It wasn’t due to start for a few more hours but the Kopparberg Stadium was already near full capacity. The atmosphere was electric, with avid fans chanting, waving flags, or flourishing galleons at the betting table. Although there were exactly one hundred competitors, only the top ten were featured on the enormous screen hanging above the stadium. The man to beat was Stark Kämpe, an intimidating Swedish who had won the last two years and was willing to do anything for a third consecutive win. It did not help to hinder his popularity that his name literally meant ‘strong fighter’ or that he was a broad, rather handsome young man.
In reality, few professional quidditch players ventured into the dangerous territory of broom races, but for Cho Chang, the annual broom race in Sweden offered an enthralling experience and a lot of money. After the Battle of Hogwarts, and the ensuing massive operation to restore the magical world, Cho needed a break. A break she found in professional quidditch where she could put all her soul into the game. A break she found travelling across the country playing with the Tutshill Tornados. After a while, she yearned for something more. She wanted to feel risk again to realise how precious life was, wanted to fight for something again. If there was anything she had learnt from the Battle, it was that life could be gone as fast as it came, and to live her life to the utmost.
Cho put the finishing touches on polishing her broom using the small and expensive vial of dragon’s blood. It was a relatively new discovery that dragon’s blood left a broom handle with a glistening sheen; before it had simply been famous as a fantastic oven cleaner. She couldn’t help glancing in the mirror and wondering if she should have used the precious vial as a spot remover or as an antidote to her greasy hair instead. She stared critically at her appearance; she was at the stage where she might still be recognised as beautiful, but it was quickly fading away as fast as her reputation had. Cho was here alone, estranged from her family and friends when they realised she was in love with a muggle. It wouldn’t have been so bad but for the fact that the muggle was female. She couldn’t help reflecting on the prejudices of the past and wondering how such judgements could still be made. Cho shook her head in despair. It had cost quite a bit to get here, and as quidditch players were now paid less, she needed more money to help pay for the cost of living alone.
Cho forced herself to have the focused determination that won quidditch matches and emerged with her now shining broom and wand from her tent in the competitor’s housing area. She was one of the last to head over to the stadium, and she passed through the competitors’ entrance before encountering the security check. Only a wand and broom was allowed into the stadium and in the race, so she opened her arms wide for the Probity-Probe to check for concealed spells or magical objects. She also noticed a Secrecy Sensor in the corner of the room before she was ushered into the stadium – incidents of cheating happened surprisingly often and easily ruined the race. Outside, the noise had been dim but in the centre of the stadium, the crowd was causing such a commotion Cho wondered how any competitor was able to think, let alone prepare for the gruelling race to come.
The 437 mile race went from Kopparberg to Arjeplog in Sweden, the most challenging racecourse in the world, running through a Swedish Short-Snout dragon reservation that left a majority of competitors injured or dead. The Swedish Short-Snout was as vicious as any other dragon, except perhaps for the Hungarian Horntail or the Peruvian Vipertooth. Unfortunately for the competitors, it was also the second largest breed after the Ukrainian Ironbelly. The spectators present would actually be unable to view the majority of the race, but the sight of the swarm of brooms flying out at the start of the race, and the exclusive right to apparate to Arjeplog to welcome back survivors was worth the galleons paid for the tickets.
Cho found herself escorted to the wand station where a bustling and bald middle-aged wizard asked for her wand. It was a quick inspection, and as his fingers expertly felt the wand, he pronounced, “Fig, unicorn tail hair, 10”, well-balanced. Good for charms, and… in fine condition. Next!” She moved along to search for her own stall, number 76. It was in the fourth row from the start but at least she would be prepared for the dragons that would appear from nowhere and threaten to knock the fliers off their brooms. Cho mounted her broom and tried to keep calm and steady, even though her nerves were starting to come through. The announcer was the legend Kafke Tagrin, record seven time winner in the 70s, and he began to introduce himself to the stadium. It would only be a very short speech and a very short time before they would be underway.
The booming voice reverberated throughout the stadium, “Welcome to the 1046th Sweden broom race! Only the strongest and the best competitors will make it to Arjeplog, and only the fastest will win the trophy and the prize of 10,000 galleons! Are you ready?” This initiated cheers from the crowd and two hundred hands grasping their brooms tightly.
“10…9…8…7…6…” It was a nerve-wracking countdown, but Cho reminded herself it was just like a quidditch match, where she was used to the anxiety and tension before a game. “5…4…3…2, and…1!” All 100 brooms were out of the barriers in an instant and into the sky at an exhilarating pace, already a distinct line forming behind Stark Kämpe. The weather was slightly cloudier than preferred but the sun still shone through and the wind rushed past making Cho feel more alive than ever. The first sight of dragons would only be a couple of seconds away – they had already covered 5 miles. Cho situated herself behind a tight group of three in black flying in an arrowhead formation. She had done her research, and knew they had experience and knowledge on their side concerning the best path to take in order to avoid where the majority of dragons nested.
She could feel two or three others on her side seemingly using the same strategy but it did not stop a sudden brilliant blue flame aimed in front of her cutting off her path. Her robe was slightly singed and Cho felt a burning sensation on her leg not too unlike the spark of a Blast Ended-Skrewt, but she was quick thinking and ready. She grabbed her wand and shouted a conjunctivitis curse directly at the dragon at the same time as the flier beside her cast a transfiguration spell. Cho did not have time to evaluate the result of the two spells, only time to inwardly celebrate the clear pathway and speed after the group of three. She had already noticed one or two fliers being knocked off their broom and plummeting down with terrified shrieks and a few of the slower fliers lagging behind. There were wizards on hand below to rescue fallen competitors, but the widespread territory meant not all were found or saved in time. Sometimes the injuries were beyond magical repair and a Sleeping Draught with dragon’s blood as a potion strengthener put the competitor at rest.
Past that mountain area, there was a brief period of clear flying, though some roars and yells could be heard in the distance. They were already nearly halfway, and Cho regarded herself as lucky to still be in the running for a first-time competitor, though they had not yet reached the most dangerous and longest range of the mountains. She had moved up to the near front group behind only about twenty fliers and was still gradually edging towards the front. Cho noticed that Stark Kämpe was now in view, though the fliers between had begun to spread out considerably at this stage. Cho knew there was always an underestimation of first-time fliers and she wanted to take this to her advantage, and remained in her position though she could have gone faster. It seemed her years of intense quidditch training and being light weighted were large advantages against the generally more heavy and bulky men.
Yellow flags in the air marked the trail but the forthcoming red flags indicated another danger zone, one that would last 320 miles until just before the ultimate finish. Cho could see two of the Swedish Short-Snouts in the near distance that were just about to notice the fliers. If you flew low, it was so easy to be knocked off or burnt, but too high and you became a challenge, and prey that a dragon wanted to catch. It was this dilemma that only the Swedish Short-Snout presented that made the broom race so gripping and imposing. No other dragon was more willing to protect their territory than guard their eggs.
As the fliers began to diverge above, below and sidewards, Cho heard a distant voice shouting “crusie!” and a racer directly in front of her started to twitch and struggle to control his broom. The Crusiere Curse is similar to its sister the Cruciatus Curse: a lesser form of incapacitation illegal and a definite form of cheating in this race. She covered her mouth with her hand in horror and noticed a manic Stark Kämpe wielding his wand. Hailed as the survivor with the biggest gap between first and second place, Cho realised that she had an inkling of how he had achieved that. Her beliefs were confirmed when another, and another flier fell at his wand and the competitors are scattered and forced to fly lower.
The race was so fast: broomsticks were now travelling at maximum 200mph, sights blurred and decisions needed to be made at the split second a Short-Snout became visible. Cho felt a rising sense of panic and flames she can’t see warm her body so threateningly close. The race was in full fight between humans and beasts and she wondered if maybe this time she had gone too far out of her league. Kämpe easily has the lead, shooting the curse at anyone who came near enough so that half the fliers had already been eliminated from the running. A dragon roared beneath her and Cho jerked upwards, narrowly avoiding the flames, as well as a cleverly cast Curse that almost certainly would have hit her.
Despair began to sink in Cho’s heart: it would be impossible to get past Kämpe or even the dragons when she also had to avoid the spells. She did not want to slow down as it increased the risk of dragon danger but she needed a new tactic if she wanted to win or avoid being dead. She had been practising on two months of strategies, but all of them involved staying at the level where it was low enough that the dragons were visible and where the majority of fliers would be. The majority of fliers were now a very small handful – it was hard to count but she was sure there were less than ten. Two more dragons ahead, two more fliers knocked down.
Cho was flying lower than she would have liked. Another vicious snap that only just misjudged the speed she was flying at. Another shot of flames, another jerk upwards, another singe of skin on one side of her leg. When she saw Kämpe targeting the last flier above him, she rose as high and as fast as she could, and just when Kämpe was about to turn on her again, Cho got what she wanted: a chasing dragon.
Kämpe must have had some kind of anti-dragon spell because he had remained relatively unscathed and untargeted for the entirety of the race. Cho pushed that thought to the back of her mind and focused on the task at hand. Swedish Short-Snouts reached their fastest speed of 220 mph in just 10 seconds. In 10 seconds she would be frighteningly within reach. Cho touched her lucky robes with a blessing of thanks, for the clouds were thicker here than before, and she weaved in and out in an effort to conceal herself from both the dragon and Kämpe. It worked with Kämpe but not the dragon that still followed her steadfastly. Exactly her purpose. The flames were getting warmer against her back, and just when she could bear the scorch no longer, she flew out of the cloud, directly behind Kämpe.
The dragon’s fire was fatal, but it took an unintended victim instead of the one the dragon was aiming for. Cho knew what was going to happen as a result of her actions, and it wrenched at her heart in a way she hadn’t experienced since the Battle at Hogwarts years before. She hadn’t seen the spectacle, knowing that a second could cost her, and that it would only slow the dragon down for a few seconds. Cho was almost crying with relief when she saw the red flags change back to yellow flags: it was the end of the territory and she was so, so close to the end. It did not deter the silvery-blue mass, once again warming her skin, but Cho had one final tactic up her sleeve. She took a deep breath and pointed her broom downwards. The dragon pursued her, enraged and desperate to catch its prey. And at the last second, Cho sharply pulled out of the dive. When a dragon is so much heavier and larger, the laws of physics tells you it takes longer to stop the momentum, longer to avoid crashing into the floor. And so Cho crossed the finishing line first, thanks to the Wronski Feint.
A professional quidditch player joining the broom race is unusual. A first-time survivor is more unusual. But a first-time professional quidditch player winning? History in the making.
Disclaimer: Everything you recognise is from the amazing J.K.Rowling. If you didn't recognise it, it still might not be mine - the annual broom race through a Swedish Short-Snout dragon reservation in Sweden is a canon event mentioned in Quidditch Through the Ages.
A/N: Thank you for reading. It's my first story in awhile, so reviews would be wonderful! If you have any ideas about making the ending/the whole story more exciting - constructive criticism is always welcome :)
A big thanks to NaidatheRavenclaw for doing a lovely quick beta job!
This was written for the House Cup 2012 Task One Challenge. All prompts included:
- features your House’s Champion (5 points) Cho
- mentions at least 4 specific breeds of dragon (5 points) Swedish Short-Snout, Hungarian Horntail, Peruvian Vipertooth and Ukrainian Ironbelly
- mentions at least 1 Unforgivable Curse (5 points) Cruciatus Curse
- mentions a Blast-Ended Skrewt (5 points)
- features a dragon (10 points) The dragon chasing Cho for the last half of the race
- mentions a Sleeping Draught (10 points)
- mentions 2 of the following types of magic: a transfiguration spell, a sleeping spell, the conjunctivitis curse, the summoning charm (accio) (15 points) Transfiguration spell and the conjunctivitis curse
- includes mention of at least 5 of the 12 uses for dragon's blood (canon or made up by the author) (15 points) Broom handle polish, oven cleaner, spot remover, antidote for greasy hair and potion strengthener
- mentions at least 2 of the following types of Dark Detectors: Foe-Glass, Sneakoscope, Secrecy Sensor, or Probity-Probe (15 points) Secrecy Sensor and Probity-Probe
- features a theme of flourishing in the face of adversity (25 points)
- mentions the details of your Champion’s Wand, as provided by your Head of House (25 points) "Fig, unicorn tail hair, 10”, well-balanced. Good for charms."
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