The first quidditch game of the season was approaching quickly, and I felt ready. It was against Slytherin. Each time I walked passed their table in the Great Hall at meal times, or walked by someone wearing that sullen, green crest among their robes, it fueled my fire. James could tell that I was chomping at the bit to annihilate them. I had barely eaten more than a plateful the entire week preceding the big game, and I was more energized than ever. As it got closer and closer, I spent my afternoons on the quidditch pitch, flying around in circles, trying to tire myself out so I could fall asleep at night. I realized that I was not the only one who was revved up. The entire Gryffindor common room buzzed with excitement as the game drew nearer.
I woke early on that Saturday morning, eager to hop on my broom and fly circles around the Slytherins, as I bragged I could do my first night of this new time. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a sleepy-eyed Sirius traipsing down the staircase opposite me as I traveled down to the common room.
"Good morning!" I said, a smile plastered across my face as I jumped off the third stair. Sirius yawned and gave me a tiny wave. "What are you doing up this early?" I asked him, broom in hand. He gave a small chuckle.
"James knew you would be up this early and asked me to beg you to have some breakfast before you go out on the pitch," he said with a smirk which turned into another large yawn. I groaned, previously having zero intention of having breakfast before the biggest game of the year. "Come on, you need your strength," he said as he looped his arm around mine and ushered me out the portrait hole.
"I have plenty of strength! I need to be light on my feet!" I argued, knowing full well that I was no going to get out of this. Sirius gave me a sideways glance, implying that it was too early for him to attempt to argue with me. I threw my hands up in mock exasperation. "Fine, I'll eat," I said as I heard a small sigh of relief coming from Sirius, "But I'm not doing it for James!"
Upon entering the Great Hall, I noticed spots of sun peeking in through the windows and peppering the long oak tables with specks of light. The ceiling was a bright blue with clouds floating above that were formed into shapes. I immediately noticed one that was in the shape of an acid pop, definitely a work of Dumbledore. There were others shaped like teacups and brooms, and I even saw a golden snitch amongst the figures hovering above. All of the tables were virtually empty, except for the Slytherin table. It appeared that the entire quidditch team was conspiring over their plates of hot cakes and bacon. They all looked very serious and had their heads low as they spoke to each other, as if someone was really trying to listen to their tactic planning. Sirius and I sat down at the far end of the Great Hall, farthest away from the Slytherins as possible. A few of them shot glances our way, trying to appear as threatening as possible, but I pretended to be too enthralled in my raisin bread to notice.
"Aren't you going to eat something?" I asked Sirius, noticing he had just a teacup in his hand.
"It's too early for me to eat," he said as he poured milk into his tea. "We came down here for you, not me." He winked at me as he stirred cream into his cup. I was jerked out of his gaze when I heard the Slytherins loudly getting up from their pregame huddle. I turned around to watch them leave and noticed a familiar face glaring at me from the midst of the group. I held eye contact until they all exited the Great Hall before I turned frantically to face Sirius.
"You didn't tell me Zephyros was on the Slytherin team," I barked at him, sounding much meaner than I had intended. Sirius looked startled. I put my forehead in my hand. "Sorry, I didn't mean to." My stomach did a somersault into my chest. Did I really think that duel I had in the middle of the corridor would be the last I would face of him? That was not the end of something between Zephyros Horsefeather and me; it was the beginning of something.
I had already lost my appetite when I saw James and the others enter the Great Hall. They all looked energized and eager, much like I felt before I laid eyes on my father's quidditch robes. Sirius grabbed my hand. "Don't be afraid of him," he said calmly, his brown eyes as smooth as glass. "You showed him once that you are not to be messed with."
"But I had you there with me," I said softly. My stomach was still tied in knots.
"I wasn't the one who knocked him on his ass and frightened him half to death!" He smiled. I opened my mouth to protest. "And he was frightened! I'm surprised he did not wee his pants like a little pup!" A small smile crept along my lips as he squeezed my hand tightly. "I'll still be there with you. And I'll have my hand on my wand the whole time if he tries anything snaky." He narrowed his eyes playfully as the knots slowly came undone in my stomach. James made his way over to us, followed by the rest of the team.
"I see you have eaten breakfast, Marilyn" he said cheerfully. "Good work, Padfoot!"
"It was definitely a struggle, Prongs, but in the end, I always win," Sirius said with a smirk which I was all too familiar with.
"Well, maybe we can channel your winnings on the field today. We'll need it." James stuffed a forkful of French toast in his mouth as I convinced myself that I was not going to be afraid to face my father a second time.
Brooms in hand, we trudged out onto the field. The sun was bright against the sky, and unlike in the Great Hall, there were no clouds to shade us from its yellow glare. I squinted as we all mounted our brooms in the middle of the pitch. Zephyros was hovering diagonally from me, staring at me as he toyed with his beater's club. I did not return his gaze, and I did not let the composure leave my face as I waited for the whistle to blow and the quaffle to be released into the air. I heard Madam Hooch carrying on about a 'nice, clean game,' and then she released the bludgers from their hold in the trunk. One of them zoomed right past my head, but I did not flinch one muscle. Then the snitch was released. Its distinct buzzing sound could have possibly been mistaken for a mosquito flying around your ear. Then the whistle. Then the quaffle, and I was racing toward James as he grabbed it out of the air and headed toward the goal posts. The Slytherin chasers rammed up against him, hoping he would drop the ball. I flew next to him, keeping myself open to receive the pass. Almost to the goal post, another chaser kicked the back of James's broom and the quaffle flew out of his arms. I snatched it out of the air and hammered it past the keeper.
"Ten points for Gryffindor!" The announcer's voice echoed loudly over the cheering of the crowd. James clapped me on the shoulder as he flew past. Below me, I could already see the two seekers pursuing the snitch. They were looping around the field, doing barrel-rolls and trying to knock the other off his broom. I silently begged our seeker to catch the snitch quickly, so the game would be over and I could get away from Zephyros.
The quaffle was in play once again. A Slytherin girl had it under her arm as she zoomed toward the other end of the field. James wasn't far behind her. I saw Zephyros bring back his club and beat a bludger straight at James's head.
"Watch it, James!" I yelled from the side of him. James tucked his head and rolled over on his broom, the bludger missing him by a hair. I flew ahead as the Slytherin chaser was throwing the quaffle to the goal post. She released the quaffle and I intercepted it, turning on a dime toward the other end of the field. James flew beside me as the other Gryffindor chaser flew above me, fending off the Slytherins trying to obtain the quaffle. Half way to the goal posts, I heard the crack of a bat, and then a crack of my ribs. I released the quaffle from my arms and James seized it and raced to the goal. I held my chest as another bludger came barreling into my arm, causing a distinct snapping sound. There was no doubt my arm was broken. I could no longer hold on to my broom.
"Another ten points for Gryffindor! And Belby has caught the snitch! Gryffindor wins!" The announcer cried as cheering and applause erupted from the stands. Pain shot through my body as I let go of my broom and began to fall. I felt my head hit the ground as I plummeted to the earth, and then everything went black. The last thing I remembered about that morning was Gryffindor winning the match.
I woke up with a dull headache. I tried to sit up, but my ribs were still sore from being shattered. I winced as I adjusted myself in the bed. For a moment, I opened my eyes and thought it had all been a dream. Had Draco finally kicked me so hard that I was sent to the hospital wing? Then I noticed my broom propped up against the end of the bed and all the assorted candies and chocolates resting on the window sill. I looked around and noticed I was not the only one in the hospital wing. There was another person on the other end in green robes, sporting a bloody face and what appeared to be antlers.
"You're awake!" I heard someone say as they entered the large room. James and the rest of the team trudged over to me, still in their quidditch attire. "It's about time. It's nearly dinner time!" He said, taking a seat beside me and grabbing a box of chocolates from the window. He offered me one before popping one into his mouth but I refused.
"Where's Sirius?" I asked as I felt the tender lump on the back of my head. James looked over at the other occupied bed and sighed. I followed his gaze. Madam Pomfrey was tending to the student's antlers with what looked like a hand saw.
"Sirius is with McGonagall," he said, adverting his eyes from the deantlering of the other student. "He messed Zephyros up pretty bad." My eyes widened. I did not recognize him since his face was so bloodied up and broken. "He's got late night detentions all week, so don't expect to be seeing much of him." I did not fully understand. Why had Sirius done that to Zephyros?
"Tell me what happened, James," I said, wanting to know exactly what happened between the time I blacked out on the field and woke up in the hospital bed.
"Zephyros beat both of those bludgers toward you during the game, which is not against the rules. That's what bludgers are for after all," he began, trying to sound as fair as possible. "The second one was a bit uncalled for, I must say. After the game ended and you were on the ground, Sirius ran up to you and Zephyros walked up with this evil smirk on his face. Then he said something to Sirius and spat on you while you were down. Then he sort of kicked you as he walked off." I distorted my face when I heard how he took advantage of my weakness while I was unconscious. It sickened me. I swallowed the lump in my throat before I spoke.
"So how did he end up," I said, pointing over to his bed as Madam Pomfrey removed the last of the calcified antlers, "like that?"
James made a low whistling sound and looked over at Zephyros. "Sirius grabbed him as he walked away and punched him in the face a couple of times. Then he hexed him and gave him antlers. I have never seen him so angry in my life." James popped another chocolate in his mouth as he sat back in his chair.
"I need to go find Sirius," I said as I got out of the bed slowly, my entire body aching. Madam Pomfrey hurried over to my bed.
"My dear, you can't leave! You're not well enough!" She said, trying to get me to lay back into the bed.
"Are my bones mended?" I asked impatiently.
"Well, yes dear, but you will be sore for another—" I darted out of the bed and ignored the pain that was shooting through me.
"Then I'll be fine," I said as I hobbled toward the door, James and the rest of the team following me out of the hospital wing. "Thank you for mending me, Madam Pomfrey!" I called to her quickly, a hint of fake sweetness trickling from my words. James had to help steady me as I lumbered through the corridors and toward Professor McGonagall's office.