Epilogue - Perfect Conditions:
Three months later…
Charlie skipped through the oak front doors and down the stone steps, breathing in the fresh morning air of late spring. A grin spread across her face, and she ducked it momentarily so as not to appear completely unhinged to all the other students. The entire school was making their way across the green sunlit lawns towards the Hogwarts Quidditch pitch. It was the championship final with Gryffindor versus Ravenclaw, and there was much anticipation in the air.
She was running late, and as the ten minute warning whistle pierced the roar of the gathering crowd, her brisk walk broke into a jog, slowing only when she neared the stands.
Spotting Rurik and Errol moving towards the door to the Ravenclaw viewing stand, Charlie smiled – a bit tersely – and sent them a small wave. Both returned the greeting with the same degree of awkwardness before disappearing through the door.
As Charlie broke into a run and continued around the pitch towards the changing rooms, she pondered vaguely on the regret that her friendship with Rurik had never really had a chance to reach its full potential. It was true that it had been a tosser move to pull Leonie into the room behind the drapes despite knowing her feelings for him weren't casual, but Charlie was almost sure that in time, she would have been able to move passed that. After all, he seemed otherwise a truly decent boy – everyone made mistakes. But he distanced himself from her immediately after that night, sitting in the back row with Errol the next Potions lesson so that when Charlie came in, she had been left to slip into the seat beside Lily. He was ashamed, she suspected, of both his careless actions and the following outbreak of Veela anger towards Leonie.
But she was determined, nethertheless, to keep things at least polite between them.
A particularly loud chorus of "GRYFF-INDOR, GRYFF-INDOR, SEE US SOAR, HEAR US ROAR!" filled the stands as Charlie skidded into the hallway of the changing rooms, only to spot the red and gold robed heroes in the distance, already moving purposefully off towards the gates. With an aggravated cuss, she sprinted towards them.
It wasn't until she was several yards away, and the team was almost at the gates, that they heard the slapping of her trainers against the hard stone floor.
"Christ, Charlie, I thought you'd never arrive!" exclaimed Sirius, as the rest of the team also expressed fervent relief. He hurried forward to grab her outstretched hand and pull her, alongside a newly rejuvenated team, towards the gates.
Sirius' grip in Charlie's hand was tighter than usual as they marched, and she watched him from the corner of his eye to try and determine the cause. He caught her peeking, and the corner of his mouth twitched into a smile.
"Nervous?" she asked.
He sighed, avoiding a real answer by wrapping his arm – hand still entwined in hers – across her shoulders and replying, "Not now that you're here."
She rolled her eyes but squeezed his hand reassuringly.
"Remus is saving a seat for you, right?" he asked.
"In the very front row?"
The team arrived then at the tall gates, and both Charlie and Sirius quieted. The Gryffindors took deep, dramatic breaths to calm their nerves, gazing through the gaps in the wooden boards at the blue sky beyond.
"Perfect conditions," observed Selwyn, his barrel chest thrust outwards with pride.
They all smiled for a moment before James, at the head of the pack, whirled around with a clap of his hands.
"Alright!" he barked. "Charlie – let's go."
After a moment's embarrassment, she turned to Sirius with a hesitant breath. He was grinning.
"Get a move on," James groaned, "we don't have time for your lovestruck shenanigans!"
"Oh, honestly," Mac scolded the captain with a grin, "just 'cause you've already had your Before-the-Game ritual."
The team sniggered, as James had not been ashamed in announcing as he stood from the breakfast table that morning that he was off to have a motivational snog with his girlfriend Lily Evans.
They quieted as Sirius slipped an arm around Charlie's waist.
"Come on Frazier," he grinned. "Don't be shy."
She smiled too before laughing and leaning forward to press her lips to his cleanly shaven cheek – only to have him twist at the last second and capture her lips with his own.
There was an immediate eruption of whistles and hoots and Sirius grinned into the kiss, pulling Charlie cheekily closer. He eventually pulled away with a laugh, and although Charlie attempted a disapproving eye-roll, she couldn't smother her own flushed grin.
"Good luck Sirius, I hope your game goes well," she recited with a breathless laugh. His eyes sparkled and the team cheered.
Needless to say, Gryffindor won the Quidditch Cup that year.
(A/N): I apologise for the delay in this chapter, especially as it was so short. But it is the last, and I wanted it to be perfect! I did some extreme last-minute playing around, before deciding to post the original anyway which, yes was annoying, but I think worth it considering the satisfaction I now feel.
Thank you thank you thank you and a thousand more thank yous to everyone who has supported me and given me their insight throughout these past months. I've learned so much from all your feedback, and I cannot wait to apply it to my future writing. The Willemina has taught me so much about my writing, and almost all of it can be credited to you.
I don't want to blabber too much. But from the bottom of my heart, thank you again, and I really do hope you enjoyed reading this story as much as I did writing it.
Hopefully it won't be too long before you read more from me, I've already got several pages of my notebook covered in scrawl concerning a Next Generation fanfic.
- the punchline.