"Just to be clear, Harry," said Cedric parsing each word carefully, like a lawyer trying to spot the trap, "You claim your team of first years can beat the Hufflepuff house team?"
"Yep." Harry kept his voice level like there was no trick to it, just another everyday occurrence that didn't need explanation.
Cedric looked over his shoulder at his team decked out in their bright yellow game day uniforms. Hufflepuffs stick together, and that traditionally meant the 'Puffs had the best teamwork of the four house teams, and this year was no exception. Under Cedric's leadership, they practiced harder and more often than the other teams to the point that subtle body language could speak volumes from half a pitch away. The Hufflepuffs habitually put a lot of care and attention on their reserve team, so the house team was never caught short of talent when seventh years graduated. They might not have the flashy plays or players of the Gryffindor side, but this year they did have himself and, not to toot his own horn, professional scouts had their omnioculars on Cedric.
Heidi, the team vice captain, with a gloved hand on her hip, cocked an eyebrow indicating she didn't know what The Boy Who Lived was trying to pull, but like parchment versus rock, the game was a foregone conclusion: the parchment would have a rock shaped hole through it.
Cedric then sized up Harry's team. There were two Hufflepuffs, who Cedric had chatted to on occasion in their homey house common room: Susan Bones, who showed no particular talent for quidditch; and Neville Longbottom, who was afraid of heights.
The one wearing keepers pads was Ron Weasley, who Cedric had met outside of Hogwarts a couple times because their fathers both worked for the ministry and their families lived in adjoining villages. Ron was clutching a dilapidated Shooting Star. He might be able to guard two hoops at a time on that old thing, but not three.
Harry was the best flyer of the lot, a natural like his father, from what Cedric heard, and would have been an asset to Ravenclaw if he didn't disdain flying and quidditch so much.
Word of Hermione's fear of flying followed quick on the heels of her reputation for almost superhuman learning ability, as students tried to reassure themselves that she had human failings too.
Finally, there was a Slytherin girl and a Gryffindor boy he couldn't place, but Cedric vaguely remembered seeing them as Chaos Legion brooms from the first Battle Magic match of the year. They might make a reserve team -- or even a house team -- in time, but not right now.
Cedric flashed one of those smiles that made him a favorite topic among Hogwarts witches. It was wide and without artifice and spoke of boyish innocence and adult confidence. He didn't know what Harry had up his sleeve, but it would be interesting to find out. "Okay, Mr. Potter. We're game. What are the stakes?"
"You heard, at the start-of-year feast, that the headmaster said I was, quote, reformulating the entire game of quidditch, unquote?" Cedric nodded. "If you win, I will drop all protestations against the snitch. If we win, you and I will have a conversation and you'll agree to at least consider my quidditch reforms, though I won't require you to take them up."
Cedric extended a hand clad in a fingerless glove. "You've got a deal." They shook.
Since Madam Hooch was not there to referee, the teams agreed that it was only fitting that the game would start when Harry snapped his fingers.
The Hufflepuffs started with possession of the quaffle. Two chasers blazed through midfield line toward the first years' goal, and soon it was ten to zero. Hermione and Neville might as well not have had brooms. The third chaser, Tracey Davis, was barely a speedbump. A textbook Porskoff Ploy dealt with her. Heidi faked a shot, reversed passed to Tamsin, who then scored on an undefended hoop.
Through all this, Harry and Cedric hovered in the middle of the pitch. He's waiting to see what we've got up our sleeve. That's what we would do if some 8-year old challenged us to a math contest, commented Ravenclaw.
Harry drifted to the right, and Cedric mirrored him.
Harry bobbed up and down in a sinusoidal pattern, and Cedric mirrored him.
Harry took his right hand off his broom and gave Cedric a lazy wave. Cedric waved back.
For this game, they were both mounted on Nimbus 2000 brooms. Whoever invented the broomstick enchantments had decided that Harry's smaller size meant that he had slightly better acceleration -- including turning radius -- but Cedric was more robust against wind. Most importantly, for this plan to work, they both had the same top speed.
All we have to do is maneuver into a position where we can beat him to the Hufflepuff end of the field.
He turned and started a lap of the oval field, a common seeker search pattern according to Ron. Cedric flew on his inside, always between him and center of the pitch. It meant that Cedric was more exposed to bludgers, but it also meant that, assuming the snitch was uniformly likely to be anywhere in the stadium, Cedric was probably closer.
We can work with that.
Tracey tried to move the quaffle upfield but lost it to a well-aimed bludger. Heidi scooped up the loose quaffle and, moments later, it was twenty to zero.
The seekers continued widdershins around the pitch until Harry was between Cedric and the Hufflepuff goalposts. He turned and dove to quickly accelerate to top speed before leveling off, aiming one section of stands to the left of the goal. Cedric had spun on the instant and was a fraction of a second behind him.
Where is it...
Then he saw a glimmer of gold and made a slight course correction. The snitch was flying sou'-sou'-east while the seeker pair was flying nor'-nor'-west, so the relative velocity was quite fast. The snitch did a jink in the last second, but Harry reacted and lunged while holding onto his broom with his legs.
Harry felt the fluttering of the golden snitch slow as it nestled in the palm of his hand.
Both teams landed, lined up, and shook hands. Cedric and Harry were the last pair to shake. "So how did you do it?" asked Cedric. He showed none of the chagrin of his teammates and instead was smiling. It wasn't everyday you got to be part of a story about The Boy Who Lived.
Two hours earlier, Harry tucked the time-turner back into his robes. Into a drawer his past self had... would open, he slipped a small square of parchment upon which he had drawn a figure of the quidditch pitch with where to find the snitch.
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