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SIYE Time:2:43 on 22nd July 2017


When Harry Missed the Trick Step
By Srikanth1808

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Category: Pre-OotP
Characters:Harry/Ginny, Hermione Granger, Ron Weasley
Genres: Action/Adventure, Drama, Romance
Warnings: None
Rating: PG
Reviews: 78
Summary: Ever wondered what would have happened if Harry's foot hadn't sunk into the trick step, when he went to investigate Barty Crouch's sudden appearance in Snape's office in his fourth year? Read on to find out! Compliant till a part of the chapter "The Egg and the Eye" of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

Chapter 10 up - please read and review!
Hitcount: Story Total: 11058; Chapter Total: 608





Author's Notes:
If there was one thing that was lacking in the canon Goblet of Fire, it was Quidditch. Proper, solid, Quidditch. Don’t think I’m the only one who thinks so, either.

On that note…here you go. Longest chapter yet – spent four full days writing this, so you guys owe me some good, solid, reviews!




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When Harry Missed the Trick Step

Chapter 9: Sirius, Sunset and Sevens


Previously on “When Harry Missed the Trick Step”…

Normally, Harry would have taken the time out to admire at the beauty and charm that Dumbledore’s office had…but today would mark the second time in less than two months that he had entered this office and not done so.

The first time was because he had been worried about Snape and the intruder in the dungeons.

Today, it was because of the occupants in the room.

Professor Dumbledore was seated behind his desk, his long silver beard and hair glimmering in the light of the candles that floated around the room. In front of him, on this side of the desk, stood Professor Lupin, an unreadable expression on his face. Next to him was Madam Amelia Bones, the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement at the Ministry of Magic; Harry recognized her from her last visit on “the night”. She was wearing her monocle, and had a grim expression on her face.

So did the person next to her, for that matter. And it was the sight of this person that caused Harry’s jaw to drop in horror.

Standing next to Madam Bones, wearing an all-too-serious expression on his gaunt face — the face that had not yet recovered from the horrors of Azkaban — was Sirius Black.


‘Sirius?’

It took Harry a few moments to comprehend that the scratchy, yet soft voice that had broken the silence in Dumbledore’s office, was his own. He stared at his godfather, shock and horror combined with fear and anxiety coursing through his veins…

Only to then realize that his godfather was grinning at him. A full-blown, wide grin adorned his face, something he had not seen since that night when he’d learnt the truth about Sirius and Pettigrew.

‘Harry!’ exclaimed Sirius, and he bounded forward to envelop him in a hug. Sirius withdrew first, and looked his godson over. ‘Merlin, it’s been ages since I last saw you properly — are you alright?’

‘I — yeah, I’m fine…’

Harry was beyond the normal level of confusion now. It was just after dinner, and Dumbledore had asked him to visit his office at once; he had sprinted all the way from the Gryffindor common room to the corridor ending in the entrance to the Headmaster’s office, all the while simulating a million possibilities to the reason for his urgent presence. They had ranged from things as simple as serving detention with the Headmaster instead of Professor Snape — despite the fact that he didn’t have any detention to serve with the Potions master — to as sinister as a potential assault on the castle by Lord Voldemort and his new army of Death Eaters…

When he’d seen Madam Bones standing in the office, his stomach had twisted nervously — a personal visit by the head of the DMLE, to which he was also invited, did not bode well. When he saw Sirius standing right next to her, with such a grim expression, the twists had become knots, and his heart had risen to his throat.

Naturally, he had assumed the worst — Sirius had been captured, and was being carted off to Azkaban once more; it was a minor saving grace that he would get to say goodbye to his godson for the last time…

And, also naturally, he had not expected such a jubilant and joyous reaction from his godfather. Nor, by the looks of it, from the rest of the occupants in the office. Dumbledore was smiling genially; so was Madam Bones, while Lupin was grinning widely at Sirius’ reaction, and presumably, at Harry’s bewilderment.

‘Harry?’ said Sirius, suddenly concerned. ‘Are you okay?’

Being asked the same question for the second time in the space of a minute managed to snap Harry out of whatever state he was in. He refocused on Sirius’ face, and returned his grin — or at least, tried to smile while not making it look like a confused grimace.

‘Yeah, erm…’ Harry faltered a bit. ‘I mean, what are you —’

‘Doing here?’ finished Sirius, and a small gentle smile graced his features. ‘I’m fine, Harry. I’m not getting arrested.’ He paused. ‘Not yet, anyway.’

‘Padfoot…’ said Lupin slowly, in a clearly admonishing tone.

‘Well, it’s true,’ shrugged Sirius. ‘There is a chance I could be arrested, but —’

‘What?’ said Harry, and a bit of the worry he’d felt at the time of entering into the office began to seep inside him once more. ‘You could be arrested?’

‘Well, not exactly. More like taken into custody, you know?’

Harry wasn’t sure he quite understood what Sirius was trying to say. Lupin was shooting Sirius exasperated looks, but he didn’t seem to be offering an explanation either.

Dumbledore must have sensed his quandary, for he chuckled softly and said, ‘I think it would be best if we start from the beginning.’ He signalled to Madam Bones with a wave of his hand, as though requesting her to step forward. ‘Madam Bones, if you will?’

Madam Bones did indeed step forward, her short heels clicking against the stone flooring of Dumbledore’s office. Her expression was not as serious as it had been when Harry had entered, but then again, he had never seen her smile to see any difference.

‘Mr Potter, I thought it best to inform you in person before the Daily Prophet does so tomorrow.’ She took a breath, and a faint smile appeared on her face. The effect was instantaneous — she looked a lot less intimidating, and a lot more caring, despite the presence of that foreboding monocle. ‘We have captured Peter Pettigrew, also known as Wormtail.’

Harry stared at her in disbelief.

‘W-what?’ he stammered out.

I must be dreaming. This is a dream.

The smile grew a bit more on Madam Bones’ visage. ‘It took us a couple of days, but we managed to catch him in one of the old Death Eater hide-outs near Nottingham. He’s been placed in a secure Ministry holding cell, with appropriate restrictions on magic and Animagus transformations in force as well.’

Harry barely heard anything of what Madam Bones said after the phrase ‘managed to catch him’. The implications of this were slowly starting to sink in.

Peter Pettigrew was finally caught. Voldemort’s supporter, who had betrayed his friends, the Potters, for a bit of glory, was captured. He was going to get justice served upon him. At last.

Harry’s gaze shifted back to Sirius, who was still sporting a broad grin…and finally, it hit him.

With Pettigrew captured, Sirius would be exonerated. The Ministry would have finally got the right man, and would officially cease all their efforts in hunting Sirius down. And Sirius…he would be…

Sirius would be free.

‘Sirius…’ he said, and he was surprised to hear himself choking up. ‘Sirius, you’d be…you’ll be…’

‘Yes, Harry,’ said Sirius softly, who also seemed like he was the verge of tears. ‘I’ll be free.’

And at long last, the dam broke — the fortified wall behind which Harry had buried his hope for Sirius’ freedom…his anguish at having already lost so much time with his godfather…his anger towards Pettigrew at betraying his parents and framing his best friend for the crime…his resentment at having had to say goodbye to Sirius again last year from the top of the West Tower of Hogwarts…and the momentary joy he had felt when Sirius had asked him to move in with him…

The wall had been meticulously constructed and secured within the deep recesses of his heart, for he had, until now, refused to let those emotions take over him, even though they had tried many — oh, so many — times…

All of that — that maelstrom of emotions…the torrent of feelings — came crashing down upon Harry with a rightful, long overdue vengeance…

His cheeks were already overrun with tear tracks by the time he grabbed his godfather; and this time, he pulled the older man into a fierce hug — a hug that spoke of familial love, a promise of a better future, and a childish wish that all of this should not have been a dream…

Vaguely, through his half-closed, half-tear-stained eyelids, he could make out Dumbledore and Madam Bones smiling widely now, while Lupin was grinning at the two of them once more, one hand surreptitiously wiping at his lined face — though the grin made him look as though he were ten years younger…

He did not know for how long he stayed that way, caught in a fierce embrace with a man whom he had started to consider as the closest thing he had ever had to a father…finally experiencing the level of comfort and security that he had not had since he had been a baby…and at last, he thought with a wry smile, giving him the chance to look forward to summer holidays away from the Dursleys…

After what seemed like an eternity, and a soft clearing of a throat from Dumbledore, Harry and Sirius stepped apart, still grinning at each other through their tears. Dumbledore smiled at the two of them, as Sirius playfully ruffled Harry’s hair.

‘Yes, if all goes well, Sirius will be a free man. However, before that, he, along with Peter Pettigrew, must undergo a trial before the Wizengamot.’

At the mention of the word ‘trial’, Harry’s spirits plummeted a bit, but he pulled them back up forcefully. Sirius was going to win, there was no doubt about it. The evidence in his favour — and against Pettigrew — was overwhelming.

‘Okay,’ said Harry, turning to face Dumbledore. ‘When is it going to be held?’

‘Three weeks from now,’ said Madam Bones at once. ‘If all goes well, we could have it on the 22nd of March.’

This certainly caused his stomach to do a massive roll-over. Three weeks from now? That gave them barely enough time to prepare for the trial, and he told them so, while adding in the end, ‘I’m clueless on these trial things, but do you need to get a lawyer?’

Sirius frowned a bit at that: evidently it had not been something that he had considered before. He turned to his best friend, who shrugged, seemingly just as in the dark.

It was Dumbledore who answered. ‘You may choose to appoint a wizarding lawyer, Sirius, or you may present your own case before the Wizengamot.’ He noticed Sirius opening his mouth to say something, and added almost at once, ‘Unfortunately, I cannot represent you, as I must preside over the case as the Chief Warlock.’

Sirius closed his mouth with an audible snap, his frown deepening as he looked to think on this.

‘I know of a lawyer,’ began Lupin slowly, his hand running across his chin as he stared at Sirius thoughtfully. ‘Runs a highly successful wizarding law firm, an almost impeccable record in defending his clients…’

Sirius’ face cleared up instantly, but the expression was now of trepidation and a little bit of annoyance, rather than hope. ‘If you’re thinking of the man that I think you’re thinking of…’

Lupin shrugged. ‘He’s good, Padfoot, you have to admit that. And, he’s probably the only lawyer who could represent you in this kind of a case on such short notice —’

‘Yes, but…’ Sirius sighed and ran his hand through his long shoulder-length hair. ‘Does it have to be him? You know she’s going to say no.’

‘It’s a professional relationship, Sirius, that’s all,’ stressed Lupin. ‘She can’t say no to a client that he wants to take up —’

‘She said no for you,’ pointed out Sirius, his eyebrow raised.

‘Well, yes,’ admitted Lupin, ‘but my circumstances were markedly different. For Merlin’s sake, Sirius, you’re not a werewolf, and you’re not guilty of anything here!’

Harry saw Sirius glare at Lupin, who stared right back at him in defiance, refusing to back down. Harry vaguely wondered when the full moon was — he had never seen Lupin this agitated.

Sirius finally relented, letting out an audible huff and turning away from Lupin. ‘Fine, but you’re coming with me when I meet him.’

‘Fair enough,’ was the instant response. ‘It’s not like you could stroll around in public on your own anyway.’

Sirius shrugged, but did not respond to that last statement.

Dumbledore, looking oddly pleased with the banter that had taken place between the two Marauders, clapped his hands together. ‘Well then, that seems to be sorted.’ He turned to Madam Bones. ‘Amelia, would you be taking Sirius to the Ministry now?’

Wait, what?

‘You need to go now?’ asked Harry, his tone full of worry.

Sirius shook his head. ‘I don’t think so — not unless Amelia wants me to come in right away.’ He looked at the head of the DMLE, who shook her head. ‘If it’s alright, Amelia, Dumbledore, I’d like to return to my current hide-out. I’ll be able to travel with Lupin on Monday to the lawyer’s office. He’s bound to have follow-up questions and discussions — I’d need to be present for those. I can turn myself in personally to Amelia on Monday, 20th of March.’

Neither Dumbledore nor Madam Bones had any objections to Sirius’ plan, which eased Harry’s worries a bit. He didn’t feel that taking Sirius in almost immediately would have been a good idea, especially considering the fact that the trial was just shy of two weeks away, and that there were two other known Death Eaters already in the Ministry holding cells.

Speaking of Death Eaters…

‘Erm, Professor Dumbledore?’ The Headmaster, who had been gazing at a seemingly inconspicuous spot on his desk, looked up at him inquiringly. ‘What’s happened to Crouch Junior? Has his trial been conducted yet?’

Sirius snapped his head around from a potential conversation with Lupin to look at Dumbledore; Lupin, however, looked a bit clueless, alternating his gaze between the Headmaster, Harry and Madam Bones.

‘He is yet to receive his trial, Harry,’ replied Dumbledore. ‘Conducting a trial for him right now would attract a lot of publicity — even if we do try to keep it quiet — and it could attract Voldemort’s attention. As of yet, we believe he is unaware of young Crouch Junior’s incarceration. An advantage that we intend to maintain.’

‘I agree,’ said Madam Bones. ‘Revealing to the public that we have a former Death Eater who escaped from Azkaban is bound to cause a lot of panic as well, and given the current climate…’

She trailed off, but Harry didn’t need her to complete the sentence. The security fiasco at the Quidditch World Cup, the appearance of the Dark Mark, Harry’s unprecedented entry into the Triwizard Tournament, and the defeat of the anti-werewolf legislation…He didn’t need to study politics to realize that conducting a trial of a notorious Death Eater right now would be the equivalent of cursing yourself in the foot.

In other words, a very bad idea.

‘We’ve also ensured that both Pettigrew and Crouch Junior are held in cells that are far apart from each other — ensuring no visual contact or ability to speak with each other.’

‘That’s good,’ agreed Harry with a nod.

The small gathering broke up rather quickly after that. With a nod to the other occupants of the room, Madam Bones Flooed back to the Bones Mansion. Lupin gave Dumbledore a swift nod, followed by a friendly squeeze of Harry’s shoulder, before sweeping out of the office. Before Sirius could leave, however, Harry had one more question.

‘Sirius, this lawyer you were talking about…who is he?’

His godfather gave a small grimace, which reflected more exasperation now than the earlier annoyance.

‘Cyrus Greengrass.’

Harry returned to the Gryffindor common room on Saturday night just a few minutes after Sirius had left through the Floo to the Hog’s Head, which Dumbledore said was a wizarding bar on the outskirts of the village of Hogsmeade. He had had apprehensions of his godfather going through the Floo, but he surmised it was easier and safer for him as opposed to strolling along the corridors of Hogwarts at night in his black dog Animagus form. Too many Hogwarts students put their faith — or was it fear — in the legend of the Grim, and Dumbledore had not wished to add fuel to the fire.

‘Besides, I am quite friendly with the local barman,’ reassured Dumbledore. ‘He will not ask any questions, you have my word.’

The common room was almost empty when Harry arrived — ‘almost’ being the key word. He was not surprised to find Ron, Hermione, Neville and Ginny sitting in the armchairs by the fair and waiting for him.

‘Oh, thank goodness,’ Ginny sighed, before getting up and throwing her arms around his middle. Out of sheer instinct, Harry returned the embrace warmly, inhaling the sweet, flowery scent he had come to identify Ginny by.

To his consternation, they broke apart too quickly; he dropped his arms to his sides and stepped back, feeling a little awkward about what he’d just experienced with Ginny, and embarrassed at the fact that it had happened in front of his three other best friends, one of whom was Ginny’s older brother. Face burning slightly, and desperately wishing that the firelight was illuminating anything else but his visage, he turned to look at them.

‘Well?’ asked Ron eagerly. ‘What did Dumbledore want?’

Despite his discomfort, he managed to grin broadly at the four of them.

‘They’ve caught the rat. Sirius is getting a trial in two weeks.’

The four of them let out whoops of joy at the statement — Neville had been brought in onto the truth about Sirius and Pettigrew sometime earlier — and engulfed Harry in an impromptu five way hug. After they broke apart, however, Harry’s next statement brought them crashing back down.

‘He’s going to hire Cyrus Greengrass as his lawyer.’

‘What?!’

It had taken a good amount of time to explain the shocked reaction that had been displayed by the Weasley siblings and Neville. Hermione, being the Muggle-born, had been as clueless as Harry.

‘Cyrus Greengrass is, well…’ began Neville, after settling back into the armchairs in front of the fire.

‘He’s evil,’ declared Ron emphatically. ‘Ow!’ came the shout a moment later, when Ginny had smacked him on the head. ‘What was that for?’

‘He’s not evil, Ron,’ said Ginny. ‘He’s just…different. Eccentric, maybe. He’s certainly had less than unsavoury clients to his name.’

‘Death Eaters?’ said Hermione almost at once, cottoning on.

Ginny nodded. ‘Defended a whole lot of them from being chucked into Azkaban after You-Know-Who disappeared all those years ago. Managed to convince the Wizengamot with the excuse that they were under the Imperius.’

‘Everyone knows that’s a load of rubbish,’ said Neville rather strongly. ‘You can’t take the Dark Mark while under the influence of the Imperius. It’s not possible.’

‘Take the Dark Mark?’

‘All of You-Know-Who’s followers were branded with the Dark Mark — at least, that’s what Gran told me. I don’t know where he placed it, though.’

‘Oh,’ said Harry. Then it hit him. ‘Wait, you can’t take it under the Imperius?’ Harry asked, astounded by this piece of news. ‘Then how did they —’

‘Gold,’ said Ron simply; Ginny and Neville nodded in agreement.

Harry just blinked and stared at them. He knew corruption existed within the Ministry, but he hadn’t expected this level of venality from the Ministry officials — willing to grant pardons to known Death Eaters, ones who had committed countless and horrendous crimes, in exchange for bags of gold. He found it nauseating — literally and figuratively.

‘You okay, Harry?’ asked Ginny concernedly, looking at his blanched face.

Harry shook his head, trying to pull himself together. ‘Yeah, I’m just…that’s horrible, though.’ He waved a hand in Ron’s direction, indicating the mention of outright bribery within the Ministry. ‘They’re letting known Death Eaters walk free.’

‘The members of the Wizengamot are easily swayed by such offers from the accused criminals,’ said Neville. ‘It’s the wizarding world’s worst kept secret. It’s a miracle that the Wizengamot hasn’t done something about it yet.’

‘But why haven’t they?’ asked Hermione.

‘Because of procedure,’ said Ron. ‘You remember Ian’s explanation on how legislation is passed by WIzengamot, right?’ At Hermione’s nod, he continued. ‘Well, before the draft legislation is presented to the Wizengamot, copies are sent to all the members for them to look through. It’s supposed to give them the opportunity to point out any mistakes in the draft, and suggest improvements or changes.’

Hermione’s expression suddenly became quite grim. ‘Let me guess — they use this time to collude on the draft.’

‘Collude?’

Hermione gave Ron an exasperated look. ‘Conspire with each other.’

‘Oh,’ said Ron in understanding. ‘Yeah, they do that. And threaten the bloke who decided to draft the legislation, and his family while they’re at it.’

‘That’s outrageous!’ exclaimed Hermione.

Ron and Neville shrugged helplessly. ‘Most of the Wizengamot are full of those old wizards and witches who still cling on to the supposedly traditional beliefs of blood purity and the like,’ said Ginny. ‘Mind you,’ she added, ‘by traditional, I mean bigoted.’ She paused for a moment. ‘Imagine someone like Malfoy, except a lot older and a lot more ingrained into his beliefs.’

Silence fell over the five of them as they considered Ginny’s statement. It was barbaric to say the least, thought Harry. Blood purity forming a cornerstone of a government was as bad as how racism and apartheid had controlled the governments of the Muggle world.

‘Anyway,’ said Neville, shaking him out of his morbid thoughts, ‘the fact is, even though Cyrus Greengrass has had questionable clientele in the past, there is no doubt of his excellence and brilliance as a lawyer. If there’s anyone who could win Sirius’ case on such short notice, it’s him.’

‘That’s what Lupin said,’ muttered Harry distractedly. The mention of Greengrass had suddenly reminded him — that Slytherin girl was Daphne Greengrass. Was she his daughter? And who was this woman that Lupin and Sirius had referred to — the one who had denied Cyrus Greengrass from taking up the werewolf’s case?

‘Did he?’ asked Neville interestedly, when Harry raised this point. ‘I’m not aware of any trial involving Lupin, although it could be something related to a situation he must have encountered while in werewolf form. Greengrass wouldn’t have taken that, probably citing public image and the impossibility of winning the case as a reason.’

‘Yeah,’ said Harry, as he recalled the conversation from Dumbledore’s office. ‘Lupin indirectly said it was because he was a werewolf, and that he was unlikely to win. It wasn’t Cyrus Greengrass’ decision, though.’

‘Huh?’

‘Lupin and Sirius kept referring to some woman — someone who had said no for Lupin’s case, and would say no for Sirius’. At least, that’s what Sirius thought would happen.’

‘Oh,’ said Neville, scratching his head. ‘Well, I have no idea about that. It could be his wife, I suppose.’

‘Isabella Greengrass?’ asked Ron to the general astonishment of everyone else except Ginny.

‘You know her?’ asked Neville in amazement.

‘Yeah, she’s Dad’s cousin thrice removed on his mother’s side, or something like that. I dunno…I don’t really remember the family tree — Dad showed it to us a long time ago, before we started Hogwarts.’

Harry stared at him in shock. ‘You’re related to Daphne Greengrass?’

‘Yeah,’ said Ron, and there was a hint of abject moroseness in his voice. ‘Not something that I ever wanted, mind you. And I suppose the feeling is mutual. We’re the biggest bunch of blood traitors there ever was.’

Harry had to concede that point to Ron — the Weasleys, despite being a pure-blooded family, were termed as blood traitors due to their scorn and disregard for the traditional pure-blood ideals. The fact that they were quite poor didn’t help their cause much either.

‘You’re probably related to them too, Harry,’ pointed out Ginny as she stretched, evidently tired from the day’s activities. Harry found himself involuntarily following the movement of her arms as they reached up mid-stretch, and then moved back down to rest on the armchair she was sitting on. His eyes’ excursion had not gone unnoticed, however — Ginny was gazing at him, one eyebrow raised inquisitively. He felt his face burn again, and averted his eyes from her immediately, all the while trying to fight the heat that was now surely spreading across his cheeks in a very prominent manner.

In doing so, however, he missed the almost giddy and ecstatic look on Ginny’s face.

‘I — I am?’ Harry stammered out.

Merlin, this is embarrassing. I’ve got to stop staring at her like that — she’ll think I’m a creep.

I think she already does.

Oh, shut up.


‘The Potters are an old and wealthy pure-blood family,’ explained Neville. ‘All the pure-blood families are related in one way or another. I think we’re both related as well.’ He pointed to the two of them. ‘Third cousins or something like that, I dunno,’ he finished with a shrug.

‘Oh,’ said Harry simply, feeling completely out of his depth. ‘How come I don’t know any of this?’

‘Well,’ began Ron, ‘such things are usually explained to the children to the parents. Dad explained the Weasley history to us, while Mum did the Prewett side.’

‘The point of the explanation was to make sure that, for families like us, we didn’t end up marrying our closest relatives, and for families like the Malfoys, they married only pure-bloods from prominent families, no matter if they were related or not.’

Harry saw Hermione scrunch up her face at that; clearly she disapproved of the outdated traditions and beliefs that dominated the majority of the families of the wizarding world. Harry, truthfully, couldn’t say he disagreed with her.

‘We could explain it to you, but it would take a long time, there’s so much to cover,’ said Neville. ‘We could do it over the summer though. I know Gran loves opening those ancient books and going through our family history.’

‘We could do it together, Nev,’ said Ron enthusiastically. ‘Dad’s just like your Gran — when he’s not obsessing over Muggle stuff of course.’

They grinned at Harry, who smiled back in gratitude, oddly touched by their willingness to help.

Harry had thought he wouldn’t have been able to focus on his classes during the days leading up to Sirius’ trial, being fraught with worry over the outcome of the proceedings and his godfather’s safety, so it was to his surprise that he found himself performing quite well in his lessons. He later attributed it to his inherent desire to get through the classes as soon as possible, so that one more day could be chalked off in the countdown to the big day.

Of course, a part of him was dreading the way the days just seemed to speed by in a blur. His brain kept imagining a whole host of possibilities for the outcome of the hearing — none of which ended particularly well for Sirius: sent back to Azkaban, given the Dementor’s Kiss, let off but placed under permanent house-arrest…

‘Calm down, Harry,’ soothed Ginny when he voiced his fears to them, while they were working in the library on their essay for Potions (“Explain, with detailed descriptions, the ingredients used for the Wit-Sharpening Potion, potential substitutes for these ingredients, and valid reasons for using such substitutes”), and Ginny was browsing through additional material for her upcoming Ancient Runes test. Neville’s book, Potions for Dummies, was proving to be particularly useful in figuring out the substitute ingredients and their properties for the potion.

‘I am calm,’ retorted Harry, intently looking up a possible replacement for ginger roots. ‘I’m just scared out of my mind. There’s a difference.’

‘Yes, well, don’t be scared,’ said Neville reassuringly. ‘If there’s one thing that’s certain about Cyrus Greengrass, it’s that he doesn’t take up cases which he doesn’t think he has a proper chance of winning. Sirius has already won half the legal battle by appointing Greengrass as his lawyer.’

Sirius had sent a letter to Harry two days ago on Thursday, confirming that he had successfully negotiated representation terms with Cyrus Greengrass for his upcoming trial. He had also mentioned that Greengrass wanted to speak to all the witnesses a day before the trial, in order to reconfirm the facts and smooth out any inconsistencies.

‘Just one day before?’ Hermione had queried upon reading the letter. ‘Would that be enough?’

‘One day is a lot, Hermione,’ admitted Ron. ‘I’ve heard Percy talking about him — says he’s taken less time with the witnesses for his other cases.’

‘What’s Percy got to do with him?’ asked Ginny.

‘Dunno,’ shrugged Ron. ‘I suppose the Department of International Magical Co-operation needs lawyers like him before the International Confederation of Wizards.’

Now, in the library, Harry shook his head. ‘That’s my point. Greengrass. What could stop him from double-crossing Sirius and letting Pettigrew go scot-free?’

‘Well, now, that’s not possible,’ said Ron firmly, shutting his own reference book with a soft snap.

‘Not possible as in he won’t do it, or as in he can’t do it?’

‘As in he can’t do it. Literally. Wizarding lawyers have to take an oath when they begin to represent someone that they would never betray their client as part of the case, intentionally or not. Nor can the lawyer secretly help the opposite party. Otherwise, that lawyer loses his magic, and the case is automatically forfeited in favour of the wronged party — in this case, the person who hired the lawyer in the first place.’

Harry raised his eyebrows in shock, while Hermione covered her mouth with her hands. To his surprise, Ginny also seemed amazed by this.

‘It’s true,’ confirmed Neville. ‘I’ve seen copies of some contracts with lawyers — this oath is mandated by the Code for Wizarding Lawyers, administered by the legal department of the Ministry.’

The three of them had no answer to that, and returned to their work.

The following week was just as rushed as the previous one, if not worse. The butterflies in Harry’s stomach increased by the day; despite the reassurances given by Ron, Neville and ultimately Lupin, that Sirius was going to be represented by one of the best lawyers in wizarding Britain, and that he was doing absolutely fine, he could not help the feeling of worry that continued to gnaw at him slowly. Just as he had done the previous week, he threw himself into his lessons, nightly training, and occasionally helping out Lupin and Hermione with their research on the implications of the semi-solid Patronus Charm.

He had been forbidden by the two of them and Professor Flitwick — who had, given his Charms expertise, recently joined the team — to discuss the results and the hypotheses with anyone else, at least until the tests were complete and the magic behind it was analysed and understood completely.

It was after one of these gruelling training sessions on the following Thursday evening that Harry ultimately caved in to his mind’s demands, and emphatically declared that he needed a break.

‘You and me both, mate,’ groaned Ron as he slumped into the chair beside him, flicked open a bottle of Butterbeer — one of many that Fred and George had brought back from their last Hogsmeade trip — and took a long sip.

‘Well, as much as I know you’ll take the mickey out of me for it, I happen to agree with you two,’ admitted Hermione, wiping her brow with a towel as she too slid onto another chair, and rested her head on the table in front of her.

Ron and Harry stared at their bushy-haired best friend for several moments, before they turned to each other, grinned and then began guffawing out loud. Hermione simply sighed at their antics.

It took them a good two minutes to return to normal, with Ron still chuckling and shaking his head every now and then.

‘Merlin, that felt good,’ said Harry with a grin. ‘I haven’t laughed that hard since…I dunno.’

‘A really long time, then,’ concluded Ginny with a wry smile. ‘You’re right, though; you’ve been working too hard this week. We need something to loosen up, something that could help us relax and have fun.’

‘I’m too tired to think,’ moaned Ron, silently handing Harry and Neville their own Butterbeer bottles.

‘Let’s go for a walk first,’ suggested Ginny. ‘C’mon, maybe some fresh air would do us some good.’

And so, after a bit of cajoling of Ron, the five of them made their way down to the Entrance Hall and out on to the grounds of Hogwarts. It was a slightly breezy evening — the winds that had been blowing mercilessly for the last week had reduced greatly, leaving a gentle waft of air that occasionally upped the ante in a race across the atmosphere. Spring had unofficially begun in this northern region of Scotland; the trees and plants on the grounds and in the Forbidden Forest had finally received their brand new adornment of leaves, giving them a young, new, and refreshed look. Harry had also noticed the onset of slightly warmer weather during the day; this had welcomed a number of migratory birds to Hogwarts as they returned from their annual trip to warmer areas of the world.

All in all, the inviting weather on a Thursday evening had given other students the same idea of going for a walk along the grounds, as opposed to staying indoors. The five of them ambled along slowly — in silence, for a change — behind a group of Ravenclaw girls. Harry noticed one of them, who had dirty blonde hair that reached to her waist, had placed her wand behind her ear.

He was about to point that out to Ginny, who was closest to him, when Ron’s sigh came from the left of their line. ‘Let’s just sit here, shall we?’ He indicated the shade of their favourite beech tree, the one under which Harry had explained everything about Sirius and Pettigrew to Ginny, and before anyone could even respond, he flopped onto the grass with another sigh of contentment.

Harry and Neville chuckled, while Hermione let out a sigh of her own, but it was of exasperation, and Ginny just smirked at her older brother. But to everyone’s surprise, Hermione followed suit.

‘I don’t mind, really,’ she said as she smoothed out the creases on her skirt, ‘it’s just so peaceful over here.’

And that it was: the Black Lake was nearby, its waters gently cresting on to the banks due to the breeze blowing across its surface. A couple of students could be seen seated on the distant banks of the lake, occasionally throwing something into it; a few moments after each throw, a tentacle would disturb the smooth waters, scoop up the item and disappear into the inky depths.

In the distance, Hagrid’s cabin was visible, the trails of smoke twirling out from the chimney and blending into the air signifying that their part-giant friend was at home, no doubt making himself some tea before heading into the castle for dinner. Interestingly, Fang, Hagrid’s large pet boarhound, was outside the cabin on his own; he appeared to be hunting for it, judging by the scrabbling it was doing in the large vegetable patch that Hagrid had freshly dug up.

‘Oh, wow,’ whispered Ginny in an awed voice. Harry looked over at her, wondering what had caused her revered reaction. In response, she pointed out towards the other side of the lake in silence. Harry turned to look, and —

‘Wow,’ he agreed.

From their vantage point under the beech tree, they could see the length-wise boundaries of the Forbidden Forest, after which were the farthest banks of the lake. Its waters crested up until the banks to the west, before receding back in a graceful arc to the south. Those banks to the west ended in a sheer cliff, while the southern shores met with another forest — one not as foreboding as the Forbidden Forest — which ran along the outskirts of Hogsmeade, ending near the Shrieking Shack.

The reason for Ginny’s reaction was that they had probably grabbed one of the best seats to view the setting sun that evening. The golden light from the magnificent flaming orb hanging in the sky slowly shifted to the deep orange usually associated with a flaming sunset. A few scattered clouds adorned the crown of the sun as it sunk lower and lower to its eventual meeting with the horizon in the distance; they glowed scarlet and orange and gold against the ever darkening sky. A flock of birds flew past it, only visible as black shapes against the fiery sphere.

‘I wish I could capture this moment,’ whispered Hermione reverentially. She had also had her attention drawn to the breath-taking scene in front of them, and was now, to everybody’s except Ron’s general astonishment, observing the sunset with her head leaning on Ron’s shoulders, while the red-head in question, his ears as scarlet as the glowing clouds before them, had wrapped an arm around her in a sideways embrace.

This is new.

‘It’s amazing,’ agreed Neville.

Instinctively, and with a spurt of bravery and courage that he had not known he possessed, Harry copied Ron’s actions, putting an arm around Ginny’s shoulder and bringing her closer. He felt her stiffen for a moment, before relaxing into it and allowing herself to be drawn into him. With an almost inaudible sigh of content, she rested her head in the crook between his arm and torso, and wrapped her arm around Harry’s waist to snuggle in comfortably.

This is nice.

He looked down at her, and at that moment, he knew he would do anything for the girl he was currently holding in his arms — including even dying for her. The level of affection he felt for the fiery red-head went beyond anything he had ever experienced in his life; this was not mere attraction, nor a friendship that transcended all normal boundaries, nor liking someone as more than friends…

What it was, he did not know. But it was definitely not as simple for it to be put into words.

And without thinking, without considering the potential consequences of his actions, without even stopping to revisit his decision — if he had even made the decision coherently in the first place — Harry boldly did something that he’d never thought he would ever have done.

He bent his head and kissed Ginny Weasley on the top of her head.

This time, she definitely froze, and it was clearly out of shock — or so he hoped it was, instead of it being out of anger. He could not see her face, framed between her fiery locks of hair and turned the other way to face the almost-disappeared setting sun, so he could not tell what she was feeling. Or thinking.

Not that he could have figured that out just by looking at her.

Merlin, I hope she doesn’t kill me.

Killing would be better than her walking away from you right now.

Oh, bugger.


A hundred different scenarios played out in his mind, none of which appeared to end well for him — and all of them seemed to begin with Ginny Weasley pulling away from him and either hexing him, slapping him, or screaming at him — sometimes all at once, and in no particularly exclusive order.

His eyes then fell on Ron, and those possibilities immediately began to multiply as his mind brought his best friend into the picture, berating him for his lack of sensitivity and tact, cursing him for even touching his baby sister, or beating him up for even coming near her and warning him not to think about her ever again…

Oh dear God, this is a disaster, this is insane, this is crazy, this…feels amazing.

For Ginny Weasley had just turned her head to the side facing him, and had slowly, gently, and oh so softly, kissed him on the cheek.

He had not been at the receiving end of a lot of kisses in his life. Truthfully, he had had only two other experiences of being kissed — from the Chasers of the Gryffindor Quidditch team after he had caught the Snitch in their match against Ravenclaw last year; and from Fleur after the second task. The ones from Angelina, Alicia, and Katie had been in the spur of the moment, an instant where they shared the joy and happiness of a crucial victory. Fleur’s kiss had caused him to blush horrifically, yes, but it had been one of gratitude, thankfulness, and acceptance.

But this…this was on a completely new level altogether.

His skin did not burn at the contact from her lips; it had, however, caused a pleasurable sensation to spread across his entire being from the point of contact on his cheek. He felt himself going warm, but it was with happiness and contentment, rather than embarrassment. And the kiss itself…it was a peck on the cheek, yes, but it spoke of joy, comfort, completeness, and a whole myriad of emotions that he could not describe in words…but they were amazing.

Ginny returned to her previous position, resting her head against Harry’s chest. He was sure she could feel and hear his heartbeat, which was now thrumming wildly in uncontrolled jubilation.

I don’t know what’s going to happen, but Merlin, I’m glad I did that.

And as he felt Ginny smiling against his chest, he knew she was as well.

Ginny’s suggestion that they spend some time outside — even though they hadn’t strictly gone ahead with her recommendation of a walk — had nevertheless done them all a world of good. Soon after the magnificent sunset, they had pulled themselves up from their relaxed positions and trudged slowly back to the castle, the lights from its many windows glowing in the darkness. Ron and Hermione led the way, and whether or not they knew of it, or they simply did not care, they were holding hands as they walked. If Neville noticed it as he followed them, he did not mention it, choosing instead to simply smile contentedly.

Harry and Ginny brought up the rear, their arms around the others’ waists. He did not know if he was doing the right thing, or if it was too fast. In fact, he wasn’t even sure what they were right now — friends, something more… They had extracted themselves from the embrace when Neville had gently suggested that they get back in time for dinner, and after helping Ginny to her feet, he had, once again automatically, slipped his arm around her waist. Brazen, he knew, but it was worth taking the leap…and sure enough, she reciprocated, with her arm snaking around his torso as well. He did miss the delighted grin on her face, but the action was enough.

They had to separate once again as they reached the Entrance Hall; as though telepathically, both of them withdrew their arms, although they continued to walk side by side, and did not break their stride.

The enticing smells and scents of dinner wafted in from the open doors of the Great Hall; their stomachs rumbled, causing them to laugh as they realized how hungry they were. The five of them entered the Great Hall with almost hypnotic and peaceful expressions on their faces, which continued to remain as they ate a satisfying dinner at the Gryffindor table.

As they made their way out to the Entrance Hall and began to ascend the marble staircase towards Gryffindor Tower, a deep voice rang out. ‘Harry Potter.’

Harry turned and looked down, as did the other four. It was Viktor Krum, wearing his heavy matted furs, and his usual surly expression.

‘Viktor?’ said Hermione, going down a couple of steps. ‘What happened?’

Krum ignored her. ‘Could I haff a vord?’ he asked, looking directly at Harry.

Harry raised his eyebrows at this. He had never had a proper conversation with Viktor Krum before — indeed, they had never even had what could be considered as a conversation at all: mere acknowledgements of the presence of the other could not possibly be construed as a conversation.

He stared at the Durmstrang champion, who was looking unblinkingly at him. Breaking eye contact, he looked around at his friends, all of whom were sporting expressions of surprise — and in Ron’s case, suspicion.

Don’t suppose there’s any harm in saying yes.

‘Yeah, alright,’ said Harry, still surprised. It promptly increased when Krum gave a short nod, turned around, and slouched out of the Entrance Hall to the grounds.

What in the name of Merlin…

He made to follow Krum, but a warm hand on his forearm caused him to turn around. Ginny’s warm, brown eyes met his gaze, and in an instant, it seemed as though he’d had a full conversation with her.

I’ll be fine, Ginny. Don’t worry.

Harry grinned wanly at her, which she returned before letting her hand drop from his forearm. Feeling a little off over the loss of contact, he made his way down the staircase and followed Krum out into the starry, slightly chilly night.

Krum was standing only a few feet away from the great oak front doors; shrouded in the light filtering out from the windows of the Entrance Hall and the other nearby rooms, he looked oddly impressive, just as he had been on the night they had been chosen as champions of their schools. He was staring out into the distance — presumably looking at the Durmstrang ship — but turned to face Harry as he arrived.

‘I am sorry for the — vot do you call it — abruptness,’ said Krum.

‘No, that’s alright,’ said Harry quickly. The cold had intensified as night fell, and he felt a little chilly without his cloak on. He wanted to get whatever Krum wanted over with, and return to the warmth of the castle.

Krum was silent for a few moments, then he said, ‘I vant to know vot there is between you and Hermy-own-ninny.’

Harry was not sure what he should have been expecting from the eighteen-year-old Durmstrang champion and international Quidditch star, but this was definitely not it. He was so thrown off-guard that he ended up staring, dumbstruck, at Krum’s glowering visage, before he finally found his voice.

‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘Absolutely nothing between us. She’s just my friend.’

Krum continued to glower at him, and Harry was suddenly struck anew as to how tall he was. He was also quite amazed at the situation — Krum was considering him as an equal — a rival to —

This is insane.

‘Hermy-own-ninny talks about you very often,’ said Krum suspiciously.

‘Yeah, because we’re friends.’ He paused, and on the spur of the moment, continued, ‘I’m actually with someone else — or at least, I think I am.’

Krum’s glowering look vanished, to be replaced by a mixture of surprise and relief. ‘Someone else?’

‘Yeah, but I’m not sure if we are…it’s a bit odd,’ he finished a bit lamely.

Krum grunted, but did not say anything more for a few seconds. Then he said, ‘And that Veesley boy? Vot about him?’

Harry hesitated. Ought he to tell Krum about what had happened that evening? It was, after all, none of his business — although if Krum was doing what Harry thought he was doing, it would probably be best to give the Bulgarian a bit of a forewarning.

‘To be honest, I’m not sure,’ admitted Harry. ‘But they do like each other, and something may have happened.’

‘Hmm,’ said Krum. He finally shifted his gaze from Harry to back at the Durmstrang ship. ‘Hermy-own-ninny talks about him a lot too,’ he said slowly. ‘More about him than you.’

Harry was honestly stunned by that statement. ‘So why did you ask about me in the first place?’

Krum shrugged. ‘Instinct,’ he said simply.

Harry had no clue how to respond to that, so he settled for shoving his hands into the pockets of his jeans, and trying not to shiver in the cold.

‘You fly very vell,’ said Krum suddenly after a few moments. ‘I vos votching at the first task.’

‘Oh, erm, thank you,’ said Harry, a bit disconcerted by the fact that he had received a compliment on his flying ability from the Bulgarian international Seeker himself. ‘I saw you at the Quidditch World Cup last July. That Wronski Feint, you really made it look so easy.’

Krum turned back to him, a slight grin on his face. ‘It is easy. It vould be easy for you.’

‘I doubt it. I tried it once after the World Cup, but I couldn’t get close enough to the ground,’ admitted Harry sheepishly. ‘Had to pull up at least five feet above the pitch. Plus, I haven’t had enough practice — I would have tried it here in school, but there’s no Quidditch this year because of this Tournament.’

Krum considered him for a bit. ‘It is easy,’ he repeated. ‘You must trust your broom, and yourself. Then you can do it.’ He paused. ‘Ve could play a match here.’

Now this really did throw Harry off — quite literally. He spun around to face Krum so fast he almost slipped and fell, only managing to catch his balance by grabbing onto a nearby bush. Rubbing his hands against his jeans to get rid of the rough sensation of the branches of the bush, he stared at Krum, completely at a loss for words.

‘Sorry, what?’ he stammered out, after finally finding his voice once again.

‘Ve could play a match here. Your Quidditch pitch is good. I have friends who vant to play. Do you?’

Harry wasn’t sure if Krum was asking about his desire to play, or if he had friends who wanted to play a game of Quidditch. He remembered Fred and George’s outraged faces at Dumbledore’s announcement that the inter-house Quidditch tournament was cancelled because of the Triwizard Tournament — surely they, along with the three Gryffindor chasers, would love to play. But against Krum and his friends?

This is unbelievable.

‘Yeah, I do. I mean…’ He let out a breath. ‘I’m sorry, it’s not every day when a national player asks a normal school player for a match.’

Krum was grinning at him now, and it was a startling transformation from his usual surly image. ‘You are a good flier. Better than Lynch, maybe. I vould like to play against you.’

Harry felt his face burn from embarrassment at the praise. Better than Aidan Lynch, the Irish National Seeker? Krum had to be joking.

‘You’re joking, right? Better than Lynch?’

‘There is only one vay to find out.’

‘You’re JOKING!’

Harry felt a sudden sense of deja-vu as Fred’s exclamation echoed around the Gryffindor common room; it was exactly what Fred had yelled out in the Great Hall when Dumbledore had introduced the Triwizard Tournament at the start of the year. All conversation around the common room ceased at once, with every occupant turning to look at the corner where Harry had gathered his four friends and the Gryffindor Quidditch team for a discussion.

‘I’m not,’ said Harry with a broad grin. ‘He actually told me this.’

Harry had wrapped up his conversation with Krum with a promise that he would ask his friends and let him know if they wanted to play, otherwise they would just have a Seeker play-off. He had then rushed inside the castle, partly because he needed the warmth, and partly because he was giddy with anticipation over the entire thing. It seemed as though Krum really wanted to pit his wits against Harry. He was still pinching himself over it — it seemed too outlandish to be true.

‘Believe me,’ he continued, ‘I’m having a hard time digesting it myself.’

‘He really wants to play with us? As in, really?’ asked Angelina, her eyes wide with astonishment.

‘Who does?’ called Ian from across the room.

‘Viktor Krum!’ Ron shouted back.

The effect was instantaneous — gasps of shock and surprise, mixed with awed exclamations, filled the common room at Ron’s words. Almost immediately, the topic of conversation changed to Krum’s request, and almost all of these conversations were directed at the group in the corner.

‘When does he want to play?’ asked Alicia, ignoring the questions pouring in from the others.

‘I think on Sunday morning,’ said Harry. ‘Yeah, I know it’s on really short notice,’ added Harry, as the Quidditch team looked at him in amazement, ‘but we’re probably the only team that’s had the same players for four years now. We wouldn’t need that much practice anyway, it’s a friendly match.’

‘Speak for yourself,’ muttered George, his eyes shining with anticipation. ‘A match against Krum and his buddies? This isn’t a friendly.’

‘He’s right,’ nodded his twin. ‘If we’re playing, we’re going for the win.’

Katie, ever the voice of reason in the team, spoke up. ‘That’s all very well and good, but we still need a Keeper. Oliver’s left, remember?’

Fred and George cursed, while Harry smacked his forehead with his palm. He had completely forgotten about Oliver Wood’s absence, and the fact that they needed a new Keeper for the team.

‘Don’t worry, we can use this as a practice match before the real season starts next year,’ said Angelina. ‘It’s a bit too late for holding try-outs though, who do we choose?’

Fred waved her off. ‘Allow me.’ He turned to the crowd, still eagerly waiting for a response to their incessant questioning regarding Krum’s proposal. ‘Right, so, we need a Keeper for the team. Anyone who’s had prior experience as one?’

‘And get your mind out of the gutter, Lee,’ admonished George, but he was grinning at their friend. Lee Jordan, who was clearly about to say something highly inappropriate, mock-glared at the twins.

Only two hands were raised — Ian Rosenthal, and surprisingly for the rest of the Weasleys, Ron.

‘You?’ asked Ginny.

‘Yeah, well, these two —’ he indicated Fred and George ‘— always made me Keep when we used to play at the Burrow.’

‘Fair point, little bro,’ said Fred.

‘He was quite good too,’ agreed George with a nod.

‘We’ll do a trial run tomorrow to see which of you is better, then we’ll decide,’ said Angelina. ‘Fair?’

They both nodded.

Harry tracked down Krum before lunch the next day — Friday — confirming his agreement to have a match on Sunday morning with his friends. Krum nodded, and offered his hand for Harry to shake, which he did.

‘My friends are also ready,’ he said. ‘Ve vill meet on Sunday.’

Fred, George and Angelina had been able to reach out to Madam Hooch for refereeing the game, which she had gladly accepted. They had also obtained permission from Professor McGonagall to use the Quidditch Pitch for practice on Saturday morning, and for hosting the match on Sunday morning. She had agreed, and had also, surprisingly, advised them to create a notice about the match that could put up in all the House common rooms. It had been a brilliant idea, until Harry had caught sight of the name of their team, and audibly groaned, much to the amusement of others in the vicinity.

‘Harry’s Seven,’ he had muttered in exasperation. ‘I’m going to kill Fred and George.’

‘Do it after the game,’ Ginny had said, patting his arm sympathetically, while trying to contain her own giggles. ‘You’ll need the best Beaters of Hogwarts for this.’

The try-outs for the Keeper position for the team had been conducted by the three Chasers on Friday evening — the one to save the most shots out of twenty was to be selected. It was a tough contest, but ultimately Ian edged out Ron by a single shot — eighteen to seventeen. Ron was, naturally, disappointed, but, with a level of maturity Harry had not seen in his best friend, accepted Ian’s selection graciously, admitting that the spry third-year Gryffindor had been the better Keeper.

‘I’ll try out for the actual Keeper role next year. Maybe I’ll be selected then,’ he told Harry during dinner later that night.

The news that Viktor Krum had, effectively, challenged Harry Potter to a Quidditch match spread across the students and staff like wildfire — no doubt aided by the ministrations of Parvati and Lavender. By Saturday afternoon, the entire school knew about the upcoming match on Sunday, and had already decided to place unofficial bets on who would win. The prospect of a Quidditch match seemed to be intoxicating for the students of Hogwarts, making Harry wonder why this had not been done earlier in the year.

Harry could not remember the students being this excited about a match ever before — the ones between Gryffindor and Slytherin were feistier — and sometimes dirty — due to the intense rivalry between the Houses. This one, however, had none of that — it promised a healthy competition between two exceptionally good teams.

Harry knew the team he was in was good — Gryffindor’s Quidditch team, even with Oliver Wood absent — was still considered as probably the school’s best team in its time, second only to Charlie Weasley’s team while he was in Hogwarts. But he knew they could not take anything for granted — Krum’s team apparently had three international players at the junior level, two of whom — Sergei Volkov and Ana Ivanova — were younger siblings of the Bulgarian national team players.

‘So no pressure, Harry,’ said Fred with a wink when Harry had informed the team about this. ‘Just catch the Snitch before Krum does, simple.’

Sunday morning brought with it blue skies with a number of white, fluffy clouds floating about, and just a tiny hint of a faint breeze blowing across the grounds. Harry smiled gratefully as he looked out on to the sloping lawns from his bed in the fourth-year boys’ dormitories in Gryffindor Tower — the conditions were quite suitable for an excellent game of Quidditch.

With the anticipation building in his stomach, Harry hardly managed to eat what he could term as a proper breakfast. A single strip of bacon and a single gulp of pumpkin juice was not enough — certainly not by his usual standards. As the team finished their meals and stood up to head to the pitch, the Great Hall burst into enormous applause — most of the students seemed to be supporting his team, if the cheers were any indication. Krum’s team was not without its own fans, however — the entire Durmstrang lot was joined by a few Hogwarts students and more than half of the Beauxbatons contingent. Harry noticed that Fleur and Cedric had politely applauded both teams — a mark of respect for both their fellow champions.

To Harry’s relief, de-facto captaincy and leadership of the team had been assumed by the Weasley twins and Angelina, so while the rest of them were getting ready in the changing rooms, the three sixth-years had strode off to the pitch to get a better read on the conditions before the match.

Harry could hear the sounds of hundreds of pairs of feet thundering past the changing rooms as the students of Hogwarts, Beauxbatons, and Durmstrang made their way to the stands around the pitch. Their laughter and chatter was interspersed with occasional chants of ‘Go Hogwarts!’ and ‘Harry’s Seven!’, but there were more than enough cheers for Krum’s Seven as well.

Fred, George and Angelina joined up with the team just before the stands began filling up, and stood in front of them after changing into their robes. Madam Hooch had graciously agreed to modify their existing scarlet Gryffindor Quidditch robes to a more neutral colour — they were now all wearing black, with the Hogwarts crest emblazoned on the front, to the left. Their names and numbers had been printed in glowing gold at the back of the robes — Harry noticed that, rather smartly, Madam Hooch had put out “F. Weasley” and “G. Weasley” on their robes to distinguish them from the other. He somehow expected it wouldn’t have mattered either way — it would have been just like the twins to switch their robes and cause mayhem for the referee and the commentator.

‘Alright men,’ began Fred.

‘And women,’ interrupted Katie with a fierce glare.

‘Yes, and women,’ agreed George, winking at Katie.

‘This is it,’ said Fred.

‘The big one,’ continued George.

‘The one we’ve all been waiting for,’ finished Fred.

Silence. And then —

‘Have we?’ asked Ian.

‘Good point,’ noted Fred, running his hand over his chin as though in deep thought.

‘S’pose not,’ concurred George.

‘Okay, cut it out you two,’ said Angelina briskly, earning her half-hearted fist waves from the twins.

‘Are they always like this?’ whispered Ian to Harry, who was grinning at the twins’ antics.

‘This is actually tame,’ replied Harry.

‘Remind me not to join the team next year then,’ said Ian, and Harry chuckled.

‘Alright,’ said Angelina firmly. ‘We know Krum’s got one hell of a team, but we’re certainly no pushovers. Fred, George — I need you two to make sure that the Bludgers don’t come within a foot of us when we have the Quaffle. As for when they have the Quaffle, feel free to do anything to help us get it back.’

The devilish grins and wicked gleam in the twins’ eyes caused even Harry to feel sorry for the Krum’s team.

‘Ian, you’re the new one to this team,’ continued Angelina. ‘Stick to the hoops, and prove yourself as the last line of defence. Keep your eyes on the Quaffle at all time, got it?’

Ian nodded, looking slightly pale. Harry gave him a sympathetic pat on his back.

‘Katie, you’re the smallest and fastest Chaser of us all. You and Alicia combine together to score — I’m going to run interference for the two of you.’

‘Aye, aye, skipper,’ said Katie, flashing a mock salute.

‘Right, and Harry,’ said Angelina, finally turning to him. ‘We’re going to leave you a bit alone up there — we’ll need Fred and George more than you do. Just keep your eyes peeled for the Snitch, and —’

‘Catch it before Krum does, got it,’ finished Harry.

Just then, a shrill whistle sounded from the pitch outside.

‘Let’s win this!’ said Angelina fervently; the team shouldered their brooms and, with Angelina in the lead, traipsed outside on to the pitch.

They were greeted by a tidal wave of noise. The pitch had been expanded to accommodate the additional students from Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, although definitely not as large as the stadium for the Quidditch World Cup. The stands had been modified too — instead of the usual four distinct groups, it had been divided into two: the crowd in one half were waving Hogwarts flags, and brandished slogans like ‘Go Harry’s Seven!’ and ‘Hogwarts for the Win!’; the other half had people sporting banners in Bulgarian, French and a host of other languages, while some were also waving the Bulgarian flag in support of Krum.

‘And please put your hands together for Harry’s Seven!’ came the loud, magnified voice of Lee Jordan, who had agreed to be the commentator for this match as usual. ‘Johnson, Bell, Spinnet, Weasley, Weasley, Rosenthal, aaand Potter, all of Hogwarts!’ He was forced to pause as loud cheers for the team drowned out his voice. ‘Widely acknowledged as the best team Hogwarts has seen in a good few years, with the exception of Rosenthal — who incidentally is making his debut today!’

The crowd cheered and clapped for Ian; Harry noticed him still looking a bit peaky, and whispered in his ear, ‘Just play like how you did yesterday during the try-outs, and you’ll be brilliant.’

Ian nodded, his visage colouring slightly, just as Lee continued with the introductions.

‘And here comes Krum’s Seven, led by their captain and star seeker, Viktor Krum!’ The cheers for Krum were deafening this time. ‘With him, we have Volkov, Ivanova, Stojanovic, Kartal, Petrescu, aaand Dubois!’

Harry did a slight double-take at the names announced by Lee — while he knew of Volkov and Ivanova’s participation, he had not thought to consider where the other players were from. Indeed, going as per Lee’s current announcement, Paul Dubois, the third Chaser, was from Beauxbatons. Even then, the other three players were not of Bulgarian descent.

He had no time to think about that, however; Angelina and Krum had already shaken hands, and Madam Hooch had her whistle between her lips.

‘Mount your brooms!’ she said, and fourteen players got onto their brooms as one. Harry noticed that apart from Krum, both Ivanova and Volkov were riding Firebolts. ‘Three…two…one…’

The sound of her whistle was lost in the roar from the crowd as fourteen brooms rose into the air. Harry felt his hair fly back off his forehead; his nerves left him in the thrill of the flight: he was back in his domain, his familiar territory, and he was going to enjoy every minute of it. Glancing around, he saw Krum rise up above the action that had already begun below, his dark eyes darting all over the pitch in search of the elusive Golden Snitch.

Finally, someone who isn’t going to tail me the entire time.

‘And it’s Hogwarts in possession, Angelina Johnson of Hogwarts in possession of the Quaffle — what a fine girl she is —’

‘Jordan!’ interrupted Professor McGonagall’s voice.

‘Sorry, Professor!’ said Lee, although he didn’t sound sorry at all. ‘Johnson with the Quaffle, heading straight for the Durmstrang posts, looking good — no! Quaffle intercepted by Ivanova, Ivanova of Durmstrang streaking up the pitch, avoids a Bludger from Weasley — passes it to Dubois, who avoids Katie Bell’s attempt to cut in — nicely done there, good swerve around Spinnet — he’s clear, he shoots, he — WHAT A SAVE THAT IS!’

The Hogwarts crowd roared and cheered in delight as Ian pulled off a magnificent finger-tip save, preventing the Quaffle from slipping into the right-most hoop. It clanged off the side of the hoop, and was immediately snatched up by Alicia.

‘And the Quaffle is taken up by Alicia, Alicia Spinnet of Hogwarts tearing up the pitch, she swerves up above Kartal and — whoa, nice reverse pass there to Katie Bell, who zooms away from Ivanova — duck Katie, that’s a Bludger! — she’s past Stojanovic — SHE SCORES! FIRST GOAL TO HOGWARTS!’

Katie punched the air in delight as she soared around to celebrate with her fellow Chasers and the Hogwarts crowd, who were screaming in ecstasy, before they zoomed back to the middle of the pitch to defend against Durmstrang’s attack.

It was certainly not at the level that Harry had witnessed at the World Cup, but it was definitely a few notches higher in quality and entertainment as compared to the usual inter-House matches they played. The Durmstrang Chasers — Ivanova, Kartal, and Dubois — were passing the Quaffle with deadly accuracy and timing while moving seamlessly up the pitch; it was evident, however, that the Hogwarts Chasers were gelling well with each other, almost as though they could read the minds of the other two. Of course, it came with playing together for at least four years — and the tactics employed by them were some of the best Hogwarts had even seen in a long while.

They had, naturally, been worried about Ian and his ability to Keep against the formidable attacking trio of Durmstrang, but he was proving himself to be capable enough for the task — he had already pulled off a couple of astonishing saves from shots that Harry felt were certain goals. Of course, he was bound to let in a few goals now and then, this being his first ever game after all, so the match was quite even.

Within the first few minutes, both sides had exchanged a flurry of goals, with Hogwarts leading fifty-forty. Fred and George, true to their word, were belting the Bludgers as hard as they could away from the Hogwarts Chasers when they had possession, and were equally ferocious in their attempts to unseat the Durmstrang trio when they streaked up the pitch. Volkov and Petrescu were, however, equal to the task — evidently for Volkov, he had inherited the same genes as his older brother, and was slamming the Bludger around the park as quickly as possible, breaking up Hogwarts’ attacks with ease.

‘It’s Ivanova with the Quaffle once more, Ivanova haring up the pitch — WHAM! — nice Bludger work from Fred Weasley — and the Quaffle falls to Kartal, who — no! Stolen away from him by Bell, zooming off in the opposite direction — exchanges passes with Spinnet — ducks a Bludger from Petrescu — I say, is that the Snitch?’

Harry, who had been half-heartedly looking out for the Snitch while following the action below, looked wildly around in alarm at Lee’s exclamation — and then he saw something that made his heart stand still.

Krum was diving from sixty feet above, a look of pure concentration on his sallow face, his thick black eyebrows knotted together as he zoomed down below, his eyes clearly focussing on something in front of him…

Harry took off after him, flattening against his broom as he urged it forwards — he was twenty feet behind — fifteen feet — twelve feet —

But then something inside him clicked — in such glorious conditions like this, he would have seen the Snitch by now, especially if it was a straight dive from above — but he had not seen it at all —

And suddenly, he understood…Krum was faking — he was trying to pull off the Wronski Feint!

Harry immediately jerked the handle of his Firebolt upwards, a good height from the ground below him, levelled out, and turned to face Krum, who had just pulled out of his dive as well, albeit a lot closer to the ground. The Bulgarian was grinning.

‘Nice try,’ said Harry, slightly breathless from the dive.

‘That vas very good,’ complimented Krum, flying up into the air; Harry followed him. ‘You see? Better than Lynch.’

Harry grew red at the praise — being compared to Aidan Lynch was a tall order, but he accepted it all the same. Krum nodded, still grinning, and flew off to the other side of the pitch.

‘Whoa!’ Lee was yelling. ‘That was some insane flying from both Seekers — Krum tried the Wronski Feint, like he had at the World Cup, but Potter was on to it quite quickly! Don’t think we’ve ever seen that happen before — quite spectacular!’

In the excitement of the attempted Feint by Krum, Katie had dropped the Quaffle straight into Ivanova’s hands, who had streaked up the pitch and scored against Ian. A chorus of groans came from the Hogwarts support when they saw what happened, but the Durmstrang half were roaring their approval.

‘And Ivanova scores — goodness that Firebolt is fast, so much so that Nimbus is apparently having trouble in matching its speed for its new brooms —’

‘Get on with the game, Jordan!’

‘Right you are, Professor — just a bit of trivia — incidentally, there’s going to be a new Firebolt 2, to be released in two years’ time —’

‘JORDAN!’

‘Okay, okay, so Ivanova scores, levelling the scores at fifty-all, and it’s Hogwarts in possession, Johnson heading for the Durmstrang goal…’

Harry flew past Alicia, who was tailing Angelina in support…he ducked just in time to avoid a Bludger pelted by George across the pitch at Kartal, who veered off-course from his pursuit of Alicia, who now had the Quaffle — and then he saw it: the Snitch was flitting near the base of the Hogwarts posts, close to the ground.

Harry glanced around — Krum was flying across from him, still searching the pitch, while keeping one eye on Harry — he hadn’t seen it yet, and even then, Harry was slightly closer — the wind gave him the advantage…

Time to try it out myself.

He faked a look of sudden concentration, snapping his back to attention and staring at the Durmstrang posts before diving down. Behind him, Harry could hear the whoosh of someone following him — he chanced a quick look-behind, and saw Krum gaining on his tail…

He urged his Firebolt faster, still pretending to stare at the base of the Durmstrang hoops — he avoided a Bludger sent in his direction by Volkov, swerving now and then so that Krum’s line of sight to the posts was blocked — he was almost there, Krum right behind him — ten feet — five — three —

At the last possible moment, Harry turned the Firebolt upward, narrowly missing the pole of the left hoop, his knees grazing the ground — and behind him, just a second later, Harry heard a loud THUD — he looked back, and saw Krum on the ground —

‘WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT!’ yelled Lee in delight, over the roar of the crowd. ‘Will you just look at that — Potter’s fooled Krum with a perfect Wronski Feint! My word, they’ll be talking about this one at Hogwarts for years — what a play that was!’

Harry swerved around on the broom, in time to see Krum get up, looking a bit dazed, but still coherent enough to wave off Volkov’s concerns — he mounted his broom and grinned up at Harry.

‘See? That vos excellent, good job.’

‘Thanks,’ said Harry breathlessly. ‘And — sorry.’

‘Vot?’

But Harry did not wait for Krum to respond — did not want to give him time to kick off from the ground and pursue him; he turned and immediately streaked off to the Hogwarts posts, swerving and ducking amongst the players — he rolled over, missing a Bludger from Petrescu — then dived further — he was now level with the Snitch — he was almost there, he stretched out his hand —

‘YES!’

He pulled out of his dive, hand in the air, clutching the tiny golden ball, and the stadium exploded. Harry soared above the crowd, an odd ringing in his ears, the adrenaline from the thrill of the win coursing through his veins…

‘AND POTTER’S CAUGHT THE SNITCH! HOGWARTS WINS — TWO HUNDRED TO FIFTY!’

The crowd was roaring its approval and delight — then six black blurs converged upon him, cheering and shouting and screaming in unrestrained jubilation — tangled together in a hug, the group descended back to earth, yelling hoarsely.

Supporters spilled out onto the pitch, chasing after the victors; in the lead were Ron and Hermione, screaming his name in joy; they reached him first, engulfing him in a mad hug. And then the crowd reached them — he had the impression of many bodies being pressed against him; hands patted him on the back, ruffled his hair, shook his hands…

And then, she emerged from the crowd, as though she were an angel, with a fiery red halo on top of her hand — she broke away from her hug with Demelza Robins and charged towards him, a blazing look upon her face —

And without thinking — just as he had done three nights ago under the canopy of the beech tree — without worrying about the consequences, Harry wrapped his arms around Ginny, and kissed her.

Even years later, Harry would not forget the sensation — the utterly amazing feeling — of his first ever kiss with Ginny Weasley. Her lips were soft and inviting, and after a brief moment’s hesitation, she responded just as enthusiastically, moving in tandem with his own. It was heaven, surely it had to be — for nothing else on earth could feel this exquisite, this unbelievable —

They finally broke apart — in the middle of a crowd that was still jumping up and down and celebrating the victory. He looked down at Ginny, their arms still around each other — she was grinning widely, her eyes sparkling with happiness.

‘Finally,’ she whispered softly.

Harry grinned goofily back at her. ‘Yeah. Finally.’

She giggled, and hugged him tightly, which he returned with equal fervour. He closed his eyes, revelling in the victory, the feeling of the girl in his arms, and the sweet flowery scent from her soft hair…

He had done it. He had beaten Krum. He had finally kissed Ginny.

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