Disclaimer: The characters are the property of the amazingly talented J.K Rowling. I'm only borrowing the characters and world that she has so brilliantly created.
Chapter 29: The Quidditch Final
"Not in the clamor of the crowded street,
Not in the shouts and plaudits of the throng,
But in ourselves, are triumph and defeat."
-Henry Wordsworth Longfellow
"Good morning," James said, smirking slightly as he settled into the seat next to me at the breakfast table.
"What are you smirking about this early in the morning?" I asked, suddenly feeling a bit suspicious.
"I was right, that's all."
Right about what?
"Right? Since when are you right about anything?"
James leaned in close, his lips brushing against my ear. "You are a cover stealer."
I felt my mouth drop open. "Am not!"
"I'm just going to talk to Kieran about that Charms work," Christine told us tactfully as she stood up. She shot me a knowing smile before walking towards the Ravenclaw table.
I glanced around to make sure no one was in earshot, then said quietly. "I'll have you know that you're the cover stealer!"
James's face was positively comical. "What?"
"Yeah, I woke up at 3:00 in the bleeding morning freezing because someone was hogging the duvet."
"Well," James spluttered, "that's because I woke up at 2:00 and you had the duvet practically to yourself!"
"You mean…we're both cover stealers?" I couldn't help but laugh at this realization.
We were interrupted by the arrival of the owl post. Waffle swooped down low next to me and deposited an envelope in front of my plate. I noticed that James had a letter as well.
I had thought that maybe the letter would be from Tristan, but it was my mum's handwriting on outside of the envelope. I picked it up and carefully opened it.
I'm so glad to hear that you talked with Tristan the other day. I know this has been a difficult time and that you took these events particularly hard. Tristan came to dinner and talked with your dad. I can't pretend that I wish none of this had ever happened, but it did and we'll mend. Tristan mentioned that Richard and Gareth still won't talk to him. Do you think you could say something to them? I know its hurting Tristan and it hurts me to see my kids not speaking to each other.
We can talk about this more when you come home, but I wanted to keep you informed. Keep studying for NEWTs and do your best. They're called "Nastily Exhausting" for a reason, but make sure you're eating right and getting enough sleep. You know they'll be scouts (and a few Quidditch reporters) at the final match and you want to be in good form.
There was a postscript in dad's handwriting.
P.S. If you even think about signing with the Tornadoes I'll disown you. Anywhere else, I promise, just not there. Keep your elbows tucked in.
I looked up from my letter to see Fred sliding onto the bench across from James and me. I folded my letter carefully and slide it back into its envelope before placing it in my rucksack. Next to me, James did the same.
Fred looked down at his as yet empty plate and then glanced up at me a bit sheepishly. James cleared his throat loudly and shot Fred a stern glare.
"Eva, er, about last night," he began, a bit haltingly. "You know I…I'm sorry. James is my cousin and my best mate. I was just trying to look out for him, you know?"
I nodded. I did know. I would have done the same if I had been in the same situation with Christine and Kieran. I probably wouldn't have been as nice about it either.
"It's all right, Fred," I told him truthfully. "You were just being a good friend to James."
"From now on, Eva Louise," Fred told me with grin, "I trust you not to break his heart."
"Thank you," I told him as I spooned some more yogurt onto my plate.
Fred turned his gaze on James, his brown eyes twinkling. "And I think it's safe to say you won't break hers. Seeing as you're madly in love with her and all that."
James threw a link of sausage at Fred, which hit him on the end of his nose. "None of your business, you nosy parker."
Fred twitched his nose. "That was a waste of a perfectly decent sausage. Oh, by the way, thanks for the loan of the tie. Looked really nice on the doorknob."
This time I was the one who threw a piece of my breakfast at Fred.
"Oh, come on!" he protested as the piece of banana bounced off of his forehead. "You think I would miss an opportunity to tease you about the fact that you two were in the dormitory for a long time, all by yourselves? I can't pass that up!"
"Try," I told him with gritted teeth.
Christopher appeared next to Fred, wearing a slightly disgruntled look. "I thought you were going to wait for me?" he asked Fred as he surveyed the morning's selection of breakfast foods.
Fred's face colored slightly. "I saw Susannah leaving the common room with her friends so I followed behind them."
"Susannah Peters?" I asked incredulously. "Are you seriously still harassing that girl?"
Fred's face grew even brighter. "It's not harassing!" he cried in defense. "She's just easy to rile up and it's a laugh."
"Now where have I heard that before?" James pretended to ponder, his tone sarcastic.
"It does seem familiar," Christopher grinned. "Do her eyes blaze too?"
Fred made a harrumphing noise and took an exceptionally large bite out of a muffin.
"'Do her eyes blaze?' What in the name of Merlin's pants are you waffling on about?" I questioned the three boys.
At this, Fred nearly choked on his mouthful of muffin. "Ee hazen toll ou?"
"Stuff it," James warned, pointing his fork at Fred in a threatening manner.
"English please?" I turned to Christopher for an explanation.
Christopher laughed. "What Fred is trying to ask is, 'he hasn't told you?'"
Was that supposed to mean something to me? I certainly hoped not. He might have well have been speaking Mermish.
Fred finally swallowed his food and said, "James. James hasn't told you."
"Shut up, Fred," James warned through slightly gritted teeth.
I shifted in my seat to look at James and fixed him with an inquisitive stare. "Told me what? I thought weren't supposed to have secrets?"
James's ears were pink as he found himself caught. "When you're angry your eyes blaze and look even brighter than usual."
"What he means to say is that he likes it when your eyes blaze," Fred interjected in a teasingly helpful tone. "He used to pick rows with you just to see it."
I raised an eyebrow. "Really? You picked fights with me on purpose? To see my eyes blaze?"
"Er…yeah." James's ears now resembled a flaming sunset. "Obviously not until last year, but…yeah."
Did he mean to say that some of those times when he was wearing his I want to row with you expression that it had been because he wanted to see my eyes blaze (whatever the bleeding hell that meant)? He had purposefully instigated rows? What kind of strange bloke logic was that?!
"You have nice, blazing eyes. Rather amazing," he told me with a smirk.
"Is that a reference to last night?" Fred asked in a not-so-innocent voice.
In response, James flung a forkful of eggs in Fred's direction.
"Oi, watch it," Fred cried. "Or I'll tell Eva that Christopher helped you with your tie again this morning."
Christopher and I burst out laughing. James was not amused, and flung another forkful of eggs at Fred.
"By the way Eva," Christopher said, turning me. "Sorry about last night. I was just trying to protect James and be a good friend."
"I know," I told him. "I wouldn't expect any less from you."
"I'm glad you guys talked it out and that you're okay."
"Me too," I smiled.
"Yeah, talked," Fred said sarcastically.
"Fred?" I asked, "You I've punched someone in the face, yeah?"
"All right, all right!" Fred threw up his hands. "I'm done taking the mickey. Promise."
"Good," I nodded firmly.
"Nothing happened!" I cried in exasperation.
"That's what makes it so easy to tease you," Fred grinned widely. "You act so guilty."
"Lay off, Fred," James said in a warning tone that booked no argument. "It's not funny anymore. Stop making Eva uncomfortable."
Um, it was never funny, thanks.
"Fine," Fred sighed dramatically.
I continued to give Fred a stern glare.
"I promise," he told me. There was a slight pause, then he said, "Sorry."
"I feel like this is usually the part where someone throws food at Fred," Christopher mused.
"I'd rather you –" Fred began, but was cut off as he was hit in the face by another piece of banana.
"All right, everyone," I told the members of the Quidditch team, "there's only one week until our match against Ravenclaw. So first things first, I don't want any of you going anywhere alone. It'd be best if you could make sure you're always part of a group. We don't need any more accidents or injuries."
"I can't believe Rinaldi is setting her friends on you," Nico seethed. "It's so unsportsmanlike!"
"You mean sportwoman like," Zara corrected him.
"We stand in her way of the Cup," I reminded Nico. "She's incredibly result oriented. Means don't necessarily matter to Lyra Rinaldi."
"Wish we could prove it was her," Zara muttered angrily, folding her arms across her chest. "I'd like to take a leaf out of your book and punch her in the face."
I couldn't blame Zara for feeling that way, not when I felt like taking another swing at Lyra Rinaldi, and especially Chelsea Barnett for using that tripping jinx on me. What a cow. But as much as I might have wanted to retaliate, I couldn't.
"We don't need anyone being assigned detention right before the match," I warned them. "We need everyone to be there –and all in one piece – on Saturday."
"I wish we had another chance to beat Slytherin," James spoke up, his voice a bit heavy.
I knew exactly how James was feeling. I felt just the same. Since the moment we had lost to Slytherin back in that first match, I had regretted that I would never get another chance to play against Rinaldi and beat her Slytherin team.
"I know," I replied and around me the other team members nodded. "I know. But that's the way Quidditch works. One chance."
"Unfortunate," Nico intoned and Bree nodded.
"The best we can do is to make sure Slytherin doesn't win the Cup," Lily said firmly.
"Exactly right. Now, strategy," I said in order to refocus the team. "I know we've been over this before, but we can't talk about it enough. We can expect Ravenclaw to be brill at strategy, as usual. Jones, Davies, and Chang have played together for two years now and work well together. They're good at anticipating each other's moves, so watch them carefully, everyone."
"Davies favors the center hoop," Richard replied. "And Chang needs to work on forceful passing."
"I'm glad you noticed that. Also watch Jones because he's left-handed. Chang can seem like the weakest link, but don't underestimate him. You saw how he played against the Slytherins."
Richard nodded firmly. "Can I look over your notes on the Chasers again?" he asked.
"Of course." I tried not to smile at my brother's dedication to the team. He'd been raised right, that boy. "I'll be in the common room after dinner."
"Chasers - Madeline Harper, their Keeper, throws from her wrist instead of her shoulder," I said, remembering James's words about her abilities. Out of the corner of my eyes, I saw James's mouth quirk into a knowing smirk.
"So look for opportunities to use her weaker throw to our advantage. But aside from her throwing problems, she's an excellent Keeper; very talented. She's good at sensing when Chasers are feinting. We'll work on that today out on the pitch."
"Nico and Zara," I continued, "Watson is new to the team this year, and he's talented. But from what I've seen, he and Higgins don't always get along well. They both seem as though they're trying to outplay the other, so that could work to your advantage, but don't count on it. I'm sure Harper has addressed that after the last match."
"We can take them," Nico boasted proudly. "We know how to work together. Zara and I make an ace team."
Zara smiled widely. "Sure do, Little Chap."
Nico scowled at her. "I've grown a whole fourth of an inch this year!" he protested vigorously. Behind him, James snorted loudly into his Quidditch gloves. Nico turned around to give him a fierce scowl that did nothing to stop James's muffled laughter.
Zara patted Nico on the head. "You do realize that you could end up being over six feet and I'll still call you Little Chap, yeah?"
"You're cute the way you are, Nico," Bree told him kindly. Nico looked incredibly pleased by her words.
"Well, let's just keep up the teamwork, and keep working on your backbeats," I told my Beaters, returning the discussion to the topic of Quidditch.
"Now, James, you have leagues more talent than Greenfield, but keep an eye on him. He did spot the Snitch before Malfoy, even though he threw himself off balance and gave up the catch. I want you to make certain that he doesn't see it before you, but if he does, distract him. Nico, and Zara, I'm counting on you to help with this. Ravenclaw currently has five hundred points and we have five hundred and eighty. Slytherin has played all of their matches, and they have an even thousand. If we're going to win the Cup, we're going to need four hundred and thirty points. James, you know what that means."
James nodded firmly. "I can't catch the snitch until we have at least two hundred and eighty points."
"I know it's a lot, but I have complete faith in us," I told them in my best captain voice. "We're the most hardworking team at this school, we're in the best physical shape, and we have the most talented players."
"And we have the most heart," Lily spoke up. "We all love Quidditch. We're all dedicated to being the best players that we can. That sets us apart."
Well, darn if Lily Potter wasn't simply fabulous. I knew that I made a good choice selecting her for the team all those months ago. She had proved herself a capable and dedicated player time and time again.
"Well said!" Nico cheered as Bree clapped enthusiastically. James was regarding Lily with an immensely proud look that made my stomach flutter. James had once said that Lily reminded him of his mum. I wondered if that's what he was thinking about now.
"You know what else sets us apart?" Zara said, "We're friends. I mean, look at the Ravenclaws trying to outplay each other and the Slytherins starting fights in the middle of the pitch. At the end of the day, we play for Gryffindor pride."
I was certain that I was beaming as I looked around the locker rooms at everyone.
Best Quidditch team ever.
"That's it," I said, thoroughly disgusted, throwing down my quill. "I'm going to teach myself to be ambidextrous."
Three pairs of eyes rose to look at me with concern. Christine and Kieran were frowning, but James look positively alarmed.
"Is your wrist still hurting you?" he asked, panic lacing his voice.
"Just a slight twinge," I tried to assure him. Even as I said it, I couldn't lie to myself – the slight pain that had lingered in my right wrist had me a bit worried.
"Perhaps you've been pushing yourself too hard at practice," Christine suggested a bit hesitantly.
I wrinkled up my nose. "No such thing."
"Yes, there is, Eva, and you know it," Kieran told me in a determined tone.
"We shouldn't practice tomorrow," James said firmly. "Let everyone have a day to rest before the match on Saturday."
Did I just hear the words not practice come out of James Potter's mouth? What kind of bleeding awful suggestion was that?
"Are you taking the mickey?" I demanded, peering into his face, hoping to find a teasing smirk there. My hope was sadly futile.
"But I've booked the pitch!" I cried, feeling scandalized by James's suggestion. "The Ravenclaws can't have our time on the pitch!"
Kieran raised his eyebrows slightly.
"No offense, Kieran," I told him. "But we have to win."
He smiled easily and straightened his blue and bronze Ravenclaw tie. "Agree to disagree on that topic."
"We can stretch out or do some other mild strength training," I told James. "And we can talk strategy, but we have to be occupying that pitch. Abandoning our time slot is not an option, James."
"I don't want you to overextend yourself and get hurt," James told me. He reached over and took my wrist in his warm hands. He gently began massaging the muscles and stretching my wrist slightly. I nearly sighed in contentment. It did make my wrist feel better.
"I won't," I promised James.
We had all just returned to studying for our N.E. when Nico and Bree rushed up to our table.
"One of Rinaldi's friends just tired to push Zara down a flight of stairs," Nico spat angrily.
I was on my feet in an instant. Beside me, James did the same. "Where is she now?"
"She's talking to Professor Longbottom and Professor McGonagall," Bree answered. I happily noted that neither Bree or Nico sounded too out of breath. It look liked all of those extra laps were having the desired effect.
"Don't worry, we asked Professor Longbottom to escort her back to the Tower," Nico told me firmly. "We've been doing like you asked and going everywhere in pairs."
"Bloody Slytherins," I groaned. "Bloody Rinaldi," I amended, remembering that neither Scorpius nor any of the other Slytherins had tried to trip anyone or push anyone down a flight of stairs.
We couldn't let her dirty tactics impair our team. Gryffindor had to win the match. We just had to.
This wasn't about winning. That was never what Quidditch had been about for me. I couldn't let one vindictive person make me forget that. Quidditch was about playing the full extent of my abilities. No matter what Rinaldi – or anyone for that matter – did, nothing would change that for me.
The Gryffindor team and I would work to be the best that we could be, and that was all anyone could ask of us. James had said it well – we win or lose as a team.
We are so proud of you and everything you've achieved this year. As always, play your best and play for the sheer enjoyment of it. We'll be in the stands cheering on our favorite Chaser and Keeper.
All our love,
Mum and Dad
P.S. Keep your elbows tucked in!
The morning of the match dawned grey, gloomy, and overcast. There was the unmistakable smell of rain in the air. I glanced up at the ceiling of the Great Hall and frowned. I could imagine more ideal conditions for my final Quidditch match at Hogwarts.
"Relax," Lily assured me from her place on the bench next to me. "You had us practicing in far worse than this. We were out there on the pitch in torrential rain. Even if it does rain during the match, it probably won't be that bad. And besides, this way, we won't have to deal with the sun in our eyes."
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Richard smiling slightly at Lily with a look of pure admiration. For some reason, the sight calmed me.
I nodded. What Lily was saying was true. It was. I just worried about James's visibility in the rain. The Snitch was difficult to spot in the best of conditions, but in the rain…
"I know," I replied with a small, hopefully reassuring smile. "Thanks."
"I'm a Seeker," James reminded me. "I have this in hand."
I squeezed his hand for reassurance. "You'll catch the Snitch. You're the best in the school."
"I thought you were opposed to inflating my ego?"
"This is a match day. It's different," I told him loftily.
His mouth twitched as he tried not to smirk.
"Oh, just go ahead and smirk. I know you want to," I told him with a slight eye roll. Turning my attention to the rest of my team, I looked around to make certain that everyone was eating.
"C'mon, eat something," Nico was telling Bree. He waved a fork loaded with scrambled eggs in her face.
She leaned away and wrinkled her nose. "Get those away from me. I hate eggs and I already feel as though I'm going to be sick."
"You need to eat something," I reminded her somewhat sternly. I wasn't letting one of my team members go out on to that pitch on an empty stomach and without enough energy.
"Says the girl who's barely touched her fruit," Lily muttered with a slight smile.
"And you've barely touched your plate," I countered. "Everyone eat something. We have ten minutes."
Ten minutes until we went down to the pitch locker rooms. Holy hippogriffs – how had the time gone by so quickly?!
Twenty-five minutes later, I stood in front of my team in the locker rooms. Once everyone had put on their kit their nerves had seemed to fade away. On every single one of their faces was a grim determination that I was sure was reflected on my own.
This was the last time I would stand before the Gryffindor team as their captain. Last night, I had planned a few words to say before the match that would inspire the team. Now that I was standing here before them, I didn't want to say the words I had originally intended. They suddenly seemed trite, and I grasped around in my mind for something else to say.
"Okay team…" I began, using my very best authoritative captain voice. "This is it. This is the last time we'll all play together on this pitch as the Gryffindor Quidditch Team. All of you have worked so hard this year. We started out good and we've only improved as term has gone on. I'm proud to have been your captain. So let's go out there, and play for Gryffindor. Let's play for us. Let's play the match we know we're capable of playing so that no matter what happens – win or lose – we can look back on this match and be proud of what we've accomplished."
"We'll get it done for you captain," Nico said firmly.
"It's not about me," I told him. "We're a team. This is about all of us and about all of us playing our best."
"Let's go play for Gryffindor," Lily chimed in, her eyes blazing with zeal and determination.
"Gryffindor, Gryffindor, Gryffindor, Gryffindor!" the team chanted, raising their fists in the air.
It was a beautiful sight, a Quidditch team full of resolve prepared to take on and conquer whatever came their way.
"Let's go play Gryffindor Quidditch!" I roared, energy coursing through me.
As I tightened the straps of my wrist guards, James approached me.
"I've never been more attracted to you than I am right now," he told me in a low voice.
Richard, who was standing nearby, flushed a brilliant shade of red and hastily moved away. I couldn't help but laugh a bit.
"So you think I did all right?" I asked, biting my lip. After all, I had completed winged that speech.
James smiled at me, and reached out to play with the end of my ponytail. "You were magnificent. Perhaps the scouts will be able to overlook your inability to keep your elbows in and offer you a tryout anyway."
"You're such a prat," I laughed as I leaned forward to kiss him. "Perhaps the scouts will overlook your overly large ego and decide that you're worth taking a chance on."
"Stop your teasing-fighting-flirting thing and get over here," Zara commanded us with a slight smile.
Oh, right. So much for not letting my relationship with James affect the team.
"You're a rotten distraction," I informed him, pointing my finger warningly in his face.
In response, he merely winked at me. "Aren't I, though?"
"Save it for later," Richard grumbled, clearly annoyed and embarrassed.
"Here are the RAVENCLAWS!" shouted the announcer. "Harper, Greenfield, Jones, Davies, Chang, Higgins, and Watson!"
The Ravenclaw team flew onto the pitch in a flurry of blue and bronze robes. In the stands, their supporters waved pennants and cheered wildly.
"Game on," I whispered to myself as we mounted our brooms and soared out into the cool, grey morning. We were met with raucous cheers from the Gryffindor stands, as well as some supporters from Hufflepuff.
"Now for GRYFFINDOR! Wood, Potter, Martin, Thomas, Phelps, Wood, and Potter!"
As we made our customary lap around the pitch, the announcer continued his commentary. "Both teams enter the match today very strong. Wood of Gryffindor and Harper of Ravenclaw have worked exceptionally hard with their teams this year. This promises to be an excellent, hard fought match today, ladies and gentlemen!"
The crowd was extra loud and rambunctious today. The overcast and slightly gloomy weather hadn't dimmed the students' enthusiasm for Quidditch. Students were on their feet, waving widely and holding banners and pennants.
I knew that there were scouts in the crowd, but I didn't allow myself to let my eyes seek them out. That would only serve to make me nervous. Instead, I looked for Christine as we flew by the Ravenclaw stands, but I didn't see her. Normally she stood out a bit with her scarlet and gold Gryffindor scarf. But when we flew by the Gryffindor stands, there she was, her binoculars hanging around her neck and standing next to Roxanne, Sorcha, and Gemma. All four of them were cheering loudly and were helping to hold up a large, brightly colored red and gold banner that proclaimed, "Chuck that Quaffle Here, Eva!"
I felt a grin splitting my face and I waved happily at them. The nigh before, I had been humming the Puddlemere United song "Beat Back Those Bludgers Boys and Chuck That Quaffle Here." They knew how much I wanted to play for Puddlemere, and they were here supporting me, even Gemma. That was certainly a surprise. Perhaps I had really gotten through to her. Or perhaps someone had cast a cheering charm on her.
Standing in the front row of the Gryffindor stands were Fred, Al, Hugo and Gareth along with some of Richard, Gareth, and Hugo's friends. All of the boys were sporting scarlet and gold face paint and waving pennants that featured magically animated roaring lions. Fred and Al were each helping to hold up a large hand made sign that read, "Lions for the Cup!"
And was that….? It was! Standing behind the group of boys next to Rose was Scorpius Malfoy. Scorpius was in the Gryffindor stands. Merlin, if he wasn't careful, he'd be next on Rinaldi's hit list.
Taking up our formation, I cleared my mind and glanced at each of the Ravenclaw team members. They all looked as determined as the Gryffindor team. The announcer was right; this would be a hard fought match.
"I want a clean match and fair play," Madam Hooch informed us in the strictest of voices. Her whistle sounded and she tossed the Quaffle high into the air.
Angling my broom forward, I quickly shot up and snatched the red Quaffle out of the air. Immediately, the Ravenclaw Chasers were on all sides of me, putting pressure on me to make a hasty pass or drop the Quaffle. Ha, bloody unlikely.
With sharp jerk, I allowed my broom to drop in altitude, which confused the Ravenclaw Chasers. Then out of the corner of my eye, I saw Bree right where she was supposed to be, and tossed the Quaffle slightly behind me. Bree secured the red ball under her arm and, putting on a burst of speed, flew towards the opposite goalpost.
Lily and I followed her up the pitch, flanked by the Ravenclaw Chasers, who were intent on not letting us keep control of the Quaffle. I made eye contact with Lily and nodded once. She nodded in return, understanding what I had been communicating to her.
"Martin misses, Hufflepuff Keeper Harper throws the Quaffle back into play," the commentator narrated.
Harper threw the Quaffle to Jones, who grabbed it deftly in his sure hands. Lily, Bree, and I took our places in our formation. Bree and I worked to block the other two Chasers, while Lily flew close, attempting to knock the Quaffle out of Jones's hands.
Jones glanced quickly to either side of him and saw that his fellow Chasers were occupied. Pulling up on his broom, he changed course and flew so that he was behind us. It was a clever move, and one for which we hadn't been prepared. Jones easily tossed the Quaffle to Davies, who sped off down the pitch.
"Wood blocks Davies' attempt! The match remains tied at zero."
As Chang and I were both reaching for the Quaffle thrown by Richard, a Bludger came whizzing towards us. I glanced at the Quaffle, then at Chang, and made my decision and performed a barrel roll. Chang shot me a look of panic, then leaned into a barrel roll as well.
From below me, Lily swooped in and snatched up the Quaffle just before Davies could do the same. One of the Ravenclaw Beaters, Watson, sent the Bludger back towards Lily, but suddenly Zara was there hitting it away with an easy grin. Still, the damage was done. Lily had dropped the Quaffle and Jones had scooped it up.
"Jones, Davies, Jones, Chang….Chang scores! Ten points to Ravenclaw!" shouted the announcer. The Ravenclaw stands erupted in excited cheers, and I swore under my breath. Scoring first was a huge morale boost to a team and their supporters.
Lily managed to grab the Quaffle as it was thrown back into play. She passed the Quaffle to me, I passed it back to her, Lily passed it to Bree, Bree passed it to me. We rapidly passed the Quaffle back and forth between us, seeking to confuse the Ravenclaws and keep them guessing about our plans. With a sharp nod, I signaled to the other two girls that that it was time to get into position for our modified Hawkshead Attacking Formation.
Moving forward in a tight and controlled V formation after crossing the half field line, the other plays quickly flew out of our way as we barreled down the pitch.
"Wood scores and Gryffindor is on the board! They're tied at ten points!'
Roars of approval echoed from the Gryffindor stands. "Gryffindor! Gryffindor! Gryffindor!"
Twenty minutes, later Gryffindor was leading, but only by twenty points and the score stood at 50-30. Meanwhile, the sky had continued to darken and I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd be playing this match in the rain. Naturally, that was the exact moment rain began falling from the sky.
Lily had been right – the Gryffindor team had endured much worse during practices than what we were experiencing today. The wind was minimal and the rain was falling straight down instead of at an angle. If we had to have rain, this was the best kind to have. Still, I was glad that my team had plenty of experience to reply upon since rain of any sort impaired vision.
The Quaffle was sailing towards me, thrown by Richard after a failed Ravenclaw goal attempt, when Davies came seemingly out of nowhere. As we both lunged for the Quaffle, his elbow made contact with my nose and I let out a gasp of pain.
"Ouch!" the announcer said, "Looks like Wood's just taken an elbow to the face. No penalty though, because it doesn't seem to have been on purpose."
I ignored the sharp pain in my nose and instead focused on somehow regaining possession of the Quaffle. Davies had gotten a hold of it when I had brought my hand up to gingerly touch my nose. I could taste the blood from my nose as it slowly trickled down towards my lips, but at least the rain seemed to be washing most of it away. That was something, anyway.
"Potter takes a Bludger to the leg! Doesn't look too bad; it just grazed him. He'll have a decent bruise, but good thing Potter's got quick reflexes! And there's Thomas and Phelps with perfect backbeats – Wood has certainly been working hard on their training this season. Great teamwork, there."
At the commentator's words, my heart swelled a bit, but I kept my focus on Davies and the Quaffle. If James had merely been grazed by the Quaffle, then he was fine. I couldn't allow myself to be distracted by a very minor injury.
The match seemed to wear on and on with no end in sight. Gryffindor and Ravenclaw were very evenly match teams, especially in terms of our Chasers and Beaters. Where I hoped that we'd have the edge was in James. It didn't matter that Scorpius had beaten James in that first match. As far as I was concerned James was the best in the school. He could make all the difference.
Stealing a glance through the rain, I saw that the scoreboard read Gryffindor 200, Ravenclaw 170. We still needed eighty points before James could catch the Snitch. In the mean time, he, Nico, and Zara had to keep Greenfield from catching it first and ending the match. If Greenfield caught the Snitch at this point, Ravenclaw would win the match and take second in the House Cup. Slytherin would take first, while Gryffindor would end in third or fourth place.
The rain had made the Quaffle slippery, which was causing problems for the Chasers. Even with our gloves, we still relied heavily on the firm grip of our fingertips. As I was trying to catch a pass from Bree, my fingers slipped and suddenly I was grasping for the ball. In a moment of confusion (and stupidity) I made a hard and desperate swipe to regain the Quaffle, but instead brought my hand down hard, fingertips first onto the handle of Chang's broom.
That alone wouldn't have been terrible, but a few moments later, an angled yet forceful pass from Lily had me grasping for the Quaffle with poor hand positioning. I winced as I felt two of the fingers of my right hand dislocate. I firmly reminded myself to push past the pain. I'd played with dislocated fingers loads of times before. I'd even played with a broken arm; it could have been worse. I could do this. I could.
"It seems like Wood has taken another injury – something with her hand, looks like."
I felt like hitting that Hufflepuff commentator upside the head with one of the Beater's bats. I knew he was just doing his job and reporting on the events of the match, but I didn't particularly want the other team knowing that my hand was injured.
"All right, Eva?" Lily called over to me, worry evident in her voice.
"All right!" I called back, trying to sound upbeat. I didn't want anyone worrying about me. The team needed to focus on the match, not my injury.
Still, as if the rain hadn't made trying to catch the Quaffle hard enough, now I had to catch it with dislocated fingers. I could have taken the stabbing pain in my hand, but the rain made the situation ten times worse.
I managed to snag the Quaffle that Bree passed me, but I immediately passed it on to Lily because of the throbbing in my right hand. Ouch, ouch, ouch. Even worse….it had been a clumsy pass, and I knew it. And unfortunately, so did the Ravenclaw Chasers.
"THE SNITCH HAS BEEN SPOTTED!"
My heart sank as I saw James and Greenfield fall into a steep dive. The roar of the crowd intensified as suddenly all eyes were fixed on the figures speeding towards the ground.
No, no, no. The match couldn't end yet. My heart seemed to be beating irregularly. Come on, James…come on!
"FOR GRYFFINDOR!" came a mighty bellow from Nico and suddenly a Bludger came hurtling from the right, knocking Greenfield off course. As Greenfield swerved out of the way, he nearly flew into James, who was also knocked off course. But that didn't matter, because Nico had helped save the day and kept the match from ending just yet. I wondered if James had seen the Snitch before this, but had been biding his time as we had discussed.
Nico shared a triumphant high-five with Zara as the Ravenclaw crowd let out a collective sigh of disappointment and the Gryffindor crow let out a collective cheer. I felt flooded with relief. The match wasn't over and we certainly weren't done fighting.
But as the match continued to progress, things were not looking up for Gryffindor. Zara had taken a Bludger to her left arm (thankfully not her dominant bat arm), Lily had also dislocated at least one of her fingers, and Ravenclaw had managed to come from behind and take the lead by thirty points. But the Ravenclaws were also a bit worse for wear. Harper and Chang had both been hit by Bludgers, Harper definitely had bruised ribs, Davies had injured his shoulder, and Zara had purposefully elbowed Higgins in the face which had resulted in a foul for Ravenclaw.
Signaling to Lily and Bree, I motioned to get into formation. With our hand injuries (and my former wrist injury), Lily and I weren't passing quite as we should have been able to and it showed. I wanted to slap myself for allowing a couple of dislocated fingers from hindering my ability to play the game to my full ability. I knew that I had to do better to ignore the pain and put everything I had into playing my very best. That's what I had told my team before the match - Let's play the match we know we're capable of playing so that no matter what happens – win or lose – we can look back on this match and be proud of what we've accomplished.
"Injuries on both sides are having an effect on several of the players out there, particularly Lily Potter and Captain Eva Wood of Gryffindor and Harper and Chang of Ravenclaw. This is certainly a close match!"
I was capable of more than what I was currently accomplishing. Despite the aching and throbbing of my fingers, and the still sharp pain in my nose, I could do better. I had to; there was simply no other choice. The next time the Quaffle was passed in my direction, I caught it deftly, ignoring the pain, and tucked it securely under my arm elbows firmly tucked in. I hoped that somewhere in the stands my dad was watching and that he approved of my firmly and neatly tucked elbows.
After scoring twice, I felt that there was a new energy on the pitch. The Gryffindor crowd was cheering with renewed vigor. I heard voices screaming my name and urging me on, telling me to "chuck that Quaffle here."
"Wood is sure fighting past that hand injury," said the commentator, "Look at that technique!"
I couldn't help but grin widely. Look at that technique. Spot on, Hufflepuff bloke.
James went into a Wronksi Feint that fooled Greenfield into thinking that the Snitch had been spotted. There was a gasp from the crowd as Greenfield crashed into the ground just as James sharply pulled up his broom and leveled out in the nick of time. Greenfield slowly picked himself up off the ground and shook his head. Climbing back on his broom, he rejoined the match, though he didn't look terribly coordinated out there.
The rain continued to fall, and the match went on. It was hard to tell just how long we'd been out here; it seemed like ages. We were finally getting closer to two hundred and eighty, but both teams were staying within twenty points of each other. Richard was doing a fantastic job in front of the goalposts, keeping out far more than he was letting in.
"POTTER HAS SEEN THE SNITCH!"
Gryffindor 280, Ravenclaw 270 read the scoreboard. I felt as though all of the breath had escaped my body. In a mere matter of moments the match could be over…
Everyone stopped and watched as James dove for the Snitch. Greenfield was keeping close on James's tail. My stomach clenched in anxious anticipation and I clutched onto the Quaffle for dear life.
Through the rain, I could see James stretch out a hand in front of him and make a grabbing motion, and then he was recoiling as a Bludger slammed into his right arm. He pulled his arm in tight to his body and continued in pursuit of the Snitch, now steering his broom with only his left hand. James was getting closer and closer to the ground….any second now…. He lifted his left hand so that he was steering and hanging on with only his knees and then –
"JAMES!" I yelled as I watched my boyfriend plunge forward and go flying head over heels over the handle of his broomstick and fall the remaining fifteen feet to the ground. As he hit the pitch he did his best to tuck into a roll, but his injured right arm hindered him and he ended up in a heap on the wet grass of the pitch.
The crowd was deathly silent. My heart was nearly beating out of my chest with worry, but I kept my firm grip on the Quaffle, ready to continue play. Then, very slowly and very carefully, James picked himself up off the ground and raised his left hand high, straight over his head. There was pain in his expression, but also triumph. The tiny Golden Snitch was struggling against his fist.
"He's done it! James Potter's done it! GRYFFINDOR WINS!' shouted the announcer. "I can't believe what I just saw – ladies and gentleman, that was a match for the record books! Nearly a four and a half hour match with the score incredibly close the entire time. But Gryffindor wins the match and – yes, by a margin of only ten points - Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup!"
The stands exploded as hundreds of Gryffindor students and many of the Hufflepuffs burst into a nearly deafening roar of wild cheers and shouts. Quickly, students began emptying the stands and rushing out on to the pitch to congratulate the team.
I quickly landed my broom and looked for James, but the crowd and the rain had obscured him from sight. I hoped he was all right. Between what I felt certain was a broken arm and that fifteen foot fall, he was in desperate need of a trip to the hospital wing.
Nico was the first to reach me, practically slamming into me with a hug. For all that he was a little chap, he nearly knocked me off my feet and onto the soggy grass of the pitch.
"Told you we'd do it, Captain," he yelled as he hugged me. Then suddenly Bree, Zara, Lily, and Richard were all right there as well, jumping up and down and screaming excitedly.
"I can't believe it – we actually did it!" Bree cried, tears of happiness collecting in the corners of her brown eyes.
"You best start believing it!" Lily cheered, jumping and wildly punching the air with her fist. "Because we won!"
"Brilliant beating, Little Chap," Zara hugged Nico affectionately.
And then James was standing in front of me. His robes were absolutely soaked and his hair was plastered to his head. Wordlessly, he held up the Golden Snitch that was still struggling in his left hand. He looked liked he'd been trampled by a herd of hippogriffs but his tired mouth curved into a wide grin and my heart skipped a beat. Or two.
I moved to close the distance between us and was about to throw my arms around him when I stopped myself short.
"You're hurt," I said. "Your arm."
In response, he pulled me in close to him and held me tight as he lifted me off the ground and happily spun us in a circle. Careful of my fingers, I wound my arms around his neck to help him since he was only holding onto me with one arm.
"James, oh Merlin, we won the Cup!" I shouted over the nearly overwhelming cheering still emanating from the stands and the students on the pitch.
"You were bloody brilliant!" he cried excitedly. "We were all brilliant! Godric, that was a match I'll never forget."
I pulled away slightly so that I could look James in the eyes, but my arms remained firmly clasped around his neck.
His warm, brown eyes regarded me tenderly, yet with a bright light I had never seen before. Even though my robes were drenched and I was freezing, I suddenly felt pleasantly warm right down in the pit of my stomach. It was like I had taken a long swallow of butterbeer.
He stowed the Snitch in the pocket of his robes, then took my face in his calloused hands and brought his mouth down to meet mine. I let my hands run through his wet hair, even as I sought to pull him closer. His lips moved firmly against mine as we ignored the rain, our teammates, the crowd, the pain we were in, everything. In this moment, it was just us.
"C'mon you two!" Nico interrupted us, appearing out of the rain.
"You have awful timing, Little Chap," James groaned as he pulled away.
They're bringing out the Cup," Nico reasoned. "We can't have the winning captain miss that!"
There was no way in hell I was missing holding the Quidditch Cup as captain of the Gryffindor team. I had waited my entire Hogwarts career for this moment.
"We'd better get over there, Captain," James grinned. I grinned right back at him.
Sometimes, I had secretly wondered if this moment – if it ever came – would be able to live up to the expectations that I had built up in my head over the years. But I needn't have worried, because raising the gleaming, golden Quidditch Cup above my head while the crowd cheered for Gryffindor was even better than my imagination.
The crowd was still chanting and cheering madly, and people were taking photographs of the scene. Everyone on the Gryffindor team got a chance to hold the Quidditch Cup and raise it triumphantly.
"Dad!" I called out happily.
When he reached me, my dad scooped me up into a fierce hug. "I'm so proud of you," he told me. I could hear his pride in his voice and it made me just as happy as holding the Quidditch Cup.
Releasing me, he pulled back and looked into my face. "Wonderful job of keeping your elbows in, Eva."
"Eva, oh darling," Mum was suddenly there, fusing over my injuries. "You had me so worried with that bloody nose. Here." She took out her wand and used tergeo to remove the dried blood from my face. Ah, much better.
Mum turned her attention to Richard now that he was done shaking hands with Dad. "Richard, no injuries?"
He shook his head and wrinkled his nose in slight distaste at her motherly ministrations.
"Brilliant playing, Captain."
I turned around to see Tristan standing behind me with his hands shoved uneasily in his trouser pockets. Elena stood next to him, clutching his arm. What in the name of Merlin's pants was she doing here?
"Tristan," I said awkwardly. "You came."
"'Course I did. I wasn't going to miss your final Hogwarts match."
"Your little team played so well, Eva," Elena told me in her usual too polite voice. "I'm quite impressed. There were Tornado's scouts in the stands today, you know. I'd be very surprised if you don't receive an offer from them to try out for their reserves."
"Er, thanks," I said in a rather dismissive tone. If I did receive an offer from the Tornados, I was chucking it straight in the bin. Or perhaps the fire in the common room.
"Just think about what I said that time we met for lunch," Tristan said.
I was about to reply when from out of nowhere, Fred nearly rugby tackled me. "EVA LOUISE, you brilliant Quidditch player, you!"
Apparently Fred's face paint was enchanted to be water resistant, because the rain hadn't streaked it at all. The diagonal red and gold stripes were still drawn plainly across his face. Christopher was close behind, sporting a Gryffindor red t-shirt and gold face paint. Someone (probably Fred) had put some paint in his hair.
"Louise?" I heard Mum ask Richard. She sounded extremely confused, as well she might, considering she and dad had named me Eva Rebecca.
Richard shrugged. "It's Fred. That's the best explanation I have."
About as good an explanation as any.
"Thanks, Fred," I grinned and returned his hug.
"That was…wow," Christopher told me. "I knew you were good, Eva, but I didn't know you were that good. How are your fingers?"
"I'm trying not to think about it," I admitted.
"You ready to meet the Potters?" Fred winked at me. Christopher grinned widely.
I felt my eyes widen and I nearly blanched. "What?"
Fred put his hands on my shoulders and forcibly spun me around on the spot. "Ready or not!"
James was moving towards me with his parents, Al, and Lily in tow. Behind them were other members of the family, but they hung back. Holy hippogriffs, I was going to meet Harry Potter. I mean, I'd grown up with a famous dad and a well-known mum, but James's dad had defeated Voldemort. No matter what James said, that was just a completely different level of famous.
Lily glanced excitedly between her parents and me. Then she waved cheerfully at me before walking around to talk to Richard and my parents.
"Well done!" Al greeted me. He was carrying a scarlet and gold Gryffindor pennant and someone (Fred again, I suspected) had painted a large red and gold G on one of his cheeks. Behind them, I could see Roxanne, Rose and other members of the Weasley family talking excitedly.
Harry Potter looked almost exactly like Al, but older. He had the same untidy black hair and bright green eyes and tall and thin build. I could see the resemblance between James and his dad as well. James had inherited Mr. Potter's height, build, and his messy hair. However, his eyes were Ginny's and his facial features and smile were more masculine versions of his mum's. Ginny Potter was a very pretty woman with flaming red hair, kind brown eyes, and a quick, slightly mischievous smile.
"Eva, these are my parents, Harry and Ginny Potter. Mum, Dad – this is Eva. My girlfriend."
James's face was a little red as he said all this.
"It's great to meet you," I said, and reached out to shake Mr. Potter's proffered hand, then remembered that I had dislocated fingers. I ended up switching hands and very awkwardly offering him my left to shake instead.
I let out a nervous laugh and Mr. Potter's mouth twitched as he shook my left hand. Not wanting to seem rude, I kept my eyes from glancing at Mr. Potter's forehead and his renowned lightning bolt scar.
"We've certainly heard a lot about you, Eva" Mrs. Potter smiled warmly at me.
"A lot," Mr. Potter agreed, nodding. "You seem to take up a lot of space in his letters home."
"Dad," James protested, looking thoroughly embarrassed.
"We warned you when you before you were old enough to date exactly what would happen when you introduced us to a girl. You're not going to deny me the chance to embarrass my oldest son, are you?"
"Don't forget that we need to meet Richard, too," Mrs. Potter reminded her husband cheerfully. "He's the one dating your only daughter."
"It's not likely that I'll be forgetting that," Mr. Potter muttered.
In spite of my earlier worries, I found myself grinning. The Potters were just so…normal.
"Richard's all right, I suppose," I said with a hint of sarcasm as I glanced over at my brother and Lily.
"You played fantastically today, Eva," Mrs. Potter told me. "James tells us that you want to play professionally, too."
"I noticed a lot of scouts in the stands," Mr. Potter observed. "After that match, I reckon the pair of you will be receiving plenty of offers. Let me guess, you have your sights set on Puddlemere?"
"Guilty," I laughed. "Mum and dad raised me to be a tried and true Puddlemere fan. Well, Dad mostly. I mean, Mum loves Quidditch too, obviously, but Dad's the truly fanatical one."
"I should say hello to Oliver," Harry said. "He was my Quidditch captain from first to third year. I still remember when McGonagall pulled him out of lessons to tell him she'd found a Seeker for Gryffindor. I thought she was going to expel me." He smiled faintly at the memory.
Mrs. Potter smiled warmly at me. "Well, best of luck with your try outs, Eva. If today's match was anything to judge by, the scouts would be mad if you didn't receive several offers. James, make sure to bring her over for dinner this summer. We'll want to hear all about try outs."
"Thanks, Mrs. Potter."
She waved off my words. "Please, call us Ginny and Harry."
"Oh," I said, reverting to my good old standby. "Thanks. Ginny."
Turning to James, I smiled teasingly and asked, "Ready to meet my parents?"
"Meet Oliver Wood?"
I rolled my eyes. "I just met Harry and Ginny Potter – I think you can handle meeting Oliver Wood."
"But that was just Mum and Dad."
"To you!" I logically pointed out with a light prod to his shoulder. "And Oliver Wood is just Dad to me."
Behind us, I heard Harry and Ginny laughing at us. I felt my face grow warm. Perhaps I should have considered the fact that they were standing right there and could clearly hear our conversation. Oops. Well, that was incredibly awkward.
Walking over to Mum and Dad, I saw them chatting with Lily and Richard. Gareth was studiously ignoring Tristan and Elena and talking to one of his friends instead.
"James, these are my parents, Phillipa and Oliver Wood. Mum, Dad, this is James."
"It's wonderful to meet finally meet you, James," Mum said in her usual kind tone. "Please call me Pippa."
"Nice to meet you Mrs. Wood," James replied.
"Pippa," Mum reminded him.
Dad skipped introductions completely and jumped right into Quidditch talk. "I see your broom is a Nimbus 5000. That's a good quality broom and it looks like you keep it in good condition. I take it you're going to be using that for your try outs?"
"Yes, Sir. When I learned to fly, Dad started me out on the Cleansweep line, but those pull to the left after a few years. This was a gift for my birthday last year, and I've been very pleased with it. I like the way it handles – just small adjustments."
Dad nodded excitedly. "That's what I've always thought. The steering features on that model are excellent. It's certainly been a good broom for both Eva and Richard."
Mum shook her head slightly as she observed the scene, but she couldn't help but smile.
"Eva, don't forget you still need to go to the hospital wing and have your nose and fingers mended," Mum reminded me.
I glanced over at James and grinned. "It wouldn't have been right to have left Hogwarts and not gone to see Madam Pomfrey one last time."
"She'll be thrilled to see us," James predicted with a smirk. "One final lecture on the dangers of Quidditch. Let's go, Captain. The sooner we get there, the sooner we can celebrate with our House."
Thank you for all of the lovely reviews, favorites, and story alerts! I appreciate everyone who reads my story and everyone who has let me know how much they enjoy it! And a special thanks to my beta, blue and gold, for the helpful suggestions and fabulous beta abilities.
Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Favorite quotes? I'd love to hear what you thought!
Next Chapter: Last chapter! The Gryffindor victory party, Eva has one last run in with her archenemy, Quidditch letters arrive, and Sorcha finally gets the chance to meet Oliver Wood.