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Chapter 3 : The One with the Stolen Car
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For kgrl for going through a lot of lengths to read my stories.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?”
I rolled my eyes. “You practically do this for a living, Freddie.”
He twisted around, disgruntled. “I don’t see why we have to go anyway. She didn’t invite us.”
“It’s a closed tryout.” The mirror wasn’t exactly my best friend. In a desperate attempt to hide from paparazzi, we had decided on dressing in gender-swapped roles.
Yeah. Like girls.
Freddie pulled it off strangely well by now. He charmed his hair all long and flowing with a hat that went low over his eyes. He even shaved and, knowing his skepticism of razors, I was proud. He put on a grey dress, similar to Emerson’s dress, and stuffed some socks in to make it look authentic.
Bink was pouting beside him. “I don’t see why we have to do this,” he said. “Especially since we’re sneaking in anyway.”
“Put on your wig.” I threw the blond curls at him, smacking him in the gob. I didn’t trust us to charm our own hair like Freddie’s. “I want to see if Avery makes it or not.”
“Couldn’t we just dress as ninjas?” Bink said, tugging the wig onto his head. He looked positively miserable and took a moment to flatten the wrinkles of his boxy denim dress.
“Ninjas stand out,” I said. I also donned a wig, which was ginger and full with huge bangs going down to my eyes. All three of the dresses had come from my mother’s closet, including the one I wore with mustard yellow pleats down the front. She had said it was her interview dress. At least I knew no one would be fawning over me.
“And three blokes dressed as women won’t stand out?” Bink countered. He kept adjusting the wig.
“Not as much.” I shrugged.
Okay. Maybe I hadn’t thought out the plan like I’d hoped. All I could think about was how nervous I was for Avery. Granted, her tryout being moved five hundred thousand times didn’t bode well. But this was her dream! Well, reserve wasn’t. But reserves got called up all the time! Especially when stupid starters broke the Code.
That was another thing. If Avery didn’t make it, I’d be free to date her.
Not that I was going to.
But I could. I could date her if I wanted to.
If she got it, I couldn’t date her.
I ran my fingers through the ginger wig.
“Something on your mind?” Fred hip-bumped me. It looked strangely natural in a dress. I’d have to have a conversation with Amy.
“Something’s always on my mind.” I bent down, placing Tory back in her cage and locking it. “Let’s just go. I don’t want to be late.”
“Late for dressing in drag,” Bink grumbled. “Avery owes me a drink. Or seven.”
“She owes me a stripper,” Fred said confidently.
Bink and I stopped and turned. Fred was humming to himself.
I thought it best not to ask.
The Holyhead Harpies’ stadium was very different than my Tornados. It didn’t look much like a stadium at all. Four years ago, some billionaire heiress who happened to go to the occasional Harpy game decided to put her money somewhere of good use. To rebuild the old stadium from Godric-knows-when.
Now it was like a contemporary museum of art. The entire exterior was tinted glass with moving images of the current and past Harpies. Everything was granite and quartz and stainless. It was very modern and clean and even the ticket people sat on leather chairs.
All of the glass and angles made it a little more difficult to sneak into than other stadiums.
Not that I made a habit of sneaking into stadiums.
If I could manage this one, maybe I should make it a habit. I could become an outlaw. I’d wear a bandana and get spurs from my boots. I’d have to ask Ali about that since she was American and probably had a full closet with spurs, cowboy boots, and those wheat stalks people put between their teeth. I bet I could make one minty.
James Potter: Outlaw.
We snuck around the side of the building. The lot was empty except a few stray Muggle vehicles. I read in Quidditch Weekly the new coach of the Harpies was into Muggle devices. He was too smirky for my liking.
“See anyone?” Bink whispered. His back was flat against the glass. Luckily, we didn’t see anyone on the other side.
“I see a camera,” Freddie said, peering inside the darkened lobby. “The red light is blinking.”
“Right.” I groaned. Cameras were unanticipated. When I retold this story, I would have to leave out the cameras.
“How do we get in? There aren’t any unattended open windows.” Bink leaned away from the glass and looked skyward. Nothing. No way in. No outside office entrances. Just one massive lobby entrance.
“How did Aves get in?” I said.
Freddie pointed to the doors.
“They wouldn’t just leave the doors unlocked,” I said obviously. “That’s like leaving the Portrait hole open. Slytherins would get in there.”
Fred took three steps and pulled open one of the lobby doors. “After you, Slytherins,” he said.
I poked my head inside, but no alarm went off. No one was in the ticket booth. We stood there for a moment, in the center of the dark lobby, three blokes in dresses.
“Right.” I cleared my throat. “So there are cameras so let’s get out of here.”
Bink nodded to a staircase. “How about we snag some VIP seating?”
“I love getting arrested,” Fred murmured as we took to the stairs two at a time. He drummed his fingers along the wall as we went.
The first landing was the primary lower-bowl seats. Everything was strangely silent without people jostling for a seat and slapping their kids for being unruly. Nothing. Not so much as a popcorn kernel on the ground. Just rows of bright seats facing the green of the pitch.
“You see her?” Bink whispered. “Where is she? Did we miss it?”
I pointed to my watch, which was awesome and a Tornado watch I got for free. “Ten minutes.” Since I didn’t see any of the executives down in the front rows, I hurried along to the next staircase. The last thing I wanted was them sneaking up behind us.
Was I an enemy? I’d have to clarify that.
Box seating was next and we wiggled in an open door further away from the stairs. It was, like everything else, empty. This made me sad since I knew the white linen tablecloth usually featured mounds of tasty food. No drinks at the bar. Just the plush sofas near the edge of the box.
I fell onto the first brown sofa, resisting the urge to chuck the wig down onto the empty seats below. No. In case someone burst in here to interrogate us, I had to leave my femininity on.
Freddie plopped onto the sofa beside me. He twirled his long, brown hair around one finger. “Ever think maybe that was too easy?”
“What? Just walking in and straight up to the VIP box? Hardly.” I was a horrible liar. I glanced at the door, but it was unoccupied. “I wish she’d hurry.”
“Have you ever known Avery to be anything other than on time?” Bink leaned forward on the railing, trying to find the door to the locker room. He pointed three quarters of the way down the pitch. “It’s opening.”
Just as the door opened into a dark room, I spotted a few people walking down to the primary seats. Apparently things were done promptly for the Harpies.
Six people sat in the exact middle of the fourth row. The seventh continued onto the pitch and took a seat on the bench with a clipboard. I recognized his face even from the VIP booth. It was the smirky coach of the Harpies, Cooper Bradley.
Yes, one of those douchecanoes with two first names.
I’d never met him, but he annoyed me enough in print that I didn’t want to with his stupid long shaggy hair he pulled into a tiny ponytail sometimes and his stubble and his branded image. It rubbed me the wrong way. Especially that he was a bloke coaching a female team. Not that I was sexist.
I just hated him.
He was speaking to Avery, who held her broom perpendicular to her frame once she was in front of the bench. Her hair was tied back tight and I appreciated the red-ness of her Gryffindor robes. Auction well worth it.
“You bring anything from Uncle George?”
Freddie shook his head. “Didn’t have any pockets.”
“Damn.” I wanted to hear what was going on down there. What he was saying to her.
Not that it mattered. A moment later Avery kicked off and started running average drills Cooper had probably given to her. With a smirk, no doubt.
She looked good. Well, Avery always looked good. Her turns were perfection. Her spine alignment was spot on. I could see the concentration on her face. Well, I assumed it was there. We were far up. I needed binoculars. Mental note for the next time I sneak into a private tryout.
“She’s doing good,” Bink said, kicking his feet up onto the couch in front of us. “I bet she’s been practicing.”
“Well,” Freddie said. “She’s doing well.”
“I’ll never understand you,” Bink muttered. “Have you been practicing with her?”
“No,” Fred said.
“I was talking to James. You’re too busy grooming rabbits.”
I nodded, still watching her looping around the goal hoops. Exactly what we’d practiced. “A few times.” It was more than a few, mostly because the more her tryout was pushed back, the more nervous I became. I think we practiced more for me than we did her. Whoops.
“Who’s that?” Fred pointed to one of the six from the stands, who was now on the pitch grabbing a broom and Quaffle.
“Harpies Chaser,” I replied instantly. I knew that bleach-blond hair anywhere. “The one who stole a Beater’s bat and clobbered Monroe over the head with it last season.”
Bink grinned. “Maybe Avery can put in a good word for me.”
“What about Rose?” I snapped.
“What about Rose? We’re mates.”
“Right.” I rolled my eyes and turned back to Avery. The blond Chaser easily moved up the pitch and began to try and score on Avery. For the most part, Aves held her own. She missed a couple, but they were shots I couldn’t attempt, let alone dream of saving.
It went on for a while. Avery was repeatedly wiping her brow. Her hair was getting loose.
Eventually, the Chaser left the air and returned to the row of seats. She grabbed her papers and began to scribble while Cooper instructed Avery to do a few dives. They looked good. They had better because we practiced that for several hours in my garden. I had combined my practices with Lily’s, so she was there too. Watching Avery in awe because, let’s be real, who didn’t?
Bench! Tornados bench!
“This place is ridiculous.” Bink stood and hopped over the back of the other couch and leaned into the rail. “I can’t believe Avery might get to play here. Lucky bitch.”
“Watch it.” I jumped when her dive didn’t turn when it should have, but she redeemed herself with a barrel-roll. Good girl, Aves.
“I’m serious. The Wasps’ arena isn’t anything like this. Good. Sodding serves them right.” He crossed his arms over the rail. “Looks like the tryout is over.”
Avery hopped off the broom gracefully and shook Cooper’s hand. He said a few things to her, his other hand on her shoulder.
Get your hand off Avery’s shoulder, Two-Names.
Still there. Still there. Still there.
“She did well,” I said. “And it wasn’t a quick tryout to get her in and out. Maybe they did have scheduling problems.” Fishy.
“He’s touching her a lot,” Bink noted.
Now both hands were on her shoulders.
My blood was boiling.
“That bloke looks familiar,” Bink said, pointing down to the stands.
“Who? Cooper? That’s the coach.” I rolled my eyes. Avery was nodding. Maybe her nods meant help. She was in dire trouble and required assistance!
I should have been a knight.
“No. On the very end.” Bink wagged his finger up and down.
“Which end?” Freddie stood and scrunched his nose, which I noticed would not help him see any better. He got it from Grandmum too.
“Closest to us.” Bink’s hands moved to the rail and he leaned over the side.
I let out a yell.
That’s because Bink’s blond bombshell wig went flying over the side of the VIP box. It caught the wind, fanned out, and floated to the stands below.
Thanks to the empty stadium and my vocal chords, the wig wasn’t missed.
Eight heads turned. Eight heads saw a wig hit a chair somewhere around the twentieth row and disappear onto the concrete. Eight heads looked up and saw three blokes dressed as women, one with their finger still pointing down below.
“Fancy that,” Freddie said. “It’s Emerson.”
I choked. “What?” Against my better judgment, I raced for the edge, saving my wig before it got caught by the wind.
Fred was right. On the end closest to us was Emerson bloody Edwards, Twitwards extraordinaire. Gelled hair. Tie practically choking him.
“Security!” cried Cooper.
Hmm. It was at that moment I realized the Tornados wouldn’t be very keen on their new starter being arrested before the season began. That would be one strike. How did they deal with arrests? Surely that merited more than one strike against the Code.
Who was I kidding? If Ballo found out, I was toast. Not the good buttered kind with jam.
“RUN!” I cried, pulling off my wig and dashing for the door, the other two at my heels.
“WHERE?” Fred shouted, his shoes skidding on the concrete. The hall was empty.
“Not into security!” I shouted back. I took the first left turn and barged into a stairwell. It was dark and musty and I had no time for railing or safety precautions. Everything echoed, but I knew I had to keep going.
Think of that bench!
Avery was going to be pissed.
I threw open a door and realized we were on the first landing. The one that led to the stands were Emerson Edwards was. What he wouldn’t give to be the one to arrest me. Not that he was a security official. Was he security?
Pfft. Emerson Edwards was not secure.
“Back in the stairs!” I squeaked, trying not to yell in case security was in fact around.
That was when I heard the upstairs door bang open and slam.
“THEY’RE COMING!” Bink cried. His hair was all screwed up from the wig and running and he was already sweaty. He needed to work out when he was unemployed.
“Go!” I damn near shoved him down the stairs and the three of us tried not to step on each other. Unintelligible shouting was coming from above us. Bollocks. Echoing. Gasping. All really undignified.
Great. I was going to be arrested and put in jail and kicked off the Tornados. I’d have to do an exit interview about how I screwed up and then Clara would ask me if I met any nice girls in prison.
I wasn’t made for prison! I was too skinny!
Well, not skinny. Just not burly. I had plenty of muscle.
I should have asked Ali for those spurs.
“I’m not going to die like this!” I cried, shoving ahead of Bink and Freddie and damn near flying down another set of stairs. We had to be somewhere around the basement now.
“Door!” Fred said and I pulled open a heavy green door leading to an underground parking garage with a few scattered Muggle vehicles. It was a lot of open space, lit with some fluorescents. Some of them were rocking over the marked spaces. Everything was grey.
The door slammed shut behind us, creating a repulsive echo.
My heart was hammering. Sneaking in hadn’t required a plan like this. I didn’t have my Captain hat on. I hadn’t anticipating Bink’s wig being so ill-fitting. I hadn’t anticipated him spotting our old roommate I’d hoped never to see again, especially at Avery’s tryout.
Think, James. Think.
“Hide?” Freddie said, though he wasn’t coming up with a place either. The only doors led to the security officials or the fancy entrance meant for patrons. Which would take us directly back to the lobby. Right. No.
“Where? Under a fucking car?” Bink said, pulling the dress away from his body since he was sweating. “Goddamn it, Potter. We shouldn’t have come.”
“Can you drive?” I looked at him, chest heaving.
“Can you fucking DRIVE, Legace?” I shouted. My voice echoed. Whoops.
“A RUBBISH BIN. LET’S GO.” I took off toward the nearest car, feeling faint and sick and terrified I’d never get to play as much as one game for the Tornados.
Bink whipped out his wand and unlocked it. Realistically, that should not have worked. It should have had more security than that, but it also looked like it had seen better days. In the 1980s. “Oh.” He cleared his throat and climbed into the drivers’ seat of the blue, rusted-out mess, tapping his wand on the wheel. “GET IN.”
“Right!” I practically fell into the passenger side and Fred took the back. He hadn’t so much as slammed the door when we heard a huge thud. Distracted, I glanced back to where we’d come from.
A security guard’s face was pressed against the small glass window on the door.
“I figured that might slow them down,” Fred said absently.
“Nice.” Bink chuckled.
Maybe I underestimate Freddie every once in awhile.
The door handle jiggled.
“GO!” I cried, voice cracking.
Bink stomped on the gas pedal and I imagined that was how I would die.
The Harpies’ arena was situated in a small village away from any large cities. Good thing, too, because we were flying pretty high above the speed limit. Bink’s hands gripped the wheel so hard his knuckles turned white and the car didn’t slow until we were out of village limits.
Eventually, Bink pulled to the side of the road and shut off the engine.
“So,” I said, clearing my throat. “That was fun, huh?”
“I ought to kill you,” Bink muttered.
“Why? You’re the one that wanted to race house elves.”
He rolled his eyes. “That got us in trouble. This could have gotten us thrown in jail. We’re in someone else’s car right now.”
“They probably don’t miss it,” said Fred. He unbuckled his seatbelt and started rooting around under the seats. “Unless they wanted this granola bar.”
“Just because Rosey is a Prefect doesn’t mean you need to start following rules,” I said in a lofty way. Bink was usually the first person to break the rules. To ponder breaking the rules.
“This has nothing to do with her.”
“Either see her or stop talking to her,” I said. “This is just getting obnoxious.”
“I like that word,” Freddie said. “Hey, I found a bag.”
“Of granola bars?” Bink muttered. He was in a rotten mood all day. Ever since I told him he had to go as a blond instead of a brunette because of his eyebrows.
“Leather bag. Fancy!” Fred hoisted a large business bag onto his lap and dove in. I hoped there wasn’t some small dog in there or lizard. Then again, a lizard would have been cool. “Papers. Boring.”
“Maybe they have a name. Maybe this is Cooper’s car.” I laughed.
“He’s a little rich to be driving this, don’t you think?” Bink said, grabbing a few papers from Freddie.
“Candy!” Fred cried.
I held out my hand and he placed a few packaged suckers in it. Not cupcakes, but I’d take it. Or waffles. Godric, I could go for waffles.
“Can I ask you guys something?” Fred said, opening a box of chocolate candy and popping one into his mouth.
Bink grunted, his eyes scanning the documents.
“Why didn’t we just Apparate?”
Now that I’d graduated I could Apparate. It wasn’t inside of Hogwarts grounds, unless the Harpies had some weird protection up. I could have just Apparated out of that top box.
“That’s a great question,” I replied. “That I do not have an answer to.”
I spotted a cow some distance away, sticking its head over the side of a wooden fence. Everything was kind of flat with a few hills in the distance. Very green and summery. There was a ditch to our right. Mental note not to get out of the car if I wanted dry pants.
“So.” Bink tapped the papers against the wheel. “We’re probably going to jail.”
“We escaped,” I said. “We’re in the middle of nowhere.”
“Yeah.” He laughed a little. One I did not feel comfortable with. “We just stole Edwards’ car. And it says here he’s an assistant to the Minister of Magic.”
We made it home somewhere around seven in the evening after driving the car into the middle of the countryside, using our wands to wipe any trace of us from the inside, and letting Freddie pet a cow.
All I could think about was if the Tornados got wind of this. Going to jail wasn’t exactly part of the Code, but I was pretty sure Ballo and the execs had a Code of their own. Rule number one: Don’t go to fucking jail.
I hadn’t even played yet!
Falcon Cat attacked the bottom of the dress when I walked in the door and I scooped her into my arms and carried her up the stairs into the apartment. I wasn’t surprised to see Avery lounging on the sofa. I was surprised to see Lily, though. They had both raided the fridge and had eaten half the ice cream carton, judging by their empty bowls.
“I see you escaped security,” Avery said without looking up. She sounded mad.
“What?” I replied. “Security? We were...”
We should have discussed an alibi to tell Avery while Fred was petting the cow.
“You were at my tryout,” she said simply.
“That was today? Oh wow!” I said and the boys moved past me and to their rooms. Presumably to change. Hopefully. “How did you do?”
“Cut the shit, James,” Lily snapped.
“Watch your tongue, baby sister,” I shot back.
“Why did you go?” Avery asked, finally looking over. Her green eyes looked scary when she was mad. Her brows furrowed and she got all scrunchy.
I looked down at Mum’s dress I was still wearing and decided there was no way I could get out of this one. I fell into a chair and sighed. “I wanted to see how you did.”
“You could have asked.”
“You would have said... I don’t know. Terrible?”
I shrugged. “I wanted to see your try out.”
Avery reached up and pulled the black tie from her hair and shook it.
“What did you think?” she asked.
“You were amazing.”
“See? You always think you’re worse than you are!” I said and threw a pillow at her. It was one of those pillows I wasn’t sure why we had. Too small to sleep with. Two big to exist, really. “Aves, you were spectacular. Your turns, especially.”
She looked over. “I almost didn’t make that third dive.”
“Thought I was going to have a panic attack,” I told her.
“You really went as girls?” Lily said. “Seriously, James. If you were sneaking in, why did you need disguises?”
“They were lucky,” Avery said as I opened my mouth. “Pretty sure it was because of the wig they didn’t get recognized. I pretended to be shaken up after the tryout and talked to Cooper and security. They didn’t know who you were.”
I thought about the wig falling. “Pretty sure someone else knows.”
“Right,” Avery noted. “Especially since you conveniently stole Emerson’s car.”
“We didn’t know it was his!”
“You STOLE a CAR,” Avery cried, throwing the pillow back. It crashed across my cheek, but didn’t hurt since it was a pillow. Kind of itchy though. “James, this is serious!”
“I know! I forgot about Apparation, okay?!”
“Where is it?”
“Why was he driving some piece of shit car when he’s the assistant to the Minister?” I countered. “Why, huh?”
“He’s not THE assistant,” Avery said impatiently. “He’s AN assistant.”
I paused. “Yeah, I have no idea what that means.”
“He’s like three assistants down,” Avery said. “He only admitted to that after I drilled him on what the Minister was actually like. He has no idea. I think he’s met him once.”
“Had a nice little chat, did you?” I said. I wasn’t jealous.
Avery didn’t fancy Emerson. She fancied me.
Right. Like that was a battle to win.
“Oh, shut up, James.” Avery got to her feet and took Falcon Cat from where she was curled up on the arm of my chair. “I’m going home. The coach probably doesn’t even remember my tryout after that insanity.”
“He won’t forget! He was probably undressing you with his eyes!”
Right. I should probably not talk.
“This conversation is over,” Avery said. She grabbed her bag from one of the stools in the kitchen and paused at the top of the stairs. “I’m about ready to call it quits, James.”
I looked up, voice caught in the back of my throat.
She was frowning. “Fighting just makes me tired after a while.” Avery shrugged, kissed Falcon Cat on the nose, and left.
And took Falcon Cat with her.
Lily grabbed four pillows and crossed the room. I stared.
Then she slammed all of them into my face, jumped on me, and started repeatedly punching me.
She was right.
A/N: For all of those who kindly asked, the move went great. We are settled (after experiencing a few setbacks, including the flooding of our downstairs which I now call the "Great Flood of 2012") and I'm still in the process of setting up my office space (yes, plenty of Harry Potter gems around). It's positively beautiful and I'm so lucky to be here. The best part? Super inspiration! So expect some frequent updates for at least the next month or two!
Anyway, back to James! I've gotten some great ideas and have planned out the next 10 or so chapters. Cannot wait to share them with you! I also have a George/Ang mini-fic (like 4 chapters? maybe?) that I will post shortly. It's inspired by the tale Freddie tells in Hormones about how his parents got together. Funny. Feels. You know the drill.
Happy 2013, everyone! Make it the best year yet & don't forget to make a difference! xoxo
UP NEXT: The Tornados do some traveling and James realizes how much he means to people he's never met. Oh, and he develops a friendship. James meets the reserves and Clara makes an appearance.
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