“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?”
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.
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.
“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.
“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...
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