Arya Stark was a rather frustrating presence in Gendry’s life. She seemed, especially in recent weeks, to take issue with his very existence. It made sense to him - she was a wealthy, talented, effortlessly intelligent, pretty, and well-liked girl and there was no reason for her to spare him a second glance. Still, he wasn’t sure why she felt the need to make her disdain so very obvious. She held her head high around him, as if trying her best to stand taller than him (she would have needed a step stool to come close).
Arya had the best of everything - her quidditch equipment was always state-of-the-art, her school robes never second-hand. She had been named Gryffindor seeker in her third year, and was undeniably up to the task, though it had always sat funny with Gendry, her brothers and Theon never even considering holding an open tryout for the position.
Gendry knew that Arya didn’t like him much - he wasn’t fun like her, didn’t share her ability to make everyone smile. He was poor and sullen and the last person who would ever been invited to one of those elite parties she and her siblings attended with Professor Baelish. Since Christmas, though, Arya seemed particularly annoyed by Gendry. He had noticed her at the celebrations after their win against Hufflepuff - a win that could be almost exclusively credited to Arya’s superb seeking. But when he had briefly considered telling her how impressed he was by her catch, he had become distracted by the flowers in her hair and ended up offering her only a nod as he passed by. Tom and Anguy had been going on about how especially pretty she looked that evening, and Gendry hadn’t agreed - she was always pretty, it was part of what made her so irritating. The flowers had been a pleasant addition though, and seemed enough to render him even more incapable of speaking to her.
Since that night, her attitude towards him had taken a turn for the miserable, and a part of him was worried she had heard him tell Anguy and Tom that someone as rich as Arya wouldn’t deign to be in the presence of him and his second-hand broomstick for longer than absolutely necessary. This seemed sort of unfair to Gendry, since the statement was undoubtedly true. No, Arya Stark certainly had a problem with him, and all he could do was his very best to ignore her.
That was what made Arya so very frustrating. Ignoring her was next to impossible. She was pretty, with her striking grey eyes and expressive eyebrows. Her smiles seemed effortless, her hair always framing her face nicely, even when it was a sweaty mess after practice. But on top of this, on top of how unfair it seemed that someone so attractive could be so stuck-up, Arya Stark was the most exhilarating quidditch player Gendry had ever seen play at Hogwarts.
She was phenomenal, darting through her teammates and opponents, never once looking unsure of herself. Her handling was perfect, her reflexes unmatched. Not once in her years as Gryffindor seeker had she looked like she might lose a match. The team had won two straight championships, and she had not lost a game since she had been named to the team.
Today, a cold day at the end of January, her talent was on full display. Arya had spent the whole match messing with Joffrey Baratheon. Joffrey almost crashed and even once fell off his broom (only a few feet from the ground) as Arya pulled expertly out of each dive. Gendry knew what she was doing, and he couldn’t help but almost smile - she was going to piss Joffrey off enough that by the time she actually saw the snitch, he would hesitate to even follow her. She was brilliant. It was too bad about her personality, because from a purely quidditch-based perspective, Gendry thought himself the smallest bit enamoured with her.
Gendry watched as Ramsay Bolton approached her, and was relieved to see that there wasn’t a bludger in sight. He briefly considered sending a bludger at Ramsay, but the Slytherin beater was quite close to Arya, and Gendry did not want to injure Gryffindor’s star. He instead elected to send the next bludger that came his way in the direction of Joffrey, hitting the tail of his broom perfectly and sending the Slytherin seeker into a brief tailspin.
He glanced around the field again, his eyes - as they often did when she was playing like this - finding Arya again. Bolton was still tailing her, and Gendry was wondering what he was trying to do, with no bludger in sight, when the Slytherin wound up his bat. No. The crack and cry from the other side of the pitch seemed to ripple through the entire stadium. There was a brief surge of concerned yelling, and then a hush as Arya Stark hit the ground, a small pool of blood forming on the grass around her head.
Jon reached her first, rushing to kneel at his sister’s side, calling desperately for Coach Tarth to get the nurse. Gendry dismounted beside Pod the keeper, who looked like he wanted to be sick. They reached Arya with the rest of the team, along with a few Slytherins and Coach Tarth, who looked furious. Gendry thought himself a relatively angry person, so the feeling coursing through him was not totally new. He had never thought Arya Stark delicate - she was not a fragile being, not someone who would break easily, if at all. Seeing her lying motionless was odd. She looked smaller, somehow. Her sharp face oddly soft - she could have almost been sleeping, had it not been for the blood on her face and in the grass.
Gendry realized then, how truly insane Bolton was. Bolton could have killed Arya, had he hit her in the wrong spot. There could be permanent damage from a play like this, it could derail her entire life, her quidditch career, everything. And Gendry had watched it happen. He had sent a bludger at Joffrey instead. He could have taken Bolton out - should have taken Bolton out. It was his job, after all! He shook with rage at both himself and Ramsay Bolton, his scowl deepening and his fists balling. He scowled down at Arya’s tiny, unmoving body and watcher her blink her eyes open. She was confused and clearly in pain, her eyes finding Jon’s, then darting between the rest of the crowd around her. Her eyes met his and seemed to grow steely, and he turned away, unable to look at her any longer.
He marched towards the small group of Slytherins huddled around Bolton, who looked unconcerned, even amused. Gendry balled his fists, glad that they didn’t have their wands. He had no desire to duel Bolton - he just wanted to hit him until he got the image of Arya unmoving form out of his mind.
“No you don’t,” said a gruff voice, grabbing Gendry by the arm. Professor Seaworth, head of Gryffindor house, pulled him away from the Slytherins. “We’ll handle this, Waters. He’ll be suspended, you can count on that.” Seaworth sounded half as angry as Gendry felt, but there was a firmness in his gaze that Gendry trusted - Bolton would not go unpunished. This didn’t make Gendry feel any better, though. He nodded at Seaworth and turned to join the team again. Arya’s stretcher was already on its way to the hospital wing, Jon still holding her hand as they left the stadium. Gendry watched them go, stomach turning as he replayed the fall again and again in his mind, knowing he could have prevented it.