Quidditch match days always had a certain air about them. There was always giddy excitement that seemed to saturate everything. Perhaps it was magic, or perhaps it was just emotions, but either way, the days seemed explosive.
The Great Hall was pretty evenly divided in colours. All of the Gryffindors wore their traditional red and gold of course. Anyone who dared to support Ravenclaw would have been ostracized and probably wouldn’t have even bothered coming down to breakfast. The same thing happened with the Ravenclaws, though they all sported blue and bronze.
Among the Hufflepuffs, there were mostly Gryffindor supporters, though there was not the same pressure to conform. The Slytherins were all supporting Ravenclaw, if they were for anyone. Honestly, they never really supported teams other than their own; they only opposed Gryffindor.
I wasn’t creative, like Neel or Meera, when it came to choosing teams to support. I, always the conformer, went with what the majority of my peers supported, so I had a semi festive red and gold scarf on and someone had placed ribbons in my hair as I’d left the common room.
“Where’s your spirit?” someone asked me cheerily. Their face was obscured by a large lion mask, which apparently had been charmed to make their voice a growl as well, for I didn’t know anyone, male or female, who had that gravelly a voice.
I raised an eyebrow and the masked person. “Here’s my scarf. Do you see it?”
“That’s not enough!” the person replied, brandishing their wand from inside their cloak. I wasn’t really surprised to see that it was twined with gold and scarlet ribbons. Honestly, there was such a thing as going too far.
A tingle of magic and golden light flooded my face before I could point out that maybe they just had too much. “Hey!” I cried. “What was that for?”
“Spirit!” they replied cryptically, vanishing into the crowd.
I ran my hands over my face, trying to feel a difference, but nothing felt noticeably different, which was a relief of sorts. Shrugging it off, I walked over to where I saw Neel and Meera. I supposed it was all right, seeing as I didn’t get any stares or odd laughs as I moved past people.
I sat down with a smile across from the two twins. They had their heads together, no doubt discussing the upcoming match, probably predicting and likely betting. They barely looked up when I came in. Only Meera made a comment. “Nice paint.”
“Paint?” I asked, feeling a sinking sensation in my stomach. “What are you talking about?”
Neel looked up a little. “Oh, yeah, that’s cool.”
“Merlin,” I whispered, realizing that the spell had probably done something to my face. “Give me a mirror quick!”
Meera dived into her bag; apparently, the need for a mirror trumped the need to talk about Quidditch. I would never understand that girl. Neel stared at my face with interest, as if examining a painting. “Can you do that for me? Do you have any extra left over?”
“I didn’t do it,” I insisted, quickly taking the mirror that Meera offered to me. Though it was tiny, I could see my face quite clearly. My gold face. Accented with stripes of red across my nose, chin and forehead, I looked like Christmas bauble.
“This is not good,” I murmured. “Merlin, not good!”
“What are you talking about?” Meera asked, looking very confused in her scarlet robes. “I think it looks fabulous. Actually, I was surprised that you had that much spirit in the first place.”
“Someone,” I moaned, “Agreed with your opinion of my attire and coloured my face. With magic. So Merlin knows when it’ll come out.” After a pause, I added vehemently, “Bloody spirit.” Today, that seemed to be a root of all my problems.
“Good thing gold goes good with your hair,” Neel said jokingly. “No worries there.”
I glared at him. “It doesn’t match.”
“Still, it’s spirit.”
I rolled my eyes. “You wouldn’t happen to know a counter for it, would you?”
“No,” Neel shook his head, “And even if I did, I don’t think I would tell you. I’m sure it’ll wear off in a few days.”
“You are impossible!” I sighed and turned my attention to the breakfast waiting me on the table. It looked normal, but that certainly didn’t mean mediocre. Hogwarts food was always plentiful and delicious, something I didn’t always appreciate enough.
“And it’s Walker with the Quaffle. She’s quite the player this year, if I may say so myself,” the announcer, a Hufflepuff, Jackson Smith yelled into the crowded stadium. His voice was magically magnified, but I sometimes thought that he could be loud enough without a charm.
“Walker continues towards the goals. Let’s go then, Lola!”
I leaned forward in my seat, holding my breath as Lola sped forward, only a blur in the sky. I’d never been in to Quidditch, or flying in general, if I was going to be honest. The speed of it all made me nervous, not to mention the heights made me feel ill.
“And it’s a score for Gryffindor by Lola Walker!” Smith boomed over the roars that came the stands. I resisted the urge to cover my ears as the yells became so loud that I was sure they’d soon damage my hearing.
“Did you see that?” Meera tugged on my sleeve and reached over my shoulder to ask Grace as well.
I shrugged, “Yeah, it was nice.”
Grace nodded. “What Vicky said,” she responded, before turning her attention back to the game, with which she was apparently enthralled.
Meera made a disgusted sound. “No it wasn’t! The only reason that ball went into the hoops was because Anderson is such an awful keeper. Lola wasn’t even trying.”
I rolled my eyes at that. The finer points of Quidditch strategy were lost on me. “Alright then. I’ll have to take your word for it.” I grinned at Grace, who was shaking her head. “It’s not as if I understand the game.”
Meera shared an exasperated sigh with her twin. “I’m not going to make an effort anymore, Vicky,” she told me. “If you don’t pay attention, how do you expect to understand?”
I wanted to reply that I was paying attention, but figured that now wouldn’t be quite the time to start an argument. Instead, I tried to take her advice and watched the pitch again.
Smith’s commentary slowly filtered into my consciousness. “Anderson blocks the shot from Wood. But Wood catches the rebound. And oh! A bludger hit to Wood, who should have been paying more attention. The Quaffle’s picked up by Ravenclaw and off we go!”
I didn’t pay much attention to the Ravenclaw chaser who was now in possession of the ball, but rather turned my attention to Wood, who seemed to be clutching his arm in pain. I felt a tinge of satisfaction at his discomfort, but I quickly banished it. Even if I couldn’t stand Xander Wood, he was still part of the team that I wanted to win. Any injury could spell disaster.
“Is he alright?” Meera asked as she looked worriedly down to where Wood was hovering. “He’s not flying. He’s not moving, Neel! I think he’s hurt!”
Neel didn’t respond, but pressed himself closer to the railing as if by getting a centimetre closer, he could see the injury. “Yeah, yeah, I think he is.” Neel said, crunching up his forehead. “Why don’t they all a time out?” he asked softly. Then in a louder voice, he joined the crowd by yelling, “Time out!”
Beside me, Grace continued the chant, pumping her fist into the air with each “time” and bringing it down every “out.” “Time out! Time out! Time—”
A whistle interrupted the crowd’s frantic calls, giving them what they had called for. “And there’s a time out for Gryffindor,” Smith said unnecessarily. “It looks like their captain, Xander Wood, might have been injured by that bludger hit he took earlier. He’s clutching his arm, it looks like, though he’s still on his broom, so it can’t be that bad.”
I looked over the railing to see brooms falling towards the ground. A few teachers were waiting to meet Wood, along with Madam Éclaire, the nurse, who was bustling forward to examine the injury.
If it was only a broken bone, she could cast a quick incantation and Wood would be in the air in no time. If it was more serious, he’d be bundled off to the hospital wing, and the replacement would have to go in.
“Do you think he’s really hurt?” Grace asked, turning to me.
I shrugged. “No way to tell. He could be, I suppose. I don’t think he’s faking it, if that’s what you’re asking.”
Grace laughed loudly. “No. Xander wouldn’t fake anything like that. He’s a bit too dense to think that quickly on his feet. Besides, it wouldn’t do him any good to get a time out, unless he really was injured.”
I couldn’t have agreed more with her on her second point. “Could we please not devote anymore time to the discussion of gits?” I asked. “Let’s talk about something else, Grace. Something not Quidditch related,” I added when Meera looked over at us in interest, possibly to begin micro analysing each play.
She obliged willingly, making us the only two people in the stadium not occupied with Xander Wood’s injury. “What do you think of Thomas Walters?” she asked, unexpectedly. “Do you fancy him?”
If I had been eating anything, I would have spit it out in surprise. “Absolutely no!” I cried. “Merlin, Grace, what gave you that nightmare of an idea?” Me, fancy Walters? For one, he was a Slytherin. And never mind that he was another git who happened to attend Hogwarts.
“Relax,” Grace soothed. “I’ve just seen him watching you, that’s all. And you both have talked before. I thought it might be a possibility. With you, I never seem to know what type of bloke you’ll go for.”
I shook my head quickly. “Last time he talked to me, he called me “ma petite française,” my little French girl.” I didn’t stand for the French girl jokes from anyone. “He might fancy me, but I assure you that the feelings are not mutual. And what you mean that I don’t have a type of bloke?”
“Well,” Grace began. “First there was Harry Richards, in the first year. He was a bit of a dreamer. Then, Adam What’s-his-name in third year. He was hot, but a bit bookish.”
I blushed at the mention of Adam, who’d been my first kiss and my first serious crush. We’d never really dated officially, but were the closest thing two third years could have been to a couple. While he might not have been the most outgoing person, he certainly wasn’t bookish, just studious.
“Edwin Rogers, Derek Newman,” Grace rattled off a few more names. “And those are just the ones that you’ve gone out with. I’m not going to bother to list all the boys you’ve fancied over the years.”
“What’s your point?” I asked, not sure what she was getting at. My list was much shorter than hers would have been, had I been able to recall the names of all of Grace’s paramours.
“Just that Walters wasn’t too far off a guess.” She shrugged her shoulders.
I supposed she had a point, but I wasn’t about to say so and let it go to her head. “Still, he’s disgusting, Grace.”
She didn’t respond for a moment, because she’d leaned over to get a closer view of the scene on the ground. I could see Madam Éclaire bustling around, mixing a few potions up. “This isn’t the bloody hospital wing,” Neel muttered under his breath and I had to agree. If Xander was injured, he should leave. Then I wouldn’t have to see his arrogant face.
After a few more moments of watching, I leaned back, just in time to see Grace lose interest as well. “So, Vicky,” she said, a sly grin coming onto her face. “Who do you fancy now?”
I rolled my eyes. “What are you, twelve?” I asked. That kind of question seemed so childish, when asked so outright.
“No, I’m sixteen,” Grace replied cheekily. “There’s got to be someone.”
“Nope,” I replied, popping the “p.” “Nobody for me.”
A gleam entered Grace’s eye, something that I’d learned to be wary of. “Is that so? Are you challenging me to find you someone?”
“Don’t,” I insisted quickly, knowing how fast Grace’s little plans could spiral out of control. “But, say I was curious, who would you suggest that I look at?” Indulging Grace a little was always a good plan, as long as you didn’t let it get wildly out of control.
She pursed her lips and looked off into the distance. “Let’s see, do you want older blokes included? Does it matter which house? How about hair colour?”
I held up hands in defeat. “Hold on, just do it based on personality, alright? Any male in Hogwarts is game.”
Grace nodded, thoughtfully and was silent for a moment before speaking. “What about Nigel?”
I pulled a face, “No! He’s well—he’s not awful, he’s just not my type.”
“Good,” Grace approved, before thinking some more. Her eyes glazed over as she seemed to analyze every boy that she knew of. Finally, she nodded her head once, having come to a satisfactory conclusion. “Here’s an idea, Vicky. Don’t hate me for it, but what about Teddy Lupin? He’s not bad looking, and besides, you know him already.”
I gave an incredulous laugh. “Teddy? Really, Grace? First, he’s practically my cousin! And second, he hates me, after what happened. No way. No chance.”
“Practically your cousin?” she asked. “Not really. He’s what? Your uncle’s godson? There’s no blood relation there, at least, none that I can see. And I don’t think he hates you. I think he was just being protective of you and Dom both.”
I gave a minute’s thought to her insights. “Maybe. That could be it. But even if we aren’t related by blood, it’s close enough. You wouldn’t fall for Neel, would you?” I said as an example.
Grace shook her head with a free laugh. “Never. I can’t believe you even suggested him.” She paused to shake her head in disbelief. “I guess you’ve made your point. Not Teddy.”
With a quick nod, I turned my attention back to the field once more. A small smile crept onto my face as I saw Lola with a hand on Xander’s shoulder, protectively. “Do you see that?” I whispered to Grace.
She followed my gaze and a smile expanded over her face. “Lola? And Xander? I never would have guessed that.” A quick flash of doubt followed though and she bit her lip. “What about Dom, though?”
I thought of my sister, and how she’d undoubtedly heard what had happened with Xander and his drawings. “They’re not together anymore,” I said with more assurance than I felt. It would be just like Dom to forgive and forget. “He’s all Lola’s, though Merlin knows why anyone would want him.”
“This is good,” Grace smiled larger, “This is really good.” She leaned over to catch Meera’s attention. “What do you think of that?” she asked, pointing to the couple.
“Well he’s obviously injured,” Meera said. “Otherwise he’d be up flying.”
Grace rolled her eyes. “Stop thinking of Quidditch for once, Meera. That’s Lola down there. Xander and Lola.”
That brought Meera’s attention back to the stands. “No way!” she shook her head. “I don’t believe it. Lola would never go for a bloke like Xander.”
I recalled my conversation with one-half of the couple. Lola had expressed the same sentiment, only she thought that Xander wouldn’t go for a girl like her. “Actually, she told me she fancied him.” I said, stopping the two girls in front of me from arguing.
“Told you!” Grace said triumphantly to Meera.
“Whatever,” my other friend said, swinging her dark braid over her shoulder as she turned back to the game, or rather, the lack of game.
My attention soon turned back to the pitch, as Jackson Smith began announcing again after the brief respite. “I’ve just heard that Xander Wood will not be able to play,” he called, to thunderous roars of disapproval from the Gryffindor side. “I can assure you that I’m as disappoint as the rest of you, but rest assured that Wood will make a full recovery in the hospital wing.”
All around me, I could hear cries of, “What next?” Or, “You’ve got to be kidding me!”
Even I felt a twinge of disappointment, now we had very little chance of winning, what with the team without a captain. The people in the stands seemed to share my sentiment, some looking dejectedly down at the ground, others angrily yelling at the players.
“In light of this,” Smith continued to announce, oblivious to the roaring crowd, “The match has been postponed until later notice. I’ve been asked by the Headmistress to tell you all that she expects you to return to your dormitories with reasonable haste and not to cause a fuss, if you would be so kind.”
The last words were so undoubtedly Professor McGonagall’s, word for word that I had to laugh. Smith sounded so pompous when he wasn’t his usual joking self.
“What’s going on?” Neel asked, looking very confused. “They can’t just cancel the match if one player gets injured. There are rules to be followed!”
Meera stood rather reluctantly and tugged her brother up from his seat as well. “Don’t you see, Neel?” she said in an undertone. “They’re just playing it down. I think Xander’s really hurt.”
I considered Meera’s view for a moment. It was true that this was all very strange, but normally the professors were straight with us. They wouldn’t go to all the trouble and risk angering the students as a cover up of an injury, would they? When I voiced that opinion to Grace, she merely shrugged.
“I think you’re overreacting,” she said as we joined the throng of students heading back inside. “It could be the weather, it looks like it’s going to rain,” she added, glancing at the sky.
Deciding that she was hardly any help, I walked a bit quicker to catch up with Meera, who had had the idea in the first place. “What do you think happened?” I asked her.
She shrugged while walking. “No idea. Maybe they got wind that someone had rigged the whole place with fireworks or something?”
That was a much more mundane answer than I had been looking for. Maybe it had something to do with how many of my relatives had been in the Order of the Phoenix, but I often assumed the worst of situations. Most of my friends wrote it off as yet another strange attribute of Vicky’s but more often than not, I was right about things.
I chewed my lip for a moment, considering my options. I could be overreacting, which was completely possible. Or I could be right and something could be very wrong. Almost certainly, there was nothing wrong at Hogwarts—nothing had been wrong here since the Battle of Hogwarts. But accidents did happen in the real world, where a lot of people I cared about lived.
There was only one person I could think of who might understand my worry. I searched the crowd for a moment looking for the tall, skinny frame of Teddy Lupin. After a minute’s search, I spotted him, sporting spiky gold hair tipped with scarlet for the occasion. “I’ll be back,” I told my friends and pushed through the crowd before I could hear their answer.
After a minute of shoving people aside and earning more than my fair share of curses, I reached Teddy, who was laughing with several of his friends as they all walked towards the castle. “Teddy?” I asked, grabbing his sleeve to stop him. “Can I have a word?”
He nodded, a frown crossing his forehead, “Something wrong?”
I shrugged and let go of his shirt. “Does this feel strange to you?” I asked, quickly, feeling embarrassed as the words fell from my lips. I was just being paranoid and making a fool of myself.
Teddy looked down at me incredulously. “What do you mean?”
“It’s just, this feels strange—them cancelling the match for an injury. I couldn’t help but wonder what if something happened?”
He frowned, walking slower as he thought. “Do you have any proof?”
Of course I didn’t. “No.” I sighed, knowing that I sounded like a frightened child.
His reply was covered by a huge crack of thunder as the skies opened up and started dumping gallons of water onto our heads. Grace had been right after all, it was going to rain.
Like the rest of the students, Teddy and I started to sprint for the cover of the castle. He grabbed onto my upper arm, so we wouldn’t be separated and we became part of a throng that were running pell-mell away from the rain’s assault.
Finally, after a long minute, we were inside and Teddy pulled me to the side of the doors. “Don’t worry, Vicky,” he assured me. “I’m sure everything is fine, and if it isn’t, you’ll be the first to hear from me, alright?”
“Alright,” I said, wishing my teeth weren’t chattering from the cold rain.
Just before going, Teddy reached out a hand and wiped a finger down my cheek. “If I were you, I might finish washing off that paint,” he told me, showing off his golden finger.
And he was gone, before I could say another word. With one of my hands, I touched the place that Teddy’s fingers had rested moments before. Sure enough, upon examination, the paint was washing off. A rush of emotions surged through me, from relief, to annoyance, to shame. I didn’t move from my spot as people streamed past until I started shivering from the cold and only then did I start to walk back upstairs.
I actually wrote a long chapter this time, which isn't normal for me, but today it just sort of came, so a long chapter it is.
I hope you're enjoying the story and whoever leaves a review is guaranteed to make my day!