Chapter 50 : Epilogue
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Breakfast at the Great Hall had always been one of my favorite things about Hogwarts. What's not to love? The babble of happy voices greeting each other in the morning. The warm sense of belonging, of being home. The bright young minds coming from all corners of the castle to sit together, have a nutritious meal, and revel in academia and the sacred pursuit of knowledge.
And the bacon.
The bacon at Hogwarts is, to put it succinctly, da bomb.
And on a morning like this one, I would need as much as I could get. Because today was game day — the school's first Gryffindor-Slytherin Quidditch match of the year and, more importantly, my first match... Well, ever.
At the start of Sixth Year, I had tried out for the Quidditch team and, much to my surprise and Dom's triumphant glee, landed myself the position of left Chaser. Which meant I would be playing alongside Dom, my lifetime best friend, for the entire school year. A good thing.
It also meant, however, that I would be playing against the Gryffindors, and consequently against my boyfriend, twin brother and other best friend in every match against their House. Bad thing.
Initially, the boys hadn't taken my induction into "the Snakes" very graciously. Aidan stopped speaking to me altogether, then tried to convince Mum and Dad to scratch me from the will. Freddy alternated between vehemently denouncing all my life choices and dropping to his knees to tearfully beg me to resign. And Potter... Well, actually, Potter took it okay.
He was the one who convinced me to try out in the first place, after all.
"Morning." I looked up from my eggs and toast (and, of course, bacon) to see Evelyn plopping down across from me at the table, wearing a men's button-down shirt, her hair significantly mussed. I cocked a knowing eyebrow.
"Slept over at Freddy's?" I asked through a mouthful of food.
Evelyn grunted in response as she grabbed the Nutella jar, twisted it open, and stuck a spoon inside. "Yeah."
I groaned in despair, letting my fork clatter onto my plate. "Dude, come on."
"Look, I know you don't approve of how Freddy and I work." Twirling her spoon in the air, the blonde rolled her eyes in an exasperation so 'teenage girl' that it made me feel like a lecturing mum in high-waisted jeans. "But just because we're not living in monogamous bliss like you and James doesn't mean our relationship's unhealthy. Yes, we're on and off a lot, yes we see other people... But it works out, okay?"
"That's not what I care about!" I cried, holding my hands up defensively. "I just don't want you giving Freddy a morale boost the night before a big game!"
Evelyn pouted. "What?"
"The game! Quidditch!" I blurted out. "Remember?"
"Ohh, right." Evelyn cocked her head as she chewed, her cheeks bulging to chipmunk capacity. "Yeah, I don't care about that."
"I'm not a fan of sports, my dear," Evelyn drawled. She retrieved her compact from her backpack, snapping it open to check her makeup in the mirror. "Or competition in general. What's that saying, again? If you can't beat 'em — "
"Sleep with them?"
"That's the one."
I sighed, brow falling into a flat line of frustration. "You're unbelievable — "
"Morning." Before I could further berate Evelyn for her betrayal, James Potter — my longtime boyfriend/Quidditch arch nemesis/actual arch nemesis — was swooping into the seat next to mine, planting a kiss on my cheek and reaching to help himself to the scrambled eggs.
I turned, gaping at him in astonishment. He was freshly showered, his jet black hair dripping and sticking up in the usual patches that always drove me mad. He was dressed in a plain white shirt but already wearing the bottom half of his kit, along with his field cleats. It was a strangely attractive ensemble.
This did not stop me, however, from acknowledging the fact that us sitting together was wrong. Flat-out wrong. I mean, fraternizing with the enemy much?
I stared and stared at Potter, hoping he would catch on, but he remained oblivious as he started plundering the table in front of him, shoveling obscene amounts of food onto his plate. How come nobody understood that today was a special day and Gryffindors and Slytherins had to keep their distance? Was nothing sacred anymore?
"Oi!" I finally snapped. Evelyn jumped at the outburst and fixed me with the stinkeye, evidently annoyed that I'd interrupted whatever loving interaction she'd been having with her mirror.
Potter glanced at me from the corner of his eye, too busy gulping down pumpkin juice to devote his full attention to my greivances. "What?"
"You're not allowed to sit next to me today," I said slowly, unsure if Potter was purposefully acting thick just to be difficult. How could he not know this? Gryffindors and Slytherins did not mix on the day of a Quidditch match. It was like...like a basic rule of the universe, along with Newton's Law of Motion and the power of gravity.
"Oh?" Potter set down his now-drained goblet and arched a curious eyebrow. "And why not?"
"It's game day, and we're on different teams." I sniffed, puring my lips with obvious annoyance. "Therefore, we're not speaking. Or supposed to be, anyways."
Potter took a long look at me, surveying my bedraggled early-morning appearance from top to bottom. I shifted uncomfortably under his hard, analytical gaze, waiting impatiently as Potter processed all this new information and seemed to come to the conclusion that none of it was to his liking.
"Well?" I demanded.
"You're cute," he quipped, then turned back to his food.
"Don't condescend," I shot back, now legitimately miffed at his blasé response. Why couldn't he take me seriously, for once? I leaned forwards, conviction in my tone and the set of my jaw. "This is important."
"I'm not being condescending," Potter said matter-of-factly, not even bothering to look at me as he reached across the table for the toast basket. "I actually think you're cute. In every sense of the word. I think your curly hair is cute, I think the shape of your nose is cute, I think it's cute how much you care about Quidditch and how worried you are that us being on different teams will negatively affect our relationship — "
"What?" I blustered, caught off guard by how quickly he'd called me out on the truth. "I'm — I'm not worried. That's not what I was saying — "
"It's won't affect our relationship, Bennett," Potter said calmly, setting down the breadbasket. He finally turned to look at me. "If you lose to my team, I'll still think you're cute. If you beat me, I'll still think you're cute. And either way we'll get to have triumphant post-Quidditch sex afterwards, because at least one of us will be the winner. So it all works out."
I had no response to that.
Potter smirked at my petulant silence. "I gotta warm up now. See you on the field. Good luck."
Hunched over her plate, Evelyn made a grossed out face as Potter swiftly kissed me on the cheek, stood up and ambled off. Presumably to the locker rooms, where he would finish getting changed, prep the Gryffindors, and then review for one last time all his — most likely brilliant — strategies for kicking my arse in front of the entire school and everyone we knew.
"This is not going to be fun," I mumbled, more to myself than anything, as dread seemed to consolidate in the bottom of my stomach. My eyes lingered on Potter's retreating form, tracing the broad line of his shoulders until they disappeared out the door, away from view.
Evelyn shrugged, smirking. "Like I said, if you can't beat 'em..."
"It's a trap," Dom said, punctuating the declaration with a closing slam of her metal locker door. "He's being extra sweet to you and playing the 'good boyfriend card' so that you'll let your guard down. You'll be shaken, confused; you won't play as well. Then he and his stupid team will swoop in and win the game. You can't let him get in your head, Aggy, you can't."
"Okay, okay, chill," I retorted, landing a placating hand on Dom's shoulder. I glanced warily around the locker room, hoping that our teammates hadn't noticed her deranged ranting. We were all getting ready for the game — the room was packed with nerves and anxiety, and the last thing we needed was for everyone to see their Captain in the midst of a giant freak out. "Deep breaths, deep breaths."
Dom gulped in some air, her small body expanding and shrinking with each comically large oxygen intake. I watched her warily, unsure if I should sit her down and get her a paper bag to hyperventilate in, or call the police and prematurely report the mass murder of the entire Gryffindor Quidditch Team. It was a toss-up at this point.
"It's just those... those boys." Dom made a noise, a surprising noise, that sounded like the cross between a monster truck engine revving and the snort of an angry animal. "They think they can beat us, eh? We'll show them."
"Of course we will," I murmured. I also cared about this match — it was my first, after all, and I had to prove I was deserving of my spot on the team — but for some reason, the anxiety I'd been feeling at breakfast had dissolved. My mind was now floating somewhere else, somewhere between the way Potter's back had looked in that white t-shirt and the words 'triumphant post-Quidditch sex.' Oh boy.
"It's not fair, you know," Dom added as she bent over to viciously yank at her cleat laces, her red-gold hair swinging in front of her face. "All the league's scouts have been clamoring for James and the season hasn't even begun! He doesn't have to worry about stupid Hogwarts games. He's got a guaranteed spot on any pro team after he graduates. He can play for Puddlemere! He has everything he wants!"
I shrugged, thinking of all the Healing School applications sprawled across Potter's dormitory desk at this moment. "I'm not sure Quidditch is what Potter wants, actually." This only seemed to enrage Dom more, so I hastily added: "Besides, there have been scouts looking at you, too. Even if the team as a whole doesn't do well today, you won't suffer for it. Everyone knows how good of a player you are. You're our Captain, after all."
Dom allowed a quick, satisfied smile to flit across her pretty face before hardening her features once more. "True. But we still have to kick their arses. It's a matter of pride"
She glared at me, eyes glinting with the kind of terrifying Quidditch fanaticism that only a Weasley could possess.
I grimaced in response. "I can't believe you're already thinking of what we'll be doing after graduation."
Dom shrugged as she wiggled into her jersey, its silver number flashing across her back in the fluorescent light. "I mean, it's Sixth Year. It's time to start." She paused. "Any idea what you want to do?"
"Not Quidditch," I said rather glumly. "I was thinking about law, but I'm not so sure now."
Dom seemed to soften at my uncertainty. For a moment, her harsh expression turned benevolent, her gaze sympathetic. "Whatever you do, you'll be amazing at it. We've got time before we have to decide."
"Not a lot of it," I said dejectedly, but Dom waved the words away.
"Let's focus on the now, shall we? We've got the entire school waiting for us outside." Dom straightened and swung her long arms behind her back, stretching her sinewy muscles at an angle that made my mouth drop open. She had always been flexible — in First Year that had manifested itself in an awkward gangliness boys would make fun of, but now Dom had grown into her body. Last year, when we returned to Hogwarts for our second semester and Cooper had been successfully impeached from his spot as Slytherin Quidditch Captain (not to mention expelled from school), Dom had played as temporary Captain for the last Quidditch game of the year. And she had. Been. Unbelievable. She'd done pro-level spins and tricks that made the crowd gasp, actually gasp — it was rumored she'd managed a handstand on her broom at some point.
As a point of comparison, last month I finally managed to touch my toes for the first time and got so excited I called my mum.
So, there was no doubt in anybody's minds that Dom was supposed to be Captain. This was not to say she didn't have her faults. Were some of her tactics a little extreme? Well, yeah. Could someone get away with describing her style as erratic, even slightly dictatorial? Maybe. Did the Hogwarts Daily sports column once call her "the Stalin of Quidditch?" Yes, yes it did.
But, you know, we all have our things we need to work on.
"Ready to go?" Our seeker, none other than the illustrious Ryan Fisher, slung his broom over his shoulder and cocked his head towards the door. "They're waiting."
I beamed at Ryan, and he smiled amicably back — a smile that, exactly a year ago, would have caused a butterfly riot in my small intestines. But now? Well, Ryan was a good friend, and I could count on him to stay as sweet and down-to-earth as ever — even when the whole crazy 'Girl Who Saved the Sword' thing was still going on — but that was it. We were just friends.
Dom paled, then straightened her jersey and nodded furiously. "Yes, of course." She clapped her hands together. "Gather around team!"
Obediently (and a little fearfully), everyone took their usual seats on the bench, gazing up at Dom with wide, expectant eyes. They were awaiting a pep talk, I knew — a pep talk that Dom didn't seem prepared to give.
She stared at all of us rather blankly for a moment until I prompted her with a raised eyebrow — then she snapped into action.
"Alright," Dom cleared her throat. She began to pace, turning back and forth sporadically, eyes averted to the floor in a manner that made me nervous. "Okay, team. We've been working for the past month with only this match on our minds, striving endlessly, sweating blood, breaking boundaries and glass ceilings and all preconceived notions of what the human body is capable of enduring. And don't think I haven't noticed how much you've all improved. Fisher — your dives are now perfect. Literally flawless. And the way that your turns have sharpened, Chang, is amazing. I... I truly believe we can beat Gryffindor. And you know what? If we don't, I'll still be proud of us. I mean, I'll probably suffer a mental lapse, break into your rooms and set all of your beds on fire, but I'll still be proud."
The team seemed to share a collective gulp.
Dom continued on. "The last time I was given a leadership position was when I was twelve and my mum left me in charge of the house for ten minutes while she went to get milk. Six people ended up hospitalized. If you're wondering why I'm telling you this right now, I don't know. I just think it's relevant."
"Dom," I interjected quickly.
"But anyway, this time around, I'm determined to succeed. Don't me wrong. There will be still be hospitalizations. There will be injuries. There will be death and fire and the wails of sobbing mothers — "
"Dom," I said.
"But that's to be expected. Just keep the enemy in mind. Know that you must destroy the enemy. You must hate them with your very being. In fact, your hatred of them must constitute your very being," Dom's rising voice suddenly dipped into a disdainful hiss, her eyes widening to alarming size. "The Gryffindors. They are bad people. Do you know Gryffindors cheat on tests? Do you know Gryffindors don't like chocolate? Do you know that 60% of Gryffindors admit to having once murdered a dolphin — ?"
"That... feels innaccurate," I added mildly.
"They must be defeated!" Dom declared, slamming her tiny fist into her palm. "WHO'S WITH ME?!"
There was a feeble murmur of assent. Someone shifted uncomfortably and asked if they could go pee before the match started.
"Er — yeah, go, go." Dom flapped her hand at the offender, who scampered off quickly in shame. To the rest of us, she turned and mustered a smile that seemed very, very strained. Outside, we could hear the dull roar of impatient fans, the snap and crackle of waving banners.
"Let's do this," she said.
When Potter and I first started dating, we'd both acknowledged the futility of trying to keep anything a secret. My face had still been, at that point, plastered all over the papers because of the Ministry incident, and Potter, of course, had his whole 'world famous dad thing' going on — so the public was definitely paying attention, and it didn't take long for tthem to figure out we were dating. Whenever we'd walk somewhere together, young girls and old mothers alike would approach us on the street and ask to see the engagement ring.
The twin facts that a) there was no engagement, and b) we were sixteen years old, did not seem to occur to anyone.
But whatever. We were prepared, to some degree, for the scrutiny that would come from the public.
We were not prepared, however, for the scrutiny that would come from our batshit crazy relatives.
Upon hearing Potter had asked me out for the first time, Dom immediately appointed herself as my Personal Stylist, Love Counsel and General Life Coach. She'd pick out my outfits for the dates (a lot of them, to my dismay, involving leather) and then stay up until I came home so that she could interrogate me on how everything went. I tolerated her craziness for a bit, accepting it as one of the consequences of g her cousin. That is until she demanded a raise ("A raise? I'm not even paying you!" "You're not paying me?! I have rights, Aggy!").
Aidan was worse. This was the boy who, in first grade, once stalked a kid in my class because said kid had given me his leftover applesauce and was therefore, in Aidan's head, madly in love with me. Safe to say my brother possessed no working definition of the word privacy.
Aidan had insisted on chaperoning every date I went on with Potter, and when Potter (tactfully) told him to stop, he'd just waved it off and kept at it. A few days later, when I (not so tactfully) told Aidan to stop, he reluctantly agreed — only to come back a few days later and continue following us on all our dates, but this time in disguise and with Fred as an accomplice. Some of their more ridiculous costumes include: Policemen, French Maids, Father-Son Duet Group, Blind Nuns, "Acrobat Dentists" (I have no idea what it means either), World War III Veterans (there is no World War III???), Men Dressing Up As Women Dressing Up As Men and... Batmans. Not Batman and Robin, because that would actually be somewhat logical. No. Just... two Batmans.
The only one of our friends who'd graciously deigned not to meddle in our business was Evelyn, and that was simply because Evelyn didn't care about anything other than... well, Evelyn.
When I was just about ready to explode from frustration, Potter — ever so diplomatically — managed to put things into perspective. This relationship between the two of us, he made me see, affected the entire group. Aidan, Fred and Dom weren't doing all of this to be annoying, but rather because they were worried. They wanted everything to go as smoothly as possible, to not hit any snags or hiccups because they, too, had stakes in Potter and I being together. If things turned bad, it could dissolve our entire group, force them to choose between family and friends.
So, Potter and I permitted these hideous invasions of privacy to continue. We did manage to keep certain things under wraps, however — sometimes we'd sneak out of the castle, or just have a quiet date in the kitchens (Pipsqueak the house-elf was more than happy to serve us leftover food from dinner). And thankfully, no one cared to know about the...uh... physical side of our relationship. As far as Aidan was concerned, neither Potter or I possessed sex organs, and the farthest we'd gone was holding hands. I happily allowed him to keep believing that.
As for the relationship itself — it was going well. I'd never wanted to be one of those girls whose life became her boyfriend, who needed a bloke to "complete her," and Potter knew and respected that. At the same time, I'd always wanted someone to love my whole entire life. Now I had that person. Bonus: he loved me back.
Still, there was definitely a push-and-pull between dependence and independence, comfort and discomfort. Our relationship wasn't perfect. We still fought sometimes — Potter could me maddeningly, irrationally stubborn about things. He had a hard time letting go of grudges, and would always say things like, "Just trust me on this, okay?" or "It's the principle of the thing, Bennett" — key Gryffindor phrases that I could not wrap my head around.
We would bicker and argue about stupid little things. Sometimes, a disagreement over whether the oranges at breakfast were ripe that day would turn into a heated debate about nutrition, then a screaming match about my "passive-aggressive" tendencies and Potter's "emotional distancing," and then finally, us not talking to each other for a week and a half. But we always made up. We forgave. We recognized that this relationship was something worth working on.
And, of course, we would have our friends to help us. They got neurotic and obsessive and paranoid at times ("What do you mean you told him you needed space?") but they were crazy because they cared.
Honestly, I'm not sure I'd have it any other way.
Fifteen minutes before the match was scheduled to start, I snuck out of the locker room, looped around the back and met Potter outside. He'd asked me if I could get away from Dom and all her Quidditch lunacy to see him for a bit before the match started, and I'd hestitantly agreed. He'd been able to reach me through the same way our group always talked to each other whenever we were apart — our gold coins.
"You really shouldn't be out here," I declared as I, nevertheless, trudged towards Potter through the knee-length grass that sprouted, unruly and wild, behind the locker rooms. It was chilly out, the air had an October nip that was biting but familiar, and I was grateful for my heavy uniform keeping me warm.
Potter was also dressed in full gear, leaning against the outside concrete wall of the locker room and looking as confident as always. Like this was just natural for him, like he'd been made for this game (given who his parents were, he probably had been. The instructions for how to perform a Wronski Feint could most likely be found written, in detail, in his genetic code). His broom leaned against the wall next to him, as nonchalant and casual as its owner.
"Hey," he grinned.
"Dom's going to have an aneurysm if she finds out I'm here with you," I pointed out as I nevertheless crossed over to stand in front of him, hip cocked, eyebrows raised.
"Ever consider," Potter began, slowly hooking his fingers into the belt loops of my uniform pants. "That maybe that's my evil plan? Kill off the rival Captain before the game even starts?"
"Please," I snorted, and Potter's mouth twitched upwards at the unamused glare I fixed on him. "You're not that smart, Potter."
"So you're just with me for my dashing good looks, then?" Potter gently tugged me forward and I went stumbling into the warmth of his body, catching myself by his shoulders. On instinct, our legs tangled together, his forehead coming down to touch mine. I knew I should probably detach myself from him and walk away — for Dom's sake, and my own — but the idea was just so... unpleasant.
"Nah," I shot back. "I'm with you for your family name."
"Fuck off." Potter gave a breathless huff of laughter, tipping his head back so it touched the wall and exposed the strong line of his jaw, the curve of his Adam's apple.
"Sensitive, are we?" I grinned, happy I'd finally gotten a reaction. His family, and the fame it brought with it, had always been a sore spot.
"It's not fair." Potter tilted his chin to look at me again, one indignant eyebrow arched, and I half-expected him to start wagging his finger. "You're baiting me."
I gaped in astonishment. "Um, excuse me! You're the one doing the baiting. You lured me out here — "
"Lured you? We're really going with that word?"
"Yes! And it's going to get me kicked off the team — the very team, by the way, that you made me join."
"If it's causing so much trouble, why don't we just skip this stupid Quidditch match, then?" Potter suggested smoothly, looking only half-serious.
"Why don't we just move to Mexico?" I countered immediately, gesturing wildly with my hands. Come on — if we decided not to play and, consequently, ruined one of the most anticipated matches between one of the most historic house rivalries at this school, the students would form a mob. There would be effigies. Effigies. "People are waiting for us out there."
"Yeah, I guess," Potter shrugged. "Speaking of, my mum's in the stands too. She'll be watching. Says she wants to take us out to dinner at Hogsmeade after."
"Oh my god, your mum takes us out to eat so much. Do I have to dress up this time?"
A brief, amused grin flitted across Potter's face, and then he turned serious, hazel eyes deepening into a surprisingly somber brown. "Look, Bennett — before we both go on, I want you to know something important."
I paused, blinking as I tried to process Potter's grave tone and assign it a rationale. He'd been acting so flippant lately about this Quidditch match, I figured I'd been the only one worrying about its possible consequences. But maybe he had fears too, and now was his time to confess them.
"What is it?" I murmured carefully, not wanting to scare away this flash of honesty.
"Well, it's just that... Bletchley can't hit left-handed for shit," Potter responded matter-of-factly, expression of the utmost seriousness.
I blanched. "Come again?"
"You know, Bletchley, our team Beater? Yeah, he tries to play with both hands, but he's a lot worse with his left. Our other Beater is pretty strong but got injured in the knee last season and now can't fly as precisely, has trouble doing dips and swerves. Aidan's main weakness is that he's impulsive — which isn't the worst thing for a Seeker to be, but it also means he's jumpy and easily distracted. Wave around something shiny and he'll dive at it thinking its the Snitch. Fred, as a Chaser — "
"Hey hey hey!" I interrupted Potter mid-Quidditch-monologue, staring at him with wide, offended eyes. "Look, I told you I don't want you giving me any advantages. The only thing worse than you beating me this match would be you letting me win!"
I couldn't believe this kid. Did he not take Quidditch seriously at all? First he ditched his team to hang out with the enemy, and now he was rattling off all of the Gryffies' weaknesses. His behavior was baffling.
"I'm not giving you an advantage, Bennett," Potter said patiently. His thumb absently grazed across the bump of my hipbone as he elaborated: "Look, my guys have been playing your guys for years. This is my sixth Gryffie-Slytherin match. I know the entire Slytherin team's weaknesses — especially the Captain’s, seeing as I'm related to her. I've got all of Dom's plays memorized. They're in my head. Now, I'm telling you some of our weaknesses to level the playing field."
"Level the playing field," I repeated flatly, skeptical. "Uh huh. And what's your weakness, Potter?"
Potter only had to think about it for a moment. "Sharp right turns. Sloth Grip Rolls. Pretty girls with red hair."
And with that and a chaste kiss on the lips, he was removing his fingers from my beltloops and brushing past me, around the corner of the locker room and out of sight — leaving me alone among the grass, dumbfounded, my thoughts racing.
This was going to be one hell of a match.
"It's a beautiful day for Quidditch," Madam Hooch's yellow eyes roved across the fourteen players on the field, her mouth twisted into a wry, flat shape that spoke of years of experience. "Let's keep it a clean match, shall we, players?"
It was, indeed, a beautiful day. The wind tousled our uniforms as we trudged across the field, making red and green snap and flutter like banners. The sky was impossibly blue. The sun was shining, and I'm pretty sure the birds would be chirping if it wasn't for all theall the screaming, delirious Quidditch fans ringing the pitch.
The stands were brimming with people, all dressed in colorful attire and waving an assortment of posters and pictures and signs (some more vulgar than others). They were thunderous. The cacophonous mash of screams and jeers was overwhelming, to the point where it became as grainy as white noise. I couldn't make out one single face in the stands, but knew that Ginny Potter and Evelyn Stanford and all my professors were there, waiting for my first Quidditch match, and I was nervous.
"Aggy," Dom said out the corner of her mouth as we neared the center where the Gryffindors were already waiting, looking cocksure and ready. "I just want to say, out of everyone to be playing next to, you're the best person I could hope for."
"Back atcha, girl," I gritted out, heart punching furiously against my ribcage. The fans were bloodthirsty, and the air was humming with their energy. My eyes flitted to Potter, standing with his broom slung around his shoulder. By his right was Aidan, looking taut and alert, and Freddy, who was blowing kisses to the crowd.
"No matter what happens," Dom said, just quietly enough so I was the only one able to hear her. "I'm proud of us."
"Me too," I said, and it was true. We'd come along way — I'd come a long way. From stuffs-her-bra Third Year Agatha to gawky-and-bitter Fifth Year Agatha to playing-in-her-first-Quidditch-match Sixth Year Agatha, I'd matured. And okay, maybe I wasn't exactly sure what I wanted to do with my life in terms of employment and growing up and whatever else, but that wasn't important now. I knew with certainty that I would end up where I was supposed to. Fifth Year had taught me some important lessons about character, about being who you were meant to be. I now knew not to put so much faith in what others thought, to trust my own gut instead, to like myself. That new knowledge would eventually lead me somewhere good.
But first: Quidditch.
Across the jade green pitch, I caught Aidan's eye. Suddenly, my brother's lips crumpled into a half-smile, and I knew that despite himself, he was proud of me too.
My eyes swept over to Fred, who tossed me a wink, and then Potter, who'd been looking at me with something like laughter in his gaze. "Sharp — right — turns," he mouthed, and I tried not to smirk.
"Are you ready?" Dom whispered. I could feel our team shifting restlessly behind us, itching for the air.
"I'm ready." I nodded.
Madam Hooch blew the warning whistle. Simultaneously, all the players on the pitch swung their legs over their brooms, hunched with potential, faces angled towards the sky.
My life, it felt like, was finally beginning.
"On the count of three," Madam Hooch said as she crossed over to the chest that stored the Quaffle and Bludgers and Snitch. "One... Two... Three... "
I took a deep breath.
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