Chapter 2 : Italy's Chimeras
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Neither of the boys slept much that night. This was partly due to excitement about the match and partly due to the fact that Harry and Ginny sent Lily and Ashtyn to the boys' tent after the two of them refused to settle down. Albus, John, James, and Nathan complained loudly about the addition of the girls in their tent, but Harry and Ginny were adamant. James and Nathan decided to tell scary stories in a vain attempt to scare Lily and Ashtyn back into the adults' tent, but both girls were now too old to get that scared.
The next day was similar to the previous day and Albus and John spent it trying to find the lake, but had no luck. John was lamenting the fact that the campground was called “Lakeside” when there clearly was no lake around so often that Albus wished there was a lake just so he could push John into it. Both boys begged Harry and Ginny to let them go to New York to see Matt, but had no luck. Harry and Ginny said they could see Matt later that night at the match.
Dusk finally arrived and people began to trek through the woods to the pitch. Albus didn't have the slightest idea how far away it was, but it seemed farther than the walk from the Whomping Willow to the Shrieking Shack or from Hogwarts to Hogsmeade. Once they finally did arrive, it seemed amazing that Muggles didn't notice it. The pitch was huge; that was the only word for it. There were more witches and wizards congregated in one place than Albus had ever seen in his life and more were coming up behind him.
John had brought two pairs of his omnioculars but the group had to stop while James, Nathan, and Lily each purchased a pair. Ashtyn had stolen a pair of John's, apparently without him knowing. Ginny quickly steered them all away from a couple wizards who were taking bets.
A young wizard standing near the entrance asked to see their tickets and then lead them higher and higher in the stands until they reached one of the top boxes. There were fourteen chairs lined up in two rows, six of which were already occupied. Matt and his parents took up half of those chairs; in the other three sat two wizards and a witch Albus did not know.
“Matt!” Albus shouted. He and John immediately took the two seats to Matt's right while Harry and Ginny greeted his parents.
“Albus, John!” Matt replied. “This is brilliant!”
“Yeah it is! Look how high up we are!” John said excitedly. “Best seats ever!”
“Oh, this is my Uncle Jack,” Matt said, gesturing to one of the wizards Albus didn't recognize. He looked a lot like Matt's dad, only with less grey hair and far fewer wrinkles. “Uncle Jack, this is Albus and John.”
“So you're the ones who keep getting Matt into trouble.” Jack grinned.
“That's more Kaden and John than Albus,” Matt pointed out.
“Hey, Albus was the one who got Kaden and I stranded in a lake a few weeks ago,” John muttered.
“What?!” Matt exclaimed.
“He stole our canoe paddles. We had to swim back.”
“This was after John and Kaden pushed me into the lake multiple times,” Albus said.
“Makes sense to me.” Matt shrugged.
About a half hour later, during which Albus was introduced to the other witch and wizard in their box (Canadian Ministry officials) and then promptly forgot their names, the match finally began.
The Russian mascots were up first. Albus, after hearing about the leprechauns and Veelas at the World Cup his parents attended, was quite looking forward to the mascots. Unfortunately, he was disappointed in the Russian mascots. Or should he say 'mascot.' There was only one. The entire Russian team walked onto the pitch accompanied by what looked like a very slow, very hairy goat.
“What the bloody hell is that?” John asked as he got up and put his omnioculars to his eyes. “It's a goat!”
Albus and Matt followed John and watched the goat. With the omnioculars, Albus could see that the goat's fur was greying giving it a very old look.
“Looks as old as Aberforth Dumbledore,” Matt muttered.
“Probably belongs to him,” John pointed out.
“Let's give a warm welcome to Murphy the Mouflon!” the commentator shouted. “Murphy has been with the Russian Quidditch team for nearly twenty years and is beloved by the entire team. Murphy has been trained to do a variety of tricks....”
The commentator droned on as Murphy slowly climbed through what looked like a goal post not on the post and caught a Quaffle in his mouth. Albus thought the whole show was kind of odd and the murmuring in the box by the rest of its occupants told him his opinion was shared.
“What in the name of Merlin is a mouflon?” James asked.
“It's a wild sheep,” Lily explained. “Although this one is obviously not wild. In fact, it seems kind of awful to make him perform tricks like that at his age.”
The Italian mascots were the complete opposite. As soon as the Russian team left the pitch with Murphy the Mouflon, a very large number of wizards dressed in what looked like armored robes stepped onto the field. As they stepped aside, they revealed a cage containing three chimeras.
“Bloody hell!” John exclaimed.
“How can they bring chimeras into a Quidditch match for Merlin's sake?” Ginny shouted. “They're dangerous!”
“They're being handled by professional chimera handlers,” Mr. Eckerton explained. “And the Canadian Head of the Department for Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures is here. They had to clear it with all the Ministries of major countries first.”
All the disappointment about the mouflon disappeared when Albus saw the handlers taking the chimeras out. Each one was attached to a thick metal chain and controlled by two handlers. They roared and lunged at each other and at the various officials and referees standing on the sidelines.
Albus's eyes were glued to his omnioculars during the entire performance, which must not have lasted more than ten minutes. During those ten minutes the chimaeras tried to kill no less than five of the handlers and had scared one of the referees into the changing rooms. Meanwhile the commentator was keeping up a steady stream of chimaera information and history. Apparently chimaeras had a long history in Rome.
The adults in the room (with the possible exception of Jack) let out a collective sigh of relief when the chimaeras were put back in their cages and moved to the sidelines while James, Nathan, Albus, John, and Matt groaned. Even Ashtyn and Lily seemed slightly disappointed with their disappearance.
However, Albus soon nearly forgot about the chimaeras (it was impossible to completely forget about them as they roared every time a player got near them) since the match started right after they left. The commentator announced the names of the players, but Albus couldn't keep any of them straight because they were flying far too fast. This Quidditch was intense, far more intense than any of the League matches he had been to.
The Quaffle exchanged hands faster than the commentator could say the names of the Chasers and the Bludgers were being sent after player after player. The Seekers were staying out of the way, which seemed like a good idea to Albus since one of the Italian Chasers was injured only fifteen minutes into the match.
James kept up his own running commentary as well, much to the annoyance of Albus and everyone else. He constantly named the plays and critiqued the way the Russian Seeker sat on his broom.
“Shut it, James,” Albus finally said. “He's the one playing in the Cup, not you. He can sit on his broom however he likes.”
“He's not going to catch the Snitch with that posture,” James muttered before looking through his omnioculars.
As it turned out, James was right. An hour later the Italian Seeker pulled into a dive and came back up with the struggling winged ball in his grasp. The entire box stood up and cheered, especially John who didn't like Russia's Quidditch team. Albus didn't follow either team, but he supposed if he had had to choose, he would've chosen Italy. Italy won with 520 points. Russia had 430. Both teams had played incredibly well.
“I knew it!” James shouted as they made their way back to the campground. “I knew he wouldn't catch that Snitch! A Seeker can't sit up so straight on his broom and expect to catch the Snitch!”
Albus ignored him. James would be bragging about this for the next two months.
“You should come stay with me in New York,” Matt said as they reached the campground.
“Can we Mum?” Albus asked. “Please?”
“I don't think that's going to work, Al,” Ginny replied. “They're flying back on an airplane and you two don't have tickets.”
“Aw, Merlin,” Albus groaned. “I guess we'll see you on the train, then.”
“Yeah, definitely,” Matt replied.
Albus and John said goodbye to Matt and watched as he left with his parents to go Apparate back to the border.
It was very late, but the campground was far too loud for anyone to get to sleep. The Italians were celebrating and even the Russians seemed to be very loud and boisterous, despite their loss. Instead of going to bed, Harry lit another campfire and everyone sat around it, roasting whatever sweets they had over the fire and discussing the match.
“And when that mouflon got onto the pitch!” Nathan shouted. “And the chimaeras went nuts? I thought they were going to escape!”
“Didn't stop the players, though,” James pointed out. “That was when one of the Russian Chasers got hit by that Bludger. He could have dodged that if he had been paying more attention to the match and less to the chimaeras.”
“I think I'd sooner pay attention to a possible chimaera escape than a Bludger,” Ashtyn muttered.
“Are you the leading expert on Chasing now, too?” Albus asked James.
“I'm just trying to expand my knowledge of the other positions because I'm going to be Gryffindor's captain next year after Fred graduates.”
Albus snorted. “What makes you so sure?”
“I've been on the team since second year, I'll be the oldest next year, and I'm a good leader,” James replied.
“They don't always pick the oldest,” Albus pointed out. “And Bradley and Ryan are older than you.”
“What, you think you'll get it?” James asked incredulously.
“Boys,” Ginny warned.
“I don't want it,” Albus said.
“No point in you getting it,” John chimed in. “After all, you're going to be Prefect next year.”
James laughed. “Yeah, that'll happen.”
“You're not one to talk, James,” Ginny said. “Notice your letter did not contain a Prefect's badge this year.”
“Well, yeah, because Kendrick would be stupid to make me a Prefect,” James said. “But he'd be stupid to make you-”
James was interrupted by a loud crack that sounded like someone Apparating or a branch breaking. Lily shrieked and Harry stood with his wand out. There was a rustling in the woods behind them and a figure lumbered out.
He stepped forward and the light from the fire illuminated his face, which was old and wrinkled. There was barely a hair on his head and he walked with an obvious limp. Adorned in a very old, very disgusting looking brown cloak, he did not appear to have showered in recent history.
“'Arry Potter,” he croaked. His voice didn't sound like it had been used in recent history, either. His accent was not Canadian, nor was it British or Australian. “A word.”
“Wand out where I can see it,” Harry replied.
“Don' 'ave a wand,” he muttered.
“Make it quick, then,” Harry said, his own wand still pointed at the stranger.
“Yer in trouble, Potter,” he said. “An' not just 'bout what 'appened two months ago.”
He sounded a bit like Hagrid, Albus thought, except this bloke seemed to have nothing but that in common with the friendly half-giant.
“Oh, no.” The bloke smiled slightly. “Election year, ain't it? Oh, yes, you've more to worry 'bout than that Willinson bloke.”
“Who are you?” Harry asked.
“Not important,” he said and turned to go back into the forest. “Good luck, Potter,” he said before disappearing completely.
“That was weird,” John said. “How in the name of Merlin can an election be bad for you?”
“Yeah,” Albus agreed. “Are you running for Minister or something?”
Harry laughed. “Definitely not. I reckon that bloke is off his rocker. I wouldn't worry about it.”
Ginny insisted they get to bed shortly after the strange bloke left since they had to get up early the next morning to catch their Portkey. Albus laid awake thinking about the stranger long after John, James, and Nathan fell asleep. His dad may have said not to worry about it, but isn't that what all fathers say when they don't want their sons to worry about something, even if it is worthy of worry?
Early was an understatement for the time they had to get up the next morning. Ginny was waking them up when the sun was barely above the horizon. Apparently everyone had to leave the campground before Muggles checked in, which meant everyone in the entire campground was rushing about resulting in general chaos. Eventually the Potters managed to locate their Portkey and get back to London. When they arrived it was five hours later because of the time change, yet all Albus wanted to do was crawl back in bed, which is exactly what he did. John fell asleep right on Albus's floor without any sort of blanket or pillow.
John spent two more days at Albus's house, during which they went to Diagon Alley, along with Kaden, and spent most of their time speculating on who the new Defense teacher would be. Harry told them that he would not be returning, much to their displeasure, but he was sure Kendrick would find a suitable replacement. Albus was not too sure about this since Kendrick's last replacement turned out to be insane yet still capable of catching evil wizards. John left the day of the annual before school Weasley family dinner because his family was going to visit his cousins, much to John's dismay.
The before school dinner was one of two times that Albus's entire extended family got together for a meal. The rest of the year everyone was either in school or too busy to undertake the event. However, Albus's grandmother, Molly, insisted that they all spend an evening together before all the kids went off to school. Albus loved it because there was always delicious food and multiple games of Quidditch. Albus was not sure how much longer everyone would attend, though, now that his older cousins were graduating and getting jobs. Victoire was still in Healer training and Teddy was in Auror training. Stanley was in Romania studying dragons, just as his father had done. Georgia of course was busy with training for the Kenmare Kestrals and Albus was sure it wouldn't be long until she was playing for England. Gabriella, much to her parents' dismay, said she did not know what she wanted to do with her life and was spending her days painting pictures of the sea in front of their cottage rather than working at the internship Bill had secured for her at Gringotts. The following year, Fred and Heather would graduate and it wouldn't be long after that more of the Weasley cousins were out of Hogwarts than were in Hogwarts. Angie, Fred's little sister, was just starting Hogwarts that year.
This was not the year that people began to not be able to show up, though. Each and every member of the Weasley and Potter families were going to be there, else face the wrath of Molly Weasley. Albus almost felt sorry for the first of his cousins to have to work on the day the dinner was scheduled. It certainly wouldn't be him because he still had more than half his Hogwarts career left.
Dinner, of course, was a relative term. People started showing up at the Burrow shortly after lunch time and did not leave until ten or eleven at night. Albus's parents chose to show up around two, so that Ginny could help Molly with the cooking. When they arrived they found that Bill, Fleur, Charlie, Katherine, and their kids were already there. Fleur and Katherine were helping in the kitchen while Bill and Charlie set up tables in the backyard. Arthur was tinkering with some sort of Muggle device in the den.
James immediately hailed Ben and the two of them disappeared up to one of the bedrooms, no doubt to plan some sort of prank. Heather was in the backyard, already on a broom, with Eddie trailing after her on an old broom that was lagging. Gabriella and Mark were sitting in the den pretending to listen to Arthur's commentary on whatever he was taking apart. Albus, who really had nothing to do until Rose arrived, wandered around the house and yard with Lily, until his mother hailed him to chop carrots, the Muggle way of course.
Everyone else arrived while he was chopping, except for Victoire who didn't get off work until five. With what must have been at least five pounds of carrots finally chopped, Albus escaped outside, where most everyone else was congregating.
Percy was donned in very fancy midnight blue robes which struck Albus as very odd since everyone else was wearing casual robes or Muggle clothes. But Percy was always slightly odd.
“Why's Uncle Percy dressed up?” Albus asked Rose, who had just appeared by his side.
“No idea,” Rose said. “But he's quite excited about something and he won't tell anyone else what it is.”
“He probably came up with some new type of cauldron bottom,” Georgia muttered.
Albus turned around to see Georgia, still in practice Kestral robes, with her arms crossed glaring at her father. “He's still not keen on the Quidditch thing, is he?” Albus asked.
“Nope,” Georgia replied. “Nothing he says is going to change my mind, though. I've even gotten a flat with one of the other players. I'm moving out tomorrow, but he doesn't know it yet. I don't get it. He's more angry about this than Uncle Bill and Aunt Fleur are about Gabriella not interning at Gringotts.”
“I don't see what's wrong with a Quidditch career,” Albus agreed. “I mean, so long as you're good. And you are.”
“Thanks, Albus. He just doesn't get Quidditch, and in two years he's going to have to deal with it all again when Bradley graduates.”
“You think Bradley's going to get into Quidditch, too?” Rose asked.
“No idea, but I know he doesn't want to get into the Ministry. He hates politics,” Georgia explained. “And Merlin knows Cedric would never work in the Ministry. He causes far too much trouble.”
“I suppose he can hope Samantha or Lindy will try for a Ministry career,” Rose joked, pointing to the two identical red-haired girls playing tag with Eddie, who had abandoned his broom.
“He better not,” Georgia muttered. “They're too young to have his dreams forced upon them. They're not even in Hogwarts yet.”
“How is training?” Albus asked, changing the subject.
Georgia's eyes lit up. “Oh it's wonderful! I mean, I haven't gotten to play in a real match yet but it's really something to be able to play Quidditch every day of your life and get paid for it. One of the Beaters, the girl I'm getting a flat with, says I'm a shoe-in for a permanent Keeper position once their Keeper gets drafted for England. There's been talk that he will be and I wouldn't be surprised since he's the best player on the team.”
“Oi, Georgia!” James shouted as he crossed the yard, followed by Ben and Cedric. “Want to get a match going?”
“Definitely!” Georgia replied. “Interested, Al?”
“Sure,” Albus answered.
Albus set off towards the house to locate his broom, which he had brought, the whole time thinking how lucky he was that Harry would support whatever career he chose to get into. He liked his Uncle Percy well enough, but he couldn't imagine being told he shouldn't do what he most wanted to do with his life.
A/N: Thanks to everyone who has read and reviewed this! I will be responding to all of your lovely reviews soon.
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