Chapter 1 : The One with the Media
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For thebakerwhowouldntlook for review #1, for Welsh Green for review #2500, and for PotterMistress for review #6000 as an author. All of you continue to blow me away with your support and amazing kindness.
Now, I present you with the sequel of Breaking the Quidditch Code! Enjoy!
When the Quidditch world learned of the signing of the famous Harry Potter’s eldest son, James, by the Tutshill Tornados, it was in a tizzy. The announcement was made just two weeks ago in the Tornados’ Stadium (Twister Stadium) surrounded by media of all kinds. But until today, we were unable to get an interview with young James Potter, as he had to finish up his seventh year at Hogwarts, which we are told he accomplished quite well.
So directly after Mr. Potter graduated, we requested an interview to see exactly what makes this boy tick and how he managed to get a starting position on a professional team from a walk-on tryout. For any readers who do not know, it has been over a decade since a walk-on has yielded even a reserve.
We met Mr. Potter in a café down the street from the Potter house in the small wizarding village of Cresta.
Quidditch Weekly: So, James, can I call you James?
James Potter: You can, though I do miss Captain Potter.
QW: I don’t doubt that! Must be strange to go from Captain to regular Chaser, hmm?
JP: Would be weirder to go from Captain to professional toilet cleaner at home.
QW: So tell me, how did you find out you made the team?
JP: Well, you’ve seen the tapes. I’m pretty sure half the country has seen the tapes by now. Jackson Ballo asked me to try my shot against King Henrik Lindt. So I went out and did it.
QW: Just like that?
JP: I wish I could say I used some magical forces to propel the Quaffle up, but no. It was just a great shot. I’ve practiced it for years, so I was hoping it would be. Lindt missed. I scored. Ballo took me into his office and after some questions and a handshake I was on the payroll.
QW: You make it sound so easy.
JP: Trust me. It was anything but easy getting there. But I’m the luckiest guy around.
QW: And how does your family feel about this?
JP: Is that a real question? They’re simply horrified. A professional Quidditch player in the family? How crude, they said. They hate it. They’ve actually disowned me.
JP: Of course not. They all want box seats.
QW: And on the subject of box seats. Is there any special lady that is going to occupy those seats? I know we’ve been getting mail already requesting the knowledge of whether or not James Potter is single.
JP: Well, I’m not married. Does that answer your question?
QW: Are you on the market?
JP: If there was a market, I would definitely not be on sale.
QW: Sometimes I forget you have been in the limelight of the media since you were born. You’re a natural.
JP: I’d like to think so. You know what else I’m a natural at? Quidditch. Is that not what we’re here to talk about? Or have I been tricked into talking about my family and love life? It wouldn’t be the first time.
QW: Nor the last, I’m sure. Of course. Let’s talk about Quidditch. Do you expect to start this fall after your rigorous summer of training and exhibitions?
JP: Of course I expect to start. I’ve worked too hard not to start. And now with school out of the way I can focus on Quidditch a lot more than I had at Hogwarts.
QW: Talk to me about your Gryffindor team. What can we expect to see from them moving forward?
JP: The graduates are all pursuing their own interests, some in Quidditch and some not. My little sister is Captain for next year and I have full confidence in her ability to pick a stellar team and keep the winning moving forward.
QW: With a little guidance from her professional Quidditch-playing brother?
QW: That must be a lot of pressure for her.
JP: She’s a Potter. There’s always a lot of pressure for anything we do.
QW: I agree. Tell me, James, do you plan to stick it out with the Tornados or move on if a team offers you more money or a better position in the league?
JP: Everything’s step by step, my friend. I can’t tell you what my plans are until I make them, but I will tell you that I have been a Tornados fan since I could stand a broom the right way up, so I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere but here. I’ll also tell you I am in a hurry to get that C back on my chest.
QW: Surely you can’t mean that. King Henrik has been captain of the Tornados for ten of his eleven years with the team.
JP: I never said I want to oust Lindt. He’s a fantastic captain. I just mean I strive for greatness.
QW: Don’t we all? Thank you again for joining us, James. I’m sure this won’t be the last interview.
JP: I have five lined up this week. I figured I’d have to actually start playing Quidditch first…
“You sound like an absolute twat in this article.” Bink attempted to refold the Quidditch Weekly and gave up halfway through, tossing it to the ground. “You said the word naturally. Do you know who says that word? Emerson Edwards. Or me when I’m sleep-talking.”
He had a point. Two nights earlier he’d gone on a tangent about cat innards and their noble contribution to society.
I shrugged. “I like to play for the cameras. Is that so bad?”
“Twat.” He fell backward onto the couch.
It wasn’t a normal couch. It was our couch.
During our last week at Hogwarts, Freddie, Bink, and I decided that since none of us had a desire to live at home or a lonely existence in a bachelor flat, we’d continue the roommate chemistry we had at Hogwarts (sans Twitwards). But with my big salary not kicking in until the actual season started and the other two hopelessly unemployed, we had to settle for something less glamorous than I’d hoped.
The flat above my parents’ garage.
Not that it was terrible by any means. The flat had its own separate entrance at the back of the garage and stairs that led directly to the living room. We had a large granite fireplace with huge windows and big, bulky sofas. The kitchen was attached with a counter separating both rooms, stools below. It wasn’t a big kitchen, but as Freddie was the only one who could cook more than a sandwich, it was all we needed.
The hall led to four doors. The guest bath (which Bink and Freddie shared) was on the left. On the right were two identical doors leading to two identical rooms. Fred’s was already a disaster with clothes strewn about. Bink’s was tidy like his hair, as he’d recently taken to putting product in it that smelled like penicillin.
At the end of the hall was the door to my room. I had already painted a big red C over it just in case anyone forgot I had been Captain of the Gryffindor team last year. Just in case. Inside was the master bedroom, though admittedly not much bigger than the other two rooms. I had a new four-poster that reminded me of the Tower, posters everywhere, and a closet filled with new clothes I had to wear to interviews and meetings. I used to just do my team meetings in jeans and a polo. Apparently now I had to look presentable to the public as an image of the brand of the Tornados.
Whatever that meant.
Lucky for me, since I was the one with the parents that owned the place and was the one paying rent, I got the master bathroom. It wasn’t much, but it was enough not to worry about which hair came from whom and why my bottle of shampoo was mysteriously missing. I had also taken to stealing Freddie’s because since I was a professional Quidditch player I needed to have the softest hair in the flat.
I finished my delicious sandwich prep and curled up to eat it in the chair beside the fireplace. It was summer and there was no need for a fire, so we kept it on cool.
“Hear back from the Wasps?” I asked, mouth full of bread.
“Silence is better than nothing,” Bink replied, shrugging. It had been a week since Bink had his try-out. He said it went well, but didn’t elaborate. That obviously meant it didn’t go well.
“Nada.” His gaze moved to the ceiling, blond hair spilling over the pillows. “I’ll write a few letters today, but most of the reserve positions are filled.”
I didn’t dare suggest a rec league. The mere mention had almost forced me into hives just a couple weeks ago. Bink had almost as much pride as I did.
“You’ll find something.” I smiled a bit. The truth was, I had no idea if he would find something. Bink always wanted to get into Quidditch professionally, but his attitude was lax. He didn’t do the research. Didn’t put in the hours. He just liked the sport and wanted to play.
“Fred at the shelter again?” He couldn’t contain his eye-roll this time.
Two things were obvious at that point.
One, Fred was volunteering at the local animal shelter a couple days a week and came home smelling like a farm.
Two, Bink had been “let go” by his family. Not to say he was disowned or any of that. He was still in contact with his parents and extended family. But the Legace family had plans for Bink. They wanted him to work for the Ministry. Bink’s father was the administrator of Financial Operations for the Ministry and they had been grooming Bink for the role since he was little. They only let him play Quidditch to unleash his attitude problem on other people.
I thought that was a little odd since it seemed to make it worse over the years.
Case and point: Meta McLaggen.
I had no idea how Rosey put up with him, though they were currently not speaking after an argument I wasn’t supposed to overhear regarding someone leaving rainboots outside the door.
Not asking questions.
So Bink wasn’t getting his parents’ money anymore. He had what was in his Gringott’s account and after that ran out, he was officially a bum on my sofa. A very blond and prone to sunburn bum.
He resented Fred for being able to volunteer at will because Uncle George’s shop was consistently raking dough into Fred’s account, though he had no interest in retail. And no interest in spending that money on things like rent, apparently.
“Probably.” I shrugged a bit. Better not to get in the middle of roommate rivalries.
“What’s your life like today?”
I checked my watch. “Interview in a few hours for Witch Weekly.” I grimaced. “Also known as a bunch of questions about my love life, relationship history, and emotional health.”
“Think you can handle that?” Bink smirked, rolling onto his side and propping his head on his palm.
“Hardly. I’ll try to steer it back to Quidditch as much as possible, but I’ve heard those interviewers don’t know a Bludger from a Quaffle.” King Henrik told me that. He had his serious face on.
“Think they’ll say something about Avery?” Bink asked.
We were supposed to sit in alphabetical order during the graduation ceremony, but I broke every rule in the Hogwarts book and sat with Aves. I couldn’t help it, standing in the back trying to adjust the horrible cap, nervous that they’d made a mistake and I’d get up there to accept my scroll only to be told I failed Charms or something silly.
Avery placed both hands on my shoulders and then set my cap correctly, a smile playing at her lips. “Promise me something,” she said.
I didn’t know what to say, so I just stared.
“No pushing me into the lake.” Her eyes were twinkly. She paused and straightened the tie which poked out from the top of my robes. “You look very handsome.”
“I dressed myself.” I glanced over my shoulder and Bink was attempting to mess up Freddie’s hair. A few girls were watching, including Amy.
“Are you ready for this, big-shot Tornado?” Avery’s smirk told me clearly she had no intention of treating me any different now that I was a professional Quidditch player. She’d still shove me into a bush.
“Don’t know that I’ll ever be ready.”
It was the truth. As much as I wanted to go start my new career as a Chaser for the Tornados, this was my home for seven years. The stone walls. The dull chatter at dinner. The feeding Victoria Emerson’s socks and denying it so he’d search everywhere. It was what I knew apart from my bedroom at home. And this one involved much less fighting over the bathroom with Lily.
I couldn’t go back now, though.
The doors opened before she could respond and we were greeted with two rows of chairs with an aisle in the center and risers on each side of the Great Hall where friends and family were perched to watch the ceremony.
Avery’s hand slid into mine. “Why don’t we do this together?” she whispered.
“Seems like a trend.” I shot her a sideways smile, letting myself relax, and followed her into the hall.
In the two and a half weeks since I told my team about my signing, Avery and I had spent time together for the bulk of it. We rode the train back together. She helped me unpack my bedroom. I had dinner with her and Mrs. Flynn. We sat in the garden and talked through exactly what had happened after my shot went past Henrik Lindt.
It was just like normal.
Except it wasn’t at all like normal.
But we were getting there. Getting back to the way things used to be. As long as I kept my eyes on hers. As long as I didn’t slip up.
Some days all I wanted to do was slip up, but I knew both of us had enough going on in our lives that it would have been wrong to complicate it.
Even though every time she left I wanted to kiss her goodbye.
I didn’t respond to Bink. Instead, I tossed my plate in the sink and retreated downstairs. It was raining (typical) so I jogged across the patch of grass and into the back door of the Potter house.
“You’re not allowed to steal food.” Lily didn’t so much as glance up from the glossy magazine she was reading. “You’re living on your own now.”
I leaned over and stole three chips from her plate. “Thanks, baby sister. Where is everyone?”
She shrugged. “Mum and Dad went to the Burrow. Something about gnoming. They wanted to take Al, but he has a hot date.”
I grimaced. If my brother was on a date, it certainly wasn’t hot. “He take Paloma to ice cream or something?”
“He was wearing a tie when he left.” Lily shrugged again. She finally looked up from her magazine. “You look presentable.”
“I pride myself in it.”
“I saw your interview. You sound like a twat.”
I smirked. “My agent already owled to say I have two bags of fan mail at the office. Clearly that tactic works.”
“Smarmy thing,” she muttered. “You’d better watch yourself.”
“I know how to play Quidditch, Lils.” I ruffled her red hair and helped myself to an apple in the fridge.
“It’s not the Quidditch I’m worried about.”
The Witch Weekly offices were in bustling London. They were on the thirty-seventh floor, disguised as a conservative fashion magazine, and had a receptionist with very nice grades. I attempted to keep my eyes off, but she leaned over in just the right fashion when I introduced myself.
She led me through a tizzy of cubicles filled with women typing away and answering phones. Their spaces were decorated in photos and article clippings and one already had my Quidditch Weekly article in the corner. I was making good time in terms of a Quidditch rookie.
Finally we arrived in a large corner office with transfixing views of the city. I almost didn’t notice the woman behind the desk, though how could I miss her? The nameplate told me everything. I was to have my interview with the head of Witch Weekly, Clara Robinson.
Clara was a tall and burly woman, filling the space of her leather chair easily. Though she had on a frilly top and probably heels to match, she was not to be trifled with. I had heard stories about her. Abigail used to talk a lot about her when Fred was still being controlled by that crazy woman. About how Clara could ruin a reputation by sneezing at the correct moment.
I hoped the air filter was on.
“Good afternoon,” I said after a moment of stunned silence not to be in some cubicle wondering what to do with my hands.
Clara’s face lit into a smile and she motioned for me to sit down. “I have been looking forward to this for ages, James,” she said.
I decided not to mention it had been a little over two weeks since it was announced. There might have been sneezing.
“Glad you invited me.” Still had no idea why I was talking to the head of Witch Weekly. This woman signed pay checks. I was a rookie. Not even a rookie. I hadn’t even been to my first team practice yet. The most I’d done was shoot one Quaffle past Lindt and suddenly the head of a magazine wanted to talk to me.
“Tell me, has the position sunk in yet?” Clara asked brightly. “That you’re playing for the Tornados? And not just a reserve, either. A …. Chaser.”
The pause gave me the indication either Ms. Robinson had not done her homework or she was trying to work out the differences in the positions. The recorder on her desk was already moving, a red light flashing.
“It hasn’t,” I replied with a charming smile. It was something I’d been practicing in front of the mirror. Ballo told me he wanted me to sell the Tornados, and that was exactly what I was going to do.
After all, he was the one to give me a chance when David sodding Flynn insisted I not play.
I should really visit him in jail for enabling me to get a starting position instead of a reserve. What a man, that David Flynnerson.
I leaned against the arm of the chair. “Really, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions.”
“Oh?” Clara asked, suddenly interested.
“I don’t know how to feel,” I continued, my eyes on her green ones. “It’s all happening so suddenly. What a dream come true. I honestly couldn’t be more thankful for the opportunity.”
That I worked damn hard to get, including broken bones.
“This must be such a sensitive time for you.”
“It really is,” I said, mildly concerned about agreeing with sensitivity. It wasn’t a very manly thing to do. “Thankfully, it gave me a chance to upgrade my wardrobe.”
“Oh?” she repeated, eyes wide. “Can you elaborate?”
I could see the headline now: James Potter wears WizardWear Polos.
The interview lasted what seemed like ages and spanned subjects like fashion, my emotions, and the difference between a Quaffle and a Bludger. According to Clara, it was “for the readers” because “certainly she knew the difference.”
It was late when I got back to the flat. Bink was on the sofa again, leafing through Quidditch Weekly with a pathetic look on his face. Freddie was home, hair wet from a shower or a wet t-shirt contest. He was stuffing his face at the kitchen counter.
“They get you to talk about your love life?” he asked, scooping up more pasta and getting sauce down his front.
“I dodged it.” I kicked my muddy shoes into the corner. “Went back to Quidditch and feelings.” It wasn’t as if real fans read Witch Weekly anyway.
“You have feelings?” Fred asked.
Fred was about to reply, but the door opened downstairs. I glanced around. All three of us were there. Generally, people rang the bell outside. My sister was going to do laps if she was barging in.
Too-light footsteps padded on the stairs. What?
I turned and my face exploded into a grin. “Falcon Cat!” I cried, falling to my knees and scooping the familiar black cat into my arms as she toppled over the final step. She was pretty big now and Avery was feeding her far too much. She had some chunk to her. I nuzzled my face into her fur in a way Witch Weekly would love and squeezed her.
Whatever. I just had a lot of feelings.
“Miss her?” Avery arrived at the top of the stairs, smiling. It was amazing how she was able to look both kind and sexy at the same time. She leaned against the wall and folded her arms, watching me with Falcon Cat. Then she looked over at Freddie. “Share the wealth? I haven’t had dinner.”
“It’s all yours.” Freddie nodded to a pot on the stove.
Avery didn’t wait for me to respond before ruffling my hair and retreating into the kitchen.
“I didn’t know you were bringing Falcon Cat,” I said, standing and holding the cat like a baby in my arms. She was purring. Damn right she was purring. I was the cat master. “Victoria might get upset.”
“Maybe you should stop playing favorites then.” Avery scooped some pasta into a bowl and hopped up beside Fred. “So what are the updates, gents?”
“Lily and I are starting training soon,” I explained, scratching Falcon Cat behind the ears. “Al and Paloma are on a date. My parents want to have a proper celebration for me being signed. Grandmum said something about cake, so I reluctantly agreed.”
Fred moved back into the kitchen and checked a cupboard. “It’ll be fine. There’s plenty of vodka.”
Avery’s gaze turned to the sofa. “Any word from the Wasps?”
“Not a damn thing.” Bink continued through the magazine, though it was clear he wasn’t reading. “No Wasps. No money.” He sighed. “Was it wrong of me to just assume I could play Quidditch after Hogwarts? There isn’t really anything else I want to do.”
I shrugged. Yes, he should have had a backup plan. How could I blame him? I didn’t have a solid backup plan if I didn’t count that Ministry internship rubbish. Which I didn’t.
“You’ll find something,” Avery said.
“What about you?” I kept my eyes on Falcon Cat. “Nervous?”
She paused. “Yeah.”
Avery’s tryout was scheduled Thursday. It had been moved twice already because of scheduling conflicts with the team. I told her third time was the charm. In reality, I was terrified for her. Scheduling conflicts don’t exactly suggest “I want you to play on my team.”
“You’ll be brilliant.” I straightened, hoisting Falcon Cat over my shoulder. “I got a new poster.”
“Tornados again?” Avery asked, hopping off the stool to follow down the hall and into my bedroom. “Ah. Are you going to tell Lindt you have a poster of him in your bedroom?”
“Absolutely not.” I closed the door and tossed Falcon Cat onto the bed. She curled up on the pillow, purring. “He’ll think I’m a tosser.”
“He doesn’t know that.”
“Yet,” Avery said, smirking as she walked around the room. She helped me set up most of it after the boys and I moved in, suggesting specific places for each poster based on the amount of light. All of my Gryffindor garb was on show. She even folded my Quidditch robes neatly into a shadow box and put it on the wall.
I couldn’t help but let my eyes follow her around the room. “You’re going to be fine, you know,” I said after a while. “At your tryout. You’re good.”
“Thanks, Captain.” Avery chuckled, moving some hair away from her face. She looked out the window onto the yard below. “Hey, James?”
“Yeah?” I pulled Victoria out of her cage and placed her on my shoulder. She was throwing dagger-glances at Falcon Cat. Spoiled rotten, she was.
“I need to ask you something.”
“Okay.” How very formal.
“Are we seeing other people then?” Avery turned and I couldn’t look away. I hated how she did that. Okay, I didn’t hate it that much. “Since this didn’t exactly … work out … is that what we’re doing?”
My throat dried.
I didn’t know what we were doing. The past couple weeks had been completely defined by Quidditch-related activities. Getting signed. Interviews. Getting along with my parents. Moving in. I had tried to keep my mind as far away from Aves as possible.
Clearly, not far enough.
I stumbled over a couple words, but gave up. What did I want? It was hard to think about, especially when I needed to be on my game for the Tornados.
But it was Avery. Avery Flynn.
This girl. She was my best friend, but she made me nuts. I wanted her to be happy.
Yes, that was what I wanted.
But she wanted to be happy with me.
Did she still?
I had no idea. Damn it.
“Why?” I asked eventually.
“Just wondering.” Avery shrugged a little too innocently. “Someone asked me out for drinks and I wasn’t sure what I should say.”
“Who?” I said. Way too fast.
“That bloke with the orange tan?” I said. “Absolutely not.”
“James,” Avery said seriously, closing the distance between us. Her eyes were particularly green that day. “Just tell me what we’re doing.”
I faltered again.
“Then think about it,” she said, leaning in to press a small kiss to my lips. My entire body shuddered, but it was over as quickly as it had begun. She brushed her thumb along the collar of my shirt, smiled sadly, and left.
Falcon Cat let out a pathetic meow.
“Oh, shut up,” I grumbled, falling onto the bed with Victoria. They growled at each other. “Avery kissed me.”
Victoria hummed dangerously
“Stop pressuring me.”
Voila! Chapter one! What did you think?
NEXT UP: James' first team practice and meeting.
IN THIS STORY: Familiar faces, new names, and James discovers he's a lot less prepared for a life of constant spotlight than he anticipated.