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Chapter 6 : little sisters
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But the dismal weather conditions did not seem to have any impact on the atmosphere within the castle, mainly the Dining Hall. The match was to begin at eleven and the whole school, it seemed, were to attend the game. Loud chatter and an excitable buzz filled the Hall and everybody had an opinion on the outcome of the match.
“My dad said that when he was at school, one game went on for forty two hours,” chattered back his friend. On the contrary, three Slytherins were arguing over how it would be a match that would only take a few minutes.
The whole school was divided not by four houses, as per usual, but by the colours blue and red, scattered over students’ faces, clothing and banners. Additionally Gryffindor and Ravenclaw, two houses with a history of normally good relations- legend has it that Godric Gryffindor and Rowena Ravenclaw were lovers, even- were torn apart, the air between the two tables openly hostile and unfriendly. Mikey and Liam had told me of stories they overheard in detention of various house members taking it upon themselves to attempt to injure members of the other house’s team.
“And then Anton de Rosselini, a boy in our dorm, was telling us about how he saw Edgar MacLaggen in the hospital ward last night,” Liam chattered.
“Nonsense,” marvelled Lara. “Why, I just saw him a few minutes ago!”
We had decided to eat breakfast as a team. We were already in our kit and had blue stripes across our faces, and Lara and I had blue hairbands in our hair, her blonde, wispy hair was tied up in a bouncing ponytail, mine hanging in two braids down my shoulders.
“Eat up,” ordered Danny. He himself was just sipping on a cup of coffee.
Across from me, Indigo Coates was emptying out the ketchup bottle onto his sausages. A splatter of the red liquid hit me on the cheek.
“Ew,” I said, and he laughed. But behind his laughter was anxiety; behind the small talk and the snorts we were all giving each other nervous, anticipating looks. This was a match that the school had been looking forward to ever since the Quidditch timetable had gone up inside common rooms in September; when Gryffindor played Hufflepuff a few weeks ago, there wasn’t nearly as much buzz pre-game.
“Effy!” I whipped my head around and saw Aspen, Albus and Scorpius run up to me down the aisle that separated us from Gryffindor. “Baby girl,” Aspen said, hugging me tightly, engulfing me in her scent of her various Muggle perfume bottles and lotions. “Good luck!”
I noticed that she was wearing a Ravenclaw sweatshirt and half her face was painted blue. Scorpius and Albus were also dressed to support Ravenclaw, much to my delight.
“Thanks Aspen,” I said, grinning.
“Don’t be nervous,” said Al, ruffling the top of my hair.
“Thanks,” I said, shooting him a dirty look as my hands immediately flew to my scalp to smooth over any stray hairs he may have encouraged. “I feel so much better.”
Albus laughed, when suddenly an eruption from the table next to us, saturated in the colours of red and gold made us turn around.
“ALBUS SEVERUS POTTER,” roared James Potter. Beside me, I noticed Danny’s fists clenched. I raised my eyebrow at my long-time Quidditch companion, and he rolled his eyes back at me, and despite his status as Captain and mine as just player, our eyes exchanged a half hour's worth of conversation.
I turned to the Gryffindor table beside us, and noticed that they, too, were sitting all together, and they, too, had expressions of both anxiety and excitement, nerves and adrenaline, flitting through their faces.
“Oh, shit,” said Albus, and I just realised he was openly advocating the victory of Gryffindor's long time rivals. Opposite Albus, standing so close to me I could feel heat radiate from his thigh upon my exposed neck, was James Potter himself, and I could feel my face immediately heat up. For the first time that day, I felt overwhelmingly thankful for Lara and her pot of blue paint.
“Supporting Ravenclaw is more beneficial towards our house,” started Albus, but James interrupted, his voice loud and demanding, commanding the attention of the entire room.
“What are you, some spineless Hufflepuff? I’m your bloody brother!”
“You supported Ravenclaw when we played them last summer-”
“YOU’RE A SPECTATOR, AL! I’M THE FUCKING TEAM CAPTAIN!”
Albus raised his left eyebrow at James. “Calm down. Stop being so... Sirius.”
There was a pregnant pause, broken by a bark of laughter. “You are such a Wormtail,” James retorted, whatever that meant.
The differences between the two brothers was incredible; Al was calm, level-headed and mellow, whereas James was hot-headed and quick to anger. I noticed qualities in James that I detested in myself that morning. But then James’ demise of anger and his warm acceptance of his brother’s apology made my opinion of the Gryffindor Captain alter slightly. I watched James’ temper rise and fall like one inhales and exhales and I watched James playfully punch Albus on his left bicep, propose a toast to a Gryffindor victory to his table by raising his goblet, grinning boyishly at Professor Sinatra when she barked at him to settle down, it was eight in the morning.
I walked out of the Hall with my team- surrounded by words of encouragement and praise, and it seemed every supporter wanted to touch us, stroke us, hug us in one way or another- not quietly going over last minute tactics, but reflecting on James Potter.
“Okay you lot,” said Danny, sitting on the Ravenclaw Captain desk as we sat on the bench facing him, “this is it.”
We all nodded in agreement.
“I haven’t prepared a speech.”
“Do you want to recycle Winona Franklin’s?” said Indigo, and we all laughed. Winona led us into our final match again Gryffindor last year screaming behind us, “FIRE IS CATCHING! AND IF WE BURN, YOU BURN WITH US!”
“I’m alright with the Muggle book quotes, cheers Coates,” said Danny drily. His voice, dripping with his Northern accent, was proud and excited. “There’s nothing to say, really, apart from to do your best and do Ravenclaw house proud.” Danny stood up, and started walking up and down, never breaking eye contact with us. “I honestly believe that this is the best team in my time at Hogwarts; Mikey and Lara are the two fastest, most agile Chasers I’ve played with in my lifetime, Indigo and Liam are undoubtedly the best Beaters in the school, Josh rarely ever lets the Quaffle in-”
“-and when I do, I never hear the end of it,” Josh muttered,
“-and Effy’s only lost two games out of fifteen. I have the utmost faith in all of you annoying gits.” Danny smiled at us. “Let’s fucking thrash those red cocky wankers.”
We stood by the exit of the Ravenclaw changing rooms, clutching out broomsticks. I was the Seeker so I stood at the front with Josh Wood, and we exchanged glances.
“Is this an appropriate time to announce that Indigo farted?” called out Mikey from the back.
“Oh fuck you, Indigo.”
“Why did you have to go and do that for?”
“Shut up,” said Danny, trying to keep an ear out for Freddie Weasley’s introduction of us onto the pitch.
“Now I suppose I have to introduce the other team, although there isn’t really any point, they’re all as nerdy as the other- bloody Ravenclaws…”
“This is it,” said Danny from the back. “Come on guys.”
The doors in front of me opened, and I was blinded by the light. Murmurings of good luck bounced off the walls as I walked out, gripping my broomstick and standing with my back straight, like my mother had taught me all those years ago. I held my head high and tried to block out the clapping and screaming from the stalls as I walked to the centre of the pitch.
First up, the Ravenclaw Seeker- WILDERSON!
I was standing opposite Alfie Ronson. He was best friends with James and Freddie, and was devastatingly good looking, with bronze hair and vivid green eyes. However he didn’t have the traditional build for a Seeker; whilst I was skinny and light, he was strong and muscles flowed through his toned limbs and body, a body often on display during the summer.
He nodded at me, and I nodded back. I stood there, in between him and Madame Hooch, as the rest of my team came on; Josh, Mikey, Lara, Indigo, Liam and then Danny.
And then Madame Hooch made us shake hands.
And then she went over the rules.
And then Freddie Weasley went over the rules.
And she blew the whistle.
And then I jumped on my broomstick and rose up into the air as high as I could. I heard a rumbling from the crowds above me and this made my heart beat even faster.
I flew around the pitch, going as fast as my broomstick permitted me. My hair in the two long braids flew behind me, and it felt as if the skin from my face was being ripped away. There was a burning in my throat and yet my eyes were wide, wide open for that needed glint of gold.
Gryffindor scored. I didn’t care. Freddie Weasley commented on how lost Ronson and I looked; the dismal weather conditions made this match one of the hardest I’ve ever played to catch the snitch.
Ravenclaw scored. Freddie Weasley announced it was Danny Alton. Suddenly, the clouds above opened and it started pouring with rain, sinking into my skin and chilling my bones. I angrily blinked rain drops from my eyelashes and my kit stuck to my flesh like leeches.
If lightning struck, the match would have to be postponed. As nervous, scared and intimidated I was- not only by the weather, but by our opponents- I knew that postponing would only make it worse.
So I flew around the stadium, rising higher and lower, one eye looking for the snitch and the other eye trained on Alfie Ronson.
Ten, twenty, thirty minutes passed, and the game just got rougher and rougher. The score rose to 40-30, to Gryffindor. I grimaced, knowing that by this time, one of us should have an idea as to where the snitch was.
Then Lara Swift scored, and the game became equal. Another ten minutes went by and by this time I couldn’t feel my fingers nor my toes, and strands of long, dark hair clung to my face.
Then suddenly- what was Ronson doing? He wasn’t flying around aimlessly like me, he was flying with direction- and then my heart skipped a beat.
He was following the snitch.
I stirred my broom towards him. Luckily he was flying towards me and then I noticed the snitch, hovering an equal distance between us- I flew as fast as I could, and then my body met his, as he tried to bump me out of his way, he was so much stronger than I was- but I was faster, and I propelled myself in front of him, mere metres away from the snitch…
Suddenly I felt as if everyone within me was knocked out. My head was spinning and a dull ache began to spread from my side. I looked up, and the snitch was no longer there; Freddie Weasley announced that just as it looked like a victory for Ravenclaw, one of the Gryffindor Beaters had swung a Bludger at me.
I breathed in and out as I tried to steady myself. I was hundreds of feet in the air; if I had dropped, I don’t know what would have happened to me. My eyes became dizzy and I pulled my body back up on my broom to correctly saddle it as before.
“Are you alright?” roared Danny Alton, flying towards me.
“Yeah,” I screamed back. And then he flew away, and a few minutes later I heard another ten points awarded to Ravenclaw.
Another half hour. The wind picked up and I couldn’t think straight. The rumbling of the clouds above blocked out the commentary and I had no idea how the match was swinging.
I glanced at the scoreboard. 60-60. It had been over an hour, approaching two hours really, yet the two teams put up such impressive defences and attacks.
The Beaters had gotten wilder and wilder; a penalty had been awarded to Gryffindor for Indigo Coates hitting a Gryffindor Chaser with his bat, but then a minute later, a penalty had been awarded to Ravenclaw for one of the Gryffindor Beaters hitting the Bludger at Josh Wood when he wasn’t in action.
Mikey tried to wrestle the bat away from Liam. James Potter tried to strangle his Keeper after he let in a Ravenclaw Quaffle. The wind got stronger and I was starting to find it difficult to remain on my broom…
But then I saw it, flying towards the Forbidden Forest. It wasn’t resting as usual, waiting for one of the Seekers to find it, but buzzing around impatiently, moving towards the Astronomy Tower.
I flew as fast as I could towards it, not knowing if Alfie Ronson was behind me or not. I flew around the Tower and then I followed the Snitch back onto the pitch. My heart beat so loud it blocked out any external sounds; it was just me and the Snitch.
I could feel my fingers flex out to catch it. It was only a few metres away, and I was in the same position as an hour and a half ago.
But then my broom didn’t move.
And I lurched forwards, my fingers grasping the fluttering golden ball and then my legs, straddling the broomstick for over a two hour period, fell free.
And I was falling.
I opened my eyes to a canvas of whites and greys, blending in with each other like the shades of a sunset, creating a settling hue. I blinked again, and then shapes started to transpire; I blinked a second time, and the scene was fixed. I was in the Hospital Wing.
“Oh, Effy,” said a familiar voice. I turned my heard towards the sound and saw Aspen sitting there, clutching my hand. “Thank God.”
“Did we win?” I demanded, and then another familiar sound pierced my ears. I craned my neck slightly, and saw Oscar throwing his head back in laughter.
“It was 220-90, to Ravenclaw,” said Aspen, but then her eyes travelled upwards. “Stop laughing, Oscar, how rude of you.”
“And why am I here?”
“Alfie Ronson grabbed the end of your broom, just as you were about to grab the Snitch,” said a fruity voice, and I knew without having to turn that it was Albus. But the shock of his statement made me turn my head anyway, and I looked into his vivid green eyes.
“What?!” my voice was low and hoarse.
“James had a massive go at him afterwards,” said Albus, frowning slightly. “And Danny Alton got put into detention for punching him in the jaw.”
“You fell forwards, Effy,” continued Aspen, stroking my hair. “And you were so high up, nobody could really see you. And it was so dark and stormy and we honestly had no idea what was going on. I’ve never seen anybody fly so high as you and Alfie Ronson.”
I gaped, remembering how high I had flown. Higher than I do during practise. High enough that I couldn’t really see anything below me. I remember it being just me and the Snitch, and then I recalled falling, and a voice at the back of my head.
“Thank God you were caught,” said Aspen, shuddering. “Madame Pomfrey said that if James hadn’t caught you, you could have died you were so high up-”
“James? James Potter?” I turned from Aspen to Albus, my neck aching with the tossing.
“He dropped the Quaffle and flew to catch you. You were so limp in his arms, Effy, we were all so scared. He rushed you down to the ground and then when Madame Hooch didn’t find a Snitch in your hands Alfie Ronson flew down and told her that you had caught it, fair and square, only you released it when you fell.”
I wasn’t angry at Alfie Ronson. He acted instinctly, to hold my broom and prevent me from catching the Snitch; I didn’t know him well but I had played with him long enough to know that he didn’t intend on me falling off my broom. And it was good of him to tell the truth, I decided.
“James Potter didn’t let you go,” said Oscar, moving from standing behind Aspen to perching on the foot of my bed. “Aspen and I ran to the pitch to see if you were alright-”
“Scorpius and I were held back by Hagrid,” explained Albus. “Only those two were allowed onto the field.”
“And then Danny Alton was screaming at Alfie Ronson, oh you could have killed her, blah blah blah, dead Effy dead Effy- what?” Oscar said to Aspen, who had shot him a dirty look. “She isn’t dead, is she? Anyway, Professor Flitwick found your heartbeat and Indigo Coates was like well James caught her, didn’t he, she didn’t fall that hard- anyway Mikey hit Indigo for being rude and then-“
“She doesn’t need a story about her team’s reaction to her injury,” said Aspen, scrunching up a paper ball and throwing it at Oscar. “Anyway, Flitwick wanted to fly you to the Hospital Wing but James refused to let go of you. He insisted on carrying you here.”
Albus rolled his eyes. “He’s such a Gryffindor,” he scoffed, but smiled. “He’s a bloody pain in the neck, but he’s very chivalrous. He didn’t want to leave you at the Hospital Wing- nobody did, your whole team was down here, plus Alfie Ronson- but Professor McGonagall and Madame Hooch held some Quidditch meeting revival of the rules, something like that, and they were all forced to go.”
I closed my eyes, and laid my head back on my pillow. “So now what happens?”
“Well, you broke most of your ribs,” chirped Oscar. “And you’re concussed. Madame Pomfrey also said that you damaged your internal organs slightly, but it’s alright. Also, you can only eat liquids for the upcoming fortnight.”
“And no more Quidditch practise,” said Aspen.
“Well, I just assumed that was a given.”
Aspen and Oscar continued their light-hearted bickering and I fell asleep once again.
When I woke up, the room no longer bathed in the grey light from outside, but from golden hues cast from lights from within the room. My throat felt dry and I opened my eyes, a request for a drink on the tip of my tongue when suddenly-
“She’s awake!” yelled Mikey, almost deafening my ear.
I turned on my side, and gave him a dirty look. Behind him was Liam, Danny Alton and Lara Swift.
“You don’t look that great,” observed somebody to my left. There, in various positions of sitting and standing was Josh Wood, Indigo Coates and Alfie Ronson.
“Always the charmer,” I croaked to Josh, and he grinned.
“Oh fucking hell, Effy,” said Danny Alton, and then suddenly I heard a buzzing and my bed was raised so I was sitting up to face everyone. He perched himself on my bed and brushed a lock of hair away from my eye, his face concerned. “How are you feeling?”
“Never better, Danny, what about you?”
He folded his arms and then turned on his authoritative Captain voice. “No need to be sarcastic.”
“I’m so sorry,” cried a voice which wasn’t really all that familiar, and I turned to my left and saw Alfie Ronson, his perfect face creasing up with worry. “Honestly, Effy, I didn’t mean for this to happen! I just didn’t want you to catch the bloody Snitch! If I had known-”
“Oh my God,” I said, and my voice was hoarse and croaky. “It’s fine, Alfie. No hard feelings.”
He smiled at me. Alfie Ronson really was the best looking boy in the school, I thought, yet most attention was diverted to his best friend, James Potter. Alfie Ronson was too calm, cool and collected to be a part of the girl world that James and Freddie Weasley dominated.
“I’m just so glad you’re alright,” said Alfie, ruffling my hair. “If you had- had-“
“But today Madame Hooch said that she wouldn’t have died anyway, didn’t she?” piped up Lara. “When they were redoing the school after the Battle, they cast spells on the pitch that automatically broke one’s fall when they came down to the pitch without a broom. She would have broken a lot of bones, but she wouldn’t have died.”
I looked at Lara, who was smiling at me. “Really? Why didn’t they tell us that before?”
“To keep the game more interesting,” said Liam, drily. “That’s what I reckon, anyway.”
“Always the cynic,” said Mikey, ruffling his friend’s hair.
“Oscar told me you were all at a meeting. What happened?”
“We have to do trials for substitutes now,” said Danny. “All our brooms will be charmed so that Madame Hooch knows exactly where they are. This is so she can track us throughout the game.”
“Incorrect use of Bludgers won’t be punished with a penalty towards the other team,” continued Alfie, “but with a two week suspension of the Beater. I’m also suspended for a month,” he added.
“Also, the Snitch will be charmed so it won’t fly as high as it did today,” said Josh. “It was really weird, Effy, we couldn’t really even see you.”
“Well now you can,” I said, smiling. But there was an edge to my voice; I just wanted to be left alone. I was ravenous, my chest ached with pain whenever I inhaled and my head felt sore and my mind felt slow.
Mikey, who knew me best out of the eight people conjugated around me, spoke. “I think dinner’s started,” he said. “I’m starving. Let’s go.”
“It would be good to go down,” I pressed. “We are the winning team. And everyone will be expecting an after party of some sorts, will they not?”
“Exactly,” said Liam, always there to support Mikey. “I hear they’re serving toad in the hole.” And Indigo was about to protest but Danny steered him towards the door, with the rest of my team.
“Get better,” said Alfie Ronson, and he rose to leave. “I really am sorry, is there anything I can do?”
“Nothing,” I said. “Thank you anyway.” And then he left, and I felt my bed below me start to sink so I was lying flat on my back, and my eyes were about to close for the second time that day…
“Hey,” said a voice. I opened my eyes and saw James Potter. He hadn't been there before- he must have walked in whilst the others walked out or something.
He sat on a chair next to me, and leaned over, brushing a strand of hair from out of my eye. His cool fingers then grazed my temples, and I winced. Later on, when I looked into a mirror, I would notice multiple bruises across that side of my face from the Bludger. I looked up at him and into his brown eyes. I had only been this intimate with him once before, when we were dancing at the fair, and then his eyes were mocking. But now they were gazing down at me like I was a little girl; the bad boy of Hogwarts’ eyes were full of concern and worry. This unnerved me; having grown up with two older brothers, I was tired of being the little sister. Every boy bar Oscar treated me as younger sister; Mikey, Danny, Liam, even Josh and Indigo- and they’re younger than me.
“Hi,” I croaked, after a minute. “Albus told me about what you did.” I was earnest to avoid telling him that he had saved my life or that he was my hero because I was never one to be a victim. Being in this situation made me feel awfully uncomfortable.
“You’re welcome,” he said, his low, slightly hoarse voice dripping with sarcasm.
“Well,” I said, defensively. “If you hadn’t caught me, Danny or Mikey probably would have-”
“Well then, maybe I shouldn't have bothered,” he retorted.
I looked up to his face; I had no choice, with the position I was in. The only other times I had seen James Potter he was wearing an expression of either assured confidence in the form of a lopsided smirk, or a dissatisfied annoyance in the form of a hardened jaw and stony eyes, but gazing at him in the Hospital Wing that rainy, awful afternoon, he was neither. Not arrogant, not bored. Then what? My inability to read this ridiculous, attention seeking paradox of a year above frustrated me almost as much as my obsession to understand him in the first place.
And I could smell his breathe again, a summer’s evening and cigarettes.
“I’m sorry,” I said after an elongated pause, smiling weakly.
We sat there in silence for another moment until James rose, but instead of leaving like I assumed, he stood there, his arms crossed, looking livid.
“You- you really, you really fucking terrified me,” he half yelled, a hand rifling through his hair. “I was just about to bloody score when suddenly your body comes shooting down from the sky. It was like you were, I don’t know, a doll or something! How could you let Alfie pull such a basic slip up like that?! Do you know nothing about the game?”
I mirrored his actions and crossed my arms, raising my voice to match his. “Well thank you,” I snapped. “My saviour, my King, my hero. Is that what you’re trying to achieve here? Like, I get it, you like being the Gryffindor good guy-"
“No,” he said, his cold eyes gleaming in the amber light from the lamp next to me. “Fuck’s sake, Wilderson.”
“I don’t really see why you’re here, then,” I said coolly. “I already thanked you, what else do you want?”
“I fucking- I thought you were going to die, die or something!” He said, his dark brown eyes wide, wide open. He opened his mouth to continue, but then he paused, and ruffled the back of his hair again with his left hand, his right hand gripping the iron post on my bed. “Whatever.”
He walked to leave.
“No, wait, James,” I called, my hoarse voice strained. “I’m sorry. Thank you. Wait, James!”
But he didn’t turn back, and instead I was greeted by Madame Pomfrey telling me to stop screaming, I was waking up the other patients. She then asked me if I wanted dinner and I said yes, and two minutes later, steaming hot pumpkin soup appeared on a pop-up table over my lap.
As I drank the soup, I thought about James. I suppose I didn’t see what the big deal was, really. Maybe it was because all I can remember is feeling the Snitch’s wings flutter against my palm. I tried to envision what it looked like; my body falling from the dark clouds, the same shade of purple as the bruises across my face. James dropping the Quaffle and the whole match coming to a halt.
I looked down at my body. James had said I wasn’t much like a doll and he was right. Dolls were like Aspen; beautiful and flawless, with a small waist, a perky bum and a bouncing chest. I was skinny, with no significant fat around my chest and a flat bum; Aspen and Oscar would tell me that catwalk models yearned for my figure but all I saw it as was childish and handy for my position on the Quidditch team.
I mulled over the day as I sat there in a comforting silence. I imagined Aspen and Oscar rushing over to me; I did love them, I loved them like I loved my brothers and I yet hadn’t seen the duo a lot recently. Oscar was always flitting around from girls to girls in our year- he was a desirable friend for he was the only openly gay boy in our year. Aspen was juggling schoolwork and Scorpius, and to be fair, I had been spending a lot of time with my Quidditch team and Albus.
I smiled to myself thinking about how much I fancied Albus a month ago. I was caught up in teenage hormones, I mused, and Albus was conveniently there. But thank God he was, for I had gained such a good friend in Albus. He was funny and intelligent, and yet even-tempered and cool; two traits I was not. James wasn’t, either.
Everything I thought about went back to James Potter.
It was a subject I had decided I got bored of very easily, and with nothing else to think about, I waved my wand to shut the curtains around my bed, and fell asleep.
I don't own anything you realise- especially Fire is catching! And if we burn, you burn with us! which is a direct quote from Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (page 92). I am AWED by all the amazing reviews you're writing, thank you so much! They genuinely mean the WORLD to me- thanks again :')