My assignment, courtesy of verstehen:
The first ever Hogwarts Quidditch game fixing scandal. Condition: Perpetuated by Hufflepuffs.
This was actually pretty difficult--I've never written a whole Quidditch-based plot before! But I finally fixated on that word "scandal," and really, who better to bring us a scandal than...
|The Weekly Charmer|
|Hogwarts... Express to You!|
|R. Skeeter, Editor-in-Chief||Monday, November 8, 1965|
Is Gryffindor Counting On More Than Luck?
After the nail-bitingly close opening games of the Quidditch season, in which Slytherin lost to Ravenclaw by a mere ten points after six hours of grueling play and Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw by a mere twenty after four hours, the season's tension was broken irreparably in the disastrous Gryffindor-Hufflepuff match on Saturday, in which Gryffindor simply destroyed the formerly formidable Hufflepuff line-up, three-hundred and fifty to zero. Beater and captain, Molly Prewett, was heard to crow, "We've sewn up the cup! They can't touch us now!"
Arrogance aside, she is clearly right. Hufflepuff is certainly out of the running, while Ravenclaw and Slytherin will each have to beat Hufflepuff by margins of more than two hundred if they are to challenge Gryffindor on the point spread. In the unlikely event that this happens, Slytherin will then have to beat Gryffindor in the final game of the season.
Some in the school question this outcome. While there is certainly talent on the Gryffindor team, such a lopsided result can't truly be attributed to it. The well-known fondness of the referees for the Lions must have come into play in their egregious refusal to call a penalty on Beater Prewett, whose interference with the Hufflepuff Seeker Morton Crockford prevented an early Snitch capture which would have tied the score...
"Bloody....!" Molly threw the parchment across the common room and leaned back into Arthur Weasley's arms. "I hit a Bludger at him. That's what I do! That's what I'm on the team for! What was I meant to do, just whistle a happy little ditty while he grabbed for the Snitch? It's not like I hit it at his head!"
"Don't worry about it, Molly," Edgar Bones said without turning to look at her. "We won. She can't exactly take the score back. And I'd have done exactly the same if Crockford had been at my end of the pitch. It's how you play the game."
"It's just that Skeeter girl trying to cause a stir with her silly paper," Arthur said. "It will pass."
"It's not fair. We had a good game."
The portrait hole swung open, and the remaining members of the Gryffindor team climbed through it, all of them with copies of the new school paper, all of them with dumbfounded expressions on their faces.
"Oi, Molly!" Dedalus Diggle said. "D'you want us to make an issue of it with her? We can take the little"--he called her a name that made Arthur remind him that a lady was present--"and slam her halfway across the Quidditch pitch. Without a broom!"
Molly shook her head. "No. I'll talk to Morton Crockford tomorrow in the greenhouse; we're usually working in there at the same time. I'm sure they all think it's as ridiculous as we do."
There was a great deal more grumbling through the evening, but by midnight, they'd just tossed their copies of the Charmer into the fireplace and made a great show of warming their hands by it.
Stupid nonsense, anyway.
Molly ate her breakfast quickly the next morning and ran out of the castle toward the greenhouses, hoping to catch Morton before he settled in with the crop of gillyweed he was trying to nurture in an artificially heated pool of brackish water. She saw him just as he was ducking into greenhouse four, and sped up to a run. "Morton! Oi, Crockford!"
He stopped in the door, looked straight at her, then turned his back on her and went inside without returning her greeting.
Molly stopped and frowned. "Really," she muttered, then shouldered her satchel and finished the walk at a brisk pace. She wove through the aisle between Roddy Pontner's fanged geraniums and made her way to the back, where Morton was already bent over his little tub and working a crop of algae away from the gillyweed's tendrils. "We had a lucky day," she said. "You've had them."
"No one got away with anything. You know that, right? It was a fair shot..."
"And a fair crowing at the end."
"'No one can touch us!'" he mimicked in a high falsetto.
"Like you wouldn't have said the same if you'd noticed it!"
"Hufflepuffs don't count cups that aren't on the shelf yet."
Molly felt her jaw drop. Of all the nerve! "Sorry Hufflepuffs aren't quite as quick at maths as I am," she said. "And I'm sorry your team was rubbish on Saturday."
She turned on her heel and went to the far end of the greenhouse to work on her crop of fluxweed. She supposed it hadn't been a good idea to lose her temper, but it would pass.
These silly things always passed.
|The Weekly Charmer|
|Hogwarts... Express to You!|
|R. Skeeter, Editor-in-Chief||Monday, January 17, 1966|
Ravenclaw In Striking Distance Again
Perhaps Gryffindor's Prewett shouldn’t have been so quick to judge her chances in November. In an unexpected development, Hufflepuff, despite promising practices over two months, was again soundly defeated, this time by Ravenclaw, at four hundred and twenty to one hundred and eighty... a spread forty points more than was needed to return them to the running for the Quidditch cup. Indeed, depending on the point spread of Slytherin's remaining games, Prewett might be crowing from as far down as third place...
The first years wanted to have a party, so they had one. Little Gilderoy Lockhart was re-telling the game in an entertaining way, pretending to be each of the players as he went through it.
"...and I swooped down like lightning, grabbing for the fallen Quaffle..."
Chandi Patil tuned him out, sinking back into an overstuffed armchair in one of the reading nooks and watching it without really seeing it. She replayed the game in her mind, but not with any of the euphoria that generally accompanied a win.
As Seeker, she'd had a good view.
The Hufflepuffs had played terribly by any measure. Missed goals, missed blocks, poorly aimed Bludgers. Their Seeker had tried four different obvious feints, once while the Snitch had actually been on Chandi's side of the pitch, and in easy reach.
Easy reach until the up-until-then inept Beaters aimed a Bludger precisely at the tail of her broom, knocking her off-course until the Snitch disappeared.
They'd only been up by four goals then. It would have been one-ninety to zero.
The Beater--a girl called Kermilla Dalton--had looked straight at her, bat ready for the Bludger to return, and waited for the moment of opportunity to pass. No one stopped the Ravenclaw chasers from scoring two more goals before the Hufflepuffs, seemingly by accident, managed to collect their first points of the game.
They'd caught up for a while, but then the fouls had started--nothing dangerous, nothing obvious, but one little mistake after another, giving Ravenclaw penalty shots.
"Chandi!" Dorcas Meadows dropped into the seat beside her Conjuring a goblet of what Chandi pretended was water. "What are you doing over here? Join the party! It's your team! Your winning strategies!"
"What strategies?" Chandi turned and planted her feet on the floor, furrowing her brow. "We didn't do anything, Dorcas. We flew around and tossed Quaffles. We could have won, but we didn't have to, if you see what I mean."
"Not in the least. We flattened Hufflepuff by two hundred and forty points! I've been watching them at practice, and so has everyone else. All the bets were on them. After the Gryffindor business, they were out for honor."
"And they played like drunken house elves," Chandi said. "Doesn't that bother you?"
"Ought it bother me?"
"Don't you think it's odd?"
"Nerves, I imagine. They had too much hanging on it."
"You don't think they... did it deliberately, do you?"
"What?" Dorcas crossed her eyes at Chandi. "Why would they purposely lose? I mean, they didn't have a chance at the cup, but they could still place well. That Gryffindor match was just their first game. In two more, they could have come back up in the standings, at least. Why give that up? It would lose them house points. If the Hufflepuffs were going to cheat, don't you think they'd do it to win?"
"I don't know."
"They played a bad game," Dorcas said. "That's all. Will you get past it and celebrate? We could still beat the point spreads and win the cup!"
"Don't you think it smells bad?"
"Look how Gryffindor flattened them. They're just freezing up on the pitch. Honestly, Chandi--the fact that you're a Ravenclaw doesn't mean that you have to over-think everything." Dorcas grinned and Conjured another goblet.. "Come on, now. Have some of my famous... water." She winked.
Chandi sighed, then rolled her eyes and took the goblet.
|The Weekly Charmer|
|Hogwarts... Express to You!|
|R. Skeeter, Editor-in-Chief||Monday, March 7, 1966|
Brush Up On Your Arithmancy--It's Going To Be Close!
In a spectacular game this Saturday, the brilliant Slytherin team gave the Hufflepuffs a solid trouncing, rounding out their year of defeats despite the obvious work Seeker Crockford puts in between games. Hufflepuff practices have been first rate this year, often drawing an audience, but in play, they've fallen apart, and their final game--a humiliating three-hundred to fifty loss--must come as something of a relief... perhaps next year they can start all over again.
The defeat returns the other three house teams to the tight race of the first three games of the season, when they vied within a few goals of one another. This Slytherin win brings the point gap within fifty--a solid win in either direction in the upcoming Gryffindor-Slytherin would guarantee first place finish for one of those teams, while a close score could let Ravenclaw in.
It's hard luck for the Hufflepuffs, but a nail-biting season for the rest of us!
The Hufflepuff common room was in the basement, but it was difficult to tell sometimes, as the hillside sloped down the castle here, allowing a rather large window to let in the moonlight. On each side, staircases zigzagged up to the dormitories. This year, the top floor belonged to the firsties, boys on the north side, girls on the south side. Ted Tonks tiptoed out of the room where his year-mates were sleeping, and looked out over the heavy wooden rail. The Quidditch team was gathered near the window far below, drinking from brownish bottles and toasting one another solemnly.
The House had thrown them a party earlier, with quite a few encouragements for better luck next year, and commiseration with the team's two seventh-years that it just hadn't been a good year to go out on. To Ted's great discomfort, as Molly had been nice to him on the train coming here, they'd made an effigy of Molly Prewett and thrown darts at it for quite a long time. Morton Crockford called her any number of nasty names.
Morton raised his bottle. "To teamwork!" he said, loudly enough to carry up.
"Teamwork," the others echoed.
There was a slightly longer pause, then the other muttered something that might have been, "Humility."
Ted started down the stairs, wanting to hear better. By the time he got to the sixth-years landing, two floors below his own, he could hear snatches of their conversation.
"...see that Goyle? Thought I was going to..."
"...oh, and that second year they just put on as Chaser, Bellatrix Black... is she one of the those Blacks?"
Ted rolled his eyes. His friend Andi was Bella's sister, and she said that until she was six, she'd been quite convinced that her last name was, in fact, "Thoseblacks."
"...pity, that. Like to have knocked her one just for good measure, but..."
"...see Prewett in the stands? I thought she was going to Transfigure herself into a brick wall, she was so red!"
"Yeah, she was... hey, did you hear something?"
Ted stopped. He'd only just brushed the suit of armor on the fourth-years' floor, but it was rocking back and forth steadily, making a metallic click-clack, click-clacking sound. He peeked out around it.
Morton was looking at him crossly, but his face suddenly changed, and he smiled in a welcoming way. "Oh, look. It's Tonks. Would you like a butterbeer? Have you had any yet?"
"No. I--" The suit of armor tipped alarmingly as he tried to come around it and rattled against the railing.
A fourth year banged the wall behind him, "'s two in the morning! G'bed!"
"Stabilis," Morton said, and the suit of armor returned to its still, standing position. "Come on down, then. How long have you been up there?"
"Just a moment or two. Are you talking about the game?"
"Yeah," Beth Thompson said. "Didn't you hear us?"
"Only bits and pieces."
The looked at one another and nodded. "Well, then," Morton said, "that's right. We were talking about the game. How did you enjoy it?"
"It's never fun to lose," Ted said, coming down onto the common room floor. "But you all played well."
"Do you really think so?"
"Er... well, yes. Of course. Lots better than I do. I keep getting my shoelaces caught in the broom twigs."
They all laughed. Beth pulled out a chair for him. "Oh, you'll catch on." She tossed him one of the brown bottles. "Here, tip one with us."
Ted wasn't fond of spirits--his father had died in a bar brawl, and his mum was death on them--but it seemed unsporting to refuse it altogether. He raised his bottle as they raised theirs.
"To Mother Hufflepuff," Morton said. "And God's mercy on anyone who insults her over our game-playing."
"To Hufflepuff," the others echoed, and drank.
|The Weekly Charmer|
|Hogwarts... Express to You!|
|R. Skeeter, Editor-in-Chief||Monday, April 25, 1966|
Gryffindor Carelessness Costs the Cup
Perhaps Gryffindor captain Prewett ought to have spent more time practicing with her team and less time in detention for night-time jaunts with a certain teammate which seem--purely from the showing in Saturday's game--to have had little to do with practicing Quidditch. In two hours of play, the Gryffindor team was unable to make any headway against the clever serpents, who sewed up the Quidditch cup by a wide enough margin to send Prewett's "sewn-up" champion team into third place behind Chandi Patil's Ravenclaw, with only Hufflepuff trailing.
Any excuse in a pinch, though... Prewett stopped play at one point to complain to Madam Hooch about decorations worn by Slytherin supporters, and at another to insist that the colorful moving charms set out below her team's goalposts made it difficult for her Keeper to see the Quaffle. Spectator behavior, is not, of course regulated in any way, and even the notoriously Gryffindor-favoring officials could hardly find a way to call that a penalty.
Alas for Prewett, this brings an end to her seventh year, and to any hope she had of ever leading her team to a Quidditch championship, but she has, perhaps, learned a valuable lesson about speaking too soon. Will Gryffindor flourish without her? It remains to be seen, though certain school authorities have chosen to shut down our sole student-run paper next year, so the Charmer will not be here to report on it.
Slytherin captain Judith Waters celebrated the victory with a large party, during which she toasted Hufflepuff captain Morton Crockford, calling him "a right good sport about it all, really." Ravenclaw captain Patil had no comment, and the comment from Prewett herself is not appropriate in a respectable news organ.
When asked about next year's prospects, sixth-year Crockford just smiles serenely and looks into the sun. "Well," he says, "obviously, it will be all about teamwork..."