Chapter 10 : Beaten
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“Hey, Athena!” Fred called as he and George made their way towards me, waving their copy of the newspaper.
“Yes?” I asked warily.
“Check it out!” George said, pulling the paper open. “We made the list.”
“What do you want, a medal?” I asked sardonically.
“The honour of the list is much better than any medal,” Fred said solemnly.
“You do know that list is nothing but a Christmas wish list for a bunch of hormonal fifth-year Ravenclaws, right?”
“You’re a fifth-year Ravenclaw,” George observed.
Perhaps not the best of wording, Athena.
“Are we on your wish list then?” Fred continued, wiggling his eyebrows. “Along with, ah, Draco Malfoy, Roger Davies and Harry?”
“In any matters pertaining to Sleeping Dragons or its publication, I voluntarily disown fifth year, Ravenclaw House and the female population,” I replied.
“So that’s a no, then?” George asked.
“Good,” Fred said, nodding, “Because we’re planning to rearrange Malfoy’s face in the game next week, and I wouldn’t want to disappoint you…”
“Draco Malfoy has been down Gregory Goyle’s pants as a ferret. In no way do I find that attractive.”
“Well said!” Fred said cheerfully, flashing me a smile which made my mind think of a thousand stupid clichés. “I told you, George, these Ravenclaws aren’t all bad.”
“Just because you’ve got your eye on one,” George said dismissively.
My heart skipped a beat; who the hell was that? It wasn’t me, I could tell from their body language; there was no hint of a knowing smirk on George’s face, no meaningful glance between the two, no, I knew the signs. So who was it? I hated the way the questions were piling up, forming a panic in my mind.
Fred frowned slightly at George.
“So who is she?” I asked, keeping my tone light.
Fred smiled again, but this time it was meaningless. He tapped the side of his nose.
“Can’t risk you telling her,” he explained. “Ginny tells me girls tell each other everything.”
They walked away, and I wheeled around, striding through the castle towards Transfiguration. It was probably Cho Chang. Pretty, smart, sixth year, Seeker, took Quidditch seriously, in Dumbledore’s Army, and not a damn Prefect.
Fuck it all.
There was a definite buzz of excitement the following Saturday, the morning of the first Quidditch match of the season. Gryffindor and Slytherin had turned out in full house colours, with some supporters from other houses as well; Hufflepuff usually backed Gryffindor to the hilt, and sure enough a large number of Hufflepuffs were adorned in red and gold. Ravenclaw—well, we were probably the most cynical house. Though traditionally we backed Slytherin, the majority of us wore plain clothes and carried plain banners to the match, using frequent Colour-Change Charms to take on the colours of whichever team was winning. That way, especially in finale matches, we’d be more likely to get an invite to the massive victory parties thrown in the common room of the winning house.
It was a good system.
Luna Lovegood was an exception to both of the Ravenclaw Supporting Rules (Slytherin or Winners), showing up to breakfast in a full lion costume including headgear. I managed to swallow my initial reaction and make polite conversation about the match.
“I’m supporting Gryffindor,” she said somewhat unneccessarily.
“Who are you supporting, Athena?”
“Whoever wins,” I replied.
Luna let out a burst of laughter. “That’s funny!”
“Well, it’s true.”
“I thought you would support Gryffindor,” Luna continued.
I shrugged. “It doesn’t make a difference to me yet. Depends on whether we win against Hufflepuff next match. I’d rather play Slytherin, so either they win and we win, and we play them for the final, or they lose, we lose and we battle it out for third place.”
“Oh yes,” Luna said absently. “You play Quidditch.”
“Yes, I do.”
“I wouldn’t like to be beater,” Luna mused. “They get hurt a lot.”
“The seekers and chasers get hurt more. We at least have bats.”
Gryffindor versus Slytherin was always a brilliant kickstart to the Quidditch season; the rivalry between the two houses was intense and the quality of the play was, admittedly, much better than when we got out and played Hufflepuff. I wasn’t disappointed with the game either; it was fast paced, it was intense, and we were changing the colours and words on our banners almost every minute or two.
Bludgers were flying at the chasers and seekers; Katya swiftly dodged a carefully aimed one from one of the Weasleys, which was hit back in their vague direction by Vincent Crabbe, who ended up sending it straight at his keeper. I burst out laughing; Crabbe and Goyle really couldn’t beat for shit. Katya threw the Quaffle to Cassian, who threw it easily into the hoop—the new Gryffindor keeper was Ron and he sucked. I could hear the strains of the Slytherins’ new song Weasley is our King coming from their stand, and I felt a brief moment of sympathy for Ron before dismissing it. You had to learn to deal with abuse when you played Quidditch; the mind games in the week before the match came into the result almost as much as the game itself.
A loud cheer went up from the crowd as Harry and Draco began battling it out for the Snitch, each edging slightly ahead of the other, drawing even, both seekers pulling complicated dives and hurtling at breakneck speed around the pitch.
“POTTER! POTTER! POTTER!”
Madam Hooch’s whistle split the air and I wheeled around; Harry was pumping his fist in the air and in seconds the Ravenclaw stand became a sea of red and gold. I jumped to my feet, cheering alongside Nathaniel and Lydia as both teams came in to land. Slowly, we began filing out of the stand until a gasp swept through the crowd. I rushed to the edge of the stand, peering over the edge. Draco Malfoy was standing in front of Harry and the twins; suddenly Harry and one of the twins—George, I think—launched themselves forward; instantly the three Gryffindor chasers attached themselves to Fred, struggling to hold him back; Harry and George had attacked Draco, he was barely visible behind them as they punched him—what the hell just happened?
Madam Hooch sent a spell at them—impendimenta by the look of it, and rushed forward. Harry and George backed away, a bunch of Slytherins picked Draco up off the ground and carried him towards the hospital wing, and Umbridge stepped towards Harry and George in a manner that filled me with foreboding. My eyes didn’t move from Fred; even from this distance I could see the fury that filled him, and though I didn’t know what had happened, I felt a rush of anger myself, felt my fists clench at the thought of Draco Malfoy…
“Athena?” Nathaniel said quietly, tugging on my arm. I glanced behind me; the stand was almost emptied and I hastily followed him down the stairs and back towards the castle.
“What was that about?” I asked in a low voice, nodding in the direction of the pitch.
“I have no idea,” he replied. “I’ll find out, though, go talk to Ron or Ginny. I’ll meet you in the common room.” He trotted off towards Gryffindor Tower.
“They’ve been given a lifetime ban,” Nathaniel muttered, taking a seat beside me. It had been an hour or so since the incident, and Nathaniel had spent all that time in the Gryffindor common room.
“A lifetime ban?” I repeated incredulously. “But how—”
“Umbridge. She has absolute authority. I mean, on the positive side, that means if we play Gryffindor they’ll be down their best seeker and beaters…”
“Beaters, plural?” I repeated. “George was the only one fighting.”
“Yeah, that’s the really unfair bit. Fred got the same punishment. Apparently Umbridge said he would have joined in if the chasers weren’t holding him back.”
I stood up, not entirely sure what I was doing, and walked out of the common room. A lifetime ban from Quidditch for something he didn’t do? I couldn’t even imagine what I would do in that situation, I’d want to curse everything that walked…
I pushed through the door to Ravenclaw Tower, striding through the castle with a vague sense of purpose that extended as far as ‘find Fred.’ What I would do once I did was beyond me; words of comfort would be meaningless and weird coming from me…
As I walked, I started thinking.
Of the most insane, out-there idea I could have come up with.
An idea that would certainly gain his attention, though what to do from there was completely beyond me. I didn’t want to make deliberate attempts to get him to notice me; the concept alone was unthinkable. Besides, I didn’t want him to notice me, right? I wasn’t going to go out with the guy. I wasn’t going to get involved in any kind of relationship, and if he started liking me it would just make things far too complicated.
Just do it, the rash voice inside my head that nearly got me sorted into Gryffindor five years ago told me.
I rounded the corner and there he was, walking towards Gryffindor Tower, tense with unspent anger yet eyes downcast with defeat. I felt another rush of fury towards Umbridge.
“I heard about what happened,” I said abruptly, stepping forward and seizing his wrist. “And you’re coming with me.”
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