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Chapter 15 : Win, Win, Win
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I was a dead person walking.
That was the first thought that went through my mind as I woke up the next morning. The thought continued running through my mind as washed my face, and it even continued as I got dressed. In fact, the thought had become so inescapable that I was wondering if I would ever have another thought again. Because it was true. I was dead person walking after today.
And it was because of this thought that, while everyone around me bustled in excitement for the Quidditch match that was happening in less than an hour, I was noticeably quiet.
My mum was going to kill me.
“Tash, you ready?” Dom asked me, quirking an eyebrow as I fixed my ponytail for the hundredth time. For some reason I kept missing a strand every time I tried to put my hair up, which just led to me having to re-do it all again.
Maybe this was a sign. You know. That I shouldn’t go to the match and should instead floo to the interview. I’m pretty sure my mum will go on a mad witch-hunt for me anyway as soon as she realizes I’m not showing up. I mean, this is my mum we’re talking about. I should, at the least, be decent enough to let her know I wasn’t going to the interview.
But… that would be a bad idea. Because then she’d for certain floo herself to the school, grab me by my uncooperative ponytail, and take me to the interview herself.
So, I guess I was just going to not tell her, keep my fingers crossed, and hope for the best.
“Tash?” Dom asked again. I blinked, realizing I hadn’t answered her, and then nodded.
“Yeah. I’m ready,” I said, adjusting my Quidditch robes.
“Don’t be nervous,” Dom said, mistaking my apprehension on ditching the interview for nervousness about the match. I had decided to tell nobody about the interview I was supposed to go to today. It was easier that way. “You’ll be fine.”
“Okay,” I echoed, knowing that it wouldn’t be. My mum would have a conniption. A freak out. She would probably yank me out of school.
Yes. This was a very, very bad idea.
“Right, so we should probably head down then,” Dom said, pulling me out of my internal monologue.
Dom began walking forward, her scarlet Quidditch robes trailing behind her. I followed her while remaining quiet. Lots of Gryffindors shouted good luck to us as we passed them in the common room, all of them donned in Gryffindor gear, and Dom smiled back at them gratefully while I remained unresponsive. As we walked down the hallway, towards the Great Hall, the only thing I concentrated on was the sound of my footsteps.
When we reached the Great Hall, I couldn’t help but scan the room and notice the Hufflepuffs, clad in their yellow and black gear and giving glares to Dom and I. I avoided the stares, knowing it wasn’t personal as they just wanted to make us nervous, and followed Dom to where the rest of the Gryffindor team was sitting. I noticed Gryffin sitting next to a burly guy, who I recognized as the other Gryffindor beater, and they were tossing grapes into each other’s mouths.
For some reason, they seemed to think it was impressive, if the fist thrusts they made every time they caught one was anything to go by.
“Ready to play?” Scorpius asked as Dom and I sat down across from him, shooting us a grin. His excitement just made the fact that I had to play real, and that's when I realized I was also nervous about playing.
“Course we are, captain,” Dom mocked, grabbing a piece of toast off the table and biting into it while giving him a salute. “Are you ready?”
“Yup,” Scorpius responded back popping the ‘p’. “James looked over my plays and now everything’s looking in tip top shape to win.”
“James looked over your plays?” Dom asked, arching an eyebrow.
“Yeah,” Scorpius said, he then gestured to me. “When I went and watched Natasha and James practice, he agreed to look over my strategy before the match.”
“Huh,” Dom said, looking at me curiously. My face remained impassive. “That’s weird. He hasn’t talked to any of us in ages.”
“Well maybe he’s starting to come round? He probably realizes it’s stupid that he doesn’t talk to us,” Scorpius said, clearly not as bothered as Dom seemed to be by this.
“Hmm,” Dom said, still looking at me. “Or maybe it’s someone helping him come round.”
Scorpius didn’t seem to be paying attention at that point, as he was now hunched over his Quidditch playbook, studying it like it was the bible. Dom’s gaze remained focused on me, and I shrugged before grabbing a muffin off the table and starting to eat it.
“Right well,” Scorpius began, looking up from his playbook to the two of us. “I’m going to head out to the pitch and make sure everything’s all ready to go with Fred since he’s the announcer. And Fiona’s also making the captains see her before the match to let us know how the cheering’s going to go or something stupid like that. You guys eat up and then head to the pitch, okay? Don’t be late.”
“Why must you look at me as you say that?” Dom asked, giving Scorpius an annoyed look.
“Because you’re always late,” Scorpius responded. Dom was about to make a retort, but Scorpius held up his hand to stop her. “Don’t argue. You know it’s true. And I really must be going.”
With that Scorpius turned around and headed out of the Great Hall, looking nothing short of dignified in his scarlet robes.
“Thinks he’s the bloody queen of England,” Dom muttered under her breath. “What a wanker.”
“They keep staring at me,” I muttered, eyeing up the group of girls in their pep squad uniforms, who were glaring at me like I had the plague. Well, except for Lucy and Lily. They were too busy giggling excitedly and shoving their pompoms in each other’s faces to notice the Mean Girl Glare going around the rest of the group. But still.
“It’s because Fiona keeps their brains in jars,” Gryffin joked, standing next to me and looking out at the group of them. “They’re like her robots or something.”
“Or something,” I muttered under my breath as Fiona’s ice blue eyes drilled into mine. She whispered to one of the girls standing next to her, and then put a hand on her hip, continuing to glare at me in the process.
“Welp!” Gryffin stated excitedly, clapping his hands on my shoulders. “Don’t let her get you down. Remember, we’ve got a game to play.”
“Yeah just ignore it,” Dom added helpfully. “She just likes to get under people’s skin.”
“In other words,” Molly began, rolling her eyes, “she loves to try and establish her mighty rule over us ‘unworthy peasants’.
“I know,” I said slowly. “It’s just a bit daunting, you know?”
“Course it is,” Gryffin said. “But you can’t let her get to you. If you do, we’ll lose. And if we lose, I’ll kill you.”
I felt the nervous pit in my stomach grow larger at Gryffin’s words. Being seeker meant that basically everyone on the team was counting on me to catch the snitch and win. If we lost, it would be my fault.
“Gryffin!” Rose chastised. “Look, you’ve made Tash all nervous now! Tell her you were joking.”
“Well clearly I wasn’t serious,” Gryffin said, looking annoyed at Rose’s orders. “Killing is illegal. I’m not trying to go to Azkaban.”
Molly rolled her eyes at Gryffin’s words and then clapped her hand against her forehead. “You are an idiot.”
“And you’re a miserable old wench,” Gryffin shot back. “I’d say I got the better end of the deal.”
“Really? Because I’d say that being a barbaric arsehole who scares friends into trying to do well isn’t the better end of the deal,” Molly argued back. “I mean, look at Natasha, she’s about to have a heart attack and you’re threatening her to do well!”
I didn’t know what part to be more overwhelmed about: the fact that Molly was going through great lengths to defend me (albeit she did get to yell at Gryffin in the process which was probably why she was even doing it) or the fact that now everyone had snapped there attention over to me. And you know, with everyone’s eyes studying me for the supposed nervousness Molly had mentioned, I felt my palms begin to sweat.
“I’m fine,” I said as everyone’s gaze remained trained on me. “Honestly, guys. It’s just pre-game jitters.”
“See?” Gryffin said, giving Molly an ‘I-told-you-so’ look. “She’s fine. You’re just overreacting, as usual.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Molly asked with a glare.
“Okay, I think it’s time to break this up,” Rose said, resting her hands on Molly’s arm. “Come on, Molly. Let’s go get some seats before all the good ones are taken.”
“That wasn’t a question,” Rose said, beginning to tug Molly in the direction of the stands. She then gave us all one last smile. “Good luck you guys. I know you’ll do awesome.”
Molly grumbled her own good luck to us after that, before Rose guided her over to the Quidditch stands. Dom, Gryffin, and I watched them as they left, and then turned to face one another.
“We should probably head over to the rest of the team now,” Gryffin said. “They’re going to call us out pretty soon to play and you know how Scorpius gets about being punctual.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me,” Dom said, clearly still annoyed about Scorpius’ jab at her during breakfast.
I nodded my head and began to follow Dom and Gryffin towards the rest of the team. However, just as I began to follow them, out of the corner of my eye I spotted James.
He was standing alone on the outskirts of the Quidditch arena, leaning against the wall with his hands in his pockets, and wearing his ever-present unreadable expression. Once I caught sight of him, he seemed to turn his head and lock eyes with mine. I found myself slowing down at this, and instead of following Dom and Gryffin, I walked over to him.
“Hey,” I said.
It was quiet. I kicked my foot at the ground a couple of times and we both watched. Then James cleared his throat, causing me to look back up at him.
“You ready for the game?” James asked.
I bit my lip, feeling the bottom of my stomach begin to twist in anticipation of the game. “I think so…”
“You’ll be fine,” James said, noticing my trepidation. His eyes stared straight into mine as he spoke. “You’ll be more than fine. You just need to be confident and remember what we practiced.”
I nodded. “Right.”
“Just…” James paused as he tried to formulate the right words, “keep your balance and don’t over think it. Let the broom carry you.”
“Got it,” I said again, feeling my nervousness ebb away the tiniest bit. Talking to him did that.
James nodded his head, reminding me of a parent or a teacher. “Good.” He then picked up a broom that had been leaning against the wall next to him, which I hadn’t noticed before. I instantly recognized it as his broom. He held it out to me. “Here. Take this.”
I looked at him questioningly. “Why?”
James sighed, as though his reasoning was obvious. “My broom's better than the school one you’ve been using. You should use it for the match.”
I looked at the broom, which he was still holding out to me, and then I looked back up at his face. His eyes were full of determination, all of the different colors swirling together to mirror the millions of thoughts flooding through my mind.
“Okay,” I said after a moment, taking the broom from him slowly. “Thank you.”
“You’re welcome,” James responded.
I smiled. And as soon as I did so I found James’ face mirroring my expression. He really did have a nice smile.
“Tash!” A voice exclaimed, cutting into James and I’s conversation. I looked to where the voice was coming from to see Scorpius, standing with the rest of the Quidditch team, his arms crossed as he tapped his foot. “Come on! We’re heading out in five!”
I looked back at James. “I should go,” I said, clutching the handle of James’ broom tightly and offering James another small smile.
“You should,” James agreed. “Now go out there and do your best.”
“I will,” I said, before turning away from him and heading towards the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, who were huddled together in a mass of scarlet. As I headed over to the group, I couldn’t help but notice out of the corner of my eye, an unmistakable leggy blonde dressed in a pep squad uniform, arms crossed and eyes narrowed.
I sighed. Looked like Fiona still didn’t like me.
“Tash, watch out!” Gryffin shouted, before soaring over to me and whacking the bludger away.
“And a save by the Gryffindor beater, O’Ryan!” Freddy narrated in a level voice, his hands folded over one another neatly as he wore a poker face. According to Dom, he’d been the announcer for the past two years and took it very seriously.
I released a sharp breath as my hands gripped the broom tighter, and then looked at Gryffin, who was still hovering in front of me.
“Thanks.” My heart rate, which had risen dramatically, began to slow as I made eye contact with Gryffin. “You saved me there.”
Gryffin shrugged, turning his head to scan the Quidditch pitch, already back in game mode. Which I should’ve also been in. “Just be more careful. Can’t have you falling off your broom, eh?”
I nodded. Then Gryffin flew away, already back to circling the field to look for loose bludgers to whack, while I continued to mentally berate myself for almost getting knocked off my broom.
Hufflepuff was on their game today. Which isn’t much of a surprise, because according to Dom they’ve won the past ten Quidditch cups. But Gryffindor was also on their game today making the match fairly even, with Gryffindor only holding a eighty point lead.
This meant that all I needed to do was find the snitch, catch it, and end the game. Something that was proving to be difficult.
“Set it up!
Throw it in!
Set it up, throw it in!
Lets go Scorpius, fight, WIN!”
Reason number one why catching the snitch had been difficult: the distractions of the pep squad. They had been cheering for the various male members of the Quidditch team nonstop, shouting compliments at all of them, and even making cheers about how hot they were. I’d been trying to ignore it as I searched for the snitch, but their ostentatious dancing had made it quite difficult. I didn’t know hip thrusts like that were appropriate at school functions.
The only saving grace at the entire failure so far of my first Quidditch game was that the Hufflepuff seeker also hadn’t spotted the snitch. At least we both weren’t doing very well.
“And it seems as though the Hufflepuff seeker has spotted the snitch!”
Crap. Guess I had spoken too soon on that front.
I snapped my head to the direction that I remembered the Hufflepuff seeker was flying in and saw that Freddy was right. I recognized the glimmer of gold almost instantly, and I also recognized the fact that the Hufflepuff seeker was in a downward dive, heading towards the metallic ball.
I immediately launched my (read: James’) broom towards where the Hufflepuff seeker was flying, using as much speed as I could to make up for lost time. The entire time I raced my way over, I couldn’t help but mentally berate myself for not paying more attention.
Stupid. I was so, so stupid.
As I got closer and closer to the Hufflepuff seeker, the cheering got louder. In fact, it was so loud that my head was starting to thump and it took all I had to concentrate on getting the snitch instead of all the other distractions flying around.
Soon enough, I was neck and neck with the Hufflepuff seeker, something that shocked me almost as much as it shocked the crowd. I could hear the Gryffindor stands roaring with excitement, chanting my name as they shouted at me to catch the snitch.
As if I wasn’t already trying as hard as I possibly could to catch the snitch anyway.
The little gold ball was flying in front of me and the other seeker, it’s wings beating furiously as it flew left and right, making my head spin. Eventually though, me and the seeker got close enough to it and we both started to reach out at the same time.
“And it looks like Covington is about to catch it!”
Just as I was about to wrap my hand around the snitch, my eyes instinctively scanned over the audience, before locking with Fiona’s intense glare. The pure hate in her look made me freeze, for just a millisecond, but it was long enough to cause the snitch to fly out of my hands and into—
“And Swighton has caught the snitch! Hufflepuff wins 550 to 480.”
The last time I remember losing was when I lost to Missy in the Little Miss Britain beauty pageant. Since then, I made it a point to never lose again. I hated the feeling of knowing that I wasn’t good enough. I hated the disappointment it caused everyone around me.
And while I had kept up not losing for the past eight years, I was now faced with another loss. Only this one felt even worst than the last time. Because it wasn’t just me that had lost. There was a whole group of people who had been counting on me to catch the snitch. Hell, I had even wrapped my hand around it. I had been so, so close…
“Tash, are you really beating yourself up about this?” Dom asked, taking a seat next to me on the bench in the Quidditch changing rooms. We were the only ones in there. The rest of the team had shuffled out fairly quickly after our loss.
“Maybe,” I responded, putting my feet up on the bench and wrapping my arms around my legs. I then rested my chin on my knees and stared up at Dom.
“Well then you’re being stupid,” Dom said, knocking her shoulder into me as she spoke. “This was your first game, and you did pretty bloody amazing. I mean you caught up with Swighton when he had like a huge lead on you. Hell, you almost got the snitch yourself.”
“But I didn’t get it,” I responded. “I let it fly past me and now because of my stupid mistake we’ve lost.”
“Yeah, but we’ve lost against Hufflepuff,” Dom countered. “They’re like, the hardest team to beat, and we’re the worst of the teams, so the fact that we even got close to winning is an achievement in and of itself.”
I shook my head. “Dom, you don’t have to lie to me. I know I messed up.”
Dom sighed. “I’m not lying. Hell, there’s even a huge party being thrown by the Gryffindor’s for almost winning.”
I paused, looking at Dom’s expression to see if she was lying. Why would Gryffindor be throwing a huge party after losing? Dom seemed to sense my question, and she leaned forward to explain.
“Tash, this is the closest we’ve come in years to beating Hufflepuff. And we didn’t even lose by very much, which means we still have a chance of winning the cup. All we need to do now is beat Slytherin and Ravenclaw and then we can do a rematch against Hufflepuff and win. Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, even though I wasn’t.
“Good,” Dom said, standing up from sitting next to me and nodding her head. “Now you should get showered and changed, and then we can go to the Gryffindor party to celebrate our almost win.”
“Um, Dom?” I said arching an eyebrow. Dom turned to face me. “You do realize that part of my Miss Teen Witch contract is that I can’t be seen partying, right?”
Dom didn’t seem phased by this. Instead she smiled and gave me a look as though I was as clueless as ever. “Good thing no one will see you then.”
“And to Tasha!” Gryffin exclaimed, swaying slightly as he spoke, holding a bottle of firewhiskey up in the air. “For her valiant effort at almost catching the snitch! Wouldn’t have been an almost win without you!”
Gryffin took a huge swig of the firewhiskey after he said this and then bowed to me, while the entirety of the Gryffindor common room broke into cheers. Gryffin then offered me the bottle of firewhiskey. I politely declined, to which Gryffin shrugged and downed another couple of gulps.
This then escalated into a chugging contest to see how fast Gryffin could down the entire bottle without throwing up, and from there all the Gryffindors gathered around him, cheering him on as he swallowed as much alcohol as he could.
I wasn’t sure how the Gryffindor house could be so happy about just having lost, but for some reason, the entire demeanor of the common room was full of cheer. Everyone kept shouting “Happy Almost Win!” to each other and then follow it up by doing chest bumps and fist pounds, which is something I could not understand. We had lost. That couldn’t ever be means for celebration, could it?
“I can’t believe we know him,” Molly stated, wrinkling her upper lip as she stared at Gryffin with distaste. Molly was sitting next to me on one of the couches in the Gryffindor common room and Rose was sitting on my other side. Dom had left to see how Scorpius was doing after the loss, so she wasn’t here to stop Gryffin. “He is literally an embarrassment to the entire human race.”
Gryffin, who had finished chugging the bottle if the loud cheers were anything to go by, turned back around as Molly spoke. He then took this time to wrap an arm around her shoulder and sit on her lap, before leaning down to speak to her. “Aw babe, you know you don’t mean that. You really love me, deep down.”
“Get off of me,” Molly responded, narrowing her eyes at Gryffin.
“No need to play hard to get. I’m the only guy in the entire school taller than you that’s not your cousin; it’s understandable you’d like me,” Gryffin explained, most of his words slurring together.
Molly rolled her eyes at Gryffin’s words, and then pushed him off of her lap so that he was collapsed on the floor. “You disgust me.”
She then got up and walked away, leaving a drunk Gryffin laying on the floor, as he now attempted to make snow angels of sorts. Except, you know, there wasn’t any snow.
“I should go check on her,” Rose said, shooting me an apologetic look before getting up from her spot next to me. “You know how Molly gets when she’s angry.”
“No go ahead,” I said, gesturing to Rose that it was okay. Rose then offered me a smile before walking away to go find Molly.
“When you find Molls, tell her I know she wants me,” Gryffin called after Rose, still laying on the floor.
Fred, who had been watching the exchange as he sat in an armchair, took this moment to get up and grab Gryffin by the arm to pull him up. “Alright chap, I think you’ve embarrassed yourself enough for the night.”
“I’d like to disagree,” Gryffin responded lazily. “I haven’t done anything embarrassing.”
“Sure you haven’t mate,” Fred said, rolling his eyes. “But how about we go get you some water to ease you up.”
As Fred said this, Gryffin lost his balance and began to sway again, causing Fred to put a hand on his shoulder to steady him. “I guess I could do with some water…” Gryffin said a bit unsurely, before letting Freddy guide him away.
This left me, sitting alone on a couch, in the middle of a party. And seeing as I’d never been to a party with alcohol and people my age before, I was feeling a bit out of my element. The music playing was frighteningly loud and intermingled with everyone’s shouts, I was beginning to feel suffocated. So, I decided I’d take a breather and got up from my position on the couch and walked out of the common room.
Once I was out of the common room, I released a breath I hadn’t realized I’d been holding. It was so much… quieter out here. It was nice.
As I began to walk down the hallway, I noticed a figure sitting against the wall. The closer I got, the more distinguishable the features became until I recognized it was James. And I don’t know why, but as soon as I knew it was James, I walked over and sat down next to him. James turned his head to the side as I situated myself next to him but didn’t say anything.
“Hey,” I said, because I couldn’t think of anything better. I spoke again. “What’re you doing out here?”
“I could ask you the same,” James answered. “Isn’t there a party dedicated to the Quidditch team going on right now?”
“I guess,” I said, shrugging my shoulders. “But parties aren’t really my thing.”
“They’re not my thing either,” James responded.
It was silent for a while. I couldn’t think of anything to say to keep the conversation going, and James didn’t seem like he wanted to talk much. So, we both sat there soaking in the stillness of the hallway compared to the madness of the common room, until I spoke.
“I’m sorry,” I blurted out, and I immediately felt really stupid once James gave me a questioning look. “For losing the game, I mean. I wasted your time with all those practices.”
James inspected me for a long moment as I looked down at my hands. “Just because you lost, doesn’t mean it was all for nothing.” I didn’t say anything so James continued. “You could barely fly when we first started training. Now you can fly really well.”
I sighed. I was sick of people telling me that. “But the whole point of me joining the team was so that we would win, and I went and let everyone down. You should’ve seen how gutted Scorpius was at the end of the match.”
“It’s just a game,” James said. “He’ll live.”
The way James spoke, made me think about Nate. During his last time playing Quidditch it had been just a game for him too, hadn’t it?
“I guess…” I responded to James unsurely. “It’s just… if I had just caught the snitch when I could…”
I trailed off when I felt James’ eyes drilling into me. “Natasha… it’s okay to lose sometimes.”
As James said this, I felt like my world was shifting. My entire life, I’d been raised in believing that winning was everything. That the only way for things to really mean something was by achieving that ultimate goal. But maybe James was right. Maybe winning wasn’t the goal. Maybe it was those stops along the way that really meant something.
After I made this realization, I finally noticed that James and I were sitting fairly close to one another. Our legs were both stretched out inches apart, and our shoulders just barely brushed each other as we spoke.
“Thank you,” I said to James, feeling that I owed him one. “For training with me and helping me out and stuff.”
“Course,” James said, brushing off my thanks like it was no big deal. “What are friends for?”
This statement caught me completely off guard. I guess, it had never really registered that James and I were friends. I mean, sure, we spent a lot of time together, but I always chalked it up to him wanting to help me practice. I never really realized that we had actually become friends through all of this. But, I guess we had.
I think it was with this new confirmation of James and I being friends— and maybe a little bit of the adrenaline from attending my first ever party— that caused me to sink myself down lower against the wall, and then lean my head against James’ shoulder. James stiffened at this change in contact, before relaxing and accommodating me. Which, you know, isn’t a big deal, but for some reason, I felt like it was.
“I was supposed to go to an interview today,” I said, staring at the wall as I spoke. “I was supposed to be on the front page of the fashion section in the Daily prophet.”
“I ditched it,” I answered. “I didn’t even tell my mum I wasn’t going to go. I just… I wanted to play in the match instead.”
James didn’t say anything after this. Neither of us did. Instead we both just stared ahead at the wall in front of us, letting other thoughts consume our minds. I guess that was the thing about being with James. The silences didn’t need to be filled. I think he preferred them to be honest. I think I preferred them too.
“I’m proud of you, Tash,” James said, so softly it was barely a whisper. But I heard it. And there was something about the way he said it that made this whole day somehow… worth it. Even though we had lost.
I smiled to myself. Maybe winning really isn’t all that matters. Maybe losing can be just as important.
A/N: And here it is! The next chapter of Beauty Queen. And guess what? It didn't end on a cliffhanger! Are you proud of me or what?
Lots of things happening in this chapter. Natasha ditched the interview, Fiona glared, Gryffindor lost against Hufflepuff, Molly and Gryffin argued (as usual), and James and Natasha had a moment! What do you think about all of this? Did you like it/hate it/were indifferent to it? Let me know your thoughts in a review.
I've been having so much fun writing this story lately and I've actually outlined the entire plot! I'd really like to know if you guys like the story and where I'm going with it so please review if you can, they really make my day. :)
Thank you guys so much for being such amazing readers!
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