For Love of the Game
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Third of four one-shots involving the world of Harry Potter and the world of the Transformers -- specifically the Weasley twins, Fred and George, and the Lamborghini twins, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker. It's recommended that you read the preceding two stories, "Four's a Crowd" and "Double the Fun," before reading this.
This fic takes place during the summer between "Order of the Phoenix" and "Half-Blood Prince." Knowledge of Quiddich comes from the Harry Potter books, Wikipedia, Muggle-dot-Net, and "Quiddich Through the Ages." The idea of Swoop training as Ratchet's apprentice (which has no basis in canon that I am aware of) was borrowed from fellow fanfic author Nightwind, who seems to have started the trend. hugs Swoop
As for Ludo Bagman still being Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports... seeing as he's never mentioned again past "Goblet of Fire" and no websites were of any help in determining his fate, I'm just going to assume he wrangled his way out of his trouble with the goblins somehow and kept his job. It's easier than creating an entirely new character to fill that post.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
The Autobots had many friends among the humans of Earth, the closest being the Witwicky family of course. Spike, his father Sparkplug, and his newlywed wife Carly had come to the Autobots' aid too many times to count and even called the Ark their home. Chip Chase had lent his considerable expertise to their cause several times as well, and though he had obligations away from the Ark that didn't prevent him from visiting often. Raoul was less involved in their war against the Decepticons, but Tracks was close to the young man and even owed his life to him. Powerglide and the human woman Astoria had grown rather fond of each other over the course of time -- much to the amusement of the more mischievous of the 'Bots, who loved to tease and torment the A-10 regarding his human "girlfriend." And of course there were the friends and acquaintances they had made over the years in their various adventures and missions, some of whom certain mechs liked to keep in touch with through letters and e-mails.
Prowl himself had never considered maintaining a long-distance relationship of any sort with a human. He had absolutely nothing against humans -- he simply had other duties more important than writing to a pen-pal. He would prefer to leave that to those mechs who had the time and inclination to do such.
Of course, this was all before he was introduced to Fred and George Weasley... and found an unexpected ally in their mother.
He shifted one doorwing into a more comfortable position, keeping the other as still as possible so as not to dislodge the owl that perched there. Carefully sliding the tiny square of paper under the magnifier Wheeljack had provided him, he perused the last letter he had received from Molly Weasley.
The boys have done it again. Seems they can't pay a visit home without reminding me of how things used to be when they lived here. This time it was something nasty in the laundry bin -- took me three tries with a Scouring Charm to clean it up. George said some rubbish about upgrading the Dungbomb for their joke shop -- as if the original Dungbomb weren't disgusting enough -- and accidentally leaving the prototype in his pants pocket. Sometimes I wonder if those boys' mission in life is to send their mother to a padded room in St. Mungo's. You'd think I'd be used to their tomfoolery after sixteen years, but there you have it.
Prowl could sympathize. And he was tempted to write back "Try dealing with tomfoolery like that for upward of four million," but decided against it. He read on.
I do hope they're not giving you too much trouble when they visit you. I fear they've taken a great liking to you Autobots. Every visit home it's "Sideswipe this" and "Mr. Witwicky that" and "Wheeljack gave us a wicked idea for a new product" and such. As much as they talk about being on the Ark, I wonder if they're even the ones running their shop. I have to admit that I feel much better about them being with you than anywhere else, what with the war against You-Know-Who going on again. But if they step out of line, feel free to punish them as you please -- short of stepping on them, of course.
Don't tempt me, Prowl thought, rubbing the bridge of his olfactory sensor. The Weasley's didn't visit as often as Mrs. Weasley assumed they did, but those times they did stop by were... memorable. And it seemed he would have to have words with their engineer about giving the wizards ideas...
How are you faring? I do hope your resident twins haven't killed you by the time you get this. From what you've been telling me, it sounds like they can be more of a handful than all my children combined. If they give you too much trouble, I've enclosed some of my grandmother's special recipe of sedation potion, which Arthur assures me works on Autobots. It's given me many a peaceful hour or so after slipping it in the twins' pumpkin juice.
Don't work too hard.
P.S. Come and visit sometime. Ron and Ginny would love to meet you.
He scanned the letter to his computer and saved the file, then began typing a reply letter.
The Autobots continue to remain on guard for the dark wizard and his allies. They have yet to launch an attack upon our forces, though our Security Officer, Red Alert, feels it is only a matter of time. Nor do we have any evidence that they are forging an alliance with our own enemies, the Decepticons. (Though personally I am of the opinion that this is highly unlikely, given the Death Eaters' hatred for technology and the mechanical nature of the Decepticons.) We continue to update the Ministry of Magic, however, and should your family ever be in danger the Ark is open to you for sanctuary.
I remain functional despite the Lamborghini twins' best efforts, but thank you for your concern. I may have to make use of your gift in the immediate future -- perhaps it will help me catch up on my paperwork if those two are out of commission for a few hours. As of this writing your sons are currently staying aboard the Ark but have thus far behaved themselves remarkably. Which can only mean they are up to something, but I have no evidence as to what yet...
He frowned and looked up from his writing, distracted by chatter and rustling in the hallway outside. What was going on out there? Quickly saving the draft, he got up from his desk and took a quick peek outside.
What appeared to be a massive tree whisked past, missing his head by such a narrow margin that a sprig of greenery got snagged in his chevron. His optics flickering in a stunned blink, he stared down the hallway at the rapidly receding tree... which appeared to have red legs. It didn't take a great deal of processing to figure out the culprit.
"What in the name of Iacon are you up to, Sideswipe."
The tree halted in its tracks and turned slightly as if to face him. "Oh, hi Prowl. You might wanna step back, Sunny and Hound're on their way through with a couple more..."
"And you owe me for this thing scratching up my finish," came the snorted reply, and Prowl jerked back as a second tree rounded the corner, this one being dragged by Sunstreaker. Hound was close behind, hauling yet another tree and accompanied by Perceptor, who was busying himself with a datapad as he strolled alongside the scout.
"Do I dare ask?" deadpanned Prowl.
"Probably not," Hound told him cheerfully, freeing one hand long enough to reach forward and pluck the branch off Prowl's chevron. "Don't mind me, I just went along to identify the trees for them. Apparently they need specific types of wood to pull this off."
"To pull what off?" inquired Prowl in a dangerous tone, one that indicated that if these four didn't want to become intimately acquainted with the floor of the brig they had better start talking.
"According to the specifications provided by Mr. Weasley and Mr... um, Weasley, only certain types of wood harbor the physical and metaphysical qualities necessary for creating brooms capable of self-sustained flight," Perceptor replied, his optics never leaving his datapad.
"And here I thought you didn't believe in magic, Percy," Hound teased with a grin.
"Rapidly mounting evidence to the contrary has convinced me otherwise," Perceptor replied, still fixed on his datapad.
"That and getting turned into a bird by that energon cube George slipped you last week," laughed Sideswipe.
"Brooms?" repeated Prowl, drawing the word out as if not quite believing his audials.
"Yup," grinned Sideswipe. "Fred and George promised us if we provided the raw materials, they'd help us make Autobot-sized brooms! And they'd teach us how to play Quiddich as well! Percy and Wheeljack are letting us use their workshop, and Hound's helping us get the trees and such..."
"Quiddich," repeated Prowl, arching an optic ridge.
"I know, funny name, but hey, these are wizards," Sideswipe said with a shrug. "C'mon Sunshine, Percy, Nature-Boy, let's get these to the lab."
The four Autobots continued down the hall, Perceptor muttering something about propulsion and mass ratio and the other three leaving a trail of shed leaves in their wake. Prowl watched them go until they had vanished around the corner, then went back to his letter.
It would seem the plan has just come to light. A question for you, Mrs. Weasley -- what is Quiddich?
OPTIMUS PRIME'S OFFICE
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
Optimus Prime silently thanked Alpha Trion for the mask that had become synonymous with his face -- it prevented the wizard standing before him from watching his jaw drop. "You want what?"
Fred Weasley gave an exasperated, do-I-have-to-explain-everything sort of sigh. "We want to know if the Autobots would be interested in organizing a Quiddich team. Y'know, the wizarding sport. It'd be brilliant!"
Prime continued to stare at the young wizard that was currently standing atop his desk, his processor comprehending his words but not exactly making sense of them. "And just why do you think the Autobots need a Quiddich team?"
"Well, think about it," Fred replied. "Minister Scrimgeour may be a little keener on you Autobots than Minister Fudge was, but he's still not exactly chummy with you. And wizards in general are still pretty leery of the lot of you. This is the perfect chance to help improve the wizard-Autobot relations a touch -- by showing your interest in our culture, particularly our major sport." He pulled a book out of his robe pocket and handed it to Prime. "Quiddich Through the Ages, the definitive resource for the Quiddich enthusiast. Now that I look at it, though, it's a mite small for you..."
"I can have one of our techs scan the text into a datafile for me," Prime replied, delicately taking the tiny book between his thumb and forefinger and setting it carefully aside. "However, I can't quite shake the feeling that you have some kind of ulterior motive for convincing the Autobots to get involved in this Quiddich business."
Fred grinned. "I can see there's no pulling the wool over your optics, Prime," he replied. "Okay, here's the deal -- the Ministry's gone completely overboard in the war against You-Know-Who. They're arresting people for stupid reasons, advising wizards not to travel unless absolutely necessary, the whole bit. And worst of all..." He clenched his fists angrily. "They're canceling the Quiddich World Cup! How could they? I mean, you just don't do that! Quiddich is an international past-time; you take that, you take our lifeblood, mate!"
Prime nodded slowly. "I can see both sides of that argument. The Ministry wants to protect your people, and the Quiddich World Cup would be a prime target for attack -- Death Eaters have struck at a World Cup before, if my memory banks serve me. On the other hand, part of fighting a war effectively is maintaining morale, and depriving the wizards of something that's become a mainstay of their society could be just as damaging as a direct attack by the enemy." He folded his arms across his chest windshield. "This still doesn't explain, however, why you want the Autobots to form a Quiddich team."
"Think about it, Prime," Fred gushed. "What'll be the best way to not only improve relations between the Autobots and the wizards, but to keep Quiddich fans from going mental from being deprived of the official World Cup? An UNofficial World Cup with the Autobots as the stars! Wouldn't it be fantastic? A Quiddich game played by giant robots! That's not just a sporting event, it's a historical event in the making!"
Prime tried to visualize a few Autobots perched on giant broomsticks zooming over a field and chasing a ball. He had to confess that the image looked to be closer to a hysterical event than a historical one. "I don't think you've thought this all the way through, Mr. Weasley. First of all, how would you propose to keep the Decepticons from attacking the Quiddich match? Because I hardly think they'd pass up the opportunity to catch us off our guard. And secondly, who would our opponents in the match be? There's no way we can play against a human team without causing serious injury."
Fred gave a sly grin. "You know what they say about taking out two pixies with one Stunning Charm... or maybe in your case it's two Stunticons with one Dungbomb or something..."
It took a few astroseconds for all the pieces to click together, but when Prime finally realized what Fred was suggesting his reaction was immediate. "You're proposing the Autobots play a Quiddich match against the Decepticons?"
"Why not?" asked Fred with a shrug. "It'd help you guys blow off some steam without hurting anybody. Well, without hurting anybody beyond repair, anyhow."
"And just how do you propose we convince the Decepticons to go along with this?" inquired Prime, narrowing his optics.
"Well, you notice George hasn't been around lately, right?" Fred pointed out.
Prime gusted air from his vents in exasperation and pinched the bridge of his olfactory sensor as if warding off a CPU ache. "How you two can have the bolts to Apparate inside the Decepticon base I can only speculate."
"No worries, they won't squoosh him," Fred assured the Autobot leader. "He's just there to make a promise to them. They form a team to play against the Autobots, we don't terrorize their base with our joke shop supplies. You'll have your opposing team for the match." Fred beamed up at Prime. "So how about it? A Cybertronian Quiddich match? For the fans?"
"Under specific conditions only," Prime informed him.
"Lay 'em on me," Fred grinned.
And so the leader of the Autobots and the co-owner of Weasley's Wizard Wheezes sat down and began planning the first ever Cybertronian exhibition Quiddich match.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
Ratchet sincerely wished he could request a ban on anything relating to magic within the walls of the Ark. It would greatly reduce his workload if such items as Skivving Snackboxes and Wildfire Whiz-Bangs weren't around to cause chaos. But doing so would most likely be declared prejudice against wizards, who had become frequent visitors to the base. Apparently keeping the Ministry of Magic happy and the wizards from complaining was of more import than protecting the Chief Medical Officer's sanity.
Ratchet snorted, picked up a surgical pick, and turned to Perceptor, who answered the medic's irritated scowl with a sheepish smile. His red and blue paint had been scratched badly, down to the base metal in a few places, and a deep dent marred his chestplate. That wasn't the worst of his injuries, though -- branches and leaves were stuck in quite a few of his servos and joints, and thick splinters of wood had somehow gotten jammed into his left knee joint. His left leg was currently stretched out and immobilized on the examination table to keep him from damaging the joint any further.
"I don't even want to know what happened this time," Ratchet growled, inserting the pick into the knee joint and carefully wedging out a chunk of wood.
"I am considerably relieved to hear that," Perceptor replied, ducking his head slightly. "The circumstances of the accident are rather embarrassing, to say the least..."
Swoop walked in at that moment, hauling in Ratchet's newly repaired arc welder. Upon spotting Perceptor he halted in mid-stride, staring, mouth open for a half second before he could speak.
"What happen to him Perceptor?"
"I... ah... would prefer not to discuss it," Perceptor replied, wincing as Ratchet jerked another fragment free. "It is a long and complicated story..."
"But me Swoop like stories!" Swoop said excitedly, setting the arc welder down on a nearby table and leaning forward eagerly to hear.
Perceptor sighed. "Very well..."
"Work while you listen, Swoop," Ratchet ordered. "Bring a tray over."
Swoop quickly snatched a tray up and extended it for Ratchet to deposit the extracted wood chips in, still waiting for Perceptor to begin his tale.
"The Weasley brothers,Wheeljack, and I had just completed construction of a metaphysically-powered flight-capable vehicle -- what the wizards call a 'broom' -- built to the size and design specifications required by an Autobot," Perceptor explained. "The vehicle looked sound enough, but the Weasley brothers wished to test it. My personal preference would have been to conduct a series of controlled tests and experiments upon the vehicle over a specific period of time, but I found myself outvoted by the other parties involved. The human brothers being too small to act as suitable pilots for the craft, it fell to either Wheeljack or myself to test it. Fred Weasley announced a coin toss to decide the test pilot... and the lot fell upon me. Oh please, do salvage any wood samples you can -- I wish to examine them under closer scrutiny once I return to the laboratory."
"Yes, you can have these after I pull 'em out of you," grumbled Ratchet.
"Thank you, Ratchet. But I digress... we repaired outside of the base for the test flight. George Weasley demonstrated on his own human-proportioned vehicle how I was to board and situate myself upon the craft -- and I humbly admit that he told me I performed well for an amateur flier. All remained well until he demonstrated how I was to 'kick off,' as he termed it, and become airborne. I... was unable to maintain control of the vehicle... and was forced to make an emergency landing in the forest, where my desperate efforts to remain on board the vehicle resulted in the wooden pole of its chassis forcefully penetrating my knee joint."
Swoop giggled. "You Perceptor went flying and go crash!"
"Stop laughing, it's not funny," Ratchet snapped at the Dinobot, continuing to drop chunks of wood into the pan. "And frankly, with Wheeljack involved, I'm just surprised the thing didn't explode on you."
Perceptor sighed. "That is one small blessing, I suppose. Though I assume more explosions shall be forthcoming when Wheeljack begins fabrication of the game balls..."
"Game balls?" repeated Ratchet.
"The four balls required for the game of Quiddich," Perceptor clarified, "but much larger versions designed for Autobots to utilize. The Quaffle should be relatively easy to construct, but the Bludgers and the Golden Snitch might prove significantly more challenging..."
The base alarms began wailing at that moment. Swoop jumped, the wood chips in the tray he was holding flying straight up before landing with a rattle. Perceptor sighed again, sounding exasperated.
"What the frag is..." began Ratchet, just as Sideswipe and Sunstreaker came charging into repair bay, guns drawn.
"Everyone duck and cover!" Sideswipe ordered. "We've got rogue Bludgers!"
Perceptor immediately flung himself to the floor and scrambled beneath a table. Swoop, seeing the normally cool and collected scientist head for cover, dropped his tray and tried to join him, though he was only able to get about half his bulk under the table. Ratchet just stared at the twins with a "Say what?" expression.
"Bludger," Sunstreaker insisted. When Ratchet still didn't move, he tilted his head as if he were rolling his optics and proceeded to explain in a tone that suggested he was addressing an idiot. "It's a big metal ball, about yea big..." He held up his hands to indicate a rough diameter. "...flies through the air, whacks random people in the head. Not good for the health."
Ratchet opened his mouth, but it took a moment for his processor to kick into gear. "And wizards use these... Bludgers in their most popular sport?"
"Got it in one, good doctor!" announced George, strolling jauntily into repair bay with his brother in tow. "Wicked things, Bludgers. Make the sport a bit more exciting."
Ratchet shook his head. "You humans never cease to amaze me with all your creative ways to hurt yourselves."
A jet-black ball the size of a mech's head hurtled past medbay at that moment, impacting against something (or more likely someone, judging by the pained howl) farther down the hall. Sideswipe immediately slapped the control panel, shutting the medbay doors securely. And not a moment too soon, as the doors immediately began buckling inward as the Bludger doubled back and began slamming itself against them.
"Ooh, I don't think it likes you, Sunny," Sideswipe grinned.
"All I did was touch it," Sunstreaker grumbled. "Then the fragging thing jumped out of its box, knocked Wheeljack out, and started zooming around like crazy..."
The Bludger punched through the metal doors and rocketed into the room. The twins flung themselves to either side, Sideswipe snapping off a shot at the ball at the same time but missing. The Bludger circled medbay once, ramming into a shelf on the way and knocking its contents to the floor, then swooped toward Ratchet.
Medics had a reputation for being slow and weak... but apparently Ratchet didn't care about upholding that reputation. Snatching the arc welder from the table, he swung it, baseball-bat style, at the oncoming Bludger. With a sickening clang it connected, sending the Bludger flying back across the room. It hit the opposite wall, leaving a perfectly round impression, and landed on the floor as if stunned. Swoop immediately dived out from under the table and tackled it, struggling to keep it pinned.
Ratchet glowered down at the now-ruined arc welder in his hands, then turned to the Lamborghini twins. "You two, help Swoop return Wheeljack's toy to him. And take this to him while you're at it." He tossed the welder at Sunstreaker. "And from now on keep this Quiddich nonsense out of my medbay."
"Aw, c'mon..." whined Sideswipe.
Sideswipe scurried over to help Swoop subdue the struggling Bludger while Sunstreaker stalked out, grumbling. When the three of them had vacated medbay, Ratchet shook his head and reached for his surgical pick again.
"Perceptor, get your aft back on the table so I can finish with... what the frag is it?"
For Fred and George were staring long and hard at Ratchet, thoughtful expressions on their faces. George turned to Fred, as if asking a question, and Fred nodded sagely. Then they turned back to Ratchet.
"I think," Fred said slowly, "we've found one of our Beaters."
"One of your what?"
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON
The wide swath of well-trampled grass between the Ark and the forest normally served as a football field for recreation-seeking mechs, but it had currently been refitted to the Weasley twins' specifications as an Autobot-sized Quiddich pitch. An ovoid "pitch" and yard lines had been marked out with white paint and three goal hoops posted at each end -- the latter courtesy of Grapple, who was insisting the players take extra care not to dent his artwork with "this ridiculous sport." Yard lines weren't exactly traditional to Quiddich, but Trailbreaker had insisted on them, and Fred and George had no reason to argue.
It was here that a good portion of the Ark's crew had gathered, either to participate in or simply watch the tryouts for the Autobot Quiddich team. Fred and George Weasley stood atop a stack of metal crates in order to be seen and heard as well as possible, explaining the rules of the game and the possible positions to try out for. They had everyone's rapt attention, whether they were eager to participate or simply curious to see how this madness would pan out.
Prowl stood in the back of the crowd, arms folded, accompanied by a heavyset gentlemen in yellow-and-black wizard's robes who sat on his shoulder, the better to view the proceedings. In contrast to Prowl, who wore a slight frown, the wizard stared, fascinated, at the Autobot-sized sports equipment and the gathered mechs who awaited their turn to prove their mettle at the wizards' sport. Prowl didn't doubt the wizard would be further entertained by the proceedings -- if the previous few weeks' flight practices had been anything to go by, the team tryouts were going to be quite amusing.
"This," Fred announced, gesturing down to the oversized red ball at the base of the crates, "is the Quaffle. It's the main game ball, and landing it in one of those hoops will earn your team ten points. The players that have the most to do with the Quaffle would be the Keeper, who guards the goal posts, and the three Chasers, who try to land a score if the Quaffle is in their possession or try to take the Quaffle if the other team already has possession."
"So it's like aerial soccer," theorized Mirage.
"No, it's Quiddich," George corrected. "Nothing compares to Quiddich. That covers one game ball and four players... now about the Bludgers. Wheeljack, show 'em!"
Wheeljack stepped forward, though his gait was rather unsteady as whatever was in the crate he was carrying lurched from side to side as if trying to break free. He held the crate as still as he could and slid the side open enough for the assembled mechs to see the Bludger chained securely inside, straining against its bonds.
"All players need to look out for these," George explained. "They'll fly randomly about the field and try to knock players off their brooms. That's where the two Beaters come in -- they're players armed with bats whose job is to keep the Bludgers away from their teammates... and try to knock them at the other team's players in the bargain. We've already got one Beater, but we need a big strong player for the second."
The Dinobots, who had been lurking moodily in the background, perked up.
"The last game ball would be the Golden Snitch," Fred announced. "And that's where the most important game player comes in."
Perceptor stepped forward, cupping a shining, newly-minted Snitch in his hands. A murmur of appreciation went through the assembled 'Bots.
"Now I know you Cybertronians have a different meaning for the word Seeker..." The Lambo twins snickered while the Aerialbots scowled. "...so just try to bear with us here and remember we're talking about a different sort of Seeker. The Seeker's job is to catch the Golden Snitch. Whichever team's Seeker catches it earns their team one hundred and fifty points. The game doesn't end until the Snitch is caught, and since landing the Snitch often means your team automatically wins, the Seeker is the most important player of the game. And since the Snitch is bloody fast and agile, it helps to have a small, quick player as Seeker."
A cheer rose from the minibots at this announcement.
"Also keep in mind," George put in, "that as the most important player, the Seeker is also the player most likely to be injured during the course of the game."
The minibots quieted down immediately.
"Wheeljack, hand out the brooms!" Fred told the engineer. "Those trying out for Keeper, meet at the southern goal posts. Those trying out for Chasers, northern goalposts. Seekers, midfield. Beaters, we'll go off-field a ways so no one gets clobbered too badly."
Groups fissioned off in various directions for the tryouts. Not surprisingly, all five Dinobots pelted off-field for Beater tryouts, while the minibots clustered midfield for the coveted position of Seeker. Brooms were handed out, and mechs went airborne a few at a time for the tryouts.
The wizard on Prowl's shoulder beamed at him. "They've taken to brooms remarkably, I must say."
"You weren't here for the flight practices, Mr. Bagman," Prowl replied drolly. "We lost count of the number of crashes, midair collisions, and tree rescues that took place. Ratchet nearly had Wheeljack and Perceptor's heads on platters for creating the brooms in the first place."
Ludo Bagman chuckled. "That would have been a sight to see indeed." The Head of the Department of Magical Games and Sports had expressed great interest in a Cybertronian Quiddich match, and he had shown up not long ago requesting a look at how matters were progressing in the way of organizing a team. While he couldn't outright support the 'Bot vs. 'Con exhibition match, seeing as he was a Ministry official, neither did he seem willing to condemn it either.
"For an army of giant robots who have never seen a Quiddich match before, your troops are doing well," Bagman told him with a chuckle. "Best of luck with the big game."
Prowl nodded and kept an optic on the proceedings. Hot Spot was currently up for the position of Keeper, and he darted back and forth before the rings like a hockey goalie. Wheeljack flung a Quaffle, aiming for the center hoop, and the Protectobot leader lunged forward to block... and promptly fell off the broom.
"Ouch!" winced Bagman. "He'll be all right, won't he?"
"He's fine," Prowl assured him as Hot Spot peeled himself off the grass and stalked off, grumbling. Air Raid cackled and kicked off, ready to try out.
Prowl sighed, then turned his attention to the Seeker tryouts. Rather than starting the players off with the Snitch, Perceptor had released what looked to be an army of small flying drones for the potential Seekers to catch. The minibots were quickly proving that "small" didn't necessarily mean "agile" or "maneuverable" as they scrambled for the drones. Huffer, who was paying more attention to the drone he was chasing than to where he was going, plowed into the ground, bowling over Beachcomber and Rewind in the process. Cosmos and Powerglide had collided in midair going after the same drone and now lay in a tangle of limbs and broken brooms on the ground. Seaspray hung upside-down from his broom, clinging on for dear life with all his limbs and his optics wide with terror. Cliffjumper had finally managed to nab a drone, but in his excitement he veered off-course and slammed into Brawn, who rammed back in retaliation, prompting a midair fistfight. Prowl contemplated tendering an apology to Mr. Bagman, but the wizard seemed only amused by the minibots' antics.
Chaser tryouts were at least a little more organized. George was putting the Autobots through their paces, ordering them to pass the ball back and forth and make attempts to score. Prime had volunteered to be an unofficial Keeper for the Chasers to try and get by, and Prowl was of the opinion that the Autobot commander made a better Keeper than anyone currently trying out for the position.
"How're those Beaters doing..." began Bagman, turning to see for himself. "Was a Beater myself back in the day... oh my..."
Prowl turned toward the Beaters' practice field... and stifled the urge to facepalm. The Dinobots were disregarding the Bludgers entirely, opting instead to use their clubs directly upon each other and the few other mechs who had been stupid enough to join the tryouts. Sludge and Slingshot lay groaning on the ground nearby, a mortified First Aid and scowling Ratchet looking over their injuries. In the air, Blades was fleeing a way-too-enthusiastic Slag as the Triceratops chased him down with his club. Snarl and Grimlock looked to be ganging up on Hoist, who was at least attempting to defend himself by batting the Bludgers at his pursuers. Swoop simply hung back some distance from the chaos, holding his head in his hands as if exasperated by his brothers' antics. Fred shouted for everyone to "buck up and get back to business," but the expression on his face indicated he was enjoying the bedlam immensely.
"So much for organized tryouts," complained Prowl.
Bagman chuckled. "Ah well, my friend, they're having fun at least." He considered a moment, sobering. "Your... ah, opponents... who's helping them train? I mean, they can't be familiar with the game if you're not..."
"From what I hear, they allowed George Weasley to stay long enough to help them construct brooms and game equipment and explain the basic rules, then tossed him out of the base. They insisted on mastering the game on their own."
"You don't think... ah... that they'll rig the game at all? Try to tip matters in their favor, or even... sabotage the game?"
Prowl gave an uncharacteristic smile. "You fail to take into account the considerable power Fred and George Weasley hold over the Decepticons. They have threatened to unleash the full stock of their joke shop upon the Decepticon base should they attempt any treachery. Not that I believe it will keep them from attempting anything, but it should at least curb them from any major attack or act of sabotage."
Bagman breathed a sigh of relief. "That's good to know, at least."
There was another thud from the direction of the Keeper tryouts as Streetwise was knocked off his broom and thrown to the ground, having caught the Quaffle square in his chestplate. Prowl deactivated his optics and rubbed his brow, wondering if he could use the excuse of guarding the Ark as a means of avoiding having to watch the upcoming match.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
The day after tryouts, an enormous sheet of paper was found adhered to the wall of the Common Room, displaying in huge gold lettering the names of the mechs chosen to fill the positions on the Quiddich team. Bluestreak, the first mech to happen upon the notice, had immediately run to find and congratulate the lucky mechs, and the resulting commotion drew the entire population of the Ark to the Common Room to have a look for themselves.
"How the slag did Ratchet get made a Beater?" complained Slingshot. "He didn't even try out!"
"He's just that good, man," Jazz grinned.
"Sure, you can be happy about it," Slingshot grumbled. "You made the team. How come none of the flying Autobots made it, huh? Makes no sense."
Jazz shrugged. "More to th' game than flyin', I guess."
"You made the team, Jazz?" asked Blaster, sidling up to check the list. "Sweet! What position?"
"Chaser, Blast-man," grinned Jazz. "Me an' th' twins, looks like."
"Good luck gettin' the Quaffle from 'em, Jazz-man," Blaster chuckled, slapping the Porsche's back good-naturedly.
"Of course the twins would make the team," huffed Cliffjumper. "They're best friends with the Weasleys. It's favoritism, I tell you..."
"Aw, hush up," snapped Windcharger, kicking the red minibot in the ankle. "You're just jealous that you didn't make Seeker."
"Why, who made Seeker?" asked Smokescreen, sidestepping Jazz and Blaster to have a look for himself. He scanned the list, then burst out laughing. "Hah, Bumblebee! Pay up, Slingshot!"
The Harrier grumbled and tossed Smokescreen an energon chip. "Fraggin' 'Bee... Powerglide would've been a more logical choice..."
"Powerglide had a midair collision thirty seconds into tryouts," Smokescreen reminded him. "We don't want a Seeker who's going to be running into things out there, do we?"
"We also don't want a Seeker who's going to be abducted by the 'Cons halfway through the game, do we?" snarked Slingshot.
"Hey!" protested Bumblebee.
"Who've we got as the other Beater, Jazz?" First Aid piped up. "Ratchet was curious..."
Jazz checked. "Looks like... Grimlock."
"Grimlock?" Cliffjumper gaped. "I thought they just let the Dinobots try out to keep 'em from being jealous! I didn't know they were actually going to put one on the team!"
"Well, what's th' point in lettin' 'em try out if we don't put 'em on th' team?" asked Jazz. "'Sides, Grim's strong, tough, ornery, and got a helluvan arm on 'im. Perfect Beater."
"Who talking about me Grimlock?" demanded the Dinobot leader, storming up at that moment.
"Just talkin' 'bout yer new position as Beater, that's all," Jazz told him in a congratulatory tone.
"Hnn?" Grimlock stomped forward, pushing past Slingshot and Windcharger on the way, and glared at the list. "Me Grimlock on team? Me Beater?"
"If you're name's on the list with a position by it, it probably means you made the team," Slingshot grumped.
Grimlock pumped his fist in the air and roared triumphantly before whirling to face the other Dinobots, accidentally knocking Smokescreen over in his excitement. "Dinobots go to Rec Room! We celebrate!"
The other Dinobots cheered their approval and thundered after their leader. Other mechs who had come to check the roster wisely scurried out of their way.
"Um... should we be worried by how happy he is?" asked Bluestreak, watching the Dinobots pound out of the room.
"So long as they're happy and not angry enough to stomp us flat, I'm happy," Air Raid remarked. "So we've got Bumblebee as Seeker, Ratchet and Grimlock as Beaters, and Jazz, Sideswipe, and Sunstreaker as Chasers. So who made Keeper?"
"Hold on, I'll check." Jazz scanned the list again... and burst out laughing.
"What's so funny?" inquired Prime, walking up at that moment.
"Jazz finds the new Quiddich roster amusing somehow," Slingshot said with a tilt of his head that mimicked a human eyeroll. "Well, c'mon and tell us already. Who's our Keeper?"
Jazz turned and flashed Prime a huge grin. "Congratulations, boss-man! You're our new Keeper!"
Prime stared at Jazz, his optics "blinking" a few times as if his processor hadn't quite digested that information. "There must be a mistake," he said finally.
"No mistake, Prime," grinned Bumblebee, stretching up on tiptoe and pointing. "See? 'Keeper -- Optimus Prime.' You made the team."
"That's not possible," Prime insisted. "I did not participate in the tryouts..." His voice trailed off as realization came to him, and he pressed the heel of his hand to his forehead. "Except as a stand-in Keeper for the Chaser tryouts. Oh rivets."
"They must have figured you were a better Keeper than any of those that tried out," suggested Bluestreak. "Not that you didn't do a good job, Air Raid..."
"Good job slag," Slingshot sniffed. "He missed half the shots."
"Shut up, you didn't do much better as a Beater," heckled Air Raid.
"Only because the fraggin' Dinobots wanted to use me as a pinata..." retorted Slingshot.
"Y' two cool it," Jazz advised. "I think Prime wants t' talk t' us."
"Thank you, Jazz," Prime told the saboteur. To the gathered Autobots, he said "This Quiddich match is first and foremost about establishing good relations with the wizards of Earth. As such, I expect each and every Autobot, be they participating directly in the game or simply observing as a spectator, to be on their absolute best behavior in the presence of the wizards. That includes being courteous to all on the playing field -- officials, referees, and yes, even the opposing team."
Groans met his announcement.
"Aw c'mon, Prime," whined Sideswipe. "We all know the 'Cons don't even know the meaning of the word courteous..."
"And one must wonder whether Lamborghinis know the meaning either," muttered Prowl.
"Hey, I heard that!" snapped Sideswipe.
"All the more reason to maintain a professional demeanor on the field," Prime replied. "Which means playing a clean, fair game."
"When's this big game anyhow?" demanded Ratchet. "And just how are we going to avoid blowing the wizards' cover with this nutcase escapade? Because that many mechs and wizards converging onto one spot is bound to draw attention..."
"The game takes place in two weeks' time in a protected wilderness in Idaho," Prime replied. "The wizarding governments believe this location to be sufficiently remote enough to prevent non-wizards..."
"Muggles," Jazz corrected.
"Non-wizards," insisted Prime, shooting Jazz a cautionary look, "from discovering what is going on. There will be sufficient magical wards set up to prevent intrusion as well. And if the government needs an explanation for our presence there... it is a wilderness survival training session."
"Two weeks?" repeated Bumblebee. "Wow. Guess we'd better get some practice in, huh?"
"YOU'D better get some practice in," corrected Cliffjumper. "Because Primus knows you'll need all the help you can get for the big game, huh?"
"Har, har," Bumblebee retorted.
RIVER OF NO RETURN WILDERNESS AREA
IDAHO, UNITED STATES
"...and this is your announcer Lee Jordan, welcoming one and all to the first ever Cybertronian exhibition Quiddich match!" came Lee's magically amplified voice from the announcer's box, ringing through the stadium that now occupied a formerly deserted stretch of forest in the northwestern United States.
"And secondary announcer Spike Witwicky," Spike put in. "Looks like we have a healthy crowd here, Lee, with representatives from the Autobots, Decepticons, and wizards from every country in the world present!"
"Of course there are," grinned Lee. "This is history in the making, folks. Never before has a non-human race attempted a Quiddich match -- unless you count Geoffrey the Foolhardy's attempts at organizing a centaur Quiddich cup back in the eighteenth century, an event that's still the butt of jokes throughout the Quiddich league..."
As Lee waxed long about the spectacular failure of Geoffrey the Foolhardy's escapade, accompanied by laughter from Spike, a handful of humans in the audience settled themselves and looked on with amazement at the scene.
"Blimey, this is going to be better than the World Cup," grinned Ron. "Giant robots playing Quiddich!"
"It's either going to be fantastic or bloody hilarious," Harry theorized, wearing an expression that indicated he'd be happy with either outcome. "If it doesn't turn into a shooting match halfway through..."
"It won't," George assured the two of them. "Prime agreed to this only under the strictest of circumstances -- no armed weapons within the stadium, no transformation allowed, no flight without the use of brooms, no use of holograms or teleporting or other special abilities... and we have special magical wards set up just in case someone tries to bend the rules. We'll all be perfectly safe."
"How can you be sure of that?" demanded Hermione. "How do you know the Decepticons won't find a way..."
"Oh, we have our methods," Fred replied with a grin.
The rest of the audience, meanwhile, fairly vibrated with excitement for the upcoming match. Wizards from every country and every walk of life packed the human-sized seats, cheering, waving banners, chattering excitedly, laying down bets. On one side of the stadium, the Autobots clustered together and whooped it up, some holding signs declaring Autobot victory, others enthusiastically belting out off-key renditions of "We Will Rock You" and "The Touch." On the opposite side of the stadium, the Decepticons packed the Cybertronian-sized seats, shouting insults across the arena and boasting of Decepticon superiority. The noise level was so great it was probably frightening off any wildlife within a five-mile radius, and the match hadn't even begun yet.
"Who's Spike Witwicky?" asked Harry.
"Friend of the Autobots," Fred answered. "Muggle, but a nice enough chap. Snuck along in Bumblebee's passenger seat, and since he's the only human who can tell all the mechs apart, they stuck him in the commentator's box with Lee. They're planning on Obliviating his memory after the match, but I have a feeling Prime'll be speeding him off before that happens. No worries, though -- we can trust him to keep quiet."
Hermione looked from one end of the stadium to the other, frowning as Dragstrip flashed a particularly rude gesture across the field at the Aerialbots. "Are all the Transformers on Earth here? There seems to be a lot of them..."
"Dunno about the Decepticons," George replied. "But most of the Autobots made it. Prime left Red Alert, Prowl, Skyfire, and some enormous fellow called Omega Supreme back at the base to keep an eye on things. Can't be too careful, I guess. But yeah, just about all of them made it."
"Ladies and gentlemen, 'Bots and 'Cons!" announced Lee Jordan, cutting off any further conversation. "The Cybertronian Quiddich match will begin momentarily! Let us proudly introduce our teams!"
Music thundered through the stadium, courtesy of Blaster -- Ricky Martin's "Copa de la Vida." Two giant symbols formed in the air over the Quiddich pitch, one the scarlet Autobot insignia, the other the violet Decepticon sigil. The symbols hung in place over either end of the field, rotating slowly as the teams made their entrances.
"Proudly introducing the Autobot team!" Spike said enthusiastically. "Keeper and Team Captain Optimus Prime, Chaser Jazz, Chaser Sideswipe, Chaser Sunstreaker, Beater Ratchet, Beater Grimlock, and Seeker Bumblebee!"
The Autobots strode onto the pitch to the accompaniment of Blaster's music and a rowdy cheer from the audience, falling naturally into step behind Prime, their brooms neatly tucked beneath their right arms. In preparation for the big game each mech had polished his armor to a high finish, making each of them gleam in the stadium lights. However, what brought applause from the wizards -- and mocking laughter from the Decepticons -- were the sleeveless red robes that each team member wore, modeled after the Quiddich robes of the wizards. Sunstreaker's scowl spoke volumes about his opinion of his new wardrobe, but the rest of the team didn't seem to care.
"And a big welcome to the Decepticon team!" Spike continued, doing his best to sound somewhat enthusiastic about introducing the Autobot's opponents. "Keeper Soundwave, Chaser Starscream, Chaser Thundercracker, Chaser Skywarp, Beater and Team Captain Megatron, Beater Motormaster, and Seeker Kickback!"
A surprisingly mixed reaction met the Decepticon team as they made their entrance -- boos and jeers, but also a decent amount of applause and cheering, not to mention laughter from the Autobots. Like the Autobots, they had somehow been convinced to wear Quiddich robes for the occasion, theirs in that distinct shade of "'Con Purple" that was their trademark. Both teams made their way to the center line, then came to a halt and faced off silently.
It didn't take long for the heckling to begin, however.
"A Dinobot on your team, Prime?" noted Megatron with a smirk. "I knew you had some sub-par mechs in your army, but I had no idea you were that desperate."
"He ain't gonna respond t' that, man," Jazz pointed out. "But y' got a Bug-con on yer own side, so ain't this a case of th' pot callin' th' kettle black?"
"Hey!" snapped Kickback, glowering at the taller 'Bot.
"Oh, this is just precious," sneered Starscream, elbowing Skywarp and nodding at the opposing team. "They've got Bumblebee as their Seeker and that worthless medic as a Beater. What, do they hope to gain an advantage by making us fall off our brooms from laughter?"
Ratchet idly tossed his club in the air and caught it again. "You might be singing a different tune once we're up in the air, flyboy."
"Enough talk!" growled Grimlock. "Me Grimlock want game to start already! Want to smash Decepticons with Bludgers!"
"I don't need no Bludgers to start smashing," snarled Motormaster, shifting from one foot to another like a bull preparing to charge.
"And now proudly introducing our referee for the match," Lee Jordan called out, cutting off any further retorts, "Rubeus Hagrid!"
Harry and Ron exchanged an incredulous look, exclaiming at the same time "Hagrid?"
"A'right!" boomed Hagrid, striding onto the field and lugging a broom after him. As he strolled past the Autobot players it became quickly apparent why he'd been chosen as a referee -- he was just as tall as Bumblebee and Kickback, if not slightly taller. The two Quiddich Seekers, for their part, were half-gawking at the sight of the biggest human they had ever laid optics on.
"A'right, we wan' a clean game from the lot o' ye," Hagrid rumbled, trying to sound stern but a definite hint of eager amusement in his voice. "No fightin', no cheatin', no weapons, an' no 'arm to th' spectators." He swept an arm to indicate the stands. "Jus' follow th' rules an' we'll all get along jus' fine. Mr. Wheeljack, got th' game balls?"
Wheeljack stooped to set down a large steel chest, then flung it open to reveal the Quaffle, the chained-down Bludgers, and a small locked compartment. "Got 'em."
"A'right then -- players mount up! Game's on!"
The crowd roared anew as the teams took to the air, settling into place as Wheeljack worked on freeing the game balls. Prime and Soundwave took up their posts before the goals, while Jazz, the Lambo twins, and the three jets hung motionless over the field, awaiting the Quaffle. Ratchet and Grimlock took up posts on either side of their Chasers in preparation to defend them, while Megatron and Motormaster hung back like predators, awaiting an opening to strike. Bumblebee circled lower, waiting for the Snitch to present itself, and Kickback hovered just behind Megatron, his visored gaze locked onto the chest as Wheeljack finally freed the Bludgers and Snitch for play.
"And there goes the Bludgers, the Golden Snitch... and Wheeljack's thrown the Quaffle into play!" Lee announced. "The Decepticons make the first catch, and the blue one -- Thundercracker, was it? -- goes for the goal..."
"And he's blocked by Sideswipe, who takes possession!" Spike cut in. "Nice pass to Sunstreaker... oh! That had to hurt."
"Sorry, didn't see him!" sneered Starscream, veering away from the yellow Lamborghini with an evil grin.
"Couldn't see him?" shouted Ron, standing up and shaking his fist at Starscream. "He's bright yellow, how could you bleeding miss him? Are you blind or something?"
"Ron, sit down!" snapped Hermione.
"Have a care, ickle Ronnie, we can't see the game," George advised him, pushing down on his shoulders.
"Foul!" declared Hagrid. "Penalty shot fer th' Autobots!"
The Decepticons voiced their displeasure quite loudly, but that didn't change Hagrid's mind at all. Sunstreaker took the penalty shot, which sailed cleanly over Soundwave's outstretched arm and through the hoop. If the tape deck was upset at missing the attempt to block, it didn't show.
"Autobots lead ten to none, and Starscream has possession of the ball," noted Spike. "Looks like Skywarp's open for a pass, but Starscream's opting to go it alone for the goal."
"Not a smart move, Spike," Lee said, though his speech was mostly for the benefit of the crowd. "Bloke's got to depend on his teammates in a game like this..."
"Screamer, I'm open, Primus slaggit!" howled Skywarp, waving his arms in the air as if trying to flag down a taxi. "Pass the fraggin' ball!"
"And have you drop it or lose it to an Autobot?" Starscream sneered. "I think not!" The Decepticon Air Commander surged forward, Quaffle tucked under his arm as he zeroed in on the goal. Jazz swooped in to intercept, made a grab for the Quaffle, missed, and spun away.
"Scared of me, Jazz?" taunted Starscream... just before a Bludger connected solidly with the back of his helm. Ratchet spun his club in his fingers and mimed blowing off the end of it as if it were a gun.
"And Starscream takes a Bludger to the head and drops the Quaffle!" Lee exclaimed over the applause of the crowd. "Jazz takes possession and goes for the goal..."
Another, closer voice distracted Harry and company from the action, and they turned in their seats to see a large yellow-tan vehicle slowly making its way up and down the aisles that separated the stand sections, a large violet Decepticon insignia on its hood and its interior crammed with all sorts of objects emblazoned with the same insignia. Occasionally the mech would pause, and a spectator would deposit a handful of Knuts or Sickles on his hood, at which point the currency would vanish and be replaced with a T-shirt or pennant or whatever before the vehicle moved on. The 'Con drew to a halt just beside Hermione and repeated his spiel.
"Get your official Decepticon Quiddich team merchandise here!" he said enthusiastically. "Shirts, hats, pennants, bumper stickers, window decals, coffee mugs, commemorative plates, action figures, and photos of your favorite players -- autographed for an extra fee, of course. This is a limited time offer, repeat, a limited time offer..."
"Cheers, Swindle!" George called out. "How's business? I'll take a 'Con badge while you're at it."
"Business is booming, boys!" Swindle replied cheerfully. "Surprising how many humans are willing to shell out good coinage for Decepticon merchandise. That'll be two Sickles, by the way."
"George, you're not really buying it, are you?" demanded Hermione.
"Wouldn't have asked if I weren't planning on it," George replied, dropping two silver coins on the Jeep's hood. "But loads of wizards are supporting the 'Bots, Swindle. Surprised you're doing such good business..."
"Well, to tell the truth, boys..." Swindle began, the coins disappearing into his subspace pocket and the badge appearing.
"That'd be a first," chuckled Fred.
"Don't let word of this get back to Megatron or Onslaught, but I'm doing a pretty healthy trade in the Autobot merchandise as well," he confessed. "I mean, they don't seem willing to sell it, so why not corner the market if they're not going to, eh? So any of you kids want something?"
"Five Autobot pennants," Harry requested, fishing a handful of coins from his robe pocket.
"One Galleon, three Sickles," Swindle replied, and delivered the appropriate merchandise once payment had been offered. "You kids seem pretty confident in the Autobots' chances."
"Of course," Fred beamed. "They have the best Beaters in Hogwarts as coaches, don't they?"
"Perhaps," Swindle said slyly. "But I'm not so sure. The Decepticons are fliers by nature, after all, and this is a flying game. My odds are on them."
"Well, ten Galleons says the Autobots give the Decepticons a right thrashing," Ron piped up.
"Ron, honestly!" Hermione snapped.
"You're on, kid," Swindle chuckled, and with a flash of his headlights as a goodbye wave he drove off.
Ron flopped back down in his seat and sighed. "The Autobots had better pull this off -- I haven't got ten Galleons."
"Well, if the Decepticons do win, it'll serve you right for gambling," Hermione informed him.
The crowd cheered wildly, and Harry gestured for his friends to quiet down as he turned his attention back to the game. Sideswipe had the ball at the moment, but with a flourish he tossed the ball over one shoulder and to Sunstreaker, who caught it effortlessly and bolted forward. Thundercracker moved to block, but Sunstreaker flung the ball in an under-the-leg throw to his brother, who gripped his broom tightly with his legs and flipped upside-down to catch it. Back and forth the ball went, each Lamborghini attempting a fancier throw or catch each time, while the Decepticon chasers scrambled madly to intercept but only managed to tangle themselves up in the process.
"Wicked moves from the Autobot Chasers!" Lee exclaimed. "Though their third Chaser's looking a bit put out..."
"Hey you two, I'm open, fraggit!" Jazz shouted, waving his arms.
Sunstreaker ignored Jazz entirely, catching the Quaffle one-handed and rolling it down his arm and across his shoulders to cradle it in his left hand. Starscream charged forward, but Sunstreaker quickly rolled the ball back to his right hand and flung it at Soundwave. The Decepticon Keeper moved calmly and precisely, shooting to the side to neatly catch the Quaffle and throw it back into play, to the disappointment of the crowd.
"Good save from Soundwave," Spike noted grudgingly, electing not to comment on Sunstreaker's foul retort to Soundwave's action. "Decepticons in possession... and it looks like our Autobot Seeker -- is that an oxymoron or what -- but Bumblebee's spotted something!"
The crowd gasped as Bumblebee surged high over the stadium, hot in pursuit of a familiar streak of gold. Kickback, who was lurking on the other side of the pitch, swore in alarm and darted upward to join in the chase. Bumblebee glanced over his shoulder, spotted the Insecticon's approach, and hunched low over his broom to cut air resistance as he kept on the Snitch's trail.
As the two Seekers passed over Motormaster's head, the Stunticon Beater gave a fierce predatory grin. Seeking out the nearest Bludger, he slammed it hard in Bumblebee's direction.
"Bumblebee, look out!" shouted Harry, his warning joined with cries from Fred, Ron, and many of the Autobot players and spectators. A choked sound came from the announcers' box, as if Spike had tried to call out to the yellow minibot but restrained himself.
Bumblebee saw the Bludger coming, but rather than dodge or speed up to evade it he came to a screeching halt in midair. Kickback zoomed ahead, grinning -- and took the Bludger squarely in the abdominal plate. The blow knocked him cleanly from his broom, and he dropped like a brick.
"Go 'Bee!" cheered Bluestreak enthusiastically, standing in his seat and doing a victory dance -- much to the consternation of Gears and Brawn, who were seated right behind him. The other Autobots roared their approval, and Blaster immediately cranked up the volume of "Another One Bites the Dust."
"And the Decepticon Seeker goes down with the Bludger!" Lee exclaimed. "Nasty tumble, but he looks all right -- Cybertronians look built to take a beating... oh my..."
"And it looks like the Decepticon Seeker has... eaten the Bludger," Spike observed, fighting to suppress his laughter.
"He ate it?" Ron repeated, eyes wide.
The other two Insecticons, seated in the very front row of the Decepticon "section," burst out laughing.
"Hey Kickback, how's it taste, taste?" shouted Shrapnel.
Kickback tossed the last scrap of Bludger in his mouth and chewed thoughtfully. "Not bad. Heavy on the impurities in the metal, though. Could use some tin..."
"Kickback, get back on your broom and back in the air NOW!" bellowed Megatron.
"Coming," grumbled Kickback, taking his time in locating his broom and climbing back on. "Geez, whose fault was it that I fell off, the slagger..."
The Autobots were still enjoying a laugh at Motormaster's mistake. Though the Decepticon Beater had won, in a way -- he might not have hit Bumblebee, but he had distracted both Seekers long enough for them to lose track of the Snitch.
"Looks like we're going to need a new Bludger," Lee noted. "Sideswipe has the Quaffle now... he dodges the black one -- Skywarp, right? -- he shoots... he scores! Twenty to nothing, Autobots lead!"
Megatron snarled and whirled on his troops. "Can't you fools even defeat the Autobots in a stupid fleshling game?"
"If you think it's so simple, why don't YOU be the Chaser?" sneered Starscream... and jerked back with a yowl as Megatron thwacked him upside the jaw with his club.
"That's going to leave a mark," Spike noted.
"Well, there's nothing in the rulebook saying you can't smack your own teammates around, though it doesn't do much for team spirit," Lee pointed out. "Skywarp takes possession, and... where'd he go?"
The moment the ball was in Skywarp's grip, the black Seeker had vanished with a flash of violet light, only to reappear in another flash right before the goalposts. The Autobots booed angrily, and several cries of "That's cheating!" rang about the stadium.
"I thought there were wards against that!" Hermione protested.
"There are," Fred grinned. "Just watch."
Skywarp laughed eagerly, flashed a rude gesture at the Autobots... and howled in dismay as he was pummeled with some kind of projectile fire. Flailing and cursing, he tried dropping lower to avoid the fire, but it only followed him down. It wasn't until he had landed and sprinted off the pitch that it finally ceased.
"Dungbomb Cannons," George said brightly. "Have Hook and the gang to thank for those... well, sort of, though it was Wheeljack and us that perfected them. And these ones are calibrated to fire only at Autobots or Decepticons who break the 'no weapons or special abilities' rules."
After a long moment's hesitation -- and a few death threats from Megatron -- Skywarp finally dared to venture back out onto the pitch, still covered in Dungbomb residue and his optics locked on the cannons that ringed the stadium... cannons no one had noticed until this moment. Reluctantly he mounted up and kicked off again, circling upward to join his teammates.
"Thundercracker takes possession... passes to Starscream, who goes for the goal... nice save from Optimus! Thundercracker retakes the Quaffle, goes back for another try... score! Twenty to ten, Autobots lead!"
Ramjet stood in his seat and hooted a few crude insults at the Autobots as his comrades crowed their victory. Blaster retaliated by pounding out the chorus to Aaron Tippin's "Kiss This" -- rather remarkable in itself, as the tape deck normally disdained country music.
"Sideswipe takes possession again, passes to Sunstreaker... passes back to Sideswipe... Jazz is hollering up a storm wondering why he's being left out again... back to Sunstreaker, back to Sideswipe... wow, they're really showing off their moves..."
"Just shoot for a goal already!" snapped Huffer.
Sideswipe spun around so his back was to the goal and lobbed the ball over one shoulder. Soundwave shot to the side to intercept, knocking the ball off course and toward Starscream. The Air Commander caught it and charged for the opposite goal, Jazz in hot pursuit -- Sunstreaker was too busy yelling at Sideswipe for showing off and costing them ten points to worry about joining in the chase.
Grimlock, who had been hanging back looking bored until now, perked up as Starscream closed in on him, scarlet optics glittering determinedly as he tensed to duck past the Dinobot Beater. Grimlock glanced around in search of a Bludger, but none were close by. His optic band dimmed in a scowl, then he simply scooted to one side to block Starscream's path. Unable to stop himself in time, Starscream slammed into Grimlock, the force of the collision knocking Grimlock and his broom back a dozen yards or so but otherwise not seeming to affect the T-rex. Fairly radiating glee, Grimlock raised his club and began whaling merrily away upon the stunned Decepticon Chaser.
"Grimlock!" barked Ratchet, pressing a hand to his forehead in exasperation. "We've been over this -- you use your club on the Bludgers, not the other players!"
"Me Grimlock not have Bludger handy, do next best thing!" Grimlock defended.
"Geroff!" howled Starscream, raising his arms to fend off the blows.
"Foul!" shouted Hagrid. "Penalty shot t' the 'Cons!"
"You squishy stay out of this!" Grimlock snarled, and continued pounding Starscream. It took the combined efforts of Prime, Ratchet, and Jazz to finally pry Grimlock off of the dazed jet.
Skywarp took the penalty shot, but Prime blocked it easily. Sunstreaker grabbed the Quaffle and took off with it, darting low to avoid an oncoming Motormaster who looked to be eager to take a page out of Grimlock's book. The Stunticon snarled and gave chase, so close to Sunstreaker's tail he could have reached out and grabbed the bristle-end of his broom if he chose.
"I think our Decepticon Beater's confused as to what sport we're playing," Spike noted. "This is Quiddich, not American-style football."
"Sunstreaker looks to be giving him a run -- or a flight -- for his money, at least," Lee observed. "Sunstreaker ducks left -- and head-on collision! Motormaster and Thundercracker are down!"
The Autobots howled with laughter as the two Decepticons landed with a dull thud on the pitch, dented limbs and broken brooms in a tangle. Motormaster struggled to his feet, glowered at Thundercracker as if it were his fault, and delivered a nasty punch to the jaw before stalking off for a replacement broom. Thundercracker just lay on the ground, optics offline and face set in a mask of pain, not even resisting as Hook marched out onto the pitch to check him for injuries.
"Looks like Thundercracker's out of the game, leaving the Decepticons down a Chaser..." reported Spike.
"Aw, he'll be back in," Lee assured him. "Players have taken Bludgers to the face before and kept on playing..."
Megatron left the rest of his team, touched down, and dismounted, seething visibly. He strode toward the grass where Thundercracker lay groaning and motivated him to rejoin the game by means of a strong kick to the head. The blue Chaser yelped and glared indignantly, but managed to scrape together the last dregs of his dignity long enough to collect a spare broom and take off again.
"While that little drama was being cleared up, Sunstreaker scored another goal!" Lee reported eagerly. "Thirty to ten, Autobots ahead... Starscream takes the Quaffle, dodges Jazz... what on Earth is the Decepticon Seeker up to?"
Kickback had just dropped in a steep dive, plunging down almost perpendicular to the ground. Bumblebee, no doubt assuming that his rival must have seen the Snitch, dove after him, jaw set in a determined grimace. The two Seekers rocketed downward... and just a few yards above the grass Kickback pulled up hard, surging back up. Bumblebee braked hard but was unable to stop himself in time, and he found himself slamming face-first in the grass.
"Foul!" protested Tracks, shaking both fists in the air. "That was clearly a foul!"
"No foul!" Hagrid shouted back. "T'was a damn dirty move fer 'im to pull, yeah, but no foul!"
"That, my friends, was the Wronski Feint," explained Lee. "Perfectly legal and very effective, as you've just seen. No permanent harm done to our Autobot Seeker, however..."
Bumblebee struggled to his feet, spitting out grass in the process. The Autobots hollered for him to hurry up and remount -- Kickback had spotted the Snitch while Bumblebee had been recovering from the crash!
"Bumblebee, hurry!" shouted Skids. "He's almost got it!"
The minibot scrambled back onto his broom, though the crash seemed to have jolted his balance systems and he wobbled ominously as he took off. He wasn't going to make it in time, though. The Snitch was barely a foot in front of Kickback now... a final lunge and the game would be over...
Grimlock wouldn't have any of that. Kickback's grab at the Snitch took him dangerously close to the Dinobot, who once again found himself without a Bludger handy and resorted to other means. His Tyrannosaurus head flipped forward to settle in place, the optics flashing to life. Still only partially transformed, he leaned forward on his broom and delivered an audial-splitting roar right in the Insecticon's face.
Kickback's reaction was immediate -- he squealed in terror and streaked away. The Snitch darted off in the opposite direction, with Bumblebee soaring off after it. A loud chorus of boos echoed from the Decepticon side of the stadium, and Brawl and Long Haul were pelting the Dinobot with every insult imaginable.
"Foul!" bellowed Megatron, pointing angrily at Grimlock as he reverted back to robot mode. "I thought transformations were banned in this game!"
As if responding to the Decepticon leader's cry, the Dungbomb cannons let loose a volley of fire at Grimlock. The assault didn't last as long as Skywarp's had -- whether it was because his offense was judged to be less severe or because they were calibrated to be biased against Decepticons, who could say? -- but it was enough to enrage the Dinobot commander.
At the same time, another drama was taking place among the Chasers. Sideswipe had foregone his broom entirely and leaped onto the back of Skywarp's, wrapping his arms around the black jet and struggling to throw him off his broom or veer him off course. Skywarp was cursing loudly and vehemently enough to make the most hardened frontline grunt blush and clawing at the arms gripping him, and as a result his broom zigzagged wildly out of control, nearly colliding with other players several times. Sunstreaker might have tried to help his brother in his escapade if he wasn't hanging half-off his own broom, wheezing with laughter.
Thundercracker tried to take advantage of the distraction by making off with the Quaffle, but lost it when Ratchet sent another Bludger his way and knocked him out of the air again. Starscream took possession, flung it at Prime, and pumped his fist in a victorious gesture when Prime missed the throw, earning the Decepticons ten more points. His victory was short-lived, however, as Jazz retook possession of the Quaffle and opted to bounce it off of Starscream's wings a few times before taking off to the other side of the field with it. Snarling, the Decepticon Air Commander gave chase.
"Things are getting rather messy out there!" Lee exclaimed.
"Thank you for stating the obvious, Lee," Spike laughed. "And believe me, when it's Autobots and Decepticons, it can't help but get a little messy."
Fred and George, for their part, were practically rolling in their seats with laughter, much to the amusement of Ron and Harry... and consternation of Hermione.
"I suppose you think them trying to kill each other on the field is funny," she snapped.
"Of course not, Hermione," Fred replied innocently. "It's bleedin' hilarious!"
A terrible THWANG rang through the air, and the five of them turned their attention back to the pitch just in time to see Bumblebee veer out of control, having taken a Bludger to the face. He managed to regain control just a handful of yards above their heads, close enough that they could see the scuffs on his armor from his earlier crash and the misalignment of his jaw thanks to this last blow. Pinkish-purple energon shone on his face, leaking out of his facial vents, and a cracked optic oozed a mixture of energon and blue optic fluid. Farther back but still in clear sight of the young wizards, Megatron smirked and made a show of examining his club for damage.
"Hey 'Bee, you all right?" shouted Fred.
"I'll live!" he replied, wiping at his face in an effort to clean it, though his efforts just made a bigger mess of things.
Megatron gave a maniacal laugh as Bumblebee took off again, slower and shakier than before. His mirth didn't last long, though -- Grimlock had seen the entire episode. And this time he didn't even bother to check for an available Bludger -- he simply bellowed in utter rage and launched himself off of his broom, hurtling through the air like some titanic, capeless Superman, arms outstretched, the mechanical equivalent of bloodlust shining in his visor. Too late Megatron saw the Dinobot coming and tried to dodge.
Grimlock slammed into Megatron with all the force of a runaway freight train, and like a steel meteor they plummeted to the ground, landing hard enough to leave a Dinobot-and-Decepticon-shaped indentation in the ground. Grimlock was the first to recover from the fall, and with another terrible roar he laid into his victim, fists working furiously at the silver mech's chassis. Thundercracker, still lying in the grass trying to recover from his last fall, scrambled away on all fours.
"Oh dear, looks like a bout of 'aggressive negotiations' has sprung up between two of our Beaters," Lee said with no small amount of enthusiasm.
"Rip 'im a new one, Grimlock!" hollered Ironhide.
The other four Dinobots, who had managed to restrain themselves until now, burst excitedly from the stands. Eager to join the fray, they charged onto the pitch, shouting and laughing gleefully. At the same time the four Stunticons in the audience leaped from their seats and thundered onto the field, raring to protect their leader -- or perhaps just to have a chance to pummel some Autobots. Thundercracker, finding himself trapped between two oncoming stampedes, simply tucked his head between his arms and tried to make as small a target of himself as possible.
Spike swore loudly as the two teams collided like charging bulls on the field, sparks and insults flying as they writhed in hand-to-hand combat. "The Dinobots and Stunticons have gone berserk!"
Wheeljack bolted across the field and began shouting and waving his arms, trying his hardest to calm the Dinobots down but not really succeeding. Motormaster landed and began screaming at his teammates, occasionally reaching into the fray to clobber an unlucky mech upside the helm. The only sign of Megatron or Thundercracker was the occasional glimpse of blue or silver as the combatants shifted and twisted about in their free-for-all.
Ron shouted something over the din that Harry didn't quite catch.
"What?" demanded Harry.
"This is the best Quiddich match ever!" Ron repeated.
Harry nodded, though privately he wasn't quite sure whether to agree or not.
"And while the Dinobots and Stunticons strive to work out their differences," Lee announced amusedly, "looks as if Sideswipe's still working out his own differences with Skywarp. I'm surprised he's managed to stay on that broom this long..."
"There goes the Autobot Seeker!" shouted Spike. "Has he seen the Snitch, or is he crashing?"
Bumblebee plummeted toward the ground, clutching his broom in a death grip, his good optic glowing like a searchlight as he fell. Kickback hesitated a moment, as if wondering the same thing as Spike, but a screamed command from Starscream sent him chasing after Bumblebee.
"They're going to crash!" exclaimed Hermione.
"No they're not!" protested Ron.
Oddly enough, each of them were right. In an eerie mirroring of their last dive, Bumblebee pulled up at the very last second, close enough to the pitch for his feet to brush the grass. Kickback, meanwhile, plowed into the ground and skidded a good fifty feet, tearing up the sod in a long swath behind him. He finally came to rest, one wing and one antenna twitching briefly before he hesitantly raised his head... only for it to be stomped back into the ground as Snarl thundered over him.
"And a spectacular Wronski feint from Bumblebee!" Lee cried.
"That wasn't a feint!" Spike corrected excitedly. "That was the Snitch! Bumblebee's got the Snitch! Autobots win one hundred and eighty to twenty!"
For a moment there was no reaction, save Bumblebee waving one arm excitedly in the air, the Snitch gripped tightly in his fist. Then the stadium exploded with an enthusiastic roar as the announcement sunk in.
It took a good while to break up the rest of the game after the capture of the Snitch. Prime managed to pry Sideswipe off of Skywarp, and Jazz eased up on tormenting Starscream once he learned of the Autobots' victory. But the Dinobot-Stunticon battle on the pitch took much longer to calm down, and only then with the aid of over twenty wizards utilizing Stunning Charms. Hook and Ratchet, for their parts, looked united in a cause for once in their lives -- upon seeing the array of mechs sprawled out on the grass, either offline from being Stunned or just plain beat-up, the expressions of frustrated rage on their faceplates spoke volumes about their desires to hunt down the mechs and humans who'd dreamed up the Quiddich match in the first place and rebuild them into toasters.
"Congratulations to the Autobots, good try to the Decepticons," Lee noted. "Good game in all, good game... ladies and gentlemen, please keep to your seats while our little hulabaloo gets sorted out here..."
Keep their seats, slag -- every human and Cybertronian in the stands was in some kind of uproar. The Autobots were in high spirits, whooping and cheering and slapping backs with gusto, Blaster pounding out "We Are the Champions" all the while. The Decepticons settled for either sulking or throwing insults across the pitch at their foes. The wizards, for their part, either cheered along with the Autobots, noisily discussed the particulars of the game, or egged on the Dino vs. Stunt battle.
"That was wicked!" gushed Ron. "I hope they do it again next year!"
Hermione just stared, agape, as Slag lifted Wildrider over his head with a bellow and hurled him at Megatron, knocking the Decepticon leader flat. "Are they always like this?"
"Indeed," grinned Fred.
"Though usually there's guns and swords and other such goodies involved," George pointed out.
"At least they're working out their differences, right?" Fred added, the picture of innocence.
"And at least it makes for a good post-game performance," Harry laughed as Thundercracker finally struggled free of the melee and sprinted off-field, Swoop in hot pursuit.
MOUNT ST. HILARY, OREGON, UNITED STATES
"...and so not only did Megatron have to haul the Stunticons back to his base in stasis lock -- kind of surprising that Stunning works on Cybertronians, but I ain't complaining -- but now it turns out he owes a slagload of wizards money," giggled Sideswipe, taking a long pull from his cube. "Ha! And here he was probably complaining that Swindle gambles too much."
"The git wagered that the Decepticons would win the match?" asked Fred, looking up from his fire whiskey.
"No, he didn't bet that," Sunstreaker replied, a rare smile on his face as he reclined in his chair, feet propped up on the table. "He bet that a fight would break out in the stadium, and that the 'idiot Autobots,' as he called us, would be the ones to initiate it."
"But didn't Grimlock attack first?" asked George.
"Technicalities, George, technicalities," Sideswipe reminded him. "If Megatron hadn't whacked Bumblebee with the Bludger toward the end there, he wouldn't have provoked Grimlock into attacking him."
The victory party in the Common Room was finally winding down, with mechs either staggering off to their rooms to recharge or collapsing at tables for the night. Bumblebee, freshly repaired from his Bludger attack and still draped with streamers and his grass-stained Quiddich robes, dozed at the table with the two sets of twins, the Snitch he'd captured during the game still flitting in quick circles over his head. Jazz, also still berobed, was wobbling his way toward his quarters, singing an out-of-tune wizards' drinking song as he went. The Dinobots laughed and chattered noisily in a corner, Sludge happily waving around a blue Seeker wing he'd gained during the big end-of-game fight. Prime himself talked with Prowl and Ironhide a few tables over, and from the sound of their discussion the twins surmised that they were discussing whether or not to make the Cybertronian Quiddich match a yearly occasion or not. (Ironhide was all for it, Prowl was against it, and Prime seemed content to simply let the two of them hash it out between themselves.)
"So your little brother ever collect on his bet with Swindle?" asked Sunstreaker. "I'd be surprised if he did..."
"Then go on and be surprised," Fred replied. "Swindle paid up. He made a few bets on the outcome of the match, but not as many or as big of ones as some of the other Decepticons did. He still went home with a tidy profit from all his merchandise sales."
"Ah," said Sideswipe, nodding. "Smart mech... for a 'Con, anyhow." Despite being on the opposite side of the war from Swindle, Sideswipe could appreciate another business-mech's smart dealing.
"Well, the game served its purpose well, at least," said George. "The wizards got their big Quiddich match of the year -- not a World Cup, but still a smash success -- and the Autobots are enjoying a bit better of a reputation among the wizards now."
"How're the Cybertronians taking the match, out of curiosity?" asked Fred.
Here Sunstreaker actually laughed. "Are you ready for this? Hound recorded the entire match, fistfight and all, and copies of it are circulating all over Cybertron."
"No way!" gushed Fred, grinning.
"Shockwave's destroying as many copies as he can find, per Megatron's orders," Sideswipe added, an identical grin on his faceplate. "But there's no way he can get them all. This match is going to make Cybertronian history."
"Smashing," grinned George. "Get us a copy, will you? If Dad doesn't dissect our new DVD player to see how it works, we may watch it over again."
"Will do," Sideswipe promised. "Though one has to wonder -- how are we going to top this match next year?"
"Gestalt Quiddich?" suggested Sunstreaker, arching an optic ridge.
"No!" echoed from Prime's table, and the twins realized they had been overheard.
"Oh, come on, Prime," wheedled Sideswipe.
"Don't even think about it, Sideswipe," Prowl informed him, narrowing his optics. "And you two." He pointed at the Weasleys as he spoke. "Don't encourage him."
Fred huffed. "You're no fun since you started writing to Mum, mate."
"Since when did he start being fun?" grumbled Sideswipe.
So ends the third HP/TF one-shot. Keep your eyes open for the fourth and final installment! The only teaser I offer is that there WILL be "Deathly Hallows" spoilers in the last story...