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Chapter 9 : The Final Match
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“What is it?”
“Tony is failing his NEWT Charms class so Professor Sprout has removed him from the Quidditch team. I need a Seeker for our last match and you are it.”
Scorpius was speechless. After a moment he replied, “I’m honoured, but I’m only a First year and I’ve only been training for Chaser.”
“Professor Sprout is bending the rules to allow you to play. I’ve booked the pitch for the next four nights so you can train with the team. Can you write your family and have them send your broom? I don’t what you using a school broom for Seeker.”
“Yes, I’ll write home straight away.”
“Excellent, I’ll see you later.”
When Justine and Cornelius came down, Scorpius shared his news.
“Fantastic mate!” Cheered Cornelius.
“We’ll be rooting for you,” said Justine. “Maybe we’ll actually win a match!”
“Or at least not lose by too much.”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, but just because I’m playing doesn’t mean we’ll win or do well.”
“We have faith,” she said.
“Who is the match against?” Cornelius asked.
“Oh,” they said in unison.
Dear Mom and Dad,
By a stroke of luck Garridan needs me to fill in the position of Seeker for our last match. Would you please send my broom?
His brief letter was the first he had written since the story broke out about Quality Quidditch Supplies. In spite of the hopeful tone of his father’s last letter, the worst had happened. Draco lost his job and after weeks of seeking, still hadn’t found another one. Luckily they sold their Prague flat quickly, so their money situation wasn’t as precarious as it could have been.
He found time to send off his letter before taking his seat next to Al in Potions. Al nodded in greeting just as class began.
“Put away your books please, today we are having a pop quiz.” Groans sounded all over the classroom. The loudest came from Al. Scorpius couldn’t help but smile a little. In spite of his frequent help to Al, the boy still struggled with potions.
The professor handed out pre-written parchments to the class. There were ten questions listed. Scorpius couldn’t help smiling to himself. His studying ahead was going to pay off here.
He was done in twenty minutes, far ahead of anyone else in the class. His professor looked up in surprise, but took his quiz without saying a word. Scorpius returned to his seat and sat quietly, uncertain whether or not to take out his potions book to read.
Moments later he saw the professor gesturing for him to approach the desk.
“This is excellent work, Mr. Malfoy.” Scorpius looked down to see “Outstanding” written on his quiz. “You are dismissed.”
Scorpius gathered his books and exited the dungeons.
Walking the deserted hall he debated whether to head to the Common Room or to the Library.
The Library option won. Rounding the corner nearest the Library he came face to face with James Potter II. The two boys locked gazes, brown eyes to hazel, neither one saying a word. Scorpius felt a prickling on the back of his neck and he hesitated to keep walking, not wanting his back to James.
James was the one to break off and head in the opposite direction.
Scorpius had just found a spot in the library when he was approached by the Head Girl.
“What are you doing out of class, Mr. Malfoy?” Scorpius looked up into Victoire’s aquamarine eyes and felt the usual light-headedness from her presence. It took him a moment to answer.
“We had a pop quiz in Potions today. I finished early, so Professor dismissed me.”
“I see,” the slightly stern look on her face changed abruptly with her next question.
“How was Albus doing?”
“Well, he looked like he was persevering,” he responded diplomatically.
She smiled at his choice of words. “I understand you’ve been helping him all year. That’s very kind of you to do so.”
Scorpius simply smiled, after all, what was he to say?
“I’ll leave you to it, then.” And she left him alone.
That was odd, Scorpius thought. He wondered if James had something to do with her visit. Did he assume that Scorpius was skipping class?
Scorpius’ broom arrived at dinner along with a note from his mother.
Congratulations, darling, on being asked to take part in Hufflepuff’s last match. Your father and I are very excited for you and we will be attending the match to root you on.
Your father is especially looking forward to it.
Those written words sent a small chill down his spine.
“That’s great that your parents are attending. Don’t you think so?”
“Actually, I don’t think it is a good thing. I don’t think my dad will be impressed with our team, Cornelius.”
“Which is more important, impressing your dad or playing well regardless of the outcome?”
“Well, hurry up, you’ll need lots of practice to accomplish that.”
Rolling his eyes he said, “Thanks Cornelius.”
“Anytime, now stop feeling sorry for yourself and get to practice. The match is on Saturday.”
Justine and Cornelius accompanied Scorpius to practice. Garridan was waiting for him.
“Where are the others?”
“They will be joining us later. I wanted to run some drills with you first.” He nodded over at Justine and Cornelius, “I’m glad you two are here—we could use you during practice. Why don’t you go grab a couple of brooms?”
There was no need to tell them twice.
“Scorpius, I know you are fast, but the strategy is different as a Seeker as opposed to a Chaser.”
Scorpius nodded accordingly.
Garridan sighed, “You’ll also need to be more careful of their Beaters. They know you’re taking Tony’s place, you will be a target. I’ve already spoken with Nick and Pavel to defend you from the Bludgers.”
Scorpius felt a slight pull in his gut.
“Right then, let’s go.” With that, the practice began.
First, Garridan, Justine, and Cornelius threw golf balls in all directions, sometimes aided by magic from Garridan, and Scorpius had to catch them. Once the rest of the team joined, then he pulled out a used snitch for practice. With the additional players of Cornelius and Justine, as well as the presence of Tony, who had snuck out to help out Scorpius, they had the best pseudo-practice setup they could hope for.
“Of course this is nothing like the real thing,” commented Tony. “A used snitch isn’t as fast as a new one and it’s very different with hostile players shying bludgers at you.”
“Scorpius should do well,” commented Jonas. “He’s the perfect build for a Seeker and he has a fast broom. His is better than Harlan Boles’.”
“Oh, didn’t you hear?” Derek inquired. Blank faces stared back at him. “Pansy Parkinson-Jones gifted new brooms to the entire Slytherin Quidditch team. They all received the latest Firebolts.”
“Lovely,” Justine responded.
Practice continued every night that week. Scorpius tried not to think about the Slytherin teams new brooms, or the fact that his father was coming, or the fact that the Slytherin Beaters would probably have it in for him.
Then there was the news in Potions.
He was putting away excess potion ingredients and overheard Albus and Tarani talking. He didn’t mean to eavesdrop, but he heard the word “Quidditch” and couldn’t help himself.
“Yeah, my parents are coming to the match.
“Why are they coming? Gryffindor isn’t playing,” Tarani asked.
“I don’t know, exactly.” He shrugged.
“Will they be rooting for Hufflepuff or Slytherin?”
“Oh, Hufflepuff by far. No question about that.”
To Scorpius’ surprise, Justine was thrilled with the news. “Ginerva Weasley Potter will be there? She was captain of the Holyhead Harpies! Do you think I could get her autograph?”
“Sure Jussy,” Cornelius teased, “just introduce yourself as the girl who gave her son a Puking Pastille in the Great Hall. I’m sure that will go over well.”
She stuck her tongue out at him in response. “He deserved it, you know.”
“Yes, I know.”
Saturday morning proved to be a beautiful and sunny Spring day. Scorpius felt an odd sort of calm. Practice had been so intense over the past week that every night he fell into a dreamless slumber. He was lucky to be so far ahead in his classes. He’d barely cracked a book in the last few days.
Slowly he got out of bed and methodically began to dress. Game strategies were flying through his head. The reality was, there was very little chance they would win the match today. Hufflepuff hadn’t won all year. They were that bad. He just hoped it wouldn’t be over in ten minutes, like the first match was with Gryffindor. That day that James Potter caught the Snitch right away.
A small patch of hope began to creep through his consciousness.
If he could catch the Snitch early, they could win. The Slytherins would be shown up and maybe, just maybe, his father would be impressed.
Was it too much to hope for?
Breakfast was a very subdued affair. Scorpius sat in his usual spot in between his two best friends. The difference was that the Quidditch Team flanked the three, as if they were the assigned bodyguards. Throughout the meal they were all greeted by the Hufflepuffs. Sometimes it was just a pat on the back, a quiet ‘good luck’, etc.
By contrast the Slytherin table was loud and boisterous. The team was flaunting their new brooms to the entire school, making disparaging remarks about the Hufflepuff players.
To the surprise of Scorpius, about a third of the Gryffindors were adorned in Hufflepuff colours, Tarani and Albus were the most prominent in Gold Shirts. James Potter was all in scarlet.
“Scorpius, it’s time to go,” Jussy whispered.
He tried to concentrate during Garridan’s “pump up” speech, but his mind kept wandering. He wondered if his parents were here yet. Would they be sitting with Hufflepuffs or Slytherins?
As the team took to the Pitch, Scorpius scanned the crowd. He found his parents sitting to the right of Headmistress Sprout. His father looked paler and gray in the sunlight. He was dressed all in Black. His mother looked devastatingly beautiful, as always. She was dressed completely in Gold and Black in support of the Hufflepuffs.
To the left of the Headmistress sat Harry Potter and Ginerva Weasley Potter. He noticed Pansy Parkinson-Jones and her husband sitting in the back row, dressed in green and silver.
The whistle blew, the Quaffle was tossed, the Snitch was launched, and so began the fiercest match ever, between the Hufflepuffs and Slytherins.
The Slytherin Beaters seemed to have doubled in size. Early on their game plan seemed to be to target Scorpius. He found that by weaving around the Slytherin side presented him with the slightest bit of breathing room. They weren’t quite as murderous when one of their own players might be threatened.
After fifteen minutes the Slytherins led, 30-0. Inside his head he could almost hear Cornelius saying, “at least the game is still on…” He couldn’t help but smile.
That smile nearly cost him. The brief distraction nearly caused him to be hit by the bludger from Felix Flint. Luckily he saw it in time and was able to move.
Pavel smacked it back towards their Keeper who had to dodge out of the way.
“Watch yourself, Scorpius! We can’t afford to lose you.”
“Right,” and he continued his pattern of weaving through the players, constantly searching for the Snitch.
After a while Scorpius lost all sense of time. All that existed was his broom and the constant escape of the bludger. He was vaguely aware of the Slytherin Chasers, Peter, Alexei, and Simon, consistently scoring. He had no idea if any of the Hufflepuff players had managed to score.
Then, the unthinkable happened.
As if in slow motion, Scorpius saw the bludger heading in his direction. He managed to move away in time to avoid being hit, but unfortunately the bludger continued on towards Jonas.
Jonas, who’s attention was focused on the incoming quaffle and was determined to keep the Slytherins from scoring one more time.
Scorpius didn’t even have time to yell when just as Jonas was poised to deflect the quaffle, the bludger rammed into him and with the additional force of the quaffle, was knocked back through the hoop and slid unconscious off his broom.
Professor Chatsworth, who was refereeing the match, cast a spell that slowed Jonas’ descent.
The remaining Hufflepuff players looked at each other grimly. They knew from experience that the match would continue.
It was then that Scorpius saw the glint of gold near the Slytherin Keeper.
The Slytherins were still congratulating themselves on their luck, their Seeker completely preoccupied.
Scorpius took off.
He tried not to blink. He focused with everything he had on getting to the Snitch first. He felt a tugging on the back of his broom and instinctively knew it was Harlan.
Harlan who had finally realized what Scorpius was going for and was doing what he could to stop him.
He didn’t look back. He just tried to urge his broom to go a little bit faster—as if it were a living thing that could respond.
The tugging stopped. He was getting closer and closer to the Snitch. Reaching out with his gloved hand he felt the feathery tips of its wings when the bludger smacked straight into the side of his head and everything went black.
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