“She says he says, but she could be lying to me, and he could be lying to her, so I can’t believe her, even if I could believe her.” – Jarod Kintz
1. The locker room was empty. She didn’t mind. She liked the quiet; it gave her a moment of peace before going out onto the pitch. A moment of solitude; some time to think. She slowly stripped down to her knickers, taking great care to fold her clothes, laying them neatly on top of each other before placing them in her locker. She usually was a disorderly person, but not near the pitch. Her gear needed to look sleek and in here she had to be immaculate. She had to reflect all that Quidditch was about.
No matter what some thought, Quidditch wasn’t undisciplined or chaotic. It was fastidious, precise and elegant. Precise when she caught and threw the Quaffle; elegant when she spun away from an incoming Bludger; fastidious because of the game’s demanding nature.
She smiled as she pulled on her leggings, fingering the fabric lightly and savouring its feel.
‘The whole ritual again?’
She looked up to find her friend smiling at her in the doorway and smirked.
‘You know how I get before practice,’ she replied. ‘Everything needs to look perfect.’
Eileen laughed loudly.
‘You mean, you need to look perfect,’ she said. ‘And hopefully the Captain will notice.’
Dominique arched an eyebrow, almost insanely high, but did nothing to tell her friend off. Perhaps because partially she was right. It might be she wanted to impress the Captain. It might.
She couldn’t suppress a smile, thinking of him. Not that he was anything special, not at all. He wasn’t tall, wasn’t short, just average. He was a bit of everything and nothing in between. He was a bully, a fool and a snob. But he was also kind and considerate. Tender and caring.
He was her Captain and she was crazy about him.
‘Get that smile of your face,’ Eileen grinned. ‘You’re making me feel nauseous.’
This time Dominique did tell her to shut up. Because she was not in love with her Captain. She was crazy about him but not in love. Or so she kept telling herself. Over and over again. Not in love.
She sighed. Eileen threw her a red ribbon and she bound her unruly curls in a purposefully messy bun. She could already hear the Captain yelling, probably at Peregrine and Moran, the two Beaters who always got under his skin. They never listened, always did what they wanted to and never followed his orders or tactics. Yet they were an impressive Beater duo. She was crazy about them to. Definitely not in love. When she told Eileen this, her friend just smirked knowingly.
When they stepped onto the pitch, Eileen and Dominique, the rest of the team and quite some onlookers were already present.
‘Nice of you to join us,’ the Captain murmured. Dominique grinned and flipped him the finger, before jumping on her broom.
‘You’re a dick,’ she told him, slightly smiling however.
‘I have a dick,’ he replied. And they shared a look, Dominique and the Captain, which meant nothing at all and everything at the same time.
‘I beg to differ,’ Peregrine added and they all laughed. The Captain’s laugh did something to Dominique, a little flutter, a hot tingle, but she refused to acknowledge or show it. Instead, she scanned the stands, surprised about the crowd that had turned up for their practice. She noticed Carmella, the beautiful Zabini, waved and flew over, kissed the girl softly on the cheek. The Captain’s best friend, but lately also one of Dominique’s mates. She liked the girl, even though she was younger and a bit odd at times. Or perhaps she just liked her because she was the Captain’s best mate.
‘Fancy seeing you here,’ Dominique said.
‘Thought I’d come watch my brother do his thing,’ Carmella smirked. ‘Doesn’t really seem like anyone is listening to Scorp, though.’
Her brother, as Carmella loved to refer to him, even though any blood relation between them was virtually impossible, was indeed giving orders which were promptly ignored. Peregrine and Moran were chasing Eileen with a Bludger, the other Chaser was having a deep conversation with the Keeper and Dominique was up in the stands with Carmella. The Captain was on his own.
‘This doesn’t happen often,’ she said. ‘Mostly he’s very strict. And most of the time, we listen.’
Carmella shrugged. The Captain screamed. The Bludger hit Eileen in the side and the Chaser kissed the Keeper lightly on the lips. Practice was about to begin. Dominique waved quickly and flew down.
The talking ceased the moment she touched down and as one collective they turned to look at the Captain expectantly. They didn’t always like him, didn’t know what to make of him and more often than not wanted to strangle him, but he was the boss. The Godfather, as Moran had once called him. The Silver Seeker, according to half of Hogwarts. Eileen favoured Crazy Dude, while the Chaser and the Keeper simply called him Malfoy. To Dominique he was just the Captain. Her Captain.
‘Listen up, people,’ he said. ‘Big match coming up’ – they all nodded – ‘and we need to be focused. No time for distractions. Don’t care if your grandmother is dying. Tomorrow’s match is all that matters.’
Affirmative murmurs and he quickly winked at Dominique. Her breathing hitched. She subtly covered it. She wasn’t in love.
When the Captain told them which tactic they would be practicing, all immediately took their positions. There was some discussion, a few shoves and pushes between Moran and Peregrine – but they were always shoving and pushing something – and another seemingly meaningless glance from the Captain at Dominique. She smiled at him, a small, lopsided shadow of a smile, but a smile nevertheless and he acknowledged it when he brushed, the slightest of touches, past her on his broom. Her heart jumped. Yet not in love.
Two hours of madness followed, flying Quaffles and murderous Bludgers, a traitorous Snitch and a crowd that loved it all.
The Gryffindor Quidditch team had crazy skills. Talent, technique and tactics. Every move was thought out. They were like an oiled machine. The Hufflepuff team had an amazing Keeper. They played defence like no other. The Hufflepuffs had reinvented how to counter. The Ravenclaws, on the other hand, were predictable. They played the same moves over and over again, yet they did it with such grace, such devotion, that it worked.
The Slytherin Quidditch team, however, was different. They were like an out of control thunderstorm. Wild feints, bone-breaking Bludgers, a Keeper who played with a Hannibal Lector mask and general aggressiveness; the Slytherin team was co-ordinated chaos striking fear in their opponents. It was part of their game. It was all for show. It was all about how to be more awesome, magnificent, exotique and eccentric. The Slytherins were show-offs.
A string of curse words left Dominique’s mouth as a Bludger flew past her, only by inches missing her face. Peregrine stuck out his tongue and pointed a telling finger at Moran, who tried to hide behind one of the poles near the stands.
‘Sorry,’ he mouthed uncertainly. She growled at him and turned her broom sharply away from him. Too sharp perhaps. Too quick perhaps. Simply too much. There was a scream – hers, someone else’s? She didn’t know – and then Eileen crashed into her. A flurry of arms, legs and hair and the red ribbon she had tied her hair with got loose.
All was in slow motion and Dominique, almost in awe, watched the ribbon twirl around in the air before it slowly started to drift towards the ground. So slow. So beautiful.
And then she was drifting as well, falling, much faster than the red ribbon, speeding towards, but she wasn’t scared and she felt like letting go. Simply letting go. Maybe falling wasn’t so bad.
And then it was over.
‘Damn it Dominique, what is wrong with you?!’
She could smell the grass and her fingers touched it fleetingly. Then it was gone again and she felt the wind rushing her face from above, not from below. She knew she was rising. Not falling anymore and she almost felt disappointed, until an overwhelming sense of alleviation came over her and she sighed relieved.
People were standing, staring, mouths open, and eyes wide. Moran came rushing over, while Eileen hovered white-faced in the air. The Keeper had thrown off his mask – his expression was so worried, so scared – but kept his distance, simply watched, frozen as the Chaser, his girlfriend, flew towards him and took his hand in a soothing manner.
‘She’s fine,’ she whispered. And the solace in those words spread around the entire pitch as all that were present released the breath they had been holding. She was fine. All was well. He had caught her.
The Captain dumped her unceremoniously in the stands and glared at her.
‘Look after her,’ he barked at Carmella and he glared yet again. There was something in his eyes that scared Dominique and she cowered away from him, almost feeling guilty, almost blaming herself. But for what? It wasn’t her fault she fell. It wasn’t her fault he had to catch her. And would it be so bad for him to do so every once in a while? Just as she was always there to catch him.
Always there for him.
She blinked. Once, twice. He was already gone, yelling at Moran and Peregrine, elbowing the Keeper in a friendly manner and giving Eileen a quick hug.
‘What the fuck?’
She didn’t mean to say it out loud, but she did. When she heard Carmella's snort, she turned around.
‘What?’ Dominique snapped. She didn’t mean to, but something just made her angry. Irritated. Focused on the Captain she was, already forgotten was the fact she had almost dropped to her death.
‘Nothing,’ Carmella replied, ‘it’s just-‘
She paused for a moment, seemingly searching for the right words.
‘It’s just that for a moment there I thought he was going to let you fall,’ she eventually said, a small smile on her face. A knowing smile.
‘Excuse me?’ Dominique asked, indignantly, disbelieving, just somewhere in between. Because why would he let her fall? Why would he for everything there was between them which she didn't dare to label, because truly, she wasn't in love, not really.
‘You know he dislikes you,’ she said. As if she was commenting on the weather. As if it wasn’t a bomb she dropped. As if it was common knowledge. As if Dominique’s world didn’t crumble.
‘He’s been saying it to everyone,’ Carmella continued. ‘To the Keeper; to Peregrine, to me. How you annoy him. How he thinks you’re a hypocrite.’
She shrugged again.
‘I don’t know,’ she said. ‘The way he’s been talking I almost believed he was going to let you drop to the ground without a second thought.’
And she single-handedly stabbed Dominique in the heart.
She didn’t say anything, Dominique, and her silence made Carmella turn around and look at her, really look at her. Realisation dawned and she gasped, almost inaudibly, slapping a hand in front of her mouth, only it wasn’t really slapping as she brought it up slowly. Or perhaps Dominique saw everything in slow motion. Perhaps this was what happened when your world fell apart.
‘You didn’t know.’
Carmella stated the obvious. But Dominique had already gotten up. Was walking away. Even though she wasn’t really walking, wasn’t really going anywhere.
‘I’m sorry,’ Carmella said softly. ‘I thought you knew.’
‘I’m going to kill him,’ Dominique replied before she even knew she said it. She willed her feet to move, tried to concentrate so hard.
‘Please don’t,’ Carmella said, a sad smile on her face. Pity, most probably. Dominique hated pity.
‘Don’t tell him I said anything,’ Carmella said. ‘Just leave it. It’s not important.’
But if it feels like the end of the world, it is important.
She kept walking towards the locker rooms and Carmella didn’t follow her. For some reason she was relieved and disappointed at the same time.
She heard practice ending, heard the Captain tell her teammates to go and get a shower. She wasn’t meticulous now, throwing off her clothes as if they were contaminated. She rushed to get dressed again, ignored Moran when he asked her if she was really fine, and pushed Eileen away when she tried to hug her. Everyone but the Captain was present and she was glad for his absence. And disappointed. She slammed her locker shut and pretended it was his face as she kicked it. Once, twice, more than thrice.
And suddenly he was there.
She felt her temper flaring, her anger rising.
‘Dominique,’ he said, a smile on his face, extending his left hand towards her, but she ignored it, did not look at his outstretched arm, but instead focused on his face and the white hot edges of her rage.
He dislikes you.
She thought of conversations they had had, things he had told her, all they had done.
He dislikes you. He’s been saying it to everyone.
All a lie.
‘You,’ she hissed, ‘do not talk to me. You do not know me and you will stay the fuck away from me.’
Talking in the locker room ceased.
‘You’re mad?’ he asked, seemingly oblivious.
‘You’re a fucking wanker,’ she said. Or was she screaming? She had no clue.
‘Why?’ he asked mildly and his calm made her even angrier. And now she was screaming and there was no end to it. She didn’t know what she was saying and not even really why – though in truth she knew exactly why – but she was screaming and everyone was listening.
The words flew and she had no idea what she said and when he eventually started screaming back, she only yelled harder.
She remembered barely a week ago when they had been together in the Astronomy Tower, just sitting, his head in her lap, just talking, her hand stroking his hair.
All a lie.
'I wish you'd just drop dead,' she cried out.
Hurt. She was hurt.
‘Fuck you,’ he yelled back. ‘You fucking forget I exist and don’t ever talk to me again.’
There was silence and it was even louder than all the screaming had been. Suddenly she felt empty. Tired. She glanced around; saw the Keeper and Moran and Peregrine who were still there. Surprised and shocked were their faces; mildly curious as well, but mostly shocked.
‘Gladly,’ she replied.
Then she walked away from him, leaving him and the red ribbon he held in his left hand – her ribbon - behind. It didn’t matter that he didn’t like her. It wasn’t as if she had been in love, anyway.