[Rewind: 8 Years Old]
Like most little girls, my father was my first love.
Unlike most little girls, Quidditch was my second.
“Daddy, I’m going to be here one day.” I stood in the center of the massive field with my arms outstretched. Above me the goal posts twinkled in the sunlight and I raised my thumb to cover the post, closing my left eye to align the two properly. It still stretched my mind to know that this was the same field our favorite team, Puddlemere United played on.
“Will you be a Keeper like your ol’ man?” My father stood behind me, hands in his pockets as he watched my reaction with happiness. He worked at a factory in London making magical non-magical items, like pots and pans. I wasn’t sure how he had managed to put this together but I didn’t fully appreciate the work it must have taken.
“Yes,” I replied quickly, nodding excitedly at the thought that one day, I would be good enough to play with the team. “Wait, wait, no.” My fickle mind had already went against it, “I want to talk about it.”
“Talk about it? Don’t you do enough of that now?” Even at eight, I was a notorious talker.
“No! I want to talk about it all day long. Daddy, I bet you can’t catch me.” I had already begun to run before the sentence had completely left my mouth, making my way towards Puddlemere’s goal post. With a grin he chased after me, pretending to run slower then he truly could. “I’m going to beat you,” I called, still a long distance from my destination.
I marveled in the details around me. The wind hitting my face and whipping my dark hair behind me. The sparkles of navy in the grass from the team logo embedded deep within. The sensation of feeling weightless as I ran faster and faster with my arms lifted, pretending that I was on a broom and could fly.
“I told you I would win,” I threw myself on the ground next to where he sat, ignoring the pinpricks of pain when I scrapped my knee and elbow roughly. My roughhousing with male cousins had long ago taught me that ignoring the pain would make it go away faster then tears. We were still feet away from the post, but the sun’s warmth hit us perfectly to warm the cool breeze.
“You’re too fast for me, kid.”
We sat in silence for a moment. I thought of all of the games I had seen from the seats and other nooks in the stadium. Sometimes when we couldn’t get tickets my father would place me in the mix with other large groups of children entering. Afterwards, my father would appear to security in a panic, claiming to have left his “precious child” in the stadium so they would allow him to enter and search for me. After some maneuvering, security would be lost and we would watch the game in some hidden corner.
My father’s only rule during these trips was not to tell Marie or my mum.
Initially my love for Quidditch began so I could spend time with my father. My mother, who was a muggle and didn’t understand the game, would spend Saturdays in the summer with my older sister, Marie. They would go to the market or the shops around the town square. I found it all a giant bore.
But not Quidditch.
The constant movement and anticipation. I fell in love quickly.
“Happy Birthday Payton.” My father threw his arm around my shoulder and held me in the curve under his arm. “In three years you’ll be going to Hogwarts and you’ll be too busy to spend time with me like Marie.”
“I’ll never be like Marie, daddy.” I replied, going to school at that moment the farthest thing from my mind. At eight years old, three years seemed an entire lifetime away. Even worse, I was deeply disturbed at the thought of becoming like my older sister, Marie. “And I’ll always have time for you.”
“Oh?” He eyed me in mock disbelief, his green eyes mirroring my own. I was proud when people said I looked like my father because to me, he was the most handsome man in the world. We had the same forest green eyes, prominent cheekbones, long, thin nose that appeared to had been broken and straightened, and firm shoulders. My father was tall and husky; not a far cry from his teenage years spent playing Keeper at Hogwarts. I was tall for my age with awkward, long limbs that I was constantly waving into pointy corners. The only real quality I had gained from my mum was my dark hair that fell in thick, straight layers around my heart-shaped face. Marie had inherited our father’s honey brown curls.
“I’ll write you everyday about Quidditch and my classes.”
“Daddy, ew.” I said before shoving him away lightly. “Unless they love Quidditch and play for Puddlemere. And, and he has to be really, really good.”
“Really,” he mused.
I nodded in complete seriousness, not seeing past his smile to the humor in his eyes. My braid, now useless from the running and my frequent moving about, continued to fall apart as I ran my fingers over the design. “I’m going to marry him and give you all the tickets you’d like so we don’t have to hide anymore.”
My favorite noise was my father’s laughter. It was loud and rich in my ears and made his entire body move with the motion. “But you can’t marry anyone until you’re forty years old, okay love?”
“Oh, dad that’s so old,” I whined.
“Well, I suppose thirty is okay.”
“Okay.” I resigned, not realizing that one day I would actually want to date and marry somebody. “Daddy?” I waited until he turned to face me and I had his attention. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Payton.”
[Rewind: 11 Years Old]
If my father and Quidditch were my first two loves, I would soon find my third.
I was eleven years old and hopped atop of the stool at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, waiting to be sorted. The stool shifted under my weight and rocked unevenly as I fidgeted impatiently. As a half-blood with an older sister currently in her sixth year, I had been briefly exposed to Hogwarts - although nothing could truly prepare me for how magical the school was in person.
Above, the candles flickered in between the tables and darkened castle sky. Through the haze of my classmates in front, I saw forward to the students already sitting at their tables, watching.
Seated at a table to my right that must have been Gryffindor from the students donned in crimson, was a boy who sat at the head. He smiled brilliantly and for a second, it was as if his eyes sparkled in the hope that in just moments, we would be seated together.
There are strange moments in your life when the noise around you will disappear and your eyes move in on a single target, as if there is nothing else. For what must be the longest second in your life, everything else is gone and there is just you and the one thing you never knew your heart wanted, no needed, so badly.
For me, it was the boy sitting on his knees on the bench with a loosened tie, crooked smile, and messy jet black hair half-covering his almond-shaped eyes.
For me, it was James Sirius Potter.
There was no rationale behind my sudden love for James, just that my brain and heart had correlated to deliver some completely nonsensical message.
Just as quickly as it had left, normalcy resumed and I heard the clicking of the Headmaster’s shoes against the wooden floor. The ancient and patched sorting hat was placed on my head and remained silent for a moment, pondering until it screamed the decision for everyone to hear.
With a slightly fallen heart, I made my way to the clapping table slowly, preparing to smile at the boy just as he waved - to someone behind me.
I didn’t realize it then, but that moment would build the foundation for our entire nonexistent relationship for the next twelve years.
[Rewind: 15 Years Old]
“Gryffindor wins! Gryffindor wins the Cup! Without a doubt, the most nail-biting game of the season has ended, 150 to 0, with Albus Potter catching the snitch to defeat Ravenclaw.”
I watched Gryffindor celebrate from the opposite side of the field, wishing I wasn’t feeling so upset about the whole thing. I had done my part as Keeper and kept all the quaffles out, but it hadn’t been enough to win the game.
It was the downside to the position, the amount of power you had that controlled whether your team lost but not whether your team actually won.
“Good job, Payton.” One of my teammates, Lorcan Scamander said. He stood some distance away from me, his broom still in his hand and a weak smile on his face that was mingled with sweat and dirt. “You were brilliant.”
“Thanks,” I replied, forcing my own disheartened smile to my lips. Lorcan was a Chaser for Ravenclaw and although it was really no one’s particular fault that we had lost, we all still felt equally guilty. Except for maybe the team’s Seeker, Helga Abbot. She probably felt the worst. “You were brilliant as well,” I added vaguely, not quite meaning it. While I had done my job, Lorcan had not done his. I suppose a few points would not have mattered in the long run with Gryffindor catching the snitch, but it surely would have taken some of the sting away.
He laughed at my dishonesty and poor attempt at sportsmanship, already used to how my competitive mind worked. In the distance I saw James, Gryffindor’s captain and Keeper, being lifted into the air by his housemates. The house’s cheer elevated above the other noise from the field and carried to my ears. The only reassuring bit of the loss was that it was James’ last game, and if I was absolutely forced to lose against anyone - at least it was someone deserving.
“James is almost as good as you are,” Lorcan said. I turned away from James, not realizing that Lorcan had moved closer and was watching my expression. I’m sure he had figured out a long time ago about my feelings for James, although he never brought anything up to me. Perhaps he took my gazes for admiration because the fact was that James was a way better of a Keeper then I was, and I was pretty gifted.
Rachel Fitzgerald, my best friend, always said that unrequited love was the sweetest, but she was a romantic who hadn’t spent five years wishing James would just look at her. She rationalized, however, that the real thing never matched the fantasies that had been created in our mind. I wouldn’t know, so I suppose I would just take her word for it.
I was naïve enough to believe that he was my secret love. As if I was the only girl who had noticed how amazing his smile was, the specks of green in his hazel brown eyes, or how witty his jokes were. As if there wasn’t an entire unofficial group of girls in each house devoted to just staring and sighing from afar - dying of jealously at every lucky girl that he would take to Hogsmeade that wasn’t us.
“I suppose he’s better actually,” I replied with a half-smile full of bittersweet sadness.
I had lost, but it had been to James.
Now he would be graduating and I still hadn’t managed more than a single, idiotic “sorry” to him when I had accidentally dropped my books on his feet in my second year.
I was two years younger than him so we shared no classes, although I had spent a lot of time working my schedule so that I could see him at every passing, just hoping and praying that once I would stumble into his open arms. Or bump his elbow. Anything. It was all truly pitiful but nothing compared to the other girls. I saw them inch up their skirts when he was nearby, the unnecessary skims on his arms or legs as they passed in the hall or sat together during meals. I heard the whispers that would have made Rowena Ravenclaw blush. It was shameless.
And I was jealous.
Jealous of their confidence and courage to actually attempt to chase what they wanted. It was why I had been sorted into Ravenclaw.
I had the brains, but I was sorely lacking in guts when it came to James.
“Let’s go to dinner, Payton.” Lorcan grabbed my shoulders and forced me out of my thoughts, turning my body so we were facing the Ravenclaw entrance to the field. “I suppose we’ll have to go to the party tonight and congratulate them.”
It had been decided two weeks ago when the Ravenclaw and Gryffindor game was set that there would be a celebratory party in the Room of Requirement. The losing team would host and provide the festive amenities.
“I suppose so,” I repeated with no clue how I would sum up the money to provide anything more than a single cup of pumpkin juice. My family was pretty tight on Galleons since Marie had entered training to become a Healer.
We walked through the mostly-empty Ravenclaw tent, our chalkboard now erased and displaying the score of the game, and I shoved the heavy gear off of my tired shoulders. Losing always put me in the foulest mood, but at least Lorcan had expected it and made most of the effort to maintain the conversation.
“We could slip some Puking Pastilles in the sweets,” he said, elbowing my side lightly. “I’m sure James Potter would hate vomit all over his fancy Puddlemere shirt.”
“Stop,” I said, although a genuine smile broke through my mood. Ever since it had been announced that James would be joining Puddlemere United’s Reserve team three months ago, he had a single shirt that he wore constantly. It was a great source of teasing from everyone, especially Lorcan and Rachel. James took all the teasing in stride though, because that was just the type of great man he was.
With the exception of the Gryffindor table, most of the houses’ tables were filled by the time we reached the Great Hall. Usually this is where Lorcan and I would separate to sit with our respective group of friends but today we walked to join the rest of the team. There seemed to be an air of sadness around the entire Ravenclaw table from the loss. Unlike the Puffs a table down, we did not handle losing so well.
“Oi, oi,” Rachel had revealed herself from a spot down the table where we usually sat and stood on the bench, attempting to call everyone’s attention to her. Her blonde hair still had streaks of blue from the game and she still wore her oversized Ravenclaw sweater and matching scarf. Her loud voice traveled naturally and she smiled, pleased with the eyes on her. “Everyone listen up! Despite the loss, I think that we should give our Quidditch team a large round of applause for the amazing season and the even better game!” She ended her statement by giving a loud “Whoop!” before beginning the clapping. The house and several students from the surrounding tables had turned to face us, especially Lorcan and I, who were standing awkwardly nearby in our uniforms. I was surprised by how quickly our housemates began to applaud, many even joining Rachel in her standing.
“Here, here - Ravenclaw!” The clapping quickly stopped when we all turned to look at James Potter, who had lead the Gryffindor Quidditch team and house into the Great Hall. My heart dropped considerably with the expectation that they were here to gloat and destroy the house pride that had suddenly risen. Gryffindor had a nasty habit of gloating terribly. My teammates must have suspected the same thing as Jenson Davies, the team captain and Chaser, stood and joined my other side as James began his walk towards us.
Lorcan had always said that James Potter did not walk anywhere, but that he strutted from one location to the next. My biasness had always clouded my clear judgment on the matter but I could see the proud movement of his shoulders and smile of confidence that he wore. It was easy for others to mistake that for arrogance.
“Congratulations Potter,” Jenson said, offering his hand in an effort to maintain the peace when James stood in front of us. His housemates had sat down but his teammates lingered at the entrance, unsure of what to expect from James. “You guys played quite a game.”
James looked at Jenson’s hand and pushed it down lightly, nodding his head. The tension was elevated in the air and Lorcan stiffened next to me, his hands clenched into angry fists. Was I prepared to punch the boy I had spent the past five years in love with?
Before I could answer my own question, however, James released a loud laugh and wrapped his arms around Jenson’s shoulders in a hug. “We barely won,” he said, his arm still around one of Jenson’s shoulders as he spoke. “I was actually worried for a moment because your Keeper was simply not letting us score.”
James’ eyes fell on my face and through my mortification of the messy bun on my head, I was suddenly grateful of the dirt covering the flushing of my cheeks. “You played excellently. Well done.” Two entire sentences. James Potter had actually two entire sentences to me, about me.
I was momentarily too stunned to speak until I felt a pinch on my back that snapped me back to place. “Thank you. You were brilliant.” I actually meant the words this time, the clear compliment hiding my tone of awe. I made a mental note to tally up the words we had spoken now. It had to be at least ten.
James smiled fully at my words, his chest puffing out underneath his Quidditch robes before lowering his voice and directing his comment to Jenson, “We’ll see you all later then.” Jenson nodded his agreement, still surprised but evidently pleased by how the events had passed. “Excellent,” he said, removing his arm and straightening himself for his walk back to his table. He hadn’t taken more than five steps when he turned and caught me, still stuck in the moment and staring at him.
James waved, his signature half-smile on his lips before giving me a quick wink and turning around again.
Without thinking I turned to see if there was anyone behind me that he could had been aiming the wink at and just when I had settled into the idea that James Potter had winked at me, I heard giggles from a seat in front of me.
"I told you, he liked you!" The girl directed her words to Heather McCampbell, a pretty seventh-year Ravenclaw that was currently not covered in mud, sweat, and possibly blood. "Did you see that wink? I bet he'll look for you at the party tonight."
I sighed loudly, ignoring the strange looks they gave me before landing heavily on the bench in between Jenson and Lorcan.
[Rewind: 21 Years Old]
“Bob, please pass the potatoes.”
“Mother, please tell the child not to refer to me as ‘Bob’ anymore.” From the opposite side of the table, I watched in satisfaction as my sister whined to our mom over her childhood nickname. I stayed quiet in the irony of her calling me a child as she played a game of pass-the-message through our mum.
“Payton,” my mum began tensely. We were less then ten minutes into our weekly attempt of being a happy family by having Sunday dinner and already on the verge of killing one another. Our mum began to pull her hair into a ponytail, a habit from her nerves, before realizing that it was in a bun on top of her head. “You girls look so thin, you should both have double helpings on the potatoes.” She grabbed the bowl and served us both at least four helpings of the potatoes and gravy.
“Thanks mum,” I murmured, attempting to dig through the gravy to find where my chicken lay.
“Mother,” Marie stared down at her plate with a look of distaste, “Samantha said that processed food like gravy is one of the worst things you could eat.” Our mum looked taken back, a genuine look of fear crossing her features as dad and I groaned in response. Marie’s idiot friend was always on the latest health craze and cleanse. Marie interrupted us with a nasty look, “She said eating gravy is like eating lead paint.”
“Oh no,” mum whispered, her hand to her neck as she swiftly snatched the bowl of gravy from my father’s hand. “We’ll have no more of that then.”
“Payton, Daniel said that he saw you walking on Westwood Avenue the other day. Isn’t that quite a distance from the Prophet?” Marie watched me crossly in between the vase of flowers that separated us, a smirk on her lips and smugness all over her face.
“That’s about a mile from the Prophet, Payton. What are you doing down there?” My mother and father’s curious gaze landed on me as I swallowed some large pieces of chicken whole, my mouth suddenly very dry. They were probably thinking that I’d gotten fired from the Prophet and didn’t have the nerve to tell them the truth.
“There’s just some construction on my usual stop so I take the Westwood stop instead,” I shrugged, as if the additional two miles of walking on top of my regular mile in the blistering heat or freezing cold, didn’t bother me. “But tell Danny that I appreciate his caring enough not to ask me if I needed a ride but nosiness to run and tell you instead.”
“She’s right. That wasn’t very polite, Marie.” My dad agreed. He didn’t really like Daniel either.
“Oh Payton, it’s so hot! Why don’t you just take the train?”
“I enjoy the walk actually,” I lied, smiling brightly to try and convince them. But the truth was that each train ride was an additional twenty-four Galleons a week that I did not have, and I really had passed the point of asking my parents for money.
“If it’s money that’s the issue, I would be happy to lend you some, Payton.”
I really disliked my sister.
“No thank you, Bob. Perhaps you’ve heard that exercise is good for a fat arse like your’s.”
She didn’t have a fat arse but it was always a sensitive topic with her.
“I HAVE A BOYFRIEND AND YOU WILL DIE ALONE, MONSTER!” At this point our parents, or at least mum, was yelling for us to shut up but Marie’s screaming overpowered it tremendously.
“I’D HAVE A BOYFRIEND EASILY IF I WENT SEWAGE-DIVING FOR TROLLS TOO!” I yelled back, but it was mainly just to be heard over her banshee-like screams.
“IT’S SO FAR BACK IN HIS LINEAGE THAT DOCTORS SAY IT WOULD HARDLY BE EVIDENT! Mum,” Marie chocked back a fake sob, “please tell her to stop calling Daniel a troll! It really hurts his feelings and if his mum heard what she said-”
“Marie, drop it” it was my father’s turn to attempt to reign my sister’s infamous attitude down. This was the usual dynamic in the family. My mum attempted to control my smart comments and my father defused Marie’s anger at life and everything in it. They had assigned each other these roles when we were growing up and we had formed an obvious alliance to a respective parent and declared war against each other. “Payton, stop calling your sister Bob, her fiancé a troll, and damn it, I will not stop eating gravy in my house!”
Without saying anything I handed him my plate, which was half gravy, and took his.
“Thank you, Payton. Now,” he cleared his throat and lowered his voice back to normal. “How is the Prophet nowadays?”
Moments of insanity are completely normal and actually somewhat expected, between the two of us at this point.
“Still making copies at minimum wage?” Marie snapped, all signs of her previous tears gone as she viciously began stabbing some of her vegetables with her fork and stuffing them in her mouth, her oval brown eyes thinning into a line and staring at me angrily the entire time. For a Healer she was missing some vital people skills, like patience and basic friendliness.
“Marie,” both of my parents’ spoke out this time. As if I wasn’t used to her closed segment of comments about me. Payton had no money because she had a horrible job. Payton was still making copies at her horrible job. Payton had no boyfriend and I’m engaged to some ugly troll with a bad haircut whose already showing signs of hair loss.
“Still using barbed wire to detangle that rat mess you call hair?”
To say my relationship with my sister was difficult would be like describing the Second Wizarding World as a minor altercation between Harry Potter and Tom Riddle. It wasn't that she was meaner then I was either, just that she had better ammo then I did at the moment.
Marie was the picture perfect daughter, the model of what every parent would be proud of. She was a successful Healer and had just opened her own practice in Central London. Four years ago she had moved into a flat with her steady boyfriend, Daniel Harrison, a fellow Healer that was a bigger bore then she was. They had already discussed marriage but were waiting until they were more “financially settled”.
Much like when I was eight, I still saw her as a makeup and boy-obsessed snob that was too good to interact with her baby sister. Only I had moved from insulting her basic hygiene and puffy hair to better things, like her ugly boyfriend and well, puffy hair. As long as her sandy curls still looked as though she’d sat in the desert for too long, that insult would still be valid and thus, used.
If Marie, or Snobby Bobby as I had dubbed her a child, were to describe me, she would say that I was only second to the Chudley Cannons for being UK’s biggest loser. I was a single twenty-one year old who still lived with her parents and was stuck in the same position I had started four years ago at the Daily Prophet’s sport section.
She didn’t understand that reporting was not so different then training to become a Healer. They didn’t just throw everyone at the games on their first day or even their thousandth. I could have easily quit at the Prophet years ago and went for a better paying job but I really did love Quidditch and I knew that eventually the Prophet would allow me more opportunities then statistical research and copying.
In fact, just this week Cormac McLaggen, the editor had called me into his office with exciting news. I had purposely saved it for the moment when Marie would attempt to embarrass me about my job.
“Actually, I’ve been given a promotion.” I replied proudly, looking at my father’s smile form in between chews.
“A promotion!” My mother called excitedly, clapping her hands and standing from her place at the table to hug me. “Will you get to report on games?”
“Not exactly,” I mumbled, not missing Marie’s snicker into her glass of water. With a quick shot I raised my foot to land directly on her shin, water shooting over her face at the kick. “Cormac loved my idea about having a player of the week and gave the assignment to me. During the preseason I’ll do a couple segments on new players to look out for and once the season begins I’ll have a regular section in the Sunday paper.”
“A regular in the Sunday paper. You’ve started to hit the big time, kid.” My father patted my hand and I beamed under his reassurance and support, feeling prouder of myself at that moment then I had in a long time. “Maybe you’ll finally meet your husband from Puddlemere and get me those tickets, eh?” Apparently I had talked about marrying a Quidditch player a lot as a child, and not just any Quidditch player but one from Puddlemere.
“Or, maybe you’ll finally have enough money to be able to take the train now.” Marie snapped from her place, her wet napkin thrown on top of her still-full plate.
“That’s funny, because I thought being a Healer would give you a heart so you weren't such a cold bi-”
“Time for dessert!
Full credit to JKR.
a/n: Hello, hello everyone (anyone?)! I'm really excited/happy/anxious to start a new story. It's different than my first love ("Here's to...") but I hope people enjoy it nonetheless. This chapter is huge, but I just had so much fun writing about Payton and her family I didn't want to cut it off awkwardly.
As always, please R+R. Favorite quote? Character? Minor character you'd like to see more of? I'm done with the 2nd chapter and on vacation for a couple days so hopefully I'll get to do some more writing. There will be a banner coming soon!
Hope you all enjoy!
[12/4/13] Thanks again to milominderbender @ TDA for the amazing chapter image!!