Chapter 2: Quidditch Trials
Chloe Beale had her fingers wound up in her copper hair, her eyes glued to the Potions book on the table before her. She had been cooped up in the library all morning attempting to understand what Professor Slughorn had gone over days before, but she wasn't having much luck. She would much prefer to be practicing Transfiguration, a subject she truly excelled at, yet it was becoming obvious that she was struggling in a class she thought she was fine in after their last term.
With her mind in a completely different world, she didn't even notice the excited blonde rushing through the barren library towards her until a set of hands were grasping at her arm. A small yelp escaped the redhead, her free hand clutching at her chest while the other girl laughed.
"Merlin, you scared me," Chloe gasped.
Aubrey gave her head a playful shake at the other girl, "I've been looking for you everywhere."
"Why? Did we have plans?" the frazzled Prefect asked, her eyes widening as she searched through her memories to recall whether or not they had agreed to do something that day.
"Are you serious?" the incredulous reply came. "Do you know what today is?"
"Quidditch Trials! How dense are you?"
The redhead let out a sigh, looking up at her best friend to state, "I have absolutely no interest in going to Trials."
"Are you sick?"
"Of Mitchell, yes."
"Chloe Beale," the blonde chastised, taking a seat next to her best friend and shutting the book in front of her, "two years ago I watched you and Elliot duel because he said that the Holyhead Harpies didn't deserve to beat the Chudley Cannons. Then I watched bats crawl out of his nose. Beca Mitchell would never interfere with your love of Quidditch."
"It's just an excuse for her to try and talk to me. I refuse to play along with her game," she countered.
"What's really going on?" Aubrey settled further into her seat, one eyebrow reaching for her hairline.
Taking a deep breath through her nostrils, Chloe stated, "Tom and I had a fight last night. Nothing serious, but I'd just like to avoid seeing him."
"You'd trade him for Quidditch any day," she smiled. "Are you going to tell me why you're actually avoiding it?"
"It's that damned Slughorn," the redhead pinched the bridge of her nose. "I was able to keep up in Potions last year. Now it's like the instructions are all lying to me."
Aubrey stood and grabbed her friend's hand, bribing in her delicate tone, "You're Chloe Beale. You'll figure it out soon enough. Plus seeing the new teams come together is much better than reading about Potions, and you know how I feel about studying. Either way, I have an unread Daily Prophet for you in the off-chance someone attempts to speak to you."
Chloe glanced around the empty library before a small grin pulled at the corner of her lips, "Fine."
Though she had been excited upon leaving the library, Chloe's mood had taken an immediate turn once they were sitting in the stands and watching the four Houses spread out on the field. Trials were all held together, though they were spaced out so that each House could use the entire field freely while the other three went over rules, took a break, or simply spoke to the possible recruits.
The redhead idly watched as the Hufflepuff team searched for a new Seeker after Samuel Striker departed last year. She quickly lost interest in the search and picked up the Daily Prophet beside her, Aubrey focused on the three teams on the ground more than anything else.
The friend's eyebrows both creased in unison for completely different reasons. Aubrey straightened in her seat, eyeing the emerald-clad Chaser across from them in the stands. Slytherin had held their Trials first, so the team was now roaming the field and watching the others to learn what they were up against that year. Except for their Captain and Chloe's boyfriend, Tom Hartley. Tom was talking to a group of Slytherin girls who were flirting with him based on their body language, though he didn't mind the attention and seemed to forget about his girlfriend whenever a girl spoke to him. The blonde kept her lips sealed on the issue in front of her.
Chloe, on the other hand, was focusing on the paper before her and paying close attention to the article that was plastered on the front page. She glanced at the image before her of an Auror who was attempting to move the camera away from him before reading the words surrounding it.
Muggle-born Violence on the Rise?
Despite recent claims from the Ministry that Muggle-born violence is at its lowest in decades, this past month has seen four known Muggle-born wizards injured and one dead in what appear to be targeted crimes. Aurors have been working overtime to hide this uptake in crime that resembles those from twenty years ago. When asked why they were investigating five seemingly unrelated crimes, Aurors quickly told reporters to leave the area, though not before it was overheard that the victim was "yet another Muggle-born."-
"Have you heard about this?" Chloe asked her friend.
Torn from her spying, blonde hair flew in the warm September air as she spun to look at her counterpart. "About what?"
"Attacks on Muggle-borns," the redhead stated clearly, her tone conveying disgust.
"Isabelle mentioned it at dinner one night over the summer, but I haven't heard anything else about it. Why?"
"Four people injured and one dead, that sounds like a reason to be concerned. Why hasn't the Ministry made any statements?" she threw the paper down next to her in a crumpled heap.
"They probably don't want to say anything before they can give the public more information. Isabelle says it had to be Dark Magic, but the Ministry stopped the Prophet from mentioning that. Said they didn't want to alarm anyone."
"Alarm anyone!?" Chloe shouted.
Aubrey placed one comforting hand over Chloe's, giving it a squeeze and saying, "Some wizards would overreact and make outrageous claims that a Third Wizarding War is coming. I believe the Ministry is just trying to keep things from getting out of hand."
"Things seem to be out of hand already," the redhead muttered.
Knowing that Chloe could go on for days about issues like this, she felt the need to take her mind off of it and pointed out, "Gryffindor is about to start!"
"Really?" she perked up, looking down at the field. "Where?"
"Beside the goals."
A group in scarlet was gathered around a tall blond man at the bottom of the first goal post, each player hanging on his every word.
"They're going to crush Ravenclaw this year," Chloe smirked.
"And what makes you say that?" the Ravenclaw Prefect challenged.
"You have some excellent Chasers and an even better Seeker, but Luke wants to win this more than anything. Not to mention Mitchell is set on destroying every team after last year's upset."
"Oh, so now you like Beca?" she laughed.
"I never said that," Chloe shot back.
"I know what some of you are thinking," Luke smiled at the group before him. "'Why the hell am I being forced through Trials when I was on the team last year?' Well, last year was a disaster and there were a lot of Seventh Years who got spots simply for being older. I'm Captain now and this is going to be based solely on talent. No one is guaranteed a spot, not even me or our star Chaser. With that in mind, I want you all to give it your very best. Show me what you can do on match days. Clear?"
"Crystal," Jesse shouted from the front of the group.
"Good. Beca, you want to tell them what we're looking for?" Luke asked, his head turning to look at his second-in-command.
Stepping forward to stand in front of the Captain, Beca smirked, "Quidditch is about working as a team. If you try showing off then chances are that you're going to fail. Last year, Gryffindor gave up over a hundred points because one Chaser kept the Quaffle instead of passing it to someone who had a shot. We almost lost someone's head because a Beater wanted to look cool and didn't pay attention to the team."
"They're gone now," Luke threw in.
"Exactly," Beca nodded. "We want people who play their best when they are with their team. At the end of the day, what matters is that we're a family and we look out for each other on and off the pitch. If you don't work with us then you don't need to bother being here. It's that simple."
"Excellent," Luke commented. "All of you understand?"
The group collectively nodded, some giving a nervous glance at the person beside them and others smiling at the people they had been playing well with for years now.
"We'll start easy. I want you all to just get comfortable and do a few laps, then we'll split you up." Luke began to mount his broom along with the new recruits, all of whom were a step behind Beca who was already well up into the air.
Jesse glanced up at his best friend, shaking his head at the smirking Chaser.
Beca tilted the nose of her Firebolt Supreme down to level with Jesse, her hair flowing behind her as she flew slow circles around him and called out, "Feel like racing, Keeper?"
"Bring on the thunder, Chaser." He smiled, shooting down the field before she could say anything else.
Her reflexes were still in pristine condition, her hands clenching the handle as she sped after him in a flash. Jesse had a few years experience on her, having been flying since he was a child while Beca had been 10 when she first touched a broom. Beca was quick, shredding the distance between them like it was nothing.
Her hair whipped behind her as she came up behind him, the wind rushing past her ears. They rose higher and higher, coming eye to eye with each person watching them in the stands. In past years, Beca would have winked at the groups of girls attempting to get her attention, but she had grown and was more focused on winning.
That didn't stop Jesse, on the other hand, who appeared to be distracted by someone in the stands and slowed down for an instant.
Beca noticed the change as she sped past him, his head craning behind him as she took time to weave between the towering wooden stands. She knew she had lost Jesse, but that wasn't what was important at that moment. She felt the wind in her hair, the smell of the freshly cut grass on the field overwhelming her nostrils, and saw everything flashing by her as if through color-enhancing glasses. She felt free in a way that only flying could make her feel.
She was pulled from her revery by the scarlet-cloaked figure pulling up beside her, her dark blue eyes finding Luke racing her. Despite her nimble frame and quick wit, Luke was just as fast with his muscular build.
"Want to show them how a real Chaser does it?" he yelled.
She didn't need to be asked twice. With a curt nod, she was diving towards the ground at the box she had helped Luke carry onto the field. She was pulling up along the grass, the blades being shoved back as she went by, and slid to a stop next to the worn trunk.
In one smooth motion, Luke pulled his broom from under him and was running on solid ground at the box. If anyone was born to play Quidditch, it was Luke Evans.
Beca stayed mounted on her broom as the Captain flipped open the lid and pulled the worn Quaffle from its space. He spun around to give her a nod, the ball coming up beside his head as she lifted off the ground again. With all the force he could muster, he threw the Quaffle at the stands across from him.
She was already gone, just a flash of scarlet in most curious onlooker's eyes. The red ball sailed up into the stand, threatening to hit some girls who had gathered to watch Trials, but Beca's left hand grasped the smooth surface of the Quaffle and held it close to her body. She slid to a halt, avoiding the group by mere inches.
One of the girls leaned against the boundary between the stands and the field, catching Beca's attention when she said, "You look good out there, Beca."
The Chaser recognized her immediately, the girl being a fifth year Hufflepuff by the name of Caroline Smithe. She tossed some jet black hair over her shoulder. Beca replied, "That's what they tell me."
She didn't entertain the girls for long, heading back towards the Gryffindor recruits who had landed in the middle of the pitch and were listening to Luke. Beca arrived just in time to hear the end of his instructions.
"-Pay attention to Beca. The only one I want in the air is Jesse and the rest of you stay here." She glanced up to see Jesse sitting comfortably in front of the goal posts and went back to Luke. "Ready, Becs?"
"Ready," she confirmed with a nod.
Beca went back into the sky, leveling with Jesse on the other end of the pitch. She didn't give him much of a warning, taking off before he could even give her a thumbs up. Luke sent Bludgers at her from the ground. Dodging was second nature now, her arm instinctively tightening around the Quaffle as she rolled to get away from the Bludger and felt the wind pulling at her robes.
With one fast motion, she pulled her arm back and threw the Quaffle at the right goal post near the bottom of the ring. This should have been an easy shot for Jesse to save, but he only noticed it once the people in the stands had erupted into applause.
Jesse glanced at the goal to his left and back towards whatever had been distracting him, Beca following his line of sight and finally understood what had been garnering his attention.
Up in the stands draped in Ravenclaw colors near the middle of the pitch were a large group of onlookers, but there were two specific girls separated from the rest that she recognized instantly. Beca glanced over her shoulder at Jesse, giving him a wink and then darting off towards the spot.
Though not as smooth as Luke's transition, Beca hopped off her broom and landed on the wooden steps with a thud. She straightened up, throwing her broom over her shoulder and heading up to the top of the bleachers.
"Afternoon, Aubrey," Beca told the blonde as she came to a stop, turning her head to the beautiful redhead with a smile, "Beale."
Chloe didn't respond, choosing to sit in dignified silence while the other Prefect perked up and said, "Hello… Do you need something from up here?"
Judging from her raised eyebrow, it was obvious that Aubrey had no idea what had caused the Chaser to diverge from Trials and come up to them.
"I do, actually," the brunette placed her hands and broom behind her back. "I was wondering if you could please stop being so distracting."
"Poor Jesse out there can't seem to pay attention to much besides you, so maybe if you could try to not be so pretty," she smirked at the Prefect as she blushed, the blonde now looking at the Keeper.
"I'll do my best," Aubrey laughed.
"That's all I can ask." With her real mission out of the way, Beca now turned to the redhead beside Aubrey. "You're quite distracting yourself, Beale."
Chloe crossed her arms over her chest and glared at the Chaser. Luckily for her, one of the younger Gryffindor girls below her had turned around to speak.
"I think you're doing just excellent, Beca," the fourth-year stuttered.
"Thanks," she grinned. Turning back to the two Prefects, she gave a quick nod and explained, "I need to get back. I hope I get to see you both around more."
"I'm sure you will," Aubrey called as Beca took off on her broom back to Trials. Aubrey turned back to her best friend and saw the disgusted look on her face, "That wasn't awful."
"That was horrible," Chloe commented. "She didn't really need to come up here just to hit on you."
Aubrey chuckled, "She wasn't hitting me, she was trying to let me know that Jesse thinks I'm pretty."
"How can you even stand Mitchell?" she asked, her eyebrows still pent up in anger.
"Beca and I have mutual respect. While I don't always agree with her methods, I've learned that she's just trying to do the right thing. It took years for us to build, Chloe, but we really do understand each other on some level," the blonde surmised. In a much softer voice, she proposed, "You really could be nicer to her. Beca isn't a bad person."
"I'm not nice to blood-purists," Chloe muttered.
The two sat in silence for a while, watching Trials as they continued to play out with the top choices becoming clearer as the seconds ticked by. It was when Jesse finally got a break from practicing as Keeper that Chloe noticed Aubrey waving at him until he noticed her. He smiled and returned the action, a spring in his step as he went back to the task at hand.
Just a few moments later, Aubrey waved at someone else down on the Quidditch Pitch. Chloe followed the action and managed to figure out that she was waving at the Ravenclaw Seeker, Stacie Conrad.
Chloe watched her friend out of the corner of her eye, "What is that about?"
"I don't know what you're talking about," Aubrey threw back.
Trials came to an end in a flash after Ravenclaw was finished using the field. Chloe wanted to head back to the castle to work on Potions, but Aubrey insisted upon going down to the pitch. The redhead followed her friend down the steps onto the green and quickly lost her when she took off into a sea of blue and scarlet clad Quidditch players.
Chloe waited on the sideline, silently hoping that she could leave without any incident once Aubrey returned. Her hopes were dashed before she knew it.
"Chloe?" Tom yelled, walking towards her with his arms outstretched in confusion. He came to a stop in front of her, her arms once again crossed over her chest. "I- I didn't think you'd be here."
"I always come to Trials," she pointed out.
He glanced over his shoulder at his teammates surrounded by some Slytherin girls, "I figured you wouldn't show to support me after our little fight."
Her eyes widened in surprise, Tom instantly making something simple about himself when she had never shown up to Quidditch solely for him. "Excuse me?"
"It's really sweet-"
"No," Chloe cut him off. "Don't finish that sentence."
"But I thought-"
He was cut off again, but this time by a flash of red that went over his head and nearly hit him. Tom glanced up just as Luke slowed down to continue floating above him.
"Is this man bothering you, Miss?" Luke asked Chloe, clearly enjoying that he was bothering the Slytherin.
"No, I'm not," Tom yelled back.
Luke didn't listen to him, waiting for Chloe to give him a proper answer, "Actually, yes. Just a little bit."
"Need any air support?" the blond asked.
"No, I think I can handle it," the Prefect grinned as she walked away from Tom, leaving him to deal with Luke all on his own.
Chloe watched as a different blonde rushed towards her from the crowd, a smile firmly in place as she took her arm and dragged her back towards the castle.
"And what was that about?" Chloe asked her friend.
"Just needed to congratulate some people," Aubrey assured.
Happy Holidays! Enjoy this present no matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year and expect more to come soon. I've been hard at work on these and wanted to finish them before posting, but could not resist some festive cheer.
Reviews always brighten my day and I'd love to see some love for this little story.