You’re in the fifth grade, and you’re going to a brand new school. You have one friend, a best friend, and he’s the only one that knows: what to expect at the new school, what you and your family are like, what you’re going to be learning. You feel an understandable loyalty to this boy, who needed a friend badly as well when you met him. Another group of boys, bullies so it appears, makes fun of your only friend en route to this new school, and then laughs at you as well when you try to defend him. You decide you don’t like them very much.
You’re a freshman in high school, still surrounded by all the same children you’ve known since age 11. You are still very close with your best friend, even though you worry about him a lot. He’s started getting involved with a gang, one who (by the way) racially opposes a demographic that happens to include you. He’s started getting mixed up with dangerous, illegal, and even cruel activity. You have other friends by this point, but you still feel a special loyalty to this one. You try to help him and talk to him rationally, but all he seems to want to talk about is the bad sides of everyone else, including that arrogant boy who has now been bullying him since age 11. He does not realize that he’s becoming a bully himself.
You’re a sophomore in high school now, age 15. It is the worst day of your best friend’s life. That boy, the “bully” that he hates, hates him right back. It’s been a long time coming, and the two boys butt heads again. The bully is bored and looking to entertain his friends- he picks a fight. It’s a stupid thing to do, really, but he’s 15 years old. Who isn’t proud and bored and stupid and filled with anger at age 15? The bully starts the fight, but your best friend aims to end it once and for all- he pulls a weapon, let’s say, maybe even a gun. Things he learned from that gang he’s begun to spend more time with. But you still love him, obviously, so you rush to defend him.
The bully calls you out in front of everyone, asks you on a date. By all means, it’s embarrassing and frankly a little insulting. It’s exam week, you’re stressed, and you’re angry. Everything your best friend had said about this bully was right- look how he thought he could get away with anything. You just want to help your best friend…but oh. Nevermind. Looks like he doesn’t need you as badly as he’d always said. All three of you are prideful and angry and running on adrenaline…but he’s the only one that calls you a name, something unforgivable that makes you realize that he’s actually had a foot on the other side of the line for longer than you thought. It’s far more embarrassing than the stuck-up rail-skinny bully asking you out as an ultimatum. It’s downright humiliating. It’s the day you lost your best friend. You decide that you hate both of them now.
And then, years pass. You’re 17, and people are dying all around you. There’s a war on, people are growing up way too fast. You haven’t reconciled with your best friend, but you do find yourself spending more time with that “bully”, through class or hall-patrols. You decide that you still don’t like him, more out of pride and principle than anything else. Because, really, has he ever been cruel to you a day in his life? Others maybe, but those aren’t exactly your battles. Not anymore.
And then, one day, you find out that his favorite color is blue. You realize that you never knew that before. You realize that you always saw him as this 2D “bully” based on what you heard and saw since you were in the 5th grade. And you realize that you aren’t in the 5th grade anymore. You’ve grown up, certainly, since then. Why is it so unreasonable to assume he may have too?
You find out that his best friend, that quiet, sarcastic boy that you’ve spent a lot of time with, is sick with something he’ll never recover from. You realize why this “bully” is so fiercely loyal to his friends, why he’s always trying so hard to lighten the mood.
You find out that his mother’s just passed away. You realize that the only reason he was so adored and had everything was because she worked to make it that way because he was the only son she had. And he was the only mother he had. And now he feels alone and dejected, and isn’t sure he even wants to have kids one day. But you realize that this would be a crime because he would make such a great father.
You tell him so. He points out that this is the first compliment you’ve ever allowed him, and you feel ashamed of yourself, somewhere in the pit of your stomach.
Because he’s a real person and this is the first real time you’ve spent getting to know him.
So you tell him about yourself, too. The real things, behind the looks and the significant color of your hair and the books you loved.
He apologizes for having such an out-there crush on you, but explains that he just knew you would be as fascinating as you seemed. You apologize for always keeping him at arms length; you see, you’d just heard and saw so much over the years that you’d blinked and missed the part where you stopped being angry, prideful teens, and became reasonable adults. You apologize for deciding he wouldn’t be fascinating before you even tried to find out. Because he was. Fascinating, that is.
And then one day he kisses you, all soft lips and nervous smiles. And he asks you out on a date. There are issues from the past that you aren’t quite ready to get over, broken friendships that you still blame him for. But you realize that there are things more important than pride. You realize that if you want to believe that you have grown and changed as a person, you should offer others the benefit of the doubt.
So you go out to dinner.
And you fall in love with that boy you thought was a bully.
And you get married, and fight for freedom side by side, and support each other, and become parents together, and build a life.
And one day, even though he knows he isn’t going to make it, that boy puts himself between you, your son, and danger, so that maybe you will. He gave up his life to make sure yours would go on for a little longer. He stands up to the real bullies of the world, the ones that are so entrenched in hate and cruelty that you can’t believe you ever gave your husband and these men the same title.
Because people are capable of growth and kindness. The ones that don’t bother with either are the real bullies of the world. And you wouldn’t have known that if you didn’t give this wonderful man a chance.
This story is the story, basically, of Lily Evans and James Potter. So the next time you rattle on about it being “unrealistic”, try putting yourself in their shoes. It’s a real-world applicable relationship that developed and grew over time. It’s, in my opinion, the most realistic relationship in the books. So maybe it’s time to stop relying on skewed flashbacks and start filling in the blanks.