“Well, folks,” Milo raised his Dancing Hippogriff Night Club shot glass in the air. We mirrored him. “Here’s to our second-to-last first week at Hogwarts.”
“Aye,” Flynn nodded. “To Sixth Year.”
“To Sixth Year,” we repeated. We drank.
“It’s funny how fast this has all happened,” Mia mused, kicking her legs out from where the rest of our feet were dangling over the balcony of the North Tower. We were sitting on the ledge, all in a row, nothing under us but the safety railing seven feet below.
The six of us had been coming out to this spot ever since Second Year, when after coming back from Hagrid’s late one night Albus somehow manage to stumble upon a secret door while trying to evade the Prefects on duty. The rooftop was the perfect location: quiet, serene, with a circumference overlooking both the Black Lake and the Forbidden Forest, and we had all grown to appreciate it as our place.
“What has?” I replied, even though I knew what the answer would be.
“Growing up,” said Mia simply.
“Seems like yesterday Milo was only a metre and a half and seven stone,” remarked Al. “Oh, wait - he still is seven stone.”
“Remember when you almost made us stop coming here because you were afraid of heights?” Milo shot back, but the edges of his mouth were curved upwards, just like Al’s were as he raised his hands up in a shrug.
“Remember that night when Flynn accidentally told both Hadley Stevenson and Brittany Gorgon to meet him up here?” I supplied. After both girls showed up and realised that Flynn had only set up a romantic candlelit dinner for one of them, they each took turns hexing him. When we found him hours later, he was lying on top of the rose-petal covered mattress he had conjured (just awful, I know) with so many ailments on his face and skin that he was almost unrecognisable. In the end, it was fine - Flynn learned his lesson, we all got a good laugh, and Brittany and Hadley became practically inseparable.
“Oh, Jesus,” Flynn groaned at the memory. “I couldn’t walk right for a week.”
“One of Flynn’s finest fuck-ups,” Mia sighed contentedly.
We were all silent for a moment, satisfied, as we gazed into the great beyond of the darkness, towards the vast lake and sprawling grounds. I think we were all feeling the same thing - that wistful, wrenching nostalgia that seemed to grasp your heart when you could sense something vast nearing its end, but it was stupid to feel that way - we had two entire years left - so we let the mood rest in the vague spaces around us instead of making it palpable by acknowledging it.
“Another round?” Flynn coughed, and we held out our glasses, relieved for a bit of a distraction.
“Scorpius,” said Mia suddenly, and the blond haired boy who was swinging his legs back over the balcony in a dismount froze. “Where are you going?”
“Sorry,” said Scorpius apologetically. He stood up carefully, standing up tall above us back onto solid ground. “You’re all going to hate me, but I have to go.”
“What?” I gaped at him.
“But this is a tradition!” Mia protested.
“You’re kidding, right?” Flynn asked, and then again, more urgently. “Right?”
“What could you possibly have to do at this moment that isn’t getting pissed on the roof?” asked Milo, genuinely curious. We waited for his answer.
“Stomach problems,” Scorpius replied after a hesitant beat. “And I have that entire Runes essay.”
“It’s Friday night-”
“It was due yesterday,” replied Scorpius. He had been inching closer and closer to the door, and was now already halfway out as he called, “See you all tomorrow?”
We answered in grumbles and half-hearted waves, and the second the door closed shut a weighted sort of quiet fell upon us all.
“Stomach problems?” Flynn finally repeated with an expression of disgust. Mia frowned quizzically at me, but I shook my head, I don’t know any more than you do.
“He’s been acting shifty all week,” commented Al. “Showing up late everywhere and always running off after class.”
“What, did you replace his moisturizer with dragon poo again?” Flynn sniggered.
“Oi! That was you!” Albus argued, and Flynn grinned cockily as an admission of guilt.
“This is a tradition,” Mia repeated, from down on the end next to Al. She was still apparently focused on Scorpius’s abrupt exit, but we all knew that if we let her go on about it she wouldn’t let it go for the rest of the night.
“Well, more for us then!” exclaimed Milo, in sort of a falsely cheery voice, as he poured himself another drink, and refilled the rest of ours with the wave of his wand.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised what Albus had said was true. A couple of days ago, Scorpius had disappeared from lunch without saying anything at all. And, just yesterday, he had blown me off, so subtly that I hadn’t realised its significance until now. I had been coming back from Divination when I spotted him a little ways down the corridor, and I had to literally run to flag him down, he was walking so fast.
“Where are you going?” I had asked rather breathlessly once I managed to catch up to him.
“Just to the library,” Scorpius said, glancing around past me. “See you later?”
“Wait!” I grabbed his arm as he turned away, already walking. “Do you want some company?”
“No,” he had said rather quickly. “I have to go back to my dorm first, and then the showers, it might be awhile.”
But as he had walked away, it hadn’t been in the direction of his dormitory or of the library. Scorpius had gone up the stairs, as if he were going towards one of the Towers or the Hufflepuff Common Room. He had lied.
“You gonna drink that, Nel?” Milo pointed to my full glass of Gillyrum, and with a sinking feeling I realised that I too would have to deny a drink.
I grimaced. “I’m all set.”
Milo shrugged and set the bottle down behind him, but Flynn stared at me incredulously.
“Are you taking the fucking piss?”
“I have Quidditch trials early tomorrow!” I said defensively. “At least I didn’t up and leave!”
Flynn shook his head through my words. “What have we come to? Half of us think that our actual responsibilities are more important than getting piss drunk?”
“Since when is two out of six of us half?” Mia asked crossly.
“Jesus, Mia, I was just trying to make a point-”
“Well, make it more mathematically correct-”
“Must you always be so literal?”
“Must you always be so uneducated?”
“We go to the same school, in case you’ve forgotten-”
“I try, but I never can,” Mia sighed dramatically, and Flynn grinned tiredly and relaxed his defensive posture as we all started laughing. That was just the nature of their relationship: they were always butting heads and bickering, but it only rarely translated into an actual argument.
“How late do we want to stay out?” asked Milo. He glanced to me, and I knew he was thinking about the ungodly hour I would have to wake up at the next morning. Milo was just like that; he was absolutely clueless when it came to social cues, but he genuinely cared about all of us and would try to help with anything when he could.
“Might as well just pack up,” exhaled Flynn. “No use drinking this if no one’s going to get pissed.”
“I’ll get pissed with you,” said Al, like it was some immeasurable sacrifice the rest of us weren't willing to make, but Flynn waved him off.
“Better wait until Scorpius sorts out his diarrhea or whatever. Stomach problems.” Flynn muttered again under his breath, shaking his head rather disgustedly.
As we climbed back through the window and made our way through the empty corridors, speaking solely in hushed tones and breaking that precedent only when a giggle could not be contained, that intangible melancholy feeling of everything ending never fully dissipated.
The morning air was still layered with a veil of fog as I traipsed down the dewey hills and towards the Quidditch field with my broom slung over my shoulder. It was an ungodly hour to be up and about - only a quarter to seven - yet there I was, by some miracle fully awake, dressed in my Ravenclaw sweatshirt and a pair of athletic shorts that I’d had to wake up Mia for in order to obtain. I hope you fall off your broom, Mia had groaned as she threw the pants at me and turned over in bed, and as I left I made sure to shut the door extra hard, just for her enjoyment.
There were already at least fifteen hopefuls seated near one another in the stands as they waited for the trials to begin - although why they were so early, I didn’t know. My teammates from last year were huddled together in the center of the pitch; as I approached the group one of them stepped forward, his arms crossed and his foot tapping impatiently.
“You’re late,” Moose barked the second I was within hearing distance. Moose was a nickname (somehow, his given title was much, much, worse), but yet it fit him in a strange, indiscernible way; perhaps having something to do with his tendency to, not unlike a moose, head-butt others when provoked.
“I’m not!” I protested. “It’s six forty-five. I’m fifteen minutes early."
“Well, everyone else is here, so you’re late.” Moose glowered, his mouth set in a disapproving scowl. With his frizzy dark hair and pasty skin that refused to tan no matter how long he forced us to stay out in the sun, Moose did not resemble the typical Keeper that Witch Weekly fancied doing cover stories on. But he was good - really good, in fact, and was such a skilled strategist that contending him was really only for sport.
“Since when is being early a punishable offense?” I argued, setting down my broom by my feet.
“Fifteen minutes early is fifteen minutes late,” said Moose loftily. He was known for spouting rather catchy, sometimes rhyming sayings that were often completely and utterly void of any wisdom at all. My personal favorite was, "Rather a Bludger to your pole than a Quaffle in our goal." He just had such a beautifully poetic way with words.
“What about Beck?” Kato Millican spoke up, winking at me, and as he did I found myself grinning back at him almost unconsciously.
“Oh, yeah,” Moose glanced around. “Fine. Burke, you’re off the hook this time.”
“Off the hook for being early?” I feigned excitement. “Oh, today is my lucky day!”
“Don’t push it,” growled Moose, and I shut up. Not because I was necessarily afraid of him (although sometimes I was; being headbutted really did hurt), but because I was dramatically out of shape. I couldn’t afford to run more than I had to.
“How’d you lot know to be here so soon, anyways?” I turned to the rest of the team.
“Sometimes,” Benjy put his hand on my shoulder and fixed his eyes on some unseen point in the distance, as if he were Professor Celestia, the Divination teacher who was rather lacking in the legitimacy department. “We can sense a single change in thinking, just by listening to the vibrations of the air."
“And, other times we hear Moose ranting around the boy’s dormitories and know that he’ll be particularly keen to start Trials.” Kato chuckled, elbowing Benjy in the stomach.
“Hey,” Beck Davidson joined our circle. “Why’s everyone so bloody early?”
“Late!” Moose yelled, pointing at her. Beck, a Seventh Year Chaser, merely rolled her eyes in exasperation. Since she had been on the team for five seasons and was in the same year as Moose, she was more than accustomed to his erratic behavior.
“I was taking out the extra Quaffles,” Beck dropped the duffel bag she’d had slung over her shoulder at Moose’s feet. “Something you pissers forgot to do, I might add.”
“Nevertheless, now that we’re all here-” Moose glared pointedly at Beck, who rolled her eyes again, adding in an extra sigh for effect. “I have something to say, so listen up, you miserable lot.”
“Oh, no,” groaned Kato. “Please, Moose. It’s trials. We don’t need a speech.”
“Today marks the beginning of a new season,” Moose continued on as if he had not been interrupted. “Today is the start of something great. We are on the cusp of becoming legends. But, in order to make it there, we all have to work like never before. We all have to push ourselves harder than every day that came before it. We ALL have to WANT to - no - NEED TO WIN!”
“Right now, I just want bacon,” Benjy volunteered quietly.
“A hot bath,” I added.
“My warm bed,” Kato sighed contentedly.
“Do you want to get cut?” shouted Moose, the veins on his neck bulging dangerously. “I mean it! If someone outplays any one of you, I have no problems booting you from the team. Understand?”
“Yes,” we all chorused, except for Beck, who muttered, “Fat load of toadshite.”
“Okay,” Moose turned around towards the crowd that had assembled, breathing hard. “Let’s go.”
“D’you reckon we’ll be done by eleven?” Beck asked anxiously as she balanced a Quaffle on her fingertips while we walked towards the stands, Moose leading the way. “I told George Hannover I could meet him by then.”
“You’re in luck, then, Becks,” smirked Kato. “Hannover’s so daft he won’t be able to tell what time you get back.”
“Shove off!” Beck threw the Quaffle at him with rather alarming force, but he caught it easily.
“Hey,” Moose gave her a dirty look from the front of our pack. “Save the hard throws for the air.”
“Don’t worry. I have plenty more where that came from.” Beck shot a look at Kato, who grinned semi-apologetically and tossed the Quaffle back to her.
“Kato does have a point, you know,” Benjy piped up from behind me. “Hufflepuffs aren’t exactly known for their time-keeping abilities."
“Hufflepuff,” said Moose. We all looked at him, but he was lost in thought - probably daydreaming about all the different ways that we could embarrass the Hufflepuff team when we played them in March.
“Anyone want to bet on how long it takes us to get out of here?” I dropped behind Moose slightly, so he wouldn’t overhear. “I say five hours.”
“Five?” Kato scoffed. “You’re mad, Burke. I’ll say two.”
“Did you get Obliviated after trials last year? Those were nearly four hours and there was only one spot to be filled!”
“I’ll take the odds on five,” said Beck. “But I’m still hoping for less than four.”
“You’re on,” Kato shook Beck’s hand and then mine, just as we reached the stands.
“Okay, you lot!” Moose yelled. He adjusted his Captain’s badge on his robes while the crowd quieted down. “Get down here and separate yourselves into Chasers and Beaters!”
The students rose and noisily clambered down the metal steps and onto the field. As expected, the group trying out for Beaters was largely male-dominated, although there were a few girls who looked like they couldn’t be older than thirteen thrown in the mix. The Chasers, which appeared to be almost double the amount of Beaters, had much more of a gender and age variation, and at once I scanned the group, searching for people with typical builds for the position.
“Welcome to trials,” Moose began, and the crowd quieted at once. “As you know, under my leadership Ravenclaw has been talented enough to win the Quidditch Championship twice in the past four years - and I expect to come out victorious again this season.”
Several players glanced at one another in awe, but beside me Benjy nudged me, his face red and taut with the effort of keeping his hysterics under control. Moose had boasted that statistic more times than the number of goals he had saved, even though he hadn’t been captain for one of the wins.
“Before anything else, I'd like to make something very clear-” and at this, Moose’s tone grew fierce as he took a step forward, “nothing is about luck. We don't win with it, we don't play with it, and you certainly won't make the team with it. I’m looking for a Beater that can employ power and exceptional aim while flying at top speeds. I'm looking for a Chaser who can predict the moves of their opponent; a Chaser who knows how to throw strong passes to their teammates and how to work with them seamlessly. If any of you think that you don't fit those qualifications - leave now.”
“Well, fuck, then, I should be going,” remarked Beck, a little louder than I’m sure she intended, and Moose whipped around to glare at her as a few titters broke through the crowd. I thought he was going to tell her off, right then and there, but as he surveyed us, all holding back grins, Moose simply sighed heavily and turned back towards the group.
“All right, you lot, we’re starting with laps.”
Trials lasted until around noon, much to Beck’s dismay. While we usually ate meals together after practise, today she dashed off to meet her Hufflepuff beau while Kato and Benjy opted to go back to bed, leaving me to sit with my usual group of friends in the Great Hall.
“Hey, Nellie-O,” Milo said as I took a seat at the Slytherin table. “How were the tryouts?”
“Oh, just great. Fantastic, even.” I took a heaping serving of mashed potatoes, splattering them onto my plate so forcefully that they hit Mia across the table.
“Honestly, I never know if what you’re saying is sarcastic or not,” Mia sniffed, delicately wiping off the food from her blouse. “You use sarcasm so much that it’s hard to tell when you’re not trying to be witty.”
“See!” Mia pointed accusingly at me, as if we were in a courtroom and I was incriminating evidence. “Do you all see what I must put up with?”
“We pity you,” Flynn shook his head sadly from next to Milo.
“Truly a shame,” agreed Albus.
“Such a tragedy,” said Milo, and I found myself breaking out into a grin despite myself.
“So, what actually happened?” Flynn asked, handing me a napkin to clean up my mashed potato explosion.
“Well, for starters, basically everyone was complete shit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such a large group of people which such low levels of talent.”
“I’m sure they weren’t that bad,” Albus reasoned, but I shook my head stoutly, because they were.
The first flying group had been absolutely terrible- so awful that Moose cut their session short and collectively told them they would make the team when Voldemort came back to life. The next few clusters were subpar - decent enough that we couldn’t cut them all right away, but still so poor that even Benjy Waterson, King of Optimism, began to doubt that we were going to find players talented enough to keep up with the rest of the team. Finally, after hours of gruelling exercises, we managed to find two people with sufficient potential. Cicely Brown, a Fifth Year, impressed everyone by managing to score on Moose with an around-the-back flick into the middle goal post, and the Fourth Year Jack Robinson - although he seemed to be a bit of a hothead - hit a Bludger so hard that it rocketed all the way to the opposite goal post.
“Well, at least it’s over!” encouraged Milo, always the positive voice of the group.
“I wish it were,” I groaned. “Moose booked the Quidditch library already, so right after lunch we have to go start to strategise, even before our first practice! It’s ridiculous!”
“That does seem a little intense,” Al acquiesced, as Mia made a sound in between sympathy and disgust.
“Oi,” Flynn said abruptly. “Where the hell is Scorpius?”
Albus shrugged. “He hasn’t been around today.”
Mia leaned forward slightly. “It’s weird, right? That he isn’t around?”
“Yes!” I hissed emphatically, because finally it wasn’t just me being overly sensitive to my cousin’s daily whereabouts.
“He could just be stressed,” Milo offered. “I’ve heard Runes is starting off the year heavy.”
“Maybe he’s still feeling peaky,” Flynn grinned evilly. “I wonder - what would make him feel better?”
“Some booger flavoured Bertie Botts’?” suggested Milo, with a false air of innocence.
“I was thinking more along the lines of some hair growth solution in his pumpkin juice,“ said Flynn. Both boys glanced expectantly at Albus, who sighed.
“This is wrong,” said Albus finally, shaking his head slowly.
“If we’re doing this, we have to do it right,” Al continued, a devilish smile lighting up his features in an almost boyish manner. “I think Ghost-Pepper Peanuts will do the trick.”
“Yes!” Milo hissed fiercely, high fiving him.
“Ooh, I love it when Al talks dirty,” Mia pretended to swoon, and in response Al waggled his eyebrows at her mock suggestively.
“Come on,” I whined, a bit put out. “I had something perfect to quote at Al.”
There was a pause.
“Let’s hear it, then,” said Milo, wearily.
“Conscience doth - hey! - make cowards of us all,” I managed to get out, as all four of them chucked various items from their plates at me the second I started speaking.
“My conscious does not doth make me a coward as much as your knowledge of literature doth make you annoying,” Al grinned as he wiped some squash from my arm, while I squirmed away from him in a halfhearted attempt to feign upset.
“You are hereby banished from this table,” Flynn declared, nudging me so far off my seat that I had no choice but to stand up. “If you think Salazar Slytherin would’ve stood for such nerdery, you are sorely mistaken.”
“Nerdiness,” I emphasized as I scooped my bag off of the ground. “The word is nerdiness, you dipshit.”
“Even I would have corrected you on that,” Al jibed, and as everyone began to rash on Flynn for his terrible grammar instead of me for my excellent application of knowledge, I began my journey towards our team meeting.
The Quidditch room was a rather small, luckily soundproof lounge in the back corner of the school library. At first, it was just built so that people would stop taking books to the pitch, but over time it had developed into being a hallmark team meeting location for all Houses. Complete with comfy armchairs, miniature model pitches, Magik Erase Boards, and every text on strategy and technique imaginable, it served as an ideal location to construct plays and go over past matches.
Needless to say, it was Moose’s happy place.
“Well, look who took her sweet time eating lunch,” Benjy put his hands on his hips as I walked through the doorway and shut the door, evidently the the last person to arrive
“I’m not even late,” I said scornfully as I collapsed in the chair next to him.
“Fifteen minutes early is fifteen minutes late!” Kato mimicked in a strangled high pitch voice, reducing Beck into a fit of giggles.
“All right,” Moose put his hand up, and we all fell silent. “First of all, congratulations again to our two newest members.”
Cicely Brown beamed, while Jack Robinson raised his eyebrows and frowned slightly, leaning back in his chair with his arms resting above his head. I think he was trying to come off as indifferently arrogant, but it really only made him appear to be rather constipated.
“Welcome to the coolest squad in Hogwarts,” said Benjy solemnly, and then his expression grew purposefully dark. “Are you prepared for your initiation?”
“Initiation?” repeated Cicely, clutching a strand of her curly dark hair as her eyes grew wide.
”He’s kidding,” Moose shot Benjy a look, who merely relaxed back into his chair and grinned, pleased with his handiwork. “No hazing.”
“Anymore,” Kato muttered, and all of us senior members of the team all shared meaningful glances. A couple of years ago, a complete ban was put on any kind of Quidditch induction ritual after the Slytherin House team tried to force their newest recruits to spend the night in the Chamber of Secrets and one kid offered to cut one of his own toes off instead of doing it.
“Trials were your initiation,” said Beck. “Couldn’t imagine a worse hell to be put through than that.”
“Well, get ready for Hell Part Two,” Moose broke in roughly, but secretly I think he was rather pleased that we considered his trials to be as bad as eternal damnation. “Now, let’s get started.”
Moose began rambling on about team rules - No skipping practice, no fighting, no fun, etc - while I quickly lost focus and began staring out of the tiny window that I was seated next to. I could remember my first day on the team easily; it had been pouring, and when we were changing in the locker room afterwards I didn’t have a single item of dry clothing. That was how Beck and I first became friends - she had said something along the lines of, Jesus, you look like a drowned cat, and then tossed me the only sweatshirt she had. I’m used to this shit, she said, and soon enough, you will be too.
“Burke!” Moose barked, breaking me out of my reverie. “Are you listening?”
“Yes,” I glanced up immediately, meeting Moose’s glare innocently.
Moose held my gaze for a moment longer, then turned back to the rest of the group. “We’re going to break down everyone’s strengths and weaknesses so that we can come up with a strategy that best suits our individual needs. Cicely and Jack, it’s fine if you don’t have much to say yet. So, who wants to go first?”
“I will,” Beck raised her hand, smirking slightly. “Lay it on me.”
“Alright,” Moose wrote Davidson on the board. “Positive stuff first, people.”
“You have insane accuracy,” Kato volunteered. ”Especially when we’re on the go. You always manage to throw the Quaffle exactly where I’m going to be a second later.”
“I always see how focused you are on the Pitch,” I jumped in, trying to make up for my lack of participation earlier. “You’re always so intense and completely in the zone.”
“Nice,” Moose scribbled furiously, great intensity, “and one more?”
But before any of us could respond, the door of the study burst open - and there stood
the remaining four members of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, led by who else but-
“Potter,” Moose growled.
“Afternoon, Moose,” James Potter raised his eyebrows, strolling into the room without a moment of hesitation and motioning for his players to do the same.
“What do you want?” Moose snapped, no hints of amusement anywhere in his posture.
“Isn’t that obvious?” Potter replied, and although his tone seemed quiet and civil enough, his eyes glinted coldly. “I would like to use the Quidditch library.”
“And, here I thought you had better deduction skills than that,” said Moose loftily. “This room is occupied.”
“Burn,” Jack Robinson whispered under his breath. Cicely shoved him.
“Seeing as you got the Pitch for the first half of today and I haven’t even gotten a chance to hold my trials yet, it’s only fair that me and my team can use this space.”
“But we’re here now,” said Moose, firmly, and I felt a surge of pride for him for standing his ground. “So, again, the room is occupied. Come back later.”
“No, I don’t think we will," said Potter offhandedly. Usually, when he spoke he was detached and rather surly, but as his sneer deepened, everything became as clear as day to me. James Potter didn't care about Quidditch; he didn't give two shits about who got the room - he just wanted to antagonise us, to feed into Moose's well-known anger in a way that would entertain him. He was creating a spectacle, a show which made him both the main attraction and the primary benefactor, and he knew it.
"Go." Moose snarled.
“What are you going to do about it, Moose?" Potter's face lit up even further as he took another step forward. "Or, should I say…D’Artagnan?”
And at that, Moose’s face turned an unhealthy shade of plum, because he had just been called by his real first name, a piece of intelligence that he had fought to keep as top secret as possible for all seven years he had attended Hogwarts.
“You-how did-get out!” Moose spluttered incoherently, his left eye twitching, and in response Kato stood up, motioning for the rest of us to do the same.
“Potter, I suggest you leave before this turns into something you don’t want it to turn into.” Kato drew his wand in what seemed like a menacing way, but even as Charlie Finnigan and Josh Danvers stepped forward, Potter merely blinked and raised an eyebrow lazily.
“What, are you going to hex me in the middle of the library?” Potter smirked. He had called Kato’s bluff, and we all knew it.
“Let’s just go,” Dominique Delacour-Weasley whispered from behind her cousin, and all at once both teams erupted into conversation.
“Did you hear that? Your own team wants to desert you-”
“That is not what I meant-”
“-might as well just listen to her, since you’re only as strong as your weakest member-”
“We aren’t going anywhere-”
“So, then are you only as strong as Beck?”
“Well, you aren’t staying here-”
“Oh, do you really want to go there, Danvers? After your little performance issue?”
“We have just as much of a right to be here as you-”
“You’re fucking mad, Davidson-”
“Are you all attempting to spy on our team so you lot can actually win for once?” I said, and although it wasn’t meant to be directed at James Potter, he was the one who responded.
“Don’t you have a cousin to marry, or something?” Potter snapped, barely rewarding me a second glance, and that - that stupid joke that somehow tied me back to all of the Pureblood relatives that I never wanted to think about, ever - that’s what really got me angry. Both sides were all arguing in one big, disconcerted mess, but that statement made it personal, and I heard the next words exit my mouth before I fully knew I was saying them.
“Don’t you have your daddy’s legacy to exploit?” I shot back, taking a step forward. “Or have you finally realised that your surname can’t get you everything in life?”
As both teams reacted to my insult with varying levels of pride and outrage, James Potter’s expression shifted as quickly as the sky before a flash storm. The way he had provoked Moose was mirthful and purposefully antagonising at best, but as he turned to stare at me, his eyes hardened, the smirk that had been playing on his lips curling into something fierce. James Potter always looked so inherently annoyed or impressively bored with only the smallest hints of amusement, but this - this was completely different. This was rage and hostility. This was contempt.
“Repeat that,” said Potter, his voice so low that everyone around us had to lean in slightly to hear it.
“You heard me.”
“I don’t think I did.”
“Do you need me to put it in simpler language so you can understand?” I leaned forward with a new vengeance as I remembered his comments upon the Hogwarts Express. “I’m sorry I used so many advanced words. I guess I’m just used to be around Ravenclaws. You know what they say - we’re always reading.”
A flickered eyebrow gave away his recognition of the significance of the phrase I had just uttered, but he did nothing more other than clench his fists more tightly than before.
“Then, I’m sure you and your captain,” he spat out the word like it was sour milk, “wouldn’t mind if us Gryffindors stuck around. You know, to study.”
Before I could bite back, with renewed confidence Moose stepped forward once again.
“Take the room, Potter,” said Moose steadily. “We’re done here. Besides, with the talent we have this season, we’re not as much in need of extra planning as you are.”
“Fine,” Potter snapped, not even glancing in his direction. We were still glowering at one another, his dark eyes piercing mine with no hint of forgiveness, and our gaze only broke apart once Kato nudged my back slightly to get me to follow the rest of the team out the door.
“Fucking prick,” Moose grunted the second we reached the corridor. He was breathing hard, and we all knew him well enough to understand that he needed a few minutes of space to regain his composure and authority.
“Are they always like that?” Cicely asked, rather worriedly, where all six of us were sort of huddled in a circle, Moose pacing back and forth and muttering to himself a little ways away.
“Pretty much, yeah,” said Benjy lightly. “Keeps things interesting, at least.”
“But, Beck, that line about Danvers’ ‘performance issues’ absolutely killed me,” Kato grinned, clapping her hard on the back.
“Me? What about Nellie over here?” Beck pushed me slightly. “I mean, Potter was practically speechless! I’ve never heard you use such fighting words before, it was savage!”
“He made fun of Milo and me on the train,” I said, in explanation, but Beck plowed on regardless.
“'Daddy’s legacy to exploit,' absolutely brilliant, you’re my hero, honestly-”
“She’s so badass,” agreed Benjy. “Like - Nellie - is it weird to say I’m a little turned on right now?”
“Yes!” I cried. Kato smacked him on the back of his neck.
“All right, you lot, focus up,” Moose barked from a little ways in front of us. “We’re going to relocate to the pitch for about an hour, and then you’re free to go.”
We all nodded quickly and straightened up, even though Beck whispered, “I’m turned on, too!” while Jack Robinson sniggered behind his hand and Benjy raised his arms up as if to say, See?
“Nellie Burke!” someone called, from down at the end of the hallway, and both Beck and Kato stopped walking with me while the others continued around the corner.
“What is going on?” Beck asked slowly, glancing to the figure approaching us and then back at me.
“No idea,” I said slowly, my eyes trained straight ahead. “Meet you all at the Pitch in five?”
Beck raised her eyebrows and even Kato looked mildly confused, but I waved them off, just as Katria Stevens, our Roommate from Hell, stopped directly in front of me.
“Hi, Nellie!” Katria chirped with transparent falsity, and out of the corner of my eye I saw Beck pretending to gag as she and Kato rounded the corner.
“What do you want?” I asked her sharply, and even though it was unavoidably harsh Katria didn’t even flinch.
“I need you to do something for me,” said Katria confidently, tucking her platinum hair behind her ear in one swift movement.
I merely raised my eyebrows, unimpressed by her statement.
“Well?” I finally asked, after she didn’t do anything but stare innocently back.
“You are going to set me up with Albus Potter!” Katria squealed, and then both narrowed her eyes into an expression that was remotely terrifying. “Or else.”
“And, why would I do that?” I asked coldly. I didn’t bother asking about the or else; usually, her threats had to do with cursing someone’s hair to be perpetually frizzy, and I wasn’t exactly going to give into demands based on some momentary changes to my appearance.
But regardless of my tone, Katria began to smile.
“Because, I know something about your dear cousin that you’d want to know,” she simpered, and suddenly what she had to say captured my full attention. “Something big.”
“What?” I asked urgently, lowering my voice.
“Has he been acting, oh, I don’t know…distant lately? Maybe a bit absent?”
I opened my mouth and then closed it again, while she appraised my reaction with a growing sense of satisfaction.
“Well, I kno-ow why-y!” Katria exulted in a high pitched sing-song voice.
“Tell me!” I demanded.
“So, you agree?” Katria stepped closer. “To set me up with Albus?”
“Fine, yes, whatever,” I brushed aside her request impatiently. “Now, what is it?”
Katria’s grin grew wider once again with her victory. She resembled an alligator just about to swallow its meal, and I knew I would regret selling my soul to her - that is, until she opened her mouth.
“Scorpius Malfoy has a secret girlfriend. And only I know who it is.”
Disclaimer: J.K. Rowling owns everything you recognise. Also, the Shakespeare quote of the day is courtesy of The Merchant of Venice (bonus points to you if you knew it!)
Notes: I have absolutely loved hearing so many of your wonderful opinions so early on in the story! Thank you all so much and please keep reviewing!
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