Viktor shot off towards the goal posts and nearly crashed into them for not paying attention to where he was going. His mind was elsewhere. Pajari had still not come back, and there were only ten short minutes left until the game was to start. Even five more minutes went by without any sign of him returning, and when Harry Potter flew across the pitch to speak with the Durmstrang Captain, Viktor assumed he was the captain in charge and went to speak with him.
“The referee is from Beauxbatons. The balls are the official Hogwarts ones, if anything they will act unfair towards us just to taunt us. You captain?” he asked, and Viktor was about to nod before he could think. However, Pajari arrived just in time to inform Potter he had been given the title of captain.
“Let’s have a good game,” said Pajari, smiling cockily before dragging Viktor with him back to the rest of the team. They gathered around the captain, the six of them making a half-circle. Viktor took a look at them – they looked nervous, constantly shifting their position on the broom and shivering in the cool air even though they were wearing comfortably warm Quidditch robes. They were all wearing the Durmstrang robes, a team member called Duncan had brought one for Viktor as well. They were black and expensive-looking, with gold stripes down the sides and the school logo placed right over the heart.
“All right, listen up,” said Pajari, though it was needless to say. They were all listening, having waited for ages for him to show up.
“Duncan, Yuri, you’re beaters,” Pajari declared, conjuring two bats from thin air and throwing them at the two boys to his far right. They were both big guys, with tough expressions on their dark and mysterious-looking faces. Yuri, the shorter of the two, had been looking the other way for only a second and had to drop ten meters to catch the bat. Pajari continued unaffected.
“Ivo, you’re keeper,” he said, throwing a look at the short, plump but still muscular 16 year old right in front of him. Ivo nodded in agreement and uttered a silent, “Yeah!”
Aleksandr Pajari then turned his head to his left, to Samuil, Andon and Viktor. Samuil and Andon were smaller than beaters Duncan and Yuri, but they still looked pretty intimidating with large upper arms and dark, ruffled hair. They were twins, identical at that, and Viktor still could not tell them apart after several years of knowing them. Well, except for when they played Quidditch. Samuil was the quick one, while Andon could throw the Quaffle with formidable strength.
“You three will be chasers,” said Pajari, looking directly at Viktor, “and finally, I’ll be seeker.”
“What?” Ivo protested instantly. The big keeper had never been afraid to stand up to Viktor or anyone else, and now he was saying what everyone else was thinking. “That’s crap; Viktor is the world’s best seeker for crying out loud!”
Pajari merely smiled, like he was amused that anyone would say that. “Viktor is fast and good at catching balls, so he’ll do perfectly well as chaser.”
“That’s the worst excuse I’ve heard since your mother,” said Ivo, but Pajari didn’t take offense.
“Oh yeah? You just keep them clear of the goal posts and we’re good. I can take this Potter guy no problem,” said Pajari confidently, “Go on now, we’re starting.”
Like he said, the game was about to begin. The Gryffindors had already assumed their positions, and were ready to fight. Viktor followed the twins to the centre of the pitch, cursing Pajari under his breath like he had never cursed anyone before. Pajari had never played seeker before in his life! They were going to lose and he was willing to bet his broom on it.
The Beauxbatons referee, a young woman with long, blond hair and cute freckles, blew the whistle and the game was on. Quick as lightening, the twins and the three Gryffindor chasers were off. Viktor hesitated for half a second, and then darted off to catch the ball. The Gryffindors had it, shuffling it between them at an amazing speed. They went up and down in perfect synchronization like they were linked together by secret, invisible chains. The twins kept up with them just fine, on their brand new, world’s best broomsticks - but the Gryffindor chasers were three and Viktor was just now starting to catch up with them.
The ball flew from one to the other, and Viktor, who had never played chaser before, was nervous he would hit one of the other players if he intercepted it. But with a great leap, he went up behind the two female Gryffindor chasers and thrust forward just as one sent the ball to the other one. The ball hit his hand with amazing force and fell straight down. This was something Viktor had practiced before.
Long before any of the other could turn their brooms around, Viktor was diving with high speed. He reached the ball in one second, and had stabilized it in two. Samuil was the first chaser to reach him, and practically took the Quaffle out of Viktor’s hands and continued towards the Gryffindor keeper.
Viktor sped up to keep up with him, and Andon joined, but the Gryffindors were incredibly quick. They flew around, in front of, under and above them like lions assessing their prey. Samuil held on to the ball for a while, before ducking for a Bludger and passing it on to Viktor.
“I don’t want it,” thought Viktor, and saw Andon in the corner of his eye. However, he also saw a Gryffindor chaser coming up behind Andon. He had almost reached the goal posts already anyway. What to do, what to do?
With the slightest nod to Samuil, who was still flying a good way below him, he sped up straight forward and so did Samuil. Holding their current heights, they both flew towards the keeper at a speed so great the Gryffindors could not possibly keep up. It was just the two of them and the keeper. The keeper looked quite nervous and, to be honest, frantic as his eyes shifted from Viktor to Samuil and back. At last he seemed to decide Viktor was the biggest threat, just as Viktor had predicted and hoped. Just as he was about to crash into the keeper, he dropped the ball straight down. The keeper was in no way prepared and didn’t stand a chance to catch it before Samuil, who scored through the middle hoop to a roar of Durmstrang applause and Gryffindor booing.
But suddenly, the noise seemed to shift. Viktor looked up at the audience – there were no empty seats left – and saw Gryffindors, Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws, as well as some Beauxbatons, cheering and waiving their scarves over their heads like flags. When he turned again, he saw what they were so happy about. Harry Potter was holding his hand up, and two small, white wings were sticking out from his tight clenched fist. He’d caught it.
As Potter took his victory lap around the pitch, Viktor and the rest of the two teams landed on the grass in front of the referee, who blew the whistle to end the game. The score was 10-150, a total humiliation to Viktor and the Durmstrang team. They still had to shake the Gryffindor players’ hands before leaving the pitch, and Viktor wished he could wipe the silly smiles off their faces.
The Hogwarts students began filling the pitch, eager to get close to the action. Ron, whose last name he still did not know, and Hermione Granger were two of the first to arrive. They were watching Potter fly around the pitch and waited eagerly for him to touch ground again right in front of them. Krum glanced around to see where Pajari was, but he was nowhere near Hermione now. He was already heading for the showers. Krum must have looked smug because Monty was right around the corner and was not very happy about the outcome of the match.
“Viktor, why do you look happy when you were just humiliated in front of the entire school?” said Monty, looking resigned.
“Oh, I’m just glad that at least I’m not the captain,” said Viktor, while adding in his mind, “Because Pajari blew it big time while Hermione was watching…”
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