I want to thank everyone who nominated and voted in the 2013 Dobby Awards. Breaking the Quidditch Code earned a Dobby for Best Villain. Who knew David Flynn was finally good for something? THANK YOU SO MUCH. *sobs*
It started how I knew it would. I could see the press lined up at the end of our drive where the Potter grounds barrier ended. Stupid, really, considering the whole family could Aparate to work and where the hell were Lily and Albus going to go? They had Floo anyway.
Avery owled me two days later saying the press had cornered her twice and had been to visit her mum no less than ten times. They wanted the dirt on her. On both of us.
At a casual press conference where Ballo introduced our new padding, sponsored by some broom-cleaning company, I had several questions about Avery Flynn. It didn’t take them long to figure out she was a reserve for the Harpies and that we’d been on the same team in school. I put on my charming, douche smile and told them Avery was going through a hard time and we agreed to get away since we didn’t get to see much of each other anymore. I repeated that we were just friends and that Avery was seeing someone else, something we agreed on the night before. The press didn’t look convinced, but they didn’t have firm enough evidence to dispute it. Henrik was tense in his chair beside mine.
It was almost a full week later when I ran downstairs because someone was pounding on the door of the flat. Usually people just walked in – especially my family. Lily had a sick pleasure of catching Bink watching rom-coms.
I yanked back the door to find Ali on my doorstep, hair soaked from the rain.
“It was fucking MASON.” She shoved past me and into the stairwell.
“What was Mason?” I said, closing the door as the rain started to pound against the cement patio. “Did he get a Twat of the Year Award because I nominated him.”
“Who ratted on you to the press,” Ali said, ringing out her hair and starting up the steps. “I just cleaned out my locker because I have to clean something when I get really bad anxiety.”
“Explains all my ironed workout shirts,” I muttered.
“The day we talked about the little ranch house we were standing in front of my locker,” she said once we reached the top of the stairs. Ali went straight for the dish towels and dabbed her face before using her wand to quickly dry her clothes. “When I was cleaning, I found a tiny microphone in the top corner. The light had been taped over. The wire went up into the lockers, but I tore that shit apart and it went straight to his reserve locker in the row behind mine. Tape was still rolling and everything.”
I was stuck between blinding hatred and being really impressed Ali tore apart the lockers.
“So Mason heard everything and told the press at just the right time,” she finished. “I’m really sorry, James. I should have given him a concussion the last time we practiced with them.”
“At least you’ll get a chance during the first game,” I said, shrugging.
“It might not even be him. It could be one of the other reserves.”
I sank onto the couch, weighing my options. I could kill Mason. That was always an option.
But I was also a sucker, so killing probably wasn’t the best bet. “I have an idea.”
“Does it involve machetes?” Ali said, following when I started into my bedroom. “I think it should, if it doesn’t, by the way.”
I grabbed Victoria’s cage out from under my bed and lobbed it onto the covers. She was purring as I pulled her into my arms. “Tory, look. I need your help. Some ass-hat has decided to have a go at Avery and me and I need some advice.”
She chirped a little and pawed around in my hand.
“Yes, but it’s not like I have a machete,” I whispered. Ali snorted. “I need to put this loser out of commission but also get to keep Avery because before I know it she really IS going to start seeing someone else and then I’ll have to buy a machete. Or make one. I’m sure there’s some DIY tutorial on machete-making.”
“I’ll look,” Ali said.
Victoria continued to purr.
“Of COURSE I have to get her back, what kind of question is that?”
“Is this about Falcon Cat?” I rolled my eyes. “You need to get over that. You’re so stubborn. This is not about you.” I placed her back in the cage because she was no help in this situation.
“Maybe you should take a break for a couple days,” Ali suggested.
“Isn’t that what I just tried to do? Talk about a bust.”
Ali pushed some treats into Victoria’s cage. “No, I mean by yourself. Go back to Hogwarts or take a tour of an ice cream shop or something. Take some time to think.”
“I’ve been thinking too much,” I mumbled. It was true. I had been racking my brain for a week straight trying to figure out how to avoid getting benched for more games. At one point I had the nonsense idea to quit the Tornados.
“How’s your Gryffindor team doing this summer? Do you see much of them?”
“Two of them live with me,” I said. “Technically three if you count my sister.”
“She’s the new Captain, isn’t she? That’s brilliant. How’s she dealing with the authority?”
“She’s not tough enough,” I replied. “She’s going to let Wesley walk all over her because he’s a gushy little man that brings people flowers. Who has time for flowers? It’s Quidditch! It’s serious and bloody and people break arms and I, for one, don’t think flowers make things better. They’re going to lose the damn Cup next year because of Wesley and his flowers.”
I didn’t know if Wesley ever actually brought anyone flowers. Or if he intended on it.
But he COULD.
“Why don’t you check up on them then?” Ali suggested. “I’ll babysit Falcon Cat and Victoria for the day, how about that? Get a little pick-up game with your team going. It’s an excuse to check up on your sister and spend some non-suspicious time with Avery.”
It didn’t sound like a bad idea. Getting Bink on a broom would be even better for him than spending evenings getting escorted home by Gaia.
“I knew you didn’t rat us out,” I said after a while, watching her feed Victoria.
“I could have alerted the press a lot sooner than that without going through all the arrangements for Wyoming,” she replied with a laugh.
“Just watch Victoria around Falcon Cat. She gets jealous.” I ran my fingers through my hair, staring around the room. We had two days of from practice and if the rest of my old, familiar team had something to do, they could deal with it. I was their Captain. Sort of. “Oh! And make sure Falcon Cat doesn’t go flirting with TomCat. Romeo and Juliet my arse.”
It was easier than I thought it would be rangling the group and getting them to the Quidditch pitch at Hogwarts. Things hadn’t changed in the month or so since we’d been gone other than the stands were cleaner than normal and my locker didn’t have my name on it.
To combat this, I took some permanent ink and scribbled my name inside. That new Chaser would have to struggle living up to my greatness. Or at least look at my name the whole damn year.
Everyone brought their brooms and pads and Gryffindor robes (non-pink variety). Paloma asked why I didn’t wear my Tornados robes.
“I’m a Gryffindor here,” I said and was surprised that I got a little choked up about it.
I sent them outside to await orders. All of them left without complaint.
All except Lils.
“Is this for your benefit or mine?” she asked with that sassy smirk she acquired from me. And also Mum.
“Yes,” I replied, nudging her. “Ali thought it would be good for me, but I’d like to think it benefits more than one person.”
“You okay?” Lily leaned against the door and looked up at me. I remembered when she was so young I never wanted her to touch a broom. Less than a year ago.
“Trying,” I replied.
“Avery’s out there,” she said with a smirk. “Seeing someone else my arse.”
“I’d like to play my second game,” I whispered. I wondered if the place was bugged. Mason would bug everything to get his shot at being called up permanently. “It’s just something I needed to do to get away and see you lot again. Having a Hufflepuff as a Captain isn’t easy.”
“I bet not. At least it’s not Darian Bay.”
“Like he could play professionally,” I scoffed.
When we pushed open the door and walked onto the pitch, it was like seven years of Hogwarts all blurred into one moment. I could hardly believe this wasn’t my pitch anymore. It belonged to my little ginger sister who I didn’t think knew what she had achieved. My gaze moved from the stands to the grass to the five players eager to fly.
“What’s the drill, Captain?” Freddie called with a laugh.
I looked over a Lily.
She elbowed me. “You be captain today. I’ll take notes.”
“LAPS!” I called to my cousin. “And also make me a drink!”
We ran drills well into the afternoon and had some fun switching around positions. Bink mooned Avery so Wesley could score a crude goal. Paloma hit Bink over the side of the head with the Beaters’ bat for trying the same tactic with her. Lily was flying great, every so often shouting an order at Wesley or Paloma. I figured she didn’t think she had the right to Captain over the graduates.
Even though I had to go home to the dramatics with the press and Mason and Clara and wondering when the hell Emerson Edwards would pop out of the woodwork, Ali was right.
A weight lifted off my shoulders and for the day, I was just at another practice with my team. My unearthly talented team. I paused to watch some of the dives Bink was doing and the moment Freddie swept the Snitch right from under Lily’s nose.
Avery, of course, was unbeatable. Sometimes I wondered how she could possibly be a reserve. She barely let anything pass, and the ones that did were because she was laughing at something stupid or proving that there was no way I could hit the side of the hoop and NOT have it go in. She was right.
I tried to give everyone the same amount of attention, but it was impossible. My eyes kept straying back to her. How many times in Quidditch practice had I looked at her? Even the times before I realized how I felt?
Bollocks. I’d have to boycott these feelings things because they were getting in the way of my career.
“Captain – permission to fall in the grass?” shouted Wesley, who I was happy was not giving flowers to my sister.
“Permission granted, peasant.”
Lily followed suit with Paloma landing softly behind her. Good on you, Paloma Dove, playing babysitter so I didn’t have to hex anyone on my pitch. Lily’s pitch. The pitch.
Bink and Freddie disappeared into the locker rooms to see if anyone left anything cool in their cubbies. Probably to talk about deep things they didn’t want anyone else to hear as well. Bink had that look in his eyes – the one where it was obvious he was having fun, but he missed it so much it hurt. The one I probably mirrored.
Avery slowed her broom at my side, tucking the spare hairs back into her pony tail. “Good practice for you, Captain?”
“How did I leave this place?” I said.
“They probably wouldn’t let you sleep on the pitch,” she replied. “Oh look, there’s James Potter, weird homeless Quidditch guy.”
“I would be the cool homeless Quidditch guy.”
“With lice in your beard.”
“I don’t have a beard,” I insisted.
Avery shrugged. “Do you feel better? Being here?”
I nodded and shoved some hair away from my face. Damn attacking wind. “I don’t know what I’m supposed to do when I get home, but here it’s nice.” I was also keeping an eye on Wesley as he inched closer to my sister. “It’s familiar.”
“I feel that way sometimes. I love practicing with the Harpies, but it’s weird not being on a team with my mates. Not being able to really joke around during practice.”
We had jokes here and there, but Avery was right. Joking with Ali and Artemis was not the same as throwing a Quaffle at Bink’s head to get him to swerve. Smoke and Monroe were the same. They didn’t even speak during practice unless it was to ask someone for a cigarette or call someone a shit for not rolling in a dive properly. Smoke had three awards for dive-rolls.
Everything was different, but it was adult. It was the big-leagues and how could I possibly be bitching about having everything I’ve ever wanted?
Except I didn’t.
“Don’t even say it,” Avery said, shaking her head as she drifted toward where Lily, Wesley, and Paloma were sitting.
“What? I wasn’t saying anything. I was going to call and check on Falcon Cat because I have this feeling Ali would totally cave and let her make eyes at TomCat.”
Avery turned, looking back at me. “C’mon. I’ll race you.”
“And lose? Okay.” I shrugged and took off after her toward the hoop and around and everywhere. I couldn’t keep my eyes off of her and in the end, I lost the race. I didn’t mind, for once. It also helped Bink and Freddie weren’t outside.
“Just snog already!” called Paloma.
“Gross,” said Lily.
“If you won’t do it, Potter, I will,” said Bink. He walked out of the locker room with a smarmy smirk. I missed that. He was such a smirky guy. Smirky, sunburnt guy judging by the red lines on his face and neck.
I did kiss Avery in the air, grabbing her around the middle and tugging her into my chest.
“Peer pressure,” I breathed.
Avery’s green eyes tore into mine. “Yeah, me too,” she said and kissed me again.
The team brought out picnic baskets and a few bottles of wine and plopped them onto a large checkered blanket at the center of the pitch. It was Lily’s idea, probably part of her plot to get me out of my funk. I’d been in a funk since Henrik made that damn announcement.
I had to come up with a better idea than sneaking off to Wyoming with Avery to get some time together. I had to overthrow Mason and his douchery, figure out where Twitwards was hiding, write a letter to Italy explaining not to let Twataso out, and at the same time make sure Cooper Bradley wasn’t going to try and funny business. Oh, also I had to make sure I stayed on my team considering it had been my dream since I was little.
I took a swig of wine and passed the bottle around, scolding Lily when she took a drink.
“You think you lot will be any good this year?” Bink asked, laying back against the blanket and tossing halfed chips into his mouth. He caught about a fourth that he attempted.
“Hard to tell with three people,” Lily replied. “I hope we can find some sort of talent. I’m hoping Haley Star can try for a Chaser position instead of just being a reserve. She’s wicked talented.”
“Good snogger too, James?” Freddie commented and I punched his leg. He squealed.
“I’m sure you’ll be fine. Just have to put in the extra time to fully training new Chasers. That’ll be hard, seeing as you’re not a Chaser.” Bink tossed more chips. “Jamesey-poo can stop back by on his breaks, I’m sure.”
“She can handle it,” I said. “I trained two Beaters.”
“You told them to aim and said have at it,” Avery muttered.
“Best training they ever had,” I shot back.
“Still wish we had someone that had been on the team for more than a year,” Lily admitted. “It’s stupid because I know we’ll be fine, but it’s always easier to get a second opinion.”
She was right. When I doubted drills, I went to Avery or Bink or Freddie. They’d been on the team for years and knew what worked and what didn’t. All Lily knew was what I’d told her at home and the training she had during the second half of last year. Paloma and Wesley weren’t much better off since I made them run so many Beater drills they couldn’t have paid much attention to our Chaser drills. Other than practicing with the entire time, I didn’t make Bink, Freddie, and me run that many. We knew what we were doing and we executed it well. Besides, I had to make time to yell at the rest of the team for mucking about.
At that point, Meta was always mucking about.
“One of you lot should stop by every so often,” Paloma said.
“It can’t be Albus,” I said.
“He’s rubbish at Quidditch. That’s a terrible idea.”
“Yet another reason you were on my team, Dove,” I replied.
Paloma shook her head. “I mean like, if you don’t have work or something. When you were off training Lily when McLaggen quit, Bink was the one that stepped in with drills. Why couldn’t he help us this year?”
I looked from Paloma to Bink. As I expected, his head moved off the blanket and his gaze shot to the Beater. “What d’you think, Legace?”
“Don’t see why I couldn’t,” he said, desperately trying to play it cool. I could see his cheeks turning pink. “I’ve got some spare time.”
“Between drinking,” Freddie said.
“Only if you want to,” Wesley added. I suddenly wondered how much of this conversation was rehearsed. “It’s not like you have to if you have work and stuff … but if you don’t … we could probably talk to Sinatra and see if you couldn’t be the coach or something.” He shrugged. So planned.
Bink, thankfully, took no notice. He was looking between the three youngest Gryffindors like he’d been awarded Best Ass or something only Bink would give a shit about. “You think?”
“I think it’s time for some regulations to be lifted,” Lily said. “The Code is gone, so I think having recent graduates as possible coaches should be a thing as well. I’m sure the other houses would agree.”
“I’m sure Darian Bay would agree,” I muttered. “Now that he’s all alone and hopeless.”
“He’s always been hopeless,” Avery said.
“I’ll do it then,” Bink said, leveling his voice because he was a cool guy like me. Not as cool as me, but with his sun-plastered skin, how could he be? “I’ll put in a few owls and we’ll see what happens.”
Bink Legace, Coach of the Gryffindor squad. Had a nice ring to it. I had to admit I was a little jealous in that moment he was the one that could go back to the pitch and keep playing and yelling at players and watching kids grow into stars.
That wasn’t my life anymore, and I was happy to hand off the torch to Bink and my sister.
Lily shot me a wink when the group was digging in to sandwiches and jam. Sassy little thing. She had been hanging around Avery too long.
Later that night, Freddie went to the shelter because they had pug puppies and the rest of the family decided on movie night. Bink was off “training,” whatever that meant, so Avery and I had the flat to ourselves. Thank Godric because it had been way too long.
We spent most of the night wrapped in each other’s arms on the sofa, talking over the events of the day and the past week. About how Lily had planned the whole coach thing. How I only hexed Wesley four times, which was good for me. And about how Mason was behind the Wyoming debacle.
“I don’t know how to get him back,” I said, pressing the back of my head into a throw pillow. “I’m trying hard enough not to dropkick him the first time I see him. It’s probably more than a one-game suspension for beating the shit out of your teammate.”
“At least two,” Avery said. Her head was against my chest and my fingers were in her hair. “Don’t let it bother you. The universe will work itself out.”
“I’m serious. Just let it be and stop being so worried about revenge. It’s karma.”
“He made everything worse. How can you say that?”
“Because I’m smart.”
“You’re no Ravenclaw.”
“Thank Godric. Fred would have a thing for me.”
I snickered. Falcon Cat jumped up on Avery and settled on her hip. “I’ll try not to think about Mason. I’ll just play hard and we’ll take it one step at a time.”
I paused. “You have a plan, don’t you?”
Avery didn’t respond.
“Aves,” I warned. “Do not get mixed up with this rubbish.”
“What’re you going to do? Dress in drag and follow me around…?”
“I’m serious – actually, that’s not a terrible idea,” I said. “Tell me if you’ve got a plan.”
She didn’t say anything, but didn’t have time to say all that much since Falcon Cat pushed a crazy set of claws into her thigh and she shrieked, toppling off the couch. “What is that NOISE?”
It was a shrill ringing coming from Bink’s room. Then it stopped. Then it started again. “I KNOW that noise. I know that.”
“This isn’t a quiz, James,” Avery said, rubbing her hip and limping off down the hall. “Why the hell does Bink have a phone? And why is there a poster of bikini-clad women on brooms in here? Like that attracts girls.”
“Ugh,” I said, thinking of Rose. I followed her and peeked my head into Bink’s very unkept room. “There – on his dresser. Answer it.”
“And say what?” Avery yelled over the ringing. “Bink Legace’s Bachelor Pad – how may I direct your call?”
“He would be so happy if you said that,” I snickered.
She shot me a look and picked up the phone. “Hello?”
A long pause and some gibberish from the other end. I tapped my fingers against the door frame and secretly hated whomever was on the other line.
“Yeah. Right now? All right then.” Avery hung up and looked over. “That was Gaia.”
“Oh, I don’t hate her,” I said.
“Nevermind. What did she say?”
“Bink’s down there,” Avery said, twisting her lips to the side. “She said we better come down.”
“To the pub? Weren’t we having a good little almost-snog on the couch?”
“Mind out of the gutter, Potter. Let’s go.” She ruffled my hair and I hated Gaia all over again.
Bink was at the pub, all right, but not in the manner I thought he would be. After being carried home repeatedly by my favorite bartender, I thought he would be asleep, lying the length of the bar with his shoes untied and drool on the granite.
Instead, what I found was Bink Legace standing next to Gaia serving the locals. Not just uncapping a beer or wiping glasses. He was full on shaking martinis and garnishing cocktails and having smirky conversations with pretty girls. He had on a tie and a black apron around his waist and his hair was sticking up a bit, doing that thing mine did all the time. Hair-stealer.
Avery and I took stools at the bar and Gaia caught our eye with a brow-raise. I shrugged. She purposely walked down to the other end to serve another couple and Bink spotted us.
He blushed. Fast.
“Hey there, Legace. I hear you’re quite the bartender,” I said with a grin.
“Piss off. It’s not a career.”
“I don’t know why you think I’m judging you,” I said, grabbing a cocktail napkin to wipe off the counter. “I’m not. I think this is brilliant. Now I’d like anything you didn’t spit in.”
Bink smiled a little and turned to Avery. “Did Gaia phone?”
“She’s proud of you,” Avery said seriously. “And so am I. Coach and bartender. Just don’t serve drinks to the team. They’ll get mad about that.”
“If I’m caught,” he said and winked. Bink grabbed a few bottles and started mixing several things together. Half of them I couldn’t pronounce.
Once we had some fruity concoction in front of us, Bink went to serve more customers.
Avery leaned toward me. “Our little Bink, growing up so fast.”
“Serving alcohol,” I said cheerfully. “Do you think he likes it?” I didn’t need an answer. Seeing him spin a shaker and pour it while keeping direct eye contact with the customers was enough. “I’d like to take credit for this, being a pub-associate for a long time.”
“You would,” Avery said, elbowing me. “Let’s get drunk and make stupid life decisions.” She held up her drink and clinked it with mine.
“Can’t argue there,” I replied, downing it.
“More?” said Bink. “You’d better be tipping well. I deserve at least as much as that last smarmy interview made you.”
“Cheers to that,” I said, raising the empty glass. “I may have called the Potter house … charming.”
Bink put way more liquor than juice in the mixer.
The entire world was spinning. The whole universe. Everything spun like a colorful top and I hated the shit out of that top because it was spinning and who the fuck asked it to spin? Not me. That’s who. Probably TomCat. What an asshole.
I rolled over and light was coming in through the curtains. Painful, blinding light of doom.
Victoria was humming too loud and she was being a bitch.
Someone mumbled beside me. Oh, good, it was Avery.
Good. Our clothes were still on. If lost my V-Card and didn’t remember it someone would have been injured. Probably Mason, just for good measure.
I blinked a few times as her face swam into view. She had lipstick on that was smeared across her cheek. She hadn’t been wearing lipstick at the pub. I tried to remember what happened after the fourth round Bink brought us, but it was hurting to think about. Everything was pulsing through my head.
My shirt and shoes created a little path from the closed bedroom door. Also on the floor was a glittery yellow wig, a see-through piece of white fabric, a bow-tie, and Avery’s shoes. A spilled jar of Floo powder was beside the wall, powder leaking out onto the carpet.
Did we go somewhere?
I pressed my hand against my forehead, willing it to stop hurting, but the willing only made it hurt more. Everything was still spinning. Getting up would be a terrible idea. “Aves,” I said, voice cracking a little because it was sore. At some point I had been yelling.
She mumbled something and rolled away from me. Thanks for the help, love.
Suddenly, the door slammed open and bounced off the wall. Avery jerked awake, whimpering because of the light. Bink was standing there looking horror-struck.
“I am so, so sorry,” he said.
“What?” It was hard keeping him in focus.
“You left me a voicemail on the phone,” he said, brows so high they disappeared into his hair. “I made the drinks too strong. James, I’m sorry.”
“About what? Like I’ve never had a hangover before…” Worst one of the century, but whatever.
Freddie appeared at his shoulder. “I CANNOT BELIEVE you got bloody MARRIED and I wasn’t even invited.” He was waving a picture in his right hand. A Polaroid of Avery and me.
She was in a white dress. I was in a bow-tie. She had the white fabric on her head – a veil. We were holding up our hands to the camera.
From instinct, we both looked at our hands.
Oh well shucks. That happened.
Looks like James found his loophole after all ...
Thank you all again for voting for my crazy story to win a Dobby! You are all absolutely fantastic and mean the world to me. I hope you continue to follow James' silly antics. It means a lot to me.
Also big thanks to Aditi_Draco95 for nominating Avery as "Best Original Character" as well as nott theodore, AlPotterfan, and ~chocolate for their David Flynn nods.
UP NEXT: Let the freakout begin.
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