Chapter 4 : The Gryffindor Quidditch Team.
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During his first few days at Hogwarts, James hadn’t paid much attention to Albus, even at the times of the day, such as breakfast, when they did meet.
So he was slightly surprised when James stopped him after breakfast one morning.
“Is everything all right?” he asked.
Now that he looked closely, James did look a little pale.
“The try-outs are tomorrow. Six o’clock. Do you want to come and watch?”
“Yeah. Can Rose come too?”
James shrugged. “If she wants to, but she’s not that interested in Quidditch, is she?”
“No, but she’ll want to see you make the team.”
James grinned. “And I certainly intend to do so. I think I’m good enough.”
“Of course you are.”
“You can never be certain though. I know I’m a good player.” He smirked. “But it all depends how you perform on the day. And sometimes how the captain feels you’ll ‘fit’ with the team. That’s why impressing Brian was so important.”
“And do you think you did?” Albus couldn’t help being a little amused.
He shrugged. “I’m hoping Dominique will put in a good word for me. She knows how well I play.”
He was definitely regaining his confidence.
“And she knows I’m a team player,” he continued.
“Albus, you’ll be late,” Rose called across the Hall.
James rolled his eyes. “Better do as you’re told, little bro. But you’ll be there tomorrow?”
“I’ll be there. Good luck. Not that you’ll need it.”
He hurried across the Great Hall.
“What was that all about?” Rose asked.
“Gryffindor try-outs are tomorrow. James wanted to know if we’d like to watch him.”
She grinned. “I presume we are going.”
“Yeah. Well, unless you don’t want to.”
He really hoped she would. He didn’t fancy being the only first year Ravenclaw there.
She shrugged. “I think I can fit it in. We’re not getting that much homework yet, are we?”
He thought they were getting plenty, but he didn’t argue. He didn’t want her changing her mind. Besides, they’d reached their classroom and Professor Jones was about to begin.
Defence Against the Dark Arts wasn’t like Herbology or History of Magic, where you could often carry on with your conversation. The classes was far more intense and Professor Jones was quite strict about ensuring they all paid attention. Not that Albus minded. It was definitely his favourite class and Professor Jones was just as good as the older students had said, so he was usually far too interested to want to whisper anyway.
Herbology was interesting too, but a lot of the work was practical and unlike Professor Jones, Neville didn’t seem to mind if they chatted while they worked, so long as they paid attention when he was lecturing and didn’t get so lost in conversation that they lost track of the task in hand.
Albus was actually enjoying most of his classes, with the obvious exception of History of Magic. Professor Blackburn, like Neville, seemed fairly easy-going and in Charms, Professor Flitwick took a particular interest in the students of his own house, without actually favouring them. Slughorn was irritating, but he did at least try to make Potions fun. Not that he always succeeded, in Albus’s opinion.
The following day, however, even Defence Against the Dark Arts, seemed to drag. He couldn’t wait for the try-outs, anxious to see what the standard of Quidditch at Hogwarts was like and get an idea of whether he might possibly have a chance of making the Ravenclaw team the following year.
Not that he said that to Rose. She’d have pointed out that you couldn’t judge the standard of the Ravenclaw team by watching Gryffindor’s try-outs . He wasn’t sure he agreed. James said Gryffindor had only beaten Ravenclaw by thirty points in the Quidditch Cup the previous year, so the two teams had to be fairly evenly matched.
“Are you nearly ready?” he asked Rose, as she finished off a homework assignment that evening.
“Albus, it’s only half five. It is not going to take us half an hour to get to the pitch.”
“Actually, it’s nearly twenty to six and I know it won’t take that long, but you would want to start finishing up soon.”
“When have I ever been late for anything?”
It was actually a fair question. She was generally pathologically punctual.
He waited impatiently as she finished her work and put it neatly away.
“OK, I’m done.”
They’d barely entered the stand when Brian looked up and started towards them.
“Do you think we shouldn’t be here?” Albus whispered.
“What are you two doing here?” Brian asked.
Dominique hurried up after him.
“It’s OK. They’re my cousins. They’ve probably come to see James try out.”
“But they’re Ravenclaws. How do we know they’re not going to report back to their own team.”
Dominique laughed. “Brian, it’s a try-out. All we’ll be doing is choosing new players and the whole school will know who we choose soon enough. There’s really nothing for them to report. Besides, they’re first years. They only started last week. I very much doubt they even know who’s on the Ravenclaw team. Let them stay.”
He eyed them suspiciously. “Oh, all right.”
Albus felt like cheering. He’d have hated to have missed this. He’d a feeling though that cheering might make Brian change his mind, so he stayed quiet as Brian returned to the pitch and gathered all the potential players around him.
It looked as if a lot of people were trying out and there couldn’t be too many places.
Albus didn’t know exactly how try-outs worked. According to his dad some captains kept the team they’d had the previous year and just had people compete for any remaining places, whereas others had everybody compete to retain their place each year. Brian seemed to be keeping at least some of the old squad, as Dominique and another girl were standing beside him.
Brian clapped his hands for silence.
“Now, listen up everybody, because I’m only saying this once. We have four places going on the squad right now. Dominique and Catríona played so well last year, with Catríona catching the Snitch in virtually every match we played, that their places are secure. So we need a Beater, a Keeper and two Chasers.
In order to make the team, you need to be an accomplished flyer, so if you haven’t been on a broom since first year, I suggest you leave now. This does not, of course, count if you are only in second year now.”
A laugh went around the pitch.
“OK, please mount your brooms and I want each of you to fly around the pitch in turn. Susan, you start off.”
He continued gesturing to different students to take off. Afterwards, he would either nod and beckon them towards him or shake his head.
“Sorry. I’m afraid that standard isn’t good enough. We need people confident enough on a broom to focus entirely on the game. You’d be putting all your effort into remaining upright.”
A couple of students tried to argue with him, but he waved them away.
“My decision is final. Please leave the pitch.”
Albus was relieved to see his brother flew flawlessly and was beckoned to join the other possibilities back with the team.
However, only a small number had been eliminated yet. He still faced tough competition.
“I wonder are many of them trying out for Keeper?” he asked Rose.
She shrugged, keeping her eyes on the pitch, where a buzz of conversation had begun.
“SILENCE,” Brian shouted. “Now, I want all possible Chasers over here.”
Nearly half the remaining students seemed to step forward.
He divided them into groups of three.
“One, one, one. Two, two, two. Three, three, three. Four, four. OK, ones versus twos.” He released the Quaffle. “Begin.”
The potential Chasers glanced at one another for a moment.
Then a tall, blond boy grabbed the Quaffle and headed for a hoop.
The other team’s Chasers shot after him and a game began.
It was soon clear to Albus that at least two of those trying out were absolute no-hopers. The boy hadn’t got his hands on the Quaffle yet. Even when a teammate threw it right to him, he missed and it fell into the hands of a girl with a long dark plait, who seemed about the best of the players.
After about ten minutes, Brian called a halt. He didn’t comment on anybody’s performance, but sent the threes and fours onto the pitch. There were only two fours, so Dominique flew out to join them.
She was good. In Albus’s opinion, only one boy even approached her standard, but Brian allowed them continue playing as long as the first teams had. Then he gathered all the potential Chasers around him and announced that the long-haired girl and the boy who’d played so well against Dominique would join the team.
Some of the others left the pitch, but most retired to the stands to watch the other players being chosen
Brian called the Beaters forward and this time, divided them into two equal teams.
“I’m going to release the Bludgers now. Your aim is to keep them away from your team and knock them towards the other team. Begin.”
He released the Bludgers and the Beaters began batting them back and forth.
To Albus’s amusement, some of the players were even more useless than any of the potential Chasers. One ducked every time the Bludgers came anywhere near him and another just stared at them, as if expecting them to disappear of their own accord.
“That’s not funny, Albus. He could have been hurt.”
“It is when he’s trying out for the position of Beater.”
James had to be getting nervous. The turn of the Keepers had to be coming soon.
Eventually, Brian chose a Beater and gathered the Keepers around him.
“I’m afraid you guys are going to be trying out individually,” he said. “Let’s see how many goals each of you can save.”
Brian, Catríona and Dominique lined up and each took three turns at trying to score past the first candidate, before allowing her to step down and calling the next possibility.
James was fourth and saved every goal aimed at him.
Albus and Rose jumped up and down, cheering.
James flew towards them, both his thumbs in the air. He’d been the only one so far to save all nine goals.
“Well done, well done,” they called.
A blonde girl took her turn at the hoops , saving five goals. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine.
Albus turned to Rose.
“Did she get them all?”
Rose nodded tightly.
“We have a tie,” Brian called. “So I want James and Claire to approach the hoops again.”
Albus could see the tension on his brother’s face. He wanted this so badly.
“Rounds of three. I want you each to take a turn and we’ll each try to score past you. If you both save all three, we’ll do another round and so on until one of you wins. James, you first. Don’t worry. If you miss in a round, Claire will still have to get all three that round in order to beat you.”
The battle commenced. They went one round, two, without a goal passing either of them.
“They’re really good,” Albus muttered.
He wasn’t sure if Rose even heard him. Her eyes were fixed on the fierce competition taking place.
Claire was now taking her place at the hoops for the third time. James still hadn’t let a goal pass him.
She saved Dominique’s shot, then Catríona’s.
Brian aimed the Quaffle. She reached for it…and missed. It sailed past her, through the hoop.
Disappointment crossed her face and a look of jubilation crossed James’s.
Rose and Albus rushed down onto the pitch in time to see James and Claire shake hands.
“Hard luck,” James was saying. “It was awfully close.”
Claire forced a smile.
“Well done. You deserved it.”
Brian pushed past Albus and Rose to them.
“Well done, James. Welcome to the team. I’m really sorry Claire, but don’t give up hope. You played fantastically and I won’t forget that the next time we’re short a player. Quidditch injuries are common, as are badly timed detentions. Can you play any other positions?”
James, Albus and Rose moved a little aside to allow them continue their conversation.
“I did it!” James announced. “I am now officially the Gryffindor Keeper!”
“We noticed,” said Rose.
He was hardly listening.
“I can’t wait to write Mum. And Dad. They’ll be so pleased. You’ll have to make your team next year, Albus. Then all the Potters will have played for their house. Well, all those who’ve attended Hogwarts.”
“Mum and Dad won’t know who to cheer for when we play each other then.”
“Me, of course,” James said matter-of-factly. “They were both Gryffindors after all.”
“That doesn’t mean they’d favour you over Albus,” Rose put in hotly.
Dominique interrupted what looked like being a quarrel.
“Congrats, little cuz. Knew you’d make it. Although it was beginning to look touch and go, there, wasn’t it?”
“Yeah. Why couldn’t Claire have been trying out for another position? She was my only real competition.”
“Well, you’re in now. Come and meet the team.”
Rose and Albus glanced at one another uncertainly.
“Suppose there’s no point in us hanging around here any longer,” Rose said.
He’d have liked to remain for a while. The atmosphere was incredible. But James was busy meeting his new teammates and seemed to have forgotten them completely and everybody apart from the new Gryffindor team seemed to be melting away. It was time to go.
“Wasn’t that brilliant?” he said as they left the pitch. “I’m so glad James made the team. I can’t wait to try out next year. Such a pity first years can’t try out, but I suppose I wouldn’t have much hope yet anyway.”
He continued babbling as they crossed the grounds, not entirely sure Rose was even listening.
They entered the castle, where Slughorn appeared to be just leaving Blackburn’s office.
“Thank you for that, Horace.”
“Not a problem in the least, my dear lady.” His tone was slightly insincere.
Rose grabbed Albus and pulled him back behind a suit of armour. The corridor was narrow and Slughorn wasn’t exactly slender.
To Albus’s relief, he passed without appearing to notice them and they stepped out into the corridor.
Blackburn glared at them.
“What are you two doing here?”
“We were just coming back from the try-outs, Professor and it’s quicker to come this way,” Rose explained.
She eyed them suspiciously. “Isn’t it Gyffindor who are trying out this evening?”
“Yes, Professor, but…”
“Then you had no business being there. Detention, Saturday morning at eleven o’clock.”
She slammed back into her office.
Rose and Albus stared at each other in amazement.
Albus knew detentions were commonplace at Hogwarts. Last year James’d seemed to get about one a week, but he’d generally done something to earn them and admitted himself that most of them had been deserved. All they’d done was walk down a corridor. It wasn’t fair.
Rose was seething at the injustice of it.
“We didn’t even do anything. Just walked past her. She can’t give us detention for that.”
He shrugged. “She’s a teacher. I suppose she can do what she likes. But I thought she was going to be one of the nice ones.”
All the good had gone out of the day. He’d been so excited about James making the team, and now all he could think about was Saturday and what they’d have to do. James had once had to accompany Hagrid into the Forbidden Forest.
Albus shivered. He knew Hagrid wouldn’t let any harm come to them, but the thought of the Forest still scared him. And he didn’t even know they’d be with Hagrid. They might have to help Filch or something. That would be even worse.
He couldn’t admit he was nervous. Not even to Rose, who would never laugh at him. But the truth was, he kind of was. He was not looking forward to Saturday.
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