For Golden Snitch. But James disagrees because you called him Jamie.
I was running on adrenaline and beef sticks.
I took the stairs two at a time, sometimes three when the second stair had something strange and sticky on it. Avery and her mum lived in a flat complex with sketchy shrubbery out front and an odd smell in the hallway. That was probably why she never let me spend much time there. I knew it embarrassed her, going there. Seeing the size of her room in comparison to the size of mine. My house. My family.
The truth was, it never mattered. I liked her flat much better than my house. She had a way of setting up her things – displaying possessions that meant a great deal to her and tucking away memories she didn’t want. She hid things away in boxes, shoved back under her bed to the wall. That was where I found the documents about her father.
Ugh. David Flynn. What a sleeze and a half.
Mrs. Flynn tried her best to make it seem like they were as normal as could be. She picked up wonderful paintings at flea markets and decorated the flat. She cooked amazing meals that never left me wanting. She let us help bake brownies and cupcakes and chocolate chip cookies. At one point she gave me an apron, which I still believe is hanging in the hall closet. It may or may not have been a salon pink. More of a light red, really.
Flat 724. I knocked, hard. Harder than I probably should have been but I was winded from climbing stairs and playing Quidditch and snogging Artemis.
Godric, why did I do that? Stupid Jack.
When the door was pulled open, it wasn’t Avery behind it. It was Mrs. Flynn. She was wearing a white blouse and oven mitts and a confused expression. Couldn’t blame her. I hadn’t seen her much since graduation, just a couple of visits. It was probably no secret I wasn’t Avery’s favorite person.
“Is Avery home?” I half-gasped. Did I not work out enough? Stupid stairs. Stupid Jack.
Mrs. Flynn frowned and shook her head. “I’m sorry, James. She’s out.”
On a date. Not a date with Cooper because he was at the tournament and he was her coach and there absolutely had to be some sort of Code forbidding that sort of treason. And gittery.
“Did you want to come in and wait for her?” Mrs. Flynn pulled the door all the way open.
I smelled cookies. Cookies with raison. Twist my arm, woman.
I looked up. Her eyes were full of pity. “And wait for her to come home from her date?” I replied. “I don’t know if that’s the best idea.”
“Just come inside. I’ve barely seen you this summer, unless you count on the cover of all those magazines.” She grabbed my hand with her red oven mitt and practically pulled my arm out of its socket. Then she closed the door and walked right back into the kitchen. I followed obediently. “When’s your first game anyway, darling? Soon, I hope.”
“Preseason is just a couple weeks away,” I said. “Just played in a tournament this weekend.”
“Tournament?” Mrs. Flynn said, moving to the stove. She peeked into the small oven window, frowned, and shook her head. “I didn’t hear about that from Avery.”
“It’s more of a tradition,” I said, looking around for something to help with. Everything was tidy and put away. I shouldn’t have expected any less. Mrs. Flynn was a bit of a neat freak and control freak. She had to be, micromanaging everything once stupid sodding David Flynn took off. “Just for the pro teams across the world. Just some fun, two matches per team to sort of feel each other out and get to know the other players.”
“Eventful nightlife then?” She smirked.
“I missed you.” I laughed and hopped up onto the counter like I used to.
“You’ve no idea.” She grew quiet for a moment and wiped down a couple plates before placing them in the cupboard. My eyes followed her. The resemblance between her and Avery was unnatural. “I suppose it was selfish of me to ask you in.”
“Who’s she out with?” I asked. If there was anyone I could be natural with, it was Mrs. Flynn. She’d watched so much over the years and I knew how much Avery respected her mother. She probably knew everything aside from a few details. I wasn’t sure how much Aves had told her about Mr. Flynn’s involvement.
“I don’t know if we should be discussing it,” she replied. She didn’t look at me.
“I understand.” I didn’t. Tell me. Tell me. I wanted to hex the bloody eyeballs out of whoever had the guts to take Avery Flynn on a date. And I fully intended on it.
Unless it was like the Minister or something. Then I would have to sort of rethink that tactic.
Or have Dad do it.
“I only met him when he came to collect her,” Mrs. Flynn said, checking the oven window once again. Still avoiding my eyes. “He looked nice enough.”
Ah ha. There it was.
“Nice enough?” I prompted. “Synonymous with complete and bloody tool?”
Mrs. Flynn smiled a little. She pulled the cookies from the oven (oatmeal raison) and used a wide spatula to stack them on a cooling tray. Each one made a small clang. “Something was off about him.”
“Okay,” I said. “Just tell me it wasn’t Emerson Edwards or Cooper Bradley?”
She shook her head. “No, no. I can’t remember his name now, but it wasn’t either of those. I’ve never heard her mention him. She said she’d only just met him a couple days ago in the market. She dropped an orange and he picked it up for her.”
“Market?” I said. “Diagon market? Or Muggle market?”
“Diagon,” Mrs. Flynn explained, finishing the last of the cookies and tossing the mitts to the counter beside the sink. “He’s a wizard. She said he liked Quidditch too. He used to go to Hogwarts, though I think before your time.”
“He’s old!” I cried.
“I’m not sure,” she said, shaking her head. “I don’t know how old he is. But she said he’s sweet and asked her out and how could she say no?”
I made a disgruntled noise through my noise. How could she say no? I’ll bloody tell you how she could say no. In several hundred languages. NO. It’s easy. Tell him he’s a sod for picking up an orange and tell him no. Easy. Ugh. Fucking hell.
“She should be home soon. Why don’t you see if something is on the television? Do you like it? It’s new.” Mrs. Flynn steered me into the living room where one couch and chair were facing a flat screen television above the fireplace. She was bouncing on the tips of her feet, excited.
“I do,” I replied, flopping down on the sofa. “When didja get it?” I grabbed the remote.
“Just last week. I came into a little extra money.” She beamed.
“The restaurant gave me a raise.” Mrs. Flynn gave me a blanket (even in a motherly way) and bustled back into the kitchen.
I turned on the television and flipped through the channels for a while, numb to it all.
How could Avery go out with some random bloke? And then of course she’d tell Lily because they were secret spies. And then Lily would go and blab to Albus about it, who is shagging his hot girlfriend and Paloma probably knows now too.
Knows how bad I’ve messed up.
Knows that Avery Flynn is going out with another man and I’m sitting on her sofa like an old maid waiting to hear about the first kiss. Was it good? Too wet? Sloppy? Teethy?
The idea of someone else kissing her was forcing me to press the buttons on the remote a little too hard. I stopped on a show about sharks. I liked sharks. Who didn’t like sharks?
What was I? Was I a smaller fish or a shark? Who was this date?
He was a fish. He was definitely a fish. Picking up bloody oranges at the market. What a fish thing to do.
I fell asleep sometime during the big shark chase with two great white sharks and one boat. Was this even real anymore?
I woke around eleven. A key in the door. The knob turning.
Most of the room was dark. Mrs. Flynn must have turned out the lights. The television was still on, though muted. Now it was a show about the Amazon. The light flickered across the walls. I was groggy and leaned up onto my elbows to see who it was. To see her.
Avery pushed open the door, her back to it. “I had a nice time,” she said softly. Probably not trying to wake her mum. I couldn’t see the bloke.
“That it then?” he said. Hmm.
“What? What’s wrong with that?” Avery asked. Her hand was still on the knob. The door was open maybe a quarter of the way. She was wearing jeans and a light blazer jacket. Casual date. Good. No dinner and dancing at a rented out museum.
“Let’s do this again.”
“Sure,” Avery said.
“Can I kiss you?”
I may have leapt off the couch. Then I may have leapt over the couch and lunged at the door.
“Absolutely not!” I cried. Then I tripped over a chair and fell on my face. Graceful.
The door flew the rest of the way open and in that moment too many things happened. Firstly, my body ached. I’d skinned my knee through my pants and hit the side of my face on a table. Who was putting tables there? Secondly, Avery almost fell back with shock. The door flew the rest of the way open. She let go of the knob. I finally had a look at the bloke who had taken her out and let me be quite frank when I say I wasn’t expecting who was on the other side of her.
“Look who it is,” Mason said with a smarmy grin. “James Potter.”
“Mason.” I attempted to collect myself and straighten up, but my knee hurt. Really sodding bad. And it was still dark in there. “You absolute piece of filth.”
“What a mouth.” He was still smirking. Arrogantly. Like Twataso on steroids. With Quidditch. “Do you speak to Miss Flynn this way?”
“How did you know I knew her?” I asked.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Mason said in a very practiced way.
Avery’s hands went to her hips. “Someone had better tell me what is going on right now. Why do you know each other and why on earth are you in my flat, James?”
“Mum invited me in,” I said. Defensively. She did! There were cookies involved as a form of bribery, I couldn’t be trusted.
“James and I have a brief connection,” Mason explained.
“In that he threatened me,” I shot back.
“In that I am a reserve for the Tornados,” he finished.
Great. He was going to feed her all of this shit and she was going to believe him because she was sour with me and it was going to be like a bad chapter of a romance novel. She would hit me for accusing such an upstanding bloke of something so terrible and he would laugh at me behind her back and ask her out on another date and… was this Emerson all over again? Wow, how does this happen to me?
“I’m sorry?” Avery said, turning to Mason. “We’ve just been out the entire evening, talking, and you never once mentioned you played professional Quidditch. Not once. In fact, when I asked what you did you said you got to do what you love and entertain people. Then I asked again and you changed the subject to me. All night you made me talk about me.”
Mason looked a little taken aback. “What’s wrong with that? I like to know about you.”
“Right.” Avery rolled her eyes. “What’s this about then? Why have you threatened James?”
“No idea what you’re talking about. Potter is a raving lunatic is all. He got on the team by luck.”
“James was my captain,” Avery shot back, her tone sharp. “He deserves to be on that team. He made it fair and fucking square and if you’re threatening one of my friends I would like to know why.” She paused. “Reserve. Ah. Got it. You’re jealous.”
“I don’t have to take this,” Mason said. “I have plenty of information.”
Avery stared. “You took me out to get dirt on myself and James. You took me out to start planting seeds to get him off the team.”
Mason’s smirky smile was back. “And you told me just what I needed to know.”
“We didn’t talk about James the whole night,” she said.
“Just now.” He wiggled his finger back and forth between Avery and me. I was still standing back by the table. “Him being here and you coming to his rescue. The tension in this room is immeasurable.” He chuckled. “It was a pleasure doing business with you, Miss Flynn.”
There are times I’d love to take control. I would have loved, in that moment, to use my wand and cast so many spells on him he’d fade into himself. I wanted to lunge and him and beat him into a pulp for so much as thinking of using Avery. I wanted to just kick him really hard in the shin. Drop him off a building. I wanted to tell him what I thought about his silly games.
Unfortunately for me, I was always too late.
Avery grabbed him by the collar and shoved him back into the hall. She slammed him into the wall, her knuckles pressed tight into his neck. “You listen to me, Mason,” she breathed. “I am not the sort of woman you can play games with. By all means, take my information and do what you will with it, but that will never, ever make you the player James is. And the person he is. So you’d better get lost and sodding do your worst.” Then my darling Avery Flynn got him with a right hook to the jaw.
Blood everywhere. Godric, she was amazing.
He stumbled, grabbing his mouth and nose and staggered down the hall. Down the stairs. Out of the building and for the night, out of my life.
“You just hit my reserve,” I said, but I was grinning like an idiot.
“I’m sorry,” Avery said. She moved back into the flat and flipped on a light. “I had no idea who he was. He was just nice to me. Of course he was.” She groaned and rolled her eyes. “You’re bleeding too you know.”
“Yes, well, a little blood never hurt anyone, did it?” I looked down. Okay, it was a lot more than a little. And it hurt.
“C’mon, Potter.” She took my arm and led me to the kitchen to clean it up. The cookies were in a sealed container by the sink. She handed me one and I hopped onto the counter so she could fix me up properly. “What’re you doing here then?”
“I needed to see you,” I explained. The adrenaline from the tournament was gone. “I played in a tournament this weekend. I needed to see you. To talk to you. I needed…”
“Shh.” Avery cut away the part of my jeans the blood had soaked and put a bandage over my cut. “We don’t have to talk about it now.” She had her bottom lip between her teeth.
“I can’t do this anymore,” I whispered. I felt like my body was breaking just being in the same room as her. “I can’t keep living like this.”
“What’re you talking about?” Avery asked. She straightened and grabbed a bag of peas from the freezer. I winced when they went over my cut. “James, can this wait? I’ve had a trying night.”
“No.” I placed my finger under her chin and forced her to look at me. “It can’t wait. I came here because it couldn’t wait.” Her eyes were flickering across my face. “I made a mistake. A mistake so big that I nearly lost us the first game of the tournament. I played like complete shit because I can’t concentrate. I’m not myself. I’m a shell of myself.”
“I don’t know what that means.” She tapped her nails against the counter.
“It means I’ve been trying to think of something since I joined the Tornados,” I said. My voice was higher than I wanted it to be. “Trying to think of a way to link my former life to my new life and I can’t find it but I can’t keep fighting like this. I’m tired. I’m a Quidditch player and damn it I am not giving you up. I don’t care what I said before and I don’t care what is going to happen in the future. I don’t want to kiss anyone else. I don’t want to be with anyone else or flirt with anyone else or hold hands with anyone else. I just want you. That is all I want.” I was out of breath. The room was hazy and maybe it was because of blood loss or maybe it was because I had the most beautiful girl in the history of beauty in front of me, her green eyes soaking into mine.
“I don’t understand,” she whispered.
“Neither do I,” I said. I grabbed her and pulled her toward me, kissing her hard.
My knee exploded in pain but I kissed her. Again and again and my fingers were in her hair and her arms were around my neck and I couldn’t so much as breathe. Everything was foggy, both in my head and out. Avery Flynn was in my arms again and I was never letting her go. I didn’t care what loopholes I had to find and what sacrifices I had to make.
She was my best friend. My everything.
We kissed for a long time. So long that her legs began to tremble under her and I pulled her onto the counter, in my lap. And we kissed again, my hand steadying her hip.
I didn’t care right then. I didn’t care about anything other than this girl who had been with me through so much. Growing up at Hogwarts together. Quidditch practice and games and finals and hoisting the Cup. Through her father’s terror and our own hormones. The hospital wing and Italy and our families and our trial run at a relationship. They say no one’s perfect, but I don’t know who they are. Avery Flynn was perfect.
Perfect for me.
Avery’s breathing was unsteady when she finally pulled away and her hair was messy. She blinked a few times. Her eyes were locked with mine. “What have you been hiding from me?” she asked.
I hadn’t expected that, but I wasn’t surprised.
“Too much,” I replied. My body ached.
“C’mon.” She took my hand and hopped off the counter. She helped me off and I limped with her down the hallway into her bedroom.
It was the same as it had been every time I’d been there over the years. Bed in the far corner. Window to the right. Wardrobe on the same wall as the door. Posters of Quidditch teams and players and hundreds of pictures of her mates. So many of her and me making goofy faces. Avery loved to document what we’d done – the adventures we’d gone on. I’d forgotten so many of them happened.
She closed the door and locked it. Then Avery flipped on the small lamp on her bedside table.
“Why didn’t you kiss Mason?” I asked. I stood by the door, unsure of where this was going. Where she was going.
“There was something…off.” Avery shrugged. She closed the blinds and pulled off her shirt. She was wearing an inappropriately thin tank top under it. I could see her bra through it. Godric help me.
“How do you mean, off?”
“I knew he was changing the subject to not talk about himself,” Avery explained. “No bloke does that unless he has a reason. Criminal. Hermit. Famous. Whatever. But if someone can’t be honest with me, I don’t trust them. Definitely not enough to give them a snog.” She wiggled off her pants.
Godric. Godric. Godric.
I looked away, my face on fire. Every bit of me was on fire.
“Besides, I’m used to you anyway.” The wardrobe door creaked as it opened. “You are always open and honest about yourself. You’re not ashamed of it. So if he had a reason to be I had a perfect reason not to snog him.” She laughed. “Go on and turn around. I’ve put on clothes.”
“Good.” She was now wearing a pair of pajama shorts which were not covering much more.
“C’mon. We’re going to bed and we’re going to talk. You’re going to tell me the truth, James Potter, or I will kick you out of bed.”
“That’s quite the motivation,” I said, watching her climb under the covers. She pulled them up to her neck and gave me a very sassy smile. I missed that. So many times since graduation I’d seen frowns from her. Those smiles were like currency.
I pulled off my shirt and pants and crawled under the blankets beside her. It was warm already. Her body was warm as she curled around me, her head on my chest, arm draped over my stomach, leg twisting with mine. Just like we’d always done as mates.
We were never truly mates, were we? Just biding our time until one of us figured it out. The truth.
“Tell me what you’re keeping from me,” Avery whispered. I felt her breath against my chest. Her fingers began making circles on my ribcage. “There is a reason you have been so distant, isn’t there? There is a reason I should forgive you for being a complete and total tool.”
I frowned and squeezed my eyes shut. “You probably shouldn’t forgive me,” I replied. “But it’s something you should understand at the very least. But forgive… that is on your shoulders. Though I have always known you to find the good in people.”
“Sometimes to my own demise,” she said.
I wrapped an arm around her, my fingers moving lightly through her hair. “There is a reason I pulled away.” I cleared my throat. I had to be honest. Tell her the truth. “After graduation I was starting to see clearly again. I knew we were back on track with our friendship. We were moving past everything. I was ready to fight again. For us.”
“And then something happened,” Avery said. “I knew something happened.”
“It’s the Tornados,” I said.
I squeezed my eyes tight again. “It’s the Tornados,” I repeated. “They have a … Code. And the penalties for breaking it are slightly more severe.”
“You have got to be fucking kidding,” Avery said. To my surprise, she was snickering. The kind of laugh when you have entertained the possibility of the impossible.
“It is against the Code to date a member of an opposing team,” I explained. “This includes reserves and the professional team itself.”
“And the consequence?”
“For the rest of the Code, it’s a three-strike system with mini punishments Henrik didn’t elaborate on. But the third strike for those and the first strike for dating an opposing team member…” I paused and my teeth moved together. “I get benched. I don’t get to play. A reserve gets my slot. For one game. And each time it happens, basically as long as it’s ongoing, I am benched.”
“So you don’t just go bald?” Avery asked. She was poking at me now and I twitched.
“I’d much rather go bald,” I said.
“Well.” She cleared her throat and sighed hard against my skin. “That would make sense as to why you pulled away after I had a tryout. Why you snuck in to see how it went. Why you have been a complete jerk.”
“That would be why,” I mumbled. My face was red again.
“Thought of any loopholes?”
“Not one,” I said. “I’ve been trying. Ali has been helping me.”
“Ali? Your teammate? That American girl?”
I nodded. “She’s a good person. You’d get along well with her. Funny and smart.”
“And?” Avery said.
“And what? American? Cheeky?”
“Is she pretty?”
I looked down. “What?”
“I’m teasing, James. Hell.” She laughed and propped herself up for a moment just to kiss me. “I don’t give a shit if she’s pretty or not. She’s not me.” Saucy woman.
“Too right you are, Aves.” I kissed her again. And again.
“What’re we doing then?” she asked. “And don’t bloody say snog buddies again or I will do more physical harm to your body.”
I shook my head and fell back into the pillows. “I wish I knew,” I whispered. “Tonight, let’s just not know, okay? I have the day off from practice tomorrow since they were anticipating a great deal of hangovers, so for tonight let’s just not. Let’s just be us tonight and get back to…us.”
She smiled. “Let’s just be us.” Avery settled back in and resumed twirling her fingers around on my skin. “So who did you kiss last night that made you feel so unnaturally guilty?”
My face flushed again. “How on earth do you do that?”
“I’ve known you a long time, James.”
I groaned. This woman, I swear. She was something else. “Artemis.”
“The bitchy one?”
I nodded. “The bitchy one.”
She burst out laughing and I prodded her.
“Not funny! It is not funny! I was very drunk and depressed and Jack had told me to go back to the hotel and rest after fucking up the game and I was just not having it!”
Avery wouldn’t stop laughing so I poked at her some more. And then grabbed her sides to tickle her and then somehow kissed her again and that was what we did for a very, very long time.
Tonight was ours.
A/N: Look at all that Javery in one chapter. LOOK AT THAT.
Thank you all for reading. And just so you know, I know I'm behind in answering reviews. Like, way behind. But no worries. I'll get to every single one of them as promised. I'm still settling in in my new city with my new puppy and my new job. But I'm writing and posting!
Feel free to check out the other 3 stories I'm posting if you have down time between chapters of this beastie.
To answer the questions - No, I don't know how long this will be yet, though I do have a lot of exciting twists and turns and subplots.
Please let me know your thoughts :)
UP NEXT: The night ends. Reality sets in. Bink and Freddie are really effing confused.
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