The rush to get to Platform 9 and ¾ was as manic as ever, even though it was only Lily who was still going to Hogwarts. James turned up that morning, for once without Hayley, who was going to see her own brother off; no doubt they’d bump into each other on the platform. James was in a cheerful mood but his mother was stressed, running around like a maniac as her daughter remembered something else she’d forgotten, as Harry watched on, amused.
“Oh and I need owl treats!” Lily exclaimed as Ginny looked like she was on the brink of exploding. “How else am I going to feed Timmy?”
James snorted with laughter, as he always did at the mention of the name of Lily’s owl and as his mother wheeled round to turn on him, he pulled a box of owl treats out of the top cupboard and handed them to his younger sister, smiling as he did so, hoping to avoid incurring his mother’s wrath further. Lily grinned wearily, before charging back upstairs to finish sorting herself out. James and his dad shared a look.
They reached King’s Cross with time to spare, which in itself was a miracle, as they hadn’t left the house until nearly half past ten and they had a fair way to travel. James had volunteered to drive but, after a rather nervous bout of laughter and a small argument, Harry had told his son exactly who would be driving the car. When they arrived, James wheeled along Lily’s luggage as a sign of good faith, before seeing her onto the train. And then, almost before they knew it, she was gone, the smoke billowing as the train disappeared off into the distance. James felt a wave of nostalgia creep over him and he grinned to himself. It felt like so long since he had seen the castle and he was itching to visit again. And yet, he had moved on, his time had been and gone and now he was playing for the Arrows and he was happy.
“I’m feeling it too!”
James recognised the voice almost before she’d spoken the words and turned, a beaming smile on his face as he embraced Hayley. She grinned and kissed him gently.
“The castle? I miss it too,” Hayley said. “It’s been far too long since we were there and there are days when I wish we could just go back to the good old days. You and me, lying on the grass, with not a care in the world.”
“Not a care in the world?” James laughed. “What about Kassie? And Darren? And…”
“Okay, okay, you’ve proved your point!” Hayley chuckled. “But still, you know what I mean. Those times, those days. It seems like nowadays the rest of the world is catching up with us.”
“Yeah,” James agreed. “But still, life’s good. We’ll be married in the summer and life will move on. Still, I’m thinking I should pay Lils a visit, keep things interesting.”
“Keep things interesting?” Hayley raised an eyebrow. “Poor Lily!”
Harry was late. Not that it mattered much. He was the Head of the Auror Department, so chances were they wouldn’t start the meeting without him. There was rumour Kingsley would be there, but Harry doubted it. It was highly unlikely the Minister for Magic would be troubled with such a routine parole issue, even if it was Draco Malfoy. Sure enough, when Harry entered, all the people in the room looked up. Some of them sighed, a mixture of relief and exasperation. Harry muttered his apologies and took his seat at the top of the table. He looked around. The collection of wizards were a strange mix of traditional and new, a real collation of the minds. And today, they would discuss the fate of Harry’s schoolboy nemesis.
“So,” Harry opened proceedings. “Malfoy.”
As James crashed into the dirt again, he picked himself up wearily, cursing under his breath. This was his chance, the best chance he would get. He had spent a lot of the previous season playing second fiddle to Ched Lorey, the Arrows first choice seeker. In contrast, Hayley had shot into the first team, playing almost every game. However, Ched had sustained a horrific injury in the break between seasons, an injury involving a toy dragon, a ten foot fall and a broken neck. James wasn’t exactly happy it had happened, but it left him as the Arrows only seeker and Ched was in trouble for the nature of his injury, meaning he’d still be in the manager’s bad books, even when he recovered. And yet James wasn’t sure things were going well.
“Get back in the air Potter!” The coach groaned, as James took off again, squirming to avoid the flinging bludgers of the teams two beaters. James hated anti-bludger training. It involved one hour of the four beaters on the team hurling as many bludgers as they could sustain and for every time he got knocked off his broom, he had to endure an extra five minutes. James had currently been going 45 minutes and he’d fallen four times. He caught Hayley’s eye. She was holding back with her own task, he could tell. She had shooting practice but the way she kept looking at him told him everything he needed to know. She was worried about him. She was working at half-strength, glancing at him whenever she could. James swerved and ducked and rolled as the bludgers came thick and fast and he swore loudly, taking all his potential to avoid them. But then he realised something. He’d had enough. He was sick of being a whipping boy and the reason he had been hired in the first place was his inventiveness. He twisted and now he was shooting towards the four beaters, who scattered as he whizzed past. He heard someone shout, but he was already moving, honing in the first beater, who yelped as James avoided him by inches and he barely had time to raise his bat to defend himself. The crunch James heard was satisfying if not a little worrying. These were his teammates after all, but then he knew the bludgers were enchanted to do less damage as with this sort of practice, it would be pointless and dangerous to have them at full strength.
“Potter!” The coach roared, as the next beater was ready for him, firing the bludger back at him. But James was already in front of another beater, who hadn’t spotted him until too late. James then screeched past the second beater again, clipping him so he lost his balance and then the bludger took him to the ground. By this point, the fourth beater was on the ground, berating the coach. James touched down, Hayley watching him with a mix of amusement and concern. The coach glanced James up and down.
“I was beginning to wonder if we’d ever see any of the famed Potter anger. The aggression and thinking outside the box that makes you a fantastic Quidditch player. It’s about bloody time. More of that Potter, you’re useless to us if you don’t play to your full potential. That said, you nearly injured our best beater.
“With all due respect,” James replied carefully. “I doubt our best beater could be injured so easily, they’re made of sterner stuff. And if they’re not…”
The coach laughed and batted him on the back. “You’re a character Potter, go get changed.”
James grinned and jogged over to the changing rooms. He stripped down and grabbed a towel and then got into one of the showers, allowing the hot water to envelop him. He had the door locked, but he didn’t hear the person behind him whisper “Alohamora!” and then the door swung open. He was too busy enjoying the heat to even feel her presence until Hayley’s lips were inches from his ear and she whispered: “Boo!”
James jumped and turned as Hayley giggled incessantly. She stepped closer to him, so the water was flowing onto her. She was filthy, but the mud washed away, the smile never leaving her face as she dropped what was left of her clothes and kissed her boyfriend.
“I’m proud of you!” she whispered as James grinned through the kiss.
“So how was your day Harry?” Ginny asked cautiously, as her husband stabbed his chicken with his fork, shovelling it into his mouth and then mumbling angrily through it. “That bad huh?”
“I’ve got three different cases that are getting out of hand!” Harry groaned. “The main problem is that a young wizard has gone out of control in the countryside and he’s now taken out two of my best men. Ron’s up to his neck in work so he can’t help and Kingsley won’t let me go myself, as I’m bogged down with about half a dozen other things. The only other person I could send would be Teddy but I’m not sure he’s ready. And can you imagine what Andromeda would do to me if I got him killed?”
Ginny winced. “It wouldn’t be pleasant. Any news on Malfoy?”
“Actually, that’s the only good point of my day. It’s looking more and more likely he’ll be released in a couple of months, we made progress, but it’ll be a long wait. Seems we can’t even hurry up on trivial matters anymore.”
Harry shook his head and stabbed some more chicken. Ginny put her hand on him reassuringly as James came flying out of the fireplace with a flash of green fire. Harry winced. To this day he hated floo powder, but his eldest son appeared to have picked up a penchant for the stuff, evidently from his mother. He was beaming from ear to ear and shot his father a look that he didn’t question. He sat opposite his mother and both of his parents looked at him expectantly.
“What’s up James?” Harry asked suspiciously.
“Well,” James replied cheerily. “I was going to set up a family game of Quidditch now that the little ones are out of the way, and I was obviously thinking you too would be up for that. I’ve rallied the rest of the troops, the game is tomorrow at the Burrow.”
Harry sighed as Ginny glanced at him. “I would James, really I would, but I’m snowed under at the Ministry. Maybe another time.”
“It’ll be in the evening, after you’ve finished work,” James pleaded. “You and me are seekers dad, there’s no escaping it.”
“I’ll think about it,” Harry groaned, a smile on his face.
James was overjoyed when, come the match, his father turned up, looking rather unhappy, but relieved in a sense and James knew that when he was in the air, he would be having the time of his life. The teams were as follows. The two keepers were Ron and Teddy. Fred and George with only one bludger to worry about. Ginny, Angelina, Hayley and Victoire were chasers, with James and Harry the two seekers. Grandma and Granddad Weasley, Bill and Fleur, Hayley’s parents and Hermione were all watching. The teams were split into old vs young, so the three Weasley siblings and Harry and Angelina played the two young couples and Fred.
The game kick-started in typical Wotter fashion, with Victoire’s broom being kicked by Ginny, who then scored as Teddy went nuts over the treatment of his wife. Harry chuckled as he and James hovered above the others, their eyes locked. They were looking each other dead in the eye, but at the same time both of them were scanning their peripheries for signs of the snitch. The game below quickly became one-sided, as three of the four chasers were out of practice and Hayley flew circles around them. The younger generation were 100-30 up within a matter of minutes and Harry knew they were going to lose badly unless they acted quickly and swung around, still desperate to find the snitch as Hayley zigzagged around the bludger that George repeatedly hurled in her direction, despite Fred’s best efforts to redirect it. But Hayley was being thoroughly stopped in her tracks by Ron, who was in the form of his life, seemingly invincible. But even as Ron turned it up, so did Hayley, who showed why the majority of defences in the league feared her, scoring as only she could score, making it 160-30 in a matter of seconds. At which point, both Harry and James were diving for the snitch, their brooms straining as they were neck and neck and then the father pulled out triumphantly, James swearing as Harry cheered, the snitch in his hands. Everyone was looking at him.
“What?” Harry asked.
“Mate, Hayley scored three times whilst you were diving. We just lost by ten points!” George groaned.
“How the fuck did she manage that?” Harry yelled, glancing horror-struck at Ron, who looked completely dumbfounded. “You’re supposed to be a keeper Ron.”
“Mate don’t look at me!” Ron yelped. “She’s your daughter-in-law to be.”
“What can I say dad?” James grinned smugly. “I chose my wife well.”
Harry shot Ginny a foul look and muttered something about “her son” before storming inside.
“I knew you got being a sore loser from somewhere Jamesie,” Hayley teased, rubbing his arm affectionately as James laughed.
“You haven’t seen how angry Mum gets when Uncle Ron beats her at chess!” James replied.
Josh was nervous as he ran his hand through his hair roughly, glancing again at his watch to confirm that he was in fact early and she wasn’t supposed to be there yet. They were meeting at a quiet little muggle restaurant in London, where she lived. For most people travelling from London to Northern England most days would be a strenuous trip, but when you were a witch or wizard, it was easy. After another anxious glance of his watch, Josh looked up and she was walking towards him, looking stunning in a short skirt and top, her hair tied up and her eyes sparkling.
“Hey Ciara,” Josh greeted nervously, stumbling to his feet in order to be gentlemanly as she sat, laughing at his bumbling style that he was mentally berating himself for. She watched him with amused eyes as he sat down opposite her, grinning like an idiot.
“Hi Josh, I was glad to get your owl,” Ciara replied cheerfully, Josh taking several seconds to recover from the debilitating chill her accent sent up his spine. “It’s been a while since I’ve been out with a guy, playing for a professional Quidditch team does murder on your social life.”
“Ah I imagine it would do that,” Josh acknowledged. “You play chaser, don’t you?”
“Yep,” Ciara nodded, smiling ruefully. “The rest of us don’t get much of a look-in since Hayley turned up, the girl’s been unbelievable.”
“Well three of her grandparents were chasers on the Gryffindor team at the same time,” Josh pointed out. “She’s bound to have inherited some talent. Besides, it’s got the Arrows up to 3rd, their highest league position in a while. I’m supposed to be doing a report on which team is in the best position to win the league this season, but I’m struggling to look beyond the Arrows, for all my bias.”
“You’re allowed to be biased,” Ciara chuckled, leaning across the table to grab some water as the waiter came over to take their order. “Just don’t let it affect your work.”
For several minutes, their conversation was distracted by the waiter, who was meticulous in the ordering process and then bringing over their drinks. Josh missed butterbeer, but there weren’t many decent Wizarding restaurants and this normal beer was perfectly satisfactory. Ciara was chatting about Puddlemere United, the reigning champions and Josh found himself thinking less and less about Quidditch and more and more about her. He was about to steer the conversation in that direction when he spotted something out of the corner of his eye. He arched his eyebrow and his eyes turned almost to slits as they narrowed. He put on his best smile and excused himself for a moment, before strolling past her and grabbing the red-head who he had just seen entering the building, roughly dragging Fred to one-side.
“What the bloody hell are you doing here?” Josh growled as Fred looked innocently at him.
“Oh are you here with Ciara?” Fred asked politely. “I had no idea.”
Josh checked nobody was watching before pulling out his wand and pushing it against Fred’s chest threateningly. Fred mocked surprise, before laughing as Josh put it down, glaring furiously. He knew Fred would try something, that was just his way, but if it backfired, it would just make Fred look like the childish one and seal Josh’s chances. He weighed up his options, then dropped Fred.
“Come near our table, and I’ll use this!” he warned, indicating to his wand and then turning back to Ciara, who beamed as he sat down. “So tell me about you,” Josh said to her, as she greeted him.
The rest of the evening seemingly went like clockwork. They talked, ate, talked some more. Josh learned all about Ciara. She was two years older than them and had gone to Wizarding School at Beauxbatons because her father was French, even though her mum was Irish and that was where she had grown up. Despite her years in France, she was still as Irish as ever and her Quidditch career had catapulted after she burst into the Kenmare Kestrels before transferring to the Arrows after only one season in Ireland. She had two sisters, both younger than her and both still at Beauxbatons and an older brother, who worked at the Irish Ministry. In return, Josh told her all about his upbringing, his family, his friends at Hogwarts. Fred made no appearance, although Josh had his eye on him from across the room. Eventually, with the evening reaching an end and Ciara finishing off her chocolate cake, Josh sensed the opportunity to push on.
“Well, it’s been a lovely evening,” he mused. “Shall I walk you home?”
“Well Josh,” Ciara smiled. “As much as I’d love that, I have training first thing in the morning and my flatmate doesn’t take too kindly to me bringing home strange men. She’s a muggle you see. But rest assured, you’ll see me soon enough. Owl me during the week, I’ll see what I can do.”
Josh tried not to be disheartened as they stood and hugged, and as he kissed her on the cheek, he felt her blush. Their eyes connected and she smiled, but made no move to kiss him and as she walked away, Josh wondered if that had been the start of something beautiful or if she simply didn’t want to go there with him…
A/N: Thanks for reading everyone and let me know what your thoughts are. Any favourite characters, ideas as to what will happen? Leave me a review and next chapter: The Hogwarts Express.
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