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Chapter 2 : The One with the New Code
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For HarryPotterWeirdo. Falcon Cat is a LEGEND.
The stadium of the Tutshill Tornados was one of my favorite places in Europe. In the world. In the Universe. The League Cup had been lifted in the stadium dozens of times. The pitch was original to its founding in the 1500s, though there were upgrades to the grass and the stadium surrounding it. The foundations of the stands were a century old now and through the corridors behind the seating viewers could see countless images of the Tornados’ past, present, and future.
It was a stadium that took my breath away before I could so much as think. One of the biggest in the British / Irish League. Splattered with shades of blue and gray and the green of the pitch.
It was unreal.
But when I took my first steps out of the locker room before my preliminary practice with the Tutshill Tornados, well, it became real.
I stopped at the edge of the grass, blinking. The sun was high, reflecting off the stands to the east. Jackson Ballo was the only one sitting in the lower box. He had a clipboard and a scowl. A pile of spare brooms were scattered at the foot of the box.
Otherwise, the stadium was empty. No cameras. No reporters. No girls with glittery signs.
Henrik Lindt slapped my back with his bare palm. “Let’s see if you were a fluke, eh, Potter?” He chuckled and moved past me. I’d spoken with Henrik a few times since I’d been signed. He was there the day I completed my paperwork and sat beside me at the public announcement. I was used to the limelight – having the father I did helped with that – but the camera flashes that day were enough to nearly empty my stomach.
Henrik leaned over during the press conference and smirked. “Enjoy it, Potter,” he had said. “Nothing lasts forever.”
The rest of the team filed out behind them. I knew of them, of course. I’d been following the Tornados since before I knew what an actual Tornado was. But meeting them was petrifying. I shook their hands at the press conference, my own embarrassingly sweaty, and tried to stop stammering my admiration.
Tough, skilled Quidditch players didn’t blather on about that.
Besides, Bink gave me shit for being a push-over.
Smoke and Monroe were the Beaters for the Tornados. The two had been on the team since I was born. They were legends. They were ruthless with their bats, showing little mercy even off the pitch. They mostly grunted for communication, though a picture or two showed up in Quidditch Weekly every year of Monroe smiling. He had a waxy sort of face with thick lines and wiry hair. Smoke was bulky with very little hair and skin that made it look like he vacationed in Aruba year round. I tried for years to figure out the nickname, but had no luck. As far as I knew, his parents named him Smoke as a twisted joke.
I was jealous.
Now that was a name!
Jack Barnes was our Seeker. His rookie year was my fourth year at Hogwarts. He was good. Had to be to play at that level, but he was impressive good. In a strange way, he reminded me of Meta. He was able to sort of sneak up on the Snitch. Unlike Meta, however, Jack was a good bloke. He wasn’t the lady killer most Quidditch players were (Smoke and Monroe). He was married with a little girl. He brought her around when I was getting my gear and she looked just like Jack, but if he had bouncy piggy tails. I hadn’t met his wife yet, but he mentioned she worked as a Healer.
Who I was most interested to play alongside, however, were the Torandos’ Chasers.
Alex Winters retired at the end of last season, unexpectedly, to head home and spend more time with his kids. Henrik told me in a hushed voice that Ballo had all but decided to promote one of the reserves to starter before he’d seen me. The paperwork was already filled out and tucked into a manilla folder on the coach’s desk. Then I walked into the picture.
Alyssa Mills draped an arm around my shoulder and bumped me with her hip. “Ready for the big leagues?” she said with a grin. She was one of the other Chasers, the youngest other than me. She’d been a reserve for a few years on the Finches after graduating from the academy in America and then shipped over when she was twenty-three to play for the Tornados. No one called her Alyssa and I had forgotten her name was Alyssa until I saw her formal paperwork on Ballo’s desk. She went by Ali or AliCat to the team, execs, and fandom, and she was well enough liked that no one forgot it. I did hear Ballo call her a Yankee once or twice.
“Do I have to answer?” I smiled a little, taking a few steps forward onto the pitch. Ali steadied me. “No. No is definitely the answer.”
Monroe and Smoke were already in the area, passing a Bludger back and forth between them. Jack was kicking around a few brooms, looking disgruntled. He was picky about his brooms, I had learned.
That was when I was hit on the back of the head with a Quaffle.
“Really?” I said, rubbing my neck. I had to remind myself I wasn’t captain and couldn’t give people laps for throwing Quaffles at me.
I was just a rookie now.
Talk about steps forward and backward.
“Nice block,” said Artemis, coming up behind us and spinning the Quaffle on the end of her finger. Artemis York was a veteran. She had dark skin and dark hair and was shorter than me by a foot, but she was one of the league’s most powerful Chasers. She knew her shit. I had a poster in my room featuring her for four years. Maybe five. I might have had a tiny crush on her.
By tiny, I meant large.
Unfortunately, the press was already buzzing about how I screwed up the ‘A Line’ and ‘A Game’ the previous Chasers had going with Alex.
Because my name didn’t start with an A.
Look here, press. I was a Potter. They should change their names for me.
Albeit, the A Line sounds a lot better than the P Line.
I’d have to owl Albus about this.
“Clearly my head has been mistaken for a shin pad,” I grumbled, still rubbing my neck. It was pounding. “Thanks, Arty.”
She threw the Quaffle at me again, but I ducked and it hit Ali on the side of the face.
Clearly someone wasn’t fond of nicknames.
Ballo rounded us up and examined the group dynamic (he shot Ali a look because she was elbowing me). “All right,” he said in his rough voice. It practically spit cigars. “We’re going to run a typical afternoon practice and see how Mr. Potter fits in. We’ll follow our normal drills. Jack, let out the Snitch whenever you want.” I noticed Ballo referred to some people by their first names and some people by their last. What the hell.
Everyone grabbed their brooms. Monroe was hovering, toes skimming the grass.
Ballo stuffed a whistle between his lips. “Oh, and Tutshill?”
We looked on.
“Don’t go easy on him.”
When I’d taken my tour of the locker rooms, I noticed seats in the showers. Scoffing, I wondered why they were there. Why would Quidditch players need seats in the showers?
For days like this.
I pulled off my clothes, turned the water on way too hot, and sat down in the shower. I leaned against the wall, letting the water and steam pour over me.
This wasn’t like a Gryffindor practice or even a game. I felt like I’d been run over several times by Muggle vehicles then forced to run a 15k and then once I reached the finish I had to cook omelettes to feed Ireland. Even my mind was exhausted, as I spent ten minutes just examining a stray hair on the shower wall, trying to decide if it was mine or not.
“You make it through practice, Potter?” Lindt flipped on the shower in the stall beside mine.
“I’ll let you know,” I grumbled. It hurt to talk.
“Sounds like Gryffindor left you a little ill-prepared,” he said with a chuckle.
“What makes you say that?” I asked. “I’m pretty sure marathon-training would have left me ill-prepared for what I just experienced.”
Constant Quaffle-handling, running exercises, carrying the equipment trunks across the pitch, balancing exercises, and barrel-roll practices.
“Ballo thinks you can handle it once you get used to it,” Henrik commented. “It’ll take a while. And a lot of ice baths.”
“Splendid,” I groaned, arching my back against the water. “You go to Hogwarts?”
“Years ago,” he said. I wondered why I didn’t read about that in his biography.
“Gryffindor?” I hoped.
“Hufflepuff,” he said. I thought of Darian Bay. Then I wondered what the hell happened to Darian Bay. Hopefully he was left to attempt sock-selling in London. But then I felt bad because Bink was currently employed as a bum on my sofa. “Surprised?” he added.
“Can’t say I’m not.” Hufflepuff was such a strange house. Okay, it wasn’t strange. They were Puffers, though! They rarely contributed to the Quidditch world. But rarely didn’t mean never.
“I’d like to go back and fly around on that pitch again,” he said with another laugh. “When I was at school, I captained Hufflepuff to a Quidditch Cup.”
“Hufflepuff has won the Quidditch Cup?” I said, dumbfounded.
“How do you think I knew how to get the League Cup for the Tornados?” Henrik’s water switched off. “Good luck recovering, Potter. We have a team meeting in twenty minutes.”
“Say what?” I said, head falling back onto the tile siding.
“Welcome to the Tornados.” He was laughing even harder as he left.
Son of a bitch.
The Tornados’ team meetings were not in the kitchens. Oh, no. Their younger brothers weren’t out patrolling the halls looking for lurking Slytherins. The team had their team meetings on the west side of the stadium in a room of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the sunset.
I swallowed hard and was barely able to select a seat at the conference table. The chairs were leathery and warm.
Henrik sat at the head of the table, his hair still wet from the shower. Monroe and Smoke flanked him, both distracted by magazines with half-naked women straddling motorcycles on the pages. Jack was beside me, a sheet of paper and quill before him. He looked like he was about to take notes.
Was I supposed to take notes?
Godric. Just what I needed. Not taking notes at my first meeting.
Ballo wasn’t there, though. How important could it be?
Ali slid down to my left and whispered, “How’s your body, Potter?”
“In tact,” I replied with a grimace because it was a flat-out lie. “How do you do that multiple times a week?”
“Stamina?” She shrugged. Her accent amused me.
Once Artemis fell into place across the table, Henrik cleared his throat.
“Ballo gave me the go-ahead,” he said. He looked important and regal in front of a crowd, worthy of his nickname. I momentarily resisted the urge to ask for an autograph. “Apparently Potter fit in well enough with our team and he’s going to stay.”
I wasn’t aware there was a chance I wasn’t going to stay.
Ali slapped me on the back and I all but crumbled.
“Potter, welcome to the Tutshill Tornados,” Henrik said and everyone clapped. “We’re a club filled with prestige, talent, and Cups.” That was my favorite part. The Cups. “We plan on continuing our streak of greatness in the League, which means nothing you do better fuck it up.”
“There are some set rules the members of this team follow.”
This was starting to sound familiar.
“A Code, if you will.”
No. No. No. No.
There was absolutely no way.
Henrik cleared his throat again, perhaps sensing my absolute terror at the idea of following another Quidditch Code. My mind went back to having my ribs broken in the Gryffindor common room.
“Do not, under any circumstances, end up in a gossip magazine for something negative,” Henrik said in his booming, authoritative voice.
With Clara on my arse I wasn’t sure how I’d avoid that one.
“Do not represent the team in a poor light,” he said. “That means do not make a mess of yourself in public or use vulgar language.”
“On the night before a game, your curfew is seven,” Henrik said, eyeing Monroe for a minute before looking back at me. “That is strictly enforced. The last thing we need is a tired player on the pitch. That’s how injuries happen, Potter.”
I should have used that one. Maybe that would have reeled Meta in.
“The only exception to that is the tournament in a few weeks,” he added. Henrik adjusted his position in the chair and a few of the others laughed. I’d have to look up this tournament and find out why we were allowed out late.
That wasn’t so bad. We had a couple of those rules in Gryffindor. I’d have to work on the representing the team part, but they were manageable.
“Lastly,” added Henrik, his face turning serious. “That leaves the most important rule.”
I blinked, heart rate picking up just a touch. Like before I kicked off on the pitch. Ali snickered.
“You are not to date a member of an opposing team,” he concluded. “This means the actual team, the reserve squad, and their first farm team.” He was staring right at me. “No exceptions.”
I knew I would be paid back for the Code one day.
“Yessir,” I stammered and the rest of the team laughed.
I couldn’t date anyone from an opposing team.
That was a LOT of people.
The League I was in. Plus the rest of the world. Not that I was going to go hang out with the bloody Finches, but I couldn’t date them. I wondered momentarily if I could date my own team, but decided that was silly, as the only person my age was Ali.
And she was American.
“Brilliant.” Henrik moved to the white board and started scribbling our practice schedule. Jack was copying it down. “Oh. And we have a three strikes system.”
“Three strikes and you’re a reserve for a game,” said Artemis. Her expression told me clearly she had been a reserve for at least one game.
My mind wandered to Avery.
What if she got the reserve position for the Harpies?
This wasn’t just breaking the Gryffindor Code and having people furious with me. And breaking ribs. No, this was real life. I’d be banned from a match.
I’d have to sit on the bench.
James Potter did not sit on the bench.
I’d kick it over. Unruly fucking bench.
See if it ever looked at me again.
What was I going to do about Avery?
Not that I wanted to date her.
Except that I did.
“You okay?” Ali elbowed me.
“Still sore,” I whispered, shaking my head and concentrating on the board. So many practices. So many sore bones.
This was the big leagues, though. No more Gryffindor locker rooms.
This was the real deal.
And I was its starting Chaser.
I slept in the next morning, thankfully, and woke to Falcon Cat on my chest. Avery had left her to stay with us since Mrs. Flynn was renovating the flat. Falcon Cat was purring and kneading at my shirt. I groaned, rolling over.
There were voices coming from somewhere.
Did I miss practice?
I checked the schedule on the wall. Nope. Just assholes ruining my life.
The sun was streaming in through the break in the curtains. Make it stop.
“Tory?” I said, voice hoarse. Everything ached. Falcon Cat trotted along the side of the bed and hopped down. She rubbed against the door.
Victoria crawled to the cage door and allowed me to pick her up and pull her into bed. I didn’t want to get up. Or move. Or speak.
Unfortunately, Tory went flying onto my pillow when someone banged on the door.
“Die,” I grumbled.
“Are you coming?” Freddie poked his head inside and then grinned, scooping up Falcon Cat. “They’ve got the tent set up.”
“What tent? Why is there a tent?” I grabbed Tory and snuggled her close to my chest again.
“The Weasleys are celebrating properly today.” He hoisted Falcon Cat onto his shoulder, where she sat, content. “Also, they won’t let me touch the cupcakes until you get out there.”
“Who’s there?” I wondered if I could have Tory balance like that on my shoulder. She would probably eat my shirt.
“The whole family,” Fred said, nose wrinkling. “Uncles. Aunts. Cousins, annoying and non.” He shrugged a little. “Bink’s down there avoiding Rose. Avery helped with the cupcakes.”
“Avery’s here?” I tried not to look too shocked.
Fred rubbed the back of his neck because Falcon Cat was swatting at it with her tail. “Should she not be? Pretty sure she does more family stuff with our clan than you do.” That was true. “Amy’s on her way.”
“How is your little dewdrop?”
Fred flipped me off. “She’s doing well. They already have summer reading for school, so she’s been taking care of that.” He patted Falcon Cat on the head. “Get dressed and get downstairs. I want a fucking cupcake.”
“You are a cupcake,” I grumbled as he left.
Victoria wobbled onto my stomach, humming delicately.
“Avery’s downstairs,” I said, trying to shrug but the pillow was in my way.
“Just being all...Avery.” I swallowed hard. Why was this so difficult? I’d made myself a promise. We had to be best friends again before we could take any steps.
But weren’t we? Hadn’t we been back there?
Certainly no one else held the title.
She asked if we were seeing other people. Hmm. Were we? I wasn’t seeing anyone. Then again, I was a little busy getting my arse kicked almost daily by drills and broom exercises. Very little time in there to date.
And someone asked her out for drinks!
She could go for drinks with anyone she wanted.
Of course not.
I would hex the hell out of them. Wesley Jordan style.
I groaned. “Why the hell is there a Code?” I said, rolling onto my stomach and burying my head in the pillow. Victoria scampered to the edge of the bed. “Why?”
“FUCKING.” I wheeled around, blankets flying, and spotted Avery. She was in the doorway looking gorgeous in a summery purple dress and her hair pulled back. I grabbed the sheet and tugged it to my chest. “What’re you doing in here?”
“Clearly invading your privacy.” She smirked.
“Freddie was just in to wake me.”
“He said you didn’t get up.”
I hated Freddie.
I pulled the sheet the rest of the way to my neck. “I’m fine,” I said. “I’ll be down shortly.” My face was on fire. I glanced to the floor since looking at her made everything warm. That was the last thing I wanted. Warmth.
Godric. I couldn’t do this.
“Is everything okay?”
I cleared my throat, very aware of how hot my ears were. “Is it ever?”
“Not now.” I shook my head and leaned over, spying a crowd of ginger and freckles by a white tent out back. “We can talk about it later. Right now I have to go smile and pretend I don’t feel like I want to soak in a hot bath all day.”
“Did you want me to draw you a bath later?”
Yes, Avery, provide me with the image of you drawing me a bath.
I coughed a little. “You know, I’m up.” I dropped Tory back into her cage and leapt to my feet. I tugged on jeans, aware of her eyes on me, and smelled a polo before pulling it on. “Look. I’m dressed.”
Avery laughed. “C’mon, Tutshill Tornado. Let’s go brag to everyone how good you are.” She hooked her arm around mine. “Unless you’d rather stay.” She was smirking in that devilish, sly way she knew I couldn’t resist. I was moderately certain Avery Flynn was seducing me.
And very certain it was working.
“CUPCAKES!” I cried and ran from the flat.
When Freddie said everyone was there, he wasn’t exaggerating. Relatives I hadn’t talked to in ages were there. Cousins who annoyed me on a regular basis were there. Bink was charming my Aunt Fleur (or was it the other way around? Either way Victoire was busy cooking up death plots) and Rose was sulking with Albus by the cupcakes.
I grabbed one, stuffing it in my face so the sprinkles fell on my shirt.
“Uncomfortable yet?” Albus glanced over his shoulder and then back to me. “Or are you used to all this attention by now?”
“If only I was a Prefect,” I said dryly. “Then I would be used to being the center of attention.”
“Nope. Just the Quidditch captain.” Al rolled his eyes. “What’re you doing over here anyway? Grandmum is inside finishing up the cake.”
“But there are cupcakes.”
“Not at all,” I said. I looked at Rose. “Don’t you have friends?”
“I will tell Avery about your sleep-talking the other night,” she shot back, barely opening her mouth.
I hesitated. What had I spoken about?
“Why were you in my flat?”
“Bink wanted to talk.”
“About sodding Quidditch, James,” Rose snapped. “Now shut up.”
“Are you two back together?”
“We were never together.”
I sighed. “You’re tiring.”
“How’s Paloma?” I turned to Albus.
“Fine.” He looked disinterested.
“Did you sleep with her yet?”
There was the blush I was so used to. “I did not,” he said, narrowing his eyes. “Not that it is any of your business.”
“Al’s shy.” Rose ruffled his hair and suddenly I got the image of her and Bink hooking up. I wanted to vomit. Gross. Cousin-best mate snogging sex stuff. Gross.
Albus shrugged off her hand. He had decided to spend his summer engrossed in studying as a last-minute ditch attempt to be named Head Boy. Rose, I had heard, was doing quite the opposite. She was attempting to get him out of the house and down to the pub.
What was Bink doing to this girl?
I had promised everyone I would stay out of it. No Code.
But she was my cousin! And he was my best mate! And both of them were out of their minds.
“Jamesey!” If I didn’t recognize the voice, I would have considered it weird Nia showed up at the party. It was Grandmum, though. She could get away with calling me Turtle Dove. She threw her arms around me, wiggled, and then kissed me full on the lips.
“Hi, Grandmum,” I muttered, blushing because Rose and Albus were laughing.
“Look at my famous little Quidditch player.” She was pinching my cheeks.
Grandmum looked good for her age. Her once-ginger hair was now mostly salt and pepper and she looked thinner than she had years ago, but she was healthy. Mum told me not to brag too much about my new job because Grandmum had already occupied every conversation she was a part of with the information.
I tried not to rub my cheeks after she pinched them, but it hurt.
“How was your first practice, dear?”
“Painful,” I admitted.
“You’ll get used to it. Your mother told me how hellish things were for her. I have all of her letters.”
I’d seen quite a few of them.
She ruffled my hair. “Have you had some sweets, dear? Make sure you get them before Louis gets to them. You know how he dotes on you.” That was a good point. Louis was my biggest fan in the family. He wanted to be just like me.
Nevermind he couldn’t balance on a broom to save his life.
Grandmum leaned close to me so Rose and Albus couldn’t hear. “How are things, James?”
“Erm,” I said, pondering. “Things are … okay.”
“How are things with Avery?”
“How do you know about Avery?” I said, a little louder than I would have liked. Luckily, my brother and cousin pretended not to have noticed and continued their conversation about the quality of cupcake sprinkles.
“Honey, everyone knows about Avery.” I realized that my nose-scrunching came directly from her. Grandmum sighed. “She seems to be around quite a bit from what your parents told me.”
Now she was drilling my parents about my love life. Bollocks.
“We’re friends,” I said.
“Just friends,” I replied, thinking of Henrik in the chair at the end of the conference table. That was the way it had to be anyway, regardless of the way my mind circled back to snogging her in broom cupboards last term.
Grandmum was about to reply, but smiled at someone over my shoulder. “James, have a good time. The cake will be out as soon as Audrey is done frosting it. Why don’t you mingle, hmm?”
That was what they suggested I do after the press conference. Instead, I suggested a private tour of the locker rooms. Luckily, they agreed and were excited to show me all of the things Gryffindor did not have.
I wasn’t the best at mingling when I held no authority.
“Just friends?” Albus asked when Grandmum had filed away to greet some of her old bridge friends. “Are you really going to do this again?”
I shrugged. “I don’t have a choice.”
“You graduated, James!” Albus hissed. “Stop torturing yourself.”
I thought about the bench on the side of the Tornados’ stadium. Nope. That was a place I would never sit.
“I’m busy,” I said, spotting Fred and Amy at one of the tables across the tent. “I have to antagonize the Mr. and Mrs.” I shrugged off his other questions and maneuvered through the chairs all the while being congratulated on my accomplishments.
Before I reached them (they were laughing, not snogging, which I was still impressed with), my wrist was snatched by my talented mother and I was tugged onto the small, makeshift dance floor. She spun me around, smirking, and pulled me against her.
“My son, all grown up.” Mum was wearing her hair up, but loose around her face. Some of it was falling away from the clip. It was as red as ever, just like Lily’s, and she was in a pretty blue dress and shoes. To match the Tornados, I assumed.
“Don’t make fun.” I squeezed her hip. “I didn’t know you were putting this together.”
“It was your father.” She glanced over her shoulder, but didn’t spot Dad. “He wanted to have some big sha-bang to congratulate you.”
I stared. The tent. The food. The family members I fought to remember. Everything was Dad’s idea? Seemed farfetched. Even Professor Longbottom was there discussing what I assumed to be Quidditch with Lily by the salad.
“Are you sure?”
“Certain.” Mum laughed and allowed me to spin her. “You should probably say thank you.”
“Hey, Mum?” I pressed my lips together, considering this.
She looked up. I was glad I had her eyes.
“What would you have done had I not gotten it?”
“Thrown the party anyway.” She smiled.
“Good.” I pulled her into a hug. It was strange, being taller than her now when I had spent so many years looking up to my mother. “Is there really a cake?”
“Can’t celebrate properly without a cake.”
I thought about Fred with the vodka.
“Yes,” Mum said dully, “someone has already spiked the punch.”
“Wonderful,” I said. I paused. “I mean, how horrible. Why would someone do that at a mid-afternoon celebration?”
“Because they’re related to you,” she muttered. Mum kissed me on the cheek. “Go have fun. Talk to a few people, will you?”
“With words?” I asked. She knew how I felt about the relatives.
“Do your best.”
Mum knew quite well I favored certain members of the family over others. I couldn’t help it. The most Dominique knew about Quidditch was that it was played on a pitch and I was fairly certain Louis whispered that answer to her. We had very little in common. So I had very little reason to care. All the same, I nodded to Mum.
“I’ll give it a go,” I said, smiling, and ignoring all of that to go join Amy and Fred. Amy was blushing. “What’s happening here?”
“Absolutely nothing,” Freddie said, shaking his head. “Just discussing things.”
“What kind of things?” I took the seat beside Amy. “She’s a radish. What’ve you told her?”
Amy rubbed her cheeks, but it only made it worse. “Your cousin is devilish.”
“Ew,” I said. “It has to do with sex. Are you two shagging now?”
Redder and redder.
“No!” she squeaked. Fred didn’t seem pleased. “He’s just saying how we should go play hide and seek. Without the seeking.” She turned away, biting her bottom lip.
“Easy there,” I said, kicking Fred. “Enjoy the party before you go feeling up your girlfriend.”
“Can you blame me? One of us should do it.” Fred smirked at me.
Bench. Tornados bench.
“By all means.” I patted Amy on the shoulder. “You let me know if he gets too handsy. Grandmum will have a word with him.” Fred tried to kick me, but missed since I stood. I shot him a cocky wave and made my way back to the cupcakes.
Thank Godric for cupcakes.
I leaned against the table, taking a moment to survey my surroundings. Bink was sulking at a table (Aunt Fleur turned him down?), Rose and Albus were tearing up the dance floor with Molly, Louis, and Roxanne, Fred and Amy had vanished, Grandmum was lecturing Lily about the crumbs on her shirt, and Uncle George was standing on a chair giving a very good impression of the Minister. He’d just been appointed a few weeks ago and was a tall man with a booming voice that made anyone deaf just listening to a speech.
“Enjoying yourself?” Dad moved around the table, standing beside me. His gaze was focused on the dance floor.
“Doing my best,” I replied. “Still achey from yesterday.”
“The hardest,” I grumbled.
“I bet it’s worth it.”
I nodded. That wasn’t even a question. I’d know just how worth it when I played my first game. Hell, my first exhibition game. When I saw the crowd.
“How’re the boys?” Dad helped himself to a cupcake.
“Bums,” I said honestly. I looked over and Dad reminded me of someone older. Someone wise beyond his years. He had lines under his eyes and looked tired. “Thanks for doing this.”
“Your mum did a lot of it,” he said, his ears reddening.
“Yeah, okay. Except I know you did. So say you’re welcome and we’ll call it a deal.” He joined me laughing and handed me a cupcake. “You didn’t have to.”
“Doesn’t mean I didn’t want to,” Dad replied. “I’m proud of you, James. I just wish I’d seen it sooner.”
“If I wasn’t such a jerk maybe you would have,” I grumbled, taking a bite. Yum. Chocolate. I felt awkward in my own skin. Father-son time wasn’t exactly my forte.
A cool breeze moved my hair.
“Call it even?” Dad said, putting an arm over my shoulders and squeezing as he finished off his cupcake. “Avery told me her tryout was rescheduled again for this evening.”
My nose wrinkled. Just like Grandmum’s. “I was thinking about sneaking in to see it.”
“Yes, it does.”
“I’ll save you some cake.” Dad ruffled my hair, smiled, and moved toward Mum, who had just walked out the back door. He grabbed her hand, spun her, and pulled her onto the dance floor.
It was gross.
A/N: Happy Holidays to everyone! Whatever doesn't offend you!
I wanted to get something up quickly before I MOVE ACROSS THE COUNTRY. So I may be MIA for a bit. But I'll return with lots and lots of fanfiction! Of course.
Thank you all again for reading. I am thankful for all of you.
And I am thankful for James. And his need to kick unruly benches.
Thoughts on what's going to happen next? (Other than what I'm about to post)
UP NEXT: Avery tries out for the Harpies. James and Co. make a trip. And steal something that belongs to a familiar face.
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