Chapter 7 : Quidditch Through the Rages
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“Mmmph,” I said to my pillow.
The pillow lifted off my face and I saw Mandy standing there looking down at me. “Morning, sleepyhead. Get up.”
“Yes, Mum,” I grumbled. Was it already Saturday? My brain was still fuzzy.
“It’s going to be a nice day,” said Mandy. “We don’t have Potions…”
“Of course not, it’s Saturday,” I said, finally sitting up. Charlotte walked over to the window. “Yeah, nice day,” she echoed Mandy sarcastically. I looked up. It was grey and overcast, but at least it wasn’t raining. I finally dragged myself out of bed, ready to face the day. My not-yet-started Potions homework wouldn’t matter yet, after all.
“Where are Alanna and Rachel?” I asked.
“They went down to breakfast already,” said Charlotte. “I’m about to go, too, now hurry up!”
I was ushered into the Great Hall by my friends, and we were surprised to see that Roger Simms, the Slytherin Quidditch team captain, was not present at the table. Perhaps he had slept in – what an idiot. We sat by Russell and Hector, the latter in his Quidditch robes, and even he didn’t know where Simms was.
While we sat there eating our breakfast, we were interrupted when a crowd of people showed up, asking what had happened last night. “I heard about that cursed trophy or whatever,” said one Gryffindor, “I already asked Remus, but he says he doesn’t remember it, and that he was asleep for most of it.”
I started to tell the story, occasionally pausing to shovel food into my mouth, when Mandy would continue talking. We reached the part about Remus finding the watch, and when I glanced up briefly, I saw Severus Snape and he seemed somewhat alarmed. He wasn’t looking at Mandy and me, but I could tell he was listening in on our story, hiding behind a curtain of oily hair, his head tilted in our direction. Suspicious… I continued, and when I said that we had found Remus lying on the floor, I saw Snape smirk. I wondered if he knew anything about it. So I slid over a few seats and left Mandy to tell the story.
“Severus, I know you were listening. Have you any idea what the watch was for?”
“To tell time, I imagine,” he said silkily. I scowled, and he just asked, “Concerned for your dear Gryffindors, now, are you?”
“It was just strange, and you seemed to know what we were talking about, that’s all. I’m not even friends with the Gryffindors. Remus only stopped by during our detention.”
“How nice of him,” said Snape. “And no, I haven’t a clue.”
With a resigned sigh, I went back to my breakfast; it was unlikely that my old friendship with Snape could last through my befriending one of his worst enemies, so if he knew anything, he'd probably never tell me. Mandy was repeating herself as a few more people had shown up – for the moment, we were very popular.
Charlotte saved us, however, when she told our visitors, “Oi! This is the Slytherin table, and we’re trying to eat our breakfast in peace. We want to watch the Quidditch match as much as you, and there’s no way we’ll get good seats if we can’t finish eating. So go back to your tables and you can hear the story later.” Some kids looked affronted, but gradually the crowd behind us dispersed.
Thankful to have the Slytherin table back to ourselves, we struck up a conversation with our housemates. Seated next to Mandy was Russell, who set the Daily Prophet down next to his cereal. “The Dark Lord just killed some Mudbloods,” he informed us.
“Great breakfast conversation material, Russell,” I said.
“What do you think about the Dark Lord, really?” Russell continued in a hushed voice, leaning over his cornflakes to look at us earnestly.
Charlotte glared at him. “Don’t talk about that here,” she hissed. Generally, no one in Slytherin said much to associate themselves with one side or the other. There was a kind of unspoken rule among Slytherins that you didn’t talk openly about blood status and the emergent war and things like that, because it often meant you’d uncover something you didn’t like about one of your friends, so it was best to just avoid the topic altogether.
After all, most of us weren’t even purebloods – there weren’t many of them left anymore. But there were some people like Calvin Mucliber who harped on about family honour and Mudblood-hating just because he was a pureblood. It just made everyone else in Slytherin hate him, for various reasons; because they were jealous, or they were half-bloods, or just because he was a twit. Needless to say, people like him, as well as the few Slytherins who were openly in support of Voldemort, gave our house as a whole a rather unpleasant reputation with the other houses.
I wanted to remain friends with Russell and not find out that he was a Voldemort supporter or obsessed with blood purity, so I tried not to say anything. But he had just asked for my opinion. “I don’t like it,” I said. “Vol – You-Know-Who’s got some intense superiority complex.”
Hector shrugged. “Well, I suppose it makes sense because he’s the most powerful wizard in the world; he can do whatever he wants and get away with it. He’s just doing all the wrong things with his power.”
“Yeah,” Russell agreed, looking relieved. “I mean, I’ve never been fond of Muggles, because I don’t know any, but I don’t support killing anyone. It’s terrible.”
“So what would you do in his place instead?” Mandy asked. “How would you change the world?” She was clearly attempting to steer the conversation away from Voldemort, and I appreciated it.
Hector stretched his arms out, nearly knocking over my pumpkin juice. “Well, I’d live in a huge mansion, first of all, and I’d make it easier for Hogwarts graduates to get jobs. And I’d give out free treacle tart to everyone.”
I grinned. “Free treacle tart? I’m definitely nominating you for the next Dark Lord, Hector.”
Charlotte seemed to have given up on trying to stop us from discussing Voldemort at the breakfast table, and chipped in as well. “You know, I’ve heard he’s immortal. I think that’s amazing, I’d love to find out how he does it.”
“Free treacle tart for the rest of your life,” said Russell.
“Maybe You-Know-Who made a deal with the Devil,” suggested Mandy, “he can be immortal and powerful in exchange for having the ugliest face on the planet. He doesn’t even have a nose, Russ, so he wouldn’t be able to smell treacle tart.”
At that moment our Quidditch captain Roger Simms came racing into the Hall, followed by three of the other team members, all dressed in their Quidditch robes, but Stephan Flint was missing. Simms scanned the table, and then asked someone, “Where’s Bulstrode? Flint is in the hospital wing, he just broke his arm! We need a replacement!”
“Edgar?” the person replied. “Oh, he’s in the hospital wing too, you probably didn’t even recognize him. He somehow turned himself into a toad a few days ago and no one knows how. Even Madame Pomfrey has never seen anything like—”
“WHAT?” roared Simms. “We are short a Beater, and it’s ten minutes before the game! Do you know how to play Quidditch?”
Simms’ friend just stared at him, open-mouthed. I suddenly thought of something that could help. Simms would hate it, but it was the best he could hope for in the situation.
“Simms!” I called, standing up. “I’ll play Beater.”
“You?” he sneered. “You’re too weak to play Beater. I’ll bet you don’t even know how to hold the bat.”
“Of course I do,” I said as patiently as I could, while resisting the urge to punch him. “You can’t play with a Beater missing, what other choice have you got?”
Simms grunted. “Fine,” he said after a moment. “But you better do well, and if Slytherin loses I’ll know it’s because of you.”
I turned around, trying to hide the huge grin that was spreading across my face. I was going to play on the Quidditch team! It may have been only as a replacement, but I was still excited.
“You’d better go,” said Mandy. “Good luck! You’ll be amazing!”
“I need my broomstick!” I realized, and sprinted out of the hall and all the way down to get my Cleansweep out of my dormitory. When I went back to the Great Hall, the team had left, and I continued running until I reached the Quidditch pitch, where I arrived out of breath and already sweating.
“There’s extra robes in there,” said Andrew Derrick, one of the Chasers, as he pointed towards the changing rooms. “Meet us out here in five minutes. You haven’t even trained with us yet, you better be listening when Roger talks tactics.” He left.
Hector Branstone, who was also a Chaser, was far more encouraging. “You’ll be great, Mel,” he said. “And don’t get too worked up about Roger’s tactics speech. Think of it as tough love – it’s meant to motivate and inspire us, really.”
As I found a set of emerald Quidditch robes in my size and a Beater’s bat lying on the floor, I thought about what Derrick had said. I hadn’t trained with the team at all. My initial excitement was wearing away into anxiety – what if I did horribly?
Before we went out onto the pitch, our Captain Roger Simms gave us a last-minute lecture on strategies; I squirmed with nerves whenever his eyes met mine. There was so much to think about. And finally we emerged onto the field, the cold brisk air instantly clearing my mind; I just had to play the game. Around us, cheers erupted from a green-and-silver-clad quarter of the stands, while our opponents received more noisy encouragement, as almost three-fourths of the school applauded for Luke Wilcox and his other Ravenclaws.
“Captains shake hands,” a loud voice rang out. I looked up to see today’s commentator, Mary Macdonald, a Gryffindor sixth year.
Roger and Luke shook hands, Roger sneering and Luke’s piercing blue eyes giving Roger a death glare. It appeared that someone had been trying to crush someone else’s fingers. Typical.
Madame Hooch blew her whistle and I mounted my broom and soared into the air, bat in hand. The wind whipped through my hair, and I felt wonderful. I was finally on the Quidditch team. A trunk opened on the field, and four balls shot into the sky. I chased a Bludger and hit it at a Ravenclaw Chaser, who had the Quaffle.
“Braddock has the Quaffle, he dodges a Bludger from Hastings, who is substituting for Flint. I heard that Flint broke his arm when he fell off a moving staircase this morning!” Some people in the crowd laughed. “Braddock passes the Quaffle to Mason, she’s going for the goal – she shoots – oh no, Slytherin Captain Simms blocks it… Now Derrick of Slytherin has the Quaffle, he passes to Corlon, who’s now heading towards the goal. Ravenclaw Beater Howard Lund intercepts with a Bludger! Slytherin Beater Nott just hit Mason with his bat. That’s a foul! Penalty to Ravenclaw!”
I was nettled. Some of them seemed to be using dirty tactics, and I knew it would probably lose us the game. And then I would be blamed for it.
“Wright of Ravenclaw has the Quaffle now; Hastings hits a Bludger at him, Wright swerves and drops the Quaffle. Hastings is really good, I wonder why Simms didn’t let her on the team. He looks really angry right now.”
I tried not to laugh, grateful for Mary’s sense of humor to lift my spirits. And Slytherin was winning (although admittedly, I didn’t know how many of those points we actually deserved).
Luke Wilcox was a Chaser for Ravenclaw, and as I saw him sneaking around, expecting a pass, I hit a Bludger at him, but he saw it at the last second. He darted left, and collided with Nott. Nott flipped sideways off his broom, managing to hang on with his hands. He swung his feet, and accidentally kicked a Ravenclaw.
“CHEATING!!!” yelled Mary into the megaphone. “Oh, Derrick scores again – this must be his fifth so far. Corlon has the Quaffle now, he scores. Damn it! Sixty-forty to Slytherin.”
“Macdonald!” barked Professor McGonagall, and reached out to take the megaphone.
“Sorry Professor,” said Mary. “Earle and Warrington are racing for the Snitch! This is it! Oh… looks like they were both faking.”
The game progressed, and several times I dearly wished to smack Roger over the head with my bat. He was being an idiot, and yelled at us no matter what we did. Instead, I kept focused on the Bludgers, and I felt that even with no practice, I was doing much better than in any of the games I had used to play with my brother and his friends.
We were nearly tied with Ravenclaw, and Luke Wilcox had the Quaffle and was steadily zooming towards the goal hoops. Just as I was about to hit another Bludger at him, he saw me and grinned, and I smiled back sheepishly, feeling my face heat up. Then, frustrated at my inability to focus, I snapped back to reality and swung wildly at the Bludger, but it wasn’t there anymore.
When Simms called a short time out to berate us more on strategies, it took all my energy to concentrate on what he was saying. I felt that I had started playing a lot worse ever since I had noticed Luke. I resolved to think about it no more, because this was likely the only chance I would have to play a Quidditch match.
“All right, back to the game, everyone!” Simms directed. “Stop talking! Hastings, come on. Don’t make us lose!”
I had a burning desire to prove Simms wrong. No matter what, I would concentrate on those Bludgers. At the first opportunity I had, I struck it with tremendous force at Luke just as he was preparing to throw the Quaffle. The Bludger rocketed forward and hit him in the head. There was a dull sound and Luke fell sideways off his broom. I gasped, horrified. What if I had really hurt him? I leaned over, and saw the other Bludger coming at me, but I realized too late. I veered off to the left and felt something slam into my back, another stabbing pain in my head. I was falling… and everything went black.
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