I hated being up before my parents. It was annoying and made me feel like an adult. Or someone without a social life. In actuality, it was because of tossing and thrashing about. At one point my blanket ended up across the room due to anxiety. It was painful, thinking about her expression. Her pouty lips. Scared eyes. She looked nervous. Avery Flynn was never nervous. Never in regards to Quidditch or classes or skydiving. Not that she had been skydiving, but she would kick its ass.
Last night she was nervous, holding herself awkwardly in front of me. Like she didn’t want anything to do with me. Like she didn’t want me there. I wondered what she thought about after I left--if she took what I said into consideration. That I still cared. And I wanted to be there for her. Because it was true. All of it was true.
I wandered down the stairs quietly, careful not to wake my parents (even though Dad was snoring again) and was about to help myself to a mixing bowl full of cereal when I passed the door to Dad’s study. Usually, we didn’t go in there. Not that it was outlawed, but it was just a place Dad liked to have his alone time and we thought it was boring anyway. Albus probably spent the most time out of all of us in there just listening to Dad talking about Ministry related nonsense. Boring. I went outside and played Quidditch.
The door was ajar. I peeked my head in. No traps of any kind. Yet.
I pushed the door all the way open and it made a sickening creaking noise. No one was coming over my shoulder. I hadn’t even heard my parents’ bedroom door open. So I stepped inside. The room was large with a high ceiling which matched the living room and books that ran from the ground up far above my head. Dad liked to read. Most of them were from Aunt Hermione about shit I didn’t care about. Like Elf rights and ethical decisions. Whatever.
I crossed the wood floor to his desk, a giant mahogany shape in the center of the room with thick drawers and a “World’s Greatest Dad” mug holding his quills. I sat down behind it, staring forward at the family portrait hung over the door. I was six at the time and looked dapper in a suit and tiny Gryffindor tie.
Albus could never pull it off, really.
Lily looked like a marshmallow in a poofy pink number. I almost felt for her, but she was practically a baby and spent the entire day crying so she deserved it.
I leaned back in the leather chair, just staring around the room. Loads of pictures of the family. A big one on the wall by the window of the extended Weasley-Potter clan. Freddie was giving Uncle Ron bunny ears. Hugo was crying. About what, I had no idea. I never knew why Hugo was upset. He had rage issues.
I started poking about, opening drawers and sifting through boring documents. Professional terminology. Boring. Ministry letterhead. Yawn. Law books. I’m asleep.
Then my fingers closed around a black binder with a label on the side that read, “Quidditch.”
“Now that is what I’m looking for,” I said with a grin, plopping it on the desk with a thud. I flipped it open. The pages were dusty, but well kept. Plastic organizers showcased each clipping from the Prophet and Quidditch Weekly.
“He kept them.” I flipped through each article about my mum, her smiling face shining through as she flew. All the features about her or the Harpies from her first placement as reserve up until the announcement of her resignation. All neatly packed into a section with a blue tab. She looked so happy in the air, red hair flying back behind her. So at ease. In control. Lily reminded me a lot of her. The determined look on her face that matched the tapes I’d watched countless times.
The next section was marked with a green tab and I gave a start when I saw the articles. All of them torn violently out of magazines. Journals. Newspapers. All of them about serious injuries in professional Quidditch. I had to give it to the photographers, too, the images were rather graphic.
Men with severed limbs. Concussions. Statement of the death of a player because of a Bludger. Broken limbs. More broken limbs. A woman who didn’t recover her throwing arm once she was hit with a club. The talent that was forced into administrative positions because of injuries. Home foreclosures. Drinking problems. Negative life choices.
That section was far larger than the first. My stomach was in knots just looking at it.
I swallowed hard, heart beating painfully, and turned to the final section. Unlike the first two, it was not kept neat and tidy. Instead, it was a bunch of folded papers tied together with beige twine. Each of them had a familiar scrawl of handwriting. I started unfolding them one by one and reading snippets of some.
I’ve just arrived! You wouldn’t believe what it looks like. Grander than anything I’ve ever seen, even at the World Cup. Less malicious by far. The lights are enough to blind me, but I’m sure I’ll work through. I know I’m only a reserve, but it feels like the real thing. I’ll write you tomorrow after practice. Lights out! I love you!
I know you told me the injury wasn’t that bad, but what am I supposed to think, Ginny? This is the real thing. They don’t care if they off you, as long as they catch the Snitch. This is your future. I don’t want to visit you in St. Mungos with both your arms in slings. Teddy is already confused because he saw your picture on the television when I was watching highlights.
The third injury wasn’t bad. They just let me out of the infirmary. Stop worrying so much, Harry. You’ll lose your hair over it. Promise not to tell Mum? She’ll go bonkers.
Everyone is wondering when you’ll be back next. They’re jealous I get to see you as often as I do. I have to keep reminding them I’m your husband. Your husband who happens to miss his wife. Dearly. Can you get an afternoon off soon?
Yesterday was fun. Too much fun, especially since Mum almost caught us and if she sees me wearing that slinky bra she will lose it. Not that she doesn’t want grandkids. About that conversation. The kid conversation. Are we doing that? Are we trying? We sort of got...sidetracked...
We’re trying. I love you so much.
I got cheesecake from Mum. She has that recipe she still refuses to give me. I think she’s holding out and still buys it. And yes, I read the four articles you sent me on severed limbs on the pitch. Eugh. I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve been back to the Burrow with how crazy my schedule is. I’m so happy to hear about your promotion! We’ll celebrate properly the minute I walk through the door. I mean the minute. Have your pants off. You won’t need them.
ps. I have a surprise for you
Can you please tell your adoring fans to stop sending hate mail to our house? The owls are leaving trails on the roof. Teddy is asking questions about it. They’ll get over it. I’m serious. They can live without you as their idol. Besides, the blokes can get someone else’s wife to ogle over. I just want you home safe. Promise me you’ll be safe.
I am coming straight from my last game. I’ve told you a thousand times Apparating doesn’t hurt the baby. I will be home in four hours. And I will be safe. And then you can tell me five more times how happy you are that I am out of harm’s way.
I love you always,
I stared at the letters. Seemingly hundreds of them, some long, some just tiny scribbles. My parents’ love letters from when she was away playing Quidditch for the Harpies. I leafed through each of them, eyes scanning sentences professing love, worry, anxiousness.
Previously, I’d only seen them as parents. I knew she played pro and I idolized her for it, but I never thought about Dad during that time. What he did. What he thought about it. He was petrified for her, snipping articles about injuries. Deaths. Decapitations? All he wanted was my mum back safe again. I guessed having gone through what he did in school, he didn’t want her in harm’s way.
I leaned back in the chair, brows knitting together.
I grew up with two parents protecting me, shielding me from the dangers of the outside world, though I always managed to get myself tangled up in something. Between Freddie and me, we fell out of trees, asked strangers for candy, and invented ‘bumper brooms.’ Without the bumpers. Dad always nursed me back to health, his jaw tight with concern. During the night I spent at St. Mungos after falling off my broom in the back garden, he sat on the edge of my bed all night reading me stories from Quidditch Weekly. I had far outgrown fairy tales by then and wanted to know everything I was missing, even though it was only a night. He read me every word. Every advertisement. I can remember the terror in his eyes.
Dad and I used to be best mates. Not the kind I could really tell girl problems to, but the kind I could go to if I ever needed anything. I guessed that was why I owled him about Freddie and Bink. Why I owled him about Meta. Avery. But last summer our fight was nearly fatal to our relationship. When I outright announced that, since becoming Captain, I wanted to play Quidditch professionally and I would not accept anything less.
He tried to convince me having a plan B was ideal. Or just playing Quidditch for fun. How could I play for fun when I lived it and breathed it? It was my entire being. The one thing I could do every day and never get sick of it.
But now, leafing through the letters, I finally got it. He was still protecting me. My father, wanting to keep me safe from harm. Not wanting to have to clip the article about his eldest son’s fatal injury. Or time in St. Mungos recovering. Or even that he got a bad bruise. Dad wanted to keep me safe.
I could feel an unfamiliar sting in the back of my eyes and I blinked it away. It wouldn’t disappear. Instead it got stronger, so I rubbed at them in annoyance. What was I doing? Still being cold to my father because I was too stubborn to take his opinion into consideration? Because I thought it was the world against me and my dreams? When this entire time he just wanted me safe. So many things had been taken from him that he didn’t want me taken.
I jumped, several of the letters scattering over the desk in front of me. Damn it. I tried to scoop them up, but it was too late. Dad was shadowed in the doorway, arms folded across his chest.
“Hi--uh--” I glanced around quickly, not looking at him. “Hey, I was just...looking for a--look, here it is!
” I grabbed a quill and held it up. “Looking for this.”
Dad frowned. His fingers moved up to his messy black hair instinctively and ran through it. “Find something of interest?” he asked. He was still in his pajamas.
I looked at the binder. At the letters (now all over the place) and the sections marked with colored tabs. “I’m sorry,” I said. I wasn’t sure if I was apologizing for going through his things or for being such an asshole son.
“You know those letters are private from me and your mother,” Dad said, the edges of his lips tilting up. “Some things in there are not for your eyes.”
“Oh you mean like her slinky bra?” I said, snorting with disgusted laughter. Ew. My parents. Slinky things. That was disgusting. I could have been created when she was wearing that bra. That was not okay.
He reached down and started picking them up, creating a small pile on the corner of the desk. “What were you looking for anyway?”
“A way to figure out why we’re so different now,” I said quietly.
“And did you?”
“I think so.” I looked up, my eyes fixed on his green ones. “I’m sorry, you know.”
“Sorry?” Dad took his hands off the crinkled letters. “What on earth are you sorry for?”
“For being such a...shit.” I paused. “I know, language.” I ruffled my hair nervously and tried to relax. It wouldn’t happen. My body was tense. “I know I got into trouble a lot as a kid. I know I did a lot of...things...that maybe worried you. And I never exactly took your opinion into consideration with what I was going to do and where I was going in life.” Another hair ruffle. Time to steal Freddie’s conditioner. “And that was stupid of me. You’re my dad and I should listen to you. And stop getting into trouble and getting myself hospitalized. Or being the reason Freddie gets hospitalized.”
Dad was silent for a minute, blinking. “James, I’m the one that needs to be sorry,” he said, his voice rough like sandpaper. “I’m the one who was so fixated on keeping you safe that I never bothered to let you go. Let you be your own man. That’s what you are--a man.”
I wrinkled my nose.
“You’re amazing,” Dad continued. “You have so much talent, way more than I did. You have something I didn’t. You have drive and determination for Quidditch. You have the ability to lead a team of people to a Cup even if you’re distracted. You can spot talent, you can train talent, and you can pour your entire heart into something you love. I can’t do that.”
“You love your job,” I countered.
“I poured my heart into my family,
” Dad said quietly. His eyes were looking a little red. “And I don’t regret that. I just spent too many years worrying about you that I forgot to really encourage you.”
“That is true,” I said, but I was smirking. “You got up to some dangerous stuff when you were my age. I definitely haven’t fought any Dark wizards or rode dragons.” I reached for my hair again. “Yes, I was listening when you told us that stuff.”
Dad walked around the desk and sat on it to my side. “You’re right,” he said. “I need to learn to trust my own children.” He moved my hand away and ruffled my hair himself. “I’m sorry for what I said over the summer. I was wrong. I want you to play professionally. I want to get special discount pricing to your games and brag to all my coworkers at the Ministry how amazing my son is.” He grinned. “And if you don’t, I’ll support whatever you decide to do, even if I worry a little.”
I chuckled. “I think you’re all talk,” I said, nudging his leg. “You’re going to be writing me about Grandmum catching me in a slinky bra--”
“Shut it, James,” Dad said, but he was laughing. Properly laughing. And so was I.
Grandmum Weasley was my absolute favorite. Because I was one of the first borns (People like Victoire and Dominique didn’t count in my opinion because they were less cool and more French) she spoiled me with more than just sweaters. Sweets. Gifts. More sweets. If it wasn’t for Quidditch, I’d weigh twice as much.
Every time we visited, Grandmum sat me down on the couch and asked me a series of questions. Dad would pretend not to listen, but he’d always be in the hallway.
“Are you dating anyone, Jamsie?” Grandmum asked, wiping the flour from her hands on her apron. She was the only one I let call me pet names like that. Certainly not Nia.
“Nope,” I replied. It was my usual answer. I was beginning to think Grandmum either assumed I was incompetent or gay and unwilling to discuss it. Trust me, if I was gay the world would know about it.
“Are you still being chased by girls?”
“Every day, Grandmum.”
She smiled, the wrinkles on her face raising. “How is Avery?”
Shit. “Um,” I said, eyes darting toward the window. “She’s ace. Good grades and all that.”
“I thought she’d come with you over break,” she said. “Your parents told me she went with you to Italy.”
“She always goes with us. But nope, she had school work to do so she’s at school.” My heart was beating fast.
“Anyone caught your eye recently?” Ever since I hit fourteen almost every question was about my lackluster love life.
“Well, when I talk to you next I want to hear about a proper date,” Grandmum said with a heavy nod. “Or you’re not getting your taffy.”
My eyes met hers. “Wait, what?”
“You heard me, Jamsie. See to it.” She kissed my cheek in a sloppy way and waddled into the kitchen.
Dad peeked around the corner, a smirk on his lips. I wanted to flip him off, but didn’t want to get grounded. “Who’re you going to take out then?”
I shrugged again. “I don’t know,” I said. “I really have no idea. It’s not like I couldn’t make it up.”
“Be careful with that. Your grandmother has a keen sense of being able to see right through lies.”
“Which is where Mum got it,” I noted.
“Unfortunately.” He snickered and plopped down on the couch next to me. He put his hand on my leg. “You’ve got to let her go for now, son. Do what you need to do for yourself.”
All I could think to do was nod. But even my brain wouldn’t let me.
Hogwarts hadn’t changed when I returned. But I had.
Over the rest of the week I was home I did research, trained, and competed against my father to be a better Quidditch player. I figured maybe if I showed an insane amount of talent I could get by Mr. Flynn’s poisonous rumors about my talent. Dad helped me in the air. Mum helped me with plays. We spent whole afternoons practicing my turns around the old tree in the back garden. Evenings with ice baths and hot chocolate.
We laughed so much my jaw hurt.
And it was just us. Just me, Mum, and Dad. Like when I was little again except they didn’t have to spell things out. I remembered Quidditch was one of the first words I learned to spell out loud because they did it so often.
We discussed Avery and our friendship, Lily and my being worried about her making eyes at Wesley (Dad agreed, but Mum thought I was mental), and Albus not making a move on Paloma. I left out the naked part because Mum would have had a fit. And probably held it against Paloma. I didn’t hold it against Paloma. If she wanted to get naked at any time she had full permission of the captain.
As long as she got naked in front of the captain.
Watching her undress didn’t break the Code. So take that, Dara Wood. Though, to be honest, I wouldn’t hate if Dara Wood got naked in front of me.
We talked about Lily’s Quidditch abilities (“Reminds me of you so much,” I insisted to Mum) and Meta being a tosser and up and leaving the team (“Hope the Arrows crash and burn,” I added). It was nice, filling them in on a lot of developments in my life. Just not the scary ones. I left out most of the Mr. Flynn stuff. All of the Quidditch-related stuff.
The truth was, now that my father approved of me playing pro, it hurt even more knowing it probably wouldn’t happen. That I’d have to settle for a desk job or something the Ministry where I would claw around my relatives trying to find discounted box tickets.
So now I had to go on and practice and fail to see the disappointment in his eyes.
Disappointment was worse than frustration. I was certain of that. Because it was what I saw in Avery’s eyes.
On the first afternoon back I didn’t see Avery. I wasn’t even sure if she was back yet, though I assumed she was since none of the girls were downstairs. I found this fishy, but Bink informed me that everyone was now well-informed about the breakup (thanks to Twitwards) and they probably wanted to get the story out of Avery. I had a brief vision of her throwing large objects like dressers at them to not talk about it.
Unless she wanted to. What if she was up there right now spilling about my lying? My inability to care about anyone but myself? Shit. Everyone was going to hate me.
“Pub?” I offered after my things were unpacked. Freddie had just finished telling a story about a few girls he met over the holiday. Bink was feeding Tory treats.
“Thought you’d never ask,” he said, placing Victoria back in her cage and fastening the top. “I could go with one. When you’re gone it means Edwards is actually here in the evenings. He scrapbooks.”
“We should stick silly pictures in there and see if he notices,” I said, pulling on my jacket and zipping it. “Let’s take ones of him sleeping.”
“Especially when he drools.”
The pub was mostly empty—just the way I liked it. We lined up stools at the counter as Gaia brought us drinks. Slowly, I explained to the boys what happened over the holiday. I left out the stuff about my parents from before I was born, but I did tell them I talked shit over with Dad and we worked it out and he’s okay with me playing. It was the Avery stuff that was the hardest to get out.
“You told her you were moving on?” Bink said. “Are you?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “I guess I have to. But I don’t want to.”
“Strippers?” Bink whispered.
“Stop.” I shook my head and glanced up to see Gaia roll her eyes. “I might have lied and said I was taking Gaia out on a date.”
“Shit!” Bink cried, laughing hard. “No way.”
Gaia turned, one hand on her hip. “You have got to be kidding me, Potter.”
“Just cover for me!” I whined, finishing off a drink and sliding the empty bottle across the bar. “Seriously. If anyone asks, say we went out.”
“And where did you take me?”
I thought for a moment. “That Italian place up the street.”
“I hate Italian.”
“The Mexican place up the street.”
“Gaia!” I cried. “Woman, bloody tell me where I took you then!”
She slid me a full drink with a smile. “You took me into London.”
“What? Why would I do that?”
“Because you have to go out when you’re getting over a girl,” Gaia insisted, leaning over the counter and arching a brow. “Don’t you think? You’d want to show that other girl that you’re pretty wicked awesome.”
This logic was sound, I decided as I downed half of the next drink. “All right, I took you to London. To somewhere ritzy. And classy. And you showed a little bleeding leg because I was apparently shelling out money on this shit.”
“Wouldn’t have it any other way,” she said and moved down the bar to help a guy with a beard.
“I can’t believe you told Avery you were going on a date with Gaia,” Fred said quietly. “What’d she do?”
“Nothing.” I shrugged. “She just said good and that it was good I was happy. She told me I need to move on.”
“Real piece of work,” Bink murmured. “Then you do. That’s what you need to do.”
He took a long drink of his firewhiskey. “Get laid. Go on dates. Stop spending so much bloody time with Avery Flynn.”
That sounded impossible. Especially when Avery walked through the pub door wrapped in a wool coat and a big orange scarf.
“James,” she said, brushing hair off her shoulders. “The Ravenclaw Beater’s in the Hospital Wing. He’s out for the rest of the season.” She smirked, eyes lighting up. “Ravenclaw is holding try-outs.”
A/N: Whoohoo! NaNoWriMo is over and I finished the month with just shy of 70,000 words! Thank you to everyone for the support! The novel isn't done yet (with a main character based off of James, who can expect it to be?) , but it's getting there. Thank you everyone for your amazing patience. I have the best readers on HPFF. Everrr.
So anyway, FINALLY we get the Harry/James scene where James finds out why his father was so against him playing pro. It's a long time coming, but it makes me warm & fuzzy. I hope you all enjoyed it.
And WHAT the heck is gunna happen now that the male Ravenclaw is hurt?!
UP NEXT: Creeping on the Ravenclaw try outs, a semi-familiar face, someone gets naked, and a date.