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The Rise of the A.W.L. by MargaretLane
Chapter 12 : Ravenclaw versus Slytherin.
 
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 Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or anything you recognise. No copyright infringement is intended.



As the second year Ravenclaws didn’t have Transfiguration on Thursdays, Rose saw little of Blackburn until Friday, by which time she certainly seemed to have completely recovered.

She smiled at Rose as she entered the classroom, but otherwise made no reference to their conversation after Wednesday’s class.

Attempting to turn leaves into flowers was a rather more difficult task than turning one flower into another and by the end of the lesson, only Rose and Rasmus had entirely completed the task.

As usual in Transfiguration, a soft buzz of chatter had filled the room as they’d worked. Like Neville, Blackburn didn’t seem to mind some talking in practical classes so long as the work got done and nobody got too distracted. Despite the difficulty of the task, therefore, the lesson was a relaxed one and most of the students left in good spirits. Even Dora didn’t seem to have any complaints or if she had, she didn’t voice them.

And as September moved into October, interest in Blackburn’s lycanthropy seemed to wane, at least among the Ravenclaws, though of course that may have been simply because the match against Slytherin was dominating conversation to the exclusion of just about everything else.

“We’re going to trounce them,” one of the older students declared confidently one afternoon. “Don’t think they won a match at all last year. Worst team in the school by a mile!”

“And we’re going in as champions,” another replied. “Can’t see us being beaten by the team that came last.”

Albus paled and bit his lip.

Rose glanced at him. “You’re not getting nervous now, are you?”

“If we lose, everybody’s going to blame me.”

“No, they’re not. Don’t be stupid.”

“Yes, they are. We won the Cup last year, so if we lose now, what’s changed? I’m the only new member of the team.”

“As I recall, we won it by a pretty narrow margin last year. No guarantee we’d repeat that, even if we’d the exact same team.”

“The victory against Slytherin wasn’t that narrow, though.”

“What are you worrying about, so? If they’re that bad, you should be feeling confident.”

“But what if I do something really stupid? Like dropping the Snitch or something. Or what if I fall off my broom?” He was starting to panic. “Everybody thinks we’re going to walk it. What if…?”

“Albus, none of that is going to happen.”

He hardly seemed to be listening to her.

“I just know I’m going to make a mess of things.”

“You just knew you wouldn’t be picked for the team too, remember. And look how that turned out.”

“I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t been.”

“No, you’re not. You love playing Quidditch. And once you get out onto the pitch, you’ll be fine. The only thing that’s going to cause you any trouble are your nerves.”

“Yeah, maybe.” He was starting to calm down a little, but she knew it’d probably only last until he heard something else to worry him.

If people would stop making such a big deal about the match, it’d help, but it didn’t look like that was going to happen any time soon. Exactly why people were so interested, Rose wasn’t sure. Last year, the match against Slytherin had pretty much flown beneath the radar, as everybody’d been so certain Ravenclaw would win easily. They were considered just as certain to win this year and yet the excitement wasn’t letting up. Probably just because it was the first match of the year, she decided and possibly also because the weather was so much better. Last year, it had been so bad, almost nobody’d attended the match.

It wouldn’t be such a bad thing if that happened again, in her opinion. The less people watching, the less nervous Albus was likely to be.

The day of the match, however, was a bright, sunny, autumnal day.

“Perfect Quidditch conditions,” she said to him at breakfast. No point in letting him know what she’d really been thinking.

“I suppose.” He glanced down at his untouched breakfast.

“Hey, little bro.” James appeared behind him and slapped him on the back. “We finally get to see what you can do, eh?”

“You’ve seen him play Quidditch before,” Rose said.

“Totally different, little cuz, totally different. He’ll be playing in front of a few hundred spectators today. It’s a completely different ballgame from knocking a Quaffle around in your back garden, if you’ll pardon the pun.”

Albus visibly paled.

“That’s ridiculous,” Rose said firmly. “He just needs to ignore the spectators. They’re irrelevant anyway. It’s the Snitch he needs to concentrate on.”

“Easy to see you’ve never played in a match.” He turned to his brother. “Isn’t it, Albus?”

“Erm, well…”

“Hundreds of people cheering and booing, distracting you whenever you try to…”

“SHUT UP,” Rose interrupted. “You’re only making him nervous.”

James shrugged. “If this makes him nervous, wait until he’s on the pitch, in front of the whole school.”

“STOP IT! He’ll do fine and you know it. You’re just scared he’ll show you up.”

James let out of snort of laughter. “Yeah, sure, little cuz, you just keep telling yourself that.” He strolled across to the Gryffindor table, whistling.

“Oh, I could just…” she muttered angrily.

“What if he’s right though?” Albus mumbled. “What if I do freeze up the moment I get out on the pitch?”

“You won’t. Just concentrate on the game and pay no attention to anything else. Especially James. He needs muzzling sometimes.”

Albus chuckled nervously and Rose grinned at him.

“See, there’s nothing to worry about.”

The truth was, though,  she was a little nervous herself. She knew how badly he’d take it if he did make a mistake; he’d feel he’d left the whole house down. And of course, some people would blame him for it. Dora certainly would. The rest of his classmates would, she was fairly sure, be on his side. Apart from Dora, they were a pretty loyal group. But there was no telling how his teammates and the other older students would react.

And of course, James would take any opportunity to lord things over his little brother. That was probably what would bother Albus most. He was the fourth person in his family to play Quidditch for his house; he’d hate to be the first not to make a success of it.

Not, of course, that she believed that’d happen, she reminded herself, as she waited in the stands for the match to begin. Albus had insisted on her accompanying him to the pitch and as he’d had to be there early to prepare and listen to Hilda’s pep talk, she’d arrived a good deal earlier than she’d needed to. No doubt that was what was making her nervous. Waiting around for something to begin would do that to you. Albus would be fine, she was sure of it.

“Well, by all accounts, this should be a walkover.” Rasmus appeared beside her in the stand.

“I just hope so,” she said. “Albus will blame himself if it isn’t.”

“I hope so too. Hilda’ll have a fit if we don’t do well. Mum and Dad are already complaining she’s giving too much of her time to Quidditch, you know. They want her to start focussing more on her schoolwork. Some hope of that.”

“Does she hope to play professionally when she leaves?”

“I don’t think so. She’s planning to do some sort of research thing, you know Nicolas Flamel typed stuff.”

 “She’s planning to create another Philosopher’s Stone?” Rose joked.

“No, of course not, but there are a lot of mysteries with regard to magic, you know. She was talking about doing some research into unicorns, why their hair is so powerful and how else it might be used. That kind of thing. You need pretty good N.E.W.T. results to get anybody to take you seriously in that kind of business though and Dad thinks she needs to focus on them instead of the Quidditch team. But of course, she’s convinced she can do both.” He rolled his eyes.

“And you’re not?”

“Not if her O.W.L. results are any indication. I mean, she didn’t do badly or anything. She got the results she needed in order to continue with the subjects she wanted. But they aren’t good enough for a high level research position. There are positions with lower requirements apparently, but they aren’t exactly well-funded.”

Angie appeared behind them.

“What on earth are you too talking about?”

“Research positions,” Rose said.

“At a Quidditch match?”

“It’s a long story.”

Around them, the stands were filling up, although not to the degree one would normally expect for the first Quidditch match of the year. The result was considered such a foregone conclusion, hardly any Gryffindors or Hufflepuffs seemed to have turned up, apart from those Quidditch enthusiasts that never missed any match and people like Louis who’d a relative or close friend playing. Even Slytherin appeared underrepresented. It seemed they weren’t feeling overly optimistic.

Most of Ravenclaw, however, was in attendance and that included the entire second year class, all of whom, apart from Dora, were strongly rooting for Albus. 

Rose just hoped he knew they were impressed he’d made the team and didn’t really care if his performance was less than perfect. Of course, they’d all love if he outperformed the entire team and showed just what the Ravenclaw second years could do, but it wasn’t that important.

The first years, too, were strongly represented and like the second years were gathered together in a group. They seemed a little overwhelmed and very much in awe of their surroundings. Occasionally one would point up at one of the hoops or their heads would turn towards the gate the players would eventually emerge from.

“Were we like that last year?” Derek asked.

“Well, you were,” Rasmus teased him.

“Imagine, a year ago I didn’t even know what Quidditch was. I can’t imagine that now.” Derek shook his head in amazement.

“I can,” Angie said. “I still maintain football’s a better game. At least you don’t get hit on the head by a bloody wooden ball.”

“But that’s what makes it exciting,” Fionnuala argued.

Rose ignored them. She couldn’t understand how people could care so much about a game that they were actually offended when somebody suggested another was better.

She turned again to watch the first years’ reactions with the match about to begin.

Blackburn was walking towards them and as she approached, Felicity visibly flinched and took and step backwards. Belinda turned towards her, apparently offering reassurance.

Rose wondered if Blackburn had noticed their interaction. As far as Rose could see, she showed no reaction, just continuing to walk past them.

“Did you see that?” Rose turned to Angie.

“What?”

“That stupid kid, Felicity, acted as if Blackburn was about to hit her or something.”

“Did Blackburn notice?”

Rose shrugged. “I don’t know.”

There wasn’t time to discuss it further as the teams were filing out onto the pitch and Rose turned to try and give Albus a reassuring smile, even though he was much too far away to really notice.

“The two teams are entering the pitch,” Jordan began, “and both, in their different ways, have quite a lot to prove. Ravenclaw enter the pitch as the holders of last year’s cup, leaving them with the weight of expectations on their shoulders.” (‘Oh God, why did he have to say that,’ Rose thought.) “The question of whether they can repeat that achievement is bound to arise. And after what was, quite frankly, an abysmal performance last year, Slytherin will certainly want to prove themselves capable of more than most people currently expect. No doubt they’ll be hoping their new Seeker, Scorpius Malfoy, will help them turn things ‘round.”

Rose gaped in amazement, then turned to properly take in the Slytherin team. Sure enough, there was Scorpius, on his newly replaced Golden Arrow. Something about his body language indicated intense concentration. She’d no doubt he was taking this at least as seriously as Albus was.

Slytherin had only had their try-outs a matter of days earlier, but she was still surprised neither Scorpius nor anybody else had mentioned he’d been selected for the team.

She wondered idly if he was any good. He’d certainly proven himself an excellent flyer in their flying classes last year, but flying was only one of the many skills a Seeker required. She was a pretty competent flyer herself, but that certainly didn’t make her a Quidditch player.

It wasn’t easy to make any judgements about his skill, or Albus’s either, in the early part of the match. The Seeker’s role was concentrated so firmly in the final moments of the match that they often appeared to have little to do in the earlier part. And as the match began, it was clearly dominated by the Ravenclaw Chasers.

“Williams in possession. He passes to McFaddan, who passes to Bagshot. Back to McFaddan. He’s aiming to score. Can Higgs save it? No! Ten- Nil to Ravenclaw. The Quaffle is now in Bagshot’s hands again. She passes to McFadden. But Flint's aimed a Bludger and McFadden has to duck to avoid it. And Orpington of Slytherin's intercepted the Quaffle. She passes to… No, McFadden’s regained possession. He passes to Bagshot and yes, she’s scored. Twenty – Nil to Ravenclaw.”

“I knew it’d be a walkover,” Rasmus said confidently, as Hilda scored for the second time, making the score thirty-nil to Ravenclaw.

 “The Slytherin Chasers are appalling,” Derek agreed. “I wonder will they manage to score at all.”

It was beginning to look as if they mightn’t, as Ravenclaw scored twice more and Slytherin’s one attempt was easily blocked by the Ravenclaw Keeper.

“With the score currently Fifty – Nil, Slytherin must be getting worried,” Jordan’s commentary continued. “But Malfoy’s gone into a dive. Has he seen something? Yes, it’s the Snitch. Potter is flying towards him, but can he make it? He’s gaining on Malfoy, but he’s too late. Malfoy has the Snitch. Slytherin win. One hundred and fifty points to fifty.”

There was silence in the stands. Nobody’d expected that outcome. It was virtually unheard of for a team to win a match without scoring even one goal. For a moment, even the Slytherins seemed too shocked to even cheer their team.

“Golly!” Rasmus exclaimed finally. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before.”

Rose didn’t particularly care. She was just worried how Albus would feel about this. He’d barely had a chance to so much as catch a glimpse of the Snitch, so quickly had Scorpius caught it.

She raced down to the gates of the pitch, just as the Slytherins finally began to cheer. She wanted to be there when he came out, wanted to see how he was taking it.

Derek joined her moments after she reached the gate.

“They can’t blame him, surely,” he said. “Scorpius caught it before he’d the chance to.”

“Yeah,” she said doubtfully. She sighed. “I don’t think anybody really will blame him, but you know Albus. He might blame himself.”

They weren’t waiting very long, not compared with the wait they’d have had had Ravenclaw won and the team been celebrating the victory before leaving the pitch.

The Slytherin team, she thought, might never leave the pitch. The reality of their victory only just seemed to have hit them and players were flying frantically around the pitch, cheering and waving to their supporters.

The Ravenclaw team, on the other hand, emerged after only a few minutes, before even the Slytherin supporters had left the pitch, let alone the team.

“ALBUS!” Rose called to him.

He walked across to them, a forced smile on his face.

“He’s really good, isn’t he, Scorpius?”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “I can’t imagine anybody would have got the Snitch before him.”

He sighed. “That’s what Hilda said too.”

“So nobody can blame you, right?” Derek put in, a little too quickly.

“I suppose not. The team don’t, anyway. At least that’s what they said, but I suppose they’d have to say that, wouldn’t they?”

“No,  they wouldn’t,” Rose said firmly. “Believe me, if you’d done anything wrong, they’d have told you.”

“I suppose. I just keep thinking, maybe if I’d paid more attention, if I hadn’t been so nervous…”

“Only one Seeker can get the Snitch first,” she reminded him. “It can’t always be you.”

“I suppose, but…”

“There isn’t an ‘but’,” she interrupted him. “You did the best you could. He just got there before you, that’s all.”

Albus sighed and kicked the grass. “I did nothing at all in that match, really. Never even got the chance to try and catch it.”

“There’s always next time. You still have to play Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, right?”

“Yeah. Hilda’s freaking out, actually. This was the one game she thought we were absolutely certain to win. Well, we all did, really.”

“You didn’t.” Rose grinned.

“Well, no, but I thought I’d do something really stupid and mess up our chances, not that Slytherin would have found such a brilliant player. Can you believe how good he was, actually? I didn’t even know he played.”

“Why should you?” Derek asked.

He shrugged. “You’d think it’d have come up, wouldn’t you?”

“Yeah,” Rose said thoughtfully. “Or maybe no. Most of our conversations with Scorpius were about very particular things, you know? Last year, we mostly talked about the mystery and this year, all we’ve really talked to him about have been immediate things, like ‘what class have you next?’”

“Still, we could have asked when we were talking about his broom. It’d have been natural. I guess I should congratulate him.” He sounded half-reluctant.

“I wouldn’t bother now,” she said. “All of Slytherin are probably gathering to congratulate him at the moment. It can wait until tomorrow.”

“Do you think that might sound like I’m a bad loser?” He bit his lip.

“No!” she said firmly. “I doubt he’ll even notice. I’d say Slytherin will be celebrating for the rest of the evening anyway. He won’t have time to even think about you.”

Albus sighed. “OK.”

They headed back towards the castle.

“I don’t know if I want to go straight to Ravenclaw tower,” Albus muttered.

“Yes, you do,” Rose said. “If you don’t, you’ll just be worrying the whole time about what reaction you’ll get when you do return.”

“But they’ll all be waiting for me now.”

“No, they won’t. There are seven of you on the team, after all. Believe me, people won’t be focussing on you half as much as you think.”

She was right. Only the other second years even seemed to notice when they entered the common room.

“Hard luck.” Angie glanced at him sympathetically.

“I thought you were great,” Nathan said.

Albus stared at him. “I didn’t even do anything.”

“You did better than I would’ve. Bet I’d’ve fallen off my broom within the first five seconds.”

Rose, Angie, Derek, Fionnuala and Rasmus laughed, but the laughter was sympathetic.

“Me too,” Derek said. “To be honest, I’d love to play, but I’m nowhere near confident enough at flying. It’s still new to me.”

“We could practice together some times, if you wanted,” Albus offered diffidently.

“Yeah, that’d be great. You’re a fantastic flyer. I’m sure I could learn a lot from you.”

“I don’t know about that.” Albus shrugged. “But we could practice throwing and catching and stuff. It’d help me a lot for future matches.”

Rose felt herself relax. Dora, thankfully, was nowhere to be seen and everybody else was being supportive.

Even James refrained from too much teasing when they saw him that evening at dinner.

“Beaten by a Malfoy, eh? Still, you didn’t do anything too stupid.”

Albus glanced down at the floor and didn’t answer.

“Hey.” James punched him lightly on the arm. “You’ll do better next time, right?”

“Yeah.” Albus brightened

“Not that you’ll beat us, mind. But you might defeat Hufflepuff. If you’re lucky.”

“That’s what you think,” Rose said. “Albus has a pretty good chance of beating you, I’d say. Don’t think there’s much chance of your Seeker catching the Snitch as quickly as Scorpius did.”

“Possibly not,” James admitted reluctantly. “I bet that kid cheated, actually. It would be typical of a Malfoy.”

“Scorpius is all right,” Albus mumbled.”

“Yeah, he is, actually,” Rose agreed.

James rolled his eyes. “Wouldn’t put anything past that family. You shouldn’t trust him too much, little bro. Who knows what he’s capable of? Look at the way he smuggled that broom into school last year. Devious to the last.”

“Oh and you didn’t try the exact same thing your first year,” Rose said.

“Ah, but I didn’t succeed and if he’s sneakier than I am, you’d want to watch out. He is a Slytherin after all.”

“So what?” Rose said. “So was Snape, remember, and he’s a war hero.”

“When the best a house can boast of is a teacher everybody hated, it’s pretty clear that house is a dead loss. Have you heard how people talk about Snape?”

“So he was strict, so what? So is McGonagall and you wouldn’t criticise her, would you?”

He wrinkled his nose. “I might, actually. She gave Robin a detention last week for absolutely nothing.”

“Yeah, right, I know your idea of ‘absolutely nothing’.”

“Yeah, ‘cause you know it all, don’t you Rose?”

“I know more than you do, anyway, maybe ‘cause I actually listen in class every now and again.”

“You can’t learn everything in class, little cuz. Believe me, there are vast areas of life you know absolutely nothing about. And I can tell you here and now, you’re missing out.” He winked.

“Oh, there’s no point in talking to you!”

He smirked. “You just can’t think of an answer.”

“No, I just have absolutely no interest in continuing this inane conversation.”

“Big words for a small girl.”

She rolled her eyes.

“Come on, Albus, let’s go and have our dinner.”

James’s laughter followed them to their table.

They may have avoided Dora in the common room, but now she sat down beside Albus at the table and Rose saw a look of panic cross his face.

She glared at Dora.

“So much for adding a Potter to the team.” Dora grinned. “I guess that’s what happens when team members are chosen on their name rather than on their ability.”

“That’s stupid,” Rose snapped. “Albus was the best player at the try-outs by a mile. Even despite your little trick.”

“What little trick would that be?”

“Throwing stones at his broom while he was trying out. Wasn’t that why Hilda refused to even let you try out?”

“She refused to let me try out because my last name’s not Potter.”

Rose bit her lip to keep from responding, ‘and we know what your last name really is.’

She couldn’t say that; McGonagall had forbidden it. And yet, it was so, so tempting. Dora would really want to be careful not to push her too far.

“That’s ridiculous,” she said instead. “There were plenty of people there. They all know what happened. Trying to rewrite history is pointless.”

“Funny to hear the daughter of Hermione Granger saying that. Isn’t that what her department is all about at the moment, rewriting history?”

“No, it’s about writing a better future. There’s a difference. Mum isn’t denying the way things happened in the past, just trying to ensure they don’t happen again?”

“Really? What about that article about that old werewolf who used to teach here in the nineties? Little bit of rewriting there, wasn’t there?”

“It was the Daily Prophet that was rewriting history. Mum was just putting them right.”

“Yeah, right. And I bet this’ll be rewritten now, won’t it? Nobody’s going to accept that the Potter boy isn’t as great as everybody thought him.”

Albus looked down at the table. He looked upset.

“You’d better shut up,” Rose hissed. “Or I swear I will hex you.”

“Yes, like I’m really scared of that.”

“You should be.”

“As if the goody-goody Weasley girl would ever dare break rules.”

“If you don’t leave Albus alone, I just might.”

“Aw, isn’t that sweet?”

Rose whipped out her wand.

“Rose, don’t,” Rasmus said. “The whole staff is watching.”

“I’m getting very close to the point where I don’t even care.”

“I have a wand too, you know,” Dora said, but casually, as if the conversation couldn’t matter less to her.

Her tone made Rose even angrier.

Before she reacted, however, the male seventh year prefect turned to give her a stern look.

“No wands at the dinner table, please.”

Reluctantly, she lowered it and Dora smirked.

“We won’t be at the dinner table all night, remember,” Rose snapped.


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