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Chapter 3 : Charlie Weasley
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“Errol!” Charlie groaned, picking the owl out of the porridge and attempting to wipe off the worst of it with someone’s discarded Daily Prophet.
The owl hooted indignantly, gazed at the remains of Charlie’s breakfast reproachfully and flew off again, narrowly missing two barn owls on his way.
“That bird’s a menace,” Charlie muttered to himself, looking to see what the owl had delivered. Beneath the large porridge stains, he could see that Errol had in fact delivered two items of post that morning; a hastily rolled scroll that was unfurling slightly, and a large envelope with neatly lettered, official writing. He went to unroll the scroll first, but before he could, a distraction arrived in the form of his two younger brothers, Fred and George.
“Was that Errol, Charlie?” asked Fred, genuine worry etched over his freckled face. “Did Mum send us another Howler?”
Charlie sighed, though he could not help smiling a little. “What have you two done this time to warrant a Howler?” he asked.
“Nothing really,” George insisted. “It’s just, we think McGonagall might have discovered it was us who taught Peeves that song everyone’s so fussed about.”
“That wouldn’t, by any chance, be the incredibly rude song Peeves has taken to bellowing in the corridors? The same song that Professor Dumbledore had forbidden the whole song to sing, whistle or even hum anywhere on school premises, pending immediate expulsion?”
“The very same,” Fred grinned.
“But the trouble is,” George continued, “we think it might have upset McGonagall for some reason and you know she’s always threatening to write home, and we didn’t think Mum would find it too funny either!”
Charlie laughed, “You’re in luck, today,” he grinned. “No Howlers!”
The relieved twins sank into the bench opposite him and pulled a huge stack of toast and marmalade towards them. Charlie resumed his opening of the scroll, though it wasn’t too strenuous; it was mostly unravelled. He smoothed it out and recognised his mother’s handwriting at once, though the blotchy ink stains and rushed lettering were not things she usually included in her daily correspondence. Intrigued, Charlie read;
This arrived first thing this morning, I’ve sent Errol with it right away – I do hope he reaches you before the match. I only read the first few lines, I knew you’d want to be the first to read it. Make sure Fred and George are behaving themselves and tell Percy I’ll be sending on Bill’s old OWL textbooks tomorrow. Good luck for the match, we know you’ll do brilliant!
Love, Mum and Dad.
Further down the page however, were two more signatures in childish loopy writing; Ron and Ginny. Charlie frowned at the unfurled scroll. Curiosity washing over him, he reached for the second item of post; the highly official envelope. He slit it open quickly, eager to see what was inside that could be so important. A single sheet of yellowish parchment fell slowly onto the table. He just had time to recognise the highly familiar orange crest at the head of the page before another voice interrupted him.
“Did Mum write to you, Charlie?’ came a voice from somewhere behind him. He turned round to see Percy, another of his younger brothers, hovering there. “Has she sent on Bill’s books yet?”
“No, just a letter for me,” Charlie sighed, wondering if he would ever get to read this blasted letter without a sibling interruption. “And why do you want Bill’s old books anyway? You’re not even in OWL year yet!”
“I know that!” Percy sighed, rolling his eyes while the twin’s sniggered at his pious expression. “But it’s nice to get ahead. And besides, it shows that I’d be good prefect material for next year.” He stared over Charlie’s shoulder at the letter clenched in his hands. “Why are you getting letters from the Chudley Cannons?” he asked suspiciously.
Fred and George burst into peals of raucous laughter. “Please don’t say you’ve joined the Chudley Cannons Fan Club?” Fred spluttered. “They’re rubbish, they haven’t won the league in years!”
“No I haven’t joined any fan club,” Charlie snapped, “I think you’re confusing me with Ron. Now can I please read this letter preferably today?!”
Ignoring the looks and faces the twins were no doubt pulling at him, Charlie’s blue eyes scanned the page quickly. He came to the end of it quickly, then read it again, certain he had missed something.
'Dear Charles, (Charlie grimaced slightly, it was a rare occasion when his full name was used and it was usually when his mum was extraordinarily angry)
This may come as a surprise but we here at the Chudley Cannons (Quidditch League Winners 1892) have been monitoring your progression in the noble sport for quite some time now, aided of course by esteemed Hogwarts flying instructor, Madam Hooch. According to her, you have a very natural ability on the pitch in the field of Seeking, as well as excellent leadership abilities as demonstrated by your team captaincy. We are keen to observe your skills personally, so we are sending a representative of the Chudley Cannons to Hogwarts today, in order to watch the Quidditch match we have been told is taking place. If all goes smoothly with the match, we would be very pleased and privileged to offer you a place at the Chudley Cannons Training Initiative, commencing this September. We have selected those young players with the most potential from up and down the country, as well as overseas, in order to best supplement our team. We feel that you, Charles, would make a wonderful addition to the Chudley Cannons as a Seeker-in-training. Who knows, you could even be playing professionally in as little as six months!
Hoping to hear from you soon,
Manager of the Chudley Cannons 1989-present'
All the cheerful babble seemed to instantly drain away as Charlie stared down at the letter in his hand, unable to quite believe what he had just read. This had to be some sort of joke. He stared round the parchment’s edges at Fred and George, convinced he had fallen victim to their latest idea of a joke, but the identical expressions of bafflement on their faces told him otherwise. He read the letter again. Was this actually true? Had a professional Quidditch team actually written to him, offering him a place with them? It was true, the Cannons were strictly a minor team, but they were a professional and well known team none the less! They wanted him, they had actually been watching him carefully! Madam Hooch had passed on his name to them, described him as being a wonderful player...
From behind him, Percy’s quick eyes had scanned the parchment. “No way!” he breathed slowly.
“What is it?’ George asked immediately looking from Percy to Charlie and back again. “What does it say?”
“Let us read it!” Fred insisted, leaning forwards to grab the letter, but Charlie held it out of his reach.
“The Chudley Cannons wrote to Charlie saying they want him on the team!” Percy burst out, showing much more excitement at the prospect of Quidditch than he ever had before, and barely pausing for breath.
“The Chudley Cannons wants you-” Fred started, his jaw dropping.
“On their team?” George finished.
“Well what are you going to say?” Percy asked, slipping into the free space beside Charlie.
“Of course he’s going to say yes!” Fred cried, shaking his head at Percy’s stupidity. “Aren’t you?” he added in an undertone to Charlie.
“Of course he is!” George exclaimed.
The three faces turned towards Charlie, each freckled visage bearing the same expectant expression. Staring at each of his brother’s in turn, Charlie found he couldn’t answer. His words became stuck in his throat.
“I-I’ll talk to you later,” he said finally, shouldering his broomstick and walking away from them.
“Good luck for the match!” Percy yelled after him.
“You should let us on the team and you’d definitely win!” Fred cried.
“And not just as the reserve Beaters!” George added.
As his feet pounded the familiar track down to the Quidditch Pitch, a multitude of thoughts were bouncing violently round his head. The old Shooting Star his parents had bought him years ago felt familiar and comforting against his shoulder, its nostalgic woody smell filling his nostrils and reminding him of all the matches he’d played at Hogwarts. He’d been made Captain at the beginning of last year, but had been playing Seeker since he was only a second year. There was no doubt that he was good at Quidditch, and he certainly enjoyed it. Nothing was better than soaring through the air after the Golden Snitch, feeling the wind whipping his hair, dodging Bludgers...but was that really what he wanted to do for the rest of his life?
He pictured himself taking up the Cannons’ offer and becoming a player on the team; wearing the bright orange robes like the figures that adorned the many posters covering Ron’s bedroom. He imagined hearing a stadium full of paying fans chanting his names, listening to the deafening roars of the crowd when he caught the Snitch, hoisting the gleaming Quidditch League Cup into the air. He envisaged photographs of himself splashed all over the sports pages of the Daily Prophet, fans clamouring to have their picture taken with him, begging him to sign tattered fragments of parchment...
With a jolt, he realised he had reached the changing rooms, and judging by the excited chatter, the rest of the team were already inside. He supposed he ought to give a pre-match talk, to rally the team into action. As he traipsed inside, each excited member of his team turned to him, their faces falling immediately.
“What’s the matter, Charlie?” asked Oliver, who was already wearing his scarlet Quidditch robes and Keeper’s gloves.
Realising what he must look like, Charlie hastily hitched a grin into place and looked round at his team. “Just a bit nervous,” he lied, smiling at them all. “Just everyone play their best today, that’s all we can do. We deserve to win the Cup, and Slytherin don’t, simple as that!”
The team looked expectantly at him. There was a very pregnant pause as Charlie realised how his usual talks went on for much longer than this. He usually spoke to each player in turn, discussing different strategies and advising them on the best ways to play the game. Today, somehow, he found he couldn’t. The letter he’d received at breakfast, and the prospects it brought were overwhelming him. He slipped his Quidditch robes over his head to avoid the stares of the rather confused team.
As the soft red robes fell over his eyes, he wondered he would feel swapping them for Quidditch robes of brightest orange. Was playing Quidditch really what he wanted to do for the rest of his life? He thought back to the Careers Meeting he’d had in fifth year with Professor McGonagall and the one in seventh year with Professor Dumbledore. Both of them had commented about his talent on the pitch and remarked that he certainly had the ability to pursue it further if he so desired. However, both Professors, after studying the marks he received in each subject, had marvelled at his grades in Care of Magical Creatures.
Care of Magical Creatures was by far Charlie’s favourite subject; he was one of the few students in the year who had chosen to study it right up to NEWT level. He’d been awarded an Outstanding for his OWL exam and Professor Kettleburn had told him to expect the same when he sat his NEWTs in a few weeks. When he wasn’t training with the team on the Quidditch pitch, he was forever running down to the gamekeeper, Hagrid’s cabin. He’d developed a friendship with the large, bearded man over the years, aided no doubt by their mutual love and understanding of supposedly ‘dangerous’ creatures. In the back of him mind, he supposed he would always go down that route; caring for and working with magical creatures, the bigger the better. Professor Kettleburn had some very useful contacts in the Ministry of Magic, in the department for the regulation and control of magical creatures, which could help to point Charlie in the right direction.
But what that really what he wanted to do for the rest of his life either?
He’d seen his father come home from his shifts at the Ministry, absolutely drained only to start on a mountain of paperwork. True, the Misuse of Magical Artefacts was a far cry from the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. However, from what he’d learned from all the brochures sent by the ministry to all seventh year students, working in that department did not guarantee he would actually get to care for the creatures. There was an awful lot of paperwork dealing with the magical creatures. He pictured himself sitting behind a desk, a tired and weary expression clouding his face, stacks of forms to fill in and reports to read piled in front of him, as far removed from the magical creatures as it was possible to be...
“Er...Charlie? Charlie?” a voice called, abruptly drawing him out of his daydreams.
The other six members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team were staring at their captain, clearly worried by Charlie’s apparent lack of enthusiasm for the game ahead; the game that would decide the winners of the Cup.
“What’s the matter, Charlie?” Oliver asked again, obviously not satisfied with the first answer. “You never get nervous!”
Charlie looked round at them all and found he could not lie to them. “Well, you see, the thing is...” he trailed off somewhat lamely. “I got a letter from the Chudley Cannons this morning, and no, before you ask, I have not joined the fan club. They wrote to me to say, well, to say that they, uh, want me to join their training programme which could, erm, lead me to me playing on their team. Er, professionally.”
It was a while before anyone spoke. The team simply stared at Charlie, their mouths hanging comically hanging open. Finally, they broke into a loud storm of applause he hadn’t been expecting.
“Congratulations!” the team yelled as one, all moving towards Charlie, clapping him on the back, wringing his hand, even hugging him.
“You’re so lucky,” Oliver said enviously, grabbing his broomstick and getting ready to walk onto the pitch. “I’ve always wanted to play Quidditch professionally! I’d say yes to any team that asked me, not that anyone ever would,” he added darkly.
“Come off it, Oliver, you’re a brilliant Keeper,” Charlie muttered distractedly, running his fingers through his hair.
Oliver beamed. “So have you written to them yet?”
Charlie shook his head. “It only just came this morning, and besides, they’re sending a representative to the match today.”
There came a collective gasp from the team. Hooper, one of the Chaser and a god friend of Charlie’s, dashed outside the changing room at once, and reappeared a moment later, panting slightly and looking incredibly excited.
“Merlin’s Beard!” he gasped, clutching at a stitch in his side. “They didn’t half send a representative, Joey Jenkins is sitting in the stands!”
There was a mad scramble for the door as the team tried to snatch a glimpse of the famous, if not all that good with a Bludger, Quidditch player.
Only Charlie remained behind, lacing up his boots and desperately trying to convince himself that this was just another day, another Quidditch match. As he straightened up and grabbed his Shooting Star from the bench, he knocked his bag sideway, sending a single book careering to the floor. Quickly bending down to retrieve it before heading out to the pitch for the match, he paused, staring at the page the book had opened on. He read the first line of the page, his heart hammering in his chest.
'The further study and care of dragons in European countries has proven to be a popular career path for many young witches and wizards who have proven an innate understanding in the care of magical creatures...'
“Charlie! We need to go on the pitch! Now!” Oliver yelled frantically.
Charlie hurried out after the team, the sentence he had just read burnt into his mind. As he shook the other captain’s hand, mounted his Shooting Star and shot into the air, his mind was not on the game. He watched the other players zoom around him; each with the same look of concentration he knew should be occupying his face too. He saw his team’s Chasers soar through the air after the Quaffle, snatching it up and passing flawlessly back and forth through the air. He wondered why he didn’t feel more attached to the game, why he didn’t feel excited or even proud as Gryffindor scored and the twins’ friend, Lee, announced it to the stadium?
“And that’s the first goal of the match, putting Gryffindor in the lead with ten-” there came a horrible shuffling noise, like an unturned wireless before Lee spoke again, “Whoops! Sorry, I just dropped it there; I'm still getting the hand of this megaphone thing.”
The jubilant cheering of the Gryffindor supporters was lost on Charlie; the thing reminding him that he was supposed to be playing Quidditch was the smooth handle of his broomstick beneath his fingers. It was as though he was watching the match from miles away; hovering slightly above the action, barely even keeping an eye out for the Golden Snitch.
And suddenly, a bright gold flash obscured his vision. Almost subconsciously, without even realising what he was doing, he had stretched out his right hand and caught the Golden Snitch. The stadium erupted into deafening applause, the whole of Gryffindor house was screaming and cheering, the team were flying round him, all yelling, some even crying with joy.
He touched lightly onto the ground, still clutching the cold Snitch. He could see his brothers at the front of the stands; Fred and George with their arms round each other, grinning all over their faces, and Percy jumping up and down like a maniac, all dignity forgotten in his eagerness to celebrate. And professor McGonagall was wiping her eyes on a huge scarlet and gold banner, Professor Dumbledore was smiling and applauding, but it was the man in the bright orange robes that Charlie was focusing on.
Joey Jenkins was fighting his way through the celebrating students, smiling and as he reached Charlie, he extended a hand.
“Charles Weasley I presume? Yes, well, what can I say? I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Snitch captured so quickly, this must be some kind of record! And you’ve clearly demonstrated excellent leadership qualities; that’s a wonderful side you’ve put together. So, what do you say? Are you going to come and train with the Cannons?”
The entire school seemed to draw its breath as Charlie looked the Quidditch player right in the eyes, and said, with a smile on his face, “Thanks for the offer Mr Jenkins, it’s very much appreciated. But I’m afraid I'm going to have to decline. You see,” he let go of the struggling Snitch, laughing slightly at the look on the Beater’s face; “I’m going to study dragons.”
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