Sirius was sitting on his desk, darning the holes in his moth-eaten Gryffindor scarf. “Sit down and rest a minute,” he said, gesturing to the armchair. “You don’t have to be on time for lunch, you know – “
“Yeah, I do,” Harry said, but he sat down anyway. “Wood’s not giving us an extra minute to eat, he wants us in the changing rooms right away. What’s going on?”
Sirius set down the scarf. “I’m not sure if they’ve found a will,” he said, reaching for a small blue bottle next to him on the desk. Harry recognized it as the one Hermione had found in Sirius’s drawer on Christmas night. “They don’t know if they’ve found a will – what they’ve got is a sealed envelope reading ‘Estate of Regulus Black.’ Someone from the Auror Office is going to bring it here on Monday. If it is a will and if Regulus didn’t name an executor, I’m executor by default because I’m his next of kin.”
“But they don’t know for a fact that he’s dead, do they?” Harry asked. Sirius uncorked the bottle and drank the entire contents in one swallow. “They don’t have a body or anything – “
Sirius took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “They don’t, but they think they have enough evidence to declare him dead. There hasn’t been anything to show otherwise in twelve and a half years.”
Harry knew that Sirius hadn’t gotten along with Regulus, or even spoken to him for years before Regulus had vanished, but it was still clear that the news was affecting him. “I’m sorry, Sirius,” he said quietly.
“It’s like this when people die.” Sirius picked up the scarf again. “You know they’re dead, but every time something reminds you it’s like a little part of them just died again. It’s the end of the hope that – “ Suddenly, he stopped, his mouth settling in a stiff line. “Draco, if you have something to say, come in and say it.”
Harry jerked his head around to see Malfoy standing near the door, a look of rage on his face. He was already in his Quidditch robes. “You think you’re so clever,” he spat out, looking at Sirius. It was almost as though he hadn’t noticed that Harry was in the room. “You think this is going to throw the match, but it’s not. My parents aren’t afraid of you or your little pet Aurors – “
“If you’re accusing me of something, Draco – “
“I don’t have to accuse you,” Malfoy snapped. “It’s obvious to anyone who isn’t a blithering idiot. You and that mutant freak of Andromeda’s got the Aurors to hold off on charging my parents until the day before the Qudditch final because you think it’s going to throw me off balance and let your beloved Potter catch the Snitch.”
Harry almost laughed; he didn’t know which was more far-fetched, Sirius plotting to sabotage Malfoy or the Auror Office agreeing to help him. “You’ve got to be joking,” he said, tilting his head back to look directly at Malfoy. “Is that the best you’ve got? That’s pretty weak even for you, Malfoy – “
Malfoy’s eyes narrowed. “You’re going to talk about weak, Potter? You’d be dead if you didn’t have Dumbledore watching your back every second – “
“He doesn’t watch me every second, but yeah, I’d be dead without Dumbledore,” Harry said. Having got nowhere with insulting lies, it seemed Malfoy was trying to make insults out of the truth.. “That’s because I’m a third-year and he’s the greatest wizard who ever lived. What’s your point?”
“That’s enough,” Sirius said, sliding off his desk. “Go to lunch, Draco. We’ll be behind you.”
With a final glare, Malfoy turned and marched off down the corridor. “Sorry,” Harry said to Sirius.
“Just save it for the Quidditch pitch,” Sirius replied, reaching for the key to lock his office.
Harry finished his lunch within half an hour, but he was still the last one to arrive in the changing rooms. To his surprise, the lights were dimmed and the entire team, as well as Percy, were sitting in a semi-circle on the floor with their eyes closed.
“What’re we – “
“We’re clearing our minds and focusing our energies,” Wood said, not opening his eyes. “Percy says this works when you really need to concentrate.”
“George says Percy is a big-headed windbag,” Fred said, elbowing his twin in the ribs.
“That’s Head Boy Windbag to you,” Percy retorted; Harry didn’t know if he was attempting to be funny or if he meant it. Knowing Percy, it was probably the latter. “Speaking of which, everyone make sure you’re breathing deeply.”
Harry quickly changed into his Quidditch robes and sat at the end of the semi-circle next to Alicia. He wasn’t particularly in the mood to clear his mind and focus his energy, but it was better than listening to one of Wood’s frenzied pep talks. Outside, he could hear chattering and the sound of dozens of footsteps. The stands were starting to fill up.
“Chasers, think about how you’re going to work together,” Wood said. “Beaters, remember you’re forgetting defense and going for offense. Try to take out Malfoy as a first priority and Flint as a second. Harry, try to end this thing as soon as possible. We’re the best team in the school and today’s the day everyone sees it. Everybody cleared and focused? Okay. Let’s give them hell.”
Walking out onto the pitch, Harry saw that about two-thirds of the school were wearing red and gold; Ravenclaw, it seemed, had split its loyalties. In the back of the stands, Dean, Seamus and Neville were holding up a banner that read “ROARING TO WIN” in block letters. Hearing someone call his name, Harry looked again; Ron and Hermione were sitting a few rows down from the banner, waving at him. Ron pointed at Malfoy, closed his eyes, and drew one finger across his throat.
From his place at the commentator’s table, Lee Jordan was ready. “Here it is, folks – it’s down to the wire and teeth on edge as the Gryffindor and Slytherin teams meet at the center. This is the last match for Captains Wood and Flint, two battle-hardened players thirsty to drink from the Cup – “
“I don’t want to see any shenanigans or dirty tricks,” Madam Hooch told both teams sternly. “Ready and on your brooms?”
“Wood and Flint are shaking hands, the Snitch is in the air – “
“All right, three, two – one – “
The Snitch had flown straight down to the Slytherin end of the pitch and Harry bolted after it, hoping against hope that he could catch it before either team could so much as score ten points. The Slytherin Beaters, however, had other plans.
“Bell passes to Johnson, Bole and Derrick send both Bludgers straight at Potter, Potter swerves from one and dives to escape the other, he dives again but – no, he hasn’t got the Snitch. Flint intercepts as Johnson passes back to Bell, he’s passing to Pucey, George Weasley smacks a Bludger at Pucey’s head, Pucey drops the Quaffle – it’s caught by Spinnet – Spinnet goes straight for the goal – Bletchley’s waiting – Spinnet makes a sharp turn to the left, throws – IT’S THROUGH THE HOOP AND GRYFFINDOR SCORES THE FIRST GOAL, IT’S TEN TO NOTHING GRYFFINDOR – “
Malfoy may have missed weeks of practice, but the Slytherin Chasers clearly hadn’t; it seemed to Harry that they were working much more as a unit than ever before. Within ten minutes, Slytherin had scored two goals, putting it ten points ahead of Gryffindor. The Snitch was still out of sight.
Harry knew he wasn’t supposed to pay too much attention to Malfoy, but as he swooped down near the middle of the pitch he snuck a look. Malfoy was vertically weaving in and out of the action – which, Harry had to admit, wasn’t a bad strategy. Still, he wasn’t about to follow it himself...
“It’s tied at twenty to twenty, Montague’s in possession, he passes to Flint, Flint’s going straight for Gryffindor’s center hoop – it’s intercepted by Wood – Fred Weasley’s managed to corner both Bludgers, he hits one straight at Malfoy – the other again at Malfoy – Malfoy’s flying fast down the pitch, Derrick hits one Bludger at Bell, Malfoy zooms in front of the Gryffindor hoops, the Bludger – “
Harry saw it coming, but he was too far away to do anything about it. As Wood lunged to intercept the Quaffle, the Bludger hit him squarely in the foot.
“Madam Hooch whistles for a time-out – “
By the time Harry flew down to the bottom of the pitch, Madam Pomfrey had already reached Wood. “It’s fine,” Wood insisted, but he was clearly gasping for breath. “It isn’t broken or anything – “
Several feet away, the Slytherins were sitting on their brooms, clearly very satisfied with themselves. Malfoy noticed Harry looking and smirked. Just as Harry was turning away, he saw it: the Snitch was hovering near the bottom of Slytherin’s right hoop.
“It’s okay, I swear – “
“She’s not buying it, Oliver,” George told Wood, looking grim. “You’re bleeding through your shoe.”
“Wood, you’re sidelined for at least a few minutes while Madam Pomfrey looks at this,” Madam Hooch said, taking his broom from him. “If she gets you back in playing form, I’ll call another time-out and you’ll be on the pitch again. Come on.”
With Wood out of commission, Harry knew he was the last person who should be taking over command of the team; he was the youngest and the newest player, and he’d never so much as led a practice. He glanced at the hoops again. The Snitch was still there.
“Everybody listen a second,” he whispered through his teeth; to his relief, Fred and George looked at him immediately and moved closer. “The Snitch is on their end of the pitch and it’s not moving. Keep them on our end as much as you can – don’t worry if they score a couple of goals. If I don’t have the Snitch in two minutes, forget everything I just said and go back to playing like normal. Okay?” The Chasers exchanged looks. “Angelina? Katie?”
“We’re in,” Alicia said, pushing her sweaty fringe off her forehead. “Two minutes, though – not a second over.”
“Right, not a second over,” Harry agreed. “Come on, the Slytherins are ready to start again.”
“The teams meet at the center, Madam Hooch blows the whistle – and they’re off again, Gryffindor missing its Keeper – Johnson’s got the Quaffle, passes to Bell, Bell passes to Spinnet, Spinnet passes to Johnson – Pucey intercepts, shoots and scores – “
Harry flew to the Slytherin end of the pitch almost casually; if he wanted the Snitch, Bletchley had to think that he was still looking for it. From the corner of his eye, he saw Malfoy swoop beneath Flint and fly onto the Slytherin end of the pitch.
Bletchley was at the left hoop, intent on what was happening on the Gryffindor end. Flint had just scored yet another goal. Malfoy was gaining on Harry; knowing he might never get this good of a chance, Harry flew right at the Snitch.
“Potter darts toward the right, Malfoy’s following, Potter – POTTER COMES TO A COMPLETE STOP MID-AIR, CATCHES THE SNITCH JUST OUTSIDE SLYTHERIN’S RIGHT HOOP, MALFOY CRASHES INTO HIM, THEY’RE SPIRALLING TOWARD THE GROUND BUT POTTER’S STILL GOT THAT SNITCH – GRYFFINDOR WINS THE HOUSE CUP – “
Harry landed on his right leg, barely feeling the sting as a rock on the ground ripped through his robes and into his skin. Malfoy fell nearly on top of him. “Get off me, Potter,” he gasped, but Harry didn’t care.
Wood was limping down the pitch, shouting along with everyone in the stands; Bletchley landed and tried to help Malfoy stand up, but Malfoy swatted his hand away. Bletchley looked offended. “Wood reaches Potter, he’s hoisting him onto his shoulders – watch your foot, Oliver – the Weasley twins pull Potter off Wood’s shoulders and onto theirs, Potter’s saying something to Spinnet – “
“You’re welcome,” Alicia told Harry, grinning at him.
Ron and Hermione had climbed out of the stands and were running toward Harry; Neville was with them, the banner he carried billowing behind him like a cape. “You’re the man, mate!” Ron shouted at Harry. “Here, let me hold your Firebolt – “
“Wood’s the man,” Harry said, shaking his head. “Hey, Fred and George, put me down, will you?”
“Come here, Oliver,” Fred said as Ron helped Harry down. “No, you’re not getting away – get him, George.”
Sirius was in the front of the stands next to McGonagall and Dumbledore; he was shouting something to Harry, but Harry couldn’t make out what it was. “The Quidditch Cup,” Hermione said as Fred and George slung a protesting Wood onto their backs. “He’s telling you Madam Hooch is waiting with the Cup – “
Katie ran over to get it, Alicia and Angelina right on her heels. Now that he had helped to win it, the Quidditch Cup almost looked even bigger and more gleaming to Harry. “Give it to Wood,” someone called; Wood took it and held it up over his head. Most of Gryffindor House had swarmed the pitch, including Percy, who was demanding that Fred and George put down Wood before they broke their backs. Lavender came up to Harry, a frightened-looking golden kitten in her arms. “This is Snitch,” she told him as the kitten burrowed its head into the crook of her elbow. “Mum brought him over this morning – I said I’d name him Snitch if we won the Cup – “
“Someone else take this,” Wood said; he was starting to look exhausted. Katie took the Quidditch Cup from him and handed it to Angelina. “I’m hitting the showers, see you all back at the common room.”
“Oh, come on,” George said, but Wood had already broken out of the crowd. The Slytherin team had retreated to their changing rooms; Harry suspected they planned to stay there until the Gryffindors were gone.
“That was brilliant,” Ron told Harry. He was grinning so widely that his freckles were pushed halfway to his ears. “I’m not sure what was better, when you caught the Snitch or when Malfoy ran into you – because Malfoy ran into somebody, I mean, not because he ran into you – “
“Harry, your leg’s bleeding,” said Hermione. “Where’s Madam Pomfrey? Does anyone know – “
“She went back to the castle,” someone said; Harry couldn’t see who. The cut on his leg was starting to clot. “Here, go in the showers and wash it,” said Hermione, reaching into her bag. “I’ve got a bandage here someplace – “
“Yeah, go wash it so she’ll get off your case,” Ron said. Hermione looked indignant. “The rumor says there’s butterbeer back in the tower.”
Harry managed to push through the crowd and walk toward the changing room; though the cut on his leg had bled profusely, it didn’t seem to be very deep. All he could think of was water; he wanted to drench himself in the shower and then find something to drink. Behind him, half the Gryffindors were vying for a turn holding Cup. Harry looked back, grinned, and opened the door.
Oliver Wood was sitting on a bench, his injured foot propped up next to him; Percy was kneeling in front of Wood, one slender hand running through Wood’s hair. They were kissing.