For everyone who took a chance on James, whether you came from Hide & Seek, the forums, the recently added list, or by word of mouth. For the people who told me they use Emerson Punch and Talking Slytherin in their daily life and the person who named their cat Falcon Cat. For Amy, whose favorite character was Freddie. For Haley, who inspired Haley Star and taught me to appreciate everything. For everyone who ever reviewed. For anyone who ever read and reread a chapter. I hope you enjoy the final chapter & join me with the sequel.
UPDATE: The sequel has been posted.
I had grown up watching the open tryouts on television. It was viewed as a parody of tryouts, since the real ones were private and only seen by members of the coaching staff and executives. Those people were there, however. The difference was they were in the lower portion of the stands enjoying a sky blue cooler of what looked to be frozen margaritas. There were also stacks of forgotten sandwiches, which made their rosy cheeks all the more obvious.
In the history of open tryouts, one person had been signed. That happened in year two and it was because the day before, the Wasps Keeper had been critically injured and the reserve had Dragon Pox. The new Keeper lasted one season before he was sent down to the minors. Two reserves had been signed in open tryouts, both practically no-names and both in the third year of open tryouts.
That was way, way before my time.
Now there were more toy brooms than real brooms. I didn’t see any Bludgers. Probably because it would knock a drunk off the bleachers.
I spotted the Tornados coach. Jackson Ballo. He was only thirty, but never took shit. During a game last season he punched the Finches coach in the face for getting lippy. Fined 1,000 Galleons and told the press it was well worth it to shut “Finchie” up. He was always chewing gum.
I recognized a few scouts. The assistant coaches. General manager. Trainer.
The good news was, I had absolutely nothing to lose considering my dignity was already missing.
I climbed onto my broom, fingers tightening on the handle, and kicked off. I kept low to the ground, surveying what was going on around me. It was still a mess. People laughing. Making faces at a few of the cameras. Running after a Snitch. Someone’s pants were falling off. I kept one eye on the executives as I circled the hoop poles, keeping the turns precise. They weren’t going to bother with me for some turns, but everything mattered.
Well, in my head it did. To them the only thing that mattered was strawberry or lime.
Take a breath. Come on.
I’m a Quidditch player.
A damn good one.
I’m James Potter. That has to count for something.
It does. The fact that I can’t get on a team.
I ought to Emerson-punch Mr. Flynn in the face.
Should have done that instead of coming here.
I wonder where he is.
Living it up on Barbados or something.
Hope he steps on a jellyfish.
“Oy – watch it!”
I glanced up and easily caught a Quaffle headed my way. It was thrown past a balding man with a large gut. “Here,” I said, tossing it back. “No harm done.”
He nodded and went back to playing catch with his friend, a scantily clad brunette.
I turned back to the broom, gliding along the far side of the pitch toward the other set of hoops. I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, but ended up sending a quick floating memo to Avery saying I’d be back later. I didn’t want her to worry. She might have thought I’d gone into the showers to drown myself.
More horrible passes. Girls doing catwalk struts for the camera. Guys doing catwalk struts for the camera. If Freddie was here, he’d be doing that.
I circled the other posts, weaving in and out. Bugger. I wasn’t going to be able to do anything with everyone concentrating on the congregation of girls near the execs. And I didn’t have a Quaffle.
But they did.
I stretched my back and floated a little higher toward the hoops. No one was manning them, which wasn’t shocking.
“All right,” I grumbled, lowering against the broom. I kicked the twigs, falling into a fast dive toward the girls. My hair flew back away from my face, warm wind slicing at my cheeks. It was a feeling I craved when on the ground.
That did not sound manly at all.
The girls didn’t notice me until I was only a few meters away. One looked up and shrieked, causing them all to shriek because that was apparently what groups of girls did. Especially ones in tiny triangle bikini tops. It wasn’t even that warm.
Several ducked. A lot of people looked over. More shrieking.
My eyes were on the Quaffle under the arm of a blond girl with freckles on her shoulders. I turned the broom, barrel-rolling between three different girls, and punched the Quaffle through the area between her elbow and ribcage. It shot out, narrowly missing a blond in a rainbow swimsuit, but with another kick to my broom I soared to the left, catching it. I pulled back on the front of the broom and shot away from the girls, leaving them open-mouthed, several sprawled out on the ground.
I reached the hoops and wound up, throwing the Quaffle hard through the left.
I grinned, out of breath, and turned.
The execs were now fighting over the last strawberry margarita and the girls were telling the camera something in a very animated fashion. Probably how I almost killed them.
A couple people on the toy brooms were watching. They grew bored and went back to their catch.
Oh, come on.
Fucking Godric Gryffindor, what does a guy have to do to get a sodding look?
Not have David Flynn as an enemy, apparently.
I knew it was a mistake coming here. I could have been eating lunch with my friends and studying for Charms.
Okay, not studying for Charms.
But I would be at lunch telling myself I should study for Charms.
Or getting hounded by Albus to study for Charms.
Nevermind. He’d be off snogging Paloma and taking his shirt off, the git.
I was hovering near the center hoop, eyes still wandering over the sad excuse for players. A few people were joining the coaching staff and executives, but I ignored it. They were going to dig into the cooler regardless, so I grabbed the Quaffle, floated backward, and started practicing my throws. It wasn’t a waste of time. At least while becoming a laughingstock for showing up here, I could practice my moves for summer Burrow Quidditch.
I threw it through the center hoop. Then the left. Then the right. Then I practiced my fakes, using my core muscles to stretch and get the very edges of the hoop, knocking it in. Those were the best, since the Keeper usually assumes it’s a missed opportunity. Like off the post in ice hockey.
I pushed my shoulders back, now throwing from odd angles above and below where the Keeper would be if he/she was stupid enough not to cut off the throwing angle.
There was a brief cheer and I glanced over my shoulder. Two blokes were doing cartwheels along the edge line. One made it to six before he fell over. The second managed nine.
I fell into another dive since the Quaffle was heading to the sand below, practicing my agility by twirling around the pole and lifting out of the dive with the ball tucked tight in my arm. I took a shot from the bottom of the post and bounced the Quaffle off the very top edge of the hoop, knocking it into the bottom edge and through for a goal.
Not too shabby. Fred would like that one.
He wouldn’t like that I almost fell off my broom after a whistle. Bloody fucking! After securing my balance, I turned.
And found they were staring at me.
It was then I noticed the new additions to the stands. It was the Tutshill Tornados starting roster.
The starting. Fucking. Roster.
Suddenly my mouth was dry. They looked at me. Hell, it was probably to tell me to get the fuck off their pitch and not dirty it up, but they were still looking at me.
I felt like Louis. Come on, Potter. Man up. Stop your fangirling before you start making glitter signs.
They were still staring. It was like a contest. An awkward, nearly-vomit-inducing contest.
“Oy,” shouted Ballo.
Jackson Ballo just spoke to me.
Jackson Ballo just spoke to me again.
Damn right, Lawson. When was the last time Jackson Ballo spoke to you? That’s right. Never. Because you’re a sodding Slytherin.
Yeah, I should probably fly over there.
I retrieved the Quaffle from the sand and quickly flew down the pitch toward where the execs and team sat in the stands. There were fairly quiet, though a few were muttering.
Next to Ballo was Henrik Lindt. He was the Keeper for the Tornados and the team Captain. He’d also worn the number nine since his toy broom league days as a toddler. Known as King Henrik to the fans. And he was staring right bloody at me.
“Yessir,” I said, nodding to Ballo. My neck felt red and it wasn’t because of the sun.
“That shot you just took. Fluke or no?” Ballo’s expression had not changed. He took a sip of a lime margarita through a straw.
“I aimed for it, if that’s what you mean,” I replied.
“I mean can you duplicate it?” He had angry, gray eyes.
“Yessir,” I said with another nod.
Ballo cocked a brow. “You’re confident.”
And it felt like I was about to have a panic attack.
“Lindt, get up there.” Ballo motioned to the hoops.
One of the scouts leaned over and whispered something into Ballo’s ear before Henrik Lindt could move.
And there went everything.
Ballo’s face hardened. “Turn around, kid.”
I did as I was told.
My name was sprawled across the back of my Gryffindor robes.
And David Flynn.
When I turned back, they were still staring.
“Lindt, I said get up there.”
“Let’s see you do it again, Potter,” Ballo said indifferently.
Henrik Lindt hoisted himself off the bleacher seating and walked down toward the pitch. He stopped just shy of the bench where there was a store cupboard for the players while games were going on. That way trainers didn’t have to run back to the locker rooms for extra equipment. He pulled out a broom.
“You ready?” he asked me. He was as good as Ballo with keeping his expression nonchalant.
“Don’t have a choice, your majesty.” I mustered up my terror and turned it into a sly grin.
To my surprise, he shot it back. “Don’t you forget it.” Lindt mounted his broom and headed for the hoops. Everyone had stopped goofing off and the cameras were pointed at him.
Okay. No big deal, right?
Score on one of the best Keepers in the league. His nickname wasn’t for fun. This guy was a beast. He posted a save percentage of 97% last season. He even scored a goal at one point. It was hard enough getting a Quaffle past Avery.
I tightened my jaw. Just throw the Quaffle. I had absolutely nothing to lose.
Not a thing.
I kept close to the ground, hands on the Quaffle instead of my broom. I ran my fingers over the grooves. It was an older ball, used in several games by the feel of it. Probably pick up games in the rec league and then given to those girls, who looked to know very little about the sport. They did know a lot about tanning oil, though.
Lindt hovered in front of the center hoop, his eyes on me.
I circled the left pole. Then the middle, pressing my palms into the Quaffle hard. There wasn’t enough air in it. Maybe that had forced it to go left inside the hoop instead of right.
Without glancing up to get my positioning, I threw the Quaffle as hard as I could to where I thought the left hoop was. Then I looked up, hoping I’d gotten it right out of instinct.
Lindt looked startled, grasping the end of his broom and kicking the back, moving toward the top of the hoop. His hand reached out, trying to knock the Quaffle away, but he missed by inches. It bounced off the inside of the top, then flew toward the bottom. Lindt tried to kick it out with his boot.
It was too late.
The Quaffle went through.
And for the second time this week, I heard cheers on a Quidditch pitch.
What a day.
My back was killing me. I had Bink-worthy burns on my arms and face.
I left my gear and broom in the locker room. It was a habit, even though I could have cleaned it out by now. Bink and Freddie already had, their last names gone from the tape above each locker. Avery’s was still full.
I’d get there eventually. Maybe I’d even get a few more night practices in just to clear my head.
I pulled on a new shirt – red, like most of my wardrobe – and made the trek back to the castle. It was drizzling, a far cry from the heat and sunshine in Tutshill. Because of that, no one was out and about. Usually before exams I’d see speckles of Ravenclaws lounging on a blanket studying. They were probably all inside.
After grabbing some food in the kitchens, I headed upstairs. The building was quiet. Also probably due to studying. I’d never understand that.
Lily was standing outside of the portrait hole. “Avery said you left her a note,” she said, eyes on me. “Where’d you run off to?”
“Why?” I asked. “Are you upset I could escape and you were stuck pouring over Potions notes?”
“Don’t get cheeky.” Lily was leaning against the wall, foot tapping impatiently. “For a while I thought you’d gone to find Mr. Flynn.”
“That was a close second,” I said.
“So where were you anyway?”
“Just needed to get away for the day,” I said, moving past her and uttering the password. “Had to clear my head. I’m sure you understand.”
“Feel better?” She followed me into the common room, which was also filled with people studying.
“Yeah. You know what? Yeah, I do.” I ruffled her hair, receiving a disgruntled look in return. “Do me a favor?”
“Sure.” Lily flattened her hair with her palms and stepped around a couple fourth years.
“Tell the team I want to have a brief meeting?” I smiled a little. “I was going to wait to name the captain, but I want to do it today.”
“Oh, okay.” Lily hugged me around the middle. “It’s going to be okay, James.”
“Yeah, I know.” I kissed the top of her head. “I’ll meet you downstairs.”
I looked around at my team, thoughts centered on how far we had come together. We made it through dive-bomb Hufflepuffs and well-aimed hexes. Through balding experiences, Code-breaking, and things that threatened to break friendships. But we made it.
Everyone looked anxious. Probably because I hadn’t let anyone in on my decision for captain. I hadn’t discussed it with a soul. Not even Avery. It was something I spent weeks on, drafting pro / con lists and watching my players constantly. I watched every movement, every quality, and every play. I needed a captain who could take control and lead the team to a win.
And it became more and more obvious who that person was going to be.
“How are you?” Avery asked from beside me, the words coming from the corner of her mouth.
“Better,” I said with a nod. “Got some air.”
“Good.” Her lips twisted into a tiny smile. “Need help studying?”
“Studying is for Ravenclaws,” I said. “I’ll just ask Freddie for help since he’s practically a Claw already.”
“Amy sends her love,” Fred said with a smirk.
“All right team.” I clapped my hands together and stood, eyes circling the table. “First of all, I want to tell you how admirably you played in the Final. All of you looked much better in the game than you had in practice, and that’s really saying something. That comeback victory was something you can’t make up.” I looked to my fellow Chasers. “And that last minute goal saved us.”
“I’m pretty sure I almost had a panic attack,” said Paloma, wrinkling her nose. “You had to be freaking out.”
“Knowing there aren’t shoot-outs in the Final?” I said. “Yeah. It would have depended on the points going into the game. And Slytherin would have won. So I owe a lot to these two.”
“Considering you got twelve goals, I think it’s the other way around,” Bink said.
“For everyone who doesn’t know, Legace got a tryout for the Wasps reserve team,” I announced and Bink got several pats on the back. “And Aves for the Harpies.” Applause. I smiled at both of them. “You deserve it. Seriously.”
“Thanks, mate.” Bink nodded. “You’ll get yours.” He swallowed hard as he said it.
I didn’t reply, not wanting to think about his words. “So. Captain.”
Everyone sat up a little straighter. Even Haley Star, who was examining her nails.
“This decision was very difficult for me,” I started after taking a sip of the water before me. “There are three people on this team not graduating. Longbottom gave me hell for that, but we won the Cup so he can sodding stop complaining. It’s in his office.”
“Focus,” Avery said.
“Right. Yes.” I ran my fingers through my messy hair. It needed cut. “Anyway. Any of you could do it justice, really. But one person stood out.”
“The Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, starting in the fall, is my sister, Lily Potter.”
“What?” Lily said, her lips parting. She sounded like she was choking.
“Congrats, Captain,” I said, grinning at her. “You earned it.”
“I’m so confused,” she said, but barely managed to get it out before she was being hugged by Bink and Freddie. It was sort of an awkward joint effort and I wanted to hex Bink considering he had kissed her before. The perv.
Avery reached over and squeezed my hand. “Good choice, Captain.”
It was way too hot when she called me Captain. That needed to stop right now.
“Thanks.” I made a face and hugged Lily, pulling her into my chest. “Well done, baby sister.”
“But aren’t I negative seven?” she asked.
“Negative six now.” I ruffled her hair.
“Can I ask why?” she said. “I only just joined this term. How do you know I’ll be okay?”
I laughed. “Lily, you’ve got it all,” I said. “You have leadership abilities, you have authority, and you know the game. You know what you need to sacrifice to play the game.” Hell, she played with a broken arm. “You’re completely capable.”
“And you’ll help over the summer?” she asked, confidence waning.
“Of course.” I nodded, considering I was going to wait until after the meeting to tell her that was mandatory and she wasn’t going to Captain without training from me. But I’d let her think it was her idea. “What does everyone think of this decision?”
“Brilliant,” said Wes, though I could tell he was disappointed not to get named Captain. He could have done a good job, but he let his emotions take over too often.
Paloma nodded. “Lily, I’m so excited,” she said. “Can you keep team meetings in here? I love the eclairs.”
“Laps!” Lily cried and Paloma gasped. “Just kidding. I’ve just always wanted to try that.” She grinned, freckles rising on her cheeks. “Sure. We can keep tradition.”
“Aces.” I moved back into my seat, grinning from ear to ear. “Absolute fucking aces.” I took a bite of the croissant in front of me. “Do you have any goals as Captain, Lils?”
“Win,” she said with a smirk.
“Can you remove the Code?” offered Wesley.
“You won’t be on the team long enough,” I shot at him. “Watch it.”
Wesley smirked at me. “Only joking, James.”
“Make him bald if he acts up,” I told Lily. “Or just tell me and I’ll come back to school and make him do laps. That is if I pass the NEWTS. If not, I’ll be Captain again.”
“Anyone want to help James study?” Lily asked, laughing.
“Dear Godric I hate studying,” I whined. “Someone talk about something else. I break out in hives thinking about Transfiguration.”
“There was an interesting article in the Prophet today,” Avery said in a sing-song voice. Her cheeks were pink and she was grinning.
“What kind of interesting article?” Freddie asked. “Was it about the Ministry because if it was you’re lying.”
“Through your teeth,” Bink added.
“Kind of,” Avery said. “But not entirely.”
“How about horses?” Freddie guessed. “Was it about horses? We should get a horse.”
“And put it where?” Bink said flatly.
“Your bed. No one else has been in it lately.” Fred shot him a cheeky smirk and got punched in the arm.
I still didn’t know what was going on between him and Rose. I’d have to ask later since they were too drunk at the party.
I’d also have to ask if Freddie had proposed to Amy yet. Seemed natural.
“Not about horses,” Avery said loudly, cutting the boys off as they started to punch each other. “It was about my father.”
I raised a brow, very interested.
“He’s been arrested.”
My team was good at the silence thing today.
“Terms?” I asked.
“Money laundering, stealing team property, and reselling items to make a profit,” Avery explained, pulling an article from her pocket. She unfolded it on the table. Sure enough, the headline said it all:
D. Flynn arrested after thievery
I couldn’t hide the shit-eating grin on my face.
“Where’s he been taken?” asked Lily.
“Ministry prison,” Avery explained, pointing to the bottom of the article. “Holding cell on the prison level.” She grinned and then looked around. “Oh. Shit.”
That was when Avery, Lily, and I realized we hadn’t been completely honest with why the Quidditch Final was my last game.
So I cleared my throat, focused my eyes on the knots in the table, and explained. All of it. I started with Avery and I together and my own discussions with Mr. Flynn. Then his threats, warnings, and eventually my own undoing.
“I still don’t understand,” Avery said after the room had been overwhelmed with stunned expressions. “I don’t get why I got an offer from the Harpies to try out.”
“You were just too good,” I said with a smile.
I probably should have told her. We broke up before from me not being completely honest with her, but that was one thing I wasn’t going to ruin. She played her heart out. And hell, maybe it wasn’t even my letter that did it. Maybe the scout just looked a little harder at Avery Flynn and even harder at his own lack of a solid Keeper. I’d never know if I really did have something to do with it. And I didn’t want to.
“We should write him a letter,” said Freddie in a loud voice.
“Who? My father?”
“Sure!” Fred grabbed a piece of parchment out of his bag. “Okay. Someone tell me what to write.”
“Dear Flynnie,” Bink started with a nod. “Yes, that’s good. Go with that unless we can think of a better nickname. Or Davie. How about Davie Flynnie?”
“Ask him about the light bulb quality in his cell,” I said, shooting Avery a grin.
“Tell him about the marvelous weather,” said Lily.
“It’s raining,” Wes added.
“Tell him it’s marvelous weather,” Lily said, kicking Wes under the table.
My sister. Already kicking!
“Definitely put in all about Avery’s tryout,” said Bink. “In detail. That it’s the Hollyhead Harpies.” He paused. “No, spelled like holly. Still wrong, twat.”
“Do you want to write this?” Fred asked, flustered. “I’m the writer.”
“Just keep going,” I said, rolling my eyes.
“Put in what happened at the Quidditch final,” said Haley. “I’m sure he didn’t get a chance to see it. In specifics, too. About how James scored twelve goals.”
“You can add in details about the goals too,” offered Avery, reaching over and squeezing my hand. “Especially that eighth goal. What a beauty.”
“Story of my life,” I said, still smirking.
“Anything else?” Freddie said. There was almost a full page written.
“Yeah.” I nodded, letting go of Avery and reaching into my pocket.
“I’m not sending your pocket lint,” Freddie mumbled. “That’s just gross.”
I pulled out a sheet of crisp, white paper, though it had been folded six or seven times to fit in my pocket. I spread it out on the table, flattening it with my palms.
“Can you let him know I have an interview lined up Saturday?” I asked.
“Sure.” Fred scribbled a little. “Should I say who it’s with?”
“Press conference,” I said, still smoothing out the paper.
“Got it.” He dotted a couple i’s and looked up at me. “Will he know what that means?”
“Better just tell him.” My chest was starting to hurt from my heart racing so fast. My mouth was dry. “You should tell him it’s an announcement.”
“That … it’s … announcement …” Freddie nodded. “Got it.”
“What kind of announcement?” Lily asked curiously.
“Just the casual kind,” I said, shrugging, aware everyone’s eyes had shifted from Fred’s letter back to me. “Let him know the Tutshill Tornados are announcing their new starting Center.”
Avery’s lips parted.
I looked to Freddie. “Add in on the very last line that it’s me.”
UPDATE: The sequel, Decoding the Tutshill Tornados, has been posted.
A/N: And now you know why I mentioned the sequel would take place directly after this story. Originally, I hadn't anticipated ending it there, but it ended itself. James sort of dictates. Always has (muffins in the oven? Puh-lease). The sequel will pick up where this story leaves off.
I want to take a quick moment to say thank you to everyone who has followed this story, whether you just discovered it or you started reading from chapter one. I appreciate it more than any of you know and far more than I can dictate. This is my break from stress and chaos and all of you make it so worth every chapter.
This story is my baby. James is my baby (awkward). I appreciate you taking a chance on it because it's quite a leap from normal. I also appreciate everyone who has taken a chance on my other stories, Hormones (Fred II / OC) and 30 Days of You & Me (ScoRose). It means the world.
I would love to hear what everyone thought of this chapter. Or the story as a whole. Or the idea of Freddie cat-walking up to a camera. Thank you again!
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