Chapter 5 : The Change of Heart
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“I still say it’s bollocks. Urquhart’s only a fifth year.”
“Flint was made captain in his fourth year.”
“Flint had been in the team since his second year. He had matches under his belt. Urquhart’s only been in the team a year. It’s our sixth!”
“Fifth, if you count the lack of matches with the Tri-Wizard Tournament. Or four and a half, with the cancellation in third year.”
“Still more than Urquhart!”
“We’re seventh years, Miles. I think the House wants someone more long-term.”
Miles Bletchley glowered over his copy of Quidditch Weekly across the train compartment, unable to entirely comprehend just how and why the voice of reason in this argument was Adrian Pucey. Perhaps his classmate had grown out of his ridiculous ‘insanity’ of their younger years. Perhaps the potions had helped. Perhaps, now with Montague even more vegetative, Pucey just looked good in comparison.
Perhaps Bletchley was losing his mind.
“What we need, with the loss of a captain like this, is stability. Stability can’t be provided by someone who doesn’t know his team,” Bletchley said firmly, lowering his magazine and folding his arms across his chest.
“I think Urquhart knows everyone in the team. And those he doesn’t, we won’t know either.” Pucey shrugged.
“It should have been me… or you, Adrian! Don’t you see that?” Bletchley waved his hands in the air irritably.
Another shrug from Pucey. “I got more to worry about than Quidditch.” He lowered his head to return his attention to his Transfiguration textbook. “You should too. You’ve got that Ministry interview in six months.”
“Don’t tell me what I should or shouldn’t pay attention to.” Bletchley sulked, glowering across the train compartment before his attention finally fell on the silent Montague.
Edmund Montague had never been particularly bright, but rather exemplified the strange interpretation of the Sorting Hat that ‘cunning and ambitious’ meant ‘built like a brick shit-house’. These aspects weren’t mutually exclusive, but the fact that most such Slytherin specimens were also devoid of brain cells entirely confused Bletchley.
Perhaps they had been provided as flunkeys for those, like himself, with a bit more vision. That would be why Brynmor, well built yet capable of stringing a sentence together, was the unimaginative Grey’s flunkey. The two would sort of meet at the middle in mediocrity, and perhaps balance each other out.
Montague had previously been one of those whose place was, Bletchley considered, to serve. That had made it all the more galling that he had been Quidditch captain, until that rather fateful encounter with the Weasley twins and a regurgitating toilet some few months ago. The Gryffindor pranksters had received laughs and applause, particularly when they’d made such a getaway weeks later. Montague had emerged brain-addled and confounding even Saint Mungo’s experts as to whether or not he’d recover all of his mental faculties.
Considering there hadn’t been much there to begin with, the entire affair was, in Bletchley’s opinion, rather like kicking a man when he was down.
“Urquhart’s a good tactician. Solid man,” Pucey said, voice sounding appeasing.
Bletchley’s lip curled. “He’s a little suck-up and a tit.”
“Which Gryffindor are we on today?” a voice from the compartment door wondered, and all three – Montague rather more slowly – looked up to see Jack Urquhart himself leaning in the doorway. “McLaggen? Or Everard?”
“Everard,” Bletchley said without missing a beat. “He’s trying to sink his claws into the Head Boy job with that sod O’Neal getting himself killed.” He felt a small twinge at this – O’Neal hadn’t been a bad sort, but this kind of misdirection would be rather needed if he wasn’t going to get himself kicked off the team for bad-mouthing the captain, rather than taking over and ruling supreme.
“Damn Gryffindors. Of course, couldn’t tolerate the fact that it wasn’t one of their golden boys who got the job.” Urquhart helped himself to one of the empty seats, next to Bletchley and across from Montague.
The former captain was drawing on a piece of paper with a pencil. Bletchley didn’t want to see what was being scrawled. He’d already secretly drunk himself into a stupor then cried himself to sleep last year after one of the final Quidditch practices, where Montague had been unable to tell left from right, and was convinced they were playing Gryffindor back in their fourth year. He’d kept calling Crabbe and Goyle Derrick and Bole, and had even called Malfoy Higgs once, knocking memories back another two years.
“Of course, Grey didn’t manage to grab it. If he’d done what he was supposed to, instead of wussing out on the Inquisitorial Squad, then he’d have had that in the bag,” Bletchley muttered instead.
Urquhart shook his head. “You kidding, with Dumbledore back? Grey was smart to not get wrapped up in Umbridge. You know everything she instituted is going to be sneered at.”
“…lucky, more like,” Bletchley muttered. “And we get hanged, again.”
Urquhart shrugged. “You gotta take the good with the bad.”
Bletchley scowled briefly. “Thank you, Merlin, purveyor of pearls of wisdom. Now, can I help you?” he snapped, with far more vitriol than he really intended.
Fortunately, his new Quidditch team captain merely smiled at this. “I wanted to talk to you about the team. All three of you.” He nodded to Pucey and Montague, though looked rather more uncertain with the latter.
“Adrian and I would be happy to help,” Bletchley said smoothly. Montague had looked up at his name being mentioned, though, and seemed to be listening quietly.
“We’re going to need some new Beaters.”
“Oh, thank fuck for that.” Bletchley sagged in his seat with relief. “I thought you were going to keep us with the gruesome twosome for another year. Bring back Bole, hell.”
Urquhart smiled slightly. “I remember watching Derrick and Bole, and they were great. But not, actually, as good as another pair of Slytherin Beaters I’ve seen play.” Bletchley frowned with confusion, unable to really recall anyone who wouldn’t have been before Urquhart’s time. “Falco and Brynmor.”
“Falco left school. Like, three years ago.” Bletchley was aware that he sounded as dumb as Montague then.
“Brynmor quit. He told Flint to shove it.”
“I’m not Flint.” The big Slytherin shrugged, smiling a little enigmatically.
“…Malfoy won’t like it!” was, finally, the last issue Bletchley could recall as to why Cal Brynmor was a problem.
“If Mister Malfoy doesn’t like the decision of the team captain, then Mister Malfoy can, as you said, shove it.” Urquhart gave that smile again.
“He’ll take the brooms!”
The captain straightened up, then leaned forwards towards Bletchley. “No he won’t,” he said quietly. “Because the person who gave us those brooms was Lucius Malfoy, recently arrested Death Eater, who cannot tell the Slytherin Quidditch Team what to do – or reclaim what was, if I’ve been informed correctly, a gift.”
Bletchley stared at Urquhart with a sort of dazed fascination. “Are you going to kick Malfoy?” he asked, in something of a whisper. Their Seeker’s lack of success on the pitch had been a matter of much contention amongst the team.
“I don’t want to push it too far.” Urquhart shook his head. “Nor do I want it to seem as if Slytherin is not grateful for the favours we receive.” His expression darkened a hint. “But I will be appointing a substitute Seeker. Just… you know… in case.”
Bletchley continued staring, somewhat captivated. “In case something happens to him?” His voice was a little hoarse.
“No… in case he fucks up again.” Urquhart now looked faintly confused. “Why, what’s going to happen to Malfoy?”
Bletchley shook his head to clear it. “Nothing. Sorry. Been reading too many Auror books.” He straightened up. “So, when are we going for try-outs to get Brynmor in?”
“Try-outs? The man’s a natural with a bat on a broom. We just tell him.” Urquhart stood up, adjusting the collar of his robes.
“What…” Bletchley also stood, brow furrowed. “Now?”
“No time like the present. Unless you think it’s a bad idea? I do want your opinion, after all.”
“No… Brynmor’s good…” Even Bletchley had to grudgingly concede this. “He just… may try to hump you in the middle of the train if you give him the news now.”
“I’ll have you to tear him off and explain to him calmly that I’m not his type.” Urquhart gestured to the door. “Shall we?”
Bletchley dumbly followed his captain into the mostly-empty corridors. A few compartments down he could hear the laughter of Urquhart’s fifth-year friends, Talley and Harper, drifting through, but it was past there that they walked.
Urquhart rested a hand on Bletchley’s shoulder companionably. “I’m glad I’ve got you out here, Miles,” he said softly, glancing back at the compartment they just left still housing Pucey and Montague. “Because I wanted to talk to you about Edmund.”
“Monty? What about him?” Bletchley stiffened a little.
“I need to drop him off the team. Get someone else in, maybe Harper.” Urquhart sounded genuinely remorseful.
“But he’s… been on the team since our second year. We haven’t lifted the cup since then. This would be his final chance…”
“And I only have three chances as Captain to lift the cup, and I don’t want to waste them on politics or dead weight.” Urquhart’s expression hardened, and Bletchley realised that he was potentially standing in the way of someone who really, really wanted to win. “Montague’s a liability. He’s addled. I’m amazed he’s still at school.”
“Does he succeed? Because I need winners here. That’s why I’m getting in Brynmor and dropping those two clowns. That’s why I want to have a backup Seeker if Malfoy has another one of his ‘moments’. That’s why I want your advice, Miles, as the person who’s been in the team longest without a reputation for or reality of insanity.” Urquhart’s grip on Bletchley’s shoulder tightened a shade, and Bletchley winced.
“Erm… I think we can drop him. I don’t think he’ll take it hard.” He didn’t seem to be understanding much these days anyway, Bletchley reasoned. “But… isn’t Malfoy also dead weight?”
“Malfoy can have moments of sheer brilliance if he doesn’t have his head rammed so far up his own arse. Like usually at Gryffindor matches with his pathetic rivalry with Potter.” Urquhart looked disgusted, and Bletchley wasn’t sure if this was at Malfoy, the rivalry, or part of the general dislike that most of Slytherin held for Harry Potter. “So we may bench him for the first game. We’ll see. Maybe recent events have made him grow up.”
“Right.” Bletchley mentally kicked himself. He’d seen Malfoy play. He’d played alongside the runt in every match their Seeker had seen. He knew Malfoy could be good. He knew it was mostly against Gryffindor where he – and, indeed, often most of Team Slytherin – tended to fall apart. He should have made the same call as Urquhart.
But by then they were at a compartment where Urquhart was pulling the door open and inside sat Bletchley’s classmates, Melanie Larkin, his ex-girlfriend Ariane Drake, Gabriel Doyle – his lip curling as he saw how the second was fawning over the third – and then the man himself, Caldwyn Brynmor.
“Brynmor! Got space?” Urquhart threw himself jovially onto one of the spare seats without waiting for a reply. Bletchley, sour-faced, simply waited at the door, arms folded across his chest and feeling like second fiddle – at best. Spare change was more like it.
“Jack, come on in.” Brynmor gave a smile Bletchley figured was too forced, too broad. Of course the Welshman would be crawling so far up Urquhart’s arse for a place on the team. It wouldn’t be the best-kept secret about the place that Crabbe and Goyle were candidates for being dropped. “How’re things?”
“God-awful dull for the most part. All out of pumpkin pasties and there are still hours to go.” Urquhart patted a rumbling stomach. “None of our prefects about?” He glanced briefly outside, past Bletchley, then about the compartment.
Doyle gave an exaggerated shrug. “Haven’t seen them. Still caught up in poncy business, I suppose.” He deftly reached out to catch the Chocolate Frog which had leapt out of Ariane’s hand unexpectedly, opening his grip to show it perfectly unharmed before passing it back to her.
Bletchley scowled as Ariane thanked him, giggling a little. Doyle outright gave him the creeps. There was something about the way he moved, looked, talked, which seemed so perfectly calculated and yet Bletchley couldn’t remember his classmate faltering once in six years. He’d seen everyone he knew lose their cool or just plain fuck up – except for Gabriel Doyle.
“Well, leave them to it. We’ve got real business here.” Urquhart dismissed this concern with a vague wave of the hand, then turned back to Brynmor. “So, Cal. You been practicing on a broom lately?”
“Whenever I can. Trips across the Peaks can make for some decent challenging flying. Though, heh, haven’t been to the Peaks much lately.” Brynmor gave a slightly nervous chuckle at this last part.
“Good. You think you’re as good as you were three years ago when you were last on the team?”
Brynmor’s expression was dimly guarded. “I think I’m better. I’m stronger, I’m quicker… and you’re wrong on the three year count, in that I was subbed in for the Ravenclaw match last year, remember?”
“A bit of a last-second emergency. But I recall. And you played well.” Urquhart leaned forward, now with a hint of urgency, clasping his hands together. “I need a good team if we’re going to lift the cup this year. To be precise, one new Chaser, two new Beaters, and one backup Seeker.” He chewed on his lip briefly. Bletchley couldn’t imagine why he would be nervous – it wasn’t as if Brynmor was going to react in any way other than being his perpetual servant. “I want you as a Beater.”
Brynmor straightened up slowly, and from the expression on his face he had expected this. “You said backup Seeker. You’re not replacing Malfoy?” His voice was low, guarded.
“No. But I want someone on hand if it’s necessary.” Urquhart’s expression turned flat, and even the giggling between Doyle and Ariane Drake faded in the face of this conversation as the compartment fell silent.
“You don’t think it’s necessary already? You know why I quit. Hell, you were in the common room at the time. Malfoy’s a goddamn liability in the team.” Brynmor’s face hardened, and Bletchley wanted to kick him. His dreams on a silver platter, and he was arguing issues three years old?
“Actually, he’s not. He plays well when he’s not acting up for a crowd or too intent on beating Potter. He was superb in the match against Ravenclaw, and you were in that match, so I know you saw it.” Urquhart rubbed his hands together slowly.
“I believe he’s still too erratic. When he’s good, yes, he’s very good. But you can’t predict what he’s going to do in any given match, and in my opinion, he’s off more than he is on.” Brynmor shook his head, wincing.
“In the face of recent events, I think he’ll have either hardened up or completely broken. If he’s gone to hell, we’ll know in early trials. If not, I think we may have a Seeker to beat Potter.” Urquhart straightened up. “As for why you quit originally, that was a matter of bloody stupid pride.”
“Flint kept Malfoy in for favouritism and…”
“Malfoy shouldn’t have been in the team at that point, I do agree. He was too inexperienced. But he had strong potential, and you’re an idiot if you can’t see that Flint hammered that into him. The Seeker Malfoy’s turned into is a better one than we’d have had if he hadn’t been in the team from that early an age.” Urquhart pointed a finger at Brynmor. “Not to mention the fact that a slightly duff Seeker with raw potential was still an acceptable loss in the face of a set of brooms which have made a tremendous difference in the matches.”
“Not enough for us to win. Two seasons on the trot we’ve been beaten by Gryffindor.” Brynmor scowled.
“Yes, but the first time was against Saint Potter himself and the fucking brilliant Oliver Wood. No, they didn’t have either last year, but we still had Wood’s legacy. This year, that’s all but gone save Bell and Potter himself, and I think if Malfoy shapes up, he can beat him.” Urquhart shrugged. “As for your decision to quit, it was premature. One match, and you already wrote Malfoy off. That was dumb as all fuck.”
Brynmor straightened up, scowling, as Bletchley just watched in astonishment. He’d expected the offer to be made and for Brynmor to jump with glee. Not for the Welshman to argue and for Urquhart to insult him.
“I didn’t want to be on a team which was going to pander to a little shit like…”
“That’s sport. You play to win. That doesn’t mean you’re nice, or fair. It means you do what you need to put the right team together. Flint needed the brooms more than he needed you or Falco.” Urquhart folded his arms across his chest. “And now, I can have my cake and eat it, if you remove your head from your arse.”
Brynmor narrowed his eyes at Urquhart resentfully. “Is this how you recruit players? Fucking them around? It’s still me or Malfoy.”
“You haven’t grown up in three years?” Urquhart leaned forwards. “I don’t take ultimatums from my players. You want your pride, you can walk off and watch your final chance to see Slytherin lift the cup from the stands. You want to win, then you trust your captain, cowboy up, and come and help us lift it.”
There was a pause as the big Welshman still looked suspicious and resentful. “If Malfoy doesn’t get his act together you’ll drop him?”
“I’ll drop him with the same prejudice I’ll drop anyone else in the team who doesn’t make the grade,” Urquhart promised, nodding firmly. Then he slowly extended his hand towards Brynmor. “So?”
Another pause, Brynmor obviously thinking. Then he scowled and swore under his breath, before reaching out and shaking Urquhart’s hand firmly. “Fine. I’m in. For the last goddamn hurrah.”
Urquhart gave a slightly smug smile, but it was one of confidence rather than empty pride. “You guys all do as I say, and we will lift that cup. This, I promise you.” Then he stood, stretching slightly. “I need to be going. But have a ponder on second Beaters. Who you think you can work with. And we’ll have a talk about that later.” He headed towards the door, Bletchley shifting to one side to let the Slytherin captain out.
“Take it easy, Jack.” Bletchley clapped Urquhart on the back as he left, then moved further into the compartment to close the door behind him, and throw himself down onto the recently abandoned seat. “The man’s psychotic.”
Brynmor didn’t appear to be listening, rather, staring out into space a little fixedly. “…back on the team…”
Bletchley sighed, then turned to the other three. “Psychotic?”
Doyle gave a smug grin. “No more than any other Quidditch player I’ve seen in action,” he claimed. “You all possess a certain… drive…”
“Ambition. Y’know. What the hat talks about?” Bletchley said rather peevishly. “I guess I’m just a traditionalist at heart.”
“And I think Jacky boy back there is going to out-tradition you. While simultaneously rocking the boat.” A shrug from Doyle.
“Malfoy won’t like having a sub,” Melanie Larkin said at last, frowning a little. “I’m not sure why he needs one, he is rather good…”
This seemed to jerk Brynmor out of his stupor. “The kid’s a bloody liability, is what he is. If only Jack would bin him now…”
“Oh, so it’s Jack now, is it?” Doyle chuckled. “Not ‘that bastard who’ll probably suck up, same as everyone else’?”
Brynmor grunted. “What can I say? I re-evaluated.”
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