Oliver stood on his tiptoes, trying to peer over the heads of the taller students huddled around the announcement.
'Come on, come on!' he muttered under his breath, elbowing past a Ravenclaw girl talking animatedly to some Hufflepuff guy. The path ahead of him was clear. If only he could get there-
A huge Slytherin stepped right in front of him. Oliver slammed into his back, but he doubted that the mammoth even felt it. Scowling, he took a step around the jerk and then felt a hand on his shoulder. Charlie Weasley spoke.
Shen Chang had no time to feel happy or privileged as he made his way from the throng gathered at the notice board. He had made the team. He knew he would. Now came the hard part – proving he was worth it.
He passed the jubilant Weasley and Wood, probably congratulating each other on their fortune of being among the seven lucky ones on the team, but he had no time to bother with congratulations. He had to start training – by himself or with the team, it mattered not. This match had far more than personal glory riding on it.
Standing in the shadows of the pitch, invisible to the students that now surrounded the announcement, Molly Parkinson looked on. She watched a tall Oriental youth make his way through the crowd and back to the doors of the castle; his features seemed somehow familiar.
Looking away from the boy, she saw a more vibrant youth bouncing out of the middle of the foray, excitement written all over her heart-shaped face. Molly had to stifle a laugh as the pink-haired teen tripped over her own feet and fell promptly on her face.
Oliver looked at the team of Professionals, wide-eyed. Hearing of his luck a week ago was one thing, but seeing them for real… Molly Parkinson, Tristan Wadsworth, Henry Chang, Gwenog Jones, Ludo Bagman, Morris Gorgovitch! They were his heroes! Well, maybe not Gorgovitch, who was the pretty face on every team he had been on – which was a lot of teams.
He came over now.
'Hey, little one. Ready to play some real Quidditch?'
Oliver's eyes narrowed. For a moment, he started thinking up a response, but was saved when the tall and striking Molly Parkinson walked up behind Gorgovitch.
As her team preened themselves, Molly stayed hidden. Privacy was not something a famous Seeker had in abundance. Not everyone shared her sentiments, though – Gorgovitch was talking to one of the young players now.
Molly nearly doubled over in laughter as the poor young man's eyes drew into a hard gaze, giving off a distinct expression of dislike. Gorgovitch thought he was God’s gift to Quidditch, and this young man, obviously, disagreed.
Swift movement out of the corner of her eye caught her attention; someone had already mounted their broom. Molly let out a sigh and went to get Gorgovitch back.
Shen had many reasons to love flying. He loved the sensation of being so high up in the air, the wind whipping his jet black hair, the happy jolt in his stomach.
However, none of those sensations mattered now. The only reason he was mounting the broom was to win. He would win this match or die trying. He stamped loudly, kicking off.
A playful wink from his brother Henry only strengthened this resolve. Henry thought his little brother did not stand a chance. Well, it was time to show that Shen was not just his little brother. Not anymore.
Tonks tripped her way onto the field with one goal in mind – not to fall. Her nerves were running high with anticipation already, and it did not help that the Professionals' team looked so darn intimidating!
She walked over to the small group of Hogwarts players sitting in the middle of the pitch and plopped down next to Charlie. Tonks had just started stretching when a sharp blast caught her attention. Dumbledore was motioning for all the players to join him in the centre of the field. Tonks watched as Shen, graceful as ever, flew down to join them.
Oliver looked past Gorgovitch and Parkinson (they were arguing now, and he was thankfully out of the conversation) and saw that Shen Chang and Nympha- just Tonks – were talking some five metres away. Edging carefully away from the irate pair nearby, he headed towards his schoolmates.
'Hey, guys,' he said, smiling slightly at the older students. Tonks sighed and looked a little crestfallen, but returned the grin. From Shen, he simply got a cool look.
Shen was annoyed, once again. Tonks just kept babbling about how much fun it was going to be to play the pros. Fun? This is supposed to be fun?
And what was worse, the snotty third-year, Wood was using this team to socialise. All this while Dumbledore was going on in the background about how this would be a learning experience.
As far as Shen was concerned, the only thing they should learn was how to duck, if he and his Beater’s bat had anything to say. The long practice sessions during the week would pay off now.
Tonks shivered. The look on Shen's face could freeze Hell over! What was his problem? All she had said was, 'This is going to be so much fun!' – but the guy looked at her as if she had murdered his firstborn. Then again, Chang would probably care more about his precious top-of-the-line broomstick – if she really wanted to tick him off, she would sooner burn his broom.
She turned her attention to Professor Dumbledore as he finished the opening speech. Madame Hooch stepped forward, and Tonks felt herself and everyone around her tense. This was it – time to go.
Through with telling Gorgovitch off and listening to Dumbledore now, Molly wondered how well the Hogwarts team was going to work out. She had only seen one practice, the one in which the pros participated, and she had not seen much in the way of teamwork. Actually, that particular practice had looked more like a bunch of squirrels fighting over the same nut. She doubted that type of animosity could be turned around in one week's time.
Stepping on to the pitch, she looked towards Dumbledore as he finished his speech.
'Let the game commence!'
All fifteen brooms rose in the air to start the game, but Shen could not care less about what the Chasers, the Keeper or the Seeker were up to. He did not even care much about his fellow Beater, whose name he had not bothered to remember. Finally in the air, his only thought was about swinging his bat in the direction of a certain Chaser. Whoever said blood was thicker than revenge was clearly a liar – and a losing liar at that.
He swerved his broom sharply, nearly knocking a passing flyer off hers without as much as an apology.
Tonks was off to another bad start. First, a sharp gust of wind kicked up as she rose into the air, so her rather shaky, though beloved, broom had needed a few seconds to adjust. Of course, Mr. Shen the Perfectionist had no problem with <i>his</i> broom and managed to knock into her just as she had tried to get going!
'Jerk!' she yelled after him while tail spinning downwards. As she got her broom under control for the second time, another blur went shooting by her! She barely saw the Quaffle as it was deftly shot into the goal.
'Gorgovitch just had to show off,' Molly grumbled, making another lap around the pitch. The booing that filled the stadium was deafening, and she could barely hear the commentator’s play-by-plays. The game plan had been to take it easy on the students, but that was out the window now.
Scanning the air for the Snitch, she watched Henry Chang race down the pitch again towards a stunned-looking Oliver Wood. Just then a Bludger headed towards Henry – sent by his own brother, it seemed – causing him to drop the Quaffle into the waiting hands of the pink-haired Hogwarts Chaser, Tonks.
Shen watched as that klutz of a girl grabbed the Quaffle and raced for the hoops. He knew she would not score even before she aimed, and another 'boo' from the crowd confirmed his suspicions. The following groan informed him that the pros had scored instead, bringing the score to twenty-nil to Visitors.
Shen could see Weasley searching for the Snitch frantically. Apparently, he had realised they did not stand a chance otherwise. Shen himself could do very little to break the perfect collaboration of the enemy Chasers.
Cursing softly, he moved into a position with a better aim.
Tonks was getting increasingly annoyed, nervous and ticked off. The stupid Shen would still not leave her alone! She had made an utter idiot of herself by missing the goal. And to make things even worse, the pros had just scored another three! Three! It was a massacre – they were up fifty points to Hogwarts’… zero.
Tonks’ nose wrinkled. This simply would not do. She was a Hufflepuff! Hufflepuffs did not give up – they kept working! Tonks sighed and flew off to follow the Quaffle. She had a shrewd idea that winning would mean getting along with Shen Chang.
The referee blew her whistle, calling a timeout on behalf of the Hogwarts team. Preferring the bird's eye view, Molly stayed where she was, holding her broom steady by the Hogwarts goal posts. From where she sat, she could see the Hogwarts Seeker in the middle of the group, shaking his fist and flailing his arms. Good, she thought, maybe he can get them lined up, and we can finally have a real game.
When the students returned to the air, the difference between this team and the one that had started the game was visible. But would it last?
For a moment, the optimist in Shen really believed that they had learned their lesson after the 'talk', but the optimist in him was always kept safely locked up.
Just when things started to look good, Flint took it in his head to fly solo, unprotected, to the goals after luckily obtaining the Quaffle. Shen quickly shot a Bludger at Rathbone, who was flying to cut Flint off – but at that moment, Bagman shot a (Shen had to grudgingly admit) fantastic backhand at Flint from the opposite side of the pitch.
The nosebleed that ensued resulted in another timeout.
The forced timeout failed to bring Tonks down, her heart feeling lighter after Charlie’s speech. Charlie could always get a team back on its feet. That was probably why Gryffindor always won. His spectacular Quidditch skills had nothing to do with it, of course…
Wood was pretty decent too. More than decent, even, Tonks decided as she watched Henry Chang flying up to the hoops and Wood making a flawless save. Stifling the stab of jealousy towards the Gryffindor team, she flew back towards the goal hoops, caught the Quaffle and took off for the other side smoothly.
Shen saw this unexpected lucky streak from afar and hoped that it would continue. And the gods above were in his favour for once.
Tonks made a pretty good catch, he had to admit. And the way she was passing the Quaffle back and forth between herself and Flint was not an easy task. It was even confusing the pros, the way she flew through the pitch, zigzagging, ducking and dodging, her bright pink hair flying behind her like a –
And before he knew it, she had scored the first goal of the match. Maybe she was not so bad after all…
Oliver paused as he watched Tonks score across the pitch, cheering with the rest of the Hogwarts students and wiping the sweat from his brow. This was definitely the toughest match he had ever played – the pros had him flying all over the place. He had just barely saved their shots.
Of course, Oliver told himself, it made sense. They were the professionals, after all.
As if eager to prove him right, Henry Chang was suddenly flying down towards the Hogwarts hoops, Quaffle in hand.
Tonks felt like kicking herself as she saw Henry Chang score a ridiculously easy goal while the Hogwarts team was still celebrating its small victory. It was a brilliant goal, to be sure – Chang had flown circles around them all effortlessly and made it past Wood… This, however, put their Keeper in the swing of things – far from disheartened, he looked ready to play. Everyone knew Charlie was a brilliant Seeker, but you had to get up pretty early to beat Wood once he was in his mindset.
'Tonks!' Shen yelled angrily. 'Get your head back in the game!'
The score was now sixty-ten to Visitors, and while the crowd vented their anger in loud groans of disappointment, Shen did so by bashing the Bludger forcefully behind himself. Yes, that felt good, or at least it did until-
The next thing he knew, his brother was plummeting down and that Parkinson woman was rushing to his aid. Oh no, how did that happen? And surely that was not the referee signalling a penalty?
Even as Gorgovitch approached Wood to take the shot, Shen knew he would make it. And sure enough, when he looked next, the score was seventy to ten.
'<i>Episkey</i>. You’ll be alright, Chang. Toughen up.' Molly, turning back to the game at hand, watched as Gorgovitch strengthened the lead. She had to find that Snitch!
Flying around the pitch looking for the smallest glint of gold, Molly was able to keep an eye on the movements of the other players. The Hogwarts team seemed to be giving up completely.
Disheartened, Molly turned and headed to the other end of the pitch. This game had turned out much too easy. She had thought that Hogwarts pride would have pulled the team together and rallied some sort of teamwork.
The gap kept getting wider. Shen could not understand – what was he doing wrong? Then he saw his fellow Beater, Selwyn trying to decide which way to aim the Bludger and guiltily realised that he had not even spoken to him throughout the practice sessions and the game itself.
He also saw Wood, trying his best to defend the goals without any help from the Chasers, and the poor Weasley looking like his very life depended on finding the Snitch. And that was when it dawned. He was not playing for his team; he was playing for personal vengeance.
Getting ready for another double-team from Rathbone and Henry Chang, Oliver tensed on his broom. The Hogwarts team was not cooperating, they were so distracted, so sloppy... Oliver vowed that if he was ever Captain, he would make sure his team never played like this.
Then, the very second Rathbone passed the Quaffle to Henry for a shot, a Bludger flew out of nowhere, smacking the latter in the face. Oliver followed the path of the ball back and was shocked to see that a slightly confused Shen Chang had been the one to strike his brother.
'Go, Wood, go!'
Tonks watched angrily as Henry Chang was escorted off the pit while the referee gave Shen another penalty. As he argued with Madame Hooch, she observed his face discreetly. Everything about him was so expressive – dark eyes flashing with each burst of emotion, high cheekbones flushed a dull pink, and short black hair a windswept mess.
Shen seemed to sense her staring and turned to look directly at her. Tonks turned away, blushing. There was no way she would find Shen Chang hot… It was impossible, right? But the butterflies in her stomach did not agree.
Shen had caught her looking again. But this time, the customary jolt of annoyance was replaced by the urge to stare back…
It was purely technical, of course. He was just observing her as she flew towards Flint grimly, her body language telling the tale of her temporary truce with that troll for the sake of the team. That was all; Shen was just observing a teammate's strategy.
Before he could reflect on this newfound observance in himself, however, he saw a figure taking a dive from the corner of his eye, and his heart skipped a beat.
Signalling her plan to Rathbone so that he could be prepared, Molly waited until he took possession of the Quaffle before throwing the handle of her broom forwards, holding to it tightly, and plummeting toward the ground. Eyes intently focused on a spot near the Hogwarts goals, she wondered if the plan had worked. Seconds later, pulling out of the dive a few feet from the ground, she watched as the red-headed Hogwarts Seeker barely missed crashing.
'A brilliant feint and distraction by Parkinson allows the Pros to score again, bringing the score to eighty to ten in their favour.'
'What the bloody-'
Tonks had never seen the burly Scotsman so mad! He flew off to Madame Hooch in an indignant rage… allowing Chang and Rathbone to make two perfectly easy goals. Boos and jeers filled the stands. The Hogwarts team was really being flattened now, with one hundred to ten. At least the only Hogwarts goal was scored by her; something to brag about later.
Shen did not help either, flying close to her and catching her eye all the time! It was enough that Flint was creeping her out! The last thing she needed were two bloody distractions!
Shen knew it was a crucial moment, and yet Tonks kept looking at him. It took him a moment to realise she was trying to signal something.
When he finally figured it out, his stomach plummeted. There was the Snitch, right beside Parkinsons’ ear, and she had not noticed. But Tonks had, and she was calling for a distraction. Shen signalled hurriedly to Charlie who, perfect understanding dawning in his eyes, dived, giving the match its second Feint.
As soon as Parkinsons' broom followed their Captain’s, Shen knew they had succeeded. And they had done it together – as a team.
Bloody hell! That kid’s a quick learner, thought Molly as she hastened to find the Snitch again.
'Rathbone to Chang, Chang to Gorgovitch, back to Chang – oooh, that was a close call with that Bludger. It’s Chang and Wood now. Chang fakes right and scores again for the pros.'
Snitch. Snitch. Snitch.
'Rathbone with the Quaffle, close to the goal – and he scores again for the Pros. Where was Wood?'
Snitch. Snitch. Snitch.
'Tonks with the Quaffle, headed up the pitch! Oh! That Bludger had to hurt! Gorgovitch now, nearing the goals! Block it, Wood! Block it!'
'Damn!' Tonks swore loudly as Wood’s fingers skimmed the Quaffle, not stopping it from going into the goal.
'One hundred thirty to ten,' the commentator said dully. Tonks circled back around the hoops, grabbing the Quaffle from the air. She tried to get past the pros' Beaters by quickly setting up a passing pattern with Malcolm and Flint – then, in a last-ditch attempt, dropped the Quaffle low for Fliint to pick up. He dodged the Bludger, aimed and shot – only to be blocked by Wadsworth.
'You son of a-' Flint cursed, throwing a wild punch at him.
Teammate or not, Flint is a complete troll, thought Shen as he watched the pros effortlessly took the penalty they had been offered.
Things were looking very bad indeed. Their only hope now was the Snitch, which was nowhere in sight. Shen vented his feelings by sending a Bludger towards Bagman, who had hit at Tonks previously, earning a glare from the former and a fleeting smile from the latter.
Gorgovitch was once again facing Wood, whose jaws were clenched so tightly it hurt to watch. But all in vain – as he missed again, and the crowd booed their disapproval.
Molly laughed sardonically as Rathbone grabbed the Quaffle again and threw it in for another goal. This game had been much too easy.
The Hogwarts Seeker, Weasley, threw himself into another dive. Another feint, thought Molly as she rolled her eyes. But then she saw it - the Snitch, in the far corner of the pitch, right where the Weasley kid was headed.
Something had to be done – if he caught the Snitch now, the game would end in a tie. Molly flailed her arms, catching Chang’s attention. He had the Quaffle and he knew what to do.
Tonks followed Charlie on her broomstick from a safe way away, intent on being part of the action. She held her breath while Charlie made the steep and dangerous dive, leaving the Chaser far behind. Butterflies – no, DRAGONS! – were clawing at her insides. They could still win! Tonks found herself praising the name of Charlie Weasley; the man was a bloody Quidditch god!
Almost there… Tonks saw Charlie’s arm extend and snatch the Snitch deftly from the air.
'YES!' Tonks threw her hands up in the air happily, bringing them back down quickly as she wobbled dangerously.
Shen could not believe his luck – no, <i>their</i> luck. They had won – well, tied, actually, but who was counting? The whole team was flying directly towards him from all ends of the pitch, screaming and yelling… but he only had the eyes for one particular female Chaser.
As the whole team enveloped each other in a many-armed-hug, Shen disentangled himself and flew right to Tonks, pulling her to himself in midair without as much as uttering a single word and kissing her right on the those soft lips amid the team’s friendly catcalls and wolf whistles.
'Hogwarts ties the game with an awes-'
'Ms. Jordan, that is incorrect,' Professor McGonagall could be heard saying.
The crowd became quiet once more, and Molly smiled knowingly toward Henry Chang who had thrown the Quaffle through the goal just a second before Weasley had captured the Snitch.
'You're kidding!' exclaimed Rena Jordan, the commentator, as she turned to look towards Oliver Wood. The crestfallen look on Wood's face confirmed what she had been told.
'The Pros win by one bloody lucky goal made by Henry Chang, one hundred seventy to one hundred sixty,” growled Jordan.
Fan-bloody-tastic. The sneaky bastards had snuck a goal past them while they were all ogling Shen! No! She meant the Snitch… Tonks was very confused.
The disappointment in the air was palpable. They had been so close to winning! Tonks made a mental note to check in on Oliver later. He looked ready to hang himself.
'I can’t believe we lost,' Shen muttered. He had silently reappeared by Tonks' side.
'Hey, team,' Charlie said slowly. 'We just lost by ten points to bloody professional Quidditch players! That’s pretty darn brilliant if you ask me! Well done, everyone!'
'I agree with Charlie. We may have lost the game, but we did get something in return,' said Tonks, looking sideways at Shen who cheered up considerably at this.
Once the Cup was awarded and the crowd silenced, Dumbledore got to his feet, his magenta robes adorned with blue starts twinkling in the sun. Everyone grew even quieter as he gestured to the stadium at large. People were expecting a speech on competitiveness, the importance of teamwork, the learning experience and other such things – but all he said was 'PARTY IN THE GREAT HALL!' giving way to loud cheers.