For Haley. For Ali. For Kira. For Erin. For Ramita. For Gaia. For Kristina. For all of you who have followed James' story for the last six years.
This is the final chapter.
I put on a tie because I wasn’t sure what to wear when you canceled a marriage. I assumed reporters would be there – by then they’d worked out how long thirty days was and had probably scoped out the location for light placement. Clara Robinson no doubt had a prime spot right inside the courtroom.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” Bink said. He and Freddie sat side-by-side on the kitchen island with ice cream sandwiches. “You love her. Just stay married.”
I shook my head and straightened the tie in the reflection of a photo. “I want to date her properly. In public. I want to propose to her in some ridiculous fashion so she has a story to tell – erm, when we’re older. I want to remember our wedding.”
“Fucking sap,” muttered Bink.
“You want to shag before you get married?” said Fred.
I ignored them and flattened my hair.
In the wizarding world, what we were going to do was similar to an annulment, but they called it a Veil Separation. I read they used to make the girl wear a veil and speak honestly if she wanted the marriage to be voided, or if her hand was being forced. Load of rubbish – they’d better not make Avery wear anything. She’d curse them to the States.
“You’re sure she wants to go through with it?” Freddie asked.
“That’s what she said.” We’d had the conversation several times. As much as Aves enjoyed dropping my last name at convenient times and walking into the Tornados stadium without being stopped, she agreed on the marriage situation. We were young. We needed space to make our own mistakes and grow before we threw all the cats in the same bag.
That image disturbed me.
“How’s Amy feeling?” I asked before they could quiz me on my decision. Maybe I should have left early and taken a book.
Did I own any books that weren’t Quidditch-related? Probably not.
“Brilliant,” he told me. “She’s better every day.”
“Good enough for a shag?” I countered.
“You started it.”
“She’s volunteering in the cat room with me today.”
“Don’t you take Falcon Cat this time.”
“I told you, I lied. I didn’t really take her.”
“She’s been acting different,” I said.
“Are you sure it isn’t your fictional TomCat?”
“You’re dead to me,” I muttered and ruffled my hair. “Wish me luck, boys. I’m going to get veil-y separated from my gorgeous wife, then snog her for a while. See you at the game?”
“We’ve made a banner,” Bink said, motioning to a rolled up poster-board in the corner.
“Do I want to know?”
“Not really. There’s glitter, though.” Bink pointed at the pink sparkles lingering in his hair. I just thought he went to a rave last night.
I straightened the tie one last time and bid them goodbye. The next time I’d see them was at the game. Hopefully, I’d be playing. I’d been practicing as if I’d play, but Lindt knew today was day thirty. So did Cooper Bradley, but as far as I knew he was barely practicing with Avery, let alone having her grace the bench in case their starter was injured. Pfft.
Italy was Italy. Bright and warm and full of vacation memories and drunken blurs from a month ago. I walked past the hotel ballroom and looked up at the rails on the balcony where Avery first kissed me. You know, before I shouted something about muffins and ran off.
I wove through the crowd surrounding the courthouse and was right about the reporters. As it turned out, they knew how to count. How disappointing. A few shifted sideways to make a path and my eyes began to ache from the constant camera flashes. It was sunny – was a flash really necessary?
I wished I would have made Bink and Freddie come with me.
Or that I’d come with Avery.
Shifting through reporters alone made me feel … well, it made me feel like my father.
A few blokes in suits held the door for me and I was thankful the crowds didn’t extend inside. Probably rules against the media. I knew, however, I’d be facing them when I left.
Unless I remembered I was a wizard and could Apparate without answering their absurd questions about my marriage.
I didn’t have all day. I had a Quidditch game to (maybe) play.
Clara Robinson wasn’t in the courtroom. In fact, the room was empty. Each wooden row was populated by only a few remaining tissues from the first hearing of the morning and a long scroll of paper extended from a magical typewriter to the floor.
“Aves?” I tried in case she was hiding under the judge’s platform, but received no answer.
I checked my watch, which I’d borrowed (stolen) from Albus. I was two minutes early. Avery should have been here by now.
I took a seat at the front and placed my hands in my lap. What are you supposed to do with your hands when you sit down without looking like you’re praying or hoping for a second serving of stew? I tapped my fingers on the bench.
Judge DoucheFace took his place behind the podium. Witnesses filled the bench to my right. The typewriter began to set the scene.
Still, no Avery.
Introductions were made. A weird ceremonial Veil Separation candle was lit.
Still, no Avery.
It wasn’t until the judge tapped a stack of papers in front of him that I realized Avery wasn’t coming. She had signed her separation papers last night and left them in the drop box. I didn’t even know that was an option and she didn’t bother telling me.
For some reason, Avery Flynn didn’t want to be here with me.
She didn’t want to see this through together, and my fingers had trouble holding the quill as I signed my name.
To Avery Flynn, who was no longer Avery Potter.
Not that she was ever actually Avery Potter because she didn’t go through the legal requirements to change her name, knowing we only had thirty days, but it was nice to think about from time to time, her having my last name.
Not that she had to. If we really did get married in the future, I could be James Flynn.
No, I couldn’t. I just couldn’t.
But she could stay Avery Flynn if she wanted. Or be Avery Flynn-Potter.
Okay, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Where was Avery? Why had she signed the papers last night and why wasn’t she supporting my body weight as I staggered through the hall toward the endless monsters that were reporters. Why. Why. Why.
I pictured this moment a great deal over the last month and in each scenario she was beside me. As she’d always been, even during our difficult times.
Had I expected too much?
But really, was there a hint in her tone before that suggested she wasn’t going to be here?
As I walked into the vacant lobby, I could see the frames of the reporters outside through the frosted glass window. There were so many. Avery would know what to say – why we separated in a veil way and why I hadn’t played the first two exhibition games and why the hell wasn’t she here with me to do this? We agreed to meet. We agreed to do this together because, well, we got married together and shouldn’t we get separated together?
Unless she didn’t want to be together?
This better not have anything to do with me playing on the Quidditch team. I told Avery I’d figure something out. I wasn’t giving her up again – especially not after that whole her-ring-saving-my-life ordeal and if Henrik Lindt couldn’t deal with that I’d have a discussion with Ballo and get traded to a team that wasn’t my dream-team but at least I could play on.
She had to trust me.
Did she trust me?
I was a mess.
“I’ll be watching today, Potter!” said a burly man with an upturned mustache. Really, there was wax and it was curled like an old west villain.
“Watching?” I said.
“The game. Your home opener against the Harpies. Good luck!”
I groaned. “Thanks, mate.”
But really. Thanks.
Because that’s when I remembered I could Apparate.
To make myself feel better, I decided Avery went in early to have a long talk with Cooper Bradley about letting her simply sit on the bench in case their starter got hurt. Yes, that would be it. There was no way she could be kidnapped, dead, or want to break up with me. Nope.
I arrived at the pitch early, showered, and dressed all before the rest of my team was there. I couldn’t think about this now. Today was the first actual match of my professional career and I had to drive everything from my mind – including the Veil Separation and the fact that I almost died just over a week ago. I couldn’t think about Bink and Rose or Freddie and Amy. I couldn’t think about my parents or Albus shagging Paloma or Lily being the captain of Gryffindor next year.
I shouldered my broom and headed out onto the pitch as the early crowd began to file into the stands. I took a seat on the Tornados bench and let my broom fall in front of me.
Today was about me.
It was about all the years I’d dedicated to Quidditch. All the late nights studying charts and flight patterns and inventing new drills that would work for each of my players. It was about how hard I played and how passionate I was on and off the pitch. How I went to an open try-out on a whim. How I endured press and media and Clara Robinson and put together a fundraiser for a boy named Nathan and got the Hurricanes Captain arrested.
Today was about me.
James Sirius Potter. Previous Chaser. Previous Gryffindor Captain. Previous unemployed bum. Previous Public Enemy Number One. Previous open-tryout-attendee.
Current Tutshill Tornados Starting Chaser.
Suck it, Mason.
This was my life now. My dream. I had sacrificed so much to get here and today I was able to live it.
I was a professional Quidditch player.
My eyes stung a little, so I knocked off the mushy shit so I didn’t actually cry. That would not bode well for a successful and handsome Quidditch player.
Some people had signs. There was a lot of Tornado blue in the stands. As I watched, they filled with fans eating ice cream and hugging and trying and failing to start The Wave. It never worked properly and I didn’t know why they tried. Also it looked goofy as hell.
The Harpies bench across the pitch was vacant. I supposed coming out to see the crowd wasn’t something everyone enjoyed. It was my first game, so I’d see how it really affected me later.
I rubbed the back of my neck. The sun was warm today. I’d have to remember the black under my eyes.
“Hey, Potter.” Jackson Ballo took the seat beside me on the bench and patted my shoulder three times. “Ready for today?”
“Hardly,” I admitted.
“You’ll be fine.”
I wanted to be thinking about stats and wiping the arrogant smirk off Cooper Bradley’s face, but all I could think about was the cold courtroom I faced alone this morning.
Did she think it was too hard to face that with me beside her?
Or did she just not want to face me?
“I hope so,” I said. I blinked away the images of Avery swimming before me. I wanted to ask Ballo about dating her, but couldn’t bring myself to disrupt his happy mood.
“Make me proud today,” he said and smoothed the wrinkles in his khaki trousers. “I took a big chance on you.”
“I know you did, sir. I’ll do my best.”
“You’re capable of more than that.” He gave me a sideways smile and headed off toward the locker rooms.
I’m capable of more than my best? The fuck did that mean?
Since I was in my gear, I didn’t bother going back to the locker rooms. I should have since Lindt’s pre-game pep talks were legend, but I couldn’t bring myself to face AliCat knowing she was all smirky about the Code and I didn’t know if that was even an issue anymore.
Was I single?
GODRIC GRYFFINDOR I NEEDED ANSWERS WHERE WAS AN OWL I NEEDED TO SEND IT TO AVERY RIGHT NOW.
I jumped. “Lindt. Hey. I’m acting completely normal and level-headed right now.”
He sat and raised a skeptical brow. “Right. You ready for today?”
“Aren’t you supposed to be giving the team a talk to fire them up?”
“The whole team isn’t there,” he said and nodded to me. His perfectly sculpted hair didn’t even move. How did he get it to do that without looking like it was weighed down with gel? Freddie would know.
“I needed some air.”
“You’ll get plenty of it during the game,” he said. Henrik was smiling.
“I’m sorry,” I admitted. “I had a rough morning.”
“Veil Separation. I heard on the news.”
I nodded. I didn’t trust myself to say anything else. Instead, I focused my eyes on the visiting team’s locker room door. Avery might be coming out of there soon – if Cooper let her sit on the bench today. Now that David Flynn was out of the picture, hopefully she’d get to play during practice. I didn’t know much of anything anymore.
“Listen, Potter,” Henrik said and leaned forward so his elbows rested on his legs. “You’ve been through a lot this last year, but you’re sitting here about to play your first professional game.”
“Yeah,” I said. I didn’t know what he was getting at.
“From what I’ve heard, you dealt with players trying to overthrow you, disobeying you, you breaking your own rules, having your future stripped from you by your girlfriend’s father, and then suffering through what you wanted to be your dream.” I didn’t ask how he got that information. It was probably printed in every paper by now. There were always people willing to talk. “You almost died last week doing what you thought was right. Hell, you probably didn’t give it a second thought.”
“I gave it a few second thoughts,” I mumbled.
“The point is, you’ve done a lot and very little of it was to further your own motives,” Henrik explained.
“Pretty sure all of it was to further my own motives,” I said. “I’m here, aren’t I?”
He shook his head. “Think about it, James. You’re not here because you’re selfish. You’re here because of everything else you are. Passionate. Brave. Thoughtful. Kind. Witty. Smart.”
“I think you’re naming your own traits, Henrik. Are you trying to get me to compliment you? I have a poster of you on my wall.” Damn it. Almost got through the whole summer without telling him that.
He laughed and for a moment, so did I. The stands were almost full. The refs sailed overhead as they checked the hoops for tampering. “I want to say thank you,” he said.
“For everything,” Henrik nudged my shoulder with his. “Whether you want to admit it or not, your actions saved this team and the people on it. Plus, I’m certain, countless others.” I thought about Bink. “Today is about you.”
“What?” I repeated and finally looked at him. “How could today be about me?”
“Today is about you,” Henrik said again. “I am honoring you and your bravery by giving you this game.”
“How can you – you’re not making a lick of sense. Are you drunk, mate?”
He clapped me on the shoulder, hard. I didn’t flinch though because he was Henrik Lindt and he definitely wasn’t allowed to know that hurt. “I’m sitting out today, James. Good luck.”
“Sitting out – I don’t play Keeper, Lindt!” I shouted as the crowds began to cheer. “I know the hoops aren’t that big, but I’m pretty sure you’re a better Keeper than I am!”
“No shit.” Henrik tugged off his robes and tossed them onto the bench. Then he took out his wand.
“I think a spell might be cheating,” I said, standing in case I had to defend myself.
I staggered backward when his jet of yellow light hit me on the right side of my chest. “Lindt – what in the – “ I looked down, hoping I wasn’t dead.
Was I dead?
Everyone was cheering.
There was a solid gold C on my chest.
“Today, you’re Captain James Potter again.” Henrik clapped my shoulder and this time I lost my balance and fell right onto the bench. I must have looked like a fucking idiot because he added, “You earned it, Potter.”
So my eyes were prickly and I must have been crying because everything was a blur.
Today I was the captain of the Tutshill Tornados.
Henrik sat beside me. “It’s safe to say you’ll need to rally your troops before kick-off. I’m sure you have a lot of pep talks saved up for this moment.”
He wasn’t wrong.
“Wait, I don’t understand.”
Henrik knew what I was going to say. He nodded behind me so I turned.
I wiped away the totally unmanly tears, but once I saw Avery Flynn in a Tornados uniform they came back at full force. She sauntered – and I really mean sauntered – across the sidelines with AliCat and Artemis and the rest of the team with her broom shouldered and looking like she was born to wear those robes.
Avery’s hair was pulled back away from her face, but stray bangs escaped. She didn’t bother pushing them away. She only smirked in that devilish, sexy, amazing way only she was capable of.
“Surprise, Potter,” Henrik said from beside me. “Ballo felt we needed a quality reserve that knows your style of play.”
“No fucking way,” I sobbed, barely able to pull myself up. I managed, and shoved Avery’s broom off her shoulder and kissed her hard. She laughed into my kiss and dried my cheeks with her thumbs when we pulled apart.
“Sorry for bailing on you this morning,” she said.
“I thought – Aves…”
“I know exactly what you thought. It wasn’t easy, but I knew it would be worth it.”
“How?” I nodded to her robes.
“They owled me yesterday,” she said, grinning like an idiot. The crowd was roaring and the Harpies were on the pitch and I didn’t give any fucks. “I signed the papers last night because I had to be fitted for my robes and given a physical evaluation this morning. They asked if it could be a surprise and given what you’ve been through, I knew you could endure a little more.”
“Horrible woman,” I said, kissing her again.
“Whatever you say, Captain.”
I saw Ali over Avery’s shoulder and she was grinning.
The loophole. That was the loophole they’d found so that Avery and I could be together. There was no rule in the Code to prohibit players from dating members of the team or the reserve team.
Though many days before compared to it, today was the greatest day of my life.
Today I was Captain of the Tutshill Tornados and today I was playing my first professional Quidditch match. Today Avery would be in the hoops and today I would be alive to see it, thanks to her.
“All right, team,” I said, stepping away but maintaining very suggestive eye contact with my ex-wife-now-girlfriend, “Let’s win this fucking game.”
That’s exactly what we did.
Cooper spent the game yelling from the pitch and waving his arms like a lunatic. At first he tried telling his Chasers Avery’s weaknesses, but soon realized she wasn’t in the air enough as a Harpy for him to know any.
She played out of her mind. Poised, collected, and perfectly comfortable, Avery Flynn saved many more than she let in. I think she played even better than I did, seeing as she hadn’t even been training with a professional team during the summer. She was a natural and some saves distracted me enough I had to force my mind back on the Quaffle and not what our evening tonight was going to contain.
As promised, Henrik sat on the bench and relaxed. At one point he took a nap on the grass.
I called all the shots – I fucked a few up, but overall I was able to pinpoint what needed to be said and what didn’t. Smoke and Monroe fell into step immediately with what I was after and hit Quaffles hard. I needed to introduce Paloma to them – they’d love her.
And I played – well, I played pretty damn well. I kept my head up and my grip tight. I used my entire body in a pass and read the Harpies’ Keeper as well as I could.
The day was a chaotic blur and at the end of it when I crashed into Avery because Jack had caught the Snitch, the Tornados came out victors with a score of 380 – 150.
We fell into the hoop snogging and Artemis had to remind us to come down before we were the front page of next week’s Quidditch Weekly.
I kept kissing her anyway.
“Well done, Potter,” Henrik said after the team was showered and exhausted and running on pure adrenaline. I may have cried again in the shower and hoped no one heard. “I’ll keep you in mind when I retire.”
“You’d better,” I said and tried to sound cocky but it came out kind of like OH MY GOD REALLY ARE YOU SERIOUS WOW.
The party after the win was legendary. Jack said they usually didn’t party after every came because then they’d be hungover for practice, but this was a special occasion. I don’t remember half the night, but I woke up under a table the next morning at Ali’s flat.
I was the front page of Quidditch Weekly and every sports-related publication in the wizarding world that weekend. Except the photo wasn’t me snogging Avery in the hoop (though that was included in the article). Instead, it was a shot of me during the game flying with a Quaffle and looking particularly regal with the C very visible on my chest.
CAPTAIN POTTER RETURNS was the title.
Henrik replaced my robes and told me to keep the ones from my first game. “You’ll need them in a few years,” he said.
On the same day, Dad brought dinner to the flat while Bink and Freddie were away canoodling with their girlfriends. He slid a box across the kitchen island and I opened it.
“You’ll need this in a few years,” he said and his eyes were glassy.
In the box was a silver band with a round diamond attached. I looked up.
“However and whenever, we’ll support you.” He smiled and I fucking teared up again. It was becoming a habit, unfortunately.
As August faded and my brother and sister escaped to Diagon Alley to buy books and robes for their next year of school, it finally hit me that I wasn’t headed back to Hogwarts with them. Freddie and Bink were both taking it hard knowing they wouldn’t see Amy and Rose until Halloween when we crashed whatever party Gryffindor thought was worthy, but I found myself strangely indifferent.
Hogwarts seemed like worlds away now. The auction for new robes. The blanket fort. The insane amount of time I spent in the Hospital Wing (and detention). My brother’s blossoming feelings for Paloma Dove. My sister’s unfortunate fondness for Wesley.
Avery kissing me in Italy.
Me kissing Avery next to an underground lake.
Telling Avery I had to be with her in the shower of the locker rooms.
Falling in love with Avery only to be cruelly ripped apart.
It felt like half a lifetime ago.
And yet now as my siblings and parents readied for their journey back to Hogwarts tomorrow, I was locked in my bedroom with Avery Flynn. We were wrapped in each other’s arms with our shoes in the floor and somehow I knew even though we weren’t making the journey back to the castle, what lay in front of us was a much more exciting adventure.
The Tornados and practice and interviews and the months it would take me to craft the perfect real proposal. Cooper Bradley and letters from David Flynn and the eventual reappearance of Clint Lawson and Freddie bringing home a Great Dane.
Whatever derailed us, we’d face together.
The End. At Least For Now.
A/N: Honestly, I didn't think chapter 24 would be the end of this story. I thought James would go on forever. I wanted so many things for him. I wanted to reread his entire journey before writing the ending. But this is what came out and as such, James ended his own story. For now.
I have been writing James Potter for more than six years. In those six years I've gone through so many life events - college graduation, new jobs, marriage, moving across the country - and it was an honor to watch James change along with me. From the James who cared more about studying Quidditch than realizing his sister was growing up and his brother was an actual badass, to the James who would put other people before himself and walk into scary situations because he knows it is what is right.
He has grown so much as a person through these two stories and letting go of him is not easy. He is a part of me. That's why there is no epilogue to this story. Because maybe it's the end and maybe it isn't. We'll see.
As always, I want to thank every one of you who has read and/or reviewed this story. It was my first Next Gen and will always be the story closest to my heart. I have read every review. Every single one will get a response - I'm working slowly, but diligently. You are all the reason I am here and I hope you know I do this for you. Thank you to those who have shared their James-related experiences with me. The person who named their cat Falcon Cat. Those who started using Talking Slytherin and Grades in real life.
I guess James would tell me to stop being mushy. So I'll say thank you. I hope you keep reading my other stories and maybe if in another six months or a year I decide I can't live without writing James, you'll see his face pop up on HPFF again.
Thanks for the laughs, the memories, and the Dobby award in honor of the asshole David Flynn.
Stay tuned for more Georgiana Wood, Freddo Weasley, and now Teddy Lupin.
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