It was weird to think that he even had a first name. To me, he had always just been Malfoy.
You know, Malfoy; the guy who hexed my brothers almost as much as they hexed him. Malfoy; one of the many Slytherins that looked down on our entire red-headed family almost as much as the rest of the school looked up to us. Most importantly, Malfoy; the guy I absolutely had to beat to the snitch.
That had been my job today, 'beat that smarmy Slytherin to the snitch if it’s the last thing you do! Oh, and if you can, wait until we’re at least 50 points ahead'. That was James for you – it wasn’t enough for Gryffindor to win, Slytherin must be seen to lose. As if I didn’t have enough to worry about. The match against Slytherin was always the closest of the year. Against Hufflepuff it was barely worth turning up for, and even Ravenclaw were more fun than challenging. With Slytherin though, it was always too close to call, which meant that the game would be won or lost with the snitch. No pressure!
This year the game had been closer than ever, and by forty-three minutes in we were actually losing 80-100. Not good. James had then decided to get a little violent, earning the other side a penalty.
“And it’s Yaxley to take the penalty. So far this season he’s yet to miss a shot, and... Wait, no, it’s saved by Weasley, and Potter will certainly be relieved by that. Weasley throws it out to Potter, who neatly loops Rook, and passes it to Potter. Then it’s Potter heading for goal, no wait, he’s blocked by one of the Crabbe twins, never could tell them apart, he drops the quaffle to Weasley...”
Commentary of school quidditch tends to get a bit confusing when Gryffindor plays. If it wasn’t for the Abbott twins, we’d all be related, and even with them, there are a grand total of three surnames. James did try to vary the team a little (mainly he wanted an excuse to bench his siblings), but with two professional players in the generation above us, we were always going to dominate the field. Oh well, it’s not like I ever had the time to listen to the commentary anyway. I had more than enough to do, just trying to focus on my part of the game.
When I was younger, I’d had always thought seeker was the best and easiest position to play. All you had to do was float around for a bit, and then catch a ball and get the glory, right? Well, I still think it’s the best position, but I’ve realised that it is a little more complicated than I’d imagined. You see, seekers are pretty important to the team, which is great, but it means that the other team devote two entire players, and two entire clubs, to knocking them out of the sky. The Abbotts do their best to keep me broom-bound, but there’s still a lot of pretty fancy flying required when you’re playing against a half decent opposition. So far this game, I’d been forced to do two loop-de-loops, not to mention a pretty decent Krumble, just to avoid concussion. Looking for a fast-moving object, the size of a walnut, at the same time, it isn’t as easy as I’d once thought it would be.
Making a pass around the Slytherin hoops (hit a bludger at your own keeper, why don’t you), I suddenly saw the one thing I was hoping for, and the one thing I most dreaded: the snitch, hovering three metres from the ground in the middle of the pitch, and Malfoy, heading straight for it. We were at opposite sides of the pitch, and I was marginally closer, but he was almost two years older and had already built up speed. Praying to anyone or anything listening, I pressed my body as flat as it would go, and sped straight for it. Faster and faster we both seemed to be going, any advantage too close to call. I had let go of my broom entirely now, relying on my legs to keep me upright until the game was over. The two of us were heading for a pretty spectacular collision at the end of this, and I had no idea how I was going to turn once – if – I managed to catch the snitch. Still, I had been taught too well to think that personal safety could ever come before a win.
Twenty yards, ten, five... my fingers made contact, and with the tiny wings still beating against my hand, I pressed everything I had into a quick dive, missing Malfoy by inches. Quickly pulling back up, I soared into the air, as the roar of the crowds threatened to overwhelm the commentator:
“And Potter’s got the snitch. That’s right folks, Potter has the snitch and Gryffindor have the cup as good as in the bag. Pretty good of Malfoy there; pulled up once he could see he wouldn’t beat her. Can’t say the rest of the team seem to be taking it as well; Yaxley’s looking positively murderous, and... Good gods, Crabbe’s just knocked a bludger straight into the back of Potter’s head!”
Momentarily dazed, I didn’t even realise what had happened until I was a good two metres below my broom. Desperately clutching at the air, I tried to think of anything, anything at all, that would rescue me from the inevitable. Twenty yards, ten, five, the ground rushed up towards me at a speed I would have loved to reach on a broom. I closed my eyes, and then... felt myself being surrounded by a pair of strong arms, my speed reversing as I was suddenly lifted back into the air. I took a moment to release the breath I’d been holding, and then opened my eyes, to find out which of my family members I’d be thanking this time.
He smiled, clearly amused by my obvious confusion.