The first-years would not have thought it possible a week earlier, but the days following the Headmistress’ announcements saw the boys counting down to the start of their exams. The sudden attention that had followed the defeat of the Hunt had been welcome at first, but they quickly discovered how much they had valued their privacy.
The upside, however, was that the hostility the Slytherins had experienced for much of the year had begun to fade. Hufflepuff had clearly taken note of McGonagall’s comments – and Glyn’s example – whilst as senior members of Ravenclaw, Neal Kennedy and Ed Williams had been able to tell the full story of the Tuesday evening to their own House without any questions being asked. As a result, the first-year Slytherins frequently found themselves greeted in the corridors by students whom they hardly knew. The older Gryffindors were less accommodating, but with the Quidditch playoff on the horizon, this was hardly a surprise.
‘You all set, then?’ Ciaran Abercrombie asked a gathering of first-years in the Slytherin dungeon, which had become something of an unofficial common room for the younger boys, that Sunday evening.
‘I guess,’ Greg shrugged.
‘What a day to have your birthday, mate,’ Isaac sympathised with his friend. ‘I guess I’m dead lucky mine’s always in the summer holidays.’
‘It could be worse,’ Theo groaned. ‘He could be like me, and have it during the exams.’
Greg smiled thinly. ‘It’s only a number. We can have a party together after the exams finish.’
‘If I get through them.’ Theo rolled his eyes. ‘I just hope there’s some questions about the Four Elements on the History exam.’
‘Not likely,’ Lucas shook his head. ‘You heard what McGonagall said. ‘We don’t teach those here any more. More chance of having questions about Owain Glyndwr himself.’
‘I hope not,’ the blond boy rolled his eyes. ‘All I know is that he’s Glyn’s great-great-grandad or something.’
‘I know he was Welsh,’ Isaac put in, as several of the others giggled.
‘The last King of Wales,’ Glyn supplied, trenchantly. ‘He held the last true parliament of Wales at Machynlleth in 1404.’
‘There’s no way I’m going to remember how to spell that...’ Greg laughed, and the Welsh boy managed a wry grin of his own in return.
‘Typical English,’ he shook his head.
‘Oh, stop whinging,’ Oscar had overheard the first-years’ conversation from the other side of the room. ‘How many people have ever failed their first year exams? You’ll be fine!’ He grinned, before glancing at the clock in the corner as he got to his feet. ‘Come on, guys,’ the prefect gestured, ‘it’s nearly curfew. Back to your dormitories. Exams tomorrow. Oh, Ciaran,’ he added, almost as an afterthought. ‘Have you heard anything else about Tregeagle?’
‘No,’ the Gryffindor answered, mechanically. ‘He’s still in the Hospital Wing. That’s all anyone told us. Josh doesn’t want to talk about it.’
Oh,’ Oscar shuddered, realising he might have gone too far. ‘Sorry. I don’t blame him.’
‘Night, Ciaran,’ Greg called after the sandy-haired boy. ‘Good luck tomorrow, mate.’
As it turned out, there were no questions about Glyndwr, but the first-years did come by a little luck over the course of the exam week: part of the History of Magic exam asked them to retell the story of any British myth or legend, and explain its basis in reality. There was also reason to be thankful for Ed’s last-minute revision of the properties of water plants, as it made completing an essay on the properties of bogroot a far more straightforward task than it would have been otherwise. All in all, the only thing that caused the boys trouble came in their final test – a Muggle Studies question on the importance of Spice Girls to Britain.
‘What the hell is a Spice Girl?’ Isaac rolled his eyes as the boys left their exam room for the last time.
‘Isn’t it someone who works in a kitchen?’ Lucas suggested.
‘I don't know,’ Greg shrugged, ‘and I’m muggle-born! I think they were a pop group,’ he shook his head, ‘but I’ve no idea why they’re important!’
‘Who cares?’ Theo laughed. ‘That’s it, no more exams for another year. Now for our birthday party... and Quidditch!’
‘This is it,’ Matthew stood in front of the doors that split the changing rooms from the Quidditch pitch. ‘A whole year’s work, all down to one match. This is it,’ he repeated, ‘this is all that matters. We know they’re good, but we’re in this match because we deserve to be. We deserve the chance to bring the Quidditch Cup back to Slytherin for the first time in more than fifteen years. None of us were even born the last time we won this trophy,’ the captain’s eyes blazed with determination as he spoke, ‘but today we can change all that. We know we can compete with them, we know we can match them, we know we can beat them. We just have to do the simple things right, stick close with our marking, make our takedowns, don’t give the ball away...’
‘We know, mate,’ Oscar ventured. ‘We all know what we’ve got to do. We all want it just as much.’
Greg joined in with the nods of agreement from the other younger boys, but privately he wasn’t sure if he agreed with Oscar’s last sentence. Sometimes it seemed as if Matthew wanted the Quidditch Cup more than anything else on earth.
‘Alright,’ the captain took his friend’s hint. ‘Here goes. Give it absolutely everything you’ve got. Come on Slytherin!’
‘COME ON SLYTHERIN!’ The other players echoed Matthew’s yell at the tops of their voices before following the fourth-year out into the arena.
‘Here come Slytherin!’ Dan Beretta’s excited voice gave its own version of the rallying call. ‘We know the team by now – Seb Burns in goal, Theo Forrest and Lucas Brand beating, captain Matt Sawyer alongside Isaac Davies and Greg Bennett as the chasers and Oscar Symons the seeker. They’re swiftly followed by Gryffindor, who are also unchanged as they hunt down a fourth straight trophy: the Lions line up with Kelly Marriott in goal, Darius Vallance and Marcus Fellows as beaters, Jimmy Trebarah, Norman Fellows and the incredible Indigo Yorath in the chaser line and captain Jason Newitt searching for the snitch.’
Beretta took a deep breath, allowing his colleague Dan Buckley’s calmer tones to fill the void. ‘It’s only the third time in the history of the Hogwarts Quidditch Cup – and the first since 1773 – that the competition has gone down to a playoff. Gryffindor are hot favourites to seal the crown that looked all but theirs before their shock defeat against Ravenclaw, but Slytherin have been springing surprises all season, and who’s to say we won’t see another one today?’
‘Was that alliteration, Dan?’ Beretta had recovered his breath. ‘There’s another surprise in the stands, too, though. We’re used to seeing nothing more than a scattering of silver and green when Slytherin take the field, but it looks like the fans are split right down the middle today.’
‘I have to say, Dan, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Slytherin win,’ Buckley replied. ‘It would be the youngest winning line-up in the history of Hogwarts Quidditch, and you don’t get the chance to see that very often.’
‘You don’t see players like Indigo Yorath every week, either,’ the other voice argued back. ‘It’s her farewell game today, and I understand she’s already signed professional forms with the Caerphilly Catapults. I’d like to see her sign off in style.’
‘Well, we’ll soon find out,’ Buckley retorted. ‘The snitch is away, the bludgers are up... and Professor Wood releases the quaffle.’
Beretta didn’t let his friend dominate the commentary for long. ‘THE 2006 QUIDDITCH CUP PLAYOFF HAS BEGUN!’
‘Come on, Zac!’ Matthew yelled across the pitch after Indigo Yorath had beaten the first-year to a loose quaffle and extended the Gryffindor lead to eighty points as the first period of the game drew to a close. ‘You can’t let her get free like that!’
‘I’m bloody trying, alright!’ The brown-haired boy snapped over the sound of the whistle. ‘She’s not playing for Caerphilly for nothing, you know!’ He kicked against the back of his broom in frustration, accelerating towards the changing rooms as Buckley and Beretta’s analysis begun.
‘That’s eight for Yorath,’ Buckley observed, ‘and nineteen for the season. Gryffindor lead, 110 to 30.’
‘It’s a much better game than the opening match, Dan, that’s for sure,’ Beretta continued, ‘but maybe Slytherin would have been better off playing a defensive game once again. It’s one thing tearing Hufflepuff to pieces, but something else entirely to unseat the champions...’
‘You’ve got to lift it!’ Matthew shouted as the changing room door shut behind the last of his team. ‘It’s all too easy for them!’
‘What else do you want us to do?’ Isaac was still reeling from his captain’s earlier criticism. ‘They’re sixth- and seventh-years, we’re just kids...’
‘You got this far, didn’t you?’ Matthew shot back. ‘Hufflepuff had seventh-years, you out-flew them...’
‘She’s flying for the fucking Catapults!’ Isaac’s eyes watered. ‘I can’t even keep up with her half the time, never mind get the quaffle off her...’
‘Zac,’ Greg mediated. ‘It’s not your fault. No one else has kept her quiet all season. It took two of us last time.’
‘Well maybe it’ll need two of us again today,’ Matthew’s voice hadn’t softened. ‘Greg, forget Fellows, just keep Yorath out the game, whatever you have to do. We’ll work on the others. Lukie, Theo – stick to your beaters’ bats. Forget scoring. This isn’t Hufflepuff. Ossie?’ He looked across to the seeker. ‘It’s gonna have to be you today, mate. I know we can keep them to less than 150... if you get that snitch, it happens. We win.’
The first half of Matthew’s plan seemed to be coming to fruition as the players returned to the field to continue the contest after the break. The pace of the game slowed right down, and Indigo Yorath saw far less of the quaffle.
‘It looks like Slytherin have listened to your advice, Dan,’ Buckley summarised, a gently mocking tone to his voice. ‘It’s back to Plan A for the Snakes, with Davies and Bennett double-teaming Indigo Yorath, who’s struggling to find anything like the amount of space she did before the break. Of course, this has meant a few more chances for Fellows and Trebarah, but...’
‘They’re not Indigo Yorath,’ Beretta completed his friend’s sentence as Jimmy Trebarah, the youngest of the Gryffindor chasers, sent a quaffle flying high over Seb’s central hoop and into the end terrace. ‘It’s not what I wanted to see,’ the commentator complained, ‘but I can’t say I’m surprised. Today, it’s all going to be about the snitch.’
‘That’s knockout Quidditch for you,’ Buckley responded. ‘No points for style, nothing to gain in the league table for a valiant effort from the chasers. It’s all about who takes the W. Slytherin will be trying to keep the Lions as quiet as they can for as long as they can, and hoping that Oscar Symons can make it three snatches in a row. I doubt it will be pretty, Dan, but I can promise you it’s not going to be dull.’
‘There’s a Quidditch Cup at the end of this, Dan,’ Beretta stated the obvious. ‘Whatever happens next, that’s something to keep looking forwards to.’ He drew a breath. ‘What can you tell us about the two seekers today, then?’
‘Well, let’s start with the challenger,’ Buckley leapt at the chance to delve into his archive of statistics. ‘Oscar Symons was born on January 18, 1991, in Bracknell, Berkshire. He made his Slytherin debut in January 2004 in a 370-30 defeat to Ravenclaw...’
No amount of biography, however, could aid either seeker, and as the end of the match drew ever closer, it looked as if Slytherin’s valiant defence would prove entirely in vain.
‘Not long to go now, Dan,’ Beretta observed as the great clock that hung on the front of the stand opposite the commentators’ booth opposite ticked onwards. ‘Less than ten minutes by my count, and with Gryffindor leading 180-40, the game is still on: but only just. You can sense the tension in the stands, everybody’s eyes are on Newitt and Symons... and their eyes are on the snitch! It looks like they’ve seen it at the same time; they’re neck and neck; the whole season of Quidditch is going to come down to this. I can’t take my eyes off them...’
‘It doesn’t look like Theo Forrest’s got his eyes on them, though,’ Buckley interrupted, ‘and he’s right in the seekers’ road. Only one thing is going to happen here...’
Theo, whose attention had been fixed on a bludger he had aimed at Indigo Yorath, spun on his broom as he heard the commentator’s pronouncement, but it was too late for anybody to change course and avoid the inevitable.
‘IMPACT!’ Beretta yelled, as Jason Newitt flew headlong into the first-year, sending the three players crashing into one another and promptly off-balance, tumbling towards the ground.
‘Aresto Momentum!’ Professor Wood’s strong accent echoed around the stadium, slowing the students’ descent before they could hit the sun-browned grass, before the shrill sound of his whistle quickly followed. ‘Time off!’
‘I told you it wasn’t going to be dull, Dan,’ Buckley reminded his co-commentator as the eleven other players crowded around their team mates, now slowly getting to their feet, and the referee, ‘but I don’t think I expected this.’
‘What’s happened?’ Beretta was reduced to asking trivial questions. ‘Who has caught the snitch? Has Oscar Symons literally stolen the Quidditch Cup from out of Jason Newitt’s grasp?’
‘You know as much as I do, Dan,’ Buckley responded without answering any of his friend’s questions, ‘but there may be one more question that’s even more important than any of those,’ he paused, sensing the crowd’s attention to his every word. ‘What was Theo Forrest doing, and what will Wood make of it? If Symons has caught the snitch, but Wood rules Forrest was out of order, we’ll still see the penalty shot that could tie the game up.’
The blast of the professor’s whistle rung out again seconds later, sounding louder than ever against a hush that had washed over the watching spectators as they allowed Buckley’s words to sink in. ‘As usual, Mr Buckley is quite correct,’ Wood raised his wand to his throat. ‘The foul took place before the capture of the snitch. Slytherin lead by 190 to 180, but Gryffindor will have a penalty.’
Theo staggered backwards as Wood’s announcement echoed back from the concrete of the terraces. The long strands of his blond fringe dropped over eyes that burned red. ‘I never meant to...’ he protested.
‘I know,’ Greg grabbed his best friend by the forearm, ‘but it doesn’t matter. If you hadn’t have crashed into him, maybe Ossie wouldn’t have caught it.’
‘Here’s the penalty shot, then,’ Beretta gave the first-years no time to dwell on the moment. ‘Indigo Yorath on Seb Burns.’
‘Yorath has 11 today, and 22 for the season...’ Buckley provided his typical statistics.
‘Better make that 23, Dan! Poor old Seb Burns,’ Beretta exclaimed. ‘What chance has a third-year got against a quaffle thrown like that? It’s 190 points each... and what happens next?’
‘I’m glad you asked, Dan.’ There was an obvious glee in Buckley’s tone. ‘I did my research last night. I’m sure you all remember Professor Wood announcing that we would be following the rules of the British and Irish League this season...’
‘Get on with it!’ Beretta shouted over his friend, to a roar of agreement from the stands.
‘Well, if you really don’t want to hear he history of tiebreakers...’
‘Just tell us what’s going to happen!’
‘Fine,’ Buckley groaned. ‘Penalty shootout.’
The packed terraces gasped as they heard the commentator’s news, but down on the pitch, Greg greeted the announcement with just one word.
‘It’s just like football,’ the muggle-born boy explained to his magically-raised friends. ‘You take it in turns to take a penalty... and most goals wins.’
‘Good job we’ve been practising them, then,’ Isaac was unflustered. ‘How many of us need to take them?’
His question was answered through Dan Buckley’s broadcast within moments. ‘Three players from each side – usually the chasers – are nominated to take their penalty shots, and if it’s still tied, then we go to sudden death. I’m not sure if it’s Quidditch, but I can promise that you won’t be able to look away.’
‘It’s one-on-one, Dan,’ Beretta was quickly into his stride, doing what his colleague knew was an admirable job of bluffing on a subject he had never discussed before. ‘The very essence of sport. In ten minutes’ time, we’ll have a hero, we’ll have a villain, and we’ll have a champion... but who will it be?’
‘Gryffindor have won the toss,’ Professor Wood announced seconds later, ‘and they will have the first shot.’
‘No surprises about who it’s going to be, either,’ Beretta didn’t allow any silence to follow the referee’s statement. ‘It’s Indigo Yorath against Seb Burns once again, and it doesn’t take a genius to guess what’s going to happen here.’ The commentator drew breath as Yorath bore down on the Slytherin keeper. ‘1-0 Gryffindor!’ He yelled, before checking himself. ‘That’s right, isn’t it?’
‘That’s right,’ Buckley agreed. ‘1-0, and now it’s the turn of Slytherin’s Matt Sawyer.’
‘The captain himself, aiming to lead from the front,’ Beretta continued. ‘He’s up against Kelly Marriott, who’s almost been a spectator for much of the afternoon... and that’s how to set an example! It’s 1-1, and if you thought things couldn’t get any more tense, then how wrong could you gave been?’
‘Norman Fellows is up next.’ As ever, Dan Buckley had taken on the role of providing the information for his excitable colleague. ‘A sixth-year, who’ll almost certainly be senior chaser next season...’
‘MISSES!’ Beretta yelled. ‘He sent Seb Burns the wrong way entirely, but he’s gone for the right-hand hoop, and the quaffle’s gone six inches over!’
‘The scores are still level at one each, but it’s certainly Advantage Slytherin,’ Buckley observed. ‘Now for Isaac Davies, whose uncle Roger was part of the victorious Ravenclaw side of 1992...’
‘Davies feints to go left, Marriott doesn’t buy it, but Davies goes left anyway, and SCORES! It looks like he’s got some big nerves in that little body of his,’ Beretta drew breath as the first-year punched the air. ‘2-1 Slytherin.’
‘Jimmy Trebarah’s got to score,’ Buckley supplied. ‘It’s not been a great day in front of the hoops for the fourth-year from Falmouth, with just three goals to show for his efforts.’
‘There’s a fourth, though,’ Beretta cut his colleague off. ‘Power and placement. That’s two goals each.’
Buckley summarised the state of play. ‘So Slytherin have the chance to win, and that chance is going to fall to Greg Bennett, Chudleigh born and bred.’
‘Can he overcome that handicap?’ Beretta joked. ‘Or will his cannon misfire now, with the whole school watching...’
Greg shivered as he heard the commentator’s black humour. Suddenly, the hoops behind Kelly Marriott seemed awfully small, and the keeper herself loomed large. ‘Don’t choke...’ he muttered, as the memory of his final game of football for Chudleigh Primary School came flooding back. ‘Just don’t choke...’
‘SAVED!’ Beretta’s scream filled Greg’s ears before the noise of the crowd and commentators merged into an indistinct buzz in his ears. He’d had the chance to win the Quidditch Cup, and he’d blown it.
‘Forget it, Greg,’ Oscar hugged the twelve-year-old as he stumbled from his broom, back in the centre of the pitch. ‘It’s not your fault.’
Greg sniffed ‘Feels like it... We could have won it by now...’
‘It doesn’t matter,’ the prefect ruffled the younger boy’s hair, ignoring his tear-streaked face. ‘We’ll get another chance,’ he insisted. ‘Now come on, watch the game. ‘You’ll miss Theo’s go.’
‘What a magnificent penalty!’ Greg looked up in time to see his friend’s cartwheel of celebration as the beater levelled the scores to the sound of Beretta’s gushing praise. ‘He was under all the pressure in the world after Newitt put Gryffindor 3-2 up, but he’s put that away like he was playing 4-on-4 in the garden.’
‘Well done, mate,’ Greg greeted his best friend as he landed back with his team mates. ‘Great goal.’
Theo shrugged. ‘Beretta’s right, it’s just like playing 4-on-4 in Harlech,’ he smiled, ‘my rugby coach always said that the best players in the world were the ones who played like it meant nothing when in fact it meant everything.
‘There’s no time for us to dwell on that, though,’ Buckley continued the commentary. ‘It’s Marcus Fellows for Gryffindor, trying to make up for his brother’s error earlier on. Will he go the same way?’
‘Yes, Dan, he will,’ Beretta told the crowd what they already knew, ‘and this time Seb Burns is ready! That was a firm shot from Fellows, but the keeper picked it, and he’s got his foot behind it and kept it out!’
‘Here’s another chance for Slytherin to seal it, then,’ Buckley read out the score. ‘It’s three goals apiece, and it’s going to be the second of the Slytherin beaters, Lucas Brand, from Thetford in Norfolk, who’s already scored once this season, in the win over Hufflepuff last time out...’
‘It’s Brand versus Marriott,’ Beretta narrated. ‘It’s a slow start for the young Slytherin. He’s taking his time to set his pace: is he going right or left?’
‘Marriott’s been beaten to her right twice already in the shootout,’ Buckley observed. ‘Will he go there again? Or is it a double bluff?’
‘He’s gone to Marriott’s right,’ Beretta screamed, ‘AND HE’S SCORED! I think Marriott got a fingertip to it, and it’s certainly gone in off the rim, but I don’t think Lucas Brand cares about that right now! It’s Slytherin 4, Gryffindor 3, and Slytherin have won the 2006 Hogwarts Quidditch Cup!’
‘Come on!’ Matthew yelled ecstatically, jumping from his broomstick and running to embrace his best friend. ‘We did it! We won! Lucas!’ The captain called out to the returning first-year. ‘That was brilliant!’
The redhead dismounted his own broom, a broad grin etched onto his face. ‘Thanks, Matt...’
‘Well done, Lukie,’ Greg added. ‘That was awesome.’
Lucas’ smile widened further as his team mates threw their arms around him, pausing only to welcome their keeper into the huddle.
‘What a save, Seb!’ Matthew grinned, ruffling the new arrival’s black hair, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the third-year was several inches taller than the captain himself.
The keeper shrugged. ‘I figured he’d just do the same thing as his brother.’
‘You’re even talking to us now!’ Matthew laughed, drawing the group ever tighter and watching a smile emerge on Seb’s face that matched those of his team mates.
‘So now for the presentation ceremony,’ Dan Beretta’s voice cut over the celebrations. ‘Professor McGonagall has joined Wood at pitchside, the Quidditch Cup standing between them...’
‘We’d better not keep them waiting,’ Oscar broke free from his team’s huddle, leading the Slytherins over towards the two teachers, who stood on top of a low wooden podium.
‘Here are your winners, ladies and gentlemen,’ Beretta’s voice boomed out once again. ‘Sebastian Burns,’ the commentator paused, allowing the round of cheering that had broken out from the terraces above to die down whilst the keeper took his place on the platform. ‘Lucas Brand and Theo Forrest,’ Beretta waited again as the two beaters followed their team mate. ‘Oscar Symons,’ another pause, ‘and finally, Greg Bennett, Isaac Davies, and the captain, Matthew Sawyer!’
Matthew took a deep breath, steadying himself before climbing the short flight of stairs to join his friends and receive the polished trophy from the Headmistress.
‘Slytherin are the Champions!’ Beretta yelled as Matthew held the cup aloft, beneath a sky filled with silver and green fireworks, and a matching stream of tickertape which now covered the stage. ‘It’s their first trophy since 1991, and – as my friend pointed out earlier today – as the youngest side in Quidditch Cup history, who’s to say there won’t be many more triumphs ahead?’
After the high drama of the final acts of the Quidditch season, the last two weeks of term were always going to feel like something of an anti-climax, but this didn’t worry the first-years as they made the most of their chance to enjoy the summer sunshine. Games of small-sided Quidditch, and the muggle sports of football and touch rugby, spread around the school campus as students sought to escape from the news of their exam results, or the impending task of packing for the holidays.
The Slytherins had been pleased to see that their friendship with the younger Gryffindors didn’t seem to have been affected by the Quidditch final, and though Joshua Tregeagle had barely talked since his father’s accident, the professor’s son had begun to join in with a number of the first-years’ games.
It was, therefore, something of a surprise for Greg when the Gryffindor boy beckoned him across the platform at Hogsmeade on the final morning.
‘Josh?’ The Slytherin asked, glancing back over his shoulder to check whether the other boy had, in fact, been signalling to someone else instead. ‘Aren’t you coming back on the train?’
Joshua gave him a withering look in reply. ‘My Dad’s not well enough to travel,’ he muttered.
‘Oh, shit,’ Greg realised how inconsiderate he must have sounded. ‘Sorry.’
Joshua raised his eyebrows. ‘You said I swore too much...’ he managed a weak grin. ‘We’re staying here for the summer.’
‘Oh,’ Greg swallowed, unsure what to say next. ‘Is your Dad going to be alright?’ He asked, tentatively.
‘They’re not sure,’ the Gryffindor’s voice dropped to a whisper. ‘He’ll survive, if that’s what you mean, but...’ Joshua’s eyes began to water, and Greg instantly regretted his question.
‘I’m sorry,’ Greg began, but Joshua cut him off before he could say any more.
‘It’s not your fault,’ the Gryffindor blinked. ‘I don’t think he’d even be alive if... if you hadn’t have...’ This time, Joshua couldn’t stop himself from starting to cry, and Greg instinctively wrapped an arm around the other boy.
‘It was you and Glyn who saved him,’ Greg protested. ‘Not me.’
Joshua sniffed, hard. ‘I was just wondering,’ he stuttered, through a film of tears. ‘If you maybe wanted to come and stay for a bit this summer...’ he hurried his words. ‘Spencer’s going to come for a couple of weeks, but...’
Greg didn’t wait to hear any more. ‘Yes,’ he answered, simply.
‘Really?’ Joshua rubbed the back of his hand over his eyes.
‘Really.’ Greg smiled, as the loud whistle of the Hogwarts Express told the station that the great train would be shortly be departing. ‘Got to go,’ he nodded to the carriages. ‘I’ll owl you.’
‘Thanks,’ Joshua lifted his hand, offering a brief wave as the other first-year disappeared behind the steam of the locomotive. ‘See you,’ he whispered.
‘I never have believed it a few weeks ago,’ Greg shook his head as he repeated the conversation he had shared with Joshua. ‘How much have things changed since the first time we were on this train?’
‘It’s Hogwarts, mate,’ Matthew shrugged. ‘Didn’t I tell you, nothing’s as simple as you thought it was!’
Concluding Author’s Note
So that’s it. I think that was probably three times longer than I ever intended it to be, and it certainly ended up with far more main characters. I wrote the first chapter six years ago, then abandoned it, and then started again in November 2010. Of course, in the intervening period, I’d changed totally and as a result, so did the book.
I think it was originally designed to be about Quidditch first and foremost – hence the Chudleigh Cannons references in the first two chapters – and I think Matt and Greg were both meant to be Gryffindor – but how boring would that have turned out to be? Quidditch is hard enough to write as it is ...
Having poured 98,000 words of effort into the story, however, I can’t help but feel that there’s a lot more to come from these boys. I know I’ve got a sequel in me, but I’m not sure how to take it from here. Do I write a second year, and start tackling some of the unanswered questions about Tregeagle, Glyndwr and the Old Magic, or do I take a sharp left, and fast forward to 2017, epilogue territory, and follow Greg as he takes over Horace Slughorn’s role as Head of Slytherin as the Next Generation of Weasleys arrive?
I’ve sketched out skeletal plans for each, but the more I think about things, whilst the Next Generation seems enticing – and will probably get more reviews – the ideas I have rely on the current characters developing ten years onwards, which really ought not happen “off camera”. Although, saying that, a second year hardly allows that much time to progress. The other option is a few one-shots on each of the characters to fill the space. The more I think about this, the less decisive I get...
Any thoughts, comments, reviews, ideas, favourite characters (who do you want to see more of?), or suggestions welcome: what happens in the next book may well be greatly influenced by you guys! Thanks again for reading – until next time...
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