Ashley fluffed her long, dark curly hair before the mirror, trying to calm her raging nerves. It seemed like only a moment had passed since the Hufflepuff Quidditch match, and yet here she was, preparing to meet Nathan for her flying lesson that afternoon. She’d changed about a dozen times, torn between dressing practically for flying or dressy in an attempt to catch Nathan’s eye. In the end her fears won out, convincing her that the last thing she needed was more complications while riding a broom. Taking one last look in the mirror, Ashley turned and left her flat, Apparating directly to Hogsmeade where she’d planned to meet Amy, Mar, and Leanne for a quick lunch before her lesson. Settled snuggly at a table in The Three Broomsticks, the girls made feeble attempts to keep from openly laughing at Ashley’s nervous expression.“You’ll be fine,” Amy soothed, taking a sip of her tea. “This will be the perfect opportunity for him to admit how much he likes you.”“Yea, I’m sure I’ll impress him thoroughly when I fall off the broom and break every bone in my body,” Ashley replied, furiously biting at her thumbnail. “Speaking of brooms, what am I going to ride? I don’t even own one!”“Hogwarts just purchased some new ones,” Marie chimed in, “apparently the Slytherin team had to send their brooms to the shop for maintenance, not doubt thanks to certain Hufflepuffs that will remain nameless.” Ashley laughed, knowing full well Mar was referring to Rob and Doug, the resident Hufflepuff pranksters. “Apparently some of the Slytherin parents panicked at the thought of their babies riding mediocre brooms, so they made a hefty contribution to the school, demanding suitable replacements be bought in the meantime.”“Well that’s reassuring at least,” Ashley mumbled quietly, thankful that she wouldn’t be riding the twitchy, unstable brooms she’d experienced in her first year at Hogwarts.“Shoot, I’ve got to get back to work,” Amy grumbled, glancing at her watch. “Just try to have fun!” she said as she gave Ashley a quick hug. “Stop by the shop on your way home, I want to hear all the details!” Ashley gave Amy a weak smile as she left the table, turning to look at the twins with a sigh.“You should be leaving, too,” Leanne grinned, sipping on her butterbeer. “You don’t want to be late for your lesson.”“And don’t worry about flying perfectly, Ash,” Mar added as they rose from the table. “He’s a flying instructor; he’s used to people not flying well. And besides, there won’t be anyone else around to make you nervous. The Slytherins aren’t booked to use the pitch until later this afternoon, and you’ll be long gone by the time the Hogsmeade trip is over.”Ashley nodded and gave her friends a quick hug, turning slowly and walking numbly towards the Hogwarts grounds. More than once she actually stopped in her tracks, fighting the urge to turn and run the other direction. She didn’t think she’d ever been so nervous in her life, the thought of climbing on a broom terrifying her beyond reason. It was only the promise of being alone with Nathan that kept her feet moving forward. At the front gate Ashley met Doug and Rob, laughing and whispering conspiratorially. “Hey Ash!” they chimed in unison as she passed, oblivious to the look of dread on her face. She nodded mutely in reply, continuing her trek towards the stadium. She was about fifty feet away, ready to turn and run, when she heard her name floating across the air.“Ash, over here!” Nathan’s voice said cheerily from the broom shed. Ashley put on her best smile, walking slowly in his direction. She felt her body relaxing a bit as she looked at him, his easy smile and rolling accent strangely setting her mind at ease. “I was afraid you weren’t coming,” he said quietly, taking a step in her direction as she reached the shed.“I thought about it,” Ashley replied truthfully, her stomach flipping uncomfortably as she saw two brooms leaning against the shed wall.“Well, I’m glad you did,” he grinned, leaning over and taking the brooms in his left hand. He rose and considered her for a moment, suddenly moving towards her, bringing a small gasp from Ashley’s lips. “You’re really nervous… aren’t you?” he whispered as he looked in her eyes. Ashley felt her cheeks reddening slightly as she nodded in reply, crossing her arms protectively over her chest. Her heart skipped a bit when he placed his hand on her arm, giving it a tender squeeze. “No worries,” he smiled turning her towards the pitch, his hand still comfortably resting on her arm. “I’ll take care of you, I promise.”***Meanwhile…***“Oh, I hope her lesson goes well!” Leanne giggled as she and Marie wandered through the shelves of Zonko’s. “I’m sure it will,” Marie replied, examining a bottle on the shelf. “Nathan is an incredible flyer, and it’s obvious he likes her. What could go wrong?”“I can’t wait to see their faces!” Doug’s voice cut through the shop, followed by raucous laughter from Rob. “They won’t know what hit them.”“Can’t wait to see whose faces?” Marie inquired of Rob, anxious to hear what new prank the duo had set in motion.“The Slytherin Quidditch team,” Rob whispered, casting a quick glance over his shoulder. “After we put the Sticking Charm on their brooms last month, they hit us back with a Hurling Hex. McGonagall ordered that all brooms be locked up after that to keep the sabotage to a minimum.”“But,” Doug interrupted, “on the way here this morning we saw Nathan testing out the new shipment of replacement brooms for the Slytherins. So, while Rob distracted him with questions about the time he played in the Quidditch World Cup, I cast a Spinning Spell on the brooms. They have practice this evening; I can’t wait to see their reaction!”“Are you two ok?” Rob said suddenly, eyeing the twins with concern. Both of their faces had gone ghostly white, and the box of dungbombs in Leanne’s hand went plummeting to the floor.“Not good,” Marie mumbled, running quickly through the shop door.“Definitely bad!” Leanne shouted as she sprinted after her, leaving the boys behind with confused looks on their faces. “I only hope we reach them in time,” Marie worried as they raced down the road towards Hogwarts, knowing that while an experienced Quidditch player would have no problem throwing off a Spinning Hex, their untrained friend was about to be in serious trouble.