It had been almost a week since Noah had talked to Evie Pierce, and there was no word about his dad anywhere. Not in Quidditch Pro, not in Witch Weekly, not in the Daily Prophet. Not even in Rita’s Rag, which Noah never ever read but made a point to flip through when he saw in on Kate’s bedside table the other night, just to make sure. There was absolutely nothing out of the usual.
Evie had kept her promise.
He didn’t know why it surprised him. After all, she seemed like the type to stick to her word. He could still picture her face, sitting across from him in that tiny, plain room, telling him that she cared about him. Maybe that was what got him the most – the fact that she cared about him. If he were to be perfectly honest, not many people did. Sure, his mother loved him. That was a given. And he knew his teammates cared about him, both on the Arrows and on the English team. But no one ever admitted it. No one ever flat out told Noah to his face.
“Bradley!” Wood’s voice ripped across the pitch, so loud that it carried from the ground to where Noah was hovering about forty feet in the air. “If you don’t mind, we’re trying to practice here!” Noah shook his head, pressing the handle of his broom down and zooming back over to where Declan and Caleb were hovering next to the hoops.
“Sorry,” he muttered to his fellow Chasers. Declan remained stonily silent, but Caleb just shrugged, tossing the Quaffle from one hand to the other.
“Don’t worry about it, mate,” he replied with a grin. With a sharp tweet from Wood’s silver whistle, the three took off streaking down the pitch, tossing the Quaffle easily between them as they ran the new play Wood had drawn up. As the winter wind stung against his face, Noah pushed his broom faster, leaving all his thoughts back on the other side of the pitch.
Noah let the water wash over his skin, the steam rising up to the ceiling. The shower was so hot it almost hurt as it warmed his ice-cold body, chilled from the hours of practice in freezing temperatures. Slowly, Noah let his muscles, which had been tensed up from the second he mounted his broom, relax. He sighed softly, reaching for the bar of soap.
“Oi! Bradley!” A voice rang out over the sound of running water, echoing oddly through the tiled room. “Are you done in there yet?”
“Almost!” He yelled back. He would have liked to stay a bit longer, just because it felt so good, but he figured he wouldn’t keep his team waiting. Noah washed up quickly and turned the shower off, wrapping one of the thin red towels around his waist. He felt much better already.
“Do I have time to put some clothes on?” He asked Sutton, raising his eyebrows. The boy was standing awkwardly with his arms crossed, waiting for him. Clearly, Sutton had lost the coin toss.
“Er, yeah. Go ahead,” he replied quickly, looking at the wall over Noah’s shoulder. “Just meet us in the main room when you’re done.” Noah chuckled lowly as Sutton scurried out of the room. The boy might be billed as the next Quidditch prodigy, but he still acted like a seventh year boy half the time. Noah quickly dried off, tugging on a pair of pants and one of the millions of English team t-shirts that were floating around his locker.
“Alright, alright, I’m here,” he announced as he walked into the main room, running his hands through his still-wet hair. “Sorry about the wait.”
“It’s fine!” Amelia replied cheerfully from her spot on the couch. “Personally, I’d rather have you be late and clean that be on time still smelling from practice.”
“Thank you, Amelia,” Noah replied dryly, sitting down on the couch next to her. The rest of the team was gathered around as well, sitting on the easy chairs and the floor and - in Jimmy’s case – on the table in front of them. Declan was sitting in a flowered wing-back chair, one leg crossed over the other. His face was unreadable, but Noah got the feeling the captain was slightly annoying at his tardiness.
“Alright,” Declan began. “Now that we’re all here, let’s get started.” Noah wasn’t a big fan of these informal team meetings. He didn’t mind Wood’s all that much – they usually had to do with upcoming games or practices. Declan’s however, tended to be about whatever was going on with the team itself. He felt like it was his personal responsibility to keep everyone in line.
“Anyone have anything they wish to discuss?” He always began the same way, and no one ever had anything to say. Still, Declan looked around the room, his dark eyes wandering over each player before he spoke again. “Alright, then. I just wanted to remind you all that you are now representing more than just your league teams. I know each team has it’s own policies about what is and is not acceptable for it’s players. Here, however, you have to remember that you’re representing your country, not just to the people of the country, but to other countries as well. So let’s not put England to shame, alright?” The question was addressed to everyone, but Noah could feel Declan’s eyes on him. Wanker. What gave Declan the right to judge him on his actions outside of Quidditch? He didn’t need a sodding babysitter.
“Noah,” Jimmy coughed loudly from his spot on the table. Noah reached out with a foot and placed it on the man’s back, pushing him forward. “Oi!” Jimmy protested loudly, reaching behind him to whack Noah’s calf. “I was just coughing!”
“Of course,” Amelia rolled her eyes.
“Seriously, though, Bradley,” Declan continued. “Be careful, alright? We want to be known for our Quidditch prowess, not our girlfriends, okay?” Noah scowled, but he nodded.
“Yeah!” Caleb jumped in. “I saw you in Witch Weekly the other day!” Noah turned and shot the redhead a glare.
“Why were you reading Witch Weekly, Caleb?” Amelia asked sweetly. Noah chuckled. He could always count on Amelia to have his back.
“Well, I, uh,” Caleb flushed red. “I was at my mum’s house, and she had it, alright?”
“Whatever you say, mate,” Jimmy laughed.
“Anyway,” Caleb continued, returning to his original color. “There was a lovely picture of you leaving some club with a blonde bird. Is that Kate?”
“Yeah,” Noah replied a bit distractedly, glancing over to see Declan’s reaction. “I suppose so.”
“Have you seen her since then?” Amelia asked, her eyes narrowing. She thought that Noah was unfair to women, the way he bounced from one to the other. He had tried multiple times to explain to her that it wasn’t his fault they were all stupid and shallow, but she refused to listen.
“Yes, mum,” Noah replied, shooting her a look. “We went out on Tuesday, actually.”
“Well, I stand corrected,” Amelia replied with a smile. “Two whole dates.”
“Is that a new record, Bradley?” Jimmy piped in, grinning evilly.
“Do you want me to kick your arse, Peakes?” Noah asked, scowling at the stocky man sitting in front of him. Jimmy just grinned.
“You should bring her to the luncheon, Noah!” Sutton piped up from his spot in one of the arm chairs.
“What luncheon?” Noah asked, looking around.
“It’s not a date event,” Declan growled.
“Honestly, Noah, don’t you ever check your mail?” Amelia sighed.
“What luncheon?” Noah repeated, a bit louder this time.
“The Ministry is putting on a luncheon to kick off the World Cup,” Ritchie explained, taking pity on him. “We’re all the guests of honor. I think the Minister’s going to speak, probably the Head of the Department of Magical Sports and Games, maybe an old coach or something.” Ritchie shrugged. “It’s their way of celebrating the selection of the team and the beginning of training for the Cup this summer, I suppose.”
“And it’s required?” Noah asked, looking to Declan.
“Yes, it’s required.” Lovely. An event where he would have to be pleasant and talk with past Quidditch players and coaches and Ministry workers who he didn’t care one jot about. And if Noah knew anything about the Ministry, the press would be there as well, which meant that he would have to spend all afternoon fending off unwanted questions.
“Sounds like a blast.”
“Wow,” Sebastian breathed, staring at Noah over his pint.
“Yeah,” Noah replied lowly. They were sitting in a corner booth at the Leaky Cauldron late Friday night, nursing their pints and complaining about life. Noah had just told Sebastian about his interview with Evie. He had to tell someone, and since Seb knew everything anyway he figured he was the one to go to.
“Wow,” he repeated. The pub was pretty full, despite the late hour, but no one seemed to recognize the two Quidditch players in the corner. People seemed to be too wrapped up in their own drinks and conversations to noticed the dimly lit table in the back. For once, Noah was thankful for people’s selfishness. “So she knows everything?”
“Not everything, I suppose,” Noah answered, taking a long drag of ale. “But she knows the basics. She knows about Dad.” He scowled at his mug, his strong hand gripping the handle so tightly his knuckles turned white.
“And she hasn’t told anyone?” Seb asked, raising his eyebrows.
“Not that I know of,” Noah replied. “But it’s not in the papers.” He shrugged.
“I can’t believe she’d keep that a secret,” Seb commented, sounding a bit awed.
“Just because you can’t keep your mouth shut, Seb,” Noah told him with a wry grin, “doesn’t mean no one else is capable of doing so.”
“Shut up,” he replied, glaring at Noah. “I just meant because it’s such a juicy secret and she’s a fucking reporter. It’s like Christmas for her or something!”
“I know,” Noah shook his head. “I can’t really believe it either. But she said that where she comes from, loyalty means more than just making money, or something like that.”
“That’s odd,” Seb replied, frowning slightly. “Why’s she loyal to you?”
“No idea,” Noah shrugged, taking another sip of his drink. “But get this. Then she was telling me that not all reporters were selfish, and she actually did care about other people.” Sebastian raised his eyebrows. “So I asked her if she cared about me, and she told me that despite the fact that I acted like a right wanker sometimes, I was really a good guy.”
“Are you sodding kidding me?” Seb asked with a laugh. “You? A good guy? Ha!”
“Gee, thanks, Seb,” Noah replied wryly. “Good to know I have such supportive friends.”
“I just don’t understand what gave her that impression,” Seb explained, “considering you spent most of the time refusing to answer her questions.”
“I might not have answered a lot of her questions,” Noah replied, looking down at his pint. “But we did talk a lot. She was really easy to talk to, actually. She – she made me laugh,” he admitted.
“Really?” Sebastian asked, looking quite interested. “I can’t believe it. A bloody reporter made you laugh.” He gave his friend a wry smile.
“Yeah,” he replied darkly. “It was weird. It was like I wasn’t even talking to a reporter. Which I don’t get, because I’ve been talking to reporters since I was fucking eighteen years old, and they’ve all been the exact same.”
“Until now,” Sebastian added.
“I suppose,” Noah shrugged.
“So do I get to meet this bird?” Sebastian asked, giving Noah a grin.
“She’s a reporter, Seb,” he told his friend with a frown. “Not some girl you pick up at a bar.”
“Why not?” He grinned. “Besides, I never said I wanted to pick her up. I just want to meet the person who managed to make you spill your guts over a conference table.”
“Thanks for reminding me,” Noah replied darkly.
“Anytime!” Sebastian replied brightly, gulping down his drink.
“I’m sure she’ll be at some event, given that League finals are coming up,” Noah replied.
“Oh yeah. Speaking of that, Coach wants us at the pitch bright and early Monday morning at six o’clock.” Noah groaned.
“Are you fucking kidding me?”
“Unfortunately, no,” Seb replied sadly. “He wants to get in as much practice as possible before the big game.” One of the bad things about being picked for the National team, Noah thought darkly, was that league season wasn’t over yet. Which meant that he was practicing for two different teams. English team practice had started out simply enough, but now that most other teams were out of the playoffs – all except for the Arrows and the Wasps, who would meet up in a couple of weeks to play a fiercely anticipated final – practices were happening more and more often. Noah was going to kill himself before he even made it to the final, much less the World Cup.
“I’m going to need another drink, then,” Noah groaned, draining the last of his current one.
“Back to my question, though,” Sebastian said as Noah signaled for the barmaid to come over to their table. “When do I get to meet this Evie Pierce?” The barmaid, a curvy blonde with curls spilling down her back, gave Noah and Seb a bright smile as she came over to their table.
“What can I get for you lads?” She asked them.
“Just two more pints, please,” Noah replied, pushing their tankards to the end of the table without even looking at her.
“Coming right up!” She gave Noah a little wink as she picked up their mugs, flitting off to the bard to refill them.
“I don’t get it!” Seb groaned, propping his elbows on the sticky wooden table. “I mean, you’re an absolutely arse to every one, and girls still like you!”
“Apparently,” Noah replied with a crooked smile, “they’re all under the impression that I’m some mysterious bad boy. For some reason girls like that, I guess.” He shrugged.
‘Yeah, well I’m not mysterious at all,” Seb replied, “but I’m good-looking and a hell of a lot nicer and I’ll actually remember to owl them after a few days!”
“Hey!” Noah replied with a grin. “I do too owl them back.” Seb raised his eyebrows. “Well, some of them.” Noah admitted with a chuckle.
“What about this Kate girl, then?” Sebastian asked.
“I don’t know.” Noah shrugged. “She’s really nice. Like some girls call me out if I leave early or something, but Kate just kind of goes with the flow.” It made his life a lot less complicated that was for sure. And it didn’t help that she was absolutely gorgeous.
“What does her father do?” Sebastian asked with a twinkle in his eye.
“He owns a chain of wand shops in the Middle East or something,” Noah replied with a shrug.
“And by that you mean he’s loaded?” Sebastian grinned. “I don’t get it. It’s like all the beautiful, young, rich girls in London just gravitate towards you.” He shook his head.
“Maybe they identify with me,” Noah suggested with a wry grin. “You know, seeing as how I’m young, rich, and beautiful too.”
“You are a wanker,” Seb shot back, rolling his eyes.
“I try,” he grinned. Just then, the barmaid returned with their drinks, one of the tankards sloshing over onto the table when she set it down.
“Whoops!” She cried, still smiling brightly at the pair. “I’m so sorry. Let me get that.” She pulled a rag out of the pocket of her apron and leaned over, wiping their table down. Both Noah and Seb could see straight down her shirt.
“Sorry about that, boys!” She cooed as she straightened up, flipping her blonde curls over her shoulder. “Now you two just let me know if you need anything else, alright?” She flashed them another simpering grin, lingering for just a moment longer at the edge of their table before she disappeared back into the crowd of the pub.
“See what I mean?” Sebastian sighed.
“She’s all yours, mate,” Noah replied, taking a long sip of his ale.
“Thanks,” Seb rolled his eyes. “You’re so fucking generous.” Noah chuckled.
“Speaking of girls,” he started. “What’s Mia been up to these days?”
“Making my life hell, as usual,” Seb replied with a good-natured groan. “I don’t understand how she manages to shag half of sodding London and Mum still thinks I’m the bad child!” Mrs. Gedgrave made it no secret she favored her daughter more. Mia could do no wrong in her eyes. Seb, on the other hand, had been disappointing her since the day he decided he was going to play professional Quidditch instead of following in his father’s footsteps and getting a job at the Ministry.
“Probably because Mia’s better looking,” Noah replied casually, taking another sip.
“Hey!” Sebastian replied, narrowing his gaze. “That’s my baby sister you’re talking about.”
“Just stating a fact,” he shrugged. “You know you have nothing to worry about. Remember that one Christmas?” Sebastian grinned. Noah had gone to the Gedgraves for some Christmas Eve party back when he and Seb had first started playing together. Mia, who was still in her Seventh year, had a bit too much eggnog and had practically thrown herself at Noah. They laugh about it now, but it had been extremely awkward for Noah at the time.
“Ah, that was classic,” Seb sighed. “One of the only times I think she’s ever been rejected.”
“Besides,” Noah added with a grin. “There’s no fucking way I would marry into your family. Your mum would be the mother-in-law from hell.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Sebastian replied with a dark laugh, lifting his mug up.
Annnnd here's how Noah's feeling! Again, a bit of filler, but there will be more Evie/Noah interaction in the next chapter, pinky promise! Thanks for reading, and please leave a review if you're so inclined!