Chapter 7 : The Chaser
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“Mum, where’s breakfast?” a young red-haired boy flew around the table in a state of hyperactive adolescence.
“Yeah, Mum, I’m hungry!” his twin whined.
“Fred, George, sit down, I’ll get you breakfast when I get it to you.”
Grumpy, they sat down across from their younger brother, who was bouncing with excitement.
“Mum, what’s for breakfast?” asked George.
“Eggs and sausage,” she answered, tending to the stove.
“Mum, why can’t I go!” whined a girl standing by her feet, “I want to go!”
“Ginny, you’re too young. Sit down.”
The door to the back garden opened an in walked a very dirty 12 year old, smiling from ear to ear.
“Charlie! You’re a mess!” his mother screamed. He opened a chair to sit down, before she yelled, “No, no! Don’t make my kitchen a mess! Go stand outside.”
“Yes. I’ll have Percy bring you your food. Out!”
“But Mum, I’ll just change!”
“Oh no you won’t, I’ll already be washing enough muddy clothes without those ones, too. I’ve told you not to go mushing around in the garden and then tracking mud all over the place.”
“But Mum, I’m starting Care of Magical Creatures! I have to get used to it!” He had been using the addition of that class as an excuse all summer to get into mud and going to look for magical creatures. His Mother, who herself had taken Care of Magical Creatures through to her seventh year, did not believe his rubbish.
“YOU SMELL, YOU SMELL, YOU SMELL,”
“Fred, George, stop singing. PERCY, BILL, BREAKFAST!” She called up the stairs. As Charlie slammed the door, two other boys came running down into the kitchen.
“Mum, everyone else gets to go!” her daughter moaned as she piled eggs onto her plate.
Molly Weasley looked around the table at her children. Bill was 15. He’d be 16 before he came home from Hogwarts for Christmas, something Molly tried not to think about. Molly could tell that he was the prime age for angst, but she insisted he spend time with his younger brothers and not writing to the girlfriend she suspected of him hiding. He loved his younger brothers, and Molly could usually rely on him to be responsible, but she could tell that sometimes being the oldest made him crave solitude. Sitting next to him was Ginny, who was counting down the days until her fourth birthday the following week. Bill was very protective of her, and she was often able to pull him out of his moods. She listened in while Fred and George told Ron all about the pitch, and how Quaffles regularly were thrown into the audience and you had to keep an eye out for stray bludgers.
“That’s not true, Ron. Don’t worry,” said Percy, her son of reason. At the young age of eight, he had matured beyond his years and usually insisted on being included with his two older brothers, even though he was closer in age to the twins. Charlie, who could be seen standing by the window shoveling sausage into his mouth, was an energetic twelve year old who seemed to spend more time outside the house than in it. He often convinced Bill and Percy to play Quidditch with him on their old brooms. Despite the age difference, Charlie was constantly outperforming Bill. He’d started to hint that he’d like to get a broom of his own, and Molly had been putting money aside for the past year to try and buy one for him. When he wasn’t in the air, he was in the mud. He enjoyed hiking with Arthur, whose absence Molly just noticed.
“Bill, where’s your father?”
“Out in the shed, I think.”
Molly sighed. Always out in the shed, messing with all his Muggle toys. She opened the door and, ignoring her son’s exaggerated sobs at being sent outside, yelled for her husband. Within a few seconds, he, too, was running through the mud to get back to the house.
“No, no, you can’t come inside all muddy,” she said to him when he got to the door.
“Don’t worry, Dad, I’ve been banished, too!” Charlie laughed.
Arthur frowned before pulling out his wand and using it to whisk the mud off of his boots. Molly inspected his work for a moment before opening the door to let him in.
“Dad, clean me off, too!”
Arthur looked at his son, covered in mud from head to toe, “Sorry, son. Not much I can do about that.”
Arthur stepped into the house and was greeted by the sound of Ginny’s persistent whines, “Da-ad, Mum says I can’t go!”
“You’re too young, Ginny,” Arthur said, glancing at his wife for approval. She nodded and he walked to the stove to get himself breakfast.
“You know, I was thinking about whether or not you should take Ron with you.”
Ron overheard his mother’s comment and immediately defended himself, “No, Mum! You promised I could go! When Charlie and Bill were home on Easter Holiday, you said I was too young and that I could next time. This is next time! I’m not a baby!”
Molly sighed, “Yes, yes, I suppose you’re right. You can go.”
Ron looked relieved, and continued to let his older brothers torment him that if he’s not careful, he might fall out of the stands.
“Mum, I’m not a baby! I can go!” Ginny continued to whine.
“No. Ginny, I told you that you’re too young to go and you’ll have to accept that.”
She crossed her arms in a fashion that reminded Molly of her own behavior when she was young. Molly dreaded seeing what a teenaged Ginny would be like.
“Alright, boys. Its time for us to head out. You all have everything that you need?” The boys responded in a jumbled affirmative while rising from the table and scrambling to get to the fireplace.
“Don’t forget your lunches!” Molly handed them their lunches one by one as they threw Floo Powder into the fireplace and yelled, “Chudley Cannon’s Pitch”. One by one, Molly’s son’s disappeared into the fire until only she and her daughter, whose spirits had lifted, were left to plan to Ginny’s birthday.
Ron stepped out of the large fireplace into the lobby of the Quidditch Pitch. It was small, and had what fans referred to as “village charm”. Moss was growing into the half rotten walls and, like the Burrow, it would have collapsed if not for magic. In Ron’s eyes, though, he was walking into the greatest place on Earth. Ron would continue to have this opinion of the Chudley Cannon stadium until he saw Hogwarts for the first time. The family purchased their tickets and climbed a number of sets of stairs until they found a place to stand where they’d have a view of most of the action. Although the game was in their home stadium, a large portion of the spectators were dressed in the black and yellow of the Wimbourne Wasps. In no time, the announcer had put his wand to his throat and yelled the names of the teams.
“For the Wimbourne Wasps, we have Captain and Chaser Matilda Macmillan, chasers Donald Fairborn and Harold Anderson. Beaters Trenton Wesley and Frank Hemmingway, Keeper Cecilia Dalton, and Seeker Celeris Harris!
With each name, a blur on a broomstick came out to the sounds of cheers.
“And your Chudley Cannons… Chasers Trudy Kendall, Perdeo Nelson, and Thomas Mulready. Beaters Stotia and Ermine Steppe, Keeper Leslie Agoni, and Captain and Seeker
Cheers roared from the sea of orange, which broke into song,
“Orange is the colour, Quidditch is the game
We’re all together and losing less is our aim
So keep your fingers crossed and hope for the best,
Let our Chudley Cannons do the rest!” *
By the time Ron had stopped daydreaming, the match had already started, “Kendall in possession, she passes to Nelson – intercepted by Macmillan, she gets past Leslie Agoni and scores. Ten to Naught, Wasps.”
“Aw, no!” Ron yelled.
“Don’t worry, Ron,” Charlie told him, “The score will get higher and higher. It’ll get more exciting!”
Ron frowned, he thought they were supposed to win. Following Charlie’s advice, he relaxed a let himself enjoy the action of the game. The score did indeed climb higher and higher, but the Cannon fans, who were used to the treatment they were getting from the other team, didn’t let the inevitable loss dampen their spirits.
“Steppe and Steppe, sisters by the way…” the announcer started,
“Cool,” Fred and George said together
“…both hit the Bludgers towards Anderson. He drops the Quaffle, which is recovered by Mulready. He takes it down the pitch and… YES. HE SCORES. MERLIN, HE SCORED! SEVENTY TO TEN, WASPS!”
The sound from the stands was unimaginable considering the Cannons were still down by sixty. The Weasleys roared and sang with the rest of the fans. Mulready took a few victory laps around the pitch, and the team gathered for a mid-air hug. Before long, the Wasps had widened the gap.
“Macmillian takes possession… and scores. Agoni seemed to actually dodge that one, Macmillian is known to throw some of the fastest Quaffles in the league… Celeris Harris seems to have seen something… yes, she did! She and Faulhammer race down the pitch towards the Snitch, can Faulhammer get there? No, she can’t. Celeris Harris catches the snitch, Wimbourne Wasps Win, three-hundred and thirty to ten.”
Although they’d lost, there was still a sense of comradery among the fans leaving the stadium.
“Dad, dad, can I buy one?” Ron pulled him towards a stand selling Chudley Cannon memorabilia. Arthur smiled and quickly paid for a scarf.
“One good thing about being behind a losing team,” Arthur said to Bill, “Is that the stuff is practically free. Simple supply and demand, son.”
They sat outside and ate their lunches, ending up just as muddy as Molly had predicted. Arthur used magic to clean off their boots the best he could before they all Flooed back home.
Ron was thinking about that day as he wrapped that same scarf around his neck. Fall was started to arrive, and the air was getting colder and colder. This was the first day in a week that Ron had been able to take a proper lunch break. Although the shop itself wasn’t very busy, they had been getting an exorbitant amount of by-mail orders. Hogwarts had been in session for a few weeks now, and the students were all running out of the supplies that they’d bought with their school things. Ron had spent his morning packaging the orders and sending them out for delivery by owl.
Looking forward to a quiet lunch, Ron wandered into Muggle London. When he went to Wizarding locations, people had the tendency to stop him for autographs, pictures, and interviews. Ron finally understood why Harry had always resented his fame. Now that Ron shared it (still not to the same degree as Harry), he too found himself wishing for anonymity.
After walking for no more than ten minutes, Ron entered a small sandwich shop. After ordering a waiting a few minutes for the sandwich to go through the toaster, he sat down at one of the small tables pushed up against the window. As he was about to take the first bite, the door to the shop reopened.
“Ron!” the person who entered called.
Ron looked up to see the familiar face of Angelina Johnson. She walked towards his table, and he rose to give her a friendly hug.
“Ron,” she exclaimed, “Imagine running into you here! I haven’t seen you since…”
“The funeral,” Ron said, closing the awkward pause in the conversation, “Sit down! How are you?”
Angelina unbuttoned her jacket and draped it over the back of her chair. She nodded at the clerk, who seemed to know her.
Ron raised his eyebrows questioningly. Angelina answered, “I come here quite a bit. I live in one of the flats above.”
“So, Ron, how have you been? How’s Hermione?” she asked.
“I’ve been doing alright, Angelina. I’m working at the joke shop. Hermione’s back at Hogwarts to get her N.E.W.T.s. How’ve you been?”
“I’ve actually been doing quite well. I’ve been a reserve Chaser with Caerphilly Catapults, you know. Well… I’ve been taken out of the reserves!” she had obviously been dying to reveal that information, but didn’t want too unless she was asked.
“Wow? Really? That’s fantastic! Your favorite team, too! See, we all told you you’d be able to make it, you never believed us.”
There was a brief, uncomfortable silence with his reference to the time that he, Angelina, Fred, and George had been close friends. During Ron’s forth year, when he and Harry went an extending period of time without talking, Ron had spent much of his time with his older brothers. Fred and Angelina had at the time been an item. They’d been together on and off for quite some time, but to Ron’s knowledge had never been seriously involved.
Her mind had obviously wandered with Ron’s to that time at Hogwarts, “How is George doing? I haven’t been able to go see him lately; I’ve been so busy with training.”
Ron signed, never sure how to respond to the question he wasn’t even sure he had an answer to. “He’s managing,” he decided on, “You can’t expect much from him… but he’s doing what he can. He’s coping.”
She frowned, clearly not satisfied with his answer, “You know… you two should come to my match on Saturday. Maybe getting him out of the shop and the flat will help lift his spirits a bit.”
He considered it, “Who are you playing?”
“Cannons,” she answered. Her face lit up, “Oh, that’s your team, isn’t it?! Well, come on, you lads have to go!”
Ron smiled. She was right, “Which pitch?”
“Chudley,” she frowned, “What an awful pitch.”
“Come off it! That’s a great pitch!” he retorted.
“The locker rooms smell like troll,” she said bluntly.
“Well, I guess it’s a good thing I don’t go in the locker rooms.”
She smiled, “So, you’ll be there? The match starts at 4 in the afternoon. I don’t expect it’ll go on much longer than an hour.”
He sighed, resigning, “You’re probably right. We could go out for drinks after. Lee, too. He needs to go out.” He glanced at his watch, “Angelina, my lunch break is almost over. I’m so glad I ran into you.”
“I’ll see you Saturday. I expect you’ll be wearing green and scarlet!”
He laughed as he walked out of the shop, “I bleed Orange!” he yelled to her.
That Saturday, Lee and Ron found themselves convincing a very stubborn George to leave the shop to go to the Quidditch match.
“George, come on, mate. It’ll be fun.”
“You go. I’ll stay – I’ve got work I need to do.”
“No you don’t,” Lee contradicted, “Ron and I stayed late last night getting all the orders filled so that you wouldn’t use work as an excuse.”
George signed, admitting defeat, “You’re right. Can’t turn down an invitation from Angelina, anyways. She can be a piece of work if you get on her bad side.” Ron recalled the aggressive nature she showed in his fifth year, when Fred, George, and Harry had been kick off of the Quidditch team while she was Captain.
“Right,” he said, “Good call. Lets get going – it won’t do us well to be late.”
The three young men Apparated to the lawn in from of the Chudley Cannon’s pitch. Ron smiled. It was even smaller than he’d recalled. He doubted it was half the size of the stadium at Hogwarts. It had been years since he’d been here, years since he’d seen his team play. The walls were still covered in moss, maybe even more than before. The wood still seemed hallow, but the heart was as full as he remembered. They entered the lobby, which Ron could now tell did indeed smell faintly of troll (something he’d always refuse to admit to Angelina).
They climbed the stairs to the same place he’d stood his first time. The Weasleys always stood in the same place.
“It’s been too long since we’ve all been here,” George mused.
Ron thought about it for a moment, “You’re right. When was the last time? With all of us? The summer before my first year at Hogwarts, wasn’t it? Before Charlie went to Romania.”
“It was. Even Mum went. She went mad over Charlie telling Ginny all about the amazing saves he’d made.”
Ron laughed, “I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s when she started flying, when we got home that day. Remember, we all had to put the brooms away?”
“Right, right! Mum almost made me go to St. Mungos over a broken nose! She was furious with Fred-”
The conversation came to an awkward halt with the memory of his twin. Lee changed the subject, “You know, the way you always went on and on about the Cannons, I expected a bit more.”
In a few minutes, a loud voice boomed to the audience as the pre-game announcements were made. The teams were called to the field.
Meeting in the middle, the Captains shook hands before everybody mounted their brooms and burst into the air. At the sound of the referee’s whistle, the game had begun.
Surprisingly, the Cannons gained possession of the Quaffle. The Chaser (Ron suddenly realized that he didn’t recognize him – he’d lost track of the team) flew down the pitch, but fumbled embarrassingly and dropped it. Angelina swooped in to take possession, and within thirty seconds she had scored.
The match continued in this general manner. The complete and utter inequality in the abilities of the teams made it an amicable experience for both teams. The Catapults were third in the league, which meant that they very likely had warm-ups more intense than the show that Ron was watching.
Even without the intensity, Ron could see George’s spirits lifting. Angelina even quickly flew down to high-five his outstretched hand after a particularly well-aimed shot. Watching Angelina in the air, Ron realized that he wouldn’t be surprised if she was made Captain in the next few years. She had a naturalness on the broom that he hadn’t noticed during her time at Hogwarts. The Quaffle seemed nearly enchanted – as if she always knew exactly where it was and how she could get it to where she wanted it to go. Her flying alone had a certain grace that made her valuable as a player. She was able to weave in and out of obstacles like a mermaid in water, as if she was born and raised in the skies.
Forty-five minutes into the match, the Catapult’s Seeker bursted from one side of the pitch to the other. She had obviously seen the Snitch, and, given her record, she was going to catch it. One of the Cannon’s Beaters was given the prime opportunity to stop the victory when a Bludger came their way as the Seekers raced to the Snitch. The Beater swung her bat, making contact with a crack of thunder. The Seeker, being a talented flyer, had no trouble maneuvering out of the way. The person behind her, though, didn’t see it coming.
Angelina fell off her broom as the Seeker’s hands gripped the Snitch. Angelina fell in the same moment that her team won her first game off the reserves. Angelina fell through the air as her supporters cheered. Angelina fell, and nobody noticed.
It wasn’t until she was nearly at the ground that the referee finally pulled out his wand, her scarlet robes catching his eye.
It wasn’t until she had already hit the ground that he cast a spell to stop her.
Silence fell over the masses as Angelina’s skull cracked on the ground. Two people, probably each of the team’s Healers, rushed out to her limp body.
Lee, George, and Ron watched in silence, not understanding what happened. This sort of thing doesn’t happen. Not at these types of matches. Not to Angelina, the ballerina on a broom.
She was Angelina, but she had fallen.
Ron grabbed Lee and George’s arms, pulling them towards the stairs. Together, they rushed down, not caring that they all but ran over a witch who was carrying snacks back up to the stands.
They found their way to the field, where the silence was overwhelming. Cannons kneeled a ways down the field, showing their respect by laying their brooms in front of them. The Catapults stood arm in arm a dozen meters away from the Healers.
The Keeper, who Ron assumed was the Captain, was speaking in hushed voices to the team.
“She’s not dead, but she’s not okay. They’re calling an Apparation Team to take her to St. Mungo’s right away. I want you all to go shower, cool off, before you meet us there.”
Ron had only ever seen a few Apparation Teams in his life. Injured people couldn’t be easily transported. Any Muggle modes of transportation would take too long. They couldn’t be Flooed if they couldn’t speak, and Side-Along Apparation was too risky, because they were already so delicate, the risk of being splinched was too high. So, when there was a situation like this one, a team of witches and wizards specifically trained to Apparate the injured came to take them to St. Mungos.
The team soon arrived, and Ron felt that they were in the way. As they turned to Apparate to St. Mungo’s, Ron caught a glimpse of Angelina’s mangled body. The grass around her was dyed the scarlet of her robes.
Sitting and waiting was incredibly unsatisfying. Ron felt the need to actively help her. He kept reaching to the seat next to him, naturally expected to find Hermione’s hand in his own. He craved the calming effect she had on him.
The team arrived shortly, and, for a lack of anything better to do, asked Ron, Lee, and George who they were.
“We were friends at Hogwarts. We played on the team together,” George answered softly. Ron worried that he couldn’t handle the stress. They’d Apparated Angelina directly into a room to be treated, so she didn’t spend any time being rushed through the halls. The group was starting to wonder why they hadn’t heard anything when the Chudley Cannons joined the Catapults in the waiting room.
“What the hell is wrong with you?” George stormed up to the Beater that had hit her. She already looked upset, and being confronted make her shrink.
“You can’t even aim a fucking Bludger. I could do better than you and I haven’t played in years.”
“George, sit down,” Ron said, coaxing his older brother into a chair, “She didn’t mean to hurt her.”
George allowed Ron to guide him to a chair. He sat down and buried his head in his hands, his ginger hair sticking out between his fingers in a way that would be comical if it weren’t so damn sad.
A Healer emerged from the emergency treatment ward. The Captain stood, non-verbally asking if he had news about his Chaser.
Ron looked from the Healer to his brother. George’s fists were clenched, his Adam’s apple bobbing with each swallow, the veins in his neck and forehead pulsing.
“We’ve repaired the superficial damage,” the Healer said, “But we won’t be sure of any details until she wakes up, which might not be for some time. Her body needs time to heal.”
Ron nodded to himself. That was better than it could have been.
The Healer turned to go back to the room, but the Center Chaser caught his arm.
“She’s amazing,” he said, “She could play for England if she works hard enough.”
The Healer nodded, understanding the implications of his work, before disappearing once again into the ward.
Author's Note: If anyone is reading this, thanks! I know I don't update very often, but I'm trying to get better about it. Leave me a review, let me know what you think! Sorry for any typos, I'm dreadfull at proofreading my own writing.
**Lyrics to the Chudley Cannon's song adapted from the anthem of the Chelsea Football Club, "Blue is the Colour"
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