Chapter 9 : Quidditch Alliances
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The morning dawned grey and cloudy. The night before, James had reached an anxiety level that increased his chances of heart attack tenfold, and understandably so: our first match was against Slytherin. Now, on most days I had absolutely no issues with the Green House that sat on the other side of the Great Hall to us, but their Quidditch team was good, their Seeker even better. I should know, this was going to be my fifth year playing against Regulus Black. Still, as Sarah felt the need to remind me just before I went to bed, “You’ve never lost a game against him, I’m sure you’re not going to start now.” No pressure, or anything.
For once, I was up bright and early (six-o-clock). I lay in bed for half an hour trying to calm myself down. When I realised that it wasn’t working, I decided that it was time to get up and try and do something productive.
By seven, I was down in the Common Room, attempting to do some homework.
By seven thirty I realised what a waste of time that was, and decided to go down to the Great Hall. Breakfast wasn’t ready yet, but at least there was tea.
At around eight, James came in looking as anxious as I felt. He sat down in front of me, grabbed his own cup of tea, and began drinking without saying a word.
The whole team had assembled around us at eight thirty. We all sat there in silence, and tried to cope with our feelings of nervousness, anxiety and nausea, all of which we experienced at the same time in varying degrees.
The people who have the amazing ability to be functional at nine in the morning on a Saturday were the first people I saw enter the Great Hall.
At around a quarter to ten, my two best friends and the rest of the Marauders showed up, probably to lend some moral support. Even though they were one of the last people probably in the whole school to come down, I still felt marginally better.
Sirius plonked himself down on one side of me and looked across at his best friend. “Mate, you have to eat something,” he said.
“We can’t have our captain faint from hunger on the pitch,” I added. A remote part of my brain noted that it felt incredibly strange to be agreeing with Sirius about something. Most of brain was however occupied by my current task: eating as much as I possibly could. As a Seeker, I had a certain physique that I had to maintain, and it was something that was maintained very well, but I was one of those people who ate about half of their body weight in one sitting when they were nervous or stressed. Along with about seven cups of tea, two cups of coffee and three glasses of pumpkin juice, I had managed to eat three slices of toast, a helping of scrambled eggs and two sausages and bacon rashers – in short, double the amount of the rest of food consumed by my fellow teammates put together.
“You, on the other hand,” started Lily, “Are eating way too much for it to be completely healthy.”
“What’s your problem Lily? You complain when I don’t eat breakfast, and you complain when I do eat breakfast! Will you just make up your mind?” I said irritated. Lily didn’t take any offence, because we’d been friends for far too long to let pre-match anxiety come between us. Sirius, however, looked incredibly surprised at my outburst.
Or the amount of food I had actually managed to consume; I wasn’t sure which.
At around quarter past ten, James looked up from his cup of tea, and as well trained team members we instantly transferred our attention to him. “We should probably go get ready now,” he mumbled. It sounded like it was the last thing he wanted to do.
The seven of us huddled around in the dressing room. There were only a few minutes before we were meant to go out. James began his pep talk and I looked around at our team mates. I could see the effect James’ words was having on them, as their expressions turned from dazed and scared rabbits into a determined team who was about to kick some serious butt – behind the ref’s back of course; butt-kicking wasn’t really allowed on the Quidditch Pitch.
“Holy Merlin, is that Dumbledore out there?” asked Jason, a Chaser and the newest member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. “Yeah,” mumbled one of the Beaters, the Bull. He was a fifth year and was built like a troll – in the nicest possible way. “Usually rocks up to watch the first match of the season.”
“Especially if Gryffindor’s playing,” I added.
“But he’s got to be all secretive about it because being Headmaster and all, he can’t be seen favouring a particular team,” finished Hartley, the other Beater.
I snorted. “Yeah, like we all don’t know that he likes us more than the rest.”
“And let’s give him reason not to change alliances, shall we?” said James irritably. It seemed that pre-match jitters were getting to him, but we all shut up and headed out onto the pitch.
Madam Hooch made James and the Slytherin captain (I can never remember his name) shake hands. If this hadn’t been the beginning of a Quidditch match and I didn’t feel like throwing up, it would have been quite amusing watching those two trying to break each other’s hands. However, that wasn’t the case. I vaguely heard Hooch telling us to play nicely. I think she said this before every match between Gryffindor and Slytherin – I don’t know why she bothered; she knew we’d still play a little dirty anyways. It wasn’t that we were breaking the rules, it was just all in the spirit of the game, and when you knew you could hit that bludger right at the Keeper’s nose, well, there wasn’t much that could stop you from grabbing the bat off the Beater and knocking the bloody ball right on target… not that I was speaking from experience or anything…
The whistle had barely made a sound before fourteen brooms shot into the air like bullets… or that’s how Lily’s described our ascent – I actually have no idea how bullets launch their broomsticks. I flew up higher than the rest of my teammates – partly to protect myself from bludgers and players who behaved suspiciously like bludgers and partly to not get in anyone’s way. I circled around the pitch for a while, searching for the Snitch, but not seriously, as I also had to keep an eye on the other team’s Seeker. I took the opportunity to contemplate just how similar the two Black brothers looked. While Sirius’ features were sharper, and more well-defined, Regulus’ were softer and rounder, however both of them had a certain aristocratic and vaguely haughty, holier-than-thou air about them. I wondered again for the umpteenth time, what might have caused them to hate each other so, but I couldn’t dwell on this long as I was almost knocked out of the air by a Bludger. “Watch out there, White!” called Hartley, as he whooshed passed. I decided that it was about time to actively search for the elusive golden ball.
Fifteen minutes later, found me plummeting towards the ground at breakneck speed. Black wasn’t far behind me, and he was catching up fast. Worryingly fast. I could see the Snitch, hovering a few feet above the ground, right in the middle of the pitch. It was darting about a little, but didn’t seem to know which way to go. I was now ten feet from the ground, with Black just half a broom behind me… eight feet… five feet… the Snitch swerved wildly to the right, and if I didn’t do something soon, I was at full risk of breaking my neck. I made a minute adjustment to my course; it was difficult to judge course alterations at this speed, but I hadn’t been Seeker on the best team Hogwarts had seen for nearly three decades by sheer luck alone. I sensed, more than saw, Black pull out of the dive to oohs and aahs from the crowd. Well they hadn’t seen nothing yet. I was now just three feet from the ground and with the Snitch taking up my whole concentration, I reached my left hand out and felt the cold metal under my fingertips… just before feeling the hard embrace of the ground below, before being swallowed in darkness.
I could hear muffled sounds from somewhere… were they in my head, or out? No… they were definitely external sounds. As my hearing returned slowly, I could make out that they were voices, and they seemed strangely familiar… another few moments later, and I could make out the excited, but hushed tones of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. My eyes flickered, and I heard Lily’s voice say, “Shush! She’s getting up!” Everyone stopped talking and I could almost hear everyone hold their breath. I opened my eyes and croaked out, “Jeez guys! It wasn’t that bad a fall!” A pair of arms were flung around me and I was almost suffocated in someone’s shoulder. There was red hair in my eyes, so it must be Lily. “Oh my God! I was so worried!” she breathed when she finally let go of me. I took a lungful of air, and sat up. All of the Gryffindor team was there, still in their Quidditch robes, along with Sarah and Lily and the rest of the Marauders. That was weird. Since when did the Marauders come to watch me wake up after a Quidditch match? “That was brilliant!” beamed Jamieson, our scrawny sixth year Keeper.
“Bloody fantastic!” cried Jason!
“Much better than last year’s final!” said Hartley.
“You should have seen Greengrass’ face!” said James with glee.
“You should see yours,” I said. He was grinning from ear to ear, like someone had just told him that it was Christmas for the next month.
Lily whacked him on the arm. “How could you say that? She almost died!”
“Lily, she was three feet from the ground!” said Sarah.
“And I have enough experience with falling off my broom to judge a fatal fall from merely one that will cause unconsciousness for a brief amount of time,” I added. Before Lily could reply, Madam Pomfrey, the matron, bustled in. “Right, all of you, out! She needs rest! Out!” she said, whilst making shooing motions with her hands. Once everyone had filed out (trailing bits of Quidditch pitch behind them) Madam Pomfrey sighed, and reached for a bottle that was on the table beside me. “I hoped that I didn’t see you in here again, Miss White, but I kept out the bottle, just in case.”
I looked at it in horror. “But Madam! It really wasn’t that bad this time! Do I have to?”
“Yes, you have to. If you don’t like taking it, maybe you should be more careful.” I was a natural flyer, there was no doubt about that, but it seemed that the clumsiness that affected me so when I was on the ground was determined to prove itself by causing me to make spectacular landings every game. And they were spectacular for all the wrong reasons.
I sighed, but didn’t say anything, instead, taking the goblet she handed to me and drinking the vile potion, attempting not to retch.
When I was finally allowed to leave the Hospital Wing and head back to the Common Room, I wasn’t very surprised to find that there was a victory party already in full swing. I sidled in and headed for a quiet corner, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. I loved a good party as much as the next person, but without Lily or Sarah there to support me through any social faux pas I may make, I felt incredibly uncomfortable about hanging about with other people. It seemed, however, that other people just didn’t understand this, as they kept on coming up to me to congratulate me on winning the game. One third year was so impressed, that he declared loudly to anyone who was listening that it was possibly the best capture of the Snitch he had ever seen. Before I could thank him, however, James sauntered over and declared, in possibly an even louder voice that kid should have seen me in my first Quidditch game, all the way back in second year. “It almost brought tears to my eyes,” he said, his eyes becoming overbright, right on cue. Lily decided to come to my rescue at this point and whisk me away from the reverent looks I was getting from all the second and third years around me. “Are you feeling okay?” she asked me.
“Yeah, fine. Madam Pomfrey gave me that stupid potion again, but honestly, I don’t know why she bothered. It wasn’t as if I’d flown into a bludger as I landed.”
Lily winced. “Don’t remind me. It still brings tears to my eyes.”
“Come on Lils! It wasn’t as if there was any serious damage!”
“That bloody thing almost killed you. Don’t you remember that you spent the next three weeks in the Hospital Wing with severe internal bruising?”
“And it would have been two if Madam Pomfrey wasn’t such a worry wart.” Lily seemed to think that Madam Pomfrey hadn’t kept me in there long enough. I decided that it was probably time to change the subject. “Where’s Sarah?”
“In some corner trying to coerce poor Remus into snogging her senseless, I presume,” she replied. Lily was of the opinion that if a boy didn’t pay you any attention, he wasn’t worth your time. Clearly this was a point of contention between Sarah and Lily. “Haven’t seen your boyfriend around,” she said casually.
“What boyfriend?” I asked.
“You mean to say you have more than one?” said a voice from behind us.
“Oh. That boyfriend,” I muttered.
“Evans,” Sirius said, nodding in acknowledgement of Lily’s presence.
“Black,” she said icily back. “I’ll see you later, Millie,” she said, and after throwing one last look of disdain in Black’s direction, she walked off, leaving me giving looks of complete abandonment and desperation to her back.
“Was it something I said?” asked Sirius mildly.
“I think it’s more the fact that you exist at all really,” I said.
“Oh, that’s much better than my next guess.”
“What was your next guess?”
“That I was beneath her best friend.”
“You are beneath her best friend.”
He gave me a hurt look. “Ouch!”
“Get used to it,” I shrugged.
“Are you feeling better?” he asked. I looked up at the sound of genuine concern in his voice, and was even more surprised to see that he even looked worried, as if he actually cared… Merlin, was he good.
“I’m feeling fine, thank you,” I replied.
“That was some capture.”
“Though, I have seen better.”
“My favourite has to be last year’s final. I must say, I was highly impressed with the way you managed to dodge three chasers, two beaters and a bludger, catch the Snitch and get a concussion all in the span of ten seconds.”
I narrowed my eyes at him. “Been doing your homework, Black?”
He shrugged indifferently. “I do know that you exist, Millie. There’s no need to feel that way.”
“Unloved and unnoticed.”
“I do not feel unloved!”
“Well that’s good, otherwise I’d have to start declaring my undying devotion to you in public!”
“You are just so…”
“Fantastic? Fabulous? Freaking awesome?”
“Full of yourself!” I snapped, then turned on my heel and walked away.
Stupid Black had managed what very few people could do: put me in a bad mood after a Quidditch match. Merlin, I was going to kill him. But first, I’d torture him. Make him feel pain… however, I didn’t really get a chance to plan all the gory details because at that precise moment, Lily came charging over towards me. “Millie! Help!” she cried.
“What happened?” I asked, bewildered. She seemed to be in one piece.
“What about him?”
“He just asked me to go to Hogsmeade with him!”
“Oh.” And here I was expecting news that the sky was falling.
“What do I say?”
“Um… what you usually say?”
“But – I don’t know!”
“What do you mean you don’t know?”
She leant in and whispered, “I think I might like him.” The thought seemed to terrify her beyond belief. I grabbed her and dragged her into a quieter corner. “What do you mean that you might like him?” I asked, trying to be as cool as possible, whilst fighting the urge to yell out “I knew it!”
“You know, like, like, like him.”
She looked at me anxiously. “So what do I say?”
“What? You haven’t answered yet?”
“Then what did you say to him when he asked?”
“Nothing! I sort of bolted!”
“Lily!” I cried in exasperation, before marching over towards James.
“Millie! Did I ever mention that I loved you?” asked James. I wasn’t sure if I should be worried or not, considering he’d just asked out my best friend.
“Not right now, James, I need to talk about something else with you,” I said tersely. That sobered him up. Black, who was standing next to him, also seemed slightly more alert.
“Oh. What’s up?”
“Did you just ask Lily to Hogsmeade?”
“Um… yeah? She didn’t really give me an answer though…”
“Merlin, news travels fast between girls doesn’t it?” said Black mildly.
Ignoring him, I continued, “When’s Hogsmeade again?”
He stared at me. “How hard did you hit your head Millie? It’s tomorrow!” Wow, that was new.
“Didn’t you know? Padfoot, didn’t you tell her?”
“I might have mentioned it, I can’t really remember,” said Black shrugging.
“Well shouldn’t you have said something, considering you’re going together?” said James, looking quite confused.
“Wait, what?” I asked. Since when was I going to Hogsmeade with Black?
“Well, aren’t you two? I just assumed that you were… hey! I’ve had a great idea! What if we double date?”
“Um… excuse us, will you?” I said, before taking Sirius’ wrist and tugging him after me.
“What, so now you want to talk to me?” asked Sirius, frowning slightly, as I pulled him into the corner that Lily and I had occupied a few moments earlier.
“Why didn’t you tell me it was Hogsmeade tomorrow?” I demanded.
“Because I assumed, that like every normal person in this castle, you’d know.”
“Well, I don’t. And what’s all this nonsense about us going together?”
“It’s not nonsense, Mills. It’s just what people expect, that’s all.”
“You didn’t feel the need to give me a heads up about this?”
“Again, I assumed that you would know.”
“You assume too much for your own good.”
“Well, I’ll keep that in mind for next time!”
“Next time? There is going to be no next time! We end this right now!”
“Yes, we can!”
“No, we can’t! Things are just getting better!”
“Sirius, I don’t know how long I can keep this up for!”
“Not much more – just this Hogsmeade weekend, I promise! Then, you’re free to go!”
“Come on Mills! Don’t do it for me, but for your best friend and your Quidditch Captain!” I scowled up at him.
“Fine! But no more after this!”
“Excellent! Let’s break the news to the happy couple!”
Lily still seemed a little apprehensive. “A double date? With you two? But don’t you guys, I don’t know, want to spend time alone together?”
“Oh no, not at all! We already do enough of that at school!” I said. Did I sound too eager? By the strange look Sirius shot me, it seemed that I had.
“Well…” Come on, Lily! You can’t leave me alone to this!
“Why are you asking?”
“He’s my Quidditch Captain. I feel some sort of obligation to support him in this matter.”
“What about being my best friend?”
“I’m your best friend all the other times! Come on, Lily! Just this once?”
“Well…” Stop saying that! “Alright… I suppose,” she finally relented.
“Great! Now you can go over and tell James.” The mere thought of it seemed to scare her senseless.
AN: And welcome to the end of chapter 9! Who else is quite happy that Lily and James are finally going out on a date? Let me know what you think about the Millie/Sirius relationship so far in that rather neglected box down the bottom of this page!
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