Chapter 2 : Princess and Practice
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“Enough with the outfit check, Dom!” I said with a laugh.
Dom cracked a smile. “Sorry. It’s a habit.”
Not only is Dom girly and mildly addicted to gossip, but she’s super organized to the point of being a perfectionist. Handy around exams, but annoying the rest of the time. My running shorts don’t need to be organized by color, they just need to be in my trunk. It’s an odd mix of stylish clothes, color coded binders, and scolding rule breakers. Did I mention that she’s a Prefect as well?
Anyway, after Dom finished her outfit critique, I sped off to my first ever Quidditch practice! Unfortunately, Al Potter hadn’t told me the exact location of the practice, so I found myself blundering blindly through the locker rooms, hoping to find Madam Hooch, a person in Gryffindor Quidditch robes, or a giant, neon, light-up sign that could point me in the direction of my six new team members. Right when I was about to give up, go out to the pitch, and practice on my own; I spied a flash of scarlet Gryffindor Quidditch robes spinning around a corner at the other end of the corridor. Target, locked. I broke into a run.
“Hey! Wait up!” I called. The boy in the robes turned around.
“What?” he asked.
“I’m Ella Levine,” I panted, sticking out my hand to be polite, mostly because this guy had about a foot on me (which is saying something since I’m 5’6”), so I figured manners would be a good idea. “I’m the new Seeker.”
His brow furrowed in thought, trying to place me. Then it dawned on him. “Oh! You’re the little princess who turned that seventh year into a teapot! Nice spellwork. I’m Finn McClintock and I play Keeper on the team.” He turned my offered handshake into a one-sided fist-bumping, finger-snapping ordeal. Who was this kid?
“Lovely. I’m not a princess. Listen, I have absolutely no idea where practice is. Can you show me the way?”
“Of course! And for future reference, we go to one of the back meeting rooms to talk tactics, then outside to the pitch to put them into action.”
“Thank you!” I squealed (autocorrect: said excitedly. Squealing is for girly girls. I am not a girly girl). “Lead the way, Finn!”
By the time we reached the secret meeting room, the rest of the team was already in a deep conversation about tactics. I gulped. I hate being late. Being friends with Dom gets you accustomed to being three fashionable minutes early for everything.
“Hey, guys! I found the Seeker.” announced Finn, dragging me into the room. I waved a semi-awkward hello. “I’m Ella Levine,” I added.
“And this is Nick Evans, Sam Evans, Ryan Gallagher, Freddy Weasley and Al Potter.” Finn said, pointing each team member out in turn. My eyes followed his finger down the line while my mind promptly forgot all their names. “And of course, yours truly! Welcome to the team, princess!”
The team? More like the frat +1. I was the only girl. Lovely.
After a few minutes of careful thought, I came up with the following options on how to react to this news:
a. Run away in fright
b. Be mildly intimidated
c. Challenge Accepted.
Well, I have previously stated, I enjoy challenges, so I chose option C at once. This was an opportunity to prove myself as a super Seeker and as an awesome fifteen-year-old witch. There’s no reason to be afraid of six boys, right?
A screeching tweet from Al’s whistle brought me back to the present.
“Today’s practice will be easy since we’re just going to try and remember how to play Quidditch. The Chasers will do the keep away drill, the Beaters will have batting practice, and Finn can help Ella with the fetching drill. You know what to do!”
Ten minutes later, we were out on the field and practice was in full swing. The Chasers were just playing a sort of monkey-in-the-middle game with the Quaffle. Down on the ground, the Beaters were smacking ordinary soccer balls at different targets. High above the others, Finn threw regular golf balls all over the pitch for me to catch.
“Nice one!” Finn commented as I returned my twelfth catch in a row. “How long have you been playing, princess?”
“Since first year. And stop calling me princess.”
“Then why haven’t you tried out for the team before? And not going to happen. It’s your nickname and I like it.” He ran his fingers through his light brown hair and picked up another golf ball.
“Fine, call me ‘princess’ if you must. And I wasn’t ready to try out because I needed more practice. I wanted to be as good as possible before trying out. But I’m ready now!” I said, streaking after the thirteenth golf ball and catching it easily to prove my point.
“So how long have you been on the team?” I countered.
“Since last year,” Finn replied, tossing one of the golf balls back and forth between his hands. “You know, princess, I’m sort of surprised, to be honest. I wasn’t expecting you to be this good at Quidditch.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I burst out, suddenly defensive. “You thought I wouldn’t be good at all, didn’t you? You thought that because I was a girl I would be incapable of catching thirteen stupid golf balls in a row, much less the Snitch!” I was on a ranting roll now. I flew over to him, grabbed his broom so he couldn’t fly away, and looked him straight in the eye. “Well, guess what, Finn McClintock. I am a girl and I can do this. I’ve been practicing for years. I am just as good as the guys.” I paused for dramatic effect. “Maybe even better.”
“Okay, okay!” Finn said, holding up his hands in surrender. “I was wrong! I accept defeat! Friends?” He reached his hand out towards mine to shake on it.
“Friends.” I agreed. One down, five to go, I thought. “And sorry for the rant.”
He chucked the golf ball that he was playing with. It soared in a high arch all the way across the pitch. I flew after it, preformed a somersault in midair, and caught it neatly with one hand.
A few catches later, I posed another question. “Tell me about the team members. You know, just the basics. Like who plays what position and stuff.”
“All right. So first you’ve got me: Finn McClintock, Keeper, fifth year, highly attractive, the best—“
I punched his arm lightly. “Shut up. I already know about you. Other members please?”
“Fine. There are the twins, Nick and Sam Evans. They’re the beaters, fourth year, and they’ve got psychic twin telepathy skills so they can wordlessly communicate during matches.” He pointed out two boys on the ground far below. I squinted at identical twins. They were small for beaters, with curly brown hair and mischievous smiles, like they were going to Transfigure you into a ferret at any moment.
I raised my eyebrows in suspicion. “They’re telepathic? Really?”
“Probably, but they won’t admit it. Anyway, they’re really good, even though they’re small. Don’t tell them I said they’re small. They’d probably pull some prank on me. I’d rather not have a repeat of the Cockroach Cluster Conundrum.”
Before I could ask what that even meant, he continued to say, “Our Chasers, Al, Freddy, and Ryan, are probably telepathic too.”
He pointed out the three boys, swerving and weaving in the goalpost area. Al… well I’ve already described him. Freddy has the classic “Weasley” look (flaming red hair and freckles), and Ryan looks like your stereotypical jock with dirty blond hair.
“They always know what the other two are doing on the pitch. Al and Ryan are in our year, Freddy’s the year below, and Al and Freddy are cousins. Al’s the responsible one and the most serious about Quidditch, but he’s lots of fun once you get to know him. Freddy’s sort of the peacekeeper of the team, and Ryan’s part jock, part cocky drama queen, part ladies’ man.” Finn paused. “Don’t tell him I said that, even though he knows it’s true. I don’t want to be punched. And then there’s you, princess, the only new player and girl on the team. But don’t worry about being the only girl. You’ll fit in fine. I can already tell.”
“I’m not worried.” I said quickly.
It was Finn’s turn to raise his eyebrows.
“Okay!” I admitted. “Maybe just a tiny bit worried… but not that much…argh! Just chuck another golf ball, Finnie.”
One hour later, another shrill blast from Al’s whistle brought us back down to earth. We formed a team huddle/circle thing, and Al gave some random announcements.
“So good job today, I guess. Our practices this year will be every two days, from 6-8pm on weekdays and 9-11am weekends unless I tell you guys otherwise. We’ll practice daily the week leading up to a match; our first one is against Hufflepuff, by the way, it’s in October. Er… that’s it, I guess. See you Tuesday!”
We changed and trudged up to the castle. I fell into step with Finn and Al.
“What did you think of your first Quidditch practice, Ella?” Al asked.
“It was better than I was expecting it to be!” I said truthfully. “I was expecting hardcore workouts and skill practicing.”
“All in due time, princess,” Finn said wisely. “Just you wait until Hell Week.”
“’Hell Week,’” Al air quoted, “is seven straight days of intense conditioning where everyone practically dies of exhaustion. I love it.”
“I hate it. It’s the worst thing that ever happened to Gryffindor Quidditch team.” Finn stated.
“Nuh-uh! It makes us much stronger and more agile, and it’s a great—“
I tuned out their argument until we reached the castle. I tapped Al on the shoulder.
“Uhm, guys, when you’re done bickering like an old married couple, I’d like to say goodbye…”
“Goodbye, Ellikins, my little princess!” Finn shouted exuberantly, picking me up in a rib crunching hug and spinning me in circles. “Have a splendid day!”
“Put her down, you idiot! She’s turning blue!”
Indeed I was.
“Thanks, Al.” I gasped. “See you around.”
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