Yes, yes, so vile. He only…ya know….
-Became friends with Sirius, a boy who had been emotionally abused for much of his life
-Gave Sirius a place to live after he ran away from home
-Because friends with Remus and Peter, despite them both being ‘outsiders’
-Trained extensively out of class for years in order to become an animagus, so that Remus’s full moons would suck less.
-Financially supported Remus after school
-Saved Snape’s life
- Joined the Order after school in order to try and protect people
-Literally died trying to protect his wife and child
Did James do some pretty terrible things when he was 15? Yes. Yes he did. So did Snape. So did Sirius. So did Dumbledore. So did, well, a LOT of people in HP. But James in a character who literally EVERYONE in the book, save for Snape, deeply admired and cared for. We know that James pulled himself together and tried to be an admirable person, mostly for Lily. And we know that he SUCCEEDED in that venture.
Come on now. Let’s try to imagine these characters complexly. Not just as over the top, inaccurate, caricatures.
How many characters do we know in the books that had some truly ‘wtf’ moments and enormous flaws? ALL OF THEM.
Dumbledore wasn’t the same person he was at 15, when he was bent on ruling over Muggles and was possibly the person who slayed his own sister in the middle of a cross-fire; the same guy that neglected his mentally/magically unstable sister while his younger brother was the only person to care for her after their mother died. Do we hold that over his head the entire series? NO.
Then why do we do that for James? We know literally everyone who met James loved and admired him (save Snape), and there is proof in all of the books that he was an upstanding character, he literally went out with a fucking bang, thats how great his legacy was. Two seconds in one scene with his worst nemesis doesn’t define a character. The fact that him and Snape fought and treated each other like shit doesn’t mean that James wasn’t wonderful to everyone else, because he goddamn was. There is canonical evidence in all seven books, don’t get me started.
Now imagine this:
In the far future, Harry and Ginny die tragically, and their children are brought up by people who didn’t know them at all. Later, James or Albus or Lily meet Draco Malfoy, and accidentally fall into one of his memories. What was that memory? Harry slashing Draco into ribbons using Sectumsempra. James/Albus/Lily, who had previously thought Harry was a noble guy, have that image of him dramatically shattered based on that single memory, without having any back story or anyone to tell them Harry was this awesome guy. All they saw was this asshole who cut up a crying boy in the bathroom.
Obviously, we know the entire history of their rivalry, and don’t see it that way, but that’s how it looked from those two seconds in the pensieve. That’s why we can’t judge James’ character based on that memory, because we know all the great things he did and know what a great guy he was to everyone who knew him. The end.