This chapter is up early and dedicated to MeNuncle for being a wonderful fan and keeping contact with me to discuss ideas about this and future stories. Enjoy.
When Oliver opened the locker room doors, the sunlight nearly blinded me and the roar from the crowd attempted to deafen me. It could have been an exaggeration, but everything I was feeling was for the first time and was therefore much more terrible than what Angelina or George were seeing.
I popped a mint into my mouth and shielded my eyes as I stepped out of the room and onto the grass, finally taking in what the stadium looked like from the point of view of the player. Nothing could have prepared me for each person in the crowd leaping to their feet and letting out roars of excitement. To my right were the scarlet and gold fans—signs littered the crowd and the Slytherins had even put on Ravenclaw scarves to show they had no intention of supporting Gryffindor. I couldn’t hear myself think.
It was all turning into a blur as I followed Angelina out to the middle of the pitch. The scarlet was blending with the blue and the yellow Hufflepuffs into the green ties of certain Slytherins. I even caught a glimpse of Professor McGonagall high up in the stands sitting beside Lee Jordan.
“And here’s the Gryffindors!” shouted Lee and the crowd went crazy (loads of cheers and loads of boos). “We’ve got Captain Wood out there first—Chasers Johnson, Bell, and the very attractive Spinnet, Beaters Weasley and Weasley—try telling them apart—and Seeker reserve Perry!”
I tried to stop my face from coloring but it didn’t work much considering I felt the warmth on my cheeks as Lee announced my name. It just sounded so strange—usually when someone called me by my last name it was someone I disliked (like Ellis) or Oliver. This time, though, I got a few cheers. It was apparent most Gryffindors still didn’t trust me as their Seeker.
Hell, I didn’t trust me as their Seeker.
“Just concentrate,” said Katie out of the corner of her mouth while we approached the Ravenclaw team. “Don’t worry about the crowd.”
It was hard not to worry about them when I used to be a part of them. I used to be sitting up there making fun of the way the Hufflepuffs walked out and the way the Slytherin Beater held his bat to his side. I wondered how many people were questioning the way I carried my Nimbus.
Groaning, my eyes fell back to the stands and I thought of my father. He was up there somewhere, mixed in with the scarlet and gold, rooting for his daughter to help lead the Gryffindors to the Quidditch Cup. Blimey. There wasn’t any pressure at all. Of course not. I was pretty sure my dad was jumping up and down in the stands since he hadn’t expected me to play. He might have even brought out his Muggle camera for the event.
I had to ignore the crowd. It was important that I got them out of my head and concentrated on the stupid Snitch that I didn’t feel like catching. No. The crowd was the least of my worries now, especially since we stopped a few feet from the Ravenclaw Quidditch team.
Roger had gone for size when selecting most of his team. Though his Beaters were tiny (Collins looking like some sort of sick rodent) and he was not exactly hefty, the rest of his team towered over our female Chasers and the Seeker made me look like a first year. I could see him eyeing me like I was his well-thought-out prey, someone he would just shove aside in the air in his attempt to find the Snitch. Oliver said he pushed off to the left, so I would fly to the right and try to stay away from his bad haircut.
There was Roger, standing feet from Oliver. He looked like he was concentrating hard on the game, hair slicked back against his head with tiny locks attacking his eyebrows. His eyes were narrowed as he glared at the Gryffindor Captain and they shook hands. They drew apart, Roger’s eyes focused on Oliver, and Madam Hooch gathered between the teams.
I stared at Roger, but he did not look at me. He was focused. I probably should have been too, but my mind started to wander as Madam Hooch went on about wanting a clean game and she looked at the twins. My mind was wandering to Roger and the way we had spent the last few weeks staying up late under the stars and eating meals together. Smiling, I thought of the snogging in classrooms and the time we were caught by Flitwick coming out of the girls bathroom near one in the morning. That was what we did—talked about school and life and Quidditch—but nothing else. It was all right like that.
But he knew nothing of my past. Nothing of the things I told Oliver about my past and my mother dying and the way my father was obsessed with the game of Quidditch while I grew up. Sure, I told him after we got in that row about my Mum dying when I was young and my dad raising me, but that was where the conversation ended. No details. I never mentioned my mum chasing dragons or my dad hiring an interior designer. Roger had no idea my father was even at the game—that should have been something I shared with my boyfriend. Instead, Oliver was the one that knew about it (and arranged it for that matter, the prat).
I watched Madam Hooch release the Snitch. My eyes followed it for a few seconds before it flew off behind me. The other Seeker was staring at me. I felt like he should have been staring at the Snitch, but maybe he thought I had great legs too. Damn those twins.
She released the Bludgers and they flew high into the air toward the other side of the pitch.
“Mount your brooms,” Madam Hooch said loudly and the crowd was so loud I could hardly hear her. “Three!”
I swung my leg over my Nimbus, shaking. The nerves were back since I was rubbish at flying and my stomach no longer felt too hot.
I bent my knees and focused on kicking off to the right. Oliver’s hands were gripping his broom so hard that his knuckles were white.
Trusting my Nimbus not to completely screw me over in this situation, I kicked off hard from the ground, something I had yet to do on a broom without tanking it into the grass. Luckily, I managed to stay on, though I wobbled for a few minutes trying to steady myself while Oliver took off toward the hoops and Katie took possession of the Quaffle.
I didn’t want to pay too much attention to the game, so I focused my mind on the search for the Snitch. Unfortunately, while I wobbled through the air and clutched tightly to my broomstick, I happened to catch sight of the section supporting the Ravenclaws. I groaned.
Perry for Prez—She can’t even FLY.
Thanks, Perry. Now we’ll win for sure.
Jane Perry: Gryffindor Reserve—Captain’s Crush.
I nearly gagged. I wondered if Roger had seen the last one. He probably hadn’t considering he had the Quaffle tucked under his arm and was flying up the pitch with one of the other Chasers on his left side.
I tried to look for the Snitch again, but it was getting more difficult by the minute. My ears were swimming with jeers and taunts. Someone even asked me if my Nimbus had training wheels. What in Merlin’s name was that? I tried to fly away from the crude side and more over toward the Gryffindors, but they were so busy watching Oliver make a save that I wanted to watch. But I couldn’t. I knew Oliver could make saves and it wasn’t any different from practice except for the fact that he was making saves on my boyfriend instead of Angelina or Alicia.
I was never tired of Lee’s commentary though.
“Davies shoots and Wood gets it no problem—he hands of to Angelina Johnson and Johnson passes OVER to Alicia Spinnet. Wood really has this team in great shape. After the cheating Ravenclaws—don’t give me that look, Professor—spied on their team meeting Wood has been constantly changing up his game plan so that no one could catch on. And I have to say he’s doing a good job because Bell just threw off both Beaters by dodging to the left and up—passes to Spinnet, my lovely girlfriend.”
Laughing at the cheers from the Gryffindor section, I flew closer to the ground to see if there was any sign of a glint of gold. Nothing. I even glanced over at the Ravenclaw Seeker who had seen nothing. I looked up to see Angelina score on the Ravenclaw Keeper and I did a quick fist-pump before nearly falling off my broom. It was then I decided to stop watching and celebrating. This was business.
It was looking good, though. Despite the fact that the Snitch was nowhere to be found, I remembered the scouts in the audience. At least they would get to see a game of Quidditch instead of players taking their positions and Ellis catching the Snitch. Maybe they would finally give Oliver a good look—perhaps if they heard about him getting an offer from the Brazilian team.
There was a pang in my stomach as I remembered Oliver holding my hair in the locker room, explaining that he came back solely for me. As if I didn’t have enough pressure. But why? Of course he didn’t want me to do this alone and he had felt bad that he had gotten me into it in the first place, but was that really worth giving up a life-long dream? Was holding my hair and being in front of some hoops for a Cup game really more important than being an International superstar? He would probably get into Quidditch Weekly with the body he had—perhaps a double spread with Bastian.
It wasn’t over near the Ravenclaw hoops. I had checked and double-checked there. It wasn’t hovering by the players or nestling in the grass. It would have really helped if I didn’t have to worry about balancing on my broom.
The other Seeker was still swooping low over the supporting Gryffindors and I could hear some of their snarky remarks from across the pitch. I was safe and I flew a little higher, checking toward the crowd in hopes of seeing a glint of gold.
Instead, all I saw was Angelina streaking up the pitch with the Quaffle under her arm. Fred was a few meters away, two Bludgers going right for him—he hit the first and ducked before he could raise his bat again. Unfortunately, said Bludger swerved to the side and was on Angelina’s tail before George could catch up to it.
I heard the crack before I saw it happen.
Angelina dropped the Quaffle and it was recovered by a Ravenclaw Chaser. Oliver only had enough time to call a time-out before the Chaser was in the Gryffindor Defensive Zone and I scowled as the Ravenclaw shot Oliver a rude hand gesture as I floated toward the ground, trying desperately not to topple over and be the second person injured.
I landed beside the twins and Oliver was already pacing back and forth. “We have a minute to discuss what’s going to happen,” he said and Angelina clutched her arm feebly. “First thing’s first. How is the arm?”
She groaned. “I’m not sure—it’s definitely broken.”
“Where’s Pomfrey?” said Fred. “We need some assistance.”
“She’s not in the stands,” I muttered, searching the front row where she usually sat waiting for injured players. “Perhaps in the loo?”
Fred sighed. “You’ve got to go up to the hospital wing then.” He pressed his fingers to Angelina’s cheek.
“Yeah right,” she snapped. “I’m playing.”
“I’m not having a Chaser in that can’t catch,” said Oliver.
“I said I can play, Wood,” barked Angelina.
Oliver raised a brow at her. “Are you sure? Are you one hundred percent sure?”
“You are not kicking me out of this game.”
I stared around at the team—at my team. Fred’s bat hung loosely at his side as he gaped at Angelina, who was inches from Oliver, her eyes narrowed in disgust. George had his arm propped up against Katie, who kissed his elbow pad absentmindedly and smiled. I almost threw up—not because of the gesture but at the thought of what that had to taste like. I laughed as I noticed Alicia’s gaze up toward the stands. She waved to Lee and I followed her stare there to see him waving back. McGonagall looked livid and I was sure there had been a discussion prior to Lee’s distraction.
I let my eyes fall back to the pitch, but as soon as they had reached the grass I noticed a new member of the crowd. Being pushed out in a wheelchair was Dan Ellis, his head lolling a bit to one side and his arms folded in irritation. Not playing obviously did not agree with him.
We found each other’s eyes for a moment and Ellis jerked his head upward. I knew right away without having to talk to him that he was wondering why the game had lasted as long as it had. Groaning, but still chuckling, I turned back to the team.
“Katie, fly close to her,” Oliver was saying. “Any arm mishaps and it could be a bad turnover and put me in a hell of a spot.”
Katie nodded, looking confident.
I tried to mirror the determination on her face, but I doubt anything surfaced but some color and maybe a tear caused by the wind and bright sun.
“Let’s get out there and win this bleeding thing,” said George.
“For Ellis.” I smiled and they followed my gaze to the wheel-chaired Ellis on the sidelines.
“For Danny Boy,” said Fred, mounting his broom.
I clambered on my Nimbus and nearly had a heart attack when I heard a voice in my ear.
“For you.” Oliver Wood climbed onto his broom and kicked off into the sky as Madam Hooch put the whistle to her lips.
The back of my neck tingled, but I willed myself to take off. The Ravenclaw Seeker was on the other side of the pitch looking murderous. Apparently he had expected to see the Snitch by now. Roger probably reminded him during the time out. He was coming toward my side of the pitch, legs pressed back against his broom as he glided toward me.
I made a face. Stupid git trying to find the Snitch in my territory. I snorted. I’d just find it first. Pressing my body against my broom, I searched back and forth near the Ravenclaw hoops.
Here, Snitchie, Snitchie, Snitchie.
Janey has a present for you if you c’mere.
Seriously. A good present.
I let my feet skim the grass and I could feel eyes upon me—moreso than the usual obnoxious crowd jeering at me. The Seeker Extraordinaire was back and he was only meters from me. I had to react in less than a second, rolling over on my broom and narrowly missing the dirt (at least it and I were old friends) as he charged at me, looking like a bolt of blue out of the sky. It was as if he knew my weakest point was rolling.
Desperately trying to regain balance so I didn’t puke all over the nicely manicured Quidditch grass, I scrambled back onto my broom and looked around for the stupid git. He was a little ways away from me, now obviously back to looking for the Snitch. Had he seen it? Is that why he wanted to plow through me like I was a ghost? No. It wasn’t there. I had just looked a second before and there had been no gold where he was.
Then he was trying to knock me off my broom. Illegal tactic, but the Quaffle was in play on the other end and no one was paying any attention to the Gryffindor nearly playing in the grass and the rogue, annoying Ravenclaw Seeker that was trying to decapitate other players. How rude. I gave the back of his head a distinct look of loathing and returned to my Snitch search, determined not to sink to his level and send a curse at his arse.
Anyway, Snitchie. Back to that present.
It’s a doosy. You see, Snitchie, I’ve got this friend, right?
She’s very pretty.
And she’s a girl Snitch.
That’s right, Snitchie, a real lady. Polished gold. Long wings. Radiant shine.
And she just got dumped by another Snitch.
Real jerk. Didn’t appreciate her.
Abandoning my Snitch search for a moment, I looked up long enough to see the Ravenclaw prat-face coming at me again. His hair was streaking back and his face looked maddened—once again the play was at the other end but George had seen just in time. Rolling over for a second time, I missed his attack.
“CUT IT OUT!” I shouted, upside-down and staring at the pitch the wrong way. “How are you supposed to find the Snitch when you’re targeting me?” I climbed back on again, ticked off that Madam Hooch was not seeing this, and raced off in the other direction. I couldn’t fire back, not when the game was resting on my shoulders. If he wanted to target me he could but I had to target the Snitch that was rudely ignoring my present offering.
This was dangerous, me racing on a broom that I did not trust as far as I could kick it, but I didn’t care. It was safer than waiting for Ravenclaw Boogey-Man to come attack me again while no one was watching. I made it all the way to the other side of the pitch just as Alicia was taking the Quaffle back toward the Ravenclaw end. Groaning, I kept going, trying to avoid Ellis’s eyes that I knew were on me. Hell, I was trying to avoid everyone’s eyes.
“You’re doing well,” Oliver yelled from a few meters away. He was sweating, but he looked happy.
“As far as you know,” I said loudly, willing my broom up a bit as I scanned the air for the stupid gold sodding Snitch that I hated more than Slytherin. “I’ll be doing better once this is over and I stopped getting attacked like I’m in league with You-Know-Who.”
“Attacked? Who’s attacking you?” He did not look at me, but kept his eyes on the game at the other end as the Gryffindor Chasers passed the Quaffle back and forth to get a good shot in. I could see Roger playing defense as he attempted to block Katie.
“That Seeker jerk! He’s run me twice and if I stayed I’d probably have no head to be talking with!” No Snitch. Blue skies. Green grass. Yellow hoops. Concerned Oliver.
I shook my head. Snitch. Concentrate. I pushed the broom further into the air, high above Oliver’s head, but he was still speaking.
“Are you—you’re not serious! Why didn’t Madam Hooch call that?”
“She was looking over here,” I called back. I could see the tops of the heads from the crowd and I had the urge to throw something down there and clock a Ravenclaw.
“Son of a bloody…”
There. There it was. Holy Merlin and all of his delicious pancakes it was right there. A few feet up. Checking to make sure I wasn’t about to get run in (Dumbledore’s pumpkin juice—Prat Seeker was coming this way!), I sped upward. My hands slipped off of my broom since it seemed to be going too fast for my body, but my legs wrapped tightly around the handle.
There it was. That stupid gold piece of rubbish—at least I didn’t have to bribe it with the girl Snitch because I might have been lying when I thought that.
I reached out. The Ravenclaw Seeker-should-be-sacked was so near he could have smacked me across the face with the tail of his broom. Feeling ruthless, I pushed my hand to the front of the handle, spinning in the air and knocking my broom into the back of his. This propelled me around, closer to the Snitch, and it forced him into an accidental (well, on purpose because of me) dive straight toward the Slytherin section. There were screams as I reached out my hand, grasped the Snitch on my turning broom, lost my balance, slipped over, and fell sideways off of my Nimbus.
The crowd was going wild. I saw their faces as I fell toward the ground, the Snitch still fighting against my palm. I could see the Nimbus still floating in the air and I couldn’t reach the wand I had stowed in my pants that were under my robes (stupid idea). Bracing myself for the fall that would land me in the hospital for several days (maybe weeks, depending on if I landed on my back or not), I closed my eyes and listened to the cheers of everyone around me.
The harsh landing never came. Of course I landed, but it wasn’t on the grass I knew too well. I didn’t fall and eat dirt or put grass stains in my pretty scarlet and gold Gryffindor robes. Instead, when I opened my eyes, I saw that I was caught by Oliver Wood, who had been directly below me. One of his Keeper arms was curled under my legs and the other was keeping my back stable.
I stared at him for a moment, unsure of what to do. Surely I was about to be told off for falling. I didn’t practice enough. That was always it. He was giving me a look. I wasn’t sure what it meant—probably that I nearly cost him another Seeker. That was just the way Oliver Wood thought. At least this look of his gave me time to take in the surroundings—the glint to my left told me that the Quidditch Cup was about to be presented and Gryffindors were spilling onto the pitch. The cheers were making my ears hurt.
Oliver hadn’t wiped the sweat from his brow and there were a few dirty spots on his cheeks. His hair was falling all over his face, a piece of it only millimeters from his brown eyes and he smirked at me.
I still hated that smirk.
Even though I was about to get told off, I had to listen to him since he was my stupid Captain and came all the way back from Brazil to help me out (would I ever hear the end of that?). Deciding to lighten the mood a bit as Oliver hovered near the left hoop, I opened my right hand slowly and the Snitch struggled against my index finger and thumb.
Oliver smiled. The crowd was a blur behind me.
Then he reached down and kissed me hard, but not in the shut-up-Jane sort of way.
A/N: So? How about that game? Did it live up to your expectations because it took me a ridiculously long time to edit :) And go ahead...leave me comments about the ending because I know half of you are squeeing right now. I squeed a little bit.
I want to say a major THANKS to everyone that has been leaving those amazing reviews. Because of chapter 22 I have over 300 reviews for Keep Away and that is enough to make me so flattered I might tear up a bit. Thank you all so much, it has helped get this chapter out a bit early because of the inspiration you all give me.