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Chapter 1: Just Quidditch?
The house was grimy, gloomy, filled with the paraphernalia of what seemed like a thousand years of Dark magic. Cobwebs draped the corners of doorways, sputtering candles cast an eerily cold light, insufficient to brighten the hallway ahead. I recoiled as my elbow brushed against something along a long mantlepiece running the length of the hall; staring eyes glinted up at me in the half-light.
“So how much did Voldemort ask for the place?” I asked my parents quietly.
“Athena,” Mum said disapprovingly, turning to shoot me a reproachful look.
I shrugged, focusing on following the path laid out by the moth-eaten carpets so I wouldn’t bump into anything else that had been dead a good hundred years. Ahead I could hear the babble of voices, though the concept of life at all seemed at odds with the atmosphere of the house.
“Someone’s here!” I heard a voice yell from upstairs, followed by the sound of running footsteps. Within seconds the hallway was filled with light and people and voices—“Carcius! Lucinda! Glad you could make it!” “What’s the latest news from the Auror Office?” “Fudge still denying You Know Who’s return?”
“Athena,” a voice hissed at me, and I turned to see Ginny Weasley leaning on the banister of the staircase to my left. “Come upstairs, you won’t be allowed in the meeting, I guarantee it.”
I followed her up the stairs. “So you guys living here?”
“We are for now, yeah. It’s Headquarters. I hate it though, Mum’s got us cleaning dawn till dusk…”
“Not that you can tell,” I commented. “So whose idea were the shrunken elf heads in the hallway?”
“It was Sirius’ mum’s old house. He inherited it. You know the Blacks.”
“Magic as dark as their name, yeah. But Sirius hasn’t cleaned it up?”
“I don’t think he’d set foot in the place since he left when he was a teenager. Half this stuff’s got Permanent Sticking Charms on it anyway. Look who I found,” Ginny added, addressing the crowd of teenagers in a room we’ve just walked into.
“Evening,” I said by way of greeting, taking a seat on the floor and glancing around. There were a number of people: Ginny’s brothers, Fred, George and Ron; their cousin and my best friend Nathaniel, and my classmates, Harry Potter and Hermione Granger.
“What brings you here?” Fred asked, nonchalantly summoning the pillow Ron was leaning on and claiming it for himself.
“Parents are in the Order. I was bored. I came with them.”
“Looking forward to getting back to Hogwarts?” Harry asked, rubbing his hands together at the prospect.
“Yes,” I said emphatically. “Bring on Quidditch season.”
“Definitely,” Fred agreed. “Not saying we didn’t enjoy your performance in the Triwizard, Harry, but a year of no hitting Bludgers at Slytherins is a year wasted.”
“You would think that,” Hermione commented, “If you don’t get anything out of classes.”
“Classes?” Fred repeated. “Who goes to school for classes? Absurd.”
“Wonder what the team will be like without Wood,” Harry mused.
“Sane,” George supplied.
“Unmotivated and disorderly,” I suggested. “Well, at least, I hope so.”
“It would take more than an unmotivated and disorderly Gryffindor team for you lot to win the cup,” Fred declared bluntly.
“Oi,” Nathaniel protested sharply.
“As the old saying goes, the only things you’ll find in a Ravenclaw’s hand are a mirror or a textbook,” Fred continued.
“Funny you should say that,” I commented sardonically, “Considering it was a Beater’s bat in my hand last time we played you, Fred, and you ended up with a broken foot.”
“Beginner’s luck,” he said dismissively.
“That’s not what you were saying in the common room after the game,” Ginny said smugly.
“Please share,” I said curiously.
“Something like ‘blimey, George, the Ravenclaws have got people who can fly, when did hell freeze over?’”
Fred jerked his head in Nathaniel’s direction. “Though he’s a Weasley, course he can fly.”
“Ron’s a Weasley, and he can’t,” George pointed out.
Ron’s face flushed red. “Shut up, George.”
“Well, it’s true.”
“Leave him alone, it’s just Quidditch,” Hermione interrupted.
Seven faces turned to stare at her incredulously, seven voices said in unison, “Just Quidditch?”