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What's in a Name? : The Misadventures of a Miss Ella Rose by caryjanecarter
Chapter 9 : In which Ella ducks a lot and contemplates
 
Rating: 12+Chapter Reviews: 14


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CHAPTER 9

{S/R: I really need to start updating more often. Sorry about my low rates of updates! And yes I’m doing NaNoWriMo and this. I’m a crazy, crazy girl.

Recap quickly. All-around good girl Brooke Noble has just offered Ella a job as Quidditch commentator on a crack decision. Now let’s see how she handles it.}


C~~~~~~E


It may be that all games are silly. But then, so are humans. ~ Robert Lynd
Tryouts. The mere mention of the word sent shivers down people’s spines, occasionally accompanied by staggering waves of nausea. But I felt like my normal perky self, unaffected by the impending doom – because it wasn’t mine.

Yes, I had actually taken up on Brooke’s strange offer and had shown up with one of the wonky school brooms – the last one not taken by the ones trying out. After cramming my head with anything Quidditch-related James and Dylan could tell me, they being the main sport people in our first year, I’d followed Brooke like a lapdog out onto the field. I tried to hide in her shadow as she introduced me to the rest of the remaining team from the year before.

“All right, Ella, meet the Gryffindors,” she said, beaming down at me. “This is Jason, fellow Chaser and dramatist-”

“I an NOT dramatic!”

“You say that every time, Jase,” she said, laughing. The way she acted around them was surprisingly similar to the way I acted around my boys. "That’s our leftover Beater, Nick.”

“Charming, Brooke. I’ve become leftovers.”

“You’ve always been leftovers.” This came from the one boy left she hadn’t introduced. “Hey, I’m Greg, the captain and the other Chaser.” He held out his rather large hand, and I realized he wanted me to shake it. I took it tentatively, and his already wide smile broadened.

“Brilliant,” Brooke said, clapping her hands together. “We all know each other. And now for the torture.” Her eyes were locked behind the three boys on the medium-sized crowd waiting on the other side of the field. The boys turned, and I knew that if I had been in that crowd, I would have been scared that they would eat me with the grins all four of them had plastered over their faces. I followed them over to the group and tried to stay as hidden as possible – after all, I wasn’t trying out for the team.

“Okay, louts,” Greg said once he was in shouting distance. “Let’s get this over with. Anyone who wants to be a Beater needs to follow Nick here over to the other side of the pitch-” –about ten of the potentials broke off then and followed the brawny Nick – “- Seekers come with me-” a smaller number of the group filtered out, leaving about six or so left. “And Keepers go with Jason and Brooke.” The rest of them and I went with Brooke and the ‘dramatic one’ over to the other goalposts not already circled by nervous students and a Bludger or two.

As Jason set the wannabes on a test fly, Brooke drew me aside and told me what I’d be doing.


“I’m going to be pretty busy for a little while, so I hope you’ve stocked up on your Quidditch,” she said, getting on her broom and floating a few feet in the air. “All I want you to do today is watch. Get a feel for how things are played. It might help if you were in the air, too,” she said, and I hurried to mount the contraption. Now, more than ever, I wished first years could bring brooms. I missed my Zephie. “Just stay out of harm’s way, and I’ll join you when I’m free to explain any questions you’ve got.” She took off in the direction of Jason and his recruits, leaving me standing stupidly with a wooden stick under me. Quickly, I shoved off, spiraling up to about fifteen feet above the action – not close enough to get hurt, but still able to tell what was going on. And I watched, becoming just a pair of eyes on a broomstick.

Brooke and Jason were drilling the Keepers, and I found that at least this part of Quidditch I already knew extremely well. It was just like soccer, just with added bonuses like broomsticks and Bludgers. The six or seven potential Keepers were lined up on the ground fifty feet below, except for one. They had already called for the first player, it seemed. From what I could tell from my post, he was a slight, skinny stick on a stick with a tangle of dishwater blonde hair on his crown. I couldn’t even begin to guess his age. “Okay, I’m ready,” he called out to Brooke and Jason, a slight tremor to his tone. Jason tossed the Quaffle to Brooke.

“Ladies first,” he said with a small bow. She grunted, hefting the reddish ball in her grip.

It happened fast. One second, she was lightly tossing the ball up and down on her fingertips. The next, she had reared her arm back and let it fly, pelting at the unfortunate boy’s far right.

He was far better than he looked. His arms were already off the handle, and he dove in such a manner as to make my own teammates back in Kansas cheer. I almost started clapping, but I didn’t want to draw any more attention to myself. An observer on a broomstick wouldn’t be too welcome to me if I was under such stress.

Brooke and Jason were obviously impressed. “Nice save! Jason, your turn,” Brooke said. The Keeper threw the ball back to Jason, who made another wickedly fast throw, while the hopeful made another spectacular save.

And another.

And another.

I began to wonder if it was even necessary to let the other contestants have a go.

It turned out that it really wasn’t. Out of the other seven, only a tall fifth-year girl showed any competition to the first one, and she missed two of her saves due to nerves. It was rather entertaining, though, when a second-year boy slipped off his broom and was only hanging by his knee, which had miraculously stayed hooked around his broom, on the verge of crying for his mother.

Before I knew it, they had tried every person. It was obvious who would be selected. I came back into my own self with a jolt when Brooke turned the nose of her broom upwards while Jason went down to deliver the news to the aspiring athletes.

“How’d you like that?” she asked.

“It’s a lot like soccer,” I told her, reclining as much as I could while floating seventy feet in the air on a three-inch-wide piece of wood.

“What’s soccer?”

“It’s – oh, never mind, it’s a Muggle sport.”

“Ah. Well, since the Beater tryouts are almost over, how about we see how Greg’s doing with the Seekers?” I followed her eagerly. From my two friends’ explanations, the Seeker had the coolest job, even if it was the hardest. At least he got to sit around most of the game.

The Seekers had met in the middle of the field on the midfield circle that I wasn’t sure they really needed in Quidditch. Greg had already weeded out the group, it seemed, and was left with three of the more qualified of the bunch. As we came down to the field, I made a mental tally of them. A tall fourth year boy with dark scraggly hair, a slender girl that looked to be in seventh year, and Sylvester, the unpleasant boy I had met last week, stood in front me and the other two. “Of course,” I heard Brooke mutter from in front of me when she saw Sylvester. “Hey, Greg,” she said, landing beside him gracefully. My broom jerked to a halt beside her, and I quickly slid off before it could do anything drastic. I had begun to get the odd feeling that it was about to buck me off.

Zephie would never do that to me.

Once again subdued beyond what was my normal self, I stayed tight to Brooke’s side, trying to stay out of view from Sylvester. He seemed about as pleased by my presence as he would if I was a nervous fly in a quiet room, but I knew he wasn’t about to say something when a post on the team was in jeopardy.

“Okay, lady, gents,” Greg said, bending down to open the wooden box next to his feet. “Now that the two idiots who couldn’t fly straight to save their skins are out, let’s get this party started.” He pulled out a golden ball the size of a large nut – the Snitch, I presumed, from Dylan’s lengthy description from the day before.

“It’ll be easy,” he said, letting the Snitch go flitting into oblivion. “The first one to catch the Snitch is our Seeker. To make this interesting, we’ll have all three of you in the air.” The seventh-year girl gulped loudly. The other two were easily twice her size. “Ready? On my whistle.” He blew shrilly through two fingers, and the other three were gone before I had enough time to recover from my shock.

“That was fast,” I said, staring up at the distant specks circling above us like vultures. I realized that it was the first time I’d spoken to anyone but Brooke in the last two hours. Quite unlike me.

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to notice this. Greg looked down at me in surprise. “She speaks! You didn’t tell me she was American, too,” he said offhand to Brooke.

Brooke laughed her very open, free-for-thought laugh. “Must’ve slipped my mind. I was getting worried about you, karate kid. Last time I talked to you, you wouldn’t shut up.”

I offered the best grin I could muster for them. Before I could say anything, though, a speck of gold paused right in the middle of our circle.

“Oh crap.” I don’t remember which one of us said that, because the next thing I knew, I was pushed down to the ground by two sets of hands, my lent broom twitching uncomfortably under my spread eagle form as I heard three great whooshes whiz by, inches over my head. I waited until every trace of wind was gone before lifting my head. Greg was already standing, helping Brooke to her feet. I assumed it was all clear and pulled myself into a one-kneed crouch.

The first thing we all looked for was the three blurs. Greg spotted them first, pointing with a loud “There!” up and across, where the blurs were in a sort of three-dimensional triangle above the stands, flying straight up into the low clouds.

“Now would be a good time to practice your commentating skills,” Brooke’s voice said from just behind me.

“Huh? Oh, yeah.” I cleared my throat importantly. “Here goes.

“The Snitch has been seen!” I began; I was trying to act like it was the middle of an action-packed game, but I still felt rather stupid - like I was preaching to the choir. “It’s up... up... no, wait, it’s coming down – all three Seekers are neck-in-neck up there, I bet that’s uncomfortable – say, what’re their names again?” I asked them in a normal voice.

“The girl is Ruby Marsh, the fourth-year’s Michael Prickley, and-”

“-Well, you know Sylvester Crabgrass,” Brooke said, finishing Greg’s sentence.

“Crabgrass. How fitting.” I heard Brooke’s repressed snort of laughter behind me as I turned my attention back to the battle above me. I turned on my game voice again. “I can’t tell, but I think it’s Ruby Marsh in the front – no, it’s Sylvester Crabgrass – it’s impossible to tell, folks, but whoever catches that Snitch is going to be one lucky duck.
“And they’re barreling through the Beater tryouts, knocking some poor kid off his broom – ouch, that must hurt, getting your fall broken by a Bludger – here they come, people, get ready... DUCK!”

The Seekers were gaining on the golden glint, but they weren’t close enough yet to snatch it before they had circled around to us. The Snitch gave a sudden change of direction, flying straight up at a ninety-degree angle just over us. By then, Michael had taken a few inches’ lead, and I said so.

“And Michael Prickley has taken the lead, and he’s got five feet... three feet... almost there – YES! MICHAEL PRICKLEY IS OUR NEW SEEKER!” I heard cheers from the small knot of people in the stands that had turned out to watch the tryouts over time and the leftover Beaters at the far end of the field.

“Quietus,” Brooke said behind me, taking her wand from the back of my neck, which I only first noticed in its absence.

“Wait – what just happened?” I asked her, bewildered. She smiled, and I could see Greg grinning behind her.

“Just introducing you to Hogwarts,” she said, waving her wand in front of my face like a metronome. “Congratulations, you have just made your first public speech.”

“You mean...”

“Yep. Those people just heard every word you said.”

I blinked. “I’m not sure whether I should be extremely happy or utterly embarrassed. Or both.”

“You did good, kid,” Greg said, patting my small shoulder with his massive hand.

The three Seekers had approached us by now. Michael was walking in the lead, a spring in his step and a large grin very out of place under his shaggy hair. Ruby looked on the edge of tears, and Sylvester was positively boiling. Michael didn’t seem to notice.

“Great catch, mate!” Greg said, slapping Michael on the back so forcefully that he lost his balance by a step. Greg was beginning to strike me as someone who didn’t know his own strength. Michael smiled, a little feebler than before.

“Thanks!” He held up the Snitch for inspection, just as Sylvester and Ruby caught up to us.

“So... I guess that’s it then?” Ruby said tearfully, sniffing.

“Sorry, Marsh, but yes,” Brooke said, patting her on the back to try and comfort her as sobs wracked her body.

Sylvester looked absolutely furious. “You cheated!” he screamed, pointing a finger at Michael while his face started to turn purple and his body started to shake.

“Calm down, Sylv,” Greg said, bringing down his pointing arm and pulling him away from the group forcefully. I couldn’t hear what was being said, but whatever it was, it calmed Sylvester down to a scowl and a glare and made Greg beam. Sylvester began the long march up to the castle on his own while Greg came back and retrieved his broom from where he had dropped it while ducking under the three Seekers’ flight of minutes ago. “I’m going to go and round everyone up – hopefully, the Beaters are done by now. You all get ready for the announcements. This isn’t going to be a hard judgment, I think.” He set off down the field toward the barely floating mob that Nick was supposedly presiding over.

“Ruby, if you don’t want to hang around, I’ll understand,” Brooke said softly. Ruby nodded in the way only a weeping person could and set off down the well-beaten path towards the castle.

After a few minutes of standing around, Greg came back with the Beater and Keeper candidates, Nick, and Jason, who had been keeping the Keeper candidates in line. I half-expected the sandy haired boy that I had watched catch every shot to have a very smug expression on his face, but he seemed to be almost as nervous and un-optimistic looking as everyone else.

“Since everyone’s here, let’s get started,” Greg said, broadcasting to the group assembled. “I know how brutal it is to have to wait for a week or so to get your results, so I’ll go ahead and tell the new members now.

“Our new Seeker is Michael Prickley,” he said to an enthusiastic round of applause. “The new Beater is Rebecca Dove.” A short, rather plump fifth year girl in the front of the crowd stepped backward a bit in shock, then smiled without showing any teeth. I had gathered that Beaters were usually large and muscular, so this unimpressive teenager threw me off guard a little. Then I recognized the hard glint in her eyes that I remembered from the few times I had seen high school football players in Kansas. She had the stuff, I was sure of it.

“And lastly, the Keeper is Danny Labelle,” Greg said. The sandy-haired boy who couldn’t be more than thirteen shook his bangs in front of his eyes and smiled.

“Okay, now that’s over with. Everyone’s free to go but you three,” Greg said, pointing at the new members of the crew. The pitiful mass headed up after Ruby and Sylvester towards the castle while Rebecca, Michael, and Danny stayed behind, looking awkward. Greg walked closer to them and started to introduce them to the Gryffindor team, telling them the practice schedule, where the locker room entrance was, blah, blah, blah. Brooke, Nick, and Jason stayed back with me.

Brooke looked over her shoulder at me. “If you feel like it, Ella, you can go back. We’re almost done here, it’s really not that interesting after a while.”

“Oh. Okay.” I picked up my faulty broom from the pile and walked over to the broom shed on the other side of the pitch, Greg’s deep voice following me all the way into the wooden shack and up the beaten dirt trail to the stone castle. “What an eventful morning,” I said to myself as I walked in the open front doors.

The entrance to the Great Hall was open to the side of me, and I could hear the chatter of mid Saturday kids, but I wasn’t really hungry yet. I ran up the grand marble staircase and waved at a group of first-year Hufflepuffs that I recognized from my Potions class as I made my way up to the common room. It was at the top of way too many stairs for my liking, but my early morning escapades had already enlightened me with shortcuts and back ways galore. I reached the common room without event and, failing to see any of my friends at any of the tables or sofas, went upstairs to the oddly empty dorm. I came to the conclusion that they were all downstairs and flopped onto my bed, facedown.

Saturdays were boring in Hogwarts. You only had the library, the common room, and the Great Hall to explore for any period of time, and the only thing to really occupy any sort of attention span was homework. Mind you, they did give us enough of that, but it wasn’t impossible to cover it all in the afternoons of the days it was assigned.

I missed Kansas. I missed Kansas more than I, or anyone else, would have imagined. I missed the flatness of it, the way the sky went on forever and ever and never seemed to even want to stop, watching approaching storm clouds slide across the eternal sky. Hogwarts was nice, my new house was nice, but it wasn’t home yet. I loved them both, but I never seemed to fit in, even when I was only a few weeks into the school year. I wasn’t an outcast at all, but I was out of place, disoriented.

But I’m getting too serious. Even if I didn’t think of Hogwarts as my home, I still had lots of fun. Most of it just didn’t happen to fall on that Saturday - espacially since I fell asleep midway through all of those serious thoughts and didn't wake back up until the other three girls came upstairs at ten o'clock that night and I was cold, starving, and sprawled out on the hard stone floor with drool soaking up one of my braids.

Let me tell you, I wasn't having my favorite Saturday. 

C~~~~~~E

{S/R: Now THAT was boring. I’d never thought I’d say this, but… I just wrote a filler chapter. Next up on Ella’s agenda - well, you’ll just have to read to find out!}


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