Chapter 1 : To the Hospital Wing (already)
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And it was now the most important thing in my life. Not silly things like putting the right amount of scales into a sleeping drought or getting the last biscuit at dinner—it was all about Quidditch.
I sat on the front steps of Hogwarts pondering this on a particularly sunny Saturday a few weeks into term—so sunny in fact that I had to squint to see the edge of the Forbidden Forest. I was to have try-outs that day.
My first try outs as Captain.
It wasn’t as if I hadn’t been Captain-material before my seventh year. I was pretty sure Captain-material came my fourth year when Dara Wood started up-chucking before the Final and I had to step in and give the best speech of my life. It was a speech filled with emotion, of self-esteem-building expressions casting the glow of leadership upon my fellow teammates.
It was also a plus that we won the Final by three hundred points, something basically unheard of since the ‘rents went to school here.
But the Captain in question, Dara Wood, was the solid reason I had not been named Captain until my seventh year. She just hogged the crap out of it. And she knew I wanted it. She tried to keep me away from it as long as possible—I thought she might even fail a year just to be Captain again so I couldn’t have it.
Let’s just say Dara and I never particularly saw eye-to-eye.
I thought her dives were a little suspect and her Beater bat might have been outside the lines of regulation, and Dara thought I was an arrogant sod that should keep my thoughts to myself.
But she was gone anyway.
It was all mine. My rules. My regulations. My team. What was best for my team was how I lived my life, even if it meant showing up to Care of Magical Creatures late and having Professor Hagrid give me another one of those I-knew-your-dad-so-I’m-going-to-let-you-get-away-with-it-but-you’re-a-twit-for-showing-up-late looks.
“James, what’re you doing? Didn’t you just tell me you were going to finish up your Charms essay?”
My head snapped up and the sun blinded me a bit. I finally realized it was Avery when she plopped down beside me and threw her bag onto my lap.
“I did…well, I thought about it.” I smiled sideways at her and adjusted my eyes to the ground.
Avery Flynn had been my best friend since our first year at Hogwarts. Since I was the first in my strangely large extended family to go to Hogwarts (okay, except Teddy but he was not exactly related and Victoire was a twit so I didn’t count her), I had to make friends the old-fashioned way. Well, I had Fred too, but he didn’t count either because we didn’t get along for our first year since I got better grades in Charms and Defense Against the Dark Arts.
Avery and I met on the boats the First Years were forced into riding across the lake. She was in my boat and she was giving me cheek about my hair not staying flat so I shoved her in the lake.
Then she climbed back in (with the help of Professor Hagrid, who gave me another one of those looks) and poked me in the eyeball.
And so from that a wonderful friendship blossomed.
“Are you out here planning try-out drills?” She shoved me. “I swear if you make me fly through the hoops any more different ways I’m going to hex you into next week.”
“Just a couple different ways,” I muttered and she punched me. “Okay, only two.”
“Just one! Just one!” I chuckled lightly and stared at Avery.
Today she let her dark hair fall around her face and I admired the way it just sort of sat there without her needing to put a charm on it like Meta did. She already had her Quidditch robes on, seemingly waiting for me to announce we would go down to try-outs early.
“So are we going? Do you have to measure the length of the grass or count the twigs sticking out of the new brooms?”
I rolled my eyes. “I’m not that obsessed of a captain, Avery.” I even said it with a straight face.
“Right. Because you didn’t buy four books on it, lecture your brother on the importance of leadership, tell your sister Quidditch is about being in charge, map out the training schedule in July, and steal the last helping of green beans from the past four dinners, justifying it by saying that Captains need their strength more than minions do.”
I made a face. “Did not.” I paused. “Do all of that.”
“Yes, you did.” Avery helped me to my feet and led the way toward the Quidditch pitch. “You did every single one of those things and maybe even a bit more. If I wasn’t there to stop you, you would have given poor Lily the history of Quidditch Captains dating back to when the game was founded.”
“She needs to know if she’s going to be a Captain one day!”
“How is she going to be a Captain if you won’t even let her play Quidditch!”
“She’s too young!”
She shoved me into a bush. “She’s thirteen, James. You were on the team when you were twelve. You won’t even let her on the pitch.”
I frowned, hoisting myself out of the bush and wiping needles off of my robes. “That’s beside the point.”
“Maybe if you used those stupid brains toward something constructive rather than making sure no boys go near your baby sister or that she doesn’t make it on a broom until she’s seventeen then maybe the teachers would like you better.”
“They should like me just fine—I’ve got wonderful grades.”
“You stepped on your kitten.”
“It jumped out of my hands!”
“It was a teacup, James.”
“I fixed it up just fine, thank you!” I said defensively and pulled open the doors to get to the main part of the pitch.
Avery rolled her eyes and reached down to touch the grass. “Don’t think for a second I didn’t see it going cross-eyed. By the way, the grass is damp today, Captain.” She grinned.
“That’s right. Call me Captain. Captain Potter would probably be best.”
I could see the distaste on her face. I knew there was no way I could get her to call me Captain Potter, but if I wasn’t careful she’d start calling me something catchy like “Bumblebee” or “Princess”. That was the first thing my new Beater candidates needed—one of their teammates disrespecting their Captain.
But Avery would do it so I just shut up.
“Potter! Oy, Potter!”
I turned around and smiled warmly. The other two pieces of my masculine trio had arrived in their scarlet robes and were waving their arms stupidly in my direction. It was Bink Legace and Fred Weasley, both Seventh years, both my roommates, both the other two Chasers on the team. Uncle George said Fred would be a Beater for sure, but we had him try out and he ended up knocking himself in the head with the bat back in our second year so the Captain decided it would be a safe option to have him be a Chaser instead.
Uncle George was furious, but Aunt Angelina was rather pleased.
I felt like Fred looked the weirdest out of all of my Weasley cousins with his dark skin and hair, but the hair was the same texture as the rest of the trademark red hair, so the ladies used any excuse they could to play with it while he studied. It was sickening.
My hair was much softer.
Bink, however, was quite the opposite of the tall-dark-and-handsome look Fred and I had going. Though he was as tall as the pair of us, his hair was a bright blond and he had horribly pale skin that burned when we had practice too long. I had already made a note of that in my planning book.
We were The Chasers. Or the Trio. Or something else that involved three wizards that were best friends.
Of course I would never tell them that Avery was my best, best friend and I couldn’t exactly ask their advice about dating Nia Baker or Elizabeth Willis. Fred would tell me that Nia undresses people with her eyes so I should take her to Hogsmeade, but Bink would tell me to go for Elizabeth because she knew about Quidditch since her dad played professionally.
Avery, on the other hand, would slap me for considering either.
That was why she was my best friend. But I’d never tell Bink or Fred that.
“Why are you two down so early?” I asked, pulling open the doors to the locker room.
“Wanted to help our new Captain set up for try-outs,” said Bink, smoothing his light hair away from his face. “So what do you want us to do, Captain Potter?”
“I like the way that sounds,” I said with a grin. “I just need you to set up the benches outside and get bats ready for all of the crazy sods trying out for this team.”
Fred did a salute. “Will do!” He pushed past me and with Bink at his heels he left to do my bidding.
I could get used to that.
“Look at you with your minions,” Avery said with a sarcastically pompous grin. “Am I going to have to start bowing or would saving the Quaffles thrown by the other team do?”
“I’ll stick with saving the Quaffles, but don’t test me.” I grabbed the clipboard off of my bench and checked my watch. “Did Meta say when she was coming down?”
Avery shrugged. “I hope never.”
“She’s a great Seeker, you know.”
“I wish I didn’t.”
“You’re just stubborn.” I folded my arms and checked off a few of the names on my list.
“I’m not stubborn, James! You’ll see, she drives me mad! She’s been on this team nearly as long as we have and there isn’t a single practice where I don’t want to throttle her. I know you do too but you’re just trying to be all noble because of your Captaincy—”
“Okay, when the day comes that I really want to throttle her, you can give me the obligatory I told you so.” I snapped the clipboard against her arm and got a punch back. “But until then I’m the Captain so I want to know when Meta is going to get her rear end down on the pitch so we can do try-outs for the Beaters.”
“She said she’d be down in a few minutes,” said Avery darkly. “Though with her that probably means as soon as she finishes her work-of-art eyeliner that makes her look like a hooker…meaning an hour.”
“Are you done?” I asked, smacking her with the clipboard again. I moved quickly out the door so I didn’t get yet another bruise.
A crowd was starting to form around Fred and Bink, which made knots appear in my stomach for the first time since I became Captain. When I got the letter over the summer I ran into the bathroom across the hall and, as dignified as possible, threw up.
I could see some familiar faces among the Gryffindors—some that I knew really stood a chance and some that might have come out just to see what it was like to try-out for a Quidditch team since ours had been intact for so many years. I knew right away that Nia Baker was only there to undress me with her absurdly bright blue eyes, but I was strangely all right with that.
I tried to ignore it.
She winked again and made an inappropriate gesture with her broom.
Luckily, Meta poked me with the end of her broom and popped her gum at me. “How long is this going to take, Potter? Not as long as Dana’s I hope.”
Meta McLaggen was the black sheep of our team. Though I tried to tell Avery that she wasn’t that bad, I knew all too well that I wanted to kick her every time she showed up on the pitch. She was arrogant and acted like the Captain even more than I did—and I knew that there was only room for one arrogant prat Captain on the team and Dana made quite clear it was me.
Unfortunately for me, however, Meta was a star Seeker. She was insane and Dad said she probably got it from her father, who the ‘rents went to school with. Uncle Ron wouldn’t talk about it. When Mum and Dad came down to check out last year’s final, Dad was pretty distant with Meta when she asked about her Snitch-catch and Mum pretended to hear someone calling her name from the stands.
They were slick, my parents.
Of course, after she asked Dad for his opinion she popped her gum and said that she was the best Hogwarts had ever seen and I saw Dad’s face go from pale to beet red in seconds, which was something usually only I could achieve so I gave major points to Meta for that. Sometimes I wished Albus or Lily would manage to get on his bad side, but alas, only me.
“It’s going to take as long as it takes for me to find a pair of Beaters, Meta. So buck up and get excited!” I poked her hard in the ribs for the broom jab and she shot me a dark look. I ignored it, or at least pretended to.
I surveyed the crowd of hopefuls. Most of them looked like idiots, so that would make this easy. Whoever was best for the team. It was all about the team as a whole.
If Meta ended up in the hospital wing like Dad did in his first year and cost his team the Cup—well, I would hex her all the way down the hallway and then force her to do laps for the rest of her life. I still don’t know how he had Oliver Wood for a Captain and didn’t get laps for life. Something about a control issue.
“Get into groups, minions!” I cried and a few people nearby laughed. “I’m not joking. Groups of four. Go. Now—you. In the red. What’re you doing?”
“Grouping?” It was a twittery fourth year with a bad broom and a bad haircut. He moved toward a few people.
“There are already four there. Didn’t your parents teach you how to count?”
He squeaked and moved toward a few other people.
Now that was power.
The first two groups were a disaster. One Beater actually hit another with the bat, rendering him unconscious and the other three were forced to carry him up to the hospital wing where Madam Bones could mop him up. The third group was better, but I knew none of them would be able to step up to the rigorous training schedule I set out for my Gryffindor Squad. Only the best of the best.
“Which next, James?” Avery asked, tapping her foot.
“Over there—with the girl in the yellow. What’s your name?”
The girl in question had long dark hair and bright eyes and couldn’t have been more than a fifth year. I had seen her around but to see her on a pitch nearly succeeded in blowing my seventeen-year-old mind. She was nothing short of feminine with paint on her nails and her eyes outlined with brown crayon-esque substances.
“Paloma Dove,” she replied, smiling with brilliant white teeth. What in blazes was she doing on a Quidditch pitch? Didn’t she have a modeling contract or something?
She wouldn’t last a minute, but it was her fault. Behind her were a grumpy looking third year and a pair of second years that hadn’t achieved their growth spurts yet and still squeaked a bit when they talked. This made me laugh a little, but I stopped after Avery shot me a look.
“All right, your bats are over there—grab one and get up there. Bink, release the Bludgers and start the Quaffle-ness.” I watched my Chasers released the Bludgers and set up a play toward Avery as she positioned herself in front of the hoops. Meta popped her gum and I thought about popping her in the face.
The second years hit a Bludger back and forth for a few seconds and then the blond one hit it toward Bink and missed by little over an effin’ mile. Grumpy Third Year did all right, but nearly fell off his broom when turning away from Avery and a bloke that couldn’t fly was a bloke not right for my team of utter perfection.
I ran my fingers through my hair and groaned. There were only three groups left. Halfway through and no talent. I watched Paloma hit a Bludger toward Bink and he dodged it pretty well and then one of the second years screamed since he suddenly noticed a bat wasn’t going to save his face from a Bludger hit. Luckily, he pulled upward just in time and the crowd let out a giggle.
No wait. That was just Nia Baker.
Paloma winded up and hit another one toward Fred.
He looked over and gasped. He tried to roll his broom, but ended up blasted in the face by the Bludger and Paloma shrieked.
Unconscious, Fred fell sideways off his broom with blood spurting out of the side of his ear. Avery slowed him with her wand as I rushed over to the grass, creating a quick overly stuffed feather pillow for him to land on.
“Freddie?” I said loosely, jabbing him a bit in the side. His dark hair was scattered over his face. “You alive, mate?”
He didn’t move.
“I need a few blokes to get Fred up to the hospital wing—who’s doin’ it?” I shouted, hoisting Fred onto his feet as a few sixth years walked over with their wands. “Make sure he gets immediate treatment. Don’t let Bones beat around the bush.” I handed him over, my stomach unsettled, and looked at Paloma Dove, who was standing a meter or so away from me.
“What the hell was that?” I said breathlessly.
“I’m so sorry—I didn’t mean to—I just thought he’d duck!” she said, her hands placed firmly over her mouth.
I smiled. “Yeah, me too. It was too fast. Congrats, Paloma, welcome to the Gryffindor Quidditch team.”
“Less of that, please, when you’re on the team.” I shook her hand and turned back to the remaining three groups as Meta shook Paloma’s hand. “All right, minions, next group in the air! Bink, you pass with Meta.”
“I’m not a Chaser, Potter.”
I narrowed my eyes at her. “Pass with Bink or I swear to Merlin you’re doing extra laps next practice.”
She flipped me off and climbed on her broom. Meta was all about making the least amount of effort and doing her best. She was clearly not a Chaser, that was obvious, but she could pass the Quaffle and avoid Bludgers.
The next group was all right, filled with twittery third years that giggled in the air. I let them down easy when I said come back when they’ve got talent.
Seriously, though. Real talent. And adam's apples. But that’s just an extra perk.
The following group had Nia Baker in it. She blew me a kiss as she flew into the air and I didn’t exactly know what to do. Smile? Puke? It wasn’t bad. She was a wonderfully endowed woman with great…grades? Fred wanted me to go for it, but I knew she was only interested in me this year because I was made Captain. She dated Darian Bay for two years and they had just broken up over the summer—he was made the Hufflepuff Quidditch Captain when we were fifth years and never let me forget it during each Charms class we had together.
Nia was terrible, just as I had suspected she would be, and didn’t look surprised when I didn’t immediately rush up to her and declare my amazement in her sudden Beater abilities. Instead, she joined the crowd of surly applicants that were glaring at Paloma with envy.
The final group had Harvey Zed in it and Wesley Jordan. I knew Harvey since he ate his vegetables like a cow and chewed like he had something to prove. Avery talked about it at least once a week when she refused a helping of carrots or celery. Wesley, however, was a friend of the family. He came over for Christmases every once in a while and his dad worked with Uncle George in the Diagon Alley shop. I’d never seen Wesley play Quidditch before, but I knew his dad was the commentator and his mum played Chaser for Gryffindor, so he might have had a little talent in that fifth year body of his.
The group of four rose into the air and Meta begrudgingly passed the Quaffle back and forth with Bink. I watched Harvey. He had a piece of gum in his mouth. I saw Avery’s lip twitch from her position by the hoops. He chewed. Avery twitched. Meta popped her own gum and all I wanted to do was hop on my broom, fly over to them, and smack each one upside the head for distracting me during try-outs.
Wesley slammed his bat into a Bludger and it went a pretty good distance so one of the other candidates had to hit it back toward Meta. Harvey chewed his gum and swung and missed a Bludger. He wasn’t getting picked. I saw the put-out expression on his face.
After a little bit of them flying around and hitting Bludgers, I called them back down and Meta looked particularly relieved to be back on the ground without a Quaffle in her hand. Bink shoved his hands in his pockets and shrugged at me.
“Did you have to?” he said gruffly, jerking his head toward Meta. “She can’t pass worth beans.”
“Neither can you,” I said with a grin and got punched.
“All right, minions!” I shouted, avoiding a second punch from blondie Bink. “I’ve picked the two Chasers that fit the best with the team.” Nia was looking hopeful. She was an idiot. She flipped her hair. Okay, she was an attractive idiot.
Avery flew down next to me and landed with a soft thud. She folded her arms. “Made a choice already?”
“Paloma Dove,” I said loudly and a few people groaned. Nia made a face as Bink shook Paloma’s hand.
“Good choice,” added Meta. “Anyone that knocks Weasley out is good in my book.”
I saw Avery roll her eyes. “And the second Beater is Wesley Jordan.”
“Oh, yeah, pick your friend, Potter!” said a voice in the crowd.
My eyes flew up. “Oh yeah, because I hang out with fifth years on a regular basis.” I rolled my eyes and shook Wesley’s hand. “You in, Wes?”
He nodded, smiling widely. “I’m in, Captain!”
“I like the way that sounds—Avery, lead the way for our newbies?”
Avery nodded and motioned toward the locker rooms.
I, however, watched the crowd disperse. Nia waved and Elizabeth made a disgruntled face as they both left. Harvey was still chewing his gum and laughing with a few fourth years. Groaning, I turned and followed my team (minus Fred) into the scarlet locker room where to empty spaces marked the newest members.
“This is where the pre-game magic happens,” Bink said, motioning to the robes and nearby chalkboard. “Through those doors are the showers and Wesley if we catch your head in the girls’ shower room we’ll chop it off. Your lockers are over there next to Meta’s.”
“So how does it feel?” I asked, taking a seat in front of the green chalk board. “Does it feel good to be a part of the legendary Gryffindor Quidditch team?”
Paloma beamed and brushed her hair out of her face. I couldn’t help but watch it move in the light. How did she hit a Bludger like she did? “It feels great,” she said and I wanted to touch her skin.
I mentally slapped myself for that one.
“Any questions before we let you have a look around?”
I wished Paloma wouldn’t bite her lip. It was distracting. “So what are the rules with team things? I know how tight-knit you lot are so I want to get things right.”
“Yeah, good question,” I said in my best captain-authority voice. “There are a few things, but we’ll get to everything during out first Team Meeting. First off though, the most important rule is no dating members of the team. It just screws with everything we have going. What if you have a bad break up, right? That could get nasty with team dynamics and I won’t have any of it. You’ll be required to attend any team function and practices unless you’re dying or something like that. No skiving off practices for dates or something stupid like that.” I brushed my unruly hair away from my face. “Just make sure the team takes preference over other less-cool things.”
“Except school,” said Avery.
“Especially school,” I said with a chuckle. She shoved me into the chalk board. “Okay, keep getting good grades but don’t brown nose.”
Wesley beamed. “Sounds great. I won’t let you down, Captain.”
“All right then.” I stood up and tried to make it look like I didn’t have chalk prints down my back. There was no reason to weigh them down with the Quidditch Code during their first day. “Team dismissed. See you lot at dinner tonight. Remember, eat a lot of healthy rubbish to get your strength up so we can kick the tar out of Ravenclaw in a couple months!”
Wesley pushed open the door and left into the blinding sunlight with Paloma (who shot me an endearing grin before leaving). Meta followed and I almost charmed a garbage bin to follow her until she spit out that gum she was chewing. Bink stood up and stretched.
“Good try-outs, Captain,” he said with a yawn. “I wonder if Freddie’s all right.”
“He’s a Weasley, he’s got a thick head,” I muttered, and wiped the chalk off my back. “All right, Flynn, get moving.”
Avery rolled her eyes as I crossed the room and then she shoved me into my locker, knocking my robes askew and sending my pads onto my lap. “Damn it, Flynn, I am your superior!”
She snorted. “Headmistress Sinatra is my superior, James. You’re just a twat with some power.” Smiling, she pulled open the door. “And a pink pygmy puff.”
A/N: Hey, everyone! That's my first chapter of my James II/OC that I'll be working on along with Hide & Seek. I have a lot of high hopes for this story in terms of plot so let me know what you think so far!
Who loves Nia? I know you all do.