"And it's the lovely and talented Miss Ayase Eli of Gryffindor hot on the trail of the Golden Snitch!"
The noise in the Quidditch Stadium amplified on that note - most of it coming from the many Gryffindor sections scattered here and about in the stands. Red and gold patterned flags were being waved, chants of 'Go, go, Gryffindor!' vibrated the wooden bleachers the students and teachers were seated upon, and wind from the passing players on their brooms only served to heighten the Gryffindors' adrenaline.
"WOO! COME ON, ELI!" The sound of an airhorn abruptly cut through the air.
"Damn it, Honoka!" Nico, who had been peering through a pair of binoculars to get a closer look at the action, quickly placed a hand over her left ear and turned to the ginger-haired Gryffindor seated behind her with a scowl. "That was my ear!"
The lion hat perched upon Honoka's head stood proudly even with the sheepish grin on her face. "Whoops! My bad, Nico! Won't happen again! Go back to what you were doing!"
Nico only rolled her eyes before turning back around to face the ongoing game between Gryffindor and Hufflepuff, lifting the binoculars hanging around her neck to peer through them again.
Maki was seated next to the twintailed Slytherin, twirling her hair with a bored expression. "Do you have any idea how stupid you look right now?"
"I'm the stupid one?" Nico tore her gaze away from the binoculars to throw an offended look toward the Ravenclaw. "I'm not the one wearing an animal on top of my head!"
"Why not? It would make you look taller." A small, smug smile tugged at Maki's lips as she watched Nico's cheeks grow red out of anger.
The Slytherin growled. "Go sit with Umi, Kotori, and Hanayo in the Hufflepuff section!" And with that, she turned back to her binoculars.
The sight of her secret girlfriend's mini-tantrum only served to stoke Maki's smugness as she basked in her small victory over the older girl. Oh God, how she loved that pint-sized nuisance.
"I really hope I'm not allergic to this paint, Honoka." Rin mused aloud to her fellow Gryffindor, feeling the dryness of the split coats of red and gold on either side of her face with her fingertips.
"Pfft," Honoka dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "I wouldn't worry about it, Rin. If you were allergic to it in the first place, you would've broke out in a rash when I put the first coat on you."
"Then why does it feel all rough and itchy, nya?"
"Well, it's paint." Maki deadpanned as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
Nico rolled her eyes with a scoff. "Very insightful, Dr. Nishikino."
And even with the combined noise of the stadium and the banter between four of her closest friends, Nozomi's eyes never ceased to waver from her beloved Eli. Blonde tresses and red robes whipped heavily in the wind as the captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team chased after the Snitch, sharp blue eyes focused completely on the winged ball in front of her.
Seeing Eli in her element like this always took Nozomi back to the very first game of their first year.
It was a very rare occurrence when a first year made the house team, but eleven year old Eli had managed to do it. And of course, it was the talk of the castle back then. Rumors quickly spread around that Eli had only been made seeker because of her parents' positions in the Ministry of Magic and not by pure talent alone.
There wasn't a doubt in Nozomi's mind that the rumor originated from Slytherin house. Back then, almost none of them liked Eli, and Nozomi couldn't understand why. Even Nico hadn't cared too much for her - said she was nothing more than another one of those "Ministry brats".
But despite being around all of the disdain, Nozomi couldn't bring herself to hate the blonde. For one thing, she hadn't known Eli well enough to decide whether to dislike her or not, save for the few words spoken between the two of them when Eli had accidentally bumped into her on the train ride there. And for an eleven year old, the blonde had been very polite with her apology - no doubt the budding charisma from being the daughter of two Ministry workers.
Even afterwards when the Sorting Hat had sorted Nozomi into Slytherin and Eli into Gryffindor, prior to the Quidditch tryouts and the rumors, Eli had been nothing but nice to Nozomi during their brief run-ins with each other. How could Nozomi hate one of the few people that has ever been nice to her?
Jealousy. That's what the rumor had been based off of. Pure jealousy. That's why when Nico or any of the other Slytherins brought Eli up during one of their late night conversations in the Slytherin Common Room, the purple-haired girl would either occupy herself with something to help tune them out or head to bed early if their nasty talk became too much for her.
She knew there would be a day coming when her fellow Slytherins would eat their words, and it came sooner rather than later in the form of the very first Quidditch game of the year between Slytherin and Gryffindor. Nozomi had been seated in the Slytherin section with Nico, who had been too busy looking through her binoculars up at the action in the sky to watch Nozomi's reactions whenever Eli would cut it close to slamming into one of the stands or when the Golden Snitch would lead her down under into the crevices of the field, blocking her from view.
To say it was nerve-wracking was an understatement. Nozomi had never come so close to fainting in her life.
The game itself had been back and forth with both teams having equal control of the Quaffle. Slytherin, however, had been up by a whopping sixty points and thought they had the game in the bag.
Until little Ayase Eli of Gryffindor ultimately nabbed the Snitch before the Slytherin seeker could even attempt to reach out, nearly knocking herself off her broom in the process.
And Nozomi could remember how her breath had hitched at the sight and how she'd heard the sound of Madam Hooch blow her whistle before she shouted "Gryffindor wins!".
It had taken everything the purple-haired girl had in her to refrain from jumping with joy and shouting back at her fellow Slytherins that they had been wrong about Eli all along. Instead, she'd chosen to fake her disappointment in order not to draw attention from the rest of her house.
But as Nozomi watched the blonde Gryffindor hold up the Snitch for everyone to see, she had noticed the look in those blue eyes, and that was the same look that the current, seventeen year old Eli had in her eyes right now as she pushed herself to the absolute limit, now flying side by side with the Hufflepuff seeker.
The seventh year Slytherin felt a tug on her left shirt sleeve, breaking her away from her recollection as she turned her attention to the short, blonde seated next to her.
"Look, Nozomi!" Nozomi could see the tiny sparks of excitement in Alisa's icy blue eyes. "Big sis is closing in on the Snitch!"
And as soon as Nozomi's green eyes found their way back to her blonde-headed love in the sky, Eli's deft hands darted out and snatched the Snitch within the blink of an eye.
"Ayase's got the Snitch! Gryffindor wins!" The commentator managed to bellow out before Madam Hooch could even blow the whistle to signal the end of the game.
With that statement, the Gryffindor section erupted. Honoka practically laid on the airhorn in her grip, not even bothering to give it a moment's rest as she and Rin screamed their lungs out for Eli and the other Gryffindors. Yukiho stood clapping next to Alisa as the blonde Ravenclaw shouted out to Eli about how proud she was of her. Maki stayed seated, still twirling her hair. The only difference was the prescence of a small sideways grin etched onto her face as she looked on at the Gryffindor holding up the Snitch.
Nico slowly lowered her binoculars as her lips tugged into a smirk. "As if there was ever any doubt, right?"
Nozomi knew the question had been directed at her, but she didn't give an answer. One wasn't needed.
"Perfection, ladies and gentlemen! Ayase has once again led the Gryffindor team to the final round of the Quidditch Cup! In my three years of commentating, I have never seen anyone as precise and accurate as Miss Ayase Eli! Absolutely beautiful!"
Maki scoffed. "Listen to her. She's really laying it on thick, isn't she?"
"If I knew she was going to lay on bullshit that thick, I would've brought a pair of boots to this thing." Nico said loudly enough for only the redhead to hear, who nodded in agreement.
The raven-haired Slytherin immediately turned to Nozomi. She knew the prefect was sensitive when it came to other people attempting to hit on or flirt with Eli - knew it unsettled her because there was always the fear of not being good enough. And Nico didn't take too kindly when something or someone threatened her friends, so she said the first thing that popped up in her mind.
"Want me to go up there and throat punch her? Because I will."
Nozomi watched as the Gryffindor team gathered around Eli to congratulate her, those blue eyes sparkling just like the eleven year old Eli's eyes did after her first game all those years ago.
She chuckled. "No, that won't be necessary, Nicocchi."