Chapter 1 : My Variable
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The beginning of a story is always the hardest. During those precious first seconds anything is possible, and so consequently they are the most crucial. Take a Quidditch game for instance. If you lose the toss, then the other team scores and you start down. If you start down, you tend to take up a certain mindset that isn’t exactly ideal if you want to be successful. That’s why you have to win that first toss – because it’s so much harder if you have to come back than if you start out with a lead. But that’s not the reason that beginnings are so hard, that’s just why they’re important.
The reason they’re hard is because of the variables. You never know how the other team is going to go about getting the Quaffle for themselves. They might fake right and go left, charge straight forward, duck down and come up from under your belly. There are just so many options that you have to be prepared for. There is a difference between life and a Quidditch game, though. In real life there is more at stake than just another L or W.
That brings me to the beginning of my story. Since birth it has been my dream to become a professional Quidditch player. I guess that the obsession with the sport stems from my mother, who was a professional chaser for the Chudley Cannons. Some of the best memories from my childhood were going to the Quidditch pitch with my dad to watch her play. If I close my eyes I can still hear the roar of the crowd as we held up homemade signs that said, “Go Mummy!” on them.
Then when I was five I got my first broom, and I fell in love. My parents had to basically drag me out of the sky when dinner time came around. It also helped that pretty much everyone in my family (with the exception of my brother, Albus) also played. When I wasn’t out there with James, I was out there with Teddy. When I wasn’t out there with Teddy, I was out there with Hugo. When I wasn’t out there with Hugo, I was out there with Fred. Get the picture?
When my Hogwarts years hit, it was only natural that I set my eyes on the biggest Quidditch award I could get my hands on – the Quidditch Cup. I joined the Gryffindor team in my second year as Chaser. We played hard that year, but we narrowly missed the cup to Hufflepuff who had just recruited a talented Keeper.
Mum wouldn’t let me play in my third year. I had flunked potions the year prior, and it was a Potter house rule that academics came before extracurricular activities. Of course, James led Gryffindor to victory taking the Quidditch Cup after an amazing show that year. I was happy for them, I really was, but I can’t say I wasn’t at least a little disappointed. I spent the rest of my Hogwarts years chasing that cup like it was life itself, but I always fell short in that last game.
Finally, in my seventh year I thought we had it. I was captain, and I had Luke – one of my best mates – by my side. Our only fault was a green Seeker, as little Will was only a tiny third year and lacked some experience. Then the match started. I can still taste the air on my tongue and feel the wind whipping through my clothes as I dived madly at the Quaffle for the first toss. I remember how the rush of adrenaline pumped through my body as I curled my hands around it – my muscles tensing as I wound back and chucked the ball at full speed toward an open hoop. I was so sure that it was going to go in that I had already started to back-track when it was saved. Their Keeper seemed to have appeared out of nowhere – catching the Quaffle with ease.
And so started the worst game my team had ever played… ever. We pounded those goal posts over and over again, but their Keeper saved that Quaffle every time. A total of three shots went in that night, all of them being thrown by me. He made us all look like fools.
Later, I would analyze him, wondering how he did it. It seemed that everything about him was built to be a Keeper. He was tall with a broad chest, so he filled the goal posts nicely. His hands were big enough so he could palm the Quaffle in one hand. He was muscular, allowing him to throw the Quaffle half-way down the pitch. In addition to that he seemed to be naturally agile, controlling his broom with ease. His raven colored hair, coal black eyes, and serious expression burned into my memory – Parker Mason, the boy who took away my title.
He is the reason that my beginning was so hard. There were countless scouts at that game, all of them looking for one thing – talent. Well guess which way all of them were looking. I’ll give you a hint, it wasn’t at me. I wasn’t the one that was approached after the game. No one handed me a card and said, “Give that number a call. You’ve got talent, kid.” I suppose you could say I was starting the road to the big leagues a few steps behind, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
There are two parts to becoming a professional. The first necessity is talent – you’ve got to be talented at what you do if you plan on making anything of yourself. Now the second part is connections – the people you know, or more importantly the people who you can pull favors with. Personally, I would like to think that I had both. Unfortunately, about eighty scouts thought I was lacking in the talent department. Luckily for me, I did have connections, and when I say connections I mean that I had a scout in my back pocket.
Teddy Remus Lupin had to pull some major strings, but he got my foot in the door of one of the most amazing teams in England – the Falmouth Falcons. I had an internship that summer and I was going to go, and I was going to make them like me. Then, that fall when try-outs came along, I was going to show them my talent, and they would have no choice but to pick me for their newest chaser. Easy as pie, right?
That brings me to my first day, the real beginning of my story. I didn’t get a wink of sleep the night before; I was too busy being worried about the next day. So, at about six in the morning, I walked down to our homey little kitchen, sat down on one of the stools that was up against the center island, and started pushing cereal around in a bowl. I really wasn’t all that hungry, although I knew I should eat. It’s like every Mum’s motto that you have to start a big day on a full stomach, but all the same I couldn’t digest so much as one bite of breakfast.
So I sat there for two hours in silence. The house was disturbingly quiet. Everyone was out, or sleeping I suppose. My Dad had already left for work, James was living in Canada now, and Mum and Albus both thought noon was an appropriate time for waking. So I was rather alone and bored. When the doorbell rang I nearly leapt out of my seat to go answer it.
Teddy was standing on the door step, just as expected. His hair was a teal blue color that would not look natural on any other person but him, and his eyes were sea foam green to match. I could go on and explain to you all the little nuances of his structure, and face, but I won’t. They’re subject to change. Immediately upon seeing my face, a brotherly smile spread on his.
“What’s up, Lils? Ready for day one?” he asked cheerily, stepping into the house as if he owned the place.
“Ready as ever,” I said nervously as we both walked into the kitchen.
He laughed heartily, “Cut yourself some slack. It’s just the first day of an internship. Just wait until you have your first day of try-outs. That’s when you can be nervous.”
We had reached the kitchen now, and Teddy was making himself at home. He had been here enough to know where everything was, so he helped himself – walking up to our stocked pantry, and rummaging through our various food articles.
“Sure, well I’ll tell my nerves that they’re not allowed to come out until September. Hopefully they’ll listen?” I gave Teddy a cheesy grin and a thumbs up.
“You’ve been hanging around Hugo too much,” Teddy chastised as he pulled out a box of sugar coated apple tart things my mum made the other week – breakfast of champions. “His sarcasm is rubbing off on you.”
“No, Hugo isn’t sarcastic,” I corrected him, “He’s a pessimist. I, on the other hand, enjoy sarcasm, but at the same time have a generally upbeat attitude. I mean I just gave you a thumbs up, didn’t I?” Teddy rolled his eyes at me as he popped one of the tarts into his mouth.
“Well, we’ve got to go,” he said, still chewing as he checked his pocket watch and held out his hand. I scanned his face for a moment before taking it. Immediately, I felt that familiar feeling of being squeezed into a tube the size of a straw.
Suddenly, I wasn’t home anymore. I was standing on the pavement in front of a very busy Quidditch pitch. I felt my jaw slack as I stared at my new surroundings. People were everywhere, and everyone was wearing red and black – the Falcon’s colors.
We seemed to be standing in front of a huge ticket center. A massive iron gate was built in front of us. It didn’t open, though. Instead, there were about six openings at the bottom – each with a little wooden booth in it. Teddy pulled me into one of the lines that filtered into said booths, and we waited for a few moments. I took the time to look around a bit more.
The iron gate had two empty red banners hanging from it, each with a black design on the bottom. The top of the gate had some kind of bird bent into the iron. Every now and then the bird would move into another position, giving the effect of it flapping its wings.
I noticed that I kept shifting my weight from one foot to the other. I wasn’t in the stadium yet and I could feel the butterflies dancing around in my stomach.
When we reached the ticket booth, Teddy put on a charming smile and leaned onto the wooden counter. “Hey Alice, how’s the family?” he asked the woman behind the counter.
Now this woman brought new meaning to the word tacky. Something about her overly long false eye lashes and the in-your-face red lipstick that was lathered on just made you cringe. Of course, I sort of stood there pretending it was natural to have black eyeliner that curled into an intricate design on the side of your face, because it would have been rude to say something about it.
She was currently giving Teddy this stern, over-tired look. “Don’t ever have kids Mr. Lupin, they’re rotten,” she croaked as she popped her gum between her teeth. I was horrified. There is a certain type of person that just shouldn’t be allowed to reproduce because they’re just so vulgar.
Teddy, of course, gave her this charming laugh and handed her his papers. She didn’t even look at them; she just smacked a stamp down and handed them back to him. I stepped forward then because it was my turn.
“Papers?” she asked, tapping her creepily long nails on the table.
I turned a shade of pink and started fumbling around in my pockets, looking for said papers. The thing is that I didn’t have them. I wasn’t aware that I needed papers. It was the first day of the rest of my life, and I didn’t come prepared.
“I have them,” Teddy spoke up, handing her a folder. She raised a pencil thin eyebrow and studied my credentials carefully, making sure that every “T” was crossed and “I” was dotted.
“New intern?” she asked.
“That would be me,” I said, waving my hand at her nervously.
She twisted her fat lips into a large smile “Good luck today hun, and tell Joey I said hi.” Well, at least she was friendly.
I didn’t exactly know who this Joey guy was, so I just nodded and went along with it. She handed me back my papers and I followed Teddy through the gate and into the stadium. My jaw practically dropped as I took in the scene. Right in front of me was a huge banner of the Falmouth Falcon. Red feathers covered its body as it bared its wings in welcome. Flames licked the edges of its wings giving off black smoke that faded into the sky. That bird was the very image of power.
“It’s gorgeous,” I said aloud, to no one in particular.
“Isn’t it?” Teddy said with the same amount of admiration.
The crowd was much thinner on the inside of the stadium, as there weren’t that many people authorized to be here during the off-season. Again, it was another reminder that I was lucky to have Teddy. Although at that moment I didn’t feel all that lucky. Being that it was my first time visiting the stadium, he seemed to think that it was a great time for a history lesson, and I was never the biggest fan of history.
“Our stadium’s one of a kind, you know,” he started. “Most of them are built into the ground because it’s easier to hide from the Muggles. But Joey, the owner, wanted to build it the way Muggles do – from the ground up.”
“Yeah,” I muttered, my eyes wandering around as Teddy was just so fascinating it hurt to look at him.
He went on talking about this Joey guy, but I tuned him out. We were just coming to one of the staircases, and had started to climb it. I was tired by the time I hit the fourth landing. Then Teddy informed me that there were forty floors, and I almost died. The genius that decided elevators weren’t necessary needs to get their priorities straight. No one in their right mind wants to climb forty stories of steps.
While we climbed Teddy explained to me that I was headed to the box suites, which were basically seating areas built for rich people. My boss, Joey, apparently liked to make a good impression on the newbies by showing off a bit.
By the time we reached my stop, floor twenty, my thighs were burning. Again, an elevator would have been a really nice addition to the huge stadium. “This is your stop, kiddo,” Teddy said, jamming his hands into his pockets, “I’ll pick you up by the main gate around sevenish later.”
“See you around, Teddy,” I said, waving him off as I opened the door to the hallway where the box suites were located. Immediately after stepping into the hallway, I was hit by the smell of rich people. I’m serious – they have their own smell. It’s like a mix between some kind of expensive flowery perfume and snobbiness.
It’s obvious just from the look of the hallway that this level was built for royalty. Everything from the sheen polish on the hard wood floors, to the delicate crystal chandeliers that hung every ten yards or so screamed “I’m too expensive for you!”
Now, my family is by no means poor. In fact, I think we might be one of the most wealthy wizarding families in the country. The thing is we don’t act rich. Our house is mediocre size – giving off this nice homey feeling – and we don’t own eight brooms or anything. When we were little, my parents never spoiled us, claiming it built character. And I get that – I’ve met some pretty snooty kids in my academic career, and I have no desire to be that needy. That’s why I can comfortably exclude myself from the category of rich people. I don’t feel like an expensive piece of porcelain, and so it would be shameful to call myself as such.
I walked down the hallway a little, reading the numbers on the doors before I found suite forty-two. Gripping the polished handle, I gently opened the door to reveal nothing short of the most perfect location to watch a Quidditch game.
The room only had three walls, on the far end there was a huge glass window that opened out to the Quidditch pitch. Twelve very posh chairs faced the window. They weren’t that different than the ones in the Slytherin common room with their black surfaces, and touches of Falcon red color in the buttons (shhh, I followed my brother Albus into his common room during my first year, don’t tell anyone). Directly outside of the window you could see the goal posts – we’re level with the top hoop – the best vantage point to watch any game.
The wall to the left was the food area. There was everything from the stainless steel refrigerator, to countertops, to those containers that you use to keep food hot. There was also a table in the center of the room, I guess for all those Quidditch haters out there who are stupid enough to come to the games even though they despise sports and physical activity in general.
I was grinning like an idiot by then – just fantasizing about spending a game in here, watching as the events unfold – when suddenly, a voice interrupted my thoughts.
I turned to see who was in the room with me, only to find a feeling of shock exploding throughout my body. I had assumed that the other interns would be from elsewhere, that they would be strangers. But the boy leaning against the wall was not a stranger. His raven hair, and coal black eyes where way too familiar. Of all the people that I expected to be here, I had never even entertained the thought that it was possible for him to show up.
“Mason?” I squeaked.
The boy who took away my Quidditch cup raised his hand out of his pocket and gave me that cool-boy wave of his.
“Didn’t think I’d see you here,” he said awkwardly, shifting his weight.
As I said before, beginnings are always the hardest. It was mostly because of the variables – those curveballs that knock you down and leave you fumbling to regain your footing. It just so happened that the variable to my beginning had a name and it was Parker Mason.
Disclaimer: I checked and I definitely don't own Harry Potter, everything is still JKR's
A/N Hi everyone, so I'm taking up another WIP which probably isn't the greatest idea, but I'll manage :). I want to shoot out a huge thanks to Ashi (aka Shortie) she helped me with the planning of this story, and I don't know where it would be without her. Also a million thank yous to Caitlin (aka JustBriliant) for beta'ing this.