Quidditch tryouts take place at the end of the first week, by which time election excitement is in full swing. I’m getting sick of politically-minded Ravenclaws accosting me in the corridors asking, “Hey Rose, what are your mother’s thoughts on…?” or “Rose, do you think you could OWL your mum asking a few questions about…?” I’ve reached the point where the moment I hear the words “your mum,” I’ll turn around and walk away, leaving them standing there talking to thin air. It’s strangely satisfying.
“Quidditch pitch is booked,” Scorpius informs me when I manage to track him down in the common room for nearly the first time all week. “Oh, and it’s good to see you, of course. I’ve missed you.”
“Reckon you’ve missed your SwiftSeeker 350 more,” I comment mildly.
“I saw that this afternoon. Anyway, how’ve you been?”
“Driven bonkers by the politically minded. If I hear one more word about ‘my mother’s policies’ I’m going to pull a FredAndGeorge Weasley and fly the hell out of this place.”
“Your father would be proud.”
“And my mother would kill me.” I sit heavily on the velvet green couch beside Scorpius and he casually flings an arm around my shoulders.
“You smell,” I inform him, carefully detaching his arm.
“I just came off the pitch.”
“You should have just had Ancient Runes.”
“Skipped it,” Scorpius says unapologetically. “What’re you going to do, deduct points from me?”
“Sure, if I wanted to shoot myself in the foot. When’s tryouts?”
“At five. Gryffindors had theirs the other day, they have a strong team.”
“We have a stronger team.”
“There was no question about that. It’ll be nice to have some competition though, they haven’t been quite on form since old James Potter left.”
I decide not to point out that Gryffindor beat us last year; in fairness, Alyssa was sick for the final.“Al tells me Niall Prewett’s being an absolute Nazi.”
“Eh? I suppose he’s a seventh-year, it’s to be expected.”
“You’re a seventh-year too.”
“I’m perfectly aware of that, Rosie my love. I’ve been talking to Al myself, actually. The Gryffindor team are planning to book out the pitch every morning from five a.m, starting in October.”
“We’re booking the pitch every evening till eleven.”
“That’s after curfew if we have anyone below seventh year.”
“And this is where you come in, Head Girl of Hogwarts. Do you have to get special permission from McGonagall, or are you powerful enough to override it?”
“Powerful enough,” I admit with a grin. Even if it’s being blatantly abused by Scorpius, I do enjoy using my powers as Head Girl. “But wait,” I add, remembering the original problem. “I don’t know if you’ve heard of this concept, Scorpius, but apparently—and here’s where it gets really crazy—human beings have to get a certain amount of sleep to function.”
“Sleep is for Hufflepuffs.”
On impulse I lean over and kiss him hard, grinning at the surprised look on his face when I pull away.
“I’m not complaining, but what brought that on?”
“You,” I inform him. “You’re absolutely bat shit crazy, and I love you.”
In my humble opinion I thought we flew well during tryouts, but apparently Scorpius disagrees. Having selected the team, he calls us all into the changing rooms for a meeting.
“You flew abysmally,” he begins.
Wow, this is gonna be one hell of a fun year.
“You’re kidding,” Jeremy says flatly.
“No, I’m not, unfortunately. You’ve gotten sloppy over the holidays, your turning and your braking is far too slow, you’re not getting up to speed, and Danny, you’re missing half the Quaffles we throw at you.”
“Gotten rusty over the holidays,” Danny says unapologetically.
“Right. I wasn’t intending to start serious training until later, but it seems we need to get back into it. So, for the next week, I want you down on the pitch every afternoon from four till six. No exceptions or you’re off the team.”
“You’ve gone mad with power!” I blurt, throwing my hands in the air and departing from the changing room. “And the sad thing is, you don’t even have that much power!”
I’m subjected to scowls and glares from the love of my life for the rest of the evening, for ‘undermining his authority.’
“Undermining your authority? I was saving the team. We’re not going to be able to beat Hufflepuff if we’re a team of worn out corpses on broomsticks.”
“If we’re a team of worn out corpses on broomsticks, Gryffindor will be a team of corpses so intensely schooled in technique their post-mortem nervous twitches will send the Quaffle through the hoops and catch the Snitch!”
“If Gryffindor can beat us as corpses maybe they deserve the Cup!”
“If Gryffindor can play as corpses we can beat them as corpses!”
“Why are we being so hypothetical?”
“Because the conversation just progressed like that!”
“Good night, Scorpius.”
“Hey, Lily,” my cousin Roxanne greets me. “Thought you might be interested in something I just saw on the noticeboard.”
Intrigued, I follow her out of the dorm and down into the common room, where a small group has gathered around the noticeboard.
DUELLING CLUB REVIVAL!
We decided it was high time to revive the Duelling Club days, and are opening up a new Club for all interested members on Wednesday nights in the Entrance Hall, beginning at 8pm. Due to the complexity of possible spells and for safety reasons, the club is at this point only open to students 3rd year and above. If you are interested please see Rose Weasley, Scorpius Malfoy, Jeremy Nott or Alyssa Rutherford of Slytherin to put your names down.
“Excited?” Al asks, elbowing me as he extracts himself from the crowd. “Even if it is run by a bunch of Slytherins?”
“Don’t be such a hater, Al,” Molly admonishes. “The Slytherins are all right.”
“Try telling him that before a Quidditch match,” Roxanne comments. “Move along, people, breakfast closes in twenty minutes.”
I’ve been looking forward to the duelling club all week, though as the time draws closer I begin to have second thoughts. I’ve been relatively safe entertaining the notion that I’m one of the more powerful witches at Hogwarts, but that could all be blown out of the water in a matter of minutes if I’m defeated. Don’t duel anyone until you’ve learned how, was my father’s sage advice to Al, and I can’t help remembering it. I know how to duel, or at least, I did in third year, against other third years.
What the hell, Lily, I tell myself furiously. You have a chance to do something you’re good at, something you enjoy, and you’re ruining it with self-doubt.
“Evening,” Rose greets me with a grin when I reach the Entrance Hall. I’m nearly ten minutes early and it’s already milling with people; there must be at least seventy here already, and I make my way through the crowd to find my friends. Lorcan, Lysander, Cameron, Roxanne and the twins, Molly and Lucy, are standing in a corner curiously eyeing everyone who comes in.
“Glad you could make it,” Cameron greets me. “Should be fun, eh?”
“Definitely,” I agree.
“Especially when I curse your butt off,” Lysander declares, showing a surprising amount of enthusiasm and spirit at the concept.
“Curse my butt off?” Cam repeats. “You’ll have to get to it first, no easy task with my impenetrable shield charms.”
“Expelliarmus,” I say swiftly, and Cam’s wand goes flying. “You were saying?”
“I was unprepared,” Cam protests, turning pink.
“In a real battle, you’re unprepared, you’re dead,” I say, reciting one of Dad’s most famous duelling edicts.
“Can I have your attention, everyone?” Alyssa calls, rapping her wand sharply on the doorway. A few people turn around, but the majority continue talking.
“OI!” Rose bellows, and there’s a loud bang from her direction. She grins in satisfaction as everyone whips around to see what happened. “That’s better. Welcome to the duelling club, which will, Jeremy assures me, have a much better name by the end of this session. I want you all to split away from your little cliques. Don’t act like you’re not in one. You lot, the fifth-year Hufflepuffs over there. Yeah, you lot. Weasley clan in one corner. Other Weasley clan in the other corner. You shady characters lurking over the far side. You’re all in cliques. I want you all, everyone in this hall, to line up single file in alphabetical order by surname.”
A gaggle of voices erupts once more and eighty students swarm around the hall, trying to work out where they fit in the line. I slot between Al and Niall and await further instruction, wondering where the hell Rose is going with this.
“Now we’ve got you segregated a little bit,” Rose begins, “I want you to turn around and find the first person behind you born in the same month as you. Then I want you to stand beside them, so we should have two lines happening.”
I can see what Rose is doing now: she’s mixing everyone up, making sure nobody will be just clinging to their own little friendship circles.
“January,” I call, slowly shuffling down the line. “January. January? Anyone for January?”
I get down to the very end of the line before someone responds.
“You January?” he asks. I have to stop myself jumping backwards in trepidation. The guy addressing me is an easy six foot, built like a Beater, with dark skin and eyes to match. There’s a slight flicker of distaste as he recognises who I am; I have no idea who he is, but his robes and badge identify him as a seventh-year Slytherin. Just my luck.
“Lily Potter,” he says flatly.
“Yes,” I reply, determined not to show any sign of discomfort around this intimidating Slytherin giant. “You?”
“Damascus Zabini,” he says.
“All right, folks!” Rose calls, waving her arms for quiet. “The person you’re now standing next to is your opponent for the night. Now I know this may have resulted in some disparities. If you’re a seventh-year and the kid standing next to you is thirteen years old, you’re not going to go easy on them as such, but you’re going to help them, mentor them, iron out any kinks you see in their spellwork. I don’t want you cursing your opponent’s arse off because you can. There’s a purpose behind this that goes beyond mindless warfare. With that in mind, go forth and duel!”
“Follow me, Potter,” Damascus mutters, ducking between numerous students and making his way to a clear patch of hall.
Feeling more than a little bit annoyed at his use of ‘Potter,’ I reluctantly follow, turning to face him.
“Done any duelling before?” Damascus asks.
“Plenty,” I respond, meeting his challenging stare and feeling my determination return at the slightly patronising look on his face.
“We’ll see,” he says simply, raising his wand in a salute, which I return, and from that moment on, everything else in the world fades away; every sense is attuned towards Damascus, watching him, reading the signs of when he’s about to cast a spell—
The first one catches me by surprise with its speed and ferocity; and I react instinctively with a hastily yelled Protego.
Slack, I admonish myself. Don’t give him any clues.
Damascus has me on the defensive; I’m on my back foot and I know it, continually dodging and parrying the spells he sends at me, thick, fast and unknown, and I know without being told that the effects of being hit by one are not worth finding out. I’m struggling to regain the upper hand and I hate it, but the beginnings of frustration on Damascus’s face as none of his curses hit home gives me extra strength and I catch him unawares with a spell that sends him staggering backwards momentarily. He bounces back instantly, but the damage has been done; I’m no longer on the defensive, attacking and shielding in equal proportions; spinning, whirling, not a single word spoken as spell after spell erupts forth at a flick of my hand, my concentration never wavering, spells increasing in intensity and complexity as the duel heats up and the very air around us seems to crackle with energy.
At the very back of my mind something registers that Rose is yelling, but I ignore it, as does Damascus, and if anything the duel just seems to intensify, until a flash of white light explodes in front of me, throwing me backwards. Startled, I struggle to my feet. Opposite me, Damascus is also getting up off the stone floor, and my mind slowly registers that there are now eighty students staring at me.
“Next time,” Rose says mildly, “You stop duelling when I tell you to, that was getting a bit intense.”
She turns to address the rest of the students and I sneak a glance at Damascus, who’s eyeing me with the beginnings of respect.
“You can fight,” he notes.
“I told you,” I reply simply, and I feel the sweet thrill of success as I turn my attention back to Rose.