"Look," said Angelina. "I know he's your best mate, but he's not fabulous."
"In all honesty, Potter? He's kind of rubbish."
"No. No, do not "yeah, but" me, this is my N.E.W.T. year and I really don't have time to deal with any of this," she sighed, pacing back and forth.
"Then who made you captain?"
"Er, McGonagall, I assume, I didn't want to decline but I didn't know I'd have to deal with my teammates in my face. It's bad enough having to tell the kids who don't make it."
"How'd you know, really? I mean, you clearly haven't told them yet, otherwise we wouldn't be having this conversation."
"I'm about to, as soon we get out of here."
"No, okay, okay. Just listen to this."
"Potter, I do not—"
"All I want to know is why the whole team had to try out at the same time."
"To see if we fit together, you know that, that's the way it's always been done."
"But what do Seekers have to do with the rest of the team?"
"Well, there are always attitude issues, you know. If we're going to spend half the practice jawing at each other we won't stand a chance against Slytherin."
"Oh!" he feigned insight. "I think I get it...so you weren't going to pick that whiner even if he'd been a tiny bit better?"
"Exactly," said Angelina, with a pleasant now you're being reasonable smile.
"Oh. Right. So. I know I will play better if I'm not constantly distracted by him whining all the time! I'll be able to practice, more focused..."
"Uh-huh," Angelina said dubiously. "Focus. Right."
"Start buckling down, and maybe next year you can become captain and choose all your own friends. But for now I'd like to concentrate on not getting hammered."
"Have you tried staying out of Hogsmeade?"
She paused, then rolled her eyes, tucking the crate of balls under her arm and heading off of the pitch. "Practice next Thursday. Don't get yourself suspended, or I'll make you do laps, see if I don't."
"Ugh," he shuddered. "Okay. Whatever."
"Seven o'clock. Got it?"
He slowly trudged off the field, but didn't even make it back into the school before his friend accosted him. "Well? Any news?"
Think fast. "Er...Angelina's still thinking it over, she hasn't told me yet." So much for Gryffindor bravery.
"Aw. Any idea when she will know?"
"Hopefully by tonight. The first practice is next Thursday so you should see if you're free then."
"Okay. Thank you so much!"
"You're welcome." He forced a smile. "You...I mean, good luck, you flew really well."
"Thanks," blushed would-be Seeker Peter Pettigrew.
The Harry Potter Exhibition included a partial list of captains of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. An unknown "Angelina" appeared on the list-it appears that it was sorted alphabetically by last names, and hers was either A or B, so not Johnson!
Chapter 2: Monster
I apologize for my "idiotic" behavior at the match last week. I am very sorry for accidentally scoring more points for our team than you and Selwyn combined.
In an effort to prevent such a shameful incident from happening again, I have attached a list of situations that might occur in a Quidditch game. Please circle under which it is acceptable for me to catch the Snitch, and if necessary note what goal difference would be required. Just a note, in the future this might be a good idea to go over at practice, rather than "how to Blatch and not get caught," so I'll save a blank copy of this note for whoever becomes captain in the future too.
When we're winning
When we're tied
When we're down by less than one-fifty.
When we're down by one-fifty, exactly
When we're down by more than one-fifty but less than two hundred
When we're down by two hundred (clearly not acceptable)
When we're down by more than two hundred
When we're down by so much that even you would assume we can't come back (write in number here because evidently I am not a good enough guesser)
For all of the following that apply, please note if this cutoff margin would change.
When it's raining very hard and uncomfortable to play in
When it's very windy and uncomfortable to play in
When it's very windy and uncomfortable to play in, but the wind is pushing toward the other goals so it should be easier for us to catch up
When we're missing a Hogsmeade weekend
When one/two/three? (circle all that apply) of their Chasers are injured
When one/two/three? (circle all that apply) of our Chasers are injured
When some of our Chasers are injured but hiding it
When we've used _ (write in how many) long timeouts already
When we're taking a penalty shot
When we're taking a penalty shot, and I would risk throwing us off
When we're taking a non-penalty shot and I would risk throwing us off
When there's a scout at the game
When catching the Snitch would lose the Quidditch cup (on point difference)
When catching the Snitch would leave us behind in the Quidditch cup after (circle) one/two/all of our matches, by _ (write in) point difference
When catching the Snitch would be immaterial to the Quidditch cup prospects, but leave us behind in the House cup standings (in _ month, by _ points)
Chapter 3: Dreamscape
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
"You guys, this is really not a good idea—"
"Shut up and keep moving."
"Oh come on, what do you mean they locked the gate?"
"Well, we're not supposed to be sneaking in—"
"We're not supposed to be out of the basements to begin with, never mind out here, who bothers to lock the door?"
"Okay, stand back, you idiots. Alohomora!"
The gate swung open, and just as team Hufflepuff were about to clap their Seeker on the back, a gust of wind blew a layer of snow into their collective faces and their eyes snapped shut. "I knewthis was a bad idea—" Gareth Causey muttered, again.
"Oh, come on!" Joey Jenkins nudged him, squinting. "Look at this!"
"Look at what? There's nothing to see!"
"Says the one still closing his eyes," Dahlia Bulstrode rejoined.
"Okay, okay," Gareth sighed, blinking.
The pitch was in even worse shape than the courtyards that, Disillusioned, they'd slipped through. Some patches of ground were just as they had been the night before—three inches of snow, maybe, with a layer of slush on top of them, but many more had perhaps a foot of snow. And the wind had blown plenty more into a small mountain just beyond the center circle. Meanwhile, icicles had formed on the inside of the goal posts; on the far end, there seemed to be a solid layer of ice under the top of each hoop, while on the near end, one mammoth icicle divided the center hoop almost in two with surrounding, far shorter ones, poking their way down around it.
It was, nevertheless, one of those winter days where the sun was blindingly bright and, had any spectators been foolhardy enough to make their way out to the field, half of them would have found it nigh-on impossible to watch anyone idiotic enough to play in those conditions.
"Wow," breathed Tegan Hilliard. "This really is magical."
"Is it, though?" Joey asked. "Because I asked the house-elves whether there'd been, you know, a Charms accident. But they didn't know."
"When were you talking to the house-elves?" said Dahlia.
"After he woke up the whole dorm panicking that we'd all missed our alarms," Gareth replied.
"Hey!" said Joey. "It's not my fault I didn't know, we never get snow days."
"See, I think it has to be magic," Tegan grinned.
"Look at those icicles," said Susan Jernigan. "In the Muggle world you never get icicles that big. After just one storm."
"In the Muggle world you don't have Quidditch goalposts, either," Dahlia pointed out.
Susan shrugged. "Speaking of which. Joey, unlock the shed, I want to fly."
"In this weather? What part of you are a nutter do you not understand?" Gareth cut in.
"The part where you stayed back in the common room while we all snuck out."
Gareth rolled his eyes. "Okay, but if someone falls and gets hurt this wasn't my idea."
"Why would anyone fall and get hurt? We have a nice layer of snow underneath."
"Okay, well, those icicles look dangerous."
"Who said anything about bringing the balls out?" groaned Greg Ramsey.
"Okay, okay," said Joey, walking over to the shed. "Alohomora...here we are."
"I have got to convince my parents to let me get a decent broom," said Susan, digging around for an old Comet.
"I'm sure that'll go over well," said Gareth. "Dear Mum and Dad, no class today so I snuck out of the building to go flying with my nutter teammates. Oy, Jenkins, does this mean no practice this week?"
"Does this..." Joey repeated. "We're not getting the balls out! And Jeffrey's busy snogging his girlfriend, so no, we have to wait until he's here."
"Pansy," said Dahlia, "like you've never played above the snow before? Once you take off it doesn't matter."
"Look, go back inside if you won't want to be here!"
"Oh, no, I'll stay. Someone responsible has to keep an eye on this git," Gareth grinned.
"Tegan, are you—" Joey began, but the young Chaser was already zooming off towards the opposing posts. Raising her wand, the other arm curled around her broom, she yelled something as she passed the posts and yanked her arm down just in time to avoid a collision. Turning as quickly as she could, she looped around the posts and approached them, more slowly. "What are you doing?"
She flew back towards them before yelling, "Trying to see if a warming charm would melt all the ice in one go. No such luck."
"Oh, let me try!" said Dahlia, and pretty soon all of them—even Gareth—were clustered around the far hoops. Dahlia's spells turned out to be just as useless, although she did succeed in punching the ice at some point (which made little impact through her thick gloves).
After a while they just wanted to fly, spinning this way and that and trying not to look into the sun, or into the sun's piercing reflections off the snow drifts, which was difficult when you were balanced upside-down just for the fun of it.
"So?" Tegan asked. "Magic?"
"I don't know," Susan shrugged, "but I'm glad we have the break. Classes have been ridiculous this week."
"Hopefully they don't clear it so we can get tomorrow off too," Greg grinned, and everyone laughed.
"Dumbledore should be able to magic it away, though," said Gareth.
"I don't think so. I think if he could have done it by now he would have."
"Maybe he just realized we all needed a day off."
"Yeah, but there are weeks like this every year and he never does. It's the snow, I'm telling you. The icicles!"
"How do you know what the icicles normally look like? When it's this rubbish out people don't go out to the Quidditch pitch!"
"Well, we should have snow days more often. Then we could, you know, compare them year in, year out."
"I'm not arguing against it, right, I'm all for snow."
"What about you?" Susan said, turning to Joey. "You seem used to this, did you have some when you were a first year or something?"
"I dunno," he shrugged.
"You don't know? Tegan, listen to this git, when you're a seventh year are you going to forget about a snow day?"
"Never," she said, crossing one arm through the other (which was still holding the broomstick).
"Exactly, what do you mean you don't know."
"There wasn't another snow day," said Gareth, "he'd have known not to wake up the entire dorm."
"Okay, okay!" Joey blushed. "You don't have to keep going on about it."
"Oh, I think we do, Mr. How did all the charms wear off?"
"What I meant was, I'm not used to it because it's a snow day, I...I want this. I really want to play professionally, you know, and be flying every day, and...I don't know, if I get what I want I'm going to be used to it, it won't be as cool anymore," he shrugged.
"Susan?" said Dahlia.
"You're Muggle-born. Do you ever get used to magic?"
"Used to? What do you mean used to?"
"I mean does it ever stop being cool?"
"What's that supposed to mean? No..."
"There you have it, Joey, flying is always going to be cool. And so will the weather."
"This weather had better not always be cool!"
The Badgers narrowed their eyes, and turned to face Jeffrey Fairclough.
"Seriously, it's so cold out here, how did you guys get outside, it's not safe!"
"How's the snogging?" Dahlia glared.
"Oh, it's fine. But how many snow days do you get, after all? Figured I'd check if you were still out here."
"Yeah, after the first half-hour it's not so bad," said Gareth. "Once you lose all that distracting sensation, what's it called, feeling in your extremities."
"Git. Let's fly?"
"Yeah," said Joey, taking off again, his fellow Beater beside him, and the snow still sparkling beneath.
Joey Jenkins did play professionally, for the Chudley Cannons (Book 4). There's another Hufflepuff Joey in a future chapter-no relation, I just liked the name.
Chapter 4: People Are Strange
He had to admit, from ground level the pitch looked pretty impressive. He spent most of his time well above the pitch, looking down on it, and the center circle seemed a blur, the house pennants just distractions. But sitting in the stands, talking things over—that was different.
"Now, I don't mean to jump the gun," said Lestye with a smile. "But a little bird has told me you don't necessarily need to stick around here for your N. E. W. T.s if you'd rather be...elsewhere."
He nodded, smiling. "Yeah. I...I mean, I'll certainly have a lot more to learn, studying up on my own, I don't want you to think I'm just trying to drop out. But in terms of what I can learn in a classroom, here...past a point, I think I'm ready."
Lestye replied in kind. "Good. I—you certainly fly like you are, let's put it that way," and they shared a laugh.
"I mean, my mum's worried, what if I got injured and—you know, obviously there's never been an incident. But what if?"
"No, no, she's—it's good someone's looking out for you! Right. Well, you know it's a small world, ours, and even if some gits think Quidditch is just a game, well, it's a good earner and there are a lot of teams for our population. So even if something went wrong and you had to miss a season or two, you could still probably walk into at the very least, any of the reserve teams, when you got back."
"Yeah. And, if for some reason I couldn't play—"
"At all? Well, there's the Department, obviously. Magical Games and Sports. We look after our own, you know, there'd be a place for you there."
He smiled, relieved, and tried not to imagine sitting at a desk all day. "That's good. Yeah."
"Any other questions I can answer?"
"Er," he blushed. "N...not really."
"Are you sure? It'll just be between us, don't worry."
He looked around, at the empty pitch, and finally blurted. "What about international duty? Don't just say "oh someday," I know I'm not good enough yet, but, just in general, what's that process like, do the clubs get upset..."
Lestye broke into a hearty laugh. "Yet? Chin up, sport, we'll have you ready for ninety-four, you'll see."
He gaped. Surely he didn't mean... "Ninety-four?"
"Cup's coming home in another cycle. On—well, above, as it were—home soil. Hawksworth'll be back, of course, Choudry and Montbriant with the bats I should reckon. You'll have a bit more experience under your belt, but won't have grown too large you'll fall off your broom. Look, kid, I don't say this to everyone, you know I don't, we're trying to build a championship side. This isn't flattery, I want you to be part of it."
"...You're mental," he could only stammer. "Starting for England? This soon?"
"Oh, trust me, it won't feel like soon. You'll want to be practicing first, it's hard work. But the best work there is."
He nodded, numb, trying to take it in, trying to understand any of it, and finally just blurted "Hawksworth?"
"Aye, he'll be captain then if I've retired. Think I've got a few more years left in me."
"That's awfully early to know for sure. Isn't he—I mean, by then won't he be a bit old?"
"Well, a bit. But no matter."
"And if someone else comes around by then—there's half a dozen who could probably oust him. Travers, Livingstone, Wakefield..."
"With the Magpies, by the time callups come around she could probably fly rings around Hawksworth."
"Aha. Yes. Well, of course, there are lots of considerations to selecting a lineup."
"Oh of course! Don't mind me, blimey, I don't want to argue with you." A few words here and there and it was too easy to forget he was talking with Puck Lestye. Puck Lestye wanted to talk Quidditch with him!
"Oh, there's no harm done. You'll just come to learn, as you play in the league, the Three Griffins...they're about more than just seven of us in the air, you understand? They represent all of England, all of English wizardkind."
He nodded. "But I'm just a sixth-year, I, I can't do any of that."
"Oh, poppycock. Listen, do you happen to have a Squib for a wife?"
"A Squib? For a wife? What are you playing at, I'm barely of age!"
"Of course you're not. See, I know that was a silly question. Now here comes another, watch. Don't be scared. Do you happen to have a Squib husband?"
"Er. No. I, I'm not exactly sure what people are going on about when they talk about falling in love and all, I don't, you know, fancy any blokes right now. Or girls either."
"Not to worry, sport, you're perfectly fine, see? Already ahead of Madam Wakefield."
He blinked. "Come again?"
"Well, you're still doing your honorable family name proud. Haven't gotten hitched to a Squib."
He must have misheard. "So...Wakefield can't make the team because she married a Squib?"
"Now, now, it's not nearly so straightforward, goodness knows. All might change in four years' time, you know that, but, Hawksworth comes from good stock, has served the game well. He'd be a strapping choice for the captaincy, is all I'm saying."
"Well, you know, his mother, Laetitia Prince, captained the sixty-six side. What a Seeker that woman was. Got to see her play in the testimonial for Mulroney...blimey."
"Not the side that got tipped out by Hungary in the second round?"
Lestye blushed. "I see you appreciate your history. Very good. It'll serve you well, you understand, as you get to know people...not that you need to understand it all right away of course."
He nodded. "I...I think I understand enough. Thank you for coming out here."
"Oh, it's always a privilege to come back to Hogwarts. Nowhere else like it."
He broke into a smile. "None indeed."
He escorted Lestye to the gate—if it hadn't been for the excited owls they'd already interchanged, he would have asked for his autograph. Instead, he made his way back to Gryffindor tower, collapsed on his bed, dug out a parchment, and addressed it to the Romanian dragon sanctuary.
Chapter 5: Closing Time
Prompt set: "heaven," "piece," and "almost"
It was warm for spring. There was a good reason for that, he realized as he approached the gate; it wasn't exactly spring.
He'd walked down from the castle in a daze, his head in his Transfiguration notes. The same route he'd taken mindlessly for years: at eight o'clock on a weeknight, he just fell back into the same pattern.
Except that it wasn't a normal weeknight. Just days ago it had felt like nothing would be the same again, everything seem brighter, richer. And he felt an upswelling of excitement, true—but all the same, those normal routines were over. How had he forgotten?
It was too hot to just troop back to Hogwarts, he decided, and he ducked into the relative cool of the shed. Pushing the door open a crack, he glanced out—they didn't have the field reserved anymore.
But no one was there. Everyone was inside studying, probably, or trying to focus on their final cramming while enjoying the warmth. No one would interfere, he could do a few more circuits, for old time's sake...
and yet, the old times were finally over.
The field looked the same size as always, not small as it might for an alumnus returning. He made his way over to a pile of school brooms, his eyes adjusting to the darkness, and tested one in his hand: solid and durable, not something he'd outgrown. Only the thin crack of sky visible through the door seemed different.
He had never been the type to think of the sky as somehow closer to heaven. Most Quidditch players weren't, bar perhaps the very young—Muggleborns, usually, who had never known what flying was like—and the very old, who hadn't flown in decades and forgotten what it was like to have the sky be just an extension of the ground.
But then and there, the bright slit looked, if not divine, not earthly either. Inaccessible, like it might to a Muggle. Setting the school broom down, he pushed the door open farther and squinted. It really was warm.
Just a few months before, he would have ignored the weather. Or become aware of it in spite of himself because other people, who were refusing to ignore the weather, were letting him know that they were aware of it.
Maybe I shouldn't have barked at them so much. But what was I going to do? They're all so much younger...
No, he remembered, not all. There had been others—Ian he'd had to drag to the pitch, sure, but Kerry was a seventh-year, it wasn't just seniority. Even Andraste was only a sixth-year, it might as well have been her for that next full year too. People liked Andraste. Even people who didn't like Quidditch liked her.
She could have been a popular enough captain. Held tryouts, brought her friends, picked her friends, maybe. Been tactful and kind, softened the truth, if she'd somehow gotten more than seven people to come out. Otherwise, at least find a team of seven players, perhaps not the best in the house, but all eligible. A tiny piece of him, if not a large one, would have felt a little bad about winning with a player who probably should never have been there.
Or perhaps it might have been Kerry for those last couple games, and then him—just doing it strictly by seniority, no sign from McGonagall or whoever that he at least was good enough to stay on the team till he left school without need of tryouts. Kerry would have been fun enough, at least when she was mocking the other teams rather than their own inability to put a competitive side together. Maybe she could have even urged Ian on—"oy, the sooner you find the Snitch the sooner you can get out of here and go back to snogging house-elves or whatever." He was always too earnest to really get through to Ian.
But it hadn't been. No more "might as wells," no more "close enoughs", no more loopholes—and, thankfully, no more "almost"s. So many directions (literally, too) that the games could have gone, but the scores were, finally, final.
Oliver caught sight of his own broom, still in his hand but forgotten as if weightless, and shut the door to the pitch, quickly pacing back to the far door and hustling out, head down. He would not go flying that day, and did not expect to come back. Perhaps he would forget again, perhaps he wouldn't mind a break from studying. Around him, the air was warm—something you could get used to, something invisible, and yet something that could still come as a surprise, like the sudden glow of remembered victory.
Chapter 6: Prove You Wrong
"Yeah?" He whirled around, blinking, at Fleur Delacour, still on the field where Bagman had just addressed them. "What's going on?"
"Nothing eemportant," she smiled, "I just had a question about 'ze flags."
"Oh," he said, walking back towards her. "Yeah, of course, anyth...what flags?"
"'Zose." She nodded at the pennants that still lined the pitch.
"Oh. Yeah. What about them?"
"'Zey are for the houses? And zey stay up all year, even when you are not playeeng?"
"Yeah," Cedric repeated with a shrug. "I assume. I haven't really been out here, with no season."
She blinked. "You all choose your houses when you come? Eleven years old?"
"Well, we don't choose them. The hat—there's a hat that we put on and it does that for us. Why, how do you do it?"
"We do not choose our houses unteel fourth or feefth year. Eet depends on what we want to study, you see, we do not all take ze same classes."
"Oh. That makes sense, I guess..." Cedric trailed off, wrinkling his nose. "But then who do all the little kids play Quidditch for?"
"You British and your Quidditch!" she laughed. "There are unofficial games, but the houses do not do so much compeetition."
"Oh," he said. "Huh. So how do students get signed by the top clubs?"
"I do not know all of zees!" Fleur threw up her hands playfully. "You should owl Gabrielle, she understands ze game."
"Does she read English?"
Cedric laughed, but then grew quiet, staring out at the flags. "So the other Beauxbatons students here, they're all from different houses?"
"Yes. We take deefferent classes from each other, here."
"But they all support you?"
"Some were upset at first, but now...ees 'zis about Potter? That ees different, there are never two champions from 'ze same school."
"I know," he said with a sigh. "And—I don't know, he's been decent about it—but the houses, just going at it again when we shouldn't have to." He shook his head.
"You weell be fine. The two of you are tied for first?"
Cedric nodded gloomily.
"So, probably one of you will win. Then 'Ogwarts will all cheer for you, you'll see."
"Maybe. As long as Potter doesn't Summon a broom and fly to the middle of the maze to win this one, too."
Fleur laughed. "Krum could still beat 'im."
Someone else might have said I'm a Seeker too, but that wasn't the Hufflepuff way. Duffers. Glaring at the black-and-yellow pennant, Cedric pulled his hands up his sleeves before curling them into fists.
"Well. You will see, I guess."
I'll make Hufflepuff proud yet.
Chapter 7: Up In Flames
"Er. Right," said Demelza. "So, I've kind of become captain."
"Kind of?" said Bobby. "What do you mean kind of?"
"Well technically Ginny's still supposed to be but she's not here so...McGonagall pulled me into her office and told me I was captain. But not where Ginny is, just that she's not coming back."
"She..." Natalie trailed off.
"She what?" glared Siofra.
"I'm not sure if I'm supposed to tell."
"She's all right, let's put it that way, okay? I...I heard, from people, that she's safe and she's with her family but she can't come back to school."
"Right. So," said Demelza. "I...that leaves me. I don't really deserve this but whatever."
"It's all right," said Jimmy. "Ginny was only taking over from Harry Potter anyway so you're both in the same boat."
They stared at him, but then Demelza gave a nervous laugh. "All right. Well, we need a Chaser. Is it worth it to hold tryouts again?"
Jimmy gave her a long, slow look.
"What?" said Simon. "Am I missing something?"
"Yes," said Jimmy. "Remember how you couldn't make tryouts because you were in detention?"
"Oh, too well," he said, unconsciously rubbing his elbows.
"Right. Well. It was a good thing you did show up, as we'd otherwise have been stuck with Lyra Boothby."
"Is she that rubbish?"
"Well," Demelza shrugged, "Just because someone doesn't know which goal to shoot at or how to brake more than a meter off the ground or can't do a lap of the pitch without setting their broom on fire..."
"It's not the end of the world, is it?" nodded Jimmy.
"Look," said Natalie, "who else are we going to get if we hold tryouts now? Even more people have dropped out since term began."
Demelza looked around, and sighed. "Yeah, she's right. Okay, I'll talk to Lyra."
"Too much to hope for that there were dropouts from the other houses?" Bobby muttered.
"...Yes. Too much to hope for."
"That's our luck."
"Luck?" said Natalie. "Who needs luck? We're two and oh!"
"Yeah, but without Ginny—"
"I could've had the Snitch twice against Hufflepuff before the end there, I only let it go so we could catch Ravenclaw on points. And we did. As soon as I get it in that last game, we're done."
"Just a bit confident, aren't you?"
"We need something to be confident in," said Siofra.
Demelza shook her head. "Blimey, Natalie, you should be captain."
"Me? Nuh-uh, I don't want to carry boxes out. Or tell off the new Chaser if she accidentally sets her broom on fire again."
They laughed again, every chuckle feeling lighter than the one before.
"She might as well, against Ravenclaw," said Jimmy. "It'll keep them distracted anyway."
"Hey, my brother plays for Ravenclaw," Simon noted.
"Huh. Well. You can distract him, then."
"Yeah, yeah. She can't possibly be that bad, though?"
Natalie shrugged and Bobby muttered something under his breath, but the others did not meet his eyes.
"You're serious?" Simon shook his head. "You know what? Sign her up. I could use the laugh. We all could."
"Yeah," said Demelza, "I just wish it didn't have to come at my team's expense. What?" she added after Jimmy suppressed a laugh.
""My team"?" he echoed. "That was fast."
Demelza blushed. "I don't...I don't want any of this. I just want to go back to the days when Ron Weasley snapped at me—like that was my worst problem—"
"Let's go," Jimmy cut in as Demelza was breaking off. "No practice this week, you're gonna go talk to Lyra, yeah? And we'll meet up next week. Wednesday good?"
"I'll have to, you know, check. But it should be," said Natalie.
Demelza sat up, shaking her head. "Yeah, yeah. Okay."
They took off, Demelza taking a minute to catch her breath and Jimmy staying behind. "We really are rubbish," she said without turning around. "I don't care if Ravenclaw trounce us, I just want things to not get any worse, and Natalie and them won't respect me if I tell them the truth."
Jimmy nodded slowly, though she wasn't watching. "You know, you were right before. We are your team. And we'll be here for you."
"But I'm supposed to be—"
"You're supposed to be Chasing with Ginny while Potter barks at you and tries not to snog her, and everyone who matters knows that. Instead we're here and we'll get through this. It's a game. We like games."
She nodded, unconvinced.
"But, and I'll tell this to the others too—we're not the only team that took losses. We've already upset Slytherin, and Ravenclaw got outscored goalwise so far. Wait until we start practicing before you count us out. Okay?"
Demelza sighed. "Okay."
"Seriously, we should watch Slytherin-Hufflepuff. All of us together. You'll remember how rubbish they actually are. We're the ones going for the Cup."
"Yeah. When's that, this month?"
"First Saturday in May, the second or third or whatever that is."
"All right," Demelza giggled. "Let's do it."
Chapter 8: Story Of Us
For lyric prompt: "Love is not proud, love does not boast, love after all matters the most."
When he first came across her he was eleven and she was another footnote in the epilogue to Great Wizarding Events of the Twentieth Century, Second Edition. When he first saw her he had just turned thirteen and she was making her first of many starts for the Lions.
They ran into each other—once half-literally (they were on brooms)—over the next few years, but when either were asked when they really met, they'd give the same answer; a cold, dismally wet, November day.
"Hey," he called, "it's eight, get off the pitch."
"What?" she yelled back, trying to hear over the wind.
"IT'S EIGHT O'CLOCK!"
"SORRY?" She flew towards him and landed. "What do you want?"
"It's eight o'clock," he said again, "our turn on the pitch."
She blinked at the school as the rain continued. "Hate to break it to you, mate, but I don't think they're coming either."
How dare Geoffrey cancel practice and not tell me..."Either?"
"Nobody from Gryffindor has showed up."
"Oh." He shrugged. "But you're their captain, right? Can't you make them show up?"
"I considered it," she said, "but I'd probably wind up murdering them in their beds, and then we'd really be in trouble against Slytherin."
"Oh. Well, I'll give them a few more minutes."
"Suit yourself." She opened up the ball box, grabbed a Quaffle, and kicked the lid back down as she took off.
A minute passed, maybe two, and he impatiently took off and began slowly gliding around the edge of the pitch. "You're past time now," he hollered as he drew closer to the goals she was shooting at, "it's our turn."
"They're not going to show!"
"Neither did your team, and you're still hogging the pitch!"
"It would seem like I'm snogging the Snitch? What? I can't hear you!"
He flew closer. "EIGHT TEN NOW. YOU'VE HAD YOUR HOUR."
"WHAT ARE YOU EVEN GOING TO DO OUT HERE? AT LEAST I CAN PRACTICE SHOOTING."
"LOOK, YOU WANT TO CATCH A COLD? FINE. I'M NOT MENTAL ABOUT QUIDDITCH LIKE YOU, IT'S JUST EIGHT TEN AND IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE OUR TURN."
He landed and pulled his robes tighter about himself, which made very little difference, and shivered as he walked towards the edge of the pitch. Above him, without looking down, she took off and shot towards the left hoop, then soared down to get the Quaffle after it fell through.
"What're you looking at?" she called defensively as she retrieved the ball.
"Nothing," he muttered.
"All right. Go back and kill your captain...actually, don't, Gryffindor are better off with a moron on the other end," she grinned.
"Thanks for the suggestion," he muttered too softly to be heard through the rain, "really sporting of you."
He trouped over the boundary of the field, and took one more backward glance. Another zoom forward from midfield, another shot to the left post, and—there! In between.
Maybe it hadn't been a waste of the night after all. Oh, he'd sulk at Geoffrey for not telling him straight out that he was free to skip practice, but then he could tell him that the Gryffindor star gave away when she was aiming for the left hoop.
Really sporting of you...
And he'd be just as bad as her. It didn't matter whether Geoffrey knew or not, anyway, he was the only one who could use the information.
"WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?"
He sighed, and took to his broom again, flying up behind the goalposts. "YOU GIVE AWAY WHEN YOU'RE AIMING FOR THE LEFT HOOP."
"THERE'S A...A TELL. ON YOUR APPROACH, I DON'T THINK YOU NOTICE IT. BUT YOU'RE LOSING THE ELEMENT OF SURPRISE. YOU BETTER HOPE SLYTHERIN DON'T PICK UP ON IT."
"WELL, WHAT IS IT?"
"WHY SHOULD I TELL YOU THAT?"
"YOU'VE ALREADY TOLD ME THIS MUCH!"
"STUPID CORINTHIAN SPIRIT."
"HOW DO I KNOW YOU'RE NOT JUST DOING IT TO THROW ME OFF MY GAME?"
"YOU REALLY ARE MENTAL."
She sighed. "STAY OUT HERE AND PRACTICE WITH ME?"
"WE'LL WORK ON PENALTIES AND I'LL SEE IF I CAN FIGURE THIS OUT."
He glanced toward the school; no sign of the Badgers. "OKAY."
They very quickly lost track of time. Easier not to think about how dark it was, how wet, how cold, just the blur of the Quaffle through the night.
"IT'S MY GRIP? I DON'T CHANGE MY GRIP AT ALL, DO I?"
"IN A REAL GAME I'D BE PASSING TO PEOPLE, THIS PROBABLY WOULDN'T HAPPEN."
Just another dive.
"WHY SHOULD I BELIEVE YOU?"
"BECAUSE I'M NOT MENTAL, I BELIEVE IN PLAYING FAIR."
"YOU'RE THE ONLY ONE THAT SHOWED UP. THAT'S DEDICATION."
"YEAH, WELL, MAYBE THEY DON'T NEED THE PRACTICE."
"I SAW YOU PLAY LAST YEAR. THEY DO NEED IT."
He rolled his eyes. "Humble as always, you are."
"WHAT?" Her ankles taut in frustration, she zoomed forward and shot—and as he dropped back to cover the center hoop, her shot sailed cleanly off to the left.
They both stared, incredulously, as it hit the ground. "YOU HOLD UP," she said, "I'LL GET IT."
Pleasantly surprised, he made a few nervous loops of the hoops as she retrieved it and resumed her position. That time, he was hovering by the right post as her shot went left, again.
"IT WAS MY FEET, WASN'T IT? I TILTED THEM WHEN I LEANED LEFT."
No answer, but there was the hint of a smile in his evasive shrug.
"THANKS. I OWE YOU ONE."
He shook his head.
"YOU CAN'T MAKE IT UP TO ME IN THE GAME, THAT WOULDN'T BE SPORTING EITHER."
"SPORTING? WHO CARES ABOUT BEING SPORTING, I HAVE A CUP TO WIN!"
"I care about being sporting," he blushed.
"Of course you do."
"Thanks for sticking around."
"Thank you. We should probably head in, it's late."
And so, after she had stowed away the balls, they did exactly that, dripping wet as they walked into the Entrance Hall.
"I'll see you around?" she nodded.
He shrugged. "Yeah, whatever."
Gryffindor would lose to Slytherin on an impressive Snitch-grab the next week, but throttle Hufflepuff a few months after that. It would take them another year to feel much more than incredulous respect for each other. But well after he'd blocked the score of Lions-Badgers out of his mind, Joey would tolerate rain that much more when he remembered his first real encounter with Roxanne Weasley.
Chapter 9: Free
Ravenclaw lost their first match of the season. It wasn't even close. Hufflepuff outscored them, one-thirty to fifty, before the Snitch was caught, and it wasn't like Ravenclaw's Seeker had seen much of anything before then. As far as their Chasers were concerned, their passes were dull and uninspiring; although they actually made the Hufflepuff Keeper work early on, it only gave him a chance to show off his skill, quickly doubling back on himself twice in the first half hour and punching the Quaffle away.
It was the kind of match that most people didn't need a commentator for; Hufflepuff's dominance was on clear display. And the commentator himself, a tall Gryffindor sixth-year, didn't make himself particularly useful. To be sure, there were words caught through the late-autumn wind, but these were mostly cheers from the yellow and black faithful below.
The Ravenclaw captain, a Beater, couldn't be heard from the stands. She had little to say regarding the long term: by the time they were forty down, it was clear that if they didn't win that match, their only chance at the Quidditch Cup would come if Hufflepuff dropped one of their remaining games to Gryffindor and Slytherin. And that was just patently unlikely. She knew how well she had prepared her own team, and it was not spoken arrogance to see that if Ravenclaw were that stymied, Gryffindor and Slytherin could get nowhere either.
But she spoke nonetheless, a word or two at a time. "Easy, there," with an unconcerned smile to her own Keeper; "watch your balance" to the Chasers streaking by, "that's the way" as the Seeker swept forward above her. Spoke as if unconcerned with the score, though the aim and strength of her Bludgers suggested otherwise.
And when it was all over, she was the one who had hidden away some butterbeer for that night in the common room anyway. "We all tried our best," she declared. "You earned a break." And everyone believed her.
"You sure know how to lift a team's spirits," they told her, and she blinked, turning away from the window to smile.
They won their second game, against Slytherin, by a hundred forty points—they were trailing by ten when their Seeker found the Snitch glittering behind Ravenclaw's own goalposts.
They had almost tied it, beforehand. Of course, the scoring had been taut—neither team ever got more than three goals ahead. That time around, she as a Beater was doing far more than trying to indirectly keep the scoreline respectable; Slytherin's duo were rather promising, although the younger one seemed to be more interested in Blatching than batting. It was all she could to to keep up with them, mostly aiming the Bludgers at them from behind so that they'd have to dodge rather than, in the younger's case, cheat more.
One of those, to her satisfaction, clipped him on the shoulder as it went by, but he quickly veered off at a different angle. And when Slytherin really got dinged for a foul, it didn't come for him at all, but rather from a clumsy Snitchnip by an even younger Chaser.
As an equally inexperienced Ravenclaw Chaser slowly and nervously set up to take the penalty, the Snitch took off far out of reach of any pesky Chasers. The Bludgers, however, continued to circle the field at apparent will.
And then, all of a sudden, out of the young Beater's very deliberate will. While the Slytherin Keeper was breaking forward too early, forcing the penalty to be retaken, the Ravenclaw captain was hovering, watching impassively, only for one of the Bludgers to catch her in the leg.
She'd been hurt far worse, but the last time she could think of that was that bad was in the previous season's final against Gryffindor, when they'd still been in the hunt and adrenaline kept her momentum alive and dulled the pain. That time around, there was no distraction. Play was dead, and though some of the crowd gasped, most of them (to say nothing of the referee) were too busy watching the other end of play. The Chaser set up for the penalty, again, and that time the shot was legal but with little force. Ravenclaw had missed the equalizer, and trailed by ten until, finally, coming up with the Snitch.
Afterwards, she expertly applied a Numbing Charm to her leg and shrugged the matter off. "But there was another Bludger!" her outraged housemates continued to repeat.
She shrugged. "What of it?"
"If you felt that fine, you could have gotten him back! The referee wasn't looking!"
"What good would it do me to get him back?"
"Revenge? Something? What good did it do you to just sit there?"
"Well, this way we might have gotten another penalty shot."
"You know how rubbish that Chaser is at penalties."
"Ssh. That's my team you're talking about!"
But eventually they told her that she did the good thing—maybe not even the right thing, not what they would have done, and they were blunt enough about it that she knew they weren't just saying that because it worked out in the end, they did win, so she gave a grateful smile.
By the time their final game rolled around, Hufflepuff had already walloped Slytherin to win the title, and the last game would be an anticlimactic playoff for second place. And it was a long one, dragging on nearly two hours.
Despite this, there was very little goalscoring. Both sides' Chasers intercepted pass after pass, and were rarely able to get more than two or three together at one time. The only recourse was to fly forward on their own, and leave the Beaters clear to aim at them.
And aim they did. Success was intermittent for some, but for the Ravenclaw captain, quite common indeed. Shot after shot she sent true; some hit, others were never intended to but just interfered with the Gryffindor Chasers' lines of sight or passing lanes. So while Ravenclaw clawed their way to a handful of goals, she led her team in shutting Gryffindor down. That time, the commentator did notice her, the referee was watching. Everyone was.
And when they won again, the Seeker grasping the Snitch about a foot below the referee's trailing bristles, she beamed, proud not of coming second rather than third, not of the incremental points it would add to the House Cup standings, but just of her team winning another game, and let the momentum carry her forward, around the pitch one more time. When she landed, it hardly felt like she was walking at all. Her housemates were there to swoop her upstairs as part of the throng.
They'd seen her play, they'd seen her lead before, but that final day..."You really can do it," they breathed. "You can...wow. You could play professionally someday."
She remembered that final lap like something already belonging to someone else. It was a sharp memory, it would stick in her mind, but all the same there was something painful in listening to their cheers. Isobel Ross nodded, and did not let her teammates see her cry.