Like Flames by DragonHeartstring
Summary: AU. After a disappointing year on a reserve Quidditch team, Ginny Weasley decides to change her path and join the Auror Academy. There, she learns more about magic, love, evil, and herself than she ever could have imagined.
Categories: Alternate Universe
Like Flames by DragonHeartstring
Chapter 1: Chapter 1Author's Notes:
An overcast sky of dark grey clouds hung over the mountains of Scotland, mirroring the equally glum mood of the entire Wigtown Wanderers team. Ginny Weasley sighed deeply from where she sat on the benches, watching the starting team dismount their brooms in the middle of the pitch. The Wanderers had officially finished last in the league, meaning that there were no matches left for them to play until the start of the next season. Even after an entire year on the Wanderers’ reserve team, Ginny had not had the opportunity to play in a single match, and she felt even less hope for her future on the team than she had when she signed with them.
The starting team joined the reserves in the first few rows of the stadium and all eyes turned to the head coach, Roland Truckle.
“What can I say?” he started, a slight frown marring his features and his hands clasped behind his back. “This hasn’t been the best season for us.”
Ginny snorted under her breath and muttered, “That’s the understatement of the century.” Cassia Larson, Ginny’s friend and fellow reserve player, hastily attempted to turn her laugh into a cough.
Truckle sent them a stern look, but continued his speech. “We tried our hardest, and we have put a wonderful team together, but it just seems like it wasn’t our year. I want you all to take a good break these next few months, and come back at the start of the next season ready to go and win the league!”
There was a smattering of half-hearted applause and cheers at the end of his talk, and Truckle smiled at them all briefly before turning and walking away toward the main offices. Ginny turned sharply to look at Cassia. “A wonderful team?” she questioned, incredulous. “The Cannon’s lineup of ’73 make our starting team look good, and that was when they changed their slogan to ‘let’s all just keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!’”
“I know,” Cassia agreed, pulling her long brown hair out of its ponytail, “but what are we going to do? They aren’t going to play us as starters anytime soon, you know that.”
Ginny scowled over at the starting team and their ‘star’ player, Angus Parkin. She knew that she was better player than Parkin by far, but would never be chosen to play over him. Not on this team, seeing as his grandfather was the owner. Parkin was waving everyone over, and Ginny and Cassia reluctantly joined the rest of the team as they gathered around.
“Great season everyone,” Parkin began in his usual haughty manner. Ginny did not even bother to hide her derision. “What you do all say to a team celebration? Meet you all at the pub?” There was a general murmur of agreement before everyone headed towards the locker rooms.
Ginny showered and changed quickly, throwing her kit into a duffle bag and sharply pulling the zipper. She turned to Cassia, who had just finished neatly packing up her locker.
“Shall we go out with the rest of them, then?” Cassia said, picking up her duffle bag and slinging it over her shoulder. “Drown our sorrows in oak-matured mead?”
Ginny laughed. “Sounds fun, but I have plans with Michael tonight.”
“Ah,” Cassia said, a gleam in her eye, “I forgot. The big proposal.”
Ginny rolled her eyes. “Please don’t say that,” she groaned. “I honestly don’t understand why Mum is convinced that Michael is going to propose to me. I’m not even sure I want to continue seeing him, let alone marry him.”
“Well, let me know what happens,” Cassia called as she joined the rest of the team. Ginny nodded and waved, heading towards the floo, and trusting Cassia to explain her absence to the rest of the team.
She stumbled out of the fireplace and into her silent flat a moment later — clearly her roommate, Luna, was not home. She tossed her Quidditch things onto the couch and glanced at the pile of mail on the kitchen table. The letter on the top was addressed in her mother’s handwriting, so Ginny ripped it open while wandering around the kitchen and looking for a snack. The letter was a reminder to wear a nice dress and be open minded on her date with Michael, and Ginny rolled her eyes again at the thought, but decided that she should get dressed for the evening.
Ginny had been dating Michael Corner since she was sixteen, and they had just celebrated their three-year anniversary a few months prior. Michael had owled her earlier in the week asking if she was free that night to go out to dinner at a fancy new restaurant in London. He mentioned that he had something important he needed to talk to her about, and this had led her mother into a frenzy of imagining that he was going to propose. Ginny could recall her conversation with her mother as if it had just happened.
“Ginny, you have been dating Michael for years now, it only makes sense that he would be ready to take the next step. After all, he is embarking on the beginning of his career now, and he is going to want to start a family.”
Ginny cringed at the thought of starting a family with Michael, who she could not picture as a father at all. She knew that her mother would rather she settle down and be a homemaker and mum than continue playing Quidditch, but Ginny found that she could not imagine doing any of those things right now, least of all with Michael. She had been considering for a while now just ending their relationship, as neither of them were very invested in it, and then Michael had come along with this surprise dinner invitation.
Since she had agreed to meet Michael at the restaurant, Ginny dressed quickly in a nice but conservative black dress and apparated to a deserted alley in the heart of London. She found the restaurant quickly and gave them the name on the reservation, and found herself sitting at a table and waiting for Michael to arrive.
While waiting, she continued to think about her future with Michael. Her mother was right in that Michael would be beginning his career now: thanks in most part to Ginny’s pushing, he had finally decided to apply for the Auror Academy, and was accepted to start at the beginning of the new academic year. Although Ginny was happy for him, and she knew that he was excited to begin, she was not sure that he had what it takes to be an Auror. Both she and Michael had taken the requisite classes at Hogwarts for admission to the program, and Ginny had made it clear that her intention was to apply had a Quidditch team not picked her up after leaving Hogwarts. Michael had promised to wait for her, and this led to him wasting his first year out of Hogwarts while she finished her studies. Then Ginny was hired by the Wanderers and Michael was left without a plan until Ginny pushed him to begin the application process for the Auror Academy without her.
Her musings were interrupted by Michael’s arrival, and she stood to greet him with a quick kiss. Michael gave her a tight smile before sitting down across from her. It had been a few weeks since she last saw him: as she had been busy with the end of the Quidditch season, Michael had decided to visit some relatives in Canada. His dark brown hair had grown longer, and now hung into his eyes, causing him to sweep his head to the side every few seconds to see clearly. He looked deep in thought.
“Listen, Ginny, I’m glad you could meet me here tonight,” he began, playing with the edge of his menu and not looking directly at her.
“Of course,” Ginny said, watching him closely. “We have a lot to talk about. The season is finally over, and I want to hear all about your trip.” Michael flinched almost imperceptibly, but nodded. “And you had something important you wanted to tell me?” Ginny continued.
“Yes,” Michael said, visibly swallowing. “I’d better start with that.” He reached across the table and took both of her hands in his. “Ginny, we have been together for a long time, and we can share what we are thinking with one another, right?” Ginny nodded, her eyes growing wide. Maybe her mother was correct.
“Well, I have done a lot of thinking about our relationship these past few weeks, and I have come to a firm conclusion. You see, when you reach the point of your life that I am at right now, you need to look toward the future, and discover what you think will be the correct path to follow.” He paused at this, seemingly deep in thought. Michael’s speech was directed at the empty wine glass on the table in front of him, and Ginny frowned slightly. Michael’s slightly pompous manner had always grated on her nerves, but this was probably the stuffiest proposal she could ever imagine.
“And what is the conclusion that you came to?” Ginny asked, when it was clear the Michael was not going to say anything else without prompting.
Michael finally looked up at her. “Ginny, I think it would be for the best if we broke up.”
Ginny froze in shock, her eyes wide. She had definitely not expected him to say the exact thing that she had been thinking of saying to him. Michael clearly took her surprise as being upset, and squeezed her fingers slightly.
“I mean if you look back on our relationship over the past year, some of the passion appears to have fizzled out by now,” he started in an effort to explain his reasoning. Ginny nodded in agreement, but he did not seem to understand. “I know this must be coming as a shock to you, but I hope you can understand where I am coming from.”
Ginny shook herself back to attention. “No, Michael, I’m not sho-”
“Because we have been together for a long time, so it would only make sense that you start to think we were headed a different way,” Michael interrupted, clearly still thinking that she was unhappy with this development. “I hope you weren’t thinking that we would end up married.”
“Mum was on about marriage, but honestly I was ready to-”
Michael interrupted her again. “I know that is what a lot of witches think. And you talk a lot about being unhappy with your job and I figured that you might have just been waiting for me to ask you so that you could quit, but-”
“Hold it,” Ginny interrupted him this time. “You thought I wanted to quit my job and get married?”
“Well, yes,” Michael answered. “You didn’t exactly keep it a secret that you were unhappy with the Wanderers. I was sure that you were ready to settle down and become a housewitch, and start a family. Which would be fine, but I’m about to become an Auror, you see, and well, having a wife who played Quidditch… you can understand that, no?”
Ginny was still trying to wrap her mind around the idea that Michael thought she wanted to be a happy homemaker, and it took her a moment before she realized the second half of what he had said.
“Are you trying to tell me that I’m not good enough for you?” she hissed. Though she did not raise her voice, Michael flinched as if she had yelled at him, and the approaching waiter turned around completely and headed away from their table.
“I wouldn’t say ‘not good enough’…” he trailed off at the icy look on Ginny’s face.
“Then what exactly would you say, Michael?” she asked, tossing his hands away from her and leaning forward across the table. “What exactly is wrong with me playing Quidditch?”
Michael rang his hands together, griping so tight that his knuckles turned white. “Well, its not the most dignified job, is it?” he asked. “And it’s also not like you are doing a lot of playing Quidditch either. You haven’t played in a single game yet.”
Ginny stood up so quickly that her chair fell down behind her. She paid it no attention, nor did she look at the other diners who turned their attention to her at her sudden movement. “I don’t need to listen to this from you. I was going to dump you ages ago but held on because…” She broke off, unwilling to continue that train of thought. She picked her purse up off of the floor and swung it over her shoulder, just missing the passing waiter, who had clearly decided not to approach their table again.
“Have a nice life.”
“Not even playing! Not even playing!”
Cassia and Luna exchanged worried glances from their position on the couch before returning to watching Ginny pace around the flat. Ginny had come home from her failed date with Michael ranting and raving, and Luna had listened intently all night, before forcing Ginny to go to sleep. The next morning, Cassia had arrived with stories about the team ‘celebration’ the night before, but instead had been given the complete run down of what had happened with Ginny and Michael.
“But, Ginny,” Cassia interjected in a slightly timid voice. “You aren’t playing. We talk about that all the time.”
“I know,” Ginny said, finally dropping into the armchair by the fireplace. “But that doesn’t mean that Michael can just throw that in my face. And to say that playing Quidditch isn’t good enough of a career.” She threw her arms up in the air in frustration.
“For his wife,” Cassia clarified. “And you didn’t want to marry him anyway, so what does it matter?”
“It’s the principle of the thing!” Ginny responded, jumping up again and starting to pace the room. “He has always been jealous of my Quidditch ability. Just because I always beat the Ravenclaw team, and he didn’t think that was fair.”
Cassia sent Luna a desperate look, and Luna unfolded herself from the couch and approached Ginny. “Listen,” she said, placing her hands on Ginny’s shoulders and steadying her. “You wanted to break up with him, so you should be happy about this, it doesn’t matter the reason.”
Ginny sighed, the fight visibly going out of her. She looked into Luna’s wide eyes and at Cassia who was twisted over the back of the couch looking at her. “It’s just, I was thinking about leaving the Wanderers anyway.”
Luna and Cassia exchanged identical looks of shock before turning to look at Ginny. “Did you get an offer from another team?” Cassia asked, slowly rising from the couch and joining the other two across the room.
“No,” Ginny laughed, “when were they supposed to see me play to scout me? But I’m not happy with the Wanderers, and sitting on their bench is not going to help me further my Quidditch career. So I was thinking about going with my back up option.”
Cassia looked confused, but Luna understood. “You are going to join the Aurors?”
Ginny shrugged. “It was always my second choice. You know, if I couldn’t get picked up by a team right out of school then I would just join the Aurors instead. And since I am so unhappy right now, I thought maybe it was a sign that I should be doing something else instead.”
Both women watched attentively as Ginny explained her logic. “Well, I will miss you,” Cassia said, “But what is stopping you from doing it?”
Luna had answered before Ginny had a chance to. “Isn’t it obvious?” she asked, walking away from the two of them and going into the kitchen. “Ginny is afraid that if she changes her career now, it will look to Michael like she is doing it because of him. And she isn’t.”
“Exactly!” Ginny cried, watching as Luna dug through one of the cabinets before emerging with a tin of biscuits. Ginny joined her and snatched a biscuit out of the tin. “But to be honest, it would be satisfying to prove to him that I am capable of more than he thinks.”
Cassia came to join them. “Then what are you waiting for?”
Ginny looked between her two friends, who wore matching expressions of support. A smile slowly spread across her face. “Nothing. Girls, I’m going to the Auror Academy.”
“I’m so excited!”
Ginny watched her mother bustle around the kitchen, preparing lunch. She had thought it best to soften the blow of not having a wedding to plan with the news that she was planning on attending the Auror Academy.
“I knew you weren’t happy with the Wanderers,” Mrs. Weasley continued, flicking her wand and filling the kettle with water. “If they couldn’t see the talent that they were wasting, then they don’t deserve you.”
Ginny smiled to herself. Even though her mother had not been very enthusiastic at the thought of her only daughter embarking on a career in Quidditch, she had thrown herself into supporting Ginny as soon as the Wanderers signed her. Her enthusiasm had waned, however, upon seeing how little Ginny was able to do for the team.
“And now you can still be close to Michael, so maybe you two will change your minds.”
Ginny sighed. “Mum, I told you, I don’t want to marry Michael. I don’t even want to date him anymore. Joining the Aurors was my idea originally, and I talked him into it.” Mrs. Weasley hummed in agreement but did not comment and instead removed two mugs from the cupboard. Ginny knew that her mother was not convinced. “Besides, there are probably enough new students that we won’t even see one another all too often.”
“Perhaps,” Mrs. Weasley conceded, pouring the two mugs of tea and bringing them over to the table. “I just want you to be happy, dear.”
Ginny smiled at her mother and curled her hands around one of the mugs of tea. “Thanks, Mum. And I think I will be happier doing this than I was with the Wanderers. Probably not as happy as I would be actually playing Quidditch, but that doesn’t seem like it is ever going to happen for me.”
“Don’t count your owls before they are delivered,” Mrs. Weasley said sagely, taking a sip of tea. “But are you sure that you will get accepted to the Academy on such short notice?”
Coughing slightly over her drink, Ginny glanced sheepishly at her mother before answering. “Actually, Mum, I’m already in.” She laughed at her mother’s look of surprise before elaborating. “You see, when I was still at Hogwarts and got that letter from the Harpies saying that there weren’t any available spots on the team, I started to think that there was no hope for Quidditch. So I applied to the Auror Academy, and I was accepted. But after I heard from the Wanderers and decided to pursue that, I requested a deferral from the Academy for one year. Just in case.”
Mrs. Weasley looked at Ginny intently for a moment, before standing and walking around the table. She reached down to Ginny, pulling her up from her chair and into a bone-crushing hug. “I’m so proud of you, dear.”
Ginny relaxed into her mother’s arms. She was going to make everyone — including herself — proud.
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