There weren’t enough people in the stands for Sally to hear them cheer, but the few that were left did breathe a huge sigh of relief that the lumbering fifth year was not on the team. While Sally looked too slight to be a proper Beater, it was obvious that she was at least a good flier.
Back on the ground, Sally’s knees felt like buckling. She couldn’t believe it. She was on the team- and not as a Seeker. James Potter managed to buckle the last Bludger into its case, and then walked over. He fished a piece of paper from his robes.
“These are our training times- three times in the week, and all Sunday afternoon. If you go see the Vice-Captain –that’s the Keeper, her name is Georgia- she’ll send off your Quidditch robes to get resized- and she’ll help you find the right bat as well.”
“You could use one of the school ones,” chipped in Sirius from behind, “except they are liable to explode into splinters when you hit something.”
“Thanks,” Sally said, still feeling shaky with disbelief. She checked her watch, and gasped. “Oh crap, I’m sorry but I need to be somewhere!”
She ran off without looking back at the team, but her mouth was split into a wide smile. Left behind on the field, Sirius Black looked at the captain. “Do you think she’ll be any good?”
“She’s better than Dodson, and that’s all I care about. I thought she’d get Seeker though, she’s better than she thinks.”
“What’s her name again?” Black asked.
“Wood. Sally Wood. Moony tutors her in Charms, you’ve seen her before,” James Potter said, watching the few dregs of the crowd disappear, leaving just his new team on the pitch.
But he shook his head. “I don’t remember. Come on, I need a shower.”
“I am so so sorry that I’m late, Professor,” Sally said, bursting into McGonagall’s office without knocking and collapsing into the chair on the opposite side of her desk. She dropped her satchel on the floor and pulled out her notebook and wand, pushing her soaking hair back from her face. McGonagall turned away from the window, raising her eyebrows at Sally.
“I went to the Quidditch try outs,” she continued, unable to stop herself from telling someone the news, “and I’ve got a place on the team! I’m a Beater!”
McGonagall waited for Sally to completely settle before seating herself down. “It’s none of my business, Sally, but do you really have enough time for the Quidditch team, as well as your work?”
A fleeting look of worry crossed Sally’s face, but she nodded, seemingly reassuring herself more than her teacher. “I’ve worked it all out,” she said, “and I’ve got enough time. I need to do something outside of school or I’m going to go mad, and I really want to play Quidditch. And I already know that I can’t be on the team next year.”
McGonagall smiled at her student. “As long as you’re sure. And in that case, congratulations are in order. Now, Miss Wood,” she said, switching instantly back to business, “shall we start with Vanishing Charms and then move onto a recap of the Transfiguration class so far this term?”
An hour later, Sally had finally mastered the Vanishing Charm, and McGonagall had also given her the syllabus for the rest of the term, so she could look up the spells and practice them in advance. As Sally shoved her papers into her bag, there was a knock on the door.
“One minute!” McGonagall called sharply. “You’ve really done well today, Miss Wood,” she told Sally in a much friendlier manner. In fact, Sally thought she saw a hint of a smile. “If you believe you can do it, the spells do come easier to you. And your new wand is definitely better for Transfiguration- your grandmother’s wand was too stiff.”
Sally smiled. “Thank you Professor,” she said, opening the door.
“Send Potter in!” she heard McGonagall call.
In the corridor outside, James Potter was leaning on the stone wall. “I heard her,” he said, grinning.
Sally tentatively smiled back. “Thanks for letting me on the team,” she said.
“Thanks for stepping up and taking the Beater position away from Dodson,” Potter said. “I’m glad you got in, and not him. What were you here for anyway? I hope you’re not in trouble in the first few weeks of term!”
Sally was taken aback by his manner. He was being so friendly, but he barely even knew her- she supposed it was because she was on the team now.
“No,” she said, trying to match his tone. “I’ve got extra sessions with McGonagall for Transfiguration.”
A look of comprehension dawned on James’ face. “Oh, of course.”
Sally half-smiled, ducking her head slightly in embarrassment. “I’ll see you around then,” he said with a wink, and disappeared into McGonagall’s office.
The door closed with a slam behind him, and Sally started the long walk back to the Gryffindor Tower. It was unusually warm for Scotland in late September, and the big empty stone corridor offered a welcome respite from McGonagall’s south-facing office, and she couldn’t keep a smile away from her mouth. This was easily the best morning she’d had in a while.
She took a detour, stopping off at the kitchens on the way- having an older brother did come in handy sometimes. She’d missed breakfast in order to have a quick practice in the air before try-outs, but the house-elves loaded her up with pastries and chocolate to celebrate. By the time she finally got to the Tower, just licking the last remnants of cinnamon off her fingers, she was horribly late for her Charms session with Lupin- but a tiny part of her didn’t really care.
“We can’t start until everyone is here,” James said, although he sounded slightly annoyed as well. Sirius Black was drumming his fingers against his thigh, the picture of impatience.
“Well, she should have been here ages ago.” Lupin was sat lazily at a round table near the centre of the nearly empty common room. The only other students there were the rest of the new Quidditch team, nervously perched on the arms of sofas or standing awkwardly on the edges of the room, unsure of what to expect of this impromptu new team meeting.
“Ugh, I can’t abide lateness,” said Black in a passable imitation of their Divination teacher, a Muggle born Oxford graduate with a plummy voice who thought he was ‘down with the kids’.
“You’re always late,” Lupin said, shooting a cheeky sideways look at Black.
“Moony, why are you even here? Shouldn’t you be terrorising small children or something?” Black started pacing the common room, hyped up with energy.
“Both of you, please shut up.” James sounded more than a little impatient at Sally’s absence.
“To be fair, she didn’t know she should be here,” Peter Pettigrew said, smoothing his hair back from his face in an attempt to catch the eye of Marlene McKinnon, the newest Chaser to the Gryffindor team.
“She should have been here quarter of an hour ago for me to help her with Charms,” Lupin said, watching Sirius walk past him again and again, still drumming his fingers. “What did McGonagall want you in her office for, anyway?”
“What did McGonagall want you in her office for?” Lupin repeated.
“Just Quidditch stuff. Balancing being Head Boy with Captain of the team, and work as well. All that kind of stuff,” James said, just as Sally finally clambered through the portrait hole, and Sirius walked past Lupin for the final time. Remus stuck his foot out at precisely the right moment, and Black tripped and fell, his arms wind-milling in a fruitless attempt to stay upright, and cracking his head on the edge of the table.
There was a moment of complete silence before Potter, Lupin and Pettigrew all burst out into raucous laughter.
“Er- is he okay?” Sally asked, dusting herself off, and pointing at the motionless Sirius Black on the floor. Pettigrew had gone tomato-red, and Lupin was managing to look pleased with himself while still holding his stomach from laughing so hard. James smacked Remus on the back, and knelt down next to his friend. Not really seeing the funny side, Sally couldn’t help but wonder if she was in the right place. Someone knocking themselves out on a table wasn’t that hilarious.
“Is he okay?” Sally repeated.
James gave Sirius a half-hearted kick in the side. He didn’t move. James shrugged. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. A more important matter is that you’re late for an unexpected team meeting.”
“How can I be late if I didn’t expect-” Sally started to say, but James had already turned to address the rest of the team.
Remus, who seemed slightly more concerned about his unconscious friend than James, pushed Sally into a seat. “Technically, you’re also late for our Charms session, but I’ll let you off today,” he said with a wink. “Considering the sudden team meeting and the fact you’re on the team. Well done for that, by the way. You were brilliant.”
Sally smiled shyly at him, and crossed her legs on the sofa, leaning forward.
“Okay,” began James, “first of all, I’m James Potter and as I’m also the Head Boy, training sessions are most often led by my wonderful vice-captain, Georgie Jones. She’s also the girl to see for your uniform to be resized and she’s good with helping us get discounts with other stuff and she organises basically everything.”
From across the room, lounging on a table, Georgia lazily waved at the rest of the team. “All James does is look pretty,” she said, and neatly caught the inkwell that James threw at her.
“We’ve got the first social of the team tonight, and we’re going to Hogsmeade, as per what you will come to find as usual. Only third-years and above allowed though, so be careful if you bring friends- as I think everyone here is above third year... Everyone needs to make sure they have enough sickles because me and Georgia aren’t allowed to buy ourselves drinks tonight, everyone else has to do it for us. All the newbies will get assigned an old guy... or gal, so don’t worry about anything really, but you have swear not to abandon your partner...” James trailed off. “I think that’s everything. Oh yeah, one more thing. We’re going to have the Slytherin captain watching a few of our training sessions.”
Georgia Jones swung her legs down from her table and stood up, crossing her arms. “Excuse me?” she said, in a voice like ice.
James held up his hands in a pathetic attempt to stem the anger from his team. “Trust me, it’s all above board and fine, he’s cleared it with me, he’s cleared it with practically everyone. Just... please fly your best, okay? I know how good you all are, just from today, so tomorrow when he comes to watch, please do your very best.”
On the floor, under the table, Sirius Black sat up, massaging his forehead, but nobody noticed- they were too focused on their captain and their own wrath.
“How could you-”
“What does this mean-”
“Why? I don’t understand-”
“Are you alright?” Sally said, seeing Sirius sit up uneasily, massaging the red mark on his forehead. “Black? Are you alright?”
He looked at Sally, finally focusing on her, and nodded, although he winced slightly as he did so. “I’m fine,” he said, trying to stand up.
Sally hopped off her chair and gave him a hand, and he grasped onto hers tightly. “Are you sure?”
He stood, and grimaced. “Got a banging headache, but I’m sure I’ll be fine. I’ve been hit harder than that.” He paused for a second, and seemed to regard Sally properly. “You know, Wood,” he continued, “seeing as we’ll be working together for the foreseeable future, I think we should probably get onto a first name basis.”
Sally was half-aware that Sirius Black was practically flirting with her, but the other half was watching James and the rest of the Gryffindor team with increasing concern.
“Sirius,” he said, holding out his hand to shake. Sally tore her gaze away from James and the rest of the team; she couldn’t help noticing that Sirius had a rough, calloused palm from the Beater’s bats. She smiled, half-shyly at him.
“Sally,” she told him, and he flashed her a quick smile in return.
Sirius looked at James, in the middle of the common room, being bombarded by angry teammates, and frowned. “Why is James being lynched?”
“He said that the Slytherin captain is going to be watching our practices,” Sally admitted after a moment.
Black’s eyebrows- Sirius’ eyebrows, Sally reminded herself- shot up. “The Slytherin captain will be doing what?” he said, his voice dangerously low.
Sally repeated herself, although she was pretty sure that Sirius had heard the first time. Leaving her, he stalked over to James, his face as black as thunder. Remus appeared at Sally’s elbow.
“To be honest, I’ve never really understood why people get so obsessed over Quidditch,” he mused. “It’s like Muggles and football.” He grinned at her suddenly, and then said “Just because I’ve forgiven you once for turning up late, doesn’t mean I’ll do it again! Where were you, anyway?” he asked.
Sally shrugged nonchalantly. “Just... walking. You know.”
Remus raised an eyebrow. “Fine, be secretive. I’ll see you tonight instead then- we’re meeting in on the third floor, the corridor with the hunchback statue, alright? Be there at seven-thirty.”
Sally nodded, and Remus, sighing, went to go separate James, Georgia and Sirius, who were having a shouting match about the Slytherins which was loud enough to scare Peeves.