Dawn and Hermione found Harry pinning a notice to the board in the Gryffindor common room when they got back from their Ancient Runes class that afternoon:
Three Chaser positions open!
Looking for reserves in all positions!
Practice sessions — Wednesday and Friday, 6:00 to 8:00 PM (Note: Gryffindor has exclusive use of the Quidditch pitch at these times, but nothing is stopping you from practising off the pitch at any other time of the day! (But I’d stay clear of the Whomping Willow if I were you.))
Tryouts — Saturday afternoon, 1:00 to 4:00.
“So, are you going to try out?” Dawn asked Hermione.
“Oh no! I’m not nearly good enough,” said Hermione. “I’ll just watch and give moral support to the ones who are trying. How about you?”
“If you’re not good enough, I haven’t got a prayer. I guess I’ll be watching and supporting with you.”
“You guys want to be my assistants?” asked Harry.
“What do you mean?” asked Dawn.
“While you’re watching and supporting, keep notes,” said Harry. “Keep track of who scores, who doesn’t. How they dodge or hit the Bludgers. How many goals they let in. Stuff like that.”
Dawn and Hermione exchanged a look. “Sure, we can do that,” said Hermione.
Ron and Ginny joined them. “So Ginny, what are you using for a broom this year?” asked Harry.
Ginny just smiled at him. “I’ve got it covered.”
“What?” asked Ron. “You got one of Fred or George’s hand-me-downs?”
“Nope,” said Ginny.
Ron looked at the others. “She’s been looking smug for three weeks now, and she refuses to tell me what she’s got, or let me see her broom. She keeps saying she wants to surprise us.”
“So when does he get his surprise?” asked Dawn.
“Six o’clock tomorrow,” said Ginny.
Dawn left the Great Hall after lunch on Wednesday with Hermione, Harry and Ron. They started down the stairs toward the Potions dungeon.
“Hey guys! Wait up!”
They looked back and saw Neville hurrying after them.
“You’re taking Potions this year?” asked Ron.
“Hey, I nearly fainted when I saw the ‘Outstanding’ on my OWL report card,” said Neville. “I had to check to make sure that they sent me the right one.”
“Oh, no wonder Snape was in such a state that morning,” said Hermione. “And I thought it was just because he’d found out that Harry and Ron had passed.”
“Hey, you aren’t on his list of favourite people either,” said Ron.
“Yes, but my passing the OWLs didn’t come as a shock to him.” Hermione turned back to Dawn. “Snape spent five years picking on Harry and Neville, and was brutal with the way he criticized all of their class work.”
“But it seems I did pretty well in the OWL test, without him breathing over my shoulder,” said Neville. “After Snape, the WEA examiners were a snap.”
“So who else is taking the class?” asked Ron.
“Parvati, from Gryffindor,” said Hermione. “She said Padma was taking it too. I don’t know about anyone else from the other houses.”
They entered the Potions dungeon together. Dawn saw that there were a few kids there ahead of them. She recognized the Patil twins, who were talking together, though she hadn’t met Padma yet. She took the binder of essays she had written for Professor Snape out of her bag, carried them down and placed them on his desk before returning to sit beside Harry at a bench. After Snape’s reaction to her handing in things written with a ballpoint pen, she wondered how he would react to getting the computer printed ones.
A few more students filtered in after them. They congregated into three groups. Besides the half dozen students from Gryffindor there was an equal sized group that Harry told Dawn were from Ravenclaw. A smaller cluster of three Hufflepuff students were gathered together talking quietly.
One girl sat off on her own. “Who’s that?” asked Dawn.
Harry looked at the girl. “Slytherin.” He frowned, trying to remember her name. “Blaze something… Don’t really know her.”
Professor Snape entered the dungeon at 1:00 on the dot. He ignored the binder sitting on his desk, and scowled at the students in his class. “Welcome to Advanced Potions.” He looked around at the students. “All of you are here because you have demonstrated an outstanding ability in the subtle art of crafting potions.” He glared toward Neville. “Miraculous as that may seem for some of you, but who am I to disagree with divine intervention.”
Snape slapped his wand against the blackboard, and a seating plan appeared on it.
“For the rest of your Potions classes you are to work with your assigned partner. You and your partner are a team, you will share the same marks, points awarded will be split between you and your partner’s houses. Points deducted will be taken from you and your partner’s houses.” He smiled—like a wolf smiles at a rabbit—out at them. “You will note that I have broken up some rather notorious groupings.”
Dawn looked over the plan, looking for herself and her partner. She found she was sitting in the centre of the class, with Blaise Zabini. Further examination of the seating plan showed that Harry, Hermione, Ron and Neville were all placed into the four corners of the class. Each one paired up with a student from Ravenclaw or Hufflepuff.
Professor Snape scowled at them all. “What are you waiting for? I want everyone in their assigned seat!”
Everyone scrambled to comply. Dawn moved to the centre bench and joined the Slytherin girl. “Hey!” she said. “Dawn Summers.”
“Blaise Zabini,” said the girl. “So, you’re our famous American. What wizarding school did you go to there?”
“Not a wizarding school,” said Dawn. “Just Sunnydale High.”
“Sunnydale…That’s where the Hellmouth was!”
“Yeah,” said Dawn. “Right smack dab under the Principal’s office.”
“So, did Potter and Weasley really hold Malfoy down while you took his wand from him?” asked Blaise.
“Is that what he’s telling people now?” asked Dawn. “No! It was just me, and he had his two goons Crabbe and Goyle with him!”
“It was his third story, in as many days,” said Blaise. “The git can’t even lie well.”
Dawn smiled at her. “Another not-fan of Draco Malfoy’s I see.”
“He tried to feel me up once, last year,” said Blaise. “Had to use a ‘Basso’ spell to keep from sounding like a soprano for a week.”
Dawn snickered. “I would have liked to see that.”
Their conversation was halted by Professor Snape beginning to speak again. “You are now in Advanced Potions.” He tapped the board behind him. “You will never see a procedure for a Potion you are to prepare in this class on this board again. From now on, you will be devising your own procedures, from the principles you have learned in your earlier classes. Another aspect of Advanced Potions is the identification of unknown potions. With that in mind…” He waved his wand over his desk, and eight flasks appeared. “…each team is to take one of these flasks, and tell me what is contained within it by the end of today’s class.”
Dawn and Ginny left their room together with their brooms over their shoulders. Ginny had hers wrapped in a blanket to keep anyone from seeing it.
“Why the big secret?” asked Dawn.
“Because I want to see Ron’s face when he finds out.” said Ginny.
“Is it really that big a deal?”
“Wait till you see his face.”
They made their way down through the castle and out the front door. Ginny had a look around to make sure that there was no one nearby before she pulled off the blanket and put the broom between her legs. “Let’s go.”
Dawn climbed on her broom and they kicked off together. They flew down across the lawn to the Quidditch pitch.
It seemed like half of Gryffindor house was there ahead of them. Dawn and Ginny did a circuit around the pitch before they pulled up to a hover on either side of Ron, near the goal posts.
“Hi Ron!” said Dawn.
“Hi,” said Ron. He looked at Ginny hovering on the other side of him. “Hi Ginn— Bloody hell!”
Ginny smiled at him. “Hi Ron!”
“How the hell did you get a Nimbus?”
“You like it?” asked Ginny.
“It’s a Nimbus!” said Ron. “How the hell did you get one of those?”
“I take it that’s a good broom,” said Dawn.
“Bloody hell!” said Ron.
“Not very original with his expletives, is he?” asked Ginny.
“Bloody hell!” said Ron. “How did you get a Nimbus?”
“So it would seem,” said Dawn.
“It’s only one of the best damn brooms there is!” said Ron. “The only thing faster is a Firebolt! How the hell did you get one?”
“I was in Fred and George’s a few weeks ago,” said Ginny.
“Don’t tell me that business is going so well that they could afford to give you a Nimbus!”
“No, they didn’t give it to me,” said Ginny. “But Oliver Wood came in while I was there, and he’d heard how well I’d done as Seeker last year, and I told him I was trying out for Chaser this year, and his team was upgrading to Firebolts, so he let me have the Nimbus he’d been flying.”
“Bloody hell!” said Ron.
Ginny looked across the pitch. Half a dozen would be Chasers were scrimmaging with the Quaffle and one of them looked like she might have a break away. She came barrelling toward them and let the Quaffle fly at the left goal hoop. Ron quickly shifted over and caught it. He threw it back to the girl. “Why don’t you get out there and show ’em how it’s done, Sis? Try not to show them up too badly.”
Ginny grinned. “I’ll do my best.” She flew off to join the kids. Dawn watched her join in the fray. Ginny was clearly the best flyer of the lot of them. Dawn had only seen Harry performing that well on a broom, dodging and weaving through the other players. She was also the best at handling the Quaffle among them. She never missed catching a pass that was even close to being thrown in her direction, and her passes to other players were always dead on target. Dawn started to frown. Slayer strength and sports were often not a good mix. She could remember more than one game that was brought to an abrupt end because Buffy got a little too enthusiastic, and broke something.
Harry flew up to them, accompanied by Hermione and a couple of guys she hadn’t met yet. Harry introduced her to Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper—a couple of seventh year students who were the team’s beaters. They all watched the scrimmage going on in front of them.
“Ginny’s pretty good, isn’t she?” asked Jack.
“Knew she could fly,” said Andrew, “but I didn’t know she was so good with the Quaffle.”
“Little too good,” said Dawn quietly.
“What?” asked Harry.
Dawn hadn’t been aware she had actually spoken out loud. “Oh, no, nothing. Just talking to myself.”
Harry smiled at her. “Okay.” He had a whistle on a cord dangling from around his neck. He blew a quick blast on it. Everyone over the pitch stopped and looked toward him. “Ginny!” He beckoned for her to come join him. “Come here!”
Ginny tossed the Quaffle she’d just intercepted to one of the other kids and flew back to the others by the goal posts. “What’s up Harry?”
“From the looks of things, I don’t think you need much practice at Chasing before the tryouts, so could you work with the kids who are trying out for Seeker? Run them through some of the standard drills.”
“Sure, I can do that.”
“Okay. Jack and Andrew can do the same with the Beaters, Ron can work with the Keepers, and I’ll take the Chasers.” Harry looked around. “Any questions?” He watched everyone shake their heads. “Okay, let’s get this show on the road.”
Harry blew another long blast on his whistle, and when he had everyone’s attention he shouted and waved for them all to come down to his end of the pitch.
“Okay, listen up!” he said when everyone had gathered. “We’re going to get this practice session organized! We have the pitch until sundown, which is in about two hours, so we need to make the best use of our time!”
Harry pointed to Ginny. “Those of you trying out for Seeker are going to be working with Ginny Weasley today!” He pointed to Ron. “If you’re here for the reserve Keeper spot, you’re going to be working with Ron Weasley!” He pointed to Andrew and Jack. “If you want to be a Beater, Andrew Kirke and Jack Sloper are going to be working with you. The rest of you, who want to be Chasers, are stuck with me!” A bit of a chuckle went through the crowd.
“Hermione and Dawn…” Harry pointed to each of them. “…are going to be collecting everyone’s names. Alright everyone! Let’s get going!”
The mob broke up into four groups. About half a dozen kids went off with Ron, and another half dozen joined Jack and Andrew. The largest groups went with Harry and Ginny, who got a dozen kids each.
Hermione flew over beside Dawn and handed her a clipboard. “You can do the Chasers and Beaters. I’ll take the Seekers and Keepers.”
Dawn took her clipboard. “Um, thanks.” She looked at it. “Is there some way I can tie it too me, in case I drop it?”
“Don’t worry,” said Hermione. “It’s enchanted. If you let go of it, it will follow you around, unless you tell it to stay. Same goes for the pen.” Dawn was pleased to see that it was a regular ballpoint pen. She wasn’t going to have to try and write with a quill while riding a broom a hundred feet off the ground.
“Okay.” Dawn looked off at the group with Ginny. “Some of those kids look pretty young.”
“Yeah,” said Hermione. “Ever since Harry was made the team’s Seeker in his first year, half the new students think that they can do the same. I hope Ginny lets them down easy. Catch you later.” She flew off toward Ginny’s group.
Dawn was sitting in the stands half an hour later, copying the names and other information she’d taken down about the kids trying out for the team; writing while flying on a broomstick had done nothing for her penmanship, which wasn’t the best under ideal conditions. She sensed someone approaching and looked up. It was Laurie Davis and Cho Chang. Cho had a red bundle under her arm.
“Hi!” said Dawn. “What brings you guys down here?”
“Spying on the competition,” said Cho. “And also returning this.” Cho pulled the bundle out from under her arm and held it out to her. Dawn saw it was her sweater.
“Thanks!” said Dawn. “And thanks again for helping me get off the train.”
“No problem,” said Cho. “If you ever need my help to wind up Malfoy again, don’t hesitate to ask.”
Laurie turned her attention to the people flying around the Quidditch pitch. “So, how do these guys look?”
“Couldn’t tell you,” said Dawn. “Don’t know the game. Even if I did, I wouldn’t tell you. You are the competition after all.”
Laurie was watching the group working with Harry. “A couple of them look like they’ve got potential. Where’s Weasley? I thought she was trying out for Chaser this year.”
“She is.” Dawn pointed down the pitch. “But Harry asked her to work with the kids trying out for the reserve Seeker spot, while he took the Chasers. She was practising with the Chasers earlier, and even I could see she was the best of them.”
Hermione joined them. “Hi Cho, and um…?”
“Laurie Davis,” said Dawn. “She’s in my Herbology and Care of Magical Creatures classes.”
“And she’s one of our Chasers,” said Cho. “Hello Granger.” Dawn couldn’t help notice her coolness toward Hermione. “Come on Laurie, let’s go get a closer look.” Cho nodded down toward the pitch, and walked away. Laurie shrugged at Dawn and Hermione and followed her.
“Not giving away our secrets to the competition, I hope,” said Hermione.
“Not really. I think they both had a much better idea of how good everyone out there is than I do, even before they came over to talk to me,” said Dawn. “Cho was just returning my sweater. What is it between you two anyway? She doesn’t seem to like you much.”
“Well, first of all, I’m part of the reason she and Harry broke up,” said Hermione. “She couldn’t deal with us being such close friends, even though there is nothing, you know, boyfriendly, about our relationship. Harry didn’t handle that well at all either. He shouldn’t have told her that he’d arranged to meet with me in the middle of a date with her. And then I kinda jinxed one of her friends. She’s still upset about that too.”
“What did you do?”
“We told you about Dumbledore’s Army, right? Well at our first meeting I had everyone swear to keep it a secret from Umbridge, and then sign their names to a piece of parchment. I didn’t tell them that there was a jinx on it, and if anyone who signed talked, they’d end up with ‘SNEAK’ written across their face in purple pustules.”
“Eww!” said Dawn.
“Marietta’s face should have cleared up about mid-July.” said Hermione.
“That was nasty,” said Dawn.
“If she’d kept her word, nothing would have happened to her.”
Harry divided everyone into two teams for the final half hour of their practice, and they had a pickup Quidditch game. Both sides had twice as many Chasers and Beaters as they should, but that made for a lively competition. They handled having too many Keepers by trading them off every ten minutes, so everyone had a turn.
They had far too many would be Seekers—even though most of the first year hopefuls had realized quickly that they were not going to be the next Harry Potter, and had left feeling rather dejected—so they set up a separate game for them. Harry had brought some enchanted balls that were used for practising Seeking. These weren’t autonomous like the Snitch, they needed to be guided by someone with a wand. Ginny, Hermione and Dawn each took control of one, and the would be Seekers raced each other around in pairs, chasing them over the pitch where the others were playing their game.
They had to quit shortly after eight o’clock. The sun had set, and the daylight was quickly fading. As Harry’s designated ‘assistants’ Dawn and Hermione stayed behind with him to help clean up, getting the Quaffle and Bludgers properly returned to Madam Hooch’s office, and making sure that the school brooms that some of the kids had been using were neatly back in their racks in the broom shed.
Ginny was already in one of their bathtubs when Dawn and Hermione got back to their room. Hermione told Dawn to take the other one. “I’ll force myself to go use the Prefect’s Bathroom,” she said with a smile. She had already told Dawn that it would be a violation of the rules to let her back in it while the term was in session. She took a change of clothes, and disappeared again.
Dawn didn’t mind in the least. She wanted the chance to talk with Ginny privately. She got undressed quickly and settled herself into the other tub. She played with the bubbles floating on top of the water for a bit while she thought about just how she was going to approach this.
“Ginny?” she asked after a few minutes of soaking.
“Hmm?” came Ginny’s lazy voice through the screen that separated the two tubs.
“Have you thought about how your Slayer abilities affect the way you can play Quidditch?”
“They make me really good at it.”
“Yeah, they do,” said Dawn. She hesitated a bit. “Maybe too good.”
“What do you mean?” asked Ginny.
“It’s just…it gives you a bit of an unfair advantage over other people.”
“Are you telling me I can’t play?”
“No!” said Dawn quickly. “That’s not it at all. It’s just…you have to be careful. It isn’t just that you’re faster, and more accurate with the Quaffle now…you’re stronger too. In the excitement of a game if you put a little too much oomph behind a pass, you might knock your team-mate right off her broom. You could hurt someone. You’re going to have to work to control that. You’ll also have to be careful not to draw too much attention to yourself.”
“You’re saying I should hold back…not play my best.”
“Yeah…I guess I am saying that a bit.”
“I think I’d rather not play at all.”
“Look, don’t make any decisions too quickly. Just be careful in the next practice session, and at the tryouts. Try not to stand out too much.” Dawn had a bit of a feeling…there was an idea brewing somewhere in her head, simmering below the surface. She didn’t know what it was yet, but she recognized the feeling. “We’ll work something out.”
|Chapter 24: Betting Pool||Contents||Chapter 26: The Battle of Malfoy’s Wand|