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Chapter 17 : Salads (Side of Slytherin)
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And We're Back!
Thanks for the overwhelming support while I got this story "up to Code"
if you will. But it's back, planned really, really far, and there is plenty of
James, Avery, Emerson, and even Clint Lawson to go around. Enjoy!
Last TIme: Avery went on a lunch date with Emerson, James asked Elizabeth on a date (which didn't go so well), Lily helped out with some well-placed ants, and everyone hates Meta. Obviously.
I found Avery a few hours later finishing up an essay in a comfy suede chair by one of the spiral staircases. She had an extra quill tucked gently behind her ear and a few strands of hair were escaping onto her cheeks. Sliding in the seat with her, I gave her a look that suggested I wanted her to spill the details of the date with one Emerson Twitwards.
“What?” she said, glancing over quickly and punctuating a sentence.
“So what?” She tried to hide her smile.
“What happened on your date with Edwards? Did you do it?”
“Oh, shut up.” Avery hit me hard on the arm and went back to her essay. “You really think I would have sex with Emerson after a first date?”
“Was that really a date?” I asked.
“It was lunch, James.”
“Over which you did what?”
I prodded her on the shoulder. “About what? About my sexy stature?”
She went back to her essay.
“What did you order? Did you break his wallet with lobster or steak?”
“Do they even serve lobster at The Three Broomsticks?” Avery laughed and set down her quill. “I ended up getting a salad actually.”
I pretended to be flabbergasted. “Salad? Are you drunk? Who eats salad? I bet Scorpius Malfoy eats salad when he does favors for Lawson. It’s the Slytherin thing to do. It even starts with S and it’s green. You’re betraying your House!” I ended up yelling the last part and got a few quizzical stares from nearby second years. I flipped them off.
“It wasn’t that bad. Honestly.” She made a face that suggested otherwise. “Okay, it was dry and I hated the dressing, but that’s not the point. The point is I’m broadening my horizons.”
I gave her a look. “So you really ordered the salad? You looked right at the menu and thought, I want to eat a salad?”
Avery narrowed her eyes. “Well, no.”
I wanted to get it out of her so bad. I had no idea why, but Emerson Edwards made me want to Emerson-punch him right in the Emerson-stupid-head face. I knew it was a fabulous insult. I was just misunderstood. “So who ordered it?”
“James, shut up, you know who ordered it. There was only one other person there.”
“How would I know that? I wasn’t there. You could have taken Freddie for all I know.”
She shoved me and my ribs when into the arm of the chair while I laughed. “James Potter, don’t give me crap.”
“Okay, Edwards ordered you a salad and it was crappy and you still had a good time?”
Avery squeezed out of the seat and grabbed her quill and parchment. “You’re ridiculous. I had a good time. It was just lunch. You hate him anyway, why do you care?”
“That would be the best mate in me coming out,” I explained, following her toward the spiral staircase. “I just want to make sure I don’t have to hex someone.”
“You’ll probably hex him no matter what.”
“You told me not to.”
“And you’re listening to me?” She leaned against the railing.
“Yeah. Yeah, I am.”
After surveying me for a few minutes, Avery turned and walked up the spiral staircase. “See you tomorrow in class, James. You should probably take notes instead of drawing out practice plans. Just saying.”
I stared after her. Blimey, crazy woman. How could she have fun with Emerson? He was a twit and a half, plus seven more at least. I hoped Victoria was through with most of his clothing by now even though I knew she ate slowly. It wasn’t even like I had anything on him—Avery said she had a decent time. Well, she didn’t say that but she inferred she didn’t want me to know a bleeding thing about it.
“Oy, Nia!” I said loudly and she turned, raising a brow from behind one of her books. “Take me upstairs.”
“Are you serious?” She practically lost all footing to get to me in a manner of split seconds.
“I need to tell Avery something.”
“Oh.” Her face fell and she stood there.
“Can you take me up?” I put my hand on her shoulder and she looked at it. “I wouldn’t ask if it wasn’t important.”
Nia narrowed her eyes, but grabbed my hand anyway, pulling me up the spiral staircase and into the suite. Avery was there, shocked at my being led in by Nia, and Mary Mary Quite Good Gradesie was on her bed doing homework. She waved to me and I waved back slyly. Hey, I had to keep my options open now that Nia was peeved at me for wanting to talk to Avery and Elizabeth was peeved at me for wanting to follow Avery. What the shit.
“I went on a date today,” I spat, flopping down onto her bed. “I asked Elizabeth on a date and how do you like those Quaffles?”
Avery nearly laughed. “How did it go?”
“I’m not telling. You didn’t tell me about your rubbish salad date and I’m not telling you about my hot, steamy, amazing date. Nope.” I folded my arms. Okay, my chosen words to describe the date might have been a bit off, but it was for effect. Big effect.
“I didn’t think you wanted to know the play-by-play of my lunch with Emerson,” she explained somberly.
“Well, I don’t. But I want to hex him so I need some ammo.”
“Didn’t we talk about this?”
I groaned. “Okay, okay. My date was rubbish too.”
“I thought it was hot and steamy.”
“And suck,” I said, careful to keep my voice down so Mary didn’t hear me talking Slytherin about her roommate. “Talking Slytherin” was my new phrase for talking shit basically. It had a nice ring to it. A lot of syllables, but good ring. “And I know yours wasn’t amazing either, so don’t bother lying about it.”
“Okay, it wasn’t amazing.” Avery cocked a bit of a smile and put a few books into a bag. “I do have to go though.”
“Meeting up with the tosser again?” I gaped at her.
“No, I’m going to help Bink with his Transfiguration. He asked earlier and I told him I would. You obviously can’t.” She chuckled and walked past me and out the door.
“The kitten was fine!” I called after her.
I couldn’t stand to be in the same room as Emerson Edwards the rest of the night and into the following morning, so for most of the duration of time I was in the common room socializing with my Gryffindor peers. That was a rare occurrence for me considering I really only enjoyed the company of my team and I supposed my family as well, but it was nice to know about some bloke called Richard in his third year and his family of Ministry officials. Boring, but so nice.
Luckily, an hour before practice Nia came and plopped down beside me with a large book in hand. I wondered if it was about Tactnia. When there was a picture of a half-naked bloke on it and a woman showing a good deal of cleavage, I guessed I was wrong.
“Hey there,” she said cheerfully, placing her head quickly on my shoulder and then retracting it. I was confused. “I heard you went on a date with Elizabeth the other day.”
“Yeah, took her out.” I went back to my book. When girls asked about other girls, it was not a good thing. I pretended to be interested in Charms homework, which was very difficult for me. It was also difficult considering Nia’s grades were all everywhere and I couldn’t help but stare. Charms books should have had cleavage in them. Seriously.
“I didn’t know we weren’t going to have another date.”
“Oh.” I paused. Probably not the right thing to say. I tried again. “Just because I took her out doesn’t mean we can’t have another date.”
“I don’t date players.”
I took that moment to flat-out gape at her. Nia Baker, the woman who tried to claim me the night of the auction, was not going to date me because I took another girl on a date. We weren’t in a relationship—I was a single bloke! Right? I thought so. “Nia, I’m not in a relationship with anyone,” I said, trying to echo my own thoughts. “I’m sorry if that offended you, but I wanted to take her out to lunch. It’s not like we had as much fun as you and I did though.” I tried to be a smooth Quidditch Captain, but judging by her distasteful expression I was not succeeding.
“Okay then.” She stood up, left her strange, half-naked people book with me, and walked up the spiral staircase. I heard a door slam.
Son of a bitch. What did I do this time? Okay, I wasn’t the most sensitive of blokes, but I did care about girls. And not just about their grades! Well, sometimes that was on the majority list, but not all the time. Why did they have to make it so difficult?
I was starting to feel the pressure of being the Captain and there wasn’t even a game coming up until after the holidays. Bollocks on that.
“Oh, get over yourself, McLaggen!” Fred shouted from across the pitch.
Practice was going surprisingly well, which was nice. My team was working hard and I even saw sweat. Unfortunately, Meta usually used her time on the pitch to bitch about something or another or how my Captaining abilities rivaled a cleaning bucket’s. She was a winner, that Meta McLaggen. This time she was whining about how low Fred threw the Quaffle.
“Shove off, Weasley! Get a real girlfriend!” she shot back, catching the Snitch again and taking a moment to have a private celebration.
“That’s rich of you,” Fred said. “That, coming from the slag that’s been single for ages. Who was the last bloke you dated? Darian Bay eons ago? I bet he’ll take you back.”
“I’m going to hex you into Friday, Weasley!” She threw the Snitch at him, but it veered and flew off toward the goal posts.
“Hey—cut it out!” I cried, blowing the whistle I was quite proud of. Mum got it for me when I was made captain. “You’re done or I’m giving you laps. Good catch, by the way, Meta. Fred, go try to score on Avery.”
“Merlin knows Emerson can’t handle it,” Bink said with a laugh.
“I heard that!” Avery yelled from the hoops.
When I made sure Fred wasn’t going to turn around and fire a hex at Meta for breathing, I went back to watching the Beater formation with Wesley and Paloma. They looked fantastic. So fantastic, in fact, I decided to end practice a half hour early.
“Coming, Captain?” Wes asked, leaving the locker rooms after a particularly long shower.
I shook my head. “Go on, Wes. I’m going to set up for the next practice. Good job today, mate.” I waved and he shut the door, leaving me quite alone with everyone’s dingy pink-ish robes and my blank chalk board. I didn’t know why I needed chalk anyway. I had wand. I could just make words appear.
Too much work.
“James?” Elizabeth poked her head inside. “Are you naked?”
“If I was, would you still come in?”
She laughed. “Maybe.” Shutting the door gently behind her, she stared at me and then leaned back against it awkwardly. Her thick, blue sweater clung to her skin. I wasn’t sure what to do since I was sitting and she was being awkward and weird. “Sorry about the Hogsmeade thing.”
“What do you mean?” I said, ruffling my hair.
“I mean on our—on our date. I got pissed at you for the whole Avery thing. It was stupid. I just got jealous. I know she’s your best mate. I should respect that.” She said the whole thing without making eye contact with me. Oh, nervous girls were fun and attractive.
“Don’t sweat it, okay? I guess it makes me a bit of a strange bloke, doesn’t it? Do you think I’m worth it?” I got up and moved over to where she stood, leaning my hand against the door so I stood almost over her.
“I think you might be.” The cockiness in her voice caught me by surprise.
Who knew Lizzy had a bit of bite in her voice? I surely did not. I reached down and tucked a piece of hair behind her ear. “Should we get walking back to the castle?”
“Is that what you want to do?”
No. No, it’s not what I bleeding want to do! I had to keep girls on their toes or I would be predictable. If I gave in to Elizabeth now, I would muck it all up for the future. No. I had to hold my ground.
“Yeah. Yeah, let’s walk.” I opened the door and nearly ran straight into Clint Lawson, the ugly bugger. He was standing outside with his pet, Scorp, more than likely listening to our conversation. “’Lo there, Lawson. What brings you to the Gryffindor locker rooms?”
“Followed the rancid smell,” he said hoarsely.
“Good one,” I muttered, rolling my eyes. I used my wand to lock the door behind me and started off toward the castle.
“Can I help you with something?” I asked. Elizabeth giggled.
“Yeah, Potter, you can.” He looked legit upset. Or peeved. Whichever. “I want to know why you think it’s okay to parade around Hogwarts like you bleeding own the place, date and discard women wherever you please and treat everyone who isn’t on your team like dirt.”
“Hold on now,” I said loudly.
“No, that’s fucking ridiculous,” Clint continued. “You just walk around this place like you’re the bleeding king just because your daddy was Harry Potter. I’ve got news for you, Potter. You’re just the Quidditch Captain and you aren’t a very good one at that. I could hear your players yelling at each other from the castle.”
I stared. Elizabeth was silent beside me.
“You’re not even as good as your dad was at Quidditch, and that’s saying something. Go back to your incompetence in the Gryffindor Tower and get the hell out of a real man’s sport.” He paused, clearly taking pleasure in the blank expression on my face, and then turned to Scorpius. “Ready, Malfoy?”
They turned and walked back toward the Slytherin locker rooms. I watched them for a minute, Scorpius trying not to be too obvious with his laughing and Clint Lawson just looking like a big thug.
I opened my mouth, then closed it. Then opened it again. “Yeah!” I finally managed to say. “Yeah, pot calling the kettle black, Lawson!” He didn’t turn around. “You run away!” I spat out, sounding less masculine than I intended.
I grabbed my wand and shot a stunning spell at Scorpius and he went down fast.
Take that, sucka.
I took Elizabeth’s hand before Lawson realized what was going on and ran for it back toward the castle. It was cold and flurries were getting stuck to my hair, but I didn’t care. I didn’t want a hex coming right for my back so we ducked behind bushes and slid by walls just to make sure. Elizabeth laughed the whole way, her hand tight in mine.
I looked at her once we were back inside. Elizabeth was such a decent girl. She was normal compared to all the other crazies running around Hogwarts, but I couldn’t bring myself to really fancy her. She was gorgeous—no doubt about that. She had good grades (academic and non) and she was funny and cocky. What was it?
Blimey. She batted her eyelashes at me.
“Detention,” Emerson said, poking his head out the front doors. He was wearing an orange hunting cap and looked like a tool.
“I hate you more than you will ever know,” I said dully. “What did I do this time? I didn’t even snog the girl so don’t give me that rubbish.”
“You can,” Elizabeth whispered. What was I supposed to say to that? Well, I don’t fancy you. Sorry, mate. Eugh, what a mess.
“I saw you hex Scorpius Malfoy from Gryffindor Tower. The whole House practically saw it.” Emerson folded his arms and held the door open for us to enter. “So you’re getting a detention because that isn’t acceptable.”
“Why don’t I just get humiliated by a Slytherin and then get a detention?” I threw my arms in the air dramatically and groaned. “Seriously, Edwards, you know how to make people’s lives fantastic. I should give third world countries your number, really.”
“Five points for being cheeky.”
I wanted to Emerson-punch him right there. Right in the face. In the mouth even.
“Thank you,” I said politely, turning and walking up the marble staircase with Elizabeth at my heels. “I hate that fucker,” I muttered, careful to make sure I was out of earshot of Twitwards. “I know he has a lot against me, but seriously. He takes points from his own house just because he hates me. No pride, that one. Let’s give him to Hufflepuff.”
Elizabeth laughed. “Just don’t get cheeky with him anymore. He’s testing you every time.”
“I like cheeky,” I said, trying not to snap back. I wanted to be cheeky—he was a git who thought he could use all his stupid Head-Boy power to one-up me and I wouldn’t have it!
I didn’t say anything the rest of the way back to the tower even though Elizabeth wanted to discuss names of cats or something and walked directly up to my four-poster when I got there. I closed the hangings and stared at the top of the bed.
I didn’t care about Emerson, it was Clint Lawson who bugged me. The tosser completely shut me down. I knew who my dad was—I was better than him at Quidditch! Oh, who bleeding cared? I wasn’t him. I wasn’t my dad. I cared about more people than my team and how dare Clint fucking Lawson try to make me feel guilty about it.
Like he was Merlin or something.
Son of a bitch, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Pot calling the kettle black? What sort of a retort was that? A lame one. A fucking lame one. Could have at least pulled a jelly legs on that Scorp twerp.
I rolled over.
Fuck that. Clint Lawson was a jerk.
Why was I thinking about Clint Lawson while in bed?
I rolled the other way.
He was such a tosser. A big fucking Slytherin tosser who could throw himself off something tall for all I cared. Which I didn’t, by the way.
I rolled onto my stomach and stuffed my face in the pillow.
What did Avery see in Emerson?
I hated Herbology. It wasn’t even the plants that pissed me off, it was the ology of the herbs. The whole class was bollocks. Professor Longbottom was always looking over my shoulder to make sure I didn’t slip it up. I swear, he’d blame Fred’s addled brains on Quidditch soon enough.
Not that I didn’t love Longbottom—I really did—it was just seeing him during the occasional Christmas dinner at the Weasley household was a bit weird. Weirder when he asked about my homework essays over potatoes. The amount of occasions I had to lie about completing an essay on the train ride home were ridiculous.
Fuck. The puss stuff squirted all down my arm and I leapt back, running into Nia. She let out a scream and the whole greenhouse looked over. Even some of the plants stared at my puss-covered arm.
I hated Herbology for the staring plants.
“James.” Longbottom pulled me aside at the end of class while my teammates and other randoes went back to the tower.
“Oh, darn, Professor—I’m going to be late for dinner.” I tried to smile.
“It’s one in the afternoon, James.” He paused and folded his arms. “I’m not going to lecture you; I just wanted to ask if you’re all right. You look a bit stressed.”
“I’m a seventh year, the Quidditch Captain, and the object of a lot of affection. I’m a bit stressed.” I chanced a smile. “I’m also the chosen enemy for many, so that is an all-day job.”
“But you’re okay?”
“I handle it the best I can. I have my friends.”
Professor Longbottom opened the door behind me. “Even though we haven’t exactly seen eye to eye in the past, I want you to know if you need help you can come to me and I might be a bit more understanding than you think.”
“I’ll keep that in mind, Professor. Thanks.” With that, I left, thinking about asking Longbottom if he could just stick Clint Lawson in detention for the rest of his sodding life. If only. If effing only.
Though I expected to return to a stare from Emerson Edwards or to procrastinate another assignment, I did not. I did, however, return to find Victoria making some strange noises from her cage. There was sweat on my brow almost instantly as I rolled up the sleeves to my collared shirt and pulled it out from under my bed.
She was tinted slightly purple. It looked pretty, but I knew it meant she was ill.
“Tory?” I whispered, glancing over my shoulder to make sure I was alone. Fuck! Was she okay? “Tory, are you all right?” I opened the top of the cage and pulled her out, placing her gently on my comforter. Her little Pygmy Puff eyes were watery.
“Oh, bollocks. Um, I haven’t fed you any of Head-Boy-Twitwards’ clothes recently so it’s not that. Uh.” I looked around the room again for some sort of answer. There were some dirty clothes from Freddie and Bink’s Transfiguration book. Nothing of real value or help. She made a weird whiny noise. I jumped and started nervously fiddling with my fingers.
“What am I supposed to do?” I said, my voice strained as I jumped backward off the bed and began to pace. “I don’t even know what to do with a sick Pygmy Puff. I just know what to do with the non-sick ones. Snuggle and stuff—but I don’t snuggle because I’m a man. Well, sometimes, but when no one’s watching.” I ran my fingers through my unruly hair.
Oh, son of a cattail I had no idea what to do.
In a panic, I pulled the door open so hard it slammed into the wall and knocked a few ugly paintings off the wall (I made a mental note to replace them with someone else’s real artwork). “Avery!” I yelled down the staircase. “Avery bleeding Flynn!”
“What?” she said. I heard a book slam shut. “James, are you okay?”
“No! Get up here!” I resumed my pacing and Victoria let out another strange noise.
Avery rushed in, her hair flying around her face and her cheeks flushed. “What is it? What’s—oh no! What’s happened to Victoria?” She immediately leapt onto the bed to examine my innocently wonderful Pygmy Puff. “James, she’s sick.”
“I know! I know. I just.” I paused. “I don’t know what to do. Don’t tell anyone.”
Avery shot me a tiny smirk. I hated she saw right through me, but at the same time it was comforting knowing she could make up for what I lacked. That sounded cheesy in my head so I figured saying it would make me feminine.
“Just give her lots of water instead of—James, is that Pumpkin Juice?” She surveyed me down her nose.
“I didn’t want to walk all the way into the bathroom. My bed’s second furthest from it, you know. It gets cold at night and she seemed to like it at first.” I smiled. “Okay, I give her real water. What else?”
“Just comfort her and give her lots of fluids. If it gets any worse than this take her to Hagrid or Madam Bones.”
“Hates your guts, I know this.” Avery grabbed Victoria’s dish and went to replace the water. “This bathroom is disgusting.”
“Just because it doesn’t have pretty flowers and reed diffusers doesn’t make it disgusting,” I said defensively, picking up Victoria and cradling her in one arm. I watched Avery place the bowl back delicately. Her face was still flushed and she looked really good. I was glad Emerson wasn’t in the room to ask her about salad, the sick sod.
“I think those are Freddie’s stained socks in there.” She shot me a sly smile.
“Hey,” I said quickly, sitting on my bed and not making any eye contact whatsoever because I felt like an emotional tool. “Thanks. I kind of panicked. I do that when it comes to Tory. She’s…well, I just do. Shut up. Don’t look at me.”
“Okay, James,” Avery said, sitting beside me. “I won’t look at you when you’re having a heart. I promise.” True to her word, she stared straight ahead.
Attempting to get my face back to its normal paler self, I concentrated on Victoria. She looked weak drinking her water. I picked her up, letting her little hairs fall between my fingers, and placed her gently back into the cage. I heaved a sigh as I fell back onto the bed. Avery followed, leaning on her elbows to see my face.
“You okay?” she asked quietly, squinting her eyes and probably seeing through my tough manly exterior.
“I will be.” I paused for a moment, grabbing her shoulder and pulling her over to me. Her hair was soft. “I think I will be okay. Just a scare is all.”
“I’m not talking about with Victoria.” She raised her head and gave me a trademark Avery stare. “Are you all right, James? You’re going through a lot lately.”
I shrugged, opening my mouth and trying to formulate the words.
Unfortunately, the words never came considering the door opened and in walked Nia Baker with a huge grin on her face. Well, she was grinning until she saw Avery with her hair sprawled out on my chest and her leg draped across mine. Of course, this was a regular occurrence for the pair of us since we were besties and all that, but Nia didn’t seem to take it that way. She made a sound resembling a sick dinosaur and pivoted on her heel, marching right back out and slamming the door.
“Oh, bugger,” I muttered. “See, women are going to kill me, Aves.”
“Better they kill you than do nothing at all.”
I bit my lip. “Fair.”
The light snowfall was annoying even though it was the start of winter and I wasn’t even used to it yet. I was already sick of getting it on the bottom of my robes. Luckily, at breakfast a couple large boxes cheered me up. They were labeled RED and I ripped the first one open before touching my toast.
“What are you—James, jelly just went flying all over my eggs.” Paloma stared at me.
“They’re here!” I shouted this, thrusting my fist into the air as an egg cascaded onto Wesley’s bacon. They went well together. “They’re finally bleeding here and I won’t be called ‘pinkie’ anymore! Rejoice!”
Avery jumped up, sending her pumpkin juice flying as she dug into the other box. “Merlin! It’s like Christmas!”
“Gryffindors, rejoice!” I went to stand on the table, kicking a piece of toast out of my way, but quickly hopped back down after a few fiery stares from Professor Longbottom. “Still, rejoice though even though I’m not on the table. Rejoice, damn it!”
The material on the new robes was soft against my skin and I pulled one out. Wesley squealed when he saw his name on the back. It was a deep scarlet with gold stitches in the seams and a gold lining on the underside. I was very nearly shaking right there at breakfast.
It was crazy robes made me that giddy.
I tossed that one to Wesley, digging out the others with Avery until I found mine on the bottom. POTTER was written across the back in big, gold letters with scarlet stitches and I stared at it for a moment. There was a large, gold “C” on the front. Just holding it I felt like more of a Gryffindor. Those pink robes were for Hufflepuffs. Even Meta looked remotely happy for once after turning hers over in her hands.
Suddenly Emerson bidding on Avery and winning a day with her was worth it.
Still wanted to Emerson-punch him. I wondered about my next detention.
I also wondered about the Code instructing me not to get numerous detentions.
“James, you want this?” Albus poked me in the side with an envelope and I turned to glare at him, only to realize it was Mum’s handwriting.
“Hold this.” I handed the robe to Al and ripped it open.
Your father and I decided the holiday trip is going to be to Italy. One of my old teammates has wonderful connections with the tourism board in southern Italy and there is a nice destination spot where they speak primarily English and it’s an all-wizard area. You’ll love it and it’ll be nice to get away from the snow and cold for a while instead of like last year’s trip to Moscow.
Al has already told me he’s bringing Rosie and I’ve checked with your aunt and uncle so it’s all right. Let me know who you want to bring and make sure Lily is thinking about it as well.
I miss you, dear. Can’t wait to see you in December. Don’t stress yourself out too much, all right?
I couldn’t help but smile. “It’s Italy this year,” I announced cheerfully, taking my robes back and folding the letter. “Coming back with a bit of a tan will be nice. I’ll be the envy of Hogwarts.”
“Italy?” Wes gaped at me. “And I’m stuck with Hugo poking me with sticks over pineapple ham?”
Avery smiled warmly. “Sounds lovely.”
“What are you packing?” I asked her. “I’m thinking lots of t-shirts and shorts. You should probably bring some dressy rubbish too because the ‘rents like to do all that touristy stuff.”
“Wait. What?” she said, placing her robes delicately in her school bag.
“You’re coming obviously. So get ritsy stuff like that dress you wore to the auction.” I sat back down and moved the boxes over. “You really didn’t think I’d invite someone else, did you?”
“I just assumed—maybe Nia or Elizabeth.” Avery let a smile creep up her lips.
“You’re as much part of my family as I am,” I said. “So pack a damn dress.”
I could feel the fire in Elizabeth’s and Nia’s glares from my seat.
Victoria stared up at me, her color faded back to a nice carnation pink and her eyes less watery now that she had water instead of pumpkin juice. I smiled. Fred prodded me in the side.
“What?” I said. We were on our stomachs looking over the edge of the bed and I decided it was an adequate time to poke him back.
“She looks okay.”
I nodded. “I think she is.”
“Did you know how to do it? How to make her better? Should they hire you as Care of Magical Creatures teacher?”
I laughed. “No, ‘course I didn’t.”
“Who did? Edwards?”
I snorted. “He can’t even take care of his gray dress.”
I tried to will myself not to color. “Yeah.”
“I think Abigail would like a pygmy puff.” He said it slowly, biting his lip.
“So you’d get her a pygmy puff?” I laughed, ruffling his dark hair.
“I don’t know. I don’t know what I think about it. I might like her or something. Don’t tell anyone.” He chuckled.
“Your secret’s safe with me.” I snorted.
“Can you two shut up?” Bink ripped open his hangings and glared at our backs. “I’m trying to sleep. I have a transfig essay to finish in the morning.”
“Why not do it now while we’re talking?” Freddie asked, smiling.
He closed the hangings quickly and made a huff noise. “Just shut up. Your pygmy puff’s fine, James. Abigail has good grades, Fred.”
“Night, Slytherin,” I muttered.
I exchanged confused and worried looks with Fred before turning back to a healthy Victoria.
Avery ran her wool mittens along the railing as we walked outside. It was our way of escaping people like Twitwards and Nia, just the pair of us chatting in the chilly winter weather. I watched her hair get conveniently stuck in her mouth.
“Italy is going to feel too good,” she said cheerfully, jumping off a few steps early and sending gasps of powdered snow into the air at her feet. “Only a couple more days.”
“I just want to stop working on Charms essays and all that rubbish,” I murmured. “My brain hurts.” I wrapped an arm around her shoulders and we strolled off toward the glassy surface of the lake. It wasn’t frozen yet, just so still I could see the forest reflected like a painting. I pointed this out to Avery.
“Beautiful,” I whispered.
Instead of replying, she stared up at me. My fingertips were going numb. I resisted the urge to pull her windblown hair from her lips yet again. Avery’s eyes were wide, recognizing something. I wondered if there was something on my face other than a plethora of freckles.
The breeze scratched at my face.
Within seconds this was gone—Avery’s eyes flew back to the lake and she mumbled something about the reflection. Her face was rosy from the cold and her mittens shook.
“Are you okay?” I asked. “Do you need to go back inside?”
If it was possible, her face faded to a deeper red. She didn’t look at me. “Emerson asked me out on three more dates.” She said this quickly, voice strained.
I ignored the feeling in my stomach. “Oh.”
“I said no.”
“Why?” The wind picked up and was now taking its toll on the water, creating ripples and blurring the mirrored forest.
“I hate salad.”
A/N: This chapter is for the numerous people who kept me sane during my absense. You know who you are. It's also for those of you who just found this story. It's a pleasure to entertain.
So here's the thing. I was gone for a while, doing edits and some other unmentionable things, but now I'm back for good and right now I have this story planned out until chapter 45. But guess what? That's not the end. So tighten those broom-belts, this is going to be a wild ride.
And only to amuse me, what did you miss most about Breaking the Quidditch Code? I missed writing James's humor. He's insane!
Also, favorite quotes? Favorite characters? Favorite annoying Emerson part?
Next chapter is going smoothly. As of right now, since I am no longer a TA, this story will be going back and forth between updates with Hide & Seek.
Thank you again, everyone. Your support means so much to me.
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