B. August 28, 1982


When his mother was four months pregnant, they knew it would be a boy. When she was six months pregnant, they had a name. When she was three weeks pregnant, they knew they would have a Quidditch player.

Fritz had never felt pressured, despite the fact that his father had brought him home from St. Mungo's dressed in tiny little Wasps robes. The idea of being anything but a professional player had never even occurred to him any more than it had to his mother and father. Quidditch was their lives, too.

His father, of course, had been a pro himself, the best Beater the Wasps had ever had, carrying them to several League titles and even, everyone said, being the game-winning player for England's first Quidditch World Cup in sixty years. He knew personally that the reason they'd been so badly flattened lately was because there wasn't a Bagman on the team any more, but Fritz was going to change that.

Originally, the idea had been to have an entire team, seven kids that would all grow up to play the game, but after his mother had been given the chance to coach the Harpies despite what she thought had been a career-ending shoulder injury, those plans obviously changed. Not that it mattered. Fritz was going to be great enough on his own.

He'd ridden his first broomstick before he could walk. He'd been training with a bat and a tiny little soft Bludger before he was out of nappies, and he knew more than Hooch did about being a serious athlete. Not a bite went into his mouth that wasn't planned, and by the age of fifteen, he was stronger than most grown wizards. He knew every trick, every strategy, could tell which way a Bludger was going to turn before it ever changed course, and he'd once batted a particularly good one all the way across the entire pitch to knock the Ravenclaw Keeper almost off his broom and win a match. That was almost the proudest moment of his life.

The real proudest moment, to his own surprise, had nothing whatsoever to do with Quidditch. That had been when Ernie Macmillan – the team Captain and the only other wizard in the school besides Potter whom Fritz considered serious potential competition on the pro circuit – had asked him to design a physical training program for the D.A. He'd thrown himself into the task with all the intensity he'd ever put into a match.

Each wizard was assessed for existing strengths and areas that needed to be improved, and he talked for hours to Wayne Hopkins, who's father was an Auror, about what exactly a fighter needed that was different from a Quidditch player. For three days, he hadn't mounted his broom once, his bed spread with books on nutrition and hand-drawn charts, lists and anatomical diagrams, and he still remembered the look of astonishment on Neville's face when he had actually presented it to their leader.

Fritz had been nervous the first time he actually found himself standing there in front of the other boys of the D.A. in the Room of Requirement. When he had been making his plans, it hadn't really hit him how much older most of them were. Despite the carefully nurtured power in his own body, the growth spurt he hoped would be coming soon hadn't hit yet, and he was barely five foot four, leaving most of the sixth and seventh-years towering over him. But they were all there, all stripped down and dressed in workout gear exactly as he had instructed, and all staring at him. In that moment, he felt extremely sorry for Neville.

He was no leader, he knew that now, but as soon as they'd gotten started, it had become far easier. This wasn't about leadership, this was just sports training, and the higher stakes didn't even register. Quidditch was life or death too, after all. He handled them the same way his father did, though he was occasionally grateful when Michael explained the rationale behind some of it that he'd never really needed to understand himself, and he was immensely proud, even if a little bit privately amazed that it all actually worked.

By the time Christmas break came, he had actually turned them all into athletes. Soft bellies had vanished, arms had thickened, shoulders broadened, round faces grown lean and intense. This triumph almost, almost softened the blow when Snape cancelled Quidditch, although not even seeing his Captain flogged and strung up nearly to the point of death had inspired such hate in the young wizard.

He still practiced on his own in the Room, playing one-on-one with Rowan late at night, and she was good, really good. She hadn't been born into a Quidditch family the way he had, but she'd been pursuing the game nearly as long, and her own determination was just as fierce. She even showed him a few techniques that he was startled to find he didn't know, tricks that witches used to avoid the Bludgers that were the biggest inequality in the game, and he was able to adapt them for his own use. In return, he showed her how to manage the Kettlebright hold on the bat, an awkward-looking cocked-wrist affair that actually offered far greater range of motion once you got the hang of it.

He was beginning to suspect that he might have developed a rampaging crush on Rowan Glynnis. She wasn't a pretty witch, with a too-square jaw, a nose several times broken, and her hair chopped mercilessly short, but there was a passionate intensity about her that turned him to mush, and he would play harder than he'd ever known he was capable of to make her give him that lopsided, toothy grin and say "Damn, Stinger, that's not half bad!"

She was the only person he'd ever confessed it to that his father called him Stinger, but he knew she'd keep it a secret. After all, she got it. The others in the D.A. were always going on that war wasn't a game, but they were maybe the only two that understood how unfairly that implied games to be something that one took lightly. More appropriate, really, if they wanted to tell the truth of it, to say that war was a game…as long as you were comparing it to the game. It certainly wasn't Gobstones.

Fritz had no reservations about the need to fight, and it wasn't just because Snape had cancelled Quidditch. You-Know-Who was just plain wrong, and he could never, never forgive, any more than the rest of his House, the murder of Cedric Diggory. Sometimes, he still had nightmares about it. His father had been one of the Triwizard Judges, and he had actually met Cedric a couple of times outside school, which were, if he was honest, the only times he had actually met Cedric. A second-year and a seventh-year just didn't associate, especially when the seventh-year was someone that downright amazing.

Cedric had it all. Looks, brains, broom skills…he was way too tall and broad to be a Seeker, everyone said, but he pulled it off somehow, and there were already two or three teams clamoring for him when he finished school. He'd heard whispers around his father's office that they were only in it to sell merchandise to witches and push the clubs' bottom line, but Fritz knew that wasn't true. Cedric had been truly gifted, able to use the longer reach to his advantage, outflying even Potter, and that was before the precocious Gryffindor had gone down to the Dementors.

But then Potter had come back from the third task, and he'd been crying and bloody and all messed up…and crumpled over a body in black and yellow. It was the first time Fritz had seen a dead body, and the sight of those quick eyes staring blankly, of the strong arms so instinctively wrongly limp, of the laughing mouth lolling open and blue-lipped….

You-Know-Who had to die as surely as he would play for the Wasps.

It had been a sickening, crushing blow when they were told they would have to evacuate and leave the older students to the fight, but he had followed orders and gone with the others, privately hoping that it was just a ruse, a feint to fake the Slytherins into thinking they were really going to cut their own team that far. But then Colin had come bursting into Madame Puddifoot's, where the Hufflepuff fifth-years were waiting it out, and he already had all the Gryffindor D.A. with him, announcing that they were going, that they were joining the fight, and that he was taking any D.A. who wanted to come.

Fritz had been the first one out the door.

He had been worried how he would face it when the battle came, but it wasn't any different than a final Cup match. Sure, you were scared and your heart was racing and your palms were sweating and every sense was stretched painfully tight, but that was just how it was when something was that important, and he had long, long ago learned to turn it to his own advantage.

When they lost the Creeveys, it was a shock, but there wasn't any time, and it hadn't caught the Snitch, the battle was still going on. Neville took him to the greenhouse with Parkinson and Whelan, and Fritz soon found himself inside the castle, first flinging his armloads of Devil's Snare like writhing Bludgers at the black-robed attackers, then going for them one-on-one.

As a dueler, he was just shy of awful, but Fritz had other means of fighting. He had brought his bat with him – he had a real Stunner 18 Pro Series – and he Envigorated pieces of the rubble with his wand, slamming them at hooded heads and masked faces with a power as punishing as any spell. He took down eight for sure, and seriously knocked the sparks out of three more before he heard himself scream, bat and wand both dropped and lost instantly in the dust and chaos.

His hands and forearms were on fire. Writhing, twisting, unnatural blue fire. No Bludger, no fall, no shattered bone, torn tendon or concussion ever hurt that much.

They told him later that Seamus had tried to put them out with Aguamenti, but the flames had been cursed, and he'd had to stomp them. They told him later that he had been in and out of consciousness. They told him later that he'd helped save Neville's life by stopping Fenrir Greyback from getting the Sword of Gryffindor, and that he'd been promised a party, but he didn't remember it.

He didn't remember anything, really, from the awful moment the blue flames swept over him until he was in St. Mungo's, and his father was there, leaning over him and brushing the hair back from his face with the worst look ever in his eyes. Telling him the Healers had needed to take his hands. Telling him the wounds had been cursed. That they couldn't be regrown.

That he remembered. That moment he would always remember, looking down at his arms and seeing the stumps halfway down from his elbows, the cold, slimy, screaming thing that had crawled through his chest, the way his father's voice shook, and how hard his mother had cried.

They had expected it to break him, but it hadn't. He would always remember that moment, because it was the first time he had ever taken charge over the man who had been his coach, his mentor, his hero, and his inspiration, raising his chin and holding up the wounded limbs, testing how his elbow could still rotate, how his shoulders were still strong. "Dad…"

His father had looked up, forcing what Fritz supposed was meant to be a supportive smile across his devastated face. "Whatcha need, Stinger?"

"You're going to have to come to practices with me from now on. I'm not going to trust anyone less than the best to tie the bat on good and tight when I'm pro."