Chapter 15 : Slytherin's New Chaser
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Over the past few months Albus, along with the rest of the team, had whipped Niamh and Harrison into shape, and the two younger Chasers showed promise. But they were nowhere near at the level Fred and Heather played, even when Fred and Heather were 13 and 14. They were good, but they and Albus would never have the instinct Albus had with Fred and Heather. That could only be created by growing up with someone.
Still, Niamh and Harrison were ready, and Albus, despite his nerves, was proud of their progress and skill. They would never be Fred and Heather, but they were as close as Gryffindor could possibly get. The anticipation in the common room about Niamh and Harrison reminded Albus a lot of when James played his first match in Albus’s first year. Gryffindor had just come off having Teddy Lupin as their Seeker for six straight years, and no one thought James could live up to Teddy’s legacy, but he had.
“Where are they?” John asked, craning his head over the crowd in the common room Friday night. “I don’t see them.”
“They’re both in bed,” Albus said. “Bradley didn’t want them to listen to all the speculation, and a good night’s sleep is the best thing you can have right before a match.”
“Then why aren’t you in bed?” John replied.
“It’s nine,” Albus said flatly. “I wouldn’t fall asleep for another two hours at least.”
“Is Kaden still with Professor Burke?”
Albus nodded. “Probably. He’s going to miss curfew, though.”
“I don’t know how he can stand to be around Burke so long.”
“Me either,” Matt added. “It was bad enough having him interrogate me about that potion.”
“What did he ever decide about that?” Albus asked.
“He’s not going to change anything until after this month,” Matt answered. “He wants to see if it’s as bad as it was last week.”
“I’d stop taking it, if I were you,” Amanda said. “Burke is mad.”
“He’s mad, but he is a genius. Amy thinks it’s a good idea if I keep taking it, and I trust her.”
Amanda shook her head. “Still. It’s weird.”
Rose appeared next to the table, followed by Kaden. She sat down next to Amanda, while Kaden, who looked vaguely annoyed, dragged over a chair and pushed his way in between Albus and Matt.
“You can’t keep missing curfew,” Rose said. “I’m going to have to report you soon. I’ve let you off at least eight times.”
“But Rose, I’m doing work for a professor-”
“Who should more than understand that you need to be back in Gryffindor by nine. Not leaving the dungeons by nine. Not starting to clean up at nine. In the common room. By nine,” Rose explained.
“You’ve been letting him off?” John exclaimed, his mouth agape. “I’m shocked.”
“Not anymore,” Rose muttered.
“How was patrol?” Albus asked.
“Other than finding your cousin wandering the corridors at nine-fifteen? It was fine. Nothing exciting. What are you lot up to?”
“Homework,” Albus answered. Matt and Amanda nodded.
“Procrastination,” John said. “So, Al, does Slytherin have any new players this year?”
“They’ve got one new Chaser, but that’s it. No idea who it is. They’ve kept it pretty quiet. But their other two Chasers have been playing together for years, which is why we’ll have the disadvantage.”
“I’ve seen the three of you at practice and I like our odds,” John said. “You do that Pikes Formation perfectly. And the Slytherin Chasers can’t do that one, even though they’ve played together for years.”
“No one knows who the new Chaser is?” Matt asked. “Is that normal?”
“Not really,” Albus said. “I don’t know why they’ve kept them secret.”
“Guess we’ll find out tomorrow,” Matt said, shrugging.
“Are you allowed to go to the match?”
“If it’s shorter than three hours,” Matt explained. “If it goes longer than that I have to come back in, or else Madam Pomfrey will come out and find me.”
John burst out laughing. “I almost want to see that. But the only way a match would last that long with James as Seeker is if someone stole the Snitch.”
“Does that happen?” Kaden asked, his eyes glinting. “Could we do that?”
John looked disgusted. “No way. We don’t mess with Quidditch.”
“Or if we don’t score any goals and James ignores the Snitch in the hope that we’ll catch up,” Albus muttered.
“What if we stole it from a match Gryffindor wasn’t in?” Kaden asked.
“Kaden, shut up,” John said. “Messing with Quidditch is the worst offense we could possibly commit.”
The weather was actually decent the day of the match. It was cold, but not very windy, and the sun was peaking out from behind the clouds. Excellent flying weather, a point Bradley made no less than three times in his speech as they sat in the changing rooms waiting for the match to begin.
Niamh and Harrison were nervous, and Albus attempted to calm them down by talking about his own first few matches, but this did nothing and may have made things worse, so Albus gave up. He wasn’t one for pep talks.
James’s friend, Nathan, was doing the commentary, and when he announced the Gryffindor team, Albus followed Bradley and Ryan onto the pitch. He craned his neck as he walked, attempting to see who the new Slytherin Chaser was. Once they reached the middle of the pitch, and the Slytherins, Albus finally saw who she was.
Easily the smallest person on the team, she could’ve been mistaken for a first year, or even someone’s ten-year-old sister. She had her broom gripped in her hands and looked determined. Albus’s jaw fell open when he met her gaze, never having known she played Quidditch, let alone had a desire to play on her house team.
“Who is that?” Bradley asked.
“Elsie Willinson,” Albus whispered. “The one who knows enough parseltongue to open the Chamber of Secrets. She was down there last year when I was.”
“She’s a little creepy,” Bradley said.
“Not as creepy as Devon Wright,” James muttered, nodding at the Beater who landed him in the hospital wing the previous year. Judging by the grin she was giving James right now, her crush hadn’t fizzled in the slightest.
Albus laughed. “Oh, come on. Suppose Meg Johnson doesn’t work out. I’m sure Devon would love to go to Hogsmeade with you in December.”
“Players, mount your brooms!” Professor Oteski shouted.
Albus turned away from his brother and mounted his broom. Now wasn’t the time to laugh about James’s love life. It was time for him to focus all of his effort in keeping himself, Niamh, and Harrison together, working as one. Either that or think like the Cannons, and hope for the best.
Oteski released the Snitch and the Bludgers. With a glare at every player on both teams, a final silent threat to play cleanly, he tossed the Quaffle into the air and all fourteen players ascended with it.
Albus caught the Quaffle and immediately flew to the left, the side he knew the Slytherin Keeper had issues with. Niamh and Harrison flanked him, something Albus had trained them to do. Albus clutched the Quaffle and willed his broom to go faster.
Devon Wright sent a Bludger straight at Albus and he tossed the Quaffle to Niamh before falling in order to miss the Bludger.
Albus slowed so he could follow Niamh and Harrison in order to watch the way they played amidst the Slytherins. They tossed the Quaffle back and forth quickly, never fumbling it. Albus sighed and allowed himself to relax. Maybe the two of them would work as well together as Albus had with Fred and Heather.
The Slytherin Chasers converged on Niamh and Harrison. Albus accelerated and flew above them. Harrison noticed and tossed the Quaffle up. Albus caught it and took it the remaining distance to the Slytherin goal posts, where he threw it deftly into the left goal post.
“Ten points to Gryffindor!” Nathan shouted.
Albus grinned and flew back out to the pitch. The Slytherin Keeper threw the Quaffle back and Elsie caught it. Deciding they could afford to let Slytherin gain a little ground with the Quaffle, Albus tailed Elsie and watched her fly. She was actually incredibly good, with a skill not normally seen in second years. After another few yards, she threw the Quaffle to Jackson Limbert and Albus sped up.
As the match progressed Albus calmed down to the point where it felt as if he were playing with Fred and Heather again. Gyrffindor didn’t score as many points as they would have if Albus were playing with his cousins, but they did manage to keep the Quaffle away from Slytherin enough so they didn’t score very many points, either. Two hours into the match the teams were tied 100-100 and Slytherin was in possession.
“Belby in possession of the Quaffle,” Nathan commentated, “passes to Willinson, who passes back to Belby, who attempts to score against Gryffindor Keeper Janie Creevey. Spectacular save by Creevey!”
Janie really was a fantastic Keeper. She rivaled Georgia and that was saying something. Elsie was surprising Albus as much as Janie had the previous year.
The match dragged on into its third hour and Albus hoped James caught the Snitch soon. Not just because he wanted Matt to see the entire match, but because Albus himself was growing cold. Despite the lack of wind, it was bitingly cold outside and seemed to be getting colder. Dark clouds were rolling in, threatening a storm later.
Albus scored another goal with the assistance of Niamh and the Quaffle returned to Elsie’s possession. Albus sped up to catch her, but was cut off by James, who was headed straight toward the stands.
“It looks like Potter has seen the Snitch!” Nathan shouted. “Pucey of Slytherin is tailing him, but wait, Potter has suddenly changed directions!”
Albus stopped pursuing Elsie in order to watch James, who was now coming back at him. Albus glanced around and noticed the Snitch hovering near the back end of his broom. He froze, hoping the Snitch would stay where it was, and met James’s gaze.
James kept flying straight at Albus, who tried not to breath. It probably looked pretty strange from the stands, to see James flying directly at his brother.
“Potter seems to be attempting to ram his brother off his broom,” Nathan continued. “Weird tactics, but I’d say he knows what he’s doing.”
James grinned even wider and reached out his hand to the back of Albus’s broom. Albus felt his broom jostle and turned to see James holding the struggling Snitch in his left hand, triumphant.
The crowd cheered and Albus joined the other players in their descent to the ground.
“Potter catches the Snitch! Gryffindor wins!” Nathan shouted.
Albus landed and joined his teammates, where they stood already getting bombarded by the other Gryffindors.
“That was brilliant!” he said to James.
“I kept hoping it wouldn’t move,” James said. “And I wasn’t sure Pucey would buy that fake when I flew to the stands, but he did. I didn’t want him to fly right at you because you would’ve moved if it was him coming straight at you.”
Albus laughed. “Yeah, definitely.”
“Weird, though. The Snitch was tailing you for a few yards when you were chasing Elsie.”
“Very odd,” Albus agreed.
Eventually, the celebrating Gryffindors made their way back to the castle and to their common room, where the usual post-win party commenced. Crates of butterbeer appeared, seemingly out of nowhere. All homework was banished to the dormitories as every single Gryffindor joined the team in celebrating the first win of the year. Albus spent a half hour rehashing the match with his teammates before joining his friends at their usual table near the doors to the dormitories.
“That bit with James and the Snitch was brilliant,” John said as Albus sat down. “Did you see how pissed off Slytherin’s Seeker looked when James changed directions?”
Albus grinned. “No, I wasn’t paying much attention to what he was doing.”
“Fair enough,” John said, clanking butterbeer bottles with Albus.
“Did you know Elsie played Quidditch, Rose?” Amanda asked.
“She never mentioned it,” Rose answered. “Never would’ve expected it.”
“She’s so tiny I would’ve pegged her for a Seeker,” John said.
“Maybe she’ll switch positions when Pucey graduates,” Matt suggested. “She’s a decent Chaser, though.”
“I think Niamh and Harrison were good picks,” John added. “They’re no Fred and Heather, but they’re pretty good.”
Albus agreed. Looking back, he’d been nervous about the match for nothing. Gryffindor probably wouldn’t win every single match that year, but they still had a decent shot at the cup.
The party continued well into the afternoon and didn’t wind down until people started venturing down to the Great Hall for dinner. Albus and his friends were some of the last left in the dormitory, drinking the few remaining butterbeers, but they headed down for dinner as soon as they finished. Rose was already talking about spending all evening in the library to work on the mountain of homework they had due that week. The others reluctantly agreed, although Albus had to patrol at eight. Patrolling beat doing homework in the library, so he didn’t mind.
Monday brought the storm that had been forming during Saturday’s Quidditch match, showering the Hogwarts grounds in constant, ice-cold rain. When the rain only increased in intensity by mid-morning, Albus was very grateful Longbottom was holding class in the library so they could work on their mandrake research papers rather than going to the greenhouses and getting completely soaked.
“I hope it lets up by Care of Magical Creatures tomorrow,” Albus commented as they entered the library.
“It probably won’t,” John said.
Albus groaned. There was nothing worse than sitting in Care of Magical Creatures during a rainstorm. But he put the thought out of his mind as they headed to the nearest empty table in the library.
The only people in the library were Longbottom, Miss Walsh, and the rest of their class. Apparently Miss Walsh had closed the library to everyone else, something Madam Pince never did and Albus hadn’t even known possible. But then again, none of the professors ever brought their classes to the library to do research during Madam Pince’s reign as librarian.
“All right, everyone quiet down!” Longbottom said. “I think we can all be grateful for coming here instead of the greenhouses today, so let’s give Miss Walsh our full attention.”
“Thank you, Professor Longbottom,” Miss Walsh said as she walked to the middle of their group of tables.
Albus exchanged glances with his friends. Madam Pince never taught any of their classes.
“Starting this year I gave all the first years a lesson on how to properly use the library, in their Transfiguration classes,” Miss Walsh began. “It’s something the headmaster and I both feel is important, and the lot of you can probably agree. Who here spent hours looking for books in the library as a first year?”
Albus glanced around and a few of his fellow students tentatively raised their hands. Albus did so as well, and soon every hand in the class was raised, including Professor Longbottom’s.
Miss Walsh smiled. “Me, too. And as a first year, I was terrified of Madam Pince.”
There were a few hesitant laughs. Miss Walsh could not have been more different than Madam Pince.
“Anyway, I am going to go over with you what I went over with the first years in September. It will be a little more involved, but the principles will be the same. I understand you already have topics picked out?”
Albus nodded. Everyone’s papers would be on mandrakes, but they were required to narrow down the topic and okay it with Longbottom before beginning. Albus and John both picked basic mandrake care while Rose picked mandrake use in advanced potion brewing. Matt and Amanda both picked mandrakes throughout history.
“Excellent,” Miss Walsh continued. “I’ll start by going over how to correctly use the card catalog…”
Miss Walsh’s demonstration only took about twenty minutes, something Albus was very grateful for. She briefly explained where to find things in the library, how to find them, and stressed they should always ask for help when needed. Strangely, she also said none of them should waste hours looking for the material they needed, that that should not be part of their homework time. Madam Pince always preferred to let Hogwarts students search the entire library for what they needed.
After she finished, Miss Walsh turned them loose to locate materials for their papers. Since there were only a few different topics under the main topic of mandrakes, much of the class needed the same books. Miss Walsh performed copying spells for them, which was extremely helpful. By the time the class was over, Albus had two sources which was enough to get him started.
“Remember, you need at least four sources!” Longbottom shouted as they left the library.
“I wonder what Madam Pince would say if she met her replacement,” Amanda said as they walked to the Great Hall for lunch.
John laughed. “I’d like to see her face. It would get all pinched.”
“She should’ve retired years ago,” Rose said. “She was crotchety even when our parents were at Hogwarts.”
“Do you think Laurentis and her education reform have to do with Madam Pince leaving?” Amanda mused. “It’s quite the coincidence that she retired the same year Laurentis said she was going to reform Hogwarts.”
“It wouldn’t surprise me,” Rose agreed. “Same with Slughorn. They’d been here the longest and none of them wanted to change the way they taught. Or for Madam Pince, didn’t teach.”
“I’m not complaining,” Albus said. “I like Miss Walsh. Do you think the Ministry wanted her to actually teach us? Or do you think it was all her and Kendrick?”
“Probably both,” Amanda said. “The librarians at my little brother and cousins’ school teach. It’s not a new thing.”
“I like it,” Matt said. “It’s not going to take nearly as long to write this mandrake essay now.”
“Who do you think is next?” Albus asked as they walked into the Great Hall and found seats at the Gryffindor table. “That education liaison was here for a reason. It wasn’t just Pince and Slughorn Laurentis wanted out.”
“Young,” Rose said immediately. “If she got Madam Pince to retire for not teaching, think how much she’ll want to get Young sacked for not teaching, and he’s an actual professor.”
“Trelawney, too, I bet,” John added. “Maybe Binns?”
“Can’t say I’d be sad to see Young leave,” Matt said. “Could they really sack Binns, though? He’s a ghost. Nobody could stop him from hovering in his classroom, unless they got the Spirit Division involved and Dad told me they don’t like to get involved unless the ghost is harming somebody. But Binns just being there wouldn’t harm anyone.”
“It’d probably freak out his replacement,” John said with a laugh. “Can you imagine? Standing up there and teaching and Binns goes ‘actually, the giant wars took place from 1782-1876…’”
Albus burst out laughing. “I might stay awake in class if that happened.”
“What are you lot talking about?” Kaden asked as he sat down.
“Who’s going to get sacked after the education liaison is finished,” Albus answered. “We’re guessing Trelawney, Young, and Binns.”
Kaden shuddered. “I’m all for Trelawney getting sacked. She just predicted my death by thestrals in her crystal ball. She’s mad.”
The rest of the group collapsed in hysterics. Kaden was the first of them to have his death predicted by Trelawney, and the thought was hilarious. Albus grinned at his cousin, who did not look nearly as amused, before turning back to his bacon sandwich.
A/N: Thanks for the reviews! So, how does everyone like the new skin and features on the site? If you have a Kindle, you can now get fics sent to it with the Kindle button on the story's main page. Let me know if you've tried it with my stories!
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