5. Seeking

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I stood on the Quidditch pitch in my yellow robes, the strong winds blowing them around my ankles. I held my broom in one hand and I held my hair out of my face with the other, watching the skies above as Cassie flew in circles chasing the snitch. Hugo stood beside me, leaning on his own broomstick, with what I suspected was an identical look of defeat that I was wearing. Any differences that I felt between us and all traces of rivalry left over from the days of our parents were gone, replaced with a mutual sense of horror and fear.

"The match is tomorrow," he said incredulously.

"Trust me, I'm aware."

"She was honestly the best we could find?" he asked. "I mean, I'm no good at seeking either, but bloody hell, she's awful."

I raised my voice to beat the wind, calling out to Cassie. "Keep your eyes focused on it! Make sure it never leaves your sight once you've seen it the first time!" Then I turned to Hugo and pulled a horrified face that he recipricated with a nod of understanding. 

After several more minutes, Cassie pointed her broomstick towards the ground. For a terrifying moment it looked as though she would nosedive straight into us, so Hugo and I flinched, but she pulled out of it at the last moment and came to an skidding stop in front of us. Her short cut blond hair was in tangles from the wind and she looked miserable.

"I'm really bad at this game," she said, not dismounting as much as slipping involuntarily off the broomstick. "I'm sorry, Esther."

"There's no need to apologize. You're improving," I said, trying to sound sure of my words. "As long as you keep at it with a good attitude, your hard work will pay off. Diligence is a quality Hufflepuffs are known for, so don't let us down, Cassie."

She looked close to tears. "We're playing Ravenclaw tomorrow and I don't have a chance against their seeker. I'm going to let the whole house down."

"No you won't," I said, trying to silently comunicate with Hugo. "You're going to do the best you can, Cassie, and that's all that matters. Whether we win or lose isn't the point. Quidditch is about having a good time."

"Winning the cup would be nice, though," Hugo muttered. I guess he hadn't caught my mental messages, then. I wanted to kick the kid, but Cassie luckily hadn't heard and I was feeling the same way, so I didn't. More loudly, Hugo said, "We're going to do great, tomorrow, Cassie."

Before Cassie could burst into tears I clapped my hands and mounted my broom, quaffle in hand. "Let's do some other training for a while," I said. "The snitch will be perfectly content to fly around without being caught until later. It's what it does best, after all."

Hugo did fine, of course. He was fine at catching the quaffle and was pretty maneuverable, even with the ball in hand.

"Toss harder," I suggested, after catching his sixth shot in a row without trouble.

"You keep saving them," he grumbled.

"It's my job as Keeper."

"Fair enough." He lobbed the ball as hard as he could in my direction, so hard that I didn't want to risk an injury and dipped my broom down below the goals. The throw was wild, though, and soared over the rings instead of through them. Cassie zoomed after the ball, eager to redeem herself after her own performance.

"Better," I told Hugo, smiling, "but don't sacrifice your aim."

Our regular practice as a team went fine, but everyone was distracted with the prospect of our first match looming over our heads. Every time one of my players whispered something under their breath or shot an unkind glance in Cassie's direction, I would fly over and whack them lightly over the head or simply give them a killer stare. Our poor seeker, bad as she was, would be getting enough hassle without her teammates adding to it. 

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