Disclaimer: OK, you got me. I don't own Harry Potter. Big surprise, huh? For a second there, I almost had you fooled.
Stunning CI by lilscratchy@tda
Ah, October. Don't you just love October? With the pretty leaves, that fresh autumn smell in the air. With Halloween at your doorstep and christmas not far behind that. All the beautiful colors, in every shade of red, yellow and gold you could imagine. October really is just perfect.
Except it also means one thing.
Quidditch season begins.
And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that October is quite possibly my least favourite month of the year. How did you guess?
"I heard that you and Albus broke up," says James as we walk down to the quidditch pitch one fine October morning, with the Gryffindor Slytherin match fast approaching us.
He keeps his voice measured and calm. He could continue with "Please, Stella, marry me and make me the happiest quidditch captain on earth!" Or he could continue with "Nice weather we're having, isn't it?"
Point is, I have no idea what he means by that.
"Er…yeah," I say uneasily, "We decided it was for the best."
"It probably was," he says.
He doesn't elaborate, so I'm left pondering the meaning behind his words again.
He's right, however, breaking up with Albus was definitely for the best.
It had been quiet, simple, no big announcement. We sat together in Potions class, Professor Wilde had just turned up her nose at my potion, but hadn’t made any nasty comments (a great improvement).
Albus turned to me, and just came straight out with it, “We should break up.”
I raised an eyebrow at him, “Honestly, Albus. That’s no way to ask someone to break up with you! What would your parents say?”
“Fine,” he grinned, crouching down low, so he was on one knee, “Stella Wood, will you break up with me?”
I grinned and pulled him upwards into a hug, “I though you’d never ask.”
After that word spread quickly. Luckily, however, Ray still continues to speak to him, after getting my permission of course, and, after a few taunts about me getting my just desserts, the entire school has gone back to ignoring me. For once, invisibility is something I'm extremely grateful for.
"Do you think he'll get together with Ray any time soon?" James asks me.
"I don't know," I confess, “I hope so.”
We walk on in awkward silence. Occasionally I slip a glance at him, but he keeps his face unemotional, betraying nothing.
"Are you going to tell me what this so-called amazing plan of yours is?" I ask him, unable to bear the suspense any longer.
"You'll see when we get down there," he replies, a little smugly.
"I'm not sure I like this," I mutter, "I mean, if I don't even have to leave the ground, why are we going down to the quidditch pitch?"
"You'll see," is all he says.
"Are you sure this isn't some trick to get me on a broom again?" I utter nervously.
"Look, Wood," he says, stopping to face me head on, "Do you trust me?"
"Well, you should."
"Really? Evidence suggests that I have no reason to."
He rolls his eyes and continues walking. I follow him.
"You can't blame me for being curious," I say, "Just give me a hint!"
"Fine," he says, "It requires talking. You shouldn't have any problem with that."
I ignore the mocking tone of his voice, "But does it involve a broom?"
"Yes it does."
I feel a rush of anger, "Potter, you swore-"
"Merlin's beard, Wood, just calm down!" he says, but the angry tone he usually uses when yelling at me is mysteriously absent. "I didn't say it involved you on a broom, did I? So just zip it."
"I will not," I snap.
"I expected no less," he replies, smirking at me.
We walk down to the quidditch pitch in silence, after that. I feel an impending sense of dread building inside me.
The green pitch spreads out before us, and I notice a lone figure at one end, standing beside a broom.
"Who's that?" I ask James nervously.
"Victor McLaggen," he replies, "Gryffindor second year."
"He doesn't play quidditch does he?" I frown.
"No," James replies simply.
Victor McLaggen swaggers towards us, presenting the usual second year arrogance the rest of the school is already familiar with. It's the ooh-I'm-so-cool-because-I've-already-been-here-a-year swagger. The ooh-I’m-so-cool-because-I-can-find-my-way-back-to-my-common-room-without-asking-for-directions swagger.
As you may have guessed, I am not fond of little children.
He's tall for his age, with thick blonde hair sweeping over his forehead in a look that's apparently very popular at the moment, but doesn't necessarily make you more attractive. He flicks his hair away, revealing cool grey eyes that stare at me condescendingly.
"Victor," James says, "Meet Stella."
Victor doesn't hold out a hand to shake the one I offer him. Instead, he looks pointedly at James.
"Are we going to get on with this then?" he asks impatiently.
I raise an eyebrow and turn to James, "Get on with what, exactly?"
He bites his lip for a second, looking nervous. Fuck, why does he do that? He might as well hold up a sign that says 'snog me senseless'. James looks at both of us, "You're his new quidditch coach."
"What?" I hiss, but it appears Victor is just as horrified. This is James’ big plan?
Darn, I had been expecting something with a little more grandiose surprise. Maybe fireworks. Maybe a private concert with the Weird Sisters. I don’t know, something cooler than coaching a moody second year.
"I thought you were going to be my coach," Victor cries indignantly.
"I'll be supervising," he replies.
"Supervising what?" I exclaim.
"You're giving Victor some private coaching," he replies.
"I asked for lessons from the quidditch captain, not the drop-out," Victor says snootily.
I glare at him, "Say that again, blondie?"
"Okay, okay," James says, trying to break up the impending fight between us, "Look, Victor, Stella may not have my expertise-"
I show my appreciation for that comment by scoffing noisily. James gives me a look.
"-But she's still a good quidditch player. And more than that, she's a keeper. You want to be a keeper, don't you?"
"Yes," Victor replies sulkily.
"Good, so don't worry, I'll be here the whole time."
"You make it sound like I'm about to murder him," I mutter, although the prospect seems increasingly likely.
"Fine," Victor agrees begrudgingly.
I look shrewdly at James, "James? A word?"
I grab him by the forearm and drag him several paces away, out of earshot of Victor, "This is your brilliant plan? Coach a pompous, spoiled git on how to catch a ball?"
"He didn't make the team," James says, "His dad asked for private lessons until he's good enough. But seriously, the kid is shit. Your job is to turn him into something that isn't."
"This will only end badly," I hiss, "You know that, right?"
"No doubt," he grins, "But in the meantime, you'll be teaching him how to be a good keeper, and you don't even have to leave the ground. I promise, it'll remind you that you actually like this sport, even though you're too cowardly to admit it."
"I-" I pause, he's clearly winding me up, "I'm not too cowardly. Alright, I'll coach the brat."
"This is what it's all about, Wood," he says, "Compromise. Now, do you think you could get off my arm? You're cutting off my circulation."
I reluctantly let go of his bicep and turn back to Victor, "Right, McLaggen, give me twenty push ups."
"What?" he looks a little gobsmacked, "I want to learn quidditch, not fitness, now teach me something real, woman."
Woman? I laugh, grinning all over my face, "I'm just kidding! Give me forty."
He stares, "What?"
"McLaggen," James interrupts, "If you want to be a good player, the first step is being in perfect shape. As Wood here will tell you."
He offers me a little smirk, before sitting himself down on the stands to watch.
McLaggen seems to take James' word for it, and drops angrily to the ground. He manages about ten, before he collapses into a sniveling heap onto the ground.
Weakling. Okay, fine, I can barely manage five. With all those muffins you can hardly expect me to be an olympic marathon runner. Honestly.
"Alright, McLaggen get up," I snap, even though I’m secretly enjoying torturing him.
Yes I may be slightly unhinged. No I don't think it matters.
He pulls himself up, looking red faced and sweaty.
"Right," I say, pulling the quaffle out of the open ball trunk a few meters away, "Passing."
"Uh, Wood," James calls from his spot on the bleachers, "Don't you think you should teach him flying techniques first?"
"Not if he's planning on being a halfway decent keeper I'm not," I reply angrily, annoyed that he's undercutting me in front of McLaggen.
James gets up from his seat and walks over to me, "Shouldn't he know how to balance himself so he doesn't plunge to his death?"
"Maybe we should do what he says," McLaggen adds, somewhat nervously.
"Maybe you should shut it," I snap, before turning to James, "I thought you gave me this student for me to teach. We'll start with passing. Then we'll fly."
"Flying is what quidditch is all about," James replies, sounding a little frustrated.
"And passing and catching is what being a keeper is all about," I snap.
"Not if you can't sit upright on a broom properly. Passing and catching is for chasers, Wood, try not to get them confused."
"I'm the teacher, you're the observer, try not to get that confused, jerk-face."
McLaggen folds his arms, looking unimpressed, "Um, how about you two go and work out your sexual tension in a broom cupboard somewhere, then come back and I'll learn some proper quidditch, yeah?"
I blush furiously. Why oh why did McLaggen have to go and say something like that? James mutters something low and uncomfortable under his breath, and I feel my heart drop to the pit of my stomach. He’s embarrassed. He’s embarrassed by the idea of someone thinking he might like me. My bottom lip, in spite of my better judgement, trembles.
I bite down hard on it, wince at the sharp outburst of pain, and snap quickly at McLaggen, “None of your backtalk.”
He shrugs. I roll my eyes and the moment fortunately passes. James rubs the back of his neck, like he does when he’s uncomfortable. He curls him fingers into a fist and looks increasingly unfocused.
He says, “Right McLaggen, we already know that you do push ups like a girl, let’s see if you throw like one too.”
“I resent that,” I snort.
“Right, forget I said it,” he says in a low voice. He glances up at McLaggen, “You’re lucky you’ve got Stella to teach you. One of the best keepers I’ve seen.”
I stare at him. He doesn’t look at me, keeping his gaze firmly fixed on McLaggen. His fists are more tightly curled than ever, knuckles slowly turning white.
“I forgot,” He continues, still not looking at me, “I have to meet Fred in the library. I was supposed to help him with his Charms essay.”
“Oh,” I reply, “See you later then.”
“Sorry to leave you here like this,” he says, glancing at me quickly.
“Apology accepted,” says McLaggen.
“I wasn’t talking to you, git,” James snaps at him.
“It’s…fine,” I say, although it isn’t fine. I don’t want him to leave me here with this kid. Now I’m stuck with him.
James nods once apologetically, before running off.
I stare after him. What the hell was that?
“What, sad your boyfriend ditched you?” McLaggen sneers from behind me.
“You know what?” I turn to him, “I think you can manage a few more push ups. What do you say?”
* * *
That evening I sit down heavily in an armchair beside my friends.
“Rough day?” Rose asks me.
I reply by groaning, "What's worse than a brattish second year, who cries when he does push ups?”
Albus looks up, deep in thought, "Horcruxes?
Ray counters that, "Bellatrix Lestrange?
"The Wizarding world war?” Lexie offers.
"Voldemort?” asks Rose
I roll my eyes and mutter, “Okay well there's always those things.”
“What’s on your mind Stel?” Rose grins at me.
“I’m now giving Vincent McLaggen some private lessons in quidditch,” I reply heavily, “And it’s shit.”
The others look utterly confused. “Why the hell are you giving him lessons?” Albus asks.
“It was James’ stupid idea,” I snap, “He said that doing it would reignite my love of quidditch. The only thing it ignited was my hatred for second years. And then, after ten minutes, James just ran off to help Fred.”
“Wait, he just left you there?” Lexie raises an eyebrow.
“Someone say my name?” Fred asks smoothly, sliding into the armchair beside mine, “I’m glad I found you, Stella. I was wondering, do you think you could talk to your friend for me?”
“You know, tall, blonde, stunningly beautiful, completely into me.”
I raise an eyebrow, “You mean Eve?” Fred already knew her name very well, she was on the same quidditch team as him, but he couldn’t very well admit that he actually knew that name of a girl he was trying to shag.
“That’s the one!” Fred replies happily.
I roll my eyes and decide to let him have it, “What do you want me to talk to her about?”
“How into me she is. Really, it’s starting to become embarrassing.”
I start getting annoyed by this point. Fred can be so stubborn. “Fred, she’s not into you.”
“Now, what would give you that idea?” he laughs.
“Well, if I do talk to her, that will be the fourth time she’s rejected you.”
At this point Rose and Albus start to laugh. Fred begins to look slightly indignant.
“Please, those weren’t rejections,” he scoffs.
“What part of ‘Fred, please go away, I’m not interested’ isn’t a rejection?”
“Jeez Stella, sure know how to make a guy feel good,” he mutters, sinking low into his chair, while Rose and Albus continue to laugh at him.
I realize suddenly that Fred is completely aware of where he stands with Eve, and he isn’t happy about it one little bit.
I put an apologetic hand on his arm, “I’ll talk to her if you like. But not about her infatuation with you, I’ll see if she’ll give you a fourth chance.”
“Thanks, Stella, you’re the best,” he grins.
“Freddie’s in loooooove,” Albus sings at him.
“Fuck off, I am not,” Fred snaps, “These are manly feelings. Manly feelings of lust.”
“Ew,” Rose looks as though she’s tasted something bitter in her mouth.
“Freddie and Eve, sitting in a tree…” Albus starts.
Fred gets up, looking ready to pummel him. I grab him by the shirtsleeve and sit him back down.
To distract him from Albus’ mocking grin, I say, “Did you finish your charms essay in the end?”
Fred frowns at me, “What Charms essay?”
“The one James was helping you with?”
“I haven’t seen James since breakfast,” Fred frowns.
“But he said he had to help you…” I say, an expression of bewilderment beginning to form on my face.
“Look, Stella,” Fred laughs, “The day James starts helping me with homework is the day I stop being awesome, and we all know, that’s not happening any time soon.”
The realization hits me, and I lean back in my chair, hissing, “That son of a bitch…”
“Oooh, what’d he do now?” Fred asks eagerly.
“Fuck!” I cry out suddenly, now feeling anger pour over me, wave after wave.
The bastard just left me there! He just ran off, and lied about why. He fed me some bullshit about being sorry, how he wanted us to start afresh, and for all I know it had just been a lie to mess with my head again.
I stand up, my fingers trembling slightly. Fred now looks slightly alarmed. “Seriously, Stella, what did he do?”
I don’t answer him. Across the room the portrait hole swings open and James himself appears. Something inside me snaps. I decide that I’m done with waiting around for him to change.
I march over to him with as much determination as I can muster. Usually my confidence dwindles after a few steps, but something is burning inside me, and I power forward towards him.
His eyes fixate on me moving, and I immediately detect panic in his eyes. Panic is good. Panic means he knows that I know.
In a fit of rage, I grab him by the front of his shirt and drag him backwards through the open portrait hall.
“Wait-what-Wood!” he cries out, “Where are we going? What are you doing?”
“Just shut up,” I snap, and even I’m surprised by the level of anger in my voice, “We’re going down to the pitch.”
“But- it’s dark outside.”
“What? Afraid of the dark Potter? I said shut up,” I reply.
“At least tell me what this is about-“
I let go of his shirt collar and swivel around to face him. I can feel anger boiling up inside me, ready to overflow, “I don’t know why you left me there this morning. I don’t know why you thought coaching Vincent McLaggen would be a good idea. I don’t know why you lied to me about Fred. That’s your issue. But I’m sick and tired of you bossing me around, telling me to do this and do that. We’re going down to the pitch, and I’m going to fly, but on my own terms. So in the mean time shut your lying trap.”
He stares at me, completely gobsmacked. Thankfully, he doesn’t say anything after that until we reach the pitch.
James had been right, it’s dark, and growing steadily darker. The pitch seems to extend for miles in the night time, blending in with the black sky.
OK, I may or may not be a little afraid of the dark. Goosebumps crawl over my skin and the cool night air picks up. I shiver and contemplate going back inside where it’s light and warm.
Pull yourself together, Stella. Now.
“I feel I don’t need to tell you that we’re breaking about 5 school rules by being out here,” James says cautiously.
“Are you going to tell?” I ask him coolly.
“No!” he says quickly. I can tell that he’s quite terrified of getting in my way now, nervously twitching every time I look in his direction.
I grab two brooms from the broom cupboard behind the stadium.
“Here,” I throw one towards him. He catches it easily, looking apprehensively towards me.
“Are you sure-“
“No,” I reply quickly.
But before I can think about anything else, before I can think about how high up it’ll be, before I can contemplate the nausea, I swing my leg over and kick off hard.
I soar into the sky, faster and faster. I can feel the nausea, the fear, the sickness rising in me, but the anger that’s still burning overrides that, and I power through. I fly faster, going higher up, never stopping.
“WOOD!” I hear James roaring after me.
I glance down, and see him flying towards me, hard on my heels. I fly away sharply to the right, spinning and twisting, feeling air howl around me, inside my ears.
“WOOD! WAIT! YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING!”
He’s right. I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m so dizzy I can barely distinguish one goal post from another. But I can’t stop,
No, I don’t want to stop.
The feeling inside me isn’t nausea, it isn’t fear, it is exhilaration.
I race towards James and scream as I pass him, “I’LL RACE YOU! THREE TIMES AROUND THE PITCH! GO! GO! GO!”
He shakes his head at me, and laughs, “YOU’RE CRAZY, D’YOU KNOW THAT?”
I laugh manically back, speeding off ahead of him. I have no fear. I feel like a bird that hasn’t stretched its wings. The air fills me up like a balloon, and I wonder if I might burst.
I’m well ahead, but he’s trying to catch up. I don’t look back after that, and race forward, focusing on the open space that’s rushing towards me.
Something has changed in me. Why hasn’t anyone told me it’s this good? Why hasn’t anyone told me how it feels to let go of all your inhibitions and just fly?
Before I know it I’ve made three laps of the pitch, and James is still behind me.
I finally stop, breathlessly happy. James stops beside me, and he looks out of breath too.
“Again,” he grins at me.
“Fine, if you can handle losing twice,” I reply, before flying off.
He’s hot on my tail now, unlike before, and speeding up until we’re neck and neck. We race, glancing sideways at one another.
And I feel it again, that rush. It fills me up, and I fly even faster than before. James falls behind, not having the same confidence to go as fast as me.
I let off a cry, a long and happy scream that fills my throat and echoes all around me.
Suddenly I forget all about the race and I dive, dipping down and down, and then pulling up at the last minute before I hit the ground, only to soar higher into the sky, yelling war cries of happiness all the way.
I’m level with James once again, and he grins at me. I’ve never seen him look at me the way he’s looking now. It’s half pride, half amazement.
“Come on,” I grin back at him, “Let’s see how well you can dive.”
“Ok,” he says, “But I warn you, you’re going up against a very good diver.”
“Yeah, less talking, more diving,” I reply.
We both dive at the same time, closer and closer to the ground, as close as we possibly dare. Impossible amounts of adrenaline course through my veins. My hands are shaking on the broom handle. He pulls up before I do, but only just. I’m so close to the ground that I could kiss it, and I pull up before I collide with the earth.
I laugh at him once we’re back up in the sky. He smiles at me.
“You want to try something fun?” he asks me.
“What is it?” I reply.
“Come lower,” he says flying slowly towards the ground. I follow him.
We’re barely a two meters above the ground when we stop.
“Watch me,” James says.
He sets off at a fast pace, getting faster and faster. Then suddenly he lets out a wild yell, and jumps off the broom, throwing his body forwards. Miraculously he lands on both feet.
He bows to my applause, then straddles his broom and kicks off again.
“Just…jump,” he says, once he’s returned to my side of the pitch, “You have to jump forward though the air, and try to land on your feet.”
“OK,” I reply eagerly. Normally something like this would terrify the living shit out of me, but this is different. I feel like I could try anything.
I race forward, feeling the air rush past me, until it gets louder and louder.
It’s now or never, I decide, and I throw myself off forwards. It’s only a small drop of about a meter, and I land in a crouch, not on both feet like James did.
“You have to do the yell!” he laughs from the other side of the pitch, “It won’t work if you don’t yell!”
I kick off again and fly over to him.
“Like this,” he says, and he demonstrates again. He flies forward and jumps, letting off the yell louder than before, only this time he lands on his front.
I gasp, “SHIT! Are you OK?”
Luckily my question is answered with a groan, and then a laugh. He rolls over onto his back, laughing and laughing.
I laugh with him, and race forward, faster and faster, until I’m going so fast I’m not sure if I can slow down.
Suddenly the broom jerks a little in the wind, and the speed seems to pick up even faster. I’m losing control of the broom.
I throw myself into the air, yelling loudly as I go.
And I land. On top of him.
He let’s out a gasp of air as I crash into his chest.
Then he starts to laugh. And then I laugh. We’re both laughing hysterically, almost crying with the hilarity of the situation.
My face is level with his, my hair falling down over my face in a windswept mess.
His eyes are closer to mine that I’d realized, and I stop laughing almost immediately. His laughter dies down to.
His eyes are fixated on mine, brown flecked with amber and gold, all the tiny little colours reflecting each other. I can’t seem to look away.
“I didn’t hurt you, did I?” I ask him hoarsely.
His right arm lifts up. His fingers, rough and calloused from the broom, slowly brush away my falling strands of hair, and tuck them gently behind my ear. I can barely breathe.
I can hear my heart pounding in my chest. Thump. Thump.
“No,” he replies. His voice is low and quiet, husky after all the shouting and screaming. Thump. Thump.
Suddenly the world has never seemed more quiet.
Both his arms are somehow placed on mine, holding me to him so that I can’t escape. Not that I would ever want to. Thump, goes my heart again.
Our faces are inches from one another, inches that I could so easily close if I just pressed my lips onto his. Thump. His lips that are frozen beneath mine. Thump. His body is so warm underneath mine, so solid and firm. Thump.
His eyes bear into me. I swear they just trailed over my lips, and then back up to my eyes. Thump Thump Thump.
And suddenly, out of nowhere, I’m scared. No, I’m terrified. I can’t do this.
My whole body is frozen with fear one second, the next second I’m scrambling to get on my feet, rolling off him completely, and standing up clumsily, so quickly that I’m not sure it actually happened. James is still frozen on the ground, staring at me in bewilderment.
“I-uh-I-uh-I have t-to go,” I stammer awkwardly at him, before running off, stumbling away with my heart racing in my mouth.
A/N: Ahem, some of you may want to murder Stella right now. I would ask you to please take it up with her, I had nothing to do with it, I promise. Please don't throw things at me.
I realise there was much of an update on the other characters, but hopefully i made up for it with lots of James/Stella action, or lack thereof. Ha ha, good one, right? (Seriously, though, please don't throw anything)
Next chapter is the fateful quidditch match. It'll be a much faster update than this one was, hopefully within the next week.
Here is a pathetically tiny preview, but a preview nonetheless:
“Is there something wrong with you?” Ray asks me, frowning curiously, “You’re all…twitchy.”
“What? No I’m not!” I flinch at the sounds of cheering coming from all directions. Everyone is already sat in the stands, screaming and flying their banners. Tensions are running high, the way they always are at a Gryffindor versus Slytherin match. “Can we just go and sit down there?”
I point towards a low corner of the stands, completely out of sight of someone high in the air.
“Don’t you want somewhere with a better view?” Ray scans the crowd, looking for a spot in a higher location.
“No,” I mutter, “We should keep out of sight.”
“Okay,” Ray frowns even more suspiciously at me, “We’ll sit here then.”
We take our seats, and I glance a few times over my shoulder, but thankfully James is nowhere to be seen. He’s probably giving his team last minute tactics.
If anyone thinks James is stressed during normal quidditch practices, then they haven’t seen him before a match, and, more importantly, a match against his younger brother.
I would hate to be anywhere near him right now, even if I hadn’t almost planted one on him.
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