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A Way With Words
Fred W. II & James S. P. & OC - Words: 190,538 - Rated: M - English - Drama & Humor - Chapters: 12 - Reviews: 51 - Updated: 08-10-2018 - Published: 16-05-2018 - by ByeByeBirdie (FFN)

A/N: And we are back with Chapter 3. Thank you for those who are reviewing - you keep me motivated! It's always so interesting to hear the reader's take on things as I am obviously very close to this story and can't always see it at face value.


A WAY WITH WORDS

By ByeByeBirdie

Chapter 3: Celebration

"Celebrate good times, c'mon!
There's a party going on' right here
A celebration to last throughout the years
So bring your good times and your laughter too
We gonna celebrate your party with you."

-Kool & The Gang


I managed to somehow survive the rest of the summer and was back at King's Cross Station. I was able to avoid too much of an argument with my parents that morning as I finished my last-minute packing and stuffed a muffin down my throat. There were a handful of jabs directed towards my lack of effort in my classes but I ignored them all, going through the list of candidates for my two open Quidditch positions in my head to tune out the droll going on around me. It didn't work all that well since the only candidate I could think of was Rose and she still refused to help me out.

Believe me, I had asked her twice more. And twice more she told me to fuck off.

She really had a way with words.

As I made my way through the Platform 9 ¾ barrier, I couldn't hold back the grin on my face. I was met with the usual hustle and bustle of students and parents alike, the shouts and the tears intermingling around me as I did what any normal seventeen year old would do and stared at the endless legs that came with short dresses and even shorter shorts on nearly every girl that was in my near vicinity.

I stumbled forward when I was suddenly hit from behind. Whirling around, my sister glared up at me. "You're supposed to move away from the barrier, not stand there asking for an invitation to get slammed into."

I rolled my eyes. "Gee, what will I do next year without your sage wisdom, dear sister?"

"What makes you think you're actually going to graduate this year?" she teased, winking at me before taking off into the crowd of people. She met up with Hugo who was currently being fussed over by Aunt Hermione and Uncle Ron. Rose was nowhere to be seen, though if I knew her at all, she would have dashed on to the train in order to avoid the overcrowded platform full of people she didn't like nor wanted to talk to.

"There you are," a familiar voice spoke.

I was met with a punch to the shoulder as I turned to my right. "Here I am," I said to Fred.

"I'm assuming you're late because your parents had to get one more 'you're wasting your academic potential' speech in?"

"I'm hardly late," I pointed out. "It's only ten til."

"Way to avoid my question," he chuckled.

"Nah, wasn't too bad," I said with a shrug. "They managed to get in a few comments but spent most of the morning crying about how their baby boy was going off to his final year at Hogwarts. A little too sentimental for my taste if you ask me."

Fred laughed and I used that time to change the subject. "You claim our compartment next to the snack car yet?"

"You know it," he smirked. "There was a pair of fourth years there but I kicked them out."

"Atta boy," I grinned.

I grabbed the handle on my trunk and headed towards the train. I hadn't gotten very far when my mother's voice stopped me. "Aren't you going to say goodbye?"

I glanced over my shoulder with a sheepish grin and headed back to where she was saying her goodbyes to Albus. "I, uh, was just going to put my trunk on the train then come back to say good-bye." It was a lie. I had kinda, definitely forgotten about my parents the moment I stepped foot on platform 9 ¾.

She looked unamused and I had a feeling she could see right through my lie. She did that too often for my liking. "How about you say your good-byes now before you get distracted by your friends?"

"Or a girl most likely," Albus muttered from beside her.

I shot him a scathing look. "Jealous?"

"I'm the one with the girlfriend, remember?"

"Yeah, sorry about that. Real bummer," I smirked.

Albus narrowed his eyes at me but Dad was smart enough to cut us off. "Do you boys have everything you need?"

"Yes," I said even though I was certain I left something under my bed. I almost always did.

"I can't believe you're going into your last year at Hogwarts," Mum said and I just prayed she wouldn't get all misty-eyed on me. "I swear it was just last week I was changing your napp-"

"Mum!" I groaned, ignoring Fred's laughter beside me. "We are in a public place so please, be cool."

She grinned sheepishly before reaching out an embracing me. "You have a good year, y'hear? And please remember to write your dear ol' Mum from time to time. I don't love how the only news I get about you are letters home from the Headmistress about the latest trouble you've caused."

"Hey, at least you then know I'm still alive," I teased.

"Maybe you could try not getting into so much trouble this year," Dad suggested with a quirked eyebrow.

"If I did that, how would Mum know I'm okay?" I responded with a smirk.

"Pick up a quill and write to your parents every once and a while, why don't you?" Mum groaned.

I shrugged. "I will." I won't.

Dad hesitated before reaching over and clapping me on the shoulder. "Enjoy your last year, son."

When he said nothing more, I was surprised but pleased as I was expecting one last 'focus on your studies' plea. "Sure," I said with a shrug. Flashing both my parents a smile, I reached for the handle of my trunk once more and followed Fred towards the train.

As I reached our usual compartment and peeked into the compartment, I broke out into a grin. Sliding the door open, I said, "Why am I not surprised you already have your sketchbook out?"

Alice glanced up with a smile. "Hey, boys. And shut up, I only have a few minutes of drawing time before I have to head to the prefect compartment."

I grimaced. "Ugh, I forget sometimes that you're one of them."

"She's actually the boss of them now," Fred teased.

She rolled her eyes. "If you didn't have me keeping you two in line, you probably would have been expelled years ago."

"Hey, there's still time," I responded cheekily, flopping down on to the bench beside her. Glancing at the sketchpad in her lap, I noticed she was drawing some of the crowd just outside the window. It included my Uncle Percy and my cousin, Lucy, who was going into her first year at Hogwarts. For a seven-year streak, there had always been a Weasley entering their first year at Hogwarts, but the last three years have been Weasley-free. I always joke with Fred that that meant Lucy was clearly an accident, a theory that I had to imagine could be confirmed by the fact that her sister was eight years older than she was.

I reveled in her sketching details for a moment, wondering how it was possible that she had the time to perfect her art skills in between trying to be the best at school and on the Quidditch pitch. She really was incredibly multitalented. It was impressive considering I only ever really had time for Quidditch.

Then again, I hardly had people in my life I was looking to impress and even though I'd never say it to her, I knew Alice spent a lot of her time trying to be perfect at everything she touched as a way of making her mother's memory proud.

The door slid open again and Dash wandered in. "Your brother decided it was a good idea to snog that girlfriend of his on the platform. There are Witch Weekly reporters who are eating it up," he muttered with a grimace.

"I would hardly call those who write for Witch Weekly reporters," Alice drawled.

"You would have thought Al would have learned by now to keep his private business private. Evidently he's not as smart as people seem to think he is," I drawled.

I silently thanked Fred as he changed the subject. "And pray tell where is your girlfriend, Finnigan? Shouldn't you be snogging her on the platform?"

"She stopped to talk to Lena and Kenley," he said, referring to the remaining two dorm-mates of Alice and Shayne.

Alice rolled her eyes and rightfully so. Kenley Brown was your typical Queen wannaBee who thought the sun shined out of her ass and the world should bow down to her just because she had a pretty face.

For the record, if the world bowed down to anyone, it should be me.

Lena Cattermole wouldn't be so terrible if she hadn't decided befriending Kenley was a good idea back in their first year. It made her taste level severely questionable.

"So how goes my two favorite Peasleys?" Dash said with a stifled yawn as he propped his feet up against the bench opposite him.

When Hogwarts started being invaded by Weasleys and Potters, someone had made up the highly not-so-brilliant nickname Peasleys to account for all of us. It had unfortunately stuck over the years.

"Favorite, hm? I bet you say that to all of our family members," I joked, kicking him teasingly in the shin.

"No, only the ones who don't kick me," he scoffed, kicking me right back.

"If violence is about to break out, I think that's my cue to head to the prefect compartment," Alice said, shoving her sketchbook back into her bag and hoisting it over her shoulder. "Pray for me."

"For what?" I questioned. "You were born to be Head Girl."

"Maybe, but I'm sure it depends on who my co-Head is," she argued.

"Here's hoping it's Lennox or Frankel," I said, crossing both of my fingers and holding them up.

She grinned before disappearing out the door and down the hallway.

"Alright, now that the delectable goody-two-shoes is gone," Dash teased, "Where are you two on the back-to-school prank I know you've been cooking up?"

Fred and I grinned at each other. "Oh, the details are nearly finalized, Dashiell Finnigan," Fred bragged. "You're in for a treat."

He chuckled, pulling his legs up and resting his feet on the opposite bench. "So," he said curiously, "Is it weird?"

"Is what weird?" Fred questioned.

"Not having Louis here."

An awkward silence filled the compartment. Since our very first year, Louis had been in that compartment with us. The void from his absence was unfortunately very noticeable.

"I suppose I'll just have to make up for him not being here by being even more loud and obnoxious," Fred said with an overdramatic sigh.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Dash groaned. "I should have kept my mouth shut."

Fred and I dove into a conversation then about our traditional back-to-school prank, fine-tuning the details we spent all summer poring over. Dash listened on and provided input occasionally, most of which we took him up on.

The three of us looked up a few minutes later when the compartment door slid open and in wandered Shayne. "Hey," she greeted, dropping on to the bench beside her boyfriend and plopping a kiss on his cheek. "Kenley says hi."

"Ew. Why?" I murmured.

Shayne shot me a look. "She isn't so bad, James."

"I'm pretty sure she's the devil in very tight clothing."

"Ah, so you've noticed her tight clothing, have you?" Dash teased.

"You're not male if you haven't," Fred chimed in with a smirk.

Shayne rolled her eyes. "Well, it's official. All men are pigs."

Couldn't even argue with her there.

The compartment door slid open once again and in wandered Jax. "Where's AliCat? I've got good news for her."

"She's not going on a date with you, mate," Fred teased.

Jax shot him a look. "Not interested. Besides, James would castrate me if I even said the word 'date' around her."

I grinned. "I've trained you well, grasshopper."

"What's the good news?" Shayne asked.

"Just found out who got Head Boy and it isn't snooty Jessup or arrogant Pruitt."

"Tell me it's Lennox," I said eagerly.

"Sorry, Rudy Frankel got it."

I groaned. "He's too much of a pretty boy to be smart."

"Well, if that isn't a blatant stereotype," Shayne snorted, rolling her eyes. She did that a lot around me.

"Speaking of Head Boy, aren't you supposed to be at that smart people's meeting right about now?" Dash questioned Jax.

"Headed there now," he said with a shrug. Glancing towards me, he said, "By the way, just ran into Hattie Wilkes and I swear to you she got even hotter over the summer if you can believe it."

"Oy, you keep away from her, Blockhead!" I argued, sitting upright. Back when Jax was an eleven-year-old boy, someone (translation: me) had decided calling him Blockhead due to his last name being Bloch was a creative nickname. I only brought it out now in times of extreme desperation.

He smirked. "Last I checked, you didn't have a claim over her."

I scowled. "Fine, but I hope every time you flirt with her you remember my sweaty body grinding into her-"

"And there goes my breakfast," Shayne muttered.

I'd say I forgot she was there but I had stopped trying to censor myself around her long ago.

Jax grimaced. "Thank you for that pleasant imagery, Cappy. Now I have to go and wash my eyes out with a fire poker."

He turned to leave but not before I called out, "You better not be doing that because I need those eyes on my Quidditch pitch!"

As if on cue, Shayne rolled her eyes.

Dash and I dove into a conversation about the start of the upcoming pro Quidditch season set to begin in just one more week while Fred somehow swindled Shayne into playing chess against him. It was an unusually quiet hour considering a Weasley and a Potter made up one-half of the group, but I suppose we didn't cause nearly enough trouble as my parents believed we did.

I was arguing with Dash that the Macaws had the most underrated defense opposed to the Finches that Dash believed, when the compartment door opened once again.

"Terrence Owens has a higher aim rate than the Finches' beaters combined!" I boasted.

"Failah Heathens has a higher blocking rate than the Macaws' keeper and it's not even close," Dash argued.

"He's an idiot, AliCat. Just ignore him," Jax was saying to Alice in the doorway, "We all know he's just trying to get a rise out of you."

I halted my conversation with Dash to look up at Alice who was wearing a rather sullen frown on her face. "Ignore who?" I interjected.

"No one," she said, shooting Jax a look as she fell on to the bench beside me.

My eyes narrowed. "Ignore who?" I repeated.

"No one," she snapped at me.

My eyebrow shot up as Fred chimed in. "Uh, dare I ask how the smarty-pants meeting went?"

"Swell," Alice spoke brusquely.

Alice has never used the word 'swell' in her life so I had a very strong feeling that the meeting had been far from swell.

"AliCat, he's-"

"Don't," she cut Jax off, her eyes filled with pleading. "Someone change the subject."

Tense silence filled the compartment before Shayne spoke up. "So, is Rudy still as good-looking as I recall?"

As Alice chuckled, Dash grunted. "Shopping around for your next boyfriend, hm?"

"Don't worry, Finnigan, you're still better-looking than Rudy," Alice chimed in with a teasing grin.

"Really? This git?" I contemplated.

"Shouldn't you be off shagging Hattie in the loo by now?" he barked at me.

Hm, that did sound like a rather appealing option.

"Talk about good-looking," I smirked with a low whistle.

Alice rolled her eyes. So did Shayne. Obviously. "She asked at the meeting if you got Quidditch Captain, Jay. Wanted me to pass along her congratulations."

"I'll make sure to thoroughly thank her later," I bragged, my usual trademark smirk filling my expression.

More eye rolls.

"Now, how about we get back to who you need to ignore, Ace?" I demanded.

She glared at me. "Don't you ever let shit go, Jay?"

"No," I said because that was the truth. "Why won't you tell me about the meeting?"

"Because there's nothing to tell!"

"That's a lot of hostility in your voice for 'nothing to tell.'"

"Leave it alone."

"You know I won't."

"Oh, for Merlin's sake," she snapped, jumping off the bench and storming out.

I watched her go, a grimace on my face. I'd have to pay for pestering her later but first I glanced towards Jax. "Alright, Jackie, spill."

"Yeah, I'm totally okay with you never calling me that ever again."

"What happened at the meeting?" I said, ignoring him.

He sighed. "Brooks Pruitt being a bloody idiot, that's all."

My eyes narrowed almost immediately at the mention of my nemesis. Or one of my nemeses. Yeah, I have quite a few of them actually.

Fred was the one who asked, "Fucking hell, what did that prat do now?"

"Don't worry about it," Jax sighed with a quick shake of the head. "Frankel put him in his place."

"Why won't you tell us what happened?" I snapped.

"Because I'm pretty sure AliCat will hex me if I tell you guys and she would totally smoke me in a duel."

I hesitated. On the one hand, I really wanted to know what happened. On the other hand, Alice would totally smoke him and that might leave me down a man in Quidditch.

What to do. What to do.

"I'll smash your face in with a bludger in our first practice if you don't tell us what that fucking asshat said to her," Fred chimed in.

Fred to the rescue.

Jax grimaced and I could see that he was now weighing his options. Either Alice would take him out or Fred would. On the one hand, Alice was a very frightening dueler. On the other hand, Fred never missed a target. One might land him in the hospital wing for a few hours. The other might leave him without a face.

Seemed like a pretty obvious choice to me.

Jax sighed. "He, uh, may have told AliCat in front of all the prefects that the only reason she got Head Girl was because her father sucked up to the Headmistress."

Silence filled the compartment before we all broke out into outrage.

"That arrogant son-of-a-bitch," Fred swore.

"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard," Shayne huffed.

"She's the smartest witch in the entire school!" Dash groaned.

"I'm going to kill him," I said, jumping off the bench and rushing towards the door.

"Don't," Jax said, grabbing the back of my shirt before I could disappear out the door. I stumbled backwards and glared at him. "It's already been dealt with and if you go flying off the handle now, it'll look like AliCat needs a man to fight her battles. And we all know that girl can fight her own battles just fine."

"I'm not fighting her battles, I'm just going to punch the jackoff's skull in," I sneered.

"Please don't make me be the voice of reason," Jax whined. "We all know how bad at it I am."

"The voice of reason amongst us already walked out that door," Fred pointed out.

None of us bothered arguing with that statement. While the rest of us had tendencies to fly off the handle, Alice was always poised and composed. She rarely raised her voice and anger wasn't an emotion she showed often. Truth be told, she kept the rest of us in line.

Not that I'd ever admit that to her.

Sighing, I headed towards the door.

"Oy, where are you going?" Jax whined.

"To find Ace," I said, glancing towards him with a shrug. "Don't worry, I'll leave resident douchebag alone. For now anyway."

"That provides me with no comfort whatsoever," he groaned but I ignored him as I slipped into the corridor.

I thankfully didn't come across Brooks bloody Pruitt in the corridor or I knew I wouldn't be able to control my wand's actions. He had long decided to hate me, and me him, when it was clear I was better at him on the Quidditch pitch. And Brooks did not enjoy being second best. Or third best. Hell, he barely even made the top 5. He wasn't a bad keeper but he let his emotions get the better of him and the moment his team started losing the lead, his aggression overcompensated and often led to stupid mistakes. I told him this once and he punched me in the face. I kickedh im in the balls, though, so really, I was the winner of that fight.

I knew that Alice would be hiding in the prefect's compartment as it would be the only empty compartment at this time so I made my way down the entire length of the train to that first compartment. Peering in, I saw her sitting along the window bench with her sketchbook resting on her knees. I opened the compartment and slid in. Before I could get a word out, she said, "Don't."

My eyebrow shot up. "My, what a beautiful greeting."

She glanced up, her eyes filled with slight annoyance. "I know Jax told you."

I smiled sheepishly. "Fred threatened it out of him."

"Not you?"

I shrugged, making my way around the round table in the middle of the compartment towards her. "I spent too long weighing my options and Fred swooped in."

Her eyes narrowed as if she wanted to comment but she thought better of it as she returned to the sketch in her hand. "I'm fine, Jay."

I sighed, climbing on to the bench beside her. "He's not right, Ace," I urged, nudging her with my foot. "Don't let him make you think otherwise."

She frowned but said nothing, skidding her charcoal pencil across the page.

"Ace," I urged.

"I don't want to talk about this," she snapped at me. "And you don't get to bring up my father to me when you never want to talk about yours."

Ouch. She was more put off by Brooks' words than I realized.

I merely shrugged at her. "You want to have issues with your father, go right ahead. But don't make up an unfounded, bogus issue that isn't even close to actually existing just because you want to be just like me."

She rolled her eyes as I flashed a teasing smile towards her. "I don't have issues with my father," she muttered.

I nodded. "I know, which is why I'm curious why you are so bothered by meaningless words from a prat like Pruitt."

She stared at the intricacies of the drawing in front of her, refusing to look up at me. I took that as a good sign for had she looked up, there would have been a glare there.

"You're just going to tell me I'm being ridiculous."

My eyebrow shot up. "Have I ever once told you that you're ridiculous, Ace?"

She continued to stare at the page in front of her, her lips pursing curiously. Sighing, she finally looked up at me. "It's one thing telling Brooks I got the Head Girl badge because of my hard work and determination. It's another thing actually believing it," she muttered reluctantly.

Ding, ding, ding. I knew she feared there may be some truth in Brooks' words, though personally I think she was an idiot for thinking so. And so I said, "Alice, you're being ridiculous."

She glared at me and I couldn't help but grin sheepishly. It's as if she wasn't aware that her grades far surpassed every other girl in our year. Hattie, the Slytherin prefect, jokingly commented on it all the time how she was convinced Alice had to have cheated on her exams to get the grades she has. Bristol Dickerson, the seventh-year Ravenclaw prefect, only got the prefect's badge because someone in their House had to though when I say the five seventeen-year-old Ravenclaw females are incredibly blonde, I'm not just talking about their hair. Violet Decker, the Hufflepuff prefect, was naturally intelligent but she put most of her effort in on the Quidditch pitch (my kind of girl). Alice was not only the obvious choice for Head Girl, she was the only choice.

"You have always been a shoe-in for the Head Girl position," I sighed. "You're not only the smartest girl in our year, you're the smartest girl in the entire school. You're the whole package, Ace. You're not just smart but funny and beautiful as well and anyone who says you got that role because of your father is just lying because they're jealous of you. I promise you, Ace, that you got that title because of the person you are, not the person your father is."

She seemed to study me for a moment, clearly recognizing that I wasn't going to back down. "Has anyone ever told you that you got a real way with words?" she spoke softly.

I smiled at her. "Just around you," I spoke, nudging her. "But it's only because you bring out the best of me."

There was a small smile on her face but I could still see wariness in her eyes. "It still feels tainted somehow," she admitted.

I shrugged. "I know."

She pulled her knees into her body with a sigh. "I don't resent my father."

I smiled. This was the difference between me and her. I felt a lot of resentment towards my father – some of which he had no control over (that whole fame thing for once) and others of which he totally deserved (such as keeping his kids in the dark about some of the bigger war details). Either way, I had built up years of resentment towards him that wasn't going away anytime soon. "You just wish you could be proud of the accomplishment without wondering if others think it was handed to you because of your father. Which, for the record, it wasn't."

"You're rather skilled at this whole flattery thing, aren't you," she teased, smiling at me.

"It's not flattery, it's the truth."

She rolled her eyes. "Stop."

I grinned. "Whatcha drawing?"

She turned around her sketchbook and I made a face. "Another one of Fred?" I groaned. "He's going to get a big head if you keep drawing him."

"He has really good bone structure!"

"My bone structure takes offense to that."

She shot me a look. "I have an entire sketchpad of you, James. I'm pretty sure that's how you got your big head."

"Oy, my head is perfectly proportionate with the rest of my body, thank you very much," I huffed.

She threw her quill at my head and I ducked. "That could have poked me in the eye."

"I was aiming for your forehead."

"You could have missed!"

She shot me a look, her eyebrow quirking upward slowly. "Seeing as I'm the best chaser on our Quidditch team, I have very accurate aim."

There was a teasing smile on her face and I grunted. "Second best chaser," I joked.

"Equally best chaser?"

I shrugged. "Yeah, alright, I'll share the title with you."

She smiled. "How generous of you."

"I'm an extremely generous guy."

Her eyebrow shot up into her forehead.

I grinned sheepishly. "Okay, no, I'm not, but I'll try being nice this one time."

"Gee, don't strain yourself."

I chuckled as I leaned back against the wall with a content smile. "You'll be an amazing Head Girl, Ace. Just you wait."

She smiled back at me and flipped to a new page of her sketchbook. "Alright, sit still. I'll use your bone structure as my inspiration now."

Take that, Fred.

XOXOXOXO


"Are these sortings always this long?" Fred whined, placing his head down on the table as "Simmons, Megara" was sorted into Hufflepuff.

"Will you quit your whining?" Alice hissed.

"I'm hungry!"

"That sounds like more whining."

He made a face but was smart enough not to comment as we directed our attention back to "Truman, Cora."

"Bets on Luce?" Fred murmured to me.

"Gryffindor," I said immediately.

"Her sister was a Ravenclaw," he reminded me.

Oh, yeah. Forgot about that.

Shrugging, I said, "I still say Gryffindor. She's the last Weasley of the bunch. We've got to go out strong."

"I don't think you get to choose how you go out," Alice commented.

She went ignored. "Lucy isn't the last Weasley. Dora is," Fred smirked.

Stop one-upping me, Fred. "She's a Lupin."

"She's half-Weasley."

"She's the next generation."

Fred blinked before shaking his head. "Oh dear Merlin, we have a next generation."

I know. Scary shit.

"A galleon?" I suggested at him.

"You're on."

"You do this every year, and every year, Fred ends up winning money," Alice muttered, shooting me a knowing look.

"My luck's gotta change at some point," I teased and I sat upright as "Wallace, Brutus" was sorted into Slytherin, knowing that Lucy had to be coming up.

"Weasley, Lucy!"

The Great Hall broke out into a variation of cheers as the Weasleys and Potters scattered about applauded for our youngest cousin and the rest of the school just applauded for her last name. I saw the eleven-year-old blush as she bounced up to the stool and sat down.

Gryffindor. Gryffindor. Gryffindor.

At least a minute went by before the hat was calling out "GRYFFINDOR!"

I pumped my fist into the air and yelped, outstretching my hand towards my cousin who let out a loud groan. "Cough it up, Freddo!"

He dipped into his pocket and tossed me a galleon. "You got lucky, Potter."

I grinned and pocketed the galleon as Lucy wandered over to the table and sat amongst the other first years. I reached passed Alice and held up my hand. "Alright, Luce, welcome to the only House that matters!"

"James," Alice groaned, but she went ignored as Lucy looked at my hand skeptically.

She glanced up at me with a shrug. "I wanted Ravenclaw," she drawled. "Daddy says you Gryffindors are nothing but trouble."

I looked shocked for a mere moment before both myself and Fred broke out into laughter. "Well, he's not wrong I suppose," he smirked, high-fiving me when it was clear Lucy wouldn't.

"Yes, he is," my sister huffed from the other side of Lucy. "We're not all trouble."

"Ditto," Hugo smirked.

"You keep away from boys and I might actually believe it, sis," I shot back at her.

She looked like she wanted to respond but at that time the tables began filling up with food and we all dug in.

When the Feast was coming to a close, I grinned as the full sheet cakes ended up exploding, cake and frosting going every which way and ending up causing nothing short of a sticky mess. Shrieks and gasps alike filled the air as students got pelted with the cake debris. I, myself, got frosting to the eye but I merely chuckled as I shared a triumphant smirk with Fred. That earned me a glare from Rose. I pretended not to know anything about it, but Rose had long learned that any sort of trouble at school was most likely started by me and Fred. I couldn't help but feel nostalgic at the reminder that Louis used to be there to help us with these pranks in prior years.

"Exploding sheet cake?" Alice muttered, patting herself down with a handful of napkins. "That's the best you can do for your last first-day Feast?"

My amusement faded into realization that that was in fact the last prank I'd play on the very first day of Hogwarts. I glanced over at Fred who had an equally sullen look on his face. We both turned away.

"Any idea who might have caused this prank?"

I glanced up at the sound of Alice's father's voice. "Nah," I lied. "But if I had to venture a guess, I'd blame a Slytherin. They're looking rather shifty at the moment."

Alice had to suppress the urge to laugh as I watched a disapproving crease settle into my pseudo-Uncle's forehead. "James," he sighed, shaking his head. "When are you going to put those brains of yours towards your studies instead of coming up with disrupting pranks?"

He says disrupting. I say delightful.

I feigned confusion. "I'm not sure I know what you're referring to."

He made a show of rolling his eyes. "I swear sometimes you're also George's son," he muttered.

"Nope, just James Potter's grandson," I said with a proud grin.

I knew very little about my grandfather, but from the stories I've heard, he and the owner of my middle name knew how to stir up trouble in school. They had become illegal Animagi by their fifth year, created the Marauders' Map in the same year (of which I had pilfered from my father's study after Uncle George mentioned that Harry probably still had it), ruled the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and were significant members of the Order of the Phoenix before their tragic deaths. It would be so incredibly wrong of me not to be a troublemaker considering who I was named after.

When the Feast had come to a close, Fred, Alice, and I gathered ourselves and headed towards the exit. "Do you have to go round up the firsties?" I asked, draping my arm across Alice's shoulder with a stifled yawn.

"Nope, that's what we have fifth years for," she teased.

"Who are the new Gryffindor prefects this year?" I questioned as if I really cared.

"Miles West and Rebecca Finley."

I shrugged. "No idea who they are."

She rolled her eyes. "Do you know any of the fifth years?"

I hesitated and contemplated her question. "Uh…"

Fred intervened. "There's some girl named Cassandra or Cassidy or whatever."

"Close, personal friend, hm?" Alice snorted. "Let me guess: you only know of her because she's got blonde hair, blue eyes, and huge boobs."

"I resent that accusation!" Fred exclaimed.

"Nah, that's pretty spot-on actually," I smirked.

He elbowed me in the side. "Shh, I like to at least pretend I'm a decent human being sometimes."

My eyebrow quirked. "When do you ever pretend to be a decent human being?"

That had Alice laughing and him scowling at me but there wasn't much he could do about it since we both knew I was right.

"Reese got prefect," Alice spoke when her laughter died out.

I considered that. "That doesn't come as too much of a surprise. The girl doesn't do anything halfway, and that doesn't exclude her schoolwork."

Alice looked like she was going to say something but we were interrupted.

"Well, if it isn't Potter and his little gang."

I stiffened and turned to my right to the sound of Brooks Pruitt's voice. Behind me, I heard Fred mutter, "Why is it always Potter and his gang? Why not Weasley and his gang?"

Alice was smart enough to send him a warning look while I responded to Brooks. "I know you only refer to us as a gang because the concept of friendship is beyond your realm of understanding but it's still sad."

As expected, the Ravenclaw rolled his eyes. "The guy who can only make friends with his cousin and a girl he's known since birth is lecturing me about the concept of friendship? That's rich."

"Better than making friends with a guy whose asshole is bigger than his brain."

Callum Finch, Brooks' roommate and fellow Quidditch teammate, rolled his eyes at me. "Was that supposed to be an insult?"

"I rest my case."

Fred snorted as Alice intervened. "You said what you wanted on the train, Brooks," Alice spoke coolly. "How about you do yourself a favor and just walk away before I decide to take off points for disruptive misconduct?"

"Abusing your badge, hm?" he sneered. "And you honestly think you got that badge off good merit?"

The look in Alice's eye was murderous but the look in mine was worse. I took a threatening step towards the two Ravenclaws, my eyes narrowed into dangerous slits. "She told you to walk away," I warned, "And if you don't, what I'll end up doing to you is going to be far worse than a few points taken off."

"James," Alice murmured, but Brooks cut her off.

"I can't wait to crush you on the Quidditch pitch," Brooks countered, flashing me a smirk before grabbing Callum's arm and walking off.

"Wait, who was it who made it to the finals last year?" I called out. "Oh, that's right, not you."

He turned around with raised eyebrows. "You're reminding me of a game in which you lost? A tad pathetic, don't you think?"

I really needed to stop reminding people that we were in the finals last year if I wanted them to stop reminding me that we lost.

"At least we made it there," I shot back.

"And proved to the world that your younger brother is a better player than you are," Brooks laughed. He grabbed Callum's arm and the two of them disappeared into the crowd before I had the chance to respond.

"One punch," I grunted. "Let me get in one punch."

"He's not worth it," Alice sighed, grabbing my arm and dragging me away. "You two want to check out the Head Dorm with me?"

Fred grinned but I merely shrugged. I had seen the Head Dorm before when I may or may not have fooled around with last year's Head Girl a handful of times. I hadn't particularly liked her all that much – she was snooty and had a stick up her arse most of the time – but shagging in an actual bed had its advantages over the empty classrooms and storage closets.

We headed down the hallway where I yawned and said, "I can't believe we only have one more day until classes start. Where oh where did the summer go?"

Alice shot me a look. "Just last week you were whining about how school couldn't come fast enough."

Fred turned his laugh into a cough when I glared at him. "I was whining about how Quidditch couldn't come fast enough. I could do without all those pesky classes."

"What the hell are you so worried about?" Fred interjected with a roll of the eyes. "You could pass all of your classes without so much as picking up a book once this year."

My eyes lit up. "Ooh, is that a challenge?"

"No," Alice groaned. "Could you at least attempt to act like a moral student?"

"Hm, morals were never really my thing. Could I offer you mediocrity instead?"

As Fred broke out into laughter, Alice just rolled her eyes. "You already offer that," she teased.

She tried to rush off, but I grabbed her and put her into a headlock with a laugh. She groaned and shoved me away. "How is it our little Alice Longbottom scraped the Head Girl title?" I said with an overdramatic sigh. "Fuck, when did we grow up?"

"I'm pretty sure you have yet to."

Fred let out another barking laugh. "Well, that's true."

"You have the maturity level of a six-year-old," I shot back at him.

"Hm, yeah, also true."

Our laughter rang through the hallway once more. "So talk to us, Longbottom," Fred said, glancing over at the brunette, "Any guys catch your fancy this past summer?"

She looked skeptical at the question. "So that you can find them and hex them into unconsciousness?"

"Yes."

She rolled her eyes. "If ever I was interested in a guy, you two do realize that I would never mention it to you, right?"

"Who are you interested in?"

"I'll hex them into unconsciousness."

"If!" she groaned. "If I was interested—ugh, never mind. You two are impossible."

"Thank you," I grinned.

"We take pride in that," Fred added.

Alice rolled her eyes. "I should have made friends with Rose sixteen years ago," she muttered.

"And be an over-studious, library-obsessed stick in the mud?" Fred snorted. "You'd hate it."

She looked at him curiously. "I am an over-studious, library-obsessed stick in the mud, you twat."

"I'll give you the first two," I countered, "But the last thing that you are, Alice Longbottom, is a stick in the mud."

She smiled. "I knew there was a reason I was friends with you."

"I thought it was because of my endless charm and the dashing way my hair flips to the side like this?"

As Fred snorted, Alice just rolled her periwinkle eyes. "The only word I'd use to describe your hair is messy, James Potter."

Well, didn't have much argument there. I certainly inherited my father's hair, which was about the only thing I got from him.

I shrugged. "Hey, who am I to complain? Apparently the ladies love the messy look."

"Has anyone ever not called you arrogant?"

I pondered her question for a mere moment before shaking my head. "Not that I can think of."

"He says so proudly," she giggled as we ascended the stairs towards the Head Dorm. She muttered the password to the portrait and turned to both of us as it swung open. "You two better only use that password for good."

"Gee, I feel so honored you decided to share that with us," Fred teased, gesturing her into the room.

It was small but cozy. Not much had changed since the prior year except that now it was draped in Gryffindor and Hufflepuff colors instead of the Slytherin and Ravenclaw colors that represented the Head Girl and Boy the prior year. We walked right into the small common room that held two couches, a lounge chair, and a coffee table in the middle of the room. The back wall was covered in bookshelves full of textbooks and novels throughout the centuries. To the right was a small winding staircase that led to the Head Girl's bedroom and to the left was a staircase that led to the Head Boy's bedroom. With a mere sweep of the room, we headed up the stairwell towards her bedroom.

When she pushed the door open, we were welcomed with a rather spacious bedroom. There was a queen-sized four-poster bed against the back wall and a bureau to the right of it. Against the front wall to our direct right were a desk and an empty bookshelf and on the other side of the room was a small bay window with a cozy alcove to which I had a feeling Alice would be spending a lot of time immersed in her sketches. To our left was a closet and her own private bathroom (so jealous).

I let out a low whistle as I immediately dropped on to the foot of her bed. "Not too shabby, Miss Head Girl."

She smiled, a hint of pink approaching her cheeks. "Privacy won't be too hard to come by this year I suppose," she laughed as she fell on to the bed, propping herself up against the headboard.

"You better not be using that privacy for anything except books!" I scoffed.

She rolled her eyes but said nothing more on the subject.

Fred was currently swiveling around in Alice's desk chair though he stopped long enough to say, "Can't believe this is our last year. What the hell are we supposed to do without this place?"

"Grow up?" Alice teased.

"Merlin, I hope not!" I groaned.

Cue her eye roll.

Sometimes I wondered how she was able to put up with me.

Growing up was not on my to-do list. Win Quidditch Cup was on there. Leave a legacy at Hogwarts was also there. Go out with a bang. Shag as many girls that would have me. Enjoy every damned minute of every damned day before the real world snuck up on me. But grow up? Nope, not something I was currently interested in doing.

I was very aware that I was the screw-up in my family. Or at least the farthest thing from the perfect child. My temper got me into more trouble that I could afford. Letters went home about me on a weekly basis regarding my cheek or my pranks or my overall disrespect. The professors merely tolerated me, wondering why I couldn't be more like my brother. Or hell, even my father. Two people I wanted to be absolutely nothing like. I did decently in school though I hardly tried which just made everyone around me even more disappointed in who I had become. My one and only accomplishment was Quidditch and apparently no one around me even cared that that was the department I excelled in. I had always wondered if it was because Albus was the perfect child who knew how to balance Quidditch and schoolwork and they all thought I could use some lessons on how to do so from him or if it was just easy being disappointed in me because that's all they've ever known. I tried not to dwell on it too much. I liked that I excelled in Quidditch so I didn't particularly care what anyone else thought.

"Hello?"

Alice and I lifted our heads from our pillow at the echoed sound of Rudy's voice at the bottom of the stairwell. "Come on up!" Alice cried out though I grimaced. I didn't mind Rudy too much but I knew he wasn't my biggest fan.

Translation: he hated me.

"Be nice," she warned.

I rolled my eyes but put on a fake smile anyway just as Rudy entered the room. His own smile wavered when he caught sight of me and Fred.

"Oh, hell, are you two going to be loitering around here all the time now?" he sighed.

Fred grinned while I rolled my eyes. "We do know how to entertain ourselves aside from enjoying Alice's company."

"Ah, like stealing other guys' girlfriends?" he smirked.

Fred snorted but all I did was shrug.

I may or may not have gotten caught tumbling out of a supply closet in the previous year after a rather heated hook-up with Rudy's then girlfriend. He threw a nice right hook at me, but considering I've been fighting others since I was eleven years old, he was the one who ended up in the hospital wing with a broken nose. "Something like that," I said with a matching smirk.

Rudy rolled his eyes, turning back towards Alice. "FYI, if you're interested in joining us, a bunch of my mates are headed this way for a last night before the first day of our last year celebratory gathering."

Alice rolled her eyes. "A.K.A. a party?"

"I prefer the words 'celebratory gathering.'"

She laughed and even I couldn't hold back my chuckle. "And at this celebratory gathering, might there be alcohol?"

He hesitated. "I prefer the words 'intoxicating spirits.'"

"A.K.A. firewhisky?"

"I will neither confirm nor deny that."

She rolled her eyes. "How did you bag Head Boy, Frankel?" she teased.

"My charm obviously," he teased right back.

And there goes my dinner.

"We'll be there," Fred chimed in eagerly.

Wherever there was a party, there was Fred Weasley.

Alice hesitated but eventually shrugged. "I suppose you'll need a responsible student to keep things in line."

"Hm, and where are we going to get a responsible student on such short notice?" I contemplated with a smirk.

She kicked me. "I love a party as much as the next guy but the first thing I don't want to happen as Head Girl is to get bloody impeached for partaking in an all-night rager."

"Hate to bring this up, but your father is the Herbology professor and the Head of Gryffindor, Alice. I highly doubt you'll be impeached," Rudy pointed out.

I saw her jaw tighten and I winced. I knew she hated the fact that people were always using her father as an excuse for her to be treated differently. She adored her father, but she hated being known as the child of the Herbology professor and the Head of Gryffindor.

Not that I would ever say it to her but I thought that was a much better deal than being the child of Harry Potter.

"Or, and here's a novel concept, we could just avoid getting caught," I smirked at the two of them.

"Well, yeah, there's that," Alice snickered, shimmying off the bed. I climbed off, too, heading towards the door with the two of them as Fred followed closely behind.

"Exactly how many of your mates are expected to show up?" Alice asked Rudy.

He grinned slyly. "Er…ten? Maybe fifteen?"

She sighed. "So much for not getting caught."

XOXOXOXO


The "celebratory gathering" was in full swing an hour later. Rudy's old roommates had shown up early with a crateful of alcohol (I couldn't help but wonder if instead of textbooks and clothes, they loaded their trunks with contraband – actually, that didn't sound like a bad idea; wish I had thought of it myself) and were already on their way to being belligerent much to Alice's irritation. I supplied her with a shot, however, and she let it go. She always tried to be responsible and level-headed but she's a seventeen-year-old girl who enjoyed firewhisky and dancing far too much to completely avoid it.

Couldn't imagine why everyone thought I was a bad influence on her.

A few of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team members sauntered in eventually looking gorgeous as ever (their team consisted of all girls except for a fourth-year male beater) and not at all surprising was their sixth-year's seeker's Slytherin boyfriend who showed up five minutes after she did. It made me groan knowing that if Albus' roommate was there, there was a good chance he would make an appearance as well.

Sure enough, he sauntered in with his arm draped over Kat's shoulders with Scorpius right behind him. I had to admit that I got a kick out of my brother befriending the son of my father's largest Hogwarts rival, though I despised the very ground Scorpius Malfoy walked on so as much as it amused me, it also disgusted me. I saw the three of them wander over to where Roxanne was looking a bit too cozy with fellow fifth-year Ravenclaw, Zig Keppler. I made a mental note to keep an eye on those two.

Not at all surprising was Rose's absence. Unlike Alice who only pretended to be responsible, Rose really was responsible.

Most of the time. Last year's end-of-the-year party on the Quidditch pitch had her drinking a shit ton of firewhisky and snogging Van Fitzpatrick under the bleachers.

Van wound up in the hospital wing the very next morning after his legs were glued together.

Rose and I may have had our differences but hexing guys that attempt to flirt with the females of my family was my birthright as the older cousin.

"Well if it isn't James Potter in the flesh."

I whirled around at the familiar voice and grinned as Hattie Wilkes sashayed up to me. Jax had been right on the train, she did get hotter though how that was even possible was beyond me. Her platinum blonde hair fell into ringlets just beyond her shoulderblades and she had these smoldering grey eyes that drew in anyone she looked at. She had on a short jean skirt that hardly left anything to the imagination paired with a simple green T-shirt that was clearly her way of reminding all of us she was in Slytherin.

"Damn, you're looking good," I said with a low whistle.

"I bet you say that to all the girls," she teased, folding her arms across her body smugly.

"Only the hot ones," I teased right back, throwing in a wink for good measure. "I trust your summer went well?"

"Can't complain," she said with a shrug. "And yours?"

"Much better now that it's over," I relied honestly.

She nodded but didn't ask me to elaborate on my comment. That was one of the things I liked about Hattie – she never tried to overstep her boundaries. "So your brother got Captain, hm?"

My jaw stiffened. "He's not the only brother that's Captain," I deflected.

She offered me a small smile. "Every single person in this school knew that that title would be yours. And that includes the portraits and the house elves, too."

I grinned at the compliment. I loved when others bragged about me. It gave me a break from having to brag about myself.

"Your brother, however, wasn't as obvious."

My smile faded. "It surprised all of us. Him included."

She nodded. "How are you doing with that news?"

Right when I say she knows how to not overstep boundaries, she goes and asks me a question I have no desire to get into.

It's a really good thing she's hot.

"Doesn't matter who's Captain," I responded with a forced smirk, "We'll still crush your team."

She rolled her eyes. "It's possible you got more cocky over the summer."

"I like to think of it as confidence."

Our conversation was interrupted by Fred's arrival whose arm was currently draped around Ryleigh's shoulders. I guess he hadn't completely given up on her yet.

"Aw, look at all of us representing all of the House Quidditch teams!" he greeted, his slurring speech proving to me that he had one too many firewhiskies.

I glanced at Hattie in slight amusement, who felt it necessary to point out, "We're missing a Ravenclaw."

Fred blinked, glancing amongst us before shrugging. "Eh, they're the worst team anyway."

"Says the guy whose sister is currently a member of said team," I smirked.

He shrugged again. "And I'm supposed to care about that?" he snorted. "Or are you suddenly about to tell me that we are now offering leniency to the teams in which our siblings occupy."

Fuck that.

Which is what I said to him.

"That's what I thought," he said with a shrug. "So here's to the only worthy Quidditch teams."

"I'll drink to that," I smirked, only then noticing my glass was empty. "Er…well, I will once I get some actual liquid in this cup."

"I'd wait a few minutes if I were you," Hattie murmured.

Glancing over to the crate of alcohol in the back of the room, I noticed my brother filling up Kat's cup. "Duly noted."

"I saw in the Prophet this summer that Albus got Quidditch Captain," Ryleigh finally spoke up. Glancing towards me, she asked, "Is that true?"

"I am just tickled pink over the fact that everybody seems to love gossiping about my douche of a brother," I spoke in a very heavy sarcastic tone.

"He's not a douche," Hattie sighed.

I shot her a look.

"I can't insult my Quidditch Captain," she said sheepishly. "He could make me spend hours doing laps. On foot."

"It's not like he can hear you all the way across the room," Ryleigh smirked.

"Yes, but someone else could overhear and pass on the message and again, I'd prefer to avoid doing laps if possible."

"And who here has regular conversations with Albus Potter?"

Hattie flashed the Hufflepuff a withering look. "I'm not sure I like you very much, Carver."

Ryleigh seemed unperturbed by this. "That's okay. I don't like you either."

"And on that note," I interjected before a cat fight broke out.

Wait, did I just break up a potential cat fight?

Something was seriously wrong with me.

"The drink crate is safe now," Fred suggested, shooting me a look of warning.

I grabbed Hattie's arm and headed off in the opposite direction. "So," I said, turning to her with a smug smirk, "I could get another drink and we can make awful small talk with more people we don't like. Or…"

The edges of her lip twitched upward. "Or what, James?"

She was going to make me spell it out for her, wasn't she.

I leaned in close to her and said, "Or we could get out of here."

A suggestive twinkle flickered in her eye. "You read my mind," she spoke, grabbing my hand and leading us towards the door.

"James Potter, this is all your fault."

I stopped at the entrance with a whine, turning around to meet Alice's glare. "Er…what is?"

Her hands were planted irritably on her hips. "Look around, Jay. Does this look like a party for Rudy's friends or yours?"

I glanced around the room with a sheepish grin. As many Hufflepuffs as there were, they were far outweighed by people I associated with. "I would hardly call Al or Scorpius Malfoy my friend."

Her eyes narrowed. "This ten-person social gathering has gotten out of control."

I shrugged. "I've been here with you the whole time," I reminded her. "Exactly how was I to get the word out?"

She hesitated. "I don't know, but somehow it's your fault. I've learned throughout the years it's always your fault."

I'd take offense to that if it weren't so true.

"He can't help that people are unconsciously drawn to him," Hattie spoke with a suggestive smile, winking at me.

Her smile and her grey eyes were seriously turning me on, but Alice just rolled her eyes. "Don't give his ego any more reason to grow."

"You love this ego," I pointed out with a teasing grin at my best friend.

"I love you despite your ego," she corrected.

That was the closest thing I was going to get to a compliment from her tonight.

"We've been throwing parties for years," I told her. "We know how to be discrete."

"There are nearly twenty-five people stuffed into a tiny common room. That is hardly being discrete."

"And exactly what am I supposed to do to change that?" I asked, getting slowly irritable that Alice was delaying what would most likely be one hell of a shag. "You're Head Girl, Ace, not me."

"Yeah but people will listen to you," she whined.

Well, that was true. At some point over the last seven years, my popularity status had somehow presented me with a leadership role I hadn't exactly asked for. "Just tell Frankel to turn down his music. That's what's going to tip off the professors that something might be going on here."

She rolled her eyes. "What sound advice," she muttered sarcastically, before whirling around and heading into the crowd. I watched as she sought out Rudy, who was smart enough to look sheepish, before I turned back towards Hattie. "Where were we?"

She grinned, instinctively reaching up and wrapping her arms around my shoulders, drawing me close to her. "We were right about here," she whispered before kissing me.

Oh how I've missed those lips.

XOXOXOXO


I would have opted for another five hours of sleep if Alice hadn't kicked me in the shin to get me out of bed. I complained about it all the way down to the Great Hall at which point she told me that if I didn't shut up, she'd tell Mayzie Edelman I had a crush on her.

Mayzie Edelman was a mistake I made two years earlier who has since tried convincing me we were meant for each other.

Needless to say, she was someone I actively avoided.

As we slid into the Gryffindor table besides Fred, Dash, and Shayne, the latter greeted us with a "Good morning."

"It's the first day of classes," I drawled. "Describe the 'good' part of it."

She rolled her eyes. "My, aren't we in a lovely mood this morning."

"I didn't get much sleep last night," I muttered, stifling a yawn.

Fred smirked. "Ah, busy with the delectable Hattie Wilkes, hm?"

I grinned sheepishly. "Er…no?" I teased.

Alice snorted into her water glass. "Liar."

I shot her a look. "Hey, technically I was with you for most of the night."

Dash froze, his scone halfway to his mouth. "Excuse me?"

"No, not like that," I scoffed, making a face. "I just meant I ended up staying the night in Alice's room."

He snorted. "And that's not supposed to have my mind go towards dirty thoughts?"

I frowned hesitantly. "You know what I mean!"

"Trust me, Dash," Alice interjected, rolling her eyes. "I was asleep by the time he bothered to show up. I didn't even know he was there until I woke up an hour ago."

"You two are the most boring couple ever," Fred chimed in with a goofy grin.

"Probably because we're not a couple," I snorted, swiping the scone out of his hand and taking a big bite of it. "What about you, Freddo? Did you close the deal with Carver?"

"Close the deal?" Shayne groaned.

"Hey, a man does not shag and tell," Fred boasted, ignoring Shayne outright.

"What men are you talking about because last I checked, we always shagged and told," I snorted.

"I am so glad we are having this wonderfully deep conversation at the breakfast table," Shayne muttered to no one in particular.

"Why don't we ask Miss Alice here if she snogged anyone last night?" Dash chimed in with a devious smirk, his eyes pretty much telling me he already knew the answer to his own question. "Anything you'd like to share with your dear pal James, AliCat?"

"What?" I exclaimed, turning to Alice whose cheeks were burning red as she attempted to glare at Dash.

"Thanks for that, Dashiell," she muttered.

"Who were you snogging?" I demanded, my breakfast now laying abandoned as I focused all of my efforts into interrogating Alice. It wasn't every day Alice snogged random men. In fact, it was a rare occurrence. She often kept to herself, ignoring the stereotypical drama that came with boy-crazy, hormonal teenage girls. She had been on a few dates here and there and she had a boyfriend for a few months back in our fifth year (who I hexed more times than I could count) but since then, her love life had pretty much remained stationary which is exactly how I liked it.

And before you say it, I realize I'm a hypocrite for shagging as many women as humanly possible while refusing to let Alice do the same. But if the rest of the guys in the school are anything like me, I wanted them all far away from Alice Longbottom.

"No one," she groaned, burying her head in her hands.

I reached across the table and swiped her hands away while Fred interjected. "Does this 'no one' have a first name, AliCat?"

Alice glared over at him. "Don't encourage James."

"I'm not. I just really want to know what guy has finally caught your fancy," he smirked.

"He has not caught my fancy," she argued stubbornly. "I had a little too much to drink, we got to talking, and then…well, then there wasn't so much talking going on."

I shuddered. "Ugh, I so do not need the details."

"C'mon, tell us, AliCat!" Fred said eagerly, bouncing up and down on the bench.

"You really didn't see it?" Dash questioned. Fred shook his head and Dash glanced towards me. "Neither of you?"

"We were clearly otherwise occupied, Finnigan," I shot back. "So c'mon, out with it. Who was she snogging?"

"No one," Alice cried out, glaring at Dash heatedly.

Dash chuckled and before Alice could lunge across the table and shove a scone in his mouth, he blurted out, "Tanner Carmichael."

Remember that boyfriend I mentioned just a few minutes ago?

"Your prat of an ex?" I blurted out.

Alice shot me a look. "The only reason you think he's a prat is because you couldn't stop him from dating me no matter how many times you tried hexing him."

"I don't try to hex people. I succeed."

Speaking of, I wonder what hex I should use on Tanner Carmichael the first time I come across him.

"Don't you go getting any ideas, James Potter."

I swear she was a Legilimens.

"Who, me? Never," I argued innocently.

She glared at me but before she could find a way to threaten me, we were interrupted.

"James Potter, what is the matter with you?"

I cringed at the voice I knew all too well. Turning around in my seat, I smiled innocently up at my cousin. "Why hello there, Rosie. How are you on this fine Monday morning?"

"You really felt the need to throw a party on your first night back at Hogwarts?"

"Wasn't my party."

"It's always your party."

I cheerfully took pride in that. "Are you just upset because you weren't invited?" I said with a teasing grin. "No worries, I'll make sure Frankel slips you an invite next time."

"Do you just sit around on your arse all day and plot ways you can land yourself into trouble?"

"I don't have rock hard abs from sitting around on my arse all day, Rosie dearest."

Alice groaned beside me, hitting Fred on the arm with a fork when he stifled a laugh. Rose just glared at me, which was obviously expected. "Neville knows about your little shindig."

Like that mattered.

"Again, it wasn't my shindig," I grumbled. "And my guess is he didn't come trying to break it up because he actually trusts the Head Boy and Head Girl to do the right thing. Maybe you could learn to ease up a little yourself."

"It's not the Head Boy and Head Girl we have to worry about, it's their idiotic friends!"

"Yeah, I know that Rudy's friends aren't the brightest. I'm surprised Dale is still in school to be honest. And Violet may be an ace on the Quidditch pitch but she skates by in classes. Landon is a decent guy though he could cool it on the after-shave and I suppose his grades aren't the worst-"

"I'm not talking about Rudy's friends, you asshat," Rose scowled, glaring at Fred who had stopped trying to hold in his laughter.

I shrugged. "I realize that my parents and your parents and Professor Longbottom and pretty much every Peasley there is known to man think that you're the answer to taming me, oh young one, but when will you all learn that my wild side is here to stay?"

"That wild side is going to wind up expelled one of these days."

"I've managed to stay in school thus far so I'll take my chances," I shot back with another shrug. "But seeing as you're here, I may as well use this time to-"

"I'm not trying out for your stupid team," she snarled before turning on her heel and heading towards the front of the table where Harley and Jett sat amongst their other friends.

"Oy, reject me all you want but don't call us stupid!"

She flipped me off and went back to her breakfast.

"Y'know," I said, glancing back towards my own friends, "I think I might be wearing her down."

I wasn't surprised at all when they all responded with heavy laughter.

XOXOXOXO


The first week of school went by rather uneventfully. I actually showed up to classes which anyone who knew me knew was an accomplishment. I didn't participate but I never did. Besides, I was too busy studying my extensive playbook to actually pay attention to whatever the professors were droning on about.

But hey, at least I showed up.

It was Friday and Gryffindor's tryouts were scheduled for the very next morning and to say I was stressed would be the understatement of the year. I spent most of Friday morning tossing and turning until I gave up on sleep and decided what I really needed was to go for a nice jog around the grounds. Sneaking out of my bed, I threw on a pair of shorts and an old Quidditch T-shirt, slipped into my trainers, and snuck out of the dorm at a quarter past six.

When I spilled out on to the grounds and started to take a lap around the perimeter, I suddenly realized that I wasn't alone.

Why was I not surprised in the least that Alice Longbottom was out there for a run, too?

I snuck up behind her and grabbed her waist, which caused her to shriek out and then quickly clobber me with her elbow.

"For Merlin's sake, Jay, you scared me to death!" she groaned, shoving me away from her.

I massaged the side of my abdomen where her elbow got me and grinned at her. "You look pretty good for a dead girl."

She shoved me again for good measured and said, "What are you doing out here anyway? You crave sleep more than anyone I know."

I shot her a look. "You clearly don't know Fred then."

She hesitated. "You crave sleep more than anyone I know, excluding Fred."

I laughed. "Couldn't sleep," I said and then gave her a gesturing nod to the right. She seemed to understand that that meant we should continue with our run so we both fell in line with each other as we began to jog.

"Thinking about tomorrow's Quidditch tryouts?"

If I ever thought I could hide anything from Alice, I was sorely mistaken.

"You and I are the best two chasers in the school," I murmured as a I set a leisurely pace. "But we if wind up with some barely-talented chaser who can't hold his own weight, we're looking at third or fourth place at best."

A frown appeared on her face. "Has anyone ever told you that you worry too much?"

"If anyone in our family worries to much, it's Rose," I huffed.

"Maybe about schoolwork or the future or life in general, but when it comes to Quidditch, you have a monopoly on the worrying."

Couldn't exactly argue with her.

"I just want to get to the finals so badly," I muttered, wiping sweat from my brow.

She appeared to be thinking so I said nothing and waited for her to respond. "Do you want to get to the finals because our team always manages to fall short in the end?" she questioned, reminding me that as many finals as we've been to, we've never won the Cup, "Or because you're looking to show off a little for the recruiters who will be at that final match?"

I knew if I wanted my best, possibly only, chance to be offered a starting position on one of the prominent professional Quidditch teams instead of either not being offered a position at all or just being offered a reserve position, Gryffindor needed to be in that final.

I shrugged. "Why can't it be both?"

Her elbow nudged my side and when I glanced her way, I saw a smile on her face. "It can be," she said, "But if you stress yourself out before the year even starts, you're going to be a rather ungrumpy pile of tension that no one is going to want to deal with fairly early on."

I pouted. "That doesn't include you, does it? Because for some rather strange reason, you always manage to stick around even at my peak moments of idiocy."

She suppressed the urge to laugh and instead rolled her eyes. "So you mean, like, all the time?"

I gaped at her and tried to elbow her but she skirted away with a laugh before I could. "That's it. You're running laps at our first practice!"

She turned around with a smirk and slowly shook her head. "Bullshit. You won't make me run laps."

She was right.

I really hated it when she was right.

Which, for the record, was all the time.

With a defeated sigh, I simply shrugged and said, "Race ya to the pitch?"

She looked at me. "Aw, are you okay losing to a girl so early in the morning?"

"Oh, I assure you, the only one who will be losing is you."

She grinned and with a shrug, whirled around and took off.

"Cheater!" I shouted as I chased after her.

She won and proceeded to tell everyone at breakfast that she was better and faster than I was so I stole all of her bacon.

Which makes me the real winner in the end, don't you think?

XOXOXOXO


In Herbology that morning, I tuned out Neville and ran down the list of various drills I compiled that I thought would work for tryouts. Chaser tryouts were far easier when you have an established keeper. You line the chaser prospects up, give them five shots on goal and see who can actually make it past the keeper. But considering we were down a keeper, that complicated things.

I thought back to what Louis had said over the summer about how we were looking to replace two very big losses. He was right of course. I liked to think I didn't get nervous but I could feel the butterflies dancing around in my stomach. This was my final year and I needed that win. We hadn't won that Cup once since I joined the team my second year as a reserve. We had been to the finals three out of the past five years but the win eluded us every time. I avoided thinking about Slytherin's win in the prior year because it had been a serious blow to my ego. Instead, I thought back to the first time we went to the finals in my third year, my very first year as starting chaser, when Hufflepuff managed to catch the snitch in a record time of sixteen minutes. We made it to the finals again in my fourth year, beating out Slytherin by only twenty points, but Ravenclaw easily took the win that year as we had two new players in Fred and Alice and their team was made up of five very stacked seventh years (the very next year they failed to win a single game but I supposed that happened when you had to replace more than half the team),

The loss to Ravenclaw just reminded me that bringing on two new players to the team was an ultimate risk that could wind up in failure.

And the last thing I wanted to be known for before I left this castle behind was failure.

"Mister Potter?"

I stiffened, pulling my head out of my playbook with a sheepish grin. "Yes, Professor?"

Neville was staring at me with his usual disappointed look. "I asked you a question about the reading material."

"Dung beetles," I responded.

Alice groaned beside me and Fred stifled a laugh.

So when I was called on to answer a question that I hadn't been paying attention for, I leaned towards making up the most ridiculous answers possible.

I've hoped that that would teach the professors not to call on me. It's worked on most of them. It unfortunately has not worked on Neville.

"You're telling me that the contents of a snargaluff pod are dung beetles?" Neville sighed.

"Oh, sorry I misunderstood the question," I said with a swift shake of the head. "Unicorn blood."

"James," Alice groaned again and this time half the class accompanied Fred in snickering.

Neville did not look amused. "Did you bother to pick up a book at all over this summer, Mister Potter?"

"Of course," I argued. "I used one to prop open my window. I used another to stabilize my wobbly desk."

"Mister Potter," he warned, his voice drowned out by more laughter.

"No, I jest," I said with a shrug. "I did read a bit over the summer. Quidditch Weekly. Quidditch Illustrated. General Quidditch stats. Quidditch catalogs. Quidditch-"

There was more laughter from the students and more irritation coming from Neville as he cut me off. "Anything school-related, Mister Potter?" he barked.

I shrugged. These professors always assumed admonishing me in front of my classmates was going to embarrass me enough to try and get my act together.

It didn't.

"C'mon, Professor, you and I both know I didn't bother with the reading or any reading so asking me about it was going to get you a ridiculous answer. Wouldn't your time be better spent with you calling on one of the students that actually has their hand raised?"

He frowned and I could see the frustration in his eyes. "That is some cheek you got there," he spoke coolly. "Detention tonight, Mister Potter."

"What? No! You can't do that!" I groaned. "I have to prepare for tomorrow's tryouts!"

"Seems to me you're spending enough time during class preparing for tryouts that you could probably use a break tonight," he retaliated, nodding at the ratty notebook in my hands. "Now who can actually tell me what is inside a snargaluff pod?"

I threw my quill down on to the table with an exasperated grunt, wondering what good having a pseudo-uncle was if he wasn't at least going to give me some sort of special treatment.

"You had to have seen that one coming," Alice murmured out of the corner of her mouth.

"Don't make me prod open this snargaluff pod and squirt dung beetles at you."

Fred stifled another laugh while Alice merely sighed.

XOXOXOXO


Sweeping the greenhouses without magic was my punishment. I took it with stride. Detention was practically my second home so whatever task was set upon me was one I just shrugged and fulfilled. The other option was not getting into trouble and we all knew that that would never happen.

"Before I hand you the broom and send you on your merry way," Neville said, sitting back in his chair with a sigh, "I did promise you a lecture once we returned to Hogwarts."

Oh, goody.

"This is your last year, James," he spoke softly. "You won't get any other chances to be the exceptional student we all know you're capable of. Being cheeky with your superiors in the real world doesn't get you a detention, it gets you fired. It doesn't matter what you wind up doing after school – whether it's Quidditch or a Ministry job or anything else your heart may desire – you're going to be in for a rude awakening when you realize that being humble is the only way to earn respect and stability."

He was really beginning to sound like my dad.

I hated that.

"Okay" is all I said.

He was smart enough to realize that everything he was saying was going in one ear and out the other so he went with another approach. "If you continue getting into the same amount of trouble you have in the past, don't think we won't take away that Captain badge of yours. That badge is a privilege not a right."

"I know," I said because it was what he expected me to say.

He let out a soft sigh. "I want you to succeed, James, in everything you do. And I'm not just saying this as your professor."

I really hated it when he got all sappy on me. "Ah, yes, and you apparently feel the need to see me succeed in my housekeeping skills," I said with a teasing grin.

The edges of his lips turned upward. "You've had a lot of practice over the years."

"Sweeping floors is my specialty."

He chuckled. "Well, go on then. Get going so you can get back to pouring over that playbook of yours we both know you'd much rather be doing."

He knew me so well.

I grabbed the broom and left his office to head down to the greenhouses.

I was in greenhouse three when I heard the door creak open. Glancing behind me, I smiled as Alice slipped in. "Ah, come to take over my sweeping duties?" I grinned.

"And take away one of the ways you build up your muscles?" she teased. "I wouldn't dream of it."

"So you've been noticing my muscles, have you?"

She snorted as she pulled herself up on to one of the tables. Crossing her legs underneath her, she said, "I realize you have some weird obsession with talking back to your professors, but could you perhaps tone it down a bit around my dad?"

I paused from my sweeping to glance towards her. "He doesn't give me any special treatment," I said with a shrug. "Why should I give it to him?"

"Because you're my best friend and he's my dad."

Still not sure that quite justified me playing nice with a professor. I told her that.

She sighed. "Then how about doing it because I'm asking you to."

Oh, she just had to play that card.

I made a face at her. "Can't you ask me to be nicer to the house elves or something? I'm much more inclined to following through on that request."

She let out a faint chuckle while shaking her head. "I can't imagine where Dad gets this idea from but he's inclined to think you might be a bad influence on me."

"Says the Head Girl."

"The Head Girl who threw a party in her common room on her very first night there."

"That was Frankel's idea! Maybe your dad should be thinking he's the bad influence!"

She smiled but it was forced. "Do it for me, Jay."

I let out a groan. "I really hate it when you play that card."

"I know," she spoke softly. "That's why I'm playing it."

I made a face. "Alright, fine, but you're not allowed to use that card for at least another six and a half weeks."

"How specific."

I just chuckled. "And I hope you realize that this just means I'll have to be extra insolent in my other classes to make up for not being that way with your father."

"Or, and here's a novel concept, you could be courteous."

I blinked. "I'm sorry, the meaning of that word has completely escaped me."

"You're a pain in my arse sometimes, James Potter."

I considered her words before slowly shaking my head. "Only sometimes? Damn, I must be slipping."

XOXOXOXO


"Why not just hold the chaser and keeper tryouts simultaneously?" Fred suggested. "See who's up for the challenge?"

"That's the dumbest idea I've ever heard," Alice drawled from where she lay sprawled out on her bed.

"Oh, I'm pretty sure Fred has had dumber," I said dismissively.

Alice stifled a laugh. "We can't just try out keepers and chasers at the same time because the results will be skewed. If a terrible chaser is up against a terrible keeper, they could still score several goals and it won't give us a good idea of their skill level."

"Why the hell am I even here if neither of you are going to take me up on my suggestions?" he groaned.

"Have we ever mistaken you as people who take your advice?" I smirked.

I ducked as a pillow came toppling towards my head.

"I could be out with Ryleigh right now, y'know."

"You're still seeing her?" Alice questioned curiously. "It's been five days. That's at least three days past your usual expiration date."

"Well, lookie here, someone has learned to count," Fred teased, earning him a rightful kick to the shins. "I'm not seeing her. I'm shagging her. There's a difference, AliCatastrophe."

"Yeah, let's not make that nickname a thing, okay?"

"I don't know how much I like the idea of you spending time with the enemy, Fred," I grunted.

"Says the guy who's been shagging Hattie Wilkes for the past year."

"That's different."

They both snorted simultaneously. "Oh, really? How?" Alice questioned.

I hesitated. Okay, it wasn't different at all. It was exactly the same. Only I'd never give up insider secrets to a girl just for a shag. There's a definite chance Fred might.

"Can we get back to planning tryouts?" I deflected.

Alice smirked. "Changing the subject?"

"No, you guys were the one that changed the subject. The original subject was tryouts. I'm trying to unchange the subject."

"'Unchange' isn't a word."

I groaned. "Do I look like I'm looking for a vocabulary lesson right now?"

Or ever really.

She grinned sheepishly. "Start with keeper tryouts," she spoke with a shrug. "And then when you've narrowed it down to the best prospects, put them on the hoops and start your chaser tryouts. By the end of the day, you'll have a really good idea of who can handle the pressure for both positions."

I nodded slowly. "Yeah, I was leaning towards doing that."

She threw her hands in the air as Fred let out a whimper. "Then why the hell did you insist on gathering us tonight?" she exclaimed.

"It can't possibly be because I actually enjoy your company," I teased, nudging her with my foot.

"That's funny because I'm hardly enjoying yours right now," Fred murmured under his breath.

I threw his pillow back at him. I was very pleased when he didn't duck in time and it hit him square in the face.

"Okay, get out of my room," Alice announced, pointing at her door. "I have an essay to finish and you two are distracting."

"Did she just call us distracting, Freddo?"

"Why I believe she did, Jameso."

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

"Smother her with pillows would be my suggestion."

"Don't you two dare even think about it!" Alice screeched, glaring at us both.

Even she wasn't surprised when four pillows were launched at her face.

XOXOXOXO


"Ah, Rosie," I greeted my cousin, falling on to the couch beside her, "Just the person I was looking for."

"The answer is still no," she said without looking up from her notes.

It was the first Friday night of the school year and she was studying. What has the world come to.

"Answer to what?" I said innocently. "Maybe I just wanted to enjoy my favorite cousin's company."

"Then go find Fred."

"Fred here at your service!"

My partner in crime dropped on to the couch on the other side of Rose with a winning grin.

She sighed. "Do you two honestly think flanking me and interrupting my studies is going to get you what you wanted?"

"Who said we wanted anything?" Fred played innocent.

"You two always want something."

She had a point. As much as Rose didn't bother me nearly as much as some of my other cousins did, the only time I directly sought her out was because I was looking for a favor.

Or because Harley Duncan was around and I wanted to spend a few minutes flirting with her.

Speaking of, I wonder where she was at the moment.

"We shouldn't be interrupting your studies because it's a Friday," I huffed. "The first Friday of the year. You should be out having some wild fun. You're supposed to be young, kiddo."

"Yeah, well, the intelligence in our family is severely lacking. I'm pretty much our only hope in being successful."

Fred and I glanced at each other. "I think she just insulted us, Freddo."

"I think you're right, Jameso."

"What should we do about it, Freddo?"

"Force her to join the Quidditch team, Jameso."

"I like your thinking, Freddo."

"Stop," Rose groaned, shaking her head. "That bit is older than Binns."

I stifled a laugh. "Besides, last I checked, all of our graduated cousins have well-paying jobs. Victoire aside who now only does photography for fun and chooses to be a housewife—gag me—Teddy is an Auror for Merlin's sake, and-"

"Teddy is also not technically a Weasley or a Potter."

I ignored that even though it was technically true. "Molly is going into her second year of her law apprenticeship, Dominique is studying to be a Healer, Louis is already a ridiculously renowned Quidditch announcer and he only graduated three months ago, and my perfect little brother is looking to be an Auror. So which family members are you referring to when you call them out for likely being unsuccessful?"

She lifted her gaze from her notes with a smirk I didn't like one bit. "Oh, you're right, our family is filled with greatness. All except you two."

Yeah, I probably should have seen that one coming.

I glanced over at Fred who appeared to be shrugging. "Why do you not seem bothered by that?" I shot his way.

"Because Rose is right. I'm going to go work in a joke shop after I graduate," he drawled. "It pales in comparison to what the rest of our cousins are doing."

"Except for Vic," I pointed out. "I mean, I'd rather work in a joke shop than be a housewife."

"I think you have to be female to be a housewife, Jameso."

I rolled my eyes as Rose let out a rather irritated groan. "Why are you two still sitting here?"

"You know why," I said with my own irritated groan. "Tryouts are tomorrow."

"Good for you but that affects me how?"

I sighed. "Don't make this harder than it has to be."

Her glare was suddenly filled with her usual touchy flair. "Why the hell can't you just go bother my brother into trying out for chaser?"

Fred was the one who replied. "We both know he's a beater at heart, kiddo."

"So then go bother the other eighty Gryffindors because your attempts at convincing me to play for you aren't going to work," she countered. "I realize that you two aren't all that accustomed to being rejected by the opposite sex so let me be the first to tell you no way in hell."

I made a face as Fred sighed and glanced across Rose at me with a grimace. "I think she might be a lost cause, mate."

"It's weird," I mused, "It's like she complimented us at the same time she was rejecting us."

"In what world was that me complimenting you?" she groaned.

"You praised our woman-seducing ways," I smirked. "Sounded like a compliment to me."

"Definitely a compliment," Fred agreed.

"I'm pretty sure I've never met bigger prats than you two," Rose sighed.

"Probably true," I said with a shrug.

"Definitely true," Fred agreed.

I let out a reluctant sigh. It's not like I thought my last-ditch effort in wooing Rose would get me anywhere but I had held out a tiny bit of hope that she'd concede. I may have had a way of convincing other people to cater to my needs but Rose had never been one to bow down to anyone, much less her cousin who she often preferred to spend time away from.

Couldn't imagine why. I'm a bagful of fun all the time.

"Well, the night is young, Freddo," I commented, glancing around the room. "Who do we have time to bother before we call it a night?"

"Well, Jameso," Fred said in his announcing voice, "In the one corner, we have Kenley Brown and Lena Cattermole, who are always fun to ruffle feathers with. In the opposite corner, we have your sister looking a tad too cozy with CJ Wood."

I whirled around to search for my sister, who I found lounging on the floor beside Hugo, Rayne, and CJ. My eyes narrowed as she tilted her head back to laugh at something CJ said. "Looks like we have a winner," I grunted.

"Leave them alone," Rose sighed.

Oops, forgot she was still there.

"They're not doing anything," she continued, sending us both a look of terrifying warning.

"He's making her laugh," I argued.

"Oh, heaven forbid someone laughs around here," she responded with a roll of the eyes. "Go fight with Kenley and Lena. You know how much you love riling those two up."

She made an excellent point.

"Wood better not be getting any ideas," I growled as I continued to keep watch over my sister.

"Roxy must feel incredibly blessed that she is free to do whatever she wants in her common room without her brother looking over her shoulder every few seconds," Rose muttered to no one in particular.

"Oy, what is my sister doing in her common room that she doesn't want me monitoring?" Fred barked.

"It was hypothetical," she groaned.

"Hypothetically, what is my sister doing in her common room that she doesn't want me monitoring?"

She sighed. "I don't think it gets said enough that you two are insufferable prats."

And that was one of the nicer things she called us.

"Let's go, James," Fred scoffed, abruptly pulling himself off the couch.

"Er…where?"

"Just get up," he urged before strolling towards the boys' stairwell.

I shrugged and glanced back down at Rose. I opened my mouth, but she cut me off. "The answer is still no."

With a groan, I picked myself off the couch and jogged up the stairwell towards my bedroom. Wandering through the door, I saw Fred rummaging through my trunk.

"What are you doing?"

"Looking for the Map. I clearly need to know what my sister is up to."

Spying on his sister from afar. Sounded like a decent enough plan for a Friday night so I merely nodded and dropped on to my bed with a stifled yawn.

I had pilfered the Marauders Map from my father's desk when I was twelve and Uncle George had accidentally (translation: on purpose) informed me of the gloriousness that was the Map. It was by far one of the best things I owned (besides my broom) and came in handy quite frequently. Dad asked over the holidays my second year if I had gotten my hands on it and I flat-out lied but I'm pretty sure he knew it was in my possession. But hey, the way I looked at it, it was rightfully mine seeing as I had the same name as one of the original creators.

Okay, that probably wouldn't hold up in a courtroom but it sounded good in my head.

I made a mental note to ask Molly for some free legal advice the next time I saw her.

"Good, she's being boring," Fred said, letting out a sigh of relief. "She's just hanging around Quinn. Who, by the way, lost a lot of weight over the summer and is looking rather fine."

Of course he thought so. Quinn was on the Quidditch team with Roxanne and anyone who plays Quidditch was a catch in Fred's mind. "You're not going after your sister's best mate," I drawled. I reached over and pulled Franny from her cage and placed her on my bed. She immediately began to scurry and decided chomping on the edge of my pillow was a good idea.

"Did I say that?" he chuckled, wiping the Map and tossing it back at me.

"Wouldn't put it past you."

He shrugged, which I took to mean it wasn't out of the realm of possibilities. Then again, if she was female, it was always in the realm of possibilities for Fred.

Fred stifled a yawn as he dropped on to his bed. "So, you're down to about fourteen hours to convince Rose it's in her best interest to join our team. Thoughts?"

Unfortunately, I had none.

"Not to pull a Louis, but you got any blackmail on her?" I questioned. I tore Franny away from the pillow and placed her on the floor. I was pleased when she decided to chomp on the handle of Parker's trunk.

"The perfect little prefect who never gets into trouble? Zilch."

"Fuck."

"Couldn't have said it better myself."

It was unfortunate that the door opened and in walked Parker Jessup. I suppressed the urge to groan, though I noticed Fred didn't suppress it at all.

The prefect rolled his eyes before emitting a low growl. "Get that stupid creature off my trunk, Potter!"

I glanced down at Franny with a shrug. "You should feel lucky. She only goes after things of luxury. She must be mistaking your hand-me-down trunk for real leather."

Parker reached down and forcefully grabbed Franny off his trunk, tossing her my way. I let out a scowl of outrage before catching her. She began to whimper and I turned to glare at the prefect. "Who the fuck treats a living creature like that?"

"That'll teach her to mess with my stuff," he sneered, digging through his trunk. "So have all the girls in this school finally banded together to determine you weren't worth their time? Only explanation for what the hell you two lamebrains are doing lounging around the room on a Friday night."

"That insult would hold a lot more weight if 1) you weren't lounging around the room, too, and 2) Fred hadn't spent his free period shagging Ryleigh Carver and I hadn't skipped dinner to shag Hattie Wilkes," I retorted with a stifled yawn.

Franny began chewing on my pillowcase again.

"I'm so glad to have been informed of your day's extracurricular activities," he muttered, "But for the record, I won't be lounging around the room. I'm going out."

"With?" Fred pressed.

"None of your business," he huffed.

Which meant he wasn't going with anyone, he was just leaving the room to make it seem like he was more popular than he was.

Which he wasn't, by the way. I'm pretty sure the professors were the only people that actually tolerated him and that was only because they had to.

"That's code for he'll be roaming the halls alone," Fred read my mind with a shrug. "Not that that's any different than how he spends his other nights."

He sent Fred a dirty look but didn't argue. Which basically meant Fred was right. "You two have fun at your gay party," Parker retaliated as he grabbed his cloak and strode towards the door.

He ripped the door open and headed out but not before I could get in one final jab. "Aw, look at that, Freddo, it sounds like he's jealous. Don't worry, Jessup, I'm sure there's some delusional guy out there just waiting to use you for sex!"

He responded by slamming the door in my face.

XOXOXOXO


A/N: First week of Hogwarts down.

Up next: Quidditch tryouts and the Quidditch Code.

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