For hoodwink and Dobby101.
The back door opened and closed. I thought I locked it.
The television was going on about how I was armed and dangerous, willing to do anything to get to the top. The next picture was a little more disturbing – me at practice for the Tornados. I looked like a lunatic, but I suspected I was just in the middle of a sentence. Probably calling Artemis a prat.
Footsteps. I ducked into the hall, gripping my wand so tight my knuckles turned white.
They were here. The same people who took my family were here for me. To throw me to the media. To throw me in jail.
Was this the plan? Frame me and put me in jail? It made sense. It ruined my reputation and made it so I wouldn’t play Quidditch again.
Still, did everyone believe this nonsense? It was impossible. I was James Potter. Darling of the Quidditch media.
Well, until I lied to them about my marriage.
I hadn’t done damage control on that one yet.
The steps grew closer on the wood floor. One person. Soft feet.
I heard them move into the living room, so I thought I’d catch them first and rounded the corner, wand ready, curse on my lips.
“Aves!” I ran at her, throwing my arms around her. “They’ve got my family! The plan has changed! Your father set a bunch of grass on fire – which was easy because Mason doesn’t water it properly.”
She returned the hug, but pulled away, confused. “What?”
I shook my head. “No time. I’ll send an owl up to Bink and Freddie. You have to stay up there with them and be safe. They barricaded the flat. It’s safe for you.”
Avery actually laughed in my face. “I’m not going anywhere. I was at Mum’s and saw the thing about your family – what happened? Where are they?” She saw the popcorn. “Someone has them.”
“Someone has them,” I agreed, nodding. “I just got here. The boys and I went to do some spy work.”
“I’m surprised at your face paint instead of a wig.”
“I’m maturing,” I said, shrugging. “Nevermind. We overheard Flynn telling Twitwards and Mason and August Wells that the plan changed. It’s in motion now – I’m willing to bet this was phase one. Of course. How could my father poke around at the Ministry if he is kidnapped?”
“My father really went so far as to kidnap the most famous wizarding family?” Avery said, glancing around the room for more clues. “He really is an idiot.”
I nodded. That I agreed with. “I’m guessing Twitwards or a minion did it, though I have no idea how. My parents are far more resourceful than I am with a wand.” I motioned to the television. “Do you think anyone will believe I kidnapped my own parents and am threatening to murder my sister? Don’t people connect the dots? I couldn’t get captain over this. They’d give into my demands and immediately arrest me.”
“James, of course they will. That’s what they’re going to do.”
“They’re going to play it out just like that,” Avery explained. “That you’re off your rocker and power hungry. That you didn’t think it through. They’re going to meet you somewhere and arrest you. Put you in jail.”
“The Ministry or your father?”
“Let’s hope the Ministry finds you first,” she mumbled.
I paced the room, waiting to hear sirens. Nothing. At least the spell on the grounds still worked to keep out most people.
“I have to find them,” I said.
“You’re going to get yourself killed. We need a plan.”
“I need a machete,” I said. Pacing, I ran my fingers through my hair. “Do you think they’re figuring out how to get onto the property?” I shifted the curtains, but didn’t see anyone at the end of the drive.
Avery shook her head and leaned against the sofa. “No. If what you’re saying is the plan, then they won’t come here for you. They’ll wait for you to come out and publicly shame you. Arrest you and let your fans watch you fall.”
“I barely have any damn fans. I didn’t even play a damn game.”
This was a disaster. If I stayed, my family was a hostage. If I left, I gave them exactly what they wanted.
“Avery, I have to rescue my family.”
She smirked. “You’re more of a Potter than you thought you were, hmm?”
“Don’t tell my father,” I mumbled. “I can’t be bothered to fight Dark wizards when I’m playing a full season.” I paused. “If I play a full season.”
Avery placed a hand on my shoulder and squeezed. “Listen. You have to think like them.”
“Like your father? Okay, get me a silly mustache and tweed pants and I’ll get into character.”
“My father owns neither of those.”
“Don’t question me. I’m thinking like my nemesis.” I always thought my nemesis would be Twitwards or Twataso or Darian Bay. My father-in-law hadn’t crossed my mind.
“Let me start,” Avery said with a knowing smile. I momentarily wanted to kiss it away. “You have to be smart. They aren’t going to hurt your family. No one hurts the Potters. My father isn’t that stupid. He’s just using them to get to you, who he doesn’t care about killing apparently. They’re alive and probably watching television wherever they’re being held. It’s only a matter of time until your mum lures away a guard with her gaze and they’re sprung.”
I grimaced. I did not like that visual.
“Don’t run in to save them. It’s stupid and it’s going to get you killed.”
“What do you suggest?”
Another smirk as she wrapped her hair around a finger. “A plan.”
Bink and Freddie let us back to the flat after we answered a series of questions I didn’t remember prepping with them. At one point, Freddie asked which bell pepper I favored: Yellow, green, or red. I said red, which must have been correct because the lock clicked and the door swung open.
“I had to make sure it was really you,” he insisted, closing the door and locking it behind us.
“Based on my preference for vegetables?” I asked.
“Your love of food goes deep.”
We sat in a circle in the living room and Avery explained the situation. To their credit, Bink and Freddie didn’t interrupt, even when Falcon Cat sauntered in and started batting at my shoelaces.
“So,” Bink began, “We have no idea where they’re being held, no idea how Flynn wants to strike to get James, and no idea how far this chain of douchebaggery extends?”
“Basically,” Avery said, nodding.
“Any backup?” he asked.
“It’s safe to assume we can’t trust James’s team,” Avery said and before I could interrupt, she shook her head. “I love all of them, but they could be on the receiving end of a convincing blackmail, don’t you think? I’m pretty sure Lindt is being blackmailed with his slot as captain. Maybe his family? Spot on the team?”
Ugh. It made sense.
“The family is out,” Avery said. “The rest of the family could be a possibility, but I don’t think it’s wise to get more of them potentially captured or hurt.” She looked to me and I nodded. “Amy is out for this round. We can try owling Paloma and Wesley, but I have a bad feeling they might be with your family.”
“What?” I said. “You think Wesley’s dating my sister?”
“Not the time,” she muttered. “I called here a few hours ago and he picked up.”
I groaned. What a mess.
“That leaves one person,” Avery said.
“Falcon Cat?” I guessed.
I exchanged looks with the boys. “Not it,” I said and shoved my finger against my nose.
Freddie was last so he flipped us off and grabbed some parchment.
Nia arrived an hour later. It had started to rain and her hood was pulled low over her face. She said the password, which was salami sandwich, and joined us in the flat.
“I heard the news,” she said and shrugged off the cloak, draping it over the railing. “Of course I didn’t believe it, but it’s going to be difficult to get around it. Even if it’s proven false, that’s what people are going to associate you with.”
I fell back into the sofa. “I’m going to fight Dark wizards instead. This Quidditch business is rubbish.”
Nia nudged me and sat down. “So what’s the plan? I said I’d help and I want to.” She finally spotted Avery and smiled. “Hey! Still in the honeymoon phase? Or did the media sort of mess that up?”
“I’d rather not discuss it,” Avery said, but she was still wearing the ring.
She was still my wife.
Hopefully not a soon-to-be widow.
The plan was simple. Sort of.
Bink and Freddie were going to don (female) disguises and check the list of locations for my family. We knew they wouldn’t be easy to locate, but they were to gather clues of added security, a struggle, or people who recently asked for autographs.
Avery was studying the news stations, looking for clues in phrases and photos about where they could be located or what Twitwards was feeding the media. After, she was to put on one of her slinky dresses and visit the assistant to the assistant to the Minister himself for information.
It was her idea. I suggested taking a bowl of salad as an offering.
Nia was heading back into the Quidditch world to poke around and ask innocent questions while being her bubbly, Tactnia self.
I was going to lock Falcon Cat and Victoria safely inside my room with lots of food just in case and go to my father’s study for additional information. I knew he wouldn’t keep information on Flynn at the Ministry – too risky. It would be in his locked drawer. The one I conveniently made a key for several years ago when I stole the Marauder’s Map.
After I found what I was looking for, we were to meet back at the flat in four hours with a tactical plan to spring my family, take down David Flynn, and save my career.
Things just don’t happen the way you want them to.
Especially when you’re up against a bitter lunatic, a sad reserve, an assistant’s assistant, and the random owner of several teams.
Somehow, the fort debacle seventh year with Twitwards seemed less complicated now.
I found the information where I assumed it would be. Dad’s study was dark, lit by a few candles at the edge of the desk. I spread out the papers and folders, careful not to let wax drip on any, and began to read.
He was right in saying he hadn’t found many leads, but there were a lot of things there already. I skimmed.
Blah blah blah Ministry garbage.
Blah blah – Oh, Emerson’s uncle was the assistant to the Minister. What a leg up.
There was an entire folder devoted to Mason. According to several reports, this wasn’t the first time he got fired up for not being bumped to the Tornados. Before AliCat got the call, he set a building on fire. They didn’t kick him off the Hurricanes because of “fan loyalty” and “no actual proof it was him.” Two pages later it stated the Ministry found his Hurricanes Captain pin at the site.
On the next page it listed Mason’s relatives. His aunt was in Magical Law Enforcement.
This was explaining a lot. Their connections made it easy for Twitwards and Mason to fly under the radar. Easy to get the pardon onto the Minister’s desk. Easy to ignore Mum’s statement about my kidnapping (which she never told me she did).
There was also a thinner folder containing documents (many were blacked out) explaining David Flynn’s Quidditch league connections. An August Wells was named as his Hogwarts roommate. In a clipped newspaper article, Wells was quoted saying one day they would be “owners – side by side.”
The pieces continued to slide into place.
Emerson got Avery (yeah, right).
Mason got my spot on a professional Quidditch team (less likely).
David Flynn got sole ownership of a Quidditch franchise, his record terminated, and the elimination of the boy who took away his dreams (might happen).
I stuffed the files back into Dad’s desk and locked it. No one needed to see this. No one needed to get hurt over it.
Part of me knew someone already was. Why had I sent Bink and Freddie out to spy for me? How could I explain away their loss if something happened? Amy would put me through a wall if Flynn didn’t do it first.
And Avery. No matter how many times she took care of things with Twitwards, this was different. He had reinforcement now. His reach was further. I put her directly in harm’s way.
When did thinking of myself ever yield good results? Even Nia was out helping me.
I locked the office door and slipped back into the living room. There were still no media beating down the door or Ministry officials popping their heads in the fireplace. I had to assume Avery was right. They wanted a public showcase. They wanted to ruin me.
They were well on their way, I decided when I looked back to the television. I tapped up the volume.
“We’re being told now things have taken a turn,” said the anchor. She was a pretty woman with dark hair and dark eyes. “It appears Potter is sick in his hostage-taking. He has taken his former best friends after forcing them to dress in drag for his amusement.”
I actually rolled my eyes, though I knew it wasn’t the time.
Like I had to force Freddie to wear a dress. Honestly. Just ask Amy.
“This situation is getting serious. I’m being told Ministry officials are trying to make contact with Potter to negotiate.”
I waited. No contact.
Then the house phone rang. The one Clara called on to break the news of my marriage to my mother. Though tempted to unplug it, I picked it up.
“Yeeeeello?” I said casually.
“Is this James Potter?”
“Considering the rest of my family has been kidnapped by a madman, I am the only one left here,” I said. Avery was out there somewhere and I only hoped she was okay. “What can I do for you, mate?”
“Please make your demands.”
“What’s your name, mate?”
I paused. “Scorpius bloody Malfoy?”
“Please watch your language, Mr. Potter. State your demands in order to negotiate for the release of your family.”
“You haven’t even graduated yet,” I said. Seriously. He was to take over the Slytherin Quidditch team next season. Lily and I spent an entire day drilling about his moves.
“Internship, Mr. Potter,” he said tactfully. “Now, I repeat, please state your demands.”
“You do realize I don’t have my family, right?”
“You do have your family. They have been kidnapped. By you.”
“Let me level with you, mate.” I leaned my hip against the dining room table, which Mum always told me not to do because I would fall and break myself. After losing my footing and almost falling and breaking myself, I stepped away. “Do you honestly think I could kidnap not just my siblings, but my entire family? You remember who my father is, yes? Who he defeated? And you’re assuming I, Quidditch fuckup extraordinaire, am going to kidnap him? Fat chance.”
Scorpius sighed in a manner that was very rehearsed. “Very well, Potter. I will inform the Ministry that you are unwilling to negotiate.”
“Can you hand a grown-up the phone?” I asked.
The line went dead.
After this was over, I was going to ask Dad to have a word with the Department of Magical Law Enforcement for letting an intern handle a negotiation.
Unless it was Mason’s aunt’s doing.
Unless my father was no longer alive.
Avery didn’t return to the flat at the time of the rendez-vous.
Nia was the only one there and looking frazzled. I glanced out the front curtains, but slammed them shut. No Avery there. No Avery from the fireplace. No Avery Flynn Potter anywhere and I was about to go batshit insane if my wife didn’t walk through any door in the next minute.
“James,” Nia said, noticing my absurd pacing. “She’s probably fine. She might be scouting a lead.”
“I don’t need her scouting leads,” I said, louder than I wanted to. “I need her here. Safe.”
She shook her head, smirking.
“What? Don’t smirk. I’ll call you Bink.” He was too smirky. And now he was kidnapped.
“Just – it’s nothing.”
“What is it?”
She was startled, but nodded. “I was just thinking about you and Avery. It seems so obvious now, doesn’t it?”
“What seems obvious?” My patience was waning. I was no Hufflepuff.
“How in love with each other you two were,” Nia said. She was smiling again, but it made my heart hurt. “I mean, I know you two were mates before seventh year, but just thinking back and how you noticed each other and you tried to play it off as being protective and she tried to go on other dates… but you were so in love. And so in denial.”
I wanted to argue, but I couldn’t. Nia was right.
Nia Baker was actually right.
Part of me wondered if I had been in love with Avery Flynn since I met her in the boat on our way to Hogwarts.
Now she wasn’t here. I kept the television muted to the “high risk hostage situation” in case there was a development, but I still hadn’t seen Avery’s face.
There were photos of the kidnapped lining the bottom of the television screen and Avery was right – Paloma and Wesley were there as well. My entire immediate family, their significant others (ugh, Wesley) and my two best mates.
“Fine.” I leaned into the kitchen island to stop from pacing. “Tell me what you found out. Please tell me you found something.”
“Cooper got a call four hours ago, when I got here,” Nia explained, keeping her voice low. “The plan is, obviously, in motion and you were right. They want to get you publicly to kill your reputation. That is their first move. They want Cooper to do an interview after you’re caught about why he thought you were a bad move for the Tornados. They sent him the script.”
“I don’t think he needs a script for that,” I muttered.
“And Avery was right about your team.”
I looked up. “Blackmail?”
Nia nodded and her frown created small lines on her cheeks. “Every one of them. Even your friend – that AliCat one. She apparated back to America to make sure her parents were safe. Each one of them is being blackmailed with someone they love – except Lindt. His entire life is that team. That’s what he’s being blackmailed with. His career.”
I felt a pang in my heart for him. The loyal Hufflepuff.
“All of this is happening because of me,” I said.
“It’s happening because a grown man is acting like a child who wants to take over the entire sandbox instead of sharing,” Nia said.
“But it’s me, isn’t it?” I said, my eyes darting around the room. My hands felt clammy. “I’m the one who started this. I’m the reason my family is kidnapped and might be tortured. I’m the reason my best mates were caught in drag – though that was pretty funny. I’m the reason my team, the people who met me two months ago, are being blackmailed with their families and careers. It’s me. Once Flynn gets me, he’ll give up on the others.”
Nia pressed her lips to one side. “Do you think so, though?”
“Why wouldn’t he?” I asked.
She stared and it felt like she was looking into me. “Why would he?” Nia sighed and continued. “I don’t think he will, James. He wants anyone associate with you stamped out.”
“You think he’ll still take Lindt’s career.”
“And you know exactly who would love a captain slot for a professional team…”
My eyes widened. “He wouldn’t. The Tornados would suck.”
Nia shrugged. “I don’t think it matters.”
I thought about it for a while as I watched the seconds tick by without delivering my wife. Without any news. Without a kidnapping notice on television or an owl to tell me she was safe. I started to panic. I let Falcon Cat crawl from my lap onto my shoulders and I paced some more. Nia suggested a plan, but I was out of plans.
I needed Avery. Avery was my plan and I was doing a rubbish job of keeping her out of danger.
The phone call jerked me awake two hours later.
Nia slept through it, her head resting on the arm of the chair and her legs falling over the other side. She never took off her shoes. “In case we have to run,” she said. I didn’t tell her, but I appreciated her being here. She told me over and over it was going to be okay. I didn’t know if I believed it, but it was nice to hear it.
“Hello?” I said into the phone, a little loud because that was the way wizards spoke into Muggle devices. “Aves? Where are you? What’s happening?”
“Oh, Potter. It’s great to hear your voice.”
Definitely not Avery.
“Flynn!” I spat. I walked into my bedroom so as to not wake Nia. “Where is she?”
“She’s alive,” he said. “If that’s what you’re worried about.”
“She’s your DAUGHTER, you low life scum piece of – “
“Watch yourself, Mr. Potter.”
I took a breath. This was not how Avery would want me to react. She would want me to be calm, collected, and have a plan. But she was so good at plans. Especially ones that didn’t involve dressing as women and spying.
“Tell me what you want, Flynn,” I said. Calmly. Well, through gritted teeth, but it was close enough.
“I’m already getting what I want,” he said. He laughed. Godric, he actually laughed. Like an evil super-villain, minus the cackle. “Now I want to know what you want.”
“My wife!” I snapped. “My family! My friends!”
There was a pause. “It’s astounding that you didn’t mention your career.”
I rolled my eyes and paced my bedroom. “Unlike some people, I happen to care more about the people I love than a fucking job.”
“Has it always been that way?” he asked.
“What do you WANT, Flynn?” I shouted, losing my temper again. “Let me talk to Avery. This is absurd. Why hasn’t she been on television yet?”
Flynn chuckled pompously. I’ll bet Emerson taught him that. “My ruse would be for naught – oh, no, the public wouldn’t believe you captured Avery after going through so much to keep your fake marriage intact. She is staying with me in a secret location.”
“What are you going to do with her?” I asked, voice catching. I hoped he didn’t catch it, but I knew he did.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Flynn said and the line crackled a little. “It depends on you, Mr. Potter. If you go through with everything and give yourself up, I suppose I’ll let her go a little scratched up. If you don’t… I have a few people sporting wands here who would love to do a little damage to someone since they don’t have immediate access to your family.”
I thought about what Nia said. “How do I know you’re not going to just off her after I give myself up?” I asked.
I could almost hear his smirk. “You don’t,” he said. “But you don’t have a choice, do you?”
I didn’t. I was backed into a corner. He had my family. He had my friends.
He had my Avery.
“Tell me what to do,” I said.
I shook Nia awake. She blinked away the sleep from her eyes. “Is everything okay?”
“No,” I said, surprised at the weakness in my voice. “But there’s something I have to do.”
“I need you to stay here,” I told her. “I’m being very serious. I need you to stay here and look after Falcon Cat and Victoria. They have some food, but I need you to wait for someone to come around. If Avery doesn’t come back and neither does my family, owl Amy and ask her to care for them.”
Nia nodded. She didn’t complain or try to stop me.
Just then, the door downstairs opened.
“AVERY?” I cried, though I knew it couldn’t be her.
It was my cousin Rose. When she made it to the top of the stairs, I saw the mascara streaks down her face and her red eyes. She looked between myself and Nia. “What’s going on?” she said, parts of the words caught in the back of her throat. “Where’s Bink?”
“Everything is going to be fine.” I grabbed a jacket. I didn’t know why I would need a jacket, but it felt comforting.
“Where is Bink?” she repeated.
I jerked my head toward Nia. “She’ll fill you in. I’m going to get them.”
“Get them – JAMES!”
I groaned. “I don’t have time, Rose. I’m really sorry. I have people to save.” I thought about Avery and her father’s threat. I didn’t know if he would actually let his henchmen harm her, but with all the damage he was doing, my doubts were slim.
“I didn’t – James – I am supposed to go to Greece in the morning!”
I’d forgotten about Greece with all the nonsense happening with my own life. I frowned. “I’m sorry,” I said. I was. Yet another example of James Potter thinking about himself. “I’ll try to deliver him back to you before you leave.”
“That’s not what I mean,” she said. Uncharacteristically, Rose Weasley was weeping. Nia put an arm around her shoulders. “I never told him I love him.”
That made me turn. “You love him?”
“Of course I love him you fucking idiot.” That was more like Rose.
“Then why were you going to Greece?” I asked, tugging on some shoes. I would probably need shoes.
“Because – hic – it’s not going to work. I’m going back to Hogwarts in the fall. He is a charismatic bartender – I’m a jackass Weasley Prefect with a temper – it’s worthless and it won’t work and I wanted out before he had a chance to tell me he met someone better.”
I straightened and looked from Nia to Rose. I really didn’t have time for this, but I made time for it.
“Rosey,” I said, cupping her cheek in one of my hands. “Bink loves you. He really, stupidly, outrageously loves you. And as much as I hate it, I hate him moping about because you’re shattering his albino heart more.”
“He loves me?”
I rolled my eyes and kissed her forehead. “If he’s not back by the time you leave, please leave him a note. You have to tell him. He has to know.”
Rose flushed and more tears rolled down her cheeks. “My orientation starts early,” she whispered.
“Leave him a voice message then.” I pointed to the phone. “Godric knows someone should use it for good instead of evil.”
“Where is he, James?” Rose said and I barely heard her.
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “But goddamn it, I’m going to find them all.”
I didn’t tell her how. I didn’t tell her my side of the bargain, but it was worth it if Flynn kept his word.
It was worth giving up everything to save the people I loved. Even if I was saving them from paper cuts and cheap beer.
David Flynn had a very specific list of requirements before he freed my family. An even longer list to free Avery.
I didn’t care.
Before I left my flat, I found one of Avery’s rings she used to wear (before we got married) and strung it through a chain. It was an emerald jewel with a silver band her mum found at a boutique when we were thirteen. I hooked it around my neck and stuffed it under my t-shirt.
I wrote her a note and left it under my pillow. It took me a while to figure out the words, but in the end I wrote:
Avery Flynn Potter,
I love you. I love you with everything I am and I will do anything to keep you safe. I used to think life was just me getting to my next goal, but it’s not. What we had – that was life. I’ll never forgive myself for the moments we lost and the times I slept instead of ran my fingers through your hair or the time it took for me to realize I couldn’t live without you.
If I make it back to you, I want you to know that I want to marry you. Really marry you. Sober, with our families, exchanging real vows in proper wedding clothes. Maybe we’ll bring Merlin, though. I liked him.
Don’t consider this a proposal. I want to do that properly, too.
If I make it back to you, I want to marry you. I want forever, Aves, and I don’t give a fuck about what team I’m on or if I’m playing Quidditch or stamping letters at the Ministry. I just want you.
I wanted to say so much more, but there wasn’t time.
David Flynn instructed me to put on my Tornados practice jersey so I looked just as off-balance as the media played me out to be. Ruffle my hair. Look unkept. That part was easy, considering I’d been freaking out since my family was kidnapped.
I said good-bye to Rose and Nia, neither of which knew what I was doing, and headed down the stairs. I left the Potter property and apparated into Diagon Alley.
The reporters were waiting. The ministry was waiting.
David Flynn was waiting.
A/N: Hello! So sorry for the delay. I had some personal issues that had to be dealt with before I could concentrate on creativity. Hopefully this update makes up for it!
Also a quick thank you to those of you who nominated my stories for Dobby awards and for all of you who voted for Hormones in the two categories it was in. It means so much to me to have your continued support.
Good luck to all of you participating in NaNo - I'm going to give it a go again this year!
NEXT UP: James does what Flynn wants, only to be utterly shocked by the lengths Flynn is willing to go to get what he desires. James tries his best not to be a cheeky bastard (the whole time).
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