Once again, Cedric stood in the center of his team as they lined up on the midfield line. "Are we going to play a fair game this time, Harry?"
"No?" The yellow-clad squad visibly bristled. Hufflepuffs held hard work and fair play in high regard, and last of the Potters wasn't even trying to conceal his skulduggery.
"No, because that wouldn't be interesting. My team is composed entirely of first years, two of them scared of flying, and a third riding a stick older than the school's Cleansweep Sevens."
"Watch it, Potter! I'm only doing this as a favor to General Granger."
Harry continued in stride while Hermione pulled Ron aside. "If we were to play fair, there would be no contest. The Hufflepuff house team is so overwhelmingly favored to win that you can't even savor the victory. I mean, how much pride can you take in crushing a team of, effectively, four and a half first years? In short, if we play fair -- meaning with no tricks up our sleeves -- it still wouldn't be a fair game -- meaning a relatively even match where both sides have a decent chance of victory."
"I see." Cedric folded his arms across his chest. "You know, there are other reasons to play a friendly game of quidditch."
Harry paused. "Such as?"
"Spending the afternoon with friends. The simple joy of flying, especially in weather like this." Today's sky was unusually bright and clear for Scotland. "And there are some things about a real game that drills can't quite provide, so mixing them with what our Defense professor would call 'live-fire exercises' is good practice."
"Ah." Harry looked and felt properly chagrined. His mind flashed back to the first Battle Magic class of the year, the day Professor Quirrell outed him as the most dangerous student in the year. The intent to kill, the will to win. "Well, I'm afraid playing us in a fair game wouldn't give your team much practice. But I can offer you a game against a team with unusual tactics. Since I have not been indoctrinated by Quidditch Through the Ages or traditional modes of thought, I can offer an outside perspective."
Said Cedric, with a smirk, "Some how, Mr. Potter, I'm not sure we could use your 'techniques' in an official quidditch game."
"Almost certainly. That is, if they were caught." Harry noticed the seven Hufflepuffs, all older and taller than him, now also looked considerably colder. The glares from behind him weren't much better. "Not that I would do that in a serious game, but Slytherin house does have a certain reputation. Furthermore, highlighting certain exploitable aspects of quidditch may lead us to think of legal innovations."
The Hufflepuff captain turned to his team. A couple of them were as curious as he was. Heidi just rolled her eyes and gave him a 'whatever' face. "All right, Harry, we're still interested."
"Excellent. See if you discover what the technique is and try to counter it."
Diggory pulled his wand out of the dueling holster hidden underneath his quidditch robes. "Suppose I just cast Finite Incantatem on you right now."
Harry bowed. "Then you win. Hermione and I are the only ones here who can cast the charm. If you dispel it each time we recast it, even working together, we would reach magical exhaustion before you. Shall we see how the game would have gone?"
Cedric cracked a grin and stowed his wand back up his sleeve. "Let's see what you've got, Harry."
Fourteen players kicked off the sun baked grass and launched into the air. Immediately, Harry went into an oval search pattern. Cedric followed, keeping one eye on Harry and whatever his "technique" was and another out for the snitch.
Except the Ravenclaw was flying far faster than seekers normally flew. A seeker going at top speed might cover more ground, but it became really hard to spot the snitch when everything was a blur.
Cedric kicked his broom to match speed, but his eyes had real trouble scanning around him, so he mostly concentrated on Harry instead.
Ten - zero.
As far as Cedric could tell, other than flying far faster than typical, Harry was acting normally: speeding up and slowing down and making slight course adjustments to get a better look at things that caught his eye.
Twenty - zero.
Tracey accidentally fouled a Hufflepuff chaser. But while the two teams set up the penalty shot, the two seekers continued to circle.
Thirty - zero.
The truth was that the first year chasers were so insubstantial that the 'Puffs probably would have scored more goals continuing play as normal rather than stopping the action to arrange the penalty.
Forty - zero.
Ron made a miraculous save, but then Heidi beat Neville to the rebounding quaffle and did a neat Finbourgh Flick from a tricky angle. The red quaffle glanced off the rim of the hoop and through.
Fifty - zero.
Cedric saw Harry dive and, yes, there was the snitch. One of the Hufflepuff beaters, Maxine, knocked a bludger on an intercept course. Susan managed to deflect it away from Harry, though she hadn't thought through where she should hit it, and it started chasing Hermione instead. Cedric was still a good three broom lengths behind when Harry's fingers closed over the snitch.
Harry handed the practice snitch back to the Hufflepuff captain, who had checked the balls for this game out from Madam Hooch. "Do you have a hypothesis?"
Cedric tallied the evidence. "You admitted using a charm that could be dispelled by Finite, and you flew way faster than normal for seekers. So my guess is your charm helps you see better. I don't suppose you turned your glasses into omnioculars?"
"Interesting idea. Zoom and playback features could help search for the snitch, but no, that's not it." The two teams settled themselves in the stands while Harry passed around fourteen chilled butterbeers from out of his mokeskin pouch, his compensation to the others for participating in the experiment. "Before I explain, I should mention that, while doing background research, I verified a story about a Hogwarts match played during a rainstorm. A third-year seeker had Impervius cast on his glasses to keep the rain out of his eyes. This implies that using magic to assist vision is allowed."
Cedric swallowed his mouthful of butterbeer. "Something tells me your spell is a lot more game breaking than Impervius."
"True. What do you look for when hunting the snitch?"
"Well, a glint or streak of gold is a good clue."
"Exactly, the primary identifying feature of the snitch is that it shines like gold. What makes gold look like gold is that it reflects almost all of the light that hits it, especially red and yellow, though blue not so much. And muggle scientists have discovered that, if you look at a rainbow and move from yellow to orange to red and past the colors we can see, there is still more light that human eyes are not adapted to see. Furthermore, gold and other metals reflect this light pretty well.
"So my second idea was to charm my eyes or my glasses to see this invisible color. Then if I shine the quidditch pitch with this light, I could more easily spot metallic objects while everyone else would see nothing, though they might notice they were warmer than expected. There were two flaws with this plan, however. First, muggle devices that can shine a directed beam of this light won't work in Hogwarts. Second, since wizards don't know about this light, of course there wouldn't be a spell to see it."
Harry took a swig from his bottle. "But my third idea paid off. After some research, I found a spell that became popular among North American wizards during the mid-nineteenth century and asked Professor Flitwick to teach Hermione and me." Harry removed his glasses and handed them to Cedric.
Cedric held them up to his face but did not put them on. A couple teammates peered over his shoulder. Even in the dimming afternoon sun, the snitch laying secured in the quidditch supply trunk glowed like a beacon. So did the silver lettering on the open case. "Amazing, Mr. Potter."
"I learned about the spell in a book on goblins and Gringotts. During the various gold rushes, prospecting wizards used it to detect precious metals. Similar spells are used in transfiguration and potions to detect metals."
"It is an interesting idea, Harry, but it wouldn't be allowed in a real game. What you describe sounds like using Lumos to search for a snitch during night games, but that's explicitly prohibited."
"Yes, I noticed that when I was reading the rulebook for loopholes to exploit. I do see what Professor Quirrell was saying about it being odd that the wizarding sport doesn't involve any spellcasting."
"Apparently even simple spells can grant huge advantages, so prohibiting magic seems to be the best way to have a fair game."
"I thought about that too. What if I only used magic to give myself a disability? Shouldn't it be legal to handicap myself?"
Cedric grinned slyly. "Why do I think that your 'handicap' isn't really one?"
"Fine." Harry didn't think a fourth year army general would fall for so obvious a lure. "My fourth idea was to find a spell that removed my ability to see all colors except gold. Or failing that, everything except yellows."
Cedric shook his head. "Your reputation is well-earned, General Chaos. Though that spell would make it hard to tell who is on which team. So, you've mentioned idea two through four. Are there more? What was the first?"
Harry stood up. "To demonstrate my first idea, I have to make a floo call."
Cedric greeted Harry's replacement seeker, who was almost entirely encased in leather armor. "Honor to meet you. But, Harry, I do think we would have noticed this one."
"That's why there were ideas two through four. Shall we run the experiment?"
Upon the instant the game started, the seeker made a beeline for something only he could see. Cedric gamely gave chase. Anthony and Maxine belted both bludgers at the new seeker, knowing it would be their only chance to interrupt Harry's plan.
The seeker dodged both easily. Bludgers were far slower than spells.
The second game ended 150 to 0 and lasted all of seventeen seconds.
Back on the ground, Harry made introductions, though some students continued to stand well back. "Everyone, this is Alastor Moody."
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