Act II, Chapter 4: The Trials
Malfoy's Suspension lasted three weeks. Three long, glorious weeks of pure Malfoy free school, until Lucius had his son's attempted crime expunged and he swaggered back into the school, only to be laughed out of the Great Hall by the entirety of Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw, Gryffindor and even a portion of Slytherin. And the best part about it was that he missed the opportunity to put his name in the ballot for the Hogwarts Delegation. So, if Harry got the Seeker position, Malfoy would be stuck at Hogwarts all year with no Harry to torment, and no chance to play Quidditch. Hermione, Ron, Ginny, Luna and Matt had all entered the ballot, while Luke, Danny and Jessica had not, as their parents had all expressly forbade it. Jessica didn't mind as it gave her more time to learn about what happened at the World Cup, and Luke and Danny agreed to watch her back.
This year was looking to be quite possibly the best year of Harry's Hogwarts career. Actually, it was definitely looking to be the best year of his entire life.
Five years later he would be found wishing very, very hard that he could take that statement back.
Harry, Fred, George, Ginny and Ron walked out onto the Quidditch Pitch carrying their brooms. Harry had made a bet with them before the trials. If any of them made the team, he would buy them a Firebolt, and that was final. He didn't admit that he was planning on buying one for each of them anyway, but it stopped Ron from complaining about "unwanted charity."
The entire school had turned out to watch the trials, filling the stadium to the brim with people screaming their names. Harry was quite stunned to see several scouts sitting in the top box next to Dumbledore, Cornelius Fudge, Barty Crouch and Ludo Bagman – Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports.
A very nervous Angelina was standing in the centre of the pitch, wringing her hands together and looking like she was going to be sick. There were already two dozen hopefuls standing around her from all four houses. Angelina had just taken the Captaincy for the team after Cedric Diggory, the other hopeful, had pulled out, expressing his desire to be Hogwarts Champion instead. As Harry and the Weasley's arrived, Angelina nodded at them, and Harry gave her a thumbs up. She tried a slight smile, but it didn't reach her eyes in the slightest. Taking several deep breaths, she pulled out her wand and cast the Sonorous Charm on herself.
"Alright! Welcome to the Hogwarts Quidditch Trials for the Triwizard Tournament." The talking of the students around the stadium dropped to a whisper and Angelina released the spell.
"Ok. Listen up. Today there are no houses. No rivalries. And no favouritism. I am going to be choosing people based on their abilities, attitude, and teamwork. Nothing more. Nothing less. I don't care if you're a Slytherin First Year or a Gryffindor Seventh Year. Do I make myself clear?" Ignoring the ball of apprehension that rose up in his throat, Harry nodded his head viciously along with the rest of the hopefuls.
"Alright. We'll start with Chasers and Beaters. Can I have Chasers and Beaters over here, Keepers over there please."
"Good luck guys," Harry said, patting Ginny and Ron on the back. Ginny took her School Cleansweep 6 and walked over to stand by the Chasers, while a very anxious Ron hefted his own school broom and moved over to the Keepers section.
Harry honestly wasn't sure who would get the Keeper spot, as the only really good Keeper in the school had been Oliver Wood, who left the previous year. Five students were trying out for the role: Ron, the previous year's Slytherin Keeper Miles Bletchley who Harry knew was abysmal, a Hufflepuff in Ginny's year called Eloise, Cormac McLaggen and Ginny's Ravenclaw friend Foggy Nelson.
The Chasers were by far the largest group. This was tougher to guess, as Harry had worked with Angelina, Alica and Katie for the past three years, and the trio worked like a well-oiled machine. They would be very tough to beat. But Roger Davies, the Ravenclaw Captain, was also an excellent Chaser, so was Zacharias Smith from Hufflepuff and Adrian Pucey from Slytherin. Ginny had also been working hard with her friend Demelza Robins, with her other friend Foggy acting as Keeper. Harry had seen them practising tactics almost every morning for the past month, and they weren't half bad. He also knew, although no one else did, that Ginny was also going to enter the race for Seeker. Harry had been working with her in the Home for a while now, and he had to admit she was quite good. She wasn't as daring as he was. But he was reasonably confident she could destroy Malfoy and probably outfly Cho, which she had confided was her real aim for trying out, as she had caught Chang bullying Luna and wanted revenge.
As the various teams lifted into the air, Angelina called Cedric, Harry, Malfoy and Cho together.
"You guys are all Seekers, so Beaters and Chasers don't really affect you. I've seen you all play and you're all good, I could use a hand picking the teams. Having all of you give input will also prevent me from being accidentally bias."
Malfoy snorted and rolled his eyes, but everyone ignored him.
"Not a problem Angelina. Good call on recognising your own faults and countering," Cedric told her, patting her shoulder. Angelina blushed and muttered a thank you that made Harry roll his eyes. Suddenly he knew why Fred and George didn't like the Hufflepuff Seventh Year.
The four Seekers followed Angelina into the air, hovering over the middle of the pitch.
The Chasers had unsurprisingly split into four teams on house lines. Angelina, sighing in frustration, set the Ravenclaws against the Gryffindors first.
As Harry suspected, Alicia, Katie and Roger were by far the best, and Cedric was quick to point this out. Angelina was quite impressed by Ginny and Demelza, who were working together almost as well as Alicia and Katie were, although Cho disagreed, and Malfoy laughed, resulting in Cedric having to stop Harry from punching the blonde-haired git.
When she called in the Beaters, there was no doubt amongst the judges (with the exception of Malfoy, who grumbled about blood-traitors) that the Weasley Twins had a chemistry between them that far outstripped the Ravenclaws.
When the Slytherins and the Hufflepuffs took the pitch, there were no particular standouts. Malfoy kept going on about how the Slytherin chasers were by far the best until Angelina pointed out that they had yet to complete a move without cheating. She then sent a red-faced Malfoy back to the ground. Harry pointed out that Zacharias was easily as good as Roger, but Cedric and Angelina explained to him that he wasn't very good at working with others, instead just taking shots himself with no passing, which in a real game was suicide. Neither the Slytherin Beaters or the Hufflepuff Beaters came close to the Twins performances, with both Cho and Cedric stating quite clearly that they were by far the best.
Harry tried very hard not to say too much for fear of being biased, but when Angelina caught this and asked him why, he admitted that he had supervised Ginny and Demelza training hard each morning for the spot, and though they weren't as good as Katie or Alicia yet, they could be good reserves. Cedric had admired the girls' determination, while Cho had scowled, though Harry couldn't figure out why.
Angelina scribbled something down on the muggle notepad she had brought just for the occasion, thanked the trio, and descended to the ground.
"OK, everyone! Gather round!"
All the Chasers and Beaters lined up in front of Angelina with nervous looks on their faces.
"Ok. I've made my picks. The starting line-up for Chasers will be Alicia Spinnet, Roger Davies and myself. The reserves will be Katie Bell, Ginny Weasley and Demelza Robins. The starting line-up Beaters will be Fred and George Weasley and the reserves Derrick and Bole. Well done to those of you who made it in, and sorry to the people who didn't. Keepers, your turn. I want the first two in the air."
Ginny and Demelza squealed and hugged each other so tight Harry thought one of them might burst. Fred and George were pumping their fists in the air and clanging their bats against each other. Angelina moved to stand beside Katie, who looked very disappointed. Harry made his way over to the squealing girls, who quickly pulled him into their hug when they saw him. Harry's cheeks went bright red, and he looked to the twins for help, only to find them wreathing on the floor in laughter at his predicament.
"Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, Harry!"
"Hey, you two did all the work. I just gave you some pointers and made sure you didn't crash. And it paid off. You made it." This comment only made the girls tighten their hold, and Harry could feel the blood in his body begin moving in a direction he was not comfortable with. Fortunately, Hermione and Luna picked that moment to run over and celebrate, successfully pulling Ginny and Demelza, who had started sobbing, away from him before his robes became too wet. Only Ron noticed the scowl that crossed Cho Chang's face at all the attention Harry was getting.
"Look at you ickle Gin-Gin!" Fred and George exclaimed.
"Chaser for the Hogwarts Team…"
"How'd you get so good?" They finished.
Ginny smirked at her twin brothers, "I've been stealing your brooms and riding them in the middle of the night since I was six. Plus, Harry's been helping me, Demelza and Foggy in the mornings the last couple of weeks."
Fred and George grinned and hoisted Ginny onto their shoulders.
"We won't tell…"
The twins laughed, before dropping Ginny to the ground and racing off to find Lee Jordan. Harry slid to the ground, the others following suit as Angelina, Alicia and Roger started taking shots at the Keepers. Each Chaser took three shots on the Keeper for a total of nine. Eloise was first. She saved seven of the nine shots, falling for a bluff on one and just missing the last one. Ron saved five shots, but his nerves clearly got the better of him, as he missed the other four by a country mile. He did much better than Bletchley, who only caught two. McLaggen was good, saving eight shots, but he was arrogant and kept taunting the Chasers until Alicia threw the Quaffle right at his face, almost knocking him off his broom. Foggy caught seven shots, with a last-second catch on Davies final throw that looked more like luck than anything else. When Angelina declared Eloise the victor and Foggy the reserve, McLaggen had thrown a fit and stormed off the field, to the amusement of everyone else.
Finally, it was the Seeker trials. Harry took a deep breath and gripped his Firebolt. This is no different to a regular match Harry. All you have to do is catch a ball. A tiny ball with wings, but still, a ball. You're the youngest Seeker in a century. You've only ever missed one catch and only because you were attacked by Dementors. And you've got a Firebolt, the fastest Broom in the world. You've got this.
Ginny brushed up beside him, her own broom in hand. She looked the complete opposite of how Harry felt. She had determination in her eyes, and her jaw was tightly clenched.
"Ginny, this is ridiculous. You don't have to do this," Luna exclaimed, tugging on Ginny's sleeve.
"Yes, I do. That bitch isn't going to get away with stealing your stuff ever again. I'm going to beat that girl to the Snitch if it's the last thing I do."
"Seekers, over here please," Angelina called. Giving Ginny's a hand a quick squeeze before letting go, the pair walked over to Angelina. Harry stood beside Cedric, who had a look of confusion on his face as Ginny stormed over to face Cho. Malfoy looked ready to break out laughing.
"Here's the deal Chang. I'm going to beat you to the Snitch, and when I do, you're going to apologise to Luna, and you're not going to bully her ever again." Cho looked outraged for a few seconds as her brain took in Ginny's declaration, before contorting into a sneer worthy of Snape.
"And when I beat you?"
Ginny scoffed, "Not gonna happen."
"Oh, it's definitely going to happen small-stack. What do I get?" Everyone on the field had edged closer at the two girls voices rose higher and higher.
"If you win, I kiss your robes in front of the entire school and let you curse, hex or jinx me whenever you want with no retribution."
Harry frowned. That wasn't part of the plan.
"Ginny, I don't think…" Angelina started.
"Oh, I want something more than that. If I win, you stop pursuing Harry." Several girls, Hermione included Harry noticed, gasped in shock. Ginny's look of fierce determination cracked slightly, a sliver of doubt making its way into her mind.
Harry made to push forward, but Katie and Alicia held him back.
"Don't. This is between them. You can't interfere," Katie said.
"But they're fighting over me?!"
"Doesn't matter. If they don't settle it here and now, it'll just get worse. Ginny called her out. It's her decision to risk it now," Alicia told him, and Harry reluctantly stopped struggling. Ginny turned towards him.
'I trust you,' he mouthed, and the Gemini Rune vibrated with warmth. Ginny obviously felt it too, as she reached a hand up to her mark and rubbed it slightly. Then she turned back to Cho, all fear replaced by a blazing look that made Cho step back a step involuntarily.
Angelina groaned and blew her whistle, while Malfoy and the Slytherins cackled. The five Seekers lined up in the centre of the pitch, and Harry doubted he ended up with Malfoy next to him by accident.
"Well Potter, that was certainly the spectacle. It's almost boosted my respect for you. Almost. If I were you, I know which one I would be picking, although, who says you can't pick both? I've never tried it myself, but my father says the more, the merrier." Harry, who's jaw dropped open in shock at Malfoy's statement, never got the chance to answer.
"Okay. Here are the rules. First, I am going to release this professional level Snitch. Then I will release the standard level Snitch. I don't expect anyone to actually catch the professional level one, as it's a good twice as fast as the normal level ones used for House Cups and the Tournament. If someone does manage to catch it, they'll instantly make the team. The person who catches the standard one will make reserve. If no one catches the professional Snitch, the person who caught the standard first will be bumped into the line-up, and I'll rerelease it to decide the reserve. Any questions?"
Harry and Ginny shared a glance. Harry had an advantage here. The Home had a professional grade Snitch that the duo had been practising with over the holidays. Harry had caught it over a dozen times. Ginny had only managed about half a dozen, and only when using Harry's Firebolt. The Firebolt and the practice would provide him with a massive advantage over the others. The only broom that could keep up with his was Malfoy's Nimbus 2001.
"Everyone mount your brooms." Malfoy shot Harry a cocky grin, which he ignored. Cho was staring at Ginny in rage, while Ginny and Cedric were simply staring at the Snitches in Angelina's hands.
Angelina took a deep breath and released the balls. The two specs of golden light shot up into the sky and vanished.
"Three. Two. One. Mark!" Harry kicked off the ground and soared into the sky, using the Firebolts speed to shoot high above the others as quickly as possible. He reached level with the tallest hoop and began a slow circle of the pitch. Malfoy was following close behind him, Cedric was on the opposite side of the field, and Ginny and Cho were closer to the ground.
With no Quaffle in the air, the pitch was eerily quiet. Harry wasn't sure whether or not this was a good thing or not. On the one hand, there were fewer distractions, and he could hear the incoming Bludgers, but on the other, the silence set his teeth on edge and did nothing for his nerves. Ignoring Malfoy's constant taunts was also more difficult when there was no Lee Jordan to tune him out.
It was ten minutes into the play when the first sighting was recorded. Cho saw one of the Snitches and dived, Ginny hot on her tail. The two brooms were evenly matched for speed, but Cho had experience on her side. The two girls hurtled towards the grass, neck and neck, arms outstretched. Both girls were trying to push the other out of the way, neither succeeding. Harry couldn't help his stomach lurching as they pulled up meters from the ground, soaring back up into the air.
Harry and Draco had been so focused on the girls, they completely missed Cedric soaring towards them from behind. Until he rushed straight past their ears that is. Malfoy screeched and almost fell front over his broom, but Harry cursed and reversed his position, focussing on Cedric, who was now speeding towards the nearby goal post, where Harry could just see a flash of gold. Pushing down on the handle, Harry shot after Cedric's canary yellow robes, pushing the acceleration on the broom to the absolute maximum and leaving Malfoy in the dust. Cedric's Nimbus 2000, while an excellent Broom, was not as good at accelerating as the Firebolt was, but the older boy had a substantial lead. The Snitch, as if sensing their approach, fluttered behind the goal post, prompting Cedric to spin 90 degrees, halving his speed as he whipped around. Harry only had to angle through the post. Fifteen metres… He stretched out his arm at the same time as Cedric. Ten metres… He pushed the Firebolt as hard as it could, the wind threatening to pull hair from his scalp. Five… Cedric's finger closed around the ball, and Harry rolled into a downward arc, narrowly avoiding crashing into him.
Angelina blew the whistle, and Harry cursed his inattention. He could only hope the Snitch Cedric had caught was not the professional Snitch.
Harry levelled off and scanned the field. Ginny and Cho had apparently lost their Snitch and were now back to circling the grounds in opposite directions. Malfoy was on the ground whinging to Angelina, most likely about him. Cedric floated down to Harry and clapped him on the back.
"You almost had me there," He said breathlessly.
"You got it fair and square. I got distracted," Harry admitted.
"As both fun and unnerving as having girls fight over you is, don't let it mess with you. Trust me, I've got experience in that arena." Cedric smiled before dropping down to Angelina. Malfoy huffed and rose back up into the sky. Harry, intent to stay away from Malfoy, resumed his own circling, one eye on the pitch, the other on Angelina to see if she'd rerelease the Snitch. She shook Cedric's hand and took the ball from him. She looked at it and grinned. Then she threw it back into the air and Harry dropped his head in a sigh of relief. Then he smiled. Directly below him, not far from where Angelina was standing, was the Snitch. He glanced back to see Malfoy tailing Cho, who was herself heading in Harry's direction. Realising he needed to start moving, Harry began to circle away from the spotted Snitch, angling slightly downward as he did so. He caught eyes with Ginny, who was closer to the ground, and realised she had seen it too. She nodded her head imperceptibly and Harry, feeling Cho start to come up behind him, lifted his knees and drove himself straight down. Leaning low over the handle, he aimed directly for the grass. If he timed it right, he could pull out just high enough to snag the Snitch on his upward arc. Pushing the broom just fast enough to lose Cho, but not sufficient to lose Malfoy, he angled towards the turf to several screams in the stands. Then he heard a soft gasp from Cho. Not falling for the same trick twice, he continued down further, then pulled sharp on his broom handle, using the speed of the downward run to slingshot himself back into the air at an angle 45 degrees from the ground. He heard a grunt and a growl that sounded suspiciously like Malfoy and raised his own arm. His eyes locked on the Snitch, and he raced towards it.
"Stupid Wronski…" Malfoy muttered from somewhere behind him, and Harry had another idea. He steered slightly above where the Snitch was fluttering a few metres from Angelina's head, and slowed down, throwing a sarcastic smirk over his shoulder. Face contorted in rage, Malfoy spurned his broom higher so as to return to the sky, completely missing the ball of gold. At the last moment, entirely missing the look of satisfaction on Angelina's face, he rolled on his broom so he was facing the ground with his back, and plucked the Snitch from the air. Angelina, a massive smirk on her face, blew her whistle twice as Harry rolled back over and landed with a skid on the grass. Only now did he allow himself to look up. Malfoy was hovering over the field, a look of shock and horror on his face as the inevitable crashed down upon him, and Ginny was streaking towards Angelina, a fluttering golden sphere held tight in her outstretched hand as Cho, looking about ready to murder someone, drifted in behind her.
Ginny landed on the ground beside Harry, a massive grin on her face as she handed Angelina her Snitch. Harry beamed at her as he handed his own in. Cedric congratulated Ginny on an excellent catch as Malfoy stormed away from the pitch. Cho landed as the remaining crowd ran out from the stands to meet them. Angelina gave a loud cough, and silence fell over the pitch.
"Cedric Diggory and Ginny Weasley both caught the standard Snitch, but as Cedric caught it first, and Ginny is already in as reserve Chaser, Cedric gets the reserve spot." Several of Cedric friends patted him on the back as he shook a beat red Ginny's hand.
"Harry Potter, by virtue of a brilliant roués and excellent flying, caught the professional Snitch, and will play in the starting line-up."
"Yes!" Hermione and Ginny screamed, followed by the rest of Gryffindor. Ginny jumped into his arms, and Harry spun her around.
"I knew you could do it," She whispered in his ears as Fred and George made cat-calls behind them.
Angelina cleared her throat again as Hermione scolded the twins.
"Now, before we adjourn, a wager was made on the Seeker's trial, and as Ginny caught the Snitch before Cho…" Angelina trailed off, staring at the black-haired Ravenclaw.
Cho looked absolutely furious at having been outflown by Ginny of all people. Harry chanced a quick glance at Cedric, who was rolling his eyes at Cho as Ginny, who still had her legs around Harry's waist, spun around to stare at her rival.
Cho sneered at the red-head in Harry's arms.
"Fine. I'll leave Loony alone." Then she threw her broom over her shoulder and stormed off, her cliché following obediently behind her.
"You bet you will, or the Defenders will be coming for you!" Ginny yelled, and Harry couldn't help but agree.
No one noticed that Ron had seemingly vanished.