|SIYE Time:6:35 on 26th July 2017|
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Category: Post-OotP, Quidditch Challemge (2014-4)
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Story is Complete
Summary: *** Winner of Best Game Action in the Quidditch Challenge ***
Waking up in the hospital wing wasn’t Harry’s idea of fun. However, the results of his stay might just prove to be more pleasant than he imagined.
Hitcount: Story Total: 4670
Disclaimer: Harry Potter Publishing Rights © J.K.R. Note the opinions in this story are my own and in no way represent the owners of this site. This story subject to copyright law under transformative use. No compensation is made for this work.
I've thoroughly enjoyed writing this story and the Quidditch match sequences at the end. The Challenge was posted during the middle of the American baseball playoff season and the new words to the song, "Take Me Out to the Ball Game," which is traditionally sung by the spectators during the seventh inning stretch, struck me as quite appropriate for a British Wizarding pastime. As much as I was disappointed that the Pittsburgh Pirates lost the pennant to the San Francisco Giants—thus advancing San Francisco to the World Series—I was truly excited three weeks later when San Francisco won the Series four games to three over the Kansas City Royals. I'm a California girl at heart, after all.
I have some heart-felt thank yous to say to the people who helped me with this story. First are Cackling Stump and RebeccaRipple, who read, commented and came up with some excellent titles for me to choose from. After three days of pondering, I finally selected the title above. Thank you both for your help. Second, is Mistress L_rigtar, whose constructive comments led to numerous improvements in the story. Thank you for reading various sections several times to help me make this story the best it can be.
And now, my readers, please let me know how you liked the story. If you write to me, I will always write back.
“I think he’s coming round,” a familiar voice whispered.
“It’s about time,” agreed its twin.
“Should we test his reflexes again?”
“Just be careful, bro. I don’t want Pomfrey sending us a bill for her services after he hexes you. She’s expensive!”
“I’ll be careful. You’ll see.”
Twin sycophantic giggles erupted as Harry felt something tickle his nose. Reflexively, he shied away from it. The movement caused his head to erupt in spasms of pain that caused him to gasp just before he sneezed spectacularly. He groaned and opened one eye to see the blurry image of two identical faces peering at him from several inches away.
The blur on the right said, “He’s awake now.”
The blur on the left chuckled and turned to his twin. “Thanks to our new Wake-Up Quill,” he said.
Harry closed his eye and reached in the direction of the bedside table he knew was next to his bed. Immediately, someone placed his glasses in his hand and he clumsily perched them on his nose. Now that he could see properly in the dim light of the hospital wing torch, he could see that his suspicions were confirmed: his visitors were none other than Fred and George Weasley.
“How come you’re here?” he asked as he pushed himself up on his elbows and ignored the renewed pain in his head. It felt heavier than usual: he’d have to inspect it later, right after Fred and George left him alone.
Immediately, Fred conjured several more pillows and stuffed them behind Harry’s back. Harry gratefully sank into them, since the effort of holding himself up was more than he realized.
“Ron and Ginny knew we were in Hogsmeade this week and sent Pig with a note saying you’d fallen off your broom,” George explained. “Mum and Dad will be here as soon as Dad gets off work. She’s been keeping you company the last few days.”
“Okay,” Harry murmured, somewhat confused. “Erm, why would they come for me?”
“Er, Harry, you took both Bludgers to the head and neck during Quidditch practice three days ago. As an honorary Weasley, Mum felt it was the least she could do for you after what you’ve done for us. She was here all day yesterday and the day before,” Fred said. “She left only when we promised to drop everything and come sit with you.”
George looked very solemn as he said, “She and Ginny didn’t want you to be alone when you woke up.”
Fred chuckled. “With the way Ginny was carrying on yesterday, I’m surprised Dumbledore hasn’t issued you last rites or something just to keep her happy.”
Harry let his head fall back so that he was staring at the ceiling. Ginny’s upset? Why would she be upset? he wondered. He knew she was with Dean, so it didn’t make sense that she would be worried about him. “Last rites, huh?”
George said, “Well, maybe not last rites, but it was pretty serious for a while. Madam Pomfrey took a long time mending your skull and neck bones and making sure you still had movement in your extremities, not to mention constantly monitoring your concussion.” He cocked his head to the side as he asked, “And why did you fly directly into the paths of two intersecting Bludgers?”
Fred piped up, “Maybe because he was ogling our sweet little Firecracker and wasn’t paying attention to the big, bad Bludgers?”
Merlin’s baggy drawers! Had he really been that obvious? Had he really been so wrapped up in watching Ginny fly that he had unconsciously flown into the paths of both Bludgers? Harry closed his eyes as he felt his face heat up with embarrassment, sure that, even in the dim light, his head was positively tomato-like in colour.
“Hey Fred, I think you’ve made little Harrykins a bit uncomfortable,” George crowed. “He really was paying more attention to our ickle sister than the Bludgers! We need to tell Dean he’s got competition.”
Both twins sounded positively gleeful as they giggled and rubbed their hands together, so Harry growled, “You wouldn’t dare!”
There was a pause and then one of the twins said, “Yes, we would. You’re not that sick any more.”
Harry groaned because he knew how reliable the twins’ word was. There was only one thing to do, then. “All right,” he said. “I’ll make you a deal.”
“Please, do tell.”
“Don’t strain yourself now…”
Ignoring the twins’ gleeful-sounding prattle, Harry continued, “Our next match is against Ravenclaw. If I don’t catch the Snitch, you can tell Ginny I was hurt while watching her during practice. If I catch it, you two have to keep quiet. No hints to Dean, either.” He opened his eyes and looked pointedly at Fred and George. “Do we have a deal?”
Fred and George eyed each other for a moment before one said, “Spoil sport” and the other said, “Deal.”
“Good. Now go away and let me sleep,” Harry said, taking the risk and turning his back and closing his eyes. He heard the twins shuffle away and a few seconds later, heard two beds creaking as his tormentors settled down for the night. His last thought before he drifted off was, What have I gotten myself into?
Several hours later, Ginny wandered into the hospital wing to find Ron, Fred and George all watching Harry sleep.
“He still out?” she asked no one in particular.
“Nope,” Ron said. “He’s ignoring us. These two,” he jabbed a thumb at their older brothers, “have been taking the mickey and because Madam Pomfrey won’t let him leave, Harry is feigning sleep.”
Casting a glare in the twins’ direction, Ginny said, “I don’t blame him. Hey, don’t you two have a shop to open?”
Fred and George shrugged. “Just waiting for you, Firecracker,” one of them said.
The other stood up, making a hasty retreat from Ginny’s partially-revealed wand, “We were just going…”
“You’d better. Er, thanks for staying with him,” she said, sincerely meaning her words. For some reason, when Madam Pomfrey had finally told her mother that Harry would recover completely and didn’t need constant watching any more, Ginny still had wanted him to wake up to find someone with him. She was thankful that Fred and George had agreed to help… even if their brand of helping consisted of constant teasing.
“Are they gone?” Harry asked, his query making Ginny turn from watching the hospital wing doors close behind her brothers.
“Yeah, mate, they are. You can stop hiding now,” Ron said with a chuckle.
Harry flipped onto his back and raised a hand to his bandaged head. “What exactly did Madam Pomfrey do to me?” he asked. “She wouldn’t tell me this morning why I have this turban on.”
“She had to shave your head to see the extent of your injuries and wanted to keep your head warm,” Ginny answered.
Harry visibly paled. “I have no hair?” he asked, looking stricken. “Is that why the twins were calling me ‘cue ball’ and ‘egg head’?”
Chuckling, Ron said, “Yep. That about sums it up.”
Ginny glared at Ron. “Seriously, Harry,” she said, “I think your hair grew back over night. It’s the same length now as it was three days ago.” She reached out and pulled a dark lock from under the bandages to show him and then tucked it back in, her fingers lingering a few seconds longer than was necessary. It amazed her how soft his hair was. As she took her hand away, she gently brushed his forehead.
The boy in question looked distinctly relieved. “That used to happen when Aunt Petunia gave me haircuts,” he said. When Ginny raised an eyebrow, he explained, “When I was little, she’d take her kitchen scissors to my hair before I went to bed and by the next morning it would be just as long and just as messy as it had been the night before. I never understand why it grew back so fast until I turned eleven.”
“Did you get in trouble when it did?” Ron asked, sounding apprehensive.
Harry was silent for a moment before he answered. “Yeah, I did,” he said quietly. “Uncle Vernon wasn’t too pleased.”
Ron blew out a breath and said nothing, although Ginny could tell he was seething inside. Therefore, she said conspiratorially, “I managed to sneak a peek at the Ravenclaw Quidditch practice yesterday.”
Both boys perked up considerably. “And…” Harry prompted.
“Well, Brocklehurst seems to think you’re completely out of commission for next Saturday’s match,” Ginny said. “She was telling her Seeker that even if you managed to get out of here before the game, you’d be in no condition to give her any sort of competition. When she protested that even under the weather you could catch the Snitch with one eye closed and both hands tied behind your back, Brocklehurst scoffed and maintained that you wouldn’t be much of a threat.”
Harry smiled for the first time since Ginny had entered the ward. “I’ll just have to prove her wrong, then, won’t I?” he snickered.
“Anything about our Keeper?” Ron asked nervously.
Ginny shook her head. “To be honest, I think Brocklehurst is more worried about our Chasers than anything else.” At this, Ron looked affronted. “She spent a long time drilling the Porskoff Ploy, the Hawkshead Formation and making sure none of her Chasers were guilty of Stooging. They even tried the Parkin’s Pincer, but that didn’t go off very well. It was almost as if they were learning that move.”
“You, Dean and Demelza were flying the Pincer rather well last practice,” Harry said, and Ginny detected a hint of pride in his voice.
“We practiced it and all the others at yesterday’s practice,” Ginny said. “Ron really put us through our paces.”
“You took over practice?” Harry asked.
“I did. I didn’t think you’d mind,” Ron said. “Can’t have the team slacking off just because our captain was whacked in the head.”
This seemed to strike Harry as funny because he chuckled softly, then put a hand on the back of his head.
“You all right, mate?” Ron asked.
“Head hurts,” Harry grunted. He suddenly looked tired and Ginny knew they should leave.
“Should I call Madam Pomfrey?” she asked.
Harry let his head fall back onto his pillows. “I’m fine.” Ron caught her eye and she sighed, knowing that when Harry said that, he was feeling just the opposite.
“Should you call me about what?” the matron asked as she walked towards them. She was carrying a tray full of goblets.
“Harry’s in pain,” Ginny blurted before she could stop herself.
“It’s time for his potions, so I’ll put him out of his misery,” Madam Pomfrey tutted. She put the tray on the bedside table and picked up a goblet, which she handed to Harry. He took it and downed the muddy brown liquid in one gulp.
Meanwhile, Ron had grabbed his rucksack and come round to Ginny’s side of Harry’s bed. “We should go. Let’s get an early breakfast,” he whispered to her. She nodded and left the ward with her brother, vowing to come back later.
“Where have you been?” Dean asked ten minutes later as she took her place next to him at the Gryffindor table. “I thought you were going to wait for me to come down to breakfast.”
“I was visiting Harry,” she answered. She pulled a serving bowl of porridge closer and ladled some into her bowl.
“Oh,” he said, and stuffed half a fried tomato into his mouth. “I thought that’s where you were.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Ginny asked as she poured milk onto her porridge.
“You’re rather predictable when it comes to Potter,” Dean said sourly.
“Dean, he’s a friend. I go to visit many of my friends when they’re hurt or sick,” she countered. “Not just Harry.”
“Fine. But you didn’t have to spend all of Tuesday afternoon waiting outside the hospital wing or sitting next to his bed on Wednesday while he was unconscious,” Dean said heatedly.
“How could I not wait for news? You know I was the one who caught Harry after he fell off his broom! He’d just taken both Bludgers to the head. He needed medical attention and I wasn’t going to just go to the library like nothing had happened after I turned him over to Madam Pomfrey. Be reasonable, Dean.”
Dean put down his fork and half-turned towards her. “Ginny, I was hurt twice in the last three months and you haven’t spent a tenth as much time with me as you have with Potter.”
“Jealous much?” Ginny scoffed irritably. Neither of Dean’s injuries had been as serious as Harry’s and Madam Pomfrey hadn’t even kept her boyfriend overnight, so it had been impossible to sit by her boyfriend’s bedside.
“I think I have a right to be concerned, Ginny. I am your boyfriend after all.”
“Harry’s your friend, too, you might recall.”
“Yeah, but I don’t go all doe-eyed and mushy every time he gets hurt.”
Ginny finished her porridge and grabbed her bag and a piece of toast. “I’m not having this conversation with you again, Dean. If you can’t let me be the friend I think I should be to Harry, especially when he’s sick, there’s something missing here.” With that, she left the Great Hall, seething at the futility of this argument with her boyfriend.
Ron watched his sister leave and couldn’t suppress a smile.
“What are you so happy about?” Hermione asked as she propped her Potions book against a milk jug.
“Not everything is good in paradise,” he told her. “Ginny just stormed out after arguing with Dean again.”
“She’s been doing that all year,” Hermione observed, not taking her eyes from her text. “Why should you be happy about it now?”
“You weren’t in the hospital wing with us,” Ron said.
“Let’s just say it’s just a matter of time before Harry and Ginny get together.”
“You mean Dean’s going to break up with Ginny?”
“I mean…” he paused dramatically. “The way those two argue, Dean’s going to do something that really angers Ginny and that’ll be the end of them as a couple. If Harry takes advantage of the situation, then I’ll have a happy sister again.”
“You’re really serious about this, aren’t you? How do you know Harry and Ginny fancy each other enough to get together?”
“Hermione, Harry was watching Ginny fly when he drifted into the path of those Bludgers,” Ron said. “His attention wasn’t on the practice, he didn’t even hear Jimmy and Ritchie yelling warnings to him, it was fully focused on my sister. He barely noticed what the rest of us were doing once he was up in the air that day. And have you watched him when we’re all in the common room? His eyes flick back and forth between his homework and Ginny so often that I’m surprised he’s gotten anything done in the last month!”
“What about her?”
“How can you tell she fancies him rather than has a renewed crush on him?”
Ron grinned. “If she touches Harry, her fingers linger or she finds an excuse to brush his skin. She did it this morning when she was showing him that his hair had all grown back. When she was crushing on him, she either hid or stayed as far away from Harry as she could. Now it’s almost impossible for her to walk by him without her touching him in some way.”
“I hope he’ll reciprocate,” Hermione said as Lavender plopped herself down next to Ron and helped herself to a piece of toast from his plate.
“Won-Won, you didn’t wait for me this morning,” Lavender pouted as she threw an arm around Ron’s shoulders and gave him a rather wet kiss on the cheek.
Ron reached up and wiped off the lip gloss she left on his cheek as he nearly groaned, “G’morning, Lavender.”
Harry lay in his bed, staring up at the hospital ceiling. If he took off his glasses and squinted enough, he thought he could see Ginny’s profile etched in the stone. I’m being ridiculous, he thought. Or maybe I’m completely bored or I’m having hallucinations like Madam Pomfrey said I might. That wasn’t right; he felt perfectly fine, wasn’t seeing double, the headache he’d had upon waking had gone away instantly with the headache potion, and the fact that he was so completely bored and tired of resting seemed to be a good sign.
So why am I fixating on Ginny all of a sudden? he asked himself.
Then he remembered how nice it felt when she’d pulled the lock of hair from under his turban, how he’d desperately wanted to lean into her touch when her fingers had brushed his forehead. He sighed and squinted at the ceiling again.
After a time, he wondered what Ginny was doing and glanced at the clock: five after eleven, hmm. Oh, that’s right, she’s in Charms, probably sitting between Demelza and Colin. He sighed and let his thoughts drift. When had he memorized Ginny’s time table? He didn’t know exactly, it had just happened…
About six weeks ago, he’d found himself following Ginny out of the Great Hall on a Monday morning and had decided to follow her. It pleased him to discover that her week started the same as his had started the previous year, with double History of Magic. The only problem with following her that morning was that he’d had to sprint nearly the entire length of the school to get to Transfiguration on time. He smiled at the memory of arriving a split second before Professor McGonagall had closed the door, signalling the beginning of the lesson. He’d slid, huffing and puffing like the Hogwarts Express, into his seat next to Ron.
“How come you’re late, mate?” Ron asked. “You and Ginny left the Great Hall early.”
“Library,” Harry gasped as he pulled out his materials. “Overdue book.”
Ron eyed him suspiciously. “Likely story. More like you were up on the seventh floor trying to spy on Malfoy.”
“Was not,” Harry retorted a little too loudly.
“Mr Potter, would you care to share your conversation with the rest of us?” Professor McGonagall called.
“Erm, no, professor. Sorry.”
“Then kindly keep your thoughts to yourself and your attention up here,” she snapped irritably. Several Slytherin girls giggled quietly behind their hands as the professor pointed her wand at the board.
Harry could never recall what that day’s lesson topic had been: he’d been too focused on planning how he’d find out the rest of Ginny’s time-table. What he did remember was the two-day detention he’d had to endure because of his inattention.
It had taken several weeks, Harry recalled, for him to discover her entire time-table without making it obvious to Ron and Hermione what he’d been doing. Thank goodness the excuse that he was staking out Malfoy and his goons was the easiest excuse to give Ron. His best mate readily believed the lie and was sometimes quite obliging in helping Harry look over the Marauder’s Map. Hermione, on the other hand, wasn’t quite so easy to fool. Harry chuckled quietly about what had happened towards the end of the third week of his “quest,” as he’d come to think of the task he’d set himself…
“Harry, could I have a quick word, please?” Hermione said one evening when the three of them settled in to do their homework at their favourite table. “Let’s go to that corner; it’s a little more private.”
Harry followed her and as soon as they sat down, Hermione cast several privacy charms, including Muffliato. He raised an eyebrow, but she just shook her head. “Just don’t tell Ron I’m using it,” she hissed. “I’ll never hear the last of it.”
Grinning, Harry nodded and asked, “What did you want to talk to me about?”
Instead of replying, Hermione tugged a folded piece of parchment from her pocket. She handed it to him, saying, “If you really had wanted this, all you had to do was ask me.”
Harry took the parchment, opened it and grinned. “Thanks, Hermione. Was I–er, was I that obvious?”
“Ginny noticed, so yes,” she said. “She’s rather flattered you’d take the time to follow her all over the school. Unfortunately, Dean saw you on several occasions and mentioned it to her yesterday. He wasn’t too happy.”
“He hasn’t said anything to me,” Harry commented.
“He probably won’t unless you keep ‘stalking’ her, as she put it.”
“I won’t need to now. If I need to stalk someone, I’ll concentrate my efforts on finding out where Malfoy disappears to.”
Hermione’s demeanour changed almost instantly. “Would you please give that up, Harry? You’re just wasting your time because he’s not ‘up to something’ as Professor Snape once put it.”
Harry stood. “I can’t promise you anything except that I won’t need to follow Ginny around anymore,” he said. He pulled his wand and cancelled the Muffliato spell, while Hermione cancelled her other spells. Harry then pocketed his new copy of Ginny’s time-table.
“So will you look over my Charms essay when I’m done?” he asked as they walked back to the table.
“Only when you’re completely finished,” Hermione grinned.
Harry was brought out of his reverie by Madam Pomfrey. “Mr Potter, I see no reason to keep you past breakfast tomorrow. If you sleep through the night tonight, you’ll be free to go in the morning,” she said as she handed him a cup of potion.
Harry swallowed the potion and handed the cup back. “Thank you for taking the turban off,” he said. “I’ll sleep better tonight, I think.”
“I’m sure you will. Would you like some lunch?”
“Yes, please. That sounds good.”
Ginny grabbed her wand and pointed it at the pile of Harry’s homework she’d assembled for him. One Shrinking Spell later, she carefully pocketed the tiny books, quills, ink, and parchments and hoisting her own bag to her shoulder, exited the common room intent on going to the hospital wing. She was glad to get out of there and away from her jealous boyfriend. She wasn’t that lucky.
“Hey, Ginny, wait up!” Dean called as he scrambled out of the portrait hole after her.
She stopped and turned towards him. “What now, Dean?” she asked crossly.
“I’m coming with you,” he said as he hoisted his rucksack onto one shoulder and reached for hers.
“I don’t need an escort,” she retorted, keeping a firm hand on her bag. “I told you I was just delivering the books because Ron asked me to. I told you I’d meet you at the library. Don’t you trust me?”
Dean sighed, “I trust you. It’s Potter I don’t trust.”
Ginny bristled. “When did he become ‘Potter’?” she asked. “You’ve always called him ‘Harry’.”
Dean shrugged. “When he began stalking you.”
“Harry has not been stalking me!” she growled.
“Then what do you call his following you everywhere for over two weeks? Huh?” Dean asked heatedly. “He wasn’t very subtle about it either, dashing out of class as soon as the bell rang and then following you when you exited your classroom. Half the time he didn’t even hide under that cloak of his.”
“I’d say that was smart. Hermione has said it’s really difficult to use that cloak in a crowd without bumping into anyone. Besides, I knew he was following me. I think he was trying to learn my time-table. I’ve known his since the middle of September.”
Dean looked startled at that bit of news. “Why did you need to know his time-table?” he asked through clenched teeth.
Ginny glared at him. “I know your schedule, so why shouldn’t I know his?” she asked, pleased that she’d caught Dean off-guard. “Besides, we’re friends and have been for several years. It’s good to know a friend’s schedule just in case…” She deliberately left the sentence unfinished to see what Dean would do.
“If he’s just a friend, then how come you both can’t keep your eyes off each other?” Dean shot back. “I’m your boyfriend. You should only be looking at me like that!”
Ginny mentally smiled at the news, for here was her opening. “If you don’t like the fact that Harry and I go back farther than you and I do, and that we find each other attractive, then you can just take a hike. I’m tired of your jealousy and distrust. Got that?”
Dean stopped walking, his expression hurt. “Ginny, I–” He paused, seeming to understand fully what she meant. “I guess I took it too far,” he said quietly. “I’m sorry. See you around.”
As Dean turned and began walking down a nearby corridor, Ginny walked over to the nearest suit of armour and sat on its plinth. To say she was stunned at what had just transpired, was an understatement. Dazedly, she reviewed what she had said and done, finally coming to the conclusion that this argument had been coming for a while and that she was actually relieved to have it over and done with. As she sat there, a small smile twitched at the corners of her mouth: she had just realized she was finally free to acknowledge all those surreptitious, longing looks Harry had been giving her for the last two months… Oh, this was going to be fun!
With a spring in her step, she set off for the hospital wing again.
Madam Pomfrey stood next to his bed, clutching one of his school uniforms and her wand. Harry reached for the former, wanting to leave the hospital as soon as possible, but the matron took a step back and set the clothes on the nearest bed. Harry frowned and swung his legs over the side of the bed, intending to snag them before she could change her mind.
“Just a moment, Harry,” Madam Pomfrey ordered. “Go slowly. You’ve just spent quite a while in bed and I don’t want you fainting on me.”
Harry checked his forward momentum and looked intently at her. “All right,” he grumbled as he slowly slid to the floor. He stood where he was until the matron seemed satisfied that he wasn’t going to keel over. “Can I play Quidditch this week?” he asked. “It’s the Gryffindor/Ravenclaw match next weekend and I need to be able to fly during practice.”
Madam Pomfrey frowned. “No flying today. Tomorrow and Wednesday, only fly as an observer. No aerial acrobatics until Thursday. Also, if at any time you feel dizzy, get down off that broom and come see me immediately. Have I made myself clear?” she asked sternly.
Nodding, Harry said, “You have. Thank you for letting me get back on my broom so that I can run practices. Can I have my clothes now?”
Smiling, Madam Pomfrey handed over his uniform and school robes. Harry took them gratefully and began to dress as soon as the matron turned her back.
Ginny threw the Quaffle at Dean, who caught it, reversed his broom and sped towards the opposite end of the pitch where Demelza was waiting in front of the scoring area. The two exchanged passes several times before Demelza lobbed it lazily into the right-hand hoop. The two then joined Ginny and they went haring back down the pitch as if in pursuit of the Ravenclaw Chasers. From high above, they heard Harry’s exclamation of approval and Ginny smiled. Saturday was going to be a very good day for the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
Harry stood quietly with the rest of his team, waiting to be called onto the pitch. He had mixed feeling about this match. On the one hand, he found it preposterous that the Ravenclaws thought he’d be ineffectual as Seeker today; after all, he’d flown during practice every day since Tuesday without any side-affects and felt physically fit. He knew he was ready for this game. On the other hand, if he wasn’t wholly dedicated to finding, pursuing and catching the Snitch, as well as directing his teammates, he might as well hand his broom to Ginny and go sit on the side-lines.
The announcer for the day began his introductions: “On the Ravenclaw team we have Rory Chambers, Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst at Chaser, George Carmichael and Stewart Ackerly on Beater, Michael Corner as Keeper and Cho Chang as Seeker. Give these fine folks a nice round of applause.”
Harry heard the crowd lending their support for his opponents and swung his leg over his Firebolt in anticipation of the next announcement.
“And now for the Gryffindor Team. Playing Chaser are Demelza Robins, Dean Thomas and Ginny Weasley. At Beater are Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Coote, followed by Ron Weasley as Keeper and Harry Potter as Seeker. Let’s hear it for the Gryffindors!”
A thunderous applause and cries of “Go, Go, Gryffindor!” rang out from the crowd on one side of the stadium. Directly opposite, a chorus of booing clashed with the frenzied chanting. Harry couldn’t help smiling as he took his place opposite Mandy and exchanged the traditional crushing handshake between captains. Madam Hooch then issued her usual warnings about fair play and then she released the balls. The match was on!
Immediately, Harry soared high above the stadium and began flying his search pattern, looking for the Snitch. Cho Chang, the Ravenclaw Seeker, was doing the same on her side of the pitch. At this moment, the Snitch was nowhere to be seen and the thought that the little golden ball was probably enjoying its freedom, much like its feathery predecessors might have, crossed his mind.
Down below, in the thick of things, his Chasers were in possession of the Quaffle. “And Gryffindor in possession: Weasley lobs to Thomas, heading towards the Ravenclaw goal. He reverse passes to Robins, barely missing an interception by Chambers from below. Robins lunges, makes the catch and zooms ahead, Chambers, Turpin and Brocklehurst on her tail. Thomas barrel rolls over Turpin, breaking up the Ravenclaw Hawkshead formation. I heard that! Watch your language, Turpin! There are first years present!”
Harry smiled at the commentary and went back to his Snitch search. Several seconds later, he heard, “And that goal makes the score Gryffindor 80 to Ravenclaw 50.” Pleased that their lead was slowly increasing, he started scanning the pitch again.
Sometime later, the announcer cried, “And that was a textbook Porskoff Ploy, pulled off by the Gryffindor Chasers, resulting in another perfect goal by Ginny Weasley. The score is now 120 to 70 in favour of Gryffindor,” and Harry felt a rush of pride for his team and especially the ginger-haired witch leading his Chasers.
Then Ravenclaw scored four times in a row, bringing the score to within a goal of a tie game. Harry called a time-out and flew down to meet his team.
“What’s going on, Ron?” he demanded as his feet touched the ground.
Ron pointed to Dean and yelled, “Ask him! He’s practically given the Quaffle to Brocklehurst seven times in the last twenty minutes!”
Looking at Dean, Harry asked, “Is this true?”
Before Dean could answer, Demelza said accusingly, “He stopped working with Ginny. He won’t throw a catchable ball to her and if she throws one to him, he barely makes the effort to catch it.”
“It’s like he has butter fingers all of a sudden,” Ginny complained. “I can’t work with someone who doesn’t put out.”
“Put out?” Dean interrupted. “I don’t want to play with someone who doesn’t want to ‘put out’ when we’re alone together.”
Shocked silence reigned over the Gryffindor huddle. Ginny and Demelza gasped, astonishment evident on Ginny’s face, while Ritchie and Jimmy looked thunderous. The monster in Harry’s chest roared for vengeance and he only stopped himself from throttling Dean–and therefore protect Ginny’s honour–by keeping a tight grip on his Firebolt.
“How dare you say that about my sister!” Ron yelled, crossing the huddle and grabbing Dean’s collar. “Apologize NOW!”
“I’ll say what I want about her, you berk!” Dean bellowed while twisting himself free of Ron’s grip. “And it’s her who needs to apologize, not me.”
Ginny stepped forward, pushing Ron aside. “Let me handle this, Ron,” she said, looking pointedly at him. Ron scowled, but stepped back as Harry put a steadying hand on his friend’s shoulder.
Then, addressing Dean, Ginny continued, “Don’t bring our private disagreement and break-up into this game, Dean. That’s our business and it needs to stay that way. You’re not being fair to the rest of the team if you give the game to the Ravenclaws. If you can’t work with me because you’re jealous of Harry, then you don’t deserve to be on this team. We can fly just as well with two Chasers as with three, right, Harry?”
“Right,” Harry agreed, finally finding his voice. To say he was stunned was putting it lightly: his team was disintegrating into anarchy all because Dean was bent on throwing the game just because of his arguments with Ginny this past week. He didn’t like that at all.
“All right,” he said slowly, thinking fast. “If Dean won’t cooperate with Ginny, we’ll have to compromise. Ginny, you’re going to be Seeker. I’m sorry, but I can see no other solution. Of the two of you, she has the most experience at Seeking. I’ll take Ginny’s place at Chaser. Dean, if you try to throw the game again, you’ll be off the team. Have I made myself clear?”
Scowling, Dean mumbled, “Loud and clear,” and turned his back on Harry and the others.
Ginny, her eyes pleading him not to make her switch, sighed. Harry crossed the huddle and stood before her, his right hand landing gently on her left elbow. “I’m sorry, Ginny,” he said softly so that only she could hear, “I don’t like this any more than you do. I don’t want to take you off Chaser, you’re doing brilliantly today, but if we’re going to win, I’ve gotta do something to neutralize Dean’s sabotage. Hopefully, with me watching his every move, we can still win.” He looked deeply into her eyes as he asked, “You’ll catch the Snitch for us?”
“Yeah, I’ll catch it. With at least a fifty-point lead for us,” she said, gazing back, her wide brown eyes narrowing with a determination Harry only associated with her.
They stepped apart as Madam Hooch blew her whistle, signalling the end of the time out. The team mounted their brooms, but Harry didn’t. Instead, he called, “Ginny, wait!”
She turned. “What is it, Harry?”
He stepped forward and handed her his Firebolt. “Take my broom. A Seeker is only as good as her equipment and you need the best,” he said, reaching for her broom handle.
“Harry–I–I can’t take your broom,” she protested.
“Yes, you can,” he said, looking into her brown eyes again. “We need you to catch the Snitch and my broom will help you catch it. Now take it and go. Please, for me?”
Ginny took his broom and handed him her Cleansweep, her eyes alight with excitement. “Thank you,” she said grinning at him. With that, she slung her leg over the Firebolt’s handle and took off just as Madam Hooch’s whistle sounded again.
Pleased that he had given Ginny something to smile about, Harry mounted her broom and flew up with Dean and Demelza for the resumption of play.
It felt strange to be this close to the ground, even though “close” was still fifty feet in the air. Harry had designated Demelza as the lead Chaser and she began calling plays as soon as the Quaffle was in the air again. He was glad he’d gone over the Chaser’s Manual and Captain’s Playbook last night when he awakened far too early, too keyed up to sleep. He might be a little slow, but he knew exactly what moves Demelza was having them fly.
The announcer noticed the personnel change immediately. “And what do we have here? Has there been some discord in the Gryffindor ranks? I’d say so, because suddenly it seems that Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley have traded places and brooms, it looks like. Will these changes affect the quality of Gryffindor’s play? We shall see.”
Demelza snagged the Quaffle and turned her broom handle towards the Ravenclaw goal, Harry and Dean right behind her. “Formation 6, NOW!” she bellowed into the wind. It took Harry a split second to remember what Formation 6 was–the Hawkshead Formation–and get into position. The delay caused Demelza to throw over her shoulder, “Get with the program, Potter! You’re the bloody captain!”
“Yes, ma’am!” Harry shot back and helped Dean tighten the formation as they barrelled down pitch towards the waiting Ravenclaws.
“Bludger at two!” Dean called out, causing Demelza to swerve left. He and Harry followed, without scattering. The Bludger barely missed Dean as it rocketed past. A moment later, there was a resounding smack as one of the Gryffindor Beaters sent the iron ball back the way it had come.
They neared the Ravenclaw goal. “Batter up!” Demelza called. Dean flew a little ahead of her, positioning himself closer to the goal, if she chose to use him. Harry hung back and faced the opposite direction, watching for Bludgers and incoming opponents.
The Ravenclaw Chasers were flying hard and fast, three abreast a little below the Gryffindors. Harry thought fast and pointed his broom handle at a steep down-angle and flew straight across his opponents’ paths. The three Ravenclaws scattered, allowing Dean and Demelza enough time to get into position for a throw. Demelza faked right, then sent the Quaffle zooming towards Dean who caught it neatly and threw it over Michael Corner’s head into the middle ring. The Gryffindor side of the stadium erupted in raucous cheering.
“Excellent move, Potter!” Demelza called as the Ravenclaws received the Quaffle and began flying towards the opposite end of the pitch. “Do you have any more like that?”
“A few,” he replied. “Nice throw,” he added as Dean flew past him. Dean smiled.
Demelza called another formation, this time a defensive one, and the three of them leaned into their broom handles, speeding after the other three Chasers.
High up in the sky, Ginny sailed on an air current, thoroughly enjoying the smoothness of Harry’s Firebolt but wishing she hadn’t been relegated to Seeker. Unfortunately, she understood all too well why Harry had made the position changes he had. They had lost their lead all because Dean had decided not to cooperate with her. She was furious with him and had gone along with Harry’s change mostly so that she could get her temper under control. Now, she silently thanked him for his wisdom, knowing that if she ever was given the opportunity to be Quidditch Captain, she might have to make tough decisions like this one herself.
Cho Chang suddenly appeared next to her. “I see that Potter demoted you to your old position,” Cho chortled. “What did you do to deserve being demoted?”
Ginny ground her teeth and wished she had her wand; a couple hundred bat bogies would look rather nice on Cho’s smirking face at the moment. “None of your business, Chang. Now get out of my airspace,” she snapped.
“Oh, I’m scared,” Cho said, laughing, but she turned her broom away and flew in the opposite direction just the same.
Ginny sighed in relief and flew a bit lower so that she could hear the score: Gryffindor 140 to Ravenclaw 110.
The Quaffle hurtled towards him, the ball dropped early by Lisa Turpin, who had just bungled the Porskoff Ploy for the second time in a row. Harry stretched out on his broom and urged Ginny’s Cleansweep forwards, barely reaching the plummeting ball before Chambers ploughed into him, as intent on taking possession of the Quaffle as Harry. The two boys bounced off each other and it was all Harry could do not to drop the big red ball.
Looking around wildly, Harry cried, “Dean, your eight! Catch!” and heaved the ball at him, hoping he would catch it. He then pirouetted his broom and zoomed forward in anticipation of another forward pass. The ancient Cleansweep was far slower than his Firebolt, but for what he needed to do today, it would do just fine. After all, Ginny had been flying on it all year.
Dean caught the Quaffle, flew ahead a little, and lobbed a lazy pass to Demelza, who threw the ball back to Harry.
Brocklehurst and Chambers seemed to have anticipated this move and were all over him like glue. In the meantime, Demelza had called Gryffindor Code 666, the one that the Gryffindors jokingly called the Devil’s Compact, and Harry let the Quaffle slip from under his arm on purpose. Brocklehurst caught it and as she reversed her direction, Harry swooped up and over her, flying upside down for a few seconds towards the side-lines, then turned upright and flew parallel to them, setting up Gryffindor’s next move.
At Demelza’s sign, Harry jerked his broom to the left and once the turn was complete, flew straight at Brocklehurst. At the same time, Demelza and Dean rocketed at her from the other side and front in a high-speed game of chicken known as the Parkin’s Pincer. Harry had drilled this move with his Chasers until they knew the exact timing needed to pull this move off, for it was as dangerous as it was thrilling to perform. He had taken Ginny’s position, and at the very last moment, when Brocklehurst was certain of a four-way crash and she threw her arms over her head, dropping the Quaffle. Harry dove under her, plucked the Quaffle out of the air and sped towards the Ravenclaw rings with the wind whistling past his ears. Seconds later, he pulled up two feet in front of Corner and threw the ball hard towards the left ring. Corner hadn’t had the room or the guts to try to stop him.
“And that, my dear friends, is a perfect Parkin’s Pincer. Did you see the timing, the precision flying? I can’t believe the Gryffindors actually pulled that one off! And with a substitute Chaser, no less. This first goal for Harry Potter brings the score to 160 Gryffindor to 130 Ravenclaw,” cried the nearly hysterical announcer.
Harry circled the pitch and flew back into position, ready for Demelza’s next call.
Sometime later, with the score now in favour of Gryffindor by the prerequisite fifty points, Ginny renewed her efforts to spot the Snitch. The sun had been playing tricks on her most of the time she’d been up here, glinting off watches and necklaces, and generally making a nuisance of itself and making Ginny wish it was a cloudy day. Now, she scanned the stadium for the little golden ball. Because she had accustomed herself to what the crowd looked like, she could easily ignore it. Gone was the wiggling student body, gone were the brightly coloured banners, gone was most of the noise. These were ordinary things; what she needed was something extraordinary and seemingly out of place… like that golden glint flitting around the base of the middle Gryffindor goal post. Ever so slightly, Ginny drifted down towards the pitch, willing Cho Chang to continue looking in the opposite direction, and keeping one eye glued to her target.
The Snitch moved, flying higher, but still staying within the Gryffindor scoring area. That made it easier to keep track of. Ginny flew lower and edged closer to the Snitch. Cho was now flying towards the Gryffindor goal and Ginny didn’t want to appear to have seen anything, so she deliberately flew part of her search pattern with her back to the little golden ball. Casually, as Cho turned a corner and headed back in the opposite direction, Ginny flew in a wide circle that brought her ever closer to the Snitch.
“And Ravenclaw has the Quaffle and the Chasers are haring it down pitch. Turpin lobs to Chambers, who flips it to Brocklehurst. Brocklehurst tucks it in and races forward. Reverse pass to back to Chambers, forward to Turpin. They’re almost at goal… And there’s the SNITCH!” yelled the announcer. “Can you believe that Ginny Weasley is flying this close on Harry Potter’s Firebolt, no less, and she hasn’t caught the Snitch?”
“Damn it! ” Ginny cursed. She was closer to the Snitch than Cho was, but the distance between them wasn’t that far. Ginny wrenched Harry’s broom towards the Snitch and lay down on its handle, hoping its pure speed would be to her advantage.
The Snitch seemed to know it was being pursued because it suddenly shot skyward. Ginny followed it, but her upward momentum and steep angle–because she was closer to the ball than Cho–sapped her speed and allowed Cho to gain on her. Suddenly, the two Seekers were neck and neck, both straining towards the Snitch. It flew in an erratic zig-zag pattern, never letting Ginny or Cho get a hand close enough to snag it out of the air.
Without warning, Cho elbowed Ginny’s outstretched arm just above the elbow. The pain caused Ginny to draw in her arm so that she was no longer reaching for the Snitch.
“Stop it, Cho!” Ginny shouted. “Or I’ll have you penalized for excessive cobbing.”
“Hooch can’t see up this far,” Cho yelled back. “I can get away with anything I want up here. You took the Snitch from me last year, so I’m just returning the favour.” She drew back her elbow to deliver another blow, but Ginny swerved just in time to avoid her. She then looked forward and smiled. Her evasive move had brought her closer to the Snitch and with a smile of triumph, she reached out with her other hand and trapped the little ball neatly in her fist.
“I caught the Snitch!” she yelled, thrusting her fist in the air and spiralling quickly towards the ground. A great roar went up from the Gryffindor supporters as she touched down and moments later, there was Harry, jumping off her broom and running across the pitch towards her.
“You caught the Snitch! We won!” he yelled happily.
“We won!” she repeated and suddenly the two of them had their arms around each other and Harry’s lips were on hers and the only things that mattered at that moment were her fingers clutching the Snitch and the boy who had just swept her off her feet.
Several hours later, Harry sighed contentedly as he and Ginny lounged in one of the squishy armchairs in the Gryffindor common room. They had picked this particular chair because it was tucked out of the way in a corner and most of their housemates had their attention focused elsewhere. He was glad of the privacy, mostly because of the questions and accusing glances thrown his way by the Ravenclaws and Dean following the match. Those had resulted in an hour of intense questioning by Madam Hooch and Professor McGonagall about the decisions he’d made on the pitch that afternoon. It turned out that his decision to let Ginny fly his broom rather than the positions switch was what was bothering the two teachers. In the end, Cho’s accusations of favouritism had been overruled and Madam Hooch had declared Gryffindor the rightful winner of the match.
Now, Harry dipped his head and gently kissed the top of Ginny’s head, making her giggle.
“That tickles,” she tittered, looking up at him.
“Want me to stop?” he asked, trying hard to keep the smirk off his face.
“No. Come here,” she commanded, reaching a hand up and resting it on the back of his head. “I want a proper kiss.”
Harry smiled back as he said, “Yes, dear,” and he obediently captured her mouth with his.
Two days later, Fred heard tapping on the window of his office and looked up to see Hedwig sitting on the window ledge. Fred put down his quill and stood up to open the window. Harry’s owl flew in and perched on the back of George’s chair.
“Hello, beautiful,” Fred said and he took the note she carried. “There’s water and owl treats in the back room if you want them.”
Hedwig ruffled her feathers and glared at him, making him laugh. “George and I wouldn’t trick you,” he said. “We’re not going to turn hard-working owls into canaries, just people.”
Still, Hedwig continued to glare at him as if turning into a human was just as repulsive as a lowly canary and pushed her beak towards the letter. Sighing, Fred turned his attention to it. One glance at the signature had him calling for George.
Fred and George,
A little over a week ago, I made a bargain with the two of you that if I caught the Snitch in the Ravenclaw match, you would not tell Ginny that I landed myself in hospital during Quidditch practice because I was watching her. Since we never made any stipulations of what could or could not be done if someone else was Seeker, I have confessed fully to my girlfriend, Ginny. It appears that your sister knew all along that I’d been hurt while paying more attention to her than the Bludgers, so it seems that whatever blackmail or pranks you might be anticipating are now null and void.
Please know that I sincerely appreciate the company you gave me while I was bedridden and that I hope your enchanted Wake-Up Quill will be a success once you put it out for sale.
“Rats!” Fred said as he looked at George with a calculating grin. “Foiled again.”
George grinned back. “You know, Fred,” he said thoughtfully, “now that Harry is going out with Ginny, he’s fair game for product testing come this summer.”
Yes, George was right! The thought was very pleasing indeed and Fred knew just what he wanted Harry to test for them.
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