The next morning at breakfast, Harry was surly and out-of-sorts. He knew he was in a bad mood, so he did his best to stay out of any and all conversations. His friends, however, were determined to drag out whatever was bothering him and wave it around in the light for a little bit. When he would have sequestered himself away in the library and poured over his classwork, Draco and Theo took him firmly in hand and led him out into the morning sunshine of the courtyard.
"Something's wrong," Draco said bluntly. "Care to tell your friends what's got you in such a foul mood today?"
"It's nothing important," Harry said, trying to avoid discussing his dream, something he didn't even understand himself.
"Bollocks," Theo replied. "You said almost nothing at breakfast and didn't eat hardly a thing. Something's put you in a bad mood, and it's our duty as your friends to cheer you up."
"Or help fix the problem," Draco interjected.
"I just didn't sleep well, that's all." Harry's voice was tired. Couldn't they see that he wanted to be by himself?
"Well I have something to pick your mood up anyway," Theo said, handing Harry a paper-wrapped box.
"What is it?" Harry asked, taking the package, curious despite his tiredness.
"Open it and see." Theo gave a credible imitation of Draco's trademark smirk.
Harry tore the paper off and opened the box. Inside were dozens of cards from packages of Chocolate Frogs!
"They're all those duplicates I said I hadn't got rid of yet. Now you've got a great start on your own collection."
It was such a generous gift that Harry was forced to smile. "Thanks Theo. You didn't have to, you know."
"Nonsense," came the reply. "What am I going to do with near to a hundred duplicate Chocolate Frog cards?"
"Almost nobody has cards that I don't," Theo said, managing not to sound braggy by a small margin. "There's only a few rare cards in the current series that I'm missing. I have better luck just finding them or by buying them outright."
Harry felt his mood lift a little. Still...
"Thanks for trying, mates, but I'd like to spend some time by myself."
"Are you sure?" Draco asked, very concerned. "Alone? That can be dangerous."
"So I've heard, but I'll deal with it. I know almost as many spells as you do right now. Besides, I doubt Weasley will want to give me trouble so soon after serving detention."
"True that, but with Gryffindors you never can tell. Watch your back, okay?"
"I will," Harry promised. "I'll see you at lunch."
Theo and Draco walked away, chattering animatedly about the Nimbus 2000. Harry lay on his back in the courtyard and stared up at the clouds in the sky.
Nobody tried to pick a fight with him, which was wonderful. A couple of times his fellow Slytherins came by to check that he was okay, but when he said he just wanted to relax a bit, they apologized for interrupting him and went on their way.
The morning sun was burning hot and bright, and the night's chill was all but a fading memory. The sunshine felt good on his face, and Harry wallowed in the warmth. It let him forget that autumn was coming soon, and they would all be trapped in the castle (or be risking frozen toes).
Clouds trailed across the blue sky, occasionally taking strange shapes. There was one that looked like Draco, another that looked like Millie. It was probably a trick of the light, but Harry swore he saw a cloud that looked like Professor Snape. That would have been fine, but then the wind shifted, and the cloudy Snape was kissing a cloudy McGonagall! Harry shook his head when he saw that, telling himself that he was overtired.
He closed his eyes, trying to eradicate the cloudy image from his mind. With soothing darkness, he was soon calm again. Without realizing it, Harry fell asleep.
The clanging of the bell woke him with a start, and from the way the sun had jumped in the sky, he realized it was noon and time for lunch. He got to his feet, brushing off grass and dirt from his robes.
In the Great Hall, students were just sitting down. He joined Draco, Theo, and the others, everyone giving him a greeting of some kind.
"Hello," he said, in a decidedly better mood.
"You look a little red," Tracy noted.
Harry reached up and put his hand on his cheek. True enough, his skin was slightly hot.
"I fell asleep in the courtyard after breakfast," he admitted sheepishly.
That admission drew amused chuckles and head shakes.
"Oh Harry," Tracy giggled, "you're so silly."
"Yeah, that's me, laugh riot central," Harry said sarcastically. "I'm working on a full lobster disguise, in case I ever need to hide among crustaceans."
More giggling followed. Then everyone's attention was drawn to a long, thin package carried by six large screech owls. Harry was just as curious as everyone else, but his curiosity turned to amazement when the owls soared down and dropped it right in front of him. They had hardly fluttered out of the way when a seventh owl dropped a letter on top of the parcel.
Harry immediately ripped open the letter.
Nimbus Racing Broom Company
Mr. H. Potter
Dear Mr. Potter:
Here is your new Nimbus 2000, fresh off the product line! We at Nimbus thank you for your buisness and hope you will enjoy your broom for years to come. Enclosed find a copy of your warantee and service manual. Once again, we thank you for choosing Nimbus!
President, Sales Division
Harry was stunned at the speedy service.
"We just sent off the order yesterday," he whispered to Draco, showing him the letter.
"Must be because it was for Harry Potter," Draco said, his lip curling. "They must be trying to kiss a little arse."
"I have a little arse?" Harry said, deliberately misunderstanding.
Draco hit him lightly on the arm. "Don't be a prat. Let's get back to the dorm and check it out!"
"But I'm hungry!" Harry said truthfully. He was half-starved.
Draco made an unhappy noise and began to cram a sandwich into his mouth. Harry ignored the curious stares directed at the Slytherin table and calmly began eating.
When Harry had eaten more than was probably good for him, he picked up his new broom and headed for the dungeons, escorted by all his friends. Halfway across the entrance hall they found the stairs blocked by Weasley and his twin brothers.
"What've you got there, then?" Weasley asked, grabbing the package out of Harry's hands.
"None of your business, Weasley!" Theo spat, outraged at Weasley's rudeness and presumption. He drew his wand. "Give it back, or I'll hex you."
"That is a broomstick," Weasley said, ignoring Theo and throwing it back at Harry with a mixture of jealousy and spite on his face. "I thought as much. You'll be in for it now, Potter; first years aren't allowed them."
"Listen, Weasley," Harry began, his voice chilly, "nobody asked for your opinion. Now why don't you get out of our way? Or did you want to try dueling again? I hear you got into a spot of trouble the last time you dueled someone. Down in the dungeons, wasn't it?"
It was a cheap shot, but Harry couldn't resist. Who the heck did Weasley think he was anyway?
Weasley's face got red and ugly. "You know the truth of that as well as I do, Potter," he said, chewing his words angrily.
"So I do," Harry replied, "but you're outnumbered again."
"My brothers know more magic than you lot all put together," the younger Weasley boasted. Both of the twins nodded emphatically. Harry noticed that they were each keeping one hand out of sight.
Before Harry could retort, Professor Flitwick appeared on the scene. Short and squat, he only came up to Harry's chest, but he was still an authority figure.
"Not arguing, I hope, boys?" he squeaked.
"Potter's been sent a broomstick, Professor," said Weasley quickly.
"Yes, yes, that's right," said Professor Flitwick, beaming at Harry. "Professor Snape told me about the special circumstances, Potter. Apparently you have quite the gift. What model is your broom, then?"
"A Nimbus Two Thousand, sir," said Harry, fighting not to laugh at the identical looks of horror and jealousy on the faces of all three Weasleys.
"Very good," the diminutive Professor Flitwick said cheerfully. "Well, do carry on."
Then he was gone.
"Tattling again, eh Weasley?" Draco said in the drawling tone he always used around Gryffindors.
"Apparently he didn't learn his lesson properly," Pansy said nastily.
"I think he needs a reminder," Theo chimed in.
The Slytherins smiled wickedly at the three Gryffindors.
"But later," Harry said. "After he's had time to think about things and realize what a big mistake he's made. Then if he wants to apologize, we can forget about the whole thing."
Faces burning, Weasley and his brothers moved out of the stairway. Ignoring the glares directed at them, the Slytherins made their way down the stairs and into the safety of the dungeons. Once they were beyond hearing range, they let their laughter loose.
"His face!" Theo gasped, wheezing.
"I thought he was going to die right there," Millie howled.
"And the twins!" Tracy was about to pass out.
They did finally make it to the common room, their laughter echoing off the stone walls the whole way. Everyone followed as Harry went to the boys' dorm. He undid the wrappings on his broom and it rolled out onto his bedspread.
"Wow!" they all exclaimed.
Harry had learned everything he knew about broomsticks from Draco. He thought this broom, the best in the world, to be a marvel. It was sleek and shiny, with a mahogany handle, a long tail of neat, straight twigs, and the Nimbus 2000 logo etched in gold near the top.
Marcus Flint knocked at the door.
"Afternoon, all. 'Lo Harry, I see your broom's arrived. Nimbus Two Thousand, excellent choice. Trials are to be next weekend, after luncheon, down on the Quidditch pitch."
Only a week away! "Thanks, Marcus," Harry said, excited.
"Cheerio!" Then he was gone.
"You're so lucky, Harry," Millie said, envy clear in her voice. "I'd give almost anything to have a chance to get on the team this year."
"I just want to fly some more," Harry replied.
Millie's face lit up as she got an idea. "What say the rest of us go nick some brooms and we can have a pick-up game?"
"Brilliant!" Theo exclaimed. "I don't want to be on Pansy's side."
"Lick my cauldron."
"Five to a side?" Crabbe asked.
"Amazing," Draco said with a slight sneer in his voice. "You do know your numbers."
"Shut up, Draco."
"Mind your tongue, fathead," Draco snapped.
"My head's not fat! And I'm bigger than you," Crabbe threw back. Draco made a rude gesture.
"To the Quidditch pitch!" Millie declared.
"No, first to the broom shed," Tracy corrected.
Ten minutes later they were standing in the broom shed. Racks filled with brooms lined the walls of the single room, a mere three metres square. Dust covered most of them, except for the twenty or so which had been used by the Flying class.
"Ugh, a Cleansweep Two," Millie grimaced. "Those came out back in thirty-four. Is that a Comet One-Eighty?"
"Nineteen thirty-eight," Theo replied.
"Jackpot!" Tracy rejoiced. "Tinderblasts, a whole bloody rack of them!"
"Pretty slow," Pansy criticized.
"But they're solid," Tracy countered. "Even after all this time, they ought to be in good condition. I think they're the best we can hope for."
"No Nimbuses?" Draco asked, a note of despair in his voice. "Not even a One Thousand?"
"I think we're stuck with the Tinderblasts," Daphne said, picking one up. "Whoever else is going to play Seeker should take the Comet, though."
Draco sighed and picked up the Comet. "This is going to be even slower than my Two-Sixty at home."
"Stop complaining," Goyle grunted at him. "At least we get to fly some more and play some Quidditch."
The Quidditch pitch was a breath-taking sight. Hundreds of seats were raised in stands around the field so that spectators were high enough off the ground to see what was going on. At either end of the field were three golden poles with hoops on the end. They reminded Harry of the little plastic sticks that Muggle children blew bubbles through, except that they were ten metres high.
"Seekers pick your teams," Tracy declared.
"Crabbe and Goyle need to be split up!" Daphne interrupted.
The dastardly duo looked at each other. "It would be unfair to have us both on one team," Goyle said.
Crabbe nodded. "Yeah, we should be on different teams. Make it fair to both sides that way. We don't want to hurt anybody after all."
In the end it was Harry, Crabbe, Tracy, Blaise, and Pansy versus Draco, Goyle, Millie, Daphne, and Theo.
"How do we make positions?" Tracy asked.
"Seeker, Keeper, two Chasers, Beater?" Millie suggested.
"That one Beater going to get a heck of a workout," Draco disagreed. "Are Bludgers strictly necessary?"
"Seeker, Keeper, and three Chasers? That could work," Theo said, nodding his head.
There was a general consensus, so the teams split up. Harry would be the Seeker, Crabbe would be the Keeper, while Tracy, Blaise, and Pansy played Chaser. On the other team, Draco had claimed Seeker, and he appointed Goyle, Daphne, and Millie to be the Chasers while Theo got to be Keeper.
Daphne opened the box of Quidditch balls that Goyle and Crabbe had carried down from the common room. She reached in and took the Quaffle. "Everyone mount."
They all kicked off into the air. Daphne released the Golden Snitch. It buzzed by Harry's head and vanished. Daphne threw the Quaffle into the air.
Millie immediately grabbed the Quaffle and threw it to Goyle as she dodged around Pansy. Tracy was waiting for it though, and snatched it out of Goyle's hands. She took off down the pitch towards Theo's goalposts.
Harry watched the action with interest. He'd never seen Quidditch before, and he was fascinated. His friends were moving along at pretty good speeds, despite using old Tinderblast brooms. The back and forth action of the Quaffle was dizzying, and hardly anyone held onto it for more than five seconds.
"Good thing we're not using Bludgers, eh Harry? Sitting there like that, you'd make a prime target."
Draco was laughing as he looped above and around Harry.
"Don't get cocky, Draco," Harry warned. "I'm riding the best broom in the world, and I'll eat you and your Comet One-Eighty for dinner."
Draco stuck out his tongue. "Your broom might be wicked, Potter, but you'll never match my skills!"
And Draco lunged at him suddenly. Harry gasped in surprise and ducked to his left, performing a barrel roll. He looked over his shoulder as Draco went dashing by and saw his hand outstretched, reaching for the Golden Snitch!
Harry leaned left and spun around in midair, then leaned forward and went hurtling after him. In a few seconds, even Draco's head start was negated as the Nimbus far outstripped the old Comet. Harry drew even with Draco.
"This thing is fast!" Harry called over.
Draco glared over at Harry's broom, envious. "I absolutely must get Father to file a protest for me. This broom stinks! I will have a Nimbus for Christmas," he declared.
"Sorry, Malfoy," Harry called back, smirking, "but even if you do, I'll still leave you sucking cloud!"
With that friendly taunt, Harry leaned forward and took off after the Snitch. He was very close to it, so close he could almost touch the small ball. It was tiny, about the size of a large walnut. It was bright gold and had little fluttering silver wings. The Snitch was fluttering along frantically right in front of him, twitching, bobbing, and jumping around like a sugar-overdosed hummingbird.
"Damn it," he heard Draco cursing as the superior speed of the Nimbus widened the gap between them.
"Look out!" Tracy shouted, dodging out of his way. Harry hadn't noticed; he was intent on the Snitch.
Millie had just scored on Crabbe, earning her team ten points. The game ground to a halt as they all gawked at Harry in hot pursuit of the Snitch.
Up, down, left, right, in, out, over, under, around, and through the Quidditch pitch, the stands, and all the sky therein Harry chased after the Snitch. He frowned, twisting himself as he struggled to keep on the course of the zooming ball.
Without warning the Snitch cut a sharp right turn and took off on a completely different vector. Harry's hand flashed out to his side as he kept his course. There was a frantic wiggling in his hand, and there rested the Snitch.
"I've got it!" he shouted, holding it above his head and circling around. Everyone began to gather at the crate in the center of the pitch.
"Beautiful catch!" Tracy congratulated him with a hug.
"Way to go!" Crabbe shouted, clapping Harry on the back with a big hand and sending him reeling.
"Nice job, Harry!" Pansy cheered.
"Stupid bloody Comet," Draco complained, shaking the broomstick.
"Heck of a catch," Goyle said to him, sending him reeling back the other way.
Theo caught him and kept him from crashing to the ground. "Not bad at all, Harry."
Millie was bouncing up and down. "That's a fast hundred-fifty points. A grand total of ten minutes!"
Daphne took the Snitch from him. "Excellently played, Harry. Everyone up for another game?"
"Mix up the teams," Theo suggested.
"No way, Nott," Pansy sneered at him. "You are destined to always lose." Then she stuck her tongue out at him.
Daphne rolled her eyes. "You two are so retarded."
They took off into the sky again, and Daphne released the Snitch. She tossed the Quaffle into the air, and the game was afoot!
Harry beat Draco to the Snitch every time. It really hadn't been much of a challenge; the Nimbus left the old Comet in the dust. Draco had grumbled about it at first, but his mood brightened when Millie pointed out that Harry's speed was going to be an asset to the house team.
Thoroughly exhausted, they trudged back up to the castle. They'd missed tea time and were barely going to make it for dinner. Returning the brooms to the broom shed first, they carried the crate of balls back to the common room. Harry deposited his Nimbus on his bed, then he grabbed his bath things and headed for the showers.
As always, the perfect water temperature was blissful. He let the water cascade over him, washing away the dirt and sweat from the match. His sore muscles had declared war against him, but the heat and pounding rhythm of the water quickly soothed them.
He dried and dressed himself, then looked long and hard at his bed. It was tempting him to lay down and have a snooze. Telling himself that he needed to eat dinner, Harry promised himself that he wouldn't stay up late tonight.
When they were all clean, freshly-dressed, and well-groomed, the first year Slytherins walked through the dungeons and up the stairs to the Great Hall. They chattered animatedly about the upcoming Quidditch Cup, positive, now, that Harry was sure to win a place on the team.
Harry yawned all through dinner. Quidditch had given him quite a workout. He was tired, but he forced himself to keep his eyes and ears open. He listened for names of people who were also going to be trying out for the team, listening to the gossip about who had the best chances.
Jessica and Abraham were doing their duty as prefects and asking after the first years. When Harry's friends started to tell them all about the pick-up Quidditch games they'd played that afternoon, several of the older students became involved, and soon a dozen different conversations were going, all related to Quidditch.
It amazed Harry that people could get so wrapped up in Quidditch. Raised voices, pointing fingers, and waving arms were all part of the norm when discussing Quidditch. It was worse than when boys at his old Muggle school would talk about football, or when Uncle Vernon would argue politics with his friends.
After afters, Harry wanted nothing more than to seek his bed. He was too tired to be interested in more exploring of the castle with Draco and Theo, and the last thing he wanted to do on a Saturday night was read his school books.
He lay in his bed, alone in the darkness except for Goyle's snores which were audible even through two layers of thick velvet curtains. Though his body was tired, his mind was awake, and Harry's thoughts kept jumping all over the place. They were random thoughts, nighttime thoughts, but gradually they faded into blackness as sleep claimed him.
The next week flew by before Harry had even turned about twice. He was keeping his nose in his books and out of trouble, mostly at Theo's insistence. Between his own interest in Potions and Theo's near-encyclopedic knowledge of herbs and fungi, he did quite well for himself in both meetings of their Herbology class.
With Millie's help, Harry had been able to finally change his wooden matchstick into a silver needle, though he was still having some trouble managing to form the eye. Millie was optimistic in thinking he would achieve total success by the end of the month.
Harry slept in History of Magic, joining the rest of his classmates. Even Theo, the most studious of all the first years, closed his eyes and napped in what had to be the most boring lecture ever. Harry was convinced that Professor Binns' lectures were the cure for insomnia.
Charms was still interesting, even if it was still mostly theory. Just the other day, Professor Flitwick had pointed his wand at Tracy's kitten, Argent, and sent him zooming around the classroom, and they were all itching to try casting the spell.
Astronomy had rapidly become very tedious. The lessons were boring, something Harry hadn't expected. They had finished learning the astrological constellations, and now were learning about the planets and their moons. It had sounded fun when Professor Sinistra had given her overview of the course, but was rapidly proving to not meet his expectations.
Defence Against the Dark Arts had gotten a little better, with Professor Quirrell beginning to tell them about minor curses. It was nothing serious yet, so the first years continued their studies in the subject on their own terms.
Their Friday Potions lesson was without notable incident, which surprised Harry immensely. Still smarting from their detention with Professor Snape, Weasley and Finnigan were well-behaved. Finnigan seemed to still be irritated with Weasley; he worked with Dean Thomas, leaving Weasley to work with Neville Longbottom.
After lecture, the Slytherins made sure to be the first out into the hall. Professor Snape had shut himself in his office, so they knew they would be undisturbed. Each of the Gryffindors eyed Harry and his friends as they left the classroom, suspecting that they were up to something, which, to be fair, they were.
Finally Weasley, who was the last to leave, stepped out into the hall. When he spotted Draco and the rest, he froze in place.
"Now then, Weasley, you've had a whole week to think about what you've done wrong. Is there anything you'd like to say for yourself?" Draco asked, drawling his words as though he hadn't a care in the world.
Weasley swallowed hard. He was in a right fix, and he knew it. They had carefully timed this encounter, knowing that without his friends to back him up, the Gryffindor would let his true cowardice shine through.
"You're right, Malfoy," Weasley began slowly, and those simple words appeared to pain him. "I have given it some thought, and I was wrong to snitch to Professor McGonagall the way I did. It wasn't because I was afraid to duel you," he was quick to add, "or to get you in trouble."
"Is that so?" Draco said in his customary drawl. "I'm intrigued by your reasoning, then. Do go on."
"We were on our way to meet you," Weasley said hurriedly, "but old McGonagall nabbed us on our way out of the portrait hole, and we didn't have a choice. We didn't want to, but she made us tell her!"
"Is that a fact?" Theo said, a sneer in his voice.
Draco looked around at the others. Harry took a long look at Weasley, who was sweating, and nodded at Draco. "Well, well, will wonders never cease?" Draco drawled in a facetious tone. "Weasley can be reasonable. Now let's see if he knows how to apologize."
Weasley swallowed again. He really had no choice at all. "I'm sorry for tattling on you, Malfoy."
"There now, Weasley, was that so hard? I'm sure your Mummy would be very proud of you. Now get out of the dungeons."
Weasley gathered himself up, managing not to run, but as he rounded the corner, they could hear his footfalls as he ran for the light of day.
Saturday morning was bright and sunny, one of the last predicted nice days left of the summer. Though the temperature was only moderate, the sunshine made the whole world seem bright. A few fluffy clouds were strung out in the sky like cotton candy. A gentle breeze stirred the leaves of the trees in the forbidden forest.
Down at the Quidditch pitch, the Slytherin House team had gathered early. They were doing their warm-up exercises as those who hoped to make the team arrived, brooms over their shoulders. Harry felt nervous standing with these other children, most of whom were much taller than he.
Draco had scouted up the line, checking out not the hopefuls, but their brooms. He had gleefully reported back that nobody else had a Nimbus 2000. Most of the others had Cleansweep Sixes, but a few had model Sevens. Two girls had the latest Comet Trading Company model, the Comet 270. One third year boy, Charles Warrington, had a Nimbus 1700. Draco told Harry that his broom was the best of the lot. It was small comfort to his nervous stomach.
There were four open positions on the team; two Chaser positions and both Beater positions. In addition, with the starting Seeker having left school, Terence Higgs would have to defend his position. Theo had gone down the line as well, making inquiries. A lot of people wanted to be Seeker.
It was the position of glory, Harry had learned from all the stories he'd heard. All the positions were important, and each could make critical plays that could change the game instantly, but the Seeker was where the power lay. Only the Seeker could end the match, so it was a matter of being the quickest to catch the Golden Snitch, while the rest of the team kept the other team from scoring, so that the hundred-fifty points it earned would assure victory. Seekers were very important and were thus also the players most often fouled.
"All right you lot, we're going to get started," shouted Flint. "All who are trying out for Chaser get over here. You'll fly two at a time, and Bletchley and I will be judging your performance. Best six move on, and then we try for Beaters."
The first two candidates kicked off into the sky. Flint called various maneuvers out to them and they performed, tossing the Quaffle back and forth. Bletchley kicked off and went to guard the goal rings while they practiced taking shots at him. Neither was any good, Draco told him.
The next pair was a bit better, as was the pair after. Finally Flint called the last pair down, and made some notes on his clipboard. "Good," he said shortly. "Everybody stick around. Beaters! Over here! Now! C'mon, move!"
For this trial, Flint took to the air with the Quaffle in his hand, challenging the hopefuls to knock him off his broom, or to at least make him drop the ball. Both Bludgers were turned loose, and every hopeful took a bat into the sky with him. Bletchley was keeping notes on performance, using Flint's clipboard.
Flint could fly, nobody had any doubts about this. He flew literal circles around everybody else in the sky. Nobody even came close to nailing him with either of the two Bludgers. It was a pair of fourth year boys, Ivan Bole and Matthew Derrick, who did the best of them all, who whacked the Bludgers hardest, who turned to whacking their competition instead of their target.
One by one, the other hopefuls fell from the sky. Finally only those two boys were left, and veritable gorillas they were. They whacked their Beaters' bats together in triumph.
"What the hell do you two think you're doing?" Bletchley yelled up at them. "Flint! Get down here!"
Everyone sank down to the earth. Flint was grinning madly.
"Are you two insane?" Bletchley demanded of the pair.
Bole looked at Derrick. Derrick looked at Bole. "We couldn't touch Flint," Bole began. "So we figured we'd show what we got," continued Derrick. "Only way to do that was to take out the competition," Bole finished.
"Either way, I'm impressed," Flint said cheerfully. "You're both on the team for showing considerable initiative and creativity. It won't be that easy to nail the folks on the other team, mind, but you've got skills we can build on."
Bletchley fumed for a minute, then handed Flint back his clipboard. "Moving on," he said suggestively.
"Yes. Seekers!" Flint bellowed. "Great Scot," he muttered, looking at the fifteen people who stepped forward.
"All right, this is how it's going to work. You're going to go in batches of five. I'm going to release the Snitch. The first one to get it moves on to the next round, and so on. Beaters will be practicing, as will the Chasers," he looked down at his clipboard, "Montague, Pucey, Warrington, Pritchard, Fawcett, and duMonde, your trial isn't done yet. Miles, get your arse up to those hoops. It's Warrington, Montague, and Pucey against Fawcett, Pritchard, and duMonde. Whichever team scores more points than the other will have a further trial, with two of you getting on the team.
"Seekers, nobody is looking out for you. Beaters will be trying to bean you with Bludgers, Chasers are going to get in your way, and other Seekers will try to take you out. That's the name of the game today, survival of the fittest. Get to the Snitch, and you move on to round two. You five," he said, pointing, "are first."
Harry was one of those five.
"Go Harry!" "You'll do great!" His friends were very encouraging, but Harry's stomach was filled with butterflies.
"In the air! I'm releasing the Snitch!"
Harry kicked off, wobbling just a bit. The Nimbus was heavenly, he decided, responding almost more to his thoughts than his motions. He looked around and saw that the other four would-be Seekers were all very confident, or at least hiding their nervousness well. The six Chasers began to circle; the two Beaters were whacking the Bludgers back and forth between them.
Flint tossed the Quaffle high into the air, and the game was on. Fawcett swooped in and snatched it, tossing it to Pritchard, who fumbled it. Montague plucked it out of her grasp and passed to Pucey. Pucey caught it, dodged around duMonde, and caught a Bludger to the ribs, dropping the Quaffle.
Fawcett grabbed it again and made for the goal rings, charging at Warrington, flipping upside down and cutting very closely beneath him. She faked a throw on the third ring, faked another throw on the first ring, and threw back to duMonde, who sent it soaring through the middle ring, much to Bletchley's disgust.
What a game!
Harry snapped his focus back to the Snitch. He had to find it! He scoured the field, hunting for it. It was easier now, with the bright sunshine, and he kept hunting for that speck of gold. One of the other Seekers took a Bludger to the head and sank down to the ground. That was good! His competition was now less.
Montague scored again, then Warrington scored, and then Pucey scored twice more. Montague's team was showing distinctly better teamwork and coordination.
Harry started as he caught a flash of gold out of the corner of his eye, but it was only somebody's wristwatch. Then out of nowhere, another Seeker came flashing past, hand out-stretched, the Snitch fluttering and fleeing a few feet in front. Harry bent over his broom handle and took off after.
In no time, he had caught up. The Nimbus 2000 was showing its value, and Harry was neck-and-neck with the girl. She was straining, leaning, reaching for that winged golden ball. He wasn't as long in the arm as she was, so he nudged his broom to go faster.
Harry's world was suddenly filled with blinding white pain. He wavered, losing the track of the Snitch, and his broom went off course. He clutched his shoulder, tears springing to his eyes. He saw the Bludger go arcing around and making another go, this time at the girl. She too was hit, and the Snitch escaped.
Harry fought back his tears. Quidditch is a rough game, he told himself. I knew that getting into it. Just got to try harder and be more aware.
Two other Seekers had taken off after the Snitch when Harry and the girl had been ambushed by the Bludgers. He could still see the Snitch, frantically trying to escape. He angled his broom and sped off. Within seconds, he was right back where he'd been.
He was bumped and jostled and elbowed, but he refused to give up, giving back just as good as he got. He leaned forward even more, urging his Nimbus on, and began to pull away from the others. He reached out his hand, straining.
He had it! The tickling feeling of the wings was still the same, but he refused to open his hand. He gripped it firmly, making sure it didn't get away.
"I've got the Snitch!" he yelled, holding it up over his head.
Flint's whistle blew. All the Seekers dropped back down to the ground, and Harry handed over the Snitch.
"Excellent job, Potter. You make it to round two. Have a rest. Lot two, get in the air." Five more would-be Seekers kicked off.
"Snitch!" Flint bellowed as he released it. The game was afoot again. The Chasers kept chasing, the Beaters kept beating, and the Keeper did his best to stay alive.
"Way to go, Harry!" Draco said, slapping Harry on the shoulder. Whiteness filled Harry's vision, and he nearly fell to the ground.
"Easy," Theo said, holding him up. "What's wrong, mate?"
"Shoulder," Harry whispered, "Bludger."
Draco's face fell. "Oh no, I'm sorry, Harry! I didn't know!"
Theo looked around. "We don't have time to take him up to Madam Pomfrey. I could try to do something, if you want me to."
The pain was incredible. "Please?"
"Okay, brace yourself."
Harry didn't hear the incantation, but the pain seemed to recede slightly. He felt Theo's fingers probing at his shoulder.
"I don't think anything's broken," he said doubtfully. "Hit you right here?"
Harry winced. "Yeah," he gasped.
"Well there's a phenomenal lump there, but I don't think your shoulder blade is broken. It feels like it's still in one piece. Let me try another spell."
The pain lifted some more. "Better," Harry said, taking a deep breath and speaking normally.
"Good," Theo said. "I'm sorry I can't do more, but I'm no Healer."
"It's all right, Theo," Harry said gratefully. "Thanks."
"Third group, in the air!" Flint shouted at the remaining Seekers.
"C'mon Harry, let's have a sit. You're going to need your strength for the next round." Draco was being very solicitous, leading him to a bench that had been set up on the sidelines.
Harry sat down with a thunk. He took deep breaths, trying to get the blood circulating through his body, bringing natural healing power with it. He wasn't watching as the last of the would-be Seekers finished their match. He was only trying to make the pain stop.
"Potter, Lapointe, and Drummond, get over here!" bawled Flint. "Higgs, where are you?"
"Nothing for it," Harry muttered, getting to his feet, and managing to walk levelly over to where the rest were.
"First of all, congratulations on getting this far. Now then, Higgs was reserve Seeker last year, so he's been bumped to first team; however, if one of you can get to the Snitch before he does, that means that you are on the first team, and whoever can catch it next is on second team. Any questions?"
There were none.
"Good, in the air with you then!"
This was the moment of truth. This was where he would sink or swim. If he wanted on the team, he had to ignore the pain in his shoulder, fly straight, and catch that Snitch.
"Loose!" Flint called out, and the flash of gold went zooming by Harry. He wasted no time and immediately took off after it.
Bump, elbow, prod, zoom, it was all a blur to Harry, receding back behind the white haze of pain. All there was was the Snitch and those who wanted to take it away from him.
CRASH! went a Bludger as it smashed into Drummond, breaking up the knot of Seekers. Higgs had spied it and looped out of the way, and he was the first back on the Snitch's course. Harry broke off, wanting to avoid that Bludger. Higgs nearly had it; there was nothing for it.
Harry leaned back slightly, easing the forward momentum of his broom. Higgs pulled away, Lapointe hot on his tail. Reserve Seeker would be good enough. But wait! As Harry watched, the Snitch began a long, looping arc, coming back towards him! He put on a burst of speed and angled for an intercept.
He blind-sided Higgs, smashing into him with terrific force. The pain in Harry's shoulder almost made him black out, but he fought to keep his focus. His broom started wobbling, so he switched hands, reaching out with his injured arm. Just a little more speed! He had it! He could barely feel it for all the pain he was in, but the Snitch was there in Harry's hand.
Flint's whistle blew. "Potter, come on down. Everyone else keep moving!"
Harry landed hard next to Flint. He handed over the Snitch.
"Congratulations Potter. I guess Professor Snape wasn't fooling when he said you could fly well. You've made the team."
Harry nodded absently, seeing his friends charging towards him from the side of the pitch where they'd been watching.
"You don't look so good," Flint said to him. He had a worried look on his face.
"I don't feel so good, either," Harry said and fainted, crashing to the grass in a heap.
"Where am I?" Harry asked as soon as he was conscious again. Looking around, he saw that everything in the large room was white. He looked up at the concerned faces of his friends. Wait a minute, looked up? He realized he was laying in a bed with white linen sheets.
"Hospital wing," Draco answered, breaking off his conversation with Tracy. "You fainted after you made the team. Congratulations, by the way."
"I knew you could do it!" Millie said a bit too loudly, earning her a glare from Madam Pomfrey.
"Prodigious!" Tracy exclaimed. She was holding his right hand. Harry smiled slightly at her. Draco snorted.
"I fainted?" he asked, puzzled.
"Oh Harry, we were so worried!" Tracy said. "We saw you hit the ground, but they wouldn't let us get near."
"How'd I get here?" he asked, touched that his friends had been so concerned.
"Flint kept everyone away and cast a spell," Draco told him. "You stiffened up like a plank, and he brought you up here himself. He would have stayed, but he had to get back to the trials."
Theo nodded. "That Bludger banged your shoulder up a treat," he said, "Madam Pomfrey said you'd had a bit of a shock, but that you'd be right as rain in a few hours."
"My shoulder doesn't hurt," he said thickly.
"She fixed you right up," Theo said. "Said I'd done a nice bit of work with my spells, too," he preened. Nothing made Theo happier than praise for good work.
"When can I leave?"
"Anytime you want to, dearie," said the matronly nurse as she bustled over. She pointed her wand at his shoulder and hummed to herself in satisfaction.
"Right as rain," she confirmed. "You'll be just in time for lunch. Go on now!"
Harry sat up and swung his feet around. He pulled on his trainers and got to his feet, waving off Draco's help.
"I'm hungry," he announced.
Tracy and Pansy giggled. Millie took his arm.
"C'mon, Seeker, let's go get you fed."