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Chapter 13 : Lucky number thirteen
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A loud voice echoed from far below, commentating on the game. “Branford of Gryffindor takes the Quaffle. She’s really belting along there. A neat pass to Constance Runnels. Oh! Watch that Bludger there! Black beats it towards Slytherin Chaser, Avery…”
James only half heard the commotion of game, as it was time to really start searching for the Golden Snitch. As planned, he resisted the temptation to snatch it early on to allow the rest of the team the time necessary to get a further lead on Slytherin. Once again, the Quidditch Cup would surely belong to Gryffindor.
The crowd suddenly roared louder than ever. James looked quickly to the Slytherin Keeper, Algernon Rookwood, just as Tara Branford threw the Quaffle right through the middle hoop.
“Branford scores for Gryffindor!” rang the commentator’s voice. “The score’s 70-20, Gryffindor!”
James pulled his broom into a quick loop-the-loop as the Gryffindor fans cheered and the Slytherin supporters hissed. As he pulled his broom to a halt, a faint glimmer to James’ left caught his hazel eyes. And there it was. The Golden Snitch.
It was at his height, about fifty, maybe sixty feet away, zigzagging in the open air. James quickly noted that the Slytherin Seeker, Richard Rhal, was clear across the field, looking down and away. James smiled to himself, then quickly guided his broom towards the Snitch.
James was quickly closing in on it, the colors of the spectator boxes blurring with that of the misty rain. The tiny golden ball started to speed away, but he was on its tail. He stuck out his right hand and leaned forward even more. All too easy! he sang in his head. His fingers were just about around the Snitch. James could feel its wings, beating like a hummingbird’s at his fingertips.
But suddenly a Bludger smacked into his arm, nearly missing his face.
“Argh!” he cried, mostly out of frustration. The Snitch got away.
James shook his stinging arm and looked down to Rabastan Lestrange, a Slytherin Beater. Rabastan was squinting up through the rain with satisfaction, his Beater’s bat pointing up to James. Though he was a Seeker, James returned a sly grin and whirled down to Rabastan, body slamming into him.
The Slytherin Beater nearly fell, but saved himself by clutching onto his broomstick upside-down. The whistle blew, and the Seeker's foul was called.
His Gryffindor teammates glared at James for pulling the stunt, but they soon dismissed their anger, for the Slytherin Chaser who took the shot for Rabastan, missed. Frank Longbottom didn’t even have to block the shot it was so off!
Lily watched the game from the top row of the stands, her black cloak draped tightly around her and her hood drawn. Everyone in the stands gasped and crudely declared their disapproval as they watched Rabastan Lestrange hit a Bludger at James Potter, but Lily stood silent. Her eyes were wide and both of her gloved hands covered her mouth as she saw his arm get positively mauled. But then she watched as James attempted to knock Rabastan off his broom. He obviously wasn’t harmed enough to keep him from performing a brash display of retaliation and Lily found that she was quite relieved that James was all right.
She unconsciously grabbed the gemstone that hung around her neck on its delicate golden chain. It was James’ grandmother’s, before she passed away. Lily tried returning the necklace to James, as it belongs in the Potter’s family, but he insisted that she wore it.
“It needs to be around your neck, not hidden away in a box,” James had told her the day after the Ball.
The Ball. It had been a week since the Halloween Ball. Lily barely had a chance to talk to James since then, as he’d been out practicing in the Quidditch pitch every free moment he’d had. Frank Longbottom, their Captain, wanted to make sure the team could come together, especially after the fight between the two Gryffindor Beaters, Sirius and Reth Jordan.
Lily took her eyes off James for a moment and pulled her binoculars to her face to look at to the two Gryffindor Beaters. They were grinning and working together as they always had, so hopefully they were able to forgive and forget.
Lily peered back to where James was, but found only misty rain and dark clouds. She scanned the pitch, eagerly looking for him then there he was, speeding away to the other end of the field. Even with her binoculars, Lily couldn’t see it, but she knew he was in the Golden Snitch’s wake.
Then she saw him pull his broomstick to a halt. The whistle blew as he held up his hand in triumph. She occasionally caught glimpses of gold in his raised fist and quickly the commentator confirmed.
“James Potter has caught the Golden Snitch! He’s earned 150 points for Gryffindor, ending the game at 220-20, Gryffindor!”
The crowd went wild! What a win for Gryffindor!
Everyone began to swarm the wooden stairwells and pour out onto the muddy pitch. Lily was swept along in the wave of smiles and cheers, and soon found herself slopping into the field with them.
The crowd lifted the Gryffindor players onto their shoulders. James held the Golden Snitch in one hand, and was slowly wiping his wet hair out of his eyes with the other.
Everyone began to clap the Quidditch players with congratulations, and Lily noticed that when someone had snatched up James’ hand to shake it, his face went pale and he squinted in pain. The expression only lasted momentarily and he quickly covered up the weakness, clinching his teeth and smiling. More people were trying to shake his hand as well, but he quickly switched the Snitch to his right hand so people couldn’t grab it.
Soon James patted the students that were supporting him on their shoulders, instructing them to put him down. “Time to get cleaned up, mates,” he was saying. “We’ll celebrate later.”
James was lowered into the crowd and Lily lost sight of him. She pushed her way to the edge of the gathering herself, just in time to see James quickly dash towards the side of the field. But he wasn’t on his way to the locker rooms. Oddly, he was heading towards the school. Lily ran after him, slipping and sliding in the mud.
She made her way through the lower stands and looked up the hill towards the castle. Lily couldn't make him out among the masses of people on the path. After glancing down at her muddy attire, she let out a sigh. How could she have lost him so quickly? Just as she was about to make her way back to the school, Lily chanced one last look around the rafters and saw scarlet against the wooden stands.
“James?” she asked breathlessly, rushing over.
He was leaning against the wall of one of the spectator's boxes, cradling his right arm. He straightened as he saw Lily quickly approaching.
“James, are you hurt?”
“Oh, no. Just a bit of a bruise,” he smiled forcefully.
But she looked into his eyes and saw the pain behind them. “You need to go to the Hospital Wing.”
“No. I’m fine. Really.”
Lily looked down to his arm and gently took it in her hands. He shuddered, gasping quietly at her touch. “No, we’re going to Madam Pomfrey.”
James looked to Lily, his hazel eyes flashing. “Look, I can’t. No one can know.”
“No one can know, Lily! If those Slytherins knew they’ve finally gotten me, they’ll never let it go.”
“Oh, so The-James-Potter is invincible?”
He glared at Lily, his eyes obscured with hurt. “You just don’t understand.”
She frowned, then sighed. “Well, come with me. Maybe I can help.”
The two of them headed towards the castle. James walked with his arm swinging just as normal, smiling at students as they congratulated his win along the way. They made it up to the seventh floor and headed towards the portrait of the Fat Lady only to find a huge gathering of Gryffindors waiting there. James quickly hid behind a coat of armor, pressing into the shadows.
Lily stopped when she realized he wasn’t beside her and looked back to James. He was pressed against the wall, gripping his arm and clinching his teeth. Lily took a step towards the suit of armor so as to avoid their eyes as well.
“It really hurts, Lily,” he finally admitted. “I need to rest but they’ll hound me if I try to go into the tower.”
Lily thought for a moment, then took off her muddy black cloak. She draped it over James, concealing his scarlet Quidditch robes, and the two of them quickly retreated back down the corridor with successful stealth.
They got back to the staircases and when another trickle of Gryffindors came into view, James turned quickly away and hid his face behind Lily.
“Where are we gonna go?” James asked once the students passed.
She bit her lip. She found it strange that James had completely put this on her. She knew that he must feel pretty helpless and she was rather eager to help him. Though she wanted to take him to the infirmary, Lily honored his wishes and thought as to where else they could go that would be quiet and deserted.
“Follow me,” she instructed after a moment.
She led him down the two flights of stairs and down a empty corridor, stopping at the statue of Boris the Bewildered.
Lily mumbled “Sacred Seashells,” then pulled him through the door that opened.
Once inside, a splendid chandelier displaced the darkness. The white marble of the Prefect’s bathroom absolutely gleamed. James stood before the huge pool of a bathtub with all its shining golden taps. Lily turned and quickly began to bolt the door behind them.
“Sacred Seashells?” James asked, laughing weakly as she tended to the locks.
“Well,” Lily explained, smiling. “See, the mermaid’s lost hers.”
James turned around just in time to see the mermaid in a huge painting on the wall duck behind the rock she was sitting on. James smiled with amusement then let the black cloak drop to the white marble floor.
Lily snatched up a huge, fluffy white towel from the corner and threw it on James’ head. He fumbled out of it with his good hand, and then wiped the rain off his face. Lily took the towel from James and threw it on a chair.
“Let me see your arm,” she said after a moment of budding awkwardness.
He obediently held out his hand. She began to roll back the sleeve of his Quidditch robes, to find his leather arm guard blocking the way.
“Um. Take off your robes.”
“Yes, ma’am!” James smirked.
Lily rolled her eye and stood back. James got one arm out just fine, but was having a difficult time getting the second one out. He even tried using his teeth—Lily would have found herself laughing if not for the injury he surely possessed.
She heard him gasp if he moved a certain way. In a rather awkward position that reminded Lily of the Whomping Willow, he gave up and stood still.
Lily bit her lip and stepped up to James. He went rigid and watched her curiously as she lightly gathered up his scarlet robes. She pulled them over his head, and slowly, gently rolled them down his hurt arm.
And, he was free.
Lily blushed, holding the rain-dampened robes, so she went to drape them over the chair. She returned to James, standing there wearing only his muddy trousers, shoes, and his Quidditch gear that obviously didn’t protect very well. She noticed he was blushing under his smile too.
Lily cleared her throat and quickly turned her attention to the arm guard. She gently unbuckled the straps and pulled it away from his skin. James held out his arm and they could see that it was already bruising to an ugly brownish-gray color. It was very swollen and once James saw how bad it really was, he began to feel a lot more pain.
Lily looked up into James’ eyes. “You really should see Madam Pomfrey. She’ll have something for this, I’m sure.”
“I’ll be fine. It’s just a bruise,” James assured himself more than Lily. “I just—I just need some ice or something.”
“I can do that,” Lily said quickly.
She went to the elegant marble basin and drew the water as James attempted to remove his other arm guard. Once the basin was filled about half way, Lily pulled out her wand and spoke “Glaciernum Arctizenis.” The water froze. She broke the ice into small pieces and wrapped them in a hand towel.
Lily returned to James. They sat down together, hanging their legs over the edge of the empty bathtub. She scooted closer, turning to face him, and took his arm across her lap. She gently set the ice pack on top of that.
They sat there in silence for a while. James wasn’t sure which felt better, the ice, or Lily. She was stoking his arm with her fingertips, very slowly, and he was beginning to feel drowsy and very relaxed. He could fall asleep sitting right there!
He looked over to her and noticed she was looking at him. She quickly turned away, blushing. He just stared at her, smiling his handsome crooked smile.
Lily became a bit nervous. It was a good kind of scared though, one induced by a pleasant surprise. She didn’t expect to be alone in the Prefect’s bathroom with James though she and her friends had often stayed up late at night giggling over such encounters.
She shifted a bit, and some ice worked its way out of the towel. The pieces fell into the bathtub, scraping loudly across the marble. She quickly turned to catch the rest of the towel's contents and once the pack was secure again, she accidentally looked up into his eyes.
At that moment, James quickly leaned forward and kissed her. It was just a little kiss, their lips just brushing. He quickly pulled away, studying Lily’s eyes—waiting to see her reaction. She looked to him in surprise, but didn’t turn away this time. He saw her glance flicker down to his lips and he began to lean forward again. This time, she met him half way. Their eyes closed and their lips readily found each other’s.
It wasn’t as though time had stopped. They weren’t under the vast expanse of the heavenly stars, nor was the room littered with flittering candles and red rose petals. The kiss—it was real.
Lily pulled him closer. She slid her hands over his bare back, and he squirmed slightly, laughing into her dark red hair.
“That tickles,” he whispered.
Lily brought her hands to his waist as he dotted her neck with kisses. It tickled, but she didn’t waste her breath with laughter. Instead, she tilted her head and brought his face back to hers. They kissed again, more voraciously this time.
James embraced her around the middle, running his hands firmly up her back and deepening the kiss.
The ice pack crashed into the bathtub.
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