Chapter 4 : four
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James glanced over at the stands, and sighed in exasperation. “Seeing as you all seem to be determined to be as unhelpful as possible today with group drills, we’re going to go completely back to basics, okay? Where’s my new Seeker?” he said, looking around. The third-year raised his hand. “Okay, Daniel was it? I’ll start with teaching you, I played Seeker for a bit.”
Daniel opened his mouth to protest, but James shushed him with a wave of his hand. “Look mate, you need it, okay? Your tactics leave a lot to be desired.” Potter shot a look at Sally, who coloured, not really understanding the look he gave her. Was it saying that she should have the position, or saying that his tactics were better than hers? Probably the latter, she decided, shuffling her feet. Her own flying today had been atrocious, she knew that. James had tried to start them off with some simple plays, with everyone passing around the Quaffle and she’d dropped it three times. The third time, when she’d flown down to retrieve it, she could feel tears pricking at the back of her eyes as everyone else waited for her.
Now the elation of being on the team had subsided somewhat, coupled with the training session’s dismal failure, Sally couldn’t help feeling she didn’t belong on the team. I didn’t get the position that I trained so hard for, she thought as she fingered the handle of her broom nervously. I only got here because I was better than the worst person. But James was still talking, and she forced herself to snap out of it and tune in. Sally was inherently stubborn, and she wasn’t about to wimp out and let the whole team down.
“Georgia, you can help the new Chaser...”
“Marlene,” the dark-haired girl supplied.
“Yeah, you help Marlene, and Carl- Carl, pay attention for Christ’s sake!- Carl, you can help as well. This is your second year on the team, for God’s sake act like it. Sirius, you start teaching Sally the ropes. You’ve not played Beater before, have you?”
Sally shook her head, flushing red again, although she was pretty sure it wasn’t meant as an insult this time. Black poked her in the back with his broom, and she tried to swat him away. She felt more at ease with Black than with the rest of the team- even Marlene, and they shared a dormitory and the majority of their classes. It was comforting that Black treated almost everyone completely equally, and they had spent a large part of the social in the what Black had now dubbed ‘the super crappy sober social club’.
“Right then, well, I’m sure Sirius can help. If you need a hand, come and grab me, all right?” James said, looking around at his team. They all nodded, and murmured their agreement. “Go on then!” he said, with a final exasperated look up to the stands, before dragging his Seeker off to a corner of the pitch to talk tactics.
Sirius kicked off into the air without so much as an explanation, and Sally was forced to follow.
“What are we doing then, Black?” she asked, maneuvering her broom so she was alongside him.
“Well for a start off, you can call me Sirius, not Black,” he said. “We’re going to be working together for the next year, we should probably get on first name terms.”
“Yeah, probably,” Sally said, and grinned. “So what are we doing, Sirius?”
He shrugged. “No idea, to be honest with you. You’re not bad for a beginner, you’ve got the right handhold for the bat, and I know you’re a decent flier, I remember seeing you at last year’s try outs. Didn’t you manage a ninety degree turn at about thirty miles an hour?”
“I fell off my broom,” Sally said, trying not to think about it.
“Yeah, but that was after you managed to spin your broom around so fast I thought it was going to snap.”
“The week afterwards, it did snap,” Sally said. “It was a stupid thing to do.”
Sirius shrugged. “Regardless, you’re a great flier,” he said, and Sally smiled. “I think the only things we are really going to have to concentrate on is your upper arm strength and your aim. Are you left or right handed?”
“Okay, so we’ll need to build up the strength in your left as well, and you’ll need to learn how to co-ordinate your swings, especially when you’re using two hands on the bat. Have I shown you how to hold the bat with two hands?”
The next hour passed in a blur for Sally, so much so she didn’t even hear James the first few times he called for them to come down. She’d been hitting the tennis balls which Sirius threw at her, trying to get them through the goalposts at the opposite end of the pitch to where the Chasers and Keepers were practicing. She’d done alright, and then she’d moved onto a moving target- the team’s new Seeker, who flew sluggishly around the pitch looking for the snitch. She’d hit him a couple of times as well, but after the fourth time, James swore at Sirius and told him to focus.
After that, they had got out the proper bludgers, which Sally had found to be very difficult. Unlike tennis balls, these had minds of their own, and if they wanted to change direction at the last minute, then they damn well would. She’d batted them back and forth with Sirius across the pitch until she finally became aware that James was shouting at them all to land.
She dismounted, followed by Sirius. He stopped to wrestle the bludgers back into their chains, but waved her on when she tried to help. “You go listen to James,” he panted, putting all his weight on one ball. “I’ve heard all his pep talks a million times. He practices in front of our bathroom mirror.”
“You’ve all done really well today, and I’m proud of you,” James was saying. He didn’t look proud in the slightest. In fact, he looked rather angry. “You’ve all taken to your positions really well, and...” he trailed off as he saw the Slytherin captain get up from his seat and start making his way down from the stands. “I’ll be right back,” he said, and started jogging to the foot to meet him. “Georgie, take over will you?”
Georgia glared at his retreating back for a few seconds, before returning to the rest of the team. “Right guys, what James said is mostly true, but you all need to get your fitness up, and I expect you to turn up to all the practices we run, or you’ll stand a very high chance of being kicked off the team. We don’t want people who are just here for the ride, and we have some very good substitutes waiting in the wings.” Her gaze swept over Sally, and she cringed, biting her lip.
“Next practice will be Wednesday- that’s the day after tomorrow- at six. Meet in the changing rooms. If you need to talk to anyone about anything, then you can usually find me or James pretty easily, and if you’ve got no other option, talk to Sirius or Carl.”
Sirius came up behind Sally and blew Georgia a kiss, which she pointedly ignored.
“I think that’s it guys, you’ve done great for your first session, so well done, and go shower. Hygiene is very important.”
The team broke up, and started to amble back to the changing rooms to wash and get back into their normal clothes. Sirius dropped behind to wait with Georgia for James, and Sally found herself walking back alone. She shouldered her broom, and strode off, feeling the ache in her arms with pleasure. It was nice to have something hurting that wasn’t her fingers cramping after re-writing another essay. Sally looked back. Behind her, James had caught up with Georgia and Sirius, and he didn’t look happy. Yet again, she wondered why on earth the Slytherin captain was watching their practice sessions... and what’s more, James wanted everyone to fly their best for him. And Sally knew James fairly well, plus his reputation preceded him. He wouldn’t let the enemy captain watch without very good reason, not even if instructed to by the Headmaster himself.
Sally sighed. I’ll suppose I’ll have to wait to find out, she thought, and she looked up to the brilliant blue sky. It was a fantastic day for Quidditch and flying- although she wouldn’t be able to go out again today, she realized, remembering the essays that needed finishing and the spells she needed to practice.
The next few weeks passed in a blur for Sally. She was working even harder at her studies, and even McGonagall had remarked that it was certainly paying off, and in her free time, she was flying, and it wasn’t restricted to training. The sessions that James or Georgia held were three times a week, and they had also organised some ragtag friendly games on Saturdays, where all the houses were mixed up into teams and they played short, hour long games. It was mostly Hufflepuffs and Gryffindors, but there were also a few Slytherins and as always the ever present figure of their captain sitting in the stands. His presence had stopped worrying Sally now, and it was just a given that he’d be watching, occasionally marking things in pencil in a small black book.
Sally probably flew more than anyone else- she tried to spend every waking minute on her broom. She wanted to be good, and what’s more, she really enjoyed it. The feeling of the wind on her face and the thick tangles she had to brush out of her hair every night, the blisters and rough skin on her palms from gripping the broom and bat, the sunburn on her face and arms. It was bliss. And that was what Sally was dreaming about, as she sat draped over the table in the back of the library, her Charms books splayed out on the table in front of her and the ink on the nib of her quill drying.
When she woke up, the library was completely silent. She groaned, stretching out her neck and rolling her shoulders when she heard a soft snigger. She looked up, startled. Remus sat across the table from Sally, her quill in his hands, scribbling down notes from her books.
“W-what are you doing?” she asked sleepily, rubbing her eyes. She checked her watch. It was nearly nine o’clock.
“Just writing up the notes from our Charms session,” he said, pushing his reading glasses up to the bridge of his nose.
Sally’s eyes widened. “Oh god Remus, I’m so sorry!”
“Well, technically you turned up for it, I just didn’t have the heart to wake you up. I’m going to make a great teacher.”
Sally stretched her arms and heard her elbows click, wincing. “You are going to be a good teacher, Remus,” she told him. “You’re super patient with me and you’re very good at explaining things.”
He humphed and carried on writing, the quill making sharp, scratching sounds on the parchment. “James said to remind you about practice tomorrow night,” he said.
Sally began to collect her books together, keeping one eye out for Madam Pince, as the library closed at nine, and nodded. “I hadn’t forgotten, we’re starting an hour earlier.” She grabbed some stray rolls of parchment and stuffed them into her satchel, and Remus held out the paper he’d been writing on.
“There you go,” he said as she took it from him and gave it a quick glance. “I just wrote up everything that we would have covered today, we can do some extra practical work in our next session. Plus, you’ve just been set an essay on the so called ‘creating’ charms? I put in a few points that will be useful, I think.”
Sally smiled gratefully at him. “Thank you so much,” she said with feeling, reading a little of the thick stubby words. Remus had easily just cut the amount of time she would have had to research the essay by half.
“How come you were so sleepy?” he asked, putting some of the library books back on the shelves. His tone was easy going, but Sally thought she could detect a note of concern.
“Just been busy,” she replied, shrugging nonchalantly. “I’ve been doing extra practices, and you know the extra school work I have to do.”
There was a few seconds of silence.
“Is being on the team really good for you?” Remus asked, coming bluntly to the point. “You don’t have a lot of free time as it is, and if you want to retake your Potions OWL this year as well...”
“I really want to do it,” Sally said with finality, cutting him off, although she felt his words like a blow. Another person thought she couldn’t do it- another person thought she couldn’t make it through. And she trusted Remus, she liked him. He was her friend as well as teacher.
Remus made a face, but nodded. “Alright then... I’m here to help if you need me, okay?”
That made Sally smile again, and she picked up her bag and punched him lightly on the arm. He feigned pain. “I know. Thanks mate.”
“I’ve got to go for a Prefects meeting,” he said, “but I’ll see you later. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep!”
Sally laughed and nodded. “See you later!” she called, but when she got to her dormitory, she dumped her bags and school clothes only to pull on her trackies and grab her broomstick. As she jogged down the stairs, she nearly ran into Marlene, who looked astonished.
“Training again, Sal?”
Sally wasn’t sure if she liked Marlene or not yet, but she’d been friendly enough since they’d started practicing together, and Sally saw no problem with being nice back, so she flashed Marlene a grin.
“Just a quick one,” she said, and Marlene raised her eyebrows.
“You always say that!” she called after Sally, making no mention of the fact that it was actually past curfew now. Sally was quick and quiet enough to get past deaf old Filch –she’d done it before- and Marlene also knew that it was no use reminding her, she’d go anyway.
Finally outside, Sally kicked off from the ground and sniffed the clean sweet night smell, pushing all thoughts of Charms and school out from her mind and finally feeling alive again.