Now, if the Rebels were to be asked, they did feel slightly guilty about the timing of their great revenge stroke upon the girls. Only slightly, since they felt the girls deserved it, but even still the timing could have been better for their consciences. Walking out onto the field the next day they frowned upon seeing Cho standing there stoically, even though one could see just how frazzled she was over the recent curse that had befallen her.
The trio of first years looked around cautiously, as though not even sure if they ought to be there in the first place, until they saw a group of other first year hopefuls getting some pointers from the current captain. Fred and George left them to join the others that had been on the team last year.
That left the first years in an awkward position, to one side was the girl that had bullied Su so horribly, on the other was a collection of students they barely knew. If knowing that they hurt Cho's chance at being on the team caused them any grief, the fact that she purposely distanced herself from the others made it worse. A quick huddle was called.
"I..." Harry started once they were a good distance from those students that could understand them, his eyes scanning towards the school for the teacher. He cut himself off as a flash of gold caught his attention. "I don't feel right with her being cursed and trying out..."
"Nor do I Harry, it is not honorable," Su agreed, her eyes locked solidly on the girl that had headed up the group bullying her. True it wasn't like Cho had been a very honorable opponent to begin with, but there was something to be said about not stooping down to the level of one's enemies when they acted in ways unbecoming a warrior. That certainly sounded like what her parents insisted that she learn in the dojo. "I would not feel right accepting any position she might have gone for because of her being unable to understand."
Hermione seemed ready to argue against them, that was until she paused for a moment to think about the matter a bit more. With a heavy sigh she nodded her agreement before laying down the law. "We only attempt to get her to relax, or at least performing up to somewhat normal and reasonable standards. Agreed?"
The nod from her two friends was more than she had ever hoped to get out of them. Instead of pushing her luck in trying to get more, she decided to take the initiative and help them communicate with the cursed girl.
Walking in front of her, they began attempting to communicate without talking to her. Eventually they managed to break through with gestures and hastily drawn pictures in the dirt surrounding the pitch. Cho even managed to laugh once at a joke that had more to do with Harry's lack of drawing skills than any word play. It was shortly after this, that something caught Harry's eye again. Lashing out with his right hand he caught a strange golden ball with dragon fly wings off either side just as it attempted to zip past again.
"A Snitch?" Cho shouted in shock, to which Harry gave her a confused look, and before she could explain another voice cut through the air.
"Very good, Mr. Potter!" Flitwick's voice cut through, while he held up a strange white board that showed off a thumbs up and a picture of Harry on it. "That was one of the first tests for Seekers, a test of their instincts." As he spoke, the picture morphed into an image of a cat pouncing the ball with a green check-mark, while the image of the same cat ignoring it had a red crossed circle next to it.
"Oh..." Harry offered with a slight blush as a few others stared at him hotly for his swift reaction. To his surprise however, there was one set of hands starting off a ripple of congratulatory applause that slowly built after a time. Turning around, he looked at the girl leading the ovation.
"You got lucky," Cho stated firmly as he met her eyes, despite the clapping and smiling he could see the challenge in the ocular orbs. "I'll show you I'm better, even if I can't understand a thing you're saying."
Harry's smirk and playful salute conveyed the message clearer than his would could possibly have. 'Challenge accepted' had been such a useful phrase throughout the ages that it became nearly second nature to for people, magical or not, to understand. It also made three other Seeker hopefuls reconsider the very nature of the competition. With the Boy-Who-Lived, and the Ice Princess of Ravenclaw setting up to vie for the two slots, as well as last year's Seeker, it would be tough to even get an honorable mention.
Hermione was looking over the competition she would be facing for the role that the twins told her she'd be a natural at, and had to admit that they seemed like they wouldn't be giving her much of a challenge. Especially since everyone else save the first years were already carrying brooms. Of those without a broom, Harry and Su were the only ones she confirmed as being non-competitors. Harry for he was going to try for a flying position, and Su because she wanted to focus on her grades instead.
There was something unsettling about how the others that she saw were focusing on those with brooms with more jealousy in their eyes than interest. In fact, if she had to guess, she would have placed herself as the only one actively trying out for the role of manager. She sighed in a mixture of resignation and some other feeling she couldn't name at seeing all the students forming little groups
It always happened, no matter where people gathered, like would attract like. The cliques were forming, even before the team was formed, and right now she wanted nothing more than to order them all to stop. However, that impulse was quelled when Professor Flitwick arrived with a wide beaming smile. "Welcome students," he stated as an image of him waving appeared on a flat plane of stone levitating behind his head.
"As the paper showed, this year we are attempting something new in that there will be two full teams," Flitwick continued explaining while the stone showed a paper waving for all to view, before showing a team of blue people and another set of silhouettes in silver. "Now, would you mind forming lines for the various roles you wish to try out for?"
After he finished asking, more slabs of stone appeared. the first bore an image of a beater's bat, while another had a trio of hoops, the third had a dimpled ball, and the final one had a tiny little ball with wings that one could easily recognize as a snitch. Apparently the wizarding population knew enough about the game to queue into their positions, Leaving only Hermione and Su standing in the center of the field. "Meet our managers," Flitwick stated for Su to run towards the audience stands. "Err.. manager, Hermione Granger."
"Thank you Professor..." Hermione answered as she was given a book of rules, another of moves, and a clipboard.
"You'll get a whistle during the first practice. I have to convince the board that they aren't going to disrupt magic," Flitwick stated softly before turning to address everyone again. "Beaters and Keepers, Madam Hooch has set up a training area over at the northern end. Seekers, wait here and I will show you to the obstacle course. Beaters, over by the south end there is a testing course there, Professor Sinistra has agreed to keep track of the score for me."
As the others left, and Hermione settled in to read her book, the people trying out for the Seeker position looked at each other curiously. There was a total of four people. Harry, Cho, a pretty boy with a highly stylized coif, and another girl that was adjusting her skirt while looking at her makeup in a mirror-like surface on a flower pot.
Getting a school broom from the lockers, Harry sighed as he looked at the older students with their own high-quality brooms. It was going to be a bit of a challenge going against them, but he figured that it would be good to at least gain a grip on where he stood in comparison to others.
A few moments later, he could see that he actually was better than the others, save for Cho. The first event had been a foot race in which he and Cho had left the other two in the dust. The air race, had been much the same, though Cho had won that one. It seemed that the two other competitors just didn't have the drive to go all out on these races. Harry knew for certain that his broom was the slowest of the four, as Flitwick had explained to Harry that the school brooms were generally of lower quality than personal brooms.
This notion was enforced when the guy rushed over to the nearest reflective surface and began inspecting his hair. It was enough to cause Hermione to palm her face forcefully with a groan of dismay. That the girl pulled out a compact and checked her make-up was rather insulting to his pride, he was doing his best and the two of them couldn't even muster up enough interest to get a little sweaty in a race?
Before he could get too angry, Flitwick had them on brooms and racing around the grounds to various markers he would set up on the fly. The race wasn't long, but there was a clear difference in styles between the two sets. Harry and Cho were serious about it, while the other two seemed to expect just to get in by their good looks alone. It was shortly after the gap grew significant that a new element was added, several hoops were placed in the air in front of them, with an image of a person jumping through them while the broom passed underneath.
Taking the hint for what it was, Harry sprang off his broom, and barely caught it on the other side, hanging from it like a sloth for a few paces before managing to right himself. It took him a moment longer to regain his bearings, and notice that Cho had started swinging over to help him out. Waving towards her, he managed to make the next marker before jetting towards the ground. Something didn't feel right, and he wanted to check out the broom before attempting more acrobatics.
A quick pit stop showed that the binding to the bristles had started wearing loose, pulling on the string, he smiled as it cinched tight once again before knotting it off again. It wouldn't hold for more than a week, but it should at least get him through the rest of the tests. It seemed his pit stop had called a halt to the tests, as the others were coming to ground a few feet away. Rushing over, he heard professor Flitwick explaining the next test.
"You should know, the Seeker position isn't just about being the fastest, it's about being the smartest. Not only do you have to lead the team in speed drills, but you have to think as much, if not more than the team captain. There will several times where the seekers are pulled aside to learn broom tricks for advantages in the air, but there are some things that cannot be taught..." Flitwick explained while a large box of what appeared to be yellow tennis balls settled onto the grass next to him. "One of those things is reflexes... one by one you will each go into the little corridor between these two halls. I will banish these balls at you, do try to avoid them."
At the groan of dismay from the others, which thankfully masked Harry's own panic attack, Flitwick shook his head. "Don't worry, they're charmed to disperse into a color pattern, they won't hurt you. And then after your turn is over, I'll use the counter charm to return them to the bin."
Anything more that Flitwick would have said was blocked from Harry as Hermione appeared in front of him, locking her eyes with his. There was nothing said, but still he couldn't help but feel an entire conversation was being exchanged in the momentary union of their visions. Finally he broke it, his breathing back to more normal patterns. "Dudley..."
"Is not here, and Professor Flitwick isn't him," Hermione explained while the ponce with a fixation on his hair strode into the corridor with all the dignity of a coward being poked and prodded into their own death. Five seconds later the slaughter was underway. At first it had started simply with one or two balls flying down the opening at a fairly slow speed, but then they began picking up speed and numbers. The Seeker hopeful did seem to have great reflexes, however his instinct seemed to be completely backwards for the event. From his vantage point behind Professor Flitwick, Harry watched with interest as he found his mind pointing out how to dodge the incoming projectiles, just to watch as the boy moved directly into the path.
Eventually the boy looked less like a human being, and more like a moving canvas of paint. Mercifully the box was not endless, and did in fact stop supplying the diminutive professor ammunition. "Well Mr. Templeton, come and let me cast the counter charm..." Flitwick offered weakly while Harry decided to not look at him. It was the least he could do to help preserve the boy's dignity for a little longer.
By the time he turned back around, the other girl had taken up the target's place, a confident smile on her face. Harry decided to find something else to focus upon, and took to looking at the other groups in earnest. It wasn't until the unearthly shrieking filled the area that he looked back. A single splotch of marking paint had spread over the girl's uniform, and she was going absolutely insane over it. Instead of continuing the test, she charged forward and demanded for the counter charm to be cast immediately and that she was quitting being a Seeker.
Shortly after she left, Flitwick turned to look at his remaining two hopefuls. "Mr. Potter, Ms. Chang," he started as a sign showed off pictures of the two, "As it is just the three of us, and the manager Ms. Granger, I feel it is safe to admit this... The two of you are far ahead in the running currently, enough so that you do not have to take this test."
Harry could feel the professor's eyes lock on his, knowing that he knew of Harry's problems in the past. But there was something more, something that the head of the house was holding back. "I should also admit that I had never actually attended a practice of Quidditch, and instead this is taken from my training as a Duellist."
"Professor, are you saying that other teams don't do this?" Cho asked, having been able to follow along thanks to the continuous pictures on display before the professor. Harry wondered just what was going on.
"Correct Ms. Chang. In fact, I believe it is fair to say that this test is unique to any team I train... but as you can see, it applies very well to Seekers," Flitwick answered with a smirk as he pulled out a picture of past games, only these photographs moved, showing a person on a broom reaching for a small sphere while weaving through Quaffles flying past them.
"Why are they moving?" Hermione asked, getting a nod from Harry as well.
"Oh, sorry Ms. Granger, I forget that you and Mr. Potter would not have learned of these matters... these are wizarding pictures, similar to Muggle video I am told," Flitwick explained, getting a very confused look from Cho. "Err... it is hard to explain, Ms. Chang."
"It can wait," the girl answered with a dismissive wave of her hand. "Why are you telling us this?"
"To give you both the chance to back out... Ms. Chang, with your current condition I fear that you will be distracted, and Mr. Potter has shown his reflexes in the past," Flitwick explained ending with an image of Harry snatching Trevor out of thin air. "I would like to better know your limits, but if you wish to bypass this test, we can."
"No," Harry answered with a surprising firmness to his voice. His own shock apparent on his face, he stepped forward. "No Professor, I... I'll stand the trial. That way no one can say I didn't earn the place."
Hermione reached out to put a hand on his arm, whispering "Harry," softly before stopping herself. Her eyes looked into his from the side, and found something inside them that she hadn't expected, even after the shared moment earlier. Smiling faintly she stepped back and nodded to herself.
Cho also took a step forward, not answering him with words, but instead striding towards the corridor, and standing at the ready. "Harry, it is time to show you just why I'm going to be the better Seeker!" she declared, levelling a pointed finger directly at the boy in clear challenge. At first Harry showed nothing but shock, but slowly a sly grin appeared on his face and he nodded in reply. They might have been the best two of the four that started, but there could only be one on top.
There was no preliminary build-up, nor any warning, instead Flitwick just sent forth the bright yellow balls at speed, which Cho danced clear of gracefully. The dance of her dodging each ball was a thing of beauty, showing off her natural flexibility and speed. Never did her eyes break their focus on Flitwick, showing just how intently she wanted to not only win this, but beat their instructor.
The first hit came as a surprise to Harry, Cho dodged past one ball, only to be caught by a second that had been hanging behind it. From his position, there was no reason she shouldn't have seen it, but he held his tongue and tried to imagine it from her position. It would have been blocked by the first, simply due to the angle of attack.
In total, Cho was hit seven times out of all the balls flung her way. Each one she wore as a mark of honor, rather than a failure. The two locked eyes once again as Harry walked to take his position. The challenge in her eyes remained, clearly telling him to do better. His confident return would have surprised him had he seen it, but instead he only hoped that he wasn't showing just how scared he was.
Taking up his position, he watched as Flitwick quirked an eyebrow at him, as though asking one last time to let Harry back out of the challenge. Closing his eyes, Harry took a deep breath to steady his nerves before snapping them open and signalling Flitwick to bring out his best.
His dodging wasn't nearly as fluid, nor smooth as Cho's but it seemed to be just as effective as he sidestepped around the balls, sometimes close enough that he could feel the wind of their passing. If Cho had been a dancer, Harry would have been a stop motion film. He wouldn't flow into the next position, instead jerking and halting suddenly.
It seemed to have the desired effect, as Flitwick would seem to have predicted another direction for Harry to have chosen more than once sending a ball further from him than he had with the others. It was the sudden shift to three balls at once that Harry failed to dodge one. If it hadn't been for the drift of color past him, and the soft puff of sound of impact from his right arm, he probably wouldn't have noticed it at all. Gritting his teeth in annoyance, he continued his herk and jerk method of dodging, taking only six more blows out of the set. Unfortunately, his luck seemed to have ran out as he found out that the balls weren't nearly as far away as he had thought them to be.
The slip and fall took them all by surprise, except the Professor. He had been watching, and knew what was going to happen. Which is why when Harry was on his way down, he already had five balls flying at him, to impact upon his crash landing. He did not predict what Harry would do next.
Some instinct of his caused Harry to twist in the air, getting one hand underneath him, and causing his fall to take a spin which rolled him over the incoming projectiles. Hitting the ground behind them, he continued the roll and got to his knees as fast as he could, hoping to beat the master duellist in recovering from the surprise. It seemed to work, as he didn't see any more balls flying at him, but rather Flitwick watching him with a bemused expression. "Very impressive, Mr. Potter... you set off eight balls, though I'm not sure I should count that last one..."
"Last one?" Harry asked, searching his body and counting paint marks. He could only account for seven that he knew had hit him. That was until Flitwick walked over and tapped his left foot, which had rolled out from under him. Lifting it up, he found a bright pink mark on the bottom of his trainers.
After staring blankly at it for a moment he let out a chuckle, that slowly built into a hearty laugh. It was so absurd, so weird, and so... so funny to him that he couldn't put it into words. All that dodging, all the close calls, and he was fallen by a bit of debris. "Count it, show me I have to be more observant."
"Very well, Mr. Potter," Flitwick added with a smile on his face as well, "As you both know, coming into this test you two were my preferred choices for Seekers. That has not changed, however I would like to express my impression that both of you would make wonderful duellists, should you ever consider that direction."
"Now, about the positions... the two of you will be on the teams, but I need time to decide who is to be the primary, and who will be the backup," Flitwick continued with a studious frown on his face. "I would ask that if either of you would prefer to be the backup, please let me know."
Harry wondered why Professor Flitwick was still watching him, until he heard the counter charm being cast. Writing it off as the professor working up the magic to cast the spell, Harry turned towards where Hermione was waiting with a frown on her face. It didn't take him much to know what had her so upset. "Hermione, I'm fine..."
"You could have broken your arm with that last stunt!" Hermione shouted before crossing her arms over her chest, giving him a look that could have done the Deputy Headmistress proud.
"It was an acci-" Harry started sheepishly before Hermione gave him a soft smile and tilted her head to the side.
"But it was still kinda amazing Harry... you should work on improving that," Hermione added with a softer tone, before rushing over and hugging him. "Just be more careful, and watch where you're stepping, keep your elbow bent next time so you don't risk fracturing something. We'll have to get somewhere with padding so you can practice I suppose..."
As the younger girl dragged her friend away, ranting about practical applications, Cho turned to her professor with a lost and confused expression. What she found was a face mirroring her own confusion. Shaking her head, she smiled faintly and watched as Hermione continued rambling, all the while Harry seemed ready to indulge her completely.
This seems to be shaping up to be an interesting year.