A/N: Okay, yeah. This is the story of a young American Quidditch team, which through sheer talent makes it to the 2001 World Cup final (I've figured it to be seven years between each Cup), the opposing team of which has some rather surprising people on its side. Yes, the 2001—so Harry, in England, is 21. It will eventually span six years' time, starting in 1995. J.K. Rowling owns all surprising people, broomsticks, the concept of Quidditch itself, and all fouls, moves, and teams written into Quidditch Through the Ages. I, Flamewing, claim full responsibility for all homemade brooms, creative (put tactfully, you understand) fowls, and antics of the completely made-up Tri-State Terrors.
There's a cluster of magical schools in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York—three, to be exact. In New Jersey, it's Merlin T. Ridpath Academy of Magic. New York State's is a magnet school for the especially gifted—Nicholas Flamel School for Sorcery. Pennsylvania's addition to the vast halls of learning takes its form in Morwenna Elmira Robinson Academy.
Each has a Quidditch team—and Quodpot, but that's irrelevant. The teams play other schools, and there's a sort of collective rivalry between the three of them.
Merlin's Mighty Mice is all freshmen, somehow, meaning they're a lot smaller than the other teams—conversely that means faster. Flamel's Fighters, however, had the best Seeker in the American Minors Quidditch League. And the top Beaters in the same league were on Robinson's Rally.
A motley crew—the small people, the smart people, and the people who are good at swinging mutated baseball bats.
No wonder they hated each other, really.
"Oh, sweet mother of Merlin," whispered Jill Devin, staring at the flier on the bulletin board. It was a plain white thing, lost among all the other neon papers screaming about interest meetings for such-and-such a thing, in such-and-such a place. You'd think a death toll would arrive with more pomp.
But this slip of paper, with simple black block letters, spelled out a casting call that could only result in doom.
"Jill? Um…what are you staring at?"
The tiny redhead turned slowly, eyes still wide and round. Fortunately, Jill was still in enough control of her cerebral functions that she recognized the tall, gawky blonde in front of her—Phoebe Marx, fellow Chaser on the Mighty Mice.
With considerable melodrama, Jill announced, "Phoebe, the world has just come down with a crash around our very ears."
Phoebe, a very literal person, cocked her head. "I didn't hear anything. Oh wait—sorry—what's that?" She moved towards the bulletin board, having seen the word "QUIDDITCH." One yard away from it—her eyes were bad even with spectacles—she gasped. "Good Lord, you're right. We're dead."
The bell rang for the start of class but neither of them noticed. They stood in the cinder-block lobby, like any other Muggle school, staring at the board and that notice.
A brown-haired boy darted up behind them, from the library across the lobby, but stopped dead at the sight of them. He walked up to them. "Hey, Carrots, Bird. Might I ask what in the name of all that is sacred and holy you're staring at?"
"A message," Phoebe said faintly. "Tony…just read it."
He looked at the white flier and raised his eyebrows. "The American Minors Quidditch League is absolutely insane."
"They should know we can't fraternize with those kind of lowlifes!" exploded Jill furiously.
"Especially after the rat incident last year," Phoebe said. "Remind me to ask that spell of Gregor, by the way."
Tony shook his head hard, rubbed his eyes, and looked again. It still read the same. "I don't get it. How could they do this to us?"
THE AMERICAN MINORS QUIDDITCH LEAGUE HAS INITIATED AN ALL-STAR LEAGUE. TEAMS WILL BE CHOSEN FROM POOLS. OUR POOL IS FROM, COLLECTIVELY, MERLIN T. RIDPATH ACADEMY OF MAGIC, MORGANA ELMIRA ROBINSON ACADEMY, AND NICHOLAS FLAMEL SCHOOL FOR SORCERY.
TRYOUTS FOR THE ALL-STAR TEAM WILL TAKE PLACE AT 3:30 PM ON OCTOBER 13, 1995 AT THE MERLIN T. RIDPATH QUIDDITCH PITCH. ALL QUIDDITCH TEAM MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO TAKE PART.
And underneath, someone had scrawled: "Reggie will you go to Homecoming with me please?"
Under that, in a different handwriting (probably Reggie's): "Sign your name, genius."
Such is high school, no matter if you're a witch or not.
"They can't make us do this," Pet Wilson said firmly. He had called a team meeting on seeing that stupid flier. "It's constitutionally illegal, I swear." Pet was captain of the Flamel Fighters, from the gifted school, and played Seeker.
Rachel Avery, Keeper, raised her hand. "Sorry, Pet, but as kids and wizards, the U.S. Constitution doesn't apply. We're minors, remember? No rights whatsoever." Rachel was the pessimist of the team, firmly rooted in the opinion that if you expected the worst, you'd only be pleasantly surprised—and that the world had it in for people under eighteen. She was fifteen, herself. "We'll be forced into it. I bet there's some kind of unspoken grading issue—I mean, they wouldn't require it if it didn't have anything to do with grades."
Fiona Keller, Chaser, said matter-of-factly, "No. They only require it because if they didn't, no one would ever try out."
"True," Pet said. "So we're in it for life."
"Not life," Fio argued. "The All-Star tournament lasts one season, that's it."
"Darn," Rachel said, unaccountably. When they looked at her, she explained, "No, see…now I've got something to look forward to."
"Oh. Good. God."
"They can't do this!"
"First thing we'll kill each other. And then no one'll try out. Ever."
"We'll be kicked off campus, for another thing."
"I know—wait. Why?"
"Hello, you idiot. Working with the enemies."
"Oh cheese, you're right."
"Laughed off campus because we're forced into this rotten league."
"At least there's more Qui—"
"If you say even one good thing about this, I'm gonna chop your tongue out with a blunt knife."
Wendy Gillman, Emerson Smith, and Natalie McSpirit dispersed to their classes, looking frightened, concerned, and burdened with blind, raging, very scary fury, respectively.
Sullenly, the three teams made their way to the Ridpath Quidditch pitch on Friday, October 13th. It was a perfect day for Quidditch, slightly overcast so the sun wouldn't get in one's eyes, a light breeze, and cool enough for one to appreciate the heavy uniforms rather than hating them.
Phoebe, clutching her Hummingbird 16, looked around the stands. There were three groups of people, trying to keep as much space between them as possible—one blue spot, one gray, and one gold. Merlin's Mice, her team, were in the gray, of course—what a mouselike color. All the froshies there looked both pale and hateful, tossing glances like poisoned throwing knives at the other two teams.
"At least it's just the one season," Jill said, trying to sound cheerful but coming across as desperate for something good. "And there is more Quidditch, there's the regular games and then these regional ones—"
Tony said heavily, "Jill, just shut up." He examined his broom, handmade by his uncle. "Could anyone please plant a Hurling Hex on this? I don't want to be here…"
"Does anyone?" snapped Phoebe. "Shut up yourself. Coward."
They got into a marvelous argument over that.
Rachel Avery held tight to her ancient, dearly beloved, and mightily upgraded Silver Arrow. "Our pitch is better," she said grumpily, determined to find something wrong, and succeeding. "They don't even bother to cut the grass, by Merlin's boots."
"Is that all you can think about? The state of the field? Look at the people!" Pet said furiously. "They're a bunch of babies and simpletons! And that group, those little froshies, they keep tossing looks over here like we're going to go over there and beat them with our brooms," he went on, looking fondly at his pride and joy, the Firebolt Model Two, a prototype obtained for him by a slightly nutty yet wealthy great-aunt who was handily Quidditch-obsessed.
Fiona pointed out, "And that's a waste of a good set of brooms." She thought and continued excitedly, "I know what we do! We win. We bring the entire team to the All-Stars. Everyone," she said, glancing around and taking in the Beaters, Tim Garner and Jud Thomas, and the other Chasers, twins Mandy and Missy Hall, "we are going to play the best, and we will all make it into the league."
Rachel looked around at them, too. The only reasons they had won their last three seasons were Pet's excellent Seeking and her own phenomenal Keeping. "Dream on," she muttered.
Presently, she found several people coming at her with brooms and maniacal grimaces, and was a little hard-put to defend herself.
Let's leave her there to duke it out, and see how our last team is doing.
Wendy Gillman twirled a strand of blond hair around her finger, looking around nervously. "Guys—"
Natalie whirled on her and barked, "I told you to be quiet, dammit. Now shut up."
"Touchy," Wendy retorted, but subsided, folding down one of the seats in the stands and sitting, going over her Comet Three Twenty for the sixteenth time. Her heart wasn't in it, and Emerson, standing nearby, saw her blue eyes glittering unnaturally.
"You shut up, McSpirit," muttered a Chaser, Sally-Anne Hiddle. Natalie had the unfortunate reputation of an oppressive maniac who deserved to be whacked resoundingly with several Beater's clubs. Wendy, as one of the Beaters, supported this theory the most, and was probably the most "oppressed."
Natalie turned on Sally-Anne. "I'd like to hear you talk," she sneered. "All you've done is sit and snivel about how you're going to break a damn nail. You can take your makeup and manicured nails and stuff it somewhere, you know that? You're such a…"
Emerson's control snapped and he flung himself at her. While Natalie had the stronger will, Emerson definitely had the greater strength. It was a slightly unfair advantage, as everyone was on Em's side and very soon joined in the fight.
Six to one is a rather promising ratio, don't you agree…?
"Good Lord," said a Beater on the Mice, a stocky black-haired boy named Mike. "We're the only team that's going to be alive by the time they call us down, let alone functioning." He pointed at the other teams, both engaged in some spirited fistfights, aided by broomsticks.
Phoebe clapped a hand over her mouth, shoulders shaking with laughter.
"Oh, that's no fun," Jill whined. "No, seriously. Phoebe, please…"
The other girl calmed down and looked at Jill, eyes wide.
"Think about it. If they can't function, that means we'd all get in by default," the small redhead said.
Tony demanded, "When did we say we wanted to get on the team?"
The others agreed, glaring at Jill like she had said something extremely offensive.
Jill gaped. "Excuse me? Look, it's an all-star team. Creme de la creme. If you get in, you're one of the best. And you guys don't want to say that you're good? See, if we all get in, that means that Merlin Academy is the best school for Quidditch—which is true, remember? But if they can't function, we'd be there by default, which means nothing."
Phoebe nodded. "That seems reasonable." A wicked gleam came into her eyes. "And as you so generously volunteered—want to go break them up?"
"Holy crap," Jill said vehemently. "I never said—that was nothing—I didn't say—"
"Oh, we'll go with you," Tony assured, grinning at Phoebe. "We'll stand behind you, a solid wall of…moral support." He glanced around at the rest of the team. "Well, what are we waiting for? Let's go!"
They grinned as well and stood up, putting their brooms safely under the rows of folding seats, and followed Phoebe, Tony, and a very pale Jill.
Rachel had tossed her broom aside—she wasn't about to let her dear faithful Arrow get injured—and was going for defense tactics: Throw a bunch of confusion hexes until they got themselves into a muddle, then loop them up into a bundle of gibbering monkeys.
It wasn't working too well, mostly because they had five-foot-long brooms and she had a nine-inch, albeit magical, stick.
Rachel threw a glance that way, and saw a very small girl, with a halo of frizzy red hair, standing there, backed by her cronies. She was one of the Mice, a frightened little freshman.
The second of distraction was all Fiona needed to get in a crucial swipe to her shoulder, and the pandemonium continued.
Phoebe wasn't star of the Charms class for nothing. She froze all of them in place, and every broom dropped to the concrete floor with a clatter. The girl put her wand in her pocket and sidled casually up to Rachel, who was stuck in a rather uncomfortable position draped backwards over a chair, the back of which was digging into her spine.
"You did good," Phoebe said approvingly. "All that by yourself…I wouldn't want you for an enemy."
Rachel's fingers were still on her wand, and thinking the words for spells works as well as saying them. As strongly as she could, she thought the countercharm for the freezing spell and straightened, rubbing her back. "No," she said, glaring at Phoebe with very cold gray eyes. "You wouldn't. Unfortunately for you, you are." She sniffed scornfully. "Interfering child. Go back to your corner and play with your little friends."
Phoebe drew herself up, so she was barely on eye-level with Rachel, who was rather short. "I will, after I have my say. I was just trying to help, but no one's gonna accept that, now are they? Especially not you. Ungrateful jerk." She pivoted and strode back to her section of the stands, and the rest of them scurried after her.
"Well," Rachel said quietly. "Perhaps they're not quite as spineless as we had first considered." A pleasant surprise.
Pet unfroze himself and sat immediately. "Ah, what's the point," he said angrily. "We got shown up by a bunch of froshies…let's not continue, shall we?" he went on, unfreezing Fiona and their Beaters, Owen and Ben. "It'll inflate their pitiful egos, you know?"
"Yeah," Fiona said. "Right." She touched a new bruise on her face, and winced. "Plus, you're scared you'll get hurt."
"That's secondary," Pet retorted, sounding affronted.
"But I'm right, correct?"
Robinson's Rally stopped moving on their own, before the Mice even got there. Natalie was sufficiently out of commission, from a combination of punching the side of a chair rather than Yolanda Reese, their Seeker, and receiving a massive thwack from Wendy's broom. Emerson was gasping slightly, after a kick in the stomach, and their Keeper, Ian Wilde, had the beginning of a magnificent black eye, and Wendy had a nosebleed, but they could still play.
Wendy dabbed at her nose with a handkerchief and looked at Natalie, out cold and sprawled in a stadium seat. "Well, that was fun."
"You need a spell for that?" Emerson asked, getting his breath back. "Yeah, it was."
Ian winced as he glanced at Natalie, then at the field. "However, it's also served to blacken our names, it seems," he muttered, then dove under a bench for a prolonged retrieval of his Cleansweep Seven.
A very short twenty-something woman, skinnier than a wet cat and about as angry, was charging up the shallow steps to their row. Her brown curly hair, pulled into a ponytail, seemed distinctly out of step with her all-angles face and dark, glittering eyes behind thick black glasses. She stood there, just outside the length of seats, and just glared at the six of them, one of whom was under the bench, three of whom were lying on the concrete floor panting, another who was unconscious, and the last two sitting and nursing injuries and broomsticks.
"What is the meaning of this?" she demanded, voice furious. "An unseemly display of rowdiness, attacking your own team captain! I demand of you, why?"
Sally-Anne, one of those lying on the floor, pulled herself into a sitting position and looked up at the woman, eyes wide and earnest. Everyone in Morwenna Academy knew of her dramatic abilities—and the fact that she lied through her teeth at every available opportunity. "Our captain's verbally abusive. She curses at us all the time, and she yelled at Wendy and made her cry. And then she yelled at me for telling her to stop."
She looked around at the rest of them. "Didn't she?" she asked.
They nodded, trying to look pitiful, and Wendy actually started tearing up again.
"That's cause for knocking out a girl who's much smaller than you?" the woman said dryly. "Hardly, I think. She'll be patched up, of course, but she won't be able to perform at all. Five points are automatically subtracted from your tryouts scores." She looked around at them all and sighed. "I'm disappointed in you. First impressions last, and I'll be around you a lot."
She shook her head, sighed again, and conjured a stretcher for Natalie. Then she walked back to the field, head down.
Ian backed out from under the bench so fast he hit his head. "Dang," he said, in awe. "That skinny little hag is going to be our coach!"
"How do you know?" Yolanda demanded nervously.
"Duh," Ian said caustically. "She was in Quidditch getup."
On reflection, they recalled that she was—but she had a black cloak rather than any bright color, and the standard shin guards, wrist guards, turtleneck and pants blended in.
Emerson wasn't sure who said that—it was probably one of the other Chasers—but it summed everything up extremely well.
Phoenix Winter Anders (yes, it's a real name, her parents were hippies) had graduated three years ago from Flamel School of Sorcery, and the 1992 yearbook had listed her as "Most Quidditch-Obsessed." She lived, breathed, talked, ate, and thought Quidditch. If she had the chance to get season-pass tickets to all games at Ben Franklin Stadium, payment being fifty years in Azkaban after the season ended, she'd make the trade. Gladly.
She actually did approve of that team—the one that had beaten up their captain, this Natalie person. If the girl was a bad leader, at least the team had the spirit and unity to pound her to a pulp. They lied for each other. They would gladly die for each other, it seemed.
So this All-Star league, which Phoenix had spoken against rather vehemently, wasn't completely void of promise.
Perhaps another figure, not quite as high. Only seventy-five percent void of promise.
But twenty-five percent is better than nothing, she thought, and called the teams down to the pitch.
"This is it," said each captain, and Emerson in place of Natalie. They didn't know they were speaking perfectly in unison, or that their voices quivered in the same places, or that they picked up their brooms with the same hand, simultaneously. And they couldn't know that their teams all stood at the same time, together, and repeated, "This is it."
"Come on, men."
And twenty people, moving as an unconsciously seamless whole, marched down to the pitch, carrying their brooms.
The perfect timing disintegrated as soon as they were within glaring distance. They collected in three small groups, little huddles of humanity, which looked suspiciously at the other groups with shifty, nervous, angry looks. Rachel and Phoebe glared the most, as there had been a previous conflict, but there were general dissent and poisonous looks all around.
The small angry woman in black clapped her hands sharply, and the murmuring stopped. "Well," she said, and let the word hang in the air, twisting onto itself and making them all squirm.
"This is the official beginning of the American Minors Quidditch League All-Star Tournament," said the woman, "but you knew that. I, by the way, am Phoenix Anders, the captain of the Northeastern Regional team." She turned on Pet, who had sniggered a bit at her name. "Is there something wrong, young man?" she demanded of this tall, pale individual who, for some reason, strongly reminded her of a Siamese cat. "If you need to cough up a hairball, do it somewhere else."
Pet gaped as the rest of his team stifled laughs. He was picky, scornful of all lower life forms (freshmen, definitely, and non-Quidditch players, to some extent), and had a way of smoothing his clothes and hair that was extremely reminiscent of a feline.
Several of the other team members were grinning as well, but Phoenix was having none of it. She clapped her hands again and went on like nothing had happened.
"There will be a half-hour period for warming up, all of you. A third set of goals has been set up, as you can see," she said, pointing at three goal hoops along the middle of the field. "Those are for Chaser and Keeper practice. Seekers and Beaters, just warm up and fly around. Understand?"
They all nodded, as it would take a severely impaired rock not to get what she was saying.
"Good. Be back here in half an hour. Then tryouts will begin—first Chasers, then Keepers, then Beaters, and lastly Seekers. There will be a description of your tryout before each one."
They waited, staring at her, until Phoenix flapped her hands at them and barked, "Well? Disperse!"
"Brooms," Jill ordered, and the Mice took off and flew to the eastern end of the field. Pet, having recovered from the feline barb, took his team to the western end, and the Rally was left to use the center posts.
Phoenix looked up at them, and grinned like a wolf. "This will be fun."
A/N: That's that chapter. Well? Any thoughts? I will love anyone who reviews…This may go on for a while, if anyone is interested in the fic.