For UnofficiallyNotVernonDursley for writing a poem about Victoria.
The fundraiser was a hit. We raised several times the amount I imagined we could and my hand ached from shaking everyone else’s. The food was marvelous. The drinks were plenty. At the end of the night I snuck off to a corner with Nathan’s grandfather to talk about my plans and his past and what Nathan thought of the Gryffindor – Hufflepuff game I had no idea he attended.
When the banquet hall began to empty, Avery took my hand and led me to the fireplace to Floo home. “Ready?” she asked.
I looked over my shoulder to the stained tablecloths and empty glasses and handshakes. “Sure,” I said and so we returned to the flat over the garage.
To my distaste, there was a giant box in the living room. It arrived days earlier than anticipated and the tape was cut. Bink and Freddie and Amy still weren’t back from the fundraiser, but I had a feeling I hadn’t put the flat number on the address form and the box went to the house.
I groaned and pulled back the cardboard flaps. Mugs and calendars and mousepads (what?) and t-shirts. A bunch of bullshit plastered with our faces, mildly drunk but looking happy.
“Did they just want to look?” I said, rifling through the trinkets we would have to burn immediately.
Avery bent down too and I resisted the urge to look down her black dress because this was a serious moment. “No, they got it.”
She sighed. “The video.”
“Shit.” I straightened up and looked at our television. The video wasn’t there. “We have to get it back. What if they watched it? Me stumbling up the aisle? Happy image for my mother, I’m sure.”
“We didn’t even have proper vows,” Avery murmured.
“You did! I talked about snogging you.”
“As you should,” she said with a shrug. “It’s only been a few days. It’s already a nightmare. We don’t know how to properly be married.”
“Are you supposed to consummate a marriage?”
“Now isn’t quite the time, James,” Avery replied in a dry tone. “But I believe so.”
I looked her up and down, considering this but then getting a little freaked out because I was supposed to be freaked out about something else and instead I was checking out my smoking hot wife. “Right. Video.”
I expected to walk in to a vacant living room and the watched video popped out of the machine below the television. Instead, I was led into the living room by the sound of my own voice and Avery’s and Officiant-Merlin’s.
Avery’s fingers slipped into mine and we entered the living room together.
No one heard since their backs were to us and Officiant-Merlin was asking about our vows.
Dad and Mum were on the couch (eating POPCORN) and Lily was on the sofa. Wesley (ugh) was visiting and at her feet on the floor with another bowl of popcorn. Albus and Paloma were on the other sofa, her feet draped over his legs.
Most of them laughed at my nervous reaction to the vows and Aves nudged me.
Paloma did an “aww” when we kissed.
Mum shut it off when the video was over, but still no one turned. “Well?” she said.
“What a shit chapel,” Albus said with a laugh. “Have to hand it to them though… they’re unconventional. Bink told me it was all his fault.”
“His fault?” Dad said.
“Bink’s got this new job as a bartender and got them hammered in celebration. Apparently when they woke up the next day they had no idea.” My brother shook his head. “Bink feels horrible.”
“Where are they tonight?” Dad said.
“Went to the fundraiser James had set up.”
“Fundraiser?” Dad asked. “Why didn’t we hear about this?”
Albus leaned back into the sofa. “Probably because James is petrified to talk to you because he thinks you’re disappointed. You know how he handles disappointment.”
Not well. Too right, baby brother.
“What’s it for?” said Mum.
“Bink told me James set up a fund to get kids with cancer boxed seats at matches,” Albus said and it appeared Bink told him a lot of things out of the guilt of getting me plastered enough to marry Avery. “Arranged this huge event with all the Quidditch players and big-wigs tonight. Formal thing. Black tie.”
“Does James own a black tie?” Dad asked with a smirk.
“I wore my Gryffindor tie,” I said and everyone jumped and spun around.
Avery and I stayed in the doorway, both wearing somber expressions. I didn’t know how this was going to go with them seeing the video we wanted so desperately to keep to ourselves and them now knowing about my fundraiser and the truth about how we got married. I had an easy out of the door through the kitchen behind me, so didn’t dare move.
Part of me was mad at them, though. The whole lot of them just getting some popcorn and having a good laugh at that moment.
“James,” Mum said. “You should have a seat.”
They stared at the two of us like we were in a zoo. Like we needed figured out.
“I can’t,” I said and Avery shot me a look. “I know I haven’t been the best son or brother since graduation, but I’m trying. And if all you lot do is sit around and gossip about me instead of supporting me, then I have nothing to say to you. Hope the video gave you a good sodding laugh.” I rolled my eyes, tugged on Avery’s arm, and left through the kitchen door.
“James,” she said when we were back in the flat. The roommates still weren’t home. “That may have been your chance to get back in with your family.”
“If that’s how they’re going to be, I’d rather not.”
“Don’t you think you’re being dramatic?”
“For once – no.” I shook my head and kicked the box over to the corner of the living room. “I think I’m going to head to bed.”
She raised a brow. “Ah. A cue for me to leave then. That’s rare.” She kissed my forehead. “Phone me tomorrow, okay? I have practice most of the day. We’ll see if Cooper gives me a look or if Crystal occupies him by batting her eyelashes for a few hours.”
“Have you played at a Harpies practice yet?” I asked, peeling off my Gryffindor tie and tossing it onto the counter.
“Nope. Just the Sparrows practice.”
I made a face. “I’ll talk to you tomorrow. Kick ass at practice.”
“Always do, love.”
Fred and Amy returned an hour later, raided the fridge, and then escaped to his room to do unmentionable things. There was a towel over the knob.
Bink returned an hour after that looking miserable. From the couch, I asked what he’d done.
“Had a row with Rose,” he said.
“Everything,” Bink grumbled. “I don’t want to talk about it.”
“You fancy her?”
“Stop asking,” he said with a sigh. “Because I don’t know the answer.”
He locked the door to his room.
Around one in the morning I retreated to my room and let Falcon Cat curl up on my chest. She purred and nudged my chin. There was a knock at my door. My roommates seemed unlikely as Fred was probably naked and Bink would rather skin himself than talk about his feelings.
For as manly as I was, I’d been talking about feelings way too much lately. Bullshit.
“C’min,” I said after a while.
The door opened and Dad was there. Strangely, I’d been expecting Lily or Albus. Not my father. He kicked off his shoes and looked at the veil that was left on the carpet.
“Hey,” he said.
“Hey,” I repeated, still staring at the ceiling. Falcon Cat meowed a hello.
Dad sat on the edge of my bed and scratched Falcon Cat behind the ears. “James, I think we ought to talk.”
“About bloody what?”
“Everything,” he said without a hint of humor. “I think we should talk about everything.”
“What if I don’t want to talk about everything?”
“You may not want to,” he said, “but you need to.”
I straightened up on the covers and moved Falcon Cat to my lap. She curled up in a little ball, purring. “What makes you think I want to talk to you about it? You lot shut me out.”
“It was a mistake.” Dad situated himself so he sat directly across from me with his legs folded. “I know what it’s like to be shut out, and I know it was a mistake. Your mother and I were hurt and we didn’t know how to react. We didn’t think we’d have to react to something like that for a long time and still, we thought we’d be warned.”
Dad raised a finger to silence a snarky response. “I’m trying to apologize, James. We’ve been too hard on you. We’ve stayed on the sidelines, thinking that’s what was right. Let you live your own life. You are very capable of handling things yourself and you proved that. The thing we didn’t realize was that you wouldn’t ask for help when you needed it.”
“I did ask sometimes,” I mumbled.
“I mean from us,” Dad corrected. “We thought if you were overwhelmed, you’d come to us. That’s what you used to do. You used to write us or come to us when it got to be too much and we could help you. We made the mistake of thinking that was permanent.”
It wasn’t a mistake. I knew I should have. I was too busy taking care of my own life and helping Bink and walking in on Freddie and Amy.
“Instead of supporting you,” Dad continued, “We let you handle it yourself. We let you fall too hard and scramble to get up. Do you have any idea how horrible I feel about that? Looking back, I should have seen all the signs. Everything. But I didn’t. I thought you’d just handle it yourself.”
“I tried,” I said.
“You did well.” Dad patted me on the knee. “Now let’s talk. I’m sorry I didn’t come bother you before, but it’s never too late to fix things.”
“Fix things?” I said.
“It’s going to be fine,” Dad replied. “Tell me everything.”
I did. Goddamn, I did. About Avery’s tryout and the new Code (new confidential Code, but bollocks on that) and Avery going on a date with Mason and Mason alerting the press about Wyoming and me being so in love with Avery that I didn’t know what to do. About Bink being the new Gryffindor coach and me hosting a teaparty for Jack’s kids. Everything since graduation, I spilled to my father.
Finally, I reached the fundraiser and he outright hugged me. “Didn’t think about asking your father for money?”
“I’m trying to handle it on my own,” I said.
“I mean as a donation.”
“You donate to plenty of stuff.”
“I’d like to donate to Nathan,” Dad said.
I blushed a little because this was all still new. “Dad? What the hell am I supposed to do?”
“Take it one step at a time,” he advised and even though it was vague, it was true. “You’re going to work through this thirty days with Avery and go on proper dates and be a proper couple for once…this time without horrible people in your way and the press breathing down your back. You’re going to go to practice and take ice baths and be ready for that second pre-season game. You’re going to find a way to get back at Mason because karma is for Hufflepuffs.”
Keep in mind I’d never heard my dad say an ill word against Hufflepuff.
“You’re going to have a talk with Rose about Bink. You’re going to tell Albus if he and Paloma are going to shag they have to take it elsewhere because we know about it and it’s weird at breakfast now.” Dad smirked. “And, most of all, you’re going to let me know when you’re overwhelmed. I have a pull with the press and I am absolutely not afraid to use it.”
“What about Clara Robinson? She ruins careers.”
Dad cocked a brow. It was a good look for him. “Clara? Don’t worry about her. Clara and I go way back. I’m the one who put her on the map.”
“Post-war interview,” Dad said with a sly smirk. “That’s what got her the gig at Witch Weekly and she worked her way up. It was her first big interview.”
“Why’d you give it to her?”
“Because back then, she asked the right questions. She wasn’t always obsessed with power.”
I couldn’t imagine that.
“One step at a time,” Dad said and patted Falcon Cat on the head. “Enjoy it, though. The thirty days will be up before you know it and then you’ll go back to dealing with the Code.” He shook his head. “Why teams have to have Codes is beyond me. Members of Gryffindor dated while I was in school and no one went bald or had pink goddamn robes. Pretty sure it does more harm than good.”
I thought about the ‘fluke’ headline and agreed.
Dad ruffled my hair. “Ask for help when you need it, okay?” he said and I nodded. “Because whether you think I do or not, I have some people I can have a word with.”
“Is this like speaking with someone’s parents in school?”
“No.” Dad laughed and opened the door. “It’s like speaking with the owner of someone’s company when they’re an adult.”
I laughed a little and was partially scared at the idea of Dad having more pull than originally anticipated. I looked up, but said nothing.
“You’re a Quidditch player, James,” he said as he stood in the doorway looking overly fatherly. “Act like it.”
I raised a brow as he left.
Dad was right. Absolutely right.
I needed to act like a Quidditch player. I was too busy trying to shuffle everyone else that I forgot to just be myself and let things happen. That’s who I was at Hogwarts. That’s how I captained my team and since the Final I let that mentality slip to try and impress everyone.
That’s not how it was going to be anymore.
Sure, I’d still be looking out for my mates and concentrating on my dreams, but I was also going to concentrate on myself and having fun.
Fortunately, I had a perfectly good excuse.
After a week of crazy practices and ice baths, my birthday was approaching. Sure, the week also included making up with my siblings (who weren’t actually sore with me) and having a heart-to-heart with Mum about her eldest son getting married, but I was looking forward to Saturday.
My eighteenth birthday.
Each year for my birthday we did something different. Usually the day was for the family to celebrate (Grandmum used it as an excuse to get everyone together in the middle of summer) and the night was for my mates. Last year we met up in Diagon Alley for drinks and more drinks and then additional drinks. The year before that we camped and had drinks. The year before that Bink took us to his family’s cottage on a lake in Switzerland and we also had drinks. Every year the same faces were there along with some new ones (Bink liked to invite pretty ladies back with us).
This year was different. Mum told me Friday we weren’t going to have a family gathering.
“Why? Doesn’t Grandmum want one?”
“She’d want a family gathering daily if we let her,” Mum mumbled. “No, it’s something else. A bit of a surprise for you.”
“Good surprise or don’t-get-James-too-drunk-or-the-press-will-have-a-field-day surprise?”
She raised a brow. “Watch yourself, James.”
“It’s tequila shots. They ruin me.”
Mum appeared to have very little patience for me talking about alcohol the way I did. “Be safe, okay? You’ll have a good time.”
“Do I need to prepare? Wear a special shirt?”
“Wear a shirt,” Mum advised. “There’s your tip.”
“Will it be cold? Will I need coasters? What about money? How about a yellow glittery wig because, oddly enough, I have that.”
She didn’t ask. “Bink and Freddie will collect you tomorrow morning around eleven.”
I could just get them drunk tonight and have them tell me. Ha.
“They won’t be home tonight. They’ll be preparing.”
Damn. Damn Mom powers.
As much as I thought she’d be wrong, when it hit midnight, no one was there. At least my mates were usually good for a midnight shot, but the flat was empty and the lights were off. Falcon Cat watched television with me and Victoria purred on the coffee table and gave Falcon Cat threatening looks.
Every so often I glanced out the curtains to make sure TomCat wasn’t lurking on a tree branch.
Around two, I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer and fell asleep on the sofa with Falcon Cat next to my face and Victoria on my hip.
One hour later, the lights still off, someone put their hand over my mouth and a blindfold over my eyes. I was groggy and they got to my hands before I could struggle. Falcon Cat hissed and Victoria was just Victoria and probably suggested they take Falcon Cat too to get her out of the damn flat.
I assumed it was Fred and Bink, but part of me also considered I was for real being kidnapped to be used as blackmail against my family for thousands of Galleons.
Falcon Cat purred so I assumed she was being petted. If it was the kidnapper, at least they were nice.
After a moment of people fumbling around the flat, I was damn near shoved down the stairs and put into a car. A real, Muggle car. Like the kind we stole from Emerson.
Okay, it also sounded a little like that car, but anything new made that awkward rusty sound so I wasn’t concerned. I just hoped Bink hadn’t stolen another car because he couldn’t sodding drive.
Classical music was on the radio.
Okay. Freddie could be into classical music. He did correct Bink’s grammar from time to time (even when he was sleep-talking) and was into weird stuff like going to the Opera. Still strange for three in the morning on the night before my birthday. Well, morning of my birthday.
Not exactly get-pumped-up music.
“Can I ask where we’re going?” I said.
No answer. Apparently no, I could not ask.
I figured we’d Floo. Maybe the venue was close. Some crazy club party at three in the morning? Camping? What had I not thought of? They had to be doing something crazy awesome if they kidnapped me in the middle of the night. Granted, I was tired. An hour of sleep was a little less than I wanted.
We kept driving.
Come on. Birthday shots. Birthday shots. Birthday shots.
Maybe they got a puppy.
Maybe they got an entire herd of puppies and were taking me to the farm.
Wouldn’t puppies be asleep at three?
Probably three-thirty by now.
“Is it three or three-thirty?” I asked and no one answered. “Are we going to a puppy farm?” I added and again, no one answered.
I wished I could get my blindfold off, but my hands were zip-tied together. Not exactly the fuzzy handcuffs Bink tried using last year when I wouldn’t cooperate. I couldn’t even see out the bottom of the blindfold.
I wiggled back and forth, but no one was beside me in the back seat of the car. I’d crouched down, so it was definitely a car. Not anything bigger. There were two people in the front judging by my kidnapping.
“Fred. Bink. You can at least tell me if we’re going to a puppy farm. Did Mum tell you I’d been talking about puppies?”
This was getting obnoxious. Sure, they could come in and kidnap me and be all suspicious, but it was getting less fun the longer I bounced in the back seat of the car.
“Are we at least having birthday shots?” I said. “Not tequila. That has dangerous effects.”
Still, nothing. We were driving really fast now. Probably on country roads outside of town. Very, very fast.
My wand wasn’t on me. That was odd. Usually my wand was always on me.
Bink and Freddie wouldn’t forget my wand on purpose.
“Come on,” I groaned. “Fred, I’m going to tell Amy you’ve still got feelings for that tart Abigail. And Kay Davies. And ManClaw.”
“Bink, I’m going to tell Rose you are in love with her and want a real relationships and feelings and you want to hold her hand in public.”
“Oh, COME ON what the FUCK.”
The car pulled over and stopped. Silence.
Bink and Freddie got out and opened the door to my right. One of them grabbed me by the arm and tugged me out.
“Birthday shots?” I said.
“If you insist,” said a voice and holy motherfucker it was NOT Bink or Freddie.
That’s when I got decked in the face and fell onto the side of the car, sliding down.
With the hit, my blindfold was knocked sideways.
Even in the darkness of the countryside, there was no mistaking the two faces smirking before me. They were not who I expected to see, nor were they who I expected to see together.
Mason was the one who punched me. He was more likely to be here than the other and he was dressed in all black looking like a fucking tool. His knuckles had a little blood on them. Behind him was a vacant field with crops up to his middle. I couldn’t see any further. Too dark.
I struggled, but my hands were still zip-tied.
Fuck fuck fuck I was literally tied up and being beat up by Mason the crazy ass reserve.
It was who was beside Mason, though, who caught me off guard.
Emerson “Twitwards” Edwards was there in his best pinstriped suit and tie, arms folded and a smug expression across his face. “Hello, Potter.”
“Fucking what?” I spat, unable to hold it in. “I have several questions.”
“I wish you wouldn’t,” Mason said impatiently. “You like to talk. I’m done hearing you talk.”
“Did you seriously drive me out to the middle of nowhere to beat the shit out of me and leave me in a field because I’ve seen those documentaries.”
Mason rolled his eyes. “It’s your birthday, isn’t it, Potter?”
“Happy birthday to me,” I said. “And that was not what I meant by birthday shots.”
“Looks like you’ll be missing the celebration.”
“Are you SERIOUS?” I yelled. “What are you even going to do? Is this how you’re going to get on the team – beat the shit out of the kid who hasn’t even played a game and make him miss his birthday party? Goddamn. Get it over with. I feel like I deserve better.”
Mason was clearly impatient, but Emerson put a hand on his arm.
“How do you two even bloody know each other?” I asked. “Are you dating?”
“If you must know, I sought him out after watching the broadcast of the Tornados taking a trip to see the Hurricanes on tour,” Emerson replied tactfully. “You know, after my car was stolen.”
“Your car was stolen? That’s unfortunate, mate.”
“By three blokes in wigs.”
“Freddie’s wasn’t a wig,” I said.
“Not even going to go there,” he replied. “I would have thought after Hogwarts your blatant disregard for others would subside, but I was wrong.”
“You mean my disregard for you? I have plenty of regard for others. Just not you. You’re a twat.” I looked at Mason. “So are you, mate. Come on. You think I’ve got it out for you, but if you want to blame anyone for signing me, blame Ballo. Fuck, I was blacklisted. He broke all the rules – not me.”
“I heard about that,” Mason said with a smirk. I didn’t like that smirk.
“If I’m not out here for birthday shots, can you at least tell me your evil plan? My face hurts.”
Mason and Emerson exchanged smirky smiles. They were really horrible “bad guys.” They needed to watch more movies. This was boring, though it was a nice warm July night, so I had that going for me.
I wondered what Avery was doing now. If she had been helping Bink and Freddie, or if she was up to something else. What was she getting me for my birthday?
Oh GODRIC what if she was going to sleep with me for my birthday?
“What’s wrong, Potter?”
I choked a little. “I’m fucking tied up next to a rusty car in the middle of nowhere. I’m peachy.”
“Scared is a good look for you.”
Little did they know what I was actually scared of, but either way it wasn’t masculine at all so I let them think what they wanted.
Seriously, though, what if Avery went out and bought some slinky lingerie.
I could barely hold it together when she had on the tiny shorts.
I had to stop thinking about this. I was being kidnapped.
I shook my head and looked back at Emerson and Mason. “So what are we doing then? Having a bit more fun and then dumping me in the field? Driving me a little ways?”
“Still have your V-Card, Potter?”
I groaned. “Twitwards, there are no words to accurately describe how much I can’t stand you. I think you out-rank Mason given our past.”
Mason leaned down and grabbed me by the collar of my shirt. “Just letting you know not to get too comfortable on the roster, Potter. Hell, maybe you won’t even play your first game.”
“I’m banned from the first game,” I said smartly. “And I technically already played at the tournament, which, you know, is just for pro players so they didn’t invite you.”
Mason’s eyes flashed. Emerson steadied him.
“Say,” I said to my ex-roommate. “Why were you at Avery’s tryout anyway?”
“The Minister is interested in the Harpies.”
“You’re full of shit,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You don’t even talk to the Minister. You just wanted an excuse to watch Avery get her Keep on. Still fancy her?” I watched him. “Fuck, you do? Come on, mate, she’s my wife now. Don’t fancy other people’s wives.”
“Don’t think for a moment anyone believes you got married on purpose,” spat Emerson. “You were probably drunk or drugged or doing it for publicity.”
“Yes, that’s why we didn’t announce it and sell it to the papers,” I said, rolling my eyes. “You’re the worst at knowing famous things, Twitwards. Stop fancying my wife. It’s awkward.”
“I’ll fancy who I please,” he said, which was of course an admirable comeback that even made Mason scoff. “Listen, Potter, she won’t put up with your shit for long.”
“And she’s going to come running to you?” I laughed. “Fat chance. You ordered her a salad.”
I sighed. “Can we just get this over with? It’s my birthday.”
Mason got back in my face and pressed his forehead against mine, which was weird. “Happy Birthday, Potter. Enjoy your dream while it lasts. I have a friend called David who bets it won’t.”
Then Mason punched me again and everything went black.
A/N: Thanks for your patience while I went on my crazy writing-spree of Hormones while taking a break from this one. But I was able to reread a lot and I can't wait to plan out the rest of this story and show you all what I have planned.
UP NEXT: James wakes up. Unpleasantly. It's his 18th birthday.
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