Rachel kept up a running commentary, only occasionally stopping for breath or to gasp at a particularly spectacular move. Alice sat next to her, but she never heard a word Rachel said. Her eyes were glued to Seeker Progues.
Gideon and Fabian started whispering together. Eventually Fabian turned to face the others. “Gideon and I have been thinking—”
“You two, thinking?” Julie laughed.
Fabian winked and continued. “If we want to fly as one team we should have matching robes and a team name. We are from different houses. It would be too confusing with scarlet, yellow, and blue.”
The night before the match the team was still arguing over team color.
"Can't we please do pink, pretty please?" Rachel was to the point of begging on her knees. "We can even pick a manly pink!" Kingsley, Timothy, and the Prewett brothers growled in response.
"I don't like the idea of pink either." Julie spoke up from her corner, where she was currently looking through nail polish colors, Alice beside her. Ruffling through Julie's bag, she pulled out a bottle of cherry red nail polish.
"That'd look great on you. I-"
"As a uniform color." Even the boys smiled.
Kingsley thought to ask the house elves if they would fix up the robes for the team. It wasn’t long before they were all matching and in good spirits. Looking forward to the next day when they could all show their mettle on the field.
All of them knew they’d flown well in tryouts, but to actually play against the professionals was slightly daunting.
Alice’d paid close attention to the way Progues flew. She knew she could at least keep up with him, if not beat him to the Snitch. All that was left to do was fly her best.
The morning of the match dawned stormy and grey. Heavy thunderclouds growled ominously overhead. Despite the weather every Hogwarts student had turned out to watch the game. Armed with umbrellas they waited impatiently for the match to begin, occasionally glancing at the sky, and grumbling about the threatening rain.
The team locked hands in the changing room. “Fight like lions, fly like eagles!” Shacklebolt rumbled. Thunder clapped and boomed overhead.
“What about badgers?” asked Rachel.
“Couldn’t think of anything for badgers,” Shacklebolt replied sheepishly. The team laughed and headed for the doors. The crowd cheered as they came into sight.
Minerva McGonagall’s voice rang over the stadium through the megaphone. Having already done introductions before the teams came out, she said her final words.
"Hogwarts, come through for us please." The crowd laughed as the players took their places. Madam Hooch walked out on to the field to thunderous applause.
"Captains shake hands." Kingsley and Catriona send fierce, determined glances toward each other. "I will release the Snitch." The tiny gold ball flittered out off sight. "On my whistle...go!"
The players rose and the Quaffle moved swiftly between the Pride’s players, until Catriona was blindsided by a Bludger from Gideon.
The Quaffle plummeted spectacularly toward the ground, the Hogwarts crowd roaring their approval as Catriona struggled to regain her composure.
Timothy threw himself into a Lambert Lunge, a favourite move he'd perfected before he'd even attended school, swooping down to snatch the Quaffle as Stewart McKinder, a gangly Portree Chaser, battled to dismount his opponent.
Well-schooled in the art of Quidditch deviousness, Timothy barrel-rolled him and sent a looping pass to Rachel who had followed close behind.
She flew forward towards the Portree goalposts, a Bludger whizzing past the end of her broom, her team mates struggling to support her.
Just as Rachel flew within scoring range, she saw another Portree Chaser heading straight for her. It was a tactic she was well accustomed to so she wasted no time in diving out of the way. That gave Julie just enough time to get in position and catch the pass Rachel shot her way.
Alice, meanwhile, was searching diligently for the Snitch. It was a much faster one than she was used to dealing with. Remembering the advice Progues had given her, she didn’t worry about where he was, just whatever glints she could see that might be the Snitch.
Julie caught Rachel’s pass with the tips of her fingers. The Quaffle was slick from the thin drizzle that had begun to fall. The adrenaline pumping through her made the next move seem easy. Julie reversed, ducked a badly-aimed Bludger, and then served the Quaffle underhanded.
The crowd gasped. Julie’s shot had been intercepted. McKinder was already halfway back up the pitch, the Quaffle tucked under his left arm. Fabian and Gideon tore after him with identical angry yells. Catriona came speeding in from nowhere and blocked the three Hogwarts Chasers. It seemed Kingsley was on his own for now.
Kingsley’s heart leapt as McKinder flew at him, reaching for the Quaffle tucked safely under his arm, eyes shifting side to side, trying to fool him. He was playing against a professional team, and he was the last line of defence.
His team were relying on him.
He stole a glance at his Chasers; desperate to get back and help him, but that had been enough. McKinder caught the hesitancy and unleashed the Quaffle to his right, the revolutions of a lethal finger-spin guiding it past Kingsley’s despairing left hand and through the goalpost.
The crowd went wild.
Julie and Timothy finally managed to make it to that end of the pitch, just in time to call out, “Aw, that’s all right Kingsley! You’ll save the next one.”
He started circling in front of the goals as the Chasers moved further down field.
Gideon and Fabian were doing their jobs as Beaters and keeping the Bludgers aimed toward the Pride’s players. Fabian’s arm was starting to go numb from hitting his bat against such a hard ball so many times.
Alice thought she saw the Snitch and weaved in and around the players. It disappeared again very quickly.
Portree took possession of the Quaffle. They assumed the hawkshead attack formation, moving in for the kill.
Kingsley gulped and yelled to his team. “Need some help here!” Then he blocked out everything else and focused on the oncoming Chasers, determined to intercept their goal if they reached the scoring area.
Suddenly the perfect formation broke. Gideon and Fabian had managed to hit both Bludgers into the Portree Chasers at the same time. John Feverby was momentarily stunned and dropped the Quaffle. Rachel caught it and reverse passed to Timothy. The Gryffindor barrelled back up the pitch at top speed.
The wind whipped through Timothy's hair as he streaked forward in the driving rain, leaving his opponents behind in the breakaway.
A broad grin was etched on his face, he was sure they would score.
Focussed on reaching the Portree Scoring Area, he failed to see Lysander Progues cut across him, intent on catching the Snitch.
The collision was unavoidable and Timothy's left shoulder ploughed into the right side of Lysander's reddened face.
The Seeker lurched forward, dismounted, and began to fall. Struggling to maintain his own balance Timothy launched the Quaffle at Julie who had joined him in attack.
Luckily for Lysander, they weren’t flying very high at the time and the rain had muddied the pitch which made for a softer landing. Uninjured, he retrieved his broom and was back looking for the Snitch in only a few moments.
Julie kept her focus on the left ring and let fly with a spectacular throw. The Keeper, Arkin Mayer, had split his attention between the Quaffle and the downed Seeker and just barely caught the edge of the Quaffle as it flew through the ring.
The stands erupted with screams, clapping and stomping. The Hogwarts team had just scored!
The rain was coming down faster now. Kingsley saved one goal, but lost the next two.
“Thirty-ten, Portree in the lead,” McGonagall announced.
Alice shook the water out of her eyes and dived after something fluttering and yellow. It turned out to be a leaf, but the crowd applauded her anyway.
“Nice bit of flying,” yelled Lysander, pausing near her. “I thought the game was over for a second.”
Alice grinned. “Not yet.” Pulling her broom into an inverted loop she skimmed off across the pitch.
“Hey, no showing off!” one of the Portree Chasers called as she passed him.
The Hogwarts team battled bravely to stop their professional opponents, but despite their valiant efforts, a further three goals went past Kingsley for no reply.
They could all admit they had never been pushed harder in their life, and the conditions became almost unplayable. A sharp, driving rain pierced their robes as they struggled to see through the albicant thick mist that had crept in from the east.
Barely missing a very well-aimed Bludger, Rachel had possession of the Quaffle, searching for a team mate in support she edged forward; Catriona was between her and the Scoring Area.
Rachel gripped her broom handle, knuckles whitening. I have GOT to get past her. Catriona swayed on her broom, almost as if she was inviting Rachel to come toward her. Gripping the handle tighter, she urged her Silver Arrow forward- straight toward the Portree captain. But right before she would have hit her, Rachel swerved around her, using all her strength to hurl the Quaffle through the right hoop.
"Score! Sixty-twenty Portree!" McGonagall's voice rang out. Students cheered Rachel on, with the loudest coming from Hufflepuff.
"Nice job, Rachel, I-" Her congratulator was interrupted by a Bludger to the stomach.
The crowds gasped; Julie fell backward from her broom. Falling to the ground, she didn’t move for a few minutes. Play continued as the new hospital matron, Madam Pomfrey, checked her over.
Gideon and Fabian flew close to each other, rapped their bats against the other’s, and took off in search of revenge for their fallen team-mate.
Kingsley grimly covered the goals and tried hard to catch the next two attempts, but was unsuccessful.
“Eighty-twenty Portree,” McGonagall’s amplified voice only served to underscore his failure.
Julie re-entered the game then and flew close enough to say, “We’re still in this!”
Alice swooped close to her friend. “Are you ok?”
“I can play, but I feel like I’ve been kicked by an Aethonan,” Julie muttered. “Just catch that Snitch soon, Al’,”
“I’ll do my best.”
John Feverby fumbled the slick Quaffle, giving Rachel the chance to snatch it and fly upward out of reach. The three Portree Chasers followed. But Rachel had timed her move perfectly. She threw the Quaffle straight down to Timothy, giving her teammate the perfect opportunity to score.
“And a perfectly executed Porskoff Ploy by Honeybun and Whisp! That makes it eighty-thirty, Portree,” McGonagall told the crowd.
Her pride dented, Catriona had some making up to do. She had been at fault for two of the Hogwarts team's goals. Her opponents were even better than she had expected them to be when it came down to the battle.
She knew the score. The Hogwarts team could still win. That could not happen; her team's professional careers would be over.
She weaved left and right, changing altitudes as she operated a slightly defensive role, waiting for the big break. This was her favourite move.
Stewart and John roamed forward menacingly, causing confusion. Catriona was ready.
Any second now…
There it was! The opening she expected, she shot forward and catching the Quaffle on a side pass from Stewart, she zoomed into the scoring area and let fly with a- fake out! She’d passed over to John and he- he- scored!
“Ninety-thirty, Portree,” McGonagall’s voice rang out across the stands.
Catriona didn’t waste time with any type of victory, she’d learned from the three goals Hogwarts had that she’d do better to concentrate on stopping them from getting another chance on goal.
The three Pride Chasers buckled down and quickly scored four more goals in rapid succession.
Beneath the ongoing war between the Chasers, Alice flew low to the ground. Glancing up, she saw Progues circling above the field.
It better not be up there.
She adjusted the grip on her broom, eyes darting in every direction. The Snitch was no where to be seen.
A blur of purple went right past her face, and Alice sped to keep up with who she assumed was Progues. Catching up to him, he took sharply jetted toward the sky.
"What are you playing at?" Alice screamed. She sped after him, not noticing the Snitch glittering right behind her.
“Behind you!” Gideon yelled. Alice couldn’t hear what he said, but she got the general idea. She spun her broom, looking left and right.
Gideon never saw the Bludger coming. Alice watched in horror as he crumpled like a rag doll and tumbled earthward. Madam Pomfrey sloshed out onto the pitch to attend to him, but overhead the game continued. Eventually Gideon was carried off the field on a stretcher. With one player down Hogwarts lost five more goals in rapid succession.
Alice’s heart leapt when she saw it, flickering high above the game like a star.
From the corner of her eye she saw Progues turn and start after the Snitch. She was closer, and had fewer players to get around.
They both pushed their brooms as fast as they could, lying flat to the handles and dodging the other players.
Alice was two broom lengths ahead when the Snitch shot upward. She pulled up hard and missed colliding with Stewart by mere inches.
Reaching out her hand, she saw another hand reaching too; they scrabbled for it. Progues’ hand closed over hers, and hers closed over the Snitch.
“Carmichael’s got the Snitch! It’s a tie!”
Umbrellas were discarded despite the monsoon, the noise becoming deafening as everyone celebrated the result. The crowd was bouncing.
The drowned Hogwarts team had gathered at the far end of the ground, enmeshed in each other; congratulating themselves, praising their endurance.
Grinning madly, Kingsley lifted Alice by her waist, sitting her atop his broad shoulders. She had redeemed his many errors.
Lysander, Catriona and the rest of the Portree team bided their time at a distance, waiting to pay respects to the young Hogwarts players for their performance.
They both had been pushed hard and the result was well deserved.
Rachel was jabbering a mile a minute, trying to give anyone who would listen a play-by-play account of the match.
"-and then I tossed the Quaffle to Julie-" Everyone felt fit to pretend to listen, by smiling and nodding, but moved along quickly to congratulate her other teammates.
The Pride sauntered over, shaking hands with them, trying to look upbeat about the tie. Trying to be a good sport about it, Catriona stepped forward.
“Nice match. You all have potential.” She then curtly turned on her heel and her team followed her as she walked away.
“Are you kidding me?”
The Hogwarts team was dumbfounded at the lack of good sportsmanship the Pride of Portree team members were showing. It had been Catriona herself who’d commented on equity in playing. Just because a team comprised of school aged children had been good enough to tie with them didn’t give her a reason to be snotty.
Alice shook it off and said, “Shouldn’t we go tell Gideon what happened?”
The others quickly agreed and they tromped off to the Hospital Wing. The student body followed behind and even Professor McGonagall was seen sporting a smile as they entered the Hospital Wing.
Gideon sat up in bed when the bedraggled, muddy team squelched into the room.
“We tied!” shrieked Rachel, bounding forward and kissing him on the cheek. Gideon’s ears turned bright red. “I’ve got to tell you everything
that happened after you got knocked out.”
“Let him breath, Rachel,” laughed Fabian, slapping him on the back.
“How is your head?” asked Alice.
“Madam Pomfrey says my brain still functions, more’s the pity.”
Julie laughed and then turned to face the whole team. “So, guess what I heard Lysander Progues say to Catriona? He said Alice could play Seeker for England someday.”
Alice blushed and stared at the floor, while everyone began to mutter in excitement at this prospect.
"I'm sure he was just being nice..." Her voice trailed into a inaudible mumble.
"I think that it wasn't him just being nice, especially after the little pity party they tried to hold after the match. He was serious. Progues has never been one to take things lightly." The team began to reminisce about an incident earlier in the season with Lysander and a referee.
"Well, we still have the rest of our OWN seasons to-" Gideon silenced. Dumbledore had entered the room.
"Congratulations to you all," boomed the Headmaster, his arms stretched out wide. “That was the best I have ever seen a Quidditch team play in all my years at Hogwarts.”
"We were all brilliant," admitted Fabian, his elbow nudging Kingsley's ribs. "Even Leaky here had a great game overall."
Professor Dumbledore nodded approvingly, continuing his speech to the team, animated with his passion for their achievement. They applauded each other and cheered, wide smiles etched on their faces.
Madam Pomfrey exploded at the commotion from the packed Hospital Wing, shouting about rest and quiet as its occupants continued the celebrations.
Madam Pomfrey gave up trying to keep Gideon in bed and finally allowed him to leave with his teammates.
The entire school congregated in the Great Hall; where Professor Dumbledore announced, “You seven have shown remarkable talent on the field of battle. You each showed the true Hogwarts spirit in play, and each should be commended for your playing.”
The crowd cheered.
“I would like to give out a few rewards for your victory today. For each of you, twenty points.”
Dumbledore’s voice was drowned out by the screaming and clapping of the Hogwarts team and the other students.