"I just don't understand," Isabelle sighed as she trudged up the hill to the main gate, "why I have to come along with your new Slytherin friend, Phil."

"Don't be a rotten sport, Izzy," Valenti retorted cheerfully as she watched her friend huff and puff up the hill. "I really like this guy - we need a decent beater this year, or Rogers will throw a fit. I want it to seem as realistic as possible; the whole team will be there on tryouts, and this guy seems a little ... soft."

"Soft?" She looked skeptical. "We're talking about the handsome blond guy, right? He is not soft. His brother, on the other hand - "

Valenti rolled her eyes, and smirked at her friend who was practically wheezing by that point. "Did you train at all over the summer? You walked up a bloody hill, not a mountain!"

Isabelle looked sore. "Of course I did. And I didn't ask to come out here on my first week back from term. I could be doing something else productive - "

"Like what? Drawing? We both know you don't need to study to get your grades, so let's be realistic, shall we? Trust me, you're going to like this guy." Valenti winked. "Oh, look - there he is." And with that, she marched up to a tall blond guy waiting by the front entrance closest to the pitch.

"What's that supposed to - " Isabelle cut off though when she got a closer look at this guy. She had already seen him from the Sorting, so she knew he was handsome, but up close was even better. He had a kind face, which she assumed was what Valenti meant by "soft", but past that, there was definitely more. He looked strong, first of all - he was tall and slender, but with wide shoulders, which made him look stronger. He had sleek, dark blonde hair that was smoothed back on the sides, like it was windblown, and kicked out in the back. His eyes were dark brown, and very playful. He smiled at her, and she felt herself heat up a bit.

"Hi there." He winked at her with a smile, and held his hand out. "Name's Sodapop - you a friend of Valenti?"

"Friend might be an overstatement," Isabelle said placidly, thankful that her brain had started up again. "But I suppose anyone who can put up with her for over five seconds ought to be considered one - she'd have none, otherwise." She smiled at Valenti, in a much better mood now that she had seen Sodapop up close.

"I met your brother the other night, actually." Isabelle continued as they walked down to the pitch together. "Ponyboy, right?"

Valenti was walking in between them, but Soda flashed another grin at her as they walked on. "Yup. One of a kind, just like our names. My dad had a thing for weird names."

"I wouldn't call it weird - definitely special."

"What kind of special we talking - ?"

"Oh that's enough out of you two lovebirds," Valenti broke in, rolling her eyes at Isabelle and Sodapop. Soda looked unabashed by the comment though, and punched Valenti in the shoulder.

"What you jealous or something? I know you saw me first and all, but I think she could take you in a fight."

"If I'm jealous of anything, it's how much more space you have in that big head of yours."

"Careful now with the insults, or I'm going to think you're flirting with me."

"In your dreams, cowboy."

Isabelle frowned as Valenti and Sodapop continued bickering all the way to the Quidditch field.


"Izzy, don't be a killjoy!" Valenti called from the field as Izzy sat in the front row. Soda looked at her with an expression she couldn't read.

"It's true - I won't play rough if there's a lady on the field," Soda called back, smiling hopefully at her. "Please?"

Isabelle hesitated, smiling at Soda. Valenti was carrying the box of equipment, but Soda wasn't paying attention. He cupped his hand over his eyes to block the sun, and smiled at Isabelle.

"Well at least enchant these balls so they attack him - and don't go easy on him either, Izzy!" Valenti yelled at her.

She opened her mouth to retort, but then she saw a familiar figure walking down the field. "Oh no, him."

Soda recognized him, of course. "Steve, hey! Come over here!" He turned to Valenti and Isabelle. "I told my friend to meet us here, hope you don't mind?"

Isabelle resisted the urge to roll her eyes, but Valenti's lit up. "Of course not. What's his name? Steve?" She smiled cattily.

"Yeah," Soda said, walking to the dark-haired boy, and tackling him in a bear hug. Valenti's eyebrows raised, and she gaped at Isabelle and mouthed the words, 'Oh my God.'

"What's this?" Steve sauntered up to Valenti with Soda. "Playing with a bunch of girls, Soda?"

Valenti's curious smile turned into a glare. "Excuse me?" Steve flickered his gaze to Valenti with an amused expression on his face.

"What are you, a Chaser?"

"Beater, actually," she said coldly. He snorted.

"I didn't think girls - " He stopped, and rolled his eyes. "I mean, don't you ... "

"What? I'm sorry, do you have a problem with - "

Soda slowly backed off of the ensuing fight, and smiled at Isabelle. "Wow, uhm. He usually doesn't take too quickly to girls, especially when they talk back."

"Yeah," Isabelle said, remembering Evie.

"My God, she looks like she's gonna take a swing at him," Soda said, alarmed. "And he does too, come to think of it. Okay, you two, break it up! Come on, cut it out you two!" He went over to them, and pulled Valenti away by the arm.

"Come on, I'd rather you not kill my best friend." She flipped a V-sign at him, and he frowned at it.

"She just flipped you off," Isabelle informed him, and he nodded. Soda walked alongside Isabelle, and Valenti and Steve followed in their wake, as they started bickering again.


Valenti raised her eyebrows at Isabelle, who was pushing her food around her plate with a glum expression on her face.

"You trying to watch your figure or something?" she asked. "Because you're going to disappear."

Isabelle rolled her eyes. "I'm not hungry," she muttered.

Valenti frowned. "Do you feel sick? Is that why you wouldn't play today?"

Isabelle looked up from her food, her expression exasperated, and tried not to scowl at Valenti. "I didn't play today, because I didn't feel like it. Okay?"

Valenti either didn't catch the tone of her voice, or ignored it. "You were probably better off in the end. Did you know that Steve guy?"

Isabelle nodded, pulling a face. "Yeah. He's kind of a douche."

"Yeah I got that," Valenti remarked. "What's his problem? I thought he'd be nice - and then he turned out to be a total jerk."

Isabelle shrugged, throwing down her fork and pushing her full plate of food away from her. "I try to pretend he doesn't exist."

"I didn't realize he was friends with Soda," Valenti said then, frowning. "They don't seem like they would be."

"You seem pretty close with Sodapop," Isabelle muttered, nodding her head towards Valenti. At Isabelle's expression, she grinned sheepishly.

"Yeah Soda's pretty great," she said. "He's just easy to be around. No drama," she added, throwing her eyes to the sky, and Isabelle nodded her head.

"That must be so nice for you," she said coldly.

"I don't know why he was acting so weird," she said, shaking her head. "He's usually a lot nicer - you'd like him if he didn't act like a complete nutter. You'd like him normally."

Isabelle arched one delicate eyebrow. "Maybe I would."

"I know it doesn't seem like it," Valenti persisted. "But just wait until he doesn't act like a mental patient. I don't know what was the matter with him."

Isabelle pressed her lips together, not wanting to tell Valenti that it seemed pretty obvious what the matter had been, and definitely not wanting to tell her that it bothered Isabelle to no end, something that she couldn't even begin to explain.

She glanced over to the table on the other side of the hall, where Sodapop was sitting with his brother and Steve, and she frowned. "You seemed pretty intrigued by Steve," she remarked. "Until he went and said something stupid. What did he say?"

Valenti scowled murderously. "He said he didn't think I could be a Beater because I'm a girl."

Isabelle wrinkled her nose. "Someone call the authorities."

Valenti let out an indignant huff. "I beat just as well as any boy. Probably better."

"What about Soda?" Isabelle said, her gaze flickering back to him. Her stomach gave a feeble jolt.

"What about him?" said Valenti, shovelling a second helping of dessert down.

"Is he a good Beater?"

"I told you he was," Valenti grinned. "You'll see, just wait until we play you guys!"

"I'm sure I will," Isabelle replied, managing to force a small smile. What she didn't say though, was that she didn't think she'd like what she saw very much.


"You didn't have to piss her off, ya know," Sodapop muttered. Steve threw him a disgruntled look.

"I didn't - she's just easily riled, is all," he replied. "That's whatcha get when a girl tries to be a Beater."

"She's actually pretty good," Soda informed him, peering over to where she sat with Isabelle.

Valenti sat with her back to him, but he could see Isabelle frowning at her best friend, her nose scrunched up in a way that made Soda want to laugh. She did that when she laughed too, he'd noticed, and it only made him want to make her laugh more. He was sure Valenti had mentioned her at some point - she'd gone and made that stupid 'lovebird' comment earlier on. Soda could have killed her - but he didn't like to show that he was embarrassed, so he'd taken to teasing Valenti instead.

After that, Isabelle went quiet, and Valenti was too busy arguing with Steve to notice Sodapop.

"Good at talkin' shit you mean," Steve grumbled, focusing on his dinner.

Soda rolled his eyes, and Ponyboy sitting on his other side, quit looking bored for a few seconds. "Is she the one Isabelle's friends with?"

Soda gazed at his younger brother, and nodded. Ponyboy grinned. "She must be real nice," he said. "Isabelle talks about her a lot."

"Oh yeah?" Soda grinned. He wondered what Isabelle could have to say about Valenti when she wasn't around - he knew now that Valenti hadn't much to say on Isabelle when she wasn't around, and he found himself almost wishing that Valenti did say more.

He frowned to himself and looked over to the far table again. He couldn't see Valenti's face, but Isabelle looked a little pissed.

"Sodapop?" Ponyboy's voice came from far away, and Soda jumped.


"I only asked did her friend talk about Isabelle at lot?"

Sodapop shook his head. "Not really. She should."

"Yeah," Steve snorted. "Make her talk more."

"What, you don't like her?" Soda asked.

Steve shrugged his shoulders. "She thinks a lot of herself."

Soda stared. "No she doesn't! You only don't like her 'cause she talked back to you, you hate that."

Steve grunted in reply, and Soda rolled his eyes. "I like her. I think you would on a normal day."

"What do you mean a normal day?" Steve muttered.

"I mean a day that wasn't so ... weird as today," Soda replied, frowning again as he looked once more to where the two girls were sitting.

"What was so weird about today?" Steve asked. Soda had no answer.