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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.

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