For Ramita. For reading my NaNoWriMo novel as I go. You're the best.
“How long has he been like that?”
“And what have you done about it?”
“You saw him at practice.”
“And he’s eating!”
“Not enough!” Her voice was sharp. “Can’t you tell he’s hurt?”
“James doesn’t hurt. He’s a man.”
“You’re an idiot.” Rosey whipped back my curtains and stared down at me. Then she grabbed the blankets and pulled them as well. I was curled up in a ball with Victoria in my boxers and a t-shirt. Thank Godric it wasn’t Nia. “James, get up. Or at least talk to us.”
Lily sat down next to me and took Victoria into her arms. “You’re such a sod,” she mumbled, scratching Tory under the snout. Wherever that was. “You can’t just stay like this forever.”
“I won’t,” I replied testily. “When the school year ends I’m going to allow Dad to gloat about how his eldest son is interning to do boring repetitive things like file paper and fetch tea. Don’t worry, I won’t put in too much sugar.”
Lily slapped my shoulder. “You’re not going to do that. Stop being dramatic.”
“You want more sugar then? How’s that sound?”
“Like you’re a git.” Rose plopped down next to my sister and took Victoria. “Bink—Fred, what are you two doing to help?”
“We fed him,” Bink said, pulling on a tie and fixing it. “When he wasn’t going downstairs. Essentially, we’re the reason he’s alive. You can thank us now with presents.”
Rose rolled her eyes. “We’re not thanking you for anything,” she snapped. “You could have really helped James and instead he’s not dressed in bed with his pet.”
“Who do you want him in bed with then?” Bink pressed, sitting beside her on the bed. “Want me to bring Nia up here? She’d want to do more than snuggle…”
“Shut it.” Rose slapped him hard on the thigh. “You’re a shit friend.” She turned back to me, probably noticing I wasn’t making my opinion blatantly known like usual. “We have to get you out and about for the day.”
“Don’t wanna,” I grumbled.
“Moping isn’t getting you anywhere.” Rose slapped me on the arm. She was rather violent. “Lily and I will be waiting downstairs. We’re going down to the docks today.”
“For bloody what?”
“To do whatever I bloody say, Potter,” Rose said, rolling her eyes. She hit Bink again just for good measure, handed me Victoria back, and left the room with Lily on her heels.
Well, damn it.
“Can we disown them?” Freddie asked, laying back on his bed and flicking his wand to lock the door. “I’m tired of women running my life. I’m telling Pop to put Rox out on the street. I’ll use her room for my things.”
“What things do you need to have a whole room for?” Bink raised a brow and shoved my legs over so he could get more comfortable.
“I need more wall space.”
“Wall space? Seriously?”
Freddie nodded. “It’ll be like a shrine.”
“To what? Half-dressed women?” I asked.
“I don’t understand your tone, Potter,” Freddie replied with a huff. “I think it’s a perfectly acceptable idea.”
Rose and Lily really were waiting in the common room when we finally made our way down. It took us a little over twenty minutes, though most of the time was spent teasing Bink about the minor sunburn on his forehead from practice. It was in the shape of his sunglasses. Which, by the way, were in the shape of something out of the 1950s. Unflattering, Legace. Unflattering.
“Took you long enough,” Rose said in a short-tempered way. She got that from Aunt Hermione. One hundred percent. “Come on. We’re going down to the docks.”
“I hate the docks,” I mumbled. I pulled my cloak on since there was still a chill to the air, and followed the group outside. The girls were gabbering about something to do with nail polish or scrunchies or this hot baker back home. I’d never heard of a hot baker. Were bakers hot? Should I bake bread?
“James,” Freddie said in a hushed whisper. “We should bail and go to the pub.”
“And bloody do what?”
“Drink ourselves stupid.”
Fred nudged me. “You’re done drinking? You’re lying.”
“I’m not in the mood.”
Another nudge. “Then let’s find you a rebound.”
“You’ve got to be shitting me.”
“It’s a good idea!” Bink said with a heavy nod. “I am fully in favor of this.”
“You’re in favor of me having a rebound after Avery broke up with me?” I asked quietly, glancing back and forth between both boys. “After my best friend, who was my girlfriend, broke up with me? You want me to go shag someone else?”
“You know what, I saw Nia leaving Hufflepuff earlier today…”
“Why were you near Hufflepuff? Gryffindors don’t go near Hufflepuff unless they’re easy like Nia.”
Bink flushed. “I was just visiting.”
I snorted. “Visiting the sheets of some girl’s bed,” I grumbled. “I hate you sometimes.”
“We need to get you laid, Potter.” Bink ruffled my hair. “Seriously. Or a stripper. That benefits all of us.”
“What’re you boys talking about back there?” Rose asked, peering over her shoulder. It looked like she was about to off all three of us. Seriously. Where did she get that temper?
“Strippers,” answered Bink. “Why? You want in?”
“Shut it.” Rose turned back to Lily.
“Oh, come on, Weasley,” Bink said, laughing. “You’re telling me you don’t want to prance around in lingerie all day? It might just be your calling.”
“You disgust me.”
“What was that?” Bink said, louder this time so his voice echoed. “Rose Weasley wants to be a stripper after Hogwarts? I’d pay good money for that.” He laughed.
Fred and I slapped him hard on the back of the head. “Cousin,” I hissed.
“I’m only joking,” Bink said, rubbing his head. “She’s practically a baby.”
“I’m a year younger than you, Legace!” Rose shouted over her shoulder. “I’m not a baby. I’d appreciate it if you had a little respect for authority figures at this school.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry,” he replied in a cheeky way. “Is that the same authority figure that challenged me to shots at the party last week and then threw up on my shoes two hours later? That authority figure?”
“I hate you.” Rose went back to talking to Lily in hushed tones.
I went back to wondering what Avery was doing at home.
“James.” Fred slapped me on the back. “You have to stop thinking. You have to get her out of your head. She’s set up camp in there, mate, and it isn’t pretty.”
I shook my head, fingers clasping the ends of my cloak like a habit. “What am I supposed to do?”
“Rebound,” said Bink. “Or strippers.”
“You’re supposed to do something,” Fred said quietly. “You can’t just sleep all the time. Maybe you need to talk about it?”
“Potter men don’t talk about feelings,” I mumbled unpleasantly.
“Yeah, well, clearly you dwell on them so much you look like a Potter woman,” Bink said, then he backed away because I went to punch him. Fortunately for his arm, I missed.
“Even Albus is getting more play than you,” Fred said, clearly feeling sorry for me. He rubbed my back in a circular motion. “I’m sorry, mate, but that’s a bit pathetic. And he’s not even dating Paloma. Oh my Godric, do you think that makes him more of a player than you? You’re not really a player, though…since you don’t hook up with girls…well, neither does Albus. I don’t know what he does, actually…”
“Fred, shut up.” I let out a sigh. “I don’t know who I’d even talk to about it.”
“Not me.” Bink grimaced. “You’re my best mate and all that, but I don’t know shit about girls.” He laughed. “You can probably tell by my stellar track record with girlfriends.” He grinned in a charming way. “After the sex, I just don’t care. Don’t worry, though, I’m an expert cuddler.”
“Did you just admit you cuddle?” I asked.
“Sure.” Bink shrugged. “Why not? They like it. I get to go to sleep. It’s a win-win.”
“I feel so out of the loop.” I let out a dramatic sigh and Lily turned to look at me, concerned. I faked a grin before she turned back to her conversation with Rose. I couldn’t help but wonder if it was about Wesley’s ass or about me. Either way I wasn’t on board.
“Which is why we’re getting you laid!” Bink chimed loudly.
Both girls stopped and wheeled around.
“What did you just say?” Rose said, placing her hands on her hips.
“James is getting paid!” Bink squeaked. “Paid. Like…we’re paying him money. To come out here with you two. Paid. Galleons. Right, Fred?”
“I thought we were getting him laid…”
Both girls kicked Bink hard in the shin. That was going to bruise.
After a couple hours sunning ourselves on the docks (by sunning, I meant sulking), I retreated back inside with the boys. Rose was getting under their skin, even though I knew she was only looking out for me. Lily didn’t say much, other than a few passing comments about Quidditch. Whether she knew it or not, I appreciated it. I also appreciated how much she actually knew about the game. She made one comment about Wesley’s turns I was particularly proud of.
I flopped back down onto my bed, rolling over it and grabbing Victoria out of her cage. Ah, that felt better.
“Oh, no you don’t,” Freddie said, grabbing Tory and toting her over to his bed. “Not happening. You’re not going to go sulk about all night.”
“I’m getting Falcon Cat,” I mumbled bitterly.
“Like you’d go anywhere near Avery’s room,” Bink shot back, arching his brows.
He was right. Damn it.
I glanced at both of them, sitting side-by-side on Fred’s bed with scowls on their faces. At least I knew they’d always be there for me. Unless I went behind their backs and dated the Keeper.
I was lying to everyone this year.
Not a good track record as a Captain.
“I’m not going to shag a random girl,” I said shortly. “Besides, what would Gaia think of me if I left the bar with some girl? She thinks I’m a stand-up bloke!”
“She doesn’t know you.” Bink shot me a wink. “You should hook up with Gaia then. She’d really think you were a stand-up bloke.”
“Oh, yeah,” I replied, rolling my eyes. “Show her how bad I am in the sack for my first time. She’d probably tell the whole bloody pub.”
“Stripper!” Bink cried.
“Fuck off,” I grumbled. “I need to get out of here.”
“So go home.” Fred shrugged.
I stared at the pair of them, pondering this advice. Go home. Home was the Potter house. With Mum and Dad. Together. But mostly Dad because his personality was the biggest groan-inducing one.
“Or to the Burrow,” Fred suggested. “You might as well. It’s Easter Holidays and clearly we can’t get you to hook up with Nia. Who, by the way, would not judge you for being shit in the sack simply because she wants to see you naked so bad.”
“You’re right,” Bink said with a nod. “Actually, I’m pretty sure she’d be just fine if you just stood there naked.” He chuckled. Probably imagining it. This made me very uncomfortable.
“You know what?” I stood up and stretched my back. It popped a couple times. “I think I will go home. Mum’s cookies are fantastic and the Quidditch Network is a good thing to have for a few days.”
“And Uncle Harry?” Fred arched his dark brows.
“I’ll just have to deal with him,” I responded quietly, reaching under my bed and grabbing a duffle bag. “Or avoid him. Or make sure Mum has sangria in the house to distract him from how big of a failure his son is.”
“I hope you don’t believe that.”
“I believe what he says.”
“He never said you were a failure, James.”
“Fine,” I said. “I believe what he implies.”
“Hey, James?” Bink said, taking Tory from Fred and patting her on the head. “Do me a favor when you’re gone?”
“Hmm?” I stuffed a few shirts into the bag.
“Fuck a random, will you? Fucking hell, man.”
The Potter house smelled like cinnamon and bread when I stepped in from the fireplace. No one was in the sitting room, which seemed like a first, but then I reminded myself my brother and sister remained at school. The couches and chairs were exactly where they were over winter break, blankets Grandmum knitted placed gingerly over top of each. Grandmum was always good about keeping us warm. And well-fed whenever we paid a visit. I made a mental note to stop in and give her a kiss on the cheek. I’d never miss a chance to let her tell me how thin I was looking. Or how handsome. That was her favorite. She told me more than Freddie, and he was the one with the soft hair.
“Mum?” I said loudly.
“James?” Mum came tearing through the hallway door, a bright grin on her face. “Love, you didn’t tell me you were coming home!” She pulled me into a tight hug. One I assumed would smother me if she didn’t let go.
“Decided I needed to get away for a while,” I said fondly, giving her a kiss on the cheek. “What smells so good?”
“Cookies,” she replied, a grin on her face. She looked the most like the pictures of her when she was in Hogwarts. They were displayed all over the Burrow. Dad did too, and a few of my uncles, but Mum still had the same features. The same playful smile and sparkly eyes. I had her eyes. Grandmum always told me so. Only after she squeezed my cheeks painfully.
“You know the way to my heart.” I moved past her and through the hallway into the kitchen. The smell made my knees weak. Mum was second only to Grandmum with the skills of baking. Perhaps I really should have taken that up so I could be a hot baker. For now, I’d settle for hot baker’s son. “How long till they’re done?”
Mum poured two cups of tea and set one in front of me. “Few minutes,” she replied. She sat down across the table. “So why did you really come home?”
“Try again.” Mum smirked, laughing a little and sipped her drink. Her eyes were on mine.
For all the lying I did in the last year, I couldn’t lie to Mum. She could see right through everything. Even in a letter, she could see through it. It was a gift of hers. Damn it.
“Avery,” I replied simply. She didn’t comment. “She broke up with me.”
Mum’s hand found mine and squeezed it. “She say why?”
“It was too hard,” I replied weakly. “That’s what she said. It was too hard.” I waited a moment, feeling the breath slowly leaving my body. The kitchen was quiet except the rhythmic ticks of the wall clock and the dull hum of the stove. I didn’t have to—I didn’t want to—but I did. I told Mum about Avery’s father (leaving out the part about him ruining my Quidditch career. I didn’t want her to worry), about how I found out, how I hid it from her, and how she found out. I even told Mum about the slap and everything that followed.
Mum sat through the whole thing, her eyes never straying from mine. She was quiet, fingers pressed against my palm.
“She went home for Easter,” I finished. “I just…I needed to get out of there.”
“Lily was right to get you out of bed,” Mum said at last. “You need to get a hold of yourself, James.”
“I’m trying,” I said quickly. “I’m trying but it’s not easy! It’s not like she was just some girl I asked to be my girlfriend and then she decided it wasn’t going to work.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “This is Avery. My best friend. Since first year.”
Mum took a sip of her tea and was silent. She rubbed her hand against mine in a soothing way. “James,” she said quietly, “This is your life. You can’t spend it pining after someone who doesn’t love you back.”
“I never said love!” I cried. “I don’t love her! I don’t. I dont love anyone.”
She raised a brow.
“I love you!” I said, throwing my arms around her and laughing. “You’re my favorite.” I kissed her cheek. “And I’m not pining.”
“Liar.” Mum ruffled my hair. “She’ll come around.”
“What if she doesn’t? Should I wait?”
“Maybe she needs to know what she lost.”
“I’m the most popular bloke at Hogwarts. She should know.”
She laughed and kissed my forehead before I sat back down. “Or maybe you should make it a bit more obvious how wonderful you really are.”
“You’re just saying that because I’m your son.”
“I’m saying that because you’re wonderful. Sometimes I’m even jealous of your many wonders, James Sirius.” She smirked, eyes glinting in the dying light streaming through the windows, and took her hand from mine. “It’s going to work out. Do you know how I know?”
“How?” My ass was on the edge of my seat.
“Because I believe in you.” She stood up for a moment and walked around the counter to the stove. She opened it, peeking at the cookies. “Do you remember before your first year when you were panicking about Quidditch? About how you didn’t think you were good enough?”
I groaned. “I knew that would come back to bite me in the ass.”
“I believed in you and I told you that. You are so talented and loving--”
“Don’t say loving.”
“--and you have so much to offer.” Mum grabbed an oven mitt and took the metal cookie sheet out of the oven. “You can do anything you set your mind to.”
Except play Quidditch now that Mr. Flynn has his hat in the game.
“That sounds like a motivational speech if I ever heard one.”
She smirked at me again and set the cookies on a rack to cool. “Where do you think you get it from? Certainly not your father.”
“Did you give speeches to the Harpies?” I was vaguely aware of my hands twisting in my lap.
“I did.” She tested one cookie with her finger. “They told me I was a sho-in for Captain once Elisa retired.”
“And then you--”
“And then you came along,” she said, cutting me off. “And suddenly the Captain bid seemed like a far away fairy tale. Because I had something better. A little dark-eyed boy with messy hair like his father. Who stole my heart.”
“Now you’re getting mushy. Mum, what did I tell you about getting mushy?”
Mum crossed the kitchen and wrapped her arms tightly around me, forcing kisses on my cheeks and forehead. “You told me not to be mushy,” she said. “And then I ignored you.”
“You really think things are going to be okay?”
“I know they will.” Mum ruffled my hair again and walked back to the cookies, tossing me one. “You’re amazing, James. You just have to see that you’re amazing far more than your Quidditch capabilities. You have so much in that heart of yours, whether you want to admit it or not.” She smirked and took a bite. “I’m damn good.”
“Language, Mum,” I teased and bit into the cookie. “Damn, you are good.”
It was late before Dad got home. I was in my room pouring over magazines and trying to decide if there were any drills worthy of snatching from the Finches. Little to nothing was worth snatching from them. I was on my bed, feet outstretched toward the window, concentrating.
But lying to myself if I wasn’t listening hard to my parents downstairs.
I reached over and pulled the door ajar.
“Yeah, that’s his bag,” Mum said. “He’s come home for the Easter holidays. Mum is going to be so excited to see him. You know how sad she is she can’t make it to his games.”
Like you, Dad. Congrats. Mum compared you to an old master of knittery.
“Without Al and Lily?” Dad asked. “Seems funny of him.”
“He has a few issues to work through on his own--away from Freddie and Bink.”
Dad was silent for a minute. “Avery not work out?”
More silence. Something dropped. Then I heard something that sounded suspiciously like snogging so I shut the door.
Now they were going to give me those pitiful big eyes. Mum was the worst--big brown ones just like me and Lils. But Dad was going to give me that “here’s a sideways smile because I feel bad for you” look. I hated that look. Always hated that look. It’s like winning at Quidditch if you got knocked out halfway through.
Cough. Freddie. Cough.
Brains of poultry, that one.
There was a soft knock on the door and Dad walked in. He wasn’t giving me the sideways grin, but his frown wasn’t much more valuable. He took a few steps and sat down onto the bed by my feet, placing a hand over my shin. He patted my leg in a fatherly sort of way. Awkward.
“James,” he said lightly.
What I did not need was father-son time.
“No, I won’t be getting her drunk and convincing her she should be my girlfriend,” I interrupted. “She wouldn’t go for that.”
“Have you talked to her?”
“I don’t really want to talk about Avery, okay?”
“Why’d you come home if you don’t want to talk about it?” He withdrew his hand from my leg and looked around my room. The walls covered from floor to ceiling in Quidditch posters. The trophies. Medals. Books. Everything related to Quidditch. My first broom was even mounted above the window. “I know you don’t pretend to be someone with feelings, but I know you have them, James.”
I wanted to be anywhere other than right there at that moment. Dad and I used to talk Quidditch. We talked about sports and that was it. Sometimes school. Well, there were other times we talked about girls. And the family. And then sometimes we talked about just Mum. And my feelings about Albus and Lily. Then other times we talked about what I wanted to do with my life. But it was basically all Quidditch.
It wasn’t all Quidditch, I reminded myself bitterly. When I was younger, Dad and I used to talk about everything. We were best mates. No matter how much I was a Momma’s Boy, Dad and I used to be mates. Used to laugh in the back yard. Used to help teach Albus to fly. Together. Even though he was rubbish.
“You need to take some time for yourself, James,” he said quietly. “I know you miss her and I know you want her back.”
“Enough with the lying,” Dad said. Apparently Mum taught him some tricks on the face-reading. “I know how much you care about Avery. It’s been painfully obvious since your fifth year. Let’s get that one out of the way right now.”
“Wait--what?” Fifth year? What was--? Oh.
Avery came for a week over the summer and Teddy was being nice to her. She got all doe-eyed (he’s NOT even that good looking) and I got pissed and ignored her for three days until she bribed me with chocolate ice cream.
“Don’t act surprised,” Dad said. “I know you fancy her. You just need to take a step back. If it’s going to work out, it will. You need time for you. Regroup. Get your life together. Stop worrying about Quidditch and girls and homework--”
“I know, I know, like you worry about homework.” Dad patted my leg. “Just relax, okay?”
“All right,” I agreed, glancing down at the figures flying around on the glossy magazine.
“What do you say we go watch some Quidditch Network, hmm?”
I paused, surveying my father. He didn’t look old. There were tiny crow’s feet in the corners of his eyes, but that was the only giveaway of his age. His hair was shaggy, as usual, and his shirt and tie were wrinkled. But he was smiling. I liked it when he smiled.
“Last one there plays for the Finches!” I cried, dashing up and taking the stairs two at a time to beat him. There was no way in bleeding hell I played for the stupid Finches.
Dinner was later than usual, mostly because I let Victoria on the table and she fell off and wobbled under the cabinet. Dad spent twenty minutes trying to fish her out with a hanger. I figured she ate something moldy down there, but she looked content. We had pork and potatoes and asparagus (which I shoved under my napkin in true Potter style) and actually sat around the table conversing.
If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have believed it.
“The back garden needs a redo this summer,” Mum said, cutting up her meat into small pieces. “I’m sick of looking at those yellow flowers by the back wall.”
“Your mum loves those flowers,” Dad said.
“She goes and fusses over them every visit,” she replied. “She can fuss over the boys and Lily for a while.”
“I’m okay with her fussing over Lily,” I cut in. “I don’t need anymore fuss, thank you.” I needed to be fuss-less. The less fuss the better, in my opinion. Unless it was fussing and then handing over gold I could use for sweets. In that case, the saying reverted the more gold the better.
“We’re going over there tomorrow so your father and Uncle Ron can help Grandpa with the shed,” Mum noted, her eyes moving to me. Then to my bulgy napkin. She knew. “Do you want to come along? Teddy might be there.”
Perfect, handsome Teddy that everyone loved.
“I might,” I said with a shrug. “Might have plans.”
Ever since the talk with Dad upstairs I’d been thinking over what he said. That I needed to take time for me. Stop thinking about what was best for the team, what was the ideal path for Albus and Lily, and my lack of a love life. I had to think about me. And in order to do that, I had to make sure I was moving on.
Even though my entire body refused the idea. Thinking of things without Avery were painful, but they weren’t changing. We were in a limbo, floating around on brooms an arms length apart. The best I could do was be there for her, even if we couldn’t be together. Maybe she was right. Maybe we just weren’t meant to be. But we were friends and we were always going to be friends. No father drama or heartbreak was going to drive us apart.
“If you can,” Mum said through pursed lips. “Your grandmum would love to see you. She always does.”
“Yeah.” I stared at my hands, knuckles white around the knife. This was way harder than I thought it would be. Like needles driven into my abdomen. I did not want to let her go, but I had to. I had to pry my fingers open and let her go.
I dropped the knife.
Sneaking out of the Potter house was simple. Every other step on the way down the staircase. Shoes off until the kitchen. Always use the back door. Never let the screen door slam. Silence by the parents’ window. Home free once you reach the fence.
I walked down the dark gravel road, feet shuffling. I could have apparated right from there, true, but my mind was foggy. I needed clarity. I needed advice. Unfortunately, the advice I sought was from the girl it was about. So that was a no-go. And Freddie and Bink just wanted me to get laid. Or treat them to a stripper.
The lamps barely lit the road in front of me. It was chilly and I forgot a jacket. Not that I cared all that much. Goosebumps added to character.
“Avery,” I said to myself, breath a white mist. “What are you doing to me?”
What kind of bleeding question was that? A stupid one. It was clear she was letting me go on with my life. She didn’t to be with me like that. But then why did she cry? It was hurting her so bad. Maybe she was crying because I had hurt her so bad? Done her such a dishonor that she was sobbing?
I wanted her to be crying because she still wanted to be with me.
I had made a mistake. We hadn’t taken it slow enough. I hadn’t been honest. I had been an idiot.
With that thought, I apparated to Avery Flynn’s front door. Then I knocked. Loud, since it was after ten.
It took about thirty seconds, but the door cracked open and the shocked expression that followed nearly broke my heart all over again. Not that my heart was broken. I didn’t have feelings or emotions or whatever that shit was. Avery looked stunning. Her dark hair fell in waves around her shoulders and she had on little pajama shorts she rarely wore at Hogwarts because she said she didn’t like the way Emerson looked at her in them and a baggy Quidditch t-shirt. It was for the Harpies. She’d had it since she was thirteen.
“James, what are you doing here?”
“I’ve come to talk to you,” I replied simply, shoving my hands in my pockets. “I have some things I need to say.”
“I don’t know if this is a good time.”
“Your mum home?” I said, peering through the door behind her. “I want to talk to her too.”
“She’s not,” Avery said sheepishly. She held onto the door like it was going to break. “What do you need to say?”
“Am I going to stand out here in the cold?” I said, wrinkling my nose. “Really?”
She pulled the door open so I could walk inside. She looked worried and skeptical, like I might release months of unchecked rage. I wasn’t Meta. Fucking Meta. That bitch. I stepped into the living room. It was bright and white with hints of cottage blues and pinks throughout the space.
“I’m here for you,” I said seriously, trying to muster up the courage to say what I was thinking. “I know you don’t want to be with me because I’m an asshole. But I came to tell you that I’m not going anywhere. You’re still my best mate and nothing is ever going to change that. So I want you to know I’m still going to be here for you. I still care about you.”
Avery stood next to the closed door and I tried to ignore her long legs. “That’s okay with you?”
“Of course it’s not okay,” I said quickly. “But I don’t have a choice. If I disagree, I lose you forever and you’re spilling your secrets to Twitwards or some bullshit like that.”
“I appreciate that, James,” she said. She twisted her fingers in front of her, eyes downcast. “It’s important to me that we remain friends.”
“Have you talked to your father?”
“Not yet.” Avery moved to sit on an ottoman. “What have you been up to this week? I haven’t seen you...and you canceled practice.”
“Nothing.” I ran my fingers through my hair. “I haven’t been up to anything.”
I knew she knew. She couldn’t be in Gryffindor and not know I had holed myself up in the dormitory. That I was only going to a couple classes. That I was broken and therefore not going to Quidditch. Good on her to try and instigate conversation, but things were weird. She now knew how I felt. Knew I was going to be there for her.
Part of me was angry, and I wasn’t sure why. I wanted to put both hands on her shoulders and scream at her for breaking up with me over something so stupid--so superficial. But it was her choice.
“I’m moving on,” I blurted.
Her eyes snapped up. “Oh,” she said. “Thats...good.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I’m moving on. I’m happy. For me.”
“I’m happy for you too.” She wouldn’t look at me, her face a fresh shade of pink. “That’s exactly what you need to do.”
Then after Hogwarts we don’t have to endure each others’ awkwardness. Instead, we can pretend we still know each other and keep in contact via formal owl post using words like “cordially.”
“Good,” I said. “I’m taking out Gaia.” Lie. Blatant lie. I would have used Haley Star, but seeing as she was on the team, I really didn’t need any more reasons to have Bink try and hex me into next week.
“She’s a nice...bartender,” Avery said. Her lips were thin. “A little older, but I guess that makes her wiser in the ways of women.”
“I bet she has moves,” I said suddenly. Moves? Seriously? I was in Avery’s living room discussing the moves of other women?
“I bet she does.” Avery stood up fast. “Look, I have to go to sleep. It’s late.”
“Yeah. That’s late...for me.” She glanced around the room like she was searching for an escape tunnel. “So I’m going to go to sleep. I’ll see you back at school.”
I stared. This is not how I had planned for this to go. “Okay,” I replied. “Yeah. I’ll just see you back at school then.” I turned and walked to the door, but paused before my fingers found the knob. “I miss you, you know.”
She stayed silent. “I miss you too, James,” she said and I heard her footsteps disappear into the hallway.
I frowned and opened the door. “Too much,” I whispered to myself.
A/N: Oh, James. Way to talk about moves with Avery. At least he got in his mommy time!
I want to thank everyone who has been leaving such amazing reviews! They are so appreciated and I will respond to every one of them as soon as possible! Right now I am in the middle of NaNoWriMo and it is going AMAZING. Thanks to everyone who has been a support system for me in all of this.
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UP NEXT: James finds the letters, The Burrow, and back to school!