Jordan, you’re late, were not the words Lee wanted to hear on the Monday morning after his girlfriend broke up with him. Since he was on probation, he could be sacked for even this minor infraction.
Lee turned slowly to see his boss, Richard Mann, glaring at him. Besides having the unfortunate nickname of ‘Dick’ and a no sense of humor, there was really nothing wrong with him. He was a short, middle-aged wizard with a neatly trimmed salt-and-pepper goatee, which matched the salt-and-pepper of his closely cropped hair. A natty dresser, he always had a white handkerchief in the breast pocket of his robes.
His employer’s eyes inspected Lee’s attire and widened when they reached the horns that were a side-effect of Fred and George’s hangover potion. “If those horns are some trendy new thing, I’m afraid they are not allowed here at the Quidditch museum. Remove them immediately.”
“I can’t,” Lee replied. He wanted to add so badly, “Dick.” “They're a side effect of a potion. They will wear off in a few hours.”
“You can’t tour-guide looking like that,” Mr. Mann retorted. “Good thing it’s a Monday and there are no tours booked.” He glared at Lee like it was his fault it was Monday. “You can work in the archives. We just received artifacts from the estate of a team coach. I want you to sort them and catalogue them.”
That was another problem with Mr. Mann – he was a curator and not a Quidditch fan. He had no idea about the importance of the game. Last week he had directed Larry to discard the bloodstained robe of Roderick Plimpton, not understanding that the robe had been bloodied in the famous match with the Falmouth Falcons when the Tornados had taken the League Cup. Even after Lee explained it, Mr. Mann really didn’t understand, but he had the sense of a historian not to throw out the robes.
Lee found several dusty trunks and three well-used brooms in the storeroom. By now he should have been used to seeing vintage brooms, but his heart skipped a beat when he saw the first Comet ever made, stacked haphazardly on top of a Moonskimmer. He took out a scroll and painstakingly wrote down the brooms, their model numbers and their exact condition. Then he tackled the trunks, looking for the name of this coach.
Lee frowned. Not many teams had coaches until very recently. They had always relied on their Captains to direct the players and decide on strategies. Until the Appleby Arrows….
He caught his breath when he saw the initials JM emblazoned on one of the trunks. His suspicion was confirmed when he saw the nametag inside the lid. Jonathan McCain was the legendary coach of the Appleby Arrows – the man who lead their team to a victory in the World Cup against the Vestra Vultures. These were “Black Jack’s” things.
All thoughts of Amy, his hangover, and his probation were forgotten as he reverently removed layers of cloaks and the light blue uniforms of the Arrows teams. He wrote down each strategy book and each team roster in careful detail. What a treasure trove.
He had a few bad moments when he opened a case full of Bludgers. He used a Freezing Charm as quickly as he could on each one – but two still managed to thump him in the head. As much as he loved Quidditch, he didn’t have the reflexes to play it competitively, he admitted to himself as he packed the iron balls safely away. He hated to explain that when he was asked why he didn’t play for Gryffindor. “Not good enough,” even said in a cheerful voice, was a bit too honest for the casual inquirer.
His mouth that got him into trouble. He didn’t want to think about that now either. The pain of breaking up was a dull, generalized ache, to go along with the headache from the Bludger and the stomachache from having skipped breakfast. He looked at his watch. It was only eleven, but he hadn’t taken a break. Perhaps he could nip out fifteen minutes early and extend his lunch hour.
Knowing he only had about forty minutes left, he decided to tackle the smallest trunk. He stood to the side when he lifted the lid, since he had learned his lesson about rogue Bludgers. There was nothing in it but papers – papers that would need to be sorted through. A lot of them looked like financial statements, something Lee would rather not think about. Money. That brought back his last conversation with Amy – she would have chosen him if he had money.
Trying to forget that fact, he took out great wads of columned paper, wondering what all those numbers added up to in the end and how anyone could possibly measure the happiness and excitement the Appleby Arrows had given to their fans. Was it all about money? And what about the players? Wasn’t the sheer excitement of flying through the air, handling the Quaffle and Bludgers and Snitch with grace and skill – wasn’t that enough? If Lee had been given Quidditch talent, it would have been enough for him.
At the bottom of the trunk was a battered black book with the name Jack McCain in the flyleaf. It was a diary – a diary that was dated 1918 on the front page and ended in the 1980’s. Obviously Jack McCain had been a sporadic writer.
The first entry was sad and funny all at the same time:
September, 1918: The bloody Healer said it would help if I wrote down my feelings. Feelings for Merlin’s sake. I’ll tell you my feelings. I’m angry at the world that I can’t play Quidditch again because a (Here the words were smudged but if Lee was interpreting them correctly, Jack McCain could swear like a sailor.) Wimborne Wasp fan decided to curse me with an irreversible hex. I can’t believe I’ll never play Beater again – or Captain again. I’ll be some washed up sod in the stands, drinking myself silly. At least I’ll be drunk, unlike this ruddy place. Calls itself a hospital – everyone knows the healing properties of Ogden’s.
Lee smirked at that last line. Ogden’s hadn’t helped him much last night. He quickly thumbed through the diary. McCain had written at the best and worst times of his life:
September, 1918: The Arrows voted me a reserve player. They’re keeping me on to help with strategies and to coach new players.
August, 1921: We beat those bloody Bulgarians. I feel as good as if I had hit that Bludger into that ruddy Beater’s face myself. The team worked together like clockwork.
June, 1925: Daisy said yes – after all these years, I’m marrying the girl I left behind. Lucky bloody sod, I am.
September, 1926: Always thought babies were ugly – like unformed pupas. This McCain whelp – Jon Jr. – He’ll make a bloody good Beater.
December, 1930: Jon Jr. just made his first goal in the game I organized with the player’s children. Damn fine arm on him.
June1944: Junior’s gone. He didn’t want to play Quidditch when there’s a war against Grindelwald. So he went to fight. Why didn’t I die? I couldn’t play Quidditch anyway.
July, 1950: Wimborne Wasps are cheating again – and I’m going to prove it. Tarnishing the sport of Quidditch. It’s the big money from the broom companies. Don’t need money to play Quidditch.
November, 1965: Daisy is gone – my sweetest friend – my teammate for life. Damn ruddy heart still keeps beating.
August, 1975: Going to retire now. I don’t know what I’ll do the rest of my days. Maybe I’ll go fight this new Dark Lord they’ve been advertising – say he’s even worse than Grindelwald. Have to go a long way to be worse than the half-blood prince of darkness who killed my boy without batting an eyelash.
1981: Latest Dark Lord defeated. Not feeling optimistic about the world, though – there will just be another one. Going to go live with my niece, Julie. A good girl – played Chaser for Hufflepuff back in the day.
“Jordan? You going to lunch now or do you want me to?” Larry, his dull, but otherwise pleasant co-worker, was standing in the doorway. Lee’s stomach rumbled and he realized with a start how quickly the forty minutes had passed as he delved into the life of a man who had died ten years ago.
“I’ll go now,” he called. He hastily packed the diary back into the trunk, feeling as if a very interesting conversation had been interrupted.
The day was still cloudy and threatened rain, but the mist had cleared. Lee hurried around the corner to Penny Lane’s, the small shop he frequented. Mrs. Lane had a soft spot for him and would always add an extra biscuit or package of crisps to his lunch when he came around. Today was no different, although Lee felt extra appreciative for a kind gesture. Life seemed so short whenever he read history or diaries – a person’s entire life could be summed up in a page of a history book or an epitaph on a tombstone. He shuddered, more from thinking about death than from the chill of the damp September day.
The square was empty, as were the park benches. He settled into the one across from the Apparition site with his sandwiches. It was Monday and the Gate Gallery was closed. At least he wouldn’t be running into Amy today. Amy – he didn’t know what he thought outside of those first horrible moments.
He heard a small pop at the Apparition site and was surprised to see Holly. She looked equally surprised to see him and the rest of her surroundings. “Oh!” she said.
“Holly? Come and sit down.” He moved his lunch things to one side.
“I can’t believe I ended up here!” she said with her hands on her hips. “I’ve been practicing going from the flat to St. Mungo’s and then to Diagon Alley. I must have been thinking about my visit to the gallery yesterday and seeing you – and here I ended up.” She shook her head. Her hair was even fluffier today – the dampness making the ends curl. Her hair had always curled when she stood over a steaming cauldron in Potions class.
“I’ve quite the pull, I see,” Lee said with a grin. It was very good to see Holly. Someone from his past – his happy past – with no taint of Umbridge or Amy or probation.
“Yes, Lee. I couldn’t resist your magnetism, now that I’m in London,” Holly retorted, rolling her eyes.
Lee laughed. Holly in love with him was truly funny. “This is why I sit next to the Apparition point, so all the girls who are sighing after me can find me easily.”
She turned to him and laughed. “You are truly thoughtful – for a narcissist that is saying something.” Her eyes looked amber instead of brown today. Then they narrowed on his head. “Where did you get the horns?”
He had forgotten about the horns. They probably did look stupid. “Fred and George make a great hangover potion – with a few side-effects.”
Holly shook her head and tried to look severe. “Why did you need a hangover potion if you were going to a family dinner party? You didn’t do anything stupid, did you, Lee?”
Lee had done many stupid things – getting involved with Amy so quickly started the long list. “I made her father angry when I disagreed with everything he said. But I didn’t get drunk at the dinner party.”
Holly quirked her head to the side and didn’t say anything.
Lee continued, “I got drunk at the Leaky Cauldron.”
She raised her eyebrows and moved to sit beside him.
Lee took a deep breath. “She broke up with me or I broke up with her…. I’m not sure which.” It hurt to talk all of a sudden.
“Because her father disapproved?” Holly prompted.
Lee stared at the pavement. Little dark dots of rain were starting to show. “That’s why she went out with me in the first place. She was making a point with her dad that there are worse sorts than the drummer for The Weird Sisters.” The dark dots were running together. Lee felt a trickle of water go down his neck.
“Time for an umbrella,” Holly said, conjuring a large black umbrella that covered them both. The rain pattered merrily on the cloth cover.
Lee listed to the rain, feeling calmer for some reason. Perhaps he was simply tired of feeling bad that Amy had only chosen him because he was – what was the word? Inappropriate.
They sat in silence for what seemed like a long time, but must have only been a minute or so. “You okay?” Holly finally asked.
He looked over at her. Against the black background, her hair looked light and he could see the golden flecks in her eyes. He was okay – not great – but okay. “Yeah, once these horns are gone, that little chapter in my life will be over,” he said.
She grinned, showing those almost–dimples. “You should have come to me for a hangover potion.”
“You?” Lee couldn’t imagine the Holly he knew drinking.
“My mother was an Ogden – I don’t know if I ever told you that. But you did know that my father was a brew master. I’d say I’d be able to get my hands on the best antidote.”
He laughed, since he should have remembered that. When he was eleven, brew master sounded about as exciting as dustman. “Was a brew master? Isn’t your dad still at Ogden’s?”
“No,” Holly answered. “After Mum had that last bad spell of depression with all of the Dementors being around Hogsmeade, the Healers said a change of scenery would do her some good. So Dad found a job at a winery in France. That was one of the reasons I didn’t come back to Hogwarts – I wanted to be close to them.”
“But your brother stayed?”
“Well, Grandmother Kirke still lives in Hogsmeade, so Andrew sees her during the breaks. And Beauxbatons didn’t offer Arithmancy which he wanted to study.”
“Don’t mention that subject,” Lee groaned. “Are you hungry? I have another sandwich and an entire packet of biscuits left.”
“Aren’t you hungry?” she asked, looking longingly at the sandwich.
For a slender girl, Holly could eat as much as a hungry Hippogriff, Lee remembered. “No – Mrs. Lane always gives me extras.”
“Mrs. Lane in your fan club?” Holly asked, biting enthusiastically into the ham sandwich.
“I’m nice to Mrs. Lane, she’s nice to me,” Lee defended.
Holly looked at him thoughtfully while she chewed. “That is the way it is with you, isn’t it? You’re nice to people.”
Lee threw up his hands, almost knocking the umbrella away. “Why is that so earth-shattering?”
Holly giggled. “It’s earth-shattering because most people don’t take the time or energy to bother to be agreeable. I was quite suspicious of you when we met.”
“I remember. For an eleven year old you were very…”
Holly’s eyes narrowed.
“Astute,” Lee said before she got the wrong idea. But he couldn’t resist teasing her. “And prickly.”
She giggled. “That’s a nice way to put it.”
“That’s me, Lee Jordan – nice.” And gullible, he thought bitterly. He absently took a bite of the biscuit Holly handed to him.
“You’re not going to ask Angelina out, are you?” Holly asked abruptly.
He sat up straight. “Ask out Angelina? Why would I do that?”
“Because she and Fred have agreed to see other people,” Holly answered. “They had a huge row last night. She was very upset when she came back to the flat.”
“George didn’t know the details,” Lee murmured. So Fred was letting her go… Lee wondered why. They were obviously meant for each other – why couldn’t Fred see it?
“So?” Holly’s lips were pressed firmly together.
“Oh! No, I wouldn’t ask Angelina out.” Then he added in a solemn voice, “It’s because she looks like my mother and I have these conflicting feelings…”
“Conflicting feelings? Well that all makes sense now –” She caught her breath. “Angelina does not look like your mother, since your mother is Chinese!”
He laughed. “You psychology people just can’t resist the old ‘mother’ routine.”
“Lee!” She gave in and laughed, not bothering to scold him.
“Look, I think I fancied Angelina about ten minutes our first year,” he said seriously. “But it’s always been Fred for her.”
Holly’s eyes grew wide. “Lee, every Gryffindor match you announced you mentioned asking her out. You flirted outrageously with her for five years –”
“Seven – you missed the last two years.”
Lee laughed. The Yule Ball had been the time when everyone at Hogwarts realized that he and Angelina were just friends and of course Holly had been in France….
“I don’t remember how it all started – I think it was our third year. Angelina wanted to get Fred’s attention – so we just started flirting a little.”
“It was a game – we all knew the rules. And when it came time for the Yule Ball, Fred asked her out in the common room in front everybody. Of course she said ‘yes.’ A few people were confused about my ‘ickle feelings.’”
“So who did you go to the Yule Ball with?”
“George,” Lee answered promptly, smiling again at the fun he had that night. “Since I didn’t have to dance with George, I could dance with any girl I wanted.”
“And you did,” Holly said in a flat voice.
Lee looked at her sharply. She sounded disapproving and he hadn’t heard that note in her voice since they had dropped Lee’s tarantula on Snape’s head in Potion’s class their fourth year….
“You broke a few hearts, Lee.”
“How do you –” He broke off. She went to Beauxbatons. She must have known most of the girls he danced with.
“I didn’t mean to,” he said lamely.
“I know that,” she stated. “You were always nice to the girls – even the quiet ones who happened to sit next to you in alphabetical order. But it never meant anything beyond you being nice. I did try to defend you.”
Lee didn’t know what to say to this. Even if Holly had told him this yesterday it wouldn’t have registered. But now – He really hoped he hadn’t hurt anyone as much as he was hurting now. “I feel terrible.”
“I didn’t mean to make you feel terrible,” she said softly. “That’s just a by-product of you being nice.”
“Genuinely being nice doesn’t create hard feelings,” Lee said. Then he turned to watch her tidy the sandwich wrappings. “And I wasn’t nice to you just because we were in alphabetical order.”
“Yes, you were,” Holly said without rancor. “At first – but then –”
“You stopped being quiet.”
She smiled. “My mouth gets me into trouble sometimes, too.”
He remembered – the only row they ever had was about nettles or thistles in Potions class. Snape had instructed them to brew a memory potion from memory. She had said some hard things and he had answered right back. “Was it nettles or thistles?”
“Neither – we were both wrong.”
“That’s right. I think I got that wrong on the OWLs too.”
Holly giggled. “At least we’re consistent.”
It was funny – but they were consistent. Talking to her now was no different than picking up a thread of conversation after two days apart – and here it had been two years.
“Did Angelina say why Fred thought they should see other people?”
It was Holly’s turn to sit up straight. “She didn’t say anything outright – this is my guess only.” She glared at him in warning. “Don’t say anything to George or Fred.”
“My lips are sealed.”
“I think Fred wants to concentrate on the business – he’s very concerned about money and doesn’t think they should have a serious relationship until he can support them both.”
“You mean like getting married?” Lee was shocked. That sounded so grown-up. How could childhood friends enter the adult world in such a short time?
“Fred is pretty traditional,” Holly said, a faint blush blooming on her cheeks. “If he’s going to be doing that – I think he’d want to get married.”
“Lee, you’re not usually this slow.” Holly said impatiently. “Fred and Angelina are at the point in their relationship where they’re either going to take it to the next level or they’re going to break up. Fred picked breaking up, since he didn’t want to worry about any babies on the way.”
Sex. Holly was talking about sex and babies and money to support babies. He had never put those three things together in his mind. How stupid and irresponsible had he been with Amy? He remembered a conversation early on. Amy had said it’s all taken care of as blithely as if she was reassuring him she had remembered to lock the door on the way out. He shut his eyes. No wonder Amy didn’t choose him. He was still a kid playing at being a grown-up. At least Fred knew better.
“Lee?” Holly was watching him with concern. “You look a little green.”
He took a deep breath. “I’m all right. I just feel bad for them. Are they still going to talk and be friends or what?”
“I’m sure they will – they can’t stay away from each other for long. But I reckon they’ll make sure they have chaperones,” Holly said with a rueful grin.
“I reckon,” he echoed softly. That would be absolute hell – to want someone so badly and then not to have them until –
“How long can they keep that going?” he wondered aloud.
“If Angelina is on the road with a Quidditch team, it will help. Although I think they’ll both be lonely.”
Lonely. That’s what Amy had said. Lee could understand that. As an only child, he had felt lonely for children his own age more often than not. No wonder he had loved Hogwarts like a second home. Then he frowned. But Amy had broken her promise – and that he didn’t understand.
“Holly, you know that statue Fred and George were making fun of? The one where they fell in love over a book? Was the girl –”
“Francesca,” Holly supplied.
“Francesca, right. Was she lonely – is that why she took a lover?”
Holly frowned. “I don’t remember that she was lonely in the story. I think it was because she was in an arranged marriage and she didn’t love her husband. This was her chance at love, I suppose.” She looked at him seriously. “What do you think of that?”
“I still think it’s wrong,” he said flatly. “She made a promise to her husband.”
Holly quirked her head. “You know – you are one of the most easy-going people I know – you rarely say anything so definitively. In fact, the only people I can think of that you hate would be Slytherins – and that seems to be because of Quidditch.”
“It’s because they cheat at Quidditch like everything else,” Lee said impatiently, not wanting to talk about Slytherins. “My mum taught me to not hate anyone – but sometimes I have a hard time with that. I dare anyone not to hate Umbridge.”
“Andrew told us about her.” Holly nodded.
“Do you think that’s wrong – to hate someone who is evil?”
She looked out at the rain falling on the wet pavement and thought for a moment. “I don’t think it’s wrong,” she said slowly. “I just think it isn’t very effective. Sure, it’s a motivator to do something – but I don’t think fire can always fight fire. Sometimes you end up getting burned.” She shrugged as if to apologize for such a vague answer.
“I know what you mean,” Lee said gloomily, feeling like he was confessing all of his sins in one fell swoop. “I put Nifflers in Umbridge’s office and instead of getting my revenge, I just got Hagrid blamed for it. It didn’t pay.”
Lee wondered how disappointed she was in him.
“I’m sorry you lot had to go through that last year. I’d read Andrew’s and Angelina’s letters and I’d feel guilty for having such a good time at Beauxbatons.”
“Don’t be.” Lee didn’t even want to imagine Holly in the same room with Umbridge. He looked at her small, square hand, flinching to think of Umbridge’s quill ripping through that soft flesh.
Holly looked at her watch and gasped. “I can’t believe we’ve been sitting here for an hour!” Lee, it’s almost one o’clock!”
Lee stood up so quickly that he knocked the umbrella askew. “I’m sorry, Holly – I have to go. I’ll Floo you later this week to hear how your new job went okay?”
“Okay,” she said, vanishing the umbrella.
With that he Disapparated, hoping he would make it back on time.
No one noticed Lee’s tardiness except for long-suffering Larry who informed Lee that he was leaving early and Lee could close up without him. This seemed a fair trade for not being caught.
Only one group came through that afternoon, so Lee spent most of his time in the storeroom cataloguing Coach McCain’s things. Somehow he felt he had made a new friend that day. A new friend and an old one renewed, he thought as he hurried through the rain to his house. Somehow friendship was going to have to be enough for a while. After talking to Holly, Lee realized that he was going to have to sort out the rest of his life before he took a chance with romance again.
The Jordans lived in a small basement flat carved out of an elegant Regency era building. The large front windows flooded the small sitting room with light – even though the view through the window left a lot to be desired.
Lee knew his mother was home the instant he opened the front door. He could smell meat cooking and the lotus floating on blue water in the magical painting was in full bloom. “Mum?”
“Lee, darling.” His mother rushed in from the kitchen, her face glowing from the heat.
He bent to hug her petite frame. “You’re all wet,” she said embracing him. “Why didn’t you Apparate?”
“I fancied a walk,” he answered carelessly, chucking off his cloak and hanging it on the peg.
His mother regarded him. “Your father told me that you cut your hair.”
“I didn’t have much choice, Mum,” Lee answered, turning around and bracing for the disappointment in her eyes. “It was either that or lose my job.”
“I know,” she murmured, taking his hand. “You look so much older.”
“Not you though.” He grinned. Her glossy black hair, without a touch of gray, still framed her face in the same hairstyle she had always worn. Both his parents were younger than Fred and George’s by several years. Now he realized with a start that they were his age when they were married right out of Hogwarts.
“Appearances aren’t important,” his mother added seriously.
Lee grinned. “I know, Mum.” Then he looked around. “Dad home?”
She smiled, her whole face lighting up. “Yes– he took the day off to wait for me to arrive.”
Lee loved when his mother smiled – she did it so rarely. He had spent a good portion of his childhood trying to make her smile with one outrageous story after another, one silly joke after another.
Now she led him into the kitchen where the table was set for the evening meal. Lee’s father was stirring something in a cauldron, looking happier than he had all summer. “We’re all together for once,” he said joyously.
Dinner was a happy affair. Even though his mother managed to build a sermon into every story of survival and loss from her trip to the African village, Lee couldn’t help but be fascinated by the different culture and attitudes. Even his father told a funny story about a witch who Vanished her husband’s best broom in a fit of pique and then tried to retrieve it.
They had just finished with the sweet course when his mother asked him about Amy. “So, when are we going to meet this girl you’ve been going around with all summer?”
This was not prying – Lee knew that. His mother was genuinely interested in everything he did – from all his classes at Hogwarts to the severely edited versions of his escapades with Fred and George.
“Um.” He looked from his mother to his father. Both were wearing identical expressions of concern. “We sort of broke up – last night.”
“Oh.” His mother nodded gravely and then shot his father a look Lee couldn’t quite interpret.
“Well, then.” His father cleared his throat. “Thank goodness your mother came home, so we Jordans could have a silver lining. I lost a client – today. The Daily Prophet. Their new finance man had been grousing about the cost of Vanishing, and today he said he gave the contract to another company.”
Lee’s stomach turned over. Surely his ill-timed comments at the dinner party last night… “Dad – it wasn’t Minos Smith was it?”
His father looked surprised. “Yes, that’s his name. Do you know him?”
“I met him last night,” Lee confessed miserably. “I was dating his daughter. He didn’t like me – and he did mention that he thought the Ministry regulations on Vanishing were too stringent. I tried to argue with him, but he cut me off. I don’t think I said anything to get you into trouble though.”
His father waved that away. “Like I said, he’s been unhappy ever since he took over for the paper. It’s a big contract, but it won’t break me. In fact, it should free up time to do some other work for the smaller shops I’ve been putting off.”
Lee breathed a little easier. At least his mouth hadn’t caused too much more damage.
“Lee, is that why this girl broke up with you, because you argued with her father?” His mother was glaring at him, the light of battle in her eye.
“No – that wasn’t it,” Lee assured her. “She found someone else.” Lee thought he would leave it at that. It made him sound pathetic – but well, he was pathetic.
Her dark eyes widened. “I can’t believe it….”
Lee laughed. “That’s because you’re my mum.” He leaned over and kissed her. “Thanks for staying on my side.”
“Of course I am!” she said indignantly. The she patted his cheek. “When one door closes, another opens – remember that.”
Lee smiled again at his mother’s belief in the world. She had an endless supply of wise sayings. And even though he couldn’t imagine how this saying could be true in his case, this was one he didn’t want to mock.
That night Lee comforted himself with the thought of Jack McCain becoming a great coach after he was denied the chance to be an average Beater. Somehow there was a lesson there, he just knew it.