Chapter 1 : Step One
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The thud of the cane sounded unnaturally loud to my ears, it was all I could hear. I was incredibly conscious of the cane, the stupid piece of wood that I now couldn't do without, and the brace on my leg. The stares of those around me burned my skin, and the silence, broken only by the occasional hushed whisper, was suffocating.
This was my life now.
I held my head high, and walked over to the empty desk with as much dignity as I could muster. They'd stare. So what, I was used to that.
No, that wasn't entirely true.
I was used to stares of envy, of wonder, of adoration. Not this, these pitying looks that made me feel small and worthless.
I had been great. I'd been young, healthy, destined for the World Cup. Instead, I was here. Part of the press.
Merlin, I was surrounded by the snivelling idiots that had used to follow me around begging for a picture. Now I was one of them. What on earth did that mean for me?
The silence still reigned, so I flicked my wand at the wireless on my desk, just for something to do. None of them showed any signs of returning to work.
Words spouted out of it, in a gravelly voice I should have recognized. If I'd realised, I would have turned it off.
Unfortunately, I didn't, and it got to the sports report.
“Katherine Marks of the Appleby Arrows was destined to have a sparkling, successful career."
I flinched at the sound of my name, and despite myself, my shoulders hunched, and I recoiled inwards. I stared at the radio, mesmerised by the cold, unfeeling account of my defeat.
"With three European Cup wins under her belt, and an offer to join the English team for the World Cup, Marks was set for great things. Then came Broadmoor, of the Falmouth Falcons. Anyone present at the quarter final would have witness the collison of the century, with -"
Suddenly, the voice cut off, and I felt a presence at my right shoulder. I turned, to see a man with tousled black hair, loose tie and a crumpled shirt holding his wand at the radio.
"I think we've heard enough," he said quietly, in a voice that told me he wasn't used to commanding a room's attention.
I eyed him as he stowed his wand back in his pocket, and stepped back. I felt obliged to say thank you, but couldn't see a reasonable way of doing so without attracting attention, so I turned back to my desk and moved meaningless objects around as my new coworkers slowly retreated to their desks.
I stared at the marked wood in front of me, my new workspace. So different to the handle of a broomstick that I'd been used to working with. The papers placed next to me were my life now, my career.
Reporting on sports events. Quidditch. Giving my opinion. That's what I was now, the professional opinion giver. I used to be the one out there, the one who could change the outcome of a game. Now, I just predicted it.
I suppose the one good thing about being part of the press was that no one asked for interviews anymore. I'd spent a month whilst recovering dealing with things like that, but now? None of them could ask. I'm sure they all wanted to, the 'new life' of Katherine Marks, former Appleby Arrows seeker was sure to be a hit.
I looked up, seeing the round figure of Mr Carby, the section editor for Sports, and the man who gave us our assignments.
"Cover the Wanderers/Portee game tonight, and I want a detailed version of your opinion on the outcome this afternoon, and a breakdown of the game tomorrow morning," he said brisquely, before moving on.
I sighed. As a Quidditch correspondent, this was my job. The straight out sports reporters got to just report facts. Myself, however? Oh no, I had to give my professional opinion. The only other Quidditch correspondent currently on staff was Weasley, and she'd be here for years. She was practically old enough to be my mother, but still managed to maintain respect in the sports field.
Rather impressive, when you think about it.
The day passed quickly, and I spent a large amount of it watching the bloke with the crumpled shirt and equally crumped hair. He was a sports reporter, and seemed to be slightly more dedicated than the rest. Here in the sports department, things were more relaxed. People joked around and laughed, and the real work was done at night, when the games were on, and in the early morning hours following.
Up on floor four where News is, however, you'd be hardpressed to hear a single joke.
Our office emptied out promptly on five, with loud chatter and raucous laughter. There were a few, like me, who were off to report on a game. I took my time, not wanting anyone to see me limp out of the room.
I hadn't noticed he was still there. I shouldn't have been surprised, really. He'd clearly been keeping tabs on me, the radio had shown me that.
"Need help carrying that?" he asked, pointing to the pile of parchment innocently.
I stared at him. The last thing I wanted to do was admit weakness and let him help me. Sure, it would be hard to walk to the elevator with a cane in one hand an a pile of parchment up to my chin in the other, but it was possible. I had a wand.
"No," I said shortly, and levitated the parchment in front of me. As long as I kept my concentration, I would be fine.
I could see him raise his eyebrows skeptically, but I pushed forward, holding my head high and sticking my nose in the air once again.
"I played Seeker, back in school," he said quietly, once we'd taken a few steps.
He was a few paces behind me, but I didn't turn around or show any signs that I'd heard him.
"Tried out for Puddlemere right out of school," he continued, his voice soft.
Something about his tone intrigued me. He wasn't happy, that much I could tell. The way he spoke about Quidditch, it was similar to me. Like someone who'd lost the thing they loved.
"I didn't get the spot. I'd been a fool to try, of course. There's only one seeker on a team, I would never make it."
There was a pause, and all I could hear was the sound of my cane.
"So, here I am, a reporter," he said finally, and we arrived at the elevator.
Now, I turned my head, deciding it was time to look him in the eye. I recognized defeat in his eyes, and regret. I didn't say anything, and he continued once again.
"I miss it, and I know you do too," he said slowly, and his eyes met mine.
I cocked my head. I wasn't sure exactly what we were discussing here, but there was some sort of undercurrent occuring.
"What's your name?" I said after a moment's silence, as the elevator dinged.
He took a step in, and I followed, careful to not catch my cane on the edge.
The door dinged shut, and we were plunged into momentary darkness before the magical lighting kicked in. The stack of parchment floated between us, and my cane felt foreign in my hand.
"Would you like to come to the match tonight with me, Mr Potter?" I heard myself saying, but not quite believing it.
I wasn't the person who took the first step. Sure, he was a kindred soul, having lost Quidditch, but I didn't do this. I was Katherine Marks, for Merlin's sake. Quidditch was my life. Relationships were not my forte by any means.
I could see the surprise register on his face, just as I was sure it was on my own.
Quickly, I schooled my features, just as I did before every game, to appear calm for the crowd and the press.
"Well, Carby gave me two tickets, and it seems a shame to waste them..." I said hastily, shrugging my shoulders as the elevator came to a stop.
He stepped out first once again, holding the door as I followed.
"Sure," he said with a smile, and for the first time that day, I saw the hint of laughter in his eyes. I had an inkling that he'd actually be quite attractive if he lost the morose air.
We stood in front of the elevator in silence. I had no idea what to say now. I didn't know this man, not at all. Suddenly, he was now accompanying me to my first real public appearance since...since that day.
"Let's meet at the main gate, shall we?" he said, and, after seeing a tiny nod from me, left without another word.
I blinked a few times, only just realising that I had both tickets. He'd have to wait outside for me.
Good god, what had I gotten myself into. Commenting on a match, sitting next to someone who, I didn't doubt, would end up being a pathetic fan wanting to know the inside story on Katherine Marks.
I'd always had a sponteneous streak. You couldn't be successful seeker without one. Yet, this was new territory.
It was not, I convinced myself, a date. That was one thing it was definitely not.