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Chapter 33 : One Day Pays For All
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One Day Pays for All
Quidditch was once played year round at Hogwarts. When McGonagall became headmistress, however, she promised to eliminate the academic distractions that had plagued previous administrations. One way to do this, she felt, was to condense the Hogwarts Quidditch games into a six-week season.
The first games would be played in mid-April, with one match on Saturday and another on Sunday. There would then be a full week off for both teams, allowing for recovery from injuries, as well as for a renewed focus on academics. Practices would resume the following week, with the second matches coming two weeks after the first.
The season would conclude the last week in May with Rivalry Week. Gryffindor would play Slytherin, and Hufflepuff would play Ravenclaw. The event served as a sort of homecoming, with alumni returning to campus to see one or both of the matches, and to see the awarding of the House Cup. With the House Cup awarded, the students could once again focus on their studies, as there would be just two weeks to go before final exams.
The first match of the 2005 season, held on Saturday, April 16, was between Hufflepuff and Gryffindor. Amongst the Hufflepuffs, there was a rare sense of optimism. After all, the Badgers were returning six of seven players from the previous year. The core of the team, Chasers Sabeau and Kinsel, Keeper Stollencroft and Seeker Blair, had been starters since their fifth year. The previous year, McLaughlin had emerged as a superb shot from the right wing. Lui was uncannily accurate with his Bludger hits, and Beck, a reserve the previous two years, was ready to join the starters as the second Beater. It was, by all accounts, the best team the Badgers had flown since the days of Diggory.
This was not to say that they were favourites to win the House Cup, only that they were a far better team than Hufflepuff usually offered. Gryffindor countered with a solid, experienced team, anchored by three Roycester brothers, Brad, Todd and Bryan (Keeper, Chaser and Beater, respectively). At Center Chaser was blond, muscular Hart, a seventh year and three-year starter. Michelotti, Seeker for the second straight year, was ranked tops in the school. Scouts from the Harpies had come to watch her play.
The Lions were, above all else, extremely fast. Each player flew a top-of-the-line Nimbus. They played at a break-neck pace and took chances that no other team would risk. The previous summer, this same squad had thoroughly trounced a squad from Durmstrang, 350-40. They would be the favourites of any match they played.
The match started promptly at one o'clock, with the stadium full to the brim and rocking with excitement. Through the first half, the Badgers kept pace with the Lions, matching them score for score. 10-10 became 50-50. Stollencroft was having a rough day in goal, saving only three shots while giving up five, but Brad Roycester had fared no better. The Lions defense had chosen to double-team McLaughlin. They kept him scoreless through the first hour, but he had four assists. As soon as he drew the extra defender, he would pass the off the Quaffle to Sabeau, and either he or Kinsel would rifle it home.
In the second hour, the Lions picked up the pace even further, and at last, the Badgers began to falter. Most of them flew Comets, and they simply could not keep up with the Nimbus' of Gryffindor.
As the score stretched to 90-50, there was still hope, however. Blair on his Comet could not match Michelotti's speed, but he was wiley and clever with feints. Moreover, Lui kept Michelotti on her toes, sending Bludger after Bludger her way. If Blair caught the Snitch soon, the Badgers would score a tremendous upset.
At last, his sharp eyes spotted it, twinkling in the distance, just passed the right hoop of Gryffindor. Blair coasted slowly in the right direction, and continued craning his neck, as if he were still looking. Michelotti had not yet seen it.
The longer he ambled along, however, the greater the risk that another player, or someone in the crowd, would see the Snitch and alert Michelotti. When he felt he couldn't risk it any longer, he made a sharp feint to the left. Michelloti bit, shooting far passed him in search of the Snitch. Then, Blair pulled his Comet around and began to race for the little winged ball.
Michelloti, warned by Todd Roycester of the feint, turned on a dime. She spotted the Snitch, and raced towards it, her body flat against the handle of her broom. The distance between the two Seekers evaporated.
The action was now wholly on the Gryffindor side of the pitch. Kinsel scored for the Badgers, making it 90-60. Lui shot a Bludger at Michelotti, but she corkscrewed out of the way, keeping her eye firmly on the tiny ball. Beck quickly rebounded and fired the Bludger back at her. Brad Roycester swooped down from his Keeper position and grabbed it, ceding another goal, this time to McLaughlin.
Unhindered, Michelotti swept past Blair and grabbed the Snitch ending the match and giving Gryffindor another 150 points. The final score, 240-70, failed to show how close the contest had been.
The Sunday game lacked the drama of the previous day, as Ravenclaw fell meekly to Slytherin, 170-0.
The next day, as the students queued for DADA, Umberto called out to the group, "Any wagers on the Slytherin/Hufflepuff match? I say the Snakes go 2-0."
Michael called back, "No way! We lost that game by twenty feet. A second later and that Snitch would have been ours. We'll win next time for sure!"
"For sure?" asked Umberto, evenly. "Are you willing to risk a Galleon on it?"
"Yeah, I am!" said Michael hotly.
"Don't!" said Liam. "Don't waste your money. 'Berto doesn't place bets unless he thinks he can win."
"The Badgers will put up more of a fight than the Eagles did!" argued Michael.
"Of course they will!" said Liam. "But, will they win? The Snakes had it easy the last match, but we don't know how good they really are." Michael was still unconvinced. "Do you want to explain to your Grand-mum why you're short a Galleon? Or for that matter, why you're up a Galleon?"
"She doesn't have to know," mumbled Michael, but he was beaten, now. He knew deep down that his Grand-mum would not approve of him gambling, and she would find out.
Umberto watched the exchange with amusement. Michael didn't place the bet, and Umberto didn't get any other takers, either. No one even placed odds on Ravenclaw upsetting Gryffindor in the Sunday game.
At the next game day, the stadium was again buzzing in anticipation of a competitive match. With the exception of Seeker Wu, a petite, dark-haired girl, the Slytherins were a team of hulking brutes. Hunched over their brooms, they looked like trolls. Despite their lightning fast Nimbus', the Snakes were generally slow to react. Their Chasers made poor passes, and their Beaters whiffed on the first few Bludgers that flew their way.
The Badgers, flying at the quick pace set in the earlier game, went on the offensive. Within the first ten minutes, they were up 40-0. Then, the game started to get rough.
Beardsley, a Beater for the Snakes, clobbered McLaughlin with his bat as the Chaser flew passed. It was a clear penalty - there was no Bludger even near them. Sabeau took the penalty throw while McLaughlin cleared his head. He scored, making it 50-0. But, as Sabeau flew back on defense, he took a Bludger shot to the ribs.
With two of their best players hurting, the Badgers could not mount another attack. They pulled back as the Snakes brought their offense to the Hufflepuff side of the pitch.
Stollencroft blocked two shots. On the third scoring chance, Stone, the Slytherin's Center Chaser, crashed into him. This drew another penalty from Madam Malkin, and a warning to the Snakes to behave themselves.
Stollencroft took the throw and heaved the Quaffle out of Hufflepuff end. Kinsel caught it, but he was quickly surrounded by opposing players. His pass to Sabeau fell short, and the Snakes were on the move again.
Bludgers flew fiercely back and forth as the Snakes mounted their attack. Lui paid back Stone with a fearsome Bludger shot to the ribs. The Wings, though were tall, and their arms shot the Quaffle like rockets. Stollencroft made another stop, but the next shot went through. 50-10.
Still, there was hope. If Blair could catch the Snitch, the Badgers would win decisively. Finally, he spotted it, floating along the far end of the pitch. There was no feint this time - Blair went straight for it, and so did Wu.
Beck took a shot, and this time, his aim was true - he hit Wu in the shoulder, knocking her off course. A Slytherin beater caught the Bludger and hammered it towards Blair. It hit Blair's arm with a sickening crunch as he reached out for the Snitch. Blair gasped in pain and pulled his arm close to his chest. Leaning forward on his broom, he reached out again with his left hand.
But the moment's delay was all Wu needed to recover. She shot towards the Snitch and clutched it ahead of Blair's feeble heave. Slytherin had won, 160-50. Liam's caution had saved his friend a Galleon.
It was just as well that the teams had a week off between matches. McLaughlin had a mild concussion, Blair a broken arm and both team's Center Chasers had cracked ribs.
The Sunday game was another yawner, as the Eagles fell to the Lions by a score of 280-10. The Lions could have kept playing and running up the score all afternoon, but Michelloti saw the Snitch early and put the Eagles out of their misery.
The Saturday game of Rivalry Week, played on May 28, would feature two undefeated teams with very different styles of play. The Cup would go to the winner. Anticipation was high, and alums from all over Britain and the Continent made plans to come back to Hogwarts to see the match.
There was no interest whatsoever in the Sunday game between the winless Badgers and Eagles. Unless, of course, one was in Hufflepuff.
At breakfast, on the morning of Monday, May 23rd, Archie Stollencroft stood and held his hand in the air. Everyone from the Hufflepuff table looked up and gave him their attention. "I'm not much for speeches," he said solemnly, "so I'll keep this short. One day pays for all."
There were nods and grins around the table. "One day pays for all!" called out Blair. Others from around the table answered the call. When Archie looked towards the First Years, Liam and Michael said it in unison.
Archie sat down, but the phrase rattled back and forth across the table for the rest of the meal. As the day progressed, whenever a Ravenclaw would cross the path of one of the Hufflepuffs, the Hufflepuff would say quietly, "One day pays for all."
The phrase was repeated so often over the next few days, that it peaked the curiosity of Sadie Thompson. At Gillian's urging, she approached Liam about it.
Sadie had been dismayed when Liam had told her that he no longer wanted to pursue the mystery of the Dragon Wand. She was certain there was more to discover about the mysterious wand, but Liam was adamant. He no longer wanted anything to do with it.
"They killed her," he kept saying. "They killed the dragon and put her heart in that wand. I don't want any part of it. I don't want to be one of them. I don't want to be a dragon killer."
"Liam," she argued, "it happened ages ago! It's not like you were an accomplice. You weren't even born! Your mother was still a child in 1979. You didn't have anything to do with what happened to that dragon."
But Liam would not be dissuaded, and Sadie was forced to let the matter drop. Her deep fear was that, without a mystery to solve, Liam would have very little interaction with Sadie outside of Potions lab. This, unfortunately for her, was exactly what happened. Liam began attending Quidditch practices regularly, soaking up the game as much as he could. Sadie in turn paired up with the cheerful and daring Gillian Roycester.
This particular Wednesday was the first time the two had spoken outside of Potions class in several weeks. Sadie wouldn't have asked the question at all, except for Gillian's urging.
"I'm sure he doesn't want to talk to me!"
Liam had his interest piqued by the exchange. He walked over to the two girls and said, "What did you want to ask me?"
Sadie faltered, blushing deeply. Gillian prodded again. Ask him.
"Well, um, Jill and I, we were wondering what was meant by that phrase, 'One day pays for all.'"
Liam shrugged. "It's just a catch phrase is all."
"Okay, it's more of a rally cry."
"Oh, about the Quidditch game Sunday?"
"Well, I wasn't sure!" To Liam, Sadie added, "It sounds rather ominous to me."
"It's not like anyone's going to hurt you," said Liam.
Tell her you want to study with her.
This earned Jill another exasperated glare from Sadie. If Sadie could have apparated away from that spot, she would have.
Liam picked up the hint and said, "Hey, that's right. I have to get you ready for your History of Magic Final. You know Binns is going to make us write at least six inches on the Fall of Numenor."
Sadie gazed up at Liam. "Are you sure you want to study with me? It wouldn't be a bother?"
She worries too much. She thought you didn't like her anymore.
Liam, grateful for the extra information from Gillian, said, "Of course it's not a bother! Your still my lab partner," he added gently, "and you're still my study partner, too."
"Okay." She gave him a big smile, one that he hadn't seen in months.
He nodded to her, then looked to Gillian. "Thanks," he said. She winked at him.
As the two girls walked away, Liam said, "But the Eagles - they're going to get bludgeoned on Sunday."
Hufflepuffs were very rarely at the tops of their classes. Liam's success in Potions was quite the anomaly. Much more commonly, Hufflepuffs were "middle-of-the-pack" or worse. What made Diggory so rare and memorable was the fact that he was from Hufflepuff. It had been so very long since that House had produced anything like him, and it might be another two hundred years before it did so again.
The Hufflepuffs of Liam's day were gently teased or cReuelly mocked, depending on who was doing the teasing or mocking. "Squib" was a common insult. Draco Malfoy's famous comment, that he would rather go back home than to be assigned to Hufflepuff, was a widely held sentiment.
Though the Slytherins could be cruel to Hufflepuffs, they saved the best part of their malice for the Gryffindors. It was the Ravenclaws that gave the Hufflepuffs the hardest time. The Ravenclaws were always tops in their classes. When a professor would ask a question, they were the first ones with their hand in the air. They read chapters more quickly, and they wrote more profusely and more elegantly. On a daily basis, they let the other students in the class know that they were the smartest. They lorded over the Hufflepuffs as if the Badgers were second-class members of the student body.
There was one area of Hogwarts life, however, where Ravenclaw intelligence was of little help. One cannot learn to fly a broom from reading a book. As much as they looked down upon the other students in the school, the Ravenclaws were also intensely competitive amongst themselves. It was very difficult for them to put that individual striving aside and work as a team.
That one area of Hogwarts life, where Hufflepuff traits of hard work, determination, and above all, loyal cooperation and teamwork, ruled the day, was at Quidditch. The Ravenclaw flyers were all good at their individual positions, but they didn't work well collectively. Ravenclaw Chasers threw accurately, but they couldn't make the instinctive, no-look passes that the Hufflepuff Chasers made. Foster, the Ravenclaw Seeker, was nimble and fast, but he couldn't count on his teammates tipping him off to a feint or the location of the Snitch. He couldn't count on them protecting him from Bludgers. Moreover, the Eagles, when facing adversity, couldn't bear down collectively and fight. They had all the skills, but lacked the will to win.
Stollencroft's teams had never lost a match to Ravenclaw, and this year, he was determined, not just to win, but to pay back every insult that Hufflepuffs had endured the entire year. One day would pay for all.
First, however, there was the matter of the House Cup. The annual duel between the Gryffindor Lions and the Slytherin Silver Serpents was always a tightly contested affair. In years during which the House Cup was at stake, these contests were even more fierce. Amongst the student body, and the Wizarding Community of Great Britain, this was the match that everyone was talking about.
The Lions came into the match with a clear strategy. Though they felt that Michelloti was superior to Slytherin's Wu, they grudgingly acknowledged that Wu flew well enough to catch a Snitch. One never knew which way the Snitch would go, after all. Wu could get lucky.
So, the Lion's Chasers planned to build up an insurmountable 160 point lead. They would play at such a fast pace that the Snakes could not catch up, and run the score to the point that it wouldn't matter who caught the Snitch. The Lions would win either way.
At the start of the match, the Lions executed their plan. They controlled the Quaffle from the start, raced down the field and scored, 10-0. But then, the Slytherins started their counter-measures.
Stone took the Quaffle under his arm and made his way slowly up the pitch. Though his two fellow Chasers were beside him, he did not attempt to pass. When the Gryffindor Beaters shot Bludgers at him, he merely turned aside and continued his slow advance. Hart swept down and tried to strip the Quaffle away, but Stone was too strong. Hart couldn't make the steal.
The Gryffindor Beaters controlled one of the Bludgers and began to shoot it back and forth between them, as if they were playing tennis. They trapped Stone between them and pelted him with the Bludger. The Slytherin Beaters flew over and roughly cleared away the two Gryffindor Beaters. Still, the Center held onto the Quaffle. He had yet to make a pass or take a shot.
The Slytherins had slowed the pace of the game down to a crawl. Their plan was clear. They would attempt to win the match 150-10. To free the Quaffle, the Gryffindor Chasers would have to get rough, and the larger, stronger Slytherins would respond in kind. The game was about to become a long, bloody battle.
Hart took his broom up high into the bright sky, then dived down onto Stone and punched the Quaffle out of Stone's grasp . Beardsley, the Slytherin Beater, sent a Bludger at Hart's head. Hart dodged it, but the Quaffle fell to the Slytherin left wing, and they were at stalemate again.
Hart dove and once again knocked the Quaffle loose. This time, there was a mid-air tussle between two of the Chasers. Slytherin regained control, and a brutal Bludger shot sent the Lion in retreat.
Hart dived a third time, but at the last second swerved to avoid a Bludger. The ball whizzed by his right ear and struck Wu in the back of the head as she searched for the Snitch. She let out a cry and nearly fell off her broom. Bleeding profusely, the Seeker was forced land and seek medical attention.
There was a tense moment above the pitch. No one was sure who had hit the Bludger that struck Wu. Hart was convinced it came from a Slytherin, that they had hurt their own Seeker. The Slytherins were sure it had been Todd Roycester who had targeted Wu. The game continued while Wu's head was wrapped in a bandage.
Michelloti continued her circuit of the pitch. A bludger shot drove her towards the middle of the field. Beardsley hit her with his bat as she flew passed him. She tumbled and fell off the back of her broom.
Brian Roycester caught her before she hit the ground. The other Lions cried for a foul. But, before Madam Hooch could even blow her whistle, Hart swooped down and broke Beardsley's nose with a hard punch. Hooch flew up and sent the two teams back to their hoops. Then, she ejected both Hart and Beardsley. Both teams would play the rest of the match short-handed.
When Wu and Michelloti were both ready to fly again, the game resumed. The Slytherins maintained control of the Quaffle. Short their Center, the two remaining Lions Chasers could not go on the offensive. When they tried to strip the Quaffle away, more fisticuffs ensued.
The Lions had the advantage with Beaters, however. Brian Roycester and his partner, Guertin, pummeled the Slytherin Chasers with Bludgers. They also sent a few Wu's way. Though none came too close, they were enough to un-nerve her. The sudden, earlier hit on Wu had made her gun-shy. Though she was only a Sixth Year, she never flew for the Silver Serpents again.
There had been nothing but punches and Bludger shots for an hour, and the score was still 10-0 Gryffindor. Finally, Michelloti spotted the Snitch down by the Slytherin end. She raced towards it. The Slytherin Chasers fell back to try and block her, but she was far too fast for them. She darted passed Grundberg, the Snakes Keeper, and clutched the Snitch. Gryffindor had won the match, 160-0.
Later that afternoon, there was a ceremony awarding the House Cup. Wu and Michelotti gave each other a warm hug, but the rest of the players didn't even shake hands. There was anger in the audience, too, as students on both sides felt the game had been too rough, that too many injustices had not been righted.
There was little enthusiasm for the Sunday game between the winless Eagles and Badgers, outside of Hufflepuff, that is. Amongst the Hufflepuffs, there was cheer and a growing sense of excitement. Their great game had yet to be played.
On Sunday, May 29th, Lara Guishar turned twelve. At breakfast, she received a large parcel from her owl - a hat box containing a white, wide-brimmed hat. Set all along the crown were pink and purple orchids. The scent of them filled the entire table.
Lara received many hugs and congratulations from the other girls. Archie set a firm hand on her shoulder and said, "You're our good luck charm today. We'll win for sure, now." Lara beamed up at him.
It was a beautiful, warm day, with a bright sky feathered with distant clouds. Only the firm breeze off the lake kept it from being hot. Though the stadium filled up before game time, the crowd was quiet and listless. There was a tense silence between the Gryffindor and Slytherin camps. The anger and resentment from the day before had yet to ebb; in fact, it had grown in the night, a smoldering pile of embers waiting for a gust of wind to burst into a wildfire.
The Badgers planned to use the same strategy that the Lions had intended for their match. They would fly as fast as their brooms would carry them in an attempt to run up an early lead. Unlike the Silver Serpents with their strong, broad-shouldered boys, the Eagles were utterly unprepared to counter this attack.
Within twenty minutes time, the Badgers had built a 50-0 lead. The action had been entirely on the Eagles side of the pitch. Stollencroft had yet to face a single scoring chance. It was just after the Badgers scored their fifth goal that the first trouble between Gryffindor and Slytherin began - a tussle between two third years that quickly went to wands. Professor Gregor hauled both boys out of the stadium.
Ten minutes later, it was 70-0. Ten minutes after that, it was 110-0. Only a capture of the Snitch could save the Eagles now. But their Seeker, Foster, faced a constant barrage of Bludgers from Beck and Lui, while Blair had free reign to search for the Snitch. He coasted along the ring of the stadium unhindered.
Blair was not about to get the Snitch this early, however - not unless he absolutely had to. The team was in agreement on this point. The Badgers were out for a complete victory - an insurmountable 160 point lead.
It was not long in coming. By the seventy-fifth minute, they had it. 160-0. As McLaughlin fired the sixteenth goal through the left post, the restless crowd began to stream out of the stadium. In the crush to leave, there were more pushing and shoving between Gryffindors and Slytherins.
Out on the lawn between the Quidditch stadium and the castle, curses and counter-charms began to fly between the groups of red and emerald green. The rest of the teachers in attendance quickly exited to quell the growing riot. Soon, the only staff member in the stadium was Madam Hooch. She called out, "All right, Blair, let's end it!"
The Badger Chasers had been playing keep-away for the last few minutes, not bothering to score any more, but not letting the Eagles Chasers have a go, either. Blair began to search in earnest for the Snitch. He and Foster spotted it about the same time. There was a race to the tiny ball. It wouldn't have mattered much, though if Foster caught the Snitch, the Eagles could have saved some face. He might have turned the trick, too, but while still a hundred feet from the Snitch, he had to pull off to dodge a Bludger shot from Lui.
Blair swept down upon the tiny ball and held it aloft. There was great cheer from the Hufflepuff end that echoed across the otherwise empty stadium. The Badgers had managed their complete victory. The final score was 310-0.
The Badgers floated slowly down onto the grass, and the Hufflepuffs swarmed onto the pitch to greet them. There were many cheers and hugs. Beck showed Liam and Michael the proper technique for hitting a Bludger, and they each got a brief moment to hold the Snitch. Liam made a cage with his hands and peered through the gaps between his fingers at the tiny, fluttering ball. Archie led the group in a singing of the Badger's Fight Song as well as the Hogwarts School Song. Finally, everyone helped gather the balls and bring them back to the locker room. Even Madam Hooch had gone home by this point.
At last, the group began their slow triumphant march back to the castle. They spread out in a wide fan. The wind was gusting strongly, but otherwise, it was a clear and beautiful day. Liam and Michael ran ahead of the group, singing and laughing. Liam had never been happier. It was the best day of his life.
Then, he heard something that made him stop in his tracks. A high pitched scream had pierced the warm spring air. Without a second thought or even a look back at his friend, Liam ran as fast as he could back towards the group, towards the sound of the scream. He knew, before he could even see her, that it was Lara.
[What danger lurks at the Eaves of the Forest? Find out next time!]
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