The visit to the Healer hadn't gone too bad. They had laid her back on a metal table with a sheet cover-- their wands whipping above her. Bringing up a sort of photo of the mass inside of her breast-- it hadn't progressed further. In the corner of the room, both her parents stood wide-eyed and pale, relieved that as least it hadn't gotten worse. Before returning Nautica to school, they decided to stop at the Leaky Cauldron for lunch.
For a Friday afternoon, it was filled to the brim with other witches and wizards enjoying meals on their paydays. They had managed to find a small rickety table, barely big enough for the three of them in the back. "How's school going?" Her mother had asked, her amber eyes probing into Nautica's.
How was school going exactly? Ever since the blue vat had fallen on top of her and Santiago a few days prior, Nautica had shied away from contact from anyone. She hadn't spoken to her friends. Nor to James, who had repeatedly tried to apologize to her after the incident. She could barely pay attention to her classes, her entire body was in pain. Her joints creaked, her back ached, and her head felt like it was too heavy for her neck. School was becoming an awful experience, but she didn't want to worry her parents.
"It's great," She had lied through her teeth, grimacing at them with the effort to smile. Both nod, not quite believing her-- but not wanting to call her out on it. Her father looked as stressed as Nautica, black circles forming beneath his eyes. "How's work, Dad?" He is one of the many people that oversees the Sports department. Having a World Cup in the works for the following year had to be stressful on top of having an ailing daughter.
"Problems with finding a proper location," He had mumbled under his breathe. "We had thought we found one, but there had come up some trouble with the paperwork. Less than a year left--"
"Have you spoken to your friends yet?" Louisa had interrupted her ex-husband, rolling her eyes at his complaints. As an editor at the Daily Prophet, she had never cared to understand what exactly was so stressful about his job. In her mind, how could heading Sports be anywhere as tough as meeting deadlines and dealing with snippy writers?
"No, I don't intend to bother them with it either," Nautica said honestly, pushing her food around on her plate. Eating was still a nuisance. She could barely keep down anything, each dose of Potion making it harder on her stomach.
"You really do need someone to lean on," Her father had finally come back into the conversation, looking worried for her even more. "You can't just keep it to yourself. Haven't they been asking questions about you resigning as Captain and Prefect?"
"I've not resigned as Prefect, Dad," Nautica had reminded him, sighing. "I CAN still do that and I refuse to give it up. But they can ask all the questions they'd like. I'm still not saying a word." Both of her parents had glanced at each other with knowing. Their daughter could be quite the stubborn creature and no good could come from forcing her to do something she didn't want to do-- they had experience to back that up.
After having finished their lunch, she had flooed back to Hogwarts. Returning into the fireplace of Headmistress McGonagall who barely glanced up from the papers she was writing on. "I hope the news was well," She said quietly, not quite having caught Nautica's eye.
"No better or worse," Was her reply.
Now, having returned to her common room, Nautica sits on the window seat overlooking the mountains behind Hogwarts. Her hair has been tied back with a pretty blue bow that matches her uniform emblem, her feet tucked beneath her as she presses her forehead to the cool window pane.
From here, she can see the Quidditch pitch in the distance and her team flying about. The yearning to fly is an almost painful feeling in her chest, her hands tightening in her lap. She has always loved it. It was an art of it's own. Being a seeker, she had more freedom than all of the other positons. She was able to better enjoy the feeling of being on a broomstick. The rush of spotting the snitch and catching it.
She would give just about anything to be able to join them back on the pitch. Her father, being who he is, has always loved Quidditch. He had been a beater back in his day, and had been anxious to get his only child on a broom. He'd been lucky to find that she had talent of her own. She'd learned at the tender age of four, after he had convinced his wife to let her do it. And since then, she's been on a broom. Well until now.
Squeezing her eyes shut, she feels the tears building up. The only time she's let herself truly feel hurt or broken or less than, was when she had found her hair on her pillow. She hadn't let herself truly commemorate the loss of her team. The team she had Captained. The team she so badly wanted to be a part of. Instead, she had tucked it deep inside of her and had moved on. Pulling her robe closer to her, she climbs from the window seat and walks quickly from the common room.
She didn't want to cry in front of anyone.
Without thinking, her feet lead her to the outer door that's not too far from the Pitch. Without pausing, she pushes it open, smiling as the sun hits her face and warms it. Has she always felt this cold? Nautica strides confidently down toward where her team is wrapping up practice, her emotions slowly calming themselves as she does so. The tears are no longer threatening to fall.
"Nautica?' Tessla inquires, glancing up from her clipboard as her old Captain enters the locker room. "You're back on the team?!" The excitement in her voice makes a small part of Nautica curl up and die.
"I can't still," She says quietly, "Can I speak to you in the office, Tess?" Nodding, the other girl leads her into the office connected to the locker rooms. It's the same as Nautica had left it. A small desk shoved against the wall, binders of plays stacked up. An old chalkboard on the other side. Once inside, Tess sits unceremoniously on the desk, her hands clasped together in her lap. She looks almost nervous. "Look-- I can't fly for you guys, but would you mind if I helped Co-Captain?"
"Really?" Tessla perks up, excitement lighting up her entire face. Nautica had been so wrapped in her misery, she had failed to notice the slump in her roommate's shoulders. The stress in her eyes. This sudden change of demeanor makes her realize that she hadn't been a true friend as of lately. "Because-- if that's what you want to do, then yes! A million times yes!" Grinning broadly, she throws her arms around Nautica's shoulders.
"Wow-- I hadn't expected this reaction," Nautica says honestly, biting the inside of her cheek.
"You really have no idea," Tess admits, "I've been freaking out-- because Nautica, I have a newfound appreciation for how much you threw into this team. And whatever the reason for you being unable to play, I'm glad you've at least decided to still be a part of this. Because I know how much you love Quidditch and this team. And-- I'm happy for you to be able to do this."
"Thank you," Nautica says quietly, deeply touched by her words. "And I'm sorry that I kind of tossed you into this position. I hadn't even thought to do the Co-Captain thing until right now really. I've been a horrid friend." She laughs nearly hysterically, bittersweet tears falling down her cheeks without warning. She was happy to be back, but guilty for having left so abruptly in the first place.
"No, you haven't," Santiago says, entering the office. "You've seemed to have a lot on your plate and I'm just as happy as Tess that you've decided to at least come back whichever way you can." Sobbing openly now as the sweetness of her friends, she throws her arms around both of them. The three hold tightly to each other, feeling the bond that had kept their team together these last five years.
Finally, Nautica pulls away, wiping at her eyes. "I think I'm going to head back now, can I get a copy of the schedule you've put together?"
"Of course," Tess grabs a blank parchment, waving her wand over it, leaving a finished copy in it's wake. "Here, and of course, you must be here for the Hufflepuff game tomorrow." Nodding hurriedly, she smiles. "I'm glad you're back, Nautica."
She leaves the locker rooms with a skip in her step and happiness sending her heart pounding. When she had first been diagnosed, just a few weeks ago, she had taken it with pity and had instantly resigned. If she couldn't fly, then she couldn't captain. That's what had run through her head at the time, but now, she knows that had been a mistake. Why can't she help Captain from the ground? So what if she couldn't fly with them?
It's as she nears the door back into the castle that it bursts open the Gryffindor team comes bumbling out. That's right, bumbling. They are all nearly tripping over their own feet as they laugh. James is trailing his team, laughing just as madly. Until he lays eyes on Nautica.
Again, they haven't spoken since the blue vat incident, despite his numerous attempts to speak to her. But now, after returning herself to the team, she can't help the smirk that forms on her lips. Brows furrowed, his face a mix of confusion and delight, he stops right in front of her. "What are you smirking about, Pheonix?"
"You'll hear soon enough," She says, tugging on a stray strand of her hair nervously. "Let's just say, your team has a bit more to worry about now."
"Are you back on the team?"
Shrugging nonchalantly, she heads towards the door, sending him a wink. As she goes, confusion hits her at her actions. Was she just flirting with James Potter, of all people? Did she really just wink at him? Glancing back, she sees him still standing where she'd left him, a befuddled look on his handsome face. Grinning broadly now, she enters the castle with a skip in her step.
The newfound good mood follows Nautica to the following morning. After having spoken to McGonagall the night before, she appears at breakfast dressed in blue Captain's robes. Beside her, feigning confidence, is Tess in her own Captain robes. After having thrown up nearly twenty minutes ago from nervousness, Tess is now putting on a brave front for the school. Her blond hair is pulled tightly back with a no-nonsense look upon her face.
The jeering from Hufflepuff table gets louder as they realize that Nautica is dressed the exact same as Tessla. Rooting for Hufflepuff to win, Gryffindor is yelling just as obnoxiously. Slytherin, on the otherhand, a known support for Ravenclaw, claps their hands loudly as the two Captains head for their table.
"Two Captains? Can they do that?!"
"What-? Does that mean Nautica will be flying today?"
The questions fly throughout the Great Hall as the duo take a seat. They both ignore it, smiling confidently at their teammates. Nautica remembers the past years. The jeering and the trash talk that followed everyone on the team, but she had never truly been affected by it. Neither had Tessa, before. But now, as a Captain of the team, her face looks a little green.
"Welcome back," Erica says with a grin, clapping Nautica on the shoulder. The others do the same, excitement on their faces.
"Am I still playing seeker?" Matthew Higgins, the recently made first-string seeker asks with confusion. He had been practicing for this the last two weeks and didn't look too happy about that being snatched away from him the morning of Game Day.
"Yes, of course," Nautica responds mildly, glancing at the toast Santiago had placed on her plate. "I am going to be helping Captain from the ground. And Tess will be able to better focus on tossing in Quaffles." Both girls grin at each other. The boy nods with relief evident on his face.
It's as the Ravenclaw team is standing to head down toward the pitch that James walks by, bumping his shoulder lightly into Nautica. "Oh sorry, Pheonix," He says none to apologetically, a smile curving his lips.
"Don't worry about it Potter," Nautica says, ignoring the anxiety of seeing him.
"Congratulations, by the way," He calls as he continues walking with a group of his friends. "The Robes look good on you!" With his cheeks tinging pink, he disappears in the throng of students already making their way down to the Pitch.
"What was that all about?" Santiago asks, glaring at where James has disappeared from. She gives a shake of her head, wanting to leave that conversation alone. If anyone were to have a problem with her POSSIBLY fancying James Potter, it would be Santiago. She has been Team Hate James Potter for years, and for that suddenly to flip, would probably be too much for him.
Probably would get whiplash. She thinks with an inward sigh. For last night, she had realized with a hit of clarity that she in fact was beginning to have a thing for James. Like a small thing. Where she could flirt with him and stare at him, but not doing anything with him.
Besides, how would he feel is he knew how broken she was on the inside? How her body has failed her? Grumbling to herself, she pushes those thoughts away, not wanting to focus on the negative. She's back on the team, and for now, she can effectively ignore the nausea in her stomach, and the headache pounding away in the back of her head.
"BRIGHTON! HANNAH! FOCUS ON THE BLOODY BLUDGER, WHY DON'T YOU?!!" Nautica is screaming at the top of her lungs, her arms waving forcefully, wishing for the upteenth time that she was in the air with them. Stupid healers banning her from a broom. Brighton gives her a cheeky grin as he flies past, bat swinging wildly for a bluger heading in Matthew's direction.
Her chasers, consisting of Erica, Santiago, and Tessla are throwing as well as they had been two weeks prior. They are consistently in sinc, throwing in as many Quaffles as they can. Luckily, the Hufflepuff's keeper isn't as good as theirs. Because, Ravenclaw is in the lead.
"Oh-- another shot for Ravenclaw! The score is currently 40-20!" Leona Grabill yells in the microphone. The stands dressed vivdly in blue scream their hearts out, excitement filling the crowd. Nautica, on a platform resting on the Pitch's ground, is high enough to be heard by her players if they were at least halfway across the Pitch, but low enough to more than likely not be hit with something. "Looks like Ravenclaw's keeper, Samantha Headley, is losing her touch. She just let another Quaffle in making the score 40-30!"
"HEADLEY! YOU HAVE TO MOVE FASTER! QUICKER DIVES!" She is yelling, her cheeks burning with the energy coursing through her. "PAY ATTENTION!"
"You all hear, Co-Captain, of the Ravenclaw team, Nautica Pheonix yelling down there?" Leona says loudly into the microphone. "I didn't even know that teams could have two Captains! What the bloody hell is-?"
"LANGUAGE!" Professor Longbottom could be heard yelling from the side.
"Right you are Professor!" Leona says quickly to the laughter in the stands. Nautica ignores the cat calls from the stands, her focus entirely on the game. To the first side of the pitch, she can see Matthew suddenly dipping into a dive. The Hufflepuff's seeker mimicking him.
"GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" Nautica screams, her heart thumping wildly in her chest. Her hands clenched above her head. Her mouth hanging open as Matthew leans forward on his broom, his hand outreached--
It's at that exact moment that the world goes black for Nautica. She hears the distant screams in the background. Her entire body seems to crumple.
Thank you so much for reading, my lovelies. Please let me know what you think. I wasn't so sure about making her admit fancying James so soon, but oh well...
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