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.”
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.”
“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?”
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 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.
“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 :)
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