G is for Grandeur (Delusions of)
James Potter paced up and down the length of the Gryffindor team changing rooms, periodically stopping by the door to sniff at the outside air.
"North-Easterly wind, about a sixty percent chance of rain, I reckon. It's going to be a blustery one, boys and girls!"
The hour of the match was almost upon them and the team were going through their pre-game preparations. Stood beside James, Lorcan was deftly trimming the last few straggling tail-ends from his trusted Nimbus 3000, whilst Albus – who hadn't uttered a word since breakfast – was staring blankly ahead, his feet tapping rhythmically against the floor as he tried to get a handle on his nerves.
Al let out a sickly sounding moan and let his mop of black hair fall into his lap. Lorcan and James simply exchanged knowing grins. For all of his pre-match jitters, Al had never let them down yet. The boy was an impenetrable force in front of those hoops and the Gryffindor team's secret weapon. There was absolutely no way that Lysander or any of his Chaser's were sinking a single goal passed James' little brother today – and the only person who didn't seem to have total confidence in that fact was Albus himself.
Outside in the stands, Penny and Rose had managed to push their way to the very front of the Gryffindor bleachers - no easy feat given the level of excitement and energy surrounding the opening game of the season. The stands were jam-packed with supporters and spectators alike and the noise was already fever pitched despite still being a good fifteen minutes from kick-off.
Penny had gone all out in her support for the Gryffindor team (and its captain in particular), to the point where, Rose felt, she looked mildly ridiculous. The house scarf and jumper were one thing, but the giant red and yellow jester hat seemed a little gauche. Not to mention the banner that she had draped over the front of the stands that proudly exclaimed:
'GRYFFINDOR TO GREATNESS'
Rose had a number of questions about this statement – not least where Penny had managed to hide a sixteen foot banner in their cupboard of a dorm room without her noticing – but felt now probably wasn't the time to ask.
Rose, for her part, was trying very hard to match her friend's level of enthusiasm. She was excited for the match, of course – even if Quidditch wasn't her strong suit, she cared enough about her cousins to have a strongly vested interest. Particularly for Al, who she knew had both dreaded and dreamed of this moment in equal parts for the last few months. She'd even allowed Penny to draw two tiny golden lions, one on each of her cheeks, though she'd already accidentally smudged one trying to tie her hair up and out of the way of the seemingly gale force winds.
Her distraction from all the merriment, however, was in no small part due to the dizzying height of the bleachers and the very present memory of the last time she'd been here. And how, on that occasion, she'd been dropped unceremoniously on her head by none other than Scorpius Malfoy.
She peered over the edge of the stands and felt her stomach roll, the tinkle of the bells on Penny's jester hat ringing closely in her ears as her vision momentarily swam. In truth, she'd never been a great lover of heights but it seemed recent events may have developed that into an all-out phobia. She foolishly chanced another look at the grass pitch way below them and was suddenly seeing it come hurtling it towards her again, just as it had that night – the sickening crack of her elbow, the smell of the soil and the dull thud of her head on the hard ground…
"Rosie? Where are you going? The match is about to start!" Penny shouted above the furore as Rose began to push her way back through the crowds and away from the edge.
"I just have to - er, I mean, we need snacks!" Rose yelled shakily over her shoulder, not daring to glance back as she battled her way through the mass of house flags and scarves. "I'll be back! Probably!"
Penny stared after her friend in bewilderment, wondering whether or not to go after her, until someone nearby started a boisterous chant of 'GRYFFINDOR! GRYFFINDOR!' and her concerns evaporated in the excitement.
Stumbling down the rickety steps – two, three at a time – Rose finally burst out onto the grounds behind the Quidditch Pitch and sucked in a deep gulp of air. She considered lying down for a moment on the wet grass but thought better of it, given all the mud. Her heart was still racing but her vision was steady and stomach subsided now that she felt solid ground beneath her feet again. The Quidditch stands were a marvel of magical engineering but they had an unnerving tendency to sway in the slightest breeze.
Rose closed her eyes and let her head rest back against one of the wooden turrets – she would go back up, for her cousins' sake – just as soon as she pulled herself together. And she even had a spell that might help her do that, she realised with a smile. Bolstered by the success of her last self-healing attempt, Rose pulled her wand from her sleeve and – glancing furtively along the perimeter of the stands – pointed it squarely at her stomach.
"Propono nauseum," she whispered. Nothing happened. She could still feel the acidic bile rising in her throat.
With a frown she re-adjusted her wand, "Propono nauseum," and this time flicked her wrist about ninety degrees anti-clockwise.
Rose gasped, startled by the sudden tingling sensation that appeared instantly in her mouth. It felt as if a thick, bubbling liquid was trickling down her gullet, pooling in her stomach, and in seconds her sickness had vanished. Rose swallowed experimentally and the tingling sensation stopped too.
She took a deep breath and gave her body a moment to adjust, then grinned widely – another success. Feeling immensely cheered and with her nausea totally gone, she turned to head back up to the stands and try to re-claim her spot, but was stopped at the last moment.
Glancing back over her shoulder she stared in surprise at the man-of-the-hour himself, captain of the Hufflepuff team jogging towards her. "Lysander! What on Earth are you doing here? I'm fairly sure they're expecting you," she gestured lamely behind her towards the pitch.
He nodded eagerly. "I know, I've got about two minutes I think! I always run a lap around the stands right before we kick off, gets the blood flowing, you know?"
Rose laughed as he bounded up and down on the spot, the boy was literally brimming over with energy. "If you say so, Captain."
Lysander grinned, hazel eyes wild and alert. "Get a good seat, won't you? I want to be able to see you from the air!" he yelled, setting off to continue his warm-up. Rose blushed and turned quickly away to head back up the ten or so flights of stairs.
"Rose! One more thing!"
She looked up just in time to register that Lysander was now somehow mere inches from her side. His hand came to rest on her jaw and guided her face up to meet his as he pushed his lips onto hers. It was a tad awkward – she was unprepared and he was still running on the spot so his mouth kept bobbing up and down and it was over just as quickly as it began, just a chaste fleeting pressure before he was gone again. Rose barely had time to even register the sensation before she opened her eyes to find him jogging away, without so much as a backwards glance.
It was almost as if the whole thing had never even happened. But it had. She'd just been kissed. And by the Hufflepuff Quidditch captain, no less.
By the time Rose had made it back up to the stands and fought her way over to Penny, she was beaming from ear to ear. All thoughts of vertigo and fears of flying long forgotten.
Penny looked her over curiously and frowned. "Where are the snacks, then?"
Rose just laughed. "Give me that stupid thing," she grinned, stealing the hideous jester hat and cramming it firmly over her ears. Maybe Quidditch wasn't so bad after all.
The match was intense, explosive and electric – everything the opening game of the season should be. Both teams were on excellent form, showing off all their hard work from pre-season training, with thrills and spills a plenty. James and Lorcan worked seamlessly as a trio with the other Gryffindor chaser, with James somehow managing to simultaneously keep his watchful captain eye on all his other players and push them forward when needed. Lysander did the same for his side, and it was easy to see that his word was law out there on the pitch. Although positioned as Seeker, he was everywhere all at once – assisting his keeper when on the defence, protecting his chasers from the expertly aimed bludgers and whipping around the pitch so quickly he was a black and yellow blur.
The real star of the show, however, was undoubtedly Albus. His brother had not been exaggerating in his boasts at the pub the previous weekend. Not a single quaffle had made it past him all match and as the minutes ticked by and his confidence grew with more and more daring saves, Albus was beginning to seem truly unbeatable. Rose was brimming with cousinly pride, but she certainly wasn't the only one to notice. Hordes of students – many of whom female, Rose noticed with amusement– were jumping in the stands and cheering his name. She found herself wondering, not without a stab of jealousy, if things would ever be the same again for her lovable cousin now the word was out: Albus was a superstar.
Rose found herself enjoying the spectacle so much that by the time she even had the notion to check the time she realised that she was already late to meet Malfoy and help decorate for that evening's party. With a few startled curse words, she made a rushed goodbye to Penny and took off running for the castle. She didn't particularly mind about missing the end of the game – whoever ended up catching the snitch, it was already clear to her who the real winner was and that was definitely Albus Potter. Not that she'd ever tell James that, mind you – that boy lived and died by the league table.
Indeed, she was so boisterous, that she didn't give a second thought to the fact that she was heading to meet Malfoy, or that the two of them would be alone in a hidden room together for the best part of an hour. She didn't feel that usual sense of dread, or have the wherewithal to worry about that tiny flip of her stomach at the thought of him waiting for her in relative secrecy.
Indeed, when she finally made it up to the seventh floor corridor and paced back and forth in front of the wall three times, she headed straight through the emerging door without a moment's hesitation. And the sight that greeted her brought an even bigger smile to her face.
"Where the bloody Hell have you been?"
Scorpius stood in the middle of the New Room of Requirement – reams of gold and white bunting wrapped around his arms and legs and a pool of glitter at his feet. She noticed, with great amusement, he'd also managed to get glitter in his hair so that it seemed to sparkle when caught in the light.
He was glowering at her furiously, but his scowl lost its poisonous delivery when she started to laugh. He couldn't help it really – he hadn't heard her laugh before and it was oddly pleasing sound, much freer and more musical than he'd imagined. She actually looked like a normal sixteen-year-old girl for once and not an angry doxy.
"Malfoy, what on Earth have you done to yourself?" Rose laughed, happily. "You look like you've been attacked by an over-enthusiastic fairy."
He tried to sneer at her, but found it impossible when she gave him such a cheerful grin. "Well, maybe if someone hadn't turned up twenty minutes late to help me," he grumbled, the tips of his ears turning almost imperceptibly pink as he struggled to free himself from his decorative restraints.
"Stop wriggling, you're making it worse!" Rose moved over to him without thinking and stilled his flailing arms.
"I wasn't wriggling," he muttered. "I am not a worm."
This statement only served to amuse Rose even more, and she let out a noise somewhere between a snort and a hiccup. Scorpius quirked an eyebrow at her and it was suddenly her turn to blush.
She busied herself disentangling his shoulders and forearms, having to take one arm at a time to methodically free him from his festive binds. She could feel the strength and form of his forearms beneath the thin cashmere jumper he was wearing and – as she stood on her tiptoes to unloop a chain of ribbons he had inexplicably managed to put his entire head through – his breath tickled her, warm against her cheek. The sensation was strangely intimate and instantly sobering – as if a switch had just been flicked on in her brain specifically to remind her that this was Scorpius Malfoy and that she very literally had her hands all over him. A fresh wave of colour rose to her cheeks and she had to resist the urge to flinch away from him like a scorching flame.
"There," she undid the last of the bunting ties quickly and un-looped the rest of the string from around his wrists, turning away swiftly as he shook the remaining glitter from his hair. "I take it decorative spells are not your strong suit?" she asked after a beat.
"Forgive me if I'm not up to speed on the latest Wizarding Homes & Garden interior design tips," he rolled his eyes, dusting the remaining golden specks from his grey jumper, whilst trying to act as though he hadn't noticed the sudden change in her demeanour.
Rose sighed, feeling that her buoyant mood was at risk of sinking, "Why don't you take the silencing and disillusionment charms then, and I'll sort this lot out?"
The pair set to work in something of a weighty silence. Scorpius glanced across at her and frowned. She had her back to him and was busy levitating various sparkly adornments up into the rafters but even so, he could see by the line of her shoulders that she was suddenly tense. His frown deepened – not that he wasn't used to seeing Weasley cross or anxious about one thing or another, but it was a rather disconcerting thought that someone could go from being so cheerful to so on edge, simply by entering the same room as him.
He cleared his throat, feeling unusually unsure of himself. "How was the match?" he asked, casually, raising his wand to start the circular motions of a privacy spell in front of the door.
That seemed to stir up some of Rose's previous enthusiasm. "Oh, you should have seen it, Malfoy! Albus is genuinely something else out there! I mean James and Lorcan talk absolute rubbish most of the time but they really weren't lying about him -," she paused, turning on her heel to stare at him. "Wait, didn't you watch any of it? Don't tell me you've been in here this whole time and only managed to cover yourself in glitter?"
Scorpius wasn't quick enough to hide his snort of amusement. "Hardly. No, I was in the library, I don't like to watch the other teams' matches. It puts me off my game if I'm worrying too much about their previous tactics."
"That's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." Rose wrinkled her nose. "And very unsportsmanlike, if you ask me."
He simply quirked an eyebrow, focused on sending the ripple of a repelling charm out over the walls. "I'm quite positive nobody did. Tell me, Weasley, when was it exactly you became an expert on sporting psychology?"
She pursed her lips. "About the same time you became an expert in party decorations, I imagine."
Scorpius chuckled at that. "Touché."
Rose felt a little bubble rise in her chest at the site of his lazy grin and busied herself changing the colours of the various lights and candles around the room.
"Come over here and help me with this last silencing charm, will you?"
Rose – who was quite unfamiliar with being bossed about by others – gave something of a little 'hrmph' but did as she was asked. The two stood side by side and raised their wands in unison as Scorpius muttered the various charms: "Quietus…Muffliato…Silencio…" Adding one she'd never heard before: "Inaudita maximo."
Rose watched as the four walls seemed to shimmer for a moment then settle. She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. "You're good at that," she offered.
"Charms is my best subject," he shrugged. "I'd probably be top of the class if it weren't for a certain irritating book-worm."
She opened her mouth to retort, spotting his mirthful smirk and settling for a withering eye-roll instead. "That last spell," she started, hesitantly. "Was that something you'd read about or… or come up with on with your own?"
"Ah, well, practicing untested spellwork without supervision, that would be against school rules," he paused, turning to fix her with an oddly knowing gaze. "That doesn't seem like something either of us should be doing, now does it?"
"I.. I don't-," Rose blinked back at him, quite lost for words. Scorpius raised one superior eyebrow.
Luckily, at that moment, the door to the New Room of Requirement flung back on its hinges and the clamour of over-excited voices filled the room, interrupting Rose as she spluttered for a response and stealing Malfoy's all-knowing stare away, much to her relief.
"Unbeaten! Unbeaten!" James came barrelling in passed them, closely followed by an equally animated Oliver Flint. "What did I tell you? Not a single quaffle past my little brother!" he beamed, proudly.
Flint was gesticulating wildly. "You didn't even win the match, Potter! Were we even at the same game?!"
"Well, yeah, it is a shame about the snitch," he shrugged, unperturbed, "but one hundred and forty to one hundred and fifty isn't bad. And like I said, not a single quaffle got passed Al! Now that is quality keeping."
Lorcan, who clearly wasn't quite as happy with the games result came trooping in behind them and scowled as one of the long lines of streamers Rose had been hanging earlier swung down to hit him in the face. "Well, where is the boy wonder now, ey? He's supposed to be helping us shift the drinks down from the tower! We've only got another half hour!"
"I believe I saw him being thoroughly congratulated by Lucy Chang behind a statue downstairs," James chuckled, beaming with even more brotherly pride. "Now, cough up, Flint, I believe you owe me three galleons!"
"Oi!" Scorpius yelled above the furore, interrupting them crossly. "How about a little appreciation for those of us who've been slaving away here for the last hour?"
James and Lorcan exchanged grins and fell about laughing. "Sorry, Malfoy. An excellent job, really. What artistry, what delicate handiwork, what exquisite use of colour!"
Scorpius grimaced. "No need to be a git, Scamander. Just because your twin apparently got the lion's share of the sporting talent."
That set James off into another bout of exuberant laughter, ducking out of reach of Lorcan's half-hearted punch to the arm, just as Albus arrived –grin wide, hair lopsided and an awful lot of what looked like lip gloss smeared around his mouth. Rose watched in feminine bewilderment as the two older Gryffindors descended upon him, swallowing him up into a mix of hugs, choke holds and arm punches before Albus managed to extricate himself and they all set off chasing each other around the room. Not for the first time in her life, Rose found herself thanking the gods for her two X chromosomes.
Beside her and equally bemused, Scorpius shook his head and fixed her with a suspicious stare. "You seem awfully calm considering you're now an accomplice to the planning of an illegal, out of hours, underage drinking party."
Rose met his gaze and quirked an eyebrow of her own. "Well, Malfoy, as much pleasure as it would give me to see you violently expelled, I'd rather like to see my idiot cousins make it to graduation. Besides, being able to say 'I-Told-You-So' isn't nearly as much fun when there's no one left around to listen."
Scorpius clocked the beginnings of a grin at the corner of her mouth and laughed. "Merlin, Weasley, if I didn't know any better, I'd say you might have just grown a sense of humour."
Rose offered him another poisonous eye roll and headed off to finish the security charms, leaving Scorpius to stare after her with a grin. Maybe, he thought to himself, just maybe tonight might be even more interesting than he'd imagined.