Chapter 6 ~ Quidditch, Quaffles and Blue Balls
The end of the week arrived without further drama. Umbridge’s Inquisitorial Squad, Slytherins all, were starting to make their obnoxious presence felt around the corridors of Hogwarts.
Rick stayed close to Harry. Hermione was usually with them. Rick didn’t want to make it too obvious that he was acting as Harry’s protector. To others, it probably looked like the unthinkable had happened – after five years, the ‘Dream Team’ had fallen apart. Either that, or Rick had displaced Ron in a reformed triad.
Harry and Hermione tried hard to be friendly with Ron, but he shunned them, and always made a point of sitting well away from them at mealtimes and in class.
There was much gossip in the Gryffindor common room about Harry, Hermione, Rick, and Ron. The witches were particularly curious to know what, if anything was happening between Hermione and Rick, Gryffindor’s most desirable wizard.
The other hot topic was the first Quidditch match of the season, Gryffindor versus Slytherin. Harry had been waiting for Umbridge to reinstate the life ban that she had placed upon him last year, and which Dumbledore had subsequently rescinded. As each day passed his fear that she would reinstate the ban was slowly being replaced by the fear that she was deliberately not reinstating it, because she wanted him to play ... that something bad was going to happen in the match. Or, maybe she just didn’t see any point in a life ban given his very short life expectancy.
“Quidditch is a very dangerous game,” said Hermione on the Friday night before the big match, as she sat with Harry and Rick in the common room. “You better be very careful tomorrow Harry, you know how many close calls you’ve had playing Quidditch. It would be all too easy to make an attack look like an accident during the game.”
“Right,” said Harry. “I’ll try, but there’s so much happening in a Quidditch match, that it’s hard to concentrate on other things sometimes.”
“Well Harry, you’re just going to have to concentrate,” said Hermione forcefully. “Forget about winning, and forget about the stupid Snitch – let Malfoy have it for once. Just concentrate on staying alive. Do you think you can do that Harry?”
“I really don’t know,” said Harry. “When I’m on my broom in a Quidditch match, something else just takes over, and when I see the golden gleam of the Snitch ... it’s hard to explain,” he said shaking his head.
“Oh Harry,” said Hermione in exasperation, “it’s just a game, remember.”
“That’s right,” agreed Rick, “it’s just a game.”
Harry looked wistfully over to where Ron was sitting with Ginny and the rest of the Gryffindor Quidditch team. Ron understood about Quidditch. Hermione just didn’t get it and it looked like Rick didn’t either. He was really starting to miss his other best friend. He remembered in their fourth year, how they had fought for months over his name coming out of the Goblet of Fire. In the end they got over it and were best friends again. He desperately hoped that they would get over this one.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The whole school turned out for the first Quidditch match of the year. Gryffindor versus Slytherin was always the highlight of the season.
Madam Hooch gave the two teams her usual lecture about fair play and penalties for cheating, then threw the ball up in the air to start the game.
Rick was sitting beside Hermione at one end of the Gryffindor stand, where he would not be too visible if he had to take action.
“Do you like Quidditch?” asked Hermione.
“I don’t really know,” said Rick. “This is my first game. I’ve never played it myself. In fact, I’ve never even been on a broom.” He looked at the players dashing about at breakneck speed. “But, it looks like a lot of fun.”
Hermione had stopped listening to him. Looking over to the Professors’ stand she had spotted someone sitting next to the Headmistress who made her blood run cold and her skin crawl. It was Lucius Malfoy – this could not be good. She nervously pointed him out to Rick.
Rick just seemed to stare fixedly at him for about half a minute then said wryly, “Another, for whom the world stops for Quidditch.”
“What on earth do you mean?” asked Hermione, puzzled.
“Right now, all Lucius Malfoy can think about is the Quidditch match. He’s imagining a great Slytherin victory, with Draco bringing glory to the Malfoy name by capturing the Snitch. If he does have any plans to attack Harry, we won’t need to worry about them until the game is over.” He said this with a certainty, as if Lucius Malfoy had told him himself – which in fact he had, although not intentionally.
“How can you know all that?” demanded Hermione. “Surely it’s just supposition.”
“Hermione, trust me, I know it,” said Rick quietly, realising too late that he should have kept quiet. How was he going to talk himself out of this one?
“But how?” she demanded again.
“Surely you’ve heard of Legilimency,” said Rick. “My master in New Zealand was an expert. And, err ... he gave me a bit of training. It comes in useful at times.”
“Well of course I’ve heard of Legilimency,” replied Hermione as if it should be obvious that she would know about such things. “I read all about it last year when Harry was taking Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape.”
“It’s quite impossible to use Legilimency over such a long distance. You have to be in very close contact with the other person – and anyway, I didn’t see you cast the Legilimens Spell. However you’ve figured out Lucius Malfoy’s intentions – if indeed you have – it can’t be Legilimency.”
Rick had to smile, Hermione was living up to her reputation as the font of all knowledge.
“Hermione, I know that’s what it says in Slinkhard’s Defensive Magical Theory, and that’s the way it’s usually done. But my master must have taught me some special technique that works over longer distances,” bluffed Rick.
For a moment, Hermione was actually more impressed by the fact that Rick had read the Slinkhard text, than the possibility that he had somehow discovered what Lucius Malfoy was thinking. But then her thoughts turned back to Lucius Malfoy. “We had better keep an eye on him, just the same. I doubt that he would attack Harry openly in front of so many spectators, but he might be able to make it look like an accident,” she said.
The Quidditch match had meanwhile become very exciting. Slytherin had started strongly, peppering the Gryffindor goal with the Quaffle, but Ron was in superb form, dashing manically about, defending his hoops valiantly. The Slytherin players became frustrated at their inability to score on him, but the Gryffindor spectators were inspired, and began singing loudly.
“Ronald Weasley, he’s our King,
He never lets the Quaffle in,
Ronald Weasley you’re our King,
Eat you heart out Slytherin.”
This enraged the Slytherin team and they began resorting to their trademark foul play. Madam Hooch, however, was having none of it. She didn’t miss a trick, and kept awarding penalties to Gryffindor until the foul play stopped – by which time the score was Gryffindor 50 to Slytherin 0.
Ginny Weasley was playing Chaser today as Harry was back in his customary position of Seeker. As she gained in confidence, it became evident that she was an absolutely brilliant Chaser. Forty minutes into the game, she had scored a further 12 goals for Gryffindor, were now 170 to Slytherin 0. Ron had continued his perfect record in defence, but the Slytherin Chasers hardly got possession of the Quaffle, it was all Ginny Weasley. Her electrifying performance inspired a new song from the Gryffindor stand.
“Ginny Weasley, Quidditch Queen,
Greatest Chaser ever seen,
Slytherin don’t stand a chance,
When she does her Quaffle dance.”
Hermione was getting excited along with the rest of the Gryffindors, but she was still maintaining ‘Constant Vigilance’ on Lucius Malfoy. Suddenly she nudged Rick sharply, pointing over to the Professors’ stand where he had just risen to his feet. Rick concentrated on him again.
“He’s making his move Hermione,” said Rick. “He’s obviously given up on Slytherin winning now, and he’s going after Harry.” Rick tried not to make it sound like he could read Lucius Malfoy’s mind this time.
“Well shouldn’t we be following him then?” asked Hermione.
But Rick said nothing, he was following him. Sitting quietly with his eyes closed, he projected a map of the stadium, in his mind. Lucius Malfoy had concealed himself beneath the Professors’ stand, from where he would be able to cast spells, unobserved.
“Look,” cried Hermione. Ginny, who had just scored again, suddenly seemed to lose control of her broom, it began twisting and turning all over the place and steadily rising higher and higher.
Harry, meanwhile, had spotted the Snitch at almost the same moment that Ginny’s broom began its wild dance. Although Slytherin could not win now, Draco was desperate to beat Harry to the Snitch for once, especially with his father watching. They dipped and dived and soared together after the erratically moving Snitch. They were pushing and jostling each other as they flew, often side by side, neither of them aware of the drama taking place high above them, with Ginny and her broom.
But Hermione wasn’t interested in the battle for the Snitch, all here attention and concern was focused on Ginny. “It looks like the same spell that Professor Quirrell cast on Harry’s broom in first year,” cried Hermione anxiously. “We have to do something.”
But someone was already doing something.
“Look,” said Rick. Harry had finally spotted Ginny and was now soaring upwards in an almost vertical climb to reach her.
“Thank goodness,” said Hermione tensely. “I just hope he gets to her in time.”
“Actually,” said Rick, I think it might all be part of Lucius Malfoy’s plan.
“What do you mean?” asked Hermione.
“The spell on Ginny’s broom is making it uncontrollable, but not to the degree that someone with her skill is likely to be thrown off,” explained Rick. “He knew Harry would go to her rescue. I think he’s planning on killing them both together – his master stroke. It’s just the sort of thing that would appeal to his evil twisted mind.”
“He hates the Weasleys, he hates her father, he hates Ron, and right now he’s absolutely livid at the way Ginny has humiliated his precious Pureblood Slytherins,” said Rick. “He’s planning to make her pay for it.”
Harry meanwhile had reached Ginny and with a strong arm, he pulled her onto his broom, placing her in front of himself.
Then, just as Rick had predicted, Lucius Malfoy struck. He performed a clever combination Summoning/Banishing Spell. He Accio’ed Harry’s broom, and simultaneously banished its two riders, effectively throwing them from it.
A gasp went up from the spectators as Harry and Ginny began a deadly freefall, plummeting earthwards from many hundreds feet up in the air.
But then suddenly, their descent began to slow. As they came closer to the ground, a frantic Hermione saw that they appeared to be encased in what looked like a glowing blue bubble. She allowed herself a small sigh of relief, although she knew that they weren’t safe yet.
Cheers rang out from the worried spectators, when they saw Harry and Ginny in the blue bubble, and realised that they were not going to be dashed to death on the Quidditch pitch, after all.
But as the bubble floated gently down, it was struck by vicious a flash of green light.
“No! It’s an Avada Kedavra Curse,” screamed Hermione. But then she saw to her amazement and great relief that it was unable to penetrate the bubble. Avada Kedavra Curses were supposed to be unblockable, yet it had been simply deflected away. Next followed several jagged red flashes, which Hermione imagined must be Blasting Curses, designed to destroy or shatter the blue bubble; but none of them had any effect upon it.
Turning to Rick, in relief, Hermione noticed his studied concentration. His eyes were fixed upon the blue bubble and she realised that Rick must have somehow created it, and was now in the process of slowly lowering it to the ground. She noted in amazement that he did not even have his wand out. Hermione wanted to ask him how he could do wandless magic like that, she wanted to ask him so many questions.
With great difficulty and supreme self-control, she managed to remain silent – she did not want to break Rick’s concentration and cause the bubble to burst or crash. She also didn’t want to draw anyone’s attention to Rick. She forced herself to sit quietly, watching the blue bubble floating downwards. When it finally touched down she let out a huge sigh of relief.
Rick waited until the teachers and students had run forward and surrounded Harry and Ginny before removing the protective bubble. He waited until the surrounding crowd obscured them from Lucius Malfoy, thus preventing him from flinging any further curses at them.
Lucius Malfoy left the Quidditch grounds in a fury and made his way to Hogsmeade, from where he Apparated to Malfoy Manor. He was absolutely livid. Slytherin had been humiliated, and his brilliant plan to do away with Potter and Arthur Weasley’s youngest brat – the source of the humiliation – in one fell swoop, had been thwarted by some unknown power.
Could it have been that fool Dumbledore? Was he still at Hogwarts, hidden away somewhere? He could think of no other wizard with that kind of power. Fortunately for Rick, neither could anyone else.
Meanwhile Harry and Ginny were the centre of attention. As the blue bubble landed on the Quidditch pitch, they could be seen inside, Harry with arm wrapped protectively around Ginny. They looked quite cosy.
When the bubble disappeared, Harry delved into the sleeve of his left gauntlet and pulled out the Snitch. He had caught it in the same moment that he had spotted Ginny, and had stuffed it into his gauntlet for safe-keeping. As he raised it over his head, grinning broadly, the scoreboard was updated to read the final result – Gryffindor 330 Slytherin 0. It would go down in the history books as Gryffindor’s greatest Quidditch triumph over Slytherin.
Harry and Ginny were raised on the shoulders of their team-mates, to be carried back to the inevitable celebrations in the Gryffindor common room. As the walked, they sang over and over again in joy:
“Ginny Weasley Quidditch Queen,
Greatest Chaser ever seen,
Slytherin don’t stand a chance,
When she does her Quaffle dance.”
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
The Gryffindor celebrations lasted well into the night. Rick had never seen Harry looking so happy or relaxed. He and Ron seemed to have put aside their differences, for tonight at least, as they sat with the other team members at the centre of the party, being toasted with butterbeers.
“Harry and Ginny seem to have ‘bonded in the bubble’,” remarked Rick to Hermione with a grin.
“Yes,” said Hermione. “They have been keeping rather close together, since the match. Of course Ginny has always liked Harry, but he never seems to notice her much, other than as Ron’s little sister.”
“I guess he couldn’t help but notice her up there in the blue bubble,” she added. “It looks like Ginny finally got some ‘quality time’ with Harry.”
“But what about Dean Thomas?” asked Rick, “I though Ginny was Dean’s girlfriend?”
“Goodness Rick, I thought you knew ‘everything’. Ginny and Dean broke up the second week of term,” said Hermione, glad to be able to tell Rick something he didn’t know.
“Well, I guess I miss some things,” laughed Rick. “But I never picked you as the type to be up on all the latest Hogwarts gossip.”
“Hey!” said Hermione in annoyance. “When you share a dormitory with Lavender Brown and Parvati Patil, believe me, you get more information than you need about who is doing what – and with whom.”
“So what happened with Ginny and Dean then?” asked Rick.
Hermione gave an ironic laugh. “Dean decided that their relationship was unhealthy.”
“Unhealthy?” asked Rick, “What do you mean, unhealthy?”
“Well let me rephrase that,” said Hermione. “Dean was ‘convinced’ by Ron that it was unhealthy – as in bad for Dean’s health. I really feel for Ginny, with all those overprotective big brothers of hers. And Ron is definitely the worst,” she added with a sigh.
“I hate to think what he’ll do to Harry then,” said Rick, “if he decides that Ginny is worth the ‘health risk’. He’s already angry enough with Harry because of me.”
“Sadly, there’s nothing to worry about on that front,” sighed Hermione. “Harry won’t let Ginny get close to him ... or let himself get close to her, or anyone else, while Voldemort’s alive. He would be too afraid of making her a target. Tonight, Harry's filled with Quidditch euphoria. For a few hours he’s not worrying about all the dark things going on around us, and the prophecy that binds him to a fate he can’t escape.”
“But tomorrow,” she continued sadly, “those things will come flooding back to him and he’ll be filled with worry and foreboding once more. He’ll withdraw back into himself and try pushing everyone and everything away. Ginny and romance, will be the furthest things from his mind, you mark my words.”
Rick was amazed at Hermione’s profound understanding of Harry’s feelings. He could feel her heart crying out at the unbearable suffering that life had thrust upon her dear friend.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Hermione was right about Harry, of course. When they rose Sunday morning, Rick noticed that the anxiety and worry were back. The rest of the Gryffindors took longer to come down from their Quidditch high. But any remaining joy was soon extinguished at the evening meal.
When the students entered the Great Hall that evening, they noticed a guest sitting at the teachers’ table next to the Headmistress. Hermione felt a sense of deep foreboding – it was Lucius Malfoy.
No one started eating – it was obvious that there was to be some kind of special announcement. When the students and Professors had all taken their places, the dumpy Headmistress made the short journey to her feet.
“Hem, hem,” she began, in her irritating manner. “It is my great pleasure and privilege to welcome Mr. Lucius Malfoy, Executive Governor of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, to address the school. As you know, Mr. Malfoy has been given the momentous task, by the Minister of Magic, of reforming the Charter of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”
“Governor Malfoy, we would be greatly honoured to have you address us,” she gushed, attempting to engage Lucius Malfoy with an obsequious smile.
Lucius Malfoy rose arrogantly to his feet, acknowledging the grovelling Umbridge with a disdainful nod. He paused for a moment, surveying the students assembled before him haughtily, as if he were an emperor, about to lay down the law upon his subjects.
“As you will know,” he began in his supercilious drawl, “the Minister of Magic has entrusted me with revising the Hogwarts Charter. The Minister shares the concern of many leading members of Wizarding society, that this school has for some time been failing to meet its traditional role.”
“Hogwarts,” he continued, “has a long and proud history, one which is intertwined and inseparable with that of the great Wizarding families of this land. The primary role of this school is to educate the sons and daughters of those families to achieve their full magical potential and to inculcate the correct values of Wizarding society; to prepare them to take their rightful places in our society; to maintain our great and time-honoured traditions; to preserve the proper order of things.”
“Sadly, the previous Headmaster,” he said with distaste, “failed pathetically in this task. He allowed those of unworthy blood to debase the purity of this school and ultimately to contaminate the whole of Wizarding society.”
“The task of revising the Charter of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and its Articles of Convocation and Suffrage, to reflect the true role of this school, may take some time. These things cannot be rushed,” he droned on self-importantly. “When it is completed, the revision will be known as the ‘Malfoy Hogwarts Education Reformation Statute’.”
“In the interim, I have decided, in my capacity as Executive Governor of this school, to issue Special Educational Decree Number Thirty-seven, to take effect immediately. It will redress some of the more serious mistakes and glaring errors of the previous Headmaster,” he said, pronouncing the word ‘Headmaster’ with a tone of disgust.
He then unfurled the parchment he had been holding and commenced to read it.
“Special Educational Decree Number Thirty-seven:
Article 1: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will henceforth accept no Muggle-born students.
Article 2: Muggle-born students currently enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will not be permitted to return to the school after the Christmas break.
Article 3: Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will henceforth accept only Pureblood wizards and witches.
Article 4: Mixed-blood students currently enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry will be permitted to complete their education.
Article 5: The Ministry of Magic will establish a separate ‘Vocational Training’ institution for future mixed-blood students, where they can learn the appropriate trades necessary for them to serve their proper place in wizarding society.”
He then rolled up his parchment and returned to his seat with a smug grin. Hermione was in tears. This was her worst nightmare come true, banishment from Hogwarts and the wizarding world into an uncertain and insecure future. She felt a consoling arm around her shoulder, it was Rick.
“Don’t cry, Hermione,” he whispered in her ear. “He won’t get away with it. We’ll find a way to stop him.” He spoke with such fierce determination, that Hermione allowed herself to take some comfort and believe that perhaps her situation was not yet totally hopeless.
The Headmistress, meanwhile, had stood up again. After lauding Lucius Malfoy as the saviour of the wizarding world, she announced that, as a consequence of Special Educational Decree Number Thirty-seven, certain changes were to be made at Hogwarts – with immediate effect.
“All non-Pureblood prefects are hereby relieved of their duties and instructed to hand their badges in to their Head of House.
“Caretaker Filch has already been sent packing. Hogwarts is a school of magic – there is no place here for despicable Squibs.
“The Inquisitorial Squad will assume the former Caretaker’s policing duties, and will have an expanded role in maintaining ‘Law and Order’ at Hogwarts.
“Hem, hem, that is all. Enjoy your meal,” she added. But not many students were eating.
The Slytherins, Purebloods all, were too excited to eat. The position of privilege that they had been brought up to believe was theirs by birth was now going to be guaranteed by law.
But many students in the other three houses were Muggle-born or mixed-blood and their future suddenly looked grim indeed. Not much food was eaten at those three tables that night.
~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~ ~~~~~
Coming up: Chapter 7 ~ The Temptations of Ronald Weasley
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