Chapter 29 : Another Kind of Courage
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Ah, Quidditch, what an ancient and silly sport....
Last Time on Drama Llamas: James and Avery snogged in the shower. James might have uttered the words "Bollocks on the Code" and then they were soaked.
I pretended I wasn’t completely soaked and shuffled over to the chalk board. Their eyes were burning into my back. Freddie was practically screaming questions. I could hear him bouncing up and down on the bench in front of his locker.
“Okay, team. Today we play the Puffers.” I drew a few lines on the board.
“Why are you wet?” said Bink abrubtly.
“I fell,” I said. “They’re gunning for us out there.”
“Into the lake?” he added.
I veered around. “Aves and I were talking over something personal. I tripped like a sodding idiot and used the shower handle to steady myself. Worked out well, eh?”
Bink, sensing the annoyance of his captain, said, “So Darian Bay is a tosser.”
I smiled. “I want everyone to work as hard as they can today.” I moved back to my X’s and O’s on the board that stood for plays and positions. “We can outscore them, but they’ll play dirty. Like I said before, Bay has no honor. He wants to win because he’s a damn Puffer and Puffers know very little about winning. Unless it’s a loyalty contest or something silly like that. Or a yellow contest. Or a badger one. Anyway, Paloma and Wesley, show no mercy.”
Wesley saluted me, his eyes still wide at the wetness of my clothes.
I paced back and forth, pants dragging on the floor. “Ready to kick Bay off his high horse? That arrogant bastard is getting almost as annoying as Lawson. Almost.”
“Bet he says the same thing about you,” Meta said.
I dodged. “There’s only enough room for one of us at Hogwarts.” Weirdly, I felt the same way about both Lawson and Edwards. And Costaso, but he wasn’t at Hogwarts.
Avery was brushing through her wet hair. She put it back up. I tried not to stare.
Just as I predicted, it was sunny but the sun was setting and in just a couple hours it would be dark. I led the team out of the locker rooms to Gryffindor cheers and Walters’ annoying roster voice. He always pronounced names like a robot.
In front of me the Hufflepuff team was crossing the grass. I surveyed their size and was thankful at least this time Fred hadn’t fucked the whole team. I didn’t have to worry about my pitch being defiled. At the moment, anyway. I was fairly certain Abigail wasn’t the kind of girl to have sex on a pitch.
The crowd was blurry—something I was used to at Quidditch matches. I loved it. My eyes flew to Elizabeth to Clint Lawson (sick), to Kay Davies and then, surprisingly, to Avery’s dad. He was in a suit, gold tie, and had his hair slicked back against his scalp.
My head twisted back toward Avery.
She winked, having not seen. Blimey, she was amazing.
Avery Flynn. My…girlfriend. How weird was that? When was the last time I had a girlfriend? Two years ago. Daisy from the summer. Lily and Rose hated her. I figured it was because her name was a flower too.
I couldn’t think too hard about it though. Not yet. I had a Quidditch match to win and I could think over my fabulously new relationship with Aves later. Now I was going to use the adrenaline to take out Darian Bay, who was nearly to the center of the pitch. Sodding creep. I wondered what Nia saw in him.
Ah, yes. He was a captain before me.
It was only because Dara would have rather failed than give up her team to someone that broke the Code. Well, was going to break it. Wide open.
Shit, what had I just done?
Never mind. This was business. Not quite suit and tie business, but business all the same. Quidditch business. Quid Biz.
I shook his hand, trying not to get Puffer germs on me. “Thought of any comebacks yet?” I said, thinking back to his poor showing in the Entrance Hall.
“Shut it, Potter. You’re going to eat dirt.”
That was a no.
Bay almost snorted. “You can’t watch over everyone,” he whispered while Walters went over game facts. “We’re going to take them out one by one and leave you looking like a fool.”
I rolled my eyes. Secretly, I might have been a little worried. It was Quidditch, but if the ref turned her back for one second there could be cheap shots all around. I knew Meta could take care of herself, but what of Avery? What if she was making a save with both hands and they got her? I’d bleeding kill them, that’s what.
“I want a clean game.”
Yeah right, ref. Did she even know us?
I took the moment to glance back at my team, their hair blowing sideways in the late February wind. It cut through me like a knife and I knew they were all doing their best to ignore it. Part of Avery’s ponytail had frozen. Paloma and Wesley’s jaws were tight and I could see Meta eyeing the Puffer Seeker. Bink and Fred were whispering about Merlin knew what and then I looked back at Avery.
I had to think about Quidditch. This was my chance to solidify myself as a captain. To show the world (and Dara Wood) that even though my team had been threatened with a Code-break, it wouldn’t tear us apart. Ever.
I mounted my broom to cheers. That Quaffle was mine.
Well, not quite, but I was close. The air was colder than I thought it would be and immediately my body wasn’t working as well as I wanted it to. I flattened myself against the broom and flew higher, catching a toss from Fred and streaking up the pitch toward the Puffer Keeper. I forgot his name, but he was in yellow.
I chucked it, but my arm was sluggish and the bloke got it, throwing it to Bay, who rushed back toward Avery. Bleeding git.
I ignored Bink and Meta shouting random obscenities at each other because it wasn’t affecting their game. If anything, it made Bink play harder. Yell, Bink, yell. He threw and missed. Fred threw and had it blocked.
What did this Keeper have for breakfast? Jet fuel?
Avery was playing just as well, luckily. She had let two in by that time, but only because of a stray Bludger and a really damn good shot by another Chaser that wasn’t Bay. Why did I forget their names already? It was because they were Puffers.
I caught the Quaffle again and made my way back to the other side of the pitch. The wind was making my ears hurt and I dodged a Bludger Paloma just missed. Then there was an elbow in the side of my head and the Quaffle fell into the arms of Darian Bay.
Fucking son of a bitch. Of Meta McLaggen.
My head whipped around. “Get it!” I shouted at Bink, who was diving for it, but missed.
Luckily, Avery caught it just in time, giving the ref an “are you kidding me” look. She could have been famous for that look.
The Beaters went after Meta first, forcing her up over the play and targeting both Bludgers right at her, as well as a skillfully hidden jinx. She saw it, whipped out her wand, and shielded herself from the charm. She ducked the Bludgers and went on her way, flipping them off as she went.
I had hope. My team was smart. They were agile.
There was one of them sailing toward the ground.
Darian Bay high-fived his other Chaser as Fred was carted off the field, bleeding from his ear. Poor addled brains.
I glanced at my bench, free of reserves. Well, this would have been a great time to have a reserve Chaser. I looked at Bink.
“Oy,” he said as a couple medi-wizards cleaned the blood off the grass. We were floating toward the defensive end. “We’re going to have to do a lot of dodging. Think we can do it?”
“Bay is for real,” I replied, not answering his question. “This git is going to go for it. He really is going to try and take all of us out. Thank Merlin Meta held her own.”
“Ready for this?” Bink asked, glancing over at Paloma, who clearly looked worried.
“Let’s do this.”
The game was back on and I had the Quaffle. To Bink. Back to me. Back to Bink and he dodged both Bludgers (where the fuck were my Beaters? Ah, getting harassed by the Chasers of the other team). Back to me. Through the goal hoop.
That was harder than it needed to be.
Now Hufflepuff was leading us by forty.
Then it was sixty.
I was out of breath. My body hurt without my other Chaser.
Suddenly, things got a little out of hand. My head flew around when Avery screamed and I saw Bink heading for the ground where a charm slowed him and medi-wizards were there to cart him off the pitch. He was unconscious.
“Time out!” I cried, rushing for the ground.
Paloma was bleeding. She grabbed some bandages and poured an alcohol-based potion on top. Wesley’s arms were already forming bruises. Meta seemed fine, though, which was always a good sign.
“We only have a couple minutes,” I said, leaning against a nearby cart.
“I’m sorry,” Avery said, pacing. “I keep yelling for the ref—how is she not seeing this? How is our team getting beat up and theirs not and she’s not seeing any of it?”
“Maybe the Puffers are rich,” said Wesley.
I shook my head. “Look. I’m sure you two will be next, Wes—Paloma. They know they’re not doing anything about Meta and Avery would be too hard because the ref is always watching her when the Quaffle is nearby. Still, watch your back, Aves. I have to try to do this on my own.”
“James, don’t be a hero,” said Paloma. “You’re not going to score seventy points by yourself.”
“I have to try, don’t I? If you can get the Quaffle from someone, do it. But don’t get hurt.” I paused, realizing the ref was looking impatient. Clint Lawson was laughing in the crowd. Avery’s dad looked apprehensive. Darian Bay was high-fiving his whole sodding team.
I turned. “Meta?”
She raised a brow.
“I know you can do this. I know you can catch the Snitch before that sorry excuse for a Seeker.”
“Is that confidence, Potter?”
“More like hope,” I said with a smile. I hated her. I really did, but she was one hell of a Seeker and we were lucky to have her. Even if I wished I could tape her mouth shut. “Let’s do this!”
I wanted to kiss Avery for good luck. No go.
“Had enough?” shouted Bay. He was grinning.
“Go to hell!” I said. Who knew Puffers could be dirtier than Slytherins? I’d be talking Slytherin about Hufflepuffs for a while.
Darian Bay laughed harder.
He had a reason to. Wesley, bloody torso and all, was the next to go and they just kept scoring. Avery was trying her best and she made some amazing saves but they were up by over a hundred. The crowd was still except the Hufflepuff section. Oh, and the Slytherins but I figured they were banking on it. The Ravenclaws were awkwardly still and the Gryffindors were either shouting angrily or leaving.
No one liked a team that got destroyed, members hurt or not.
Darian Bay knew this. He left me alone. He wanted me to feel what it was like to lose. Something I hadn’t done in years, let alone as a captain. He wanted me to be humiliated.
And I was.
Four of us. One Chaser. One Beater. One Seeker. One Keeper.
I scored again. They scored three times.
They were up one hundred and thirty. It was so humiliating. I wanted to curl up on the sidelines and pretending it was the Slytherins taking on the Puffers. That they were looking like idiots up here.
Maybe Dad was right. Maybe Quidditch just wasn’t what it should be for me.
What kind of fucking Captain was I? Up in the air watching my team get taken out. Wasn’t there something I could do about it? To stop it? Could I hex the other team? I felt useless.
I was in a nightmare and the sky was as dark as I felt.
Suddenly Paloma passed me the Quaffle. I used every bit of strength to hurl it at the right hoop. The Keeper’s fingers skimmed it, but it went through.
Only one-hundred twenty.
Until they scored twice.
Avery was near tears, but she was saving so much more. If she hadn’t been in front of those hoops the Puffers would have seven hundred.
I flattened myself against the broom again as Paloma dodged two Bludgers.
“Oy!” I cried as Paloma ripped the Quaffle out of Bay’s hands.
Then he elbowed her in the head.
She spun off course but regained control, a fire in her eyes I hadn’t seen before. I wondered if Al knew about it. All I knew about was the cold making my fingers numb. It was impossible to hold onto anything, let alone a Quaffle. Fuck you, February.
Another one for the Puffers. Up by one hundred fifty points.
Avery screamed something very obscene at them. Did her father know she had that inside of her?
“James!” Paloma cried.
I instinctively dove, but no one was there to take me out. The Quaffle was still with Bay below me and the Bludgers were on the other end of the pitch. I looked at her, wondering what the hell she wanted, when I noticed Meta. In a dive. Toward the Snitch.
Suddenly it was in her fingers, her face flushed and cold and I was hugging her harder than I’d hugged anyone in a while.
She got the Snitch! She got it. Meta (bitch) McLaggen caught me the Snitch and we were saved!
Or so I thought. Walters made it quite clear I wasn’t saved.
“A tie,” he said gracefully, almost tactfully. I reminded myself he was an enemy Puffer. “Ladies and gentlemen, in the event of a tie in Quidditch there is one tradition that has not died. It is a rare event, though.”
I thought back to my manual. I didn’t like ties. I liked winning. I skipped the chapter on ties. They were for less equal people. Like Puffers.
“When there is a tie,” Walters continued, “there is a shoot-out.”
Well, fuck. Of course there was a shoot-out when my Chasers were in the hospital wing.
Darian Bay looked like he had it in the bag. He lined up his Chasers on the side of the pitch and did a little dance worthy of my sister sleepwalking.
I took all the time I needed, staring at my team. “Well,” I said. “There isn’t much of a choice.”
Paloma was petrified. Her whole body was shaking as she dropped the Beater’s club.
Night had fallen on the Quidditch pitch and the crowd was roaring. The Gryffindors that left due to humiliation were back (they brought food). All were making some kind of noise. Puffers were cheering Darian’s name. He was their leader. Their big, yellow, square-jawed leader.
Over my dead body.
I stared out over the pitch, mist on the grass and stars in the sky. This was my pitch. This was the place I wanted to be the rest of my life, Transfiguration scores be damned. It belonged to me. I was the Captain of a legendary team that had overcome so many things. My dad was the Captain. My mum was on the team. Aunts and uncles were on the team and I wasn’t going to let something stupid like some Chasers and a Beater in the hospital wing stop me from reclaiming my glory.
My heart was thumping and suddenly I was warm. I turned back to them.
“We’re going to win,” I said loudly. “We’re going to go out there and show them that they can play dirty and cheat, but we are going to come out on top.” I put a hand on Paloma’s shoulder. “Just do your best. Do your best and that’s all we can ask for. If you don’t make it, then you don’t. You’re not a Chaser.”
She smiled weakly and I had a feeling she felt like she was going to throw up.
Meta was ready, her face rigid and tense.
I glanced at Avery. “You’ve got this.” She had so much more than just that.
“Gryffindors,” I said, putting a leg over my broom. “Let’s show them why we get gold and not yellow.”
One of the Puffers was up first. He dodged to the left, then faked right. Avery was there, reading him like a Charms book. She was very good at Charms. Among other things.
Meta went next. She flew up the pitch making a fake and throwing it. The Puffer Keeper just barely kept it out with the heel of his left foot. It was quite the save, only made because he slipped off his broom, the bleeding idiot.
Another Puffer. Avery saved it again. She was sweating in the cold. I could see the droplets from the ground.
Paloma’s eyes were hard and narrowed. She was furious. Maybe it was because they injured her team or perhaps it was because they forced this upon her, but she was pissed.
She threw it and had the Keeper beat. If only it wouldn’t have hit the post. The clang echoed through the stadium and there was a dull “ooh” that made me sick to my stomach.
My heart pounded. More like exploded.
Darian Bay suddenly looked a little nervous. Two of his blokes had failed. His Chasers. Both the Gryffindors were close and neither were Chasers. It was written on his defined face.
I couldn’t watch as he flew up the pitch with the Quaffle tucked under one arm. My eyes squeezed closed and I heard an uproar of applause. Only, from whom?
The Gryffindors. Avery chucked the Quaffle at the ground in a celebratory fashion. Only, if I didn’t make it, she’d have to stay up there until there was a round when someone made it and someone didn’t. She hovered there. Then she smiled at me.
My body was warm. Hot. Determined.
I didn’t hear anything. The crowd blurred into the noise the air made passing my hair. Toes were numb, chest pounding. I could taste it. I didn’t know what it was, but I could taste it. Longing. Confidence. The sheer need to show the world—Hogwarts—that I was James Sirius Potter. I was not some throwaway bloke with a famous dad that wasn’t going to do anything for himself.
I was going to make a name for myself, and it started tonight. It started during this game.
I lifted the Quaffle out of the air, tilted my broom forward, and felt the freezing air in my eyes, causing me to squint. The Keeper was hovering left. He wanted me to fake left and go right. I could see his leg positioned to fall right. He thought I was reading him pretending to go left so I would go right. Even his head was tilted right so I would go right.
I was James Potter. Keepers didn’t read me. I read them.
I pushed my left foot, faked left like he wanted me to, he went right, stretching out his yellow gloves, and all while losing footing, I threw left.
I pulled open my eyes, the air painful, but I had to see it. I had to see it sail through a hoop.
And it did.
I was engulfed before I knew it, Paloma’s arms tight around me, dragging me toward the ground. Meta ruffled my hair. Avery kissed my cheek.
Darian Bay was swearing, stomping off toward the locker rooms. Git.
I finally managed to escape my broom and get my feet flat on the ground before the other Gryffindors stormed the field. I grabbed my team. “Oy,” I said. “You lot are amazing. Absolutely amazing. I can’t believe we just did that. If I paid you I’d give you a raise.” I couldn’t stop smiling. My face was going to be stuck like this forever, in a painful grin. “But get up to the hospital wing. Paloma, you’re bleeding. Meta—holy shit, Meta.” I finally was able to take her in properly. Meta’s eye was swollen and she was bleeding from her hairline. “Get there now! Oy! Medi-wizards! Do your job and get these two off the pitch!” I looked at them. “I’ll be up in a minute to see how the others are. Meet you up there.”
Avery was still behind me, uninjured except for a few bruises from blocking the Quaffle.
“You should be going up there with them,” she said as thunderous footprints made their way onto the grass.
“You’re bleeding, idiot,” she said.
I felt my head instinctively. Yeah, I was. It wasn’t bad, just a little blood.
“James!” cried Nia, throwing her arms around me. “You did it!”
The sentiment was similar from everyone else. Thumping me on the back, ruffling my hair, and kissing my cheeks. Someone even hoisted me into the air briefly until I got light headed.
“Captain, you’re bleeding!” said a second-year. I enjoyed that he called me captain even though he wasn’t on the team.
“James Potter, get your sorry arse to the hospital wing now!” That one was Lily.
I wasn’t even dizzy. Well, maybe a little. A few people might have been spinning.
“C’mon, captain,” said Avery, laughing. “Thanks, Lily, I’ve got him from here. You lot get out of the cold—yeah, thanks. Thanks, Al. Yeah, his is the third locker.” She put her arm around me and we limped toward through the crowd. Things were getting blurrier.
“What you really need is some water,” she said, grabbing a bottle off the sidelines.
“Is that Puffer water? I don’t want Puffer water.”
“I hate Puffers.”
“Avery! You were amazing.”
My head snapped up and the figure out Mr. Flynn came into view. I grabbed the water and drank it just to stop myself from punching him.
“Oh. Hi.” She lifted me up a bit more since I was sinking. “Enjoy the game?” Awkwardness.
“I did. I have to say Hufflepuff plays a lot different than we did when I was here.”
“A lot dirtier, you mean,” I mumbled.
“Nice to see you again, Mr. Potter.”
“Likewise,” I said, drinking my water again. Damn Puffer water tasted like cheaters.
“Listen, Avery, I’m sorry I haven’t been in touch much. I was traveling a lot and it was hard to get anything down on paper and I didn’t know where I was going to be next.” He smiled confidently. “I got this tie for the match! To show I support Gryffindor.” Mr. Flynn pointed to the gold tie.
“I see that. Thanks. It looks nice.” Avery glanced over at me. “Sorry to run, but James is kind of losing blood so we have to get him upstairs. It was nice to see you again.”
“Oh, yes, yes, of course. Feel better, son.” He clapped me on the back. “I’ll write you soon, Aves!”
My throat clogged up in an attempt not to scream at him for calling her that. Damn jerk. Calling my girlfriend what I call her. Other than girlfriend. That was a new thing anyway.
She led me through the cold back up to the castle in silence. I didn’t want to press the subject, but I did squeeze her hand and offer her the bottle of water.
“I’m not drinking Puffer water,” Avery said with a sly smile.
“Bleeding bitch,” I said, laughing. I helped her pull open the door to the Entrance Hall. The warmth was very welcome since we were avoiding the after-Quidditch showers. We had a before-Quidditch shower anyway.
She hoisted me up a few stairs. Why was the hospital wing not on the first floor?
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“I only have a couple bruises.”
Eye roll. “Aves, I mean with your dad being here.”
“It was awkward, but it wasn’t too bad. Nice of him to wear that tie.”
Yeah, nice of him to show his support for Gryffindor. Very nice. Sodding idiot. He probably only wore it because if Hufflepuff won he could say it was yellow and he supported the cheating Puffers. I was dragging my feet.
She was about to push open the door to the hospital wing when I held out my hand and grabbed hers. She glanced over and I kissed her. The red tint on her face was nice, especially when it wasn’t from the cold outside.
“What was that for?” she whispered, eyes downcast.
“Just for how amazing you are.” It sounded cheeseball, but no one else was around to hear it. Avery knew I could be a cheeseball sometimes. She didn’t care. She might have even liked it, especially judging by her smile.
The silence that surrounded us was deafening.
“Thank you, James.” She smiled, eyes sparkling. “I needed that.” With that, she pushed open the door and the dim lights of the hospital wing met us.
“Oy!” I cried. “Team!”
Paloma peeked out from behind a curtain. “Everyone’s alive,” she said. “You look awful,” she added.
“Thanks for that vote of confidence,” I mumbled, grabbing a pillowcase off the cart near the door. I wrapped it around my head. “There. All better. Where’s the others?”
Paloma pointed toward the front of the ward. Meta was getting patched up beside her, wincing as Madam Bones put on several bandages. She was scowling. It wasn’t my fault that time! Bones could just blame the Puffers.
I glanced over and saw Wesley’s bed. He was awake, but his arm was in a sling and there were bandages around his head. “You all right, mate?”
“Been better,” he said. “Sorry.”
I raised a brow. “Why again? Did you get a detention or something?”
“Sorry I got hurt and couldn’t help out.”
I wanted to hit him. “Wesley, never apologize for things you can’t control. The Puffers were playing so dirty it’s astounding they didn’t get the others.”
“I’m glad they didn’t get you,” he said and I could tell he was being really serious. It made me a little uncomfortable, but kind of warm inside.
“They wouldn’t have,” I said. “They wanted me to…”
I made a disgruntled face. “They wanted me to feel what it was like to be humiliated during Quidditch.”
“Not one bit,” I said, ignoring my moment of panic on the pitch. “I’ve never been prouder of this team.” I patted him on the head. “Rest up or I’ll have you doing laps for lack of recovery efforts.” I moved to the next bed and saw Bink there. He was still out.
“He’ll be fine,” Bones said instinctively. “Gave him some potion so he’ll sleep it off while he heals.”
I frowned. “And Freddie?”
“He’s out too. He’s a little worse for the wear but I think he’ll pull out of it okay. As long as he doesn’t run away from the hospital wing again.” She narrowed her eyes at me.
I pretended I had no idea what she was talking about.
Beaten and bruised, but my team wasn’t broken.
If anything, we were stronger than before.
A/N: Quidditch! I always wondered what the heck happened if no one won...so I wrote it. I hope you enjoyed it :) And James's awesome revelations through the chapter. Let me know what you think and if Freddie's brains will ever heal.
Also, anyone getting snow yet? I must admit I'm snow-free currently but I worry it's quickly approaching.
Next Up: Chapter 30 is called "Kiss and Tell." Why don't you take a guess as to what it's about....
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