The Secret of the Forest
Chapter 11: A Fierce Rival
Hermione kept her promise to Albus when she wrote an article against Rita Skeeter to start the fight. This time, it was Hermione exposing the journalist. Albus kept his mouth shut meanwhile and did not expose her.
Campaign Behind the Scenes by Hermione J. G. Weasley:
Rita Skeeter has been plaguing the world for a long time now. She started with personal articles against student Harry Potter in 1994, went on with a book against Albus Dumbledore against 1997 and continued with a book against Severus Snape in 1999. She’s been quiet for a while now but we knew she wasn’t down. It turns out she was planning a comeback in the world of journalism when she realized that her books did not sell as much as she had hoped.
Rita Skeeter last year interfered with internal Hogwarts problems as seems to be her favorite subject. Anyone remember the love triangle she accused me and Harry of having with Krum? It turns out neither of this was true and things ended very differently.
In 1993-1994, Skeeter was leading a campaign to stamp out vampires fresh from a successful campaign to ban Werewolves from employment in 1993. Supporting her was convict Dolores Umbridge who is now serving time in Azkaban. Now she continues her unsuccessful campaign against vampires and this time with a victory to her name.
Campaigning hard against five exchange students last year, she managed to expose some secret Merlin-knows-how concerning secret letters between Harry Potter, Otto Blackberry and Galadral Phoenix. They were kicked from the country, showing extreme prejudiced on her part. Skeeter strikes against this year about vampires.
She supported in her previous articles last summer decisions made by Phoenix to expel a half vampire. However, she is still unsatisfied. She is now asking for the sacking of Professor Era who though being a full vampire defended students against Riley’s frenzy last year.
Since the summer, she’s been silent. I’m writing to tell you why without exposing too much. Skeeter is engaged in a three-way battle with me and Mr. Blackberry. Here’s how it is so far. Skeeter is backed by Incommodo of the Educational Department, Mr. Malfoy of the Ministerial Department, and Mr. Mold of the school governors against myself, Headmaster Phoenix, Mr. Blackberry of the International Department and Mr. Potter of the Auror Department.
Phoenix is facing trouble in the school keeping true feelings silent but it is obvious that he cannot say much about the vampires. He has been largely silent. Mr. Blackberry defends his right to work in the Ministry as a vampire and Harry Potter has spoken in defense of this, taking a risk for himself and Mr. Blackberry concerning his reputation.
I’ve been sending letters to Skeeter myself over the summer which will be published as time passes if she continues writing slanders against everyone. She is no longer welcome in the journalistic world and will now play by the rules. All I can say now is that she is spying in an illegal way and must be found out.
November arrived, and with it the first Quidditch game of the season. Slytherin would play Gryffindor in a long-awaited, long-rivaled match. Scorpius would be seeker against none other than Mark Wallader, and from Albus saw the previous year, Mark was good. But then, Mark was good at everything. Was there anything he couldn’t do? Well, at least he was bad at Divination.
The pre-game days were filled with a number of incidents involving Slytherin and Gryffindor players jinxing each other or attempting to curse each other. Albus knew. He attempted a Hex on Curtis Hard of the Gryffindor beaters. That was before he himself was sent to the Hospital wing from Tulip Restcamp, Gryffindor Chaser. Scorpius carried him there, and Albus enduring the snide comments of how he was too soft to hit a girl.
These comments bothered Albus so much, he proved himself when Adrianna Longbottom tried Jinxing him from behind. Albus had to throw himself flat down to the ground and trip her with a Jinx before he could stagger back up and run away, Scorpius yelling and laughing behind him.
“Even first years?” Albus demanded.
“Forget that, Professor Longbottom is gonna kill you!” Scorpius said in glee as if he couldn’t have asked for better luck. “You’ll probably be banned from Quidditch!”
“Banned my ass, I barely got away from the freak,” Albus panted. “She’s gonna get grounded!”
When the day arrived, the players bore unmistakable signs of injury, especially James, who dueled Malcolm to the finish the day before. Malcolm walked away unscathed and James sported a bloody nose. Only Mark looked unhurt even though he was the target of all hexes. But Albus learned a long time ago to never try to make a point with Mark through wands.
The day was bright, thankfully, so the sun shone nicely, and clear vision was insured for the players. Albus sighed, and looked over at Scorpius. Scorpius looked confident enough, if only his scratched face showed it. Master Cantharis, the Flying teacher approached them all, “Shake hands, Captains!”
Albus looked up to the commentator podium to look at Alex. He was still commentating as in his first two years. But something was different. Professor Redgrow as Head of Gryffindor house usually sat beside Alex. This time, it was the controversial vampire Professor Era, watching over the game herself and sitting there obviously to keep an eye on Alex’s comments.
“Master Cantharis orders all captains to shake their hands,” Alex announced. “But even the blind could know that, given his unnaturally loud voice- oops did I say that aloud?”
“DETENTION MR. WALLABY!” Cantharis yelled angrily.
“Oh, come on Professor, it’s getting old,” Alex said back, a note of laughter in his voice. “It was triumphant putting me in detention the first year, but we’re teens now. Get with the times!”
“Thirty points from Gryffindor!” he screamed.
A silence. That crowd was roaring with laughter, and Alex coughed, “Erm… ok, that was new. Anyway, the captains shake hands. The… err… respectable Master Cantharis releases the Quaffle, and the game starts.
“Gryffindor in possession, James Potter passes it to Captain Jerry Wood,” Alex announced. He seemed his old enthusiastic self as well. Albus remembered admiring his enthusiasm during the first year, when none of them were playing. “Jerry passes it to Restcamp, new fourth year find of his. A rather attractive girl who”-
“Wallaby, no flirting with the team players,” Era yelled over the megaphone.
“Oh, Merlin, we’re all having fun with the commentator, aren’t we,” Alex retorted. “Ok, ok, a very ugly girl who nonetheless has a lot of admirers, including our own”-
Who the admirer was, Albus didn’t hear. Era snatched the megaphone away from Alex, and commented through it herself. “It’s Lorcan Scamander with the Quaffle. He races up and attempts a shot. The Gryffindor keeper, Fiona Garb blocks it effectively, and passes it back to the Gryffindor side. It seems no side has yet made a goal, obviously because of some ridiculous and demeaning comments made up here, but nonetheless”-
“Thank you for that commentary, Professor, I’ve learned my lesson,” Alex said. “Slytherin Chaser Albus Potter with the Quaffle. He dodges his brother James quite well, I must admit, and soars through the pitch. And look at that, an old enemy comes. Some might remember Tulip as the girl who placed the fear of God in Albus a few days back. Whoa, Albus dodged her too. James and Tulip are on his tail. The two work so well together”-
“Yes, because they’re great teammates,” Era said in a stressed yell. “Potter attempts a steal, but his brother dodges well.”
“Professor,” Alex interrupted. “The blind would ask which Potter we are looking at here.”
“Restcamp changes position,” Era declared, ignoring Alex’s smart-alecky comment.
And so they were. James and Tulip were chasing Albus right into Jerry Wood. Jerry zoomed forward, but Lorcan came in front to take the Quaffle from Albus. Before James could follow, Malcolm bashed into him.
“Teamwork is shown on both sides, one could commend the playing of this game,” Era said firmly. “No matter the outcome, the players are using teamwork, and”-
“Yeah, teamwork,” Alex said, and by the tone of his voice, anyone could tell he was rolling his eyes. “But more interesting, the rivalry takes itself to the pitch, it seems,” Alex was saying. “Malcolm and James tussle over the Quaffle in midair.”
A bludger zoomed out of nowhere, and hit Malcolm in the chest. He nearly toppled off his broom, but managed to hold on. Albus passed him, carelessly, chasing after James, and the whistle blew. “Penalty to Gryffindor. Mold has committed a foul!”
“Aw, screw you, Mold!” Lorcan yelled angrily, earning himself a nudge from Jennifer.
“There seems to be cursing on the Slytherin side as Gryffindor Chaser Tulip Restcamp readies to make a goal, and- whoa, calm down, Professor, it’s for the visually impaired.”
“There are no blind people in the school.”
“Then why do we have commentating?” Alex cheeked. “Wait, does Master Cantharis have something to say?”
Master Cantharis seemed thoughtful since Alex mentioned the cursing. He looked at Alex thoughtfully, and then gazed straight at Lorcan, “Cursing? Cursing? Ok, two penalties to Gryffindor!”
Albus gaped at Cantharis, and looked up at Alex at the top, and flew over to Spock, the Beater. “Throw your bat at Wallaby, and feign Confundus charm.”
Tulip took both penalties, and so angry, Jennifer missed them. “Twenty-zero to Gryffindor.”
Indeed Alex was telling the truth, “Gryffindor has the Quaffle a lot this game, and no one is making a goal save the penalties, and- GALLOPING GARGOYLES! Spock attacks the commentator. Podium under attack, women and children first!”
There was a scuffle up there, and looking up, it seemed Spock had taken Albus’ order to heart, and attacked Alex. Era whipped her wand out, and a transparent shield spell spanning the length of the podium sent the broom flying back, and Alex was safe once more.
“Ok, after that disgusting attack on the innocent yet hilarious commentator, we turn back to the game,” Alex said, relief present in his voice. Anyone could tell he was taken by surprise.
Before Albus knew it, Scorpius zoomed past him, and yelled, “Philip, hit a bludger at Mark!”
Albus looked around. Philip obliged, and zoomed after Mark, praying a bludger would appear for him to use. Mark was on the snitch’s tail. It was just a matter of time.
Meanwhile, the war over the megaphone was raging between Era and Alex. Alex was throwing in vague insults that prompted Era to take it away from him.
“The snitch is elusive, but it seems, Mark is about to pull off another catch over Scorpius Malfoy of Slytherin,” Alex was saying aloud. “It’s time to see if inflated heads win over smart brain or not”-
Era tugged it from him once more, “The snitch is racing, but the seekers are faster. Malfoy is catching up, but will he make it?”
“Thank you Professor,” Alex said, taking it back. “This commentator has just lost his team thirty points. Please don’t take away my commentating too. It’s hilarious. Yes, the Malfoy is catching up, but he’s still a long way away and unless a bludger”-
“Philip Horton hits a bludger at Mark Wallader,” Era yelled into the megaphone.
“But Gryffindor Beater Fredrick McLaggen hits it at Scorpius too, and Mark manages to stay on. It’s Beater vs. Beater, and only the strongest side will win. Bludgers are being hit, and both seekers get back onto their brooms. They chase off after the snitch, gaining up on it well. Scorpius reaches his hand and… wait… And Mark catches the snitch! Mark catches the snitch, and claims victory for Gryffindor. One hundred and seventy to zero. What a game”-
“Purely decided on the snitch,” Era said. “And by the closeness of the catch, anyone could call the teams almost even.”
“But Gryffindor still wins!” Alex said happily, and whooped.
Mark raised his hand in the air as he landed. He smiled a toothy grin. All his teeth were showing. The smile looked almost forced but everyone could tell it was genuine. Albus and Scorpius landed. Though they lost, they were red with laughter. “That,” Scorpius said as they landed and put their brooms over their shoulders. “Was the most hilarious commentating ever. Give that kid credit.”
The attempt to laugh about losing the match was short-lived though. Albus and Scorpius put happy faces up after the game, but when they were in the privacy of the Common room, uproar was going on, and their team Captain, Jennifer was not at all happy. She seemed capable, now Albus heard her yell, to rival his own mother if ever it came down to a Hurricane contest. Ginny has been known to wage weeks-long Hurricanes. Now, Jennifer seemed to be taking well after her.
“I’ve trained you all the hardest I can!” she raged. “What was wrong with you? And Malcolm, what the bloody hell is wrong with you? Must you fight James during a game? Save your fights till after we’ve won!”
Then she turned on Lorcan, “And you! Scamander! I would’ve expected better of you. How could you get on Cantharis’ nerves by cursing like that?”
“It wasn’t that bad,” Lorcan said defensively. “He’s a howling git, why blame me? He didn’t even hear me till Alex”-
Albus nodded vigorously. “Cantharis is a nasty piece of work, and”-
“Did I call for a lawyer, Potter?” Jennifer asked callously.
Jennifer had a crease between her eyes as she stared them all down. Finally, she whipped her eyes past Albus to Scorpius, “Malfoy!” Scorpius jumped about an inch, and so tried to hide it, and acted as though nothing happened. “Malfoy! Do I have to replace you?’
To Albus’ surprise, Scorpius scoffed, “With who, exactly? Who in the tryouts performed better than me, huh?”
To Albus’ relief, Jennifer either chose not to answer, or simply couldn’t. So, she shrugged angrily, and went to bed, muttering something about bad teamwork, and wishing she had other people on her team.