Chapter Twenty: The Simple Things
It was nearly a fortnight before Malfoy was discharged from the hospital wing and could return to his lessons. The next few days after he was out were probably the busiest of his life. Harry saw him doing homework outside in the courtyard at break, finishing classwork at lunch, then the moment the end bell went, the Bright Sparks were all outside practicing Quidditch for two hours until the bell for dinner rang. Then they were inside, eating their evening meal, generally with Draco translating some huge book of ancient runes at the Slytherin table, they went to their common rooms and Harry was willing to be that Draco would be somewhere as far away from Zabini as possible, doing yet more work.
Professor Alrister still wasn't back. Pure Arts became not even half as much fun without him. They had Dumbledore for one lesson, but apart from that, it was usually a substitute teacher who gave them notes to copy out of a textbook. Everyday on the way back to Gryffindor common room at night, Harry always took the long route, just to peer through the glass in the door of Alrister's office, just hoping that maybe he would be there, sitting behind the desk with a serenity candle, in all his smuggler-style splendour - but he never was.
But on December 17th, there was no time for Harry to take his usual trip to the Pure Arts master's office, because at 3:30 PM sharp, his first Quidditch match of sixth year was due to start. He'd been feeling nervous all day, as had the rest of the team, and so when the end bell rung out through the corridors at three o' clock, Harry felt like his intestines were attempting to wriggle their way out of his stomach.
His last class of the day was double Potions, and the only person in his group that was also a Bright Spark was Draco. The moment the bell went, both of them leapt out of their seats and practically sprinted to the Quidditch pitch.
"Potter! Potter, where are my Quidditch gloves?"
"I don't know, you've got them!"
"I can't find them anywhere!" Draco ran the other way down the changing rooms, checking under the bench, in every shower, looking frantic. "We'll have to forfeit the match!"
Harry reached into Draco's bag and pulled out his gloves, frowning.
"Ah," said Draco.
The door opened, and Ron and Ernie walked in, talking happily about History Of Magic. Harry and Draco both jumped oin them, gabbling at them to get changed and find their brooms, the match starts in about twenty minutes now and if you're not ready we'll forfeit the league and it will be all your fault, we'll never forgive you, come on, hurry up.
Harry's firebolt was tucked neatly under his arm. Ernie was riding a broom hand-crafted by his grandfather, who did high quality broomsticks for a living. Ron had his faithful broom from last year. Draco, however, had raided the school broom stores the day before and had found the best he could. In truth, it wasn't the best broom imaginable. Draco had done the best job he could at clipping away the stray twigs, but it still looked a little scruffy.
Harry and Draco proceeded to chase Ron and Ernie around as they got dressed, badgering them about all the moves they were supposed to have learnt and if they remembered the strategies. Being pestered so much, it didn't take them long to get ready, and soon all four of them were ready in their Bright Sparks robes. Draco's logo had been coloured and charmed onto the back of their black robes, and then Hermione had performed one of her special spells to make the sparks flash all the different colours of the rainbow.
"Oh come on, where are the girls?" said Harry, worriedly, pattering down the length of the changing rooms and peering out onto the pitch.
Ron went to join him and gasped, his mouth falling open. "People, there are people here! Look! The stands are nearly full!" He choked. "Loads of the staff are here! Hey, look! Lupin's wearing a Bright Sparks badge!"
Ernie and Draco both wandered over, peering interestedly over Ron and Harry's shoulders. "Oh good, our fan club consists of a werewolf," said Draco. He wasn't entirely right about that. As Harry let his eyes drift over the crowd, he spotted more and more brightly coloured rainbow badges flashing in the light of the setting sun.
"Nobody naked in here, is there?" said a voice. They all turned around as Kainda came into the room, her hands over her eyes.
"No, we're decent," said Harry. "How are Cho and Ginny doing?"
"Oh, they're messing about with their hair and worrying if the logo is a bit too bright," said Kainda. Her Quidditch gloves were different to everybody else's, black to match her robes, fingerless and strapped up tightly around her fists.
"Where did you get those gloves?" said Harry.
"Quality Quidditch Supplies," she said, promptly. "Cost me a packet but well spent. See, look, there's a pocket you can put your keys or money or whatever in so they don't fly out and kill somebody. Did somebody say something about Lupin wearing a Bright Sparks badge?"
"Yeah," said Ron. "Go and have a look. He's on the front row of that stand over there... see?"
"Oh yeah," she said, peering out and grinning. "Good. Nice to see he knows which team to support. By the way, have we got any information on who or what the Reserves are?"
Ernie nodded. "It's last year's Hufflepuff reserve team," he said.
Kainda couldn't hold back a snort. "Hey, Harry, I'd take that personally if I were you. Putting your team against such a pack of nellies."
"Excuse me," said Draco, coldly. "But it is NOT Potter's team. It is OUR team."
"Yeah yeah," said Kainda. "Good for you. Hey, what's at that stall over there? Look, there's a couple of first years selling something."
They all leaned out of the changing room doors to look. There was indeed a brightly coloured stall erected just at the entrance to the Quidditch pitch, and a pack of students stood behind it with Madam Hooch. They appeared to be giving something out to everybody who came.
"I want one," said Ernie. "I don't know what they are, but I want one."
Kainda tilted her head, trying to see better. "It's like... shiny pieces of card. Little flat packets. Aeroplane peanuts? At a Quidditch match?" She took her broom from under her arm, climbed onto it and sped off down the tunnel onto the pitch. "I'm going to see what they are!" she called, as she sped out of sight.
When she returned a few minutes later, her pockets were full of bright foil wrappers that gleamed in the sun. She hopped gently off her broom, grinning from ear to ear, and took out one of the wrappers. Leaning closer, Harry saw that there was a picture of a broomstick on the front and the words, "Hogwarts Quidditch Champions Trading Card Game". At the bottom, in lurid yellow lettering was, "Sponsored by Weasley's Wizard Wheezes".
"Trading card game?" said Ernie, frowning, as Kainda handed the packs out. "What's this about?"
"Open your packet and see," she said, eagerly.
Harry frowned curiously, nipped the foil between his fingers and pulled it open. Inside, he found seven pieces of what he first thought were yellow card, until he turned it over and to his great surprise, realised it was like a top trumps card. There was a moving picture of one of the old Ravenclaw Beaters playing Quidditch, and all sorts of statistics - name, year, house, team, speed, strength, endurance, accuracy. The last four were given marks out of a hundred.
"It's like... pokemon cards," said Ernie, who was quickly flicking through his own pack.
"What cards?" said Ron.
"Um... long story."
Harry shuffled eagerly through the rest of his cards. Apart from the Ravenclaw Beater, he found he had three people from the Hufflepuff team last year, two of a Slytherin called Andrew McArthur, and Colin Creevey.
"This is so cool!" said Ron, eagerly, leaning over Harry's shoulder to look at his cards. "Has anybody got me?"
"I've got your sister," said Draco, raising an eyebrow, showing Ron the card. "Care to trade?"
They were so enthralled with the Quidditch cards that they seemed to completely forget about the upcoming match, and when there was a loud roar of applause from the crowd and a magical voice boomed out over the stands, they all jumped.
"Good afternoon and welcome to the first game of the Hogwarts Quidditch league!" called a very familiar voice. "My name is Lee Jordan, returning to the school as a full-time Quidditch Commentator! The pay may be terrible, but I get to sit and shout all day! Today's match is the highly anticipated first of the season, between the Reserves (last year's Hufflepuff reserves, hence the name) and the eagerly awaited Potter-Malfoy alliance, the Bright Sparks!"
There was a roar from the crowd. Harry felt his heart leap inside him.
"We've got some good weather conditions today, so let's all hope for a nice, long match with some high standard Quidditch play," Lee continued over the megaphone. "Today also sees a first for something else, the new Hogwarts Quidditch Champions Trading Card Game, kindly supported by Weasley's Wizard Wheezes. Just as quick note, if anybody has a Cho Chang to trade, please see me after the match."
"Sorry, sorry, Professor... okay, let's bring on the teams!"
The crowd roared with applause, cheering and clapping for all they were worth. Harry grinned around at his team mates. "Ready to go win our first match?"
Kainda leapt onto her broom, "You betcha!" Nobody could hold her back at all. She sped the length of the tunnel and took flight into the open air like an eagle spreading its wings, as the stands erupted with applause. The rest of the team all rocketed out after her, and Harry felt a great surge inside him as he felt that familiar beautiful thrill of excitement that only Quidditch could ever bring him. Everybody was thundering their applause, and as he looked down into the stands from way up on high, he realised how truly happy he was.
The Reserves were trooping out onto the pitch, looking very nervous indeed. Harry didn't recognise any of them, and neither did a lot of the crowd. The Reserves didn't look all too confident really.
Madam Hooch approached Harry, and the captain of the other team stepped forward worriedly, watching Harry as though he'd suddenly leap forward and attack.
"Captains, shake hands!" said Madam Hooch. They shook hands, and Harry realised just why Oliver Wood always looked as though he was trying to break the other captain's fingers when he did this. It was just impossible to resist the temptation. The Reserve captain drew his hand back as though he'd been bitten, and Harry grinned. "Alright, are you ready?" said Madam Hooch. "On my whistle! Three... two... one!!"
Fourteen players on brooms zoomed up into the air as Madam Hooch threw the trunk open and the four balls shot into the air. Ginny seized the Quaffle under her arm and headed straight for goal with Cho and Draco at her tail, and Harry caught a split second's view of the golden Snitch before it flittered away in a shower of sparkles. He lifted his broom up into the air for a better view over the pitch, all the while listening to Lee's commentary.
"And we're off! Chang takes the Quaffle, Chang heading for goal, nobody appears to be stopping her - oh, Bludger! Chang drops the Quaffle, picked up by Carter of the Reserves... and intercepted by Malfoy, Malfoy going for goal -"
Harry turned around just as Draco flung the Quaffle easily into the hoop and the stands erupted in cheers. He could hear people chanting all different things, people yelling, clapping, and louder than anything, he could hear people calling, "Bright Sparks, Bright Sparks, Bright Sparks!"
Draco whooped, doing a backwards arc in mid air, practically dancing. The Reserves didn't look any more confident at this.
"Alright, it's ten-nil to the Bright Sparks! Play resumes, Jarrold throws the Quaffle to Carter, and Carter's going for goal there! Malfoy and Chang on his tail, and - yes, that was a Parkin's Pincer there! Weasley Junior has the Quaffle, Quaffle to Malfoy, Chang, Weasley again, back to Chang! Ohhh, Chang drops the Quaffle, intercepted by Harris for the Reserves, and then to Carter, Harris again, Carter's going for goal, and - it's a save! Weasley has saved it! And what a save, disappointing for the Reserves fans, wherever they are, but Bright Sparks still in the lead! Ahem, and now a quick message from our sponsors."
There was the sound of the microphone being manhandled, and then both voices of Fred and George Weasley came over the air.
"Hello, and what a game we've seen today, huh?"
"My money's on the Bright Sparks for sure."
"Oh yeah, Bright Sparks rule. That's our lil brother and sister, y'all."
"Weasleys! Get on with it!" said Professor McGonagall's voice.
"Alright, alright. Okay, while you're watching the Quidditch, you may be interested to know that at the end of the match, more Hogwarts Quidditch Champion Trading Cards will be on sale at the exit of the stadium at ten sickles each. 50% of all proceeds go to St Mungo's Hospital."
"Thankyou, enjoy the game!" There was a cough. "Ahem, go Bright Sparks. Whoo."
The microphone was grated across the table and Lee's voice came back on. "Lee Jordan again and Weasley has just scored. Ginny Weasley, not Ron or the two behind me. We're going to have to get code names or something. Anyway, twenty-nil to the Bright Sparks!"
The crowd all cheered. Harry found himself grinning as he glanced up into the commentator's box and saw Fred and George dancing in a circle.
"So, Bright Sparks in the lead and it's Jarrold throwing in the Quaffle again - Carter, Carter to Harris, Harris back to Carter, and intercepted by Malfoy but... no, Reserves still in possession of the Quaffle, Harris going for goal and - oooooh, Bludger! Harris attacked by a Bludger sent by Zabini, and Malfoy has the Quaffle, Zabini at his tail! Bludger sent by the Reserve beater McDonald, and sent back by Zabini, sent back by McDonald... this could get repetitive... oh, that was a Bludger Backbeat by Zabini and Carter nearly concused! Play continues, Malfoy going for goal, dodges a Bludger, and - yes! Yes! Malfoy scores! Thirty-nil to the Bright Sparks!"
Harry flew down from his lofty position to loop around the goal posts, speeding along the ground back up towards Ron's goal, skimming so low that he nearly touched the grass. Ron was cheering and bouncing up and down, and when Harry flew up to him, Ron yelled, "We RULE!" over the noise of the crowd.
Harry nodded eagerly, and looked up to see a Bludger shooting towards them. "DUCK!" he roared, but Kainda and Ernie both rocketed forwards from the sides. Harry saw them raise their clubs at once, swing forward and the Bludger went screaming down the pitch. Everybody screamed and jumped aside at the Bludger cleared the way completely. Cho saw her chance and snatched the Quaffle from Harris, flying after the Bludger and dropping the Quaffle gently through one of the hoops.
Fred and George were dancing again. Lee called, "Forty-nil to the Bright Sparks! Marvellous Bludger work by BOTH the Bright Sparks Beaters there and a wonderful goal by Chang! What a game! This is really a great start to the season, really brilliant! Okay, play resumes!"
Things for the Bright Sparks just got better and better. Cho and Ginny seemed to work as just one Chaser, scoring over and over, throwing to each other with such speed and accuracy that Harry found himself amazed. Draco was always shooting below them, ready to snatch the dropping Quaffle from the air and turn the game right around if things looked bad. Ernie and Kainda were sending Bludgers so fierociously towards the Reserves that the other team just ran away if they came near, and Ron didn't let a single goal in. Pretty soon, Lee was screaming, "And it's 130-nil to the Bright Sparks!", bouncing up and down and hugging Fred and George.
"And they're off again! Harris has the Quaffle, Porter close behind him, and McDonald's there to repel any Bludger attacks from the Bright Sparks Beaters, going for goal! Malfoy intercepts! Look at that! Just snatched right from under - oh, Malfoy makes a Reserve Pass to Weasley Junior, Weasley Junior going for goal again! And the Reserves Keeper is leaving the pitch in tears! It's a clear-run for Weasley Junior! YES! Bright Sparks SCORE!!"
Harry was searching the pitch again, looking everywhere he could for the Snitch. The Reserves Seeker seemed to be the only player on their team who cared anymore. The others were all in various states of defeat and distress, and the Keeper was now being consoled by Professor Sprout on the edge of the pitch. Though the Bright Sparks weren't okay to relax yet. If the Reserves Seeker caught the Snitch, they would lose the match they were so sure of winning.
"Okay, and play starts again with a throw-in from Jarrold, all the Bright Sparks Chasers are ready. Reserves Beaters are looking determined, let's keep things fair, boys. Oh, Weasley Senior Two has just passed me a note that says..." Harry heard him open it with a crinkling noise. "Tell them about Chang and Potter. Tell them what about Chang and Potter, Fred?"
Harry felt his blood run cold. He turned to the commentator's box and started waving wildly, shouting, "NO! NO!", but Fred and George weren't listening. They whispered something in Lee's ears, and Harry saw his face spread into a grin.
"Aw, how sweet. Apparently we have love blossoming here on the Quidditch pitch everybody, let's have a big hand for our lovebirds, Cho and Harry. How lovely."
Harry covered his hands with his eyes as the crowd all laughed and cheered. He turned to the box, grinning, scarlet in the face and was about to fly up, break in there and kill Fred -
When he saw it. The Snitch was flittering pleasantly just below the rim of the window. He put on a great surge of speed, rocketing towards the box, his hand outstretched, and the stands erupted in screams, urging him on. The Reserves Seeker had noticed too and was turning his broom, desperately trying to catch up, but Harry was too fast, he was speeding closer and closer until he felt his fingers curl around the Snitch. He jerked his broom up and soared skywards, his hand clasped around the fluttering Snitch, and the stands exploded with cheers. Everybody was on their feet, screaming and hugging each other. Harry flew back towards his team, and they all flew at him, grabbing him in a tight hug, cheering and yelling so loud he thought his ears would explode, but he didn't care.
"BRIGHT SPARKS WIN! A final score of 290-0 to the Bright Sparks, that's GOTTA be a record!" Lee was shouting, bouncing around in the commentator's box, "The Reserves are leaving the pitch, absolutely disgusted with their poor play, and the point goes to Bright Sparks in the league, our current leaders! Let's hear it for THE BRIGHT SPARKS!!"
Harry was grinning into Ron's shoulder as the crowd all roared their approval. He could see Hermione, Neville, Luna and Professor Lupin all cheering like maniacs in the front row. Cho was hugging him tight around the neck and he was hugging back. He grinned even wider as she planted a kiss on his cheek, saying, "You are SO great!" in his ear. Ron winked at him from over Cho's shoulder. Harry laughed and swatted his cousin away, and at that moment, Harry knew he couldn't care less what Voldemort was doing, why Snape was attracting bad luck, where Alrister had gone, what was causing Gryffindor Risotta. He suddenly had everything he wanted - a family, love, a Quidditch game.
Ron grinned, patting him on the shoulder. "It's the simple things in life you cherish, huh?"
Harry laughed. "So true."
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