Chapter 4 : four.
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“You’re breaking up with me?” I hadn’t meant for the words to come out so loudly and now they hung in the air awkwardly as my apparently ex-girlfriend, Acacia Wood, looked at me sadly. She pulled her hands away from my weakening hold and tucked them in the back pockets of her jeans. I stood against the wall dividing my sitting room from the kitchen, forcing my mouth to close as she made her way to the other side of my leather couch and closer to the door.
“Sirius, we’re just moving in two different directions. You’re always so busy with quidditch and-”
The ringing in my ears interrupted whatever excuses were coming out of her mouth. I stared at her lips, perfectly puckered and pink, and thought back to just yesterday when I had kissed her, and her blonde hair that I had run my fingers through time and time again.
“-different priorities right now-”
I thought of last week when I had passed a jeweler and actually hesitated to look at the rings behind the glass window.
“-still care for you as a dear friend-”
I thought of all the bloody fan girls that had thrown themselves at me and I had passed on because I actually cared about this cursed woman in front of me.
“Sirius, say something,” I focused on her worried face. She had obviously finished her little speech and was waiting for me to speak now. I had dumped and been dumped enough to know that speeches are more for the person ending the relationship than the person being dumped. It was for their closure because Merlin knew we weren’t exactly getting any when they said they wanted to be friends.
“My name is James,” I murmured, suddenly so annoyed at everything about Acacia. But not really, because I still wanted all of this to be a horrible joke that she would be taking back at any second now.
“James, my name is James bloody Potter. Sirius is my middle name and I always hated your pretentious way of calling me by it, and you know what else I hate about you?” I sneered, rolling my shoulders and fully prepared to get my say in regarding this entire mess. “How absolutely everything about you is fake. Your hair is dyed, your nails are acrylic, you use a potion to get your eyes blue, and everything you’ve just said is a lie. Now why don’t you tell me the real reason you’re dumping me?”
Contrary to my words just now, I loved Acacia very much. I had no idea what her true hair or eye colors were, but I knew that I loved how soft her hair was, how it tickled my nose when we slept at night, and how her eyes turned just the perfect shade of blue in the right light. Right now they were a hazy grey, perhaps the effects of her potion beginning to wear off.
“That is the real reason.” The motion was so swift that anyone else wouldn’t have caught it but I knew her better than that. I caught the way she raised her hand and twisted her hair, her glance falling to the side, for a mere second before pulling away, knowing she’d been found out. Now slowly, everything else seemed to fall into place. The messy bun her hair was tied in, the oversized shirt she wore over her jeans, and the potion wearing off from her eyes.
“You’re a liar.” She turned to leave and I followed her, raising my voice to make sure I was heard. “Although I almost didn’t catch it because you’re so bloody good at it!” I was raving stark mad now. “I bet there’s another bloke, isn’t there?” Who is he?” There was always another bloke. You just didn’t stop caring about someone like that. Something happens to those feelings; they just don’t go away so they must get transferred to someone else.
“You’re insane,” she cried, shoving the door open in my face and running outside. I stopped the door centimeters away from smacking my nose but didn’t follow her outside. No doubt there was some sleaze reporter waiting to catch James Potter, star Puddlemore Keeper, mediocre son to Harry and Ginny Potter, and lousy boyfriend.
But I had played this game before. She would come back, they always did.
[Rewind: 2 Days Ago]
“James? James, open the door.”
The noise was so heavily muffled against my pillows, pressed roughly against my ears, that I could barely hear my name being called. “Acacia?” The word slipped from my mouth before I could stop it, how pitiful. At least no one had heard.
But I could tell from the consistent banging on my front door that it was not Acacia. No, Acacia was sweet and perfect and her knocks were more of a gentle rapping, just enough to notify me that she was there. Plus, she had a key to the flat and entered whenever she liked. Now I’d have to get that key back.
No, my mind persisted; I wouldn’t because she would come back. They always did.
“James Sirius Potter, open the door this instant!”
This was someone mean and angry at the front door; someone aggressive, pushy, and stubborn.
It was my cousin, Rose.
I entered the kitchen and opened the door with a lazy flick of my wand to reveal Rose, mid-knock. She was still in her boring knee-length shirt and a white shirt, her red hair pulled back into a high bun indicating that she must’ve just come from work. I was past being ashamed that it was obviously very late in the day and I had barely gotten (been forced, more like it) out of bed.
“Rose darlin’,” I crooned as I poured myself a large cup of whatever was in the colored jug in my fridge, “the Wotter’s ray of sunshine.” Entering without invitation to even come over is a favorite activity of the Wotter (Weasley-Potter, per say) family. However, Rose was one of the few people that I actually opened the door for anymore. Her eyes thinned into a vicious blue line and I watched with entertainment as she examined my apartment before reaching me. “How are you?”
"Sod off, Potter.” She quipped before leaning in to smell my shirt. That was how we greeted one another, like animals through smell.
“Need I remind you that you’re in my flat? Why do I have to sod off?”
“You reek of whiskey and smoke.” The cup was pressed to my lips when she reached over and snatched it from my hand to smell it suspiciously. “Spiked drinks already?”
“Good thing I hadn’t drank any, huh?” I joked, dumping the cup and jug in my sink. Rose continued her march throughout the rest of the pristine flat. With the amount of time I actually spent here, I would have been better off renting out a room in a hotel. I’m pretty sure there were parts of my flat I hadn’t seen in months.
“No, please, make yourself at home. Hey! What are you doing?” I hissed at the sudden intake of vigorous sunlight that came in from my large windows, blocking my face as if I was going to melt by the sudden light and temperature increase. “It’s bloody bright outside and I was… practicing all night.” Practicing, yes, that would be a legitimate excuse versus the alternative and admitting to Rose that I had been out all night with Morton.
“You’re a bloody liar, James Sirius Potter. Sit down,” I felt my knees bend against my will until my rear was planted on the couch. Rose continued to open the rest of the blinds and windows until a warm breeze began to enter. Questioning the source of Rose’s bossiness would be like questioning the source of her red hair – it was entirely genetics. It seemed that we were destined to have some of the strongest (and scariest) women in the wizard world, in our family.
“Did my mum send you? Because I’ve been meaning to visit but life is busy and such. You know, practice and…” I allowed my voice to drift away with my excuses when Rose rolled her eyes and threw a rolled newspaper onto my lap. “Oi, I don’t read this garbage. No offense,” I quickly recovered when I remembered she worked at said garbage dump. Her death stare encouraged me to open the gossip rag and I scanned the pages for my father. “Let’s check in on the adventures of the infamous Harry Potter now. Did he save us from an alien invasion? Or perhaps those pesky mermaids were getting out of hand.”
“Shut up, you idiot.” The paper was snatched from my hands and Rose turned it so the sports section faced me. “There, read that.” Her finger landed directly above a picture of a blonde bloke flashing a dazzling smile as he held a snitch in one hand and Mark Tyler, the leech, held on to the other. “Handsome, isn’t he?”
My eyes rolled up automatically at the dreamy undertone in her comment and the caption under the picture. “The next James Potter?” Rose said the words out loud as I read them silently. “His name is Dylan Murphy and he’s the Cannon’s new Seeker. It’s not funny, James! If you read the article you’d know that the Cannons weren’t the only team scouting him.”
“I’m a Keeper, what am I worried about this child for?”
If you read it, you’d also know that Seeker wasn’t the only position he was wanted for either.” I began to skim the article, catching the phrases “naturally talented” and “meant to be a star” more than once and scoffing. “He turned down offers from Spain, Cork, Barnton, and Bulgaria.”
“Rose, I don’t meddle in whatever you write about so let me worry about quidditch. Every year there’s at least one new player that the idiot reporters claim will be the ‘next James Potter’ and I’m still here; much more talented and handsome than this guy.” I flicked the stupid smiling face of Murphy for extra measure before throwing the paper on the couch.
"Then you needn’t worry that Puddlemore offered him a position on their reserve team. As Keeper,” she clipped the last word for extra measure. Well, I actually hadn’t known that but I hid any expression of surprise from Rose well, shrugging as if the news meant nothing to me. “And if you remember, they acquired you with plans to force Rufus into retirement. Once you were placed on that team, James, his days were numbered and everyone knew it.”
“That’s a little dramatic, Rose. Rufus played for four more years while I patiently waiting on the reserve team.” Her look let me know she didn’t believe my take on things, but neither did I. My four years had been anything but patient and I’d almost shoved Rufus off his broom more than once. “Besides, Rufus was ancient. He could hardly see the goal post anymore.”
“Rufus was 37 and did not spend his nights smoking like a chimney and drinking like a…” I smirked, throwing my legs over the edge of my couch and sinking into its seat. Rose was horrible in an insult war; she needed more time to mull over her words.
“A fish?” I finished, running my hands through my hair and making a mental note to schedule a haircut soon. Any more time and I would look like my father.
“Fish don’t drink alcohol, James! I’m serious. You need to be careful or else you’re going to be some forgotten quidditch star, only remembered when there’s a ‘Where are they now’ feature.” Rose was such a worrier.
“It’s really not that bad, Rose. Who wrote this rubbish anyway?” I unfolded the paper and searched for the picture where Murphy was still celebrating and smiling to the camera with Tyler. What kind of idiot chose the Cannons over any other team in the league? “Charlie Lancaster. Well, Lancaster is a git, Rosie. Go to work tomorrow and tell him that. Hey, why didn’t you show me this section?” The bottom half of the paper seemed to be a counter-argument to the first half declaring Murphy as a god, the picture one of the entire Cannon team on the field celebrating their win.
“Because it had nothing to do with my point.”
“Listen to this, ‘Let us not place all our faith and worries in a first-year player. Murphy still has much to learn and wisdom teaches that there is no individual threat larger to a team then an inflated ego.’ Bloody hell, I bet the Cannon fans ate them alive for this one.”
“Course she wrote that, Payton’s a Puddlemore fan.” Rose mumbled from over my shoulder. “You know, Payton Carter.” She continued when she saw my oblivious expression. “She writes that ‘Player of the Week’ segment for the Prophet.” The segment I knew but there was another reason the name was familiar.
“Did she go to Hogwarts with us?”
Rose nodded in agreement. “Brunette, average height, average weight, pretty – at least Albus thinks so.”
“Well if Albus thinks so than she must be a bloody model.”
Rose had started talking before I had even finished my sarcastic remark. May no one ever wonder why I didn’t speak to anyone in my family. “I didn’t remember her until I saw her the other day, I’m sure you don’t know who I’m referring to.”
“What’s that mean exactly?” My voice insinuated I was probably more insulted then I truly was, although I really was curious as to what her comment implied. “I was popular in school.”
“It means that everyone knew who you were because you never let them forget. ‘Hello, I’m James Potter. Yes, James Potter.’ In your second year you kept telling the older girls to remember your name because they’d be screaming it later without actually knowing what that meant!”
“It meant that I’d be sneaking into their rooms to prank them! That is perfectly legitimate, Rose!” I didn’t even need to mention that it had worked, the girls loved me.
She huffed her breath out in irritation and lifted her hand to stop me from going further. “Regardless, people knew who you were but you probably cannot name five people that you were not related to or played quidditch with.” There was a brief pause where we both knew that she was giving me the opportunity to come up with the names. “She was in Ravenclaw anyway.”
“Ah, well that’s why I don’t remember her. Regardless, if she’s a Puddlemore fan then she’s fine in my book. Did she play?”
“She was in my year and a Keeper for the quidditch team. You called her a genius on the field after Gryffindor won the cup.”
“I’m sure I didn’t.” That didn’t sound like something I would have said. “After all, we did win the cup that year.”
“That year, yes, but Ravenclaw won the cup my last two years after she was made captain. Albus and I saw her a few days ago and Albus told me she had been scouted for some teams after graduation but decided to report instead. She’s been at the Prophet as long as I have and also coaches that Charming Cannon team that Molly wants to get Muriel on.”
“Huh,” I replied absent-mindedly. “I don’t know who you’re talking about,” for some reason I didn’t remember any girls on the Ravenclaw team. “I can’t believe Albus lost us the cup twice in a row, figures.” Quidditch has never been my baby brother’s true passion. He was born with the same hero complex that our father had had bestowed on him. It explained why they were usually off saving the world together as Aurors. “Take this rubbish back,” I threw the paper on the chair across from me so I wouldn’t be tempted to read through the rest.
“Sorry for thinking that you actually read.”
“I don’t need to read, Rosie. I can just pay someone to tell me what’s going on in the world.” That statement was laughable as well, as if I would pay someone good money to do something so useless. I wasn’t an idiot either; I just didn’t enjoy reading the slanted views of the Prophet.
Rose snorted loudly, “And who’s that – Acacia?”
“I have practice in a bit.” It was a not-so-subtle hint for her to get out. While I hadn’t told anyone beside Morton that I’d been dumped I had just assumed it had been reported in the Prophet like everything else in my life. Maybe it was for the better, then a retraction wouldn’t have to be printed when she came back. She hadn’t done it yet but I assumed she was lying in bed being much more miserable then I was.
Rose appeared on the other side of the kitchen counter and watched interestingly as I banged the pots and pans around looking for the blasted coffee pot. “How is Acacia?”
“Fine,” I responded, too quickly not to be suspicious.
“I’m surprised she isn’t hanging around as usual. Putting on makeup and practicing her modeling poses.” Rose was the only member of the family who had met Acacia and that had only been during another one of her impromptu visits. She had hated her but in Acacia’s defense, Rose hadn’t given her a proper chance. On initial inspection it was easy to think that she was a little vain and daft but once you got past that, she was quite entertaining.
By entertaining I meant wonderful and perfect, of course.
“Yes, well, you won’t have to deal with her anymore.” I finally spotted the coffee pot in the back of a shelf and reached for my wand to get it but Rose beat me to the punch, the pot landing in her open palm.
“What does that mean?”
“What else could it mean? She dumped me, happy?”
Like the girl she was, her features instantly softened at the news. She placed the pot delicately on the counter and reached to place her hand on mine. Contrary to popular belief this move was not comforting. I let it linger for a second, more for Rose’s sake then mine, before pulling my hand away and grabbing the pot to make coffee.
“I’m sorry, James. Do you know what you need?”
Despite knowing what was coming next I still asked. “What?”
“Dinner at my flat tonight.”
“That’s actually on my list of things I don’t need. I really appreciate it but-“
“No, no, no! No buts! You’ve never even seen my flat. Dinner will be ready at seven and I expect you will be there with a good bottle of wine.” She had already quickly gathered her purse and stood in front of the door with a sweet smile on her face. “James, so help me if you’re late. I will hunt you down and drag you, limb by limb, to my flat. Tonight.”
“Seven o’clock,” I finished, shaking her away from my thoughts and out of my flat. “I’ll be there.”
No, I most definitely would not.
I honestly had no intention of going to dinner at Rose’s flat. I had practice (really this time) until five and usually threw a few back with Morton afterwards. Dinner with my cousins did not fit into my plans for tonight, or ever. But somehow with two minutes to spare, I stood in front of Rose’s door with the second-most expensive bottle of wine I had found at the store. Second-most because four hundred galleons for some smashed grapes seemed a little excessive.
“Just go home, you git.” I whispered to myself, prepared to leave the bottle on the wine on the floor when the door opened and my brother, Albus, stood in front of me with an unsure expression on his face. Behind him, I could make out familiar voices and the varying shades of red hair.
“We didn’t think you’d come,” his voice was pleasantly surprised because it was close to impossible for him to be unpleasant to anyone directly. On the other hand, I wore my unhappiness on my face all the time.
Despite being two years younger, Albus was able to look me directly in the eye, his cheerful expression a contrast to my stoic face. Growing up, people used to tell us that we looked alike until they realized neither one of us took it as a compliment. I suppose the similarities were there no matter how much I fought them. The short, stout nose; sole dimple in our right cheeks, and of course, signature jet black Potter-hair that Al wore to the nape of his neck and shaggy (very pubescent Harry Potter) and that I wore short and styled.
“Yes, well, here I am.” I shoved the wine in his hand, hating the red ribbon the cashier had tied around its neck despite my protests. Across from me Albus eyed the bottle with raised eyebrows over his green eyes.
Over our father’s eyes, and our grandmother, Lily’s eyes.
It was the first thing everyone noticed when they saw us as children, that Albus had their eyes. Oh, and my hazel eyes were nice enough as well. Enough, but they certainly weren’t special like Albus’ blasted green ones.
“Expensive,” he mumbled.
Once upon a time I had a good relationship with my brother. He was my best mate and we were virtually inseparable, even in our first years of Hogwarts. But as we got older our friendship became a competition for everything – quidditch, girls, schoolwork, friends, and our parents.
As far as I knew, I was still in the lead. Quidditch star versus Auror? Acacia over Al’s single life from the constant threat to his life and traveling? Morton versus our father?
Clear winner right here.
“I was just dropping it off,” I replied, all desire to be here replaced by the silent resentment at the man in front of me.
“James!” Rose’s loud greeting stopped all the noise from inside as she dragged me, limb by limb as promised, inside her flat. “I’m so glad you came!” The silence had passed awkward with my cousins surrounding me with mixed expressions on their faces. “Oh, and he brought the good stuff. We’ll save this bottle for desert.” Ignoring the silence from our cousins around us she led me to a large circular table in her dining room. This was my first of the weekly dinners my cousins had been having for the past two years, so their surprise was understandable.
“I actually can’t stay very long.” I whispered, our cousins filling in around us. Fred took the empty seat next to me quickly, slapping my shoulder to get my attention. My stomach gurgled at the sight of the filled plates in front of me, blocking out most of my sentence to Rose.
“Jamesy-poo, how are you?”
“It’s been so long,” his sister, Roxy called from the other side. “Word is that Puddlemore is the team to beat this season.” Rox was an assistant coach for the Holyhead Harpiest, so we generally kept in contact throughout the year despite my poor attendance at family functions.
“I don’t know, you better watch out for Murphy and those Cannons. You’re playing them next week, aren’t you?” The seemingly innocent statement came from Al as he slid into a seat down the table and despite knowing that he didn’t mean it in the manner I was going to take it, I still found myself irritated at his comment. Rose coughed awkwardly and broke the silence with a discussion of Molly, who was not present, being pregnant for a second time.
“I’m hardly worried about some rookie.” I replied over her voice, not one to let someone else – especially Albus, have the last word.
“She’s only five months but she’s as big as a house! Aunt Ginny is thinking that maybe she’s going to have twins.”
“Wasn’t Samuels a rookie?”
“Scoring does not equate a threat if you still lose.” Eric Samuels was a Chaser from the Falcons, the team Puddlemore had just faced on Sunday.
“I thought she was actually six months, Rose.” Molly’s sister, Lucy, chimed in loudly.
“Does scoring three times constitute a threat?” Questions like these made me think that Al knew exactly what he was doing. As if he didn’t know how to push my buttons. Around us Fred, Hugo, and Louis watched us excitedly, heads turning from side to side between the dialogue. Our sister, Lily, was sitting next to Rose and eating quietly, immune to our bickering.
“Not if you still lose,” I replied through clenched teeth. The bloody score had been 200-30, the only three quaffles out of at least, fifty attempts. “Now if you don’t know mind, I handle trash talking on the field, Al.”
“And in every bar in West London, we’ve all seen the pictures. In fact, it’s the only time mum sees you anymore.”
“No, no I thought she said nineteen weeks just the last time I saw her but you know better than me, Lucy.”
“We can’t all live in dad’s shadow.”
“If living in dad’s shadow means not being the family disappointment, I think I’ll take it.”
That was the Al I knew; the dirty underhanded prick that proved why he belonged in Slytherin at school. “It means getting out of dad’s arse long enough to breathe, Albus. You’re one redhead away from trying to take over his life.”
“James Sirius and Albus Severus,” Lily interjected with a tone reminiscent to our mum’s just as Albus had opened his mouth to speak. “Not another word. You will both shut up and enjoy this wonderful meal that Rose prepared for us because I know that we were taught better than this.” Despite the urge to pout like a child I grumbled an apology to Rose who waved a flustered hand before taking a large gulp of wine.
“I think we’re going to need another bottle at this rate,” she replied with a bright smile.
“So James, I heard Acacia ditched you.”
“You know, I’ll just get that other bottle now.”
“I’m sorry that tonight was such a mess,” Rose apologized. We walked to the door an hour later after sadly enough, not one of the worst family dinners I had ever had. The life of a Wotter. “Are you sure you’re okay to apparate? I don’t want you end up in some dodgy end of London.” Between giving and receiving plenty of dirty looks from Al and trying to be as vague as possible in my replies to the rest of my noisy family; I had hardly eaten but had managed to drink a lot of wine.
“I’m fine, just getting home and into bed.” I replied, pushing away her concern.
“No problem, Rosie.”
“No James, really, it meant a lot.” Rose wrapped her arms around my shoulders and gave me a quick hug before patting my shoulder. “See you Sunday.” I heard just before disappearing into my flat.
After living in a house constantly crowded by family and a castle constantly crowded by well, family, the best and worst part of living on my own was the silence. For the first month I reveled in it. The unspoken answers to my questions or moments of pin-dropping peacefulness but on nights like this, it brought a strange sense of nostalgia in my chest. I missed the banging of the pots, the yelling, scattered laughter, and discussion.
“James,” I jumped at the sudden mention of my name as I entered my bedroom, my shirt over my shoulders and blocking my view, but I would have recognized that voice anywhere.
“Acacia,” I whispered, finally catching sight of her in the corner of my room as my shirt tumbled to the floor. “What are you doing here?” I could feel the fierce beating of my heart in my chest when she took a step towards me in a dark blue dress that was fit to her body and cut to her upper thigh.
“James,” she repeated, her voice catching and I could see the dark circles of makeup around her red eyes. “I was so stupid.” She rushed to where I stood and roughly grabbed my face. “I was so stupid.” The plan had been to make her grovel but she seemed beat up enough already. I grabbed her waist and easily brought her down to the bed with me, blocking out anymore words with kisses.
“We’ll just forget it,” I mumbled in her neck, the familiar scent of her perfume overtaking my senses. “It never happened.”
I needed Acacia in my life. The stability she brought to my life, the support she gave me – I needed that. Without her here, it was just me in my silent flat.
I mumbled a response as I reached my locker, quickly changing into my practice uniform and grabbing my broom. When I closed my locker door Morton sat on the other side, a pleasant smile on his face.
“Why so glum chum?” He sat up and followed me as I made my way through the maze of lockers to the exit. “Family dinner worse than expected? Brother a large bore? Did someone ruin the casserole?”
“Just running late, it throws my whole schedule off.” I responded, ignoring his comments. My family, even Al, was the least of my problems right now. In fact, the raging headache that made every movement and noise echo pain through my brain, scored higher than Albus.
“Ah, so it’s not what happened last night but what made you late this morning.” He brought his stubby fingers to his large chin in a mocking pose like he was thinking. “Dare I say it was… Her?” My jaws locked at the mention of her name and once again, my poor ability to hide my emotions gave me away.
I had woken up this morning to a letter tucked under the pillow that she had laid on just hours before, my flat key lying on top of it. All of her words from the night before, taken away. Last night had been a mistake. But she was sorry. It was laughable. She was sorry for leading me on. She didn’t mean to hurt me. But apparently, it was all okay as long as she sorry.
I walked faster to escape Morton’s questioning although I knew I would have to face him eventually. Perhaps after I had a couple of drinks in me, the words and how I felt wouldn’t be so pitiful.
“Later,” I promised, “right now I just want to play.”
Disclaimer and such.
a/n: Wow, guys! I was blown away by all your kind words, encouragement, and reviews! Thank you so so so much, truly.
So this is the first chapter in James' POV. Honestly, what do y'all think? I know they still haven't talked yet (hopefully you caught the Payton-mentions throughout the chapter!) but since he obviously has no idea who Payton is, it takes some building up!
If you prefer solely Payton POV though that is alright and I would be more then willing to do that as well. If you like James though, I'll do some alternating to see his side but it will still probably focus on Payton a bit more. So please let me know your opinions!!
What do you think of James though? And the little Wotter interaction? Oh, and Acacia of course? I'm going to do my best to not make her completely hateable (as was my original intention, haha, but I do enjoy showing both sides to every story).
Please continue reviewing if you can! I love you all!!
Wonderful chapter image by Elenia @ TDA.
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