Chapter 12: The Quidditch Match
Banners and pennant flags flapped savagely in the brisk November wind. The crowd roared with deafening volume as the players entered the Quidditch pitch. Their broomsticks held firmly by their side, they listened to Madam Hooch's fair play speech. The first Quidditch match of the season was a surreptitious confrontation between Slytherins and Gryffindors. Bundled in warm clothes, supportive students from all four houses watched from the stands. James rested cozily between Peter and Remus, both of whom waited eagerly to see their first Quidditch game. In standard preparation, the pale Remus propped open Quidditch Through the Ages. He studied the positions and squinted down at the field in concentration.
The players hovered in the air, waiting for the initial toss. Thinking ahead, Remus saved a seat for Sirius, who was suspiciously late for match. Much to Gryffindor's disappointment, the match began with a strong Slytherin lead. The green chasers weaved skillfully over and under their opponents, dodging bludgers and collisions. Sirius arrived to join the festivities, once Gryffindor scored their first goal. He dropped down next to Remus, who greeted him with a pair of binoculars. James groaned as Riordan King, the sixth year Gryffindor chaser, fumbled the quaffle.
"Oh the humanity!" James moaned, covering his eyes. "Our best players are fumbling. We are going to be slaughtered."
Sirius kicked his feet up on the seat in front of him. "Have a little faith mate. The boys will pull through." Peter reached over James and Remus to offer Sirius some Bertie Botts Beans. Politely, Sirius declined his friend's offering. Apathy set in as the riveting game tottered on the commentary's slow tongue. Sirius turned his attention to Remus.
"I thought you fell off the face of the earth, cocker. Where have you been the last few days?"
"Yeah, Remus, we were getting worried about you! You weren't in class and you haven't been back to the dorm—" James added, his final sentence was lost in a cacophony of cheers. Gryffindor scored, forty to seventy.
Sitting between the two interrogators, Remus swallowed his lie. He shifted in his chair uncomfortably. "I-I was visiting a family friend in the hospital. I had to ask for some time off—"
"Go, go! Come on King! Score!" James stood up in chair, spilling a rainbow of beans over Peter. Sirius folded his hands behind his head and stretched his back.
"Remus. I have another question." There was nowhere to run, Remus's heart raced. He hoped his friend did not suspect lycanthropy. "Are you related to that Slytherin girl?" Relief and exasperation exploded like fireworks in his chest.
"Slytherin girl? I am not sure who you are talking about."
"Taylor Lupin. She hangs out with Lily all the time. Both of you have the same last name." Sirius explained directly.
"No relation." Remus muttered quietly. Sirius did not seem convinced, but his attention turned back to the match. Considering his past friendship, Remus could not concentrate on the remainder of the game. Internally, he missed their conversations, but he could not bring himself to forgive her. If Remus admitted he was wrong, he would have to assume the fault of his condition. Gryffindor soared into a ten point lead.
Taylor embraced the tantalizing mob phenomenon. In unison, she cheered and groaned with the wave of emotion. As Slytherin fell behind, the first year tugged her hair in minor disillusionment. The logistics of the game remained a mystery, but her blood kindled with every play. Slytherin's points stagnated. Disgruntled by the eighty to one hundred and twenty score, Taylor leaned on her armrest. The copper haired Fionn took a seat next to her suddenly.
"There is still enough time for a comeback. Everything depends on whether or not Regulus can catch the snitch." Taylor was surprised to see him outside of Potions. He saw her expression and added, "A lot of my mates are down there playing the game. I saw you here, so I hope you don't mind the company."
Taylor shook her head, which caused strands of hair to fall loose from her messy bun. "I don't mind at all. Maybe you could fill me in on the game? "
"What? You don't know anything about Quidditch?" Slightly embarrassed, she shrugged. I look like a complete amateur. What is there to know? They shoot the ball through the goal posts. Fionn accepted her request and pointed at the field. "There are two teams of seven. You have three chasers, two beaters, one keeper, and one seeker. Four balls are on the field at all times, the quaffle, two bludgers, and a golden snitch."
"Should I be taking notes?" Taylor asked feigning sincerity. In amusement, Fionn smirked at her.
"The keeper guards the three goal posts, while the chasers score goals with the quaffle. Beaters keep bludgers away from their teammates and hit them toward the opposing team." Almost on cue, a Gryffindor chaser fell from her broom, blindsided by a heavy bludger to the shoulder. The Slytherins cheered, and Fionn continued. "The Seeker catches the golden snitch to end the game. If a seeker catches the Snitch, his team is awarded a hundred and fifty points." Taylor followed the players on the field with her eyes.
Down in the pitch, Regulus zipped after a golden flicker. The Gryffindor seeker followed close behind, narrowly missing the Hufflepuff stand.
Fionn continued with his Quidditch lesson. "You'll notice, at least between Gryffindor and Slytherin, the tendency for blatching. The players collide with each other trying to knock their opponents out of the air. Exactly how Sirius knocked you off your broom back in September." He stretched, accidentally brushing his leg up against her. Inattentive, Taylor was intrigued by the mechanics of the game. The score dipped back into Slytherin's favor; one hundred and sixty to one hundred and forty.
"Do you play?" She glanced at him for a moment. For the first time, she noticed how exhausted he was. He lounged lazily to disguise his weariness, but his eyes were unmistakably darkened by a poor night's sleep.
"Of course, but I can't really tryout until next year. Madam Hooch offered me a chance to audition after the Arkan Sonney. I just have far too much to worry about right now though. Practices would just get in the way."
Fionn would be fantastic on the field. "I'd like to tryout one day." What a change from never playing with children at the orphanage to openly desiring to join a team sport. "What position do you prefer?"
"Chaser." His replied was distant, and eyes scanned the field uncertainly. "Where is Regulus? I don't see the seekers." Together they scrutinized the chaotic scene.
The seekers were missing. Slytherin scored another ten points, as Regulus trekked onto the pitch with a broken broomstick. The Gryffindor seeker held the snitch above his head triumphantly as he flew around the arena. Slytherins groaned in dismay, as Gryffindors cheered and waved their flags. Ruffled and angry, Regulus threw the pieces of his broom on the ground. Madam Hooch, who refused to budge on her referendum, ordered Regulus off the pitch before he could argue.
"Regulus is livid." Fionn got to his feet. "Let's get out of the bleachers before we get stuck in foot traffic."
Students stirred toward the stairwells. Returning to normalcy, Taylor followed close behind Fionn. They emerged before the sea of students, and hurried up toward the castle. The courtyard fountain welcomed the pair to relax. The first years sat on the ancient fountain wall in silence. Taylor dipped her hand in the icy mountain water and stared at the sandstone griffins perched wisely above her. Cleverly, Fionn pulled out his wand and pointed it at the water.
"Piscis imago." From the tip of his wand a school of translucent fish shimmered into the fountain. Their flamboyant fins danced as they frolicked along with the ripples. Amazed, Taylor traced their path with her left hand and dared to touch one. Her fingers passed through the harmless specter without difficultly.
"That's brilliant! How did you—"
"Mr. Wilkes. You missed our session to spend your time playing with fruitless spells? Flirting with girls." Fionn's face drained and Taylor's sentence retreated underneath her tongue. Professor Greer stood in front of the boy, his clothes stiffly pressed and his face cold with bitter resentment. The tattered briefcase was securely tucked beneath his arm.
"Professor! I am terribly sorry. The Quidditch match was going on and I completely—"
Professor Greer choked on the word Quidditch. "You disregarded your studies to watch a pointless Quidditch match?" A spray of spit dampened their noses. Taylor did not dare to wipe it off. "Pray tell, Mr. Wilkes, what can a nonsensical game do for you boy?" There was no response from either Slytherin, which seemed to enrage the instructor more. Professor Greer threw his briefcase at the boy, and growled. "I expect you to make up for lost time. Now."
In an act of pure deference, Fionn yielded to his elder's wishes. He nodded a farewell to Taylor and followed the Defense Against the Darks Arts professor down the path towards the Forbidden Forest. The peculiarity of the situation disturbed Taylor, especially when the realization set in that she was alone. For the first time, she felt genuinely afraid of human corruption. Professor Greer's eyes were hauntingly poisonous with intent.