Chapter 38 : March's Match
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Cho didn’t speak to Harry again until the match in March, but they’d made uncomfortable eye-contact several times, and Marietta had growled at him once:
“Good luck,” Cho said in a chilly voice, and then she was gone again, sweeping past Harry to join Davies and the rest of her teammates in Ravenclaw’s side of the changeroom.
Harry watched her go with no small feeling of trepidation; Wood said Ravenclaw had been training hard in the lead-up to this game, and while Harry’s Nimbus was a bit faster than her Comet, Cho was smaller than he was, and probably going to have an advantage because of it.
Harry wiped his palms on his trousers, unable to remember being quite this nervous about a game before; if they won this, they’d still be in the running for the Cup, and it was Wood’s last year - and therefore last chance - to get it. Last year couldn’t be helped with the Chamber and all, but they’d lost the Cup in Harry’s first year because Harry has put himself in the Hospital Wing in his efforts to save the Stone. He didn’t want to let Wood down this year too.
“There he is,” Fred said, when Harry came in, and the girls called greetings. Wood was silent, already changed, and bent over a blackboard of game-plays. Harry doubted Wood had even noticed him come in.
“How are you feeling?” George asked, coming up behind Harry to squeeze his shoulders.
“Nervous,” Harry admitted. Angelina and Alicia gave him pitying looks, and Katie patted his knee as she wandered past to fetch a hairbrush.
“Will she be upset if we win?” Angelina asked. Harry didn’t pretend to misunderstand.
“Maybe,” he said, tightening the laces on his boots. “She’s already upset with me, though, so I don’t know that there’s much to lose.”
“But a whole lot to gain,” George said thoughtfully, “if you threw the game in a grand gesture of apology...”
“Why would I-”
“Who’s throwing the game?!” Wood asked, aghast.
“No one’s throwing the game,” Harry said, shooting George an annoyed look.
“That’s the spirit,” George said, beaming and ruffling Harry’s hair.
“Snitches before witches,” Fred added, grinning. “Isn’t that right, Harry?” Harry threw a glove at him.
“Stop it, Fred,” Katie said. “Cho’s really nice. We sit together in Charms, and she’s been upset lately-”
“She started it,” Harry muttered.
“You’re such a boy,” Katie said, rolling her eyes, but she was smiling slightly, and Harry thought she might agree with him.
There was a loud whoop from Ravenclaw’s changeroom.
“Right,” Wood said, abandoning his blackboard to come and join them. “It’s time. We all know what this game’s worth; we need to win it if we’re going to stay in with a chance for the Cup. We’re the best team Gryffindor’s had in years, so let’s go out there and play like it!” Fred, George and Alicia cheered. “Angelina, Alicia, Katie, last practice was some of the best passing I’ve seen from you three, and I want to see that today. Harry… Quidditch isn’t a gentleman’s game. Knock Chang off her broom if that’s what it takes-”
“If he won’t, we can,” Fred said, gesturing between him and George. Wood nodded grimly.
“Stop it, you lot!” Alicia said. “I want to win as much as any of you do, but it’s a game.” She grimaced at Harry. “I think Harry might think his girlfriend’s-” Harry wasn’t sure that Cho even was his girlfriend. “-a bit more important than winning.”
The rest of the team turned to look at him.
“Alicia’s right,” Harry said after a moment, grinning. “It is just a game... So hopefully Cho’ll get over it when we win.”
“Ooh,” Angelina said laughing, “you’re going to be in so much trouble with her.”
* * *
“Not sure if Potter’s after the Snitch or Chang’s skirt…”
“JORDAN!” McGonagall screeched, but most of the stands laughed. Harry was mortified, and wished he could fly off in the other direction to prove he was not chasing Cho’s skirt - she was in robes and trousers - but he was fairly sure she’d seen the Snitch and so flying away could well lose them the game.
“Come on, come on!” he muttered to his broom; he was about level with Cho’s knee when the snitch dipped down and doubled back toward him. Cho flung out a hand, and the Snitch was under Harry where he couldn’t reach it, so he did the only thing he could do, something Cedric had done to him at the last, disastrous game; he stopped.
Cho squealed as they collided, and he reached a hand out to steady her if she needed it, but she didn’t. A few, long strands of hair had escaped her plait, and she pushed them out of her face. Harry’d accomplished what he needed to, though; the snitch was gone.
Harry rubbed his side, grimacing, and Cho rolled her shoulder around, apparently testing it.
“Ow,” she said.
“Sorry,” he said, a little guiltily. “Are you all right?”
“I- I don’t know,” she said, scrunching her face up.
“Can you move your fingers?” Harry asked, drifting a little closer to her.
“It hurts,” she mumbled.
“It was the skirt, everyone!” Lee said cheerily. Harry thought he could hear Padfoot’s barking laugh through the megaphone; they’d hadn’t resolved their conversation in February, as much as tried to move past it, so things were still a bit tense, but Harry was glad he’d come today… even if it was just to laugh at Harry. His face felt like it was on fire. Cho was pink too, but still looked like she was hurting.
“Do you want me to signal Hooch?” Harry asked, feeling very guilty now.
“I- I don’t know. Where is she?” Cho asked, looking past him. Harry spun around, looking, and eventually spotted Hooch circling below the Chasers, who were down at Ravenclaw’s end of the pitch.
“There. She’s-” There was a whoosh as Cho darted up and off across the pitch, and Harry blinked before realising she’d tricked him. Annoyed, he started after her, not sure if she was after the snitch again, or if she was just putting distance between them.
A soft whistle was all the warning Harry had to swerve; a bludger raced past, then Fred dropped out of nowhere to intercept it and send it spinning towards a Ravenclaw Chaser.
“Watch yourself!” he called, and Harry nodded, turning to find Cho again, but spotted something better instead; the snitch. It was up in the middle of the pitch, weaving in and out of the Chasers. Harry didn’t think it could have chosen a worse spot, but he yanked his broom up and headed for it anyway.
Katie squeaked and spiralled out of his way, and one of Ravenclaw’s Chasers flew through his path to try to wrest the Quaffle from Angelina, and then the Quaffle soared past Harry - barely missing his head - to be claimed by Alicia who rolled to miss a bludger and then Harry was free and reaching for the snitch-
Cho had blocked him, just as he’d blocked her, though this time, it was just their brooms and knees that hit. The snitch was gone.
Cho was still holding her arm close to her body, so Harry didn’t think she’d been faking before - just playing it up - but it obviously couldn’t have been too bad if she was prepared to block him. He arched an eyebrow and she gave him a brittle smile.
Harry turned and sped away. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Cho hesitate, then fly after him.
It was only now that she was tailing him that Harry appreciated what a good flier she was, because he wasn’t able to shake her, even with some tricky twists and sudden stops. He pulled up to catch his breath at one point, and Cho did the same.
“Nice- try,” she panted. She rolled her shoulder again, wincing, but her eyes were sharp and scanning the pitch.
“How’s your shoulder?” Harry asked without looking at her; he too was looking for the snitch.
“Sore,” she admitted.
“OOH!” Lee cried, and the stand cried with him. “Spinnet’s takes a nasty bludger right to the head-” Harry looked up, aghast. “-would have fallen off her broom, but Johnson’s there to steady her- Not sure if she’s conscious- Is she conscious?” Alicia flapped a hand - the other was cradling her nose. “She’s waving, folks, she must be! They make ‘em tough in Gryffindor- Ah- Burrow’s taken the Quaffle off Bell, bad luck there, Burrow’s passed it off to Davies-”
Over near the teacher’s stand, gold caught Harry’s eye, and he didn’t stop to think. He pulled his broom back toward him, flipping around until he was facing the ground, and then dove; the snitch was fluttering above just above the grass, like a fat golden bee.
Harry pulled up at the last moment, boots skimming the pitch and sped forward. Cho was keeping pace, but she was several feet above him. A bludger whistled past, thankfully missing, because Harry hadn’t heard it coming or moved to avoid it. It hit the teacher’s stand, which shuddered, and there were some exclamations of surprise from above them, and a loud whining noise; Lee had dropped his megaphone.
The snitch seemed to have decided to follow the bludger and was headed for the teacher’s stand too. Cho yelped and rolled to avoid the bludger, which had just zoomed out of the stands. None of the beaters seemed to want to interfere, when both Harry and Cho were so close to the snitch.
And they were close; just feet from it, which was just feet from the stands and Cho’d done the clever thing, because when it got to the stand, it would surely go up and she was right there waiting for it…
Close as he was to the stands, Harry really ought to be slowing down, or at least starting to pull up or to the side. But he couldn’t do any of those things, not if he wanted the snitch, so he kept up his speed, and thrust out his arm, reaching-
His fingers closed around the cold metal, and Harry felt the quickest flash of victory, then winced, bracing for his inevitable collision. He had just enough time to twist the tail of his broom around so that he would hit sideways and not front on-
He hit hard, his right knee, hip, elbow and shoulder taking the worst of it, but momentum carried his head and foot forward and then he hit them too, and then Cho was gasping, Lee was yelling something, and Madam Hooch’s whistle was loud and shrill and Harry was falling two or so feet onto the soft grass.
He landed on his other side, with the air knocked out of him, and Slytherin’s part of the stands was laughing, and Padfoot’s worried face had appeared over the edge of the teacher’s and parent’s stand Harry had just crashed into. Feet appeared by his head, and Harry pushed himself upright, dazed. George crouched down beside him. He was saying something that Harry couldn’t hear properly over the ringing in his ears, but his expression was somewhere between worried and wanting to laugh. He said something else, and Harry shook his head, winced, and then pointed at his ear.
Seeming to understand, George held his hand out. Harry dropped the snitch into it, and George straightened, grinning, holding the snitch up for the other players to see.
“I told you!” he shouted, or at least that’s what Harry thought it looked like he was saying.
Madness followed; the team descended on Harry and George - presumably screaming, but Harry couldn’t actually hear them. Fred was ruffling his hair and Wood was pulling him straight from the ground and into a painfully tight hug. Harry thought he might have been crying.
Cho was crying too, but less happily; Davies had an arm around her, and Madam Pomfrey seemed to be checking her shoulder. Then, red robes were blocking Harry’s view, and Katie and Angelina both kissed him on the cheeks and Alicia clapped him on the shoulder but didn’t get any closer; she was covered in blood and still clutching her nose, but beaming all the same. Wood appeared again and kissed Harry on the top of the head, and then he was on Fred and George’s shoulders and his friends were running out of the stands to join them, and they were in second for the Cup, and, though he was sore all over and beginning to suspect he had a concussion, Harry had a new memory for the next time he tried to cast a Patronus.
* * *
Lord Voldemort was not impressed. Polkov - still not forgiven for his disobedience with the Potter boy’s aunt - was not the cause this time.
“How good of you to make contact, Wormtail.” Crouch was rarely in contact and even less so since the incident with the wandmaker; the Aurors had been convinced, Crouch was sure, but it didn’t hurt to be careful. Wormtail had no such excuse, but there’d been no word from him since January.
“F-forgive me, My Lord,” Wormtail said. It was only his head that Lord Voldemort could see in the fireplace, but he was sure Wormtail was wringing his hands. “I just- there hasn’t been much to report, and I’ve h-had to b-be careful. They k-knew it was me that took the timetables in January. H-Ha-Harry knew, somehow.”
“How?” Lord Voldemort asked sharply.
“I d-don’t know.” It was not the right answer, and Wormtail knew it; he cringed, and then his hands did appear in the fire, pressed to his mouth in a fearful sort of way.
Lord Voldemort was well aware of the boy’s annoying tendency to know things he shouldn’t. For one, the cloak had been conveniently passed to Sirius Black before Wormtail could even ask for it in Hogsmeade, and in January Wormtail had admitted his last spy had been discovered, or that the children were at least suspicious, because the rat rarely spent any time with them at all now.
Perhaps Harry Potter had Seer’s blood...
After a moment of contemplation, Lord Voldemort discarded the thought. If that were the case, Wormtail’s hiding place within the school would have been discovered long ago, and Crouch’s wandmaker ruse would never have worked.
So how, then? he wondered. And if Lord Voldemort could discover the source of the boy’s information - or luck - was there a way to use it against him?
“I only heard some of the teachers saying that he d-did,” Wormtail said, clearly feeling the need to fill the silence. “I-I can try to f-find out, but-”
“I think you ought to fohcus on ze task you already haff,” Polkov said folding his arms.
“I wasn’t talking to y-you-”
“I agree with Dimitri,” Lord Voldemort said, and Wormtail snapped his mouth shut. “It’s taking long enough as it is. I expected things to move quickly, once you had the timetables-”
“They’re always in a group,” Wormtail mumbled. “It’s- there hasn’t been a chance-”
“So you’re wasting your time,” Lord Voldemort said coldly. “You’ve been at Hogwarts for seven months and have nothing to show for it-”
“I have a plan!” Wormtail squeaked. Polkov rolled his eyes. “One that’ll get you the cloak and the b-boy, if you’re p-patient.”
“How ambitious of you, Wormtail,” Lord Voldemort said, but he was intrigued. Wormtail hadn’t said it just to soothe him, he’d said it with conviction. “And just how is it that you intend to accomplish this?”
“W-well,” Wormtail said, “I’ll have to wait until-”
Harry jerked awake, with a frustrated “No!” as the dream slipped away from him.
“Yes,” Madam Pomfrey said firmly. “It’s time for your final dose.” Harry squinted up at her. Compared with the dim, Floo-lit room he’d just been in, as Voldemort, the hospital wing - coloured a warm gold from the rising sun through the window - was uncomfortably bright. Madam Pomfrey waggled a bottle at him, and Harry took it, supremely unimpressed by her timing. Another five minutes of sleep, and he’d have heard Wormtail’s plan. “Don’t look at me like that. If you wanted a sleep-in, you shouldn’t have given yourself a concussion.” She nodded at the bottle in his hand. “Drink.” Harry did, and sat patiently while she cast her diagnostic charms. “How’s the rest of you feeling?”
“A bit sore.”
“Serves you right for flying into a Quidditch stand,” she told him, but not unkindly; there was something almost fond in her scent.
“But we won,” Harry said, grinning at her.
She pressed her lips together, apparently unimpressed, and gestured for him to tilt his head back. She lit the tip of her wand and held it close to his face, apparently checking for something in his eyes. She nodded approvingly.
“Bruises and no sense of self preservation,” she said, “but otherwise there’s nothing wrong with you.”
“So I can go?” Harry asked, unable to believe his luck; a look at his watch said it was just before seven, so he might still be able to make it to Moody’s duelling club.
“If you’d rather that than an extra hour’s sleep,” she said. Harry pushed back the covers by way of reply, and Madam Pomfrey retreated from the bed, and pulled the curtains shut behind her, to give Harry privacy while he changed, but didn’t leave: “I want you right back here if you find yourself getting dizzy or nauseous, or sensitive to light-”
“I will,” Harry said, admiring the large, green and purple bruise on his knee before he pulled on the jeans Ron had brought down for him the night before; thrilled as he was by their win, he hadn’t fancied the idea of roaming the castle in his Quidditch robes.
“And no flying, or Quidditch today,” she added, when Harry emerged from behind the curtains, tugging his Gryffindor jumper over his head.
“All right,” Harry said. “But I can go to practice tomorrow, right?”
“Only if you’re feeling up to it. And if you feel dizzy-”
“You want me back here,” Harry said dutifully.
She gave him a narrow-eyed look, then sighed and said, “Off with you, then.”
He was a little late to the duelling club; rather than milling around and speculating about what that morning’s session would be about, everyone was silent and listening raptly as Moody talked.
“... of one-on-one lately, but most times, you won’t be on your own. You’ll have a friend or friends, and, chances are, so will whoever you’re up against.”
The door creaked slightly as Harry let himself into the room. Cho glanced his way and then away again, and her friend gave him an angry look and put herself between them. Unwilling to cross the entire room to get to Ron, Hermione and Draco, Harry shuffled forward to stand by Blaise.
“Potter.” Blaise spoke very quietly, and didn’t look away from Moody as he did so. “How’s the head? Looked pretty nasty.”
“Felt pretty nasty once the adrenaline wore off,” Harry murmured back. Blaise’s mouth twitched. “All good now, though.” Blaise inclined his head ever so slightly. On his other side, Hydrus caught Harry’s eye, pointed at Cho, and mimed crying. Harry scowled and looked away again.
“So, group fighting. We’ll do it in rounds, so we don’t all kill each other with stray spells. Groups of four, any House, any age. Get moving!”
Harry left Blaise to find his friends. They clearly hadn’t noticed him arrive, because they were in the process of trying to find a fourth teammate:
“...swear Ginny was just-”
“No, look, she’s with Luna and Colin… How about Neville, he hasn’t got a group-”
“And why do you think that is, Granger?”
“Don’t be horrible, Draco, he did really well last week-”
“Too late, anyway,” Ron said, “The Hufflepuffs have grabbed him-”
“Oh no,” Hermione said.
“S’pose you’ll have to make do with me,” Harry said. Hermione jumped and he grinned.
“Harry!” she said, looking pleased.
“How are you feeling? You missed a wicked party in the common room,” Ron told him.
“I think his health’s more important, Ron!”
“No lasting damage, then?” Draco asked.
“Nah, I’m fine,” Harry said.
“Well enough to duel?” Hermione asked.
“Madam Pomfrey didn’t say I couldn’t,” Harry said, shrugging. He was sure if she’d known he was coming here, she’d have forbidden it, but she hadn’t. He half-expected a protest from Hermione anyway, but all she did was nod briskly.
“Good. Now, how are we going to stand - I’ve read a few books about duelling in groups, and they all say it’s best to...”
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