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Tryouts

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September 10, 1992, 11:00 AM, Quidditch Pitch, Hogwarts

Adam Clarke

I sat on the bleachers, engrossed in the pages of my book, somewhat oblivious to the bustling atmosphere surrounding me. The sound of cheers and excitement from the Quidditch field echoed in the distance, but I was determined to keep pushing through this tome.

Su and Tony, ever persistent in getting me to stop, sat beside me, their anticipation mounting as they eagerly awaited Harry's turn at the tryouts. They nudged me incessantly, urging me to pay attention, but I was reluctant to tear myself away from what I was doing.

It wasn't even that the book's contents were particularly titillating; the opposite was true. This damn thing was a dry, painful to read slog, and yet I found myself approaching the answers I was seeking.

The Room of Requirement really spoiled me, in that sense.

So if I just reverse the flow on my spell during the curse breaking attempt. I thought, feeling my confusion mount as I stopped at the paragraph. The Hell— just straight up reverse the flow? How exactly am I supposed to do that without tearing the spell apart? Explosions would be the least of my worries— might as well throw a Killing Curse at it, at that point. Same result in the end…

"Adam, come on! Put the book down! It's Harry's turn!" Su's voice broke through my thoughts.

Sighing, I reluctantly closed the book and turned my attention towards the field.

I watched as Harry walked besides the other Seekers from the previous season as well as a group of other students, all hoping for their shot in the limelight.

"All right." Came Coordinator Griffiths' authoritative voice as she approached. Cracking her neck, she popped her small notebook open, reading through it as she spoke. "I've gotten a good handle on the school's Chasers, Keepers and Beaters. Last but not least…"

She raised her hazel eyes from the notebook, sweeping them over the assembled group of prospective Seekers. "Time for the Seekers to show what they're made of!"

Tall and poised, Griffiths eyed every applicant as she passed them by. "I'll spare you the speech I've given twice already, but suffice it to say that you know what's at stake here, and what you have to gain. Are you ready to see if you're good enough to join the big leagues?"

All of the Seekers nodded in determination, looking like they were ready to go to Hell and back.

"Hmph." She turned her nose up at their bravado. "Let's see if you can impress me. Four Beaters and six Bludgers now!"

"Six!" "She really is barmy." "They can't possibly even fly with so many Bludgers out!" The crowd erupted in whispers as the assembled Seekers wilted at the very thought of having to deal with double the amount of Bludgers they normally did.

"Your tryouts will happen over multiple rounds." Griffiths spoke over the whispers, quieting them instantly. "The first round is an all out scramble for the Snitch. Whichever one of you catches the Snitch wins that particular round— I will also be keeping an eye for those of you who acquit themselves well in this bout, so even if you do not win, you may yet impress me. Now, are you ready?"

There was a chorus of agreement from the Seekers and, with a wave of her wand, she set the Snitch to float above them.

"...Begin!" And she let it go.

Harry mounted his Nimbus with confidence, shooting straight into the air, followed by the remainder of the group.

"Beaters!" She addressed the Weasley Twins as well as two others. "Drop them all out of the sky!"

"Yes, Coach!"

"I told you not to call me that!"

The crowd laughed and chuckled in varying degrees as the Beaters went to work, forcing the Seekers to scatter from their single-minded chase of the Snitch.

The golden Snitch, fluttering and glimmering, went completely still, as if it were mocking every single Seeker trying to catch it— and with good reason. Two Seekers crashed into each other as they dodged a bludger each, dropping down to the grass like swatted flies. The crowd gasped as Griffith's helpers moved them off of the Pitch.

Harry, for his part, darted and swerved through the other players, changing directions unpredictably in an attempt to confuse them. As he and the other Seekers approached the Snitch once again, it resumed its tricky behavior. It would dart maddeningly close to one of them only to fly away at the last second, forcing them to scatter to avoid more collisions.

Anticipating that thing's moves is a bitch and a half. I thought as I did my best to follow its trajectory. Then again, I suppose that's part of how Harry is so quick on the uptake when it comes to things being thrown or cast his way— practicing following the Snitch?

Hm. I would need to see if I could create a sort of training ground for spell accuracy in the Room of Requirement. It would certainly be very helpful for both the tournament, as well as the future battles to come.

"He's doing it!" Hermione said from the side, sounding even more excited than Su and Tony.

I turned my attention back to Harry, watching as he pushed himself to the limit, weaving skillfully through the chaos and occasionally using barrel rolls and loops to avoid Bludgers that came dangerously close to knocking him off his broom.

I could almost imagine the whoosh of air as a Bludger whizzed past his ear, but the Gryffindor boy remained undeterred, determined to seize the golden opportunity.

Harry put on an extra burst of speed as he spied the Snitch again, approaching it faster than ever before. Just as he was about to reach out and grab it, one of the rival seekers attempted to knock him off course. Harry anticipated this move, having watched the seeker's body language, and at the last moment, he veered sideways, making the opponent collide with empty air.

But there was no time to celebrate this small victory as another Bludger whizzed towards him. With cat-like reflexes, Harry leaned to the side, narrowly dodging the menacing ball. In that split second, he saw his chance and took it.

With a perfectly timed lunge, Harry dove in front of another Seeker with absolutely no regard for his own safety and closed his fist around the tiny, glimmering ball.

"He did it!" Tony said as Griffiths blew into her whistle, signaling the end of the round.

"Bloody Hell!" "Dodged a Bludger and outsped Diggory!"

I cheered along with my friends at Harry's audacious victory as Griffiths began to address the assembled students.

"Well done, Potter!" She called out. "Solid timing and form, though still somewhat raw— I can tell you've begun training on remedying that."

Harry nodded, saying nothing. I supposed it made sense: judging by how he was panting for breath, he likely couldn't say a word without collapsing on the spot. He truly gave it his all.

"Diggory, as well. You'd performed well." Griffiths nodded towards the Hufflepuff boy, who thrust his chest out with pride. Griffiths quickly made sure to shoot him down before he got a big head. "There were several points where you almost had it, not including the end— though I suppose trying to fly your way through three Bludgers is a bit much to ask of a Hogwarts student."

"Thank you, Coordinator." Cedric said, sufficiently cowed, but still excited to be getting advice from a pro.

"Right, right." Griffiths said before clapping her hands together. "Now that I've got a general feel for how you've all done… You, you and you; you're out. The rest of you will undergo one-on-one Seeker battles."

The remaining Seekers nodded as the ones who were kicked out left with supreme looks of unhappiness on their faces.

"They don't look much pleased." Tony said, shaking his head.

"They should be glad they're being spared further embarrassment." I added in. "I'm not much for Quidditch, but even I know those three didn't even get close— what were they thinking even trying out?"

A shrug answered my question, and so it was that I continued to watch the remainder of the tryouts.

Of course, that only lasted for a few minutes when I realized that one-on-one quick matches between Seekers were anything but. Leaning back in my seat, I popped open my book once again, ignoring Tony's eye roll.

"What are you reading?" Hermione asked, her gaze darting to the open book on my lap.

I lifted it so she could read the cover.

"'The Art Of Unraveling'?" She said, her eyes squinting before she gave me an expectant look as she held her hand out. Amused, I gave it to her.

"It's a book on breaking enchantments and curses." I explained as she flipped towards the beginning, skimming over the first few pages for a minute before she handed it back to me.

"Are you sure you should be reading this?" She said as she leaned over to me, her voice lower. "Some of the enchantments described in here seem very… dangerous."

"You know me." I said, giving her a small smile. "Danger's my middle name."

"I'm not joking, Adam." Hermione insisted, the look of worry in her eyes intensifying and grabbing the attention of Su and Tony.

"Well, you shouldn't worry so much." I said, brushing her hand off of my shoulder. "I'm only reading about it right now, and when I get around to practicing this level of curse breaking, I'll be taking every appropriate precaution. Trust me, I'll be fine."

"Well… All right." Hermione relented, though she did not sound particularly convinced by my words. Su and Tony gave me looks, but left it at that.

Shrugging, I returned to my book and continued to read through, only stopping to listen to Griffith's announcement at the end— that the applicants would have to wait a few days while she deliberated with Hooch and the Heads of House.

Stowing it away in my backpack, I got up and gestured for the others to follow me. "Come on, let's catch up with Harry and Ron."

The trip down took a few minutes, but we soon found ourselves before the two boys. The two looked exhausted in different ways. Harry's uniform was nearly stuck to his frame from all the sweat, while Ron was rubbing the side of his head like he'd been through a mental marathon.

Likely nursing a headache from all the tactics questions that Griffiths put the kid through. I thought in both amusement and sympathy as the two boys walked up to us.

"Hey, you two." I said.

"Great job out there!" Su said, nodding excitedly and making the two boys smile.

"Yeah. What she said." Tony added in, and I followed by pointing at the girl as well.

"Here." Hermione handed the two boys some water. "I imagine you two must be parched by now."

The two boys took the gourds, sending Hermione looks of supreme gratitude as they drank deeply from the containers. "Thanks."

"Think you did all right?" I asked, and the two stopped their drinking to share a look. Turning to me, they shrugged as one.

"Dunno." Ron said, and though he seemed nervous, his relief shone through. "We won't know until Griffiths makes an announcement about it."

"Yeah, you're right about that." Tony said. "Well, at least it's over and you can rest for a bit. Rest of the day's free!"

That got everyone to smile. My own smile lasted for a short time, however, as someone caught my eye from the left. Focusing my attention in that direction, I realized that it was Daphne Greengrass.

And she was looking right at me. It took me a moment to realize why she was here before I frowned in annoyance. She nodded towards a direction leading outside of the Quidditch Pitch before going there.

"Guys, I have to go. Something's come up." I said, moving forward to pat Harry and Ron on the shoulders. "Good show, you two."

"What's going on?" Tony said, looking suspicious. "I would've thought you'd be reading that book of yours, now that the tryouts are done."

I looked at him, and then at everyone else before deciding to tell the truth.

"...So, you're going to meet a Slytherin… Alone?" Ron said, shaking his head in dismay. "Barmy."

"I suppose so." I said, shrugging. "If it makes you guys feel better, you can come with me, but I imagine Greengrass doesn't want a big crowd."

"Su and I will follow you." Hermione said before anyone else could speak.

"We will?" Su said, surprised for a moment before she locked eyes with Hermione. A moment later, she nodded with determination. "We will."

"From a distance." Hermione made sure to add, having expected my outright refusal.

I shook my head with a chuckle. "Do as you please— I suppose as long as you don't interfere, it'll be fine."

I'm expecting to have to show this kid that I'm not to be trifled with. I thought in dismay. Bullying kids is not something I want to do. I guess this isn't really bullying, but establishing the hierarchy? Oh, who am I kidding— it's bullying.

"All right. Let's go."

Saying our goodbyes, I left the group and headed in the direction Daphne had nodded in, with Hermione and Su following me from a distance. Exiting the Quidditch Pitch, I did the same with Daphne, who was walking alongside her friend Tracey Davis.

I heard murmurs coming from behind and turned towards Su and Hermione, who wisely began to make distance. I shook my head.

"They're gonna get in the way, aren't they…" I said dryly to myself before sighing. "I suppose that's what I get for accepting their help."

A cool breeze caressed my face, a sign of Summer's impending end as Autumn began to set in. Even now, I could almost see the tree leaves gaining hints of red, yellow and brown. Only a matter of time.

Daphne continued to lead me down a strange path, getting further and further from the Quidditch Pitch. Eventually, I reached a secluded spot, hidden behind the tall ancient trees that adorned the castle grounds. Even in midday, the light cast long shadows, painting the surroundings with a mesmerizing play of dark and light.

"Interesting place." I said, making Tracey jump and turn to me.

"Black?" She said, confused. "What're you doing here?"

"Hmph." I shook my head. "It seems that Daphne didn't tell you she led me here, huh?"

"..." Tracey didn't say anything, but as I watched her face go from confusion to annoyance, I realized that this likely wasn't the first time Daphne had done something like this.

"So, she's normally this sneaky, huh. That's about what I'd expect from a Slytherin." I said, amused. "Well, Greengrass? What do you want?"

Daphne turned to face me, her long dark hair cascading over her shoulders. With determination in her eyes, she spoke. "Adam Black—"

"That's my name."

"Black." Daphne said, unwilling to be slowed down by my words. "Have you come to a decision yet?"

"A decision?" I said, tilting my head slightly and pretending I didn't know what she was talking about. "A decision about what, exactly?"

"Becoming my teacher." Greengrass said, unwilling to play along as she got straight to the heart of the matter. "A dueling teacher."

"Oh… That." I said with an exaggerated nod, enjoying how the girl did her best to stay calm despite my attempts to annoy her. "Didn't I tell you I'd decide in a few weeks?"

"..."

"And yet, here you are." I said, shrugging. "It hasn't even been one, let alone the two I so graciously asked of you. You should see about getting a calendar."

"Surely you've at least thought about it?" She continued, undeterred.

"No." I said. "I've been busy. New school year and all. Lots of events."

"What, shoveling Thestral manure for the Groundskeeper?" Tracey blurted out with a condescending voice before wilting at my displeased gaze.

"As a matter of fact." I said, pinning her with a glare. "Yes, I have. A sound mind in a sound body— and therefore, said body will be possessed of sound magic. And I must admit, Hagrid has been a true friend, as well as a veritable boon of information when it comes to Magical Creatures. So, yes; I've indeed been busy 'shoveling Thestral manure', as you put it."

To her credit, Davis looked away, shamed by my words.

"I did not come here to pick a fight with you, Black." Daphne said, realizing that this meeting wasn't going to happen the way she wanted it to.

Fight, huh?

"But you want me to teach you." I said, overcome by a sudden bout of inspiration. "How about this, then? I've got an idea."

If I'm going to be a bully, I might as well go all the way.

Daphne didn't seem pleased by the tone of my voice, but nodded anyway. "...I'm listening."

"Let's do a test."

"A test?" Daphne repeated, frowning at the sound of that.

"Oh, yes." I said, giving the girl an over-the-top, predatory smile. "If you truly want me to teach you, then you have to pass this quick test. Sounds simple enough, right?"

"..." Daphne stared at me for a few moments, not having expected that, but ended up nodding in affirmation. "Very well, I'll take this test of yours."

She's got spirit at least. I thought as I held up two fingers.

The two girls stared at it uncomprehendingly for a second before I decided to explain it to them. "Two minutes. I will let you attack me for two full minutes while I only defend, and if your spells can't reach me once, you lose."

Daphne pursed her lips, her blue eyes flashing with annoyance. "Don't think I'm a fool, Black. You'll simply use your Shield Charm for the entire time and wait me out. Or even those chains of yours."

I laughed and shook my head. "You're certainly confident if you think you're good enough for me to use that kind of magic on the likes of you."

Greengrass bristled but didn't rise to the bait.

"How about this, then?" I said, setting my backpack to the side before drawing my ebony wand. "No chains, no Shield Charm. You have two minutes."

"Daphne…" Tracey said, looking uncomfortable with my level of confidence. "Maybe we should just—"

"I accept." Greengrass said before handing her book bag to Tracey. "Hold this for me?"

"...All right." Tracey said, moving to the side.

Silence hung over the air like a thick, heavy cloth, broken only by the sound of leaves swaying in the breeze.

"Ready when you are." Greengrass said, drawing her wand as well.

"Then…" I said, taking a deep breath before raising my wand aloft, conjuring a timer for two minutes. "Begin."

At my words, the timer began to tick down. Daphne's eyes bore a fierce determination, and I could see the subtle hints of energy building up around her as she prepared to strike.

"Disorientus!" Her voice resonated with power as she incanted the spell, sending a burst of violet light hurtling toward me.

Impressive power for her age. I thought as I sidestepped the spell, feeling the rush of air it left in its wake. But still pitifully telegraphed.

Daphne tried again, unleashing a barrage of curses, hexes, and jinxes upon me. But I only shook my head in amusement. Ducking, bobbing and weaving, I evaded each attempt with calculated precision.

The clearing became an intricate dance of spells and movements, the enchantments shimmering through the air like vivid sparks in the night. Daphne's determination only seemed to intensify, but she couldn't find the mark.

Despite her best efforts, I avoided almost every strike— those I couldn't, I deflected with almost contemptuous ease.

"Is that all you've got? Half the time's passed already and I haven't even broken a sweat." I smiled at her, before directing my next words to Davis, who was on the sidelines. "Still think shoveling shit is a waste of time, Davis?"

"I'm not done yet…" Greengrass said as she readied herself to begin another offensive.

"That's the spirit." I smirked and prepared myself as well. "Show me some of that Slytherin sneakiness you're all so famous for."

Daphne narrowed her eyes in determination as she attacked again… With exactly the same chain of spells as before.

"How disappointing…" I said, only to notice a small smile on her face. And so, I watched closely, curious to see what she had concocted.

As she was casting her current spells, I noticed a small sliver of energy exiting her wand and connecting itself with the trees above.

This is highly intricate spellwork— and this girl's only twelve. I thought. What's she doing?

For a moment, I couldn't help but feel a hint of doubt. Was there more to Daphne's skill than I had realized?

However, as the web of spells she'd weaved began to take shape, I quickly deduced its purpose. It was a mass of Summoning Charms, all slowly being linked towards the various branches up in the trees.

Exceedingly impressive magic for a Second Year— talent like this is significant. I thought, smiling. Not good enough, though.

"Nice try, Greengrass." I called out, my voice filled with a hint of amusement. "But I've seen better riddles in my common room's puzzles."

Within half of the time, I copied her own spell, breaking through her own spell's intent and will and subsuming it with my own. "Your time's up, by the way. Accio!"

The air filled with the sound of cracking wood as I sent all of the makeshift stakes downwards towards Daphne's position.

"No!" Tracey screamed as the stakes impacted the girl's general position, seemingly killing her. She turned to me. "What are you doing!?"

She rushed towards Daphne's position, only to be stopped by Daphne's voice.

"Stop! Tracey." The girl said as the dust in the air was cleared away, revealing her to be in the center of a perfect circle of stakes. "I'm fine— and I just passed."

"You…" Tracey said, shocked and befuddled. "What? You did?"

I was about to rebuke the girl when I noticed a strange weight on my left foot. Turning my gaze down, I saw that it had been wrapped with a thick vine from a shrub beside me.

"Well, would you look at that…" I said. "So there is a bit of sneakiness in you. The spell from above was a distraction."

Daphne didn't answer, instead pinning me with an expectant, but still determined look. She didn't dare brag; though she had technically passed my test, she knew that, had I aimed my stakes true, she doubtlessly would have perished. Hell, I could have killed her at any time during the two minutes.

"I wasn't sure it would work." Daphne finally broke the silence. "But it was all I could think of."

I gave her an impressed smile as I removed the vine around my ankle, dispelled the expired timer above and moved over to her, banishing the stakes to the side, where they piled up neatly. "It was a good try, and you did technically get me. You did run out of time though…"

"Then…" Daphne said, frowning. "I failed?"

"Well..." I said. "I suppose you technically did; but that trick was pretty good, so I guess you passed. Join me here on the weekend— Saturday afternoon, half past three. That sound good to you?"

Frowning at my words, Daphne nonetheless nodded. "Very well. I shall see you, then."

"Good."

A silence washed over the clearing once more, and Daphne turned to her friend, taking her book bag from the girl's hands. "Let's go, Tracey."

"A-All right." Tracey said, and I watched the two exit the clearing, with Tracey still sending me suspicious looks, like I was going to attack her friend at any second.

I supposed I couldn't blame her.

"Adam…" I heard Su's voice coming from the treeline as she and Hermione emerged. "You lead a very strange life."

I blinked at the odd choice of words before smiling. "I do, don't I?"

"You know you almost killed that poor girl, right?"

"No." I shook my head as I recalled the final moments of the fight. "At first I thought she was shocked into inaction, but I realize now that she was just focusing on another spell, and she couldn't move and cast at the same time— either way, she was fine."

"So I take it we'll be seeing more of them?" Hermione said, looking neither pleased or displeased by the prospect.

"Who knows?" I said with a shrug. "I know I won't be showing them the place I showed you— not anytime soon, anyway."

"Still… Maybe you should find a few Hufflepuffs, too." Su said, amusement shining in her eyes. "Get the full set of students."

"Not a bad plan." I laughed, though my mind recalled the Sorting Hat's words, turning the sound a little darker than I'd intended. "It couldn't hurt."

This year was certainly going to be an interesting one, that much was true.

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Two different kinds of tryouts…

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