A/N: This story is written in response to long_live_luna_bellatrix's Contradicting Challenge, in which I was given a title, main character, side character, quote, and object that don't necessarily fit together in any ordinary way. The task was to create a story using all of those elements.
The story title was assigned to me (the chapter titles are my own). My main character is James Potter II; my side character is Luna Lovegood; my object is a dictionary; and my quote is, "I think a year should have 360 days in it, not 365." You'll find the quote in this chapter, but some of the remaining elements may not appear until the last chapter (the story will likely be about five chapters long).
I hope you enjoy! Please take the time to leave a review and tell me what you think!
“Mr. Potter! Can I have your autograph?”
James stopped at the entrance to the team locker rooms and turned to find the source of the timid voice that had just called out to him. He smiled and knelt down in front of the small boy who was holding out a toy Snitch in one nervous hand.
“Of course! And you can call me James. What’s your name?” As he accepted the Snitch from the boy, he flashed a friendly smile towards the woman a few meters away, who appeared to be the boy’s mother. The middle-aged witch blushed slightly and nodded in return.
“David Pitchess,” said the boy.
“Hello, David. And how old are you?” James signed his name on the toy Snitch.
“Eight years old.”
“What’s your favorite part of Quidditch?”
“The Seeker, of course! You’re my very favorite, James. You’re the best Seeker ever!” David’s round face was glowing.
James laughed as he handed David the autographed Snitch. “Well, thanks for that! Look, I’ve got to go get ready for the match now, okay? Pleased to have met you.” He shook David’s small hand and stood up.
“James?” asked David as James turned towards the locker rooms.
“Do you think I could play for Puddlemere someday?”
“I think you can do anything if you practice hard enough.” James smiled again and ducked into the locker rooms.
James grinned to himself as he changed into his Quidditch robes. This was one of the best parts of professional Quidditch. The other best part: a stadium packed to capacity with screaming fans.
“Now, let’s hear it for your home team…Puddlemere United!”
James’ heart was racing. His blood was pounding in his ears. He smiled an exhilarated smile. After five years, this part still made him giddy. It was childish, really. But it got him pumped up for every match, so he didn’t care.
James kicked off and soared out onto the pitch, welcoming the wild cheers and thunderous applause that greeted him there.
He took a few warm-up laps around the pitch with his team, waving to his fans as he zipped by.
The stadium grew quiet as James and his teammates touched down and lined up across from the Chudley Cannons. Eleanor Baxter, Puddlemere’s Captain, shook hands with the Cannons’ Captain, Dean McMurtry.
James kicked off the moment he heard the referee’s whistle. He rose about twenty meters higher than the rest of the players and started scanning the stadium methodically, his dark brown eyes focused on everything and nothing. He had become quite good at blocking out everything around him and concentrating completely on his task, while at the same time remaining hyper-aware of his surroundings. It was a skill that was perhaps more important in a Seeker than good eyesight and speed combined.
“It’s Puddlemere with the Quaffle! Huffmire has the Quaffle, and Puddlemere immediately assumes the Hawkshead Attacking Formation! Nice evasion by Huffmire there, excellent assist by Baxter, Huffmire breaks through Cannon Chaser Banville’s defense…Huffmire scores!!”
James cheered along with the crowd, still circling the pitch and keeping a watchful eye.
The match was a heated one. Puddlemere and the Cannons were neck and neck in the League rankings, and the League Cup might rest entirely on the outcome of this match. For over forty minutes, neither team led the other by more than twenty points. Both teams were highly skilled offensively, and though turnovers were frequent, in that short span of time they had managed to run the score up to 150 points Puddlemere, 130 points Cannons.
Seconds after Baxter brought Puddlemere’s score to 160 points, James saw the Snitch glittering behind the Cannon’s goal posts. Welles, the Cannons’ Seeker, hadn’t seen it yet, since he was busy watching the Cannons soar down the pitch in the other direction.
James accelerated, following the Snitch as it flitted to the bottom of the goal posts. It hovered ten meters above the ground, taunting him, as he reached out his right arm, about to close in.
A Bludger, soaring under his outstretched arm, hit him square on the right side of his ribcage. He heard a sickening crack and felt an excruciating pain shoot up and down his torso.
He swore loudly and squeezed his eyes shut for half a second before forcing them open again. He wasn’t even sure whether the Snitch was still there, but with his arm still outstretched, he struggled to regain his course.
Less than two seconds after the first Bludger broadsided him in the ribs, a second force like a battering ram hit his right shoulder at an awful angle.
For a wild moment, James thought the second Bludger had taken his arm off completely. It felt like there was absolutely nothing attached to his shoulder. Except for pain. Searing, blinding, unfathomable pain.
His vision went blurry, and he felt himself slumping forward on his broom just as everything went dark.
“Is he awake? I think he just moved.”
James woke, with a splitting headache, to the sound of voices whispering over him. The soft murmurs assaulted his ears, and he felt himself grimacing as he kept his eyes squeezed shut, trying to get back to the quiet, comfortable, dark place he had just come from.
“He even makes weird faces when he’s unconscious.”
“What…what day is it?” he groaned. He didn’t open his eyes – it felt like a very difficult thing to do.
“It’s…it’s February twenty-ninth, James.” He recognized his dad’s voice.
“No, it isn’t. It’s March first.” That voice belonged to his mum.
“Really?” asked Harry.
“Yes, leap year was last year.”
“Oh, I can never keep it straight. I think a year should have 360 days in it, not 365. That way every month can have thirty days, and we don’t have to mess with this rubbish.”
James groaned again. He wished they’d shut up. His head was pounding. He became aware of his mother’s small hands wrapped around one of his, and he gave them a gentle squeeze. It was then that he realized the hand she was holding was his right hand, and that assured him that his right arm was, in fact, still attached to his body.
Slowly, James opened his eyes. He was in a great deal of pain, but his mother’s, father’s, and sister’s anxious faces were a welcome sight. From his surroundings, he gathered that he was in a room at St. Mungo’s. His otherwise bare torso was wrapped in an enormous white bandage, and his right arm was in a complicated sling that forced him to keep it more or less stationary and pinned to his side.
“Did you say – ow!” He winced as he tried to sit up in his bed. Pain seared through his torso and shoulder. He lay back down, defeated. “Did you say it’s February twenty-ninth?”
“March first, dearest,” corrected Ginny.
“Whatever, Mum. So I’ve been out for…for three days?”
“They had to sedate you quite a bit,” replied Harry. “You’d have been in too much pain otherwise.”
“Well, it still hurts,” grumbled James. “Feels like my sodding arm is going to fall off!”
“Sorry, Mum. Feels like my…like my lovely, tap-dancing arm is about to fall off.”
Suddenly, a thought occurred to him, and panic overtook him.
“Holy bleeding hell!” Ignoring the screaming pain in his side, he forced himself upright with his left arm. “What am I going to do about Quidditch?!” He had never suffered an injury like this before. His mind raced as he tried to figure out how many matches he would have to miss.
He looked from Harry’s face, to Ginny’s, to Lily’s, and back to Harry’s. Ginny bit her lip and looked at him apologetically. Lily cast her eyes down towards the floor. Harry, however, gazed steadily at James.
“Ginny,” he said, “do you think you and Lily can give us a minute?”
Ginny planted a kiss on James’ forehead and moved towards the doorway with Lily. Pausing at the threshold, she turned around and mouthed something that looked like, I’m sorry. Then, with a sympathetic look, she left. This behavior only heightened James’ anxiety, and he tried to slow his uneven breathing as he wondered exactly how badly he had been hurt.
“Dad…?” James looked plaintively at his father.
Harry regarded his son evenly for a moment. Finally, he spoke.
“The good news is you’re going to have normal use of your arm.”
James wasn’t sure whether his mind was playing tricks on him, or whether his dad had placed careful emphasis on the word “normal.”
“What about brilliant-Quidditch-playing use of my arm?” James laughed nervously.
“Well, you see, the thing about that is – ”
“Dad,” interrupted James, “I can still play Quidditch, can’t I??”
Harry raised his eyebrows slightly. “Just listen to me, James. They said it won’t be completely out of the question for you to play Quidditch. That is, you’ll be capable of doing it, and nobody’s going to tell you not to. The thing is…”
James felt a horrible constriction in his chest. He wished his dad would just spit it out already.
“…the thing is, you’re never going to regain a full range of motion in your shoulder, so while you can play Quidditch if you want…honestly, you won’t be able to play like you used to.”
His dad may as well have been speaking Gobbledegook for all the sense it made to James. Not play Quidditch like he used to? James Sirius Potter, the star Seeker, not play as well as he always had?
He refused to connect the dots. He resisted the implication behind Harry’s words.
“I can catch the Snitch with my left hand, Dad, you know that! That’s why you taught me both ways, in case something like this happened, right?”
“Not exactly like this, James. Do you really think you can go your entire career as a lefty?”
James knew he couldn’t. Or, at least, he could, but it would never be the same. He would never be as good as he was before. His record would plummet. Puddlemere would let him go. The next great Seeker would step in, and James would be tossed aside like yesterday’s newspaper. David Pitchess was probably the last person who would ever ask for his autograph. And David’s autographed Snitch would be worth rubbish, just like James Potter.
Heartbroken and ashamed, he covered his face with his left hand to hide the tears brimming in his eyes. James Potter never cried. He was embarrassed to break down like this in front of his father. In an effort to keep the tears at bay, he held his breath, but that only seemed to force more tears to the surface. One traitorous droplet escaped and rolled down his cheek.
“I’m sorry,” he muttered, wiping his nose.
“For what?” Harry looked bewildered.
“For…for the crying…and the Quidditch.”
Harry laughed in astonishment, but a concerned look creased his brow as he locked eyes with James.