Chapter 4 : they never said that you should lose your mind
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I greeted the bright sun with a smile as I opened the doors to the outside world. It had been a week since I had arrived at Hogwarts. One glorious week of attending classes, wearing hideous uniforms, and trying my hardest to not get into trouble, while still trying to be noticed.
Of course, with the busy hustle and bustle of the first week of school, there wasn’t much going on to get me noticed; teachers talked about what they expected, and how our O.W.L.s were going to be handled, and students spent most of the time, when not doing (or avoiding, in some cases) their homework, catching up with friends.
The Hufflepuff Common Room seemed to be just as busy as the rest of the school; students were constantly coming in and out through out all hours of the day, and even after curfew, quite a handful of students had still been in the common room, chatting about all sorts of things in particular.
I knew one of the things that had been talked about was Quidditch. Ever since the first night of school, when Professor McGonagall had congratulated all the new prefects and Quidditch captains before dinner, talk about it had been non-stop. Gryffindor vs. Syltherin, who would win? James Potter the new Quidditch captain at age fifteen? What about that other young Quidditch captain in Hufflepuff?
Buzz about the wizarding sport at Hogwarts was spreading like wildfire. Which I felt like gave me an edge over the rest of the competition. Ravenclaw and Slytherin had the same captains as before, and Gryffindor had the all high and mighty James Potter. But no one really knew of the Hufflepuff captain.
And so, everyone was excited to see what I was made of. And, not to toot my own horn, but I know I'm good. Now, I had to prove it to everyone else.
I had decided that try-outs would be held at nine; that’s when practices usually started, and I could weed out any of the lazy potential players early on from those who were late. However, it was only seven thirty; try-outs were due to start for another hour and a half.
I had wanted to sleep more. Sleeping was something that I enjoyed doing during the off-season, and I tried to abuse that enjoyment whenever I could. But my internal clock wouldn’t have it, so, at exactly seven twenty, I hauled my butt out of bed, and changed into my running cloths. And then decided to head out to the lake.
I smiled as I slowly made my way to the lake, welcoming the warm sun as it hit my skin. Once I reached the edge of the lake, I plugged my ear-buds into each ear, turning on my I-pod (an invention most of my friends were awestruck about, considering it was a Muggle contraption), and putting it in it’s specially made wristband.
I started making my way around the lake; that had been my usual route during the season, whenever I felt like I needed a good run. There were hardly any people around, and those who were around wanted a peaceful moment just as much as I did, so, my run usually went without any interruptions.
I slowly jogged the familiar path, taking in all the sights and smells of Hogwarts. The grounds had always been one of my favorite things about the school. There was so much open space, and all the scenery looked positively beautiful. Even the places like the Black Forest and The Womping Willow had their own unique beauty, in their own way of course. I don’t think there had ever been anything quite as exquisite as Hogwarts, and I don’t think there will be anything quite like it.
I was so enthralled in my thoughts, I hadn’t noticed that someone was heading straight towards me, or that he too seemed to be distracted by something. I hadn’t noticed, that is, until the person collided head on with me. Clearly, who ever I had bumped into had a lot more body mass then I did, and I was instantly snapped out of my thoughts as I went hurtling towards the ground.
However, I didn’t hit the ground, like I had expected. I felt a strong arm wrap around my waist, pulling me close so I wouldn’t fall. Somehow, my I-pod had stopped playing music, and so I could hear the muffled moan that escaped my lips as I was pulled close to my savior.
“Sorry, O’Connor,” I heard a familiar voice say. I tried to get out of his grasp, but whoever it was had no intention of letting me go.
I looked up and saw the one, the only, James Potter towering over me with his trademark grin on his lips. I only frowned as I gave one strong push, finally able to be out of his clutches. I dusted the invisible dirt off of my shorts and shirt. I gave him a quick look over once I determined that the invisible dirt was all gone; he was wearing running shorts as well, and a dark blue wife beater. Looks like he had the same idea I had.
“Morning Potter,” I said. I was curt; I didn’t want to spend any more time with James then I had to. I looked down at my ear-buds, that were now dangling beside me, and mentally cursed when I saw that one of them had been crushed by my run in with James. So, I started to jog anyway, heading the way I had been going before James had bumped into me, hoping he wouldn’t follow me. But, he seemed persistent, like always.
“What brings you here on this fine, fine morning,” James asked as he started jogging beside me.
“If you must know,” I harshly responded, “I'm holding Quidditch tryouts latter this morning, and I wanted to get a good run in before I head to the pitch.”
“Ah yes,” he replied, “I heard about that. The glorious, new, underdog Hufflepuff Quidditch captain is holding try-outs today. Not many people are going to want to miss that.”
And then he laughed. Out of all the pompous things he could’ve done, he decides to laugh. I could feel my face getting red as I bit the inside of my cheek. I didn’t understand what was so funny about me being captain.
“Just stop,” I spat out as I stopped jogging, surprised at how forceful it sounded, “Stop laughing. I don’t get why it’s so funny, and I'm sick and tired of you doing this to me. So just stop, okay?”
“I don’t know what I ever did to deserve this,” I continued on, slowly but surely realizing that I was going into a rant, but not really caring at this point, “but I must have been extremely bad in a past life to have to deal with this kind of torture. But, I'm through with it. This year, you aren't going to be able to push me around. At least, not with out a fight. So, don’t think you’ll get away with anything as easily as you have in the past. Because I'm done playing games.”
I took in a deep breath as I finally looked at his face, and while he was still smirking, it certainly wasn’t as big as his grin that I was so used to seeing on his face. And through his eyes, I could tell there was some sort of nervousness hidden behind that mask of security. Oh, if he hadn’t liked my attitude on the train ride when we first arrive, he was sure to hate this.
“Sarah, Sarah, Sarah,” he said, wrapping his sweaty arm around my shoulders, “I wouldn’t dream of underestimating you this year.”
“Yeah right,” I mumbled under my breath, looking away from his face. I silently prayed that he would get his stinky armpit off of me.
“Come on, Sarah,” he said with enthusiasm, “embrace our odd relationship.”
Yeah how about not.
“If only it were that easy.” Again, I mumbled under my breath, hoping James would just get board talking all by him self.
“You know, the Gryffindor Quidditch game versus Hufflepuff is coming up soon,” he said, clearly trying to make small talk. Not like I didn’t know that already though; I had made it a point to memorize the entire schedule of games, as well as practices for not only my own team, but the other houses as well.
“James,” I said, turning my attention towards him, “seriously. Stop. Get off me, and leave me alone.”
“Leave you alone,” He said thoughtfully, though I could tell he was only doing to mock me, “How about this; I’ll leave you alone for the rest of the year, if Hufflepuff wins the game against Gryffindor.”
Was he joking? There was no way this was going to be as simple as a bet and a Qudditch game.
I looked into his eyes, hoping to see some sort of clue as to whether this was a joke or not; maybe a small playful glint in his eye, or something. But, there was nothing but seriousness in his gaze, and I couldn’t help but wonder if my luck was finally turning out just the way I wanted it to.
“Deal,” I said in a dead serious tone. He stuck out his hand to shake, and I happily took it.
“Wait,” I said, thinking for a brief second, “What if, by some miraculous chance, Gryffindor wins?”
“Then you have to go on a date with me, to Hogsmede the next weekend,” he said, without giving it much thought. So, this was his true game; he had this planned out in his head the entire time. He was going to bait me, and then hook me in like I was some sort of fish. Well, he had won this time, but I was prepared to fight until the bitter end.
“Fine,” I replied. We stood in silence for a brief moment, then, I ran off. I half expected him to follow me, but he just stood there, letting me go. Now, it wasn’t just the Quidditch Cup on the line; the value of my year depended on the try-outs today.
It took me another good forty minutes to finish my run, and by the time I was ready and dressed for practice, it was already eight thirty. I made my way down to the field, where I already saw Dom, Avril, and Briscoe waiting for me, the worn out box of the Quidditch balls off to the side.
Despite the fact that Dom seemed to be way to girly for Qudditch, she was actually one of the best beaters I had ever met. And it was by pure accident that she had tried out for the team in the first place; when we were in second year, I begged her to try out with me, because I desperately wanted to be the new seeker, but I was incredibly shy, and wouldn’t try-out unless one of my friends tried out with me. So, Dom decided to step-up, and was that person; no one – not even herself – thought she would actually make the team. So, it was a surprise to us all when she did make it as a beater.
Avril didn’t try-out until our third year of school; with Dom and me already on the team, Avril felt a little out of place – she had always loved Quidditch, but neither of her parents felt that playing the game was a good skill to have in life. But, half way through the year, when one of the Beaters got a serious head injury from a game, try-outs were held, and Avril took a serious leap of faith, and made it on the team as a reserve. Of course, the next year after that, she made the team full time, and that was that.
And then there was Briscoe; he and I had both tried-out for the team at the same time as Dom and I, in his third year (I remember him telling me he couldn’t try-out the year before because of some injury to his arm, or something). And he just so happens to be my boyfriend, too. I think he’s one of the best boyfriends ever. He’s the kind of guy that holds the door open for you, and says all the right things to your friends. He’s a great guy to be around, and I feel like I can talk to him about all sorts of things, you know?
“Hey Babe,” Briscoe said as I made my way towards the three of them. He wrapped his arm around my shoulders and gave me a small squeeze, kissing me on my forehead. I gave a small smile and turned, giving him a soft kiss on the cheek.
“Alright,” I said to the three of them, “We’ve got three positions to fill. Two Chasers, and on Beater. Avril, I want you working with the people trying-out for Beater position, and Dom, Briscoe, you work with the people trying-out for the Chaser positions.”
I went on explaining all the drills we would be working on, and soon enough, a handful of Hufflepuffs trickled onto the field; friends were sitting in the stands for support, as well as other curious students, who wanted to see the new captain at work. Five of these students, I noticed from afar, were James, and his group of friends. Everyone in that little group was on the Quidditch team, except for Callen (though he was quiet alright with that, from what I’ve seen – he’d much rather be reading a book or something else of the like, then playing the game of Quidditch any day). I hated the fact that they were there; the element of surprise was something that I was hoping for. But clearly, that wasn’t going to happen.
At exactly nine o’clock, I looked around, and saw that there were a good number of potential players, and suddenly, I felt nauseous; what if I picked out the wrong players? What if I became the girl who was the terrible captain, and lead her team into a straight loosing streak? What if I lost just this one game, and had to go on a date with James? Oh god, the horrid possibilities were endless!
All of a sudden, I felt nervous, and I could tell that my face was getting pale, because Dom came over and started rubbing my shoulders – only something she does when she can tell I'm extremely nervous.
“Don’t worry, Sarah,” she said, “You’re going to do fine.”
Yeah, well she’d be nervous too, if a date with the one guy she hated most was the price to pay for loosing. Of course, I couldn’t just say that; I had yet to inform of her my bet with James earlier that morning, and how there was a small possibility that I might be going on a … date with her cousin. I was suddenly regretting making the haste decision I had made this morning with the particular brown eyed Potter.
“You’re going to be an awesome captain this year, Sarah,” Dom continued to say, slowly relaxing my nervous muscles and anxious mind.
She was right, I could do this. I could be a good captain, and I could lead us to victory. I quietly turned around, and gave her a small hug.
“Thanks Dom,” I whispered into her ear.
“Welcome everyone,” I said loudly, getting the attention of all the potential players, “to the Hufflepuff Quidditch tryouts. My name is Sarah O’Connor, and I'm the new team captain. Now, today we’ll be holding try-outs for two different positions; Chasers, and Beaters. Now, if you could split up into two groups, depending on which position you’re trying out for.”
The group split up pretty evenly, which I was glad for; I had always felt awkward being in a smaller group then the others around me, and I didn’t want anyone else to feel the same way.
Briscoe, Avril, Dom and I talked through all the drills we would be doing, and Avril started working with the beaters, while Dom and Briscoe worked with the Chasers, allowing me to fly around and watch particular people.
Every so often, I would glance at James and his friends, but their expressions never seemed to change; they were focusing hard on all the players – ones who were already on the team, and the potential ones that had yet to be picked. I didn’t know why, but it was almost like they actually saw us as a threat, and like this was as serious for all of them, as it was for me.
Did the others know about the bet that James and I had made? Surely James would’ve told them; his four best mates seemed to know everything that went on in his life, just like Dom and Minnie knew everything that went on in mine... But then again, I hadn't told either of them about the bet...
After an hour of doing drills, and training some of the others, I finally felt like we had all had enough, and so I ended it.
"Thank-you all for coming," I said to everyone once we were on the ground, “I should have the decision made by tomorrow; I’ll post the list on the bulletin board.”
With that, everyone started leaving. I waved goodbye to Dom and Avril, who were leaving like the rest of the Hufflepuffs, saying they both wanted to get good showers, before meeting up latter and figuring out what to do. Briscoe left too, saying he had some homework he wanted to get done, so we could spend some time together tomorrow. So, eventually, that left me all alone on the field to put up the balls; not that I minded. I liked having the time alone on the field – something that hardly ever happened at Hogwarts. So I welcomed it. I stood there for a few minutes, just looking up in the sky.
I noticed a red blur, moving somewhere in the stands, and when I brought my attention to it, I noticed that James was leaving the stands. But, just for a few moments, our eyes met. And I knew that we both realized that this was just the beginning battle in a full on war…
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