All in all, Graham Montague wasn't unhappy with the changes to the Slytherin Quidditch team that year. Sure, Crabbe and Goyle had been large and threatening, but they also had been dumb as posts and had the playing ingenuity of rocks.
Draco Malfoy, although a bit of a prat in previous years, had turned into somewhat of an okay guy and a brilliant Beater. He, unlike Crabbe and Goyle, understood the finesse of nearly hitting one's target, but not actually doing it (and thus having to suffer through the annoyance of a foul). Near misses were far more terrifying for everyone involved, and they kept the game moving a lot smoother, at least for their side.
Millicent Bulstrode was taking the other spot, and quite honestly, he had never seen a more formidable player. She was absolutely vicious in her attack and was ridiculously strong—and not just for a girl either!
Ralph Harper was their youngest player. They had planned to make him a reserve player the previous year, but the Triwizard Tournament had superseded those plans. Now he had his own spot as the team's third Chaser. The kid had wicked sharp eyes and although smaller than many of them, he was just as tough as any of them.
Harry Evans-Snape was his other newest player, and although Graham would have never in a million years thought he would change sides, here he was regardless. He didn't know all of the details for why Harry was now a Slytherin, but considering how smoothly he had made the transition—at least within their house itself—Graham had to wonder if the boy shouldn't have been there all along. That Gryffindor persona he had worn in the previous years was obviously an act. Harry Evans-Snape was a Slytherin through and through.
Anyone with half a brain could see that, really.
The first Slytherin match of the year was Gryffindor against Slytherin. It almost always was like that, except for that one year where Draco had been "injured" by that hippogriff. He liked Draco now, but if one of his little brothers ever tried something like that, he'd smack the snot out of them for it.
His brother Anthony was already at Hogwarts, having been sorted into Slytherin the year before. He was secretly grooming him to take his place on the team after he graduated at the end of the year. The kid was a good chaser and wasn't half-stupid either. Graham just hoped that he'd keep himself out of trouble without the threat of his big brother hanging over his head.
. . .
The next day dawned bright and clear; absolutely perfect Quidditch conditions. It was cold, but not too bad, with a light breeze that would keep anyone from getting too warm.
In the Slytherin locker room, the team was gathered together listening as their captain, Graham Montague, went over the final details.
Harry, like his teammates, was bedecked in green and silver, and he was still getting used to the look. A part of him desperately wanted to show those Gryffindorks exactly what they had chosen to give up by turning against him so completely. On the other hand, another part of him was afraid by what they would say when they saw him playing against them. They had been pretty careful in their practices in order to keep him a secret, and from what he could tell, it had worked.
His presence was a calculated shocker to hopefully throw his old team off their game, if only a bit. It was a good idea, but Harry wasn't sure how well it would work.
Graham was a good captain and he was glad that he hadn't played on the team while Marcus Flint was still there. There were only three holdovers from the old team; Montague was one of them, playing Chaser; Adrian Pucey was another, also a Chaser; and Miles Bletchley was the third, playing the Keeper spot. They were all three seventh years though, so if Harry were to keep playing for the next two years after this, he could do so on his own terms.
As it was though, Pucey made him nervous, and he and Bletchley simply had nothing in common, and therefore never interacted much beyond practices. Graham was an okay bloke though. He just hadn't ever talked to him before now, and didn't know much about him.
According to Draco and Blaise, Graham's old man had been attacked and crippled by Death Eaters way back during the first dark war for refusing to commit to their side. The Montague family, minus a few sympathizers, were largely neutral, much like Blaise's was.
"It's tough, because even if you're with other neutral families, you never can be sure that they aren't going turn against you. Light families stick together and Dark ones do too, but we neutral ones, we just have to go on by ourselves," was what Blaise had told him.
. . .
"I know in past years our motto has been 'Get It Done by Any Means Possible,'" Graham said, his foot on a bench as he leaned over and glared at each of them in turn. "But we're better than that. We can win and be smart about it too. When anything goes, we get sloppy and we let things happen that ought not to. We're a good team, and we can win this by using every bit of our slyness and creativity to get around obstacles that the other houses don't even see." He paused and glanced around once more with a slightly softer expression.
"Let's show 'em who's better," he said with a grin as he stood up.
Adrian whooped and grabbed his broomstick. "Let's do this already!"
"Remember, only Hufflepuffs run into things for no reason!" Graham shouted as they started for the door.
"Yeah, so bump into people for a reason!" Draco shouted back, a wide grin splitting his face.
"Nobody better bump into me!" Millicent grumbled, looking darkly at them all as she went past.
Personally, Graham was looking forwards to seeing what happened when someone tried. It was bound to be exciting.
As they left the room, he noticed that Harry was lagging behind the others, so he slowed his steps and waited to see if he'd have a chance to talk to the boy.
"You okay?" He ventured when they were alone.
"Yeah," Harry answered, scrubbing a hand across his face agitatedly. "Just thinkin' about who's not gonna be there," he shrugged, looking away in embarrassment.
"Snape's gonna be there though, right?" Graham said with a pained grin. His own dad had never been to any of his games, even though he had promised every year that he'd show up at least once.
"Yeah," Harry said, with a small smile. "He's sitting with Blaise and the other fifth years instead of being with the other professors."
"Well just focus on him then, you know? You never had any family show up before, right?" He didn't wait for an answer. "So play this game for your dad." He thumped Harry on the shoulder once and then nodded towards the door. "They might start this game without me, but not without you. Come on."
. . .
"Captains, shake hands!" Hooch yelled out in a magically enhanced voice.
Angelina Johnson and Graham Montague stepped forwards and gripped each other's hand. They didn't shake, but neither did they look as though they were trying to break the other's fingers from the force of their grips. They let go after a moment and went back to their respective groups.
"And Slytherin wins the coin toss!" Lee Johnson announced.
The game had begun.
Harry took to the air with the rest of the players and looked to see who had taken his spot on the Gryffindor team.
He spotted Fred and George Weasley immediately; in fact it looked as though most of the previous year's team was in the air with him. Angelina, Alicia, and Katie were all three Chasers still, and with the twins still on as Beaters that meant that there were only two new players.
"Hey Harry!" A familiar voice came from behind him and he whirled in the air to face its speaker.
"Ginny! You're Gryffindor's new Seeker?"
"Yup! Finally going to show those boys that I can play just as well as them!"
She sounded like her old self, but Harry knew better. Her eyes were tired and a little bloodshot. She wasn't good, but at least she was finally safe. They both were.
"Wait 'til you see what our team is like this year!" Ginny shouted out, flying around him.
"I dunno Ginny," he answered with a secretive grin. "You haven't seen what we can do yet."
"Well, may the best team win, in that case!" Ginny shouted with another boisterous grin.
"Hey, who's that girl playing Keeper?"
"Demelza Robins. She's only a 2nd year, can you believe it? She's good though!" Ginny told him before flying off in a different direction.
"And Slytherin has the quaffle!" Lee Jordan's voice broke into his consciousness. "Ralph Harper is in possession. This is his first year on the team and—Wow that was close!"
George had hit a bludger into Ralph's path, nearly knocking him off his broom, but the smaller boy had swung himself to the side and missed it with only inches to spare.
"And Harper passes it to Pucey, back to Harper, back to Pucey! Gryffindor's Chasers are hot in pursuit!"
Suddenly Alicia Spinnet came up beside Harper and threw her weight into his size, trying to make him lose his grip of the red quaffle he was carrying so possessively under his arm.
"Hey little boy! Don't you think you're a little young for Quidditch?" She taunted him as Katie Bell dropped in on his other side, effectively blocking him in.
Harper steadfastly ignored the much older girls and then abruptly changed angles and started flying upwards towards the sun. Unsurprisingly, they followed him, barely aware that he was doing his bit in a predetermined game plan.
His flight upwards was actually a very carefully angled ascent still in the direction of the goal posts.
Under him, Montague was diving and weaving through the Weasley twins as he headed for the goal posts at a much lower level. Pucey was already there, flying circles around Demelza Robins and calling out taunts as he flew through and around her airspace.
"Hey little lion! How do you expect to cover all three of these hoops on your own? Maybe you should just go home to McGonagall, eh?"
Every time she tried to fly up and away from him, he followed her, staying just far enough back that he couldn't be fouled for harassment.
Meanwhile, higher in the air, Harper was still hemmed in by two Gryffindor Chasers and Angelina Johnson was flying up under him.
"It looks like the Gryffindor Chasers are attempting Parkin's Pincer*!" Lee announced.
However, Harper turned the tables on them when he abruptly did a backwards loop, and threw the quaffle downwards towards Montague.
"And Slytherin scores! 10 – 0, Slytherin! Now Gryffindor has the ball! Let's see if we can't keep it out of the grip of those slimy snakes, eh girls!"
"Lee!" McGonagall's voice came over the magical speaker in admonishment.
Above them, Harry was having no luck finding the Snitch as of yet, but he was having an interesting time watching his team outplay his old one.
Millicent's aim was deadly. She had hit the bludger near each and every Gryffindor player, and had bodily clipped the tails of both Spinnet and Bell twice. Draco was just as skilled, but while his fellow beater seemed content to equally pound the Gryffindor team, he directed his strikes more toward their Beaters and for some reason, Angelina Johnson.
Idly, Harry wondered if he had heard about how she had turned on him earlier that year. At any rate, it was keeping her away from the quaffle and keeping them all a little more off balance.
. . .
Severus watched the action overhead with thinly disguised unease. He had always been a bit discomforted—worried—wheneverthere were any particularly vicious plays being made, but it was different when the boy he called "son" was up there as well.
"And Bletchley catches the quaffle! The score is still 10 – 0, Slytherin!" Lee Jordan's voice rang out over their heads.
"Don't worry so much," Blaise abruptly said, bumping shoulders with him.
"Me? Worry?" Severus sniffed in disdain.
"Yeah, I know you, sir," Blaise added with a laugh. "Harry's doing great. They've only sent three bludgers his way and he's outflown each of them with feet to spare."
"So far," Severus grumbled in a voice soft enough for only Blaise to hear.
"And we haven't even been fouled yet," Blaise continued on with a knowing smile.
"Don't jinx us Blaise!" Pansy growled, her eyes riveted on her girlfriend, Millicent.
A great shout went up into the air and suddenly Harry and Ginny were both flying towards the small flash of gold that was fluttering around the base of the Gryffindor's centre goal post. Severus sucked in a breath as his son flew around stray bludgers, a swinging bat and three Gryffindor players. He fought the urge to shout at them to get out of the way of his son. At the last moment, the Snitch shot off across the pitch, skimming the top of the grass as it flew towards the spectator stands.
"Well, at least if they fall now, they don't have far to go," Blaise remarked brightly from beside him.
"Shut. UP." He gritted out, standing up in time to see the Snitch go straight up the side of the stands.
Below them a crashing sound occurred and then a second later Harry shot up past them without Ginny.
Severus gasped out another breath as his son threw himself backwards as the Snitch abruptly changed directions again, heading back up across the pitch into the middle of the action itself.
Two minutes later, a slightly more mussed Ginny Weasley shot up from the ground as well, a very noticeable shiner blossoming across her face. Feeling guilty, Severus let out a sigh of relief that it was not Harry who had been injured.
. . .
Above the two racing Seekers, the rest of the players continued on with the game. The score had increased to 50-20, Slytherin, and the Gryffindor players were starting to become more vicious in their attacks.
Pucey was no longer badgering the Gryffindor Keeper, but Draco had included the goal posts as part of his collection of targets. He would have aimed directly at Robins herself, but Hooch seemed to regard that as grounds for a foul, so he didn't. Montague had insisted on their playing a technically clean game and he was trying to stick to that.
Every time he shot a bludger through the goal post, it would ricochet itself around the posts, causing Robins to dive for cover, opening up the hoops for scoring. Unfortunately, as soon as George and Fred caught onto what he was doing, they began doing the same thing to the Slytherin Keeper as well, making the relatively new strategy more or less moot.
In the middle of the pitch, the three Gryffindor Chasers were attempting Hawkshead Attacking Formation** with Katie in the front with the quaffle, the other two flanking her as they flew down the field at full speed.
However, coming from the exact opposite direction were all three Slytherin Chasers, doing exactly the same thing; essentially turning the pitch into a game of Chicken. The only question between the two sides was who would be the first to bail?
The closer they got to one another, the more determined the look on each of their faces became. In addition, Pucey and Montague were both whooping dementedly beside Harper, who was flying in the midst of them.
At the last possible second, both Angelina and Alicia changed directions. In the middle of the Slytherins, Harper seemed to be changing position, and as the spectators looked closer, they could see that both Pucey and Montague had a hold on his broom, one hand at the back and one at the front, respectively speaking.
Then, as Katie barreled on through them, Harper, who was now crouched on top of his broom, leapt up into the air and tackled her, sending them both into a downwards tailspin.
"And Harper is without a broom!" Lee Jordan's excited voice shot out over the crowd. "This certainly is an interesting twist on the Blitzen Ballet*** tactic!"
"What the hell are you doing!" Katie shrieked at Harper as they plummeted quickly to the ground.
"Winning!" He told her gleefully as he easily plucked the quaffle from her arms and jumped off the back of the broom.
Just under and slightly behind them waited Montague with Harper's broom, and as the boy fell, Montague flew by and snagged him.
"Montague has the quaffle!"
Harper was now riding on Montague's broom, seated just in front of him; his own broom in his hands as they flew for the Gryffindor goal posts.
Without warning, a flash of gold flew across their path, followed closely by Harry and Ginny. Montague didn't have a chance to watch, but he heard the crunch as Harry purposely flew into the broom tail of one of the Gryffindor Chasers who had been about to plough into them from the side. He smirked at the sound and then urged his broom forwards and faster than before.
A bludger came rocketing into their direction and Montague swore and then pulled them into a steep incline.
"Damn good thing you're so small, kid!" He growled as his broom reacted sluggishly to his commands.
Ralph wasn't particularly underweight, not like Harry was, but he wasn't a monster goon like Crabbe or Goyle either.
. . .
On the other side of the field, Harry was racing after the Snitch with Ginny just on his heels. They chased it around the Slytherin goal posts, flying through the loops themselves as Bletchley wisely made himself scarce. And then they followed it down again and across the field. Fred or George seemed intent on focusing all of their bludgers at him and he was constantly buffeting from side to side as he attempted to avoid the lethal little buggers.
He wasn't offended by their actions, but it did mean he had to keep his eyes open and all of his senses on in order not to wind up squashed like a bug under the stands.
Ginny was creeping up beside him; bumping him and making his broom wobble unpleasantly. Naturally, he reciprocated the action, bumping back a little harder and causing her to curse aloud.
"Is that any way for a lady to speak?" He asked with a laugh.
"Just wait and see what this lady can do, you smarmy ponce!" She retorted.
. . .
Demelza Robins flew back and forth desperately trying to determine what the Slytherin chasers were up to this time. In all of her practices with the Gryffindor team, never had she known of such tactics as these! She was amazed at the sheer daring of the players, let alone the insanity of the things they were attempting!
George and Fred Weasley had assured her that the Slytherins were nothing more than "big, bullying cheaters," but from her position on the field, that wasn't the truth at all!
As Montague got them closer to the goal hoops, he very carefully passed the quaffle to Harper and then carefully scooted himself backwards on his broom in order to avoid being overbalanced. As soon as they were within a good distance, he watched as Harper threw the quaffle up a little ways and swing back with his broom, essentially turning it into a bat. They had reinforced his broom with spells and binding agents to ensure that it wouldn't break during this manoeuvre, and as Ralph swung it forwards into the bright red ball, Montague prayed that they would hold.
Harper hit the ball with the bristle end of his broom, a bit like a Lacrosse player might do. The force of the strike made the quaffle whistle as it whooshed past and straight into the far right of the three goals.
"And Slytherin scores again!"
. . .
Harry and Ginny were now under the stands themselves, following the Snitch as it whisked around barriers and supports just as easily as a fish through water. More than once they'd been forced to split directions thanks to a lack of space, but at least there weren't any bludgers present.
They finally popped out the side, back into the light of the day. Harry was closer to the snitch than they'd been all game, and he risked a brief glance at the scoreboard; 80-30, Slytherin.
It'd be a good time to win, he thought with a smirk, leaning into his broom and urging every last bit of speed out of his Firebolt.
Distantly he felt Ginny fall back a bit as he followed the snitch back up into the midst of the game. He dodged a bludger, ducking under it close enough to hear it whistle past his ear. The sun was beating hot on his neck and he could see the snitch shining brightly in its rays.
"Come on, come on!" He muttered, reaching forwards and arching his back to reach the farthest he could. As he flew, he could feel the concerns of the term and the summer just fall away. Abruptly, an image of Snape, of his father, he corrected himself, appeared in his mind and he grinned at the thought.
Snape would likely verbally berate him for putting himself in danger during this game, and although it was a bit strange to think, he really couldn't wait for the chance to endure that pent up worry from his father.
The tips of his fingers brushed the wings once, and he stretched, feeling sure that the extra inch he had put on from living with someone who cared about him was going to make the difference. Sure enough, a moment later, his fingers clamped down on the tiny winged ball and he swung himself upwards triumphantly into the light.
"Harry's caught the Snitch!" Lee's voice broke forwards into his thoughts, and suddenly he was aware of the cheers of the crowd around him, including his own teammates.
The grin that took over his face nearly hurt with its intensity, but he held onto it regardless. He had done it. No more being stuck as Potter or Boy! He was Harry. Harry Evans-Snape.
"Dad!" He shouted at the crowd, laughing freely as he did. "Did you see! Did you see! We won!"
He had survived and was breaking forwards into a life and world of his own.
THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END THE END
*Parkin's Pincer is a Quidditch tactic named after the original Wigtown Wanderers, who were believed to have invented it. During the move, two Chasers close in on an opposing Chaser, hemming them in. The third Chaser then flies directly at the trapped Chaser.
**The Hawkshead Attacking Formation is a Quidditch tactic invented by Darren O'Hare. The team's Chasers fly together in an arrowhead towards the opposition goalposts. The tactic intimidates the opposition, and is effective at forcing players to move aside to allow a scoring opportunity.
***Blitzen Ballet is a move that involves all three Chasers and, if done correctly, secures ten points for the team. First, the Chasers pass the Quaffle to each other, and then one of the Chasers jumps onto another Chaser's broom. This confuses the Keeper, enabling one of the Chasers to score.
A/N – Okay, after I take a break, I'm going to go back and do some editing . . . probably of the Colin and Dennis variety and Blaise and Harry too. :) But yes. This is the end. I could have continued on forever . . . or stopped like I did. So. There you have it.