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The New Pride of Portree by momotwins
Chapter 17 : Let Us Break A Few Heads
 
Rating: 15+Chapter Reviews: 9


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The local watering hole beside the Falcons' pitch was packed. Since it was the night before a match, Fitz had expected this. He made his way to a sliver of space at the bar and managed to get a few shots of firewhisky poured within five minutes. There was nowhere to take them, so he stood there at the bar and downed the first shot, setting the empty glass beside the other two.

They were playing in roughly twelve hours. After the game ended, there was no further reason to stick around in Falmouth, and he wouldn't have to see that jackass Rakes again until they played in Portree in three months. He drank another shot in celebration, setting the second glass upside down and lining up the third.

“Oi, Fitzroy!”

He turned to find Ferris, one of the Falmouth Beaters, waving to him with a grin as he pushed through the crowd. Behind him, threading through the crowded room, was Rakes.

Swearing under his breath, Fitz turned back to the bar to drink his third shot. Honestly, he had the worst luck in the world. Maybe there was something to Mariah's insistence that he not take the Lord's name in vain. “I'm being punished,” he muttered to himself.

Ferris shouldered his way up to the bar beside Fitz, waving to the bartender. “Haven't seen you in ages. How's coaching treating you? It's good to see you back in the sport.”

“Thanks, mate,” Fitz said, trying to keep the wariness out of his voice.

Rakes had taken position beside them, away from the bar, and had his meaty fists on his hips. The bloke had always been bigger than Fitz, built like a damn troll, which had tempered his desire to kick Rakes's teeth in for sleeping with his wife. Mariah sure could pick them, he thought sourly. And he'd married her. Whatever that said about him, he didn't want to know.

Ferris ordered a round of drinks for them, handing glasses of whisky to both Fitz and Rakes, then settled in for a friendly round of trash-talking. “Hope you've got them ready for tomorrow. We're planning to crush you like bugs.”

Fitz snorted. “Good luck with that. Not so easy to crush us.”

“Some of you crush more easily than you might think,” Rakes rumbled, downing his shot and then waving the empty glass at the bartender.

The team was undoubtedly well known in the pub, since it was a half kilometer from their pitch and full of wizards. The bartender was quick to bring another round, and Rakes pounded back a double. Fitz set his beside the four empty glasses, playing with it instead of drinking. The synapses that were still functioning through the whisky were on high alert. Rakes looked to be spoiling for a fight.

Ferris was chortling as he drank his next shot. He hadn't picked up on the undercurrent between Fitz and Rakes. No one had ever accused any of the Falcons of being sensitive souls. “I've seen your lineup, remember? We know how Duff plays, he learnt it here.”

“He might've learnt a few new things since he left Falmouth,” Fitz remarked, ignoring Rakes completely.

“Not from you,” Rakes said. His expression had turned nasty, dropping his thin pretense of friendly banter. “From what I've heard, you don't have any moves left.”

Fitz leaned back against the bar with his good arm, going for barefaced arrogance, and gave Rakes a smile that matched his in nastiness. “I've got moves you've never seen, Sonny Jim.”

Rakes' face was gradually turning bright red. “Maybe you did on the field when you could still play, but you sure as hell got nothing else.”

Fitz tamped down the urge to break his jaw and smiled instead. “She told me how sorry she was she ever went near you. Doesn't sound like she was impressed with your moves.”

Rakes snarled. Fitz got some satisfaction out of pissing him off. Mariah had always been sorry when she got caught, but not sorry enough not to do it again, so he doubted she really regretted any of it longer than an hour or two. No need to let Rakes in on that, though.

Ferris finally cottoned on to what they were talking about. “Oh right, because you and- oh,” he subsided lamely.

There was an ugly silence for a few moments, while Fitz twirled his glass on the bar as if he hadn't a care in the world and Rakes breathed hard through his nose, nostrils flaring. He reminded Fitz of a bull. He only needed a ring through his nose to complete the picture. And maybe some horns. Idly Fitz wondered if he could hex him with some.

“That was years ago,” Ferris said uncomfortably. “No hard feelings, right?”

Fitz gave him a dirty look, and Rakes ignored his teammate.

“She was in love with me,” Rakes snarled.

“Obviously not, since she stayed married to me until I left her.” Fitz downed his whisky, setting the glass carefully down in a neat line with the other four.

People around them were starting to stare, whispering behind their hands. Ferris glanced around and set his glass on the bar.

“Maybe we should take this outside.”

Fitz followed the pair of them out of the bar, with everyone staring after me as they left. It had gone too quiet for such a big crowd. They probably felt the fight coming. Rakes practically tore the door off its hinges as he slammed it open, and Fitz kicked it shut behind them.

Outside, the night was black, with no starlight to leaven the darkness, and the cold bit into Fitz through the whisky and rage that still heated his blood. They moved a few paces away from the bar, standing on the cobblestone path. The grey behemoth that was the Falcons' pitch loomed in the distance, looking almost ominous as it squatted over the landscape.

Ferris stood between them, clearly uncertain if he ought to put a stop to things before they got out of hand, but Rakes was less inhibited now, removed from their audience, and put one large hand on Fitz's chest, giving him a shove.

“She didn't want to be married to you, you bastard,” he growled, his hand up, ready for another shove.

Fitz knocked his hand away and shoved him back. “That's not what she kept telling me. She begged me not to leave her.”

“She didn't want you, she wanted me,” Rakes insisted.

“She wanted everyone, you twat,” Fitz told him in disgust. It was ridiculous to fight over Mariah with this idiot, he knew, but the whisky had his brain in a fog, and all the pent-up rage he'd never been able to let out every time Mariah had cheated bubbled over, and suddenly Rakes was every bloke she'd slept with. Fitz shoved him with both hands. “You knew she was married to me, what the hell did you think you were doing?”

“She came at me,” Rakes taunted him, giving him another solid shove, this time to his bad shoulder, and Fitz reeled from the pain. He gritted his teeth, determined not to show it.

“You and everybody else.”

“Maybe if she'd left you like she said, you wouldn't have gotten that curse to the shoulder,” Rakes said then, his face contorted with rage.

It was as if the world froze. The street slowed to slow-motion around him as the words burned into his brain. “The hell did you just say?”

“He doesn't mean anything by it,” spoke up Ferris, but both Fitz and Rakes ignored him.

Rakes's eyes narrowed. “I think you heard me.”

“You son of a bitch.” Fitz was seething. The bastard had hexed him because Mariah wouldn't leave him. Their twisted, screwed up marriage had gotten him permanently incapacitated, his career destroyed. If she'd just left instead of constantly cheating, or if he'd got the courage to leave her earlier, he might still be playing for Montrose. “Did Mariah know?”

The look on Rakes's face told him she hadn't. That was some small relief. At least his wife hadn't set him up. Only her boyfriend.

“Son of a bitch,” Fitz said again.

Rakes set his jaw, giving Fitz a challenging look, and spread his arms wide. “Gonna do something about it? Or are you too busted up to throw a punch?”

Fitz hauled back and hit him right in the face.

He didn't remember much after that, just a flurry of punches thrown and received, and his ribs were aching and his breath felt like knives in his chest in the cold night air, and he tasted blood, and then he was being pulled away from Rakes, and as he landed on the cobblestones, there came two cracks of Disapparating. He blinked, and Rakes and Ferris were gone, but two men wearing Magical Law Enforcement robes were running toward him up the street.

He rolled over just as they reached him, lying on his stomach on the ground and trying to breathe. “Dammit,” he managed to say, spitting out a mouthful of blood.

They sat him up and asked him who he was, why he'd been fighting, all the usual sort of questions, but he only sat there silently. If he told them his name, it would get out about the fight, and McCormack would go ballistic, and the job he'd given up Molly to keep would be gone. For half a moment, his whisky-soaked brain thought this would be a good idea, because he'd have Molly then, but he remembered that she barely even talked to him anymore and kept his trap shut.

“You're hurt, mate,” one of the MLEs said eventually, after he hadn't answered their questions for the tenth time. “Isn't there anyone you'd like us to call for you?”

Molly, he thought, but he shook his head.

The MLEs looked at each other, then back at him. “We'll have to take you in, then, and check your identity with your wand. That takes time. You'll sit in a cell all night. Is that really how you want to spend your night?”

He wanted to spend his night drinking until he could forget the vindictive rage in Rakes's eyes, forget that his shoulder was ruined by his ex-wife sleeping around, and forget that he didn't even have anyone to call to pick him up after a bar fight without further damaging what remained of his life. Despite the horrible evening, he gave a short bark of laughter. “Got nothing better to do.”

They brought him to the Ministry, his wrists bound behind him in some sort of Incarcerous Curse, hauling him through the atrium and down a long corridor with marble floors and wood-panelled walls to another, smaller atrium. MLEs bustled through the round room, their footsteps echoing into the high ceiling, busy even though it was now well past normal working hours. He'd lost track of time, sitting in the pub drinking and then sitting outside the pub being questioned.

At the far end of the room was a desk with another MLE behind it, this one roughly Fitz's age, who looked up and saw them coming and started prepping paperwork. The Ministry lived for paperwork. The MLE who had asked him if he could call someone steered Fitz toward a door beside the desk.

An older man with grizzled hair was leaning against the desk, and straightened up as they approached. “Oi,” he called out to the officer pulling Fitz along. “Hang on a tick. What's this, then?”

“Bar brawl, sir. He refused to give his name, won't let us Floo anyone to pick him up, so we'll have to look him up by wand.”

“Did he?” The older man waved off the arresting officer, still watching Fitz closely. “I don't think you'll need to do that.”

The MLE who'd arrested him looked uncertain. “Sir?”

“Put him in a cell, but don't trace his wand's ownership.” It was obvious the older man was used to being in command. He wasn't in an MLE uniform, instead dressed in simple black robes, but he had an air of authority and issued orders with ease. “I already know who he is.”

Shit. If word of his arrest got out, McCormack wouldn't just sack him. She'd bury his body in the middle of the pitch. Fitz eyed the older man warily.

The older man rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “I remember seeing you play. Watched you in one of your last games, when you beat my favourite team.”

“Who's your team?” Fitz asked, wondering which game he'd seen. Not the one he'd been hexed in. That had been his very last game.

“The Cannons. You beat them in only thirty minutes. They didn't even score.”

“Oh Christ, you're a Cannons fan?” Fitz felt a laugh bubbling up despite his situation. Everyone defeated the Cannons. They were bottom of the league every year. Nobody got angry over a Cannons defeat, that was insane. Their victories required an act of God.

“Lifelong. They're just having a bad streak right now. Take him to a cell,” he said to the arresting MLE, who snapped back to attention.

Fitz's stomach clenched. This was not good.

*

Molly woke to the sound of tapping at her window. Groggily, she lifted her head and pushed a few dreadlocks away from her face. A glance at the clock showed it was nearly three a.m., and she frowned as she looked back at the window.

There was an owl on the ledge, tapping the glass impatiently with its beak.

She padded across the room to open it. The owl stuck its leg out for her to remove the parchment tied there, then waited expectantly for a tip.

“Sorry, I haven't got any treats for you,” Molly told it.

It looked hurt and then flew off, leaving a pile of droppings on the windowsill. Molly grabbed her wand to clean up after the owl, then unrolled the parchment. As she read, her heart dropped into her shoes.

Molly,

One of the MLEs brought in your coach this evening. Apparently he was doing some Muggle-style brawling in the pub. I've got him in a cell right now. He refused to identify himself, so I assume your team wants this kept quiet. You'd better come pick him up.

Love,
Uncle Ron


Molly groaned softly. Fitz being arrested now was the last thing the team needed. McCormack had put up with a lot, but this might push her too far. Thank God for Uncle Ron, then – he'd saved Fitz's arse without even realizing how much he was helping. She didn't like the sound of Muggle brawling, though. Much as she wanted to not care any more, she still hated the thought of him in pain.

She sighed, looking at the clock again. Everyone else was sound asleep at this hour, so hopefully it would stay a secret. She changed clothes, wrapped her hair in a bun quickly, and headed for the MLEs.

Fortunately, partly thanks to her cousin Louis, she knew exactly where to go.

The MLE headquarters inside the Ministry of Magic were familiar grounds to Molly. She walked to the desk where the booking sergeant waited for criminals to be put in the holding cells while their paperwork was processed, and saw the familiar form of her uncle, leaning against the desk and eating a pastry.

He saw her approaching and waved the pastry at her. “Molly! You changed your hair.”

“Hi Uncle Ron. Thanks for owling me.” She stood next to him, smiling affectionately, and lay her head on his shoulder for a moment.

“I reckoned you'd want this kept from the press,” he said easily. “Portree's coming along nicely this season. Don't need any bad publicity. Want an Eccles cake? I think there might be some macaroons left in the box somewhere.”

“No thanks. Where is he?”

Uncle Ron nodded toward the cells. The desk sergeant rose, grabbing the keys, and led Molly into the corridor that led to the holding cells.

“Give me a minute to talk to him, please?” Molly asked softly, and the sergeant nodded, his eyes kind, and stood back at a polite distance while she approached the cell.

Fitz was sitting on the wooden bench at the back of the cell. He looked so forlorn, with his elbows resting on his knees, hunched over and staring at the floor. He looked defeated. She didn't like that.

“Oi, Marquis of Queensberry,” she said, leaning against the cell door.

He looked up in surprise. Molly winced at the sight of him. One of his eyes was blackened, and his lip was split on one side. The cut on his lip was still oozing blood.

“Molly,” he said, sounding shocked.

“Busy night?” she asked solicitously. “Ready to leave now?”

He looked toward the desk warily. “Will they just let me go? Why are you here, anyway? How are you here?”

“I have some family in law enforcement,” she reminded him. “Got an owl from my uncle, saying you'd been arrested for fighting in the pub, and that you wouldn't let them call anyone for you.”

“I didn't want it to get out,” Fitz muttered.

“Well, it probably won't, since it's three in the morning. The team's all sound asleep by now. Game tomorrow.”

“Goddammit. You should be asleep too. You'll be too tired to play-”

“Oh, shut up.” She glanced over her shoulder and gave a nod to the desk sergeant, who smiled pleasantly and came over with the keys.

After the cell door was unlocked, the man returned to the desk, leaving the two of them standing in the open cell door, staring at each other. Molly reached up to touch Fitz's bruised eye, and he didn't flinch away from her, meeting her eyes steadily until she pursed her lips in disapproval and dropped her hand back to her side.

“Who were you fighting?”

“Rakes, that Falmouth Chaser,” he admitted.

She shook her head. A coach fighting the opposing team's players the day before the game was a whole new level of inappropriate behaviour. “What the hell did you do that for?”

“He's the one who hexed me.” Fitz gestured at his injured shoulder, and Molly stared at him, taken aback.

“He admitted that to you?”

He ran a hand through his hair. “Not directly.”

“D'you want me to get my uncle? Maybe he can do something-”

“No. There's no proof, and he'll only deny it. There was a huge investigation when it happened, and they couldn't pin it on anyone.”

She frowned. “I really think it would be best.”

“No, Molly. Besides, it won't change anything. My shoulder is wrecked either way. What's the point?”

She stepped closer, forcing him to meet her eyes again. “The point is that he shouldn't be playing in the League when he did this to another player. That's the point, Riordan.”

He gave her a long look. Eventually he said, “I can't prove it. I hit him first. He was sleeping with my wife back then, and half the Falcons knew it. No one will believe me.”

“I believe you,” she said simply.

Fitz reached up to stroke her cheek gently. “Let's go, so you can get some sleep before the game.”

She'd rather lose a lot of sleep with him, but it didn't seem like fair play to say that. She didn't understand how he could look at her like that, and touch her so softly, and then say they were over. It didn't feel over when they were near each other.

“He was sleeping with your wife and then he hexed you?” she asked, determined to get the whole story out of him.

He heaved a sigh that said he didn't want to talk about it, but he did anyway. “Apparently Mariah promised to leave me for him, and wasn't doing it fast enough. Come on, Molly. You need to sleep.”

She blew out her breath. “Fine. Let's go.”

They stopped at the desk for Fitz to retrieve his wand, and Molly went over to where her uncle was leaning against the counter, eating another pastry. She kissed him on the cheek, resting a hand on his arm as she stood on tiptoe to reach him. “Thanks, Uncle Ron.”

“Any time, love.” He smiled fondly at her, then gave Fitz a stern look. “No more fighting, you.”

“Yes, sir.” Fitz managed to look contrite, though Molly was willing to bet this was neither his first nor would it be his last bar brawl. “Thanks for not contacting the press when you recognized me.”

“Well, I knew you were coaching my niece's new team. Reckoned Molly would get you sorted out. She's very good at that.” Uncle Ron patted Molly on top of her head. “Nice hair, by the way. No more mohawk?”

“I wanted a change. We'd better get going. Good night, Uncle Ron.” And then, because she couldn't seem to stop herself, she added, “And you shouldn't be eating those this late at night, you know you'll get heartburn.”

Uncle Ron rolled his eyes as he popped the last of the pastry in his mouth. “You sound just like your aunt. My wife is always bossing me around,” he told Fitz, still chewing.

Fitz glanced at Molly, and she threw him a look that said he ought to keep his mouth shut. “Good night, Uncle Ron,” she said again, and turned to leave. Fitz fell into step beside her.

They were halfway to the door that led back into the main part of the Ministry when a loud hoot sounded behind them.

“Bloody effing hell!” exclaimed Uncle Ron.

Molly turned to see what had got his attention and then immediately ducked her head, darting around to walk on the other side of Fitz where she was less visible.

Her cousin Rose was trudging in, covered in something sticky and oozing that looked like treacle, with a man in an Incarcerous Curse beside her, equally coated with goo. They were leaving a trail behind them as they walked, rather like a slug's trail, and drawing the attention of everyone in the room. A few of the MLEs clapped.

Fitz had seen her too. He was gaping a bit – people often did around Rose – and then said, still staring, “She sort of looks like you.”

“No, she doesn't,” Molly said firmly.

“Oh, yes!” cried the desk sergeant, pumping his fist in the air. “Is that treacle? Let me get my camera-”

“Shut up, Jack,” said Rose grumpily. She dragged her prisoner to a halt in front of the desk.

Molly grabbed Fitz's arm to tug him along. “Come on, let's go.”

“She really looks like your uncle there...”

Uncle Ron, still standing at the desk, was grinning hugely as he looked down at his daughter. “Merlin's pants, Rose. Get your camera, Upchurch. My wife is never going to believe this.”

Aunt Hermione would probably believe it only too well, unfortunately. Molly managed to drag Fitz down the corridor and out into the atrium. He seemed much more chipper now at the sight of Rose covered head to toe in treacle.

“Was that another of your cousins? It was, wasn't it.”

“It's Rose,” Molly said, resigned to familial embarrassment. If it wasn't her cousin Louis, it was her cousin Rose. “Don't ask.”

“You hid behind me,” he said, grinning at her.

“No I didn't.” He gave her a look, so she rolled her eyes and said, “Fine. I hid behind you.”

“Didn't want me to meet your cousin, eh?”

“Let's go before anyone sees you here.”

His smile dimmed. “Right. Got arrested. Can't let anyone find out.”

She slid him a glance. “That's not why I didn't introduce you to Rose.”

“I can see how picking a bloke up from a jail cell would make you not want your family to meet him.”

“Are you joking? I've picked up my cousin Louis from a jail cell half a dozen times now. They wouldn't care about that. Besides, my uncle Ron already knows you were arrested.” Uncle Ron wouldn't tell the press about the arrest, but he was bound to mention it to her dad when they saw each other. Molly didn't want to think of her father's reaction to the latest news about Fitz. Uncle Ron wasn't bothered, but then he didn't know Molly had been involved with Fitz.

At least, she hoped he didn't know. With any luck, her dad had kept his mouth shut and not told his brothers anything. Normally Percy kept things under his hat fairly well, though all the Weasley brothers were big gossips when they got together.

Fitz's expression changed then. “I suppose I don't have a reason to meet your family.”

She threw him a look. “No, I suppose you don't.” She didn't want to argue over that, though, so she distracted herself by taking her dreads down and redoing the bun she'd had them in. She'd been in a hurry when she'd put her hair up, and the dreadlocks were starting to slide out of the precarious bun she'd had them in. She tightened it up, pushing the pair of silver hairsticks back through the bun, and then looked up to find Fitz's eyes tracking her movements.

“I wondered what they looked like down,” he said, still looking at her hair.

She didn't want to go there either, so she folded her arms across her chest. “Are you all right to Apparate, or do you need me to bring you Side-Along?”

He seemed to shake off his fascination with her hair. “I can make it.”

They reappeared outside the B&B, the night air silent around them, and hurried in through the conservatory, slipping in through the doors Molly had left unlocked on her way out.

“Did you at least kick his arse?” Molly asked in a whisper as they passed an orange tree.

Fitz stopped so abruptly that she walked right into him and had to take a step back. He turned to look at her and she saw that he was grinning. The split lip oozed with fresh, bright red blood from the movement.

“I gave as good as I got.”

She reached up to touch his mouth, right beside the cut. “You always do. Do you want ice for any of this? I can probably do a spell to fix your lip.”

“There'll be a Healer at the pitch tomorrow morning for the game. I'll get it fixed then.” He stretched a bit, wincing. “And fix up my ribs, too.”

“Did you break a rib?” Molly pulled up his shirt, and he didn't resist. The skin around his torso was mottled with purple bruises. “You idiot, look at you. You probably did.”

“Feels like it.” He pulled his shirt out of her hand, tugging it back into place. “I'll be all right until morning. Go get some sleep, you've got to play tomorrow. Today, actually.”

She stared at him, and he cocked his head to one side.

“What?”

“I don't like you getting hurt,” she whispered.

He shrugged, and then hissed a bit, putting on hand on his side. “I'm used to things hurting.”

Molly shook her head. “Get some ice from the kitchen. Maybe you'll sleep better.” It occurred to her that he probably had some pretty strong pain potions on hand, given his chronic pain from his shoulder, which would help more than ice.

“I will.” He leaned down and kissed her with delicate care, his lips gentle against her mouth. “Thanks for coming to get me, Molly.”

“Try not to make it a habit,” she said lightly, uncertain of herself. “Good night.”

“Good night.”

She didn't want to leave him, but she really did need to sleep if she was going to play at top form against Falmouth, so she hurried off to her room, making sure she didn't look back. She might have turned around and taken care of him all night if she had, and that would be a big mistake for several reasons.

As she climbed the stairs to her room, she touched her lips lightly, still thinking of that kiss.

*

Molly overslept the next morning. She must have turned off her alarm without really waking up, because she didn't remember it going off. She came awake groggily, her brain finally nudging her that she ought to wake, and realized Fitz was pounding on her door and bellowing, “Weasley!”

“Shite,” she muttered, and slid out of bed to open the door. “I'm awake.”

He looked down at her, and the annoyance slid from his face. “Jesus.”

She looked down at herself, belatedly remembered she was only wearing the sports bra and underwear she'd fallen asleep in after picking him up from the Ministry, and closed the door in his face.

“I thought you said you didn't wear underwear,” he said through the closed door.

“I just wanted to see your face when I said that,” she admitted, digging her team uniform out of her bag. “I'll be down in five minutes.”

“Hurry it up, we need to be on the pitch in twenty minutes.”

She threw her Quidditch robes on, grabbed the bag of protective padding, and hurried down the stairs while wrapping her hair up into a bun, tied up with a purple scarf. The rest of the team was already in their robes as well, sitting around the dining room. Only Declan was still eating, and Fitz slid a plate of toast and eggs in front of Molly as she sat down.

“Eat fast. You have two minutes.”

She started shoveling in food, and realized both Duff and Sid were grinning at her. “What?” she asked around a mouthful of toast.

“You overslept,” said Sid. “You're one of us after all. Just like the regular people now, Ms. Perfect.”

She rolled her eyes. “I didn't hear my alarm.”

Fitz was checking his watch. “Hurry up, dammit.”

They made it to the Falmouth pitch with five minutes to spare, though Molly wished she'd had time for a coffee as they rolled into the locker room and started putting on padding.

Fitz was lecturing them all about the strategy for the day's game as they suited up, but she knew it by heart already so she spent the time watching him instead. He still had a black eye, and his split lip was scabbed over now. He must have told the team something to explain it while she was sleeping late, because no one was questioning his injuries. He didn't look as if he'd got any sleep at all last night.

They were interrupted by her cousin Hugo sticking his head in, dressed in Medi-Wizard robes. “Just wanted to say good luck, Molly-” His eyes widened as he took in Fitz's face. “What happened to you?”

“Shaving accident?” Fitz suggested.

“I thought we were going with 'ambushed by pirates',” Jinks stage-whispered.

“He was fighting off a troll,” Zara volunteered.

Fitz nodded judiciously at that. “Somewhat accurate,” he admitted.

Hugo shook his head at the lot of them, and slid into the room. “Come here, I'll heal it.”

After he'd fixed the split lip and spread some sort of yellow paste around the black eye, Fitz grabbed the hem of his shirt and pulled it up. “Don't suppose you can do anything for this?”

The team had obviously not seen that part of his injuries, because there was a round of whistles and catcalls. The bruising around his ribs had blossomed overnight into a huge mess of purple, tinged green around the edges. It looked much worse in daylight than it had in the darkened conservatory. Molly winced at the sight of it.

“Whoa,” Sid said appreciatively. “That's a hell of a bruise. It's the size of a Quaffle.”

“It's the size of two Quaffles,” Bram corrected him.

Hugo was prodding gently at Fitz's torso with his fingertips. “I'm pretty sure this is broken. Pirates and trolls, eh?”

“Something like that.”

There was no time just then, though, because a loud whistle sounded in the corridor outside the locker room.

“Saddle up, you lot,” Fitz told them, dropping his shirt.

“Come see me after the game,” Hugo said to Fitz, then waved at Molly and gave the rest of the team a nod as he left.

They took the field, flying out to make a lap around the Falmouth pitch and wave to the crowd. Molly spotted a few patches of purple in the sea of grey in the stands, and waved to their supporters. The Falcons came out to a much bigger roar of applause, and Molly took up her position in front of the hoops.

The game was as fast and rough as she's anticipated. The Falcons always played as if they'd just as well kill their opposing team as defeat them. She kept the hoops defended but paid more attention to their fouls than she normally did. Rakes seemed more aggressive than usual, or maybe that was just because now she knew how far he was willing to go to injure another player.

Fitz had been a special case for him, she told herself. That had been about a woman, not about the game. They weren't really in any more danger from the Falcons than usual. But she watched him anyway, whenever she could spare her attention from the hoops.

The Falcons scored a few on her, but mostly she was able to block their throws. Fitz's new versions of the old tactics he'd found in Rodan's coaching notes from forty years ago were working well: the Falcons Chasers weren't able to keep possession of the Quaffle long as the Prides out-flew and out-threw them.

Three hours into the game, Molly blocked a throw from one of their Chasers, threw the Quaffle to Sid, and turned back just in time to see Rakes slam into Beathan, knocking her off her broom.

"OI! You bastard!" she screamed at him as the referee and two Medi-Wizards flew toward Beathan's falling form, catching her before she hit the ground.

Bram Carmichael flew out to take Beathan's place as she was carted off the pitch, and Portree was given a penalty shot. Zara threw the Quaffle into the left hoop, inches past the Falmouth Keeper's outstretched hand, and then gave Rakes the finger before she flew off.

After that, the gloves were off. Duff and Declan started fouling the Falcons, their faces set in scowling determination. Duff in particular seemed especially vicious as he sent Bludgers at his former team. He seemed to have taken their foul against Beathan personally.

Four hours and scores of fouls by each team later, Jinks caught the Snitch as it was hovering just above Sid's head, looking completely at ease, and the match was over. Relieved that they'd won and no one else had been hurt, Molly landed on the field and didn't bother with the usual "Good game" acknowledgments to their opponents, heading straight to the infirmary to check on Beathan with Sid and Zara on her heels.

It had not been a good game. It had been rough, vicious even, and more fouls than they'd had all season.

Beathan was lying on an examination table in the infirmary with an ice pack on her head. Hugo was standing over her, making notes on a chart. He looked up as they came in.

"Concussion," he said briskly. "Fixed her broken radius. She just needs rest, and she'll be fine."

"Did we win?" Beathan asked eagerly.

"We won," Zara told her, and Beathan let out a whoop, grinning.

Hugo smiled and gave Molly a pat on the arm. "Congrats, cuz."

Fitz burst in then with the rest of the team behind him, took in Beathan on the table, and turned to Hugo. “Is she all right?”

Hugo gave him a reassuring smile. “Broken arm, concussion. The arm is fixed, and she'll be all right tomorrow from the concussion. All healed up, just needs some rest. Come here and let me heal those ribs.”

“Galloping gargoyles,” Sid said on an exhale. He went to sit beside Beathan. “When he knocked you off your broom, I thought my heart stopped. Effing Falmouth. Always has to play rough.”

“We keep four Healers on staff for Falcons games,” Hugo volunteered, not looking up from his examination of Fitz. “Lots of fouls today, but only minor injuries.”

“Effing Falmouth,” Sid said again, and the rest of the team nodded.

“Go get cleaned up, you lot,” Fitz said, grimacing as Hugo prodded his battered ribcage. “Let's get the hell out of here and go home.”

 

 


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