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A Way With Words
Fred W. II & James S. P. & OC - Words: 95,515 - Rated: M - English - Drama & Humor - Chapters: 6 - Reviews: 19 - Updated: 09-07-2018 - Published: 16-05-2018 - by ByeByeBirdie (FFN)

A/N: Well, look who's back with her next story. I dabbled with a few storylines, some about MWPP and Lily, another one about Teddy and Victoire, a sequel to Rose/Scorpius' story, etc. And I always found myself coming back to this one about James Sirius Potter, Fred Weasley, and Alice Longbottom. This is the first time I've stuck with a first-person account throughout the whole story and I enjoyed getting into the head of the seventeen-year-old James Potter. So I hope you enjoy reading it almost as much as I enjoyed writing it. The story is pretty much completely finished which should make uploading each chapter fairly easy. With that said, reviews are the quickest way for an update. So please let me know what you think!

Disclaimer: This entire story is based of the Harry Potter series written by the fabulous J.K. Rowling. The world and most of the characters belong to her. Thank you, J.K., for letting me borrow them.

Plot: This is a story about a boy entering into his final year at Hogwarts with his two best friends, Fred Weasley and Alice Longbottom, by his side, all of them determined to make it his best yet. This is a story about a boy who lived and breathed Quidditch and craved that elusive Quidditch Cup more than anything to prove to himself and to the world that this was what he was born to do. This is a story about a boy who only ever wanted to find his place in a world that only ever saw him as Harry Potter's son, a bout who had to go through a lot of twists and turns to get there. This is a story about friendship and love and tragedy and everything in between. This is the story of James Sirius Potter.


A WAY WITH WORDS

By ByeByeBirdie

Chapter 1: At The Beginning

"Life is a road that I wanna keep going
Love is a river, I wanna keep flowing
Life is a road, now and forever, wonderful journey
I'll be there when the world stops turning
I'll be there when the storm is through
In the end I wanna be standing
At the beginning with you."
-Richard Marx & Donna Lewis


"Atta boy, Kip!" I cheered as the seven-year-old boy kicked off from the grass without falling. It was sadly a rather huge accomplishment for the kid who had spent the last four weeks in tears every time I even suggested getting into the air. Falling off on his first day of camp did that to a young boy I suppose. So I had been unsuccessfully trying to coach him into giving it another go ever since but today was the first time he actually removed his feet from the grass.

"I'm flying, I'm flying!" he shouted.

I decided not to completely crush him by informing him that hovering a mere inch over the grass didn't exactly count as flying.

With a chuckle, I merely said, "Yes, you are."

My father had insisted I get a summer job prior to my final year at Hogwarts. He was under the impression that my test scores wouldn't be nearly enough to secure a decent job after graduation (he was right) and ignored me when I told him I didn't need test scores to become a famous Quidditch player. He had suggested contacting Uncle Percy for a Ministry summer internship or talking to Mum about getting me a job in the mailroom at The Daily Prophet. I grumbled and complained for a few days until landing the job of camp counselor at a Quidditch day camp alongside my cousin and best mate, Fred.

I'm fairly certain that wasn't what my father had in mind when he told me to get a job but perhaps he should have been more specific.

I loved Quidditch. Quidditch was my life. I lived and breathed it nearly every day. Whether I was on my broom or listening to a match on the radio or watching a match from the stands or chatting about stats with my mates, not a day went by that Quidditch wasn't on my mind. So getting paid to play and teach Quidditch to a bunch of wide-eyed, innocent kids looking for some fun in the sun seemed like a win-win for me. My father, however, was under the impression that I couldn't dedicate my entire life to a game. That was usually the point in our conversations when I walked away.

I'm sure you've heard of my father. Harry Potter. Savior of the wizarding world. The guy who singlehandedly (except not) caused Voldemort's demise. All hail King Potter.

No seriously, there were people out there that worshipped him. Literally worshipped him. Had shrines of the guy hanging in their house that they prayed to morning, noon, and night.

Move aside while I hurl.

He may be some celebrity or a God to others but to me he was just my nagging father.

The one good thing about having a job was not having to see him so much over the summer.

"They should really consider getting some air conditioning out here," Fred Weasley said as he wandered up behind me, swiping the sweat off his brow.

"It's called winter, mate," I said with a smirk. "How'd little Naomi do today?"

Fred's eyes lit up. "I'm telling you, she could skip Hogwarts and go straight into the big leagues! Her dives are even better than Bishop's," he spoke with a grin. Hesitating, he said, "Er, don't tell her I said that."

"Naomi couldn't be recruited to the majors until she was sixteen," I pointed out. "So don't go putting your agent cap on yet."

Fred pondered my words for a moment. "I could totally be a sports agent."

"Except you're already planning on going into business with your dad."

Fred paused again. "I could be the first ever joke-shop franchiser slash sports agent."

"Both of those are full-time jobs, mate. When would you have time to get laid?"

"Ah, good point," he said with a vigorous nod. "Sports agent it is."

My eyebrow popped up. "Your father will be so disappointed in you."

He merely shrugged before we were interrupted by Kip behind me. "What does 'get laid' mean?"

As Fred tried desperately to hold in his laughter, I could only grimace. Growing up with my share of younger siblings and cousins, I knew there was a very good chance that Kip would go back to his parents and ask him that same question. And then I could possibly be out of a job which meant my father would adopt his trademark disappointment face followed quickly by a lecture.

Not that that's different from any other day of course.

"Hey, Kip, why don't you show Freddie here your flying skills?" I suggested, knowing that the only way to stop Kip from repeating our words was to change the subject quickly and let him forget all about it.

Kip frowned before shaking his head. "I don't want to," he said softly.

Oh, great. Now the kid was back to being scared. This was going to be a long summer.

Did I mention it was already half over?

An hour later, the scrimmages were winding down as parents began arriving to scoop up their children. Fred and I stuck around as the camp directors, a married couple by the surname of Rutherford who had once been a wicked chaser duo for the Tornadoes, gave us their usual speech and next-day instructions before we were able to break away.

"You want to stop by Leaky Cauldron and see if AliCat will give us free drinks?" Fred asked, clapping me on the back.

I made a face. "How quickly you forget that we have plans with the crazies tonight."

Fred's expression turned into slight bewilderment before displeasure settled into his green eyes. "Uncle Harry's birthday," he murmured.

Yes, Fred and I referred to our overabundant family as the crazies.

Are you really that surprised?

"I'll definitely need a drink for that," Fred groaned.

I glanced down at the watch my parents got me for my seventeenth birthday and shrugged. "One drink won't kill us."

XOXOXOXO


"ALICAT!"

The brunette behind the bar jumped as Fred yelled out her name. She whirled around, breaking out into grins upon seeing me and Fred strolling into the pub. Per usual, Alice Longbottom had her chestnut curls twisted into an effortless ponytail. Her big blue eyes stood out against her dark skin that had turned tan the very first time she stepped out into the sun that summer. She was tall, towering over most girls, with legs that went on for days but don't even think about commenting on her legs because the one time Dashiell Finnigan dared to do so, he wound up in the hospital wing.

"Hiya, boys," she greeted, slipping out from behind the bar to embrace us both. She quickly ducked away though with a grimace. "You couldn't have at least showered before showing up here?"

"You like us smelly," I teased, tugging at the end of her ponytail and expectedly earning a punch to the shoulder.

"I barely like you when you're not smelly," she responded, her upper lip twitching in outward amusement.

"Lies!" Fred boasted.

She could only chuckle. "What are you guys even doing here?" she questioned, nodding to two empty bar stools at the bar counter. We took them over as she slid behind the bar once again. "Aren't you supposed to be at the Burrow in an hour?"

"I don't like that you know my schedule," I pouted.

She chuckled. "I don't memorize it, you tosspot. Dad and I are planning on stopping by later."

"Where is dear ol' Herbology daddy anyway?" Fred questioned.

"Upstairs dealing with a customer who claims we stole all of his shoes out of his room," she sighed.

"Why would you want some random guy's shoes?" I said.

"The question of the hour," she responded with a mere shrug. "Now run along you two before AJ catches you and literally throws you out of here."

"Yeah, she does like to do that," Fred said, stroking his chin.

"C'mon, Ace," I said with an innocent smile, "Hook us up for a drink or five before we have to skedaddle."

Let's ignore the fact that I just used the word skedaddle.

She shot me a look. "I can't give you any more free drinks, Jay. My sister will have my head."

"She gives free drinks to Vic all the time," Fred pointed out.

"Vic shows up here maybe once a month unlike you two goons who disrupt this place at least once a day."

"Did she just call us goons, Freddo?" I huffed.

"Why, I think she did, Jameso."

"What do you think we should do about that, Freddo?"

"I think we should tackle her until she caves, Jameso."

"Don't make me spray you with the water faucet," Alice sighed. Hesitating, she added, "Again."

I could only chuckle. "We just got paid yesterday so I suppose we can spare a few knuts for our favorite barmaid."

Alice rolled her eyes as she poured a firewhisky and cola for me and grabbed a lager for Fred. One of the many things I loved about her was that she knew our order without even having to ask.

"Don't go easy on the firewhisky, Ace," I said, looming over the bartop. "If I have to get through tonight, I'll need to have a sufficient buzz."

She rolled her eyes. "I will not be held responsible for whatever drunken actions will most likely take place at your father's birthday party tonight."

I was going to argue just for the sake of arguing but was interrupted by a scowling voice I unfortunately knew all too well. "Oy, what do you two think you're doing here!?"

Enter Alice's sister.

AJ (her given name was Augusta Jezebel but if you call her that, you'll get a karate chop to the neck), strolled out of the kitchen holding two plates and a glare etched into her face. "I have strict instructions to send you both home immediately if I found you lurking about after your kiddie camp."

"Did she just call it a kiddie camp, Freddo?" I scoffed.

"Why, I believe she did, Jameso."

"What should we do about it, Freddo?"

"We should-"

"For the love of Circe, please shut up," AJ snapped, narrowing her eyes at the both of us. "Pay for those goddamned drinks and get home, alright?"

She shot us another glare before taking off to a table in the back to drop off their food orders.

"Your sister's a hardass, AliCat," Fred commented, dipping into his pocket for a few knuts and dropping it on to the bartop before reaching for his drink.

"Maybe if you two didn't taunt her every second you come around here, she might like you more."

I snorted. "I doubt that considering she's always thought I was a bad influence on you."

"You are a bad influence on me, Jay," she smirked, winking at me before handing me my drink. "Now hurry up and get out."

I flashed her a grin. "I bet that you say that to all the guys."

She rolled her eyes as Fred doubled over in laughter beside me. "I'm going over to that side of the bar now," she said. "When I get back, you two won't be here."

"I think she's kicking us out, Freddo."

"Why, I think you're right, Jameso."

"What should we do about it, Freddo?"

"Glue our bums to these chairs and never leave?"

"Hear, hear!" I said with a chortle as Alice merely rolled her eyes and waltzed off.

Alice Longbottom and I have known each other since the very day she was born. I was only a month old at the time so the details are fuzzy but evidently we became instant friends. Mum liked to remind me that I used to follow her around as a toddler like some sort of puppy dog and when I became fussy, Alice would make faces at me and that was the only way I would smile. These were unfortunately the type of embarrassing stories that always wound up being detailed during our family gatherings (hence why I insisted on calling my family the crazies), but I had long stopped being bothered by it. Seventeen years of friendship was a rather big accomplishment for me considering my (nonexistent) track record with commitment so now I just took pride in that.

She and I have been together through it all. I was there for her when her mother died. She was there for me when I realized my father was a fraud and a liar. We were there for each other when we made the Quidditch team. She was the only person who has ever seen me cry. I was the only person who knew how to calm her down from a panic attack. There were some things that only Alice knew about me. Things that even Fred didn't know. I honestly didn't trust a lot of people in my life. Probably only Alice and Fred if I was being completely frank. But I had long decided that I didn't really need anyone else in my life besides those two.

And Quidditch. I definitely needed Quidditch.

"C'mon," Fred said as he chugged the rest of his drink, "Let's bust out of here before AJ finds a reason to give us pig snouts."

I sighed. "Again."

XOXOXOXO


I got scolded by Mum the moment I walked through the door. No lecture from good ol' Pops but he did stare over his paper disapprovingly. Then again, that was the usual look I received from him. Albus was in the kitchen chatting away with the two of them, though all he did was smirk at me as he continued discussing the rise of bamboo fluids in poisonous potions (he actually reads the newspaper every day; who the hell does that at his age?). There was no sign of Lily which probably meant she was holed up in her bathroom curling her hair and doing her makeup or whatever it is girls did in there.

Twenty minutes later, we were all flooing to the Burrow and I've never been so happy to see the crazies if it meant getting my mother off my back.

It came as no surprise that Fred was there with his own shower-soaked hair. We smirked at each other before he returned to chewing out his fifteen-year-old sister for supposedly making googly-eyes at the next door neighbor's pool boy.

"Pool boy?" I groaned, inserting myself into their conversation. "Oh, Rox, don't you know that as a Weasley we are not expected to slum it with the poor?"

Roxanne shot me a dirty look. "Right, because you always care about your reputation? Wasn't it just last week that Witch Weekly posted a few photos in their gossip section of you stumbling out of the Dragon's Lair with two skanky girls on each of your arms?"

As Fred smirked beside me, I merely shrugged. "We're not talking about my dating habits, we're talking about yours."

"I wasn't aware you knew what the word 'dating' even meant," she drawled.

"Once again, we aren't talking about me here," I dismissed. "Stay away from pool boys, Rox, if you know what's good for you."

"Don't you have some other Weasley to gang up on?" she snapped before spinning on her heel and disappearing from the room.

"Ooh, who should we choose next?" Fred said gleefully. "Does Dom have a new boyfriend we can tease her about? Has Lily been flirting with any chumps? Has Al gotten less cool in the past hour?"

"Like that's possible," I snorted. "And Lily better think twice before flirting with anyone or that guy is going to get a lethal hex to the head."

Fred chuckled knowingly. The two of us had taken it upon ourselves long ago to hex any guy who so much as blinked at our female relatives. We assumed that was the older brother's prerogative, though Lily and Roxanne didn't always think so.

Louis interrupted us then. "Hey," he greeted, "How's kiddie camp going?"

Fred and I turned around to greet our cousin and friend. "We're making money," I pointed out. "Can't complain."

Louis chuckled. "Having money certainly has its advantages," he spoke as he had just started out as a Quidditch announcer at the local radio station. "Until I take out girls on dates and they drain all that money from my bank account slowly and painfully."

Fred snorted while I shrugged. "Precisely why I don't date, Loucifer," I said.

One of the things that Fred, Louis, and I had in common was our lack of commitment skills. I may be tooting my own horn here a bit but we were all rather good-looking blokes and if that wasn't enough, all we had to do was drop our surname and the girls were putty in our hands. Louis had one girlfriend in his sixth year that lasted three months before he chucked her but Fred and I never even pretended to be interested in monogamy. And since that disastrous break-up for Louis (the girl set his hangings on fire and tossed all of his robes in the lake), he strayed from relationships as well. We all had our reasons for designating our lives to sole bachelorhood and we stuck by them.

With a knowing nod, Louis said, "So what do you think the odds of there being alcohol around here?"

My eyes lit up. "Well, my motto is always 'where there's Uncle Ron, there's liquor.'"

We weaved our way through the crowd of people in an attempt to seek out Uncle Ron, though that took far longer than necessary as we got stopped by every freckly-faced, redheaded relative imaginable.

Okay, fine, only two-thirds of us have red hair. My brother and I were lucky to dodge that bullet having inherited our father's dark hair though Lily was the epitome of a ginger. Fred and Roxanne were half-black and holy kneazles could you imagine red hair on their dark skin?

Hold on, I'm still laughing.

Victoire had blonde hair like her mother but all other Weasley cousins had been cursed with the Weasley trademark that is the ginger. To say we didn't know how to stand out was very much untrue.

I had already been stopped by Percy and his wife, Audrey (he wanted to know if we've received our Hogwarts' letters yet. I'm pretty sure he was living vicariously through me but who wouldn't want to do that?) and I stopped to chat about the upcoming professional Quidditch season with Fred's mother, Angelina. Next, we ran into Victoire and Teddy who somehow convinced me to babysit two-year-old Dora that weekend (her chubby face was unfortunately irresistible) and just when I spotted Ron outside at the picnic table with his wife and Fred's father, Rose stopped us to tell us to quit picking on Roxanne and her dating habits. That had Fred shouting at Rose that Roxanne wasn't allowed to date so there should be no dating habits. Always the calm, cool, and collected one of the group, Rose merely flipped him off before walking away to find Albus.

"Ronniekins!"

Ron glanced up, a scowl on his face. "How many times have I told you not to call me that, Fred?" he groaned.

Fred grinned, hopping on to the top of the picnic table as his father reached over to high-five him.

"This is your fault, George," Ron sighed.

George merely shrugged. "I can't help that my son has the same penchant towards nicknames that I do," he grinned, clapping his son on the shoulder.

"Ron already is a nickname," he muttered.

"Give it up, kid. The nickname stays."

"Kid?" Hermione chimed in with a chuckle. "There's certainly a nickname that's no longer relevant."

George pondered this. "Big kid?"

"Could make it BK for short," I spoke.

"Oy, don't you go helping them, James!" Ron groaned.

"I like it," George said with a nod. "Alright, from now on, Ronniekins here will be dubbed BK. Spread the word."

"Don't any of you dare spread the word."

Hermione giggled, leaning over to press a kiss to his cheek. "On that note, I'm going to go see if your mother needs help with dinner. Don't get into too much trouble while I'm gone, BK."

Ron scowled at her while the rest of us burst into laughter but she mere winked at her husband before disappearing off to the kitchen.

"Alright, now that's she's gone, why don't you dig out the flask we all know you're hiding," I spoke, holding out my hand expectantly.

"I do not know what you're talking about," Ron said huffily.

I rolled my eyes. "We go through this every time, Uncle Ron. We beg for the flask. You say you don't have one. We ask again. You still claim not to have one. We promise not to tell your wife about the time we all went bar-hopping and a twenty-something grinded up against you on the dance floor. You inevitably hand the flask over. Let's cut out the middle bullshit and jump straight to the end."

Louis, Fred, and George were doubled over in laughter as Ron attempted to look unamused. The edges of his mouth kept twitching upward, however, proving that he wasn't as annoyed as he was pretending to be.

Ron sigh, drawing the flask from the back pocket of his jeans. "Don't tell your parents, James," he murmured.

I grinned, taking a swig before handing it off to Louis. Fred took one next and then George and then Ron took one for good measure before repocketing it.

If you hadn't realized it by now, Ron was my favorite uncle.

The only thing I could fault him for was being friends with my douchebag father.

I wondered if it was bad karma talking poorly about someone on their birthday. Just in case it was, I decided I'd join in on singing 'Happy Birthday' to him later.

Though if you've heard me singing, it's bound to have the opposite effect I was going for.

Oh, well. I'm singing anyway.

XOXOXOXO


About the only thing that ever went right at Potter-Weasley gatherings was that a game of Quidditch always broke out. It was almost unfair how many of us had been born with incredible Quidditch talent. I don't mean your run-of-the-mill, mediocre, play-for-fun kind of Quidditch talent. I mean real, genuine, potential professional Quidditch talent. Mum had played for the Holyhead Harpies for five seasons twenty years ago until she up and got pregnant with little ol' me. Angelina had been on the Tornadoes for three seasons before she married George and decided to retire (way too young if you ask me). George, Harry, and Ron had played on their Hogwarts teams when they were teenagers. Louis had played and Captained the Gryffindor Quidditch team up until he graduated last year. Fred and I were on our Gryffindor team and Hugo was a reserve. Albus was a chaser on the Slytherin team. Roxanne was the seeker on the Ravenclaw team. Rose was a talented chaser though she adamantly refused to be on a team with her obnoxious cousins (can't imagine who she was referring to as Fred and I are hardly obnoxious) and Lily was a nimble seeker herself but Sadie Bishop had claimed the seeker position for Gryffindor during my fifth year so Lily hadn't exactly had the chance to try out since. Which was good because she'd inevitably just distract me on the field.

Currently, thirteen people had opted to participate in the backyard Quidditch game. I was thankful when my father decided to sit this one out and instead ref the game, claiming it was a lot more fun to call fouls on his family than to be knocked off his broom at his age. I decided not to point out that George and Angelina were older than him and still participating because I was relieved not to have to play against my father.

"We need a fourteenth," Fred said to me.

I rolled my eyes. "Wow, really showing off your math skills there, aren't you, Freddo."

I ducked out of the way as he attempted to swat at me with an old Cleansweep. My grandparents kept all of their kids' old brooms stashed in their house for these spontaneous Quidditch games (though can they really be considered spontaneous when they always happen when the whole family is together?).

"What about Molly?" Fred suggested, nodding towards our older cousin who was currently chatting away with Victoire on the sidelines. By sidelines, I meant the edge of the forest. Chairs and blankets had been conjured and currently, the rest of the family resided there.

"She complains every time that we cheat," I groaned.

"We do cheat," Louis smirked from behind me.

I shot him a look. "Why don't you ask your sister?"

"Which one?" he snorted. Hesitating, he shook his head. "Actually, it doesn't matter. Neither will say yes. They haven't flown in years."

"Oy, boys, what's taking so long?" Harry's voice cried out from the middle of the pitch (empty field).

"Quit your whining, ref, or you may find yourself with a birthday cake to the face later!" Louis cried back with a teasing grin.

"How is that different from any other birthday party?" he countered.

He had a point. Most of his birthday shenanigans included a backyard food fight.

"Think we can wrangle another uncle?" Fred contemplated. "Bill perhaps?"

"What about Lucy? You think she has any Quidditch skills?" I questioned, referring to the youngest of the Weasley clan who was entering her first year of Hogwarts.

They grow up so fast, don't they?

"Right, like Percy would let her play," Louis snorted, shooting me a knowing look. "He knows how brutal these matches can get."

"Well, we're running out of options unless someone sits out and we only play with two chasers," I spoke.

Fred and Louis seemed to be interested in his suggestion as footsteps came up behind us. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw Rose and Albus wandering our way. "Seriously, what in Merlin's name is taking you guys so long?" the former snapped. "You line us up, Harry picks Captains, we pick teams, and we go. We've been doing this for seven years now. I would have thought you guys would have picked up on the policies quicker."

Albus snorted beside her.

"Hm, you're right, Al. Then again, it is these three imbeciles we're dealing with."

I scowled at her. I really hated it when they seemed to know what each other was thinking without actually voicing it aloud.

"How are we the imbeciles when you apparently can't do basic math?" I shot back with a smirk, gesturing towards the group that were huddled behind her.

"So kick one of them out and we'll play a chaser down," she pointed out.

"Well, lookie here, sounds like we have a volunteer," Fred boasted with his own smirk. His smirk was different than mine. Mine was usually a I'm-better-than-you-and-we-all-know-it smirk. His was usually an innocent-until-proven-guilty smirk. Big difference.

"Like hell," she snapped at him since snapping was her preferred tone. "If anyone should back down, it should be one of you. You play enough Quidditch at school as it is."

"You could play, too, if you bothered to try out," I pointed out.

"And get bossed around by you two? Count me out."

"Sounds like someone is scared they're not good enough to play in the big leagues," Fred smirked.

"I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back, Fred."

"I'd like to see you try, kid."

A heated argument was definitely about to break out, but it was interrupted by a rather timely arrival by Alice, AJ, and her father.

"Why are we not surprised to see all of you out here?" Neville laughed as the three of them strolled into the open field. "Happy Birthday, Harry!"

Fred and my eyes lit up immediately. "I call having Ace on my team!" I said.

"Nuh uh, you had her last time!" he whined.

"We haven't even picked teams yet," Albus pointed out with the roll of the eyes. I shot him a look. It was so unlike him to not have Rose do the talking for him.

"Fine," I said with a shrug. "Ace, get your cute little butt over here!"

"And there officially goes my lunch," Rose growled as she grabbed Albus' arm and dragged them over to the rest of the family, presumably to tell them that the reason behind our delay was the stupidity of her cousins.

Again, can't imagine who she might be referring to.

While AJ joined Victoire on the sidelines, Alice wandered over to where Louis, Fred, and I were convened. "I would have thought you'd be knee-deep in this game by now."

"We were just waiting for you to show up, dah-ling," Fred teased, draping his arm around her shoulders.

She shoved him off with a roll of the eyes. "Well, then what are we waiting for?"

Dad picked George and Angelina to be Captains and so the schoolyard pick began. I wound up on Angelina's team with Louis, Rose, Roxanne, Hugo, and Ron. George's team consisted of Fred, Alice, Teddy, Albus, Lily, and Ginny. Both teams were fairly equal so it was a tossup as to who might actually win.

Dad blew his makeshift whistle and we were all off in the air. This was definitely the best part of the Burrow – the empty cleared field half a mile up the road hidden by a circle of trees where we could play Quidditch without worrying being seen by anyone.

"And it's Rose with the quaffle first heading towards the rings!"

"HOOPS! THEY'RE CALLED HOOPS!" Louis yelled at his twenty-year-old sister with a loud groan.

I laughed at him and he shot me a grin. "You'd think she didn't grow up in a Quidditch family, am I right?" Louis snorted.

I laughed, not at all surprised that Dominique had taken over as announcer for the game. Announcing must run in the family. Louis just recently got an incredible gig being a radio personality for the WWN Quidditch station and was already traveling the globe announcing for Quidditch games. He had momentarily considered playing professional Quidditch at the end of his seventh year, and even received an offer from an overseas reserve team but decided he wasn't willing to move away from England just to be a second-rate Quidditch player.

Louis disappeared from my side and I used that time to catch Rose's eye, who tossed me the quaffle. I ducked and flipped Teddy off when he attempted to slam a bludger into my arm. I could have weaved my way past George and towards the hoops, but I saw Angelina flying wide open and reluctantly tossed her the quaffle. She sprinted towards the hoops but was easily stopped by a well-placed bludger from Teddy. She swerved and let out a curse word that had Grandmum scolding her from the grass and had the rest of us bursting into laughter for it.

"And the quaffle is now in the hands of the only non-Weasley, non-Potter on the field, the beautiful Alice Catherine Longbottom!"

"Aw, why thank you, Dom!" she cried out as she tucked the quaffle under her arm and sprinted towards the opposite hoops. Louis sent a bludger her way but she managed to duck gracefully and seamlessly passed the quaffle to Albus who quickly passed it off to our mother. I saw Mum glance towards Alice and was pleased when Hugo tossed a bludger her way, so she passed it back to Albus instead who now had a clear shot towards the three hoops.

Louis tried angling the bludger in his direction but it missed my brother and with a quick loop in the air, Albus glanced towards the right hoops but tossed the quaffle towards the left.

We all cheered when Ron stopped the quaffle from soaring through, a triumphant grin on his face. "Ah, I still got it!" he boasted.

An hour had quickly rolled by and the score was seventy-sixty in favor of our team when I heard Dominique cry out, "Aha, the snitch has been spotted!"

I'm pretty sure every member of both teams stopped what they were doing to look around as Roxanne and Lily raced towards the far end of the pitch. Both were fast and Lily had had a head start which unnerved me because my least favorite thing on the planet was losing, but I had confidence in Roxanne to pull out the win. I mean, she was Ravenclaw's seeker. If she couldn't beat out someone who didn't even play on an actual Quidditch team, it would be a total embarrassment.

So when Lily came up with the snitch and her entire team broke out into cheers, I made sure to tell Roxanne she was a total embarrassment.

She kicked me in the shins.

"'We are the champions my friend,'" Alice and Fred were singing, their arms casually hanging on each other's shoulders, "'And we'll keep on fighting 'til the end.'"

"Neither one of you should ever take up professional singing," I drawled as we all headed back up towards the house for dinner.

"'We are the champions, we are the champions!'"

"I hate the both of you."

"'No time for losers,' – that's you, James – 'cause we are the—AGH!"

I might have tackled Fred to the ground.

No one called me a loser.

No one.

I was hauled off the ground forcefully and glanced up as Teddy chuckled at me, shoving me to the side away from Fred. "If you break his leg, the Gryffindor team is down a beater," he reminded me.

Ah, he had a point. "So I'll just give him a black eye instead."

"Oy, not the face! My face is too pretty for black eyes!" Fred gasped dramatically.

I attempted to kick him in the shin but he was smart enough to run off. Glancing up towards Teddy, I said, "Sometimes I wonder why you married into this family."

A nostalgic smile fell across his face before he shook his head. "I didn't marry into this family. This family was already mine."

I pretended to gag which earned me a slap to the back of my head. Teddy was more like my actual brother than my godbrother. We had grown up together. His parents had tragically died during the war and he had never gotten the chance to know them. His grandmother had taken care of him growing up but Teddy was a constant guest at Potter Manor. He had once told me that he was pretty sure he had fallen in love with Victoire when he was six and she was four and she jumped into the river fully-clothed to catch a leaping frog. Every time he got nostalgic on me, I wanted to vomit, but I also understood that all he had ever wanted was someone to love him the way his parents never had the chance to. So I couldn't fault him for marrying the girl who loved him with every fiber of her being the first chance he got.

"So how's it going teaching Dora how to say 'Uncle James?'" I teased him.

"Sorry, she's too focused on saying 'Yilly' and 'Al.'"

I scowled. "Oy, what are you teaching that girl, T?"

"Their names are easier for her to say!"

"So teach her how to say Jay."

"You can teach her when you babysit her on Sunday night."

My eyes lit up. "She will not rest until she says my name."

"Her bedtime is seven, J."

"She will not rest until she says my—oof."

Another slap to the head.

I always missed Teddy when I was at Hogwarts, but I'm pretty sure the back of my head was feeling otherwise.

XOXOXOXO


July rolled into August overnight and I was grateful for a Saturday. I honestly liked my job at the camp (not that I'd admit that to my father) but I also really liked having a lie in.

I strolled into the kitchen just after eleven that Saturday morning still in my ratty T-shirt and boxers.

"Y'know, there is such thing as changing into real clothes before venturing down the stairs. It leads to less emotional scarring for your adorable sister."

Lily was at the breakfast nook nibbling on a muffin when I shot her a look. "You must be mistaken. I only have an annoying sister. No adorable ones," I drawled as I took in what she was wearing – a black halter top and white cut-off shorts, if that's what you could even call them. "Uh, excuse me, where are your real clothes because there appears to be some fabric missing in your current getup," I scoffed as I grabbed a lemon poppyseed muffin from the kitchen island and joined her at the table.

She rolled her eyes. "Where did you end up last night after Dad's party?"

"Don't avoid the question."

"Your question is stupid," she drawled. "And I heard you rolling back here at three in the morning so I ask again, where did you go?"

"Went back to the Leaky Cauldron with Fred, Lou, and Ace," I said, stuffing a piece of muffin in my mouth. "We played a game of 'who could get kicked out the fastest by AJ.'"

Lily rolled her eyes again. I feared they might one day get stuck to the top of her lids. "Aren't you supposed to not try and get kicked out?"

And what's the fun of that?

"Riling AJ up is one of our favorite pastimes," I smirked.

"You love to rile everyone up, James."

She made an excellent point.

"Got any plans today?" I questioned.

She narrowed her eyes suspiciously. "What's it to you?"

"A guy asks a simple question."

Finishing off her blueberry muffin, she said, "Hugo and I are meeting up with some friends in Diagon Alley."

"What friends?"

She shot me another look. "And once again I say, what's it to you?"

Hey, someone had to make sure my sister stays innocent forever and if that meant stopping every young male from getting anywhere near her, I was going to do that.

I just shrugged. "Anyone joining you of the male persuasion?"

She looked like she wanted to smash my muffin in my face. "Yeah, Hugo," she deadpanned.

I rolled my eyes, pulling the muffin closer to me just for good measure. "And?"

"Rayne," she smirked, referring to her female friend.

I shot her a look. "I said male persuasion and last I checked, Rayne Cummings was very much not male."

She narrowed her eyes. "Well, stop checking because that sounded really creepy."

Hey, I can't help that Rayne had somehow grown up over the past few years. She was blonde and beautiful and there was no way a guy couldn't notice that.

I didn't say that of course because that would have had Lily throwing the entire basket of muffins at me. "You're avoiding my question."

"I know."

"Lily."

"James."

"I'm going to find out eventually what guy has got your fancy and I'm going to pound him into the ground so you might as-"

"No guy has got my fancy!" she groaned. "Am I going into Diagon Alley with Hugo, Rayne, and CJ? Yes, but that doesn't mean anything except that we are all friends."

I narrowed my eyes. "CJ, hm?"

She rolled her eyes. "And once again you don't listen to a word I'm saying," she drawled.

Continuing to ignore her, I said, "Yeah, there's no effing way you're leaving the house wearing that."

"Screw you, James. You're not my father."

I opened my mouth to comment but someone else beat me to the punch. "No, but I am," Dad said as he wandered into the kitchen. "Something I need to know?"

"Tell Lils she can't-"

"Stop calling me that!"

"-leave the house wearing that," I pleaded with Dad.

C'mon, Dad, back me up for once.

Dad glanced over at his daughter hesitantly. "You can't leave the house wearing that."

Thank you, Daddy Dearest.

She glared at him. "You just don't want to argue with your stubborn son."

Dad shrugged. "Eh, it's easier arguing with you than him."

I grinned triumphantly, taking that as a compliment.

"Dad!"

"That is a rather low-cut top, don't you think?" he said with a quirked eyebrow.

"This a very normal-cut top, Dad!"

"I'm pretty sure it's missing some material up top," I argued. "Like, y'know, a turtleneck and some long sleeves?"

"Don't make me hex you, James!"

"No hexing in the house!" Dad groaned.

"Then I'll take it outside."

Dad sighed. "Not exactly what I meant."

"Are you two picking on Lily again?"

We all looked up as Mum wandered into the kitchen with an unimpressed look in her eyes.

"No," I said quickly.

"Never," Dad argued.

"Yes!" Lily whined.

Mum wasn't sure whether to roll her eyes or chuckle as she turned back to face me and Dad. "I swear messing with that girl's head is the only time you two actually get along."

That's because the only thing we had in common was keeping Lily away from boys until she was thirty. Maybe even forty.

I'd be fine with fifty, too.

"Tell her she's not going out like that, dear," Dad said, dropping on to the chair opposite me.

Mum glanced over at Lily and shrugged. "I think she looks beautiful."

Lily beamed as I let out a groan and Dad made a face. "She does not look beautiful, she looks like a hooker!" I argued.

Mum's eyebrow shot up. "And how exactly would you know what a hooker looks like?"

How the hell did this backfire on me?

"Is that really what we should be focusing on right now?" I scoffed. "You can't possibly be okay with your daughter wearing that. What will people think? Nope, let me rephrase. What will guys think?"

"They'll think 'ooh, that girl is wearing clothes so obviously she's looking for me to leer at her inappropriately,'" Mum drawled.

"Exactly."

"I was being sarcastic."

"I wasn't," I huffed.

"I already have one father, I don't need another!" Lily snapped at me.

"Hey, he's doing a good job at filling that role right now," Dad said with a shrug. "It gets me out of a fight with you which I'm rather fond of."

"Will you be fond of the situation when I murder your effing son?"

Probably.

I kept that thought to myself.

"Watch your language, Lily," Mum sighed.

"That's the part you focus on?" she groaned.

Mum was saved from having to answer Lily by an owl swooping in through the kitchen window. My initial thought was thank Merlin for the interruption until I noticed the Hogwarts seal on three separate envelopes and knew I was about two minutes away from getting a lecture regarding what I can only assume are less than respectable exam marks.

"Ooh, Hogwarts letters are here!" Mum squealed. She actually squealed. It only made me groan harder. She disappeared into the living room, yelling up the stairs, "ALBUS! HOGWARTS LETTERS ARE HERE!"

Wonderful. He'd be parading through here any minute and shove his O.W.L. scores right in my face and my parents will fawn over him like the favorite child he clearly was even if Mum and Dad would never admit it aloud.

Sure enough, I heard his thunderous footsteps clamoring down the stairs and both he and Mum eagerly strolled into the kitchen.

I wondered if I had enough time to escape out the back door and apparate to the Leaky Cauldron.

"Here," Mum said, thrusting my letter in my hands.

Apparently not.

I was ready to just chuck the letter in the fire when the heaviness of it made me freeze in anticipation. My eyes widening, I immediately tore it open and sure enough, a badge fell out that said "CAPTAIN."

"YES!" I shouted, jumping out my chair and startling dear ol' Dad who ended up toppling out of his chair.

As Lily laughed at him, Dad scrambled off the floor with a grunt. "I have to imagine that 'yes' couldn't have possibly been in response to your exam marks, so what's with the excitement?"

I held up the badge. "I got Quidditch Captain!"

No one in the room looked surprised, which they shouldn't have because I had been campaigning for the position since my very first day of practice back when I was a wee third year. The only person who could have been competition for the position was Alice seeing as she was far more responsible than I was, but I outshined her on the pitch just slightly. Fred was an excellent beater but he was unreliable so I knew the Captainship wouldn't go to him.

"Well, duh," Albus snorted, rolling his eyes at me.

"Yeah, like we didn't all know that was going to happen," Lily said before ripping open her own letter. She tossed her exam marks to Mum and read through her letter.

"Congratulations, James. You deserve—wait a minute, Lily, I thought Transfiguration was your favorite subject. Why did you only get an A in it?" Mum questioned my sister.

Lily rolled her eyes as she glanced over Mum's shoulder at the marks. "That's what you focus on? Not the two Os I got?"

"Lily."

"Professor Eckleberry has it out for me," she said with a shrug.

"All of us actually," I chimed in. "She has a grudge against celebrities or something."

"And yet she and I get along just fine," Albus drawled.

I opened my mouth to tell him to fuck off but was cut off by Lily. "That's because you're a brown-nosing suckup."

I laughed, ignoring the glare both of my parents were sending my sister. "Atta girl, Lils."

"Stop calling me that."

"Lily, does this have something to do with those several owls I received at the end of last year regarding a certain girl's cheek in class?" Mum sighed, narrowing her eyes at her daughter.

Being cheeky in class must be genetic because I got it, too. Albus didn't, but I'm convinced he was adopted.

Except he was a spitting image of Dad.

Maybe I was the one who was adopted.

Actually, that didn't sound half bad.

"Correcting the professor's wrist placement on a spell is hardly cheek, Mum," Lily drawled.

"You corrected a professor?"

"She was teaching it wrong!"

Mum only groaned, glancing over at my father who clearly was trying to hide his smile. "She must be your daughter."

"Sounds more like she's Aunt Hermione's daughter," I smirked. "Ooh, I can see the headlines now: Famous Harry Potter Has Affair With Best Friend's Wife."

"That headline has already been done about three times," Dad drawled.

Oh, right. The press did love to pick on dear ol' Dad whether the news was true or not.

"Well, go on, Al," Dad said, changing the subject. "Open your letter and show us your O.W.L. scores."

Cue the gushing pride that will no doubt spill from my pretentious parents.

Albus shrugged and obliged, digging into the letter. He pulled out the O.W.L. scores and with it fell a hard object that collided with the table and spun around on its backside.

I glanced at my brother in bewilderment. "What, did you lose your prefect badge and they had to replace it?" I snorted.

Albus shot me a look before reaching down and picking it up. Glancing at it, his eyes immediately went wide. "Holy Hufflepuff."

"What? What is it, Al?" Mum asked.

Yeah, what is it, Al? Did they decide no seventh year was worth the Head Boy spot so they gave it to you? Was one prefect badge not shiny enough for you? Was-

"I got Quidditch Captain."

Silence filled the kitchen before Mum and Dad cried out in excitement and the former rushed over to embrace her son (oh, sure, him they hug), Lily became speechless for the first time in her entire life, and I yelled out a bit too loudly, "You have got to be fucking kidding me!?"

"Language!" Mum scolded.

Fuck my language, Mum.

"Read it and weep, bro," Albus smirked, tossing the badge at me.

The only one weeping around here will be you, Albus, when my team beats the shit out of yours in the final.

I moved to my side, letting his badge bounce towards the floor before I turned on my heel and stormed out.

"Where are you going? We haven't even looked at your exam results yet!" Mum called out after me.

"Sorry, Mum, I'm calling an emergency meeting of the Quidditch minds! Don't expect me back 'til late!"

The only good thing about Albus being Quidditch Captain is it got me out of showing my parents my exam results.

For now at least.

XOXOXOXO


Alice said we could all converge at the Leaky Cauldron but I told her too many Hogwarts students ventured through there and I didn't want anyone overhearing so that's why we were in a seedy bar in West Elm. If my parents knew we were hanging around prostitute row (as it has been dubbed by the press over the years), I'd probably be grounded for a month.

Hell, if they knew half of what I got into when they weren't around, I'd probably be grounded for life.

Drinks were passed around by what I can only assume was a crossdresser for I could clearly see the adam's apple underneath her caked-on makeup and blonde wig. I was pleased that everyone was able to show up on short notice, though threatening them with two-days worth of running laps probably had them all dropping any hypothetical plans in a heartbeat.

To my left was Alice who still had a quill tucked behind her ear from when she was taking orders at the Leaky Cauldron. It had been easy tearing her away as her father was behind the bar and not her overbearing sister and he still believed his youngest daughter should go out and have fun on her summer break (maybe I should have Neville talk to my father…). Fred was there in wrinkled clothing for I had literally dragged him out of bed (he could sleep until three if given the chance). On the other side of the table sat our last two players of the team – sixth-year Jackson (Jax) Bloch who was Fred's second-half on the pitch and the broody Sadie Bishop, our star seeker.

If Jax somehow lost his club in the middle of the game, he could always just throw his body at someone because he was built like a bloody bouncer at a hip new club. He towered over all of us and his muscles were the size of my head. He must be on steroids, though if it helped lead to a win, I was more than willing to look the other way. On the completely opposite end of that spectrum, Sadie Bishop might be the tiniest person on the planet. She was just over five feet tall and must buy all of her clothes at Baby Gap because I'm certain nothing else would fit her. But her small size meant a large amount of speed and that made her one hell of a seeker.

"Hello, gang," I greeted, sipping on my firewhisky and cola. Yes, I was drinking at noon on a Saturday. That's when one did when they found out their perfect little brother got the Captain badge on the very same day that his older brother got it, too. "Before I get started, I might as well just start off by mentioning that I am your new Quidditch Captain."

"Well, call the press because none of us saw that one coming," Sadie snorted. Did I forget to mention she was also the sassiest person on the team?

I shot her a look. "You want laps, Bishop?"

"Season hasn't even started, Potter."

"I'm keeping a mental note."

She rolled her eyes. "I was on my way out the door when Longbottom showed up and told me to change my plans because you were calling an emergency meeting and if I didn't show, you'd force me to do laps for two days. If that didn't alert me to the fact that you got Captain, I'd be more concerned for your idiocy than I am already."

"Do you ever shut up, Bishop?" Fred groaned.

That answer was a very obvious no.

She shot him a nasty look and I was grateful when Alice chimed in. "Why don't we let James finish whatever speech he has prepared?"

"No speech," I argued. "I didn't have time for that. I just have an announcement."

"Yes, we already know you got Cap-"

"Not that!" I groaned, shooting Sadie a look. "This isn't about me getting Captain. It's about someone else getting Captain."

That got them all alert. Even Sadie kept her mouth shut (an impossible feat for her), wondering where I was going with this.

"Well?" Jax urged, finally speaking up.

Leaning back in my chair, I took a sip of my drink to stall before saying, "Albus Potter is the new Slytherin Captain."

Fred's eyes bulged out. Alice's butterbeer slipped out of her hands and crashed against the table. Jax looked like he wasn't sure what his reaction was supposed to be. And Sadie laughed.

She bloody laughed.

"Oh, that is just so rich," she cackled, shaking her head. "Guess it pays to have a famous father."

OH, HELL, NO.

The rest of our reactions were a mix of the same: cries of outrage, glares, and most likely contemplation of pouring our drinks in the sixteen-year-old's face.

"Fuck off, Bishop," Jax snapped loudly.

"Are you bloody kidding?" Alice groaned.

"I hardly think McGonagall and the Heads of Households got together and used my uncle's notoriety to choose the Quidditch Captains," Fred barked at her. "And if you say another word on the matter, I'll throw this drink in your face."

Did I know my teammates or what?

Sadie was smart enough just to shrug as she glanced back at me. "So really, this isn't a meeting of the minds, it's a meeting to discuss bringing down your brother."

I shrugged. "I like to think of it as both."

"Well, what's the plan, Cappy?" Jax asked.

Cappy. I could get used to that.

I nursed my drink as I contemplated the question. "We have two spots to fill," I said, not that any of them could forget Louis and powerhouse Chastity Bladen graduating. We all knew it was a huge blow. Chastity had been offered a starting position for the Falmouth Falcons at our final match last year, literally minutes after we just lost and yet she still apparently made an impression enough for their offensive recruiter to seek her out right then and there. She was currently smashing records everywhere.

Let's pretend I wasn't completely jealous of her.

Alice, Chastity, and I had been unbeatable. Last year alone, we won every single regular season match outscoring the other House teams by almost triple.

We lost in the finals to Slytherin when their now-graduated seeker grabbed the snitch a half-second before Sadie could.

Sadie snapped her broom in half.

(She has since received a new one from her father.)

"Keeper and chaser," I continued, trying to block out last year's final from my mind. "Those are the positions we need to fill."

"Are you going to keep stating the obvious?" Fred smirked.

I flipped him off. "We have Hugo as a reserve so we could try and train him as a chaser or seeker," I spoke hesitantly.

"He's a beater at heart," Alice chimed in with a shrug. "I don't know if trying to train him as a chaser or seeker just because those are the open positions is such a smart idea."

I nodded, not surprised at all that Alice was the one to shoot the idea down. She knew the intricacies that came with Quidditch strategy just as much as I did. "I agree," I said with a nod. "I think it'd be best we give him another year of practice and he can take over Fred's spot next year."

"Who says someone else won't be better at beater next year?" Sadie questioned.

"Hey, remember that time Hugo knocked you out at practice because you weren't paying attention?" I shot back.

She glared at me but thankfully shut up.

Miracles really do come true.

"If anyone objects to not training Hugo for keeper or chaser, speak up now," I said.

Sadie opened her mouth, but I hastily added, "And not someone who wants to object just for the sake of opposing me."

Sadie hesitated before shutting her mouth.

Good girl.

"Please tell me that someone remembers tryouts from two years ago a little differently than I do because all I recall are a bunch of amateurs who couldn't fly if their lives depended on it," I sighed.

My heart sank when no one responded.

"Great," I muttered.

"What about Rose?" Fred offered.

"What about her? She refuses to try out with the two of us on the team."

Sadie smirked. "Problem solved. You two are out, Rose is in."

"Shut up, Bishop" was the unanimous response from the rest of us.

"We already have one bitch on the team," Jax drawled, ducking as a handful of peanuts got thrown at his head by Sadie. "We don't need another."

Those words confused me. "Aren't you and Rose friends?" I questioned curiously.

He frowned and looked away from me. "No," he muttered in a rather sulky tone.

Interesting. I was under the impression those two had become somewhat friendly ever since they both were named prefect in the prior year.

Well, as friendly as one could get with my stubborn, hotheaded cousin.

I wondered what happened to turn them against each other.

And then I sopped wondering because I had a Quidditch team to focus on and not some former friendship between two sixth years to fret about.

"There has to be a way to get Rose on the team," Fred sighed.

"I could try to sway her," Alice considered, a very obvious hint of hesitance in her tone.

"Like she won't see right through that?" Jax offered with a knowing look.

"Then you talk to her, Jax," Fred suggested. "Use that prefect bond you've got going."

Jax's jaw grew rigid. "We don't exactly talk Quidditch together," he spoke coolly and I knew then that some fight must have gone down between the two of them. (But once again, I didn't have time to care about that.) "If I try to bring it up now, she'll hex me and then ultimately hex you and James for attempting to use me to get to her."

"You really need to learn how to be sneaky and underhanded," I sighed.

"Aw, and grow up to be just like you?" he teased.

Hey, there were worse things than turning out like me.

"C'mon, Bloch. Take one for the team. If anyone here should talk to the girl, it should be you. Out of all the people here—hell, out of all the people in the world—you actually like her," Fred pointed out, shrugging. Hesitating, he said, "I think."

Jax frowned. "Bishop lives with the girl. Maybe she should ask."

That had us all bursting into laughter because 1) Sadie wasn't the type to beg for help and 2) Sadie and Rose hated each other just as much as the rest of us hated Sadie.

"That is the most ridiculous idea you have ever come up with, Bloch, which is saying a lot since your ideas are always laughable."

"Shut up, Bishop" was his very eloquent response.

Ignoring him, she said, "Why don't we just wait for actual tryouts before we start speculating. Maybe a diamond in the rough will appear."

"I don't like putting all my eggs in one basket, Bishop," I argued with a sigh.

"It doesn't appear you have more than one basket at the moment, Potter."

"We have a Rose basket," Fred shot back.

"That basket won't do you any good if she won't try out."

"It's still a basket that we haven't completely ruled out yet."

"I thought by rejecting the idea of you and AliCat and James and Jax attempting to talk to her was ruling out said basket."

"Okay, can we please stop saying the word 'basket' now?" I groaned.

We were getting absolutely nowhere. What we needed was a miracle.

"Well, lookie what we have here."

I glanced up as Louis strolled over to our table.

He would have been a miracle if he had just flunked out of seventh year and had to repeat it.

I should have suggested this last year.

"What are you doing here, Loucifer? Don't you have some radio listeners to piss off?"

Louis rolled his eyes, gesturing for Fred to shove over as he took a seat beside him. "My time slot was this morning and you'd know that if you bothered to wake up before ten o'clock in the morning."

Like that was ever going to happen.

"I heard there was a meeting of the Quidditch minds going on," he said, grabbing Fred's drink and taking a sip. That earned him a smack to the shoulder but he barely noticed. "Which is ironic since I wasn't aware any of you actually had minds."

Fred smacked him again while the rest of just glared.

Louis flashed a smile. "I thought I could be of some assistance."

"Unless you can create a top-notch chaser and keeper out of thin air who are far superior to the team that unfortunately now belongs to my bloody brother, your assistance will have to be provided through the purchasing of our drinks."

"Dream on," he snorted. Hesitating, "Wait, what do you mean 'the team that now unfortunately belongs to your brother?'"

I slumped down with a groan as Alice spoke. "Albus is Slytherin's new Captain."

Louis' eyebrows shot up into his forehead. "Well, I'll be damned," he said with a low whistle. "Do you think Hattie turned it down or was she just overlooked?"

I wasn't surprised that he was looking at me with that question. Hattie Wilkes, a seventh-year chaser on the Slytherin team, also happened to be someone I frequently turned to when I was in need of a casual shag. I saw her just last week at a new club that opened up in Diagon Alley and we may or may not have shagged in the alley.

Except we definitely did.

Twice.

"She's made it pretty clear she never wanted to be Captain," I said with a shrug. "She's more focused on her studies. Chooses to play Quidditch because it's fun, not because she lives or swears by it."

"Wait, Quidditch can be fun?" Alice gasped with a bit of a smirk.

"Winning is fun," I corrected. "Losing will get you laps."

"Why do I get the feeling we're all in for a very long season?" Sadie muttered.

She went ignored as usual.

"Well, if I could offer you some perspective here, it'll be that you are trying to fill some pretty big shoes," Louis muttered and the sad part was he wasn't even being arrogant. "Finding a keeper is never fun. As much as everyone thinks the seeker is the most important position on the team, if a team can rack up enough points through their chasers with a poor keeper performance, the seeker becomes secondary."

"Oh, that makes me feel so warm inside," Sadie muttered.

"So the keeper is key," Louis continued with a shrug. "If you don't find someone who knows how to read a trick shot coming their way, you're going to get scored on."

"Gee, is that how the game works?" Alice drawled.

Louis responded to her by swiping her drink and taking a swig. "But honestly, I think it's the chaser position you're going to have a hard time finding. Not because there aren't decent chasers out there but because James, AliCat, and Chastity have been playing together for three years. Three years to learn each other's idiosyncrasies. Three years to study each other's weakness and strengths. Three years to create the perfect trio. You guys knew what each other was thinking without having to say it. You knew when the others were going to go right or left. When they were planning to shoot or pass. You knew when-"

"Yeah, I think we get it," I interrupted, my fist clenching at my side. I was already aware of this. It's why I cried at the end of last year when I realized Chastity was leaving (not that anyone knew about that).

He shrugged. "You know what I think?"

"What, you haven't said it already?" I drawled.

"You need Rose."

I threw my hands up in the air. "Unless you're suggesting I Imperius her, and I'm not going to say that thought didn't cross my mind, she's never going to be on board!"

He shrugged. "You know what she's capable of, James. It'd give you a much-needed edge so you could focus on training your new keeper. And the fact of the matter is, everyone at that school is bloody scared of her so you've got that heavy advantage on your side on the pitch."

"Then you convince her because we all know she won't listen to me."

"She won't listen to anyone," Fred muttered. "Stubborn little thing she is."

"So unstubbornize her," Louis said with a shrug.

"Yeah, that definitely isn't a word," Alice murmured.

"Or blackmail her," Louis said, his eyes lighting up. "There's got to be something we can use against her!"

"If you blackmail her, she'll be gunning for you, mate. Do you really want to get on Rose Weasley's bad side?" Fred pointed out.

"Isn't everyone on Rose's bad side?" he contemplated.

"Not Jax," Fred argued. "I mean, did we ever really turn down the idea of him chatting Rose up?"

"Stop trying to use me to get to Rose," Jax groaned. "We do patrols together occasionally and share a few classes together, but believe me, if I were the one to suggest she join the team, she'd turn my head into a bludger and chuck it at one of you while smiling very triumphantly."

Descriptive.

"I thought you guys were friends," Louis said to Jax.

"So did the rest of us but apparently not," Fred drawled.

"Rose isn't capable of keeping friends," Jax argued. "She's too much of a bitch to do so."

"Oy, watch it, that's our cousin," Louis growled. Hesitating, he added, "Although you're not wrong."

Jax merely shrugged.

"Well, damn," Louis said with his own shrug. "I thought Jax was your best bet of getting Rose on board."

While Jax rolled his eyes I just sighed and said to Louis, "Any other ideas, oh graduated one?"

He thought of it before shaking his head. "Nope."

I let out a rather irritated scoff. "Well, you've been immensely helpful," I drawled. "I think it's officially time for you to crawl back to that radio station of yours."

Louis climbed out of the bench with another shrug. "Actually, I've got to get to the Arrows stadium. I'm announcing their game tonight."

"Get me tickets and I'll forget how much your advice sucked," I said with a smirk.

He only laughed as he disappeared towards the door.

I had a feeling I'd be stuck listening to the Arrows game on the radio that night.

XOXOXOXO


Sadie had left a few minutes after Louis when she realized our meeting of the minds had been a waste of time. Fred, Alice, Jax, and I stuck around reminiscing on our past Quidditch games while downing another few rounds of drinks. Jax may have been a year younger than us, but he spent more time on the pitch than he did in his own dorm, so he had quickly become a staple of the group.

It was just after six when Alice reluctantly said she had to get back to the Leaky Cauldron for the dinner rush, and the rest of us quickly followed her out. When I got home, my parents were waiting in the kitchen to give me an earful about my grades. I didn't scrape any Os (not surprising), received an E in Potions, and received As in everything else. You would have thought I received all failing grades the way Dad said he was disappointed in me but according to him I could easily get Os if I put more effort into my schoolwork and less into Quidditch.

I was going to be a professional Quidditch player after Hogwarts so why would I spend less time on Quidditch and more on my studies?

Honestly! And they think that they're the smart ones?

I was forced to listen to them praise Albus' six Os and I only had to wait a few minutes before Dad said it couldn't hurt to be more like my brother.

I almost vomited right then and there.

I was plenty aware that if I spent more than a few minutes on my essays and actually paid attention in class and took a few hours out of my day to study for my final exams, I could easily scrape Os and be at the top of my class. But what was the fun in that? Disappointing my parents had become something of a given by this point. I'm pretty sure they salivated over giving me their favorite 'you're wasting your potential' speech so it would be wrong of me to take that away from them.

The speech didn't bother me. What bothered me was that when I actually did do something commendable like, oh I don't know, becoming Quidditch Captain, the accomplishment always managed to be overshadowed by the things I was doing wrong. Oh, you got Quidditch Captain? Well, that's great but let's talk about your shitty grades, shall we? Oh, you got a job for the summer? Well, that's great but something Quidditch-related wasn't what we had in mind. Oh, you're the best chaser on the Gryffindor team? Well, that's great but remember when your brother won the Cup last year?

It would have been a whole lot easier if they just told me to my face I wasn't good enough for them. At least then the truth would be out and we could all stop dancing around the awkward subject.

Somehow, I escaped their predictable lecture and as I wound my way through the living room, I made the last-minute decision to floo over to Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione's place. I could have apparated but sometimes it's more fun to drop into their sitting room unannounced.

"James? What are you doing here?"

I wiped the soot from my legs and smiled up at Aunt Hermione. "Hey, Aunt H. You're looking lovely tonight."

Her eyes narrowed. "I'm wearing an old raggedy sweatshirt of Ron's."

"And it suits you quite nicely."

She sighed. "Alright, what is it that you want?"

I chuckled before shaking my head. "Nothing from you. I'm just practicing my sucking up before I seek out your daughter."

She glanced at me curiously. "I'm not sure I want to know what you want with her."

Quidditch, Aunt H. It's always about Quidditch.

"I do hear congrats are in order," she said as if reading my mind. "To you and to Al."

"Hm, I'm assuming you're not talking about my stellar sixth-year exam marks…" I smirked.

She shrugged. "You're an incredibly bright young man, James. If you actually studied every once in a while, you'd be the top of your class."

"Why study when I do just fine without it?" I said with a teasing grin.

"James-"

"Is Rose upstairs?'

Hermione sighed. The difference between her nagging and my parents' nagging is that Aunt H knew when to drop it. "Yeah, with Harley."

I couldn't hold back my smirk as I rushed off towards the stairwell. It was known throughout the school that the incredibly gorgeous Harley Duncan with her luscious curls and bright green eyes was one of the most sought-after girls that every boy spent a lot of time fantasizing about. The truly unfortunate part about this, however, was that she had just celebrated her one-year anniversary with fellow Gryffindor, Jett Thomas.

I always thought this was probably for the best because if the girl became single, I'd be all over that and then Rose would slice my throat and leave me for dead and it's a bit difficult playing Quidditch as a dead man.

I wonder what the policy was on ghosts playing Quidditch…

Without bothering to knock, I pushed the bedroom door open and skipped into the room. "Good evening, my lovelies!"

Rose nearly fell off her bed. "For fuck's sake, James, what the hell is wrong with you?"

"Ooh, that list is far too long for me to get into at the moment, dear cousin," I argued with a mere shrug as I bounced over to her bed and dropped down beside her.

She shoved me out of the way with a glare. "Go away, James. Can't you see I have company?"

I pushed on to my side, propping myself up by the elbow as I glanced over to where Harley lay on the floor with Witch Weekly in her hands. "How could I have missed such natural beauty?"

Harley rolled her eyes as Rose stuck her finger in her throat and emulated gagging. "Don't make me throw up, James. I just cleaned my sheets."

I shrugged. "I need your help with something, Rosie."

"No."

"You don't even know what I'm about to ask."

"Doesn't matter. When it comes to you, the answer is always 'no.'"

"That is so not what birds typically say to me."

She looked more disgusted now than she did a minute ago, though I was pleased that Harley laughed. "Get out of my room, James," she sighed.

Clearly, I was not welcome there. Not that I cared. "I need you, Rosie."

She opened her mouth to clearly argue but seemed to think twice about it. Hesitating, she said, "You need me? I was under the impression that the only two people in the world that you needed was Alice and Fred, though that is a fact you'd never actually admit aloud."

She was right in thinking that. "I don't need anyone," I drawled with the rolling of my eyes. "I do just fine on my own."

"Then I guess you don't need me after all."

Well, that backfired.

"Could you at least hear me out?"

"No."

"Rosie-"

"No."

"But-"

"Still no."

I pouted. "You're insufferable."

"You should really be looking in the mirror when you say that."

I'd argue but once again she was right. "I look in the mirror all the time and all I see is a handsome little devil."

She made a face as Harley laughed. "Little devil is right," Rose muttered.

I shrugged and simply said, "Quidditch."

Her eyes narrowed, exchanging a glance with her friend who now looked intrigued herself. Turning back towards me, she said, "Do you have Tourette's or something?"

"I need you to join the Gryffindor team as chaser."

She snorted before shaking her head. "Not a chance in hell, James. You think you can boss me around enough as your bloody cousin – which, by the way, you can't. And I do not need you doing it on the Quidditch pitch as well. In the end, I'd murder you or you'd murder me, but either way our family is down a family member. Two actually because the other would be in jail."

She was a beast with a wand so I had to imagine I'd be the one left for dead, but I decided it was worth the risk so ignoring her very obvious flair for the dramatics, I said, "But your entire House is depending on you!"

Rose glanced towards Harley. "Are you counting on me to help Gryffindor get the Quidditch Cup, Harley?"

Harley blinked. "Uh…"

Rose seemed to take that as a 'no.' Turning back to me, she shrugged and said, "I rest my case."

"She didn't say no!"

"She didn't say yes either."

"Harley," I whined, turning towards the dark-haired beauty.

"Uh…"

I swear Harley was typically more articulate than this.

When I decided Harley was a lost cause, I turned back to Rose. "It's just one year, Rosie. One year and I would owe you bigtime."

"You still owe me for not ratting you out to your parents for sneaking out of the house when you were grounded to shag some brunette in your very own backyard."

I let out a grunt. "You need to stop talking to Lily."

Rose smirked. "I'm not caving, James. I don't want to deal with you breathing down my neck all year. And I have no desire to compete against Albus at this time."

"What about competing against Malfoy?" I said with my own smirk.

She hesitated and I grinned.

Rose and Scorpius' rivalry was infamous at Hogwarts. They competed for grades in their classes, they were constantly getting into a war of words, and not a week went by without one of them hexing the other in the hallway.

"I can compete against him next year," she spoke stubbornly.

"Sounds to me like perhaps you're just scared to lose to Malfoy," I teased.

She shot me a look. "Bating me won't work, James."

I let out a frustrated cry. I had exhausted all of my options and she was nowhere close to saying yes. "Don't you know who made Quidditch Captain for Slytherin?"

She rolled her eyes. "I'm the only one of us here who actually talks to your brother, James. Of course I know he's their Quidditch Captain."

"Then you see why I have to beat him?"

"Because you have some inferiority complex when it comes to that picture-perfect little brother of yours and you won't rest until you get to prove to him and to the rest of the world that there is still one thing you can do better than him?"

I scowled. She was right of course. But she wasn't supposed to say it out loud.

"No, wait," she said, glancing up at me with a smirk, "You're not better than him at Quidditch because, oh yeah, who won the Cup last year? That's right, they did."

Now, I knew that hitting women was unmoral but I have to believe that that rule of thumb didn't apply to cousins, right?

"Have some Gryffindor pride, Roe," Harley finally spoke from the floor.

"Yeah, have some Gryffindor pride, Roe!" I chimed in.

Rose shot Harley a look that clearly told her to stay out of it. "I'm not joining your team, James. That's my final answer."

Now I really wanted to hit her.

"I'm taking you out of my will," I pouted as I reluctantly climbed off the bed.

"Gee, what will I do without those twenty galleons?" she drawled with the roll of her eyes.

"You weren't getting galleons, you were getting Franny. Now I might pawn her off on Lucy."

For some reason, Rose loved my fluffy pygmy puff. Maybe even more than I did. I had wanted a cat when I was an eleven year old, but Mum was smart enough to realize that I'd probably find a way to kill it in just a matter of days. She thought the safer option was letting me have a pygmy puff. I haven't killed her yet so I thought that was a good sign.

"Lucy who's scared of her own shadow?" Rose groaned. "Even you couldn't be that heartless to Franny."

She was unfortunately right.

Heading towards the door, an entirely different thought hit me and I turned around with a curious look on my face. "On a completely unrelated topic, what the hell happened between you and Jax?"

The look of surprise on her face did not go unnoticed. The wide eyes on Harley also did not go unnoticed.

Something definitely went down between those two.

"Why?" Rose growled. "What did he say about me?"

"Nothing really," I argued. "He just made it seem as if you two were no longer friends."

"We were never friends in the first place," she scoffed. "We were just two prefects who happened to spend a lot of time together."

"You sound just like him."

"I thought he didn't say anything about me," she scowled.

Oops.

"Well, it's nothing you haven't exactly heard before," I spoke with a sheepish shrug.

"Oh, how original, calling me a bitch," she mocked, rolling her eyes.

I wasn't surprised at all that she had quickly picked up on what I was referring to.

"And on that note," I said with a nervous chuckle, "I think it's time for me to go."

"It was time for you to go the second you walked into my room," she drawled.

I rolled my eyes at her because that was really the only way to deal with my hotheaded cousin. "I'm going to wear you down by tryouts, Rose Weasley."

"You won't but it's cute that you think so."

Stubbornness really was a gene that clearly everyone in my family inherited.

XOXOXOXO


I spent the rest of my evening coming up with a to-do list on how I could ensure a Cup victory for Gryffindor.

How to Annihilate Albus Potter and his Infuriating Quidditch Team, Hattie included because even though she's hot she's my enemy on the field

1. Throw Al out a window
2. Throw all team members out a window
3. Go to jail

I scrapped that list and started a new list.

1. Need to find superb chaser (how to convince Rose this is in her best interest?)
2. Need to convince Rose being our chaser is in her best interest without her killing me
3. Need to find an even better keeper (is it worth trying to train Hugo to be keeper?)
4. Remind Albus that his team is a bunch of wankers
5. Train
6. Train a lot
7. Train even more
8. Train until our legs fall off and then train more
9. WIN
10. Shove win in Albus' face
11. Throw a party
12. Shove win in Albus' face some more
12. Live happily ever after

I glanced down at my spiral notebook and grinned triumphantly.

Okay, so it was in actuality a terrible to-do list in how to get to the finals and win the Cup. But it made me feel better and at that moment, a pick-me-up was all I really needed.

There was a knock on the door and I resisted the urge to groan. Most likely, it was Mum back to lecture me about my grades.

I reluctantly told her she could come in. Imagine my surprise when it was Albus instead who stuck his head in through the door. I wasn't used to seeing him without Rose glued to his side. Something about it felt unnatural. And I especially wasn't used to him standing in the door to my bedroom. We were rather known for leaving each other alone.

I snapped the notebook shut and quickly sat up in bed. "What do you want?" I snapped.

He frowned. "I thought Hattie would get it," he murmured.

Oh, for fuck's sake. He was here to talk about his Captainship?

"Then you clearly don't know your teammates at all because she never wanted it."

He sighed. "Then Scorpius would have been my next guess. He's a better player than I am."

I really wanted to throw a heavy object at him. "Scorpius Malfoy?" I snorted. "The guy who is in detention every other week for talking back to the professors? The guy who doesn't know how not to show off every chance he gets? The guy who already thinks he's better than everyone? The pompous arsehole whose father had your namesake killed? Are you bloody kidding me, Al? You knew perfectly well he wouldn't have been handed the responsibility of running a team!"

Albus' eyes grew dark with every word I spoke. Understandably so since the pompous arsehole I was referring to also happened to be his best mate.

I thought Potters were supposed to have better taste than that.

"This isn't my fault, James," he muttered irritably. "I didn't ask to be Captain. If you're so threatened by it, take it up with-"

"Threatened?" I snapped. "Your team is barely comparable to the scum on the bottom of my shoes. You don't currently have a seeker and good luck trying to find one that can outwit Bishop. Your best chaser, whose ass might be fine but that won't win you any matches, hardly has a competitive streak inside of her. Your keeper would be decent but she spends half her time bickering with that stupid cousin of hers and speaking of, Malfoy spends too much time staring in the mirror that could be spent perfecting his beater skill. Hutch only ever does what Malfoy tells him to do, and you are dating one of your teammates which is one of the absolute no-nos of Quidditch!"

I guess I could cross #4 off my list…

And yeah, I was just as surprised as you when I found out that Albus actually bagged a girl. And a decently fit girl who played Quidditch. He really is becoming the mini-version of Dad.

Ew.

"And what about your team makes it so great, James?" he sighed, clearly trying to keep his composure. That shouldn't have surprised me. He didn't have much of a backbone and confrontation was nowhere near his specialty. This was usually the part where Rose would chime in and speak up on his behalf so Albus didn't have to ruffle anyone's feathers.

Talk about your classic wuss.

"Well, for one, I'm on the team."

Albus rolled his eyes. "Oh, right, I forgot you were God's gift to Earth. My mistake."

I smirked. "Glad you finally recognize that."

"I hate to be the one to bring this up," he said before hesitating. "No, actually, I don't hate it at all. But you do recall who beat you in the finals last year, right?"

Please tell me murder was made legal in the past five minutes.

No?

"Only because of your bloody seeker," I snapped. "We were up ninety points before she caught that damned snitch so I don't feel all that intimidated by a team who doesn't have that seeker anymore."

I could see Albus growing frustrated. I wonder if I could get him to yell at me if I riled him up enough.

Yeah, right. I'm pretty sure Albus has never yelled at anyone before.

"We may have to find ourselves a seeker, but you're down two players," Albus reminded me (as if I needed reminding). "And good luck trying to find a chaser who has the patience to deal with that large ego of yours."

"I'd rather have a large ego than be a large wanker like yourself."

Albus glared at me. "I don't know why I even bother trying to talk to you sometimes."

"Oh, look, something we both agree on."

He shot me a final glare before spinning around and storming out.

Well, as far as conversations with my brother go, that one actually went quite well.

I flopped on to my back with a grunt, staring up at the ceiling and praying to a God I only called on when it came to Quidditch that he'd bring me the Cup this year. If I was ever going to impress a professional recruiter, I needed that win under my belt. And I refused to let my brother take that away from me again.

He already had so much else going for him. He was at the top of the class, constantly competing with Rose and Malfoy for that number one position, and received the prefect badge because of it. He had a steady girlfriend that my parents of course loved and the two of them together were the perfect little couple. He never got into any trouble and I'm almost certain he's never had a detention. He was talking about going into the Auror field and following in Dad's footsteps after Hogwarts and he certainly had the grades for it.

But now he had to take away the one thing that made me different than him.

Quidditch had always been my passion. Dad had taken me to my very first game when I was only five-years-old and I fell in love with everything about it. The excitement, the speed, the adrenaline, the players. I remember being awestruck when the youngest seeker in the league at the time, an eighteen-year-old rookie by the name of Rinaldo Shea, practically grabbed the snitch out of the opposing team's hands to win the Cannons the game. It was when I first fell in love with Quidditch and the Cannons. By the time I entered Hogwarts, I knew more statistics and random facts about Quidditch players than I even knew about myself. I tried out for my House team as a second year and made it as a reserve and only because there wasn't a chaser position available at the time. I had been a shoe-in my third year. I spent every waking hour thinking about Quidditch. When I had free time, I snuck out to the pitch and practiced my dives. Even my dreams at night seemed to only consist of Quidditch.

But of course Albus comes along, someone who admittedly was always a decent Quidditch player but who prided himself on his studies more, and decided he, too, was going to play Quidditch for his House. Fine, it wasn't as if I had a monopoly on the sport. But he went and tried out for the chaser position. My position! And then just three years later, he was chosen as Captain of his team the very same year that I was chosen as mine.

This was supposed to be my year and already, I've been overshadowed by my little brother.

Considering he always managed to find a way to overshadow me, I really should have seen this coming.

Glancing at the clock that now read ten o'clock, I grabbed the notebook and tucked it under my arm as I fled out my door and down the stairs. I nearly knocked Lily over on the stairs who told me to watch where I was going before skidding into the kitchen where I could hear my parents whispering.

"Hey, I'm heading over to Ace's," I said, scooting past them and towards the door. "May crash there. Dunno. Don't wait up."

"James-"

I didn't let my Mum finish whatever argument she had on the top of her tongue as I quickly swung open the kitchen door and disappeared into the backyard. I rushed to the property line where the protective spells tapered off and then apparated outside the Leaky Cauldron.

I welcomed the cool air as I pushed open the doors to the pub. It was decently crowded which was expected for a Saturday night so I was happy to see there was a free seat at the bar. I jumped on to the barstool, tossed my notebook on to the bar, and then stuck my two fingers into my mouth and whistled for the barmaid.

Very unluckily for me, it was AJ.

She whirled around and immediately glared at me. "Well, if that isn't the most polite way to get someone's attention," she drawled with heavy sarcasm.

I shrugged. "Where's that beautiful sister of yours?"

"Hiding from you I hope."

"And why would she do a thing like that? I'm a hoot," I said with a grin.

AJ blinked, the disdain evident in her eyes.

"Er…right," I murmured. "Any chance I could talk to your sister now?"

"She's working, James," AJ sighed. "I realize that concept is somewhat lost on you but it's how most people make a living."

"I have a job this summer," I reminded her.

"Color me shocked that you haven't been fired yet."

I rolled my eyes and wondered how I could ask for Alice again without getting a butterbeer to the face. I was thankfully interrupted by a clap on my shoulder. "I thought that was you, James."

I glanced over my shoulder and smiled up at Neville. Not that I'd ever really admit it, but I admired Neville. He had lost his wife unexpectedly and had two young girls to take care of, all while juggling the management of a bar and hotel at the same time as being a professor nine months out of the year. He had gone on sabbatical from Hogwarts for a few years in order to raise his daughters but once they were both at Hogwarts, he had hired someone full-time to run the Leaky Cauldron and reclaimed his job back. I know Aunt Hermione had often tried to get Neville to sell the Leaky Cauldron to a worthy buyer, but I had a feeling that Neville would never do it. It left him connected to Hannah. And then when AJ graduated Hogwarts, she immediately stepped in to help run the inn and after a few years, bought her way into managing it.

"Hey, Neville," I greeted. "I was just chatting with your lovely daughter here. She should really get a raise. Her customer service is on point."

Neville chuckled as AJ scowled at me. "I'm part-owner of the bar. I don't get a raise. I get profits. And when you are drinking all of our alcohol free of charge, I don't get profits. Do you see how that works?"

"I don't drink all of your alcohol," I argued. "Only about two-thirds of it."

She threw her hands in the air and stalked off. "He's all yours, Dad!"

Neville grinned as he sidled behind the bar. "Butterbeer, James?"

"Got anything stronger?" I grinned.

"Butterbeer it is," he smirked, winking at me as he poured the butterbeer into a mug and slid it my way. "This one's free of charge, but don't tell Augusta."

"I HEARD THAT!"

"I'll take it out of my profits!" he called back with a laugh.

Turning back to me, he said, "I heard some pretty great news about you today."

"Ooh, did the Ministry finally accept my application for Minister of Magic?"

"No, but I can still hear the Ministry laughing about that one."

I pouted as he grinned at his own joke.

"Alice tells me you're Quidditch Captain this year. Congratulations, James. You deserve it. Really. You work very hard on the pitch and it's only right that you get rewarded for it."

Well, finally someone who actually shows some legitimate excitement at the title. "Yeah, I'm pretty pumped," I said with a grin, taking a sip of the drink in my hands.

"You'll do amazing," he said with a nod. "I don't know if you know this, but Quidditch is kinda your thing."

He so gets me.

"Of course, you'll have to maintain an A average to remain as captain."

He so doesn't get me.

"I've always maintained an A average, Neville," I pointed out. "It's the O average my parents expect from me I don't maintain. Nor do I care to."

I knew what was going to come next so I braced myself.

"If you actually put an effort into your studies, James, you could easily maintain an O average."

Bingo.

"Ah, but it's that whole 'effort' thing that just doesn't do it for me."

Neville sighed. I knew he held some displeasure with my minimalistic attitude towards my schoolwork. I wrote the essays. I took the exams. I just didn't spend hours in the library with my books. My motto has always been "last-minute still gets the job done." Neville was always telling me that I was one of the smartest guys in the school (true) and he hated to see me squandering that so flippantly (also true), but he also appreciated how much work I put into being a top-notch Quidditch player (definitely true). So I can't hate him for being disappointed in my schoolwork like I can hate my father for it because at least he recognized how much Quidditch meant to me.

"Seeing as it's the summer, I'm not going to give you a lecture," he said with a shrug. "But I think we both know it's coming when we get back to Hogwarts."

"I'll bring the popcorn."

He chuckled then and told me that Alice was upstairs showing a guest their room and should be down shortly as he wandered off to take drink orders from a table of already-drunk men. I pulled out my Quidditch win to-do list and started revising it.

"Well, what brings you around this lovely establishment?"

I glanced up and grinned as Alice descended the stairs into the pub. "The hot barmaid of course."

She grinned. "You better not be talking about AJ."

"Nah, I was talking about your father of course."

The look on her face was priceless. All I could do was laugh.

"What's that you got?" she asked, nodding towards the notebook.

"My plan on how to crush Al's every hope and dream and leave him crying in a pool of defeated tears."

Her upper lip twitched. "Descriptive," she chuckled, glancing over the bar and attempting to read my handwriting. Reading through it, she hesitated. "Do I dare ask why there is a check mark next to #4?"

I grinned sheepishly. "I may have gotten into a bit of a skirmish with him."

Alice frowned. "James-"

"It wasn't my fault!" I argued quickly. "He was the one who barreled into my room boasting about his Captainship.

She shot me a look. "Boasting about anything does not sound like Al."

"Okay, fine, so he felt bad about it," I said hastily, waving my hand dismissively. "But I don't need him to feel guilty. I don't give a shit that he's Captain."

Alice look softened as she began wiping down mugs. "I think we both know that's not true," she spoke softly.

Sometimes, I loved that Alice seemed to always know what I was thinking without me having to say it. This was not one of those times.

"It's fine," I muttered.

We both knew I was lying.

"No, it's not," she said with a sad smile.

No, it really wasn't.

I glanced down at the list with a frown. "This was supposed to be my year," I muttered irritably. "My year to shine. To prove to everyone that this was what I was born to do."

Translation: to prove to my father that this was what I was born to do.

"And already, my stupid brother took that away from me," I growled. "Wanker."

"He didn't do it on purpose," she reminded me.

"Doesn't matter," I said, glancing back up at her. "He did it anyway."

Alice was the only person who probably knew just how much I resented my brother for somehow making me feel inferior by managing to be superior in every little thing he did. I couldn't even say there was a competitive streak between Albus and me because the truth was, he always won. He was the perfect child that I never was.

I was eternally grateful when Alice said nothing more on the subject.

"Go on upstairs to my room," she urged, nodding towards the stairwell. "I should be done around here in an hour."

I finished off my butterbeer and jumped off the barstool. "In the meantime, think of some other steps we'll need to take to bring down my broth—I mean, all the teams."

She rolled her eyes, glancing back down at the list. "Oh, no, I think you pretty much have them all covered with 'train' and 'train a lot,'" she spoke with heavy sarcasm.

"Don't forget 'train even more,'" I teased, winking at her before wandering up the stairwell towards the apartment that she and her father lived in. AJ had decided to move to her own apartment in Diagon Alley a few years below, which at the time I thought I understood. Might make it difficult trying to bring guys back to the apartment when you lived with your father. Until I realized this was AJ and what guy would be even remotely interested in her?

It was after midnight when Alice strolled into her bedroom. I was sprawled out on her bedspread, my notebook abandoned as I glanced through her sketchbook. She was an incredibly talented artist and had always fantasized about one day moving to Italy and spending all of her time traveling the coast painting the seaside. Landscapes were her specialty but she did a mean portrait as well.

"Please tell me you're not putting mustaches on my portraits again."

I glanced up with a grimace. "That was one time!"

"You're a nuisance," she teased, grabbing the sketchbook out of my hand and tossing it back on to her desk.

"Well, yeah. That wasn't supposed to be an insult, was it?"

She rolled her eyes and joined me on the bed with a stifled yawn. She fell back against her pillow with a groan. "I'm knackered."

"Working around drunk people can do that."

"I should be used to it considering how often you and Fred are drunk," she teased, nudging my side with her toes.

I swatted at her. "It is not that often."

Her eyebrow shot up.

"Yeah, okay, it's that often," I grinned, turning on my side and propping myself up on my elbows. My eyes glanced towards the life-size poster of Henrietta Dobson, a Cannons chaser, on the other side of the room. "Does Dobson's eyes follow you everywhere you go, or is it just me?" I muttered, shuddering.

Alice glanced over her shoulder and the poster and grinned. "Why do you always get so creeped out by a poster?"

"Because you have a life-sized woman just hanging out on your wall. I might be less concerned if it was some hot man you liked to drool over, but it's not. How does she not creep you out?" I groaned.

"Dobson is one of the best in the business," she reminded me. "She's a ten-year veteran and her stats only get stronger every year. She has the second-best scoring rate in the league, a passing accuracy rate of nearly 98%, and played through two broken ribs in last year's semifinal and still managed to outscore the other team. She's not creepy, she's a champion."

I could only chuckle. "I sometimes forget how much your Quidditch obsession can rival mine."

"Hardly," she argued. "You love this game more than I do."

"I don't think that's true," I was quick to counter. "I just love it in a more neurotic, compulsive, nothing-else-matters kind of why while you are still convinced there is more to life than Quidditch. Spoiler alert: there isn't."

She laughed and shoved me with her elbow. "In case I haven't said it recently, you're a prat."

I grinned. "Speaking of Quidditch, do you-"

"Do we speak much of anything else?" she snorted.

I rolled my eyes and continued. "Do you really think we could win the Cup this year?"

She nodded emphatically. "I think that there's nothing our team wouldn't do to get that win," she said with a smile. "I know we have two open positions and typically that means it would be a rebuilding year, but the rest of us make up for the current lack of those positions. You and I are the best damned chasers in the school, Jay. Everyone knows it. And Fred is a beast with a club. He has a 93% accuracy aim rate for Merlin's sake. And Jax's speed on a broomstick is unparalleled. Bishop is…well, she's the devil. But she's the devil who is sneaky and knows how to catch a snitch. We may only currently have five players but we have five players who have been working seamlessly together for two whole years. No other team can say that. And for that reason alone, I know we will be unbeatable."

And this is exactly why I came over to Alice's today. Because while my parents barely batted an eye when I told them I made Quidditch Captain, and Albus only talked to me about his Captainship without bothering to congratulate me on mine, and even though Aunt H expressed some excitement and even though Neville seemed to be proud of the accomplishment, only Alice knew exactly what to say to make me feel better.

I looked at her and said, "Has anyone ever told you that you have a real way with words?"

She smiled knowingly. "Only around you. But I suppose you always bring out the best in me," she spoke with a wink. "You're going to be an incredible Captain, Jay. You've worked the past five years for this. Hell, you've worked your entire life for this. This role was made for you."

Have I mentioned just how wonderful she is?

"I hope so," I murmured.

"You can hope," she said, nudging me with her elbow. "Me? I know."

Well, it's official. Alice Longbottom was going to win Best Friend of the Year award and it wasn't even a close race.

"You'll help, right?" I said, nudging her right back.

"You don't need my help Captaining the team," she argued. "You've been hoarding a playbook ever since you were a reserve determined to record every single maneuver and strategy that Gryffindor has ever used on the pitch. You've created your own tricks you're hoping to try out. You know the skills of every play on the team inside and out. You were born to do this, Jay."

I shook my head. "You're the born leader between us, not me."

She turned away from me with a hesitant frown. "Yeah, well, I'm going to be a tad busier than usual this year," she murmured.

My eyebrow furrowed. "Why?"

With a shrug, she glanced up at the ceiling. "I got Head Girl."

I felt a number of different emotions in that moment. I was happy and very proud of her. I was shocked because this was the first time I was hearing about this. And I felt guilty because I spent the entire day talking about me and my Quidditch Captainship and didn't bother to ask her if she had made Head Girl like she had been working towards since her first year.

"Well, I feel like a total ponce for not even asking about that," I groaned.

"You would make this about you," she teased.

I grimaced. "Ace, that's incredible. I can't think of anyone who deserves it more."

She shrugged bashfully. "Thanks."

"Why did it take you all day to tell me?" I questioned.

She shrugged. "It's not like schoolwork is exactly your thing, Jay."

I rolled my eyes. "So? I know it's your thing so that makes me happy for you. And proud. You know that, right?"

I saw the slight blush in her cheeks as she refused to meet my eye.

"You know your Mum would be proud, too, right?"

She froze, her blue eyes turning to meet mine. She didn't say anything, but she didn't have to. Talking about her mother wasn't something Alice did often, if ever. I knew how much it pained her to have lost her before she could gather any real memories of her. Alice was only five at the time so she could barely remember her and to this day, I knew it still hurt.

"You staying here tonight?" she asked with a yawn.

Clearly, she didn't want to talk about why it had taken all day for her to tell me about getting the Head Girl badge. I had my suspicions that she felt being the daughter of a professor might have helped her get the title, but if she didn't want to talk about it, I'd let it go for now.

I shrugged. "Yeah, might as well."

It should have been weird, two seventeen-year-olds of the opposite sex sharing a bedroom while her father slept just on the other side of the wall. But to me, it wasn't weird at all. It was normal. We had been doing this ever since we were kids so why stop now even though we're teenagers?

At least she didn't snore.

I unfortunately couldn't say the same about myself.

Sorry, Alice.

XOXOXOXO


A day and a half later, I slammed the Daily Prophet on to the Leaky Cauldron bar and said to Alice, "Give me your strongest drink and make it a bloody double."

Her eyebrows both shot up into her forehead. "And a happy Monday to you, too."

"Happy? Happy? What about today is happy, Alice Catherine Longbottom?"

"Well, the weather is fairly beautiful out today. Not a cloud in the sky, a nice breeze in the air, not too hot."

I scowled at her. "Where are you on making me that drink?"

"Where are you on telling me what's got your wand in a knot?"

I slid the Daily Prophet across the bar. "Bottom of the first page."

She looked at me without picking the newspaper up. "Oh, no."

"Oh, yes."

"It's about you and-"

"Albus, yep."

"And how you both-"

"Got Captain, yep."

She grimaced. "Do I need to read it or can I pretty much guess what it says?"

"If you're guessing that it describes how Albus nabbed the coveted badge unexpectedly as a sixth year which therefore clearly means the only reason either one of us got it was because of our surname, you'd be guessing correctly," I scoffed, grabbing the newspaper and tearing it apart page by page until it was a mess of shredded confetti.

"You know it's not true," Alice spoke softly.

I wanted to believe it wasn't true but that didn't mean I was convinced it wasn't.

"If the press wants to beat up on old Mumsy and Pops, fine, but why the hell do they need to pick on me?" I scowled. "All I did was be born to them! Believe me, if I had control over who my parents were, I wouldn't have chosen them."

"Jay," she warned.

I made a face. I knew she hated it when I said I wished I had other parents but I couldn't always help how I felt.

"I could really use that drink right about now," I murmured.

She hesitated, glancing around the pub, before pouring a tall glass of their finest firewhisky. She slid it across the bar and said, "Drink it fast before AJ catches you."

I smiled, though it felt incredibly forced. "Thanks, Ace."

I let the liquid burn my throat in exactly two gulps before handing the glass back to her.

She wiped it down. "Has your brother seen the article?"

"Oh, yes. Lily read it aloud to the whole family at breakfast. The rest of us then took turns shouting insults about the immoral soul-sucking cockroaches that work in the gossip column of that sorry excuse of a writing publication. We even planned a coup until Mum descended off her throne of fury and decided slitting the throats of a few worthless journalists wasn't worth going to Azkaban for. Albus tried convincing her that no one would ever be able to send Harry Potter or his family to jail but she still put her foot down. Mum and her stupid morals."

Alice was clearly trying to hold back a laugh. "Sounds like a rather entertaining family meal."

"One of our better ones actually," I teased. "What do you say we go hit up that sleazy pub in Godric's Hollow and drink my problems away?"

"I'd say alcohol isn't going to make the press stop writing about you."

"That sounded like a yes to me."

She offered me a smile. "Well, alright, but you're buying."

I made a face as I hopped off the barstool. "I've got a better idea: let's invite Teddy. Whenever we go out with him, he always winds up paying."

"I've got an even better idea: let's not take Teddy away from his family today."

I blinked. "Well, alright, but I feel like it'd be rude to show up at his house and ask him to pay without inviting him out."

Alice responded with a groan.

XOXOXOXO


A/N: Reviews make me happy.

Next up: Quidditch Tournament, bar-hopping, and dancing

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