For everyone. Because I tortured most of you while you waited for this chapter. Sorry it took longer than usual!
My head was throbbing. Not the kind of dull headache you get when you’ve been sitting under florescent lights for too long. No, the kind from a horrific hangover mixed with complete confusion, making the entire room thump to the rhythm of the ache.
I couldn’t function. Even when Fred crossed the room and delivered the polaroid to the blankets on my legs I couldn’t move.
Avery picked up the photo and examined it. “We got married,” she whispered.
Fred tapped his foot. “And some people rudely weren’t invited.”
“Considering I can’t even remember it, you need to shut your mouth,” I snapped, but even that hurt. I took a closer look at the photo.
It was a Muggle photograph, so we weren’t moving. Even though, there was motion in the shot. My arm was draped around Avery’s shoulder and the veil was lopsided, comb sticking out of her hair in the back. We were laughing. Our cheeks were flushed and our eyes were red and wrinkled at the sides. Laughing at something, though I don’t know what.
“We’ll have to see what happened,” Avery said. She tossed the photograph onto my lap. “There chapel’s name is on the back. Get dressed. We’re going to talk to them.” She paused. “You don’t have practice today, do you?”
“This afternoon.” Everything was still thumping, so I reached for a few aspirin in my bedside stand. “We can take care of it now.” If I could get up. And function. And possibly stick my head in a toilet for ten minutes.
“Need company?” Bink asked, grimacing. His cheeks were still red with guilt. Like he shoved us down the aisle himself. Was there even an aisle?
“We’ll be okay,” Avery said, not looking at him. She pulled a t-shirt over her tank and flattened her hair. “This is probably something James and I should handle ourselves. Especially before the media gets ahold of it.” She groaned and I know she was thinking about the Wyoming Incident. I was.
“Call or owl if you need me.” Bink shrugged and grabbed Freddie by the arm, tugging him out of the room and closing the door.
Avery turned. There were purple lines under her eyes and mascara clumped on her lashes. “We’re married,” she said again.
“We’ll fix it,” I assured her, finally climbing out of bed to what felt like an earthquake and tugging on a shirt and pants that didn’t smell like tequila. They smelled like Falcon Cat, but not tequila.
“How are we going to fix it? We’re MARRIED, James.” Avery was pacing. It wasn’t often she took to pacing and even before Quidditch matches she was calmer than the rest. Her patience astounded me, but perhaps it was the hangover that sent it out the window. It was gone. Her fingers moved through her hair as she paced, back of her neck a solid and uncharacteristic red.
“Aren’t there ways?” I said. I grabbed the photo and turned it over. “Look! We got hitched at Merlin’s Magic Chapel… what’s that mean?”
Avery rounded on me and I sensed with the patience went the guessing games.
“It means,” I continued, “That we got married somewhere magical. We’ll just go get it undone or annulled or whatever and we’ll be fine. The press never has to know and we can go back to just being together and me being benched.”
I paused. Avery paused.
“Don’t even think about it, James,” she muttered and flattened her hair again because she ruined it being stressed.
“All I’m saying is we could be together if we’re married.” I shrugged. It was a crazy, ludicrous, silly idea but it still made me pause. We didn’t have to act like husband and wife or anything, but the Code wouldn’t be broken. I wouldn’t be benched for kissing a Harpy in public and Henrik wouldn’t avoid my stare anymore.
On the flip side, I would be married to Avery Flynn, my girlfriend of only a few weeks considering how long it took us to actually get together and how long we were broken up because of stupid David stupid face Flynn.
Avery would be my wife.
Wife was such a crazy word. I was too young to think about that. Husbands and wives had kids and stand mixers and joint Gringotts accounts. They thought about decisions before they made them and they didn’t get benched before they played their first game for their dream team.
I may have been of age and out of Hogwarts, but I wasn’t prepared for that responsibility. The protectiveness I needed to have - the selflessness.
In my head, I was still James Potter Captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch Team and occasional fit-thrower.
Avery looked as if something may shortly be thrown at my head. “I am not being married because of your Quidditch career. Put on your shoes. We’re going to Italy.”
“What?” I said. “Why?”
She rolled her eyes. “Merlin’s Magical Chapel is in Italy. We walked by there a dozen times last holiday break. Costaso made a joke about it when I was spending time with him.”
Twataso. Of course he’d make a joke. It was probably crude. Or a sugared proposal Aves didn’t understand.
What if we saw him? Oh Godric what if he married the two of us? WHAT IF HE WAS MY BEST MAN?
“Shoes, Potter.” Avery laced her own sandals and gave up trying to flatten her hair, eventually tying it up on top of her head. She scooped the fallen Floo Powder into her hand and cast an annoyed glance over her shoulder.
I shoved my feet into shoes and followed her to the fireplace in the living room.
Bink and Freddie were on the couch staring at their hands.
“Sorry,” Bink muttered.
“I would have caught the bouquet and the garter,” said Fred.
Avery rolled her eyes and threw the powder into the fireplace. We watched green flames erupt in the hearth and she grabbed my hand without waiting. Avery Flynn was scary without patience. She was determined and angry and confused. I was just confused and a little interested at how she bit her bottom lip when frustrated.
It was strange, me wigging out less than her about something.
Then again, we came from moderately different worlds. I had a feeling the press would make that painfully obvious if they got the information. They already colorfully displayed her as a home-wrecker in their previous article, even though I was “single” and the only home I had to wreck was with Bink, Freddie, Falcon Cat, and Victoria.
Victoria probably considered it wrecked when Falcon Cat moved in.
Anyway. Avery shouted and pulled me into the flames. We were spinning in each other’s arms and soot poked at my eyes like a dull blade. A dull, manly blade like a sword that went through too many battles without being sharpened.
Finally we fell out of a bare fireplace and the hot, sticky air pushed at my limbs. I was okay, but my pants were covered in gray soot and Avery had to rub it off her cheekbones. She was unphased and straightened, dusting me off because apparently I was unable to do it properly.
“Let’s go,” she said, tugging me in the direction of the door.
We’d traveled there by Floo in December, so we knew where we were. The large wood door led to the street just a block down from the ballroom where Avery kissed me on the balcony. Just a few streets up from the beach where she cried.
I followed her north as the streets wound and vendors were putting out their stock for the day. It was hot already, but smelled like morning and the salt from the water. A smell I’d all but forgotten.
Merlin’s Magical Chapel was tucked between two cafes serving espresso and sandwiches on yellow tables. It wasn’t a large venue and I remember glancing at it long enough to notice the cauldron painted on the sign when we’d been here last. I was preoccupied searching for Avery.
Now I’d found her. And she was technically my wife.
My head still ached and I knew I should eat at some point.
Avery stopped just short of the door, which was at the end of a cobbled walkway and flanked by white lilies. The two windows out front were colorful and stained glass, but otherwise the building was a simple white.
“Ready?” she asked.
“I’ll follow you in,” I replied.
Avery tugged open the door and we were in a small lobby with a desk to the right. There was a padded bench opposite it, where I guessed people waited to get hitched. Photos that looked as if they were covered in fog hung around the room of couples kissing. None of them looked drunk or falling over or considering their next shot of tequila.
An older woman with a gray braid down her back looked up from the desk. She had thin glasses resting on the tip of her nose and a pen hovering over a long piece of parchment. “Can I help you?”
“Absolutely,” said Avery, moving to the edge of the desk and placing her hands on it. “We were here last night. We got married.”
“Oh, that’s lovely!” the woman said. “Congratulations! You must be thrilled.”
We decided to ignore that part.
“Listen, is there any documentation?” Avery asked impatiently.
“What do you mean, like the marriage license?”
“A video or something,” she replied. “Something assisting me in keeping the memories alive and showing our parents.” Tactful, Aves. Very tactful.
“Sure thing, honey,” the woman said and Avery visibly flinched. “We usually wait until they are combined into the package you ordered, but each wedding comes with a delightful video of the nuptials. If you’d like, I can take you into the chapel to watch it since it hasn’t been formatted yet. Would you two like that? You seem so happy.”
Happy. Right. Okay.
“I’d like to see it, yes,” Avery said. She wasn’t even trying to smile, which amused me even more.
The woman rose from the desk and waddled through the double-doors to the chapel.
My first thought: I can’t believe we got married here. Mum was going to have a fit.
The room was dark and covered in plastic fake flowers with purple candles suspended near the ceiling. There were hard wooden pews the length of the room, about twenty rows, and each had a hideous assortment of dusty flowers. At the front of the room was a blue alter and carpeted stairs with a white wreath on the far wall just below a tall stained glass window depicting a bride and groom out of the 1980s with sleeves almost covering the bride’s face.
This was where I married Avery Flynn. In a dusty chapel between two cafes with no family or friends.
Even though we were going to get it annulled or whatever the wizarding law was for marriages (shockingly, this had not come up at Hogwarts, nor had I given it any thought, as I never planned to get stupid-drunk and make this poor of a decision), it was still a disappointment knowing I let down Avery. She may not have wanted to get married, but at the very least I could have provided a better place to do it.
Like on the beach down by the ocean or by Eagle Dog in Wyoming. Somewhere memorable and dusted.
The woman led us down the aisle and if there was deja vu, I didn’t get it. Avery was right behind her, damn near marching to see this video.
It worried me, what I might find. If the video was filled with absurdities and me yelling what I loved about Avery and her telling me to shut my mouth. I still hadn’t taken off the ring now in its home around my finger. I’d have to be practice. Hopefully everything would be solved before then and I could go back to being benched.
The moment of weakness when I considered staying married was gone. Avery wasn’t part of the Code and it wasn’t her fault what I was going through. She didn’t need to be punished by having a husband because of my Quidditch requirements. I wished there was another way. A way to be with Avery and kiss her in public while also destroying the Finches.
The woman wheeled a television stand in and fiddled with the buttons. “Sit, sit. This will be magical!” I wondered if that was their slogan.
Avery and I sat on the first pew and it was hard against my back. I craned my neck a little, dreading what was before me. I didn’t dare tell Aves this was a bad idea. I bit my tongue and watched.
The music at the start was terrible. Someone in the back playing a trumpet or tuba. The camera was focused on the officiant - a tall guy dressed as Merlin. Yes, purple robes and giant beard and pointed hat with little pinprick stars. Godric, this was the place I married Avery. I could make sure a ranch house in Wyoming was perfect, but the wedding? No way.
The officiant held a book I horrifically recognized as my text book for Potions. Had I been toting that around or did he have his own copy he used for marriage purposes?
Finally, the trumpeting stopped and a flute started. The camera turned to the entrance we’d just come through, and focused. There I was in my regular clothes, plus some tie, a boutenierre, and a tall top hat that did not belong to me. I tried not think of how many people had worn it.
I was obviously piss drunk. I stumbled once, grabbing onto a pew for support, and laughed hard. Why hadn’t they stopped it? It was clear I wasn’t in my right mind. But the place was dusty and it was clear there weren’t as many people getting married in this little wizarding destination as before. I reached the end of the aisle and held onto the officiant’s arm a moment.
“Is that my Potions book?” I asked and it was only because I knew what I’d say that I even understood the sloppy rubbish coming out of my mouth. On-Screen Me cleared his throat. “Get it together,” I said to myself.
“A little pep talk?” Avery whispered from beside me.
“Shut it. I bet you’re a damn mess when you come out.”
She was smiling a little at me trying to remain standing. Fish out of water.
Now a clarinet was playing and I had serious questions about whether or not one person was playing every instrument or four. They couldn’t afford to dust fake flowers, but they had people playing instruments? Get a cleaner and play music from a record player, come on.
The camera remained on me and I was kind of glad it did.
Once the clarinet started, it was clear my interest was sparked. I looked up and blew some shaggy hair out of my eyes. Then it was all there. I’d seen her. My jaw fell lopsided and my brows creased. I bit my lip and suddenly I was okay to stand. I was grinning.
For that one fleeting moment, it looked as if I knew exactly what I was doing and had made a totally rational decision. Though I don’t remember it, for that moment I was a groom, marrying the woman he loves.
The camera turned and Avery was at the end of the aisle. She was in the same clothes from yesterday, jeans and a solid-colored shirt, but a veil was stuck sloppily in her dark hair. Her eyes were prominent, outlined in dark coal and making her look mysterious. She held a grouping of those horrible plastic flowers, but it made her look the part even more.
Avery was grinning. She wasn’t even stumbling. She was just walking straight toward me grinning like an absolute idiot.
We were quiet, watching as our on-screen selves approached each other. Officiant-Merlin scolded us when we almost kissed as she reached me and Avery threw her plastic bouquet at him and told him to watch his mouth. We held hands.
Officiant-Merlin started the ceremony. I didn’t listen to much of it, but watched my expression. Complete bliss. It was clear even though I was drunk, I had no intention of listening to what he had to say. I stared hard at Avery and didn’t let her go. She was blushing. For a moment, I forgot we had too many drinks at Bink’s expense and (other than the tacky background) it looked like we really were getting married.
My head jerked up from concentrating on Avery and I blinked. “Do I what?”
“Take Avery Flynn to be your wife.” Like it was obvious.
“Yeah. Yeah, she’s okay.” I winked and Avery kicked me right in the shin.
“And do you, Avery Flynn, take James Potter to be your husband?”
“I do,” Avery said without a hint of sarcasm.
“Would you like to recite vows?” Officiant Merlin asked and I groaned from the pew.
“I didn’t prepare anything,” I said on screen.
“We didn’t prepare to get married.” Avery’s sarcasm had returned quickly. “We don’t have any vows.”
“Anything you’d like to say?” he asked.
Avery looked back at me. “Just that I’m glad I poked you in the eyeball, James. I’m glad I played Quidditch and I’m glad I kissed you on a balcony and I’m glad I fell in love with you.”
I was clearly caught off guard and nervous. “I’m glad I told you I left muffins in the oven,” I blurted. “I’m not good at this. I’m shit at this. Can I just kiss you because I’m much better at that. If I’m not, you can take back this whole wedding thing and no hard feelings.”
Avery laughed, both on screen and beside me.
“Does anyone object to this union?” At that point, the camera panned around the room. There were two guys in the back standing at the ready, trumpets in their hands. A different woman wearing a name tag like the receptionist from today. The camera panned back to us. We weren’t listening again.
Officiant Merlin declared us husband and wife and I didn’t wait until he finished the sentence before I was kissing her. I tugged her close and the veil toppled off to the side. When we broke, an inappropriately long amount of time later, she grabbed it and stuffed it back into her hair. Then we held hands and skipped up the aisle to a jazz trumpet duo.
The camera cut and the old woman turned, grinning. “Beautiful, wasn’t it?”
“I wonder if anyone asked how drunk we were,” I said.
“Drunk on love, darling,” the woman said and I wasn’t sure how serious she was. “The video won’t be ready for at least a week, though. But we have your mailing address for the package you requested.”
“Package?” Avery’s train of thought derailed and she looked from the screen to the woman. “What did we order?”
“I’m certain Cynthia gave you a copy. No matter.” Without explanation, she wobbled back to the receptionist desk and we followed obediently. She fiddled with a stack of papers. “Yes! There you are. Mr. and Mrs. Potter.”
“I took your last name?” Avery asked, gaping at me.
“You get better seats at events with it.” I shrugged. “And extra chips at restaurants.”
“At least it’s not a legal name change yet. That will be a simple fix.”
“Don’t like being Mrs. Potter?” I asked.
Her cheeks flushed. “Knock it off, James.” Avery grabbed the papers and leafed through them. “We didn’t. Are you serious? We ordered the most expensive package. In two weeks we can expect to receive photos, both 8x11 and wallet size, mugs, hats, a poster, keychains, oh my god the list goes on for a page. JAMES.”
I grabbed the papers and shook them around a bit before just throwing them back on the desk. “Listen, we need to cancel this.”
“The order?” It was like I told her to stick a puppy out in the rain.
“The marriage,” I replied. “We need to get it annulled please.”
“But didn’t you see the video? You seem so in love.” Fuck. Her eyes were even watering. It was like people didn’t regret getting married at Merlin’s Magical Chapel.
“We are in love,” I corrected her because if I let Avery talk, she was going to leap over the table and grab the stapler. “We’re in love, but getting married was a mistake and we need to undo it. Please kindly tell me how to go about this, as I’d like to get it handled as soon as possible.”
“Why? Don’t you want to try being married? You might enjoy it.”
“I’m seventeen,” I snapped. “I’m not even eighteen for another couple weeks and I’m not ready to be a husband with a fence and sticky hands and gold accounts.”
“What?” she said.
“Nevermind. Tell me how to undo this marriage.”
The woman frowned and looked from me to Avery, who I had to assume was staring daggers at her because she started shuffling through more papers. “We don’t do that here,” she said. “You have to see the judge. You can be a walk-in, but you’ll probably have to wait a while. He has a little hearing and then will grant you the ‘undo,’ as you so refreshingly named it. Here’s the address and your paperwork.” She looked like she might start crying, so I grabbed the stuff and Avery followed me back outside.
It had warmed considerably since we arrived and I could almost feel the sea spray in my hair. “Any idea where Pearl Street is?” I said, consulting the slip of paper. “Let’s get this done.”
“I remember passing it,” Avery said. She was quiet now and the wind whipped her hair back behind her shoulders and toward the cafe. “Costaso made a comment about the history of the street, how there were shops selling expensive jewels, but the one there the longest was a pearl shop.” She looked left and right. “Apparently they were fake and got shut down, but it was a nice story.”
“Did he offer you that information?” I said as we picked a direction.
“I asked seven times where the pearl shop was, as I was looking for a gift to take home to Mum.” Avery’s smirk was back. The beautiful, sassy smirk that meant she had gotten her way. “He eventually told me and I said they should rename the street to Faux Pearl Avenue. He wasn’t fond of that. Like I was insulting his family.”
“Twataso,” I muttered as we turned to a road that dead-ended at the beach. A few people were already out enjoying the sunshine and dipping their feet in the water. “No word from him, right?”
Avery looked over. “Hmm?”
“Aves,” I said, tone with a hint of warning. My body still ached from the night before and the headache was dull. I had no patience for Twataso or the potential of him being in contact with my wife. Ha. Wife. How ridiculous.
“He sent me a letter in February,” she said. She wasn’t looking at me, but out at the waves rolling in. “It was when things were going well for us, so I didn’t tell you. I didn’t want you Floo’ing here and threatening him.”
“I would have kicked his ass!” I shouted.
“I would have threatened him from a distance and then talked bad about his hair.”
“Exactly.” Avery nudged me with her hip.
“What did the letter say? Confess his love? Spaghetti recipe?”
She rolled her eyes and pointed to another road, which we took a left on to move away from the sea and try to find Pearl. “He wanted to see how I was and if I’d changed my mind. He told me he enjoyed the time we spent together and thought you’d pressured me into not being with him because you were jealous. He said he missed me.”
“Did you write back? Did you send a Howler? OH that is a nice visual.”
“I did write back, but I did not send a Howler.”
“Why the shit not? Perfect way to get the message across.”
She stopped and gave me a look.
“What did your letter say?” I rephrased.
“I told him it was kind of him to write, but that it wasn’t going to happen.”
“You were nice?” I grimaced. Being nice to Twataso. I had put a lot of his smug comments and smirks in the back of my mind, but they were falling forward again. I really hated that guy. And Twitwards. I wondered what Twitwards was up to since I stole his car and he was at Avery’s Harpy tryout, something I was still very skeptical about. Probably assisting the assistant to the Minister. Big job, buying coffee.
“I was nice,” Avery said and that was that. There was a tone in her voice that told me to leave it, so I did.
We walked a few more streets down before finding Pearl with unpowered icicle lights draped across the businesses and tapestries draped over windows. It reminded me of a village center with locals selling fruits and vegetables and pottery to tourists. It was already starting to get packed and I smelled a grill somewhere.
“The judge is on Pearl?” I asked, pausing to stare properly. This was a marketplace full of things Mum would be mad at me for not bring back to her. “What’s the address?”
Avery unfolded the paper. “3110 Pearl Street. Seems to be going down this way -- c’mon.” She tugged me to the right and past several people trying to sell us some pink fruit. “See? 3113. 3112. 3111.” She paused before one of the few buildings made of wood. It was shiny and tall with dark doors and a gold knocker. A plaque to the side read: JUDGE LIBBENS.
Libbens. I already didn’t like him. Making us pass that fruit. Now I was hungry and the hangover was making it worse. Stomach was screaming at me. Felt like I hadn’t eaten in days.
As we approached the door, I was surprised at how calm I still was. I got married last night. Once the media found out, I was toast. By my friends, family, team, and fans, though Mason was trying to fix me even having that last category. Still, Avery’s fists were clenched at her sides and she reminded me of a ninja, just without all the masks and stuff.
She was ready to kick someone’s ass for letting us get married while we were drunk. Break out the ninja star, Aves. She was having none of it.
This was also apparently when she ripped open the door so hard it slammed against the wood of the building. A lot of people turned. The nearby vendors snickered. I wondered if they knew.
The lobby caught me off guard. So much that Avery had to physically pull me inside because I was in awe of the marble floor, white statues, and a very tall counter straight ahead. There was a crystal chandelier overhead sending glittered specks all over the floor.
“Are we still in Italy?” I whispered because it seemed like a place to be quiet. Like a library or the kitchen when Mum’s mad.
Avery didn’t reply. She marched straight ahead, almost knocking some woman with a briefcase out of the way, and up to the counter. Her eyes barely reached the top and a man in some powdery white wig leaned over looking menacing. Seriously menacing with the wrinkles around his eyes and the big disapproving frown.
“Can I help you?” His voice boomed across the lobby.
“I need to see the judge,” she said. “I need to discuss a marriage.”
“Getting it annulled by the wizarding court?” he boomed. So much booming.
“Yes.” Avery paused as he stared her down. “Sir.”
“There’s a four hour wait.” He threw some blank papers back down at her. “Fill these out. Have your information ready.”
“I could write up my life story in that wait time,” I muttered. I might be late for practice if the actual meeting took too long. The media might have it by then. My mother might know by then. Lily might be throwing a bridal shower by then. Falcon Cat could have gotten out and snogged TomCat! NO.
Avery, smart girl she was, didn’t like the wait either. She scoffed. Booming Man looked back over the counter. “It’s very nice of you to assist me,” she said sweetly. Laced with sugar, like the way she talks to the professors when she wants something.
“You’re quite welcome, Miss…?”
Oh, Avery you little fox.
“Mrs. Potter,” Avery said flatly. “This is James Potter.”
I hated the perk. It was uncomfortable being ushered to the front of lines, but sometimes it had its benefits. I was assisting in exploiting them, of course, but they were there. My father. For as many years as we had a strained relationship, I guessed I should have done something with our last name other than letting it get me a stupid amount of Quidditch interviews.
Avery knew what she wanted. She wanted this marriage ended and she was doing anything to get that accomplished. How very Slytherin of you, Avery Flynn.
“Potter?” The booming man was suddenly lacking boom.
“That’s right,” Avery said, all sugary and sweet again. “James’ father should be along soon. He wants to make sure everything is done correctly.”
“Your father?” he said, looking at me. “Harry Potter?”
“Good ol’ Dad.”
Avery grinned. “I’ll go sit at the end of the line then. Thank you for your assistance.” She turned to me. “James, honey, would you mind running out for some food? I’m starved and tired and might just nap in the hallway. I’m too stressed.”
“Let me put in a call,” the man said before I could respond. “Let me see if I can shorten that line for you.”
Avery turned and I’ll be damned if she didn’t bat her eyelashes at booming man with the white wig. “Oh, would you? That would be so lovely.”
Honey? Lovely? Here’s to hoping this flirting did not last long.
When he disappeared into the back room, Avery looked at me again. Her sweet, innocent smile had turned into a devilish, wicked grin.
“Please tell me it’s not bad that I want to snog your face off right now?” I said softly.
“You’d better.” She leaned in and kissed me, running her teeth along my bottom lip. “You’d better always want to snog your wife.” She laughed and pecked my lips one more time.
Wife. Avery Flynn was my wife.
My head still ached.
“Good news, Mrs. Potter!” The booming man with less boom was back and cheerful. “We’ve had an opening.” Brown-nose speak for they pushed other people back to fit us in. Part of me wanted to tell him to stuff it and that just because my dad saved the world and wore really weird glasses, it didn’t mean I should exploit it.
But I didn’t tell him to stuff it and followed Avery into the back room. It led to a hallway filled with photos of people I didn’t recognize in flowy robes and then opened into the back of a large courtroom.
Way larger than something like this warranted.
The room was tall with at least forty rows of long wood benches. Big canvases filled the walls with paintings that reminded me of the realist section in the museum. Painted to look like a photograph, but with oils. Naked babies and angels and stuff.
At the front of the room was a guy with a typewriter, a single table with two chairs, and straight ahead I saw the pair of witness stands and the podium. A giant podium the judge probably had to climb seven ladders to reach. Maybe an exaggeration, but it was tall.
“Proceed to the front and your hearing will begin,” booming man said and dismissed himself. The door closed and the room was silent. Even typewriter man was watching us.
As we walked, our shoes created echos throughout the space. Awkward. My heart was beating faster than before. No idea why. We just needed to get a drunk marriage canceled. Nothing special. No murder trial or the case of the missing naked baby painting stolen by a famous art thief and hidden in a warehouse in New York. Just regular everyday drunk wedding at Merlin’s Magical Chapel.
In unison, we took seats at the table. It was empty and cold.
A door opened somewhere behind the giant podium. Then it shut. Typewriter man was typing now. Avery placed the stack of papers before us. She ran her fingers down each side to make sure they were perfect.
Over the edge appeared a man that made booming man look tame and kitten-esque. This guy was a lion. His brown hair was wiry and wild and he had a beard that blocked half his face. He was younger, but still probably in his forties. He had that look about him. The kind that suggested he’d hex you out the door if you so much as got cheeky. His eyes were dark and the robes made him look a little like a super villain.
He sat and everything was silent again. My breathing echoed a little.
His name made him sound like a derpy guy with a lopsided smile and crooked stare. He was anything but. Libbens was stern and scary. He put my professors to shame. He even put Headmistress Sinatra to shame, and that was saying something because she had the same “you’re in trouble” look Mum had.
“I see you would like to annul a marriage.” Libbens’ voice boomed. This was a booming establishment. So uncomfortable.
“Correct,” I said. Probably wasn’t the best time for clever commentary or cheek. He did not look like a man accustomed to cheek.
Simple, clear question. Why. That’s a great question. I looked to Avery.
“We were married by mistake,” she explained. “We rushed into it on a whim last night surrounded by love and the ocean--”
Avery stopped short, her mouth still open.
“I see people like you in here every day, up from that Merlin’s Marriage Monstrosity,” Libbens barked. “Get married by mistake when they’ve had one too many lemon drops and they think they can take up my time with their mistakes. Do you understand how many people have made this mistake before you?”
“A lot?” I guessed.
“Yes, Mr. Potter, a lot.” He huffed. “I know your type and frankly, I am sick of you.”
“My type?” I said, looking up. Stupidly, more than likely. “What’s my type? Moderately tall with unruly hair and brown eyes? The eyes were passed down. Mum has them. So does my sister, really. She’s the Captain of my old team--” Avery elbowed me hard in the ribs.
“Celebrity.” His voice was dripping like the words were saliva and I squirmed. “You celebrities think you can walk around being invisible. The rules simply don’t apply to you, do they? You can galavant around my village making fools of yourself and then just hit undo in the morning. Is that right, Mr. Potter?”
“No, sir,” I said. Sir seemed right.
“You do,” Libbens said. Avery was twisting her hands in her lap. “Just because your father saved the wizarding world and you’re on the front page of all these broom magazines, you can do no wrong. Let me tell you, Potter, I am sick of you lot wasting my time. You need to live with your mistakes like the rest of the community.”
“It wasn’t a mistake marrying her,” I said. Louder than I intended. It echoed. “It was a mistake marrying her like this. When we’re this young and without our family. If we’re still together in a few years, I fully intend on doing it properly. This isn’t how it was supposed to be.”
It wasn’t. I hated to admit it, but on some of the nights before Avery and I were really speaking again, I’d considered it. What it would be like to marry Avery for real. Big white gown and a top hat that belonged to me. Flowers I hated and someone’s clumsy kid throwing petals down the aisle. The kiss. I thought about it even when I knew I shouldn’t.
And last night, no matter how genuine it looked on film, wasn’t it.
“So you’re the exception, Mr. Potter? All of those other people were where they were supposed to be, and therefore were less deserving of an annulment?”
“That’s not what I’m saying,” I said and Avery elbowed me again.
“Listen, Mr. Potter.” Libbens sounded serious again. “I am through with your cheek and your excuses. It was your decision to get married and just because you are an elitist celebrity does not mean you can come to my court room and pretend it didn’t happen. I will not have my time wasted by you. You will abide by wizarding law in regards to marriages and that is final.”
“Wizarding law?” Avery said.
“You signed a contract,” he explained. “The contract is in front of you. Kindly read section three, part B.”
Avery ruffled through the pages and pulled out the contract we signed the night before. My signature was a mess. She slid her finger down the text until she reached the paragraph Libbens suggested. Her eyes moved, but her mouth didn’t. Until --
“Excuse me, young lady?”
“Absolutely not,” she said, glancing up. “There is no way this is legal. You cannot require this.”
“What?” I said, looking at the paper but it was too far away to read. “What can’t be legal? What’s the requirement?”
“NO.” Avery was furious. Her fists were balled together and she slammed one on the table. “It was a simple mistake. We are not here because James is well-known. We are here because this is unacceptable and needs to be cleared up.”
“You made the choice. Come back and see me in thirty days, Mrs. Potter.”
“What?” I said, finally grabbing the paper and skimming it.
There it was.
Wizarding Marriage Law required anyone with a valid marriage license to remain in the union for thirty days before filing for divorce. Sure, we could separate and go about our lives, but we were legally married for thirty days no matter what.
“You mean you didn’t read the contract before signing it?” Now Libbens was toying with us. I barely signed on the correct line. I actually wrote just below it, near where the date was supposed to go, and drew an arrow to the correct line. Of course I didn’t read the damn contract. PRETTY SURE IF I WOULD HAVE READ IT, MAYBE THERE WOULD HAVE BEEN A DIFFERENT OUTCOME.
Probably not, as I was hammered, but maybe.
“No, sir,” I said through my teeth.
“I’ll see you in thirty days,” Libbens replied. He smacked his lips and banged the gavel once. “Dismissed.” Then he was gone.
Typewriter guy packed up his scroll in a briefcase and left through the door behind us.
We were alone.
We were alone and still married.
“You’d think someone would have let us in on that before we got all the way here,” Avery whispered, leafing through the contract again.
“Fairly certain the man at the desk wanted us to find out for ourselves.” I regretted Avery name-dropping now. “He probably knew. Who knows if the chapel people know or not.”
I leaned against the back of the chair, which bent under my weight.
She shook her head. “We’re married. We’re married for a month.”
“You don’t have to say it like that.”
“Be serious, James. We’re married and we haven’t even been engaged.”
I shrugged. There wasn’t a way around this. It was the loophole to the Code, but there was no loophole to the loophole. It made me dizzy thinking about. This was something we had to ride out for thirty days and come back and take care of. It was a signed contract and Libbens wasn’t hearing any of our famous-people excuses.
Excuses from Mr. and Mrs. Potter.
“We don’t tell anyone,” Avery said, back to running her fingers through her hair. “We got married in Italy and no one was there. We’ll hide that stupid expensive wedding package when it arrives at your place and not tell anyone. We’ll swear Bink and Freddie don’t tell. We’ll come back in thirty days and get it taken care of. Agreed?”
“Don’t you think that sounds a little too easy?” I asked.
“What do you mean? It sounds logical.”
“Okay, Ravenclaw,” I said, “But at the same time, when does anything pan out logically? Think about it. It’s too easy. The press is all over me and they’re slipping notes under your mum’s door to get a good story about how you’re secretly a bad girl that sets fires to dumpsters.”
“Let’s go.” Avery’s chair made a horrible noise as she rose. “We’ll take it one step at a time. We’ll act normal.”
“And I’ll still be benched,” I said.
“Do not even pretend you want to be married as a way to play your first game, James.”
“Not as a way,” I said. “But it wouldn’t be a bad perk of the whole thing.”
She didn’t reply. Instead, Avery gathered the papers and headed for the door from which we entered. I followed swiftly. I needed to learn to control my cheek. I needed to calm Avery down.
I needed to find a way to keep this from the press.
A/N: Sorry again the chapter took longer than usual. I'm actually working on a big original fiction novel right now on top of this, 30 Days, and Hormones, so your patience is so appreciated :) Thank you all for being awesome!
UP NEXT: Well, James tries to find a way to keep it from the press. I'm sure you can already assume how that's going to go.
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