Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Author's Note: Thanks to silentclock again. I can only apologise for taking so long to update this, but I hope you enjoy it. Let me know.


Chapter Eleven

Puddlemere United's four-tiered stadium towered into the sky. It was covered in Muggle-Repelling and other security charms, and only England's national stadium surpassed it in size. The club's ticket sales were usually amongst the highest in the league, but sales had soared for today's match. There wasn't a spare ticket to be snatched at the last minute, although that hadn't deterred witches and wizards from all over Britain flocking to south-west England, hoping against all hope.

It was Harry Potter's first game, after all, an occasion that could not be missed.

Puddlemere enjoyed a loyal fan base. Over the years the club's success had brought in big crowds. The season ticket holders enjoyed the entire fourth tier to themselves, and all of them had turned up for this match. The noise was deafening, with the crowd stomping their feet and applauding as they bellowed their chants and songs.

The home team's dressing room was on the east side of the stadium. An excited buzz had been building all morning, and with the racket the fans were making, it was now impossible to be heard without shouting.

Harry was sitting on a wooden bench pressed against the back wall, leaning forward with his head in his hands. His heart thumped against his ribs. Sweat trickled down his naked back. He ran a hand through his hair, making it stick up in all directions, messier than ever. His ears rang with the sound of expectant voices, his legs refused to stop shaking, and his tongue remained dry no matter how much water he tipped down his throat.

Just ten minutes remained until he would be out there doing exactly what he loved to do. Only he wasn't feeling enamoured with Quidditch at the moment. It had seemed all too easy when it had just been a dream. The hours spent talking about it all those years ago, sitting inside an abandoned classroom with four friends, felt like a lifetime ago.

Krum had already been a star, being hailed in the same breath as Wronski and the other legends of the game. Fred and George were well on their way to becoming top professionals, possibly the best Beaters playing in Britain. Harry was sure Cedric would have taken Britain by storm.

Now it was Harry's turn to prove himself. As Oliver Wood and the Weasley twins approached him in their navy Puddlemere robes, he was reminded that he wouldn't be alone out there.

"All right there, Harry?" Fred said, grinning broadly as he gave Harry a fleshy slap on the shoulder. He made a show of inspecting him. "You look as pale as Sir Nicholas!"

"I've lost my tan," Harry said dryly. He stood up, swallowing the urge to vomit, refusing to show his nerves.

Ollie was watching him carefully. "Are you ready?"

"As I'll ever be," Harry said with a stiff nod.

Puddlemere's newest player put on his pristine uniform for the first time. His feet fit perfectly inside a pair of dragon-hide boots. A protective guard rested lightly on his shoulders, protecting his torso; his forearms, groin, and shins were equally guarded, all concealed beneath a navy robe. The club's crest was woven into the fabric over his heart. A pair of black fingerless gloves fit snugly over his hands; he stretched his fingers to test them. They were a simple design, with only his name written in silver lettering over the strap on the back of his wrist. There were some Seekers who liked to show off with fanciful designs, but that wasn't Harry's style.

Phil stood at the door and shook every player's hand as they walked past him. Maddock led out the team, stopping just before the tunnel's exit. Harry took his place at the back of the line. His legs still felt wobbly, as if they'd give up and buckle beneath him at a moment's notice, but he was ready.

Chudley's players appeared in the tunnel, their garish orange robes shining horribly in the low light. Galvin Gudgeon came to a stop next to Harry. He was their Seeker, infamous for going an entire season without catching a Snitch. It was the first time Harry had seen the man up close. He didn't hold his height well, as though a growth spurt in his teens had taken him by surprise and he'd never grown comfortable in his skin. His was face too long, his teeth were crooked, and his ears stuck out at an unusual angle.

Harry couldn't help but feel slightly sorry for the man. He was the source of amusement in every pub, the joke everyone laughed at.

The referee strutted to the front of the line, clutching the chest of balls and his broomstick. His name was Richard Vaughn. He was well known for being overly strict on fouls, at least the ones he saw. He was a bit of an idiot in Harry's opinion, often favouring the defending side over those attacking. Richard checked both teams were ready, mounted his broom, and flew out of the tunnel to a smattering of lukewarm applause. Referees and fans didn't tend to get along all that well.

Harry remembered reading about an incident involving a referee and the home crowd in the late eighteen hundreds. It had been the semi-final of the European Cup, between Valencia and Montrose. The game had gone on for over two hours, with Montrose leading by one hundred and forty points, when Valencia made an obvious foul to stop Montrose from scoring. A second later, Márquez caught the Snitch and sent Valencia through to the final, winning by just ten points. The referee was lynched on his way out of the stadium, beaten to death by enraged fans of Montrose. From then on, apparition points were set up in every stadium so referees could leave safely.

From high up in the stands, the commentator turned on his microphone and cleared his throat. "Welcome, one and all, to today's match between Puddlemere and Chudley."

If Harry remembered correctly, his name was Joe Davies. He spoke warmly and, more often than not, became as excited as the fans.

"And here come the players!"

Chudley flew out to taunts and jeers from the home crowd, which quickly turned to an eruption of applause as Joe called out Puddlemere.

Harry kicked off hard from the ground and soared out into the muggy sky and spraying rain. Cameras flashed all around him and his ears were assaulted by a cacophony of noise that suddenly swept around the stadium. His heartbeat pounded in his ears and he tried to take it all in, from the smell of the freshly cut grass to the flags and banners swaying in the crowd.

He flew around the stadium faster than he normally would, attempting to rid his body of nerves and get his mind under control. His personal box was on the third tier. He tried to catch a glimpse inside despite the speed he was flying, and was sure he caught a flash of Dumbledore's silver beard.

The teams took their positions on opposing sides of the oval pitch and the captains shook hands.

"Here's a little statistic for you today, my Quidditch hungry fanatics," Joe said, his voice brimming with enthusiasm. "Chudley Cannons haven't managed to beat Puddlemere United in over seventy years. It's going to be one hell of a test for the Cannons today, but stranger things have happened in the past, haven't they?"

The referee blew on his whistle and tossed the Quaffle high into the sky. Harry's first professional game had started. A tingle spread throughout his bones and a grin spread across his face. This was a day he would never forget, and though he knew it was arrogant to think, it was also a day that would go down in history.

"Here we go, then," Joe said. "Bragge easily gets to the Quaffle first and swats it back to Maddock. The old timer darts to his left but throws the Quaffle over his shoulder. The no-look pass has pin-point accuracy, which shows how well this Chaser line-up know each other. Bragge has it again, tucked safely under his arm, and he rips straight through Chudley's defence as though they aren't there! And he scores! What a start for Bragge, who puts Puddlemere's first points on the board in the first minute of the match. He made Chudley's defence look silly there. If this is a sign of things to come, this could get very ugly."

It dawned on Harry that he was playing alongside some of the very best players in the world; the realisation hit him with a bang and filled him with confidence. He was not here by chance or by luck, but by his own merit.

Play resumed immediately, but Harry stuck to the plan he and Phil had worked on for the past week. For the first few minutes of the match he floated high above the action, simply taking in the occasion. Phil had told him to feel his way into the match, to familiarise himself with everything that went into a professional game. He could feel the thousands of eyes watching his every move, but his own eyes were narrowed in search of a flash of gold. There weren't any convoluted tactics he had to abide by today; he didn't have to wait for a large lead before ending the game.

This was the reason he loved flying. It was just him and his Firebolt, soaring at unnatural speeds. He'd forgotten just how much he loved the thrill. The added pressure of being Gryffindor's captain had lessened the exhilaration and forced him to worry about what the rest of his teammates were doing.

"And Bragge steals the Quaffle again!" Joe chortled into the microphone. "I must say he's playing superbly so far. He slips the Quaffle to Merton, who races downfield, draws in the two defenders and lobs the Quaffle into Bragge's waiting hands. There's nobody close to him, and he scores again! Oho, that was silky by Merton and Bragge. They've built an understanding and it's resulting in victories. This game looks like it will end the same way."

Bradley Bragge and Andrew Merton continued to perplex Chudley over the next forty minutes, their elusiveness and skill far too much for them handle. Their performances resulted in eighty points, Bragge scoring five goals and Merton taking the rest.

Harry watched with a building sense of awe as they passed the Quaffle between them at lightning fast speeds, steadily building up another attack. It was a thing of beauty to behold as Chudley furiously but fruitlessly tried to regain possession. Puddlemere's passes were thrown hard, always into the space one of the three Chasers occupied, and effortlessly on target.

"Chudley have yet to score," Joe said, starting to sound breathless. "Oliver Wood hasn't had a shot to save. Amazing!"

Harry looked down at his old Gryffindor captain. As expected, Ollie was watching the play intensely, refusing to let his concentration waver despite the lack of action coming his way.

A spark to Harry's left had his heart racing. He swung his broom around, ready to dash after the Snitch, but he was mistaken. It was an old man in the crowd, only a few meters away, lighting a thick cigar.

It wasn't the first time Harry had been fooled in a match. In his very first game for Gryffindor, the sunlight reflecting off someone's wristwatch had caught him out.

Timing and decision-making were vital in Quidditch, but it was arguably most difficult for a Seeker. The best could differentiate the flash from someone's wristwatch and the glint of the Golden Snitch in milliseconds, and it made all the difference in the world. Instinct couldn't be trained – you either had it or you didn't.

"And Jenkins speeds down field with the Quaffle firmly tucked under his arm," Joe said, his excitement obvious. Harry imagined him jumping up and down in his seat. "Fred and George both send Bludgers, but Jenkins just shrugs them off! This is brilliant from the Beater-turned-Chaser!"

Harry was the last line of defence, but he was a good ten metres above Jenkins and his flying path. The memory of his last match for Gryffindor fleetingly entered his head and he relinquished control of his Firebolt, plummeting straight into the path of the oncoming Chaser. Jenkins' hazel eyes widened in alarm and to avoid contact he violently swerved to his left, straight into the path of a Bludger which Fred had viciously thumped. It caught him square in the ribs, leaving him doubled over, wheezing and gasping for air as he clutched his stomach.

The Quaffle fell out his grasp and was swiftly picked up by Merton.

"Nice to see you're still a nutcase, Potter!" Ollie shouted over the roar of the crowd.

Joe also had something to say on what had just happened. "Potter perfectly executed a Krum specialty to stop a clear shot at goal. I don't recommend anyone attempting to copy him. It's mad to even try it in training, let alone during a match!"

Their words put a large grin on Harry's face. A huge weight had suddenly disappeared from his shoulders. The crowd had gone wild for him!

"Now it's Maddock with possession. He hands it straight to Bragge and who can blame him? Bragge is on fire! Duncan flails hopelessly as he tries to intercept, but fails, and it leaves Puddlemere's fastest Chaser in the clear once again. Will he score? Of course he scores! I never doubted him, not for a second! Bradley Bragge, what a player you're turning out to be."

Harry caught his breath, ruthlessly pushing away his building excitement. His first contribution had resulted in another goal, but the job wasn't finished. He swung his broom around and continued his search. Gudgeon was close by, his frog-like eyes firmly fixed on Harry.

"We've just reached the hour mark, ladies and gentlemen," Joe said. "Puddlemere's lead of one hundred and eighty to zilch gives Potter some breathing room. I can't imagine Chudley outscoring United's Chasers today, so it's all about the Seekers now." He seemed disappointed at the thought of the match ending. "Potter will want this game over and done with so he can get that precious first catch on his record. It's always the hardest to get. If he catches it now he puts his team straight back to the top of the table, but the lead will be slender. I won't be surprised if Maddock orders his team to score as many goals as they can, while giving Potter free reign to catch the Snitch at the first opportunity."

As it happened, that was exactly the plan. As eccentric as Joe was, there was no questioning his knowledge of the game. His passion was enthralling and inviting, and Harry thought he was probably the best commentator working in Britain. There were some real idiots, so he was grateful he didn't have to put up with them.

Chudley was not the best of teams. Even the most die-hard fan would admit it. But nobody could deny their work ethic. They continued to try even when they knew defeat was close. When they finally did manage to get the Quaffle away from Puddlemere and actually got a few shots away, they found a fierce last line of defence in Oliver Wood. Six shots – no goals. In the same time, Bragge and Merton had orchestrated a dozen chances, converting nine of them.

Then Chudley lost their patience. They were so frustrated and knew there wasn't a chance of winning, so they almost stopped attacking altogether. They formed a five-man line of defence – three Chasers, two Beaters – and flew the line on what was legal.

George swung his bat, sending a Bludger into Duncan, and swivelled around to face Harry. "Eyes in the back of your head, Harry!" He grinned. "This is about to get ugly."

Harry nodded, but George had already flown away.

He kept one eye on what was happening, but stayed far away from the main action. Bragge and Merton kept finding the weaknesses in Chudley's defence, managing to score more goals. Fred and George delighted in trading blows with their opposing Beaters. They loved a scrap, and they were getting one.

Then he saw it. The Snitch. It coasted over Ollie's goalposts, a speck of gold against the blue crowd. Gudgeon was all the way over the other side of the stadium, distracted by the foul-fest.

Harry steadied himself and drifted as casually as possible towards his target. The Snitch wasn't flying erratically yet, and he slowly picked up his speed. Nobody was paying him any attention. He kept his eyes trained on the tiny golden ball, feeling his heart thumping faster yet again. Then, as though it sensed it had been found, the Snitch zoomed off.

Harry whipped his broom around and accelerated as hard as possible, cursing his luck. His turn of speed didn't go unnoticed.

"I think Potter's spotted the little blighter!" Joe declared. The already raucous crowd stood as one, roaring their approval. "Gudgeon is after him, but there's no way he'll get there! Potter's just metres away!"

The Snitch turned this way and that, made sharp turns and steep dives, but Harry was getting closer. He was so close he could see the transparent wings beating furiously. Every move he made, a slight adjustment or a sharp turn, felt elegant and easy, as though the broom was attached to the Snitch and he was simply along for the ride. He was flying by instinct, as he had always done.

"We haven't seen very much of him yet, but Potter can certainly get some speed out of that Firebolt," Joe said.

Harry stretched out his arm, the tips of his fingers only inches away. Suddenly, as though he'd apparated, Jenkins was there. Harry instinctively yanked up his broom with all his might, but it was useless, and he crashed straight into the Cannons Chaser.

There was an almighty crack as Harry's momentum pushed him on, and Jenkins dropped from the sky as though his broom had vanished from beneath him. When Harry looked he realised he wasn't entirely incorrect; two broken bits of broomstick plummeted to the ground alongside the curly haired Chaser.

"He's falling!" Joe sounded far too ecstatic. "Jenkins, who must have been trying to get some revenge from earlier in the game, flew straight into Potter and wiped himself out!"

In a second the referee had his wand out and levitated Jenkins safely down the last few feet. He blew sharply on his whistle to stop play and flew down to the pitch to check on the unconscious wizard. Healers had already reached him and were getting to work.

Harry turned away in disgust. The Snitch had escaped.

"Aha! I think we all thought it was game over there, didn't we?" Joe said to the audience at home and inside the stadium. "But this game isn't over yet. The chase hadn't been going long and Potter was just about to grab the Snitch, when bang! Just like that the chase is over. Potter seems to be okay from the collision. Far better than Jenkins does at least."

Harry flew to the side of the pitch, where the team had huddled together. George welcomed him in with an apologetic pat on the shoulder.

"Sorry about that." George glared at the team in orange. "As soon as you see the Snitch again, we'll give a you clear chase."

Harry didn't doubt George's word for a second, and nor did he blame him. It had been his own fault. He had simply not been aware of his surrounding, too caught up in his excitement, thinking the game was over before it was. It was an amateur error.

Maddock hovered in the middle of the huddle of broomsticks. He had a large grin on his face, partially hidden behind his thick beard. It was a strange sight. Harry had only ever seen him scowling.

"They're scared of us!" Maddock guffawed, gesturing passionately with hands the side of bear paws. "They've run out of options and they can't even foul us properly! Bragge, you're one of the biggest targets, so goad them into following you. Keep the Quaffle and take them out wide. Let's open up the gaps." Maddock turned his attention to Harry. "Should have spotted Jenkins, but at least you've learnt your lesson. How he managed to knock himself out and leave you without a scratch, I don't know. George, keep one eye on him. As soon as he goes, you protect him as though he's your own damn flesh and blood!"

George nodded sharply, although he couldn't stay too serious for long. He winked at Harry and said, "Who would've thought it? Me, George Weasley, looking after the boy who lived! Madness!"

"This isn't the time for your jokes," Maddock growled. He was working himself into something of a frenzy as he directed the team. "Fred! I want Bludgers and I want them fast and hard. Keep hitting until you think your arm's about to fall off!"

"What if my arm actually does fall off?" Fred asked, appearing genuinely curious.

Maddock glared at him, thumped them all on the back, and the huddle split. Harry shook his head as he flew off. It wasn't difficult to see why people referred to Maddock as the team's unofficial coach.

The referee gestured for the captains. "Foul – Blatching. Penalty to Chudley."

Maddock's nostrils flared. "Are you fucking blind? Potter was going after the Snitch! Why the hell would he fly into someone?"

Some referees might have reversed the decision, but Vaughn didn't back down. He narrowed his eyes and blew his whistle again.

"An extra penalty to Chudley – foul and abusive language."

Maddock muttered something under his breath and glared venomously at the referee, his fingers flexing as though he wanted to strangle him. Boos rang down from the stands as Joe relayed Vaughn's words.

Perry was Chudley's ginger, weedy looking Chaser. He lined up his first penalty. Oliver Wood smiled confidently as he guarded the goal rings. The volume of the crowd increased, the taunts aimed at Perry becoming more aggressive.

Penalties were fifty percent luck, thirty percent instinct, and twenty percent skill.

Harry watched with rapt attention, willing Ollie to make the save. He saw a streak of orange out of the corner of his eye just as Perry launched forwards, holding the Quaffle aloft. He threw it with all his might, going for power over placement. It was the default tactic for nervous players who weren't sure what to do. Ollie dived to his right hand side and swatted the Quaffle away.

A huge roar erupted around the stadium.

"Potter!" Maddock thundered, his deep voice reverberating in Harry's ears. "Gudgeon's seen the Snitch! That's why they're making such a racket. Get after him, you berk!"

Harry whirled around, swearing madly. Gudgeon was at least fifty metres above him, entering into a vertical dive. A plan started to form in Harry's mind and he looked around for the nearest Weasley.

"Oi, George! I need some cover!"

George's eyes darted from Harry to Gudgeon and he nodded.

Dread started swirling in the pit of Harry's stomach but there was no time to dwell on the feeling. He gripped the Firebolt's handle, waiting for the exact moment to go. A second too soon or too late would leave Gudgeon in the clear, unimpeded in his chase of the Snitch.

"Now!" George yelled, just as Harry hunched his shoulders and accelerated into a dive.

The Firebolt had never felt faster, sleeker, but Gudgeon had already been flying at top speed and caught up within a second. They were neck and neck, jostling for the better position as they hurtled towards the ground, only an arm-length away from the Snitch. At such speeds the wind was a constant droning roar, drowning out the crowd's fervour.

"Perry scores on his second attempt, but every single eye now turns to the second chase of the match," Joe said, sounding far away, like he was just a distant voice in the back of Harry's mind. "Both Seekers pull out of the dive but it's Potter who has the edge! Yes, look at him, he's starting to pull away!"

Harry prided himself on his ability to take brooms past their top speeds, whether they were state-of-the-art Firebolts or old Shooting Stars. He flew them faster than should have been possible, faster than they'd been designed to go. The Firebolt he was using was responding to him like no other broom had ever done, as though it could sense his excitement and was using it to fly even faster. He didn't have to fight for control, it did exactly what he wanted it to do.

He chanced a quick glance over his shoulder. The wind was contorting Gudgeon's peculiar features ever so slightly as he desperately tried to keep up, but Harry was pulling away.

The sky lit up in a brilliant sudden flash, accompanied by a rumble of thunder just a few seconds later that shook the stadium. And then the rain came, no longer a light drizzle, now a downpour. It didn't slow Harry down.

The Snitch took both Seekers towards the murky clouds, around the stadium, and into another steep dive. Gudgeon somehow managed to gain ground through all the tight turns and sharp twists, and he was now on Harry's tail as they raced towards the ground. The Snitch skimmed the blades of grass, and both Seekers pulled sharply out of the dive.

With a snarl, Gudgeon flung out his elbow, hitting Harry across his nose. He heard the crack and instantly stars filled his vision, but he hardly paused in his pursuit. He'd been hit on the nose so many times in his life, mostly from Dudley, that he was used to it by now. He shook his head, flinging specks of blood onto his robes, and growled as he pushed on.

Gudgeon had edged ahead. Harry grabbed a handful of his robes and yanked him back. Chudley's Seeker cried out in surprise and lashed out, but Harry ducked the flailing punch and sped away. The Snitch was still in sight, no more than ten metres away.

"C'mon, Potter," he muttered angrily. Against better opposition he would have lost a long time ago, he was sure.

The crowd seemed to 'ooh' as one, responding to something Harry hadn't seen.

"Gudgeon is taken completely by surprise! George Weasley sent a Bludger straight into the back of his head. This has to be it!" Joe sounded completely out of breath, his voice starting to sound gravelly. "Potter is now completely free, with his opposing Seeker out of it and no time for a replacement. He will not be denied in his first game at this level! And yes, he's nearly there, he's stretching for it…"

Harry's eyes focused in on the little golden ball that he spent so much time chasing. He held his breath, unable to contain his excitement, and the world seemed to pause as he lunged.

"He's done it! Potter catches the Snitch in his first game!"

The crowd erupted in a roar. Incomprehensible noise filled Harry's head. He unclenched his fingers and stared at the little golden ball fluttering in his gloved hand. He'd done it. He'd made a bit of a mess of it, but his first game was over and he'd won. It was hard to believe. He looked at the referee for confirmation and saw the man was spelling the Bludgers back into their box, their job now done, never to be used again.

The team descended on him, slapping him and each other on the back in congratulations, revelling in their victory.

"Brilliant, Harry!" George slung his arm around Harry's shoulders and grinned at him. "C'mon, smile for the cameras. You'll be on the front page in the morning."

Harry joined the team in a number of victory laps around the stadium, waving at the cheering fans and applauding their support. Cameras flashed all around them. The fans refused to let the pouring rain dampen their spirits, and Harry didn't care one bit either. He smiled wide and toothy, hurting his cheeks.

On another lap, they came towards his personal box. He saw Sirius smiling brightly, applauding. Harry swung his leg over his broom and hovered in front of his godfather, matching his smile.

"Well?"

Sirius laughed uproariously. "I was never in doubt!"

"Neither was I," Harry lied. Sirius saw straight through it.

The moment he slid off his broom and turned away from Sirius, Hermione jumped at him, engulfing him in a hug, the like of which she hadn't given him in years.

"Oh, Harry," she whispered in his ear. She squeezed him tight and pulled back, holding him at arm's length. Her eyes were watery. "I'm so happy for you."

"Thank you," Harry said. "I'll see you later, okay?"

Hermione let him go and he was treated to a hearty handshake from Remus, pats on the back from Dean and Neville, and Dumbledore looked at him with pride.

Tonks hugged him and whispered in his ear. "Thank Merlin you won, Harry. I put ten Galleons on you."

Harry's grin faltered for a second. The thought of people betting on him made him slightly queasy. "I hope you had good odds."

Then he turned to Ron, who looked mightily conflicted.

Harry's grin didn't falter this time. "Sorry, mate," he said, completely insincerely.

"I came over from the twins' box to say congratulations," Ron said. It looked like it pained him to say it. He waggled a finger in Harry's face. "But you are buying my drinks tonight. I need to drown my sorrows."

"I hope you don't do that every time the Cannons lose," Hermione said, smiling faintly. "You'd be an alcoholic if you did."

Ron gaped at her as everyone else burst out laughing. "Hermione," he whined, his lips twitching in amusement.

Anna suddenly pounced, catching Harry off guard as she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him soundly. It was so unexpected that it took him a good few seconds to respond. He did have to wonder why girls either cried or kissed him every time he stepped off a Quidditch pitch. It seemed they wanted to severely hurt him with their affection.

"What was that for?" Harry gasped as they parted.

"I forgot what it's like watching you fly," Anna said, her cheeks reddening as she noticed the crowd watching on.

Hermione coughed none too politely. "Now you know how I felt watching him for seven years."

Harry rolled his eyes at the same old stories. What was it with people thinking he had a death wish?

Ron noticed his look and snorted. "Sorry, mate, but you are kind of nuts." At Harry's raised eyebrow, he quickly added, "When you're in the air!"

"Oi, Potter," Seamus said. He was sitting next to Lee Jordan, holding a microphone out in front of him.

"No interviews," Harry said firmly.

"Spoilsport," Seamus said. His eyes flickered over to Anna. "Your nose is broken, by the way."

"Nothing an Episkey can't fix."

Seamus grinned mischievously. "So no tender loving care from Pomfrey and her delightful apprentice today, then?"

Anna peered at his nose and poked it.

"Geroff," Harry said, swiping her hand away.

"Maybe you should go and see your healer. It looks quite bad."

Harry touched his nose and tried not to wince. "I'll be fine once Byrne gets a look at me."

Anna looked dubious but didn't say anything. Harry swung his leg over his broom and said goodbye. He flew back out into the emptying stadium, where the rain pelted him again. He waved to the few fans who still loitered on their seats, resulting in another cheer, before he joined his teammates in the changing rooms. Most of them were already in the shower, but Harry turned to the treatment room.

Healer Byrne was sitting with his feet propped up on the desk when Harry walked in. He raised an eyebrow. "What can I do for you, Potter?"

"My nose is broken," Harry said, giving it a little prod.

Byrne sighed. "Haven't you ever heard of Episkey?"

"Well, you're the healer, I figured I'd let you earn your money."

Byrne heaved himself out of his chair with exaggerated effort. "Maybe if I was better paid," he muttered as he touched his wand to Harry's nose and silently cast Episkey.

Harry left the room, shedding his soggy robes, and entered the showers. He'd won. Now, he just had to wait for another opportunity. He hoped it would come sooner rather than later, but for now he was happy to celebrate his first game. Everything else could wait.