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Remedial Exercises in Teamwork

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When Jamie gets down to the pitch, most of the team is already assembled, wearing a motley assortment of training warm-ups and bits of their uniforms. Redders keeps telling them to get separate equipment for training and matches, but no one has really listened to him.

(“We can do magic, Redders,” Jamie had said to him, patiently. “If something gets broken we can repair it no trouble.”

“It’s a mentality thing, Carra,” Redders had replied huffily. “A mentality thing.”)

He fetches his bat from the equipment chest and, after a moment’s hesitation, scoops up its pair which has yet to be claimed. When he turns around, Gary has arrived on the pitch and is rummaging through his bag.

Jamie walks over to him. “Neville.”

Gary looks up. “Carragher.”

“Fetched this over for you,” says Jamie matter-of-factly, holding out the bat stiffly.

“Thank you,” says Gary, taking it from him equally stiffly.

They stare at each other for a beat and then Jamie nods and retreats with some measure of relief. He and Gary had established diplomatic working conditions of sorts on the Quidditch pitch ever since they had both been moved up to first team Beaters, but the limits of this ceasefire were as of yet untested.

Their truce on the pitch was a matter of necessity rather than any real desire to be friends. In fact, the notion that he might want to be friends with Gary Neville made Jamie feel a bit queasy. Gary Neville! It was bad enough he had to go to the same school with a Neville. (Well, actually two Nevilles now for the past few years, but there was something about Phil that made him seem like a neutral party despite his last name. It just wouldn’t have been much fun to wage war on Phil.) Everything else after that just came in increasing levels of Terrible.

 

If Jamie had been woken in the middle of the night out of a deep sleep and forced to explain why he hated Gary Neville, he would have scoffed. Of course he hated Gary Neville! Everyone knew that the Nevilles and the Carraghers had been at war for centuries, ever since the Jellied Quaffle Incident of 1762, which had kicked off one of the most famous feuds in wizarding Britain. The Ministry had stepped in after the ensuing war had started distressing the local Muggles, but blood had already been spilled (namely, one of the ancient Carraghers had flown into a tree while spewing invective at a nearby Neville, and had broken his nose, and a Neville had nicked her thumb with a knife while whittling a Carragher effigy to burn, and no one had ever forgot.) and the intervening years had done nothing to dry it. Of course, it was mostly a conflict confined to Quidditch pitches and some of the darkest glowers ever glowered in the whole of the British Isles, but it was serious, and it was tradition.

So yes, Jamie hated Gary Neville. The worm. It was just his luck that the two of them had wound up in Gryffindor.

Since Jamie wasn’t actually keen on being expelled from Hogwarts for cursing Gary Neville’s nose right off his rat face, he had done his level best to avoid Gary. He avoided him in class and had carefully made friends outside of Gary’s own circles, and they slept on opposite ends of the dorm. Sure, there had been scuffles here and there. In the corridors, mostly. And occasionally on the grass outside. Or in classrooms before professors arrived. And the time by the lake-

The dorms and the Common Room were off-limits. That had been an unspoken agreement from day one. But everywhere else? Everything else?

Fair. Bloody. Game.

It was no surprise that Gary and Jamie between them had been in and out of detention for an impressive chunk of their total time at Hogwarts, and had cost Gryffindor a fortune in house points. It was a good thing they were both decent students who were just as likely to win back points with a clever answer as they were to lose them by shooting sparks at each other while passing in the corridors.

That was fine. Jamie could deal with the occasional hex while he was trying to read on the hill overlooking the lake. Seven years of that would have been alright. What wasn’t alright was that both he and Neville had tried out for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.

They had both made the team as reserve Beaters, and had shown up to the first practice ready for war.

It had gone about as well as one would expect. Which was to say, terrible beyond belief. It seemed –to Jamie, at least- that he didn’t so much try to clash with Neville as the universe wanted him to. He couldn’t speak, not to make a joke or respond to one of Redders’ questions, or god forbid, volunteer an opinion, without Neville either rolling his eyes or openly scoffing at whatever Jamie had to offer. And was it Jamie’s fault that everything Neville did and said was idiotic and antagonising?

No. Definitely not Jamie’s fault. It was just pre-determined: Carraghers and Nevilles weren’t meant to mix. Especially not when it came to Quidditch.

 

Luckily for Jamie, and perhaps luckily for Gryffindor’s cup hopes, although he and Gary were both excellent Beaters they hadn’t both played at the same time very often. The Gryffindor team wasn’t strapped for talent, and when Redders had been made captain in Jamie’s third year he had preferred to have one of the older Beaters paired up with either Jamie or Gary, to add experience, and probably not in small part also to stave off the inevitable.

Unfortunately, the inevitable stayed true to its name and had occurred at the beginning of their sixth year. A combination of students having come to the end of their time at Hogwarts and a lack of outstanding talent amongst the crop of new second years struck in a perfect storm, and the Quidditch season found Jamie and Gary the two obvious choices for first team Beaters.

It was difficult to say who had been unhappier about it: Jamie, Gary, or Redders.

“Listen, Carra,” Redders had said to him with an edge of desperation in his voice before their first match, against Hufflepuff, “I’m depending on you two to put your differences behind you and just concentrate on the match, alright? You’ve always played well together when you can stop bitching at each other for five minutes, and we want to put on a good show today. This is literally the beginning of our season.”

“Have you told this to Neville?” Jamie had demanded. “It’s not just me, y’know. He’s always slagging me off, when I’ve done nothing!”

Redders had just rolled his eyes. “Of course. But Jamie, seriously, now.”

“Oh come on, Redknapp,” Jamie’d said, a bit hurt. “I care more about winning than I do about hating Gary Neville.”

That earned him a hard stare which was, Jamie had thought, quite offensive.

 

They’d lost to Hufflepuff. Not through anything that Gary or Jamie had done or failed to do, but they’d gotten into a shouting match in the dressing room afterwards all the same, even having played well enough together. It might have come to blows if Jordan Nobbs hadn’t –quite sensibly- put Leg-Locker Curses on the both of them until Redders stormed in from doing whatever he’d been doing with his hair and put them both on extra training until death or further notice.

 

Redders hadn’t been there at the pitch when Jamie’d trudged down for the first extra training, but Gary had been. Given the opportunity, Jamie had decided to be somewhat diplomatic, and had started with an overture.

“Alright. So you don’t want to be here, and I don’t want to be here, but Redders will properly curse us if we don’t sort out how to work together. Or worse, make us run laps ‘round the pitch. So what’re we going to do?”

Gary’d crossed his arms in a businesslike fashion and scowled. “I don’t like losing.”

“And you think I do?! It wasn’t me who let that Bludger through to knock Jordan nearly clear off her broom! She was in on the Keeper!”

“At least I had a swing at it! You were halfway back down the pitch! Looking at clouds!” Gary’d stopped himself, then, and to Jamie’s surprise dropped his defensive stance. “Alright, listen. I don’t like you, and you don’t like me. That’s alright. We don’t have to like each other to do well together. And we do have to do well together. I know you want to win the cup as much as I do.”

“That’s true enough. And look,” Jamie’d said somewhat shamefacedly, “I wouldn’t try and sabotage you in a match. I was only taking the piss out of you in training- but that’s ‘cause I’m an idiot. Guess we’re both idiots. I’m thinking, we ought to make the Quidditch pitch and training grounds off-limits. Truce?”

“Alright,” Gary’d said cautiously. “I’m actually going to have to agree with you there.”

“Don’t let your mum hear you saying something like that,” Jamie’d said, throwing caution to the wind. “My dad wrote in his last letter that she threw a pie at him at the derby.”

To his surprise, Gary Neville had cracked a grin at him. “He probably deserved it.”

Jamie had offered a grin of peace in return, and by the time Redders arrived, the atmosphere had been almost civil.

 

And so the situation stood from that point on. Dorms, Common Room, and Quidditch-related areas were neutral ground. In said Quidditch-related areas, things slowly move from almost civil to almost friendly. Jamie fetches Gary’s bat for him from the equipment chest. Gary offers Jamie his extra jar of broom polish. Et cetera.

 

Gary Neville still hates his guts, though. But that’s fine, because Jamie most definitely still hates Gary Neville right back.

 

--

 

Jamie sometimes thinks that it’s a bit ironic that Quidditch had driven his and Gary’s families into bitter feud, and now it was Quidditch that was slowly bridging that chasm. Case in point: Gary was Gary, at least in Jamie’s head. Out loud he was still ‘Neville’ (or whichever invective Jamie could come up with on short notice) but it was getting trickier to keep the two separate. Several months into the Quidditch truce and their partnership on the pitch was beginning to slosh over into the rest of their lives. It’s arguably Gary who starts it, by moving seats in Transfiguration to sit next to Jamie so he can mock him about the Liverpool Lobalugs’ defeat at the weekend. So really, Jamie rationalises later, it’s Gary’s fault. Like so many things.

But Jamie doesn’t necessary need to respond to the banter. Or to egg him on. Or then himself move over in History of Magic so they can continue their exchange of hissed barbs.

It is quite possibly the first time he and Gary exchange words in a classroom without said exchange immediately resulting in detention for both of them.

Gary knows his Quidditch, there’s no doubt about that. Once they get beyond the mandatory back-and-forth insulting each others’ teams, Jamie finds that Gary knows a lot about European Quidditch, something which precious few students are interested in. The insular nature of the wizarding community extends to sport as well, and with the exception of the World Cup, Quidditch teams on the continent don’t hold much interest for many of Jamie’s classmates, much to his disappointment.

Not Gary. Gary knows about the latest self-steering broom scandal in Italy and the German Keeper who really had been born with twelve fingers, no that hadn’t been magical interference. She’d had the baby photos to prove it, Carragher. It was in the paper. What paper? Quidditch Quarterly, obviously. What was he, Jamie Carragher, reading? European Nights, Fights, and Frights or some other rag? Oh, Continent Clash. That was actually good quality. No, he hadn’t seen the new issue. What, did he want to swap for the Quarterly with the German Keeper? Yeah, sure. Why not.

 

Asides from Quidditch, they don’t talk much. But who cares? Quidditch is their neutral territory. Jamie chats with Gary about Quidditch, and they don’t try to hex each others’ ears off. Otherwise, everything is just the same as it always was.

 

--

 

It’s Puddlemere United that gets them into trouble, which is just typical. Puddlemere had recently beaten the Manchester Manticores to a frankly embarrassing degree and were decidedly top of the league and looking to be there when Christmas came. As Jamie had hissed satisfactorily to Gary, even if the Manticores’ lumpy little seeker had managed to get his fingers around the Snitch, it wouldn’t have mattered as Puddlemere’d been up a hundred and ninety points to the Manticores’ twenty within two hours with no sure sign of stopping. Almost a relief when Puddlemere had gotten the Snitch, eh Neville? And prevented the spectacle of having the Manticores’ keeper flopping about for another hour-

Which had been when Mourinho had fixed them with his gimlet gaze.

“Carragher, Neville,” says Mourinho lazily, “detention. Both of you back in this classroom after your final classes and you can do us the favour of cleaning out the teacups for our next session. By hand. And I will know if either of you so much as think of using magic.”

Jamie turns a look of outrage onto Mourinho, who raises an eyebrow, waiting for him to doom himself. Jamie opens his mouth, and Gary reaches out and clamps down on his arm with iron fingers. “Yes Professor.”

They keep quiet for the rest of the hour, gazing into their teacups in vain as Mourinho harasses them about their lamentable inability to envision and create. Jamie wonders if Mourinho’s classes are just as miserable for Slytherins, or if Mourinho shows his house preferential treatment. It’s a well-known fact that the man is a formidable hand at both Transfiguration and Potions, and could easily have taught either subject. Jamie suspects he prefers Divination so that he can take the tower room: secluded and difficult to reach and distinctly sinister.

“You know he could wash the teacups himself in less than ten seconds, the bastard,” says Jamie furiously, walking down the winding stairs from Mourinho’s tower after class. “He just likes making students do it out of some twisted evil desire to cause as much pain and suffering as he possibly can.”

“Yeah, obviously,” Gary says, keeping pace with Jamie, “but there’s no sense in talking back to him. He’d just make us do something worse.”

Jamie makes a disgruntled noise but doesn’t contest the point.

 

When he clambers back up through the trapdoor into Mourinho’s classroom that evening, Mourinho is nowhere in sight. Gary, however, is.

“Is he-?”

Gary shrugs. “I only got here a minute ago. Haven’t seen him.”

Jamie glances about the classroom. He isn’t a nervous person generally, but with Mourinho it helped to be...cautious. “Probably shouldn’t wait on it. He might not even show up.”

There’s a small porcelain sink tucked away behind a black curtain in one of the myriad alcoves of the tower room. Mourinho’s classroom seems to be comprised entirely of alcoves, the centre of the room sunken in steppes like a shallow amphitheatre, each row lined with thin desks and the rest of the room swathed in heavy, dark cloth. One of the curtains farther from the trapdoor at the top of the amphitheatre seems to be swaying slightly with an unfelt breeze. Jamie tries not to look at it too much.

 Gary twists one of the taps on the sink and soaks two greyish rags under the stream of water. He hands one to Jamie.

“Oh,” says Jamie, startled out of his wary appraisal of Mourinho’s lair, which seems far more unsettling now that it’s not filled with students, “thanks.” He looks at the wobbly towers of tea-stained cups stacked up on the little shelf above the sink and sighs. “Better get at it, then.”

Mourinho is always barking at students for not letting their tea steep for long enough, but by the third cup Jamie has no idea why: the dark rings around the china are proving a misery to scrub off.

Gary and Jamie had been in many a detention together over their five years at Hogwarts, mostly punishments for fighting outside of class or disagreements within class that had escalated enough to have consequences. After a while they had developed a system: do the task that had been assigned them as quickly as possible, and speak only if necessary. It was better that way, rather than just getting into another fight in detention, and meriting another punishment.

But this is the first time that they’ve been in detention without having been on opposite sides of a conflict. It’s strange and Jamie isn’t entirely sure if their usual routine of avoiding eye contact and staying silent is really appropriate. After all, Gary had established more or less friendly relations by handing him the dishcloth instead of throwing it at his head. It’s also the first time they’ve had detention since they’d started talking regularly, in training and in class. Jamie realises only just then that it’s been a decent couple of months. Things seem suddenly very different.

He’s trying to think of something to say, when the trapdoor snaps suddenly open and Jamie nearly drops the cup he’s working on in alarm.

He twists about to see if Mourinho has come to provide added torment to their detention, but it isn’t Mourinho rising up through the trapdoor like a bad omen. Jamie nearly drops his cup again.

Professor Guardiola glances around the classroom with a distinct look of distaste. He clicks his tongue in annoyance. “Mourinho isn’t here.”

It isn’t a question, and Guardiola hasn’t even seemed to really take note of their presence. Gary glances at Jamie quickly and answers anyway. “No sir. We haven’t seen him.”

Another irritated click. “If he does come back, tell him I was- or, no. That won’t be necessary.” And with a cursory nod, Guardiola vanishes back down the trapdoor.

The dull thunk of the door closing rings slightly in the room, the sound mostly swallowed up by the heavy drapery. The moving curtain across from the door rustles smugly.

“What did he want, d’you think?”

“Maybe he’s looking for Mourinho to duel him,” says Jamie hopefully. “Everyone knows they don’t like each other. It’s bound to kick off some day.”

“I actually think Mourinho would have the upper hand, there,” says Gary thoughtfully, rubbing more soap into his rag.

Jamie blinks at him, aghast. “What?! How could you have such a terrible opinion- listen-”

A lively debate follows on the duelling merits of various professors, until all the cups are cleaned and restacked neatly on the shelf, quite to the surprise of the two of them. A job well done, and not even a passing mention of Quidditch.

The work hadn’t taken too long with the two of them scrubbing away, and when they reach the Great Hall, dinner is in full swing but not yet over. At the far end of the table, David Beckham waves at Gary to come over. Jamie is heading towards the near end and his own little cluster of friends when he hears Gary’s voice.

“Carragher!”

Jamie turns back, a question on his face.

“I’ll, um, see you at Quidditch practice. Yeah?”

The question turns to surprise. “Um, yeah. See you at Quidditch.”

They don’t actually shake hands, because some things aren’t fit for the public eye. But the sentiment is there, and Jamie goes to sit with his friends feeling strangely proud.

 

--

 

The days get colder and the evenings come quicker. Redders pushes Quidditch training half an hour forwards in a losing attempt to get back some of their daylight, but the inexorable turn of the seasons marches on, and by early December Jamie finds himself clinging to his broom with icy fingers, trying to concentrate in the grey half-light on the weaving pattern Redders wants them to fly, and trying even harder not to think about a warm dinner and his bed.

When Redders finally releases the frozen team from his clutches, they all race to the dressing room with eagerness.

“I’m half-dead,” Jamie moans. “I need new gloves. These ones haven’t been doing anything. Hi, Gary, want to see if we can get some hot cocoa from the kitchens before dinner? If I don’t thaw soon I may lose my fingers.”

Gary blinks at him confusedly. “Cocoa?”

“Hot, chocolatey, delicious?”

“No, I mean, yeah. Yeah, I do.”

“Good! Let’s shift before Redders thinks of something else he needs to tell us.”

Gary follows him somewhat bemusedly to the kichens, where the House Elves have anticipated the flurry of students with cold noses and shivery fingers and have prepared what seems to be a massive copper boiler already full of hot cocoa. The boiler is perched on a curly-legged table just inside the kitchen, and Gary and Jamie are given mugs and squeaked instructions to take as much as they like.

The kitchens are warm and full of the smells of dinner, and the calls of the House Elves as they dash about preparing the meal are oddly comforting. They pass back and forth a bit of idle complaining about training in the cold, while the feeling slowly returns to their fingers and toes but mostly they sit in strange comfort, and sip the cocoa in good company.

 

There’s just enough time before dinner to dash upstairs to the dormitory and change out of their kits.

“C’mon, Jamie, we’ll be late.”

“We won’t be late, gimme a sec. I’ve only got one shoe- hang on,” Jamie stops and looks at Gary suspiciously. “Since when do you call me Jamie?

Gary actually blushes. A real life blush, red spilling over his cheeks and blotching his nose and ears. “It’s your name, isn’t it?” he says defensively. “What, you prefer I call you James?”

“No, I’m just more used to you calling me by my last name. Or whatever insult you can come up with.”

“You used my first name in training earlier,” says Gary, changing tack and going on the offensive, although Jamie isn’t entirely sure what they’re arguing about. Or if they’re even really arguing at all, although they must be, based on the precedent set by roughly ninety-five percent of their previous interactions.

“Yes, well,” Jamie says, taken aback, “we’re in the same house. We’re well-acquainted.” He tries not to let on that not only does he have no excuse for using Gary’s name earlier, but that it had slipped out so easily he hadn’t even noticed what he’d said until thinking back just now.

“Have you got your shoe on yet?” says Gary, impatient but still red-faced. “If we don’t get down quick Giggsy will have eaten all the food on my end of the table.”

Jamie is still turning it over in his head all throughout dinner. He keeps glancing down towards Gary, and is a bit disappointed when he never manages to catch his eye.

After the meal, when the whirlpool of students begins draining out of the hall towards bed, he hangs back until Gary passes, chattering with Beckham.

“Gary!”

Gary turns, defensively. “What now, Carragher?

Jamie grins. He’s rather pleased with himself. “Nothing.”

“Shut up, Jamie.”

Oh, he’s definitely pleased with himself now. “Sure thing, Gary.”

 

--

 

Their burgeoning friendship gets a few laughs amongst the Gryffindor Quidditch team but isn’t much a topic. No one wants to go back to Jamie and Gary coming close to duelling each other in training. But that doesn’t mean it goes entirely unremarked upon outside the pitch.

Jamie is spending his free period wandering the castle, shooting glum looks at the rain lashing the windows which is preventing him from skidding about outside, when he turns a corner and sees a student in Hufflepuff robes. He squints. “Phil?”

Phil turns around, eyes widening in alarm when he sees who had called, as though he expects Jamie to come at him swinging. Which, Jamie thinks only somewhat ruefully, was perhaps not the most irrational of reactions.

“What are you doing here? Shouldn’t you be in Divination?”

“What? Er, yeah. I mean- I sorta got a bit turned around.” Phil scratches his neck, awkwardly. “I can never find the right tower.”

“It’s on the opposite end of the corridor. Go up the smaller staircase. Aren’t you a third year? You should know this stuff. Now run or Mourinho will hex you.”

“Mourinho doesn’t hex students.”

“Do you really want to find out?”

Phil shudders. “Ugh, no.” He frowns. “Why do you even know my class schedule, anyway?”

A good question. Why does he know Phil’s schedule? Jamie blinks. “Oh, Gary mentioned it.” He must have done. Jamie can’t think of any other conceivable reason that he would know that Phil has Divination while Jamie and Gary have their free period.

Phil gives him a look that suggests at once amusement and deep, deep suspicion. “Gary mentioned it.”

“He is your brother.”

“He’s Gary Neville.

“And?”

“You’re Jamie Carragher. You’re not supposed to be discussing my class schedule. You’re supposed to be, I dunno, turning each others’ pumpkin juice into pineapple juice.”

“Why pineapple?”

“’Cos Gary’s allergic,” says Phil, promptly and seemingly without any compunction about betraying such a weakness to a mortal enemy.

“Well, just ‘cos you can’t get over your prejudice, Philip, doesn’t mean that Gary and I aren’t making strides for peace and harmony in this world,” says Jamie haughtily. “Now run along.”

Phil doesn’t even bother with a retort; he just laughs in a sort of combination snort and giggle, and dashes off down the corridor. Which, to be entirely honest, does really sum up all that could possibly be said to the notion of Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher striding for peace and harmony.

 

It’s not just Phil, either. Stevie brings it up the next evening in the Hufflepuff Common Room. (Jamie has been a fixture in the Hufflepuff Common Room for so long that some of the younger students have to be told that he isn’t actually in the house. Likewise for Stevie in the Gryffindor tower.) Jamie is sprawled across a squashy russet-coloured armchair in a corner, complaining about Redders’ new training routine while Stevie labours over transforming his scribbled Potions notes into a satisfactory essay. The holidays are racing down on them all faster than anyone can write, and all four Common Rooms are full of students groaning over the work due before the break.

Jamie mentions something in passing about Gary trying to improve his left-handed swing, and Stevie looks up from his parchment, head cocked to the side. “Gary Neville again, Carra. You two have hated each other for the past five years. Your families have hated each other for the past five hundred. Why’s he suddenly your new best mate?”

“Only about two hundred and fifty, Stevie. Not five hundred. The Quaffle was Jellied on third November, 1762. We’ve got that embroidered on a tea towel at home. With a nice design of a manticore being crushed by rocks.”

“Carra.”

Jamie shrugs, trying for nonchalance. “I dunno. We have a good understanding on the pitch. And, y’know, he’s not that bad.”

Stevie fixes him with a look of boundless scepticism. “Really? You’re gonna try that with me?”

“Yes,” says Jamie firmly, and ends the conversation. To be honest, he can’t even say himself why the change of heart. Quidditch certainly has something to do with it, but even Quidditch couldn’t heal half a decade of active hatred quite so quickly. Especially not half a decade built on such a sour foundation as the Carragher-Neville feud. The only logical answer is that either he or Gary have undergone some sort of drastic change, and Jamie thinks he would have noticed his own personality switch-over. So it stands to reason that Gary has massively improved himself from being a sanctimonious, scrappy, Quaffle-jellying git to being someone that Jamie can stand to be around for more than ten minutes. It must be.

“Still sounds a bit Romeo and Juliet if you ask me,” Stevie mutters.

Jamie looks at him blankly. “What’s this, then?”

“Muggle stuff, nevermind.”

“Sounds suspicious.”

“Yeah, that’s one word for it.”

“That reminds me,” Jamie says, seeing an opportunity to veer the subject away from Gary, “are your mum and dad still coming over for Christmas dinner? One of our cousins has got a new Muggle girlfriend, and she thinks it’d be easier for her if your lot are there. Since they’re so used to us all.”

“’Course they’re coming. Remember my mum last year? With your aunt and the crackers? She’d walk through a hurricane to get to your place, don’t worry.”

“We never did that glitter out of the lampshade,” says Jamie fondly.

“Or the toad out of the chimney.”

“Right, I’d almost forgotten about that. How about you tell your dad to bring his fishing net this year.”

 

--

 

“Jamie, love! There’s an owl for you!”

“From who?

“I don’t know! There’s some newspaper- just come down here, will you?

Jamie sets aside the book about Spanish Quidditch tactics he’d gotten for Christmas and trudges down the stairs. It’s a tiring time, with the house full of relatives and cousins big and small shouting at each other and racing about the place.

There’s an unfamiliar tawny owl perched regally on the sill outside the kitchen window. It gives Jamie a disdainful look but obligingly drops the rolled up paper clamped in its beak when Jamie holds out his hand.

A copy of Quidditch Quarterly unfurls itself to him. There’s a small note stuck to the front with a bit of Spello-tape.

Finished with this one. Send me the Clash back with Sir Alex?

It’s unsigned and Jamie snickers. Gary is taking no chances of his owl being outed as a Mancunian deep in Carragher territory.

“I could take you hostage, you know,” Jamie says conversationally.

Sir Alex gives him a flat, avian stare that quite clearly says I’d like to see you just give it a try, son.

“Luckily for you we’ve got a truce on Quidditch-related matters. Hang on while I go get the paper for Gary?”

Sir Alex hoots matter of factly.

“Won’t take a minute.”

“Jamie!” yells his mum, “close that window! You’re letting the cold air in!”

“Just a second mum!” Jamie shouts back, running up to his room. The dog-eared copy of the latest Continental Clash is on his bedside table. He hesitates, and then snatches up a scrap of parchment and a bent quill from the little desk crammed at the foot of the bed.

Cheers! he writes, Happy Christmas.

Sir Alex is still perched patiently by the window. Jamie hands the rolled up paper over to the curved talons, and with a sharp swivel of the owl’s head it takes off in flight, gliding silent against the falling snow.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

 

The first Saturday returning to Hogwarts is bright and blustery. There’s a light dust of snow on the hills and frozen little clouds skid across the sky, hurrying off to wherever clouds need to get to.

There’s a crowd around the entrance to the Great Hall when Jamie and Stevie come down for breakfast, where they find that the rumours and speculations that had been swirling about the Common Rooms for weeks before the holidays have been confirmed.

“Apparition!” Stevie crows, when the mass of excited students clears somewhat and they can read the notice pinned to the heavy wooden door. “Brilliant, Carra. No more messing about on the staircases for us.”

“No more having to knock over all them first years clogging the halls-”

“I’m going to Apparate right into Mourinho’s classroom, I can’t stand that ladder-”

Which brought them to the next weekend, standing in the Great Hall cleared of everything but hundreds of wooden hoops, presided over by a sharp-looking Ministry witch, and stuck in a situation.

Namely, staring furiously at their wooden hoops while their bodies stubbornly refused to budge.

The houses hadn’t been strictly separated in the Hall, and so Jamie is next to Stevie as per usual. Xabi Alonso has slunk in on Stevie’s other side with a small smile that Stevie had returned in beaming force. Jamie makes a mental note to tease him about that later. Out of the corner of his eye he can see Gary, a row behind and a bit to the left.

The present state of intra-Hogwarts Carragher-Neville relations is, in the history of their past years at school, a complete and utter anomaly. In the grand scheme of things, Jamie has spent the vast majority his time at Hogwarts doing his very best to avoid Gary Neville and, in such circumstances that said avoidance was impossible, doing his very best to make Gary Neville’s life difficult. He doesn’t feel bad about it, as Gary had done precisely the same thing. But now that seeing Gary isn’t merely an exercise in antagonism, Jamie is beginning to realise just how often they tend to be thrown together.

Being in the same house they were always going to cross paths on a regular basis, but the universe seemed to be doing its level best to increase the crossing, sometimes literally.

Very literally. Jamie is glancing surreptitiously about, trying to see what his classmates are doing and if any of them are having any success, when there’s a slight pop, and he finds himself looking at a very surprised Gary Neville, who has managed to successfully Apparate himself- right into Jamie’s hoop.

“Can’t stay away from me, can you?” Jamie says with a grin, recovering from his surprise.

Gary goes red and scowls, but Jamie has been on the receiving end of quite a few of Gary’s scowls, and this particular scowl is surprisingly lacking in bile. As scowls go, it’s actually rather friendly. “Fuck off, Carragher. At least I’ve wound up in a circle. You haven’t gotten anywhere close.”

“Get out of the way and I’ll show you,” Jamie retorts, although Gary isn’t wrong: he hasn’t managed to move yet.

Gary steps out of the hoop with a snide little hop. “Go on, then.”

Well, fuck. Jamie concentrates, narrowing his mind down to the bit of floor encircled in front of him. He really hopes he doesn’t wind up splinching and probably shrieking like a baby in front of Gary.

Concentrate, concentrate. How the fuck were you supposed to Apparate, anyway? Gary is about to say something stupid. Jamie can just tell. Concentrate.

He’s standing inside the hoop.

Jamie blinks, quite frankly shocked.

He looks up to find Gary staring at him, mouth open. “You actually did it.” He sounds genuinely impressed.

“Do I have all my limbs?” Jamie gives himself a frantic once-over. “Fingers, toes- Gary, you’re staring. Oh my god, I didn’t splinch my face off, did I?”

“Unfortunately not,” says Gary, seemingly catching himself and reverting back to the usual tone he reserved for talking to Jamie. “You look like you’re in one piece.”

Brilliant.” The surprise of having succeeded is wearing off and Jamie indulges himself in beaming the smuggest grin ever grinned in Gary’s direction. “Told you. See, Gary? Nothing to it.”

Gary opens his mouth, presumably to offer a rude retort, but at that moment the ministry witch giving the instruction comes around to inspect the progress of their section and he steps quickly back in line with his own circle.

 

It snows hard that night and when they wake up the countryside has gone from lightly dusted with white to being buried under a foot of the stuff. It’s snow caught between soggy and icy, perfect for packing into snowballs like the one that Jamie throws at Stevie, which kicks off a rash of attacks across the grounds. Jamie finally calls it quits on the battle when Xabi manages to lure him under the Whomping Willow, hidden and dormant under the snowfall, and then enchants a rock to whiz into the trunk. The Willow rears back in attack, dumping half a tonne of snow on Jamie’s head, and Jamie decides his fight is fought.

Alonso’s not a bad sort, he thinks, although somewhat disgruntled about the way Stevie had laughed himself nearly sick seeing Jamie emerge from the snow bank newly dropped from the Willow’s branches. And at least he knows his Quidditch.

When Jamie makes his soggy way back up to Gryffindor tower, Gary is in the Common Room curled up on a sofa with his nose in a book.

“You missed the fight,” Jamie informs him, dripping snowmelt into the rug.

“Mhm.”

“It was a good one.”

“Let me know for the next one, then,” says Gary, looking up. He makes a face. “You’re getting water all over the place, go change!”

Jamie rolls his eyes. “Yes mum.”

“Did you win, at least?”

“No. Alonso dropped a tree on me.”

Gary actually laughs at that, laughs at him, and Jamie isn’t even annoyed by it as he heads up the staircase to change.

 

--

 

The Three Broomsticks is as crowded as Jamie had expected it to be on such a wet and grey day. The snow from a few weeks ago has been turned mostly to slush and ice, and everyone is packed inside to escape the cold rain. Jamie doesn’t mind going in to Hogsmeade by himself: with the mass of Hogwarts students that descends upon the town every Saturday he’s bound to run into someone he likes.

He scans the laughing, chattering sea of people, and spots- Gary, sitting alone at the end of one of the crowded tables, hands wrapped around his own steaming mug of butterbeer, reading a folded copy of the Daily Prophet. He looks up at Jamie’s call and waves.

Jamie picks his way over and, shoving at the other occupants of the table with an unapologetic smile, crams himself onto the bench opposite Gary. “Hiya. This is a sad, depressing sight. Where are the lads?”

“Mostly struggling through that Potions essay,” says Gary in the slightly smug tones of someone who’d had said Potions essay started and finished at least a week before anyone else. “Except for Scholesy, who’s got-”

“-Quidditch training, right. Xabi mentioned Slytherin had training today. What’re you up to? I’m not interrupting your silent reading hour, am I?”

“It’s hardly the best place for silence. I just had to get out of the castle. Everyone complaining about the Potions in the Common Room was starting to grate.”

Jamie laughs. “You’re an old man, Gary. Give us the news, then.”

“It’s just the Quidditch section.” Gary gestures to the page. “The Prophet’s analyst has got no idea what he’s talking about, but the match reports aren’t bad.”

Jamie looks at Gary with interest. “Do you want to be a journalist, Gary? You could do Quidditch correspondence quite easily. And you’re always going on about how no one’s got any clue about the game...”

“I’m not that critical. Alright, I am a bit. But I don’t know, I’ve never really thought about it.”

“You’d be good at it. If there’s one thing you’re never short of, mate, it’s opinions. You could greatly widen your audience.”

“That may be the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me, Jamie.”

“Cheers.”

They each take a sip of their butterbeers, latching onto the natural drinking pause in the exchange. A small, rapidly squashed part of Jamie’s brain makes a note that really, he and Gary have always been well in tune with each other. Refreshed and bolstered, Gary fixes Jamie with an astute, inspecting gaze.

“What about you? What do you want to do- play Quidditch?”

Jamie shrugs. “I’d like to. But I don’t know. It’s not easy.”

“You’re good enough,” Gary tells him, with such effortless confidence that it leaves Jamie feeling a bit flustered.

“D’you think?”

“Well, I mean, with the state of the Lobalugs’ defence at the moment, anyone could get in that team-”

Jamie reaches across the table to punch him on the shoulder. “Wanker.” He’s thoughtful. “Would you fancy playing for Manchester?”

“It’s what I’d like more than anything,” says Gary, in a quiet voice. “Really all I’ve ever wanted.” It’s said too softly to be insincere. Jamie feels it heavy in the air.

“We might end up playing against each other,” he says in an attempt to lighten the atmosphere, because suddenly he has Gary’s hopes and dreams in the palm of his hand and he’s not entirely sure yet why he’s been given them. “Would make a change.”

“It would put the universe back to rights, us playing against each other.”

“Yeah,” Jamie agrees, and then stops. “Would it?”

He doesn’t get an answer right away and for that agonising moment of silence Jamie experiences every doubt in the known universe, and some from the unknown. Even his insides cringe, wondering if this is, finally, the invisible borderline crossed.

“You’d get a Bludger right to the face from me,” Gary says finally, “but we could probably go to the pub afterwards.”

Jamie’s face breaks out into a grin. “That sounds alright to me.”

Just like usual. He’s bound to run into someone he likes.

 

--

 

Jamie doesn’t even instinctively flinch when Gary accosts him unexpectedly in the corridor while he’s on the way to meet Stevie in the library. He’s not sure if this is a positive sign of progress or a worrying indication of complacency.

It’s not an aggressive accosting, however. As a matter of fact Gary seems nervous, and pulls him aside to a window alcove where they can be ignored by the crush of students passing by.

“Hi. I’ve got- I’ve got something to ask you.” Gary’s almost fidgeting where he stands.

“Go on, then.”

“You remember when I wound up in your hoop during Apparition?”

“Vividly,” says Jamie, wondering where this is going.

“I might have been, sort of looking at you.”

“Well,” says Jamie sensibly, “you must have been. Otherwise you’d have gone somewhere else. They do tell you to concentrate, Gary.”

“No, I mean- I mean I was looking at you. ‘Cos I, I-” He’s glancing back and forth between Jamie’s eyes and window, and the nervous energy seems suddenly boil over and steam out. “Oh, never mind. Forget it. It’s- bollocks. It’s nothing.”

“Hey! Hey, Gary, what? What’s up?” Jamie grabs his arm in what he hopes is a reassuring manner. Gary has gone blotchy scarlet and looks like he’s liable to bolt at any moment. “You alright? Talk to me.”

“It’s fine, Jamie,” says Gary somewhat desperately. “Just losing my head, that’s all. Like usual. I’ll see you at practice.” He shakes his arm out of Jamie’s grip and practically flees.

Jamie is nonplussed. But Gary’s always been an odd one, hasn’t he? And it’s not as if he hadn’t said stranger things to Jamie. At least this thing had come without a hex attached, or even an insult. He shakes his head, and promptly forgets about it.

 

--

 

Jamie doesn’t realise just how long he’s gone without receiving a detention until Mourinho gives him one. The detente between him and Gary could be fairly recognised as a friendship by that point, and the danger had gone from being caught shooting sparks at each other in the hallway to being told to stop whispering to each other at the back of the classroom. For the most part the professors just seemed relieved that the likelihood of one or both of them getting irreversibly cursed before they left school had gone down.

Mourinho shows no such relief that Gary and Jamie’s incessant chatter during Divination has taken up the space vacated by their incessant fighting, and promptly smacks both of them with a detention when he catches them passing a copy of Quidditch Quarterly back and forth during a lesson on divining entrails.

Luckily, the detention is less gory than the class had been, and instead of viscera they’re sorting knucklebones back into little white boxes and stacking them in a tall cabinet made of dark wood and smoke-stained glass. The curtain on the wall which had been gently moving during their other detention is motionless and, for all intents and purposes, nearly identical to its fellows draped around the circular tower room. Somehow it still draws Jamie’s gaze. He knows instinctively that it’s the curtain that had been moving, and from the way that Gary had eyed it when they’d arrived, he knows that Gary is aware of it as well. The cabinet is closer to the curtain than the little sink had been and Jamie doesn’t like it.

“I hate that curtain,” he grumbles. “I always feel like it’s watching me.”

“It’s in Mourinho’s classroom,” says Gary, “so it probably is.”

Jamie can’t stop a shiver. “Let’s get this done and get out of here.”

It feels decidedly less welcoming in the classroom than it had the last time. And since Mourinho’s classroom is grimly forbidding on a good day, it means that Jamie can’t shake the feeling of unease. He almost wishes that the curtain was still swaying in the nonexistent breeze. It would have added some consistency, and given an obvious reason for why he felt so unsettled looking at it. A perfectly normal curtain shouldn’t be giving off such a horrible feeling of dread.

Maybe it’s because Jamie is uncomfortable that he tries to sort the bones as quickly as he can. It’s clear that Gary is thinking the same thing, because they don’t talk aside from a few short words needed to organise the clearing away of the boxes.

They’re nearly done with the task when Jamie, in his rush to put the boxes away, fumbles one. The little white box drops from his fingers onto the cold stone floor, the bones inside scattering across the classroom, bouncing down the sunken steps and clattering against desks, and rolling every which way.

“Fuck.”

Gary pulls out his wand with a sigh at Jamie’s endless incompetence. “Accio knucklebones,” he says, clearly, and gives the wand a flick.

A grand total of nothing happens. Jamie raises an eyebrow with a suggestive smirk. “Let me guess. This doesn’t usually happen to you.”

“Piss off. No, I don’t think...lumos.”

Again, nothing.

Lumos,” says Jamie, trying it out for himself. His wand, too, fails to comply.

“Mourinho. He said no magic. Probably enchanted the room or something.”

Fuck,” Jamie says again, with more emphasis. “Alright, well. At least we know there’s thirteen of the little bastards in each box. Let’s gather them up.”

“’Let’s’? You’re the one who dropped it, Carragher.”

Jamie gapes. “What, you’re just not going to help?!”

Gary stares at him blankly for a second, and then breaks into a laugh. “Alright, no, I’ll help. Just wanted to see your face. Don’t be so indignant!”

“You’re such a tosser, I swear.” Jamie throws an empty box at Gary, and clambers down the steps to begin picking up the bones. Most of them have made the full descent and are rolling about in the centre of the sunken circle around the little stand which Mourinho uses during lessons. When he’s satisfied there are no more hiding among the desks, he climbs back up to Gary.

“How many have you got? There were four up here.”

Jamie counts the knucklebones he’s already returned to the box. “Eight. Bugger. Still one more.”

“It wasn’t down there? It must have rolled under one of the...curtains.”

They both look at each other. And then, as one, turn slowly to the curtain. The curtain.

The curtain gazes back at them innocuously. Not even the slightest ripple disturbs it. Which, now that Jamie thinks about it, is just as bad as the unfelt breeze. The other curtains had shivered and brushed against each other as he and Gary were moving back and forth with the boxes, but that curtain had never moved an inch.

Gary speaks first. “There’s curtains all around this room. It could be behind any one of them.”

“Yeah, but it’s not gonna be, is it? That would be way too easy. And this is Mourinho’s classroom. I think it probably hates us.”

They check around the edges of the room anyway, hoping to come across the knucklebone in some dusty alcove behind a perfectly innocent curtain. It doesn’t materialise.

“Fine,” Gary gives up, “you were right. It’s behind the horrible curtain. Now what?”

“We could just leave it? Alright, alright. Don’t look at me like that. It’s- it’s just a curtain. We might as well pull it aside.”

Neither of them move.

Jamie sighs. “And fine, I dropped the box, I’ll do it.” He approaches the curtain with trepidation, pulling out his wand before remembering that it’s useless. He tightens his grip on the wood all the same. It’s a comfort thing. Behind him, Gary assumes the stance of someone preparing for a wild animal to charge.

“Should I just...open it?”

“I guess,” says Gary doubtfully. “Unless you just want to feel around underneath without looking.”

“Ugh, no. I’d rather see what I’m touching, thanks. Alright.” He steadies himself, and reaches forward to curl his fingers around the dark fabric. He expects the curtain to feel strange, but all he touches is ordinary heavy cloth. Jamie swears he can hear whispering from behind it. Voices that seem almost familiar but unplaceable.

He draws back the curtain.

Whatever it was that he had been expecting, this wasn’t it. For a moment Jamie thinks it’s a mirror, an old, cloudy mirror, until he takes in the whole of it and realises that the translucent silver oval has no frame. It simply hangs unsupported a few inches above the ground.

The silver swirls. Jamie can still hear the whispering.

“What is it?”

“I don’t know,” Jamie says slowly. There’s something hypnotic about the silver that has latched on to him. He steps closer, and then leans to the side to get a better look. “It’s not hanging on the wall or anything. It’s just...there.”

It really did look almost like a mirror. The silver oval was only half an inch thick as far as Jamie could see. Looked at from the side it went strangely blurry in his vision, like light diffused through a dirty window. He couldn’t quite get a good look at the thing except for staring head on.

Jamie crouches down to the floor, and peers underneath the silver disc. “Ha! I can see the bone back underneath this...this thing.” He turns to glare up at Gary. “I told you it’d be behind here.”

Gary almost, but not quite, doesn’t roll his eyes. “Yes, alright. It would be back there, wouldn’t it. Can you try to reach back and get it? Try not to touch that thing,” he adds quickly. “We don’t know what it is or does.”

“You worried about me, Gary?” Jamie asks with a leer, craning his neck as he reaches underneath the suspended silver pool. “Don’t tell me you’re worried I’m about to get cursed by some of Mourinho’s bullshi-”

 

When the stadium was full of red robes and scarves, all singing out of tune but very much in spirit, it could have been hailing ice the size of cabbages and Jamie wouldn’t have minded. There’s something about the hypnotic sway of people that generates a sort of warmth all on its own. Red sparks are flying despite the harassed-looking stewards trying their best to keep the anti-charm measures in place on the more rowdy ends of the stands, and the communal roars, cheers, and groans of several thousand wizards all crammed on top of each other fill the night with a discordant, glorious music.

And of course the music is always loudest and most determined on derby days.

Halfway around the stadium the red of the robes changes, still the same colour in principle but in practice an entirely different universe.

Red and black players are streaking around him and Jamie finds himself also in action, almost without thinking. But of course: the enormous clock shows two hours of play have already run by, and Liverpool is up one hundred points to Manchester’s eighty. There’s the tell-tale clang of a Quaffle striking a metal goal post and a disappointed groan rises from the home end. One of the Manticores’ Chasers is zooming forward to get the rebounded Quaffle and Jamie takes off hot on her heels.

The Quaffle gets jostled about in midfield for the next few minutes, Jamie doing his best just to keep Liverpool in possession with the careful application of a few Bludgers, when he notices movement out of tune with the Manticores’ weaving.

Gary Neville is racing up the other side of the pitch, black robes streaming flat back and short bat held loose, easy in his hand. One of the mistakes inexperienced Beaters often made was holding their bats too tightly, taking the shock of contact right up their arm to the elbow when they struck a Bludger. Jamie has seen a lot of injuries happen that way. Not the kind of injuries that get a player taken off the pitch, but the sort of creeping, niggling injuries which are only sore when you go to sleep but mean joint replacement when you wake up again.

One of the Bludgers is flying diagonally towards Gary, who sits up slightly on his broom and coils back, his arm drawn to strike.

Jamie’s gaze follows the path of Gary’s flight, and sees Stevie just beyond the half, flattening himself out into a controlled dive, his eyes fixed in the look that can only mean-

A glint of gold. Gary strikes the Bludger with precision, the crack of wood on iron echoing sharp around the stadium, the sound rising momentarily above the din of the crowd.

“STEVIE!” Jamie bellows, and it’s a testament to how much Stevie trusts him that he actually drags his eyes away from the Snitch to find Jamie, and the Bludger.

Jamie sees Stevie’s eyes go wide, and he drops low against his broom, hauling himself sideways into a clumsy but quick roll which lets the Bludger whiz harmlessly over him, punching through the air where his shoulder had been a moment before.

From ahead, Jamie hears Gary swear and feels a wave of relief. The Snitch is probably long gone, but at least his Seeker is still in possession of an unbroken collarbone...

His Seeker?

Hang on, Stevie is his Seeker? That’s not right. Jamie spends a solid amount of time in the air trying to stop Stevie from catching the Snitch, which is a difficult job on the best of days. Stevie’s a sneaky bastard when he wants to be, and likes nothing more than going into a dive when nothing’s going on, sending the heart rates of the opposing Beaters skyrocketing in their panic to find a Bludger or anything else handy to whack in his direction. Stevie isn’t Jamie’s Seeker. Jordan is Jamie’s Seeker, and now that Jamie remembered that, he can recall this exact incident happening playing against Slytherin, Jordan going into a last minute roll so that the Bludger didn’t hit her. And that Bludger had been sent her way by Sol Campbell, not Gary, because Gary, as a matter of fact, is on Jamie’s team. Gary is a Gryffindor.

When Jamie remembers that, several things stand out to him all at once.

First of all, although he had taken it as read that he was at Anfield, when he really stops to look, the pitch itself more closely resembles the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. The hoops are burnished gold instead of silver, and the grass below is distinctly scruffier than the carefully groomed lawn that sweeps the grounds at Anfield. In fact, the whole place is a lot smaller than Anfield. Jamie’s not sure how he could have mistaken it in the first place. It seems a sort of hybrid between the two, patched together from bits and pieces.

Second, with the stadium’s identity in doubt, the people in the stadium seem, too, to be cast into uncertainty. The faces seem solid enough, but like art that when stared at for too long loses its reflection of reality, the closer Jamie looked the more warped they became.

Third...third. He doesn’t play for Liverpool. Stevie doesn’t play for Liverpool. Gary doesn’t play for Manchester... The match is still going on around him, but Jamie has been hanging motionless in the air for a solid minute and nobody has either shouted or hit a Bludger at him, which means something is really wrong. Two of the Manticores’ Chasers pass by, not so much ignoring as just avoiding him. They swerve their flight slightly around Jamie and then swerve back, and neither bats an eye.

“Jamie.”

He’s there, but he’s not there. But he had definitely been noticed by the team before, when he’d been actively playing. He’d shouted to Stevie, and Stevie had heard him.

Jamie.”

He isn’t invisible and he isn’t not a part of the match, but he’s somehow separate all the same.

JAMIE!”

“Gary?”

And Gary is there, not on a broom or wearing the black away robes of the Manticores but in his slightly rumpled Hogwarts uniform and walking on thin air.

“How are you doing that?” Jamie marvels at Gary’s new-found ability to levitate. “How are you here and also over-”

Gary doesn’t seem to hear him, or perhaps just ignores him. He looks half-scared, half-determined, striding towards Jamie to reach out and seize his arm.

There’s a shift in the very air. The teams still battling it out don’t seem to notice and continue in their flight as the stadium tilts and turns and begins to spiral away from Jamie, slowly at first and then faster and faster, like water down a drain. Or maybe it’s Jamie who’s swirling away, twisting up or down, dragged, pulled, and stretched through a drainpipe, Gary’s fingers tight on his wrist the only point of contact that stays consistent.

 

The stone floor of Mourinho’s classroom is very cold and very hard. Jamie winces and sits up, rubbing his elbow which had come into sharp contact with the ground when he’d tumbled backwards. He blinks around at the dim room, feeling unsettlingly as though he’d been awakened unexpectedly in the middle of a dream, his head still half-expecting to see the Quidditch stadium encircling him.

Gary is sat on the floor beside him, watching him with worried eyes. “Are you alright?”

He seems to have come through intact. “I’m not sure. What happened?”

“You tell me.” Gary is still looking at him as though he expects Jamie to start foaming at the mouth and babbling at any minute. “You tried to reach underneath the- the thing there and you must have touched it because it sort of sucked you in. I didn’t know what to do- just reached in and it was just this white space, with you in the middle. You didn’t look like you could see me.” He shudders slightly and Jamie notices.

“I’m alright,” he says reassuringly. “I was just playing Quidditch. It was a Quidditch match.” He tries to explain to the best of his ability what he had experienced in the silver mirror: the stadium, Stevie, Gary in the robes of Manchester, up to normal Gary, regular Gary, appearing out of nowhere.

Gary’s eyes are like saucers. “Do you thinks it’s a, a Pensieve?”

“A what now?”

“Benitez was talking about them last week.”

Jamie thinks back. Last week the Lobalugs had played out an irritatingly sloppy loss to the Harpies and he could distinctly remember Gary spending the majority of Charms shooting him knowingly smug looks (Manchester had won). “I must have missed it.”

“Yeah, alright. It’s a sort of- a sort of way of keeping track of memories. I meant to look up the specifics in the library, but...you transfer memories to a sort of receptacle, and you can experience them again. I don’t- it’s a bit fuzzy on the details.”

“No,” Jamie says, thoughtfully, “I don’t think so. Things were familiar, but they weren’t memories. I’ve never played for Liverpool, obviously.” The vision of Gary in opposing colours rises up to the forefront of his mind, with all it’s strange wrongness. “I think it, uh, it made me sort of think it was real. I mean, until you dragged me out I didn’t know which way was up or down. I don’t know if...anyway. Thanks.”

“That sounds like Dark Magic, Jamie!”

“It can’t be,” Jamie says, but he’s doubtful. “It wasn’t really nasty, just confusing.”

“Whatever it was, it made you think you were in a different reality,” Gary says, sounding about as serious as Jamie’s ever heard him. “That’s powerful magic, especially with the level of detail you described. If I hadn’t dragged you out what would have happened!”

Before them, the silver mirage ripples enticingly.

Jamie shudders. “I don’t know. I noticed something was wrong, though. It wasn’t perfect. By the time you got to me I’d already realised I wasn’t actually playing Quidditch.”

“Would you have been able to get out, though?”

Luckily, Jamie is saved from having to consider that slightly terrifying hypothetical by the trapdoor opening. Unluckily, the trapdoor is opening because Mourinho is rising up through it.

Even if Jamie and Gary had managed to scramble to their feet in time, they wouldn’t have been able to close the curtain over the silver mirror, or shake the expressions on their faces. Mourinho drags them into Ancelotti’s office so fast that thinking about it afterwards, Jamie can’t even say for certain that he didn’t just Apparate the three of them right onto the carpet in front of Ancelotti’s fireplace.

Jamie has never actually been in the Headmaster’s office before. He and Gary had been waging war on each other for five years but had never actually crossed the line from ‘social annoyance’ to ‘endangering lives’, and so had always been dealt with by their professors and prefects. Now, standing in front of Ancelotti’s oak desk with Mourinho fuming beside them, Jamie is fervently wishing to whatever higher power might care to extend him some mercy that he and Gary don’t actually get in trouble here.

It’s a well-known fact that Ancelotti can do wandless magic, and a well-whispered rumour that it’s because he instead channels his spells through his Eyebrow. A good Eyebrow is a valuable trait in a witch or wizard. It projects the proper aura. Ancelotti could have been given the Hogwarts job on the basis of his Eyebrow alone. Having the full power of that famed feature trained on him while Mourinho explains that Jamie and Gary had been snooping into private affairs is a worrying experience.

For reasons that haven’t quite made themselves clear to Jamie, Professor Guardiola is also in Ancelotti’s office. He had swept in a few minutes after they had and is leaning casually against one of the elegant stone pillars which support the high domed ceiling of the office, wearing an expression of faint amusement.  Mourinho hadn’t seemed surprised to see him enter, so Jamie can only assume he’d known Guardiola was coming, although why, he couldn’t figure.

“-thoughtless meddling which could have lead to the gravest consequences,” Mourinho is saying. “Carragher and Neville are quite possibly the most lawless students in Gryffindor House, if not the entire school, and their insistence on poking into things which do not concern them should be punished to the full extent.”

The limit of Jamie’s ability to keep quiet stretches and then snaps. “If you weren’t keeping Dark Magic hidden behind curtains, maybe people wouldn’t be poking into it! It was an accident!” Gary steps on his foot in an urgent message to stop, stop committing us both to long, painfully drawn out deaths at Mourinho’s hand, seriously shut the fuck up you idiot, I swear.

Mourinho gives them both a look of withering scorn. “If I had been attempting to conceal Dark Magic, do you two imbeciles really think you would have been able to simply stumble upon it? In my own classroom?”

“Perhaps the students would have a higher opinion of your abilities if you taught an actual subject,” says Guardiola, his voice bored but a sly glint in his eye.

Mourinho glares at him. “I don’t recall inviting you to this conversation.”

“No, I let myself in.”

“Kindly let yourself back out, then.”

“José, please. This is as much my problem as it is yours. After all, we were working on this project together.” Guardiola turns to Ancelotti and waves his hand the same way he does in Arithmancy when he’s about to explain a stupidly complex concept and expect the rest of them to comprehend instantaneously. “José and I have been experimenting with altered lucidity. In a limited form, of course. We’ve manipulated a Pensieve to draw on a subject’s own memories and imaginings in order to create small-scale worlds which can be interacted with.”

Told you it was a Pensieve,” Gary whispers triumphantly, and it’s Jamie’s turn to step on his foot with force.

“The scenarios are restricted so that it’s impossible to be hurt by whatever is constructed. A simple amusement, only.”

“A simple amusement,” says Ancelotti mildly. “Of course, the Ministry is very strict about magical meddling with Pensieves.”

Mourinho is fixing Guardiola with a look which implies that he would rather like to follow Jamie and Gary’s lead and stamp on his colleague’s foot.

“So I’m sure if they ever happened to make an investigation into your, er, experiments they would find that you and Professor Mourinho have taken the measures of acquiring whatever official permits you might need.”

“Of course,” says Guardiola evenly. “If the Ministry made an inquiry they would find nothing to trouble them.”

“Oh, I have no doubt about that,” says Ancelotti, so dry he could have put the Sahara in the uncomfortable position of having to prove its worth as a desert. “Well. As for Messrs Carragher and Neville...you said they were already in detention when the incident occurred? I’m inclined to believe that it was no more than an unfortunate accident, and as no one seems to have been actually hurt, I think we can safely hold off on the full extent of punishment. Unless you have very strong view on the matter, José?” The Eyebrow rose, pinning Mourinho to the floor.

“No, Headmaster.” It’s the sound of pulling teeth put into words.

“Excellent. Then if there’s nothing more...?”

 

“As a matter of scientific interest,” Guardiola says as they’re leaving Ancelotti’s office, “what did you see inside the Pensieve?”

Jamie can’t see any real reason not to say. “It was a Quidditch match, sir. I was playing in a Quidditch match.”

“Ah. You play on the Gryffindor house team, correct? And I expect you think about Quidditch a lot, do you.”

“Yes, sir. And yes sir.”

Guardiola turns a pointed look on Mourinho. “I did tell you. It’s not randomly generated. Very few things are, in life. So when you went-”

“I don’t want to hear anything from you!” Mourinho snaps. “You had to go and show off, as always. If Ancelotti does make us register with the Ministry we’ll never get another minute of peace in this castle.”

“Then go back to Portugal if you’re so worried about your peace,” says Guardiola. “Ancelotti doesn’t want the Ministry poking around here any more than we do. He wouldn’t willingly call them in just to prove a point to you.” He seems to notice that Gary and Jamie are still awkwardly trying to slink down the corridor behind Mourinho and Guardiola without being noticed. “Shouldn’t you two be somewhere? Somewhere else?”

Mourinho stares at them evilly. “Leave. And the next toe you step out of line you will lose.”

Jamie’s not to proud to deny that he and Gary flee, and don’t stop fleeing until they’re safely back in the Gryffindor Common Room.

 

--

 

“Stevie. Stevie.”

Stevie jumps slightly and tears his loving gaze away from the lakeside, where Xabi Alonso is turning the pages of his book in what is, presumably, a particularly captivating fashion. It’s passably warm outside for the first time in months, and the entire student body has poured out onto the grass to soak up the rays of early spring sun. “Sorry, what?”

“Have you heard a word I’ve said?”

“Uh...honesty is probably the best policy here, right?”

“Probably.”

“Then no.”

Jamie throws his hands up in exasperation. “Only I’ve been blacklisted by Mourinho for the rest of me life, and he’s like as not to turn me into a weasel next time I have Divination! A bit of sympathy wouldn’t go amiss!”

Stevie, to his credit, looks appropriately abashed. “Mourinho won’t turn you into a weasel. It sounds like he was more annoyed at Guardiola than either you or Gary.”

“That’s what you think. I just hope you’re prepared to care for me when I’m a rodent.”

“You’re already a rodent, Carra.”

Jamie grabs Stevie and tries to push him down the hill, which only partially works. The flurry of movement and laughter draws Xabi’s attention, and he waves.

Stevie flushes and waves back.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” mutters Jamie.

“What’s that?”

“Nothing. You can look at Xabi later. Pay attention to me.”

Stevie makes some sort of retort, but Jamie doesn’t hear it because his brain chooses that moment to dredge up a memory which he hadn’t previously spent much time examining. “I might have been, sort of looking at you.”

His brain suggests a connection, a ridiculous connection, and even more ridiculously, doesn’t dismiss it right away. Considers it. Turns it over.

“Stevie,” Jamie says slowly, the gears in his head turning with agonising slowness, “I’ve just remembered I have to do something. You can go cuddle with Xabi now. Don’t wait up.”

Stevie shouts something rude at Jamie’s retreating back, but Jamie’s brain has seized upon this idea with a vengeance and isn’t letting anything shake it loose. He’d never managed to see anything meaningful in a teacup but he’s certainly divining something, thinking over jokes and newspapers exchanged, late evening Quidditch training, smiles in the Common Room, and a look of concern as he’d tumbled out of Mourinho’s Pensieve device.

“I might have been, sort of looking at you.”

He’s such an idiot that he’d even said it himself out loud and not noticed. “They do tell you to concentrate, Gary.”

 

The Gryffindor tower returns no results, and Jamie hopes to high heaven that Gary’s in the library because otherwise he’ll turn the castle inside out, so help him. Luckily he doesn’t have to go as far as that: he catches Gary in the corridor near a collection of Dutch landscapes, leaning against a blank scrap of wall and scribbling something in a notebook. Jamie bears down with a vengeance.

“You daft bastard!”

Gary instinctively ducks, expecting a hex. “What! Jamie!”

He fumbles for his wand. Jamie grabs at him and hauls him upright. “You little- alright, come with me.” He begins walking purposefully, dragging Gary along. He finds an empty classroom and ducks inside, drawing the door closed behind them. (There’s a few groans of disappointment from the little gaggle of bored Dutch farmers who, sensing entertainment, had trailed along behind them through the landscapes and portraits. The denizens of the Hogwarts art collection have long ago come to know that a Carragher-Neville scuffle is usually good for some theatrics. The farmers, with no more paintings for them to follow, grumble as they disperse back to their dreary fields.)

“What the hell, Jamie!” Gary says once Jamie releases him with a glance around to make sure that the classroom is actually empty.

“Why didn’t you just tell me, you idiot?”

“Tell you what?”

“That- that you-” Jamie hits a snag, and suddenly understands why Gary hadn’t been able to just spit it out before. He’s almost one hundred percent positive that he knows what he knows, but all the conceivable ways that he could put it into a sentence all sound idiotic in his head. Ridiculous. Implausible. Like maybe if he tries to actually say what he’s just put together, it won’t be true anymore.

He’s also slightly taken aback by the realisation that he wants it to be true. He really, really wants it to be true.

Jamie still doesn’t know quite where the invisible, undisclosed boundaries of their truce lie. At first it was the dormitory, then it was Quidditch, and then it was making fun of professors they didn’t like, and comparing Potions notes, and talking about their families, and sharing newspapers and Gary borrowing his extra wool socks and Stevie making fun of him and staying up late in the Common Room talking tactics and sharing cold sausages stolen from breakfast and now it was something else and none of it, none of it had ever been debated or negotiated, and it worked just fine. Jamie doesn’t want to tread all over what they’ve built by trying to talk it out. And anyway, his mum always used to tell him that actions speak louder than words.

Admittedly, at the time she had meant that he ought to actually clean his room rather than just saying he was going to clean it, but the principle remained the same.

“Jamie?” Gary prods, waiting for an explanation.

Jamie kisses him.

It’s a little bit awkward. He closes his eyes on impact out of a slightly panicked instinct and lands the kiss more at the corner of Gary’s mouth. Gary’s hands fly up and grasp Jamie’s robe, and for half a terrifying second Jamie thinks he’s about to be shoved away. But Gary twists his hands into the fabric and pulls Jamie closer, tilting his head and pressing forwards.

Alright, so Jamie might have to start showing Stevie some mercy when it comes to lovesick gazing.

“Oh,” Gary says, a little bit breathless when Jamie finally breaks away to look at him nervously. “Tell you that.

“You’re an irritating little mug, Gary Neville,” says Jamie, just about as bad in the breathless department. “You do know that, don’t you?”

“And you’re a Quaffle-jellying wanker, Jamie Carragher.”

“Excuse me?! Everyone knows it was your lot what jellied the Quaffle. We had nothing to do with it! A Carragher would never resort to such a low-down dirty trick-”

“You Carraghers essentially wrote the book on low-down dirty tricks, and anyhow, it happened down your end of the pitch.”

“Did not.”

“Did too. We’ve got a map of where the incident happened embroidered on a tea towel- why are you laughing? This is a serious matter, Jamie!”

“No, it’s just- it’s just that –sorry- we’ve got a commemorative tea towel, as well.”

Gary starts laughing then as well, an embarrassing sort of wheezing giggle that’s somehow both the worst and the best sound Jamie’s ever heard. He’s definitely going to tease Gary about that later. Hey Neville, you’ve got an awful laugh, you should let me hear it more often...

When he kisses Gary again, he gets it perfectly right. Or nearly perfectly. It’s only the second time. And really, if Jamie’s learned anything since the beginning of the year, it’s that things can only improve with practice.