Chapter 23 : Action
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The Silver Stags had exited through the doors and were silently heading down the dark tunnel that lead out to the Hogwarts Quidditch stadium. The cheering was getting louder and louder, and Draco’s heart was beginning to pound faster and faster in response to the crowd’s rhythmic stomping. It was the first Quidditch match of the season, and the excitement was at a fevered pitch. In the distance, Draco could see the light at the end of the tunnel and knew that right about now, his owl would be delivering the note that he had written to Hermione, which he had unconsciously memorized:
Even though you may not want to admit it, you’ve been thinking about me these past couple of days, and even though I rarely admit such things, I’ve been thinking about you, too.
I know that your main issue with me is that very thing, that I rarely admit such things. Unfortunately, it’s just not something I’m good at.
I meant it when I said I’m a man of action. Everybody knows that actions speak louder than words, and if you still don’t know how I feel about you, then you need to take a look up at the sky right about now.
Hope it’s coming in loud & clear.
Ginny’s shout, barely heard over the clamoring crowd, broke Draco out of his reverie. “Okay team, let’s do this! Everybody mount your brooms!” Draco could feel his hands shaking slightly as he steadied his grip on his broom.
The team, rapt with anticipation, waited for their introduction which blared in from the stadium entrance. “And introducing…THE SILVER STAGS!” Pandemonium ensued from the crowd as all seven players soared at breakneck speed down through the end of the tunnel and emerged one by one into the stadium, each breaking into view as their name was called. “Playing Beaters…Ritchie Coote! Aaaaand…Jimmy Peakes!” The crowd erupted in response to each player’s entrance. “Team Captain and head Chaser…Ginny Weasley!” A huge explosive cheer followed the Weaselette’s name, and then it came. Draco, being Seeker, would be the last player announced. “And last but not least, playing Seeker for The Silver Stags…DRACO MALFOY?!”
As one, the entire Quidditch stadium gasped in disbelief as Draco rocketed into view, accompanying the unbelievable announcement of his affiliation with the aforementioned team. He could feel his stomach lurch in response. He realized that with that announcement, something had been changed irrevocably; he had voluntarily made a choice to step onto a path in which his life would never be quite the same ever again. Was it worth it?
And then, in the distance, he could hear a lone voice crying out over the hushed crowd: “MERLIN’S PANTS!”
He could feel himself smirking in response. Yes, it was worth it. Just for that reaction. It enabled him to recover his usual Malfoy poise and he found himself sitting up rather haughtily on his broom and smirking confidently down his nose at the crowd that was staring up at him in utter shock. Ginny Weasley flew past him in order to get to her position, and he could see that she had enjoyed the reaction that his announcement had gotten and had a satisfied grin on her face. He remembered her saying something in their last team practice about how he might just turn out to be their “secret weapon”, because Team Venom would be momentarily stunned when they saw their former Seeker now playing against them. This would give the Stags an early psychological advantage.
And it seemed that she was right. As The Silver Stags swept into their positions in a half-circle facing the one that had already been formed by Team Venom, Draco inspected each of the seven faces of his former teammates—their expressions ranged from incredulity (Zabini), to dread (Nott), to outright loathing (Harper). Every single Venom teammate’s eyes were focused solely on Draco and they seemed unable to process what they were witnessing right in front of their eyes. Draco loved every minute of it—one of his favorite things in the world to do was mess with people whom he felt had wronged him, and he basked in their animosity like a flower in the sun. He made a point to jauntily adjust the collar of his robes as they stared, calling as much attention as possible to his new uniform. At least this horrid, vulgar color comes in handy for something, he thought with a smirk.
And before they knew it, the Quaffle had been thrown into the air by Madame Hooch, and the Stags immediately gained possession of it. Mainly because every single member of Team Venom had been so shocked by the fact that their former teammate was now facing them in Silver Stag robes that they completely missed the Quaffle toss, and not a single one of them had reacted.
The ring of the bell as the Stags had scored (“Nice goal by Ginny Weasley!”) seemed to shake Team Venom out of their stupor. “Malfoy,” Harper growled, shaking his fist at Draco, “you blood traitor! You’re going to be sorry you were ever born!”
In response, Draco leaned back on his broom, saluted Harper with a rude hand gesture, and ascended straight up over the pitch as if he hadn’t a care in the world, although in actuality it was to escape the murmurings and gasps of disbelief that had been arising from the crowd. Warily, Nott, the new and relatively inexperienced Seeker for Venom, followed him.
For a while, there wasn’t much for Draco to do being as the Snitch was nowhere in sight. Nott didn’t even seem to be looking for it—he had probably been advised to track the other Seeker and steal the Snitch away just before the opposing team was able to score, a typical Slytherin strategy. Let the other side do all the work, but steal all the glory. At first Draco tried to search the crowd for a sneak peak at Hermione, but it was impossible to find her in the sea of people. He then resorted to amusing himself by acting as if he had spotted the Snitch and darting off for a short distance, then watching Nott take off in that direction in response. It reminded Draco of a time back when he was a child when he had once played with a dog and had pretended to throw a stick and watched the dog run off in that direction over and over again to retrieve the non-existent stick.
As he was smirking at Nott’s fourth false-start, he heard, “Malfoy, heads up!” He turned and saw a Bludger aimed right for his head. Quickly, he rotated over his broom as Coote darted up with his club to send the Bludger hurtling towards Harper, whose back was turned. It hit Harper soundly in the shoulder and he fell forward on his broom with a “Whoof!” nearly losing his balance. Draco snorted with glee. Not bad, Coote, not bad…
And then he spotted the Snitch, hovering about 50 feet below Nott, who was too busy watching Draco to even notice it. Bloody Clot, Draco thought as he took off in the direction of the Snitch. Nott immediately followed him and before Draco knew it, they were hurtling side by side after the Snitch, which had taken a dive towards the crowd. Nott aimed a few kicks and shoves at Draco, but Draco’s flying experience was superior to Nott’s and it only slowed him up briefly. The two Seekers flew at top speed in an arc just above the stadium seating in pursuit of the Snitch, and Draco could hear the gasps of the crowd once again as they zoomed past them in such close proximity, punctuated by several “I still can’t believe its” as he elbowed Nott once or twice to try to throw him off-balance.
Draco had managed to pull ahead of Nott slightly and was just reaching towards the Snitch when his vision suddenly swam in front of him and he was temporarily unable to see. Luckily, as he flailed, Nott was unable to pass him and had to pull back suddenly to avoid a crash. When Draco’s vision had finally cleared he saw that Harper had his wand drawn and was cackling evilly at Draco—apparently he had hit Draco with a blurring charm.
Oh yeah? Well, two can play at that game, Draco thought as he whipped out his wand and pointed it directly at Harper, disabling his broom-cushioning charm. This caused Harper to sit down hard on the broom handle with absolutely no protection as he was straddling the broom. Harper let out a rather loud high-pitched whimper in response. From behind him, Draco could hear snickering and looked over his shoulder and was surprised to find Zabini with his hand over his mouth, eyes dancing merrily. But then again, Draco and Zabini had both worked together on figuring out how to disable the broom-cushioning charm the previous year; no wonder Zabini had found it amusing.
“Malfoy!” he heard over his other shoulder. He looked over to see Ginny Weasley diving towards him. “You can’t do that; that’s cheating!” she shouted at him.
“It’s not cheating if the other side’s messing around too, Weasley, for crying out loud!” he hollered back.
Ginny shot him a glare as she soared past him, followed by Demelza (Esmerelda?) Robins, who grinned as she passed and gave him a thumbs up.
Just then, a time-out was called so that Harper could get a replacement broom. Ginny Weasley called for a huddle, and as all seven Stags formed a tight circle in the air, she immediately turned on Draco. “Malfoy, can you lay off the illegal charms so that you don’t get us disqualified?” she said in exasperation.
“Hey, Weasley, they started it! I practically fell off my broom after that blurring charm that Harper fired off at me.”
“Ohh…is that why you started flailing all over the place?” Demelza broke in.
“Hell, yeah!” Draco shot back.
Coote piped up, “The Slytherins have it in for Malfoy. We’ve been going bonkers trying to keep up with the amount of Bludgers that they’ve been aiming at his head. I even missed one,” he added with an apologetic look at Draco. Peakes nodded in agreement, but was too winded to speak up.
“Sooo…” Ginny’s brow furrowed in thought. “If the Slytherins have it in for our Mr. Malfoy, then we’re just going to have to do something about it. We’re up by 60 points; all we need to do is keep it clear for Malfoy so that he can do his job and win this game.”
“I don’t need any help, Weasley!” Draco could feel his face turning red.
Ginny raised her eyebrows at him. “Are you telling me that you wouldn’t like to see all of us turn on these prats in full force? I must have misjudged you, Malfoy.”
Draco couldn’t help smirking in response. “Well, if you put it that way…” He was interrupted by the whistle that signaled the end of time-out.
“You know what to do, Stags!” Ginny shouted as the team broke away and flew back into their positions.
The instant the game resumed, the entire tone of it changed. Team Venom had obviously been given instructions by Harper to pay Draco back for the broom-hex incident, and the Silver Stags were ready for them. One of Venom’s Beaters wasted no time sending a Bludger hurtling at Draco’s head, but Coote was right there to deflect it. As Coote sent it off in the direction of where Zabini was flying, Demelza zoomed past Venom’s Beater and pulled his cape over his head. The Beater howled in response as he nearly lost his grip on his broom.
Meanwhile, Peakes had used his Beater club to “accidentally” whack one of Venom’s Chasers’ broom off-course just as he had whipped out his wand and was pointing it at Draco. It sent the Chaser hurtling away and he nearly crashed into his own team’s Keeper, which elicited cheers from the other Stags and also from the majority of the crowd.
Harper, livid with his team’s sudden loss of control, faced off directly with Draco. “Malfoy,” he bellowed, “you’re a dead man!” His wand was drawn, but his anger had slowed him down and Draco was able to get in the first hex. He hit Harper with the same blurring charm that he had been subjected to, and as Harper was cussing and waving his hands around futilely, Draco streaked past him and gave Harper’s broom a well-placed kick, sending it spinning in midair.
Just then, another one of Venom’s Chasers dashed past Draco shrieking, “AAUUGH!!” His face was literally covered in flapping bat wings, and Draco could hear laughter coming from behind him. He looked over to see Ginny Weasley with her wand drawn and a huge grin on her face. “Bat-Bogey hex gets ‘em every time!” she called out merrily.
And that’s when Draco spotted it. About 20 feet from Ginny Weasley’s shoulder, the Golden Snitch was hovering in midair. He was about to take off after it, but something else caught his eye—a rather large blur tearing at top speed towards the back of the Weaselette’s head. What the hell is that? Draco wondered, but then he realized just what it was. Apparently, one of Venom’s Beaters had managed to hex both Bludgers into aiming directly at Ginny Weasley. Draco immediately looked around for the Stags’ Beaters, but they were both occupied with fending off other Venom players and hadn’t spotted the double-Bludger.
Dammit, but the Snitch is right there… Draco yelled, but Ginny was too occupied with firing off another Bat-Bogey hex at Nott (“YEEOW!”), and didn’t hear Draco’s warning. Time seemed to almost stop as Draco warred with himself—the Snitch is right there, but a double Bludger would do a hell of a lot of damage. But the Snitch is right there…
Then Draco realized how Hermione must feel at the moment, having to watch helplessly as a double-Bludger hurtled towards the back of her best friend’s head. Bugger me to all hell, Draco thought as he blasted off into the pathway of the rogue Bludgers, making it there just as they were about to slam into the Weaselette.
They slammed into him instead.
As the impact knocked the wind out of him, Draco’s vision seemed to explode. In front of him appeared a myriad of spots, and in his painful stupor he could have sworn that one of them resembled the Golden Snitch. He made a grab for it as he felt himself black out and begin to fall from his broom. The last thing he remembered was a rather loud roar, but he wasn’t sure if it was coming from the crowd or from the inside of his own head.
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