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Breaking the Quidditch Code by Mistress

Format: Novel
Chapters: 54
Word Count: 287,471

Rating: Mature
Warnings: Contains profanity, Strong violence, Scenes of a sexual nature, Substance abuse, Sensitive topic/issue/theme

Genres: Fluff, Humor, Romance
Characters: Albus, Hugo, James (II), Lily (II), Rose, Scorpius, OC
Pairings: Other Pairing

First Published: 02/12/2009
Last Chapter: 04/16/2013
Last Updated: 04/16/2013

2013 DOBBY WINNER - Best Villain *Winner - Kecker Awards - Best Couple
I’m James Sirius Potter. Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. I have girls. I have best mates. I have bad grades (the kitten was fine!). I have a legend. I also have teammates who break the Code, a Seeker trying to overthrow me, a Head Boy sticking his big nose into my business, and Avery. The only girl I’d break the rules for.

Chapter 1: To the Hospital Wing (already)
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Being captain of a Quidditch team was quite the endeavor. In fact, it took skill beyond learning wonky wand movements in Charms and turning a kitten into a teacup and then accidentally stepping on it in Transfiguration. I knew this because I, James Sirius Potter, was the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team for my seventh year.

And it was now the most important thing in my life. Not silly things like putting the right amount of scales into a sleeping drought or getting the last biscuit at dinner—it was all about Quidditch.

I sat on the front steps of Hogwarts pondering this on a particularly sunny Saturday a few weeks into term—so sunny in fact that I had to squint to see the edge of the Forbidden Forest. I was to have try-outs that day.

My first try outs as Captain.

It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been Captain-material before my seventh year. I was pretty sure Captain-material came my fourth year when Dara Wood started up-chucking before the Final and I had to step in and give the best speech of my life. It was a speech filled with emotion, of self-esteem-building expressions casting the glow of leadership upon my fellow teammates.

It was also a plus that we won the Final by three hundred points, something basically unheard of since the ‘rents went to school here.

But the Captain in question, Dara Wood, was the solid reason I had not been named Captain until my seventh year. She just hogged the crap out of it. And she knew I wanted it. She tried to keep me away from it as long as possible—I thought she might even fail a year just to be Captain again so I couldn’t have it.

Let’s just say Dara and I never particularly saw eye-to-eye.

I thought her dives were a little suspect and her Beater bat might have been outside the lines of regulation, and Dara thought I was an arrogant sod that should keep my thoughts to myself.

But she was gone anyway.

It was all mine. My rules. My regulations. My team. What was best for my team was how I lived my life, even if it meant showing up to Care of Magical Creatures late and having Professor Hagrid give me another one of those I-knew-your-dad-so-I’m-going-to-let-you-get-away-with-it-but-you’re-a-twit-for-showing-up-late looks.

“James, what’re you doing? Didn’t you just tell me you were going to finish up your Charms essay?”

My head snapped up and the sun blinded me a bit. I finally realized it was Avery when she plopped down beside me and threw her bag onto my lap.

“I did…well, I thought about it.” I smiled sideways at her and adjusted my eyes to the ground.

Avery Flynn had been my best friend since our first year at Hogwarts. Since I was the first in my strangely large extended family to go to Hogwarts (okay, except Teddy but he was not exactly related and Victoire was a twit so I didn’t count her), I had to make friends the old-fashioned way. Well, I had Fred too, but he didn’t count either because we didn’t get along for our first year since I got better grades in Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts.

Avery and I met on the boats the First Years were forced into riding across the lake. She was in my boat and she was giving me cheek about my hair not staying flat so I shoved her in the lake.

Then she climbed back in (with the help of Professor Hagrid, who gave me another one of those looks) and poked me in the eyeball.

And so from that a wonderful friendship blossomed.

“Are you out here planning try-out drills?” She shoved me. “I swear if you make me fly through the hoops any more different ways I’m going to hex you into next week.”

“Just a couple different ways,” I muttered and she punched me. “Okay, only two.”

Another punch.

“Just one! Just one!” I chuckled lightly and stared at Avery.

Today she let her dark hair fall around her face and I admired the way it just sort of sat there without her needing to put a charm on it like Meta did. She already had her Quidditch robes on, seemingly waiting for me to announce we would go down to try-outs early.

“So are we going? Do you have to measure the length of the grass or count the twigs sticking out of the new brooms?”

I rolled my eyes. “I’m not that obsessed of a captain, Avery.” I even said it with a straight face.

“Right. Because you didn’t buy four books on it, lecture your brother on the importance of leadership, tell your sister Quidditch is about being in charge, map out the training schedule in July, and steal the last helping of green beans from the past four dinners, justifying it by saying that Captains need their strength more than minions do.”

I made a face. “Did not.” I paused. “Do all of that.”

“Yes, you did.” Avery helped me to my feet and led the way toward the Quidditch pitch. “You did every single one of those things and maybe even a bit more. If I wasn’t there to stop you, you would have given poor Lily the history of Quidditch Captains dating back to when the game was founded.”

“She needs to know if she’s going to be a Captain one day!”

“How is she going to be a Captain if you won’t even let her play Quidditch!”

“She’s too young!”

She shoved me into a bush. “She’s thirteen, James. You were on the team when you were twelve. You won’t even let her on the pitch.”

I frowned, hoisting myself out of the bush and wiping needles off of my robes. “That’s beside the point.”

“Maybe if you used those stupid brains toward something constructive rather than making sure no boys go near your baby sister or that she doesn’t make it on a broom until she’s seventeen then maybe the teachers would like you better.”

“They should like me just fine—I’ve got wonderful grades.”

“You stepped on your kitten.”

“It jumped out of my hands!”

“It was a teacup, James.”

“I fixed it up just fine, thank you!” I said defensively and pulled open the doors to get to the main part of the pitch.

Avery rolled her eyes and reached down to touch the grass. “Don’t think for a second I didn’t see it going cross-eyed. By the way, the grass is damp today, Captain.” She grinned.

“That’s right. Call me Captain. Captain Potter would probably be best.”

I could see the distaste on her face. I knew there was no way I could get her to call me Captain Potter, but if I wasn’t careful she’d start calling me something catchy like “Bumblebee” or “Princess”. That was the first thing my new Beater candidates needed—one of their teammates disrespecting their Captain.

But Avery would do it so I just shut up.

“Potter! Oy, Potter!”

I turned around and smiled warmly. The other two pieces of my masculine trio had arrived in their scarlet robes and were waving their arms stupidly in my direction. It was Bink Legace and Fred Weasley, both Seventh years, both my roommates, both the other two Chasers on the team. Uncle George said Fred would be a Beater for sure, but we had him try out and he ended up knocking himself in the head with the bat back in our second year so the Captain decided it would be a safe option to have him be a Chaser instead.

Uncle George was furious, but Aunt Angelina was rather pleased.

I felt like Fred looked the weirdest out of all of my Weasley cousins with his dark skin and hair, but the hair was the same texture as the rest of the trademark red hair, so the ladies used any excuse they could to play with it while he studied. It was sickening.

My hair was much softer.

Bink, however, was quite the opposite of the tall-dark-and-handsome look Fred and I had going. Though he was as tall as the pair of us, his hair was a bright blond and he had horribly pale skin that burned when we had practice too long. I had already made a note of that in my planning book.

We were The Chasers. Or the Trio. Or something else that involved three wizards that were best friends.

Of course I would never tell them that Avery was my best, best friend and I couldn’t exactly ask their advice about dating Nia Baker or Elizabeth Willis. Fred would tell me that Nia undresses people with her eyes so I should take her to Hogsmeade, but Bink would tell me to go for Elizabeth because she knew about Quidditch since her dad played professionally.

Avery, on the other hand, would slap me for considering either.

That was why she was my best friend. But I’d never tell Bink or Fred that.

“Why are you two down so early?” I asked, pulling open the doors to the locker room.

“Wanted to help our new Captain set up for try-outs,” said Bink, smoothing his light hair away from his face. “So what do you want us to do, Captain Potter?”

“I like the way that sounds,” I said with a grin. “I just need you to set up the benches outside and get bats ready for all of the crazy sods trying out for this team.”

Fred did a salute. “Will do!” He pushed past me and with Bink at his heels he left to do my bidding.

I could get used to that.

“Look at you with your minions,” Avery said with a sarcastically pompous grin. “Am I going to have to start bowing or would saving the Quaffles thrown by the other team do?”

“I’ll stick with saving the Quaffles, but don’t test me.” I grabbed the clipboard off of my bench and checked my watch. “Did Meta say when she was coming down?”

Avery shrugged. “I hope never.”

“She’s a great Seeker, you know.”

“I wish I didn’t.”

“You’re just stubborn.” I folded my arms and checked off a few of the names on my list.

“I’m not stubborn, James! You’ll see, she drives me mad! She’s been on this team nearly as long as we have and there isn’t a single practice where I don’t want to throttle her. I know you do too but you’re just trying to be all noble because of your Captaincy—”

“Okay, when the day comes that I really want to throttle her, you can give me the obligatory I told you so.” I snapped the clipboard against her arm and got a punch back. “But until then I’m the Captain so I want to know when Meta is going to get her rear end down on the pitch so we can do try-outs for the Beaters.”

“She said she’d be down in a few minutes,” said Avery darkly. “Though with her that probably means as soon as she finishes her work-of-art eyeliner that makes her look like a hooker…meaning an hour.”

“Are you done?” I asked, smacking her with the clipboard again. I moved quickly out the door so I didn’t get yet another bruise.

A crowd was starting to form around Fred and Bink, which made knots appear in my stomach for the first time since I became Captain. When I got the letter over the summer I ran into the bathroom across the hall and, as dignified as possible, threw up.

I could see some familiar faces among the Gryffindors—some that I knew really stood a chance and some that might have come out just to see what it was like to try-out for a Quidditch team since ours had been intact for so many years. I knew right away that Nia Baker was only there to undress me with her absurdly bright blue eyes, but I was strangely all right with that.

She winked.

I tried to ignore it.

She winked again and made an inappropriate gesture with her broom.


Luckily, Meta poked me with the end of her broom and popped her gum at me. “How long is this going to take, Potter? Not as long as Dana’s I hope.”

Meta McLaggen was the black sheep of our team. Though I tried to tell Avery that she wasn’t that bad, I knew all too well that I wanted to kick her every time she showed up on the pitch. She was arrogant and acted like the Captain even more than I did—and I knew that there was only room for one arrogant prat Captain on the team and Dana made quite clear it was me.

Unfortunately for me, however, Meta was a star Seeker. She was insane and Dad said she probably got it from her father, who the ‘rents went to school with. Uncle Ron wouldn’t talk about it. When Mum and Dad came down to check out last year’s final, Dad was pretty distant with Meta when she asked about her Snitch-catch and Mum pretended to hear someone calling her name from the stands.

They were slick, my parents.

Of course, after she asked Dad for his opinion she popped her gum and said that she was the best Hogwarts had ever seen and I saw Dad’s face go from pale to beet red in seconds, which was something usually only I could achieve so I gave major points to Meta for that. Sometimes I wished Albus or Lily would manage to get on his bad side, but alas, only me.

“It’s going to take as long as it takes for me to find a pair of Beaters, Meta. So buck up and get excited!” I poked her hard in the ribs for the broom jab and she shot me a dark look. I ignored it, or at least pretended to.

I surveyed the crowd of hopefuls. Most of them looked like idiots, so that would make this easy. Whoever was best for the team. It was all about the team as a whole.

If Meta ended up in the hospital wing like Dad did in his first year and cost his team the Cup—well, I would hex her all the way down the hallway and then force her to do laps for the rest of her life. I still don’t know how he had Oliver Wood for a Captain and didn’t get laps for life. Something about a control issue.

“Get into groups, minions!” I cried and a few people nearby laughed. “I’m not joking. Groups of four. Go. Now—you. In the red. What’re you doing?”

“Grouping?” It was a twittery fourth year with a bad broom and a bad haircut. He moved toward a few people.

“There are already four there. Didn’t your parents teach you how to count?”

He squeaked and moved toward a few other people.

Now that was power.

The first two groups were a disaster. One Beater actually hit another with the bat, rendering him unconscious and the other three were forced to carry him up to the hospital wing where Madam Bones could mop him up. The third group was better, but I knew none of them would be able to step up to the rigorous training schedule I set out for my Gryffindor Squad. Only the best of the best.

“Which next, James?” Avery asked, tapping her foot.

“Over there—with the girl in the yellow. What’s your name?”

The girl in question had long dark hair and bright eyes and couldn’t have been more than a fifth year. I had seen her around but to see her on a pitch nearly succeeded in blowing my seventeen-year-old mind. She was nothing short of feminine with paint on her nails and her eyes outlined with brown crayon-esque substances.

“Paloma Dove,” she replied, smiling with brilliant white teeth. What in blazes was she doing on a Quidditch pitch? Didn’t she have a modeling contract or something?

She wouldn’t last a minute, but it was her fault. Behind her were a grumpy looking third year and a pair of second years that hadn’t achieved their growth spurts yet and still squeaked a bit when they talked. This made me laugh a little, but I stopped after Avery shot me a look.

“All right, your bats are over there—grab one and get up there. Bink, release the Bludgers and start the Quaffle-ness.” I watched my Chasers released the Bludgers and set up a play toward Avery as she positioned herself in front of the hoops. Meta popped her gum and I thought about popping her in the face.

The second years hit a Bludger back and forth for a few seconds and then the blond one hit it toward Bink and missed by little over an effin’ mile. Grumpy Third Year did all right, but nearly fell off his broom when turning away from Avery and a bloke that couldn’t fly was a bloke not right for my team of utter perfection.

I ran my fingers through my hair and groaned. There were only three groups left. Halfway through and no talent. I watched Paloma hit a Bludger toward Bink and he dodged it pretty well and then one of the second years screamed since he suddenly noticed a bat wasn’t going to save his face from a Bludger hit. Luckily, he pulled upward just in time and the crowd let out a giggle.

No wait. That was just Nia Baker.

Paloma winded up and hit another one toward Fred.

He looked over and gasped. He tried to roll his broom, but ended up blasted in the face by the Bludger and Paloma shrieked.

Unconscious, Fred fell sideways off his broom with blood spurting out of the side of his ear. Avery slowed him with her wand as I rushed over to the grass, creating a quick overly stuffed feather pillow for him to land on.

“Freddie?” I said loosely, jabbing him a bit in the side. His dark hair was scattered over his face. “You alive, mate?”

He didn’t move.

“I need a few blokes to get Fred up to the hospital wing—who’s doin’ it?” I shouted, hoisting Fred onto his feet as a few sixth years walked over with their wands. “Make sure he gets immediate treatment. Don’t let Bones beat around the bush.” I handed him over, my stomach unsettled, and looked at Paloma Dove, who was standing a meter or so away from me.

What the hell was that?” I said breathlessly.

“I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to—I just thought he’d duck!” she said, her hands placed firmly over her mouth.

I smiled. “Yeah, me too. It was too fast. Congrats, Paloma, welcome to the Gryffindor Quidditch team.”

She squealed.

“Less of that, please, when you’re on the team.” I shook her hand and turned back to the remaining three groups as Meta shook Paloma’s hand. “All right, minions, next group in the air! Bink, you pass with Meta.”

“I’m not a Chaser, Potter.”

I narrowed my eyes at her. “Pass with Bink or I swear to Merlin you’re doing extra laps next practice.”

She flipped me off and climbed on her broom. Meta was all about making the least amount of effort and doing her best. She was clearly not a Chaser, that was obvious, but she could pass the Quaffle and avoid Bludgers.

The next group was all right, filled with twittery third years that giggled in the air. I let them down easy when I said come back when they’ve got talent.

Seriously, though. Real talent. And adam's apples. But that’s just an extra perk.

The following group had Nia Baker in it. She blew me a kiss as she flew into the air and I didn’t exactly know what to do. Smile? Puke? It wasn’t bad. She was a wonderfully endowed woman with great…grades? Fred wanted me to go for it, but I knew she was only interested in me this year because I was made Captain. She dated Darian Bay for two years and they had just broken up over the summer—he was made the Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain when we were fifth years and never let me forget it during each Charms class we had together.

Stupid blighter.

Nia was terrible, just as I had suspected she would be, and didn’t look surprised when I didn’t immediately rush up to her and declare my amazement in her sudden Beater abilities. Instead, she joined the crowd of surly applicants that were glaring at Paloma with envy.

The final group had Harvey Zed in it and Wesley Jordan. I knew Harvey since he ate his vegetables like a cow and chewed like he had something to prove. Avery talked about it at least once a week when she refused a helping of carrots or celery. Wesley, however, was a friend of the family. He came over for Christmases every once in a while and his dad worked with Uncle George in the Diagon Alley shop. I’d never seen Wesley play Quidditch before, but I knew his dad was the commentator and his mum played Chaser for Gryffindor, so he might have had a little talent in that fifth year body of his.


The group of four rose into the air and Meta begrudgingly passed the Quaffle back and forth with Bink. I watched Harvey. He had a piece of gum in his mouth. I saw Avery’s lip twitch from her position by the hoops. He chewed. Avery twitched. Meta popped her own gum and all I wanted to do was hop on my broom, fly over to them, and smack each one upside the head for distracting me during try-outs.

Wesley slammed his bat into a Bludger and it went a pretty good distance so one of the other candidates had to hit it back toward Meta. Harvey chewed his gum and swung and missed a Bludger. He wasn’t getting picked. I saw the put-out expression on his face.

After a little bit of them flying around and hitting Bludgers, I called them back down and Meta looked particularly relieved to be back on the ground without a Quaffle in her hand. Bink shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged at me.

“Did you have to?” he said gruffly, jerking his head toward Meta. “She can’t pass worth beans.”

“Neither can you,” I said with a grin and got punched.

“All right, minions!” I shouted, avoiding a second punch from blondie Bink. “I’ve picked the two Chasers that fit the best with the team.” Nia was looking hopeful. She was an idiot. She flipped her hair. Okay, she was an attractive idiot.

Avery flew down next to me and landed with a soft thud. She folded her arms. “Made a choice already?”

“Paloma Dove,” I said loudly and a few people groaned. Nia made a face as Bink shook Paloma’s hand.

“Good choice,” added Meta. “Anyone that knocks Weasley out is good in my book.”

I saw Avery roll her eyes. “And the second Beater is Wesley Jordan.”

“Oh, yeah, pick your friend, Potter!” said a voice in the crowd.

My eyes flew up. “Oh yeah, because I hang out with fifth years on a regular basis.” I rolled my eyes and shook Wesley’s hand. “You in, Wes?”

He nodded, smiling widely. “I’m in, Captain!”

“I like the way that sounds—Avery, lead the way for our newbies?”

Avery nodded and motioned toward the locker rooms.

I, however, watched the crowd disperse. Nia waved and Elizabeth made a disgruntled face as they both left. Harvey was still chewing his gum and laughing with a few fourth years. Groaning, I turned and followed my team (minus Fred) into the scarlet locker room where to empty spaces marked the newest members.

“This is where the pre-game magic happens,” Bink said, motioning to the robes and nearby chalkboard. “Through those doors are the showers and Wesley if we catch your head in the girls’ shower room we’ll chop it off. Your lockers are over there next to Meta’s.”

“So how does it feel?” I asked, taking a seat in front of the green chalk board. “Does it feel good to be a part of the legendary Gryffindor Quidditch team?”

Paloma beamed and brushed her hair out of her face. I couldn’t help but watch it move in the light. How did she hit a Bludger like she did? “It feels great,” she said and I wanted to touch her skin.

I mentally slapped myself for that one.

“Any questions before we let you have a look around?”

I wished Paloma wouldn’t bite her lip. It was distracting. “So what are the rules with team things? I know how tight-knit you lot are so I want to get things right.”

“Yeah, good question,” I said in my best captain-authority voice. “There are a few things, but we’ll get to everything during out first Team Meeting. First off though, the most important rule is no dating members of the team. It just screws with everything we have going. What if you have a bad break up, right? That could get nasty with team dynamics and I won’t have any of it. You’ll be required to attend any team function and practices unless you’re dying or something like that. No skiving off practices for dates or something stupid like that.” I brushed my unruly hair away from my face. “Just make sure the team takes preference over other less-cool things.”

“Except school,” said Avery.

“Especially school,” I said with a chuckle. She shoved me into the chalk board. “Okay, keep getting good grades but don’t brown nose.”

Wesley beamed. “Sounds great. I won’t let you down, Captain.”

“All right then.” I stood up and tried to make it look like I didn’t have chalk prints down my back. There was no reason to weigh them down with the Quidditch Code during their first day. “Team dismissed. See you lot at dinner tonight. Remember, eat a lot of healthy rubbish to get your strength up so we can kick the tar out of Ravenclaw in a couple months!”

Wesley pushed open the door and left into the blinding sunlight with Paloma (who shot me an endearing grin before leaving). Meta followed and I almost charmed a garbage bin to follow her until she spit out that gum she was chewing. Bink stood up and stretched.

“Good try-outs, Captain,” he said with a yawn. “I wonder if Freddie’s all right.”

“He’s a Weasley, he’s got a thick head,” I muttered, and wiped the chalk off my back. “All right, Flynn, get moving.”

Avery rolled her eyes as I crossed the room and then she shoved me into my locker, knocking my robes askew and sending my pads onto my lap. “Damn it, Flynn, I am your superior!”

She snorted. “Headmistress Sinatra is my superior, James. You’re just a twat with some power.” Smiling, she pulled open the door. “And a pink pygmy puff.”

A/N: Hey, everyone! That's my first chapter of my James II/OC that I'll be working on along with Hide & Seek. I have a lot of high hopes for this story in terms of plot so let me know what you think so far!

Who loves Nia? I know you all do.

Chapter 2: Woman Problems
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Here's chapter two! Enjoy!

Albus looked just like my dad. Untidy black hair, crazy bright green eyes, and a pair of glasses. He was scrawny too and read a lot, something I was convinced Dad never did at Hogwarts. Al was a sixth year Gryffindor Prefect and made sure I remembered it when I got into mischief with the Chasers. Not that we got into mischief. It was just misguided acts of charity.

Lily, on the other hand, was a spitting image of Mum. She had her brown eyes and layers of red, Weasley hair and there were freckles everywhere. Lily was only thirteen and therefore was not allowed around boys or anything with a package at all. Even her pets had to be female as far as I was concerned. I made sure of it. I was fairly certain Al helped out too, though he let her little suitors off the hook more than I did. I learned a few new hexes in their honor, frustrated that boys wanted her attention so young.

Was I that horny when I was thirteen?

I wasn’t exactly like either of my parents, which is what I found interesting and amazing considering most people didn’t stop and gawk at me like they did Al. I got Dad’s black unruly hair (thanks a lot) and thin frame, but I got Mum’s brown eyes and complexion. That meant freckles. Loads and loads of freckles on a black-haired git. Weird, but the ladies loved it and since I played Quidditch and got some muscles on my body, they seemed to like me even more.

Nia Baker was one of them, hanging on my every word since the first day back. Of course she’d always fancied me a bit I figured but once I was made Captain everything was clear. She wanted me. So did the rest of the girls with the good grades. That was what I called them. Of course only a handful actually had good grades, but between the guys and me that was code for the ones with strapping physical attributes.

Avery knew about it. She was disgusted by it.

She was just mad since Bink said she had really, really good grades. I hit him for that, but she never forgave the term.

Al gave me a look when I walked into the common room, folding his book closed. His Prefect pin looked extra shiny and I would have bet my black hair he had been polishing it a bit ago. Rose was beside him working on some insignificant sixth year essay.

“How did try-outs go?” Rose asked, dipping her quill into the ink again. “Did you find some undiscovered talent?”

“I always do,” I said quickly, kicking off my shoes and flopping down beside my brother on the couch. “I picked up Wes Jordan and Paloma Dove.”

Al blushed. “So Paloma’s good then?”

“If she wasn’t good she wouldn’t be on the team.” I raised a brow at him, smirking slightly. “Got a crush on her then?”

“No, of course not,” he muttered quickly, opening his book to a different page.

Rose snorted. “Every bloke has a crush on her,” she said. “I’m surprised she can play Quidditch. I thought all she did was check her makeup and giggle. My mistake.”

“Are you bitter, Rosey?” I asked her. I leaned back and pulled my hands behind my head.

“I have nothing to be bitter about,” she said, irritated. “I already know I can’t play Quidditch and I have more brains than her anyway.”

I nodded. “Of course you do, Rosey. Al, where are you doing your walks tonight?”

“Rose and I are patrolling the dungeons and the basement tonight,” he said stiffly.

“Good.” I stood up and grabbed a piece of parchment from Rose’s unused pile. I pulled out a quill and scribbled a message about a Quidditch Team meeting in the kitchens that night around eleven.

No one ever said my tactics had to be normal. If I wanted my team to show up at three in the morning in the Honeydukes cellar I could do that. Partly because I had power, and partly because seven years ago I stole the Marauders Map from my dad. I couldn’t believe the git left it in his desk drawer, just sitting there waiting for me to wrap my fingers around it.

I didn’t know how to work it for a while, most of my first year actually, but during Christmas break I mentioned it in passing to Fred and his dad, Uncle George, happened to be around and conveniently let slip how to work it. Uncle George was my favorite uncle, but I’d never tell Uncle Ron that.

“Eleven?” Bink made a face when he noticed what I posted on the board.

I raised a brow. “What? You have a hot date?”

He narrowed his eyes. “Fred’s going to be all right. I’ve just been to see him and Bones is all in a hissy about players getting hurt. She told me to tell you not to let it happen again.”

“With Paloma out there I’m not sure it won’t,” I said with a chuckle. “She’s got an arm on her. I wonder if I can get Wes to play like that.”

“Bones will have your head.” Bink brushed his blond hair out of his face.

“She’ll have my head and I’ll have the Cup. Fair trade I think.” Smiling, I walked up the spiral staircase to the seventh years’ dormitory and pulled open the door.

My bed was on the far left, messy from that morning when I was trying to find my lucky Quidditch socks to Captain in. I shoved everything off and onto the floor and plopped down on it, wondering if this was the team that would take me to the Final and win me that Cup again.

It was a good possibility. Of course they would have to be trained up first to work together now that we had two new Beaters and Dara Wood wasn’t shouting obscenities to get me to pass underhand, but we had merit and that was good. Plus, I had a whole sodding year to get them into shape. And I had Meta. Even though she was obnoxious and pompous, she was a hell of a Seeker and if anything went wrong I could just order her to search for the Snitch harder and catch it faster.

“Going to give them the code tonight then?” Avery poked her head in the door and smiled. Her brown hair was down since the try-outs were over and it barely brushed her elbows. It had settled on that length for the last couple years and a few of the blokes thought she looked good but since she was my best mate they didn’t pursue much.

“I think it’s only right,” I said, leaning back against my pillows. “You didn’t have plans, did you?”

“I had a date with my Potions essay but it can wait.” She plopped down at the foot of my bed and stretched out. “I’m glad the meeting is in the kitchens though. I was sick of Dara making us sit on the floor of the locker rooms. My back had all these knots and then I had to ask Bink for a massage and he’d get all red…stupid boy.”

I smiled. “He just gets excited when he gets to touch a girl.” I snorted and she shoved my leg.

“Speaking of which, I saw Nia eyeing you this morning.” Avery raised a suspicious brow and I allowed myself a laugh. “What? Are you trying to tell me there’s nothing there?”

“Nia’s a nitwit.”

You’re a nitwit, James.”

“I take serious offense to that.”

Avery rolled her eyes and rested her head against my shin.

I jumped as the door opened and Emerson Edwards meandered in. Instead of his black robes, he was wearing a collared shirt and blue tie which I was happy to notice looked stupid on him. He closed the door behind him and nodded heavily to Avery. “Good evening,” he said loudly.

“Hi, Emerson.” Avery was fighting to keep a straight face as she always did when he interrupted our bestie time.

Emerson Edwards was the Hogwarts Head Boy and everyone within a ten thousand mile radius knew it. He kept that Head Boy badge pinned tight to whatever outfit he was wearing and he was a smarmy git. So smarmy, in fact, that his nose was in the air more often than my broom.


“It’s a lovely evening out. I was overjoyed to find it was going to be clear so I could spend some time out by the lake.” Emerson walked to the far end of the room where his bed was and sifted through his trunk for a moment.

I watched him with a raised brow.

“Yeah,” said Avery, “quite, erm, lovely.” She smiled and I kicked her.

“Aha!” He pulled out some binoculars and a book. “I’ve been wanting to go bird watching for a while and this is the perfect opportunity.”

I wrinkled my nose. “You’re going bird watching, mate? Is it a date or something?”

Emerson narrowed his gray eyes in my direction. “No, Potter, I happen to have hobbies outside of the Quidditch arena.”

“Pitch! Damn it, it’s a pitch!”

He closed his trunk, sniggering lightly, and moved toward the door. “Have a good night, Avery. You look wonderful today.” With that he left and I threw my Charms book at the door.

Avery chuckled.

“You let him get you so worked up,” she said, pushing my Potions book aside so I didn’t launch that as well.

“He’s a git.” I folded my arms.

“He must be staying in the right room then.” She stood up and beamed.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I lifted my head and made a face. “It means that he’s the git and the Chasers aren’t gits so we have to keep him in line so he doesn’t go spreading his gittness like a bleeding disease, right?”

“I’ll see you at eleven, Captain.”

I liked the thought of having meetings in the kitchens since a handful of elves were always there and they all knew who I was. I had a legendary kitchen-sneaker as an Uncle after all and I had a famous father that did other stuff.

I got there early with Bink and the Marauders Map and moved a few chairs so they lined up around a large table. I knew right from getting my Captain letter that this would be where I had my meetings even though there was a chance we’d get caught out of bed after hours. I was James Potter. Who cared about that? It was important. I could just tell Professor Longbottom that. He never seemed to understand those things. Quidditch wasn’t usually his forte.

“I saw Lily with Reen Duncan earlier,” Bink ventured, pushing a few chairs around and then going for the glasses. “He was telling her a joke. I think I heard Fred’s dad tell it once before…something about a baby seal and a club…”

Bink was the most logical of the Chasers, I was sure. He had his head on tight and always knew when to cut us off from our pranks. That was why he fit in so nicely with Fred and me (he still wasn’t out of the hospital wing)—he just saw things coming which got us out of plenty of detentions scrubbing bed pans or clipping toenails. Unfortunately, he also enjoyed gossiping about my relatives since he was an only child and had no one to keep tabs on.

“Al told me she’s taken a fancy to him,” I muttered, grabbing a pitcher of water from a nearby elf and putting it in the center of the table. “She can fancy all she likes…after I shave his head and force him to speak Goblin for the rest of his life.”


I shrugged. “It’s the way life has to be sometimes.”

The door flew open and Fred stood there, dark hair stuck to his forehead with a scowl on his face. “I snuck out,” he said.

“You what?” Bink put down the napkins and looked over.

“I snuck out of the hospital wing.” He closed the portrait behind him and leaned against the wall, clearly out of breath. “Bones said she wouldn’t let me go. She said my brains were addled or something and I kept smoking at the ears, but I told her to see here—I’ve got a Quidditch meeting at eleven that I can’t miss.” He paused and threw up his hands for dramatic effect. “And she said that my brains were more important than Quidditch. Then she made a mistake.”

“Not turning you into a vegetable right there?” I asked soberly.

“She walked right into her office! She left me there.” Fred grinned widely. “And then I ran here—hence why I’m all sweaty and smell like Slytherin.”

I made a face. Leave it to Fred to escape the hospital wing for a meeting. He was quite the trooper. I would have told Dara to sod off and that my brains were addled, but Fred…never.

He probably wanted to go for a record of most-attended Quidditch meetings.

Show off.

I checked the map and noticed Avery on her way with the two new hires, but Meta was still in Gryffindor Tower. She was pacing back and forth in her dormitory, which caused me to fume a bit since eleven was only minutes away. I turned to Bink.

“Did you talk to Meta after try-outs? She’s still upstairs being a dolt.”

Bink looked away and shrugged. “I haven’t seen her. What’s new, though? Isn’t she always being a bit of a dolt?” He sat down on the other side of the table and busied himself with a glass of water.

I turned to Fred. “She didn’t visit you in the hospital wing?”

He shook his head. “Thank Merlin she didn’t or I might still be there, her yappin’ my ear off about you getting the Captain position and not her.” Fred rolled his eyes and took a seat across from Bink. “She’s probably just trying to figure out where she put the corncob she sticks up her arse when she’s around.”

“Good enough for me,” I said and wiped the map, taking a seat at the head of the table.

I had wanted this seat since my second year and I saw my Captain, a seventh year named Maxwell Douche-bag Delaney, abuse the privilege by kicking his feet up onto the table and letting the team take over the meeting. I was too quiet then—to reserved in my mastery of the art of Quidditch—to say anything, but now I was seventeen and both Maxwell and Dara were far away from Hogwarts, hopefully getting kicking in the arse by reality.

And I had the head-of-the-table seat.

I adjusted myself in its comfortable glory. I could see everyone equally. Okay, that only meant Fred and Bink but Bink was fidgeting and I could see it and Fred was staring up at the ceiling.

I wondered for a moment if his brains really were raddled.

It was a good possibility.

“Enjoying the seat, Captain?” Avery opened the door wider to Wesley and Paloma could step in behind her. She looked calm with a smile playing at her lips, but the other two looked positively terrified as if I was going to give them some secret password to the Quidditch bathroom or something.

We didn’t even have a Quidditch bathroom.

I should petition Sinatra for that. She hated sports. She’d never let me have it.

I’d bet she’d let the Charms club have their own sodding bathroom.

I would too, though. I felt bad for the gits, being in the Charms club and all that.

Wesley took a seat beside Fred and Paloma by Bink and I studied their faces. Wes looked as though he might potentially throw up—something I desperately didn’t want to happen while I was eating dinner. He shifted around in his seat for a minute and then tried to smile weakly. It ended up looking more like a grimace. I wondered if he wasn’t nervous and he just had to pee.

Paloma, however, was quite the opposite. She seemed calm and collected with her dark hair spilling onto her shoulders. Her fingernails were still painted and she filed them carefully while waiting.

It was silent for a minute and I strummed my fingers against the table. Eventually the food arrived and still there was silence.

Where the bleeding hell was Meta?

I checked the map again. Luckily for her, she was on her way down, but it was fifteen past eleven and I couldn’t have my Seeker being a negative role model for my easily susceptible new hires. She had to show respect. Service. Loyalty.

Right now she was just a twit.

I was her Captain for Merlin’s sake! Not that Merlin would really care about me.

He was probably right with Professor Sinatra, sports-hating dung head.

Eventually Meta strolled through the door. She met eyes with everyone but me and even though there was a seat between Bink and Avery, she sat at the other end of the table past Wesley. I raised a brow and stood up.

“All right, team,” I said loudly and Wesley jumped a bit. “Everything is settled. We have a whole team and even though I think it’ll take a lot of work to get you sods to work together, I think we can do it. Especially since it’s the last chance for most of us since we’re graduating this year. So basically we have to win, just to stick it to the Slytherins if nothing else.”

“Here here!” cried Fred.

“So tonight’s meeting isn’t about talking over strategy because there are going to be many more times for that,” I continued and saw Meta staring off toward the door. “It’s about welcoming our two new members, Wesley and Paloma.”

Most of them clapped and Fred said, “I’d cheer but she put me in the hospital wing.”

“Good to see you’re all right,” said Paloma, blushing.

“Freddie’s far from all right,” muttered Bink.

“So tonight we’re going to talk about team stuff. First of all, the reason Gryffindor is so good is because we have what’s called a Quidditch Code. It was installed several years ago, years and years before I came to Hogwarts, and at my first team meeting in my second year I learned it. We don’t have inter-team problems because of it and if you break the Code I’ll cut off your ears or something equally as terrible.” I paused so Wesley could fidget a bit before I continued. “The Quidditch Code is like our set of rules to make sure nothing goes wrong and shows that we focus on Quidditch when we practice, not other things.”

I let the elf beside me put a pork chop on my plate and I waited for Avery to start eating. “The first rule of the Quidditch Code, which I’ve told you lot already, is you don’t date people on the team. If you were to break up things would get ridiculously messy and that would affect the entire team, not just yourself. If you want to date a teammate, quit the team. I can replace you.” I folded my arms. Avery rolled her eyes. She knew I couldn’t replace her. There wasn’t a student in Gryffindor that could Keep like her.

“The next rule is you attend every practice unless you have a circumstance in which you simply can’t. That doesn’t include stupid things like homework. You can miss practice if you’re sick, in the hospital wing, dead, or something like that. That’s it. If I find out you were tired and slept in or you were snogging some girl in the Charms corridor I’ll give you laps until your legs fall off.” I smiled. “There’s a forty-eight hour rule. That means if you have an issue with someone, confront them in two days or get over it. I don’t want rumors spreading and things starting from talking behind people’s backs. That also gets messy. Consumed the whole Ravenclaw team last year because Davies can’t control her team’s hormones.”

I left my pork chop on my plate and looked around. Avery’s was almost finished by then and Meta wasn’t listening at all. Wesley looked as if he could have been taking notes and Paloma was twirling her hair around her finger. My stomach lurched painfully.

“Everyone must treat everyone else with respect. Even though it might seem like I’m giving you shit for messing up, I’m still respecting that you’re trying. Do not disrespect your teammates and do not disrespect me. I am your captain. Remember that.”

I took a deep breath.

“Never make Gryffindor look bad in any way.” Pausing, I stole a glance at Fred, remembering his karaoke last year after a vivacious win. “Use your judgment with that. At parties, don’t drink too much. Don’t use women and get a bad name for yourself—yes, even you, Avery. I know how much you use women.” I winked and she threw a broccoli spear at me. “Don’t land yourself in detention all the time. We are role models for all of the lesser beings that can’t play Quidditch in this place and even though we know how to have fun and we know how to play sports that doesn’t mean we can be arrogant and classless.”

“You know a lot about class, James?” Meta asked somberly.

“I know more than you do, showing up late to a meeting,” I shot back, wondering why she was disrespecting me in front of the new hires.

“I had woman problems.”

I flushed immediately. How dare she use that card? It was an evil, tragic card for which I had no defense. Of course I was smarter than that and knew she was pacing back and forth in her room, but I couldn’t say that. Only Avery, Bink, and Fred knew about the Marauders Map.

“Fine then,” I said, my voice a little higher than I was completely comfortable with. Bink chuckled. “I’m just going to…well, let’s just eat then.”

“Are we finished?” Meta leaned her chin against the palm of her hand.

Why was she good anyway? Couldn’t I replace her?

I could tell by the look in Avery’s eye that she wanted to scream out, “I sodding told you so!” But no. I wouldn’t let her. This was my meeting.

“Nope,” I said halfheartedly. “We actually have some business to take care of.”

So with that, I launched into broom types and the breakdown of practice schedules for the year. It really didn’t have to last as long as it did, especially since it was already past midnight, but part of me enjoyed watching Meta fume at the end of the table. Wesley seemed to enjoy himself while I talked and asked Fred a couple questions about timing and meetings.

“So after we figure out a way to raise money for new robes we’ll organize that and I’ll order the new ones,” I said, watching Meta roll her eyes again. “It’s a shame our robes are starting to look more pink than red anymore. If any of you have an idea catch me this week and we’ll talk it over.”


My head jerked up and I groaned.

“Why are you still in here?” Albus was at the door, eyes narrowed at our shin-dig since he disapproved of anything I did. “It’s almost one in the morning and if someone catches you you’re squid food!”

I shrugged. “This is serious business.”

“Money for robes?” asked Meta. “Oh, come on, Potter.”

“Can you just wrap it up?” asked Albus, pushing his glasses higher onto his face. “I don’t want to have to get you in trouble.”

“You aren’t going to get me in trouble,” I said, standing up and stretching. “I’m your brother. If you were going to do it you would have done it last year when I put red coloring into the lake to look like the Giant Squid died.”

He sighed dramatically. “Get going, James. I’ll be back through here in twenty minutes and you better be gone.” He left and closed the portrait behind him.

“Done then?” asked Avery, pushing her plate further in front of her and yawning.

“I suppose I don’t have much of a choice. Ickle Al is going to give me detention if I don’t move on soon.”

“Good idea, though,” said Bink. “I’m getting tired and we have things to do tomorrow.”

“It’s Sunday,” I said. “The only thing we have to do is homework.”

“Which qualifies as things,” he said.

I helped Avery and Wesley clean up and shot Paloma a grin as everyone began to stretch and get ready to leave.

We weren’t as close knit as we needed to be, but at least I didn’t have Dara Wood poking me in the chest and demanding to know my schedule so she could force Quidditch practices right before I had big Potions essays due. Wench.

It hadn’t been that bad, though. Wesley seemed to pick up on the rules quick and Paloma just needed to keep hitting hard and twirling her hair and she would fit in just fine.

Avery was going to kill me for thinking those thoughts.

It wasn’t my fault Paloma was wearing a skirt.

I always liked Professor Longbottom. Though he was obsessed with Herbology and sometimes showed up at Christmas dinner, he was a good guy. Unfortunately, the one thing he didn’t understand was Quidditch. Dad said it was the same when they were in school and I thought nothing of it until I realized that the Captain of each team had to meet with their head of house and Longbottom was the head of Gryffindor.

I asked Mum a while ago why Professor Longbottom was a Gryffindor because he looked a bit skittish to me and I never saw him do anything relatively brave except stick his hand into some weird-looking plants. She told me to shut up and that Neville (she calls him by his first name but I grimaced at the thought) proved himself more of a Gryffindor than most people would ever be.

She wouldn’t tell me why. I figured it was in a book somewhere since they all had a part in that whole battle of Hogwarts nonsense, but I never bothered to figure it out. Instead, I met Longbottom on Sunday afternoon in his office on the fourth floor.

He was sitting on his cushy chair with a small fire going behind him as I entered.

“Ah, James,” he said happily, “have a seat.”

I lowered myself into the large suede chair across from him, my eyes wandering back and forth between various unfriendly-looking plants and pictures from when he was younger. Mum and Dad were in several of them, Dad grinning behind those wonky glasses I’d seen in so many pictures. Even for when he grew up they were outdated. I was surprised he was so popular. I would have torn the mickey out of him for wearing them.

“So you had your try-outs yesterday,” Longbottom started, folding his hands on top of his desk. I wished he wouldn’t. It was strange. “How did they go? Did you pick up some fresh talent?”

I nodded formally. “Yeah, I got Paloma Dove and Wesley Jordan.”

“Two fifth years, huh? It will be hard to choose between them for captain next year.”

“Yeah. Hopefully one is less cool than the other so as to make that decision easier.” I rested my hands on my thighs.

“Is it weird having most of your team be seventh years? Do you think that shows favoritism?”

“I didn’t pick them,” I said quickly. “Maxwell picked some and Dara picked the others. I had nothing to do with it.”

Longbottom pursed his lips and took a sip of tea. I didn’t understand him. “It’ll be a shame after this year when you lot leave and you’ll just have two members…and they’ll have to build an entire team.” He looked thoughtful. “What do you think about that?”

I didn’t know what to say. What I wanted to say was I didn’t care one bit about next year because this year was all that mattered and my team was all that mattered. I picked Paloma and Wes for specific reasons and they were perfect assets to my team. However, I wasn’t sure Professor Longbottom wanted to hear about my careless existence.

“I think both Paloma and Wes can handle it because they’re smart.” I forced a smile.

“Your class participation is down a little bit this year, James.”

I blushed. I thought I was there to talk about Quidditch, not my participation. “Erm, yeah, I guess my mind has been elsewhere. But my grades have been wicked, right?”

“Your grades are fine. Just try and do a little more to keep it that way. I would hate to have to tone down your Captaining because you aren’t taking your studies seriously.” Longbottom peered at me down his nose and I wondered how he could possibly be that cool Gryffindor bloke my parents talked about, wielding a sword and getting beat up for a cause. At least I thought that was how the story went.

Longbottom wasn’t looking too brilliant now. He looked more like a washed up teacher. Or maybe that was my bitterness.

“How did your meeting go?” Avery asked when I sulked back into the tower. She was sprawled out on a couch, her slender legs stretched onto several throw pillows as she propped a Transfiguration book against her knees.

“Remember when Dara said those meetings were hell?” I asked, sliding down beside her on the couch. “Well, it was worse.”

“But your family is such good friends with Professor Longbottom!” She snapped the book closed and made a face.

“He wanted to know about everything except for Quidditch,” I muttered. “I’m telling Mum. She’ll have a word with him about talking to me about classes and things that don’t relate to sports.”

“I’m sure he was just concerned because you’re a twit.” She smiled warmly and opened her book again. “By the way, have you fed your pygmy puff today?”

I groaned, thinking of the very masculine pet I had upstairs. “No. It’ll be all right. I’ll feed it when I get up there.”

“No need.” Avery stretched again and pushed her brown hair away from her face. “Emerson’s already told me it ate two pairs of your socks.”

A/N: Sorry for the filler, but all that stuff had to happen before I can get to the juicy parts! I tried to throw in some humor for all of you to showcase some of James's finer points. But anyway, thank you all for the reviews on the first chaper! I can't wait to hear what you all think about this one!

So...favorite quotes? Parts? Do you think Fred's brains really are addled...or is that just because he's a Weasley?

Chapter 3: Auction
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Don’t let me catch you talking that way about Neville again. I already told you he’s done a lot more than you to prove himself a Gryffindor and you’re not anyone to be judging just because he doesn’t share your obsession with Quidditch. Yes, James, I said obsession. Your father and I both think you should concentrate more on your classes and magic instead of spending every waking moment adjusting schedules.

I’m glad you found two Beaters for the team, though I don’t know what Paloma’s grades have to do with her talent. I’m glad she is having good academic success though. Something you could use more of.

Also, your sister wrote to me a few days before you did and told me you’re hexing any boy in the hallway that talks to her. Is that true? I’m going to hex you if it is because I know exactly what that’s like because of your uncles and it isn’t pleasant. So let your sister do what she wants, including having a boy owl.

How is Avery? I heard from her mother the other day in Diagon Alley and Mrs. Flynn seemed distressed. Do you know anything about that? Not that you would seeing your head is on the Quidditch pitch too much. Lay off or we’ll put you in a program so you can suffer from withdrawal and be like a normal pompous seventeen-year-old.

I’m not sure about the question you asked me regarding the raising money for new robes. Are they really that bad? Maybe you lot could have an auction or something.

See you soon and write me back about what’s going on there, dear.

With love,


I wrinkled my nose at the letter. Mum always had a way about telling me off without being mean, but to an extent she was right. I might have gone a bit overboard ranting about Professor Longbottom and how he wouldn’t know a Quaffle from a Bludger and maybe this thing about Avery’s mum was worth looking into, but she was far from realistic asking me to back off on my Captaining. I just couldn’t desert my team. That would be silly.

As for Lily. Pfft. Yeah right. I was going to check her the underside of her owl if I had to.

Or I could make Fred do it.

The auction. What would I auction? I didn’t have anything I could part with, even though everyone in the tower would pay good money for my wand-polishing cloth or my signed Potions book or a date with Paloma.

Heck, I might pay for that.

Enter: Quidditch Code to stifle my lust.

I folded the letter and stuffed it into the pocket of my robes, staring around me at a glum Monday morning around the Great Hall. Everyone was sleep-deprived, including Fred who stayed up most of the night convincing Madam Bones that he was not addled and that he could go to class. He even told her he hid under his bed and never went to the team meeting. Avery was beside me looking over her Charms notes and Nia was on my other side buttering her bread in a very suggestive manner.

I saw Clint Lawson across the hall. His Slytherin mug was staring back at me like a cat watching a mouse except I was a rather handsome mouse and he was a git. That Quidditch Captain didn’t know bollocks about the game and picked players based on highest bidder. Which is why Scorpius Malfoy was on the sodding team.

I didn’t like Malfoy one bit.

Because I’m a Potter. Potter’s didn’t like Malfoys. At all.

Lawson was a different story because he was a half blood and his parents were old so I didn’t know his surname. I hated him on principal alone. He looked like a mess, slimy brown hair plastered against his skull with large beady eyes and a scowl to match Malfoy’s.

“Oy, Potter!” he called.

I raised a brow and saw Albus and Lily glance up from down the table. Lily was sitting by a boy. I’d have to change that.

“What d’you want, Lawson?” I said lazily in return and Bink chuckled from his place between Meta and Fred.

“I want you to quit staring over here. You won’t know the Slytherin Quidditch secrets by gawking at my gorgeous features.” The Slytherins laughed.

I rolled my eyes. “Your comments get worse every time you open that gob of yours, Lawson,” I yelled back. “Stick to what you know! Ugliness.”

The whoop to my left must have been Fred.

Lawson muttered something angrily.

“Yeah. That’s right.” I smirked and finished off my toast. I reached for my glass of juice, wrapping my fingers around it only to find that it wouldn’t detach itself from the table. I pulled again. Still stuck to the wood. Screwing up my face, I pulled once more.

That time it came up. Came up and spilled orange juice all over the front of my robes and down onto my pants. Some even ended up on Nia. She squealed.

“Where’d you learn that?” I said loudly and Nia grabbed a napkin and dabbed at my pants. I swatted her hand away. Avery rolled her eyes.

“While your head is up your arse in Quidditch practices, I learned a few things on my own,” Lawson said. “See you in potions, twat berry.”

What the fuck was a twat berry?

Lawson turned around to the jeering Slytherins and his snot follower Peatrice Jenkins imitated Nia wiping at his pants. I sank further into my seat and narrowed my eyes. How could I get that jerk back?

Avery flicked her wand while simultaneously flipping to the next page of Charms notes.

There was a loud squeal and Peatrice was covered in strawberry jam. It was also mixed in with Lawson’s hair substance.

I beamed. That was my girl.

“We have to figure something out,” Bink muttered Tuesday night while we sat on his bed. He had a homemade comforter from his mum so his bed was the most comfortable. He smoothed out his blond hair. “I won’t have the Ravenclaws telling us we’re wearing pink. I’m not a pink sort of bloke.”

I nodded, looking back and forth between the other two Chasers. “The only thing I can come up with is paying Paloma for dates. I think blokes would be up for that.” I chuckled.

Fred smiled. “I’d be up for that. But I’m on the team so that might be weird.”

“No dating anyone on the team,” I snapped.

“So that means I can’t date Meta either?” Fred asked and he laughed and then made a gagging sound.

“You just punished yourself enough with that visual,” I said and Bink looked off toward the window.

“You know,” he said quietly, “you might be on to something.”

“Dating Meta? Are you mental?” I asked.

“No,” Bink said forcefully. “I mean with the paying people for dates.”

“You going to pay me for a date, mate?” Fred asked, wiggling his eyebrows a bit. “I might say yes and break the code just because I like blonds.”

“Go date your Ravenclaw blonds, Freddie,” muttered Bink. “I don’t want any part in your woman-loving ways.” He cleared his throat. “I mean having other people pay us for things. Maybe not dates—but like our services go to the highest bidder or something.”

“Like an auction?” I said suddenly, jumping to my feet and sending part of the comforter flying to the floor.

This was genius. Sheer complete genius.

“Yeah, like that.” Bink ruffled his hair again and I wondered if he was taking that from me. “We could make a night of it—all of us line up and we get auctioned off to that person for the night. And then we can do whatever they want within limits of course. Teach them to fly. Go on a date. Whatever.”

I could have hugged him but we were both boys and I wasn’t comfortable with that.

Hell, I hugged him anyway.

After pulling away I stared at him. “Let’s do it Friday night. Common room. Freddie, you make signs. Bink, you fix up a stage or something for it. We need decorations. And clean yourselves up for Merlin’s sake! We need high bidders!”

Fred nodded and grabbed for some parchment. He paused. “Who’s gunna bid on Meta?”

Bink threw a pillow at him. “Get to work, addled brain boy.”

“You did WHAT?”

Avery was slightly beside herself when she saw the posters Fred made. I was with her on that one, though. Fred wasn’t much of an artist and his stick figure drawing of me made me look a little lanky with not enough freckles. But she was being dramatic.

“James, you can’t just auction people off without their consent!” She threw her arms in the air. “That has to be against some rule or another.”

“It’s for the benefit of the team, Avery,” I said defensively.

“Wesley, tell him this is wrong,” Avery said, desperately seeking confirmation in the form of a boy.

“I don’t know,” Wes said quietly, backing up from the bulletin board. He ruffled his hair.

Did I start a trend?

“I think it might be okay as long as a pretty girl buys me.” Wesley blushed.

Avery narrowed her eyes at him. “You’re no help at all.” She looked at Paloma. “How do you feel about this?”

I could tell Paloma was trying to tread lightly on the situation. “I agree that James should have consulted us,” she said softly, “but I do think it might be fun.”

“Fun because everyone’s going to bid on you,” muttered Meta, coming up from behind us with her usual scowl. Part of me wished she wasn’t such a good Seeker or even pretty because even though she was a bitch people still fancied her. I had no idea why. I actually wanted to punch her more than date her.

“Everyone,” I said gruffly, “this is what we’re doing so I don’t have to be called pinky by Lawson anymore. If you don’t want to be auctioned off to some handsey first year then I suggest getting one of your mates to pay the money to buy you. It’s this Friday. Look nice so we can get some money for those ugly mugs of yours.”

“Who’re you calling ugly?” Avery said, her hands on her hips.

“You can’t be pretty,” I said and Bink choked. “You’re my best mate. I can’t think of you like that.”

She rolled her eyes.

But Paloma on the other hand…

I made sure the signs were plastered all over Gryffindor Tower and I let Wesley make a few that didn’t entail stick figures. They were in bathrooms and under beds and on every stair of each spiral staircase. No one would be missing out on this.

“What can we have you do if we win you?” Nia asked me Friday morning, batting her eyelashes at me from over her Transfiguration book.

“Anything within reason,” I replied, trying not to look at her. “I can refuse to do something, but we really shouldn’t unless it’s ridiculous.” I took another bite of toast. “But I think it’ll be fun, especially if Meta ends up cleaning out someone’s toilet.”

“Aren’t you scared that will happen to you?” she asked.

I raised a brow, finally looking up to meet her wide eyes. “With as many girls in this place that fancy me I seriously doubt I’ll be cleaning out toilets.” I winked at her. Not because I fancied her because I didn’t, but so she didn’t get the bright idea to bid on me and have me clean toilets.

James Potter did not clean toilets.

Or anything really.

Avery slid down beside me and sighed loudly. “I still can’t believe I’m doing this. I’m going to stand up on a stage made by Fred and Bink and let people bid on me. I thought I had more dignity.”

“You may like pink robes, but I don’t.”

“What makes you think I like pink robes?” Avery narrowed her eyes and grabbed some bacon off my plate.

“Because you’re a girl.”

“Sexist pig.” She grabbed another piece.

“Story of my life I suppose,” I muttered and smiled sideways at her.

She smiled back. “You just better hope whomever gets me isn’t a total sod or you’re not going to hear the end of it for weeks, Potter.”

“How come you can call me Potter and I can’t call you Flynn?”

She shrugged and pushed her long hair away from her face. “Because I’ll punch the snot out of you if you call me Flynn and you won’t touch me.”

I raised a brow and lightly punched her in the shoulder. “I will so, Flynn.”

“Honestly.” I heard a frustrated huff behind me and turned to see Lily with her hands on her hips. She looked just like Mum, her bright red hair falling against her brown eyes and that scowl was something I had seen so many times before—usually when I told her third year boyfriends to sod off or I’d shove my broom somewhere particularly unpleasant. Or when I stole her teddy bears over the summer and put stuffed doll heads on them.

“Hi, Lils,” I said cheerfully. “What brings you to the big kids’ side of the table?”

“I think you and Avery should just be siblings,” Lily said, shifting her weight onto her left foot. “Would you take him off my hands please? Then he can tell anyone you date to sod off.”

“She would have to date,” I muttered and Avery slapped me.

“I’m as good as his sister anyway,” she said viciously. “He won’t let a bloke look at me let alone talk to me. Maybe this auction is a good opportunity to get me a date.”

I choked on the bacon she had left on my plate. “I don’t ruddy think so!”

Avery beamed and slapped hands with Lily. “I think I’ll put on some mascara before the show.”

I groaned. First Nia talking about bidding on me and then Avery dating? No, I think not. She might have been blessed with fantastic grades, but she wasn’t meat for some sleazy bag of dung to slobber all over.

I was going to make sure of that.

I hoped.

I checked myself in the mirror. My hair was everywhere like usual, there was one rogue spot on my face which got annoying and red after I prodded it with my wand, and my collar was feeling a bit tight. Maybe it was because it was a pink shirt in honor of the pink robes we were getting rid of. I wore a black tie to match Bink and Fred since we were three of a kind.

“I’m a little skeptical,” Fred said, smoothing out the wrinkles of his purple collared shirt. “What if some horny fourth year wants to jump me out by the Quidditch pitch? I might not be able to get away.”

“Then it’ll be more action than you’ve gotten in the last year,” muttered Bink, running a comb through his straight hair.

Fred narrowed his eyes. “Git.”


I put up my hands. “Lads. Come on. Let’s just get this money and get our new robes—whether or not anyone gets screwed in the process.” I paused. “Though I can’t say I would mind it.” I ruffled my hair once more and pulled open the door. Then I stopped. “Who are you calling a prude, Bink? When have you gotten any this year?”

He pushed past me and walked toward the stairs.

“What a git,” muttered Fred and followed.

I was expecting a crowd, but what I got was chaos. The entire Gryffindor Common Room was packed with squealing girls, curious parties, and macho blokes too tough to admit they wanted a look at Paloma. I snuck a glance to wear the rest of the team was sitting and at Paloma. She was too good looking for her own good. The lollipop she had in her mouth didn’t help.

It was strawberry and she held it against her red lips for longer than need be. Her checks indented slightly when she sucked on it.

I blinked.

There was no lollipop.


“Ready, James?” asked Bink taking a seat on the sofa behind the makeshift stage.

It was a few feet off the ground with stairs in the back and a few of the girls in front were starting to lean on it.

I nodded, surveying my team. Bink and Fred had their arms linked and Meta was beside them with a scowl on her usually irritated face. Paloma was on the arm of the sofa with my imaginary lollipop nowhere to be seen and Wes was beside her saying something and pointing to the crowd. Avery was behind the couch pacing and it only took one look before my voice clogged up.

She was wearing makeup. She had brown shiny powder outlining her eyes and she was wearing the set of emerald earrings her mother gave her. The green matched her green dress—wait a bleeding moment. Avery rarely wore dresses because she knew if she fell someone would kick it up to see her knickers.

Maybe she wasn’t worried about that.

Or maybe she wanted her knickers to be shown!

“Avery, what in Merlin’s name are you doing?” I said, rounding on her instead of walking up on stage.

“Pacing?” she said, raising a curious brow.

I grabbed her hand and tugged her over toward the window. Her palm was soft and lotion-y. “You look like…Paloma.”

“So does Al have a crush on me?” Avery snickered.

This was not a laughing matter. “I’m being very serious. If you wear that you look like you have the IQ of a squeezable ketchup bottle. Blokes won’t take you seriously. They’ll want to see what’s under that skirt!” I folded my arms in a Captain-y sort of way.

She leaned close, the bottom strings of her hair brushing against my chest, and whispered into my ear, “And we’ll make a hell of a lot of money from them wondering, won’t we?”

I gaped at her, my tongue hanging out slightly.

Avery smirked devilishly and took a seat between Bink and Fred, squeezing so that Bink was pressed up against Meta uncomfortably.

That wasn’t the point. We were going to make money anyway—Avery didn’t have to go flaunting her legs to the hormone-obsessed Gryffindors.

Sighing dramatically, I made my way onto the stage. It was still chaos. Girls were screaming. Guys were flexing their muscles. Some people were waving around bags of coins that I wanted in my pocket for those new robes. It was insane out there and I couldn’t see the floor between pushing second years and a fourth year back by the fireplace talking about how much money his father made at the Ministry.

“All right, folks, calm it down!” I cried, shifting up on the stage and loosening my tie a bit. I heard Nia squeal. “You’re all here for a reason. You’re here because we need to raise some gold for your amazing Quidditch team!”

Everyone cheered and Fred did a whoop from behind me. “So, like the inventive team we are, we’re going to auction off the players to you for day tomorrow—which is also a Hogsmeade day might I remind you—to do what you wish with them within reason. You should know the limits. Common sense, mates.” I took a deep breath and smiled. “It lasts from midnight tonight until midnight tomorrow night. Anyone have any questions?”

“Can we bid for people that aren’t here?” It was a squeaky fourth year in an orange cardigan.

I wrinkled my nose at her shirt. “Yeah, I don’t care.” I glanced around. “Anything else? No? All right, let’s get this show on the road. I’ll lead this sha-bang by being up here, but you lot have control. Who should we start with?” I listened to the incomprehensive shrieks in front of me. “Wesley Jordan!”

Wes blushed and made his way onto the stage, shuffling his feet. He smiled coyly.

“This bloke wowed everyone at try-outs. He’s a great Beater. His dad works in Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes with Fred’s dad and his mum is a Chaser for the Tornadoes!” I said loudly, hoping these things would make the girls want to bid on Wes.

Turned out, I didn’t need to try as hard as I did. Third year girls started bidding right off the bat and it was up to twenty galleons before I had time to adjust my tie again. Wesley was positively beaming.

It settled on twenty-four Galleons, two Sickles and a Knut for Wes to some short girl in the back and he bowed before leaving the stage. That was a good chunk of change for dear Wes. He was a good asset after all.

“All right, whoever just won Wes needs to collect him after this is over so you can tell him the plans for tomorrow.” I glanced back toward the couch of Quidditch players. “How about we go for Freddie Weasley? He’s an eligible bachelor. C’mon up here, Freddie. Show them what you’ve got.”

Fred leapt up on stage and struck a few poses before the bidding started. A clique of girls started it off right with a few galleons, but after that everyone’s eyes were on the ground and no one said anything. Fred colored. Out of all of us he was the embodiment of a ladies’ man. He dated half of the Ravenclaw House.

“What’s going on? Waste all your breath on Wes?” I demanded.

“We can’t bid,” said a fifth year a few rows back.

“Why bleeding not?”

“Kay Davies threatened us.”

Fred blushed even more.

“Kay effing Davies? Are you kidding me?” I looked over at the clique of girls. “Did Davies put you up to this?”

Cardigan-girl bit her lip.

“Bugger.” I paused. “How much money did she give you?”

She held up the bag.

“Sold! To Kay Davies! For the content of that bag.” I grinned and Fred slapped my back. I took the money and Fred flopped back down on the sofa. “Who’s up next? Meta? Yeah, why don’t you get up here?”

She scowled and made her way onto the stage but once she was up there in the spotlight she turned from feminine-excuse Seeker to superstar. She struck model poses and fluffed up her hair and I was almost sick. But the blokes loved it and the bidding started before I allowed it to start and Meta was hovering around twenty-seven galleons. A burly sixth year grinned devilishly when I collected his money.

When I called Bink, he looked positively irritated. He wasn’t much of a people-person, that Bink. Maybe it was his pale skin. He had to be self-conscious because he didn’t have gorgeous freckles or tan skin like me and Freddie.

“How about this piece of bloke here?” I said wildly and the girls cheered so much it made my ears hurt. “What do you think he’s worth? That luscious blond hair? Pretty eyes? Damn good Quidditch talent.”

I ended up sitting down because it was taking so long. It was clear a great deal of the girls were there for Bink and I waited until it hit thirty-four before announcing the winner, a pretty red-haired girl with a smi—oh, bollocks.

It was Rosey. Al was beside her laughing.

I could only assume Bink was in store for some toilet-cleaning.

“Time for Paloma Dove!” I cried, collecting Rose’s money and pulling Paloma onto the stage. “Isn’t she a beauty? Put Freddie in the hospital during try-outs.” I found my voice trailing as it was being taken over by bidders that had fallen in lust with dear Paloma.

Bollocks on the Quidditch Code.

I shook myself out of it. I didn’t know anything about Paloma. She was beautiful, but I didn’t know a sodding thing about her. What she liked. What she was into besides nail polish. So the Quidditch Code was law and I had to auction her off.

I didn’t make that sentence every day.

“Twenty-four galleons!”

Blimey, big spenders.


I looked out. Al was bidding. His cheeks were red and his voice was higher, but he was bidding. Didn’t have a crush on her my arse.

“Thirty!” It was a first year. I snorted. Poor Paloma.

“Thirty-one!” Al again. What a trooper.



“Forty-seven!” Where was Al getting all this gold? Did Dad know about this?

Fifty!” It was the first year. Al’s fists clenched up.

“Sold!” I said loudly and Paloma’s face went unnaturally pale. “Bad luck, Dove. Maybe next year.”

“James, you’re wicked,” she whispered and left the stage, leaving me wondering exactly what wicked meant.

“You want to go next?” Avery asked quietly, approaching the stage. “So there aren’t two girls in a row?”

I shrugged. “Sure. Bring on the fan girls.” I spread my arms out.

“It’s time for the Captain, ladies!” Avery said loudly, standing so that the boys near her could not see up her green dress. The shrieking hurt my delicate ears. “So get out your gold because this pompous git is worth every Knut!”


Avery stepped back. “Twenty already? Blimey. Ah, it’s Nia. That’s why.”

I shot her a look.

“Twenty-five!” There was Elizabeth. I was wondering when she would venture in.

“Twenty-six!” Why was Al bidding on his brother? Twirp.


I tried flexing my muscles but that was it. No one else wanted to pay more for me. Or maybe they didn’t want to get beat up by Nia because she had her wand pointed at Elizabeth’s throat. That could have been it. Crazy women with their money and good grades.

Nia’s smile couldn’t have been brighter. She licked her lips. I was a little unsure about what Saturday would bring.

“All right, folks,” I said loudly, trying to ignore the winks from Nia and the depressed glance from Elizabeth. Stupid prat Al was laughing. “Lastly, is our fantastical Keeper wearing a dress today which is a little inappropriate but hey I’m not her father, I just think she should cover up and—ouch! All right.” Scowling, I started the bidding off at ten galleons for Avery.

It jumped to twenty.

It jumped to thirty.

I checked my watch. Avery winked at the crowd.

What in blazes was she doing winking?


I knew that voice. I knew it and I didn’t like it.



I groaned. No, no, no. My hands balled into carefully formed fists and I wanted to punch the crap out of him.


Now, wait a bleeding minute. Avery gets the most money? How could she possibly?

And where were these sods getting all that gold? Had they been saving for years to get Avery out on a date?

She didn’t go on dates. I would have to remind them of that.

Or my wand would find its way somewhere uncomfortable.

Or I’d punch them in the damn mouth.

Twat berries.


That was it. It was over. I collected the winnings, Avery looked shocked but happy, and Emerson Edwards, Head Boy Extraordinaire, won a Saturday with my Keeper.

A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed chapter three. It was a really difficult chapter to write, but I think the next one will come easier. I'm still not entirely happy with this, but I think it works all right.

So what do you think? Who do you think has the best deal for their Saturday oasis and who has the worst? And who the heck won Wesley?

Thanks everyone for reading!

Chapter 4: A Midnight Start (with grades)
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“This is ridiculous! You can’t go on a date with Edwards—he’s a bird-watching moron!” I cried once the common room was clean and Avery, along with Bink and Fred, were sitting snug on my bed. I paced back and forth in front of them still wearing my pink shirt and running my hands over my tie.

“It was an auction, James,” she muttered, rolling her eyes. “What did you think was going to happen? I would make all this money and then have no one to spend the day with?”

“Well, yes.”

She flopped back onto the pillows and threw her legs over Bink’s lap. “You’re ridiculous. All we’re doing is going to Hogsmeade anyway. There’s no harm in getting a bite to eat and hitting Zonkos.”

“I doubt that pile of dung knows anything about the glory that is Zonkos.” I kicked my trunk hard.

“Considering he offered up the idea, I think it’s quite the opposite.” Avery sighed heavily and looked at me. “This was your idea. You have to live with it. And besides, if you’re going to be so older-brother-protective on me, you should have bid on me yourself or given your money to Al so he could have.”

“Al was bidding on Paloma,” I said nonchalantly. “I should have given it to Lily. I would have let her bid on a girl.”

“I bet she’ll have fun with Wes,” Avery replied, moving her dress so her thighs didn’t show too much. Bink glanced away, but Fred looked.

“What do you mean? Are they studying together or something?”

“Lily won Wes during the auction. Didn’t you see her in the back?”

I whipped around and nearly tripped over my trunk. I could feel my shin bruising. “No she—I would have seen her! I would have heard her voice. My sister didn’t win anyone.”

“She said she took some of the money from you over the summer too,” continued Avery. “You should really hide your gold somewhere other than your sock drawer.”

Fred moved over a bit so he wasn’t in my punching line. Bink pulled Avery’s dress down further.

“How could you let this happen?” I snapped, looking at the three of them. “Lily isn’t allowed to date! She isn’t allowed to hold hands with boys or talk to them or—I’m getting things straightened out right now. Wesley Jordan is going to get castrated I think—yes, that would be fine.” I made a move toward the door but Avery flicked her wand and sent me running into the wardrobe instead. The door was not in my collared shirts.

“Calm down,” she said. “This isn’t Wesley’s fault. I’m sure he couldn’t see who bid on him either. Your sister will be fine. She’s thirteen. You know, you were thirteen a year after you joined the Quidditch team. Oh, and a year after you started asking older girls on dates.”

Fred snorted. “I remember Roberta Jen. She was a sixth year and you were a bleeding second year—oh, Miss Jen will you please accompany me to Hogsmeade today? You see, I have a secret map. She thought you were trying to sleep with her.”

I narrowed my eyes as they laughed.

“I don’t care. I’m a strong man. Lily is…well.”

Avery cocked a brow. “What is she, James?” She kicked her legs off Bink, who moved away quickly, and swung them over the side so she could face me. I moved a sleeve off my face. “She certainly isn’t as horribly sexist as you are.”

“I am not! I’m just worried about my sister getting hurt.”

“She can do things herself.”

“Like what? Tie her shoes? Steal the money out of my sock drawer?”

“Leave it be,” Avery said loudly. “And then if Wes gets handsey or she starts sobbing in Hogsmeade you can hex the pulp out of him or lecture her on being a proper little minion or whatever it is you want to do with the time you aren’t spending studying.”

I heaved a large sigh. It was always Avery that could bring me down from wanting to hex people into oblivion. If it wasn’t for her I would probably have half the school in pieces by now.

“All right,” I said slowly. “I’ll leave it alone, but I’m going to Hogsmeade and I’m keeping an eye on them.”

I saw Fred try to disguise his laugh into a cough. Jerk. He knew I was keeping an eye on more than one couple. At least I could be positive Kay and him would be snogging within a few minutes. Part of me still wondered why Kay wanted to date him when he dated most of the rest of her teammates.

Perhaps she was using him to get information out of me.

That she-devil!

Bollocks, I’d have to keep an eye on Fred and Kay too.

And Bink and Rosey because she was a crazy cousin of mine and couldn’t be trusted.

Probably Paloma and that first year too, but only because he might try to get handsey with her and I wouldn’t want my teammate molested. Or groped. At all. Well…nevermind, not at all.

I didn’t care about Meta, though. She could get used, snogged, and upset as much as she liked. In fact, I might have paid someone to do it.

I could just steal Al’s money he didn’t use on Paloma.

I folded my clothes neatly on top of my trunk for the next day. It was around midnight and I was exhausted having planned a very exciting auction that day. I was also rather worked up about the whole Lily fiasco so I needed my rest. My wonderful rest that would make my freckles pop out a bit more. The ladies loved that.

Freddie snuggled under his covers and blew out the candle beside his bed. “What do you think we’re doing tomorrow?”

Bink shrugged. “I can tell you whatever I’m doing isn’t what I want to be, that’s for sure.” He sounded bitter and irritated, and I would be too if I had been purchased by Rose. She always had an agenda.

“I’ll tell you what I’m doing.” Emerson poked his head out from around his curtains and I saw a flash of his Head Boy badge on his bedside table.

“I don’t care,” I said.

Emerson ignored me. “I’m taking Avery Flynn out to breakfast in Hogsmeade and there we will spend hours getting to know each other.”

Fred chuckled. “Thinking she’ll fall in love with you then?”

“She’s already fallen,” Emerson explained. “She just has to realize it.”

I nearly choked as I pulled my own blankets up to my neck and blew out a nearby candle. “She’s not interested, Edwards.”

“Who’s she going to date then, Potter?” He spat out my last name like it was a disease. I had to point out my last name was an attractive one and if it was a disease it would be a beautiful one that made everyone happy and good at Quidditch. “You? You couldn’t see how wonderful she is if you tried.”

“She’s my best mate! Don’t you think I already know that?” I was sitting up in bed, the blankets curled around my midsection.

“We’re your best mates,” muttered Fred. His brains seemed addled.

“You know what you think you should know.” Emerson whipped his curtains back and he went silent.

“I know you’re a git and she doesn’t even like you!” I cried back, trying desperately not to sound like Nia telling off another girl for something. I played Quidditch for Merlin’s sake. I was the Quidditch Captain. I didn’t tell people off unless it was on the pitch or they were insulting my family.

The word “prat” came from Emerson’s bed.

I threw the covers off my torso and leapt to my feet, shirtless with the accessory of green boxers, and took a deep breath. “Say it again, mate. Say it again and I’m going to leave my wand over here and beat you into applesauce.”

I stood there for a moment, my chest rising and falling and I felt a draft swirl around my toes.


“James, what’re you doing?”

Nia folded her arms. She wore a fluttery blue dress that stuck to her midsection and accentuated her grades. Her hair was back and I wondered what in blazes she was doing in my room at midnight.

And there I was in my green boxes and freckles.

“He’s modeling Hogsmeade’s new line of menswear,” explained Bink with a grin. “I was thinking of buying some in blue. What do you think?”

“Nia, what’re you doing here?” I grabbed the blankets and pulled them over my legs. Though I was used to being shirtless around women that fancied me, it was still awkward to be in my boxers in my dormitory when I had no intention of throwing this girl onto my bed.

That was a horribly inappropriate thought.

True, though.

“It’s midnight.” She tapped her foot impatiently. “The auction purchases start now and I’m not wasting any time getting my full twenty-four hours.”

“I thought I’d have a bit of time to sleep at least!”

“You can sleep with me.” She winked.

My body let the shivers happen. Okay, the bed thing wasn’t a horrible idea, just not morally justified. “Well, I can’t say no to my own rules.”

“You just want to sleep with her.” Fred chuckled and gave me a thumbs-up as I pulled on my jeans and a t-shirt.

“No one’s going to be sleeping with anyone,” I snapped, tossing a rolled up pair of socks at him. “I hope your purchasers come up here and drag your arses out of bed.” I glanced over at Emerson’s bed. “Remember you can’t go get Avery. Don’t even think about it.”

“I already have it planned out, Potter,” he shouted from the other side.

“I’m going to hex you into next week.”

“Bring it on. I’ll put you into detention.”

I flipped him off and grabbed my jacket from the other side of my bed. With a heavy sigh that stated clearly I wanted to be safe under my blankets instead of doing the early hours bidding of Nia, I followed her out the door and down into the common room.

To my surprise, we continued up to the girls’ dormitories which I learned years ago I could enter if accompanied by a girl. And she grabbed my hand, steering me up the spiral staircase and into the Seventh Year room.

It was dark inside and difficult to find my footing, but once Nia lit a candle everything came into focus. I saw Elizabeth’s bed at the far end, curtains closed, and Mary Dillian’s bed (we called her Mary Mary Quite Good Gradesie), then over to Meta with her blankets pulled up over her head, and then my eyes fell upon Avery’s bed. Her hangings were open but she was sprawled out on the bed sleeping soundly like she did frequently on my own bed. I saw a piece of her slender leg poke out of the blanket.

Nia grabbed my arm and pulled me toward her bed.

Blimey! Did she really mean that sleeping with her thing?

I wasn’t really prepared for something like that.

Was there a spell or—no way I’d sleep with her. It would be like…forced. Sick.

I felt two hands upon my chest and I was thrown backward onto the bed. Her blankets were soft under me and I watched Nia in the semidarkness, her hands snaked around her waist and feeling their way up through her choppy hair.

“Nia,” I whispered, “what’s going on?”

“Have a little fun, James.” She was kneeling on the bed in front of me. I could see the tops of her breasts and I tried not to stare.

I actually tried not to.

I’m not lying.

It just didn’t work out too well.

“Have a little fun doing what?” My throat was running a bit dry. My eyes darted over to Avery. There was a little drool on the corner of her mouth.

“I’ve tried making moves on you before, you know that?” Nia said, ignoring me completely. She placed a hand on my thigh as she crawled closer to me. “I tried flirting with you, making suggestive comments, making suggestive gestures, and finally when you had this silly idea for an auction I realized it was perfect. Then you could realize how much I fancy you.”

“Fancy or lust?” I looked at her hand.

“I think it could be both.” She winked again.

Bollocks, what was with the winking? I slid to the left a bit, forcing her to land beside me awkwardly. “Why don’t we just start a little slow, huh? No need to jump the gun.”

“The gun isn’t the only thing—”

“Why don’t we just fall asleep beside each other?” I asked, putting my arm around her shoulder. “That way we can wake up refreshed and go have a full day of...activities.”

To my surprise, Nia smiled. “That’s a fantastic idea, James.” She turned her back to me so I could wrap my arms around her and she arched her back so that her rear end came into contact with a part of me I’d rather not describe intimately.

Let’s just say she was messing with my mind and I wanted to take a cold shower.

Nia was asleep within minutes and I wondered if she would have even lasted through whatever it was she expected. I heard her delicate snores and tried to convince myself she wasn’t that bad. She did like me and I understood that since I was the Quidditch Captain. She wasn’t a bad girl after all, just a little heavy on the throwing herself at people, me in particular.

My arm went numb.

I moved my legs. They were starting to get uncomfortable in the same position. I was used to not sharing a bed with anyone unless it was my mates but they didn’t sleep huddled up next to me like we were using body heat to keep warm in a Scotland winter. Fred kept to the foot of the bed and Bink the very side. Avery was usually everywhere but not in a way that numbed body parts. Though she did kick me in the head more than once.

What a best mate she was.

“Sick of her yet?”

I nearly choked and I moved my head as much as I could without waking Nia. “Avery? I thought you were asleep.”

“How could I sleep through her trying to seduce you?” she whispered. “What a show that was.”

I rolled my eyes. “So you’re over there laughing at me?”

“Internally, yes.” She paused. “Do you want me to get you out of that?”

“How would you do that? She is tattooing my arm with her hair right now.” I tried to move my fingers and it didn’t work. Why was Nia’s head so heavy? She wasn’t too bright so that wasn’t it.

“Come over here with me.”

I really did choke that time. “Oh, yeah, let me just go snuggle up in bed with you and Nia wakes up and gets the wrong sodding idea. That would be fantastic.”

“Just for a minute then you can go back to your room and I’ll tell lusty-girl you got sick in the middle of the night and had to go get medicine.”

I made a face. Slipping my hand gently from under Nia, I allowed her to rest back against the pillow and I took my midsection away from her back. She sniffed, but did not move. Turning, I caught sight of Avery in the dim moonlight and she looked like a big friendly cliché waiting for me. I jumped onto her bed, landing with a dull thud next to her in her tiny shorts and t-shirt. I hugged her tight for getting me out of that.

Avery brushed a piece of hair from my face. Her eyes were hidden in the darkness but her touch electrified my forehead. I shifted on the bed. She pushed me back, her palm hard against my chest, and I let my head rest against her pillows while she relaxed her cheekbones against my chest. Her fingers traced my stomach like she did so often while we talked about futures and careers and how much we hated Dara Wood.

But this time neither of us spoke and I waited for her to fall asleep a few hours later before I tucked her in and made my way back to the dormitory.

Rosey claimed Bink before I got up the next morning and Fred was snatched away before I had my socks on. Emerson was gone long before that and I wanted to shred his hangings and bend his stupid badge until it looked like a paperclip.

Trying to calm myself down, I leaned over the side of the bed and looked into the metal cage housing my pink pygmy puff named Victoria. She hummed contently and I wondered how many socks she had eaten since I last fed her. I bet Emerson handed them over nicely. What a git.

I tipped some pellets into the cage and refilled the water with a delicate wand flick.

“Good morning, Victoria,” I said nonchalantly, sticking my finger through the wires to touch her. “It’s going to be a horrible day because I have to babysit everyone and their uncles, but I think I’ll be all right. You mind holding down the fort? If Emerson comes back here with Avery stall them until I get here. He might try to throw me off, ungrateful sod.”

With a lopsided smile I left the dormitory and found my way downstairs where Bink was playing a disgruntled game of chess against Rosey and she was nearly murdering him. He had two white figures left. She closed in. Fred and Avery were nowhere to be seen. Neither were Paloma or Wes.

“Where’s Al?” I asked quickly, zipping my jacket tight.

“He went sniffing after Paloma,” Rose muttered. “Checkmate.”

I saw a piece fly and hit Bink in the chest. He frowned.

“Don’t give him too hard a time,” I said to her quietly. “He’s not himself lately. Seen anyone else?”

“Meta left a few minutes ago with Daniel Higs,” Bink said.

I nodded. “Well, hopefully he leaves her in a ditch or something.” Shrugging, I turned toward the portrait hole to see Nia Baker standing there with a scowl on her face. “Nia, hey!” I cried, wrapping her in a bit of a hug to make up for blowing her off the previous night to lay with Avery and retreat back to my own bed. “Have breakfast already? What do you have planned for today?”

My attitude made her smile and she curled her own arms around me. “I was thinking Hogsmeade. Tea or something. Shopping. You can carry my bags.” With a giggle, she led the way out of the common room and I wished Bink luck before leaving.

Nia talked a lot about herself as we walked across the grounds toward the village. Most of it was still I already knew. She was interested in journalism and wanted to be a reporter. She loved the idea of comfort and luxury. She enjoyed shopping and felt her best attribute was her smile.

That made me wonder what my best attribute was.

My Quidditch skills. Most definitely.

It was warm by the time we reached Hogsmeade and I rolled up the sleeves on my jacket. Nia kept chattering as we passed Honeydukes and I glanced at the far-off Shrieking Shack. Part of me would have rather been there than on this wonky date. Why couldn’t someone that liked Quidditch have purchased me?

“So what do you have planned?” I asked cautiously, interrupting her lengthy monologue about shoe sizes.

“I was thinking we’d start out our date at the Three Broomsticks. What do you think?”

“I wasn’t purchased to think,” I replied, mostly because she didn’t want to know what I thought. I opened the door for her and walked inside.

Being the gentleman I am, I purchased the drinks and an appetizer to split and met Nia at a table by the window where she was twirling her hair around her index finger. When she didn’t talk she was rather enjoyable.

Cute even.

“Good food,” I muttered absentmindedly, my eyes scanning around the bar. They found what I was looking for immediately.

Emerson Edwards was with Avery on the other side of the room at a tiny table beside the fireplace. She was wearing a dress again, this time a beige number tied around her neck and my pulse quickened at the thought of Emerson gawking at her. He leaned over the table and said something. She laughed.

I wanted to chuck my Butterbeer at them.

He said something else, making gestures with his hands that made him look like a complete git. She laughed again. Damn it, Avery. It wasn’t that funny. She shifted in her seat and stretched her legs.

“James?” Nia waved a hand in front of my face. “Are you listening?”

“Of course I am—sorry, love.” I smiled warmly. “Do you want another drink?”

“No, I think I’m fine for now.” She beamed in response and applied another thick layer of lip gloss. “I was thinking we could do that shopping today then. Madam Midge’s shop opens in about a half hour and you would look simply delicious carrying my bags.”

I smiled. Avery laughed again.

“Oh, how cute,” said Nia cheerfully and I followed her eyes to the door.

Immediately, I wished I hadn’t.

Wesley Jordan strolled in arrogantly and pompously and horribly with my baby sister, Lily. There she was, thirteen and vulnerable with a vulture like him making circles around his precious prey. I saw the look in his eyes as he ordered drinks and I was poking her on the shoulder before I knew it.

“Oh, blimey,” Lily said, rolling her eyes. “I figured you’d be snogging in your dorm by now, that’s why I came here.”

“Buying my Quidditch player, very sly move to get a date,” I said.

“It’s not a date,” she countered, taking the drink from Wes. “I wanted to support your cause and have fun with Wes. It’s not like I don’t see him during the holidays anyway.” Yeah, with the money she stole from me.

“You can see each other studying in the library.”

“You hound him on the pitch every bleeding day!”

“Don’t get that tone with me, Lily Potter!” I tried to puff out my chest.

She poked it hard with her index finger. “Shut your mouth, James. Nia is waiting for you and I’d like to get a table before I spill this.” Lily shoved past me, flipping her curtain of red hair into my face and I sneezed.

Sisters were a test of serious patience. How did Al deal with her?

I caught Wesley’s arm before he could follow. “Don’t try anything, Jordan, or I’ll have you doing laps for a month,” I snarled. I felt snarling was the best method of threat since he was generally scared of me to begin with.

Since Wes looked as if he might wet himself, I let him go and returned to Nia. “They’re doing lovely,” I said, downing the rest of my drink.

Avery met my eyes and grinned.

Emerson looked over and narrowed his own eyes.

I flipped him off.

Avery saw and sighed.

“How about that shopping then?” I said roughly.

“Give me a minute—just want to cap off these chips.”

I continued to stare over at Avery and Emerson. He wore his Head Boy badge again. Every few seconds I snuck a glance at Lily and Wes. She laughed and pushed her hair out of her eyes. She flirted just like Mum did with Dad over the kitchen counter. Disgusting.

I was startled when a few people jumped up and yelled. There was an owl in the bar and one student screamed and told everyone it pooped in her food. She was eating chips and dip and I couldn’t decide if the dip simply looked like poop to begin with.

The owl landed on Avery’s table and stuck its leg out. As she unfolded the letter it ruffled its brown feathers and clicked at Emerson, who seemed to be taken aback by being less important than a bird.

I thought he was less important than dust, but that was just my opinion.

Than an atom really.

Avery stood up and the chair fell over behind her. She excused herself, put a few coins in the pouch the owl held, and rushed out of the bar, shielding her face with her arm.

“Wonder what that was all about,” Nia whispered.

“Hey, I’ll meet you over at Midge’s, okay, love?” I leaned over the table and kissed her quickly on the cheek, hoping she would forgive my leaving her if I did that. It worked and she blushed. “I just have to make sure it isn’t something serious. Pick out something good while I’m away.” I grinned slyly and rushed out, looking both ways before I found Avery around the side of the building staring at a piece of parchment in her hands.

It was nearly heartbreaking seeing her sitting in the dirt with tears smearing her mascara into strips on her cheeks and the heels of her shoes digging into the earth around her. Patches of her legs were scratched from the stones.

Avery glanced up at me. “James, what’re you doing out here?”

I sat down next to her and put a comforting arm around her shoulders. “I figured I could replace Edwards for a bit. What’s in the letter?”

She sighed heavily and pushed her heel deeper into the ground. “My dad wants to come watch me play in our match against Ravenclaw.”

I grabbed the letter from her, straightening it against my fingers. “Just so I’m getting my facts straight,” I said, my eyes scanning the loopy cursive, “this is the same dad that walked out on you and your mum when you were four, right?”

“The very same.”

A/N: Hope you enjoyed the chapter, it just sort of came out of my keyboard after a writing drought and I think I like it a lot.

So...what do you think about Fred in the chapter image? Favorite quotes? And as always, let me know what you think! I really love hearing from you guys, it's great :)

P.S. - Nia, what a girl...

Chapter 5: Hogsmeade is for Lovers
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Avery was raised by her mum after her dad walked out on them when she was four. She told me about it once, about waking up without the smell of hot waffles flowing into her room. She checked her dad’s sock drawer and it was empty except for a few of the bras her mum never wore because the “underwire was uncomfortable”. Her mum sat her down and told her it wasn’t her fault and that Daddy need to “figure a few things out” before he could support a family.

Later Avery told me she found a letter tucked inside of an old dictionary. It was a love letter from some broad named Caroline to her father and described meeting in secret at the grocery store. I didn’t think that was a very secret place.

Her last memory of him was a man with an expressionless face reading the newspaper.

“What’re you going to do?” I asked, trying to regain the confident best-friend demeanor I was expected to have.

“I don’t know.” She wiped a few tears away. “I feel like one of those people—one of those people with the runaway parents that sees them years later and dissolves into a puddle of pity because of it. I’m not that girl. Stop feeling bad for me.”

I pulled her closer. “Shut up. What are you going to do?”

“I’m not sure.” Avery pushed a bit of her long hair away from her face. It was shiny today. “I guess I’ll write him back, right? I’d regret it if I didn’t. I just—this is so strange. It says in there he was a Beater somewhere but why now?

“I guess you’ll figure that out.” I folded the letter and leaned my head against the cement of the building.

She heaved a giant sigh. “I’m royally pissed at you by the way.”

“What did I do?”

“You should have bid over Emerson so I wouldn’t be here laughing at his unfunny jokes,” she muttered, a smile playing at her lips. “At least I look cute.”

“I can’t believe you’re wearing a dress again,” I said.

“He paid a good deal of money for a date with me,” she replied, raising a brow. “So I should probably get back in there and smile and laugh a bit more. Just think of the robes.”

I grumbled a bit, leaning my palm against the wall to hoist myself up. I helped Avery to her feet and dusted off the bottom of her dress. “I suppose I should meet Nia then. She’ll want me to look delicious carrying her bags or sommat.”

“Has she tried to seduce you again yet?”

Groaning, I pulled open the door for her. “Not yet, but give it time—hey.” I put my hand on her bare shoulder quickly and Avery spun around. “Keep an eye on Lily and Wes, okay? So I don’t have to hex him and get a detention from Edwards.”

She smiled warmly. “I’ll keep an eye on them. Go put on your Quidditch Captain smile and maybe she’ll donate more money to our cause.”

“I can’t stand you,” I mumbled as she laughed. For a moment I watched her maneuver through the tables and find Emerson Edwards in the back, but before the git saw me I turned toward the rest of the village.

Madam Midge’s was only a few blocks away and when I walked in Nia was twirling in a pink cocktail dress that matched Victoria perfectly.

There were already three polka dotted bags beside her on the floor.

I ended up having to swing one over my shoulder to accommodate all the pleaded skirts and frilly tops, but we eventually managed to stumble back to the Three Broomsticks for lunch and take up half the table with bags. Avery and Lily weren’t there anymore and I hoped my baby sister wasn’t off somewhere snogging Wes behind the Shrieking Shack. That shouldn’t be a problem. Lily didn’t know how to snog since she was too young.

I did, however, spot Freddie in the corner with his face attached to Kay Davies. Her thick layer of blond hair was sitting on the table and dangerously near the butter dish, but neither of them seemed to care. At least the auction worked out for him.

“Are you having fun?” Nia asked, coming back to the table with the drinks I gave her the gold for.

“Of course I am.”

“I’m sorry if I seem a little scatterbrained,” she said quickly and I glanced up. “Sometimes I go a bit overboard when I really fancy someone.”

“Oh, so you fancy me?” I said and Nia grinned.

“You know what I mean.” She sipped on her drink and fiddled with the lid of her chapstick. “I know sometimes I come across as really overbearing, but I get nervous.”

I shot her a comforting smile and checked to see Fred’s face still attached to Kay. It was sickening really. People were trying to eat.

So Nia wasn’t all that bad. I never thought she was—she just wasn’t someone I could spill my secrets to and expect to understand. In other words, she wasn’t a best-mate sort of girl. I stared at the way her painted fingernails chipped against the table and how she bit the corner of her lip waiting for me to respond.

Maybe the fact that she wasn’t a best-mate sort of girl was a good thing.

“I get that you’re nervous,” I said finally, “just try and be yourself and if it works then it works.”

And if it doesn’t, I thought as the door opened and a familiar first year strolled in, then I can burn the Code and gawk at Paloma instead.

She walked in behind the first year, her shoulders hung loosely because of the four bags she carried. The twittery first year held none. They were all from Zonkos and Paloma’s face reflected what I assumed to be a lengthy trip to the joke shop.

“Spare me some money for drinks, love?” I saw the first year asked and Paloma gaped at him before tossing a coin over and collapsing at a nearby table.

“Poor girl,” whispered Nia. “She’s so pretty and she’s traipsing around with a first year holding his bags. That’s just poor chivalry.”

“He’s a first year,” I replied. “Did you expect anything different? I don’t think he even knows what hormones are yet, but still he’s all over her. I’m going to sock him in the jaw for asking her for money.”

“First years never have money,” said Nia thoughtfully.

“That twat berry should have stolen it from his brother’s sock drawer.”

“What’s a twat berry?” she asked.

“Hell if I know.” I watched Paloma sip at her drink and push long strands of dark hair away from her eyes. She looked miserable but there wasn’t much I could do to get her out of it.

“Oi, Pinky!”

I might have mentioned somewhere down the line how much I hated Clint Lawson and his scaly looks and pasty skin. He sauntered in with his hair plastered back against his scalp and a couple Slytherin girls on his arms. They looked as repulsive as he did and Scorpius Malfoy sniggered from behind him. I had a feeling the girls were just a show and the real action went on between Scorp and Lawson, but it was just a theory. Professor Longbottom didn’t seem to buy it.

“Lovely day,” I said in reply and Nia shifted uncomfortably.

“I would say it was up until I walked in here—Gryffindor scum stinkin’ the place up.” Lawson tossed Scorpius a few coins to order drinks and the git decided hovering around my table would be amusing. Fred unstuck himself from Kay Davies to look on and Paloma ignored her first year companion.

“You’ll have to think of a new nickname soon,” I said fondly. “Since we’re getting new robes and all that. How about Reddie? Scarlettie? What else—crimsonie? Brick reddie? Any more synonyms?”

He rolled his eyes. “Potter, your antics never cease to amaze me. How you can get women to tolerate your idiocy is beyond me.”

“It’s beyond you because of your own idiocy.”

“I wonder if we’ll ever meet after graduation,” he said thoughtfully. “In a dark alley in London or a bookshop in Hogsmeade.”

“Considering I don’t see myself ever entering either, I doubt we will.” Grinning, I took another drink as Nia attempted to mask her laughter. Even Kay cracked a smile. “You planning on those alleyways? Scorp gunna use his daddy’s money to open a shop for Slytherin candies?”

Scorpius made an annoyed face, but said nothing. I was glad since he was a git and I didn’t want his gittiness rubbing off on me.

“At least I’ll get to show you on the pitch this year,” Lawson continued, attempting to ignore me but I saw the twitch in his jaw. “Since you’re captain I’ll have no problem destroying your weak team.”

“Are you done?” I said, finishing off my drink. “Mummy told me not to talk to Slytherins.” All right, that was a lie. It was really Uncle Ron.

Lawson narrowed his eyes. “Watch your back, Potter.”

“You ought to watch your front—wonky smell comin’ from it and all.”

They sauntered to a table in the corner and I claimed a brief victory for team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Maybe I should have just called it team Potter. But then Al or Lily could have taken credit.

“James, I’ll never forgive you for this.”

I jumped, realizing Paloma Dove was beside my elbow with an exhausted look in her usually fresh eyes. “For what? This drink—it’s not really effecting me, you know.”

She sighed. “No, for this whole auction. This bloke is nutters—spent three hours in one aisle at Zonkos. Three hours. One aisle. I don’t know what to do. It seems that he only wants to be seen with me, not actually converse with me.” She paused to take a deep breath and I noticed the first year was leaving the bathroom and talking to a guy a few tables away. “So I’ve been following him around all day barely saying two words. What am I supposed to do for the rest of the day?”

I made a face. Had I actually gotten lucky being purchased by Nia? “I’m not sure there’s much you can do,” I explained calmly in my Captain voice. “It’s for the team. Just remember that. Every time he makes you pick up that strangely heavy load of bags—it’s for the team.

Paloma scowled. “I figured you’d say that.” She dusted off her thighs, which I stared at, and nodded. “All right then. I’ll see you at midnight when I throw something heavy at you.”

“Team effort!”

“Then at the team,” she seethed and maneuvered back through the tables to her own. Even when scarily angry, Paloma Dove was quiet lovely.

Fred and Kay were back at it again.

After lunch Nia and I made our way back to the castle and I helped her put the pink shoes between her beige ones and blue ones and I learned how to use a hanger properly. A skill I would forget as soon as I could. Mary was the only one in the dormitory and I tried not to look as she did Yoga exercises in the corner of the room. Why did I have to be seventeen? Rubbish.

Elizabeth was perched in the common room reading a book with a distinct look of annoyance on her face, more than likely studying spells to hit Nia with at her earliest convenience.

We spent a few hours out by the lake talking about our families and I found out I didn’t care about Nia’s family nearly as much as how she bit her lip between sentences.

It wasn’t until I saw Wesley and Lily holding hands walking toward the Quidditch pitch that I remembered the rest of my team was probably suffering just as much as I was. Or more even since Nia wasn’t too bad.

Dragging her with me, I made my way toward the pitch to see what the pair of them were up to. Avery wasn’t there to stop me from hexing Wes either if he tried something I wasn’t condoning.

For a moment I didn’t see them, but I heard a squeal and I suddenly knew.

He was showing her how to fly.

I scanned the sky around me, looking for a bloke who seemed to be out for a death wish and my baby ickle sister that didn’t know what was good for her. I pictured her sitting in front with delicate piggy-tails while he snaked his arms around her and then tried to get her to—where were they?

I almost choked when I realized Wes sat in the stands and Lily was racing around on her own broom Mum bought her even though I told her it was a bad idea since Lily was so tiny. The wind might blow her off and all that. Mum told me to take out the garbage.

Nia grabbed my arm before I could snatch my wand and do something violent. “Don’t,” she whispered. “Just leave them go. They’re friends.”

I narrowed my eyes. How could I let something like this go? He was probably using his Quidditch-player charms to woo her into going on a midnight stroll around the lake. Making a face, I loosened the tension in my shoulders. “I suppose,” I muttered, stealing a glance at Nia’s concerned face.

“She can fly really well,” she said.

I looked on. She wasn’t lying, Lily was very skilled. She couldn’t have a nearly-famous brother like me and not be good at Quidditch, though. I was confident of that. I was sure I rubbed off on her at some point.

Nia tugged at my arm. “C’mon, James. Let’s just go back inside instead of flying. You can teach me another day.”

Though I didn’t want to admit defeat to team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team, I followed her back out of the stadium and upstairs. It was starting to get dark anyway and I hadn’t seen my mates in hours. Part of me wondered what everyone had gotten up to. Especially git-prat-face Emerson Edwards with his Head Boy badge and pompous stance.

The common room was relatively full when we returned, spackled with people finishing off essays even though it was Saturday and joking by the fire. Immediately, I spotted Bink by the window with Rose beside him. He looked annoyed but not angry anymore, somewhat of a rarity for him.

“Hey, mate!” I cried, leaving Nia to talk with one of her sixth year friends Rose hated. I smacked Bink hard on the back and propped myself onto the table. “How was your day with my cousin? Did she treat you all right?”

Rose snorted. “What do you expect me to do? Lock him in a closet with Sinatra’s cats?” Sighing, she pushed her red hair back and glanced at Bink. “We had a fun day, didn’t we? Bink organized my closet and then we got to talking about Paloma since she was gone and then we just sort of talked for a while and got dinner.”

I faked shock. “You didn’t make him clean out the bathrooms? I was certain.”

Bink shrugged. “It wasn’t bad. I heard Paloma chased around a first year and her arms are near-broken. I suppose I can’t complain.” He leaned his head against the palm of his hand. “Though we could have done something fun.”

“I’m the one that paid and I needed my closet organized,” Rose shot back. “I knew you were the most fashion-oriented of the boys and I sure as hell wasn’t bidding on a girl. Too much whining from Paloma and I wasn’t shelling out that many galleons for Avery.”

“I heard Avery had a good time,” Bink said quickly.

I frowned. “I hope so. She didn’t seem too keen during lunch.” Nia joined me. “All right, I should get going with my purchaser here—you two have a good time for the next couple hours.”

Rose smiled, but before I could turn away a burly sixth year bloke tapped me on the shoulder. Daniel Higs was his name and Al hated sharing a dormitory with him because he smelled like old socks and gloated about the amount of contacts he had in the Quidditch World. Be that as it may, he couldn’t tell a Bludger from a Snitch and fell before he even climbed on a broom.

“Hey, Higs, right?” I said, raising a brow at his panicked stance.

“Yeah…um, you lot haven’t seen Meta, have you?” he said, eyes darting back and forth through the common room.

I stared. “Wasn’t that your job? To keep tabs on her?” Pausing, I glanced at Bink and Rose for help. “Is she really that hard to lose? Just follow the bitching, really.”

Daniel sighed heavily. “We had dinner in Hogsmeade and then she just disappeared on me.”

“Did you tell her anything that might scare her off?” I offered. Like how he smelled like old socks?

He carefully thought about my comment. “We talked about our families for most of the time. I told her how my dad is the general manager for the Tornadoes and how I’d seen him yesterday since he was in the city with a few scouts for a business meeting. We stopped for a bit since a few of them walked in and I said hi, but after that we talked about pets and other things.” Daniel looked extremely put out. “I thought she came back here.”

I groaned. I wanted to think maybe Meta just climbed a tree and fell to her doom, but I knew her better than that. She was sneaky. She expressed on several occasions that she would end up going pro and I knew if she got access to scouts she would take it.

Poor dumb-struck Daniel Higs.

I watched his face sink further down until he stared at the carpet.

“I bet she’s just tired,” Rose said cheerfully. “She had a long night last night from what I heard.”

I thought of Nia trying to seduce me and Meta snoring gleefully. “I heard that as well. At least you had a good time before that.”

Daniel smiled. “You’re right. Thanks for doing that, Potter. It was a good time.”

“Not a problem at all.” Git. I did not envy Al for living with him. He spoke in the dull roar of a lawnmower.

“Where do you think she went?” Bink whispered once Daniel returned to his group by the fire. “You don’t think she met up with those scouts, do you?”

“I’m willing to bet she did,” I replied. “Especially since I told her she’s running laps next practice because she gave me cheek. She’s a cheeky girl, that Meta.”

Bink made a face. “She probably just doesn’t want to suffer under you as a Captain all sodding year.” He smiled a bit.

I shoved him a bit. “You okay lately, mate? You’ve seemed off for the last couple days.”

“I’ve been sick,” he replied somberly. “I think if I was a woman I’d think I was pregnant with all my stomach aches.”

“Seen Madam Bones?”

“No, I’m going tomorrow,” he said. “I figured I’d give Rose her money’s worth.”

“Rosey deserves it,” I said and ruffled my cousin’s hair. Nia tugged on my arm. I’d almost forgotten she was there and with Nia that was quite a feat. “Yeah, love?”

“You said you wanted to talk to Avery when she got back—her and Emerson just walked in.”

I gave her a sideways glance. “You mind if we cut this short since we started at midnight?” I checked my watch and showed her how close it was to ending time.

Nia shrugged, something I was actually surprised by. “Sure. Thanks for the good time, James. I had fun today.” She beamed sheepishly.

Being the chivalrous bloke that I was, I reached down and kissed Nia’s hand gently. She blushed and I smelled mint lotion. “It was my pleasure. We’ll do it again sometime.” Beaming, I broke away from her and looked toward the portrait hole.

Avery laughed from beside one of the sofas, talking quickly to an excited Lily that must have just arrived from the pitch judging from her windswept hair. Emerson was beside Avery with his hand pressed gently on her bare back and I flicked my wand quickly.

Nonverbal spells were the shit.

Emerson jumped back, his finger singed, and his eyes scanned the room lethally.

This gave Avery the time to spot me and rush over. “James! Where have you been?”

“Erm, here?” I said quizzically. “Just got done chatting with Daniel Higs.”

“The bloke with the socks?” she asked.

I nodded. “The same.” I wanted to continue, but my eyes pressed against her dress. “Did you have fun?”

She took my hand and led me toward the spiral staircase. “First I have to hear all about your day with Nia because I have a bet on how many times she tried to seduce you in a broom cupboard. It’s worth four galleons.” Avery smiled wickedly as I groaned and she pulled me up the stairs toward my own room.

She flopped down on my bed, her dress flowing out all around the blankets. “So tell me what happened.”

“You’re in a much better mood,” I said, kicking off my shoes and throwing my jacket in the corner. I sat beside her, watching her expression fade a bit.

“Yeah, Emerson sort of let me forget about that whole letter from my dad,” she mumbled, eyes cast toward the floor. “I wanted to have a fun day to myself, you know?”

“But with Edwards? I’m confused.”

Avery smiled warmly. “Don’t be so hard on him, James. I had a really good time.”

I pretended to vomit off the side of the bed. “Oh, that’s rubbish.”

She rested her head against my pillow and I followed the way her hair splayed out against the fabric. It was something I was used to, yet it amused me all the same.

“Did you snog?” I asked, unable to hide my laughter.

Avery shoved me, almost knocking me off the side of the bed. “Did Nia take away your V card?”

I choked and fell that time, knocking my head against the end table and gaping at her. “Who says I’ve got a bloody V card?!

She laughed loudly. “Emerson.”

My face lit up like a strobe light party in Hogsmeade.

A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed this chap, it was very fun to write...especially the ending, haha. Thanks to everyone who has been reviewing, you're all really super amazing! I love to hear the feedback for this story, it's so much fun to write.

Favorite parts? Quotes? Want to punch anyone in the face?

Chapter 6: In The Gutter
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After I told myself I’d kill Emerson and bury the body in front of the lake, I composed myself and climbed off the floor. I smoothed out the blankets and Avery didn’t stop laughing.

Who cared I was seventeen and I was a virgin? James Potter was the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. I had important things to worry about. Quidditch and all that. Sports stuff. How Albus was a prat, that was pretty important.

No one really talked about it. Stupid Emerson Edwards, Head-Boy prat-face-twat-berry. I knew Fred wasn’t, he told me about at least three Ravenclaw girls, two of which were on the team and I figured Kay Davies would be next. But Fred wasn’t a “womanizer” like Clint Lawson. At least he dated them first.

When had I really dated girls?

As Quidditch Captain I just sort of snogged them and spent time with them. I never really wanted to date them. It was a distraction.


I dated Mary Mary Quite Good Gradsie once in our third year and I almost dated Meta but I shoved her down the stairs instead after she stepped on my foot. Elizabeth and I were an item for a total of three days, before Darian Bay asked her out. Stupid sodding Hufflepuffs.

Now these girls were everywhere wanting a piece of the Gryffindor Captain and what was I to do?

Kill Emerson Edwards was item number one.

At least Avery wasn’t dating a lot of blokes. Not that I made it easy, hexing everyone that asked her for a date.

Being a seventh-year virgin was not a big deal. It wasn’t. I was picky, right? I was waiting for the right moment?

That sounded cheeseball to me. Excuses, Potter, excuses.

“At least tell me what happened with you and Nia?” Avery said finally. “I’m dying to know.”

“You’re dying to collect your money,” I said forcefully. “But you’ll be broke, Flynn—ow, what? I have to call you that. I’m your captain. But you’ll be broke; Nia and I didn’t even snog.”

“What’re you talking about?” she said. “That’s what I bet on. Four galleons for me! Poor Freddie’s out of money. Details?”

I leaned back and put my head a few inches from hers. “It was boring, really. We went shopping. I carried her bags. We had lunch and dinner and talked for a while. Had a nice pleasant chat with Lawson, he’s a lovely bloke really.” I paused. “I had fun. Nia’s not that bad.”

Avery tipped her head toward mine. “Good. I’m glad you had fun, I was worried for a bit. I had a good time too. Emerson is actually really funny when he’s not being really formal and awkward.”

I raised a brow. “I’ll believe that when I see it.”

“I’m serious!” she said, elbowing me in the side. “He’s annoying and pompous, but he’s actually really nice. I had a good time.”

“Excuse me while I puke.”

“You’re excused.”

I glared at her. “I actually had a bit of fun, too. Maybe it was worth it for the money and the robes.”

“At least we know it’s worth it to get rid of those nicknames.” She kicked her legs out straight. “Right, Pinkie?”

“Too right you are.”

We were silent for a moment and I took the time to lean over the side of the bed and check on Victoria the Pygmy Puff. She looked safe and sound and I spotted a piece of my blue socks in the corner of her cage. Emerson was probably responsible.

“You hungry, Tory?” I asked in a sing-song voice. Avery raised a brow. “How about some munchies, eh? I’ve got something.” I stood and stretched out my back, making my way across the room to Emerson’s bed.

“You keep your treats over there?”

I beamed. “The best treats.” Pulling open Emerson’s trunk, I peered inside. It was organized in various categories of neatness, something completely foreign to me. I sneezed. I was allergic to organization.

I sneezed again and grabbed one of his striped ties. “Hungry, Tory?” I repeated, slyly making my way back across the room to Victoria’s cage. She hummed delicately and I slid the tie inside.

“You’re a horrible roommate,” Avery pointed out with a laugh.

“Yet you’re not surprised.” I watched Victoria have at it, starting with the large end of the fabric. “It’s not all that bad, though, is it? He did it to me. If he had a pet I’d feed it his things I reckon. Or I’d feed it to something, depending on what it was.”

She rolled her eyes. “So what do you think is going to come out of this Nia situation anyway? Do you think it’ll evolve into some sort of twisted relationship where she tries to snog you in Transfiguration or something?”

I made a face and plopped back onto the bed, thinking. “If it does I think it’ll end eventually, you know? I think Nia just might make me crazy. She talks about makeup and Witch Weekly and doesn’t know beans about Quidditch dives.”

You don’t know beans about Witch Weekly,” Avery said, reaching into my bedside drawer where she kept nail polish for such a talk. She opened it and began to paint her toenails pink. I watched her for a minute. “So why don’t you learn about Witch Weekly? Then maybe she’ll want to learn about Quidditch.”

“Ha,” I said harshly. “She thinks a kick off is when the Keeper kicks to make a save.” I raised a brow as Avery’s head flew up and her pink polish went all over her foot.

“Ditch her, James. Ditch her fast. Why haven’t you gotten rid of her yet?”

I nearly laughed. “Because I’m not even with her!”

“Well if that happens you’d better get that straight,” she said. “Kick save…blimey. Excuse the pun, but she’s no keeper.”

I snorted. “That’s why I have you, to tell me who to keep and who to kick to the side of the pitch. Which so far has been everyone.”

“You’ll find someone, James.” She took out her wand and cleaned off her newly pink foot. “Who knows, maybe Nia could come through and study the sport?”

“I hope so, though I don’t mind this searching thing.”

“You just like the attention, big head.” She chuckled and rolled her eyes at me.

“Never,” I muttered and pushed her arm with my foot so that her leg got some pink that time. Avery’s tan was fading since it was autumn so it was hard for me not to notice the white color of her skin, but at the same time it looked soft and shiny. It was probably the strawberry lotion she always tried to get me to put on. It wasn’t manly enough, though. I’d have to get some Mountain Rush or Ginormous Avalanche or Knife Wound.

“James Potter! It went everywhere!

I smirked. I had heard that tone so often in the last seven years that it was nearly second-nature for the smirk to come directly after. “It was an accident.”

“Right,” she muttered and used her wand to clean the rest of it off. “For that I’m telling Nia you want to get married.”

“Evil woman,” I muttered and closed my eyes.

Avery time was my favorite because people rarely bothered us with their petty problems. We would talk for hours and occasionally I would get so caught up in the festivities that some fingernail ended up pink. Luckily I was a darn good wizard so that undid itself rather quickly.

“Do you think practice will go smooth tomorrow after the auction?” Avery asked, drying her fingers in the breeze from the open window.

“Do you think Paloma and Bink hate me?” I chuckled.

“It’s a good possibility,” she replied thoughtfully. “Though you might lose your mind and attack Wesley for no reason half-way through as well.”

“If I attack Jordan it won’t be without a reason,” I muttered.

“You know if you do Lily is going to write home faster than you can throw a Quaffle.”

I groaned. “It’s not like they fancy each other or anything—I just don’t like the idea of it being a possibility. Mum will murder me. She’s always on about me leaving baby Lily alone.”

“Do you think you might take her advice?”

“Pfft, yeah right.” I wrinkled my nose. “Next thing you know I’ll be having lunch dates with Dad in Hogsmeade.”

“It probably wouldn’t hurt,” she said carefully, turning around to meet my eyes.

“At this point it probably would.” I paused, unsure of what to do with my arms. I felt awkward and a little cornered. “But you know how Dad and I are. It just doesn’t work between us. I love him and all that, but he just doesn’t get Quidditch, you know? He’s all about the Dark bollocks and whatnot, but that was years ago. The only thing Dark at Hogwarts is Clint Lawson’s future on a broom.”

She chuckled and then frowned.

“Now don’t give me that look—it’s okay between us. I don’t get why he’s into that rubbish and he doesn’t get why I am into Quidditch. Don’t worry, Avery. Al’s obsession with Dad’s past more than makes up for me being bored stiff by it.”

“All right, you win,” she said. “But I still think you should talk more often. Maybe this Christmas or something.”

“Keep dreaming.”

“Subject change then.” She shut the window and tested to see if her fingernails were dry. Avery beamed. “Team meeting tomorrow after practice? Since Ravenclaw is coming up I figured we’d have one soon.”

“Yep, tomorrow night in the kitchens. Al and Rosey will be down there patrolling again and I could use some éclairs with supper.”

“I can’t wait to see your face if they ever run out of éclairs.”

“How could they possibly—”

“If I make them run out of éclairs.”

My entire body ached. My arms hurt from throwing the Quaffle back and forth with the Chasers and my legs hurt from doing push-off techniques with Paloma and Wesley and my voice hurt from screaming at Meta to Seek instead of whine about the way the other players were playing. At one point I was forced to use a Silencing Charm.

She was not happy. I found my shoes turned into bologna.

“That was…invigorating,” said Fred, getting into the shower stall next to mine. I heard the water turn on and he sighed loudly.

“By invigorating you mean horrible,” I offered.

“Basically—but it’ll be like that for a while, I’m sure. At least until we get everyone working together as a team.”

I massaged manly-scented shampoo into my hair. “It’ll be good that practice will start happening more often so we’ll work out the kinks. I’m not too worried about it, really.”

“Heard any more about Meta with the scouts?”

“Nothing. Bink?”

The sound of water running filled the room.

“He must have skipped a shower today,” Fred said.

I made a face. “He’s a dirty bloke.” I chuckled. “I’ll just ask him at the meeting tonight. If I make it that long without falling over dead.”

“Who gets Captain if you do? Me, huh?”

I snorted. “I think I’ll just give it to Emerson.”

“I’ll bleeding murder you while you’re sleeping.”

“Won’t I be dead?”

Fred paused. “I’ll do it again.”

Luckily the éclairs were there when I arrived fifteen minutes early to set up for the meeting. I swung chairs around the table and stared around at each seat.

I was the Captain now. I was responsible for each of these sods showing up to play during our three games and showing the other Houses why Gryffindor stood out in Quidditch and why they shouldn’t even show up. Especially Slytherin.

We’d show them why they shouldn’t breathe, forget show up.

“Are you having a moment, or can I come in?” Paloma pushed open the door with a smile lighting up her face. Her hair was down and bouncy around her shoulders, different from the thick pony tail during practice. I noticed her nail polish chipping.

“No, no, come on in.” I grabbed a few plates and shifted them to settings in front of each chair. “Practice didn’t tire you out too bad today, did it?”

I expected her to complain, but she smiled wider. “Of course not,” she said. “I was actually telling Wes I could have gone at least another hour out there—I think my kick-offs are getting way better.”

She could have gone at least another hour.

Mind, I order you out of the gutter. Now.

I wished she would have worn baggy robes instead of a gray sweater. Her red bra strap was showing out of the top.

Oh, bugger, I didn’t even fancy her! Look away, James! Away!

“Oh, erm, good!” I said, nearly choking. “Yeah, it was a good practice. Healthy start to our routines and all that…erm, good stuff. Yeah.”

It was then I reminded myself I was James Potter, Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team and there was no need for me to stammer over my words in front of a fifth year Beater. Even though she smiled like…well, like a really bleeding hot woman. But I didn’t fancy her. She was a fifth year anyway—I didn’t date fifth years.

And besides, I thought with an internal groan, Al fancied her.

“Do you think I’m attractive, James?”

That time I did choke. I wasn’t sure on what because I didn’t have anything in my mouth after the first four éclairs, but there was definitely a clog in my throat and saliva that flew all over the table.

“Do I—what?

“Do you think I’m attractive?” She had her weight settled on one leg and her tan arms folded.

What in Merlin’s name was I supposed to say? That I thought she was deliciously gorgeous—that sounded like a woman-term. How could I say that macho-like?

“Why?” I managed to stammer, still trying to think of a reply that didn’t consist of “BLEEDING HELL DUH”.

“Because there’s something nice about you,” Paloma said, this time averting her eyes. “You’re a good Captain and you’re a nice guy and, I don’t know, I just thought maybe we could hang out more or something.”

I was a kneazle in broomlights. There was nothing I could do to get out of answering her—couldn’t tell her I fancied her because realistically I didn’t. Or did I? Did I really know who I fancied?

That V Card thing was nagging at the back of my mind. Stupid Emerson. I’d put him in detention.

“How long is this situation gunna last?” Fred threw open the portrait door and I jumped back, knocking over my chair. He stared. “You okay, mate?”

I cleared my throat. “Yeah, this shouldn’t take too long. Just have to talk about a few odds and ends—hey, Bink, needed to ask you a question earlier.”

Bink raised a brow and ruffled his blond hair. “Oh yeah? What about?”

I opened my mouth to ask him about Meta, but no sooner did the question-ruiner herself walk through the door with a bored expression etched into her face. “Never mind,” I said quickly. “I’ll ask you after the meeting.”

Fred and Bink filed into seats beside Paloma and Wes sank into a seat on the other side of the table with Meta. Avery was the last in and shut the door gently behind her.

Fuck, I couldn’t think.

Paloma smiled. Fred asked her a question and she answered, but she didn’t look away from me. This was painful.

It wasn’t painful because she was some scarlet woman like a few of the Ravenclaw girls, but it was because Paloma actually fancied me. As a person. As a bloke.

And Al was out there doing patrolling duties.

But it wasn’t my fault! I didn’t comb my hair a certain way to attract this sudden attention.

Of course the ladies always had a bit of a fancy for me (it was the freckles), but ever since I pinned on the Captain badge it was all over. I had to peel them off me at meal times.

“James? Are you all right?” Avery waved a hand in front of my face.

“Oh—yeah, haha, just sort of zoned out, didn’t I?” I chuckled nervously and looked down at my hands. “Where was I?”

“Nowhere,” muttered Meta.

I thought about throwing a plate at her. “I wanted to talk about robes since that’s what the whole auction was about. First, tell me about your experiences. Worth it? Not worth it? Pros and cons?”

“I thought it was definitely worth it,” said Avery brightly. “We got so much money and we only had to put up with someone for a day.”

“It’s easy for you to say since you had someone that fancies you,” said Paloma. “I had to be a baggage lady for a snotty first year! But I won’t deny we raised money and it wasn’t too hard.”

“I had a darn good time,” said Fred.

“I’m surprised you’re alive,” I said with a sly grin, “seeing as you never came up for air.”

“What did you do, Wesley?” Paloma asked. “I don’t think I saw you most of the day.”

“I ended up hanging out with Lily Potter,” he said quietly, avoiding my eyes since I narrowed them. “We’re just friends and all that, I went out to the pitch with her and whatnot.”

“Blimey, I hope you’re just friends,” said Bink. “James would curse you into next week and then make you do laps for the whole team.”

“And that’s why we’re friends,” I said cheerfully. “So overall positive feedback other than Paloma’s fluke? Good.” I grabbed a small stack of papers beside me and moved to the side so a small house elf could place a piece of cheesecake on my plate. It was strawberry so I beamed. “I ran the numbers and we have more than enough for the new set of robes—in a nice, red color. The rest of the money we’ll put aside and save for something else so we don’t have to do another painful auction—you know, just in case the Prefects decide they want to purchase us to patrol the hallways and catch evil-doers.”

Bink nodded heavily. “I don’t think I could handle that. Organizing Rose’s closet was bad enough.”

I narrowed my eyes darkly at him. “You don’t fancy my baby cousin, do you, Binkie?”

He made a gagging noise. “No offense, mate, I’m sure she’s great, but not for me. I can’t date the younger girls—they’d drive me mad.”

“Good to hear,” I said cheerfully. “We’ll do four-a-week practices from now on to keep up before our Ravenclaw game. Make sure you’re staying on your studies—or you at least have Avery to help you like I do—and don’t get a blasted detention during a practice time or you have no idea how many laps you’ll be running.”

“Done?” asked Meta impatiently.

“Just ask Meta how many laps you’ll be running,” I said loudly,” because she’ll be running plenty Tuesday for being so cheeky during meetings.”

“Let me know, Meta, since I might be getting a detention for doing something to Edwards,” Fred said. I smirked.

“Now we’re finished,” I said as chairs slid on the tiled floor around me. Avery took the seat beside with her own raspberry cheesecake and leaned in close. I could barely hear her over the talking and chair-scraping.

“Roxanne saw Meta having dinner with a scout,” she whispered.

“Roxanne—my cousin?”

“Yeah, the only Roxanne at Hogwarts, I was assuming you knew who I was talking about.”

I made a face and devoured half my cheesecake. “Fuck. Well, now I can’t run her or she’ll take off on me. Oy, Bink?” I looked up.

Fred and Paloma were the only ones left.

“Where’d the rest of them go? They ditch out too fast.”

“Wes had to finish his Potions essay—don’t know about the other two,” said Fred. “You don’t need me anymore, do you? Kay’s waiting in the Entrance Hall.”

“Don’t go giving away my strategies!” I called after him.

“I’ll be sure not to tell her we kick off on the grass.” Fred rolled his eyes and left with Paloma.

“Am I even a good Captain?” I asked loudly, my eyes following the house elves as they cleaned up our table.

“Don’t be stupid, of course you are.” She handed my empty plate to an elf. “It’s just hard entering it this late—especially when you have someone like Meta trying to muck everything up for you.”

“Do you think we should have had reserve trials?”

“No, that’s for Hufflepuffs.”

I hugged her loosely and stood. “And if there’s anything Gryffindors aren’t, it’s Hufflepuffs.”

Practices continued to drain me as the week wore on and I fell asleep in two Transfiguration classes and then in Herbology. Professor Longbottom pulled me aside and asked me about my Quidditch habits and I told him I fell asleep because of the large amount of academic work that was assigned and it had nothing to do with my sport.

He didn’t buy it, but at least Fred got a good laugh.

“Are you all right?”

It was after Care of Magical Creatures and Nia put her hand on my shoulder as I trudged back toward the castle. She looked worried.

“Yeah, I’m okay. Just been thinking about the Ravenclaw match and all that coming up.” I frowned.

“If you need help keeping up in classes, you’ll tell me, right?”

I managed a searching expression. “If you want me to.”

“I can help you if you need it.”

I held the door open for her, still unsure of what to make of her bright face and optimism. Nia turned and smiled.

“Yeah, yeah, I’ll ask if I need it.” I paused. “Thanks, Nia. I appreciate it.”

“Sure thing, James!” She waved and disappeared toward the Great Hall for lunch and I turned to follow the rest of my mates to the Gryffindor Common room.

“She fancies you a lot,” Bink said, raising a brow.

“Yeah—I can’t worry too much about girls right now. Gotta get ready for that match. The next team meeting we’ll talk tactics.”

“Can I ask you a question?” said Fred, throwing an arm around my neck. “Remember those meetings Dara Wood had for the last couple years? Yours won’t be anything like those, will they? I think I might throw up if we start talking about Kay and the way she swings her legs over her broom—I can just picture Jordan drooling over the thought.”

“So are the pair of you together?” I asked, completely ignoring the question at hand.

“I’m not really sure.” Fred pushed open one of the tapestries and sighed. “I feel like we should be—we snog enough—but I haven’t really made anything official.”

“Does she look like she wants it to be?”

“Who even knows?” he said loudly. “Who knows what women mean when they look at you a certain way? I take most of her expressions as snog me now please and thank you.”

“You might want to ask her what she wants,” I offered, trying to be a sensitive bloke since I was wearing manly lotion. I made a mental note to try and find the Knife Wound in Hogsmeade during our next trip.

“I might do that,” he said.

I pushed open the portrait hole and my lips tightened once I saw Paloma giggling in the corner. She waved at me. I waved back.

Albus narrowed his eyes from behind a Charms book.

A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed chapter 6, it was very fun to write, especially James's male-centric thoughts. He's quite the guy, that James.

Things to look forward to in the next chapter: A change of scenery :)

Leave me some love & tell me what you think!

Chapter 7: Moving Foward
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Sorry for the typos, I wrote this and stuck it up immediately for you all!
I'll go back & fix them later :) Enjoy!

I kept to my room for the next couple days, parchment scattered over my duvet, and compared skill notes on the Ravenclaw team. The game wasn’t for a while, but I could never be too prepared, especially with Fred snogging the Claw Captain. She was feisty too, I could see her using her curves to get him to tell her things.

And let’s face it. Fred would do it.

I glanced up, hearing a knock at the door, and smiled at the thought of Avery letting me escape from this mess of Claw rubbish. “Come in.”

It was Albus. He pushed his glasses up on the bridge of his nose and closed the door behind him, frown etched into his face.

“Hey, little brother, what’s going on?” I asked, pushing some notes aside so he could sit down.

He stood by the door. “Can I talk to you about something?”

“You never talk to me about anything,” I said, practically dumbfounded. Albus would usually rather talk to Professor Longbottom than ask me my middle name.

“I know. I don’t particularly want to do it now, but my common sense is telling me I should probably be the bigger person here.” He tossed a book down on my trunk and returned to leaning against the door. “I need to talk to you about Paloma.”

I should have known that was coming.

“About her kick-offs? I know she’s not as good as Wes yet, but she’s getting better.”

“About how she fancies the pants off you, James, don’t play dumb with me.” Albus folded his arms and I noticed he tried to flatten his black hair this morning with water but it just clumped and stuck up.

“I hadn’t noticed.”

“You’re such a prat.” Albus groaned. “Are you going to ask her to Hogsmeade or something? On a date? It’s obvious you get choked up when you see her so I wanted to get it out of the way and check and see.”

“Are you daft—the bleeding Code!” I cried. Being called a prat by my baby brother didn’t sit well with me. Where was Lily? She would stick up for me. Well, she would think about sticking up for me and then remember all the bad things I did to the blokes that fancied her and then probably stick up for Al.

“I don’t care about the Code. I always thought you’d be the one to break it anyway. Answer my question.”

“I’m not going to ask Paloma to anywhere other than the pitch during the Ravenclaw game. Why does it bug you so much?”

“Because I’ve liked her since our fourth year!”

“I thought you didn’t like her, that’s what you said,” I replied tactfully.

“Well, I lied. I like her.”

“Since your fourth year?” I asked. “Why haven’t you done something about it?”

“I tried to bid on her at the auction.”

“I mean go up to her and maybe say a few words. Start with hello.”

Albus rolled his eyes. “You may be unable to understand this considering you’re the silly famous Gryffindor Captain with all the girls falling over his eggs at breakfast, but some of us don’t have some special talent to lean back on.”

“What about that you look like Dad?” I said. “Why not go up to her and say, do you know my pops is Harry Potter? You know, bloke that killed Dark Lord Whathisface?”

He groaned. “Paloma doesn’t even know my name.”

“How is that possible? You have the most ridiculous name in Hogwarts.”


“Being honest,” I said cheerfully, stacking a few more notes by my pillow. “How do you know that anyway?”

“Because she asked me for my notes not too long ago and she called me Amon.”

“Least she got the first letter right.”

“I’m just going to give up and let her fancy you so you have yet another woman fawning over you and I can concentrate on my Charms essays.”

“You know Charms essays won’t get you anywhere in life, right?”

Albus pulled the door open. “Yeah, just to graduation. Nowhere at all. Well, I’ll see you around, James.”

“Hey, Al?”


I frowned, unsure of if this situation needed closure or not. He looked disgruntled but considering Al and I didn’t talk too much I wasn’t sure. “I don’t fancy her.”

He paused, hand lingering on the doorknob. “That doesn’t change anything.”

I had to take this into my own hands—do something about my baby brother being miserable and hating me for something completely beyond my control. It wasn’t my fault I was so terribly good-looking. Apparently the mix between Mum and Dad had something going for it.

Eww. Gross parental thought.

I found Albus later that night in the common room. He was by the window with his glasses buried in a Transfiguration book. He wasn’t actually reading, which I realized when I saw Paloma giggling with Mary Mary Quite Good Gradsie across the room. I avoided eye contact and approached them.

“Hey, Paloma,” I said. I felt Al’s eyes on the back of my head.

“Oh, hi, James,” she said cheerfully. “I was just telling Mary about practice the other day when Meta yelled so hard at Fred she actually fell off her broom and skinned a knee.”

I smiled. “She’s quite the character, isn’t she?” I said awkwardly. “Anyway, listen, Paloma, I had a bit of a question—have you talked to my brother lately?”

“Your brother?” She cocked her head to the side. “Isn’t he a first year or something? Andy?”

I groaned. “Do you have a lot of friends, Paloma?”

She nodded. “I hang out with a lot of girls.”

“And none of them talk about Albus at all?”

“Oh, of course,” she said, twirling a finger around her hair. I watched her intently. “Albus helped my friend Micha with her Transfiguration the other day. I don’t know who he is though—a Ravenclaw?”

“You seem pretty bright to me, Paloma.”

She smiled. “I get pretty good grades.”

“Yes, you do,” I said, not thinking about academics. “That boy sitting over there by the window, what’s his name?”

She glanced over. “Amon? Isn’t he that dishy sixth year that doesn’t talk to anyone but Rosey Weasley?”

I nearly groaned. “That’s my brother. That’s Albus.”

She gaped at me. “Oh, my—are you serious? I feel like an idiot. I always thought he hated me so I never said anything to him. He seemed almost…too cool, good grades and all that.”

“He’s really not cool at all—well, not as cool as me. I almost feel bad for him, really, living in the shadow of such a sweet older brother.” I laughed a bit. “But anyway, you should talk to him sometime if you need help with school or someone to hang out with or a date or whatever.”

“Huh? Did you just say date?”

I raised a brow. “I didn’t, but now that you mention it I hear the little brother is quite a good snogger.” I placed a hand on her shoulder and nodded to Mary. “Have a good night, ladies.”

Then I retreated upstairs, flopped back onto my bed, and buried my freckled nose in more Ravenclaw notes. I reckoned I knew more about Kay Davies' thighs than Fred did, and that was saying something.

“So what do you think?” Fred put on his socks and stretched. “About me being with Kay and all? Do you think it’ll end bad?”

“Everything ends well with you, Freddie,” I said, rolling over in bed. “You just convince the ladies it’s their idea and you can be friends and then you have a little snog buddy or something.”

He chuckled. “Well, it’s official. We’re together. An item or whatever you call it. No more Fred Weasley being a ladies man around Hogwarts. I am tied down. For now.”

I groaned.

“When are you going to get yourself a lady, Mr. Potter?”

I groaned again. “I hate women. They’re weird and wonky and I just like their lips attached to mine.”

“How about Nia then? She seems to fancy you a lot.”

“I’m not even going to think about it,” I replied, burying my face into the pillow. “Nia’s helping me tonight with my Herbology since Professor Longbottom is going to hex me if I don’t get a good score on the next exam.”

“That’s good at least,” Fred said, grabbing the hangings on Bink’s bed. “Where is that bugger? I wonder if he’s practicing hard to get better than me. Let me tell you, James, that’s not going to happen. Ever.”

“Is Edwards over there?”

“Nah, I heard him muttering some rubbish about talking to Avery earlier.”

“Avery? As in, our Keeper?”

“The only Avery in Hogwarts.”

I narrowed my eyes, hoisted my feet over the side of the bed, and threw on some clothes. Then I grabbed my wand and marched down to the Great Hall to try and find that ridiculous bloke I called a roommate. He was near the end of the table, hovering over my Keeper practically licking his chops.

“Oi, Edwards, someone broke into the dormitory and raided your perfectly organized trunk and probably stole a pair of your pink socks.”

Emerson looked up, expression pained. “What are you—who could have possibly done that?”

“I don’t know; I saw some twitchy first years downstairs going through a bag of stuff though.” I shrugged and Emerson gaped at me.

“Oh, um.” He paused and glanced down at Avery. “Excuse me, love, I have to get upstairs and put some people in detention.” He did a somewhat awkward bow and then rushed very ungracefully out of the room.

I chuckled. “What a tool.” I slid down beside Avery and grabbed a plate of toast. “So how’s your morning, love?

Avery punched me in the shoulder. “Shut up. What are your plans for the day? Locking yourself in your room again and reviewing Ravenclaw notes. I think you’ve lost your V card to those notes already.”

I rolled my eyes. “Inappropriate, Flynn. Inappropriate. And for your information no, I’m going to study with Nia tonight for the Herbology test tomorrow.”

“So you and Longbottom are getting along quite well then, huh?”

“Like besties.” I munched on my toast and glanced around as Bink plopped down beside me. “Oi, where have you been?”

“Out on the pitch, git-arse,” he snapped, running a few fingers through his blond hair. “After you yelled at me for not diving right I thought about practicing.”

I frowned. Of course he was out practicing. Bink was quite the trooper. “Did you notice a wonky smell in the dormitory this morning? Smelled like rotting Edwards.”

He chuckled. “I did, but rotting Edwards would smell like glory.”

“Very true story, good comment, friend.”

It didn’t take long for the Herbology book to find its way against the wall as I threw it in the empty classroom that night. I just didn’t get it. All those rubbish plants—who cared unless a wild one started growing in my garden and killing my party guests. They would be there for my Quidditch parties so that would be a pretty large problem.

Other than that, though, who cared about the pus coming from certain plants or the color of the spine secretion? That sounded appalling. It really was.

“James, just concentrate,” Nia said, placing a hand on my thigh. She was next to me at the professor’s desk in the front and wearing a low cut purple top that I concentrated on harder than my schoolwork. “It’s not difficult—look at the pictures. The way to tell them apart is the pus color coming out of there—see that? Now, what’s the first one?”

She pointed at a picture of a wonky cactus-looking plant with purple spikes and yellow rotten-looking spots around the top. It looked sick. I shrugged. “I don’t bleeding know. What is it?”

“James, are you even trying?”

“I’m trying!” I threw the second Herbology book at the wall and it bounced off, landing on the tiled floor. “I just don’t care.”

“How about for every plant you get correct, I’ll give you a kiss.”

I glanced up. I knew she tried to seduce me, but I didn’t expect study incentives.

Didn’t expect, but definitely enjoyed.

I stared hard at the plant. It was strange, that’s for sure, but I had no idea what the name was. I tried to look out of the corner of my eye at the book. It wasn’t there because I threw it. My eyes went back to the picture.


“I have no idea,” I muttered. “Can I study again?”

Nia beamed, a blush forming on the outside of her cheeks. “Of course you can. Your books are across the room.”

I rushed for it, pulling the book open and flipping through the pages. There it was—yellow weird and rotten looking, just staring back at me. I glanced around for a caption. There wasn’t one. “It doesn’t bleeding say!”

“Aw, sad,” said Nia cheerfully. “I guess you don’t get a kiss.”

I nearly tore the page. “It looks like both of these stupid ones—the yellow bumps are on the Tactella and the purple spikes are on this Yelnia. What does that even mean?

“What do you think it means?” She propped herself onto the desk and two long, slender legs found their way out of the front of her robes. I stared.

“It means those two plants got it on by defying plant segregation and produced that ugly bugger?”

Nia grinned. “Way to go, James. Now, what do you think its name is?”

I flipped pages. It wasn’t anywhere, but then I found the chapter on plant sexiness and all that and there it was again—yellow spotter bloke! It was a Tactnia. It took me all those pages to find out they just combined the two names. Slick, Herbology. Real slick.

“Tactnia! Tactnia!”

Nia clapped her hands. “You’re not going to forget that one real soon, are you?”

I shook my head. “I don’t think ever. I may just buy one because of that ridiculously amazing achievement.”

“They’re mammal killers so I wouldn’t suggest it.”

“Why are you so bleeding smart?”

Nia shrugged. “I don’t know beans about Quidditch so I have to have something else going for me, haven’t I?”

I grabbed both books and stood, walking back over to her without losing eye contact. I set them on the desk beside her hip. Nia smiled warmly and bit the bottom of her lip slightly. Her eyes were not on mine—they were on my lips and before she could push me away or even try to seduce me again, I put a hand on her neck and pulled her in for a kiss.

I liked how Nia tasted like chocolate and mint and chills ran down my spine when she brought her fingers up to touch my face. She knew what she was doing, I didn’t want to know how, but she did. I pulled her closer.

“You have another question to answer,” she breathed, not opening her eyes. “I said one kiss per answer.”

I groaned, trying to think about something other than her top or her legs or her lips or…I just had to think about my parents snogging to keep the hormones down.

Snogging Mum and Dad. Over the kitchen counter.

And there they went. I glanced back at the books. “Bring it on.”

Nia and I made out several times that night and never did the subject of a handbag or frilly dress come up. I liked her, and that was enough. She wasn’t too pressuring like she was before and we didn’t talk about Quidditch (which was basically a first for me) so I didn’t get a chance to be irritated by her lack of knowledge on the subject.

It was just Nia and me snogging in an empty classroom over a book about plant pus and their mating rituals in the wild.

Trust me, those plants got pretty kinky.

“I can’t stand these analysis papers,” I muttered, titling my parchment. The assignment was due in two days and Nia volunteered to help me with my research. I hated spending time in the library, just like the other two Chasers, and even though Nia seemed ditsy and stupid at times, she loved the library.

“Why? All you have to do is look up the information and then rewrite it and give your stance,” she said, moving the bottle of ink next to me so she could sit on the desk again. Her thigh was centimeters from my hand and I brushed it gently. It was things like that that got me in trouble.

“Because I always want to abbreviate the word analysis,” I said, writing it again in my introductory paragraph, “but then it just becomes anal and we can’t have that. I'm anal about having the correct wording. Professor Longbottom would have a heart attack. I’m sure the poor bloke doesn’t even know what that is.”

“You’re getting a bit raunchy today, you know that, James?” Nia giggled.

“I have no idea what you mean.” I smiled and continued on.

“I bet you don’t.” She shifted beside me and glanced at her watch. “Holy shit, it’s nearly midnight. Do you want to head back? Being caught out of bed doesn’t sound very fun to me at this point in the night.”

“Would it be worth it if we were snogging?” I asked slyly, closing the book with a snap.

“Not even snogging the infamous Quidditch Captain James Potter would make detention worth it,” she said and I was a bit put out. “Maybe next study date if you keep improving.”

“I think I just got rejected by Nia Baker,” I said under my breath and she laughed. “You’re probably right though, classes tomorrow are going to be ridiculous if I don’t get any sleep. Aw, and blimey, I promised Avery I’d talk to her before I went to sleep. I’m sure she’s sour with me.”

“You’re always talking to Avery,” Nia said, pulling the door open.

“We’re best mates,” I replied, treading on metaphorical eggshells. “I promised to let her know if I wanted extra help before the test.”

“I don’t know what she has your other guy friends don’t.” We crept along the hallway for a few more minutes and paused when we thought there was a noise ahead. It was only a few subjects of a painting. “I mean, she’s so blunt, you know? I feel like she’d overshadow anyone. That’s probably why she hasn’t had a decent relationship.”

“That isn’t why,” I said, taking the steps two at a time. The castle was empty and cold, the way I hated it, and my shoes made loud noises against the stone floor. “She hasn’t had relationships because I hex any bloke that so much as thinks about asking her for a date.”

“So why not Edwards?”

“Because he’s a twat and stands no chance.”

“From what I heard he’s been chatting with Avery quite a lot lately.”

“When he’s hexed you’ll know.” I whispered the password as the portrait hole swung forward and immediately I knew I wasn’t the only one up studying ridiculously late.

Fred was at the table by the window going over notes and several books that looked taken from the restricted section. Rosey was beside him pointing out passages and handing him quill after quill. Emerson had his feet up by the fireplace, nose deep in a book probably about how to be a pompous bag of douchery and Elizabeth took one look at Nia and me walking through the door before she excused herself upstairs.

“Be prepared for a knife wound when you go upstairs,” I whispered to her. Then I thought about the lotion and decided Knife Wound would definitely go with my personality. “Night, Nia. Thanks again for all the help. I think I’ll do great on the test.”

She beamed. “Anytime, James. Good night.” She kissed me briefly on the cheek and danced off toward her spiral staircase.

I felt my face turn red as I made my way toward Fred. “Studying hard? Bink go to bed already?”

“I’m pretty sure. That bloke’s too smart for his own good—never studied a day in his life.” Fred turned another page. “You having fun studying? Or did you not get any Herbology done?”

I snorted. “Two for one special. Studying and snogging.”

“What’s the one?”

“Shut your mouth.” I spun around and walked up my own spiral staircase. It was dark and I used my wand to light a few candles around my dormitory, but immediately I wished I didn’t.

I came face to face with several creatures I only studied in Defense Against the Dark Arts years ago—Doxy’s. They were black and hairy and covering most surfaces in the room, including the draperies on my four-poster and the window where no moonlight could shine through.

My heart nearly stopped—what in Merlin’s beard were these things doing here? Doxy infestations took weeks, not a day. One gnawed on my Transfiguration book.

I did know, however, from paying attention one lucky day in class, that their stupid bites were poisonous, so I did what any sane seventh year would do when put into that position.

I made a run for my bed and grabbed my broom cleaning kit. Then I booked it out the door, slamming it behind me. Several Doxys ran into the door and I heard a couple collective thuds from the other side.

“Freddie!” I cried, dashing down the stairs so my broom kit hit every rail on the way down. “Doxy alert in the dormitory! They’re everywhere!”

“How can they be everywhere? I was just up there before lunch.” He raised a brow. “Are you pulling a bit of a prank, Potter, because I have studying to do.”

“Doxy infestation. Upstairs. Just got my broom kit out in time. I thought they were going to take me down.” I just realized I was breathing heavily. “Do you have anything valuable up there? Kay’s bra or something?”

Fred rolled his eyes. “You’re being serious, aren’t you?”

“Perfectly serious.”

“What’s going on, Potter?” Emerson said, straightening his Head Boy badge as he waddled over. “What’s all this noise about a Doxy infestation?”

“In our room, twat.”

His eyes grew wide. “Is this a joke?”

“Why do people think it’s appropriate for me to joke about Doxys after midnight the night before a test?” I pointed toward the spiral staircase. “Go bleeding check! I’m not going back up there. Ever, actually.”

Fred shrugged and followed Emerson up. I glanced out the window into the darkness. I spotted the lake in the moonlight and wondered what it would be like to take Nia out there.

Or Paloma.

No, bad, horrible, James. I couldn’t be thinking like that. I could just take Avery out there and we would have friend bonding time and talk about how stupid Emerson was or something. Though Avery didn’t seem to keen to Emerson-bash lately and that was highly disappointing.


Emerson’s scream sounded a lot like Nia’s as he tore down the stairs in a painful-looking sweat. Even his bunny slippers looked scared. “Okay, so maybe you didn’t lie. They’re there.”

“They’re not just there,” said Fred, coming down the stairs a little calmer, “they’re everywhere. They must have fucked like rabbits or kneazles or something else that has a lot of sex.”

“Humans?” I offered.

“Don’t effing joke—what are we going to do?” Emerson said, visibly shaking.

“Did you get bit?” I asked.

He threw a pillow at me. “No, I didn’t get bit—what are we going to do, Potter?”

“You’re Head Boy. That makes you Head of the Doxy Discharge Unit.”

“What is that?”

“You have to go get the Doxy stuff to get rid of it.”

“Can’t we just wake Professor Longbottom?” Emerson asked, clearly petrified at the very thought of heading up some Unit I made up to freak him out.

“Do you really think Professor Longbottom won’t murder us if we wake him, because I really think he will,” I said. “Why don’t we just kip down here for the night and use the blankets in the closet and we can take care of it in the morning.”

“They’ll have eaten all my clothes!” Emerson cried, throwing his hands in the air.

“Thank Merlin,” said Fred, pulling open the closet door. “I thought we’d have to burn those suckers to get rid of your horrible ties and corduroy pants.”

I stared over Fred’s shoulder. “How do we have this many blankets in here?” There was a large tower of quilts and comforters and sheets and anything imaginable to make the largest blanket fort in the history of blanket forts. Certainly enough for a few blokes to sleep on the couch for a night.

“Where’s Bink?” asked Emerson suddenly, obviously ignoring Fred’s comment about his atrocious pants. “Do you think he got eaten?”

I snorted. “Yeah, I bet they’re eating his brains up there right now.”

“Not much there to eat, eh?” Fred chuckled and dumped over the entire blanket mound.

I grabbed a quilt. “I’m sure he’s…well, probably off snogging Rosey or something.” I choked on the thought. “Only kidding, he would sooner snog Lily than Rosey since he knows my reaction to that.” I threw the blanket onto a nearby couch and part of it draped onto the chair beside it. “Holy bollocks.”

“What? Do you see his dead body?” Emerson looked a bit peaky.

“Let’s make a blanket fort,” I said suddenly, staring at Fred. “I bet we could make a huge one with all these—maybe put it in the record books. At least for Hogwarts.”

“That’s not a bad idea,” Fred replied, glancing over as the portrait hole opened and Bink swaggered in with his hair sticking up.

“Bad night on the pitch?” I asked. He nodded. “It’s about to get worse. Doxy infestation upstairs so we have to bunk down here for the night.”

Bink collapsed into a poufy chair by the fire and sighed. “What’s with all the blankets?”

“Blanket fort,” I said cheerfully.

Immediately he perked up and snatched a velvet comforter from Emerson. “Oh, yes. We’re definitely doing this. This will be epic.”

“I can’t wait!” Fred said, throwing blankets over onto sofas.

“Me either!” Emerson cried, grabbing for a sheet.

I put my foot on his hand. “Oh, no you don’t,” I said. “You’re sleeping over on that couch by the window.”

“Are you kidding me? We’re all locked out for the night.”

“And you are a sodding prat trying to put me in detention and asking my best mate out on dates on your way to getting very, very hexed.” I smiled slyly. “So, good roommate-y mate of mine, you sleep elsewhere because you’re a prick.”

He gaped at me as I removed my foot.

“And jump off the Astronomy Tower while you’re at it.” I tossed a few more blankets to Fred and started unfolding.

Emerson grabbed a sheet and wrapped himself up over by the window. I thought about drawing lewd images on his forehead but didn’t think detention sounded all that interesting. Besides, I had a fort to construct—an epic, giant fort made out of durable blankets from the Gryffindor ancestry of blanket-makers.

It would be so cool I’d never want to leave.

Seriously. Never. Tactnia indeed.

A/N: Hey everyone, sorry about the seriously long delay! But finals week is OVER now and I'm happy to report I think I did pretty well. I'll have my final grades later this week but I'm confident I did very well. After that I moved back to my hometown for the summer and have been unpacking, but I threw this chap together today as a bit of a filler and a bit of a background info/segway chappie so I hope you enjoyed it.

So anyway, thanks to everyone for all of the lovely reviews (for previous chappies, and for this chap) because it means a lot and writing this story is fun. I promise less of a wait now that it's summer and I guess one couple-week period of time is all right since I always update rather frequently.

So...favorite quotes? Predictions? Doxy infestation? Seriously?

...Nia snogging?

Chapter 8: Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked
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Constructing the greatest fort in the history of forts was a bit harder than I originally thought. For one, the blankets were rubbish at staying up. I had to constantly charm them to stick to coffee tables and lounge chairs and my brain hurt from performing so much magic outside of class and Quidditch-related activities. Fred manned the inside, propping furniture to make sure everything was stable and Bink patrolled the outside to check for leaks and spies.

We didn’t find spies, but just looking for spies was cool enough for our cool fort.

Fred poked his head out of the entrance. “We need a name for this bugger,” he said, arching his back in a poor attempt to crack it. “We can’t just have people calling it something that doesn’t live up to its currently unknown name.”

“Like what?” Bink said, adjusting a chair. “Fort Fred Weasley is Screwing Kay Davies out on the Pitch?”

Fred flushed. “Shut your mouth right now, Legace. Don’t talk about Kay like that.”

“You don’t deny it!” Bink cried, laughing harder now. Emerson rolled over on the sofa by the window. He even rolled like a prat.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, nabbing the final blanket from the pile. “I have players training on that grass and now all I’ll be thinking about is your contamination!”

“Don’t give me that,” said Fred, face still that perfect Weasley-red even though he was so tan. “You know you would do it if a woman ever asked. Which they never will.”

“Nia might,” Bink offered.

“No she won’t,” Fred replied. “Nia doesn’t know anything about Quidditch, she’d never want to fuck out there.”

“Would you two quit talking about my sex life?” I said roughly. “I thought we were talking about Fred being a tosser.”

“No,” Fred said slyly, “we were talking about naming this stupid fort.”

“Fort Stupid?” Bink said with a chuckle.

“Be serious.” I fell to my knees and crawled inside past Fred, literally amazed at what we did.

The fort was enormous, stretching from one side of the common room nearly to the spiral staircases with the blankets draped over tall chairs and side-stood coffee tables and there was even a broom involved. It opened up near the fireplace and I sprawled out next to the warmth. “This is brilliant.”

“Fort Brilliant?” Bink said, crawling in and sitting up beside me.

“Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked,” said Fred, laughing. He grabbed a pillow and flopped down on it.

The floor was surprisingly comfortable and when I closed my eyes slightly I found myself a great deal more tired than I was before. Staring into the fire, I wondered about what Fred came up with.

“That’s it,” I said quickly and Bink jumped. “Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked. That’s perfect and it gets our point across. We need some sort of sign-idge or something out front. No Pompous Head Boys allowed, write that down, Freddie.”

“Anyone else we want to keep out?”

I thought for a minute. “Let’s keep girls out as well. I’m sick of the lot of them.”

“What about Paloma?” Bink asked, smirking to himself and I knew he caught on to the way Paloma acted around me and the fact that she was gorgeous so how I had to react around her because of—well, because of my raging hormones and lust, really.

“Okay, she can come in,” I said, mostly to let him have his silly blond-boy laughing fit. Which he did.

“No Head Boys; no girls.” Fred finished off the sign and hung it outside the door with a flick of his wand.

This seventh year business was pretty amazing at times.

Other times, however, it was less than amazing. I remembered the Tactnia really well, thinking of Nia’s minty kiss, but the others I was sketchy on. The test wasn’t just identification either; a lot of it was fill in the blank and the blank was a little intimidating because it was blank. I filled in as many as I could, sweating like Dad when I mention things to Mum about him paying Al to take out the garbage bins.

Overall, I didn’t think I failed. At least I couldn’t have gotten Troll, right?

Right, Potter?

Pfft, I hoped not.

After the Herbology test it was back into the fort. It was the center of conversation that day, even through class when Professor Longbottom assured everyone he would sort the Doxies out that evening. Emerson was relieved and I couldn’t care much less than I already did.

I took some notes I already had into the fort and began looking them over.

“Studying for Charms?” Fred asked, crawling in behind me.

“Charms?” I cocked a brow. “This is the Ravenclaw flow chart.”

“Do you ever stop thinking about Quidditch?”

“Never. Why?”

“Just wondering.” Fred laughed and leaned back against the floor, staring up at the blankets with a wondering expression crossing his face. “I could get used to this, you know, just lounging around in here with no sodding first years getting on our nerves asking us about broom lessons—I’ll give you a broom lesson, all right, shove the ruddy thing up your—”

“James, are you in there?”

I groaned. “Hey, Avery, I’m in here studying.”

“Can I come in?”

“Sure, what’s wrong?” I shifted around to look at the door.

Fred punched my shoulder. “No girls allowed, Aves, sorry. What can I do for you?”

“Avery’s not a girl. What’s up?”

“Can you just come out here then before Weasley tries to turn me into a boy?” she asked.

“No can do, this is Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked and I am in charge here.”

“When did you get put in charge?” Fred asked, obviously offended.

“Right now, I’m manning things.”

“It’s odd knowing I am currently being manned,” he replied offhandedly.

“I just wanted to let you know Professor Longbottom is upstairs fixing the Doxy problems and you can head up and make sure all your things are all right.” I saw her face lowered to the door. “Can you even hear me in there? I feel like I’m talking into a black hole.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I can hear you. Thanks, Avery. I’ll definitely head up there sometime.”

“How long are you going to be in there?”

“Probably the rest of my life.”

Avery paused. “Okay, just let me know when you come out, okay? I wanted to talk to you for a bit.”

“I promise you’ll be the first to know!”

Her footsteps wandered off toward the spiral staircase and she was replaced by Bink, who crawled inside and grinned. “Just told Meta off for making fun of the fort. I think Wes wants in. I feel a bit bad for the bloke—only other guy on the team that’s not a Chaser. Sorry, boyo. We don’t Beat in here. Well, Freddie wanks when he has a night without Kay, but that’s neither here nor there.” He snickered and fell down beside me.

“Don’t go poking fun at me,” Fred replied sardonically. “James is the one who almost let Avery in here a few minutes ago.”

“She’s not a girl,” said Bink. “And her name isn’t Paloma.”

“Oh, shut up. She’s practically not even a girl anyway.”

“Pfft, she is with those grades,” said Bink.

I pointed my wand at his face.


“Bleeding what, Albus?” I whined, rolling over to see my brother’s thick head of black hair dangling in front of the entrance. His glasses were sliding down his nose.

“You’re going to have to take this down. It’s a safety hazard.”

I groaned. “How so?”

“If there’s a fire there won’t be enough space for all of the residents to get through to the portrait hole…not to mention that thing could go up in flames at any second. And you’re also hogging all the furniture.”

“It’s nice getting some quiet in the common room, isn’t it?” I asked nonchalantly. “Seriously though, Al, don’t you think we could just, I don’t know, charm it out of the way if there was a fire? Put out the flames with our wands if it went up? I know you might be a bit jealous and reckless because of Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked, but let me just tell you it is going to be okay. Get some therapy—I heard Edwards is signing up in the morning.”

“Just get it down by tonight, James,” Albus said and left.

Yeah sodding right I was going to get it down by that night. That fort was my new home! Warmth, no first year whining about the dancing suits of armor, no women fawning over my freckles…this was the life. Though when I wanted to snog I was pretty sure Nia was lingering around somewhere waiting to help me study Herbology.

“Do you think Longbottom will make us tear this down?” asked Bink, glancing at the door to make sure we weren’t heard. “It took us hours to get up.”

“Edwards will see to it that it’s taken down,” Fred interjected. “I saw the way he looked at it this morning—would have hexed it down if my wand wasn’t out.”

“How often is your wand out?” Bink said, laughing, and Fred smacked him on the shoulder.

“Will you two get your minds out of the gutter!” I said. “We have to save our fort from the evils of Head Boy-idge and severe prat-dom. We must stand up for what is right. Take a stand. Never leave.”

“Okay, one question.” Fred cocked his head to one side. “What about this food situation?”

“This is no time to be selfish!” I cried. “Take one for the team and stop eating. We have to figure this out. We need a plan to save our home.”


I wheeled around again. Why was I so popular? It was surely something to do with the freckle support system on my cheeks and nose. “Can I help—oh, hi, Elizabeth.”

She smiled, crouched down in front of the doorway with her hand holding back the bangs that would have fallen into her eyes. “Hey. Longbottom wanted me to pass on the message that he’s coming back in the morning for the Doxies. He needs reinforcements apparently so I think Sinatra’s going to help him.”

I smiled wickedly.

“Are you lot okay sleeping down here? I heard there are extra beds being set up in the sixth years’ dormitory. I can’t imagine sleeping beside your brother would be all that fun, though.”

“As much as I would like to play immature pranks on him all night and watch him wet himself, I think we’ll camp out here again for the night. Thanks, Elizabeth.”

“Let me know if you need anything.” She beamed and I thought about asking her to snog over notes or something. No sooner had my thought wandered off to inappropriate touching was she gone.

So sad.

I heard people tripping over the fort most of the night. Emerson let out several loud grunts as he attempted to pass it for the bathroom only to knock his shin or some other thing I didn’t want touching my super amazing fort. I thought about rushing outside and accosting him, but my laziness got the best of me. That, and I knew the fort was already anti-spy enough by harming enemy shins.

Fred and Bink fell asleep early when all three of us realized Potions simply just wouldn’t happen. That essay was supposed to be three feet and I hadn’t done one toe. Fred sprawled out on the north end with a quill hanging out of his left hand and Bink wandered to some corner behind a coffee table to get some privacy. I stared at the fire and watched a few salamanders skip across the logs. They looked to be playing tag.

“Are you still awake?”

I smiled and crawled toward the door. Avery was in her striped purple pajamas with her hair tied up in a loose knot. “Of course I am. The other two lazies are asleep though.”

“This is quite the mansion you have here, Mr. Potter,” she said, staring behind me to the overturned furniture and piles of Ravenclaw notes. “Is that a Potions book I see?”

“Unopened. Don’t judge me.” I propped myself against a wall beside her in the semidarkness and glanced over. “Sorry about the no girls thing. I nearly forgot you were a girl so you can’t blame me.”

“Um, thanks?”

“Not like that. You’re beautiful of course but we’re just so close I forget sometimes.” I smiled and she didn’t look thoroughly convinced. I didn’t blame her. I always mucked stuff up when it came to Avery and her actually being a female. “But I was just sick of women lately—too much hassle so it was easier to just ban them instead of writing out names and offended people. Now I can just make it seem like it’s a bloke hideaway without Edwards.”

“Do you really hate him that much?” she asked softly, staring over to where Emerson snored on the sofa.

“I can’t hate the idiot—I feel too bad for him being a moron. But I don’t like him. He’s always trying to throw me in detention to prove he has more power than I do.”

“He does.”

“He doesn’t!” I replied. “He has more authority. That’s it.” I leaned my head against her shoulder. It was warm. “But I have the brains and the real power—power of the people and of the Quidditch.”

“And what a power that is,” she said playfully.

I poked her in the ribs. “You think Longbottom will owl my mum if I don’t take this down when the Doxies are gone?”

“If he doesn’t, I will.” Avery grinned. “I have three bruises already and if I get another I’m going to throw it out the window.”

“I’d like to see you try.”

“Is that a challenge?” She raised a distinct brow.

I shuddered. “No. No, it isn’t because I know you’d do it, foul woman.”

Us awesome Chasers blew off Potions the next day. It wasn’t like we were doing anything important anyway and I felt as if Ravenclaw dive charts were more important. I was the only one because Fred slept in and Bink tossed loose threads into the fire. I concentrated on the way Kay Davies tied her hair back so with the wind just right she could win a dive battle against a broom twice as fast. Sneaky woman.

I heard Longbottom come in and talk to a couple of first years about their Herbology scores. Apparently they were pretty low and I wasn’t entirely surprised because they were first years and first years and bollocks at everything, including even being first years considering I mistake them for second years on numerous occasions.

He left and went upstairs with a few other people (who I assumed to be professors so I said nothing) and a door shut quickly. I returned to the Ravenclaw charts. This was important business after all.


I jumped and the charts went everywhere. “Gahh, sorry. What do you need, Nia?”

I could tell right away what she needed. That sultry look was back in her eyes and Nia glanced around before answering. “James, I think we need to talk.”

“Can it wait?” I asked, hoping she would be out of this strange almost split-personality mood when we talked next. “I sort of have a lot of stuff going on right now.”

“Actually no, it can’t,” she said. “Can I come in?”

“The signs says no girls, sorry, love. I think Fred and Bink would have my head if I said yes.” I attempted a smile but my jaw seemed wired shut.

“Speaking of which,” Nia said in a charming tone and I nearly choked, “I was thinking you and I could use this fort for something other than doing Quidditch notes. Ravenclaw is so boring—just toss those for a bit and let me take care of you.”

Take care of me? Exactly what did that entail?

Fred and Bink were probably listening in at that point, so I took a deep breath. “I don’t think tonight is a good night,” I replied carefully. “The boys are in here with me after all—and no girls allowed. That too.”

“That didn’t stop me from leading you to my bedroom when I won the auction.”

Yeah, well you’re insane, I thought.

“It’s the middle of the day.”

“I’m quiet,” she said.

I nearly had a heart attack. What was she playing at? And most importantly, why wasn’t I jumping at the opportunity to finally gloat to everyone? Here it was—standing at the edge of the fort with exceptional grades and a sly smile, and I wasn’t moving. Did this count as chickening out?

“Nia, I’m sure we will have plenty of alone time in the future, if you’ll just—”

“Come on, James, you’re being ridiculous,” she whined.

“Nia, leave him the hell alone. He doesn’t want to have sex with you in the fort now go finish your Transfiguration essay I saw you struggling with a few minutes ago.” The voice came from the right and I saw a black shoe kick Nia swiftly in the back of the leg before moving toward the window. It was my baby sister. Little Lily Potter with a sarcastic wit about her and a hard kick, just the way I brought her up.

Nia gaped at her. As a matter of fact, so did I. I didn’t expect Lily to come to my rescue after all the horrible things I did against her love life.

Did she just say sex?

What a pervert my baby sister was.

She probably thought I was asexual or something now. Or that I was interested in blokes because I turned away every woman that tried to seduce me. Bollocks, what kind of a Quiddich Captain was I? I didn’t even have a horrible reputation and I was already a seventh year. I smiled sideways at Nia, silently telling her Lily was right and I was a coward.

She sighed. “All right, James. But when you come around, you know where I’ll be to help you come around again.”

She giggled and I flushed so dark I had to scoot away from the fireplace to cool down again. What a crazy woman she was.

“Boys, are you in there?” Professor Longbottom stuck his head in the entrance to the fort and I groaned. I forgot to tell Freddie to add “professor” to the list of people not allowed in the fort because that seriously notched down the coolness factor.

“Unfortunately,” I muttered, trying to hide my Ravenclaw notes and open my Potions book. Ha, yeah right, like that would be convincing.

Longbottom stared at me. “Aren’t you supposed to be in Charms right now?”

“Probably,” I said and Fred groaned in his sleep.

“You’re not setting a very good example as a role model in the school, James.” Longbottom stared at me with his Longbottom-y eyes and sighed in disappointment. “I expected better of you when I appointed you Quidditch Captain instead of Meta McLaggen.”

“You expected I would win the Cup, whereas she wouldn’t because I would have quit.”

“Mind your attitude,” Longbottom said. “I came down here to tell you the Doxies have been taken care of. They’re all cleared out now and it’s safe for you to move back in upstairs. Emerson has already moved back in and all of his things are in fine condition except for a few ties he found missing. We’re guessing the Doxies got to them.”

“I’m sure they did,” I replied slowly. “I’m sure we’ll go back up there sometime, especially to get more clothes. These robes are starting to get a bit musty.”

“Sometime?” He looked perplexed and I didn’t blame him. Too many run-ins with dangerous Tactnia could addle ones brains similar to the addledness of Freddie’s.

“Yeah, we’re quite comfortable here actually, but when it starts to lose its flare I think Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked will just get renovations like stainless steel and granite countertops.”

“Just tear it down by tonight,” Longbottom said, clearly ignoring my rambling. “It’s a hazard and it’s monopolizing the entire common room. I’ll come back and check in the morning. Have a good night, boys. Try to go to class.”

I flipped him off after the portrait hole slammed and I fell backward onto the floor. “What a load of rubbish,” I mumbled.

“Big load,” said Fred, opening an eye.

“Thanks for coming to my rescue there.”

“You handled it quite nicely on your own,” he replied cheerfully.

“So Edwards is back in there, eh?” Bink said, crawling out from behind a coffee table with his blond hair sticking up at odd angles. “What a tool he is. We’ll have to do something to him to make the dormitory less inviting than it is.”

“Just have Nia go up there and he’ll run for it,” chuckled Fred. “She’ll just try to seduce him like she did James earlier.”

“I really can’t stand you,” I said loudly.

“So are we ever going to leave?” Bink asked, placing his head a few feet away from my shin. “I think this is rather homey but when we have classes together I reckon they’ll chop it up for us.”

“Shall we just take turns going to class so one of us is always in here?” I offered. “We can put some enchantments on it and whatnot so little Albus can’t go poking around then maybe install a mini bar or something in this sucker.”

“I’m not going back to that stinky dormitory,” Fred announced. “Emerson made it smell like sauerkraut and that pygmy puff of yours poops too much.”

“I’m bringing Victoria in here you know.”

“She’s a woman.”

“She’s a pygmy puff!” I cried. I heard a muffled yell from outside.

“Oh, that’s it!” someone cried. “I can’t take any more of this rubbish. That’s four!

I wheeled around and nearly fell out the door as I scrambled. “Avery—no! Come on, I’ll let you in. Let’s just revoke the rule!”

She held her wand pointed straight at Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked and I twitched. “This has gone on long enough. I’m not taking any more of this. Sorry, James, your fort has to come down.” There was blood on her shin and I knew she was serious. We should have put the poufy sofa near the edge instead of an end table.

A/N: A little early as a gifty for all the fab reviews...that, and I'm off to the cottage for Memorial Day weekend so no updates until next week! I thought I'd give you something you hold yourselves over :) That, and coming back to reviews really makes my day. Oh, and for those of you who asked, I got my grades back the other day and I ended up with four A's and two B's with my crazy 18 credit hours. Managed a B in the hardest class I've ever taken! Sorry, off topic.

Anyway, how about that Nia? Sorry about the huge amount of dialog in this chap, but I tried to keep it light and all of it moved the plot forward because they were hanging out in Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked.

Things to look forward to: Halloween is quickly approaching.

Favorite quotes? Parts? People? Nia moments? hahaha. Thanks in advance to everyone, by the way, I can't believe we're already over 200 reviews on this! You all are AMAZING!

Chapter 9: The Tornadoes & Dr. Legace
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Another early chap because I'm ahead! Isn't Albus a cutie?

Though the fort didn’t go out the window like Avery threatened, it came down in one fell swoop of a wand and I had to do damage control on my Ravenclaw notes that fell toward the fire. One salamander grabbed onto a paper and the page on hair size went up in flames. Stupid lizards were worthless. The team would never believe a lizard burned up my homework. Well, notes.

“Oh well,” Fred said loudly, stretching so a few blankets fell off him, “at least that means we don’t have to answer the question of how to have Quidditch practice from inside the fort.”

I frowned. The masterpiece was strewn about the floor with blankets hung loosely over furniture and Avery breathing heavily beside it. She put her wand back beside her and smiled.

“There. There, now I think I’m going to head to sleep.” She helped Bink with a few quilts. “Any plans for the weekend, Captain?”

“It’s Halloween,” I said slowly. “So we’re going to do something exciting. Tomorrow I’m thinking we head into Hogsmeade after classes and do some scoping out for costumes.”


I shrugged. “The team, naturally. Yes, even Meta,” I added to her disgruntled expression. “Then we can do practice later at night and for the next few days after. Sound good?”

“Unfortunately,” Avery muttered, her mind probably still on Meta’s annoying gob. As long as she didn’t have gum I could deal with her.

I watched Avery retreat up the spiral staircase and then turned back to the boys. “Looks like we have to go back to the old stompin’ grounds.”

“Are you even tired?” Bink asked, tossing some of the blankets in the closet and charming some others to fold. “I’m not tired. Let’s do something to Edwards.”

“Like what? I already fed his ties to Victoria,” I said.

“Like write on him or something.”

Fred raised a brow and shut the remaining blankets back in the closet. “I’m just going to unorganized his organization. Then sleep.”

I grabbed my broom kit and headed up the stairs after them. At least in my dormitory there was less of chance of being surprise-seduced.

The room was mostly the way we left it except the curtains were torn in a few places. Longbottom probably decided we didn’t need fancy perfect curtains since we were growing boys and the ripped curtains gave us character. Emerson’s snoring was the same and I took my pajamas out of my trunk as Fred opened the Head Boy’s.

“Hungry?” I said, crouching down beside Victoria’s cage. She made a humming noise so I gave her a bunch more food. “That’s a good Puff. Don’t let Freddie hurt your feelings. He’s a tool. Seriously. He’d be a wrench. Night, Tory!” I flopped up onto my bed and both Fred and Bink gave me a yeah, you’re not masculine at all expression.

“There,” said Fred, slamming the trunk shut. Emerson moved a bit but snored on. “All desegregated, the ruddy racist.” He jumped onto his own bed and within seconds of his head hitting the pillow I heard distinct Weasley snores that his sister Roxanne inherited as well.

“How are ya, Bink?” I asked into the quiet room.

“I’ve been better.” Bink closed his hangings on Emerson’s side and stared at me for a minute.

“Because of the fort?” I blew out a candle.

“Yeah. Yeah, the fort.”


I’m glad to hear from you since you’re doing so well. I’m hoping for a win against Ravenclaw too, but I’m not sure I needed the three page analysis on Kay Davies. I’ve only met her once and she seemed like a lovely girl. If Fred likes her you should probably trust him, huh? If not, just concentrate on your studies as well. You conveniently forgot to mention in your letter about how you were doing in your classes, which I can only assume means you’re not doing as well as Albus and Lily. Am I wrong?

Are you going to write your father at letter at all this term? He’s gotten plenty of letters from Al and a few from Lily, but none from you. I know the two of you fought the day before you left, but I think if you talked to him about it things will be fine. Don’t worry, I know you’ll always be a Momma’s boy, but the pair of you used to be so close. Just try, okay?

Next letter, a little more about your classes and a little less about the way Kay Davies kicks off on grass versus cement.



She was crafty, that mum of mine. Of course she wasn’t wrong. My grades were passing, that was all that counted. Sure, before this year they were all really good and I used to gloat to Rose because she thought she was so smart, but this year I had more important things on my mind, like the grades of various ladies that had nothing to do with academics. It wasn’t my fault. I blamed hormones. Yes, that was it. My package had nothing to do with it and pleaded not guilty.

As for the letter to Dad, well, I could do that. I would just put it off for a little longer and then tackle it at a later date. Good plan. Sure, Avery would tell me to get it over with right now but I didn’t want to. Our argument was still fresh in my mind and by golley if he wasn’t writing to me I wasn’t writing to him either.

He started it anyway.

“Ready for this, Captain?” said Wesley, sliding down beside me. He stuffed some toast into his face. “I’ve been saving up for a good costume to impress the ladies.”

“The ladies, Jordan? Who might those be?”

He cocked his head to the side. “No one on the team, don’t worry about the sacred code.” He said it in a joking manner but I breathed a little easier.

“Well, I’m ready if you are, Wes,” I replied, finishing off my breakfast as the other two Chasers joined me, followed closely by Avery and Paloma. Meta was down the table being anti-social. I could still hardly believe she was in my year.

“Anyone have any ideas for costumes yet?” Paloma asked in a sweet tone. Al glanced down from a few seats away. “I don’t know what I want, but I’ve always been the same thing and I want to go as something different.”

“What are you usually?” asked Wesley.

“A princess.”

Ah, a nice innocent costume. Long, flowing dress with her hair up and a tiara. I could get no horrible mental images from that. The other boys continued eating and I finished up my juice.

“A regular princess? Did that cost a lot?” asked Avery.

Paloma smiled and blushed a bit. “No, the slutty princess with the stockings and frilly top. It was a cute outfit but I’m a bit too tall for it now.”

Enter: horrible perverted mental images.

I had to look down. Paloma, get off my sodding team! Get off it. It wasn’t even like I’d pursue her if she wasn’t on the team, I’d just get to see less of her being that she was only a fifth year and I was not interested in fifth years. Right? Yes. No. Yeah, probably.

“Sounds like today is going to be quite the day,” whispered Bink cheerfully.

“Oh, go bonk the giant squid,” I snapped in return. Then part of me wondered how long giant squids were supposed to live because Dad talked about it and Uncle Ron talked about it and I bet if I asked Grandma and Grandpa Weasley they’d talk about it too. It should be given the title of Immortal Giant Squid the Great or something fantastic like that.

“I’m thinking maybe something along the lines of a Muggle school girl,” Paloma went on. “You know, the ones with the plaid skirts and the white shirts all tied up? I think that would look just dashing.”

I choked and stood up. “We’ve got to go now.”

“I’m not finished,” Fred said with a mouth full of food.

“James is,” Bink added and I slapped him in the back of the head before grabbing Avery by the arm and hoisting her toward the door.

“By all means, don’t let up,” she said, “my arm is still attached.”

“Sorry,” I breathed. “I had to get out of there. I don’t even fancy her, you know.”

“Fancy who?” She pulled open the door and looked back to make sure the rest of the team was on their way.

“You know who!”

“Voldemort?” Avery covered her mouth.

“No, Paloma. Bleeding Paloma!” I tried to whisper it but it came out louder than expected and I sighed. “I don’t. Al fancies her and I don’t and she fancies me and she’s determined to make me think dirty thoughts about her. I won’t do it, I swear.”

“You’re already doing it.”

“Merlin, I know! Make it stop. Please, Avery, make it stop!” I tugged at the sleeve of her cloak.

She swatted away my hand. “Stop being so dramatic. If you don’t fancy her then don’t think about her like that. It’s getting a bit annoying watching you drool over her anyway.”

“Drool? I don’t drool.”

“You drool.” She smiled sweetly and paused to wait for the rest of the team. “What’s taking you so long?” she asked Bink, who was mid-bite on some to-go toast.

“Had to practically drag Meta away from her breakfast,” he answered with a shrug. “It was Fred who did it. I think Meta got him with her death-grip claws.”

“Wish it was legal to use those on the other team,” Avery said and we kept walking.

“So do we have permission to be in Hogsmeade on a Thursday?” Wesley looked a bit twitchy—leave it to him to be the worried one out of the pack.

“Nope,” I said lightly. “I’m the Quidditch Captain, Wes, we have permission.”

“For some reason that isn’t all that convincing.”

Fred glanced back. “James is class A at getting out of anything. We’re fine.”

“Then how do we still have Meta on our team?” he said quietly.

I high-fived him.

There was only one costume shop in town and there were plenty of people in there. I spotted a few from Hogwarts as I led my team through the doors. “All right, let’s do this!”

“What are the Halloween plans?” asked Bink. “Are there any shin-digs to do or are we providing said shin-diggery?”

“We’re coming to Hogsmeade since it’s a weekend,” I replied. “There will be plenty of hoppin’ party spots here I’m sure.” I turned toward the male section and began my scan through with the boys. Some of them were just too regular—the authority figures and the masculine gladiators and the couples’ outfits.

“What should I be?” asked Bink playfully, scoping out the referee costume. “I couldn’t do this—blokes would rush up to me asking why I called that penalty on the Magpies or sommat.”

“Why did you?” I asked and he punched me.

“Oy, what’d’you think about this Doctor getup? Sure, the Healers don’t wear this garbage but I hear it’s popular with the Muggle ladies.” Bink held it up.

“But we’ll be here; in Hogsmeade,” I said curiously.

Paloma walked up behind us and put a hand on Bink’s shoulder. “You better get that.”

“Why? Did I break it so I have to buy it?” He looked for a tear of some sort and I rolled my eyes.

“No, because you’ll get so many women with that.” She smiled a bit. “That’s what you want, isn’t it? I know that’s usually the point of Halloween for women.”

“So this will get me girls, eh?” Bink puffed out his chest and glanced over to where the girls were shopping. Paloma laughed and rejoined them. “I don’t think I’ll get it.”

“Bleeding why not?” Fred choked. “Wesley here is probably getting more action than you!”

“Are you getting action, Wesley?”

“Should I be?” Wesley choked, clearly unsure of what the right answer was in the situation.

“Not before Binkie, that’s for sure,” Fred said loudly. “Christ, he’s a Quidditch player. And a seventh year—the only person that ups him is James here and we all know about his bleak outlook on sexuality.”

“It’s not bleak!” I retorted.

“Then just fuck Nia and get it over with!” Bink said, laughing. The girls looked over and Avery looked nearly scandalized.

“Shut it,” I muttered and went back to the costumes. This was a disaster. Not only were there no costumes, but I was actually considering spending more time with Nia. Okay, she wasn’t that bad, but she was sort of crazy. Mum wouldn’t approve of crazy—not that Nia was the type of girl to bring home over the holidays. There were only a few girls I knew that were okay to bring back to the Potter clan over holidays and most of them I was already related to. The other one was lecturing Paloma on not being too forward in pursuit of a relationship.

Was Avery trying to torture me? It was probably because of the fort, crazy woman.

“You’d never wear that,” Bink said, folding his arms from the corner of the store where Fred stood a few feet from him and Wes was giggling nearby.

“Sure I would!” Fred said.

“You wouldn’t,” Bink tried. “In fact, I’d bet you at least a Galleon you wouldn’t wear it. You’re a chicken and Kay would shit kittens.”

I wandered over, skipping half the selection, and nearly choked when I saw what Fred held in his left hand. It was a 50’s outfit, complete with obnoxious poodle skirt and blond wig. It was for a woman and I was immediately puzzled.

“If you’re going to bet money I’m going to wear it.” Fred smiled viciously.

“Oh, I’m betting money,” Bink said. “You in, Potter?”

I made a face. “No go, sorry, lads. I know what Freddie is capable of and being a poodle girl is one of those things.” I clapped Wes on the shoulder and continued my search.

There was nothing I liked. I hated the Indian rubbish and didn’t like any of the Muggle Astronaut getup since we all knew it was magic that got the blokes into space. I toyed with the idea of going as a professor, but Longbottom would probably mistake me for the Muggle Studies professor and ask me about Tactnia.

That was really the only plant I remembered.

Prison inmate, Prom King, none of these were me. None of these embodied: James Potter Quidditch Captain. Bollocks on Halloween. What was the deal with the Prom King anyway?

Fred sauntered over with a huge grin and a bag at his side. “I did it. I bought it. I’m going to wear it this weekend.”

“Blimey, be prepared for everyone to tear the mickey out of you.”

“I have a girl so I don’t need to get them like sucker Bink here—did you get that Doctor rubbish, Bink? You’d better!”

Bink flicked him off from the other side of the shop.

“Seriously, that bloke has problems.” Fred lowered his voice. “You’d think he’d be all over the ladies considering we have Mary Mary Quite Good Gradsie in our year and, well, Avery too but you’d hex the balls off him if he tried that—but Elizabeth! Nia! Then those sixth years no one cares about but everyone wants to bone—cept Rosey, I know. He’s not hooking up with any of them. He won’t even let me introduce him to some Ravenclaws.”

I made a face. “Maybe he’s gay and fancies Edwards.”

“Maybe,” he said nonchalantly. “At least I got a costume.”

“Okay, I bleeding bought it!” shouted Bink, throwing a fake wart nose in our direction. “You can stop talking about me now! Wes, are you ready to go?”

Wesley nodded, holding a bag in his hand.

“This is a team outing,” I said sternly. “Who said you could leave?”

“Can we leave?” Fred asked. “I have a date with Kay.”

“No contaminating my pitch,” I barked. “Take Meta with you—she’s hovering too much.” I groaned, watching them leave and soon I was alone in the shop with Avery and Paloma and a bunch of other people I didn’t care too much about.

Paloma kept to herself, scanning the rows of costumes and taking handfuls back to the fitting rooms. Avery, however, did no such thing. She skipped right over to me and followed me like a kneazle.

“Did you find something?” I asked, annoyed.

“I did.” She waved a plastic bag in my face.

“Well, what is it?”

“Not telling.” Avery grinned childishly.

“Why not?”

“Because you’ll make me take it back.”

I gaped at her. “What is it? Are you going as a whore?”

“I’m not going as Nia, James.”

“Low blow, Flynn. Low blow.” I grabbed a cow costume and examined the udders. “This is hopeless. I can’t find anything. I’m just going to go naked. No, I can’t, I won’t come out of there a virgin.”

“What’s wrong with that?” Avery cocked a brow.

“It’ll be with multiple women, that’s what wrong with it.”

“Who knew James Potter was filled with so much chivalry?” Avery smiled playfully and handed me a chicken costume. Yes, I found the irony in it. “Must you also know the woman’s name beforehand?”

“I’d like to think so.” I chucked the chicken back at her and moved to the next row. “I think I’m a pretty nice bloke. I wouldn’t do any wrong. I’d like to date a girl before doing the sex stuff. Unless I’m really drunk—then who knows?”

She nearly coughed. “James, why don’t you date more?”

The question was out of the blue, but I wasn’t surprised. “Why don’t you date more?” I countered.

“Because you hex everyone that asks me out.”

“I do not!”

Avery snorted. “Right. I’ve seen you at it. You’re not sneaky at all. In fact, at one point we were having a conversation and you hexed them. You’ve got good aim, I’ll give you that.”

“All that practice,” I said. The pilot costume looked cheap. “Why are you so popular anyway?”

“Apparently the boys think I’m worth thinking about.”

“Worth fantasizing about more like!” I snapped. “They just want you for one reason and that’s rubbish. You’re too good for them.”

“Who is good enough for me?”

“No one.”

“That’s fortunate,” she muttered and put cat ears on my head.

I meowed and continued looking. “Do you think I should date more?”

She nodded heavily. “You need to. At least if you date the boys can’t pick on you as much. I think we both should.”

“Is that a hint for my hexing?”

“It actually is.” Avery placed her head loosely on my shoulder and took the sailor outfit from my hand and put it back on the shelf. “I think we should both date more. Then we’ll have loads more to talk about instead of gossip.”

I looked offended.

“We’ll still talk about gossip—geez, James, like we’d stop gossiping.” She laughed and threw a costume at me from the end of the row. “There it is.”

I glanced down and knew exactly what she meant. Professional Quidditch Player—Tutshill Tornadoes.

Paloma wouldn’t show me what was in her bag either and I had a sneaking suspicion it was because of Avery. We stopped for a quick drink at The Three Broomsticks since we were skipping classes anyway, and made our way back to Hogwarts with our purchases.

“What do they have going on in Hogsmeade on Halloween?” Paloma asked gently. She linked her arm with mine (while Avery looked on—did she want me to break the bleeding Code?) and squeezed a bit. “I’ve never been to the village on that holiday—I went for Easter last year and found a bunch of eggs out by the Shrieking Shack, but never for Halloween.”

“I got a flyer with a bunch of things going on,” I said, keeping my voice averted to Paloma but my eyes on that stupid gloating Avery. “There are parties and music and all sorts of random oddities. I’m sure you won’t be bored.”

“Well, you’ll be there so of course I won’t be bored.” Paloma giggled.

I knew she really fancied me, but what was with the timing? I told her about the Code. She had to respect that. Respect! That was another rule! I was knee deep in failure. Still, though, her hand felt nice on my arm muscle. I also made no attempt to move it.

“I’m pretty excited to see if Fred will wear that ridiculous dress or not,” I said offhandedly, desperate for a subject change.

“If there’s money in it you know he will,” Avery said, swinging her bag as we made our way up sweeping hills. She swung her bag at her sides again and kept her gaze focused on me.

There were prickles on the back of my neck and I knew it was cold.

“I can’t wait to see what everyone goes as,” cheered Paloma. She continued on for several minutes about seeing Wes in something silly and Meta eventually chewing off her own face, but my attention strayed to Avery. She smiled slyly at me, grinning in that way that told me she was up to something. I hated when she was up to something. She probably just wanted me to break the Code so we could get rid of the bugger once and for all.

Let me tell you, I wouldn’t date Paloma if you paid me several thousand Galleons. There was the Code to consider! It would end bad. Besides, Al fancied her and I didn’t mess with the fanciness of family. That was why I didn’t go after Kay Davies. I knew she’d just use me for my abnormal good looks.

We finally made our way back to the castle and Avery pulled open the door, letting me go through with Paloma still attached to my arm.

“I’m so excited for this weekend,” she said breathlessly, giving my muscle a little squeeze. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t flex it a bit. “You’ll seriously love my costume. Avery helped me with it a bit. It’s lovely—maybe I can get Bink to actually stare at a girl for more than a second. I don’t see how he picks on you so much, James, you get all the attention and he doesn’t get any of the girls.”

“He’s a weird bloke,” I said halfheartedly.

“A weird, crazy bloke.” Paloma ran a hand up my arm and giggled a bit. She was too beautiful for her own good.

I heard a noise off to my left toward the Great Hall and a few people came out from dinner, one of which was my dearest younger brother Albus with a mouthful of something he sent flying to the floor in front of him. Rosey was next to him, looking scandalized in her traditional Weasley fashion, and she put a hand on his shoulder.

“James.” Albus tried to do an acknowledgement nod but all he managed was a half-choke and a speedy getaway toward the marble staircase.

“Where are you off to?” I tried to distance myself from Paloma but she didn’t let go. I tugged a bit.

“Upstairs, where else?”

“This—you know it’s not.”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Al shrugged in a narcissistic way. What a git he was. He knew exactly what I was talking about.

“Yes, you do. And it’s not. So don’t give me that rubbish look.”

“I’ll give you whatever look I want.” He turned and marched up the spiral staircase.

“Stop being a prat!” I shouted after him. Avery put a hand on my shoulder. “Take your sodding jealousy somewhere else—maybe you should get some Quidditch talent while you’re at it! Eh? Yeah!”

Al disappeared behind the corner and I sighed. It was no use. It wasn’t even my fault.

Paloma looked on in confusion. “Your brother is really interesting,” she said, watching the spot where he disappeared. “I wish I saw him more often—the two of you don’t spend much time together, do you?”

“Not so much,” I muttered, walking into the Great Hall.

It was crowded and all the talking distracted me. Paloma let go of my arm to go find a few of her fifth year friends I didn’t know and Avery made a face at me. “You encouraged this,” I said roughly.

“I did not!” she hissed. “I just let it go without intervening. Don’t blame me, James. You’re the one basking in it.”

Bollocks. I knew she was right. She had a certain way of calling me out even when I was my most arrogant.

“Oy, Potter, did you enjoy the bedtime story?”

I turned to see Clint Lawson’s lovely and troll-like face peering at me from the Slytherin table. He had a group of like-minded Slytherins around him, all laughing stupidly and Scorpius Malfoy was practically hanging off every word. One of them was pretending to fly.

Oh. Well, that made sense.

“Let me guess,” I said loudly. “Doxies, huh?”

Clint roared with laughter. “You’re a quick one, Potter.”

“I’m glad you fessed up,” I said loosely, pausing with Avery. “I wanted to say thanks. I needed a vacation from that place. It starts to smell like Head Boy if you don’t air it out for a while.”

“What a smartass he is,” said Malfoy. “You had Doxies in your room. You’re not the one with the advantage.”

“You’re right,” I replied coolly. “It’s clearly you.” I placed my hand on the small of Avery’s back and together we made our way to the Gryffindor table where I spotted Emerson simply waiting to hear the insider information about Clint Lawson and his illegal Doxy farm.

A/N: I was bored tonight so therefore: new chapter! I hope you enjoyed it. I'm very excited to continue on because I have such fun plans for Halloween. I hope everyone enjoyed the chapter image of poor Al and I bet everyone is so sad about the lack of dear Nia in this chap. She should just be the star, you know?

Favorite quotes and all that? Things you want to see happen? People you want to kick off the grounds and into the Giant Squid's tenticles?

Chapter 10: Hex, Hex, Detention (sucka)
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Let Halloween commence!

Halloween was my favorite holiday of the year because no matter what I could always spend it with people my own age. When I was little Mum and Dad went off to adult costume parties where Uncle Ron blushed whenever someone mentioned Aunt Hermione in a nighty and where they’d come home splitting drunk falling over furniture. Albus always made them tea while I laughed openly.

I, however, used to drag my siblings all over trick-or-treating and got pillow cases full of Muggle sweets. Strangely enough, we always dressed as wizards and made Lily dress like a princess. That really rubbed off on her.

This Halloween would be no different than those in the sense I got to spend it with people my age, but it would be better than all the previous Halloweens because I’d do it all with my friends and my teammates and I would be a professional Quidditch player. That, and because it was my last year and I was going to sodding do things right.

I stared at myself in the mirror, swishing the Tornadoes uniform around my legs with a stupid grin. It just fit. Blimey, I wanted to play for the Tornadoes one day. The only thing missing, however, was the big “Potter” on the back. No matter. There was a simple fix for that.

After some large tape I charmed to be sky blue like the rest of the robes, a quill, and some very neat handwriting, my name was on the back in the same lettering as the dark blue double T in the front. Fancy.

“Looking good,” Bink said, walking in from the bathroom in his doctor costume. It was made from loose blue material that didn’t look entirely comfortable and he had something around his neck with two ear prongs and a round metal do-dad. Bink messed up his hair and put some sort of gel hex on it to get it to stick up oddly and I figured Paloma was right, women would probably eat that up. Finally, that bloke would get a girl.

“Thanks, mate,” I said quickly. “Hopefully I’ll have my own Tornadoes robes one day. We’ll see. Is Fred out yet?”

Bink immediately laughed. “He’s almost finished. I had to help him into the wig. Kay’s right, his hair is uncommonly soft.”

“I’ll have to tell Kay she has competition.”

Bink flipped me off and laughed.

“All right, lads!” cried Fred, sticking his head out of the bathroom door. This in itself was an amusing feat because in place of his dark, shiny hair was a huge blond wig with curls past his shoulders. “Are you ready to suddenly become nonplatonically attracted to me?”

I snorted. “Come out then.”

I should have better prepared myself, considering my cousin and best mate Fred Weasley was in a dress. It wasn’t just a dress either, I noticed as Fred sauntered out, it was something else entirely. He curled one of the blond locks around his finger as he showed off the pink sweater around his shoulders and white button up blouse underneath which was tucked into a knee-length pink skirt that looked to be made out of a wonky felt. There was a white poodle on it with red eyes and cotton balls for the round plumps of fur on the tail and legs.

Oh boy, what a sight he was.

“This is why I didn’t make the bet,” I said and Bink roared with laughter. “Freddie, you look completely ridiculous. I guess it’s good you already have a girl and don’t need to, erm, find one.”

“Too right you are,” he said cheerfully. “I haven’t told Kay what I’m going as. I think she’s going as something with a lot of leg so it’ll be a good balance.”

“What did Avery decide on?” Bink asked, adjusting his spiky hair one more time.

“She won’t tell me,” I replied in wonderment. “That probably means I won’t approve of it.”

“Well, I will.” Bink grinned and I punched him in the shoulder. “And by me I mean Edwards, what a sod.”

I made a face. “He’s cruising for a hexin’ if you know what I mean. He’d better stay away from her.”

“When are you going to let anyone get near her?” Fred shifted his wig in the mirror.

“When someone is right for her—or when I die. Either or.”

“Are we ready then? I think we were supposed to be downstairs ten minutes ago.” Bink pulled open the door. “I hear everyone down there. Blimey, I feel like a girl being late.” He peeked his head in the direction of the staircase. “Oh, my. James, you’re going to want to see this. Or maybe not. I haven’t decided. No, definitely not. You should probably leave your wand here.”

“Blimey.” I took a deep breath and followed the boys out, making sure my robes were tight around my shoulders.

Immediately I knew what Bink was talking about. I saw Avery right away. In fact, she was the only one I saw, talking to Emerson Edwards by the fireplace. She was dressed as Bo Peep from the nursery rhyme and I had never seen so much leg on her in my entire life. I paused on the stairs, taking my eyes from her white and pink corset top to the little tulle bottom and the stockings stretching all the way up her thighs. I stared at her heels and the little muffin hat on her head and my throat went completely dry.

What was Avery playing at, dressing like that? Of course Head Boy prat-face was all over her. Speaking of which, I noticed he wore a silly Renaissance Nobleman costume with a fake sword and his hair messed up in an attempt to look as wicked cool as me or Bink or Freddie.

My lips were even chapped and I couldn’t bring myself to look away. I bet every bloke in the place was gawking at her for that. I knew if she wasn’t my best mate I might have gawked, but considering she was like a sister, I merely stared for a minute until my attention was diverted elsewhere.

“James!” Paloma rushed up to me once I made it to the bottom of the stairs and I finally tore my eyes away from Avery. She caught me off guard a bit, that Beater of mine, and she was honest in saying she’d be a Muggle school girl. Except, she wasn’t just a school girl, she was a school girl majoring in skin since her skirt was almost up to her bum and I was certain their socks didn’t resemble stockings with little black bows. Her white shirt was tied up around her middle and down into a v by her…well, I was staring. Her stomach was the same tan as her arms and there was a tiny jewel near her bellybutton. Bleeding why?

“Oh, hey,” I choked, glancing around for something to rescue me. Fred was already being heckled by everyone and Bink entered into a conversation with my baby brother. Bollocks. “You look…well, nice costume.”

She beamed. “Thanks, I really love it. I’m so excited. I’ve already told basically everyone.” She bounced on her heels again and I forced myself to look away.

“I’m sure we’ll have a great time.” My skin was starting to get hot so I excused myself and made my way over to Avery and Prat Boy, budging him out of the way with a smile. “Avery, I’m going to hex you into next week.”

Emerson pushed me back. “I was having a conversation, Potter.”

I rolled my eyes. “Talking about your color coordinated trunk? You’re lucky I haven’t hexed you yet.”

“And gotten detention,” he snapped back.

Avery put up her hands. “Boys, cut it out. Emerson, it was nice talking to you. I’m sure I’ll see you in Hogsmeade.” She smiled innocently and Emerson made his way back through the crowd of Gryffindors in costumes to find someone less beautiful to talk to. “James, the costume fits you nice. I see you put your name on the back, arrogant bugger.”

“Hey, if I’m going to do it I’m going to do it right.” I beamed. “Shall we?”

Avery hooked her arm into mine and we led the way out of the common room and down toward Hogsmeade. Her skin was soft and she probably used that stupid lotion again. I wanted to hex every passing bloke since they all stared and I feared a gust of wind would have her showing her knickers to all of Gryffindor Tower. Crazy woman, making me worry.

“So I got another letter this morning,” she said out of the blue, her grip tightening a bit.

“A letter? From who? Not your dad?”

Avery nodded. “The very one. He wants to meet me in Hogsmeade to talk. He still wants to go to the game I guess.”

“You can’t,” I said breathlessly. “I mean, you can, but won’t that be so weird after everything?”

“It would.”

I hated when she didn’t give me straight answers. “So what are you going to do?”

“Not sure yet. I guess I’ll decide before Tuesday, which is when I’m supposed to meet him.” She let out a long sigh. “But until then I’m not going to be Avery Flynn, I’m going to be Bo Peep the sexy shepherdess.”

“I don’t approve,” I said with a large smile.

“Don’t think I look good in this?”

“Oh, don’t make me answer that,” I replied, laughing nervously. “You’re my best friend, I can’t answer that.”

Avery shoved me playfully. “Fair enough. I think you look handsome in your robes, though. Maybe Nia will notice.”

“Nia would notice if I was covered in dirt and wearing Emerson’s Head Boy badge,” I muttered.

“All the better then! Has she learned anything else about Quidditch yet? Or are the two of you too busy snogging?”

“The latter I believe.”

“Good luck with that,” she said. “Once you want a relationship you won’t be too happy with her serious lack of knowledge in reference to anything worth knowing.”

“Who says I want to date her?”

“You’d better date someone or even Bink will be ahead of you and you don’t want that.”

Hogsmeade was completely decorated for Halloween. There were streamers hanging from all the shops and The Three Broomsticks boasted over twenty Jack-O-Lanterns out front for photo opportunities. In case, like me, wizards didn’t own cameras, the owner provided them.

The place we were headed to was just behind The Three Broomsticks. It was a large barn previously for the equipment used to keep Hogsmeade clean and tidy, but it all that was moved out and the place was cleared for Hogwarts students like myself. There was a large bar on the far side with black vinyl stools and tables around that with candle centerpieces. The dance floor was enormous and stretched for most of the barn, littered with bits of straw.

Along the sides were chairs and more pumpkins and cheap imitations of ghosts done with white sheets and scissors. The music came from huge speakers in the back and immediately Fred was dancing in his poodle skirt with cheers from onlookers.

“Drink?” I said to Avery and she nodded so I ordered the both of us drinks (her something fruity because she’d kill me if I ordered her anything stronger and me a firewhiskey) and we sat with most of the rest of the team at a table beside the dance floor. Paloma laughed over her own drink, clapping Wesley on the shoulder as he finished some joke he was telling on the way there. Fred finally sank into a chair, laughing and sweating, and I looked around to see Bink was missing. He must have forgotten a piece of his doctor costume—probably the one to operate on Fred’s brains.

“This is really impressive,” Wesley said. “Is this the first year they’ve done this? Look at that pumpkin over there—cut out like an evil cat.”

“They used to have things in The Three Broomsticks but so many people started coming they had to do it out here,” I said, taking a chug of firewhiskey and screwing up my face. That rubbish was strong. “You going to ask someone to dance, Jordan? Can’t waist a costume like that sitting here being excited.”

Wes glanced down at his swashbuckling pirate costume and smirked. “You’re right. I think I will ask someone to dance in a bit—once I get some alcohol in me, though. I need a little courage, Captain.”

“You’re a Quidditch Beater for Gryffindor!” I said loudly. “That’s all the courage you need. Girls don’t say no to that!”

“Thanks, James. I think I will ask someone to dance.” He stared at me for a minute, surveying my expression. I wasn’t entirely sure why, but I smiled back and Wes finally stood, took a deep breath, and made his way across the room to the other tables. I watched him go, proud of my little Beater for growing up so fast.

“What a great chap he is,” I said fondly, leaning over to check how much of her drink Avery had left. “He has all this courage now when he used to be a twittery little git.”

Wes approached a table with a lot of younger students at it. Little brother Albus wore a wizard costume, just like when we were kids, and Rosey had on a bumblebee outfit with a wonky yellow tutu. I saw a few unfamiliar fourth and fifth years, a few pretty girls with blond hair, and a few of my other relatives, including Freddie’s younger sister Roxanne and Hugo adjusting the collar on his pinstriped suit.

Wesley extended his hand to Lily Potter.

She beamed, grabbed his hand, and followed him onto the dance floor in her Egyptian Princess costume. Since the song was slow, he put a hand on her waist and twirled her around.

I nearly choked and Fred held my arm for a minute.

“James, James mate are you all right?” he said.

Lily smoothed out the silk fabric of her dress and smiled wide. She looked like she was having fun.

I did not reply, but instead used my other hand to reach inside the Quidditch robes and pull out my wand. I then de-pantsed the pirate Wesley Jordan, subjecting him to giggles and an extremely red face. Lily’s eyes immediately found my own and she flipped me off.

I waved cheerfully.

“James, you’re ridiculous,” Avery whispered. “Poor boy finally got the courage to ask her to dance and you’ve ruined it.”

“He won’t be able to dance again with the amount of laps I’m giving him tomorrow.” I tucked away my wand, watching Wes hold his pants up and limp toward the bar for another drink. “My baby sister, yeah right.”

To make matters even more interesting, I happened to look over when Nia made her grand entrance through the barn doors. My jaw nearly hit the floor as I examined her French maid costume. She even had a feather duster and proceeded to dust everyone she walked by as more people rushed to the dance floor since it was now a fast song.

“James, you look positively sexy,” Nia said, smiling as she grabbed my hand. I had enough time to snatch up my firewhiskey before she dragged me onto the dance floor and we began to dance.

It wasn’t so horrible, mostly because Nia’s chest was a bit big for the dress, and we danced for several songs before I ran out of firewhiskey and bought another one, grabbing Nia a drink as well. The music pounded at my ears and every so often I did a check to make sure Lily wasn’t dancing with any perverted sods in the room. She frowned at me from her seat and I waved my drink at her to show I loved my baby sister.

I glanced back at the table housing my team. Fred wasn’t there but I spotted him shaking his rear end with Kay Davies not too far away. She was laughing in a black cat outfit complete with spandex and furry ears and kept trying to twirl Freddie so much his boxers showed. I wondered about her motives with him, whether or not she wanted Quidditch information.

No, I couldn’t think of it—not on Halloween with a mug of firewhiskey and a pretty girl in front of me. I glanced back at the table. Avery was in a conversation with Wesley and he seemed a bit peeved, though that could have been my doing. Bink hadn’t come back, but I was sure he could be in the back of the room dancing or snogging some random broad. Paloma disappeared as well and Meta wasn’t there, but I never expected her to watch to hang out with her team. Unless it was primarily her team and she was captain—which she wasn’t. Thank Merlin, ruddy woman.

“James, you’re drunk!” Nia said, laughing loudly and taking the hand that was not occupied by alcohol. “You’re nearly falling on me.”

“Sorry, love,” I said quickly. “I’m a bit distracted.” The room was louder than before and a lot more people were there. “So many ridiculous costumes to look at.”

Nia giggled. “You’re very right. Are you having fun?”

I nodded. “Loads actually, I’m nearly out of breath. How about another drink?”

“I’d love one, thanks.”

I made my way up to the bar and noticed my walking wasn’t exactly as straight as it should have been. I bumped into a table and a Hufflepuff, but since I was the Quidditch Captain of Gryffindor no one seemed to mind. I got a thumbs-up from Darian Bay and then a thumbs down as I flipped him off for dating Nia.

The bar was horribly crowded but I managed to squeeze my way in between Albus and one of the Ravenclaws Fred dated last year. “Lo, little brother,” I said cheerfully.

He narrowed his eyes and waited for a drink.

“Oh, don’t do this, mate, you know I don’t fancy her.”

“I don’t see why you have to bring it up every bleeding day,” he snapped.

“Because you won’t let it go!” I smiled at the bartender. “Firewhiskey and a Manhattan please. Thanks, love.” I glanced back at Al. “Look, mate, she already told me she wants to see more of you.”

“Don’t give me that,” Al said, just as snappy and sulky as before. “Don’t try to make me feel better because you’re guilty since you’ve been a sod of a brother.”

“A sod of a—Al, come on. You don’t mean that.”

The bartender handed him a brandy. “You know what, James? I think I do. I think I really do.”

I watched him shift back into the crowd, over to where Rose put an encouraging arm around him. “Blimey,” I muttered, grabbing the drinks and making my way back to Nia.

She beamed at me. “Thanks so much!” She downed a quarter of it.

“Can we sit down?” I took a huge gulp, screwed up my face since it was horrible, and made my way back to the team table. Avery wasn’t there, but Wesley sat staring out onto the dance floor. “Hiya, Wes. Don’t have your dancing feet on?”

“Not so much anymore,” he muttered, nursing a small glass of wine.

“Don’t worry, mate, someone will catch your eye that is not of my immediate blood relation.” I beamed and offered Nia the chair beside me. “Sorry about that, by the way. Just a little friendly gesture of teammate love.”

“I’m glad my boxers have decent prints on them then.” Wesley managed a smile and I clapped him on the back.

“That’s a good lad,” I replied, taking another deep drink as my eyes strayed to Albus in the corner. He didn’t look so good and it was entirely my fault. I would fix it the next day. I had to do something, after all. I couldn’t just let him blame me forever. But for now, it was Halloween! I was in a Tornadoes uniform and the wonderfully large grades of Nia Baker were sticking out of the top of her dress and she took no notice. I, however, took a great deal of notice.

“James, my eyes are up here,” Nia said and giggled over her drink.

I managed to look up at her eyes. “Oh. Well, yes, of course they are. What intricate lace work on your costume.”

“I know, isn’t it lovely?” She glanced down at the lace around her breasts, forcing me to look back again. Well, hell. “I got it for discount but I knew it was worth more than that.”

“Just breathtaking,” I managed, prying my eyes from her breasts and taking another drink. The room started to shake a bit and I grinned. Now, this was more like it. Nothing could get in my way now that I was finally having a good time—sitting with Nia and Wes, listening to good music, drunk off my sodding arse, this was the way to spend Halloween. I adjusted the robes and glanced over to see if Fred finally unstuck from Kay.

Instead, what I saw was the bar. I saw a certain Bo Peep at the bar laughing. The Renaissance git was beside her on a stool, leaning over with a hand on her arm. Her bare arm. The arm with no material covering it. I watched them intently as Nia said something less than entertaining. Though I was rather intoxicated and I couldn’t tell how many fingers someone stuck up (unless they flipped me off like Lily occasionally did), I could tell what Head Boy Twat-Berry was saying to my best mate.

“What would you like?” he said, grinning stupidly.

“What do you mean?” Avery adjusted her corset.

Emerson gave a light squeeze to her naked arm. “A drink. Let me buy you a drink since I’ve occupied all your time.”

“That sounds lovely.” Avery smiled charmingly. “An Amaretto Sour, please.”

Emerson waved the bartender over and ordered the drinks. I felt an angered heat rise up in my gut and suddenly I was sweating in the robes. I watched him stare at her hungrily, that two-timing jerk. He was basically slobbering on his fancy Renaissance getup. He was disgusting, a regular pompous pig-headed twat and I wanted nothing more than to punch him in the back of the head.

Who did he think he was anyway? Did he think he could just walk in and flirt his way into Avery’s life? Sure she saw right through him. Surely Avery knew he was good for nothing and a horrible person and didn’t know bollocks about Quidditch.

My hands shook on the table as I watched him hand her the drink. His fingers were off her arm now, but once he took a drink of his own sissy Cosmo, Emerson placed his hand on the top of her thigh where the tulle from her skirt came out against her leg.

I stood so suddenly I knocked the table back and Nia’s Manhattan nearly got her costume. She shrieked and jumped to the side, rushing to the floor to pick up the glass. Wesley’s drink also flew off the table, but he stared at me curiously instead of rushing off to grab it. My firewhiskey was still in my hand. A few others stared, but I felt too hot to notice.

No. Nope. This wasn’t going to happen. Sure, Avery and I agreed we should date more, but not him. Not my stupid roommate with his color coordinated socks and Victoria-loving ties. No bleeding way. I wasn’t going to stand for it. Not him. Who? I had no idea, but not bloody Emerson Edwards, prat-face extraordinaire.

“James?” Nia stood beside me with her glass and followed my eyes. “Really, James, there’s no need to be jealous. She’s just your mate, remember?”

I ignored her. Jealousy was not one of my emotions. Protectiveness, now that was something I was familiar with. I didn’t pay attention to anything else she said, but I grabbed my wand and held it straight out in front of me.

Well, straight as it would go considering I was rather wobbly.

“Eff no,” I muttered, marching toward them. Avery giggled at some convenient joke and Emerson took a swig of his bloody girl drink. “Stupefy!” I shouted and that bastard shot back against the bar, stunned.

Avery’s eyes flew over. “James Sirius Potter!” she cried, gaping at me and then motioning to her unconscious drink-buyer. “What do you think you’re doing?”

I couldn’t exactly find the words. “Hand on your thigh, I don’t bloody think so!” I pointed my wand at him again, stumbling a bit so things went in and out of focus. “No. No, I’ll have none of that.”

“Did it ever occur to you I didn’t mind?”

“Not once actually.”

Avery rolled her eyes. “How am I supposed to get to know anyone with you hexing them all?”

“Just not him,” I said. “Not him.”

“Anyone I very well please, James.”

I groaned. “Aves, come on. Don’t do this.”

She motioned to her drink. “Free, James.”

“I’ll buy you one.”

“I know you mean well, love, but I can handle it, okay? I won’t let him put his hand on my thigh again, I promise.” She beamed.

“Detention, Potter.” Emerson hoisted himself back onto the stool and rubbed his head a few times.

“We’re not on school grounds!” With that, I proceeded to jump up and down and get firewiskey all down my front. “Sucka!” I added, just for effect.

“Well, when we are you’re getting a bleeding detention.” He rubbed his head again.

“Oh, blow it our your arse,” I muttered, turning back to the rest of the room. Freddie and Kay were exchanging in very dirty dancing with her leg high against his ribs and Albus finally managed to have a bit of fun with some fourth year girl. Lily was still sullen and angsty, which is how I liked her, and Wesley kept casting unreturned glances in her direction.

I surveyed the situation. Where was blondie Bink? I still hadn’t seen him since the party began and that doctor costume was being completely wasted.

My hands were wet and I glanced around. I was on the floor—how did I get on the floor? My drink spilled all around me and I watched my fingers dance it in for a moment. The room spun around me and my lips tasted a little like blood. I must have bit my lip while getting down here.

“James, what’re you doing on the floor?” Avery kicked me a little with her high heel.

I groaned. “Erm,” I said. My robes were twisted around my legs and I found it difficult to regain composure and get up. “I was just inspecting—why, look! Did you know this was real straw? It is. It’s real sodding straw. The real stuff. Go on, take a bite.”

“I’m not taking a bite of the straw.” She smiled.

I grabbed it, took a bite and chewed it up, tasting all of nothing as I watched Nia’s breasts bounce toward me conveniently.

A/N: Oh, Halloween. What a holiday, eh? And how about those costumes. James has his hands full I think. This was such a crazy fun chapter to write! I love the idea of Jame attempting to be protective of half the people there and still having a good time. And yeah, take that Darian Bay.

I wanted to say thanks again for all the amazing reviews. This story has really taken off and it is amazing to see what people think of it! Thank you all so much.

Favorite lines? Favorite hexing? What the heck, Albus??

Chapter 11: Liar, Liar, Doc on Fire
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Chapter for Nire, who left me a HUGE review a few chapters
back that was SO long it physically wouldn't let me respond. Sorry!

The next hour of the party was a good time, leaning on Nia and watching her shiver every time I kissed her cheek or ear. I kept sliding halfway onto the floor before she helped me back to my seat and I thought Wes ended up somewhere else—probably to try and talk to my sister while I couldn’t see straight, cheeky little sod.

I was on my sixth or eighth or twenty-ninth firewhiskey and I still screwed up my face every time I took a drink. “Did you know I’m the Quidditch Captain?” I said loudly.

Nia nodded heavily. “I did know that, congratulations, James.”

“Yeah, I like to think of myself as somewhat of a role model for the younger generations,” I continued, biting my lips because I couldn’t feel it. I tasted blood and wondered briefly what it would be like to be a vampire. The blood tasted gross so I canceled my mental trip to vampire-land. “I get the good grades, I have the talent, I get the girls, you know that?”

“Do you get the girls, James?” Nia giggled again. I wondered if my voice would get that high and I doubted it. I thought about trying it.

“They love me, the girls do,” I said. “I’ve got the freckles—it’s my secret weapon, Nia, don’t tell Fred or Bink. Where the fuck is Bink anyway? No, but it’s my secret weapon. That, and this delicious frock of hair I have on my head. Oh, and look at this stomach!” I pulled the robes aside and grabbed my undershirt. “Look at those muscles—go on, touch them then.”

Nia did so and I felt her hand creeping lower on my torso.

“Whoa, there, woman, whoa there!” I said cheerfully and boxed her in on the chair with my arms. I kissed her hard on the neck I figured and then looked around. I couldn’t tell who the dancers were anymore, just figures rushing around on the straw-y floor moving to the beat of whatever played.

Someone I did see, however, was Avery a few tables away talking to Emerson sodding Edwards (he sort of looked like a big wart on that chair). They were still talking. I couldn’t believe it. I saw her cast a glance at me every so often and frown—probably at the fact that my get together was going much better than hers. Well, of course it was! Fuck, I could be snogging the squid and I would be better off than her. I kissed Nia again just for good measure.

“I’m going to rush off to the loo, okay, love?” I said, draining the rest of my firewhiskey and stumbling toward the restrooms. I glanced about and finally saw a sign across the barn and made my way toward it. Strangely, tables and people and limbs kept getting in my way.

The room was very strangely decorated with old tractors and hardware and light bulbs, but it didn’t bother me. I liked places decorated in a weird manner—gave more life to the place, you know? It was like a theme. Now I was thinking to myself, what a funny man I was. Me and my lovely black hair and smart brown eyes I got from Mum. They were lovely, my eyes, but everyone fancied Al’s. What a pot of rubbish, mine were darker and deeper and more mysterious.

Women needed a little mystery and I could give it to them and seriously where the fuck was Bink Legace?

“James, why are you peeing in the storage room?”

I wheeled around and shrieked, falling onto a tractor and almost slicing my hand open. I quickly tucked my junk away because a female was talking to me and squinted at the intruder. “What are you doing talking to me while I pee? I could have lost control and shot it everywhere, I’ll have you know.”

Avery rolled her eyes. “I saw you stumble in here and I figured you might mar yourself if I didn’t save you.”

The room came into focus and I realized she might just be right. There were several tractors and no urinals or toilets, so perhaps it was a storage room and not a uniquely decorated lavatory. I liked the latter option better, though, especially considering it smelled fresh and the sharp objects around my package gave the room a sense of danger.

“I’m all right,” I muttered, zipping up my trousers and turning to face her. “Just admiring the general splendor of the situation.” Splendor sounded like a sugar. Or a vendor of spl, whatever that might be. “These tractors are rather large, aren’t they? Might crush me or something. I figured I’d pee on them just to tick ‘em off a bit, lousy bastards.”

“I’m sure you did a good job,” Avery replied, laughing a bit. “Are you okay to walk back out there?”

“Course I am!” I cried, throwing my hands into the air and stretching my arms out. It hurt a bit. Owza. “You’re getting’ a bit close to Edwards again, eh?”

“He’s a nice bloke, James.”

“Right. I’ve gotta—I hate that guy, do you know that?” I leaned on her and our faces were close for a moment before I caught my balance. “Do you know how much I hate that prat?”

“I’m not exactly fond of Nia and you’re practically screwing her at your table.” She raised a brow expectantly.

“I bloody well am not!” I yelled. Then I snickered. “Okay, I might have been a little bit. It’s not my fault she wore that dress—bleeding boobs falling all over the place. It’s not my fault I’m a bloke! Tell her to tuck them away.”

“Emerson doesn’t do that. He’s rather chivalrous.”

“That’s because he wouldn’t know a breast from a fucking toad! Not one having sex, I just mean a singular toad with emphasis.” I pulled open the door and music found its way into my ears. “Oh bugger off then and go snog Edwards.” I stumbled out onto the floor, thought about hexing Emerson, and then I realized I couldn’t find my wand so I thought better of it. Avery rejoined him and I wanted to turn the table over in frustration. Why was she such a tart for him? No, she wasn’t a tart. She was respectable and wonderful and beautiful and he deserved none one it.

I rubbed my eyes and found my way onto Nia’s lap as she giggled. “We shouldn’t practically screw at the party,” I said wearily.

“And why on earth not?”

I shrugged. “No, that’s bollocks,” I said, kissing her hard. “Nia, I’m chivalrous, am I not?”

“Sure you are.”

“Like really chivalrous? People think of me as chivalrous?”

“I don’t know, James,” she replied. “I think so.”

“Go on a date with me next Hogsmeade weekend then.”

“A date?” She raised a brow and sipped at her drink. “All right, we could do that.”

“Good. We’ll do that then.” I took another swig and toppled onto the floor.

I spotted the blond doctor another hour or three later dancing away on the floor by himself. He looked pretty piss drunk and I chuckled as he attempted to make his way to the bar. “Oy, Legace!” I cried, waving my arms.

He spun around and knocked a drink out of Rosey’s hand. She swore and batted him on the head with her empty class. “Bleeding men,” she shouted and rushed back to the bar.

“Sorry, Rose—I’d apologize again but your cousin would hex me for talking to you.” Bink chuckled at his wit and continued until he flopped into a seat across from me. “Heya, mate! Are you having fun? I just saw Nia talking to Elizabeth and Meta by the door. I thought the pair of you would be doing the dirty behind the barn by now.”

“We’re going on a date next Hogsmeade weekend.”

“James Potter dates? I’m shocked.” Bink grinned. “Good for you, though, mate. Take things slow. Might as well, right?”

“Bink, where were you?” I asked, feeling a little sick so I shoved the drink away. My stomach felt odd between my ribs and it burned a bit.

“Oh, sorry about ditching out. I started to feel sick so I headed back to the dorm for a while and had a little lie down. I was a little sick, but I’m back now.”

“How did you get so drunk if you just got back?”

“Well, I’ve been back for a little while now, only over by the door. Didn’t see you over here.” He smiled again.

I nodded. “I’m glad you’re better anyway. With Fred gone I was afraid I was alone forever. Forever and ever and ever and you know the drill.”

“I know it well,” Bink replied, glancing around. “Mind if I go find myself a drink? If my buzz goes I’m sure I’ll start seeing average-looking women. All except Avery, but Edwards seems to have her occupied, doesn’t he?”

“Shut your bloody whore mouth.”

Bink smirked and rushed off to the bar before he got a stun spell to the head.

Instead, I turned and shot one straight at Emerson out of frustration. He toppled out of his seat again and was unconscious on the floor. I grinned stupidly.

“James!” cried Avery.

“Wasn’t me. I saw Bink do it.”

“You’re a right pain, you know that?”

“Apparently everyone thinks so.” I took another swig and checked my watch. Perhaps a few more dances and I was done for the evening. Nia grabbed my hand and pulled me out to the dance floor. Wes and Lily were nearby and I couldn’t quite reach my wand. Fucking good for nothing wand. COME! Wand, come. Aw, fuck nuggets.

I found out quickly that it wasn’t easy being drunk and walking up stairs. They shouldn’t have put so many in Hogwarts. I’d put in a petition tomorrow. Well, I’d make someone else do it. I doubted I would be able to write for several weeks since my fingers felt numb. So did my hands. That was awkward, and yet I still didn’t reach the top of the stairs.


My head flew around and that was when I fell flat on my arse. The stairs did not feel as comfortable as they might have looked and I knew right then that there would be a shiny bruise on my rear the next morning. Good thing I didn’t hit the next level with Nia yet because that wouldn’t have been attractive at all.

“What’re you doing down here this late?” Avery folded her arms and raised a brow at me. Or four brows. Maybe five if I was seeing it correctly.

“I’m—what’re you doin’ down here? Sneakin’?” I snickered and pressed my hands against the marble trying to get up.


“Bleeding—what?!” I cried, cutting off whatever she was about to say. “I’m only on the marble staircase?”

“Yeah. James, you’re in the Entrance Hall.” There was the eyebrow raise again. At least sixteen brows. “Do you need some help? Have you stayed at the party this long?”

“Of course not!” I cried, turning over on my hands and knees and trying to climb up the stairs. Marble was painful on one’s knees as I found out. “Ouch. Ouch. Ouch. Owwww.” I made a face and then plopped down on the stairs, my face pressed against the cold stone.

“James, have you been drinking?” she asked sarcastically. “Didn’t I tell you to stop before I left? It’s nearly six in the morning.”

I groaned. “I don’t drink.”

“Yes, you do.”

“Okay, sometimes.”

“I’m surprised you haven’t been sick. You’ve had far too much.”

The truth was, I had been sick nine different gross times on the way back to the castle. I groaned again, wanting nothing more than a breath mint and a cozy blanket. “Be gone, woman. This doesn’t deal with the team. They’re probably—well, my Chasers are probably still getting back. We raced. I know Fred’ll lose since he’s in a dress. Dresses don’t win races unless you’re trying to get into it and then it’s easier.”

“You’d know so much about that,” she said with a chuckle. “You’re right, this isn’t a team matter.” I felt her grab my arms. “This is a best friend matter. C’mere, y’git.” She forced me around and I met her eyes. They were bright and green and stupid Albus got the pretty eyes in my family. I’d have to yell at Mum for having brown eyes. I bet Avery didn’t think my eyes were pretty and green.

Since they were brown.

And not green.

“Are you going to try and help?” she asked, forcing me to my feet.

I wobbled. This was not going to end well.

“Aw, what the fuck is so loud?” I mumbled, pushing the pillow further over my ears.

“That, Potter, is the dull hum of your pygmy puff.”

“Shut up, Victoria. And fuck you, Edwards.”

“That detention is still on, by the way.” I could almost hear the smile in his horrendously loud pompous voice.

“I said fuck you.”

“I was telling Avery you should stop drinking, but you obviously listen to no authority at all.”

“Story of my life,” I mumbled. Victoria just wouldn’t fucking shut up. No, it wasn’t her fault. Blimey, not blaming her was hurting my head.

“Will you just shut up?” Bink ruffled his blankets. “My head hurts and your Head Boy-ness is making it hurt even more.”

“I’m so glad,” Emerson said.

I opened my eyes and immediately regretted it considering some sort of needle was probably stabbing at my brain and my stomach felt as if something was going to make an appearance very soon. “Can anyone even remember half of last night? I remember hexing Edwards. That was basically the highlight of my night.”

“I saw that actually.” Fred yawned loudly. “Everyone was talking about how you could see Edwards’ knickers and they looked a bit like panties. I even heard a few Slytherins talking about it. You were quite the piece of gossip last night, Head Boy.”

Even though I wasn’t looking, Emerson’s scowl was nearly audible.

“Wonderful,” he muttered.

“I think I remember tractors of some sort and—bloody fuck!” I cried, leaping up in bed and my eyes stung. “Avery wore a Bo Peep costume, didn’t she?”

“Yep,” said Bink, pulling more blankets over his face.

“And Paloma was in a school girl outfit and Nia was a French maid and what was Meta?”

“A bitch?” asked Fred.

“I think she was a German Beer Garden girl,” Bink said. “I saw her talking to Elizabeth.”

I made a face. “Bitch it is!” I said. “How did I let this get so out of control? One of the rules of the Code is to represent the house of Gryffindor. How do those leggy costumes make us look?”

“Lighten up, mate,” Fred said, leaning back. “I showed more leg than most people there.”

“Yeah,” said Bink. “It just makes us look like the best house because we have the sexiest women, that’s all. It’s not much of a Code break unless someone does something horrible.”

“Like take a piss in the storage room,” said Emerson.

I jumped. I forgot the sod was there.

“What Code is this anyway?” he asked.

“The Code of how to off Emerson Edwards,” I muttered. “Nose out, No-Head Boy.” I leaned over the bed and threw up into my garbage can. Oh, disgusting. Was that corn?

“I’ll put in a good word for you, Potter. Maybe you could clean bedpans for your detention.”

I resisted the urge to throw Victoria’s cage at him. Fighting the sunlight and noise, I wiped my mouth and hoisted myself out of bed to change quickly. “I need some food. I think I’ll be sick again if I don’t have any. That, and there’s nothing left to throw up.” I was shivery so I popped a mint and glanced back at the boys.

“I’ll be down in a bit,” Bink said and Fred nodded. “Say hello to Bo Peep for us!”

I threw socks at them and left.

“James!” Avery hugged me tight. “Thank Merlin you’re all right.”

“All right? Why would I not be?”

“You passed out halfway up the stairs last night,” she said, laughing. “I had to drag you back here and up to your bed since I forgot my wand in my bag. I’m glad you woke up. I was worried you died or something.”

“I’m quite all right. Don’t feel very good and don’t remember much from last night, but I’m all right.” I tried to smile but the light coming in from the window blistered my head. I also felt the need to blow chunks all over Avery’s pink shirt. “Do you—do you remember anything horrible I did last night?” I whispered this last part, raising a curious brow.

“You were piss drunk and falling all over,” she said with a laugh. “At one point you got on top of a table and started chanting about Quidditch and tried to fly and then started bleeding, but other than that you were pretty tame. You can still aim when you’re drunk, which I’ll give you major props for.”

“Did I hex someone other than Wes and Edwards?”

“You hexed Wes four more times, though he kept going back so he deserved it. You got Albus and said it was because he was a git, Emerson another time, Fred so his skirt flew up on the dance floor, Paloma so her skirt flew up—Nia wasn’t too happy about that one. Neither was I, mind you.”

I grinned. “Sounds like a successful night. I’m off to breakfast, want to come?”

“Sure.” She linked arms with me and we made our way to the portrait hole. “Hi, Harvey,” she managed, glancing over at the cow-chewing boy with his gum and cow-chewing ways. It sounded so much louder.

“Hi, Avery.” He looked at her with admiring eyes. “Oh, James! Mr. Potter, sir, I wanted to tell you.” He jumped up and I stopped. “I heard your pygmy puff last night while I was walking past your door. She was making a weird noise and I have one too so I knew she was hungry and I gave her some food. I hope you don’t mind—I didn’t mean to intrude but I couldn’t find anyone else and your dorm was empty for so long.”

I shrugged. “No problem co—Harvey. Thanks, mate.” I smiled warmly and kept walking, only to stop before the portrait hole and swing around. “What time would you say you fed Victoria?”

“I don’t know, around ten and then I checked back at ten-thirty and eleven to see if you were there. I fed her around midnight and then checked back at one and two just to see if you were back, but you weren’t.” He frowned.

“Thank you, Harvey. Means a lot to me. Victoria is very dear.” I smiled. “Hope to see you at the Ravenclaw match coming up.”

“Wouldn’t miss it!” he cried.

I turned and frowned, leaving out into the corridor. I was silent until Avery gave me a quizzical look.

“What was that about? Did that mean something?” she whispered.

“It means Bink lied about where he was last night.”

I felt horrible. My stomach was sick for a few days and by then I realized I nearly broke the Code by drinking too much at a party. It wasn’t too much, was it? What was too much? I realized then I didn’t know the limitations of this Code. Stupid Dara Wood never really explained it. And when I got onto the team Maxwell didn’t do rubbish either—not that I asked since I was twelve and thirteen and drinking too much and making an idiot out of myself was pretty much out of the question.

I decided to ignore it for the present and put in my own stipulations. I was disappointed in myself, but kept going with rigorous practice nonetheless. Paloma and Wesley were getting better and better each practice and I was even hit by a Bludger once. Of course, I tossed Meta to the showers early since I caught her bitching at Avery for a certain save. I reminded her she wasn’t the captain. She told me to stick my head somewhere unpleasant and I sent her off the pitch.

Things looked good for my team—only a little while left until the game and I’d have them properly ready. I just had to make sure Kay’s sexual advances weren’t getting her near my secrets. I held another meeting Monday evening to talk about the Code and Meta fell asleep so I poked her with a fork.

I stayed after for a bit, sighing several times and wondering if I was even a good captain.

“I’ve decided to go tomorrow.” Avery didn’t meet my eye as she helped House Elves scrape plates into the garbage.


“Tomorrow. To see my dad.” She bit her lip.

“Aves, are you sure?” I said quietly. I checked my watch. It was quite late already. “Is this what you want to do?”

“I thought about it for a while. I’m pretty sure this is what I want to do.” She paused and finally looked up. “I just don’t want to look back and regret it.”

I walked over and squeezed her hand. “All right. If that’s what you want. Do you want me to tag along?”

“And have you hex him halfway through the conversation? No. No, I think I want to do this alone.” Avery let a smile entwine her lips. “Yeah, I want to do this completely alone. Thank you, though.”

I squeezed again. Her hand was cold. “No problem. I’ll give you your space then.” I turned as the portrait hole opened, expecting to see Paloma or a stray elf, but instead I saw my brother staring back at me with a dead expression on his face.

“I’m glad to see you recovered from your hangover,” he said bitterly. “I do hope Paloma was a good dancer. She looked it.”

“I wouldn’t know,” I said cautiously. “And thanks, I’m glad I recovered too. Puking is not my favorite part of the experience.”

He held his ground. “Don’t play stupid, James. I saw the two of you dancing for three sodding songs.”

“We what?” I turned to Avery. “Why didn’t you tell me?”

“I figured since neither of you remembered it wasn’t important.” Avery made a face. “Sorry, love, thought it better not to.”

I sighed, turning back to Al. “Sorry, man, I was shit out of it on Halloween. I didn’t mean anything by it.”

He narrowed his eyes.

“What do you want me to do? Set you up on a date? Kick her off the team—well, I can’t do that, she put Fred in the hospital she’s a great Beater.”

Albus took a deep breath. “I’m getting really sick of your shit, James. You’re a shit brother, you know that? An absolute shit brother. And you know what else?” He checked his watch and I could see his lip trembling a bit. “You’ve got a detention. I’m giving you one. I’m not going to let you run the school like you want to. There have to be boundaries.”

“You’re giving me a—what? Are you kidding me?” I gaped at him. “Edwards just bleeding gave me one for hexing him. Come on, Al.” I paused. “What about Avery?”

“Who? I don’t see anyone.” Albus shrugged and shut the door.

I swore loudly. “What do I have to do!?” I cried. “And he doesn’t see anyone—you’d better find me some éclairs before I go after him and tackle the little glasses git.”

Avery put a hand on my arm. “He’ll come around, love. C’mere, let’s stock you up before your detentions.”

“You know this is the second time you’ve dressed like a girl in a week,” I whispered. “Something about that doesn’t sit right with me.”

Fred beamed at his disguise. “I’d like to think it’s because I’m talented.” He smoothed out the wrinkles in his lifeless gray dress that fell to the floor and poked the pointed flats out of the bottom. “I still don’t see the point in pointed toes.” There was a pause. “Did you see what I did there? Point in pointed toes.” Fred chuckled at himself and moved the wig again to hide a few stray locks of dark hair. I couldn’t believe he had two uses for a blond wig in a matter of days. Hogwarts was in strange times.

“Are you ready then?” I pressed, checking my watch. We were in the dormitory without the grace of Bink and Emerson and I keep peeking out the window. “She’s probably there by now. I bet we’ve missed the whole thing.”

“Wouldn’t you have seen her walking down to Hogsmeade?” Fred gave me a face. “I’m almost ready—just let me adjust this necklace.”

I stared at myself in the mirror. I had an unequally good disguise, as a red-haired man with a mustache in a horrible blue suit with a green tie—something I wouldn’t be caught in regularly and something I stole from Emerson’s trunk.

“Ready!” Fred held open the door.

“Dad’s bleeding cloak would come in handy right about now,” I muttered. “Why couldn’t I get that? Stupid map’s practically worthless.” I hadn’t used it for a few weeks since I didn’t much care where anyone was anymore. “I suppose I could check where Avery is—oh, who cares? Let’s just go.”

We made our way out of the castle to quizzical looks and more than one giggle on our way to Hogsmeade. We barely talked since my mind was on Avery and her dad and whether he would be a jerk or a nice bloke or try and come back into her life.

She was such a strong woman, blast that Avery, always giving people a chance. She had to be strong to let Emerson anywhere near her really.

We spotted her not too far ahead of us in some sort of dress with a cloak wrapped tightly around her. It was chilly and I pulled my own cloak tighter to the suit. I smelled like Head Boy and it was disgusting. Perhaps I should feed it to Victoria.

“Why did I agree to do this with you?” Fred mumbled.

“Because I couldn’t go stalking around by myself and three people would be too obvious.” I jumped to the side quickly to avoid a pile of dung left by something apparently large. “You notice Bink being sketchy lately?”

Fred shrugged. “Not really. He’s been busy. I know he’s been working on Remedial Transfiguration stuff.”

“What? Are you kidding?” I nearly stopped in shock.

“Nah, I found his papers the other day. Probably too embarrassed to admit it.” Fred frowned and we ducked behind a tree just as Avery glanced back.

“That makes a lot of sense.” I felt a little shitty, not being a good enough friend for Bink to admit his Remedial Transfig to. What sort of friend was I? We were best mates. He was probably reviewing his homework on Halloween before he came out—blimey. Poor blond Binkie.

We picked a table by the window in the large Italian restaurant Avery met her dad in. It was just behind her table and we could hear their conversation with a little help from Uncle George’s Extendable Ears. He gave me an entire box for my seventeenth birthday in May and since then they were a big hit in eavesdropping.

Fred ordered a girl drink and I ordered a brandy (which tasted disgusting) as we perused the menu for dinner choices. I didn’t even like Italian food.

“Avery.” Her dad was a tall man with stubble on his face and Avery’s pretty green eyes. He stood until she sat and I noticed his fancy tailored suit that far outstripped Emerson’s hideous one and shiny brown shoes. I was still wearing sneakers. “I’m glad you decided to come.”

“I’m still not sure why I did.” Her voice was cold and I noticed she wore a white dress with black detailing.

“I knew you’d be trusting. You always were as a little girl.”

“You wouldn’t know much about that.”

“Oh, come now, Aves, don’t be like that. It isn’t fair.”

Avery took a deep breath. Patience was her strongest asset and I held my breath for a moment. “Please don’t call me Aves. I only let—well, just please don’t.”

I knew she wanted to unleash years of frustration on him for being the girl sitting alone in the common room on Father’s Day not talking about the card they made for their fathers the night before in a hurry with a silver crayon because it was the only one they could find. She couldn’t go to the Father/Daughter gatherings she told me about in her home town and she couldn’t buy the shirt in Hogsmeade that read “Daddy’s Girl”. I couldn’t either, mind, but I didn’t complain.

“I’m sorry. Look, I’ve had a long time to think about this.”

“Thirteen years,” Avery muttered. “I’ve done a lot in thirteen years, you know.”

“I know. Blimey, I know. I’ve talked to Headmistress Sinatra all about you and she could barely stop—your grades and your Quidditch and your talent. Avery, that’s amazing. I’m so proud.”

“I’m glad. Of course, you probably shouldn’t be because the reason I am the way I am is because of Mum and because of the way she raised me. You know she had to get a second job—in the night. So she came home, slept for two hours, and then had to get up so I could go to primary school. Then she slept a little longer and went to another job. Constant work, you know that?”

There was silence. “I—no, I didn’t know that. I’m sorry, love. There’s not much else I can say. I want to start over. We can still have a relationship.”

“I came to meet you because you want to see me play.” Avery’s voice was still dark and cold.

“Oh! Yes, you’re right. I was a Beater in my years at Hogwarts. We won the Cup then, Gryffindor and Slytherin were always winning up until then but finally the Claws got the chance a few years later. What a year! I thought I’d come back and see if you got your Quidditch talent from me.”

“I didn’t it. My best mate taught me to play and I practiced my arse off because I was so bad.”

She was lying, of course, but I still liked the credit. Avery was better than me when we got here and I remembered hexing her off her broom once so she’d just fucking fall.

“Oh. Well, I’m sure you’re still decent since you made the team.”

“I’m one of the best Keeper’s Gryffindor has ever seen,” she said loudly. “You can go to the game, I’m sure you will regardless, but I don’t think I want to see you again after that.”

“Come on, Avery, I’m a changed person! I only left because I wasn’t being treated right and I needed to scrape in some more income so I moved to Spain to get a better job.”

“That’s so rich of you to say,” Avery spat. I could see the color rise in her cheeks. “If you just moved to Spain to get a better job you would have come back. You would have sent money so I wouldn’t’ve had second-hand robes and you would have written. I was young, but I could read. And don’t give me that bollocks about being treated unfair—I found the letter. I found the letter from that bitch Caroline and I swear I want to meet her and tell her just how wonderful her life should have been living with a man who abandoned his child—his four year old daughter.” She paused for a breath and the conclusion to the most unforgiving speech I ever heard come out of Avery Flynn. “You’re disgusting to me. Do you know how much trust I lost? I barely trust anyone. I trust my teammates and I trust my mother and that is it. You taught me not to trust people, even though I’d like to see the good in them. You did that to me. Be proud indeed. Be proud I saw your example and decided I wanted to be nothing like you.”

He looked simply thunderstruck as Avery went under the table to fetch the napkin that fell while she was delivering a monologue. She paused and then sat up straight. “I said you could go to the game. Who am I to deny you guilt?” Avery stood. “Say hello to Caroline for me.”

“We broke up—shortly after the move to Spain.”

She smirked. “Well then I hope it was worth it.” With that she turned and marched past our table toward the door. I thought she was a bit further away, but then I heard an irritated voice in my ear. “At least change your shoes next time, James.”


I paid the bill and Fred and I hurried out to catch her.

A/N: A lot of stuff happened in that chapter, huh? halloween, Emerson being a jerkbutt, Bink, Albus, Avery + Daddy. What a crazy chap. I was actually laughing while editing this so I hope at least a few of you found it as funny as I did. James is such a crazy boy!

Thanks to everyone who favorited this story! I can't believe I have over 200 favorites on it! WOW! It's stuff like that that inspires me to write so much. So thank you all for not only that but for the wonderful amazingness that are your reviews yay!

So what do you think about James asking Nia to a date? And let's face it...Emerson's kind of cute.

ps. Have any questions about this chap or anything else? I have a MTA page if you need to know anything or just vent at home much Nia or Meta or Albus pisses you off! haha. 

Chapter 12: Sunrise on Salmon Patties
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for invisiblemarauder_1 & Step_Up for the amazing MTA questions

“Wait up, Aves,” I said, catching my breath. The suit was not condusive to running and I had to let Emerson know. My legs felt like they were chaffing which was not at all attractive. Fred was funnier to watch with his silly gray dress and pointed shoes, but I kept my attention focused on the bestie.

“Why did you follow me?” She spun around with a furious look in her eyes. “Why couldn’t you just nose out, James? This was between me and my father and not you.”

“I just want to make sure you were okay,” I practically whispered.

“Well, I’m fine. Isn’t that obvious?”

“Is it wrong for me to answer no?”

She frowned. “Did you hear everything?”

“Yeah. That was quite the monologue. You could do theatre.” I placed a hand on her arm. “Avery, I wanted to be here for you. I’m sorry.”

“You had to dress in disguise—and drag—to be there for me?” She gaped at Fred. “Why is he in that dress? No, better yet, where did you get it?”

“Probably Emerson’s mum’s dress,” Fred muttered. “What? Don’t look at me like that. You got the suit from his trunk so I figured he wouldn’t mind if I took the dress.”

Avery managed a smile. “He’s fixing the sewing on it for his sister, he told me about it last weekend.” She took my arm and linked her other one in Fred’s and we continued our way back toward Hogwarts. “So you really think I could do theatre? I always pictured myself as being a bit of a starlet.”

I hugged her slightly. “I think you finally did what you’ve wanted to do for years. What will you do after the game?”

“After the game?” Avery kicked a few stones and then smiled. “I’ll go take a shower and grab some alcohol since we’re going to kick the shit out of Ravenclaw. Again.”

“That’s my girl.”

I was doing a pretty shit job of this Code business as Captain. I not only drank too much during Halloween, but I also landed myself in two separate detentions. One was cleaning bed pans, just as twat berry promised, and I smelled like urine until three showers later and a dose of perfume from Elizabeth.

The other was something I hadn’t done before, which was help the House Elves with dinner and I burned three batches of cupcakes before one was right. I gave the burnt ones to the Slytherins, stupid sods. At least I learned a few things about the kitchen so Mum couldn’t yell at me when I whined about supper over break.

James-1. Albus-1.

I went to a few classes—I mean, my grades were fine anyway. I just skipped the classes I knew I could skive off and made up my grades with awesome essays Avery edited while I poured over Ravenclaw notes. No way Kay Davies was getting this win, no way.

Practice was going well, other than Meta missing two. She avoided me at all costs afterward, but I managed to catch her leaving the Great Hall and unleashed a wave of fury about her skipping practice and breaking the Code. She told me bollocks on the Code and I gave her fifty laps.

She showed up for the next couple practices, which were during class time (teachers weren’t exactly happy) but Quidditch obviously came first. I held another meeting and discussed tactics and at least afterward Albus didn’t come barging in to put me in another detention. I also managed to avoid Paloma for a while, even when she wore a low-cut purple top. I was peeved about that since Fred, Bink, and Wes didn’t bother paying attention for the whole meeting.

I watched Kay Davies closely over the next few days, analyzing her every mood and waiting for Fred to rush up to me in tears exclaiming about her forceful tactics to get him to admit our practice schedule. She seemed peppy and anxious and I wanted to throw her down the stairs, but I was a gentleman and gentleman just hexed in the hallway.

“James, quit staring at my girlfriend,” Fred muttered a couple days before the game. “I think you stare more than I do.”

“That’s because you close your eyes to snog,” I said in return, taking a bite of my sandwich. “Has she asked you for our secrets yet? Do you blurt them out during sex?”

“Of course I don’t blurt them out during sex,” he snapped. “I don’t say anything. A little grunting, actually, but that’s about it.”

“Sick,” Bink said from the other side of Fred. “I don’t want to hear this. The image in my head is repulsive.”

I glanced over. “Did you get the image of Fred’s naked arse? That’s what I got.”

“Yep. In my head it was a bit hairy and that’s just strange.”

Fred narrowed his eyes. “It is a bit, but not much. Stop talking about my arse. Talk about Paloma’s or something.”

Sighing, I turned away. I couldn’t talk about Paloma’s. And I wouldn’t. Instead, I turned my attention to Lily, who was sitting on my other side. She was chatting with a few of her third year friends (a few boys who had yet to reach puberty). “Classes all right, baby sister?”

She glanced over and shrugged. “As good as they can be I suppose. I’m sure better than yours.”

“Mine? What’s wrong with mine?”

“Avery told me you’ve been skipping classes. Mum would hate that, you know.”

“I’m not—well, I’m only skipping the ones where we aren’t doing anything so I can concentrate on the match. Good captains sacrifice things for games. I’ll get right back into the groove of things once the Ravenclaw game is over.”

Lily stared at me for a moment. “You talked to Al lately?” she asked in a small voice.

“No. Not since he gave me detention.”

“Well, someone needed to do it. You should though. He’s right upset with you.”

“I know. I know, but I don’t know what he wants me to do. I can’t make someone fall desperately in love with him.”

“I’m not sure that’s what he wants,” Lily replied softly. “I just think he wants you to get your nose out of Quidditch for a bit to see there are other things besides your team.”

I raised a brow. “I don’t know what you mean. The game is only a few days away. It’s not my fault. He’s always been jealous.”

“Of course he has, James, and can’t you see why? God, this is what Dad’s been trying to tell you for ages.”


I looked away from Lily for a second to see Paloma smiling at me from a few feet away. She was wearing—I looked at her eyes. I didn’t look at what she was wearing. Nope. Not one bit. It would have helped if she would discard the sequins. “Hi there. What can I do for you?”

“Can I have a word?”

Lily groaned from beside me. “Think about it, okay, James?”

“Yeah, okay.” I stood up, finished my turkey, and followed Paloma out into the Entrance Hall. “What’s going on? Did you get hurt? You can still play, right? If I have to find a replacement Beater I’ll be up shit bleeding creek.”

She held out a hand. “No, no, I’m fine. You don’t have to find a replacement. I just wanted to talk to you. You’ve been…well, you’ve been avoiding me lately.”

“How can I avoid you?” I replied slyly. “You’re my teammate. I see you at practice just about every day.”

She frowned. “You’ve been leaving every time I walk into a room. I tried to ask your brother what’s been going on—”

“You asked Albus?” I gaped at her. No way. Please say she said “balbus” or “menuyalbus”. There weren’t quite that many syllables, but I could hope.

“Yeah. He didn’t seem to keen on you, though. Get in a fight?”

“A little bit of a spat, yes.” I frowned. “He’s a nice kid, though.”

“So have you been avoiding me?”

“Of course not. I just think.” I paused, trying to word it correctly without kicking myself. “I think we should keep our relationship professional. After all, I love hanging out with you but I think if I hung out with you more I might have the option to break the Code and you know I couldn’t do that.”

Paloma looked hurt and sad. “I know. It’s just—well, it’s nice to know you fancy me a little then.”

I don’t fancy you! I don’t. Not one bit, you’re just horribly good looking and I don’t know how and I don’t know who your parents were that made something as gorgeous as you.

Deep breath.

“Yeah, well, you know, Code and all.” I tried to smile but my jaw was a little locked. “Thanks for understanding, Paloma, you’re the best.”

“Not at all, James. I’ll see you at practice then, love.” Paloma waved and walked back toward the Great Hall. “Oh, hi there, Albus! Found your brother. Thanks for your help.”

Fuckity fuck.

“Detention was good, by the way,” I said, turning to face my brother. He was still a few inches shorter than me but stood with his chest puffed out so he looked confident. “I learned how to make cupcakes and salad.”

“Glad you benefited from being pompous,” Albus muttered, shoving past me toward the marble staircase.

“You can’t be like this forever, you know!” I called after him. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to fucking do to make you unhate me! I cut off contact with Paloma, you know. I’ve told her everything between us is to remain professional because of the C—well, because.”

“That’s awesome.”

“It’s not my fault she came up to you looking for me. I was trying to avoid her. I was trying to be a good brother.”

“Avoiding a girl that fancies you doesn’t make you a good brother,” Albus said, mounting the stairs.

“What do you want me to do?”

“Think for a few fucking minutes. Stop walking around here like a pompous bleeding asshole.”

“I’m not Edwards!” I shouted. “I’m not pompous.”

“Of course not. Why would the Quidditch Captain not be pompous? Pfft, you’re full of yourself James. Not going to class? Spending all your time on the pitch? Leading on poor Paloma. You’re horrible.”

“Me? I’m horrible? God, look in a fucking mirror, Albus.” I rolled my eyes. “You’re such a victim. You’re always playing the victim so Mummy and Daddy will give you what you want. They feel bad for you—get some fucking mascilinity and do things yourself. You want Paloma? Go get her—don’t blame me for something I can’t even control.”

“You can’t control it because you don’t care.”

“Blame everyone around you, Al. Blame Dad because you look like him and you get all this attention, but when people ask you to do things cool like Dad used to, you can’t. Don’t blame Dad, that’s not his fault. And it’s not my fault you’re living in his shadow as well as mine. You’re scared. You’re scared to do anything for yourself. You were too scared to play Quidditch too and that’s what you didn’t try out and Meta got the cut.”

Albus stopped dead. “I’m not scared! I don’t want to play Quidditch because it’s a waste of my time! Not everything is about Quidditch! Try getting to know someone else for a chance, James. You’re such a waste. Dad tells you things and you don’t even listen. I don’t think you even know what they’ve done apart from play Quidditch.”

“I’m leading my own life,” I said confidently.

“So am I, but without living in your damn shadow.”

“So you wanted me to fail?” I cried. “You wanted me to be a failure so you could be Albus bleeding Potter, coolest of the Potter kids with the screwed up middle name and the victim complex? Get real.”

“Eat shit, James. Think about someone else for a change.”

“Just because I don’t think about you doesn’t mean I don’t think about other people,” I snapped and he continued up the stairs. I balled my hands into fists. “She thinks you’re out of her league, by the way. I just thought I’d tell you that before your head got any bigger. She thought you were the too-cool-too-smart sixth year. So don’t go blaming me. Apparently you’re out of her league and I’m not. Fucking git.” I turned and walked outside, slamming the door as much as I could and plopping down on the stone steps.

Fuck him. He always tried to make me feel worse than I already did—he already gave me a detention. He already made me feel guilty about everything. Sure, I didn’t always treat him like a prince, but I was his brother. I was trying to teach him things about life.

All I ended up teaching him was not to be like me.

I had to yell at Meta three other times for ordering around my players. She told Wes all about how to swing his bat and for a minute he listened until I swore at the pair and told them to get back to practice. It was horrible, having to constantly supervise whether or not Meta would attempt to take over the team. If I didn’t know better I thought she might try and off me while I was sleeping.

I sat in the common room falling asleep over a Potions essay and I glanced at the Marauder’s Map. It seemed everyone was everywhere but there. Avery was walking toward the kitchens for the snack she told me about (I hoped she would bring me back a doggie bag of some sort) and Bink was pacing the Entrance Hall. Freddie was in our room with Emerson and they were facing each other so I assumed some sort of argument was happening. Paloma was in the lavatory on the third floor and Wesley was talking to Albus outside on the front steps. I saw Meta rushing through a passage on her way back upstairs.

Out of everyone on their way back to the common room, I wanted to see her the least.

Okay, not true. I didn’t much care for Clint Lawson. Or that Scorpius jerk. Like he had more money than me anyway. His dad could be a prat to my dad back in their schooldays, but my dad was filthy bleeding rich now and he had to come up with something cleverer these days. Malfoys were such rubbish.

No, this Potions essay was rubbish.

“I can’t even think.” Meta blew into the common room and slammed the portrait hard behind her. Her dark hair shielded her eyes and I wondered whether or not she had a happy bone in her Seeker body. “This is ridiculous.”

“What’s ridiculous?”

“Your Captaining abilities, Potter. Keep your nose out of my business.” Meta flipped me off and continued toward the spiral staircase.

“Laps, Meta.”

“For fucking what?” she cried, spinning around. I almost figured she’d have her wand out.

“For disrespecting me and breaking the Code.”

“You seem like a hypocrite, Potter,” she snapped. “You’ve broken the bleeding Code twice already and you’re not running extra laps.”

“Putting up with you during Quidditch practice is tougher than laps,” I shot back. “Twenty tomorrow and think before being disrespectful.”

She made a noise that was between frustration and the idea of murder. “If you even knew—you don’t know who you’re messing with, Potter. I swear to Merlin, you don’t.”

“Anything you want to share?”

“Bugger off!” Meta screamed, turning and rushing up toward the seventh year dormitories.

Avery wandered down a few minutes later with a quizzical expression. “Meta seems to have finally cracked. What do you think it is? Lack of tampons?”

“Did you just make a sexist comment about your own sex?” My jaw hit the floor. Well, almost.

“Am I not supposed to? Should I leave those sexist comments to you thinking about your steak and potatoes and rugged chin stuble?” Avery laughed a bit.

 “I…I don’t know how to reply to that."

“Someone capture this moment. James Potter is speechless. Anyone have a quill?”

“Sod off. I’ve had a bad few days.” I wiped the map and went back to the Potions rubbish.

“Al still not talking to you?”

“Not one word, stupid blighter. I’d like to kick the shit in the face, but he hasn’t been close enough to me.”

“Do you want me to talk to him?”

“Don’t bother. It has to work out eventually when we cool down. I just want to think about the game. I can’t get off the game right now. Concentration.”

“Is that why your Potions essay is completely wrong?” Avery leaned over me.

I groaned. “Are you kidding? Aves, I might need help.”

“Give it here. You owe me.”

The days leading up to a game were always important. They were mostly important because I didn’t want to be hexed before I made skilled passes to my fellow Chasers, but also because I had to be on top of my comeback game.

“Ready to get your ass handed to you, Potter?” Clint Lawson said the night before the game. He stood at the Slytherin table to make sure I heard him and Scorpius dumb-sixth-year sneered beside him.

“Go fuck the squid, Lawson. I saw you petting it the other day.”

He stared at me. “You won’t have much to say after I see you lose tomorrow. Saw you being a little protective at Halloween, Potter.”

I shrugged and continued on my way toward the Gryffindor table for a well deserved dinner after practice.

“Saw you pants your teammate. Pretty good showing, I must admit. I see why he won’t give up, though. For an ugly bugger you sure have a smokin’ hot sister.”

I picked that moment to grind my teeth. I kept walking.

“Have you seen that sexy third year ass? Just bouncing up a down all the way down the hallway—plump and round, all that.”

My wand was out faster than I knew what I was doing. I pointed it straight at him, blood pumping hard. I couldn’t do it. It would mean I wouldn’t be able to play the next day and I had to keep my cool. I nearly bit my tongue—it was my baby sister that disease pool was talking about.

He was blasted backward into the wall. Scorpius jumped and rushed to Clint’s side, but he was out cold.

I glanced down at my own wand. What the hell?

“Lily Potter, detention!

I flew around. My sister had her wand pointed straight at the Slytherin table with a heated expression on her face. Professor Longbottom was standing a few meters away with that disapproval look he was so capable of.

I beamed. “Well done, Lils!” I cried, clapping her on the back. “That shot was amazing. Right in the chest, nice shot.”

“It was worth it,” she said, stuffing her wand back in her robes and sitting down to dinner. “I can’t stand people picking on my siblings.”

“He was insulting you, though.”

“I don’t care about that. I just don’t want you to get in trouble. You have a big game tomorrow. Don’t think about that prat. He’ll be out for a few hours at least.”

“What did you use on him?” I craned my neck to get a better look as Scorpius helped Professor Longbottom carry Clint out of the Great Hall.

“Mum’s been teaching me a few things here or there.” Lily grinned. “But don’t tell anyone. Mum likes to let you think you’re the strongest Potter kid.” She snorted.

“Lil? I think I might just love you.” I half-hugged her and dug into the food.

“I do try.” She jumped, staring in front of her at the food. “They’ve got salmon patties!” Lily exclaimed, grabbing for two and snatching a spoonful of tartar sauce. “Where’s Al? He’s going to be stoked.”

I stared and then quickly came to my senses and grabbed another two off the plate in the center of the table. I even managed to steal the spoon Lily held to get my own tartar sauce.

In the Potter household salmon patties was the dish we came together for. It was something we all loved and Mum made the breading and sauce from scratch. I remembered her making them every time someone had a row so we could just eat and laugh and discuss tactics of salmon swimming.

“Al!” Lily jumped up and waved. “Look! They’ve got the salmon patties!”

Albus slid into a seat across the table, gave me a tentative look, and grabbed some food. “Wonderful, I’ve been craving these forever. You look flushed, Lil, are you okay?”

“Just got a detention, I’m fine.” She beamed and took a huge bite.

“Detention? For what? James, was this your fault?”

“It’s always my fault,” I said dully.

“I hexed Lawson. He’s a foul git anyway, talking about my arse.” She beamed. “I know it’s nice, but he shouldn’t.”

“Eugh, don’t talk like that,” I mumbled. “I don’t want to hear anything else about it. He’s unconscious and Scorp’s going to be his bedside errand boy for a few hours. That’s all I need to think about.”

“Scorp will probably be there to answer his every wish.” Albus snickered.

“If by every wish you mean sexual desire, I think you could be onto something,” I replied, catching his eye for a moment.

“The only one onto something is Malfoy.”

I nearly had salmon come out of my nose I laughed so hard.

“This seat taken?” Fred slid down beside me a few minutes later once Wesley left. He looked worn out and his hair was flopped all over.

“Nah. What’s going on, mate? You look tired.”

“That woman always wants to go at it,” he mumbled, grabbing for a salmon patty. “Not that I don’t enjoy it or anything, but it’s tiring after a while, you know?”

“Blimey, that’s what she’s trying to do! Tire you out before the game so she’ll win. Feisty woman, good plan though. You never say no.”

Fred gave me a look. “She isn’t trying to tire me out. I think she just wants to boast to her mates about it since all of them want to have sex with me.”

“The whole world wants to have sex with you, Freddie.”

“Story of my life,” he said and took a bite.

I saw Kay across the room with a bright smile on her face as she dug into the pudding. What a sneaky, devilish woman she was. Little did she know I added extra workouts and cool-down sessions for Fred because I knew she’d be at him like a bleeding rabbit. As long as it wasn’t on my pitch I didn’t care.

My mind wandered to other places they could get it on without getting caught and I wondered how safe the showers were or the benches or behind collective bushes around the lake. I bet naked Fred had been pretty much everywhere and that did not make me comfortable.

Sleeping was difficult that night and I tossed more than I dreamed. It was impossible for me to find a decent position and Emerson’s muttering didn’t help matters at all. In particular, I didn’t want to hear about his calorie intake during dreams. I wondered if I should sneak him a cream puff.

It was nearly five when I decided to lug myself out of bed and get dressed. Fred was leaning over the side of his bed snoring and Bink had his curtains closed tight. He hated the sun in the morning. I figured it was since it burned him, the stupid sod. He needed to wear more sunblock. Emerson was still muttering about fatty acids and saturated something or other and I fed his orange sock to Victoria. Then I gave her some treats for being such a lovely pygmy puff.

I felt strangely on fire thinking about the upcoming game. It was my first as a Captain. If my team failed it meant I failed. Kay was Captain for the last two years and everyone already knew she was rubbish since Gryffindor won every year I was on the team. I was just too good. Well, okay, we didn’t win my second year but I didn’t count that since I was twelve and my voice hadn't changed yet.

My team was good, though, right? We practiced almost constantly and other than the interruptions by Meta being a bitch, things went well. We passed the Quaffle well and Paloma nearly knocked out several other people during the week. How was that for a girlie Beater? Avery was saving everything that was thrown at her (though I got a few past and she flipped me off) and even though I wanted to take Meta and throw her into the lake she caught Snitches like it was going out of style. Which is was it would be if Quadpot came onto the scene.

The common room was silent and dark when I wandered in and I stood by the window for a moment watching the hazy sunrise against the trees. It was beautiful and something I rarely took part in since waking up five minutes before class started was a certain strength of mine.

“You’re up far too early to be James.” Avery put her hand on my shoulder and yawned. “Did Emerson give you a detention or something?”

“Couldn’t sleep,” I muttered back, stretching my legs and putting an arm around her waist. “What about you?”

“I’m always up this early on game days. Something about anxiousness and nerves.”

“You don’t have nerves.”

“I do. I really do.” Avery smiled brightly. “I just don’t make it obvious.” She paused for a moment and leaned her head against my arm. “Do you think my dad will actually show up?”

“Hard to tell actually. I think he will, especially judging by how anxious he was. He really seems to want to stay in contact with you.”

“Should have thought about that when I was four, huh?”

“Hey, don’t kill the messenger.” I chuckled and smoothed out her hair. “I think he realized how big of a mistake he made losing you. If his daughter was Meta or something I’m sure he’d just go sunbathe in Spain some more, but you’re something else entirely.”

“I think you’re required to say that since you’re my best mate.” Avery grinned and stared out onto the horizon.

“Nowhere in my contract does it say that. I say it because I care—because I mean it. Just wing it, okay? If you want to see him, see him. If not, don’t. Just don’t base your judgment on too harsh of things.”

“Like Father/Daughter pickup Quidditch?”

“Yeah, that.” I squeezed her around the middle. “And definitely don’t think about it anymore until after the game. We have a game to win and a whole crowd to make envious. I don’t want to miss a chance to force Scorp to squirm.”

“We’re not even playing Slytherin.”

“When we do it’ll be epic,” I whispered. “We just have to get past this one first and I’ll get a little credit as a captain. Now all I have to do it keep that damn Code in check and we’ll be okay. Seems like everyone is just walking all over it. We need some enforcement or harsher penalties.”

“And what happens when you break the Code?” Avery raised a sly brow at me.

“I won’t break the Code. Anymore, at least.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure, James. You’re human. You’re bound to screw up sometime and let emotion take over.”

I stared at a few trees blowing in the cold November breeze. “Of course not. I have no emotions. I’m practically a robot.”

“All right then, robot, let’s go win a Quidditch game and pop a champagne cork in Meta’s face during the after party.”

A/N: I hope everyone enjoyed that chapter and the chap image. I used a few new things and I think the image turned out very snazzy! At least Albus and James finally had it out and are working on the road to indifference :)

Thanks so much for the awesome constructive reviews everyone left for the last chapter. So...favorite quotes? Parts? James/Al row moments? But 12+ only because I love your reviews and it would be horrible to get them deleted :)

ps. my 21st birthday is in one week :) For all of you in America, you know what that means!

Chapter 13: The Ramming of Fred Weasley
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Sorry for the minor delay :)

“All right, team,” I said confidently, staring around the locker room. My team was spread out around me sitting in front of their lockers, all looking more serious than they should. Even Meta looked as if she didn’t have a corn cob stuck up her ass for once. Bink and Fred did a fist pump and Avery continued to keep her eyes downcast.

“We can do this!” I did my own fist pump. “Ravenclaw…they’re smart. That means they don’t have the Quidditch talent we do. All their good Quidditch players are off studying and brown-nosing to the teachers, not playing on the pitch. We’re going to get out there and we’re going to win and stick it to rabbit-fucking Kay Davies.”

“Don’t judge,” said Fred.

“Are you lot ready?” I cried, swishing my scarlet and gold robes around my legs. “Are you ready to kick some Claw ass and party tonight?”

“I hope so,” Bink said, standing and stretching. “Oy, Meta, you want to catch the Snitch before we have to work too hard? My left leg has a bit of a cramp.”

She rolled her eyes. “Throw right and maybe we’ll see.”

“Throw right? Oh, that’s wonderful of you to say—you can’t even throw!”

I’m not a Chaser.” Meta folded her arms.

“Can we not fight before a game?” I gaped at both of them. “Let’s just go out there and win because Nia told me she has a whole stock of liquor upstairs and I can’t be sad while drinking or I’ll start spilling my secrets to Edwards asking him to be my therapist.”

“Good plan.” Fred peeked out the door. “Bleeding everyone and their Crup is out there.” He turned back briefly and looked at Paloma and Wesley. “Are you two okay? Just pretend like it’s practice only playing against prats to some white noise.”

When he pulled open the door it was anything but white noise. There were shrieks and whoops and the sound of signs flopping in the wind as I walked out onto the grass. Paloma looked positively petrified and Wesley looked as if he had his jaw wired shut. It was strange seeing them with the rest of the team in their scarlet and gold robes with their names knitted to the back. What a crew I had as my team. Paloma even painted her nails red and yellow to match.

“Just hit the Bludgers,” I said to them. “Just hit the Bludgers and that’s all you have to worry about. We’ll take care of the rest. Aim high on Davies, though, she’s a tricky little wench.”

“James,” warned Fred.

“Sorry, mate, but she is.” I smiled, though my Beaters didn’t return it.

The stands were completely packed with scarlet and gold and ugly Ravenclaw colors. The Slytherin end was obviously supporting the Claws but we split the Puffs. It nearly felt as if the crowd was closing in on us, but I was used to it by now. I was a Seventh Year and I only had three matches left. Ever (until I went pro obviously and girls asked me to sign their grades).

“Ready to get your lion arse handed to you?” Kay Davies had a pompous smirk on her face that reminded me of Emerson. Perhaps she should have been named Head Boy.

“It’s gross that you have sex on the pitch,” I replied nonchalantly and she flushed. “Though it wasn’t too shabby since we were looking for blackmail pictures.” I shrugged and shook her hand. Suddenly Kay Davies didn’t look too confident. I wasn’t sure why. Even Wes could have seen through that lie, though maybe she didn’t want to be in the same picture as Fred’s semi-hairy rear end.

Madam Quen kicked open the large burgundy trunk beside her. She was decked out in all her padding and reffing stuff I disapproved of. It took away from the game. I couldn’t have all that padding on when going after a Quaffle—I’d miss for sure! That was probably why Bones hated me so much, my players barely wore any padding.

Was that a cup on Kay? No, it couldn’t be. No, it wasn’t, but that would have been hilarious and disgusting. She would make a very pretty man. I nearly snorted. Poor Freddie, I was pretending his girlfriend was a man.

Whatever it takes to win.

“I want a clean game,” Quen said, flipping the plastic mouth guard around in her teeth. “No cheap shots and no cheating.” She chewed on it some more. I wanted to tell her mouth guards were for your mouth.

“We’re not Slytherin,” I said and Fred made his laughter into a cough. Then it turned back into laughter when Bink flipped off one of the Ravenclaw Beaters.

“Mount your brooms then.” Quen released the Snitch and Meta didn’t even look at it. She let the Bludgers fly off toward the other side of the pitch and I stared darkly at the Quaffle in her gloved hands. I threw my leg over my broom and watched it intently. “On my whistle.” I could hear the Bludgers getting nearer. Paloma twitched from nearby. I didn’t take my eye off that ball.


Quen threw it into the air and I lunged upward, grabbing it and tucking it under my arm. I felt a surge of wind on my face and finally I felt a little better. All that Albus rubbish was off my plate for a bit and all I had to worry about was putting the little Quaffle into the—oh, what the fuck, how did Kay get that from under my arm? That bitch.

She was fast, that woman, and I wondered what performance-enhancing drugs she injected herself with before the game. She passed to another one of the Chasers, who Bink guarded carefully (who Fred dated and screwed the previously year actually) and I snuck up the center. Quidditch was a game of skill and stealth and after I punched the Quaffle out from under her arm and over to Fred I almost told her just that. You couldn’t win on talent alone, silly Ravenclaw girl, you don’t have enough.

It was thirty to ten Gryffindor after a few minutes and Avery looked spectacular. The only reason she let that one in was because there was dirt in her eye but she fixed it and fed me a thumbs-up. Meta was just flying around like a nut case. Who knew if she was even looking for the Snitch? I hoped so.

After being hit by a Bludger and being nearly knocked to the ground, Wes turned around his game so much he knocked Kay Davies off her broom (causing Fred to flinch and nearly drop the Quaffle). Unfortunately, she recovered and sent me a pompous Head-Boy-esque smirk. I yelled at her about fucking on the pitch. She narrowed her hawky eyes.

I passed to Bink, trying desperately to ignore the commentary through the stadium from Hufflepuff Ryan Walters, but at times I had no choice to hear his cheeky retorts about my throwing style. It was a perfectly fine style, thank you very much, Ryan bleeding Walters.

Fuck, though, my arm hurt about twenty minutes in. I flexed the muscle and took the Quaffle back, ducking under a Ravenclaw Beater and streaking up the pitch. I passed it to Bink, who passed it underhand back, and I did a barrel-roll to avoid a well-placed Bludger. I hated barrel-rolls because they made me dizzy and the crowd began to blur.

It was probably a good thing because Nia had a sign reading “Do Me, Captain” and I didn’t think she was talking about Kay Davies. Where were the teachers? How was that sign even allowed?

They started to chant “Go Go Gryffindor” which actually turned into “Go Home Gryffindor” because our fan base was vastly outnumbered by haters. Well, eff. They needed to stop drinking their haterade and watch the game because Bink did a wonderful side roll to avoid a Bludger and only a few people made the common “oh!” sound associated with such diligent moves.

I caught the Quaffle again, pulled my broom upward, and shot it past the Ravenclaw Keeper, who Fred also dated, only two years ago. I wondered how it was to have half a team that screwed Fred Weasley work together on drills and team bonding. I was sure it was entertaining to find the things they had in common.

“I was born in July,” one of them would say, twirling a hand around her brown hair.

“Oh yeah? How fascinating. I was actually born in November, but hey, I screwed Fred Weasley out by the lake,” another would say.

“Oh! Wow. Me too! Let’s be teammates and besties.”

Things kept blurring the longer the game went on and soon all I could see were my other two Chasers and the occasional stray Bludger. I heard Walters announce the score and it was in our favor (probably because of Avery) and I caught the Quaffle, passing it to my cousin.

That was when I saw Kay Davies come flying (obviously) out of nowhere and ram Fred on the side, knocking him clear off the side of the broom. The vixen then took the Quaffle and headed the other direction.

“FOUL!” I cried, gaping at Madam Horrible-Ref with my arms out. She shook her head. I raced after Kay while Paloma shot a Bludger at the cheating Ravenclaw whore. Bink rushed down and saved Fred from landing on his head, but then joined me in the attack.

Oh, that woman. That foul, loathsome woman. She thought she was so wonderful, knocking Freddie off his broom. His brains were already addled to begin with! What was she playing at? Come on, broom, hurry your shit up! Mum didn’t pay a lot of money to have you not catch that horrible Davies woman!

Of course I would have paid for it if I wasn’t only fifteen at the time. I wished I could of, I would have gotten the Chaser model in the window for a thousand Galleons more.

Kay was one on one with Avery, who had furrowed brows and had a rather intent look on her face. Kay deked. Avery followed. Kay threw the other way. I closed my eyes. Then I opened them. Avery launched her leg out and kicked the Quaffle with the tips of her toes.

I knew her legs couldn’t be so long for nothing!

Before that I hadn’t thought of how potentially funny Kay “ramming” Fred was. I took a moment to laugh and take the Quaffle back from Avery. I flipped Kay off.

My right arm was just burning. I couldn’t help it—all of the passing and catching and motioning wore it out. My stomach muscles also hurt from tightening them during a dive or a turn, but that was good for me. I was going to be the hot Quidditch bloke with a flat stomach and one arm bigger than the other. Bollocks. At least someone might ask to eat something off my stomach, which would be fun and it would probably tickle.

The game was one-hundred forty to seventy in our favor. Avery looked exhausted and I felt for her. Though we were trying defense, Fred wasn’t at his best. His eyes were drooping and I knew he wasn’t all there. He even dropped the Quaffle a couple times which was horribly unlike him. Clearly getting rammed did not agree with Freddie.

I glared expectantly at Meta. She chose that moment to flip me off and I wanted to punch her in the rib cage. Who did she think she was? Disrespectful maggot. Meta Maggot. That had a certain charm to it.

“Time out!” I cried and Madam Quen whistled it.

“Getting scared, Potter?” Kay said with a laugh. For some reason I never thought she’d call me Potter. I thought that was reserved for jokes between friends, authority addresses from people like cow-chewer, and disgusting Slytherins.

“We’re up almost a hundred, sod off.” I floated to the ground and met my team on our side of the pitch. They all stared at me, confused. I took a moment to clear my throat and glance at the stands where Clint Lawson was in a cast. Scorpius looked sweaty so I took that as meaning he had been doing the errands around the Lawson household.

Sexual ones. Obviously.

“What is this about?” Meta snapped. Oh, she called me “Potter” too which didn’t fit into any of them. She could just be joined into the disgusting Slytherin group.

“I need you all to take a minute of rest. Grab some water and rehydrate.”

Bink snatched some water bottles and tossed them around the team. “Good idea. I’m beat out there.”

“Fred, mate, are you okay?” I put a hand on his shoulder as he drank. “That was a hard fall.”

“Yeah. It’s sort of hard for me to see but don’t tell Quen or she’ll send me up to Bones and I won’t be able to play. Body hurts too. Fuck, I want this to be over.” He leaned against his broom, his tan skin soaked in sweat.

“The good news is we’re up by a lot,” I said, turning to the rest of the team. “Aves, you’re playing fantastic.”

“She let in seven!” snapped Meta. Avery wheeled around with a murderous look on her face. She muttered something along the lines of “not like you’re doing your job any better”.

“Did you see some of those saves? If it was anyone else she would have let in fourteen like the other Keeper. Don’t get snarky, McLaggen.” I stared sympathetically at Avery. “You lot are doing fantastic. Paloma—Wesley, keep up the good work. You make me proud. I’m glad I picked you.”

“Time out over, Potter. Get your team back in the air.” Quen was such a bitch. She could be a Slytherin too.

“Ready, team? Let’s go win this. Fuck, I’m tired.” I kicked off. Everyone went back to their positions and I noticed my entire body was covered in horrible smelling sweat. Bink looked a bit sunburned too, which I felt bad about. He grabbed the Quaffle and passed it to me and away we went back up the pitch.

“The game is back on,” Ryan Walters the obnoxious Hufflepuff said. “Apparently Captain Potter wanted to have a little water break so his Chasers could have a pee or something. Honestly, this is Quidditch. There aren’t commercials.” He let the audience chuckle (well, the Slytherins). “Now the game is back on and look who happens to have the game ball—dear Captain Potter himself. You know, until a week ago I had no idea there were other Potter kids. I just thought it was him because he has such a big head I didn’t notice the rest.” More laughs. “Anyway, Potter gets the Quaffle stolen by Ravenclaw Chaser Denise Loveletti and she moves her way back up to Keeper Flynn.”

Fuck. That Walters needed to shut his damn mouth. I could only imagine what was going through Lily and Albus’s heads. If they even went to the game. I wouldn’t blame Al if he didn’t. He was still sour with me and part of me finally understood. It wasn’t about Paloma. It was never about Paloma, she was just a gorgeous girl in the middle of it and she had no idea. In a way, I felt for her considering she fancied me for my personality and not for my status as extraordinarily sexy Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.

That was when I got a Bludger to the arm. I heard something crack and it bloody hurt (there was a “oh!” from the audience, about fucking time) but I kept going. I was thinking too much.

I wasn’t supposed to think during Quidditch! This was where I belonged, flying up in the air with my broom and the Quaffle that happened to be in possession of floozy Kay Davies. Fred stole it back. I beamed—that was my boy!

“Sometimes I wonder whether or not Potter thinks about anything other than Quidditch.” I added twit Hufflepuffs to the list of people calling me Potter. They weren’t even sly or witty enough to be Slytherins and that was saying something. “I’ve heard he skives off class to plan meetings and doesn’t date and—blimey, there they go!”

I pulled out of a dive once the Quaffle was in my hand and saw Meta and Ravenclaw Seeker that Fred dated once going toward the Gryffindor goal posts. Avery stared down. They were pretty even considering they both had the Seeker model of the new Firebolt F79 and I couldn’t tell until the scarlet and gold side jumped up and someone threw glitter into the air.

Who the fuck brought glitter to a Quidditch match?

I dropped the Quaffle and threw my arms up. Before I knew it my team was engulfing me in a smothering hug (even Meta, who still had the Snitch high over her head). I gave Wesley a little noogie and we floated to the ground in one Gryffindor clump to meet the fans.

“James!” My baby sister hugged me around the middle and I got a clump of her red hair in my mouth as I cheered. “You did it—you were fantastic. Is your arm okay?”

I glanced down at it. “Erm, I don’t think it’s broken but I heard a crack.”

“And it hurts?” Lily stared at me with that I’m-smarter-than-you look she perfected so many years ago.

“Yeah, it bloody hurts. Can you fix it? Didn’t Mum teach you rubbish like that?”

“Of course I can fix it.”

I raised a brow. “I don’t know, Lils, you’re a third year.”

“Shut up and hold still, dung head.” She took out her wand while a few other people clapped me on the back. I felt a cooling sensation and for a moment I thought about Dad’s story of losing all his bones after a Quidditch match. I wished Dad talked about Quidditch more often. Not that he didn’t, he just needed to do it more.

“There. You’re fixed.”

“You ever thought about being a Healer?” I put my arm around her and squeezed tight. “You’d be good at it. Hell, Lily, you’re good at most everything.”

“You’re quite charming, James, but I’m not into incest.” Lily laughed and I poked her in the side. “Mum told me that before, actually. It’s nice to know that I only have to live in your shadow for some things.”

“Oh, don’t be stupid, you’re already far cooler than I was at thirteen.” I smirked and kissed her on the forehead. “Now go play dollies and steal Mummy’s makeup while I talk to the big kids in the locker rooms.”

“Bugger off.” Lily smiled and shoved her way through the crowd.

It was so tight I could barely find my team in the mess. I managed to squeeze my way over to Paloma, who was hugging Wesley and talking about nerves with a few of their fifth year classmates. “There’s my Beaters!” I cried, giving them each a one-armed hug. “You two were phenomenal. Way better than Dara bleeding Wood.”

“That’s because we don’t argue with you,” Wesley said with a chuckle.

“That may me, but you’re still very good.” I glanced to Paloma’s left to see Albus walking up beside us. My stomach tightened. I thought about what Ryan Douchebag Factory said during his commentary.

“Nice job, James,” Al said, allowing himself a brief smile. “I guess all the classes you apparently skived off according to Walters paid off.”

“He’s a jealous Puff twat,” I muttered.

“Paloma, you did lovely,” he added, smiling wide at the woman he had such an obvious crush on. “You didn’t look nervous at all. James did during his first game. I could see him shaking from the stands.”

To my happy surprise, Paloma blushed quite fiercely.

“It was cold,” I snapped back, laughing a bit. “Ten minutes in the locker room, okay Beaters? See you, Al.” I shot him a thumbs-up and pushed my way through the scarlet and gold and posters to find Avery. She was on the edge of pitch closest to the locker rooms talking to her father.

Today he was dressed in a horrible red suit with a gold tie. It was very spirited but also so horrible even a fashion-dumb guy like me could pick it out. Not even Emerson would wear that which reminded me I never gave him back his suit and I doubted Fred gave back the gray lumpy dress. Mr. Flynn looked awkward as he twisted his hat in his hands and talked to his daughter.

“And that kick save—BAM!” Avery said, reenacting it with her foot. She was smiling and laughing and a few people walking by congratulated her. “God, what a game.”

“It really was,” Mr. Flynn said. “I hope your teammates are okay. The one with the fall and the other with the Bludger.”

“Freddie’s probably fine. Well, I hope. He was never really all there in the first place so I hope there’s nothing more a fall will hurt.” Avery shrugged. She looked so lighthearted and different than she did the last time she talked with her father. “As for—hey, James! C’mere.”

I waved awkwardly and walked over. Part of me didn’t know what to do. Avery was my best mate. She spent nights in my bed crying over the fact that she had no father. My dad basically adopted her and played the father figure roll all through Hogwarts and she even sent him a card and chocolate cauldrons every Father’s Day. And now this bloke was standing in front of me in that blinding red suit all smiles and back into her life.

I really just wanted to deck him in the face.

“How’s your arm?” Avery touched it gently.

“It’s fine. Lily fixed it.” I shrugged. “That girl can do anything.”

“I bet she can even play Quidditch.” Avery chuckled.

“Too dangerous,” I said, but laughed anyway.

“James, this is my dad. Dad, this is James Potter. He’s the Captain of the team and also happens to be my best mate.” She looked like she could hold her own, still breathing hard from the win and I wondered how long she would stay in this blissful euphoria of emotions.

“Pleasure to meet you, sir,” I said, shaking his hand. I was always the parent pleaser.

“Likewise. Great game you just played there, Mr. Potter. I hope to see the same showing against Hufflepuff in February.” He smiled in return.

“Oh, are you coming for the game? That’s great.” I immediately turned to Avery.

“One step at a time,” she said. “Well, it was, erm, nice seeing you, Dad. I have to go meet back in the locker rooms and shower. I’ll…I’ll owl you or something.” She tried to smile, more than likely realizing where she was and who she was talking to. Her shoulders stiffened.

“Sound great, Avery. Good luck with the rest of term.”

“Nice meeting you again, sir,” I said and nodded, steering Avery toward the locker room with my hand on the small of her back. “A little awkward?”

“Sort of,” she said as we dodged a few celebrating fans. “It was nice of him to come though even after I chewed him out like Harvey chews gum. Horrid suit, though.”

“I thought he bought it from Emerson for a minute there.” I pushed open the door to find my team grabbing towels and heading for the showers. “Team, great work out there!” I cried, tossing my robes on the bench in front of my locker. “Now get clean before I talk to you because I don’t want you smelling up the room.”

I picked the shower furthest from the door and turned on the water. The walls were to my chest (to Wesley’s neck) so I could see the heads of my male teammates. I grabbed the manly shampoo bottle Dad bought me when Mum wasn’t looking and heaved an enormous sigh. “So, we won.”

“Thank god,” Wesley breathed. “I finally feel like I can swallow right. Before my throat was dry.”

“Do you swallow often?” Bink chuckled and squirted soap over onto Wes. “Where’d Freddie go?”

I glanced around. “I guess I didn’t see him come in. Maybe Kay and him cleared off a spot in the middle of the crowd to get it on.”

“She looked a bit peeved.” Bink made a face.

“Women!” Fred Weasley always made such a classy entrance. The shower room door slammed open, and he threw his towel forcefully against the sink before undressing and turning on the water to his own stall. “I bleeding hate them, seriously.”

“What did Kay do other than knock you off your broom?” Bink smirked.

“James, did you tell her you took pictures of us on the pitch?”

I roared with laughter. “I might have mentioned it, why?”

Fred narrowed his eyes over the walls. “And that was a fabricated lie, correct?”

“Of course, I’m not scoping out you two doing it when I’m not even getting laid,” I said cheerfully, leaning against the wall to stop myself from slipping after laughing so hard.

“She was all up in arms about it. She said that threw her off and she was so worried or some rubbish and she completely hates you by the way. Why do you have to go throwing my girlfriend off her game?”

I stared. “She’s the Ravenclaw Quidditch Captain.”

He grunted. “Not to mention she’s not happy about losing. I told her she should get a better team and then she told me I should stop fucking the girls on her team. I told her I didn’t have sex with one of the female Beaters.”

“And how did she take that?” Bink asked, clearly trying to stifle his laughter.

“She told me to screw the dude Beater and walked off.” Fred shrugged in irritation. “Women. Seriously. Do they all do that or is it just Ravenclaws?”

“I think it might be all of them,” Wesley interjected.

I glanced over. “You know a lot about women, Wes?”

“I have a lot of them as my friends, Captain.”

“Good answer, mate. Good answer. And my baby sister?”

“We’re friends, James.” Wes gave me a very seventh-year look for such a fifth year. “I know you hate me talking to her but we’re friends. You have a friend that’s a girl. I have a friend that’s a girl.”

“Don’t be looking at Avery now, you’re teammates.”

“I was not looking at Avery!”

I narrowed my eyes. “Then how did you know she was a girl?”

Bink snorted. “Lay off, James, poor bloke nearly peed himself in the shower. Besides, a blind person would notice Avery. She’s gorgeous and those grades. Spectacular.”

“Since when did you guys care about academics?” Wesley rinsed his hair and stared back and forth between the three of us.

“Wes,” Fred said, turning off his water with a sly grin, “I think it’s time you learned the ways of the male Quidditch player. There are a lot of things you don’t know, especially about grades.”

“I have good grades!” Wes said defensively.

“Wes, your grades are horrible,” I said, laughing loudly. “But that’s a good thing. You don’t want grades if you’re a guy.” I turned off my water and reached for the towel, wrapping its cotton-y goodness around my waist and wondering if anyone wanted to eat off my stomach yet. “You have a lot to learn, Wes. First, let’s get you liquored up at the party so I can hex you for asking my sister to dance.”

A/N: Sorry about the minor delay of this chapter. I was celebrating my 21st birthday and then was Internetless in New York City for 5 days. Was anyone else at the premiere? I was there and got some amazing pictures of the cast--I also went to the Mugglecast taping the next day. It was a great time and thanks everyone for the birthday wishes!

I hope you all enjoyed this chapter. It was crazy to write since I've never written a Quidditch match from a Chaser's POV before. I am rather happy with it though. I'm glad things wil Albus and James seem to be nearer to a satisfying point. And that Kay Davies...who knows?

So favorite quotes? Favorite parts? Favorite idea of who brought glitter to a Quidditch match?

EDIT: Anyone going to the midnight showing of HBP? I'll be there dressed up as Lavender Brown haha.

Next chapter: someone gets punched in the face.

Chapter 14: Allie-poo, Wessy Pessy, and a String Bean
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Gotta Love Quidditch Parties.
For Bertle and jennaBee. Thank you for the wonderful reviews!

The party was nothing short of complete chaos. After getting nearly beheaded by excited fans when we entered, I managed to slip through the mob and get myself something rather manly to drink. I was then forced to retell various stories from the game and I even reenacted Meta’s Snitch dive for everyone’s pleasure.

Mine was better.

I hoisted Wes up onto the table with Fred and I as we told the stories and I gave a colorful commentary of exactly what I thought about Ryan Walters. The girls laughed, the alcohol kept coming, and I felt almost like a hero. It was strange, staring out over the colors of Gryffindors with their face paint smeared onto their glasses (and some smeared onto other people’s faces) with drinks in hand, cheering up at me as if I defeated someone grand. Was this what it was like to be my father? Surely it was greater—surely he stood up on this huge platform and gave mass speeches about it. Maybe he even gave speeches at the end of every school year.

I even let Wes have the limelight for a while. He led them in a Gryffindor cheer and told the tale of how he nearly lost his breakfast while walking out to the pitch (I made a mental note to tell him puking stories were not altogether attractive to the lady population of Hogwarts). Fred clapped him hard on the back and we all laughed at his previous suffering.

Fred laughed because it was funny. I laughed because I was drunk and things were now funny.

After at least an hour of story time I jumped down off the table and left Wesley to be the object of many girls’ affection. He had several first, second, third, and fourth years making kissy faces at him which was good since I was grooming him to be my heir of the Quidditch throne. Paloma would have been a nice heir but she wasn’t very manly. Either were shots for Captain, but heir was different.

Heir was to take over the addiction of the lady population after I left, though I would send them signed posters of me posing shirtless for a Quidditch publication.

I found Avery talking with Elizabeth over by the window and hugged her around the middle. “Heya, Aves, where be the rest of our team?”

She smiled warmly at me from behind a pink drink. “I have no idea. Meta went upstairs a bit ago, thank bleeding Merlin. She’s so anti-social, not that I care since I hate her and I wish she wasn’t a halfway decent Seeker.”

“Why don’t you tell me how you really feel?” I chuckled and smiled in greeting to Elizabeth. My fingers were tingly. “Seriously, though, you know what’s really cool?”


“We won the GAME!” I cried, thrusting my cup into the air. A deafening cheer erupted behind me.

“Did we now?” Avery laughed girlishly.

“We did. We won and we smashed Kay Davies’ face into the pitch and rubbed it a bit with the ends of our broomsticks. Then we danced around her disappointed face for a while.”

“You sound really sadistic right now.”

I grinned. “Looks like Paloma is enjoying herself.”

Avery glanced over to the female Beater who was accepting several drinks from awed boys. She laughed at Wesley’s jokes and told her own story of kicking a rogue-looking Bludger away from the unsuspecting Bink. She did all this rough talk all while not chipping her nail polish and reapplying a layer of pink lip gloss. What a strange woman she was.

For once, staring at her shining dark hair and transfixing smile, I found myself not suffering from a sickening lust that usually came from seeing her. Now I saw her like I saw Lily, though a little less protective. She felt like family, like the rest of my team (Meta, though she was the black sheep, was also included in that). She looked good, healthy even.

She was pretty, but in that feminine member of your family way. Rosey was pretty too but I wasn’t looking at her.

“She does.” Avery took another sip of her drink. “I think she’s finally realizing the life of a Quidditch player, don’t you? It’s a strange one, but it’s so addicting.”

“Addicting?” I chuckled even though I knew from my own adrenaline at hearing the cheers after my own stories that she was right. “Are you saying being a Quidditch player is like having a drug? Do you think we could bottle that and sell it to less talented sods?”

She shoved me lightly. “I just mean it’s an entirely different lifestyle when you’re as involved as we are. I think she fits in nicely with our team. It’s funny, how things work out, though.”

“Funny? Like what? Like how we win the game? Oh, it’s hilarious.”

“I’m not talking about that and you know it.” Avery lowered her voice as Elizabeth turned to chat with someone else that didn’t go to Quidditch matches. “It seems funny how things work out. Usually when girls are younger they always have crushes on their older brothers’ friends. It just happens that way. And seeing as Paloma didn’t have an older brother, it makes so much sense for her to fancy you. But it’s a phase. I think she’s breaking out of it right now.”

I looked at Paloma again and now she was talking to Fred to the irritation of the clique of boys around her. “I think you’re right. It was a crazy phase, but it looks about over now, doesn’t it? Blimey, I hope so. I’m her Captain. She’s my family, that’s basically incest. I think. Plus, being against the Code it’s rather frowned upon.”

Avery squeezed my shoulders tight. “Now all you have to do is talk to Nia. She was at the game even though she’s been under the weather the last couple days. I think she’s floating around here somewhere. Oh, blast.” She looked down at her drink. “I’m going to get something else. Do you want another?”

“I’m all right for now. Losing the buzz though, so I’m sure I’ll be getting something soon.” I smiled.

“All right. Sit tight then, love, I’ll be back.” Avery turned and walked toward the makeshift bar. “Hi, Albus, enjoy the game?”

I didn’t turn around. I wanted to, but I didn’t. Plus the room was spinny and I might have fallen.

“It was a thriller, Avery. You played wonderful!”

“Thanks, some of those saves even I can’t believe. I’m on my way to get another drink, can I get you anything?”

I could hear the smile in Albus’s voice. “No, no, thanks though. I’m sure I’ll see you soon.” There was silence and he cleared his throat, next to me staring out the window. “Hey, James.”

I focused my eyes intently on the Forbidden Forest, which was ironically never really that forbidden to me since I had been in there countless times scoping things out in my seven years at Hogwarts. It was more of an Open Invitation for Chasers Forest. That name was catchy, I should send a memo to Sinatra about it. “Hey, Al. Did you go to the game?”

“You saw me at the game.”

Mental slap. Why was I nervous talking to my baby brother? Probably because I knew he was right, the sod.

“Yeah, yeah, you’re right. Sorry. Look, Al, I’m sorry.” I turned toward him and almost bit my lip before I realized it would make me look ridiculous. “I was bang out of order the other day and I didn’t handle myself well. I should handle myself like a Captain everywhere and not just on the pitch.”

Al stared at me for a minute before responding. “Look, James, I know you like Quidditch. I know it’s your life. I’m sorry for getting on you like I did, especially about you know who.”


He rolled his eyes. “Paloma, dip shit,” he replied, almost laughing. “I’m sorry about the Paloma thing. I know you don’t fancy her. I was just jealous I think. Well, I know. Sorry for the way I acted about it, though. I guess it was just my way of letting out the way I felt about other stuff.”

“Don’t say the word “feel” or “feeling”, okay?”

“Why not?”

“Because we’re Potters and we’re men and we don’t talk about feelings.”

Al slapped me on the back. “Okay. Basically sometimes I think you think more about your Quidditch mates than your actual family.”

I took a few seconds to ingest, careful not to blow my top and actually think about what he was saying. Thinking while intoxicated was a very difficult process and required me to screw up my face before replying. “It’s hard for me since my Quidditch mates, as you call them, are like my family here. I’m just as protective over Avery as I am over Lily.”

“For an entirely different reason,” he said.

“If you mean because Lily is younger that’s bogus,” I said calmly. “You’re right, though. Sorry. I guess sometimes I am rather shit to you guys. I’ll try and be a better big brother and not take you for granted, especially since your Prefect arse will shove me in detention for dancing with your girl. Can you do me a favor though?”

“What’s that?”

“Actually I need two. I need you to keep an eye on Lily. I can’t always be the bad guy and I see your jaw twitch when blokes talk to her so you need to keep up with that.” I smiled and Albus returned it. “And can you just go talk to Paloma for a while? She has loads of annoying blokes over there when really I think she’d rather have you over there.”

He looked over, a flush rising on his cheeks. “I don’t know.”

“Do it. Trust me, just do it. Oh, and Al?”

“Yeah?” He twisted his fingers in front of him nervously.

“I’ll never admit to anyone she thought you were out of her league and I wasn’t, so don’t bother sending it around as a big-headed rumor because I know you, Al. And I’ll tell Mum.” I chuckled and shoved him toward Paloma. He took a deep breath and squeezed himself in between two guys. Immediately Paloma’s eyes widened and she said something to him.

“You and Allie-poo okay?” Bink appeared at my shoulder with a bottle of beer and a smile. “He looks legit nervous.”

“He’s going to talk to Paloma,” I replied. “Where have you been? Freddie and I were reenacting Meta’s Snitch dive.”

“I went upstairs for a bit.”

I stared at him. “Fred told me about the remedial Transfig, mate.”

Bink’s face flushed immediately. “I didn’t want—how did he find out?

“Doesn’t matter. Why didn’t you tell us?”

“It’s, well, it’s horribly embarrassing isn’t it?” He screwed up his vibrant blond hair with a hand and scrunched up his face. “What am I supposed to say? Hey, mates, after Quidditch I have to finish up some extra bleeding homework because I can’t get my kitten into a teacup? I can’t say that.”

“You can tell your friends.”

Bink stared, obviously unsure of what to do. “Sorry. I just thought I could keep it a secret and take the class and be done with it. I feel like an idiot.”

“Secrets have to come out sometime, Binkie. Do you need any help with it?”

“Don’t make me feel like a bigger idiot than I already do. I’m doing fine with it for now. If I need help I’ll probably ask Avery though considering you stepped on your kitten.”

“It was fine!” I cried, laughing. “That what you were doing upstairs then?”

“Yeah. I had to finish my essay on the whole kitten transformation thing. Finally finished it after an hour or so.” Bink glanced around the room, eyes falling on Albus and Paloma talking and the boys looking irritated at my baby brother. I felt proud. “Did you see that yet?”

“Did I see what?” I followed his eyes, now over to the refreshments table, and immediately saw what he asked if I saw. I was not pleased to see said sight.

Emerson was moving to the beat of the music, leaning suavely over the table to tell something to Avery. Merlin, I hated that sod. I knew it wasn’t right to keep hexing him and I knew one of these days Aves would hex me back and I’d have tentacles sprouting out of my elbows, but I couldn’t help it. Something in my stomach twisted up every time I saw him bat his feminine eyelashes at her. He wasn’t good enough for her.

I never really hated Emerson Edwards until our seventh year. He was a pompous sod before then, always having a go at Quidditch and at everything I loved and when he was promoted Prefect he gave me a detention every two days for leaving my socks on the floor. I was cool with the ladies and had two absolute best mates (not to mention Avery) and he was picked last for groups because he told everyone how to do everything. He never listened to other opinions. He never wanted my input on our greenhouse plants and at one point ended up with pus everywhere because of it.

That was probably the reason Emerson and I never saw eye to eye. But then I became Quidditch Captain and even though the twit could still give me detentions for hexing him off a bar stool, I had authority just below his and was listened to by the general body of students in Hogwarts. I told people what to do and they actually listened because I wasn’t a jerkoff like he was. I also knew he always fancied Avery, but that was a line he never crossed. He also knew I had a mean right hook without a wand and I figured that was something he didn’t exactly want to run into either. Fred ran into it once and slept with an ice pack for a few days.

It was this year—this year I finally gathered more authority and maxed out my lady attention skills—that Emerson Edwards finally made his move on Avery Flynn, my Keeper and my best friend. I wanted to punch his arrogant mouth. I should have told Avery all the things from years before—the way he never listened and the way once he was included he made sure he ruined everything else he was not included in. I should have told her he was so wrong for her.

But we agreed to date people, didn’t we? How could I stop her now? How could I go back on my own decision like that?

Couldn’t she just pick someone else to date?

“Hi there, Potter.” Emerson looked particularly smug after the Quidditch win even though he didn’t win the game or participate at all. “I was just telling Avery about my family’s cottage in near the Swiss Alps.”

“How interesting,” I said, nearly snorting at the lack of interest in the story. “Could I have a word with Avery, Edwards?”

He raised a brow. “Sorry, I was in the middle of a conversation. It’ll need to wait, string bean.”

I was unsure of why he said it. I wasn’t super skinny. I was a slender build, like my father, but meatier from his Hogwarts days because apparently he never ate during the summers. I always ate during the summers. My stomach was muscular and my arms were larger than his and yet I was a string bean? He was…well, he was fat then.

“String bean, No-Head Boy? Why the hostility?” I stuck a nearby toothpick into his drink. “Run along, twit. I’m busy being the hero of the Quidditch game.” Avery disguised her chuckle as a cough.

“You can’t play big brother forever, Potter,” Emerson spat. “One of these days you aren’t going to be around to drink girl drinks and slobber all over women.”

“Drink girl drinks?” How dare that monkey question my masculinity? I was the Quidditch Captain. He should have been informed of that. Should have written that memo I planned. I was more masculine than wrestlers, for Merlin’s sake—more masculine than steak and potatoes! “You have an orange drink with ice in your hand! Get out of here, Edwards or I’ll feed your pretty gray dress to Victoria too!”

“It was you! I knew it was you!” Emerson cried. “How did that purple stain get on the front?”

I turned toward Avery. “Can we talk somewhere?”

“I’m not done with you, Potter! You stole from me!”

“Bugger off or I’ll come up with another nickname for you playing off the word head.” I flicked my hand out a bit to shoo him away but he wouldn’t budge. He was rather annoying while drinking and I could smell the cranberry vodka on his breath. I wondered how much mine smelled. Probably like manly drink. “What’s wrong with you? Why are you still hovering over me with your gob hanging open? Want a kiss? I don’t swerve that way on the pitch, mate.”

“You stole property from me, Potter.”

“I didn’t steal anything.”

“You stole property and now you’re trying to steal Avery away from me and our conversation.”

“Avery isn’t something that can be stolen, get that through your head right bleeding now.” My voice rose quite a bit and Bink stared from his seat on the spiral staircase. He even mimed eating popcorn as a form of entertainment. “She’s a respectable woman and can make her own choices. You treat her like a prize to be won—I’ll hex you if you ever talk about her like that again—like she’s a little gold trophy you win. That’s how you beat me, is it, Edwards? That’s how you finally beat James Potter? You’re a fucking twit.”

“You’re drunk, Potter. Avery clearly doesn’t want to talk to you. I don’t want to talk to you. Move along and go wank off to Quidditch magazines.”

I punched Emerson Edwards square in the mouth.

Hurt my hand a bit too, effing shit brick.

He landed like a ton of Bludgers on the refreshment table, sending bottles of gin and firewhiskey flying and crashing onto the floor. The punch bowl spilled onto him, making him a big pink sticky mess with angry slits for eyes. Avery gaped at me, barely moving.

“She’s way too good for you!” I cried, my hands balled into fists as I shook, staring at him. “She’s not just some girl you can toy around with. She’s my best mate. If you so much as look at her, you have to go through me first.”

“Go through you?” Emerson huffed. “And you say Avery makes her own choices? You’re such a shit head, James Potter. You hover over her more than your little sister or you’d notice Lily’s being macked on by your Beater. What do you have for your plain best mate?”

“Plain?” I ignored the sentiment about my sister since after hearing Emerson’s speech in the quiet room Wesley probably tripped over himself rushing away from Lily. “I’ll punch you again! How can you say plain when she’s standing next to you? How can you say plain when she’s clearly the most attractive girl in all of Hogwarts! She’s fucking beautiful, you sick sod! You take that back right now!”

Instead of taking it back, however, Emerson Edwards tossed his empty glass to the side and lunged at me, grabbing me around the middle and slamming me back into the side of a sofa. Pain exploded in my back, but after being punched in the chest I landed a few more on the out-of-shape Head Boy (thank God because he was bigger than me) and we rolled backward toward the window.

A circle developed around us and I could hear chants of names and bets—it might have been Fred starting an entire betting pool based on height and weight with a Sickle buy in. I felt my head whip back and realized the git grabbed my hair and then managed to punch my stomach hard, sending me off him and into another velvet chair.

I ran at him as he did the same and I could see the seven years of built-up anger in his stupid Head-Boy eyes. I pulled back my fist, ready for full contact, when I bounced backward and landed on charmed pillows. I glanced up. Emerson was on another pile of pillows several meters away.

Avery stood between us. “No. You two aren’t going to fight. Not at a party for the Quidditch game. You can either take it outside or enjoy the party and not talk to each other. And I’ll make this quite simple.” She placed her hands on her hips and stared fiercely at each of us. “I’m not talking to either of you. So Emerson, tell someone else about your Swiss Alp cottage and James whatever you wanted to talk about will just have to wait. Freddie, would you like to pour me a drink from this mess?”

Fred jumped up, giving people money that called a draw or Avery as the winner, and rushed over to find some alcohol that didn’t break.

I groaned, carefully hoisting myself up with Bink’s help. My stomach burned and I knew there’d be several bruises in the morning between that, my sides, and the random punches the git got on my chest—I was fairly certain he kicked me once or twice too. At least, I noticed, he looked far worse than I did since a shiner was already developing around his left eye.

I sank down onto a sofa, trying desperately to look better than I felt, and made a face.

“Pretty decent showing,” Bink said, handing me his drink so ease the pain.

I wasn’t drunk enough. I should have drunk more so I’d feel less. Noted.

Frustrated with pain, Avery, Emerson, and life in general, I pulled out my wand and shot a jelly-legs curse at Wesley.

I wondered heavily about the velvet texture of the couch I sank into. It seemed so strange when I ran my fingers up and down its surface after another drink of firewhiskey. Bink vanished a bit ago to join Fred in a duet about Paloma’s hair and I decline the offer of a triocet or whatever the word was because I couldn’t tell which was Fred and which was Bink.

The room felt a little fuzzy. Or seemed, but I felt I could feel the fuzz around me and it was relatively soft fuzz.

“James Potter, where have you been all my life?”

I tried thinking of an answer to that question as Nia flopped down beside me and kicked her legs up onto a coffee table. I’d been at Hogwarts for a good deal of it, though not quite half because I was a child once with iddle diapers and a cute crop of freckles all over my puffy cheeks. I’d been at home for most of that life too. The dormitory—I spent a good deal of nights there.

I was fairly certain Nia knew where I’d been all her life.

“You look sick, are you okay?” She placed her palm on my forehead.

“I’m okay. Examining this intricate velvet here.”

“Oh, you’re very drunk, I can hardly understand what you’re saying.”

I groaned. Flirtatious gradeous Nia was not exactly what I needed while intoxicated considering she was the kind of girl to take advantage of a poor Quidditch Captain like myself. I remembered her costume from Halloween and then immediately thought of dog poo to stop myself from thinking.

It didn’t really work.

“I’m so excited for this weekend,” she continued, clasping her freshly manicured hands together. “It’ll be great. I’m thinking we really go all out and go to Madam Puddifoots.”

“What’s this weekend? Conference or something?” I felt drool slide out of my mouth.

“No, silly, it’s the first Hogsmeade weekend since Halloween—it’s our date!”

Thinking gone anyway.

Nia looked positively elated. “Remember at the party? You asked me on a date to be chivalrous since we were taking things a little fast. Of course I wanted to just jump your bone but you just wouldn’t have that. You’re such a gentleman, James, that’s part of the reason I think we fancy each other just so much. We’re so different!”

I felt sick at that point, staring over at the four Nia’s occupying the sofa beside me. A date? When did I agree on a date? I knew I wanted to date at one point but was Nia really the first girl I asked? I felt maybe Elizabeth was a worthier candidate considering she didn’t attempt to fuck me every time we talked.

Why was I complaining about this? What kind of bloke was I, seriously?

“Oh. Yes, that date. I remember—of course I do. I’m a gentleman, remember?” I tried to smile but I felt more drool make its way out of my mouth. “Yeah. We’ll talk about it later. I’m a bit—I’m a bit intoxicated to discuss matters at the moment.”

Nia grinned. “You’re so wonderful, James Potter. I can’t wait until the day I finally get your clothes off.” She paused and put a hand on my butt, squeezing hard. “I’m going to get a few drinks, all right? Will you be okay by yourself?”

“Sure beans low means,” I mumbled, head squished against the fabric. I had no idea what that meant but it sounded legit. She walked away and someone else sat down next to me.

“I talked to her,” Al whispered. “I talked to her and she talked back and I think she may have blushed but that might have been the alcohol.”

“How many death glares did you get?” I said, snickering. The room was still moving but I sat up.

“After we kept talking for a while most of them left. But she totally stopped talking to them and talked to me all about the game and other stuff about her—I know her favorite color.” He looked giddy with happiness. “It’s orange by the way. It’s orange.”

“Well, you can use that when you buy a five-year anniversary present. Make it something sexy like lingerie.”

“You’re drunk, James.” Albus was laughing.

“I don’t understand how you can tell.”

“You’re slurring every single word.” He shoved me slightly. “I can’t believe I talked to her. This night is amazing. What were you and Nia talking about?”

“Dirty shower sex,” I mumbled.

“You were not.”

“I was so. She initiated it.” I hic-cupped. “Seriously. Not really, I’m lying, but seriously. I’m glad things went well. When’s the wedding?”

Al hit me but smiled at the same time. “All right, I’m heading off I think. I promised Rose a walk and a chat about you know who so I’ll see you later. Have fun, James, don’t drink too much or Nia might just corner you before that date.”

“How did you know about the damn date?”

“Everyone knows about the date. She’s been bragging about it for the whole week.”

I groaned. “Can I just play Quidditch all day and avoid everyone else at all costs?”

He patted by back. “Yeah, sure. Go for it.”

“Hey—wait a minute.” I grabbed Al’s shirt. “Have you seen Edwards?”

The smile was immediate. “He went upstairs with some ice after the fight and never came back down.”

“That’s what I like to hear.”

After Fred and Bink had their duet and Wesley tried to talk to Lily without me seeing, I was joined by the three of them next to the giant window. Fred and Bink flanked me, each with determined expressions on their faces, and Wesley sat in front of us, back to the window, looking particularly nervous.

“All right, Wessy,” Fred said loudly, clasping his hands together. “This is one of the many lessons you are going to get on the ways to be a Quidditch player.”

“Male Quidditch player,” Bink corrected. “Okay, Wessy Pessy.”

“That nickname might stick,” I wondered out loud.

“Try it again,” said Fred.

“Wessy Pessy.” Bink wrinkled his nose.

“Nope,” I said. “Carry on.”

“Okay, Wesley, here’s your first bit of advice.” He was practically beaming. “I want you to look behind me. Look at Elizabeth. Then look at Mary. Then look at Nia. And then—shut up, James—look at Avery. What do they all have in common?”

Wesley thought hard. “They’re women.”

“Not shit, God James what kind of Beater did you pick out I thought he was smart,” Bink said. “What else do they have in common? Don’t say they’re Gryffindors or they’re in this room or they are seventh years.”

“Um…well, they all…I can’t talk about this.”

“You’re a man, Wesley.”

“Can we cut Avery out of this so James doesn’t give me an Emerson-punch?” Wesley nearly squeaked.

Could I copyright that Emerson-punch deal?

I could just picture little first years talking in their prepubescent voices about giving their teachers a serious Emerson-punch.

Bink roared with laughter. “Consider her cut. Sub in Daphne Reynolds.”

“They all have—blimey, they all have rather large…you know. In the chest.” He blushed furiously.

“Good job, Wes!” I cheered, patting him on the arm. “It’s okay to stare. They actually like the attention. If they catch you pretend to take a hair off their shirt or something. Now this part if very important, listen carefully.”

“Women are smart,” said Fred, obviously bitter by his expression. “They know when you’re up to something and they know when you’re lusting like a dog in heat.”

“That’s how Kay knows when to ask him for pitch sex,” Bink muttered, snickering.

“So they’re onto you if you’re trying to be sneaky,” I continued.

“They’re always onto you really,” Fred added.

“So what you have to do is come up with codenames for things so they don’t know you and your mates are talking about things that could get you, well, hit. Hard.”

“There is a codename for breasts?” For the final word he lowered his voice to barely a whisper.

“It’s called grades, mate,” I said. “If a girl has good grades it means she has large gazongas and it doesn’t sound as perverted as gazongas, you know? Careful to only use it around the mates and don’t go telling any girls about it.”

“Like James did to Avery,” Bink said nonchalantly and I shoved him.

“So now, little grasshopper,” Fred said, “you know some of the ways of the Quidditch male. More will come with time, but you’re not ready for that quite yet—you’ve only just won your first game.”

“I feel empowered,” Wesley said, staring around the room. “Now I can just talk about Rose’s grades and she’ll never know.”

“No you can’t that’s my cousin, git,” I growled. “Talk about people not related to me and not on the team. That’s fine.”

Wesley took a sip of his drink. He looked like a man, like an arrogant good-heir man and I enjoyed it a lot. He even puffed up his chest a bit. “So Lily is off limits, is she?”

“She’s bleeding thirteen, you perverted son of a bitch!” Another jelly-legs curse occupied him for a while as the Chasers and I enjoyed the hazy sunset over the Forbidden Forest.

A/N: So here's a present since I'm off for the weekend to get a tan and relax! A little update--I got a new laptop and I'm in the process of transferring over all of my files but that shouldn't delay anything. I hope you all enjoyed the chapter, this one was a fun one to write, especially with Emerson getting punched. :) Gotta love a little violence that doesn't deal with wands.

Updates should be on time. I go back to school for training the 9th of August to be a SENIOR in COLLEGE (whoooo). When does everyone else go back?

How about that Ryan Walters? oh, silly puffs.

Chapter 15: Preposterous Pink Puddifoots
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For Melanie, thanks for the wonderful Pygmy Puff pictures!

It was late into the alcohol-infested evening before Avery found me lounging next to the fire. I wasn’t drunk anymore since I fed all my shots to a stumbling Wesley, but I did see a bit of the post-booze haze on the ceiling as I stared up at it. She sat next to me and sighed, giving me the look I knew all too well and telling me silently I was in a spot of trouble.

“That’s a nice arm bruise,” she said, poking it hard.

I flinched and rubbed it furiously. “It is nice. And it hurts, thank you very much.”

“James, why did you do it?”

“You heard the maniac, didn’t you? You heard him.” I folded my arms, completely convinced I was right. Even if I wasn’t right I was the Quidditch Captain and my word was law. Total man law. Or just Quidditch law. Or perhaps only Gryffindor law, but whatever law it was under Avery had to follow it.

Or she could kick me and all laws would be then nullified.

“I heard him and he was baiting you. And you took the bait. You know he could have given you another detention, right?”

I rolled my eyes. “He’s not going to give me a detention after getting his ass handed to him. If anything he should get a detention for letting me give him that shiner. That was a good one, did you catch it before he went upstairs to moan?”

“I saw it and other than you being a total off-your-rocker-wanker, it was a nice right hook.” She stared at me. “Stop talking to him, James.”

“I try, but he’s always in my way when I need to talk to you.”

“Then wait.”

“What if it was an emergency?” I said.

“Was it?”

“Well, no.”

Avery shifted her weight and leaned back against the palm of her hand. “No more, okay? I’m a big girl. I’m not having you getting into fights because of me. I was just upstairs talking to him and we talked things out a little bit and he agreed not to provoke you like that anymore.”

I gritted my teeth. “I just—I can’t stand that guy. I seriously can’t stand him. If you knew—eugh, I hate his bleeding guts. Why couldn’t you talk to a different guy?”

“Oh, like who?” She knew I couldn’t come up with anyone which is why she gave me that wonderful knowing look I loathed so much.

“Like…someone who doesn’t go to Hogwarts. Get yourself a penpal or something.”

“You’d just write them hate mail.”

“I’d send them a mysterious powder.”

She chuckled. “Are we okay, though? I’m not mad at you, but this is over. No more fighting or talking to Emerson…least of all about me.”

“Okay. But only because you’re asking me.”

She stood up and yawned, glancing around at the remaining people stumbling around furniture and peeing in the corner. “I think I’ll head to bed. G’night.”

“Night, Aves.” I let out a sigh. To be honest, I got away a lot cleaner than I thought. I figured Avery would hex me for the stunt I pulled. I wanted to hex myself for spilling all the dumb alcohol.

“Oh, and James?”


“Thanks for calling me beautiful.” She smiled and I allowed a little embarrassed blush to creep up my cheeks.

“Fucking socks,” I muttered, peeling them off once I found my way back to the dormitory. It was half past four and I was nearly sober after a few more victory shots with an almost-puking Wesley. Emerson’s bed hangings were closed, Bink was downstairs laughing with Albus and Rose about something I didn’t care about, and Freddie left a while ago to find Kay and try to sort things out even though Bink called her a few choice names and Wesley said her grades weren’t even that good.

Fred punched him in the arm.

Before closing my hangings I stuck my head over the side of the mattress and stared down into Victoria’s cage. She stared up at me with large watery eyes. I gave her a few pellet treats. What a good pygmy puff she was.

Even though I wanted an owl. Mum said I couldn’t handle an owl—I could totally handle an owl. I was an owl type of bloke. So sometimes I forgot to feed Victoria—an owl would have been up in the owlry minding its own owl dung and everything!

The wind blew hard through the open window and I mentally thanked the Quidditch gods for letting us play in decent weather instead of the storm coming in. It looked like a big one. Calm before the storm and all that. I got up to close it and picked up a few papers that had fallen off Bink’s bed.

Most of the pieces of parchment were blank so I stuffed them into his trunk, but the last was his kitten essay for remedial Transfiguration.

The only thing on it was his name.

I loved school. It was actually one of my favorite places to be since I could be myself and play Quidditch and smirk at girls. There was a huge problem with school, though, and I vowed to write a detailed analysis letter to Headmaster Sinatra about it.

The classes.

I hated the classes. They were long and boring and even though I learned things, I really couldn’t be bothered to sit in a warm room filled with girls taking off their robes from the heat and actually listen. They should put away those fireplaces. It was making the girls take their clothes off and when Elizabeth showed her shoulder during Charms I couldn’t help myself. Freddie had to elbow me.

I went, though, since the first Quidditch game was over, but during most classes I drew out training maps and drills. Avery frowned down her nose at me but Fred started acting them out with his bewitched quills (it was actually a pretty good piece of magic). Bink hated me since I did that rubbish all through class and still scraped good grades.

I told him it was a Potter family secret.

“Accio,” I muttered, lazily pointing my wand at the Potions book a few feet away on the coffee table.

I was in the common room with the Chasers and Avery doing an absurd amount of rubbish homework. I hated homework most of all because it was all busy work anyway. I didn’t care about the bloke that invented the whatever potion. He was a dunderhead for sitting around inventing potions. Boring.

“How’s your essay going?” Avery peeked over at my blank parchment. “James, we’ve been sitting here for two hours.”

“There are over two thousand stones on the ceiling,” I said softly.

She hit me.

“This is part of the reason Nia had to help you study for Herbology, you know. Just try and finish before practice, will you?”

I narrowed my eyes. “If this is the reason Nia had to help me I think I’ll keep this up and make another study date. Tactnia indeed.”

“You already have a regular date, I don’t think you need another.” Bink chuckled from behind his Transfiguration book.

“Bollocks, I forgot.” I snapped the Potions book shut right after I opened it and looked around to make sure the only people eavesdropping were desperate first years and one random fourth year who never spoke to anyone other than his pet kneazle. Apparently they were in-depth conversations about the state of the economy and everything. “What am I going to do?”

“You’re going to get dressed up and go on a date,” Avery said. “You agreed you needed to date and now you’re dating.”

“Dating? She just wants to jump into the sack,” I said, panicked.

Bink and Fred surveyed me, looked over to Avery, and then back to me.

“And?” said Fred.

“I’m not really seeing the freak-out point, James.” Bink shut his own book. “Could you repeat the problem?”

I frowned. “You guys are no help. Nia is…well, she’s an interesting girl.”

“Ride it out, James,” said Avery.

“Yeah,” snorted Bink. “Ride it out there Jamesie.”

I threw my book at him to shut him up (and to keep from actually reading the damn thing). “I guess I’ll just have to get all dolled up this weekend and take her out. I must have been really shit faced to ask her on a date.”

“You peed in the storage room.”

“Point taken.” I leaned back against the sofa, my feet dangling over the arm, and sighed. “I’m sure it’ll be fun anyway. Nia is a great girl. She’s a little over the top, but I’m a little over the top too, am I not?”

“Too right,” Freddie said. “Kay and I match because we’re both competitive and enjoy sex.”

“Except you enjoyed it with most of her team.”

“Enjoy it is an understatement,” he said, chuckling. “Those Ravenclaws are absolutely insane.”

“Mixed company,” muttered Avery, but I saw a tiny smile creep up her lips. She was completely disgusted by our male antics but I knew she loved it at the same time. If she didn’t she would be spending time painting fingernails with Elizabeth or trying to figure out why Meta was such a bitch all the time.

That was a mystery no one would ever solve.

I’d owl Merlin about it in the morning.

After yet another refreshingly inaccurate meeting with Professor Longbottom about how my team’s grades were suffering (he was definitely false considering Paloma’s, but she was like a sister so I made no comment), I made my way reluctantly back to the common room Saturday afternoon to set myself straight about this date. When I was sober Nia and I agreed on a nighttime date in Hogsmeade consisting of the repulsive Madam Puddifoots (at least it had a window in the bathroom I could crawl out of if need be) and probably a midnight stroll around the lake that could get me a week’s worth of detentions. Damn woman already trying to get me into trouble.

Emerson was on his bed when I arrived. We hadn’t spoken since the fight and the swelling in his shiner was finally starting to go down. He stared at me, eyes narrowed in all of his Head Boy glory, and I ignored him. Avery trusted me not to feed any more of his ties to Victoria so I was going to keep to myself. He was a git anyway and his ties gave Victoria bad indigestion.

I had to get some pills from Madam Bones after that. Poor Tory.

He continued to stare from his perch on the bed.

Blimey, the git was more annoying than Freddie’s baby sister Roxanne when Teddy Lupin walking in the door. He wasn’t that handsome. Not as handsome as me anyway, but Roxie and I were cousins so I understood her distaste for me.

Still staring.

I wanted to punch him again.

“Want to borrow my gray dress for your date?” Emerson said, a smirk planted to his annoying face. “It has a wonderful purple stain that would match your asshole tendencies.”

“Die,” I said and pulled out a blue and green striped collared shirt. I found a nice tie to go with it and hang loose around my neck so I looked casual but at the same time dressed up like the sexy bloke I was.

“You think you can just ignore me for the rest of the year? It’s about December, Potter.”

“Seriously. Die.” I smiled wide and adjusted the tie in the mirror. Blimey, I looked amazing. Any woman would be insane not to fancy me—or Avery because we just couldn’t have that.

“Going out with Baker to finally lose your V-card, Potter?” He nearly sneered it out.

“You’d know a lot about that.” I didn’t turn toward him, but instead used a comb to try and figure out my hair. Sometimes I hated my dad for letting me have this hair, but then he told me it was Grandpa’s fault so I disliked him instead.

Then I felt bad because I never got to meet Grandpa. Neither did Dad.

Sad moment in front of the mirror.

“I, in fact, would know quite a bit about that.” Emerson stood up in all of his Head Boy glory and smugly walked toward me, looking at himself in the mirror from behind me. “On vacation over the summer I lost it. Six times.”

“Who knew Edwards was a womanizer?” I rolled my eyes and pushed past him to find my cologne bottle in my bedside drawer. A lot of blokes kept it in their trunk, but I wore mine every day.

“Playing the field is a better definition.”

“You make me sick.”

“How could my antics make James Potter, infamous Quidditch Captain, sick?” His smirk was making me feel nauseous. “After all, you have women fawning all over you. What do you think it will be like going out with, Nia? Have appetizers and skip the entrée for the real dessert?” He snorted at his own cleverness.

I was starting to hate Emerson as much as I hated Clint Lawson. That was saying something considering Slytherins were always tops on my list.

“Die.” I wanted to punch him in the gob again, but I told Avery I would stop. Normally, telling someone I wouldn’t do something wouldn’t stop me. I would just do it behind their back and make sure they didn’t find out—but Avery was different. I wasn’t afraid she’d find out, I was afraid the guilt would murder me.

I promised, so I sprayed myself a few times and rubbed the sleep from my eyes.

“I’m hoping to make it seven in a couple of weeks.” Emerson as good as winked. He was staring over at the picture of Avery I had above my bed next to the picture of my family and the picture of my team. What a sick sod.

I wanted to hex him. My fists were clenched so tight my nails were cutting into my palms, but I did nothing. I promised, so I did nothing.

“What kind of underwear do you think she has? I’m betting silk. She’s a silk sort of girl.”

I stood, shoved past him, and walked out the door, slamming it behind me. A picture frame shattered behind me. Once on the other side, I let my breath go and took a few minutes to settle my heart rate because of that good for nothing Head Boy prat face. Twat berry as well.

Victoria was getting his entire collection of ties. Even the olive green one.

I’d see Madam Bones for more pills later.

I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised when Nia walked down the girls’ spiral staircase. I was sitting on a chair (fuming) in the corner and looked up when Wesley visibly elbowed another fifth year boy and that boy let out a whistle.

She wore a blue cocktail dress and I spent the entire time she walked down pondering about the word cocktail and the sexual innuendo attached. That, and staring at her smoking body because blimey, even though Nia was basically crazy, she was hot.

“James, you look positively delicious,” she said, standing in front of me with her tall, skinny heels and addicting perfume. She tugged on my tie and I felt a little drunk with excitement.

“You clean up nice too.” I motioned to her blue dress and just then noticed the little stitched pattern in white going up the midsection straight to her grades and blimey I was staring again. It was a disease! A disease, I was sure! “Are you ready, then? We have reservations.”

She beamed. “So ready! Oh, James, you’re such a gentleman.”

If you knew what I was thinking, you probably wouldn’t say that.

I offered her my arm and ignored Bink’s smirk from across the room. The walk through the castle was quiet because Nia kept giggling at absolutely nothing and I kept getting stares from people passing (Albus gave me a cocky glance and I flipped him off behind my back with a matching jellylegs to boot).

“This is so exciting!” Nia said, pulling her blue cloak tight around her shoulders. “I mean, when I went out with Darian Bay last year he was never like this.”

“Oh?” I said, trying to sound nonchalant as we passed a few trees on our way off the grounds. Darian Bay, that stupid Hufflepuff. I wanted any dirt I could possibly get on him for the upcoming Quidditch match. He was more of a womanizer than Fred Weasley, and that was saying something.

“Yeah, he was a bit of a brute really. He always wanted to pick the place and order for me and talk all day long about what he loved instead of what I loved. Then he asked me about Quidditch—about Gryffindor!”

My jaw hit the frosty grass. Why hadn’t Bink dated a Hufflepuff to find out their secrets? Us Quidditch folk were nasty.

“Of course I had nothing to tell him,” she went on, obviously unaware of my expression. “I’m not really keen on Quidditch so he didn’t like that. But we kept dating after that and he was a good boyfriend and all that.”

“Up until?” I raised a curious brow.

“Up until the broom cupboard incident where I caught him with Roxanne Weasley.”

Nine feet under the previous frosted grass is where my jaw ended up that time.

“But it was all right because he was just hitting on her and she was telling him she wouldn't date a Hufflepuff no matter what,” Nia said. “Something to do with self respect. But that was it—I couldn’t date him knowing he’d been hitting on other women, you know, James? What’s a woman to do?”

“Hex him?” I said casually, thinking about my baby cousin in a broom cupboard with Darian Bay, innocent or not. Fred would have several heart attacks. I wondered if I should tell him before the Hufflepuff match to spark intensity but then I nixed that idea since it would probably just spark murder.

“Roxanne did that just fine so I didn’t have to.” Nia was nearly beside herself laughing. “But what would silly Darian Bay think now? He was the one that said he was the best I could ever get. Well, ha ha, Darian, look who is out with the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain now.”

Most blokes (Fred included) complained constantly when their dates talked about ex boyfriends, but I couldn’t have been having a more wonderful time hearing about Darian Bay’s stupidity getting hexed by my cousin and hearing Nia talk about being out with me like I was some star-studded Quidditch superstar that signed autographs on girls’ grades.

Now this was the life.

The life, however, was short lived when we arrived at Madam Puddifoots (already outside were two snogging Slytherins) and I realized (once again) why my dad warned me against it. It hadn’t changed from his descriptions and I wanted to throw up on the décor to make it more livable.

The place was doused in a sickening layer of carnation pink with flowers that were normally not pink also pink. The large poufs were pink and the table cloths were pink and the candles, window tints, and bathroom doors were pink.

We found table tucked in a tight corner and I felt myself go claustrophobic trying to wedge myself into the seat without sucking in my stomach too much against the table.

I wasn’t fat, damn it! I wasn’t. Not even Albus could fit in this seat and Lily would definitely have to struggle.

“Oh, isn’t this positively lovely?” Nia chimed, examining the pink detailing on each pink knife and fork. “James, this is so romantic. Darian Bay, look at me now.”

Even the china was pink with darker pink accents and the wax flowing down onto the table was pink and I wanted to be sick. I didn’t mind pink—no, I was a diverse sort of bloke even though I was manly, but this much made my stomach upset.

Would the food be pink?

“Darian Bay is a tool,” I muttered, trying to place my pink napkin over my lap. I didn’t need it since the table went over my lap nicely.

“What can I get the pair of you lovelies today?” A tall woman with a bright pink dress hovered over us. She was wearing a dark pink apron and holding a note pad. “Start off with something to drink?”

“Firewhiskey,” I huffed.

“I’m sorry, we do not sell alcohol at this establishment,” the woman said delicately.

I nearly rolled my eyes. I would have to put up with this sober. “Water.”

“The same please.” Nia smiled brightly. The woman walked away to tend to another couple. “What are you thinking for food, James, dear? Do you want to split something? How romantic would that be?”

“So romantic.” I stared at the menu.

No. No no no no no. Everything in it was dyed pink. Even the steak. Steak was manly. Not anymore.

I almost coughed when the water was placed in front of me with pink flower petals floating innocently in the liquid. Scrambling, I picked them out, soaking the table and plate in front of me. “I’m allergic,” I said to the strange look Nia and the waitress gave me.

Finally, something not pink.

“Well, then let me make that a little more festive for you, dear.” The waitress smiled as Nia folded up her menu and waved her thin wand.

My water turned a deep shade of magenta.


“Thanks,” I said, biting my lip so hard I tasted blood. I ordered the pink pork chops.

“Oh, James,” Nia said, clasping her hands together once the waitress left. “What do you want to talk about?”

“Hufflepuff Quidditch tactics?” I said, laughing.

“Actually,” she replied giving me a rather sultry look, “Darian did tell me he was fixed on taking out your players during the game.”

“Bugger,” I muttered. “I’ll just get someone to take him out. Hopefully. I hate that sod.”

More couples were moving in and apparently Madam Puddifoot’s was the place to be for people snogging on a Saturday night. I could almost hear the lip smacking at the table next to us. Nia batted her eyelashes at me and I was suddenly feeling very hot and sweaty. The collared shirt was sticking to my back.

Bollocks, what was I going to do? Nia reached out to touch my hand but I yanked it back into my pocket pretending to try and find something—anything—to distract me and calm me down. I found lint and an old ticket stub. My mind was clouded and now I heard the lip smacking clearly and the giggles and the sip of tea between snogging.

I was smothered!

“James, dear, what’s the matter?” Nia raised a curious brow and a few of her eyelashes were sticking together from mascara.

“I need to—erm, I need to fix my Potions essay.” I stuck the napkin back onto the table and whipped out my wallet.

“What? What about the food?” Nia said suddenly, winking wickedly, and my head jerked up so fast my neck cracked.

Oh, fuck. Just thinking about the pink food made me ill.

“Actually,” I said carefully, throwing some gold onto the table, “I'm actually more of a scarlet and gold bloke—oh, bugger.” I gave myself a paper cut on one of the fold-out hearts adorning the table and squished out. A few people stared and the Slytherin from outside unhooked his lips from his blond fifth year Hufflepuff to watch.

“Really, mate?” I said, motioning to her. “Snogging a Puff in Puddifoots? Wait till your Slytherin girlfriend finds out.”

At least I got him to stop staring. She hit him upside the head though. I wasn’t being horrible—I’d seen him snogging another girl before we walked in. It was my duty!

Okay, perhaps not my duty but he deserved it, slimy git.

“James, where are you going?” Nia grabbed onto my arm as I rushed from the pink cavern of certain death. “We didn’t eat yet.”

“Let’s just grab something at The Three Broomsticks, okay?” Once out, I let the cold air sink into my lungs and I fell backward onto a nearby bench. “It was too much. It was too much, Nia.”

“The pressure? Oh no, I’m so sorry, James. I thought—no, I’m sorry. This is all my fault.” She fell next to me, barely noticing her blue dress was now against the dirty bench. “Yes, perhaps this is for the best. I didn’t mean to pressure you so much. I thought it would be romantic but turns out I might have just wanted to show up Darian Bay.”

I smirked a little, happy that she wasn’t furious with me for panicking. “Bay is a tool, remember? Let’s go get a bite to eat and some firewhiskey. I need a drink.”

After arriving, I ordered us some food and we sat, laughing, by the large window. I was obviously more relaxed just chatting about classes (and the stuff I didn’t pay attention to) and friends and how she thought it was cute when I chuckled while drinking.

I didn’t get drunk, which was nice considering I knew what could happen (blimey, what kind of bloke was I?), but I was tipsy when we finished our food and finally decided on that stroll around the lake. It was late when we closed the door to The Three Broomsticks and a rush of freezing air blow my hair back.

Fuck, our cloaks were back in Puddifoots.

“C’mon,” I muttered, grabbing her hand and sifting through the dense air to find our way back to the pink café. “Fuck!”

“James, watch your lang—no fucking way!” Nia slammed her fist against the door. “How can they be closed? It isn’t even eight yet!” The pink windows were dark.

I smirked. “Guess we’ll just have to walk back like this then.”

“Know any good heating charms?” She rubbed her hand and we continued toward the gates back to Hogwarts.

“I can create that mobile fire, but I don’t know how much good that will do.” In truth, I knew about the passageway from Honeydukes, but I would rather freeze than give that valuable information to Nia Baker. Not that I didn’t trust her, I just kept that a secret between the Chasers and I (and Avery of course, but that goes without saying).

So therefore, freezing time for James Sirius Potter.

We didn’t talk much walking up the hill toward the large gate to Hogwarts since Nia was holding her arms tight to her sides. I watched her teeth chatter and her skin was a wind-blown pink. Fuck, what kind of a date was I? Even as a friend I would have taken my shirt off ages ago for Avery. I was on a date, shouldn’t I do that as well?

I bit my lip. It was effing cold, being it was December.

In one swift move I stripped off my collared shirt and thrust it out for her. “Take it. You’re freezing.”

Nia stopped and stared at me, standing before her with just a tie draped lazily around my neck. My pants were stretched around my waist and I felt a little odd knowing she could see the top of my green boxers. Stop staring, woman!

“Thank you,” she said delicately, pushing her arms into the sleeves with a sly smile. She never took her eyes off my torso. “James, you are positively delicious.”

“I do work out.” I laughed and we continued on our way. My stomach was absolutely freezing and I tried to cover it to the best of my ability but failed miserably.

“I had a lot of fun,” she continued, trying to hide the little sniff she got of my collar. I knew that cologne was a good idea. “Sorry, though, I don’t think I’ll do that midnight stroll around the lake.”

“Thank bleeding Merlin!” I said, clearly relieved I did not have to die frozen to one of the bushes surrounding the lake. “I’m freezing, can we walk a bit faster?” I grabbed her arm and to my surprise Nia laughed. “I did have a good time tonight,” I went on, hauling ass to get back to the castle as fast as I could without flying. “After the pink disaster, though. Can we never go back there?”

She was positively elated. “Of course not! No, no, of course!” Nia was nearly panting to keep up. “Should we continue this in the castle?”

“Continue?” I almost stopped, but I was too cold to share a dramatic pause. “I think it’s a little late, don’t you?”

“We were going to have a midnight stroll,” she said over the wind.

“Yes, but the castle makes me sleepy. Would you mind if I just turned in for the night? I’m already drowsy from running up these bleeding hills!” Almost to the door. So close. Almost!

“That’s fine, love, we can continue another time!” Nia rushed in the door as I opened it and I nearly slammed the damn thing shut.

Warm, hot air. Thank god for fireplaces. Why did I ever want to get rid of them again?

Before I knew what was hitting me my back was thrown against the wall and Nia Baker’s shirt (okay, my shirt) was pressing to my chest. Our lips were together and, blimey, we were snogging in the Entrance Hall of Hogwarts.

What a sly dog I was.

I snaked my hands around her back and was suddenly warm again, like a thawing snowman and I nearly melted but I was the man and men did not melt. I was thinking about melting while I snogged this woman, so I pulled her closer.

She nibbled on my lip and I wonder if she ever did that to Huff-Puff Darian Bay.

Not the right thing to think about while snogging. Not one bit.

As suddenly as the kiss came, it vanished, but it wasn’t because one of us ended it. It stopped because suddenly my trousers were around my ankles and there was a cackling from the top of the marble staircase.

“Come on, Potter, can’t you keep it in your pants one night?”

Out of all the people I expected to taunt me from the staircase, my choices did not involve Meta McLaggen, but yet there she was with her pompous Seeker stare leaning against the railing.

“Bollocks,” I muttered, pulling my pants up. Nia shyly gave me back my shirt and I adjusted my tie. “Bugger off, Meta. You’re a pain in my arse. And you’re getting laps for that too.”

She shrugged as we made our way past her up the stairs.

“Worth it. How’s the sex drive, eh Baker?”

Nia shot her a look of daggers. “You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?” she snapped. “It’s not like you’ve had a date all year.”

Meta had fire in her eyes and shot a hex at her, Nia jumping out of the way just in time to see a jet of teal light streak down the stairs.

“Touchy.” I narrowed my eyes and we turned, taking a short cut through a portrait and up to Gryffindor tower.

“What in Godric’s name is wrong with her?” Nia seethed as we walked up a staircase to the fifth floor. “Ruining a moment like that—she must be so bitter she has no one but her Snitches and I bet they can’t snog all that well.”

“Wouldn’t imagine so,” I said absentmindedly. I knew Avery was right about Meta being terrible, but I wanted to believe she wouldn’t be terrible to her Captain. At least my boxers weren’t ripped or anything. She had some audacity—maybe she was trying to overthrow me as Captain.

Funny thing is, I wouldn’t put it past her.

“Do you think?”

I turned. “Erm, yeah,” I said, having no idea whatsoever what Nia had been talking about. “Meta is basically clinically insane. Bean sprout.” The portrait swung forward and I let Nia climb in first. “I’m sure she’s quite proud of ruining our snog.”

Nia paused just inside the common room and shot me a sweet smile. “I had a lot of fun tonight, James. Even watching you freak out over the pink was fun.”

“I’m so glad you take pleasure in my very obvious pain,” I replied. “I’ll see you tomorrow then, eh?”

“Sounds good.” She kissed me lightly on the cheek and I watched her skip her way up the spiral staircase.

“Blimey, James, look at you!” Fred and Bink took me by the arms and sat me down by the fire. “You look absolutely exhausted—and warm. I thought it was cold out there.”

“Where’s your cloak?” Bink asked. “Why is your shirt undone? Did you—do we have a man on our hands now?” He wiggled his eyebrows.

“Shut up, Meta got there in ace timing,” I muttered. “I had a good time though. And my shirt is undone because I gave it to Nia on the walk back.”

“So you had no shirt on outside?” Fred glanced out the window at the moon illuminating the tops of barren trees. “It’s cold, no?”

“Yes. Very.” After the Meta incident my temper seemed short and I stood up. “Where’s Avery?”

Fred made a face. “She’s upstairs waiting for you. I told her you might bring a girl up there and she snorted at me so obviously she doesn’t believe me.”

I nearly laughed. “I’m headed up, guys, I’ll tell you about it in the morning.” With one long-winded sigh I trudged up the spiral staircase to the right and into the boys’ dormitory.

“I expected you back later.” Avery was sprawled out on my bed trying to touch her toes to the top of my four-poster. Her hair was littering my pillow and she shut the door behind me with her wand.

“It’s bleeding cold,” I said, peeling off my shoes and socks.

“You don’t look cold.” Avery smirked.

I shot her a look. “I warmed up in the Entrance Hall.” I forced her over and snuck under the covers.

“Are you going to tell me about it?” Avery moved onto her side and balanced her head with her palm and stared, waiting. She smiled.

I wrapped her in a hug. “The git made me go to Puddifoots.”

“How fast did it take you to throw up all over the place?” She laughed and rested her head against my chest. I smoothed out her long hair.

“I should have done it right away.” I explained all about the cramped table and the snogging Slytherin and then the shirtless walk back to Hogwarts.

“You could have gotten frostbite!” She scolded, checking my arms for what I assumed to be frost bite. She found a bunch of freckles. “That was nice of you though. I couldn’t imagine you giving your shirt to Nia.”

“Well,” I said carefully, forcing her head back onto my chest, “I thought about what I would have done if it was you and then I felt like a dumb sod because I was on a date and I was watching her freeze her knickers off, so I gave her the shirt. And I’m fine.”

“I’m glad.” Avery yawned. “Why back so early then? Just the cold?”

“That and Meta de-pantsing me in the Entrance Hall while I got my snog on.”

She gasped. “McLaggen didn’t!”

“Oh, she did.”

“I told you she was horrible, didn’t I? I told you.”

I smacked her in the back of the head. “I know, but she’s a damn good Seeker, what did you want me to do?”

“Kick her off the team so those scouts don’t want her either,” Avery said with an evil snicker. She yawned again. “I’m glad you came back, though, I was getting bored waiting for you.”

“Why were you up here instead of talking to Bink and Freddie?”

“Not sure.” She was drifting to sleep fast.

I stared down at her, cheek pressed firmly against me with her hair keeping my upper body warm. Her hand rested gently on my stomach and for a minute it twitched. I smiled warmly, ignoring the dormitory door opening. Bink or Fred could wait.

“Ten points from Gryffindor.”

I opened one eye. “Abuse of power much?”

Emerson folded his arms across his brown sweater vest. “Five more points for being cheeky.”

“What was the original for?” I gaped at him, trying not to disturb Avery. It failed and she stirred, staring between the both of us.

“For breathing, Potter.” Emerson laughed and made his way over to his bed.

“I’ve just lost Gryffindor fifteen points,” I muttered and she shrugged. “Good thing I’ll be able to make it up during Quidditch since I’m the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain and all that nonsense.”

“Avery,” said Emerson loudly, nearly drowning out my last few words. “Would you like to accompany me on a date tomorrow afternoon?”

If I was drinking something it would have went everywhere. My fists clenched under the blanket and I wanted him to die in the biggest fire I could possibly find. That was hate.

Avery glanced at me, a look of survey in her eyes, and shrugged. “Sure. Lunch around noon?”

“Sounds absolutely lovely. I’ll see you then.”

Avery rested her head back on my chest and fell asleep.

“Score—Edwards 1, Potter 0.”

I flipped him off. His scoreboard was faulty and now I was feeding his entire wardrobe to Victoria (except his stained knickers).

A/N: And so the drama starts to pick up :) Does anyone else love Nia as much as I do? She just cracks me up. Favorite quotes? Parts? Looking forward to?

Next chapter: James gets caught.

Chapter 16: Scare Tactics (and ants)
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Had to throw this chapter up as quick as possible!
Training has been a NIGHTMARE! and I haven't gotten to write ANYTHING
in the past week. So enjoy!


I hope everything is all right with you. I got your letter after my last but I haven’t heard anything since which worries me. Darling, I’m so sorry we couldn’t make it to your Quidditch match but you know your father was working overtime and I was just completely bogged down. We will certainly either be to the next or the final for sure. I promise. But you won! I’m hoping you had a wonderful celebration afterward. I’m so proud of you. You’re an amazing captain.

Al sent me a letter saying things were all right between you. I’m glad because I can’t do much for fighting siblings. Just cut your brother some slack, okay? He’s not used to your method of team-first family-later. But I understand, dear. Please just spend time with your siblings because they love you just as much as your teammates do even if they don’t play as much Quidditch.

Is there anything else going on lately? Any dates? Any women at all? I’ve heard you were practically surrounded by ladies during the Quidditch match. Anyone special? I always know your first love is the game though, darling.

Please keep in touch because I’m feeling a bit out of the loop with you, James. That might just be because I receive letters frequently from Lily and Albus. No matter, just write to me more often even if it’s just about Quidditch and training your players to be as good as you.

I’ll be writing again very soon anyway to tell you about the holidays!



I smiled warmly and finished off my toast. Breakfast was always lovely because of the possibility of mail and being in contact with someone from the outside world. It was a nice feeling, being wanted by someone outside of Hogwarts (even if it was my own mother). I turned to see Avery giving me a fond glance. “What?”

She laughed. “Write her back and tell her you’re the same pompous arse you’ve always been.”

“Of course I will,” I said, chuckling. “What else could I possibly be?”

“Who knows?” she said, stealing a piece of sausage off my plate. “You could have gone romantic on me and I wouldn’t have noticed.”

I smiled. “Too true. You’d better watch out. I might just run off and get you a bouquet of flowers or something.”

“Well, you did call me beautiful,” she whispered, careful that Fred and Bink didn’t hear so they wouldn’t tear the mickey out of me for even saying the world “beautiful”.

“I was drunk don’t judge me.” I laughing, poking her in the side and I noticed then Avery was toned and then I mentally slapped myself for noticing. It didn’t matter what my friends looked like because I liked them for their personalities. Freddie had the tiniest bit of extra pudge on his stomach but I didn’t think any less of him especially since he was getting a lot more grades than I was. And that had nothing to do with academics.

“Going to see Nia again, then?”

I shrugged. “Probably will, I had a good time.”

“Oh.” She dug at her breakfast and I shot her a quizzical look.

“And then she told me she’d tell all Gryffindor’s secrets to Darian Bay,” Fred continued. “Honestly, that’s fine. I just asked out her Beater Abigail Williams. She’s quite the woman—those grades, I swear to Merlin!”

“Isn’t she a fifth year?” Bink asked.

“Have you seen her?” said Fred. “She’s tall and gorgeous and I don’t care how old she is. I just know we’re going to Hogsmeade soon and I am well on my way to deflowering the entire Ravenclaw Quidditch team. I think that has to be a record.”

“You need to either get that bloke kicked off or start to swerve both ways, mate,” I said.

Fred shrugged. “You never know—nah, only joking. That’s funny, though, isn’t it? Who knew years ago I would have a fancy for Ravenclaw girls? I do love the smart ones.”

“Who knew they weren’t smart enough to see through you?” Bink said.

“Harsh,” I snapped. I almost covered my mouth after saying it—not because it was mean, but because of the way I said it. I practically yelled at him even though he was standing up for the Ravenclaws. Part of me was furious with Bink, but the other part of me had no fucking idea why.

I felt torn, watching him. He looked like he hadn’t had much sleep and his hair even looked a little less blond. Perhaps I should hire Avery to tutor him.

“So where are you having lunch today?” Fred asked Avery and her eyes snapped to me. “Yeah, big mouth told me. So where’s Dim-Wit Boy taking you? I hear Puddifoots is exquisite.” He snorted.

Bink regained a smile. “Can’t believe you said yes to that sod, though. What’s he got I don’t, huh, Aves?”

“He isn’t best mates with my best mate,” she replied. “And it’s not some big escapade. It’s just lunch in Hogsmeade and I’m not sure where we’re going. But I’m excited.” She said the last part a little quick.

“Well, good.” Bink look a bit put out, but laughed. He shifted over so Paloma and Wes could find spots at the table. “Any plans for the today, Beaters?”

“I think I’m headed out to the pitch to practice,” Wes said, shoving eggs in his face.

“Good, you’ll see McLaggen out there.” I grinned. “I gave her laps for two hours. I have Harvey out there watching her at the moment. Tell her I send my love.”

Wesley chuckled.

“I actually don’t have plans.” Paloma shrugged and brushed a piece of hair off her shoulder. “That’s sort of sad for a Hogsmeade weekend, don’t you think?”

Immediately, my head flew over to Al and I made gestures with my fork until he looked up from a conversation with Rose. I obviously nodded my head toward Paloma and my baby brother went redder than my baby sister’s hair. Then I widened my eyes and made faces. One was a fish face, which I had gotten quite good at.

Albus rolled his eyes, but I saw him perk his ears toward the conversation.

“Why don’t you have plans?” I asked, perhaps even baited.

She shrugged once more. “Not sure. Maybe I’ll go have a sandwich in the village or something. I could always catch up on my Charms. It hasn’t really been up to par since I’ve been distracted by Quidditch.”

Oh, what Longbottom would say!

I could see Al shooing Rosey away from the table as she tried not to erupt in giggles. She ruffled the back of my hair and shuffled out.

“I’m not going into the village,” I said loudly, trying to buy Albus enough time to get over the nerves that were forcing his ears to color. “I’m catching up on all the essays I’ve been procrastinating and I swear I won’t even use Accio to get my books. More than once.”

Avery smiled. “I’m glad. You need to catch up on things.”

“That I do. I just need to check everything out. Plans, Freddie?” I watched Albus taking deep breaths.

“Going to the village with Abigail. What a woman, she is!”

“A fifth year is hardly a woman,” Bink said. “No offense, Paloma.”

“None taken, Abigail is hardly anything but a whore.” She smiled sweetly at Fred’s jaw, which had landed delicately on the table.

“Burned by the Beater,” I muttered. “Nice one, Paloma.”

“Thank you. I guess I should be going then. I don’t want to miss eating at the bar alone.” She laughed and dabbed at the corners of her lips with a purple cloth napkin.

My head wheeled around. I shot a dagger expression at Al. “Come on!” I mouthed.

Al stood up so fast a good deal of people stared. He was sweaty, which was obviously common with us Potter boys after my perspiration incident at Puddifoots. He walked stiffly to where the team sat (Avery hiding her smile in a napkin and Bink biting his hand) and tried to smile. It looked more like he was bonkers, but I didn’t blame him.

“Paloma,” he stammered. He was a Potter, he should definitely have more game than that! “Would you like to get ice cream with me in Hogsmeade? I figured it was a beautiful day and why waste it?”

She beamed. “Ice cream? But it’s December.”

“I like to do things different.” Albus returned the smile. There was the charm! There it was! I taught him everything he knew. I had to take credit for that remark. Copyright.

“I’m glad. Let me just get my cloak from upstairs.”

“I’ll walk with you.” Al put a hand delicately on her back and they left the hall.

“Do you think when they start dating he’ll be wearing her Quidditch robes then?” Bink asked, snorting with laughter. “Paloma might be the more masculine one in the pair, regardless of the nail polish.”

“Should I have let Kay wear my Quidditch robes as a sign of affection?” Fred asked.

I gaped at him. “Yeah, let the Ravenclaw Captain wear your Gryffindor robes. That would have went over so well.”

“So no?”

“Try it on Abigail,” said Bink.

“Good idea.”

I leaned over and raised a brow at Avery. “Something is seriously wrong with him. I’m not related.”

“Your brains are addled too.” She stood with a laugh. “I’m going to get ready for my lunch date. You boys have fun today.”

I watched her leave the hall. Oh, I’d have fun all right. I’d have fun making sure Emerson kept his dirty, filthy Head-Boy wanking hands off her. All I needed was a wand, a disguise, and Victoria.

The dormitory was softly lit by a few sparse candles when I arrived after breakfast and I assumed Emerson was still down the Charms corridor telling someone off for sticking their gum on the underside of a bench. I quietly opened Victoria’s cage and she hummed.

“There, there, you’re hungry, aren’t you?”

She hummed and snuggled into my palm. It may not have been manly, but I scratched her on the back of her body thing (they didn’t have heads or visible ears, that was the best I could do). I led her over to Emerson’s hideous ancient trunk and pulled it open. “How about we start with a nice sweater vest?”

I grabbed it and stuffed it into her cage. “All right,” I whispered, kneeling down beside it. “Here’s your supper. It’s one hundred percent cotton—so says the tag—so you should be fine. I know he soaked those ties in fabric softener. I have the pills just in case. I’m going to make sure your Auntie Avery isn’t going to be molested during lunch.”

Victoria stared up at me with a happy glint in her pygmy puffy eyes.

“Who’s daddy’s little girl? You are. That’s right.” I chuckled and closed the cage door. After stuffing it under the bed so No-Head boy wouldn’t see her chowing down on his threads, I grabbed my cloak and transfigured a comb into a mustache for a perfect disguise. I also added a blond tint to my hair and got rid of the freckles.

Other than the blond (and the mustache), I sort of looked like Dad.

I stared for a minute and the door opened. Enter: Bink Legace. I waved and he jumped.

“James? What in ketchup’s name are you doing in that cloak? Didn’t your mum give you that one? I think it has frills.”

I laughed. “Do you think the mustache is too much?”

“Avery’s going to know it’s you.”

“She will not. I’m going to sit further away this time.”

Bink stared for a moment and opened his mouth to say something, only to pause. “What’s that noise?”


“Doing a jig? That’s loud.”

“She’s eating.”

“The Eiffel Tower?” Bink leaned his head under the bed and snorted. “You’re ruthless.”

“He wants to get my best mate to be his prized number bleeding seven in bed and I won’t stand for it. He’ll have to court her naked because I won’t have it.”

“That mental image made me want to vomit.” He swung around and adjusted the collar of his robes. “Do you need company to rescue fair maiden Avery from the warty dragon Edwards?”

I cracked a smile and checked out my bum in the mirror. It was still fantastic. “I think I’ll go at this mission alone. It’s my bleeding fault she’s there in the first place. Why did I go and say we should date?”

“Because you should.”

“I thought maybe she’d realize she shouldn’t date until she’s married and I’d get to date whomever I wanted. But no, she had to go blow that one right up.” I tightened the cloak around my neck and scrunched up my face. The mustache was tickly.

“All right. Have fun, mate.”

“Will do.” I pulled open the door. “If Victoria starts puking just give her the pills in the bedside drawer.” I smiled and paused again. “Oh, and if Fred comes back up here set him straight on the Quidditch robes thing. I really don’t think he got it.”

I got a thumbs-up before continuing on my way.

I figured I would take credit for the ice cream in December thing as well considering I told Albus the ice cream place was open year around in Hogsmeade and I wanted to grab a pint of cookie dough before break. I stared through the window and could just barely see the tub of cookie dough staring back at me in all of its ice cream goodness. My nose was nearly pressed against the frosted glass.


Bloody fuck.

I wheeled around. How Darian Bay possibly knew it was me under my convincing disguise was beyond me, but there he stood with his perfect crop of sandy brown hair and bright smile. Even his tie was an annoyingly intense Hufflepuff yellow. I never understood why they always had to wear yellow, anyway. I didn’t always wear scarlet or gold. There were some days I was perfectly content with a nice somber blue.

Today I was feeling more of a snowy gray but the black would have to do.


He surveyed my outfit and his eyes landed on my mustache. “Trying out a new style? I hear it’s a hit for the previous generation.”

“Sure.” I spun around for another look at the ice cream. It was calling—why the hell were Al and Paloma still in there giggling over one sundae? Was that a banana in there or was Al just happy to see her? Bad internal joke. I chuckled.

“I heard you took Nia Baker out on the town.”

“It’s a village,” I said, still watching the clerk make some Ravenclaw bloke a cone. “Hogsmeade is a village.”

I heard Darian heave a large sigh behind me. “Did you take her out or not, Potter?”

“What did you hear?”

“I heard you took her out.”


“So did you or not?” He nearly yelled it. I nearly lost it laughing.

“Yeah, I took her out. She’s looking a lot hotter this year than last, don’t you think? I do, particularly in the chest area.” I pressed my cheek to the glass. “Yes, those are very nice. I showed her a good time. If you know what I mean.” In reality, I meant we ran back in the cold and snogged in the Entrance Hall before Meta stole my happiness.

“Just couldn’t keep your hands off my sloppy seconds, could you?”

“You know, for a loyal friendly softy Hufflepuff, you can sure be a dick.” I finally tore my eyes away from the sweets inside and fixed him with my best Gryffindor stare. I even twitched the mustache for effect. “I can resist whatever I want. And that includes little babies like Roxanne Weasley. Really, Bay? You’re the Quidditch Captain.” I paused. “But you’re the Hufflepuff one so that doesn’t really count, does it?”

Honestly, I couldn’t believe he sat through my entire rant making fun of him and his house, but he stood there, body stiff, glaring down at me (because he was taller than me).

“Badger got your tongue?” I almost snickered at my own cleverness.

“Well, I hope you’re happy together.”

“Who said anything about together? I took her out once, Bay, we’re not married. Look, mate, can I call you mate? Look, I have no idea why you’re over here talking to me. We don’t talk in classes and we don’t talk any place other than our less than witty remarks on the pitch. If you’re jealous of me with Nia, then yea, we’re very happy. If not, piss off, I’ve got business with this ice cream joint.” With that, I turned and left Darian Puffer Bay out in the few inches of snow while I pursued the cookie dough with open pockets.

I faced the counter in case Paloma or Albus were to look up, but they seemed a bit distracted so I took the time to drop some eaves.

“I’m sure practices will go back to full force after the holidays,” Paloma said. “I bet I could secure a little down time though.”

“I bet I could secure some plans to go with that down time,” Albus said in his best Potter voice.

I gruffly ordered a cone of cookie dough and chanced a glance. Paloma was smiling. Al’s ears were pink.

“Are you and James all right now?”

I heard Albus chuckled into a spoon. “Yeah, we’re fine. We’re just different, is all. Which is refreshing sometimes when you have such a huge extended family.”

“Does that mean you love your brother?” She giggled.

“Potter boys don’t talk about love.”

I loved my baby brother for that. Chuckling, I paid, grabbed my cone, and ventured back out into the gloriously cold December air. Darian was nowhere to be seen and I knew he must have made the trek back to Hogwarts because I didn’t see his disgusting yellow tie anywhere. I trudged toward The Three Broomsticks, feeling a little alone since, well, no one was with me. It was Hogsmeade, though, I should have had a companion.

I thought about Bink. Realistically, I didn’t have a reason for not inviting him. That shit about me wanting to do it alone was exactly that—shit. I didn’t want to go with Bink. Why the bleeding hell not? The guy was my best mate. We did everything together, yet he was forcing indigestion pills down Tory’s throat and I was traipsing around Hogsmeade with facial hair.

Bink would have been nice to talk to. What was my deal? I snapped at him during breakfast and denied his blond company in Hogsmeade.

Thank goodness a distraction delivered itself in the form of Avery Flynn. She looked amazing, fuzzy cloak wrapped tight around her and I saw pinpricks of heels sticking out of the bottom. Her hair knotted up into a dark hat, but a few strands were in her eyes. I watched her attempt to blow them away with no results. Avery was laughing and it wasn’t until then I realized she was laughing at something No-Head boy said.

I wanted to Emerson-punch him right there.

He looked so smug, that walking bag of sex-wanting-dirt-baggery. Oh, I was so angry I couldn’t formulate proper insults. I knew it was bad. I watched him smooth out his hair and open the door to the pub for her.

I sauntered after them, finding a seat far enough away and taking out Uncle George’s Extendable Ears. I could barely see them but Avery’s smile was forced and she laughed a little too hard at whatever joke he was telling (probably about his Swiss Alp pompous git cottage). That made me feel a little better.

But not much because I hated the sod.

I watched a waitress walk over there and I adjusted my very manly mustache. “I’ll have a firewhiskey and pork chops,” Emerson said in a dignified manner. “The lady will have a water and a salad.”

My head jerked up and the mustache threatened to fall right into my lap. Did he just—? No, he wasn’t that stupid. Well, maybe he was. Maybe he would ruin the date all on his own and I wouldn’t have to step in. Ordering for Avery was step one. Ordering Avery a salad was step two. Did she look like a rabbit? That girl ate red meat more than I did.

“This place makes the best salad,” Emerson continued once the waitress left. “Trust me, it’s wonderful.”

“I bet it is. How are the pork chops here?” There was a bite in Avery’s voice I loved.

“They’re good too.” Emerson stared down at his hands. “You look lovely.” I wondered if he had that written on one of his palms. “Erm, the Finches are doing well this year.”

“Emerson, you don’t like Quidditch. You don’t have to pretend to like it just because you’re out with me.” She smiled softly.

Damn it, pity vote. Start being a wanker again, Emmy.

“This water looks—well, it looks just superb.” Avery laughed and dipped a straw into her drink.

“What can I get you?”

I jumped, securing the mustache with my fingers, and caught sight of the waitress at my left. “Oh! Uh, can I just have a butterbeer and chicken fingers?” After she left (and I slowed my heart rate—what was with all these people scaring the sarcasm right out of me?) I went back to Emerson and Avery who, to my dismay, seemed to be having a stupidly delightful time. Avery was laughing and her face was flushed and Emerson looked more pompous than ever, the smarmy bastard.

They talked about classes and grades (not the kind I fancied unfortunately) and Hogwarts and I was in a right state by the time I finished dipping my chicken fingers in barbeque sauce. I was all sweaty and irritated while Emerson’s laugh got so loud at points people stared. I stared. Because I hated him.

What could I discretely do to Emerson that Avery wouldn’t notice? Well, wouldn’t notice it was me? I made a face. She’d notice pretty much everything, including the wedgies hex I learned. What good was a wedgie hex if I couldn’t use it on Emerson Edwards? I could turn him into something and then just book it out the door.

A salmon, perhaps.

Or a tree frog.

Llama of some sort.

“James, what are you doing?”

That time I fell out of my chair. Lily took it. She stared down at me in a disapproving Mum sort of way.

“I’m eating lunch! Blimey, what are you doing?”

“Trying out a new style?” She ripped the mustache off my upper lip and it burned like carpet burn while being dragged around drunk after a Quidditch match. “Where is she—oop, there she is. This is a really poor disguise, you know.”

I swatted her arm. “It’s working, I’ll have you know. Give it back.”

“You put highlights in your hair too. Good thinking. Definitely doesn’t give anything away.” Lily laughed and rolled her eyes. “Did you hex him yet? He just put his hand on hers. I would have hexed him by now.”

“Aves doesn’t want me to,” I muttered, climbing into another chair. “I just wanted to—well, he’s a scum bag. I wanted to make sure that factory of douchebaggery doesn’t drug her and club her over the head and drag her back to his cave.”

“Also known as your dormitory?” Lily cocked a brow. “So what are we going to do?”


She chuckled. “Would you stop being jealous and do something about it?”

“Jealous?” I nearly choked.

“She has a date and you don’t.”

“I went on a date with Nia yesterday.”

“What about right now?”

“You’re my date. Don’t you know I’m into incest?” I batted my eyelashes as sarcastically as I could at her. I turned back to Avery. “Why him, though?”

“Because he’s the only bloke around here.”

“Couldn’t she just go after Wesley?”


I stared. “How do you know about the Code?”

“James, I’m your sister. How would I not know about the Code?”

I pressed my lips firmly together and chanced a look to Avery. She was laughing again. Emerson was doing some sort of impression. “You’re right. The Code. Don’t tell anyone you know about that, sneaky baby sister, you. You’re a right pain in my arse, you know that?”

“Learned it all from you.”

I put an arm around her. “So what do you think we should do?”

“I think you should do something and then get the heck out of here because you’re going to dwell on your pitiful dateless existence if you don’t.”

“So what am I going to do before I don’t dwell anymore?”

Lily adjusted her hair and shot me a perfect malicious Weasley smirk she inherited from Mum’s side of the family. It was my favorite facial expression of hers.

All I could hear as I left the pub was Emerson yelling about ant bites and Lily apologizing left and right about them escaping from her kit. At least I could hear Avery laughing.

Maybe Lily was right. I was definitely envious of her having a lunch date and me having to joke with my little sister about incest instead of checking out someone’s grades. I could have checked out Bink’s grades but I figured that would have been a large disappointment. I hoped Emerson had too many ant bites to even think about sex.

Maybe Avery would make him think about ants from now on and he wouldn’t fancy her anymore. Who knew if he even really fancied her or if he wanted to one-up James Potter once again? I wanted to one-up him with a swift kick somewhere unpleasant.

I twitched just thinking about it.


The next time someone scared the knickers out of me I was going to fall down dead. Honest. I nearly tripped over an untouched mound of snow and fell to my death that time. Just one step closer.

“Elizabeth,” I breathed, “love, how are you?”

She smiled from behind a violet knitted scarf, her bright blond hair spilling out everywhere from under her hat. “I’m great. Despite the cold the weather is amazing. I just came down here for a bit of a walk.”

“Come have lunch with me,” I said quickly.

Elizabeth paused, her face flushing. “You want me to go on a date with you?”

“Sure. Are you in?”

For a bit I was starting to think something was wrong with me. I sat with Elizabeth for a full half hour in a little café next to the abandoned Zonkos building and she didn’t throw herself at me once. She didn’t ask to help with my wanking and she didn’t tell me how positively delicious I would look without clothes. I felt weird and naked.

Instead, Elizabeth laughed at my jokes. She asked about how the team was doing in practice. She complimented my Chaser qualities and even asked what I thought about having freckles. I told her I liked them, something I was still unsure of.

“I haven’t heard you talk much about your family in a while,” she said, accepting another cup of tea from the waitress.

“What do you mean? I talk about Freddie and Al and Lils all the time. They’re right pains.” Chuckling, I fiddled with my thumbs.

“I mean your parents. Have you seen them lately? Or written? My mum wrote the other day just to tell me about a stray cat eating out of our garbage bins. What a loon, right?”

I tried not to bite my lip and look fragile. “Mum wrote me the other day.”

“Oh, how is she?”

“She’s wonderful. Like always.” I laughed nervously. Why was I suddenly nervous? It wasn’t nerves, it was social awkwardness. That was something James Sirius Potter did not possess and never wanted to possess.

“And your dad?” She paused while I failed to answer. “James, you never told me what happened between the two of you. You avoid the subject.”

“I wasn’t aware I was supposed to,” I mumbled.

“We used to be all right friends, you know.”

“I know.”

“Your dad was always at the Quidditch matches and you used to talk about him in the Great Hall all the time. Because, well, he’s the Boy Who Lived and all that. So what happened? Don’t think we haven’t noticed you’ve been acting different.”

I shoved my tea away. “Look, it’s not a big thing. I’m just not like him. Al’s the one who wants to be Dad. He wants to arrest Malfoy and put him in jail and grow up strong from his spinach and be an Auror. That’s not me. Dad and I…we just don’t see eye to eye and we had a row about it over the summer. It’s not like he thinks I should follow in his footsteps, because he knows Mum played Quidditch, but he thinks my love for the game is an addiction.”

“Do you think it is?”

“Of course it’s not an addiction. I just love it. Dad loved fighting the dark arts or whatever when he was in school and I love flying around on a broomstick bossing tarts around. He just doesn’t get it. He says I need to cool it down a bit and study or do something else. He doesn’t get my Quidditch mates are my family. I would even do anything for Meta and she’s a bitch.”

Elizabeth smiled. “I know you would. I think your dad does too. I’m sure it’s just hard for him because we don’t have any baddies like that in the world today. Well, except Darian Bay’s wardrobe and Emerson’s idiocy.”

I nodded slowly. “Yeah. I’m sure it is. It’s just weird he hasn’t written to me or anything. Mum says Dad’s always been like that—freezing things out at times. I’ll talk to him about it soon though since Christmas is coming up. We’ll talk it out.”

“I’m glad. You need to. I know you’re a Mamma’s Boy and all that, but I’ve seen you and your dad click.”

“You sure know an awful lot about me,” I said.

“You don’t really hide things too well,” she replied. “You are the Quidditch Captain after all. People talk. That, and Dara Wood tried to find dirt on you to kick you off the team for being a smarmy git.”

“It all makes sense.” I chanced a glance to my right out to the snow-covered Hogsmeade street. Flurries were covering the prints and a few students were braving it and making their way back to the castle. I spotted Avery and Emerson. He was looking a bit itchy. She was laughing.

Why was she laughing, anyway? Lily assured her date didn’t go as planned and she was over there laughing.

“James?” Elizabeth waved a hand in front of my face.

“Oh. Hi there. Did I miss something?” I tried to regain composure but found I was leaning over the table to see out the window.

“Can I ask you another question?”

“Ask away.”

“Why do you spend so much time with Avery Flynn?”

“You should know we’ve been best mates since first year.” I mentally sighed. Avery and Emerson walked out of sight. I hoped he had scabs.

“You know that makes you really unapproachable, right?”

“What are you on about?”

“To girls. When you have a girl best mate.”

“That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. I think I’ve made it painfully obvious I’m the Quidditch Captain and I like a great variety of women. I also think it’s obvious I think Avery’s my sister so that clears that up right away.” This conversation was stupid.

“I just think maybe you should pay attention to the date you have instead of looking at other women.” She looked a bit put out and irritated.

“She’s my best mate!”

“She has boobs, I don’t care who she is!”

I sighed heavily, putting some gold on the table. “I’ve gotta get back before Emerson tries for lucky number seven.”

“What is that supposed to mean?” Elizabeth shot me a disgruntled look.

“It means I’m going after Avery. Sorry, Liz. I had a good time, though, let’s do this again.” She looked at me with an expression that clearly explained we would not be doing this any time soon and I left quickly, pulling my cloak tight around my arms as I made my way in the direction Avery and Emerson had walked.

I didn’t mean to be a poor date. It was awkward, though, her bringing up my family in the middle of our perfectly sensible Quidditch conversation. Then she goes and brings up my best mate. Dates should know they can’t come between best mates. That’s a code or something. Not the Quidditch Code because that is an entire different can of worms I had to deal with on a daily basis.

What was I going to do about that pesky Code? At least it seemed like the breaking had gone down (besides Meta being an outright bitch and pantsing me, I hated that woman).

I made my way down the cobbled street and toward The Three Broomsticks since I could see Avery ahead. I didn’t want to make the trek back to the castle alone, but if need be I would put back on the mustache to frighten away first years. Part of me wondered if Nia was sharing drinks with someone in the pub or if Al managed to coax Paloma for a drink, so I glanced over through the window and nearly tripped over absolutely nothing at all.

Meta, good old Meta. What a team player she was. So much of a team player when she was supposed to be finishing up laps. So much indeed that she was sitting beside the window with a beefy man wearing a fleece shirt bearing a Tornadoes logo. Bugger! Meta was eating lunch with a scout with no neck and I was standing outside in the snow letting her do it.

What was I supposed to do? First I ducked beside the building so she wouldn’t look out over her soup to find my guffawed face against the glass. I needed a plan. I was the Captain. I had to take control of this situation. It was my duty! Seriously, though, why was my Seeker putting me through this? I loved she was getting scouted for the big leagues, but to be scouted in December meant she was pondering leaving. And I couldn’t have her do that.

“Why do I keep finding you in weird places?” Lily turned the corner and folded her arms. “Haven’t you gone back to the castle yet? Avery just passed me walking back.”

“Meta’s in there with a Tornadoes bloke.”

“So what?”

“So what? It means she’s thinking about leaving.”

“Blimey, I hope she does.” Lily peered around the corner. “James, she’s not going to leave. She knows you’re in Hogsmeade and she knows you’ll see her. She’s just pulling your strings. I heard her talking about it to Mary in the common room.”

I breathed out. “Thank Merlin. I didn’t know Meta talked to Mary Mary Quite Good Gradesie.”

She cocked a brow. “Anyway, can we head back? I’m freezing and Al is still wooing Paloma. I have more ants if you’re interested.”

“I’ve never been more interested in ants,” I said, putting a warm arm around my baby sister and steering her first toward the ice cream because I was in desperate need of more cookie dough and maybe a chocolate cone for the sister.

A/N: Hope everyone enjoyed that. Sorry again about the delay. I didn't realize how insane training would be. I've only been back to my room to change clothes and sleep. Not often! It goes for another week.

Thoughts on James/Darian/Avery/Emerson/Elizabeth/Lily?

Chapter 17: Salads (Side of Slytherin)
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And We're Back!
Thanks for the overwhelming support while I got this story "up to Code"
if you will. But it's back, planned really, really far, and there is plenty of
James, Avery, Emerson, and even Clint Lawson to go around. Enjoy!

Last TIme: Avery went on a lunch date with Emerson, James asked Elizabeth on a date (which didn't go so well), Lily helped out with some well-placed ants, and everyone hates Meta. Obviously.

I found Avery a few hours later finishing up an essay in a comfy suede chair by one of the spiral staircases. She had an extra quill tucked gently behind her ear and a few strands of hair were escaping onto her cheeks. Sliding in the seat with her, I gave her a look that suggested I wanted her to spill the details of the date with one Emerson Twitwards.

“What?” she said, glancing over quickly and punctuating a sentence.


“So what?” She tried to hide her smile.

“What happened on your date with Edwards? Did you do it?”

“Oh, shut up.” Avery hit me hard on the arm and went back to her essay. “You really think I would have sex with Emerson after a first date?”

“Was that really a date?” I asked.

“It was lunch, James.”

“Over which you did what?”


I prodded her on the shoulder. “About what? About my sexy stature?”

She went back to her essay.

“What did you order? Did you break his wallet with lobster or steak?”

“Do they even serve lobster at The Three Broomsticks?” Avery laughed and set down her quill. “I ended up getting a salad actually.”

I pretended to be flabbergasted. “Salad? Are you drunk? Who eats salad? I bet Scorpius Malfoy eats salad when he does favors for Lawson. It’s the Slytherin thing to do. It even starts with S and it’s green. You’re betraying your House!” I ended up yelling the last part and got a few quizzical stares from nearby second years. I flipped them off.

“It wasn’t that bad. Honestly.” She made a face that suggested otherwise. “Okay, it was dry and I hated the dressing, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m broadening my horizons.”

I gave her a look. “So you really ordered the salad? You looked right at the menu and thought, I want to eat a salad?”

Avery narrowed her eyes. “Well, no.”

I wanted to get it out of her so bad. I had no idea why, but Emerson Edwards made me want to Emerson-punch him right in the Emerson-stupid-head face. I knew it was a fabulous insult. I was just misunderstood. “So who ordered it?”

“James, shut up, you know who ordered it. There was only one other person there.”

“How would I know that? I wasn’t there. You could have taken Freddie for all I know.”

She shoved me and my ribs when into the arm of the chair while I laughed. “James Potter, don’t give me crap.”

“Okay, Edwards ordered you a salad and it was crappy and you still had a good time?”

Avery squeezed out of the seat and grabbed her quill and parchment. “You’re ridiculous. I had a good time. It was just lunch. You hate him anyway, why do you care?”

“That would be the best mate in me coming out,” I explained, following her toward the spiral staircase. “I just want to make sure I don’t have to hex someone.”

“You’ll probably hex him no matter what.”

“You told me not to.”

“And you’re listening to me?” She leaned against the railing.

“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”

After surveying me for a few minutes, Avery turned and walked up the spiral staircase. “See you tomorrow in class, James. You should probably take notes instead of drawing out practice plans. Just saying.”

I stared after her. Blimey, crazy woman. How could she have fun with Emerson? He was a twit and a half, plus seven more at least. I hoped Victoria was through with most of his clothing by now even though I knew she ate slowly. It wasn’t even like I had anything on him—Avery said she had a decent time. Well, she didn’t say that but she inferred she didn’t want me to know a bleeding thing about it.

“Oy, Nia!” I said loudly and she turned, raising a brow from behind one of her books. “Take me upstairs.”

“Are you serious?” She practically lost all footing to get to me in a manner of split seconds.

“I need to tell Avery something.”

“Oh.” Her face fell and she stood there.

“Can you take me up?” I put my hand on her shoulder and she looked at it. “I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”

Nia narrowed her eyes, but grabbed my hand anyway, pulling me up the spiral staircase and into the suite. Avery was there, shocked at my being led in by Nia, and Mary Mary Quite Good Gradesie was on her bed doing homework. She waved to me and I waved back slyly. Hey, I had to keep my options open now that Nia was peeved at me for wanting to talk to Avery and Elizabeth was peeved at me for wanting to follow Avery. What the shit.

“I went on a date today,” I spat, flopping down onto her bed. “I asked Elizabeth on a date and how do you like those Quaffles?”

Avery nearly laughed. “How did it go?”

“I’m not telling. You didn’t tell me about your rubbish salad date and I’m not telling you about my hot, steamy, amazing date. Nope.” I folded my arms. Okay, my chosen words to describe the date might have been a bit off, but it was for effect. Big effect.

“I didn’t think you wanted to know the play-by-play of my lunch with Emerson,” she explained somberly.

“Well, I don’t. But I want to hex him so I need some ammo.”

“Didn’t we talk about this?”

I groaned. “Okay, okay. My date was rubbish too.”

“I thought it was hot and steamy.”

“And suck,” I said, careful to keep my voice down so Mary didn’t hear me talking Slytherin about her roommate. “Talking Slytherin” was my new phrase for talking shit basically. It had a nice ring to it. A lot of syllables, but good ring. “And I know yours wasn’t amazing either, so don’t bother lying about it.”

“Okay, it wasn’t amazing.” Avery cocked a bit of a smile and put a few books into a bag. “I do have to go though.”

“Meeting up with the tosser again?” I gaped at her.

“No, I’m going to help Bink with his Transfiguration. He asked earlier and I told him I would. You obviously can’t.” She chuckled and walked past me and out the door.

“The kitten was fine!” I called after her.

I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Emerson Edwards the rest of the night and into the following morning, so for most of the duration of time I was in the common room socializing with my Gryffindor peers. That was a rare occurrence for me considering I really only enjoyed the company of my team and I supposed my family as well, but it was nice to know about some bloke called Richard in his third year and his family of Ministry officials. Boring, but so nice.

Luckily, an hour before practice Nia came and plopped down beside me with a large book in hand. I wondered if it was about Tactnia. When there was a picture of a half-naked bloke on it and a woman showing a good deal of cleavage, I guessed I was wrong.

“Hey there,” she said cheerfully, placing her head quickly on my shoulder and then retracting it. I was confused. “I heard you went on a date with Elizabeth the other day.”

“Yeah, took her out.” I went back to my book. When girls asked about other girls, it was not a good thing. I pretended to be interested in Charms homework, which was very difficult for me. It was also difficult considering Nia’s grades were all everywhere and I couldn’t help but stare. Charms books should have had cleavage in them. Seriously.

“I didn’t know we weren’t going to have another date.”

“Oh.” I paused. Probably not the right thing to say. I tried again. “Just because I took her out doesn’t mean we can’t have another date.”

“I don’t date players.”

I took that moment to flat-out gape at her. Nia Baker, the woman who tried to claim me the night of the auction, was not going to date me because I took another girl on a date. We weren’t in a relationship—I was a single bloke! Right? I thought so. “Nia, I’m not in a relationship with anyone,” I said, trying to echo my own thoughts. “I’m sorry if that offended you, but I wanted to take her out to lunch. It’s not like we had as much fun as you and I did though.” I tried to be a smooth Quidditch Captain, but judging by her distasteful expression I was not succeeding.

“Okay then.” She stood up, left her strange, half-naked people book with me, and walked up the spiral staircase. I heard a door slam.

Son of a bitch. What did I do this time? Okay, I wasn’t the most sensitive of blokes, but I did care about girls. And not just about their grades! Well, sometimes that was on the majority list, but not all the time. Why did they have to make it so difficult?

I was starting to feel the pressure of being the Captain and there wasn’t even a game coming up until after the holidays. Bollocks on that.

“Oh, get over yourself, McLaggen!” Fred shouted from across the pitch.

Practice was going surprisingly well, which was nice. My team was working hard and I even saw sweat. Unfortunately, Meta usually used her time on the pitch to bitch about something or another or how my Captaining abilities rivaled a cleaning bucket’s. She was a winner, that Meta McLaggen. This time she was whining about how low Fred threw the Quaffle.

“Shove off, Weasley! Get a real girlfriend!” she shot back, catching the Snitch again and taking a moment to have a private celebration.

“That’s rich of you,” Fred said. “That, coming from the slag that’s been single for ages. Who was the last bloke you dated? Darian Bay eons ago? I bet he’ll take you back.”

“I’m going to hex you into Friday, Weasley!” She threw the Snitch at him, but it veered and flew off toward the goal posts.

“Hey—cut it out!” I cried, blowing the whistle I was quite proud of. Mum got it for me when I was made captain. “You’re done or I’m giving you laps. Good catch, by the way, Meta. Fred, go try to score on Avery.”

“Merlin knows Emerson can’t handle it,” Bink said with a laugh.

“I heard that!” Avery yelled from the hoops.

When I made sure Fred wasn’t going to turn around and fire a hex at Meta for breathing, I went back to watching the Beater formation with Wesley and Paloma. They looked fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, I decided to end practice a half hour early.

“Coming, Captain?” Wes asked, leaving the locker rooms after a particularly long shower.

I shook my head. “Go on, Wes. I’m going to set up for the next practice. Good job today, mate.” I waved and he shut the door, leaving me quite alone with everyone’s dingy pink-ish robes and my blank chalk board. I didn’t know why I needed chalk anyway. I had wand. I could just make words appear.

Too much work.

“James?” Elizabeth poked her head inside. “Are you naked?”

“If I was, would you still come in?”

She laughed. “Maybe.” Shutting the door gently behind her, she stared at me and then leaned back against it awkwardly. Her thick, blue sweater clung to her skin. I wasn’t sure what to do since I was sitting and she was being awkward and weird. “Sorry about the Hogsmeade thing.”

“What do you mean?” I said, ruffling my hair.

“I mean on our—on our date. I got pissed at you for the whole Avery thing. It was stupid. I just got jealous. I know she’s your best mate. I should respect that.” She said the whole thing without making eye contact with me. Oh, nervous girls were fun and attractive.

“Don’t sweat it, okay? I guess it makes me a bit of a strange bloke, doesn’t it? Do you think I’m worth it?” I got up and moved over to where she stood, leaning my hand against the door so I stood almost over her.

“I think you might be.” The cockiness in her voice caught me by surprise.

Who knew Lizzy had a bit of bite in her voice? I surely did not. I reached down and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Should we get walking back to the castle?”

“Is that what you want to do?”

No. No, it’s not what I bleeding want to do! I had to keep girls on their toes or I would be predictable. If I gave in to Elizabeth now, I would muck it all up for the future. No. I had to hold my ground.

“Yeah. Yeah, let’s walk.” I opened the door and nearly ran straight into Clint Lawson, the ugly bugger. He was standing outside with his pet, Scorp, more than likely listening to our conversation. “’Lo there, Lawson. What brings you to the Gryffindor locker rooms?”

“Followed the rancid smell,” he said hoarsely.

“Good one,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. I used my wand to lock the door behind me and started off toward the castle.

He followed.

“Can I help you with something?” I asked. Elizabeth giggled.

“Yeah, Potter, you can.” He looked legit upset. Or peeved. Whichever. “I want to know why you think it’s okay to parade around Hogwarts like you bleeding own the place, date and discard women wherever you please and treat everyone who isn’t on your team like dirt.”



“Hold on now,” I said loudly.

“No, that’s fucking ridiculous,” Clint continued. “You just walk around this place like you’re the bleeding king just because your daddy was Harry Potter. I’ve got news for you, Potter. You’re just the Quidditch Captain and you aren’t a very good one at that. I could hear your players yelling at each other from the castle.”

I stared. Elizabeth was silent beside me.

“You’re not even as good as your dad was at Quidditch, and that’s saying something. Go back to your incompetence in the Gryffindor Tower and get the hell out of a real man’s sport.” He paused, clearly taking pleasure in the blank expression on my face, and then turned to Scorpius. “Ready, Malfoy?”

They turned and walked back toward the Slytherin locker rooms. I watched them for a minute, Scorpius trying not to be too obvious with his laughing and Clint Lawson just looking like a big thug.

I opened my mouth, then closed it. Then opened it again. “Yeah!” I finally managed to say. “Yeah, pot calling the kettle black, Lawson!” He didn’t turn around. “You run away!” I spat out, sounding less masculine than I intended.

Well, fuck.

I grabbed my wand and shot a stunning spell at Scorpius and he went down fast.

Take that, sucka.

I took Elizabeth’s hand before Lawson realized what was going on and ran for it back toward the castle. It was cold and flurries were getting stuck to my hair, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want a hex coming right for my back so we ducked behind bushes and slid by walls just to make sure. Elizabeth laughed the whole way, her hand tight in mine.

I looked at her once we were back inside. Elizabeth was such a decent girl. She was normal compared to all the other crazies running around Hogwarts, but I couldn’t bring myself to really fancy her. She was gorgeous—no doubt about that. She had good grades (academic and non) and she was funny and cocky. What was it?

Blimey. She batted her eyelashes at me.

“Detention,” Emerson said, poking his head out the front doors. He was wearing an orange hunting cap and looked like a tool.

“I hate you more than you will ever know,” I said dully. “What did I do this time? I didn’t even snog the girl so don’t give me that rubbish.”

“You can,” Elizabeth whispered. What was I supposed to say to that? Well, I don’t fancy you. Sorry, mate. Eugh, what a mess.

“I saw you hex Scorpius Malfoy from Gryffindor Tower. The whole House practically saw it.” Emerson folded his arms and held the door open for us to enter. “So you’re getting a detention because that isn’t acceptable.”

“Why don’t I just get humiliated by a Slytherin and then get a detention?” I threw my arms in the air dramatically and groaned. “Seriously, Edwards, you know how to make people’s lives fantastic. I should give third world countries your number, really.”

“Five points for being cheeky.”

I wanted to Emerson-punch him right there. Right in the face. In the mouth even.

“Thank you,” I said politely, turning and walking up the marble staircase with Elizabeth at my heels. “I hate that fucker,” I muttered, careful to make sure I was out of earshot of Twitwards. “I know he has a lot against me, but seriously. He takes points from his own house just because he hates me. No pride, that one. Let’s give him to Hufflepuff.”

Elizabeth laughed. “Just don’t get cheeky with him anymore. He’s testing you every time.”

“I like cheeky,” I said, trying not to snap back. I wanted to be cheeky—he was a git who thought he could use all his stupid Head-Boy power to one-up me and I wouldn’t have it!

I didn’t say anything the rest of the way back to the tower even though Elizabeth wanted to discuss names of cats or something and walked directly up to my four-poster when I got there. I closed the hangings and stared at the top of the bed.


I didn’t care about Emerson, it was Clint Lawson who bugged me. The tosser completely shut me down. I knew who my dad was—I was better than him at Quidditch! Oh, who bleeding cared? I wasn’t him. I wasn’t my dad. I cared about more people than my team and how dare Clint fucking Lawson try to make me feel guilty about it.

Like he was Merlin or something.


Son of a bitch, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Pot calling the kettle black? What sort of a retort was that? A lame one. A fucking lame one. Could have at least pulled a jelly legs on that Scorp twerp.

I rolled over.

Fuck that. Clint Lawson was a jerk.

Why was I thinking about Clint Lawson while in bed?

I rolled the other way.

He was such a tosser. A big fucking Slytherin tosser who could throw himself off something tall for all I cared. Which I didn’t, by the way.

I rolled onto my stomach and stuffed my face in the pillow.

What did Avery see in Emerson?

I hated Herbology. It wasn’t even the plants that pissed me off, it was the ology of the herbs. The whole class was bollocks. Professor Longbottom was always looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t slip it up. I swear, he’d blame Fred’s addled brains on Quidditch soon enough.

Not that I didn’t love Longbottom—I really did—it was just seeing him during the occasional Christmas dinner at the Weasley household was a bit weird. Weirder when he asked about my homework essays over potatoes. The amount of occasions I had to lie about completing an essay on the train ride home were ridiculous.

Fuck. The puss stuff squirted all down my arm and I leapt back, running into Nia. She let out a scream and the whole greenhouse looked over. Even some of the plants stared at my puss-covered arm.

I hated Herbology for the staring plants.

“James.” Longbottom pulled me aside at the end of class while my teammates and other randoes went back to the tower.

“Oh, darn, Professor—I’m going to be late for dinner.” I tried to smile.

“It’s one in the afternoon, James.” He paused and folded his arms. “I’m not going to lecture you; I just wanted to ask if you’re all right. You look a bit stressed.”

“I’m a seventh year, the Quidditch Captain, and the object of a lot of affection. I’m a bit stressed.” I chanced a smile. “I’m also the chosen enemy for many, so that is an all-day job.”

“But you’re okay?”

“I handle it the best I can. I have my friends.”

Professor Longbottom opened the door behind me. “Even though we haven’t exactly seen eye to eye in the past, I want you to know if you need help you can come to me and I might be a bit more understanding than you think.”

“I’ll keep that in mind, Professor. Thanks.” With that, I left, thinking about asking Longbottom if he could just stick Clint Lawson in detention for the rest of his sodding life. If only. If effing only.

Though I expected to return to a stare from Emerson Edwards or to procrastinate another assignment, I did not. I did, however, return to find Victoria making some strange noises from her cage. There was sweat on my brow almost instantly as I rolled up the sleeves to my collared shirt and pulled it out from under my bed.

She was tinted slightly purple. It looked pretty, but I knew it meant she was ill.

“Tory?” I whispered, glancing over my shoulder to make sure I was alone. Fuck! Was she okay? “Tory, are you all right?” I opened the top of the cage and pulled her out, placing her gently on my comforter. Her little Pygmy Puff eyes were watery.

“Oh, bollocks. Um, I haven’t fed you any of Head-Boy-Twitwards’ clothes recently so it’s not that. Uh.” I looked around the room again for some sort of answer. There were some dirty clothes from Freddie and Bink’s Transfiguration book. Nothing of real value or help. She made a weird whiny noise. I jumped and started nervously fiddling with my fingers.

“What am I supposed to do?” I said, my voice strained as I jumped backward off the bed and began to pace. “I don’t even know what to do with a sick Pygmy Puff. I just know what to do with the non-sick ones. Snuggle and stuff—but I don’t snuggle because I’m a man. Well, sometimes, but when no one’s watching.” I ran my fingers through my unruly hair.

Oh, son of a cattail I had no idea what to do.

In a panic, I pulled the door open so hard it slammed into the wall and knocked a few ugly paintings off the wall (I made a mental note to replace them with someone else’s real artwork). “Avery!” I yelled down the staircase. “Avery bleeding Flynn!”

“What?” she said. I heard a book slam shut. “James, are you okay?”

“No! Get up here!” I resumed my pacing and Victoria let out another strange noise.

Avery rushed in, her hair flying around her face and her cheeks flushed. “What is it? What’s—oh no! What’s happened to Victoria?” She immediately leapt onto the bed to examine my innocently wonderful Pygmy Puff. “James, she’s sick.”

“I know! I know. I just.” I paused. “I don’t know what to do. Don’t tell anyone.”

Avery shot me a tiny smirk. I hated she saw right through me, but at the same time it was comforting knowing she could make up for what I lacked. That sounded cheesy in my head so I figured saying it would make me feminine.

“Just give her lots of water instead of—James, is that Pumpkin Juice?” She surveyed me down her nose.

“I didn’t want to walk all the way into the bathroom. My bed’s second furthest from it, you know. It gets cold at night and she seemed to like it at first.” I smiled. “Okay, I give her real water. What else?”

“Just comfort her and give her lots of fluids. If it gets any worse than this take her to Hagrid or Madam Bones.”

“Madam Bones…”

“Hates your guts, I know this.” Avery grabbed Victoria’s dish and went to replace the water. “This bathroom is disgusting.”

“Just because it doesn’t have pretty flowers and reed diffusers doesn’t make it disgusting,” I said defensively, picking up Victoria and cradling her in one arm. I watched Avery place the bowl back delicately. Her face was still flushed and she looked really good. I was glad Emerson wasn’t in the room to ask her about salad, the sick sod.

“I think those are Freddie’s stained socks in there.” She shot me a sly smile.

“Hey,” I said quickly, sitting on my bed and not making any eye contact whatsoever because I felt like an emotional tool. “Thanks. I kind of panicked. I do that when it comes to Tory. She’s…well, I just do. Shut up. Don’t look at me.”

“Okay, James,” Avery said, sitting beside me. “I won’t look at you when you’re having a heart. I promise.” True to her word, she stared straight ahead.

Attempting to get my face back to its normal paler self, I concentrated on Victoria. She looked weak drinking her water. I picked her up, letting her little hairs fall between my fingers, and placed her gently back into the cage. I heaved a sigh as I fell back onto the bed. Avery followed, leaning on her elbows to see my face.

“You okay?” she asked quietly, squinting her eyes and probably seeing through my tough manly exterior.

“I will be.” I paused for a moment, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her over to me. Her hair was soft. “I think I will be okay. Just a scare is all.”

“I’m not talking about with Victoria.” She raised her head and gave me a trademark Avery stare. “Are you all right, James? You’re going through a lot lately.”

I shrugged, opening my mouth and trying to formulate the words.

Unfortunately, the words never came considering the door opened and in walked Nia Baker with a huge grin on her face. Well, she was grinning until she saw Avery with her hair sprawled out on my chest and her leg draped across mine. Of course, this was a regular occurrence for the pair of us since we were besties and all that, but Nia didn’t seem to take it that way. She made a sound resembling a sick dinosaur and pivoted on her heel, marching right back out and slamming the door.

“Oh, bugger,” I muttered. “See, women are going to kill me, Aves.”

“Better they kill you than do nothing at all.”

I bit my lip. “Fair.”

The light snowfall was annoying even though it was the start of winter and I wasn’t even used to it yet. I was already sick of getting it on the bottom of my robes. Luckily, at breakfast a couple large boxes cheered me up. They were labeled RED and I ripped the first one open before touching my toast.

“What are you—James, jelly just went flying all over my eggs.” Paloma stared at me.

“They’re here!” I shouted this, thrusting my fist into the air as an egg cascaded onto Wesley’s bacon. They went well together. “They’re finally bleeding here and I won’t be called ‘pinkie’ anymore! Rejoice!”

Avery jumped up, sending her pumpkin juice flying as she dug into the other box. “Merlin! It’s like Christmas!”

“Gryffindors, rejoice!” I went to stand on the table, kicking a piece of toast out of my way, but quickly hopped back down after a few fiery stares from Professor Longbottom. “Still, rejoice though even though I’m not on the table. Rejoice, damn it!”

The material on the new robes was soft against my skin and I pulled one out. Wesley squealed when he saw his name on the back. It was a deep scarlet with gold stitches in the seams and a gold lining on the underside. I was very nearly shaking right there at breakfast.

It was crazy robes made me that giddy.

Crazy amazing!

I tossed that one to Wesley, digging out the others with Avery until I found mine on the bottom. POTTER was written across the back in big, gold letters with scarlet stitches and I stared at it for a moment. There was a large, gold “C” on the front. Just holding it I felt like more of a Gryffindor. Those pink robes were for Hufflepuffs. Even Meta looked remotely happy for once after turning hers over in her hands.

Suddenly Emerson bidding on Avery and winning a day with her was worth it.

Still wanted to Emerson-punch him. I wondered about my next detention.

I also wondered about the Code instructing me not to get numerous detentions.


“James, you want this?” Albus poked me in the side with an envelope and I turned to glare at him, only to realize it was Mum’s handwriting.

“Hold this.” I handed the robe to Al and ripped it open.


Your father and I decided the holiday trip is going to be to Italy. One of my old teammates has wonderful connections with the tourism board in southern Italy and there is a nice destination spot where they speak primarily English and it’s an all-wizard area. You’ll love it and it’ll be nice to get away from the snow and cold for a while instead of like last year’s trip to Moscow.

Al has already told me he’s bringing Rosie and I’ve checked with your aunt and uncle so it’s all right. Let me know who you want to bring and make sure Lily is thinking about it as well.

I miss you, dear. Can’t wait to see you in December. Don’t stress yourself out too much, all right?



I couldn’t help but smile. “It’s Italy this year,” I announced cheerfully, taking my robes back and folding the letter. “Coming back with a bit of a tan will be nice. I’ll be the envy of Hogwarts.”

“Italy?” Wes gaped at me. “And I’m stuck with Hugo poking me with sticks over pineapple ham?”

Avery smiled warmly. “Sounds lovely.”

“What are you packing?” I asked her. “I’m thinking lots of t-shirts and shorts. You should probably bring some dressy rubbish too because the ‘rents like to do all that touristy stuff.”

“Wait. What?” she said, placing her robes delicately in her school bag.

“You’re coming obviously. So get ritsy stuff like that dress you wore to the auction.” I sat back down and moved the boxes over. “You really didn’t think I’d invite someone else, did you?”

“I just assumed—maybe Nia or Elizabeth.” Avery let a smile creep up her lips.

“You’re as much part of my family as I am,” I said. “So pack a damn dress.”

“Yes, Captain.”

I could feel the fire in Elizabeth’s and Nia’s glares from my seat.

Victoria stared up at me, her color faded back to a nice carnation pink and her eyes less watery now that she had water instead of pumpkin juice. I smiled. Fred prodded me in the side.

“What?” I said. We were on our stomachs looking over the edge of the bed and I decided it was an adequate time to poke him back.

“She looks okay.”

I nodded. “I think she is.”

“Did you know how to do it? How to make her better? Should they hire you as Care of Magical Creatures teacher?”

I laughed. “No, ‘course I didn’t.”

“Who did? Edwards?”

I snorted. “He can’t even take care of his gray dress.”


I tried to will myself not to color. “Yeah.”

“I think Abigail would like a pygmy puff.” He said it slowly, biting his lip.

“So you’d get her a pygmy puff?” I laughed, ruffling his dark hair.

“I don’t know. I don’t know what I think about it. I might like her or something. Don’t tell anyone.” He chuckled.

“Your secret’s safe with me.” I snorted.

“Can you two shut up?” Bink ripped open his hangings and glared at our backs. “I’m trying to sleep. I have a transfig essay to finish in the morning.”

“Why not do it now while we’re talking?” Freddie asked, smiling.

He closed the hangings quickly and made a huff noise. “Just shut up. Your pygmy puff’s fine, James. Abigail has good grades, Fred.”

“Night, Slytherin,” I muttered.

I exchanged confused and worried looks with Fred before turning back to a healthy Victoria.

Avery ran her wool mittens along the railing as we walked outside. It was our way of escaping people like Twitwards and Nia, just the pair of us chatting in the chilly winter weather. I watched her hair get conveniently stuck in her mouth.

“Italy is going to feel too good,” she said cheerfully, jumping off a few steps early and sending gasps of powdered snow into the air at her feet. “Only a couple more days.”

“I just want to stop working on Charms essays and all that rubbish,” I murmured. “My brain hurts.” I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and we strolled off toward the glassy surface of the lake. It wasn’t frozen yet, just so still I could see the forest reflected like a painting. I pointed this out to Avery.

“Beautiful,” I whispered.

Instead of replying, she stared up at me. My fingertips were going numb. I resisted the urge to pull her windblown hair from her lips yet again. Avery’s eyes were wide, recognizing something. I wondered if there was something on my face other than a plethora of freckles.

The breeze scratched at my face.

Within seconds this was gone—Avery’s eyes flew back to the lake and she mumbled something about the reflection. Her face was rosy from the cold and her mittens shook.

“Are you okay?” I asked. “Do you need to go back inside?”

If it was possible, her face faded to a deeper red. She didn’t look at me. “Emerson asked me out on three more dates.” She said this quickly, voice strained.

I ignored the feeling in my stomach. “Oh.”

“I said no.”

“Why?” The wind picked up and was now taking its toll on the water, creating ripples and blurring the mirrored forest.

“I hate salad.”

A/N: This chapter is for the numerous people who kept me sane during my absense. You know who you are. It's also for those of you who just found this story. It's a pleasure to entertain.

So here's the thing. I was gone for a while, doing edits and some other unmentionable things, but now I'm back for good and right now I have this story planned out until chapter 45. But guess what? That's not the end. So tighten those broom-belts, this is going to be a wild ride.

And only to amuse me, what did you miss most about Breaking the Quidditch Code? I missed writing James's humor. He's insane!

Also, favorite quotes? Favorite characters? Favorite annoying Emerson part?

Next chapter is going smoothly. As of right now, since I am no longer a TA, this story will be going back and forth between updates with Hide & Seek.

Thank you again, everyone. Your support means so much to me.

Chapter 18: Snowballs Bring Out the Honesty
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This chapter is for SpringTime.
The first to figure it out.

Victoria was humming loudly in the morning and I leapt out of bed. It was louder than normal, but I didn’t want to jump to conclusions. She sat in the corner of her cage, staring up at me with glistening (not watery or teary like when she was sick) eyes. Nearly tripping over the Potions book I only cracked open in class, I made a break for the window (Fred’s bed was also in the way but I just jumped over it and kneed him in the stomach).

“What in the—eff,” Fred said, shielding his face as I whipped open the curtains.

“Snow!” I cried. “Snow! Snow! Snow!”

“There has already been snow,” Bink mumbled, poking his head out his bed curtains.

“No, legit snow,” I said. “Like there’s at least a foot out there.” I stared out at the wintery goodness, white lining the tree branches. “You know what this means, right?”

“We get to sleep in celebration?” said Fred.

“No, don’t be stupid.” I ripped his blankets off him. Fred’s boxers were a weird salmon color. I covered his midsection back up with the blankets. “It means today is going to be our first snowball fight of the season! Get your gloves and hats on, lads! This contest is going to be epic.”

“I’m jinxing my curtains shut,” said Bink. “They’re shut and you’re not getting them open until at least ten.”

“It’s two days before the holiday—sleep when we’re on break.” I pulled on heavy pants and a dark shirt. I ruffled my hair, though it was hardly necessary after having sleep hair. Now it just looked like sex hair. I left it.

Eventually Fred stood up when Emerson made a suggestive comment about Roxanne in a snow bunny costume and I forced him to get dressed instead of kill the Head Boy. “I don’t see why we have to do this anyway,” he said. “It’s cold out there and I’d rather spend the morning with Abigail.”

“I’d like to spend it with Avery,” Emerson said pompously. “I’m seeing her again, you know. Lucky number seven here I come.”

I narrowed my eyes. I didn’t say anything, though I should have. I knew Avery told me she wasn’t seeing him again, but what if she just didn’t tell me to spare my feelings? My hatred, because feelings were for girls. This was not sparing my hatred at all—that smirk on his spoiled little face made me want to Emerson-punch it.

Seriously, I had to trademark that.

Between Avery fraternizing with Emerson Twitwards and Fred always being off with Abigail, I didn’t know what to do. At least I still had Bink Legace.

“Bleeding shut up, you guys,” Bink said angrily from behind his curtains. “I’m trying to sleep.”

Well, never mind. I had Victoria.

I thought about Wes and Paloma and Meta. At least they weren’t falling apart on me. Okay, Wes wanted to date my baby sister—stress! Paloma was all right though. She was encouraged to date my baby brother because he was a man. She just didn’t have a clue because his head was always stuck right up his Transfiguration book. And Meta…eugh. ‘Nuff said.

All that thought before breakfast made me hungry.

Things were looking up, though. I planned a giant snowball fight for the Gryffindors (well, the cool ones) and a few scattered people from other houses that I deemed worthy (so obviously no Darian Bay). After eating I tried to forget about my internal monologue from the morning by convincing myself things were okay. Even though my team seemed weird and out of balance compared to only a couple months ago, things were fine. At least I didn’t have to deal with anything other than an essay and Emerson’s stink eye until the holidays. Italy here I come!

I was the first one outside after breakfast, mittens with lions stitched into them by Mum on my hands and a victory planned. I was going to win this for team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. Was that what my team was called before? It sounded right. Some team it was. Lily joined me soon after, nudging me with her elbow.

“You’re taking Avery again this break, aren’t you?” she asked. “Or are you taking one of your followers?”

“Followers are all cross with me,” I said. “Yeah, of course I’m taking Aves though. She’s excited about it. So am I, it’s bleeding cold out here.”

“I’ve decided to take Wesley.”

My neck cracked as I spun around. “Wesley Jordan? My Beater?”

“The same.” She said this through her teeth.

“Aw, come on, Lily.”

“He’s going. I’ve asked him. End of story.”

I hated how much she was like Mum sometimes. “Have you told Al?”

“Yes, I have.” Lily paused and adjusted her hair so I could barely see the red sticking out from under her wool cap. “Strangely, he was more aggressive than you were.”

I smiled. Things were back to normal. “I’m watching you the entire time if I have to hire Italian blokes.”

“You’d have them tail me?”

“Or distract you. I haven’t decided yet.” I thought of Italian guys giving my thirteen-year-old sister flowers in exchange for cultural dance or something. “Just tail you.”

She smiled. “You need a vacation.”

“Bloody do I,” I mumbled. Nia and Elizabeth were whispering on the other side of the staircase. I watched Elizabeth talk with her hands. She looked frustrated.

“Need any more ants?” Lily laughed.

“Hilarious,” I said. I wanted to tell her about Avery claiming she turned Emerson down to see exactly what she thought about it (as much as I tried to keep her from figuring it out, Lily was actually a girl), but when I opened my mouth both Nia and Elizabeth screamed from nearby.

Both were wearing no hats and their hair stuck straight up like giant faux-hawks.

I stared. That definitely wasn’t like that before.


“What happened?” Lily said, rushing over to them.

Of course I was right.

The only thing I saw was Avery Flynn walking with her chin raised, down the steps to where the snowball fight was planned.

The group of lesser beings (minions, if you will) stood in front of me in two lines, staring back hungrily. They were ready. I even saw Freddie’s eye twitch, though that could have been from the addled brains or the sexual frustration from not having sex with Abigail. I went with the latter because it made me giggle. Nah, both made me giggle.

Cough-laugh. Grunt. Men did not giggle.

Nia and Elizabeth ended up getting their hair back to normal, much to my dismay (thanks a lot, Lily), and both looked excited again.

“All right!” I said and the chatting died. I held up my hands even though it was quiet. Sign of respect. “Captains! I’m going to be a captain because—well, that’s obvious.” I shot Al a thumbs-up. “The other captain is Avery Flynn because I am going to demolish the Bludger right out of her.”

Fred coughed a word that sounded oddly like “grades.”

“Legace,” I said loudly. Though he was getting on my nerves lately, I was still his mate and I had to show him he could come to me with things like remedial Transfig (according to Avery it wasn’t going to hot, so I didn’t blame him for the sourpuss mood) or the fact that he was secretly gay or something. Well, it wouldn’t be secret if he told me—anyway. Bink was my mate, mood swing or no. I picked other decent snowball-throwing people like Paloma (because she wasn’t crazy at the moment), Wesley, Hugo, Harvey the gum-chewer, Abigail, and Roxanne. They gathered with the other worthy candidates I was going to dominate with. Thank Merlin Nia, Meta, and Elizabeth went to Avery’s team. They all made me crazy in completely different ways.

I patted Bink on the shoulder. His blond hair had bits of snow in it from dumping his head in it when we came out. Crazy bugger. “You ready for this?”

“Any excuse to ruin Fred Weasley’s life is fine with me.” He laughed. “So where’s the base, Captain?”

I peered around. Avery was explaining something to her team and I had never wanted to win at a snowball fight so bad. Why? I didn’t hate Avery. There was no element to beat her like there was for Quidditch—to win and shove it in Clint Lawson’s thuggy boil-covered face. I just wanted to win.

“Base is that willow next to the lake. We’ll build up snow walls. Wes and Paloma—that’s your job. Lily, you help them out a bit. You’re crafty.”

“Why, James?” Lily said sweetly, busting out her wand. It looked weird with her holding it between mittens Grandma Weasley made last Christmas.

“Why are you crafty?” I paused. It was a trap. I knew it was a trap. “Erm, you have crafty genes?”

“You think I’m crafty because I’m a girl.” Lily narrowed her eyes.

I gave her a little playful push. “Go get some salmon patties and love me again.”

The team and I walked over to the willow, me with a brotherly arm draped around my baby sister. I had a winning group of people (minions) and once we reached the tree I had them gather around me. Abigail’s teeth were chattering.

“All right, team,” I said confidently. This was just like a pre-game Quidditch pep talk. I was the captain! I set the rules and boundaries and told them not to break the Code. Well, the snowball Code. Which didn’t exist. I made a mental note to make one eventually including things like no snow to the eyeball or down the pants (Fred had a date with that situation the previous year).

“This is what we’re going to do,” I continued. “I can tell by the way Avery’s pointing that her base is going to be that pine tree out yonder. Dumb idea, though. Needles are a right pain in the arse—well, a pain anywhere really. I got one stuck in my arm after climbing that thing on a dare two winters ago. Madam Bones hates me.”

“Can we get on with this? My toes are freezing.” Harvey Gum-Chewer was chewing his gum at me. His red knitted cap didn’t match the blue scarf around his neck.

“Shut up, toe rag,” Lily snapped. “This is important. It means their base could be used against them and a lot of the ones who run right from it after staying there a while might be weaker.” She rolled her eyes. “As if it isn’t obvious.”

I couldn’t have been prouder.

“That’s right,” I said, thankful something could be taken from the ramble I went on. “Anyway, aim for the chest. There’s a lot of area there since it’s the torso—or, well, if it’s Mary—and it’s the easiest to hit since people can duck their heads or jump up.” I went on about tactics, about aerodynamics, and about how Meta was a bitch so everyone should throw snow at her because I said so.

Everyone agreed rather quickly. What a happy Captain I was.

I waited for Avery to be done with her pep talk, my eyes wandering around my own team between Abigail looking longingly toward Fred (I wondered how Kay Davies felt about the whole ordeal) and Wesley looking at my sister with eyes I didn’t appreciate. If he wasn’t on my team I would have hexed him.


I shot a jelly-legs at him. Lily flipped me off.

Epic couldn’t begin to describe the snowball fight, especially since Bink broke the rules right away and shoved snow down my pants. Yes, it was cold and yes, I had to turn around and point my wand downward to fix the cold sensation, but the rest of my team charged and Nia was on the ground screaming about her hair.

I ran for it, shoes slowing my rush against the snow. Bugger on the snow! I scooped up a ball of it, pounding it in my palm, and ran for Avery. Bink was trying to get snow down Fred’s pants. He was such a good listener. Avery, however, was perched next to her base (probably getting attacked by pine needles). She looked at me, cocking a pompous brow.

“Who do you think you are, Potter?” she called, laughing a bit. “Think you can just take out the Captain?” I saw Wesley run with his wand out in an attempt to get Albus.

“No, I don’t.” I smirked.


“Because I’m the Captain.” I rushed toward her, grabbing her gloved hands and pulling her away from the tree. I found my wand, twisting it in my fingers, and snow went flying at her. It came from the top of the tree, falling down on her shoulders.

She spit it at me. “James!”

I laughed, dodging a punch while she wiped it off. Oh, snarky James Potter! Taking out the other team’s Captain with wit and snow! Rejoice, team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team! She managed to get a punch in and I tripped.

Snow went up my nose. “Woman!” I shouted, pulling her arm so she landed beside me. Avery’s hair was soaked. I felt a snowball wiz past my cheek. Fred laughed from nearby. Apparently Bink let him live.

I grabbed snow and stuffed it in her face. In return, my face was planted firmly in a pile nearby. It was cold and uncomfortable and I grabbed for Meta’s legs as she chased after Hugo. Laughing felt nice.

“Man,” Fred said, breathing in and flopping next to me. “Abigail is good at this game.”

“Pisses you off, doesn’t it?” I said.

“Actually, yes.”

“Pisses you off my team is better than yours,” I said with a chuckle. “Sorry, Freddie, mate, but I have the good genes. I have the team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team genes. So bugger off.”

For that, I got snow down my pants again.

He ran off after Hugo (why was he being attacked so much?) and I was left panting next to Avery. She reached her foot out and touched her own base. The pine tree was absent of snow.

“Do you like snow?” I asked, fishing it out of my pants.

“Not really,” she replied. “It’s cold and wet.”

“Me either.” I paused. “Except when I’m not in it. I love it when I’m not in it. I’m about done with this snowball fight. Let’s just call it a win for team James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and head inside for lunch.”

Avery made a disgruntled noise. “A win for you? Harvey has been pinned against the tree over there and Nia and Elizabeth cornered Lily. Even Paloma can’t save you now.”

“I’m going to show you who is saving who!” I wrenched her away from the tree again, pulling on the fabric of her cloak and she landed on top of me. Then I shoved snow in her face and down her shirt and in her hair. “Now who’s winning? Huh, Aves?” More snow to her nose and chin and neck. She smelled like candy. “Huh? Huh?”

“I’m going to hex you!” she shouted, pinning my arms back behind my head.

I stared. Well, bollocks.

Avery stopped, her hair stringing into my eyes. “We should probably just go back in. I’m hungry. Snow sucks.” She hopped off, but couldn’t look awkward for too long because Bink came out of nowhere with a huge chunk of snow and nailed her in the torso.

“Point!” I cried. “Bleeding point right there! Back to base! Retreat before she gets up!” I rushed the other way, gathering my team behind large snow walls made by Wesley.

It was like a password-only fortress similar to Fort Ridiculously Brilliant and Super Wicked but not nearly as cool. There weren’t blankets and fire involved. And it was cold. But other than those things, it was a rather wicked base. My minions gathered around me.

“When’s lunch?” asked Harvey. He was turning out to be a letdown in terms of team spirit. I wanted to Emerson-punch him.

“When we declare victory. Which will be very soon. That was the initial run and this time it’s the strike out. We’re done taking they’re rubbish and it’s over. So let’s deliver the knock-out Emerson-punch!”

“What?” asked Lily.

“Never mind. Just punch them like you would Emerson.”

“I thought we were throwing snow,” said Harvey.

“You’re fired,” I said. “Everyone else ready? Charge!” I jumped out from behind the fort, only to receive a snowball to the face. It was probably from Avery. She looked rather sultry nearby. I flipped her off and my team charged.

For a bit, I watched as they delivered knock-out snowballs to Nia’s hair and Elizabeth and all the other poor sods on Avery’s team. Fred was still running around like Grandma Weasley’s chicken when we cut its head off during summer break one year (it grew back) and Abigail was trying to corner him. Her boots kept getting stuck in the snow. Meta kept dodging snowballs. I knew I shouldn’t have taught her so much in order to be a good Seeker. Fault also rested on the shoulders of Dara Wood. It would always be her fault.

Instead of stuffing me like a turkey with snow, Avery stood beside me to watch the action. “Should we let them fight it out?”

“It would be the dignified thing to do,” I replied. My wand was tight in my hands. I sent snow flying at her back, knocking her down flat on her face. “But since when have I ever done the dignified thing? I can’t think of a time so I’ll just say never. This is for Victoria! And the land of Oz! And the Minister—no, I take that one back. The Minister can handle his own snowball fights. Instead, this one is for Wesley since he’s going to end up in St. Mungo’s soon!” More and more snow went piling on her until I felt fingers wrap around my ankle and suddenly there was snow up my nose again. I sneezed.

How unpleasant.

I wrestled her down, laughing and shoving snow everywhere. What a game! How could I let the minions have all the fun?

Granted, the snow down the pants was getting less and less funny every time.

I heard screaming in the distance and cocked my head. Everyone was still engaged in battle but Meta and Bink were yelling. Meta threw a large snowball. It was a nice one. I mentally gave Avery’s team a point for that one.

“This is bollocks! I’m sick of it!” Meta cried.

I stood up, dusting the white off my dark pants and looked at them. “Should we go inside then? Is it time for lunch? Aves, we might have made this too competitive.”

Bink threw snow back—hard. I raised a brow. “It was your idea!”

“It was not! It was never—eugh, I can’t stand you! This was never going to work. Right from the start!” she said.

“Hey, come on you two,” I said loudly. “You’re teammates. Get along for the game. Let’s head inside and get a bite to eat. You’re dehydrated.” I put my hand on Avery’s shoulder. “You ready?”

Apparently, Bink was not ready. “I am so sick of all this. You make me crazy, woman! You were always—you’re so obvious about it too! You wanted this. You wanted it to get to this.”

“I’m sick of this—and of you!” Meta said.

“Like you had anyone to tell.”

“Like anyone would have believed you!”

Bink threw another ball of snow. “You’re a horrible person!”

“You’re a bad snogger!” Meta retorted.

“Wait,” I said.

“This is over, Bink,” she said. “It never even really started. You can keep your three and a half months and just stick them where Fred stuck that snow—real mature.” She flipped him off. “I’m done with this.”

Bink stood there. “Good! Good, because I am too. I couldn’t take another moment of your shit.” He puffed out his chest.

Meta looked around, a devious smirk on her face. “Just so you know, it’s not that common and it doesn’t happen to every guy.” With that, she turned on heel and stormed off toward the castle. Everyone was staring.

“I—oh, fuck off, McLaggen!” Bink had his fists balled at his sides and marched off toward the Quidditch pitch, kicking snow out in front of him.

I stood. I stared. I was vaguely aware my jaw was lopsided. My toes were soft and numb.

“Our team is falling to shit!” I cried. “A big pile of shitty shit. What am I supposed to do here?”

Lily was in front of me. She had been waving her hand back and forth for several minutes. We sat on the marble staircase after I panicked and ran for it, realizing so many things in one blow. She put a hand on my forehead. Crinkled her nose—no fever. I wasn’t ill, just dumbstruck.

“Okay, here’s the break down,” I continued. “It’s shit because Wesley fancies my baby sister.” She smacked me, but I continued. “It’s shit that Freddie is fighting with Abigail. It’s throwing off his game. Shit that Avery is fraternizing with enemy Edwards sworn to throw me off my power thrown. Shit because Meta and Bink broke the fucking Code and—what the hell? Three and a half months? Behind my back for three and a half months.” The breaths I took were ragged and uneasy. “Should I have seen this coming? Obvious?”

“None of us knew,” Lily said. “They hid it well.”

“And this is why Bink has been a complete twat the whole term. Ah—why he hasn’t said anything about hating not getting laid—the son of a bitch has been getting laid the whole time. Eugh, by McLaggen! This is just ridiculous!” I slammed my fists on the stairs. It hurt pretty bad.

“James, this isn’t your fault. Calm down.”

“It is my fault! I’m the captain. Everything is my fault.” I finally let my heart slow down. “This is going to ruin the team. Breaking the Quidditch Code is going to ruin everything.”

A/N: I want to thank everyone for the continued support. Lately things have been SUPER hectic for me, but I wanted to get this chapter out before the holiday closure.

I hope you all enjoyed it :) And thanks, SpringTime! Some of the rest of you figured it out over time, which was very fun!

Favorite quotes? Who would you date: James, Bink, or Fred? Or if you're a guy, Avery, Paloma, or Meta?

Happy Holidays!

Chapter 19: Picking Bones
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This chapter is for lokita95hp for making my brain work from the review!

For most of the rest of the afternoon, I stayed away from the castle. Lily and I went for a walk while I vented and threw snowballs at unsuspecting bushes. I couldn’t help it—I still couldn’t believe it. Bink and Meta’s fight was still fresh in my mind. My brain was swimming from all the conversations I had with my fellow Chaser the entire term. Not wanting to get the doctor getup. Disappearing frequently. Remedial Transfig my arse! That essay wasn’t even started—finishing it, yeah right.

I felt dramatically betrayed. Lily told me to stop being such a drama queen, but I couldn’t help it. My best mate, lying to me about some McLaggen that pants’ed me in the Entrance Hall while I was trying to get my snog on.

“You should go lie down,” Lily said, placing her hand on my shoulder.

“What if Bink is there?”

“Then talk to him. You’re going to have to eventually.”

I made a noise that sounded like a cross between a groan and a wonky giraffe. “All right, fine. I just don’t want to fight about it. I haven’t thought about what would happen if someone actually breaks the Code.”

“It’s almost break, James.” Lily pulled open the castle doors and shoved me inside. “Tell him you’re going to think about this over break. You have plenty of time. Al and I can help you—so can Avery. You have to do something. People can’t just go around breaking the Code.”

“Still have no idea how you know so much about the damn Code,” I mumbled. “You’re right, though. I have it for a reason. There’s a reason I didn’t go for Paloma—besides Al I mean. Merlin, and all this time too. Yes, something has to happen.”

She gave me a swift pat on the back. “I’m off to dinner. Good luck.”

I wrinkled my nose. “Abandoner,” I said with a small laugh and continued upstairs.

The common room was quiet when I entered. Most Gryffindors had been outside for the blow-up and they were discussing it in hushed voices. Of course they didn’t know about the Code, only about this hidden relationship. A few third years swore up and down they saw the pair snogging in the owlry. I thought Bink had better taste than that. No one from the team was there. Even Emerson wasn’t around to poke his nose where it didn’t belong. He was probably hiding behind a sofa or something.

I took a deep breath, completely unprepared for what was about to happen. Fred and Bink were both inside. Bink was tearing pieces of parchment to shreds and Fred was playing with Victoria on his own bed. Neither was speaking.

“Hey,” I said quietly.

“Hi,” said Fred.

“So let’s talk about this.” I sat down and patted Victoria on her pink pygmy-puff head.

“Don’t really want to,” Bink muttered.

“Already tried.” Fred shrugged.

“Look, we have to get this shit out in the open.” I pressed down on the bed so Victoria bounced up and down a little. “I think I deserve that considering I didn’t know about it for the last three months. Just saying.”

“Quit thinking about yourself for a minute, Potter.” Bink ripped his hangings closed. “I just broke up with my girlfriend.”

My last name stung coming from him. My face got hot. “Look, mate, I realize that. But you can’t just shut yourself up in there. Yeah, I feel bad for you. You and…Meta…broke up. In front of everyone. But look here, you kept it from your best mates. You lied to us. For three months. You broke the Code. And now we’re going to talk about it.”

“Leave it to you to think about Quidditch.” Bink’s voice was gruff from behind the curtain.

“Leave it to—are you serious? I’m your captain. Yeah, I’m your mate, but I have to think about everything all at once. Captain isn’t a popularity contest.” My voice was met with silence, so I took another breath. Fred was staring at the sheets. “Bink, quit being a tosser and let’s talk about this. What even happened between you two?” I was trying to be a cross between best mate and captain. I couldn’t fall back into a comfortable lull, but at the same time I had to stay strong. I had to hold my ground. These were team rules he was breaking and if it was Paloma or Wesley or Avery I’d do the same. That, and for the sake of my best mate, I just wanted to know what happened.

“Shut up, Potter. I don’t want to talk about it.”

“Will you stop calling me that—since when do you call me Potter?” My voice rose with my temper. I pulled back his curtains. Bink flipped me off. “What’s bleeding wrong with you? You’ve been a right pain in my arse for weeks now. Lying about finishing essays and getting sick at Halloween—do you really think I’m just going to get a pint of ice cream and tell you everything is going to be okay? It’s not, mate.”

Bink closed his hangings again. “Sod off.”

I looked at Fred, but it didn’t seem as if he wanted to get into it. “Son of a bitch, Bink! What the fuck happened with Meta?”

“James,” whispered Fred. “Maybe you shouldn’t prod now. Maybe you should give him some time.”

I groaned and fell back onto the bed. I sounded like the bad guy. How did I end up being the bad guy? I shut my mouth. Being sensitive was hard for a bloke that was as manly and macho as I was. I just wanted to be a good mate. And a good captain to my team.

“How did it go?” Avery sat beside me in the common room, both of us facing the snowcovered grounds of Hogwarts. I enjoyed that window. “Did you get to talk to Bink?”

“I talked to him. For all of ten seconds. He didn’t want to talk.”

“I’m not surprised. Questioning right after he broke up with his girlfriend. That has to be hard.”

“Yeah, of course,” I said quietly. “It’s definitely hard for him. He just wants to put off a lecture. Probably hopes I’ll forget.”

Avery put an arm around my shoulder. “He’ll talk, don’t worry.”

“Dara Wood never told me about this rubbish,” I mumbled. “She never told me about people breaking the Code all over the place—about what I’m supposed to do when they go rogue on me and start calling me Potter.”

“Bink called you that?”

“Sounded so weird,” I said. “I mean, when we’re joking around it’s one thing. When it sounds like Edwards or Clint Lawson, it’s completely different. I didn’t know what to do.” Stupid Clint Lawson and his making me speechless and his ugly snouty face. I could kick it.

“Dara didn’t say it would be easy,” Avery said. “She said it would be hard, but she thought you could handle it and Meta couldn’t. I think you can handle it.”

“I hate this,” I said in a whiney voice. Then I coughed and regained my manliness. “It just makes me so mad. I haven’t been mad at Bink in…well, I can’t remember how long it’s been. A while anyway. Blimey, I am the worst captain ever.”

“Just take care of what you need to now and then don’t worry about it when you’re in Italy. We’re going to have a great time.”

We sat in silence for a while and I listened to the whispers behind us. Some people said the team was falling apart. Others said they wanted to try out after Bink and Meta took each other out. Some were talking about flobberworms. I thought Darwinism got rid of those Puffers already. Apparently not.

“You’re right,” I said suddenly. “You’re absolutely right. How are you always right? I have to take care of this. If it was anyone else I would have already been down their throat. How do I know the line between best mate and captain?”

“You can be sensitive, but you have to enforce the rules. You can’t treat him differently. He knew that once you were made captain. He can’t take advantage of that.”

I stood up. “Right again, Aves. Right again. I have to do this.” I marched upstairs and opened the door. Fred had put Victoria back and was now reading a magazine on his own bed. Bink’s hangings were still closed. Emerson was still gone, probably out bird watching or doing something equally as mind-numbing. “All right, Legace. If you want to play games like this, that’s fine.”

“James, give it a rest,” Fred said, irritated.

I ignored him. “I am your captain. I can’t treat you any different just because you’re my best mate,” I said. “I understand why you’re upset, but I don’t really because you won’t tell me any of your side of the story other than the craziness I saw down on the snow today. Over break I’m going to come up with your punishment for breaking the Code.”

“Oh, fuck the Code!” Bink yelled, ripping back his hangings. “Fuck the fucking Code and go to hell, Potter!”

“Go to—What has gotten into you, man? I’m trying to do my duty here. I’m trying to be a good leader.”

“Fuck off,” Bink said. His blond hair was sticking out at weird angles and his pale face was flushed all sorts of reds. “I knew you’d react like this—like the whole world is ending just because of the fucking Code. Fuck off, Potter.”

“The world is not—son of a bitch. If you and McLaggen can get your heads out of your asses between now and after break that is great. I am not having some stupid lover’s quarrel tear my Quidditch team apart.”

“I said fuck off!” He threw a large shoe at me. Bink had big feet. It clocked me in the side of the head.

That was when I dove at him, pushing the other curtains aside and pushing him back onto the bed. “I will not! This is insane! You’re acting ridiculous!” Fred was trying to pull me off and I struggled with Bink’s shirt. “I have to take care of this now.”

“James, get the fuck off, mate,” Fred said, finally tearing me away and throwing me onto my own bed. “Leave him alone. He doesn’t want to talk about it. He doesn’t want to hear your Quidditch shit right now.”

I stared at them both. “Oh, sure. Bleeding take his side. What am I supposed to do?”

“Be a friend!” Fred said.

“Oh, but if it was anyone else, you would tell me, be a fucking Captain, Potter, and get a pair.” I left, slamming the door behind me. Avery was still by the window.

“How did it go?” she asked.

“How do you think it went? How did you think that was even a good idea? What a disaster. Now both of them hate me. I bleeding hate both of them. Fuck them. I’ll get new Chasers—hey, second year! You want to be a Chaser? I have spots open. Spots for best mate too. You interested?” The boy went green and scrambled for the stairs. Bugger on him.

I felt like I was going crazy, shaking all over and so mad. I hadn’t been that mad in so long. I felt the distance, the pressure of everything. Avery put her hand on my thigh. “James,” she said, “it’s going to be fine.”

“Potter.” Meta was looking quite a bit better than earlier, but her face was still in the same sour expression.

“McLaggen, what do you think you’re pulling here?” I said, jumping to my feet. “Breaking the Code for three months? Are you insane? Is that why you’ve been so much of a bitch? And you wanted to be Captain.”

“That’s just special for you,” she said. “Maybe if I was made captain I would have gotten rid of the Code ages ago.”

“And then something like this would have torn apart your fucking team!” I shouted. I didn’t care people were staring. Avery tugged at my pants leg. “Just be ready for whatever it is I cook up when you get back from break.” I had to take charge. I was losing my authority by the second.

“Piss off, Potter. Go find some first years to boss around.” She walked right out of the common room.

Too many eyes were on me. Nia flipped me off from the couches. What the fuck did I do to her? I sank back down.

“James, calm down,” Avery said. “You’re going to be fighting with your whole team soon if you don’t.”

“Where are Wes and Paloma? Bring them over here. I have a bone to pick with them.”

She smiled. “Don’t drag Wesley into this. He’s going to Italy too, remember?”

“I hate this.”

“Paloma is talking to Al.” Avery smiled, bending her neck slightly to see behind me. “You can be happy about that.”

“Maybe Al is her cover because she is secretly dating Wesley and breaking the Code. I hate being the Captain. I’m going to just quit. Meta would love that. Maybe Edwards wants the post. Merlin knows he wants anything and everything better than me. I should just make him the captain and see how Bink Legace likes that. Ten points for being a twat.”

“We should probably get you packed to leave tomorrow.”

“I don’t want to go back up there.”

“I’ll come with you.”

“I hate them, you know.”

She took my hand. “You don’t hate them. They’re your best mates. We’ll talk about it later, okay? For right now let’s just get some clothes into some bags so you can leave after your meeting tomorrow.”

“I have a meeting?”

“With Professor Longbottom. James, you need a vacation.”

I groaned. “Yes, I suppose I do.” Once again, Avery was right. My team was falling apart around me and I was at the center of the apocalypse.

I had no idea packing for a vacation was going to be as hard as it was. For one, how many pairs of pants was I supposed to bring? T-shirts? A sweater for those cold Italian nights? Were there even cold Italian nights? A scarf to wrap Victoria in? Shorts? What the heck should I pack? I grabbed a few books for light reading (nothing academic even though I had to work on a few essays over break). My bag was overflowing thanks to Avery who thought I should be prepared just in case. Just in case of a hurricane and a flood along with a drought, heat wave, and ice storm apparently.

Bink stayed on his bed with his hangings closed. Fred closed his own as well.

I made enemies. Emerson noticed this immediately when he entered. It was as if he could feed off the negative energy. He took a deep, relaxing breath.

“How are you today, Potter?”

I flipped him off and Avery shot me a look. “Fine, thanks. Not in the mood for any salad today.” I snickered at myself. I was too funny sometimes. Avery just shot me another look.

“Erm, okay. How is your Quidditch team doing? Word around the common room is things aren’t looking too good. Too bad, really. I know Dara Wood spoke to me at the end of last season about captains. I have to say I think she made the wrong choice. Meta McLaggen seems like a much more able candidate.”

“I have so many things I want to say to you,” I snapped. “I’m not going to, though. I’m just not. I’m going to hate you internally and let Avery see how much of a pile of douchery you are. A huge, sodding pile. Do you hear me? Huge pile.”

“Hope your friends forgive you,” Emerson said lightly. “I don’t think they will. You have a bit of a temper on you. I don’t blame you, though. I’d have a temper too if I wasn’t getting any action from any girls.”

“Emerson, I think you need to mind your own business,” Avery said flatly. “It doesn’t concern you what the Quidditch team does. James doesn’t discuss Head Boy shit with you. Not really sure what there would be to discuss.”

He stared, open-mouthed with a bit of spittle on his lip. Then he went right to his bed and closed the hangings tight. What a trend. Hmm, Head Boyery following the Quidditch players. Who knew?

I let out a loud sigh and turned to Avery, my eyes doing all the explaining that this situation sucked more than need be. If that Emerson conversation would have happened back in the ye ole days of Bink and Fred being my mates, one of them would have stuck up for me at some point in there. Thrown a shoe at Twitwards or something. I just let him talk to me like that. Like I let Clint Lawson tell me off. What right did he have? What bleeding right?

“You’re packed then, James,” Avery said quietly. “Try and get some sleep, will you?”

I nodded. She left the room, closing the door with a soft click behind her and suddenly I was in a large, dimly lit dormitory with four beds, three of which had their hangings closed tight. I took my time taking off my shoes and socks, discarding them in the same pile as all the other dirty clothes in the room. They mixed in with Bink’s and Fred’s. I wondered if they would torch my socks. More than likely the torchery would ensue once I left for Italy and they had freedom at last, though I figured Fred was going home to his family for break. Bink usually stayed because holidays with the Legace’s meant too many people and too much arguing over the quality of the fruit cake. Bink never ate the fruit cake, so he never knew.

I closed my own hangings, but pulled Victoria up so I had a bit of company in my dim wandlit bed. She hummed softly and scooted across the blanket.

What a mess all this was. I kept thinking it. I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t help but do every what-if scenario, including Meta and Bink trying to off each other in the middle of one of our matches, causing me to lose. I didn’t lose. I was the captain. Clint Lawson would have a field day making me speechless over that piece of trivia—losing, Potter? What are you, losing now? You scrawny loser. He would probably call me a string bean like Emerson.

I was no string bean. I was a powerful, manly bean of justice!

Victoria fell asleep before I did. I just kept playing scenes over and over in my head. Fred and Bink forming their own Quidditch alliance. A Potter mutiny. Emerson replacing me as Captain. Bink refusing to be friends again. Meta being a bitch. Well, you know.

Avery being disappointed. My parents being disappointed. Dad being right.

The meeting with Longbottom was brief the following morning. He wanted to touch base with me. I could see a glint in his knowing eyes. He knew something was wrong with me. He could see it written all over my face, but that didn’t mean I had to say anything even after he asked me many times. I figured none of my relatives ever went through anything like that with any authority figure, so I proceeded to lie and tell him nothing was wrong in order to be very original. Take that, relatives!

Longbottom let me go after explaining he was there for me if I needed anything.

I needed him to beat some sense into Bink, but I figured that was illegal so I thought it unwise to ask.

Still, though.

By the time lunch rolled around I was shuffling my feet everywhere I went. My head was droopy. I wasn’t used to a droopy head and it was relatively heavy for my taste. Avery was sitting cheerfully at the Gryffindor table with toast and jam and other lovely food I wasn’t in the mood to eat.

Here I was, Captain James Potter, lonely and depressed and without Chasers. Or best mates.

“Ready for Italy?” Avery said, clearly excited. And she should have been. She wasn’t captain.

“Yeah,” I mumbled. Which food was the most depressing? Sandwich spread looked depressing, right? It was all mashed up and beaten and broken. Like me.

“Give it a rest, come on.” She put a hand on my back and put two sandwiches onto my plate. “We’re going to another country with your family. It’s going to be fun, okay?”

“I’m leaving on such a bad note.”

“With Bink and Fred. No one else.”

“Well, with Meta too.”

Avery shot me a look.

“Okay, okay. But with Nia. She flipped me off yesterday. And with Elizabeth then probably too, though I never know what I do to these girls. I wonder if Mary still thinks I’m a hip, fly bloke.”

“Not anymore if you say stuff like that.” She laughed as Lily and Wesley joined us. “It’s going to be fine. You’re not leaving Wesley on a bad note.”

“Yes, I am. I’m going to hex the grades out of him over break if he even thinks about my sister.” I narrowed my eyes at innocent Wesley Jordan with his hair and his eyes and his lunch of sorts. “Yes, I know, Lily. Shut up, James.” I rolled my eyes. “And with Paloma—I don’t know, but I just know we’re in a fight.”

Wesley eyed me. “You’re really not okay, are you?”

“No. No, I’m not.”

Avery forced me to eat some food, but I hid most of it under my napkin. I felt ill, especially when Fred sat down at the end of the table with Roxanne and Hugo, and Bink sank into a seat beside Paloma. Fred didn’t seem to be conversing with Bink, so that made me feel slightly better, but neither were speaking to me.

I tried to think of Italy, but my insides were empty. Not because of lack of food.

Being at the Hogsmeade train station made me feel slightly better—at least I didn’t have to look at everyone or hear the whispers about my tangled team. It was cold, so I was bundled against the snow flurries and Avery laughed at the fact that she couldn’t see my mouth over my big scarlet scarf.

We picked a large compartment near the back where Avery, Lily, Al, Wesley, Rose, and I could fit comfortably. Immediately Al launched into a book, kicking his feet up onto Rose’s lap (she was catching up on Charms—seriously, Rosie? You’d never make it in Quidditch with that academic attitude). Wesley fell asleep across the floor in front of us, using his bunched up cloak as a pillow. Lily stopped me from drawing on him.

“We have a couple weeks away now so we can just relax and leave school out of it.” Avery smiled. She had most of the seat to herself now that Wesley was on the ground and I was far off glaring out the window, so she sprawled out.

I was surprised to see her wearing a black dress under her robes. It was visible since the robes were falling back onto the seat and floor. The dress should have gone below her knees, very classy, but because of the way her legs extended toward me I could see a snippet of thigh and holy shit why was she wearing that?

If she didn’t pull those straps up soon someone else would be looking. I couldn’t believe they just fell down her shoulders like that. Sure, as of then I was the only one looking. I tried to look away—to Albus. To Lily. Her shoulders had little freckles.

Her legs looked soft and light and the way the dress sat against her body would surely make Albus look over in curiosity. Avery’s hair fell against the seat. It was getting long. I thought she last had it cut over the summer. It curled in places.

I shook myself out of it. She should be wearing something warm. She probably wanted to impress my folks since they had me invite her to Italy. She looked impressive.

And yet I was still looking. I ripped my eyes away, wondering about what Al thought of all this. Or what Wesley was thinking, that perverted sod. I knew he was staring. I almost jelly-legs’ed him right then and there. His snoring stopped me. For now.

I grabbed a book from Al’s bag. It was for sixth year Transfiguration. Son of a—eugh. I threw it back at him. “What are you on about having school books with you?”

“I have three essays due for that class when we get back.” He narrowed his eyes strangely, sliding the book back in its place.

I made a disgruntled noise. “Yeah, me too, but I’m not going to do them on vacation. Crazy brother of mine. Who knows, maybe Paloma likes that.”

“James!” he hissed.

“Oh, geez,” I said, sounding slightly aloof. “Everyone knows. It’s not like you’re hiding that you fancy her.”

“It’s true,” Lily said, smiling a little too bright. Al threw a quill at her. It hit Wesley.

“I don’t care,” Al said. “Don’t bring it up anymore. I don’t want Mum and Dad questioning me about girls.”

“Is that why you brought Rose? To make it look like you’ll never get a girl?” Lily chuckled.

I half-expected that to come out of my mouth, but she beat me to the punch. I had never been so proud.

“You’re so funny. Wait until I start the vacation pranks. You’re first.”

Lily kicked him from across the compartment. She narrowly missed Wesley’s head. “Just try it. I have plans for you, big brother. Big plans, ironically enough.”

“Ah, sibling love.” Rose smiled warmly from behind her book.

“You mean you don’t love Hugo the way I love Lily and James?” Al chuckled.

“If by love you mean push his head into the toilet, then yes, of course.”

“Rosey, why don’t you have holiday plans with a boy over break?” I asked, wanting to meddle in more business that wasn’t my own. “Have you taken a fancy to any of the Hogwartian boys? How about dear Wesley here?” Lily punched me in the shoulder.

“Sorry, James, I’ve taken a fancy to blonds.” She laughed and I wondered if she was serious or kidding. That was the thing about being the girl that came from Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron. She had a big heart, but was smart enough to hide it. Blast those two getting married! Uncle Ron would hear about my dismay. While I bitched about the Slytherins. He loved that.

Talking Slytherin about the Slytherins!

Oh, I was just plain good.

Three hours later the mood had changed dramatically in the compartment. Wesley was awake and playing Wizard Chess against the black pieces. He was losing. Geez, first years were better than him. Lily and Rose were both passed out, their heads placed delicately on Al’s shoulders (Lily was drooling though and I made a mental note to tease her about it later). Al was snoring, which Wesley kept laughing at.

Avery slept on the seat beside me, her head in my lap as I looked out the window. It was dark by then and every so often I saw a few lights off in the distance, but not much. I stared down at Avery for a moment, her hair falling this way and that over my legs and onto the seat. Her arm was draped over her head and the other was tucked gently under her cheek. The dress rode up to her thighs. What a view Wesley must have been getting from the floor. I checked to see where his eyes were.

She looked really peaceful, so I tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. Her lips pressed together. They were slightly chapped and the skin around her eyes was dry. She complained earlier about leaving the lotion back in her room.

I must have watched her sleep for ages.

When I looked out the window the lights of London were brightening the compartment so I could see the drool now making a puddle on Al’s shirt.

Avery sniffled. I smiled.

A/N: Hey everyone! I hope you enjoyed the chapter before Winter Break for dear James. How was everyone's holidays and new year? Have fun ringing in 2010? This year is going to be SO exciting for everyone, including James haha. I graduate from college this year! Whoohoo!

Anyway, thanks to everyone for the wonderful reviews. I've been behind on writing lately because of school, being sick (ick), and the start of my new blog (the link will be put on my author page if you're curious). I appreciate all the wonderful support everyone has given me.

What do you think is going to happen in Italy? Any theories?

Chapter 20: The Potter Family Extravaganza of Lurvv
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I'm going to dedicate this chapter to HPfanlizy45 for writing a snippet about my blog
in her review. Also to MagicalMess for reading everything else I have on my
site while waiting for a new chapter of H&S. Lastly, this goes to Haley for the request
she made in her review. It would be my honor.

The platform was bright when we shuffled off the train, Avery yawning with her arm draped around my shoulders. Al was carrying Lily over his shoulder. She was only big and tough when she was awake, that baby sister of mine.

I managed to round up our bags and pile them on a trolley (Al put Lily on top of one of the bags and she kicked him in her sleep) and we plopped down on a pair of benches to wait for the ‘rents. Avery grabbed a coffee off a nearby cart and gave half to Rosey.

Everyone else made their way drearily around the platform and back through the barrier into King’s Cross. A few stragglers chatted with other students and pairs of parents compared sweater sizes before leaving. I wondered what was keeping Mum and Dad. Dad usually wasn’t one to be late to pick up his kids. Well, the ones he got along with anyway and Albus was ready to take over the family business of killing all things evil (meaning Scorpius Malfoy) so I could only assume something was wrong and that was why Dad wasn’t here.

“There they are—I told you, Harry!” Mum’s face appeared from around the corner. She was smiling and she looked flushed and out of breath. “We’re late. I knew we would be—of course, let’s stop for food on the way.” She turned and gave my out-of-sight father a stern glare. I had seen that same glare before from many women, my sister and grandma included. Bugger on the Weasley glare. At least with Lily we detached the name.

Before I could contemplate any more on the theory of the Weasley glare, Mum roped me into a hug with Albus and Lily, my cheek pressed against Al’s glasses. Was I bleeding? Did that just cut me? Obviously, Lily was nice and awake by that time and whining about being hungry.

“Oh, it’s so good to finally see you kids again,” Mum said, wrapping me in yet another hug. I didn’t care since the only people seeing were my mundane siblings, Avery, and Rose.

I stopped. Oh, bugger. Wesley was here. I slid away from the hug and smiled warmly. Wesley shot me a look that clearly stated, “Mamma’s Boy.” I nearly growled at him in response.

So what if I was? If I mentioned anything to the rest of the school about it I would have him doing laps until his Lily-fancying legs fell off. And he knew it.

“Are we all ready then?” In all the commotion Dad had taken the reins of the trolley and was moving toward the barrier. Lily ran up and hugged him from behind.

I shifted and followed. Let the Potter awkwardness ensue.

Most of the group slept on the car ride home, but once we were back everyone seemed to be wide awake. I got out of the car, offering Avery a hand, and looked up at my childhood home. It was three stories with brick and white trim around the windows. Mum told me she picked that out. The garden was surrounded by a low stone wall, but most of it was covered by a thick sheet of snow my feet sank into with each step. I remembered shin bruises from that wall. Once I pushed Albus and he flipped over it backwards and there was blood everywhere. I told Mum the dog did it. Grounded from Quidditch. What horrific memories.

Inside was warm and there was a fire going in the living room. That was the only light and Lily flopped right onto the giant sofa with Rose, both curling up under brown afghan blankets to tell Mum about recent events. I almost wished we hadn’t already known Wesley because of his parents. I wanted Dad to spaz out over Lily inviting a boy over the holiday.

Bugger on that.

I helped Al lug the bags upstairs. I was allowed to keep my room for the night, Wes was to stay with Al, and Lily, Avery, and Rose were staying in the same room. Mum trusted us, but apparently it was an old habit from her mother. I never understood it. If she knew about Avery and me falling asleep in my bed all the time…

I thought about my dormitory with Bink and Fred and Twitwards. No. No, I wouldn’t think about them. It was time to relax. It was vacation. I set a stack of bags in Lily’s room (all our bedrooms were on the second floor and Mum and Dad’s was on the third) and peeked into my own. It looked unchanged.

There were Quidditch posters covering what seemed like every inch of the wall space. A large scarlet and gold-covered bed was in the center, flanked by nightstands covered in years of Quidditch Weekly. My old broom was in the corner, plus other Quidditch things from my travels around the league. Mum was too good of a hook up for tickets since she played for so long. Hats, shirts, replicas of throwback robes, figurines, etc. I had it all. Even photos of my friends tacked up from summers playing Quidditch in the back garden and breaking into abandoned houses.

“James! Are you coming down?” Mum sounded too much like Grandma Weasley when she yelled up the stairs. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

“Yea. Coming.” I closed the door with a sharp snap and joined the fam in the living room. Lily and Rose were still under the blankets (Mum now joined them) and Avery was curled in a rocking chair by the fireplace. Wesley was on the floor, stretched out, and Al handed Dad a hot chocolate. I sat at Avery’s feet like a cat.

“I’ve heard about Lily’s end of the term since I last got a letter from her,” said Mum, brushing a string of red hair from her face (it was insane how much her and Lily looked alike), “and I just got a letter from Albus yesterday.” She looked at me. “How are your grades, James?”

I nearly flushed. Like Wesley needed to hear this. I was his superior. “My grades are fine.” Academic of course.

“Professor Longbottom says you’ve been distracted.”

“Bleeding tattle-tale,” I muttered loud enough for Avery to hear. She kicked me lightly in the neck. “Well, you’d be distracted too if you found out your Seeker has been dating your Chaser for three months and they had it out during a snowball fight.”

I could see Dad’s cheerful Christmas face fade. Hey, Mum asked. It wasn’t my fault.

Who was I kidding? It was my fault. Just like it was my fault with Al.

“Meta and—Freddie?

“Worse,” I said. “Bink.”

Mum made a face. “Oh, sweetheart, that’s horrible. What are you going to do?” At least she was concerned with my captaining challenges.

“I tried talking. I ended up with a shoe to the head and tackling him so that didn’t work very well.”

Avery cleared her throat. “James is going to come up with consequences that fit over break so he has time to think them out instead of jumping to something horrible.” I was certain she was smiling. Aves to the rescue!

“Good idea,” Mum said. “You have plenty of time to think on it. Plenty of time out on the beach. Speaking of which,” she said, checking her watch. “I can’t believe what time it is. We could have gone faster on the highway.” She winked at Dad and I nearly threw up in my mouth. “We have to be up early tomorrow so you lot should head off to bed in a few. I know I’m tired.”

“Oh geez,” said Al. “Lily? Lily?” He shoved her with the tips of his fingers. “Bugger.” He lifted her up and carted her off upstairs (reminded me of when we were kids and we had to carry Lily around to get her not to tell on us. Like I was a bleeding pony), followed by a drowsy Rose and a laughing Wesley. Avery went to get cocoa and Mum went to show her where the mugs were. I knew Avery knew where the mugs were. She had been here a zillion times before, stayed the night and weeks and snuck in and out through my window when the ‘rents were awake reading downstairs.

“James.” Dad’s voice sounded weird and rough. He wasn’t making eye contact, but I looked up anyway. His hair was the same as it had always been—the same that my hair was at that very moment—a bloody mess. He wore a striped sweater vest and pressed gray pants. “I think we should probably chat.”

“About what?” Suddenly I felt cold. I was irritated again. Angry almost. He didn’t get it, did he? Every time we would chat it would end up the same way. I stormed into my room and slammed the door and he told me about the mistakes I was making. I wasn’t making a mistake. I was living my life.

“About what happened before you left. Do you even realize we haven’t talked since you left on the train?” He looked sad.

“Yeah. I know. Mum told me.”

“What do you think about that?”

“I think it’s bogus, but I don’t know what I would say anyway.” I shrugged, playing it off. I was good at that, but Dad saw right through me. I was glad Wesley wasn’t there. “What would I say, Dad? Hey, guess what? Meta’s meeting with scouts. We ended up picking up two amazing Beaters—one of which is Wesley. Fred keeps getting hurt at practice. Avery keeps—eugh. Nevermind. I don’t have anything non-Quidditch-related to talk about unless you want to get on the train of discussing my lack of Transfiguration skills. That is a sinking ship and a beaten horse.”

Dad stared down at me, his arms now folded in that dad-like-manner. “I just think you could be doing so much more, James. I know how much you love Quidditch. I love the sport too. But it’s only Quidditch for you. Don’t you have any other hobbies?”

“No,” I said sharply.

“Look, you can’t devote your entire life to Quidditch. What if you don’t make it professionally? What are you going to fall back on?”

I narrowed my eyes. Like that was even an option. “Then I’ll live on the streets and sell socks,” I muttered.

“Quit with the tone.” He looked frustrated. “I’m just trying to make sure you have a plan B. I want to make sure you have a life outside of Quidditch. I don’t want you to keep making this mistake.”

“I’m spending time with Al and Lily, okay? What more do you want?” I stood up. This was almost exactly the same as the start of our spat over the summer. He wanted me to have a life. I had one. I had an effing good one for that matter. Quidditch wasn’t a mistake. “The only other people I know either want to be mates with me because of Quidditch or they hate me because of it. Get off it, okay?” With that, I did my traditional storm-away-from-Dad by tossing Avery’s blanket back onto the rocking chair and stomping out of the living room into the hall.

I was surprised to see Avery out there with a mug of hot cocoa in her hands. She handed it to me with a soft smile and led me up the stairs. Her hand was warm on my back. Avery closed the door quietly behind her. I bet Mum would be frustrated she was in my room, but I never cared much. It was Avery after all.

“Are you okay?” She said this softly, sitting down on my bed and setting her own mug of cocoa on my bedside stand.

“I’m fine,” I said. I peeled off my shirt and tossed it into the hamper. Suddenly I felt naked in front of her and it was chilly in the house. Where the bleeding hell was the heat in this place? I needed a fireplace for my room. I was the eldest. Ridic.

There was a small mirror on the back of my door (something Mum let me have to make sure my hair was flat before going out to play) and I stared at myself. I didn’t look like a string bean. I looked manly. There were muscles. Sure, I didn’t have buff pecs or anything, but I was a Potter. There were ab muscles from being a Chaser though. I saw them under the freckles. Why in the name of the Holyhead Harpies was I checking myself out shirtless in the mirror with Avery on my bed?

“Are you sure you’re fine? You don’t seem fine to me.” She stood and put a hand on my bare shoulder. It was warm.

“Well, I’m a bad liar so I guess that’s expected.” I tried to shrug it off. It was quiet in my room except for some branches scratching against the siding outside. “I feel like all of this is all of a sudden. All this Bink and Meta stuff. Then I have to come home to Quidditch being the devil.”

“It’s not like that and you know it. Your dad supports you.”

“My dad lectures me.”

“He loves you.”

“He can love me right out the door,” I mumbled, though I didn’t mean it. Avery knew that. “I’m sorry.”


Truthfully, I was sorry to fight with my dad when she barely had half a dad to even talk to. I wondered why he hadn’t written recently. My stomached tightened at the thought of him bailing again. “Sorry for being such a whiner. I’m a Potter. We don’t whine.”

Avery chuckled. “James, you’re ridiculous, do you know that? And you can whine all you want. I’m here to listen. In turn you can listen to me complain about going on a date with Emerson.”

“I knew it was horrible!”

“Oh, shut up. It wasn’t that bad.”

“He ordered you salad!”

She shoved me onto the bed. “I was sort of surprised you didn’t follow me to keep tabs.” Avery didn’t make eye contact as she paced around my room, running her fingers along the posters of Arrows players scoring and the Keeper for the Tornadoes making a wicked save. He was my favorite. “Usually you cook up some elaborate scheme with Bink and Freddie to spy on me or Emerson. Well, anyone who has business you want to nose into.”

I laughed. “Why would I do that to you? It was a date.”

“I pointed out it wasn’t a date.” She narrowed her eyes and surveyed me.

I hated that look. It was one of a string of similar looks from people like my mum and Lily that I couldn’t quite prepare for. I tried not making eye contact. I think that made it worse.

“Funky bloke with a mustache and weird clothes?”

“Bugger on you!” I cried, tossing a pillow at her. It bounced off her front and landed on the dresser, knocking my figures of the Puddlemere Beaters onto the floor.

“James, you’re horrible!” Luckily, Avery was laughing. Her smile was so bright it lit up the room. Nevermind only having a couple candles in the corner lit. “How could you do that?”

“I had to make sure he didn’t try anything!” I said. “If you knew what he was capable of—the shit he says and expects to get away with—Aves, I can’t believe how many times I haven’t hexed him since you told me not to but he hasn’t stopped provoking me and one of these days I’m going to snap and just throttle Emerson Edwards.”

She narrowed her eyes at me. “I’m not mad at you. Just keep it in check, okay? You have too much Quidditch to worry about without adding detention to the mix. And he’ll do it. He’ll do it if you breathe.”

“I hate him.”

“I know.” Avery sat down next to me on the bed and put her head on my shoulder. Her hair tickled my torso. It was cold. “We have to be up early. We should probably head to sleep.” Her eyes were sad and knowing. I had no idea what that meant other than the obnoxiousness of having to get up stupidly early the next morning. Early and I did not get along.

“Early. Ew.” I stretched and visually searched the room for any sign of pajamas. Probably in the trunk.

“I guess I should get to Lily’s room.”

“Are you really going to sleep in there? I don’t think Lily and Rose expect you to seeing as you’ve stayed in there all of ten times since we’ve been mates.” I cocked a brow.

“Do you want me to stay in here?”

“Lock the door, Aves, let’s get some shut-eye.”

Why hello, five-thirty in the morning. It’s lovely to see you again.

Actually, I’m lying. Completely through my teeth. I hate your sodding guts almost as much as I hate Edwards. Almost. But you don’t try to have sex with my best mate. You do, however, sleep with her quite often so you’re on my list.

Today, you introduced yourself as Albus banging on the door. Avery hid under the bed in case it was Mum (I might be a Mamma’s boy but I was still her baby boy) and he came in flustered and annoyed.

“Mum woke me a half hour ago banging pots and pans around in the kitchen.” He paused, Potter male hair up and around his face. “We’re not even taking pots and pans and we’re eating there. What in blazes was she doing? I hate no idea. But get up before I get murdered for being the only one awake.”

“Are the girls up?” I asked, rubbing the sleep from my brown eyes.

“Lily and Rose aren’t up yet. They’d kill me if I went pounding on their doors.”

“And Avery?”

Albus looked left and right on the landing. “Mum and Dad aren’t out here.”

“She’s up.” I smiled. “We’ll be down in a few. Let me get reacquainted with five-thirty.”

Albus shrugged and left and I closed the door. I turned. “The shit is gone. You awake?”

“I’m under your bed. Of course I am. I think there’s something growing down here. Is this a sock, James?” Avery poked her head out and her hair was all over her face. I laughed.

“C’mon. You all packed?”

“I never got unpacked.” Avery stood up. She was wearing one of my long Tornadoes shirts with a pair of my baggy black shorts. “What do you think I should wear? Are we going for something nice for right when we get there or casual?”

I coughed to get the phlegm out of my throat. “Erm, I have no idea. There is snow on the ground.”

“Aren’t we Flooing to France?”

I coughed. “Er—yeah! Yeah. I just meant it’s pretty. Look how pretty it is—oh, here’s a shirt for me to wear. I found it. All by myself.” I grabbed the shirt quick and pulled it on. I felt warm and sweaty. “I’ll grab my trunk and we can head down.”

Avery stared. “Yeah, okay, crazy man.”

Mum was in the kitchen rushing back and forth throwing things in and out of bags. At one point I saw her throw a skillet into a suitcase and take it back out. Dad looked on with a cocked head. Albus was eating cereal with Wesley at the table. Mum nearly took the spoon right out of Wes’s hand.

Mum was always like this before we went on our Potter family vacations. I figured she got it from Grandma Weasley. She was hectic and crazy and everyone tried desperately to stay out of her way.

“James!” she cried.

Drat being the favorite.

“Yes, Mum?” I shot her my best little-boy smile. Fuck Wesley for snickering.

“Take out the trash before we go or it’ll smell horrible in here when we come back.” She handed me three bags. “And don’t use your wand—Muggles could drive by.”

“We live in the middle of nowhere!” I whined. I realized what I said. “I mean, I can’t wait to get a look at the beautiful countryside covered in a thick layer of fluffy white snow since I couldn’t see it last night when we arrived.” I grinned again, turning quickly and marching out the front door. It was better that way.

Well, it was better until I walked right into snow up to my shin. While I was wearing socks.

I screamed like a girl.

Like Emerson Edwards probably screamed.

My feet were soaked, but I continued to trudge through the snow until I reached the street, tossed the bags, and rushed back inside. “Son of a bitch!” I shouted, grabbing for a towel near the door.

“James Potter!”

The next one was a mental swear word as I peeked my head into the kitchen. “Yes, Mummy?”

“I don’t want to hear that come out of your mouth again.” Her face was flushed. I wondered how many more skillets went into our bags. “Why aren’t your shoes on? Honestly, James, we’re leaving soon. Harry, take care of your son.”

Dad looked at me.

I rolled my eyes and retreated to the living room. My trunk was there so I opened it and shuffled through random stuff like shirts and Victoria’s food. Her cage was next to it. Like I could leave Tory back at the castle with all of my enemies. I sighed. What a bunch of shit.

“James?” Albus poked his head in. “You okay?”

“Just a normal Potter family holiday.” I chuckled nervously. “At least we won’t have to share a hotel room with Mum and Dad.”

“And hear them snogging? Pass.” Albus smiled crookedly.

I gagged. “Al, did you have to?”

James Sirius!

“I really hate when she does this.” I hoisted myself up and returned to the kitchen. “Yes, Mum?” Fuck off, Wesley. Stop snickering. Laps for you.

“Make sure your sister is up.”

“She’s going to bite my head off.”

“Make sure.”

I shot Al a dangerous look and mounted the stairs. This was rubbish. I just had to wait until the packing was done and the suitcases were zipped and then Mum would stop being a nutcase. Lily was too much like her too. I did not want to knock on that girl’s door. Last time she tried to decapitate me with a hanger.

“Lils?” I said, knocking quietly. “Are you awake?”

“No, go away.”

“Lils, Mum sent me up here.”

“Go back down and tell her to sod off.”

“If she was here you wouldn’t be going to Italy.”

“Heard you swear earlier.”

I sighed. “Bugger. Lils, get up. Rosey? You awake?”

“Go away, James,” Rose said.

Fuck. “I’m going to come in there and deface your pink pony poster.”

“I’m thirteen!” cried Lily. “I don’t have a pink pony poster anymore!”

“I put Avery’s stuff in there. Don’t lie.”

“I hate you.”

“Love you too. Get downstairs in five.”

The village was called Montagna Bella (beautiful mountain) and it was a small wizarding place on the coast of the Mediterranean (at least I assumed it was. I didn’t know much about Italian geography). It was primarily English (which I enjoyed considering I knew squat about Italian other than “si”) since it was a tourist destination for wizards sick of the cold winters wherever they might be. Mum said she used to vacation here with the Harpies when they had brief season breaks.

When we arrived I expected to see some crazy upscale hotel with giant pillars and a venetian plaster finish with exotic plants and towel girls. Instead, I found a village inside of high, brick walls (hello, Diagon Alley) with traditional Italian-looking buildings. Even where we entered I could see the blue sea. We were up on the side of a mountain (nothing like the mountains in Scotland) and the air was warm, pushing my hair back away from my eyes.

The houses and hotels were piled up on the mountain overlooking the water in shades of beige and cream and white. It was a comforting place and I had to prod Rosey from hanging back and watching people on the street selling crispy-looking loaves of bread and potion ingredients and fresh garden flowers.

Our hotel was a small white building with some peeling letters I wasn’t bothered to translate. All I cared about was the Mediterranean air sifting through open curtains and not being in a thousand feet of snow (in my socks). Even from the front door I could see glittering reflections of the sun and people below going about their day. One woman was lazily watering her roof garden with her wand.

“C’mon, kids,” Mum said, walking in the wood door.

I was surprised to see it wasn’t an actual hotel at all, but a very small house. I made a disgruntled face. “We’re supposed to sleep in here? Are there even more rooms?”

Dad gave me a look. “There are two other houses attached. Girls, you have the next one over. Boys, you have the last one. They’re down to the left. Can you be back here in a half hour? We’re going to have a family lunch down in the lobby.”

“Lobby? You mean this place is actually a hotel?” Albus looked around for more rooms.

“Yes. The rooms are all of these miniature houses and the main lobby is down a few roads. It’s a big building with these giant windows I saw in the brochure. They have a couple restaurants and a big ballroom in there.” Dad threw his suitcases down on the suede sofa.

I shrugged. “Ready, mates?” I led Albus and Wesley past the girls’ room and down to the next where we unlocked the door. It was nicer than I figured it would be from the outside (my guess is when they made this tourist village they remodeled all of the original buildings). We found expensive furniture like the same suede sofa Dad and Mum had along with an antique table and tall dining chairs. The kitchen was a small nook off to the left with the table protruding into the middle of the room and the living room out on the right. Two bedrooms were in the back (one on the right in a hallway and one on the left) and a bathroom was straight ahead. My favorite part was the giant window that looked new in the living room looking straight out at the sea.

“Way better than Russia,” said Al, tossing his and Wesley’s stuff into the room on the right. “I don’t have to wear earmuffs and a hat.”

“Whose idea was that anyway?” I asked, kicking off my shoes and exploring the cutlery in drawers.

“Lily had one of her brief obsessions with Moscow,” Al mumbled. “I’ve never worn so many layers in my life.”

“Well boys,” Wesley said, staring out the window. His skin was highlighted by the sun. “I guess this is our home for a couple weeks. Sounds good to me. Beats the hell out of Dad and Mum snogging all the time. They’re always snogging.”

“Now you just get to see my parents snogging all the time,” I said. “Watch out—they do it spontaneously and all the time. Be careful.”


I wore a thin collared shirt and tie and we walked together to the lobby. I wasn’t sure what it was supposed to be called, but lobby sounded good. The ‘rents walked in front, Dad’s hand inappropriately on Mum’s rear end, followed by Albus and Rose talking about the differences in our rooms (the curtains in Rose’s room were a salmon color while ours were navy blue), and then Lily and Wesley giggling about something or another.

Avery pushed her arms hard against her sides to keep her yellow dress from flying up. It was quite windy in Italy. She smiled sideways at me as we walked. “Didn’t expect the wind,” she said halfheartedly.

“Didn’t expect the dress,” I said, but laughed. “Ah well, it’s not like Twitwards is around to annoy me.”

“I think it looks nice.” She paused. “Don’t you?”

I looked over as we turned a corner and avoided an older woman with a large basket of bread. It smelled wonderful. “Yeah, it looks good. I like the…” I looked at it and from the wind it was clinging to her body as it blew backwards. “I like the yellow.”

Avery chuckled and her shoes clicked on the pavement as we continued. “This place is beautiful. Thanks for inviting me.”

“Don’t be stupid. Like I have any other options. You’re probably more a part of this family than I am. I think they like you better.”

“I am the cuter of us.”

I pushed her playfully (didn’t want to do it too hard in case some locals thought I was abusing her and threw me off the cliff). “I’m glad you came, Aves. You tend to make me feel better about being a completely horrible captain.”

“You’re not.”

I cocked a brow. I ran my fingers along the peeling paint of another building as we passed. I could smell the salt off the water. “I think if I go through with this Code business I’m going to lose a friend.”

“Look.” Avery put a hand on my shoulder and I looked at her pretty green eyes. “This is who you are. Bink and Fred know that. They knew you wanted to be Captain ever since your second year. It’s your ambition and you’re going to do it right. Can you also be sensitive? Yes, of course. You can still be Bink’s mate and find out what the hell happened with him and McLaggen. But there are consequences for breaking rules the same as there are consequences for skipping practice or even hexing someone in the hallway.”

“You’re right again.” I noticed arches and other architectural detailing as we passed buildings. “I just wish they understood now. I hate fighting with them.”

“Just take a breather.” She squeezed my shoulder. Avery opened her mouth to say something else, but was cut off when a floating flower appeared in her face. She leapt back. “What in blazes?”

“For you, beautiful lady.”

Oh, no. I knew that the suave Italian blokes would appear some time on our trip, but I never imagined before I got a meal in my stomach. I wasn’t prepared to hex the Italian right out of him. And blimey, he was a threat. The guy was sauntering toward us from what looked to be a café, his shirt opened a bit below the collar with his sleeves rolled up and dark hair flying in the wind.

Hey, buddy, my hair did that too.

“Oh, thanks,” Avery said, a blush forming at her cheeks. She took the flower and smiled.

“I am Costaso.” Crazy bloke took her hand and kissed it. Cheeky bastard. “Are you here on holiday?”

Avery stopped walking for a moment, clearly overtaken by what was happening. A few others were staring. “Yes, on holiday.”

“With your family?”

“Yes, my family.”

What a load. We weren’t her real family—I mean, I was her best mate. I mean, she was my family. But I think he wanted to know “family” for an entirely different reason and that reason was not up for grabs.

“Ready to go for food, Aves?” I tugged at her arm. Her dress was moving with the wind.

“Aves? Is that your name?” The Italian jerk-face Costaso was inching closer to her like a predator ready to get its prey. Oh, no, pred, my best mate was no prey. Nowhere near it.

Go prey on Edwards for a while. You can be lucky seven.

“It’s Avery.” She coughed loudly. “Erm, nice meeting you. I should be going.”

“I should hope to see you again. Good-bye, Avery.” He even pronounced her name wonky. Put your weird R’s back in your throat, Casanova.

“What a twat,” I muttered as we walked quickly to catch up with the group. “Ruining my trip by being all…well, you know.”

“James, you’re in Italy. Enjoy it and see what happens.” As she was walking, she touched my hand.

I frowned as Wesley held open the door to the lobby. It was a grand door with stained glass near the top. “See what happens. All right, just as long as it doesn’t happen with Costaso, bloody creep.”

After a fancy lunch where Mum and Dad only snogged eight times over green beans and some weird pasta, it was time for bathing suits and exploration. After all, my team (who I nicknamed Team James Potter Captain of the Quidditch Team) was in Italy for the holidays and all those suckers who weren’t could just sit up in England and mope in the snow. Twitwards could Emerson-punch himself.

“Ready for this?” I said, meeting the girls outside. Avery wore a strapless dress and I could see the tied straps of her pink and white bathing suit wrap around her neck. Her dark hair was up in a messy thing on top of her head. No one was looking so I didn’t bother to say anything protective. At least Costaso wasn’t around. Wesley was too busy drooling over my baby sister. He had no idea he was going to get thrown in the water first.

It was a shame, I thought as we made our way down sloping streets toward the water, that I didn’t feel more like myself. I felt a little glum and more formal (I asked Lily to pass the butter at dinner and she shot me a look). I didn’t feel like prankster James Potter. Captain. Ladies Man. Delicious Bloke Extraordinaire. I felt a little down. Hopefully swimming would do the trick.

“James? You all there?” Lily prodded me in the side. Her brown eyes were staring holes through me. “You look out of it. Does this have anything to do with what happened before we left?”

I gave a mild shrug. “You know it does. It’s not even the Code rubbish that’s bothering me. I want to know what happened. I want to know how Bink could possibly date Meta McLaggen and not throttle her.”

Lily patted my shoulder. “Sometimes the wrong people just suffer from infatuation.”

“What do you know about that?”

“Been there.”

My tongue very nearly fell out of my mouth. “What are you talking about?” I pulled her further back from the group. “You’ve been infatuated with someone before? Have you dated a boy? Have you kissed a boy? You’re thirteen!

She chuckled. “I don’t kiss and tell, James.” With that, she skipped ahead in her shorts and brown tank top. The bag over her shoulder was bouncing as she caught up with Rose and Avery.

Now this whole week was just absurd.

It had to be some sort of sick, freaky dream. I pinched myself. It wasn’t. I was also bleeding on my arm. Oww. What a damn week.

“James! Look!” cried Rose.

Apparently the people who founded this little snippet of tourist heaven also supplied us with a beach. It looked really strange sticking out where there probably should have been docks, but it was there, some five or six big buildings wide with white lounge chairs and people getting tan on towels speckling it. The sun was going down on the horizon but it was still warm so I tossed my towel next to Avery’s stuff, peeled off my shirt, kicked off my shoes, and ran for the water.

Sand. Hot. Ouch.

I let out a very un-James-like scream as my toes touched the hot ground and I heard Lily laughing from behind me.

Like promised, though, once Wesley came tumbling down the beach and was ankle-deep in beautiful ocean water, I tossed his sorry gawking butt in. Albus tried to stop me as well, but that only resulted in him being underwater as well. Really, he never learns. Not even after swirlies growing up.

I was a big brother. It’s on the To Do list. Well, for me it was the Want To Do list.

“James, you’re horrible.” Lily was next to go under, mostly for not kissing and telling. How was she even kissing? This whole “not knowing” thing was going to annoy me. I was going to find out about whomever she was infatuated with and just hex his brains right out. Right out.

I turned to Rosey. “Did you want to dive in?” I asked, swirling my toes around in the water. “Or did you want me to throw you in? I really don’t have a preference.”

She turned back to Avery. I choked. Avery’s bathing suit—well, of course I’d seen her in one before.


My mind was foggy. I think so. She needed to cover up RIGHT THEN because that was absurd. Stomach showing. There were some freckles. Cleavage. Blimey, it was like Nia was here. Legs. I didn’t know what to do. Bloody Costaso would probably wank to that image. I hated him so much.

Oh, here, have a flower, I’m such a bleeding tosser!

I panicked and just dove in.

A/N: I hope everyone is enjoying the first portion of Italy. It sounds beautiful! And you got some snippets of the Potter family, including some James/Harry interaction.

I hope everyone is having a happy winter!

What do you think is coming next? How about that Lily not kissing and telling? James panicking? Harry/James arguing? How much you love Costaso?

Oh, and favorite quotes?

Chapter 21: Flashes (of Reality)
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Whoaaa I'm back. I'll explain more in the author note at the end.
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Later, while lounging on the beach, I thought about what Lily had said. All of it. About if Bink and Meta had been consumed by infatuation. What a crazy thing to be consumed by—the infatuation of someone else. And let’s face it, Meta wasn’t exactly the belle of the Yule Ball. Okay, she wasn’t ugly and if you took away her “bitch” tendencies, she was actually prettier than Elizabeth, but it was her heart of pure rot that made her ugly. Apparently not to Bink.

Then again, what made her so attracted to that albino Chaser? He was kind of an ass. He poked fun at people more than Fred or me. He used to tell us how much he wanted her to crash and be taken out so he didn’t get yelled at during practice.

I rolled over on the towel. Avery was beside me on hers. The sun was going down by then and we weren’t going to get tanner, but most of us just wanted to enjoy the scenery. The sky was an orange-yellow concoction of what could have been oil paint. I liked it.

“Are you about ready to head back?” Albus stretched from a few meters away, standing up as he dusted off his towel. “It’s getting dark and Mum will probably worry.”

“She always worries,” I said in a voice full of grumble. I rolled over again and faced Lily’s towel. She looked like she was sleeping. Why did Lily always fall asleep at the most inopportune moments? I wasn’t sure.

“I’m going back.” Albus placed a hand on his hip and Rosey giggled from nearby.

“See you, Prefect,” I said softly and closed my eyes.

I got a swift kick to the ribs.

“Gerroff!” I swung around and caught my baby brother around the ankle, pulling hard until he crashed back onto the sand. “What do you think you’re doing? That bleeding hurt.”

Al’s face was flushed red as he struggled in the dirt, knocking Avery’s towel back. She moved over, scandal written all over her face. He kicked at me again, trying to get me to let go. “You’re always saying that like it’s such a bad thing. It’s not a bad thing, James. It’s an accomplishment. What do you know about accomplishment?”

“Shut up, boys,” said Lily. She threw sand at us.

“What do I know? Who’s the damn Captain of the Quidditch team?” I continued to keep a hold of his ankle. I may not have been a bloody Prefect, but I was strong.

Unlike twat Costaso. I was onto him, wanker.

“Please, James. Like that’s an accomplishment. You fly around and throw a ball through hoops.” Albus rolled his eyes. That sorry prat rolled his eyes at me. “Even Dad thinks you should do something with your life.”

“Don’t bring Dad into this,” I growled.

I slowly became aware of my surroundings. Lily was scowling (Wesley, however, was sleeping through the mess that was our brotherly love). Avery had moved several feet away, abandoning her towel altogether once my fingers were obviously not being removed from Albus’s skinny ankle. Rosey kicked us both. Quite a few people around the beach were staring as well, which forced my face a wonderful shade of pink. Some old bloke with blond hair shook his head.

This was a sibling rivalry, buster. He could butt out.

“I’ll very well bring Dad into this. I don’t get why you do this stuff to him. He’s just trying to protect you.”

“Oh, you too?” I said, louder than I probably should have. I kicked dirt on his chest. “This is ridiculous. He’s just freaking out because I play Quidditch instead of fighting the Dark Lord.”

“You’re such a tool, James. Get off your high horse.”

“Boys.” Lily grabbed us both by the hair. Her grip was tight and my nose wrinkled. “Stop it now. People are watching. Someone, meaning me, is going to tell Mum.”

I groaned. “Why do you have to be on Dad’s side?”

Al looked at me. “I’m not. I want you to see what he’s trying to tell you.”

“And in turn are you going to make him see what I’m trying to tell him? Or is this a one-way street?”

Lily pulled my hair harder. “Quit it now. We’re going back.”

“Bugger off, Lils,” I said. “Come on, Al. Are you going to tell him or not?”

“Do you even have any idea what he’s done?”

“Or what he hasn’t done. Talked to me all bleeding term.”

Lily pulled again. “Up. Now. Albus Severus, don’t open your mouth or I’ll tell Paloma what you say when you’re dreaming.”

He flushed and closed his mouth, swallowing hard.

I didn’t talk to him or Wesley for the rest of the night and they closed themselves off in one of the bedrooms so I had the suite to myself. I lit a few candles and flopped down on the sofa under the giant window. The sea was a dark navy, but I could still see waves. I could hear Albus planning vacation pranks on Lily. We always did pranks. Usually, though, we did them together, blokes against crazy women. I could tell that might not be happening this year.

I sank further into the sofa, feet sprawled out before me. This was stupid. What was stupider was I knew something about what Albus said was right. I knew Dad just wanted me to explore options or whatever. But he didn’t say it like that. He said it like I was wasting my life. I wasn’t wasting my life.

I kicked off my socks and the voices in the other room fell silent. Now I could hear the rustling of curtains from the open windows and the sound of laughter up the road.


I nearly choked. Mum was on the other side of the window, peering through the screen at me with a motherly frown. The moonlight was reflecting off her hair and it made her look even paler. She jiggled the door handle. I flicked my wand to open it, watching her walk gracefully into the room wearing a Harpies bath robe and red slippers.

“It’s like one in the morning, Mum.” I pretended to be tired by yawning horribly.

“Lily said something about you and Al having a row today.” She gave me that look that the librarian (what’s her name again?) gives me, the one where you look down your glasses at someone because you know you’re right and they’re wrong. Except Mum doesn’t wear glasses. That’s what makes her so scary. And awesome.

“Yeah, a bit of one.” I blushed in the dark.

She touched my arm. “Want to tell me about it?”

I made a face.

“I won’t tell Wesley we’re having a talk, I promise.” Mum smiled and the sides of her eyes crinkled. I wondered if they had always been like that. “Tell me what’s bothering you.”

“Just Al being a shit brick is all.” I got a look for saying “shit,” but I was over it. “He thinks I don’t know what Dad is all about, you know? He thinks Dad is always right and I’m always wrong just because Dad likes him better.”

“Your father doesn’t like Al better than you, that’s ridiculous.”

“He thinks I’m wasting my life not fighting evil or doing Charms or whatever it is I’m horrible at this week.”

Mum grabbed my legs and put them over her lap. “James, your father is proud of you. I’m proud of you. The two of you don’t see eye to eye at the moment, but did anyone say seventeen-year-old boys needed to relate to their fathers? I know your uncles had a hard time relating at that age. I think the two of you will figure it out, but don’t for a moment think that your father loves Albus any more than he loves you. That’s not the case at all.”

“You mean you don’t love me more than Al?” I shot her a grin.

“Oh, shut it.” She kissed my forehead. “Try to get along for now, though, huh? You’ll figure things out with your father. I think you both have thinking to do about the subject. You used to be so close.”

“We did.” I sighed and leaned back. The candles were burning lower and wax dripped against the saucer I placed them on. “Long time ago.”

“Just think about what you want, okay? Just do that. What do you want, James?”

I was somewhere around ten and the back garden was impossible to navigate without a parchment map (complete with scribbles) and kitchen knife for the weeds (sorry, Mum). Al was in tow, checking my back for goblins and other creatures of doom. He was nine but could have been three for as much help as he was. Six-year-old Lily was on the porch with a princess crown and a scowl because we wouldn’t let her play.

The fort was close to the back fence, an enclosure of sticks and scraps of fabric I called Fort Blinking Brilliant. I crawled in first, secured the perimeter or whatever I was supposed to do, and then called Albus in. He whined about getting scraped by a rogue twig on the way in. I told him to walk it off.

There they were—right in the corner. Two brooms. They were from Mum’s collection in the attic she never touched anymore and three weeks earlier I found them while trying to find my Merlin toy Mum hid because I was grounded. Little did I know I would hit the jackpot.

Since Al helped me shimmy up there I split the booty and grabbed him a broom. We hid them under our beds, and then took them out to the fort as soon as possible. The question remained: When to use them?

Today was that day. I handed Al the one that didn’t look as cool and I took the awesome one. His grin covered most of his face. I felt the broom vibrate in my hands.

It wasn’t as if Mum and Dad hadn’t let us ride brooms before. There were rules before. Not too high. Couldn’t go above Mum’s height. Had to stay by the fence. Only fifteen minutes. Twenty minutes. Okay, thirty minutes and you can see the Quaffle, but that’s it. I figured Dad wanted me to be a Seeker.

But today I wasn’t going to have height limits or time limits or Quaffle limits. I raised my right hand and Albus did the same.

“I solemnly swear I am up to very good.” I smirked. Albus giggled. I could hear Lily whining from the porch. If she blew the cover I was going to stuff her teddy bears in the wood chipper. We didn’t even own a wood chipper, but I was sure going to find one.

Once we kicked off from behind the fort, I felt elated. The October wind went through my hair and it was cold on my face. It was like a whole new way of breathing being able to go as high as I wanted. I shouted at Al to get back toward the tree where there was a visible hole. I grabbed a few apples from the ground and soared higher, not even losing balance in the process.

“Nice one, James!” Albus cried, hovering in front of the tree. He waved to Lily.

I glanced back to make sure the face of Mum or Dad didn’t appear in one of the kitchen windows and turned my attention toward my little brother. He was trying to get his messy hair out of his face (something I was familiar with). I soared up, spun, and threw an apple.

The git saved it.

I flew back a bit, higher, and then went in again. This time I score with a spinning apple off his right hand. Brilliant!

Again. He got a piece of it, but it went in. Again. That one went right in, I was a genius with dive moves. Again. Bugger, Al saved it. Again. Again. Again.

I cheered loudly, whooping and throwing my final apple into the air. It missed my head by a few inches, but I caught it before it fell. Then I threw it past Al. He made a face at me. I laughed and floated to the ground in a mixture of emotions. There might have been tears of awesome joy.


My skin froze. Dad was standing on the back porch next to a very scared-looking Lily. He had grilling tongs in his hand. Definitely didn’t anticipate grilling in October. He was frowning, a bad sign. Those tongs didn’t exactly look friendly.

We shuffled across the yard (kitchen knife and parchment forgotten, later to be found as rusty mess and rabbit food) with the brooms in our hands and our heads hung too low for comfort. I could hear Al whimpering. I wasn’t exactly sure why, though I figured it had something to do with him being the good little boy.

“How many times have you done that?” Dad asked when we got closer, the tone in his voice unreadable. “How many times have you taken those brooms out to ride them without supervision?”

I jumped to the answer. “Just this time!” I said loudly. “This was the only time.” Al nodded rigorously.

“You don’t want to be a Seeker do you, James?” he asked.

Was that a trick question?

“I want to play,” I said quietly.

“You’ll be one heck of a Chaser. We’ll have to get you more practice in of course so you can compete with everyone else, but you’ll be great. Those were some great moves. Your Mum will be proud, but I’ll tell her you got it from your grandpa.” He looked proud of himself for that little jab.

I stared, mouth completely dry.

“You didn’t do too bad either, Al. You like Quidditch?”

He made a face. “I like flying.”

Dad smiled warmly. “You’re both grounded, but you looked good out there. Bring the brooms inside, I’m getting the grill ready for dinner and you need to wash up.”

Al rushed in the door, followed by a let-down Lily, and Dad put a hand on my shoulder before I could go. He got down knelt down on the back porch and looked at me, his green eyes looking right into my brain I felt like.

“I didn’t want to say this in front of Al and Lily, but you looked great out there.” He smiled again. “Really great. You’ve clearly inherited that. You’re going to be a Quidditch player.” He paused. “Is that what you want?”

I beamed. “Since I went to my first Tornadoes game.”

Dad clapped me on the back. “Just try your best and don’t give up if that’s what you want to do.”

“I won’t.” It sounded so out of body, like I wasn’t even the one saying it. “I want to play Quidditch.” I thought about my room, filled with posters and figurines and play charts. Truth was, I’d always wanted to be a Chaser. Ever since I saw one of the Tornadoes players score a goal by twisting his broom and throwing upside-down.

“Good boy.” Dad got up and opened the door wide enough for me to go inside. “Do what you think is right.”

Mum left after covering me up with a blanket and I fell asleep soon after, tossing and turning on the sofa. I kept thinking about the way it felt when I shot the apples at Al. The way my mind just melted away. And then Dad saying how great I looked. I did look great, didn’t I? He smiled. It was so genuine.

We used to be like that all the time, watching Quidditch together and spending time talking about plays and fun stuff like that. Maybe he didn’t think I’d keep going with it. I wasn’t sure. I didn’t understand him. We used to have so much fun.

Now he wanted me to stop doing what I thought was right.

Bugger on him.

But like Mum said, hopefully we’d get it figured out sooner or later. Maybe. I hoped.

“Oy, open the bleeding door!”

I jumped, falling off the sofa and landing on the hard ground below. Groaning, I lifted my head and stared at Avery, who was standing with a smile on the other side of the window. I had to close the damn curtains. “What do you want?” I called.

“Let me in. You’ve got a letter.”

I flicked my wand and she entered, sprawling out on the sofa I had just vacated. I sat on her legs. “Who’s it from?” I asked, taking the parchment and turning it over in my hands.

“No idea. Open it, I want to know who’s writing to you that isn’t your Mum.” Avery smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. She smiled.

I was clearly as confused as she was. From the looks of it, the boys were still asleep. The room was bright from the large window behind me and the kitchen hadn’t been touched. Avery nudged me in the shoulder.

My name was written in a pretty cursive, something somewhat familiar but I couldn’t quite place it. I peeled it open and took out the paper, choking a bit when I read the sign-off.


Hey, cutie! How are you doing? I can’t believe you’re in Italy. I’m still at Hogwarts since Mummy wanted to go on vacay with her new love to Canada for skiing. It’s dull around here without you and the boys, though I heard all about that row you got in. Bink was going to stay for break, but decided to leave a day late. He looks like he hasn’t slept. Have you slept? It would be better if it was with me, you know.

I miss you so much, James. It’s like a piece of my heart is in Italy. I know I was sour with you the last few weeks and when I found out you went on a date with Lizzy my mind went insane. But you’re right. We weren’t exclusive. We might be able to change that sometime this term though, love. I have a feeling we have too much chemistry to ignore it.

Can’t wait to see you when you get back!

Have fun in Italy!



Gah, why did she do this? Women were so complicated. How did she expect me to understand any of that rubbish?

Avery ripped the letter out of my hand and finished it with a scowl on her face.

“Sometimes I can’t believe that girl,” I said, yawning.

“Me either. What a twat.” She took her wand, pointed it at the letter, and it burst into flames.

“Aves, what are you doing?” I said, jumping back.

“Oh, sorry!” She put it out quickly, saving enough for me to read who it was from and some hugs and kisses. “I didn’t think you wanted it.”

“I don’t, but blimey!” I made a face. “I didn’t think you’d put the bleeding thing up in flames. I’ll have to write her back, though, or she’ll send me more and more. Seen any parchment around this place?”

“Nope.” Avery stretched, arching her back against the sofa. “I think I’m going to be off so you can write that letter back to stalker-girl.”

“Where are you off to?” I picked up the blanket and folded it.

“Costaso invited me for a cup of tea down by the beach.” She smiled warmly, standing and moving toward the door. “Do you think this outfit is cute enough?” Avery motioned to her denim skirt and white airy blouse thing. “I think it says casual but adorable.”

“Erm, yes.” I scratched my hair earnestly. “It’s nice, but Costaso? Why?”

“He seems nice.”

“He seems like a real wanker, Aves.”


“Of what? His deep desire to act like a tool in front of my best mate? Hardly.”

Avery narrowed her eyes. “I’ll see you later, James.” Then she was gone and I was standing in the living room in my pajamas with no idea where she was going other than by the beach. Bugger.

Where was Freddie in a woman outfit when I needed him?

“Who was that?” Albus sauntered out of the bedroom with his hair at odd angles and a t-shirt hanging loose off his body.

“Avery,” I said, irritated. “Comes to deliver a letter then runs off to have bloody tea with Costaso, Italian jerk.”

Al cocked a brow. “You okay?”

“Eh, I’ve been better. Sorry for being a shit yesterday by the way.” I figured Mum would want me to say sorry to him even though he ticked me off. He was my partner in crime during the whole Quidditch thing, so I could cut him a bit of slack.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m sorry too.” Al clapped me on the shoulder.

Awkward not-so-manly brotherly moment.

“What’s the plan for today?” Albus said, moving away and back toward the bedroom door. “I know Dad said something last night about some formal thing tonight.”

“Bugger,” I muttered. “I guess I’ll take out my shirt and tie. I have business to take care of.” With that, I retreated into my bedroom and closed the door tightly. Victoria was nestled tightly in the corner of her cage humming contently. I tapped on the side and smiled. She made a disgruntled noise.

“Oh, Tory, we’re going to hunt down some Italian bloke today.” I grabbed some shorts and a collared shirt, putting them on and staring at myself in the mirror. I looked pretty damn good. Pretty damn good. “Problem, though. I don’t know where she went. So I’m going to find her.”

I thought about her sitting on the sofa with the letter on fire. Her eyes were bright and there was a hint of a malicious grin on her pretty face. Well, Costaso thought it was pretty anyway.

Not that it wasn’t.

Because it was.

Not like in that way though.

I shook my head. I had to get it together. I’d write that letter to Nia later. I had fish to fry. Fried fishes. In lemon juice and grease and breading and some effin’ extra virgin olive oil.

The fish I had to fry was nowhere to be found, though, so when I came out of the suite ready with everything except an awesome cape, I looked a little like a turd. The wind tossed my hair and shirt and Rose, who was watering flowers outside her window, giggled at me.

“Shut it,” I muttered. “Did you see where Avery went?”

“Costaso came up here a while ago and asked her down by the beach,” Rose replied. “He’s quite the hunk, isn’t he? Imagine them having a long distance relationship and him coming to visit. The girls would go wild.”

“I’m not imaging anything so stupid.” I slammed the door on Wesley and Albus who were munching on cereal and started down the road.

“Hey, don’t forget about the party tonight. Your Mum says you lot have to wear ties. It’s a fancy event I guess.”

“I’ll wear what I want,” I mumbled moodily, turning the corner and making my way down toward the beach.

What business did he have taking her down there? I wondered how much protection was down there for a girl like Avery. She could take care of herself and all, but what if this stranger led her into a trap? Blokes that floated flowers over to girls could not be trusted. Especially foreign ones. Well, he wasn’t foreign here, but that wasn’t my point. My point is that I did not approve and he needed to get lost.

Just like Emerson Edwards.

Geez, couldn’t these pompous twats just get a life already and leave my best mate alone?

It was hot and my shirt was sticking to my back. Okay, it wasn’t super hot or anything considering it was winter, but it was sunny and that made all the difference. I forgot my sunglasses in my room. The light was glaring off windows and troughs of water.

The beach was bright and it looked hot, same as the day before. I scanned the line of businesses behind it. There was a boutique full of pink things. A flower shop. A fancy restaurant that wasn’t open yet. A little pharmacy.

There it was—a small café.

No sign of Aves or Costaso. I really needed to come up with a name for him I could use frequently like Twitwards. Twataso? Hmm, that could work. It could work.

I walked closer to investigate, ducking behind a tall flower cart and over next to a low stone wall. Some kid with a surf board looked at me. Like there were even waves worthy of surfing, get out, kid.

They weren’t sitting outside, which is where I immediately expected them to be.

I wrinkled my nose and moved closer, shuffling across the street (almost being run over by a lady with a basket of bread). I stuck my head into the door and immediately smelled coffee and tea. I scanned the lines of booths and tables, but no Avery. No Twataso.

That could really stick.

Ticked off, I sank down onto the sidewalk. This wasn’t over.

They weren’t in any of the shops—not lurking waiting outside of the restaurant or browsing around the boutique or snogging behind the daisies in the flower shop. I scanned the beach. No sun-bathing. Where the hell were they? Had he already kidnapped her? Had he thrown her body off the side of the cliff?

That was crazy.


My head flew left and right. I moved back toward the way I came. I was going to find them.

Okay, well maybe not. Turns out, the village was larger than I thought it was with confusing pathways I couldn’t navigate and hills my legs did not agree with. I was a Quidditch player, not a mountain climber. My neck hurt from looking back and forth, staring into the windows of shops and creeping out a little girl that started tugging on the pant leg of her dad. I saw a flash of a knife before vanishing.

Seriously, though, did I have to dress like a woman to get this done?

“James, what are you doing?” Lily was a few meters in front of me with her hair half up in curls and a button-up shirt loose around her collar bone. “Wes and Al have been looking for you for ages. We’re supposed to be getting ready for tonight.”

“What time does this thing start?” I checked behind a rock. Yes, it wasn’t very plausible, but it was a possibility.

“In about an hour. Everyone is waiting for you.”


“Yeah, idiot, she’s been there for a while. Where have you been?”

I groaned. “Never mind. I’m coming.”

“If my hair doesn’t get done in time it’s your ass.” Lily flipped her hair and continued in front of me.

“Who did you snog?” I said, running to catch up with her. I tugged on her shirt.

“I’m not telling you, James, nor will I ever tell you.”

“Why not?”

“Because you would kill him.”

“Only a little. Maybe I’d even let him live. Come on, Lils. You’re thirteen, who’ve you been snogging?”

Lily rolled her eyes as we turned the corner onto the street where our cottages were. “Let me think.” She paused, letting her curls fly around her face. “Um. No.”

I let out a very frustrated noise, but before I could convince her to tell me, Mum’s face appeared out of the doorway. Her hair was the same half-done mess of curls.

“James Sirius Potter! Where have you been? We’re running late as is.”

“If people would tell me what is going on, that might help.”


“Sorry,” I muttered and made my way past the first suite where Lily returned to letting Mum tame her red hair. I could see Rosey in there putting some sort of powder on her nose.

The door to the girls’ suite was open and Avery was at the counter applying eyeliner. It looked like she was going to stab herself in the eye with that bloody stick. “I’ll never understand you girls and that weird makeup crap. Can’t you just do it with your wand?”

“Actually much easier like this,” Avery said without looking over. “Where have you been anyway? I heard your mum spazzing out a bit ago since you weren’t there. Find a nice Italian girl to snog?”

“I could ask you the same thing.”

“I’m not into Italian girls.” Avery smiled.

“I am so not amused,” I said, closing the door behind me. “How was your date with Costaso?”

“It wasn’t a date.”

“And that thing with Twitwards wasn’t either?”

Avery stopped lining her eyes and looked over. “What do you want, James?”

“I hate that guy.”

“Tell me why.” She stood up. “Why do you hate him if you don’t even know him?” I watched her fingers trail across the table delicately.

“I…I don’t know. I just don’t have a good feeling about him. He’s not right for you. He’s not. He’s a twat. He’s Twataso.”

Avery let out a sigh. “All right. I have to get ready. I don’t have time for this right now. I still have to get my hair done and steam my dress. Go tell Wes and Al you’re back.”

I left with narrowed, confused eyes and walked next door. What the hell was her problem? She would have made most of those things into jokes in the past. Ha ha, I went on a date with this crazy bloke, blah blah he was like this, so on and so on.

My fish remained unfried and I had no idea what I was supposed to wear to this fancy shin-dig.

“Where were you?” Albus had his arms folded. He was wearing plaid boxers and a blue collared shirt. Should have worn green to make his obnoxious eyes pop.

“Out looking for someone.”

“No one out there to look for,” he said, walking back into the bedroom and slamming the door.

Wesley kicked up his shoes. He was already dressed. “Your family is a riot, mate.”

“Shut your hole, Jordan.”

He laughed. “In the best way possible, of course. I’d take this over the giant family Christmas any day. Dad always has to go of course. Not that I don’t love your extended family of red-headed insanity, it just gets overwhelming. But seeing your immediate family. Now that’s a trip.”

“I said shut it.” I paced back and forth across the living room floor. “I can’t even think straight. Did you know Lily kissed someone?”

“Lily?” Wesley shifted on the sofa and placed his hands behind his head. “Nah, she doesn’t really tell me things like that.”

“Find out who.”

“What? Why?”

“Because I need to know. She trusts you and I need to know.”

“I don’t know if that’s what I should be talking to her about.”

I looked over. “Look, I’m your captain and I think you need to find out. I don’t need to entrust with you the information as to why I need this data, I just do. Got it?” I thought about her slender freckled face and how it shouldn’t be attached to anyone else’s.

“Yeah, I understand.” Wesley glanced down at his fingers.

“Unless you already know.”

“I don’t.” His fingers were interesting.

“Good. Lying isn’t good for your complexion.” With a smile, and the knowledge that he already knew who my baby sister has been snogging, I walked back into my bedroom and decided on the black tie.

There was a ballroom off the lobby area, a giant room with ceilings draped in white fabric and chairs adorned with thick navy ribbons. My family’s table was in the far corner, close to French doors leading out to some sort of balcony overlooking, you guessed it, the sea. In the center of our table was a square vase with some orange and yellow flowers (I didn’t know the names, but Lily did, though I couldn’t bother to remember them). In front of me was an empty square plate. I wondered about square plates. What was the point of them, really? If I wanted to eat my food in a circle I couldn’t. I would have to eat it in a square. It wasn’t any fancier than the other plates, just pokier.

Avery was to my left, wearing a short white dress with black lacy stuff in the middle and a gold belt situation. It looked like soft material. I thought better than asking her if I could touch it. I’d probably get hit or thrown into the bushes, like usual.

Lily was on my right so I could keep a good eye on her. I could never be too careful. I saw some other boys her age sauntering around like they knew who they were going to wink at. I’d give them something to wink at. Wesley to her right, then Dad, Mum, Rosey, and Albus rounded out our group of slightly dysfunctional wizards and wizettes. Albus poked at the flowers. Dad fiddled with the napkins. He looked uncomfortable in his shirt and tie.

I grew up on this crap. For as long as I could remember, the ‘rents were being invited to this memorial dinner and that recognition fiesta or whatnot. Even Mum’s Quidditch league honored her a bunch of times. She should have stayed with Quidditch. It would be wicked cool to tell all my mates about having a Quidditch player for a Mum.

I’d be able to tell my kids that.

Well, except the whole “Mum” part. I wouldn’t be a Mum.

I hoped.

The place was filling up, and that was saying something considering it was huge. The dance floor was toward the front in front of the stage where a band was setting up. No, not the cool sort of band where I could rock out and loosen my tie a bit, but the kind with string instruments and guys with perfectly combed beards. Women in long satin gowns were finding their seats and guys my age were looking grumpy, just like me. I wondered where they were from and what other European schools there were all around the continent. I’d have to ask Avery later about Italian bloke schools. But then again, why would they go on holiday in their own country? I settled on the fact that they had to be from out of the country. Maybe Romania. Or Russia. Or America. Or even France to add in a country without an “a” at the end.

“How long do you think this is going to last?” I heard Wesley whisper it to Lily. He was trying to be cooler than he was. I could see the suave attitude all over his dark eyes.

“No idea,” she said quietly. “I’m guessing a few hours. Dinner, dancing, ditch?”


I surveyed the room again, eyes fixing on a few beautiful ladies two tables over with bright hair and brighter eyes. One glanced my way. Hey, girlie, I’m the Quidditch Captain, you know. She had no idea. She looked away and I saw her make eye contact with Albus. Fucking git.

There was suddenly a shadow over my pompous square plate. I glanced up and almost choked. Costaso (or shall I say, Twataso?) as beaming at Avery with white teeth. He wore something that looked like it was picked out of an Armani catalogue. Yeah, I knew what Armani was. Think a sports, manly bloke like myself didn’t know fashion? Truth was, Nia showed me the magazine, but I still knew. I knew man stuff like steak and potatoes and fashion stuff like Armani. Beat that, Twitwards.

“I had a great time today, Avery Flynn.” He said it with such a flair to him, goddamn jerk. Oh, then he decided it would be appropriate to kiss her hand. There was a wet mark left on it.

My lips pressed together so hard they went numb. Avery’s face was glowing, her eyes downcast.

“Thanks. I had fun too.”

“Would you do me the honor of having a dance later in the evening?” Costaso smirked.

“I’d like that. Sure.” Avery placed her napkin delicately in her lap.

“I’ll see you then, love.” With that, Twataso was gone and my plate lit up again.

Rosey let out a feminine squeal. “Oh, Avery, you’re so lucky. He’s such a dream.”

“He’s not getting anywhere near you,” Albus said. I made a mental note to high-five him after dinner. “That bloke is a creep, not a dream.”

“Here here.”

Rose rolled her eyes. “Jealousy does not suit you, boys.”

My face felt hot. I wasn’t jealous. Of a guy like that? Pfft. He could dream on. He was just doing what people in England did to foreign girls. Put on the charm. There was something exotic about people from a different place that spoke in a different language. But why the hell couldn’t I put a stop to it?

Because Avery and I agreed we should date.

What was I doing in Italy? I wasn’t dating anyone. I didn’t even find anyone to date. Maybe I should have gotten on that. I still could. The possibility was there. I could go tell the blond girl at table six that I was the captain of a Quidditch team, the hero, and she would fall right then and there. I could date her. Too bad she looked like she put more thought into showing her grades than her smarts (that was a real candle, not a fake one, idiot).

Then again, why did I care about that? About smarts?


“Could I have everyone’s attention please?” There was a bloke on the stage in front of the orchestra wearing a fitted tux and yellow tie. There was a big flower sticking out of his jacket pocket and it reminded me of something Twitwards would wear, silly tosser. I adjusted my own tie to make sure I didn’t look like that. All was safe. “I want to thank you for being here with us this evening. This is our formal kick-off of the holiday program we do here each year. And what a turn out!”

I tuned him out, watching Avery twist her fingers together like she did before an exam. Her nails were a soft pink color. I wondered if she painted them often. I didn’t think so, mostly because of Quidditch. The guy was still talking so I looked over at Dad. He was clearing tuning out the speech too. Well, at least I knew where I got it from. Al was listening. Sodding Prefect.

I thought back to the response letter I wrote Nia. It was short, sweet, and just the thing to keep her at bay a little longer. Longer for what though? So she wouldn’t write while I was on holiday? I’d give just about anything for Fred or Bink to write. Both were peeved with me, though, so I couldn’t see them doing that. I understood why. I’d be peeved at me too, but at least I would have understood that I was a damn captain too.

Why wouldn’t he tell me about the Meta thing? Even after?

Fuck Bink.

No, but seriously. What did he see in her? If it was infatuation, why did it go on so long? Maybe she was really good in bed. She looked rather feisty. Eugh, that was a gross thought. I mentally blocked it. But she was the star Seeker, why would she go for Bink? I could see her crossing sides and flirting with Clint Lawson, the sick sod.

This was getting out of hand. Meta should be fooling around with a Slytherin. Bink should be talking to me. Freddie should be talking to me because he had nothing to do with the entire ordeal and Avery should punch goddamn Costaso Twataso in the tan creeper face!

“James, are you going to eat?”

I jumped, nearly elbowing Lily. Her eyes were full of curiosity and I wondered if she was ever overwhelmed by deep internal thought. “Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m going to eat. Eventually.”

“Could have served something other than green beans as a vegetable,” muttered Dad, sipping on a dark drink that I knew had some sort of vodka in it. Mum shot him a look. “I’m just saying, they don’t appeal to the masses. Now corn, there’s a choice.”

“Corn is a starch.” Mum smirked and took a sip of her own drink. She was something like four in already and her face was flushed among the freckles.

“Not funny.” Dad laughed and put his hand on hers.

Oh, blimey, cut it out. Those two were worse than their kids. Albus made the same face, glancing over at Wesley, who was laughing. Lily elbowed him.

The plates were being cleared magically and the orchestra up front had started to play louder now. One couple was already gracing the dance floor. Gracing? I had to get out of this tie soon, it was making me think in fancy words. Bugger.

“Lily, aren’t you going to dance, dear?” Mum smiled.

“I would, but James would hex Wesley so there really isn’t a point, is there?”

I saw Dad try and stifle his laughter. “Just like your uncle Ron. Well, and George. And Percy. And Charlie. And Bill.”

I shot a smile at Wesley. “He’s a good hexee.” I got a middle-finger below the table.

“You kids want anything to drink? I’m going to get refills.” Dad polished off his drink and took Mum’s glass as well.

I shook my head. Not even alcohol would make this bore-fest more enjoyable. Plus, the blond from table six was drinking enough for the both of us. What was that, number seven already? Al and Wesley went with Dad to help him carry.

“Why didn’t you order one?” I asked Avery, crumpling up my napkin and tossing it on the table in front of me.

She shrugged. “I was going to go dance and didn’t want a drink to get watery from the ice. I hate that.”

“Makes sense.” There were more couples on the dance floor now, swaying back and forth, spinning, and smiling. My arse was stuck to the seat. Figuratively, not literally of course. “Dancing, huh? Those people look like they’re having an awful lot of fun.”

Wesley squeezed back into his seat on the other side of Lily. He tossed back a small drink and stood up again. “Avery, come on and dance.”

My mouth slid open.

“Love to, Wes. See you, James.” Avery smiled and followed him through the maze of tables. Wesley spun her (What the hell? When did he learn how to dance?) and they started to dance, Wesley leading in and out of the other couples, fast, while Avery stayed on the toes.

“Come on, Lily.” I grabbed her hand.

“You’re joking.”

I pulled her toward the dance floor. “Mum says we need to bond more. Let’s bond.”

“You have to be the stupidest guy I know. You know that, right?” Lily said, aggravated, but once we got onto the dance floor she spun melodically and let me lead. “I don’t see you dance often, James.”

“I’m not incredibly fond of it without the influences of alcohol,” I said, scanning the crowd for Wesley’s malicious eyes.

“This is nice sister-brother bonding time.” Lily let me dip her and she spun out for a moment. “I guess those dance classes when we were little paid off. Much to your dismay.”

“Those classes are where I developed my whining skills.” I caught sight of Avery’s dark brown hair across the floor.

“Dad and Mum are having a good time.” Lily pointed back toward the table where the ‘rents were making kissy faces and Albus looked visibly sick. Rose was writing something.

“Yeah, they’re embarrassing.”

“I think it’s cute.”

“Who were you snogging?”

Lily rolled her eyes. “Give it a rest, James. Seriously. Look, Avery and Wesley are moving back this way—ahh.”

“What?” My head snapped over to where she was looking and I saw just exactly what. Costaso tapped Wesley on the shoulder, face full of sneer, and cut in. Avery kissed Wesley on the cheek (Jellylegs for that one? Maybe later.) and let Costaso put his grimy arm around her waist.

“Stop squeezing my hand, turd.” Lily wrenched her fingers out of my grip.

“Do you see how he’s touching her? Look at that. All over her.”

“His hand is on her back.” Lily cocked a brow at me. “Get a grip. But then again, I’ve seen you dress in a costume to follow her around and make sure boys don’t so much as look at her. Why haven’t you dressed up to follow me around?”

“You don’t date.”

“But I’ve kissed.”

“Who? Who have you kissed?”

She laughed. “You’ll never know.”

Avery was biting her lip when she wasn’t talking to Costaso, who was spinning her. He was talking most of the time. His grip was hard on her back, the creases of her white dress very defined. My face was hot and I spun Lily a few times just so she would stop harassing me. Avery looked over.

Her eyes were such a soft green. I reached up and ruffled my hair out of habit.

“James.” Lily tilted my head toward her. “I said I’m going to have more of my drink. Did you want to come back to the table or dance here by yourself like an idiot?”

“I’m going to stay.” My eyes turned back to Avery and she hadn’t looked away. Costaso was talking.

“Yeah, okay, tosser.” I heard Lily’s footsteps fade away across the dance floor.

I moved toward Avery. Her hand wasn’t tight in Costaso’s like his was. Her feet barely moved back and forth and her face was a little flushed. I moved between couples, never breaking eye contact. The green of her eyes was screaming at me and breathing hurt my chest. My body ached. I heard Costaso’s Italian laughter. Avery’s chest was rising and falling rapidly. I could see each lash, black framing her beautiful eyes.

Costaso turned when I tapped him on the shoulder. “Could I cut in?” I even did a little bow. Some bloke behind me ran into me while dancing, but I kept my balance. He was with the blond from table six. I swallowed hard while Twataso surveyed the situation.

“Avery?” he said lightly, as if unable to believe some freckled bloke with messy hair and sneakers (did I forget to mention the sneakers? Victoria ate my nice shoes) could possibly ask to cut in.

“Thanks for the dance, Costaso.” She removed her hand from his grip and moved around him, not parting her gaze from me. Then she took my hand and led me to the edge of the dance floor furthest from our table. “What took you so long?” she asked.

“Dancing with my sister.”

“Is that what that was?” Avery smiled and placed her hand in my own and the other on my shoulder.

“Shut it.” Her waist was warm when I put my hand there, careful not to be forceful like Costaso. I couldn’t describe the strange feeling. My muscles tensed up. “She’s a good dancer.”

“Until you saw Costaso, then suddenly you couldn’t dance.”

“I hate that bloke.”

Avery laughed. “You hate everyone, James.” I loved her laugh.

“Not everyone.”

Once I started to sweat more than was entirely natural (even for a Quidditch player), Avery and I made our way back toward the table. Her hand was in mine and it was soft. She was laughing at something I said. I couldn’t remember. My mind wasn’t working much anymore. Must have been the thought of Costaso bailing, the sodding loser. I hadn’t seen him since I cut in. Yet another point for Team James Potter Captain of the Quidditch Team.

Unfortunately, the table was less enthralling than I thought it was be. Dad and Mum were dancing off to the side of it, Dad nearly spinning Mum into the wall. They were giggling. Dad’s glasses fell off at one point and Albus had to find them under the table. Rosey was tugging at his arm to dance. Lily and Wesley weren’t there, but my guess was they ditched like they had planned.

“Balcony?” Avery’s voice was quiet in my ear. She nodded to the cracked door leading out to the nearly empty balcony. I figured she was trying to spare me from my parents. Mum giggled and kissed Dad’s nose.

“Yup.” I made a beeline for the door, pushing it open and feeling the cool night air on my face.

There were two other couples out there. One far to the left staring over the edge pointing at things less interesting than the water. The other couple was making out against the wall. More power to them. Avery led the way to the very edge and placed both her hands on the rail like a kid seeing the ocean for the first time.

“It’s stunning, isn’t it? I love the way the moon reflects off it over there.” She pointed out to the right. Her hair kept getting blown into her eyes. She laughed. “I could stay here forever.”

“It’s quite the place, huh? So much different than Hogwarts.”

“I like it that way. I needed to get away for a while.”

“You and me both.” I smiled and wrapped my arms around myself. I was cold, but too manly to say anything.

“It’s just nice to forget about things like Quidditch and schoolwork for a while.”

“I hope you’re not forgetting about that Puffer match we have coming up.”

She hit me playfully. “Like I could ever with you as a best mate.”

I leaned forward and my eyes followed the roofs of each house down to the beach. I could see a few people playing in the water. “So what’s the plan for the rest of the evening, Aves? I was thinking we’d bail sooner or later since Mum is down who knows how many cocktails and she’s going to be grinding on Dad any minute now.” Sea air was surprisingly chilly.

I could see Avery’s freckled shoulders even better in the moonlight. She didn’t speak for a few minutes and her dress was flowing back behind her making a loud rippling noise in the silence. “They’re just in love,” she said, hurriedly putting on chapstick. “They deserve to show it.”

I made a disgruntled face. “They’re parents. That’s never okay.” I laughed, but the breeze swallowed it up. “At least I have other things to look at tonight.”

She turned toward me and brushed a few strands of hair behind her ears. “Like what?”

“Well, like you. You look great tonight, Aves.”

Avery’s lips were soft when she kissed me. Her fingers found their way through my hair and I felt her warm body press against mine.

Those lips were familiar. Lips I had watched talk for years before, spouting on about Quidditch and my lack of Charms talent and ones that had tasted salt talking about her father. That laughed after my jokes.

Avery Flynn’s lips were a part of my best mate.

Fucking bollocks!

I stumbled backward into the rail, eyes wider than ever. My lips were stinging, fingers shaking. I looked at her, beautiful, moonlight-lit Avery that I couldn’t even describe anymore since I thought the word ‘moonlight-lit’ did the damn trick.

Her eyes were dancing, hand covering her mouth. I could tell she wasn’t breathing.

“Okay!” I said, voice higher than normal. I hoped the other couples didn’t hear me. I tripped over my feet going to the left. “Well, I left my muffins in the oven so they’re probably burnt and I’ll just have to be going so I can get them now!” I tried to smile but showed more teeth than natural. My heart was beating so fast my chest hurt. I could feel it in my throat and my stomach. My body was so hot I wanted to rip open my shirt, though some intelligent part of me told me that was probably a poor idea.

Avery stared at my insanity.

I couldn’t handle her eyes on me. I fidgeted. I felt weird in my own skin, awkward and pale.

“Let’s just not bring this up, eh?” I squeaked that out and ran for it—into the ballroom where I nearly tripped and took out the whole table, shoving past Wesley and Lily (Jellylegs the next time I could remember it!), and out onto the vacant street of Italy.

I didn’t remember the run back to the suite. It was a blur of darkness and fairy lights and the scent of Avery’s perfume on my clothes.

I was in my room, door locked, staring at myself in the mirror over the rustic dresser. I looked like a mess, a bleeding mess.

The taste of the chapstick was still on my lips. It was cherry.

A/N: So, like I said, I've been gone a little while. I've been working on and off on this chapter for a while, though I need to get it up here so I haven't had a chance to actually edit it. Ah well, right? The reason I've been absent for a while is because of that awesome internship I got, plus job-searching, and schoolwork. When I said I thought I'd have more time this semester...well, wow, was I wrong? Sorry about that, everyone. I'll try to update either story much faster for the rest of the semester, but it's getting chaotic now that graduation is coming.

So anyway, a few more updates for you. I have that blog that is linked on my author page. Just some thoughts and whatnot. It'll also be a little while before H&S is updated because I haven't had a chance to start the next chapter and with the schedule I have this coming week...wowza, not sure that's going to happen.

But I hope everyone is doing great! I just got done with a fantastical Spring Break :) Oh, and the chapter image was supposed to be Costaso, but I found a picture of Avery in that dress and couldn't pass it up. Next chapter perhaps?

Onto the story...that was a jam-packed chapter of insanity! Full of a flashback, moments between the siblings, and even a little kiss-action at the end. So what did you think? Favorite quotes? Scenes? And what did you think about that ending??

Chapter 22: The Aftermath
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This chapter is for everyone who has helped me out through the rollercoaster
that has been my life the last couple months. Many thanks!
Balcony scene. Avery snogged James. She tasted like cherry.
James said something about muffins in the oven and ran for it.

Okay, here’s the first question:

Did I like it?

I was on the sofa in the hotel suite with the curtains drawn. It was dark, but a street lamp outside found its way through the top. My skin was sweaty and I had shed my shirt and tie seconds after walking in.

I mean, it was a kiss. The usual kind. I’d kissed plenty of ladies before. Nia and I snogged. Wasn’t like that though. None of them had been like that.

But it was Avery.

Avery Flynn.

Best mate extraordinaire.

But even if she wasn’t, what about the bleeding Code? Well, it wasn’t like we were dating, so technically that balcony snog didn’t break the Code. Still, though, I had a right to think the Code was somehow going to appear in my future. Why didn’t I just use my awesome captain-ing ability to dismantle the sodding thing? Oh yes. Because it was an important part of keeping a team together.

Was this a panic attack?

Fucking hell. I rolled over on the couch and stared at the blank television.

I thought about the way Avery looked at me all night—next to me at the table, while dancing with Twataso, outside with the sea spray in my hair. But she was my best mate. I talked to her about zit issues. About girl problems.

Now she was my girl problem. Who the hell was I supposed to talk to now with my two other mates at my throat for blasted Code issues and her the snogger of my precious lippies?

“James?” Albus looked out of breath as he closed the front door. “I’ve never seen you run so fast and not hex Wes for dancing with Lily. I had to do it. What happened?”

Great. The baby brother comes to my aid. My fucking hero.

“Nothing. Had to go to the bathroom.”

“And the toilets there wouldn’t do the trick?” Al sat on the coffee table. “Spill it, James.”

“Piss off.”

Albus poked me in the side. “Get off your high horse, tosser. I’ll send Lily in here if I have to.”

“Maybe she’ll tell me who she’s been snogging.”

Al choked. “Wait—what?”

“Yep. Don’t know who. Wesley knows. He better pray it’s not him. He won’t make it to the Quidditch Final.” I sat up and peeked out of the curtains. No sign of my Keeper.

Al ran his hands through his hair. “Why is all this rubbish happening at the same time?”

“Dunno.” I stood up. “I’m off to bed. Night, baby brother.”

“Don’t think this gets you off the hook.”

I shrugged. “I never think,” I said, shutting the door to the bedroom and staring around into the darkness. “I know.”

I felt like I was being squashed by a giant Quaffle. It was bloody enormous on my stomach and chest—heavy bugger. It made my nose tickle. I itched it. The Quaffle made a noise. Bugger—needed to breathe!
“Wake the heck up!”

I opened one eye. The Quaffle had bright red hair and the face of an annoying sister. “Get off me. And get out. Now.” I rolled and she fell off onto the other side of the bed.

“Al says something is going on with you.”

“Snitch.” I put the pillow over my face.

“So what is it? Wesley got away with dancing with me last night? Al had to do it. You came from the balcony. What happened? Avery tell you about her date with that Italian bloke?”

“What makes you think I’m going to talk to you about it?”

Lily put a small hand on my shoulder. She smelled like salt water. “You usually talk to Avery. You’re not. You can’t talk to the boys. You’re not talking to Al, which makes me think it’s something emotional.”

“Get out,” I barked.

“Ah, struck a nerve.” Lily paused. “And you’re too scared to talk to Mum and Dad. All right, James, either you tell me or I’ll start guessing.”

“Out. I’m serious, Lily. Leave me alone.” I yanked the blankets up to my neck.

“Do you have a sore? Did you find one? How about Costaso? Did he challenge you to a fight—oh, did you lose? I’m thinking it has something to do with Avery.”

“Why?” I snapped, flying around to face her.

“Because of that reaction.” Lily smiled. Her hair was a little wet. “So what did you two talk about? How steamy Costaso’s snogs are?”

“Shut it! Avery bloody fucking kissed me!”

Lily stared at me with her big, brown eyes. She was in complete shock, something I was not used to seeing on Lily. In fact, usually she wasn’t surprised by the crazy and outlandish things I told her, but this time my baby sister was in complete and overwhelming shock. It was a nice change actually.

“Are you sure?”

I nearly rolled my eyes. My whole body actually. “Of course I’m sure! How would I not be sure?”

She shrugged. “Why though?”

“How am I supposed to know? I just said something about my muffins and took off!”

“You left? James, you’re such an idiot.”

I groaned. “Am not. What was I supposed to say? Erm, thanks a lot, Aves. I appreciate that snog but you’re my best mate and this is awkward. Okay, that would have gone over well.”

“So you think she fancies you?” Lily leaned back into the pillows.

“I don’t know. I can’t even tell. She just went around the village with Twastaso yesterday, how am I supposed to know?” I turned toward the window. “I have no idea what I’m supposed to do now. I’ve never thought of her like that. What if she was drunk? So plastered she doesn’t even remember it?”

Lily pressed her hand to my shoulder. “She wasn’t. Rule that out, Mum was hogging all of the liquor.”

This warranted a laugh. “So do you think she fancies me?”

“That’s something you need to figure out for yourself.” She stood and made her way toward the door. “Look, James, you really do need to figure it out. I know you don’t always want to do things the right way, but you need to this time. This is serious.”

Once she was gone I scoffed loudly. Serious? It was a snog on the balcony. Girls were so dramatic.

I did the right thing and holed myself up in the suite for several hours that morning, tossing and turning and playing with Victoria. She had gas after eating my fancy shoes, though, which wasn’t nice. For once, the Code, Bink, Meta, Clint Lawson, and even Twitwards were driven from my mind and the only person that remained was the person that should have been lounging in that room plotting ways to prank my siblings.

“You like Avery, right?” I looked down at Tory. She hummed. That could have meant yes or not. I needed a more definitive answer. “If you like Avery, hum.” Good. “Well,” I continued, “she snogged me last night. What do you think I should do about it?”

More humming.

This wasn’t getting me anywhere. Thanks, Victoria.

My stomach growled uncomfortably and I wondered if Avery was out there right then—waiting for me to come out and lecture me for leaving. Realistically, what was I supposed to say?

Blimey, what a kiss.

I shook my head. I had to analyze this. I had to think it over. What was best for me? For her? For the team?

But my stomach was being impatient with my lack of a productive thought process. I grumbled and stood up, dressing quickly and narrowing my eyes at the less-than-helpful Victoria. There was only one thing I could do at the moment to make Italy enjoyable for everyone—including Avery.

Leave the subject alone.

The kitchen was empty when I walked out and there was just enough cereal left in the box for me to destroy it. I plopped down on a stool and looked around. Wesley walked in to disturb my breakfast/lunch-eating peace. He tried to smile, but it turned out awkward.

“Lily tell you?” I mumbled.

“No, I saw.”

“You what?” The spoon clattered on the counter beside me.

“I was scoping the balcony from the dance floor because I was going to ask Lily to get some fresh air and then ditch. I happened to look out there at the right moment. I also saw you bail. Record timing on that.” Wesley took a seat across from me. It looked calm. On any normal occasion he should have feared talking to me about anything personal, but he knew my secret. Well, it wasn’t a secret if he looked right out the doors and saw it.

I wondered who else might have seen it. I hope Twataso saw it just so he’d back off.

Why did I want him to back off? I hated him. Why? He was a twat, hence the nickname. Eugh, inner thoughts were getting me nowhere.

“So what do you think?” I went back to the cereal.

“Do you fancy her?”

“She’s my best mate. How do I know it wasn’t just some run-of-the-mill snog that was random and spur of the moment?” I leaned back and stretched. “For all I know she’s in her room thinking about how stupid it is to snog your best mate and she’s trying to think up the phrasing for how to let me down easy.”

Wesley made a face and looked right at me. “Okay, so what are you going to do? You’re going to talk to her, right?”

“I have to think about everyone in this situation.”

“Who? You and her?”

“No. I have to think about us, plus everyone here, plus my team.”

“What in blazes does the team have to do with it?” Wesley was very patient, which is why I liked him. Also, he was a good Beater, but that was beside the point.

“Think about it, Wes. I just flip shits over this whole Bink and Meta thing, only to allow my guard to go down and snog my Keeper. How does that make me look? Granted, I see your expression, snogging doesn’t break the Code. You’re right. But what if she gets attached? Like what if she grew to like me? Can’t have that. Might as well nip it in the butt before it starts. She probably just wanted to see what it was like, you know?” I put my Captain face back on. “I’m surprised it took her seven years to do it, now that I think about it. Yes, that makes sense. Like a test run.”

He surveyed me.

“I’ll go and talk to her about it in a bit.” I tossed the cereal bowl into the sink (it was plastic) and smiled. “Excited for the Puffer game? We’re going to ruin them.”

I found Avery on the beach, legs sprawled out on a towel and sunglasses covering her pretty eyes. She looked up at me, expression unchanged and unreadable, and said hello. Just like that. She used the word “hello” instead of something else. Things were not good.

“Hey, Aves,” I said. I didn’t sit down. Things were already awkward enough. The problem with the whole situation is I had no idea what I was supposed to say. I kept thinking about the taste of cherry and the salt spray and stuff that was not relevant to the conversation I was supposed to be having.

“How were your muffins?” Still unchanged expression. No hint of a sarcastic smile. Shit.

“Erm, burnt. As I thought they would be.” Last night seemed like a foggy dream. “Look, Aves, we need to talk.”

“Obviously. What time did you make on that sprint? Couldn’t have been more than two minutes. Tops.”

“It was a blur, can’t remember it.” I got frustrated. She was toying with me. I hated it.

“You could be a runner.”

“I just…”

“Compete for medals and stuff.”

I ruffled my hair. Son of a bitch. Son of a Meta McLaggen. Eww, hopefully she never got the chance to reproduce her awful spawn.

“Victoria could be your mascot.” She was talking too fast.

“Look, can we just pretend like it never happened?” I blurted out. My chest was rising and falling rapidly.

Whatever she was about to say next, she stopped. Mouth open. She closed it and I heard her teeth fall together. Then a brief cough. “Yeah. Um. Okay.” Then she looked back out at the sea and the breeze blew through her hair. “You’re in my sun.”

And so I was. I moved back, no words coming to mind. I stood there awkwardly for a few minutes, staring at my best mate. Her jaw was tight. Her muscles were stretched. There was a sparkle, glitter or something, on her cheek. I felt another panic attack coming on, so I stepped back. “Uh, see you later then. Bye!” I jogged the other way and stopped just after the end of the beach, glancing back.

She was still sitting, alone, watching the water.

“Afternoon.” Costaso brushed past me and continued onto the beach.

I choked. “Where are you going?”

He turned. “I’m sorry?”

“Where do you think you’re going?” My voice was gruff and as manly as it could have been given the current situation.

“To talk to Avery.” There it was again, him saying her name all weird and Italian. “I’m sorry, aren’t you her family? I’m Costaso. You are?”

“Avery didn’t mention my name?” I leaned against a fence post. Looking cool attempt failure. Costaso’s face remained blank. “It’s James. And I’m not family, I’m her best mate.”

“Ah, I understand now.” He smiled. It was an irritating smile. “The protective best friend. Don’t worry, best mate, I’ll take good care of her.” He turned and was gone down the sand. Costaso sat down beside Avery and she looked over. She smiled. Bugger.

For some reason, as I stood there watching him smooze his way into her good graces, the insults wouldn’t come. I wanted to think so many mean and rotten things about him, but the truth was, Costaso was there and I wasn’t. He had moved in to my territory and set up camp. I was left with a large fence indent in my arm and damaged pride. Good thing Wesley wasn’t there to see it.

“So did you do it?” Wesley whispered from beside me.

Son of a bitch.

I coughed to regain superior manliness. “I talked to her.”

“And you told her what?”

“Nose out, Wesley. Go Beat some Bludgers.” I turned and searched through my pockets for my wicked aviator shades Victoria almost ate. “We’re just going to forget about it. Obviously by the look on her face she was thinking the same thing. Just a brief mistake is all. Twataso is out there hitting on her and all is right in the world.”

“And you’re not going to hex him? Seems like an unfair deal to me.” I could hear the smile in his voice.

“Avery and I agreed we should date. She’s going to date. I’m going to head back and write a Quidditch Captain worthy letter to Nia in hopes that she’s not as crazy as I think she is.” With a shrug, I headed back to the suite. I felt my legs dragging.

Nia wrote back by Friday, her busy scrawl telling me she couldn’t wait to see me and to have lunch in Hogsmeade together (now when did I mention that?). She sounded excited, which is exactly the pick-me-up that I needed. The week had flown by for the most part, with Avery spending time down at the beach, sometimes with Costaso and other times with Al and Rose. Wesley kept me company when I didn’t kick him out, something I was secretly thankful for because Victoria didn’t get me sometimes. Lily was in and out but since she wouldn’t tell me who she was snogging that made it difficult for me not to hex her. Oh, I was going to find out, Lily. I was. Mark my wordies.

Being alone and trekking around the village for the next few days gave me plenty of time to think about what I had left behind. Though I wanted Avery to help me come up with a Code punishment, at least I was able to sort through my emotions about Bink Legace.

Bink had been my best mate for ages. The blond bombshell was blunt, honest, and even a tad rude sometimes, but that’s why I loved him. He said a lot of the things I thought, especially in relate to Emerson Twitwards. That was why I couldn’t wrap my mind around how secretly dating Meta McLaggen would be more important than being honest with his mates. Was she that good in bed? Eww. Strike that image.

He was used to dating the pretty ladies, even bringing a girl over in the summer from Beaubatons. Sly dog, Bink Legace. Girls that practically worshiped him for being blond and pale and suave, something I’m sure he picked up from me. But Meta was the furthest from worshiping him. Maybe that’s what he liked. My brain hurt thinking about them together when I’d seen them put up a front the entire term. Fighting at Quidditch, ignoring each other, etc. It all made sense though. All those stupid times Bink vanished from team meetings or didn’t show up on time to other things. Sodding liar.

I shook my head. I was somewhere near the top of the village and could see most of the roofs from there. It was nice. I had to enjoy the rest of break. I was in Italy! This was no time to worry about Bink or Meta (especially) or the snog Avery gave me on the balcony nights ago.

So why was it still fresh in my mind?

Because I hadn’t been snogged in so long. And it was weird. She was my mate. We were mates. Two peas in a pod. To apples in an orchard. Two Bludgers in a Quidditch match. Oh, I was clever with that last one. Once again, I shook myself out of it (this time almost losing my aviators). I couldn’t keep thinking about it. It would drive me mad.

The next few days were annoying. Al kept prodding into my business about Avery (either she told him or Lily did, because that shit brick knew what happened, and by default, so did Rose). I hexed him a few times and got one back. My leg hairs were singed. He was lucky we were in a magical community because ickle Ally wasn’t seventeen. I told Mum on him.

I avoided him too. He kept saying stupid things anyway.

Dad came in once to talk to me. He didn’t mention Quidditch, but I could tell he wanted to. I could also tell he cared about me, but he was going about it all the wrong way. He was conservative with me. I wondered where my dad had gone, the one that used to sit around and laugh all day. The worst part was, I knew I was wrong. Not totally wrong, but I knew he was looking out for me and that I shouldn’t have been such a teenage snot back, but he was wrong too. He told me to go for what I wanted. He told me not to give up. He forgot.

Dad left soon after telling me that my spirits would pick up after going back to Hogwarts and to try and avoid fighting with Al because he has a delicate self esteem. Delicate my arse, he could insult with the best of us. Potter trait? Maybe a brother trait.

So with Al my enemy, Dad under my skin, Lily and Wesley pressing me for details about irrelevant matters, Avery hanging out with Costaso, Rose being Rose, and Mum being clueless about the whole situation because she was busy actually having a good time, I had plenty of opportunities to focus my attention on the Code and the punishment for breaking it.

It had to be something intense, something that would not hurt them, but would cause them enough public humiliation to not want to go against the Code again. They were breaking rules, and I had to uphold them. But not like a Prefect, because Prefects were tossers like my brother. Who wanted to patrol corridors? Not me.

First of all, definitely laps. I was going to make those sods run until they couldn’t run anymore. Until they passed out and threw up. Okay, not that long, but I was going to make them run a lot.

Public humiliation. That one I could do.

I looked over at Victoria, who was playing in the sand beside me (well, nestling in it anyway) and she hummed. We were on the beach, alone, and the tide was coming in. She was unaware, but I watched her carefully so the water didn’t get there. Oh, yes, Tory, we were going to take something from Bink. And hopefully from Meta. I hated her so damn much. Part of me wanted her to just sign with a reserve team and get the hell out of Hogwarts, but the other part of me needed her to win the Quidditch Final (and yes, I already assumed we would be in the Quidditch Final).

I smirked, a thought coming to me. Ding ding ding. That was it. The punishment for breaking the Code and the way I was going to regain my authority as Captain. Of course I would need the help of the rest of the team, but why shouldn’t I? Those buggers needed to know what would happen to them if they ever broke the Code.

Hilarity. For me anyway.

At dinner on our final night in Italy, the table was overjoyed. Everyone was happy and passing side dishes. It was in the ballroom, but it wasn’t decorated fancy or anything, just a bunch of people coming together for a dinner and some of them getting enough booze in them to dance. Dad and Mum were one of those couples and I hid my face under a napkin.

Avery looked over. “Excited to go back?”

“Honestly, not really,” I said. “I was getting used to the warm weather and James Potter time.”

“Yeah, it has been lovely.” She dabbed at her face with a napkin. I noticed the stiffness in her arms. “I’m ready to go back, though.”

I was about to question Costaso’s views on the subject, but I didn’t need to. Bugger showed up right at my elbow to talk to her. He was so somber, like a sodding idiot. Twataso, yes, that was what he was called in my days of sanity.

“Avery Flynn,” he said like a real ass hat, “could I have a word with you? On the balcony?”

She excused herself from the table and followed him.

I threw a roll at Albus.

“What?” he hissed, green eyes like fire.

“Do you have a pair of Ears on you?”

Albus gaped at me, reached into his pocket, and pulled out a pair of Extendable Ears. Even though he was annoying, I could count on him for stuff like that. Prefects might have been annoying, but they were smart. I put one close to my own ear and threw the other toward the open door leading to the balcony. Lily rolled her eyes at me.

“I’m really sorry you have to go,” Costaso the twit said. He leaned against the railing. “I’ve had an amazing couple weeks with you.”

“It has been fun,” Avery said. I heard the temper in her voice.

“Look, I know you’ve been a bit under the weather lately, but I need to ask you something.”

“Sure,” she said quietly.

“Can I write to you? I feel as if there was so much unsaid between us and I need to say it. You’re beautiful and wonderful and I would like to see you again. And again. Would you mind me writing?”

“I wouldn’t mind,” she said flatly. If she wouldn’t mind, why was she talking like that?

Albus looked at me expectantly. Pfft, go away.

Costaso’s expression matched my own. Puzzled. “Will I see you again?”

“Probably not.”

“Well, will you write me back, beautiful Avery Flynn?”

Avery switched her stance and put her weight on one leg. “Look, let me be honest with you. Once I go back to Hogwarts, I’m going to dive back into classes and Quidditch. Yes, I play Quidditch. Don’t look so surprised. The only thing we’ve talked about for the last week is how pretty my face is and how you’ve done this and that with your fishing boats and inherited all this money. You could sub me out with any girl in this room and you wouldn’t know the difference. I’m a Quidditch Keeper and I take pride in that more than what my physical features are, especially since I can control how good I am at Quidditch.” She paused and my heart raced. “So you can write to me all you want and mourn the loss of your sub-par puppy love, but I won’t be writing back.”

I nearly cheered right there at the table. Seriously, I had to bite my tongue hard to stop from jumping up and doing a hip-hip-hooray for Costaso’s dumbstruck facial expression. Take that, Twataso!

Avery smiled, kissed him lightly on the cheek, and said, “I look forward to your letters.” Then she took her seat and continued eating her cheesecake. “James, take the Ears off already, you look like an idiot.”

I gaped at her. “Oh. Yes.” I tossed them back to Al.

“Don’t even say it,” she said. There was a smile on her lips. I could see the cherry. “I know you want to say it, but don’t.”

“What? I told you so? Of course I don’t want to say that. I wouldn’t dare.” I smirked and stole a bite of her cheesecake.

“Hate you so much, James Potter.”

A/N: Whoohoo! Okay, a lot to cover in a short span of time.

I know a lot of you want to bring harm to me because of the length between updates. Hopefully things will be a lot easier to accomplish now (not promising weekly updates like before, but things slowed down). To give you a glimpse into the last couple months: I finished college, I graduated, moved into my first apartment, set up my first apartment, got a job as a writer, applied to be a copyeditor, got ENGAGED, went to the Sunday night showing of A Very Potter Sequel (did any of you go?), and reread the entire BTQC. So wowza. So I'm SO sorry for the update and the filler chapter, but you all know this one had to come for plot reasons. The next one is already started and I'll give you a mini preview in a few.

Question: I have been asked by several people to start a Twitter account where I would give updates on my stories, funny James/Oliver/Jane/Avery/whomever snippets, and random other things. Would anyone be interested in following or would it be a lost cause? You could even harass me for updates, haha!

As for the chapter: What do you think? I know most of you probably want to hit James. Yeah, me too, but trust me. That's all I can me. How about the chapter image of Costaso? Or should I say...Twataso? Favorite quotes? Favorite things? Miss Freddie's addled brains yet?

Lastly, up next on BTQC:
We've gotta get back to Hogwarts! Oh, and some alumni are coming to down for a shin-diggery. And it's getting in the way of Quidditch practice. Oh, and the punishment for Breaking the Quidditch Code.

Sorry for the long a/n! Thank you all for the overwhelming support while I sorted things out!

Chapter 23: Wesley's Confidential Internal Issues
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This is for everyone that has favorited this story! Over 500!!
That's AMAZING! Thank you all SO MUCH!

After breakfast the next morning Mum went on another packing spree. She repacked the unused pots and pans (I heard this from down in our suite) and came by in a rush to ask if we’d gotten all our clean underwear off the line. I had, by the way. Albus still had some out there, but I did rat him out. Until he prodded me in the back with his wand.

I stood alone in the empty suite after Wes grabbed the remaining bags to take them outside. Victoria’s cage was beside me and she was humming contently with a dead fish beside her. Don’t ask, she wanted it. The room was dimly lit since the curtains were drawn and smelled like salt. I ran my fingers over the counter, feeling strangely nostalgic about leaving. I’d only been in Italy a couple weeks and already I didn’t want to leave.

What made me want to stay?

My eyes wandered around the room. The sofa didn’t make me want to stay, or the lumpy mattress in the bedroom. Or the empty cereal box. I peeked out of the window to the sea. I did like that. Enough to stick around? I wasn’t sure.

“James!” Wesley poked his head in the door. “We’ve gotta get back to Hogwarts!”

I jerked Victoria’s cage up to my chest, breathing hard. “Right. Yeah. We’ve gotta get back to school, I know. I’m coming.”

“Don’t want to leave?” He smirked.

“Not sure.” Truth was, I just didn’t want to go back to Hogwarts. I never thought I’d witness the day I didn’t want to go back to what had been my home for seven years. Unfortunately, most people there (with the exception of Nia) didn’t want anything to do with me. I groaned. Just the place I wanted to go back to. I wrinkled my nose and stepped out, locking the door behind me and preparing for the short journey home and the long journey back to Hogwarts.

Avery was wearing a dress again.

The train ride was less than eventful. We picked the same compartment (as per Wesley’s request because he claimed the floor was more spacious for sleeping). He could have been right, but I didn’t want to find out. I let him snuggle up with a wonky blanket at our feet. Lily and Rose sat beside me jabbering away about something not related to Quidditch, and Avery and Albus sat on the other side, Al falling asleep and drooling on the sleeve of his polo.

I kept to myself for the ride, flipping through a few Quidditch Weekly magazines that had arrived at the house since we left for Italy. Not much Quidditch news. I knew that because the front page was covered with comparing the speeds of all the different Firebolt models. That had been out for two years. Boring. At least there was an article about the Tornadoes doing well and kicking the shit out of the Finches. Who even liked the Finches? No one. Not even the Finches liked the Finches.

It was dark by the time we got to Hogsmeade station and Lily had fallen asleep once again. I let Wesley carry her, mostly because Al was controlling the luggage with his wand and I didn’t want to. I’d get to the hexing later. At some point. I eyed the platform in search of Freddie back from a wacky Weasley Christmas and Bink with his bag full of sweets, but saw neither. They must have caught the earlier train back. After pausing to make an annoyed face, I continued up to the castle in silence.

By the way, it was cold. Not just chilly and having a cloak kept my body warm. Oh, no. It was fucking freezing. Coming from Italy, it was like going to Antarctica. Where were the bleeding penguins when I needed them? I wondered if Victoria was okay in her cage. I stuffed it under my cloak. Cold metal.

The snow was still there. Don’t know why I thought it wouldn’t be. It was there, all right. Right up to my knees in places, but for most of the journey there was a cleared path.

Why did I come back to Hogwarts? It was freezing and Italy was warm and inviting and I would have a chance to hex Costaso properly. Instead, I had snow to my knees, wind that was cutting my face, and the daunting task of facing my mates after a few weeks of separation. At least I wasn’t peeved anymore. Well, I was. But not as bad. Now I had a plan, a dashing plan of excellence that would restore my authority of Captain and as a power figure of Gryffindor Tower.

There were only a few torches lit and no students wandering about when we got inside. I already missed Mum, which was saying something since I was certainly not a mummy’s boy. At all. She just knew what to do during times where the room was dark and everyone hated me. Like when I was little and I might have accidentally set Al’s stuffed dragon on fire by poking it with Dad’s wand and then Lily walked in and screamed and then I got scared and threw the wand and suddenly and by complete accident her stuffed rabbit was on fire. They hated me, yet Mum brought some marshmallows and chocolate to ease the pain of my siblings loathing.

Pfft, they just wished they had my mallows and choco squares.

But Mum wasn’t here and I was leading the way up the marble staircase, marching my troops back to the Gryffindor Tower (we shook off some Puffers after the Entrance Hall). I knew what I had to do (Merlin, did Lily always snore this loud?); I had to keep my head held high and call a Team Meeting. A very important legitimately nice Team Meeting.

And they hated me for it. Meta threatened me with several sharp objects, one of which was a bobby pin and I wasn’t sure what sort of enchantments it possessed. Wesley wasn’t happy only because he was exhausted from our trip. He could just suck it up. Paloma was in bed by the time I requested her presence and narrowed her dark eyes at me on her way to the kitchens.

It was Fred and Bink I was most worried about. When I told them about the meeting, but shrugged, put on shoes, and left the room. It was clear they weren’t talking to each other, but they weren’t talking to me either. I wasn’t actually clear why Freddie wasn’t talking to me. He wasn’t known for grudges.

Avery stood next to me when I arrived back to the common room and said, “All right, Captain, you’ve had a few weeks to think about it. Let’s see what you’ve got to say.”

We walked to the kitchens in silence and Avery sat in Meta’s usual chair. The one at the very end of the table that I faced. Not the one next to me. My new right-hand man-woman was Paloma. She wouldn’t do. Not that I didn’t think she was an amazing woman and teammate, she just didn’t know me or know when to prod me when I rambled. I tried to shake the alone feeling gathering in my throat—that sense of abandonment by my family and team and best mates.

Once everyone was seated in the dim kitchens and a few elves brought out angel food cake and strawberries, I cleared my throat. Awkwardly.

Well, this was new. I had my entire team in silence before me. Not just silence anticipating what valuable knowledge I was about to bestow upon them, but instead an eerie silence that suggested they wanted very little to do with my Captioning needs. Meta strummed her long fingernails on the table making a noise that reminded me of horses.

“Okay, team. First of all, sorry about this late thing. The train was going slow.” I paused for a refreshing sip of lemonade. “I realize it’s late and some of you—yes, I see your scowl Paloma—were sleeping. I just felt the need to confront this situation immediately instead of letting it fester.” I thought about the word fester and how it sounded like an infestation. Pfft, infestation of Slytherin.

More finger-nail-tapping.

“Anyway, here’s the deal. I’m going to lay it out quite plainly and then you can give me your opinions.” With that, I took a bite of angel food cake. I was sweating and sweat was gross. Manly, but seriously sick. “This past term was filled with bullshittery that we, as a team, need to fix. I should be the first one setting an example, and for that, I am sorry. I failed you in a lot of ways.”

“James, don’t be stupid, you’ve been a wonderful captain,” said Paloma.

“Let him go on. Go on, failure.” Meta smirked.

“Eat a slug,” Paloma hissed.

Meta rose from her seat.

“Ladies.” I put up my hands and Meta sank down again. “What I’m trying to say is that the Code has been established for years before I was on this team. That is why Gryffindor is a winning team. The Gryffindors stick to the Code and don’t let other things get in the way of winning. When you joined, you agreed to these terms and to follow them. I did the same thing.” I paused. “Some of the rules of the Code, however, are less punishable than others. It is up to me as Captain to decide which are which. Examples are receiving detention and not representing Gryffindor house well. Those are less punishable because there is wiggle room. Maybe of us have already broken them and I am sorry to say I am included in that. Punishments depend on the reason for the detention—on what you did to not represent Gryffindor properly. Get what I mean?”

I saw a couple nods. At least Wes and Paloma were paying attention. They mattered. They were the future of the scarlet and gold Quidditch.

“That being said, I think we all need to reevaluate how we act in the presence of others. During the next practice we will be running instead of flying so we can all think about exactly what being a part of this team means to all of us. Unfortunately, something like dating another member of the team has to be taken more seriously. I’m sure that is understandable, even to the offending parties. If either of you weren’t worried about the Code, you would have come out and admitted it, ah, four months ago. There will be a punishment for breaking the Code—don’t look at me like that, McLaggen—just as you can assume there will be a punishment if Paloma dates Wesley or Freddie dates Avery.” I almost laughed.

“I would like to apologize, though, for the way I handled the situation.” This was the formal part of my captaining speaking. “I was in absolute shock and should have handled it better. I wasn’t exactly prepared and this will help me with further situations. So I’m sorry for being a complete shit brick about it and a shit friend to you, Bink.” I avoided his eyes. “But I want to talk to you about that later. You might not want to talk to me, but—ah, fuck—anyway, I want this meeting to be short. I’m sorry for being a shit Captain and I’ve had a lot of time to think it over, among other things.”

My team was staring at me. Paloma rubbed her eyes.

“Practice is still on for tomorrow afternoon. Please be there five minutes early read to run.” I finished off the angel food cake and looked up. I saw Meta shooting visual daggers at Bink from across the table. This was going to be harder than I thought. “Bink and Meta, you’re dismissed.”

“So you can talk about us?” Meta snapped.

“Don’t say us like I want to be any part of that,” Bink said. He stood up, blond hair poking out all over the place. For some reason, it was relieving.

“Shut up, Legace. Doesn’t this bother you?” She motioned to the rest of the team, still seated and asked to stay.

“You bother me! This is your damn fault, woman.” Bink threw open the door.

Meta caught it, dark hair in a fury around her face. “Potter, you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into.”

“You broke the rules, Meta. You should understand there are consequences.”

“Fuck off!” She slammed the door behind her.

I sank into my chair. “Bloody hell. I knew that would be difficult but Bink didn’t look at me once. Meta’s just a bitch, though.”

“James,” Paloma said, “can you tell me why we’re still here?”

“Oh! Oh, yes. Sorry. We’re going to discuss the punishment for breaking the Code.”

“Isn’t that sort of a Captain thing?” asked Wesley. “I didn’t know we got a say.”

“We’re a team, Wes. I make the final decisions, but we’re a team. I want to run a few things by you.” I paused to look from face to face. “I’m thinking that laps isn’t enough. Both of them hate each other. Both of them are tearing this team apart and though I’m not saying it’s just their fault, I’m saying this festering secret is the reason we’re all in such a mess right now.” There was that word, festering. Infestation of Twitwards. “So here’s my idea. A combination of work and public humiliation.”

“Isn’t that harsh?” asked Paloma. “What if they’re scarred from it?”

“Meta’s a bitch and Bink is tough. They’ll be fine.” Fred said this, pushing his chair back. “All right, what did you have in mind? I have a few ideas I’ve been thinking about over the holiday.”

I smiled. “Here’s what I’m thinking.”

I heard a deafening squeal the next morning. One would think that it would be at least breakfast time before I went deaf, but no. There weren’t any candles lit and the shades were still drawn. Bink’s hangings were closed. Fred was snoring with his legs hanging off the side of the bed and I heard Emerson muttering about banshees. But the scream didn’t come from any of them. I shouldn’t say scream because it wasn’t life-threatening or horrific, it was a squeal. A squeal only one girl was capable of.

“Oh, Jamie!” Nia ripped back my covers and exposed a bare chest and green boxers. “I’ve missed you so much! Why are you still asleep? It’s five in the morning! You have class today.”

“In several hours,” I muttered, trying desperately to grab for the blankets. She was having none of it. “Why are you here?” I was practically whining.

“I couldn’t wait for breakfast to see you. Oh, Jamie, this is so wonderful!”

“Who the bloody hell is Jamie?”

She giggled. “It’s my nickname for you, silly! You can pick one for me. I am going to suggest sugar or darling or cutie pie.”

How about annoying crazy girl?

“I don’t need a nickname, but thanks.”

“Jamie, you’ll grow to love it.”

That was a girl’s name. Jamie was so a girl’s name. Well, okay, there were blokes named Jamie, but not me. I had an S at the end of my name and it would stay that way. “Look,” I said, sitting up and pointing my wand at the candles so the room had a little light. Fred snorted in his sleep. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation after I just got back from Italy, but here it is. We’re not going to have nicknames for each other.”

“You call Avery Aves.” She said this shortly.

“And I call Fred Freddie, what’s your point? You and I aren’t having pet names for each other unless we hit a different status.”

“What does that mean?” Nia folded her arms in the semidarkness. Her face was sharp.

“It means call me James and I’ll call you Nia until I decide a nickname is appropriate. Don’t call me Jamie. Makes me feel like a prat.” I grabbed for the covers.

“Can we hang out later?”

“I have Quidditch practice.”

“Oh! Will it be exciting?” she whispered. “Can I come watch?”

“It’s just laps. Don’t bother.”

Nia looked put out. “Why are you making your team run? Isn’t that a waste of time? What about tomorrow?”

I groaned, hoping the inquisitiveness of Nia wasn’t going to wake my roommates. Well, I couldn’t care less if it woke Emerson because he was as good as a damn Slytherin. “My team is running as a punishment, Nia. And no, it isn’t. And maybe, but I have something going on tomorrow night.”

“With who? Elizabeth? That dirty—”

“No! With the team. I’ll see you at breakfast.”

Nia didn’t move.

“Seriously, I’ll see you downstairs at breakfast time.” Once she was out of the room I rolled over and threw my head into the pillow. Victoria was making a noise that sounded annoyingly like laughter.

“Good luck with that,” muttered Bink from behind his hangings.

“I really hate women. I want you to know that.”

Nia was indeed at breakfast. In fact, she saved me a damn seat. With eggs and toast and even a random piece of fried chicken. Where she got fried chicken, I’ll never know. I sat between her and Albus, who was the only one of the Potter children that managed to get sun without getting fried on our holiday. My shoulders still hurt.

“Are you excited to start the rest of the year off? I can’t believe it’s our last term.” Nia spread butter on my toast. Meta was practically snorting from across the table.

“Yeah, real excited. I’m just trying to keep my shit together.” I grabbed the knife and bread from her.

Nia beamed just as Bink walked by.

“Hey, Legace, got a new girlfriend yet?” Meta said with a snarky smile.

“Die, McLaggen.” He flipped her off on the way to the front of the table. I was glad Longbottom was deep in conversation with another professor.

“Oh. That.” Nia wrinkled her nose. “Yeah, you should probably do that.”

I saw Avery sitting a few seats down with Lily laughing about something. She was eating fruit. Wesley was on her other side. Emerson was drooling from across the table. I was being prodded by Nia. Bollocks on this.

The running went better than I thought it would. Everyone kept to themselves (except when Bink and Meta swore at each other) and after a couple hours I let them go with water and attitude. I hit the showers alone and let the water fall down over me, thinking about my team.

We hadn’t had drama before when Dara was captain. The only drama consisted of her and me going at it because she was a sodding bitch and how I did not have a stick up my arse. But now suddenly, with a team full of seventh years and a couple fifth years, there were dramatics. People sleeping with people and then hating them. I heard Meta snap so many things at Bink that I would definitely not say in front of Mum. How were they even supposed to play on the same team? Let alone win. Fucking non-Slytherins ruining my life. What a contradiction.

Afterward I retreated upstairs to an empty dormitory. Fred was in the library looking up spells (it wasn’t for academics, don’t feel so shocked) and Bink was leafing through Quidditch books in the common room ignoring the chatter. Emerson was somewhere being a twit with a bloody badge up his arse so I had the room to myself. Well, and Victoria, whom I took out to feed. She hummed quietly and ate real pygmy puff food instead of ties or socks that belonged to Twitwards.

The door opened and I was about to swear loudly until I noticed it was Avery. Her hair was falling around her shoulders and she was wearing a blue sweater with a lion on it my grandma sent her for Christmas. Grandma Weasley always figured Avery was an adopted grandkid. Especially when I told her about Aves’ dad, the bloody bum. He hadn’t written back in a while, which made me rather skeptical. All of my detective sensors went off just thinking about it, but I stopped once she sat on the end of the bed.

Avery tucked her feet under her and petted Victoria with a smile. “Do you think this Code stuff is going to work? Do you think all of it is really necessary?”

“You’re kidding,” I said, on the other side of the bed. “You know I have to discipline them. They broke the Code and they have to pay for it.”

“I just mean shouldn’t you find out what really happened first? Like, the real story?” Avery’s eyes were wide and green. “What if they really liked each other?”

“But they broke the Code.”

“Wouldn’t you be upset if you dated Paloma and then you had to do what you’re making them do?”

“I wouldn’t date Paloma. I’m not stupid.”

“Yes, you are.” Avery raised a brow.

I wanted to shove her playfully, but she was out of my reach. For once. Instead, I shrugged. “Erm, I guess so. I think the consequences are actually tame compared to what they would have done back in the day. I’m thinking hanging by thumbs here.” I tried to be casual, to be plain old James Potter, but I felt weird in my own skin. I tried to concentrate on Victoria, but she obviously liked Avery better and wiggled over to her. Bugger. I put my hands on my lap. Then I ruffled my hair and put them back. Fuckin’ shit.

“Guess so. I just hope one day you don’t eat your words.”

“I’ve already broken the Code, but it’s not like I fancy anyone on the team. Unless I suddenly turn gay and then I think I’d go for Bink. I’d have to aim higher than Freddie with his addled brains, seriously. Dunno what Abigail sees in him.” Change of subject. There it was! There it was!

“I’m just saying, you might regret it. Not saying it won’t be fun.”

There it went.

“Is that what you came up here wanting to talk about? About how you are unsure about the consequences? Since when are our conversations like this?” I paused. “Since when do you sit on the other side of the bed? Since when…are we weird.”

“Since now.” Avery stood up and brushed the pygmy puff hair off her pants just as Emerson bloody fucking Twitwards walked in the door. “Good evening, Emerson.”

“Ah, Avery, you’re looking ravishing this evening.” Emerson bowed like a tool.

She looked at her baggy sweater and jeans. Brow raise. “Yeah, okay.” She went for the door.

I had to admit, though, Twitwards had a point. I liked the sweater. Gryffindor pride! He was still a prick, though.

“Avery, I was thinking about heading to Hogsmeade soon. Would you care to join me?”

“I have Quidditch stuff,” she said flatly.

“Surely not every night.” Emerson laughed nervously. “We can schedule around it.”

“Oh, okay.” Avery put on a smile and my temper flared like I never expected it to. My fists clenched tight around the pillow. “Then no.” With that, she left and I let out a loud puff of air.

Then I laughed. Emerson threw back his hangings.

I hated that I kept thinking about that kiss. The one with Avery, not the ones with Nia. Every time I tried to fall asleep I just pictured it—out on the balcony with the music from inside and those other two slightly-creepy couples out there snogging each other’s faces off. Then suddenly Avery snogging me with her cherry lips and me bragging about my muffins. The scene replayed. What the fuck was that? Obviously, it wasn’t anything feelings-oriented, but damn. It was a good snog. As far as snogs were concerned. She better not have learned from Twitwards or I’d hex the shit out of him. Seriously.

Throughout most of my classes the next day I kept running it out of my mind. Of course, there wasn’t much else to pay attention to since I had stupid Transfiguration that I was bollocks at and then some Potions which was stupid and boring. Avery sat on the other side of Freddie, who was actually beside me and said a few words every once in a while. We weren’t fighting anymore (were we at ever? I wasn’t sure) but we weren’t best mates either. Hopefully after the ceremony.

Avery didn’t sit with me at dinner either and it was making me fucking crazy. I wanted to tell her about Clint Lawson getting a wet paper ball stuck to his hair in the corridor and that one portrait on the fourth floor snogging Sir Dimwit in the Astronomy stairwell. She was talking to Lily and Albus. And Hugo, strangely enough. Get the fuck out, Hugo. Go find your own friends. I swear, he could have been a Puffer if it wasn’t for Uncle Ron drilling it into his head that Puffers are bad news. Well, dumb news. Either or.

Professor Sinatra stood up at dinner in all of her gray-robed glory and smiled out at us. Longbottom looked over at the Gryffindors expecting ace behavior. Fred was still trying to get Roxanne to eat green beans by stuffing them into her face resulting in her having green chunks of veggie and him having a black eye.

“Attention students!” Sinatra shouted and Fred stopped threatening to tell their parents and Roxanne stopped rolling her non-black eyes. “I have a wonderful announcement to make and I think you will all be very excited about it. Next Saturday Hogwarts will be keeping up with a tradition long overdue considering the last time we held it was around ten years ago.”

“Please tell me it’s some awesome tournament where I can get rid of my little sister,” muttered Fred. “I’m thinking dangerous dragons or something.”

Sinatra tried to quiet the whispers. “Hogwarts is playing host to an Alumni party! Isn’t that exciting?”

“Bugger,” said Fred. “Maybe I’ll just chuck her out of the Astronomy Tower.”

“Judging by that shiner she might get you first,” I said.

“So basically, it’s a party where alumni of Hogwarts will return to look around the castle, have tours around the grounds, and party it up in the Great Hall. Fifth years and above will be allowed to attend.” Lots of groans. “A good many of your parents should be coming, as well as recent graduates and others. That means you have to be on your very best behavior and represent your houses correctly.” Sinatra smiled widely. “Now aren’t all of you excited?”

What Sinatra didn’t know, however, is she ignited a firestorm of female emotions that I did not want to deal with.

I knew it would happen immediately, and it did. Girls I didn’t know were batting their mascara-clumped eyelashes at me. I had no idea why they wore that crap; it made my eyes water just looking at them. Awkward. Nia was practically glued to my hip and by ten I was glad to have the excuse of Quidditch to get her the hell away from me.

The ways girls reacted to dances was a mystery to me and something I wanted to be as far away from me as possible. Why would they care about something our ‘rents would be at anyway? I wasn’t asking anyone because I wasn’t sure I even wanted to go. However, as Quidditch Captain it was probably my duty to show everyone how to be awesome.

“You peeved about the Alumni gig?” Fred asked, jogging to catch up with me as I walked up the spiral staircase.

“Yeah, sounds stupid.”

“I mean because it’s during one of our scheduled practices.”

“Aw, what the fuck?!” I yelled, kicking open the door. “Why is this happening? Can’t Sinatra at least check the schedule before she ruins my life?” I grabbed a few bags of clothing, patted Victoria on the head, and turned to go. Bink looked up. “Hey, mate.”

“Hi.” He looked back at his book. “What are you two doing so late?”

“About to go damn protest this shit.” I walked back out the door, careful not to let Bink in on anything. “All right,” I said as we reached the bottom of the stairs. “Let’s go meet the others and do this.”

Fred and I bumped fists.

We woke Bink by pouring large amounts of ice water over his head. He screamed like a girl, but Twitwards didn’t wake up because he had silencing charms surrounding his hangings. Blond hair stuck all over his face, we grabbed Bink by the shoulders and shoved him out the door, shirtless and swearing like Uncle George.

Freddie, Wesley, and I were in all black from our hideous Velcro shoes to our cloaks and masks. Bink, however, was shirtless and wearing flannel pajama pants. Lucky, because he usually wore boxers. I only knew that because I lived with him. I didn’t know what his boxers looked like, but I did know he had lots of blond hair on his legs. Blimey, anyway.

We shoved him in front of us while he swore and all the way into the corridor outside of the common room.

“What gives?” he said loudly. “What time is it?”

“Shut up and walk.” Wesley disguised his voice as something very deep and un-Wesley like.

It was obvious Bink knew it was us, but still. He was the one walking down the stairs and in the passages with no shoes on and soaked hair, not us. I was quite snuggly warm.

The girls were already there with Meta when we arrived, though Paloma was holding her arm which hinted Meta had put up more of a fight. What a bitch.

Meta and Bink met eyes. “Fuck you,” said Bink. “Die,” said Meta. How did they ever even look at each other?

“You’re here for a reason,” I said loudly and in my best intimidating voice. Freddie was shaking with laughter and I wanted to Emerson-punch him. “Because you broke the Code and you were assholes about it. Just saying. So you need a punishment. And since I’m—I mean, and since James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team is such a fair Captain, it’s not going to kill you. Hopefully.” I paused. “All right, minions, prepare for phase one.”

Fred and Avery brought out two chairs and forced Bink and Meta down in them. Meta was struggling and tried to kick Avery’s shin. Then they took out their wands and bound both to the chairs. Meta was screaming obscenities so they taped her mouth. Bink just told her to shut up so I left his go.

“The Gryffindor team is one machine. If there is one rock on the road, everyone stumbles. Or something like that. Anyway, you guys fucked it up so now we’ve—I mean, everyone—decided that you should go without something for a while. You’ve left us—I mean, them—without confidence and hope and confusion about whether or not we—they—can trust you.” I stopped, looking at Bink’s eyes. His brows were furrowed, but not in an angry way. In a shit way. Like a guilty way, something Bink was not accustomed to. He looked at Meta, and then back at me. “Begin phase two.”

While Paloma and Wesley watched, Fred and Avery took out their wands again. They each muttered something (the result of Fred’s research in the library) and bits of blond and dark brown were floating to the floor. Soon there were large clumps. I saw Meta’s eyes shooting daggers at me. Serious ones. She wanted to hex me—bad. Bink just sat there, limp in his chair. He was breathing, though. I had Fred check.

Meta and Bink were left with no hair.

It wasn’t permanent, of course, but they didn’t need to know that. Actually, it would only stay that way for a day before growing back rapidly to the way it was when cut. Simple spell.

“Okay. We have now taken something from you, similar to the way you took our friendship and stepped right on it. Do you have anything to say before phase four?”

“What’s phase three?” Bink asked.

“This is. The talking is phase three. Bugger.” I scratched my head and saw a hint of a smile in his eyes.

He cleared his throat and met my gaze. “I’m sorry.” He whispered it in a low voice, hoarse and scratchy.

I fought the seriously feminine urge to go hug him. I had no idea where this random urge came from, but it was awkward with him sitting there under a dangling candle-light and looking so pitiful. Then he says he’s sorry. After we’ve just bloody cut off all his hair. I stepped back into the darkness to hide my expression—even though it was under the mask.

“Erm, yes. Good,” I choked out, regaining composure. “McLaggen?”

Avery untaped her mouth with a flick of her wand.


“Well, that’s not productive,” I said, retaping her mouth. “Meta, you need to realize what you did was wrong. You agreed to these terms when you signed on for another year. It’s really not as bad as you think it is.”

“Phase four?” Fred said into the silence.

“Yes. Good idea, Weasley. Erm, fuck. Minion. Good idea, minion.”

Bink laughed. “All right. What the hell is phase four? I already have no damn hair and have to walk around a bald albino.”

“With style,” I said, as Paloma and Wesley brought forward t-shirts. “For the next twenty-four hours you are required to wear these fancy amazing t-shirts brought to you by Uncle George. Fuck, I mean, a completely anonymous unaffiliated partner. Wesley hoisted the first over Bink’s head. It read, I’m Bink and I like Broomsticks. Paloma put one on the struggling Meta. It said, Cannot be Trusted. Even with Puppies.

“Don’t try to take them off. If you do, I’ll know.” I smiled. “All right, minions. Let’s escort these two back upstairs to bed. I can see McLaggen’s goose bumps from here. It’s cold. I need a blanket.”

“Fuck off,” Bink said, kicking Fred in the shin. “I don’t even have a shirt on.”

“Watch your mouth,” said Wesley. “There are ladies around.”

“Shut up, Wesley,” Bink said, but he was laughing.

Even though things weren’t exactly solved by the time I went to my meeting the next morning with Longbottom, I felt better than I had in weeks. Well, okay, not much could trump Avery telling off Twataso, but still. I felt damn good. Bink said he was sorry. Meta was still a bitch, but who really expected that to change? And Avery…well, she helped. Fred and I were back to being mates—well, less awkward ones anyway. Things were slowly on the path back to sanity.

“Why were you out of bed at three in the morning, James?”

I damn near had a heart attack. I was sitting across from Longbottom in his office. He was in a corduroy chair and I was in a metal folding one because his others were getting upholstered that day. They needed to—bleeding looked like they were from the 1900s.

“I’m—I’m sorry? What?”

“I know you were out. Why?”

“How do you know I was out? I’ll have you know I was sleeping soundly in my bed dreaming of bunnies and bumblebees.”

He raised a brow. “I saw you and stepped behind a suit of armor. I watched you pass with Fred Weasley and Wesley Jordan. Should I call them in here to explain? Or should I just ask you what the all-black outfits were about? You’re not hazing anyone to join a Quidditch club, are you?”

“Oh, bugger. No, no.” I scratched my forehead. “Ah, it’s really hard to explain. Can I just say it won’t happen again?”

“James. Please don’t give me a reason to write to your family.”

Ah. The thought of Mum getting a letter from Longbottom about me traipsing the castle at three in the morning was unbearable.

“We were coming back from a secret meeting.”

“Discussing what?”

“Erm,” I said, my palms sweating. I was the Captain. I should be able to think on my feet. “Discussing Wesley’s confidential problems.”

“Excuse me?” Apparently Longbottom did not like being left out.

“Yes, he has some internal issues he’d rather me not mention, which is why he needed to meet me late so we could discuss how he could stop being such a hindrance to the team. You see, his issues cause him to miss a lot of team stuff and sometimes hit the Bludgers wrong, but he loves the game and who am I to deny him that, really? He just doesn’t want anyone to know.”

“And Mr. Weasley?”

“Wes loves Fred like a brother.” Totally untrue. Fred actually pantsed him last night and Wesley threatened his life. “Of course he trusts Fred.”

“I wish you wouldn’t travel all over the castle just to have a personal chat,” Longbottom said after surveying me for a while. “If you do leave the common room after hours could you please restrict it to that area of the castle? I do not want to have to worry about you.”

“Sorry, Professor. Won’t happen again. I think we have it all figured out.” I ran my fingers through my hair. We’d better have it all figured out.

“All right. Well, then I actually only have one more question for you and then if you have anything for me you’re welcome to say it.”

“Nada. What’s your question?” I was practically out of my seat ready to get some serious lunch.

“Why do Meta McLaggen and Bink Legace have no hair today?”

Ah, shit.

“No idea. Weird fashion trends this spring, sir. I’ve heard it came from London. Meta does like to keep up on fashion and Bink hates his blond locks. Perhaps they decided to go it together.”

“Okay, okay.” Longbottom folded his hands. “And would you care to explain the shirts that will not come off? Mr. Legace’s is highly inappropriate.”

“I don’t find that him liking broomsticks is anything short of the truth. He collects the older models like the Cleansweeps. Has fourteen of them at home.”

“You think I’m daft?”

“Professor, I can’t be responsible what members of my team do and don’t do for fashion. Being beautiful hurts, you know? Maybe the shirts are an expression of that? I have no idea.”

“All right, James. You can go.”

I practically sprinted out the door. Fuck fuck fuck!

“How many times?” I asked Bink at dinner, pointing to his shirt. Originally, it was a fresh shade of pink. It was now a murky shade of green.

“Tried to get it off once before I realized it changed colors but didn’t come off,” he said. “Seriously, the Slytherins have been at me all day for this. You’re a right pain.”

“Yeah, you too, mate.” I sank down onto a bench and grabbed a plate of mashed potatoes. Nia was nearby giving me the let’s-go-to-the-dance-together look. Bugger off. “You don’t have much longer with it on though. Then Lawson will stop trying to be your boyfriend. You seen McLaggen? I’ve heard she wants my head. That part was Freddie’s idea actually. Brilliant Weasley that he is.”

“The hair was that shit’s idea? I hate him.” Bink continued to eat. He looked so damn weird without hair. The candlelight was actually reflecting on his head. “I haven’t seen that woman all day. I hope everyone is tearing the mickey out of her.”

I was about to respond and add that I wanted to tear the mickey out of him for being a pale bald bloke, but instead I focused on the letter now sitting in front of me, sopping wet from my gravy. Sick. It was in Mum’s handwriting and I heard Al let out a, “ooooh” from further down the table, sodding git.


Please write me back when you get a chance. I’m worried about you. Your father and I talked about our Italy trip yesterday and you really weren’t yourself. I didn’t see much of you for the last week or so. Please don’t let the drama with your team influence your mood (or your grades). I hope you work everything out, but please don’t hesitate to ask for help. Remember, your father was a Captain while he was at school and I played for many years, so we know our way around the Quidditch pitch. Did you get it all sorted out? How is your relationship with Bink? With Meta? (at that I snorted)

I’m hoping to hear from you soon, dear. Oh, and I just got a letter from Professor Longbottom on express owl. It says you’re doing wonderful so far and your meeting today went great. I’ll send this back with his express owl.



I stared at it. Longbottom covered for me. What in Merlin’s name was that about? He knew I was out balding Bink at three in the morning and yet he didn’t tell Mum what I was doing. I didn’t get a Howler. Was Longbottom suddenly becoming cool? No. No way. People that worshiped plants were so not cool.

“Get in trouble?” asked Lily with a smirk.

“Sod off; no, I didn’t get in trouble.” I tucked it in my shirt pocket so I could write Mum back later. I was officially confused and blocked out what my siblings said next. Avery was pushing food around on her plate with a fork.

Nia flopped down beside me. “What a day, Jamie!”

“What did I tell you about that? I’m going to think of something horrible to call you if you keep calling me that woman name.” I narrowed my eyes and too many people started giggling at my new name. Bink quickly shut up as he met my icy stare.

“Oh, lighten up. I’m just having a little fun.”

“It seems everyone is at my expense.” I stood up, stretched, and walked out of the Great Hall, leaving my potatoes abandoned for some selfish looter and my dignity as well. It was freezing damn cold outside, but it felt nice. The grounds were covered with several inches of fluffy snow and there were large Hagrid-sized footprints coming from his hut. A few led out to the lake, which was now iced over. I wondered about the safety of the Giant Squid and if he needed something for the winter.

“You’re going to catch a cold.” Avery pulled her cloak tighter around her. “Jamie.”

“Bugger off. Real men don’t catch colds.”

She was standing several feet away from me. I did feel cold.

“Suit yourself. You still going to snog her if she calls you that?”

I shrugged. I didn’t know what I was going to do. I did know I was standing awkwardly with my best mate talking about snogging Nia, but I knew little else.

“Well, let me know.” She reached down to pick up a piece of parchment that fell from her pocket and into the snow. “Aw, damn.” Pressing it against her cloak, she tried to try it off.

“Who’s it from?” I secretly hoped it was from her father. He hadn’t written through the entire Italy trip and I hadn’t heard his name since the Quidditch match. I didn’t want him to do this to her—to randomly disappear after seeing her play. To get her hopes up and then vanish again. I wanted her to be able to send someone other than my father a Father’s Day card that year. Not that Dad wouldn’t love it, but I know Avery would love to send it to someone else.

“Oh, Costaso wrote me this morning.” She stuffed it back in her pocket.

“Even after you told him off?”

“Guess he is in love with me or something.” She shrugged, turning back toward the door. “I might as well write back.”

“He didn’t even know you liked Quidditch. You hate him.”

“I don’t hate anyone. Okay, take the back, but I don’t hate Costaso.”

I was now numb to the cold, just thinking about that smarmy git writing letters by candlelight to Avery. “You can’t be fucking serious.”

“I’m not.” Avery had a cocky smile as she looked over her shoulder at my beet red face. “But wow, you’re funny when you get peeved. If you want to read it you can. I have no intention of writing back.”

A/N: Hey everyone!! I hope you enjoyed James's overhyped Code punishment, haha :) I do enjoy his overdramatic tendencies, even though he will never admit it. He also likes Glee, but will never admit it.... haha, only joking. Or am I ?

Anyway, I hope you liked the chapter! It's officially summertime! Do any of you have awesome plans or vacations for the summer? I'm going to do a LOT of working!

Remember that Twitter stuff I was talking about before. It's going to be a HIT! Head over to my blog for details :) I know a lot of you are already following it for updates. It's on my author page at the top! If you have awesome questions or just want to bug me, feel free to comment there, my MTA page, or send me a PM in the forums :)

You're all so wonderful! I can't believe we're almost at 1,000 reviews for this beast! Can't wait to read your thoughts on Javery, Freddie's addled brains, Longbottom covering for James, and, well, Meta and Bink BALD!

Chapter 24: Eyeball Torture, A Shower, and Purple Silk
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To radicallyali, who came to stay with me for a few days. We made Oliver
Wood brownies, watching AVPM & AVPS, and finished up this chapter :)

I finally saw Meta later that evening in the common room. She still wore her shirt, though it was now a very dark brown (meaning she had tried to take it off at least five times) and she was curled in the corner with a Potions book and a quill. On her head was a very blatant yellow-blond wig with tight curls flowing onto her shoulders. There was a blue headband on top.

Unfortunately for me, the Seeker spotted me as I attempted to sneak up the spiral staircase. They should really put a spell on the stairs to stop the irritating squeaking. Also known as the squeaking that gets me caught by Meta.

“Potter,” she growled. Quite literally.

“Hey there, Meta McLaggen! How are you today? I love the hair. Brings out your…” I paused. “Erm, brings out your hair.” I tried to smile bright but I figured my upper lip looked a little snarle-esque.

She stood up and tossed the book onto the floor. A few people turned to stare and I could see the sunset reflecting off of her plastic locks. I looked behind me—no Bink or Fred. No backup. I was alone facing my fire-eyed Seeker.

“Look, Potter, I know you were trying to do what’s right for your stupid sodding Code.” Her voice was low and threatening.

I looked around to make sure no one overheard the word ‘code.’ It was secret, after all.

“But I am going to hex you into next week for shaving off my hair. Do you know how uncomfortable this wig is? I had to steal it from some stupid fucking Puffer.” Meta reached up and yanked at the yellow-blond wig. It moved on her scalp. I wasn’t surprised it came from a Puffer and wondered why the hell they wore so much bleeding yellow. “Do you even realize who you’re messing with, you son of a bitch?” Her voice was rising and she was marching up the steps toward me. My fingers were frozen against the railing.

Shit shit shittery. Meta was closing in like a lioness hunting a gazelle. The gazelle was me, by the way, but I had a huge problem with being a gazelle. First of all, I was not that lanky. Gazelles had those crazy chicken legs and my legs were Quidditch-toned and not chicken-y at all. I didn’t get the lanky, string bean reference. Stupid Meta calling me a weakling!

“All right, look here, McLaggen, I have a problem with your attitude!” I puffed out my chest because she was getting closer. She doesn’t hunt down the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. I was the lion of this…lion club. Lion clique. Erm, congregation.

Big fucking group of lions.

“I’m going to give you way more fucking attitude than you bargained for!” Her feet stomped up the stairs toward me. “First, what I’m going to do, is exactly what you did to me. I took something from you? That’s bollocks, Potter. I can fuck anyone I want.”

“Don’t talk about Bink like he’s some throw-away!” My temper got the better of me that time and I knew people were watching. A second year was stuck at the top of the stairs and Nia and Elizabeth (since when did they even talk?) were whispering by the fire. Everyone had stopped. I didn’t blame them. Our voices were loud enough. So far, though, no backup. Not even Twitwards was around to give me a detention so I could show the team how great I was at not breaking the Code. “You need to follow the rules and you got your punishment same as anyone would.”

Her wand was out faster than I thought it would be. A piece of the wig flew in her mouth. I had never seen such disturbing fire in her eyes before and it would have been even scarier accompanied by the dark brown hair she was currently missing.

“Hi. I can talk about Legace any way I want to. It’s not like you know what went on between us anyway. And now, Potter, you can say good-bye to the hair you seem to love so much.” She was smiling like a bloody crazy woman.

I went for my wand. It was so not in my front pocket where it usually was.

Fuck fuck fuckery!

“Meta McLaggen, detention.”

I didn’t realize my eyes had been closed. Tight. I opened one eye to see Emerson Edwards beside the portrait hole with a bored look on his face. Aw, what the fuck? Did my life have to take the weirdest of turns? Oh, Meta, just take my hair and make Twitwards go away.

“Are you kidding me?” She wheeled around and shoved her wand back in the pocket of her jeans. “I didn’t do anything! And you hate him!”

“As much as I would love to see the reaction of James Potter without his hair, yours isn’t permanent.” He even yawned. “I saw Weasley looking up the spell in the library the other day, so get off the damn spiral staircase. You’re a fire hazard.” He sounded like Albus. At that point, Emerson was at the bottom of the stairs and Nia was whispering again. “Seriously. Bloody move so I can get up to my room.”

Meta made a noise that sounded like a cross between a dinosaur and Lily when she doesn’t get her way. She turned, flipped her wig and shoved past him, nearly knocking Emerson into the wall. She grabbed her Potions book up off the floor (leaving the quill) and marched up the opposite spiral staircase. A loud door slam and then silence. Elizabeth giggled.

“Nothing more to see here,” Emerson said loudly and then walked past me and up into the dormitory. I looked around the common room. Everyone was staring at me.

What the fuck just happened?

Okay, I had to go through the list of it.

1. Saw Meta with her awkward wig.
2. Tried to sneak away.
3. Meta jumped up and ran at me, totally calling me a weak gazelle.
4. I was the king of the clusterfuck of lions.
5. Meta’s wand came out. My wand wasn’t in my pocket.
6. Emerson fucking Edwards gave her a detention, told her that her hair loss wasn’t permanent, and left.
7. I did not get a detention.
8. I did not get in trouble.
9. I did not get a snide comment about him wanting to have sex with Avery.

Wait, what?

Oh, my wand was in my back pocket.

Bink and Fred said the same thing when I told them later that night. Twitwards was off patrolling the corridors and doing Prefect evaluations and me and the boys were relaxing before bed. We still weren’t best mates or anything (I was waiting until it healed a bit more), but we were back to hanging out. Bink warmed up a bit more once I let him take off the shirt and told him his hair was going to come back around three in the morning.

“But why didn’t he give you a detention for breathing?” asked Fred.

“Probably because Aves turned him down for a date, eh?” I said. “His pride took a hit.”

“Don’t you think he’d want to get you even more?” Bink took out some treats and tossed them into Victoria’s cage. “Because Avery shot him down I mean.”

“I wonder if he’s lost his nerve.” Fred stretched out. “Maybe he’s gone gay for you, mate.”

“Shut your mouth.” I fluffed my pillow in a manly sort of way. “He’s probably just being a weird sod to throw me off guard. I hate his guts.”

“Same.” Bink crawled under his covers. “I hope she gets the worst detention ever. Worse than losing her hair for a day. Speaking of which,” he added, before I could press the matter, “I feel some fuzz on my head. Good, because I have an awkward shaped skull.” With that, Bink blew out the candles beside his bed and shut his hangings.

I made a face into the semi-darkness. “We’ll see I guess. I bet Al got a shit evaluation because he’s my brother.”

Everyone remained up in arms about the Alumni Party for several days. It got annoying after the first minute or so since it wasn’t cool like Halloween so the girls discussing what they were going to wear was not interesting. It wasn’t like Paloma talking about her schoolgirl outfit or Nia talking about whatever it is she went as (French maid, right? Maybe). It was about dresses and lace and things that Emerson would be interested in.

I was cornered more often than not. Not that I thought I’d be left alone, but even the Ravenclaws I swore Fred had dibs on tried to get me to go to this party with them. Problem was, I didn’t want to go with them. In fact, I had no desire at all to be on the arm of Kay Davies or that weird blond Puffer girl. Elizabeth asked. Nia asked. Lily asked what was wrong with me.

I just didn’t really want to go.

And the girls were not happy. I didn’t want to sound arrogant (like Twitwards), but everyone wanted James Potter as their date. Okay, except Meta. And Avery, but that would be awkward.

Not that our relationship wasn’t awkward enough already. In the last couple days we spent classes together and a few chats, but other than that Avery kept to hanging with Rose and Albus (who got a horrible review, obviously because he’s my brother) and keeping to her studies. When Bink and Fred weren’t around, I actually sat in my room with Victoria. I was sure she enjoyed the company, but I got bored. Twitwards smiled at me once or twice and I almost threw up.

The morning of the party was more chaotic than I thought. It was a Saturday, so I planned on sleeping in since I didn’t have Quidditch to look forward to (thanks a bleeding lot, Sinatra). Instead of sleeping, the door was shoved open and Avery Flynn woke me up by throwing several pillows at my head.

“Up!” she cried.

“Wha?” I blinked. Fred and Bink were still asleep. Emerson was dressing by his bed (look at those heart boxers. Seriously).

“I have to use your bathroom.”

“Wha?” I used my wand to light a few candles and open the shades. “What’s wrong with your bathroom?”

“Bloody Nia and Elizabeth are fighting over the mirror. Mary keeps trying to curl her hair in there and I’ve been hit four times with a hot iron.” Her voice was irritated. “Meta isn’t out of bed, but I’m sure she’s not going.”

“Going where? The loony bin. That’s where you’re going.” I forced myself to sit up. “What time is it?”

“It’s already ten and alumni are going to start arriving in an hour.”

“So use the bathroom then.”

“You don’t need to use it, do you?” Avery asked. She had a large bag with her.

“No. Well, not for a few minutes.”

“I’m doing my makeup.”

“How long is that going to take?” I stretched and reached for Victoria.

“Shouldn’t take more than an hour.”

“Bloody hell, woman!” I shouted. Fred moved in his sleep. Bink was mumbling. “What do you put on your face? Why does it take that long?”

Avery didn’t reply. She just walked into the bathroom and slammed the door.

“Let’s make Hogwarts an all-blokes school,” said Bink gruffly.

“Yeah right,” I said, opening a few more curtains. “I may get irritated but Quidditch and the girls are the only things that keep me here.”

“Good to know.” Bink laughed and opened his hangings. His mop of blond hair was back. “What should we do instead of get ready? It’s not going to take us all bloody day.”

“Didn’t Aves say alumni are going to start arriving soon to do tours and all that rubbish?” I asked. Victoria was happy with her treats. “Do we have to do that sort of stuff or can we just stay here?”

“Depends,” Bink said. “Are those alumni your parents?”

Bugger. Hadn’t thought of that. The thought of having Mr. and Mrs. Potter walking around the castle and pointing out places they snogged made me sick to my stomach. Would Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione come as well?

I grabbed for a pair of pants and my nice collared shirt (the least wrinkled one anyway). “I have no idea, but I have a feeling Mum would want to come to see us. Makes me wonder who else will be here.” I nudged Fred with my foot. “Oy, your ‘rents coming to this alumni shin dig?”

He mumbled and attempted to throw a pillow at me, only to have it land a meter away on the floor. “Dunno. Probs.” Fred never made complete words while sleepy.

“Mine are,” Bink said before I had the opportunity to ask. “They said since I came home for the holidays they didn’t need to come nag me at school, but then decided they wanted to see the castle again.”

“Horrible,” I said. The room was still dark after Twitwards slammed the door and I sighed. This was going to be a hell of a long day.

She was in the bathroom for ages. Like, millions of years plus a few more lifetimes. Plus more.

Twitwards hadn’t come back upstairs (thank Merlin) since he was meeting his equally pratty parents, and Bink abandoned me for some breakfast. Freddie threw on dirty clothes and walked out, whining about a girl barricaded in the loo. I, however, was pounding on said loo door.

“Bloody let me in!” I shouted.

“Shut up! It’s been ten minutes, James. Use Al’s bathroom.”

“I will not sink to the level of sixth year bathrooms. Let me in!”

Avery ripped open the door and what I saw next was enough to scare the tough right out of a Quidditch player.

“What the fuck is that?!” I backed away, nearly toppling over Emerson’s bed.

She held a weird metal contraption to her eyes that looked like it could pull out an eyeball or two. The top was curved, held over an eye, with two clampy things her fingers were around. It was gold with black plastic and I wanted nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing to do with the eyeball torture device.

“What?” She looked around her and back into the bathroom. It was empty except for a bag full of cosmetics and boxes strewn about my counter.


Avery rolled her eyes and shoved the torture device toward me. I recoiled instantly, flipping over Emerson’s bed. “It’s an eyelash curler, you git. Here. Look. It’s going to curl my lashes.” She put it up to her eye again. “Go on, look. James, quit being a sod or I’m going to curl your damn lashes.”

She walked toward me so I leapt another obstacle (Bink’s bed) and panted. The reason I was tired was the fault of the Alumni Party. I should have been on the pitch working out. Being a sweaty Quidditch player. Which every girl wanted to go with to the damn party. Fuck you, party.

“James!” Avery said, clearly irritated as she made her way around Bink’s bed toward me.

I jumped it again, going straight to Emerson’s neatly made bed (not anymore) and into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. “Aha!” I exclaimed.

“I know how to open this door.” I could very well tell why she was annoyed—there were cases of colors and glosses and sticks all over the damn place. Two were on the ground. I could have died tripping over them. Was that green? Ew.

“I need to use the loo,” I said, examining the rest of the shit she had piled on the counter. There was a black pencil for writing notes and some weird stick with fuzzies on it and tubes of other stuff.

“I’m going to hex you.”

I picked up one of the tubes and out came a beige liquid. My nose wrinkled. It smelled funky. I wiped it on the back of my hand. It was probably lotion or something to make it shiny. It blended in pretty well. A little dark, but okay.

“James. Get the hell out.”

I was not going to be defeated by an eyeball-eating device.

“Be out in a minute!” I closed up the weird tube and examined the rest of the loot. Nothing of value. I had no idea what any of it did, but it couldn’t be that exciting. I opened the box of powder colors and saw some pinks and purples and blues. They were pretty shades. One looked like Victoria. I stuck the stick in that one and put it on the back of my hand.


“Oy, bleeding hold on, woman! Keep your knickers on already.”

I needed a plan. That’s what I needed. With that, I used the powder as war paint, grabbed the shower head, opened the door, and fired.

What I got back, wasn’t entirely expected.

Emerson Edwards was standing in front of me, now completely sopping wet in his shirt, tie, and bad hair style. His mouth (now filled with water) was lopsided and since I was already spraying water, I made him look like he wet himself. Avery was on the other side of his bed, sitting on Bink’s, finishing off with the torture device.

I could tell he wanted to run at me and tackle me. To Emerson punch the shit out of me because his stuck up parents were probably downstairs admiring artwork while he came up to use the potty and now he was soaked. But here was the weird part, Emerson spit out the remaining water and continued to gape at me.

“Are you quite finished?” he managed to say.

“Erm, yes.” I put the shower head back. I stepped out of the bathroom. He went in and closed the door.

Avery couldn’t hide her laughter. “What the hell was that?” she said. “Was that supposed to be for me? Oh, and what the hell is under your eyes?”

I flushed, remembering the pink streaks on my cheeks. “War paint,” I said in a husky voice.

“Out of all colors, you pick pink?”

“I picked Victoria.”

Avery smiled. “Want to curl your lashes too?”

“Shut it.” I shoved her back onto Bink’s bed and grabbed a cloth to wipe my cheeks. The idea was getting stupider and stupider inside my head. “I have to go see if my siblings know whether Mum and Dad are coming.”

Avery grabbed my arm and pulled me close. It was the first time I’d been close to her since she kissed me on the balcony. She was warm. “Why didn’t Emerson give you a detention? Or kill you?” she whispered. Her breath smelled like mints.

“No bleeding idea. Didn’t give me one for the fight with Meta either. Or for breathing.” I stared at the door instead of at her.

Emerson emerged then, now dry and attempting to look perfectly pleasant. He succeeded if I didn’t look into his eyes, which were on fire.

So, like the good Potter I was, I took advantage of the situation.

“Sorry about that bath, Edwards. I saw a spot of brown on your nose.”

“It’s okay, Potter.” He grabbed a cloak. “Good morning, Avery.”

“Morning,” she said, obviously as confused as I was.

“It’s a nice day,” Emerson said. “I’m off. My parents are waiting.”

I snickered. “Not going to get all fancy in your gray dress for them?”

His ears were turning a dark magenta. “Not today, Potter.”

“I understand. Freddie looked much better in the dress. His legs are a little thinner than yours. Anyone ever tell you that you have turkey legs? They’re like chickens but fatter.”

“I’m warning you,” he said through his teeth. His back was turned, but I saw him tense up.

“All right, I’m done, Edwards.” I retreated to my own bed, searching around the covers for my wand. How did it always get away from me? I needed a magical beeper on the sucker to find it. Victoria looked up from her cage. “Got any hot dates today after your ‘rents call it quits? I heard some of the Puffers want a piece after they all asked me.”

Emerson pivoted on one foot to stare at me. His whole body was rigid.

Avery was probably peeved at me for provoking him, and yes, that was exactly what I was doing, but she was peeved at me for everything these days so I just decided to go for it. My pink war paint made me invincible. Well, the pink war paint I wiped off because it was pink.

“Do you even understand how hard it is for me to not hex you into next year, Potter?”

“Why are you holding back, shit brick?”

“I’ve been trying to be so fucking nice to you for ages. Can’t you just accept it?”

“You have another motive. So no.” I nodded to Avery. “Is that why you’ve been so nice? Not giving me a detention for that Meta thing? Not docking points for me breathing? Not killing me for spraying you with water? Is it because of her? Fucking asshat.”

With that, Emerson didn’t reply and simply walked out, slamming the door behind him.

Suddenly, I wanted to run after him and shove him down the spiral staircase. I didn’t because I didn’t have socks on, but still. When I had socks he’d be getting it.

“I knew it,” I muttered. “Bleeding jackass.”

“Apparently I’m something special,” Avery said lightly. She was looking at the eyelash torture curler device.

“Guess so,” I said. “You’re awesome so I don’t blame the jerk. But you’re not going to be lucky number seven.”

“Lucky what?”

“Never mind.”

“What are you talking about?” Avery stood up and her messy dark hair covered the left side of her face.

“Just Emerson being a twat.” My ears were hot and the back of my neck was on fire.

“Tell me.”


“James, tell me what the hell lucky number seven means.”

“It means he wants to get you into bed as his seventh and I’m not going to damn let that happen ever!” I shouted. Then I went back to looking at Victoria. Shut up, Tory, I was definitely not being protective.

Avery laughed. I could hear her tiny snicker and she got up and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door with a quiet snap.

Yes, my parents came to the Alumni Party. They didn’t just show up, they arrived ahead of schedule and wanted a tour of the castle. Like they didn’t go here for seven years. Albus showed them around, luckily steering clear of the seventh year boys’ dormitories where my socks were strewn about, and they met up with Lily for lunch so I could get my head on straight.

I didn’t think Avery believed me, with the lucky number seven rubbish. I figured she thought I was making shit up or just trying to paint Twitwards in a negative light, which, let’s face it, he did all on his own. By the time I met up with the ‘rents they were full from lunch and looking morbidly happy. Mum had on a green dress and Dad was wearing a tie that matched a little too much. It made me feel awkward. I bet Twitwards would match his tie to anyone, including lucky numbers one through six.

By the time the Alumni Party snuck around it was dark and I had already told Mum about how my grades were legit improving. They would be anyway. Soon. At some point. Once I finished the Hufflepuff notes anyway. If there was time.

I got dressed in the bathroom after breakfast while Fred and Bink were arguing about tie colors and calling Emerson a few names. I couldn’t hear them through the door, but I knew they were silly so I laughed regardless. I made sure the shower was turned off before I left and the boys looked great. Bink in silver and dark blue hues and Freddie in lighter oranges with some hints of red in the threading on his collar. In another lifetime, it could have been a dress. I was skeptical of Freddie and his feminine outfits. His ‘rents were there too, down there talking to mine because they were related and all. Mum was yelling at Uncle George for already stealing a toilet seat.

“They’ve got these new ones now; got to add to my collection,” he said in return.

I wore some button-up shirt Mum stuffed in my trunk with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows because Hogwarts was bleeding hot that time of year with all the unnecessary fires popping up around the castle. It was just rude, really.

Dad talking about the hand-drawn shit that used to be hanging around the common room with Albus. Al seemed enthralled and I wondered if he would ask Paloma for a dance considering there was no way I was going to get hammered enough to do it again. I wondered if there would even be alcohol at the Alumni party and I ventured a no considering it was probably for wankers and would be boring. Maybe I should have brought my Transfiguration homework with me.

After throwing some robes over my outfit (making the rolling the sleeves up pointless), I was ready to take on the world—or just the party so I could be seen and then go up and plan Quidditch drills until my eyelids sank.

“Are you excited?” Mum asked, tucking some hair behind my ear. Mental note to cut the shit off sooner or later.

“I guess. We’re supposed to be in Quidditch practice right now.”

“Don’t think your team deserves a break?” She smiled wisely.

“Not really, those buggers deserve laps.”

Mum put an arm around my shoulders. “Well, the party will make you happy. It’ll be something to take your mind off Quidditch troubles.”

I wanted to tell her not much could take my mind off my failing team, but instead I smiled and led the group to the Great Hall where the Alumni Party was to take place. I was still a bit bitter about the whole scenery, especially when I saw Emerson Edwards laughing pompously with his parents. I wasn’t sure what they were laughing about, but it could have been me.

I hated watching him talk to his parents, whom, by the way, looked just like him. Pompous and assholey and all of that rubbish. I bet they were head boys and girls in their time, looking down on superior Quidditch Captains and giving undeserving people detentions. Except people like Meta. She deserves, it, that bitch.

“Wow, this place has really transformed,” Mum said, barely above a whisper. She was looking around the Great Hall, which was decorated in loads of scarlets, golds, and other Hogwarts colors. The less awesome ones. But we went to a table below some scarlet and gold with some awesome Gryffindor decorations and I took a moment to look around at the other tools that managed to show at the Alumni Party.

The Slytherin douchers were there. Clint Lawson and his bitch, Scorpius. Internally, I was talking Slytherin about those worthless fuckers. I was still irritated about Clint’s less than appropriate monologue about me on the Quidditch pitch when I was making Elizabeth fall in love with me. I wondered where she was anyway, and if she was still peeved at me for doing whatever it was that I did.

Kay Davies and the rest of the Ravenclaws Fred had fucked were there. Well, except the male Beater. Let’s face it, even though Freddie had worn dresses, he wasn’t going there just to meet his Ravenclaw quota.

Puffers were there too. Darian Bay and the rest of the Puffers I didn’t know the names of. Maybe one was named Frank? Or Francis? Or Demitri Shitbrick? Dikrats?

“Are you going to go talk to your friends?” Mum smirked at me. She clearly thought I wanted to go spend time with other people. I didn’t see a friend in the entire room.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll just hang out here with the fam.”

Truth was, I didn’t know anyone short of the listed fuckers and my Quidditch team. Even Nia wasn’t there. I saw so many unfamiliar faces among the backdrops of blue and silver and green and yellow and awesomesauce Gryffindor colors.

It was time to turn on the swagg. With two g’s. Or three. Or seventy-nine.

I needed to find someone to spend my time with other than my ‘rents. Not that I didn’t love them, but I felt like I needed some sort of alcoholic beverage to make the time go faster. Or to just get out of there altogether. I spotted an older couple nearby and the woman was definitely holding a glass of wine. That was totally alcoholic because he face was already flushed. Unless he had been telling her dirty things and she was blushing, but I went with the first option.

I didn’t see Bink or Freddie and Al was already telling Dad about his recent triumph in Charms class, and Wesley had joined in. He was wearing a weird blue color of robes.

“Mummy?” I said in the most pitiful voice I could muster.

“What, James?” Mum looked worried. “Are you okay?”

“I’m bored,” I whined.

“You’re ridiculous.” She patted me on the head. “Why don’t you go request a song or something? People are starting to go out onto the dance floor. Maybe you’ll see one of your friends. If you see Neville, tell him your father is looking for him.”

I groaned. There went the idea Mum would tell me to just blow off the party and work on Quidditch. Well, she would have said Charms, but same thing, right?

I mumbled a disgruntled reply and headed out to find someone I knew (other than the idiot Slytherins, soft-hair obsessed Claws, and Puffers) to talk to. That was when I, quite literally, ran into someone I definitely did not want to see at the Alumni Party.

“Potter,” Dara Wood said in a hard voice. It wasn’t like she wasn’t pretty, and I would be lying if I said that during my first day on the pitch as a second year I didn’t have a huge bleeding crush on her, but she was a hard ass and did whatever it took to get the Captain slot after Maxwell left. And she got it. And kept it until this year.

“Wood,” I said. “How’s reserve life treating you?”

“Well so far.” She narrowed her eyes. “Are your parents here?”

“Yeah. They’re over there being boring.”

Dara smiled. “How is the team this year? I heard you won your first match.”

“We did. Against Ravenclaw.” I twisted my hands nervously in my pockets. She could see right through me.

“Weasley still on his quest to date the whole Ravenclaw house?”

I nodded. “Just the team, though there’s a bloke on it.”

“Bad luck,” said Dara Wood. “What’s this I hear about the Code breaking?”

Fuck. Every time we even thought about breaking the Code, Dara gave us ten million laps.

“I took care of it,” I said gruffly.

“Let’s hope so. That Code is there for a reason, Potter, and if you fuck it up that’s all you’ll be—the Captain who let his team fail after it was held to such high regards the years before.”

“Fancy seeing you two together!”

I turned, neck almost snapping, and saw my first Captain, Tim Maxwell, strolling up with a bright smile. I always liked him, but it was probably because, looking back, he was better than Dara. A cricket was better than Dara. A spot of dirt was better than Dara.

“Haven’t seen you lot since my last day at Hogwarts. Tell me, how’s the team?”

“Breaking the Code,” snapped Dara. Bleeding bitch.

Maxwell gasped. “Is that true, Potter?”

“I took care of it,” I said through gritted teeth. Why was Dara taller than me?

“It’s there for a reason.”

“Yeah, I’m well aware of that. I took care of it. The team is going to be fine against the Puffers.”

“Careful,” Dara said in an oddly wise voice, “Darian Bay is a worthless piece of dung that will do just about anything to win his seventh year.”

I knew that. Obviously. I knew all of it, mostly because Nia told me Darian wanted to do physical damage on the pitch, but all the same. I felt awkward and belittled with the lecturing coming from my two previous captains, though I couldn’t say I was surprised. They had always been like that.

“The team is fine,” I said at last.

“Potter, don’t screw this up,” Dara said. “I don’t want to regret making you Captain.”

“Meta is the one fucking breaking the Code!” I half-yelled. “Are you kidding me? You know what, I’m thirsty. Have fun at the party and don’t worry about my damn team.” In a dramatic huff, I walked toward the refreshments table, seeing a few people on my way. I spotted Bink’s parents, sans Bink, and Uncle George busting some moves on the dance floor with Wesley’s dad. Dara’s dad was next to the punch with a gaggle of Hogwarts girls surrounding him. He played Quidditch for Puddlemere and they had actually been good for a while so he was pretty famous. To be honest, if he wasn’t Dara’s dad I would probably be trying for an autograph or advice on running a team since he was a captain at Hogwarts, but I thought better of it.

When I got to the refreshments table, I nearly gasped. There was a big ugly sign on the front that read, Alcoholic Beverages only Served to Alumni. What the hell? I was an of-age wizard with needs just like a regular adult. They probably knew we’d drink them out of castle and home, but that wasn’t the point.

Freddie clapped me on the back. “Seen the sign too? What a bummer of a party.”

“What is this shit? First the ‘rents are here, then Dara and Maxwell bitch at me for having a Code-breaking team (how they even found out is beyond me) and then there is no alcohol.” I ran my fingers through my hair and ruffled it a bit. “This is outrageous.” I turned to him. “Where’s Abigail?”

“Dunno. She’s mad at me.” He shrugged.

“Why? What did you do?”

“I gave her a pygmy puff.”

I cocked a brow. “And she’s peeved…why?”

Another shrug. “I don’t know. I thought it was a good idea. She didn’t like it though, thought I was doing something and getting her a gift to make up for it. I dunno what I did.”

“Was it just a regular pink pygmy puff or did you get another color?” The music was getting louder in the background so I moved closer to hear him.

“Well, the only one left was a red one. I thought it was festive.”

“Like…Gryffindor festive?” I said, imagining Abigail opening a package with a red pygmy puff in it. “Tell me you didn’t use your yellow blanket to give it to her.”

His guilty face told me I was right.

Here, Abigail, have a puff that embodies Gryffindor when you play for the ‘Claws. Why don’t I also give you a replica of the Gryffindor robes with ‘Idiot’ on the back? Good idea.

“Maybe try talking to her about it,” I said. I wasn’t good at relationship advice, especially with my mates. They sort of just did what—and who—they wanted. “She might understand. I think.” I wrinkled my nose and suddenly wanted to avoid the situation. “Hey, Freddie, I’m going to go check on the ‘rents. Want to make sure they aren’t dead, you know?”

“Sure. I’m going to see if I can find Abigail.” He sauntered off in the other direction and I made my way toward the dance floor because I spotted Albus shaking his rear to some fast-beat song. Paloma was nowhere to be found, but Mum was out there with him—and Uncle George. It was embarrassing.

There were more people by that time trickling in, a lot more alumni and people I didn’t recognize. I was all the more frustrated to see Twitwards with a pair of drinks in his hand walking toward a nearby table. He narrowed his eyes at me. I flipped him off.

“You don’t stand a chance, Potter,” he said loudly over the music.

“With what, douche?”


“Are you kidding me?” I said, nearly throwing my hands in the air. “You’re still on about this? Man, get a life. She doesn’t like you. Still can’t believe you stopped being a twat to me because of her.” I rolled my eyes. Seriously, Twitwards?

Emerson stopped, his eyes full of fire and I remembered the shower head incident from earlier. “I am going to be honest with you right now, you son of a bitch,” he said, knuckles white around the glasses he held.

I snorted. “You speak your mind, I punch your face. I think it’s a fair exchange,” I said. “We’ll both be hurting.”

“Is that a threat?” he seethed.

“Get a fucking life, Twitwards,” I turned the other way, but ended up with wet hair. Not, as you may have guessed, from sweat or a cooler of water being poured on me because of my triumphant victory over the Ravenclaws, but instead from punch.

Punch from Twitward’s glass. Well, one of them. The other was still full.

Until I ripped it out of his hand and dumped it over his head.

Then ran the other direction because he was Head Boy and he was about to stick my captain-ass in detention. I wove through the dance floor, pushing past Rose with Uncle Ron and a man who could only be Clint Lawson’s father. The air smelled like body odor and peppermint.

Avery was there, near the front, in a silky purple dress and a white sash. It cut low on her and I could see a sparkly necklace and earrings. Her hair was down and she was laughing and dancing around. A few times pieces of hair flew into her mouth and got stuck on the lipgloss coating her lips. I wondered if it was cherry.

I finally noticed I was just standing in the middle of the dance floor being a tosser while everyone else danced around me.

Avery really did look beautiful. She was busting moves with Bink, which was refreshing, though he needed to be hexed. I was glad she found someone, though, considering her mum was on holiday doing business nonsense and obviously her father hadn’t shown up to show off his previous Hogwarts-Beater capabilities. She was flushed and kept twirling. Bink was doing the robot.

She saw me, light in her brown eyes, and smiled brightly. “Hey! James!” I watched the way the fabric moved around her. A few other blokes were staring. Bink motioned me over.

I froze. The back of my head was still soaked and sugary from the punch. She was staring right at me and all I could think about was Italy on the balcony where she gave me that snog because clearly she just wanted to see what it was like and it made my stomach sink, but in a way I hadn’t felt before.

Where the fuck was Nia when I needed her?

Avery was still flushed and smiling at me.

I was apparently fond of flight, because my stomach shrunk up so fast that I took off running in the other direction, which this time was the door. Right out the door, through the Entrance Hall, outside into the bloody freezing weather, and to the Quidditch pitch, into the locker rooms, and collapsed at my locker.


My heart was racing a thousand trillion miles per hour, or maybe faster, and I couldn’t just sit still. My fingers knotted up and all I could think about was Avery on the dance floor. On the balcony. Kissing me.

She was like my sister. My best mate. I told her all about my girl problems. She knew I still had my V card and that sometimes I fell out of bed when I was having nightmares. She listened to Nia trying to seduce me and spent the night at my house all the time. She wrote my dad Father’s Day cards.

And now she was standing in there moving her hips around and I didn’t want to cover her up or scold her or tell her about Dara Wood being a sod. I just wanted to look at her.

Maybe it was the eye-torture device or something. Maybe I was dehydrated or ate bad chicken or something absurd.

I grabbed for my broom, something I could always count on, and wandered back out into the fresh air. It was bleeding freezing and I didn’t have a cloak, but being in the air always calmed me down. And it did, all while giving me hypothermia, but what did I care? I was a Quidditch player. I’d play with one eye. On one leg.

Being up there took me away from the pressure of Hogwarts. To be a fantastic Captain. To be a good brother. A good son. An ace student. A good best mate? To not snog my best mate.

“Oy, James!” After several minutes of me flying back and forth on the pitch, Bink and Freddie appeared on the edge by the Keeper hoops, both looking equally confused. “What’re you doing?”

We sounded like mates again. This was good progress.

“Flying,” I said, waving.

“Why? There’s a party in there,” said Fred. “I managed to sneak some booze. You were gone by the time I got back over to Bink. What happened?”

“Just got sick of it.” I shrugged it off, floating down to the ground. “Why aren’t you in there drinking and having fun with your ‘rents?”

“Came to see if you were okay,” Bink said. He ruffled his blond hair. I was glad he wasn’t bald anymore. It was awkward. “So are you?”

“I’ve been better. Got punch dumped on me by Twitwards. Got him back, though.”

“Is that why your hair is sticking up in the back?” Fred poked at my hair. “Ew. Sticky.”

“Everyone is in a shit situation lately,” I said, frowning. The wind was practically howling.

“I have an idea,” Bink said suddenly. “That woman told me about it a month or so before we broke up and we went down there, but we never stayed. Hogwarts has a grotto down by the dungeons. It’s a pain in the arse to get to, but it’s worth it. What do you say, mate? Should we maybe make a trip down there to get our minds off shit like Quidditch and that nameless bitch of a woman?”

I smirked.

Bink and Freddie were standing in front of me, hands dug deep into their pockets (Freddie’s complete with sugary gross punch), staring back at me. These were my mates. My absolute best mate, Chaser buddies that I couldn’t live without. And now they had the idea to visit a grotto. That would clear my mind, maybe even better than catching my death out on the Quidditch pitch.

First thing was first, though.

“All right,” I said, dismounting my broom and tossing it over one shoulder. “Just one thing.”


“Bink, what the fuck happened with you and McLaggen?”

Bink frowned, his lips whitening slightly. He kicked his shoe into the frozen grass and took a deep breath. “Okay. It was last summer and I was in Hogsmeade.”

Thank you all for the amazing reviews last chapter! I hope you have enjoyed another chappie of James--definitely post your favorite parts! Mine might be the pink war paint...

I can't believe we're almost to 1000 reviews! You are all SO awesome! And those of you who have hopped over to Twitter to follow me are so wonderful :) Some of you got your wish of who you wanted to see at the party :)

Next time: You figure out what the heck went on between Bink and Meta. It's bathing suit time at the grotto! And something else happens.

Chapter 25: Underground Tension (and Squiggles)
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This chapter is for Mafalda Hopkirk, for getting the 1000th review! 
Thanks to all of you for all of your amazing reviews! I am seriously stunned!!
Also thanks to everyone who has favorited this story! We just reached 600! OMG!!
Enjoy. This is one of my favorite chapters.


Bink was never good at coming clean. In our second year he couldn’t figure out how to do a few Charms and refused to get help. Then, when we were prepping for the final exam, it took him something like a thousand hours to tell us the truth. At least it wasn’t Transfig. I was rubbish with it so I’d be no help.

He kept kicking his shoe into the frosty grass, biting his lip so hard I was sure it’d bleed.

We always had a close relationship. Er, friendship. Boys didn’t hate relationships. I liked his crazy blond family and he put up with my millions of ginger cousins. He even joined us for summer barbeques in the backyard after our second year. We made Mum cook because Dad kept lighting the chicken on fire. Strangely, Bink always ate the burnt rubbish.

He spent the night a lot too. I had to keep Lily and Al away (losers didn’t have their own friends), but once we got some privacy we started to talk and thus became best mates.

“I won’t go for captain if you want it,” Bink’s eyes were wide. He was a tiny third year, spending the weekend at my place over winter holidays. We were in my room, darkness creeping in against the candlelight. Both of us were sprawled out on the floor in Gryffindor sleeping bags with stolen munchies from the kitchen. “I know you do.”

“That’s years away,” I said. “Dara’s not going to leave till we’re seventh years.” I glanced at the floor. “Or she’ll fail to spite us.”

Bink liked control in his life. He loved spontaneity, don’t get me wrong (the random break out of Charms animals said so), but he liked to do things his own way. The Bink way. The plans were better if the ideas were his and he could make a girl swoon with a couple words about his family’s plot of land in Spain.

So many times the bloke had thrown me for a loop. At one point he went a term without telling me (or Wood) he sprained his wrist. And yeah, he had it the whole time because Quidditch kept retwisting it. The idiot wouldn’t see Bones because he knew the team would find out and he wouldn’t be able to play for a while so it could fully heal. Bleeding moron. Passionate moron, but moron all the same.

During our sixth year he vanished for a night after we drank a little too much (thank you, Quidditch win). Lily ended up finding him wandering around by the kitchens.

Bink was a crazy kid—no one tells Bink Legace what to do. But for him to be with Meta McLaggen—the girl who told everyone (including the Snitch) what to do, that was mind-boggling. He went through the last six years loathing her; he even helped me glue her broom to her locker. Stopped talking to me when I talked about dating her all those years ago.

And, most importantly, I wanted to know how he could stand that non-stop gum popping?

So here we were, in a situation not entirely uncommon to me, and Bink had to come clean once again. He wrinkled his nose. I wished I’d brought a cloak.

“I liked her,” he said quietly. “I mean, not at first. And not now obviously. I don’t even know how it happened.” He groaned and started to pace back and forth, a few steps at a time. “I ran into her this summer in Diagon Alley. I went for the day since Quality was having a massive sale on this Tornadoes robes and I thought you’d like one for your birthday.”

Hello there, guilt, how are you?

“The only ones they had were in large though. No offense, but you’re not bulky enough to fill those out.” Bink brought his hands closer to his face. “She was going through Finches rubbish. Had to make fun of her, you know? Who here likes the Finches, honestly? Then she started quizzing me on Quidditch. Trivia. Facts. Just to see how much I actually knew. Pfft, like I don’t know Quidditch.”

Fred sniffed. “So you’re standing in Quality, talking about the Finches…?”

“Sounds stupid, huh?” Bink chuckled, his cheeks and ears now a rosy pink. A little darker than Victoria, lighter than my war paint. “At that point we’re heading toward Fortescues and I’m answering these questions and firing some back. It got pretty heated on Snitch catch dates at one point. I remember some yelling about an Irish team too. But she knew her stuff. Suddenly, we’re talking about school and people and classes and I’m going with her to Flourish and Blotts.” He made a noise that hinted his embarrassment. “We had tea and talked and I don’t know, mate, there’s a whole other side there. A non-bitch side. Well, there was.”

“Okay,” I said, frowning and patting him awkwardly on the shoulder. “So you hung out over the summer. Go on.”

“Then we started to hang out more. That day I couldn’t come to your picnic—I was at Woman’s house because she got tickets to England’s exhibition game against the Czech Republic. She invited me. We went with her mum—who, by the way, is a total opposite of that woman. She even has this sweet, high voice. It was weird, but we had some fun. We ended up at three games this summer.” He paused, fingers fumbling with his cloak buttons. “We even bought our books together.”

“You shit!” Fred said, kicking frost at him. “I invited you a week ahead of time for that!”

“Sorry, I just…I don’t know. I had to go with her, you know? There was something totally new and dangerous about her. A glint in her eye—I have no idea—maybe it was a bad thing, but I was sick of all the other girls around here being dull and predictable (no offense, Freddie). She was different and held her own and was, obviously, trouble.”

Fred grunted and laughed.

“I asked her out a week or two in. I can’t remember when. It was so much infatuation—I don’t care how much you hate her, she’s fucking hot as hell. Damn bitch. Obviously we had to hide it, but I was so overcome with idiot emotions I didn’t care. I just wanted more time with her. That was the hardest part—I hated it. Always sneaking to see each other and pretending we hated each other.”

“Bloody why?” I said, trying not to lose my temper. “We’re best mates. Did you think it wouldn’t get out? Don’t you think it’s worse now?”

“Yeah, of course, but I wasn’t thinking! Do you blame me? I had a hot girlfriend and I didn’t want to muck up the Code. I just couldn’t get enough of the danger of sneaking around and, between us, the sex was out of this bleeding world. Why give that up for someone who color-codes their notes like Mary or is in love with you, like Nia?”

“I can think of a few reasons why you would give it up,” said Fred in irritation. “And that’s why I date Ravenclaws. James has the whole Gryffindor house wrapped up.”

“All right, all right,” I said. “Tell me what the hell happened next before I thump you in the face.”

“We spent a lot of alone time together. Hanging out, avoiding homework. I was hooked, but she changed once we got back. Got snippy with me for Quidditch stuff and things weren’t as good. I think it went on too long—probably was meant to be a fling of danger and then an epic breakup. Well, at least that happened.” Bink took a breath. “I don’t think either of us really wanted it to end. We had serious physical chemistry and she didn’t have anyone else. And, like I said before, the sex was good.”

“Oh, fuck you,” I said.

“So things were going downhill and we were fighting more about stupid shit, and then that stupid snowball fight…we had a row before it. She was sick of everyone not knowing and she hated me being mates with you two—especially you, James, since you got captain and she didn’t. She started being a bleeding pain in the arse during the snowball fight and she said something about meeting with an agent or whatever. I told her she couldn’t abandon the team—didn’t like that, flipped a shit on me.” He paused, face getting darker and darker. “Oh, uh, and that thing she said, you know, isn’t true. She just doesn’t want me to be with another girl. She was horrid jealous when Rose won me in the auction.”

“Well, no girl is going to want you after you slept with McLaggen,” Fred mumbled. “Bink. Mate. What the hell is wrong with you? Yeah, she’s hot, but she’s crazy. Even I wouldn’t touch that. Not even if she was on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team.”

Bink let out a loud, disgruntled noise. “I know. Gah, I know. It was so messed up. It was liked we talked and got along over the summer, but once we got back it was only passion and physical stuff. It was just so dangerous, so forbidden, and it had been so long since I had done anything like that. And alone—and not talking about Quidditch—she isn’t as bad as I thought she was. Not good, mind you, but not as bad.”

“And now?” Fred asked.

“I’d like to throw her off something tall.”

“That’s my boy.” I gave Bink a few pats on the shoulder. I wondered what shoulders felt like since mine had gone numb during the story. “So why were you so upset when she called it off during the snowball extravaganza?”

“I think because she humiliated me so much and left me in a horrible spot. And that feeling of loneliness I hated so much.” He made a face.

“That makes sense,” I huffed. “I still have an urge to punch you in the mouth though.”

“I think the head-shaving and humiliation were enough, don’t you?”

“Well played,” I said dully. “So, this grotto! I can get on board with that. What do you think—tomorrow? Day after?”

“Let’s go tomorrow. People will be too busy recovering from the Alumni shin-dig to see where we’re going.” Bink smirked. “Ready to head back inside? I think your skin is during a little blue.”

I nodded. “Yeah, I think that’s a good idea.” I started inside, but Bink put a hand on my shoulder.

“Oh, and James?”


“I’m sorry, you know. I didn’t mean to be such a shit.” He coughed in a manly way. “You guys mean everything to me and what I did was stupid.”

I smiled warmly. “Remember my forgiveness when I do something stupid. Then again, I don’t think I’d ever do something that stupid.”

And with Chaser laughter, we retreated back to the castle in our formal attire and wind-blown hair.



It was early when we decided to leave since, like Bink predicted, everyone was hung over from the alcohol Freddie found. The team met (without the happy, smiling face of Meta McLaggen) in the common room and I took the liberty of inviting along Rosey and Albus and Lily just so they wouldn’t whine about not being able to go to the grotto. I knew they would. Prefects and baby sisters were so needy sometimes.

“So what the heck are we doing?” asked Paloma, rubbing her eyes. I could see her bathing suit straps under a tank top.

“We’re taking a team vacation,” I said proudly. “We’re all going through some rough times and it’s time to let loose and celebrate us getting through this.”

“Aren’t we missing someone?” Wesley cocked a brow.

“Laps,” I said with a smile.

“Everyone ready?” Bink said, obviously wanting to change the subject away from his Seeker ex-girlfriend. Crazy, Seeker ex-girlfriend. His face was flushed and he had a yellow towel slung over his shoulder.

We filed out, careful no annoying second year was up doing homework on a Sunday. Bink led the way down to the dungeons, chatting with Rosey and Albus. I wondered why Al wasn’t trying to woo Paloma, but hey, he might have had his reasons. Either that or stupidity.

The castle was cold and quiet, something I was not incredibly fond of, but it was winter so I shouldn’t have expected anything else. Bink mentioned the grotto being heated since it was so far underground, and for that I was thankful. If it wasn’t, something would have been frozen. And that would not have been attractive.

Avery was toward the back of the group, laughing at a joke Wesley told. She hadn’t said anything to me since I saw her at the Alumni party. The tension was almost painful. Like cut it with a butter knife painful. Or a stick. Or a really dull pair of those scissors with the funny looking edges so you can cut in squiggles.

I tried not to think about it as Bink led us through a door and into a dark classroom. There were only a couple tables inside and each was covered with a dusty white cloth. All except one, which was bunched up and the dust was scattered all over the floor.

“Had sex on that one?” asked Fred, noticing the same thing I did.

“Shut up,” said Bink, beckoning us toward the front of the room. There was an old desk there and a few jars of strange-looking substances. He passed it and motioned to a low-hanging painting forgotten in the corner. It was in a thick, gold frame and contained the portrait of a wrinkly man in a night cap. There was a glass of wine behind him and suddenly I was beyond creeped out.

“This is Hector,” Bink said.

“Oh, good. Now let’s have a party,” said Freddie. Wes chuckled.

“Good morning, Hector,” said Lily charmingly.

The wrinkly bloke smiled warmly. “New faces. I always love new faces.” His voice was hoarse, but kind. There was white hair poking out of his cap.

“Grotto, please, Hector,” Bink said with a flash of a smile.

“And where is Meta this morning, Master Legace?”

Hector was about to get drawn on if he kept going. I could see the fire in Bink’s eyes and it did not complement his hair. I had a quill in my pocket. Granted, it was a sugar quill (who carried around the regular ones? I even borrowed them in class), but it would do the job.

“That woman is probably off trying to ruin someone else’s life. Just a hunch.” He dug his fingers into the right side of the frame and pulled.

“You’re a terrible gossip, Master Legace.” Hector let out a disgruntled noise as the portrait opened to reveal an unfinished hole. It wasn’t very big and we would have to crawl, but it was a tunnel. The edges were rocky and it was dark. Probably the wrong time to admit I didn’t like tight spaces (hence the Quidditch) and I wasn’t fond of dark places I didn’t have experience with.

Man up, Potter.

“It’s just through here,” said Bink, clearly ignoring the gossip comment. Bink never gossiped about his own life, but if it was something that happened to me or Freddie, it was halfway around the school and Lily was asking me why I stepped on a kitten (which was fine, by the way).

“Okay, I’m not going through after you,” Fred said, stepping back. “Rose, you go or something.”

“Fine, chicken,” she said, huffing past him and getting down on her hands and knees to follow Bink through the tunnel.

After that we went guy-girl-guy-girl because no one wanted to stare at the rear of someone like them. Let’s be honest. Bink, Rosey, Al, Paloma, Wesley, Lily, Freddie, Aves, and then me. I waved to Hector from around the frame and crawled in last (because I was the Captain and big brother/cousin).

The hard floor scraped at my knees and was not at all pleasant. I couldn’t see much in front of me, but I did see the outline of Avery’s legs and shoes and I heard her breathing softly. She wasn’t scared of tight places. One time in our third year we hid from Longbottom in a broom cupboard on the ninth floor because he thought we were the ones who set of WWW smoke bombs in the Charms corridor. We were, but that wasn’t the point. The point was it was cramped and I was terrified and she told me a story about her dog growing up to calm me down.

Bink had already lit a few torches by the time I was through and my jaw almost literally hit the floor when I saw what this grotto actually looked like. To be honest, I didn’t really know what the hell grotto meant. I knew it meant there was water. This one was underground. But I thought it would be kind of slimy and green (because Slytherins lingered underground) and gross. On the contrary, it obviously had a lot done, whether by Meta or Bink or someone else.

There was a large sandy area from the tunnel for several meters up to the water, which stretched to be the size of two Transfig classrooms. The water was dark, but not dangerous looking and that’s what I wanted. The walls had torches all around, keeping the room bright and airy. Best of all, it wasn’t stuffy and it was very warm. There was even a large waterfall in the back giving the room water from some underground creek and walls that were rough and oddly pretty.

“This is brilliant,” Fred said, shedding his shirt immediately and tossing his stuff to the side. “How could you not take us here before? Waiting until we were peeved at you to release the great stuff?”

“Something like that.” Bink smirked.

“Either that,” said Rose with a devilish smirk, “or he wanted to keep it to himself so him and Meta could get it on down here without being interrupted.”

Bink flushed so dark I thought, for one fleeting moment, he might be tan. “Great. Now Rose Weasley knows my girl drama.”

“I don’t even have to know it,” she said, shimmying out of her pants. “You’re a friend of James. You’re all too similar. But it’s a good thing.” Rose pulled off her shirt and dipped her toes in the water. “It’s warm. You ladies coming in?”

“Who even invited her?” said Bink, throwing his towel to the side and then shoving her in the water. There was a bit of a drop where the sand hit the water, since it was underground and it wasn’t an actual beach.

That’s when it started. Rose grabbed Bink’s ankle and he went in, shirt and all. Fred literally threw my baby sister in (tried to throw Wesley in too but Wes threw himself in to save the humiliation. Didn’t really work). Paloma got Al when he was trying to keep his clothes and shoes in a neat pile and, in turn, Freddie got her too.

I watched Avery. She was still dressed, but eying Fred maliciously. It took her all of a split second to see an opening and take it. Fred surfaced sputtering water and yelling swear words.

Hello, squiggle-cutting scissor tension.

Avery and I were standing on the beach. I had gotten my shirt off by that point and was kicking off my shoes. Avery was laughing at Fred. She smiled warmly at me, but it wasn’t completely genuine. I hated that and wished she would just tell me a story about a dog or something.

“Looks like we’re kings of the sand?” I said in a voice higher than my own. My nose even wrinkled a little, which was highly unlike me.

“Guess so.” Avery looked out at everyone splashing and it was like they forgot about us. Bink was trying to dunk both Wesley and Albus at the same time. Quite the feat, really.

Avery took off her shoes. Then her pants and slid off her shirt.

I’d seen her in the bathing suit in Italy. I knew what it looked like. And I wasn’t breathing. One should probably breathe when in a room that has complete access to air. It was necessary and I was thinking about air. I was looking at Avery, slightly aware my jaw wasn’t totally shut, and thinking about air. I couldn’t help it, though. Even though she was my best mate and stuff she was still stunningly gorgeous. Who wouldn’t think that?
She had an amazing figure. Her skin was that dark creamy color from Italy and it was shiny. No matter what I did or how much lotion I stole, my skin never looked like that. And her bathing suit tied around the top and it was a summery red color. I liked that. Made me think of…cherries. I watched her take an elastic band that had been around her wrist and tie her hair in an untidy pony tail. It made her look even prettier.

Even best mates can think their best mates are pretty.

I was finally in my swim gear and ready to take on Wesley for something he probably hadn’t done yet. I walked closer to the edge, but the swimmers were all in their own little world.

“Oh, this is bleeding stupid,” Avery said suddenly, not loud, but I heard her clearly.

I turned. “What?”

“James, this is dumb.”

“Eh?” I cocked a brow.

“You’re going in. I don’t care how awkward you are.”

The next thing I felt was water going up my nose and my feet brushing the bottom for a fleeting second. I surfaced to laughter and Lily complaining I splashed her in the eye. Once I got my sight back, I grabbed the edge and looked up.

Avery was standing there in a bikini, hands on her hips, looking absolutely triumphant.

The damn bitch.

I couldn’t help but smile. And laugh. And then grab her leg so she fell in behind me.

Yeah, take that.

I will take back my regular sharp scissors, please.

“James Sirius!” she screamed and suddenly she wasn’t Avery I had run from in Italy. Not Avery that had cried on the beach (yeah, mental epiphany about the glittery things) and she wasn’t the Avery that I didn’t know the past couple weeks. She was different.

She was confident and radiant and back to who I knew. But still different.

My eyes were all over her face, the lines of her eyes and wet hair sticking to her forehead.

“I did nothing,” I said with a charismatic smirk.



The grotto was probably the best thing all of us could have done to rekindle anything that might have been broken. Team-wise, Bink and Freddie were completely back to normal and, after his hair insanity, all was forgiven. We spent a lot of time cooking up a plan to dunk Al but he heard us so we all ganged up on Wesley. It worked, the little shit.

In terms of siblings, Al was making a lot of progress with Paloma. I thought I saw his hand brush hers at one point. Points for Potters! Lily kept staring at me, but she was annoying so whatever.

In terms of me and Aves, we were back to normal. Back to being the best mates in the entire world and back to trying to one-up the other. I completely won the dunking contest, by the way. Well, until she caught me by surprise and grabbed my legs under the water. But that was cheating.

It was exhausting too. We were all in and out of the water, resting, passing out on the sand, and chatting. Al fell asleep for twenty minutes and had his shoes taken to a rock on the other side of the grotto. Watching him try and get them while falling in a zillion times was a hoot. Eventually Lily hit me over the head and I lifted Fred up to get them.

When the afternoon was wearing on and most of us were getting hungry, it was time to abandon ship. The sibs and Rose left first since the Prefects had a meeting they had to go to in the evening and Paloma and Wes followed out. Avery was still passed out on her towel in the sand, hair spilling over. Fred and Bink were drying themselves off and putting clothes on to keep themselves warm until they got back to Gryffindor Tower.

“I don’t want to wake her up,” said Fred. “She looks peaceful.” He chuckled. “You up for it, James?”

“Yeah, I’ll do it.” I had just climbed out of the grotto after a few more laps (had to keep my Quidditch bod toned) and was reaching for my towel. “I’ll catch you guys up there.”

“See you at dinner,” said Bink. “I heard they have roast beef.”

“I’m there,” Fred said, waiting a few moments before he followed Bink out.

Avery hadn’t moved. She was on her back, hand limply off the towel covered in sand (probably from running her fingers through it). Her feet fell off as well and her toenails were painted a deep red. There were goosebumps lining her arms and stomach.

My heart was hammering so loud I could hear it.

What had even happened in Italy? She kissed me on a balcony. Well, to see what it was like.

What was it like?

My eyes followed her body up to her face. Eyes closed delicately. One eyelash lingering on her cheek. A few drops of water on her cheekbone. Hair going slightly curly because of the water.

Then there were her lips. I didn’t see any chapstick, but I was fairly certain they would taste the same. Not that I cared. Well, I was a little curious, but it wasn’t like I could just go around snogging girls. Just seeing her push me in, though. The confidence. The comfort in knowing she would always be there for me.

Then I did it.

I just went right ahead and did it. Right next to the grotto.

I bent down, one hand on the towel next to Avery’s shoulder, the other on her neck, and I kissed her.

Definitely cherry.

I felt Avery’s hand on my back and then we were snogging. It was soft and warm and the amount of adrenaline running through my body wouldn’t let me think about anything except for her. It was like a rush of heart-explosion more extreme than a Quidditch pitch or portkey or anything. The spot on my back where she touched was on fire and tingled.

Just as soon, it was over and I opened my eyes and she was there. Practically in my arms.

Fuck shit damn holy Merlin with a garden watering can.

I just snogged Avery. And she snogged me back. Avery Flynn. Gorgeous, amazing Avery Flynn.

I couldn’t hold in the smile. I did it. And surprisingly, she smiled back. In the silence that, for some reason, wasn’t awkward at all.

“Sorry,” I said gruffly, sitting up on her towel and ruffling my hair.

“Why?” she asked.

“Dunno. You were sleeping and stuff.” I didn’t know what to do so I ruffled my hair again.

“James, why did you kiss me?” Avery was far too good at knowing exactly what was going through my head and knowing exactly which questions would be the worst for me to try and answer.

“I wanted to.”

“And this means?”

My face suddenly drained of all feeling. “The Code. Shit.” I looked over. “What about the Code?”

She put a hand on my trembling shoulder. “It was a kiss, James. We didn’t get hitched.”

My whole body was trembling. That kiss was all I could think about. Well, other than the Code. But who cared about that? I did. I was the Captain. Shit.

She was right, though. A kiss wasn’t against the rules and wouldn’t ever be. I was fine.

“That was amazing,” I said, finally able to exhale.

“Yeah, it really was.” She planted a tiny kiss on my bare arm. “I wasn’t expecting it to be like that.”

Silence again so I could hear my heart beat.

“I wouldn’t be opposed,” I started, and then stopped. No, I was an idiot. I couldn’t snog her again. She was my best mate and I talked to her about Nia and my V card and shit.

“To doing it again?”

I glanced over and holy shit we were snogging again and suddenly my fingers were in her hair and it was softer than I remembered, even wet. Her hand found my neck and I couldn’t think. My legs were numb.

I could barely breathe when she broke the kiss the next time and all I could do was stare at her green eyes. Just stare. They were darting back and forth across my face.

“Holy hell,” I whispered.

“That might have been better than Quidditch.” She smirked.

“Might? Yeah right. It was.”

She raised a brow. “The crazy Captain thinks the snogging was better than Quidditch? Can I get that in writing?”

I couldn’t even put it in words. My mind was racing and I was still just staring at her. I had to silently remind myself that I was supposed to reply.

“I don’t think this changes our friendship, do you?”

Avery laughed, throwing her head back a little. “I think it might alter it a bit. But not too much. After all, we’re only snogging. It’s like being friends with that insane feeling every so often when we snog, right?”

“Yeah.” I dug my fingers into the sand. “And since we’re not dating or anything we’re not breaking the Code. So that works out too.”

She nodded. “Yeah, it does. So we could just make out every once in a while in between gossip or something and that would just be an added bonus.”

“Not that I need the snog practice or anything, but it’s nice,” I said.

She chuckled. “So we’re snog buddies?” I could see her cheeks were still red.

“Well, it’s not like we can go on being friends and not do this again.” I kissed her again and we sank back into the sand for longer than I’m entirely comfortable saying.

A/N: Finally, some Javery action!! When I told many of you that I was doing something "different" with this story, this is what I meant. I know some of you are probably beyond furious with me right now, but I really think it is going to work out fabulously. So stick with me and enjoy :) 

Thanks again to everyone who helped me reach 1000! 

So what are your throughts? Favorite parts? What do you think about Bink and Meta? And seriously, am I the only one who wants to go to a grotto? 

Up Next: snogging, Abigail, kittens, and a Puffer/Claw bet.

Chapter 26: Falcon Cat
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

For Sparta, my own kitten who I got last month. Falcon Cat is, and will be, based off her.

LAST TIME: James snogged Avery. That's pretty much all you need to know. Oh, and Meta's a tosspot.


Avery was still my best mate. We still talked about the weird noises Freddie made while sleeping in Potions and laughed at the way Nia stuck out her chest while walking. But we also snogged while we weren’t talking. Why waste time, right? I was incredibly attracted to her, which was rather new, but I realized I had started to notice things about her over the last couple months so it fit nicely.

Her body was amazing, but my favorite part of her was her eyes. Maybe it was jealousy since I had brown eyes and she had these stunning green olivey beautiful ones. Who cares? Every part of her was beautiful. I noticed everything. The crinkles by her eyes when she laughed, sometimes giggling so she wrinkled her nose. Her simple silver earrings. Long eyelashes. Cherry.

What we didn’t have, though, was ground rules.

After all, what would Fred and Bink say if they knew we were snogging? They couldn’t say anything about the Code since we weren’t dating, but I knew both would be overly skeptical. Avery and I weren’t going to date. But snog buddies was something I could handle. Why not, right?

So a couple days later, after making out in a broom closet, abandoned classroom, and the owlry (had to wash the bird shit out of my hair later), Avery and I met up in my dormitory. Bink was off probably trying to ruin Meta’s life and Fred had been dragged to Hogsmeade with Abigail. She was getting on my nerves lately, whisking Fred off everywhere, but apparently the sex was nice so he bought her shiny things.

Emerson was probably off bird watching in the dark because he should have been a Puffer.

She was practically glowing in a dress (why was she wearing a dress after nine on a week night? Who the hell cares?) and sat on the end of my bed. Victoria was making silly noises.

“What’s up?” she said, reaching under the bed to take out Tory. “Did you hear about Wesley flying with someone on the pitch the other day? Apparently he is beating the Bludgers though smaller hoop targets now.”

“He’s so damn good,” I said with a smile. “Wish Dara would have quit a year earlier so I could have discovered him.” I took a seat next to her and patted Victoria lightly.

“Did you need help with your Transfig stuff? I finished my essay a couple hours ago and let Bink copy.”

“Actually, I thought we should talk a little about what’s going on with us.” My voice trailed off a little toward the end and I was fidgeting. It wasn’t very masculine.

“Oh?” I could tell she was trying to remain objective to what I was saying.

“Yeah, like ground rules or something. So no one is stepping on anyone else’s toes.” I shrugged a little. It was awkward, but not painful like before. I wanted to kiss her again, but resisted. I also mentally hit myself for being such a pansy for wanting ground rules for snogging a hot woman. Freddie would have just said, snog for as long as you can until said woman gets attached. Then find another girl to snog.

“Good idea!” She put Victoria down and sprawled out on the bed. “Okay, so we’re making out and not dating, since we’re best friends and all that.”

“Yes, that’s what we’re doing.” I paused. “Are we…are we seeing other people then?”

Avery bit her lip and tilted her head. “I don’t see why not. It’s not exclusive or anything.”

“Okay, so we’ve agreed to see other people if we get asked out on a date or something.” More finger fidgeting. “And we’re not telling people, because that would be awkward…hey, you want to date, by the way, I’m snogging my best mate on the side.”

Aves laughed. “No, let’s not tell anyone. The team would think we’re going to break the Code and potential suitors might get a little turned off by the idea. It’ll just be best to keep this to ourselves I think.”

“Couldn’t agree more.” I picked up Victoria and snuggled her into my face.

“Any other ground rules we should think about?” Avery was tracing the tip of her finger into the sheets.

“Just continue to be best mates.” I smiled.




All right, Kitten. It’s you and me. Well, and Victoria.

We were alone in the dormitory (where the hell were Bink and Fred? Who cares where Emerson was?) and I had decided, before final N.E.W.T.S. to get a handle on this stupid kitten Transfigured into a teacup. I managed it last time. Ish.

I had the little long-haired bugger on the bed, along with Victoria’s cage since I figured she’d want to watch the epic greatness. After all, it was the same kitten as last time so it should be used to my abuse.

It was meowing loudly. I gave it a treat. Good, kitty.

Victoria was humming in a weird octave. I tapped on her cage. “Oy, what’s wrong?” She scuttled to the other side and kicked out wood chips at me.

Dramatic, don’t you think, Tory?

“I can’t deal with this right now,” I said, turning my wand to the kitten. It was so darn fluffy and cute. I wondered if I was allowed to have two pets. Or a whole army of pets, like pygmy puffs and kittens and puppies and whales.

Now Victoria was kicking wood chips out onto the bed. Where I slept.

“Calm it down!” I said. “I’m going to put you back under the bed.”

The kitten was trying to eat the wood chips.


I waved my wand. Nothing. I needed to concentrate to get this bugger into a teacup. It was rolling around on my covers. Another wave of my wand.

Nada. It did meow though. So maybe it had the urge to be a teacup.

“James, what are you doing?” Avery poked her head in the door. “Oh! You didn’t say you were getting a kitten! Look, it’s so adorable! What’s its name?” She rushed over to the kitten and snuggled with it.

“Its name is, won’t let me fucking turn it into a teacup,” I mumbled, sinking onto my bed in a defeated sort of way.

“Still having problems?” Avery asked.

“Yeah, this shit is rubbish. Why isn’t magic easier?”

“You’re really good at everything else. Don’t get down on yourself.” She piled her legs on top of me. “You just have to concentrate.”

“How am I supposed to concentrate when it’s yapping at me about supper or yarn or something?”

Avery laughed. “Stand up. I’ll help you.”

I stood and she got behind me, placing her hand on top of my wand hand.

“You just have to concentrate on what you’re doing.”

Oh, yeah, easy for you to say, I thought. All I had going through my mind was: Want to snog. Want to snog. Want to snog. Want to snog.

“Are you concentrating?” she whispered.

“Yeah right,” I mumbled.


“Yeah, concentrating up a storm over here!”

“Okay,” Avery said. “You just have to wave your wand like this—get it? Then say the incantation in your head, and you have a teacup!”

Snog. Want to snog.

I tried to wave my wand and even squinted a little, but nothing.

“Are you actually concentrating?” Avery let go and walked in front of me. She was trying hard not to smile.

“Kinda,” I said.

“Something else on your mind?” Now there was a very attractive smirk on her face.

Which I turned into a kiss.

Ah, that was better. Forget the kitten. I could fail for all I cared.


Once I had a good snog I was able to concentrate again. Mostly because Fred walked in and Avery and I leapt apart and had to pretend we were trying to find the kitten (which had, by that time, gotten into the bathroom and had made holes in all Emerson’s socks. Well, the ones he had left).

I got the kitten into a teacup, drank out of it, and then turned it back into a wet kitty. I named it Falcon Cat. Victoria was hissing at me so I ended up taking Falcon Cat back to the Transfig storage room where it had plenty of room to climb before the prof came back and didn’t love it as much as I did. I encouraged climbing on the important paperwork.

Both Fred and Bink were in the dormitory when I returned, lounging and feeding Victoria.

“Took Falcon Cat back?” Freddie asked.

“Unfortunately. Tory got jealous.”

“You’re in a good mood today.” Bink cocked a brow. “Did Edwards get demoted from Head Boy or something?”

“Just excited about Quidditch practice tomorrow,” I said quickly. I wondered if my lips were glittery from Avery’s lipgloss.

“Whatever, mate,” said Fred. “Quidditch is going to be brutal tomorrow. It’s snowing again.”

“It’ll be all right,” I said, thinking about Avery.


It was starting to be an addiction between us. Between classes in broom closets we snogged until her hair was so messy she had to get a brush and my face was sweaty. After Quidditch practice in the locker rooms pressed up against a broom. Late at night in the Astronomy Tower. Everywhere we possibly could.

Of course, we still hung out in the dormitory talking about Abigail’s wrathful hold on Freddie and Emerson’s disappearance. He was around, just not annoyingly around.

That was until I caught him going through my trunk Wednesday night.

Enter: huge fucking hex the size of the moon. Or a stunning charm. Whatev.

“What do you think you’re doing, Twitwards?” I cried, wand pointed at his stiff body on the floor. “That’s my trunk. With my shit in it. That I have power over. So I’m hexing you.”

“Fuck off, Potter,” he said through gritted teeth.

“What were you looking for? A confessional diary of all the crimes I’ve committed? Or just need a nice sweater to wear?”

“Fuck off,” he said.

“Fine.” I lowered my wand and leafed through my trunk. It was all there, even my stack of Quidditch mags I was certain anyone would want to steal. “What is it, Twitwards?”

He finally managed to struggle the charm away since it was fading and stood up, dusting himself off. “None of your business,” he barked.

“Uh, it’s my shit. So, yes, it is.”

“I hope you get what you deserve, Potter.” With that, Twitwards was gone out the door, slamming it behind him.

What the hell?

Fred and Bink entered next, Bink holding his arm and wincing. “Bugger shoved me while tearing down the stairs. What’s up with him?”

“Caught him going through my trunk,” I said, completely confused. Lowering my wand, I kicked a few things around that had landed on the floor. “Not missing anything. Wonder what he was looking for. He wouldn’t have found any women’s clothes in there.”

“Weird,” Bink said. “I’d keep it locked then if he’s going through it. Maybe we all should?”

“Ah, whatever.” Fred pushed his dark hair off his face. “Want to head down to the pitch and have a fly?”

“Sounds great,” I said, breathing out.

Unfortunately, we hadn’t even hit the bottom of the stairs when my excitement for the pitch disappeared in the form of Nia and Elizabeth. Together. Why were they together? And not plotting the death of the other in order to win me over?

“Hey, James,” Nia said. There was a look in her eye I didn’t like.

“Hi there, ladies.” I put on a smile. Bink clapped me on the back: man code for he was waiting by the door in order to avoid any potential projectile objects.

“What have you been up to lately?” Elizabeth asked in a tone that meant she wasn’t going to believe anything I said.

“Doing a lot of Quidditch practices,” I replied. “I remembered what you said, Nia, about Darian sodding Bay wanting to off my players on the pitch so we’ve been doing a lot of drills. Going to practice now actually.”

“So you’ve been acting weird because of Quidditch?” Nia raised a brow. “You’ve been obsessed with that damn sport forever and you’ve never acted this weird before.”

“Acting weird?” I said. “What do you mean?”

“Ever since you got back from Italy,” Elizabeth said. “You’ve been weird. Was it that Bink and McLaggen stuff?”

For a quick out, I nodded. “Well, that’s part of it. But that ropes into Quidditch. I’ve just had my hands full. Sorry if it seems like I’m acting weird.” I offered a trademark Potter smirk. “I’ll make it up to you soon. We’ll hang out or do something or sneak into the kitchens. How does that sound?”

Nia smiled. “Okay, but we really have to. I feel like we haven’t spent enough time together in the last couple weeks. I miss you, Jamie.”

I cringed. “It’s a date. But right now I’m off to practice so Gryffindor can win again. Don’t you ladies love to gloat to the Puffer girls about how awesome we are?”

Elizabeth beamed. “Of course we do. We love to be the best.”

And be with the best, I thought bitterly. “Bye, ladies!” With that, I escaped the wrath of two girls I did not want to mess with. Nia because, well, she was Nia and she could make a toothbrush look suggestive. Elizabeth because she had pull in the Quidditch world.

“What was that about?” Fred asked once we were in the hallway.

“You don’t even want to know,” I mumbled. “They think I’m acting all weird by not spending all of my time with them.”

“I don’t think you’re acting weird,” said Bink. “Other than being cheerier than usual, but then again, all the shit with us is resolved and the team is fine (other than that bitch woman) so I expected you to be nice and happy.”

I smiled. Of course that was why I was happy. No other reasons factored into it at all. Not a single one. Couldn’t think of anything.

Not a single brunette with green eyes came to mind.



I visited Falcon Cat in the Transfiguration pet depot later that evening after the boys went back to the Tower. Bink was whining about his wrist and Fred said he needed to get dressed up to see Abigail. Bleeding wanker. Falcon Cat was meowing and being cute. I scratched her behind the ears.

What the heck was I supposed to do about all this rubbish? I had two players that hated each other (the way it should be), a Keeper I wanted to constantly snog, two girls who thought I was acting dodgy, and Clint Lawson walking into my pet depot sanctuary looking as smug as something that is highly smug. Escargot. Or a cashmere scarf or person with a lopsided top hat.

“Potter, what are you doing?” he said. Scorpius douchebag was behind him with messy blond hair. Probably from snogging or doing sexual favors. Who even knew anymore?

“What a question,” I said happily. “My hand is in a cage. With a kitten. I am petting said kitten. And yet, I felt it was obvious what I was doing.”

“Shut up.” His face looked like a troll. Or something Slytherin-like. “Where are your fangirls?”

“Off worshiping me I’m sure. I see you have one.” I nodded toward Scorp. Where was this wit when the doucher cornered me when I was with Elizabeth? Damn jerk. I was still annoyed about that. How could someone so…so Slytherin just shut me down like that?

“Potter, you’re about to get hexed,” Lawson said. I hated his hair. It was so ugly. Like him. And the rest of Slytherin house.

“Oh, drat. Well, Quidditch isn’t for a bit so I’ll heal by then. You should really hex someone on the Ravenclaw team or a Puffer. They play Saturday.”

Lawson smirked and I hated it. I wondered if he was going to tear off my limbs or something. His gaze suggested blood.

“What?” I said.

“Who you going for in the match?” he asked.

“Ravenclaw. That’s the obvious choice. Puffers are idiots. We play the Puffers next and I know they’re going to lose.”

“Even with Bay?”

“Bay is a tool,” I said. “He’s not worth a bean.”

“May be a tool, but he’s a smart tool, Potter.”

I raised a brow. “You seem fond of him. Malfoy not getting it done?”

“You hate him so much. Willing to put money where your mouth is?” Lawson side-stepped my comment about Scorpius with a little too much grace, damn wanker.

“Elaborate,” I said, still petting Falcon Cat. She was purring.

“I am willing to bet you fifty Galleons the Claws lose.” He smirked.

“Fifty?” I thought about my bank account. Sure, there was money there, but that money was allotted for Quidditch emergencies and buying myself pretty things and Victoria’s food. Was this a Quidditch emergency? I looked at the smug expression on Lawson’s face. He knew I was going to back out. I could read it all over his face. It was the same expression he wore while shutting me down in front of Elizabeth. Fucking tart. “Make it seventy-five,” I said.


We shook hands. His were sweaty and gross.

Falcon Cat had no idea what was going on and so kept purring.

“See you at the game.” With that, Lawson and Scorp were gone and the door slammed shut. I wondered what the hell they were even doing in there if they didn’t accomplish anything or pet a cute cat in the process. Probably just looking for an empty classroom.

Mental vomit.



After making out with Avery in a classroom on the second floor, I decided to live up to my promise to Nia and Elizabeth. After all, if I just left them hanging it would mean I would continuously get nagged by them and that would cramp my style. And I had the kind of style that could not get cramped.

“Good luck,” Avery said, laughing. “If you make it out alive I’ll be impressed.” She flattened her hair and used a dusty frame as a mirror.

“You and me both. But ah well, the life of the Quidditch captain continues.” I rebuttoned my shirt. Somehow the top buttons had come undone. Who knew?

Avery winked. Then she looked at me, drew in a breath, and bit her lip.

Oh, bugger.

We were snogging again and I had to wait a few minutes before I could leave and collect Nia and Elizabeth.



Both were waiting impatiently in the common room when I arrived without Aves. When I smirked, however, their expressions lightened. Thank you, Potter trademark smirk mixed with the adorable messy hair and pretty brown eyes. The freckles helped too.

“Fancy a stroll around the castle?” I asked, offering my arms to them.

“I think you owe it to us,” Nia said, latching herself onto my left arm.

Elizabeth took the right. “You haven’t been the same since you went on holiday. Did you meet someone in Italy?”

I snorted. “I met a crazy Italian bloke. Twataso.”

“Was that his real name?” Nia asked, giggling.

“Sure. I can’t remember.” I shrugged, thinking about that shit brick hitting on Avery. “Other than that, I just interacted with the people I went with. My bleeding baby sister annoyed the crap out of me.”

“I think I’ve only talked to her once or twice,” said Nia. “She seems sweet.”

I laughed. “She’s the best.” I led the way down to the kitchens, careful to avoid the path I knew Avery was taking back to the Tower. Nia was telling Elizabeth about our expedition to Madam Puddifoots and my pink freak out. It weirded me out that they were getting along so well when clearly they both fancied the pants off me.

“He sort of ran out on our date,” Elizabeth said and my muscles tightened. “Something about Avery Flynn with Emerson.”

“She’s a lucky girl to get your attention so much, Jamie,” Nia said with a giggle. “I’m glad you see her like a sister. I’d have to get a little jealous.” She winked at me.

A sister I snogged right before this rendezvous. Well, shit.

“Nothing to worry about, ladies,” I said, tickling the pear in the portrait. “Well.”

“Well what?” Nia said.

“I mean, unless you’re worried about each other.” I safely raised a brow, stepping away from the girls and into the kitchen.

“I’m not worried about her,” Nia said.

Elizabeth gasped. “What’s that supposed to mean? That I have no shot?”

Fuck. I started a battle of girlie retorts.

Nia made a face that suggested clearly, Elizabeth had absolutely no shot. “I’m just saying. James and I have a history. We’ve been on dates. We were study partners. We write each other.”

“You gave him a nickname he hates,” Elizabeth countered back, hands on her hips. “You’ve been on one actual date. Otherwise it’s just you following him around. You only helped him pass one test because Herbology is bonkers and let’s face it, James would rather write Victoria.”

I tried to smile at the house elves. “Truffle?”

“You’re such a bitch!” Nia cried. “James wouldn’t like you if you were dancing naked on the Quidditch pitch!”

“Maybe James would actually like YOU if you knew a Quaffle from a Bludger!” Elizabeth said.

“Shut up!” Nia shoved her and Elizabeth stumbled backward.

What the fuck was happening? Overview was, we were just inside the door to the kitchens. House elves were scattered all over waiting for me to tell them what I wanted. My jaw was lopsided. Elizabeth was a little off balance. Nia’s hair was out of place.

“Okay, girls, you’re forgetting that I’m the one with the choice,” I said, trying to sound delicate and cheerful.

“Then who do you pick?” Elizabeth said, hands on her hips.

“Look,” I said, pointing at a plate of truffles for the elves, “I have a lot of things to focus on right now. I can’t just go and pick one girl.” They looked angry, so I changed up my tactics. “It wouldn’t be fair to you. I am so devoted to Quidditch and my studies and caring for Victoria that I wouldn’t be able to pay enough attention to you. And both of you deserve someone’s full attention. Maybe after all this is over, or maybe sooner, but right now I couldn’t put you through that.”

Nia sighed. “You’re right.”

Elizabeth nodded.

“That doesn’t mean we can’t spend time together and see where it goes. Who knows, maybe something will happen?” I attempted a smile. It worked.

“You’re right,” Elizabeth said. I could tell both of them were hoping the ‘something happening’ would happen with them. Eh, that was all I needed at that point.

Maybe something would happen. After all, I was single. Things could happen. They were allowed to happen.

Which was why, after having truffles and milk with Elizabeth and Nia, I returned to my dormitory alone. It was empty again and I wondered what the hell the boys were doing. Even Emerson wasn’t there, but he was probably off being a pompous Head Boy who was trying to ruin lives.

“Have fun?” Avery was leaning against the doorway into the bathroom.

“What are you doing here?” I couldn’t breathe. The room was only lit by a couple candles next to Fred’s bed.

“Came to see how your awkward double-date went.”

“You just described how it went.” I laughed and kicked off my shoes. I straightened the collar on my shirt. She was wearing a red shirt and jeans. They jeans were worn and had a couple holes in them, making them somehow more attractive on her.

“That bad?” Avery ran her fingers through her hair.

“We hadn’t been together ten minutes and they were fighting over me.”

“Aren’t you lucky?”

“Sod off,” I muttered, walking over to her and wrapping her up in my arms. “What did you do tonight?”

“Finished my Charms essay.”

I choked.

“I finished yours too, relax. I knew you’d have your hands full with dumb and dumber.”

“You’re the best,” I said.

“I know.” Avery winked, laughing, and kissed me on the nose. “So was it really that bad? Did Nia try to ditch Elizabeth and get down your pants?”

“I told them some bullshit about me needing to concentrate on Quidditch and we’ll see where it goes,” I said, laughing, and lit a couple candles over by my bed with my wand.

“Okay, tell me exactly what happened. Who knows, maybe you’re destined for Nia?” Avery snickered and followed me over to my bed. We plopped down, similar to every other time we would chat, and she draped her legs over me, head on my chest and hair sprawled out on my torso. At least now if anyone walked in they’d see us looking like we always did. Okay, we’d have to stop running our fingers over each other’s skin, but that was an easy fix.

“Oh, first, though,” said Avery, tilting her chin up, “Emerson said something to me a little bit ago about you having a diary in your trunk. Is that true?”

I cocked a brow. I had never kept a diary. In fact, I frequently referred to Aves as my own personal diary that gave pretty killer advice. “Not at all. Wonder why he’d say something like that.”

“I’m thinking to discredit you,” she said.

“Have I said something to discredit?”

Avery looked at me. “I’m sure he knows the further the year drags on the more likely you are to tell me about his whole lucky number seven rubbish, however true that might be.”

“So he tells you I have a diary so you won’t believe me?” I asked, wrinkling my nose. Even if I had a diary, I didn’t think Avery would think I was lying about other things because I wrote down my feelings in a book. Not that I had feelings to write down. Except Quidditch-related, manly feelings.

“Guess so.” She shrugged. “Probably couldn’t find anything else in your trunk to hold against you.”

“Like his women’s clothes and weird trinkets?”

“Yeah, like that.” She laughed.

“One of these days if he steps over the line I’m going to replace his whole wardrobe with women’s clothes and see how he likes that.”

She almost snorted. “I had a horrendous visual of Emerson wearing a pleated skirt and cardigan.”

“That won’t be the worst of it,” I said slyly. I wasn’t sure there was anything Twitwards could do in order to force me into that rash of a punishment, but it was still on the table.

“Okay, okay,” Avery said, adjusting her position pressed against my body. “Tell me all about Nia and Elizabeth and the messy girl fight.”

“Well, there was hot fudge involved…no, not really, but for the purpose of this story, there will be.”


The Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff match was pretty crowded, but I sat at pitch level since I was a Quidditch player and we had VIP seating in the other benches. Good seats except you couldn’t bleeding see anything since it was all up in the air. Didn’t matter since I didn’t care about their playing. I cared about goofing off with Fred and Bink until Ravenclaw won and I could collect my seventy-five G’s from Lawson.

“There’s Abigail,” Bink said, pointing out the petite blond streaking up the pitch. “How are things going with you two, anyway?”

“Eh, it’s okay,” Fred said.

“You sound thrilled.”

“Yeah, she’s just a little high maintenance is all,” he replied. “But the sex is good.”

“You realize that’s what kept me with that woman, don’t you?” Bink said. “And look how that turned out.”

“We’re going to try and work it out I think.” Fred twiddled his thumbs. “I mean, I want to. She’s a sweet girl and stuff but she’s really demanding.”

“I can’t believe she’s more demanding than Kay Davies,” I said.

“I didn’t think anyone was,” Fred muttered. “Blimey, James, why do you have to have all the Gryffindors wrapped up? I could use one right about now. Ravenclaws can get a little pushy for me.”

“I’m sure they’re not all like that,” I replied, mostly because he couldn’t have the Gryffindors. Half of them were his cousins anyway. “There’s gotta be one or two in that house of smarties that is casual and laid back.”

We looked up at the team. They were screaming at each other. But, oddly enough, they were scoring and getting it done.

“Yeah, not on the Quidditch team, though,” said Bink.

“I’m done with the team,” Fred said. “If it doesn’t work out with Abigail, the only one left is that Beater bloke and I’m not that desperate for a snog.”

“Still can’t believe you dated the whole team.” I ruffled my hair a bit. There were cheers from the Puffer end as someone scored. Darian Bay looked like a class-A tool up there.

“Had sex with the whole team,” Bink corrected. “He didn’t date that one girl. What was her name? Ah, can’t remember. That one was a one night stand.”

“I’m really not that kind of person,” Fred said. “I was just drunk. I genuinely liked all the others!”

“I know, I know,” I said. “All right, Claws, time to get winning!”

I had some sort of special super-power. Not the obnoxious kind like strength or invisibility (Dad had that damn cloak and wouldn’t give it to me), but the power to get people motivated on the Quidditch pitch without even playing.

The Ravenclaw end erupted as their Seeker pulled out of a semi-impressive dive, Snitch in hand, shit-eating grin on her face.

I leapt up. “Fuck yes!” I cried. “Money, money, money!”

“Do you need money?” Bink asked as we watched the blue and silver players soar to the ground in one lump of cheers.

“Nope. But I need dignity.” My eyes found Clint Lawson at the far end of the pitch so I waved good-bye to my Chaser mates and marched my happy ass over there, hand outstretched. “Oy, Lawson, I believe you owe me something.”

His eyes were blank. He honestly couldn’t believe Ravenclaw had won.

“How can that have happened?” he said slowly. Even the clothes under his cloak were ugly.

“Because the Puffers are horrible,” I said. “Honestly, how do you not know that?”

“I bleeding Confunded a couple of the Claws and everything! Seriously.”

I nearly choked. “You cheated?”

“No. Since you bleeding won.”

I rolled my eyes. I wasn’t exactly surprised Lawson tried something underhanded to win. Those Ravenclaws must have been strong to fight it off. But then again, after all of them were with Fred Weasley, I wasn’t doubting it. He was a handful.

“I’m just going to overlook the fact that you’re a slimy doucher and take my winnings.” I extended my hand a little further and Lawson gave me a small bag. I opened it, finding the correct amount of coinage inside. “Fantastic.”

He still looked dumbstruck. Completely, idiotically, dumbstruck. And I was loving it. Finally it felt as if a weight was lifted off me. Like even though the jerk cheated, I came out on top.

That was what it took for me to get my damn dignity back from his episode on the pitch with Elizabeth. I wished she was here to see the stupid look on his face.

So I stood there for an extra few minutes, watching him gape at the pitch. Scorpius kept prodding him in the side. His jaw was going more and more lopsided now that his pocket was empty.

Good thing I won, anyway, since I never took anything out of my bank account, I just stole the seventy-five from Albus.



A/N: Well, between snogging, Falcon Cat, snogging, Clint Lawson, snogging, and some Ravenclaws and Puffers, lots of stuff happened to further the plottie plot in this chap. I hope you all enjoyed it! Especially how James and Avery are handing their new snog buddy situation. As I post this, it's now officiall Fall in America so break out the apple cider, plan a Halloween costume (yes, you can go as James and Avery), and paint a pumpkin! 

Fave parts? Quotes? James rambles? 

Oh, and I got this chap up so quick after the other because, thankfully, now that I have a full time job I can use other time for writing! Thanks! 

UP NEXT: Quidditch practice, team meeting, a letter, and James gets Paloma...ish.

Chapter 27: The Friend Zone
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Happy October! Have your James & Avery costumes yet? Or are you going as Victoria?


I knew more about Meta McLaggen than most people did. Everyone knew she was a bitch, she popped her gum, and she fucked Bink Legace for a couple months. What I knew didn’t make her into some tortured victim, but it did give reasoning behind why she was such a pain in my ass.

Meta spent every day of her life wanting to be the best. No, it didn’t come from some daddy complex where her parents didn’t pay attention to her. It wasn’t because of a tragic childhood accident or because we picked on her. If anything, it was the other way around with the picking. What a ruthless girl. But all the same, Meta had to be better than everyone else.

She spent our first year trying to outdo Mary Mary Quite Good Gradesie in classes, even though Mary was one of the smartest in our year. Spent the years after trying to get in the fabulous graces of Maxwell and Dara Wood. Meta worked hard, but she never did any more than the rest of us. I believed that to be her downfall.

When Bink wanted to pass potions, he went in and asked for extra lessons and actually went to the library. Freddie wanted to date that one Ravenclaw whose name escaped me, so he went out of his way to get her shiny presents and be romantic. When I wanted to be made Captain, I worked my ass off on the pitch and kept pretty good grades to show I was well-rounded, even if Dara and I never saw eye-to-eye. She saw I was working hard and Meta was reading romance novels by the fire. It was a phase.

But Meta McLaggen always had to be the best at everything. When she wasn’t, she was unbearable. When the announcement came, from both Dara Wood and Longbottom, that I had been made Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, I couldn’t describe the fire behind her eyes. It was a scary situation that I removed myself from as quickly as possible.

She’d been extra bitchy this year, and I expected she wouldn’t let me forget my position as Captain and her position of mediocre Seeker. Not that she was bad. Wished she was. No, she was quite good actually.

You see, most people in Hogwarts thought there was something good in everyone. The only good part of Meta McLaggen was her Quidditch talent.

I tossed this around in my head while getting ready for Quidditch practice. It was a rainy February day, not quite cold enough for snow, and the team was abnormally quiet around me. I looked at Meta. Her head was down as she laced up her shoes.

Part of me couldn’t blame Bink. If she really had some sort of heart in there, she wouldn’t be a bad person to be around. But everything in his story screamed out a warning to me. Inviting him to Quidditch games to gain his affection. And I wasn’t dumb enough to know it was just an invite because she was lonely. Meta McLaggen had plenty of people in higher positions than Bink she could have invited. Her father worked at the Ministry and she always had nice box seats while chatting with authority figures. A few of the pictures were in Quidditch Weekly.

I still couldn’t believe it went on for that long, especially when we got back and she conveniently remembered she couldn’t boss around my players. Insufferable wretch. And the other part of me knew that if she was doing it with my best mate I might be thrown off. Which I was.

But, like Bink said, the sex was fantastic.

Not that I would know anything about that.

Maybe it was angry sex. I’d read about angry sex. Supposedly good.

“What the fuck are you pansies waiting for?” Meta snapped, grabbing her broom and heading out the door.

“Can we kick her off the team?” Bink said.

“I’d yell at you for breaking the Code before,” I said somberly, “but I think we’d all love that.” I grabbed my broom and threw on my practice robes.

Paloma snorted. I resisted the urge to ask her what the heck was going on between her and Al. I hadn’t seen any hardcore snogging or announcement of dating or something else dramatic. I’d save that for later.

“Well, come on, pansies,” Fred said with a laugh, pushing the door open for the rest of us.



Bink was pretty much the opposite of Meta in most ways. He never had to be the best, he just had to be a part of the celebration. He didn’t consider himself for Captain. He never got top grades—never studied for top grades, just enough to do well. And there was a reason behind is calm nature.

That was what I loved about Bink Legace. He had so many layers. Similar to an onion or Avery’s hair. He was calm and laughed at everything, but he could be intense and spontaneous, and, like he said before, he was always in love with the idea of the unknown. Which was his downfall for a while there. He gossiped, but Bink was an amazing secret keeper. He had that personality, while Meta could never compete.

Maybe that was their downfall. She wanted to have the best personality, but didn’t.

She was already in the air when we started, zooming back and forth between the hoops. Bink was making a joke with Wesley about Fred’s hair sticking up in the back. I was glad, for the most part, things were back to normal, but I knew it still wasn’t going to be easy. Bink and Meta loathed each other. There was nothing redeeming about their fight, especially when she called him out on that man issue.

How embarrassing.

I had high hopes for Bink, though, and none of them included the dry, irritating, Meta McLaggen.

“C’mon, pansies!” cried Bink in a shrill voice, kicking off the grass so hard his blond hair flew all over his face.



Practice went surprisingly well, as did my scores on the Herbology test and Charms paper (thanks, Aves). I even got an O on some Transfig, which I hated. Things were good. Surprisingly good. Even Avery said things were good with her when I inquired. Apparently she too got a fantastic grade (the academic kind) on her Charms.

We were in the common room watching Freddie and Albus play wizard chess. I was eyeing Paloma, who was a few feet away on the sofa reading. Their relationship was a little too platonic for my taste. At least Al was winning in chess. A knight was knocked out and Paloma didn’t even look up when Al cheered.

Uh oh.

Avery noticed it too and jerked her head in Paloma’s direction.

“I know,” I whispered. “What’s going on?”

“Al is such an idiot,” she said.

“What? Why Al?”

Avery rolled her eyes. “He never made an actual move other than asking her to hang out.”

My jaw unhinged. “You’re right. Aw, hell, what a wanker.”

Freddie was scratching his chin. “I’m going to win,” he said stubbornly and we all laughed. He was damn near cornered. “Seriously. Come-back victory right here.”

Before I could tell him there was no going against Potter/Weasleys in wizard chess, my bowl of snacks was knocked over by a loud owl that had managed to get let in by some annoying first year. It’s feathers were all messed up and it dropped a letter in Fred’s lap before dive-bombing into my pretzels.

“What the hell?” Al said, taking the time to checkmate.

Fred’s eyes were scanning the print. “Aw, bloddy fuck,” he muttered. “I’ve gotta to, mates.”

“Where?” I said, staring at his mess on the chessboard. There was really no come-back happening. “It’s almost after-hours. Does Longbottom want to have a meeting about how my grades are actually good and you lot are seventh years so they will have to pick an entirely new team next year and it won’t be as good because Paloma and Wesley have only seen the inner workings for one year and he’s so worried because he wants the Quidditch Cup but pretends he wants his students to work hard and be smarties like the Ravenclaws?” I took a breath.

“Nope,” said Fred. “It’s Abigail. She wants me to go to the kitchens with her to get a snack.”

The room was silent.

“Wait, what?” Bink said. “Seriously?” He grabbed the letter. “Okay. I was thinking he made that up to go get laid, but that’s what it actually says.”

Freddie waved good-bye and disappeared through the portrait hole leaving a whole room of pity-partiers behind.

After Al finished the chess match by himself I pulled him aside. “We haven’t had a man to man chat in a while, baby brother.”

“Maybe it’s because you still insist on calling me baby brother,” he growled.

I walked him over to the giant window, ignoring his statement filled with bitterness. “What’s going on with you and Dove?”

He ran his fingers through his hair. Didn’t look as cool as when I did it. “I don’t know.”

“What do you mean? I thought you had this all set up?” I said. “The ice cream in Hogsmeade? The stumbling over your words? The swimming together at the grotto!” My stomach twinged at the thought of the grotto. Avery was across the room looking beautiful as always. Al, hurry up with this damn conversation.

“I don’t think she’s interested,” he mumbled, staring at his shoes. “We spent most of the time at the grotto plotting how to dunk Wesley anyway.”

I groaned. “You’re in the friend zone.”

“What? No, I’m not!”

“You’re hanging out with a cup of tea and a newspaper, mate.”

Albus groaned. “I am, aren’t I? She’s going to start dating other people, you know. She’s going to date them and live happily bloody ever after and I’m going to be an old cat bloke.”

“You like cats?” I asked.

“Sure. They’re cute and furry.”

“Don’t say cute.”

Al rolled his eyes. “I saw you with that kitten the other day.”

“That’s Falcon Cat.” I shook my head. “No! We’re getting off topic. You’d better make a move—and fast! She’s going to start dating Wesley or something.”

“I don’t think Wesley’s interested.”

“They all want to break the Code and ruin my life, of course he’s interested.”

“What Code?”

I threw my hands in the air. “God damn it, Al! Quit trying to ruin my team!” With that, I stormed away, grabbed Avery’s arm, and tugged her upstairs.



Once I thought everything was going great, there was one day I wasn’t too happy with. There is always that day—that one day—the one you just can’t stand right in the middle of awesomeness. This one was a Thursday.

It started out with Meta being a bitch, though that is how most days start out.

I told her to run some laps. She flipped me off and said, “Shut it, Potter.” Then she didn’t run any laps. So I gave her more laps. Then she just walked off the pitch.

Some Captain I was.

Or, some bitch she was.

“What’s her deal?” Fred asked, zooming to the ground on his broom.

“Maybe she’s preggo,” I said, laughing.

“Don’t you dare say that,” Bink said, slapping me on the back of the head.

I rolled my eyes. “Shut up. She’s not and you know it. Get the hell back up there, what are you doing?”

Both took off and I watched Meta throw open the doors to the locker rooms and storm inside. Weirdo.

Later that afternoon Abigail rushed up to the Gryffindor table while we were eating and quite literally grabbed Fred’s wrist and tugged him outside. She looked mad. Fred came back rolling his eyes a couple hours later. The common room stared at him intently.

“Wanted me to help her practice for Potions.”

“You’re horrible at Potions,” I said.

“Yeah, I know.” Fred yawned.

“Did you at least get a snog?” Bink asked with a smile.

“Not one.” Fred stretched and then passed out on a nearby sofa.

Avery and I kept meeting each other’s eyes. It was partly because of Fred being such an idiot about Abigail, but partly because I wanted to spend time with her. Alone. Without everyone else there.

She nodded toward the portrait hole.

I threw my books in the air and ran out.

A few minutes later Avery met me in the hallway, laughing like an idiot. “I had to tell them I was going to check on you because you’d gone mental.”

“I may have made that a little obvious,” I said, chuckling. I laced my fingers with hers. Her hands were so soft I wanted to touch them forever. That was a weird thought, but whatever.

“So where are we off to, Captain?” Avery asked as we made our way downstairs. It wasn’t after hours, so every time we heard someone coming we would stop holding hands and she would shove me playfully like we used to do. I waved to a couple passing Ravenclaws. One I recognized as Abigail’s friend, Kara because she was at Ravenclaw practices a lot when I was scoping out the competition. I knew the other one just as Amy. She was a fifth year and wore sneakers under her robes.

Kara smiled at me and winked. Amy rolled her eyes.

Avery grabbed my arm and tugged me away from the Claws. Fred had dibs anyway.

We ended up in the vacant Great Hall. Everyone had cleared out after dinner and all that was left were four long tables and the fires lit on the sides. Oh, and some nice centerpieces with branches coming out of them.

“So other than McLaggen being a tosspot and Fred’s life being slowly ruined, how was your day?” Avery asked, sitting on top of a table with her legs sprawled out. I hoped they were cleaned before people ate on them for breakfast. Not that Avery was dirty. Because she wasn’t. Just that I never thought about what people did on the tables when there wasn’t eating happening.

I wondered about Freddie and Kay Davies. I mean, they did it on my pitch. Who’s to say they didn’t do it where I ate lunch?

“It wasn’t bad,” I said with a minor shrug. “Better now.”

It was that feeling. That feeling that you wanted to spend so much time with one person. I wondered if I annoyed her, but judging by the grin on her face I supposed not. I just wanted to spend my whole day with her, laughing, and never have to put up with stupid Meta McLaggen or Nia or Elizabeth again. Lofty goal, really.

“You look like you’re thinking about something?” Avery leaned over and narrowed her eyes at me suspiciously.

“Falcon Cat,” I spat out.

“Aw, I miss that kitten,” she said. “I wish Victoria would have gotten along with her.”

“Tory is a one-man woman,” I explained. “She’s very protective.”

“She loves me,” Avery said.

“I guess she thinks you have no shot.”

She laughed. “I have a shot at snogging you, that’s for sure.” She kissed me lightly on the lips and I stopped breathing. Then I remembered I needed to do that in order to live so I breathed again. It hurt my lungs though. Not good. Well, good in the sense of holy fuck that snog was great even though it was only a peck, but not good in the being alive department.

I was about to finally reply (since I could breathe again), but Avery’s attention was caught by a small owl soaring through the hall. It was weighed down by a letter and hooting happily. The letter fell in front of Avery. She cocked a brow.

“Mum usually sends me stuff on Sundays,” she said.

“That doesn’t look like your mum’s handwriting,” I said, pointing out the lofty script. “Or mine. Or Dad’s.”

I could hear her breath get caught in her throat as she unfolded the parchment. “It’s from my father.”

“Have you even heard from him since the first game?”

She shook her head. “I saw him after the game and then nothing.” I knew what she was thinking. She didn’t even have to say it, but she did. “Like when I was a kid.”

The hall was dark since the floating candles were out and the fires were the only things illuminating the area. Each table looked like it stretched forever. I placed my hand on her thigh.

“Aves,” I whispered.

“He’s coming to the Hufflepuff game.”

My eyes widened. “After not communicating with you for weeks?”

“Apparently.” Her eyes skimmed the words again. “Yeah, he’s coming to watch us take on the Puffers. Already purchased box seats. Since it’s his old house he wants to see what they have now that he’s gone.”

“Darian Bay isn’t much to look at.”

“I can’t believe he’s coming.” She folded the paper and stuffed it back into the envelope. “I mean, at first I was excited since he kept coming around after I nearly offed him at the restaurant. But then he just didn’t contact me at all. Didn’t tell me what a good job I’d done. Didn’t tell me he wanted to have a relationship—that he wanted to get to know me. It was just nothing. And now something.”

“So what do you want to do?”

“I don’t know that there’s much I can do.” Avery pulled a few treats out of her pocket (was she seriously keeping owl treats in there?) and fed them to the little owl. It hooted. I missed Victoria. And Falcon Cat. “He’s already purchased the tickets and there aren’t rules against him being here. It’s not like he’s causing harm.”

“Except to you,” I said slowly.

“Who knows, maybe he has a decent reason for not getting in touch?”

“That he didn’t bother to write down.”

Avery frowned. “Damn parents. They’re the pits.”

I thought about Dad and how Mum said he wouldn’t be able to make my Hufflepuff game. Busy time for Aurors. I wasn’t sure exactly what made winter busier than summer, but apparently it was. Too busy to make your son’s second to last match as a Quidditch player for Gryffindor. Second match total as a Captain. “Yeah, yeah, they can be that way.”

I put the thought of Dad teaching me fly out of my mind.



I called a team meeting several days shy of the Puffer game. I arranged for an evening gathering, or soiree, if you will, to get my team up to date on the happenings of the Puffers. It was in the kitchens, as usual, and before I was there the table was set up with éclairs, tarts, and delicious goodness. Whoever was expecting dinner would be either ecstatic or hungry.

To my surprise, Paloma arrived first. She had a long dress on under her robes, that weird cornflower blue color that made me feel awkward. She was all smiles though with her hair tied back and a clipboard with parchment ready to take notes on the Puffers. What a great team player.

“Hey, James,” she said with another trademark smile. I knew Al was interested, I knew about the Code, and I knew I’d never be attracted to her in that way, but damn Paloma Dove was a gorgeous girl.

“Hi, Paloma,” I replied. I opened and closed my mouth several times, but eventually spit out what I was fighting with saying. “Oy, so what’s going on with you and Al?”

Instant blush.

“I don’t know what you mean.”

“That’s exactly what I mean,” I said, dropping a few stacks of notes onto the table. “What is happening between the two of you?”

“We’re really great friends,” she said. “You have an amazing brother, James.”

I raised a brow. “Friends?”

“Sure. Al is a wonderful listening. It’s a bonus he’s so adorable.”

“Tell me,” I said, “is it the eyes or the hair?”

Paloma laughed. “I think it’s both.”

“Damn it,” I said. “He’s got the whole package.”

“Is that jealousy?”

“Never.” I huffed my chest out in a manly way. “I’m the Captain. Captains don’t get jealous of Prefects. It’s against the rules.”

“What rules?” Paloma giggled. “Surely the Code doesn’t have footnotes?”

“Course not. They’re just my rules.”

I dropped the subject of the lack of romance between Albus and Paloma just as Wesley walked in, followed closely by Bink and Freddie, who had taken to shooting tickling hexes at Wes. Wesley, however, had no idea and kept twitching.

“Good evening, lads,” I said cheerfully, popping several chocolate desserts in my mouth.

“You seen Avery?” Bink asked. “She said she’d check over my Transfig.”

“She has to finish mine before she checks yours,” Fred said.

I gaped at them. “You’re having Avery do your homework?”

“I mean, I asked nice,” said Fred. “It’s just I’m out all the time with Abigail and it gets hard.”

“So the nice, sweet Avery is doing your homework for you?” I said.

“We should pay her, huh?” Bink said.

“You should do a lot more than that.” I folded my arms just as the lovely lady herself walked in.

Even though she was in robes, her hair was in a knot on top of her head, and she wore slippers on her feet, I’d never seen something so beautiful. It was so strange. There was an explosion somewhere behind my navel and I felt like I wouldn’t be able to eat any more of my treats.

“Sorry, Avery,” muttered Fred.

“Sorry,” said Bink.

“Uh,” Avery said. “You’re forgiven? Can you tell me what you’ve done?”

“We won’t have you do our homework for us anymore,” Fred said.

Avery laughed, patting each boy on the head. “Don’t worry, boys, I have a few things in mind for making it up to me.”

“Like what?”

“I wonder what Freddie would look like with no hair…”

He made a squawking sound.

I looked up to see the last of our team enter. Meta always seemed to be late and in a sour mood and tonight was no exception. She sauntered in, drinking a cup of hot tea, and slid into the seat at the end of the table. Luckily, Wes and Paloma flanked her instead of a certain blond.

“All right, let’s get this show on the road!” I said cheerfully, finally able to regain control of my breathing. I was careful not to look at Avery while I spoke. “Saturday is the Hufflepuff game. It’s a game against yellow and black, the color of pretty little bumblebees, badgers (I guess), and Puffers. I have a lot of things to say about them, but some are more important than others.”

“You always have a prelude to your speeches, Potter.”

“Shut the fuck up, McLaggen,” Bink snapped.

“Why don’t you go to hell, Legace?”

“Spent three months there.”

“You haven’t seen the worst of me.”

Bink snorted. “You mean you waking up with no makeup isn’t it? Bugger.”

Fred elbowed him. “Not the time, mate.”

Meta rolled her eyes. “How long is this going to take?”

I tried to think of happy thoughts. Like beating up Emerson or kicking whoever was snogging my sister. Or being in a dragon cave killing beasts and shit. Or training them. Anyway.

“Back to the Puffers,” I said. “Nia Baker used to date Darian Bay.”

“Oh, goodie, gossip.” Meta leaned back in her chair. Internally, I hoped she fell.

“Bay talked a lot about this game and what methods he was going to use to dethrone Gryffindor Quidditch.” I began my trademark pacing. “He wants to take us out. He wants injuries. I’m guessing he’ll try and take us out before the game, so I want all of you on your guard. Go with someone else everywhere and try not to spend too much time in a cluster. Not that that’s a problem with you, McLaggen, seeing as everyone bleeding hates you. Except me, because I’m the Captain and I love all of you equally.”

Bink laughed. “If you love me as much as you love her we must not be good friends.”
Meta whipped out her wand. “Give me a reason. I swear.”

“Put it away,” said Paloma, louder than I’m sure she intended. “This meeting is about Quidditch. I for one want to know how to beat the damn Hufflepuffs!”

Did Paloma just say damn?

Meta narrowed her eyes, but stowed her wand back in her pocket.

“I’m sure he’ll be going after the most important parts of the team. Avery and McLaggen—don’t look at me like that, you guys, she’s a damn good Seeker. So I want the both of you to be on the look-out at all times. Stray hexes can come from anywhere. Even Ravenclaws. They want to see us lose too since we humiliated them in the fall.” I snickered at the thought. “Bay has no restraint. It’s his last year and he wants to win more than he wants to retain friendships. Not that he has any.”

I cleared my throat. “So let’s get this show on the road. The first chart I have here is Bay’s lineup. Look carefully and take notes. Paloma, would you give McLaggen a piece of your paper and a quill? She’ll need it.”



The meeting lasted a little longer than I planned, but I relayed all the information I had. I only wished I could have gotten it to them sooner, but better late than never. I had more important things to worry about. Not that anything was more important than Quidditch. Because it wasn’t. But still.

“All right,” I said, taking down my last chart, “I have a little surprise for everyone.”

“Is it freedom?” said Freddie.

“It’s a team building exercise!”

Bink blinked. “Like learning each other’s names and shit?”

“No. This is better.” I took out a pointed hat. “We’re going to have a gift exchange before the game. It’ll be the morning of and we will all send our gifts via owl to the person we pick, but we can’t tell anyone who we picked. Just get them a little something and a note. It’s to boost self-confidence and moral.”

Meta looked like she might be sick. Maybe she really was preggo? Nope, that was just her look of disgust at me.

“Okay, everyone pick a name!” I was still excited even though Meta was giving me the stink eye. I had chocolate! I loved everyone. Except her. She really was a bitch. How did Bink stand her long enough for sex? It must have been amazing. It had to have been. I would have punted her across the room.

Everyone drew a name and I got the final piece of paper. It said, Paloma Dove. What to get a pretty girl who has everything?



The end of the meeting was nice for everyone, considering Fred jumped up and ran for the Ravenclaw Tower, Wesley and Paloma ditched out to find some of their friends, and Meta and Bink muttered threats at each other while they walked out of the kitchens. That left Avery and I standing there, me shuffling my notes.

“Who did you get?” she asked, tucking her slip of paper away.

“I can’t tell,” I said. “That’s the point. It has to be a surprise.”

“Okay, okay.” Avery laughed a little and helped herself to the last éclair. “I guess I’ll just wait and see. I have some big ideas though. It’s a good plan. I mean to say, it might distract some of us long enough to forget about the nerves.”

“Like you’re ever nervous.” I tucked the sheets of parchment under my arm.

“Sometimes I am.” Her voice was low. Her eyes were sparkly and even her slippers looked sexy. I meant attractive.

Avery kissed me lightly and my heart was racing so much I couldn’t hear the movement around me. I opened my eyes to look at her and then she was smiling at me. “I got you, you know.” She pulled the slip of paper out of her pocket. “So be prepared.”

I was fairly certain I wouldn’t be prepared for anything she sent my way.

A/N: Today I injured my pinkie nail and so whenever I press shift, enter, or backspace things get complicated. By complicated I mean I wince. But I got a chapter up for all of you! I hope you enjoyed more of an insight into Meta and Bink, as well as the lead-up to the next Quidditch game.

Feel free to share your favorite quotes! What do you think Avery is going to get James? What the heck is going on with Al and Paloma? 

Up Next: gift exchange, Lily knows too much, more Falcon Cat, and a shower.

Chapter 28: Not just Broken (Shattered)
  [Printer Friendly Version of This Chapter]

For HarrietHopkirk.

It was bright the morning of the game and I knew that meant an annoying amount of sun during the match. I personally preferred overcast days where I could see the Quaffle and the giant bloke coming at me. Victoria was humming delicately from her cage on my bedside stand and I slid some treats in for her. She made a content noise, which was different than the regular humming.

“Shut your animal up, Potter,” Twitwards said.

I ignored him. Well, tried to since his Head Boy badge was practically blinding me from the other side of the room.

Both Freddie and Bink were still asleep, Bink muttering stupidly like usual. He was a sleep-talker, that Bink Legace, and once Freddie and I recorded it and gave Sinatra a copy just for kicks. She kicked us out of her office.

“Fucking nail biter,” Bink muttered.

I stretched and threw on some clothes just as the door opened and my baby sister walked in with a superior glare in her eyes.

“What the fuck is she doing here?” Emerson said. He was in such a cheerful mood this morning.

“Watch the language, Twitwards.” I smiled. “What’s up, Lils? You usually don’t venture into this part of the Tower.”

“It’s because of the smell,” she said quickly. Then she surveyed me, looked over to Bink because he was explaining the difference between a tripod and a fish (it was scales), then back to me. “What have you been up to lately?”

“Trying not to die by the hands of Darian Bay,” I explained. “Bugger’s cornered my whole team several times.”

“I did hear about that,” she said carefully. “Glad he didn’t get any of them.”

“I’d say Meta more got him than he got her.” I thought of the way Professor Longbottom phrased “tentacles” while we were in a meeting about the event.

“Anything else happen lately?”

I shrugged. “Just planning plays and visiting Falcon Cat and trying to make Twitwards’ life as miserable as possible.”

“It’s working,” he mumbled. Then he threw a pillow at Bink, who was making sex noises.

Lily narrowed her eyes at me. “I’d like a word.” She jerked her head at the door and I followed her down to the common room and into the corner by the window. “You can tell me, you know.”

“I can tell you what?” I asked. “About Bay calling Mum a slut? Because he did. I was afraid you’d off him before the match though and I’d like to beat him with his sorry square face out there so I can see the disappointment.”

She rolled her eyes. “I know you’re snogging Avery.”

My face hadn’t been that red in ages. “Ex-Excuse me?” I looked around the make sure no one was watching or eavesdropping.

“Cut the crap, James. I know. I can see it all over her face and I can see it all over yours.” She folded her arms. “I’m way smarter than you give me credit for.”

“This reminds me of the time you knew about the Code and I still have no fucking idea how you did that.” I narrowed my eyes. “What else do you know?”

“I know you’re a tosser.”


Lily put her hand on my arm. “So what the heck are you going to do about this?”

“About you know what?”


“Keep doing it?” I said.

She threw her hands in the air. “You’re hopeless!” With that, she marched away.

I never understood her. Seriously, she knew about the Code and Aves and I snogging. How? By reading my face? What kind of shit was that? Were there any other face-readers at this school? Load of dung.

No matter. I had plans.






“Okay, you lot. Ready?” I looked out at my team. We were in one of the empty classrooms. One of the many, actually. They had like a zillion classrooms in this school and we only used like four. What were the other ones for? Did they used to have five thousand kids? Why weren’t our parents reproducing like before? Damn these empty classrooms.

“Ready,” said Wesley. He looked entirely too happy.

“Everyone’s bag in the center?” I had given them all the same paper bag to put their presents in. Everyone used their owls to get the packages in the room that morning so it would still be a surprise. I thought it was clever. Meta didn’t, but she was a bitch.

Paloma’s eyes were wide and there was a bright smile on her face.

“Okay! Find your name!”

I found mine right away. It was the bag furthest from me. I didn’t care about what everyone else got, so I ripped mine open and my jaw unhinged.

Inside, and pawing at my fingers, was Falcon Cat.

“Falcon Cat!” I cried, grabbing her and snuggling her into my face. “Mother fucking Falcon Cat!” She licked my cheeks. She was so soft and snuggly and adorable.

The card inside was in familiar handwriting.

Hey Sexy,

You’re hot. We made out last night. Wanna do it again?

Xoxo A

Ps. I know how much you love this cat. Keep her. Tory will get over it.

I framed a Puffer so the Profs won’t find out.

I looked up and she was smiling at me. I wanted to hug her. And then snog her. Then hug her again. But I didn’t, I just placed Falcon Cat on my shoulder and smiled. Then I mouthed, “Thanks.”

“James, thank you!” Paloma threw her arms around my neck and kissed Falcon Cat on the nose. “This is so amazing. I’ve been wanting to go there for ages.” She held up the gift certificate I’d given her for the fancy restaurant in Hogsmeade. It opened last Spring and none of us had the Galleons to go.

Lucky my brother had a hefty bank account.

Also lucky the gift certificate was enough for two.

“No problem,” I said cheerfully. “You deserve a night out. Maybe a celebratory dinner tomorrow night? Al’s free.” I coughed the last part. Wesley smirked.

Paloma patted Falcon Cat. “Thanks. This is amazing.”

“So what did everyone else get?”

Turns out Paloma got Wesley brand-name broom wax, which sounded dirty, but was exactly what it said. They sold that stuff at Quality for like twenty Galleons. Wes gave Meta a set of lotions and shower gel. That is the go-to gift for females you don’t want to buy for. Even if they have stellar grades, if you don’t want to put thought into it—go lotions and shower gels. At least he picked a nice scent so she wasn’t walking around smelling like that wonky vanilla that didn’t smell anything like vanilla.

I only knew that because Avery replaced my Knife Wound with vanilla once.

I was not happy.

My skin was soft though.

Meta got Fred some candy, which I would have been peeved about, but Fred was easy to please since his brains were addled and all that. He gave Bink a little black book and I could have died laughing judging by the expression on Meta’s face. Avery and Paloma put their owl information in there just to get him started.

“No late night owls,” Avery said with a wink.

From Bink she got lucky bamboo, which was my favorite plant because you didn’t have to put it in the sunlight or look after it. Just some water every once in a while and it looked pretty. Cacti were cool too but I always ran into them and now with Falcon Cat around to raise I couldn’t take chances like cacti.

“See, wasn’t this fun?” I said, trying not to think about the suggestive note Avery had given me. Plus blaming the cat-theft on a Puffer. What a fabulous day!



Victoria didn’t just “get over it” like I’d hoped. In fact, she got over it by throwing all of her wood chips out of her cage and hiding half-inside of her toilet paper roll. I say half-inside because she was getting a little hefty in her old age of like two and a half.

Falcon Cat was bouncing all over the dormitory. She might have scratched Emerson’s bed hangings. Might have. But I saw nothing, so he could have done that in his sleep for all I knew.

“Oy!” I cried, trying to catch the little cat. She jumped into my trunk and started batting around the papers in there. “C’mere!”

No can do. She wanted to be everywhere at every moment. I was a little out of breath. Which was not good on a Quidditch day.

“How is she adjusting?” Avery asked, sticking her head in the door. She already had her hair tied back.

“Not so well,” I mumbled. “Tory hates her. She’s tearing through everything. It’s insane.”

“She was pretty calm over in the girl’s dorms.” Avery put a hand on my shoulder.

I tensed up. “Maybe we have some sort of cat drugs over here? Twitwards is smuggling cat nip or something.”

She laughed and her eyes were sparkling.

I kissed her and we fell backward onto my bed while Falcon Cat knocked over a few things I’m sure were important but I was also sure I didn’t much care.

That was, until the door opened and we sprang apart in time to pretend like we were looking for Falcon Cat.

“Potter, can you tell me why all of my notes are scattered here and there?” Emerson even stood like a pompous tool. “I was gathering them to do a little nature walk before the Quidditch match, but obviously that is not going to happen.”

I shrugged. “No idea, mate. Aha!” I leapt over Bink’s bed and grabbed Falcon Cat. “Crafty little bugger.” She was purring.

“That might be the reason,” he said.

“I mean, maybe. Probably not though.” I smiled and took Falcon Cat back to my bed. Then I gave her a ball of yarn.

“Good luck today, Avery,” Emerson said in that twit voice he had while talking in front of her.

“Thanks, Emerson.”

“Say,” he said, then stopped.

Oh no. It was that voice. That damn voice. Like he was planning out each and every move, which of course he was because he was a huge bag of rusty tools.

“Hmm?” she said.

“No, it’s stupid.”


Emerson ran his fingers through his hair. Bleeding ass. “Would you want to maybe get a bite to eat sometime this week? To celebrate the win?”

I wanted to punch his face in right there. My whole body went rigid with anger. How dare he? After all the shit he said. After all she’d said to him! After being a doucher and all that. And her and I were snogging now.

I mean, not that she couldn’t date other people. That was in our ground rules. I could date other people if I wanted. Like Nia or something. If I wanted to.

Avery looked at Emerson, then back at me, then to Emerson.

I wanted to fucking Emerson-punch him right in the gob.

I could see her start to wrinkle her nose. Damn right, Twitwards.

“Sure. I guess we can do that.”

Say what?

Emerson smirked, mostly at me. “Fabulous. I’ll see you at the game.” With that, he grabbed for a couple pieces of parchment. Then he shot me the most pompous, arrogant, snide look I have ever seen. He practically jumped up and down and gloated. And that sick look in his eyes.

So I hexed the bastard.

“Detention!” Emerson cried, attempting to hold his composure while adjusting his hair on the floor. All I did was knock him off his feet, but apparently hexing in front of ladies was humiliating.

I smirked. “Worth it.”

“It won’t be once you know what you’re doing.” He flattened his hair, snatched the crumpled papers, and rushed out.

“You make a perfect couple,” I said slyly.

“Hey, we have an agreement.” Avery folded her arms. “Nice shot, by the way. Oh, and I won’t tell him about the snogging.” She kissed the tip of my nose. “It wasn’t that bad last time.”

“He ordered you a salad.”

She laughed. “And maybe this time I’ll order him a water and tell the waiter he’s watching his weight.” With that, Avery was gone and I was left with Falcon Cat making little claw marks in my hand. One was bleeding. Oh, bugger.



I always went to the locker rooms early. I was especially thankful that this game started after noon, considering the mornings events of gift-exchanging, detentions, and a cat that acted like it was drunk.

“Locker rooms?” I passed Freddie in the hallway. His arm was draped around Abigail’s shoulders and Abigail was talking to that Amy girl on the other side. The only thing connecting them was his arm.

“Yeah. Need to get my head on straight.”

“Heard Edwards gave you a detention.”

I smirked. “Yeah, well, he deserved it.”

“Usually does.” Freddie shrugged. He glanced at Abigail, then to Amy, then back at Abigail, and then to me. “Yeah, I’m just hanging.”

“I see that.” I motioned to his arm. The girls were still very much in conversation, though it was getting heated. I thought about listening, but decided Ravenclaws weren’t that interesting anyway. Amy did roll her eyes a couple times. She was pretty.

“See you in a little while.” I waved to him, then half-heartedly to the girls, who ignored me, and made my way down to the locker rooms.

“I could hex you right now, you know.”

Darian Bay was waiting for me in the Entrance Hall and for a moment I wondered why the Captain of the Hufflepuff (those are Puffers, for those of you who don’t know) team didn’t have anything better to do. Damn his square jaw.

“What do you want, Bay?” I said.

“Right now, or in life?”

“Don’t bother answering either. I’m bored.” I moved past him and made my way to the door. “You’re going down today.”

“Dream on, Potter.”

He really was the expert in the burn department.

I shrugged. “May the better Captain win. And by that I mean the one who will win on skill alone.”

“Oh, we’ll win on skill alone.”

Seriously, he was just acing it left and right. Mental eye roll.

“Okay, Bay. We’ll see what happens.”

“Wear extra padding, Potter. We’re gunning for you.”

I rolled my eyes for real that time, pushing the doors open. It was a threat. I knew he wanted me to think that they were going to get up in the air and throw everything they had at my—Beater’s bats included. Bay was tall and a Puffer, but he wasn’t stupid. He knew everyone on our team was a threat to them, especially Meta and Avery.

It worried me, but we could hold our own.

I hoped.

The locker rooms were quiet and dark when I arrived, just the way I liked it. Except I wasn’t alone.

“Come to plan out your dinner with Twitwards?” What the hell was wrong with me? We agreed to date other people. It wasn’t like I had feelings like that for Avery. Even though if I was going to date her I would take her somewhere awesome, not some stupid restaurant in Hogsmeade. We’d fly somewhere, like to a mountain or something. And have a picnic. Or maybe we’d just hang out.

She was stretched out on the bench across the room. “I saw Darian on my way down.”

“Same,” I said. “They’re really going to come on strong. Similar to Twitwards.”

Shut up, James. Shut up. Seriously, shut your damn mouth.

Avery rolled her eyes. “Do you think I’m beautiful, James?”

“Of course. Why do you have to ask that?”

“Sometimes I’m not so sure.” She traced her fingers in the air. “Sometimes I don’t feel like myself. Like I’m floating, you know? I don’t have control over anything. My dad’s here and I don’t have control over that, or what Darian sodding Bay is going to do, or what is going to happen with Emerson.”

“You have control over all those things.” I sat next to her, placing her legs on my lap. “You can choose to think of your dad as just another audience member. You can choose not to see him afterward. Though you don’t know what Bay is going to do, you know how wicked awesome of a Keeper you are and you know you can get by anything. And as for Edwards.” I smiled and tucked a piece of hair behind her ears. “You will have some crazy bloke dressed as someone different wearing my sneakers there to bail you out if needed.”

“Will Freddie dress like a woman?”

“Doesn’t he always?” I said cheerfully.

“Hell, if Emerson had half your personality he might actually be a catch.”

“Yeah, to some lonely Prefect out there.” I laughed, standing up. “Care to take a stroll around the locker room so the beady eyes of Meta McLaggen don’t catch me snogging you? Because that’s what I’m about to do. You’re far too beautiful before a Quidditch match for me to let it go unnoticed and you left me such a nice note this morning.” I winked.

To my surprise, it was Avery that dragged me into the men’s showers (not boys) and into the third shower stall.

I couldn’t feel anything except for her arms around me and my hands pressed up against the tiling behind us. A swirl of emotion where I wasn’t breathing and my body was pressed against hers. Her back was arched because I was fairly certain she was against the shower handle and that made it all the more intense while kissing her.

Avery was amazing. Not just in the snogging department, though that was out of this world, but in general. She had been my best mate for years, had been there for me when no one else had, and knew all my secrets. She was stunningly beautiful, had a warm personality, and gave everyone a chance, even if it was Emerson Edwards.

Stupid Twitwards. I still couldn’t believe he asked her on a date. It enraged me. More than usual. I was not only peeved, I felt…protective. I didn’t want her to go. Not just with Edwards. With anyone. I wanted her to stay with me, to lounge in my bed and play with Falcon Cat and let me kiss her nose so lightly it tickles. To me with me.

Holy shit.

I pulled back, finally allowing myself a breath and it was more of a gasp for air. It was muggy inside the showers and my hair was probably sticking up more than usual.

Avery was staring at me. Strands of her hair were falling out of the tie and her green eyes were wider than usual. Both of her hands were flat against the wall.

All I wanted to do was hug her. To kiss her. I wanted her.

“Bollocks on the Code,” I said, my voice rising as I grabbed her and pulled her toward me. She inhaled sharply. “Bollocks on the Code and you’re not going on a date with Twitwards.”

She just stared at me, shoulders tense. She mouthed something, but no words came out.

“I want you for myself.” I kissed her again, hard, and we fell back against the shower handle again, my fingers in her hair and hers clawing at my back. I didn’t know why I said it—hell, I didn’t know why I felt it, but I did.

Then it was raining.

At first I wasn’t sure if I was sweating because kissing Avery was intense, but after I felt my shirt clinging to my back I realized the shower had switched on and both of us were soaked. It was like kissing in the rain, my limbs dragging and her lips wet.

I felt a smile creep up her lips.

“James,” she said, laughing.

I opened my eyes, water flicking into them.

I should have apologized. What I said was out of line. We were snogging in the shower and I had said bollocks on the Code and ruined everything we had gone over.

“The shower is on.” She smiled.

A breath left me.

“Erm, yeah.” I stepped back, water soaking the rest of my shirt and pants. “I see that.” Suddenly my face was so hot it hurt.

She wrapped a finger around a strand of hair, and then hurriedly placed it behind her ear. Avery’s clothes were sticking to her. I tried not to look. Too much.

“We should go –play Quidditch and all that,” I mumbled, stepping backward out of the shower and almost falling. I regained my balance and stumbled toward the door.

I could hear Fred and Bink on the other side.

Avery put her hand on the door and her face was inches from mine. “Did you mean what you said?”

Water was dripping from the ends of my hair. I looked at her and thought of her on a date with Twitwards. My whole body went rigid.

“Yeah,” I said.

She kissed me slowly. “Then let’s do it.”

I didn’t think about the Code, about what the team would say or if Lily would give me one of those I-told-you-so looks, I just thought about Avery. She was perfect. I knew I wanted her to be mine. Well, it was more like I was hers.

I tilted my head toward the door. “What’re we going to tell them?”

“Why don’t we just concentrate on beating Darian Bay today?” Avery took my hand and squeezed it. “We’ll worry about them later.”

I nodded and pushed open the door. The team fell silent and looked over at us, sopping clothes and all.


HarietHopkirk was the first person to say "Javery" in a review. Love it! 

I don't really have any lead-up. For all of you thinking that the chapter was going to be horrible and make you cry because of the combo and hte kind of works the other way, doesn't it? haha.

So what do you all think? Finally, after all this time, Javery time! Thoughts? favorite quotes? 

Up Next: The game, the hospital, a weird ending, and a gold tie.

Chapter 29: Another Kind of Courage
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Ah, Quidditch, what an ancient and silly sport....

Last Time on Drama Llamas: James and Avery snogged in the shower. James might have uttered the words "Bollocks on the Code" and then they were soaked.



I pretended I wasn’t completely soaked and shuffled over to the chalk board. Their eyes were burning into my back. Freddie was practically screaming questions. I could hear him bouncing up and down on the bench in front of his locker.

“Okay, team. Today we play the Puffers.” I drew a few lines on the board.

“Why are you wet?” said Bink abrubtly.

“I fell,” I said. “They’re gunning for us out there.”

“Into the lake?” he added.

I veered around. “Aves and I were talking over something personal. I tripped like a sodding idiot and used the shower handle to steady myself. Worked out well, eh?”

Bink, sensing the annoyance of his captain, said, “So Darian Bay is a tosser.”

I smiled. “I want everyone to work as hard as they can today.” I moved back to my X’s and O’s on the board that stood for plays and positions. “We can outscore them, but they’ll play dirty. Like I said before, Bay has no honor. He wants to win because he’s a damn Puffer and Puffers know very little about winning. Unless it’s a loyalty contest or something silly like that. Or a yellow contest. Or a badger one. Anyway, Paloma and Wesley, show no mercy.”

Wesley saluted me, his eyes still wide at the wetness of my clothes.

I paced back and forth, pants dragging on the floor. “Ready to kick Bay off his high horse? That arrogant bastard is getting almost as annoying as Lawson. Almost.”

“Bet he says the same thing about you,” Meta said.

I dodged. “There’s only enough room for one of us at Hogwarts.” Weirdly, I felt the same way about both Lawson and Edwards. And Costaso, but he wasn’t at Hogwarts.

Avery was brushing through her wet hair. She put it back up. I tried not to stare.

Just as I predicted, it was sunny but the sun was setting and in just a couple hours it would be dark. I led the team out of the locker rooms to Gryffindor cheers and Walters’ annoying roster voice. He always pronounced names like a robot.

In front of me the Hufflepuff team was crossing the grass. I surveyed their size and was thankful at least this time Fred hadn’t fucked the whole team. I didn’t have to worry about my pitch being defiled. At the moment, anyway. I was fairly certain Abigail wasn’t the kind of girl to have sex on a pitch.

The crowd was blurry—something I was used to at Quidditch matches. I loved it. My eyes flew to Elizabeth to Clint Lawson (sick), to Kay Davies and then, surprisingly, to Avery’s dad. He was in a suit, gold tie, and had his hair slicked back against his scalp.

My head twisted back toward Avery.

She winked, having not seen. Blimey, she was amazing.

Avery Flynn. My…girlfriend. How weird was that? When was the last time I had a girlfriend? Two years ago. Daisy from the summer. Lily and Rose hated her. I figured it was because her name was a flower too.

I couldn’t think too hard about it though. Not yet. I had a Quidditch match to win and I could think over my fabulously new relationship with Aves later. Now I was going to use the adrenaline to take out Darian Bay, who was nearly to the center of the pitch. Sodding creep. I wondered what Nia saw in him.

Ah, yes. He was a captain before me.


It was only because Dara would have rather failed than give up her team to someone that broke the Code. Well, was going to break it. Wide open.

Shit, what had I just done?

Never mind. This was business. Not quite suit and tie business, but business all the same. Quidditch business. Quid Biz.

I shook his hand, trying not to get Puffer germs on me. “Thought of any comebacks yet?” I said, thinking back to his poor showing in the Entrance Hall.

“Shut it, Potter. You’re going to eat dirt.”

That was a no.

Bay almost snorted. “You can’t watch over everyone,” he whispered while Walters went over game facts. “We’re going to take them out one by one and leave you looking like a fool.”

I rolled my eyes. Secretly, I might have been a little worried. It was Quidditch, but if the ref turned her back for one second there could be cheap shots all around. I knew Meta could take care of herself, but what of Avery? What if she was making a save with both hands and they got her? I’d bleeding kill them, that’s what.

“I want a clean game.”

Yeah right, ref. Did she even know us?

Darian nodded.

I took the moment to glance back at my team, their hair blowing sideways in the late February wind. It cut through me like a knife and I knew they were all doing their best to ignore it. Part of Avery’s ponytail had frozen. Paloma and Wesley’s jaws were tight and I could see Meta eyeing the Puffer Seeker. Bink and Fred were whispering about Merlin knew what and then I looked back at Avery.

My girlfriend.

I had to think about Quidditch. This was my chance to solidify myself as a captain. To show the world (and Dara Wood) that even though my team had been threatened with a Code-break, it wouldn’t tear us apart. Ever.

I mounted my broom to cheers. That Quaffle was mine.



Well, not quite, but I was close. The air was colder than I thought it would be and immediately my body wasn’t working as well as I wanted it to. I flattened myself against the broom and flew higher, catching a toss from Fred and streaking up the pitch toward the Puffer Keeper. I forgot his name, but he was in yellow.

I chucked it, but my arm was sluggish and the bloke got it, throwing it to Bay, who rushed back toward Avery. Bleeding git.

I ignored Bink and Meta shouting random obscenities at each other because it wasn’t affecting their game. If anything, it made Bink play harder. Yell, Bink, yell. He threw and missed. Fred threw and had it blocked.

What did this Keeper have for breakfast? Jet fuel?

Avery was playing just as well, luckily. She had let two in by that time, but only because of a stray Bludger and a really damn good shot by another Chaser that wasn’t Bay. Why did I forget their names already? It was because they were Puffers.

I caught the Quaffle again and made my way back to the other side of the pitch. The wind was making my ears hurt and I dodged a Bludger Paloma just missed. Then there was an elbow in the side of my head and the Quaffle fell into the arms of Darian Bay.

Fucking son of a bitch. Of Meta McLaggen.

My head whipped around. “Get it!” I shouted at Bink, who was diving for it, but missed.

Luckily, Avery caught it just in time, giving the ref an “are you kidding me” look. She could have been famous for that look.

The Beaters went after Meta first, forcing her up over the play and targeting both Bludgers right at her, as well as a skillfully hidden jinx. She saw it, whipped out her wand, and shielded herself from the charm. She ducked the Bludgers and went on her way, flipping them off as she went.

I had hope. My team was smart. They were agile.

There was one of them sailing toward the ground.

Darian Bay high-fived his other Chaser as Fred was carted off the field, bleeding from his ear. Poor addled brains.

I glanced at my bench, free of reserves. Well, this would have been a great time to have a reserve Chaser. I looked at Bink.

“Oy,” he said as a couple medi-wizards cleaned the blood off the grass. We were floating toward the defensive end. “We’re going to have to do a lot of dodging. Think we can do it?”

“Bay is for real,” I replied, not answering his question. “This git is going to go for it. He really is going to try and take all of us out. Thank Merlin Meta held her own.”

“Ready for this?” Bink asked, glancing over at Paloma, who clearly looked worried.

“Let’s do this.”

The game was back on and I had the Quaffle. To Bink. Back to me. Back to Bink and he dodged both Bludgers (where the fuck were my Beaters? Ah, getting harassed by the Chasers of the other team). Back to me. Through the goal hoop.

That was harder than it needed to be.

Now Hufflepuff was leading us by forty.

Then it was sixty.

I was out of breath. My body hurt without my other Chaser.

Suddenly, things got a little out of hand. My head flew around when Avery screamed and I saw Bink heading for the ground where a charm slowed him and medi-wizards were there to cart him off the pitch. He was unconscious.

“Time out!” I cried, rushing for the ground.

Paloma was bleeding. She grabbed some bandages and poured an alcohol-based potion on top. Wesley’s arms were already forming bruises. Meta seemed fine, though, which was always a good sign.

“We only have a couple minutes,” I said, leaning against a nearby cart.

“I’m sorry,” Avery said, pacing. “I keep yelling for the ref—how is she not seeing this? How is our team getting beat up and theirs not and she’s not seeing any of it?”

“Maybe the Puffers are rich,” said Wesley.

I shook my head. “Look. I’m sure you two will be next, Wes—Paloma. They know they’re not doing anything about Meta and Avery would be too hard because the ref is always watching her when the Quaffle is nearby. Still, watch your back, Aves. I have to try to do this on my own.”

“James, don’t be a hero,” said Paloma. “You’re not going to score seventy points by yourself.”

“I have to try, don’t I? If you can get the Quaffle from someone, do it. But don’t get hurt.” I paused, realizing the ref was looking impatient. Clint Lawson was laughing in the crowd. Avery’s dad looked apprehensive. Darian Bay was high-fiving his whole sodding team.

I turned. “Meta?”

She raised a brow.

“I know you can do this. I know you can catch the Snitch before that sorry excuse for a Seeker.”

“Is that confidence, Potter?”

“More like hope,” I said with a smile. I hated her. I really did, but she was one hell of a Seeker and we were lucky to have her. Even if I wished I could tape her mouth shut. “Let’s do this!”

I wanted to kiss Avery for good luck. No go.

“Had enough?” shouted Bay. He was grinning.

“Go to hell!” I said. Who knew Puffers could be dirtier than Slytherins? I’d be talking Slytherin about Hufflepuffs for a while.

Darian Bay laughed harder.

He had a reason to. Wesley, bloody torso and all, was the next to go and they just kept scoring. Avery was trying her best and she made some amazing saves but they were up by over a hundred. The crowd was still except the Hufflepuff section. Oh, and the Slytherins but I figured they were banking on it. The Ravenclaws were awkwardly still and the Gryffindors were either shouting angrily or leaving.

No one liked a team that got destroyed, members hurt or not.

Darian Bay knew this. He left me alone. He wanted me to feel what it was like to lose. Something I hadn’t done in years, let alone as a captain. He wanted me to be humiliated.

And I was.

Four of us. One Chaser. One Beater. One Seeker. One Keeper.

I scored again. They scored three times.

They were up one hundred and thirty. It was so humiliating. I wanted to curl up on the sidelines and pretending it was the Slytherins taking on the Puffers. That they were looking like idiots up here.

Maybe Dad was right. Maybe Quidditch just wasn’t what it should be for me.

What kind of fucking Captain was I? Up in the air watching my team get taken out. Wasn’t there something I could do about it? To stop it? Could I hex the other team? I felt useless.

I was in a nightmare and the sky was as dark as I felt.

Suddenly Paloma passed me the Quaffle. I used every bit of strength to hurl it at the right hoop. The Keeper’s fingers skimmed it, but it went through.

Only one-hundred twenty.

Until they scored twice.

Avery was near tears, but she was saving so much more. If she hadn’t been in front of those hoops the Puffers would have seven hundred.

I flattened myself against the broom again as Paloma dodged two Bludgers.

“Oy!” I cried as Paloma ripped the Quaffle out of Bay’s hands.

Then he elbowed her in the head.

She spun off course but regained control, a fire in her eyes I hadn’t seen before. I wondered if Al knew about it. All I knew about was the cold making my fingers numb. It was impossible to hold onto anything, let alone a Quaffle. Fuck you, February.

Another one for the Puffers. Up by one hundred fifty points.

Avery screamed something very obscene at them. Did her father know she had that inside of her?

“James!” Paloma cried.

I instinctively dove, but no one was there to take me out. The Quaffle was still with Bay below me and the Bludgers were on the other end of the pitch. I looked at her, wondering what the hell she wanted, when I noticed Meta. In a dive. Toward the Snitch.

Suddenly it was in her fingers, her face flushed and cold and I was hugging her harder than I’d hugged anyone in a while.

She got the Snitch! She got it. Meta (bitch) McLaggen caught me the Snitch and we were saved!

Or so I thought. Walters made it quite clear I wasn’t saved.

“A tie,” he said gracefully, almost tactfully. I reminded myself he was an enemy Puffer. “Ladies and gentlemen, in the event of a tie in Quidditch there is one tradition that has not died. It is a rare event, though.”

I thought back to my manual. I didn’t like ties. I liked winning. I skipped the chapter on ties. They were for less equal people. Like Puffers.

“When there is a tie,” Walters continued, “there is a shoot-out.”

Well, fuck. Of course there was a shoot-out when my Chasers were in the hospital wing.

Darian Bay looked like he had it in the bag. He lined up his Chasers on the side of the pitch and did a little dance worthy of my sister sleepwalking.

I took all the time I needed, staring at my team. “Well,” I said. “There isn’t much of a choice.”

Paloma was petrified. Her whole body was shaking as she dropped the Beater’s club.

Night had fallen on the Quidditch pitch and the crowd was roaring. The Gryffindors that left due to humiliation were back (they brought food). All were making some kind of noise. Puffers were cheering Darian’s name. He was their leader. Their big, yellow, square-jawed leader.

Over my dead body.

I stared out over the pitch, mist on the grass and stars in the sky. This was my pitch. This was the place I wanted to be the rest of my life, Transfiguration scores be damned. It belonged to me. I was the Captain of a legendary team that had overcome so many things. My dad was the Captain. My mum was on the team. Aunts and uncles were on the team and I wasn’t going to let something stupid like some Chasers and a Beater in the hospital wing stop me from reclaiming my glory.

My heart was thumping and suddenly I was warm. I turned back to them.

“We’re going to win,” I said loudly. “We’re going to go out there and show them that they can play dirty and cheat, but we are going to come out on top.” I put a hand on Paloma’s shoulder. “Just do your best. Do your best and that’s all we can ask for. If you don’t make it, then you don’t. You’re not a Chaser.”

She smiled weakly and I had a feeling she felt like she was going to throw up.

Meta was ready, her face rigid and tense.

I glanced at Avery. “You’ve got this.” She had so much more than just that.

“Gryffindors,” I said, putting a leg over my broom. “Let’s show them why we get gold and not yellow.”

One of the Puffers was up first. He dodged to the left, then faked right. Avery was there, reading him like a Charms book. She was very good at Charms. Among other things.

Meta went next. She flew up the pitch making a fake and throwing it. The Puffer Keeper just barely kept it out with the heel of his left foot. It was quite the save, only made because he slipped off his broom, the bleeding idiot.

Still tied.

Another Puffer. Avery saved it again. She was sweating in the cold. I could see the droplets from the ground.

Paloma’s eyes were hard and narrowed. She was furious. Maybe it was because they injured her team or perhaps it was because they forced this upon her, but she was pissed.

She threw it and had the Keeper beat. If only it wouldn’t have hit the post. The clang echoed through the stadium and there was a dull “ooh” that made me sick to my stomach.

My heart pounded. More like exploded.

Darian Bay suddenly looked a little nervous. Two of his blokes had failed. His Chasers. Both the Gryffindors were close and neither were Chasers. It was written on his defined face.

I couldn’t watch as he flew up the pitch with the Quaffle tucked under one arm. My eyes squeezed closed and I heard an uproar of applause. Only, from whom?

The Gryffindors. Avery chucked the Quaffle at the ground in a celebratory fashion. Only, if I didn’t make it, she’d have to stay up there until there was a round when someone made it and someone didn’t. She hovered there. Then she smiled at me.

My body was warm. Hot. Determined.

I didn’t hear anything. The crowd blurred into the noise the air made passing my hair. Toes were numb, chest pounding. I could taste it. I didn’t know what it was, but I could taste it. Longing. Confidence. The sheer need to show the world—Hogwarts—that I was James Sirius Potter. I was not some throwaway bloke with a famous dad that wasn’t going to do anything for himself.

I was going to make a name for myself, and it started tonight. It started during this game.

I lifted the Quaffle out of the air, tilted my broom forward, and felt the freezing air in my eyes, causing me to squint. The Keeper was hovering left. He wanted me to fake left and go right. I could see his leg positioned to fall right. He thought I was reading him pretending to go left so I would go right. Even his head was tilted right so I would go right.

I was James Potter. Keepers didn’t read me. I read them.

I pushed my left foot, faked left like he wanted me to, he went right, stretching out his yellow gloves, and all while losing footing, I threw left.

I pulled open my eyes, the air painful, but I had to see it. I had to see it sail through a hoop.

And it did.

I was engulfed before I knew it, Paloma’s arms tight around me, dragging me toward the ground. Meta ruffled my hair. Avery kissed my cheek.

Darian Bay was swearing, stomping off toward the locker rooms. Git.

I finally managed to escape my broom and get my feet flat on the ground before the other Gryffindors stormed the field. I grabbed my team. “Oy,” I said. “You lot are amazing. Absolutely amazing. I can’t believe we just did that. If I paid you I’d give you a raise.” I couldn’t stop smiling. My face was going to be stuck like this forever, in a painful grin. “But get up to the hospital wing. Paloma, you’re bleeding. Meta—holy shit, Meta.” I finally was able to take her in properly. Meta’s eye was swollen and she was bleeding from her hairline. “Get there now! Oy! Medi-wizards! Do your job and get these two off the pitch!” I looked at them. “I’ll be up in a minute to see how the others are. Meet you up there.”

Avery was still behind me, uninjured except for a few bruises from blocking the Quaffle.

“You should be going up there with them,” she said as thunderous footprints made their way onto the grass.


“You’re bleeding, idiot,” she said.

I felt my head instinctively. Yeah, I was. It wasn’t bad, just a little blood.

“James!” cried Nia, throwing her arms around me. “You did it!”

The sentiment was similar from everyone else. Thumping me on the back, ruffling my hair, and kissing my cheeks. Someone even hoisted me into the air briefly until I got light headed.

“Captain, you’re bleeding!” said a second-year. I enjoyed that he called me captain even though he wasn’t on the team.

“James Potter, get your sorry arse to the hospital wing now!” That one was Lily.

I wasn’t even dizzy. Well, maybe a little. A few people might have been spinning.

“C’mon, captain,” said Avery, laughing. “Thanks, Lily, I’ve got him from here. You lot get out of the cold—yeah, thanks. Thanks, Al. Yeah, his is the third locker.” She put her arm around me and we limped toward through the crowd. Things were getting blurrier.

“What you really need is some water,” she said, grabbing a bottle off the sidelines.

“Is that Puffer water? I don’t want Puffer water.”

“Drink it.”

“I hate Puffers.”

“Now, James.”

“Avery! You were amazing.”

My head snapped up and the figure out Mr. Flynn came into view. I grabbed the water and drank it just to stop myself from punching him.

“Oh. Hi.” She lifted me up a bit more since I was sinking. “Enjoy the game?” Awkwardness.

“I did. I have to say Hufflepuff plays a lot different than we did when I was here.”

“A lot dirtier, you mean,” I mumbled.

“Nice to see you again, Mr. Potter.”

“Likewise,” I said, drinking my water again. Damn Puffer water tasted like cheaters.

“Listen, Avery, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch much. I was traveling a lot and it was hard to get anything down on paper and I didn’t know where I was going to be next.” He smiled confidently. “I got this tie for the match! To show I support Gryffindor.” Mr. Flynn pointed to the gold tie.

“I see that. Thanks. It looks nice.” Avery glanced over at me. “Sorry to run, but James is kind of losing blood so we have to get him upstairs. It was nice to see you again.”

“Oh, yes, yes, of course. Feel better, son.” He clapped me on the back. “I’ll write you soon, Aves!”

My throat clogged up in an attempt not to scream at him for calling her that. Damn jerk. Calling my girlfriend what I call her. Other than girlfriend. That was a new thing anyway.

She led me through the cold back up to the castle in silence. I didn’t want to press the subject, but I did squeeze her hand and offer her the bottle of water.

“I’m not drinking Puffer water,” Avery said with a sly smile.

“Bleeding bitch,” I said, laughing. I helped her pull open the door to the Entrance Hall. The warmth was very welcome since we were avoiding the after-Quidditch showers. We had a before-Quidditch shower anyway.

She hoisted me up a few stairs. Why was the hospital wing not on the first floor?

“Are you okay?” I asked.

“I only have a couple bruises.”

Eye roll. “Aves, I mean with your dad being here.”

“It was awkward, but it wasn’t too bad. Nice of him to wear that tie.”

Yeah, nice of him to show his support for Gryffindor. Very nice. Sodding idiot. He probably only wore it because if Hufflepuff won he could say it was yellow and he supported the cheating Puffers. I was dragging my feet.

She was about to push open the door to the hospital wing when I held out my hand and grabbed hers. She glanced over and I kissed her. The red tint on her face was nice, especially when it wasn’t from the cold outside.

“What was that for?” she whispered, eyes downcast.

“Just for how amazing you are.” It sounded cheeseball, but no one else was around to hear it. Avery knew I could be a cheeseball sometimes. She didn’t care. She might have even liked it, especially judging by her smile.

The silence that surrounded us was deafening.

“Thank you, James.” She smiled, eyes sparkling. “I needed that.” With that, she pushed open the door and the dim lights of the hospital wing met us.

“Oy!” I cried. “Team!”

Paloma peeked out from behind a curtain. “Everyone’s alive,” she said. “You look awful,” she added.

“Thanks for that vote of confidence,” I mumbled, grabbing a pillowcase off the cart near the door. I wrapped it around my head. “There. All better. Where’s the others?”

Paloma pointed toward the front of the ward. Meta was getting patched up beside her, wincing as Madam Bones put on several bandages. She was scowling. It wasn’t my fault that time! Bones could just blame the Puffers.

I glanced over and saw Wesley’s bed. He was awake, but his arm was in a sling and there were bandages around his head. “You all right, mate?”

“Been better,” he said. “Sorry.”

I raised a brow. “Why again? Did you get a detention or something?”

“Sorry I got hurt and couldn’t help out.”

I wanted to hit him. “Wesley, never apologize for things you can’t control. The Puffers were playing so dirty it’s astounding they didn’t get the others.”

“I’m glad they didn’t get you,” he said and I could tell he was being really serious. It made me a little uncomfortable, but kind of warm inside.

“They wouldn’t have,” I said. “They wanted me to…”

“To what?”

I made a disgruntled face. “They wanted me to feel what it was like to be humiliated during Quidditch.”

“Did you?”

“Not one bit,” I said, ignoring my moment of panic on the pitch. “I’ve never been prouder of this team.” I patted him on the head. “Rest up or I’ll have you doing laps for lack of recovery efforts.” I moved to the next bed and saw Bink there. He was still out.

“He’ll be fine,” Bones said instinctively. “Gave him some potion so he’ll sleep it off while he heals.”

I frowned. “And Freddie?”

“He’s out too. He’s a little worse for the wear but I think he’ll pull out of it okay. As long as he doesn’t run away from the hospital wing again.” She narrowed her eyes at me.

I pretended I had no idea what she was talking about.

Beaten and bruised, but my team wasn’t broken.

If anything, we were stronger than before.

A/N: Quidditch! I always wondered what the heck happened if no one I wrote it. I hope you enjoyed it :) And James's awesome revelations through the chapter. Let me know what you think and if Freddie's brains will ever heal.

Also, anyone getting snow yet? I must admit I'm snow-free currently but I worry it's quickly approaching.

Next Up: Chapter 30 is called "Kiss and Tell." Why don't you take a guess as to what it's about....

Chapter 30: Kiss and Tell
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Thanks, Radicallyali, for the ongoing aviators.

With the team in mind, the Gryffindors delayed the party by one night. Sure, it would be held the night before classes, but who paid attention during Monday classes anyway? Ravenclaws, that’s who. And Rosey. Probably Albus.

Bink and Freddie were both released from the hospital wing the following morning with Bones warning them about head injuries. Fred told her the Puffers did it and to warn them. She didn’t take it well and told them not to do any heavy lifting or too much celebrating.

Yeah, right.

After spending the night trying to get Falcon Cat to sit in one place for longer than ten minutes, I welcomed a party with the rest of the house. Avery had gone to bed early since she was exhausted and I couldn’t wait to see her. It was almost like I had little butterflies in my stomach.

But something much more manly than butterflies. Like big rocks or pterodactyls.

When I walked downstairs Sunday around ten it was already starting. Third years were setting up tables. A first year was finding Fred a comfortable chair. Paloma was dancing around to the music just set up.

This was going to be an epic evening.

In honor of the occasion, I disappeared back upstairs to feed Victoria and dig around in my trunk (which had been locked since Twitwards was found going through it). I grabbed my aviator sunglasses and put them on. It made the room really dark but I figured I looked pretty damn wicked.

“Really?” Albus was at the door, laughing his green-eyed face off at my glasses. At least I didn’t need them every day like he did. Doucher.

“Yes, really. They’re cool.”

“You look like an idiot.”

“I could be wearing a hippogriff suit and everyone would think it was the new thing because I won the game yesterday.” I shrugged at him and peeled off the sunglasses. Fun-ruiner. I put them in my pocket for later. “What’s up, baby brother?”

He winced at the name. “Should I ask her to dance?” He said this very fast and I almost laughed.

“Who?” I said, dangling it in front of him.

“Don’t be an ass, James. Do you think I should?”

“Course I do.” I ruffled his messy hair. “You probably should have done it ages ago, but better late than never, right?”

“How…like, how do I do it?”

“Easy,” I said, carefully adjusting my collar in the mirror. “You walk up to her. Then you ask her.”

“Easy for you!” he shouted. “Girls are easy to you. I don’t know how you do it. I just get nervous and my hands get all sweaty. There has never been a girl in the world you’ve been nervous around.”

“False, baby brother,” I said, thinking about Avery. “But anyway. You need to just be confident. Girls like that. If you’re confident, she’ll say yes. You need to get the hell out of the friend zone.”

Albus narrowed his eyes, but didn’t contradict me.

“Now get out before I sick Falcon Cat on you.” I smiled and grabbed for a tie. Ties were cool. Not as cool as aviators, but pretty damn close.

When I returned downstairs I saw Rose chatting with Freddie and Bink, Al twiddling his thumbs by the fireplace, Paloma and Wesley laughing with Lily about something, and Emerson being a tool by the window. Probably birdwatching. Meta was there, helping Henry set up the bar.

“James!” It was Elizabeth. Clearly she was remembering the ‘if it happens, it happens’ conversation and wanted to make sure it happened.

“Hey there,” I said, straightening my tie. “Enjoy the game yesterday?”

“You were so brilliant! If you don’t get picked up after that then I won’t graduate.”

“Thanks, Liz. I appreciate that. I really hope I do.”

“You’re so amazing at Quidditch, James.” Ah, now she was using her knowledge of Quidditch to one-up Nia. Smart girl.

“Thanks. I’ve worked pretty hard.” I was going to ask her a few more questions since my mates seemed to be busy with my cousin, but I got distracted.

Avery was walking down the spiral staircase. She was in jeans and a sweater with her hair crumpled down around her shoulders from wearing it up while wet the previous day. I knew it was from that because she had told me lots of times when her hair had done that before. I remembered.

I forced my jaw closed.

“Oy, Aves,” I said, trying my best to be conversational. “Excuse me, Lizzy. We have to chat later, okay?”

She smiled.

“Hey, get a good night sleep?” Avery asked, trying to hide the giant smile creeping up her cheeks.

“Not with Falcon Cat I didn’t. Bleeding cat slept on my face when it finally zonked out around three.”

She laughed. It was like her smile exploded. I loved it. “Maybe that gift was a mistake?”

“Never. I love Falcon Cat. I need to train her or something.” I wanted to squeeze her hand. To kiss her. To wrap my arms around her. Instead, I just kept smiling.

My insides felt like jelly.

“Let’s get this party started, shall we?”

“An all day Quidditch party?” I said, leading the way over to the refreshments. “I don’t think anyone is going to class tomorrow morning. Pfft, it’s Transfiguration, who even needs that class?”

“You’re going to land in remedial like Bink.”

“And it’ll be worth it.” I winked and grabbed for the liquor.







And it was. The music was shaking the walls by noon and Fred was reenacting his fall. Something I was sure Madam Bones wouldn’t approve of. Mixed with alcohol. Rose was in stitches laughing. What a good example she was setting as a Prefect.

Emerson, however, was setting a fabulous example for anyone who hated fun. He wasn’t drinking at this party (perhaps because of what happened at the last Quidditch party?) and was sulking from group to group encouraging the use of coaster spells. When he walked over to Bink, my blond Chaser dumped his drink over Freddie’s head.

“Fred needs a coaster!” he cried, crumpling in a fit of giggles.

As I expected he eventually got to talking with Avery. Who happened to be my girlfriend. And not just my friend. I observed closely, careful not to be too obvious, but then I reminded myself that I had hexed him for less only months ago. I inched closer.

“Thanks,” Avery said cheerfully. “I think that last save might have been one of my best. Bay was really on his game.”

“You’re really beautiful,” Emerson cut in, dropping the subject of Quidditch probably as quickly as it had come up.

“Thanks,” she said awkwardly, careful not to wrinkle her nose. “Look, Emerson, about our date.”

My ears perked up. I wished I had Extendables. Where was Al when I needed him?

“I’m really excited about it,” Emerson said. “I was thinking a fancy dinner in Hogsmeade. Steak probably. Then a stroll around the grounds. Heating charms provided.” He snickered at himself. I almost threw up in my mouth.

“I’m going to have to cancel,” Avery said.

I wanted to jump up and down but even this early I was a little unstable.

“What? Why?”

“I really don’t think it’s going to work out between us.” She tried to be empathetic. Avery was good at that. “You’re a really great guy and I think you’re going to make some girl really happy. I just don’t think it’s me. We don’t have enough in common.”

“So you’ve found someone with more in common?”

She raised a brow. “I haven’t found anyone, but I don’t think I should go on dates when I know it won’t work out.”

Emerson was clearly irritated, but did his best to hide the frustration. “I understand. Thanks anyway.” With that he turned and marched up the spiral staircase. At least he wouldn’t be nosing around my things anymore looking for ways to discredit me. Hell, he could find an axe in there and everyone would still love the winner of the game.

With a manly cocktail in his hand.

Me. Up there alone against a bulky yellow Keeper. Faking left. Going left.

By two it was time for the aviators. The room was stumbling. Well, I meant the people, but all the same. Fred, Bink, and I sang the Hogwarts song. Al was inching closer to Paloma. Wesley was swing-dancing with some fourth year. Lily was throwing back shots.

Wait, what?

I grabbed her shoulders. “What are you doing?” I said, jerking my head toward two empty shot glasses.

“Shut it, James,” she said, shoving me playfully.

“I’m cutting you off.”

“Seriously?” Lily laughed. “James, not only are they a quarter full, but you’re already slurring your words. I don’t think you’re in a fit state to cut anyone off.”

“Cept you.”

She rolled her eyes. “Go sit down before you fall down.”

“I resent that,” I said cheerfully. “Someone get my sister a drink!”

Wesley handed her one. Little git. I hexed him.

“Guess I had that coming since Italy,” he said.

I looked down and then hexed him again. “There. I feel better.” I made my way over to Rosey. “Hey, ginger. You dating anyone I can hex?”

“No one,” she said, glancing up with a somber expression.

I narrowed my eyes. “What about someone I can’t hex?”

Rose laughed. “Nope, sorry, James. I don’t think anyone is applying for the job.”

I put an arm around her. “Don’t worry. Someone will come along. And when they do, I’ll have my wand ready.”

“I can always count on you.” She laughed. “I bet Hugo would beat you there.”

“There is no way little brothers are worse than big brothers.”

“Big cousins?”

“Same damn thing with our family.” I laughed and grabbed a drink a third year handed me. “Tell Hugo it’s a race. I’m going to win. I’m a Quidditch star, of course. I always win.”

“You’re so arrogant.”

“All part of the charm, Rosey.” I winked and stood up. Well, I tried three times before I actually made it up, but I got there. The room was spinning and I spilled part of my drink on some girl. She laughed. I liked her.

I settled in a spot beside the dance floor and surveyed its occupants. Some people I didn’t know. A few people that tried out for the team but didn’t make it. Elizabeth twirling with another girl. I wondered where Nia had gotten to. Then I didn’t care.

Paloma was swaying on the side with a drink. It had a pink straw. How the hell was she one of the most hardcore Beaters I’d ever seen?

Albus was a meter behind her.

I nodded. More like a way to say, BLEEDING GO.

He took a few steps, visibly shaking. Was it really that hard? I mean, it was Paloma. She was pretty and a Quidditch girl, but she was a fifth year. Al was older and wiser and should have just been able to grab her and pull her onto the dance floor.

“Hey,” I heard him say. My hearing was fabulous while I was intoxicated. I think.

“Oh, hey, Al!” Paloma beamed. “Great party, huh?”

“Yeah, the best. Worthy cause of course.” Aw, Al, don’t use the word worthy when you’re going to ask a girl to dance. Makes you sound like a tosser.

“Sure, sure.”

Al fiddled with his thumbs. He was almost doing a potty dance. “Do you want to dance?” he asked suddenly.

Her face flashed back to him, stunned. “Uh. Yeah—yeah, I’d like that.” Drink in hand, Paloma led the way onto the dance floor and the two started to dance. It wasn’t the most graceful thing I’d ever seen, but they were having fun.

“Cut yourself off yet?” Lily appeared beside me with a sly smile. She had been drinking. More anyway. I’d seen her drunk once before over the summer when Mum threw a party for her ex-Quidditch team in the back garden. Loads of people were invited and us kids snuck a bottle into the basement and had a right good time giggling like idiots. Yeah, I was pretty awesome at seventeen.

Lily had been so intoxicated that night she passed out on the basement floor and we had to carry her up to her room without Mum noticing.

She was just about at that point.

“Ravenclaw calling the Puffer irrelevant,” I retorted.

“How about a dance, big brother?” she said, smiling. Lily always got smiley when she had a drink. It was horrible of me to let her at thirteen, but I couldn’t say I didn’t have a few when I was that age. And no one in Gryffindor Tower would let her get up to any trouble. The hangover tomorrow would teach her the real deal. I almost laughed to myself about having an internal thought process regarding Lily’s rare drinking.

I grabbed her hand and spun her onto the floor. The song died into a slower one so I twirled her and we danced for a few minutes in silence.

“Thanks, James,” she said, smiling again.

“For what? Knowing how to dance? Does that tosser Wesley not know how?”
She rolled her eyes. “For always being there for me.”

I kissed her forehead. “I’m your big brother. It’s part of the job description.”

“Well, thanks anyway.”

“Did you ever even kiss anyone, Lily?” I asked, pushing the aviators back onto the top of my head.

She giggled. I laughed. Her face was red with embarrassment.

“Of course I did. I’m thirteen,” she said, barely able to contain her laughter.

“Was it Wesley? Did you kiss Wesley?” I said, my wand ready to do some serious damage to that Beater of mine, head trauma or not.

She shook her head, still giggling. “Nope. Didn’t kiss Wesley.” More laughter. She was shaking, her face beet red. “Not to say I wouldn’t…”

“Who then?” I said and we stopped dancing. I got elbowed by a fourth year.

“Well, remember when we were kids? I liked your friend Dylan when we were growing up.”

“You snogged Dylan?” He was my friend from down the street when I was nine.

“No! But little sisters…what Mum says anyway is that little sisters tend to fancy their brother’s friends. It happened with her. Dad was Uncle Ron’s best mate.” Lily giggled.

“Okay, so did you fancy Al’s friends or something?”

“You know how I used to hang around you lot when we were growing up. I wanted to be part of your friends, I always did.” She shook her head just remembering it. I remembered kicking her out of my room too many times to count when my friends came around. “Well, I had some puppy crushes on some of them. Some were quite good-looking. Even Mum said so.”

“Sick,” I mumbled.

“Well, there was that one time after a party that I found Bink roaming around the corridors drunk and had to bring him back up here…and he was heavy so I couldn’t just lug him and every time I took out my wand he yelled and called it the Deathstick so I couldn’t just hover him.” Lily paused, red as ever. “So I told him I’d give him a snog if he came quietly. So I did. I always liked him so I just did it.”

I felt numb. Lily snogged Bink. My best mate. And my baby sister.

My wand was out before I knew what I was doing. I marched toward Bink, thinking of hexes and curses and stuff. None came to mind so I walked slower.

“James!” Lily called. “He had no idea it was me. He was completely gone. Like, way drunker than you were at Halloween. That drunk. You remember after I brought him back, he was a mess.”

“Do you think I care? He snogged you. Bloke is getting hexed.” I finally made it to him and Bink was lounging on the sofa with a drink, laughing at something Avery said. I pointed my wand directly at his nose.

“What is this? What’ve I done now? I swear I haven’t broken the damn Code again.”

“You snogged my sister!”

Bink’s mouth hung open. “What—when? Hold on, could you repeat that?”

“Vile bastard!” I cried. “I’ll make sure you never do that again!” I swayed on the spot but steadied myself.

“I’m not sure I’ve done it in the first place.” Bink looked around my wand to Lily. “When exactly did this happen?” He said it relatively calmly.

Wesley glanced up from a few seats down. “Oh, Lils, you’ve told him?”

My wand went to him. “You knew?”

“You’ve already hexed me twice tonight, mate, I’ve had enough.”

“Fair.” I pointed it back at Bink.

“James, cut it out.” Lily smacked me on the back of the head. “Sorry, Bink. We snogged a long time ago when I found you wandering around drunk.” She shrugged like it was nothing even though she’d been giggling like crazy only minutes before.

“How am I supposed to remember that?” he said.

I hexed him anyway.

Then Lily hexed me and I was face-first into the carpeting. Strangely comfortable.







“So where’s Abigail?” It was around six and I no longer knew where the portrait hole was, not to mention other important things like the bathroom and the fireplace. Fred was next to me, though. I knew he was there. He had soft hair.

“Didn’t invite her,” he said, starting a new drink. “She visited in the hospital wing after you lot left and we had a row about Quidditch.”

“I’m sorry? Quidditch?”

“Yeah, stupid, eh?”

“Beyond,” I said. “Was she cross you won or something?”

“Said I was putting myself in danger with the move I tried that got me injured.”

“Sounds like she’d never played before. That’s why the Claws lost their match against us. Not enough chances taken. Too safe.”

Fred shrugged. “I really don’t care. I just don’t like being told what to do.”

“Who does?” I said, thinking about my family.

“Nia,” Fred said and I snorted into my drink. “Oy, Al and Paloma are still out there.”

“Still?” I squinted but really couldn’t tell who was who. I took his word for it. “That’s chemistry.”

“If he doesn’t muck it up.”

“Leave it up to Al.” I laughed. “He has a track record of mucking things up. In fact, so do I. I hope Lily’s not next.”

“She’s too smart for that. Sneaking a snog from the bloke she liked while he was drunker than Hagrid at the Hog’s Head. Smart girl.”

“I still want to hex him again.”

“Ah, let it go. How was he supposed to know? Your sister isn’t exactly a troll, you know.”

“I’m going to start saying things like that about Roxanne.”

“I’ll punch you in the mouth.”

I laughed. My cousin Freddie was something else. I figured I’d let Bink off the hook. Maybe. If I felt like it. Perhaps. If he didn’t do anything else considering his snogging of my baby sister and the Code-breaking and the blond-ness. Not that the blond was bad. I just had to group something else in the list.

“Avery!” Fred shouted, pulling her down onto the sofa beside us. “Have I ever told you that you’re rather pretty?”

“Lay off,” I said.

“You can’t be everyone’s big brother, James,” Fred said with a smile. “Avery, will you help me? I need you to pretend to be interested in me so Abigail will just break up with me.”

“Why don’t you break up with her?” Avery said. She was tipsy, I could tell. But nothing near what I was. I didn’t even know what sofa I was on. There was something on my foot.

“Sounds messy,” said Fred.

“It might be.”

“I like the sex though. Ravenclaws are good about that.”

Oh. The thing on my foot was my shoe. Curious.

Avery laughed. “I see. Well, you’ll have to figure that one out on your own.”

“How come James has all the Gryffindors wrapped up? And he’s got you under wraps because you’re his best mate. Are there any I could borrow?”

“I think it’s because he’s Captain,” Avery said in a low voice. “He’s also rather handsome.”

“Aw, you have to say that, you’re his best mate!” Fred whined. “Abigail is making me miserable.”

She patted him on the head. “I know you’ll do what is right, Freddie-poo.”

“Yeah like fail out of Hogwarts so I don’t have to deal with her.”

“You’re not dramatic at all,” I said, shifting my shoe around. It felt really weird on my foot. Constricting.

I kicked it off. And then the other. Shoeless and free. Free like a wild dragon. That spit fire and all that shit.

“Potter, that cat of yours has to go!” It was Twitwards at my elbow with his pointy face and Head Boy badge. It was nearly blinding me.

I blinked. “Eh?”

“Your cat! Your cat has torn my hangings again!”

“So magic them fixed,” I said.

“I’ve done it a dozen times this week!” His fists were clenched. I wondered if I’d feel it if he punched me.

“Is it inconvenient?” I asked. “Trying to bring lucky number seven up there?”

“Lucky seven?” Fred said, looking over Avery and up to Emerson. “Who is it? I’m going to start guessing if you don’t tell me.”

“I’d give you detentions if you didn’t already have them,” Emerson spat.

“What’re you in for?” I asked Fred.

“Starting a rumor that Edwards wore a bra,” he said, giggling. “Want me to start another about lucky seven? We could say she’s a Puffer. And he wanted to hide her because of their dramatic loss today at the hands of James Sirius Potter.”

“I like that one. Their Chaser was a girl. She looked like a troll. Perfect for him, don’t you think?”

Fred laughed. “I’ll get on that in the morning.” He looked up at Emerson, who was fuming. “Would you prefer her approaching you in desperation to redeem herself since she lost, or did you want to be the one approaching her? It can go either way.”

He stormed off out the portrait hole. I only knew that because it slammed shut.

I giggled.

“You two are terrible to him,” Avery said.

“He wanted you to be lucky number seven,” I said in a disgusted voice. “He deserves it.”

“I like the idea of her approaching him,” Fred said, his eyes rolling back as he passed out on the sofa.







It was nearly two in the morning and Avery and I finally stole away from the party. We couldn’t go up to my room considering Bink was yelling in his sleep with Fred poking him with the end of a rum bottle and hers was occupied by Elizabeth. I wondered about Nia. It wasn’t like her to avoid my company for this long. Not that I was upset about it.

I was still swaying, but I could tell where the doors were, which was a start. We left with the Marauder’s Map in hand, careful to watch for annoying Gryffindor-hating Prefects (though Rosey was supposed to patrol the upper floors and it was clear she was doing her job). We hurried through a tapestry and upstairs to an empty classroom. This one was filled with tables pushed against the walls and several chalkboards standing at the front. I wanted to draw inappropriate pictures, but resisted.

“Here,” Avery said, waving her wand and I watched as pillows and blankets appeared on the floor. She locked the door.

I flopped down, face hitting a pillow as my head spun.

“How do you feel, trooper?” She giggled.

Bleeding woman. “I feel like I’ve had a great deal to drink.”

“It’s all in celebration,” she said, running a few fingers through my hair.

I sank further into the pillow. “So you think I shouldn’t kill Bink?”

“Give it a rest,” Avery said, but she was laughing all the same. “Poor Bink had no idea what was happening. Even tonight he was so confused. And you embarrassed Lily. She’s going to get you back for that, you know.”

“Already hexed me!”

“I don’t envy you.”

I grumbled. Maybe I called Lily out a little. Maybe. But still, it was my duty as big brother to hex whomever she was snogging. Even if they had no idea they were doing it.

“Here,” Avery handed me a bottle of water that didn’t belong to Puffers. “You need to sober up a bit before we have this conversation.”

“What? About Bink?” I raised a brow. “I’m quite sober.”

She snorted. “Drink the water, Casonova.” Avery straightened a few blankets and leaned back. “I just think we should talk about…this. You know. Us.”

I thought about us while drinking the water. Us. Avery and me. Two peas in a bleeding pod. Even though pea pods had a great deal more peas than two. Then I remembered my serious loss of control in the shower of the locker rooms. I barely recalled it, simply because it was all built on random emotion I didn’t know was there.

“It was Twitwards,” I mumbled.

“What do you mean?”

“When he asked you on that date. I couldn’t control myself. I just went crazy.” I nearly laughed. “Then when you said yes…”

“Hey, I didn’t really have any other offers.”

“I don’t blame you.” I made a face. “Yeah I do, that guy is the worst. But in all seriousness, I felt something I hadn’t before. Ah, now I sound like an idiot.”

“Keep talking.” Avery’s voice was simple, clear.

My throat was dry even though I was drinking water. I focused my eyes at a dark corner of the room. “I just lost it, thinking about you going on a date with him when I had you in my arms. Jealousy finally caught up with me.” I paused. “I wonder if it’s been jealousy all along and I just thought it was this silly protectiveness.” What if it was?

I thought back to the auction and the way I felt when Avery appeared in a dress and the blokes were practically ogling her. On her date with Emerson when I had to trail along in a disguise. In Italy with Twataso. Ah, that was the worst. I wanted to hex him into next week. Had it become full-fledged jealousy by then? Had I known, deep down, that I wanted her for myself and no other bloke could have her?

And that kiss.

“Did you fancy me?” I said suddenly, looking up. “When you kissed me in Italy. Holy shit, did you fancy me?”

“Yeah, of course I did. Or I wouldn’t have kissed you.” Her face was a bright pink and all I wanted to do was kiss her.

“I feel like an ass hole.”

“Don’t,” she said, pressing a finger to my shoulder. “It was on a whim. I guess before we left for Italy I sort of developed feelings and decided to just go for it.” She shrugged. “But after we came back even though it was awkward I sort of realized we were just great as friends, you know? And we were.”

I stared, thinking back to that balcony snog. The one I dwelled on for weeks.

“Then you kissed me at the grotto,” she said, eyes downcast. “I was nothing more than confused. I’d gone back to seeing you as a friend, but damn, James.”


“Kissing you was way better than I thought it was going to be—than I’ve ever experienced.” She laughed nervously. “So then I sort of started to get feelings for you again, but I knew you didn’t fancy me like that. So I thought I’d go on a date with Emerson, mostly to show the Gryffindor Tower I did actually date.”

“Surprise, surprise,” I said slowly. My limbs felt numb. “And then I flipped out.”

“I was in shock,” she said and my eyes trailed from her eyes down to her jaw bone and her neck. “In complete shock. I didn’t expect—and then when you said it I didn’t know what to do. You’re very spontaneous and I didn’t know if you really meant it but then when we were on our way back in—when you said you did.”

We were both silent.

“I really like you,” I whispered, not meeting her eyes. “I didn’t even know it until that morning. I guess an idiot could have seen it coming. And by that I mean Lily.”

“She knows?”

“She knows we were snogging,” I said. “Said she read it all over our faces. I guess me being a cheerful dunderhead didn’t help matters. It’s only a matter of time before she knows we’re dating.”

“Speaking of which.” Avery grabbed my water and took a sip. “What the hell are we going to tell everyone? This definitely breaks the Code. The snogging didn’t, but this does.”

I thought about waking Bink up in the dead of night with freezing cold water, hexing his hair gone and giving him that embarrassing t-shirt. Well, fuck.

I had broken the Code. Not to the extent of getting a detention or getting a little too hammered at a function. No, I’d broken it wide open. Just like Bink and Meta. And I was the captain, which made it worse. Any sensible person would break up for the well being of the team.

Her eyes were glittering and her lips were parted slightly.

I wasn’t giving up Avery.

I looked at her, hair falling down around her shoulders and her pretty green eyes against mine.

Nope. I wasn’t giving her up. Code be damned.

“I don’t think we can tell,” I mumbled.

“And do the same thing Bink did?” she asked. “Don’t you think he will call you a hypocrite?”

“What am I supposed to say? Oy, by the way, mates, I’m going to break the Code and date my best mate and you lot can’t do anything about it because what I say goes.” I made a face. “That will go over well.”

“Maybe we should see how it goes first,” she offered. “I mean, we’re not used to seeing each other like this. Maybe the next week or so could be like a test run, you know? Then we’ll sit the boys down and talk to them first and I’m sure they’ll understand.”

“They’ll be pissed, but I think they’ll understand. They’ve probably seen this coming. I hope.”

Avery was smiling again.

“Okay. Okay, good. Let’s just take a week and see how it goes and then we’ll make a choice. Promise me something, though.”

“Sure,” she said.

“If this goes sour,” I said slowly, “then we can go back to being best mates? I’m not sure what I’d do without you. After we got back from Italy was the worst.”

Avery hugged me and my body tensed up around her. “Okay, James. We can go back to being best mates if this doesn’t work.” Then she kissed me.

My whole stomach exploded with nerves and I wouldn’t have it any other way, my fingers twisting in to her hair.

“You’re amazing,” I said when we broke apart. I said it without thinking.

Ah, finally some beautiful Javery action. Complete with drunk James, aviators, and a pissed off Emerson. I hope you enjoyed this chapter...especially with who Lily ended up snogging. Surprised? haha.

I hope you all enjoyed this! I wanted to make sure it was delivered to you in time for your holiday of choice! 

Favorite quotes? Favorite "aw" moments? Most of all, what do you think is going to happen between them on this week-long trial run? 

NEXT  UP: An adoption, a date, a skip day, and shit hits the fan.

Chapter 31: Caught
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Hope everyone had a happy holiday! Enjoy

We spent the night in the classroom and had to bail when we heard people walking around in the hallway the next morning. They were going to class and I realized, after checking the pocket-watch Dad had given me for my birthday, that we were missing Transfiguration. Avery shot me a dark look, which made me laugh.

I grabbed the map. “Hallway just cleared since those little third years made it to Divination.”

“Shall we?” she said, waving her wand so the pillows and blankets disappeared. Her hair looked great in the morning, despite her need to flatten it. I loved it.

“We shall.”

The common room was empty considering most of them probably made it to class, hung over or not. We made our way quietly up the spiral staircase to the boy’s (men’s) dormitories to find mine deserted. It wouldn’t be like Emerson to miss class anyway. He had a Head Boy rep to uphold, especially being that he was a big fat stick in the mud.

Falcon Cat was curled up on the bed, but once she saw the door opened she stretched her back out and meowed.

I dumped some food into her dish. She ate it. Then she started running around the room. I heard the distinct sound of Emerson’s curtains being shredded and Victoria making disgruntled jealous noises.

“She likes you,” Avery said, laughing. She peeled back the sheets under the bed. “Victoria, however, doesn’t seem as fond.”

“She’s been peeved at me since Falcon Cat came home,” I mumbled, taking out the pygmy puff. Were her eyes narrowed?

“I’ve never seen her like this.”

“Me either. Jealous woman.”

Avery laughed. “Well, if I saw you with another woman as good-looking as Falcon Cat I don’t think I’d be very understanding.”

“Well I love them both.”

“Falcon Cat wasn’t nearly this hyper over with the girls,” Avery said, grabbing a sock from the kitten.

“Maybe there are cat drugs in here,” I offered.

“What if,” she said, placing a delicate finger on her lips, “what if I kept Falcon Cat over there? Then you and Victoria could have your alone time here and Falcon Cat could have somewhere there are no cat drugs. Maybe it’s the smell of Freddie’s socks or something.”

“Do you mean you’ll adopt Falcon Cat?” I looked at the little feline climbing up a bed post.

“I don’t have to,” she said quickly. “I know you love her a lot, but she seems to be stressing you out. And I don’t have a pet…”

“You like her too, don’t you?”

Avery smiled. “I like her a lot.”

“You like me, don’t you?”

“I like you a lot.”

I laughed. “I think Falcon Cat will be happy over there. And you can get me up there so I can visit her and pet her all the time. That might be a good idea. That way Tory doesn’t go all kamikaze pygmy puff.”

Avery walked over to Falcon Cat and held out her arms. “C’mon, cutie, let’s go get you settled.” To my surprise, Falcon Cat jumped right down and curled up in Avery’s arms. “I’ll see you later.” She winked at me and was gone.

I fell down onto the bed, sick of hiding my wonderful hangover, and buried my head in the blankets. Victoria was making noises, so I set her down on the bed and looked her square in the adorable eyes.

“Falcon Cat is gone,” I mumbled.

She hummed.

“I’d ask you why you were so jealous,” I said, “but I think I understand.”


Fucking hell. That was loud.

“Hi, Nia,” I said without turning around. “How are you?”

“I’m all right. Broke a few of my own rules last night, but doing all right.” She was hovering in the doorway.

“I didn’t see you at the party.” That didn’t mean she wasn’t there. For the last five hours or so I didn’t see much of anything at the party other than the way my fingers moved back and forth.

“Yeah…well, you know, I was out and about.”

“After a Quidditch win?”

“I told you I broke some of my own rules.” The end of the bed sank as she sat down. “We need to talk, James.”

Was Nia Baker being serious? I couldn’t tell, so I sat up, room spinning more than I wanted it to. “About what? I know I missed Transfig but I didn’t think anyone would notice.”

“I missed it too. It’s happening right now, James.”

“Right.” I rubbed my temples.

“I need to know what is between us,” she said, leaning closer. “I know we have a bond. We have serious chemistry James, way more than you have with that tot Elizabeth. I know you said you were busy with Quidditch and all that rubbish, but James, I need to know what you think of me…romantically.”

I almost threw up. Seriously? This. Now? Really?

“Nia, look,” I said gruffly, handing Victoria a treat. “This just isn’t going to work out between us. We do have chemistry, of course, but it’s not enough. We don’t have enough in common. Who knows? Maybe over time we’ll get to know each other more and we’ll bond over other things, but a relationship can’t survive on snogging and physical attraction alone.”

“So you’re—you’re going to date Elizabeth?”

I resisted the urge to shake her. “No, I’m not. I told you, I’m not dating anyone right now. I have too much on my plate.”

Nia was choking back sobs. Clearly, that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. “I see,” she managed to say after a while. “I understand. Okay. There’s Quidditch and stuff you should be taking care of. Yes.” Another mild cough. “Yes, Darian Bay asked me on a date anyway. I’ll go to dinner with him.”

“He’s a tosser!”

Nia shot me a look. “He appreciates me!”

“His team just cheap-shotted your team the whole game and did it on purpose,” I said, my jaw hanging lopsided. “If that isn’t treason, I don’t know what is.”

“Oh, Merlin, James, maybe by me seeing Darian you’ll understand how much you mean to me.” She stood up, tears running down her cheeks, and then she rushed out the door.

Yes, because her dating a Puffer made her far more desirable.

I rolled my eyes and fell backward onto the pillows. “Tory, women are ridiculous.”

She gave me a look that suggested I asked for it.

Maybe by being so devilishly good-looking.





Albus told me he’d keep an eye out so I could have my team meeting in the kitchens Monday night. I figured it was because I encouraged him to finally ask Paloma to dance. He said Rosey and him were down there that night and they’d keep people away. I was a little confused, but accepted his services all the same.

My team was around me (Freddie still looked hung over) and the room was filled with the warmth of pumpkin pies and éclairs. Avery was at my right again, back to usual, and Meta was at the end of the table, flanked by Paloma and Wesley. Bink’s eyes were drooping.

“We won,” I said simply. “We won, through frustration, cheating, and a lot of blood, we did it.”

“Thanks to you,” Paloma said cheerfully.

I expected Meta to scoff, but she didn’t.

“I want to tell you lot how proud I am of you. I know I’ve already told you, but not many teams could come out of what we did on top. Even if they got close, few could have done what we did. We kept at it—even as we watched our peers be carted off the field. Even as they kept scoring and scoring, making me feel like I was in a nightmare.” I groaned a bit, remembering that smirk Bay wore on his face. “But we did it. After Meta brilliantly caught the Snitch, Avery came through by saving every single Quaffle. They thought they had it in the bag—three Chasers shooting against a Seeker, Beater, and a Chaser. Bay’s face—eugh, that slick gob of his—was so pompous. But Avery really came through and gave us the edge.”

“You scoring helped to, mate,” Fred said with a laugh.

“You should have seen it!” Paloma cried. “Fake! Fake! Score! It was amazing.”

My face colored. “I mean, it was just standard Keeper-reading…”

“Clearly the Hufflepuffs don’t know any of that,” Avery said under her breath.

“Anyway,” I said, trying to get the attention off my goal. Well, that was weird. I wanted the attention off me. Maybe I thought it made me transparent. And with my new girlfriend looking radiant beside me, I couldn’t afford any transparencies. “I called you here for a couple reasons. One was to tell you how amazing you are. The second is to say that practice is cancelled all week. Rest up after that insane game. Get better and get a little more sober—Fred.”

He snickered.

The faces a