Day 2 and Tryouts
The next day, I started off lessons with an incredibly boring double History of Magic class in which I really did try to pay attention to Professor Binns’ lecture on Pierre Bonaccord, a nineteenth-century advocator for trolls’ rights, and how he had offended the whole Wizarding community of Liechtenstein- who hated trolls, especially a group in the local mountains- and how that had led to the first meeting of the International Confederation of Wizards and...
I bewitched my quill so that it summarized the lesson and simply read Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them for the seventh time under the table.
The next class, double Defense Against the Dark Arts, was where things started to get interesting.
Professor Gedding, a squat man who was typically very jolly, spent the first twenty minutes of class drilling into us Ravenclaws and our fellows, the Hufflepuffs, the importance of our O.W.L.s.
“Students,” he said impatiently when he had to rap the desk in front of Niamh Trevett- a girl with short, curly dark hair and thick black glasses who had fallen asleep during class- with his pointer. “These examinations- besides the N.E.W.T.s, there is nothing more important during your time here at Hogwarts! What you pail and fass now-” when Professor Gedding was agitated, he tended to mix up sounds and butcher words- “will decide your career choices and eventually how your life goes!”
Maria “Mari” Bird, the female Hufflepuff prefect and a former Hufflepuff Seeker, raised her hand. When Professor Gedding waved his pointer in her direction, she said, “Sir- Professor Gedding? I’m terribly sorry about Niamh. Peeves was terrorizing the Hufflepuff common room last night and he didn’t stop until very late.”
When I looked at the Hufflepuffs more closely, I noticed that their appearances certainly backed up Mari’s story- especially Alexandra “Alex” Zobrist and Quinn “Ella” Nguyen, two sweet choir girls who were best friends and whose heads were drooping.
Professor Gedding must have seen them too, for he produced a whistle from one of the many pockets of his overly large trench coat and blew on it shrilly- succeeding in quickly awakening all of the sleepy Hufflepuffs. “Now,” he said firmly, “now that you are all awake, please take out your textbooks and turn to page 394. We will be revising werewolves today. Who can tell me the visual differences, without peeking at page 396, between a common wolf and a werewolf?” He pointed the sharpened end of his pointer at a short Hufflepuff girl in the back. “I saw that, Miss Trout! I said without peeking! Miss Kelling, can you tell us?”
After that was lunch, and Care of Magical Creature with the Gryffindors. As Professor Maduthy- a tall, plump woman whose hat was always crooked- showed us a knarl and set us to the task of identifying knarls among groups of hedgehogs, Nick and I made faces at each other from across the green where Gryffindors and Ravenclaws were separated into groups. We had to stop when Melissa Webb, a friend of Niamh’s and Mari’s, loudly asked if Nick had swallowed a knarl quill by accident. However, it was fun while it lasted, and I went to my next class with a smile on my face.
The next class, for all of the Ravenclaw girls except me and Lanie, was Divination; in fact, every fifth-year Ravenclaw took it except for myself, Lanie, Will, and a monotonous but kind boy named Eric Montgomery who had dated Brooklyn in our third year for a month. Lanie took Arithmancy, while the three of us chose to have Study of Ancient Runes as our second choice class, which (in my opinion) was not only easier but also much more fun.
The teacher, Professor Ross-Campbell, was in a horrible temper when we arrived. She was pacing at the front of her spacious classroom, muttering under her breath as we students filed in. When the bell rang, she turned to us and said (rather bluntly):
“Come up front and take a copy of Ancient Runes Made Easy from my desk. We will be reviewing numerical runes today.”
As I did what I was told, I smiled a little at the actions of Professor Ross-Campbell. She was usually very blunt and sharp, making her tone today pretty normal, but able to keep her temper. Some students described her as “the second Minerva McGonagall”, a title which Professor-Ross Campbell alternated between hating with a passion and taking immense pride in.
“Is something wrong, Professor?” I asked, rather innocently, when I had made it to her desk and was hefting the topmost book off of the stack and into my arms.
As I stepped aside to allow my fellow students to access their books, Professor Ross-Campbell sighed, seeming relatively frustrated. “Nothing, Miss Salinger. I’m only a little... irked that our Headmaster has ordered a week of review in all subjects for the fifth and seventh years. We have so much to cover, and very little time!” She took a deep breath and started obsessively straightening up her already perfectly-organized desk. “But it’s naught of your concern. Please return to your seat.”
I did so, a soft, knowing smile upon my face. Professor Ross-Campbell loved her schedule, and she positively loathed when anything on it was messed up.
When I got back to my seat, I turned to Brooklyn, who had dropped out of Divination after her very first lesson two years ago. We sat next to each other and were Runes partners. “Numerical runes are so easy,” I complained halfheartedly.
“Says you,” she grumbled, flipping the pages of her book. “I can’t remember for the life of me what the rune for five is-”
“Quintaped,” I said promptly. “It’s that great five-legged spider-looking thing, remember? Here.” I shoved my own book, open to pages 7 and 8, at her. The pages showed everything from the Demiguise rune- meaning 0, stemming from the fact that the Demiguise had the ability to turn invisible- to the Hydra rune- meaning 9, the number of heads a typical Hydra had. I pointed to what looked like an oval with five legs at the very top of page 8 that very much resembled a five-legged spider. “That.”
Brooklyn shuddered- her immense fear of spiders was well-known. She then checked that I wasn’t lying; when I proved right, she pushed my book back at me and muttered, “Show-off.”
“At least you’ll never forget nine,” I reminded her teasingly. We exchanged grins. The Hydra rune had been the first rune we’d ever learned- from a sixth-year Ravenclaw in the Great Hall when we were first years- and our knowledge of that rune had helped us survive our second year.
After Ancient Runes, most of the fifth-years had a free period. I, however, did not. Although Muggle Studies was known throughout the school as a “soft option”, I took it anyway. As a pureblood, it was the one Hogwarts subject I had known absolutely nothing about when I had arrived on September the first of 2040.
The second I entered the classroom, I knew it was a bad choice to take the class again- even if I had rather enjoyed it for the past two years. Clusters of boys were grouped around the desks, talking loudly. In fact, I was one of a grand total of four girls in the room- myself, Ana Strait, Rossalene, and Lorie Braithnoch. I found myself seated next to Rossalene and behind Lorie, who was sitting next to Ana.
Professor O’Cain, the fifth girl and the reason that there were so many boys taking Muggle Studies, entered. She bestowed a lovely smile upon us and called, “Please sit down.” Professor O’Cain was the loveliest woman in possibly all of Britain and Scotland combined. She was also one of the smartest, but the boys who flocked around her wherever she went cared only about the red hair that fell in soft waves to her waist, or the soulful blue eyes framed in lush black eyelashes that peered currently out at us from behind oval-shaped spectacles.
“I see we have my lone knot of girls back here,” she said in a lilting, laughing voice. “I expect you all to behave as well as my girls are now.”
I sat up straighter in my chair and tucked a frizzy light brown curl behind my ear.
“Now, put your wands away,” Professor O’Cain instructed, and the boys did so rapturously. “Today we are going to learn about Muggle technology. Please take out your copies of Home Life and Social Habits of British Muggles by Wilhelm Wigworthy and turn to page one hundred and twelve. Lorie, dear, will you please read the first paragraph of Chapter Six, Muggle Communication?”
Slowly but surely, the month passed by. We finished review in all of our classes, much to Professor Ross-Campbell’s relief. We had two quizzes- one in Potions, the other in Transfiguration- both of which I passed with flying colors. One day halfway through September, one of the nifflers we were supposed to be digging for gold with during Care of Magical Creatures escaped. It ran around, dodging all of our attempts to capture it, and eventually found the pile of earrings, pocket-watches and other shiny objects on a small table off to the side. I managed to save my earrings from the pile, but it was a complete disaster for most of the class’s valuables. It took Helen a week to fix the dent in her pocket-watch.
Finally, the twenty-fourth of September arrived. I woke early, hurried down to the nearly-empty Great Hall to fix myself a quick breakfast of marmalade on toast, and ate it on my way to the Quidditch pitch.
Not twenty minutes later, groups of Ravenclaws had gathered to try out for the Quidditch team. I counted twenty-five, which was a huge improvement from my third year. Only thirteen people had tried out for the team that year.
I organized the people into clusters of five and ordered each group to fly around the pitch. The first group’s flying was disorganized and sloppy. The second group- made up entirely of giggling third-year girls- was better, but not by much. The third group had two rather good fliers- surprisingly, they were Lynne (who I didn’t think had ever mounted a broomstick before) and Polly (who went faster than everyone else and almost flew into the goalpost, but righted herself at the last minute). The fourth group was okay. The fifth and final group- made up of Lanie, Shawnee, Helen, Millie, and Will- were excellent fliers. In a V formation with Lanie at the head, they zipped quickly around the pitch- twice- before expertly landing and dismounting in front of me.
I blew my whistle. “All right! We’re going to hold the Chaser tryouts first. If you don’t want to try out for Chaser, please go sit in the stands.”
It was rather difficult to do so, as I noticed a moment later. The stands were extremely crowded, every row packed with Hufflepuffs, Slytherins and Gryffindors- including both pairs of twins, Brooklyn, Rossalene, and (my heart skipped a beat against my will) Nick. When he noticed that I’d spotted him, I could’ve sworn he winked at me.
I stopped myself from swearing out loud from the embarrassment and turned to watch the first possible Chaser- a third-year girl from the second group who fumbled the Quaffle when I tossed it to her and promptly crashed her broom as a result.
Chaser tryouts went pretty much like that, but by the end, I had three decent Chasers- Millie, Helen and Lynne; the only three who hadn’t dropped/fumbled the Quaffle, crashed their brooms, or talked during other people’s tryouts.
Shawnee returned as Keeper after an outstanding tryout, as did Lanie to the position of Seeker. Then it was time for the tryout I’d been dreading all day- the other Beater’s.
Will was going up against a shy, bookish sixth-year girl named Melody von Zeidler from the fourth group and a short, skinny, redheaded boy from the first group.
I let the twelve-year-old go first. He flew better solo than he had with his group, but he was still pretty terrible. Although, he wasn’t a bad shot. I had released one Bludger and watched as he successfully batted it towards the stuffed balls I launched into the air, hitting nine out of ten. Still, when he was gloating over hitting the last one, the Bludger zoomed toward him and knocked him clear off of his broom. I had to catch him on mine and escort him to the ground.
Melody was next. She was an okay flier, and her aim wasn’t bad, but she didn’t have the build for a true Beater. Unless you were a great flier and had excellent aim, if you didn’t have a Beater’s build, you just couldn’t be one. If I hadn’t had perfect aim and the flying skills to match, even my height couldn’t have saved me from my slim frame. I wouldn’t have become a Beater at the age of twelve.
Will went last. Not only did he have the heighty, stocky build of an ideal Beater, he was also a really good flier and had awesome aim. He hit all ten of the stuffed balls, all while flying at breakneck speed next to the Bludger. I had no choice but to declare him my second Beater, no matter how little I liked it.
I was a little scared of getting teased for having a team of solely fifth-years. No. Not teased. Harassed. But, as I discovered on October 1, it turned out that I didn’t have the only fifth-year team. Nick’s team- Chasers Lea, Lorie and Conor (Mathieson- the Gryffindor male prefect); Beaters Melissa and Tommy (Wood- Austin’s little brother); Keeper Nate; and, of course, Seeker/Captain Nick- was one too.
The first match was scheduled for the second weekend of November, but as it was Gryffindor vs. Slytherin, I could train my team for two extra weeks before our first match- against Hufflepuff.
But before even the first Quidditch match, something happened. Not necessarily the disaster of the tales of old, but something... interesting.