Squib stirs up scandal
Trouble is brewing in the Quidditch world, writes Richard Skeeter, Special Correspondent. Yesterday, the Appleby Arrows announced Arabella Wilkins would replace the injured Stanley Hastings as Keeper for the Arrows’ final regular season match against the Falmouth Falcons.
Since this revelation, criticism has been flying, begging the question: Should Squibs be allowed to play Quidditch? Falcons Beater Karl Broadmoor was quick to voice his opinion on the matter.
“First it’s Mudbloods, and now it’s Squibs,” Broadmoor said. “What’s next? Muggles?”
It was at this point Belle stopped reading and threw the Prophet into the trashcan.
This is it, thought Belle bitterly as she turned up her collar and made her way to the Pitch, hands firmly by her side and gaze refusing to meet the accusing ones of the crowd. After three years of working for the Arrows and fetching the team water and towels after their practice sessions, she had almost given up hope of ever getting to play, let alone in a league match.
But Stanley couldn’t help showing off, especially when ladies were nearby. And so Belle was here. She did not know whether to thank or punch him, or possibly both.
Kicking off the ground, Belle soared to her spot on the Pitch. As she stopped in position, she suddenly felt at home. Defending the rings was the one thing she was truly good at, the one positive thing she could be known for. When she was saving goals, she wasn’t the Squib. She was the Keeper, nothing more.
Belle watched as the referee, James Figg, rose to her height. He nodded at both team captains before putting the whistle to his lips. The hideous shriek of it sounded in Belle’s ears as the Quaffle was dropped and the Bludgers and Snitch released.
This was Belle's favourite moment in the entire game. It was the split second as the Quaffle was dropped. Time just seemed to stop. Nobody moved as the red sphere slowly dropped through the air. It was the like the calm before the storm. Nothing was happening, but you could just taste the imminent explosion in the air.
And explode it did. The six Chasers all sped towards the falling Quaffle, seeming to pull into a huddle. The Seekers pulled up to the sky, while the Beaters flew off in random directions, wielding their heavy bats like clubs.
For the spectators, the Chasers may have appeared little more than blurs zooming across the sky, but Belle had long trained herself to pick out details. She often felt that the job of a Keeper was worse than that of a Seeker, as the former had to thwart a ball aimed repeatedly her way.
And sure enough, Belle spotted the Falcons’ Maria Cooney and Elena Hunter heading her way, with Juliette close behind. They were trying to confuse her from their different angles. Belle knew this trick well. She stopped the goal amid loud groans from the spectators.
As the Quaffle moved toward the other end, Belle pushed the boos from her mind. They should be cheering, she thought bitterly. But there’s no use having a pity party.
Suddenly, the Falcons’ Gregory Gibson stole the Quaffle from the Arrows and came hurtling toward her. Belle flew into position, ready to make her second save.
She thought Gibson was aiming right, but all at once, he threw the Quaffle straight at her. Taken off guard, Belle barely had time to block the ball from striking her face.
“We should get points for hitting the Squib,” Gibson called loudly.
Belle gasped in outrage. She'd expected jeers from the crowd and some rudeness from the players, but this? She'd never though they would risk the match for a few laughs. It filled her heart with despair thinking that people would sink this low just to humiliate someone different from them.
Ignoring the sudden impulse to chuck the Quaffle into one of the Falcons laughing faces, she hurled the ball over to Diedra Kiene, one of her Chasers. Diedra shot her a sympathetic look before snatching the ball out of the air and speeding down the field.
Belle had quite given up hope on anyone other than Diedra ever seeing her as anything more then a Squib, so it came as quite a surprise when she noticed the referee – whatever his name was – lift his arms and gesture a penalty to the Arrows. His demeanor clearly said, ‘Foul play by the Falcons.’
Cries of outrage from the crowd as well as both the Falcons and the majority of the Arrows confirmed Belle’s suspicion as she witnessed– in slight shock – Nortan Zabini expertly take the shot. The Arrows were now in the lead, having scored the first goal.
“Filthy Squib-lover,” Gregory Gibson spat, as he gained possession of the Quaffle.
He looked livid as he raced towards Belle, feinting from side to side at an impossible speed. She watched him diligently until he did something she did not expect.
Instead of aiming the Quaffle towards a post, he threw it at her! For the able Chaser, she knew it was no mistake. Tears stung her eyes as she caught it before it crushed her chest. So now the goal of the game had gone from scoring, to trying to hurt her? Nice, she thought, as angry acid burnt her mouth.
It seemed Gibson’s “poorly aimed” Quaffle was only the beginning – after that, there was more for Belle to deal with. As the game progressed, the Arrows moved ahead by three more goals, and the insults became more frequent.
By the time the Arrows were winning 60 to zero, it became an all-out assault on Belle.
“Get off the field, filth!” Kevin Broadmoor yelled, sending a Bludger zinging her way.
Belle ducked, but the distraction gave Cooney time to send the Quaffle threw a hoop.
“And the Falcons are on the board!” the announcer shouted.
Cheers boomed throughout the stadium.
Belle cussed under her breath. The failed save was going to be another reason to hate her. The first being the fact that she was born the way she was. She almost gave up, but right then, two things happened to strengthen her resolve.
Diedra flew by and smiled encouragingly at her. Her expression clearly said, ‘Hold on, Belle. They’re trying to break your spirit.’ And the second was a commotion on the other side of the Pitch between the referee and the Falcons Beaters.
“That Bludger was uncalled for. The Quaffle was nowhere near Arabella Wilkins,” argued the referee.
“The Bludger was a distraction so Cooney could score! How could anyone not see that?" Broadmoor shouted back. The referee just shook his head and made the signal for a penalty shot.
Broadmoor scowled, flying back to his teammates. However, he couldn't help but get one last word in.
"Filthy Squib-lover," he remarked, earning a few grins from the Falcons players.
The referee made that signal yet again. Two penalties.
While nearly everyone in the stadium began to yell insults at the referee, the Falcons’ Seeker flew down to Broadmoor, murder in his eyes.
Belle’s face was set in an expression of horror. She wasn’t at all fazed by the Falcons’ Beater; she’d been hurt much worse by people who meant more. The reason for her concern was Aaron Alexander, the Falcons’ slight and fair Seeker, who seemed to be going after his teammate – to defend her.
“What the hell is your problem, Broadmoor? Were you born that bloody stupid? Or have you been hit by too many Bludgers? Keep your fat mouth shut. Nobody wants to hear your ignorant insults,” Alexander screamed, livid.
Broadmoor scowled. "What a surprise, the Mudblood defending the Squib."
Belle saw Alexander lift his arm and for a moment, she had the wild notion that he was about to hit Broadmoor. Certainly, the Beater turned several shades paler than a moment ago. But instead of swinging his arm towards the Beater, Alexander did so in the opposite direction – seeming to lunge at thin air. Confusion crossed Broadmoor’s face, but not for long.
A full moment of silence passed and when the murmuring started, Belle already knew it was too late. The Falcons had caught the Snitch.
The stadium burst into applause. Wild cheering and thumping rang throughout the stands.
All of the Arrows were in pure shock. How could this happen? They were doing so well. Thanks to Belle, who distracted the Falcons from playing well, it was obvious they would triumph.
Jack Thorne, one of the Arrows' Beaters, turned his head slowly to face Belle. An ugly expression had crossed his face.
"Way to go, Squib. You just cost us the game," he snarled over the Falcon's loud cheering. Belle just stared at him, confused over this random outburst.
"This is why dirty bloods shouldn't try to meddle in wizarding matters. You filth disgust me."
The whistle to signal the game's end sounded shrilly, and Belle flew to the ground. When she reached the grass, Belle began walking quickly toward the locker room, but was surrounded at once by her teammates. Their insults echoed in her ears, and the crowd’s cheering was thunderous.
“We never would have lost the game if Stanley had been playing,” Naomi Thorne hissed.
Diedra stepped forward and glared at Naomi. “Leave Belle alone. You’re all a bunch of idiots. You know if Hastings had been playing Keeper, we wouldn’t have had a chance in hell to win the game.”
Naomi opened her mouth to retaliate but was cut short by Karl Broadmoor who had walked over to their direction.
“Hey, look, Kevin, the Arrows do have some sense.”
“Shove off, Broadmoor,” said Diedra hotly.
“Yeah, Broadmoor, why don’t you give that fat mouth of yours a break?” The Falcons’ Seeker had also joined the fray. Turning to Belle, he continued, “I think you played brilliantly, Ms. Wilkins.”
“And I must say I agree,” a new voice chimed in. The referee had also come to see the cause of the commotion. Belle blushed a deep pink at all the compliments.
Broadmoor just glared scornfully at the lot of them, lip curling in disgust.
"Well, I see even Quidditch has been tainted by dirty blood," he snarled, eyes full of fury. "Mark my words, Squib; this will not happen again. You will sure as hell be the last piece of waste to sully our pure Quidditch pitch." With that, he spun around and went on his way, head held high in the air.
Belle felt tears of anger begin to build in her eyes, but she refused to let them fall, knowing that would only make her seem weak. It just wasn't fair.
James Figg’s pleasant voice pulled her from her thoughts. “I thought you did wonderfully, Ms. Wilkins. It takes a lot of courage to be a Quidditch Keeper. I admire you for putting yourself on the line. It must not have been easy, but you’ve proven today that Squibs are just as good, if not better, at Quidditch than a pure-blood or half-blood.”
Arabella couldn’t help her smile. For some reason, the sad air about her seemed to start evaporating. She was still a little gloomy, but the handsome referee’s praise lessened the intensity of her dark mood.
“In fact, would you do me the honour of accompanying me to dinner next week to discuss your fantastic Quidditch tactics?” continued James with a wink.
Belle blushed even harder than before at the notion.
“I’ll take that as a yes.” He smiled. To the rest, he turned and said, “Well done, all; I’m sure you will do better next time.”
“Come on, we played like crap and you know it,” said Diedra, a playful grin on her face. “Well, almost all of us did…”
“All except for Ms. Wilkins,” said Alexander and James together.
“Please, call me Belle.”