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Chapter 53: A Complete and Utter Joke
For my new husband. Who puts up with my writing about James even when I'm supposed to be finishing off wedding details. And for radicallyali, who brought her James-aviators to the wedding.
The party was easily one of the craziest nights of my life.
I barely got a shower before the team ripped me away. Avery numbed my ribs (I was fully dressed when she did that) and helped me into a nice button down and some jeans. Yes, I blushed through most of it.
The celebration was already raging when we got back to Gryffindor Tower. Nothing fancy like we did for Amy. No streamers or banners or anything. Just loud music, a lot of glitter (where was that coming from?), and a stolen liquor cabinet.
I don’t remember most of the evening. I do remember, though, that Bink did not dance with Avery.
That was because I occupied her time.
She matched me shot for shot, her face flushing as she laughed at yet another joke someone said. Or when Freddie spun Amy around, kissing her. Or when we were about to go find some more booze and caught Al and Paloma snogging in the hall.
His shirt was off.
Get it, Dove.
I vaguely remember challenging Haley Star to a manly competition, which I think she won, and I also kind of remember Bink proposing to his glass of vodka.
At least he named me the best man. Take that, Freddie.
It was a huge blur of laughter and alcohol and celebration.
The best part? The Cup sat in the center of the locker room the entire time.
And yes, I drank from it, spilling plenty down my front which resulted in a few shirt-changes.
When I woke up everything hurt. I wasn’t as hungover as I thought I would be, but my entire body ached. And my ribs weren’t numb anymore.
I reached up, shielding my eyes against the sun streaming in through the curtains I forgot to close. “Bugger,” I grumbled and then winced since someone beside me moved.
Avery groaned, propping herself up on her elbow. Her hair was a disaster and the strap of her tank top was falling off her shoulder. “Am I dead?”
“I think so.” I blinked a couple times. My face must have shown off the pain, because she grabbed her wand and renumbed my torso.
“You’re going to have to go to the hospital wing for that,” she said softly.
“Shut it,” called Bink. “I’m dying.”
“Clearly I’m not alone,” I said, shifting to sit up. I wasn’t wearing a shirt. Or pants. At least my boxers were the cool Gryffindor ones. “Does anyone even remember a point after nine?”
“I think I rolled around naked on Edwards’ bed,” Fred piped up.
“He over there?” Avery asked.
We all looked. Bed empty.
“Where do you think he is?” I asked, making a face.
“Bird watching?” Bink sat up and rubbed his temples. “I’m never drinking again. Ever. Fuck.” He staggered to his feet, using the bed post for balance. “I feel like I’ve been run over. And my arms hurt.”
“Arms?” Freddie said.
“Yeah, from raising the CUP!” Bink cried and then groaned because yelling was injuring his hangover more. “Fuck it. I need a shower. Be back, drowning myself.” He disappeared into the bathroom and I heard the water flip on.
Fred was rolling back and forth on his bed, whining. “My mind is on fire,” he mumbled.
“Think you’ll be okay?” I asked, chuckling as Avery moved to lay on my chest again. Her breath still smelled a little like whiskey and I kind of liked it.
“No,” Fred pouted. He finally hoisted himself off the bed and got dressed, obviously not caring if Avery saw his bum or not. “I’ll see you two at breakfast. I need something to soak this up. What a bloody disaster…” He closed the door with a soft snap behind him.
I glanced down, my eyes meeting Avery’s. “Hey,” I said. “Happy Cup Day.”
“Is that what this is?” she asked, smirking. “I can live with that.”
“There are no parties on Cup Day, though,” I added. “I don’t think I can handle it. I feel like I was mauled by a chimera or something.” I wasn’t exaggerating. Every bone in my body hurt. Except my ribs. For once.
“You gunna make it to breakfast?” Avery asked, her fingers trailing on my chest and up toward my neck. I tried not to shiver.
“Do I have to?”
“Yep. I’m not going to spoil you today. I spoiled you yesterday by playing so well.” She shot me a cheeky grin.
“How are you so animated?” I asked, arching a brow. “I recall you taking a lot of rum shots last night, lady.”
“I think Rose started giving me water at some point,” Avery replied, chuckling a little. “Don’t assume, though, my head is pounding. I just know there are pancakes down there.”
“You think they know?” I said, ruffling my hair. “That we’ll be hungover. And that’s why there are pancakes?”
“I’m sure they know.” Avery smirked and ruffled my hair again for me. “Wanna go?”
“Not really.” I moved my arm around her, pulling her close.
“We can’t stay here forever.” The smile on her face suggested otherwise.
“C’mon, Potter,” Avery said, moving onto her knees and stretching her back like a cat. Like Falcon Cat. “You have to go brag about your Cup win. You have a few people you need to brag to. Want to just take the Cup to breakfast? You can eat cereal out of it.”
“If my arms could lift it I might take you up on that.” I chuckled and moved out of bed to find some clothes. I looked to her over my shoulder. “You played brilliant, you know.”
“Yeah,” she replied with a cocky smirk, “I know.” She shot me a wink and grabbed her shirt, pulling it on over her tank.
I stared. A lot.
“Take a picture, Potter,” Avery teased.
I shook my head. “Whoa. Sorry. Hell.” I cleared my throat, face on fire.
“You’re just lucky I’m not in a dress.” Another wink and Avery pulled open the door. “I’ll see you downstairs. You might want to lose the blush before you get there. Captains don’t blush.”
She bit her bottom lip very subtly before disappearing into the hall.
Godric’s Hallow. I was in big trouble all over again.
I stopped by the hospital wing on the way downstairs and whined to Madam Bones to fix my ribs. She gave me that huffy, annoyed look for a while before eventually giving me a couple potions to take throughout the day, insisting I stay away from alcohol as well.
Like I could even stomach it at that point.
I was met with enough cheers to start my headache all over again.
The Gryffindor table was on its feet and there was more fucking glitter. I swear Nia kept buckets in that dorm and I was going to have to tell Avery to find it and destroy it using whatever means necessary. I was even willing to supply mutant animals or laser guns. I was leaning more toward laser guns, though, because I had a few other uses for those.
The table was glad in scarlet and gold, scarily awake for it being that early. They had fallen back to the old ‘Go, Go, Gryffindor’ chant from years past.
I was happy to note the Slytherins were all moping about and none looked hungover.
That’s sodding right, Slytherin. Mr. Twelve Goals thinks you can sodding snack on that.
I took a seat between Bink and Lily, the rest of the team around us, and grabbed an enormous stack of pancakes. Slathered in syrup and butter. Yum!
“What a game!” Wesley cried excitedly. Obviously he was not hungover.
“Wes, did you snog my sister last night?” I asked.
Instant blush. “What?” he stammered.
“Sit the hell down. I’m eating.” I took another bite. “Anyone study for exams yet this term?”
“Not one,” said Bink.
I chuckled. “How many do you think I can pass without studying?”
“Not one,” he repeated.
I shoved another piece of pancake in my mouth, trying to chew as people patted me on the back for the win.
A few owls soared in and dropped various letters in front of the students. I found one in front of me, but my heart sank when I saw the familiar handwriting.
Good morning! I hope your head doesn’t hurt too bad. I have a feeling it was a good thing we stayed in Hogsmeade. I just wanted to send you another quick note to tell you how proud we are of you. Your father and I love you. Also, make sure your sister got her arm fixed. Or else she’s grounded.
I glanced over, folding the letter and stuffing it into my pocket. “What, Legace?”
“We should probably talk.” Bink wasn’t looking at me. His eyes were on a slip of parchment in his hands. The team grew quiet.
“Please don’t tell me that’s Meta proposing,” I noted. “Because as I recall you’re engaged to vodka.”
“I got a tryout,” he said, the back of his neck as red as his shirt.
It felt like a punch to the gut. “Oh.” What was breathing again? Why did everything hurt?
“For the Wasps reserve team,” he continued softly.
“When?” I looked at the paper.
“This is confirming my date,” Bink said. “I was offered the tryout more than a week ago.”
Bingo. What he was talking to Rose about.
“Ah.” I ran my fingers through my hair, suddenly focused on my pancakes. The syrup was moving in a swirly motion on the plate.
“James, I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry you got a tryout,” I said, shaking my head. “No, I’m happy for you. Seriously. If you need help practicing before, I’ll help.” We all agreed ages ago we’d help if anyone one of us got it.
I just always assumed it would be me.
Freddie reached around Lily and patted me on the back. “I didn’t get one,” he said.
“Right.” I focused on my food. It was tasty. Except suddenly my mouth tasted like charcoal.
“I know, Avery, okay?” I said, a little louder than I meant to. “I’m happy for him. I’m honestly happy. Just don’t.” I shook my head, feeling way too many things at once. My eyes were burning.
All I wanted was that slip of paper in Bink’s hand. Was that too much to ask?
“Isn’t McMathis that scout you always talk about?” Avery asked.
My eyes snapped up. She was holding a sheet of starch-white parchment, shaking.
“Yeah,” I replied, heart starting to race.
“I got a tryout,” Avery squeaked, her eyes filling with tears. “I have a tryout for the Harpies reserve team.” She let the paper fall just beside her plate. “James!”
My face exploded into a grin. “Shit!” I cried, shoving our plates aside (a few people yelled) and lunging across the table to throw my arms around her. “Yes! Yes!”
My letter worked.
I didn’t remember seeing McMathis in the audience, but I didn’t focus on anyone long enough to identify them. He must have liked what he saw. And good thing, considering Avery played her heart out.
I tried not to feel my heart being crushed as I hugged her. I played my heart out too.
The only letter I had was from my Mum.
“I am so happy for you,” I said, holding Avery close. I was laying across the table at that point.
“How though?” Avery whispered.
“You played amazing.”
She pulled back a little. “James,” she said, teeth tugging on her bottom lip. I wished she wouldn’t. It made me want to kiss her.
“Let it go, Aves,” I said, moving back into my seat. “We’ll go out and practice later, yeah?”
“All right.” She smiled a little, blushing.
“I, uh,” I glanced to my left and right. “Shit, I forgot my potion up in the hospital wing. I’ll see you lot later.” I shot them an unconvincing smile and made my way for the Entrance Hall, pace quickening as I shoved open the doors.
Instead of heading upstairs, I went outside onto the front steps. “Fuck,” I whispered, hand finding the stone rail to steady myself. I shouldn’t have been freaking out that much. I had to just calm down.
Stop freaking out, James. Just stop.
I knew I wasn’t going to get a tryout. I sent McMathis that letter with the intent that Avery wouldn’t have to work in Flourish and Blotts. I could live with my own life going that way, but I couldn’t live with hers. Besides, I could always work in Uncle George’s shop. I liked jokes.
I could develop a Quidditch line.
I ran my fingers through my hair. Stop thinking about it. I came to terms with it. I was okay with that being my last game.
Yeah, before Bink got a tryout with the sodding Wasps. Who even liked the Wasps? Not me.
No, that was a lie. Bink was very talented and deserved it. Not one of my teammates didn’t deserve it.
At that point I was gasping for breath, eyes still prickly. What was this? I didn’t do this. I was James Potter. I was strong and confident and manly and I just captained my team to the Quidditch Cup. I gave it everything I had.
I always gave it everything I had.
Maybe that was why my chest was hurting so bad as I sank down onto the steps, face falling into my palms. How much more of this could I endure? Getting the intern job down in Dad’s office? Going with the family to watch Bink play after he got called up to the pro league, which he obviously would. And so would Avery. She’d come over to Christmas in her Harpies rec jersey with her name and number on the back.
FLYNN. She’d probably keep her number nine.
I might end up the General Manager of Quality Quidditch Supplies or something. Or push paperwork until my hands were covered in thin cuts.
I always gave it my all. Always.d
Sleepless nights in my dormitory pouring over notes. Summers with my eyes glued to every match on television. Early mornings in the locker room watching tape after tape of the top players in the league. I lived and breathed Quidditch.
Now I had to sit back and watch while my friends got it all.
“James?” Lily sat beside me, putting her hand on my shoulder. “Shit, are you crying?”
“No.” I wiped at my burning eyes.
“Come on, James.” She let out a sigh, squeezing a little.
“Don’t want to talk about it.” I shrugged her hand away and turned my gaze out toward the lake. The last thing I needed was a sodding pep talk about how I didn’t really need Quidditch or that I could do anything.
“You’re going to have to,” Lily said stubbornly. “I’m not letting you do this to yourself.”
“Do what?” I said, swallowing hard. “I’m not doing anything. I’m being realistic, okay?”
Lily shoved my shoulder, forcing me to face her. She grabbed my chin, anger on her face. “You are a Quidditch player, James.”
“I was a Quidditch player.”
“You are not a bloody quitter,” she said, grip tightening on my chin. I hoped my stubble was poking her.
“He told all of them not to sign me,” I shot back angrily. “I have no choice.”
“When the Code told you not to date Avery, what did you do?”
I paused. “Snog buddies?”
She slapped the side of my face. “You found a way around it.”
I spent the evening alone in the locker rooms. I set up a pile of blankets in the center of the room and watched more Tornadoes tapes. They soothed me. I munched on an apple, eyes moving with each Chaser as he or she wound up to throw the Quaffle.
Fake left. Fake right.
I wondered if the Tornadoes had a Code.
Eugh, they probably didn’t have problems with fancying their best mate.
In that Avery fancied me.
Not that I fancied her.
Because I didn’t. I said no. We were just friends.
Could you kiss friends?
I sighed, glancing down at my watch. It was almost five in the morning. I couldn’t stay in the locker room all day. I was supposed to prep for exams next week, which sounded like a bloody disaster, especially since Freddie was known for his shoddy spell work.
My back popped when I stretched and flipped on the light. I checked my watch again.
I stood in the center of the room, eyes on my locker. It had been my locker since I was given reserve and the tape above it was starting to peel.
“Well, what the hell do I have to lose?” I grumbled, walking over, and unlocking it.
My knuckles were white from holding my broom. It was balanced in my grip, the tail out behind me.
There was something bittersweet about the view.
That I had joined the ranks of the laughing-stock. Hours from now people would be getting drunk to watch this footage and laugh over it. Even now it was happening.
Even if it was a joke, it would still be nice to fly here, even once in my life.
I let out a sigh and took one step out of the shadows and onto the bright pitch grass.
I was a mess of Slytherin proportions. The grass was packed with people. A group of scantily clad women were in the center with a barbeque. A few blokes were off toward the side playing catch with a Quaffle. Several people on toy brooms having races. A lot of alcohol and stumbling, as the event started an hour before.
It was a complete and utter joke.
James Potter: From Captain to Fool.
A/N: One chapter left!
A note about the sequel: Once chapter 54 is posted, I will post information about the sequel. I am going to try to put the first chapter of the sequel into the queue directly after just so it will be a smooth transition and you'll be able to read/favorite it right away if need be. It'll pick up directly where this story leaves off.
That being said, how do you think the story will end?
UP NEXT: James flies. And a final team meeting.