Author's Disclaimer: I may love Wood, but he belongs to JK Rowling.  So does everything else you recognize. Alas, I own none of it, and I certainly don't mean to infringe on any copyrights pertaining thereto.

Rating: PG

Spoilers: set in chapter "Grim Defeat" of PoA

"Lonely at the Top"

"It's not his fault."

The teen's voice echoed through the tiled stalls, but there was no one around to hear him groan or see him thud his head against the wall.  Scalding water washed over him, sending goose pimples down his arms and legs, and he rested his hand on the tap but decided against turning the water to a cooler degree.

"It's not his ruddy fault," he repeated, his voice thick with the steam that had long since engulfed him, dulling his senses and clouding his eyes.

But it is, whispered a nasty voice in the back of his head.  No one else fell off their broom, did they?  He clenched his teeth against it.  It's true though. . .

He pounded a fist violently against the tile.  "It's not," he said aloud.  He remained in the shower a while longer, watching the water spiral down the drain and feeling it burning against his skin.  The other boys on the team had rushed straight back to the castle after the match, and now only their captain remained in the changing rooms.  Indeed, he had been the only person left here for the better part of an hour, for everyone was concerned about their injured teammate and no one seemed to want to talk to him.

Don't they care about Gryffindor's chances? This is my last chance to win! The voice was relentless in its selfish fury.

"If Ravenclaw beats Hufflepuff," he muttered to the bar of soap in his hand, "and – or if Slytherin beats Ravenclaw . . ."  He played every possible scenario in his head, pointedly avoiding repeating the scenario that had landed his team in this predicament in the first place.  Much as he wanted to, he knew there really was no one to blame for the day's catastrophe.  He knew he should be lucky his star Seeker wasn't permanently disabled.  He knew he should have accompanied everyone to the castle to see that he was okay.  He knew hope was not completely lost.

"But we lost," he said flatly as he turned off the water at last and stepped onto the slick floor.  Wrapping a towel around his waist, he slid his feet into thong sandals and walked to the mirror on the wall opposite.  We lost, we lost, chanted the voice with every step that slapped against the hard floor.

He pressed his hands around the edge of the sink, his shoulders hunched forward and head bowed.  "I'm being pathetic," he hissed. Pathetic. Loser.

He twisted the knob of the sink and filled the shallow basin with cold water, into which he dipped his hands and lowered his face.  He stared at his reflection in the mirror, freezing droplets rolling along his straight jaw line and dripping from his chin.  His hazel eyes flashed with manic rage, but his thick lashes made the anger look subdued and manageable.  He furrowed his brow, and his usually inviting mouth contorted into an even deeper frown.  His dark hair stuck out at odd angles, making him look utterly mad.  Temper, temper, sang the voice. It's no wonder they're all scared of you. See how hard you are on yourself, and you didn't even do anything wrong.

His face slackened a bit, and he conceded that perhaps, a little, he was overreacting.  He blinked at the boy in the mirror.  He looked the part of a champion, and he knew that it was still possible.  He knew they still had a chance at the Cup.  But this depended wholly on whether his Seeker would live to play another match.

Tearing his eyes away from the mirror, he walked briskly to his locker and began to get dressed.  His robes were suffocating in the still steamy changing room, but once outside in the bitter wind and autumn rain, he found himself running to get to the warm confines of Hogwarts castle.  He slowed only when he neared the gated entryway.  They lost the match for us, he thought as he grew closer to the hooded Dementors standing guard there.  He stopped running altogether, squaring his shoulders and walking proudly through the gates.  He spat on the ground as he passed them, ignoring the chill creeping through his bones but speeding up his pace nevertheless, lest they retaliated.

He crept into the entrance hall, not wanting to be found just yet.  He performed a drying charm on his robes, which were soaked through once more, and ran his hands through his hair to shake out the last traces of rain.  Ignoring the voices resonating from the Great Hall, he made his way to the infirmary to ascertain his Seeker's condition.  He hoped the team would be at dinner with the rest of the school and was pleased to find the hospital wing deserted, save for one motionless body laying in a neatly made bed.

Without meaning to, he quickened his step such that he was slightly breathless by time he'd reached the bedside.  The boy in whom his Quidditch dreams resided was deathly pale and had dark circles under his closed eyes.  His face looked strangely empty without the once shocking and now familiar green looking out from it; his face was thin without his glasses.  Aside from his sickly appearance, the boy looked at peace in his slumber, and the other let slip a heavy sigh of relief.  He shook his head wearily and leant on the table beside him.

"Bloody hell, Potter," he murmured to the younger boy's sleeping form. "It's all your fault, you know."

But this time he smiled as he spoke, and somehow he knew – the boy's wild black hair and jagged scar reassured him, and he knew that it would be the last time Harry Potter ever let him down.