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The clouds above my head rumbled loudly, startling me from my slightly anxious appraisal of the hill in front of me; the rain was still drizzling but it wouldn’t be long before a full hailstorm decided to come visit.

The woods on the top of the hill looked menacing, big dark masses of obstacles and unwanted surprises: the prospect of flying through them didn’t sit well in my stomach and I felt a distinct wave of nausea hit me without warning, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth.

I tried to steel my resolve by looking to my right, were Clara Ashton was standing, straight back and complete race gear that must have cost a fortune; her broom, a Firebolt 180, was hovering on her right, clearly eager to be used if the sudden lurches were anything to go by.

I was glad not to be the only girl racing, seeing as all the other eight participants were boys, but I was beginning to consider the possibility that she might have been even fiercer than some guys down the lane: Hugo Weasley, for example, was sporting a fair, green complexion and looked on the verge of fainting.

Ashton turned her head in my direction, her golden hair combed in a tight, painful looking ponytail and her blue eyes almost black; she didn’t smile, but she also didn’t growl, which I considered a noteworthy improvement in our relationship.

I smiled tentatively. She grimaced and turned back towards the woods, a look of strong determination and utmost concentration deeply settled on her face.

So much for improvements.

I sighed and mentally cursed for the hundredth time my supposed best friend, one Dominique Weasley.

Honestly, I was going to petition the Boards of Governors to convince them to put a footnote at the end of Hogwarts, a History: ‘In the reckless eventuality of befriending a Weasley, one is advised to proceed with utmost care and always remember to locate one’s nearest exit. If possible, abort endeavour altogether.’

Safe to say, a lot of young, innocent lives would be decidedly more tranquil.

The tales of Carla Shackleton and Nikki Weasley were usually fun to share at parties, but taking part in them live was never a sound idea; Salazar knew my parents weren’t happy to hear them.

Family parties were always the dullest for a reason, after all.

The most recent adventure was the reason I, Carla Beatrice Shackleton, was now regretting the very first time my eyes had landed on Nikki’s falsely innocent face and thinking about how all of my problems would just disappear if I never saw her again.

Of course, when I turned behind me and saw her concerned gaze turning into an encouraging one as soon as she noticed me, I couldn’t help but feel a sudden burst of affection for my crazy best friend.

And ok, maybe it wasn’t all her fault.

Everything had started two weeks before, when our boredom had reached new and worryingly tall heights – never a good thing when it came to everybody else – and Nikki had looked at me and said “What do you think would happen if we added weed to an Euphoria Elixir?”

Shit had gone downhill from there, as one would expect.

The idea had made me grin and less than three hours later, we had asked Slughorn to let us borrow some ingredients to practice; seeing as we were both core members of his elite club, he had smiled benignly at us and acquiesced.

“Be careful, girls!” he had added a moment later “I’m not exactly supposed to let you do this.”

We had foolishly assured him that everything was under control.

Enter Lucy Weasley, Nikki’s mad little cousin, who is always up to something and never gets caught. Never.

Except, of course, when three days prior had turned Jada Montgomery’s hair a violent yellow and hadn’t scampered off quickly enough.

So while Lucy was occupied by the first detention after three impeccable years of schooling, dreading the letter that was sure to come by her father, Nikki and I had found that Myrtle’s bathroom was a safe haven for misbehaviour.

“How did you even think of this place?” I had asked. Nikki had smiled sardonically and muttered about family secrets. Suddenly, I didn’t want to know.

As it just so happened – because luck is blind but fate has a telescope – Lucy’s detention on the first floor had just ended and she needed to wash her slimy hands.

One thing led to another and we unwillingly had a new partner in crime, one that never shut up and kept touching everything. Nikki had told me Lucy was abysmal in Potions, which kept me on edge for the entirety of the process. That, and Myrtle’s sobbing in the last stall.

When we had finished the potion, Lucy had offered to try it and while I had refused – not so much because of the weed as for the fact that I didn’t want the responsibility of steering youth towards a path of drugs and sins – Nikki had smiled and thrilled “Wonderful!” like only her mother could have.

Note to self: don’t tell Dominique how much she resembles her mother, for it seemed to convince her even more that drugging her thirteen years old cousin was the best idea she’d had in ages.

And so, Lucy had drunk the potion.

Lucy had liked the potion, actually, since she downed half of it before I could snatch the flask out of her hand.

Lucy had pouted.

Then, she had thrown up. On my skirt.

“Gross.”

“Oh, thanks a lot for the contribution, Nikki! What are we going to do with her now?” I had snapped, trying to charm away the vomit.

Lucy was sprawled on the floor, a mad cackle stubbornly escaping her mouth. Her red flaming hair completed the picture of my next nightmares quite nicely.

“Um… we should bring her to Pomfrey…”

“And never see the light of the sun again? Are you insane?”

“What do you suggest, then?”

I had sighed and jumped a little when Lucy vomited again, this time aiming for my shoes.

“Who can we trust that knows what to do?”

We exchanged a glance, before Nikki crouched in front of Lucy and patted her hair tentatively.

“Lucy…we’re going to see Hagrid now, okay?”

It was afternoon, though, so Nikki had decided to track down her cousins and retrieve the Invisibility Cloak that Potter had passed to his children.

That had left me, an unconscious Weasley princess and illegal drugs all in the same room.

Superfluous to say that when Professor Sprout had entered the bathroom to quickly check her hat, I had been almost expecting it.

Fortunately, all the endeavour had resulted in was a fortnight of detention – recently over – and no expulsion for me. Unfortunately, my parents had been told.

Now, Randall Shackleton – brother of the Baroness of Belgravia – was not a man to cross, when one could avoid. Henrietta Shackleton, unsurprisingly, was exactly the same.

Their disappointing gaze had burned a hole in the back of my head by the time Headmistress McGonagall had finished her piece, and with a promise of a dark Christmas, they had left.

I had naively thought that, for once, that was all and I had gotten away with it scot free, but then my mother had turned, half robes already engulfed in green flames, and had informed me that my funds were henceforth frozen.

My gaping mouth was the last thing she saw before disappearing.

When in Hogwarts, though, why would one need money, except for sweets and drinks at Hogsmeade, right?

Wrong. As I had been as unprepared as usual, and still had to find and buy a dress for Slughorn Christmas bash – epic event of the season.

Which leads finally to me standing under the pouring rain with my faithful Firebolt 90, ready to participate in the illegal broom race John Decker held every three months to win the two hundred galleons of first place.

It was the first race of the year and I had had to fight teeth and nails to secure a spot in it, seeing as everybody wanted to try themselves in the most watched one.

Against my case, there was the fact that I had never participated before and that I was known around Hogwarts to be a girl of ‘frivolous and girly interests’, as Nikki had quite aptly put it when, the next day, Decker had laughed in my face.

But I knew John, after spending six years in the same House, and I knew that everything he wanted out of the race, what he craved like a starved man in the desert, was to put up a show.

And what could be better than the ‘wild card’, one that could be anything from a prodigy to a disastrous catastrophe?

Only the sugar quills that I had forced Nikki to buy him to sweeten my proposition, apparently.

I had explained to him, knowing he wouldn’t tell anyone to increase the suspense, that I was actually quite good at broom racing, seeing as that was the method the Shackleton children – or plagues, as Willy the elf liked to call us – used to settle disputes of high profile in the household, such as who could shotgun when we travelled to Aunt’s.

He had been convinced by the third Sugar quill and the sixth please. Not one of my best performances, but still, I could consider myself satisfied.

Therefore, when the list of racers had been passed to trustworthy people in each House, Hogwarts buzz mill had exploded when they had realized that Carla Shackleton, snob extraordinaire, was participating for the first time.

John had even given me thumbs up when we had passed each other in the Great Hall.

Nikki, however, hadn’t been pleased in the slightest.

“You’re nuts if you think I’m going to lend you the entrance fee!”

“Nikki, c’mon, you know I need the money! I can’t very well show up to the party with last year’s dress. The Seventh Werewolf are gonna be there!”

She had scoffed, all pretences of reading forgotten “You told me you don’t even like them!”

“Who cares!?” I had protested, jumping from my chair before dramatically dropping on the floor, swooning “They’re hot!”

“That’s hardly relevant.”

I had pouted. She had closed her book, staring.

“Nikki.” I had then said, dropping all goofy impressions “I need to cheat my parents’ ban. They think they ruined my life!”

“They seem to have, if you’re ready to risk it for a dress.”

I snorted “You know they can’t compete with me.”

“Oh really?” she had arched a brow, amused despite everything “Have you even seen James racing? Or Clara?”

“You know I don’t like to indulge teenagers in arrogant, self-celebrating events such as the scaaaaary, dangeeerous race. So, no.”

“Why do I even bother with you?”

“I don’t know!” I had stand back up, a victorious expression on my face “Tell you what: you lend me twenty galleons, and I’ll let you smoke first for a month.”

She looked at me like in complete outrage “I want at least three months!”

And so I had gotten the money to enter the race.

The other participants were all veterans except for Hugo Weasley, who had been coached by none other than James Potter, with the intention to make him the next great attraction of the race.

The six left were Seth Vaisey, a short but eventful ex-boyfriend of mine, Dean Finnigan, a sturdy sixth year Gryffindor who was also beater, Marco Ferrari, a handsome Italian stud shipped in Hufflepuff two years before, Harry Creevey, a cute but mean looking fifth year Ravenclaw, Graham Higgs, a bear-like Gryffindor who made me quite nervous and finally Jacob Byron, none other than the very Head Boy of the school.

If only McGonagall could see…

I sneezed violently and cast yet another Impervius, before pocketing my wand again and trying to tuck all loose ends of my jumper into my jeans.

Ashton raised a cocky brow, but didn’t let herself be distracted more than that.

I scoffed.

“Racers!” boomed suddenly Eve Tannen, floating in front of us on her Cleansweep with a skimpy red dress that I found quite stunning and a black piece of cloth in her hand. Obviously, she didn’t look the least perturbed by the rain, as it didn’t even seem to touch her, and for the thousandth time in my life I wondered why I hadn’t asked the Hat to put me in Ravenclaw.

She threw her most sexy smile in our direction and I swear I heard Higgs sigh on my left; when I turned in his direction, puzzled, he held a lovesick puppy stare so masterfully done that even in my current situation of nausea, I couldn’t help but smile and think what a cute couple they’d be, Graham with his six foot three look of pure tall, brooding, dark mysterious playboy and Evangeline with her daring, sexy beauty.

I definitely had to tell Nikki that…

“ARE YOU READY?” roared next Eve, enticing the crowd behind us which, unsettlingly, seemed to comprehend every last student from fifth year onwards, with a few younger exceptions.

Failing in front of them wasn’t going to be nice.

Oh, yes, because in my blissful ignorance at the beginning of my quest, I had simply decided to assume that the competition was going to be pitiful and that I, strong of years of bulling from two older brothers and one older sister, was going to smother them into next year.

Nikki had deemed necessary to inform me of their skills only after I had joined, when she had climbed down the stairs of our dorms with tapes of every race in the last three years.

“How did you even find those?”

She had only raised an eyebrow and said that I shouldn’t have asked questions I didn’t really want to know the answer of, before tapping on the tapes with her wand and sending the video to a mirror she had brought along. I had reluctantly agreed.

Finding out that nearly everyone else was quite ferocious and that I was bound for a stark wakeup call hadn’t been the worst thing of the week, but it had come quite close.

The greatest treats were Clara Ashton, who had won once the previous year, and of course – how cliché – James Sirius Potter, who apparently had started racing in our third year and had won six races out of the twelve he had participated in, particularly the latest two only last year.

I was so screwed I didn’t even know what to do with myself.

“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

“Do you have to be so smug about it? Ok, fine, you were right and I was wrong and hell will always remember. Now… what do I do, Nikki?”

“Hang tight, I guess. And you know I don’t mind lending you the money…”

I had smiled and hugged her fiercely “I know. But still, I want to make it on my own.” I had paused and she had looked at me knowingly.

“Carla, I know what an overbearing family feels like. It’s ok.”

“No, but Nikki... your family is the good kind of overbearing. I don’t mean to say they’re not annoying” I said quickly, knowing that Nikki, being similar to me, wouldn’t want to be reprimanded about her callous relationship with her relatives. Still, I wanted her to understand that my family was overbearing because they simply didn’t think I could make it on my own. Hers was like that because they didn’t want her to hurt in any way possible.

“I just mean… I want to know that I can do it, even if they never find out. You know?”

“I know, I know… just, be careful. In the meantime, I will try to find out James’ weaknesses.”

“He probably doesn’t have any.”

“Oh, Carla” she had said, her eyes shining with excitement “You know everybody has one.”

James Potter, after one week of thorough stalking, was the evident exception to the rules and didn’t seem to possess even a quirky habit that could be exploited malignly.

Clara Ashton instead, whom with I’d been sharing dorm for the past six years, was an open book and after only one hour and a half, I knew that she hated when someone surpassed her on the right and lost her bearings when one flew in circles around her.

Higgs’ hiss brought me back and I realized everyone was mounting their broom; I grabbed mine hesitantly and she felt it immediately, shaking under me.

Annoyed and momentarily forgetting my anxiety, I gripped it firmly and pulled purposefully; the broom, calmed, seemed to remember that I was still the boss and stopped complaining, staying still when I finally mounted.

There wasn’t time to concentrate back on my worries as Eve had whopped excitedly and waved the black flag above her head; I could feel the shift of focus even under the pouring rain and I risked a quick glance toward Potter, who was just after Ashton.

His sharp features were illuminated dimly by the few lanterns hovering above us and the pale light the moon was still able to pass through the clouds; his brown eye were focused on the path in front of him, his mouth clasped in a thin line and suddenly, I felt excited.

I was going to race these people, all intimidating in their own way, and I liked to think that the uncertainty that surrounded my presence was putting them on equal edge; in the previous week, as I had forecasted, I had been the centre of gossip and a strangely high bet in the wealthier circles.

Nobody knew what to expect.

“…Three!” screamed finally Eve at the top of her lungs, throwing the flag under her as the ten of us shoot in the night, Hugo narrowly missing her, eager to fight.

Almost immediately a line was formed as the initial differences of the brooms came into light: Potter, Ashton, Ferrari, Higgs, Creevey, Byron, Vaisey, me, Finnegan and Weasley.

“What?!” I hissed, appalled. I had to swerve quickly on the right to avoid Finnegan and watched him pass me with incredulity. His ass seemed to mock me under the rain and I gritted my teeth, trying to come up with a strategy. Almost 60 foot away, Potter was already approaching the woods.

The race consisted of three laps of the path after the lake on Hogwarts Grounds, far away enough from the school that only the students with brooms could reach it, which started from the edge of the Forbidden Forest over the hill, turned on the right and came out in front of the lake, near the Quidditch pitch; next, the racers had to fly inside the east rings and go back to the start of the course.

I had thought that the woods would weed out the competition, but watching the tapes had surprised me: the real obstacle was to zig-zag in and out of the Quidditch rings, against which at least one racer collided every time. I hoped it wasn’t going to be me.

I shook my hair from my forehead, where it was clinging due to the water, sneezed again and pictured the stunning dark green dress I had seen in Hogsmeade: it was long and mermaid like, with the whole back exposed and the front side closed to the neck; it cost 150 galleons and it was going to be mine.

With decidedly more fervent, I accelerated and started tailing Vaisey, whom had also been surpassed by Finnegan. He seemed to noticed and tried to fly in a zig zag pattern to throw me off, just like Mortimer always did. And, like my brother, he wasn’t going to make it against me: in one swift acceleration, I flew under him, narrowly escaping a low tree and him above me.

“Fuck you, Carla!” he hollered distantly behind me, but I didn’t have the time to answer as the forest appeared finally right in front of me, a tall, unforgiving body as dense as lead.

Then, the light almost disappeared and I instinctively slowed down, unable to see anything over ten feet in front of me. The rain was thankfully non-existent now that the trees were in the way, but I was panicking too much to notice.

Just what in the world had I been thinking? Racing ruthless Quidditch players for a dress.

An enormous truck came out of nowhere and I had to steer sharply to the left, just as Hugo Weasley had apparently been trying to surpass me.

We knocked into each other violently and I somehow managed to remain attached to my broom, while Hugo didn’t have the same luck and plummeted down, disappearing from my sight.

Oh fucking Salazar, what was I supposed to do?

I couldn’t very well leave another Weasley in trouble, since the clan as a whole had decided that I was on parole after the Lucy incident, never mind it had been Nikki’s fault.

Of course, I hadn’t rattled her to her cousins and parents, seeing as Lucy didn’t remember anything and they weren’t my family, so I didn’t really mind; that, I suspected, was the actual reason that had convinced my best friend to support my idiotic idea.

I couldn’t blame the Weasleys, either: nobody in their sane minds would condone an outsider drugging their little cousin.

Well, no one except Fred Weasley, who had come up to me and told me that the whole thing was hilarious and that he had loved my creative thinking, immediately climbing up Nikki’s top ten of cousins.

I felt Vaisey pass me from the left and realized I had been hopelessly hovering on the spot; jerked from the movement, I decided on the spot to go looking for Hugo, forgetting the dress – even though it hurt.

Hugo was fortunately lying a few feet under, groaning in pain and keeping his right arm to his chest.

“Weasley!” I cried and he jumped, startled.

“What are you doing? You’ll lose!”

“Are you ok?” I asked, ignoring the truth in his words. He scrunched up his freckled nose and stared at me.

“Yeah, just a broken arm. Go, stupid!”

“Oi!” I protested, affronted. I appreciated the sentiment, but there was no need to be rude about it.

“Yeah, whatever, just go! I’ll shoot some sparks.”

Sparks. Obviously.

I took out my wand and shoot three jets of powerful red sparks, the one that meant injury, before looking back at the skinny, drenched fourteen years old.

“Now go!”

“You sure?”

“Yes!” he basically shouted, gesturing with the other arm “Go!”

I spied his reddening ears and realized that he probably didn’t like to be in the position of the victim with me fretting over him, so I just nodded and flew away, my bearings completely lost.

The woods part could be easy, if one knew the shortest road, and while I had scouted the place in the previous days, it had been afternoon and it wasn’t raining.

Now, I didn’t have a clue where I was, so I decided to cheat a bit, hoping nobody was going to notice, and casted a point me charm.

It wasn’t cheating, per se, as the only charms forbidden were the ones aimed to other racers, but I wasn’t sure it was allowed, either.

The glimmering line that sprouted from my wand pointed for me to go north east, so I accelerated as much as I felt I could handle, zig-zagging between big sequoias and traitorous branches.

At one point one got stuck in my jumper, ripping off the lower right part, but I almost didn’t notice as I suddenly was out of the woods.

The stark difference between the thick, blanket like humidity of the wood and the pouring rain and icy cold of the grounds left me breathless and I quickly casted the twentieth Impervius of the night, even though it barely made a difference.

Locating the Quidditch pitch right in front of me, about two hundred feet away, I only spotted three figures and hoped without hope they were the first as I sped towards them, now without minding my speed; my broom had been the latest model only two years before, after all, and could reach 200 mph in only ten seconds.

Exactly ten seconds later, I felt like the skin on my face was going to be ripped off, and I had reached the other three figures, recognizing Ashton’s blonde hair with a laugh.

I passed Ferrari and was just behind her when the rings appeared; Potter had already passed them and was shooting back to the starting point.

I slowed down and Ferrari passed me again, but I had no intention to die tonight, not even for that stunning dress.

Clara braved the rings with speed and precision, even waving at the guy hovering nearby who was shooting the whole thing. There also were a few others onlookers that screamed encouragingly.

That was when Ferrari smacked against the rim of the third ring, falling down like a potato sack, fortunately saved by a few people on brooms who caught him mid-air.

I sincerely hoped he was ok, seeing as that kind of beauty wasn’t something that came by every day, before braving the rings myself as fast as I could and accelerating again after Ashton and Potter.

When I passed again the start, I distinctively heard Nikki’s scream and laughed, excited.

The rest of the race passed in a blur, with Weasley and Ferrari out of the race, and me tailing Ashton but never being able to pass her, Higgs right behind me.

That until the last lap, when basically all of us exited the woods at the same time and flew to the rigs as fast as possible: the rings would decide the winner.

Ashton surprisingly reached them first, passing flawlessly, Potter right behind her; that left me, Higgs and Creevey approaching at the same time and my chicken disposition saved me as I decelerated slightly and the boys collided spectacularly mid-air, Higgs spinning away on his broom and Creevey basically thrown away like a rag doll.

I didn’t wait to see what would happen and shot through the rings, colliding painfully with the last one; the sound of my left arm breaking made me want to puke but I didn’t stop, the pain so intense I saw white.

Still, I was too close now to give up, so I pushed myself against my faithful broom and accelerated as much as it allowed me, reaching for Ashton and Potter, who were now next to each other; fortunately, Potter didn’t seem to know he had to surpass Clara on the right, so when I reached her side, they both looked quickly in my direction, Ashton with annoyance mixed with worry and Potter with an expression set in stone.

They both focused back on the race and I felt before seeing Clara swerving in my direction to push me away; with a mighty trust, I flew under and she, not encountering any obstacles to slow her down, shot on our right by at least forty feet, almost striking a tree. She managed to avoid it, but by now she had fallen behind enough that only Potter and I were left in the front.

The finish line was only twenty feet away when my broom slowed down so abruptly that I almost fell over; Potter passed the finish line first, bathing in the cheers from the crowd, with me and Ashton just behind.

The bitch had attached herself to my broom to stop me.

A blind rage cursed through me as I watched Potter fly over the crowd, triumphal and victorious, and I couldn’t help but think that I was supposed to do that, I could have won, for Salazar!

When I turned around, I was ready to eat Clara Ashton alive.

“What the fuck, Ashton?” I screamed, noting that the rain had stopped to fall. A few heads in the crowd turned in our direction and I saw Nikki’s red one swimming through it in an attempt to reach me.

Ashton simply sneered “If it’s not me, at least it’s someone who deserves it. I was never letting you win.” She answered, flying towards the ground lazily.

“Where’s your House pride, bitch?” I shouted, fuming – fucking Ashton had all but sabotaged me to let James Potter win. Outrageous.

I followed her lead, dismounting my broom clumsily, my left arm throbbing painfully as the adrenalin was fading from my body, leaving only a bitter taste of defeat and rage.

I was willing to bet that my usually pale skin was red like fire and I looked a mess of rain, mud and torn clothes. Clara Ashton looked flawless, if only a little wind swept.

“Who the fuck cares about House pride, Shackleton?” she screamed back, now looking as mad as I felt “You are just a snotty, spoiled little girl who doesn’t even know how to spell ‘problems’!”

“Oh, sure!” I said, quickly walking towards her “Cause you’re so much better, aren’t you?”

She had the decency to simply throw me a dirty glance.

“Let’s see” I continued, on a roll, ignoring the fact that the crowd was now wholly focused on our argument “You think you can force people to do what you want only by dropping your name! Clara Ashton, proud pureblood of ancient House, first female racer, first female Captain in Slytherin… urgh, I can’t fucking stand you!”

She smirked “Oh, Shackleton… did I touch a nerve?”

“Fuck you!” I spat, throwing my broom on the ground “You cheated!”

“I did not!” she protested, outraged “There’s nothing that says I couldn’t…”

“I don’t care about the rulebook! You fucking cheated and you know it! What is it?” I asked, now face to face with her. I ignored the wolf whistles and John Decker approaching.

“Do you have a crush on Potter? Is that what it is?” I accused, now smirking as well. She looked stunned and a couple of cheers from the crowd were quickly followed by laughter.

“Didn’t want him to cry?” I mocked with a shrilly voice, a bit too cruelly maybe, but I was knackered, in pain and still mad at her “Poor little Potter, he can’t very well not win, can he?”

“Carla!” called John, finally reaching us; he firmly grabbed my arm to get me away, the left one, of course, prompting a pitiful wail of pain to escape my lips and tears to form in my eyes.

“Fuck’s sake…” I muttered, dizzy with pain.

“Oh Merlin, I am so sorry! Bloody hell… Henry! Bring yo’ stupid ass here!”

“What, boss?” shouted a voice distantly as I tried to focus back on the world around me.

“Come here!”

Nikki appeared out of nowhere and stroked my hair, watching Ashton like she was a particularly smelly dung on the street. Clara simply raised an eyebrow.

“I can’t hear you from here!”

John rolled his eyes “Fuckin idiot.” He muttered, before going to find whoever this Henry was, leaving me, Nikki and Ashton surrounded by people.

The students had actually formed a large circle around us and I saw Ferrari with a head bandage that miraculously didn’t lessen his amazing looks.

“You wouldn’t have won, Shackleton.” Said a deep, calm voice on my side that belonged to none other than James Potter. He was standing next to Clara with a stony look on his face, his amber eyes firmly staring into mine, daring me to contradict him.

“James!” protested Nikki, smacking him on his right arm, but he didn’t even seem to notice, still keeping his gaze trained on me.

A new, hot wave of rage compelled me to snort “Of course I would have won, Potter.” I said, challenge clear in my voice.

He shook his head, his hair almost dry already, then took a few steps in my direction.

“Shackleton, you’re…” crazy? a Bitch? “…cute, but let’s face the facts: you could have never beaten me. Ashton managed last year, and she is a thousand time a better racer than you, only because I had a fever.”

Ashton looked like she didn’t quite know if she had just been insulted or complimented, so she settled to glare at me.

“So, really, Ashton’s stunt didn’t change anything.”

“How arrogant can you be, Potter?” I asked, incredulous. He looked genuinely convinced of what he was saying, which almost made me laugh. Poor idiot “Do you really think you’re infallible?”

“I am.” He said assuredly, and the admission seemed to fill him with smug confidence as he rearranged his body in a lazy pose, crossing his arms on his chest and smirking roguishly.

It immediately annoyed me to no end that he could still look this handsome even after a crazy dangerous race.

“No, you are ridiculous. But, of course, you can say what you want now.” I matched his pose, trying to hide the fact that my left arm was killing me “How convenient, isn’t it?”

“Are you implying something, Shackleton?” he asked, arching an eyebrow sceptically.

Someone whistled again, causing a few to snigger, but the crowd stayed otherwise silent, all eyes glued to the drama consuming in front of their eyes.

While I was one of the biggest exponents of the movement, in that moment I couldn’t stand the self-referential wave of teenage angst of the whole thing. It looked like a scene out of a cheap Fifi LaFolle harmony.

“Are you also thick? Of course I am! The race is rigged!” I said boldly, just to stay in character with the scene, while the only thing I wanted to do was crawl up in bed and never see the sun again.

No dress for poor Carla Shackleton, the crazy girl who drugged kids.

Shouts rose from the crowd – I could see Albus Potter laughing along his sister Lily. Apparently they were the only one who weren’t enamoured with Potter, since a good majority of the other students seemed to think I was insane to even suggest it.

“Carla!” said John, returning with a lanky boy on his side “Here, let Henry do his magic.”

Lanky Henry took his wand out and pointed it on my arm. I eyed it dubiously.

“You sure you know what you’re doing?”

“We’ll see.”

Strangely enough, that didn’t make me feel better.

“Decker!” said Potter, whom I had momentarily forgotten was still in front of me “Shackleton here seems to think the race is rigged.”

He snorted, his blue eyes on me “Slanderous allegations, really.”

At that moment, Fred Weasley popped out of nowhere “I know how to settle this!”

Nikki groaned, James rolled his eyes and Clara Ashton turned uncharacteristically red.

Fred simply smiled, compelling everyone else to listen.

“A treasure hunt!”

“What?”

What?!

Potter stayed instead silent, a calculating gaze still on me, before smirking and looking at his cousin.

“Splendid idea!”

My arm popped loudly, the broken bones rearranging themselves, and I fainted from the pain, James Potter’s mad grin still in my mind.

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