Chapter 12 : Idiocy Thy Name Is Stella
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The Potter Boys - James and Albus
Chapter image by Elenia@ TDA
You know when you do something really, really stupid?
I’m not talking about quitting the quidditch team. It’s more stupid than that.
It’s not pretending to be your friend’s girlfriend so that he can slowly seduce the girl of his dreams. Even though that really takes the cake.
No, I’m talking about being centimeters away from the love of your life, the person who you can’t get out of your head, having the opportunity to snog them senseless, and not taking it.
Oh, that never happened to you guys?
It’s probably because you’re not idiots like me.
Seriously, though, James was right there. He was so close. I literally had him trapped. He couldn’t move. And he was gazing at me, at least, that’s how it felt at the time.
Maybe he was just in shock after I’d crashed into him. I have been eating a lot of muffins lately.
Now I’ll never have the opportunity again. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
I’m lying on my bed, flat on my back, eyes closed, letting the full extent of my stupidity wash over me.
I could have kissed James. He was right there.
But no, I had to get up as clumsily as possible, mutter a few incoherent words of mumbo-jumbo, and then just run off. Merlin, I’m such a loser.
“What’s wrong with you?” asks Ray.
I look up, only to find Ray isn’t talking to me. Her words are directed at Lexie, who has just appeared in the doorway, looking frantic.
“He-He found s-someone else!” she looks ready to burst into tears.
I sit up and stare at her, “Who? What are you talking about?”
“Cameron!” she cries, flinging herself onto the bed beside mine, “He told me he’s found a better tutor!”
“What?” Ray looks outraged, “Who’d he pick over you?”
“Valerie Stevens,” Lexie mutters bitterly.
I frown. Valerie Stevens is a Ravenclaw 7th year. She is, to put it nicely, a heinous bitch. She seems to consider it her life mission to make everyone else’s lives hell.
But why Cameron would ask her makes no sense. Valerie is athletic, unusually tall with bandy legs and pimply skin. There is no way Cameron would ever consider her worth his flirtatious time.
“Why would he choose that bitch?” snaps Ray. She’s clearly still bitter since their throw down in the corridor in Ray’s 5th year. Hair had been pulled, teeth knocked out. It wasn't pretty.
“I don’t know!” Lexie wails, “He just came up to me this morning at breakfast, and cool as cucmber just said it wasn’t working out.”
“He’s an idiot,” I murmur soothingly, although privately I'm seething. How can Cameron be such a class-A douche bag? Honestly, for a guy who claims to have a way with the ladies, he’s pretty clueless when it comes to a girl he actually likes.
“My brother is such a git,” Ray mutters.
“Agreed,” I reply. My fingers itch, hoping to grapple with Cameron’s throat.
“I think I’ll have a word with him,” Ray says menacingly.
“No!” Lexie cries, looking alarmed, “You have to promise not to say anything! I-I don’t want him to know I’m upset.”
Ray stares at her, coming to a sudden realization. She then looks exasperated, clasping her hand to her forehead and sighing.
“Oh god. You like him.”
Lexie hangs her head in shame, “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Ray sighs, “Lots of people have fallen for Cameron’s so-called charms. Just know, he flirts with everyone.”
“I know,” Lexie mutters.
“It’s very easy to fall under his spell,” Ray warns, “Whatever feelings you’re feeling-”
“I know, I know,” Lexie cries, “Okay? I’m just as stupid as every other bimbo here. I like him, and I wish I didn’t.”
It’s like she’s reading my mind.
“Okay,” Rose says, emerging from the bathroom, “I have to go! James will kill us if we’re late for the match.”
The mention of James sends my stomach into another round of turmoil. Ever since I had nearly kissed him, or he had nearly kissed me, I’ve done everything in my power to avoid him. How the tables have turned. Now whenever we spot each other at the end of a distant corridor, it’s me who runs away, not him.
“Good luck,” I say to Rose. She’s already dressed in her scarlet quidditch robes. I remember that I have an identical set hanging in my wardrobe.
“Are you sad you aren’t a part of it?” Rose asks me tentatively.
“I don’t know anymore,” I reply.
It has been several days since my night time flight, and I’ve turned over my feelings in my mind again and again. I loved it, there’s no way around it, I had never felt more alive, or more free.
“I’ll see you guys down there,” Rose grins.
We all wish her good luck, and I feel increasingly nervous. I realize that I’ll be down there, and he’ll be down there.
And I won’t be able to run this time.
* * *
“Is there something wrong with you?” Ray asks me, frowning curiously, “You’re all…twitchy.”
“What? No I’m not!” I flinch at the sounds of cheering coming from all directions. Everyone is already sat in the stands, screaming and flying their banners. Tensions are running high, the way they always are at a Gryffindor versus Slytherin match. “Can we just go and sit down there?”
I point towards a low corner of the stands, completely out of sight of someone high in the air.
“Don’t you want somewhere with a better view?” Ray scans the crowd, looking for a spot in a higher location.
“No,” I mutter, “We should keep out of sight.”
“Okay,” Ray frowns even more darkly, “We’ll sit here then.”
We take our seats, and I glance a few times over my shoulder, but James is nowhere to be seen. He’s probably giving his team last minute tactics.
If anyone thinks James is stressed during normal quidditch practices, then they haven’t seen him before a match, and, more importantly, a match against his younger brother.
I would hate to be anywhere near him right now, even if I hadn’t almost planted one on him.
“Pssst!” come a whisper from behind me. I glance around, frowning when the noise comes again, “Psst! Stella!”
I catch a glimpse of a blonde ponytail, a flash of gold and scarlet robes.
I frown and get up from the stands, muttering to Ray, “I have to go and check something.”
“What?” she looks confused.
I ignore her protests and get down from the stands. Behind the rows of seats stands Eve, looking absolutely petrified.
“Eve?” I stare at her.
“Stella,” she whispers, “You have to help me.”
“I’m scared!” she hisses, “I’m not ready. I’ve been practicing as much as I can, but I’m worried that once I get up there I’m going to seize up!”
“Okay,” I put both hands on either side of her, “Keep calm. Breathe.”
She lets out a shaky breath, “But-“
“You’ll be fine,” I interrupt her, “Just think about something, anything that will distract you from the fear.”
“O-okay,” she sighs. She looks at me with concern suddenly, “You didn’t…mention it to anyone, did you?”
“Of course not,” I reply.
She breathes a sigh of relief, and smiles at me, “I knew you wouldn’t have. Merlin, Stella you’re such a good friend.”
“Sure,” I mutter.
“No, really,” she insists, “You are such-“
“Oi! Collins! Get in here, last pep talk!”
I feel a shiver run through my body as I recognize his voice. Eve looks towards the changing rooms, and I releuctantly turn with her.
James is leaning out of the door, staring at both of us with his typical frown on his face. His perfect face. His perfect face that I could have snogged senseless.
God why am I such an idiot?
James goes back inside, slamming the door behind him. I wonder if he’s angry with me. He’ll probably go into defensive, saying things like 'I don’t care, whatever, nothing happened' mode, and I’ll be left wondering how I could have gotten it into my head that we might have kissed.
“Come with me,” Eve says imploringly, “I can’t face him alone.”
What are you, five? It’s James for crying out loud.
Okay fine, I’m absolutely scared shitless of him too, but, to be fair, Eve didn’t chicken out when she had the chance to snog him.
I glance quickly at Eve. I wonder if she fancies him. I wonder if she ever had the chance to kiss him. She’d probably take it, because she’s not a moron.
“Are you sure you need me there?” I ask Eve uncomfortably.
“Oh god, I’m so insensitive,” Eve clasps a hand to her forehead, “Of course you don’t want to go in there. It’s the first match that you’re not a part of.”
Gee, thanks for rubbing it in. I’m suddenly reminded of the exhilarating feeling I had when I flew last week. It was unlike anything else, and I knew I had to try it again. Maybe I should be on the quidditch team. For a second I feel a wave of jealousy towards Eve rush over me.
“I could go in there if you really need me to,” I reply, “For moral support.”
...OK, and to identify James’ feelings. Maybe he’ll be so angry that he’ll yell at me in front of everyone. Maybe he’ll try and embarrass me to show me he doesn’t care. Either way, my curiosity to find out what’s going on inside his head overrides my common sense.
“Are you sure?” Eve says as we walk towards the changing rooms together, “I mean, I don’t want to pressure you.”
“I’ll be fine, Eve,” I lie to her, “Believe me, my quidditch days are truly behind me.”
We walk into the changing room together, to see the rest of the Gryffindor quidditch team looking nervous and on edge. James stands at the front, both hands behind his back in a way that makes him look even more like a leader.
“OK, team,” he says, “Just one thing before we go out onto the field.”
His eyes travel across every face. They even look at me for a brief fraction of a second, then they look away.
“If any of you have any problems about going out onto the field today,” he begins, “You should speak up now. Better that than you play and we lose the game because of your incompetence. So if anyone feels they aren’t ready to play, talk. I have substitutes lined up. They would kill for a spot on this team. But I’ve given it to you, the best of the best. Don’t screw up this opportunity, and our chances at the cup, by telling me you’re ready, when you’re not. So if anyone has anything to say, say it now.”
There’s silence. I look pointedly at Eve, but she keeps her face calm and unemotional. Wow, she must really want to play.
“Let's put it this way," James says, "If you say something now, I won't kick you off the team. If you wait until we've lost the match to tell me that you've had tonsillitis for two weeks and you're off your game, there will be no second chances. Do I make myself clear?"
Fred chuckles, “Honestly, Jamesie, who would want to miss out on the quidditch game of the year?”
“For the last time, Fred, my name is not Jamesie,” James snaps, and everyone can tell he means business.
“Sorry, mate,” Fred mutters, “Of course we’re all ready. Anyone stupid enough to join this team would never be stupid enough to miss a game like this.”
“Thanks, Fred,” James says through gritted teeth.
“What are you doing here?” Rose whispers in my ear very suddenly.
“Eve needs me for moral support,” I murmur.
“What? Why?” Rose frowns.
“Just…don’t ask,” I say.
James sizes up his team. He paces the room back and forth, runs a hand through his hair, and then stops to look at us again.
God why is he so fit? It’s like the universe decided to make him even fitter after I ran away from him, just to make me realize that not jumping his bones was the worst decision I’ve ever made.
“Are we ready to go and kick some Slytherin arse?” he shouts at the team.
They all yell in an uproar.
“Good, let’s go out there then,” he says, leading the charge out of the changing room. I stand to one side, and let them all go out as a team.
Another pang of jealousy hits me in the chest, much harder than I expect. Suddenly I want to be out there on the field with them, kicking slytherin arse, and watching the whole school cheer me on.
Before quidditch games use to be like a sort of personal hell for me. I would sit there, terrified of falling, the noise of the shrieking crowd echoing in my head, making it pound. But that night with James has changed everything.
James marches right past me, barely acknowledging my presence, before running out of the changing room and out onto the field to tumultuous applause. The rest of the team charge out after him, looking excited and full of life.
Eve passes me, gives me a hug, a tremulous grin on her face.
“Good luck out there,” I smile.
“Thanks,” she says shakily.
I’m nervous for her. She’s as white as a sheet, and looks absolutely terrified.
I follow her out of the changing rooms, but not before grabbing the back of Cameron's collar and slamming him with all of my might against the wall.
"What the hell, Artois?" he squirms out of my grip.
"You dumped Lexie!" I hiss at him.
"What? We never went out!" he stares at me in confusion.
"I meant you found a new tutor, and just told Lexie to get lost!" I say through gritted teeth, finding it hard to control my anger.
"I can't have her around me, okay?" he hisses, "She's distracting!"
"How is she distracting? She's a good tutor!"
Cameron looks desperate as he whines, "She's just…so pretty, and she smiles too much. She smells nice. "
"She smells nice?" I smack him on the side of the head, "What is wrong with you? Pull yourself together!"
"I did! I got rid of her! Now she can't distract me!" He looks ecstatic, as though he's just found the bloody cure for cancer.
I smack him on the head again, "Not that way, you idiot! You're supposed to go out with her!"
He frowns, as though the idea has never even occurred to him before, "What? Go out with her? Why?"
"So that you can be together! You're supposed to be together!"
He folds his arms, "Why do you get to decide everything?"
"Cameron, in the name of Merlin's polka-dot socks, pull your head out of your arse and realize that you like her, and she likes you. I can't think of any reason why you shouldn't be with her."
"How about Cameron Mitchell doesn't date? Cameron Mitchell isn't a one-woman man? Cameron Mitchell-"
"-needs to stop talking in the third person, or I'm going to smack him again."
He flinches, "Please don't."
I sigh, "Why not ask her out? Do you still want to be with other girls?"
He shrugs sulkily, "Not really. Now they all seem kind of…shallow and…fake."
"And yet you still don't want to be in a monogamous relationship with Lexie? She's clever and genuine. I mean sure, she's shy and she's never really dated, but-"
Cameron smirks arrogantly, "I'm a little out of her league, don't you think?"
"If that's the league of girls who require a date before they shag you," I glare at him, "Now stop being an idiot for once and go and be happy with her."
"How do you know she'll make me happy?" Cameron points out, "When I'm around her all I am is insecure and nervous and twitchy and-"
"You know what? Fine!" I snap, "Be an idiot. But you owe her an apology for replacing her with Valerie Stevens, at least. Valerie Stevens? That's an insult even if Lexie didn't fancy you."
"Hey! At least with Valerie Stevens I won't get distracted by her pretty black hair, or her neck or her-"
"Wow," I grin mercilessly at him, "You really are a goner."
"Shut up, I am not," he insists.
"You so are."
"I'm not," he repeats, "I have a quidditch game to win, excuse me."
He pushes past me, broom in hand, and walks out onto the field.
I follow behind him and take my seat next to Ray in the stands.
“Oh, there you are,” Ray says to me, “Where did you go?”
“Nowhere,” I mutter, keeping my eyes fixed on Eve as she picks up her broom and stands with the rest of the team.
Archer gives Roxanne a quick kiss, he squeezes he hand, and Fred glares bloody murder at the pair of them.
The Slytherins approach the center of the field, Al in the lead, looking nervous. Ray's clear blue eyes follow him keenly, and she bites her lip nervously.
“It wouldn’t be so terrible if Al won, would it?” Ray asks me slowly, “I mean, I know I’m in Gryffindor, and you’re not supposed to cheer for the Slytherins. We’re supposed to hate them. In fact, I made a rule not to talk to Slytherins. They’re nothing but trouble. All they do is lie, and cheat and we’re better off without them.”
“OK,” I mutter, frowning at Ray, who seems to have gone bright pink.
“But I mean, Al is, well, that is to say he’s different. Different from all the other…slytherins. It wouldn’t be so bad to want…to cheer for him. I know he's your ex-boyfriend, and all…but even you said that he's a good guy.”
“Sure,” I reply, "He is."
"He's a really, really great guy," she reiterates.
"Sure," I repeat slowly.
Ray shuts her mouth, keeping her head down to avoid me seeing the blush that is quickly creeping up her cheekbones. I smirk just a little to myself. But then, once I realize what that blush means, my jaw drops.
Albus’ crazy plan actually worked. Bloody hell, she likes him. He tamed the wild beast that is Ray Mitchell.
I almost burst out laughing, but Madame Hooch distracts me by asking the captains to shake hands. James and Albus nod curtly at one another, and shake hands in a friendly, but unaffectionate way.
"Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen," says the commentator, "Welcome to the game everyone's been waiting for: the first match of the season: Slytherin versus Gryffindor!"
The crowd cheers in approval. Across the pitch the green mass that is the Slytherin supporters all wave their banners excitedly. The Gryffindors on our side respond with cheers and screams.
"Now one of the reasons we're all so excited to watch this match, is because we've got the famous Potter brothers going head to head for the first time. James Potter has put together a fantastic team, even though Stella Wood, who's been keeper for three years recently quit. Newcomer Eve Collins should be interesting to watch."
My eyes flicker immediately to Eve, who looks nervous as she looks around at the crowd.
Madame Hooch blows her whistle and everyone kicks off. Eve zooms off towards the goalposts.
"Isn't it weird that you two are friends?" Ray asks me.
"No," I lie.
"But she took your place. Isn't there a part of you that hates her?"
"Not really," I reply, "She's really nice."
"So?" Ray frowns, "Don't you want your spot on the team back?"
"I…" I pause, "I don't know. But I don't hate her."
"Okay," she replies with uncertainty, "If you say so."
The commentator interrupts our conversation with a yell, "AND THEY'RE OFF! The quaffle has been released, and Slytherin is in possession! Hendricks passes to Thomas! Thomas to Ackerly! Ackerly zooms towards the goalposts, and SHE SCORES! A GOAL THIS SOON IN THE GAME! First goal of the day goes to Slytherin."
I feel increasingly uneasy. Eve obviously flinches as the ball passes back over her shoulder and into the hands of the chasers. James, not far off, looks angry with her. I swallow hard because it's clear that Eve's prediction that she would freeze once she got up there is quickly coming true.
"Gryffindor in possession! Captain James Potter has the quaffle! He passes to Weasley! Weasley passes to Mitchell! Mitchell drops it!"
The crowd around us gasps as Cameron lets the quaffle slip through his fingers.
"Nice one, brother," Ray mutters, "Shame Lexie isn't here to see this. Maybe it would convince her that Cameron isn't perfect."
"Trust me, she knows," I reply, "It's one of the reasons she feels so crappy about it."
Cameron, looking surprised, shakes himself and gets back into the messy race for the quaffle.
"Ackerly in possession of the quaffle again! AND SHE SCORES AGAIN! 20-nil to Slytherin!"
The Slytherin crowd is going wild, cheering and screaming. Ackerly pumps her fist at them. Eve begins to look very depressed as she hovers above her goal posts.
"Come on, Eve," I mutter, as the Gryffindors around us begin to look more and more despondent.
"Collins is really off her game," the commentator says, "Then again, we don't know if she had any in the first place."
I grit my teeth. This commentator really isn't helping anything. I notice Eve's face slowly turn a very pale shade of green.
"She looks ill," Ray says, "Does she even know how to catch a ball?"
"And Collins misses a spectacular goal from Hendricks of Slytherin! 30-nil to Slytherin!"
I'm beginning to doubt if Eve has ever caught a ball in her life. Even that shot had been simple to catch. It had flown past her arm, and she hadn't even put it out to try and stop it.
The crowd is making everything worse. The cheering Slytherins and the despondent Gryffindors are all giving Eve a serious case of stage fright.
"Merlin, look at James' face!" Ray chuckles.
Nervously I glance at James, who has his jaw set angrily.
And, even at a time like this, all I can think about it why he didn't even say anything to me in the changing room. Does he really care so little? He probably kisses lots of girls on the quidditch pitch. Maybe I was just going to be another notch in his bedpost.
Or maybe he's embarrassed. The lump in my throat becomes even more prominent when I contemplate that possibility.
My head begins to hurt with the confusion of it all.
"Gryffindor really need to step up their game!" The commentator continues.
James hears this and, with a fierce determinism, grabs the free-floating quaffle out of the air, and zooms towards the goal posts at the other end of the pitch.
"And Potter is off! He's flying quickly towards Osbourne, the Slytherin keeper! And YES! He scores! 30 -10 to Slytherin!"
The Gryffindor supporters begin to pick themselves up, looking more hopefully into the sky, as they cheer for James
"Maybe there is some hope for these Gryffindors after all," The commentator remarks, "That is if Collins get's her act together."
But Eve doesn't look ready to get her act together any time soon. She looks ready to be sick, and when she misses her fourth goal, making the Slytherins go into a cheering frenzy, she looks ready to faint.
"40 - 10 to Slytherin!" The commentator cries, "What was Potter thinking when he let this one on the team?"
This is slowly turning into Eve's worst nightmare.
But before I can think anymore, the commentator is already yelling through the microphone again, "Rose Weasley grabs the quaffle! Look at her go! She passes it to Mitchell! Thankfully he doesn't drop it this time! He passes back to Weasley! WAIT! WHAT ON EARTH ARE THE GRYFFINDOR BEATERS DOING? LOOK OUT WEASLEY!"
Rose ducks, and just in time. A heavy-looking bludger flies past her head, and it seems to have been hit by Archer Daniel's own bat.
But he wasn't aiming at Rose. Behind her is Fred, who, an absolutely furious look on his face, swings his bat and knocks the bludger back at Archer. They fly along the pitch, hitting the bludger back and forth between them, each trying to knock each other off their broom.
"The Gryffindor beaters have gone rogue!" The commentator screams excitedly, "They're actually hitting it at each other!"
From her perch above the rest of the players, Roxanne is screaming bloody murder at both of them.
"Something must have gone down before today's match," Ray says to me, frowning curiously at Fred, who whacks the bludger straight towards Archer's face.
"Mmm," I mutter, remembering Roxanne and Archer's kiss, and Fred's infuriated glare.
Wow, Fred must be angrier than I thought. He looks absolutely furious, livid with anger. Archer looks angry too, but less so when the bludger comes within inches of his ear.
"Captain James Potter tries to get between them!" continues the commentator.
James is now trying to wrestle the bat out of Fred's grip, and the two of them almost collide with the bludger. The crowd gasps and shrieks with every lurch.
Madame Hooch blows her whistle over and over again, until James and Fred finally break apart, and Fred lowers his bat.
It is only then that everyone realizes that Scorpius Malfoy is falling through the sky at a rate that makes everyone scream with horror. The bludger that blasted his broom apart and knocked him off flies away, and the broom fragments sink to the ground. His beaters bat spins in the air alongside him.
Professor McGonagall lifts out her wand, quick as lightening, and when Scorpius collides with the earth, it is like a soft mattress, ballooning out with the force of Scorpius' weight. But when he rolls over, he is clearly unconscious.
The Slytherins fly to the ground to see what has become of their beater. Madame Pomfrey has already hurried onto the field, and conjured a stretcher for the out-cold Scorpius to lie on.
The rest of the crowd has gone wild, standing up and peering over the sides for a better look. Being in the bottom row of the stands, Ray and I have a prime spot.
Albus looks absolutely furious, and runs towards Madame Hooch, who has landed beside Madame Pomfrey to examine Scorpius.
She shakes her head at him, and he looks outraged.
"I think he wants Fred to be disqualified," I murmur.
"But he can't be," Ray says, "He hit Scorpius, whether he was aiming for Archer or not. Nothing in the rule book about that. Fred was just doing his job."
James lands beside the Slytherin team, and speaks to Madame Hooch in a low voice. Albus shoots him a glare, before returning to Scorpius, still spread eagled on the stretcher.
Suddenly Rose is beside him, easily noticeable in her red robes among a sea of green. She kneels beside the stretcher, looking absolutely terrified. She shakes his arm, then his shoulders. Madame Pomfrey, however, manages to calm her down.
I wonder if Rose is starting to reconsider her plan to never speak to Scorpius again.
"The Gryffindor captain has asked the referee for a brief pause," the commentator says, "Maybe he can use the break to sort out the problems within his own team."
The rest of the players sink to the ground, and I realize I have never seen James looking more livid.
Once she's down on the ground, Eve looks shaken, nervous as all the Gryffindors stare back at her with unforgiving expressions.
"I just want to make sure she's OK," I mutter to Ray, and I stand up.
Ray raises her eyebrow at me, as the Gryffindor team file past the stands towards the changing rooms.
As Scorpius' stretcher floats alongside Madame Pomfrey, who leads him up to the castle, I climb down from the stands and follow them into the changing room.
Eve is inside, looking slightly ill. She, along with the rest of the team, is completely silent, while James paces back and forth, clasping and un-clasping his hands in fury.
Eve catches my eye, shakes her head at me, and looks away, clearly embarrassed and ready to meet James' tidal wave of anger.
We stand in silence, and the tension becomes almost palpable.
"WHAT THE FLIPPING FUCK WAS THAT?" James roars suddenly, making everyone jump.
"We just knocked out a Slytherin beater, you should be thanking us." Fred mutters stubbornly.
"NO, I MEAN WHY ARE YOU AND ARCHER WHACKING THE FUCKING BLUDGER AT ONE ANOTHER?"
Fred glares at Archer, and then points at Roxanne "James, you don't know what he did! He kissed her! Right before we kicked off! What was I supposed to do mate?"
"Don't call me mate!" James roars at him, "Not when you nearly got yourself disqualified in the most important game of the season!"
"You're supposed to act like a grownup, Fred!" Roxanne snaps, "Not like the childish git you are!"
"Oh I'm childish?" Fred says, "I'm not the one who feels the need to stick my tongue down someone's throat in front of the whole school. What will people think, Rox?"
Roxanne looks furious as she shrieks, "Better than doing it with a thousand girls in a cramped broom cupboard, you hypocrite!"
Fred shakes his head, "You're not allowed to date him, Roxy."
Archer looks furious, "Says who?"
"Says her older brother who still has no problem with kicking your arse," Fred yells at him.
"EVERYBODY SHUT UP OR YOU'RE ALL OFF THE TEAM!" James roars above them all.
Fred, Roxanne and Archer all fall silent.
James takes a deep breath and calms himself, although he continues to tremble like a leaf. "New rule," he says “No dating amongst teammates.”
Roxanne and Archer are both staring open mouthed at James. Fred looks very pleased.
“What?” Roxanne shrieks, “You can’t do that!”
“I can,” James says, “And I just did. This team functioned perfectly well until we found out about you two. So I’m putting a stop to it.”
“The only problem was that Fred chose this moment to be the annoying, pain in the ass older brother,” Roxanne snaps, “This is Fred’s issue, no one else’s.”
“It is for anyone who has to look at you two,” Fred snaps
"Okay!" James barks, and everyone falls silent, "You two are no longer a couple. Happy, Fred?"
"Ecstatic," Fred says.
"Well wipe the smile off your face because as soon as this game is over, you're on probation."
Fred frowns, and points a finger at Archer, "He started it!"
"He didn't hit the first bludger!" James shouts, his anger boiling to the surface again.
"He made out with my sister!"
"And you should have known better than to try to ruin this game," James snaps, "Right, no more shit from any of you, are we clear?"
"Yes," they all mutter sullenly.
"Then go back out there a play like you're actually good at this sport," he mutters.
They all file out quietly.
"Oh, and Collins," James calls out to her, "Get your act together."
"Yes, sorry," she says shakily.
I give her a little thumbs up as she leaves the changing room. She replies with a nervous smile.
And then I'm alone in the changing room with him.
He hasn't realized that I'm still there yet. Standing silently for a second, he suddenly rips off his gloves and throws them in anger at the opposite wall. The motion makes me gasp.
He turns at the sound and his gaze darkens, "What are you doing in here, Wood?"
"I…er," It's the first time he's spoken to me since that night, and I almost have no idea what to say. "Um…I just wanted to see if Eve was OK. But she seems alright so-"
"She's not," James snaps, "She's fucking everything up."
"Calm down," I say to him.
"I will not!" He snaps, "I've spent two years building this team up. I won't have it messed up, by Roxanne's hormones, or Fred's anger issues, or Eve's incompetence!"
"It was fine until you quit," he mutters, so angry he can barely look at me, "You messed with the balance."
Instead of getting angry, like I usually would, I find myself strangely calm, "You really care about this game, don't you?"
"Good observational skills," he snorts, "Next you'll be telling me crazy things like Professor McGonagall looks a lot like that tabby cat that wonders around school!"
I ignore the sarcasm in his voice, "Eve is completely capable of helping you win this."
He frowns at me, looking confused, "Why do you care so much about her?"
"She's nice," is the only reply I can give, because I can't really explain it.
James ruffles the back of his head, making his hair stand up. Something in my stomach twists even tighter than before. Ugh, stupid hormones.
He picks up his broom where he dropped it on the ground, and says, "Okay, I'm going back onto the pitch."
He bends down, grabs his gloves and walks towards the door, which stands directly behind me.
Without even thinking, I blurt out, "I want to talk about what almost happened on the quidditch pitch the other night."
Oh God, did I say that out loud?
I wish there were devices that could filter your thoughts so that when they come out of your mouth they sound intelligent and logical, rather than desperate and embarrassing...like now. I would totally invest in one of those.
"Your timing isn't great, Wood," James mutters, "I have to go back onto the pitch now."
"It just…I feel...we shouldn't…maybe we should forget it happened."
No, the voice in my head screams, I don't want to forget. I want to repeat it, and this time I won't screw it up and run away.
James frowns at me, "Fine, don't bring it up if you just want to forget about it."
"Right, OK, makes sense," I stammer.
He nods curtly at me, before trying to move past me towards the door.
But something inside me makes me push in front of him. He stops in his tracks and stares at me.
I open my mouth, "It's not that- I mean, I don't want you to think…argghh!"
Merlin's beard he probably thinks I'm a raving lunatic. I can't even string words together anymore.
"Is there something wrong with you?" James stares at me, looking concerned.
"I just…don't know what to say," I mutter. My ability to use proper words has failed me.
James nods again, "Good, then don't say anything."
He walks past me yet again, but I put myself between him and the door to stop him from leaving.
What the hell is wrong with me?
"What the hell is wrong with you, Wood?"
I don't give him an answer.
Instead I grab his face and kiss him. Once. Hard. Unapologetic.
I let go and take a step back.
He stares at me, and for a moment I think that he must be paralyzed.
Time stands still. The roaring and cheering outside is muted, and all I can hear is a rushing noise in my ears, howling with anticipation.
Blood is thumping in my chest at a rate that I'm sure will give me a heart attack.
James' face is frozen, his eyes still staring and mad with confusion.
For a split second I think he's about to push past me again.
Then the split second is over and he mutters, "Merlin's beard, Wood. You have really shit timing."
He drops his broom with a crash. He pushes me up against the back of the door with a heavy thud that knocks any remaining air out of my lungs.
And before I know it he's kissing me.
He kisses me hungrily, almost as though he's dying of starvation. It's rough and imperfect and wrong, but I only want more.
Every hair on my body seems to tingle as we press together, as close as possible, but it never seems to be close enough. He pulls on the back of my neck. I grab the collar of his robes. He pushes me even further into the door, but nothing could hurt me. He wraps an arm around my waist and I arch into him. He only presses his lips even harder on mine, and the whole thing becomes almost desperate in our yearning for each other.
Every thought I've ever had becomes hazy, distant. All that matters is that this is becoming more intense, more electric by the second, and I'm not doing anything to slow it down.
Our hands never stop moving. Mine run over his shoulders, then his arms, then his chest, then his neck, his hair. His have a firm grip on my hips, constantly pulling me in further, anything to stop me from leaving, but when it's clear that I'm not going anywhere his hands move over my spine, up to my hair, and finally back to where he started, cupping my face in his hands so tenderly as though it's the most precious thing he's ever had.
I kiss him back ravenously. The heavy heat that this is sparking in me is uncontrollable, and no amount of this will ever quench my thirst for him. In this moment I've never been more sure that I've never wanted someone so much. I can't stop. I'll never want to stop. My head is spinning.
Everything is intertwined. We're almost wrestling with each other, trying to get as much out of each other as possible. Nothing about this is gentle. It's fierce, rough and needy, the heat in my stomach building and building until I'm sure I'll spontaneously combust. We're wrapped around each other until it becomes a hot, tangled mess.
Suddenly the door jerks behind me, sending a shock through my whole body, and a banging noise reaches my ears.
"Someone's trying to get in," I mutter against his lips, barely able to think coherently.
"I. Don't. Care," he growls, before kissing me even more deeply.
But then the door handle begins to snap up and down, making it impossible for me to concentrate on anything. The noise penetrates my snog-addled brain, and I'm forced to come up for air once again.
"Hey!" comes Fred's voice, "Why won't the door open?"
"Don't know," now it's Cameron's voice.
"Shit, my broom is still in there. I'll have to blast the door open!"
I react almost immediately, taking my hands from around James' neck and pushing his shoulders away from me. He stumbles backwards slightly, his hair completely askew, his lips bruised and swollen, and his eyes burning.
I take a few seconds to catch my breath, completely frozen, staring at him, before calling through the door, "Hang on!"
I open the door, to reveal Fred holding out his wand.
"Why wouldn't the door open?" he asks me curiously. He spots James over my shoulder, "Why are you two still in here?"
"I…" I pause, my brain still hazy, "We…"
"I couldn't find my gloves," James interjects, "Wood was just helping me find them."
Well at least one of our brains is working.
"Why wouldn't the door open though?" Fred frowns curiously at the pair of us. I lower my head, just in case Fred notices how out of place my hair is, or how we're both completely flushed.
"The gloves were wedged under the door!" I reply, a little too quickly, "We couldn't find them until five seconds ago!"
"OK," Fred says slowly, although he still looks suspicious. I pray that this won't be one of those moments when Fred actually uses his brain, "Can I go and get my broom please?"
"Yes!" I exclaim, walking outside to leave space for him to enter into the changing room.
Looking back a couple of times, I see James staring out at me, complete shock on his face. As though he can hardly believe what he's done.
I stumble away, almost unable to tell where I'm going, my brain is so hazy.
Did I just snog James Potter?
Shit. Shit. Shit.
Behind the changing rooms I lean against the wall and take a few deep breaths, and slowly my heartbeat stops pounding.
Shit. That was amazing.
Suddenly the sound of retching comes to my ears, and I glance around to see where the sound has come from.
Following the sound I come across Eve, bent over, one hand on the changing room wall, one hand on her stomach, and vomiting heavily onto the ground.
I swear loudly, and come rushing to her side. I put my hands on her shoulders, and scrape her beautiful, blonde hair away from her cold, shivering face.
When she's done she coughs once or twice, and leans back onto the changing room wall, her face as white as a sheet, and covered with sweat.
"Sorry," she whispers hoarsely.
I gape at her, "Don't apologize! You know you can't go back out there, right?!"
"I can!" she says, "I'm fine!"
"Merlin's beard, don't be stupid," I snap, "James will understand."
"No he won't," Eve utters, "You heard him, if we didn't tell him at the beginning of the game, and something was wrong, we'd be off the team."
"And would that be so terrible?" I ask her incredulously.
"I need to be on the team, Stella," she says, "I love quidditch."
"Not if it makes you puke your guts out!" I exclaim, "Listen, you need to tell James now, or I will."
"No, please!" she says, "Don't!"
"As his teammate you owe him that," I say, "He needs to know that you're scared of the quaffle. He needs to know that you've tried to work on it, but you still need time."
"What did you say, Wood?"
My blood runs cold when I realize that that question didn't come from Eve's lips. It came from behind us.
Turning around I see James. His eyes flicker from me, to the pale, sickly Eve, then back to me again.
"You're scared of the quaffle?" he says to Eve, repeating my words in a slow, quiet voice, "You didn't think to mention that before you tried out for the part?"
Eve looks at him like a deer caught in the headlights. She pushes her hair out of her face, and looks down at the ground without giving him an answer.
"Potter, she needs help," I tell him desperately, "She needs support. She can work on the fear, it's just the crowds that make it so much worse."
His eyes flicker to mine, and for a split second I remember his skin on mine, his hands in my hair, his tongue on mine.
But the split second ends and he says to Eve coolly, "I said that you should speak to me before the game if you had any problems."
"I know," she says hoarsely, "I just…really wanted to play."
His face softens, and I wonder if he'll go easy on her. I know that he has a heart, somewhere, deep down. It might be buried under five meters of rubble, but I know he has one.
But suddenly he face hardens again and he says, "You're off the team, Collins."
He turns his back on us and walks away, leaving a painful silence in his wake.
I turn to Eve, poor, pale Eve, but instead of her friendly smile, all I can see is a cold disdain.
"Eve-" I begin.
"I thought we were friends," she says, and her voice is angrier than I expect.
"We…we are," I say hopelessly, "I didn't know he would come around the corner right at that moment!"
"Then why were you shouting like that, if you didn't think he'd hear? Friends don't break promises," she says, almost childishly.
And with that she turns on her heel and leaves in the opposite direction, running up towards the castle.
I stand there, staring at the rising quidditch stands, and wondering if Ray was right after all.
Maybe there is a part of me that hates Eve Collins.
A/N: This chapter ended up being longer than I'd first anticipated, hence why it took over two weeks to finish. But I hope you all enjoyed it!
Next chapter will feature: Drama, drama and more drama. Stella and James make a bet, Albus finally grows a pair and Rose questions how long her not-so-brilliant plan will last.
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