Chapter 7: Feathers, Quidditch, and Suspicion
It was obvious from the start that Friday was going to be a very depressing day for Harry. Not only was he going to have to sit through yet another detention with Umbridge, he was missing Quidditch try-outs because of it.
Jack was disappointed as well. He had greatly looked forward to seeing Quidditch- he had heard so much about it, after all- and was especially eager about seeing Ron. From what Harry had told him, Ron had never expressed too much interest in trying out for the team, and now here he was, vying for that open position.
In Transfiguration, Jack was startled when McGonagall instructed them all to take out their wands. It was the first time they had been asked to do magic since school had started a little more than a week ago, and it was obvious that the others were excited. They pulled out their wands, chatting eagerly about what they were going to be doing.
Jack slowly pulled out his wand, which had been sitting in the bottom of his bag from the moment he had bought it. A tingle rushed through his fingers at its touch, similar to the surge of power he felt when he held his staff. This was different, however; his arm felt warm at its touch, in contrast to the cold feel of his staff. It wasn't unpleasant, though. Jack held it loosely in his fingertips, starting to get eager to try out some magic.
"Now," McGonagall announced loudly, standing in front of the class, "today we will be-"
She was interrupted by a knock at the door. She made an irritated face and swept over, pulling it open.
A girl stood in the hallway. She seemed much younger than the class- probably a second or third year- and eyed the students behind McGonagall nervously. She spoke in hushed tones to McGonagall, then turned and scurried away, disappearing quickly.
McGonagall stood there a moment longer, a strange expression on her face, before turning back to the class. She swept over the students until her eyes came to rest on Jack, who was twirling his wand distractedly and humming to himself.
"Jack Frost," she said, "Professor Dumbledore would like to see you in his office."
Jack's hands stilled as everyone turned to look at him. Some, like his friends, were giving him looks of sympathy and confusion. Others were snickering, thinking that he was in trouble.
Jack was bewildered over why Dumbledore would pull him out of class like this- not exactly subtle, is he?- but he started packing his stuff back into his bag. He dropped his wand back in, disappointed.
Behind him, Harry was whispering instructions to Dumbledore's office. Jack smiled gratefully at him as he stood up. At the front of the classroom, McGonagall wordlessly handed him a sheet of paper and turned away, ready to resume the lesson.
Jack tried his best to follow Harry's instructions, but had to turn back twice and start again. When he finally reached the gargoyle he assumed hid the interest. At this he looked down at the paper McGonagall had given him, and squinted down at her neat, scrawling writing.
"Er… Fizzing Whizbee?"
The gargoyle emitted a kind of 'humph' and slowly slid aside, the grating noise of stone against stone making Jack wince. When it stopped moving he stepped through, staring in awe at a set of circular stairs that spiraled upward, hidden behind this unimportant looking gargoyle.
He stepped on it and was startled when he realized it was moving. Clutching the banister, he looked up as he slowly spiraled up, a grin on his face.
At the top there was a set of huge doors. Stepping confidently up to them, Jack rapped on it, listening as his knocks reverberated through the air.
A moment later a cheerful voice called out, "Come in!"
Jack pushed open the door and stepped into the headmaster's office.
He was startled, to say the least. The place was large and cozy, decorated with dozens of delicate looking silver instruments. He looked at all of them as he walked in, entranced by the whirring noises and puffs of smoke they emitted occasionally.
Dumbledore was seated at his desk, watching with a slight smile as Jack surveyed the office. "Do you like it?" he asked.
Jack nodded, finally looking around the rest of the room. He was surprised to see paintings ringing the wall. Each occupant was staring at him, their eyes following him as he walked up to the desk. He eyed them uncomfortably, frowning.
"Sorry about them," Dumbledore apologized, following his gaze. "They've heard an awful lot about you, and are quite intrigued, if I may be so bold, by you."
There was a flurry of whispers from the portraits. "He's too skinny," one old woman hissed.
"Pay them no heed," Dumbledore said, gesturing to an empty seat. Jack sat down, dropping his bag beside him.
"Have I done something wrong?" Jack asked as he sat down.
Dumbledore smiled, his eyes twinkling. "No, no, Jack. On the contrary, I'm very impressed with your behavior thus far. I understand this must be difficult for you, but you're adapting quite well, and there are very few suspicions about you. I am also pleased with your friend choices. I'm sure you'll find Mr. Potter, Ms. Granger, and Mr. Weasley to be admirable acquaintances."
Jack nodded distractedly. "Um, sorry for asking, but if I'm not in trouble… why am I here?"
Dumbledore folded his hands in front of him. "I pulled you out of Transfiguration on this day for a reason, Jack. Professor McGonagall, and many other professors, are going to begin employing magic in their lessons, and I want you to be prepared. It will be highly suspicious if you go in there with no magical skills whatsoever, especially when they are attempting such complicated spells. Thus so, I believe it would be helpful if I were to give you a private environment and hopefully teach you a little bit so you can learn the basics of magic."
Jack felt his excitement start to brew again. He eagerly grabbed for his bag. "Awesome!"
Dumbledore smiled at his enthusiasm. "One moment, please."
Jack froze, his hand outstretched, and waited for Dumbledore to finish.
"This is going to be different for you, Jack," he said. "You've already got a great deal of magic. I'm hoping you will be able to pick up on this quickly and catch up with the rest of the students. You will have to focus, though."
He stressed this last sentence, as though he realized that Jack's concentration rarely stayed on one thing for more than a few sentence. When Dumbledore wasn't looking Jack rolled his eyes and fetched his wand.
"Now then," Dumbledore said, "let's get started!"
He walked Jack through the basics of spells and then taught him the first spell he would be attempting- the levitating spell. Jack listened carefully as he talked, his fingers twitching on the wood, itching to try it out.
Dumbledore had Jack perform the wand movement several times and then repeat the spell until he got it perfectly several times before nodding his head.
"Go ahead," he said, placing a feather on his desk and sitting back.
Jack pointed his wand at the feather, frowning. Taking a deep breath, he performed the swish and flick movement Dumbledore had taught him. "Wingardium Leviosa."
A tingling feeling ran down Jack's arm, and suddenly the feather was floating.
Jack let out a shout of joy and excitement as the feather hovered in front of him, quivering slightly. He moved his wand left and right, watching the feather follow it, with a victorious grin. He was just imagining Bunny floating through the air, bumping into the ceiling, when Dumbledore started clapping.
"Very good, Jack," he said, looking pleased. "Perfect."
Jack let the feather float back down to the desk, feeling victorious.
Over the next hour Dumbledore taught Jack several other spells, including one that produced light and even the beginnings of the disarming spell. Jack was in a very good mood when he packed up at the end of the lesson, and Dumbledore appeared to be as well.
"You did very well, Jack, very well indeed," he said. "We'll make a wizard of you yet."
Jack saluted him with a grin. "Thanks, Professor D," he said casually. "See you later."
Jack turned to go, but he was stopped one more time.
"Jack," Dumbledore called out, "one more thing."
Jack turned back around and blinked.
"I'm very happy about you making friends," Dumbledore began. "You seem to have taken to Hogwarts quite well. However, I'd like to make sure you aren't getting… too friendly."
Jack frowned. "What do you mean?"
"I'm afraid that if you get too caught up in making friends here at school, you'll accidently reveal yourself," Dumbledore said blatantly. "For your safety, it's best to remain distant, to a certain extent."
Jack clutched his bag closer to himself, not liking where this conversation was heading. "So," he said carefully, "you're saying I should make some friends- but not get close to them?"
Dumbledore nodded. "I'm sure you understand."
Jack swallowed, his excitement dimming. "Uh- yeah, yeah, I get it. No problem." He turned away. "Goodbye, Professor Dumbledore."
As he spiraled down the stairs and stepped back into the hallway, where the first few doors were opening to let out its students, he thought about what Dumbledore had said.
He understood where the headmaster was coming from. If he let anything slip, that could be very bad for both the Guardians and Hogwarts. Voldemort would find out where he was, and Jack would no longer be safe.
But he was actually enjoying making friends for once. The Guardians and the children were nice, but they weren't his age (well, hypothetically, anyway). He had allowed his guard to slip a little bit here, which wasn't wise, but it was definitely refreshing. He was having fun. And now he would have to take a step away from his friends, distance himself from them to keep both everyone safe- especially them, who would be in danger just through their friendship.
It wasn't fair.
Jack couldn't decide whether detention that night was the best or the worst. On the one hand, he had pretty much gotten used to the stabbing pains caused by the blood quill, and absentmindedly watched his wounds tear open again and again without much interest. On the other hand, Harry was so antsy and squirm-ish Jack was tempted to freeze his butt to the chair just to keep him still.
He understood why he was so anxious to move- Umbridge's office had a perfect view of the Quidditch pitch. Every time the toad turned her back he was out of his chair, craning his neck to squint down at the miniscule figures below. Jack wasn't sure why he was bothering with it; you couldn't see who anyone was, anyways.
When his hand stung so much he could hardly feel it and the blood had trickled down his wrist, Umbridge finally cleared her throat.
"Let's see them, then," she said sweetly.
Harry and Jack stood up, dropping their quills very unceremoniously on the desk and grudgingly approached her. She held out her hand first for Jack, and he slowly handed over his wrist.
"Hmm," she said, not noticing his twisted face as he struggled to keep his body temperature up, "hmm."
She released him, to his great relief, and turned to Harry. When she took his hand he let out a violent gasp and jerked away, snatching his hand back.
Jack frowned, surprised by this outburst, but Umbridge just smiled. "Yes, it hurts, doesn't it?" she asked cheerfully. "Very well then, I suppose my message has sunk in. Have a nice evening."
He and Harry turned, grabbed their bags, and left without another word.
They said little on the way back, too intent on scrubbing at their hands with their robes and trying to get as much of the blood off as possible. They painstakingly avoided their wounds, which were still stinging.
Harry looked upset about something; he was pale and kept glancing side to side nervously. Jack was tempted to say something; then, remembering his promise about not getting involved, kept his mouth shut.
"Mimbulus Mimbletonia," Harry said when they reached the Common Room.
A great cacophony of noise greeted them when the portrait swung open, and they stepped inside, bewildered.
"Harry! Jack!" Ron shouted from the center of the room, a grin lighting up his expression, "I did it! I'm Keeper!"
"What? Oh- congratulations, Ron," Harry said, giving him a small smile.
Jack grinned. "Congrats, mate."
Ron started grabbing for mugs on a table that had been set up. "Have a butterbeer!" he implored them.
Jack and Harry both waved him off- Jack because he had never heard of such a drink and didn't fancy trying it now, and Harry because he obviously had other things on his mind.
"Listen, Ron- have you seen Hermione?" he asked.
"Hermione? Oh, yeah, she's over there," he said, pointing to the corner, where Hermione was fast asleep. A frown crossed his face. "She was pleased when I told her."
"Let her sleep!" George called over, ushering a first year past them. The boy had a suspicious looking blood stain underneath his nose.
"Harry," an older girl said, grabbing him by the arm and dragging him away. Some other people called Ron over to try on robes, leaving Jack standing there, alone, with no clue as to what to do.
Worming through the crowd, he went and sat down next to Hermione. As he was setting his bag down she woke with a start, her eyes fluttering open.
"What- oh, Jack!" she said, yawning. "Great news about Ron, huh?"
"Yeah, fantastic," Jack said.
She frowned at his hand. "How does it feel?"
Jack unconsciously covered it, hiding it from view. "Oh, it's fine. At least it was our last time."
Hermione nodded. "Yes. I'm sorry I don't have anything stronger than Murtlap Essence to help it."
Jack shook his head. "It's okay."
The two fell silent. As Jack watched the party raging in the common room, he could feel Hermione watching him, studying him. Remembering Dumbledore's words, he realized how close he had been getting to revealing himself to Hermione. She had been the wrong friend to make, and no matter how much Jack enjoyed spending time with her, he should probably limit himself. She was too smart for her own good.
Harry broke out of the crowd, looking urgent. "Hermione," he blurted out.
She looked taken-aback. "Yes?"
Harry glanced at Jack, but the winter spirit was already standing up. "I'm going to bed," he said quietly, grabbing his bag.
Hermione frowned. "Already? It's alright, Jack, we can pull up another chair."
"No, really- I'm tired. Goodnight."
"Oh. Alright. Goodnight!" Hermione called- but Jack was already gone.
Harry sank into the vacated chair, distracted for the moment by his friend's abrupt departure. "That was odd."
"Do you think he's alright?" Hermione asked, concerned.
Harry brushed off her concern. "I'm sure he's fine. He does stuff like this a lot, doesn't he?"
Hermione thought about it. "Yes, I suppose so." She bit her lip. "Don't you think there's something… strange about him?"
Harry sighed. "Hermione, there's something strange about everyone according to you. Can't you just let him be?"
"Well, yes, but-"
"We have more important things to worry about, anyways," Harry said, proceeding to tell her all about his hurting scar.
Up in the dormitory, Jack put his stuff away, quite alone. Even Neville was down at the party.
Jack glanced at Baby Tooth's cage, which was empty. He hadn't expected her to be there, but he had been hoping for some company while he sulked in the solitude.
Harry was gone early the next morning. Jack had taken a walk the previous night before finally retiring, taking a short hour long nap. And, of course, in that time, his friend had taken it upon himself to disappear.
Jack wasn't too worried. He was probably just sending an owl or pouring honey in all of Snape's shampoo bottles (scratch that, Snape doesn't use shampoo).
"Wonder where Harry is," Ron said sleepily as he sat up in bed. His hair was sticking up in every direction, making it look even more fire-like than usual.
"Dunno," Jack said, swinging his leg casually. He was already dressed and ready to go. Beside him lay his bag, half open and spilling quills and papers out.
As soon as Ron was dressed, the two of them headed out of the dormitories to the Great Hall. Hermione was already there, a plate of eggs and sausage in front of her. She was too busy scratching away at a parchment, however, to eat anything.
"Hermione, can't you let your homework slide long enough to eat some breakfast?" Ron asked, slipping into his seat.
Hermione shot him an irritated look. "It's not homework, Ronald. It's about blood quills."
Jack flexed his hand under the table, feeling the telltale stiffness still lingering from his detentions. "What about them?"
Hermione sighed, rolling up the parchment and shoving it in her bag. "I was looking to see if there was anything we could do to get rid of the scars," she admitted.
"And?" Jack asked eagerly.
Hermione looked at him sympathetically. "I'm sorry, Jack. It's infused with Dark Magic. There's nothing to do about them."
"Oh." Jack frowned, then forced a smile at Hermione. "Thanks for trying, though."
Harry suddenly appeared out of nowhere, sitting down. "Morning," he said amiably, pulling a plate of sausage closer to him.
Jack blinked at him. "What are you so happy about?" he asked.
"Erm… Quidditch later," Harry said, spearing a sausage and dumping it on his plate.
Ron grimaced ever so slightly. "Listen… do you think you could maybe go out on the pitch earlier, to, y'know- give me some practice before training? So I can, you know, get my eye ready…"
"'Course," Harry said. Turning to Hermione and Jack, he said, "Do you two want to come watch training?"
"Yeah!" Jack said eagerly, excited at the prospect of seeing Quidditch in real life. He had been planning on hanging out in the library today- yes, the library- to start distancing himself from his friends, but at the word 'Quidditch' all thoughts of that flew out of his head. He wasn't about to pass up this chance.
Hermione frowned. "Of course, Harry, but don't you think, instead of going out early, you should work on your homework? We have tons of it."
"Hermione," Ron said, rolling his eyes, "you're not looking at the big picture. We need Quidditch. We don't need school."
Hermione looked scandalized, and was just about to shoot off a snarky reply when an owl swooped in and dropped a bundle of papers in front of her, knocking over her orange juice.
"The Daily Prophet!" she exclaimed, snatching the paper up before it could get ruined by her spilled juice. Opening it, she quickly started reading, eyebrows furrowed.
"Anything?" Harry asked, mopping up the juice with his napkin.
"No…" Hermione said, her eyes scanning the page. "Just some media guff about the bass player in the Weird Sisters getting married…"
"That's a band, right?" Jack asked.
"Yeah," Harry said. "I don't get all the hype about them, really. I mean-"
"Oh, no!" Hermione gasped. "Sirius!"
"What?" Harry asked immediately, turning and seizing the paper from her.
"Sirius?" Jack asked, frowning. "You mean Sirius, uh… Black, was it? That mass-murderer dude. Has he been caught or something?"
Harry, Ron, and Hermione all stared at him in horror. "Oops!" Hermione said, shooting Harry an apologetic look.
Harry turned to Jack, leaning in close so no one could hear. "Listen, Jack," he said quietly, "you can't say anything. But, uh… Sirius is innocent. He's also my godfather." He appeared to have no other way to explain it then to be totally blunt about it.
The three of them waited anxiously for Jack's response. Obviously, they weren't expecting him to take it well, or even believe him. He knew it must be a risk on their part telling him, but he was pleased they trusted him enough to indulge in him this information.
Jack nodded slowly. "All right. Now what's in the paper about him?" he asked, trying to peer over Harry's shoulder.
All three of them looked at him funny.
"I like you, mate," Ron said, "but you're bloody weird, you know that?"
"Don't be mean, Ron," Hermione said distastefully, shooting him a look. She smiled at Jack. "It's just… a bit odd that you would take this well."
Jack shrugged. "I've never heard of Sirius Black."
Ron gaped at him. "Are you joking?"
Harry snatched up the paper, obviously impatient. "It says that the ministry's received a tip-off… about Sirius hiding in London!" He looked up at the others, his eyes glowering behind his glasses. "What do you want to bet this 'reliable source' they mentioned is Lucius Malfoy?"
"Draco's dad?" Jack asked.
"He's a first class prick," Ron explained simply.
Harry scanned the rest of the article. "Blah blah, keep an eye out, blah blah, killed thirteen people… usual rubbish," he said, handing the paper back to Hermione.
The bushy-haired girl grabbed it and started looking over the rest of the articles. "They don't publish anything important here anymore," she said, shaking her head. "It's like they don't even care that- wait!"
She leaned in, her nose nearly touching the paper. Ron frowned, trying to peer over her shoulder.
"What is it?" he asked.
She shook her head incredulously. "Break in at the ministry," she said softly.
Harry and Ron both looked at each other in panic. Hermione thrust the paper towards them, and Jack looked over the article as well, trying to understand it the best he could.
"Sturgis Podmore," he read. "You know him?"
"Podmore," Ron said slowly. "Isn't that bloke on the Ord-"
"Shhh!" Hermione hissed, looking around to see if anyone had heard. Luckily, everyone was too absorbed in their breakfasts to care much about what they were doing.
"Six months in Azkaban," Harry said, sounding horrified. "Can you imagine? All for trying to get through a door."
"At one in the morning," Jack added, nodding at the paper. "Bit suspicious, if you think about it."
"You don't think he was doing something for… you know…" Ron said, glancing at the other two.
"He was supposed to see us off," Harry noted. "But he didn't make it, and Moody was all annoyed. If he had been doing another job, they would have known."
Ron frowned, thinking hard for a moment. Suddenly, his face brightened. "It's a frame-up!" he explained. "No, listen. Maybe someone- I dunno- lured him into the ministry. They know he's with Dumbledore. Maybe they're trying to discredit him further!"
"Further than they already have?" Harry snorted.
"Alright," Jack spoke up, "what are you all talking about?"
They glanced at each other, each of them wordlessly refusing to say anything. Finally Hermione sighed. "We'll tell you later, Jack, we promise. Just… not in here, with all these people."
Jack raised his eyebrows doubtfully but said nothing.
When the three of them got up to head out to the Quidditch Pitch, they expertly avoided Hermione's disapproving eyes and hurried out of the Great Hall.
"Alright," Harry said as they marched through the hallway, "Jack, you can sit up in the stands while Ron and I practice."
Jack twisted his hands behind his back, silently debating his question. "Er… do you think I could… give it a try?"
Ron and Harry looked at him in surprise. "You've never even ridden a broom stick?" Ron asked incredulously.
Jack shook his head. "My uncle never let me."
The two glanced at each other and shrugged. "I don't see the harm in it," Harry said. "It'll have to be a quick ride, though. We really do need to practice a bit beforehand."
The sky overhead was overcast, the sun blotted out by the sweeping gray clouds. Harry and Ron clutched their cloaks tighter about them as the wind rushed through the grounds, but Jack reveled in it. It was just cold enough for him to be comfortable, but not chilly enough to be suspicious to his friends. He felt for his staff around his neck and wrapped his hand around it, comforted by its presence.
When they got down to the pitch, Ron suggested retrieving a school broom for Jack to use, but Harry quickly dismissed that idea.
"I don't want his first ride to be as crappy as ours was," he said, handing over his own sleek-looking broom. "Go on, I trust you. Just… be careful, will you?"
Jack took the broom in his hand, silently appreciating the expertly polished wood and the neatly clipped twigs on the end. He held it awkwardly in his left hand, not entirely sure how to approach the matter. The wind whipped at his collar, begging for him to join it in the air.
One moment, he silently thought. I need to try this.
Harry and Ron showed him how to sit on it. The object felt awkward in his hands, but he could feel the power coursing through it. It seemed nearly as eager as he was to take off.
Harry stepped back and shrugged. "Now just kick up."
Jack took a deep breath. Here goes, he thought.
And then he kicked into the air.
An unfamiliar lurching feeling overtook his stomach as he hovered a few feet in the air. For a few moments he teetered uncertainly, then managed to regain his balance and perched expertly in the air. The wind flew around him faster, excited by this new development.
"That's it!" Harry called up, looking pleased. "Now just push forward a bit, there you go."
Jack pushed the broom forward, speeding off, then pulled back to stop. Glee surged through him. He was used to flying on his own, but this, this was different, this was a tool that he could control, could maneuver, could use to soar through the airs. He leaned to the right- to the left- and then aimed upwards.
"Alright, Jack- Jack? Jack, where are you going?"
Harry and Ron watched in disbelief from below as Jack flew into the air, going ever higher. He moved with ease and stability, something they hadn't expected from such a first-timer.
Jack, on his part, employed the winds to help as much as the broom. He used it to stabilize and straighten his course, and whenever he wanted to turn it always lent an eager hand. It whipped his hair out of his eyes so he could see, and billowed his cloak back so he became an imposing sight in the sky. A broad grin spread across his face as he flew, zigzagging here and there and everywhere.
Eventually, Harry and Ron's shouts started calling for him to come back. Deciding it was time to land again, he turned abruptly, ready to soar gracefully back down.
And that's where everything went wrong.
The wind, over-eager to get him back to the floor, blew a hard gust that knocked him right off his broom. He let out a gasp as he pitched over and started tumbling towards the ground, his feet kicking wildly in the air.
Ron and Harry shouted below him. The wind rushed to his aid, but he waved it off, focusing it on Harry's broomstick, which was spiraling to the ground and would shatter if something didn't stop it.
No, the broomstick! Get the broomstick! Jack ordered.
The wind swooped over and redirected the broom's course, leaving it to fall lightly to the ground.
Jack looked up- or down, seeing as he was falling head-first- to find the ground arriving much faster than he thought it would. He blinked, stunned, as it got closer and closer, but found himself unable to do anything.
At the last second the wind flew to its position beneath him, creating a buffet that turned him right-side up and cushioned his fall. He still landed hard, knocking the wind out of him, but he hadn't even gotten a scratch.
He laid there for a few moments, still shocked from the whole ordeal, until Harry and Ron sprinted over. Their faces were masks of fear and awe.
"Are you alright?" Harry asked.
"Dude!" Ron shouted, waving his hands wildly in the air. "What was that? You were going to crash, and then you didn't- I didn't see you pull your wand out!"
"That's cause I didn't," Jack said, slowly sitting up.
They helped him to his feet.
"How'd you do that, then?" Harry asked, frowning. "It was like something stopped you from falling at the last second."
Jack shrugged, but Ron was bursting with ideas. "Wandless magic!" he cried, looking excited. "It has to be! Man, that is impressive. You must be really good."
Harry and Ron were looking at him with such amazement, Jack decided to just go with it. He gave them a modest smile.
"It was nothing."
"And before that," Harry said, apparently satisfied with that explanation, "your flying was amazing! You should try out for the Quidditch team!"
At this, Ron's expression soured slightly, as though he didn't much fancy the prospect of having more competition. Jack hurriedly shook his head. Not only did he not wish to create problems between him and his friend, the idea of joining a sport entirely on broomsticks made him queasy. He could just imagine going down in front of the entire stadium and accidently revealing himself, as he had very nearly done just moments ago. The Guardians would kill him if he got himself discovered this early in the year.
"Oh, no, I'm fine. That was just a one-time thing."
Harry protested, with Ron joining weakly, but Jack insisted.
Besides, he thought firmly, I'd much rather stick with my winds.
That settled, he returned to the stands to observe as the two of them started warming up for try-outs.
They were both very good. Harry looped through the air with ease, zigzagging back and forth and chucking strange looking balls at Ron every few minutes. Ron, for his part, hung in front of a pair of gigantic basketball-like hoops, his arms outstretched. Every ball that Harry threw was deflected or caught by the airborne redhead. Jack, assuming that was what was supposed to happen, cheered loudly every time Ron stopped it from going in.
A while later, just when Jack was starting to get bored and was passing his time drawing designs in frost on the seat beside him, Harry and Ron landed and called him over. Together, they went back to the Great Hall and had lunch, where Hermione shot them dirty looks over her homework.
The four of them walked out to the Quidditch Pitch. Once there, Ron and Harry left Jack and Hermione to head up the empty stands and take their seats.
Not a minute later, loud shrieks and laughter alerted the two of them to other presences on the pitch. Jack was both surprised and annoyed to find a group of Slytherins sliding into seats, lead by Malfoy. His white-blond hair gleamed in the sunlight, making it harder to look at him than it already was.
"Oh, no," Hermione said softly, eyeing them worriedly.
When the Gryffindor Quidditch team came out they were met by great jeers from the waiting spectators. They started cat-calling and teasing the team, who ignored them, mounting their brooms. They were putting on a courageous front, but Jack could tell from their tense shoulders they weren't pleased with this new addition to their practice.
"Look at Weasley's broom!" Malfoy called in delight, pointing towards Ron. "I didn't know the museum was loaning out to the poor!"
The Slytherins all guffawed. Jack rolled his eyes, trying to focus on the practice.
It started out well enough. They passed the Quaffle back and forth, smooth in their movements- until it got to Ron. He fumbled with the ball and dropped it, hurriedly zooming down to catch it amidst the shouts of laughter from the Slytherins. He came up again with a red face, his hands trembling slightly.
The team exchanged a few words and then carried on. Ron dropped it once more, but on the third time he managed to catch it. Overenthusiastic from his catch, he threw it too hard to Katie, hitting her squarely in the nose.
The Slytherins burst into laughter as Katie clutched at her nose, which was bleeding profusely. Angelina shouted something at Ron, who shamefully pulled away from Katie.
Fred and George flew in, passing something off to her. Jack frowned, squinting up into the sunlight as Katie put something in her mouth.
Harry and the twins landed and started fiddling with a box in the middle of the pitch. Hermione sighed. "Oh, dear," she said over the laughter, "this isn't going well."
"Can't we make them shut up?" Jack asked, glaring across at the Slytherins.
Hermione glanced at them, annoyance playing across her face. "I wish. They'd never listen to us, though, and however much I wish I could give them all a good hex, there's too many of them for that."
Jack sat back in his seat irritably, trying to block out the voices from across the pitch.
Three new balls were admitted into the air. One was so small, just a streak of gold, that it was gone in a blink. Harry quickly sped after it, zooming fast through the air. The other two were bigger; the twins held up massive bats, hefted them up, and swung, sending the balls soaring into the air.
The practice continued smoothly until Angelina had to shout at Ron to cover his middle-post. Katie was struggling on her broom, trying to stem her profusely bleeding nose with her sleeve. Fred was fumbling for something in his pocket, looking increasingly more upset.
"Let's try again!" Angelina shouted, taking her position stiffly. Across the pitch, the Slytherins had started chanting.
"Gryffindors are losers, Gryffindors are losers."
Jack couldn't take it anymore.
"Where are you going?" Hermione asked hurriedly as Jack stood up.
"Uh- bathroom," Jack said, hopping down from the stands. He hurried down and ran out of the pitch.
Rounding the back of the stands, where the Slytherins were sitting, he looked around carefully to check that he was alone before gathering the winds about him. Rising into the air until he was just underneath the seats, he reached up one hand to grab his staff, curling his fingers around it. Pulling out his wand, he pointed between the seats at Malfoy's head, taking a deep breath.
Let's hope this works.
He let loose a jet of snow that smacked Malfoy in the back of the head and sent him tumbling down the stands.
Jack quickly dropped, hiding in the shadows. The chanting abruptly stopped, replaced by screaming and confusion. Slytherins thudded overhead, peering through the seats and struggling to get Draco standing, oblivious to the winter spirit hovering below, shaking in silent laughter.
As soon as Draco was standing again Jack sent another stream of ice at his feet, knocking him off balance. Crabbe and Goyle grabbed for him, teetered, then fell themselves, crashing to the stands on top of the blond boy.
A few more jets of wind knocked the rest of the Slytherins down, until they were grabbing for each other and pulling themselves out of the stands. As a group they sprinted out of the pitch, shrieking, with Draco bringing up the rear, shivering with the chill.
Grinning victoriously, Jack dropped gently to the ground. Putting his wand away, he hurried back to his side of the field and strolled back in, looking nonchalant.
Hermione was watching the last of the Slytherins disperse with an incredulous look, standing up to get a better view.
"What happened?" Jack asked, sitting back down.
Hermione spun on him. He expected to find her grinning, but her face was shocked and irritated.
"What did you do?" she accused, jabbing her finger at him.
Jack blinked. "Me? Nothing!"
"Don't lie!" Hermione snapped, her frizzy hair flying about her as though it were as frustrated as she was. "I know you did something. I want to know how. They were sitting more than twenty feet in the air; how'd you get up there?"
"Hermione, I didn't do anything!"
On the pitch, the team was converging on the ground. Katie was swooning next to Fred and George, deathly white and coated in blood. All of them were looking towards the Slytherins, confused, but they wasted no time taking her to the Hospital Wing.
Hermione was eyeing him, her eyes narrowed. Jack looked determinedly back, trying to convince her he had had nothing to do with it. Lucky for him, he was a practiced liar, and met her gaze evenly.
She pursed her lips, obviously not convinced. "Listen, Jack," she said quietly, "there's something off about you. I don't know what. But things are getting very serious in the Wizarding World, and if you're here to cause trouble…"
"I'm not!" Jack said quickly. "Honest."
She looked at him doubtfully. "I'm not going to tell Harry and Ron," she said finally, "but I'm watching you. And if I see anything else out of the ordinary, I'm going to Dumbledore. Got it?"
Jack stared at her, and he could see from her slightly trembling lower lip that she meant it. He was right in thinking that she liked him and considered him a friend; but he could also understand why she was suspicious.
She hesitated for a moment longer before turning and stomping off to rejoin Harry and Ron.
Jack sat back down, quite alone in the huge pitch. He stared down at the deserted field, frowning heavily.
He really would have to stay away from Hermione now. One wrong move and she would start making accusations, and that could be costly for them both. On extent, he would have to start staying away from Harry and Ron, too.
Dumbledore was right. Jack was in no position to make friends, and it was time he learned that.
Aw, poor Jack. Things were going so well, too.
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