"Potter, you're late!" Daphne Greengrass declared. She was turned out exactly as a Head Girl ought to be - perfectly fitted new black robes, a gleaming badge, even the official pointed hat that all students realized were a farce after their first week in the castle.
"Er, sorry I lost track of time. I was -"
"- out on the pitch making a fool of yourself. At least you managed a shower."
Harry ran a hand through his still damp hair, and glanced down at his rumpled denims. "Didn't realize today was so formal."
Daphne rolled her eyes. "You might not concern yourself with first impressions, but others don't have that luxury."
Harry shrugged. "So, where's McGonagall?"
"The Headmistress?" Daphne corrected him. "I assumed she was going to meet us here, but it's already twenty after."
"She's probably in her office," Harry suggested as he led the way up the grand staircase. Daphne hurried past Harry and hung a right on the second floor. "I doubt she's in the transfiguration office," Harry offered as he continued climbing.
"Right," Daphne replied, and scurried to follow behind Harry. "Do you know where to go?"
"Sure," Harry answered, "I've been there a few times."
"I'm sure," Daphne harrumphed.
"You're sure of what?" Harry bristled.
"I'm sure you know where the office is. I'm sure you've been there a lot."
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Don't be so defensive!" Daphne snapped. "Everyone knows you were Dumbledore's favorite. How many times have you been in his office?"
"I don't know."
Daphne smirked in triumph. "Most students never set foot in there, much less enough times to lose track. You can count right?"
Harry shrugged. "After twenty it gets a little murky."
Daphne snorted trying to suppress a laugh. She caught up with him and the two climbed in silence for a while.
"You seem excited to be Head Girl," Harry observed.
"My mother is thrilled, but I'm just nervous" she replied candidly. "I know I wouldn't have got it normally."
"Neither would I. I wasn't even a prefect."
She rolled her eyes. "False modesty is unbecoming, Potter."
"Honestly, I'm not."
"The head system would be a total charade if you weren't appointed Head Boy," she lectured. "It's not about being a prefect or getting good grades. It's about the respect of the student body."
"Then there is even less reason for me to be Head Boy. I've never enjoyed a lot of admiration around here."
Daphne openly gaped at him. "You're delusional! You've basically walked on water since winning that stupid tournament."
"That stupid tournament was rigged. Barty Crouch manipulated everything so I would win."
Daphne shrugged. "Really? Draco kept saying you were cheating."
Jaw clenched, Harry whirled to face her. "That ferret was a worthless bag of shit! I'm glad I killed him. Do you have a problem with that?"
She threw her hands up in surrender and backed away slowly. "Frankly? No. I don't have a problem with it... but you've got to take it easy, Potter - Asshole or not, Draco said a lot of things about you. It's hard not to believe a few of them."
"Asshole doesn't even begin to..." Harry spun away and began stomping upwards again. "I hate him more than anything!"
Harry seethed all the way to the Headmistress' office, but paused near the gargoyle to take a few deep breaths. "Dumbledore always set his password to some kind of sweet," Harry muttered. "I wonder what Professor McGonagall has chosen. Lemon drops? Licorice ropes? Malted apple stems?"
"Terrific! We could be here forever," Daphne lamented. "She should have just met us in the Great Hall."
"Yeah..." Harry agreed when 'chocolate cheese' reduced the gargoyle to hysterics. "Maybe we should... Oh, I know! 'Meee-owww'."
Daphne looked at him quizzically for just a second before the gargoyle stepped aside with a snicker, revealing the spiral staircase. "That woman is a complete nut case," Daphne observed.
"That woman can probably hear you," Harry said with a smirk as he knocked on the office door.
Daphne's eyes widened in horror and she gasped, covering her mouth with both hands.
"Come in," Professor McGonagall's voice answered from insider her office.
Harry opened the door and stood aside to let Daphne enter. "Good Morning, Professor McGonagall."
"Mr. Potter, how did you get past my gargoyle?"
"Er, I guessed the password?"
"You did?" McGonagall looked up in surprise.
"Yes ma'am," Daphne affirmed. "He meowed and the door opened."
McGonagall shook her head in frustration. "Apparently, I need to re-work the spells," she muttered. "In the future you may both use spesei."
"It means to expect good things, Potter," Daphne lectured, "Latin."
"Very good, Ms. Greengrass, not many students bother to learn Latin nowadays."
"My mother insisted."
"Yes, I suppose Frieda would," McGonagall commented knowingly. "Well, you are here for your orientation, so let's begin." The group descended the spiral stairs and began making their way toward the library. About a stone's throw from the entrance to Madame Pince's territory, McGonagall opened a door and motioned for Daphne and Harry to enter. "The prefects' classroom," she intoned.
"I never knew this was here," Harry observed. He briefly surveyed the room and understood why Ron and Hermione had never been a big fan of prefects' meetings. The floor was grey barren stone. The walls were drab brown, and peeling beige paint dangled from the ceiling. Two dozen desks faced a lectern at the front of the room. A large blackboard covered the front wall.
"Ugh," Daphne muttered, silently flicking her wand to erase a chalked depiction of Professor Sprout covered in bubotuber puss that must have taken Peeves half the summer to draw.
The wall nearest the door was covered by a large corkboard. Next to it, another blackboard hosted a blank quidditch schedule. "Yes Mr. Potter, the heads are responsible for ensuring the pitch is scheduled fairly. The team captains will meet with you both to work out a schedule."
Harry grinned at her, "Of course, Professor."
McGonagall did not find this amusing. "Perhaps, in light of the situation, Ms. Greengrass should have the ultimate authority in this area."
"Er, right," Harry answered trying not to be disappointed. The best practice times were a highly valued commodity, and he wasn't about to give up on setting the schedule in his favor.
McGonagall cleared her throat, earning Harry's attention again. "Albus didn't much care for the prefect system; he preferred students see their heads of house for counsel. But, I think the faculty should only get involved if the prefects cannot handle the problem. Consequently, I'll be counting on you both to make yourselves available to students regularly. The back room is the Heads' office. Studying there will give students a place to find you when they need."
Harry wandered toward the back of the room. A large window looking into the Heads' office comprised most of the back classroom wall. The office held three sofas, one along each wall and two large executive style desks in the center of the room. In the far corners there were sparsely populated bookshelves holding a handful of Hogwarts rule books and assorted detritus left behind over the years.
"We're supposed to study in there?" Daphne asked doubtfully.
"Feel free to decorate if you wish," McGonagall replied dryly as she motioned for Harry and Daphne to follow her out of the classroom. On the sixth floor, they walked past the bathroom where Harry had attacked Draco Malfoy the previous year and stopped in front of an open window that offered a beautiful view to the west of the castle. Harry could see Hagrid's (former) hut and birds flying over the forbidden forest.
"Knowledge without compassion is fruitless," McGonagall observed. At these words, the windows were suddenly forty meters away and the group was standing in front of a pane of glass that looked into a well appointed common room. Opening the door that had appeared in the middle of the glass wall, McGonagall led them in.
"As you can see, Rowena's house has a beautiful common room," McGonagall observed, "and I am assured by Filius that the charms on the wall are quite impressive."
"I always thought Ravenclaws were voyeurs," Daphne quipped, nudging Harry to turn around. "You can see out, but you can't see in."
"Oh shit," Harry moaned. "I wonder what I've done in this hallway."
Both Daphne and Harry jealously explored the room. The beautiful view of the castle grounds was still visible on the fall wall. The ceiling was easily seven meters high and four large hearths served as focal points for blue and gold sofas. All the furniture looked new, not worn like the Gryffindor room.
The two side walls were lined with tall book cases and thousands of books. Sliding ladders stood like sentries, ready to help even the shortest first year reach the highest shelves.
"I wish I'd been sorted into Ravenclaw," Daphne mused.
"Does this wall have a password too?" Harry asked as he stepped near the window again to look out?"
"No, they're quite real, and quite impervious to locking charms," McGonagall said ruefully. "Filius constantly complains about students sneaking off to Hogsmeade through the window."
"Where are the dorms, then?" Daphne asked.
McGonagall walked to the center of the south wall and placed her hand on the side of one of the book cases. She gently pulled the case toward her and the wall hinged backward leaving an opening without disturbing the bookcase. There was a spiraling staircase that led up into the west tower. "The boys' rooms are up this way. The girls' quarters are identical, but on the other side of the common room. The dorms in all of the houses are pretty much the same. They expand and contract to fit the appropriate number of students sharing the room. Each student gets a four poster bed and a night stand."
After leaving the Ravenclaw rooms, the trio headed up to the seventh floor and entered the Gryffindor common room. McGonagall had set the password to, "Fortune favors the brave, but arrogance is despised."
Daphne was also impressed by the Gryffindor common room, but remained mute on the subject as she disdainfully inspected some of the more worn lounge chairs.
For Harry, the room quickly became claustrophobic. There was his favorite seat... the one where he, Ron, and Hermione had spent so much time together... he wasn't ready for this! Silently he climbed back out the portrait hole, ignored the Fat Lady's greeting, and wandered until he found a seat at the top of the nearest staircase.
After a few more minutes, McGonagall and Daphne emerged. As they passed him, McGonagall reached out and gave Harry's shoulder a squeeze saying quietly, "It'll be alright Harry; it's just going to take some time. You'll make it." Taking great comfort in McGonagall's reassurance, he trailed after the two witches.
On their way downward, McGonagall continued lecturing. "As head students, you have the authority to take and award points from students. Be judicious and fair in using this power, but do not hesitate to use it. House points work surprisingly well as a disciplinary method. You are also permitted to assign detentions if the infraction is serious. These detentions will be served with a member of the staff."
"For yourselves, keep your noses clean. You especially, Mr. Potter."
"Why only me?"
"I do not expect that Ms. Greengrass will cause any more problems this year than she has in the past. Have you ever had a detention or lost house points, Ms. Greengrass?"
Daphne looked down at her feet and quietly answered, "No."
Harry stopped straight away. "You've never so much as lost house points? Sweet Merlin! I'm stuck with some goody-two-shoe."
"I expect you could learn a few things from her, Mr. Potter."
Daphne herself seemed alarmed. "How many detentions have you been assigned, Potter?"
"Er. It's kind of like my visits to the headmaster's office."
Daphne smirked. "Remind me again, how is it that you're Head Boy?"
Fortunately for Harry, they had arrived at the main level of the castle by that point. McGonagall gestured toward the Great Hall and said, "We'll be eating with the rest of the staff at ." She then turned left and went down the staircase that Harry knew led to the Hufflepuff common room.
They were soon standing in front of a large painting that depicted about twenty witches and wizards working together to ward a home. "Loyalty is a gift that should be given with caution," McGonagall declared. At this, the portrait shifted to the side revealing a large set of double doors which Harry, Daphne, and McGonagall walked through.
The Hufflepuff common room reminded Harry starkly of Gryffindor's. The furniture appeared worn, but exceedingly comfortable. Chairs and sofas were scattered about in small pairings, but the center of the room was dominated by two large tables with approximately twenty chairs around each.
Pomona Sprout was placing informational packets in front of each chair at one of the tables. "Hufflepuffs like to study together and help each other with their homework," Professor Sprout proudly noted as she saw Harry's questioning look. She walked over to him and gave him a warm hug. "I'm so glad you decided to come back," she said softly.
"Hello, Professor Sprout," Harry said, grateful for the hug. He'd always had a soft spot for the Herbology professor.
"Daphne, I'm disappointed to hear you dropped my class." Sprout's attempt at sounding stern was not very convincing, but Daphne settled on a handshake instead of a hug. "It's good to have students arriving back in the castle," Sprout mused. "I was so worried that it wouldn't open this year."
"Well, Mr. Potter over here was so excited to return to school he just had to go out and solve the problem," Daphne said flippantly.
Harry rolled his eyes.
"I think it was a bit more complicated than that," Sprout replied somberly. "Come on, let's take a look around. Over here we have a portrait of Sarah the Baker. She was Helga's great grand niece..."
"We best be getting along now," McGonagall observed after a few minutes.
"So soon?" Sprout complained. "Well, I'll see you both at lunch; enjoy the rest of the tour."
After leaving the Hufflepuff room, McGonagall led the way toward the dungeons. Twenty paces down the hallway, Harry encountered a painting with more than a passing resemblance to Susan Bones. The young woman was stooped over, inspecting a tomato plant that was growing in her garden. "Glenda the Gardener," Harry paused as he read the label on the painting.
McGonagall and Daphne continued on ahead of him and rounded a corner, out of sight. Quickly, Harry slid his fingers behind the portrait frame, trying to find a lever or a button that might reveal the secret passage Susan had alluded to.
"What are you looking for? I don't think there are any chick-peas back there."
Harry jumped in surprise, but it was only Glenda. "Er, my friend told me that you guard a secret passageway."
"Well, it's not much of a secret if people can't keep their mouths shut," Glenda teased. She batted her eyes at him. "I told another Head Boy my secret once. He didn't do a very good job of keeping it. You remind me a little of him."
"Well, if other people know about it, then what's the harm in telling me?" Harry cajoled.
"Oh my, you must be right!" Glenda winked at him. "I'll just have to tell that to Professor Sprout if she asks why I've loosed my secret again." She giggled. "Just give me a little hug and I'll reveal everything."
Harry awkwardly reached for the edges of the painting and gave Glenda's frame a little squeeze. In the painting, an unseen wind blew up the edges of Glenda's robe. With little modesty, she bent over at the waist to keep from revealing too much, and ended up doing so anyway.
Glenda giggled in delight as her frame hinged upward, forcing Harry to jump backward to avoid being knocked under the chin. Behind the frame was a recessed doorway about a meter deep. Harry walked in and twisted the tomato shaped door handle. As the door swung in, the painting gradually lowered. When the door was fully opened, the painting latched closed behind Harry, and he was entombed in darkness.
Harry dug his wand out of his back pocket and cast a lumos spell. The bright light revealed a long hallway with a staircase at the other end. With a sigh, Harry realized he didn't have time to explore the passageway now. However, when he tried to close the door, it would not budge.
"Yes?" A muffled voice asked.
"Er, I can't get out."
"Just, put in a pinch of effort," the voice giggled. From the wooden panel in front of him, a round bump of cloth appeared and twitched slightly.
"Sweet Merlin," Harry laughed, giving the tush a good squeeze. The painting blocking his path flipped upward, and the door behind him soundlessly slammed shut. Glenda was giggling again as Harry walked out into the hall and brought down the painting.
"Thanks, Harry," Glenda squeaked. "It's boring during the summer when none of the boys are around."
"I'd heard that Professor Sprout uses your passageway all the time," Harry answered.
Glenda cautiously looked both ways down the hallway before whispering, "Professor Sprout isn't very enthusiastic."
Harry grinned. "Well, I've got to run or Professor McGonagall's going to wonder where I've gotten to."
"Come back and pinch me soon, Harry!" Glenda called out after him as he ran toward the Slytherin common room, slowing down momentarily at each corner so as not to look like he had fallen too far behind. He rounded the last corner and swore under his breath. They weren't waiting for him anywhere. Had they moved on without him? He'd only been delayed ninety seconds with Glenda. Well, his goose was cooked, Harry thought, but searching for them throughout the castle would be a fruitless endeavor, so he sat down, leaning against the wall waiting for McGonagall and Daphne's return.
"He's over here, Headmistress -" Daphne called out a minute later when she craned her head around the corner at the far end of the corridor. "Potter, where did you go? - and how the hell do you know where my common room is?"
Realizing too late that he should not have known to stop in front of a blank section of wall, Harry tried to cover himself and said, "Er, what do you mean, I was just waiting for you."
"Really Potter, you're a lousy liar. Why did you stop here?"
McGonagall looked on with a slight smirk and said, "Yes Mr. Potter, I'm interested to know why you stopped here."
Knowing the game was up, Harry smirked. "Second year, we were trying to prank Malfoy."
"That invisibility cloak has gotten you into more trouble than I know about, hasn't it Mr. Potter?"
"Uh, yes ma'am."
"Keep it in your trunk this year, will you please."
McGonagall grew tired of waiting for a response and instead turned to the wall, "Blind ambition and prejudice are a dangerous combination."
After the wall swung aside to reveal the room, Harry explored a bit. He was happy that he had been sorted into Gryffindor if for no other reason than that he'd escaped seven years of the dark and depressing Slytherin common room. There were no windows. The room was cold despite the fact that it was August and fires roared in both hearths, and the place smelled like a sewer.
"Charming dump," Harry observed snidely. "You must freeze in here during the winter."
"That's what warming charms are for, Potter," came Daphne's acidic reply.
"Well, we don't have much time," McGonagall interjected, throwing a sharp glance in Harry's direction. "Lunch will be in the staff room in three minutes."
The staff room, it turned out, was on the opposite side of the Great Hall from the room Harry had gone to after being named a school champion by the Goblet of Fire. The four house tables in the Great Hall were covered with cloths that matched their house colors, and were already set for the welcome feast that would take place the next evening.
The enchanted ceiling revealed a beautiful blue afternoon sky with a few puffy clouds. The sun shone brightly, glinting off the silverware. "I wish I was on my broom," Harry observed wistfully.
Daphne longingly looked skyward, "Me too! When we're done with lunch, we're going to have a little competition. First one to catch the snitch wins ten galleons."
"Sure," Harry readily agreed. "I didn't know you like quidditch."
"Of course I love quidditch. Who do you think I am?"
"You didn't seem too fond of it this morning."
"Because you were late, Potter! My father plays seeker for the Falcons, and I can beat him half the time. You're going to owe me ten galleons."
"If you're so good, why don't you don't play for Slytherin?"
"Malfoy," Daphne spat. "That arse bought his way onto the team during second year and he's been losing matches for Slytherin ever since."
"Slimy ass-faced bastard," Harry concurred.
McGonagall looked on disapprovingly, but held her tongue. Even if the two bonded over a little Malfoy hatred, it was a good sign that the two might just be able to work together for a year.
The assembled Hogwarts professors were milling about the staffroom, chatting with each other. When Harry, Daphne, and McGonagall entered, the volume level in the small room dropped precipitously as eager eyes riveted upon Harry.
"Well!" McGonagall seemed caught off guard as all of those eyeballs snapped toward her. "Thank you everyone for coming. I realize that Albus did not mandate attendance at these pre-term meetings, but I felt that in light of this year's challenges, we should all be here to start off the school year properly - We have quite a number of new faces, so let's begin with introductions. Horace, do you want to start us off?"
Professor Slughorn cheerfully took a small step forward, the brass buttons on his vest promising to pop off at any moment. "I'm Horace Slughorn, the head of Slytherin House. I've agreed to teach potions for one final year." He grinned at the Headmistress who nodded affirmatively with her own small smile.
Professor Sprout was standing next to Slughorn, so she introduced herself next, followed by Professors Flitwick, Vector, Hooch, Sinistra, and Grubby-Plank. Next, a man who appeared to be a distant cousin of Arthur Weasley cleared his throat. He was a little overweight with a balding head of red hairs. His robes, which had probably been quite expensive at one time, were faded. "My name is Roger Durham. I'll be teaching Transfiguration Methods," he said softly.
The stocky man next to him stepped forward and sternly barked, "Ferdinand. Octavius Ferdinand. History."
Like most of the room, Harry gave a start at the gruff introduction. The History of Magic students, accustomed to sleeping through Professor Binns' lectures, would need to find a new nap hour. Ferdinand's face was dotted with overgrown tufts of black hair that faintly resembled a beard and his dark beady eyes belied an unsettling intensity - unmatched in the history classroom for over a century.
The introductions continued on until the last new professor stepped forward. By his apparent age, Harry knew immediately that this young man, who introduced himself as Hannibal Cartwright Mason the Fourth, must have been the Ravenclaw ponce that Theodore Nott detested so much.
"And our head students are Daphne Greengrass and Harry Potter," McGonagall concluded. "They've both provided exemplary leadership for their fellow students while at Hogwarts and I'm particularly pleased to have them both attending this term."
Daphne blushed slightly at the Headmistress' praise, but offered only a nod to the polite applause from the professors. Likewise, Harry fought the temptation to stare down at his feet. Rather, he smiled and nervously fingered the Potter family ring on his right hand as Professor Slughorn approached with a broad smile.
Summoned by the applause, Ponzi the house elf appeared, made a gesture to McGonagall, and popped back to the ether from which he came.
"The meal is ready,"
McGonagall announced. In the center of the room, a small hutch sprouted from
the stone floor and began to stretch itself into a table. The veteran
professors nimbly stepped away from the growing furniture, but Professors Ferdinand
Once the table was large enough to seat everyone, chairs appeared and the professors began claiming seats. Harry sat in the one closest to him and watched as Daphne pulled out the chair next to his.
"Oh! Thank you, Ms. Greengrass," declared Professor Mason as he sat in the chair she had just pulled out. "Your manners are impeccable! Respect for your elders is in such short supply these days."
Daphne's face reddened
again, but not from embarrassment. Mason was all of six years older than her
and was clearly not in a position to be assessing anyone else's manners. With
most of the other chairs already claimed, Daphne found herself seated between
Slughorn was on Harry's left and offered him the platter of jacket potatoes. "You turned in quite a performance this summer, Harry. I've never had an Order of Merlin recipient in my class before. Of course, there were already a few in the Slug Club, but one more couldn't hurt!" Slughorn laughed jovially. "The meetings this year are guaranteed to be a smashing success!"
"Erm... well I don't know if..."
"I apprenticed under
Mortimer Cornfoggle," Mason interrupted. "Minister Fudge awarded him the Order
of Merlin for domesticating hippogriffs." This, Harry learned, was immediately
after Mason had graduated from Hogwarts as Head boy with Outstanding scores on
his O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s, but before the three years of study at an institution
While Mason expounded on his vitae at length, Harry couldn't help but notice Mason never once mentioned any practical experience in the subject. Harry got the distinct impression that he was supposed to be impressed by the man's travels and schooling. Delores Umbridge couldn't find a better defense student, Harry concluded.
Finally, the meal was over and McGonagall passed around a stack of multi-colored parchment. Each professor took one and began studying their copy closely. "I have managed this year's schedule such that there are no time conflicts," she proudly announced. "For the first time in two decades, every student can enroll in each class they requested."
"There are some benefits to lower enrollment, Minerva," Flitwick laughed.
McGonagall's lips pursed in dismay. "I suppose," she conceded. "In fact, there is some room for flexibility, and Filius was kind enough to charm the schedules for me. If the time block is red, the class must be held then. If it is blue, you can move the class to any time spot that appears green when you tap your wand to it. Does anyone wish to alter their class time?"
For the next thirty minutes, Harry and Daphne silently watched as the staff rearranged their schedules. It was an interesting experience watching Sprout trade her class for Flitwick's time slot. Flitwick was resistant until Sprout offered a barrel of mead and three pounds of chocolate.
These bargains continued for awhile until Harry was sure that McGonagall had wasted her time in setting the schedule originally. However when everyone was finished, McGonagall examined the schedule and performed a spell on her parchment that revealed no conflicts.
"Excellent! Mr. Potter and Ms. Greengrass, I have a few more things for you; everyone else is dismissed until the Welcome Feast tomorrow evening. If you need it, the floo connection in the Great Hall will be open until then. The password is perseverance."
Chairs scraped against the floor in a cacophony of chatter. Harry and Daphne huddled with McGonagall. "We have staff meetings every Sunday night. You're welcome to attend if you want, otherwise I'll inform you if your presence is required."
At this, Ponzi appeared with a stack of pamphlets. McGonagall gave half to Harry and the remainder to Daphne. "I have a board meeting this afternoon, but you can work out the prefect schedules yourselves." She tapped the back cover of one with a long curved fingernail. "It works best if you assign each prefect a patrol time and then make changes as needed. As for the rules, read them tonight, give a pamphlet to each prefect tomorrow, and review the basic points on the train. You two are responsible for ensuring the system works as it is supposed to. Any questions? Good."
As McGonagall rushed off, Harry and Daphne returned to the prefects' classroom on the fourth floor. "That was interesting," Harry observed. "No wonder our schedules never make sense."
"Yeah, I think Mason moved his third year classes three times and still wound up with his original timeslot."
"Sweet Merlin, he's a ponce!" Harry groaned. "Wouldn't shut up about all of his experience."
"Even Horace Slughorn couldn't get a word in edgewise," Daphne laughed. "He's clearly compensating."
Harry smirked. "Alright, let's get this done so we can go out and fly."
"You're on Potter."
It took fifteen minutes to set the prefect patrol schedule, and then they reviewed the handbook until they were both comfortable with the rules they were supposed to enforce.
"I'm glad I wasn't a prefect," Daphne commented. "This stuff is all really dull."
Twenty minutes later, Harry and Daphne found Professor Hooch in her office near the Quidditch pitch. "Good afternoon, professor," Harry greeted. "Erm, We were hoping to borrow two brooms and a snitch. We've got a friendly little wager."
"Of course, Mr. Potter," Hooch smiled as she retrieved two identical green and black Nimbus 2000s from the equipment locker. "How large is this wager?"
Hooch frowned. "That's not an insignificant sum."
"I'm good for it," Daphne huffed. "And Potter here has got more galleons than good sense."
"Alright then," Hooch dropped her objection with a small head shake. "This will be as even as possible. You both have the same brooms, and you'll be playing with a professional snitch. I've seen the two of you fly and you've both got the skill." She extended the snitch to Daphne but withheld it momentarily. "If the snitch isn't caught by sundown, you'll have to call it a draw."
"Thanks professor," Harry answered as they left for the pitch.
"Don't be overconfident Mr. Potter," Hooch called out. "I've seen Ms. Greengrass fly, you'll have to work for this."
"I'm up for a challenge."
At center pitch, they released the snitch, but waited nearly three minutes before mounting their brooms and kicking off. Harry began by flying a few laps around the pitch while searching for the tell tale glint of the snitch. After a few minutes he was at the northwest end.
Looking around he saw Daphne several meters higher hovering near the center circle intently scanning for the snitch. Feeling reckless, Harry dove into a feint and looked up to see if Daphne had been fooled. She had apparently come down a bit but had not taken the bait. Perhaps this would be a tough wager, Harry decided.
Pulling back on the broom, Harry rose and floated toward Daphne. She seemed much more intent on finding the snitch than he was. "It takes all the fun out of it if there aren't Bludgers and Chasers whipping around you," he observed.
"It does, but you can get easily distracted by the game if you're watching the other players," Daphne answered. Without warning, she rocketed to her left, twisting and diving every few meters.
Harry slammed his Nimbus to full speed a moment after her, but was angry that she'd gotten the drop on him. With equivalent brooms there was little chance that he could beat her in a short chase. Fortunately, he watched as she pulled out of a dive and started laughing at him.
"You fell for my feint!" she declared gleefully, circling him like a shark. "Not so big and bad now, are we Potter?"
Harry grinned and set off to continue pacing the pitch. For the next thirty five minutes, Harry circled while Daphne hovered about the center. Finally, a golden spark appeared momentarily about twenty meters above her head.
Harry casually closed the distance between himself and her position. He caught her eyes and smiled benignly. "This is taking longer than it should."
"It's a professional snitch, Pot..."
Her momentary distraction was the only opening he needed. He was already at a great advantage because he had been moving, albeit slowly, while she was essentially at rest. Harry channeled as much magical power as he could muster and accelerated directly toward the snitch. It sensed his approach and half heartedly attempted a dip and a dodge, but Harry was upon it, palming it with practiced ease, Daphne close behind him.
"That was low," she complained hollowly.
"I'd say it was cunning," Harry said with a grin as they flew down to the equipment locker.
On the ground, Daphne dug out ten galleons and handed them to Harry. "We'll have to rematch sometime."
Harry grinned. "Just name the time and place." He started to pocket the coins but held them back out to her. "You know, I'll pay you ten galleons if you'll call me Harry."
"No Potter, you keep it. I'll manage," she said with a hint of a smile.
They reached the gate at the edge of Hogwarts' wards. "Have a good evening, Daphne. I'll see you tomorrow."
Daphne smiled and replied, "You too, Harry," as she disappeared with a sharp crack.
With a broad smile, Harry collected his thoughts and a much fainter pop could be heard as the road to the school was empty once again.
Author's Note: I am sorry that I haven't updated in almost 15 months. I don't have an excuse, nor am I going to make one. I don't have a single word on paper for the next chapter, so there's no telling when this will be updated next... but I would still like to finish this story one day. Lastly, I will say that reviews and feedback encourage me to take the story out of my head and put it on paper.
Author's Recognition: Fortune favors the Brave is not mine. I think it's Jeconais'. Also, I first saw the professional snitch in GreenGecko's memorable scene with Suzy the Slytherin seeker in Resonance.