The next few weeks passed quickly, a whirlwind of lessons, homework and laughter. Quidditch had begun as well, keeping everyone busy – the boys with practice and matches, Hermione with catching them up on homework and cheering on the weekends. Fall was well under way. After their meeting in the 3rd floor corridor, Malfoy and Hermione studiously avoided one another, unless it was to offer up some vague insult.
It was bitterly cold the day of the semi-final match between Gryffindor and Slytherin. The winner would play Ravenclaw in the final, who (for the first time in five years) had made it to the championship round. Both Gryffindor and Slytherin were desperate to win. The last week had seen a series of hexes directed at players from both Houses, so much so that Filch was patrolling the corridors giving students detention for things like “looking suspicious” and having their wands out in between classes. Saturday morning seemed a long time coming.
“Raaaaaaaaawr!” A roar sounded from the Ravenclaw table, startling everyone in the Great Hall and directing their attention to Luna Lovegood, who was sporting a gigantic lion’s head hat. It roared loudly at a single tap from her wand. Boos and hisses from the Slytherin table were drowned out by the cheers and laughter from the other houses; Gryffindor was the clear favorite.
“Come on, Ron, just one piece of bacon,” Hermione coaxed.
“Leave off it Hermione,” Ron groaned. He was his usual pre-match green, made worse by frequent renditions of “Weasley is Our King,” sung with gusto by the Slytherins.
“Alright, it’s time.” Harry looked nervously at Ron, catching Hermione’s eyes and shaking his head.
“Good luck you guys!” Hermione called as they moved toward the doors to the Great Hall.
She bit her lip worriedly. Ron was a good Quidditch player, but only when he was feeling confident. And Gryffindor desperately needed to beat Slytherin if they were going to have a shot at winning the Cup.
“Come on Hermione! Let’s get good seats!” Parvati waved at her through the crowd that was already starting to push through the doors of the Great Hall.
“Coming!” she hurried to join them, wrapping her scarf about her neck as she went.
“Brrrrrr, it’s FREEZING!” Lavender was bundled up so much that she resembled a red and gold marshmallow.
“I hope they’ll be ok,” Parvati said. “It can’t be easy to grip a broom when your hands are numb.”
It’s not easy anyway, Hermione thought. She hated flying. It was the only subject she hadn’t excelled in. Well, that and Divination.
“Oh, here they come!” Lavender squealed.
Harry and the rest of the team emerged from the locker room opposite the Slytherins, and both teams took the field to loud cheers.
“Captains, shake hands!” Madame Hooch called loudly.
Harry and Malfoy grudgingly approached each other, scowling as they gripped hands so tightly their knuckles were bone white.
Hermione rolled her eyes. Boys.
Madame Hooch blew her whistle and released the Bludgers with a flourish of her wand. A tiny glint of gold hovered in Hermione’s sightline before disappearing. The teams were off, Harry and Malfoy flying higher than the rest, circling in opposite directions, searching for a glimmer of the elusive Snitch.
“Would you look at that! Fred and George Weasley just POUNDED those bludgers at Slytherin Beaters Crabbe and Goyle…with any luck some sense was knocked into ‘em…”
Lee Jordan was commentating as usual, sternly supervised by Professor McGonagall.
“Oh no, oh no…and it’s Nott, Nott with the Quaffle, he dodges a Bludger and… BLOCK IT RON!”
Hermione cringed and held her breath as Theodore Nott dodged the last of Gryffindor’s defense and and threw the Quaffle. Desperately, Hermione prayed for Ron to save it but didn’t dare to hope…
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT FOLKS! Ron makes a TREMENDOUS save against Slytherin Chaser Theodore Nott!!! ‘Atta boy, Ron!”
The crowd launched into the Gryffindor version of “Weasley Is Our King” as Ron flew around the goalpost, bowing.
“WOOHOOOO! Yeah, RON!!!” Hermione shouted, clapping and laughing at his antics.
“WE LOVE YOU RON!” squealed Lavender.
Hermione turned around and glared. She shook her head, angry at herself for getting jealous. She liked Ron as just a friend, didn’t she? Frustrated, she forced her attention back on the game.
By halftime Slytherin and Gryffindor were tied, and the game had taken a foul-heavy turn. Both teams were bleeding, and Madame Hooch had blown her whistle so many times her cheeks were beet red.
Ginny and Katie Bell were scoring machines, but Nott and a dark, slender Slytherin Chaser named Dareon Balthazar were matching them goal-for-goal.
Hermione groaned in frustration. Harry would have to catch the Snitch if Gryffindor were going to make it to the finals. There was just no way they would be able to get far enough ahead otherwise. Harry and Malfoy were whipping around the stadium, stopping now and again to hover, anxiously looking this way and that for any sign of the tiny gold ball. Both of them knew what the stakes were, and that their teams were relying on them to lead them to victory. Slytherin and Gryffindor were simply too evenly matched.
Suddenly Hermione’s attention was drawn to a commotion around her.
“The Snitch!!! They’ve seen the Snitch!!” Parvati and Lavender were clutching each other and jumping up and down in excitement. Hermione refocused just in time to see Harry and Malfoy in a neck-and-neck nosedive, hands outstretched, frantically scrabbling for the Snitch that fluttered just before them.
Hermione stood up. “GO HARRY! YOU’RE ALMOST THERE, CATCH IT!” she screamed.
Malfoy and Harry were racing towards the pitch, a blur of black and green. The stadium was on its feet, and the two teams had paused play to watch their Seekers.
In a moment, Harry, threw his forearm into Malfoy’s left. The imbalance of gripping his broom handle with one hand threw Malfoy sideways as they sped downward. He crashed into the ground with a sickening crunch. The stadium let out a collective gasp. Harry was lucky – managing to pull up just before impact, Snitch in hand.
“Ohhhh,” Hermione breathed, hand over her mouth. Madame Hooch and the other professors rushed to where Malfoy lay, unmoving amid the ruins of his broom.
Students were exclaiming and pointing.
“Do you think he’s alive?”
“Doesn’t look like it. Can you believe the hit he took?”
“Dunno if anyone can survive that kind of impact.”
“Look at his Firebolt…in shreds…”
“Probably what his bones look like.”
Hermione craned her neck in frustration, trying to see through the crowd that had gathered around Malfoy. Her heart was beating in her throat and she had tunnel vision so badly it was making her feel sick.
‘Dunno if anyone can survive that kind of impact.’
She moaned in frustration. Why were they still surrounding him? Why weren’t they putting him on a stretcher…unless, unless he was dead…NO! Don’t think that, he can’t be dead… just knocked out. Yes.
Hermione took a deep, shaky breath.
Still fighting her mental fog, she looked toward the wave of green across the stadium. Pansy stood to one side, sobbing hysterically with Daphne Greengrass and a group of other Slytherins.
Finally Dumbledore and the professors parted for Snape, who was floating Malfoy along on a stretcher. Hermione gasped. One side of his face was totally bloodied, and a large red stain was blossoming over his chest. He still wasn’t moving.
She watched the stretcher’s progress until it disappeared into the castle.
“Ah, he’ll be fine, Madame Pomfrey’ll set him right again. He’ll be back to his obnoxious self in no time. Until then, I plan to enjoy a Malfoy-free castle,” Colin Creevey piped up. Students laughed and nodded.
“Shut up, Colin! That’s a horrible thing to say. He could’ve died! You saw how hurt he was.” Hermione said angrily. Other Gryffindors looked at each other confusedly.
“Sorry, Hermione…Uh, didn’t think you were much of a Malfoy fan.” Colin was staring at her, one eyebrow raised.
She flushed. “I’m not. I just think we should be a little sensitive after what happened.”
“Because the Slytherins would be so sensitive if it had happened to one of our mates.” Neville snorted.
Hermione just glared and started down to the benches to meet Harry, where he was huddled with his teammates. The Slytherin team was gone, having followed Snape to the Hospital Wing.
Harry was staring at the bloodstain on the pitch in shock. “I didn’t mean to knock him that far off balance…”
“We know, Harry. It’s not your fault,” Katie Bell reassured him.
“Was he still breathing, could anyone tell?” Hermione asked.
“Not sure. Dumbledore and the professors were packed too tight around him,” Dean said. “I don’t think he’s dead though, because when they walked by to take him into the castle Dumbledore said it might be a week’s recovery, even with Pomfrey’s skill.”
Hermione nodded. He would live then. She sighed heavily and closed her eyes briefly.
“Going back to the Common Room?” Ron asked her.
“Yeah, you guys ready?”
Harry was still stuck in his own thoughts. “Huh? Oh, yeah – let’s go.”
They walked slowly back to the castle, Ron trying to bolster their spirits with the occasional “Well, we won at least, right mates?”
Hermione managed a small smile, but Harry either didn’t hear or didn’t want to respond.