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Chapter 11 : Tentative Hope
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First, that she was hung over. Second, that she was naked. And third, that there was an arm draped around her waist.
Wincing against the sunlight, she rolled over. Fitz was stretched out on his stomach, sound asleep, his face relaxed and hair mussed. Since they'd already made the worst mistake possible, she ran her fingers through his hair again, feeling the soft strands, and then stroked down his arm from shoulder to elbow. The smooth muscles bunched, and his eyes opened slowly.
“Good morning,” she whispered.
“Hi.” He turned over onto his back, and this time he was the one to wince. “Goddamn shoulder.”
In the morning light, the scars she'd felt last night stood out faintly purple against his skin, forming a starburst on his shoulder at the point the spell had made impact, the tendrils trailing down his arm and upper back. She touched the bumpy strands of scar tissue on his bicep. “Does it hurt?”
“Yeah. Too much strain.” He reached over and pulled her closer, so she was resting against his chest. “Worth it, though. I'll have to schedule a visit to the Healer when we get back.”
She was torn between feeling guilty that he'd hurt himself last night and the thrill that he thought she was worth aggravating his injury. Idly, she ran her fingertips over his chest, feeling the crisp hairs and the firm flesh. “I should go, before someone sees us together.”
He turned onto his side, facing her. “Are we back to being professional, then?”
She wasn't sure what to say. He must have known they couldn't take this anywhere. They shouldn't have taken it as far as they already had. “You know we have to. We shouldn't have-”
“Don't say we shouldn't have,” he interrupted, his eyes intense. “You can say we shouldn't do it again, but don't say we shouldn't have.”
Molly stared at his fierce expression, and wondered what he was thinking when he looked like that. She wasn't quite brave enough to ask, though. Talking about it would be even more of a mistake than actually doing it had been. She couldn't quite bring herself to regret it, though she knew damn well they shouldn't have spent the night together. “I should go,” she said again. “McCormack's going to be here soon.”
“Damn.” He glanced over at the clock on the nightstand. “In half an hour. Everyone else is probably downstairs.”
“You go down first. Make sure the coast is clear, and I'll sneak into my room.” She slid out of bed and started pulling on her clothes.
Fitz sat up in the bed, the sheets and quilt tangled around his legs. “I hate sneaking around.”
“Suck it up,” Molly told him. “We don't have much choice. Put your trousers on and see if anyone's in the corridor. And where are you hiding the Hangover-Curing Potion?”
Five minutes later, Molly was in her room and Fitz was heading downstairs with his bag slung over one shoulder and the remaining potion bottles in his other hand. The team, bleary-eyed as usual, was gathered in the dining room, and he passed the bottles round.
He did a head count while they drank up. “Who are we missing?”
“Jinks and Weasley haven't come downstairs yet,” said Zara. She had drank her Hangover-Curing Potion as if it were a shot, something Fitz thought was rather impressive. “And Beathan is outside getting some fresh air.”
Thank God for the lazy Seeker. Fitz hadn't liked the idea that he and Molly were the last ones downstairs. It was sure to look suspicious, and while he didn't regret going to bed with her last night, he didn't want the team to know about it. Jinks still being asleep diverted attention a bit. Zara didn't look as if she saw anything amiss about it. “I'll go roust them out of bed,” he said. “McCormack should be here with a Portkey home in about twenty minutes.”
“No need to roust me, I'm awake,” Molly's voice came from behind him. “Is Jinks the last one?”
He turned to look at her, feeling hyper-aware of his movements and expression. It was hard not to give away that he'd seen her naked last night, had spent hours kissing every inch of her lithe body. He wanted to get her naked again immediately, but she was right: they shouldn't do it again. He didn't know how he was going to go back to being professional with her again. Sex changed everything.
It wasn't just sex, his heart whispered to him, but he ignored it. “I'll go get him.”
Fitz left his bag on the table and went upstairs, pounding on Jinks's door. Jinks answered wearing nothing but his Slytherin pyjama bottoms. He yawned and stretched, leaning against the door. “Is it morning? Are we sacked?”
“Yes, and not yet. Twenty minutes until McCormack shows up. Get dressed and packed.”
“Bloody hell.” Jinks closed the door, and Fitz waited until he heard the sounds of movement inside to make sure the Seeker hadn't gone back to sleep.
He trotted back down the stairs in time to catch Meghan McCormack coming in the front door with a muddy sock in one hand.
“There you are,” she said, giving him an appraising look. “You seem to be in one piece. Where's that woman, what's her name. Lefoque?”
“I think we broke her,” Fitz admitted. “Last I heard, she'd locked herself in her room with a load of wine.”
“Good, she was annoying,” McCormack said, to his surprise. “And the team's working together now?”
He hadn't wanted to admit it, but apparently this wasn't going to come as a shock to the team manager. “Sabotaged her every activity like a well-oiled machine.”
“Excellent. Let's go play some Quidditch.” McCormack turned and put her wand at her throat, amplifying her voice so that it boomed through the building. “Everyone out front! Portkey in five minutes!”
Jinx nearly collided with Fitz on the stairs. “Have you come to save us?” he asked McCormack. “I want a pay raise for this.”
She ignored that and pointed to the front door. “Get out front, Jinks, it's time to go home.”
“Oh, good.” Jinks slipped past Fitz and headed outside. The rest of the team was on their way outside, and Molly came up to hand him his bag.
“You left this in the dining room.”
He took it and made sure not to look at her too long. McCormack didn't seem to notice anything, and shooed everyone outside, the muddy sock still in her hand.
They all gathered round, talking and laughing as they waited with one finger on the muddy sock. A few minutes later it glowed and activated, pulling them back home to Portree. At the pitch, the team went their separate ways, Disapparating to head home. There was a lot more laughing and joking than when they'd left for the retreat, and most of them even waved and said goodbye to Fitz. Molly's farewell was casual, and her eyes gave nothing away as she left.
“Meeting with the owners on Friday next,” McCormack said when there was no one there but the two of them. “Enjoy your weekend off. Monday it's back to work.” And she gave him a friendly clap on the shoulder before pirouetting, disappearing with a crack.
Fitz stood alone outside the pitch, feeling his shoulder throb, his insides strangely empty. He wished for a moment he was back at the bloody stupid retreat, where he saw Molly all day and every evening. He'd see her at the pitch on Monday, but it wouldn't be the same. He stood in silence a moment before telling himself to snap out of it, and Apparated home to his empty flat.
Molly was in the shower, trying to drown out the images in her head from the last night of the retreat, when she heard her front door open.
“Moll?” came a familiar voice. “Where are you?”
“Back here,” she called.
She stuck her head round the curtain and a moment later her cousin Roxanne appeared in the doorway. “Oh good, you're home,” Roxanne said, and turned to the mirror over the sink to examine her face. “I haven't seen you in forever.”
Molly ducked back into the shower and began rinsing the soap suds off. “I was only gone a week.”
“But I haven't seen you in three weeks. Too busy to spend time with your family. You know Dominique had a dinner party Friday.”
Molly groaned. Their cousin Dominique's dinner parties were rarely enjoyable experiences, though occasionally she used them to drop huge bombshells on her unsuspecting family members. She almost always invited Molly, though. “Was I supposed to be there?”
“Apparently. She likes to bring you out, Ms. Pro Quidditch. Lucy and Hilarion went. Lucy said it was a waste of a perfectly good baby-sitter. Dommie didn't invite me, of course. Struggling writer. Not famous enough. And she doesn't like Perry.”
“You're better off,” Molly muttered, her face in the stream of water.
Roxanne didn't seem to hear her. “Lucy said Uncle Harry was invited as well, but he didn't turn up. Dommie's showing off her famous relatives right now, cause she's got some new bloody boyfriend. He's a baron of someplace or other. Dutch or Belgian or something.”
“I suppose that's not a surprise. Hand me that towel.” Molly shut off the water. The towel landed on top of her head, and she wrapped it around herself before drawing back the curtain. “Dommie was bound to look for someone titled for her next husband.”
“I'm only surprised her first husband wasn't an aristo, to be honest.” Roxanne turned to face her, leaning her hip against the sink. “Right up Dominique's alley, that is. Something's different about you.”
“Nothing is different,” Molly said, and slipped past her. Roxanne followed her to the closet, still looking at her with appraising eyes.
“Yes, there is. I can tell. Your 'I'm Head Girl' halo looks like it slipped.” Roxanne snapped her fingers. “You got laid!”
“Go away, Roxy.” Molly gave her a gentle shove, but Roxanne didn't budge.
“You did. Who did you sleep with? Go on, tell me. Or I'll start poking around and find out for myself.”
Molly grabbed blindly for clothes, avoiding her cousin's eyes. “You're such a reporter, honestly.”
“Fine, fine, keep your secrets. I hope it was good sex. Was it one of your ex-boyfriends?” Roxanne was grinning obnoxiously.
“None of your damn business. Go away.”
“You're no fun, Molly.” Roxanne went over to flop on the bed while Molly got dressed. “How was the retreat, by the way?”
“Completely idiotic yet surprisingly helpful. I don't think the team hates me any more for losing our last two games.”
“Well, that's nice of them. Bunch of twats. As if it were your fault.”
Molly stretched out on the bed next to her cousin. “They were upset, that's all. It's not fun to be on the losing team.”
“You're not used to losing,” Roxanne remarked. “You usually manage everything you set out to do. It's one of your more annoying qualities. Probably this experience is good for you.”
It didn't feel good. She wanted the Prides to win the League, but that seemed unlikely at this point. She'd settle for finishing in the top five. Even that seemed optimistic. “We'll be back to practice tomorrow. Hopefully everyone gets their act together.”
“I hope so. You play Ballycastle next, don't you? How d'you think your chances are?”
“They were in the bottom of the league last year. Tentatively hopeful, but don't quote me.” Molly elbowed her in the ribs. “You're asking because you're concerned about me, not because you're writing an article, aren't you?”
“You're my favourite cousin. I'm always concerned about you. I won't quote you, I don't want to lose my inside source in the Quidditch world.”
“You could always try Hilarion,” Molly suggested.
Roxanne chuckled fondly. “He never knows what's going on except with Appleby. He keeps to himself too much, bless him.”
“Well, if you quote me, I'm not telling you anything again.”
“You could bribe me to keep quiet by telling me who you had sex with.” Roxanne's obnoxious grin was back in place.
Molly elbowed her in the ribs. “Oh, shut up.”
Fitz was stretched out on the exam table at the Prides' pitch, staring at the ceiling with his teeth gritted while Hugo Weasley cast spells on his shoulder. There was a water stain directly above the table, and he focused on its shape, the changes in colour as its edges met the pristine ceiling around it, like a coffee spill on paper.
“All done,” Weasley finally said, and Fitz gave a cautious movement of his arm. The sharp, fiery stab of pain had faded to a faint ache. Relieved, he sat up and ran a hand over his tired face.
“Thanks, that's much better.”
Weasley leaned against the table beside him. “You shouldn't have been in that much pain that quickly after your last treatment. Did you take your potions?”
“Yes. It's from hefting one of our drunken Beaters into a wheelbarrow this week. He weighed a solid tonne. My shoulder's been killing me ever since.” This was certainly true, but he had exacerbated the injury by having acrobatic sex with Molly shortly afterwards. He didn't want to mention that to her cousin, though.
“You lifted him into a wheelbarrow,” Weasley repeated, staring at him.
“No one else was sober enough to do it.”
Weasley shook his head. “You lifted him. Are you a wizard or not? Why didn't you use a Hover Charm?”
“Well, because... I, er...” Fitz drew a blank. There was no logical reason not to have performed a Hover Charm, except that he had no idea what the incantation was for the damn thing.
“You don't remember the spell, do you.” It wasn't a question, but Weasley looked more exasperated than annoyed. “I'll make a list of spells you can do to help yourself around the pitch, and apparently around the pub as well, to avoid future incidents like this. Honestly, everyone leaves Hogwarts and forgets half of what they learnt.”
This was true. Fitz knew who had won the Quidditch World Cup for the last two hundred years, but he had only hazy memories of what he'd learnt in most of his classes at school. He had never been that great at Charms, anyway.
Hugo Weasley pulled a notebook from his pocket then. “I've been doing some research on Muggle treatments for injuries similar to yours-”
“Muggles get spell damage injuries?” Fitz interrupted, scepticism colouring his voice.
“No. They get injuries that are perfectly non-magical but with similar effects to what the spell damage did to you. And they do something called physical therapy to help regain strength and range of motion. Those are two things you need most for your arm.”
“I'm not doing any bloody Muggle medicine,” Fitz told him brusquely. “They cut people open and take things out, I'm not doing that-”
“That's surgery you're thinking of,” interrupted Weasley. “This is-”
“I'm not interested. I'll stick with magical healing.”
He expected the man to keep arguing, but Hugo Weasley only tucked his notebook back in his pocket with a calm, “All right.”
“Thanks for the help,” Fitz added grudgingly, sliding down off the exam table. “Shoulder feels much better.”
It was running away, but he did it anyway. The last thing he wanted to do was discuss his shoulder even more than he'd already had to. He could feel the Weasley penetrating stare on his back as he left the room.
In the corridor, he bumped into Molly. She grabbed his arms to steady herself, then immediately let go.
“Oh, sorry,” she gasped.
“No, it's all right.” He didn't know what to say to her. There was a pretty young woman standing behind her, with extremely curly dark hair and tawny skin scattered with freckles, and he felt on the spot with the unexpected audience.
They hadn't spoken since they'd been back from the retreat, but anything he wanted to say seemed inappropriate standing in the hallways of the pitch, not to mention in front of their audience.
She didn't seem to know what to say either. Her gaze was focused off to his side, as if she didn't quite want to look him in the eye. “Did you need to see me?” he asked, trying not to show that he'd been hoping to see her.
She shook her head. “No, I was just-”
Her cousin appeared behind them. “Right, you two, I'm ready whenever you are.”
“Hi Hugo,” Molly said, and her expression softened. She was obviously fond of her cousin. And then she looked back at Fitz, meeting his eyes this time. "We're off to lunch. I'll see you later?"
“Oh. Right.” Fitz stepped back, and watched as Hugo fell into step beside the two women.
They walked off, and before they turned out of sight, Molly looked back over her shoulder at him. She wasn't smiling, but he thought he saw something in her eyes.
“I know who you slept with,” Roxanne said in a sing-song voice as soon as they got outside.
“Shut up, Roxy,” Molly told her, giving her a small shove.
“I don't want to hear about this, do I?” Hugo asked rhetorically.
Roxanne was grinning obnoxiously, and skipped a few times just to be even more irritating. “It was him, wasn't it – when you bumped into him, I was sure, and then you didn't even remember to introduce me-”
“Roxanne,” Molly interrupted. “Seriously. Shut up. And keep anything you might be speculating off the record or I'll hex you into next week. Hugo, pretend you didn't hear anything.”
“All right,” Hugo said easily. “Should I pretend I didn't see how Coach Fitzroy was looking at you as well?”
“Yes. Do that.”
Molly carefully avoided the subject all through lunch, but Roxanne kept smiling smugly, and Hugo was looking studiously impassive, so she knew one or the other of them was going to bring it up again.
Her family was annoyingly predictable that way.
Roxanne eventually stopped looking smug and started talking about her husband, who was composing an operetta based on the fairy tale The Fountain of Fair Fortune, and Roxanne was bubbling over with enthusiasm at writing the libretto for him. She monopolised the conversation while Hugo placidly worked his way through an enormous amount of food and Molly tried to occasionally add something to Roxy's monologue while thinking about Fitz.
She couldn't get images of their night together out of her head. She didn't know how she was going to shake it off in order to work with him. Professionals, she thought derisively. Normally that wasn't a problem for her, but this time it was. That night was permanently etched into her brain, the feel of him impressed in every cell of her body. It was never going to work being professional when she kept thinking of him naked.
Molly was in the middle of replaying the evening at the retreat again, imagining Fitz's hands stroking down her legs, when Roxanne suddenly said, “You're not really listening, are you?”
“I was,” Hugo volunteered, waving his fork.
“I was too,” Molly assured her. “It's your favourite fairy tale, collaborating with Perry is wonderful, the music is brilliant, et cetera. I was listening.”
Roxanne pursed her lips. “You were daydreaming. Probably about your sexy coach.”
“I'm telling Perry you called another man sexy.”
“Oh, please.” Roxanne dismissed this threat with a wave. “He knows I think Quidditch players are sexy. That's not the point. What happened with you two?”
Molly set her fork down and sat back in her chair, folding her arms across her chest. “I don't want to talk about it. Nothing has changed, so it doesn't matter if anything happened.”
Roxanne gave her a penetrating stare. It seemed to drill into her conscience, and Molly looked down at her plate. She could feel Roxanne's and Hugo's eyes on her.
“You don't have to talk about it if you don't want to,” Hugo said quietly.
“But-” began Roxanne.
“Shut it, Roxy.”
Molly gave him a grateful smile. Roxanne narrowed her eyes, still watching Molly, but after a moment she went back to talking about the operetta as if nothing had happened. Molly did her best to keep up with the conversation more actively this time.
After lunch, they returned to Molly's flat so her cousins could Apparate home. Roxanne left first, promising to come to a game very soon. Once she was gone and the green flames had died out, Molly offered the steel canister of Floo powder to Hugo.
He didn't reach for it, looking at her instead with a small frown. “You don't have to talk about it, Molls. I just want to say one thing.”
She sighed, but there was no diverting Hugo. There was less danger of Hugo letting the secret out than her reporter cousin anyway. Hugo was excellent at keeping his mouth shut. It was undoubtedly part of his Healer training, but also his natural inclination. If he could get by without letting on that he knew anything about what his sister was up to (and Rose was always up to something), he could certainly keep his mouth shut about what his cousin might be doing.
“You've obviously got some chemistry with him,” Hugo said. “Honestly, the air was practically on fire when you were together. I just don't want to see you get hurt.”
Molly smiled fondly at him. “I appreciate the concern, Hugo. Although it's a bit rich coming from the bloke who's got a new girlfriend every week.”
“Hey, I'm settling down in my old age.” He grinned. “It's about every other week these days.”
Molly rolled her eyes. “I'm sure they appreciate the extra week with you.”
“Yeah, they do.” His grin faded then, and he said quite seriously, “I'm concerned, that's all. He's your coach, and he's an angry sort of man. I'm not sure it's a good idea to get involved with him.”
Her brows knit together. “Is he all right? Was his shoulder-”
“You know I don't discuss patients. Just be careful, will you?” He hooked an arm around her neck and pulled her close to drop a kiss in the close-cropped hair on the side of her scalp. “I'll see you at the Ballycastle game. I'm one of the League medics on duty.”
“I'll try not to get hurt so you don't have to heal me.” Molly hugged him briefly and then pushed him away with a playful shove. “Go on, get out of here.”
“Bye, Moll.” Hugo smiled and then grabbed a handful of Floo powder and stepped into the fireplace.
A fortnight passed after the retreat, with days of training dragging on from dawn until nearly dark, leaving Molly both sweaty and exhausted every night. She was too tired to do much of anything after training, too tired even to overthink her life as she usually did. The entire team was worn out: even Duff and Declan admitted they'd been too wrung out after working hard all day to go drinking after. Privately Molly thought that wasn't such a bad thing, but she didn't bother to tell the Beaters that playing hung over wasn't their strong suit.
“After the next game, there'll be more time for the pub on weekends,” she told them instead. “We've got to catch up the time we lost at the retreat. You can all come over to celebrate after we beat Ballycastle. I'll crack open a bottle of the good stuff.”
They grinned at this, and agreed to come by her flat after the match with Ballycastle was over.
The rest of the team was settling into a friendlier routine as well. All their previous animosity toward Molly seemed to have dissipated. Even Mariah Waldman was friendlier now since they'd been back and working hard. She was not, in Molly's private opinion, getting much better at playing, but at least she wasn't behaving with open hostility, and she'd let off on her calculated and annoying flirting with her ex-husband. It all came as a relief to Molly.
She hated being a failure. Roxanne might be right about it being good for her character, but Molly didn't care for the experience. She much preferred being a leader that the team looked up to than being the pariah who'd made them lose a game with bad training tactics.
When the team arrived to practice one morning, they found Fitz waiting at the entrance to the pitch.
“No brooms today. We're going to set our strategy for the Bats. I've got footage of their last few games. We're going to study it and find ways to counter their favourite moves.”
Molly perked up. This was the most proactive he'd been about devising strategy. The fact he'd done it on his own was encouraging: maybe he'd settle into coaching after all. She thought he'd be good at it if he got some more experience, and besides, she didn't want McCormack to sack him.
If he wasn't her coach, she wouldn't see him every day.
She deliberately sat next to Jinx at the front of the room, not only to keep the Seeker from napping through the game films but to put some distance between her and Fitz. Without a heavy day of movement to keep her occupied, she was afraid she would stare too much at him and let on what had happened. No one on the team was aware their captain and their coach had got involved, and she wanted to keep it that way.
Fitz was at the back of the room, next to the ancient projector. There was no sound on the films, so he was narrating the games and pointing out the Bats' favourite plays. His deep voice washed over her as she stared at the players on the screen, watching Ballycastle get their arses handed to them by her brother-in-law's team.
“The Chasers rely too much on the Hawkshead Attacking Formation,” Fitz was saying then, and he came forward, brushing past Molly's arm, to point out on the screen. “Gittins, Preece, if you aim a Bludger at them right here, they'll have to scatter. Before they can re-form the Hawkshead, our Chasers have to get the Quaffle from them.”
Sid was nodding, his expression more serious than Molly was used to on him. “A little Parkin's Pincer so they don't expect it.”
“Never been a big fan of that move, but it'll probably work,” Zara agreed.
“They're not as big foulers as the Falcons are,” Fitz began, and Duff interrupted with a chuckle.
“Average four hundred twenty-seven fouls per game didn't get us out of the League.”
Molly rolled her eyes at him. Zara turned around in her seat to give him a little shove.
“It's not your team any more. No fouling for the Prides.”
“But the Bats have a habit of snitchnipping in some of the matches where they're coming off worse,” Fitz said loudly while Duff faked a hurt look at Zara. “One of their Beaters hit the Snitch off course just before Wimbourne's Seeker could grab it last season. I couldn't get footage of the foul to show you. It was damn fine aim, but that Beater was benched the rest of the game. Had to bring out their reserve. And it added a few more hours onto the game before Wimbourne got the Snitch again.”
“I've never snitchnipped in my life,” Duff assured him. “In Falmouth, we let the Chasers do that.”
“Shut up, Duff. They're not likely to trot out dirty tricks against us at first, because they don't think we're real competition.” Fitz walked back to the projector and grabbed another reel. “I've got a bit of them playing Tutshill that I want to show you next.”
Four hours of footage and strategy discussion later, Fitz finally dismissed them for the day with instructions to rest up and be back at dawn to practice their tactics. Molly followed the team outside and watched them Disapparate, but she hung back. After they were all gone, she stood alone outside the pitch and looked up at the building.
Fitz was still sitting in the projector room, running footage of a match old Rodan had filmed four years ago, the Prides against the Magpies, back before the injury had taken him permanently out of professional play.
His younger self soared across the sky in the footage, grinning as he tossed the Quaffle in a reverse pass in the middle of a Sloth Grip Roll.
These days he couldn't do a Sloth Grip Roll to save his life. And damn but he missed it. It had always been one of his favourite moves, so much fun to do. He would spiral through the air with the Quaffle under his arm, rolling over and over as he accelerated through a turn. It had been exhilarating.
Faint footsteps sounded behind him, and he looked up as Molly sat down in the seat beside him. She was watching the screen, her beautiful face in profile to him.
“I think I remember this game. The Magpies won by a margin of over three hundred, didn't they?”
“Three hundred and forty,” he said, keeping his attention carefully on the screen again.
“You were very good.” She let out a tiny sigh. “Is it hard to watch?”
Onscreen, the Magpies were scoring handily against the old Prides Keeper, who wasn't a patch on Molly's talent. This was the old team as it hit the worst of its downward spiral. The only thing that had saved the match for them was that Jinks had got the Snitch. They'd lost hugely, but he'd been faster than the Magpies' Seeker. Jinks had been nearly the only saving grace on the old team. He was lazy and lacked dedication to the sport, but he was fast and had good eyes.
“Preece is improved now he's got a better partner, isn't he?” Molly observed.
Fitz nodded. “He was strong, but they didn't work his aim hard enough. The other one aimed. He was brute strength. Having Duff up here from Falmouth is good for him.”
“Falmouth is all brute strength, but damn good aim, too.”
“Damn good fouls, too,” Fitz put in.
He could see Molly smiling out of the corner of his eye. Making her smile made his heart feel light, even while watching himself on the old reels. He'd avoided doing that for the past year, not wanting to see how things had been before now that he could never have it back. Finding footage of his time with the Magpies amongst the old Prides reels had jolted him at first, but it was less painful to see than expected.
“I've been watching these a lot since we got back from the retreat,” he said then. He hadn't told her about it before. It had been her idea, but he'd never liked following anyone else's advice. “You were right, there are stacks of them back there, going back almost fifty years. Nothing from last year, though. I think Rodan really was senile. Forgot how to do his job.”
She didn't look surprised. “The Harpies have footage back to 1905, archived and indexed. Years ago, they hired someone to keep up with them. She films games and training matches, then she goes over the footage making notes about what tactics are used, so if you want to look up a certain move, it's easy to do. Like if you wanted to see all the footage of Wronski Feints, you just go to the index and look it up, then pull the footage it lists.”
“That's bloody brilliant. I wonder if McCormack would hire someone for that.”
“Can't hurt to ask.”
They watched in silence for a while, as onscreen the Magpies scored over and over. The Prides limped along, Beathan making most of the scoring shots for their team. Jinks caught the Snitch, shooting along like a rocket underneath the Montrose Seeker just as Fitz remembered, and the footage ran out as the Magpies took a victory lap of the pitch.
As the screen went white, Molly asked quietly, “How's your arm?”
“Fine. Your cousin fixed it right up. And reminded me I should've just used a Hover Charm on Deimos,” he added ruefully.
“I can't believe we didn't think of that before,” Molly agreed. “Never drink and cast spells, though. You might've given him an extra ear or something if you'd tried it.”
He liked hearing her say we, small as that was. “I wouldn't have remembered the incantation anyway. Weasley's giving me a list.”
Molly chuckled. “Not a bad idea. Having a list of spells you can do to keep from straining your injury is probably a wise thing.”
“He wanted me to do some sort of Muggle therapies as well.” Fitz wasn't sure why he was telling her about it, but suddenly he needed to know what she thought of the idea. “To help my range of motion and strengthening the muscles.”
“I see.” She was watching him seriously now. “And are you going to do them?”
Fitz gave a one-shouldered shrug. He'd become an expert at that since the injury. “I told him I wasn't interested.”
She was still watching him with that penetrating stare, and it made him unsure of his answer. Anything with his shoulder was bound up in the fear and pain and rage of the day he'd been injured, and he had a hard time saying any of that out loud. But he didn't have any logical reason to turn down Healer Weasley's ideas.
He was silent long enough that she added gently, “Hugo wouldn't suggest it if he didn't think it had the potential to help. Did he explain any risks?”
“I didn't let him get that far.”
“Maybe you should hear him out,” Molly suggested. “Hugo's very smart. And if it might help, isn't it worth a try?”
She was right, but he appreciated more that her gentle tone wasn't coddling. He hated being coddled. He looked up at her, tried to smile reassuringly but couldn't do it. Instead he nodded and said, “Thanks, Molly.”
She didn't question it, only nodded back and changed the subject. “Do you have any footage of the Harpies?”
“Nothing with you in it, I already looked,” he said without thinking, and wanted to take it back immediately, but she only smiled.
“I hardly ever played, so that's not surprising. Let's watch some of the really old stuff, then.”
“I found a reel from when McCormack was Keeper,” he said, jabbing a thumb over his shoulder.
Molly smiled brightly at him, warming his insides again. “Put it on, let's see.”
The stands were surprisingly full. The Prides still had a large following, despite their back-to-back defeats so far, and their supporters were out in number this morning. The Ballycastle Bats had arrived half an hour ago and were in the guest locker room getting into their game robes. Fitz paced in the corridor outside the home team locker room, listening to the sounds of them as they changed into their own robes.
They sounded cheerful enough. He didn't feel very cheerful. His stomach was in knots.
If they could beat Ballycastle, it would give them the morale boost they needed to play better. They needed this win. Ballycastle had finished ahead of last place by only two last year. They weren't looking any better this year. Fitz estimated the Prides had about even odds of beating them. Better than even if they played as well as they could instead of as well as they had done.
The locker room door opened and Molly was suddenly right in front of him, looking startled.
“I didn't know you were out here,” she said, closing the door behind her. “Everything all right?”
“Let's talk strategy,” he said brusquely, waving a hand down the corridor toward his office.
“The Snitch will be released in less than thirty minutes,” Molly pointed out, but she followed him anyway. “If you have anything to add, it's too late now.”
He closed the door behind them and started pacing in front of her. “Ballycastle's Beaters are slow. If we can-”
“Duff and Declan know all about the Ballycastle Beaters. Those two have been gunning for them all week long. Honestly, we know what to do.” She smiled. “Stop worrying. Think positively.”
“I'm not an optimist. I'm not very good thinking positively.”
“Learn,” Molly told him. She was smiling, but there was no sympathy on her face. “You're the coach. You need to go in there and tell them they're going to win and look like you mean it.”
“Right. I can do that.” He was too close to her. Bringing her into his office had been a mistake. He could barely remember what they were talking about.
She cocked her head at him. “You don't look like you can do that.”
“Right,” he said again, and then bent down and brushed his lips against hers.
She didn't hesitate in kissing him back, and it ignited like wildfire. Before he knew it, they were both up against the wall, and her arms were wound around his neck, and his hands were pressing her hips against his.
They broke apart after what was both an endless moment and not nearly long enough for him, and he stepped back and drew in a ragged breath. Molly was breathing heavily, and adjusted her robes.
“The game's about to start. Come and give us a pep talk before we take the field.” And she slipped out of his office.
Fitz ran both hands through his hair, wondering when he'd got so very stupid. They were never going to stay professional if he couldn't stop himself kissing her every time she was in his office. Somehow, even knowing he was being stupid on a grander scale than he ever had been before, he felt like laughing with glee.
She'd kissed him back.
He went down the hall to the locker room. The team was standing in the centre of the room in their purple and gold robes, their brooms in hand, and they all turned to him. Fitz's eyes met Molly's, and she smiled at him. The feeling bubbled over inside his chest, and he put his hands on his hips and grinned at the team.
“I have a good feeling about today,” he told them. “We're better than bloody Ballycastle, aren't we?”
They nodded. Duff and Declan were starting to grin back at him.
“We're going to win. I can feel it. Jinks, keep your eyes open and your broom ready. Get us that Snitch. Preece, Gittins, knock them off their brooms. Weasley, keep those hoops clear. And you three...” Fitz nodded to the Chasers.
“Score us some goals,” Sid said confidently.
“Damn right. Go on, get out there.”
They nearly ran out of the room, pumped up for the game, and Fitz watched them go with his hands on his hips. Molly was last out, and she turned as she left to give him another smile, this one so brilliant it nearly blinded him.
He jogged up to the box where the coaches and managers watched the game. McCormack was there already with the Ballycastle coach. Fitz shook the man's hand and then stood at the railing to watch the game.
He watched Duff send one of the Ballycastle Beaters flying off his broom, forcing the referee to catch him with a Cushioning Charm, and Sid and Zara made more than a few good goals. And all the while, he watched Molly. Her saves were excellent this time, but more than that, he watched how her legs looked on her broom, the cape of her robes flying behind her in the breeze.
And then he watched as Jinks caught the Snitch, with McCormack screaming and waving her arms in the air beside him, and the Pride of Portree got their first win of the season.
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