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One Step Ahead by quicksilver
Chapter 5: Sixth year, having fun.
"Essie! Over here!"
I narrowed my eyes as I whipped the ball to James. With a grin, he caught it and shot forward, baring his teeth as he zoomed towards the Hufflepuff Keeper. The third year looked slightly frightened as James got closer, and flinched as James pulled off the Chaser equivalent of the Wronski Feint, shooting towards the keeper until he was only a couple feet away, then pulling out of the "dive" and doing a tight circle to score while the poor Keeper was still flinching.
"Gryffindor, fifty-zero, after a mad move by Chaser James Potter!" Lorcan Scamander yelled into the microphone. The crowd roared, and I flashed James a thumbs-up and a gin. He grinned back, looking like a mad scientist with his hair sticking up everywhere. I could see a teacher- looked like Maletchy, and she was frowning, watching the game, shaking her head at James. She must think the move is too risky, too dangerous.
It is. But we've practiced it so many times that it's unlikely that we'd ever actually hurt someone.
No promises, though.
"Heads up, Essie!" Laurel threw me the ball as I sped forward, and I caught it, doing a zig-zag to swerve around a Hufflepuff chaser.
The 'Puffers are going down.
It was the second match of my sixth year at Hogwarts- my fifth year playing Quidditch. I had gotten onto the team in my second year, beating out Albus Potter for the spot of Chaser. He had been sore at me for that for some time, glowering at me the entire year. The grumpy looks lessened somewhat when he got put on the team as Seeker in our third year, but we still didn't talk unless it was completely necessary-or, rather, he didn't talk to me unless it was completely necessary. I at least tried to be polite and talk to him sometimes.
Laurel also got in during third year, also as Chaser. She, James, and I made a great team, and our collective, ah, creativity helped us think up new moves all the time. Like the sideways Wronski Feint, which we made up at the start of this year. We had a huge range of tricks we had made up, ranging from the just sneaky and unexpected to the rather dangerous.
Strangely enough, it was the dangerous ones we all enjoyed the most. The dives, the tight loops and twirls, the random, highly dangerous stunts we pulled on a regular basis.
The two beaters, Roxy and a fifth year, always laughed at our crazy stunts- after they had ensured that we had taken all safety precautions that we possibly could. After a rather nasty accident once, we always made sure that every move we tried was perfect before we tried it in a game.
The teachers couldn't figure out how we had somehow broken one of the Quidditch hoops during practice once. That's all I'm going to say about the incident.
"Camel!" James called out as we flew towards the goal posts. It was an idea of his to give completely weird names to all of our moves. The Hufflepuffs looked completely baffled as Laurel and I responded to the command to do the double-throw - a move that involved one of us throwing the Quaffle towards the hoops, but then another would swoop in and snatch the quaffle out of the air and chuck it in a different hoop, while the confused Keeper spun around, trying to figure out what had happened.
"LLLLLAAAAMA!" James yelled. Laurel was to catch- I backed off slightly, but continued forward, so as not to give our play away.
Another idea of James's- to not use our real names, but instead yell out words-normally animals- that started with the same letter. James was crazy, but the system worked really well. It was just an added bonus that the other teams were often a little wary of us, as we seemed to have lost our minds and could be dangerous. Laurel usually went by Llama. James was Jackrabbit. I was Escargot.
Yes, James did get smacked around the head several times after that decision.
James whipped the Quaffle forwards, right towards the Hufflepuff Keeper, who smirked as he reached out to catch what he thought was an easy throw. Just then, Laurel swooped past, hanging upside-down on her broom, and grabbed the ball with one hand, easily tossing it in the next hoop over. She high-fived James as the Hufflepuff keeper whipped around, looking completely befuddled.
I love Quidditch.
James had been our captain for two years now, and he was now a seventh year. He had been working us hard this year, enjoying the freedom and control he had over the Quidditch team. Before, when first Maddy Brooks, then Terrance Word, were captain, James only got a little say in what the Chasers did, even though he was the unofficial leader of our little group, just because he was older and more experienced. We won every single game with James, mostly because he was mad focused.
We got ten more points quickly, with another double-throw (also known as camel, because James is a weirdo).
Then I saw James giving an odd signal to Laurel as we sped down the pitch again towards the Hufflepuff Keeper again. She grinned wickedly as they got closer.
I wracked my brains trying to remember what that signal meant. Most of our plays are named (oddly, but still), not signed....
Oh. The cursed broomstick.
Well, this will be fun.
James followed close behind Laurel as they sped towards the hoops. Then, suddenly, Laurel screeched to a halt and her hair flew as her broom started jerking from side to side, causing the ball to flip out of her hands, right into James's waiting hands, which nobody besides me seemed to notice. They were too busy watching Laurel with held breaths, watching her bounce around in the sky. I was watching James sneak around her and fall into position, where, as soon as Laurel stopped flipping around, he could throw the quaffle into the hoops easily.
With one last spin, Laurel evened out her broom with a grin, just before James tossed the Quaffle in. The crowd roared as they realized that Laurel had been faking.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Albus Potter shoot into a dive across the field. Apparently he's seen the Snitch. The Hufflepuff seeker, a small third-year with messy pigtails, gave a start and started after him, even though it was obvious that she would never catch up.
We chasers ignored him and continued playing, even though the Hufflepuffs were sitting, gaping rather stupidly at the diving Seekers. There's no point in stopping the game just to watch the Seeker dive, is there?
Plus we scored another goal, just before Albus caught the snitch. So we won even more. I know that doesn't really matter that we got ten more points than we would have otherwise- but what's the point in not getting those ten points?
Cheers filled the air as we all touched down, our Keeper looking a bit put off that he hadn't had much of anything to do- only once or twice did the game even make its way down to his side of the pitch. Roxy and the fifth year, Brandon Drake, touched down soon after, swinging around their Beater's bats in the air, cheering loudly. Albus landed after them, looking triumphant and waving around the Snitch.
Why do Seekers always get so much credit for winning? I'm just wondering. Whether we win or lose is really based more on what the Chasers (and sometimes the Keeper) do. I'll admit, sometimes the Snitch is important, and then the Seeker should get credit, but for games like this one, it did bug me (and Roxy and Laurel as well, it might be noted) that so many people acted like the Seeker was the most important person on the team, when in reality, it's a team effort to win.
Seekers are overrated.
I turned around just in time to see Laurel giving James a huge hug (James looked a bit shocked, then hugged her back) before she realized where she was and backed away quickly. I snickered. Laurel and James have known each other for years, first as acquaintances- what with Laurel being a friend of his cousin (meaning Roxy, obviously), then as teammates, then friends. Roxy and I both thought that there was more than friendship between the two, but we got hit with pies whenever we suggested anything of the sort to Laurel.
Really, I mean- denial much?
I swerved around Laurel and James as I headed back to the locker rooms, tossing the Quaffle in the air as I walked. Toss, catch. Toss, catch. Toss-
-trip over a stone, send the ball flying, stumble, and catch the Quaffle after it bounced off Albus's back. Whoops.
He spun around, looking slightly irritated. "What was that--?"
"Sorry," I said cheerfully, cutting him off as I continued on my merry way down the pitch, swerving to avoid Albus. "I tripped and let go of the ball." Not bothering to stay around to hear his answer, I continued my rather fast walk towards the locker rooms, still tossing and catching the Quaffle.
Albus normally ignores me, instead of being outright hostile like Rose is, but sometimes he does let his annoyance with me get out. According to Roxy, who "just happened to overhear" a conversation between Albus, Sam, and Rose, both he and Rose think that I'm just trying to "one-up" them all the time.
While that may or may not be mostly true in Rose's case, I have no clue what might make Albus think that I was just trying to "one-up" him- I mean, besides the whole "I-got-onto-the-team-before-Albus-Potter" thing (he wasn't cut out to be a Chaser, anyway, so I was doing him a favor- plus it wasn't on purpose, like it is with answering questions before Rose, I just wanted to be a Chaser), but that was years ago, and besides, he's on the team now. He shouldn't still be sore about that.
James just thinks it's all a big joke and comes up with crazy theories whenever the topic is brought up. None of his theories have the remotest chance of being true. After all, I have not set a giant lizard on Albus, nor have I ever painted him completely green.
From what Roxy says, it sounds more like something James would do.
I have since accepted that all members of the Potter family (and a good many in the Weasley family, too) are crazy and their actions should not be analyzed too closely, for fear of giant headaches.
By the time I had put the Quaffle away (and helped Roxy and Brandon shove the Bludgers into their places), the rest of the team (excluding Roxy and Brandon) was already in the showers. Laurel and James seemed to be having a singing contest. Their out-of-tune songs got louder and louder and they tried to outdo the other. I waved my hand towards Laurel's normal shower stall, concentrating on the silencio-ing spell to make her shut up.
The singing, however, did not stop. What the...I've never had that spell not work for me before!
"Oy, Laurel, James, shut up!" Roxy yelled. She's always the one to cut straight to the point.
There was a pause. "Sorry," Laurel's voice said meekly. Her voice came from a different stall than usual.
Merlin's stuffed unicorn. Then who did I Silencio? There's water running in the stall. Laurel is in the stall two down, and it obviously wasn't James.... and Roxy and Brandon are right next to me...
Whoops. That was Albus who I cast the spell on...
Meh. It's easy enough to fix-
-unless Albus finds out before I can cast the counter-spell. Bugger.
Albus looked furious, motioning wildly to his mouth while making faces, dripping water onto the floor, thankfully half-hidden behind the stall door. Roxy and Brandon stared at him in confusion for a couple seconds before Brandon realized what Albus wanted and, with a flick of his wand (after a bit of digging around in his bag on the floor to find it first), cast the counter-spell. With a muttered "thanks", Albus vanished into his shower again, slamming the stall door and leaving a puddle of water on the floor from where he had dripped.
Heh. That could have gone better.
"Hey, I think the rankings are up," Laurel commented as we headed down for breakfast the next morning.
At the end of every month, the teachers posted the top ten class rankings. Each of the top five people got points for their house. I was always first, followed by Scorpius Malfoy, then Rose Weasley, in that order. Only once had Rose passed up Scorpius, and only then for a month. She had been so excited, muttering things like "Only one more to go!" and "I'll get her, just wait and see" for that whole month. The next month, she was back to third.
I may have helped Scorpius with some of his homework that month, but I'm sure he could have re-passed her by himself. Rose's face the next month had been priceless when she saw that she had gone down, not up.
Laurel and Roxy were always in the top ten, sometimes in the top five. They always tell me that it's all my fault that they have good grades.
"Goodie," Roxy said cheerfully. "I always enjoy watching Rose freak out when she hasn't gotten up to second rank."
We're terrible people, I know. Deal with it. Plus, Roxy was kidding (mostly).
Laurel sped ahead of us, weaving around the few people up and active at seven-thirty in the morning, up to the sixth-year's list, skimming it quickly to find her name and Roxy's. Her finger froze high up on the list, and an astonished look spread over her face as Roxy and I joined her.
"She's going to freak, all right," Laurel gasped. "Look." I looked at what she was pointing to- her name, and Roxy's. Numbers three and four in the rankings. Rose had been knocked down to fifth.
Yeah, she's going to freak, all right. My guess was that the changes in rank had been based off of that one essay with almost no information in the main section of the library. It was a bit unfair to those who never explored beyond the main section, but we were sixth years and therefore had permission to go into the Restricted Section to look up stuff for class. That was where the information had been.
I grinned at Laurel and Roxy. "Congrats. Are you going to go and get big heads on me now that you're so high up on the list?"
Laurel snorted. "Hardly. Now come on, let's move before Rose gets down here." She turned around and raised her eyebrows at me. "She's going to blow up."
Half an hour later, the three of us were still in the Great Hall, nibbling on chocolate-covered doughnuts and hovering over a pad of paper. We had decided to brainstorm ideas for our next prank while waiting for our first class for two reasons- one, we could see the Great Hall and really plot out points where we could put spells for best effect. We had been in the Great Hall a million times before, of course, but none of us had photographic memories and things were always changing. Two, people had the tendency to talk about their dreams with their friends while at breakfast (unless Professor Trelawney was nearby, in which case they switched to the latest gossip), and people's dreams were an excellent source of ideas for pranks. We had Incorporated many a dream before into our pranks, and it was always amusing to see people say things like "But that was in that dream I had; remember?" or "Oh Merlin, my dreams are turning real!"
Three, if Rose was going to freak about the rankings, she can't do anything about it if we're in the Great Hall with hundreds of other students and professors. She does have a reputation to uphold, and though I suspect that the professors knew that Rose was nothing like her parents, they didn't know a fraction of it. I had heard other Ravenclaws in our year talking about how Rose bullied them in their common room or their dorm with subtle threats- making their homework or books go missing, sabotaging a date, mixing up their Potions ingredients, or making them unable to get a job by using her "connections". I think they're all most scared of that happening- not being able to get a job because they aggravated Rose- and they know that she's powerful, spell-wise.
There was a rush of people coming in the doors of the Great Hall, mostly younger students being ushered in by sixth and seventh years. I spotted James and waved; he waved back and made his way over to us, trying not to step on the shorter students as he did so. As soon as he reached us, he plopped down next to Roxy and reached across her for a couple slices of bacon, then promptly shoved then in his mouth.
Classy, James. Really.
He swallowed quickly, then looked up at us with a sheepish grin. "I'm hungry. I'm a teenage guy. Shut up." He started serving himself some hash browns, then suddenly looked up. "Um, do you guys happen to know why the sixth years were herding all the younger kids inside the Great Hall? I caught something about "for protection", but from what? Are the giant spiders attacking?"
We snickered. Typical James for that to be the first thing to come to mind. "No, but Rose might be, once she comes downstairs," Roxy said, trying to keep a straight face. She was failing miserably, the corner of her mouth twitching constantly.
James's eyebrows vanished behind his hair. "Ah. Went down on the list, did she?"
We nodded. James flinched theatrically, scrunching his face up into what could only be called "raisin mode". He opened his mouth to say something else, when a horrified screech came from the Entrance Hall. I nearly choked on my hot chocolate, and Laurel whacked me on the back heartily (which didn't help at all).
Raised voices floated into the Great Hall, then the sound of someone shushing somebody else. Everyone's eyes were on the doors as Albus and Sam came in, closely followed by Rose, whose face closely resembled a grape. It had quickly bypassed red and gone straight to purple. She was glaring, hard and angry, and pretty much everyone immediately turned back to their food or friends, pretending that they hadn't been staring.
The trio went up the aisle between the tables and sat down at the Ravenclaw table. Fortunately (or not) for us, the part they chose to sit at was the part with the fewest people...so it was right across the aisle and down a little from us, and we could hear almost every word of their conversation.
We weren't trying to eavesdrop, honest. Well, maybe a little bit. But if they hadn't sat where we could hear them, we wouldn't have, say, grabbed out Expendable Ears to listen.
"I don't understand how I could possibly be fifth," Rose hissed. I imagined her turning into a snake, her eyes going into slits. It wouldn't be much of a change, really. "They don't even study. It's so unfair."
Oy, we did so study! Perhaps not as much as Rose (we did have lives, after all) but we were occasionally spotted in the library, normally having a sock fight, but still. Using spells on our socks did count as practice. And it bugged Rose, which was fun.
But in all seriousness, we did study. We just used technology that was adapted to the magic atmosphere around Hogwarts. My Magik-comp let the three of us scan books into it, and then we could look up information from the search feature- much faster and easier. Another plus was being able to get information from a huge range of books- by this time, we had copied all but the Restricted Section books into the Magik-comp, plus most of the ones from my grandma's library and many from George Weasley's collection of joke-related books. It was a huge database, so of course we had more information in our essays than Rose Weasley ever could, even with her book-eating habits.
"Maybe that one essay- you know, the one where you had trouble finding information? Could they have found stuff for that somehow?" Albus's voice, the closest they had to a voice of reason in that group. He'd probably be brilliant if he didn't have Rose dragging him down.
She hissed in anger. "It's not fair. I work much harder than they ever do." She was steaming mad, and struggling not to explode.
"Rose, calm down, people are listening," Albus pleaded. I chanced a quick glance around; a lot of people were pretending not to listen, instead chewing food or facing the other direction. I think a lot of the Ravenclaws were enjoying Rose's meltdown. Normally, she had on this facade of being completely in control, and now that she was slipping...well, Rose had more than a few enemies in the Ravenclaw house.
"I'm not going to calm down," Rose snarled. "Those two don't deserve to have my rank. I study; they don't. I pay attention in class, they don't. I use all of my time wisely, studying, but they goof around and play quidditch! They don't deserve to be on that list, much less at the top."
Well, ouch. Not.
"Should we get going, while they're still here?" Roxy whispered. I nodded; we had been hanging out at breakfast for far too long. It had been semi-productive, as we got some new prank ideas, but right now we really didn't need to have Rose thinking that we're enjoying her misery (I mean, we kinda-not-really are, but not to the level she would think) and then getting an even bigger enemy out of her, if that's even possible. She's hated me since the first day, and ever since Laurel gained some measure of control over her powers and Roxy joined our group, she's hated them, too.
"What, and just leave me here, alone?" James looked slightly alarmed.
Roxy elbowed him in the gut, and James doubled over, gasping. "You've got friends waiting for you at the end of the table, James. You can get up and move down there by yourself, can't you? Or do you need help?"
"Rose's face is still red," Laurel hissed in my ear during Charms. "Any bets on how long it'll be that color?"
I glanced over to where Rose was sitting, taking careful notes on everything Flitwick was saying. Her face was indeed still a fierce red.
"An hour, at least," I whispered back. "Longer, if anybody reminds her of her fifth-spot position."
Roxy snorted. "Nah, people wouldn't be that stupid. Most people value their lives, Laurel, even if you don't."
Laurel looked affronted. "I do so value my life. I just think we were gypped out of some of our hard-earned entertainment."
Pfft. Hard-earned, my ass. Probably the only reason that they had passed up Rose was because of one essay for Transfiguration- the essay was on a topic with very little information available, and what little information existed was hard to find. As soon as the essay was assigned, Rose headed for the library. Laurel, Roxy, and I all headed for my Magik-comp. We were done within a couple hours. She was still searching in the library days later. We got O's on our essays. Rose, for what must have been the first time in her life, got an A. Apparently she hadn't found a very good source of information.
Which, all things considered, wasn't very surprising. The book we got the most information from was from the Restricted Section, where Ms. Priss never goes.
"It's amazing that Rose doesn't have a Magik-comp," Roxy said, apparently reading my mind. "I would have thought she would have the most up-to-date stuff for learning, but she's still stuck in the Dark Ages instead, with all those books."
I stifled a laugh. It came out as a loud snort instead. "Books are hardly the Dark Ages. And my Magic-comp is from Persia. My grandmother got it for me when she was there. And Britain doesn't trade with Persia, so the technology hasn't spread, because nobody talks with anybody there."
"Oh," Laurel said, suddenly understanding. "So she doesn't know about it? That explains so much!" She thought for a second, considering. "But doesn't Scorpius have one?"
"A Magic-comp? Of course. He asked my grandma if she could get one for him the next time she went traveling, and he would pay her back. He said that that way, he wouldn't have to keep asking me if he could borrow mine." I answered lazily, quickly jotting down notes on what Flitwick was saying. There was a short silence before Roxy spoke up again.
"Scorpius knows your grandma?"
"Of course," I replied, surprised. I thought they knew that. "Pureblood connections and all that. His mom recognized my grandma in Flourish and Bott's right before second year and they've been getting together for teas ever since." I flicked a couple drops of ink at them. "Now shut up and take notes, O ones of the higher grade points than Rose Weasley."
"That's not a very snappy nickname," Laurel grumbled. "Can't you think of a better one?"
I groaned. "Oh, shut up."
I have such snappy comebacks. I should get a prize or something.
A/N I apologise for the awful wait!!! I had this chapter written out for ages, but wasn't very happy with it until more recently.
I'm also trying to get a firmer hold on my plot bunny. I know how later parts of this story are going to go and even have one more or less written out in my head, but this particular part of the story is proving hard to write. I'm working on it, I promise.
And, as always- reviews are awesome.
Update- 9/9/12- As you may have noticed, I changed part of this chapter. I realized that I went over the line with one of my scenes, and what was supposed to be funny really wasn't at all. My mistake. I have re-written that part, and if anybody has suggestions of other scenes I should re-write (and why), please let me know! REVIEW. PLEASE.