James sat on the sofa in his parents’ living room, scowling at the floor. He’d briefly forgotten about the horde of reporters outside and had made the grievous mistake of opening the door, only to be greeted with an onslaught of flashbulbs and questions.
Hermione had placed an antiapparition charm over the house to limit the number of people stopping by and they were running low on floo powder so James was stuck. He had a game in just over two hours and even though he’d downplayed it for his father it was important for him to be there.
The coach, a legendary keeper in his own right, always insisted the reserves sit beside him on the bench every game. Part of that was practical reasons in case a player was injured, but he was a tough man to please.
James sighed. He really had been trying to stay on the old wizard’s good side, but he was going to be late if he bothered going at all. Lily had been the only member of his family to come to every one of his games. Not that he blamed the others. He hadn’t even actually played yet. It had just been nice to see Lily’s auburn hair always sitting in the stands.
This would be his first match without her present.
He blinked furiously, adamant that he wasn’t going to cry. He wasn’t a sensitive bloke, emotions were for people like his brother, and even Al hadn’t cried yet. “James, sweetheart? Are you alright?”
He glanced up into Molly Weasley’s face and scowled. He didn’t have to be asked if he was alright, he was fine. “Well I can’t leave this bloody house because of the reporters and I have a game tonight,” he said.
She looked at him sadly and James knew he was in a bad place when she didn’t even bother to correct his language. “You know they’re doing everything they can to find her, right?” She asked as she sat down beside him on the sofa.
“Merlin, I’m not Al!” James said as he pulled away from her. “I don’t need your lame reassurances. What I need is a way to get back to my apartment so I can get to my match tonight.”
“There’s extra floo powder in the closet of the guest bedroom,” she said finally with a sigh. “Good luck tonight.”
James rolled his eyes. He didn’t need good luck, he just needed to show up to be a bench warmer. When he got back to his flat he was relieved to note that the few reporters who had been there that morning had left. Roxy and Freddie were both gone, probably at their store in Hogsmeade.
James felt a knot in his stomach. He didn’t want to go to his match. He didn’t want to be on his own at all. There was a brief moment when he seriously considered going to Hogsmeade and meeting up with his cousins at work.
Only his Uncle George expected them to run the shop well and keep profits high. They couldn’t do that if James was constantly there bothering them and keeping them from their duties.
No, he couldn’t afford to disrupt them. So he did apparate to Hogsmeade, only not to their shop. He landed in the back part of town near an old pub he frequented during his seventh year called the Hogshead. It was a disgusting place, but James liked it.
The sky had grown darker while he’d been trapped at his parents’ house and he found he’d misjudged the time by quite a bit. He wouldn’t have made it on time to the match if he’d wanted to.
A small smirk settled on James’s face. At least something had gone right, if you wanted to look at it that way. He sidled up to the bar and threw down a few galleons. “Firewhiskey,” he said gruffly.
The bartender took the coins and pushed the whole bottle down the counter to where James was sitting. “Take the whole bottle.”
James was glad for the quiet. It was different than his flat where it was quiet out of loneliness. In here it was solely because no one wanted to speak to anyone else.
He poured the dark amber liquid into a dirty glass and took a gulp. It burned his throat on the way down, but filled him with such satisfying warmth that the burn was worth it.
By the tame James had finished several more glasses, the whole bar was beginning to appear a little fuzzy and he was having trouble thinking. The bartender, who had ignored him for the last hour finally pulled away the bottle. “Hey! I paid good money for that!” James protested. He made a wild grab for the bottle, but the bartender pulled it even further out of reach.
“I don’t think so. You’ve had enough for tonight.” James glared at the portly man.
“Why’re you cutting me off?” He said with a bit of a slur and banged his hand on the counter. “I’m a paying customer, damnit!”
“And if you drink anymore you’re going to vomit,” the man said as he rubbed down the glass with a soiled cloth. “I don’t plan on cleaning your sick off my floor.”
James grumbled as he pushed himself off the bar stool and stood stock still as the world spun around him. “You right enough to get yourself home?” The barkeep asked as James took a few unsteady steps.
“I’m fine,” he spat. He didn’t need any help from a man who didn’t bother doing his job of serving people and letting them drink in misery. James stumbled out of the bar and down the Hogsmeade street.
He didn’t have anywhere to go. Home was out because he didn’t feel like being alone in the flat by himself. His parents’ house was worse because they would be there and upset that he’d gotten pissed. It had been made clear to him that he wasn’t to upset his mother any more than he already had.
James leaned against the brick wall up the shop and put a hand to his head. The whole world seemed to spin away from him so he closed his eyes to get some peace. “Excuse me, are you alright?” A voice asked. James turned away from it and took a few steps in the opposite direction.
While he wasn’t interested in being alone, talking to perfect strangers wasn’t high on his list either. “Excuse me!” The footsteps quickened and James panicked. In the next step he half turned on his heel and apparated away.
He landed in the Weasley Wizard Wheezes storage rooms and things must have been moved around since the last time he was there because he’d been slammed into a large box full of gadgets. James cursed as he pulled his bleeding hand away and up to the light.
“Who’s back here?” called a feminine voice. James light up and forgot about the blood on his hand.
“Roxy!” He shouted excitedly as he bounded across the room and up to her.
Roxy stared at him in surprise. “What are you doing here?” She asked. “I thought the Cannons were playing the Wasps tonight.”
“There are,” James said taking another step towards her.
Roxy instinctively took a step back. “Oh Merlin, you’re smashed.”
“What?” James asked. He didn’t think he was being too obvious about it. “No. No, I just had a little.” He held up his fingers to show her precisely how little he’d had to drink and began to topple over.
Roxy grabbed his arm and hauled him back up. “You smell like you bathed in firewhiskey,” she said as she dragged him out of the back room. “And what the hell did you do to your hand?”
“Hmm?” James asked. He hadn’t quite been paying attention to Roxy, but thinking about others things that he could no longer remember. “Oh. One of your boxes attacked me when I apparated back there.”
“That’s why you’re not supposed to apparated there,” she said. She looked at his hand and grimaced. “Crap, I’m no good with healing spells. Where’s Freddie when you need him? Freddie!” Roxy shouted.
There were footsteps on the second floor and Freddie suddenly appeared wearing gloves that appeared to grow his hands five times his normal size. “What d’you think of these?” he asked with a wide grin that fell from his face the moment he saw James. “Aren’t you supposed to be at a game right now?”
“He decided to skip it and go out drinking,” Roxy replied drily. “And he apparated into the back storage area and cut his hand.”
“So you’ve decided to give up on Quidditch already?” Freddie asked as he rummaged around the desk for his wand. “That job Dad offered you here still stands. The three of us could make this the best Weasley Wizard Wheezes shop he owns.”
James shook his head. He’d never given much thought to working in the shop because Quidditch had been his only dream. Now he couldn’t even imagine what he wanted to do. “Ah, got it. Episkey.” The skin on his hand closed and the pain dissipated leaving only the dried blood behind.
“Thanks, mate,” James said, pushing himself to his feet. “I think I’m going to head home now.”
Freddie shrugged and Roxy stared at him in horror. “You’re just going to let him apparated back to the flat? He’s smashed! He’ll splinch himself for sure!”
James watched their brief argument. No matter how long they had both been his best mates he could never understand the spats they had with each other. They consisted of half sentences like they could read each others minds faster than they could actually argue.
Finally they turned to him with forced smiles. “Why don’t you wait for us in the back,” Freddie said. “We just have to finish closing up here and you can side along apparate back to the flat with Roxy.”
“He’s gonna hurl when that happens,” she muttered as she jabbed her twin in the side. “He’s not apparating with me.”
“And I look like want his puke all over me?” Roxy raised her eyebrow at him and Freddie groaned. “Fine, just wait in the back and try not to break anything.”
James smirked at his cousins. He sat on a bench in the back and because his head was pounding he lay down and closed his eyes. The world had been swimming, but the darkness seemed so calm and cleansing.
And that was the last thought he had before he passed out.
A/N: I've got August Camp starting soon and I hope I'll be able to finish the story then! I always like hearing yall's opinions on the story so let me know what you're thinking. =)
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