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for merlin's sake how long has this been going on

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The weather was beastly, which luckily suited Hilary's mood quite nicely. It had been raining all morning, and a thick fog still lingered over the Hogwarts grounds, which meant that the pitch was utterly deserted, where on a warm Saturday afternoon there might have been half a dozen students of uncertain flying skill flitting around. Which in turn meant that she could smack Bludgers about as hard as she pleased without risking them finding anyone but herself.

That was the intent, anyway, and it kept her occupied for the better part of the afternoon, at least until she gave the Bludger a particularly hard whack and, instead of returning, it produced a thwack and a loud yelp from somewhere in the distance.

"What-- oh, sorry, Accio Bludger!" It hurtled back towards her-- landing in her hand as intended, but stopping hard enough that Hilary winced with the impact. She flicked her wand down out of her sleeve and hastily tapped the Bludger with it, and it shot back home to its case on the ground. "Who's there?"

"Only me, if perhaps a bit less of me than there was a minute ago." A boy appeared through the fog, one hand carrying a broomstick and the other covering his eye, and sat down heavily in the bleachers; from above and with his face thus obscured, Hilary couldn't immediately place him. "Is that you, Thorpe? You're a Ravenclaw, aren't you; are you any use at healing spells?"

"Merlin's balls," Hilary swore, irritably, and shot down to land at his side. "Did I get you that badly?"

"Good God, Thorpe, the mouth on you." The boy glanced over at her and cautiously uncupped his hand from his eye. With his face uncovered, Hilary recognized him as one of Gryffindor's Chasers, though she couldn't immediately recall his name. "How long have I got, do you think?"

Hilary squinted. "It's swelling beautifully. Might take a whole three minutes in the hospital wing to put right."

"Well." He shrugged, relaxing, and stretched his legs out in front of him. "At least it got your attention, didn't it?"

Hilary stiffened again in response. So that was how it was. "I'm afraid you have me at a disadvantage."

"Oh Merlin, don't be like that about it. It isn't as if I walked in front of your Bludger on purpose, is it?" He offered her a hand and a sickeningly earnest smile. "Jerry Wimsey."

"Of course." The relief of connecting a name with the familiar face distracted Hilary from her ill-temper, long enough at least for her to shake his hand. "You're Gryffindor's star Chaser, right? The one whose father's got some sort of fancy Muggle title. None of which explains why you know who I am."

Wimsey wrinkled his nose. "Well, you're rather handsome, and you're quite loud-- in print, at any rate. They aren't qualities that particularly recommend you to anonymity. I hadn't heard you were thinking of taking to Quidditch, though; it's a pity you aren't in our House, or you and Sep Weasley might make quite a nice matched pair of Beaters."

"Pity I'm not a boy, either, or I might be playing in matches people would actually come watch." Hilary groaned. "Wimsey, what do you want?"

"The same as you, I expect." He waved vaguely at the broom lying by his side.

"I very much doubt that," said Hilary sourly. "And anyway, it's a terrible day for it. You might as well go flying in the lake."

"Must you be so down?" He nudged her leg with one foot, then withdrew it hastily in response to her expression. "Which isn't to say I wouldn't go flying in the lake, if I thought it might cheer you up, but I'd rather it weren't necessary."

Hilary stiffened; she was willing to tolerate a certain amount of clowning, but this was intolerable. "If you know who I am, I'm sure you can guess why I'm down."

"Oh." Wimsey emitted a sort of strangled croak. "Oh Merlin, you're that Thorpe. Of course you are. I heard about your father; my uncle used to say he was a favorite for Minister for Magic, when that time rolled around. I'm sorry, I honestly am."

"What do I care about the beastly Ministry? He was my favorite father." Hilary hunched in on herself, burying her hands in the sleeves of her robes. Her cheeks were damp, and even she wasn't stubborn enough to blame it entirely on the fog. "He was all I'd got, and I came out here hoping there was one place on the grounds where I couldn't find anyone who was sorry, a fat lot of good that's done me."

"Christ above," Wimsey blurted, and Hilary looked up despite herself, jarred by the Muggle epithet. "I can't say anything right, can I?"

"No," Hilary agreed without hesitation. "No, you can't."

"Look, I feel terrible, I honestly do; you've got to let me make it up to you." Hilary considered pointing out that she hadn't got to let him do a damn thing, but he wouldn't shut up for long enough to let her. "We could get some practice in together, and I won't even say anything if you don't want me to. Not a word. I don't know if I want you hitting any more Bludgers at me, though, and I'd have an advantage with a Quaffle, so-- a Snitch, all right? We'll get out a Snitch, and it'll be equally unfair for all concerned parties."

He grinned hopefully at her, shoving his damp hair out of his face, and Hilary understood exactly why he had the reputation he did with girls; for a moment, she was even tempted to kiss him. It was a vicious, spiteful thought-- an urge to see him knocked off balance, a thing she had the idea rarely happened to him-- and a moment later she only felt sickened by herself for thinking that way about a boy when her own father was so recently dead. So it was pure guilt, at least as much as a genuine desire for company and a distraction, that made her say "Yes, all right; if it'll keep you quiet, why not?" and reach to pick up her own broomstick again.

Maybe it would help, having someone to fly with, but she certainly wasn't going to admit it.