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Playing in a Quidditch Cup final is never a relaxing, calming experience.  Doing it while worrying about the plan you’ve hatched with the girl you secretly fancy, to get your favourite cousin and her Slytherin boyfriend – whom you’re still not entirely sold on – back together and also trying to plan a sneaky secret moment with aforementioned object of your fancies is enough to make me want to throw up all over the pitch.

Perhaps the decision to try and get Rose to listen to Scorpius was a stupid one, but he had just seemed so pathetic the other day when he came up to me in the library that not helping him would have felt like kicking a puppy.  And there was the Lucy factor too – I liked to pretend I was being all noble and open minded, but the truth was that hatching this scheme with Lucy was something I’d jumped at because it meant spending more time with her.  And maybe, just maybe, she would see me as kind, sensitive and caring; In my own twisted logic, I believe that getting Rose and Scorpius back together would cancel out all memories of our fight just before her birthday.

And the ridiculous idea I’d come up with that morning to try and get her away from the crowd of people at the party for some ‘quality time’ after we’d reunited the two lovebirds?  Well that was definitely not the act of a gentleman.  The worst thing was, I could feel myself becoming this crazy, creepy stalker bloke, but I couldn’t seem to stop it.  I’d say to myself Right, self-control.  You’re not going to talk to Lucy today unless she speaks to you first, and then I’d walk into the common room, see her sitting on a sofa reading and two seconds later I’d be next to her asking about a Potions assignment or something else equally flimsy.

You are a poor excuse for a Gryffindor, Albus Potter.  The voice in my head mocked me, and I found myself wondering for a moment if I should have just given in to the sorting hat and let it put me in Slytherin.  I was being sneaky and underhanded enough to justify it.

Just then, my thoughts were broken by a flash of gold way over the other side of the pitch.  Cursing myself for being so far away, I turned my broom handle and began racing towards the snitch as quickly as I could.  It wasn’t fast enough though, and I could see Amanda Jones, the Hufflepuff seeker, ahead of me, her long blonde plait streaming behind her as she drew closer to the tiny golden ball.  She’s going to catch the snitch. Damn it! Damn it!  Damn it!

Just as I was about to give up all hope of catching the snitch and winning the match, not to mention the success of any other plans I’d laid out, an almighty ‘crack’ resonated around the pitch.  In my peripheral vision I saw Fred, beater’s bat raised as a bludger barrelled away from him towards the gap of empty sky between Amanda and the snitch.  She obviously saw the bludger too and realised where it was heading, because in an act of incredibly agile reflexes, Amanda swerved to her left to avoid being hit.  The bludger rocketed past her, missing her head by mere inches, and whilst she was safe and unharmed, the sudden change in direction had unbalanced her.  By the time she’d resumed course, I’d overtaken her and caught the surprisingly stationary snitch in my right hand with an unbelievable amount of ease.

It’s odd the way the mind works.  In that moment I should have felt elation, joy, excitement, a sense of victory and pride.  I should have been delighted that I had secured the success of my plans for the afternoon.  However, the first emotion that rippled through me was guilt; I caught sight of the disappointed look on Amanda Jones’ face and my heart dropped.  It was stupid, after all I knew I’d be feeling a lot worse if she’d caught the snitch before me, and yet I still felt bad for her.

Before I could dwell on this too much, the rest of the team appeared, engulfing me in a massive, mid-air, group hug, the sounds of the screaming Gryffindor fans filling my ears.  All other emotions disappeared as the euphoria of success overtook me, and I found myself zooming around the pitch in a victory lap, the golden snitch held tightly in my palm as I thrust my fist in the air. 

Fred led the pack, laughing and winking at people as he pointed finger-pistols in their direction; Jane, Lizzy and Corrine were in front of me, giggling and waving to the crowd.  James was next to Fred, and I was glad to see him looking so happy for once.  As we approached the area of the stands that was dominated by red and gold, I found myself scanning the crowd for familiar faces.  I spotted Rose first, a small smile on her face which gave me hope, and then my eyes fell on that familiar face.  Lucy grinned at me and gave me a small thumbs-up when our eyes met, and I winked at her in response.  Sweet Merlin, did I just wink at her?  How cheesy!  I flew past too quickly to see Lucy’s reaction, but since she was probably trying not to laugh at me, I was relieved.

After a few laps of the pitch and handshakes with the Hufflepuff team, we made our way to the teacher’s stand where Professor Sprout handed James the gleaming Quidditch Cup.  Photos were taken and shiny gold winner’s badges were handed out before we were finally allowed to head down to the change rooms.  Everyone was in high spirits as we all showered and dressed in fresh clothes, Fred and Will constantly bursting into some sort of Gryffindor victory song they seemed to be making up as they went.

When we climbed through the portrait hole, the cheer that greeted us was so loud I actually heard the Fat Lady groan in protest.  I automatically began scanning the room for a glimpse of Lucy, but there were too many people crowding around us, all wanting to congratulate the champions and ask us questions about the match.

“Albus, you were just incredible out there,” A blonde-haired sixth year gushed, grabbing on to my arm a little too tightly. 

“Really fantastic,” Her red-haired friend nodded enthusiastically.

“Uh…thanks,” I reply.  “But it was a team effort.”

“Oh but you were the one who caught the snitch,” The red-head beamed.  Oh brother, I thought, fighting the urge to roll my eyes.  I managed to extricate myself from the two sixth years, only to be cornered by bloody Mary Temple.

“Albus, congratulations!” She exclaimed, throwing her arms around my neck.

“Thanks, Mary,” I said, patting her awkwardly on the back.

“You know, I feel kind of bad about the way things ended between us,” She said, fluttering her eyelashes at me.  Seriously?  Girls actually do that?  “Maybe we could hang out again sometime soon?”

“Oh…well…” I stammered, trying to think of a tactful way to remind her that I was the one who ended things so it was less than likely that I would want to take up with her again.  Fortunately, I was saved from answering when I spotted Will.  “Uh, excuse me will you?” I said, slipping between a couple of third-years before she could respond.

“You alright, mate?” Will asked when I reached him.  “You look like you’ve just escaped a stampede of angry hippogriffs.”

“Oh believe me, I think I’d rather face the hippogriffs,” I said.  “You haven’t seen Lucy, have you?”

“Yeah, she’s right there,” Will said, nodding across the room where Lucy was standing next to Jane.  I smiled, glad to have finally found her in the crowd, but my relief was suddenly replaced with another emotion as I saw Fred walk up to them and wrap his arms around Lucy.

“Excuse me,” I muttered darkly, pushing through the crowd.  Jealousy tugged at my heart as I saw Fred step back from Lucy and throw an arm over her shoulders.  As I drew near, I could hear his boasting; normally it would make me laugh, but I was so annoyed with him that I just wanted to roll my eyes again.

“…just saved the entire match and Quidditch cup for Gryffindor, no problems whatsoever,” He was saying when I finally reached them.

“And of course I had nothing to do with it,” I tried to keep my voice light and joking, but I couldn’t stop myself from glaring at Fred; he raised a confused eyebrow at me.

“Well I think you guys made a good team,” Lucy’s voice cut through the tension and I turned to look at her, all of my anger dissolving into nothing when I met her eyes.

“Thank you Bell,” I said, and before I could think too much about it and change my mind, I stepped forward and hugged her.  I felt Lucy’s arms wrap tightly around my chest as her chin rested on my shoulder.  I felt the familiar swooping sensation in my stomach as the scent of her hair tempted me.  “Are we all good to go?” I whispered, hoping nobody else noticed.

“Ready when you are,” She whispered back, her breath tickling the sensitive skin beneath my ear.

“Ok, ten minutes then?” I murmured.

“Ten minutes,” Her voice was barely audible, and then she pulled back out of my arms and I felt suddenly cold.

“And you say I flirt with all the girls mate,” Fred teased, and I clenched my teeth together so I wouldn’t snap at him.  He didn’t know how I felt after all, he didn’t realise what he was doing to me when he flirted with Lucy.

“I’m going to get a drink,” Lucy said and before any of us could respond, she disappeared back into the crowd.

“That sounds like an excellent idea, I’m rather thirsty myself,” I said and moved towards the table where the drinks where the drinks were usually kept at Gryffindor parties.  There was a crate of butterbeer and I quickly slipped two into my pockets, thanking Auntie Hermione silently for teaching Mum how to cast undetectable extension charms.  Moving quickly and refusing to stop and talk, I made my way to the portrait hole and climbed out to the empty corridor beyond. 

Breathing a sigh of relief to be free of the crowd so easily, I hurried down a few corridors to the place where Scorpius and I had agreed to meet.  When I opened the door to the disused classroom, the blonde-haired Slytherin was already waiting.  He jumped up from where he was leaning on the teacher’s desk when I entered, looking as skittish as a scared puffeskein.

Scorpius Malfoy and I had never been friends, although to be honest we hadn’t exactly been enemies either.  I knew that Uncle Ron didn’t like Mr. Malfoy very much, but when I asked Mum about it, she told me that Mr. Malfoy had always picked on Uncle Ron at school and Uncle Ron had never quite been able to get past that.  I accepted this until the end of third year when, on platform 9¾, I overheard Uncle Ron mumble something rude about Mr. Malfoy under his breath.  Auntie Hermione noticed that Rose and I were nearby so she elbowed Uncle Ron in the ribs and gave him a cross look.  That was enough to inflame my curiosity so I asked Dad about it.

“Mr. Malfoy’s was involved in the war,” He had explained.  “His father was a death eater and his Aunt was one of Voldemort’s most devoted followers.  Mr. Malfoy joined the Death Eaters while we were still at school and played a big part in several significant events during the war.”

“Mr. Malfoy was a Death Eater?” I had gasped.  “But I thought they were all sent to Azkaban.”

“Draco Malfoy was…is…a very complicated person,” Dad had continued.  “There was a time when I hated him, and believed he deserved everything he got.”

“What changed?”

“I saw a lot during the war and the years leading up to it that nobody else saw,” Dad had looked thoughtful for a moment.  I knew some of his stories about the war but I also knew there was a lot he hadn’t told me or my siblings.  To this day, I think the only person he’s told everything to is Mum.  “I saw a side to Mr. Malfoy that made me realise that to an extent he didn’t have a lot of choice when it came to his association with Voldemort.  He still did a lot of things that he shouldn’t have, but I realised he was not inherently evil.  I testified as much after the war and fought very hard to keep Mr. Malfoy out of prison in the hope that he would take the second chance and turn his life around.  I believe he has, and he is a functioning and contributing member of magical society.  I don’t have any desire to be his friend, but I accept that he has worked very hard to become a better person.”

Despite knowing this, I’d never felt the need to become friends with Scorpius.  We were in different houses, had different friends and with the exception of Quidditch, we’d never had any cause for interaction until that fateful afternoon when Lucy and I had discovered him snogging Rose in the secret passageway.  I honestly didn’t even care that much that Rose was involved with Scorpius.  Sure, I’d reacted badly initially, but that was more of an ingrained, family-prejudice-towards-Slytherins response.  Childish and stupid, I know. Then again, I’ve never been known for my level head in stressful situations; look what I did to McMillan.

“Is she coming?” Scorpius asked nervously, looking over my shoulder to the open door.

“They’ll be here in a minute,” I replied.  “You alright?”  He looked a little green and I hoped he wasn’t going to throw up.  He really did look pathetic, just like he did when he’d first approached me in the library.  I’m still not sure why he chose me to come to for help, maybe because I’d known about them for weeks and hadn’t snitched or perhaps it was because Rose had mentioned to him how close we were so he thought she’d listen to me. 

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Scorpius mumbled, sounding anything but.  “I’m just a bit…I mean what if she doesn’t…you know?”

“Yeah, I know,” I shrugged, and I honestly did.  This was the reason I’d agreed to help him; because when he’d stood there in the aisle between the Transfiguration and Charms sections of the library, asking me if I’d spoken to Rose and if she was ok, I’d recognised the look in his eyes.  In fact I didn’t just recognise the emotion on his face, I remembered all too keenly how it felt, what it was like to be mad about a girl and have her avoid you, refuse to talk to you or even look at you. 

Nothing brings people together like heartbreak.

“I’ll wait for them out in the corridor,” I said and Scorpius just nodded in reply.  I closed the door behind me and leaned against the wall, feeling almost as nervous as Scorpius looked.  If this went badly, I was going to spend the rest of the evening consoling Rose, Scorpius or both.  However, if it went well and they reconciled, I might just be able to convince Lucy to take a stroll up to the Owlery.  The lie we’d decided Lucy should give Rose as an excuse to get out of the common room is what had inspired me, and it wasn’t a bad idea even if I do say so myself.  Being around animals always put Lucy in a good mood and as long as Kenrick didn’t flirt with her too much…

I didn’t get to finish that thought because Rose and Lucy appeared around the corner at that precise moment.  Rose stopped and stared at me before turning to Lucy in confusion.

“Al, what are you doing here?” She said.

“Rosie, we want to talk to you about something,” I gently took her arm with one hand and pushed the classroom door open with the other.

“What do you…?” She said, but the presence of Scorpius rendered her temporarily mute.

If I can say one thing about Scorpius Malfoy, it’s that he is a braver man than I am.  The somewhat rushed yet completely genuine and romantic speech he gave was amazingly courageous.  As Rose fell into his arms, I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of how he had just told her how he felt.  I reached out and touched Lucy’s shoulder, wondering how she would react if I just blurted out my feelings.

“I fancy you Lucy, I fantasise about kissing you and touching you and…”  Yeah, that would go down well!

“I think this is our cue to leave,” is what I actually whispered into her ear.  With one last glance at the now snogging couple, she smiled and followed me out into the corridor.  We started to walk back in the direction of the common room and I knew that if I didn’t say something quickly, I lose my chance altogether.  My palms were starting to sweat and my mouth felt dry, but as we approached a narrow stairwell, I mustered my courage and spoke.

“Hey, I don’t really feel like going back in to the party and facing the crowds right now.  Would you fancy a stroll up to the Owlery after all?”  I stopped and gestured in the direction of the stairs, hoping I didn’t look or sound too eager.

“Sure,” she replied easily and I was so surprised by how easy it was that I spent most of the climb to the Owlery lost in my own thoughts.  I wondered if maybe I should take my chance and just tell Lucy how I felt.  After all, it had worked for Scorpius.

Yeah but look what happened when you nearly kissed her on her birthday, the cynical voice in my head returned. 

I don’t necessarily know that’s why she was acting weird the next day, I argued back with myself.  She might have been embarrassed that there were lots of people watching or maybe her head still hurt…

It was a common argument that had been going on in my head for weeks now.  Every time I convinced myself to work up the nerve to ask Lucy out or kiss her or tell her how I felt, my sense of self-doubt would creep back in and I would chicken out.

Some Gryffindor, I mocked myself as we reached the Owlery.  About as brave as a first year alone in the Forbidden Forest at midnight.

“Hey there little buddy,” Lucy crooned to her owl as he dived down to perch on her shoulder.  “You miss me?”  Kenrick made a slower descent and maybe I was imagining things, but I thought he looked kind of jealous of the younger bird.  I would have laughed if I hadn’t been afraid of Lucy asking me what was so funny.

“Here you go boys, I have a treat for you,” Lucy said, reaching into her pocket for a box of owl nuts.

“Do you always carrying them around with you?”  I laughed as Lucy approached me to feed some of the treats to Kenrick.  She was standing quite close and when she looked up and smiled at me, my heart began doing a sort of erratic tap dance.

Eventually, we found ourselves on the floor drinking the butterbeer I’d brought with me, and the topic soon turned to love, and the way in which most of our friends seemed to be getting involved with someone or other.  I may be guilty of nudging the conversation in that particular direction, just to see how Lucy would react. 

I get it, I get it, I’m a coward and I don’t deserve to be in Gryffindor, let’s move past the obvious, shall we?

After a bit of banter about where these sudden amorous feelings had come from, I decided to see how far I could take the conversation.

“I guess I can see the appeal,” I said.

“Sorry?” Lucy said.  She was watching the owls across the room and sounded more confused than anything else.

“Falling in love,” I clarified, wondering if I should keep going.  Come on Al, you big chicken…say it!  “I can see why people make such a big deal out of it.  Falling for someone can be pretty incredible.”

There!  Now that wasn’t so hard was it?

“I guess so,” Lucy replied and, feeling suddenly liberated by my ability to actually broach the subject, I kept going.

“Like the way that one person can make your whole day better just by smiling at you, and how when you touch them it feels like there’s a spark running between you,” I smiled to myself as a montage of those sort of moments with Lucy ran through my brain like some sort of speeding slide show.  I forced myself not to look at Lucy though, just in case my expression betrayed me.

“Yeah, that’s a pretty incredible feeling,” Lucy replied and a tingly sort of warmth spread through me.  She knew how I felt, she understood and maybe, just maybe she felt that way about me.  All I had to do was turn to her and say “Lucy I feel that way about –”

“Though it doesn’t always work out that way.  Love has the potential to be the worst thing in the world.” Lucy’s words felt like a bucket of icy water being dumped on my head and it washed away all the nice warm feelings I’d just been experiencing.  I turned my head to look at her.

“That’s a bit harsh,” I managed to say, hoping my eagerness to change her mind wasn’t too obvious in my voice.

“Try falling in love with someone who doesn’t love you back,” she replied and my heart seemed to stop working for a moment.  I opened my mouth to speak but I couldn’t think of the right words.  It didn’t matter though, because Lucy chose that moment to elaborate.

“You convince yourself that you’re happy just being friends with them and any time you get to spend with them is enough, but then every time you realise they don’t love you back it’s like a knife twisting in your heart.  Sometimes love just doesn’t seem worth it.”  Her voice was shaking a bit by the time she stopped talking and I was pretty sure I’d forgotten altogether how to breathe.

What was she saying?  Was she talking about McMillan?  No, that didn’t make any sense, I was pretty sure she hated that git as much as I did – well almost as much as I did.  Maybe some boy she fancied before this year?  Will had admitted to me that he’d kissed her in third year, and despite the fact that I’d wanted to hex the lights out of him, I knew it would be ridiculous considering that in third year I barely even knew Lucy existed.  This did however make me realise that there had probably been other boys in Lucy’s life and maybe one of them had really hurt her.

Or what if she’s not talking about her past?

The idea hit me like a ton of bricks and my whole body seemed to tense up and fall apart all at the same moment.  That had to be it: the sad look on her face, the shaking in her voice, the fact that she got all funny after the whole kissing incident.  Lucy was in love with some guy and he didn’t feel the same way.

The horror that had gripped me at this realisation suddenly turned to anger; how could any guy not be crazy about Lucy?  If she was in love with me it would be the best thing to ever happen to me, and I couldn’t bear the thought of breaking such a tender and kind heart as hers.  As soon as I knew who this guy was, he was getting the same fate as McMillan.  Actually, he was getting worse; much worse.

“Who is he?” I asked, trying not to sound too mad.

“Who is who?” she replied, continuing to stare at the opposite wall.

“The guy who broke your heart,” the words nearly killed me to say aloud, but I had to ask them, I had to know.

“Nothing…I mean no-one,” her words came out in an awkward sort of rush and in any other situation I would have found it completely adorable.  She still wouldn’t look at me but I noticed that her jaw had tensed up like she was trying to stop her lips from trembling the way Lily’s always did before she started crying about something.  I wanted to do something or say something to make her feel better.  It had only been minutes ago that she was giggling about love potions and fizzing whizzbees, and now I’d managed to pretty much reduce her to tears.  I took a breath and offered her the only thing I had to give – honesty.

“If it helps, I know how you feel,” One of her hands was resting on her propped up knee, so I reached out and wrapped my own around it, hoping she would take comfort in the action.  She obviously didn’t because next thing I knew she was on her feet, pulling her hand out of my grip. 

“We should probably get back to the party,” She said, but there was no denying the waver in her voice or the way her bottom lip quivered.  I jumped to my feet and reached out for her hand again, planning to pull her into a comforting hug.

“Lucy, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to upset you,” I said quietly.  As my fingers reached hers, Lucy pulled back from me, shoving her hands in the pockets of her jeans.  Rejection hit me like a bludger to the chest and it took all my self-control not to let the hurt show on my face.

“It’s fine.  Really…it’s fine,” She said, her voice nothing more than a whisper and her eyes glistening with what I thought might be tears.  And then she was gone, running out of the Owlery before I could stop her and leaving me feeling like a complete and utter git. 

“Damn it,” I muttered to myself banging my hand hard against the stone wall.  I couldn’t believe how stupid I’d been.  How could I have stuffed this up so badly?

I stared at the empty doorway, trying to ignore the nearly unbearable pain shooting from my hand and up my arm.  All I wanted was to be with Lucy, to make her laugh and smile and maybe get the occasional snog in.  Was that so much to ask? 

Apparently, it was.

AN: I am so close to the end, I only have another 3 or 4 chapters to write and then this story is done!  Unfortunately, those last few chapters are always the hardest to write, but I'm trying so hard for you guys.  I hope you liked this chapter, I'd love to hear your thoughts.  There's some Jane/Louis cuteness planned for the next chapter, so that's something to look forward to :)  And here's a little sneak peek for you:

In the midst of the tiring yet somewhat boring world of O.W.L preparations, the most surprising thing of all happened: Louis grew a bloody spine!

“I’m going to do it,” He announced to our dormitory at large one evening as we were all getting ready to turn in.  I glanced up at him and then turned back to buttoning up my pyjama top.  Justin, who was in the bathroom brushing his teeth, barely even acknowledged the declaration.  Will was the one to take the bait, although he sounded only vaguely interested when he asked,

“What’s that then?”

“I’m going to tell Jane that I fancy her,” Louis beamed like he’d just won a prize.  Will and I shared a glance and both rolled our eyes. 

“Is that so?” Will asked, sounding amused.

“I’ve had enough of this dithering around, and I can’t focus on my revision either,” Louis continued.  “So tomorrow, first chance I get, I’m going to ask her out.  If she says yes, brilliant.  If she says no, well, I’ll just have to deal with it, won’t I?  At least I’ll know where I stand.”

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