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Chapter 45 : Explosion
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For mystic05, for claiming my 5,000th review as an author. I love you and stuff. Forevs.
Anyone else would have told me that was bound to happen. That when you’re in a situation that awkward and that disastrous, the girl you’re trying to get over will suddenly appear when you’ve got your tongue in another girl’s mouth. It was probably one of Bink’s proverbs or something. Along with ‘when a male is sad, girls with must take of clothes and wiggle.’
So there I was, palms flat against the stone wall, Haley Star’s body arched into mine. Making out with her, our breath smelling heavily of firewhiskey and those little rum shots with the tropical flavoring she talked me into. I noticed when the portrait slammed shut behind Avery, my head jerking over. I could feel lipstick on the side of my lip. Never good, but it smelled like kiwi.
Avery stood there for a minute. The air had been knocked out of her. I could tell. It was that expression she had when Wesley caught her off guard with a Bludger to the gut. When her boyfriend lied to her about her father. When said ex boyfriend was snogging another woman.
But what was it to her? She broke up with me. She agreed we should both move on and that it wouldn’t work. She didn’t want to be with me.
Maybe I wanted to be with Haley Star. She was pretty and ginger and stuff. And nice. And didn’t have a father who wanted to off me.
But she wasn’t Avery.
But Avery didn’t want me. And that was fine. We were done and we were going to slowly go back to being friends once we’d both moved on. I was moving on. Right now. With Haley Star. Right at this moment. Snogging in the hallway.
So why was she looking at me like that?
“I can’t believe he’s doing this again.” I was fourteen. It was the summer before my fourth year and I was sitting on the swing Dad built for Lily in the backyard. It was a wooden swing and thus very uncomfortable.
“So what?” Avery shrugged and pushed me by pinching my sides hard.
“He always does this.”
“He just loves you.” Her hair was back in a thick black band. “He just wants what’s best for you.”
“He’s not even talking to me.” I rolled my eyes. Dad was inside the kitchen having yet another argument with Mum about my priorities. They never argued about Albus and his priorities because he had ace grades and wanted to be a Prefect. And Lily wasn’t even at Hogwarts yet so she was toting around a teddy bear or something.
“He just told me I’m not allowed to be a professional Quidditch player.”
“He’ll come around.”
“What if he doesn’t?” I drug my feet along the ground to stop the swing and twisted it around to look at her. “What if he always hates the idea of me playing pro? Or he disowns me? Should I do something else? Maybe be a manager or something?”
“And what? Get old and chunky?” Avery placed her hands on her hips. “That’s not you. You’d hate it. Plus, what about that calendar shoot you’ve always wanted? They don’t have a managers calendar.”
She had a point. I frowned and leaned my forehead against the rope of the swing. “I don’t get it,” I said quietly. “He was always there for his mates growing up. Albus knows all about that shit. He was all about it. Support. Being there for them. But he’s not like that for me. He doesn’t even want me to be Captain. Told me right to my face he was glad Dara’s going to be around until my sixth year. I fucking hate Dara.”
“I’m sure she hates you right back.” Avery leaned down and ruffled my hair.
“What am I going to do?” I moved my bare toes into the sand, my eyes flickering up to hers.
“I’ll always be here for you.” Avery kissed my forehead gently. “I will always support you, want what you want, and be there for you to talk to. I promise.” She smiled.
And I believed her.
Until this moment when I realized she wasn’t here for me anymore. Maybe it was the firewhiskey or perhaps it was the fact that I could no longer vent my problems to her or listen to hers. Or that I missed our times lounging on my bed. Maybe I missed the smell or her hair or the feel of her kisses. Perhaps it was just because she wasn’t here for me anymore. She didn’t want what I wanted and she wasn’t supporting anything but her own thinking.
“Can I help you?” I asked, a bite in my voice.
This clearly started her because her brow raised and Haley swallowed hard. I was still pressing her into the wall.
“Not at all.” Avery huffed and tossed her dark hair over her shoulder, marching past us. “Get a fucking room.”
“Get bent!” I called after her, kissing Haley’s neck.
“Didn’t used to think so in all those closets,” I said, not moving my lips.
Haley made a very annoyed sound. I didn’t blame her. I wasn’t being very gentlemanly or sexy by talking about snogging another girl in a closet. But I didn’t care. Avery Flynn made my blood boil.
“Fuck you, Potter.”
I pulled back from Haley and looked down the hallway at Avery. She was probably three portraits down, her eyes narrowed. I recognized the fire in her pupils. I should have stopped. Probably should have walked into the common room and invited Haley upstairs to chat and lounge around. Godric knew I wouldn’t get lucky because I still had my V-card and was way too insecure to make a move. But I didn’t.
Instead, I said, “You have no right to call my disgusting! You broke up with me!”
“Because you’re a fucking jerk!”
“Of course I am.” I rolled my eyes. “Oh, yes, total jerk. Invite you to a professional Quidditch match. Profess my admiration of you in a fucking shower. Share every bit of my stupid life with you, including my own father. Lie to protect you until I could get proof of what I was lying about so you would believe me. To help you. I’m the biggest jerk alive, Flynn.”
“You are. Girls only like you because you’re the Captain.”
“That’s not true,” noted Haley. “I think he’s funny and endearing.”
“Shut up, whore.”
Haley’s wand was out faster than I had anticipated. Avery’s only milliseconds later.
“Oy!” I cried, throwing up my hands. “Haley go inside. This has nothing to do with you and frankly, I don’t want you thinking less of me because I dated our good-for-nothing Keeper.”
“Better Quidditch player than you’ll ever be,” Avery snapped back. Her face was flushed with anger. It had been a long time since I’d seen that face.
I gaped at her, but shoved Haley inside the portrait hole before replying. “What did you just say to me?” I said. If there was any one subject that I refused to tolerate was the questioning of my Quidditch ability. I had proven myself quite well over the years. Game-winning goals. Aiding Gryffindor in the win when we didn’t even catch the bloody snitch fourth year. Becoming Captain. Creating a winning machine of a team that could even beat the cheap-shotting Puffers.
Oh, no. Quidditch insults would not be tolerated. Poke fun at my dysfunctional family, at my poor relationship with anyone except my team, or even have a go at my grades, but never, ever insult my ability to play the sport I love.
“I said you’re bloody awful and deep down you know you’ll never make it!” Avery was furious. Her hand was shaking, wand pointed straight at me.
The words cut me like icy wind. Never had something that horrible come from such a beautiful mouth.
So I said the first angry, horrible thing that came to my mind.
“That’s easy to say when you’re a self-absorbed girl without a real father who won’t play bloody Quidditch anyway!” I cried. “You go around breaking hearts just because you can, just because you’re too fucking scared to take a step forward and admit maybe it’s more than just a fling or maybe you’re too much of an idiot to realize what you’ve got! Well, guess what, Flynn? You fucking lost. So go on with your fucking life, go shag Twitwards and Twataso, and be a secretary at a fucking law firm because you’ll never get anything else with that nasty attitude of yours.”
It was, if possible, one of the worst things I’ve ever said to someone. Even when I picked on Albus as a kid, I didn’t dig that deep. But my fury was never that real. It never boiled up from the place I hid all of my insecurities. My Quidditch. My future. Real hate was pulsing through me. Something I had never anticipated feeling for Avery, even after the boat incident first year.
Avery’s hand was still shaking. She didn’t look hurt. No, Avery wasn’t the kind of girl to surrender like that. Nia would have. Paloma would have. Hell, Haley would have if a personal insult like that was thrown at her.
No, Avery hated me.
Which is why everything went black.
I woke up in the hospital wing in the middle of the night. It was dark except for the candle on the bedside table. Lily was awake in the chair beside my bed, book propped up on her lap.
“Shit,” I said, rubbing my head. It was pounding.
Lily glanced over. “Don’t move,” she said. “Madam Bones told me to have you lie still. She knew you’d try and escape or something.”
“I’m not Freddie,” I grumbled, propping myself up a bit on the bed. Everything was spinning, but eventually leveled out. “What the fuck happened?”
“Wesley found you in the hallway,” she explained. “There was blood around your head. I’m guessing you got hexed and hit your head on the wall while going down. No one knows what happened.”
Avery really did hate me.
“So that’s it? Wes just brought me here?”
Lily nodded. “Me and Al came too. Fred and Bink wanted to, but I said you’d be out for a while so they should go about their night. Fred has a date and Bink was challenging the common room in chess. I beat him twice so he was trying to find anyone he could best. Rose was even helping him and he couldn’t win. Poor thing.” She smiled. “Anyway, I sent Al back an hour ago to get some sleep. This Paloma thing is eating him up.”
“The date?” I asked.
Lily nodded. “Yeah.”
“You mean you’re not pissed?” I raised a skeptical eyebrow.
“I’m not pissed about Paloma going on a date.”
“I’m talking about Wes.”
Lily glanced back at her book. There was a rosy tint on her cheeks. “I’m not together with Wesley and he is on the Quidditch team,” she said matter-of-factly. “I don’t break the Quidditch Code like some people. And we’re just mates.”
Yeah, right, I thought. Just like Aves and I were just friends. Avery. I mean Flynn. What was I supposed to call her now that she sent me to the hospital wing? And left me to die in the corridor?
What was that about?
“That happening this weekend?” I asked with a sigh.
Lily nodded. “Seems like everyone is going to be in Hogsmeade this weekend on dates,” she said, trying to hide the bitterness in her voice but I heard it. “I’ll probably go get some ice cream or something. Hang out with Rose. She wanted to get some chocolate from Honeydukes.”
“Well, I’m going to follow everyone around and see what happens when my players break the Code and I know about it ahead of time,” I mused.
“Disaster?” Lily said. She was smirking.
“Complete and utter disaster.” I paused and leaned back against the pillow with a grin. “And if it’s not, I’ll make sure it is.” I was thinking specifically of Avery and Daniel Higs, but hell, anyone was fair game at this point.
I had to wear a bandage on my head for the team meeting in the kitchens. It was just like any normal team meeting, except Avery hated me, Paloma was about to go on a date with Wesley and had seen my brother naked, Lily was being snarky to Wesley, Fred was fidgeting after his date, and Bink was making comments about Fred not getting laid. To which Fred made comments about Bink not getting laid. Haley pretended (very well) that she wasn’t irritated with Avery and put on a cheery smile. This seemed to irritated Avery all the more.
“All right, group,” I said just as dessert was being served. I loved pastries. What a delicious distraction from the private feud happening around my table. “The Final is coming up. It’s looking like we’ll play Slytherin, but that isn’t for sure yet until Hufflepuff plays Ravenclaw and their new Beater, Amy.”
Fred smirked. What a tosser.
“What’s Amy’s last name?” I asked.
“Why?” Fred stuffed an entire slice of cake in his mouth and a few crumbs fell to his lap.
“Because I don’t feel right calling a competitor her first name,” I said. “Lawson. Malfoy. Davies. Whatever Abigail’s last name was.”
Fred swallowed the cake. It looked painful. “Viveca,” he said. “Amy Viveca.”
“Weird,” Bink noted and ate some of his pie. Bink loved pie.
“All right. Viveca and her ‘Claws. Or Davies and her Viveca. That’s an odd last name. Can we change it to something less…positive? It sounds like a war cry or something.” I looked at Fred. “Can you request it be changed?”
“Can we just get on with this?” Wesley asked. He was sweating. A lot.
I looked at him. “You are the last person I would have expected to be commenting on the length of a meeting,” I noted. “Did Meta put you up to this? Are you getting secret letters from her? Is this why you’re about to break my fucking Code?”
Wesley now looked as if he was going to cry.
“James,” Paloma said impatiently. “Let’s talk about Slytherin, yeah?”
“Right. Slytherin.” I took a deep breath and looked around at my team.
What a fucking disaster. How much of this was my fault? How much belonged to Avery? To my naked brother? To my baby sister?
So I talked about Slytherin. About the way Clint Lawson hounds his team, the drills they do, the way Scorpius hands everyone towels to wipe their foreheads. I discussed various techniques we were going to use against them to beat them at their own game. They had tricks. Certain things they would do to intimidate us. They would go after us before the game, just as Hufflepuff did. But they would be worse. Every year they were worse. Last year, Dara took to forcing us all to have shields up between classes. It was a disaster when trying to talk to girls.
The team listened intently. A few of them took notes. Avery didn’t meet my eyes once. I didn’t meet hers to know if she did. Lily looked like she was contemplating something. I hoped it had to do with Quidditch.
When I dismissed the team, they left immediately. It had only been an hour, but they were eager to beat the tension and escape the kitchens. Usually, that would have been the time Avery and I were finally alone, whether that would be to comment on Bink’s odd behavior or snog. Now she was the first one out of the room.
Lily put a hand on my shoulder. “You’re holding up well.”
“For having a head injury and a broken heart, you mean?”
“For being a Captain facing your first Quidditch Final,” Lily corrected. She leaned down and kissed the top of my head where the bandage was. “You think you’ll work it out?”
“Hard to imagine it,” I noted. “We’ve gone through too much. Our friendship is ruined. I can’t imagine going back to how things were now.” I shrugged a little, reaching over and taking the last slice of chocolate cake. I took a bite. “How could we lounge around in the same bed talking shit about Twitwards and my sex life and her date opportunities? We won’t go near each other, she probably fancies Twitwards, I have no sex life, which is the same, and I would rather hear nails on a chalk board for the rest of my life than talk about her prospective suitors.”
Lily let out a sigh and leaned down, stealing a bit of the cake and popping it into her mouth. “Maybe it’s for the best then,” she said. “It’s almost graduation. You won’t have to see each other anymore.”
“Right.” I nodded. “I won’t have to see Avery Flynn again.”
No more Christmases unwrapping gifts and throwing the wrapping paper at each other. No more her teaching me to dance in the back garden while I repeatedly stomp on her toes. No more watching the stars, helping her shop for sweaters, or playing one-on-one Quidditch because I refused to let Lily play. No more sharing notes for Transfig or using the light from my wand to watch Falcon Cat pounce around the room. No more laughing so hard our stomachs are on fire. Or pressing her hard against the stone wall of a broom cupboard because we’re kissing so hard I no longer have the concept of balance.
After graduation I never had to see her again. Didn’t have to share my father with her. Didn’t have to put up with her father threatening my career, that was if I still had a career. Didn’t have to deal with her snarky come-backs or her showing off her legs to the whole of Gryffindor in a dress.
“Coming?” Lily nudged my shoulder.
I nodded. “Yeah, I’ll catch up.” I ran my fingers through my hair and let out a frustrated sigh once she was gone. “This is going to be harder than I thought.”
“What is?” asked a nearby elf.
I closed my eyes. “Everything,” I said. “Fucking everything.”
“Seriously?” I turned away from the mirror and looked at my roommates. “You two have got to be shitting me.”
Bink grinned his big, albino shit-eating grin. “What?” he said. “This is the best kind of disguise.”
“Are you drunk?”
He placed a half-empty bottle of firewhiskey on the dresser. “I’d like to think of it as tipsy,” he claimed. “Or soberly-challenged.”
I rolled my eyes. Bink and Freddie stood in front of me in disguises. Terrible ones, considering they were cross-dressing. Again. Bink was in a frilly green dress that did not bring out his pale skin or eyes. It went down to his knees and I noticed he’d used a charm to shave his legs. He told me he stole the dress from the sixth year dorms and I only hoped it wasn’t Haley Star’s dress because it looked like it belonged to a grandmum. Hopefully not my grandmum. Mental note to ask Rosey about that.
Fred was in a pink skirt and blouse with socks stuffed in it for the chest. The skirt was from Halloween, but the poodle was torn off.
“You two are so fucked up.” I was in a thick trench coat with my hair jinxed ginger and a scratchy beard. “Bink, make your hair a little longer. You look like a girl with a back tattoo.”
“How do you know I don’t have one?”
I rolled my eyes. “Let’s go,” I said. “I need to see Wesley sweat while he breaks my Code.”
“Why didn’t you just forbid it?” Freddie asked as we walked downstairs to some very confused glances.
“Because Paloma’s into Al,” I said simply. “Al is just an idiot and doesn’t know how to snog in a shower and confess your feelings for a girl and ask her out.”
“Worked out well for you,” Bink mumbled. Then he yelped when he got a sharp elbow to the gut.
“I just want to see it blow up.”
And blow up it did.
We went to a booth in the corner of The Three Broomsticks. Far enough away so they didn’t notice us, but close enough to hear and still be hidden by people snaking through between the tables to find a place to sit. Paloma ordered some huge sandwich I didn’t think would fit in that tiny form of hers and Wes ordered a salad.
Lily was forbidden from flying with him again.
Salad? Really? What kind of manly food was that?
“Thanks for asking me out,” Wesley said, his brows knitting together as he peered around. He was looking for something.
“You’re welcome.” Paloma shrugged. She crossed her legs. She looked regal and powerful in a very feminine way. Very few people could pull that off. Then again, very few people could knock someone out with a Bludger without chipping their nail polish.
I slapped Bink’s hand away from his hair. He had been twirling it around his finger.
“So, um, why did you?” Wes took a sip of his butterbeer. Of course he did. He was a fifth year. Ickle fifth yearie.
“I wanted to go on a date with you.” Paloma shrugged.
I now realized why I couldn’t take my eyes off Paloma Dove when she made the team. She had this air of confidence I admired. A challenging look. Like if she wanted something, she would get it. She wanted that Beater position. She wanted me for a while. Hell, I contemplated breaking the Code, didn’t I? And now she wanted my brother.
And she was well on her way to getting him.
Al had spent the entire day sulking. Leafing through his Potions textbook. Folding his sweatervests. Okay, that last part wasn’t true but it made sense. He would totally do that.
“Well, here we are.” Wesley rubbed his neck and peered around the bar. “I wonder who else will come out tonight. I bet James is out and about.”
Too right he was.
“I’m sure he is,” Paloma noted in a bored tone. “You think he’s mad?”
“He’s distracted by Avery,” Wesley said quietly. “But yeah, he’s probably mad.”
“You think him and Avery will work it out?”
My stomach was suddenly hurting. So I threw back four shots of Firewhiskey, three of which I stole from the boys.
“I hope so,” Wes said, frowning. “It’s weird with them not talking. And me finding him in the hallway all bloodied up. She didn’t seem to care at all when I told her later on, you know? Lily and Al went down there to be with him. Avery didn’t want to. Hell, at the beginning of the year she would have beat everyone there and then stood guard so he didn’t wake up or something.”
I frowned. I wished they would talk about something else. Even my sister naked was a better topic.
“Well, I hope they either move on or get back together because the team meeting got really awkward,” Paloma said quietly. She took a sip of her drink. “So anyway, Wes, any ladies in your life?”
“Aren’t we on a date?”
“Aren’t I not supposed to talk about other women on a date?”
Paloma shrugged. “Yeah, I guess that’s a rule,” she said. “Just tell me how pretty I look or something.” She looked even more bored than usual.
“What are we even doing?” Wes said impatiently. “Why are we out on this date? I could be at Honeydukes or something and instead I’m sitting here trying to keep your attention on me instead of counting the tiles on the ceiling.” There weren’t any tiles. They were beams of wood.
“We’re on a date,” Paloma said, her eyes moving back to him. “I look nice. You look presentable. We’re out. On a date.”
I was about to say something snarky to Bink when I felt water run down my back. I jumped, knocking the chair into the bloke behind me. He was an ugly bugger with large teeth and blond hair that covered half his face. “Oy,” I said loudly. “Watch it, mate. I’ll kick your ass.” There was an empty mug on the ground. I was covered in firewhiskey.
“Sorry.” The guy shrugged and moved away toward a booth by the window.
I grabbed his shoulder. “The fuck, Al?” I said in a whisper. “What’re you doing here?”
“James?” He pushed the blond hair out of his vibrant green eyes. He should have changed those. “What are you doing here?”
“My Code is being broken,” I said.
“Nevermind. Keep your nose out of my business.”
“My—” Albus took a deep breath and his eyes flickered over to Paloma and Wesley. They were still chatting. “She’s here with him. I might have taken another piece of your advice.”
“If this fails or gets you in trouble I want it on the record that I did not, in fact, give you this advice,” I said sternly. “I just did it and you followed like a good baby brother.”
“I’ll put that on the record.” Albus rolled his eyes. “You been listening to their conversation—is that Bink and Fred?” His jaw dropped.
“Shut it. They…” I paused for a moment. “Just don’t even ask. And yes, they spent the last bloody ten minutes talking about me and Avery.”
“What’s going on there, anyway?”
“Shut your mouth.” I turned after hearing Paloma’s raised voice. She wasn’t normally one to do that. I was secretly hoping some other girl tried to hit on Wesley and there was going to be a girl fight in the mud or something.
Not so much.
“What do you want me to do?” Paloma said. “Gawk at you? Make girly noises and ask if I can squeeze your muscles?”
“I want you to actually want to go on a fucking date with me!” Wesley cried.
Watch your mouth, Wesley. You’re like seven.
“I do want to go on a sodding date with you or I wouldn’t have asked,” Paloma countered. People were staring now. “You’re attractive and nice and sweet and a damn good Beater and you actually go after what you want. Or I thought you did anyway.”
“What am I supposed to want then?” Wesley shoved his hands in his pockets. “To break the Code?”
“What Code?” Albus whispered.
“Do you like me or not?” Paloma said, shoving hair behind her ear.
“Sure, I do.”
“Doesn’t seem like it,” she said quietly. Her bottom lip was trembling. It would take quite a man to ignore something like that. Her pink lipgloss. Large, dark eyes.
And Wesley was not quite a man. He was just a fifth year. He needed years of training before he figured out how to ignore a reaction like that. Which is why he kissed Paloma Dove right there in the pub. He leaned over the table, grabbed her by the shoulders, and kissed her hard.
And then got punched in the jaw by an ugly blond bugger.
Wesley hit the ground hard. Paloma shrieked and slapped the blond bugger across the face. Albus stumbled backward and grabbed his wand, eliminating his disguise in one wave. I’d have to ask him how he did that. He stared Paloma down. Her jaw was lopsided.
Al was shaking with rage. I hadn’t seen him like that since I blew up half his room playing with Uncle George’s tricks.
“If you ever touch her again,” he snapped, his wand pointing at Wesley, who was sprawled out on the sticky bar floor. Which reminded me my back was still covered in smelly firewhiskey. “I swear to Godric I will tear you limb from limb.”
“What’s your deal, Potter?” Wesley said. He massaged his back as he grabbed the chair to get up. “We’re on a date, here.”
“Albus, you are such an asshole!” Paloma said loudly. She had that same look Avery got. That really, really pissed off one. So she slapped Albus hard across the cheek again. “How dare you!” Typical girl line.
Albus wasn’t fazed. He kept looking at Wesley. “I’m serious, Jordan.” I couldn’t think of the last time any of us used Wes’s last name in conversation. I even used Wessy-Pessy more often. “Touch my girlfriend again.”
“Your what?” Paloma choked. Come to think of it, Bink and Fred did too. Wesley just made a noise. Probably at the ‘Jordan’ remark.
“Oh, come off it, Paloma,” Al said, rolling his eyes. “Tell me this whole thing isn’t because I haven’t asked you to be my girlfriend?”
And then her face was scarlet.
“I thought so.” Al lowered his wand. “Have fun on your date.”
“You ruined it,” she noted, narrowing her eyes.
“Good.” Al shrugged and walked out. Just like that.
My brother, ladies and gents. The resident badass of The Three Broomsticks. Well, he had to be since I had a beard and Bink and Freddie were dressed like women.
Paloma gaped at the door. Wesley was still rubbing his back.
“I have no idea what just happened,” Paloma breathed. Their food was served.
“I do.” Wesley narrowed his eyes in a grumpy way. “Your bloody boyfriend got jealous and took it out on me. That’s the last thing I need. First I’m breaking the Code and then our Captain’s brother hits me in the face. I’m on the track to be kicked off the fucking team.”
“What are you saying?” Paloma grabbed a fry and popped it into her mouth. The palm of her hand was red.
Wesley tossed some gold onto the table. “I’m sorry, Pal,” he said. “I can’t do this.” He nodded to her and followed Albus’s path out of the pub. He left Paloma standing there with half the pub still staring at her.
And so did we. That was too awkward of a situation to stay in.
“Did you see that right hook?” Fred asked in a whisper as we walked along the cobbled road.
“I didn’t know my brother even knew how to punch,” I noted. “I thought he could just hex people or throw fabric selections at them. Tweed! Cotton! Attack of the polyester!”
Fred laughed at that. I could tell he was picturing it.
“Hey, isn’t that Vivera?” Bink asked. “I’m trying out her last name. I like it. We could call her Vivvy.”
“It’s Amy,” Fred insisted with a grin.
“Shag her yet?” Bink asked as Amy approached with a couple of her mates. All of them attractive. Bink noticed this.
“Shut it.” Fred took out his wand and removed his disguise, but unfortunately, he couldn’t remove the dress. “Amy!”
Her friends gasped. One of them looked like she was about to be violently ill.
Amy took one look at Fred and burst out laughing. “What in Rowena’s name are you wearing?” she asked, doubling over in laughter.
Fred stopped and looked down. Clearly he hadn’t thought that through. “Um,” he said. He glanced over his shoulder at Bink and me. Then back to Amy. “Clothes.” He nodded. Clearly that was a satisfactory.
“I see that.” Amy said bye to her mates. Then gave Fred curious glances before moving quickly toward Honeydukes. “Can I ask why you’re wearing those particular clothes? Or were you just feeling like a breeze today?”
I punched Fred on the shoulder.
“They’re just idiots,” I grumbled.
“Is that James under that red hair?” Amy laughed at that. “How are you, Captain Potter?”
I might have to keep her, I thought.
“Doing well now that I know my brother is more than a nerdy Prefect,” I said with a grin. “You ditching, Freddie?”
Fred draped his arm around Amy’s shoulders. “I think I’m going to show off my legs. Amy, roll up your jeans.”
Amy bent down and rolled her jeans up to her knees. “See?” she said. “We match. And my legs are cold.” She grinned at me. “You boys have fun. I’m kidnapping this one. He’s going to give me all the dirt on Gryffindor just in case we play you guys again in the Final.”
“Get ready to be embarrassed,” I said with a laugh, hooking arms with Bink as we strolled away from the retreating couple. “I’ll never understand Freddie and Ravenclaws.”
Bink glanced over his shoulder. “I’m starting to understand,” he said.
I elbowed him. “Fred claimed that one.”
“He gets them all,” Bink mumbled. “And they’re not dating or shagging so it’s fair game.” He sighed. “Okay, fine, it’s not fair game. But I can look until there’s a title.”
We turned toward the rest of the village and I grinned when I spotted my baby sister with red Rosey herself. “Hey!” I shouted. Both of them stared so I used my wand to lose the ginger hair and beard. Then they noticed Bink. And erupted into giggles.
“Look at your legs!” Rose cried, crouching down to feel his calf. “Oh my god, it’s smooth! I am going to replay this moment in my mind forever.” She slapped his leg hard, leaving a bright red hand print.
Bink jumped back with a yelp. “Woman!” he cried. “And shut up.” He swatted her away. “What’re you doing here anyway? Don’t you two have homework to do or Prefect rounds or flossing or something?”
Lily slapped him on the back of the head. “Should we take him with us?” she said.
“You’re going to kidnap me?” Bink grimaced and adjusted the fit of his dress. Something I never thought I’d see. “James, come on. Let’s go get drunk or something.”
“Why? So I can watch you fondle my cousin and my sister?” I arched a brow. Then I looked at the girls. “Do not let him fondle you.”
Lily shoved me. “What’re you going to do?”
I shrugged. “Stop by Honeydukes and head home.”
Rose and Bink were shoving each other because Rose was trying to feel the material of Bink’s dress.
Lily leaned closer to me. “She canceled her date with Daniel,” she said softly. “So don’t bother looking through all the restaurant windows as a ginger.”
I stared. “She did?”
She nodded. “See you later, James.” She gave my cheek a couple pats and grabbed Rose and Bink by the ears, dragging them away.
I let out a sigh. Avery had canceled her date with Daniel Higs. Why, I didn’t know. But my brief thoughts of pressing my face against the glass of bad restaurants were erased. I didn’t have to. Not that she did. She didn’t go after me and Haley. But she did hex me afterward.
And put me into the hospital wing.
At least I didn’t have to worry about running into her in Hogsmeade.
I did, however, have to worry about running into someone else.
“Fancying seeing you here.”
I knew that voice from anywhere. Why he was in Hogsmeade was beyond me. Why he was alive was also beyond me. I turned, grateful I wasn’t wearing a dress like my roommates, and faced David Flynn.
He looked like his usual pompous asshole self. Brown suit. White button-down. Chestnut tie. Jerk. Jerk. Jerk.
“If by fancy you mean I should be here because I go to Hogwarts,” I noted. “And you don’t. So fancy seeing you here, Mr. Flynn. Fancy seeing you.”
Yes, it wasn’t my shining moment. But he was a git and I didn’t like his gittery.
“Let’s get to the chase, Potter,” he said simply. “You have no career.”
And that was when I choked. And tried to turn it into a cough. And failed.
“You heard me,” Mr. Flynn said. Why weren’t there other people around? “You have no career. I’ve already made my calls. You let my daughter find out and therefore I’ve ruined your chances at playing pro. It was wonderful doing business with you, Mr. Potter, and I hope you have a lovely day.” He smirked.
I wanted to punch him.
Except I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything but watch all of my dreams flash before my eyes.
“You’re lying,” was all I could get out.
“Owl the agents for all the major teams,” Mr. Flynn said. There was a glint in his eyes. “Owl the general managers. Hell, owl the international teams. You’re finished. I hope you like Ministry desk jobs like your father.”
“You leave my father out of this!” I snapped. Yet again, the only thing I could come up with.
He laughed at me. “At least you made splitting you and Avery up easier. You really should work on your communication skills.” He smirked and pushed past me, walking down the street toward the residential part of the village.
I couldn’t breathe correctly for several minutes. It was actually Avery who found me. I was in the middle of the walkway, clutching my chest. Everything I’d ever wanted gone before my eyes. Hearing a crowd of Tornadoes fans chant my name. Big banners with my face on it. Top of the leaderboard. Quidditch Weekly interviews. Cheeky remarks. Press functions. Fundraisers. Women letting me sign parts of them I’d rather not say.
Avery waved a hand in front of my face. “James?” she said. “Are you…okay?”
I shook my head, snapping out of the daze of fans in front of my eyes. “It’s all gone.”
“What are you talking about?”
I looked at her. Long, brown hair. Bright green eyes. Concerned expression. Funny, that wasn’t there when she left me bloody in the hallway. Okay, maybe it was. I didn’t know.
I was unconscious.
“This is your bloody fault!” I cried, shoving past her. She gaped at me. “Your bloody fucking fault! I did this for you—I did it all for you and now my entire fucking future is fucked over and everything’s going to be hunky-fucking-dory for you and I’m going to work as a fucking secretary!” I turned and faced her again. “I can’t handle you right now, Avery. Good luck with the Finches or the Arrows or the fucking Russian International Team.”
“James—what are you even talking about?”
“YOU!” I cried angrily. “You ruin my life and put me in the fucking hospital! And then you don’t give two fucking shits!”
Her jaw was hanging open. Instead of snapping back, there were tears in her eyes.
“And maybe you’re right,” I said, taking a few steps back. “Maybe I am a worthless Quidditch player. It was way too easy for him to just owl everyone and tell them not to give me a try-out. Guess we’ll find out after the Final, won’t we?”
“What are you even talking about?”
“YOUR FUCKING FATHER JUST RUINED MY CAREER!” I cried, voice echoing off the buildings. “Get with the fucking program, Avery! That’s why I didn’t fucking tell you! He threatened my career and yours and I was trying to find a way around it because he took away you having a father and I wasn’t going to let him fucking take that away too!” My entire body was trembling. People were staring.
Lily’s hand was on my arm.
It was like an earthquake.
My head was thumping painfully where the bandage was.
“James,” Lily said softly. “Let’s go.”
Was it Lily? Or was it Rose? Or was it my mother?
I could hear Mr. Flynn laughing in my head. Or out loud. Or in my ear.
I woke up in the hospital twelve hours later.
A/N: So I was in planning mode today and rearranged some chapters for this story and realized it really doesn't have ALL that much longer until it's finished. I'm estimating between 58-60 chapters. I have 55 planned out right now, but it's not the complete end. So prepare yourself. Have some tissues or something. Yeah, that'll just be me.
For anyone who follows Hide & Seek, that one will be 42 chapters total.
UP NEXT: The hospital wing and a slew of visitors
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