Fluffy pieces of pink parchment of the same shade as Umbridge’s cardigan appeared overnight on the school’s main notice boards, bearing the advertisement:
Win a free Hogsmeade Trip by entering the Valentine’s Quidditch Match!
One lucky couple will have their expenses fully paid for them on this year’s Valentine’s Hogsmeade trip.
The match will take place on February seventh, one week before Valentine’s day!
There will be special rules enforced to decide who will be the winner.
You don’t want to miss out on this amazing opportunity, so sign up now!
Below it, there was an empty sheet.
"Please? It's not going to be that bad!" Ron dragged Hermione toward the sign-up sheet in the Great Hall.
"But I'm complete rubbish when it comes Quidditch," she mumbled under her breath, still trying to pull away.
"Go to the library or read one of Harry's books that you got him, then. We're signing up." Arriving at the pink sheet, Ron rummaged through his bag to find a quill.
"It's for couples, Ron."
"So? We can pretend! I just want free food from Honeydukes.”
"It's not all about the food, Ron." Sighing, she reluctantly let go of his arm.
"Oh, come on, Hermione!" Ron said exasperated. "We're best friends. Can't you make a best friend a favour?"
"What favour?" she retorted, narrowing her eyes. "Getting even more food in that bottomless pit you call a stomach? I don't think so."
"But Hermione!" Ron protested, waving a quill around. "Think about it: you'll get free food too!"
"Merlin Ron, I don't think about food 24/7 like you, you know?"
“I don’t only think about food!” he retorted.
“Oh, I forgot about Quidditch,” she said sarcastically.
“No, Hermione. I think about other things, too,” he said a little more slowly.
“Ron, are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?” she asked with a tone of excitement in her voice.
“Well, yeah. I mean, you think about schoolwork a lot, too, don’t you?” he said, his ears going a little pink.
“Oh Ron,” she sighed, plucking a quill out of her bag and signing her name on the pink parchment.
“Excellent!” Ron said as he signed his name next to hers.
In the lead up to the big day, the list grew slowly. There wasn’t an abundance of couples who were willing to play Quidditch, even for free Hogsmeade trips. In the end, only seven couples joined, creating two even teams.
However, there was still a large crowd who desired to watch the game, and that morning they headed straight to the Quidditch Pitch, eager to see the couples who would be competing for the prize.
What the crowd didn’t know was that the couples were being split up against each other: a team of girls against a team of boys.
The commentator was, as usual, Lee Jordan. While he’d expressed his wish to not commentate any more Quidditch games, he’d had to commentate for this one, since Luna Lovegood was, as many knew, a participant, along with Neville Longbottom (which hadn’t really surprised anyone).
“I see the couples coming!” Lee Jordan shouted, his voice magically amplified. “First off, we have Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger! You know, this couple actually-“
“Introduce the couples only, Jordan,” Professor McGonagall said coldly, looking at him sideways, daring him to do otherwise.
“Okay, okay, Professor,” Lee said, earning a few laughs from the audience.
“And here comes Michael Corner and Ginny Weasley!” Lee continued. “Even though we all know Ginny deserves much better…”
“Jordan!” Professor McGonagall said irritably.
After her second reprimand, Lee stopped the additional commentary, although it took everything in him not to after introducing Draco Malfoy and Romilda Vane.
“And our special referee for today’s match,” Lee said, “Albus Dumbledore!”
Dumbledore came zooming onto the pitch in robes of violet, riding a simple Cleansweep model. After a moment’s word with the players, he brought a whistle to his mouth and blew hard.
“And they’re off!” Lee cried.
The match had begun.
What interested a lot of people were that the very well known Weasley twins were participating in the match, with their respective partners of Angelina Johnson and Alicia Spinnet, although it was hard for the crowd to tell whose partner was whose.
Alicia quickly acquired the Quaffle, as she was a Chaser for the girls’ team, along with Angelina and Ginny. Cho was their Seeker and did loops high up in the air, which her partner on the boys’ team, Harry Potter, tried to mimic. Fred and George, of course, were Beaters.
That left Luna Lovegood and Romilda Vane to be Beaters, while Hermione Granger was the Keeper for the Girls’ team. Many people wondered how Hermione would even be able to keep herself up in the air, much less be able to defend the posts.
Ron Weasley was the Keeper for the Boys’ team, while the Chasers were Neville Longbottom, Draco Malfoy and Michael Corner. According to the rumours, the boys had argued amongst themselves for days, trying to decide who would be the Seeker: either Harry or Draco. Harry ended up getting the place, naturally.
Nothing too exciting happened, that was, until Hermione got her first chance to defend the goal.
“And Malfoy’s heading towards Granger!” Lee cried. “Let’s see if Hermione is as good on a broom as she is in the classroom!”
The red blur streaked towards Hermione.
“She’s saved it!” Lee exclaimed. “Hermione Granger's blocked the Quaffle!”
“Hermione! How did you do that?” Ginny shouted incredulously from above.
“Well, I read this book, and found this great Arithmancy principle that you apply…” she began.
“Save it Hermione, I don’t need the details,” Ginny said as she squinted around for the Snitch.
From the other side of the Quidditch Pitch, Ron’s fingers curled around his broom’s handle. If Hermione carried on like this, she could become a better Keeper than he was. He would not let her show him up.
Ginny soon came into possession of the Quaffle and sped towards Ron to take a shot at goal. Michael stared guiltily before zooming at Ginny to snatch the Quaffle.
They were about to collide when Lee called, “Is that the Snitch?”
Everyone in the stands gaped as they saw Harry and Cho dive towards the earth together with no intention of stopping.
Everything seemed to happen in slow motion. Ginny and Michael forgot all about the Quaffle and crashed against each other, letting it go, to be awkwardly caught by Luna Lovegood, who simply stopped in the air to watch Cho and Harry.
They were, apparently, completely focused on just one thing: catching the Snitch before the other did. Everyone was rooting for Harry, knowing that Cho’s broom was nothing compared to Harry’s.
“Go Harry!” Hermione shouted from her position, forgetting that she was supposed to be rooting for Cho instead. Ginny glared at her, to which Hermione blushed.
“Sorry,” she said.
All eyes were still focused on the speeding images of Harry and Cho.
“Harry Potter!” Cho called through the din. “If you care at all about me, you’ll move your arse now!”
Without even thinking, Harry whipped around.
“What did you say to me?” he retorted.
And as quickly as she had threatened him, Cho sped past Harry in his daze of confusion.
“I don’t believe it!” Lee cried. “Chang has passed Potter! Chang’s passed Potter!”
The crowd grew silent. Everyone held their breaths, waiting for the unimaginable.
In an instant, Cho wrapped her fingers around the struggling Snitch.
“Chang has the Snitch! Chang has the Snitch!” Lee shouted as the teams descended towards the ground. There was a general discontent in the crowd, noticeable in their hushed cheers. Evidently they had wanted the match to go on for longer.
“Judges?” Lee asked, and the crowd turned to look at where Lee was looking. They had not noticed the three teachers sitting in the stands, analyzing every move of the game. “Have you come to a consensus to who wins the Hogsmeade pass?”
“We have,” Professor Vector affirmed.
Professor Flitwick stood up and squeakily continued, “The winner is…”
“The winning couple is Harry Potter and Cho Chang!” Professor Flitwick squeaked. “We do have a logical reason for it too, besides them being the Seekers. They fought hard against each other today, looking hard for the Snitch, trying to catch it before the other did. However, in the most crucial moment, they still proved to be a couple, and let the rivalry go. Yes, I’m referring to Mr. Potter’s slip, by letting Ms. Chang catch the Snitch, without even realizing it.
“However,” Professor McGonagall interrupted, “we’d like to mention the other couples as well.” Continuing, she cleared her throat.
“Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger have been awarded first runner-up,” she continued, “For Miss Granger’s spectacular talents at the goal, which threatened Mr. Weasley’s reputation as Keeper.”
Hermione was blushing from her broomstick.
“Therefore,” McGongall said, “in the event that Potter or Chang fall ill the day of the trip, Weasley and Granger will go instead.”
“However, their team and the teams of Malfoy and Vane, Corner and Weasley, Weasley and Johnson, Weasley and Spinnet, and Longbottom and Lovegood will be given a brunch in the Great Hall that day as a reward for their excellent efforts!” Professor Flitwick chimed.
Draco Malfoy’s face turned a delicate red colour as he beckoned Romilda to his side. “I can’t believe Potter and Chang won,” he said haughtily to Romilda, who seemed to hang onto his every word. “Not that it really matters. I, after all, don’t need any charity vouchers from the teachers to pay for my Hogsmeade visits. Now everyone will know Potter’s not as good a Seeker as he claims to be.”
Draco attempted to hook arms with Romilda, but she turned away from him. “You said we’d win, but Harry beat you. He’s twice the man you’ll ever be!”
Draco gaped at Romilda for a moment, watching her walk away to congratulate Harry and Cho, before closing his mouth and walking quickly towards her.
“Well, if I had been the Seeker, Chang wouldn’t have distracted me for sure!” he exclaimed, drawing Harry’s and Cho’s attention to him. “And we can still go to Hogsmeade,” he suggested.
“Oh forget it, Malfoy,” Romilda seethed. “I was in this for the glory – I can pay my own Hogsmeade visits as well.” Turning to Harry and Cho, who had been watching, amused, she started a conversation with them, forgetting that Draco was there.
Harry barely noticed that Romilda came up to congratulate them.
‘I can’t believe I let Cho pass me,’ he thought. ‘Quidditch is my one strength that no one can break. I guess girls are my weakness.’
“Harry, can you come over here?” Cho asked, beckoning him away from Romilda.
“What’s up?” he asked bitterly.
“You seem upset,” she started, “and I want you to know that I only pestered you up there so I could catch the Snitch for once. You’re twice the Seeker I am.”
He appreciated the gesture of kindness, but still felt a little sorry for himself.
Then the Weasley twins came over, lifting Harry off the ground by a few centimetres. They looked in the direction of Dumbledore zooming around the pitch, nothing more than a streak of violet robes.
“Enjoying himself, isn’t he?” Fred asked in undertones.
“Yeah, it was awfully nice of him to get rid of Umbridge, even it was just for one day. You know she tried to stop us playing. We better put our brooms back before she notices. Lucky Dumbledore let us use them,” George continued as he watched Dumbledore out of the corner of his eye.
Fred nodded and the siblings put Harry back down, rushing to their brooms and getting Harry’s as well, to put them back in their place.
Meanwhile, Ron and Hermione were having a talk of their own.
“I hope Harry and Cho get sick the day they’re supposed to go to Hogsmeade,” Ron said wistfully. Hermione turned to him and glared.
“Ron! You should be happy that we’re being given a brunch at least,” she scolded.
“It’s not the same,” Ron said melancholically. “I mean, free food at Hogsmeade! And to think: we were this close to-“
The twins were racing up the staircase two steps at a time.
“C’mon Fred,” George panted. “Who knows when that toad may be back...”
“Dumbledore said she’d be gone for awhile,” Fred said. “Is there really any reason to run?”
“I dunno, I just have this feeling,” George continued.
The boys made it all the way up to Umbridge’s office.
“Ready?” Fred asked.
“Yeah,” George said, handing him a hairpin.
They walked into her office and shackled the brooms back onto the wall.
When the twins turned to leave, they saw, to their horror, a figure standing in the doorway.
The three boys were highly relieved when the figure that stepped out of the shadows was not Umbridge, but Dumbledore. They didn’t waste time wondering how he had gotten there so quickly, or even as to why he was standing in the doorway of Umbridge’s office.
“Professor Umbridge has just returned,” he told Harry and the twins, “but is currently not in. Now, if you hurry, I never saw you three.”
Fred looked up. “What was that, Professor?”
After what Harry swore was a wink, Dumbledore left the room and the three boys could do nothing else but follow.