Cooke frowned in his golden chair. The sun was rising and was visible in the glass windows behind his desk; it lit up the whole Quidditch pitch, making the golden goal posts glimmer.

"Well, I can't say this makes me very happy, but it seems I have no choice. I'm not going to force someone to play if she no longer wants to. And you're sure this is what you want?"

I thought back to my first meeting in this office and how eager I was to begin playing. Thinking about that moment felt like I was watching a clip from someone else's life.

"It's what I need," I answered.

Chapter Thirteen

Final Sprint

Frowning, I tilted the mug to avoid getting too much foam head as I filled beer orders at the tap.

My last nine orders had been beer. That was one of my least favorite things to serve—apart from fruity drinks. It lacked originality; mixing drinks was an art form, not a menial chore.

Yet, these days, it was hard to see much of a difference.

"Here you go, lads," I said, pulling my mouth into a semblance of a polite smile while thrusting their drinks at them.

"Oh, love, you got a name?" one of the blokes in the group of young men asked.

"Yeah, it's My-Dad-Owns-This-Pub-I've-Got-Three-Older-Brothers-And-I-Don't-Need-Any-Of-Them-To-Kick-Your-Ass," I replied dully.

Despite my lackluster performance, the bloke seemed to get the message because his leer faded and he went back to snickering with his mates.

"Oi, Miss! Over here, please!"

I shoved a piece of hair back into my slapdash ponytail and walked over to the gentleman getting on in years and a bit wider in girth. "What can I get ya?"

"Just a beer will be fine."


"Oh, and Miss! Could you put one of those little umbrellas in it? I know it doesn't go with the drink, I just like 'em."

I bit down on my tongue. "Course. Comin' right at ya." With a frustrated sigh, I went to go make his drink.

For nearly two weeks I had been back here full-time at nights. Dad was still weak, so even though he was not thrilled about my current unemployment status, he graciously let me man the bar.

Some of my favorite customers stopped in, and it was fun to see them at first and chat for a while and catch up. However, most of the nights had been filled with the same, usual blokes doing the same, usual thing: getting drunk and pissing off their wives, who were waiting for them to get home.

I think Dad had said something to my brothers because none of them had mentioned much about my resignation from Puddlemere. Normally, they would have taken the mickey out of me for days for something far less consequential.

I did not really appreciate their recent displays of tact and consideration, however. I felt like some mental case that had just escaped from St. Mungo's.

Even Dad was treating me like I was a bottle of open Firewhiskey next to a blow torch. When I told him the news, explaining an edited version of my life recently, he was flabbergasted and readily demanded why I would do something so stupid, but after I told him that I just could not handle it anymore he, oddly enough, dropped it.

I almost wished that he had freaked out more—yelled at me or told me that if I did not march right back to Cooke's office and beg for my job back he would disinherit me. Yet, Dad decided to let it rest.

"I feel different after the heart attack, Hayles," he explained. "Some things don't seem as important anymore. Did I think that Quidditch was the most important thing to you? Your biggest love? Yes. But that's no reason to stay on the team if it was making you miserable. Cause there is something more important than lovin' somethin', Hayles, and that's lovin' yourself enough to take care of yeh. Otherwise, you're just pourin' yerself a glass of scotch and pourin' it on the floor."

So now speaking of Quidditch was more taboo than saying You-Know-Who's name during the War. We had never had a more awkward conversation around Dad's table than this past Sunday at dinner.

Still, even though my family was trying to protect me from finding out news, I found out about how the team was doing. The press had certainly not remained quiet. According to Nora, who read through some of the rubbish every now and again, I was leaving the team to go take care of the love child I had fostered with Bryce, having cheated on Jack, Oliver, and a Beater on the Tornadoes named Rupert McClintock.

Xavier Pryce had replaced me as the third Chaser. He seemed decent enough, but though I had never seen him fly, I had a hunch that he could not fake a pass or tackle players as well as I could.

We—or rather Puddlemere since Fletcher had confiscated my Zenith and I was officially no longer affiliated with the team—had managed to win its last two matches so it was still in good shape for the Euro Cup. Unfortunately, the first match against the Magpies was only accomplished by a lucky catch from Bridget, and the second match versus the Gorodok Gargoyles was accomplished by an even narrower point margin.

If they were going to beat the Wasps this Saturday, they needed to score a hell of a lot more goals.

I tried not to hear Fletcher's voice barking in my ear and telling me about the Wasps's Chaser Kenneth Sartino's tendon injury in his left arm or Chuck Donahue, the Keeper, and his tendency to favor the left hoop. Instead, I turned off the tap and stuck a bloody umbrella in some bloke's lager.

My life was back in McCoy's, where I belonged before I had gotten mixed up in all that rubbish. Now all I had to concentrate on was mixing that right drink for the endless onslaught of faceless, pissed customers and fishing tips out of the peanuts baskets at the end of the night.

"Fuck," I whispered under my breath.

"Thank you, Miss," the bloke said when he took his drink from me. "Say, you couldn't steal me a few of those maraschino cherries, could you?"

"I'm on it."

The rest of the night passed in much of the same fashion. The bloke with the cherries finally stopped pretending he wanted beer and, with a flushed face, asked for a "cranberry vodka—but hold the vodka and just put in seltzer."

It was probably the highlight of my night.

Dad came down from his flat to help me close up. I tried to get him to go back to bed, but he insisted so I had him sit down and dry glasses as I wiped down the tables and mopped the floor.

"You okay, girl?" he asked me when he finished the last glass and had them all arranged neatly behind the bar.

"Sure, why wouldn't I be?"

"Well, Hayles—Ellenore Webb, it's wonderful to see you, girl!"

Nora laughed and walked over to give my dad a kiss on the cheek. "You too, Mr. McCoy. How've you been? How's the heart?"

"Better now that you're here."

"Oh, hush," Nora waved him off with an added look in my direction, for I was miming throwing up onto the freshly mopped floor.

"You still dating that boy?"

"I'm marrying that boy," Nora corrected him. "You still holdin' onto the idea that Collin is gonna marry me?"

"I always wanted another daughter."

"Hello! I am standing right here, holding a mop I just used to clean your pub."

"Ahh, yes, ain't she a vision," Dad commented mistily, setting his gaze on my wet jeans, baggy t-shirt, and sloppy hair.

"Quite," agreed Nora. "One that I really must take with me. You ready to head home, kisa?"

It took a while to shake off Dad, but eventually we got ourselves home. Nora's surprise visit was one that I really appreciated.

I thought that going back to working just nights would mean that we would get to spend more time with each other for a change.

However, with her hospital shifts always getting longer and planning for the wedding, Nora was around less than ever, and I was stuck home alone like a dog.

I supposed I should have realized this was what was going to happen. Nora was not going to suddenly stop her life just because I could hang around the flat more. She had shit to do, whereas, I—well, I was an ice cube in the glass of whiskey that is life.

"You hungry, Hayley? I'm feeling a bit peckish after the twelve-hour shift. I'll make something chocolate," she tempted tantalizingly.

"No, that's okay."

"Are you sure? You never turn down offers for food."

"Yeah, I'm just not that hungry. Look, I'm tired. I'm going to call it a night. See you in the morning."

I left Nora, standing bewildered in our tiny kitchen, and then collapsed into bed.

Since I had not gotten home that night until about two in the morning, I slept until noon the following day.

According to the note left on the kitchen table, Nora had already left for work and she was worried—the note did not explicitly state that but the vast assortment of specialty muffins she left did.

I did not need to be back at the pub until six to start setting up for the night so I took a shower, dressed into my rattiest sweats, and then sat around doing nothing all day. I had not cleaned my room in ages and the shower could really do with a good scrubbing, but it was amazing how much time I could waste when I put my mind to it. By the time I seriously started thinking about chores, I already had to get changed or else I was going to be late for work.

It was shaping up to be a pretty dull night. There had been two gin and tonics, five rum and Cokes, one Sidecar, three Bloody Marys, eight meads, three ales, twenty-seven beers, and one, lone appletini.

I was wiping down the beer taps with my back turned to the customers when I heard my name being called yet again.

"Miss! Excuse me, Miss! Could I please have a glass of chocolate milk?"

I rolled my eyes, preparing myself to deal with whatever cheeky tosser I was going to have to deal with next.

"Jack?" I gasped in amazement when I saw him. "Holy shit! Jack Copeland, are you really here right now?" I asked as I scurried over to him. I smiled at his familiar light hair, blue eyes, and warm smile. "I can't believe you're here," I blurted out.

"Should I not have come?"

"No! No!" I insisted emphatically. "I'm thrilled you're here. I just can't seem to believe it. Damn."

Jack smiled wider, and I pulled him into a hug over the bar.

His muscles tensed a bit, so I pulled away.

"Oh, er, sorry," I apologized.

"No, it's fine," he assured me politely. "Just haven't seen you in a while. I forgot how pretty you are."

I smacked his arm and then showed him the faint scarring on the back of my hand from my third year. "You're not supposed to tell lies, Jack."

"Then I guess it would be remiss of me not to mention how much I've missed you, Hayley."

The smile that had taken over my face faltered since the first time I had spotted him. "I miss you, too. Is it awful to say that I expected that someone would have come to see me before this?"

"I would have," Jack promised, "but Fletcher has us practicing practically night and day to get the new team dynamic down. Sometimes I feel like pulling an Oliver and just sleeping in the Lab."

I jiggled my knee against the row of shelves under the bar.

"We did have a bit of a break tonight, though, so I thought I'd take a chance and see if you were here."

"Yeah, well, this is my gig again," I said lamely as I looked around at the dark green walls and drunken blokes. What pride and love I always felt for McCoy's seemed to morph into embarrassment and humility with Jack, a professional Quidditch player, sitting there. "Wait..." I realized. "Did you mention it to anyone else? Why are you alone?"

Jack fiddled with the bendy straw in his glass of chocolate milk I had handed him.

"Just stop worrying about sparing my feelings and tell me."

Jack looked up at me with apologetic eyes. "Well, no one else really wanted to come. Bridget and Oliver are having a—"

"I don't care about them," I cut him off quickly. "What about Des? Bryce? Connor?"

"Well, Des is a bit pissed to be honest. She hasn't mentioned you much, but I think she's really hurt."

My stomach sank like I had just downed some warm ale.

"And as for Bryce, well, I think he knows best of us all how well Des can hold a grudge so he's actually not pressing any buttons on the issue. I reckon Connor would fancy a visit, but he has so much to take care of at home and with the extra practice time, he just does not have time."

I thought about all the nothing I had done in the flat today and felt still worse.

"But I'm here!" Jack added, trying to sound cheerful.

"Thanks," I said earnestly.

"Well, you're still my friend, Hayley," Jack said. "And I still care about you—not in the way you're thinking—well not as much. There's actually this one reporter for Quidditch Weekly—I think she might have made a mistake and thought she was coming up to Oliver at first, but—"

"That's great, Jack."

His ears turned red as he folded his hands onto his lap. "Thanks," he said bashfully. "Though, of course, not much has happened beyond that first meeting because I've been so busy."

"How is the new bloke? Pryce?"

"He's a decent flyer," Jack answered, smiling at how I was very nearly gnawing off my tongue. "Not as good as you, of course. He has a nice arcing shot that confuses a lot of Keepers, but to be honest, I don't really care for him." Jack leaned in closer to me over the bar and then said in a scandalized whisper, "He tells a lot of untoward jokes at the expense of women."

I tried very hard not to laugh in his face. "Bryce did that all the time!"

"Yes, well, it's different when Bryce does it," Jack persisted. "I don't know. I suppose you would have to be there."

Some bloke at the other end of the bar started calling for me, but I ignored him. "Well, at least you won the last two matches. What has Fletch said about the chances for the one against the Wasps? It's everything we've been working toward for the Euro Cup all year."

Jack shifted in his seat and played with the straw in his almost empty glass. "Hayley, I don't mean to be rude, but I'm not really supposed to discuss what is said in team meetings with—well, with people who are not on the team."

I had been hunching over the bar in an eagerly alert position, but at this statement I swung back onto my heels. "Oh."

Jack's forehead crinkled in concern. "Please don't take that the wrong way, Hayley! It's only—"

"No, it's fine. I understand," I reassured him, looking over to the end of the bar where that bloke was still trying to get my attention.

Jack looked over and then back at me. "Well, it looks like I've distracted you enough for one night." He pulled his arms through the sleeves of his jacket as he began to stand up.

I frowned. "What? You're leaving? Already?"

"Sorry, Hayley, I've got to wake up early tomorrow. I'll try to come back soon and visit you here."

I noticed that he was fishing for a few knuts, and I waved my hand dismissively. "On the house," I insisted.

Jack smiled thankfully and then pulled me into another hug over the bar. "Don't worry about the Wimbourne Wasps, Hayley. We'll be fine."

I said goodbye and then watched him leave before trudging to the end of the bar where the bloke crankily demanded a refill for his appletini.

The excitement of seeing Jack wore off quickly after his departure, and I was left feeling glummer than ever. I felt torn between desperately wanting to strategize about the Wasps match and chiding myself for pathetically not being able to let go.

Therefore, it was altogether unsurprising when I latched onto Sammy Willins's conversation with the bloke beside him as soon as I heard the word "Puddlemere" leave his mouth.

Trying to appear nonchalant, I moved closer to them under the guise of needing to wipe off the bar.

"—well, as I was saying, Johnny Fletcher is mad if he thinks that the shoddy Chasing lately is going to be enough to best the Wasps. They've been ranked in the top three teams in the League all season. They've got some of the strongest defense in the world right now."

"And especially with how poorly Wood's been doing lately."

"Yes! I've heard from a friend who is close with the team that there's been a lot of instability among the team members lately. Fat lot of help, that is. So long to the Euro Cup! Puddlemere has as good a chance of beating the Wasps as I do of becoming Minister of Magic. Ahh! Speak of the devil! Miss McCoy!"

I started and the rag I had been holding stilly in my hand fell to the floor. I clambered to retrieve it. "Oh, er, hi, Mr. Willins."

"Do you have any insight to share, pet?"

"Yeah!" chimed in Sammy's companion. "What's the real scoop?"

"Oh, er, I dunno. I'm not allowed to know stuff anymore," I mumbled quickly.

Sammy paused for a moment before laughing. "Oh! You almost had me there! Well, keep your secrets, if you must. This is such a comfort, really. Without some kind of secret plan, I was certain Puddlemere was destined for defeat!"

I grunted noncommittally.

"Another bourbon, please, Miss McCoy? And another scotch for my friend Geoffrey while you're at it!"

I stayed up nearly all night, pacing around my bedroom, the kitchen, Nora's bedroom, and the bathroom. Finally, I could no longer stand the oppressive walls of our tiny flat so I threw an old sweatshirt of Ayden's on and went running.

I ran without thinking—just letting my pounding feet and steady breathing guide me—and ended up at the Puddlemere stadium as the darkness of night started to lighten into the beginnings of a new dawn.

At first, I contemplated turning around and running back home, but instead I gritted my teeth and went in.

Despite myself, I could not help but to feel a familiar sense of home when surrounded by the muddy grass, golden stands, and navy blue banners.

I walked up the stands and then climbed all the way up to the top box, sitting down to admire the view from such a great height.

As the sun started to peak out from underneath the purple clouds, a figure came onto the pitch. It was still dark, but when the person started flying, I knew from the style that it was Oliver.

Embarrassed, as though I had finally realized that I was loitering on a private pitch with no real explanation as to why I was there, I sank down into my chair, wishing I had paid more attention in school and knew how to do a disillusionment charm properly.

After a few minutes, however, I forgot to hide and found myself entranced by watching Oliver do swirling loops, dives, and turns about the pitch. He was rounding one of the goal hoops when suddenly he rolled off his broom.

Gasping, I stood up to see if he was okay. To my immense relief, he was still holding on to the broom with his hands, his entire body dangling underneath him.

Unfortunately, the noise must have echoed in the empty sky because his head turned suddenly in my direction.

Positively mortified and dreading what would happen if he discovered that I was here, I leapt off my seat, ducked down my head, and started sprinting down the twisting stairs to get out of the pitch. I had already gone down three flights of stairs when I heard his voice calling.

"Oi! Whoever you are! This is a closed pitch! You're not supposed to be spying on practice. I'll notify the Ministry. Do you work for the Wasps?"

From the very Scottish tone of his voice, I knew that he was angry enough that he was not going to let this go. With a sigh, I climbed up a few stairs as I walked back into the nearest box so that he would be able to see me.

Perhaps it was the Gryffindor in me rearing its mangy head again after a few weeks of absence, but I knew there would be at least some honor in voluntarily showing myself instead of running away.

"I'm not a spy for the Wimbourne Wasps. You can unclench," I announced lamely.

"Hayley?" he gasped as he nearly lost his grip on his broom. Oliver righted himself and then straightened up. "What are you doing here, McCoy?"

"I'm sorry," I apologized quickly. "I was out running, and then here I was so I just came up to sit for a little while. I didn't think I'd be here this long or that I'd run into anyone." The words gushed out of my mouth and when I finished firing them out, I no longer felt contrite. I felt angry. "Though, I don't think I should have to explain myself to you."

"And why is that?"

"Well, you've been ignoring me for a few weeks now so it's obvious that you don't care what I do."

Oliver was on his feet and striding towards me so quickly that I had to take a step back. "You reckon I'm the one ignoring you? You quit the bloody team!"

"Oh, don't get all indignant now, Wood! You sat back and did nothing this whole time, you bloody coward! You saw me floundering on the pitch, and yet you let me fly worse! You were supposed to be my Captain! You were supposed to—"

"Do what? What exactly do you want, Hayley?"

"Why did you leave?" I asked, needing violently to know the reason. "That night at the bar, why did you go?"

Oliver put his broom down onto a bench and crossed his arms over his chest. "Don't act all offended. You made it perfectly clear you wanted me out of there."

"What? I never—"

"Made me feel like an idiot?" Oliver interrupted. "Well, how did you think I'd feel? There I was, spilling out my guts to you, we have sex—something I do not take lightly—and then you leave me there alone like some cheap roll in the sack so you could hide and pretend it never happened. Excuse me if I did not want to stick around after that."

"I wasn't hiding!" I shouted furiously. "I went upstairs to piss, you tosser!"

"Yeah, well…..what?" Oliver said, frowning. "You mean, you weren't just kicking me out?"

"No, but I should have!" I insisted angrily as I moved closer to him, my voice getting louder. "Cause our night together obviously meant a lot to you if you had sex with me while you were still dating Bridget."

"Dammit, Hayley, I told you I broke things off with her."

"You looked pretty still together afterwards," I told him coolly.

"Fuck, Hayley, I told you the truth!" Oliver insisted as he grabbed my shoulders.

"Let go of me!" I shrieked as I pushed him away forcibly.

Oliver stumbled, cursing under his breath. He pinched the bridge of his nose and took a deep sigh before turning to me with a tired expression. "You can hate me all you want, but I really did break up with Bridget before anything happened between us. What you saw later was just her having some trouble letting go. We've been together for so long that I think she was too hung up on all the plans she had made and didn't want to let those go and start over. Did she try to get back together with me? Yes. But I didn't because I don't want to be a wanker who strings a girl along. So don't lecture me about that night because I thought after admitting that I was in love with you—"

"You never said you loved me," I cut him off.

"I didn't? Well, surely, you must have picked up on it."

"I'm literal. If you didn't say it, how was I supposed to know? And if you loved me so damn much, why haven't you said any of this to me? Why didn't you try to stop me from quitting Puddlemere? Why didn't you visit me in the hospital after I fell?"

"I did visit you in the hospital!" Oliver hissed. "Merlin, I sat by your bloody bedside and held your fucking hand! And as for your quitting, I just never thought you'd do it. I thought Quidditch meant more to you than that. That girl—the one who I caught cheering for herself in any empty pitch that very first practice…."

He trailed off as a smile graced his features, but then it disappeared as he looked back up at me and swallowed roughly, his Adam's apple bobbing in his throat. "We're going to lose against the Wasps on Saturday. I try to stay positive—be a good captain. But we're going to lose."

And then without another word, Oliver grabbed his broom and soared back into the sky.

I turned around and started running again.

I kept running until I reached the very top of the line in front of the Welcome Witch's desk. My hips collided into a very broad, haughty looking woman who started shouting affronts, but I ignored her.

Hands bracing the desk, I panted heavily while the Welcome Witch eyed me with boredom.

"They can fix whatever spell damage that's been done to you on the fourth floor," she murmured as she flicked through her copy of Witch Weekly.

"Ellenore Webb," I spat out through breaths. "I need you to tell me where Ellenore Webb is interning today."

The witch looked up from her magazine with narrowed eyes. "That's disclosed information. I can't tell you that."

I grabbed her arm and squeezed it tightly. "Listen, you bint, I need to know where Ellenore Webb is working. Right. Now."

"Second floor, Nigellus Ward," she cried.

"Thank you," I said pointedly. I had released her arm and begun sprinting towards the stairs before I heard her nasally voice again, most likely saying something derogatory about my character.

When I reached the second floor, I weaved through corridors, navigating by the signs on the walls as I called out Nora's name.

Every time I passed a figure in green robes, I checked them out briefly to see if it was her. "Nora!" I yelled when I passed through the doors to the Nigellus Ward. "Nora! Has anyone seen Ellenore Webb?" I barged into an older man in green robes. "Excuse me, sir, have you seen Ellenore Webb?"

"Nora? Last I saw her she was in room 206B."

I looked up at the sign that labeled the walls along the intersection. "206B? Thanks!" I hissed as I started bustling down the corridor on my right.

"Wait, Miss! You're not allowed—"

"Nora?" I bellowed. "Nora? Where the hell are you? Ellenore!"

A door closed to my left, and Nora emerged, looking confused. "Hayley?" she said when she saw me. "What are you doing here? How did you find me?"

"Don't worry about it. That's not important right now—"

"It is important. Very important, I'd say. This is supposed to be a closed ward for people with scrofungulus. How'd you even get up here?"

"Please, Nora, just listen to me."

Nora put her hands on her hips and looked at me defiantly. "I'm sorry, Hayley, but I want my questions answered first. I realize that you don't have a lot going on right now, but I could get in trouble if someone looking for me is wreaking havoc. Some of us actually have to worry about keeping our jobs."

I stepped back in shock. "Wow."

Nora's eyes immediately turned contrite, and she wrapped me into a hug. "Oh, der'mó. I'm sorry, Hayles. That was a really horrid thing for me to say. I've just been so tired lately with all these extra shifts and planning for the wedding. I wasn't thinking."

"No, I wasn't, as usual," I joked lamely, glossing over the hurt, as I pulled away from her. "This is a hospital, after all. How are you supposed to save lives with dunderheads like me barreling around?"

A healer walked by and looked pointedly at Nora, who turned red. "I don't want to be even more of a suka, but I do have to get back to work. What did you want?"

"Did Oliver really come visit me when I was unconscious in the hospital?"

Nora's shoulders sagged. "Who told you?"

"He did. Believe it or not, this isn't my first breaking and entering of the morning."

Nora's eyebrows furrowed in confusion. "Oliver told you? But he's the one who asked us not to mention anything about him visiting. And I guess that I was so distracted with worrying about you and your Dad that I forgot. But I remember now. It was right in the beginning before your brothers even got there. Your dad was out getting tests done. Chërt, he was shaking the whole time, white as a ghost. Why are you smiling?"

I kissed her forehead. "Thanks, Nora. If anyone gives you any crap, tell them I'm a patient who escaped from the fourth floor!"

Nonplussed, Nora stared at me as I turned around and started running again. "Hayley!" she hollered after me. "Where are you going now?"

"I owe you big!"

Despite the copious amount of running I had already done today, my body did not seem to mind the intense workout. In fact, it encouraged the movement; I had been static for far too long.

There was no one on the pitch when I arrived so I began climbing stairs, two at a time, and then dashed through the hidden nooks and valleys until I found Cooke's office.

Grace, his secretary, looked scandalized when I entered, breathing heavily and sweating wonderfully, but I ignored her and walked straight through the double doors of his office without even knocking first.

Cooke was building a tower out of Exploding Snap cards. When I entered, he knocked it down, and they promptly exploded.

Coughing, while putting out the fire with his wand, Cooke looked up at me from his new standing position. "Miss McCoy? What the devil are you doing here?"

"Sir, I apologize for barging in like this—"

"My goodness! Did you run here? Sit down!"

"But I really needed to speak to you—"

"You look dead on your feet! Let me get you a milkshake or something to drink! Sit! Sit!"

Frustrated with his mollycoddling, I stood behind the proffered chair and slammed its hind legs down to get his attention. "Sir, I'd like to rejoin the team," I announced loudly when I had his attention.

"Rejoin my team?"


"Right now?"


Cooke sighed deeply and sat down at his desk. "You do realize, Miss McCoy, that you quit my team."

"Yes, I realize that," I answered tonelessly.

"And that you broke a legally binding contract."

"Yes," I admitted sheepishly.

"And that in the wake of your absence that I've hired a new player to take up the empty position."

"Oh, sir! Xavier Pryce can't play half as well as I can! Please! I know I don't deserve it, but give me another go!"

"Miss McCoy, please sit down," Cooke requested.

I sat.

"Drink this," he ordered as he poured me a milkshake from the dispenser on his desk. "You look far too peaky."

I tipped back some of the drink without really tasting it and then wiped the residue from my lips. Staring at Cooke, I realized that he did not seem half as jolly as the last time I had seen him. Actually, he looked quite harried and really rather tired.

"Miss McCoy, two days ago my daughter informed me that this will be her last season with Puddlemere. Apparently, now that she and Oliver are no longer together, there is nothing holding her back from moving on with what she wants. Two weeks ago you sat in that very chair upon which you are now sitting and told me you could no longer play Quidditch."

"But, sir, I've changed!" I insisted.

"Changed how?"

I bit down on my tongue. "I'm not really sure I can explain."

"Well, in all honesty, Miss McCoy, that does not really inspire me to let you join the team again. I lost quite a bit of money on you."

I closed my eyes and did my very best to find the right words that would make him understand. "I thought—I thought that Quidditch was the only thing I had to offer. Like, if I wasn't playing Quidditch, I really wasn't worth anything. Why else would people like me?"

In my head, I silently thought of Oliver, whom I had only met because of Quidditch.

"And when life got more intense with Dad and, uh, everything else, my playing turned to shit. I thought I was going that way too. So I quit 'cause if I couldn't even play well, then what was I?

"But I've realized that I'm not just Quidditch. Sure, I might not have music or charities or, hell, even milkshakes going for me, but that doesn't mean I've got nothing. I've got me, and part of me is that I love Quidditch and I'm damn good at it. I need it. It's the adrenaline, the sweat, the competition. God, please, sir, let me back on the team."

The shaky adrenaline pumping through me began to diffuse as I waited, heart leaping in my throat, for him to say something back.

Cooke observed me coolly before finally rubbing his palms together and laughing heartily.

My stomach sank. My back collapsed into the chair. Once again, I had shown off my naiveté.

"You know, Hayley, I reckon that's the most I've ever heard you speak."

"That's not an answer," I pressed.

"Well, as long as we are being honest, I ought to mention that I would very much like to have Bridget leave her professional Quidditch career with a Euro Cup Championship under her hat."

"I'll get it done, sir."

Cooke chuckled as he ate the cherry floating at the top of his milkshake. "And I'd be docking your pay."

"I'll pay you!" I offered rashly until recanting. "Scratch that. You should see the shit sofa I've got. Wait—does this mean you'll let me rejoin?"

"I'll need to speak with Fletcher before I can tell you anything substantial."

I nodded eagerly and then grew impatient with the fact that he was still sitting in his office when outside his grand windows I could see that the players had returned to the pitch and were zooming around on their Zeniths. "Well?"

"Oho!" laughed Cooke. "Do you really fancy interrupting John Fletcher during practice three days before we play the Wimbourne Wasps? I'll speak to him later. I'll let you know soon enough."

Sensing that my luck was beginning to wear out, I stood up and shook his hand with gusto. "I'll be at practice tomorrow morning at six sharp," I called over my shoulder as I began to leave his office.

"But, Miss McCoy, I didn't say—"

"I'm coming anyway!" I hollered before closing the door behind me. I looked over at Grace and gave her a broad smile. "Isn't it just the damndest day?"

As soon as I left the pitch, I ran into the nearest Muggle phone booth and dialed the number to Dad's flat. "Dad? You there? Good. I just wanted to let you know that I'm playing Quidditch again."

"Well, it's about damn time," I heard his gravelly voice grumble into the phone. "I thought your ass would never figure that one out. What'd they say about you rejoining the team?"

My grin refused to dwindle as I pressed the phone closer to my ear. "Right, well, I'm still working on the detail bits."

And the following morning when I showed up to the pitch, pads on and Nimbus in hand, I was making an effort to figure out those details as I marched right up to Fletcher.

"McCoy!" he barked, tugging at his cap. "What are you doing on my field?"

"Didn't Cooke tell you, sir, I—"

"I don't care about the official arrangements. You walked out on my practice, McCoy. You insulted me and disrespected me. Cooke can say whatever the hell he wants, it doesn't mean I'm letting you fly for me again."

I closed my eyes. Fletch was being a stubborn drunk. I knew how to deal with those. "Please, Coach," I said quietly, yet earnestly. "I was a right prat, and I know it. But I fly better than Pryce. I know all of the plays. I can help you beat the Wasps."

Grumbling softly to himself, Fletcher walked over to an equipment chest and retrieved a Quaffle, which he hurled at me.

I caught it before it hit me and then spun it around with my fingertips.

"Throw that to me," he ordered.

I took a deep breath, concentrated on a relaxing memory of running, and threw the ball at him. My elbow made no appearance in the throw.


Fletcher made me do it nineteen more times before he had to admit that my throwing problems were absent. Of course, he chose not to admit this and settled for not throwing the Quaffle back to me. Realizing that he was not going to do anything else, I started up on offense again.

"C'mon, Fletch, let me back on the team. We both know I can do it. We're just wasting time being stubborn. The team will be here soon," I added, pointing out the light starting to peak out from underneath the dark clouds.

"No one gets on my team without a tryout, McCoy," Fletcher replied gruffly. "If you want in, you're going to have to challenge Pryce for the spot."

My face broke out into a gigantic grin. "Thank you, Coach," I exclaimed, so elated that I almost reached out to hug him. "Does that mean I can have my Zenith back?"

Fletcher's mouth curled into a smirk as he eyed the Nimbus by my feet. "No way in hell, McCoy."

Fletcher forced me to go hide myself in the stands so that I would not distract his players. "Like the rest of the spectators," he growled at me.

I watched enviously as the team arrived for the day—Oliver merely walking down the steps from the path leading to the Lab—and listened to Fletcher's morning pep talk.

After a few minutes, Fletcher sent most of the team to go trudge through the stands. I tried not to laugh when I heard Bryce's voice echo, "I'll give him something Unforgivable."

When only Oliver and Pryce were left on the pitch, Fletcher called me down.

I refused to look at either one of them, determined not to break my concentration. Instead, I kept my gaze fixed resolutely on Fletcher.

"All right, McCoy. I don't have time to waste on a long process so we are going to do this nice and simple. Wood, I want you up in the air now."

In my periphery, I saw him mount his broom and fly off.

Pryce edged closer to me, and I started gnawing on my tongue.

Fletcher threw the Quaffle at Pryce. "Each of you gets one shot. You score against Wood, you get to be on my team. Now let's move it before we waste any more of my time."

Pryce tossed the ball at me. "Ladies first," he insisted.

I shoved the ball at his head. "Fine by me," I replied coolly.

Though watching Pryce made the bile level rise in my throat, perversely, I could not tear my eyes away from every dip and swerve he made. It pained me to admit that he really was not that bad of a flier. Still, I could not help but to feel relieved after a torturous two minutes when Oliver had the Quaffle firmly within his grasp.

My nerves were at a record high when I, Quaffle tucked under my arm, started zooming down the pitch towards the goal posts. My mind was reeling with all I knew about Oliver's technique from watching him so many times.

Unfortunately, unlike so many players, Oliver spent so much time obsessing over his own statistics and weaknesses, that he was unpredictable as hell. As I came closer to the hoops, my pulse quickened as the panic began to overcome me.

Oliver was poised and ready in front of the central hoop.

I took a deep breath, hunched over on my broom, and then flew straight at him like a bullet.

Noticing what I was about to do, Oliver, too, shot towards me.

Right before we were about to collide, I tightened my grip on the Quaffle, pulled my right fist back, and then punched his face.

As he swerved, I pulled up on my broom and then launched the Quaffle at the center hoop.

Watching the Quaffle fall pass through the hoop and then down towards the ground, I let out a shaky breath and then a frenzied scream.

"WOOD!" bellowed Fletcher loudly from the stands, distracting me from my elation. "Did you let her score?"

I looked over at Oliver, who was clutching the lower part of his face with a slow grin.

"As the bruise forming on my jaw will attest, I didn't let her do anything, Fletch!" Oliver called, looking at me when he said it.

I smiled back at him, ignoring Pryce's swears echoing throughout the pitch.

A half an hour later, Fletcher had the team congregated on the grass. My Zenith was once again in my grasp.

"So we're all going to need to train that much harder to get McCoy up to snuff on the most recent plays. Bridget, Faust, and Stone, I want you working with Deering. Wood, you're training with Murphy. Copeland, O'Reilly, you lot are going to work with me. Any questions?"

I looked out at my teammates. Jack was beaming beside Connor, who looked perfectly bemused. Bridget, as alarmingly beautiful as ever, seemed politely astonished.

Des was engrossed in picking her scabs, refusing to look at me. I would have to fix that later.

"Well," drawled Bryce, donning a smirk. "I'd like to take a moment to welcome Hayles back to the team and perhaps offer her a good luck spanking? Ouch, Des! I was just trying to diffuse the tension!"

Bryce scowled and rubbed his ribs gingerly. "Fine, you lot can all be hardasses for all I care. Let's go play some sodding Quidditch."

Practice involved long hours of learning complicated maneuvers, falling down a fair few times, and accidentally elbowing Jack in the nose twice.

When it was over, I limped into the girls' locker room and headed for the shower. Every single muscle in my body ached and throbbed. I could barely find the energy to use soap. It was wonderful.

I felt a bit awkward when Des had already left and it was just Bridget and me in the common area, but I was determined not to let things fester from now on. "Hey, Bridge, I heard this is going to be your last year?"

Bridget stopped twisting her hair into some sort of loop on the top of her head and turned towards me with a sappy smile. "Yeah," she answered. "Daddy is pretty upset about it still, but I think I've been able to convince him that we'll actually be able to spend more time together this way."

"Now that you won't be practicing all the time," I added.

"Exactly!" beamed Bridget. "I'm excited to move on with my life! Think of all the lovely things I'll be able to do! I think I might take some time off to travel. I've always wanted to live in Paris. Plus, I don't know if you've heard—it was all over those wretched gossip magazines."

I laughed awkwardly. "Er, yeah, I don't read those."

"Oliver and I broke up," she explained.

"Oh, um, Bridge, I'm really sorry. That's, er—"

Bridget let out a tinkering laugh. "Oh, Hayley, give me a bit of credit. I dated the bloke for over two years. I think, deep down, I knew he liked you before he did. Maybe that's why I was so determined not to let go. He can be pretty dim if the answer isn't shooting at his face inside a red ball. I promise I don't hate you—well, only a bit."

I bit my lip, not quite sure what exactly Oliver had told her.

"Surprisingly, I think I'm dealing with it a lot better now," Bridget continued. "I mean, Oliver will just never be the right bloke for me, no matter how much I try to get him there. Plus, I think I have a thing for gingers," she added with a giggle.

Despite myself, I grinned. "The wizarding world is surely in for an exciting few months with you single."

Bridget bubbled with laughter. "You've got three older brothers, right?"

"All accounted for."

"Ahh, well," she sighed before straightening her shoulders and putting on a smile. "I'm not single. I'm just going to try dating myself for a bit so that I can get to know me better."

I left the locker room still feeling a bit dazed, but I reckoned that was normal for a conversation with Bridget.

Des was still waiting outside. "Hey," I greeted her carefully. "What are you still doing out here?"

She did not say anything.

"I guess the rumors are true then. Bryce really does take longer on his hair than Bridget does," I joked.

She spat on the ground as she kept her gaze on the fingers she was bandaging.

I laughed weakly. "So, do you hate me now, or something?"

"Or something."

"Well, I get that, and, look, Des, I'm really sorry."

She sucked in her cheeks and looked over her shoulder. "You're not gonna go bat shit crazy and quit again?"

"Wasn't planning on it."

Bryce came out of the locker room then, yapping away about nonsense. Des rolled her eyes as she joined him. Bryce winked at me as they passed and then said something to Des.

"Late, H," Des called over her shoulder.

As the sun began to set behind the clouds, I smiled and then hurried home to rest up before tomorrow's practice.

A woman who happened to play Quidditch professionally for Puddlemere United needed her sleep.

Friday practice was filled with extensive speeches about strategy down to even the most tedious detail and vigorous playing. Fletcher crammed so much into the day that I actually had to eat while listening to new drills being explained in the Lab. We did not stop for the day until it was much too dark to see anything, and Fletcher screamed at us all to go home and rest.

The next morning, I woke up with a twitter of nervous energy and began visualizing all the new drills I had learned while alternating repeating Fletcher's instructions about how to best debilitate the Wasps.

Nora was still at work, but I found some muffins waiting for me along with a note, which promised that she would listen to the match on the radio.

I ate breakfast, showered, dressed, and then headed down to the pitch. Fletcher wanted us all there even earlier than usual for the match at seven in order to talk more strategy.

I did a few quick laps around the pitch and then started stretching. Jack joined me for a bit, and then we went to the Lab together.

Fletcher droned on for nearly three hours. To be honest, even the Quidditch lover in me found it rather hard to stay focused. Bryce had nodded off and was practically drooling onto the table; Jack was looking at Fletcher with glassy eyes. Only Oliver seemed to still be paying rapt attention, and I could not help but smile at the sight.

Only the knowledge that I needed the talk the most joined with Fletcher's use of my last name to punctuate nearly every sentence kept me on track.

My knee jiggled underneath the table as I nodded my assent every few minutes.

I felt ready. I felt strong. I felt powerful.

Deering and Murphy met with us in groups after Fletcher finally put away his diagrams. Tony passed most of the time he was supposed to be lecturing us teasing me.

"But in all seriousness, Hayley, I don't know how you got Fletcher to let you back on the team. He must really like you."

Fletcher shepherded us all down to the break room and snapped at us all to chow down. It was a bit hard to enjoy lunch with him watching us like a hawk, but Bryce kept us entertained. Then, we were led like cattle back down onto the pitch to fly some laps before we were collectively banished to our respective locker rooms to start "doing those ridiculous rituals that take so bloody long" while Fletcher went to meet with the manager of the Wimbourne Wasps.

With anxious anticipation not unlike that of my first match, I carefully dressed into my uniform, celebrating every tie and shoulder pad. After I quadruple checked to make sure that my cleats were triple knotted, I went over to the boys' locker room to meet with Jack and Connor for our usual Bertie Bott's preparation.

"Ooh, chocolate fudge," I murmured appreciatively as I tossed the bag over to Connor.

"Lucky!" exclaimed Jack. "That beat mine. Bleh, sprouts."

"Eat your veggies, son," chided Connor with a sardonic laugh.

"Hayley, you always get the best flavors," Jack said enviously.

"Another thing you've got over Xavier Douche," added Connor dryly.

"What? We didn't let him join in on eating the beans."

At Jack's comment, my heart swelled with love for the two of them.

Connor gave us a shifty grin. "I might have accidentally slipped him a stool-flavored one."

We did not stop laughing until Oliver called us in for one last pep talk.

His Adam's apple was bobbing in his jugular, and his face looked very pale but very fearsome to behold.

"This is it," he announced. "We either win tonight, or all the work we've put in for the Euro Cup has been for naught. We've had some rough patches this season, but we've put that behind us. Now isn't the time for personal issues. Tonight is about playing our hardest, giving every last bit of exertion and then pushing harder. It's about devotion—breaking every bone and then wanting to keep going."

"I think I like it better when he's too nervous to talk," Bryce interrupted with a loud whisper. "Bloody preachy. Talk about Wood that just will not go down."

Des stomped on his foot and then turned to Oliver with an uncharacteristically respectful glance. "Continue."

Oliver scratched the back of his head. "Right. Well, we've got the best damn team in the League and a player here who deserves to go out on a win," he added with a glance at Bridget. "There's a reason we're called Puddlemere United, and that's because this team, this group of seven players standing right here, can beat anyone else as long as we fly together. So let's go out there and do what we do best."

Bryce led everyone in a raucous battle cry as we all moved to huddle at the door to wait for our names to be called.

Oliver caught my eye as I turned to talk to Des. "Hayley," he said. "Watch your elbow."

"Oliver," I replied back in the same intense tone. "Watch yourself."

Cheers exploded outside of the wall, and I watched as Oliver, Connor, and Jack flew out before I joined them. My heart thudded in my chest as I reacquainted myself with the atmosphere of being nearly two hundred feet in the air with 50,000 people watching me.

As the referee prepared everything, I tracked my opponents in their yellow and black robes, sizing them up. I squeezed my three hoop necklace for good luck and then hunched over on my broom before the whistle sounded.

The Wasps Chaser on my left caught the soaring Quaffle. Without pausing to think, Jack and I both flew straight at him, coming from both sides. The bloke tried to dive, where Connor was waiting for him and promptly stole the Quaffle out of his hands.

Immediately, Jack and I soared over to him, and Connor tossed me the ball as we got into our familiar triangle formation, passing the ball between us like we were playing the Muggle game hot potato.

I noticed a Bludger zooming towards Jack, so I hollered out his name. Jack ducked, just in time for Des to send the black ball soaring towards the Wasps's Seeker.

I tossed the Quaffle to Connor, who threw it at Jack as he approached the right hoop. The massive Wasps keeper went straight for him, so Jack hurled the Quaffle over his shoulder. Releasing my hold on my Zenith, I launched myself to the right to catch it, squeezing my broom with my upturned ankles. Still upside down, I chucked it through the unattended left hoop.

Jack scored two goals, and Connor made one, as well. Oliver had managed to block five out of the Wasps' six attempts to score, and I had aided him in his latest save by grabbing the Chaser by the forearms and sending her cartwheeling in the opposite direction.

The referee gave the Wasps a foul, but Oliver blocked it easily enough.

At one point, Bridget pretended that she had spotted the Snitch to distract the Wasps's Keeper, and Connor and Jack were both able to score before he figured it out.

After about an hour of playing, I was yelling my thanks to Bryce, who had just stopped a Bludger from bludgeoning my head, as I darted down the pitch with the Quaffle. Jack was being held up by two of the Wasps's Chasers, and I had no idea where Connor was so I just kept flying.

The third Wasps's Chaser was on my tail so I kept trying to fly riskier paths to shake him. Unfortunately, he was keeping up with me pretty well.

As I neared the goal hoops, he was less than a meter behind me and just in the right position to block my throws. I looked around, trying to discern what to do, when I heard Des call out my name.

I looked up to see a Bludger ricochet off of the right goal hoop and come zooming straight for me. Instantly, I did a sloth grip roll to avoid it, wincing a bit when I heard it collide into the Chaser behind me. Quickly, I flew left and scored again, bringing the score to 160 to 110.

I went to go retrieve the Quaffle when I was forced to break suddenly when the Wasps's Seeker flew past me, a blur of yellow and black. Bridget followed him not a second later, and I could not help put to scream encouragement at her, Quaffle forgotten.

Keeping one eye on the pair, I kept going in my pursuit of the fallen Quaffle, swerving out of the way of a rogue Bludger. I grabbed the Quaffle and was zooming towards Connor when I saw Bridget go into a spectacular dive beside the Wasps's Seeker.

Dangerously close to the grass, they both fought each other for dominance before the other Seeker sideswiped Bridget, sending her falling forward and off her broom.

I froze in horror when she fell about twenty feet to the grass. The Quaffle forgotten, Connor and I raced towards her.

However, to my amazement, Bridget was back on her feet and yelling something.

I struggled to hear her as I flew faster.

"I've got it!" yelled Bridget.

And that was when I noticed the Snitch struggling in her left hand.

Puddlemere United did not stop cheering for the rest of the night. And the next week, we beat the Ballycastle Bats, prolonging the celebration. When we won against the Caerphilly Catapults the following week, I was convinced that life was never going to get quite as good as this past year.

Even Fletcher had a hard time trying to get us to settle down and discuss strategy for the Euro Cup.

After defeating the Catapults, I woke up very early the next day. While anyone else probably would have been confined to bed all day after drinking so much alcohol the night before, I was brimming with excess energy, despite the fact that the sun had still not risen.

I laced up my trainers and went out, finding myself at a familiar park.

I found him stretching along the grassy path.

"Hayley," Oliver said, noticing me as I strolled up to him. "What are you doing here?"

"I dunno," I told him. "I think I just felt like a run, that is, if it's okay with you?"

His face softened as he smoothed a bit of my hair back into my ponytail. "Yeah, that's okay."


"You know, Hayley—"

"Oi, Oliver, are we going to talk about our feelings all day, or are we going to run?"

Oliver grinned at my playful smirk. "Well, 24, I think it's more your feelings we need to worry about, seeing as I'm faster than you."

I rolled my eyes and then sped off, leaving him standing there. Laughing, I looked over my shoulder to see that he still had not moved. "Coming?" I called before focusing on the path ahead and stretching my legs out into a full sprint.

A/N: hello, lovely readers! Last friday (coughthankmerlincough). No, but siriusly, I really hope you all enjoyed Hayles' story while it lasted. A standing O to the brilliant Molly for all she's done for the fan fiction world. Your writing and subtle inside jokes plugged into every chapter will surely be missed. I expect every single one of you readers to please review and bid Molly a nice farewell! Oh, and you know, tell us your thoughts on Skirting Around the Scot. THANK YOU ALL for reading and reviewing every week! We both love you all!

Loving the idea of no-stress Fridays,

Molly's Note:

When I was in the seventh grade, I, embarrassed beyond belief, confessed to one of my friends that I was thinking about writing fan fiction. At the time, I loved reading and writing, but I had never written a full-fledged story before. Also around this time, I started hanging out with boys more and started feeling confused and angry and lovesick. I was especially interested in the Lily/James relationship because I felt like I could identify with the good student falling for the popular boy; of course, I appreciated that he was the one pining after her.
I had also just read Amelia Bedelia's story "Curtain Call." I highly recommend it. I probably would not have written anything without it.
Thankfully, my friend did not laugh at me. Well, at least not for long. Instead, she told me to go for it. And I did. As a matter of fact, I worked on story ideas that whole summer before eighth grade. I loaded a purple post-it note with James and Lily story ideas. I am proud to say that I have used all of those ideas in some way or another into the sixteen stories I have written.
I fashioned myself the name Molly Raesly. Molly was the name of my first American Girl doll, and I have always felt attached to it. Raesly (pronounced Raise-lee) is one of my friend's last name.
I was not an immediate success. I was actually rejected from Mugglenet's website four times before the first chapter of "Sweet" was published (32 chapters for the School Bus number of the boy I liked—whose birth date I gave to James). I remember feeling dejected (how could I not even make it onto a website?) and then found harrypotterfanfiction. There, I posted Sweet, which I spent over a year writing. A lot of the early writing is pretty rough, but I look back on it fondly. I wrote a lot of the scenes to mirror events going on with my own life—the hyperbolic joys and woes of a fourteen year old girl. The story has almost every cliché of a Marauder story, but I was in love with love.
Around this time, a reviewer seemed to want to talk to me. We exchanged emails. Danica and I soon became fast friends. We have never met, but I feel closer to her than many others in some ways.
Next, I attempted my first song fic. Again, I must repeat that I was all for the melodramatic. "Tell Her This" was a chance to try out the dramatic. I continued this desire in my next story, "Revenge." After writing such a funny, frivolous story, I wanted a chance to delve into darkness. A freshman in high school, I needed to capture the overwhelming pressure I felt in my own life.
After "Revenge," an onslaught of one-shots ensued. A lot of them were silly, little scenes. "Spin" depicted my first game of Spin-the-Bottle and gave it the happy ending that I never got. "Epiphany" was my continued drama of unrequited love and a boy who suffered from the same illness. "The Letter J" is best known for its last line. I added that to the end on a whim. I still find it funny when people compliment that.
My next endeavor was to write something not as romantically-charged. I wanted to be a "real writer." During my sophomore year, I decided that I was sick of Meg Cabot-type stories that wrapped up neatly all the time. I wanted to do something with a bit of action. "Hostage" made me feel extremely accomplished. For the first time, I felt as though I had written something decent.
And this, of course, brings us to my "claim-to-fame." "Boyfriend" was really about my older sister. We have issues. I was so angry, and, for various reasons, I could not tell anyone about it. I needed an outlet. I got an idea of James showing up one day at Lily's door unannounced, but I really only decided to write the story when I added Petunia's influence. After reading Pottermore, I cannot help but to feel a bit disappointed that the Lily/Petunia relationship is not more complex.
I also really wanted to write something outside of Hogwarts. By this time, I had read so many stories that all seemed to follow the same plotline. I wanted to read something different, so I decided to write something different.
This story transformed me as a writer. Suddenly, I had a lot of people reading. I was getting a lot of reviews. People were inflating my deflated ego in such wonderful ways. My chapters became longer. When my life felt so complicated and difficult, my Molly world became so much better.
Until, of course, harrypotterfanfiction suspended and then eventually deleted my account. There was a lot of drama about terms of service and the banning of the discussion of menstrual blood. It was utter nonsense. Somehow (and I must thank Danica for her support at this time), I decided to keep going. I switched sites and came here, where I found freedom. Finally, I could write what I wanted without requiring validation (quite literally).
And everyone here was extremely welcoming. Quite easily, "Boyfriend" began to garner the same sort of attention it had been receiving previously. I relished in each and every review. When the story finally began to end, I did not want to give it up. So I decided not to.
"Fiancée" was great fun. Though she was highly flawed, I loved the Lily of that series, and I enjoyed giving her a voice. I decided to hold back on the romance and focus on the two sisters.
"Pregnant" seemed like the thing to write at the time. I wanted to see more. I wanted closure. I knew I did not want to write the wedding (too fluffy, and at the time, I wanted the fact that Petunia secretly attends Lily and James's wedding to be my private knowledge), but I wanted finality. Writing the end of that series gave me a tremendous sense of catharsis.
I have sent the series to my older sister. I am not sure if she has read it yet.
After "Boyfriend" series finished, I took a little break. That series was taxing. Breaks do not last long, for I am highly neurotic. Also, I wanted the attention again. I missed that. At this point, I think I started to develop a bit of an ego. "Molly" was someone who mattered. I must confess that that was a bit intoxicating.
Precisely for this reason, I am still a bit baffled by "Stray," which is perhaps my favorite of the lot. I wrote it during the summer before my senior year, and it was filled with warm nights and sugary desserts. It contained none of the flash or gimmicks of my prior work; actually, it was extremely understated. I wanted to capture a Sirius who reveled in angst. By accident, I created Eliza Boyd and a scene in a telephone booth. I wrote my first sex scene. I felt a strange sense of serenity.
Then, of course, I could not write something for Sirius and neglect Remus. "Perilune" was my chance to play with the Marauders after leaving Hogwarts for so long. It was a real delight to be back. I relished in the chance to use pervy jokes again—which I justified to myself by foiling Remus's love life. One thing that has not changed is my love of talking about the pain.
"Amortentia" was one of the last ideas on the post-it note. I wanted to toy around with perspective and the causes of love. Even jaded and single, I thought it was all so romantic.
"Don't Call Me That" was the result of a last-minute freak out. Suddenly, I remembered that I was not going to have a chance to write many more fluffy Lily and James moments. I felt nostalgia for my bad writing and the fighting banter between those two. I decided to indulge myself one last time.
"Severus" was always intended to be my parting with James and Lily. I wanted to try canon (though I knew I could never compare with JKR). I wanted to explore Severus. I wanted to see a James and Lily that were not the focus but were still powerful. I wanted to write a Lily that could conceivably die for her son. I hope I succeeded.
And finally, we have arrived at "Skirting Around a Scot," which was supposed to be a combination of Danica and myself but ended up with me writing everything and Danica reluctantly dealing with my crazy deadlines and insistence that she at least edit things. I would be lying if I said I was not anticipating more feedback. I have been spoiled by "Boyfriend" and my sad delusions of grandeur. I was also bitter that many people only wanted to talk about that series and not the new stuff. One thing I would say about myself is that I am very flawed. Hayley was very different from me, the lazy writer who despises running. I wanted someone who was strong. I wanted a story that had a romantic plotline but was not solely confined to that genre. I also wanted to test my abilities as a writer and try to create a new world that was more my own as a practice for the future.
Poor Danica had to endure my madness. To her, I am most grateful.
And now here we are. Thank you to all of you who have read my stories. I really believe that fan fiction is worthwhile (though, I am still hesitant to mention it in most companies). Preemptively, I would like to discourage anyone from requesting me to write more. There will be a blog, but no more stories. I am twenty years old. I need to start writing my own stories. I have done all that I can here.
But also, I would like to take some time (because God knows this note is not long enough) to welcome the new wave of writers. In my infinite arrogance, I will try not to begrudge you all the chance to surpass "Molly." In fact, I really look forward to that moment.
Again, thank you all. It has been a supreme pleasure.
Enjoy your Fridays.

Link to Molly's Blog: http:/www(dot)484694(dot)tumblr(dot)com