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Chapter 1: To Tree or Not to Tree
I never get into trouble.
I could make such a statement last year. For obvious reasons, such as: never getting into trouble. Not in the teacher’s pet/’I’ve never received a detention in my life’ manner that is usually acquainted with such a statement. I only had a knack for keeping out of harm’s way. I wasn’t in the habit of being victimised by rumours, pranks never came into season and there was never much fun to be harvested from giving me a hard time as no one knew me well enough for it to be even mildly entertaining.
However abandoning the preliminaries, I was just rather good at not standing out, which sounds faintly less impressive, and could from some perspectives be viewed as depressing. Nevertheless, it wasn’t me you saw being fed to the giant squid or being pitched into pools of tangy sludge.
Trouble takes many forms, I consider most Slytherins to be personifications of trouble, baby deatheaters in the process of evolving into creatures much worse – the big scary textbook deatheaters themselves. Then we have Quidditch royalty, who are a little less sick-minded but still have a somewhat gargantuan appetite for damaging a person’s self-esteem for life. Within the Gryffindor Kingdom, James Potter, Sirius Black and Dora Feaver are frequent conductors of such social massacres, though there are many other offenders taking up residence in the other houses also.
Rule one: Don’t try too hard. Severus – my greasy haired friend of six years is not so good at this. He is way too obvious. Mopping about, glaring at everyone. I mean, the greasy hair does a spectacular job on its own.
My guiding principle to keeping out of trouble:
Be a tree.
In a forest.
(Metaphorically of course)
I had given this a lot of thought. As a first year featuring a coating of puppy fat, a weighty seasoning of ache and a glowing, orange mop of hair – or carrot fur, as Dora Feaver ingeniously christened it during my first few days of Hogwarts – I had a lot to kindle me towards this life-direction. I was the traditional beat-me-up material and avoiding being beaten up became my one ambition in life.
Over time, I progressively grew out of all three of these unwanted characteristics and could at long last identify myself as the average looking tree I always aspired to be.
Now I say last year I could make such statements. This now, is regrettably no longer the case. I broke a rule I made for myself, a rule which went something along the lines of not attracting attention. And I am sure, most would certainly say, trying out for the Quidditch team, being hit by a faulty bludger and knocked unconscious was one of the things I would have previously listed under the title of acts that could attract attention.
So why did you do it? Is the great question, and if anyone actually cared enough to ask, I would answer with a theatrical sigh, a look of a wise, old woman of many lessons learnt, and say that I was being delusional, I was dreaming, in an unhealthy, un-tree like manner. In my heart – melodramatic pause—I just no longer wanted to be a tree.
So what did you want to be? – The person who cared enough to ask would ask once again.
I wanted to be Quidditch Royalty. Not because I wanted the license to perform social slaughter as so many other Quidditch players allegedly privileged their selves with once making the team. I just wanted to fly. I wanted to dig up my roots, shake off my branches, grow wings and soar into the thundering sounds of stadium cheers. Unfortunately all I managed to soar into was a concussion.
Now what makes mistakes so horrible is that often the aftershock tends to follow a few months, weeks or as it was for me – days later. The so called aftershock of my mistake came in the form of Marlene McKinnon: Gryffindor’s Quidditch keeper and Queen of the Gryffindor deck, who, despite her sunshine demeanour is not to be trusted on any levels.
She lures you in with her ‘I’m sorry about you being hit by a rogue bludger’ and her ‘everyone feels really bad about it. How about we make it up to you by giving you a private tryout?’ and then she personally hurls you into the lion’s den.
Which is where I am right now – barricaded in by a circle of Gryffindor Quidditch players in Dora Feaver’s direct line of attack as she is told that I will be replacing her as a resident chaser on the Quidditch team.
Last year I could make some pretty amazing claims. Now I may not be the sharpest knife in the potions cabinet but I think I am intelligent enough to gather that there are, perhaps, a couple of things, I cannot say anymore.
I never get into trouble?
There are a few things telling me the life where I could say that is over, Dora Feaver’s death glare seemingly being one of them.
“Are you mad?” Dora questions me as though the whole thing is my idea. My heart is hammering in my chest, hot blood curdles in my cheeks. This is a good opportunity to start speaking; however brain and body are having one of their little Saturday squabbles and are thus refusing to collaborate with one another.
“It’s been decided Dora.” Marlene answers her in honey glazed tones. I fight the feeling of hate that is gradually getting heavier the more I get to know Marlene. She has the irksome convention to say the exact opposite of what I want her to say.
Dora is staring at me as though no one is here but the both of us. More excuses fizzle in my throat and still no words come out. My voice has an unfortunate tendency to stop working during moments of stress. My divination skills however are usually unaffected and as of this moment – being still completely intact – are assuring me that a slow, painful death is going to happen any moment now.
An unknowing onlooker to this situation would speculate what I am making such a fuss about. Dora from the outside doesn’t look like the peril I am making her out to be. She is shorter than me, with a frame of body that comes across younger than it is. Covered head to toe with a storm of freckles, her mouth is too wide for her face and her milky-brown, fluffy hair is the only thing that gives her a somewhat cute appeal. And yet, anyone who knows Dora would never describe her as something average, as beneath her commonplace appearance is a sharp, influential persona very few would dare to challenge.
Other than Marlene McKinnon of course, though her danger alarm systems appear to be in the need of some urgent renovating.
“Would you care to explain to me how this has been decided?” Dora replies, finally turning her attention to Marlene.
“Certainly,” I can hear the sunshine in Marlene’s voice, I psychologically beg her to make some effort to cover it.
“I am sorry to say but your performance on the team last year has been unsatisfactory and despite repeated warnings you have failed to step to the bar…”
Lovely start, I can see that this is going to go well.
“…Now, I may not be the captain this year, but I laid it out straight to James, either you are replaced or he will have to find himself a new keeper, because I’m no longer prepared to dedicate myself to a team who turns a blind eye to incompetent players.”
Someone. kill me.
“I honestly hadn’t planned on doing this. I’d spotted Lily practising for tryouts and thought without a doubt she would have made the team instead of you. Unfortunately there was an accident that endeared her unable to perform. However, considering the state of events I decided to give it one last shot with working with you on the team. However, your lack of dedication to this team has remained un-changed, your tardiness is as severe as ever and your attitude towards practise has worsened.”
Oh don’t come near me. Marlene lays her hand on my shoulder, to further (unnecessarily) highlight my part in her narrative. Dora once again basks me in her painful glower.
“So I made a deal with James, if Lily’s skills are better than yours she will be your replacement. James and I tested her out ourselves. She is more than suitable for the team. I’m sorry I had to do this Dora.”
Dora and I for one moment look as though we are in agreement, that we both think that Marlene doesn’t seem to be the least bit sorry at all.
Silence sours in the team. I take the opportunity to steal a quick glance around. My eyes firstly land on Dorcas Meadow’s a curly haired 6th year chaser, her face is somewhat troubled but otherwise blank. I move onto Fabian and Gideon Prewett, the fourth year twin brothers, beater and seeker respectively, staring awkwardly down at their feet. Sirius Black, the other beater, stands alongside them. He has his hands linked behind his head, soft black liquid tresses border his handsome face as he lofts back in gentle amusement, shaking his head a though he can’t quite believe what is going on.
I finally turn my gaze towards James Potter, the new captain this year as he stands adjacent to the group. His tall lean figure is almost fully turned away. Like Black, Potter is known for his carefree attitude and sense of humour. His roguish hazel eyes and teasing smile give him the look of a boy who has never had a serious thought in his life. And yet he doesn’t even say a word to his own team as he grimly flanks the group, refusing to take away or add to anything Marlene has said.
“This is ridiculous.”Black scoffs suddenly. Finally, a man who speaks some sense.
Marlene’s smile does not falter. “What is ridiculous Sirius?”
“This whole thing. You can’t just replace Dora with some person we don’t even know.” Black shakes his head, smiling wirily.
“You know Lily,” Marlene answers in a sweetheart tenor, giving me a nudge forward as though I am new kid at playgroup.
“Dora was on the team last year, Dora made the team this year and that’s the way it is. So why doesn’t Evans make her way back to house and we can all get on with practise.” Black wipes imaginary dust from his clean robes.
Marlene takes a moment to gather her thoughts, her good mood slowly diminishing as she purses her lips. Finally, she flips her golden mane over her shoulder and seemingly comes to a decision.
I breathe a sigh of relief.
Black looks surprised for a moment. “Okay—“
“Then I’m leaving.” The wind knocks out of me and I start coughing.
Black runs a hand down his face, ignoring my coughing fit. “For Merlin’s sake Marley…”
“It’s your choice.” Marlene stubbornly crosses her arms.
“Oh for Merlin’s– Don’t tell me you agreed to this?” He turns his attention to James Potter, who progressively turns and graces us all with glum presence.
“What can I do?” Potter grumbles, rubbing the back of his neck “you heard her, she’s threatening to leave the team—“
Marlene glares impatiently at Potter. “Oh don’t be like that James, you know as well as I do that Dora’s performance has been awful and if you don’t do something about her now you will only have to do it later. I’m doing you a favour—“
“You just stabbed her in the back and you think you are doing us a favour? I know you two haven’t always been the best of friends but who knew you were such a Slytherin!”
“Fine Sirius, why don’t you make the decision right now then, either Dora goes or I’m leaving. Whatever you decide is fine by me! Because I’m not wasting my last years of Hogwarts on her by any means!” Marlene huffs and crosses her arms tenaciously once more.
Black is a deer caught in headlights. Dora watches him but it soon becomes apparent his side of the argument has dropped, she then moves her gaze over to every other player of the team, waiting for someone to vote her back. Instead she is met only with cast down eyes.
Marlene beams and shoots a triumphant look in Dora’s direction.
“I can’t believe this,” Dora shakes her head at Potter. “I can’t believe you agreed to this James.”
“I didn’t agree. Marlene issued an ultimatum.” Potter sullenly directs his comment at Marlene as she rolls her eyes back in response.
“What’s the difference?” Dora retorts incredulously, looking hurt in a way I have never seen her before, though it is no secret that she has had her eyes set of Potter for quite a while.
“I’m sorry Dora, you know this is something I didn’t want to do. But as a captain, I just can’t afford to lose Marlene.” Potter looks up for the first time, “you can still come to practise and if you start performing better maybe Marley will—“
“You think I still want to be part of practise?” Dora interrupts, taking a harsher tone. “While watching her take up my position.”
Dora looks as though she had really wanted to refer to me as ‘it’ not ‘her’. She turns to me with silent ferocity and I think my heart stops. “You have some nerve being a part of all this Evans.”
“I don’t want to hear your petty excuse.”
“That’s enough now Dora, you know you really haven’t got anyone to blame but yourself.” Marlene coos sweetly and I suppress the urge to strangle her to death.
“You’re taking this too far Marley” Black interjects, wiping the victorious look of Marlene’s face.
“Oh shut up Sirius. I gave you a choice.”
“No that’s enough Marley,” Potter says finally, looking tired and drained. He fluidly flips his broom up to rest on his shoulder. “The conversation ends here, there will be no practise today.”
“Hang on James—“
“No Marley, I say the conversation is over, return to house” Potter sends one last resentful look Marlene’s way before turning on his heel and walking back to the castle. Dora’s face twists in anger at the turning of Potter’s back and I realise the extent to which she has been holding back her emotions may be a lot greater than I had thought..
“Well that went well!” Marlene sings at me, when we are all that is left. I can’t work out whether she is being serious or not. “Welcome to the team Lily.”
I swallow numbly, a part of me wanting to cry.
Goodbye my peaceful tree life.