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Chapter 12: The Flying Lesson
The snow continued to fall as steadily as it had been doing for the past few weeks, and it was the first of January before the students of Hogwarts were treated to a clear, albeit cold, sky outside. Filch could be seen puttering around the grounds with a rather bent snow shovel in his hands, a tartan scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, Mrs. Norris in a similar scarf twisting about his legs. Fred and George started to occupy most of their free time with organizing massive House-wide snowball fights, which more often than not ended with some Gryffindor first year with a handful or three of snow down the back of his robes.
Rachel chose not to partake in these snow wars, however; as the classes began to loom ever closer on their schedules, she and Cedric found more and more time to spend in each other’s company in their waning class-free hours. Since the Yule Ball, now that it had been made rather clear how one felt about the other, they spent a good deal of time in the library or walking the corridors, talking long about nothing and laughing more than was perhaps strictly necessary. Some small part of her still didn’t quite believe that Cedric could ever return the feelings she had unwittingly developed for him, but all his actions contradicted that nagging doubt tenfold - he certainly hadn’t left the kissing to a garden at Christmas, and admittedly, neither had she.
The last day before the students were due to resume classes, a Sunday, was one of the warmest days the castle had seen in quite some time, and the grounds underneath their feet turned to slush and mud rather quickly. The twins had found that pelting passersby with slush balls wasn’t nearly as fun as the previous snow had been, and so it was with relief that Rachel and Cedric found themselves walking on the grounds that afternoon, not having to worry too much about being ambushed at each turn. Cedric was talking about Quidditch, and some of the games he’d played, and Rachel (who, despite reading several books on the sport, knew almost nothing about the real experience of game play) found herself more excited by his descriptions than she was willing to admit.
“And so then, everything got really cold,” Cedric was saying animatedly, a kind of delight lighting up his eyes as he described a Quidditch match he’d played in last year, when dementors had stormed the field in the middle of the game. “And I’d just managed to get my fingers around the Snitch when we saw this scarlet thing, falling from the sky. It’s just lucky Professor Dumbledore realized it was Potter, really, or that could have been nasty…”
Perhaps it wasn’t a surprise that the couple suddenly found themselves at the gates to the Quidditch Pitch, looking up at the empty, hollow-looking shells that comprised the stadium; it seemed their feet had carried them there automatically. This was the closest Rachel thought she’d ever been to the stands; they looked a lot closer from this view. She suddenly became aware that Cedric had stopped recounting the match; he was looking up with a kind of longing etched on his face.
“You really miss playing Quidditch,” she said softly, slipping her hand into his own almost as an afterthought. He nodded and squeezed the hand, and warmth flooded the pit of her stomach, as it always did.
“It really is kind of a shame you aren’t playing this year,” she added, still watching his face. “Everyone says you’re a greet Seeker, Ced – I really wish I could have actually watched you.”
Cedric turned to her, a wicked grinning suddenly splitting her face, and she looked back apprehensively. “I’ll teach you,” he said, and she laughed outright.
“Uh, no, you won’t,” she said, still laughing. “If you can recall the last time I tried to do something I was lousy at, I nearly twisted my ankle. Can you imagine what kind of damage I could do to me or you if you got me up in the air?”
“Oh, that was dancing,” he said airily, brushing her protest off as though it was of no consequence. “This is different, way different.” He looked extremely excited, his whole appearance transformed, and Rachel couldn’t help but catch a bit of his excitement as well. “Let me teach you,” he teased, leaning down and putting his forehead to hers. She grinned, but still didn’t want to fully give in to him.
“Cedric, the last time I flew… well, it didn’t end up great.” She cringed inwardly, reflecting on her first year flying lessons and how she had been the only one who couldn’t fly in a straight line. “I’m just going to make a fool of myself, you know.”
“Rach.” He said it so sternly that she couldn’t help but grin sheepishly, noting that his eyes were smiling and knowing he didn’t mean a bit of his mock severity. “If I say you’re going to fly, you’re going to fly – if I have to drag you on the broom myself.”
“Okay! You win,” she agreed, and kissed his lips quickly as a consolation. He smiled at her, and then began to move into the arena. Her stomach flipped.
“Wait – now?” she said, remaining where she was – she didn’t think he meant teach her today. Cedric grinned wickedly over his shoulder, and crossed back over to her, gently taking her hands in his and starting to walk backwards.
“I’m not going to let you fall, remember? I’ll catch you,” he smiled. “You’ll have fun, Rach. I promise.” His gray eyes widened slightly, and she laughed, shaking her head as though unbelieving he could be so convincing. She let him lead her to the broom shed on the opposite side of the pitch from where they’d entered, thinking absently that she would pretty much walk across the earth if he was leading her like this.
When had she turned into such a sap, anyway?
He let go of her hands to open the broom shed, and from inside withdrew two of the school’s brooms, used by those who didn’t have one of their own. Whether they were good brooms or not, Rachel really didn’t know – she hadn’t yet gotten around to checking out any of the issues of Which Broomstick? quite yet. She watched in pleasant silence as Cedric seemed to be inspecting them for something, and then finally nodded.
“These will work,” he said, and tossed one to her. Unexpected as the toss was, she managed to catch the broom handle before it fell onto the ground, and was rather pleased with this victory over her clumsiness. Perhaps she should stop while she was ahead?
Cedric was watching her as thoughts flitted across her brain, grinning slightly as though he knew exactly what she was thinking. “You’ll do fine,” he said, and without preamble mounted his broom and pushed off hard from the ground with the toes of his sneakers. He zoomed into the air, and Rachel heard him let out a whoop, causing her to laugh at how happy he was to be back in the air.
Cedric zoomed around the pitch a few times, letting out his pent-up energy, and finally touched down next to her once more. The cold wind had turned his cheeks pink, and his hair was windswept from his race around the stands. Why have I never thought watching Quidditch was a good idea? Rachel found herself thinking without meaning to.
“I’m going to fall,” she said firmly as soon as Cedric was within hearing range once more. He laughed, and this time it was his turn to shake his head.
“You won’t,” he said, just as resolutely, and mounted his broom next to her – this time he didn’t kick off from the ground. “Do as I do,” he said, and she tried copying his stance, positioning her hands awkwardly on the broom handle.
“Further down the neck, or you’ll lose your grip… there, that looks better,” Cedric said, concentrating hard, fully in his element out here on the field. He looked up and caught her smiling at him. “What?” he laughed.
“Nothing,” she said, looking back down at the handle and clenching it firmly in her hands, trying not to think too much of how close Cedric was standing to her – a hard thing, to be sure. “Like this?” she asked, and he nodded smartly.
“Right, now – your feet go on either side, like this. Yeah. And then you just push –“ He kicked off from the ground again, and the broom rose into the air, hovering about six feet over her head. Feeling rather stupid, and suddenly having vivid memories of her eleven-year-old self, Rachel dug her toes into the soft grass of the pitch.
To her shock, the broom shot up jerkily, and she just managed to hang on, unable to help the little gasp of shock that escaped her lips at leaving the firm, solid ground behind her. Cedric laughed at her reaction, moving his broom a little closer to hers.
“Great. Now, to move forward, just lean a bit over the neck – not too much, or you’ll shoot forward too fast,” he cautioned. “To slow down, do just the opposite – lean back.” He demonstrated, gliding effortlessly forward a few yards and then coming to a halt in midair. She inched shakily toward him, concentrating hard on her hands on the broom handle, relieved to see that she was going more or less in a straight line.
“See? You can do this,” he called over to her, smirking slightly, pleased that he had been right. She stuck her tongue out at him good-naturedly and began experimenting around the field, leaning left and right as Cedric started doing barrel rolls above her.
“Show off!” she called up as he twisted in midair, and she heard his laugh from where she was now lapping the field – she had never really quite realized how much she loved hearing him laugh. She smiled to herself as she made her way around the field, leaning lower and lower over the handle as she grew more confident in her flying abilities.
This wasn’t bad at all, she realized – she could see why Fred and George, and admittedly the rest of her friends, loved flying so much. Rachel felt almost weightless, and it certainly was an intoxicating feeling. She barely even noticed how fast she was going until she heard a whistling from behind her, and Cedric came speeding up alongside her, leaned low over the handle of his own broom.
“Are you trying to race me, Diggory?” she called over the rushing wind in her ears.
“Not trying – succeeding!” he yelled back, and leaned even further over the broom neck, shooting ahead of her; he looked like little more than a blur to her now. She laughed and did the same, marveling at how incredibly natural this now seemed to her. Had she really been such a terrible flier six years ago? That was a little embarrassing.
She saw Cedric slowing down, half a field length ahead, and did the same, coming to a slightly shaky halt in midair beside him. “We’ll stop there for today. You did really well, Rach,” he said, leaping lightly off the handle and turning to her, holding up his arms. Blushing slightly, and telling herself it was the fresh air that was turning her cheeks pink, she took his hands and jumped to the ground, landing far less gracefully than he had.
“Only as good as my teacher,” she quipped, giving his hands a little squeeze. He suddenly leaned down and kissed her, sending a thrill right to the tips of her toes in their sneakers. She wondered if his kisses would ever not make that happen – somehow, she seriously doubted it.
They put the brooms back in the broom shed, and then began making their way back to the castle – judging by how low the sun was hanging in the sky, dinner would be served soon. They walked in a companionable silence, shoulder to shoulder, still clutching hands.
As Rachel and Cedric began making their way up the sloping lawn toward the double doors, however, someone emerged from the castle, looking around and spotting the two. The person began making his way purposefully toward them, although his progress was hindered by a wooden leg and a cane.
“Evening, Miss Alexander. Mr. Diggory,” growled Professor Moody once he was within speaking range, his electric blue eye fixed unblinkingly on Cedric. He always unnerved her, somehow – she didn’t know if it was the eye, or his scarred face, or his half-gone nose that did it.
“Can I help you, sir?” asked Cedric, clearly as confused as Rachel was as to why a teacher would be seeking them out on the weekend. The overly anxious part of Rachel’s brain kicked in at that moment, and she wondered wildly if perhaps she and Cedric hadn’t been allowed to go flying on the pitch. But as though he had read her mind, Moody’s blue eye suddenly swiveled dizzily in its socket to look at her, and she swallowed the apology she’d been ready to voice.
“I’d like to talk to Mr. Diggory alone, if you don’t mind,” he said in a gravelly voice, although it was rather clear that he didn’t care whether Rachel minded or not. She looked at Cedric, noting his small frown – he evidently didn’t have a clue as to what was going on – and shrugged a little helplessly.
“See you later, then,” she said, feeling a little awkward at having to say good-bye to Cedric in front of a teacher. She squeezed his hand and continued walking up to the double doors as Professor Moody placed a gnarled hand on Cedric’s shoulder and began steering him in the direction of the lake.
Why would Professor Moody want to speak to Cedric alone? Rachel wondered. It suddenly occurred to her that this might have something to do with the tournament. In the months since the first task and the dragon, what with everything else going on, Rachel had almost allowed herself to forget that the second task would be taking place at the end of February. As much as she dreaded it, she had to admit to herself that it was much nearer than she’d realized.
The Gryffindor table was crowded, as usual, but she managed to squeeze into a spot between Angelina and Alicia, pulling a plate of roast potatoes towards her.
“Saw you and Diggory out on the pitch from the tower window,” said Angelina suddenly, hiding a smirk behind her goblet. “Planning on trying out for the Quidditch team next year? Or would the rivalry be too much for the lovebirds?” Rachel stuck out her tongue at her friend, knowing she was teasing, and merely speared a potato and pretended to become very interested in what Lee and George were saying across the table.
It was only once pudding had cleared away and everyone was rising from their seats that Rachel looked over to the Hufflepuff table. Cedric had never come in to dinner.
A/N: Thanks to the SUPER work of our validaters, these updates are flying in! This was a fun, lighthearted chapter to write, and I've been wanting to write about flying for a long time, since it's such a big deal to Cedric. Thank you to LadyMalfoy23 for giving me this idea! And thanks to you, my readers, for all the reads and reviews and favorites. You flatter me! What'd you think? Let me know!