Sequel to Blind Faith. Harry's second year at Hogwarts begins and something sinister stalks the halls. Muggleborns are being petrified by someting unknown, and just who could be the Heir of Slyth...
Harry stormed out of the Merlin common room and slammed the door behind him. Stopping for a moment, he leaned back against it as he tried to get his emotions under control. The situation with Granger - Hermione had caused Harry a lot of heartache for months. Now she was threatening the disclosure of his abilities to Dumbledore in an attempt to control his actions.
Standing in the hallway, he rubbed his eyes, using his calming exercises as he formed a plan in his mind. He needed to remind Hermione that while he didn't have the use of his eyes, he was far from 'handicapped' by it. A plan formed in his head; not a pleasant one, but something that might possibly make her think twice about the way she'd been acting toward him. Pushing off from the wall, he began searching for her before Draco said something that he would regret later.
Moving purposefully through the halls, Harry cast out his senses, looking for any trace of his friends. His inner eye was more limited here than other places, thanks to the magic that infused the walls. The glare from them blocked Harry's sight from seeing anything beyond. Still, he pressed on, knowing that he would find them somehow, and quickly enough he did. It wasn't that hard, he decided as he stood outside the closed door of a nearly empty classroom. The yelling inside was clearly audible from the hallway and had alerted Harry of their presence long before he reached it.
Harry stood for a few moments as they argued; the plan in his head had a good chance of working, but he was going to hurt her feelings badly and possibly end their friendship. Letting out a low sigh, he faced the fact that if he didn't get her to change her mind about this, their friendship wouldn't mean anything anyway. Bracing himself, Harry quietly opened the door and slipped into the room.
In the centre, Draco and Hermione were standing toe to toe in a screaming match. He couldn't really make out what each was saying, though it was doubtful that they could either. Both were so wrapped up in their own rants, that Harry doubted they were even listening to each other. While it was allowing the two to vent their spleens, it wasn't resolving anything. Taking a deep breath, Harry yelled out at the top of his lungs.
Hermione and Draco, who'd both missed Harry's entrance, jumped at the sound of his voice. There was a feeling of cold anger that rolled off him and had both his friends backing away in alarm. Stalking across the room to Hermione, Harry let his face twist into an expression of disgust and said, "Forget it Draco, you're wasting your breath. It's not like the little Mudblood is worth it anyway."
Gasps issued from both his friends at Harry's harsh words. Hermione, with a horrified look on her face, asked, "What did you say?"
"You heard me, Mudblood," he answered. "That's what you are, isn't it, dirty blood? The spawn of two Muggles- weak, inferior to any pureblood wizard... you really aren't worthy to be in the same room with a squib -"
The force of Hermione's slap split Harry's lip and knocked the glasses from his face. He didn't show it but the true pain of it wasn't the blow; it was the effect that he was having on her. Unfortunately, he knew he job was far from finished.
"Don't you ever say that!" Hermione cried tearfully.
"Truth hurts?" Harry sneered back. "Really, as smart as you are, you'll never measure up to a 'real' witch or wizard."
Draco took a step toward them, wanting to stop this, but seemed unsure just who he wanted to help. Harry was his friend, but the things he was saying to Hermione were cruel. Harry could feel the confusion and hurt radiating off his friend, but kept his attention on the Gryffindor, not that she was making it easy to ignore her.
"That's not true!" the girl yelled as she pounded him with her fists. "I'm a better witch than any pureblood in our year- better than a lot of them two years above us! I'm no less than any of them and I've proved it more than once!"
"Funny," Harry said, his voice and expression suddenly blank. "I've been saying the exact same thing to you since I saved Neville from Voldemort last term. You remember that night, don't you? I stopped Quirrell from killing Neville and broke the charm that necklace had over me on my own!"
Harry couldn't see the stricken look that suddenly crossed Hermione's face, but he could sense the conflicted emotions swirling underneath. She was angry with him, definitely. There was also guilt, sadness and concern. He never doubted that Hermione cared about him, or that she was doing this for what she thought was his best interests. Somewhere in the past six months, however, she'd decided that he was incapable of taking care of himself. That was something that had to change.
"You nearly got yourself killed doing it," Hermione sobbed as she regained her voice.
"And you could have blocked a point-blank killing curse?" Harry asked quietly. He'd gotten the girl's attention, now he needed to make her realize the double standard she was using with him. He only hoped that she would start to reason out what he was trying to say.
"No - but - that's not the point..." she said. " I know what you're doing; he explained it to me.... You don't have anything to prove. I just can't stand the thought of something happening to you."
"What -" Harry asked in bafflement. "Hermione, what are you talking about?"
"I understand why you think you have to do these things," she answered as she stared at the floor intently. She couldn't bring herself to look at him. "The headmaster took me aside and tried to explain it after Halloween, but I didn't really understand until the thing with the necklace. You're the Boy-Who-Lived. People expect you to be more than just another student. You're a symbol for the light. It's why he sent you to live with your relatives instead of staying in the wizarding world. Professor Dumbledore was trying to shield you from having to live up to that image, but you started doing it anyway when you got to school."
"So, then, you've been spying on me for him," Harry said heavily as a headache settled in behind his eyes. "What have you told him, Hermione? What does he already know?"
"I haven't!" she squeaked in denial. "I wouldn't do that. I just agreed to try and keep you from getting into too much trouble."
Turning away from his friends while he reigned in his emotions, Harry felt the first real pangs of dislike for Dumbledore. It was one thing to be over-protective, but to use his friends.... Harry took a few slow deep breaths, like Sal had taught him to, and returned to the task at hand. Turning back to Hermione, he asked, "Do you trust me?"
"Of course!" she replied quickly. "It's just -"
"You think I don't consider my own safety sometimes," he supplied. After a quiet "Yes." from her, Harry went on. "The thing is that you have to trust me completely or not at all. I've lived this way since I was four years old. I've survived up till now- trolls, Dark Lords and all. I can do this on my own if I have to, but I'd rather have my friends with me. You, Draco, Neville - even Weasley isn't so bad sometimes. But I need you to understand that I know what I'm doing.
"I'm trying out for Quidditch on Saturday," he said, holding up a hand to forestall Hermione's retort. "The professors will be there, and the pitch is charmed to keep us from hurting ourselves too badly. If you think I can't handle myself after try-outs, then I won't play." Now Harry had to hold up a hand to keep Draco from protesting. "But I need you to be honest about it. Remember what you said about being unfairly judged? I just want you to do the same with me."
That being said, Harry grabbed Draco's sleeve and pulled the Slytherin toward the door. Draco and I are going back to the common room. Think about what I said, okay?"
Not waiting for her response, Harry and Draco left the classroom and began walking back to where their classmates were waiting. Pulling out a handkerchief, Draco handed it to Harry to dab at his bloody lip.
"Quite the way you have with girls," the blond quipped. "I can't wait to see you inviting somebody to the Yule Ball."
"Ha-ha," Harry grumbled. "Honestly, though, you know why I did it. It's the only way I could think of to make her really think about what she was doing."
"I've said it before," answered Draco as they approached the Merlin Common room, "You'd have been great in Slytherin. So, you think you'll try out for the team?"
"About that," answered Harry as he pulled his friend to a stop. "I have an idea..."
The rest of the week went surprisingly smooth for Harry. When he and Draco got back from their confrontation with Hermione, no one asked what had happened, or about what had been said in the blow-up at the table. Having picked up their notes, everyone went right back to studying shield spells.
Friday came faster than Harry really cared for and he was working feverishly to be ready for the next day. With Sal and Ro's help, he'd finally been able to get some control over the glowing eyes that his magic caused. In fact, they'd decided to use it as a prop when he cast his fake Animadvirto de Sanus. He'd also gone into more detail with Draco over his plans for Saturday, The Slytherin wasn't exactly happy about the situation either.
"I don't like it," complained the blond as they both stood with their new practice swords, going through the new 'dances' that Ric was teaching them. "You're going to make a lot of enemies, and if we do like you said, it's a fate worse than death!"
"Dramatic much?" asked Harry with a grin as they carried on with their individual dances.
Ric had wasted no time beginning their weapon training. As he'd promised Sal, Harry now used two wooden scimitars, weighted and proportioned to match actual blades for someone his size. Draco had been given a long, slim wooden blade that Ric identified as a longsword. Having a long pommel, it could be used one-handed with ease, but left room for a second when more force was needed. On his other hand he wore a metallic gauntlet that their teacher called a Bracer.
The Bracer consisted of a leather glove covered with metal plates and suds, protecting the hand from injury. Above the wrist, it became a silvery metal sheath that reached nearly to the elbow. According to Ric, the Bracer allowed Draco full movement of his left arm, but when he presented it in a defensive position, a protective ward resembling a shield would appear. Not only would it protect against muggle -type weapons, but most spells, save the Unforgivables.
Each boy practised their own special dance, a series of movements that made proper offensive and defensive movements instinctive. They were to train thusly an entire hour every morning, doing nothing but the particular dance until they had it perfected to the point that Ric thought they were ready to learn the next one. So far, the only development that Harry could notice was that every day afterwards, they felt like their arms were going to fall off.
Though the now familiar ache was creeping across his shoulders, Draco didn't let it distract him from the subject they were discussing. "You really don't understand; we're messing with the order of the universe here."
"Trust me," Harry answered, puffing with exertion. "I know what I'm doing. Anyway, you don't have to do it with me. I'll understand if you want to back out."
Bristling, the blond responded, "No, I said I'd do it, and I will. Besides, after everything that's happened, I really want to see their faces."
Shaking his head in amusement, Harry continued with his dance, only grumbling when some new ache made itself known. He almost couldn't wait for tomorrow, but first he had to finish classes and meet up with Aunt Petunia at dinner.
Lessons that day seemed to drag on forever. Even during his time in the infirmary with Madam Pomfrey, Harry couldn't seem to concentrate. Every spare moment had him remembering the rush of wind and the giddy feeling he'd get at the beginning of a dive. The medi-witch was more than a little annoyed at his lack of attention, but even fear of her ire couldn't get him to pay more attention.
At last, classes for the week finished, and Harry found himself at the Merlin table in the Great Hall with his friends as they waited for dinner. Terry and Millicent were going on about how dreadful Professor Lockhart was in class that day, telling a wild and not-quite believable tale of how he charmed a Medusa into gazing at its own reflection - thus turning it to stone, while Draco and Blaise crowed excitedly about Quidditch try-outs the next morning. Harry was so wrapped up in the conversations that he entirely missed Aunt Petunia's entry until a wild cry of "MUM!" erupted from the Hufflepuff table.
Excusing himself from his friends, Harry made his way to the entrance, knowing that Petunia would still be there, trapped in his cousin's bone crushing hug. Stepping up to them, he waited patiently for mother and son to finish before he gave his own greeting. He was pleasantly surprised, despite the giggles that erupted from the surrounding tables, to be pulled into the hug by his aunt.
Blushing hotly, Harry went with them to the Hufflepuff table and sat as Dudley introduced Petunia to all his new friends and classmates. There was some snickering going on in the Hall, mostly at the Slytherin table. Most were aware, however, of Dudley's unique circumstances and good-naturedly let his behaviour slide.
Letting the drone of his cousin's nearly constant chatter wash over him, Harry relaxed and closed his inner eye with a relieved sigh. He could keep it open for most of a day now, but the constant barrage from both Hogwarts and its students still left him with a headache by the end of it. He was so relaxed, that he almost missed the question from his aunt.
"So, Harry," she asked. "What's so important that at the school that you can't spend the night with us tonight?"
"Er," Harry muttered, trying to think up a good way to break the news to her. Dudley, on the other hand, had no problem explaining.
"Harry's trying out for Quidditch tomorrow," the blond boy crowed, silencing all conversation nearby them, including the ones at other tables. It quickly picked up again, urgent whispers running up and down all the house tables.
"You're what?" asked Petunia quietly.
"I'm trying out for Quidditch," Harry admitted.
"That thing where you fly around on brooms?" she asked. "When did you decide you were going to do this?"
"Well," Harry explained uncomfortably. "Draco took me out flying last Halloween, holding the broom, you understand," he added for the benefit of the others listening. "Anyway I loved it and decided I had to try and find a way to be able to play. Over the summer I found a spell that would let me."
"So, you've been planning to do this for almost a year?" Petunia said with an edge in her voice. "Did Severus know?"
"I told him over the summer," Harry answered miserably. "When we met up with him in Diagon Alley, I asked him to help me with the spell." Wincing, Harry reopened his inner eye to peek at Petunia and see just how mad she really was. To his surprise, there was no anger at all, rather a sense of amusement directed at him.
"You knew!" he yelped. "You're not mad."
"Severus was over for a visit two days ago. He told me all about it. I was worried and upset at first, but I got over it." Pulling her nephew close and touching her head to his, she whispered. "I do get over-worried sometimes - You boys are all I have left; but at the same time, I trust you. I've watched you grow from a boy to a young man; you've always shown more maturity than most adults I know. If you think you can do this, and you've thought it out, I'll be in the stands with Duds tomorrow cheering you on." Gripping him a little tighter and letting more humour creep into her voice, she continued. "And if you ever keep anything like this from me again, I'll tan your hide."
Grinning back at his aunt, and trying (poorly) to hold back tears of happiness, Harry sniffed and dug into his dinner. They had a wonderful meal, talking much about how their classes were going. Getting up afterwards, Harry walked out of the hall with his aunt and cousin to escort them to the gates, never knowing of the worried gaze from the head table that followed him out.
Saturday morning dawned warm and sunny. It being the weekend, Harry had expected that most of the school would still be in bed when he met Draco at the entrance to the Great Hall. Instead, when they entered, they found it full of students carrying on whispered discussions that ceased the moment they were noticed. The Ravenclaw was about to turn and flee, when Draco grabbed him by the shoulder.
"Ignore them," he said quietly. "Pretend it's any other day and come eat breakfast. We're both going to need all our energy."
Arriving at the Merlin table, Harry sat down and asked Terry, "What are you doing up so early? We have to drag you out of bed every other morning."
"I'm going to the Quidditch try-outs," he answered. "And everybody who isn't trying out is going to watch. After last night, I don't think there's anybody in the castle that doesn't want to see you try and fly. The Weasley twins even have a betting pool going; they're wagering on everything from which house you end up flying for, to whether or not you even survive the try-outs."
A smile broke out on Harry's face at the last bit. "What're the odds at getting through the day and not visiting the hospital wing?"
"Ten-to-one," reported Terry after checking a parchment he held in his lap. Thirty-to-one that you even make it on a house team."
A quick conference with Draco had Harry and he pooling money before the blond ran over to the Gryffindor Table to make his own bet. They'd nearly finished breakfast when Neville approached the table and asked If Harry was really going to try out.
"You can't be serious," the dark haired Gryffindor said. He stood, holding a Nimbus 2001 that he'd gotten as an anonymous gift upon announcing he'd be flying for his house that year. Ginny Weasley stood with him as well, splitting her time giving Neville moon-eyed gazes and Harry piercing stares. "Quidditch is dangerous business, Harry. You should really leave it to people that can handle it."
"Really?" Harry answered, bristling. "How's the wrist, Nev?"
Blanching at the memory of his first Flying class, the Gryffindor recovered quickly and responded with coolness in his voice that had never been there before. "That was then; I've gotten a lot better since. Well, I guess we'll just have to see you out there then," he said as he turned and walked away. Sending one more look at Harry, Ginny followed after her housemate.
"Well, that was weird," Harry said after they'd left.
"Not if you ask me," answered Draco as he took a drink of his pumpkin juice. "More the same, if anything. Mind you, Longbottom hasn't been as bad as Hermione, but he's been doing the same thing she has since last year."
"No, I mean Ginny Weasley. There's something different about her since last year. I'm not sure what... she doesn't seem to like me much anymore either."
"She's a Weasley," Draco reminded as he stood up. "I wouldn't worry about it. Come on, let's get down to the Quidditch pitch."
As they left, it seemed like half the Great Hall finished their breakfast at the same time and made a dash for the door. Harry was by no means shy, but the sheer numbers of people watching made him want to just forget the whole thing and run back to his aunt's house. It was only the call of the pitch, nearing with every step, that kept him from doing just that. Soon they were about to pass through to the stands and enter the field, when he found his way blocked by several adults.
"Good morning, Harry," said Albus Dumbledore as he effectively blocked entry to the field. "You've come to be with your friends while they try-out? You can't be on the field while they do, but I'll let you come and sit in my box. It's close to the announcer's booth, so you'll be able to hear everything that happens."
"Sorry, Headmaster, but I'm not here to cheer them on." Harry replied smoothly as he shrugged off the hand Dumbledore had placed on his shoulder. "I'm trying out for one of the teams."
Harry felt concern and determination well up behind the headmaster's shields as the ancient wizard held up a hand and spoke. "No, Harry, I can't allow it. The rules clearly prohibit your play. It's for your own safety."
"But it's not," answered Harry coolly as he nudged Draco, who pulled the Quidditch rulebook from his satchel. "The rules say that, and I quote, 'Any student of at least second year may participate as long as they are of good academic standing and has no uncorrected conditions that would cause harm to themselves or others."
Nodding emphatically, Dumbledore went on, "Then you must understand why it is necessary for you not to play."
"It says uncorrected conditions."
"Harry," Dumbledore said patiently. "Your sight was irreparably damaged. There is nothing to correct."
"But it can be approximated," Harry insisted. "I found a spell that converts some sounds into vision. It's ancient and doesn't work on everybody-that's why it isn't in use much-but it does for me."
"Without further study by a competent wizard, I still don't think -"
"I helped Mr Potter research his spell, Albus," announced Professor Snape as he seemed to appear from nowhere. "While the spell isn't perfect, it does appear to be effective enough for this purpose."
Taking advantage of the large audience, Harry asked a bit loudly, "Are you forbidding me to play, Professor?"
A wave of realization and wry humour washed through the headmaster's sparks as he realized he was being successfully manipulated by a twelve-year-old. Still, he wasn't about to let it go this quickly. "Please Harry, You know what kind of injuries can come from Quidditch; you've helped take care of numerous injuries last year. Those boys and girls had two good eyes and still were caught unawares."
Unmoved by the headmaster's arguments, Harry reminded, "I know all that, but today you will all be there and the pitch is warded to prevent serious injury. Unless you absolutely refuse to let my try playing, I'm going out there and getting on a team."
Professor Dumbledore was ready to do just that- Harry's safety should be paramount over whatever romantic notions he had about playing. Still, he felt boxed into a corner. There was no rule that would forbid him playing, and Harry knew it. Moreover, the entire school was listening in on their discussion, so they knew it as well. Defeated, Albus only hoped that Harry wouldn't hurt himself too badly when he failed on the field. With a sigh, he announced, "I won't forbid your playing, Harry. You have to understand, though, there will be no favouritism for you because of your disability. You will be accepted on a team, or not, by your own skill."
"Understood sir," Harry answered with a grin. "That's all I was asking for."
Slipping past the headmaster, Harry and Draco made it on to the field. Cringing at the glare caused by the sparks of both wards and wizards present, Harry suddenly realized just how hard spotting the Snitch might be.
An excited voice was all the warning Harry got before being bowled over by the excited form of Dudley Dursley. They'd parted just the night before, but from the way he was acting, it was if he hadn't seen his cousin in weeks.
"Surprise!" squeaked the blond as he untangled himself from his cousin. "I bet you didn't expect to see us. Mum said we could come and watch you try out... do you know what house you're going to play for? Zack says that you should play for Hufflepuff. He says we have a real chance to win the Quidditch cup this year if we try. Cedric is our Seeker; he's really good - he helps me with my homework sometimes -"
"Duds!" Harry called out, to cut off his cousin's energetic monologue. "It's good to see you, but I don't have a lot of time to talk." Brightening, he retrieved an envelope from Draco and handed it to his cousin. "Do me a favour if you can, though. I need this delivered before try-outs start; can you do that for me?"
Reading the name of the addressed, Dudley looked up with wide eyes and nodded fiercely. With another quick hug and a goodbye, the Hufflepuff ran off to deliver the message. Turning his attention back to the Pitch, Harry took stock of the chaos around them.
He hadn't been to Quidditch try-outs last year, so the process was new to him. The Pitch was divided into four quarters. Each house team was currently meeting in its own section getting their candidates set up to play. Once everybody was accounted for, according to Draco and Terry anyway, the pitch would be cleared and the captains meet with Madam Hooch to choose the order by which the houses would use the pitch.
Even as Harry approached the house he was going to try-out for, he felt the stares of the entire school on him. From the closest he could feel scorn and dismission in some of their auras, in others, simple curiosity. Only a rare few looked at Harry and saw past the dark glasses and cane. Each house had some, but none concentrated as the house he'd picked. Unfortunately, it was also the house where he tended to have more enemies than friends.
Walking up to the team captain, a dark haired, brutish seventh year that oozed maliciousness, he waited to be recognized.
"Potter," the captain sneered, "Come to be humiliated by real Quidditch players then?"
"I thought I'd give your team a try, Flint," he answered casually. "I wanted to see if Slytherin was worth my time."
With a feral grin, Flint asked, "What position does the spoiled little blind Boy-Who-Lived want to try for?"
"Seeker," Harry stated calmly. It was hard not to laugh at the Slytherin's words. He and Draco had jokingly gone over what they thought he'd say, and Flint had followed their private script almost perfectly.
Snorting at Harry's choice, Flint shook his head, "Won't happen Potter. Malfoy already has that spot."
"Really," Draco asked, feigning interest and looking around. "Father's playing? I thought you had to be a current student."
"Don't be daft," Flint replied irritably. "I meant you; your father made sure you'd have a place on the team."
"That's just it," Draco explained. "I'm not trying out for Slytherin. The only reason I'm here is to watch Harry fly."
"But you have to play Seeker!" Flint sputtered. "Your father said -"
"My father," interrupted Draco, "Didn't bother to talk with me about this. If you want a Seeker, you're going to have to hold try-outs."
"He issn't very happy," Harry commented as Flint stormed away to find more candidates for the Seeker position.
"Understandable though," Draco answered. "Father was going to give the Slytherin team new brooms if I was made Seeker."
Confused, Harry said, "I thought you told Flint that you didn't know anything about your father getting you on the team."
A trademark sneer crossed the blond's face as he replied, "I lied."
When all the teams were ready, the captains met with Madam Hooch at the centre of the pitch. They'd draw slips of paper out of a hat to pick the order they'd use the pitch that day. For a simple drawing, it seemed to take forever. Finally Flint came back with a superior grin on his face and Harry overheard him telling his friends how they'd gotten Slytherin first position because Hufflepuff, who'd pulled the first slot from the hat, wasn't ready.
Calling all the new players, Mostly second years, but a few from third and fourth that hadn't played previously, Flint announced a quick race to prove (Or disprove he added, looking right at Harry) everyone's flying ability. Picking a broom wasn't an option for Harry either. As everyone else was picking one from the team pile, Harry had one pushed into his hands.
"Here you go Potter," Flint said with a tight grin. "This one should be safe enough for you - I still don't see how you're going to fly; that little cane of yours will be useless up there."
"Don't worry about me," Harry answered with a smirk of his own. "I've been getting ready for this -" Taking off his glasses and flicking of his wand as he'd practised, casting, "/Animadvirto de Sanus!/"
An emerald light blazed from Harry's eyes for a few moments before fading to a pale greenish glow, vaguely reminiscent of moonlight. Caught in the eerie gaze, Flint gaped like a fish. Whether it was the strange light that came from the Ravenclaw's eyes, or that the Slytherin felt like his soul was being laid bare under that unsettling stare, he didn't know but he didn't like it. Making a lame excuse, Flint turned and hurried off to check the other candidates. Left alone with Draco for a moment, Harry took a moment to study his broom.
"What a piece of junk," Draco commented as Harry ran his fingers over the broom. It was old, Harry had to admit. Many of the bristles were broken or missing. The shaft was covered with small dings and dents, most so old that they were smooth as the shaft. Reaching into it with his senses, Harry only faintly sensed the spells that powered it still in operation. With a broom in this condition, Harry knew he'd never be able to compete against the other candidates. He was about to drop it when he sensed something else.
There was magic in it-quite a lot-but it wasn't tied to anything. The magic just seemed to be bonded to the material of the broom itself. Pulling it closer, Harry focused on the chaotic energy and touched it with his own magic. For a moment, he felt a weird, out of body experience, like he'd become the broom. He could feel himself soaring through the air with a child riding on his back, whooping with glee. Other images and children and teenagers flashed through his mind's eye as he experienced a few of the hundreds of children that had played on it and left a tiny piece of themselves behind.
He stood a moment in awe of all the images and experiences that it had held inside of it, when a thought occurred to him. Using his own magic, Harry tried to form a link between the free-floating magic in the broom, and the failing spells that powered it. At first, nothing happened; it lay, dead in his hands, feeling like any muggle broom. Gradually, he felt a vibration begin in the broom handle, ever so faint at first, but growing quickly in intensity.
"Whoa," Draco gasped quietly as even he could feel a change in the ancient broom. At last, it settled down and outwardly, looked no different than it had before. Touching it though, anybody could feel the power thrumming through it. To Harry's senses, its spells were completely restored and somehow more vibrant and connected to it than other brooms he'd ever seen.
A whistle from Flint had him running to the start line as several Slytherins prepared to take off for the race. Harry wished he'd had time to test the broom, he didn't know if what he'd done to fix it had worked right or not. Still, he had to race with the others now, or not at all. Throwing a leg over the broomstick, the Ravenclaw suddenly became nervous. He wished he'd had time beforehand to practice flying. Any doubts he was having, however, were put to the side as Flint blew the whistle to begin.
Taking off, Harry surprised everyone, including himself, as he not only kept up with the newer brooms, but passed several before they reached the first in a set of rings they were supposed to pass through. The race course was a slalom; rings were set at different heights along the sides of the pitch. At the far end was a final set of rings, that when passed, marked the beginning of a sprint back to the starting point. Harry's take off was impressive, but it quickly became obvious, however, that it would take more than speed to win the race.
As they approached the first Ring, one of the older Slytherins, a fourth year with dark hair and eyes, unexpectedly shoved Harry so hard that he nearly fell off his broom. Having to loop around to make it through the ring, he was hard pressed to catch up with the park. From that moment, it was an unending fight for position.
For every Slytherin he passed, Harry had to dodge punches, kicks and even the stray hex. By the time they got to the final sprint, the only two people ahead of him were Blaise, who was in front, and the dark haired Slytherin that had shoved him. Blaise had a healthy lead, but the older boy was riding a Nimbus 2001 and would catch up quickly. Harry's only chance of winning was somehow passing them both in the sprint.
Stretching out almost flat on his broom, Harry tried to squeeze every ounce of speed he could into his sprint. Accelerating with astonishing speed, he cut the distance between them to almost nothing in seconds. He was about to pass by them, when the dark haired Slytherin backhanded Blaise and knocked him from his broom with a yelp. Not even stopping to think, Harry changed course to catch his fellow Merlin, swinging Blaise around behind him. He was able to save his friend from a nasty fall, but the delay allowed the dark haired Slytherin to speed ahead and take first place in the race.
Landing, Harry nearly charged the older boy, but was caught by Draco before he could take a step. "Harry," he hissed, "Calm down! Don't give Flint a reason to kick you out of the try-outs!"
"But -" Harry protested.
"But nothing," Draco reminded him. "This is Slytherin; whatever it takes to win, that's what you do."
"Who is that jerk anyway?" asked the Ravenclaw as Draco led him a little away from the others.
"His name's Thorne," the blond supplied, "Daniel, Darren - something like that, but not so common. Anyway, He's been relief Seeker for the last couple years. He really wants to be Seeker, be careful around him. When he doesn't get his way, he's an unholy terror."
"Good job, Thorne," said Flint, from the knot of Slytherins gathered around the winner. Angrily, Harry joined the other fliers that had completed the race as the next event of the try-outs was announced. "We'll be having a thirty minute scrimmage; Last years team, along with those of you I think have potential will go against the rest of the candidates. I'll referee and grade each player; Slytherin only allows the best, most cunning players to be in its team. If you don't live up to its expectations - my expectations, you have no place here."
Separating himself from the other Slytherins, Flint stepped in close with Harry, leaning in, he said softly, "Last chance Potter, give up now and save yourself some pain. The only way you'd get Seeker is to catch that Snitch before time's up and put it in my hand. You know it; I know it, that's never going to happen."
With eyes blazing bright green for a few moments, Harry grinned fiercely as he said simply, "Watch me."
Without another word, Harry joined his reluctant team mates and took to the air. At Flint's whistle, play began. Harry began circling the pitch, staying opposite Thorne while each of them searched for any sign of the Snitch. As things began heating up, Harry realized just how elusive the little gold ball could be. Whether it was the limited range of his sight, or the background magic being put out by the wards and students, the Snitch was impossible to make out from a distance. Not one to let a setback slow him, Harry simply looked for other ways to find it.
One way was to watch Thorne's aura. The fourth year was difficult to read, but Harry could feel a little jolt of excitement whenever the older boy thought he'd spotted his target. Unfortunately, he hadn't actually seen it yet and Harry was feeling more frustration from him than anything else.
Another means to locate the Snitch was with his ears. The little golden wings had a unique sound, and while it wouldn't be exact enough to zero in on it, Harry thought he could at least get close enough to use his sight, provided he did get a chance to hear it. The situation wasn't helped at all by the odd Bludger being batted in his direction.
Harry cursed as he dodged another of the energetic balls. If it had just been that he was only dodging Bludgers from the opposing team, he would have been alright with it. In the closing half of the scrimmage, however, he was spending more time avoiding the attacks of his own team as well.
Most of the time in their match had expired by this point and there were only a few minutes left before Flint blew his whistle, ending play. The other team, composed primarily of 'veteran' players had dominated the field, guaranteeing that only they and the few players Flint had already picked would make up that year's team.
Harry and Thorne both were desperate to be the ones to catch the Snitch, Harry to secure his place as Seeker, Thorne, to deny it to him. Finding the prize, however, was proving difficult for both as it would only appear for a few seconds, then dart off before either could get a good fix on it. Time was running out, and finding the Snitch in such a short time would take a miracle. Luckily, there just happened to be one handy.
Fighting to not outwardly react, Harry recognized a distant whir that sounded like hummingbird wings, only these had a distinctly metallic edge to them. Focusing his senses in that direction (again thanking fate that he didn't have to turn his head to 'look'), he was able to make out the crazed flying ball that had avoided him for the last half hour. His heart sank, however, when he realized exactly where it was.
Fifty feet directly below Thorne, the Snitch flitted along the grass covering the pitch. Harry knew that if he dove directly for it, that the Slytherin would know what he was doing and intercept it first. Time was running out, however, and Harry was desperate. A maniacal grin came to his face as a plan was thought of and executed in a split second.
Turning his broom directly toward Thorne, Harry put everything into a tremendous burst of speed. First the Slytherin looked wildly about him, thinking the Snitch must be within arms reach. Realizing it wasn't, he made the assumption that Harry must be charging him for some insane reason. By then it was too late to move, so Thorne only had time to throw up his arms and reflexively close his eyes. Impact never came, however.
In the split second before they would have met, Harry rolled over so he was flying upside down. Pulling back, he went into a vertical dive that had the entire stadium on its feet. The crowd roared as Harry pulled out just above the grass, mirroring the move he'd done the year before that had brought Hermione to tears. In his hand, he held a golden ball with delicate wings.
Landing in front of Flint, Harry waited, holding the broom in one hand and Snitch in the other, waiting for the Slytherin Captain to speak. Within moments Draco and Blaise were slapping him on the back, crowing about his skill. The rest of the team had landed as well and gathered around, all but Thorne. The dark haired Slytherin stood off to the side, seething with anger. Harry had humiliated him and the Ravenclaw knew that there would always be bad blood between them after this. None of that mattered now as Flint began to speak.
"You surprised me Potter," he said. It was true, that feeling was coming off him in waves. Harry could also sense the Slytherin's hate battling what he could only guess was the need to win. Holding out his hand to take the Snitch, he added, "Welcome to the Slytherin team."
Complete silence reigned as Harry threw the tiny Snitch into the air. Sensing that it was free, the little ball unfurled its wings and darted off in some odd direction.
"What are you doing?" demanded Flint in disbelief. "Don't you get it? You made the team! That's what you came here to do!"
"No it wasn't," Harry replied. "Remember, I said I'd try-out and see if your team is worth flying for... it's really not. You weren't looking for good flyers; you'd already picked the team before you came out here. When I did try for a position, you had your cronies do whatever it took to keep me from making the team, including a couple good attempts to injure me.
"Thing is Flint," he added, "You're a terrible team captain and a sorry Slytherin. A true student of Salazar would have done whatever it took to build a winning team; you just picked your friends. I think I'll go check out the other houses, I'm sure I can find at least one that isn't blind to possibility."
Sitting the broom down, Harry turned and was quickly joined by Draco as he walked away from the Slytherins.
"Malfoy!" called Flint. "You're a Slytherin, get back here!"
"I'm a Merlin as well," Draco drawled over his shoulder, "The Slytherin in me says to follow Harry to whatever team he ends up on, that'll be the one that wins the Quidditch cup."
Moments later they were joined boy Blaise, also abandoning the Slytherins for his friends. "Silly stupid bunch of sods," he muttered darkly.
They'd made it most of the way across the pitch when Harry felt something bump against his back. Turning, he found the ancient broom hovering directly behind him. "What's this?" he asked. Taking the broom in hand, he put it back on the ground and began to walk away. Within moments, the broom lifted up on its own and began following him again.
"Looks like you found another stray," commented Draco lightly. "I've never seen a broom act like that before though."
Not sure what was going on with it, but not wanting to waste more time, he took the broom in hand and went to the other house captain he'd had a mind to play for. The fifth year stood with a note in his hand, glanced at it and back to them.
"You said there were two of you," he said with a grin. "Looks like you're on your way to building your own team."
"No," Harry answered, "just friends that want to be with me on the winning team. Before you ask, I don't want to go out for Seeker, it's your position and you're better at it. Draco and I both want to try out for Chaser."
"Me too," piped in Blaise.
"You sure Potter?" asked the captain. I mean you caught the Snitch after a fifty foot dive, and not a scratch on you. Not even Charlie Weasley could have pulled that off and I've seen him fly; he's one of the best."
"Chaser is fine. I wouldn't even mind being the reserve, if there's a spot."
"Fine then, go put your names down on the list. Oh, by the way, call me Cedric, everybody does."
Harry and Draco won their spots as Chasers on the Hufflepuff team easily. Blaise almost did as well, he was beat out by a sixth year that had held the spot since he started playing in second. Blaise did make it on the reserve team though; next to be picked if something happened and somebody couldn't play.
The Gryffindors almost had Ron Weasley join as the new Seeker; he was beat out by Neville, however. It was odd because the redhead had flown far better than Nev. Wood had chosen Longbottom anyway, though his face looked like he'd been sucking lemons when he'd done it. Terry had been made the Ravenclaw team as a Chaser as well.
Petunia and Dudley cheered him them on from the stands, and when it was all over there were hugs all around. Tired and ready to go home for the weekend, Harry turned as he sensed somebody approaching. This confrontation he'd been expecting, but he still didn't know how it would turn out. Wanting to get it over with, he asked, "So?"
"You scared the daylights out of me again today Harry," Hermione said "You're reckless and impulsive. I know you're going to hurt yourself one day, and I really wish you wouldn't do it."
His heart dropping because of the promise he'd made to her, Harry asked, "You're telling me not to play?"
There was a long pause that did nothing for Harry's state of well-being before she answered. "No, that wouldn't be fair," she said, releasing the weight he'd begun to feel settling over his heart. "I can tell how much you love it, and you are really good." She paused again, building the courage to speak. "I don't know if I can ever stop worrying about you. Though, don't think I want to. I- I just wish that we could be friends again," she finished as her eyes filled with tears.
Reaching out with both hands, Harry let her take hold. "You've always been my friend Hermione; that's never been the issue. I've even forgiven you for the Bodybind last year (mostly). The only thing is I want from you is trust. You've shown that you don't trust me, and because of that, I can't trust you, even if I want to. You'll have to earn that back."
Releasing her hands as real tears began to fall from her eyes he went on, "We are friends; just not like before. Not yet." Turning, he, his friends and family walked off the pitch toward Hogsmeade. Professor Snape had given both Blaise and Draco permission to visit Harry at home and have dinner, tired and truly happy.
There you go, Chapter seven with no evil cliffie.
fifty points to whoever knows what Thorne's real first name is. It's a pop-culture reference from the seventies (think villain)... and NO, it's not Rupert!