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Chapter 29 : Deciding the Quidditch Cup
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Madam Pomfrey, it transpired, was also rather pleased with Sirius, as his distribution of chocolate immediately after the event meant that she had a much smaller number of traumatised students to deal with, and word was that by way of rewarding him she was pressuring both Dumbledore and McGonagall to let him off a couple of detentions he had yet to serve. He had refused reimbursement for the chocolate, though we understood this was down to pride more than anything else as since he’d left his family the previous year he’d had very little gold of his own.
On the whole it ended up a pretty good day for Gryffindor House. Peter, Martha and Charlotte were each awarded ten points for their efforts in keeping everyone in the Three Broomsticks calm and off the streets. Remus, Lily and I received twenty-five points each for our role in repelling the attack. Sirius received fifty points for his part in stopping the Dementors and for providing chocolate to the students afterwards, and James sixty for not only his wandwork but also the leadership he displayed, particularly in negating the panic that undoubtedly would have ensued if he wasn’t so composed.
“You know, Laura,” Lily said as we left Dumbledore’s office and made our way back to the common room, “I suspect that all these points probably cancel out the last half dozen or so detentions and points lost that James and Sirius have cost us.”
I laughed. “You’re probably onto something there,” I agreed. “I’m looking forward to seeing the hourglass tomorrow morning, it’ll have to have topped up a fair bit.”
She grinned. “Yes, I suspect you’re right,” she said. “I think I’m just glad it’s all over, though. I feel pretty drained after going through it again for Dumbledore. What do you think the chances are that the boys have raided the kitchen for us?”
“Middling to good,” I said, thinking about it. “And I hope they have, too. I’m starving.”
Unfortunately for us, our involvement in the affair meant that we were deluged with requests for information almost as soon as we made it back to the castle, and this only increased over the following days. As usually happens in these cases, the re-telling of events made them seem much more impressive than they really were.
I heard one person telling anyone who would listen that Voldemort himself had been behind the attack and was now bound to come after James and Sirius for personal revenge for preventing his taking over the village. Instead of being worried by this suggestion, upon hearing it the boys just grinned at each other and said, “Bring it on!” They never were ones to shrink from a challenge.
And that wasn’t the only variation on the story that was going around the school. “I heard that Potter fought off a mob of Dementors AND some vampires,” I heard a boy who looked like he might be in fifth-year saying at the Hufflepuff table during the week.
“Don’t forget the werewolves,” his friend corrected as they held a group of younger students spellbound. “There were at least half a dozen werewolves there as well.”
“Yeah, and he just held them off with a flick of his wand and then bound them with a ring of fire until the Aurors got there to deal with them,” the first one went on. “They’re talking about giving him an Order of Merlin because of it!”
I just looked at Mary and giggled as we made our way down the table and sat opposite the person in question. How anyone could be naïve enough to credit this version was beyond me – even first-years knew that vampires and werewolves didn’t come out in daylight. Though, I supposed, why let these minor details get in the way of a good yarn?
“I just heard you’re getting an Order of Merlin,” I said conversationally to him as we sat down. “Did you know about that?”
He laughed. “Nice one,” he said. “Which version of the story is giving me that?”
“Dementors, vampires an’ werewolves,” Mary explained from my other side, where she had found a spot next to Marcus. “An’ ye held them off wi’ a ring o’ fire till th’ Ministry go’ there.”
James looked at Sirius, in the spot next to him, and grinned. “Well, that is a new one,” he admitted. “Though if I’m not mistaken, the full moon isn’t due for another week or two, so I’m not quite sure what sort of werewolves they’re talking about.”
“Not to mention the fact that the sun was out,” Sirius added wryly, a note of exasperation in his voice.
“Honestly,” James went on, shaking his head a little, “the way rumours spread at this school is ridiculous. Anyone would think I did the whole thing single-handedly. Let’s face it, there’s bugger all I could have done without you lot to help out.”
This was pretty typical of James’ attitude to the whole thing. While he generally enjoyed the attention the events of Hogsmeade had inevitably given him, he did pass off as much credit as he could to Sirius, and to a lesser extent to Remus, Lily and me, and by the end of the week he was almost getting uncomfortable with how far the story had been exaggerated as it was re-told around the school.
And I couldn’t help but notice that his attitude and determination to share the limelight had one further implication that I was sure he would be ecstatic about. As he pushed the attention aside, it was becoming clearer and clearer that Lily was starting to take him much more seriously as a potential partner. She still thought he could be an arrogant berk, as indeed he was at times, but she had realised he was maturing and I was thinking that, the next time he asked her out, she’d probably say yes. His potentially saving her life was bound to have some fringe benefits, and I expected them to surface sooner rather than later.
After the excitement of Hogsmeade it was almost a shame to get back to normality within the castle. However, exams were only a couple of weeks away and, while sixth year exams were only really practice for NEWTs, they were still important enough for us to be worried about them. Some of the teachers let us off a bit of homework as reward for saving Hogsmeade, but the assignments still piled high and most of us were staying up past midnight as a matter of course trying to get more revision crammed in.
In addition, the last Quidditch match of the season was only a week away, where Gryffindor would be playing Slytherin. We had no idea how those students on the Quidditch team were managing to train for that, as well as studying for their exams, but even James (who never appeared to study at all) seemed a bit tired. The two seventh-years on the team, Anna Vector and Marcus Ogden, were looking decidedly stressed as their NEWTs approached and the Beaters, who were both in fifth year and therefore doing their OWLs, looked worse still. Only Clarrie Trimble, Charlotte’s little brother who was in fourth year, and Persephone Alderton, the third-year Seeker, seemed to be immune from the general panic.
Interest in the game was higher than usual because, due to the sudden influx of points to Gryffindor House after Hogsmeade, if we won we were likely to take the House Cup as well as the Quidditch Cup if the victory was by more than ninety points. If Slytherin won, or we won by less than ninety, then Slytherin would take the Quidditch Cup, and a defeat would also mean Ravenclaw would get the House Cup. At least, this is what I was told – I’d given up working out all the permutations and combinations and so relied on others to work out all the possibilities.
There was also a heightened desire for victory from James, because the Slytherin Seeker was Sirius’ little brother Regulus. Sirius took great pleasure in Gryffindor beating Slytherin for anything, and he was particularly vocal in his support of the Quidditch team when they were up against his brother, knowing the news would get back to his parents.
The Quidditch game had the school in high spirits. Even those Houses not involved in the match were looking forward to a distraction from the upcoming exams, and there was also a desire from all other Houses that Slytherin not win the Cup. We Gryffindors who weren’t on the team made a point of forming protective cordons around those who were, as random Slytherins had taken to hexing them in the corridors in an attempt to sabotage our chances. On Wednesday, for example, Severus Snape took his opportunity in Potions to conjure up a swarm of wasps and send them to attack James when Professor Slughorn’s back was turned, though this of course may not have had anything to do with Quidditch.
“Look at that,” Lily whispered as the wasps crossed the dungeon, buzzing angrily as they went. “Why does he keep doing that sort of thing?” She shot a surprisingly dirty look in Snape’s direction.
“You really need to ask?” I whispered back. “They hate each other. The Quidditch match is probably just an excuse.”
Lily just nodded as we watched James, who appeared competely nonplussed, Vanish the wasps quickly before casting a Shield Charm between himself and Severus. He had barely even looked up from his veritaserum to cast the spells before turning back to his cauldron, though I was sure I saw his eyes dart very quickly towards Lily in the process.
“You know,” Lily whispered with obvious admiration, either ignoring or not having noticed him watching her, “I would have thought James would have retaliated more than that. Maybe he’s growing up.”
Or maybe he’s just growing on you, I thought, but I decided not to say that. Instead I glanced at Professor Slughorn, who had been helping Dione Turpin with her potion and didn’t even appear to be aware anything had happened. Then again, both James and Snape were members of the Slug Club, so it was always possible that he had decided to ignore the hex so he wouldn’t have to punish either of them.
As for James not retaliating, however, I did notice that Severus appeared to be suffering from a Twitchy Ears Hex as we left the dungeon after class. And I decided not to point that out to Lily.
There was another unfortunate incident outside the Charms classroom the following day when Persephone Alderton was hit with an Insect Jinx and scuttled around the floor for quarter of an hour before Professor Flitwick could actually hit her with the appropriate anti-jinx. Wilkes from Slytherin was suspected, as he had been passing at the time, but because the spell had been non-verbal no one could say for sure.
In any case, by forming our defensive barriers and casting the occasional Shield Charm around the team members, we managed to get to Saturday morning without any further incidents, and the seven Gryffindors who walked out onto the Quidditch pitch for the start of the game were all definitely in the same number of pieces and the same condition as they had started the week.
The eight remaining sixth-years clambered into one of the stands took two sets of four seats, one behind the other. I had tried to follow Sirius unobtrusively in an attempt to keep close so I would have an excuse to sit next to him when we found our places, but then noticed with a start that Charlotte was doing the same with Remus. I hoped fervently that I wasn’t as blatant as she was, I couldn’t abide the fallout: in my mind’s eye I imagined Lily’s sympathetic looks and Martha trying not to laugh. In any case, it was too late to do anything about the seating arrangements without being obvious, so I decided to follow the original plan and just enjoy the match.
Not long after we sat down, though (me in between Mary and Sirius in the front row), Sirius leaned in very close to my ear. “Uh, Laura, do you mind if we swap places?”
I looked at him, surprised. That would put me on the edge of the group and him next to Mary, who had Lily on her other side. “Why?”
He just jerked his head towards his other side, and I saw that the space there had been filled by the two Hufflepuff girls who had been in our detention way back before Christmas, both of them squeezing into a spot better suited for one so they could be next to Sirius Black. I’d wondered why we all had to budge down a little. “Oh,” I said. “Yeah, sure.”
We stood up and awkwardly swapped seats, me very aware of just how close we were. Not that there was a lot of room to manoeuvre, but it was a little hard to keep my concentration, let alone my balance, when I was pressed up against him like that. And, to my horror, it seemed like he realised just how much it was affecting me, as he put a hand on my back to steady me. Fortunately we managed to change places before I tumbled headfirst down the grandstand, though I’m sure I was starting to resemble a Quaffle as I finally sat down. It was with a sinking heart that I was discovering that the potential for him turning me into a quivering wreck was increasing by the day, and I was starting to get a very nasty suspicion that snapping out of it wouldn’t be nearly as simple for me as it had seemed to be for Mary with James.
“Thanks for that,” he muttered, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees so his shoulders wouldn’t be so cramped in the narrow space he was occupying, and to my great relief ignoring my discomfort. “She was rubbing up against my leg. It was a bit uncomfortable.”
“Right,” I said, just as quietly. “Though, to be fair, there’s not much room. Maybe she wasn’t doing it deliberately.” After all, my leg was in contact with his, and it certainly wasn’t deliberate on my part. Rather pleasant, yes, and I certainly wasn’t complaining, but not deliberate.
“Well, yes, that’s certainly possible,” he agreed, “but if I have to have someone’s leg up against mine, I’d rather it …” He trailed off, a rather uncomfortable expression on his face.
“If it was someone you actually don’t mind being around,” I finished for him. “Yeah, I can understand that.”
He just nodded, looking somewhat relieved. I hadn’t realised just how much the fan club got to him sometimes, though it had to be a bit wearing. Especially when he gave them no encouragement whatsoever. In any case he was saved from saying anything more about it, as Madam Hooch blew the whistle to start the game.
As always it was fast and furious, with blurs of red and green chasing each other through the air. James, on his new Nimbus Fifteen Hundred, was particularly quick and it was almost impossible to see his arm action as he hurled the Quaffle past the Slytherin Keeper and through the hoops. Clarrie, small and light, dodged Bludgers with ease as he passed off to Anna Vector, who tapped it straight back to him as he flew past. Almost a blur, he caught it and tossed it through the left hoop all in one movement. With the following action having similar results, after just five minutes Slytherin were on the ropes with a deficit of seventy points to ten. An impressive Woollongong Shimmy from James less than ten seconds later meant it moved up eighty to ten, and an Anna Vector feint shortly afterwards pushed it up another ten points.
Mary and Lily, sitting in our row next to Sirius, had formed an unofficial girlfriends’ club, with Mary watching Marcus’ every move on the pitch and Lily James’. It was irrelevant that Lily and James weren’t actually going out, as we could all see that it was coming – the only question was whether it would happen before the summer holidays or after them. She and Mary were holding each other’s arms tightly as they watched their respective love interests dodge, defend, bash, throw and score.
It was half an hour later and with the scores at two hundred and fifty to one hundred and thirty when we first noticed the glimmer of gold that was the Snitch. Unfortunately, Regulus Black appeared to have spotted it before Persephone did, as he hurtled towards a spot just above the left goal hoop for Slytherin. On the best racing broom money could buy, he looked sure to get it first. Fortunately for Gryffindor, our Beater Fin Quigley found an obliging Bludger at just the right moment, and thumped it hard at the spot Regulus’ hand was about to be. Contact was made, and Regulus faltered just long enough to have the Snitch fly away again out of sight. Had he got the Snitch, with the hundred and fifty points it brought, Slytherin would have won both the game and the Cup.
Of course, being a Black, Regulus wasn’t about to let a broken hand stop him from winning the Quidditch Cup for his team, as well as taking the House Cup from his renegade brother. He glared at Fin and repositioned himself on the broom so that he would be able to steer with his knees the next time the Snitch showed itself, which would enable him to use his non-preferred but intact left hand to catch it. Sirius groaned.
“Too proud for his own good,” he muttered to me, just loud enough for me to hear over the commentary. “He should just cut his losses and get that hand fixed.”
“They’d have to forfeit,” I pointed out. “They don’t have a reserve Seeker. And what Slytherin would abandon the opportunity to take Gryffindor off the top of the pile?”
He paused for a while as though considering what I’d said. “Particularly him,” he agreed eventually. “He’d lose an opportunity to gloat at me.”
I stole a glance at him. I was having trouble understanding exactly what the two brothers’ relationship was. Sometimes they appeared to be at constant loggerheads, exchanging vitriolic attacks and leaving no stone unturned in their efforts to outdo the other, and other times I noticed a fondness and respect there and a reluctance to hurt or offend each other. It seemed to be a constant contradiction and I wasn’t quite sure which extreme it was at now.
Another hush fell over the crowd and we turned our attention back to the game. This time it was Persephone who had spotted the Snitch. Regulus, just behind her and on a much faster broom, was struggling to control it properly with only one good hand and while normally he would have been able to easily sweep past her and gather up the small golden ball, this time he just wasn’t able to get in the right spot. Persephone, still in front, was probably unaware of what was happening behind her, and grabbed the Snitch easily as it hovered about two hundred feet above the ground not far from the grandstand we were sitting in.
The stands erupted as cheers and whistles came from all corners except, of course, the Slytherin contingent behind their goals – Gryffindor had won four hundred and sixty points to one hundred and eighty, thereby securing both the Quidditch and House Cups, unless for some reason someone lost over a hundred points between now and the end of exams. (And James and Sirius, out of all Gryffindors the most likely to do something that had the potential for losing that many points, were being held in such high regard by the senior members of staff at that point that it looked very improbable.) The girlfriends’ club was ecstatic – Marcus had let in just eighteen goals, and James had scored eleven – and everyone stood up and started hugging each other in excitement. When it came to hugging Sirius, though, I noticed an awkwardness in the action, though whether it came from me or from him I couldn’t have said. In any case, we seemed to hold on to each other for a little longer than necessary, trying to shake off the discomfort I was sure we both felt.
The party in the Gryffindor common room that night was more raucous and high-spirited than any I could remember. Remus and James disappeared for a spell and reappeared with cases of butterbeer, and Sirius and Peter similarly showed up with trays of food from the kitchens. I admit to feeling a little smug that I knew exactly how they got all of these, having been to the kitchens with Sirius and also seen that amazing map they had written. It seemed the whole House had decided to join in and Anna Vector was doing laps of the common room, carrying the Quidditch Cup around over her head, the butterbeer it had been filled with sloshing over the edges and dripping onto her robes.
“Three cheers for Gryffindor!” someone yelled from somewhere near the window, and the resultant sound should have been nearly enough to lift the roof off the common room, as Anna, James, Marcus, Clarrie and the rest of the team found themselves forced into the middle of the room amid tumultuous applause and almost forcefed butterbeer and anything else that people may have managed to smuggle in.
The party went well into the night, and as expected people started pairing off after a while. Mary and Marcus found the closest proximity to a secluded corner that they could and spent several hours ‘getting to know’ each other better, and Martha was doing likewise with Duncan Abercrombie from seventh year, who had been sitting next to her in the grandstand during the game. I understood that Peter had been on her other side so she had welcomed the distraction Duncan had provided. I had been half expecting Lily and James to pair up that night as well, but she obviously wasn’t quite ready for that yet, though she spent a tidy spell early on watching him through her hair, thinking that no one realised what she was doing.
I spent much of the night with Charlotte who, even though she still denied that she liked Remus, spent a lot of time talking about him, how he looked, whether he was well, and how he was behaving towards her. Unfortunately, however, that wasn’t the only thing she noticed.
“What’s wrong with Sirius?” she asked about halfway through the night. “It’s almost like he’s avoiding us. Have you upset him or something?”
I kept my face as impassive as possible. The trouble was that she was right, he did seem to be avoiding us. Whenever we moved in his direction he hurriedly took off somewhere else so our paths wouldn’t cross, and even when he’d been at the bar he would disappear as we approached rather than get us our drinks. I didn’t have a clue what I’d done – if it was to do with me in the first place – and it was rather unsettling.
“I have no idea,” I said quite honestly. “Maybe it’s got nothing to do with us at all, it just seems that way.”
She looked at him shrewdly, even taking off her glasses and cleaning them before putting them back on and watching him again, and shook her head. “No, I think it’s to do with us. And I’ve barely had anything to do with him lately, so it’d have to be you. Are you sure you haven’t said anything to offend him?”
I wracked my brain trying to think of anything it could be, going over every conversation we’d had in the previous few days, but nothing stood out. The only thing I could think of that might possibly be right was that he had guessed how I felt about him and was trying to put me off gently – but there was no way known I was going to say that out loud. Charlotte and I were getting reasonably close, but we definitely weren’t that close. Admissions like that were strictly reserved for Mary’s ears only.
Meanwhile Lily and James started getting cosy by the fire, still not touching each other but actually having a conversation that went for longer than five minutes and didn’t involve any wands being drawn, which we thought might have been a record as far as they were concerned. It looked like James was determined not to mess it up this time, and was letting things run their course without trying any bad pickup lines or asking her out at inopportune moments, and Lily appeared prepared to go with the flow.
By the time the party wound up at about three in the morning, half the people there had found a special someone to share the evening with and were snogging in various corners of the common room. Charlotte and I, however, were both just as single as we had been when the night started, and Lily and James were still sitting by the fire, talking. Sirius had disappeared up the boys’ staircase not long after midnight and hadn’t reappeared, and Remus and Peter were sitting on the floor with a couple of fourth-years, chatting away amiably without paying the slightest attention to what was going on around them while Mary’s cat played with a pile of butterbeer corks in the middle of their circle. Charlotte and I looked at each other and, agreeing that it was time for bed, picked our way over the squashed-in food and smashed bottles that littered the floor to the girls’ staircase, pitying the house elves who would have to clean up the chaos before the sun rose.
Author’s note: I feel like this chapter needs more dialogue to make it read better, but I just couldn’t get any more in there in a way that I was happy with. And in order to keep the story’s flow going right I had to break it up here so adding scenes wasn’t really an option. So I just hope you will forgive me this one transgression and bear with me for the next chapter, which does flow a little better.
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