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Chapter 17: A Passing Mist
Hi, thank you for all your support. All your reviews are a real boost.
Also thanks to my beta Lord jawblinneron for fixing a few mistakes.
Ginny, dressed in a thick cloak, arrived at the Burrow after a long and icy practise session at the Harpies stadium. The weather had grown increasingly cold as November flew by. Warming charms and the Harpies thick winter’s kit had failed to keep her warm during the past few hours.
"Hi, Mum," Ginny greeted in a quivering voice after entering the house by the kitchen. The heat coming from the bubbling beginnings of dinner only made the cold of earlier even more chilling.
Her mother turned away from the stove after dropping a pinch of salt into the pot. "Ginny! You're frozen solid."
"I'm fine." Chattering teeth probably gave her away. Clumsily she removed pale hands from the gloves exposing fingers too stiff to bend. "I might need a hot bath before we start working on the dress." She raised a hand into the air and tried to wiggle the fingers. They barely moved. "See."
Her mother sighed. “Merlin knows how you people catch a Snitch in this weather.” Her head shook slightly in amusement. "You better hurry," she said before turning back to her cooking. "Harry's game is starting in half an hour."
"Already!" Ginny shouted in surprise. "I thought it was still an h..." The sentence halted mid-word as she hurried out of the room to prepare a bath. It was Harry's first game as Captain and she was not going to miss listening to it. Though she wished she could actually have gone to the game, but Harry probably turned a few too many heads already by going to the two Harpies games earlier in the season.
A few minutes later she relaxed into a steaming bath. Slowly each part of her body began to thaw and eventually the human side of Ginny returned. When it finally felt as if her entire body had been heated she jumped out and got dressed before the cold air could attack her body once again. Ginny managed to be ready and downstairs on the couch as Ron turned on the radio to begin listening. At first there was only static, but after a few minutes the horrible sound morphed into the familiar and thoroughly annoying voices of Bobby and Peter.
"Welcome listeners. Sorry for the delay, but the unnatural cold here has been giving our equipment a solid battering. We had runes all over the place. However, you will be pleased to know that you’ve not missed anything as the Cannons have just flown out onto the field.
“Indeed they haven’t, Peter. I’m sure our listeners can hear the loud boos from the Portree supporters. Let me tell you people, there are very few orange shirts in the stands today."
"Yes, Bobby. All the eye can see is purple. These locals do take their Quidditch seriously and I would hate to be a Cannons player or supporter out there this afternoon..."
Ginny huffed in annoyance at the commentators and supporters. “Poor Harry.”
“You might still need to go out there this year,” her father said.
“I doubt it, Dad,” she spoke while wrapping another blanket around herself for warmth and comfort. “It’ll be near impossible for them to make it through after losing their opening two games.”
“Yeah,” Ron agreed. “Little Ginny here is safe for another year.”
She sent her brother a meaningful glare, which he just shrugged off as their attention drifted back to the wireless.
"... Potter calls his boys across and is giving them a pep talk. Not as much arm waving, shouting, jumping and fist pumping as Wood, but the team looks to be ready for anything Portree can throw at them."
"You show them, Harry," Ron shouted loudly beside Ginny. He wore his second best Cannons jersey. Not the one Harry gave him, which was way too precious to wear.
Ginny felt like saying something too, but kept quiet. Instead, she urged Harry on in her mind. Her mother placed a comforting hand on Ginny’s shoulder. The touch helped slow the increasing tempo of her heart.
The faint sound of the crowd cheering crackled through the speakers. "I'm sure you can hear from the sound that the Portree players have flown onto the pitch."
"They look determined, Peter. Two games and two losses with no Snitches means Portree is at the bottom of the log with nothing to show for their hard work."
"Portree would be doubly disappointed with last month’s game. They were leading comfortably when they lost the Snitch to the Wasps."
"The Cannons, however, come from two wins, but will the loss of their star Keeper and Captain, Wood, impact their play?"
"That's the big question, the one everyone’s been asking and debating, but which only time can tell."
"Indeed, many a drink has been consumed in local pubs these past few nights in the quest for answers. But the real test is out there in the skies where the captains are now shaking hands.”
“They’re posing for the usual pre-match photo and pennant swapping. The Captains really seem to be giving each other the evil eye as they grip the other’s hand for the photo.”
“Definitely some pregame mental battles, but Potter seems untroubled as he casually turns his broom around and speeds up into the sky to join Portree’s Seeker.”
“The crowd is growing restless as the referee releases the Snitch… You can almost hear the breaths being held… The whistle blows and the game begins... The pace is frantic. Spinnet passes to Greyton who dodges a murderous Bludger... He throws to Spinnet again who flips it backwards into the speeding arms of Markam... Portree is flying wildly, unsettled no doubt by a strong start from then Cannons... Markam ducks beneath a weak strike from McGraw... He throws and... scores! That moves the Cannons into an early lead...
"... Two hours into the game. It has been brutal. Portree are behind 140 - 20. If they don't do anything soon the game will be beyond their grasp...
"Wait! What's happening... Potter is screaming… Merlin…” the overly excited shouts from Bobby turned into nothing but static.
The game had been progressing slowly down below. This high, the cold winter air had even more sting. Warming charms barely helped keep the cold away and his fingers already had trouble flexing.
More problems were on the way, however. A thick mist bank was rolling in from the north. It would still take about half an hour to arrive, but when it did, visibility would all but vanish.
Harry adjusted his worn pair of goggles and renewed the search for a very elusive Snitch. He could not remember it ever taking so long to find the ball. He began to despair at the thought of finding it.
A few minutes later, Harry glanced up at the fog. It had come closer and his hopes sunk even further. In the shroud of mist it would be anyone’s game. A shiver ran down his spine, and he took a moment to rub his hands against each other. The cold began to seep into his very bones.
“Get a grip,” Harry mumbled to himself. In desperate need of a distraction, he took a minute to watch the frenetic game below. The boys seemed to be holding their own. A slight grin formed, they were 120 points in the lead. Perhaps, just maybe the mists would not cause the Cannons to lose.
The elation faded rapidly. He still had a job to do, and he did not plan on having his first game as Captain being the first time he’d lose the Snitch.
“Focus,” he gritted his teeth together. It proved increasingly difficult to motivate himself. The incoming fog sucked the life out of him, making him rub at his forehead.
“Harry,” a voice whispered. He spun round on his broom, looking for the source of the voice. The other Seeker flew around the hoops on the far end of the field. The air around Harry held nothing.
He leaned down on the handle and sped away to begin a new search pattern. “Nothing’s going to happen.” This time the voice was soft and gentle, but it held a touch of worry. He jerked his broom to a halt and whipped it back into the direction that he’d come from. There was nothing. A cold sweat broke out on his forehead and the grip on his broom lessoned.
“There’s nothing,” he said to himself through clenched teeth. “Get a grip.” The words were coupled with a balled fist hitting his thigh. The small bit of pain helped his focus.
Taking a deep breath, Harry began to fly along a practised grid. “I love you.”
This time he came to a sudden and prolonged stop. His breathing grew more ragged and he massaged his temples with gloved fingers while trying to find the source of the voice. The opposing Seeker flew past and barely sent Harry a glance. It proved ever harder to breathe. The pounding of his heart increased and he had to grip the broom’s smooth wooden handle for support.
The sound of wood splintering echoed loudly across the field. Harry twirled his broom about expertly, once again nothing seemed untoward. The crowd still cheered, and the game continued uninterrupted down below. Even after the sound drifted into memory it still echoed clearly in his mind.
“Leave him! Take me!” a female voice screamed.
Harry inhaled sharply. He knew the voice, he’d heard it before in dreams. It had never sounded so clear before.
“Step aside, Lily,” a man’s voice sneered. Harry’s breathing became erratic and ever shorter. His skin grew clammy and every part of him shook.
It proved an effort to keep hold of the broom. The fog drifted past the pitch. Harry tried to focus on it, but his vision had grown too blurry. The stadium faded away slowly to reveal a room. Small hands were raised before his face, they held onto the bars of a cot.
Warmth trickled down his face, he could not move; the vision too vivid. A woman stood before him, her form blocking most of the splintered door from view. He wanted to reach out, to touch the long red hair, to envelop her in a hug.
Her shaking hand lifted slowly, the wand pointed straight at the intruder. “You’ll have to go through me.”
“No!” Harry screamed. The worlds of room and blue sky merged. He lunged forwards towards her as everything glowed sickly green. A body slammed into the small cot, and the small hands let go in surprise. His mother’s head was already limp, the life extinguished as auburn hair slipped past his face and down to the ground. He could feel himself, baby and adult, screaming. Clouds floated about. A snakelike man with a satisfied grin stared down at him. Voldemort. Large, impossibly immense, his grin chilling.
Air rushed past Harry, he knew the ground was coming closer. It did not matter, the man was above him. A wand appeared. It was the end, there was nothing that he could do. The world slipped into darkness as another burst of green light brightened the corners of his vision.
Ginny dropped the piece of lace she was unsuccessfully trying to stitch to a practise piece of material. Thankfully the radio adjusted to the excited voices of Bobby and Peter.
“…he’s plunged over the handle. It looks like he is trying to grab something. Merlin the man is screaming his lungs out. He's falling rapidly. Wait… Edgecombe is coming around… wait… he’s caught him with a miraculous catch. If not for the Beater’s strong arms and quick reactions Potter would have plunged to certain death. The unconscious Potter..."
Ginny sat bolt upright, her hands tightening around the woollen blanket thrown over her legs.
"... he’s pale, but I don’t see any signs of panic. Edgecombe, who has been joined by Mitchum, appears to have everything under control. The game is still going on, but the Cannons have lost two players as they try to revive Potter while protecting him from any flying Bludgers..."
“They’ve lost three actually, Bobby, as they have no Seeker at the moment.”
Ginny made to stand, but her mother held her back. “There is nothing to be done, Ginny.”
“But…” Her mother looked sad, but Ginny nodded. “He’s got people there who can help.” She sank back down onto the couch and listened while her fingers twisted about one another.
"Indeed, things are looking grim for the Cannons, but Potter seems to be more awake.”
“Bobby, I've tried talking to some of the officials, but no one seems to know what happened to Potter. They say all security measures are working and active. But Portree does have the weakest system in the league."
"Very strange, Peter. One minute Potter was sitting confidently on his broom surveying the pitch, the next he tumbles over his broom screaming."
"Odd indeed, Bobby. But the woes continue for the Cannons. The score has changed quickly, and they now trail 200-140. With two key players helping Potter and a rookie Keeper it appears that the game is all but lost. A tough game lies ahead.”
"Tough? More like impossible... Wait there's more movement by Potter. He's up and talking to Mitchum... The Seeker looks a trifle unbalanced, but Edgecombe is nodding.”
Ginny leaned anxiously towards the wireless. Her lip almost bloodied from biting.
“They're off leaving Potter alone who awkwardly rolls over onto his broom... Merlin, the man’s flying again people! Amazing after being out for nearly ten minutes, Potter is crazy enough to try and find the Snitch.”
"Indeed Bobby. He appears slightly unsettled and his flying seems a bit unsteady."
“Which about evens the odds, Peter.” The sound of the two presenters trying hard not to laugh sounded through the wireless.
Mrs. Weasley placed a hand on Ginny’s shoulder. The action, like earlier, helped. The chuckles died down over the wireless and they listened again.
"The Cannons seem to be regrouping, but they just let another goal through..."
... Potter's diving, not falling mind you… The Portree Seeker is left fumbling around looking in the other direction... Potter stretches and... He's got the Snitch! Merlin’s beard, he’s got the Snitch!"
"Amazing turn of events. Again Pride of Portree loses a game they had in the bag. Granted, Potter was down for a while, but if they wanted to win the season then this was the time to capitalise."
"The game ends, with the Cannon's taking maximum points again and winning the game 290-220."
"That ends the coverage of the third Group B game. A full log will be given at the end of tomorrow's game between the Kestrels and the Tornadoes."
"Good evening and thank you for listening from me, Bobby."
"And me Peter. Until next time." The wireless crackled and Ron turned it off.
Everyone sat in stunned silence; Ginny most of all. She wanted to go to him, but there wouldn't be anything she could do. He had been on the ground and seemingly out of harm’s way and now he had the Snitch.
Her father patted her leg. "He'll be here as soon as he can. I'm sure it was nothing."
Ginny nodded, not entirely convinced by her father's words. "We should just tell the press and then I could go see him now," she mumbled.
"You could," her father agreed. "There is no real reason to hide your relationship."
"We want to keep our lives away from the press for as long as possible, Dad. The moment they realise we're dating we wouldn’t have a moment's peace. I also need a few more games to make a name for myself."
Mr. Weasley made no comment, but she could see his mind working. "I understand, Ginny." He smiled in his usual fatherly manner. "Just don't let all these secrets break you apart."
"It's only the one secret," Ginny said softly. "Honestly, I'm doing this for him. He's not ready for being scrutinised by the public."
"Don't they harass him now?" he asked in surprise.
She shook her head. "No, they've stopped trying to get information about him. But with me around, they'll have something to dig at."
"So what is he hiding?" he asked. "A criminal record?"
"What? No!" Ginny said angrily. At least her father looked a bit ashamed at having asked.
"I'm sorry, Ginny. But you have to admit that not knowing much about him is rather unnerving."
"I know nearly everything about him," Ginny said firmly. "And there is no reason for you to be worried about him, dad. You'll find out eventually."
He nodded slowly.
Ginny let out a strangled cry of frustration. "I wish I could go to him now. He might need me."
Her father wrapped an arm around her shoulder. "He'll be fine. He's nothing if not tough. Besides you heard the commentator, Harry caught the Snitch so he should be alright."
They sat in tense silence; her mother knitting a green Christmas jersey for Harry in the corner, while Ron and her father started a game of chess. Ginny sat alone on the couch after stowing her dress, her mind on Harry.
The back door opened and Ginny bolted upright. A second later a pale faced Harry, still in mud covered Quidditch kit stepped into the living room.
"Harry," she called out before barrelling into him. He grunted softly at the impact. Tears welled up as she held onto him. All those thoughts of losing him, the fears she'd been holding back, came flooding out.
He stroked her hair and kissed the top of her head. "I'm alright, Ginny. A night’s rest and I'll be back to normal." He winced slightly as she let go.
"Why don't I believe you?" Her eyes wandered up and down his torn clothes before coming to rest on a slightly blue eye. His hand ran through his hair and she noticed a few trickles of blood from various cuts above his hairline. "Ok, you’re going home to rest."
She grabbed his arm, led him outside and Apparated them to the flat. She'd deal with her parents later, but she was sure they'd understand. Harry wobbled and nearly collapsed. A steadying hand against her shoulder was all that kept him from falling over.
"How bad?" she asked softly.
"Been worse." The answer came slowly. "Physically I'm not that hurt."
"Not that hurt!" she said in outrage. "Harry, you're covered in blood and bruised from head to toe."
He limped into the room and began to remove his clothes. “They’re just from a rather forceful collision with Patrick.” Ginny winced at the cuts and bruises covering his back. Without asking, she withdrew her wand and began cleaning the wounds. None were deep, but they would hurt if left untended.
“We're making a habit out of this,” Harry whispered as Ginny worked on his back.
“One that better stop soon, Potter.”
He said nothing, only nodded his head, as she methodically began healing each cut and bruise. She even fixed a cracked bone once years ago. That piece of talent came from needing to heal Fred after a failed prank before their mother came home. George had been of little help since he’d been out cold from the same mishap.
"Thank you," Harry whispered when she finished. He turned around and gave her a gentle, but tired kiss. "I'm going to take a shower."
She followed. The hot water cascading over them washed away a lot of tension; she could only hope it did the same for him. His eyes, however, remained haunted. He never once looked in her direction, instead the bare wall before him held all his attention. She never got the impression that he was ignoring her, instead he saw things far away. Almost like reliving an old memory.
Her hand moved up and down his arm as water sprayed over her, most of which was ricocheting off him. "You want to talk about it?" she asked eventually.
He shook his head. "Later," he mouthed before moving towards her. His arms came around and they held each other as Harry tried to come to terms with what had happened during the game.
An hour later they were lying in bed. Harry was on his back, while Ginny rested her head on his shoulder with a leg draped over his waist.
"There were Dementors outside the stadium," Harry began eventually. “I only just realised that’s what happened.”
Ginny tried not to flinch, but it proved impossible. "But the commentators said nothing."
"No one would have felt their presence," Harry continued and Ginny shivered at his haunted tone. Harry held her closer, or perhaps she had gripped him tighter. "I think you would probably react similarly to me. Those of us who have seen and experienced the worst horrors are more affected than others."
She trailed a trembling finger across his chest wondering what would happen to her near a Dementor. "I've never been close to one. Do they really make you relive or at least feel your worst memory?"
Harry kissed her forehead. "When Dementors come near me I..." She looked up to find him biting down hard to keep his emotions at bay. "I see my mother. I hear her screams. I see the green light that took her life. I hear the laughs of Voldemort as he steps over her fallen body."
She let her arm fall around his chest and hugged him tightly.
"It's strange. Even though it horrifies me, I also want to hear it again. Her voice, as she begs for mercy, it’s the only memory I have of her. Being near a Dementor is the only time I ever get to remember my mother."
His hand tightened into a ball. “I was such a fool today. I should’ve noticed the signs earlier.”
“You were probably distracted by the game, Harry. It happens.”
He shook his head. “I can’t afford mistakes like that Ginny.”
“What you really should be asking is why there were Dementors so close to a stadium full of witches and wizards.”
He nodded slowly. “I will be asking Dumbledore that exact question when I see him tomorrow.” He yawned loudly. “But now I think I really do need to sleep.”
Ginny remained silent as Harry’s breathing became steady. Pushing herself slightly higher, she kissed his lips softly then wormed her way into a comfortable position and tried her best to fall asleep as well.
Thank you for reading another chapter.
It had a small bit of something to keep you interested. To keep you thinking about why there were Dementors and about Malfoy’s ultimate goal. You’ll learn more about that in the next few chapters.
When the season draws to an end I will explain how I created the Quidditch season. I must just remember to tell.
For those interested, it stands as follows after three rounds.
1)Harpies and Arrows on 9 each (3 wins, 3 catches)
3)Falcons 4 (1 win, 2 catches)
4)Bats and Magpies 2 (1 win each)
6)Catapults 1 (1 catch)
1)Kestrels 9 (3 wins, 3 catches)
2)Cannons 8 (3 wins, 2 catches)
3)Wasps 7 (2 wins, 3 catches)
4)United 3 (1 win, 1 catch)
5)Portree and Tornadoes 0 (nothing)