“Freddie, darling, what have we told you about taking Mam’s wand?” The rhetorical question was met with an innocent stare as he relinquished the wand from her care.
“Wasn’t me, Da,” she insisted as she stood, arms squishing the bear close to her chest. Stuffing fell to the floor as her lie given away by a giggle. He sighed, a soft exhale of breath showcasing amusement rather than frustration, as he gently relinquished the toy from her grasp. With but a flick of his wife’s wand, it was as though the bear was never broken, sans a few clumps of stuffing.
As he handed the bear back to her, he said with a conspiratorial grin, “Ach, course it wasn’t. You’d never be so impertinent, I’m sure.”
Freddie sat at the edge of the stairs, not wanting to interrupt, but wanting to welcome her mother home with a hug. She stayed home with her dad, a freelance writer for a small publication in their small wizarding community in Northern Ireland, most days, while her mom flooed to and from her work at St. Mungos. Freddie oft waited next to the fireplace, wanting for the moment it would turn green, so her mom could tell her all about the people she helped that day.
Stuck between action and inaction, she opted for eavesdropping instead, though she wouldn’t become skilled at the craft for many years yet. Most of the words were spoken in nary more than a whisper, her ears prickling to catch ones she recognized. It wasn’t until whispered voices raised that she could really hear what they were saying.
Haley, her mother, sounded almost frantic as she spoke. “Most kids would have been able to use their magic to fix something as simple as a bear! Aren’t you concerned she could be—”
“No, she’s just a little behind. Some kids don’t have any signs until they’re nine or ten.”
“And what do we do if it never shows?” Sensing the distress in her mother’s voice, Freddie made her presence known with a tight hug.
“It’s okay, Mam,” she insisted, because that’s what they told her when she scraped a knee or had an age-typical meltdown. She noticed neither the choked sound in her mother’s voice that night, nor the sad look in her father’s eye the next day, when they took Freddie to a muggle school a town over to register for classes for the coming year. After all, Peter mused, Hogwarts-bound or not, learning to read and write would come in handy.
They didn’t know she would read their old textbooks while they were otherwise occupied. Haley never quite managed to hide her spare wand from Freddie, despite her best efforts. It took her six months before she was able to change a spare match, nicked from the mantel of their fireplace, into a semblance of something that may represent a needle – if you squinted. Tears welled in her eyes, because it was the proof she yearned for all along: she was a witch, she just had to work for it. Oh, her parents were always careful to never mention their fears in front of her, but it didn’t take an ambitious Ministry official to overhear their hushed conversations, their whispered plans, their talk of what kind of Muggle career she might fit into one day. She might not become a Head Healer like her mom, but Freddie would be damned before she accepted she couldn’t make a place for herself in the world she’d grown up with.
On her eleventh birthday, Freddie eagerly awaited her owl with bated breath. Haley already had a speech ready, and Peter had already researched wonderful options for Muggle schools that would challenge their smart girl’s mind and put her Hogwarts fund to good use. At Freddie’s screeching that her owl was here, her parent’s hearts dropped. Did someone ignore them and send her a present via owl, thus tricking her into believing she was magic enough to get into Hogwarts? Would Hogwarts staff really be so cruel as to send her a rejection letter, on her birthday, no less? As Freddie cracked the seal on the envelope in her excitement, Haley and Peter waited with bated breath.
“Dear Ms. Harris, we are pleased to inform you…”
My, aren’t you a clever lass? Ravenclaw could indeed work for you… But, no, I sense your work ethic. Helga, herself, would be pleased that a girl as young as you would work so hard, study so hard, just to try to find that certain… spark. You never had accidental magic, did you? All the things you’ve done were on purpose and took great effort. Yes, I know just the place for you…
Her professors, her Head of House especially, had nothing but good things to say about her. She was sweet, hard-working, and always willing to help her classmates. It was a shame, they thought, that it was mere lack of talent that would stop her from being perhaps one of the best witches of her generation.
Students across the grounds echoed their flying instructor’s words, and Freddie waited for the noise to get loud enough before trying herself. Not one to be the center of attention, she knew it was less embarrassing to fail if it wasn’t noticed instantly. It’s easier to try again if you’re not worried about people laughing at you, she told herself, though there were certainly times where she found it hard to believe. The anxious thumping in her chest was echoed by the thwack of her broom rushing into her hand after her first try. She was so surprised that she almost dropped it straight away as Messer Waggins called attention to her.
“Well done, Harris! Take 5 points for Hufflepuff!” Pride welled in her chest as her housemates quietly congratulated her. She soon found herself addicted to the feeling. Once she kicked off into the air for the first time, Freddie knew where she belonged.
Freddie joined the Hufflepuff Reserve Team at twelve, and after two years of hard work, made what she considers her first break when a badly-timed (or well-placed, depending on who you were rooting for) bludger took their lead chaser, Hunter, out of a game against Gryffindor. Freddie left the comfortable, familiar expanse of bench that she frequented during games in favor for the Cleansweep she bought with her saved-up allowance. While she wasn’t the most practiced, and clearly needed to learn to read her teammates’ tells a little better, she made two goals, assisted with one, and their loss was considerably less embarrassing than it could have been; Gryffindor’s far superior Seeker making it an uneven match. With Hunter taking the rest of the season off to focus on his OWLs, Freddie filled his spot, and soon made herself an irreplaceable part of Hufflepuff’s Quidditch team.
In her sixth year, she was crowned Captain (Queen of Quidditch, she joked to her friends), badge and all. She wore it perhaps even more proudly than a newly-dubbed Prefect. While she would never have the academic standing or overall respectfulness required of a Prefect, she worked day and night to make sure she was in shape for Quidditch. She worked her team, too, though never early in the morning, and never on a Hogsmeade weekend. Their first game was against Gryffindor, and while she knew it was by random chance, it felt more important to her than that – like everything was coming full circle. It was perhaps her most difficult game to date, almost no goals were made between either side, though not for lack of trying. She screamed with the best of them as their seeker caught the snitch.
“And the game ends with 170-20 to Hufflepuff!”
Putting on a pleasant smile to shield herself from the frustration she anticipated would sprout from the pending conversation, she asked, “What was it you needed, Professor?”
“I’m concerned about your OWLs. While you easily get O’s on your written tests, I’m worried that the practical portion of the test will cut your career with my class short. I’d like to assign you a tutor if you’d be interested. Ms. Gildfrey, a seventh year in Slytherin, is looking to continue her education with Transfiguration, and I feel it would be a good opportunity for the both of you. I’d like to introduce you after lunch, if you’re amenable to the idea.” Quite feeling like she was agreeing to sell her soul to the devil, Freddie agreed.
She came to find out that while she didn’t have a talent for Transfiguration, Ana Gildfrey most assuredly did. The only reason she was ever able to turn a pig into a desk was because Ana had much more compelling rewards than house points for a job well done.
“Aye, Captain, thank you for the advice. I’ve a question for you though: is it typically good form to lean backwards on your broom, or is that a new move you’re working on?” Freddie got an extra two laps around the pitch for her cheek, but the laughs of her teammates made it worth it.
Freddie sat in the uncomfortable chair provided by her team manager. She’d complain later, but giving interviews was part of her shiny, new contract as a starting Chaser. “Winifred – may I call you Winifred?”
“Call me Freddie, if you please.”
“Freddie. How delightful. I must say what an honor it is to be able to interview one of Quidditch’s up-and-coming stars. You’re – what, nineteen, twenty—already one of the most talked about recruits in the Quidditch world this season. How does it feel?”
“Well, I can’t really hear them talking, so I reckon it doesn’t feel like much else but hard work, determination, and a severe lack of sweets. D’you know, they don’t let us eat treacle tarts during the season? It’s practically torture.” The friendly smile on her face let her interviewer in on the joke, and it was met with the jarring laugh of a man who probably shook his fists at children on his off days. The interview went relatively smoothly, the man lauding her humor and confidence, but alluding that it might just all be talk. Freddie didn’t see the issue in saying she worked hard, because she did, and she was surprised to find that her teammates quickly found her attitude to be borderline cocksure.
“Are you kidding?! It was bloody brilliant!”
“Yeah, I have. You know, you could stand to work on your elbows. They turn in a lot, it could cost you a goal in the future.”
“I know, I really carried the team, didn’t I? Merlin knows someone had to with the way you kept making eyes at the other team’s Keeper.”
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