Chapter 6 : Foul Play
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Chapter Six: Foul Play
James heard his little sister sigh before she turned around and faced the person that had called her name.
“What’s up, Lysander?” Lily replied monotonously. James thought she looked rather annoyed with her favourite Scamander twin. How Lily knew that this was Lysander, was a mystery to James. She was about the only person inside Hogwarts able to set the twins apart.
“I-eh... Can I walk you to the Great Hall?” He asked, glancing at James, who had to work hard to hide his smirk. Although Lysander still looked like his naive and absent-minded self, this was as self-conscious as James had ever seen him. This was also the first time that he had specifically asked to be alone with Lily.
James had always suspected that eventually there would be more than just friendship between Lily and the twins, once the teenage hormones kicked in, and it seemed like that time had come. However, he hadn’t expected Lysander to be the first to step up. Lorcan was far more down to earth than his brother and, to be honest, far more popular with the girls too.
“Sorry, but we were heading straight for the pitch actually,” Lily lied without hesitating. James narrowed his eyes as he looked down at his sister. What was she playing at? It was still early, about the earliest James had ever been awake on a weekend, and they were definitely not skipping breakfast! They couldn’t play on an empty stomach. More importantly, James was counting on the cheering crowd inside the Great Hall. It was a welcome boost for the team, especially since three of the four houses were cheering for Gryffindor, as opposed to Slytherin.
“Oh, yes. Today’s the quidditch match,” Lysander said distractedly. James and Lily both rolled their eyes. Only the entire school had been talking about this match for weeks. “I think I will come down and watch you, Lily.”
James tried to disguise his laughter as a cough. Lysander was always so incredibly... honest, even if it made him sound like a complete creep. Lily threw her brother a dirty look. She was already used to these awkward moments.
“That’s very sweet of you, Lysander, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. I know you don’t really care for quidditch,” Lily said friendly.
“I know, but I never really paid that much attention to you when you played before. There must be something to it, if you find it so interesting,” he explained with a giddy smile. “Well, good luck!”
Lysander walked off, skipping slightly. The boy doesn’t have a clue, James thought pitifully as they started walking again.
“What’s the matter? I thought you liked Lysander,” James commented. It was true. Despite his belief that Lorcan was the more normal one of the two, Lily had always said she liked Lysander better.
“I do like Lysander,” she said evenly. James waited for her to continue but Lily remained silent and started walking faster.
“Oh come on, Lil. Give the bloke a chance. It’s not like he’s ugly... I guess,” James said teasingly.
“Of course he’s not ugly! I mean, personally, I don’t get why all the girl want Lorcan. Lysander would obviously be the better boyfriend!” Lily ranted feverishly.
“Right...” James murmured, but Lily ignored him.
“Of course, the only thing those empty-headed girls see is Lorcan’s confidence! After all, it is a rather attractive trade in a boy, but that doesn’t make him any less of an inconsiderate git!” Lily continued. James was confused.
“Since when did we stop liking Lorcan?” James asked incredulously. There were obviously more teenage hormones flying around than James had expected. He was going to keep a closer eye on his little sister from now on.
“Of course I like him! He’s my friend! Seriously, James,” Lily said in an exasperated voice, as if James was making no sense at all. “I just wish things would go back to the way they were. I wish they would go back to the way they were.”
That’s when James thought he finally understood what the problem was. He put a hand on her shoulder and was about to speak, but Lily cut him off.
“Anyway! It doesn’t matter, ‘cause I’ve set my sights on a more mature man, without all the stupid drama,” Lily smiled brightly again, walking away from James. “I’m going to get something from the kitchens, and I’ll meet you out on the pitch!”
“Right... Wait, what? LILY!”
But Lily had already disappeared down the stairs leading to the kitchens. James sauntered into the Great Hall, shuddering at the thought of Lily dating someone older. The Scamander twins were all that James could allow at her age, reallly. He had known them their entire life, and he knew that they were honourable boys, something that couldn’t be said of the rest of Hogwarts’ male population.
Having forgotten about the impending quidditch match for a second, James jumped when a sudden roar of applause met him inside the Great Hall. He smiled brilliantly and made a few ostentatious bows on his way to the Gryffindor table.
“Good morning,” James greeted as he sat down next to his cousin. “How are we feeling today?”
Rose shrugged while Sebastian looked up eagerly, trying to swallow a large chunk of bread and not really succeeding.
“Anapneo,” Rose muttered calmly, pointing her wand at Sebastian’s throat. The food stuck in there seemed to have dissolved.
“Thanks,” Sebastian said with watery eyes, taking a large gulp of pumpkin juice.
“Please try to avoid dying until after the match, Sebastian,” James said seriously. Rose chuckled, but Sebastian looked taken aback. “Just kidding, mate. I thought you were still asleep, actually. You’re about the only person who sleeps in longer than me.”
“I know, normally I wouldn’t be able to get up this early if my life depended upon it, but today I couldn’t sleep,” Sebastian explained. He gave James a meaningful look, which made the latter understand what he was talking about.
“Yeah, me either. I’ve been looking forward to this match ever since school started,” James said, grinning eagerly. “I still remember the look on Parkinson’s face when we beat them last year. Sometimes, life is just fair.”
Paris Parkinson –his name already said enough about the sanity of his mother, who had, surprise surprise, been left by Paris’ father before he was born– was Slytherin’s quidditch captain for a second year in a row now, just like James.
James had never really given much attention to the whole Gryffindor-Slytherin rivalry –when it came to quidditch every house was an equal rival– but James really didn’t like this Parkinson bloke, and the feeling was mutual. As he smiled smugly at the Slytherin table, he could almost see the blood boil in the pulsating vein on his forehead.
“James! Stop it,” Nina said, snapping her fingers in front of his face as she sat down next to him. “Before Parkinson pops a vein. I want him whole and healthy, so we can beat him fair and square.”
James returned Nina’s slightly devilish grin as they high fived. Confidence was not something the Gryffindor team lacked. When he turned his eyes back to the front, he found Olivia sitting right in front of him. He momentarily did not know what to say; she had never sat anywhere near James at the Gryffindor table.
“Good morning,” she said to him, showing him her brilliant smile. “Where’s the rest of the team?”
“I have no idea, actually,” James said, looking away from Olivia reluctantly to search for his two beaters.
“Cedric and Laura decided to avoid the Great Hall today. Apparently, Laura doesn’t really do well with crowds,” Sebastian explained, shrugging. He, obviously, was enjoying the attention just as much as James was. “Cedric said something about showing her the kitchens.”
“Oh yeah, Lily went down to the kitchens as well. She’s avoiding the Great Hall, too, avoiding Lysander to be more exact,” James said, giving Rose an amused look.
“Why would she be doing that?” Rose asked.
“I think Lysander has finally fallen for our little flower,” James said with a smirk.
“What? I always thought Lorcan had a thing for Lily,” Rose responded, frowning.
“Really? Why?” James wondered out loud, wolfing down his scrambled eggs while Rose continued pondering the Lily-Lysander-Lorcan discussion. "Whatever, no drama today. Just quidditch. Let’s get down to the pitch.”
Sebastian, James and Nina rose immediately while Rose continued eating her breakfast serenely.
“Are you coming?” James demanded.
“I would like to finish my breakfast first, if my captain allows it, off course,” Rose said sarcastically.
“Rose! If you’re not inside those changing rooms 5 minutes after we are, you’ll be in serious trouble,” James threatened. Rose stared back at him, clearly not impressed.
“Speaking of trouble; how’s McLaggen doing? Will I get my life back after today?” Rose asked, turning back to her plate. James sighed.
“Even if I trained him for an entire year, he still wouldn’t be as good as you. Please don’t make him disgrace our team!” James whinged. Rose shook her head. “He’s just so... un-Gryffindor. I’m still pretty sure the sorting hat made a mistake with that one.”
“Well, if you plan on having quidditch practice three times a week the entire season, I can assure you that I will not be attending them anymore.”
“You just wait until after the match,” James whispered in Rose’s ear before setting off, taking in the resounding cheers with pleasure.
Once everyone had assembled inside the Gryffindor changing rooms, James prepared himself to start his pep-talk. He could practically feel the adrenaline running through his veins now, a feeling that was both terrifying and exhilarating. He tried to cherish it, knowing that this would probably be his last match against Slytherin.
They had to win.
“Rose! What the hell are you doing?!” James yelled at his cousin, who barely seemed to hear him. “Just throw the ball through one of the freaking hoops! How hard can it be?”
The original idea had been for James and Cedric to take up a more defensive position, working together to snatch the quaffle away from the opposing chasers, while Nina and Rose were in charge of the scoring. So far, everyone was doing their job brilliantly... aside from Rose. Nina had given her three perfect assists, but somehow Rose had been able to freeze in front of the goal posts every time, much to the satisfaction of Slytherin’s keeper, Scorpius Malfoy.
James waved his arms in the air frantically, asking for a time-out.
“And it seems like James wants to have a word with his teammates. With Rose Weasley most likely... Phew, did she not live up to our expectations. At the moment, Slytherin leads by seventy to twenty. We will continue in exactly two minutes...” Young Zach Smith Jr.’s voice rang around the pitch.
“Come on, come on, come ON!” James yelled, while his team members gathered around him. “Okay, people! This is a disaster...”
“To put it lightly,” Nina added.
“Rose, what is wrong with you? Half an hour ago you were as relaxed as a freaking yoga-teacher, and now you’re shaking like a leaf. Don’t you remember how incredible you were during practice?” James could feel his throat hurt from all the yelling.
“I’m sorry, James. I forgot Malfoy was keeper...” Rose muttered, not looking James in the eye.
“Don’t pay any attention to that bloody git. And get yourself together!” James seemed unable to stop yelling, as if the others were still far away up in the air. “Sebastian, you’ve been brilliant...”
“Seven goals, James... I suck,” Sebastian moaned, seemingly far from the confident boy he had been at the beginning of the match.
“No, you don’t! You did the best you could out there. It’s obvious their chaser, Belby, has a killer aim. That’s why I need you, Cedric, to start aiming everything at him, understand? We cannot let them score any more on us, or we won’t be able to close the gap at all. Laura, you just keep protecting Lily, and if you get the chance, also aim at Belby... or Malfoy,” James added, throwing a concerned look at Rose. “Nina, Rose. I’m going to join you two in full attack, which means we’re going to have to be all over the place. Make sure Belby doesn’t get his hands on that quaffle, and please Rose start being the secret weapon that you were meant to be!”
James hadn’t even been able to catch his breath before the old Madame Hooch blew her whistle again, indicating that time-out was over. Everyone mounted their broom, but before Lily could kick off, James grabbed her arm, pulling her back.
“Lil, catch that snitch as soon as you can!” James whispered urgently. He could see in her determined eyes that she agreed. “For Rose’s sake.”
Lily nodded and kicked off.
“And mine,” James added softly, before also rising into the air.
“And the game continues...” Zach said excitedly.
“I thought you would be off to the library, Weasley! To find a textbook on how to score maybe?” Malfoy said, laughing nastily.
James reached for his wand, but a hand stopped him. He looked up at the blushing, yet fierce face of Rose.
“Don’t waste your breath, James. I’m going to get that blonde git,” Rose said through her teeth. James smirked.
Malfoy seemed even more resolute on taking Rose down, but now that he noticed she didn’t respond to his snide comments anymore, he turned to real action. Although Rose’s attempts were far better than in the beginning, Malfoy didn’t let her out of his sight and stopped everything she sent him. James had to admit that the kid had some talent, but due to his obsession with Rose, James had been able –with the help of Nina– to score three times on him.
In the meantime, however, Belby had found his personal bodyguard in Slytherin’s beater and captain, Parkinson, which meant that Belby was practically untouchable and free to score three times as well.
James cursed under his breath. He knew perfectly well how good Slytherin’s team was and how much effort it would take to gain on them again. He looked at Lily, hoping she would just catch the snitch before it got any worse.
But luck was not of James’ side, because the snitch was nowhere to be seen, while he and Gryffindor’s two other chasers had to use all their strength to keep up. Rose seemed to have gotten over her fears; and yet, for every goal Gryffindor scored, Slytherin scored too, which meant Gryffindor was still fifty points behind.
Another half hour later, not much had changed, the teams were still taking turns in scoring, which meant that Gryffindor was still fifty points behind and everyone was getting pretty tired.
But James wasn’t going to give up. He chased Belby, trying to knock the quaffle out of his hands. He dodged a bludger narrowly when he zoomed by Cedric. James slowed down and looked over his shoulder. Wasn’t it Cedric’s job to keep those bludgers out of his way? What was happening?
James came to a full stop and saw that his entire team seemed to have stopped paying attention to the game, watching the other side of the pitch. James grunted as he heard half of the crowd cheer for Belby who had just scored, again.
Before James could yell himself hoarse at his teammates, Belby had taken advantage of this momentary lack of concentration, taking Parkinson’s beater bat and sending a bludger right at Lily.
“NO! LILY!” James yelled, but Lily had been far too close to Belby to even process what was happening. Laura, who had been watching the scene at the other side of the pitch as well, looked horror-struck and tried desperately to put her bat in the bludger’s path but missed the ball by a hair's breadth.
It was Sebastian who had shot up, leaving his goal posts unguarded –Slytherin scored again– and trying to stop the bludger from hitting Lily by crashing into her and effectively putting himself in between her and the hard, solid ball.
A sense of both relief and dread flowed through James as he watched Sebastian’s shoulder get crushed.
“FOUL!” James yelled at the top of his lungs, hearing Cedric and Nina repeat after him. But before James could take it up with Madame Hooch, he gasped as he saw Sebastian slip off his broom and speed toward the ground.
James pushed himself low against his broom as he tried to grab onto his falling keeper. He got hold of his robes a few feet above the ground and tried to drop him onto the clean-cut grass as softly as possible.
Sebastian grunted and seemed close to fainting as Lily and James crowded around him. As James looked for Madame Hooch, he saw that she was trying to break up Rose and Malfoy who were manually fighting in front of the Slytherin goal posts. Rose seemed to have stolen Malfoy's wand from him - which shouldn't've been out during a match in the first place - and was trying to keep it out of his reach, while he held onto the end of Rose’s broom so she couldn’t fly away. James realised that Nina and Cedric had been yelling ‘foul’ because of Malfoy instead of Belby.
Finally, everyone seemed to notice that Sebastian was lying on the ground. Madame Hooch blew her whistle frantically, stopping Belby’s endless scoring spree.
“What happened?” Madame Hooch asked, out of breath.
“That bloody git of a Slytherin!” James cursed.
“Which one?” Madame Hooch muttered under her breath.
“Belby! He used Parkinson’s bat and hit a bludger straight at Lily!” James answered, not really registering how biased Hooch had sounded.
“Seriously, Potter, do you see a bat in my hands?” Belby said mockingly, landing next to Sebastian. “And I didn’t know this big bloke was your little sister.”
Sebastian whimpered as Belby squeezed his injured shoulder as a 'friendly' gesture. Parkinson smirked evilly, also dismounting his broomstick.
“I’m sorry, Potter. It’s your word against his,” Madame Hooch said. “The game continues.”
James whipped out his wand and pointed it at Belby.
“Potter!” Professor McGonagall yelled suddenly. She and Olivia were running their way. James lowered his wand reluctantly and walked back to Sebastian’s side.
“James, I’m so sorry. It was stupid, I know, but it was the only thing I could think of to protect our precious seeker,” Sebastian explained, panting but managing to send a small smile to Lily.
“You’re a bloody idiot, you know that? But I could kiss you right about now, for saving her,” James said, giving his good shoulder a reassuring squeeze. “How does it feel?”
“Like hell. If it didn’t hurt so much, I’d think there was no bone left,” Sebastian said, wincing. “I’m no good anymore, James. I’m sorry.”
Lily looked close to tears, as she fussed over Sebastian.
“I’ll be fine, Lily. You just promise me you’ll win this match, okay? Their seeker doesn’t stand a chance against you and you know it.” Sebastian winked at Lily, before leaving the pitch with Olivia and McGonagall.
“You heard him, Lil. It’s up to you now,” James said, turning to his team. “Okay, change of plans. I’ll be taking Sebastian’s place.”
“No, James. We need to score! We’re worthless with just two chasers,” Nina reasoned. James bit the inside of his check.
“Well, who thinks he’s a decent keeper?” He asked, receiving utter silence as a response.
“I’d volunteer for the job –since I’m not doing any good now anyway– but I think I’d only do more damage as a keeper,” Rose said sheepishly.
“No, Nina was right, we can’t lose a chaser. And you’re brilliant, you just need to believe it,” James replied, thinking hard. Lily was essential now and she needed to be protected. “Laura, give your bat to Madame Hooch. You play keeper.”
Laura’s face went white upon hearing this and she turned to Cedric, who tried to give her a short pep-talk. James had absolutely no idea whether Laura was any good at keeping, but he couldn’t miss any of his other players, and he wanted Cedric to protect Lily, knowing that he would do everything to keep her safe.
“Madame Hooch? We’re going to play with just one beater. Laura’ll be our keeper,” James said resolutely and the referee nodded.
“Alright, let’s resume play,” she replied, blowing her whistle once again.
“And we are back again. I don’t think anyone really knew what was going on for a moment, but in the meantime, we have established that Sltyherin is now leading by two-hundred to one-hundred-and-ten...” Zach commentated.
“WHAT?” James bellowed. “How did we suddenly end up ninety points behind?”
“Belby took advantage of Sebastian’s... injury, and scored four times,” Lily explained, hovering shakily on her broom. She still seemed pretty upset about what had happened to Sebastian.
“Well that makes it official; I hate Belby even more than Parkinson,” James muttered, speeding off to join Nina and Rose.
“Laura Norton is replacing Sebastian McIlroy as keeper, which means Gryffindor is one beater short. Let’s hope Cedric Weasley can keep those bludgers away. And James Potter is in possession of the quaffle. He seems more determined than ever- But ouch! Pucey has knocked the wind out of him, and is in possession– Well! Hello, Weasley! What a nice move. Gryffindor in possession, all three chasers heading for goal... And Weasley scores! 10 points for Gryffindor!”
But Gryffindor could not hold onto the quaffle for long, because Slytherin was already speeding toward the other side of the pitch. Gryffindor’s chasers were at the top of their game now and were far better than Slytherin’s but the problem was Laura. While half of Gryffindor’s attempts were stopped by Malfoy, everything went right through her and she seemed to grow smaller by the minute.
By the time Gryffindor had scored five times, Slytherin had scored twice as much. James was getting truly frustrated, because he could feel his team’s confidence spiralling downward. There was no way they could gain on Slytherin again. He counted; they were now one-hundred-forty points behind, which meant that soon enough catching the snitch wouldn’t even make a difference anymore.
At that precise moment, James saw Lily dive suddenly and speed incredibly fast toward the bottom of the Slytherin goal posts with Slytherin’s seeker, MacMillan, right behind her. James and everyone else froze as they watched the two seekers, when suddenly someone zoomed past him, heading for the Gryffindor goal posts.
Knowing that if Slytherin scored one more goal the match would end in a tie, James started chasing Belby, whose specialty seemed to be scoring when nobody was paying attention. James pushed himself forward with all his might, feeling his broom quiver violently underneath him. Laura was panicking completely, flying from one hoop to the other.
Belby was about to throw the quaffle, his broom aiming to the far right hoop, but James, who knew that he was not going to reach Belby in time and who had come to know the chaser’s style after a three hour match, pointed with great gestures to the other hoop, hoping that Laura would see him. It was a wild guess but a few seconds later, Belby proved him right by throwing the quaffle at the left goal post. Laura had followed James’ instructions blindly and received a very fast quaffle to the head, thus stopping it in its tracks.
James cheered along with everyone in the stands, before turning around and seeing that they were cheering for Lily. She had caught the snitch and stood quite flabbergasted with it in her hands. He couldn't believe it. They had actually won! Granted, only by ten points, but still, part of him had already given up completely.
Rose’s squeal of excitement could be heard all around the pitch and she dived blindly toward the ground, not noticing that Malfoy was about to cross her path. With a loud scream, Malfoy slipped from his broom and fell about twenty feet until he hit the ground with a sickening crack.
A fair amount of people had already emptied their seats in the stands to celebrate with the Gryffindor team, but now the Slytherins jumped up as well and rushed down to where Malfoy lay.
James reached Malfoy as Rose was about to help him up but he pushed her off brutally.
“Don’t you dare touch me, you filthy Weasley!” He yelled at Rose, trying to get up on his own but not really succeeding.
James and Cedric stepped forward, not about to allow Malfoy’s insults, but one look at Rose’s face stopped them. Her eyes were wet with tears and she looked truly sorry.
“They should be disqualified! That was a dirty foul, and the match had already ended!” Parkinson barked, as he and Belby came to stand on either side of Malfoy.
“Exactly, the match had already ended, you twit! And besides, it was obviously an accident,” James retorted.
“No, it wasn’t!” Malfoy yelled, wiping at his eyes furtively. “You and your family clan just think you can get away with anything, don’t you? You retarded, worthless piece of...”
“HEY! That’s my daughter you’re talking to!” Ron Weasley came running up to where they were standing, Hermione and James’ parents in tow.
“And that’s my son whose arm she has just broken,” Draco Malfoy spat, appearing behind his son. “Not even an apology.”
“I’m so s-,” Rose spluttered.
“No, she doesn’t have to apologise if your idiot of a son can’t hold onto to his broom!” Ron snapped back at Malfoy senior, not letting Rose finish.
“Ron!” Hermione snapped, pulling him back by his arm.
“Madame Hooch!” Parkinson yelled suddenly, drawing everyone’s attention. “Weasley pushed Scorpius of his broom after you’d already blown your whistle. His arm’s broken. That should get Gryffindor disqualified!”
This last statement caused a lot of protest, from both Harry and Ron, as well as James, Nina and Cedric, who had all stepped forward. If either Belby or Parkinson said one more word, James couldn’t be held responsible for what he might do to those slimy gits.
“It looked like an accident to me,” Madame Hooch answered doubtfully. There had been a lot of things going on behind her back during this match and she didn’t know who to trust anymore.
“Exactly. Now, let’s all get back to the castle,” Hermione said reasonably, taking her husband’s arm and pulling him with her. Harry and Ginny Potter followed.
“Watch out, little Rosie. Mum and Dad won’t be there when I pay you back for this,” Scorpius Malfoy whispered threateningly, pointing at his broken arm. “And I’ll make sure it lives up to your reputation, Weasley. It’ll be pretentious and perfect. ”
Belby and Parkinson snickered and even Draco smiled a little.
“Stupid ginger,” Parkinson muttered as they pushed past Rose and James.
James grabbed Parkinson’s arm, about to resort to primal but effective physical violence, but Lily was faster, pointing her wand at him and making the snot in his nose turn to bats. Parkinson squealed quite girlishly as his own snot started attacking him, trying to ward them off with his broom.
James, Nina and Cedric doubled over in laughter and even Rose chuckled through her tears, while the Slytherins stalked off. Ginny patted her daughter on the shoulder proudly, a smug smile on her face.
Laura was standing in the middle of a crowd of Gryffindors, celebrating. Although her nose was turning quite blue and huge from where the quaffle had hit her, she looked happier than ever, hugging Cedric when he reached her. James grinned at her and congratulated her on her brilliant save.
When James turned back to his family, wanting to give his little sister a bone-crushing hug, he found out she was gone already.
“She ran off to the infirmary,” his father said, frowning. “James, who is this Sebastian?”
James grinned, realising that Lily’s ‘more mature man’ was his friend, Sebastian. This might have troubled James at any other time but right then nothing could ruin his good mood.
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