Chapter 1: Pure Galleons
London, 11 August, 2024
Harry Potter was not happy. He stood outside the flat, debating on whether or not to let himself in, as Ginny was determined that he find James and bring him to her third annual fortieth birthday party. All of the family was going to be there, Al was even coming in off of the set of that crazy movie…it was supposed to be a big family occasion, and his oldest son was not where he was supposed to be, as usual. Harry knocked on the door for the third time.
"James, come on, son. You're over an hour late for setup."
As there was no answer Harry closed his eyes, sighed, and opened the door with a quick alohamora. Upon entering the flat several things caught his eye right away; the shades were drawn, the place was in a state that would send Ginny and Molly into the Janus Thickey Ward at St. Mungo's, and he sincerely hoped that wasn't his son's light pink bra on the back of the chair. Trying to turn off his Auror crime scene skills of noticing almost everything Harry walked down the hallway to his son's bedroom, opened the partially closed door and stood next to his son. He glanced over at the other occupant of the bed and took out his wand; with a quick wave the sheet covered the bare arse of the girl, but not before Harry caught the Puddlemere United crest tattoo on her left bum cheek.
He softly shook his son's arm. "James. James, wake up son. Jamie, get up."
With a blink and a rub over his eye with the back of his hand James Potter slowly started to regain consciousness. After a few more blinks he realized that several things had happened. He'd overslept by a mile, his father was in his bedroom and last night's company was still in bed with him. And, most importantly, it was his mum's birthday. He was dead.
"Hi Dad. Overslept, huh?"
Harry took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "James, pull yourself together and…get her some clothes, please. Is she coming today? Introducing her to the family and your…"
"What? No, no…no no no no no." James sat up and pulled the sheet around his waist, causing part of the sheet to slide off of the other occupant. "Give me a minute?" After Harry left James got up, put on some underwear and a pair of jeans and then went over to the other side of the bed. "Um, Chelsey is it? Christie? Damn." He shook her arm gently. "Hey, time to wake up; I've got to go to a thing."
The girl rolled over and did not seem at all concerned that the top half of her body was unclothed. "Oh good morning mister. I didn't sleep much but it was a verrrrrry good night." She leaned towards him expecting a kiss, but was sadly disappointed. "What's wrong, Jimmy?"
James took out one of his least favorite t-shirts from the dresser and handed it to her. "I'm afraid I overslept, I have an appointment today that I can't…my…listen, you've got to go now. Sorry."
She took the t-shirt from him and slid it over her head. "I could go with you, just have to stop by my flat and…"
For a moment James saw exactly what would happen if he brought Miss Random-Bird-From-The-Club to his mum's party; there would be pictures, questions from his parents, questions from his Gran, hopefully no questions from his sister, and…it was too excruciating to think of, just like the pain that seemed to permeate his head. Too many firewhiskey shots, that had to be it. "No, sorry, family only thing. And I'm horribly late. The Floo's been disconnected because of crazy Quidditch fans so I'm afraid you'll have to either Apparate back to your flat or catch the Knight Bus or…Muggle taxi? I've got some Muggle money…"
The woman's demeanor changed instantly. "But Jimmy…you said…and I wouldn't have to wear those if you hadn't ripped my dress off. It was sooo sexy. Maybe we could…"
James handed her a pair of his training shorts and headed to the door. "Sorry, can't be helped. Send me an owl to the Puddlemere Headquarters, all my mail goes through my agent. He'll make sure to get it to me." After the woman had the training shorts on James took her by the arm and helped guide her out of the room. For a moment he panicked, thinking his father will be there waiting for them, but instead he found that the woman's clothing was repaired and folded nicely on the kitchen table. The pink bra was right on top. After she stepped out of the door, turned to him and attempted to say something more James simply shut the door quietly and put his back against it.
Harry walked around the corner folding his invisibility cloak. "James Sirius, we've talked about being responsible…"
"I know, Dad, I know! I did the charms, even used one of those Muggle…"
Harry leaned his head back and rolled his eyes for a moment and then focused on his son. "Don't want to know the details. Do you know what time it is?" Harry squinted at his son. "What in Merlin's name is that on your neck?" With a few steps he closed the distance and pulled his son's t-shirt away slightly. "Godric. Perma-Stick lipstick. I shouldn't be surprised, since it matches the other thing I found." Harry handed James a piece of clothing.
James unfolded the garment and saw a perfect representation of the girl's lips on the front of his boxers, the ones from the previous night. "Uh, Dad…we're not telling Mum about this, are we?"
"Are you daft? Of course not. You will be on your best, and I mean best behaviour today. No teasing Al and especially Lily. No pranks with George…" Harry ran a hand through his hair. "James, after all the talks we've had, you know how girls will take advantage of your celebrity. What would your coach say about this?"
"Good on you?"
"Right, I know. Have to watch yourself, girls will try all sorts of things to…but Dad I didn't take advantage of her, if anything it was the other way around. I've had the lecture, Dad. Now I need to find a…"
Harry handed him a small, orange vial. "Figured if you were still asleep you'd need one of these."
James took the hangover potion, quaffed it in one go, and nodded. "Yeah, it was a night, that's for sure. Ok, let me take a quick shower and I'll be your house elf."
A few moments later James, fully dressed, exited the flat behind his father. When he went to close the door he noticed a pale pink bra hanging from his doorknob. He quickly grabbed the bra, stuffed it into his pocket, and as soon as he and his father made it down to the street the two of them Apparated away.
To the Wizarding press the biggest story was always going to be, hands down, Harry Potter. He was the Boy Who Lived, the Dispatcher of the Dark Lord and Head of the Aurors. He was also, in the words of one exasperated editor, 'a sodding ghost' who was never in their paparazzi shots. Getting pictures of Harry Potter or his family was always difficult, as they guarded their privacy with masterful ease.
With one exception; James Potter, eldest son and Beater for Puddlemere United, was worth quadruple his weight in Galleons. This was probably true if one believed the rumors of what resided in the Potter vaults at Gringotts, but to the editors he was a walking, talking, drinking, womanizing guarantee of at least a two page spread in every edition, if not the cover. The night after he made his first appearance in a Quidditch match, as a substitute for an injured player, was almost the gold standard for every gossip magazine editor. The pictures of James Potter, son of the one and only Harry Potter, with Talia Rauge, the hot new singer, were almost too good to be true. Talia was already a mainstay of the press, with her voluptuous curves, bright blue hair and almost-there clothes, but for her to be caught canoodling with James Potter? Pure Galleons.
Their relationship had been documented in the press, mostly in the celebrity magazines, and if the saying 'the course of true love never runs smooth' has a grain of truth it was proven by James and Talia. Scenes of breakups, make-ups, concerts, Quidditch matches and other shots filled the pages. Unfortunately for the photographers Talia and James never appeared in anything with his famous family. Much speculation was given over to whether she would be Mrs. James Potter, and how the international pop star would get along with his family, but nothing ever came of it. For all the press knew he'd never introduced her to his family.
After the last breakup James had been spotted out and about with a series of very pretty witches, but never more than once. The article questioning whether James Potter was a 'serial dating playboy' was a best seller, and gave young witches some hope; maybe they could be the one to finally snag James Potter.
Needless to say Mrs. Harry Potter, James' mum, was not thrilled with any of this.
Thankfully the first person James ran into on prep duty was his brother. Al was stringing up fairy lights in the trees with his wand, carefully anchoring them into the branches. After finishing the last bit of the strand he was working on Al turned to see his brother approaching.
"James! Where the bloody hell have you been? Mum's been in a state and I got some of the spillover."
"Overslept." James pulled out his wand and levitated one of the strands of fairy lights. "Long night."
"Right." Al shook his head. "What was this one's name? Or was it the pop star again?"
"Talia?" James looked as if he'd been punched in the plums. "Godric, no." After levitating the strand up to the tree he looked over to his brother somewhat sheepishly. "Chelsey. I think."
Al laughed. "I'm so proud of you."
"Oh yeah. No matter how much I muck up it can't be as bad as you. Makes me look good."
"Piss off." James made a face. "Got a job yet or are you still sponging off of Mum and Dad?"
"Hey, I got a job." Al straightened his shoulders. "Starts filming in Wales in two weeks."
"Really?" James' eyes brightened. "So you really got a role, then? What is it, leading man? The best friend?"
"Uh, no." Al rubbed his chin for a second. "It's a giant killer hippogriff film. I get eaten about a third of the way through. But it'll be memorable!"
For the next half hour there was minimal talk as the brothers completed their allotted job. When they'd finished Al walked over to his brother. The two of them had never been really close, but since they'd both left Hogwarts things had improved between them.
"So…" Al gave James a sidelong glance. "Can't remember her name?"
"Not exactly." James didn't say anything, but looked back towards the Burrow hesitantly. "Uh, nobody's coming out this way anytime soon, are they?" When he saw Al shrug James reached into his pocket and pulled out the pink bra.
"Oh, a trophy!"
"Merlin's saggy y-fronts, no!" James put the bra on the ground and pointed his wand at it. "Incendio!"
As the bra quickly disintegrated into ash Al laughed. "Good thing Mum didn't see that. I already got the talk. You know, the 'why can't your brother be more responsible' and 'why do I have to see pictures of him in those magazines' bit. I hope your present can make her forget that.
"Oh fuck." James smacked himself on the forehead. "I went into the shop to buy Mum's present, but the girl behind the counter recognized me, and then we went out to eat, then to the club, and then…shit."
Al's laughter didn't die down right away. When he could finally speak he rubbed his eye for a moment. "I think I have a way out of this, but you're going to owe Lily. Both she and HR bought Mum presents. I bet if you're nice, and I know that's a stretch for you, I bet you could talk HR out of his and have her say that her present is from the both of them."
"Ugh, I hate owing Lily. You remember what it was like when she was little."
"She's still little, just older." Al put his arm around his brother's shoulder. "And she's dating HR Boyd. You know what that could potentially mean, don't you? You'd be related to the man who gave you more detentions at Hogwarts than anybody else."
"She's too young for that." James pushed Al's hand off of his shoulder. "Besides, she's our little sister."
"True." Al looked at James in a very serious manner, trying to use the expression their father did when he was trying to make a very important point. "Maybe she'll date a Quidditch player. We both know what paragons of virtue they are. Wouldn't dream of anything improper. Upstanding young men who…"
"Oh go blow it out your arse, Hamlet."
At the end of the party James realized it could have gone much, much worse. He endured the mild responsibility talk from his mum, stood for the photos, and thanked all the stars above for his Uncle Ron. After all the preliminaries were done they had arrived at the true heart of any Weasley celebration, the food, and after grabbing a plate Ron had sat down next to him and between mouthfuls of food, and sometimes during mouthfuls of food, the current state of Puddlemere United and the Chudley Cannons was thoroughly discussed. Knowing Ron's preoccupation with the sport most family members steered clear, but that left a couple spots on the other side of the table open.
It was with a sense of relief that Hannah and Neville Longbottom sat opposite of them with their daughter. HR and Lily filled in the other spots at the table, so James felt thankful that he wasn't at the table with his parents and grandparents. Merlin only knew what that conversation was like, but more than anything James knew that his father would not discuss how he'd found James' flat that morning.
While Ron was running down the Bulgarian side for their lack of teamwork and rotten formations James heard something from the Longbottoms' conversation, a name. Talia Rauge. He leaned over the table.
"Did somebody say something about Talia Rauge?"
Alice Longbottom, fourteen years old, ducked her head. "I'm sorry. I forgot."
James smiled weakly. "No, no, it's ok. What of her?"
"I have tickets!" Alice's face lit up. "Me an' Virginia are going to go next week. It's going to be brilliant!"
After glancing over to see Neville's worried face James smiled at her. "She does put on a good show."
"Maybe you could owl her and see if Gin and I could have backstage passes?"
"Alice Cassandra Longbottom!" Hannah glared at her daughter. "You know better than that!"
James ran his hand through his hair. "Um, its ok, Mrs. Longbottom. Talia and I are still, um, friends. It wouldn't be a problem."
Alice dropped her fork on her plate. "I'll go get Gin and we'll write her a letter to send with yours!" Before anyone could say a word the brown-haired girl jumped up from the table, ran over to the table where the Boyds were eating and pulled her friend away.
James watched as the two girls ran into the Burrow and then turned to his former professor and his wife. "Really, its fine. She owes me; I got her manager tickets to the Ballycastle match a while back."
While Hannah still looked like she wanted to stun her daughter Neville kept a straight face, but his eyes betrayed his true emotions. Keeping the laugh away that wanted to erupt he took a breath and looked at James. "So, the article I read about how she hates you and has hired a hit wizard to take you out was a load of rubbish, then. I guess we can't always believe what we read."
"Pfffft." James rolled his eyes. "Let me guess, Celebrity Wizard Weekly, right? And why were you reading that?"
Neville shrugged. "Alice has a subscription.
It was late when James got back to his flat. He had spent the remainder of the evening, after the official party had ended, at a Muggle pub with his brother, Ted Lupin and Simon Wood. Besides playing for the Cannons Simon was married to his cousin Rose, and whenever the two of them got together there was a playful competitiveness. That competitiveness extended into all areas, including downing shot after shot of firewhiskey. Al had side-along Apparated him to his flat, dumped him on the doorstep and went back to Grimmauld to stay with their parents, so when James opened the door it was a very quiet, dark flat that waited.
He moved things about haphazardly, kicked of his shoes and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. After a sip of water he put the glass down and looked at his flat. Yes, it was in a very exclusive neighborhood, and yes, he'd spent quite a few Galleons furnishing it, and yes, due to his Quidditch career he lived a very exciting life according to the papers, but the reality was that he was drunk and alone. Simon had Rose to go home to while he had…a very nice sofa. Even his Gryffindor roommates were now getting married or seriously involved with women, while his love life was…temporary. Non-existent to some extent. Sure, there were women who were eager to get into his bed, but beyond that? Nothing.
It was in that drunken depression that the owl batted against his kitchen window. He let the bird in, rummaged around in the cabinet to find something to give the owl, and took the letter off of its leg as well as a small envelope. It took him a couple of tries to actually focus on the words of the letter, but eventually the text swam into focus.
Tell your little friends that I would be happy to have them come backstage. I've enclosed front row tickets and backstage passes. Maybe I'll even find the time to talk to a famous Quidditch player.
You've been playing quite well. I know Ballycastle will be a challenge, according to Bradley, but I'm sure you will have a plan for them as always. Do try to not break my manager's heart too badly, at least make it close.
James pushed his finger underneath the flap of the envelope and found the tickets as well as the backstage passes. On one of the passes he recognized Talia's writing. In blue ink on the pass the name Max Goodwand was written. He laughed, as that was the name that he'd used at the hotel register when they stayed in Venice.
As he wandered towards his bedroom James thought of how her bright blue hair would look in his dark flat. Maybe it wasn't too late for them to try again.