Chapter 9 : Tension
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The rapidly cooling air bit into the faces and exposed skin of the passerby as the fall slowly turned into winter. The edges of the windowpanes were starting to frost over, slightly concealing the occupants within each of the shops. Near one such window in Hogsmeade the silhouette of four tavern goers could barely be seen. The only distinguishable trait of any of them was the shockingly red hair of the two who were sitting nearest to the window.
Two couples sat stoically around a wooden table in an overstuffed booth of the Three Broomsticks. Ginny and Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione Weasley each sipped methodically at their drinks in silence. In a few hours there would be a Quidditch game at the school, but they had decided to eat a quick breakfast at the pub and enjoy a butterbeer before going out in the chilly air and cheering on their son and nephew.
Even though today should be a fun filled and exciting day, each of their faces was set stonily, definitely not the faces of the parents, aunt and uncle of a Quidditch player who was about to play his first game as Seeker for his House. Their faces were more suited to the stoic faces of people facing an especially nasty surgery or trial.
“I knew that McGonagall was really pushing the House unity thing,” said Ginny. “But I never imagined that a Malfoy, of all people, would be sorted into Gryffindor and then allowed to stay!” She took a sip of her butterbeer, swirling it around in its mug thoughtfully with a dark look in her usually bright eyes.
“She must be off her rocker,” said Harry, all humor absent from his voice. “Maybe the Head’s chair is cursed; perhaps anyone who sits in it too long gets the barmiest of ideas implanted into their heads.”
Ginny and Hermione looked at him reproachfully, but held their tongues. He looked at them and shrugged. “What, it’s true you know!”
His wife rolled her eyes at him. As soon as she and Hermione saw Harry taking a drink of his butterbeer, they exchanged silent amused looks, hiding the fact that what he had said was quite funny, even if a tad rude.
“Rose seemed kind of cagey in her last letter,” stated Hermione, changing the touchy subject they were on as she took another scone off of the plate in front of them. “We sent her a reply that said that we were very proud of her for being sorted as a Gryffindor, told her a bit about what’s going on here and home, and we asked her to tell us more about her friends.”
Harry let his first smile of the day crack on his face. “Ever the crafty one, Hermione.”
She smiled back. “But she saw right through it and told me a lot about Azalea Longbottom, but hardly anything about Scorpius. I trust my daughter’s judgment, but I don’t know if she made the right decision when she befriended the Malfoy child.”
Ron angrily slammed his mug down onto the table, making a bit splash out onto the table. While everyone else was sipping butterbeer, he had ordered a small glass of firewhiskey to go with his buttery drink, despite his wife’s persuading against it. Fortunately, she had slipped some antidote to the strong liquor into Ron’s butterbeer, but on the other hand, he hadn’t taken a single sip from that mug yet.
“What in the name of Merlin’s baggy Y-fronts did she see in him?” he exclaimed, attracting the glares of a few pub goers, his mates, and sister.
“Ronald!” hissed Hermione dangerously. “Mind your tongue.”
Ron merely growled into his hands that he had put in front of his face, ignoring the glaring of the other customers and Madame Rosemerta. “I can’t wait to see Draco face to face in the stands. He should be coming to the game today, since it’s Slytherin versus Gryffindor. There hasn’t been a game in my memory that he’s missed when his House team plays.
“Gryffindor versus Slytherin and only second game of the season; I can just imagine the tension in Hogwarts, can’t you?” wryly said Harry, looking mainly to his best mate, trying to get his mind off the blonde haired pureblood.
Hermione smirked over her steaming mug, eyes glinting as she said, “Could probably cut it with a butter knife.”
“I wonder how James is feeling?” Ginny said, motherly concern laced in her voice.
“Oh,” said Harry with a glazed look in his eyes as he looked into the past. “I think I know.”
“James, you know what dad wrote! You’ve got to eat or you won’t fly right!” pestered Albus, prodding a filled plate over towards his brother.
“I’m not hungry,” mumbled the dark haired boy across the table from him.
For just this morning, James was surrounded by Albus, Rose and their friends, Azalea and Scorpius. Looking pale, he was hunched over the table, his forehead nearly meeting the wood surface. Even Scorpius, who was usually snubbed by James and ignored him in return, had a few sympathetic glances aimed the second-year’s way.
“It won’t be so bad,” soothed Azalea, pouring him a glass of pumpkin juice. James didn’t even look at the goblet she offered, so she set it in front of him. “We’ll be in the stands, cheering you on the whole time!”
Something between a groan and a cry of despair escaped from James’ lips as his head landed on the table before him, making a sickening repetitive thudding noise. “It’s no use; I’m going to screw everything up today, I know it! I don’t remember any of the plays that Erthart wrote up for me to memorize, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to tell the difference between a Quaffle and a Bludger once I’m in the air.”
Rose scowled. “Buck up, James! We’ve been playing Quidditch since we were four, thanks to Uncle Harry, Aunt Ginny and Dad.”
“Speak of the devil and he will appear,” mumbled Scorpius as he watched as the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain, Preston Erthart, walk briskly down the table from where he had been enjoying breakfast, a hearty one compared to James’ so far.
Every one of their heads turned as he approached, his shining brown hair swept nicely out of his hazel eyes. His skin was a bit pale, as well, but none so much as Albus’. With a small, rueful smile, he sat on James’ other side, budging up Rose so he could sit next to his Seeker.
“Eat, James, you’ll feel better,” he said soothingly. His mouth broke into a near-perfect grin. “I don’t want my Seeker passing out on his broom. We don’t have a reserve one of you.”
A few fourth year girls down the table a few seats giggled as he calmed James down enough to eat, vying for the Captain’s attention in vain. As he stood, Preston ignored the two and joined his other friends, wrapping his arm around his girlfriend, Lisa Harrison. They had been dating for a while, and had both been on the House team since second year, Preston as a Chaser and Lisa as the Keeper.
“I’m going to get out to the Pitch,” breathed James. “See you guys in the common room after the game.” With that, he stood and shuffled off to join his teammates, most of which were seventh years.
That year’s Gryffindor House Team was an impressive match up. It was the first really promising team that they had had in the last five years. All the other teams had been outshone by Ravenclaw in nearly every game, but now they had two new players and a few good, hardy veterans. That year’s team consisted of seventh years Preston Erthart, Toby Klinger and fifth year Rebecca Thomas as Chasers, second year Jessica Finnegan and seventh year Lana Hill as Beaters, seventh year Lisa Harrison as Keeper and James as Seeker.
Albus went back to stuffing his face, the excitement making his appetite more pronounced. Scorpius sat and twiddled his thumbs a bit, quite literally. Kindly, Albus looked up from his generous helping of everything he could get his hands on to look at his friend.
“What’s up, Scorpius?” he said before taking another drink of pumpkin juice.
He seemed to come out of a daze as he looked up, the glassy look in his eyes dispersing like storm clouds to the light of the sun. Stretching, he yawned widely and shook his head.
“Nothing,” he answered. “I just couldn’t fall asleep for a while last night.”
Albus gave him one more look before accepting his excuse and turning back to his plate. Unbeknownst to him, his cousin was giving Scorpius the same look he had just given him. As if he had some sixth sense that told him that she was looking at him intently, Scorpius raised his silver eyes lined with dark circles to meet Rose’s bright green eyes. He gave her a small smile, and raising an eyebrow at her.
“It’s rude to stare, you know,” he said, taking up his fork with a bit of scrambled egg on the tines and pointed it at her accusingly, before biting the yellow and white fluffy mass off of the fork.
She raised an eyebrow at him in response, but didn’t push the issue further, the look in her eyes suggesting more than she was letting on.
“We’d better get outside before all of the good seats are taken,” said Azalea. From the bench beside her, she picked up a giant lion’s head that her mother had given her for the game. Smiling brightly, she placed it upon her head and tapped it with her wand. A mighty roar filled the Great Hall as the simple spell awoke the Gryffindor lion. Albus laughed along with Scorpius and Rose as they walked out the Entrance Hall doors.
With their scarves whipping around them and their heads bent low against the brisk November wind, the four of them walked across the grounds. Albus and Rose stood close together so that they could hear each other over the wind.
“What did you tell Aunt Hermione in your last letter?” Albus asked. Rose had told him how her mother had been blatantly fishing for answers about their being friends with Scorpius Malfoy.
Rose sniffed in disdain. “She only asked to tell her more about our new friends. So I told her about Azalea; there were no specifications about which friend I should elaborate more on.”
Albus smiled wickedly. “Smooth,” he said, raising his hand for a quick high-five.
Rose returned the wicked smile, her eyes glittering with the warped intelligence that had been created from her mother’s brains and the Weasley trickster gene, an interesting combination, to say the least.
The Hogwarts students around them created an air of tension, the conversations consisting of bets and jeers to opposing teams. Laughter punctured with hisses and boos filled the air, nearly drowning out the stiff wind as they neared the stands, but the whistling was still there.
“I hope this wind calms down a bit,” mused Azalea. “It’s completely dreadful flying weather.”
“It’s supposed to calm down in about an hour or so, according to the weather in the Daily Prophet,” said Scorpius. “But I wouldn’t trust those lunatic Seers who predict the weather. They’re all…”
But they never found out what they all were, because at that moment, they weren’t watching where they were going and ran into a very solid something. Actually, there were four very solid someones, who each turned around to look at the four students who had run into one of them.
“Hello, Albus,” said the first, his voice just loud enough to be heard over the babble of the passerby. A few stopped and stared, but continued on because of the look on his face as he said, “Hello, Rose; Azalea…Scorpius.”
Albus gulped loudly, his face suddenly very white. “Hey, Dad.”
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