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Off the Rails by water_lily43175
Chapter 45 : forty-five
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Such was my paranoia that when I awoke on Monday morning to an otherwise empty bed, I immediately thought Carlotta had gotten cold feet already and scarpered. Then I realised her side of the bed was still warm – and then the smell from the kitchen hit my nostrils, and I almost laughed as I realised I really shouldn’t have expected her to be anywhere else.

“Morning,” she said brightly as I entered the kitchen and slumped into one of the chairs at the table. “I couldn’t sleep, and I thought you could do with a big breakfast given the week you’ve got ahead of you.”

She was referring, of course, to the build up to the Bats match on Friday. She’d come to mine as soon as her shift had finished yesterday and had wasted no time in asking for a detailed account of all the matches she’d missed, even so far as wanting play-by-plays. A part of me had gotten a bit impatient and would have preferred things to have been more bedroom-orientated, but I could hardly fault her genuine enthusiasm for my sport.

Besides, it wasn’t as though we hadn’t made it to the bedroom in the end.

She’d seemed genuinely remorseful for the time I’d spent out of the team and in the Hog’s Head. I’d tried to insist the fault wasn’t hers but mine, but the fact remained that her walk-out had been the catalyst for my total melt-down, and so in her eyes she was partly responsible for my suspension from the England squad.

Her concern would have been touching, if it didn’t make me feel guilty in turn. It made me more determined to just get back out there and play, to do my job the best I possibly could. I couldn’t change what had happened, but I could do my best to ensure it didn’t harm my long-term career prospects. And with that, hopefully I could ease Carlotta’s guilt.

But I couldn’t play if I wasn’t in the team.

I got to the training ground early, despite the fact that I was leaving a beautiful woman in my flat. It was as though I thought showing up early to the first session of the week would somehow increase my prospects of being picked. I wasn’t the first there; Sinead, Alfie, Keira, Julia, Della and the Bagmans were already deep in conversation in the changing room. I halted in the doorway, not wanting to interrupt their conversation, especially if it were a private one, but as soon as she realised I was there, Sinead beckoned me in.

“Morning, James,” she said. “How’re you feeling?”

“Good,” I said, knowing she was referring to both my physical and mental state following the two matches I’d played. “But they were only short matches. I felt a bit stiff yesterday morning from being the battering ram à la Murph against the Kestrels, but that’ll ease up once I’m up on the broom again.”

She nodded, looking satisfied.

“You did a good job at the weekend, I was very impressed.”

My heart leapt into my mouth at her praise. Surely this meant my performance had increased my chances of making the final line-up of the season.

 I tried not to let this elation show, and simply gave her a brief, grateful smile.

“It was weird, playing without Ryan. It was a good way to challenge myself, though.”

She nodded in agreement.

“You’ll be playing many more games without him in the future; you need to become accustomed to not having him on your shoulder at all times.”

I wasn’t sure what to make of that remark. Surely, if Ryan was as adamant as I was about remaining a Falcon for as long as possible, then we’d more likely than not continue playing alongside one another? Unless Roxanne’s recent performances meant the fight for a Chaser spot truly had become a four-way battle– but then I couldn’t imagine Ryan being rested for her to play. The only other situation where we wouldn’t be playing together would be at international level, and I couldn’t see myself getting another chance for England until at least this time next year, when the first round of qualifying matches for the next World Cup would be played.

I said nothing, however, merely nodding as I took a seat next to Della.

“We were just trying to work out how best to play on Friday,” Sinead continued. “Should we go for a conservative approach, and try to protect our lead, or should we go for a more attacking approach and risk letting them in?”

Our lead was a delicate one. Eighty points might seem like a lot, but it was still less than a Snitch capture. One mistake from Stefan, who would be playing Seeker, and the game would be gone.

“The Lynches will go after Stef.” Cleo’s thoughts mirrored mine. “Cato and I will have to guard him-”

“But we can’t risk taking our eyes off the Chasers,” Cato finished. “So perhaps one of us will have to guard Stefan, and one of us the Chasers-”

“But then we could both be flying all over the pitch unnecessarily. Tiring ourselves out would play right into the Lynches’ hands. Maybe we should take one half of the pitch each-”

“No, that won’t work; we’ll get confused over who should be guarding who – and besides, they could all end up in the same half. Shadowing Stefan sounds like the best plan-”

“But you know that Seekers hate being guarded like that; they can’t do their job properly! We could take a Bludger each, but I don’t like that idea; we’re best when we play together. On our own, we’re just two individuals with Beater Bats. I don’t think we can go out of our way to nullify the Lynches; we’ll just weaken ourselves and play into their hands. We’ll have to play based on how we want to play.”

They turned to Julia and Della and said in unison, “What do you want us to do?”

It was Julia and Della’s turn to consult each other.

“We’re not sure yet,” Julia said. “Initially we thought we’d go for a strength-orientated game, as their Chasers are all quite small, but their main focus is on their intricacy and they could fly circles around us if we go for the simple approach. We could opt for a more complex set of plays ourselves, but the moment the Lynches send the Bludgers at us it’ll break our whole play up and we’ll be completely disorganised. Our other option – and the one I think we should go for – is speed. Speed of pass. Ramp things up a notch or three. Their Chasers wouldn’t be able to keep up.”

My ears pricked up. In a game of strength and brute force, Ryan was key. An intricate game was Della and Roxanne’s forte. But speed ... that was my number one attribute. Ryan and Roxanne were faster in the air, but when it came to passing the Quaffle, nobody was as quick as me. If Julia and Della chose that tactic ... I’d surely be in the team.

“The trouble with that,” Cleo chipped in, and my heart sank, “is that from a Beater’s point of view that play can be relatively easy to screw up as well. If the pace drops at all, you give the Lynches a chance to knock the Quaffle out of your hands. You have to keep the pace up no matter what; the only time you can afford to let it slow up is with a deliberate hesitation aimed to confuse the opposition. The moment you lose focus, their Chasers and Beaters will be on top of you straight away to capitalise. It’s the sort of tactic that you can afford to throw in at times, but you can’t base your whole game on it, not against the Lynches at any rate.”

“We’ll have to throw a few tricks and flicks in,” Della chipped in. “Reckon that will catch them out?”

“Only for so long,” Cato said. “They’ll get wise to your game if you’re too repetitive.”

“So ideally we want to go for a mix of everything?” Della suggested.

“Ideally, yes. But if you do, then we won’t know what you’re doing and we’ll be less effective at protecting you from the Bludgers.”

“But the Lynches will be less effective as well, surely?” Julia pointed out. “And that’ll mean less need for protection.”

“We can dodge a couple of Bludgers here and there,” Della contributed.

I was absolutely enraptured by the conversation. Obviously, the longer I’d been with the Falcons the more involved I’d become in tactical discussions. At the beginning my role had been very much dictated to me – the decision based on my strengths, but decided by the more experienced Chaser brains such as Julia and Della. As time had passed, I’d gained more of a say, but I’d never sat in on these conversations at the beginning of a game week, when Chasers, Keepers and Beaters alike all sat together to discuss how they’d mesh their tactics to make our match-day team the singular unit it was.

Seekers were rarely needed this early on in the proceedings; most of them thought tactics overcomplicated things, and would rather keep out of the way of the match to do their own thing. In fact, many Seekers considered the Quaffle play an entirely separate match to their own search for the Snitch. In some ways they were right, given the number of matches decided by the capture of the Snitch, but when points differences came into play it wasn’t quite so easy to separate the two disciplines completely. In this match, for example, both Seekers would have to keep half an eye on the scoreboard to make sure they didn’t inadvertently hand the Cup to the other team.

And while it was all very well for Seekers to consider themselves separate from the game taking place around them, the opposition Beaters thought them fair game, so our Seekers relied on Cato and Cleo for protection, no matter how much they resented it.

But those were the only two links between a Seeker’s play and the rest of his team’s, so Stefan’s input wasn’t needed this early on in proceedings. He knew we had an eighty point advantage, and that gave him almost free rein to catch the Snitch – even if the Bats were twenty two goals ahead of us on the day, he could still catch the Snitch and win the Cup for us. His job was therefore as simple as it could possibly be. The only way they’d pull that far ahead would be if the Lynches took out Alfie or a couple of our Chasers. As most Seekers preferred not to be interfered with, Cato and Cleo already knew the best way to protect him from the Bludgers was from afar. With all this established, there was little he needed to contribute.

But the other three cogs were much more intertwined with one another, and a lack of understanding across the board would pull the whole game apart. Beaters at the highest level were far more concerned with tactics than people perceived; it was more skilled a discipline than simply being able to hit a ball of iron, and strength and hand-eye coordination alone weren’t enough to make it as a successful professional Beater. They needed to know how their Chasers would play, because they’d need to adapt their own tactics to fit. It wasn’t a one-way thing; Beaters, like Chasers, had to consider their opposite numbers and plan their play accordingly, which in turn, required cooperation from the Chasers.

Alfie was less concerned with the Beaters. As he stayed more-or-less in the same spot all game, it was easy for Cato and Cleo to make sure he didn’t get hit. But he did need to know how the Chasers wanted to play, in order  to recognise any risk of the Bats stealing possession from us. A secondary advantage of the Chasers’ tactics was knowing which Chaser to pass the Quaffle to after he made a save. And most defensive plays involved him, some at great length, so he was just as important to these early conversations.

“We need to nullify them,” Julia continued. “We won’t get anywhere otherwise.”

“Surely,” I said nervously – they all turned to look at me, and I suppressed a flinch – “surely we should just play our own game? If we get too caught up in counteracting them, and adopt plays we’re not good at, doesn’t it weaken us?”

“It does and it doesn’t,” Julia said. “Obviously on the surface it’s the best option – because you’re right, we don’t want to lessen the threat we pose to them. But at the same time, we can’t completely disregard what they want to do.

“It’s an awkward position that we find ourselves in. We may have a points advantage, but they can still win the game and the title for themselves by catching the Snitch early, so their Chasers aren’t going to be going for an all-out attack strategy. If we were more than one-fifty clear, we could start off on the defensive, because they’d have to score goals if they were to have a chance of winning the Cup. As it stands, that Snitch capture will be the decider unless we’re twenty three goals behind or eight ahead. That’s where we have the advantage, because our buffer is stronger than theirs. We have more chance of putting the game out of their reach than they do of putting it out of ours. But eight goals is a lot against a team like the Bats.”

“But we can afford to throw all our eggs into one basket, and go all out for those eight goals,” Della chipped in. “We might lose possession, as is the risk with that kind of play, but if we can afford to lose by seventy and still win the Cup, it’s a risk we can afford to take.”

She was right, of course; we didn’t need to win this match. Thanks to our eighty point buffer, the Bats  would have to beat us by ninety points or more to overtake us in the table. A loss of seventy points or less, a draw or a win would all do us fine.

If we lost by exactly eighty points, things would get a little messier. This would leave us equal on points at the top of the table, and the Bats would take the title by virtue of more wins – we both had eleven as things stood. The Tornados were in third, but the gap between us and them was insurmountable, so they’d no chance of catching either of us.

But I didn’t want to end our Cup run on a loss. I wanted us to win it unbeaten. Moreover, it would feel like a hollow title win if the team sitting below us in the table had won all of their matches, and had simply fallen short on points difference. I knew that the points difference was the biggest element of Quidditch League scoring, but to me the actual win felt almost as important. Risk-taking was all very well and good, but I didn’t want us to risk losing the match.

Della’s proposal also worried Alfie, but for a slightly different reason.

 “It’s unlikely we’d concede a two-hundred-and-twenty point lead by trying to get an eighty point one,” he admitted. “But all the same, where do we draw the line? What happens if we fall behind by fifty? A hundred? One-fifty? Where do we turn around and say that the attacking approach isn’t working and we need to adopt a different one? And by that point we’ll have given them confidence they can pull out on us. And the further they eat into our points difference, the more pressure it puts on Stef to make the capture. Is that fair on him?”

“In fairness to him, he was the one who chose the position with the most immediate pressure attached to it,” Della said, but she did seem to agree with his point all the same. “Okay. So we’ll put a question mark against the all-out attack approach. Let’s look on the flip side. They’ll want to score goals. They won’t need to, straight out, but they’ll want to try to eat into our advantage.”

“Actually, wouldn’t they be trying to stop you from scoring, primarily?” Keira suggested. “They’ll know that once they’re eighty points behind, they’re out of it. They’ll know that we know that. I think they’ll go on the defensive, try to stop us scoring, and rely on their Seeker to make the capture.”

“So their Seeker’s the key,” Julia concluded.

Cato and Cleo looked at each other.

“Our concern is taking out their Seeker, then,” Cleo said. “That sound good?”

“Flip side again,” Alfie said. “What will the Lynches be looking to do?”

“Protect the Seeker,” Cato said promptly. “And take out Stef.”

And take you out, Alf,” Della added. “With no Keeper in the way, their Chasers have nothing between them and the hoops-”

“Except you Chasers,” Cleo put in. “It would be hard for you three without a Keeper, but you’re one of the best attacks in the League and they know that. So long as all three of you were fighting fit, you’d be able to keep hold of the Quaffle long enough to stop them getting the two-twenty buffer they need.”

“So they’d have to take one or more of us out too,” Della said.

“But you can’t pick a tactic that relies on taking out more than two players,” Cato said. “It’s far too fluky. Cleo and I would chance it against a weaker team, but we’d never try it against a top team, not as our main tactic. Especially if we have to protect one of our own as well.”

“This is the Lynches we’re talking about. Don’t rule anything out,” Keira said dryly.

“They might be more likely to try it. Doesn’t mean it’s any more likely to work,” Cleo said. “Point is, Cato and I can only go so far when it comes to protecting our own, and likewise they can only go so far when it comes to attacking us. Goals aren’t important, not at the start of the match. It’s all about the Snitch. So, we’ll keep the Bludgers away from Stef, and try to take out their kid.”

“How about a left-field option?” I suggested as an idea came to me.

“I like left-field,” Cleo said approvingly.

“I don’t if it means more risk,” Alfie said warily. “Go ahead, Jim.”

“Kill off the threat at its core. Take one of the Lynches out.”

Keira and Julia shared an approving look, and Cleo made a noise of excitement.

“With one Beater, they’d have to protect their kid first and foremost. That would leave us free to attack, without the worry of them countering and getting Stef first,” Cato said.

“They wouldn’t expect it either, because how often are Beaters targeted?” Cleo added. “They’ll be expecting their Seeker to be the target, they won’t be prepared for a personal attack.”

“But there’s a reason that people don’t go for the Beaters,” Keira pointed out. “You two may have bats, but so do they. More to the point, their primary instinct when a Bludger comes towards them is to hit it away. You’d have very few chances to do it. And once they cotton onto your plan, you’re scuppered.”

“I like a challenge.” Cato shrugged.

“It’ll be fun,” Cleo agreed.

“If it distracts your attention from Stefan, they could take him out first,” Alfie warned.

“I know he doesn’t have a bat, but he’s not a complete mug on a broom, you know. I’m sure he could dodge one or two Bludgers. In fact, he’d love that challenge.”

“But then he’s not looking for the Snitch!” Julia interjected.

“They won’t both be going for him,” Cleo reasoned. “One of them will be sitting back, ready to defend against any of our attacks. They can’t both go after Stefan, because they won’t have control of both Bludgers long enough to disregard what we want to do. If we get hold of a Bludger when neither of them are in a position to protect their team, they’re at a disadvantage. So one of them will be holding back, and that means Stef will only have one Bludger going for him at once. That frees us up to go for a two-man attack. A good and strong Dopplebeater should do it-”

“No, we’d need subtlety more than strength,” Cato objected. “It’s their bats that give them immunity; once you hit one of them, they’re hit as good and proper as any other player. It’s getting past that bat that’s the issue. We’d have to go for a Backbeat-”

“Less accuracy,” Julia put in.

“You seen Cleo’s accuracy rate with a Backbeat? Trust me, if anyone could do it, it’s her,” Cato reassured her.

“Alternatively we go for the back,” Cleo said. “They don’t have eyes in the back of their heads, they can’t protect against a threat they can’t see.”

“Which would you go for?” Keira asked. “The one who’s trying to attack, or the one who’s sitting back protecting?”

“The one who attacks will be less aware of his surroundings,” Cato said. “But he’ll have the protector watching his back for him. Who’ll be watching the protector’s back? Nobody.”

“The Keeper might, if the Quaffle’s far enough away,” Alfie chipped in. “But he wouldn’t be able to stop the Bludger, so he’d have to rely on communication.”

“But the protector will be in a better position to protect himself than the attacker will,” Cleo added. “Swings and roundabouts. Let’s make it personal. Which is the weaker one?”

Sinead, who’d said nothing up until this point, instead sitting back and letting her players talk things out, reached into her pocket.

“I know just who can help us with that.” She pulled her phone out.

Minutes later, Ryan joined us.

“Any chance you can forget this before the World Cup?” he joked. “I’m not sure I should be sharing my country’s secrets. You’re right; they’ll go for a split strategy. Feargus has a stronger hit, so he’ll be going for Stefan. Eoin’s one of the most observant Beaters in the game, so you’ll have to be either very quick or very sneaky to catch him out. But he’ll be watching the Bludgers. So long as he can see them both, it doesn’t matter where you two are. If you’re going to hit one of them, you’d have to do it where he can see you anyway.”

“So we’d have to attack in plain sight of him,” Cleo said.

“Not necessarily.” Cato frowned. “If he’s not looking for us, he won’t notice one of us behind him, out of his line of sight...”

“We’d have to be quick, though. He’d be following the pass back, then he’d turn and see the threat behind him-”

“Not if he was concerned with something in front of him.”

“But that could only be a threat from the other Bludger, and Feargus would surely have that one covered. No, we’d have to rely on speed. If we were close, the passes would be too short to give him enough time to turn and react.”

“Alternatively, we go for Feargus. If we’re close enough to him, and in possession of a Bludger, and he’s in possession of the other, there’s nothing Eoin can do but shout. So long as we’re quick...”

“We could adapt a Pincer for you,” Ryan suggested.

Della’s eyes lit up.

Yes, that would work! He wouldn’t be able to see through three Chasers!”

“Three Chasers and a Keeper,” Alfie added. “If you’re neglecting your posts, I could neglect mine too.”

“But wouldn’t it be obvious if you all suddenly headed for Eoin?” Julia suggested.

“We’d have to do it right at the start, before we’re in position,” Della reasoned. “We block Eoin’s view, and let you guys take Feargus out.”

“You’d have only one chance,” Keira said. “You’d have to get in with one hefty blow if you’re going to take him out of the match completely.”

“I could do that,” Cato said. “He’ll be preoccupied with Stefan, he won’t see me coming. Hard blow into the small of his back, and he’s out for the match.”

Julia winced.

“It all seems a bit barbaric to me,” she said. “Couldn’t we go for something with a bit more gamesmanship?”

“Gamesmanship doesn’t win cups,” Cleo said ruthlessly.

“Besides,” Alfie added, “it’s the Lynches. You think they play by the rules?”

The captain’s approval seemed to win Julia over.

“Well, if it’s for the Cup...”

“Needs must,” Sinead agreed, effectively rubberstamping the tactic.

“So, the match has just started, and we’ve successfully taken out Feargus. What next?” Della said.

“Cato and I target their Seeker,” Cleo said. “It’ll leave you guys unguarded, but Eoin will be trying to protect their kid, so you should be okay. You’d be free to play to whatever plan you think best.”

“All-out attack?” Della suggested again.

Julia sighed, but she was smiling all the same.

“I suppose you could, with their Beater down and a Seeker under threat.”

“Excellent! And what if we don’t take out Feargus?”

“We could keep trying.” Cato indicated himself and Cleo. “But we’d have to do it without your help, and I’m not sure how long it’d be before they get wise to it and adapt – or, worse, steal the idea for themselves.”

“That wouldn’t do,” Julia murmured.

“We’d need a back-up plan,” Della said. “All-out attack’s a no-no, I guess?”

“Possession’s the key,” Alfie said. “You guys don’t need to be scoring, but if you have the Quaffle it means they can’t score.”

“But if the Seeker match-up stays even, surely we do need to score? If we just sit back and bide our time, we’ll risk losing the Cup!”

“Play to win,” Sinead spoke up. “Play to win the match, but for Merlin’s sake, whatever you do, don’t take any risks.”

And with that, the meeting came to an end. I was glad I wasn’t usually a part of them; I was exhausted. And it was only just ten o’clock.

***

Carlotta was still at mine when I got back that evening. In fact, I suspected she hadn’t moved from her spot in front of the hob all day.

“How was training?” she asked.

“Exhausting.” I fell into one of the chairs round the table.

“Do you want dinner?”

“Would I say no?”

“I can’t imagine you ever turning down food,” she conceded. “You’ll have to bear with me on this; I came across a pumpkin and I’ve been experimenting a bit with it.”

“Haven’t you cooked with pumpkins before?” I asked in surprise.

“Not really. We only have them around at Halloween, and even then all we ever did was make soup with what was left over after we’d carved them. You guys always seem to be cooking with them, though.”

“Pretty much. Nana Weasley’s always making pumpkin pies, and Kreacher used to make all sorts of pumpkin dishes for us when we were little.”

“Kreacher?”

“Dad’s house elf.”

“What are they?”

“Exactly what they sound like. Elves that have to do a human’s bidding. Aunt Hermione hates the way they’re forced to obey, and I have to admit I don’t like to see people abuse them either. Dad’s very strict about what we can and can’t ask Kreacher to do.” I rubbed the back of my neck awkwardly, remembering how I’d abused my ability to give him orders only last month.

“You have so many wonderful creatures in your world,” she mused. “Speaking of which, I fed Cordelia earlier. I figured you wouldn’t have fed her in a while.”

“Cordelia is the last thing I’d consider a wonderful creature,” I said. “But you’re right, I haven’t fed her in a few days – unless you count the free Muggle newspaper that was stuffed through my door last week?”

“No, I don’t count that,” she said dryly. “Oh, Brigid popped round earlier.”

I frowned. “What for?”

“She brought an envelope for you. She didn’t say what it was, just that it was something you’d asked for. It’s on the table in the living room.” She set a plate down in front of me, containing some sort of pasta dish, and sat down opposite me with her own. “She told me about the argument she had with Freddie, as well,” she continued.

Having already started eating, I waited until my mouth was empty before speaking.

“What did she say?”

“A lot, but the essence of it was that she understands his point of view but it doesn’t make his actions okay. But it got me thinking, and I was wondering...” She hesitated.

“Wondering what?” I prompted.

“Well, you told me the bare facts about this Voldemort guy. I’ve pieced a bit more together from that newspaper article, but I still don’t know that much about it. So, could you tell me? The full story?”

I chewed slowly on my food for a moment before replying.

“There are lots of books about it...”

“But they’ll only tell me so much. You could tell me ... well, everything...”

But I’d never done that before. I’d never talked to anyone about anything to do with the wars and my parents’ past. In History of Magic lessons I’d sat at the back of the classroom and hoped nobody would pay me the slightest bit of attention. Whenever anyone had asked me a question about the wars, I’d either ignored or dismissed it in the politest way possible, depending on which response I thought it deserved. It was the one topic Brigid had always know not to raise and it had even been off-limits with Ingrid.

And now, Carlotta wanted the whole story.

She was right; the books would only tell her so much. The published version of Voldemort’s reign was an abridged one. While Dad, Uncle Ron and Aunt Hermione acknowledged the truths of the past had to be revealed if we were to learn from and avoid repeating them, they’d decided some elements of the story were best kept secret. They’d agreed nobody needed to know about the three Hallows, or the prophecy that had triggered Voldemort’s direct attack on my grandparents.

More difficult had been the decision not to publicise the facts of Voldemort’s Horcruxes. Aunt Hermione had felt that people needed to know what they were, but Uncle Ron had argued few people would even know what they were, thanks to Dumbledore’s removal of all references to them from the Hogwarts library, and that it was best kept that way so as not to give any other unsavoury characters nasty ideas. Dad had initially been on Aunt Hermione’s side as he was firmly against censoring history, but he’d eventually come to agree it was best not to educate the masses about soul-splitting.

There were also other, smaller details which hadn’t been published, not deliberately, but because they’d been overlooked when Dad had been telling the story. Uncle Percy’s had initially been one of these details, but unfortunately other people had revealed that side story.

Few people knew the whole, unabridged story, and most of those who did went by the name Weasley. Albus, Lily and I also knew everything, of course, as did Teddy. I wasn’t sure how much my cousins’ friends or Dominique’s husband knew, but I did know Maddie and Kit knew everything – as they’d started off knowing nothing, Lily had considered it easiest to just tell them the whole story. Brigid also knew everything; I suspected Freddie had told her when we were at school. Aside from that, the only others who knew about the prophecy, the Hallows, the Horcruxes and all the other nitty-gritty details were Kingsley Shacklebolt, Professors McGonagall, Flitwick, Sprout and Slughorn, Hagrid, the Longbottoms and the Lovegoods.

I could tell Carlotta the official version. But would that be fair? I’d already denied her the truth twice; if I held back now, she’d be really unhappy if she ever found out.

No. She needed to know the full truth.

I’d nearly cleared my plate while thinking about this, but Carlotta seemed to have realised I’d been lost in thought and not just ignoring her question.

I mopped up the sauce on my plate with the last piece of pumpkin, then set my plate to one side.

“The wizard who styled himself Lord Voldemort,” I began, “was born Tom Marvolo Riddle, to a witch who died in childbirth. His father was a Muggle, who had been bewitched by a Love Potion...”

***

I only opened the envelope Brigid had left for me once Carlotta left later that night. I knew exactly what it was, and I’d wanted to avoid her questions.

I’d tell her in time. I knew better than to keep things from her – besides, she’d need to know by Friday anyway. But I’d told her enough for one evening.

I grabbed some parchment, a quill and an inkpot from a kitchen drawer, and wrote my letter at the table. Then, I folded it around the tickets and sealed it with my wand. I’d deliver it by hand in the morning.

Ingrid and Mark,

Please find enclosed two tickets for the Falcons v Bats match on Friday. Hopefully you’ll get to watch me play. If not then I’m sure we can enjoy the match together in the stands.

Hope to see you there.

Yours,

James Potter

 


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Off the Rails: forty-five

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