Chapter 1 : Burn Out Stars
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The plan had been simple. It had involved leaving Hogwarts with exceptional marks and a considerate amount of lasting memories, moving as far away from my parents as possible the first chance I got, and becoming a star Chaser on a big shot Quidditch team.
Terrence Bigley, the team manager of the Holyhead Harpies, laced his fingers together on his desk as he leaned across it to me. His thick, dark eyebrows pulled together, creating a rift between them, and a few wrinkles in his forehead. There was a little indentation on his crooked nose from where his large spectacles had been perched only a moment before.
“I want you to smell your armpits.” 
I opened my mouth and closed it again stupidly, leaning away from Mr. Bigley in my chair. My brows furrowed in much the same fashion as his had. “Pardon?”
He rubbed the bridge of his nose in thought, before replacing his glasses.
 “That’s the smell of failure, Ms. Bell,” he explained, “and it’s stinking up my office.” His eyes met mine and they went slightly sympathetic at my lack of expression and movement. I couldn’t even breathe at the moment. “I’m sorry, but there’s nothing I can do.”
“But – there has to be! I’ve been working hard! Ever since I was eight, when my dad took me to my first match –”
“Obviously not hard enough.”
This was outrageous. What could possibly be more dedicated than working at my skill for near twelve years?
As expected, I could not find a single answer to that within me.
My mouth went dry, and I felt wetness round my eyes, as if all the moisture had been transferred there. This couldn’t be happening. “What am I supposed to do, then?”
“Find a new team to play for,” suggested Mr. Bigley with a shrug, “or a new hobby, but with your skill you should be able to find a new team quite easily, I think.” He smiled warmly at me, radiating sincere positivity.
It only made me feel worse.
Okay, so the plan hadn’t been so simple after all. And, to top it all off, as a result of getting the boot from a considerably well-paying gig, I was evicted from my flat. Just brill, wouldn’t you agree?
“I am sorry, Ms. Bell, but there is nothing I can do. Rules are rules,” Mr. Raval told me with little sympathy in his thick Indian accent before shutting the door to his flat in my face. I gave a bit of a jump when he did.
It seemed like that was the only thing that anybody could say to me lately.
I stood there in the corridor and stared at the golden numbers on his door, my eyes going slightly unfocused in thought. Congratulations, I told myself bitterly, you’ve just managed to kill two birds with one stone, and not in the good way. More like a you’ve-just-killed-the-last-two-birds-of-a-very-endangered-species-and-now-the-WEPA’s-going-to-throw-you-in-Azkaban way.
With a sigh, I finally turned and headed down the corridor, before pushing the glass front door of the building open and making my way outside. I ran my thumb under the strap of my duffel bag, which now contained about ninety-percent of the things that I owned (thank Merlin, or whoever invented it, for the Undetectable Extension Charm).
As I walked to Merlin-knows-where, I thought about my options regarding places to stay. My options dwindled down to three.
3. My parents
Angelina’s been getting rather snug with George lately, and I think they’ve even gotten engaged by now, so I doubt I’m welcome to stay there without feeling like a ten foot, unavoidable third wheel. I exhaled deeply and thought of Leesh. I hadn’t seen her in ages, it seemed, and I’d half-thought that she would go into the Quidditch business like me. But her name hadn’t come up in a long time, so that eliminated her as a possibility.
This left my parents.
Oh, bollocks. This so could not be happening. It was as though my plan was in motion – just backward motion, like I was undoing everything that I had accomplished in the past three years. As much as I didn’t like it, there was simply nowhere else for me to go.
I stopped walking and thought about the last time I’d seen my parents, two Christmases ago, when I was a part of something great. Back when I had been happy and successful and so sure of myself.
Back when I’d been sure of everything.
That seemed so long ago, but I knew that they would notice the sudden change, like a hill on a roller coaster. And, as if to make all of these devastating matters worse, the clouds opened up above me and it started to rain.
I could feel my cat freaking out inside of her carrying case, and hissing out of spite. I sighed and took out my wand, glancing round to make sure nobody was watching before putting a spell round her case to block out the rain. Gradually, she calmed back down, and I slumped against the nearby brick wall of a large building I could not recognize in the downpour.
My hair was matted to my skin in a matter of seconds, and my clothes were soaked and clinging to my body as well. I put a hand on my head and leaned it against the wall with a groan out of exasperation.
This really sucked, with a capital S.
I closed my eyes against the aggressive raindrops and exhaled slowly through a slight part in my lips, allowing my body to relax for a minute or two. I could hear people running round and sloshing through newly formed puddles around me, but I remained still, calm, letting the rain wash away my sorrows. I couldn’t carry all of that baggage with me to my parents’ house.
They’d give me hell for it, especially my brother, who believed in me the most. My heart clenched at the thought of how disappointed he’d be in me when he saw that I didn’t make it further than a year and a half.
Dad, however, hadn’t believed in me from the very beginning. He hadn’t believed that women could play sports and be good at them, despite the fact that women’s Quidditch teams existed. Now, just thinking of how smug he’d be when he found out I had failed, my aching heart sank. If mum were still here, she’d have been on my side.
I swallowed hard at the thought of her. Could nothing good come of this?
At the sound of someone calling my name, I opened my eyes. My eyelashes were thick with moisture, clouding my vision enough to make me blink a few times and squint a bit in order to get a good look at the person standing before me. “Kate, is that you?” He asked again, taking a step forward.
My eyes widened, then.
I recognized that voice. “Oliver Wood,” I replied, pressing my lips together in a hard line. “I never thought I’d hear that voice again.”
“Frankly, yes,” I admitted. “What are you doing in London? I heard you were playin’ for Puddlemere United.”
Oliver put his hands in the pockets of his trousers and nodded, looking away. I studied his profile; it was a lot more defined now, with a stronger, stubbly jaw, darker eyes, and a longer nose, off of which water dripped.
He was just as soaked as I was.
“Well, you heard correctly,” he told me simply. “I was just heading down to a local pub for a pint with some of the blokes from the team.” Well, at least one of us was going places. Oliver looked back at me and eyed me carefully, before gesturing to my bags. “What’s all this?”
I adjusted the strap of my bag on my shoulder and laughed nervously. “Oh, well… it’s a funny story.”
He raised an eyebrow.
I looked at him for a long moment, before exhaling. “No,” I admitted. “I… er… got booted from my previous… uh… job, and then lost my flat as an added result.”
“Ouch. What job?”
“I was a Chaser… for the Holyhead Harpies.”
Oliver stared at me and blinked, his lips slightly parted. “You’re kidding.”
“‘Fraid not,” I shrugged.
Honestly, is it really that big of a deal? I thought. He’s probably going to give me hell for it, and break into a whole rant about how well I used to play under his leadership back at Hogwarts, etc. I don’t think I’ve got the patience for that right now.
I didn’t three years ago.
“I’m sorry,” said Oliver finally. I looked up at him, confused. Oliver Wood just apologized… to me… for something he didn’t do? “What’d you do to make them want to – not that I’m implying that it had anything to do with you, it’s just… you know how it is… everything’s so competitive and –”
“Its fine,” I laughed, holding up a hand to get him to stop ranting. I exhaled, looking up at the sky for a moment. “I was pretty off my game the last few matches. Or maybe I was just a shitty Chaser from the start.”
He shook his head, his eyebrows pulling together. “What’re you on about, Bell? You were the best Chaser I’d seen in years! The Gryffindor team was glad to have you –”
Oliver’s mouth hung open as he stared at me, realizing what had just come out of his mouth. I was still pretty shocked myself. This was a big step up for him, this caring about other people more than himself. Had I missed something?
“I shouldn’t have –” he started to say at the same time I mustered up a sincere “Thank you.” Our eyes met and our mouths shut simultaneously.
I blushed and averted my gaze.
Why did he still have this affect on me?
“You’re welcome.” At his remark, I looked up again and managed a small smile, brushing my wet hair out of my eyes. He looked off into the distance for a moment, before exhaling deeply. “Look, let me buy you a coffee or something, just to get out of this rain.”
My heart fluttered at his proposition, but suddenly the weight on my shoulder became more prominent and I remembered that I still had to go to my parents’ house. I shook my head, looking down. “I’d like that, Oliver, but I can’t –”
“Can’t, or won’t?”
“Oliver, it’s not like that anymore. I’ve got a lot to sort out, since I just got evicted from my flat and lost my job and all.”
He just shrugged, offering a smile. “One coffee couldn’t hurt.”
I sighed impatiently at his persistence, fighting off the flattered smile that was pushing its way onto my face with all of the willpower inside of me. “Oliver –”
“Kate,” interrupted Oliver, taking me by the shoulders, “I’ve been waiting three years to ask you this. I’m not going to let you turn me down.”
Slowly, I let my eyes focus on him.
“You waited – r-really?” I swallowed, shaking my head. “How did you know that you’d see me again?”
And it was those two words that made all the difference. I pressed my lips together and brought forth the smile I had been suppressing as I rolled my eyes and shrugged. “Alright,” I agreed, holding up a forefinger, “But only one.”
He grinned and offered me his arm.
“That’s good enough for me.”
As I took his arm with a laugh and we started walking down the street, something occurred to me as I chewed on the inside of my cheek. “What about your Quidditch mates?”
“I’ve just managed to get that girl I have waited for, for three long years, to agree to have coffee with me,” Oliver pointed out. “I think they can wait an hour or two.”
“And if they don’t?”
He looked over at me, and his eyes glinted in that way they did when he didn’t care, except this time there was a smile accompanying it; a smile that told me that I was much more important to him than them right now. And at that moment I realized something.
I realized that something good could come of all this.
And it was Oliver.
Quick AN I was feeling rather inspired by Front Row by Metric, from which the line 'burn out stars, they shine so bright' was taken.
So, there it was! My entry for MadamMarauder's Gleek Challenge :) It was a bit of a challenge trying to write in the quote, but I finally managed to make it work. So, how was it? Rubbish bin, or two thumbs up? Thanks for taking the time to read!
General feedback/comments/questions/concerns/criticisms are welcome and appreciated as always :)
 - quote was "I want you to smell your armpits. That's the smell of failure, and it's stinking up my office." - Sue Sylvester. I do not own it. It belongs to 20th Century Fox, Glee, and all their awesomeness.
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