Playing With Fire

Chapter 2

Disclaimer: Not mine.

October 10, 1985

Tilly stared down at the eggs on her plate which were looking like they were beginning to dry. The weight on the bench shifted next to her and she looked up at Charlie, who was holding out a plate with two slices of toast covered in jam and butter.

She shook her head but he pushed it toward her anyway. "You need to eat something. Can't have you throwing up on the field."

Tilly shook her head again. "Not doing it," she muttered.

The new Seeker for the Gryffindor Quidditch team frowned. "Are you kidding me? We've been practicing for weeks! There's no way you're backing out now, Tils."

Tilly stared down at the toast. Yes they had indeed been practicing and Charlie had proven himself that much of a better flyer than she could ever be. There was no way she'd pass this tryout. She was the only girl going for her position too.

She felt a hand on her shoulder and she looked up into Charlie's smiling face. "You're good, Tils. You're going to just fine."

Tils gave him a small smile before picking up the toast and taking a bite. She always wondered why he was still here. It had been a year already and the two of them had grown close. He protected her from bullies and she helped him with his homework but it wasn't like either of them had to. They wanted to and Tilly was ever glad for his company. Sure she had made friends in her dorm mates but Charlie had been there first.

"Come on," Charlie said standing up. "It's almost ten-thirty. We don't need you late."

Tilly picked up the broom that had been sitting on the ground besides her and looked up at Charlie, confused. He just grinned. "You didn't think I was going to let you go by yourself did you? I'll be watching from the stands."

The one thing Tilly knew about Charlie was that he was unpredictably predictable. He did everything she knew a friend was supposed to do but it still surprised her every time. And his smile was always expected.

"Hey!" Tilly and Charlie turned as Nymphadora Tonks came running towards them. Of course, she tripped as she neared them, her things sprawling across the ground and her hair turning as red as her face in embarrassment but it quickly turned back to that bubblegum pink as her two friends approached her, helping her pick up her things. "Are you heading to the tryouts, Tilly? I want to come."

Tonks had been an ever present source of entertainment since Christmas break last year, when Charlie and Tilly had found her fumbling to retrieve her shoe from between the changing stairs. When they asked her how it got there, she shrugged and said, "These things happen." She was funny though and kind and loyal and Tilly appreciated the other girl's company as much as she did Charlie's.

They made an odd trio, people often pointed out. There was Charlie, cool, popular, easily likable and very outdoorsy; then there was Tonks, certifiably strange, clumsy, loud and a known troublemaker; and then Tilly, quiet but almost abnormally smart. People wondered why Charlie hung out with them but Charlie didn't care. Tilly and Tonks knew him and that was what mattered. Tilly found that she wasn't forced to talk when she was with the two of them, they never expected her too and after a while they were able to just guess what her facial expressions meant. Tonks . . . well Tonks was just glad to have them to hang around with. They didn't make fun of her clumsiness.

And the three of them just made it work.

"Hey Tilly!" the three of them turned to look at Bill who was walking in the opposite direction towards the Great Hall. He grinned. "Good luck, alright!"

Tilly blushed, nodding and clutching her broom tighter to her chest. Charlie chuckled. "Tilly's gotta crush."

She frowned, pushing her friend. Of course she had a crush on Bill; what girl in their right mind didn't have a crush on Bill? But that didn't mean she needed her best friend to know, especially considering her best friend was her crush's younger brother.

"Leave Tilly alone, Charlie," Tonks said. "We can't have her any more nervous than she already is."

Oh right. The tryouts.

Charlie threw his arm around Tilly's shoulders, pulling her into his side. "I'm just messing with you Tils. Forget I even said it. It's fine if you have a crush on my big brother. Just don't go dating him okay?"

"Charlie!" Tonks hissed.

The trio headed out onto the grounds. Even from where they stood now, Tilly could see the blue and silver Quidditch robes of the old team members, gearing up for tryouts. Tilly felt the blood leave her face and she stopped walking. She totally couldn't do this.

"Hey, hey, what's wrong?" Charlie said turning and walking the few steps back to his friend.

Tilly shook her head. There was no way. She'd make a fool of herself for real and she couldn't, no wouldn't, risk that. She was already enough of an outcast as it was.

"Tilly?" Tilly looked up into Charlie's eyes. He was smiling at her. "You're good, Tils. You're going to go out there and blow the competition right out of the water, I know it! And Tonks and I will be in the stands cheering you on the whole way. What do you say?"

Tilly bit her lip before she nodded. "Okay."

Charlie grinned, wrapping his arm around her shoulders. "That's my girl. Let's go get you a spot on that Quidditch team."

The two of them met up with Tonks again, who smiled and took her hand on the other side. Tilly looked down at the ground, trying to hide the blush that was forming on her face. She didn't even know how to feel more grateful than she did at that moment.

The trio entered the Quidditch Pitch and Charlie and Tonks both hugged her before they moved to the stands.

"Hey." Tilly's turned to the pitch, looking up at the girl who had flown over to her. She was Mia Crispin, the Ravenclaw Quidditch team's best Chaser. Her auburn ponytail flicked in the breeze as she eyed Tilly and her broom warily. "Tilly Riddle isn't it?"

Tilly nodded, surprised that the fifth year even knew her name. Mia nodded back. "Here to tryout?"

"Yes."

"What position?"

"Er . . . Beater."

Mia's eyes widened slightly and she glanced over her shoulder before she landed. "If you say so. Follow me."

Mia swung her broom over her shoulder and Tilly followed her into the center of the pitch where a crowd of Ravenclaws were standing, the Ravenclaw team floating overhead. The captain, Jonathan Carter, a sixth year, was speaking when Mia left Tilly at the back of the crowd flying up to meet her team. The team was short a Beater (Jonathan Carter was the other), a Keeper and the last remaining Chasers. Last year had definitely been a year for Seventh years.

"Alright, here's what we're going to do," Carter called out. "You will separate into your groups and will begin tryouts. Once you're finished, fell free to leave or stay, whichever you prefer. The chosen members will be listed in the common room tonight. We'll try out the Chasers first. The rest of you please move to the sidelines."

Tilly looked up to Charlie and Tonks who waved before she moved over to where the rest of the Beaters were standing. All of them were burly boys from the sixth and seventh years, once that had never paid much attention to her but today all eyes were on her as she moved to stand next to her.

"What do we have here boys?" one of them asked as they all seemed to gather in a semi-circle around her. She ignored them though, staring straight ahead at the Chaser's tryouts.

"Pretty little newt, isn't she?" someone else chuckled.

"I think you're standing in the wrong group, little one. You're probably more suited for a Chaser's position."

"Even that might be a little to dangerous for this one."

"Probably best to stick her by the hoop's if she wants to play so badly. As Keeper she wouldn't have to do very much."

"Move along girly and let one of us guys protect you from the bludgers."

"Hey! Why don't you guys shut your traps and leave her alone?" The boys all looked up at Charlie who had come down the stands when he saw all the commotion. But the boys laughed, shoving at each other.

"Well look at that!"

"The little newt has a boyfriend!"

Tilly's face went red but she was glad when the boys left her alone.

"Tilly." She looked up at Charlie whose ears were slightly pink underneath his hair. "You blow them out of the water okay?"

Tilly smiled at her friend, nodding. "Okay."

Soon enough, Carter called for the Beaters. Tilly stood at the back of her group watching the boys fly up against Carter who aimed and shot bludgers at them with deadly accuracy. It was his opponent's job to hit back as many as he (or she) could. Boy were these guys horrible.

When it was Tilly's turn, she hopped up on her broom, flying up to meet the Captain who was watching her with a slight smile. He looked down to Mia. "We're on Keeper already?"

"No," Mia responded. "Tilly Riddle, second year, trying out for the Beater position."

Carter chuckled a little. "Little girl, do you know what you're getting into? I've –"

"—been playing for the Ravenclaw Quidditch Team as their beater for the last four years, promoted to captain this year. As a Beater, you've taken down at least one opposing player in at least ten minutes into every game. In 1983, you took out the Slytherin Seeker before he even had a chance to search for the snitch, three minutes into the game. I know all of that, can we start the tryouts please?" Tilly's voice, though soft, was heard loud and clear for the rest of the occupants on that field. She didn't talk much but when she did, it was a mouthful. Besides . . . she was tired of being called a little girl today.

Carter was appraising her. Finally he nodded. "Alright . . . fly out then, lets see what you got."

Tilly nodded back, flying a few more feet away from the Captain. Carter's eyes were still on the Bludgers, which had been flying around manically. As if it suddenly sensed it's purpose, a Bludger turned its course, heading towards Carter who smirked and raised his bat. "I'll take it easy on you Riddle."

With a grunt, he hit the ball at her, purposefully a little to the left.

How dare he?

Raising her bat, Tilly met the Bludger, striking it and sending it straight towards Carter who gaped and raised his broom just in time to avoid. "Don't bother!" Tilly called over to him.

A glint passed through Carter's eyes and the next time one of the bludgers passed his way, he swung hard, hitting the bat towards Tilly's stomach. She maneuvered her broom, dropping slightly and hitting the Bludger back.

This game of pass back continued, both Beaters becoming sweaty and tired. Carter, aggravated, released one more almighty yell, hitting the Bludger at Tilly's head. Not much time to act, Tilly quickly ducked, pressing herself against her broom to avoid dying. When she looked up, Carter was smirking. Glaring, Tilly glanced over her shoulder as the Bludger sped back in her direction. Moving quickly, she let the Bludger pass her just slightly before swinging her back, screaming loudly with fury, the loudest sound she's probably ever made in a while.

The Bludger spun, aimed at Carter. Gripping the front of his broom, he tried to move out of the way but the Bludger smashed into the tail of his broom, flipping him off. Mia hopped on her broom and caught Carter as he fell towards the ground.

Tilly watched in horror for a second before she zoomed forward, meeting Carter and Mia on the ground. "I'm so sorry," she said as soon as she landed, running to a stop. "I didn't mean –"

Carter cut her off, fixing his broom quickly with a well placed spell. He looked up at her, expressionless. "Thank you Riddle," he said. "We'll have the new team listed tonight in the common room."

With that he and Mia walked away without a further glance. Charlie and Tonks rushed up to Tilly, who dropped the bat at the sidelines and hurried off the field, her friends on her heels.

"You were brilliant, Tils!" Charlie said as they made their way back to the castle. "Bloody horrifying but brilliant!"

"You're on the team for sure," Tonks declared.

"Did you see his face?" Tilly murmured. "I nearly killed him. There's no way I made it."

Tilly could tell that Charlie and Tonks exchanged glances over her head but they didn't say anything. The trio avoided the Ravenclaw common room for the rest of the day, spending lunch and dinner in the Great Hall, by the lake, and in the library. Tilly was silent though Charlie and Tonks worked hard to cheer her up.

Finally, curfew came and they were forced to make their way back to the common room.

"For some I go too fast," the Eagle door knocker said, "for others I'm too slow. To most people, I'm an obsession relying on me is a well practiced lesson."

Tilly thought for a second before replying, "Time."

"Well reasoned." The door opened and the three friends moved through to the common room. People were crowded around the bulletin board. Cries of 'yes!' and 'better luck next times' were heard as they approached. Some glanced in Tilly's direction as she moved forward scrolling down the list.

Beater

Tilly Riddle

Shock wasn't a good enough word to describe the emotion she was feeling. Vaguely she could hear Charlie and Tonks cheering behind her. A hand laid on her shoulder and she turned to see Carter grinning down at her.

"Why do you look so surprised?" The captain asked her.

"I – I broke your broom," Tilly replied him. Surely this was an easy enough reason to understand.

But Carter laughed, shaking his head. "With that kind of intensity against the other teams, they'll be scared to even look at. And the best part is they won't expect it coming for a little newt like you. I have a good feeling about you Tilly Riddle, and I'm honored to have you as my partner."

He held out his hand and Tilly took it, getting a hearty shake before he left her alone with her friends, who grabbed her in their arms.

Things were definitely looking up.

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