Who: Zacharias Smith, Emelda Vane
Where: Harpies v Tornadoes match
When: 6 January 2002, afternoon
Zacharias was glad the match was a swift one. Any longer and the pangs might be back. I could have done that better, he’d think, every time a Chaser missed a shot, and while the Australian League wasn’t on par with Britain’s, it was a damn sight more true for him than the thousands of other dreamers.
He stood up and clapped politely with the crowd after the Snitch was caught. Well, that was pleasant enough. He had no team so the result didn’t cause any great anger or joy. The man seated beside looked impatient to leave but Zach ignored him. He turned to Emelda.
“Far better than Hogwarts, isn’t it?”
“Unquestionably,” Emelda replied, her eyes shining. She was slightly disappointed the match hadn’t been longer — but it had been so fast-paced and skilful to watch that she couldn’t really complain. “The emotion certainly seems to run as high as it did at Hogwarts,” she added, fascinated as ever by the way people always seemed to want to take sides.
“Do you want to go and get a hot chocolate?” Her purse had been rather empty of late, but she reckoned she could stretch to that. It was the least she could do after he’d bought the tickets to this game. And maybe over a drink she could press him further on why it was suddenly so important that he had a girlfriend. If there was one thing she liked it was unravelling a mystery — and their fake relationship was definitely intriguing her.
Zacharias shrugged. “Sure.” The players hadn’t left the pitch yet. Some of the home side were hovering by the lowest tier, signing autographs for kids. He stood watching them silently for a while.
His neighbour had had enough. “Excuse me,” he said brusquely, pushing past. Unfortunately Zach’s legs were in the way. The stranger half stepped upon, half tripped, causing him to pitch forward toward Emelda and Zach to fall back into his seat.
“Hey, watch it!” said Zach, making a grab for the man’s arm.
The man knocked into Emelda, causing her to let out her breath in a little “oof” of surprise, but she didn’t have time to react before Zach pulled him off her. “I am fine —” she started to say, when the man shoved Zach in the chest with his free hand.
“Get off,” the man snapped, and then frowned in recognition. “Hey, weren’t you a Chaser for the Thunderers a couple of years back? What’re you doing here — hoping to pick up some tips from a bunch of girls?” A wide grin split his face at the thought.
Zach recognised the accent and groaned inwardly. Australian. They were bloody everywhere.
“I live here,” he said testily. “What are you doing here?”
“Oh, I definitely remember you now,” the man replied. “You were the one always in the papers. Is that why you left? Press too nasty to you?”
He gave Zach a jab in the chest. It was meant to be banter. Zach did not take kindly to banter from fans.
He sprang to his feet, grabbed a fistful of the other bloke’s shirt for leverage and decked him.
Unfortunately, the other bloke had a mate. Zach barely had time to feel satisfaction at doling out swift justice before he was crash tackled from behind. He went down heavily.
Emma took a step back, out of range of the tussle, and observed for a few moments with her head tilted to one side. Was she supposed to intervene? Two on one hardly seemed fair, but maybe this was a man thing. Too much testosterone. Romilda would know.
She was just wondering whether to douse them with water (wasn’t that what you did to separate fighting cats?) when two stewards rushed up, wands drawn, and quickly and effectively ended the fight. Impressed, Emelda made a mental note of the spells they had used — water was not involved — and helped Zach stand as the stewards escorted the other blokes away.
“You appear to be bleeding, Zacharias,” said Emma, raising her fingers to gently touch his mouth.
Zacharias was not currently holding up the two decapitated heads of his assailants by the hair as a warning to others, which pained him more than any bleeding.
“Yeah?” He could taste it. “Not unexpected.”
A flash went off nearby. Zacharias twitched. A mediwizard was heading in their direction, but he didn’t feel so bad that he needed their intervention.
“Come on, let’s not hang about here.”
Emelda scowled in the direction of the Daily Prophet photographer and took Zach’s hand, pulling him down the stairs that led out of the stands. The crowds had thinned somewhat, and she was able to pull Zach into a quiet space out of the way to better look at his face. He definitely looked the worse for wear, but the nice thing about physical injuries — unlike hexes or jinxes — was that they were relatively simple to heal.
“Episkey,” Emma said, and used the hem of her sleeve to wipe blood off Zach’s face. “There. Better? Or do you have other injuries I should know about?” On an impulse she ran her hands over his chest, as if checking for broken ribs or bruising, but really just curious to know how he would react. (Baiting Zacharias had recently become one of her favourite activities. It was so rewarding.) She kept a straight face while she did so, but was not unappreciative of the way he felt.
“Fuck, that hurts,” said Zacharias with a wince. He pulled up his shirt. “Can you see if anything’s broken or is that internal? Should go to St Mungo’s… no bugger that. Let’s go get hot chocolate and put pour some painkiller in it.”
Well. That definitely was rewarding. A pity that Zach’s physique was marred by bruising, though.
Then Emma remembered that Zach had asked her a question and blinked, trying to regain her focus. “Um… difficult to tell. Does it hurt when you breathe?” She was tempted to put her hands on his chest again, but — sadly for her — she drew the line at causing him further pain.
Zacharias sucked in a breath. “Well, obviously,” he said, pulling his shirt back down. “Let’s go to Diagon. I can apparate fine.” He put a hand on her arm, as if afraid she’d raise her wand again. “Don’t even think of binding me and levitating me along.”
Emma rolled her eyes. “I would not dream of it. Far too much effort.” She was still a little concerned about him, but she figured that if she stayed with him for the next hour or so she’d be able to tell if he got worse. Hopefully he wouldn’t collapse in the coffee shop… but if he did, St Mungo’s wasn’t too far from Diagon Alley.
Satisfied with that plan, she put her hand on top of Zacharias’s and Disapparated, wondering if all their dates were going to be this eventful.