Chapter 4 : Splotchy and Thankless
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Splotchy and Thankless
Everything was great as soon as I was made Seeker. Perfect. I don’t think Oliver had ever been happier, especially with me. It was suddenly like he was so proud to be my friend; like I was the one with the fan club, and the school records for Quidditch. Yes, that next day was wonderful.
People heard about the new replacement for Harry and said, “Corie Crittenden? Who is that?”
“Does she even go to this school?”
“Maybe she’s a first-year.”
“You have to be at least a second-year to play Quidditch, you idiot.”
Then Oliver stepped in and grinned at all the girls, and they blushed and giggled and managed shy hellos. But he would still answer their questions with, “Corie Crittenden is a ruddy fantastic friend of mine, and I expect all of you to be at the game cheering for both of us.”
When he saw me, in classes or in the brightly lit hallways, he pulled me close under his arm or gave a manly slap on the back, and I felt all of the girls’ glaring eyes. I believe that was the only time that anyone was jealous over me, but I couldn’t really see what they had to worry about. He wasn’t giving me the kind of affection they clawed for.
Oliver was never really a gentle person, even with me. We never flirted and made innuendos about each other or looked at each other in other ways. I don’t think we really wanted to do that, though. It would’ve ruined a lot of history, and things that had never been awkward before would suddenly be unbearable.
He was never gentle with me the way he was with Penelope Clearwater, for the few weeks they dated. Even that placidity was mostly her doing. He just… wasn’t a gentle pushover. It wasn’t Oliver.
So, like I said, that first day was wonderful, blissful, great.
Then everything somehow managed to go downhill. And when I say ‘go,’ I don’t mean it was a gradual decrease towards a less happy place. It was like everything just tripped over its own feet and plummeted down a ninety-degree hill, hitting some rocks and small animals along the way.
All of that happened about when the game rolled around.
Oliver was being extremely cocky and didn’t even ask me to come to practise, though I did fly about the castle that day to get the feeling back. He was convinced that Gryffindor would beat Slytherin, regardless of the odds, and that I wouldn’t even have to worry about the Snitch. After all, “Malfoy is the worst Seeker I’ve ever seen, and the team has no tactics. They just go at it. Like ravenous, ugly boars…” and so on.
So were the words of Captain Wood.
The morning of the game I couldn’t even eat. My fried eggs and sausage links stared up at me, cooling on the golden plate. If I even glanced at them, I felt sick. Nerves hadn’t been a problem before because schoolwork was taking up so much of my time. Then it was the morning of the game. It was like everything suddenly just hit me, and I found myself hours away from flying—on a broom—around a quidditch pitch, chasing the Snitch—a virtually impossible-to-find, golden walnut—in front of the entire school.
The Great Hall was bright, sunshine drifting in through the windows and reflecting off of the glittering silverware. The tables soaked in the light, the wood appearing to be a shade brighter. Cheerful, excited talk of the match echoed around the room, students dressed in Gryffindor red-and-gold or the very occasional Slytherin green-and-silver.
Suddenly, Oliver sat down to my left, jarring the table. “Hey Cor.”
I groaned a hello and pushed my plate away.
“Oh, Merlin, they’re serving sausage!” he exclaimed, overly-excited, and grabbed mine from my plate to cram it into his mouth.
I nearly vomited.
After he had successfully annihilated the sausage, he turned to me and grinned widely. “What’s wrong, nervous?”
I raised my frizzy head to look at him, and he only smiled wider, the sun shining on him and only further heightening his sunny disposition. “You know, my first game—”
“A Bludger hit your head and you woke up in the hospital two weeks later,” I recited. He was not, in any way, helping my situation. I took a weak sip of hot apple cider.
Oliver frowned. “Oh. Right.” There was a pause, and he seemed to be troubled with what he wanted to say next. “Erm, Corie, I guess should thank…”
Before he finished, the three Chasers loudly announced their entrance to the Great Hall, their laughter bouncing of the soaring ceiling. They received only a few Slytherin boos. As soon as they entered through the great oak doors, Oliver leaped up from his spot and ran to them.
I watched him incredulously for a moment before rolling my eyes and turning around. How could he just leave me like that, on a note like that, in my time of despair?
“Whatever,” I grumbled.
Artemis was across from me before I’d even realized it. “I had to shove myself between Angelina and Wood to get here,” she said as she sat down. Her thin, wavy hair was pulled up into a careless bun, and she had toothpaste in the corner of her mouth.
I didn’t say anything. I was too nervous to speak.
“You’ll do fine,” she said somewhat-reassuringly, having one of her rare encouraging moments. The corners of her mouth twitched in a small smile. Before I had long to think that she really meant it, Evan sat down in Oliver’s empty spot and Artemis fought a scowl.
My hands were trembling by the time we got to the pitch, while on the other hand, Oliver was being as cocky as ever. In the locker rooms I tried to lace up my boots for the third time, only to somehow suddenly forget how. With an angry grumble I tapped my shoe with my wand and the laces snaked around each other until they were a double-knotted bow.
Katie Bell sat next to me on the rickety bench between the rows of lockers. This was a surprise; we’d never exchanged more than a few words. When I met her brown eyes she smiled a little.
I shrugged, noticing that she was having a hard time meeting my eyes. I assumed it was a nervous habit of hers; she kept glancing over my shoulder.
“I’m more nervous than anything,” I said with a tittering laugh.
When she didn’t laugh, I cleared my throat and managed to tie my other boot. Katie didn’t reply, and only kept looking behind me. Finally I turned to see what she was staring at.
Oliver and Angelina were talking, and she was rather close. I rolled my eyes and when I looked back at Katie she was blushing.
“Thinking about girls at a time like this,” I muttered, my voice still quavering with nervousness. I stood up to retrieve my robes.
As soon as I opened my locker, there was a small explosion, a cloud of smoke, and the most awful smell that I’d ever had the displeasure of experiencing.
Fred and George Weasley appeared out of nowhere and erupted in to laughter. I couldn’t really find any humour in the situation, and noticed that Katie was hiding a smile behind her hand. After the twins slapped me on the back several times in what I suppose was meant to be a jovial manner, they returned to their lockers without so much as an apology.
All of my quidditch robes were covered in black stains from the smoke. They contrasted against the deep red of the fabric. It looked like I had dropped them in a fireplace.
I groaned and looked to Oliver, expecting him to come down on the twins like he would for anyone else. He was looking at me distractedly, like he was in the middle of a thought and not really registering what his eyes were taking in.
I made a frantic gesture as if to say, “well?” but he had already turned around and was continuing his conversation with Angelina. My jaw dropped.
When I turned around, Katie was gone. She was talking with Fred and George, who were still cackling about the whole thing.
I felt my face turn several shades of red. She was in on it, wasn’t she? Alicia was laughing openly as well, hanging on George—or was it Fred?—like she was about to collapse.
The whole team was laughing at me and my best friend was ignoring me for a pretty girl. I wanted to hex Oliver Wood into oblivion. But I pride myself in being sensible, and sucked in a breath, retrieving my robes from the depths of the smoking locker.
I cast another side-glance at Angelina and Oliver. They were still standing close together, and she was showing him… her ring, was it? Something on her finger. But it seemed to me like an excuse to touch each other, as their hands were busy in each other’s.
The door opened and someone stuck their head in to tell us we had ten minutes. Oliver looked up sharply around the room. Everybody was dressed but me.
“Corie, come on, get your robes on!” he exclaimed. “I want everybody sitting here in front of me two minutes from now.”
“Go, Corie!” cried Fred—or George, whichever, they were both being insufferable gits. He began chanting that phrase and clapping.
I felt my face heating as the others laughed quietly, and I stalked off to the changing room with my stained robes. I didn’t know any charms for cleaning them off the top of my head. I would just have to wear smoke-stained robes. In front of the entire school.
The great groan I gave hardly sufficed to explain my thoughts.
Ten minutes later, after a pep talk—which had turned more into threats of “If we can’t even beat those bloody Slytherins…”—we all stood in the long tunnel before the pitch, waiting to enter. The sun was bright and the crowd of students were chattering loudly. I slowly inched my feet away from the edge of sunlight pouring in beneath the roof of the tunnel, like it would put off the match.
I was positively miserable.
Oliver was next to me, and did a double-take at my attire. “Corie, what happened to your robes?”
The twins slowly sunk away from his side, back behind the others. Fighting the urge to tell him everything, I knew that would only get him angry and riled up before a game, which wasn’t good.
Last time that happened was the day of a Gryffindor versus Hufflepuff match. I told him that Cedric Diggory had tried looking at his playbook during breakfast—which he had. Oliver put him in the infirmary for a week with an “accidental” Quaffle to the stomach.
Before I could reply to Oliver, Lee Jordan’s booming voice exclaimed, “All hail the Gryffindor team!” and I was shoved out onto the pitch.
Stumbling, I was the last one to mount my broom, and was sure I heard the students laugh. Last in line, I managed to circle around the pitch once, ignoring the loud Slytherin booing.
Lee went on, his words a messy jumble. Then I heard, “And replacing the legendary Harry Potter as Seeker is Carly Crittenden!”
Only a few people noticed the mistake, something I might be grateful for.
Lee went on to further crush my slowly dissipating morale. “Will she be able to keep up with the other players? It seems matching in comparison to the famous Harry Potter is out of the question, but let’s hope she does all right! She’s Gryffindor, how bad can she be? There she is, over there! The one last in line, in the spotted robes!”
I think that was the only example of when Lee Jordan made fun of his own team. The Weasley twins whirred by, laughing once again at their oh-so-spectacular trick they pulled.
Suddenly we were in our places, and it dawned on me that I had absolutely no right to be on that field.
Draco Malfoy, the Slytherin Seeker, was sneering at me. The little brat. In fact, all of Slytherin seemed to be glowering in my direction. With a sinking feeling, I realized that the best thing for them to do would be to take out the Seeker.
I gave a pathetic whimper, sinking low onto my broom.
Before I knew what was happening, Madam Hooch blew the whistle and the Quaffle was tossed.
I’m unable to recount exactly what happened during the game, as it was all a whir of red and green and Bludgers. Slytherin was doing their best to mutilate me, but luckily, I’d only taken one hit to the shoulder and back, courtesy of that heinous Marcus Flint boy. Thankfully Fred and George had decided that the time for pulling pranks had ended, and they practically became my bodyguards for the game. The Chaser girls didn’t even seem to need guarding, as they were quick enough to evade any hit Slytherin tried to make.
Gryffindor’s defence was spread evenly, and I wondered if Oliver had given the twins a talk about making sure I wasn’t annihilated.
I know that I only saw the Snitch once—I don’t think Malfoy saw it at all—toward the very end of the game, and by that time it didn’t matter. We were one goal away from winning, and the Gryffindor Chasers pulled a Porskoff Ploy that sent the crowd into screaming applause. We won the game. It was more relief than victory for me, I realized, as I exhaled a loud sigh of relief at the sound of the loud bell.
I hardly registered the screaming and cheering of the crowd.
I reached the ground with the others and stood awkwardly to the side, as everyone hugged each other and cheered. I waited there for a thank you from Oliver, for practically killing myself out there on the field for him, looking ridiculous in my splotchy robes. At last we all headed back to the locker rooms, and I remained splotchy and thankless.
After we had changed and Oliver gave his ending speech, which was cut off by Fred and George telling him to “shut up, we bloody won! Let’s celebrate!” And apparently they did.
I left to put my things in my locker, and when I returned Oliver was running off with the Chaser girls, his arm slung around their shoulders. Fred and George were soon to follow, and the door shut behind everyone, leaving the locker room unbelievably still.
Oliver finally found the time to speak with me, hours later, once we had returned to the common room. The others were still out roaming the castle, but I had an Ancient Runes extra credit essay to write. I didn’t need the extra credit; I had the highest marks in that class for seventh years—Hermione held the highest overall—but it was an excuse to stay inside.
Besides, Oliver and Angelina probably want time alone.
It had started raining lightly earlier, and the common room was the cosiest place I could think to be. A fire crackled in the hearth, and it was vacant other than for me. My record player was next to me playing softly; Hey Jude by The Beatles.
I was on my concluding paragraph when the door opened and Oliver strode in, looking as cocky as ever. He was surprisingly alone.
“Corie,” he said as soon as he saw me. He didn’t sound very happy.
I didn’t look up at him; I had been expecting a lecture as soon as the game was over. Because I hadn’t been productive enough with catching the Snitch.
“I don’t think you were being very productive during the match,” said Oliver.
There it is.
Still, I didn’t look up from my parchment. Slowly dipping my quill in ink, I said, “I’m writing an essay.”
I was used to the somewhat-condescending ego Oliver adapted once Quidditch season rolled around, and it came as no surprise. He stood there, stewing for a moment, until I heard him humming softly to the music—he didn’t have a bad voice—and he plopped down on a fluffy armchair and watched me.
“So let it out and let it in, hey Jude, begin. You’re waiting for someone to perform with…”
At last, I gave in and met his eyes.
There was a hint of a smile on his face. “Really, what happened to your robes?”
“Fred and George,” I retorted, still angry with them.
He suppressed a snort and after a pause, came to sit next to me on the couch. “I’ll make them run laps or something,” he assured with his usual grin, and I finally smiled.
Messing up my already-messy hair, he asked, “So was that not the most amazing experience you’ve ever had?”
“It was quite an experience, all right,” I agreed with a hint of sarcasm.
“Thanks, Cor,” he finally said. “I owe you one.”
Oliver laughed and leaned back leisurely. “Merlin, a victory is the best feeling in the world.”
He said that a lot, and I couldn’t help but smile. “And it’s going to be certain, once Harry gets back on his broom. The new potions are supposed to be here soon, right?”
I heaved a sigh of relief. That would mean no more matches, definitely. Within seconds I had forgiven him for being so stupid around Angelina and for not killing Fred and George for their prank. I settled back onto the couch next to him, deciding that for a first and only Quidditch match, it hadn’t been that bad.
Neither of us knew that the potions wouldn’t be coming.
A/N: Cliffhangers are quite exciting to write. :) Thanks so much to everyone who’s reviewed thus far. It really means a lot, and I love hearing from you guys! Thanks so much!