A/N: Yay, back quickly with Chapter 2. Thank you for those who reviewed. I appreciate all of your encouragement and even constructive criticism. You make me a better writer. More than that, you make me want to be a better writer.
A WAY WITH WORDS
Chapter 2: Friendship
"I'll lean on you, you can lean on me
I'm never gonna let you fall
'Cause we got friendship
The kind that lasts a lifetime
Through all the hardship, you know, you're a friend of mine
We got friendship."
The summer was nearing an end and I wasn't sure whether to be sad about that or excited at the thought of going back to Hogwarts. Summer, of course, meant no schoolwork. No books. No essays. No notes. No exams. No professors breathing down my neck. But it also meant spending far too much time with my family who I much preferred avoiding. It meant lectures from Mum and disappointed looks from Dad. It meant having to watch them baby Lily and fawn over Albus.
Yeah, now that I think about it, I was definitely excited to get back to Hogwarts.
The one thing I was going to miss, which came as a bit of a surprise to me, was Quidditch Day Camp. I had started to really get attached to some of the kids. I enjoyed being there as they caught their first snitch or made their first goal. I was like a proud papa as I watched them all grow into their Quidditch skills.
And Kip had finally gotten over his fear of flying.
I was really going to miss that kid.
We all knew that I wasn't exactly the poster child for responsibility but when you merged responsibility with Quidditch and then tacked on a group of adorable kids, it certainly made the mere idea of responsibility not nearly as far-fetched as I always believed.
The staff meeting on that particular Friday was creeping on longer than I would have liked. I had a date with Louis, Fred, and Alice at Dragon's Lair, a club just outside of Diagon Alley, and I was itching for a firewhisky. Or five.
"And on to our last point of business," Roald Rutherford said.
"Our annual End of Summer Event."
The counselors who had been there in the past cheered. That was a good sign.
"As you know, on our last day of camp, we always put together some kind of send-off event for the kids and their parents," Matilda Rutherford spoke. "A few years ago, we had a family picnic and the kids put on Quidditch skits for their families. One year, we had a Quidditch talent show. Last year, we had some professional players come and scrimmage against each other for the kids to watch. That was a real treat."
"So now it's time to come up with ideas for this year's event," Roald said with a nod. "Any suggestions?"
The counselors all grew quiet, glancing around at each other curiously.
"We should take everyone to a professional Quidditch game!" a French girl by the name of Lola said.
"You suggest that every year," her friend groaned, elbowing her. "And every year we remind you that the Quidditch season doesn't start for another three weeks."
Lola sighed. "Oh right."
Other ideas were thrown out, but nothing stuck. And seeing as my ideas were always completely brilliant, I decided to suggest an option.
"What about a Quidditch tournament for the kids?"
"You would suggest a competition of sorts," Fred muttered under his breath with a smirk.
Roald sighed before shaking his. "Someone always suggests a tournament each year but that ends up pandering to the kids who can actually fly. We have so many that still only barely hover off the ground or are too afraid to move on their broomsticks and we want this event to be all-inclusive."
"So don't do it in the air," I said with a shrug. "You can still have the same effect on the ground without the use of broomsticks. The kids still get to play the game but it evens the playing field so that everyone can participate."
Mr. Rutherford's eyebrows shot up into his forehead as he considered my suggestion. "Quidditch on the ground," he said slowly. "That…is actually quite brilliant."
I had my moments.
"You can thank our cousin Molly for that," Fred spoke up with a chuckle. "She was afraid of heights when we were younger so our parents took away our brooms and told us to play on the grass."
I grinned at the memory. Fred, Louis and I still crushed everyone else. Whether we were on the grass or in the air, we managed to always dominate.
"James, can I put you in charge of drafting the teams?" Mrs. Rutherford spoke. "I think you have a good handle on everyone's skillsets and what positions would suit them. Then I'd suggest assigning two counselors to each team to coach and mentor."
"You better stick me with Naomi as my seeker or this friendship is over," Fred muttered to me.
I flashed him a grin. "I'm not against taking bribes."
Dragon's Lair was crowded, but that was expected for a Friday night.
"Alright, Ace, do your thing," I said, nodding towards the bar.
"I'm not flashing the barman."
"Then why do we even bother bringing you along?" I whined.
I knew she was about to punch me so I quickly skidded out of the way and stuck my tongue out at her.
"Oh, very mature, Jay," she snorted. "Is that how you bag all the ladies?"
"Uh, I don't bag ladies. That's an incredibly offensive and derogatory term and I am ashamed that you would use it."
That time I didn't back away fast enough and her fist met my shoulder.
"FOUND A TABLE!"
Alice and I glanced up at the sound of Louis' booming voice. Grinning, we headed over to the back of the room where Louis and Fred were sitting. Two Hufflepuff girls were sitting with them and since they were both on their Quidditch team and Fred had a weird fetish for girls who played Quidditch, Fred naturally already had his arm around one of them.
"So by 'found a table' do you really mean, flirted with Kye and Ryleigh and weaseled your way into their already-existing table?" Alice said with a groan as she slipped on to the bench beside Louis, greeting the two girls with a simple nod.
"Eh, same thing," he said with a teasing grin.
"I tried to put a stop to it," Kye said with a grunt.
"It didn't work," I pointed out as I sat down beside her.
"Thank you for that, Captain Obvious."
"Ah, speaking of Captain," I said with a smug grin, turning towards the surly brunette who just so happened to be Hufflepuff's Quidditch Captain.
Excluding Alice, the table erupted into laughter and Louis glanced at the clock in the back of the bar. "Not even one minute. Looks like Ryleigh is our big winner."
It didn't take a genius to realize they had bet on when I would bring up my recent promotion to Captain. I decided I'd get them back later by spitting in their drinks.
"You up to the challenge, Tannehill?" I said, flashing Kye my trademark smirk.
"I take sick pleasure in beating you, Potter," she shot back.
I pretended to ponder her words. "Y'know, I can't recall a time you actually ever beat me."
"We beat you in the finals during our third year and-"
"Yeah, four years ago," I retaliated with a smirk.
"And two years ago, our team beat yours by twenty points."
I rolled my eyes. "Just because your seeker caught the snitch. We were up a hundred and thirty points in that match. Talk about embarrassing."
"A win is still a win," she reminded me.
"You might have won that match but we beat you out in points that year."
"And yet still came short of the final."
I scowled. "Hey, remember when we made it to the finals last year and you didn't?"
"Remember when you lost the final?"
Bloody hell, why do people keep reminding me of that?
"Remember when I hated you?"
She smirked. "You don't hate me, Potter," she argued with the shake of the head. "You respect my Quidditch abilities too much to hate me."
Alas, she was right. She may have been the only female beater in the entire school but she was definitely one of the best. I'm pretty sure she could bench-press me without breaking a sweat, though I wasn't about to offer up the suggestion.
"You looking to play professional Quidditch after school, Tannehill?" I asked curiously.
"Why don't you worry about playing on your school team before contemplating the big leagues," she drawled.
Avoiding the question. Interesting.
"That sounds like a no if I've ever heard one," I smirked.
She shrugged. "Being a beater at Hogwarts is one thing. But the pros don't often offer beater positions to girls."
She was right of course which was unfortunate for her because she was definitely good enough to outshine some of the current professional beaters. "That still didn't answer my question," I commented.
She met the curiosity in my gaze and shrugged again. "It's not completely out of the question," she admitted. "But Hufflepuff would have to make it to the finals this year if I even have a chance at being offered a position somewhere."
Another accurate comment. The Hogwarts finals was the last, usually one of their only, opportunities for recruiters to take a final look at Hogwarts students to determine who they might be interested in offering any open positions to. It was horribly unfair to the two teams that didn't make it but that was just the way the cards always fell. The Hogwarts finals just happened to be two months before the acceptance deadline of all professionals offers hit which made those players very hot candidates.
"You don't have to replace anyone this year so you've certainly got an advantage over the rest of us," I reminded her.
"I don't think we can beat Gryffindor," she muttered. "I hate admitting that but it's true. You may be down a chaser but you and Alice are far quicker than ours and-"
"Hey!" Ryleigh Carver scoffed as she was a chaser on their team and Fred smirked, squeezing her shoulder.
"-and as irritating as Bishop is, it is nearly impossible beating her to that damned snitch."
"Yeah, but your beaters are far better than ours," Alice teased, rightfully earning a dirty look from Fred.
"I beg to differ!" he scoffed.
Alice laughed. "I think it's too premature for any of us to be predicting the two teams who could advance to the finals," she continued. "Besides Hufflepuff, the rest of us are down a few key players."
"Like a keeper," Kye smirked at her and I groaned at the reminder. "I suppose if you have no luck finding a decent keeper, our chasers will still have a chance against yours."
I pretended as if that wasn't at all likely.
"Well, as great as all of this Quidditch talk is," Ryleigh spoke, "We all appear to be drinkless, which is incredibly depressing if you ask me."
That was Fred's cue as he jumped up off the bench. He clapped me over the head, which was his way of telling me to help him with drinks. Shooting him a glare, I reluctantly obliged.
"Don't do it, mate," I said to Fred once we were out of earshot of the others.
He had a grin on his face that told me he knew what I was referring to, but he played dumb anyway. "Do what?"
"Ryleigh," I groaned, glancing back over at the table hesitantly. "Kye will literally dropkick you to Argentina."
Fred considered my words. "Why Argentina?"
"It was the first country I thought of."
He seemed satisfied by this answer. "Kye and I had a brief fling that amounted to nothing before it fizzled. She can't be mad at me for going after her friend."
"I would not call a couple of shags over the course of a month a fling," I snorted.
"Then what would you call it?"
I pondered the question. "Sex?"
He shrugged. "As long as I'm getting laid, I don't give a shit what people call it."
I couldn't help but laugh as we made our way up to the bar. "You need to try seducing girls outside of the Quidditch realm because your dating pool options are becoming seriously limited."
"Says the guy who's been shagging his own Quidditch female for over a year now," he smirked.
"One female. One. You are making your way through every single female on a team at this point," I said with a groan. "Including the best friend of a girl who could quite literally force you into a St. Mungo's bed for life with that superhuman strength of hers?"
"Hey, if you recall, I'm a beater just like Tannehill. I have just as much superhuman strength as she does."
"Mate, that girl's muscles are the size of your head."
"I have muscles, too!"
I flashed him a smile. "I like how you haven't denied the fact that Kye could kick your arse."
"Oh, she totally could. The girl's insane. Hot. But insane."
"And yet you dated her."
"I flinged with her. There was no dating."
"I don't think flinged is a word."
He smirked. "I don't care what it is as long as I'm-"
"-getting laid," I finished with a laugh. "You're not exactly a complicated man, are you, Freddo?"
He grinned as he got the attention of the barmen. "All I need are my mates, Quidditch, and sex."
Amen to that.
It didn't take long for Fred to whisk Ryleigh away. My guess would be they were in the alley snogging against the wall. Once Ryleigh had disappeared, so, too, did Kye. I actually liked Kye even though she came off as one hell of a tough bird. If I thought my family was stubborn, she takes stubbornness to a whole new level. But that made her a rather decent Captain. No one at all was surprised when she was chosen as Captain in our previous year. There wasn't anyone else on that team that could do that job.
Louis had been making the rounds, stopping to say hi to fellow classmates and flirting with whatever girls were in his presence. But I knew that there was a girl at the radio station that Louis had his eye on so flirting at the club was as far as he took it.
It had been just me and Alice for a while but we had eventually been joined by one of my other roommates, Dashiell Finnigan, and his girlfriend, Shayne Winters. I got along well with Dash who didn't have an ounce of Quidditch talent in him but made up for it by his obsession with professional Quidditch. He and I could spend hours chatting about save percentages and dive plays and the degree of quaffle possession. There have been many times that Fred had thrown a shoe at my head to shut up because Dash and I were still chatting away at three in the morning.
I always just threw the shoe back at him. Fred quickly realized how ineffective his methods were.
"As long as it's not Brooks Pruitt," Alice was muttering beside me was we discussed Head Boy prospects. "I'd strongly consider resigning from Head Girl if McGonagall chose that asshat as Head Boy."
"How the hell that guy became prefect, I'll never know," I grumbled.
"Because he's a Pruitt and all Pruitts are destined to be Ministry Accountants—how bloody boring—and nothing short of excellence is required to be a Ministry Accountant, at least according to his Daddy Dearest," Dash spoke up with a roll of the eyes.
The Pruitts were well-known in the wizardry world (not nearly as well-known as the Potter legacy but then again the only thing a Pruitt saved was a boatload of money for Ministry Officials) and it was a given that Brooks Pruitt would ultimately follow in his father's footsteps.
"Did you see that article on the charity event the Pruitts are footing the initial bill for?" Alice commented. "They're throwing it at the Grand Plaza. Rumor is the up-front cost is in the million-galleon range."
"Yeah, and once tickets start selling, they'll get their money back in no time and leave just enough to update the children's wing at St. Mungo's," Dash drawled.
Pretending to care about one thing when they were only really in it for the fame and the money seemed exactly like something the Pruitt family would do.
"You actually read an article on the most boring family in history?" I asked Alice. "Did you not have anything better to do?"
She laughed. "So I like to read the paper. Sue me, Jay," she teased, finishing off the drink in her hand.
"You sure you want to challenge me to a lawsuit? Molly is in her second year of her apprenticeship with that Ministry law firm. I could swindle you out of millions."
"I have approximately three hundred galleons to my name, Jay. You're not getting millions," she argued. "Besides, I'm pretty sure Molly likes me more than you so she'd probably choose to represent me."
Probably true unfortunately. Then again, most people preferred Alice to me. She was far nicer and certainly smiled more.
She really needed to work on that.
"Three hundred galleons?" Dash muttered. "I think I might have fifty, if even that."
"I've been working at the inn and pub since I was thirteen," she reminded him. "When was the last time you worked on anything besides your beer gut?"
Game, set, match.
As the rest of us burst into laughter, he let out a gasp of feigned indignance. "And for that, I hope Brooks Pruitt is Head Boy."
"Pruitt?" Fred chimed in, returning to the table without Ryleigh. I wondered if that was a good sign or not. "Do you think McGonagall would make him Quidditch Captain and Head Boy? Seems like a lot of-"
"Hold up," I interrupted with an incredibly loud groan. "That fucker is Quidditch Captain?"
Fred nodded. "Yeah, Roxy told me."
Why, oh why, did nothing ever seem to go my way?
"Bloody hell," I swore. "He was already an arrogant arse. I can only imagine how he'll be now."
"Hm, an arrogant arse as Captain? Because that doesn't sound like someone else we know," Shayne teased.
I'd argue but there was nothing to argue with. Arrogant? Probable. Arse? Definitely.
"Oh, go back to snogging your boyfriend," I shot back with a playful grin.
"Gladly!" Dash said gleefully.
Shayne elbowed him.
"Oh, shit, I just had a terrible thought," Fred spoke, shaking his head slowly. "What if Jessup gets it?"
"Gets what?" I asked.
I recoiled in utter disgust and even Dash made a noise of protest. Alice only rolled her eyes. "You guys are so cruel. Parker is not that bad."
"Try living with him," I shot back at her. "You don't get to tell me the tosser isn't that bad when you're not forced to see his git face around the dorm all the bloody time."
"Gee, does he cut into your bathroom time?" she countered. "Not enough time to get pretty, Jay?"
"It takes no time at all to make me look this good," I smirked.
"And Brooks Pruitt is the arrogant one?" she smirked right back.
"Do you think otherwise of Jessup?"
She sat back on the bench before shrugging. "Nah, the guy's pretty unbearable," she said with a sheepish grin. "Well, I guess that leaves me with Rudy Frankel or Usher Lennox."
"Ooh, you should hope it's Rudy. The guy is fine," Shayne said.
"Uh, hi, boyfriend sitting right here," Dash chimed in.
"You were staring at Ainsley's boobs the entire time we were chatting with her."
He hesitated. "So you say Rudy is fine, hm?"
"I'd be happy with either Rudy or Usher," Alice commented. "Usher can be a bit of a handful with his OCD but Rudy prefers to spend most of his time partying which I can only imagine would cut into Head duties."
"Hm, partying or dealing with boring responsibilities," Fred contemplated, stroking his chin. "Sorry, AliCat, but that one's a no-brainer."
"Besides, if you think you're going to be skipping out on our epic parties to look over detention slips or do hallway patrols, you better think again," I chimed in, shooting Alice a stern look.
"Have I ever turned down a party, Jay?"
She made a good point. She was an incredibly hard-working student who was reliable and sensible but she was a seventeen-year-old girl whose friends were all party animals. She liked to drink just as much as the rest of us did.
I can't imagine why AJ thought we were a bad influence on her…
"Why don't you just ask your Dad, Alice?" Shayne asked curiously. "I mean, wouldn't he know who the Head Boy is?"
"He doesn't know actually," she argued. I could see her spine stiffen slightly and I knew it was because she hated it when people thought she should get special privileges because of who her father was. "The Heads of the Household are consulted at the end of the year but it's ultimately McGonagall's decision. The rest of the staff doesn't find out until the week before school starts."
Sensing her clipped tone, I quickly changed the subject then. "Is that Greengrass who just walked in?"
Swiveling our heads towards the entrance, we watched as fifth-year Slytherin Reese Greengrass sauntered through the door looking as effortless as always.
"I can't believe you're friends with her," Fred murmured, shaking his head.
"Why, because a good-looking guy can't be friends with a good-looking girl?" I snorted.
"One, it's creepy when you refer to yourself as good-looking. And two, no, I'm referring to the fact that her own cousin happens to be one of your biggest rivals."
"Why do you think I befriended her all those years ago?" I smirked, pulling myself off the chair long enough to wave at Reese who yes, was unfortunately related to Scorpius Malfoy. Her father was Angus Greengrass, older brother to Daphne and Astoria.
I could hate her for her parentage but it was more fun quipping with her than it was hating her.
Reese wandered over to our table with a smile and before she could say anything, I sang, "And the green grass grows all around, all around, and the green grass grows all around."
She sighed. "That greeting gets more annoying over time," she drawled.
I merely grinned.
"Why am I not surprised to find all of you here?" she chuckled. "You should consider moving a bed in the corner and living here full-time."
Hello, Awesome Idea.
I glanced towards Fred. "Why haven't we ever thought of that before?"
"I was kidding," Reese groaned.
"Don't you know you can't ever joke with these two goons," Alice sighed. "They take everything far too literally."
She had a point.
"I believe Ace just called us goons, Freddo," I said.
"I believe she did, Jameso."
"What should we do about it?"
"Tickle her until she cries?" he smirked and before he could lay one finger on Alice, she yelled out, "DON'T YOU BLOODY DARE!"
The two of us laughed and I turned back to Reese. "So what are you doing here, Baby Girl?"
"My cousin is around here somewhere."
Why do I ask questions I don't want the answer to?
Fred and I let out simultaneous groans which earned me a smack to the head by Alice.
"Oh, shit," I murmured when I realized the implication. "If your cousin is here, that means that-"
"Your brother is probably here, too," Fred groaned.
Yes, we could finish each other sentences.
No, we were not an old married couple.
Reese shrugged. "Yeah, he's here with Kat. Rose, too."
I shuddered. Hanging around my brother was bad enough. Hanging around him while he was sucking face with some girl was the epitome of having my eyes scalded by firecrackers.
"Welp, you know what that means," I said, grabbing my firewhisky and downing it in one gulp.
"Time to hit up the next club," Alice said, knowing full well that was my every intention.
Reading my mind was something she had gotten incredibly good at. Most of the time, it was annoying. This wasn't one of those times.
"Right you are, Ace," I said, sliding out of the bench. "Nice running into you, Reese. Catch you later?"
I dashed towards the exit before she could retort.
I waited outside for a few moments before Fred finally joined me. "AliCat's looking for Louis," he explained, digging through his back pocket. He pulled out a pack of cigarette and held one out for me. "You want one?"
I nodded eagerly and he handed me one before lighting them both. I didn't smoke often. Not nearly as much as Fred did. But it was something else I could use to rebel against my parents so I wasn't completely against the idea.
"So you going to invite your family to the Quidditch Camp tournament?"
I shot him a look. "No. Why would I do that?"
"Because at the end of today's meeting, Roald said 'invite your families to the Quidditch Camp tournament.'"
Look at Fred trying to be all cheeky.
"They won't come," I pointed out.
"You don't know that until you tell them."
I rolled my eyes. "Okay, correction: Mum might come but you know Dad won't."
"And once again, I say you don't know until-"
"I know," I cut him off bitterly.
Fred dropped the subject and I was grateful. He knew how strained it was between me and my parents though we rarely discussed it outright. Just like we didn't discuss the pressure he sometimes felt from his father to be the replacement of his namesake. But we knew each other well enough to know our innermost thoughts and feelings even if we didn't express them out loud. And when either of us were feeling down about it, the other would show up with a bottle of firewhisky or a carton of cigarette's or a suggestion of flying around on the Quidditch pitch. So we knew each other's pain. We just didn't talk about it.
We sat there smoking our cigarettes until the door opened and Alice practically threw Louis out. I could tell he was already farther gone than the rest of us, though drunk Louis was always a hoot to watch.
"No," Alice said, smacking him on the shoulder.
Fred and I exchanged an amused look. Not many people fought with Alice and won.
"WILL YOU LET ME TALK?"
"What's going on?" I asked, tossing the cigarette to the ground and smushing it with my shoe.
"Louis is peeved because I tore him away from flirting with Harley."
"Oh, Harley was there, too?" I commented.
They both ignored me. I wasn't used to that. Most people hung on to my every word.
"I was getting somewhere with Harley!" Louis whined.
"All you were getting was the evil eye from her boyfriend," Alice groaned.
"Eh, when has a little boyfriend ever stopped me before?"
"He's a big boyfriend who would have crushed your bones with only one hand," she sighed. "I swear, looking after you boys is a full-time job."
I mean, duh. But did she really have to say it?
"Y'know, AliCat, if you wanted me all to yourself, you could have just said so instead of dragging me away from Harley," Louis teased, ruffling up her hair.
She shot him a look. "I don't want you at all."
"That is so not what most girls say," he boasted.
I decided to intervene before an actual argument broke out between the two of them. "What are you doing hitting on Harley, Loucifer, when I thought you were getting somewhere with that sassy skirt back at the radio station?" I said.
That earned me a glare from Alice and I quickly added, "And by 'skirt' I literally meant skirt. Louis is into crossdressing now, haven't you heard?"
As Fred burst into laughter beside me, Alice rolled her eyes. "Smooth, Jay."
"Olive called me a wanker this morning," Louis muttered. "I'm thinking my chances with her are growing slimmer by the second."
"What did you do to deserve her calling you a wanker?" Alice sighed.
"Who said I deserved it?"
She shot him a look.
"I just told her that I liked her shirt," he countered huffily. "I don't know why-"
Louis blinked. "And what?"
"We both know there's more to that story," Alice sighed.
He hesitated. "I may have followed that up with how I bet it'd look even better off her body."
As I let out a tiny cheer and Fred continued laughing at our older cousin's expense, Alice let a groan followed by a whimper. "That's what we call sexual harassment in the workplace, Lou!"
"Ugh, you sound just like my boss."
I woke up to someone's hair in my mouth. Spitting it out and glancing down at the girl, I let out a slight sigh of relief that it was only Alice. And then I took back my relief when I realized I hadn't snogged a single girl at the bars last night.
I was seriously slipping off my game.
Glancing around the room, I realized that I was in my own bedroom which was slightly confusing seeing as I typically wound up at Alice's after a Diagon Alley club hop. Her place was far more convenient than mine.
I shifted slightly, trying not to wake Alice up but I failed. I grimaced as she stirred and let out a groan. Peeking one eye open, she stared up at me. I grinned. "Morning, sunshine."
"I hate you."
"Hm, most girls don't say that until after I kick them out of my bed."
She attempted to lift her hand to smack me but it barely made contact.
"Any chance you know why we're in my bedroom and not yours?" I questioned.
She smirked and slowly sat up. "Oh, last night at around two o'clock in the morning, you decided you wanted your Mum's peanut butter pie."
"Ooh, I hope we didn't eat it all because I'm totally craving that now."
"We didn't eat any of it because there was no peanut butter pie!" she groaned, rubbing her temples. "And then you insisted on trying to make it yourself before Lily strolled in through the back door and cleaned up the place with a flick of her wand as she told us to get to bed before we wake up the parents."
"I insisted on making it?" I said curiously. "I couldn't bake if my life depended on it."
"I tried reminding you of that fact but you wouldn't hear of it."
It all sounded vaguely familiar now. If I recall, I told her that I could be destined to be the next great baker but I wouldn't know it because I never tried.
I'm thinking that's a dream better left buried.
"Hold up," I said, sitting upright and narrowing my eyes, "You said Lily walked in through the back door?"
Alice hesitated. "Did I say back door? I meant from the dining room."
My eyes narrowed even more. "What the hell was my baby sister doing out at two in the bloody morning?"
"She's not your baby sister anymore, James," she groaned.
"Like hell she isn't!"
"She's fourteen," she whined, shaking her head at me. "Ugh, you're giving me a headache."
"I think that's the alcohol talking," I snorted, slipping out of the bed and heading towards the door.
"Where are you—James? Don't you dare."
I ignored her as I wrenched open my door and rushed down the hallway to Lily's room. I barely knocked before I thrust the door open and stormed in. "What the hell were you doing out at two o'clock in the morning?" I demanded.
All I got was snoring in return.
Must run in the family.
"Lily Luna Potter," I snapped, kicking the edge of her bed.
She stirred and slowly turned to face me. It took her a few seconds to register the fact that I was leering over her. "Why in Merlin's name are you waking me up, James? Don't you know by now I'm a terror without my beauty sleep."
"What were you doing out at two o'clock in the morning?"
She blinked before slowly sitting up, letting out a yawn. "I imagine the same thing you were doing."
I narrowed my eyes at her. "You're fourteen."
She snorted. "Like you weren't drinking at my age?" she drawled, climbing out of bed and heading towards the jack and jill bathroom she shared with Albus (I'm not sure who got the worse end of that deal).
"Oy, we're not done talking about this!"
She rolled her eyes. "There's nothing to talk about. I was over at Rayne's house for the night with a few friends. And before you call it a party, I assure you it wasn't. There was only six of us and I'd hardly classify that as a party."
"What guys were there?"
She turned around to glare at me. "When are you going to realize that I'm growing up and boys are going to notice me?"
"What boys? I'll kill them!"
She tossed a shoe at my head before disappearing into the bathroom and slamming the door in my face.
I think maybe it was time to pay Hugo a visit.
Hugo told me I was an overprotective berk who should have better things to do than spy on my sister's affairs.
I asked him to elaborate on the word 'affairs' and he threw a book at my head.
He was more like Lily than I realized.
There was only one week left of the summer holidays to go and the day of the Quidditch Camp Tournament of Kiddie Champions (as I had decided to call it) had arrived. We announced the teams to the kids this past Monday and they've been practicing all week in between actual Quidditch drills. I arranged for some mini-scrimmages to occur between some of the teams so they got an idea of how the game would be played, and the excitement only grew.
Wait until they found out that the winning team would receive tickets to the Tornadoes home opener game in early September thanks to my Aunt Angelina (the Rutherfords were about ready to just hand their camp over to me when I told them about the tickets).
I knew that Aunt Angie still had some connections with the Tornadoes and begged Fred to ask her if they could give us some free tickets for a good cause. I told him to tell her that some of the kids were terminally ill to sweeten the pot but he decided to leave that part out when asking his mother. Apparently it hadn't been necessary because she agreed to it right away.
If Fred thought it was odd that I didn't just ask my mother for Harpies tickets, he didn't say anything.
I still hadn't told my parents about the Tournament. Fred told his and I knew his parents and sister were planning on coming. I had had a smile on my face when he mentioned this to me in passing but it was just a gut-wrenching reminder that my parents didn't seem to care bout my Quidditch dreams. I had mentioned the Tournament to Alice who unfortunately had to work as AJ was going to the beach with Victoire, Teddy, and Dora. I wasn't aware that AJ knew how to have fun but evidently I was wrong.
As I strolled on to the expansive field, trying to make sure everything was in order for the tournament to begin, I noticed that the stands around the makeshift stadium were full of families and annoyingly enough, the press. A wide smile appeared on my face when I saw Kip jumping from foot to foot in an excited fashion chattering away to a gorgeous blonde who I assumed was an older sister (she looked very familiar and I wondered if she attended Hogwarts). I caught Fred's eye who waved at me before he returned to chatting with his parents.
Turning away, I started walking the length of the fields to make sure that all of the hoops were properly in place. A group of the counselors and I spent the past few nights after camp ended rearranging the open field into six mini Quidditch pitches. There were six teams of eight or nine players that ranged in age from seven to ten in what I thought was evenly matched teams. I reluctantly put Fred with Naomi (I got free drinks for a night out of it) though I also decided to put Kip with him because even though I adored the kid, he was scared of his own shadow so I can only imagine how he'd feel if a quaffle came in his way. Thankfully, we played with foam bludgers that were more deterrents than objects of injury.
"Coach Potter. It has a nice ring to it."
I froze at the familiarity of the voice, slowly turning around with my mouth open. Standing there smirking was my younger sister.
"What are you doing here?" I sputtered.
"You didn't think I'd miss my brother's big coaching debut, did you?"
I frowned. "I'm not coaching actually."
"You're running the whole bloody tournament, James," Lily drawled. "You're the ultimate coach apparent-"
"How do you know that?" I sighed irritably.
She shot me a look. "How do you think?"
I slowly averted my eyes towards the stands where Fred stood. He was no longer chatting with his parents as he stared at me with a slight grimace on his face.
I'm going to bloody khex my cousin.
"He thought we deserved to know."
I blinked. "We?" I repeated, glancing back towards me sister.
She nodded. "Mum's here, too. I think she was scoping out prime stand spots. That or she's yelling at a handful of Witch Weekly reporters."
Screw hexing Fred. I was now going to kill him.
I could have asked Lily if Dad was here but we both knew the answer to that. So I just said to her, "You better go catch up with Mum before she tosses one of those so-called journalists down the stairs."
I was finishing up with my checklist when I heard familiar footsteps behind me. "Don't," I muttered through gritted teeth before Fred could say anything.
"I thought Lily deserved to know in the very least," he spoke in a small voice.
I whirled around to glare at him. "So then tell Lily. Don't go telling my parents."
"I can't do this right now," I snapped huffily. "I have a Tournament to run."
I stormed off then, knowing I was being a tad unfair to Fred when my anger was actually directed at my father.
Though Fred's involvement certainly didn't help.
I knew Dad wouldn't show up which is why I didn't tell him. I didn't have to have my cousin go behind my back and mention the Tournament to my parents just to prove me right. It was just another slap in the face that my accomplishments apparently meant very little to him.
If it had been Al who was running the Tournament, I bet Dad would have showed up.
I didn't know who was having more fun today. Me or the kids. Even the teams that lost didn't completely sulk like I probably would have done at their age. They were sad for a brief moment before realizing this meant they could watch the rest of the games. And while playing in a Tournament was always fun, cheering on your friends was just as enjoyable. Some kids even showed up with signs.
"DID YOU SEE THE GOAL I MADE!"
I turned around, grinning as I reached over to high-five Kip. "You're a natural chaser, Kip!"
His smile wavered. "Except I can't fly."
"You can," I corrected with a shake of the head. "You're just scared to. But everyone has fears and we all find a way to overcome them. You'll get over your fear of flying one day, I promise you that."
He considered these words for a second before asking, "What are you scared of?"
The question threw me for a loop because I was hardly going to have a deep conversation about my insecurities with a seven-year-old. "Dragons," I lied.
Kip shuddered. "I'm scared of those, too."
"Who isn't?" I chuckled, reaching over to ruffle his hair. "Now, get going. Your team's about to start their next match."
He held up his hand again and I gave him another high-five before he beelined it over to where Fred was praising Naomi. She was definitely one of the better seekers out on the pitch today. We charmed the snitches so that they would fly about but that they couldn't go above any of the kids' heads so all they had to do was chase after it and catch it before their opponent. And as great as she in on a broomstick, she was an even faster runner if you could believe it.
Fred glanced up at me but I pretended not to notice as I headed towards the other end of the field to announce the next matchups. We were in the semi-final round so there were four teams playing, including Fred's. Like me, he was in his element cheering on and coaching his team. It put a smile on my face before I realized I was angry with him and I quickly removed it.
I joined up with Roald and Matilda who were scouring the schedule I had provided to them. "We're about to start the semi-final round. Bluejays are playing the Robins in the far field and the Cardinals will be playing the Finches on this field," I spoke to them. "Do either of you want to ref one of the games or shall I get Higgins to do it? You know how much he loves to call fouls on the big kids."
Roald chuckled. "Yeah, get Higgins to do it. You'll be reffing the other game?"
I nodded. As much as I would have loved to watch Kip in his element, I figured refereeing the game that Fred wasn't coaching (the Cardinals) was a fairer thing to do.
Roald magnified his voice and announced the next two matches as I headed to the far side of the field to referee the next game.
It came as no surprise to me or to anyone really that Fred's team won by a landslide and made it into the finals. The Bluejays-Robins game was a tighter race and the Bluejays came away with the win by only twenty points thanks to their seeker catching the makeshift snitch.
As I went over to high-five the Bluejays for a match well done, I noticed Fred doing a victory dance with his team that consisted of cartwheels and yodeling and I couldn't help but laugh. He was acting like a total idiot but the kids were lapping it up. Fred truly was in his element surrounded by a bunch of kids. He fit right in.
"Why don't you announce the last match, James?"
I glanced over my shoulder as Matilda walked up to me with a curious smile. "Oh, I was planning on ref-"
"I know, but Higgins can do that. I thought it might be nice to have an announcer for this last match. And who else but the guy who singlehandedly organized this event?"
I was not someone who blushed often but the pride in her voice made my cheeks heat up just slightly. "Er…yeah, okay."
As the Cardinals and the Bluejays huddled together for what I can only imagine was a pre-game pep talk, I stood on the sidelines and magnified my voice. "Good afternoon and I welcome you all to the epic final match of the Tournament!"
The crowd went wild with applause. I pretended not to notice my mother and Lily cheering along, instead laughing as Uncle George and Aunt Angelina traded off making faces at me.
"After four rounds of epic, nail-biting matches, we are down to our two final teams fighting it out for the trophy and for bragging rights. But wait, what's that? Oh, did we forget to mention that there was one final prize in store for our lucky winners? One mindblowing prize that will have the team crying in excitement? Because this isn't just a game to see who can win a Trophy that my cousin threw together last minute because I asked him no. Nope, every single member of the winning team will be given the grand prize of, drum roll please-"
Imagine my surprise when a thunderous roar filled the stands as the crowd slammed their shoes and hands against the bleachers.
I grinned. "THE WINNING TEAM WILL BE RECEIVING TICKETS TO THE TORNADOES HOME-OPENING GAME IN TWO WEEKS!"
There was shocked silence in the air before an earsplitting reverberation of excited cheers fell from both the stands and the grass. The kids looked stunned. The parents looked impressed. The press looked giddy. And Roald and Matilda Rutherford just beamed.
I realized then that I was actually going to miss this camp when the day was over.
Much to Fred's chagrin, his team lost by ninety when the Bluejays' seeker grabbed the snitch just before Naomi could. I could see the frustration and disappointment on his team's faces and it nearly broke my heart to see that Naomi had tears in her eyes.
I made my way over to them as Roald and Matilda took over announcing, congratulating both teams and asking all of the kids to gather in the middle of field for the traditional end-of-year toasts.
"You guys played so well!" I urged Fred's team.
"We lost," Kip pouted.
I shrugged apologetically. "I know," I said, "But that's part of the game unfortunately. You can't win them all. What you can do is pick your head up, put a smile on your face, and learn from any mistakes you may have made. Because that's how you get better. You may have lost this match, but you'll win the next one."
"There won't be another," Naomi chimed in, her arms folded across her body stubbornly.
I smiled at her. "There's always another match, Naomi," I urged.
She didn't look convinced as she joined up with the rest of her team who were making their way to the middle of the field with the other kids.
I glanced up at Fred who was staring at me with a frown. He opened his mouth, but I got there first. "I'm sorry, Fred."
He blinked. "That's supposed to be my line."
I shrugged. "I wasn't mad at you," I murmured, shaking my head. "It was just easy taking it out on you."
He frowned and said nothing at first. I wished he would have stayed quiet, because he said next, "I'm sorry he didn't show."
I didn't have to ask who he was referring to. Guess Fred figured out why I had wanted to keep the Tournament quiet. "I knew he wouldn't," I spoke stiffly.
Fred said nothing and I genuinely appreciated it. He knew I had my issues with my parents but it was hard for him to truly understand them when his relationship with his parents was far from rocky. I knew Fred still felt like he had a lot to live up to when it came to his father's twin brother, but that pressure was minimal at best. There was no resentment or regret between Fred and his father. Actually, his father was one of Fred's best friends. We always joked that Uncle George was more like one of the cousins than an uncle, just a big kid at heart who loved to laugh and who loved to make the rest of us laugh. Fred got lucky with his father. I couldn't say the same about me.
"It was last minute," Fred said with a hesitant shrug.
I glanced at him with a small shake of the head. "It wouldn't have mattered if you gave him all the notice in the world."
Dad didn't used to ignore me. He used to be in the stands at every one of my Hogwarts games cheering me on. Until one day, he stopped. I got a concussion during my third year and he warned me to take it easy and I told him I'd get a million concussions if it meant playing a mean game of Quidditch and he didn't seem to like that much at all. He thought I put way too much energy into "just a game" (his words, definitely not mine) and apparently decided that since I cared so much about the game, he no longer had to. And then at some point after that, he just decided to stop caring about me at all.
Fred didn't have a response, not that I expected him to, so we dropped the subject as we headed towards the middle of the field, plopping down on to the grass amongst the rest of the counselors.
Apparently it was tradition for the Rutherfords to hand out a variety of awards to the kids for their accomplishments throughout the summer. Most Quaffles Scored. Most Improved Flyer. Achievements in Beating.
I tuned out most of the awards, glancing towards the stands where I knew my mother and sister were sitting. I stiffened when I noticed my mother was staring right at me. She offered me a smile but I quickly looked away, not sure if I was happy she was there or annoyed. My mother and I had a decent relationship though I wouldn't say there was anything special about it. I resented her at times because she always tried to cover up dad's faults. And her showing up today knowing he wouldn't was one of them. She always tried to make up for his absence but it only highlighted it in my mind. Not that I'd ever tell her that.
"Most Valuable Player is noneother than Naomi Watson!"
I snapped back to the present moment, putting my hands together and cheering as a surprised and elated Naomi jumped off the grass and hurried to the podium to accept her award. I grinned, knowing full well that she deserved it.
"And finally we have our last award," Roald announced. "This one is always a favorite of mine to reveal as it's not just our kids who grow over the summer but also our counselors. Without them, the camp wouldn't even exist. So please put your hands together for our Most Valuable Counselor of the Summer: James Potter!"
I froze, gaping up at our Camp Directors who were both beaming at me. Did he just say my name?
Fred nudged me. "Go up there," he hissed.
Oh, guess I didn't imagine that.
I slowly pulled myself off the grass and headed towards the podium as Roald continued to speak. "I don't know how many of you in the crowd are aware of this, but today's Tournament was almost completely prepared by James. He came up with the idea, he chose the teams, he formed the rules, and he was the one who acquired the Tornadoes-Arrows tickets, thinking that the kids would really enjoy watching a professional game together. Today wouldn't have been possible without him and I know that myself and my wife are incredibly proud of him. Congratulations, James. I don't know anyone else who deserves this award more than you."
I was standing by his side when he finished that last bit and I knew my cheeks were burning a fiery red. It created a bit of a hollow feeling in the middle of my chest, hearing someone who I had only come to know just two months earlier say he was proud of me when I only put together the Tournament because I thought the kids would enjoy it. I hadn't done it for praise. I hadn't expected an award for it. I just wanted the kids to have a last day of camp that they would never forget.
I just hadn't realized that it was going to be a day I wasn't going to forget either.
Still clutching my award, I reluctantly tore myself away from the other counselors and headed towards the stands where I saw my mother and my sister waiting. I would have been happy to avoid them completely, but Fred told me I didn't deserve Most Valuable Counselor if I couldn't even face my own family.
I really hated it when he was right.
As I made my way over to them, Lily immediately punched me in the arm. "Well, look at you, Mr. Bigshot."
I rolled my eyes. "It's just some silly camp award."
She shot me a look but said nothing as Mum cut her off. "Fred told us about the Tournament but he neglected to point out that you were the one who put the whole thing together."
"I had help," I said with a shrug.
"Didn't sound like it from the way Roald Rutherford was going on about you."
I only shrugged again.
"Why didn't you tell us?" Mum asked softly.
"It's not that big of a deal," I sighed. "Just some silly tournament very much like the ones we used to have as kids. It's not like I haven't had practice."
"Wrangling eleven cousins is hardly comparable to eighty plus kids."
Not knowing what to say to that, I shrugged again. That seemed to be my trademark move. "It was fun," I said.
"You really were in your element out there," she said with a smile and a nod. "You were born to play Quidditch."
Tell that to Dad.
I said that aloud and I saw the flicker of panic in my Mum's eyes. "He's not against you playing Quidditch, James," she spoke with a sigh. "He knows how much Quidditch means to you. It meant something to him once, too. But it wasn't everything. He doesn't want to see you get hurt if your life plan doesn't work out the way you'd like it to. He knows what that's like. To have your life go a completely different way than planned."
I somehow suppressed the urge to roll my eyes. "Whatever" was my rather inspiring comeback.
She sighed again. "James, he would have liked to come," she urged.
"He had a meeting with the French Ministry today he couldn't miss," she continued. "If he could have, he would-"
"Thank you for coming, Mum," I interrupted swiftly, not wanting to talk about Dad's absence anymore. "It was nice of you to take off work."
She and I both knew it was a dig towards the guy who didn't bother to take off work to show up.
"Hey, what about me?" Lily whined. "Aren't you glad I came?"
"If it keeps you away from those prepubescent boys you favor, then yes."
She scoffed. "How is it possible for you to turn a conversation about your accomplishments back on my flirting ways?"
"You better not have flirting ways."
I could see Mum trying to hide a smile as I glared at my younger sister. With the roll of the eyes, she said, "On that note, I'm outta here."
"Oy, who are you flirting with?" I called out after her. "Lily!"
As expected she ignored me as she skipped off toward Roxy and with a groan, I glanced back towards Mum. "You coming home with me or is there some huge raging after-party you have to rush off to?" she asked.
"No party," I lied. "Just some of the counselors getting together for a drink or two."
She smirked. "You forget that I used to be a Quidditch player. All any of you know how to do is play Quidditch and drink until your livers scream obscenities at you."
I was fairly certain my liver had started doing that at least a year ago.
Not that I ever listened.
I grinned sheepishly. "Don't wait up?"
She chuckled as she embraced me and disappeared.
The camp counselors, although a rather rowdy bunch during the day, were unusually mellow at night so the all-night raging party lasted only a few hours before everyone dispersed. I stayed out with Fred for another hour but he had found a girl to flirt with and while she had had a friend who had been eyeing me up all night, I annoyingly didn't have it in me to pretend to care about her. I couldn't stop thinking about the Tournament and Dad and it put me in a bit of a somber mood.
I knew I was probably giving my father a harder time than he deserved. It's not like he became the Head of the Auror Office by slacking off. He worked hard to get there and he worked even harder to prove to the world he wasn't just some ancient boy wonder who didn't deserve the title he rightly earned. But giving my father a hard time was something I had perfected over the years so I wasn't about to let up now.
I eventually left the pub and headed home. It was just after midnight when I fell back against my bed with a sigh, glad that there was only one more week until I'd get to return to Hogwarts.
I pulled the Quidditch playbook I had been compiling since my first year on the team out of my bedside drawer and began flipping through it. It had been through the ringers over the past few years. Every play and strategy ever used by any and all player on the Gryffindor team was in there as well as some new plays I had been messing around with. It was pretty much my lifeline other than my actual broom.
There was a sound at my bedroom window an hour later and when I glanced over, I chuckled as Alice's face came into view.
Scrambling off my bed, I went over to the window and pulled it open. Alice was hovering on the oak tree with a sheepish grin on her face that had me laughing. "You could have come through the back door. You know the code to turn off the alarm."
She shrugged. "I didn't know if anyone else was still up."
"It's almost one o'clock. The only people that might be up are Albus and Lily and I'd hardly think they'd care if you wandered in through the back door."
She rolled her eyes. "I just climbed up a tree for you and you're scolding me for it?"
I chuckled, opening the window wider so she could shimmy through. "Reminds you of when we were kids, doesn't it?" I spoke nostalgically.
She pulled herself off the floor and glanced up at me. "We used to sneak into each other's rooms all the time. I still remember the time Dad came to check on me in my own room just to notice I wasn't there. He nearly called the Ministry to put out an amber alert."
"And all that time, you were asleep in my bed," I chuckled. "I'm surprised my parents didn't cut down that tree after that."
"It's not like we were using that tree for trouble."
My eyebrow quirked up.
"Well, that they knew of," she smirked, dropping on to the edge of my bed with a yawn.
"So, what are you doing here?" I questioned, somehow already knowing the answer.
She glanced up at me with a bit of slight guilt flickering in her eyes. "Fred stopped by the Leaky Cauldron. With one hell of a winner on his arm might I add."
"Ah, Elizabet I believe her name was. No 'h.' She made it a point to tell us that," I chuckled before the smile on my face quickly faded.
She dismissed the comment. "He told me about what happened today."
"Yeah, I know, I couldn't believe I won an award," I spoke dismissively, dropping on to the bed beside her with a yawn. "The only awards people typically are looking to give me are ones for being the greatest prat."
"As true as that may be," she teased, "I'm not talking about your damned award."
Yeah, I knew that, but it was so much more fun avoiding the topic of my father.
"Yes, but I'd much prefer to talk about the award," I muttered.
"And what kind of best friend would I be if I just let you internalize all of your issues?"
Of course I had issues. I was born into a world of fame I had never wanted and a family that didn't seem to understand that.
"The kind I'd share half of my summer earnings with if she didn't talk about my father right now," I said with a teasing grin.
She let out a loud laugh. "Bull-fucking-shit," she chuckled. "You're not going to share any of that with me."
"Okay, maybe not half, but I might consider buying you a drink the next time we go out," I huffed.
"You're too busy buying drinks for big-boobed, ditzy blondes to bother with me," she was quick to counter.
"Hey, you have got it all wrong," I huffed. "Sometimes they're brunette."
She could have laughed. She should have. That was a witty retort that deserved laughter. But she just sighed and said, "Let's go back to not talking about your award, hm?"
"What do you want me to say, Ace?" I murmured. "I'm fine. Really. It's just another moment to store away in James Potter's box of epic accomplishments that my father could not care less about."
She tilted her head to the side. "Epic accomplishments, hm? That box must be incredibly empty."
"Hey!" I laughed, poking her in the ribs. She squealed and scooted away from me.
I had plenty of accomplishments. Granted, most of them had to do with Quidditch.
No, actually all of them had to do with Quidditch. But who needed schoolwork anyway?
"You don't have to be fine," she said, cutting through my thoughts.
I glanced at her with a frown. "I'm really not in the mood to be talking about this at one o'clock in the morning, Ace."
She nodded. "I figured. That's why I'm not here to talk."
My eyebrow shot up. "Then what are you here to do?"
She smiled. "I think we both know what this moment calls for."
Still smiling, she climbed off my bed and moved towards my dresser where my bewitched stereo was. I grinned, knowing exactly what she was thinking as she sifted through my music collection of magical bands – Snitchets, Hungry Hippogriffs, Blood Sweat and Butterbeers, Alvarino Demlock, Mumford and Sons, Keane, and the list goes on – before settling on one of the albums. She tossed it into the stereo, put a mufflatio spell on us to keep the sound contained within my room, and turned up the volume.
It's empty in the valley of your heart
The sun, it rises slowly as you walk
Away from all the fears
And all the faults you've left behind
"C'mon," she said, gesturing for me to get off my bed.
I sighed. "It's one o'clock in the morning."
"A perfect time to dance it out," she urged, singing along to the song as she swayed her hips with the beat of the music. "But I will hold on hope and I won't let you choke – c'mon, Jay!"
She actually had a decent voice but then again, what couldn't she do?
"Dancing it out is not going to make up for my father's lack of interest in my hobbies," I pointed out.
She rolled her eyes at me. "It's not intended to make up for it, Jay," she reminded me with a knowing look. "This isn't about him. It's not even about you. It's about ignoring everything while we dance it out. So stop stalling because we both know you're going to join me."
I grinned. She was right about that as I slowly picked myself off my bed and began dancing around, whistling along with the lyrics.
And I'll find strength in pain
And I will change my ways
I'll know my name as it's called again
'Cause I have other things to fill my time
You take what is yours and I'll take mine
Now let me at the truth
Which will refresh my broken mind
We had started this tradition as a kid. When her mother had died, Alice didn't smile for days and expectedly so. We were only five years old at the time so while we both had an understanding of what was going on, none of it felt real to us. And yet each day that passed, Alice grew sadder and sadder and all I had wanted to do was put a smile on her face any way I knew how. So as we sat in her bedroom about a week after the funeral, I turned on her radio and sifted through a bunch of stations until I found one playing a popular Snitchet single. I turned up the volume, strolled over to Alice, grabbed her hand and pulled her to her feet and began dancing around the room singing at the top of my lungs. She had thought I was crazy at first but ended up joining in and by the end of it, we were jumping on her bed and laughing together.
It was the first real vivid memory I had of the both of us.
Ever since then anytime one of us was feeling down for any reason, we'd turn the stereo on or find a station on the radio and we danced it out. It made us smile every time.
So come out of your cave walking on your hands
And see the world hanging upside down
You can understand dependence
When you know the maker's land
We honestly looked ridiculous. Anyone peering into my window would find it amusing to see two full-grown teenagers waving their arms and swaying their hips as they sang along to a catchy pop song. But in those moments, nothing mattered except for Alice and me.
It was times like this one that reminded me just how much my friendship with Alice meant to me. She knew when I wanted to discuss something or when I just wanted to dance it out, to forget about something for the briefest of moments and smile as if to remind myself that I still had so much to be happy about.
The song ended and we collapsed on to my bed in a fit of giggles, as we usually did when we danced it out.
"That never gets old," she said with a grin, glancing towards me with knowing eyes.
I shook my head. "Do you think we'll be doing that in our fifties when we turn to each other to complain about our nagging husbands and wives?"
"You could use a nagging husband," she teased.
I poked her in the stomach and she squealed again. "The husband is yours, you snarky hussy."
She chuckled before it slowly faded. "I hope we'll still be friends when we're fifty if that's what you're asking."
That threw me for a loop.
No, that thought hadn't actually crossed my mind at all because there wasn't any type of hypothetical future of mine that didn't include her.
"I don't hope we'll be friends, Ace," I argued. "I know we will."
A smile crept on to her lips. "You really think so?"
I nodded. "We'll be dancing it out in our retirement homes. Just you wait."
She smiled and leaned her head against my shoulder. "Well, alright, but let's not grow up just yet, okay? I'm not ready to stop being a teenager yet."
"Uh-oh," I mused. "If you're not ready, what does that say about me?"
She thought about it for a half second before shrugging. "That you're doomed."
I chuckled. "Yeah, that sounds about right," I teased. With another yawn, I glanced down at her. "You staying here tonight?"
She nodded, her eyes already drooping.
I closed my own eyes with a content nod. "Good answer."
There was a full-page spread on the Quidditch Camp Tournament in the Daily Prophet. I only found out about that when I traipsed down to breakfast the next morning with Alice right behind me and found the article hanging on the refrigerator.
"Oh, hell," I muttered, the photo of me accepting my award located front and center, unusually large compared to the other photos around it.
Alice smirked. "Not your best photo."
I shot her a look and tore the article off the fridge. I skimmed it and by the end of it, I crumpled it up and tossed it on to the counter.
Alice looked at me. "That's actually good publicity for the camp."
I grunted as I wandered over to the sink and poured us both a glass of water. "Yeah, if it was about the ruddy camp at all," I snapped. "But they spelled the Rutherfords name wrong—and how the hell does someone spell Rutherford wrong—they gave the wrong location, and barely mentioned the winning team. No, it's all about me and my accomplishments and therefore makes me look like the only reason I put the Tournament together was because I was looking for some good publicity."
Alice frowned as I handed her the glass of water, both of us settling into the kitchen island next to each other. "Only you are going to see it like that."
I shrugged. "You want some eggs?"
Her eyebrow shot up. "You know how to make eggs?"
"No, I was going to make you do it."
She struck me in the stomach just as my sister strolled into the kitchen. She did a double-take when she first noticed Alice but merely rolled her eyes. "Did you read the article in today's paper, James?" she asked, glancing over at the refrigerator. Frowning, she looked back at me. "Okay, what the hell did you do with it?"
"Do with what?" I asked innocently.
She rolled her eyes. "That was the first article in years that hasn't made you out to be a total wanker."
"The Tournament wasn't about me, Lils," I shot back.
"Don't call me that," she said. "And sure, the article was very James-heavy, but-"
"No but," I interrupted with a sigh. "That article didn't promote the camp or the Tournament. It was yet another way of throwing the Potter name into the press and I'm tired of them using me to do it."
"Stop being a wanker and they won't."
I glared at her but she merely smirked and said, "That was the first article in forever that didn't make you out to be some rebellious, attention-seeking, girl-chasing man-whore and you ripped it up. If I were you, I would have framed it."
Ignoring Alice's laughs beside me, I said, "If you're going to continue insulting me, you could at least do that while making me eggs."
She snorted. "Dream on."
"Well, fine," I said with a dramatic sigh, pulling myself off the stool and heading towards the refrigerator, "But when Mum asks me why I burned down the kitchen, I will have to blame you."
Lily turned to Alice. "Please keep my brother away from the burners."
"Considering I value my life, of course I will."
I scowled at the both of them but Alice merely grinned at me and Lily turned and left the kitchen.
I ended up eating cereal for breakfast.
A/N: And done with chapter 2. You get a bit more insight into James and Alice as well as James and his father. Keep in mind, all of you who may think Harry's actions seem out of character, that you are reading this through James' mind so you're getting a one-sided version of the story. More on them to come.
Next: Back to Hogwarts!