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Lion, Eagle, Badger, Snake by Sheriff
Chapter 16 : Ravenclaw
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 3


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‘Morning, guys. Come on in.’ Neal Kennedy had decided that he would spend the first few study lessons of the new year going through his students’ projects individually, rather than covering any new material. ‘I thought you guys would probably prefer coming in together.’

The four Slytherin boys murmured their agreement as they pushed their way through the classroom door, clustering around a circular table at the front of the room. ‘Thanks, Neal,’ Greg spoke the most clearly.

‘Yeah, thanks,’ the other Slytherins echoed their friend.

‘Anything’s better than another lesson with Dawlish,’ Isaac observed, drily.

Neal returned the boy’s smile. ‘We’ll start off with yours then, Isaac.’ The seventh-year lifted a thinly bound set of parchment off his desk. ‘The Peverells,’ he read. ‘A fairly orthodox choice, wouldn’t you agree?’

Isaac’s eyes narrowed and he stared, stony-faced, back at the older boy. ‘What do you mean?’

‘I mean I got a little bit bored by the time I’d read the sixth project about them,’ Neal explained. ‘There’s only so many times you can read about the Tale of the Three Brothers.’

‘You don’t have to mark any exams in the summer, do you? Isaac blinked. ‘Cause I reckon they’ll all be pretty similar, too.’

Neal laughed. ‘It’s okay, Isaac. I’m not having a go at you about it.’

‘Oh,’ Isaac’s expression softened.

‘It’s just my sense of humour isn’t much good. Sorry,’ the seventh-year grinned as the younger boy rolled his eyes. ‘It was a good project, anyway,’ he flicked through to the back of the parchment, where a neat “E” sat inside a circle. ‘You’ve researched the supposed descendents of the Peverells much more thoroughly than anyone else. Well done.’ He smiled, pushing the project across the desk towards the first-year.

‘Thank you,’ Isaac nodded, taking the sheets of parchment and flicking through them to search out the older boy’s further comments.

‘So,’ Neal continued, turning his attention to the other first-years as Isaac browsed his own work, ‘Tregeagle.’ He lifted their folder, running his eyes across the title page, now adorned with Theo’s stylised image of one of the Wisht Hounds of the Wild Hunt. ‘An interesting choice,’ he remarked, ‘and not one I’d expected to see. Can I ask you what made you pick him?’

Lucas and Greg glanced at each other, before the blond boy replied. ‘It just, sort of, happened...’ He drew a breath, aware that his explanation hadn’t really answered the Ravenclaw’s question. ‘I live in Chudleigh,’ he began, ‘and over Christmas, Dad was talking about all the old legends of Dartmoor. He’d always thought that they couldn’t possibly be true,’ Greg paused. ‘Now, though... now he knows that magic’s for real, and he couldn’t help but wonder whether the stories were true, after all.’

‘Then, we were reading about the Wild Hunt, and we saw the name,’ Lucas continued, ‘and we couldn’t just ignore it.’

‘Fair enough,’ the seventh-year nodded. ‘It certainly taught me some things.’ He opened the folder. ‘I’m not sure I’ll be asking the Professor whether any of it’s true, though.’

‘Me neither,’ Theo offered, and the older boy laughed at the first-year’s blunt honesty.

‘It’s a fantastic effort, boys,’ he turned the project around, showing a clear “O” on the back page, ‘but there’s one question you’ve left unanswered.’ He paused. ‘What’s happened to the Wild Hunt now? When did anyone last see them?’

‘Um,’ Greg swallowed. ‘We wondered if, maybe, the Headless Hunt was the same thing?

‘No,’ Neal shook his head, decisively. ‘They’re a bunch of charlatans. A social club for ghosts who’ve had their heads chopped off. There’s nothing sinister about them, nothing at all. The Wild Hunt’s got more in common with the Grim.’

‘The Grim?’ Theo asked.

‘It’s a giant black dog,’ Isaac had finished looking through his own project, and was listening in to the other boys’ conversation with interest. ‘Some people say it’s real, some say it’s just legend. It’s meant to be an omen of death.’

‘Just like the Wild Hunt,’ Greg shook his head. ‘Who knows...?’

‘I hope we never find out,’ Lucas muttered.

‘You’ve got plenty to worry about on the Quidditch pitch, anyway, without worrying about this lot as well,’ Neal grinned, wickedly. ‘Three weeks and your chances will be over.’

‘Says who?’ Isaac retorted.

‘Oh, you don’t really think you can beat us, do you?’ The seventh-year asked. ‘You never even scored a goal against Gryffindor.’

‘So,’ Theo glared at the older boy, affronted. ‘We’re getting better. You know how much they thrashed us by last year.’

The Ravenclaw shrugged. ‘I know you’re getting better,’ he admitted, ‘but do you know how to win?’

‘What?’ Theo blinked. ‘Of course we do...’

‘I’m just saying,’ Neal continued, ‘I know you’ll give us a tough game; you won’t make it easy like it was last year... but you haven’t got the experience of playing under pressure, of scoring goals when it really matters – and your seeker’s never got the snitch yet.’

‘Hasn’t he?’ Isaac blurted out.

‘What, didn’t you know?’ The Ravenclaw seeker barely concealed a grin. ‘I’m backing our chasers to get more than you do every day of the week, so all I’ve got to do is stop a kid from catching the snitch for the first time ever.’

‘Oh, whatever,’ Isaac rolled his eyes.

‘I’m just saying,’ the seventh-year smirked, ‘don’t get your hopes up.’

‘We’ll see,’ Greg replied, calmly.

‘Well, I won’t keep you any longer. You’ve got plenty of work to do, boys. I’ll let you get on with it’ Neal smiled as the younger boys got up to leave his classroom. ‘Well done on your projects,’ he called after them, turning back to the unreturned pile on his desk.

‘Git,’ Isaac muttered as he followed his friends through the door.

‘Forget it, Zac,’ Greg shook his head. ‘He’s just trying to wind you up.’

‘And succeeding,’ Theo added.

‘It’s all true though, isn’t it?’ Lucas’ voice was grim. ‘We’ve never won a game, and Ossie’s never caught the snitch...’

‘So?’ Greg retorted. ‘Muggle-borns never end up in Slytherin. There’s a first time for everything.’

*

‘I don’t know why anyone would want to transfigure a snail into a teapot, anyway,’ Theo complained, throwing his wand down in frustration as he watched the snail on the table in front of him slowly grow a handle out of its shell.

‘That’s not the point, mate,’ Greg looked up, amused, from his copy of Quidditch Through The Ages. ‘It’s meant to make you concentrate on holding the image in your mind, like McGonagall says. Watch.’ He reached across, touching the tip of his own wand to the peak of the snail’s shell, and closing his eyes. ‘Escarté.’

‘It’s alright for you,’ Theo muttered, watching the snail change in front of him as he spoke. ‘You’re good at this. My spells either don’t work at all or just kill whatever I’m meant to be transforming.’

Greg laughed. ‘You should try transfiguring Dawlish sometime soon, then.’

‘It’s not funny!’ Theo shook his head. ‘I’m crap at everything. Even the stuff you think is easy, I can’t even do that.’ He slumped back onto the black leather of the common room sofa. ‘The best grade I got on the holiday work was “Acceptable”... and this is first-year stuff! What’s going to happen when it gets hard?’

‘Theo...’ Greg let his book drop, shifting quickly over to sit with his friend. ‘You’ll be fine; I know you will.’

‘How?’ The other boy’s eyes reddened as he fought to stop himself from crying. ‘I feel like a squib...’ He turned away from his friend, hiding his face against the upholstery.

‘Theo...’ Greg repeated himself, feeling lost for anything else to say. ‘You’re not a squib. You can’t be; squibs have magical parents.’

‘See! Look, I don’t even know what a squib is!’ Theo, his eyes burning, turned back to the other first-year for a split second, before burying his face away into the back of the sofa.

Greg swore privately to himself, before reaching out to rest a consoling arm on his friend’s shoulder, silently grateful that Theo didn’t just shake it away.

‘Hey, Greg,’ the first-year looked up as he heard his name being called from the common room door.

‘Oh, hi Ossie.’ Greg recognised the other boy.

‘What’s up with Theo?’ The fourth-year planted himself on the armchair beside his friends’ sofa.

Greg glanced between the other two blonds, wondering how much of Theo’s story he ought to tell. ‘Oh,’ he stalled, playing for time. ‘Just a bad day,’ he shrugged.

‘One of those,’ Oscar smiled, ‘everyone has them.’ He spoke clearly enough for Theo to know he was meant to overhear. ‘No one’s bothering you, are they mate?’

‘No,’ Theo muttered into the cushions. ‘Just McGonagall and her stupid snails.’

‘Escarté, right?’ Oscar remembered. ‘Someone in our year exploded something like five or six snails in one lesson. McGonagall ended up making them do it inside a shield charm.’

Theo snorted.

‘They still passed, though?’ Greg asked the older boy.

‘Yeah,’ Oscar nodded. ‘You’ve got to be really thick for them to make you repeat a year. You’ve got nothing to worry about, Theo.’

Greg nudged Theo’s shoulder. ‘See, come on mate,’ he pleaded. ‘You’ll figure it out, I know you will.’

‘Remember Lucas’ flying,’ Oscar offered, ‘he couldn’t even get off the ground at the start of term.’

Theo turned slowly to face the other boys. ‘Thanks,’ he muttered, wiping the back of his wrist across his still-raw eyes. ‘Oscar,’ he swallowed, ‘can I ask you something?’

‘Sure,’ the older boy smiled.

‘Is it true that you’ve never caught the snitch?’

Oscar’s smile faded.

‘It is, isn’t it?’ Theo pressed. ‘Then...’ he snatched at the words, ‘how do you feel before the game? How do you make yourself feel like you’re going to do something you’ve never done before?’ He blinked, switching his gaze back to a stubbornly untransfigured snail.

Oscar swallowed. ‘That’s a good question,’ he admitted. ‘I guess I’ve never really thought of it like that,’ he shook his head.

‘So...’ Theo continued, slowly. ‘What do you think about before a game?’

‘Just the snitch,’ Oscar answered, ‘...and, I guess, whoever I’m meant to be marking when we’re defending.’

‘Is that it?’

‘Yes,’ the older boy nodded. ‘Why should I think about something that’s in the past? It’s not going to change anything in the future. I know I can get the snitch. I’ve done it plenty of times in practice. I know it’ll happen in a match soon.’

The first-year managed a thin smile. ‘It’s like what my rugby coach used to say,’ he recalled. ‘If you don’t think you can do it, who else is going to?’

‘I think you can,’ Greg offered, softly. He coughed, realising how quiet his voice had been. ‘Both of you.’

‘Thanks, mate.’ Oscar grinned. ‘This place has got so much better since you guys sorted here. Even if you aren’t much for old Slytherin traditions.’

Greg shook his head, defiantly. ‘Not when the old traditions are full of shit.’

The older boy’s smile grew wider. ‘Your language has got so much worse, though.’

‘Oh, bugger off,’ Greg laughed. ‘Like that’s not the rest of your fault!’

‘Hey,’ Oscar ruffled the first-year’s blond hair. ‘We never made you say anything.’

‘Whatever,’ the younger boy rolled his eyes, changing the subject. ‘Let’s have a go at that transfiguration again, Theo.’ He leaned over his friend’s textbook. ‘Think about the shell, the body and the antennae, and think about what you want each of them to turn into.’

Theo nodded, his eyes focusing on the back of the snail in front of him. ‘Escarté, right?’

‘Yeah,’ Greg smiled encouragingly. ‘Touch your wand against the shell and block everything else out of your mind. I know you can do it.’

‘Okay,’ Theo took a deep breath. ‘Escarté.’ He held his stare, a grin slowly spreading across his face as the creature began to morph in front of him. ‘Cool...’

‘Told you,’ Greg smiled. ‘There’s a first time for everything.’ He looked across to Oscar. ‘Now you’d better catch that bloody snitch!’

*

‘Well, it’s matchday three in the 2006 Quidditch Cup,’ Dan Beretta’s excitable voice carried across a rain-sodden stadium as the two teams lined up in the wooden gangway that led from their changing rooms to the pitch. ‘Today sees Slytherin, undoubtedly better than last year but still to score a point this season, take on Ravenclaw, fresh from their opening victory against Hufflepuff.’

‘The first team to win a Hogwarts Quidditch match without capturing the snitch since 1947,’ Dan Buckley’s Northern vowels cut across his co-commentator, ‘when Hufflepuff versus Gryffindor was abandoned due to the heavy snow...’

‘No one cares about 1947, Dan,’ the first voice shot back. ‘I bet that was before even McGonagall was here... Ouch!’

‘Who do you think just hit him?’ Greg turned to his fellow first-years as they waited to fly onto the pitch. ‘Tregeagle? Longbottom?’

‘I reckon it was McGonagall herself!’ Theo laughed. ‘Maybe she was here back in 1947!’

There was no time for the boys to continue their speculation, however, as the commentators’ voices announced that the time had come for their entry into the arena.

‘Ravenclaw are unchanged from the side that beat Hufflepuff,’ Beretta began. ‘They line up with captain Charlie Sullivan in goal, Fran Harris, Becky Tarrant and Ash Morgan are the all-girl chaser line, Tom Kelly and Connor Campbell guard the bludgers and Neal Kennedy will be hunting the snitch.’

‘It’s as you were for Slytherin too,’ Buckley continued. ‘Seb Burns is the keeper, the chasers are Greg Bennett, Isaac Davies and skipper Matt Sawyer, the beaters are Theo Forrest and Lucas Brand, and Oscar Symons will be looking for his first successful capture of the snitch.’

‘Like you said, first time for everything,’ the prefect whispered in Greg’s ear, lowering his goggles over his eyes as the boys formed up around the centre of the pitch. ‘Let’s go.’

‘The bludgers are up, followed by the golden snitch,’ Beretta took over the commentary once again. ‘Now Professor Wood releases the quaffle, and THE GAME BEGINS! I hope it’s more interesting than the last time we saw Slytherin in action...’

‘Just because you didn’t enjoy it, Dan, that doesn’t mean no one else did,’ Buckley shot back.

‘And just because you did enjoy it, Dan,’ Beretta paraphrased his friend, ‘that doesn’t mean anyone else did! I want to see some goals... and I think Ravenclaw have got the same idea. It’s Harris, now Tarrant, back to Harris, Morgan, Harris again, there’s the shot; Burns gets a hand to it, but that’s not enough! 10-0 Ravenclaw! We’ve got a game on our hands!’

*

‘Are you really trying to tell me you enjoyed that last snooze-fest more than this one, Dan?’ Beretta exhaled deeply as a long blast on Professor Wood’s whistle signalled the end of the first period. ‘It’s Ravenclaw 80, Slytherin 20, and it looks like the Eagles have thought their way around my friend’s favourite zonal defence.’

‘It’s been a good hour, I can’t argue with that, Dan’ Buckley replied. ‘Quick, sharp passing, wonderful movement, and inch-perfect finishing from Frances Harris: she’s onto ten for the season and looks hungry for more.’

‘Can you see a way back for Slytherin, Dan?’

‘Well, right now the Ravenclaw chasers are the difference. The possession and territory have been just about equal, but Harris’ performance in front of goal has been first-rate, particularly given these conditions, and Seb Burns hasn’t been able to live with it.’ Buckley paused. ‘Of course the snitch is still up for grabs, but can Symons make his first ever catch in such a pressure situation?’

‘Ignore his bullshit,’ Matthew thumped his fist against the wooden bench inside the changing room, and Greg recognised the same fierce intensity in his glare as there had been after the game against Gryffindor. ‘We are still in this game. Ossie,’ he turned to his best friend, ‘forget marking. We won’t win without the snitch – do everything you can to get it.’

‘Alright, mate.’ The other fourth-year nodded.

‘Seb,’ Matthew looked across to his keeper, ‘how can we stop Harris?’

The third-year boy shrugged, as wordless as ever.

‘Oh, come on!’ Matthew snapped, standing up. ‘Give us something to work with here! How can we help you if you don’t tell us what you want us to do?’

‘Matt...’ Oscar stood across his friend. ‘Remember last time,’ he whispered.

‘I’ll take her,’ Theo announced, striking his beater’s bat down into his free hand. ‘She won’t have it all her own way this time.’

Matthew grinned. ‘Alright, then,’ he clapped his hands together. ‘Let’s show the rest of the school we’re not just here to make up the numbers. Let’s stuff those commentators’ words back down their throats. Come on!

Theo made good on his promise within minutes of the start of the second period, striking the back of Frances Harris’ broom with a firmly-hit bludger, though not before the Ravenclaw had extended her team’s lead.

‘Shot, Theo!’ Greg yelled out as he watched the opponents’ star chaser spiral to the floor.

‘Shut up and get the quaffle!’ Matthew’s voice interrupted the first-years, and Greg lunged to grab the ball as it drifted downwards. ‘Now chuck it here!’

Greg didn’t need any further invitation, spinning the ball hard towards his captain and setting off downfield, the Ravenclaw defence hurriedly reorganising itself whilst Frances swapped her battered broom for a replacement.

‘It’s Sawyer on the Slytherin right, and he’s got Bennett and Davies in close support.,’ Dan Beretta narrated the attack. ‘Tarrant closes him down, but Bennett’s there for the offload... he finds Davies, who picks out Bennett again. He’s one-on-one with Sullivan! SAVED!’

‘Shit...’ Greg swore aloud, unthinkingly, as he watched the quaffle sink towards the ground.

‘Davies is first to react!’ Beretta’s voice never halted for more than a moment. ‘Sullivan’s off balance. It must be – it is! Slytherin score! It’s 100 to 30.’

‘I wonder what the odds of that were?’ Buckley deadpanned, earning himself a punch on the arm from his colleague.

‘That is the single – worst – joke,’ Beretta paused between words, giving himself the chance to hit out in rhythm, ‘I have ever heard.’ He talked over Greg’s excited celebration, as the first-year flung his arms around his friend. ‘I apologise for asking you to try and be more interesting. Here,’ the commentator searched for a change of subject, ‘tell us all about Frances Harris’ new broom.’

‘It’s a Comet 320,’ Buckley explained. ‘Nothing like as manoeuvrable as her new 360, and it might well hamper her performance.’

‘So Forrest might well get her again,’ Beretta made no attempt to disguise his enthusiasm. ‘It’s always great to see a young beater score his first takedown. I wonder if the game’s going to open up now that Harris is less of an influence? Maybe Burns will start to get the better of her between the hoops?

‘We’ll soon find out,’ the other Hufflepuff answered. ‘Here she is, one-on-one – no support as the Gryffindor boys have flown Tarrant and Morgan out of it. Harris versus Burns... SAVE!’

‘Game on, it looks like, Dan,’ Beretta continued, breathlessly. ‘It’s a shame Ravenclaw have got that seventy-point start,’ he mused, ‘cause this is turning out into a cracker.’

‘It’s end-to-end Quidditch, no doubt about that,’ Buckley took up the narration. ‘Here’s Isaac Davies, the youngest boy to play Hogwarts Quidditch in...’ he flicked through a wad of sheets on the bench in front of him, ‘well, probably ever.’

‘Probably?’ Beretta teased. ‘You’ve been slacking off, Dan. Probably?

‘Early records of dates of birth are incomplete,’ the other boy snapped. ‘He’s the youngest I’ve got any proof about!

‘You might not know if he’s the youngest player ever, Dan,’ Beretta continued on, ‘but I know he’s in on goal today. He draws Sullivan out right, and – that’s brilliant! – out of the scoring area, where he finds Greg Bennett, and no one’s going to miss from the position he’s in!’

‘100 to 40,’ Buckley read out the score. ‘Two first-years on the scoresheet, and I can tell you for certain that hasn’t happened since 1919.’

‘When McGonagall...’ Beretta caught himself, ‘most certainly was not born. Anyway, it’s Ravenclaw back on the attack, Tarrant with the quaffle on the Ravenclaw left.’

‘Davies covers her inside, Bennett’s marking Morgan...’

‘Never mind Morgan, check out Oscar Symons!’ Beretta screamed, as he watched the Slytherin seeker lunge headlong through the driving rain. ‘Kennedy has had him in his pocket for an hour and fifteen minutes, but the Slytherin has stolen a march on him here. I’m not sure where the snitch is myself, but it looks like he is.’

‘Or is he?’ Buckley cut in. ‘Kennedy’s going off in the other direction entirely. Who’s fooling who?

‘Kennedy stops up, checking over his shoulder to see what Symons is doing – look at the angle of that dive...’ Beretta gasped as Oscar hurled himself down, closer and closer towards the ground as twelve of the other players paused to watch his descent.

‘Becky Tarrant makes it 110 to 40...’ Buckley muttered, half-heartedly.

‘Which won’t matter at all,’ Beretta dismissed his friend, ‘not if Symons catches the snitch...’

Oscar tumbled from his broomstick, skidding gracelessly through the dirt that was once the grass of the Quidditch pitch.

‘It’s too far away for me to see what’s happened. Wood’s on the scene... will we hear the whistle? YES!’ Beretta yelled out as the stadium fell almost silent. ‘Oscar Symons has caught the snitch for the very first time! It’s 190 to 110, and Slytherin have beaten Ravenclaw!’

‘That’s their first win in nearly six years, Dan,’ Buckley added, ‘and certainly the first that any of the players on the pitch now will remember.’

‘I don’t think any of them care about that right now, Dan,’ the other commentator replied as the Slytherin players mobbed their seeker. ‘All they’re bothered about is that it’s their mate who’s caught the snitch. Stats are for later, mate: this is all about the moment.’

*

‘That was brilliant!’ Once more, Glyn had waited outside the stadium for the Slytherin players after the game. ‘No one around us thought you had a chance, except for me and Jai...’

‘Thanks, mate,’ Greg smiled broadly as he high-fived the Hufflepuff, ‘but it was Oscar who won it for us.’

‘Oh, shut up, Greg,’ the older boy shook his head. ‘It wasn’t just me, and you know it.’

‘Shut up you, as well!’ Matthew grabbed his best friend around the neck. ‘Who bloody cares? We won! Now come on, let’s enjoy it! To the dungeons!’

‘You too,’ Greg grabbed Glyn’s arm as he sensed the Welsh boy hesitating. ‘You’ve got way more right to be there than any of those other losers who’ve ignored us all year.’

‘Catuvellauni,’ Matthew touched his wand against the doorway that led to the Slytherin common room, his grin growing wider as he noticed a crate of cold butterbeer sitting on the table by the fireplace. ‘Talk us through that dive again, Ossie,’ he tossed one of the bottles to his best friend, before collapsing into the biggest of the armchairs.

‘Didn’t you see it?’ Oscar laughed, flicking the top from the bottle with a wave of his wand. ‘Liberamphora.’

‘Kennedy sure didn’t!’ Isaac put in, copying the prefect’s spell. ‘What was he trying to do, anyway?’

‘Do when?’ The seeker looked up.

‘When you were after the snitch, and he flew off the other way!’ Isaac snorted.

‘Did he?’ Oscar blinked. ‘Probably trying to distract me...’ he shrugged. ‘I didn’t realise – I was looking at the snitch!’

Isaac laughed aloud. ‘I can’t wait for History on Tuesday now.’

‘I bet you’re the first kid who’s said that in this school in at least 200 years!’ Matthew downed the contents of his bottle. ‘How long has Binns been boring the crap out of us for?’

‘How should I know?’ Oscar shrugged. ‘Long enough!’ He copied his friend in polishing off a full bottle of butterbeer.

‘What do you think Neal is going to say about it?’ Theo opened his own drink, suddenly realising to his surprise that his charm had worked at the first attempt.

Lucas took his turn to answer. ‘What would you say if you were him?’

‘I wouldn’t say anything!’ Theo grinned.

‘Well I bet he won’t, either,’ Lucas replied.

Isaac thumped the side of one of the sofas, animatedly. ‘We can’t let him get away with that,’ he declared. ‘Not after what he said, what was it? He’d only got to stop someone who’d never got the snitch before from catching it for the first time. Unlucky!’ He stood up, reaching across to high-five the seeker.

‘We can’t just go and piss him off, though,’ Greg reasoned, ‘he’s still teaching us for the rest of the year.’

‘Plus you need him to beat Gryffindor if you want to win the Cup.’ Glyn broke his silence.

Win the Cup?’ Matthew spluttered. ‘Can we still do that?’

‘Yes...’ Glyn began cautiously, ‘you can still all end up tied on two wins, and if that happens then the winner is the team who’s scored the most points.’ He paused. ‘Gryffindor are going to beat Hufflepuff, and so are you – because we’re crap – so then if Ravenclaw beat Gryffindor, then you and Ravenclaw and Gryffindor are all tied... and most points wins.’

Matthew nodded, slowly. ‘Get that man a butterbeer.’

‘But...’ Glyn tried to protest. ‘They’re yours...’

‘There’s plenty to go round,’ the captain stood up, steadying himself against the chair arm, before tossing a bottle to the Hufflepuff. ‘Liberamphora.’

‘Come on, down it!’ Theo encouraged.

‘Yeah, down it!’ Matthew needed no second invitation to join in what swiftly became a chant. ‘Down it, down it, down it!’

‘Um,’ the Welsh boy hesitated, glancing nervously towards Greg.

‘I’ll do it as well,’ the other first-year seemed to have read his friend’s mind. ‘Come on, on three. One, two...’

The gathered boys cheered as the two first-years emptied their bottles, covering their chins and throats with the spilling liquid in the process.

‘Wow...’ Glyn stuttered, depositing the empty bottle on the table in front of him. ‘Can I have another one?’

Matthew laughed. ‘Come on, everyone – that includes you, Seb – get in a circle. Ossie, go and get your first year history of magic notes.’

‘What?’ the prefect complained. ‘Why me?’

‘Just go and get them.’ He continued. ‘We’re going to play a little game. Ossie’s going to read out a goblin uprising or something, and you’ve got to guess the year. If you get it right you drink one finger’s worth, right decade two fingers, right century three fingers, wrong century you down it!’

Oscar grinned as he headed towards the staircase that led to the dormitories. ‘Fine,’ he agreed, ‘but you’re going first.’

‘Alright,’ the captain nodded. ‘Come on,’ he implored, ‘get in a circle. Has everyone got a bottle?’ He dug into the crate as the other children re-arranged their seats.

‘Okay, Matt,’ Oscar called moments later, returning from his room. ‘question one: when was dragon breeding outlawed?’

‘Oh,’ Matthew winced, ‘I know this, Hagrid mentioned it... three hundred years ago or something... 1705?’

‘Close,’ Oscar smirked. ‘1709. Two fingers.’

‘Not bad,’ Matthew shrugged, lifting his bottle to drink as required. ‘Theo, you’re next.’ He turned to the blond boy beside him. ‘What’s the question, Ossie?’

‘Hmm,’ the prefect considered, placing his notes down. ‘When was the first Quidditch World Cup?’

‘Oh, I know!’ Isaac interrupted, immediately.

‘It’s not your question, Zac!’ Oscar answered back, just as quickly. ‘Any ideas, Theo?’

The first-year shook his head, slowly. ‘I know wizards have been around for ages... but so have muggles, and their World Cups didn’t start until really recently... 1930?’

‘Wrong!’ Isaac gloated. ‘Totally wrong! It was 1473! Now it’s your turn to down it!’

Theo rolled his eyes, before complying with his friend’s instructions to another round of loud cheers from the rest of the circle.

‘Right,’ Oscar picked up his notes again. ‘Your go, Mr Davies. What year was the Chipping Clodbury riot?’

‘Um...’ Isaac hesitated. ‘1685?’

‘You’re closer than Theo was,’ Oscar snorted, ‘but only just.’ The fourth-year’s grin widened. ‘It was 1999!’

‘Shit...’ Isaac shut his eyes. ‘I remember now!’

‘It’s too late now,’ Theo quickly took the opportunity to get his own back. ‘Down it!’

‘Why can’t all History of Magic lessons be like this?’ Greg turned to Lucas as they watched their friend emptying his bottle.’

Lucas smiled. ‘Probably cause of the mess that’ll be left later.’
 


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