Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognise. Macbeth - Shakespeare. Mary Poppins - P.L. Travers; Haper Collins Publishing.
I’d grown to love the way the light shone through the Great Hall windows on mild autumn days like this one. It bathed the entire room in a golden afternoon glow, glinting softly off of the chandeliers and making our irises seem lighter and our faces more lively. Time seemed to move at a leisurely crawl during occasions like these, when we were all just lounging about at the tables, having our tea and biscuits. Albus had been reading some tattered children’s book he claimed his father sent him, but now he was stretched out across the bench, eyes closed but still alert enough to contribute a small comment here and there. Flynn and Scorpius were playing Wizard’s Chess, a particularly nasty game, too, and Scorpius’s pawn was just so violently eviscerated by Flynn’s queen that even Flynn’s pawns looked rather scandalised. Mia and I had our Charms proofs spread out in front of us, untouched but still remaining present, as if hopeful that we might change our minds and do our work. It was these kinds of moments that seemed to stretch past the realm of our regular and ordinary days and become their own entities entirely; it felt as if life itself was just boundless, indestructible, even.
The only thing that made everything seem just a little less infinite was my Quidditch bag, sitting under my feet and serving as a reminder that time was not simply a construct; as soon as the sun journeyed past the windows the world would speed up once more and we would return to our responsibilities and obligations. But even so, it was nice to savour it while it lasted.
“Rook to A5,” yawned Flynn.
“Bad move,” grunted Al, from the bench.
“No, it wasn’t - ah, shite,” Flynn cursed, as Scorpius sent his black knight to massacre the quivering pale rook.
“Alright,” I snapped my fingers. “What has four legs, soft fur, and nose how to find what it’s looking for?”
“Erm,” Mia frowned, twirling her dark hair around her pointer finger absentmindedly. ”A golden retriever?”
“A niffler,” said Al lazily, his eyes still closed.
“Pawn to C6,” said Scorpius, and Flynn scowled with concentration.
“Okay, I’ve got one,” Mia leaned forward, and then smiled slyly: her classic I have a dirty little secret look that she’d practically patented. “What has a long neck, short attention span, and once thought that a booty call was the same thing as a butt dial?”
“Milo,” all three of us said, just as the riddle himself catapulted his body into the seat next to Flynn, his mouth already moving faster than his speech would allow.
“Guess what?” cried Milo, and then once more. “Tomorrow’s Trivia Night!”
“Fuck yes!” yelled Mia, drawing the attention of nearly everyone in the nearby vicinity.
“What the hell is a trivia night?” asked Flynn rather crossly, as Mia began to do a little dance in her seat and Al sat up from the bench begrudgingly.
“It’s our House’s version of a Gryffindor get together,” I explained, and even I couldn’t help but bounce up and down a little. “It only happens a couple times a year.”
Al wrinkled his nose. “A Ravenclaw Common Room party has to do with…learning?”
“What would a Slytherin one be, the whole lot of you sitting in a circle plotting how to revamp the Chamber of Secrets?” I shot back, and Mia snorted.
“But, it just seems so boring!” protested Flynn, moving his queen away from the grasps of Scorpius’s bishop. “Why can’t we just do what we normally do and get drunk with the giant squid?”
“It’s not boring, it’s fun! Fun!” Milo repeated, waving his arms for emphasis.
“How?” groaned Scorpius. “It’s like school!”
“The catch is, when everyone’s pissed out of their minds it’s a lot harder to remember the exact technique of a bubble charm,” said Mia slyly, and Flynn perked up instantly.
“There’s alcohol involved? Why the hell didn’t you lead with that?” asked Flynn indignantly, Scorpius adamantly agreeing along with him.
“Anyways, you all better be there,” said Milo, settling into his seat much more calmly than before. “I’m hosting it this time, so-”
“Wait,” said Al, a slowly incredulous smile spreading across his cheeks. “You’re hosting it?”
“Oh, we’ll be there,” said Flynn, nodding emphatically along with Scorpius. “Definitely will be there.”
Milo, seemingly unaware that his friends’ newfound enthusiasm did not stem from relatively kindhearted places, beamed.
“Anyone do that Charms assignment yet?” Albus asked, and just like that, we settled back into the leisure our untouchable afternoon.
“No,” Mia replied immediately, holding up our blank parchments so Albus could see just how far we had come along. “Have you?”
“Nah,” said Al, idly. “Might get a start on it tonight, though.”
“I really can’t be arsed to do that until next week,” said Flynn, tearing his gaze away from the chess game for a split second. “I barely scraped an A on that OWL; it’s not like Flitwick expects a lot out of me.”
“Nothing,” I corrected him. “He truly expects nothing out of you.”
Flynn moved a piece on his board and then grinned at me, his auburn hair flopped slightly to the side. “Great strategy, innit? Can’t disappoint if you never raised the stakes in the first place.”
“What a truly perceptive philosophy,” Mia pronounced, and as we all laughed I glanced up towards the grand windows only to realise that we were not bathed in the warming light anymore; the sun had passed, and with it the time. Nothing ever really stopped for any of us, however much we wanted it to.
“I’ve got Quidditch,” I stood, slinging my bag over my arm, and everyone called out a quick goodbye before returning to their golden moment, where everything still remained vast and unbroken. Perfect, in a way.
“Checkmate!” I heard Scorpius say triumphantly, and I caught the start of what I assumed would be a long rant of expletives by Flynn as I exited the Great Hall.
“Oi!” Moose yelled, just outside the door of the women’s changing room. “You lot have fifteen seconds to finish changing! Everyone else is always ready at least two minutes before you three-“
“They don’t have boobs, Moose!” Beck yelled back, and he quieted immediately, his footsteps stomping away from the entrance after a moment or two.
“Is he always this punctual?” asked Cicely lightly, peeling off her shirt in one fluid motion. The first few practices Cicely had been rather subdued, but as she had grown accustomed to the team dynamics she had loosened up a bit, even going so far as to join in on all of us ragging on Jack, who had established himself early on as kind of an annoying younger brother.
“Usually he’s worse,” I said darkly, as I adjusted the neck of my sports bra with one hand and grabbed my blue practise jersey with the other.
“He’s better than he used to be,” commented Beck, rather acerbically. “At least he doesn’t time us anymore.”
“Gave us thirty seconds to put our entire uniform on,” I shuddered at the memory. “Liam Gilbert, the old Beater, nearly broke into tears when he wasn’t ready on time.”
“Yikes,” Cicely made a face, and then straightened up, grabbing her broom with one hand and her water with the other. “Ready to go out?”
“Let’s make him sweat for a few more minutes,” I grinned, slamming my locker shut. “Merlin knows he could learn some patience.”
We emerged from the changing rooms only eleven seconds after my statement, since it turned out that Beck had even less patience than Moose and couldn’t stand to just sit around with no apparent end goal in mind. It’s called leisure, Rebecca, I said as she pushed passed me to the door, and she grumbled something along the lines of, I’ll be leisurely when I’m dead, as we joined the rest of the team outside.
“Took you long enough,” muttered Moose, but he thankfully did not press the matter further, perhaps having something to do with the murderous expression upon Beck’s face. “Two laps - go.”
“I still don’t get why we have to run,” puffed Jack Robinson, from behind the rest of us. “We’re flying, for Merlin’s sake!”
“Running makes us have better endurance,” Kato called out to him. “Which, out of all of us, you need the most.”
I didn’t even need to turn around to know that Jack had made some sort of a face at him, since I heard the corresponding grunt and surmised that Kato had seen and flicked him, or something. I just kept running, savoring the way the fresh air expanded my lungs and spread the blood in my veins a little faster, and when we were finished, I was perfectly energised and hardly out of breath.
“Thirty seconds break, and then we start!” Moose called, lugging out the Ravenclaw Quidditch box across the clipped grass to where we stood as a group.
“Only thirty seconds?” grumbled Jack, still visibly panting from our warm up. Benjy squirted some of his water at him.
“Hey, Nels,” said Kato, and as I turned to him he frowned. “You’ve got an eyelash on your cheek.”
“Oh,” I frowned, too, going a bit cross-eyed trying to spot it. “Could you get it, then?”
“Yeah,” said Kato. He stepped forward slightly, leaning in to peer at my face with his stormy blue eyes, and that’s when it fully registered to me how close he was. My hair was in a loose ponytail, with wisps coming free around the frame of my face, and as his hands made contact with my skin I found myself vehemently wishing that I had bothered to brush it into something more appealing.
“Hold on,” Kato murmured, his fingertips brushing my cheek lightly. “It’s not catching.”
I looked up, just as he looked at me, and he stopped moving, his fingers still resting on my face. My heart was pounding, galloping like a runaway hippogriff, and I was certain he could hear it, or at least feel it, since his chest was so close to mine and his hands were still on my cheek, as soft and as gentle as butterfly wings-
“Idiot. Let me get it,” Beck pushed forward, rolling her eyes, and Kato stepped back quickly and glanced around, as if he had only then remembered that we were in the middle of the pitch with the entire team surrounding us. I blinked a few times, settling myself, because I had definitely exaggerated the whole interaction in my mind, and besides, I didn’t even like Kato like that - did I?
“Got it,” Beck announced triumphantly. “Now I get to make a wish!”
“What - no!” I protested, successfully distracted from my stupid overthinking. “It’s my eyelash, I get to wish on it-”
“Too late,” she pronounced smugly, and I gawked at her absolute cruelty.
“That’s just barbaric, Beck,” Benjy shook his head in horror, but Beck merely grinned proudly, taking his admonishment as a compliment. Of course she would - Beck had always been inherently tough, sometimes a bit too resolute and harsh for people’s tastes. She worked hard to preserve that reputation, too; she spoke out of turn frequently, hexed people she didn’t like in the corridors, and never stayed with one partner for longer than a couple of weeks, citing emotional unavailability as the root cause. But she so had a sweet side, and I stand by that analysis even though she would most likely murder me if she ever found out I’d called her anything short of intimidating.
“Well, what did you wish for?” Kato asked Beck, seemingly recovered from our brief moment, if you could even call it that.
“No one gives a damn what she wished for,” Moose said harshly as he tossed a Quaffle to Kato, who caught it with one arm. “Now, I want Chasers to do some chest passes and then switch to lobs for ten minutes each.”
“There may be a slight problem,” Cicely cautioned, and then pointed across the field towards the lockers, where seven people, all with brooms, were approaching.
“Hold on,” said Kato, peering across the field. “Isn’t that Hufflepuff?”
“Maybe the Pitch has been double booked!” Benjy proposed gleefully. “Oh, what a joyous day this would be if we had to leave early-”
“Say that again and I’ll schedule us for four hours next practise,” Moose barked, and although Benjy quieted down, it did not stop him from doing little wiggling dance moves as the Hufflepuff team neared.
“Davies,” called Moose, once they were close enough. “What’s going on?”
“I believe we’ve booked the Pitch, Moose!” William Davies called back, just as amicably. Moose and Davies had always gotten along well, and in another world they might have even been friends. Alas, Moose’s inherent paranoia surrounding his strategy and Quidditch in general had ultimately prevented the two Seventh Years from growing close.
“So have we,” said Moose, able to speak at a lower volume now as Hufflepuff stopped in front of him. “What do you propose we do?”
“Split the time?” Davies suggested. He really was quite handsome, with sandy blonde hair and tanned skin that seemed to accentuate the subtle striations of muscles on his arms, but unfortunately for most of the female population he was taken; Ana Clearwater and Davies had been dating for almost two years now and were considered the golden couple of Hogwarts.
“You’re already warmed up - how about you get it for an hour and thirty, and then we get to come back at five?”
“You’ve got yourself a deal,” Moose shook his hand firmly. “Cheers, mate.”
“Cheers,” Davies grinned, then turned back to his team, who didn’t look phased in the slightest.
“Alright, we’re going to relocate temporarily to the Quidditch Library!”
“Hufflepuff,” Benjy pronounced dreamily, as the team shuffled off of the Pitch and back towards the locker rooms. “The Canada - no, the Mary Poppins of Houses.”
“What the hell is a merry pop in?” asked Beck, rather irritably.
“Okay, let’s refocus,“ Moose clapped his hands together. “As I was saying - chest passes and then over the shoulder lobs, working on power first and then accuracy. Waterson and Robinson, get twenty passes in a row with the Bludger and then get with the Chasers to do a weave and dodge drill. And, Burke, you’ll be warming me up to start and then you’ll switch to feints. Good?”
“Not good,” said Beck darkly, and as we all turned towards her she jerked her head towards the other side of the Pitch. Because there, coming out of the locker rooms while Hufflepuff players filed in, was none other than the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
“Oh, you have got to be kidding me,” growled Moose, throwing his Nimbus 5000 on the ground with that aggressive frustration he just channeled so spectacularly.
“What do you think they want?” Kato asked casually, but he was standing straighter with his shoulders squared back, already in battle stance.
“Wouldn’t it be an absolute riot if every team had this time slot?” Cicely mused, tugging on a strand of her curly dark hair.
“Blimey, if Slytherin doesn’t show up now I’m going to be gutted,” Benjy crowed, seemingly unaware of the heightening aura of tension in the air.
“Wait - did you guys plan this?” Beck asked, just as lightly as Benjy had, and I found myself trying to force myself to be as relaxed as they were, even though I felt my muscles tensing up slightly. “Is this supposed to be one of those stupid inter-House team bonding activities?”
Benjy snorted. “There’s no way they ever do that again after what happened last time-”
“This is not planned,” barked Moose, his eyes not straying from the ever-approaching Gryffindors.
“What happened last time?” asked Jack, and I almost giggled at the thought of it.
“They tried to mix up all four teams and have us do relay races, but everyone ended up just hexing the Gryffindors-”
“And then the Gryffies got fed up so they released all of the Bludgers from the training kits-”
“So it was just Bludgers gone absolutely rogue-”
“-and half of the Hufflepuffs got scared and conjured whistles to try to make everyone stop freaking out-
“-but then the Bludgers went towards whoever was whistling-”
“-bloody hilarious, but complete mayhem.” Benjy finished.
“So, then, why is Gryffindor here?” asked Cicely, biting her lip. We all turned to Moose expectantly.
“I don’t know,” Moose snarled. “It was probably Madame fucking Hopkins messing up the schedules; ever since she had that thing she’s been completely unreliable!”
“You mean, her newborn baby?” I asked him flatly, but all he did was wave me quiet as the red-clad pack stopped in front of us, led by James Potter, a Captain’s badge pinned loosely onto the sleeve of his shirt in a manner that somehow looked more inadvertent than not. His dark hair was already perfectly windswept in a similar faux-accidental manner, and I briefly wondered how long it took in front of the mirror for him to achieve that look.
“Moose,” James Potter said loudly, with the air of annoyance and arrogance that always seemed to wrap itself around his words.
“Potter,” said Moose, much more curtly than his adversary.
“It seems that the Pitch has been overbooked.”
“It seems it has.”
Both teams waited anxiously while the two Captains glowered at one another.
“I gave you the Quidditch Room a couple of weeks ago,” Moose finally spoke up, and I was proud that his voice did not cower away from Potter’s dominance in the slightest.
But James Potter only nodded solemnly in acknowledgement. “You did. But I’m afraid that has no bearing on our current situation.”
“No bearing?” said Beck angrily, and Benjy pulled her back slightly.
“Well, considering the fact that my team has already begun practice,” Moose snapped, “we will be using the Pitch until five, when Davies has it.”
“Fine,” said Potter, much more easily than I expected him too, although it still had a sour quality to it. His ever-sharp gaze flitted around the semicircle that our players had formed around Moose until it almost reluctantly came to rest upon me. As our eyes met, I narrowed my eyebrows slightly in response to try and convey just how utterly abhorrent I thought him to be, especially after our shared detention. But as he gazed back unblinkingly, James Potter’s expression flickered from his usual mask of indifference to an almost curious countenance. His eyebrows were turned slightly down in a way that made him look more like Albus than ever before, and the seemingly raw genuinity added something to his expression that I couldn’t place.
But as soon as I had registered the change in appearance, the illusion was shattered as Potter faced Moose once again.
“How about we play for it?” Potter demanded. His cool impassivity had vanished entirely, and he was staring down Moose intensely, as though his life depended on it.
“Oh, for fucks’ sake,” Beck said loudly, but Moose didn’t acknowledge her in the slightest.
“Play for it?” repeated Moose, his eyes completely fixed on Potter, and the second he said it I knew he was a goner. For Moose, despite his lack of efficient comebacks and overall fluency when confronted with an unpleasant situation, would never, ever turn down a fight, much less something so reliant on his reputation. He was confident and rational, but above all he was proud, and even if he pretended to be unsure of his decision outwardly the second Potter had proposed it he had started concocting a strategy in his mind.
“Yes,” Potter stepped forward. His eyes were burning with an almost boyish type of excitement, and he really did seem absolutely enthused about the idea he had just proposed. “No refs, trainer Snitch, light Bludger use. Let’s fucking play for it.”
There was a beat of weighted silence. Then-
“You’re on.” Moose said fiercely, shaking Potter’s outstretched hand, while Kato swore under his breath and Cicely whispered something panickedly to Jack.
Ground rules were quickly discussed by the captains - no aiming Bludgers to injure, no physical contact, forty minute playing period - while our team stood off to the side, huddled in a little circle and speaking a few decibels below a normal volume.
“We can take them, easy,” Kato said to the five of us without preamble. “They’re a newer team than we are.”
“They have two star players, but we have depth,” Benjy added. “Potter and the girl Weasley might be equal with us, but the rest of them are definitely below.”
“Plus, their Keeper is new,” I chimed in. “She’s only a Fourth Year, named-”
“Jasmine Hornby? Oh, I know. Fuck, she’s got a rack on her,” Jack said dreamily, and Beck immediately shoved him.
“Oi!” he yelped. “No need to hit me just because you don’t have big ti-”
“Say it, I dare you,” Beck hissed, and although I wasn’t even involved in the altercation I felt a bit scared for the repercussions that Jack was about to face.
“Little Jackie here didn’t mean it,” Kato grinned evilly, pushing Jack much harder than Beck had and ruffling his hair. “Right?”
“Right,” said Jack with a false air of confidence, but it was easy to tell that he was a little rattled.
“Okay, people,” Moose joined our circle, the Gryffindors also huddled in a similar fashion a few metres away. “Here’s what I need you to do.” And then he paused dramatically, and we could all feel the intensity buzzing in the air; we were eager for it, hungry for it, and perhaps that’s why his next words were so jarring. “Lose.”
“What?” I cried, unable to contain my reaction.
“Are you mad?”
“Is he ill? Dying?” Benjy attempted to feel Moose’s forehead with the back of his hand.
“Hear me out,” Moose pulled away from Benjy. “Gryffindors are cocky and headstrong. If they think it’ll be an easy win for them, we’ll have no trouble taking them by surprise in the actual match. We need their guard to be down, and this is the best way to do it.”
There was a moment of silence. Then-
“I hate it,” announced Beck. “I mean, it’s brilliant, but I hate it.”
“I don’t like it much either,” said Moose grimly. “But we have to sacrifice our pride today for a win tomorrow.”
“Isn’t the match next week?” I asked, with the full intention of annoying Moose. He ignored me.
“So, what do we do?” Cicely bit her lip. Moose swelled with pride at her question; I suspected being looked to for leadership was a turn on for him, really.
“Chasers, make bad passes that look like they could have been good. I want them to be slower than usual and for the angles to be just a little bit off. In fact, throw to everyone’s left side so that it’s harder to catch it. Robinson and Waterson, don’t distract their Chasers with Bludgers and don’t talk with one another. Communication on the field right now should look disjointed, and everyone needs to act frustrated. And...Burke - I want you to pretend to be so aggravated with how we’re playing that you take Robinson’s bat and smack him with it.”
“What? Why me?” Jack yelped.
Moose straightened up, and the rest of us followed suit. “Because for once, Nellie has to be focused on not catching the Snitch, and if she acts like she’s more concerned with what everyone else is doing it'll be more believable.”
“But why does she have to hit me?” Jack whined.
“For your comment earlier,” said Moose as he turned around, beginning to walk back towards the Gryffindors. “You deserve a good whack after that.”
“Hey,” said Kato nudged me, as we began to follow the rest of the team. “Be careful, all right, Nels?”
“You, too,” I told him, smiling wryly. We were all walking in separate groups: Jack and Cicely; Beck and Benjy; Kato and I. We hadn’t meant for it to happen like this, but maybe it was a good thing; it made us seem more nervous, more disjointed than it would have if we had walked up all as one team. Already I was entirely preoccupied on the minute details of the game plan just like I was for every Quidditch match, and being able to be so rationally strategic in my mind once again was a welcome feeling.
“Is your team ready?” Moose asked Potter the second we stopped in front of the Gryffindors.
“Obviously,” Potter drawled, gesturing to his players, who were all already sitting on their brooms. “The trainor Snitch has already been released. Since you were here first, you’ll play as the home team, meaning that we will start with the Quaffle.”
“Of course you will,” Moose muttered, and then straightened up, clamoring on his broom as we did the same. “Alright, then, on my count. Three, two, one - go!”
And all at once, fourteen players shot into the air like fireworks into the open sky.
It was just as beautiful an afternoon outside as it had been inside the walls of the Great Hall. The crisp autumn air ballooned directly into my lungs, and as I continued my descent up into the sky I could feel it circulating my body, coursing through the blood that nourished my arteries and fed into my capillaries and pumped my heart. It was an unparalleled feeling, sort of an all-natural adrenaline rush, and I closed my eyes, savouring the sensation.
I’d almost forgotten that I liked to start every match with my eyes shut, if only for a couple of seconds. It helped me calm myself, allowed me to find my center so that I could concentrate to the best of my ability. Moose had taught me that trick right before my first match as a Third Year, and it had never failed to at least heighten my own personal intensity.
As I heard the telltale yells of the Chasers scrambling to get the Quaffle, I took one more long, deep breath in, focusing on the sound it made as it rushed of my nostrils, feeling the way it pushed in my stomach and relaxed the tension in my shoulders. And then I opened my eyes, and I just let myself see, see the dull glimmer of the goal posts as the sun reflected off of them and the baby hairs on Beck’s face and the glint of the silver locket hanging over Dominique Weasley’s red rayon tank top. I could see everything, and in this focused, hyper-attentive state - this was where I felt the most alive. It was my freedom; my power; my ataraxic release.
The scrimmage had started intensely; the Gryffindors were putting everything they had into the play, just as we expected them to. Potter was dominating with the Quaffle, keeping possession for most of the time and only relinquishing it when Dominique Weasley was open. It seemed like he had a distrust for Danvers, an observation that Moose had surely already noted.
I let myself watch the play from above all of my teammates, relaxing into the familiar patterns that characterised essentially every match. Normally, I would start off by scoping out the entire Pitch, but today I only began really doing anything of importance after I noticed the Gryffindor Seeker on the opposite side of the field, practicing a rather jumbled zig-zag search. So I began to do a weave feint: I pretended that I was intensely following the Snitch, flying up and to the side and then down again abruptly, and within seconds the Gryffindor Seeker - I think he was another one of Al’s cousins - was on my tail. He didn’t catch on to the fact that I was following absolutely nothing for nearly ten seconds, and when he finally did he pulled out of the slight dive I had caught him in and sped off towards the opposite end of the Pitch, trying to recover from the distraction, and I grinned to myself. Adam had taught me that move one summer long ago, as we practiced together deep in the open fields behind the looming darkness of the manor.
It just doesn’t seem necessary, though, I’d told him as we were walking back into the manor. I mean, why not just do a Wronski feint?
You don’t always need to be flashy, Corn, he had said, and then grabbed my arm in warning as we passed through the West Wing. Once we made it to our side of the house Adam turned to me once again, grinning easily. Sometimes the best plays are the ones no one suspects are plays at all.
And, indeed, the feint I’d just practiced had been a good play, but I needed more. Because once I got the Gryffindor Seeker to not trust me anymore, if I actually spotted the Snitch it would give me that much more of an advantage.
And so, with a slight prompting from my fingers, my broom dipped straight down in a perpendicular angle to the rest of the players. I could hear people yelling at the Weasley Seeker and telling him not to fall for it, but I didn’t care; I wanted him to learn complacency - and that’s where it sort of hit me: I loved Quidditch, not for its for its athleticism or furor or risk, but for the millions of different scenarios that could unfold in such a short amount of time, for the way it made you think.
“Be careful, Nellie!” I heard Kato yell for the second time, and I waved him away as he missed a pass interception from Dominique Weasley. It was good practice for me anyways; diving low had always been one of my weaknesses.
The thick of the gameplay recorded as almost background noise in my head. Cicely scored, but it was an absolute blunder of a shot, and it was clear that it only went in because of the Keeper’s mistake. Gryffindor was mollified, though, as they then scored forty unanswered points all in a row.
A Bludger whizzed past by my ear, much too close for my liking, but I managed to dodge it at the last minute and steadied my broom a second later, righting myself right next to our goalpost, where Moose had just missed an embarrassingly obvious right-hoop shot from Josh Danvers.
“Nellie!” shouted Kato, from a few metres behind me. “Be-”
“Kato, tell me to be careful one more time and I swear I’ll put a Silencer on you!” I shouted back, not even bothering to hide my annoyance in my tone. I didn’t need help; I certainly didn’t need protection, and the fact that he thought it his place to offer such things was moderately offensive. Moose gave me a subtle thumbs up from the goalposts, for following the plan and publicly yelling at a teammate, I suppose, but as I turned around it wasn’t Kato who I met eyes with. Although it was so fleeting that it practically never happened, I could’ve sworn I saw the ghost of a smirk on James Potter’s face before he turned sharply and sped off towards the Quaffle on the other side of the field.
Beck, who had held possession all the way across the Pitch, missed her shot, but it was just barely off in a way that really did look believable. Potter regained the Quaffle and passed it off to Dominique Weasley, who immediately chucked it to Josh Danvers. Danvers tried passing it back, but on instinct Kato nabbed it out of the air. However, Kato made up for his mistake well; he passed the Quaffle off much too quickly, allowing Gryffindor to easily take control once more. Usually, I didn’t watch the game play so intently, but I was trying to distract myself from being so focused. I’d done my feints and flashy plays, and now all I could really do was go around in circles and wait for the end of the game.
“Is now a good time to embarrass Robinson?” I asked Moose quietly as I flew past him, and even though his gaze never left the Quaffle I caught his curt nod out of my peripherals.
It didn’t take me long to find the right moment to begin my little act. Jack was conveniently stationed towards the center of the play, and I flew over to him, my face already set in a scowl.
“Oi! Robinson!” I yelled at him, raising my voice so that everyone around me could hear what I was saying. “Do you actually call this playing?”
“Nellie, wait-” Jack hissed, but I had already grabbed his Beater’s bat and was brandishing it at him, and yes, I was rather enjoying it.
“If you can’t fucking hit the ball, maybe I should knock some sense into you!” There, that was absolutely brilliant acting, Nellie, really well done-
“Wait!” Jack had his hands up; not in annoyance, but in self defense. “Bludger behind you!”
I turned around, just in time for the dark mass speeding straight at me to glance off of the bat in my hands and ricochet off into another direction - a direction, as it turned out, that was right in line with the left shoulder of Gryffindor Quidditch Captain James Potter. The Bludger hit him with an audible crack, loud enough that every player turned their attention to it, and I could hear Moose’s expletive from all the way across the field.
“Burke!” James Potter shouted, immediately clutching his upper arm with his good hand. “What the fuck was that for?”
“It was an accident!” I yelled back panickedly, quickly handing back the bat to Jack as both teams made their way over to us.
“Like hell it was!” Potter roared. “Everyone on the ground, now!”
“This is why you shouldn't have tried to hit me,” muttered Jack as we made our descent, Moose in front of us, and I honestly considered grabbing the bat from his hands once more and hitting him for real this time.
The second our feet touched the ground, mayhem ensued. It was like the argument both teams had gotten into in the Quidditch Library, only worse, because this time everyone was screaming and there were no threats of a cranky librarian to keep us from hexing one another.
“Why the hell are ye trying to injure our Captain?” A Beater named Charlie Finnegan yelled, throwing his bat on the ground in anger and taking a step towards me.
“She wasn’t!” Benjy insisted, automatically shielding me with his arm, even as I tried to push him away.
“It was clearly an accident-”
“This crosses the fucking line-”
“-pathetic, really, just because you were losing-”
“Oh, it ‘crosses a line?’ Cry me a fucking river, Danvers-”
“It was in self defense-”
“Go fuck yourself, Davidson-”
“Self defense of what?"
“Honestly I will, I do it so much better than you-”
“You broke the only rules we’d laid in place-”
“Can we all just calm down for a-”
“Dom, shut up!”
“Nellie has terrible aim; she would make the worst Beater ever-”
“He’s honestly right-”
“Irrelevant, considering that you’re so bloody thick you thought it would be a good idea to-”
“Don’t fucking talk to her like that!”
“Everyone SHUT UP!” Potter roared, and both teams quieted at once. His jawline was set and sharp as he stopped directly in front of me, still clutching his left shoulder. He didn’t appear to be mocking like he had been the night of our shared detention, or even vaguely curious as he had only thirty minutes before; he was back to his unforgiving enmity, and I resented him for the way a simple glare could make me feel so small and inferior. But I stood my ground; perhaps no more out of necessity than out of a personal spite for him.
“Why did you have the bat?” Potter asked me calmly, and somehow it betrayed more danger in it than if he had continued yelling.
“I was trying to hit Jack with it,” I replied honestly. Potter narrowed his light eyes at me, and without warning an inexplicable energy materialised in the already tensioned atmosphere. It wasn’t like how Kato and I had locked eyes earlier; this was somethings more raw and powerful, a silent conversation of turbulence. It seemed to draw our gazes into one another and hold them there, and as it surged between us Potter lowered his hand from his shoulder slowly, the shell of his distant presentation fracturing ever so slightly.
“You’re a terrible liar, Burke,” Potter said finally, his voice slightly lower than usual. Our gaze still hadn’t been broken, and I could feel my heart racing with what must’ve been adrenaline.
“So you should know that I’m telling the truth.” I said, but it came out quieter than I meant it to.
Potter continued to stare at me, and I to him. Finally, thankfully, he turned his head away, rustling his hair with his good arm, and the strained electricity that had crackled in the spaces between us dissipated immediately.
“It’s getting windy. We should go in.”
Both teams erupted in outrage - What, Potter, are you scared? - We’re not scared, we just gutted you! - but neither Moose nor Potter paid them any mind.
“He’s right,” said Moose, and at that everyone fell silent immediately. “Hufflepuff will be back soon, anyways.”
I arranged my face into something shellshocked, nudging Benjy so that he would do the same - although, maybe that wasn’t the best idea, since he merely opened his mouth slightly and looked super high instead of horrified.
“Then, you don’t mind if we take the Pitch for the remainder of the time?” Potter asked smoothly, and I could see that that had been his plan all along. Get us into a weak position and then force himself back into the upper hand. Only this time Potter didn’t realise we would benefit from it.
Moose sighed heavily; the sound was tired and full of resignment. “Yeah. Whatever.”
There was a shocked silence. “Did Moose just...give up?” Dominique Weasley finally whispered, her face alight with some sort of awe.
“Don’t read into it,” Beck shot back at her, as Cicely pulled her away to continue with the rest of the group as we began to walk back to the Locker Rooms, our heads down and our brooms dragging on the ground.
“I’m going to yell at you, now,” Moose informed us quietly, and then screamed, and I mean screamed, “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU LOT - this is working better than I thought it would - TERRIBLE PASSES, NO AIM AT ALL - great job, everyone, really well done - LAPS UNTIL EVERY SINGLE PERSON CRIES - take the rest of the night off - NOT ONE WORD OUT OF ANY OF YOU!”
“I thought for certain we were found out when I missed that center shot,” Beck shook her head rather disbelievingly as the Gryffindor’s raucous laughter only increased. “Who knew they’d be stupid enough to fall for it at all?”
“I knew,” said Moose harshly. “That’s why I bloody told you to do it in the first place.” But secretly he was satisfied with our day's work, and this was his way of letting us all bask in the brief moment of success and accomplishment.
“Gryffindor,” I smirked, as all seven of us continued up the hill, victorious to one another. “The Macbeth of Houses.”
“What the hell is a mock bath?” asked Beck, crossly.
Author's Note: The thoughtful reviews for this story have been amazing and I'm so excited for you all to read the next few chapters, which have been some of my favorite to write! Please keep reviewing, you have no idea the amount it motivates me to keep writing!
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