Chapter 4 : Red Robes and Red Flames
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Albus awoke without an alarm because they had no classes that day. He was not the last to rise, as he saw Garrett Humber still asleep, and Albus guessed he would be for a few more hours, knowing Garrett was one of the laziest people he knew.
Albus was about to put on his school robes when his older brother came bursting into the room. "Oh, good, you're up! I forgot to tell you yesterday, but we're having tryouts for the last Chaser in an hour. So put on your Quidditch robes and meet me at the pitch!"
Of course James would forget to tell him this information, and Albus nearly overslept through the tryouts. He wanted to curse his brother for telling him on such short notice. He slipped off his black robes and put on his crimson red and gold Quidditch robes which hung lower than the school robes. He leaned onto his knees and looked under his bed. He held a hand on his hair to keep them out of his eyes, and he pulled a long broomstick into his lap.
He examined his Comet 720, his name embroidered on the back of the wooden handle. This broom had been his favorite toy since he received it his second year when he made the Quidditch team. He could remember zooming around on his Nimbus replica for toddlers when he was barely old enough to talk, throwing a tiny quaffle with his family. One time he knocked over his grandma’s favorite china, but Ginny laughed and said she hated it anyway.
Albus was a little disappointed about the broom. He bet on James getting the Lightning Rod when he made the Chudley Cannons's team so he could have the Nimbus for himself, but James wasn't going to get it until the actual season starts in the spring. He was stuck with the Comet 720 for another year.
When he descended the stairs to the common room, he saw a few people playing wizard chess on their day off, a few studying, and a few dressed in Quidditch robes going to tryouts. Hugo Weasley read a book very intently next to Bucky Hagrid, who was trying to get Hugo to play with him. Hugo’s sister Rose just finished a wizard chess game against Kyle Underwood, so she greeted him goodmorning.
"You too," Albus replied. He noticed she was in her school robes. "You aren't going to tryout this year? You know Uncle Ron wants you to."
She shook her bushy red hair. "I don't care what he thinks. I find I'm only good at Keeper, and Lily is better than me by a long shot. Besides, I like my free time, especially with O.W.L.s this year, and there's nothing like being in the stands cheering at the games."
How about playing in the games? Albus thought. He wanted Rose to be on his team since he started in his second year so he could talk with her about strategy. But Rose was right, Lily was much better than her at Keeper, despite being two years younger. Everyone always said that the Potter family would never fail to breed a great player.
"Well, could I at least watch the tryouts?" Rose asked him hopefully. Ruth the cat purred as Rose clutched her in her arms.
"I'm sorry," he told her. "Longbottom and James always want the tryouts to be confidential so there's no influence on the judges."
Rose pouted, but began another game of wizard chess with one of Cora Jackson's friends named Gretta. Albus had never seen Gretta separated from Cora so he wondered where she could be.
Lily trotted down the stairs, also wearing her Quidditch robes, carrying her Comet 720. He didn't think it was fair she would have the same broom as him, but he hopefully thought about getting the Lightning Rod as a replacement soon.
Lily's red hair was tied back into a ponytail in order to keep them out of her vision in the game and her brown freckles nearly accented the brown broom handle. Songbirds chirped happily outside the common room window when Albus had not talked to his little sister since school started just over a week ago.
"How's your week been, Lily?"
"It's good. I really like Teddy's class. Can you believe he's teaching? It's like a miracle!" Lily rambled on and on about how his class was so exhilarating, how she tackled a boggart with no problem, and he began to regret asking her how she was. "Divination is nutters, too, but Professor Patil is really nice."
Albus and Lily exited the Gryffindor common room with their brooms and met Dominique, who claimed she just returned from breakfast where she entered her name into the Goblet of Fire, and a sixth year Chaser named Kent Dixon. Kent and Albus were a good pair together at Chaser, Kent was great at shooting and Albus was able to dish him the quaffle through the tightest niches in between defenders. But losing their third chaser last year was quite a bummer because they played so well together.
"I hope the next Chaser is as good as Clara was," Kent told him.
"Yes, she was very good," Dominique added. Her long auburn hair was straight down instead of a ponytail. She was able to control her hair to stay back, even during Quidditch matches, because her great grandmother was a Veela. It often annoyed Rose how boys occasionally stared in her direction, falling under the magical attraction. Dominique did not seem to mind the attention.
After a while of walking in silence, Dominique spoke once again, "Teddy's classes so far are outstanding. He seems extremely excited to go through each lesson. If only he were that excited in proposing to my sister. Victoire has been waiting nearly eight years. My dad asked my mum in two years. Victoire says if Teddy wasn't such an amazing guy, she would've left him years ago."
Dominique's sophisticated manner she inherited from her mother was not showing, but Albus could not agree more. He, along with his whole family, thought Teddy and Victoire were dating a very long time and that Teddy should propose for marriage. But Albus did not think Dominique should carelessly blab her sister's thoughts to random people.
Dominique and Kent talked about their classes while Albus and Lily talked about their week some more until they reached the Quidditch pitch. A large stadium stood on the grounds, three hoops stood on either side of the field. Huge stands to seat every Hogwarts student surrounded the sides of the pitch. A few blurs were flying around in the air warming up for tryouts.
James swooped down from flying and landed in front of the four of them. "I think all of the people trying out are here. I led them up into the air and gave them a quaffle to practice a little before the judging." A little less than ten Gryffindor students were dressed in old red Quidditch robes. Albus could not tell who each person was from his position, but he noticed one boy was much smaller than the others, probably a second or third year.
"Come over here and fly up there to watch. Lily, you're going to be Keeper while they tryout, but you're still a judge," his brother explained to them. Albus, Dominique, and Kent mounted their brooms and flew up behind James. They stopped about forty feet in the air, even elevation with the contestants, behind glowing words with their names and position.
James flew over to the middle spot with glowing words marked "James Potter, Seeker." To his left marked the Chasers, Albus and Kent Dixon, and to James's right marked the Beaters, Dominique Weasley and Fred Weasley. Lily hovered in front of the tallest, center hoop, her red ponytail slightly swinging in the wind.
James blew into a silver whistle and motioned for the flyers to stop practicing. He ushered them to lineup in front of the judges’ panel high in the air. With these people, flying on brooms was about the same skill level as walking. "You will all split into teams, two teams of four, and one player will sit out. He or she will substitute for another fellow Chaser every four minutes. Any questions?"
A girl’s hand shot into the air, but James took no notice to it at all. She blushed and reattached her hand to her broom.
James then called out the teams, separating the flyers into red and gold. On the red side was a sixth year named Tanner Linder, a seventh year girl named Brielle Thompson, a fourth year girl named Ianetta Hart, along with Albus's friend Kyle Underwood, who sent him a small smile. Albus had no idea that Kyle was interested in playing Quidditch, he wished Kyle would have told him sooner so he could help him.
On the gold team, which were now flipping their old jerseys to the other side were a seventh year boy, a friend of Patrick Fisher's named Clay Wilmington, a sixth year boy named Logan Lastor, the small boy that James announced as a second year named Tyler Tanoos, and finally, fifth year girl Cora Jackson, another surprise, which was avoiding his eye contact, like normal. Albus did not know Cora wanted to play Quidditch, either, and he had never seen her without her books and her followers. Seeing her in a golden Gryffindor Quidditch robe and her blonde hair tied back into a bun was a pleasant surprise.
Ianetta Hart and Cora were the first players to sit out of the tryouts, waiting for the four minutes to be up to substitute for another player. The remaining players on each team levitated in a line facing their opponents, ready to prove their skills.
James blew his whistle, signaling the start of the tryout. Kyle started with the red quaffle, just barely visible from the red background that was his robes. Kyle immediately zoomed forward and flew right by little Tanoos. Before it even started, Albus was already favoring Kyle to win. He knew he should be impartial, but he could not refrain from grinning every time Kyle dodged someone.
Albus imagined how Lee Jordan, head of the Games and Sports Department of the Ministry of Magic would be announcing the games, like he usually did for England’s matches. "Underwood with the quaffle!” Jordan’s voice boomed in the back of Albus’s head. “He passes it to Linder around Tanoos, Linder wants to shoot, but hesitates, sending it back to Underwood, then to Thompson. Thompson passes to Linder, but it's stolen by Wilmington! Wilmington streaks down the field, stopped short by Underwood, forced to feed to Lastor, who passes through two defenders back to the streaking Wilmington, who shoots and SCORES!"
Clay Wilmington made an impressive shot through the left hoop just before Lily could reach. It was not quite fair; however, that Lily was forced to switch sides after every transition. She seemed tired and frustrated, and the tryout had just begun.
"Thompson starts off with the quaffle, passes to Underwood, passes- no! Fakes it! Throws back to Thompson, to Underwood now flying above everyone. Underwood beams it downward past all three defenders and finds Linder wide open! What a pass! Linder goes to shoot, but hesitates once again, passing it back to Thompson but intercepted by Wilmington on the play."
That series of four minutes ended with another goal by Wilmington, but he shot and missed twice before, as they were backed up by Tanoos. The Gold team led 20-0, both goals by the muscular seventh year, when the whistle sounded for substitutions. Hart came in for Linder on the red team and Cora in for Wilmington on the gold.
The Gryffindors played a little longer, Kyle pulling off fancy moves in order to score past Lily once and assisting a score to Hart for another goal, evening the score. The red team kept stealing the quaffle back from Tanoos numerous times, causing yells of outrage from Logan Lastor.
Kyle made once again another fancy move, but he was hit by what looked like a train in the air, forcing him to drop the quaffle in pain. Albus thought it was the muscular Clay Wilmington, but he was currently supervising from the side. When the racing broom with the quaffle emerged from the bundle of Chasers (and a vomiting Kyle), Albus noticed the blonde bun of Cora Jackson.
Cora flew down the field, passing to Lastor right past the only defender, Thompson. Lastor threw it right back to Cora, who faked the shot into the right hoop, causing Lily to flinch, then zooming it into the left hoop for a goal.
Where had this come from? Cora Jackson?
From watching the first few minutes, Albus thought the only competition for Kyle making the team would have been Clay Wilmington. But Kyle was better by far; his moves were almost as advanced as Albus's and Kent's.
But then Cora Jackson came.
The quiet, but fairly popular girl that Albus had seen cheering on the team somewhat unenthusiastically was an amazing flyer and handler. Albus could not tell who the best fit for the Gryffindor team was, Kyle or Cora?
The Chasers went through two complete rounds of substitutions before play ended after about a half an hour with a final score of 100-80 in favor of the gold team. James whistled for the eight contestants to take a seat in the stands where hydration was supplied. Lily joined the other five Gryffindor Quidditch players by the judges' panel.
"So, now we decide," James said while looking down at the hilt of his broom. "Should we take a vote?"
Dominique piped in, "Possibly, but I feel as if we should analyze each person and eliminate the ones that would not be a beneficial addition. You know, just so we aren’t wasting time."
"Okay," James started as he looked over into the stands. "We'll start from left to right. First, Brielle Thompson."
"She's good, but she won't hit someone if her life depended on it," Fred told the group as everyone agreed.
"How about Tanner Linder?"
Lily laughed. "He's as jittery as Professor Longbottom when he's forgotten something. He almost refused to shoot." Fred imitated Linder getting the ball and hesitating, his hands waving frantically in the air.
Ianetta Hart was labelled as "didn't do enough for us to notice", so she was eliminated from the decision. Tyler Tanoos was dismissed because of his poor handling and small body, and they decided against Logan Lastor due to his easily sparked anger. Dominique and Kent told a story of how he screamed at his cauldron one time because the potion was not the right color.
"So we're down to the best three," James said. "Seventh year Clay Wilmington, and fifth years Kyle Underwood and Cora Jackson."
"I don't know about Wilmington," Fred added questioningly. "Yes, he has a fast shot, but he's a ball-hog. The bludgers will be chasing him almost the entire time."
Now, only two were left, the only two fifth years trying out. There was no objections that these flyers were the best ones to tryout. One boy and one girl. One was one of Albus's friend, the other he only saw in his classes. He had to decide.
"I think the decision should be unanimous," James said as the team nodded their heads in unison. "In favor of Underwood?"
Albus thought Kyle and Cora were very similar players, he wasn't sure which was better. So he went with his gut, the one he knew better. He raised his hand. To his surprise, only one other person raised their hand, and it was James.
"Why do you think Underwood is better?" Kent asked James and Albus, his left eye squinting tightly to block out the sunlight.
"His handling is outstanding. I've never seen the Insidious Dodge used by an amateur," James replied to him.
"Yes, but Jackson is a much better defender, and she shifts direction faster than Malfoy can. I just think her style is better for the team," Fred told him, his caramel skin glistening with droplets of perspiration.
"And her passes are outstanding, she can feed us the quaffle past three Hagrids on broomsticks," Kent added to Albus.
"And she's a girl," Lily and Dominique put in together.
James smiled and brushed his bangs. "Okay, well, everyone seems pretty set on the girl. I'm changing my vote. Al?"
Albus, without looking up, nodded his head in agreement. He knew Kyle would be deeply upset that he chose Cora instead.
James shifted his weight to the right in order to turn towards the eight students trying out for the last Chaser position. "We have made our decision." They all seemed nervous except for Wilmington, who seemed ready to burst out in applause for himself. Tyler Tanoos fidgeted in his seat while Kyle brushed the bristles of his broom and Cora fixed a rebel blonde curl out of her deep blue eyes.
"I first want to thank you for trying out, you each have talent. If you do not make it this year, I encourage you to try out in two years when Kent leaves," James told them. Kent shot a glance at the captain but he continued anyway, "The team has unanimously chosen Cora Jackson as the Chaser."
Everyone groaned except for Cora who smiled bigger than Gilderoy Lockhart in his old pictures. She looked up at Albus, and when she realized he was looking back at her, diverted her attention to brushing dirt off of her robes. Clay Wilmington buried his meaty hands in his face and Kyle Underwood stared at Albus with squinted eyes. Albus was sure Kyle was upset with him.
He ran out of time to think about that, however, when two figures came running towards the Quidditch pitch from the castle. Albus recognized them as Professor Longbottom alongside Rose Weasley, who was still carrying Ruth in her arms.
Longbottom motioned for everyone to come to him, so the whole team, including the failed tryouts mounted their brooms and landed in front of the Head of Gryffindor house on the grassy knoll.
He breathed heavily from running, and his front teeth protruded outwardly, "Quick! To the Great Hall everyone!"
"What's going on?" Dominique asked him.
His mouth erupted into a smile. "The Goblet of Fire is about to select the three champions!"
Everyone was dumbfounded. "But," Fred started, "It isn't supposed to decide until tomorrow."
"I know!" Longbottom replied back. "Hurry up now!"
Albus ran over to Rose who smiled uneasily to him. "I was taking Ruth for a walk when I noticed the flames were huge and blue, I knew it wasn't normal. I alerted Professor Longbottom because he was the closest teacher around, and now the whole school is in there."
"But why is it about to choose early?" Albus interrogated her with his black hair slightly rumpled from flying.
"I'm not sure. But I overheard Professor Longbottom talking to the Headmistress. She said it was almost as if the Goblet was waiting for certain people, and now it has all the three it was waiting on. But that doesn't seem likely to me."
Albus could hear Lily behind him complain, "Oh no! It can't choose yet! I haven't put my name in!" So Albus was the only Potter to have their name in the goblet.
The sixteen wizards along with a cat ascended a flight of stairs and approached the great oak doors of the Great Hall. They entered to find a huge commotion, almost as noisy as the opening feast. Headmistress McGonagall stood by the large Goblet, its flames bigger and bluer than ever.
The team sat at the back of Gryffindor's table. Kyle kept walking and sat next to Garrett Humber without saying a word. Albus caught the eye of Cedric at the table next to him towards the front. He grinned nervously and turned his attention back to the front of the room.
After a few exciting moments, the flames turned crimson. The whole room silenced themselves when they saw this, knowing the first name was about to be chosen. And sure enough, a piece of parchment with charred edges flew out and fluttered softly into McGonagall's old hand.
The silence was almost booming in his ears when the Headmistress looked at the Gryffindor table. "Dominique Weasley."
Albus's cousin, still dressed in Quidditch robes, got Kent to hold her broom and her bat. She barely smiled, and her long auburn hair hung from her high held head. Dominique shook McGonagall's hand and stood off to the front right side of the stage next to Professor Longbottom and Hagrid. She waved to the crowd and the applause died moments later.
Of course the Goblet chose Dominique, she was a great choice. He almost hit himself from thinking that only Patrick Fisher would be his competition. But if the goblet just chose a Gryffindor, could it not choose another? Albus did not know.
Two minutes passed when the blue and white flames transformed into red once again. A piece of parchment slightly bigger than the first shot out. McGonagall reached a little farther to catch this piece.
The headmistress coughed into her sleeve once, then turned her attention on the name. When she read it, she looked up to the Gryffindor table. She looked back down at the piece while adjusting her glasses, as if she was seeing right.
Albus's heart dropped, he just had the feeling.
He felt as he had been shot with the Impediment Jinx. Was he hearing right? Did the Goblet really spit out his name? Of course, Harry was his father, he was famous for it. But he still could not believe his ears.
He, too, got his fellow teammates to hold his beloved broom as he walked up the aisle between the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables, taking in the applause as every eyeball rested on his countenance. Cedric stood open mouthed, but he clapped along with the audience.
Albus shook McGonagall's decrepit hand and stood next to Dominique, Longbottom, and Hagrid, who all congratulated him, he was too shocked to feel happiness.
The applause died down as the Goblet's flames turned red more quickly this time. His mind was racing about being selected as a champion, that he nearly forgot that he was only the second one chosen.
Maybe the Goblet would choose Patrick Fisher, or maybe even Clay Wilmington, and that would make every champion in Gryffindor house. He could see the look on Scorpius Malfoy’s face when Gryffindor had a sure chance of winning the House and Triwizard Cup. He thought Laura Connolly of Ravenclaw had a good chance, and her proud face was gradually drooping in disappointment with each name called out.
But when Headmistress McGonagall caught the burnt paper and read the name inscribed on it, the whole Hall was flabbergasted.
Even more than the selection of Albus.
Albus never even saw this coming, it never even crossed his mind as a possibility, but of course the Goblet would choose this champion after choosing Dominique and himself.
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