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And Now A Word From Our Sponsors by TenthWeasley
Chapter 1: One
There is, as far as I can see, only one bad thing about Quidditch.
Whoever had the brilliant idea to start the season in the middle of bloody November should be cursed to Mars and back, because up here in the announcer's box I think I might be literally frozen to my seat. I can only imagine how the Gryffindors might feel right now, zooming around on their brooms as they are.
Yet another reason for me to be eternally grateful that I am bad at sports: I could never fly in this kind of cold.
"And F-foote passes to P-potter," I stammered, clenching the narrow golden microphone so tightly in my gloved hands that I absently thought I might snap it. "Brilliant m-move by the Chasers, and they're off t-toward the other end of the field."
“Miss Weasley!” The voice of Madam Hooch, the Quidditch referee, sliced through the air much more powerfully than the wind that was currently whistling past me, and I jumped, causing a loud clunk to sound through the stadium as my shoulder hit the microphone. She was looking sternly at me from halfway up the tiered seats circling the pitch.
“Do you have a mouth full of treacle?” she said, frowning. “Make your words clearer, or the players aren’t going to hear what you’re saying. I don’t want to have to search for a replacement commentator so soon after placing you in the post.”
“Right,” I called down to her, pressing my teeth together so they wouldn’t chatter and giving her what I hoped was a confident grin in spite of this. Although honestly, it might have looked more like an angry wolf baring its teeth. I really have no control over my facial expressions when my entire face feels like it’s going to fall off.
She just pursed her mouth further and snapped her goggles back over her yellow eyes, marching the rest of the way down to the turf.
“I hope you fall off your broom,” I added once she’d gone, mouth still clenched painfully in its half-grimace.
Madam Hooch and I had never seen eye to eye, which was possibly because she associated the name “Weasley” with “troublemaker”.
But despite the fact that my backside had gone completely numb, I turned back to the microphone. I concentrated hard on keeping my voice steady, and began to imagine myself someplace warmer. Lying on a beach somewhere off the Mediterranean coast, maybe, where I wouldn’t need this scarf wrapped up to my eyeballs.
“Kyle’s still scouting the posts for the Snitch, and it’s still anyone’s game!” I called dramatically, throwing my arms wide partly to show Madam Hooch I was capable of the job and partly to regain feeling in my limbs. I needed to be commentating the Quidditch matches – it was all I could see myself doing once I left school, and I needed the training now, since I was in my seventh and final year. Which was scary in itself, but that was another thing entirely.
“Tate narrowly dodges a Bludger aimed at him by Foote– and a pity, too, it could have really fixed that crooked nose.” Angus Tate, one of the Gryffindor Chasers, glared at me over his shoulder as he sped by.
I couldn’t help it: if I was going to have to commentate Quidditch practices so I could get practice in turn, then I was going to make them as lively as possible for myself.
Madam Hooch, however, didn’t seem to think highly of that plan. From down by the front row of the Gryffindor side of the stands, I could see her looking sharply in my direction, whistle already raised to blast in a reprimand. But thankfully, before it could pass her lips, another toll sounded – this one from the castle, signaling the beginning of dinner. Seven scarlet blurs swooped down and touched grass again, and I breathed a sigh of relief.
My post was safe for now.
By the time I reached the pitch from the commentator’s box, I was not only a bit warmer, but was one of the last to remain standing around. Everyone else had either gone off to shower or was already heading back up to the castle for dinner. Madam Hooch was still there, however, and she had roped my cousin Albus Potter into helping her pack the balls back in their crates. I watched, as this was always an amusing activity, although I felt no desire to pitch in.
Madam Hooch, having done this for more years than I cared to count, knew exactly what she was doing. With a quick, catlike leap she pounced upon the Bludger and tucked it back into its compartment, securing it with a thick chain and clicking the padlock closed. Albus, on the other hand, was having a bit more trouble with his Bludger; it kept making leaps for freedom, and he was doing a wild sort of ballet dance in his efforts to wrangle it under control.
He caught me watching him and graced me with an angry scowl, which I returned with a smile that was as cheerful as I could make it.
“You could help me, you know,” he snapped, trying to awkwardly hug the Bludger to his chest as it jumped into the air again.
“Not if you don’t ask nicely,” I said brightly, now examining a clod of dirt by my foot as though it were the most interesting thing in the world. Albus muttered a few words under his breath, and the only one I heard I knew he was most definitely not allowed to say around his parents. I kicked absently at the dirt, purposefully avoiding my cousin’s eyes.
“What would your parents say about your language?” I said lightly, pretending to be affronted. “I have half a mind to go right to the Owlery –“
“Please, then,” he said finally, grunting a little and nearly planting his face square in the grass.
I knelt beside him, happy to oblige now that I’d had a little fun at his expense, and wrapped my hands around the Bludger. Together we forced it into the compartment beside its mate, securing it firmly with the chain. Albus wiped a bit of sweat off his forehead despite the chill wind that was still blowing through the stadium.
“You’re welcome,” I said pointedly, rising and brushing the grass from my robes. A voice behind us made me jump quite suddenly; I’d rather forgotten Madam Hooch was still there.
“Weasley, did you have to make a jab at every single player on the team?” she said, her mouth once more puckered sourly. This time, though, it looked as though she was trying to hide a smile. I tried to look demure and repentant, although mentally I congratulated myself on that excellent aside about Angus. “We do not need another Lee Jordan on our hands,” she added, suddenly firm again. I cast my eyes about as though looking for the scoundrel she was talking to.
“Potter, I grant you haven’t forgotten about the captain’s meeting tonight,” she added, turning now to Albus, who shook his head and puffed out his chest slightly. He’d nearly done cartwheels when the badge had arrived in his school letter last July; I knew the captain’s position would go to his head.
“And I want you there too, Weasley. The commentator should meet the team leaders, get a feel for who she’ll be talking about,” she said, and Albus’s chest deflated quickly – he was no longer more important than I was. The older woman gave us each a brief nod and then turned on her heel, heading toward the broom shed on the opposite side of the pitch.
I stared after her, frowning slightly.
“What’s a captain’s meeting?” I asked. I’d never heard of such a thing before in my life.
Albus shot me a look that obviously insinuated I was touched in the head. “It’s a meeting. For, erm, captains,” he said, speaking more slowly than normal as though he wanted to make sure I’d understand him. I frowned again.
“I’d worked that out, thanks,” I said, wondering if I could somehow kick him in the back of the knee without him seeing it coming. Al and I started back up the sloping lawn toward the castle for dinner. I was still wondering why I had to go to the stupid meeting anyway, and Al keeping silent as usual. He wasn’t ever really good company when it was just the two of us.
Just inside the entrance hall, however, Al’s face brightened considerably. I looked around to see why he’d cheered up so suddenly, and smirked. My best friend and Al’s girlfriend, Pippa Teagues, was standing by the doors into the Great Hall, and was obviously waiting for either one or both of us.
“Hey,” Albus grinned at her, and gave her a quick kiss. I made a gagging sound and mimed sticking my finger down my throat and he scowled at me again.
Pippa giggled, looping her arm through my cousin’s.
“Practice go well?” she asked lightly, leading us inside to take our places at the Gryffindor table.
“Other than Rose verbally bashing all my players, it went great,” he said.
“You’ve heard how she reads the announcements every morning – did you expect that to change in her Quidditch commentary?” Pippa said.
It was true. Every morning for the past three school years, I’d read out the announcements before the first class period, and always tried to make them as fun as possible. Mornings were horrid enough without having to hear about the next Gobstones Club meeting, and it was my duty to rid the day of as much boredom as possible. They’re only my opinions, after all, and can I help it if I think Scorpius Malfoy is an arrogant git?
I tried to shift my focus back to dinner, and away from thoughts of Scorpius Malfoy. I didn’t want to eat on an upset stomach.
I sat down at the table across from my brother Hugo, who was talking to our cousin Fred about the upcoming Quidditch season. Like me, Hugo can’t play the sport to save his life, but he’s absolutely obsessed with it. I think Dad was a bit let down to find out that neither of his kids were good Quidditch players, but we just blame Mum’s genes.
Although we inherited Dad’s genes for laziness in school, too, so that was just rotten luck on their part.
As I took my seat, he quickly stuffed something under his jumper, giving me a brief sideways look before acting like I hadn’t shown up at all.
“What are you doing?” I asked, frowning.
Hugo had a sneaky streak a mile wide and twice as deep, especially pertaining to anything about the inter-House Quidditch rivalries, and whatever he was doing, it was most definitely against the rules. He pretended like he hadn’t heard me and resumed talking to Fred, although it was now a one-sided conversation, as Fred was much too interested in the sibling confrontation to talk a great deal.
I cleared my throat.
“Hugo. What do you have under your jumper?”
“But I knew you’d make Beater,” he said loudly, his ears turning bright pink as he spoke. “Uncle George was too good for you not – OW! Merlin, Rosie!”
I’d kicked his shin hard under the table, knowing it was the only way he’d even pretend I was there. I held out my hand wordlessly, and scowling deeply, he withdrew a rather crumpled piece of parchment and thrust it at me ungratefully. I scanned it quickly.
“Where did you get these?” I gasped, and it was Hugo’s turn to kick me. I looked more closely at what I was holding, which seemed to be a copy of the Hufflepuff Quidditch team’s tactics for the upcoming season.
“Nicked ‘em off Quince Clarkwell, in my Charms class,” said my brother, looking pleased with himself. “I was going to give them to Al tonight, to help out with stuff.”
“Hugo, I guarantee you these are fakes,” I said, ripping the parchment straight down the middle. Hugo lunged for it, upsetting the bottle of ketchup all over his trousers. He swore loudly, and if looks could kill, I would have dropped dead in an instant.
“But what if they weren’t - ?”
“It is no secret that you like to play spy for the Gryffindor team,” I said, giving him one of my best glares – Mum had taught me well. “Everyone remembers when you got caught spying on Ravenclaw last year and ended up hanging from the banister by your shoelaces.”
Hugo turned bright red.
“Quince probably put them out so you’d take them on purpose,” I finished, handing him the shredded remains of the so-called tactics. Hugo took them gently, as though mourning their loss, and I could tell he still didn’t wholly believe me.
“Let’s go, Rose,” Al called suddenly from my right, standing up from where he’d been sitting next to Pippa. I whipped my head around, spitting out a mouthful of hair that flew straight into my mouth.
“Why?” I said. “We’ve only just sat down.”
“Captain’s meetings start before dinner ends,” he said, using that same tone of voice he’d adopted earlier, the one that made it sound as if he was talking to a three-year-old. “Makes it so we don’t miss curfew. Now come on. You’re not going to make me late.”
Pippa gave me an apologetic look as I stood up, and blew a great bubble with a wad of Drooble’s Blowing Gum. She was absolutely addicted to the stuff – I couldn’t remember the last time I hadn’t seen her chewing or blowing bright blue bubbles. It was a disgusting habit, but then again, she was the one who had snagged a bloke.
Not that I wanted to snag Albus. Even if he weren’t my cousin, the boy was five feet and eleven-and-a-quarter inches of gross.
“See you later,” I muttered, and followed my cousin out of the Great Hall. We headed back outside and in the direction of the pitch once more, where Madam Hooch had her office.
We weren’t late, as Albus had feared, but we weren’t the first to arrive, either. I stopped right in the entrance to the room, causing him to run into me, as I observed who else was in the room.
“Hey, Cheeseley!” Scorpius Malfoy’s voice was the most annoying thing on the planet – the sound of it drove me to madness.
I sneered to the best of my ability and walked into the room. The chairs were arranged in a circle, presumably for the meeting. I took the one opposite Scorpius, in order to be as far from him as possible.
“Loved the announcements this morning,” he said sarcastically, wearing a sneer of his own now. “What was it you called me again?”
“A pimple on a baby giant’s backside,” I said, not being able to keep a note of pride from my voice. In order to keep the announcements at their current level of fun, I’d taken to insulting Scorpius every once in a while – not predictably, of course , but often enough to keep him on his toes. It was fun for me, and for everyone else who thought Scorpius as much of a git as I did. Unfortunately, as he’d taken the slot as Hogwarts’s resident heartthrob, most people ignored the snide comments and remarks. But it was still a source of great amusement.
“You’re funny, Rose,” he said, shaking his head exaggeratedly. “Where do you come up with this stuff?”
I crossed my eyes at him just as Madam Hooch reappeared in the room. She looked at me confusedly and then shook her head, deciding ignoring me was the best strategy. By this time, though, both the captains from the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw teams had arrived, and the meeting started.
I slumped down into my seat, trying to get comfortable. Let the boredom commence.
Night had already fallen when Al and I finally started to make our way back to the Gryffindor common room, and he was in an even worse mood than he had been when I’d made him use his manners after Quidditch practice.
“All right, you were bored,” he was saying testily, refusing to look anywhere but at me. “But did you have to fall asleep?”
“It was for, like, five seconds, Al. And if you’d be so kind as to remove that wand from up your –”
Admittedly, I wasn’t in such a great mood myself. I’d completely forgotten that Scorpius Malfoy was captain of the Slytherin Quidditch team, and commentating on their games this year could potentially be problematic. Madam Hooch surely wouldn’t stand for all the antics I pulled on him during the morning announcements – would she?
I suddenly started to smile, thinking how I could use this to my advantage. More chances to exploit Scorpius meant more humiliation for him, and that was worth Madam Hooch blustering at me any day.
Albus finally glanced at me and, catching the smirk on my face, asked me what the matter was.
“Evil plans,” I responded in what I hoped was a mysterious voice. Evidently it wasn’t, though, because Al just snorted.
“Plotting to sneak into the Slytherin dorm and take Scorpius’s underwear while he’s at dinner isn’t evil. Besides, about a hundred girls have tried it before you.”
I looked at him as though he’d just kissed a Blast-Ended Skrewt.
“I don’t want to steal his underwear,” I said scathingly. “I want to steal his dignity.”
Although stealing his underwear wasn’t such a bad idea, really.
But Al just snorted again.
“I saw the way you two kept shooting looks at each other. Either you want to kill him or there’s something else going on there, and you’re not the murdering sort, Rosie.”
By this point we had reached the portrait of the Fat Lady outside the Gryffindor common room, and Al said, “Blood pops.”
The portrait swung open, and he clambered through. I, however, remained rooted to the spot.
What Al had just said was ridiculous. Me, looking at Scorpius Malfoy in any way other than pure hatred? Absurd. I could get past his good looks and evident muscles and see him for the git he really was. I wasn’t like all the other girls.
Scorpius Malfoy had better prepare himself for Quidditch commentaries from hell.
A/N: Brand-new story! I'm quite excited about this one, and it's nearly done on my computer, so hopefully updates shouldn't be too long in coming. Massive thanks to Gina and Gubby and Annie for being my go-to crew on this one -- I owe you three a lot!
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