The Art of Growing Up

Prologue: Where It All Began

Blackberry Marmalade

This story exists because on the 27th of April 2020, there wasn't enough blackberry marmalade at the High Table. Blackberry marmalade was Professor Davidson's favourite. Its absence, combined with a particularly stressful Monday morning, put the cantankerous teacher in an especially bad mood. Lessons went horribly. The first, second, and third years seemed uncomprehending that their exams were fast approaching and spent the majority of class griping about their homework levels. The fifth years were cracking under the pressure of O.W.L.s and collapsing in panic attacks. The sixth years were rife with romantic drama and the seventh years were churlish from the stress of N.E.W.T.s. If there had been blackberry marmalade at breakfast, perhaps Professor Davidson wouldn't have been quite as irascible by the time the Gryffindor and Slytherin fourth years – his last class of the day – dawdled in. But the fact is there wasn't enough blackberry marmalade at breakfast that morning, and thus, when James Potter and Fred Weasley tossed a Dungbomb under the desk of Arturo Avery and Theodore Nott, Professor Davidson was in no mood to put up with the resulting scuffle.

Whipping out his wand a producing an earth-shattering bang that effectively silenced the bickering students, Professor Davidson wracked his angry, tired brain for the worst form of purgatory he could lawfully impose. Eyeing the rival houses, he devised a punishment that reeked of poetic justice: an inter-House homework project. That, he thought, was something none of the little demons could possibly be excited about.

He was right.

Amongst the moans and groans of the unruly fourth-years, Professor Davidson set this story in motion. If there had been enough blackberry marmalade at breakfast that morning, Professor Davidson wouldn't have drawn the names 'James Potter' and 'Thalia Greengrass' as partners. But there wasn't, and he did.

Neither of the aforementioned students was looking forward to the assignment. James Potter couldn't think of a worse torture than spending Saturday in the library. Thalia Greengrass couldn't think of a worse torture than spending Saturday with James Potter.

Thalia Greengrass was punctual and organized. She'd already been in the library for nearly a half an hour by the time James Potter showed up, eight minutes and twenty three seconds late. James threw his bag on the table unceremoniously. Thalia pulled her notes closer to her body, as though the Gryffindor's vicinity would poison them.

James Potter, uncomprehending that the Slytherin witch held no love for him, cracked a joke. Thalia Greengrass scowled at him, recalling without much difficulty the many pranks that The Menace had pulled at her (and her House's) expense. She was determined to never laugh at a James Potter Joke.

After a couple more failed attempts at humour, James – clinging to chivalry with every ounce of good humour he possessed – switched tracks to their mutual misfortune.

"Awfully rotten of Davidson to make us do this big project with all the exam homework we've got, isn't it?"

You're the reason we have to do this. Thalia thought with a glare.

Who put a stick up her arse? James wondered contemptuously.

"Let's get this over with," Thalia said in a cold, business-like manner. "I've looked over the topic choices, and the one that makes the most sense for us to attempt is the analysis of the pros and cons of Polyjuice Potion versus Human Transfiguration as a means of general disguise. Now, as you are quite good at Transfiguration, and I'm very good at Potions, the distribution of tasks was fairly straightforward." She paused for half a second to push a piece of parchment towards the disbelieving boy. "You will find, clearly outlined, a list of everything you need to do to complete your portion of the project. Collaboration will only be necessary for the closing comparison paragraphs."

Without so much as a glance towards her partner, she returned to writing her opening paragraph. But it seemed the Gryffindor was not accustomed to beginning work so quickly.

"What…just like that? Are you kidding? Aren't we going to…I dunno, discuss anything?"

Thalia looked up from her parchment with a look so deadly it would kill a Basilisk on sight. Chillingly sweet: "What's to discuss?"

James was silent.

Thalia had to repress a smirk at her success. She didn't know that James had only shut his mouth because he had decided that the Slytherin witch was a cold, nasty, humourless shrew without a conversational bone in her body. She was just happy that the self-proclaimed King of Hogwarts was keeping his obnoxious gob shut and working on his assigned tasks.

Fate works in funny ways sometimes. If the house elves hadn't miscalculated the amount of blackberry marmalade required for the High Table, James Potter and Thalia Greengrass wouldn't have been working together in the library that Saturday. They would never have received recognition as partners. Because despite their mutual dislike, James Potter was clever at Potions, and Thalia Greengrass was clever at Transfiguration, and they both wanted a high grade on the project. So, as fate would have it, the product of their taciturn silence actually turned out quite well. Well enough, anyway, to impress Professor Davidson.

If there had been enough blackberry marmalade on the 27th of April, word wouldn't have spread through the faculty that James Potter and Thalia Greengrass made a good team. If the duo hadn't grudgingly made it through that Saturday Professor Abbott might have made a different decision a year and a half later. And if Professor Abbott had made a different decision, this story might have been very dismal. But she didn't, and it isn't.

If it weren't for a shortage of blackberry marmalade, this story would have never taken place. (Or perhaps it would have; fate's funny like that.)

AN: Please R&R if you enjoyed! Thanks for reading!