I'm not afraid of flying. I love to fly, it's crashing I hate. ~Sarah, Rumor Has It
The next morning my head throbbed as I walked to class with Alice. She didn't ask why I looked so tired, as I knew she wouldn't. But a few shrewd glances my way made me nervously wonder what she suspected.
As I'd told him I would, I ignored Sirius at breakfast- like always. Or at least, I pretended to. But the encounter from the night before echoed in my already throbbing head, making me feel a bit hungover.
I was annoyingly aware of his presence. And it left a bitter taste on my tongue when I realized this feeling was not entirely unfamiliar. I was exactly this aware of him in fifth year. Everytime he shifted, I felt it. As if it sent vibrations or waves my way. When he spoke (which was admittedly seldom) my hearing became freakishly good and I heard every single word and every inflection in his tone.
And, to my outrage, everytime a girl passed me I caught myself wondering if she was the one he'd been waiting for in the shadows of the Gryffindor Common Room when he'd met me instead. What a disappointment it must've been for him when I walked into the room instead of his latest play thing.
It irritated me that I couldn't control these thoughts from infecting me. What did it matter? He was not my problem anymore. I wasn't in love with him. I didn't even like him! So why did I care which short skirt he'd removed, which makeup lathered face he'd snogged, which girl had shagged the father of my child? I didn't but I still couldn't help but wonder. Curiousity was in my blood.
By the end of my first class, I'd been bitten by a plant and scolded by my professor for provoking it, Sirius's voice was playing like a god damn broken record in my head and the fact that I felt eyes on me wasn't helping anything. I didn't even want to know who's eyes they were. I felt like my head was going to explode and it was taking every ounce of strength I had to keep my eyes open.
So, needless to say, I wasn't at all in the mood to be chased down by my cousin.
"Airy, wait up!" He called after me with a tone of purpose.
Had it been any other day, I probably would have pretended I hadn't heard him and kept walking back to the castle with my friends. But, Sirius's words still echoed in my brain, "Some cousin you are". And I couldn't help but feel guilty, knowing that this particular statement was true. I'd avoided my cousin like the plague and, here at Hogwarts at least, I had no real reason for it.
Stupid git. I was furious, as I stopped to let James catch up. Furious that he'd gotten to me. Furious that I'd let him.
"What is it, James?" I asked, unable to keep all of the annoyance from my tone. "If you're going to try and convince me to join the Order again, you can just save your breath cause-"
"No," he cut acrossed me, "I mean, I still think you should. But that not what I wanted to talk to you about-"
For a brief moment, I panicked. Had Sirius told him about my late night activity? Did he suspect something? Or worse, did he know something? Had someone in my family told him who Aurora's real mother was? Surely he'd be angrier with me for hiding it from him for-
But it all vanished the second he followed it up with, "Quidditch tryouts are tomorrow."
I stared at him blankly for a minute and a half before finally saying, "So?"
"So, you're coming, yeah?"
I was too astonished to be polite so it was a very good thing that James is family and manners weren't required in this conversation. Because I couldn't stop myself from respondign with, "Why the hell would I do that?"
He blinked, seeming surprised that he even had to tell me. "Because, you're a damn good chaser! And a bloody idiot for ever quitting the team! And you love Quidditch, Airy!"
How would you know? A bitter voice in a dark part of my mind sneered. It surprised me. I hadn't even realized that, somewhere inside, I was still smarting over the fact that, though Sirius had clearly broken my heart, James had still chosen to stay friends with him. Chosen him over me in a way. And here he was trying to tell me what I loved when he barely knew me anymore.
"Corrections," I replied my voice sounding haughty, "I was a damn good chaser, I quit the team 'cause Madame Pomfrey ordered me to quit after that stupid Bludger incident and I used to love Quidditch. I'm not coming to tryouts, James. I haven't played Quidditch in ages and I've got too much on my plate already."
"Airy," he beseeched. "We need you! On the Order and on the Pitch. Why are you so against them all of the sudden? You used to love this stuff! And we've all got N.E.W.T.s but you can't possibly plan to spend your entire seventh year shut up in the stuffy library!"
How hilarious, he thought the only thing on my plate was N.E.W.T. exams. He thought that I was normal. I wondered, for the millionth time since that fateful day in December (when I'd found out for sure that Rory was on the way), what he'd say if I told him the truth. He probably wouldn't say anything, he'd probably go kill his slutty best mate for knocking me up in the first place. And, though the thought of my cousin kicking Sirius into last century-wiping the floor with his face- made my lips want to curl in a smile, I still didn't want a homicide on my hands. So, of course, I didn't tell him. Instead I spouted the half-truths, as usual.
"Actually, I can. And I'm not against them 'all of the sudden', James. I haven't wanted to be an Auror for two years and Quidditch just... isn't important to me anymore." I couldn't say what I wanted to.
I couldn't say 'Quidditch is too risky, you can't be the mother of a one year old if you've been fatally impaled by a Bludger. And being an Auror is too risky too, you won't live to see your grandkids if you've got hexes being shot at you all the time.'
I couldn't tell James the truth because he didn't know the truth about Rory. He didn't know why I'd withdrawn and then broken up with his best mate. He didn't even know where we'd disappeared to that night after winning that fateful Quidditch match. He didn't know and I certainly wasn't about to tell him!
For the first time, James seemed to hear exactly what I was saying.
I'd changed. I wasn't the quirky, fearless cousin he'd told dirty jokes to and laughed at Slytherins with anymore. I'd grown up and he'd missed it. I didn't take risks, I didn't mess around. I came here for one thing and that was to get a superior education, not to throw a ball into some hoops and dodge the whoppers that some dolt was hitting at my head.
"What happened to you, Air?"
I hated the disappointment in his voice, the hurt in his eyes. I hated how my heart seemed to ache for that stupid sport and to be fighting on the frontlines of this stupid war. I hated the part of me that yearned to be how I used to. Reckless, immature, free. I hated that we were having this little heart-to-heart in a less-than-private corridor. But most of all, I hated that, at that very moment, Sirius's words echoed in my mind, "Some cousin you are."
I huffed in annoyance, "I-I just..." the mixture of my cousin's face and my ex's words was too much for me, "I just don't know if I can play anymore. It's been so long, I'll probably embarass myself and fall off my bloody broomstick."
Hope lit his face. "But you'll come?" He asked eagerly, though I could still see something strange lingering in his eyes.
I sighed, defeated by my conscience. I was going to seriously regret this later. "Fine, I'll come. But I probably won't make it."
"Yes, you will." He grinned, "I'm captain, 'member?"
My stomach felt like it had rocks in it, a horrid sinking feeling overcame even the nausea that threatened my esophogas. But somehow, I managed to scold him playfully, as if my whole plan had not just been flushed down one of Moaning Myrtle's toilets.
"James, nepitism does not belong in Quidditch. Who knows? Maybe you'll find someone who can whip my arse at being a Chaser," I was going to hold onto this hope like a lifeboat from the Titanic. "Who did it last year?"
He grimaced, "McClaggan and I can garentee he won't be doing it this year, bloody idiot. Especially," he swung an arm casually around my shoulders, "since my baby cousin is back."
Ugh, how do I get myself into these situations?
The fact that I even had to tryout seemed to annoy Alice to no end.
"It's ridiculous and insulting!" She exclaimed for the millionth time as we walked down to the Pitch together the next day. "He knows you're the best bloody Chaser in this castle but he-!"
"Alice," I interrupted her rant. "It was me who insisted on trying out again. I haven't been on a broom in ages! Who knows if I'll even be any good anymore?"
She waved this away, as if playing Quidditch was like riding a bike. "You'll be a hell of a lot better than that sod McClaggan! And James knows it! So why he is going on with this auditioning nonsense? I will n-"
I stopped listening. It was much easier to let Alice just rant than to try explain for the six billionth time that I wanted James to see what else was out there before giving me my position back.
It didn't take a mind reader to see that more than half the people there (mostly the girls) were shocked to see me show up to tryouts. They'd all obviously heard and believed that I'd been expelled from the team in fifth year. In a distant part of my brain I internally grimaced at this. If I did make it back on they were obviously going to think that it was only because James was my cousin and that I was desperate to get back together with Sirius still.
I was never going to live those few months of dating the sod down, was I?
But this was filed away in my mind for later study because I had more interesting thing to ponder. Like, for instance, why was Mary standing a few feet away with a broom in her hand? And why hadn't she told Alice and me that she was trying out? And since when was Jacob McKinnon a Beater?
Before I could get any answers, James spoke, "Alright, as you all know we need two new Chasers and a Keeper..."
I zoned out, realizing I'd heard virtually the same speech given by Erika, our former captain, on numerous occasions. Sure, James switched out a few phrases and twisted it into his own, in a very James sort of way, but it was still more or less the same.
Instead of focusing on my cousin, I tried to keep my mind on safe avenues. Like what was Aidan going to do when he figured out I'd stolen yet another one of his comfy football jerseys? Would Mia miss her favorite jeans too much? Should I send them back by owl? Could an owl even carry them? What would Alicia do when she noticed her missing trainers? When would she ever give in and admit she was mad about Ames? How long could Ames be expected to keep trying? What would she do if he got a girlfriend? Would jealousy finally make her realize her love for the sod? Should I suggest this to him as a plan of action? A last resort? When would the little picture Adam had drawn in marker on my wrist wash off? Would someone notice it and ask questions? Merlin, I hope no one asked anymore questions! I was so sick of lying directly, lies of omission were much easier. How did Aubrey stand this damn mascara? It was so clumpy! When would Lily be done with that book in witches and wizards in the Middle East so I could borrow it? Did my visit make things worse for Rory today or better? Was she upset that I'd disappeared again? Did it seem like abandonment t-?
This was not a safer avenue, evidently. Because it was only as I was thinking of our daughter that I noticed Sirius standing on James's other side, blue gaze boring intently into me.
Without thinking, I made eye contact.
For a split second I saw emotions in those pools but before I could name anymore than confusion, they were gone. Their replacement was a ruthless smirk and mockery. How typical of him.
I don't know if it was the challenge in those eyes- so like my daughter's but so colossally different, lacking the loving sparkle and liveliness- or the upturned lips but I found myself unwilling to look away. Like we were in some staring competition and I'd be giving him a victory over me if I dropped my eyes first. Regardless, I wasn't going to lose. I'd lost way too much to him already, even a small victory was a big one for me at this point.
"...Right then," James said clapping his hands together loudly.
Sirius, to my satisfaction, broke eye contact to give his friend a half-amused, half-annoyed look.
"Let's get started then, shall we? We'll start off with a few laps 'round the Pitch, see how well you lot can fly. "
I gulped as we mounted our broomsticks. I hadn't flown in ages.
There wasn't much time for Quidditch when you had Aurora to look after.
In fact, I thought for a moment, the last time I'd flown had been on this very Pitch. And that time I'd been clobbered by a Bludger, rushed to the hospital wing and scolded thoroughly by Madame Pomfrey for still playing Quidditch in my pregnant state.
Not a very encouraging thought.
I was careful to make sure not to meet anyones eyes. Because, were it one of my old teammates they'd be sure to give an encouraging wink or grin which would- no doubt- be seen by one of my opponents who would resent this, I was avoiding their gazes as well which were- I was sure- a mix of either curiousity, confusion, pity or malicious amusement. But the gaze I was most sure to avoid was the very one I could feel trained on me. Burning my flesh, probably mocking me.
At this thought, a hard determination flared inside my veins, a sheet of ice coated my stomach. I would wipe that smirk (I didn't have to see it to know that it was there) right off his smarmy face with my flying skills.
I kicked off the ground. Hard.
I hadn't realized how much I'd missed it until I was soaring through the air. I loved the wind on my face and in my hair. I loved the sounds, sights (or lack there of), speed and smells that caressed me while I straddled my broom. Every sensation was fantastically intoxicating. But mostly the speed.
To my relief, I found that riding a broomstick was much like riding a bicycle. You never really forgot.
I raced around the Pitch the required five times. So caught up in flying again that I failed to notice I was ahead of everyone else. Until, of course, I landed in front of my positively beaming cousin before them.
Sirius, who flanked James's right side, was expressionless- not smirking, not scowling just blank again. For some reason this annoyed me more than the arrogant smirking. Alice, however, who was on James's left was grinning almost as wide as my cousin and seemed to be feeling a little smug.
Mary landed next to me, beaming madly, a second later and after a minute, the others started to arrived on the ground with us. Some of them scowled at me while others just smirked, as if even the fact that I beat them proved how pathetic I was. Little did they know that opposition just made me more determined.
It wasn't that I was particularly interested in being reinstated Gryffindor Chaser and having to endure long practices of James's manic torture and Sirius's insufferable smirks. It was more that I wanted to see all there smug faces deflate and have the satisfaction of rubbing there noses in it. I wasn't in the mood to be gracious.
I hadn't gotten a chance to open the letter my mum had sent this morning and I wanted, desperately, to know how Rory was taking my sudden absence again. Being away from Rory made me crabby, being worried about her made me short-tempered and being both while also having to deal with Sirius, his admirers and a student body that suspected I was still pining after him made me downright vicious.
James, seeming eager to get my reinstatement out of the way, had the Chaser tryouts first. Though, it would've been far more practical, in my oppinion to have the new Keeper decided before Chasers. Alice volunteered to play Keeper and James agreed, knowing she had a sharper eye than anyone here.
"The two that make the most goals will be our new Chasers," James proclaimed.
I didn't meet Alice's eyes, knowing full well that she would give me her winning smile and make all the others think she was favoring me (which she was but they didn't need conformation of this). If and when I became Chaser again, I knew, there would already be enough gossip about it. The odds were too much in my favor for them not to. James as Captain, Alice pretending to be Keeper at tryouts, my little sister's boyfriend being one of the Beaters who were supposed to shoot Bludgers our way to make the whole thing more difficult.
Mary tried out first. I bit my lip nervously as she got up in the air. I'd only seen Mary try to play Quidditch once and she'd been dredful at Keeper. Hopefully her skills at getting the Quaffle in were far better than they were trying to keep it out.
My worries vanished though as she made one, two three, four... a whopping SEVENTEEN goals. Alice seemed astonished too, having only managed to catch three of Mary's attempts. She blinked from Mary to me to James in wonder.
Mary blushed as she landed and Alice and I hugged her enthusiastically (while an ecstatic Lily cheered from the stands, where I'd just noticed several people had congregated).
"You were brilliant!" I squealed.
"Fantastic!" Alice agreed.
"Very well done, Mary," James told her, trying to remain professional but not quite amnaging to keep the grin from his face.
Even Sirius cracked a genuine smile.
"Alright," James cleared his throat, turning even more businesslike. "Next is Fionna Montford..."
And so they continued.
No one else made more than eight goals on Alice. Though one lucky boy named Daniel got ten.
I waited patiently until, at last, James called my name with a flourish. Shooting a half-teasing glare at my cousin, I kicked off the ground and leveled with Alice in the air.
"Good luck," she grinned challengingly.
"Don't go easy, Al," I told her firmly.
Her grin got even more wicked, "Oh, I won't."
And she didn't. The very first shot I tried she caught at a particularly tricky angle with the glint of a challenge in her hazel eyes.
Never one to back down from a challenge, I flashed her a grin and tried another angle. The Quaffle soared through the hoop with ease and I let out an elated laugh. I'd forgotten how good that felt.
I made another with ease and another and another. None of the Bludgers came near enough to me to do any damage and, while I'd expected it from Jake, I was surprised that Sirius didn't take the chance to take out his frustrations on his hostile ex.
Nineteen goals later Alice flew at me squealing with glee. I was back on the team, no one could deny it. I'd made every goal but one, the best that anyone had managed so far. We sunk to the ground, still hugging and Alice was jumping up and down like a four year old who'd just been taken to Honeydukes. James grinned, no longer bothering to stay professional about things and then (after two others had tried and failed to get over Mary's seventeen goals) proclaimed that Mary and I, as the two who'd scored the most, would be Gryffindor's new (well, sort of new) Chasers.
I hugged Mary as the rest of the hopefuls scowled in our direction, already muttering about James being bias and Allie not trying hard enough to save our goals, and filed off the Pitch in groups to go sit in the stands with the other onlookers.
"Alright then," James barked, returning to his all-business voice but not quite managing to get the happy sparkle out of his eyes. "Let's see who our new Keeper will be. Airy, Mary and I will try and make three goals each and it'll be your job to block them. Sirius will count how many you catch. Whoever saves all nine or the most number of goals will make the team."
I couldn't wipe the grin from my face as I kicked off, though part of me was disgusted with my weak will power. That half was yelling at the other half for doing an inward jig of glee, telling it that this was irresponsible. An unnessecary risk and a distraction form what I was supposed to be doing here.
You're not here to have fun. You're here to study so you can make a decent living for you and Rory. The disgusted hald scolded lividly.
I can do both! The other half argued. I used to do it all the time. I was on the Quidditch team AND got top marks! That was when Erika was Captain, not James. And how will you keep top marks, play Quidditch every night AND sneak off to see Aurora?
My stomach twisted uncomfortably. I'd forgotten why I'd been so against it in the first place. I would be juggling too much. Hell, I was already juggling too much! But now. Now I was screwed. James would be vicious in training. Had I not read all of his letters detailing all of the new strategies and training sessions he had planned? Was I not aware of my cousins unhealthy obsession with Quidditch? With James as Captain I would hardly have time to study, much less go visit Rory too.
Maybe you could do both, a voice that sounded like Aubrey said.
Yeah and I'm going to be the next Minister of Magic, said a voice that sounded like Alicia's sarcastic drawl.
"First up," Sirius said loudly- making me almost jump out of my skin. He hadn't spoken all morning. "Thomas Welp."
A small second year boy mounted a school broom and flew towards the hoops at a crawl. I saw Alice next to Sirius, covering her mouth, trying to hold in a fit of giggles no doubt.
Mary took the first three goals and all but one made it in. Then James went and poor Thomas nearly fell off the wobbly school broomstick attempting to catch just one of James's. I decided to go easy on him and gave him two easy one and a hrad one- he only caught one of mine.
I sighed and watched his shoulders slump as he dejectedly lowered himself to the ground. My heart went out to the poor little boy that I'd never met. I wondered vaguely in a back chamber of my brain (as Mary made a particularly impressive goal on Georgiana Pattifield), if maybe I'd gone soft. Perhaps it had something to do with motherhood that made me feel sorry for, and even want to protect, children I didn't even know.
Sirius clapped the little one on the back, said something that made the boy attempt a half smile and then called the next name Deanne Digby, a fourth year girl who I'd caught whispering rather loudly to her little friends about me. Oh, this would be fun.
I made no effort to give the girl a break and neither did James or Mary. All nine goals went unsaved and Deanne looked as if she were going to throw up. She blushed at Sirius and James and then hurried off the pitch with her friends who were already murmuring words of comfort, most likely absuing the reputations of everyone else on the Pitch.
Ralph Norrington, Henry Fletcher and Carolina Dornseif all failed to catch more than four a piece and James was beginning to look worried. What would we do if no one was good enough to play Keeper?
Then Sirius cleared his throat awkwardly and called, "Lydia Markson."
My heart stopped as a leggy blonde strod forward, gave him a wink and mounted her broom suggestively before kicking off. It was the very one I'd walked in on him snogging the daylights out of two days ago. I felt like I was about to puke.
And, as Mary took her turn pelting the Quaffle at her and James after that, the feeling got worse. For Lydia Markson, it turned out, knew how to play Keeper far better than she knew how to apply her make up. (Aubrey would've been appalled at that amount of eyeshadow on anyone but a prostitute.) She saved five of the six goal attempts and with a sinking feeling, I realized that made Sirius's new plaything top runner for our new Keeper position.
Then it was my turn. Determined not to let her have aymore saves, I chucked them at the trickiest angles I could find. To my great satisfaction, she only managed to catch one. She was still top canidate for Keeper, but at least she hadn't gotten an eight out of nine.
Scowling and sweating like a whore in church, Lydia descended and proceeded to drape herself over Sirius, I assumed this to be her way of getting revenge on me. She, like all of the others, thought I was still mad about the smarmy git. But I ignored both her and the knots in my stomach, even controlling the illogical glare I wanted to shoot at her.
Gary Vane was next and I prayed he'd beat her six saves. He didn't. Neither did Makenna Davis, Kerbie North, or Lucinda Thesaurus. Vivian Kodak almost did but over extended herself and fell off her broomstick. Mary, James and I caught her just in time and her friends took her up to the hospital wing.
Finally, Jack Moran came.
He was the last person to try out and I was getting desperate. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to retrain myself if Lydia goton the team and was already forming feeble arguements in my head for Vivian when Jack saved not one, not two but all three of the rather difficult goals Mary tried to make off him. My heart soared as James made only one in and, trying my best not to be biased, I made my shot at the left hoop. Jack saved it and I held in the sparkling grin I wanted to shoot him, at least this way they'd have to have a tie breaker. But I needn't have worried about tie breakers because Jack caught both of my next two goals. I was flying, but not just on a broomstick.
Now that I was safe, I could see how narrowly I'd escaped them most hellish Quidditch tema of a lifetime. I could see all of the horrid practices I'd have had to edure with my ex and his blonde flirting nonstop while the rest of us tried to get some work done. I was so happy I could have kissed the sixth year boy I'd only ever talked to once in my fourth year, but I thought better of it as I was already a hot topic of gossip and didn't need anymore bad publicity.
In the changing room, James gave me back my old uniform and Jack and Mary got their brand new ones. Alice squealed again, unable to contain her excitement and Jake congratulated me whole-heartedly before going to meet Effie (who'd been cheering ecstatically in the stands with Lily when I was reinstated as Chaser).
Sirius, however, ignored my presence even more than usual. Perhaps he was disgruntle that his little girlfriend hadn't made it or perhaps he'd been hearing the rumors of me pining after him for so long he'd begun to believe them himself. Either way, he peeled off his uniform (and I cursed myself for noticing that he looked just as delicious with his shirt off as I remembered, actually he looked better) and threw on an old T-shirt I vaguely remembered and left the room without glancing at me, telling James he'd meet him in detention.
"You've got detention already?" I asked, once Sirius had gone. "For what?"
"McGonagall caught us jinxing Slytherins the other night."
"What were you doing to them?" Mary asked, amused as we made our way up to the castle.
James shrugged blithely. "Just gluing there tongues to the top of their mouths."
We laughed rowdily and demanded details as a disapproving Lily, a quietly amused Remus and an enthusiastic Peter joined us.
Tears of laughter were in our eyes by the time we got to the Common Room. James was explaining in great detail how Avery and Goyle had stumbled over each other in their confusion and how furious Snape was, stomping around like a thirteen year old girl. He promised a disgruntle Lily that he wouldn't do it again and my intuition flickered.
Could it possibly be happening at last? Could James and Lily really be-
"Blimey!" he said once we'd reached the corridor, checking his watch. "I'm gonna be late, McGonagall will kill me!" He dashed off in the direction of McGonagall's office.
"Gillyweed." Alice said confidently to the Fat Lady.
"Precisely." And she swung forward to reveal our Common Room.
We took turns taking showers and getting ready for dinner, all agreeing that we'd be going straight to bed afterwards because we were so knackered.
I was positive that tomorrow would be one of my most trying days yet. I knew that all day people would be demeaning me by questioning my Quidditch skills and discussing my (false) attatchment to Sirius. Two things I hated the most.
That night in my bed, I push images of a shirtless Sirius Black from my mind along with ones of him conmforting little Thomas Welp- determined to keep the demonized version of him that I'd conjured in my head over the last few years and tried to get some sleep for what was sure to be a hard day tomorrow.
(I know, I know it was short and not a whole lot happened but I'm trying to get back in the swing of things and give you very lovely and patient readers some updates. Admittedly not the best updates but still. I'm so sorry that I've been so distracted but school and work and tryign to keep up something resembling a social life have made it slightly difficult to update lately. But, once I get back from Europe and my summer settles into a routine I should start writing and updating regularly agin before the dreaded Junior year creeps up on me! Until then, I'd love to here what you thought in the little box below!
<3 always, RED )
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