To radicallyali, who came to stay with me for a few days. We made Oliver
Wood brownies, watching AVPM & AVPS, and finished up this chapter :)
I finally saw Meta later that evening in the common room. She still wore her shirt, though it was now a very dark brown (meaning she had tried to take it off at least five times) and she was curled in the corner with a Potions book and a quill. On her head was a very blatant yellow-blond wig with tight curls flowing onto her shoulders. There was a blue headband on top.
Unfortunately for me, the Seeker spotted me as I attempted to sneak up the spiral staircase. They should really put a spell on the stairs to stop the irritating squeaking. Also known as the squeaking that gets me caught by Meta.
“Potter,” she growled. Quite literally.
“Hey there, Meta McLaggen! How are you today? I love the hair. Brings out your…” I paused. “Erm, brings out your hair.” I tried to smile bright but I figured my upper lip looked a little snarle-esque.
She stood up and tossed the book onto the floor. A few people turned to stare and I could see the sunset reflecting off of her plastic locks. I looked behind me—no Bink or Fred. No backup. I was alone facing my fire-eyed Seeker.
“Look, Potter, I know you were trying to do what’s right for your stupid sodding Code.” Her voice was low and threatening.
I looked around to make sure no one overheard the word ‘code.’ It was secret, after all.
“But I am going to hex you into next week for shaving off my hair. Do you know how uncomfortable this wig is? I had to steal it from some stupid fucking Puffer.” Meta reached up and yanked at the yellow-blond wig. It moved on her scalp. I wasn’t surprised it came from a Puffer and wondered why the hell they wore so much bleeding yellow. “Do you even realize who you’re messing with, you son of a bitch?” Her voice was rising and she was marching up the steps toward me. My fingers were frozen against the railing.
Shit shit shittery. Meta was closing in like a lioness hunting a gazelle. The gazelle was me, by the way, but I had a huge problem with being a gazelle. First of all, I was not that lanky. Gazelles had those crazy chicken legs and my legs were Quidditch-toned and not chicken-y at all. I didn’t get the lanky, string bean reference. Stupid Meta calling me a weakling!
“All right, look here, McLaggen, I have a problem with your attitude!” I puffed out my chest because she was getting closer. She doesn’t hunt down the Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. I was the lion of this…lion club. Lion clique. Erm, congregation.
Big fucking group of lions.
“I’m going to give you way more fucking attitude than you bargained for!” Her feet stomped up the stairs toward me. “First, what I’m going to do, is exactly what you did to me. I took something from you? That’s bollocks, Potter. I can fuck anyone I want.”
“Don’t talk about Bink like he’s some throw-away!” My temper got the better of me that time and I knew people were watching. A second year was stuck at the top of the stairs and Nia and Elizabeth (since when did they even talk?) were whispering by the fire. Everyone had stopped. I didn’t blame them. Our voices were loud enough. So far, though, no backup. Not even Twitwards was around to give me a detention so I could show the team how great I was at not breaking the Code. “You need to follow the rules and you got your punishment same as anyone would.”
Her wand was out faster than I thought it would be. A piece of the wig flew in her mouth. I had never seen such disturbing fire in her eyes before and it would have been even scarier accompanied by the dark brown hair she was currently missing.
“Hi. I can talk about Legace any way I want to. It’s not like you know what went on between us anyway. And now, Potter, you can say good-bye to the hair you seem to love so much.” She was smiling like a bloody crazy woman.
I went for my wand. It was so not in my front pocket where it usually was.
Fuck fuck fuckery!
“Meta McLaggen, detention.”
I didn’t realize my eyes had been closed. Tight. I opened one eye to see Emerson Edwards beside the portrait hole with a bored look on his face. Aw, what the fuck? Did my life have to take the weirdest of turns? Oh, Meta, just take my hair and make Twitwards go away.
“Are you kidding me?” She wheeled around and shoved her wand back in the pocket of her jeans. “I didn’t do anything! And you hate him!”
“As much as I would love to see the reaction of James Potter without his hair, yours isn’t permanent.” He even yawned. “I saw Weasley looking up the spell in the library the other day, so get off the damn spiral staircase. You’re a fire hazard.” He sounded like Albus. At that point, Emerson was at the bottom of the stairs and Nia was whispering again. “Seriously. Bloody move so I can get up to my room.”
Meta made a noise that sounded like a cross between a dinosaur and Lily when she doesn’t get her way. She turned, flipped her wig and shoved past him, nearly knocking Emerson into the wall. She grabbed her Potions book up off the floor (leaving the quill) and marched up the opposite spiral staircase. A loud door slam and then silence. Elizabeth giggled.
“Nothing more to see here,” Emerson said loudly and then walked past me and up into the dormitory. I looked around the common room. Everyone was staring at me.
What the fuck just happened?
Okay, I had to go through the list of it.
1. Saw Meta with her awkward wig.
2. Tried to sneak away.
3. Meta jumped up and ran at me, totally calling me a weak gazelle.
4. I was the king of the clusterfuck of lions.
5. Meta’s wand came out. My wand wasn’t in my pocket.
6. Emerson fucking Edwards gave her a detention, told her that her hair loss wasn’t permanent, and left.
7. I did not get a detention.
8. I did not get in trouble.
9. I did not get a snide comment about him wanting to have sex with Avery.
Oh, my wand was in my back pocket.
Bink and Fred said the same thing when I told them later that night. Twitwards was off patrolling the corridors and doing Prefect evaluations and me and the boys were relaxing before bed. We still weren’t best mates or anything (I was waiting until it healed a bit more), but we were back to hanging out. Bink warmed up a bit more once I let him take off the shirt and told him his hair was going to come back around three in the morning.
“But why didn’t he give you a detention for breathing?” asked Fred.
“Probably because Aves turned him down for a date, eh?” I said. “His pride took a hit.”
“Don’t you think he’d want to get you even more?” Bink took out some treats and tossed them into Victoria’s cage. “Because Avery shot him down I mean.”
“I wonder if he’s lost his nerve.” Fred stretched out. “Maybe he’s gone gay for you, mate.”
“Shut your mouth.” I fluffed my pillow in a manly sort of way. “He’s probably just being a weird sod to throw me off guard. I hate his guts.”
“Same.” Bink crawled under his covers. “I hope she gets the worst detention ever. Worse than losing her hair for a day. Speaking of which,” he added, before I could press the matter, “I feel some fuzz on my head. Good, because I have an awkward shaped skull.” With that, Bink blew out the candles beside his bed and shut his hangings.
I made a face into the semi-darkness. “We’ll see I guess. I bet Al got a shit evaluation because he’s my brother.”
Everyone remained up in arms about the Alumni Party for several days. It got annoying after the first minute or so since it wasn’t cool like Halloween so the girls discussing what they were going to wear was not interesting. It wasn’t like Paloma talking about her schoolgirl outfit or Nia talking about whatever it is she went as (French maid, right? Maybe). It was about dresses and lace and things that Emerson would be interested in.
I was cornered more often than not. Not that I thought I’d be left alone, but even the Ravenclaws I swore Fred had dibs on tried to get me to go to this party with them. Problem was, I didn’t want to go with them. In fact, I had no desire at all to be on the arm of Kay Davies or that weird blond Puffer girl. Elizabeth asked. Nia asked. Lily asked what was wrong with me.
I just didn’t really want to go.
And the girls were not happy. I didn’t want to sound arrogant (like Twitwards), but everyone wanted James Potter as their date. Okay, except Meta. And Avery, but that would be awkward.
Not that our relationship wasn’t awkward enough already. In the last couple days we spent classes together and a few chats, but other than that Avery kept to hanging with Rose and Albus (who got a horrible review, obviously because he’s my brother) and keeping to her studies. When Bink and Fred weren’t around, I actually sat in my room with Victoria. I was sure she enjoyed the company, but I got bored. Twitwards smiled at me once or twice and I almost threw up.
The morning of the party was more chaotic than I thought. It was a Saturday, so I planned on sleeping in since I didn’t have Quidditch to look forward to (thanks a bleeding lot, Sinatra). Instead of sleeping, the door was shoved open and Avery Flynn woke me up by throwing several pillows at my head.
“Up!” she cried.
“Wha?” I blinked. Fred and Bink were still asleep. Emerson was dressing by his bed (look at those heart boxers. Seriously).
“I have to use your bathroom.”
“Wha?” I used my wand to light a few candles and open the shades. “What’s wrong with your bathroom?”
“Bloody Nia and Elizabeth are fighting over the mirror. Mary keeps trying to curl her hair in there and I’ve been hit four times with a hot iron.” Her voice was irritated. “Meta isn’t out of bed, but I’m sure she’s not going.”
“Going where? The loony bin. That’s where you’re going.” I forced myself to sit up. “What time is it?”
“It’s already ten and alumni are going to start arriving in an hour.”
“So use the bathroom then.”
“You don’t need to use it, do you?” Avery asked. She had a large bag with her.
“No. Well, not for a few minutes.”
“I’m doing my makeup.”
“How long is that going to take?” I stretched and reached for Victoria.
“Shouldn’t take more than an hour.”
“Bloody hell, woman!” I shouted. Fred moved in his sleep. Bink was mumbling. “What do you put on your face? Why does it take that long?”
Avery didn’t reply. She just walked into the bathroom and slammed the door.
“Let’s make Hogwarts an all-blokes school,” said Bink gruffly.
“Yeah right,” I said, opening a few more curtains. “I may get irritated but Quidditch and the girls are the only things that keep me here.”
“Good to know.” Bink laughed and opened his hangings. His mop of blond hair was back. “What should we do instead of get ready? It’s not going to take us all bloody day.”
“Didn’t Aves say alumni are going to start arriving soon to do tours and all that rubbish?” I asked. Victoria was happy with her treats. “Do we have to do that sort of stuff or can we just stay here?”
“Depends,” Bink said. “Are those alumni your parents?”
Bugger. Hadn’t thought of that. The thought of having Mr. and Mrs. Potter walking around the castle and pointing out places they snogged made me sick to my stomach. Would Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione come as well?
I grabbed for a pair of pants and my nice collared shirt (the least wrinkled one anyway). “I have no idea, but I have a feeling Mum would want to come to see us. Makes me wonder who else will be here.” I nudged Fred with my foot. “Oy, your ‘rents coming to this alumni shin dig?”
He mumbled and attempted to throw a pillow at me, only to have it land a meter away on the floor. “Dunno. Probs.” Fred never made complete words while sleepy.
“Mine are,” Bink said before I had the opportunity to ask. “They said since I came home for the holidays they didn’t need to come nag me at school, but then decided they wanted to see the castle again.”
“Horrible,” I said. The room was still dark after Twitwards slammed the door and I sighed. This was going to be a hell of a long day.
She was in the bathroom for ages. Like, millions of years plus a few more lifetimes. Plus more.
Twitwards hadn’t come back upstairs (thank Merlin) since he was meeting his equally pratty parents, and Bink abandoned me for some breakfast. Freddie threw on dirty clothes and walked out, whining about a girl barricaded in the loo. I, however, was pounding on said loo door.
“Bloody let me in!” I shouted.
“Shut up! It’s been ten minutes, James. Use Al’s bathroom.”
“I will not sink to the level of sixth year bathrooms. Let me in!”
Avery ripped open the door and what I saw next was enough to scare the tough right out of a Quidditch player.
“What the fuck is that?!” I backed away, nearly toppling over Emerson’s bed.
She held a weird metal contraption to her eyes that looked like it could pull out an eyeball or two. The top was curved, held over an eye, with two clampy things her fingers were around. It was gold with black plastic and I wanted nothing to do with it. Absolutely nothing to do with the eyeball torture device.
“What?” She looked around her and back into the bathroom. It was empty except for a bag full of cosmetics and boxes strewn about my counter.
Avery rolled her eyes and shoved the torture device toward me. I recoiled instantly, flipping over Emerson’s bed. “It’s an eyelash curler, you git. Here. Look. It’s going to curl my lashes.” She put it up to her eye again. “Go on, look. James, quit being a sod or I’m going to curl your damn lashes.”
She walked toward me so I leapt another obstacle (Bink’s bed) and panted. The reason I was tired was the fault of the Alumni Party. I should have been on the pitch working out. Being a sweaty Quidditch player. Which every girl wanted to go with to the damn party. Fuck you, party.
“James!” Avery said, clearly irritated as she made her way around Bink’s bed toward me.
I jumped it again, going straight to Emerson’s neatly made bed (not anymore) and into the bathroom, locking the door behind me. “Aha!” I exclaimed.
“I know how to open this door.” I could very well tell why she was annoyed—there were cases of colors and glosses and sticks all over the damn place. Two were on the ground. I could have died tripping over them. Was that green? Ew.
“I need to use the loo,” I said, examining the rest of the shit she had piled on the counter. There was a black pencil for writing notes and some weird stick with fuzzies on it and tubes of other stuff.
“I’m going to hex you.”
I picked up one of the tubes and out came a beige liquid. My nose wrinkled. It smelled funky. I wiped it on the back of my hand. It was probably lotion or something to make it shiny. It blended in pretty well. A little dark, but okay.
“James. Get the hell out.”
I was not going to be defeated by an eyeball-eating device.
“Be out in a minute!” I closed up the weird tube and examined the rest of the loot. Nothing of value. I had no idea what any of it did, but it couldn’t be that exciting. I opened the box of powder colors and saw some pinks and purples and blues. They were pretty shades. One looked like Victoria. I stuck the stick in that one and put it on the back of my hand.
“Oy, bleeding hold on, woman! Keep your knickers on already.”
I needed a plan. That’s what I needed. With that, I used the powder as war paint, grabbed the shower head, opened the door, and fired.
What I got back, wasn’t entirely expected.
Emerson Edwards was standing in front of me, now completely sopping wet in his shirt, tie, and bad hair style. His mouth (now filled with water) was lopsided and since I was already spraying water, I made him look like he wet himself. Avery was on the other side of his bed, sitting on Bink’s, finishing off with the torture device.
I could tell he wanted to run at me and tackle me. To Emerson punch the shit out of me because his stuck up parents were probably downstairs admiring artwork while he came up to use the potty and now he was soaked. But here was the weird part, Emerson spit out the remaining water and continued to gape at me.
“Are you quite finished?” he managed to say.
“Erm, yes.” I put the shower head back. I stepped out of the bathroom. He went in and closed the door.
Avery couldn’t hide her laughter. “What the hell was that?” she said. “Was that supposed to be for me? Oh, and what the hell is under your eyes?”
I flushed, remembering the pink streaks on my cheeks. “War paint,” I said in a husky voice.
“Out of all colors, you pick pink?”
“I picked Victoria.”
Avery smiled. “Want to curl your lashes too?”
“Shut it.” I shoved her back onto Bink’s bed and grabbed a cloth to wipe my cheeks. The idea was getting stupider and stupider inside my head. “I have to go see if my siblings know whether Mum and Dad are coming.”
Avery grabbed my arm and pulled me close. It was the first time I’d been close to her since she kissed me on the balcony. She was warm. “Why didn’t Emerson give you a detention? Or kill you?” she whispered. Her breath smelled like mints.
“No bleeding idea. Didn’t give me one for the fight with Meta either. Or for breathing.” I stared at the door instead of at her.
Emerson emerged then, now dry and attempting to look perfectly pleasant. He succeeded if I didn’t look into his eyes, which were on fire.
So, like the good Potter I was, I took advantage of the situation.
“Sorry about that bath, Edwards. I saw a spot of brown on your nose.”
“It’s okay, Potter.” He grabbed a cloak. “Good morning, Avery.”
“Morning,” she said, obviously as confused as I was.
“It’s a nice day,” Emerson said. “I’m off. My parents are waiting.”
I snickered. “Not going to get all fancy in your gray dress for them?”
His ears were turning a dark magenta. “Not today, Potter.”
“I understand. Freddie looked much better in the dress. His legs are a little thinner than yours. Anyone ever tell you that you have turkey legs? They’re like chickens but fatter.”
“I’m warning you,” he said through his teeth. His back was turned, but I saw him tense up.
“All right, I’m done, Edwards.” I retreated to my own bed, searching around the covers for my wand. How did it always get away from me? I needed a magical beeper on the sucker to find it. Victoria looked up from her cage. “Got any hot dates today after your ‘rents call it quits? I heard some of the Puffers want a piece after they all asked me.”
Emerson pivoted on one foot to stare at me. His whole body was rigid.
Avery was probably peeved at me for provoking him, and yes, that was exactly what I was doing, but she was peeved at me for everything these days so I just decided to go for it. My pink war paint made me invincible. Well, the pink war paint I wiped off because it was pink.
“Do you even understand how hard it is for me to not hex you into next year, Potter?”
“Why are you holding back, shit brick?”
“I’ve been trying to be so fucking nice to you for ages. Can’t you just accept it?”
“You have another motive. So no.” I nodded to Avery. “Is that why you’ve been so nice? Not giving me a detention for that Meta thing? Not docking points for me breathing? Not killing me for spraying you with water? Is it because of her? Fucking asshat.”
With that, Emerson didn’t reply and simply walked out, slamming the door behind him.
Suddenly, I wanted to run after him and shove him down the spiral staircase. I didn’t because I didn’t have socks on, but still. When I had socks he’d be getting it.
“I knew it,” I muttered. “Bleeding jackass.”
“Apparently I’m something special,” Avery said lightly. She was looking at the eyelash torture curler device.
“Guess so,” I said. “You’re awesome so I don’t blame the jerk. But you’re not going to be lucky number seven.”
“What are you talking about?” Avery stood up and her messy dark hair covered the left side of her face.
“Just Emerson being a twat.” My ears were hot and the back of my neck was on fire.
“James, tell me what the hell lucky number seven means.”
“It means he wants to get you into bed as his seventh and I’m not going to damn let that happen ever!” I shouted. Then I went back to looking at Victoria. Shut up, Tory, I was definitely not being protective.
Avery laughed. I could hear her tiny snicker and she got up and walked into the bathroom, shutting the door with a quiet snap.
Yes, my parents came to the Alumni Party. They didn’t just show up, they arrived ahead of schedule and wanted a tour of the castle. Like they didn’t go here for seven years. Albus showed them around, luckily steering clear of the seventh year boys’ dormitories where my socks were strewn about, and they met up with Lily for lunch so I could get my head on straight.
I didn’t think Avery believed me, with the lucky number seven rubbish. I figured she thought I was making shit up or just trying to paint Twitwards in a negative light, which, let’s face it, he did all on his own. By the time I met up with the ‘rents they were full from lunch and looking morbidly happy. Mum had on a green dress and Dad was wearing a tie that matched a little too much. It made me feel awkward. I bet Twitwards would match his tie to anyone, including lucky numbers one through six.
By the time the Alumni Party snuck around it was dark and I had already told Mum about how my grades were legit improving. They would be anyway. Soon. At some point. Once I finished the Hufflepuff notes anyway. If there was time.
I got dressed in the bathroom after breakfast while Fred and Bink were arguing about tie colors and calling Emerson a few names. I couldn’t hear them through the door, but I knew they were silly so I laughed regardless. I made sure the shower was turned off before I left and the boys looked great. Bink in silver and dark blue hues and Freddie in lighter oranges with some hints of red in the threading on his collar. In another lifetime, it could have been a dress. I was skeptical of Freddie and his feminine outfits. His ‘rents were there too, down there talking to mine because they were related and all. Mum was yelling at Uncle George for already stealing a toilet seat.
“They’ve got these new ones now; got to add to my collection,” he said in return.
I wore some button-up shirt Mum stuffed in my trunk with the sleeves rolled up to my elbows because Hogwarts was bleeding hot that time of year with all the unnecessary fires popping up around the castle. It was just rude, really.
Dad talking about the hand-drawn shit that used to be hanging around the common room with Albus. Al seemed enthralled and I wondered if he would ask Paloma for a dance considering there was no way I was going to get hammered enough to do it again. I wondered if there would even be alcohol at the Alumni party and I ventured a no considering it was probably for wankers and would be boring. Maybe I should have brought my Transfiguration homework with me.
After throwing some robes over my outfit (making the rolling the sleeves up pointless), I was ready to take on the world—or just the party so I could be seen and then go up and plan Quidditch drills until my eyelids sank.
“Are you excited?” Mum asked, tucking some hair behind my ear. Mental note to cut the shit off sooner or later.
“I guess. We’re supposed to be in Quidditch practice right now.”
“Don’t think your team deserves a break?” She smiled wisely.
“Not really, those buggers deserve laps.”
Mum put an arm around my shoulders. “Well, the party will make you happy. It’ll be something to take your mind off Quidditch troubles.”
I wanted to tell her not much could take my mind off my failing team, but instead I smiled and led the group to the Great Hall where the Alumni Party was to take place. I was still a bit bitter about the whole scenery, especially when I saw Emerson Edwards laughing pompously with his parents. I wasn’t sure what they were laughing about, but it could have been me.
I hated watching him talk to his parents, whom, by the way, looked just like him. Pompous and assholey and all of that rubbish. I bet they were head boys and girls in their time, looking down on superior Quidditch Captains and giving undeserving people detentions. Except people like Meta. She deserves, it, that bitch.
“Wow, this place has really transformed,” Mum said, barely above a whisper. She was looking around the Great Hall, which was decorated in loads of scarlets, golds, and other Hogwarts colors. The less awesome ones. But we went to a table below some scarlet and gold with some awesome Gryffindor decorations and I took a moment to look around at the other tools that managed to show at the Alumni Party.
The Slytherin douchers were there. Clint Lawson and his bitch, Scorpius. Internally, I was talking Slytherin about those worthless fuckers. I was still irritated about Clint’s less than appropriate monologue about me on the Quidditch pitch when I was making Elizabeth fall in love with me. I wondered where she was anyway, and if she was still peeved at me for doing whatever it was that I did.
Kay Davies and the rest of the Ravenclaws Fred had fucked were there. Well, except the male Beater. Let’s face it, even though Freddie had worn dresses, he wasn’t going there just to meet his Ravenclaw quota.
Puffers were there too. Darian Bay and the rest of the Puffers I didn’t know the names of. Maybe one was named Frank? Or Francis? Or Demitri Shitbrick? Dikrats?
“Are you going to go talk to your friends?” Mum smirked at me. She clearly thought I wanted to go spend time with other people. I didn’t see a friend in the entire room.
“No, I’m fine. I’ll just hang out here with the fam.”
Truth was, I didn’t know anyone short of the listed fuckers and my Quidditch team. Even Nia wasn’t there. I saw so many unfamiliar faces among the backdrops of blue and silver and green and yellow and awesomesauce Gryffindor colors.
It was time to turn on the swagg. With two g’s. Or three. Or seventy-nine.
I needed to find someone to spend my time with other than my ‘rents. Not that I didn’t love them, but I felt like I needed some sort of alcoholic beverage to make the time go faster. Or to just get out of there altogether. I spotted an older couple nearby and the woman was definitely holding a glass of wine. That was totally alcoholic because he face was already flushed. Unless he had been telling her dirty things and she was blushing, but I went with the first option.
I didn’t see Bink or Freddie and Al was already telling Dad about his recent triumph in Charms class, and Wesley had joined in. He was wearing a weird blue color of robes.
“Mummy?” I said in the most pitiful voice I could muster.
“What, James?” Mum looked worried. “Are you okay?”
“I’m bored,” I whined.
“You’re ridiculous.” She patted me on the head. “Why don’t you go request a song or something? People are starting to go out onto the dance floor. Maybe you’ll see one of your friends. If you see Neville, tell him your father is looking for him.”
I groaned. There went the idea Mum would tell me to just blow off the party and work on Quidditch. Well, she would have said Charms, but same thing, right?
I mumbled a disgruntled reply and headed out to find someone I knew (other than the idiot Slytherins, soft-hair obsessed Claws, and Puffers) to talk to. That was when I, quite literally, ran into someone I definitely did not want to see at the Alumni Party.
“Potter,” Dara Wood said in a hard voice. It wasn’t like she wasn’t pretty, and I would be lying if I said that during my first day on the pitch as a second year I didn’t have a huge bleeding crush on her, but she was a hard ass and did whatever it took to get the Captain slot after Maxwell left. And she got it. And kept it until this year.
“Wood,” I said. “How’s reserve life treating you?”
“Well so far.” She narrowed her eyes. “Are your parents here?”
“Yeah. They’re over there being boring.”
Dara smiled. “How is the team this year? I heard you won your first match.”
“We did. Against Ravenclaw.” I twisted my hands nervously in my pockets. She could see right through me.
“Weasley still on his quest to date the whole Ravenclaw house?”
I nodded. “Just the team, though there’s a bloke on it.”
“Bad luck,” said Dara Wood. “What’s this I hear about the Code breaking?”
Fuck. Every time we even thought about breaking the Code, Dara gave us ten million laps.
“I took care of it,” I said gruffly.
“Let’s hope so. That Code is there for a reason, Potter, and if you fuck it up that’s all you’ll be—the Captain who let his team fail after it was held to such high regards the years before.”
“Fancy seeing you two together!”
I turned, neck almost snapping, and saw my first Captain, Tim Maxwell, strolling up with a bright smile. I always liked him, but it was probably because, looking back, he was better than Dara. A cricket was better than Dara. A spot of dirt was better than Dara.
“Haven’t seen you lot since my last day at Hogwarts. Tell me, how’s the team?”
“Breaking the Code,” snapped Dara. Bleeding bitch.
Maxwell gasped. “Is that true, Potter?”
“I took care of it,” I said through gritted teeth. Why was Dara taller than me?
“It’s there for a reason.”
“Yeah, I’m well aware of that. I took care of it. The team is going to be fine against the Puffers.”
“Careful,” Dara said in an oddly wise voice, “Darian Bay is a worthless piece of dung that will do just about anything to win his seventh year.”
I knew that. Obviously. I knew all of it, mostly because Nia told me Darian wanted to do physical damage on the pitch, but all the same. I felt awkward and belittled with the lecturing coming from my two previous captains, though I couldn’t say I was surprised. They had always been like that.
“The team is fine,” I said at last.
“Potter, don’t screw this up,” Dara said. “I don’t want to regret making you Captain.”
“Meta is the one fucking breaking the Code!” I half-yelled. “Are you kidding me? You know what, I’m thirsty. Have fun at the party and don’t worry about my damn team.” In a dramatic huff, I walked toward the refreshments table, seeing a few people on my way. I spotted Bink’s parents, sans Bink, and Uncle George busting some moves on the dance floor with Wesley’s dad. Dara’s dad was next to the punch with a gaggle of Hogwarts girls surrounding him. He played Quidditch for Puddlemere and they had actually been good for a while so he was pretty famous. To be honest, if he wasn’t Dara’s dad I would probably be trying for an autograph or advice on running a team since he was a captain at Hogwarts, but I thought better of it.
When I got to the refreshments table, I nearly gasped. There was a big ugly sign on the front that read, Alcoholic Beverages only Served to Alumni. What the hell? I was an of-age wizard with needs just like a regular adult. They probably knew we’d drink them out of castle and home, but that wasn’t the point.
Freddie clapped me on the back. “Seen the sign too? What a bummer of a party.”
“What is this shit? First the ‘rents are here, then Dara and Maxwell bitch at me for having a Code-breaking team (how they even found out is beyond me) and then there is no alcohol.” I ran my fingers through my hair and ruffled it a bit. “This is outrageous.” I turned to him. “Where’s Abigail?”
“Dunno. She’s mad at me.” He shrugged.
“Why? What did you do?”
“I gave her a pygmy puff.”
I cocked a brow. “And she’s peeved…why?”
Another shrug. “I don’t know. I thought it was a good idea. She didn’t like it though, thought I was doing something and getting her a gift to make up for it. I dunno what I did.”
“Was it just a regular pink pygmy puff or did you get another color?” The music was getting louder in the background so I moved closer to hear him.
“Well, the only one left was a red one. I thought it was festive.”
“Like…Gryffindor festive?” I said, imagining Abigail opening a package with a red pygmy puff in it. “Tell me you didn’t use your yellow blanket to give it to her.”
His guilty face told me I was right.
Here, Abigail, have a puff that embodies Gryffindor when you play for the ‘Claws. Why don’t I also give you a replica of the Gryffindor robes with ‘Idiot’ on the back? Good idea.
“Maybe try talking to her about it,” I said. I wasn’t good at relationship advice, especially with my mates. They sort of just did what—and who—they wanted. “She might understand. I think.” I wrinkled my nose and suddenly wanted to avoid the situation. “Hey, Freddie, I’m going to go check on the ‘rents. Want to make sure they aren’t dead, you know?”
“Sure. I’m going to see if I can find Abigail.” He sauntered off in the other direction and I made my way toward the dance floor because I spotted Albus shaking his rear to some fast-beat song. Paloma was nowhere to be found, but Mum was out there with him—and Uncle George. It was embarrassing.
There were more people by that time trickling in, a lot more alumni and people I didn’t recognize. I was all the more frustrated to see Twitwards with a pair of drinks in his hand walking toward a nearby table. He narrowed his eyes at me. I flipped him off.
“You don’t stand a chance, Potter,” he said loudly over the music.
“With what, douche?”
“Are you kidding me?” I said, nearly throwing my hands in the air. “You’re still on about this? Man, get a life. She doesn’t like you. Still can’t believe you stopped being a twat to me because of her.” I rolled my eyes. Seriously, Twitwards?
Emerson stopped, his eyes full of fire and I remembered the shower head incident from earlier. “I am going to be honest with you right now, you son of a bitch,” he said, knuckles white around the glasses he held.
I snorted. “You speak your mind, I punch your face. I think it’s a fair exchange,” I said. “We’ll both be hurting.”
“Is that a threat?” he seethed.
“Get a fucking life, Twitwards,” I turned the other way, but ended up with wet hair. Not, as you may have guessed, from sweat or a cooler of water being poured on me because of my triumphant victory over the Ravenclaws, but instead from punch.
Punch from Twitward’s glass. Well, one of them. The other was still full.
Until I ripped it out of his hand and dumped it over his head.
Then ran the other direction because he was Head Boy and he was about to stick my captain-ass in detention. I wove through the dance floor, pushing past Rose with Uncle Ron and a man who could only be Clint Lawson’s father. The air smelled like body odor and peppermint.
Avery was there, near the front, in a silky purple dress and a white sash. It cut low on her and I could see a sparkly necklace and earrings. Her hair was down and she was laughing and dancing around. A few times pieces of hair flew into her mouth and got stuck on the lipgloss coating her lips. I wondered if it was cherry.
I finally noticed I was just standing in the middle of the dance floor being a tosser while everyone else danced around me.
Avery really did look beautiful. She was busting moves with Bink, which was refreshing, though he needed to be hexed. I was glad she found someone, though, considering her mum was on holiday doing business nonsense and obviously her father hadn’t shown up to show off his previous Hogwarts-Beater capabilities. She was flushed and kept twirling. Bink was doing the robot.
She saw me, light in her brown eyes, and smiled brightly. “Hey! James!” I watched the way the fabric moved around her. A few other blokes were staring. Bink motioned me over.
I froze. The back of my head was still soaked and sugary from the punch. She was staring right at me and all I could think about was Italy on the balcony where she gave me that snog because clearly she just wanted to see what it was like and it made my stomach sink, but in a way I hadn’t felt before.
Where the fuck was Nia when I needed her?
Avery was still flushed and smiling at me.
I was apparently fond of flight, because my stomach shrunk up so fast that I took off running in the other direction, which this time was the door. Right out the door, through the Entrance Hall, outside into the bloody freezing weather, and to the Quidditch pitch, into the locker rooms, and collapsed at my locker.
My heart was racing a thousand trillion miles per hour, or maybe faster, and I couldn’t just sit still. My fingers knotted up and all I could think about was Avery on the dance floor. On the balcony. Kissing me.
She was like my sister. My best mate. I told her all about my girl problems. She knew I still had my V card and that sometimes I fell out of bed when I was having nightmares. She listened to Nia trying to seduce me and spent the night at my house all the time. She wrote my dad Father’s Day cards.
And now she was standing in there moving her hips around and I didn’t want to cover her up or scold her or tell her about Dara Wood being a sod. I just wanted to look at her.
Maybe it was the eye-torture device or something. Maybe I was dehydrated or ate bad chicken or something absurd.
I grabbed for my broom, something I could always count on, and wandered back out into the fresh air. It was bleeding freezing and I didn’t have a cloak, but being in the air always calmed me down. And it did, all while giving me hypothermia, but what did I care? I was a Quidditch player. I’d play with one eye. On one leg.
Being up there took me away from the pressure of Hogwarts. To be a fantastic Captain. To be a good brother. A good son. An ace student. A good best mate? To not snog my best mate.
“Oy, James!” After several minutes of me flying back and forth on the pitch, Bink and Freddie appeared on the edge by the Keeper hoops, both looking equally confused. “What’re you doing?”
We sounded like mates again. This was good progress.
“Flying,” I said, waving.
“Why? There’s a party in there,” said Fred. “I managed to sneak some booze. You were gone by the time I got back over to Bink. What happened?”
“Just got sick of it.” I shrugged it off, floating down to the ground. “Why aren’t you in there drinking and having fun with your ‘rents?”
“Came to see if you were okay,” Bink said. He ruffled his blond hair. I was glad he wasn’t bald anymore. It was awkward. “So are you?”
“I’ve been better. Got punch dumped on me by Twitwards. Got him back, though.”
“Is that why your hair is sticking up in the back?” Fred poked at my hair. “Ew. Sticky.”
“Everyone is in a shit situation lately,” I said, frowning. The wind was practically howling.
“I have an idea,” Bink said suddenly. “That woman told me about it a month or so before we broke up and we went down there, but we never stayed. Hogwarts has a grotto down by the dungeons. It’s a pain in the arse to get to, but it’s worth it. What do you say, mate? Should we maybe make a trip down there to get our minds off shit like Quidditch and that nameless bitch of a woman?”
Bink and Freddie were standing in front of me, hands dug deep into their pockets (Freddie’s complete with sugary gross punch), staring back at me. These were my mates. My absolute best mate, Chaser buddies that I couldn’t live without. And now they had the idea to visit a grotto. That would clear my mind, maybe even better than catching my death out on the Quidditch pitch.
First thing was first, though.
“All right,” I said, dismounting my broom and tossing it over one shoulder. “Just one thing.”
“Bink, what the fuck happened with you and McLaggen?”
Bink frowned, his lips whitening slightly. He kicked his shoe into the frozen grass and took a deep breath. “Okay. It was last summer and I was in Hogsmeade.”
Thank you all for the amazing reviews last chapter! I hope you have enjoyed another chappie of James--definitely post your favorite parts! Mine might be the pink war paint...
I can't believe we're almost to 1000 reviews! You are all SO awesome! And those of you who have hopped over to Twitter to follow me are so wonderful :) Some of you got your wish of who you wanted to see at the party :)
Next time: You figure out what the heck went on between Bink and Meta. It's bathing suit time at the grotto! And something else happens.
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