her hand from his. "Shall we flip a Knut to see who Teddy will stand up with...?"

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persephone_kore From: persephone_kore Date: January 22nd, 2008 08:48 am (UTC) (Link)
*loses it laughing* Oh, Fern, You're wonderful. It's the last line about Teddy that really cracked me up, but the whole thing... oh, wow. And it's such a relief; I found the idea of Ruthless always... I don't know... being a bit shadowed from breaking up with Teddy awfully gloomy.

James stared after him for a long time, not sure whether he was glad that his father wasn't blind to his life or slightly disappointed that Harry Potter had ignored his own rules for personal reasons.

This was also an interesting line.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:58 pm (UTC) (Link)
I think that for all of Harry being a good father, it would still be intimidating to grow up as his kid. I mean, how do you follow up on that?

I didn't want to leave Ruthless alone, either, but I hadn't really given any thought to James as a possible mate until it just randomly occurred to me one day.
marissa_214 From: marissa_214 Date: January 22nd, 2008 12:28 pm (UTC) (Link)
Oh I love it! That's got to be the best proposal ever. It's so in character for those two!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:59 pm (UTC) (Link)
Thanks! Now, all they need is to get married in Uncle George's joke shop... ;p
rdprice29 From: rdprice29 Date: January 22nd, 2008 12:34 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was so wonderful in so many ways! I have desperately missed my daily installment of Fern's Teddy!Verse, and this was an incredible installment. Great job!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
I miss writing every day, and will probably start something again soon. I'm just still getting myself mentally settled.
redlily From: redlily Date: January 22nd, 2008 12:50 pm (UTC) (Link)
Awwww. What a match!!

And that you used all of the stories to train people older than you were to spot patterns.

It took me about eight times reading that sentence to get it -- you might want to tweak the construction.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:00 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yowch!!!! You're right, that one's terrible.
snuggle_muggle From: snuggle_muggle Date: January 22nd, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
This was lovely! It was so nice to read your stuff again. I really miss it when you're not writing. Ruth and James here were brilliant. At first I was kind of like "Ooh, isn't she a little old for him?" but you really made it work. James as a teacher -- now that's a bit of a scary thought. It's like putting the lunatics in charge of the asylum. On a slightly different note, I read your short stories around Christmas and several of them had me bawling but as usual I'm a lousy person about writing reviews. I have a stupid question for you. You mention "Marauder's Roost" a lot and other comments I've read give me the impression that it's a story you've written, but I can't find it anywhere. And I really have looked. If it is written could you post the link or send it to me? I would love to read it. Thanks!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:55 pm (UTC) (Link)
Marauder's Roost begins in this story. Teddy eventually builds what amounts to a modern castle there, and a town grows around it (of which James is the first non-Teddy/Victoire citizen). It's kind of a haphazard construction from a lot of little short stories in those challenge calls. It was originally the island where Remus and Sirius (and Tonks) were hiding out in Stray.

And yes, James as a teacher... if he's head of Gryffindor, I have a feeling he might lose more points for them than the students do! But he'll be good at it.

Edited at 2008-01-22 02:56 pm (UTC)
lucathia_rykatu From: lucathia_rykatu Date: January 22nd, 2008 01:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Aww, what a pair!
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:01 pm (UTC) (Link)
Yeah, I kind of like them.
carlinpaddy From: carlinpaddy Date: January 22nd, 2008 01:47 pm (UTC) (Link)

Harlequin Romance

I don't see why they wouldn't ask you to write for them, I thought it was lovely. I predict my own propsal will be vaguely similar. Hehe, yeah right. I actually rarely read Harlequin because they are so predictable. I love your stories. I was so happy to see that you posted. I am being very selfish, but I do hope you take up daily writing again. I love how you actually take canon to heart and don't change what the Lovely Rowling wrote, unlike many other people whom write on LJ. Love you lots!
Carlin~
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Harlequin Romance

I think I've managed to read two Harlequins in my life. Though I'm really not sure. It might have been the same one twice.

I like sticking to canon when I can. It's like solving a little puzzle, trying to figure out how to make everything fit. My problem comes when she randomly decides that James is actually going to marry the love child of Grawp and Trelawney.
Re: Harlequin Romance - (Anonymous) - Expand
From: jonas72 Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
Well, I´m certainly glad you didn´t discard Ruthless.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:05 pm (UTC) (Link)
Me, too. :)
lollapulizer From: lollapulizer Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:46 pm (UTC) (Link)
That was lovely. Just yesterday I was wondering where you'd got to since we hadn't heard from you in awhile, and then BAM you come out with this cute little thing. I wasn't really expecting J/R (I had thought you paired James with someone named Cora?), but it actually fits in an unexpected way. I really like it.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:09 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'm just dealing with a whole new schedule and the various frustrations of adjusting to the culture shock out here. My brain's not entirely in gear. ;p Also, I'm stuck on dial-up and it takes forever to get online, so I haven't been dropping in to comment on random life stuff nearly as much. But I'm still here!

Cora was one of those names I pulled out of a hat while writing a challenge fic, without giving her much thought. When I realized that Ruthless was available and there's less of an age difference than there even was between Remus and Tonks, I thought, hmm... that sort of works!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2008 02:50 pm (UTC) (Link)

Yaaaay!

Oh, that was so much fun! And so sweet and low key. I loved it. I love Ruth. I'm glad she's found someone who matches her well.

Sara Libby
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC) (Link)

Re: Yaaaay!

It may be the first time James has been called "low-key"! ;p

Glad you liked it!
From: spitc1899 Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:02 pm (UTC) (Link)
I love James. I love Ruthless. And I love this.
fernwithy From: fernwithy Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
All three are glad to hear it, and so am I! :D
willowbough From: willowbough Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:33 pm (UTC) (Link)
Ruthless and James? Unexpected at first sight, but you made it work. And older woman/younger man can be an intriguing dynamic, especially when done well, as it is here.
kizmet_42 From: kizmet_42 Date: January 22nd, 2008 03:42 pm (UTC) (Link)
"What is it with Potter men and red hair?"

I think I'm quoting a fanfic, but it does hold true, doesn't it?

Charming story.
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: January 23rd, 2008 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I have wondered the EXACT same thing.... Amusing, isn't it? The Potters are going to be run over with red hair before long.
merrymeerkat From: merrymeerkat Date: January 22nd, 2008 04:21 pm (UTC) (Link)
This is my favourite thing you have ever written, and that is saying something.
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC) (Link)
this is brilliant! There are so many lovely bits in there, I won't even start quoting!

And I was much amused by the fact that I was sitting in excatly the same way as Ruthless (who is an absolutely adorable character!).

~Hermione Stranger~
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 22nd, 2008 05:41 pm (UTC) (Link)
I was so doubtful of James/Ruthless when you first mentioned it, but you've convinced me. This is adorable in the best possible way - I love the easy banter. All relationships should have some. ;)
jedi_chick From: jedi_chick Date: January 22nd, 2008 06:57 pm (UTC) (Link)
What a fun story! I was intrigued by James/Ruthless when you first mentioned it, and it's everything it should be. I'm glad that Ruthless didn't end up alone. James seems like a better fit for her than Teddy ever would have been. I love that James figures out he has to approach the whole thing sideways, and I particularly like his offhand declaration of love (along with his Conjured diamond ring).

The two paragraphs are probably my favorite part of the story. What a great note to end on! If you ever decide to write more of this pairing, I'd love to read it!

He mouth twitched, then she laughed. The "he" should be "her". ;~)

Glad to see you writing again!
sgt_majorette From: sgt_majorette Date: January 22nd, 2008 09:13 pm (UTC) (Link)

...what everybody else already said, plus

...grownup Harry still turns me into mush, bless his heart!
mrspollifax From: mrspollifax Date: January 22nd, 2008 10:18 pm (UTC) (Link)
Fern, if you wrote Harlequins I might actually read them. Ruth and James in a really awkward but honest, sincere love is a nice thing to see. And Ruthless, you so deserve your happy ending.

Also,

I'm not sure you know it, but I've been rather impressed with you since the first time you spit up on me.

Harry, I love you.
under_crisis From: under_crisis Date: January 23rd, 2008 02:51 am (UTC) (Link)
second that! let us know when you get published by harlequin and we'll pre order your book ;)
shiiki From: shiiki Date: January 22nd, 2008 11:20 pm (UTC) (Link)
I'd read anything you wrote, and if that included Harlequin romances, so be it. (It'd be a bit like your take on Fifi LaFolle, I suppose? I don't know, I've never actually read one, I'm just guessing.)

This was completely awesome - Ruthless and James ... their dynamic is even more fun than Ruthless and Teddy's was! I love how each of your characters always carries their own unique, distinct personality.

And score another red-headed bride for a Potter man. ;)

Brilliant story, Fern, thank you!
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 22nd, 2008 11:49 pm (UTC) (Link)

Well done to all concerned!

I really like this. It seems very real for them to have just fallen into a long term relationship, and then be awkward saying it out loud. James is very brave, and they really all handle it very well. (Especially you!)

Alex
(Deleted comment)
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 23rd, 2008 02:39 am (UTC) (Link)
Oh, I'm so happy to see you writing something again! And Ruthless and James are such a treat together. :)

Just a little thing that struck me as a little awkward:
"They offered it to me when I first married Ginny."
In terms of James' view, maybe you should refer to Ginny as "your mum?" Or maybe I'm just being over-traditionalist and nit-picky. Anyways.

Can't wait to see you writing more again! I've got my fingers crossed for Safe to start soon!
marycontraria From: marycontraria Date: January 23rd, 2008 07:43 pm (UTC) (Link)
For what it's worth, I had the same nit-pick on my second read-through (although I didn't notice it the first time).
under_crisis From: under_crisis Date: January 23rd, 2008 02:45 am (UTC) (Link)
ah, so many things i love here fern. and yes, when i first read off the comments about james/ruth, i was like, "wha???" but the long-awaited explanation here really sold me. haha.

oh, the banter. so beautiful. "i'll wave my hand around as it had a ring on it." heh. and harry. it's true, he'd be a poor top auror if he's oblivious, especially about james. whom he obviously watches out for lots.

and i can just see teddy grappling with that dilemma. i don't know, will he take kindly to holding the bride's bouquet?

oh, and to second a previous comment, i'm also one of those whe got really confused with the stories on marauder's roost and all when i first visited your journal (though i must say i've slowly read through all the challenge posts).. i do have to admit to still being lost sometimes heheh. great job all around ;)
summoner_lenne9 From: summoner_lenne9 Date: January 23rd, 2008 03:03 am (UTC) (Link)
I LOVE LOVE your characters, so much. You have this habit of writing lines that I want to say outloud- like the last one about Teddy, that was just great, and I just... I was just grinning throughout all of this. Harlem's overrated! Cheap sex fics are dime a dozen, but this? This is wonderful. I think the best proposals possible are the utterly silly ones, because they're just wonderful.

So... I'm going to go off and grin now for quiet a bit :). I love your Teddy verse so much.
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