Chapter 5 : Trial Without Error
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Trial Without Error
On Saturday morning at eleven o'clock, a small cluster of girls could be seen crossing the Hogwarts grounds to the Quidditch pitch. Three had brooms perched against their shoulders and were garbed in makeshift Quidditch jerseys. Though none of their party would admit to it, their accoutrements had been scavenged from various family members during the holidays, none of whom knew their belongings were to disappear until the following summer.
Sarah, Lizzy, and Fiona, coincidentally, were the leaders of this band for the time-being, the trio unusually quiet and reserved in light of the coming tryouts. The habitually chatty females in their wake were no different, for they were ill at ease, if only for the sake of their friends.
The ground squelched beneath their feet as they happened upon a particularly muddy patch of the field, though neither this nor Elaina's loud shriek of surprise seemed to faze anyone. Save, perhaps, for Arting.
"Can you not see," she began with a sigh, "that it's of the utmost importance that you don't shatter everyone's nerves?"
Elaina stared at her for a moment, and then stuck out her tongue. It was difficult to perceive whether or not Arting was serious, as her face was set in a look of somber irritation. "Shut up," she decided upon saying.
Arting inched to the side, nudging Elaina toward another sodden patch. The latter, being nothing short of quite petite, instantly staggered, yet managed to refrain from dirtying her robes.
"Don't drown!" Arting exclaimed in a half-delighted whisper.
Ah. So it was merely a farce! The pair grinned after several more remarks were bandied between them and they carried on.
Once the stands were reached, the group split into two; the large portion began to fill the seats within the rows closest to the field. (Their advantageous seating arrangements were just as they had expected them to be, for even Harry Potter had yet to arrive. It was all according to plan, Amber thought, then began to fidget out of nervousness.) The remaining three quickened their pace and spilled onto the pitch, brooms now clutched firmly before them.
Fiona lingered upon the ground a moment longer than Sarah and Lizzy did, as she first glanced back at the stands, conscious of the fact that there were now many eyes upon her. As she did so, a cheer erupted from the owners of said eyes until it grew into a frightening sort of roar. Fiona giggled, embarrassed and apprehensive, yet at the same time, she could not help but feel a bit pleased.
"Come on, Fiona!" Sarah urged from above.
"Okay…" She mounted her broom and kicked against the ground.
The initial flight was unstable, as her shoe had suctioned itself into the mud; but once she had carefully extricated herself—not without help on Lizzy's part—everything became smooth. This was good, she thought, as she hadn't practiced as much as she ought to have over the summer. (After all, there had been sofas to laze upon and afternoons to sleep into, not to mention the heat she had insisted upon avoiding at all costs…) And soon, much to her delight, she was circling about the various items she could spot beneath her; the air whipped through her hair and set her glasses askew. Yet still, she was overcome with a feeling of satisfaction. Here was one activity—athletic activity—that she thought herself to be remotely skilled at.
She continued as thus for the next half-hour, during which time Sarah and Lizzy had taken to passing rocks back and forth whilst speeding on their brooms. Fiona had only once attempted to partake in this, as Sarah had, enthusiastically, projected a large rock at the head of the former. They had both shrieked in horror, though fortunately, no blood was spilt and further mishap was easily avoided.
Lizzy was just preparing to toss the rock when suddenly, as though a dam had been broken, a dark mass began to merge onto the field, hedging its way in an undulating cloud toward them. Shaken for the first time since many whiles had come to pass, she loosened her grip and let the rock fall.
"Don't drop Dana!" Sarah cried, and dove to catch her pet. Lizzy ignored her, merely watched as the cacophony of beings drew nearer and nearer until even Sarah—who was oblivious to many things—could not help but notice the reason why Lizzy had faltered.
"Oh my goodness!" she exclaimed, descending until her feet touched the ground. Fiona echoed her words in less polite terms and rushed to follow her; Lizzy was close behind, and soon, the trio was standing in a line along the edge of the field, waiting.
While from above, the throng had appeared large, it seemed to increase tenfold in size now that they were at its eyelevel. For it was as if everyone and their uncle, second cousins, and surrogate mother had woken that morning with Quidditch on the mind. Fiona blanched and gripped her broom tighter, Lizzy's lips twitched with the ghost of a smile, and Sarah simply stared at Harry Potter, her head to one side.
In the stands, several girls glanced at their watches and nodded; eleven-thirty was, at long last, upon them.
"Right," Harry said, glanced around with a slight hint of unease. Beside him, Ron Weasley grew unnaturally pale and nearly dropped his side of the trunk they were carrying between them. With a swallow, his gaze traveled from the intimidating group to the stands; upon seeing their occupants, his eyes narrowed, but he said nothing.
Harry set the trunk onto the grass, stepped backward, and then turned to face the crowd. Hopeful, excited faces peered back at him as he did so. "Well, er… let's see. We're looking for new Chasers, Beaters, and a Keeper, so if you're not here to try out for these positions, you ought to go and sit in the stands." He looked about expectantly; no one moved. Harry let forth an audible sigh.
Just then, Hermione Granger leaned toward him, whispering something into his ear. He looked befuddled for a moment, then nodded.
"Look, if you're not in Gryffindor, you can't be out on the pitch during tryouts."
Hermione whispered something else. "No first years, either," he added, now somewhat annoyed.
When no one so much as stirred, Ron stepped up beside Harry. "Oi!" he cried. "If you're not supposed to be here, then go to the stands!"
Murmurs circulated throughout the students, some angry and some amused, yet all the same, after several moments' delay, a large chunk of the crowd slowly but surely began to migrate towards the stands. Fiona suddenly felt tempted to do the same, and Lizzy suppressed a giggle that had bubbled up from who-knows-where.
After the footsteps had died away and all general discontentments were quieted, the cluster which remained was considerably smaller and much more agreeable. There were perhaps a dozen hopefuls, if not a few more, lingering about the initial three. Katie Bell smiled amongst them, and Hermione stood aside, knowing it was best to keep out from under foot.
A wave of relief washed over Harry's features, and he bent to unlatch the lid of the trunk. "Chasers will be first," he said, scooping the quaffle into his arms. His voice grew stronger as he continued to speak, like he was once more becoming familiar with a forgotten habit. "I'll be watching from those goalposts"—he pointed to the set of hoops which protruded from the left side of the field—"as you try to score in them."
"But," Lizzy began, "who's going to be Keeper against us?"
"That's for me to worry about," Harry replied tersely. He glanced at the goalposts once more, then said, "So, er, step forward if you're trying out for Chaser."
Amber didn't care to listen to whatever Harry Potter was going on about, and so instead of fixing upon him a protuberant, unwavering gaze, she was surveying the details around her with mild interest. At her right, Erin and Cassandra were discussing something that was of little consequence to her, and at her left, Valerie Rosskey—who had come along for the sake of Quidditch—was busily engaged in an animated conversation with Paula. As seemed to occur far too often for her liking, Amber had purposefully excluded herself from any sort of chatter at the moment, for it was far too early in the day to take part in any decent discussion. She rested her chin in her hands, her eyes flitting from one thing to another.
The sky was becoming bluer, she noted, watching the clouds slowly tumble over themselves. And Jennifer had a dragonfly perched upon her shoulder—though she didn't seem to notice that it was there. There was a thin trail of smoke exuding from the chimney of Hagrid's hut, the bench on which she sat had a hairline crack, Oliver Wood was coming toward them, someone had scratched a rude phrase into—
"Hold on a moment," she muttered, retracing her line of sight. Just as she had seen but a moment before, Oliver Wood was quickly approaching the stands in full Quidditch apparel, and with a broom resting against his shoulder. "Isn't that Oliver Wood?" she asked aloud, though she was fully aware of the answer.
She felt Erin stiffen next to her. The latter furrowed her brow and squinted. "That's him," she murmured gruffly after a moment. "There's the bloody arse—"
Amber didn't hear the rest.
If she had known better, she might have thought that Oliver had gone astray and was now in the wrong place, for he was beaming as if Hogwarts was an amusement park rather than a school. Although, there certainly was something amusing about his arrival: the closer he came to them, the more Erin seemed to silently fume to herself. Perhaps, Amber thought, Erin had neglected to discuss something with her in the previous week. But for the time being, she would continue to observe the unavoidable confrontation between her stepsister and the former Gryffindor Quidditch Captain.
Oliver, inconceivably nonchalant, strode to the first level of the stands and tossed a few of his stray belongings onto the seats. Then, with a pleasant nod of acknowledgement to Erin, he continued on in the direction from whence he had come, most likely to talk to Harry Potter or something of the sort…
"Hold on just a minute!" Erin called out as she rose to her feet. "You can't just go on like you didn't sodding ditch me in the rain! You've got to at least say something!"
Oliver didn't seem to hear her.
"WOOD!" she screeched, not daring to run down the rows after him for fear of falling and rolling to the bottom. (Although, this was tempting, even if she'd rather it be he who did the acrobatics.)
When he turned, there was a very apparent look of irritation etched upon his face, and an air of impatience in the sigh which he heaved as he did so. "Kanagaris, if you don't mind, there's Quidditch afoot—"
"'Mind'?" she echoed, disbelieving. "Are you serious?"
"I was serious about Apparating you here, wasn't I?"
"You're…" She gaped at him, struggling to define precisely what Oliver Wood was. "You're such…" Erin released an enormous huff of frustration, in the middle of which were vague hints of 'stupid wanker'.
"Ah yes, I thank you for your gratitude," he said with a small bow. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I—"
But just what Oliver was planning on doing was lost when another cry rang out across the pitch.
"HEY!" Ron Weasley yelled, sounding angry. "The Slytherins have sent spies!"
Suddenly realizing how obvious she must have been, Erin's cheeks flushed and she hurriedly sunk into one of the benches; she supposed that she was the one that stupid Weasley boy was shouting about. She could see him gesturing wildly in her general direction.
"Oh, do you mean Kanagaris?" Oliver asked, his tone mild. "She's quite harmless."
"But what about the rest of them?" Ron demanded.
"The rest of who?" The elder of the two appeared perplexed.
"Just there, in the stands! They're spies for the Slytherin team! Come to strategize, I expect."
At that moment, Lizzy couldn't contain herself any longer; she loosed a small fit of uncharacteristic, girlish giggles. Ron looked at her askance, but all the same, appeared to be relatively pleased with himself. Hermione watched with narrowed eyes.
"Oi!" he shouted, turning his back on his fellow hopefuls and facing the cluster of onlookers. "Bugger off, you lot!"
From amongst said cluster, Haley rolled her eyes. "Why's that?" she shouted back. This query was accompanied by a wave of murmurs which seemed to echo throughout the pitch.
"Because you're Slytherin spies!"
"What are we spying for?"
"But…" Haley toyed with her glasses and looked around her. Erin seemed to have overcome her anger and was now laughing; Cassandra was slowly shaking her head from side to side. "How can we be spying if we're not even on the Quidditch team?"
"Not yet, at least," Cassandra laughed beneath her breath. "When are Slytherin tryouts, anyway? This is boring."
"That's really supportive of you," Jennifer murmured back.
Katie raised her hand into the air and waved it back and forth. "Let's just begin what we came here to do, alright? None of us want to be here all day debating nonsensical things."
The goal was to out-fly Katie Bell, namely; the others who hoped to become Chasers were, fortunately, a conglomeration of nervous second and third years. That was not to say, of course, that Sarah didn't feel at all nervous herself, because, in truth, she could feel anxiety churning within her stomach. It merely meant that she hadn't been playing Quidditch since she was six for nothing.
Sarah adjusted the strap on her goggles and gripped the handle of her broomstick tightly. Oliver Wood was hovering near the center goalpost, staring at her as intently as she was staring at him, and just behind him, just out of harm's way, was Harry. Sarah smiled to herself, oblivious to Fiona's inquisitive glance.
Suddenly, someone blew a whistle—it looked like Hermione Granger—and Ron Weasley tossed the quaffle into the air. In an instantaneous manner, her mind was wiped free of Harry and was instead occupied with the task ahead of her. Wind rushed through her frizzy curls as she swooped to catch the bright red ball. Katie, who had been put onto the temporarily opposing team, made to grab it, but Sarah quickly tossed it to Fiona. Unfortunately, the latter was slow to pay attentive, and so shrieked and ducked just as the Quaffle hit her squarely in the jaw.
"Fiona!" Sarah cried, her voice slightly strained. "You sort of need to catch the ball if you want to play Quidditch."
"I know!" the girl wailed. "But I didn't see—"
The rest of her words were lost on inattentive ears as Lizzy intercepted a pass between two second years and sped toward the goal. She raised her arm back to put it through the left hoop, but Oliver caught it no sooner than it had left her grasp. Unfazed, she circled back round and waited for him to put the quaffle back into play.
It continued on as such for a quarter of an hour; at the end of which, still no one had scored. Everyone was frustrated because, quite frankly, Oliver was much too good a Keeper, much better, certainly, than any of the other Houses' players.
Fiona put a hand to her perspiring brow and shielded her eyes from the sun, which had decided to grace them with its presence not minutes before. This was transfiguring itself into an annoying ordeal, she thought, and wondered when it would be over, if—
All of a sudden, she saw a flash of read streaking toward her, coming alarmingly closer and closer to her. Out of reflex or something else—she couldn't tell which, at the time or later—she put out her hands just in time for the quaffle to sail directly into the center of her palms. She looked around wildly, searching for someone to pass it to. Within a moment, she had made her decision.
"Sarah!" she cried, and projected the ball at her.
Sarah caught it, and that was when it happened: Elaina, excited by the sudden commencement of action, stood up in the stands and yelled, "GO SARAH GILNOR!"
Sarah felt something of a shudder course throughout the entirety of her being, and her eyes suddenly felt as though they had glazed over. Her ears muffled, and but her breaths resounded within them. All seemed to pause—at least, long enough for her to spot him once again.
With the speed of a crazed thestral, she shot toward the goalposts, not noticing or caring who she passed by or knocked off their brooms. Though the world around her was a mere blur, she could not see it. All she could see was poor Harry Potter. Poor and unsuspecting.
For the next thing he knew, Sarah was shooting through the center hoop, quaffle in hand, and with a resounding smack!, her palm was coming in contact with his cheek.
"I think," he said, touching the red handprint a now-mortified Sarah had left upon his skin, "that'll be it for Chaser tryouts."
"Well," Oliver said, falling into a slight pace, "after careful deliberation, we've decided on our three new Chasers."
Fiona clutched at her sister's hand nervously and exchanged hopeful glances with her friends, who had poured from the stands to hear the results.
"Right. So," Harry continued, "this year, we'll have Rossman, Tang, and… Gilnor."
Fiona's mouth dropped in disbelief; Lizzy shrieked with glee; and Sarah did a small, awkward-looking dance of pleasure, exceedingly grateful that Harry had only spoken her surname.
"I didn't think I'd make it!" Fiona exclaimed, positively beaming.
"Heck, I didn't think I'd make it," Sarah told her, and they laughed.
"I didn't think I did that well, though… Katie was better, don't you think?"
As Sarah was about to reply, the aforementioned seventh year approached them with a smile. She held out her hand to each of them in turn. "Congratulations," she said. "The three of you fly well together. Harry and Oliver agreed with me in that regard. I told them I'd only get in your way."
"But you're such a good flyer," Fiona told her, still puzzled.
Katie grinned and wished them good luck. "Just make sure you win the cup this year."