Categories > Books > Harry Potter > I, Alone
Chapter 16 – An Afternoon Of Quidditch
"Blast that damnable Snape!" fumed Quirinus Quirrell as he paced back and forth within his room. "I would have had the bloody stone if not for him!" Why must life never go as planned for me? he thought rhetorically to himself as he pivoted and paced back in the other direction. The Defense Against the Dark Arts instructor really wanted to break something at the moment, Snape's neck currently being at the top of the list.
The Fates had not been kind Quirinus, or so he felt. Gifted with abrilliant mind, even at a young age he had stood out from his peers. Rather than being beneficial this had caused him to be tormented and laughed at by the other children. His quiet and often timid nature didn't help at all. While other children laughed and played outside, he preferred to read and learn. The other boys his age took great delight in bullying him as well as teasing him at great length.
As the young boy grew older and began to attend classes at Hogwarts, he discovered the other cruel gift that the Fates had bequeathed to him. While his mind excelled at theoretical spells and defensive magic, some calling him aprodigy, it became apparent rather quickly that he didn't have the aptitude to enact his theories. His ability to perform magic was not on par with his ability to theorize and extrapolate new spells.
This is not to say that he was a bad wizard, just the opposite actually. He was a very good wizard, excelling at charms, transfiguration as well as wandless magic. His magical capabilities, however did not match his brilliant mind. His OWLs scores had been very high, which had aided considerably in obtaining him the Muggle Studies position at Hogwarts. It was only this year that he had moved to the position of Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher. A position widely believed to be cursed due to the fact that no one lasted more than a year in the position.
I'll show them! I'll show them all, he angrily mused to himself, recalling his vow. Everyone who laughed at me while sneering down their noses will see just how great of awizard I am! It was the man's desire to prove himself to the world, as well as to himself, that had lead him into taking a sabbatical from teaching last year and go on a grand tour of the world. In truth he had set out to find what remained of Lord Voldemort. His brilliant mind had theorized that the Dark Lord had not been completely killed by the Potter baby that Halloween night.
If I can find proof that the Dark Lord still exists then they will take notice of me, he recalled believing back then. Perhaps I can persuade him into teaching me some of what he knows in order to keep my silence for a time? It had all seemed so simple…so unbelievably easy, that he hadn't given a great deal of thought to what the worse outcome could be. In a dark forest in Albania the Professor had finally found the object of his search.
I was ill prepared, Quirinus admitted to himself reluctantly. He had read all there was concerning the Dark Lord and believed himself capable of facing whatever Voldemort had become. Perhaps I shouldn't have gone alone?The memory of his encounter with the essence of Lord Voldemort still haunted his dreams. The formless dark cloud that had engulfed him and seeped into his body via any opening it could find. "Then again, I'm never alone now," he mumbled aloud with a shudder. It hadn't taken long for Voldemort t over-power the weaker will of the Muggle Studies Professor.
You do not have the stone, hissed a rough voice within the professor's mind. The sound not unlike the rustling of dead leaves across the forest floor. You have failed me yet again!
"It is not my fault, Master," Quirrell protested."I did just as you said and let the troll into the school. I had no sooner stepped within the Great Hall to inform everyone of this when a house elf appeared right before Dumbledore and informed him of the matter. The Headmaster forbade anyone to leave the great hall for fear they would encounter the beast. Instead he led a group of others to investigate. I barely managed to get away without being discovered."
Then why do you stand here without the stone? enquired the Dark Lord with an angry hiss that caused the teacher to shudder and flinch as if he was about to be struck. Surely there was confusion enough for even you to acquire it.
"Snape! It was Snape, my Lord," Quirrell hastily replied. "He must have suspected that something was a foot. When I reached the third floor he was already there ahead of me," he informed Voldemort. The Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher had narrowly missed being spotted by the Potions Master. "He must have gone directly there to check on the stone, Master." Quirrell had remained hidden long enough to see the Potions Master narrowly miss having his leg bitten off by the whatever was behind the door where the stone was being kept. "There must have been some secret passage or some other means that allowed him to arrive before me," Quirrell whined.
There were several long moments of silence before the Dark Lord spoke once again. Severus must still be acting the part of a spy, the gravelly voice mused within Quirrell's head. The old fool hasn't a clue that he has one of my most loyal servant's working with him.
Quirrell thought for a moment before daring to ask what had just come to mind. "If Snape is loyal to you, then perhaps he can help us acquire the stone?"
The Dark Lord remained silent for several long moments as it pondered the idea. It wasn't a bad idea but Voldemort wasn't so sure about giving up one of his best spies. No. He is far too important to me where he is, Voldemort finally decided. I will need him there once I am whole again. I grow weary for now. You will need to find another way to sustain me.
"Yes, my Lord," Quirrell stammered quickly. "You have only to name it."
You will to go into the Forbidden Forest and find a Unicorn, the Dark Lord told his servant. Kill the beast and drink its blood. Yes, that should do nicely, I think," the shade of the Dark Lord murmured within the Professors head.
"B...but, Master, won't that kill me?" Quirrell timidly asked. He well understood that killing a unicorn, a creature who was so pure and good, was a heinous act. The perpetrator of such a malicious act as drinking the beast's blood would be cursed to live a half-life at best or an excruciatingly painful death at worst. Neither aspect of which the Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor found particularly appealing at the moment."Surely there is another way, my Lord Voldemort?" Quirrell questioned.
Fool! snapped the angry voice in Quirinus's head. If you die than I must find another host. While I might find one more befitting my plans, I do not intend to waste the time it would take to accomplish that. You will drink the blood and it will sustain me and I will then sustain you. The essence of the Dark Lord didn't include the 'for the time being' that it was thinking.
The devastation had been unimaginable. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes I may very well have doubted it, Albus confessed to himself with a slight shake of his head. Upon the sudden appearance of the Hogwarts elf in the great hall, he, along with several of those seated at the main table, had hastened to the Grande Stairway. There was a collective gasp with several expletives from a few of the professors as they stared in utter disbelief at the scene before them.
There was an eerie silence which seemed to hang thick within the very air. The portraits, perhaps for the first time ever, were so silent that one might believe they were muggle paintings rather than the wizardry ones that they were. The floor and stairs were covered in bits of flesh, bone and blood as if some bizarre fisherman had been chumming the floor in the hopes of attracting sharks. In the stillness of the stairway could be heard the unmistakable sound of soft, heart wrenching crying. Hearing those sorrowful sobs and given the gory scene before him, the Headmaster felt his heart ache as he realized that a student most certainly must have perished in some horrendous manner.
Leading the charge up the ruined stairs Albus followed the sound of crying till he came upon its source. What he saw there was the last thing he had expected. The Davis girl sat with a boy's head cradled in her lap, gently stroking the boy's willful black locks. The Granger and Greengrass girls each help one of the boy's hands, their touch both desperate and yet gentle at the same time. The boy himself was covered in blood and dirt from head to toe. It was readily apparent that the young wizard had sustained numerous injuries. His clothes were mangled so badly that it took the Headmaster a moment to realize that he was wearing a Hogwarts school robe. As the aged wizard noticed the green striping on the robe he felt a cold sinking sensation in the pit of his stomach. A quick glance to the youth's forehead revealed, in strangely enough the only clean spot on the boy's face, the famous lightning bolt scar.
As if by magic Madam Pomfrey suddenly appeared and took charge of the situation. The young Potter boy was immobilized to prevent any further possible damage to his body, before he was whisked away to the hospital wing of the school. Once safely tucked within the mediwitch's domain the elder witch set right to work on Harry. It had been touch and go for a while, the Headmaster recalled as he shifted in his seat, yet Poppy managed to pull off yet another miracle.
"Headmaster?" asked a sleepy voice from the bed next to where the aged wizard was presently seated.
"Harry," Albus offered with a warm, caring smile."Back among the living I see. Gave us quiet the fright I dare say. It took Madam Pomfrey quite some time to patch you up, my boy."
The memories of the events on the stairway suddenly flooded Harry's consciousness. "My friends? Are they alright?" the young wizard asked in a pleading tone as he struggled to sit up only to discover that he hadn't the strength for it. Assessing himself he only then realized that his upper torso as well as various other parts of his body were wrapped in bandages.
Albus reached out and placed a gentle, yet restraining hand, upon the struggle boy's shoulder. "They are fine, Harry," he assured the anxious youth. "In no small part due to you. Though I can't say that the Grande Stairway fared as well," the Headmaster added with a slight chuckle. "Our caretaker, Mr. Filch, was most put out about it as Irecall."
"Sorry, Sir," Harry offered as he attempted to reach for the nightstand and where he hoped to find his glasses. His arms felt as though they weighed a ton each and it was only with great difficulty that he was able to move them.
"How thoughtless of me," Albus exclaimed upon seeing the boy's feeble attempt to reach his glasses. "Allow me," he offered, as he took up Harry's round-lensed glasses and then slipped them on the injured wizard before leaning back in his seat once more.
"Thank you, Sir," Harry offered. "They're really alright?" he couldn't help but ask again. His concern for his friends was all he could think of at the moment. Harry began to worry when the elder wizard didn't answer right away.
Albus looked thoughtful for a moment before replying. "If memory serves me correctly, which is not always the case at my age," the aged wizard offered with a small smile, "I do believe Miss Granger should be by momentarily as it is her turn to look in on you." Seeing the puzzled expression on Harry's face Albus continued to explain. "Your friends have been coming to check on you ever since you were brought here. Madam Pomfrey has allowed them to visit one at a time provided they did not disturb you or others under her care."
"Ho…how long have I been here, Sir?" Harry asked, fearful of the answer. From what the Headmaster had just said he got the distinct impression that today was not Thursday.
The Headmaster's smile vanished at the boy's question."Sadly, for several days. It is now late afternoon on Sunday I fear."
Harry stared up at the ceiling above his bead. Halloween was on Thursday, he thought to himself. I've been in here for three days! The young wizard's body hurt in so many places that he couldn't even begin to name them all. Recalling the fight with the monster on the stairs and the numerous injures he was surprised he felt as well as he did. No wonder it would take so long to heal up. I must have been a right mess when they brought me here!
At least the girls are alright. "You're sure they're alright," Harry suddenly asked again, fearful that the Headmaster might actually lie to him to keep him from becoming upset. What if I wasn't able to save them?Did my own magic injure them? Maybe I did…., he stopped that thought before he could follow it. There was just no way he could handle thinking that he might have done to them what he had done to the creature he fought on the stairs.
Albus smiled a bit upon seeing how concerned Harry was for his friends. "Yes, yes they are fine. Miss Granger had a broken arm," Albus informed the young wizard. "Madam Pomfrey treated her and said it should be as good as new in another day or so." The Headmaster was relieved to see the boy visibly relax. "I feel though that I must apologize to you, Harry, for what happened to you and your friends."
"Apologize? To me?" Harry asked in disbelief only to see the elder wizard nod. "I wasn't your fault, Sir."
"I dare say it was, Harry," Albus corrected him."You see, I am the one that brought the troll to Hogwarts. I'm still not certain how it came to be where it was. It was meant for a certain task, one which it will no longer be able to perform I fear."
"What task is that, Sir?" Harry asked. The young boy couldn't believe that an adult was apologizing for something. The fact that he had been injured due to the Headmaster really hadn't registered. The boy by now was used to being injured by adults. So that thing was a troll, he thought to himself as he added it to his list of scary things to avoid in the future.
"There are times that wizards, as well as the Goblins, will employ trolls to guard certain items of importance," the Headmaster explained rather vaguely. Best to avoid mentioning the stone, he reasoned. No need to concern the boy with it."They are simple creatures and immensely strong which make them fierce foes to fight. Not many can go up against a full grown mountain troll and live to tell the tale, Harry."
"Then how did I, Sir?" Harry asked in a confused tone. If a grown wizard would have difficulties with one then I must have been extremely lucky, he reasoned to himself.
"I suspect that you magic protected you," Albus told the inquisitive youth.
"Accidental magic, Sir?" Harry asked, fearing that once again he might have hurt his friends because he couldn't control the very thing that made him a wizard. How many others might I endanger while I try to learn how to control my magic? Is the entire school at risk? Not for the first time the young wizard thought that everyone would be a great deal safer if he wasn't around.
"Perhaps," Albus replied in a thoughtful tone as he contemplated the boy's question. "Accidental magic, would seem to be the most logical assumption. There is a great deal that we do not as yet understand about it I fear, Harry. From what the young ladies that you rescued, from amost horrible fate I might add, have told us, it does seem as though it was accidental magic. A most remarkable feat, all the same my boy!"
"Sadly, there is still a great deal even about magic which we do not know or fully understand," the Headmaster continued with. "I dare say it is not the wisest course but we have become rather complacent, where magic is concerned. As long as it works and allows us to do what we want we do not care so much about the hows and whys of it all. I'm certain your young lady friends would have a thing or two to say about that," Albus added with a soft chuckle.
Harry lay there in deep thought for several long moments thinking over what the Headmaster had imparted to him. In his mind he could see once more the troll's head vanishing in an instant only to be followed by its body exploding due to his magic. I'm a menace to everything around me. "Sir? Are trolls intelligent?" Harry asked hesitantly, dreading the answer but fearing he already knew what the Headmaster would say.
Albus looked towards the boy, pulling his own wandering thoughts back to the conversation. "In a manner of speaking." Seeing the quizzical look on the young wizard's face the Professor continued, as he always enjoyed educating the children entrusted into his care. "They have a capacity to learn as well as understand, Harry. Some believe them to be just dumb creatures. They are seen much like a dog by the Wizarding world. They can be taught to do some rudimentary things but that is the limit of their capacity."
"But they are used by the Wizarding world, as well as the Goblins, as guards," Harry pointed out. "So they are not just unintelligent animals? If they are employed then that must mean they are paid. Wouldn't that make them closer to us than to dogs, Sir?"
"True," Albus replied with a slight nod. "However, do not the Muggles use dogs as guards as well? I am certain they must have some degree of intelligence to be trained as such. They are paid as well with food and a place to live. That doesn't mean that they are like us though, Harry."
"B…but…I killed it," Harry stated in a soft voice as if he was fearful of even saying the words. A part of his mind wanted to disbelieve that he had done such a thing. The other part of his mind kept repeating the fact over and over again that he had brutally killed an intelligent creature. I killed another living being, he thought as his emotions at this revelation swirled nearly out of control.
Albus sighed softly and leaning forward placed a comforting hand upon the boys shoulder. He could now see just what was bothering the boy."Had you not, Harry, I fear we would be short three very bright young witches. It is never easy to take a life, even when it is to save many others," Albus told Harry, thinking of his friend Gellert from his youth whom he had been forced to kill. A deed that had, in the end, ultimately cost him the life of his sister Ariana, as well as the love of his brother Aberforth. "It is no simple matter to do what is right and for the greater good, Harry."
"I've never killed anyone before," Harry said, suddenly feeling sick to his stomach as well as lightheaded. Only the fact that he hadn't eaten anything for several days prevented him from emptying his stomach at that moment. The young wizard felt dirty, foul, as if he was still covered in the blood of the troll he had murdered.
"I hope you never have to again, Harry," Albus told him with conviction. No child should ever have to go through what he has! No adult either for that matter,the Headmaster mused. Those of us in positions of authority and tasked with guiding others are the only ones that should have to bare such a burden. I truly am sorry, Harry. I greatly fear this is only the first time you'll have to shoulder such guilt before everything is set to right. I pray I am wrong.
It could have just as easily have been Daphne or Tracey or, the young wizard swallowed heavily, or Hermione. A great weight seemed to settle into his chest and Harry found it difficult to breath. I could have killed all of them, he suddenly realized. I am a freak! Uncle Vernon was right after all! They're all in danger if they're around me! "Sir, they're really are alright?" Harry asked, prepared to ask the Headmaster to ensure that no one came to visit him again.
The Headmaster opened his lips to reply but stopped as there was suddenly a straggled cry of "Harry!" from near the foot of the bed. The aged wizard blinked rapidly and had to wonder if the witch that had suddenly appeared atop the injured young wizard hadn't apparated from the entry way of the curtained off area directly to the wizard. I think perhaps this will be the best medicine of all, Albus thought as he eyed the two first year students.
"Hermione!" Harry squawked through the mass of bushy brown hair that covered his face. The witch's one good arm was wedged beneath the boy's shoulder as she clung tightly to him. Her face was buried in the crook of his neck, the warmth of her breath brushing the side of his throat as she repeated his name over and over again while crying. The-Boy-Who-Lived slipped his arms around his friend and held onto her as fiercely a he could, being mindful of Hermione's injured arm that was in a sling and trapped between their bodies.
"Oh Harry! We thought you were…were….," the young witch couldn't bring herself to say that they thought he might be dead when they had found him on the stairs. When they had first come to the hospital wing of the school Madam Pomfrey had placed Harry in a bed and raised the privacy screens around it preventing others from seeing what was happening. Hours had gone by and there was no word as the three witches sat and waited anxiously for news of their friend. During that time the three witches had answered all the Headmaster's questions concerning the events with the troll. The aged wizard seemed most curious about the bright light and the troll's body exploding.
While the three of them waited, nurses came and went, some fetching potions while other retrieved sterile bandages. The trio had collapsed into a heap, clinging to each other as they cried, when a large basin of bloody towels and cloths had been taken away followed by the bloodied and tattered remains of Harry's clothes. Each had realized that for their friend to have lost that much blood, especially after all that he had already lost on the stairway, the prognosis could not be good. Madam Pomfrey finally had to issue all of them calming draughts and dreamless slumber potions or they would have never rested.
I was a fool to think I could ever have friends, Harry realized as he clung to the girl in his arms, wanting to enjoy what would probably be the last hug he would receive. I have to tell them what I did, he told himself after several long minutes. They'll probably hate me for it. I killed someone after all. I can't readily think they'll want to have any part of me after this. A quick peek through the witch's hair showed him that the Headmaster had silently left to allow the two of them some privacy.
"Hermione," Harry said softly before pausing to remove the witch's hair from his mouth before trying again. "Hermione," he said once again only to receive a noncommittal sniffle before the witch nuzzled in a bit deeper. "I…I have to tell you something. I know you'll probably hate me for it and all," he told her softly only to feel Hermione's head shake rapidly in disagreement.
"You saved us!" Hermione said in a tearful voice."I was so scared! You saved us all, Harry!"
Harry's head gave a short shake in an attempt to deny her words."I…I killed someone," the boy choked out emotionally only to feel the young girl's grip on him tighten even more. "You must think me a horrible and vile person," Harry added, his voice cracking under the emotional strain of his actions. "I'm a freak just like uncle Vernon said!" Harry could feel his own tears rolling down his cheek but at this point he really didn't care all that much. The shame and wretchedness he felt inside for having ended another's life was nearly all consuming for the young boy.
"I don't care!" Hermione declared as she felt Harry's body shudder beneath her. "You're my best friend…my very first friend!Nothing will ever change that," the emotional witch told him as she sat up and looked him directly in the eye. "We'll always be friends, Harry, no matter what!"
"B…but…," stammered the crying boy, "I killed that troll!"
"No," came the sound of Daphne's voice from the foot of the bed. "You saved us, Harry." the blonde witch corrected him."That creature wanted to kill us."
"If not for you none of us would be here, Harry," Tracey added from beside her friend. "What you did was a truly marvelous and selfless act."
"T…then…why do I feel so terrible?" Harry sob despairingly through quivering lips as he rolled to his side and tried to curl into a ball. In just a blink of an eye the young crying wizard was surrounded by three concerned witches. Daphne cradled his head in her lap while Hermione hugged him supportively from behind and Tracey did the same from the boy's front. Each witch tried to sooth their crying friend but really didn't know what to do. All they could do was be there for him as Harry's grief got the better of him.
Madam Pomfrey looked in on her charge only to find that he was not alone. The four first year students were huddled upon one bed and fast asleep. I'm surprised they lasted this long, the mediwitch thought to herself. They've been coming here every waking hour that they could since Mr. Potter was brought in. I'm sure they've worried themselves to exhaustion. The astute mediwitch didn't miss the tear tracks on all their faces either. Just this once she decided to look the other way at what her sensibilities would certainly have claimed was inappropriate behavior for boys and girls.
The day had dawned bright and sunny with the makings of a rare beautiful November day. It had taken some convincing but Madam Pomfrey had released Harry from the hospital wing just the previous evening. The young wizard had spent the entire week under the Mediwitch's care, recovering from his encounter with the troll as well as doing his treatments. During his time there the Outsiders had visited with him every chance they could. The five of them shared their meals in the hospital wing as well as did their homework there. The girls made certain to take extra notes for Harry as he could not attend classes.
Harry grinned as he recalled Madam Pomfrey more than once telling them to contain themselves as they grew overly noisy. It didn't seem to matter that I was the only one currently in residence, Harry thought to himself. The young wizard half suspected it was the very fact that they were all so loud and boisterous that had led the Mediwitch to releasing him finally. I'm certain the hospital ward will be much quieter now, he mused with a soft chuckle. It was no secret that the Mediwitch preferred her domain to be peaceful.
During his stay, Harry's body wasn't the only thing that had been on the mend. When he awoke, sandwiched between his friends, he realized something that he had been afraid to admit even to himself. Playing with astray strand of Daphne's hair that had found its way onto his chest, as he lay there he could hear the soft gentle breathing of the three witches that had come to mean so much to him. How could I have ever thought to give them up? Harry realized that now that he had friends and knew what it meant to be a friend, he could never go back to being without them. Still, he felt it was for their own safety that he suggest they leave him be for the time being.
I need to talk to them though. I have to explain to them that they could be hurt if they are around me. They could very well share the same fate as that troll. The young wizard rolled the golden strands of hair between his finger and thumb, absently marveling at how soft it felt. Harry still felt terrible about what had happened to the troll. He realized there was little he could do about it now but was determine to see that he friends didn't suffer the same fate. I won't let that happen ever again, he vowed, thinking of the troll and what his magic had done to it. I would rather be without magic at all than see another hurt due to my magic.
Once all three witches had awaken, each blushing as they realized that they had all slept together, Harry had told them of his fears. He explained how he didn't seem to have control of his magic and that there was avery good chance that one of them, if not all, could be injured. He had expressed that it might be better if they were more cautious around him. When he suggested that they stay away from him till he could gain the control to ensure they weren't injured he was met with three very angry and determined glares.
The subsequent tongue lashing the young wizard had received from all three witches still echoed in his head. While he was most certainly concerned for their well-being it had made him secretly happy that they had refused to be parted from him. Tracey had even counselled that they should even spend more time together, which the other two girls readily agreed with, despite his best objections. The young witch's general hypothesis was that if they were with him then Harry would try all the harder to control his accidental magic for fear of hurting one them. While it was a sound theory it would also place them in greater danger he realized.
It still amazed Harry that he not only had a friend but that he had three of them as wonderful as Daphne, Tracey and Hermione. While Blaise, once informed of the plan, was less inclined to hang out with Harry as much as the others, he did agree to help as best he could. They had agreed to hold up in the library, which Harry suspected was the reason for Blaise's less than enthusiastic response. Being in the library meant that they would most likely be studying and the young dark skinned boy, much like most boys his age, was not overly keen to spending all his time with his nose buried in a book.
Harry banked his boom out over Black Lake and did several lazy turns as he continued to think about the events of the past few days. All the time spent in bed, as well as the fight on the stairway, had left him with sore and stiff muscles. The one thing that Blaise had been over joyed about was the fact that Madam Pomfrey had let Harry out in time for the young Seeker to play in Slytherin's Quidditch match against Gryffindor. The game was latter in the afternoon which was why Harry was currently flying about in an attempt to loosen up his muscles.
As Harry turned his Nimbus 2000 back towards the shore he spied alarge beefy hand waving at him and an enormous bearded smile grinning up at him. The young Slytherin landed and hopped off his broom in one smooth motion."Hi Hagrid!" Harry exclaimed with a grin to the waiting half-giant.
"You alright there, Harry?" Hagrid asked in a concerned tone, eyeing the boy over for any signs of remaining injuries.
"Well enough," Harry replied with a slight shrug, deciding that there wasn't a need to mention that he was sore and stiff in places still. The two fell into step and began to walk along the edge of the lake. Well, Hagrid walked and Harry hurried to keep up as best he could.
"Getting ready for your match ta'day, are ya?" the Grounds Keeper enquired, eyeing the broom in the boy's hand and relieved the lad seemed none the worse for wear. It still amazed him that the small boy had beaten a full grown mountain troll. If I hadn't heard it myself from Albus Dumbledore I don't think I would 'ave believed it! Hagrid had been the one responsible for the disposal of what remained of the trolls body once it had been removed from the castle.
"As ready as I'll ever be," Harry answered. The young Seeker's stomach felt like it had a hornets nest in it at the moment. He had tried to eat breakfast that morning, to keep with Madam Pomfrey's instructions, but had found that his appetite had apparently abandoned him for the time being. The thought of food sent his stomach into a curlicue.
"Rough game Quidditch is," Hagrid advised Harry in aknowing tone. "Best be careful out there, Harry."
"Have you ever played before, Hagrid?" Harry asked, suddenly wondering if his friend had or not.
Hagrid's lips split into a grin as he lean in towards the boy abit. "I don't reckon they make a broom my size, Harry."
Harry chuckled a bit, "I suspect not. After the troll Iexpect today's match will be rather tame," he offered in a poor attempt at a bit of humor.
"Seriously misunderstood creatures, trolls are," Hagrid stated earnestly, not realizing the young wizard had meant it as a joke."Not hardly dangerous at`all if you know what yer doin."
Harry just grinned. Perhaps if you're a half-giant a great many things don't seem all that dangerous."And I suppose that three headed dog in the castle is misunderstood as well?" the boy asked in jest.
"Fluffy? How'd ya know about him?" Hagrid asked with asharp glance at the young wizard beside him.
"Heard some of the other students talking about it," Harry confessed with a slight shrug of his shoulders. "They said it about took their arm off. Wait, that thing has a name?" Harry asked in disbelief suddenly realizing what Hagrid had said.
"Of course he has a name! I raised him from a pup that was no bigger than me hand," the half-giant said as he held out an open hand to demonstrate just how big that was. "That's the trouble with people. They don't take the time to get to know the animals. They just see large fangs, sharp claws or hard scales and assume the worst! They don't give `em a fair chance."
"So then F…Fluffy isn't dangerous?" Harry asked in an amazed tone.
"Well of course he is!" Hagrid exclaimed as if that should have been obvious. "What good would he be if he weren't? As I was tellin' this fella down at the Three Broomsticks just the other night, the trick is knowing how to handle 'em," Hagrid continued excitedly before Harry could say anything. It was rare for the half-giant to find someone to talk his trade with and he couldn't help but explain it to his friend."Take Fluffy. Just play him a bit of music and he falls right to sleep, he does." The half-giant's eyes suddenly grew larger as he realized what he had said. "I ought not to have said that!"
"Said what?" Harry asked as he suddenly thought it agreat idea to inspect the twigs on his broom. "I didn't hear anything," Harry added in a slightly distracted tone, hoping the half-giant caught on to the act.
Hagrid paused for a long moment before giving a sharp nod."Thanks, Harry. I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention that to Professor Dumbledore and all," the Grounds Keeper offered, trusting the boy to keep what he had let slip a secret.
The first year Slytherin decided a change of topic was in order."Are you going to the game today, Hagrid?" Harry asked, looking up from his broom expectantly.
"Yer first match! I wouldn't miss it for the world, Harry," Hagrid assured him. "Course I'll probably be on the Gryffindor side," the man added, his voice dropping slightly, fearing he might have hurt the boy's feelings. "That doesn't mean I won't be cheering you on though, Harry. Just not the rest of yer team, is all."
"That's alright," Harry replied with a cheerful smile. The young wizard recalled hearing someplace that when Hagrid had attended school at Hogwarts he had been a Gryffindor. "We'll try not to beat your Gryffs too badly," he added with a cheeky grin.
Hagrid bellowed a loud laugh as the boy mounted his broom and rose up into the sky. "We'll see `bout that," the half-giant called after the Slytherin Seeker as Harry shot off in the direction of the Quidditch pitch with a quick wave bye. "I wonder if there's still enough time to place abet on Harry catching the Snitch or not?" the half-giant mumbled to himself as he turned and head for the castle in the distance.
The youngest Seeker in over a hundred years sat on a bench within the Slytherin locker room and listened to Marcus Flint give a last minute pep talk. Harry was dressed in his complete Quidditch outfit, as were the rest of his teammates. They had warmed up first and then cleared the pitch so that the Gryffindor team could use it. The steady hum of the gathering crowd could just barely be heard through the closed doors of the locker room.
"Feeling a bit nervous, Potter?" asked Terence Higgs after leaning over towards Harry. Of all the members of the Slytherin team, Higgs had been the closest to being nice to Harry.
"A bit," Harry replied nervously with what he hoped was a dismissive shrug.
Higgs gave a nod of understanding. "I was too my first time out," he told the younger boy.
"What happened?" Harry asked, eyeing the Beater wearily.
"Nothing much," Higgs responded with. "We kicked the Claws collective arses!" he added with a wide grin recalling the 320 to 80 win.
Harry visibly relaxed upon hearing this. "Well, let's hope the same thing happens today then."
"My second game out though I ran into a support beam for one of the stands," Higgs said. "Broke my shoulder and was stuck in the hospital wing for a week. I completely missed the third game as I was having trouble with the shoulder and all. I'm sure you'll do better than that, Potter," the older boy declared as he gave Harry a comradery slap on the back.
"Something to add back there Higgs, Potter?" Flint barked loudly enough to get their attention.
"Just giving our newest Seeker some last minute advice, Marcus," Terence replied smoothly. "Former Seeker to Seeker."
"Maybe if you were any good at Seeker you'd still be one," Peregrine Derrick offered, causing the others on the team to snicker.
"Ya and maybe you'd still be a Beater, Perry," Higgs quipped back, causing the Chaser to glare at him angrily and the others to openly guffaw as the former Beater's face turned red. Terence knew the other boy hated the name Perry which was why he had used it.
"That's enough from the lot of ya!" warned Flint."Get your stuff ready as we'll be heading out in just a minute." The other players all cleared out to check their equipment but as Harry rose to do the same Flint stopped him with one hand. "You remember what we practiced, Potter?" The young Seeker gave a quick nod. "Good. Do it just like Ishowed you and we'll win this one easily."
In just a few minutes the Slytherin team was called out by Madam Hooch and took to the air. Harry climbed aboard his Nimbus 2000 and kicked off when the doors opened. The roar of the crowd hit the young wizard almost like aphysical wave of sound. As he climbed into the air all he could see was amassive sea of colors and faces beneath him in the stands. It seemed like one side of the pitch was decorated in silver and green for Slytherin and the opposite side was the expected red and gold for Gryffindor.
The spectators cheered and stomped their feet as each of the team's members were introduced. The noise rose considerably for each of the Gryffindor players, or so it seemed to Harry. While the Slytherins supported their team they were less boisterous about it. Harry was none to surprised to hear the least amount of cheering when his name was called out. The thrill of being astride his Nimbus as well as the nervousness of it being his first Quidditch match were enough to distract him from the less than warm reception from his housemates.
Harry's eyes scanned the Slytherin side of the field in the hopes of spotting his fellow Outsiders but he had no luck at locating them. A turn about the field and he spied the Gryffindor side but was equally unable to locate Hermione. Perhaps they didn't come? he wondered as he banked his broom around behind the Gryffindor goal posts. He felt a slight pain upon realizing that his friends weren't there. As he flew along he spotted Hagrid and waved to the half-giant. At least someone will be cheering for me.
Harry passed over the Gryffindor stands, trying to ignore the heckling and booing that was directed at him. Reaching the end of the pitch he curved his path behind the Slytherin goals and suddenly spotted a flash of blonde hair in the stands. Looking closer he couldn't help but grin upon seeing all his friends seated together. I guess they couldn't sit on either side, he reasoned. The ends of the pitch were where those from Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff who had come out for the game were seated it seemed. I can just imagine what would happen if Hermione tried to sit with the Slytherins or the others sat with the Gryffindors.
Harry quickly turned his broom about and flew back towards his four friends. With a silly grin on his face he reached down and smacked his palm against Blaise's as the dark-skinned wizard had it thrust up into the air. The young Seeker waved to the three witches, their smiles instantly making him feel loads better, before zipping off to his place above the pitch as the game was about to begin.
In short order Madam Hooch called the game to order. "Now, Iwant a nice fair game, all of you!" the witch declared as she eyed the Slytherin side of the field. The snitch was released and though Harry tried to keep an eye on it he quickly lost it among the multitude of colors that were the spectators. Next the Bludgers were released followed quickly by the Quaffle.
"And Pucey has the Quaffle," declared the young voice of the commentator that was announcing the match. "What a terrible start," Lee Jordan's voice rang out as the Slytherin team moved the Quaffle down the pitch to the cheers of their housemates. "Pucey to Flint. Flint dodges an excellently placed bludger by one of the Weasley's before passing it to Derrick - the Quaffle is intercepted by Angelina Johnson. An excellent Chaser that girl is, and rather attractive too! Sorry Professor," Jordan's voice said as he was admonished for his one sided commentary.
"Johnson to Spinnet…Spinnet back to Johnson," Lee stated as he closely watched the game. "A good find there with Spinnet by Wood," the boy stated. "Last year she was only a reserve. Johnson narrowly evades a bludger. A reverse pass to Bell who presses on the goal...shoots and SCORES! 10 points for Gryffindor!" Lee Jordan yelled, leaving little doubt just who his favorite team was. "We're off to a great start here in what is sure to be a blowout game…sorry Professor," Lee whined as Professor McGonagall once again chastised him for his favoritism.
Harry tore his eyes away from the match below him and slowly began to circle the pitch in the hopes of finding the Snitch. A quick glance across the field showed him that the Gryffindor Seeker was doing the same. What was his name? Harry pondered. McLarger?McMillen? Just at that moment the Gryffindor Seeker spun to the left and shot off quickly.
"It looks like McLaggen has seen the snitch," Jordan's voice stated excitedly. "Will he be able to get it before Potter gets there?"
That's it, McLaggen! He's a second year I think I heard Flint say. Harry, suspecting that McLaggen might have spotted the snitch, gave chase. As he trailed behind the older boy Harry anxiously looked about for the snitch. Where is it? Where is it?he mumbled aloud as his eyes darted about trying to see past the other boy who seemed intent upon blocking his field of view.
Try as he might the Slytherin wizard couldn't see any flicker of gold at all. Slowly he gained on the other player only to have McLaggen dove tail straight down towards the ground. Harry had no choice but to follow in his wake as he coaxed his broom to greater speed. At the last possible moment the Gryffindor Seeker pulled out of the dive and it was only thanks to the exceptional maneuverability of the Nimbus that Harry didn't plow into the ground himself.
In the next several minutes Gryffindor managed to score three additional times making the score 40 – 0 in their favor. Harry gripped his broom in frustration as he circled the pitch. Twice more McLaggen tried to pull Harry into following after him but the first year wizard didn't take the bait. I just need to keep my eyes out for the snitch, he reminded himself repeatedly.
"Pucey, Flint and Derrick have assumed a Hawkshead formation and are speeding down the field," Lee Jordan declared as the trio weaved their way past the defenders and closed in on the Gryffindor goal."They're past the chasers…past the opposing Beaters. Pucey lines up for the shot and there's the throw – OH! Wood swats it away for the save! Derrick recovers, shoots and scores," Lee stated a great deal less enthusiasm than he had just a moment before when Wood has blocked Pucey's shot. The Gryffindor cheers for their Keeper, Oliver Wood, as he blocked the shot quickly turned to groans as the Slytherins scored.
Over the course of the next hour both teams managed to score, though Gryffindor were responsible for the lion's share of them. "That's another score by the attractive Miss Johnson! Sorry Professor. The score now is Gryffindor 230 points and Slytherin 80 points. Hopefully McLaggen will catch the snitch soon as this is just too painful to watch! Sorry Professor," Lee quickly added before McGonagall could chastise him.
Harry glanced over towards McLaggen and saw him once again race off. Something about the way the other Seeker sat his broom led him to believe it wasn't a feint this time. Harry turned his Nimbus and sped off as fast as it would go. As he tailed the other player he caught a flash of gold as the snitch zigzagged about in an effort to keep from being caught. As the Slytherin Seeker drew closer he realized that the other boy would catch it before he could stop him or get to it himself.
Time to do what Flint showed me, Harry thought. Leaning forward over the handle of his Nimbus Harry grabbed a handful of the twigs belonging to McLaggen's broom and gave a solid yank backwards. The Gryffindor Seeker barely managed to retain ahold of his broom as it was nearly pulled out from under him.
The sharp shrill sound of Madam Hooch's silver whistle brought all play to a halt. "Blagging by Potter!" Madam Hooch called out."Penalty shot, Gryffindor!" she continued with among the boos and insults being hurled from the Gryffindor fans.
Harry sighed heavily at the sound of the whistle. I must have done it wrong, he thought. I'm certain though that is how Flint instructed me to do it. Maybe I need to practice it a bit more. A quick look around and it was clear to see that the snitch was nowhere to be seen.
"You better watch yourself, Potter," Cormac growled in an angry tone as he flew past nearly close enough to knock Harry from his broom. If the young Seeker hadn't moved at the last moment he may very well have done that. "Dirty cheating Snake," the angry boy tossed over his shoulder as his whizzed past.
Katie Bell took the penalty shot and had no problems getting the Quaffle past Miles Bletchy for the score and 10 points for Gryffindor. The teams were reset and the Quaffle was tossed up into the air once again. Gryffindor initially gained control, however Flint and Derrick used a Parkin's Pincer on the Bell girl and flew her into one of the supports for the stands after taking the Quaffle from her. The Slytherin chasers drove down field and scored making it 240 – 90 in Gryffindor's favor.
Harry shook his fist in the air in celebration as his team scored. I have to find the snitch! As the young wizard banked the Nimbus above the Gryffindor hoops it began to jerk about and rapidly change directions, first dropping drastically and then lurching upwards. The crowd, focused on the play on the field, was completely unaware of what was happening with The-Boy-Who-Lived's broom. Did I break it? Harry wondered as he fought to stay seated.
"What's wrong with Harry's broom?" Tracey asked as she watched her housemate jerk about in the air from where the Outsiders were seated. Even being at the opposite end of the field it was clear to see that something was amiss.
"That's not normal," Blaise offered after holding up ahand to shield his vision so he could get a better view. "It looks like something is up with Harry's broom," he added in a concerned tone.
As the Outsiders anxiously watched their friend, the wizard pitched forward and slid off the side of his broom to dangle there in the air only holding on by his hands. At the opposite end of the field Gryffindor managed to score once again. The loud cheering of the fans easily drowned out the frightened cries of the dangling wizard as well as those of his concerned friends.
The Slytherin chasers took possession of the quaffle and were passing it back and forth as they looked for an opening in the Gryffindor defenses that would allow them to make a break for the rings at the other end of the field. Several times the Gryffindor players nearly stole the quaffle but each time one of the Slytherin chasers managed to get to it first. Both Higgs and Bole used the Bludgers to break up the Gryffindor's defenses as best they could but it was touch and go.
What do I do now? Harry asked himself as he hung in the air. Several times he attempted to swing one leg over the broom only to have the broom suddenly move in a manner that prevented him from doing so. I must have broken it pretty bad. Professor Snape will certainly be angry with me. Once more he attempted to swing his leg up only to feel the broom tilt away from him. One hand slipped off the broom handle and Harry could feel his other slipping as well and then he was falling as he lost his precarious hold upon the Nimbus.
This is what it is like to be a bird, his mind absently thought for a moment as he plummeted to his certain death only to be abruptly brought up short. "Gotcha, Potter!" declared a strained voice. Harry couldn't believe it and looked up into the reddening face of Olive Wood. "Bloody hell if you aren't heavy for someone so small," the Gryffindor Keeper exclaimed with a tight grin as he held onto Harry's robes with one hand and his broom with the other as he slowly lowered them both towards the ground.
Down the field the Slytherin chasers saw that the Gryffindor hoops were unguarded and made a break for them. The chasers in red and gold tried to hold them off but only managed to slow them down a bit. With the Bludgers being down at the Slytherin end of the field there was nothing the Weasley twins could do to slow the advancing green and silver Chasers.
Harry hung his head in shame. Not only did I manage to fall off the wonderful broom Professor Snape bought for me, I also managed to break it apparently, the wizard lamented as the group down-field quickly drew closer. To make matters worse I have to be saved by the other team! I wish I could just catch the snitch so this would all be over with! Something thumped into his chest at that moment. Reflexively Harry's hand reached up and caught whatever it was as it dropped.
At mid-field the Slytherin Chasers had finally shook off their pursuers and made a mad dash directly for the unguarded Gryffindor goal posts."Here comes the Slytherins," Lee's voice wailed out over the stadium, believing it would be an easy score. "Flint passes it to Pucey who hands it off to Derrick who draws back to throw." The shrill sound of a whistle was heard just a split second before the quaffle left Derrick's hand and flew through the middle hoop. "Potter has caught the snitch!" Jordan yelled. "The goal is no good! Gryffindor wins 250 to 240! Gryffindor wins!" The Gryffindor side of the pitch erupted into cheers at the announcement.
"Thanks," Harry said as his feet touched the ground and Oliver Wood landed next to him. "I doubt I would have landed very well if not for you," Harry added as he held out his hand to the older boy to say thanks as he had with Neville.
Oliver's eyes widened a bit as he wasn't accustom to such manners from a member of the Slytherin team. "I'm sure you would have done the same for me, Potter," Wood finally replied as he shook the proffered hand."Besides," Wood added with a grin, "if not for you catching the snitch when you did we might have lost." Before Harry could reply the Gryffindor Keeper was swarmed by his teammates and quickly dragged away as they celebrated their win.
Harry turned to head for the Slytherin locker room only to be stopped by a call from behind him. "Mr. Potter," the sharp voice of Madam Hooch called. "A moment if you would."
Turning about the young wizard waited for the Quidditch Official to approach. Harry saw that along with her own broom she was also carrying his Nimbus. From what he could tell, other than a few scuff marks and bent twigs it thankfully didn't look any the worse for wear. Behind the Flying Instructor Harry saw his Head of House, the Headmaster as well as Professor McGonagall and Hagrid rapidly approaching.
"Care to tell me what exactly happened up there, Mr. Potter?" Madam Hooch enquired just as the others arrived.
"No, Ma`am" Harry replied as his eyes dropped to the ground so that he wouldn't have to look at the silver haired witch's piercing gaze.
"You don't care to tell me?" Madam Hooch shot back angrily as one brow threatened to climb into her hairline at the boy's response. Insolate little whelp! I should have known after that first flying lesson that he'd be the one to cause problems!
"I don't believe that is what Harry meant, Rolanda," Albus offered, stepping forward and standing beside the young Seeker. The Headmaster's eyes regarded the boy for a moment, noting how Harry seemed to have shrunken into himself. It didn't take a Legilimens to realize the boy was half frighten to death. "Harry, perhaps if you told us why you fell off your broom," Albus offered in a gentle voice as he placed a reassuring hand upon the boy's shoulder.
Harry, never being one to do well in crowds, couldn't bring himself to say anything. It is safer to say nothing than to open your mouth and give them further reason to punish you, he told himself. A life time of living with the Dursleys had hammered this mantra into the very fiber of his being. The young Slytherin wizard stood there with downcast eyes and remained silent before the combined stares of the gathered adults. Suddenly he heard his name called by three very distinct voices and he looked up just in time to be swarmed by Tracey, Daphne and Hermione.
"I thought Mr. Potter might benefit from the support of his friends," Aurora offered as those gathered turned and looked at her questioningly. The Astronomy Professor had seen the other Outsiders waiting anxiously at the edge of the pitch and had escorted them over. I'm sure an inquisition is the last thing Harry needs to face all alone, the young Professor thought to herself as she watched the three witches hug their friend. "I'm sorry, was this a private conversation?" Aurora asked with the most innocent of smiles plastered on her face.
"I thought you were done for," Daphne exclaimed a bit emotionally as she hugged Harry from one side. Hermione was past the point of words and clung to the Slytherin boy on his other side as if she needed to confirm for herself that he was actually uninjured and still among the living.
"When I saw your broom start to move around so erratically we feared the worst, Harry" Tracey told the overwhelmed boy as she hugged him from behind with her arms around his neck and her cheek resting against his neck.
"I'm alright," Harry tried to assure all three witches."Nothing but a bit a wounded pride at being caught by the other teams Keeper, is all," he assured them. The soft clearing of the Headmaster's throat drew the Outsiders attention. "Sorry Sir," Harry quickly apologized as the three witches, looking slightly embarrassed, moved to take up supportive positions behind their friend.
Albus smiled, a soft twinkle to his blue eyes. "A most precious thing, friendship. Now, perhaps you can tell us about how your broom acted."
"I'm not certain, Sir," Harry replied. "It wouldn't go where I wanted it to or do what it was supposed to. It just sort of jerked around like it was possessed or something," the young wizard offered, nervously running one hand through his black locks. "Sorry Professor Snape," Harry added with a darting glance towards the Potion Master before looking at the ground once more. "I think I may have broken it."
The Headmaster gave a small nod before Severus could respond and turned to address Madam Hooch. "Am I correct to assume that you've looked the broom over, Rolanda?" he enquired over the rim of his half-moon glasses.
"I have Headmaster," Madam Hooch replied quickly."There does seem to be a lingering trace of something though I can not tell what it is," she confessed. "I would like to have Professor Quirrell take a look at it in the hopes that he'll have better luck than myself."
"Yes, Quirinus would be best, I agree," Albus spoke in athoughtful tone. "Harry, would you mind if Madam Hooch here retains your broom till she's had a chance to properly investigate this matter?"
"No, Sir," Harry replied meekly, only to feel Daphne and Hermione slip their hands into his and give them a reassuring squeeze.
"Very good," Albus replied, giving a slight nods towards Madam Hooch. "I think it best you run along now, Harry. After a game like today's I'm certain you'd like to clean up a bit before we dine." The first year wizard gave a quick nod and quickly headed for the locker room with his friends in tow. Albus waited till the students were well out of hearing distance before turning to regard his staff. "Thoughts?"
"From what the Davis girl stated as well as Potter's own description of what transpired, I think it is safe to assume that the broom was jinxed in some manner," Snape offered speaking first. "The question is by who."
"With the way Potter pulled that Blagging on McLaggen, you might as well suspect half of Gryffindor," Minerva McGonagall pointed out with an exasperated bark.
"Perhaps then that is where we should start looking," Severus shot back heatedly only to receive a glare from the Transfiguration Professor at the implication that one of her lions would do such a thing."Potter's been targeted by them once already," the Potions Master added, a clear reminder of the Weasley prank. "Your kittens have a habit of going after my Snakes, Minerva!"
"Enough, Severus," Albus cautioned. "Let us first be certain that Harry's broom was in deed tampered with in some manner before we look to place blame. Rolanda, please get with Quirinus as soon as your schedules allow," the Headmaster instructed. "Please inform me directly of anything you discover." Madam Hooch gave a curt nod to indicate she understood. "Perhaps we should all follow Harry's example and get tidied up before the evening meal. I understand the Shepard Pie is to be most excellent this evening."
"That was bloody brilliant! Catching the Snitch and all," Blaise raved as the group of friends approached the door leading to the Slytherin locker room. "It would have been even better if you could have waited another minute or so. At least then it would have been a tie that way."
"Zabini!" Daphne and Hermione snapped at exactly the same moment.
"Harry could have been seriously injured out there," Daphne continued with, scolding the young wizard.
"It's all part of the game!" Blaise replied with defensively. "Besides, Harry's too great of a flyer to get seriously hurt," he added with a look towards the Seeker for support.
Harry gave a slight shrug, not really knowing. "I'm not sure what I would have done it Wood hadn't been there to catch me," he told his friends. "He certainly saved me from another visit to the hospital wing. I'm sure Madam Pomfrey must be getting a bit tired of my company by now," the emerald-eyed wizard offered with a grin.
"It's not something to joke about, Harry," Hermione chimed in with. The young witch's voice was thick with concern for her friend."You could have been hurt! Quidditch is so violent," she added in adistasteful tone.
"I know!" Blaise exclaimed gleefully. "Isn't it wicked!"
Harry couldn't help it and just had to laugh at the gleeful look upon Blaise's face. He certainly loves his Quidditch, he thought to himself. "Meet you all at dinner?" Harry asked turning to regard them all just short of the locker room door.
"You best not keep us waiting, Potter," Tracey warned with a faux angry glare, "or I might just have to eat all the Treacle tart first and leave you none!"
"Don't worry, Harry," Blaise said as he slapped the boy on the back. "I'll be sure to save you some!"
"Thanks," Harry replied with an appreciative smile. The young wizard stood there and watched the others walk off and enter the tunnel that led out of the stadium before he pushed open the locker room door and entered. It was only due to his reflexes that he managed to jump to the side and narrowly miss the Beater bat that had been hurled at his head. Harry turned to regard the room only to see Peregrine Derrick closing on him.
"You little shite!" Derrick spat as he balled up his fist and punched the Seeker in the face. "Bet you had it planned out all along didn't you?" the irate fifth year exclaimed as his other fist connected with Harry's stomach, driving the air from the boy's lungs. "You helped that little mudblood of yours arrange it so those bloody lions would win! You filthy traitor!"
Harry collapsed to the floor and curled into a ball just as he always did when Dudley and the others beat on him. The young boy gasped and tried to regain his breath even as he struggled to protect his vital areas from attack. Harry's head was still ringing from the first punch as he wrapped on arm around it. All he could do as the first kick connected with his back was grunt in pain and tighten his hold upon his knees as he drew them up against his chest.
"That's enough Derrick," Terence Higgs yelled and he pushed the Slytherin chaser off of the prone boy. "He's just a firstie!Any more and you'll likely kill him!"
"Would serve him right, then," Derrick spat. "I lost all the galleons I had wagered on us today! Who's going to repay me for that?"
"That's why it's called gambling, you git," Flint quipped from off to the side where he was finishing getting dressed. "Give it a rest," Flint instructed. "We don't have a spare Seeker if you damage this one, Perry."
"It's Peregrine!" Derrick growled as he turned to face the Slytherin team captain. "The next one of you sods that calls me Perry will wish to Merlin that you hadn't!" Fuming, the boy grabbed his clothes and stormed out of the locker room, slamming the door hard enough to cause it to rattle in its frame.
Flint watch the Chaser leave. "Higgs, help Potter and get him cleaned up," he told the other boy. "The last thing we want is Snape breathing down our necks because his hand selected Seeker got roughed up abit." A few minutes later Flint as well as all the other team members besides Higgs had left.
"You alright there, Potter?" Higgs asked as he seated himself on the bench in front of his own locker. "Judging by the manner you curled up, I take it this isn't the first time you've been on the receiving end of someone's temper?"
Harry slowly cracked open an eye and peered about before uncurling. The young wizard cautiously sat up and then slide backwards till his back encountered the wall, which he then leaned against. "I don't understand," he sniffled as he wiped the tears from his cheeks. He tried not to wince when he touched to spot on his face where the older boy's fist had impacted. I bet I'll have aright nice black bruise there in a bit.
"What's to understand?" Higgs asked as he stripped off the remainder of his gear and tossed it into his locker. A house elf would collect the gear latter and make certain it was all clean and ready for use before the next match. "We lost and Perry was looking to blame you for it."
"But I did everything that Flint told me to," Harry maintained, a note of confusion in his voice.
"Well, you almost did," Higgs offered as he stood up and began to dress in his usual school uniform. "The one thing you did wrong was getting caught," the older boy explained. Seeing the confused look on Harry's face he continued to explain. "A bit of cheating is part of the game, Potter. Elbows get thrown, people get blocked. Technically, what you did to McLaggen is against the rules."
"But it's what Flint told me to do," Harry exclaimed in disbelief.
"Oh I do not doubt that at all. Flint will do anything to keep the House Cup with Slytherin," Higgs replied as he slipped on his robes and started to button them up. "You see, the way Flint looks at it is that it is only cheating if you get caught at it. Which you did. Hence, they all think it is your fault."
"W…what about you? Do you think it is my fault as well?" Harry asked.
Higgs crossed the short distance between them and squatted down so that he was nearly level with the smaller boy. The nearness of the fifth year caused Harry to draw back as far as the wall behind him would allow. "I have to agree with them, Potter. The first rule of being a Seeker is you don't catch the snitch unless you're team is going to win due to it. If you had waited another minute or two we could have at least tied. This is the first time we've lost to the Gryffs in the last 8 years."
Higgs stood up once again and made certain that his clothes were in order. "A bit of advice, Potter," the boy said as he walked over to the door and opened it, before glancing towards Harry. "I would steer clear of Derrick and the others for the next few weeks. Be a good chap and be sure to douse the lights when you leave," Higgs added before he stepped out the door, closing it behind him.
After a few minutes Harry stood and crossed to his own locker. Quickly stripping down he grabbed his towel and headed for the showers. The young wizard wasn't sure what to make of everything that had happened that day. His cheek smarted as the hot water hit his skin and he had to be extra careful around his eye when washing his face. It wasn't long before he was done, dried and dressed. Slipping out the locker room, after extinguishing the lights, he turned and made his way to the tunnel leading out of the pitch. Night had nearly fallen and the evening meal should have already started he realized as he walked up the path towards the castle. He never saw the stunner that hit him from behind.
Harry's eyes popped open and his field of vision was suddenly filled with a multitude of stars. Where am I? he wondered. I was leaving the pitch, he recalled, and then nothing. Suddenly the boy found himself falling only to abruptly stop as he struck the surface of the lake. Pure terror erupted in the boy's confused brain as his body struggled to stay afloat. The heavy school robes, weighed down with absorbed water threatened to pull the boy under even as he struggled to remain on the surface.
"Help! I can't swim!" Harry screamed, half gargled, as water entered his mouth. Harry struggled for what seemed like an eternity, swallowing water and choking on it as he fought to keep from going under. It had been a long day and a tiring Quidditch match. The small boy rapidly grew tired and all too soon his arms felt like they were made of lead. I hope the others won't be too mad that I couldn't make it, was his last thought as he slipped beneath the surface of the lake and slow began to sink.
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