For Kira. For writing James a long letter in her review. Letters are my favorite. Definitely made my week! And also thank you to everyone who gave me the well-wishes. After a week, I finally beat the flu! So it is gone. Thank you :)
Avery Flynn had been my best friend forever. Sure, Fred got there first since we grew up together and I’d seen him in diapers and he’d seen me throw a tantrum over chocolate as opposed to strawberry, but Avery was the one person I would tell anything to. Something simple like the way I liked my waffles. Or something intense like the way I wasn’t sure if I’d ever speak to my father again.
She was the strongest girl I’d ever met. Sure, my sister was a spitfire and Rose was a puncher, but Avery had inner strength. She viewed life with the eyes of a skeptic. After her Dad left, she had to. She had to make ends meet and help her mum the best she could. She accepted very little from me, even over our years of friendship. The biggest thing she accepted was letting me take her on our Potter family trips. That, and being able to use my dad as her own. He liked that. He always ruffled her hair and she shot him a look.
He laughed. Every time. Dad had a soft spot for Avery.
I visited Avery countless times over the summer. She stayed at my place more since Mum always cooked us breakfast and let us stay up late watching television. I used to point out all the things the players were doing wrong. Avery said I was a know-it-all. Sometimes, though, I went to her place and stayed.
Her mum worked all the time. She had three different jobs and always told my mum how grateful she was if we could take Avery for a couple days. Just to see that she was occupied. Her mum trusted Avery at a very, very young age. Much younger (eugh) than my mum let me stay home alone.
Avery’s flat was small and in the wrong end of London. Not that I really knew what the right end was. I just knew it wasn’t like my house – out in the country. The people upstairs always had sex. Mrs. Flynn used to tell us it was people wrestling.
I asked Avery once why her mum kept her last name when her husband left.
“It’s just easier,” Mrs. Flynn said in a tired way. She was always tired.
When we were there, we spent our evenings locked in her room. We didn’t do much of anything. Lounged around on her bed talking, read through romance novels and picked out the dirty parts, went through old photos. She didn’t keep much. Said she didn’t like the memories. But all of her things fascinated me.
Especially the small shoebox under her bed she never let me open.
Which I opened twenty seconds after she went to take a shower.
Inside were four pictures of David Flynn. Three from when she was a baby. And one when she was three and a half, according to the scribbles on the back. It had to have been taken about six months before he left. They both looked happy. She had pigtail braids and he was tossing her in the air. She looked like she was shrieking. Also in the box was a tie of her father’s, his pipe, and an assortment of other things he didn’t take with him.
At the bottom of the box, however, I found something that made my heart stop.
It was a thick envelope. Inside were nine cards. Each of them had been purchased at a drug store with the words “happy father’s day” on the front. The first had a smiley-face drawn in it. Every card from the year her father left up until that day when we were twelve.
I only looked in the first. The rest, I let Avery have for herself. The last three were thick. There were letters inside. I always wanted to know what those letters contained.
But I never looked.
The summer before seventh year, I peeked under her bed. The box was gone. I never asked about it. She never offered the information.
I knew those things about Avery. The intimate details about her hatred of nutcrackers and her odd obsession with weather documentaries. The way she had to wear those fuzzy slipper socks around my house because she said the floors were too cold. How she snuggled up so close when she was sleeping that her hair tickled my nose. I knew about her absolute need to play professional Quidditch to bail her mother out of debt. The way she felt on a broom. I knew all about how tequila made her into a stumbling fool, while firewhiskey just gave her a bit of a buzz.
And that was why I couldn’t risk being with Avery again. Not when seven years of friendship was at risk. No. I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t lose her again.
Not when she needed me the most.
I had made the choice everyone would kill me over. Albus was going to punch me for not taking my own advice. Fred and Bink were going to tackle me. Lily was going to send me back to the hospital. The only people who would be remotely happy would be Twitwards and Elizabeth and Nia. At least Twitwards had been out bird-watching now that Spring had arrived.
I made the correct decision.
So why did I feel like complete shit?
“We need to do something fun,” Fred insisted.
It had been a week since I told Avery we couldn’t be together. Practices had gone okay. Avery was playing brilliant, as usual. Bink and Rose had gone on a second date and I caught them snogging in the hallway. After being hexed, Bink told us he was taking it slow. I also caught them holding hands.
Fred and Amy still hadn’t shagged. Nor were they together. The just spent every bloody waking hour together. I had to admit, though, she was fun. She spent a good amount of time lounging in the dormitory with us and she knew a lot about Quidditch. I thought all Ravenclaws were crazy like Kay Davies and Abigail, but it appeared I was wrong.
Bink was happy. Freddie was happy. I was not.
Avery and I weren’t on poor terms. In fact, we’d chatted in the locker room before practice, shared notes in Charms, and sat next to each other at most meals. We were trying to be friends again. She hadn’t brought up our conversation. I didn’t either. Nor did I bring it up to Fred or Bink or Albus or Lily or anyone who would punch me for what I said.
“Everything that’s fun we’ve done,” I grumbled, rolling over onto my stomach. We were in the common room and I had commandeered a sofa all to myself. “You name it, we’ve done it.”
Bink scratched the back of his head. “Whatever we’re doing, it’s bloody not in here,” he said. “We should go to the kitchens or something.”
“And what? Eat ourselves into the giggles?” I raised a brow. “I’ll pass.”
“We could go hang out with the house elves.” Bink chuckled. “I’m still hungry from dinner.”
“Because you burned all the calories snogging my cousin in the hallway,” Fred said halfheartedly. He propped his feet on a coffee table. “Let’s just get out of here, yeah? Amy’s got homework tonight so we’re not hanging out.”
“Still no sex?” Bink asked with a grin.
“Still no sex?” Fred repeated, staring him down.
“I am not amused by this conversation,” I said with a humph since everyone knew I was still getting no sex. From anyone. Eugh. “Can we just get out of here before Nia comes down and asks about my sex life? I would appreciate it if that didn’t happen.”
Bink climbed to his feet and stretched. “To the kitchens!”
“What the fuck are we going to do?”
“Race.” Bink beamed.
“Race what?” I asked impatiently.
By the time we got downstairs, we’d gathered quite a following. Quite a few Gryffindors, some curious Hufflepuffs, huffy Ravenclaws, and no Slytherins because, well, they were worthless and all they did was talk Slytherin about the other houses. How rude.
It was pretty basic. Just walk into the kitchens, ask the house elves if they wanted to race, and they gleefully accepted. I still wasn’t sure why they were so interested in anything we put on the table. Seriously. Basically anything. Eat all of the fruit cake. Stick your head in that freezer. Paint my toenails. Two of those were from second year. The third was from a few months ago.
We gathered in the basement corridor, most of us lining the walls. I was at the front with a handful of elves, Bink, Freddie, and, to my surprise, Avery. She was giving me one of those ‘really?’ looks. I nodded. Really.
“All right,” Bink said loudly. “We’ve got all the bets in. Really good odds on this guy.” He pointed to a small elf with long legs. “First one to the end of the hallway is the winner.”
Avery nudged me. “Wasn’t your aunt big into elf rights?” she asked softly. Things were actually okay, surprisingly enough. It was still a little awkward, but I think she understood where I was coming from. With the friendship thing.
“Yeah. Aunt Hermione. She’s big into everything.” I shrugged.
“And her nephew is racing house elves.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Don’t be jealous you didn’t think of the idea.” I smirked. She returned it. My stomach fluttered.
This was going to be more difficult than I anticipated.
I wished she would stop being so pretty. I wished I would stop fancying her.
Not that I fancied her. We were mates. Just mates. Simple.
“Ready?” Bink called. Everyone cheered. Loud. In retrospect, that was probably our downfall. “Go!”
All five elves took off down the hall. Everyone shouted out which one was supposed to win, which was awkward since we didn’t know their names. Someone to my left shouted out “Go, Stubby, go!” I snorted with laughter.
“Did you bet?” Avery asked, craning her neck to see down the hallway.
I shook my head. “Nope. I’m the Captain. I can’t gamble.”
“You gambled on a Quidditch match earlier in the season,” she noted.”Or you didn’t want to gamble on a house elf race.”
“That too. It was too unsure.” I snickered. “I don’t know them all that well.”
“Mine’s going to win!” Bink shouted as we all squinted to see to the end of the hallway.
Which, very casually, erupted into a very bright light.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
Oh, Godric’s Hallow.
“Who’s that?” Bink asked.
“Your future brother-in-law,” I grumbled.
Hugo Weasley was standing at the end of the hallway, his wand lit. The house elves stopped a few meters from him, short of the finish line, and stumbled backward. Hugo wasn’t tall, by any means. He was fourteen with a tuft of brown curls on his head and dark brown eyes sort of like mine. But he had one too many of Aunt Hermione’s qualities.
Elf rights? One of them.
“SCRAMBLE!” I cried loudly, grabbing Avery’s hand and rushing down a corridor to the right. There were yelps behind us as people ran into each other trying to get away from the crazy boy with the wand.
“Where’re we going?” Avery was laughing. Bink and Freddie were on our heels as we tore through the basements.
“Anyone want to bunk with a Puffer?” I asked.
“I’d rather not,” Fred said, chest heaving with laughter as we turned another corner.
“Not that bad,” commented Bink. “Just saying,” he added to the looks we gave him.
I threw open the door to an empty classroom and shut it behind us. There were still yells in the hallway. “Safe,” I breathed, taking out my wand. I lit a few candles. I liked the classrooms upstairs because a lot of them had windows.
“He’s going to tell Aunt Hermione,” grumbled Fred. “We’re dead.”
“We were all the way at the end of the hall,” I said. “There’s no way.”
“Who else would have been behind that?” Avery hopped up on one of the desks that someone probably shagged on because it was an empty classroom and let’s face it, what else were they used for?
“Bink was!” I said, tossing a piece of chalk at the albino. “I’m bringing you down with us.”
The classroom was dark and a little damp. Not exactly my kind of hideout. And my hair was feeling greasy. Okay, not really, but looking at Freddie’s soft hair made mine feel less than stellar.
“Are not.” Bink hopped up onto the desk beside Avery. “So, love, how is life? Tell me everything.”
He made a face. “You never tell me things unless you’re drunk. And even then, I can’t tell if it’s sarcasm or not.”
“There’s a reason.” Avery arched a brow. “Might have something to do with the fact that you cannot possibly keep a secret.”
“You and James back together?”
“No,” she said. Her expression remained the same. I wasn’t sure if that should concern me or not.
“Then why are you tolerating each other?” Bink asked.
“Let it go,” I interrupted. I leaned my ear against the door. “I don’t hear anything. It might actually be safe to sneak up to dinner. I’m starving. All that racing really gave me an appetite.”
Avery rolled her eyes. “Let’s go upstairs before Bink starts asking me my tanning methods.”
“How do you get tan?” Bink asked, hopping off the desk and following her toward the door. “Seriously. I just burn. Do you use oil? Lotion? A special shade to sun ratio?”
“Ask Fred.” Avery helped me off the ground and we all looked at Freddie.
“What?” he said. “I’m half black. That’s my method.” He shrugged.
“Too easy,” Bink said, narrowing his eyes. “I’m thinking oil.”
It wasn’t, as previously thought, okay to go to dinner.
The Great Hall was buzzing when we walked in late. Luckily, only a few glances were cast in our direction and even more luckily, the Slytherins seemed confused. We sat down at the end of the Gryffindor table and focused on food.
Albus leaned over. “What’s going on?” he asked. “I just heard Daniel talking about something with house elves.”
Ew, Daniel Higs.
But he did feed Victoria that one time.
He already used his free pass by asking Avery on a date.
Not that I fancied her or anything. We were just mates.
I also didn’t want to wipe the sauce off the corner of her lip.
With my tongue.
OH MY GOD STOP.
“House elves?” I raised a brow at my brother. “What about them?”
“You’re really about as convincing as if you were holding a house elf by the ears.” Al crossed his arms.
“That’s just mean to say.” I shrugged. Then I smiled.
I should have thought about the lack of Hugo Weasley at the table. That was a bad sign.
Bink leaned over. “There wasn’t a winner,” he whispered in my ear. “I’m still holding everyone’s money.”
“Pub trip?” I offered.
“And get killed? I don’t think so.”
“It’d keep me from taking the NEWTS...”
He chuckled and then jumped, clutching my shoulder, as the door to the Great Hall banged open. We all looked over.
I yelped and ducked under the Gryffindor table.
Aunt Hermione walked through the door, Ministry heels clicking like a fucking badass.
I swallowed hard and looked to my left. Fred had joined me under the table.
“Hello, Albus.” Aunt Hermione had a stern, knowy voice. She just knew everything. She also knew that Albus had no part in any of it. She leaned down and spotted both of us, her hair back in a knot and her brown eyes surveying Fred’s and my guilty expressions. “Out here. Both of you.”
Lawson was going to have a right laugh with this. Not to mention Twitwards, who was four seats down practically giggling.
We both paused. Fred nudged me.
“You go first,” he whispered out of the corner of his mouth.
“Nah, you can.”
“I’ll let you.”
I shook my head. “You know what? You go ahead. You’re chunkier than me anyway.”
“Am not.” Fred punched me in the arm.
Aunt Hermione pulled both of us out by our ears. It hurt.
The lecture lasted forty-five minutes. We were in Sinatra’s office, backs against leather chairs, staring at Aunt Hermione as she paced in front of us. She explained all about elf rights, how insensitive we were, how happy she was Hugo brought it to her attention (bloody git), and about how ashamed she was that two of her nephews had the audacity to shame her work.
I wondered if she was going to send me back to the hospital wing.
But, despite her anger at what she did, Aunt Hermione did not kill us.
Sinatra, however, stared at us over her desk and forced me to break my own damn Code yet again. Detention. Why was it always detention? How about another trip to the hospital wing? The Slytherin game was coming up. I couldn’t sulk about in detention.
“Mr. Weasley, you will be cleaning all of the bedpans in the hospital wing and then cleaning Madam Bones’ personal bathroom.”
Ew, gross. Sucks to suck, Freddie.
“Mr. Potter,” Sinatra said, narrowing her eyes at him. “You will be aiding in Prefect duty.”
That couldn’t be that hard. Walk around and yell at people?
“With your brother.”
No. No. No. No. No.
“Wait, why?” I asked as Aunt Hermione smirked knowingly. This was her doing. “I mean, won’t that be a good thing? Me and my brother just hanging out? Two bros?”
The headmistress chuckled. “You are to do walks with him this week. You are to help him in any situation he needs help and he will be reporting back to me. If it doesn’t work out, there are plenty of boys lavatories you can clean. With a toothbrush.”
I thought about the condition of the fourth floor men’s room. Not okay.
“Yeah. Walks. My brother.” I tried to hide the grimace. “Should be cake.”
She gave me a look.
“I mean, I’ll learn my lesson about disappointing people.”
Bloody rubbish, that’s what it was.
“I hate you.” I looked over at Bink, arms across my chest, with a pout on my face. “I fucking hate you. You come up with it, you execute it, you take bets, and I get in trouble.”
“You’re not the only one.” Fred used his wand to fly a paper plane around the room. Amy had just taught him and her own blue one was racing toward the window.
I checked my watch. “Tonight is going to be so boring,” I grumbled, smoothing out the sheets under me. “Walk around the castle with my brother. Check in bathrooms and make sure people aren’t dead. Straighten picture frames?”
“What do Prefects even do?” Bink asked. He was tossing crisps into his mouth.
Amy shrugged. “Probably what James just said,” she noted absently, flicking her wand and forcing her plane to land smoothly on the dresser. Fred tried and his crumpled next to the door. “Fill out some paperwork?”
I made a face. “I hate paperwork,” I moaned. “I bet that’s why Sinatra’s making me do this.”
“Shut it.” Fred pointed his wand at me and then realized he didn’t know what spell to use. “I have to clean bedpans. And Bones’s bathroom. Do you have any idea what could be in there? She lives alone.”
“What if there are mice in there?” Bink asked. “You’re going to have a mouse in your pocket when you come back.”
I looked at Amy. “Don’t worry. It’ll be friendly.”
“It better be,” she said without missing a beat, ruffling her short hair. “Since it’ll have to fill the void I left. Which is a vast one. Since I’m rather lovely.”
Fred smirked. “She is lovely.”
I gagged. Loudly.
“That would be the oh-so-gitty Prefect brother of mine.” I hoisted myself off the bed and tied my shoes. “Who wants to bet I’m so bored I fall asleep while walking?”
“Not taking that bet,” said Bink. “I’ll save you some crisps.” He emptied the bag into his mouth.
“I’m getting you back for this.”
I met Albus at the bottom of the stairs. He was wearing yet another sweatervest with his Prefect pin on the top right. He was standing up straight and looking altogether sort of like a prat. More than sort of. Completely like a prat.
“Let’s bloody get this over with,” I muttered. “I don’t like being seen with you while you’re wearing that.”
“I’m supposed to take you on walks, you’re supposed to help me with anything I might need assistance in, and I’m reporting back to the headmistress,” Albus said matter-of-factly as he led the way out of the portrait hole. “There’s no horsing around. This is serious.”
“How could Uncle Ron have been a Prefect if it was serious?” I asked, rolling my eyes.
“We’re starting upstairs.” Albus turned the corner and started up a staircase. “That way, by the time it’s late we’ll be down in the dungeons.”
“Where the really scary stuff happens?” I said with a laugh.
“Where the Slytherins often get unruly,” he replied simply.
We walked in silence for a few minutes. “So is this it? Just...walking in the hallways?” I was bored already. I wished someone would have taken that bet with me.
“We can chat,” Al said. He stopped and peeked into an empty classroom. No one doing it. We continued.
“About what?” I asked. “You talking to Paloma yet?”
“Not yet,” he said with a sigh. Finally his Prefect demeanor changed and he frowned. “I can’t think of what to do. You said fight for her, but I don’t know what that means. I kind of feel like an idiot.”
“Because she’s right.” He shrugged, messing up his dark hair. Like it needed the help. “We were going on dates for weeks. Snogging all over the castle. We were practically dating without the title.” He checked another classroom. “Hell, she got naked in front of me. I’m pretty sure that meant she wanted to have sex. Or at least...do something.” He flushed.
My brother, the womanizer.
“So she asks Wes out, right?” Albus continued like I wasn’t even there. “And I go crazy because Paloma’s finally mine. Well, only not. I’ve had a crush on her for ages and I was just too chicken. I guess I thought she’d run away or start fancying you again.”
I snorted. “After making her run sixty-five laps the other day for getting cheeky, I don’t think she’s too into me right now.”
“Sixty-five?” He looked at me, jaw dropping. “That’s several practices, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, well.” I shrugged. “You were hurt so I might have taken that out on her.”
Shut up. He’s my brother.
“What should I do?” Albus asked as we climbed more stairs. “I fancy her. Godric, I fancy her so much. And she was right. And she was wrong.” He cleared his throat. “But she won’t even talk to me.”
“You might have humiliated her in a public place and got Wes pissed with her,” I noted. “That’s probably why she’s not eager to talk to you.” I opened a door and checked the classroom. No one doing it. “It’s a thing girls do, Al.”
“Ignore me until I do something?”
I thought about after Avery kissed me in Italy and I told her it was nothing and we should just forget it. She didn’t completely ignore me, but she didn’t open up to me either.
“Yup.” I nodded. “So that means you need to do something. You know, before Daniel Higs gets anymore bloody ideas.”
Albus rolled his eyes. “You have it out for him.”
“He has it out for me! Did you know he tried to poison Victoria?!”
Another eye roll. Albus leaned into a bathroom and looked around. No one doing it. “All right, I’ll figure out a plan with Paloma. But if it doesn’t work I will write home and tell Mum you have done something terrible.”
“Like found out you couldn’t play Quidditch professionally and didn’t tell anyone?” Al’s eyebrow rose.
“Look at this,” I said wildly, throwing my hands in the air. “My baby brother is blackmailing me.” I moved my arms around him, pulling him into a too-tight hug. “I’m so proud!”
“Stop that. We’re on walks. Be a bloody professional.”
“Yes, Potter, be a professional.”
I glanced over and let out a gruff sigh at Clint Lawson. He was walking out of the Owlry with, to my frustration, an owl-poop-free shirt.
“Can I give him a detention?” I asked.
“No,” Albus said smartly. “It’s karma that gets him.” He moved past Lawson and peeked into the owlry.
“Cute girlfriend you got, Potter.” Lawson glanced over his shoulder. “Pretty little thing. You hit that yet?”
Even though he was turned, I could see the red shoot up Al’s neck to his cheeks.
“You disgust me,” was all he said.
“She used to like you, though, didn’t she?” Lawson looked at me. “Sure gets around.” His smirk was disturbing. Borderline creepy muggle movie. What did I say he looked like again? Dog? Squirrel? Hamburger meat?
“Detention,” Albus said loudly, turning around. There was fire in his eyes. “You cannot say disrespectful things about people like that.”
“You mean about your girlfriend?” Lawson said, his expression unfazed by the punishment. “Better hope she’s not too tired for the Final.” He chuckled and shoved past me.
Ow. That was my shoulder.
But I was professional and didn’t punch the shit right in the face.
Albus was trying to keep his cool. His fists balled at his sides. “After hours starts in ten minutes, Lawson. I suggest you return to your common room.” He swallowed. I had a lot of respect for my brother. How he didn’t kill him for talking about Paloma that way was beyond me.
“At least you’ve got a girlfriend though,” Lawson said as he walked down the hallway away from us. “Your brother’s being shut out left and right. I think I’ll take out Flynn next.”
Al grabbed me before I could lunge at him.
“Let it go,” he whispered as Lawson disappeared down a staircase. “Let it go, James. He’s trying to get you into even more trouble before the game.”
I shrugged him off and straightened up. “I’ll kill him,” I said simply. “He tried to go after me months ago. Corner me when Bink and Fred hated me. I’ll get him back.”
“Just beat him on the pitch.” Al reached up and ruffled my hair. “That’s where it hurts, isn’t it? Isn’t he trying to--” He paused. “Let’s go.”
I knew what he was going to say. Wasn’t Lawson trying to play pro. He was. And that was why he would do anything to win. Absolutely anything.
Most of the castle was quiet. We had to yell at a first year who was in the bathroom on the fifth floor because she didn’t want to use the one in her dormitory. Apparently, she was shy. Weird girls. We also ran into Amy going back to Ravenclaw, but I messed up her hair and let her go with a warning. Albus even let me wear his badge while I gave her a warning. He got a kick out of it.
I could totally be a Prefect.
The Great Hall was empty (weird), so we moved down the stairs toward the dungeons. I didn’t like it being last. Not because I was scared or anything (I wasn’t), but because it was dark and shit down there. It also smelled bad. Like mold. And it was damp. My shirt was sticking to my back.
We walked in silence, footsteps echoing through the corridor. The only light came from the torches along the walls.
I had to admit, it was kind of spooky.
If Falcon Cat was there, she’d protect us.
“You do this every walk?” I asked, my voice hushed.
“Yep.” Albus nodded. He peeked in a couple of dark classrooms, shined the light from his wand inside, and closed the door again. It was routine to him.
“Have you ever been killed?”
He shot me a look.
“Oy, Potter!” called a rough voice. “Bloody get out of here, you woman.”
As good as I was with insults, I would never understand why woman was seen as an insult. I thought of people like my sister and Avery and Rose and Paloma. They could probably off me with a pinkie if they wanted.
Albus stiffened next to me. “James, stay here.”
“What? I’m not staying here. Who said that?” I raised a curious brow, but most of the hall way bathed in darkness.
Oh, no wonder he viewed woman as an insult.
I snorted. Twitterpated Scorpius Malfoy. “What’s he doing out of Slytherin? Isn’t it supposed to be some luxury spa or something? Right.” I chuckled. I couldn’t even keep a straight face. Come on. It was underground. Ew.
“Malfoy, I’m going to need you to return to your common room,” Albus said in his Prefect voice. He had that voice like I had my Captain one. I had to remind myself to figure out from which parent we got that and what Lily’s voice was.
Almost laughed right there.
“Shove off, Potter.” Scorpius’s frame was starting to come into view. There was a gaggle of people surrounding him, some sitting on the floor. “We’re busy.”
“I’m not telling you again,” Al said in irritation. I noticed he had his wand in his hand.
As did Scorpius.
I didn’t see Malfoy around the castle very often, other than when he accompanied Lawson. He was in Al’s year, which is why I assumed the pair of them got along similar to me and Lawson. He was on the shorter side and skinny with a pointy face and blond hair just like his father. I didn’t like him on principal, but Albus seemed to really hate him.
Every break he’d tell us what Scorpius Malfoy did in Potions or what Scorpius Malfoy did in the Great Hall. I didn’t witness it, but even if I did, I was usually concentrating on Quidditch or something. I just knew Malfoy and Albus were not friends. Or anywhere near it.
“Where’s your girlfriend?” Malfoy asked with a sneer.
“Hell, does everyone want Paloma?” I asked loudly.
“Brought a body guard this time, Potter?” Malfoy said, laughing. “You’d think you would have brought someone a bit bigger, though. He’s kind of scrawny. Or did you ask your big brudder to stick up to you?”
“Malfoy,” Albus said, trying to keep his voice bored, but I heard the edge. “This is your last warning. I will give you a detention if you and your mates do not go back inside.”
“How about a bit of fun?” He leaned on the wall and twirled his wand between his fingers. “I’m not tired yet.”
I let out a groan. “Godric, come on,” I said. “I’ve got shit to do tonight.”
“Me too.” Malfoy smirked and his friends chuckled. He turned his wand on me. “Want to play, Jamesey?”
At least it wasn’t Jamie.
“Back off, Malfoy.”
“Maybe Avery Flynn wants to play.”
Why the fuck was everyone having a go at Avery and Paloma? Who was next?
“Or maybe your little ginger sister,” Scorpius said, a grin lighting up his face.
My wand was out, pointed straight at his face. “Don’t you talk about my sister, Malfoy,” I said angrily. His friends were laughing loudly. “I will break you into pieces.”
Albus nudged me. “Let it go, James,” he said softly.
That was when I flew backward into the wall, back slamming into it. The wind was knocked out of me and my wand flew down the hall. The fuck?
I choked, pounding on my chest to get my breath back. My vision blurred a little, but thankfully, I didn’t hit my head. Just a bloody spinal injury. I scrambled for my wand, but got distracted.
By my brother.
He was standing in the middle of the hallway, chest heaving. Several meters away was Scorpius Malfoy, sprawled out on the ground, grabbing his stomach in pain. The rest of his friends were even further behind him, having been knocked back by the force of the spell. One was bleeding.
“Get back to your fucking common room, Malfoy,” Albus said, fingers tight around his wand.
Malfoy scrambled to his feet, leaning against the wall. His face gave all of his pain away. “I will--fucking--”
“A week’s worth of detentions for attacking a student,” Albus added, back in his professional tone. He watched as Scorpius opened the wall for himself. He left his friends, who eventually followed him. Two of them were limping.
We were alone.
Al glanced over his shoulder. “You okay?”
I nodded, grabbing my wand. “Yeah. Just got the wind knocked out of me.” My face was red. “What’d you do?”
“Don’t worry about it.” He helped me to my feet, looking around to make sure there was no one lingering in the shadows. “You need to go to the hospital wing?”
“Fucking no, I hate that place.” I cleared my throat.
“C’mon. Let’s go. I’ll fill out the paperwork alone.” He started back toward the Entrance Hall.
My brother. My baby brother had just taken out six blokes after one hexed me. Sure, he had probably been itching to do that for months, but I’d never seen him do anything like that. Every once in a while he’d shoot a stinger at me for being a git or smack me in the back of the head. But that was...well, nothing short of completely badass.
Perhaps Paloma really was good for him. First he punches Wesley in the face. Then he takes out Scorpius Malfoy in the dungeons. Boom. Boom. Boom.
My brother was a badass. Watch out, men of Hogwarts. He’s going to steal your women.
Not really. Can’t even get one to be his girlfriend.
I put my arm around his shoulders, smirking. “I’ll come with you.”
“To do paperwork?” He shot me a skeptical glance.
“Sure.” I shrugged. “We don’t get to hang out very often.”
I’d never been prouder of my little brother.
We spent an hour doing paperwork. Okay, he spent an hour doing paperwork and I spent an hour walking around the Prefect office touching everything he told me not to touch. What did they need plaques for anyway? And little china statues? And seven kinds of dictionaries?
“Ready?” Albus shuffled the papers, put them into a folder, and stuffed them into a filing cabinet.
I nodded and rubbed my back. Fucker Scorpius.
“You sure you don’t want to go to the hospital wing?” he asked, shooting me a concerned glance as we made our way upstairs.
“No. No.” I didn’t want to go there. For some reason, it reminded me of Avery. In a bad way.
When we walked inside the common room, I wasn’t prepared for what we encountered.
“James!” cried Bink, leaping up on one of the sofas. “What the fuck happened? We heard you were attacked—look at that bruise!”
I touched my head.
Ah, that bruise.
“Yeah—” I was about to go on when I was (rudely) shoved to the ground as Paloma Dove flew at my brother, throwing her arms around him and kissing him full on the mouth.
I blinked. “Ouch.”
Albus wrapped his arms around her middle and fell back against the wall, taking her with him. He pulled her close, kissing her hard.
I rubbed my head. “Least he’s not breaking the Code,” I grumbled, grabbing the arm of a chair to get up. “Yes, I was attacked. Nobody bloody kisses me…”
“You want a kiss?” asked Bink from the couch. Several people laughed.
“Sure. Where’s Amy?” I grinned.
Fred threw a paper ball at me, but it missed. By like ten meters.
“What happened, anyway?” Bink flopped down on the couch, where I noticed he had been playing chess with Rose. While I was nearly dead in the corridor, bleeding everywhere, he was having a right good time with the girl he was snogging. Way to go, best mate.
I left Albus and Paloma to snog, their bodies now publicly tangled together, and walked over to where the bulk of my Quidditch team was sitting. Even Avery was there, but I avoided her eyes. I explained what had happened with Scorpius, only I seriously exaggerated to make me sound way more like the victim who happened to be unarmed and Albus was a tragic hero. There was wind too.
I liked to think wind was good.
“Are you okay?” Haley asked, peering over the couch, ginger brow raised.
“Back hurts a bit. Couple nasty bruises.” I shrugged. “I’ll be okay. Bink might have to read me a bedtime story.”
“Snuggle night,” Bink snorted, laughing. Rose rolled her eyes.
I glanced over my shoulder and watched my brother grab Paloma around the middle and in one movement, hoist her over his shoulder. He slapped her hard on the ass and carried her toward us.
“Put me down!” she cried, hitting his back. “Albus! Seriously! Someone is going to see up my skirt!”
All of us looked. Albus put his hand there.
Al stopped just short of the group and pointed at Wesley. “You’re a good kid, Wes,” he said. Kid? Wes was one year younger than him. “But if you so much as touch her again, I will hunt you down and hex you into the hospital wing.”
“Like James?” Wes asked with a smirk. I almost punched him.
“Yes. Like James.” Thanks, bro. He patted Paloma on the rear. “That goes for all the rest of you.” Albus shot me a grin. A seriously, truly, happy grin. Then he walked off toward the boys’ dormitories.
“Got a title yet, Al?” I called to him, beaming.
Al didn’t turn around. He started up the steps. “Oy. Paloma. You’re my girlfriend.”
She held tight to his shirt, but I could see the bright smile on her lips. “Yeah, all right,” she said, trying to sound causal and failing terribly. “One condition.”
“What’s that?” They were on the landing.
“Never scare me like that again.”
Albus chuckled. “Can’t promise you that, baby. I live on the right side of the law.” I didn’t see it, but I knew he straightened his Prefect’s badge.
“How was detention?” I asked Fred. We were out on the pitch after practice, the three of us sitting in the grass by the bench. I had no idea why we weren’t sitting on the bench.
He shrugged. “It smelled.” He wrinkled his nose. “How was your second night of walks?”
“Uneventful. Didn’t almost die.” I looked at Bink. “How were your crisps?”
“The second bag was even better than the first,” he noted with a smirk.
I leaned back into the grass. The sky was a cloudless blue and it was actually warm. “You and Rose better stop bloody snogging in the common room.”
“What for?” he asked. “We can’t snog in the dormitory. Or her dormitory.”
“Or,” I said, putting up my index finger, “And hear me out on this one. Or don’t snog at all.”
“I fancy her.” Bink shrugged. “I’m going to snog her all I like.”
“Hugo hex count?”
“Seven.” Bink rubbed his head. “That last one was a bad one.”
Fred chuckled. “It gets worse.”
“Ask her to be your girlfriend.” Fred looked positively giddy. “Some bloke did that two years ago, Rose said yes, and the guy was in the hospital wing for two weeks. He makes James look tame.”
Bink groaned. “You go first,” he said.
“What? Ask Rose to be my girlfriend? That might get a little weird at family gatherings, don’t you think?” Fred asked. Oh, Fred and his addled brains.
“Bloody ask Amy,” Bink shot back. He stretched out his legs. “You two are dating anyway.”
“We’re not dating.”
“You’re going on dates. You’re spending all your time together. You’re not having sex!”
“You’re not having sex with Rose!” Fred shot back.
So, so uncomfortable.
“We’ve already shagged,” Bink said matter-of-factly.
I wanted to die.
“Doesn’t count!” Fred cried.
“Does so. It was good.”
“You didn’t even remember her.”
Bink shrugged. “Bet you haven’t even seen Amy without a shirt.”
“I’m going to shag her! Tonight!” Fred insisted loudly. He looked around. We were still alone. “I’m serious.”
“Fat chance. You’re going to give her flowers.” Bink rolled his eyes. “A dozen pink roses this time. What does yellow mean? Or is that only carnations?”
“Carnations are cheap. Girls don’t like carnations,” I noted.
“I like carnations,” Freddie said.
“You would.” Bink rolled his eyes. “Oy, Potter, did you know Wes is training with your sister?”
“My sister that has a name?”
“Right. Lily.” Bink shrugged. He was still awkward about her since he found out they’d snogged. “Saw them out here this morning training.”
“He teaching her some dives?” I asked. I started plucking grass out of the pitch.
“She was training him.”
Bink nodded. “Yeah, I thought it was weird,” he said. “But seriously. They were out here and she was telling him what to do and he’s answering her like a lovesick puppy.”
I thought about this for a moment. My sister. Training Wesley, who had been on the team months longer than her. Such a strange situation. What did she know about being a Beater?
“Oy, Fred,” Bink said, pointing at the pitch doors. “It’s your girlfriend.” He whined the last word, dissolving into laughter.
Fred flushed red. “We are not together,” he hissed. “We’re going to have sex tonight. I’m serious. And then I’m going to get up and leave right after.” He nodded. “I’m dead serious.”
“Tell her that,” I said, trying not to laugh. Fred looked like a sod. “Go on, tell her.”
“Amy!” Bink called.
Amy looked over from where she was standing with the Ravenclaw Quidditch team. All girls. All girls Fred had shagged and dated. They shot him a very mean look. I made a mental note to ask Amy what that was like. Abigail never seemed fazed, but now she was furious.
I enjoyed that because Abigail was a bitch.
“Come over here!” Bink shouted, smirking. Bink was a smirky thing. He smirked too much. I didn’t like that. I felt that I should smirk more to soften his always smirking. There was just too much smirking coming from his side of the group of friends.
Amy said something to the girls and wandered over to us. She was in jeans and a plain blue shirt with trainers. “What’s going on?” she asked, flicking her hair away from her eyes. The girls were watching with hawk eyes.
“Tell her, Fred,” I insisted, snickering and catching Bink’s eye for a moment. He was red in the face from laughing. And smirking.
“Tell me what?” Amy asked, brows knit together.
Fred scrambled to his feet and kicked me hard in the shin. Why did I have so many bruises? When were people going to stop injuring me? I had to fight back. Where was Albus? He could do my fighting for me so I could just sort of lounge about.
“Hmm?” Amy tilted her head to the side. She was very pretty and smiley.
“I—we’re going to—” Fred’s entire face was red.
I had my fist shoved in my mouth to stop from laughing outright. Bink was doubled over.
How was Fred going to tell this girl, in front of his mates, that he wanted to shag tonight? This ought to be very, very good. I was almost sad more people weren’t around to witness it.
“Amy,” Fred choked, rubbing the back of his neck.
“Yeah?” Amy was snickering, a look of confusion on her face.
“Will you be my girlfriend?” Fred blurted.
Aw, what the fuck?
A/N: Look! Things went right in this chapter! It's a miracle. Okay, so it wasn't Javery, but they're talking. That counts. Totally counts.
Couple of announcements. First: Since I decided to do a sequel to this story, I've completely rearranged the end since I don't have to tie up all of the plots now. Just some of them. So instead of 58-59 chapters, there will be 54. Just wanted to keep all of you updated.
Second: For those of you who haven't heard, my other story is coming to an end, so I have decided to start a brand new next gen. It's a Fred II/OC. It will have a similar humor feel as BTQC so if you like this story, I really hope you'll head over there and check it out. It's called Hormones. It would mean a lot to me because I'm very excited about it :)
Third: I'm putting this chapter up in celebration of my HPFF-versary! It was 7 years on April 3. WILD.
NEXT UP: Fred gets an idea, bonding time, Bink crosses a line, and there is blood.
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