Chapter 13 : Flying is nothing more than falling...with style
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As November began, the Scottish Highlands turned bitterly and unfortunately dryly, cold. The range of mountains visible from the castle transformed into dull gray peaks, the water of the lake turned to look like liquid medal as only freezing cold water can do, and the picturesque works of Jack Frost could be seen decorating the grounds each morning.
But the weather did little to dampen my spirits because at last the Quidditch season had started, and my birthday was quickly approaching. Both Harry and I would soon be playing in our first official game, and we were both hoping that all of the hours of training sessions in the fickle fall weather would pay off. And while it had gotten out that both of us were on the team, you know how the saying goes 'Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead', hardly anyone had seen either of us play mostly due to Wood's antics. The majority of the school was split between saying we must be brilliant to be allowed on the team, and saying they'd go to our funerals. But soon that wouldn't matter because the rival game of Gryffindor versus Slytherin was nearly upon us, and it would be thrown across the sky for all to see.
After the troll incident, as I had since to call it, I had bucked up the courage and let just how smart I was get out. Luckily the confession didn't affect my friendship with Harry, Hermione, or Ron. And of course Neville had known since just before Halloween. I was, however, getting a lot more attention from both those I didn't even know and those who I felt just plain didn't like me. Many raised the question and said I had to be lying, but I didn't let it bother me, truthfully it was nice because I knew who to trust. I just went about my days and easily finished my work, along with helping my friends with theirs. No longer did I complete my work in an obscure corner of the library, or hide the speed at which I read. In class I frequently raised my hand and didn't hold back on my answers.
It was also nice because I now completely counted Harry, Hermione, and Ron among my closest friends, along with Neville of course. Hermione and I actually got along better than I would have ever thought we could that day I met her on the train. It was so nice for both of us to have someone to talk to who was also smart, and it seemed Hermione was eager to learn whatever I knew that she didn't, and I was happy to oblige. And so whenever we had free time I would teach her a few muggle things, and promised that when I came back from Christmas break...er holiday I would bring some of my old textbooks and teach her from them. Which had her giddy with excitement. Ever since Halloween Hermione and me were definitely friends. She was a lot easier to be around because she'd chilled out a good bit since the troll. I mean she could still be a total know-it-all, but I could to so I forgave her that flaw.
As the game was coming up on Saturday, Wood had been calling all kinds of last minute practices leaving Harry and me exhausted. Harry frequently said he would be failing if it weren't for Hermione and me helping him out with his work. None of my friends could understand just how I managed to finish a week's worth of homework in a couple of hours, but they didn't mind since it gave me more time to help them out as well as do random and leisurely activities. And Wood, of course, didn't mind because that meant he could get even more practice in for me.
The day before the match the five of us were sitting in the courtyard during break, and it was freezing. Luckily Hermione and I had both learned a tricky little charm, and conjured up some bright blue fire that we could carry around in jars. We were standing about it chatting about this and that, when Harry and I noticed Snape making his way across to the door with a surly expression on his face, and he was limping. As Harry, Ron, Neville, and Hermione moved together to try and block the brilliant flame from view I couldn't help but face palm at their guilty expressions. When we were older I would have to insist they never play poker for money. Snape noticed just as I had and came over, spotting the minor infraction of having a library book outside of the castle, and took both the book and points.
The next morning was sunny, clear, and cold. The Great Hall an excited air about it, due entirely to the prospect of the first Quidditch game...or I mean match of the season. I sat down to a breakfast perfect for a game day, but as I bit into a winter pear I noticed Harry was just picking at a piece of toast.
I sighed saying, "Harry you've got to eat something. If you don't you're going to end up passing out."
And even with the encouragement of varying levels of usefulness from the rest of those sitting near us, Harry hardly ate anything.
As a clock clanged out eleven o'clock I was in the Gryffindor locker room quickly pulling on my scarlet robes and trying to keep my nerves at bay. As Wood went on his crazy speech and Angelina, Katie, and I quickly corrected his faux pas about men I held in silent giggles at the Weasley twins who were mimicking everything he said under their breath. But that at least calmed my nerves a bit. The moment he finished we walked out onto the field as a group, and my stomach exploded with butterflies and my mind with doubts. As soon as my feet crossed the threshold I could hear the thunderous cheers, and could see Madam Hooch, our referee for the game standing in the center of the pitch. As I took my spot on the ground I looked about the crowd and smiled a bit at two signs I saw on the Gryffindor side. One saying Potter for President with a detailed lion drawn below*** and the other with a quote I had shared with Neville after he had shared the fact that he was a bit terrified of flying since his bad first encounter "If you can't make it good, at least make it look good."
As I heard the shrill sound of Madam Hooch's whistle I shot off the ground to take my place above the pitch. A moment later the Quaffle was up and grabbed by Angelina who was pelting up the field. I could hear Lee Jordan giving the stats along with his own color commentary, but tuned him out in order to focus on the game. I saw as she made a quick pass to Katie, but not a moment later the ball was stolen by Flint.
He shot off toward our goal posts but as he threw the ball hard, Wood stopped it with a complicated maneuver and quickly tossed the ball to me. Seeing Flint speeding towards me with murder in his eyes I waited on my broom as he drew nearer to my position just beside one of the stands, and I could hear exclamations as to what on Earth I was doing. But as he came just close enough so he wouldn't have time to change directions I shot straight down, to the sound of him hitting the stands hard. Flying with all the speed my broom could take me I shot down the pitch, dodging a bludger on the way.
As I looked around I could see my possible moves. Both Slytherin beaters were rushing towards me and Angelina and Katie were both behind them trying to get away from the other two chasers and a now recovered Flint to give me an opening. Seeing my only chance I pulled a move out of the Seekers book, which I had pulled during practice once and I could only hope Katie or Angelina would remember. So I tucked the Quaffle tight under my arm and shot down towards the ground, and I could hear both beaters following closely behind me clearly having been tricked into thinking I had seen nowhere to go and panicked. But as I pulled up a foot from the ground in a perfectly executed Wronski Feint and the two fifth years crashed into the ground, they realized how wrong they were. Shooting back up just outside the scoring zone I saw Angelina in perfect position, having remembered the move, and whipped the ball towards her waiting hands. A moment later the Gryffindor stands erupted into cheers as Angelina scored.
A little while later Pucey had the ball, and we were all after him. But then Lee said something that made him drop the Quaffle. In my focused state I hadn't noticed what was said, but my question was answered for me as I came up from a quick dive with the Quaffle tucked under my arm. In a flash Harry and the Slytherin seeker were racing head to head for the tiny golden ball. Harry was closer and he was nearly there when with a sick bit a precision Flint jumped his broom in front of him, directly blocking his path.
As Harry hung on to his spinning broomstick with all he had, there were cries of rage from the scarlet and gold clad stands, and a foul was awarded to Gryffindor for Flint's blatant and rather desperate foul. I mean everyone knows the only time you make such an obvious foul is when you are desperate and have no other moves to make.
By Wood's orders the free-shot was given to me. And by the time the Quaffle had soared through the left hoop after a fake to the right the tiny golden ball had vanished again.
The game continued for a few minutes, before my highly trained eyes which were scanning the area that I saw it. Harry's broom gave a horrible jerk. And then the same action continued. His broom was looking like a wild bull trying to throw its rider at a rodeo. But as Lee continued his commentary it was clear I was the only one that noticed that his broom had gone completely mental, escape for Harry of course.
But as Harry's broom began to roll in something reminiscent of an alligator's death roll at last everyone noticed his peril. A moment later a particularly hard lurch chucked him off so he was just managing to hang on with one hand. Without thinking I shot across the pitch towards him, followed closely by the twins. But each time we got close the broom shot higher so we settled for moving about him in the hopes to catch him if he lost his grip. I saw Flint seizing the Quaffle to score without notice, the ass, Harry was up here in a life and death situation and he's only concerned about the score.
With an angered expression on my face I shot next to him without him even noticing and plucked the ball from his hands much as I had Malfoy. Tucking the ball into the crook of my arm I returned to my post.
Thankfully a few minutes later the broom stopped jerking about in a demented jig and Harry was able to swing himself back on, before shooting off towards the ground before I could even ask if he was alright.
I saw him fall to all fours on the ground, and his shoulders give a violent shake. Then a moment later he was holding up the tiny ball in his hand. Flint tried his best to say the near-swallowing catch was illegal but the rules were checked, and the game was called in favor of Gryffindor.
A couple of weeks later I woke early like any other day, but after my usual stretch a grin spread across my face. Today was November 29th, my twelfth birthday. With a bit more bounce in my step than usual I pulled on a pair of jeans and light gray sweater, with my turquoise converse. It was going to be so much better since my birthday was a Saturday.
Heading down the stairs silently I grinned at the empty common room. Everything seemed better today, no matter how ordinary. Walking down to the Great Hall I ran a hand through my cascading curls, thinking to myself 'Who could've thought that today I am standing in a school for magic, a wand tucked into my sleeve'
As I drank my usual morning cup of tea I suddenly heard someone approaching from behind me. Spinning I saw a grinning Neville with a small wrapped package in his hands.
Hurrying to cross the remaining distance he handed me the present and said, "Happy Birthday Ashley! I hope you like your gift."
Smiling and wishing him good morning I peered around the filling hall before tearing the silvery paper. As I looked at the things in my hands I couldn't help it, I burst out laughing. Neville had gotten me two books. The first was a wizarding dictionary and the second a dictionary of British slang. It was one of the best gifts I had ever gotten and I told Neville so as I gave him a quick thank you hug. Both of us smiled as I remembered my first days at Hogwarts when I was so, for lack of a better word, bloody confused. And while it happened less often now, it still happened and the gifts while humorous would actually be quite useful.
Later that day I received a few more presents from both family and friends. Harry and Ron both gave me some candy, while Hermione opted for a book--giving me a potions book, knowing I fancied the subject. From my parents I received a text on Psychology, a new pair of jeans, and two sweaters. The McGees sent me another Psych book, Sarah sent me a stack of magazines along with a note saying 'Be sure to read them, they have some great fashion and hair ideas, you'll have to tell me all the styles of Britain when you get back', and Timmy sent me a book on computer engineering. And the twins gave me a small bag of goodies from the joke shop knowing that I, unlike Hermione, enjoyed a good prank. They had learned early on though that pranking me was quite difficult, since I noticed everything and if they did manage to prank me I swore by the statement 'Karma's a Bitch'.
All in all it was a wonderful birthday with words of well wishing from all of my friends, the Quidditch team, and even a few teachers.
As the weeks after passed, everyone's attention turned to two things. The upcoming end of term exams, and the holiday that followed.
***Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone pg. 185
Sorry this one's a bit short, but the next chapters will hopefully be longer. Hope you enjoyed and thanks for dealing with both my insanity and irregular posting habits.
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