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For Celeste. 




Flynn was specific with his requests.

I was to show up silent and alone. No backup. Not that it mattered – he took away my backup and I wasn’t about to put the rest of my family at risk.

When prompted, I was to tell the Ministry I wasn’t telling them the location of my family until my demands were met.

I was to be arrested in Diagon Alley, which was partially roped off for negotiations. It was public. The Ministry officials were surrounded by onlookers.

Flynn didn’t request for me to look over and see a little blond boy, probably five, wearing a Tornados jersey with tears in his eyes upon spotting me.

That part ached the most.

But I did it. I did all of it.

Nia asked before I left why I didn’t just go to the Ministry – tell them the truth. Explain it was Flynn who was holding my family hostage because he was such a twat and that I had nothing to do with it. My answer was simple.

“I would rather lose my career than risk Flynn finding out I’d gone to the Ministry through Twitwards’ minions and decide to do something drastic,” I’d told her. The man was extremely unbalanced and it was clear if he’d taken the time to kidnap the famous Potter family, he would dispose of them just as easily.

The apparition-proof handcuffs hurt and cut into my skin, but I said nothing. I simply told them what Flynn instructed me to say, deadpanned, and they arrested me. Scorpius Malfoy was there, grinning. It made me wonder about Clint Lawson for a moment, but that was driven from my mind when an official kicked my legs out from under me so my body slammed into the ground. With no hands to catch me, blood found its way from my knees, shoulder, and nose.

When I looked up, I saw the cameras.

I tried not to imagine Nia and Rose watching from my flat.

Or if my family had access to a television. This would be big news, after all. Even for the people who didn’t believe I’d kidnapped my own family.

“Only a matter of time before one of them Potters went off their rocker,” I heard someone in the crowd say. That reminded me of stories Dad used to tell from his Hogwarts days.

A man in a tight uniform with large front teeth hoisted me to my feet. My knees buckled, but he steadied me. “Easy, Potter,” he said and made sure I could support my weight before letting go. I made eye contact. He looked away.

I said nothing. Flynn told me to say nothing.

I couldn’t trust him, of course, but if there was a sliver of a chance for Avery to make it out alive, I had to do this.

That chance was shrinking by the second.

As I was being steered away by the officer, I wondered how he could possibly let my friends and family go. He wasn’t stupid, as jackass-y as he was. He knew my father knew he was involved. He knew Bink and Freddie certainly had information. If he let them go, they could ruin his careful plans. How would he be able to take over a Quidditch team if the people with the information got out?

I paused outside the door to the Ministry’s Diagon Alley branch.

“He’s not going to let them go, is he?” I whispered, eyes wide in shock.

The officer raised a brow. “What, Potter?”

I wheeled around, twisting my body so I could see the crowd photographing me get arrested and gossiping. I spotted Flynn halfway back in a khaki coat.

He was grinning.

Oh, Godric, what have I done?

*

The officer escorted me into a small room with mirrored walls and a table in the center. He motioned to a chair, so I sat. Flynn had less requests for this part, only to stay quiet and someone important would fetch me.

I now had no doubt they would spin this as an escape, though I had no idea why since they just saw me give myself up. The blood wasn’t my best look, either. Flynn didn’t mention blood. My practice jersey was going to be stained.

This entire operation was illogical, but I couldn’t figure out a better course of action. I had to save my family and friends. Currently, though, my hands were locked behind my back and the blood was drying on my face. Not very heroic. I didn’t even know where my family was being kept.

The door opened behind me.

“Ah, Potter. Great to see you.”

I groaned. “Oh, come on. Really?”

Emerson walked around the table to stand in front of me. He tented his fingers, looking particularly smug in a new suit with hair gel.

“Did you always gel your hair?” I asked. “I feel like I would have noticed.”

He ignored me. He was really good at ignoring people.

“You’ll be pleased to find we have a few moments alone,” Emerson said with a grin. Not a regular one – one like Costaso. I didn’t know why I would be pleased with that information. “Afterward, you’ll be fetched and the fun begins.”

“I don’t even want to know,” I muttered. “Where is Avery?”

He met my eyes, his own glittering. “We’re keeping Avery Flynn tucked away safely. We aren’t quite sure what to do with her yet, though you’re upholding your end of the bargain quite nicely.”

“No shit,” I snapped. “I’m here. Someone is fetching me. Let Avery and my family go.”

“That’s not up to me,” Emerson said. He turned and started to pace with his hands lightly folded behind his back. “She came to see me a few hours ago, you know. I’m sure you do. I’m sure it was you who sent her there.”

A stab of guilt made its way into my stomach.

“Anyway, she tried to reason with me.”

I wanted to respond. I wanted to so badly, but I didn’t. As much as I wanted to tell him how big of a twat he was, I also wanted to know what happened to my wife.

“I respect her for trying,” Emerson continued. “She was almost convincing, but I think it was that which made me realize I was never getting what I wanted out of this maniacal scheme.” He placed air quotes around the last two words. “So I changed directions.”

“Head interrogator?” I asked, rolling my eyes.

“Potter, you have been an arrogant asshole from the moment you got on the train to Hogwarts,” Emerson said. He leaned over the table, pressing his palms into the laminate surface. “You have made people’s lives miserable and because of your fucking charm and last name, they let you get away with it. Some even thanked you for it.”

My upper lip wrinkled. I couldn’t remember anyone thanking me for ruining their lives.

“You made my seven years at Hogwarts go from something I dreamed about when I was a child to something I dreaded at the end of each summer,” Emerson said.

“Are you serious?” I said. “You have to be joking, mate. You do remember how you were, right? Because I’m not the only one who didn’t want you sitting next to him in class.”

His eyes flashed and I realized I might not have been in the best position to talk back. I tried to wiggle out of the cuffs, but there was no give.

“Potter, you deserve what you’re going to get for what you put people through,” Emerson said, straightening up. His grin was back. “Avery deserves better than some punk like you.”

“Am I supposed to get off your lawn too?” I said. Ignored again.

“I think Mr. Flynn has come to the conclusion that your uses are limited,” he continued. “I happen to agree with him. Most of your fame has been acquired through charisma and luck.”

“And last name,” I added because he forgot that part.

“Your family, too, has the same pride. Pretty good idea pinning it on you.”

“Pinning what on me?” I said. Too quickly.

“You don’t need to know the details,” Emerson said, shrugging. “Blackmail works on everyone, Potter. You should know. It’s why you’re in this chair. Your family especially reacts to blackmail. You’re proud and heroic and too emotional to be in charge.”

“Oh, yes,” I said in a lofty way, wrists digging into the cuffs. “Far too emotional to leave someone for dead with roadkill draped across their chest.”

“I bet that was quite the smell,” Emerson said, chuckling. “Anyway. Your transport should arrive any minute. I need to get prepared for my big debut.”

“Debut?” I said. “Starring in a musical?”

Emerson placed his hand on the door knob. “Oh, no. You just broke out, beat the shit out of me, and left me for dead to escape, realizing you would never get the captain position or continue with the Tornados, so now you’re headed back to take care of your family.”

He left when I didn’t reply. I just stared blankly, like an idiot.

Take care of my family.

That was the plan all along. David Flynn was going to kill my family and pin the murder on me? How as that possible?

There was no way.

Emerson was feeding me lies. He did mention blackmail, so that was a second option. Flynn could blackmail my family when letting them go, knowing if they breathed a word he’d kill me without a second thought. But how long could that last? Until they killed me or let me go? Were they planning on keeping me locked up the rest of my life? Where?

One thing was clear: David Flynn had a lot of time to think over the last few months in prison. Should have used that time alone to dream up cake recipes.

I didn’t have much time to think about it when two blokes in black clothes walked into the interrogation room. One overturned the table and spilled a vial of what looked to be blood on the floor. Oh, yes, from my fight with Emerson.

I wished I could have a real damn fight with Twitwards.

Well, maybe with my wand too.

Which had been taken from me upon arrest. I missed my wand. I hoped they didn’t snap it. It was a quality wand.

“Here to escort me, boys?” I asked playfully. The other man slapped me on the back of the head, which I did not appreciate.

“They said you’d be cheeky,” he muttered. He sounded like a Slytherin, for sure. Clint Lawson-esque, but beefier.

“I resent that,” I said. “I’m just very clever and have wonderful comedic timing. It was a documentary I watched at age six. Changed my life forever. Would you like the recommendation?”

They didn’t reply. Instead, the first bloke finished off the crime scene and the second pulled me to my feet. I staggered, but didn’t fall. This blood loss and injury thing wasn’t my forte.

How did I play professional Quidditch? What a wimp I was.

Played? Past tense? Of course past tense now.

How on earth could Flynn keep all this blackmailing going? Forever? Did he threaten AliCat so bad she wouldn’t let anything out for the rest of her life? She was American. Being a risk-taker was in her blood.

Unless he was actually going to kill the hostages.

“Let’s go, Potter.”

“Okay, random transport bloke.” He elbowed me in the ribs and I doubled over.

Less cheek. Okay.

The hallway was empty except for a sleeping guard as we turned a corner.

Nope, not sleeping. Blood everywhere.

Guard was dead.

GUARD WAS DEAD.

“You KILLED someone?” I cried, nodding toward the TOTALLY DEAD GUARD. “He was probably just trying to support his little guard family – you seriously killed someone? Is Flynn OFF HIS FUCKING ROCKER?”

Granted, I knew the answer to that, but as we rounded the corner and I saw the puddle of scarlet blood on the floor my stomach turned.

“Don’t throw up,” said one of the men.

“Did you just dry clean your outfits?” I snapped and got elbowed again.

The hallways were narrow and painted a horrible olive green. There were no photographs or awards. Just numberless doors with no windows lining the corridor.

They kicked open one of said doors and I found a stairwell. We went down. My voice echoed.

“What did the guard do to you?” I asked. “Did he threaten to tell someone you were busting me out and blaming murder on me?”

They didn’t respond.

“Seriously. Do you guys have families?”

“Of course not,” one of the blokes said, but was silenced by the other with a look.

I guessed you couldn’t have a family to survive long in whatever world they were in. The killing innocent people world. They didn’t have anyone to protect. No one to blackmail so they would turn themselves in.

Ugh. I had too much family.

And still I had leagues of family who were left in the dark about what was happening. They would know, now, that the Potters were kidnapped, but none were daft enough to believe I would do it for power. Grandmum knew me too well for that. They all did.

They also knew about blackmail and risk and weren’t stupid.

The guy without the family opened a door to the basement. Four floors below where I was. It was dark and lit with flickering bulbs against concrete walls. This was like those scary movies Freddie loved – but he would be telling me not to go this way. Yelling it at the television, actually.

The guard who had elbowed me took out a key. “If you try and run away, our instructions are to kill you immediately. Then we place a call and the rest of them are killed immediately.”

Ah, more blackmail.

I shrugged. “Whatever, mate. This is starting to become normal to me.”

He unlocked my handcuffs and tossed them onto the concrete floor of the hallway.

“Ready?” he asked his partner.

“Ready,” said the man without the family.

Just then, the first man pointed his wand at the other and killed him. Right there. Avada Kedavra’d his ass. He fell to the ground in a mangled heap, smashing his head on the basement floor. More blood.

“You killed him!” I cried, pointing at the guy repeatedly. My eyes bugged out of my head. DEAD HE WAS DEAD.

I started to feel a panic attack coming on. For someone with a famous family, I didn’t handle fear well.

“He knew too much.” The man took my arm lazily.

Before I could say anything else, he turned and apparated, holding my upper arm, which still ached from my fall outside.

I saw two dead people today.

Flynn wanted me so badly, there were two people dead because of me and I followed all his rules.

What would happen if I didn’t follow his rules?

Suddenly the idea that he would be fine killing my family seemed real.

That made my stomach turn again. When we arrived, I collapsed and lost my breakfast on the man’s shoes. He kicked me and I rolled over onto my back, coughing.

Ugh.

My body shook.

“Get up, Potter.”

I didn’t move. I didn’t want to move. I wanted all of this to be over.

Seriously. How fucking extreme was all of this? People were DEAD. My family was KIDNAPPED.

Over a snarky seventeen-year-old boy and the power of owning a Quidditch team.

“Where the hell am I?” I said, annoyed now. I wiped my face on the back of my hand and finally looked around.

The place was unfamiliar. It looked like another basement, but this time it was a giant room with rubbish like boxes and containers and metal objects in piles around it. The ceilings were low, so I couldn’t see around it. How far the room went. It was cold and I could barely see my breath. We must have been far underground for that in the summer.

The murdering-guard man lifted me by my hurt arm and dragged me forward.

“We’re late,” he muttered.

“Oh, good. We’re late because SOMEONE had to pause and MURDER other people.”

“Quiet,” he snapped.

“No big deal, just pausing to murder over here – continue on!”

“Potter. I’m warning you. I will make a call.”

“And say what – Potter’s being a cheeky bastard? They pretty much expect it.”

He groaned. “I knew I didn’t want this assignment,” he mumbled and we turned a corner.

In front of me was a giant cage. Not like an animals-in-the-zoo cage with bars and comical beach balls, but like a room made of a metal fence. There was one door in the front, and then metal fencing for all four walls and the ceiling. Inside was a single chair and a closed box.

“What’s in the box?” I asked.

At that, he chuckled.

“What?”

“I don’t think you want to know, but you’ll definitely find out.”

The man unlocked the door and shoved me inside. “Sit down,” he said, so I did. I didn’t mind sitting.

Until the chair arms sprouted handcuffs and cuffed me in. And then the chair legs cuffed me in.

Then I wasn’t keen on sitting.

The man chuckled and put something into his phone. It dinged.

“That’s a Muggle device,” I said matter-of-factly.

“I know,” he replied. “I’m not against Muggles, Potter. I just think you’re a privileged douchebag.”

“You didn’t have to bring me to a random basement in a cage to tell me that, you know,” I said. “Twitwards did a nice job of it upstairs.”

“Twitwards?” he said.

“Oh – Yeah, I used to call him that. His last name is Edwards and he is a twit.”

The man raised his brow. “And that was what you came up with?”

“I was young!” I whined. “And he was trying to date the girl I fancied. Come on, man, he ordered for her at a restaurant – he ordered her salad!”

The man ignored me. “Stay here, Potter.”

“Really? I was about to leave and order takeout. Did you want anything?” My eyes narrowed.

The man punched me in the face and I blacked out.

*

When I woke, I was alone in the cage. My arms and legs were still bound and the box was still closed. I was a little nervous about its contents at the way the man laughed. Torture supplies? Admission into the Slytherin House?

Ew. Torture supplies would be better.

Trying to figure out where I was, I squinted to get a better look at the boxes surrounding the cage. It was difficult since there was a stereotypical interrogation light above my head, but mostly they were just cardboard boxes and metal parts and stacks of rubbish. I saw a few newspapers and empty Quaffle sacks and – wait, what?

I leaned as forward as I could in the chair and squinted. Those were Quaffle sacks. The kind we used at practice. Beige and cloth, perfect for transporting Quaffles for a drill. Henrik made me carry them from the locker rooms because he said it “builds character.”

There was a logo, but I couldn’t see it properly.

I started looking around again. I spotted two more empty Quaffle sacks (one with a giant hole) and a broken Snitch off to the side of a newspaper pile.

Quidditch. There was a lot of Quidditch here for it to be a normal basement. That ruled out commercial establishments and most businesses.

It didn’t rule out professional or minor-league Quidditch stadiums, though.

Flynn needed an in. Which meant if this was a stadium, it would either have to be one August Wells owned … or where he had sway. The Tornados and the Hurricanes were both on that list.

That left what – Harpies, Falcons, Finches as well. Five possible stadiums I could be in.

The Falcons were in southwest England. Harpies in Wales. Finches in Massachusetts in America. Tornados near the Welsh border. Hurricanes in the south.

Did the air feel particularly American? I couldn’t tell. Why hadn’t I asked AliCat what American air felt like? Were there more bald eagles in America? Just flying around minding their business and screeching at outsiders?

I knew nothing of American basements, which I regretted at this moment.

It made the most sense for this to be the stadium for the Harpies, Tornados, or Hurricanes, but I couldn’t logic-out the other two. Flynn was smart.

I needed a plan. How did I make plans without my mates? They were so good at this. I didn’t even have a disguise. I needed a disguise. I was bound to my chair, though, which meant I couldn’t even get a wig.

How long had I been out? My neck ached, meaning it had been a while if my head was hanging limp. Not to mention my head hurt. How long had it been since I took a punch like that to the face?

At the sound of footsteps, my head jerked up.

I groaned when Mason rounded the corner. First Twitwards, and now this bastard.

“Good morning, James.” He unlocked the cage door.

Morning. It was morning. Rose was leaving for Greece today.

“Pleasure, as always,” I said through gritted teeth.

Mason entered the cage and locked the door behind him. “I insisted on coming to see you in all of your perfect state. Don’t you love it down here? It’s so roomy. I thought you would be right at home.”

Hurricanes or Tornados.

“Where is Avery?” I said.

“Touch, touch. Avery is alive.”

“WHERE is Avery?” I said. “Godric, you people can’t hear to save your lives. Maybe that’s why the guard was killed.”

Mason didn’t reply to that. Instead, he casually wandered around the cage like he was admiring art at a museum. “You know, I did think this was a little extreme at first.”

“People are dead, Mason.”

“But now that I see you down here, I quite like it.”

“Dead. Like murdered.”

He continued walking in a pompous circle around me. “I agree working with David was not the most logical thing I’ve ever done, but it was definitely the most liberating.”

“More or less liberating than burning down a building when AliCat made the cut?” I asked.

His eyes flashed. “How did you know about that?”

I cocked a brow. “I’m a Potter.”

“Exactly the reason you have to be taken out,” Mason said dismissively.

“Wait – do you lot really plan on offing me?” I asked. All he did was snicker. “Seriously. WHERE IS AVERY?”

“She’s alive,” Mason responded and I realized that was what Flynn told him to say. He had instructions too. To keep me in this chair, but also to get under my skin. Both were being accomplished.

“And my family?” I said.

“Alive … for now.”

“Does Flynn seriously think he can get away with killing Potters?” I said. “And blame me? Come on.”

“Maybe he won’t kill blood Potters,” Mason said offhandedly.

Paloma. Wesley. Bink. Freddie.

The color must have drained from my face, because Mason laughed again.

“How do you think the captain badge would look on my robes?”

“You’re already a captain, fuckwit,” I snapped. I was growing tired of these games. And the blood. And the killing. And the pompous grins. “You have no idea who I am. You just jumped onto the bandwagon of a psycho who wants to off me just because I ruined his plans to make a metric butt-ton of money off his daughter he left when she was four. That’s it. That is literally the thing that started all of this nonsense.”

“Don’t care, Potter. I’m going to be captain of the Tornados.”

I snorted. “Right. Okay.”

“That’s my end of the bargain,” Mason told me.

“Yeah. Of course it is.”

He looked over. “Literally. That’s it. The strings are being pulled now.”

It was my turn to smirk. “Let me tell you a little secret, Mason. Firstly, I’m still pissed I haven’t thought up a nickname for you. I feel like a bit of a failure on that front. Second, you can pin a badge on your robes all you want, but you’ll never be captain. The fans love Lindt and are loyal to him. They can’t stand you because every time you’re called up, you fuck up a game. I’ve watched your tapes. Granted, it’s probably nerves because you play pretty well for the Hurricanes, but you’re a professional fuck-up and you’re just going to do that to the Tornados.”

“I – “ Mason paused, perhaps to realize who he was speaking to. “I will kick everyone off that team and discredit Henrik Lindt if I have to.”

“Clearly,” I said with a brief laugh. “You do realize this is like, evil villain territory, don’t you? Do the laugh. Come on. I’ve been in an echo-friendly environment for hours now and no one will do the laugh.”

Mason flipped me off. “Anyway, I just wanted to tell you good-bye and thank you for your spot on the Tornados.”

I wanted to tell him he wouldn’t get away with it, but as Mason locked the cage again and sauntered off, I realized he already had.

*

A nameless guard bloke (not dead) slid a newspaper under the cage door an hour later. My face was on the front. I couldn’t read much since it was in small print, but they were blaming me for offing two blokes and beating the tar out of Emerson Edwards. I was pleased to see they did a number on him. He looked like he thought they were just going to use makeup – they didn’t.

They hadn’t released my family as of printing, either. Another headline read: Potter Family Still Missing Due To Son’s Kidnapping.

What a headline. Could be read multiple ways.

An hour after that, the cage door opened again and my teeth damn near barred as David Flynn walked in. He locked the cage behind him and called out to someone I couldn’t see that he would be a little while.

He tented his fingers just like Emerson.

David Flynn looked like a tosspot. His hair was neatly folded at the top of his head and he wore a vest with a white button-down and neatly pressed black trousers. Like he was going to a casual brunch with a client.

Before he spoke, he opened the box just enough so I could see what was inside.

Pliers. Knives. A blow torch.

These were torture supplies.

I WAS GOING TO BE TORTURED OH FUCK.

“Where is Avery?” I asked, trying to be calm and collected. My wrists rubbed against the metal bars holding me in.

“Alive.”

“DO YOU PEOPLE UNDERSTAND WHAT A LOCATION IS?” I cried. “I want to speak with her. I want to know she’s alive you fucking douche factory.”

Flynn raised a brow, but sighed. “You really should trust me more.”

“Oh yes, let’s go to marriage counseling and hammer that out RIGHT NOW.”

Flynn moved his hand to silence me, but took out his phone. “You are not to speak,” he said. “But if this will calm you, I will prove to you that my daughter is alive.”

“You shouldn’t even be able to call her that,” I muttered. I thought about Avery’s mum. Oh, Godric, I forgot to write her and tell her everything was going to be fine. She was just as in the dark as my grandparents, which maybe was a good thing. She didn’t need to know how deep this went. Unless she was going to become a pawn in it.

He put the phone on speaker. “Do not speak, Potter, or you will regret it.” It rang. And rang. And rang. I thought the worst, until a gruff male voice answered.

“Yeah, what?” he said.

“This is David Flynn.”

“Oh – sorry, sir. What can I do for you?”

Why were these fuckwits so scared of him?

The smirk on Flynn’s face was disturbing. “I need you to put sweet Avery on the phone.”

“Want me to hold it for her?” the man asked.

Avery was tied up.

“Of course, nitwit,” Flynn snapped. “Now. This is important.”

There was a shuffling of footsteps and the man on the other end of the phone cleared his throat. “Avery. Avery – OY, Avery. Your father is on the phone.”

“Burn in hell,” she said.

Avery said it. It was definitely Avery. My wife. My beautiful, gorgeous, daring wife.

Then she cried out after the sound of skin on skin - the man slapped her.

“DID THAT MOTHERFUCKER JUST SLAP MY WIFE BECAUSE SO HELP ME GODRIC GRYFFINDOR-“

“James?!” Avery yelled.

David Flynn hung up the phone. “I told you not to speak.”

“HE. HIT. MY. WIFE.”

“I’d hardly call her your wife,” he said calmly.

“We’re married. Though you don’t know much about that, do you?” I asked.

I was ignored.

“James, we’re going to play a game.”

“Quidditch? No, that was Mason.”

Ignored again. “You’re not leaving. I have very clear instructions on what will happen to your blood-related family, but the others are still in question. So if you do as I say, nothing will happen to them.”

“I’m pretty sure you said if I did all that other shit, you’d let them go? Did you let them go?”

“I’m sorry, did you think you were in charge of this operation?” Flynn asked. “Because you’re not.”

“Let me ask you something, DAD, why are you SO pissed off at me? Seriously. You had two men killed. You kidnapped the wizarding world’s First Family. You are obviously going to off me once everything is in place with your minions – did I really fuck up your life THAT bad?”

Flynn rounded on me and for a moment his hair was out of position. Then he straightened up and calmed himself. “The answer is yes,” he said. “You fucked up my life that bad. And now I am going to fuck up yours.” He sounded weird swearing. Wrong.

“Done. Okay, can I bail now? I’ve missed breakfast.”

“You’re insufferable.”

“I get that a lot,” I said. “So, tell me what August Wells has to do with this operation. He has all the power and you’re a convict. Why would he work with you?”

“Sometimes, Potter, loyalty to old pacts is all you have in life.”

I snorted. “Of course. I always say that, especially when Freddie owes me a sandwich from that one time when we were four.”

“Mr. Wells and I have an agreement.” He shook his head. “But it doesn’t concern you.”

“I’m pretty sure everything in this plan concerns me,” I shot back. My wrists were starting to bleed. “Indulge me. Clearly I won’t be able to say that much longer.”

Flynn chuckled in that smarmy way he did. “Let’s just say August and I have been friends since our first year at Hogwarts. He is a most loyal friend and understands that the league would be better with me involved than without.”

“How do you have that much goddamn pull in the league?!”

“You should know a little about charisma, I think.”

“You have as much charisma as a pet rock,” I muttered. “You really wormed your way into the Quidditch league with words and a smile?”

“And people who wanted the same things I did.”

“Which are?” I pressed.

“New regulations. Limited power from general managers. More money from corporate sponsorships. More money, in general. I know how to obtain that money. It could build new stadiums, get higher quality players from other leagues, but right now they want to pass on it. August is smart enough to know his pay check will increase significantly if he backs this plan.”

Money. All this shit was about money, and I was just the icing on the cake.

A great icing, though. Like Man Power Icing.

“So… offing me is going to help you get the money?” I asked.

“This plan is going to guarantee I am in position to change the league,” Flynn explained.

“You’re such a fucker.” I shook my head and tried to pull at my wrists and legs, but nothing gave. My arms were hot with blood. “Seriously. You’re ruining lives to get a decent paycheck. You tried to use your own daughter to further your plan. You are a coward.”

Flynn laughed and walked back over to the box. “You know what? I don’t even want to use some of these. I skipped working out yesterday. This should sub nicely.” He tugged off the vest and rolled his sleeves to the elbows. Like how I used to wear button-downs at Hogwarts.

Then David Flynn punched me in the face. Blood splattered from my lip onto the concrete floor. He punched me again. Then in the head. White-hot pain flashed through me. Then in the shoulder and chest and stomach and kicked the entire chair over so I slammed my head on the floor.

Everything was blurry and ached, but he didn’t stop. He kicked my shoulders and my stomach and kicked my ribs so hard I knew they were broken. I wished people would leave my ribs alone.

It hurt to breathe – like someone was slicing my insides every time I inhaled.

The cage crew dark. Maybe that was just my vision.

I didn’t remember slipping into unconsciousness, but I was happy to.

*

When I woke again, the chair had been placed upright and my entire body exploded with pain. I was alone. It hurt to breathe. It hurt to be alive. I felt bruises forming on my face and legs. At least one rib was cracked. My shin hurt so bad I thought that might be broken as well.

I was glad there was no mirror.

But I got to hear Avery’s voice. She was alive. At least for now, she was unharmed, but annoyed. And slapped.

I was going to find whomever did that and kick his ass.

Once I got my wand back.

Seriously. My father-in-law just beat the shit out of me. The humor was not lost on me, but I couldn’t laugh. I couldn’t breathe. Ugh.

Instead, I started looking around the basement again. The light above me had been bumped during my ass-kicking, so I could see letters and numbers on boxes better. The box closest to the first Quaffle bag had the number fourteen on it. A blue piece of fabric was poking out of the top, but it was impossible to see what it was.

To the left, I saw an out-of-commission Bludger.

A box labeled – Ship to Germany.

A box labeled – Clara Robinson.

A box that had previously been mailed and opened. I couldn’t see its contents, but there was an address on it. An address!

The writing was horrible. Chicken scratch, worse than mine. I couldn’t make out what it said. What city I was in. If I could just figure out that address, it might be able to tell me which stadium I was in.

I was knocked from my thoughts when a far-away door slammed against the wall and a tall, bulky man appeared from behind a stack of boxes. He looked relieved to see me. I cocked a brow.

Another man from the door yelled, “Keep watch there – DO NOT TAKE YOUR EYES OFF POTTER.”

Bulky Bloke nodded and stationed himself in front of the cage. He had a gun.

Seriously. Wands were so much better in these situations.

“What’s up?” I called to him. He didn’t answer. “Your mate sounded nervous. Is he nervous?”

No answer.

“You realize I know where we are, right?” I said, even though I didn’t really. “If you fuck up, I could get out of here in a minute.” No answer. “It’s fine. I’m being blackmailed anyway. With my family and friends. Of course you don’t have a family and friends, since you’re in this line of work. Don’t blame you. I saw them kill two guys today and they didn’t even do anything wrong. Just knew too much. Do you know too much?”

I saw the skin on the back of his neck redden.

“I’m sure you’d be fine though,” I said offhandedly. “No wife or husband or kids or a dog – aw, I didn’t think about a dog. I hope that guard didn’t have a dog.” I paused. “I should have let Freddie get a dog.”

I should have let a lot of things happen.

How long was I caught up in this mess of lies and stress? Concentrating on my career and stupid interviews and stupid rules?

I missed so many nights with Avery we could have been sleeping in the same bed just talking. I could have counted her eyelashes or something else totally embarrassing I wouldn’t tell Bink or Freddie about.

“I’m sorry, Potter,” said the man at the cage. “But David Flynn’s plans are to kill you.”

I wanted to be shocked, but I wasn’t. After the guards and the media craze and the look in his eyes before he hit me. He was unstable and after blood. He wanted everything and that included me dead. I didn’t know what that meant for my friends and family, but I only hoped he created a trail so convincing no one would believe them even if they told the truth about me.

I should have made Bink tell Rose he loved her. Told him how unbelievably talented he is at everything he does.

I should have helped Freddie start planning his future wedding. Told him he was one of the most inventive people I’d had the pleasure to meet.

I should have let Falcon Cat talk to TomCat.

I should have listened to Victoria a long time ago about Avery.

I should have cooked with Mum more. Lightened up on Lily about Wesley. Maybe not hexed Wesley (as much). Complimented one of Al’s sweater vests. Talked to Paloma more instead of awkwardly leaving the room as I pictured her with my baby brother.

I should have told Dad I loved him more. I should have actually looked into what he did to defeat the Dark Lord and respected him for it. Instead of being so obsessed with my own footprints that I ignored where I came from.

I should have properly married Avery. I shouldn’t have been scared about having sex with her because nothing should have been scary with Avery. She was everything to me.

I thought about the letter I left her.

If I make it out of this.

If.

I wasn’t going to make it out of this.

I shouldn’t have given her false hope where there was none.

I should let her go.




A/N: As I re-read a lot of BTQC/DTTT, I realize Harry should have taught James hand-to-hand combat. To be fair, he was bound in a chair this chapter, but he really isn't much of a fighter without his wand. Poor boy. 

At least we know in the face of death/torture/punching, James keeps his cheek. 

UP NEXT: Flynn prepares for the first part of the next phase of his plan, a part which makes James sick to his stomach. James has a surprise visitor and finds out where he is. He also gets to team up with an unlikely person.

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