Chapter 12, Quidditch Try-outs

Remus stalked down the corridors towards the library, he was furious at Sirius, at James and at himself. In fact, he was furious at the whole damn world; what had he ever done?

The logical part of his mind told him to calm down, to get a grip, that he shouldn’t have said those things to Sirius. The wolfish part roared in frustration. A headache overwhelmed him and he walked into the library, seeking solitude and silence so he could do his Transfiguration essay.

Sirius looked fit to kill someone, ‘How can he say that?’ he snapped, ‘How can he possibly believe any of what he just said?’

James looked up, feeling let down and not a little guilty, ‘Padfoot, it was probably just a bit of a shock; I could have worded it better. Moony’s always a bit…’

‘Unstable?’ Peter offered where he lolling on his bed.

‘Emotional, when it comes to his problem. He’ll be alright once he’s thought about it, I hope.’

Sirius sat down and shook his head, ‘Nah; he’s not going to change his mind on that one, I could see it in his eyes,’ then he looked up at James with determination and growled, ‘He’s got a hell of a lot to answer for though.’

James just lay back and stared at the canopy of his four-poster bed, twirling his wand idly and frowning unhappily.

Remus didn’t come back until Madam Pince closed the library for the night, and then he went straight to bed without talking to the others who were playing Switch Poker in the Common Room. Switch Poker was fun because at random intervals all of the cards changed suits and value; one minute you could be holding a pair of aces, the next they could be a two and a five. The betting was wild, and only idiots played with real money; James, Sirius and Peter were playing with leprechaun gold.

Lily was trying to work on her Transfiguration essay, but the Marauders gasps and cries of defeat or victory were too distracting. She kept glancing over at them and huffing to herself until Mary said, ‘Lily, shush; you’re almost as bad as them.’

‘They’re being so loud though,’ Lily complained.

‘It is the Common Room, Lils.’ Laura pointed out from where she was playing chess with Alice.

‘Mmm,’ Dorcas agreed from behind the latest edition of Quidditch Today, ‘They’re not breaking any rules.’

‘Yes, but normally Remus gets them to shut up, where is he?’

‘He went to bed a while ago; Frank said he heard Black and Lupin shouting earlier, he said it sounded pretty serious.’ Alice replied; furrowing her brow as Laura’s bishop smashed a pawn to the board with his sceptre. The unfortunate pawn was dragged aside and Alice’s ordered her knight forward to do battle as Laura gasped at her mistake.

By Saturday Remus still hadn’t spoken to his friends; in fact, he had actively been avoiding them. Waiting for James’ restlessness to begin at dawn, James would disappear out to wherever he would go; to the Quidditch Pitch, running, research or homework, then Remus would get up, shower and disappear too.

He noticed now that Sirius made a point of sitting beside James in all of their lessons, his lip curling as Remus appeared, despite James’ hissed warnings. Remus felt as if that single argument had somehow struck him off the role of Marauder. Now he just seemed to be the Prefect who slept in their dorm; not the reason they had banded to tightly together.

Still, it was hard to ignore the hope on Peter and James’ faces every time he walked into the Common Room, or came into a lesson. But he would just sit down silently beside Peter, get his books out and start working, oblivious to all but the teacher, or at least he pretended he was. He wasn’t sure who he blamed for the sudden schism, and he suspected that that meant he was blaming himself.

Still, some part of him was furious and that part wouldn’t go away; every time he saw Sirius and James, he wanted to shout his anger at them. He also wanted desperately to sit down with them and laugh at James’ latest idea to prank Avery, or some other unsuspecting Slytherin, who nevertheless deserved it.

Somehow though, Saturday arrived and Remus was no closer to finding his friends again than he knew Sirius was to apologising. He felt he was caught somewhere between cowardice and resilient fury; although where, was beyond him.

James had been planning his Quidditch try-outs and potential team all week, he had stuck a notice on the board in the Common Room on Wednesday afternoon saying that try-outs were on Friday. By Wednesday evening there was a list of names beside it almost as long as there were people in Gryffindor House.

He stuck another notice up on Thursday, pointing out that only people who were prepared to give one hundred per cent to the Quidditch Team and were above First Year should put their names down. By Thursday evening there was another list, considerably shorter.

Dorcas, Sirius, Sarah Huntly and himself formed the core of the team; but he wanted an extra for each position in case of injuries. He’d spoken to George Hill about try-outs and the six foot fourteen year old had been willing to come and give Keeper a go. His brother had been legendary at school and James was hoping he might be able to tap into what he hoped was a family talent.

Other than that he needed a Beater and a Seeker. Both would be hard to find; Sirius had the muscle and the eye for pounding accurate bludgers a hundred feet up, but there were few who had the balance to take two hands off a broom and swing with everything they had.

Sirius had been playing since Fourth year and could almost rival Finbar Quigley, whose mother had played for Ireland and had taught him to fly as soon as he could walk.

James had been planning all week; ploughing through Quidditch Weekly, Quidditch Today, even Which Broomstick?, looking for training inspiration and what sort of broomsticks suited which positions. He missed Remus’ insightful comments though; Remus didn’t play but he had an observer’s eye for the sport that would catch things James would miss.

Saturday came round and dawned clear, bright and with a light breeze; apparently summer was making a last ditch attempt to prevent autumn coming round. James was up with the sun, checking the pitch, measuring dive stopping distances with a practised eye and getting a good warm-up before breakfast.

Unusually he was first into breakfast, showered and almost bouncing with every step as he piled into porridge, bacon, eggs, black pudding and toast, washing it down with draughts of pumpkin juice.

Dorcas appeared, looking cheery in light of what could turn into a whole day’s flying ahead of them. Sirius came next, and then Sarah arrived; a Fifth year, but she had played with James and Dorcas last year. By the end of the year, they had almost acted with a single mind; between them beating the record for highest number of goals ever scored in a season at Hogwarts. James just hoped they hadn’t lost any of their ability over the summer.

Peter was lying in; he’d come down to watch them later and Merlin knew where Remus was these days. Sirius thought he was being a coward; if he had had a go at the others like that, then he would be the first to apologise for his temper, and he knew James would understand. Remus could be a loose cannon though; staying perfectly calm through the worst of times and flare up at something ridiculous, like James asking about Lily.

In Sirius’ opinion James didn’t even need to ask; he could have just gone ahead and done what he liked, because in the end, James was the one who had stuck by them through everything. James was the one who had promised to help Remus, James had had the Animagus idea, James had let him stay over the holidays when his family became too much, James was the life and soul of the Marauders, and the minute he asked for something back, Remus had snapped, ‘No.’

Sirius would have done anything for James and the others without hesitation, and not just because he owed them so much. But Remus had… well, there was no point going over it again. He was happy to wait until Remus came back to them, and as soon as Remus apologised he would quite happily shake his hand and forget the incident. Until then though… he rolled his shoulders and cracked his neck; there were try-outs to be held and Sirius was in the mood to be swinging a bat at something.

By Lunchtime James had a good idea of his team; his back was aching from where a bludger had hit him in the kidneys, two people were in the hospital wing after a mid-air collision, but he thought he had found his players. Best of all though, he had spotted Remus in the stands beside Peter mid-morning.

George Hill, with his ridiculously lanky body and limbs had outstripped every other applicant for Keeper; showing that he did have his brother’s talent and with some solid training could be just as good. Another Fourth Year, a girl, surprisingly had turned up for Beater; she didn’t have the strength of any of the boys, but she did have a decent eye for accuracy and predicting player movement. Instead of hitting a bludger after a player, Hannah Blackett hit ahead and let the player remove the extra distance themselves. It had been her who had got James in the kidneys, and he knew he’d have a nasty bruise. She had muttered something about her Dad being a farmer and leading with shotguns when he asked her about it. That was what happened when you underestimated the opposition, he thought to himself as he watched a couple of promising Seekers drop out of the sky; he was testing their nerve.

James winced as one applicant ploughed into the ground and he shot across to help him up, ‘You alright mate?’

‘Yeah, fine!’ the Fifth Year said, staggering to his feet. He looked a little dazed, but every other Seeker was looking horrified at his bloody nose and torn robes. He brushed a mop of brown hair back from his forehead and pinched his nose to try and stem the bleeding, ‘When do we get to have a go at the Snitch?’

James grinned; here was someone he liked. He pulled out his wand, pointed it at the boy’s face and said, ‘Episkey.’ The bleeding stopped and the boy said, ‘Cheers,’ before clambering back onto his broom and taking off.

‘He’s either an idiot, or he really wants to be on the team,’ Dorcas said as she landed beside him, ‘He didn’t even attempt to pull up until he saw the rest were heading back up into the air. Who is he?’

James grinned, he too had seen the reckless display, ‘Tommy Ransom. Yeah, I know; I think we might have a Seeker. Wonder what his eyesight’s like?’

After lunch, James and the remaining Seekers were out on the pitch; Dorcas, Sarah and the new sub Chaser were putting Hill through his paces, while Sirius and Hannah was slamming golf balls into the sky as hard and far as they could. The Seekers had to catch them before they hit the ground. James played with them, and he outstripped all of them and setting the standard; not hesitating to make a last minute dive a few feet off the ground to catch the last ball. He landed and rolled to applause coming from the stands; various Gryffindors were up there, as well as a few other admirers and a couple of Ravenclaws checking out the new opposition.

James gave them a wave and bow, grinning a few minutes later when Ransom made a snatch that caught him off balance and he rolled before tumbling from his broom, holding onto the golf ball and landing with an audible crack that had the crowd gasping.

‘James! He’s going to kill himself!’ Dorcas screamed at him, from across the pitch; the fall must have been fifteen feet at least. She was white faced as Ransom tried to stand up but groaned and sat down heavily.

James landed beside him once again, ‘Broken ankle?’

‘It’s just sprained; I’ll be able to walk it off, Mum’s a nurse in London.’

‘That doesn’t look good!’ Sirius shouted cheerily from above them, grinning at the catch despite himself, but Tommy seemed to know what he was talking about and he heard James say, ‘Alright then, I’ll give you a hand to mount up.’

By suppertime James had a clear team in his mind; He, Dorcas and Sarah would stay Chasers, Sirius and Hannah would be fine Beaters once he’d got Hannah hitting a bit harder, George was improving by the minute and Tommy had, with courage that had even James impressed, beaten all comers to try and take his Seeker position.

He announced his decision and there were cheers from the die-hard Gryffindor fans who had remained in the stands all day. He had noticed Evans appeared for an hour or so in the afternoon to watch Dorcas, but he had been too busy to throw any comments her way.

Sirius could hear Dorcas still yelling at James from up in the dormitory; he had guessed and been right, Tommy’s ankle had been broken and James had known it. Dorcas was now screaming at him about responsibilities of Captaincy, ‘HOW COULD YOU BE SO BLOODY STUPID: HE COULD HAVE BEEN SERIOUSLY HURT AND YOU COULDN’T CARE LESS! STOP GRINNING AT ME YOU STUPID BASTARD!’

James had confided in Sirius that he had known Tommy was lying, but needed to see what the boy could do; if he had gone to the hospital wing, then his chance for a place on the team would have been over. James wasn’t about to take second best, so he had given Tommy a chance and Tommy had grasped it with both hands.

Sirius grinned as he headed for the shower before supper; he was knackered, but it been a good day’s practise and he had a feeling that they had something special this year. Besides, he’d spotted a rather nice looking Ravenclaw Fifth year watching with some of the Gryffindor Fifth Year girls; he thought she was called Elizabeth Townley. He had a feeling that from the way she had been watching him constantly, especially when he took his Quidditch robes off when it got too hot; he’d been left in his tight Quidditch trousers, pads and bare-chested. He got a few whistles from the crowd, but he played up to it and hit the golf balls even harder; sending them towards the stands at the far end of the pitch.

When the sun started to set, and it was time to head in, he’d given her a wink and pulled an unfortunate Mary into a sweaty hug, watching her reaction out of the corner of his eye as Mary squealed.

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