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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.

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