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Chapter 14 : Suspended and a Promotion
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When James had decided to show up to practice after missing the game against the Wasps and an entire week’s worth of practices he knew it wasn’t going to be good. He expected the coach to chew him, maybe even suspend him for a week or a month, but instead he’d been stuck on the bench watching the rest of the team play.
None of the other players had spoken to him, as per the Coach’s orders James assumed, but Marlow Atkins had shot him a few pitying looks from the sky. Marlow was a reserve like him, although he’d been subbed in for Keeper a few times when Brumely had been crushed by some bludgers and ended up in St. Mungo’s for two weeks.
The Coach hadn’t said more than a word to James, and that one word had been barked as an order “Sit!” James had sat and he was remaining in that position until the Coach told him otherwise.
He didn’t think he’d ever seen the Coach not scream at a player for doing something wrong. Powler had shown up five minutes late once and had to stay late after practice doing all manner of punishments while the rest of the team was forced to stay and watch.
It had cured James and Marlow of ever considering showing up late and it probably hadn’t done much for the rest of the team either.
As the sky began to grow dim the Coach blew his whistle and the players landed around him. James was too far away to hear what was being said, but several of the players glanced at him while the Coach was speaking so he assumed he was mentioned.
They hurried back to the locker room to shower and finally the Coach walked over to where James was sitting. He straightened his back and acted as though he’d been paying absolute attention to the practice for the last four hours instead of thinking about himself.
“Potter, I don’t know what to do with you.” James’s mouth dropped open. Of all the things he had expected to come out of the Coach’s mouth, that had not been one of them. “Were you any other player I’d fire you on the spot.
“Sir, if this is about my father,” James began. He didn’t accept things because of his father’s influence and fame. He’d rather be fired.
“I don’t support nepotism, Potter, and I’m quite offended you think me that low.” His eyes flashed and James nodded, suppressing a small smile. Every day he liked this man more and more. “No, this is about you. You’re an interesting player. You’ve got skills and the fire, but you’re a little rough around the edges. I like that.”
“Thank you, sir,” James said, a bit confused about why he was being complimented after missing a match and a week of practice.
“That being said, you can’t just skip whenever you want. I don’t tolerate that with this team. I know you lot call me a hard arse behind my back and I am. I was the one that brought this team out of the ground. We won our first game after nearly ten years in my second season as coach and now we’re close to a winning record.” James nodded. He’d heard the history of the team before, but he didn’t know what it had to do with him. “I don’t plan on this team ever becoming the joke of the league again.”
“I understand, sir,” James said, although he didn’t. Not really.
“Potter, I understand you’re in a tough situation,” he said. James ducked his head. There was nothing worse than being pitied by a hard arse like him.
“I don’t think-” He began, but the Coach cut him off.
“I read the papers. It’s hard to get any news without seeing something about your sister.” James nodded. He’d seen a few articles, but he’d begun avoiding most of the news. “And there have been quite a few mentions of you in them. Apparently you’ve been seen at nearly every wizard pub in Great Britain in the last two weeks.”
James cringed. That was probably an exaggeration, but he’d spent nearly every night out with Roxy and Freddie or some of his old Hogwarts buddies. “It won’t happen again, sir,” he said through clenched teeth, although he had plans to go out that night. He’d just have to slip away from the reporters.
“I can tell when my players are lying to me. Don’t do it again.” James cringed. “I’m going to tell you something that I expect to stay between us, alright?”
James nodded, wondering what the Coach might have to say. “Powler’s contract is up in six months and he’s gone. We’re not going to try to sign him because we can’t pay what he’s looking for. By the time he’s gone I want you ready to take his place.”
James gaped at the Coach. “Me?” He asked gob smacked. He’d just assumed Powler would be signed for another three year contract. He hadn’t even been played in a game yet, let alone as a starting player.
“Don’t act so surprised. You’re a good player. I just want you ready by then. The way you’re acting now you won’t be.” James nodded. That at least made sense. He wasn’t ready to be a reliable player yet, although he’d been dreaming of his first game for months, even before getting signed with the Cannons.
“I’ll do anything you need, sir,” he said.
“Good. That’s what I want to hear. I’m going to suspend you for two months. Do whatever you want, get the partying and drinking out of your system, just come back in two months ready to work harder than you’ve ever worked before, do you understand?”
James nodded mutely. All of this information was coming at him so fast. He wasn’t sure whether to be thrilled, upset, angry, or relieved. Getting suspended was bad, but promised a starting position was amazing, even if it wasn’t for another six months.
“November seventh, all day practice. Don’t get out of shape with this time off.” James nodded again and almost collapsed when the coach clapped him on the shoulder. “Take care of yourself, Potter. I don’t want to go scouting at Hogwarts again for a few more years at least. Gems like you are hard to find.”
He walked off leaving James standing on the pitch alone. He was still bobbing his head in a slight nod, too surprised to realize he had continued doing it.
Hours later back at the flat he shared with Roxy and Freddie he was still a little dazed. “So he suspended you?” Roxy asked in disbelief. “And then promised you a promotion?”
James nodded. “Yeah, that’s about it.”
“This calls for a celebration,” Freddie said. “Drinks are on James!”
“Now hang on a minute,” James said. “Drinks should be on you! I’m the one without a job or money for the next two months. Besides, we’re supposed to be meeting up with Cole and Emerson tonight, remember?”
“Oh Merlin, those two numbskulls?” Roxy asked with a groan. “Since when do you still talk to those clowns?”
James Freddie grinned at each other. Roxy had dated her way through the boys in their year, excluding the two of them of course, and determined that they all made horrible boyfriends.
“What was Emerson? First month of sixth?” James asked with a smirk.
“And Cole was after Winter break in seventh?” Freddie responded with an identical smirk.
“Oh shut up, you two. It’s not my fault they were clueless idiots,” Roxy said with a roll of her eyes.
James grinned widely. The joke with Roxy had alleviated some of his stress and he was able to focus his attention on that instead of Quidditch or Lily. “So does this mean you’re not coming with us, Rox?” He asked. “Because that would be pretty sweet.”
“Oh I’m coming. If you’re buying drinks, I’m definitely coming.”
James scowled. “Thanks a lot mate,” he muttered to Freddie. “I hope you don’t mind swinging for my rent the next two months.”
“Your dad’s the richest wizard in Europe, practically. You can’t honestly be low on funds,” Freddie said. His tone was light, but James took it the wrong way.
The playful smile dropped from his face and was replaced by a scowl. “Don’t remind me. I can’t ask him for money, even if I did manage to find him. Let’s go. We were supposed to meet Cole ages ago.”
The club was only a short walk from their flat so instead of apparating they walked, enjoying the crisp September air. James had been silent since they left the flat, ignoring Freddie for bringing up his family.
The club was dimly lit and James, Freddie, and Roxy waded through the sea of people to the bar where James knew they’d find his old Gryffindor friends. They hadn’t gotten together much since leaving Hogwarts so he was especially looking forward to seeing them.
“Mates!” He said, spying them at the bar.
Emerson and Cole turned around and grinned. “Hey, hey! Well if it isn’t the Quidditch star himself. Thought you were too good to hang out with us lowly folk.”
“No one says ‘lowly folk’ anymore,” Roxy said sourly.
“Roxy darling, still as sweet as ever,” Cole said. They’d broken up less than a year prior and he was still slightly bitter about it.
“Whatever,” she muttered, grabbing her drink and moving onto the dance floor.
“Who invited her?” Emerson asked with a smirk, slapping his friend on the back.
“I think she invited herself, like always,” Freddie said. “You lot started drinking without us?” He asked, noting that both blokes already looked a little buzzed.
Cole shrugged. “You were taking ages to show up and nothing’s more pathetic than two lonely blokes sitting around without any alcohol in their hands. Besides, there was this hot muggle girl and Emerson was trying to buy her drinks.”
“Did he succeed?” James asked, already knowing the answer. If Emerson had succeeded he wouldn’t have stuck around waiting for them. Cole only laughed and shook his head.
“Can I get my friends a rum and coke?” He asked the bartender. When the drinks were slid down to him he handed them to James and Freddie. “To old friends and Quidditch stars,” Cole said, raising his glass ever so slightly.
James downed it and grimaced. “Not nearly as strong as firewhiskey,” he said.
Cole shrugged. “I figured you’d appreciate a muggle venue with all that’s been going on with the press. No muggles, no front page picture of James Potter getting wasted. You do what you have to do.”
James appreciated the gesture. He didn’t have as many reporters following him around as his father undoubtedly did, but that didn’t mean there weren’t a few. An image of him with a firewhiskey in his hand had made it into the paper more than a few times. If everything the tabloids said was true he’d be a raging alcoholic.
They seemed to forget he was an eighteen year old who just wanted some fun.
He turned back to the bartender and ordered something with vodka in it, he wasn’t quite sure what, but it was stronger than the other muggle drink. It didn’t have quite the same effect as the firewhiskey, but it was close.
When the drink settled into his stomach he began to feel lighter. The drink made everything seem better. “Let’s get this party started!” James said, grinning as his friends.
“Started without you, mate, but you’re welcome to join in anytime,” Emerson said. “Now look at that girl. On a scale of one to ten-”
“Ten,” the other three answered simultaneously.
“Damn. Haven’t got a shot.” Emerson shrugged. “But that means I haven’t got anything to lose by trying. Wish me luck.”
The other boys roared with laughter. When he was out of earshot Freddie said, “He does realize no amount of luck will help him with that girl, right?”
“I don’t think he cares,” James responded.
The night went by quickly with drink after drink. James sometimes felt like everything was happening in a blur and he was just caught up with everything around him. Being drunk just made all of that easier to take.
He was chatting with a very beautiful girl (although it may have just been the alcohol) when Freddie tapped him on the shoulder. “Time to go,” he said.
James rolled his eyes at the girl and followed his friend out. “Where are Emerson and Cole?” He shouted. Even though they were outside his ears were still ringing from the loud music.
“We can hear you, you fool,” Roxy muttered. She was tottering slightly on her heels and grabbed onto her twin for support. “We didn’t all go deaf like you did.”
James laughed at her, realizing she was right. Everything seemed funny through the haze of the vodka. “How much did you two drink in there?” Freddie asked with an eye roll. “It’s getting pretty bad when I’m the responsible one.”
“Hey!” Roxy protested. “Just because I weigh less than you fatties doesn’t mean I can’t drink as much. I just get a little more-” She made a complicated hand gesture and giggled. “You know.”
“Drunk?” Freddie asked drily. “That’s really great. I’m waking both of you up at five to help me open the store. That’s in three hours and change, so rest up.”
“Freddie,” Roxy said, suddenly mock serious and pouting. “We’re still going to be drunk by then.”
“I’ll make you coffee. I’d give you a sobering potion, but James finished up the last of it a week ago. Thanks mate.”
James gave a salute, too wasted to notice the sarcasm in his cousin’s voice. “No problemo, senor.”
“At lunch tomorrow when you feel like crap on toast and I’m perfectly fine, I’m going to laugh at you,” Freddie said. Neither his sister nor his cousin seemed particularly concerned by that fact and he sighed. “You two haven’t got any idea what it’s like to be the only sober person,” he muttered.
James shook his head. He didn’t know what it was like and he had no intention of changing that. The most fun he had in the last two weeks was when he was out with his friends and not thinking about his family issues at all.
A/N: Rembered today. 'Twas bordsay yesterday (I feel so old!) Yep, that's pretty much all I have to say. Exciting life that I live. Let me know what you think of this story/chapter! I thrive on feedback!
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