Sign of the Lion
Chapter 13 - Quidditch Causes Headaches
"Uh...Harry?" Ron asked cautiously.
Harry looked up from the defence book he was reading. Ron continued doggedly, "Mate, how are we supposed to have Quidditch practice when we don't have a Chaser or Beaters?"
This was not a recent thought of Harry's and he put aside his book. It was Friday night, the only time he could possibly do homework over the weekend, and he didn't feel much like dropping behind like he had last year. It took only a moment for Harry to reach his decision. "Make it a try out time then. Midday."
He turned back to his book and only a few moments later, realised Ron was still looking at him uncertainly. Harry raised his eyebrows and his friend shrugged, walking back down to the Common Room where Hermione was waiting, no doubt. At last left alone in the sixth year boys' dormitory, Harry took some notes for his next DA meeting, a quill was whizzing on parchment beside him.
He had sincerely meant to do some homework, but one look at the vacant mirror in his trunk had sent him off thinking about Voldemort. How could he think about homework or even Flitwick if his thoughts were plagued with the death of Sirius? Harry dropped his book and walked over to the window looking out over the grounds.
Rubbing his throbbing forehead, he poured some water out of the jug on the windowsill. Was it his imagination, or were there unusual shadows moving down there? Harry turned and made a start to his homework.
Harry went to breakfast later than everyone else, something of a habit for him now. Hermione concernedly pushed food onto his plate, asking briskly after his health. Ron was entertaining a bunch of second years who were enthralled with his rendition of the Quidditch final last year.
"He has talked of nothing else since last night," Hermione said irritably, seeing where Harry was looking.
Ron wound up his discussion and turned to Harry. "Do you think we should have the Chaser tryout before the Beater one? Which is better do you think?"
"About the Beaters..." Harry began, but was cut short as Siobhan and Alex thundered in, waving pieces of toast and their wands.
They were giggling madly, immediately a sign that some sort of chaos had taken place in the castle. Harry waited expectantly for the professor that would soon follow. However, it was Filch the caretaker that stomped into the room and shot the girls a withering glare. At first he didn't see what had incensed the squib so much, but then noticed Mrs Norris meekly hiding around Filch's ankles. Bright pink, the cat was only able to blow bubbles the size of footballs.
"Brilliant," Ron said, awed. "They jinxed the cat."
Siobhan and Alex's gales of laughter were not the only sounds. A great number of students had begun clapping and cheering. Harry found himself looking at the staff table, being given a reproachful eye by Professor McGonagall. Meanwhile, Filch was almost popping a vein and saying wildly, "I'll hang you by your wrists from the ceiling for days! I'll have you hung, drawn and quartered - "
Dumbledore got to his feet, a twinkle in his blue eyes. "Argus, calm yourself. Their Head of House will deal with them accordingly."
Siobhan performed a sweeping bow to her audience before following McGonagall out of the hall with Alex, who wiped her glasses on the back of someone's robe. Filch shot them a look full of loathing before seeking out the removal of the spell on his cat.
Ron turned back to Harry. "What were you saying about Beaters?"
"Nevermind," Harry muttered.
Broom over his shoulder, Harry left the change rooms with a settled feeling of dread. Already the Creevey brothers had managed to snap a school broom clean in half and to his even further discomfit, Siobhan and Alex had escaped McGonagall and arrived with identical expressions of keen interest. Harry looked at them dispiritedly, stalling for time before he had to tell Ron about the girls.
Ron skidded in front of him. "Your call, mate - Beaters or the Chaser first?"
"I've already got Beaters," Harry said in a rush.
"What?" Ron stared at him, blinking. "You didn't consult the team."
There was a slight flush creeping up the red head's neck. Harry shifted his broom to the other shoulder. "McGonagall made the decision - I couldn't do anything."
Ron seemed to have difficulty in speaking. "And who did she choose?"
Harry pointed at Siobhan and Alex, who were dive bombing a small crowd of Gryffindors. Ron's face worked furiously for a moment. There was a deathly silence, punctured only by the screams of the girls' victims.
"You let her?" exploded Ron with the force of a bomb. "First it's the DA then you just have to act the good little boy and let them on the team! You're almost as bad as Hermione..."
Sensing another bitter fight on the horizon, Harry was about to argue in his defence when Ron went oddly quiet. His face was a brilliant red and he was mouthing wordlessly, shaking with rage. Harry wheeled around and saw what was causing the trouble. A group of Ravenclaw students had collected at the base of the stands and were watching the would-be Quidditch players warming up on their brooms.
Ron prodded Harry's chest with his finger. "I'm not finished with you. Oi!" He turned to the spies. "Get lost - we booked the pitch for today."
Harry wasn't surprised to find that he felt nothing upon looking at Cho Chang. She hadn't turned up at DA and privately he was relieved. Last year had been something of a disaster for his love life and he didn't much feel like confronting her about it at all. Cho was flanked by the Ravenclaw Quidditch team and appeared very aloof at the negative attention she was receiving.
"We're only watching," the quiet girl Ron had pointed out as Arisa Quintly said softly.
Ron couldn't seem to decide who to glare at as he went from face to face of the team. "Spying, you mean. So Chang's entire inner circle got on the Quidditch team. They might be good with gossip, but they'll be dropping off their brooms like flies."
Two red spots appeared on Cho's cheeks and she looked meaningfully at Harry. "I came to wish you good luck this season."
There was an odd sort of flutter in Harry's stomach, but it was very small. Ron had made it clear to Harry that she had scraped off Michael Corner and started dating a Hufflepuff seventh year. Ron reckoned she was still hung up about Cedric if she was that desperate.
"Thanks." Harry quickly shot off a Silencing Charm to Ron. "You're welcome to stay, but there are some who might not want you here."
Cho remarked dryly with a look at fuming Ron, "I can't imagine who. I'll see you round, Harry."
While the Ravenclaw mob started walking back up to the castle, Marietta Edgecombe made to pull out her wand but Harry, seeing this, gave it a mental nudge. She immediately doubled over with laughter until Harry released the Tickling Charm. Marietta chased briskly after the rest of her friends while Ron sniggered.
"This wandless magic stuff is useful, isn't it?" Ron commented, then scowled as he remembered the banter he was having with Harry before. "I can't believe we're going to play with those two girls. They're a nightmare."
Harry watched Siobhan perform a pirouette on her broom. "I second that, mate."
"It's like last year all over again," Ron groaned as a would-be Chaser dropped the ball and slid off the front of their broom.
Harry tried to keep an open mind, but each new contender was just as bad as the previous one. He had let the Beater try outs go ahead in an attempt to appear fair, but it didn't help that Ron would hold a quiet commentary every time he passed on his broom on how Siobhan and Alex would have added some sort of catastrophe. It grew steadily worse.
The Creevey brothers had not improved in trying to connect club with ball, but seemed more able to stop from landing on the ground. It surprised Harry that Siobhan and Alex were more than capable of hitting the Bludgers in the right direction.
Harry waited until the hopeful Gryffindor had landed on the pitch before he called the team into the changing rooms for suggestions. There didn't seem to be much he could do by way of choice at the moment.
"Hey, Harry!" Katie Bell swooped on her broom to stop him from dismounting. "My friend just wants to try out. It that ok?"
She lowered her voice. "She's very good."
Harry sighed, but one look at Katie's excited friend changed his mind. He asked Katie, "What's her name?"
Katie smiled nervously as her friend struggled to mount the broom. "Rorianna. Her twin brother, Rory, is in the Ravenclaw team. I think it runs in the family."
Harry took off into the air again, narrowly avoiding clipping Ginny who was flying circles around the Quidditch hoops. She nearly hit him with the Beater's club she was holding and used some colourful language that Mrs Weasley would have scolded her for. Harry discreetly used some wandless magic to sit himself cross legged on his broom.
Below, Rorianna rose dizzily and appeared to be attempting a graceful turn. Ron flew past, making an odd snorting sound, half way between laughter and disgust. Katie coaxed her friend into a run at the goals which Ron wasn't even making an effort in guarding.
As soon as the Quaffle touched her fingers, Rorianna put on a burst of speed and shot off towards the hoops, passing one on one with Katie. Becoming only a blur, Rorianna dropped the ball onto her foot and gave it a good solid kick past Ron's ear. The movement through the air as a result knocked Ron forwards off his broom and into an undignified plummet.
Without thinking, Harry swung a leg over his broom for balance and stretched out his arm. At first nothing happened, but he squinted his eyes harder with concentration. Finally, he was able to catch Ron in a spell to slow his fall, bringing his friend to a comfortable stop a foot above the ground. Ron's drifting broom sprang into Harry's hand and he joined the rest of the flyers in dropping to the pitch.
"My life flashed before my eyes..." Ron was saying distantly.
Hermione had run out onto the pitch and was biting her lip anxiously. Harry gave her an odd look. "I thought you were in the library."
She didn't seem to hear him as she fussed over Ron. Smiling to himself, Harry wiped his forehead on the sleeve of his robes. He didn't understand why the spell hadn't taken effect earlier in Ron's plunge. Turning to Katie who was standing off to the side, Harry asked quietly, "What do you think? Rorianna was pretty good."
"Oh, fantastic!" Katie beamed. "She'll be so pleased. Who're the Beaters?"
Ginny appeared next to her and crossed her arms. "I thought this was supposed to be a team thing."
Harry's head began pounding. He managed in a distracted voice, "Let's face it. We're not going to get any better. Siobhan and Alex can be the Beaters."
Whatever they had to say to that, Harry couldn't hear it over the throbbing in his temples. He rubbed briskly in the spot it hurt, but it didn't help at all. With head thud, lancing pain shot through the back of his eyes. The world spun out of focus and Harry could hardly hear the worried voices above him. His scar flashed white hot, making him feel as if his head was being pulled apart.
The only words he could make out from above him sounded much like they came from Hermione, "I'm going to get Professor Flitwick."