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19 Years by marauder5
Chapter 47: Year 5: Chances
Spring awoke early, little white and yellow flowers sprouting from the ground already before the melted snow had dried off. The beginning of the new year consisted, in Ginny’s case, of early mornings in the gym below Holyhead Harpies' Quiddtich arena, sore mucles and ice baths, and late nights at the Quidditch pitch with her teammates. The first half of the season had gone well, fantastic even, and Gwenog Jones and Darren Weinhold were determined to keep up their streak the season out. Maybe then, at last, the team would end up at the top of the league table, and Weinhold and Jones seemed to think that pushing their players until they could barely walk over to the fireplaces and make it home after practice was the way to get there.
One particular evening, as Ginny, running a few minutes late and brushing ashes off her green and gold Quidditch robes, entered the Holyhead Harpies’ dressing room, she found her teammates in clutters all over the room, their heads close together, whispering excitedly and, at least some of them (Heather Perrington), letting out occasional, eager squeals. At the sound of the door opening and the sight of Ginny, everyone froze for a moment. Then within seconds, Heather had sprung from her seat, and was tugging Ginny’s sleeve with glowing eyes.
“You’ll never guess who’s coming to watch our practice, Gin!”
“Who?” said Ginny, raising an eyebrow as she took in Heather’s flushed cheeks and the way Gaylene Turkowski’s hands were shaking as she pulled on her gloves. “The Minister for Magic?”
“Avery Hawksworth!” Heather squealed.
Ginny could have sworn her heart stopped beating for a moment. Her mouth went dry, and she forced herself to smile as Heather squealed again before skipping on and going back to chatting breathlessly with Gaylene. Ginny pulled on the last of her gear and followed her team out on the pitch, finding herself unable to participate in the whispering conversations all around her.
Avery Hawksworth was sitting on the bleachers, too high up for anyone to be able to distinguish his facial features. Not that they would need to – Ginny saw them perfectly clear each time she entered Charlie’s old bedroom in the Burrow, where a large poster of the English National Quidditch team had been left when he moved out the summer after graduating from Hogwarts. Back then, Avery had only just made the team for the first time, fresh from Ravenclaw’s team at Hogwarts, where he had been in the year above Charlie. The Avery on the Holyhead bleachers many years later was older, but still played Chaser for England, now with a captain badge on his red and white robes.
Ginny’s stomach twisted as she tried hard not to stare up at the dark-haired figure way above them; the same question that probably simmered in her teammates’ minds was also in hers. Who was he there for? Who would be called into Weinhold’s office after practice to personally meet him?
Ginny’s hands, like Gaylene’s, had started shaking uncontrollably, and she wondered how she would be able to hold a Quaffle at all. Next to her, Beater Gabriella Beighley’s grip around her bat made her knuckles whiten, and Adriana Katzenberger, the Seeker, was mumbling what sounded like encouraging frases to herself.
Somehow, Gwenog managed to get the practice started even with all her teammates losing it around her, and just minutes later, Ginny found herself up in the air, passing a Quaffle with her fellow Chasers – Gaylene, and a sweet but often quiet girl by the name of Gemma Rosenberry. All three knew that their loose, friendly passes wouldn’t exactly be an interesting show for Avery Hawksworth, but it seemed it was all they could pull off at the time. Perhaps they needed their heartrates to slow down and their limbs to stop shaking before they’d dare try something more advanced.
Involuntarily glancing back at the bleachers, Ginny noticed that Oliver Wood had taken a seat next to Avery. Oliver hadn’t lost his burly physique after giving up Quidditch, but next to the captain of England, even his shoulders looked scrawny and weak.
Oh, if Ginny could have flown close enough to hear the two men’s conversation… But just as the thought appeared in her brain, something big and red appeared before her eyes, and the next second she was nearly falling off her broom, one hand holding on tight to it while the other flew up to her nose, from which blood was pouring heavily, staining the front of her emerald robes.
“Oh, Ginny!” exclaimed Gemma Rosenberry. “I’m so sorry – are you all right?”
Ginny nodded, squeezing her nose with her thumb and index finger to stop the bleeding. At the same time, Gwenog Jones stopped her broomstick mid-air in front of Ginny, one of her eyebrows raised and her lips pursed.
“Pay attention next time, Potter,” was all she had to say. “Oliver will fix that for you.”
With Gemma’s apologies ringing in her ears, Ginny was then forced to fly down, land on the bleachers just by Oliver and Avery Hawksworth and, with cheeks burning so hot she could have sworn her sweat was steaming off her skin, ask her ex-boyfriend to fix up her nose.
“Sure thing,” said Oliver and got out his wand, and Ginny stared at her feet to avoid meeting Hawksworth’s eyes. She felt his gaze burn on her face – but what could he be thinking about her? She was supposed to be a professional Chaser, and she couldn’t even catch the Quaffle when her teammate passed it to her!
“Feeling better?” The voice was darker than Oliver’s, and Ginny knew she had to look at him, mortified or not. Avery Hawksworth looked amused, his lips slightly curled and his chocolate eyes flickering between the bloody, lower half of Ginny’s face, and her eyes.
“Yes – yes, thank you,” she stammered. “I’m sorry.”
“For what – for getting bored of your teammates' boring passing exercise?” Avery said in a dead serious voice. Ginny could feel the colour of her cheeks go even deeper.
“Yes – I mean, no–“
“Just get back up there, Ginny,” Oliver suggested with a wink. “And give Perrington something to do, will you?”
Ginny glanced up at Heather, who was circelling the hoops on her broom, watching with a rather dull expression as Gemma and Gaylene continued to pass the Quaffle between each other. Suddenly filled with determination, Ginny mounted her broom again and set off into the air. Just as Gaylene threw the Quaffle towards Gemma again, Ginny increased her speed and caught it, not stopping to grin at the surprised looks on her teammates’ faces. Instead, she set off in Heather’s direction, and the Keeper smiled as she straightened up her broomstick, her eyes determinedly fixed on Ginny and the red ball clutched between her left arm and her ribs.
She pretended to go for the right hoop and – swish – the Quaffle flew perfectly through the middle one. Heather, who was still diving to the right, let out an “Argh!” and somewhere far beneath, on the bleachers, Avery Hawksworth was clapping his hands.
The silence in the dressing room once training was over was nearly painful, with Adriana Katzenberger moping in the corner for having taken so long to catch the golden Snitch, Heather shooting the occasional annoyed glare at Ginny, who had done too well for her liking, and Gaylene still shaking like crazy as she stripped down, wrapped a towel around her and headed first into the shower.
No one knocked on the door; no one was called to Weinhold’s office for a chat with Hawksworth. All around Ginny, her teammates were moving in slow motion – Heather took a whole five minutes to pull both her socks on, and Gabriella Beighley stood in front of the mirror, redoing her plait over and over. They were all putting off going home, as they were all hoping for the same thing.
And then it happened, just when Ginny had got everything out of her bag and folded it again for the third time – there was a distinct knock on the door, everyone froze, and Gwenog Jones stuck her head out into the corridor, said something, and turned around to the dressing room, which was as still as a Muggle photo; Ginny had even stopped breathing.
“Potter,” said Gwenog then, nodding towards the door.
Ginny felt like she was dreaming when she swung her bag over her shoulder and walked out, smiling almost apologetically at her teammates. She was thankful that they did a good job of disguising their disspointment, and then she was out in the corridor, and there was Oliver Wood, grinning excitedly at her as he slapped her back and started leading her away from the dressing room.
Ginny wanted to ask him what he and Avery Hawksworth had talked about during practice, what she was to expect once they got to Weinhold’s office, if it meant what everybody was thinking but were scared to say out loud – but she found herself unable to speak, and listened instead with one ear to Oliver’s rambling about his first year at Hogwarts, when Avery Hawksworth had won the Quidditch Cup for Ravenclaw, and how it had been the highlight of Oliver’s year.
“Better than Christmas,” he said as they stopped outside Weinhold’s office. “Even though Gryffindor lost – your brother Charlie wasn’t thrilled, of course – caught the Snitch and still lost the Cup to Ravenclaw…”
“Well,” said Ginny, feeling as though the bottom half of her stomach had fallen to the stone floor. “Here we are.”
Oliver met her eyes with a strange smile on his lips. “Don’t mess it up,” he said, “or I might not forgive you.”
For the second time that day, he winked at her, as if to suggest he was only joking, but Ginny suspected there was some truth to his words. She knew he would have given anything to be in her shoes; part of her felt as though she owed it to him to actually grasp the dream they had both been trying so hard to reach – only a head injury had slapped Oliver’s hand, forcing him to retreat it and give up.
Ginny didn’t think Oliver wanted to know that she understood this, though, so she grinned and shoved her elbow lightly into his ribs. “I guess I’d better not screw up, then,” she said, took a deep breath, and opened the door.
Weinhold was in the middle of showing Avery Hawksworth a miniature Quidditch pitch, complete with little players who looked surprisingly similar to the real life Harpies. Ginny watched as the red-haired Chaser grabbed the little Quaffle, which was about the size of a pea, and threw it towards the goal hoops, missing by almost a foot.
“Ha!” she said, capturing the two men’s attention. “I would have made that shot.”
“So what did Hawksworth say again?” asked Ron, for what must have been the twentieth time that afternoon, leaning forwards over the kitchen table at the Burrow in his eagerness to hear what his sister was saying.
“When are you going to train with them?” said Bill, loudly to drown out Victoire’s whining (she was on his lap, complaining rowdily about the fact that Teddy had more lemonade in his cup – which, of course, was merely a result of Victoire being the faster drinker).
“I always said you’d make the national team,” said Percy, pushing his glasses up his nose with a self-satisfied sigh. “Didn’t I, Audrey?”
“If Ginny's in it, we might be able to get World Cup tickets for Philip and Mary next time, Arthur, wouldn’t they just love going…?”
“I haven’t made the team yet,” Ginny repeated for what must have been the thirthieth time that afternoon. “I’m only going to train with them. It doesn’t mean that I’ll ever get to play a match with them, let alone in the World Cup.”
“It’s not just one practice, though,” Ron insisted. “It’s a whole weekend. In the National Arena! Merlin, I’d kill to get to play on that pitch, Gin… Or just to change in the dressing rooms, that'd be enough for me…”
Ginny knew her family meant well, but couldn’t help getting annoyed. She had known that they would make a huge deal of it and put a lot of pressure and expectations on the whole thing that she really didn’t need. That night in Weinhold’s office with Avery Hawksworth, she had been invited to a weekend of training with the English team, which would include staying at their private hotel, playing on the legendary pitch where she had once sat in the Top Box, watching in amazement as the Irish Chasers crushed the Bulgarian team in the World Cup final, and meeting (and playing alongside) the best Quiddtich players in the country. What Ginny’s family didn’t quite understand, though, was that getting chosen for one weekend of training wasn’t equivalent to becoming Keaton Flitney’s replacement in the starting team any time soon.
She glanced over at George, who stood by the end of the table, and who had been remarkably quiet for the last couple of minutes. Praying that he could read her mind and that he, like back in his school days, would have a dungbomb ready in his pocket, she tried to shoot him a look that said: Make a diversion. Make them stop talking about this.
She wasn’t sure whether George had practiced Legilimency lately, or if it was pure luck, but just then, the second youngest of her brothers cleared his throat, grabbed Angelina’s arm and said:
“As fun as putting mountain-high expectations on Ginny’s future Quidditch career is, I’m going to have to interrupt,” he said, grinning at his little sister. “I mean, I’ll put a few Galleons on you playing in the World Cup… But I’d rather bet on whether Angelina and I are having a boy or a girl come July.”
It took a few seconds for the message to sink in, and then, suddenly, chaos had erupted in the Burrow. Mrs Weasley was crying and laughing at the same time, Mr Weasley was lifting Angelina into the air and spinning her around, and Bill and Ron were slapping George’s back so hard that he winced for each muffled thud. Victoire and Dominique, who knew that something exciting was going on but didn’t understand what, escaped their parents’ arms, pushed Teddy’s glass of lemonade over, and started jumping around George and Angelina’s legs. Percy jumped up from the table to avoid getting showered in the sweet, sticky drink, and cleaned it up with a flick of his wand before turning to congratulate the parents-to-be, and Ginny roughly shoved Ron and Bill out of the way (“That’s right, Gin, show strength like that on the pitch and Hawsworth’s going to put you in a game in no time!”) to give first George, and then Angelina, a big hug.
Harry chuckled as he slapped George’s shoulder, shaking his head in disbelief.
“You – a father,” he said, and most of George’s siblings laughed, as though they were finding that idea as incredible as Harry did.
George, however, pretened to be hurt. “Why, are you questioning my authority?” he said in what sounded like a spot-on imitation of Percy. “I’ll have you know,” he continued with his index finger pointed at Angelina’s stomach, “that that baby is going to be the best-mannered child in England!”
“Sure,” Harry grinned. “And they’ll never get into the least bit of trouble, I assume?”
“Well, I believe in karma,” said Mrs Weasley, who had managed to stop crying and was now smiling very contentedly at her son. “And after all the things you put me through over the years, I think you’re going to have the biggest troublemaker England has ever seen.”
“You’ll realize one day that Fred and I only did you a favour,” George said, his voice surprisingly light even as he spoke his twin’s name. “I mean, imagine how dull your life would have been if we had all been like Percy…”
Harry and Ron, somehow sharing the same thought, retreated into the living room and sank into the coach as the normal Weasley bickering started in the kitchen; Mrs Weasley yelled at George while Percy, his face deep red, stuck his nose in the air and started talking about Quidditch again. This made George laugh even harder and try to pressure his parents into picking out their funniest child, while Bill and Ginny started betting on the baby’s gender, and Fleur and Angelina dove into a discussion about pregnancy symptoms.
“I’ll put five Galleons on a boy – it’s a Weasley kid, remember?”
“Oh, I was ‘ardly sick at all with ze girls. But zen again, my maman always said eet was a Delacour gift, to ‘ave such pleasant pregnancies…”
Harry and Ron exchanged a look and started to laugh. Then, suddenly serious, Harry had to ask:
Ron shrugged. “She hasn’t been to work all week. They… they’re just waiting for it to happen now. They’re trying to make Emily as comfortable as possible. But it won’t be long now.”
“I wish there was something we could do,” said Harry gravely, and Ron nodded in agreement.
“But at least she’s got a chance to say all the things she wants to say… to say goodbye,” he mused. “I mean, with Fred, he was just… One day he was there, and the next day he was gone. I just wish I had hugged him that day when I saw him, but I didn’t…”
“He knew that you loved him,” said Harry, but they both knew that knowledge would never be enough.
As the weeks passed, even Harry and Ginny’s garden on the countryside was soon bare again, the nights out there depressingly dark without that soft, white layer of snow lighting them up. Temperature below zero seemed but a memory as Harry and Teddy walked hand in hand one morning down the narrow road that led from the Potter Property, heading for the small, hidden meadow that had become Harry and Ginny’s regular Apparation Point. Teddy, whose raincoat was bright yellow and hair sand-coloured, skipped over the puddles of water, which was all that remained of the snow, and whistled something that sounded suspiciously similar to Celestina Warbeck’s latest release. (Perhaps, Harry thought to himself, his godson had spent too much time with Mrs Weasley at the Burrow lately.)
The term at Hogwarts had begun again, and so the Leaky Cauldron wasn’t quite as busy as it had been over the holidays when Harry entered, his whistling godson in tow. Hannah Abbott spotted them almost immediately and dropped the cloth she was using to wipe off a table and came over to greet them.
“Hiya,” she said. “How are you, Harry? And who is this little fellow?”
“Hannah, meet Teddy Lupin,” said Harry. “Teddy, say hello to my friend Hannah.”
“Hi there, Teddy,” Hannah smiled as she crouched down in front of the little boy. “I went to school with Harry. And Ron and Hermione.”
Teddy shot Harry a questioning look, and he chuckled as he nodded. “It’s true, buddy.”
“And guess what?” Hannah continued. “Your daddy used to be my teacher.”
“My daddy is in heaven,” Teddy explained. “With Mummy, and Uncle Harry’s parents.”
“I know,” said Hannah with a nod. “But before he went to heaven, he was a teacher at Hogwarts. A really good one, too.”
Seemingly deciding that this was a good reply, Teddy lit up, leaned forwards and placed a smacking kiss on Hannah’s nose. The waitress giggled and ruffled his hair, which looked to be a little lighter than before – closer to Hannah’s blond ponytail than Teddy’s late father’s tint.
“So,” said Hannah as she straightened up, “what are you two getting up to today?”
“Oh, we’re just having a nice day to ourselves, aren’t we, Ted? His Gran had some errands to run, and Ginny’s in Holyhead. So we figured we would go for some ice cream at Florean Fortescues, and maybe go see George and Angie in the shop.”
“That sounds like a fun day,” Hannah smiled, and Teddy nodded enthusiastically.
“So how was your holidays?” said Harry, studying his friend’s soft-looking, kind face. “Seen much of Neville lately, have you?”
Hannah’s cheeks turned a little pink. “Well, he’s been in for a butterbeer a couple of times over the holidays,” she said, “but that’s all. Why are you asking?”
“Oh,” said Harry lightly, “no reason. Say hi from me if he stops by again anytime soon.” Then, as Teddy had started pulling at his sleeve and repeating the words “ice cream” over and over, he started to move slowly towards the back of the pub and the entrance to Diagon Alley. “We’d better get going,” he called out to Hannah, who smiled and waved before going back to cleaning tables. “Nice seeing you again!”
Soon, after a few minutes of handshaking with the diners of the Leaky Cauldron, Teddy and Harry found themselves walking between the peculiar shops of Diagon Alley. Teddy wanted to stop at every single one, pressing his nose against the windows and asking Harry a hundred question about every little thing that was on display. They stopped by Weasley Wizard’s Wheezes, and by the time they walked out, Teddy had his pockets stuffed with what George had called ‘free samples.’ They continued to Quailty Quidditch Supplies, where Teddy stared with round eyes at a large poster of Ginny, swishing in and out of the picture on her broomstick, dressed in Holyhead Harpies’ colours.
“Can I get one of those, Harry?” he then asked, pointing at the shiny, new and improved Firebolts by one wall.
“Maybe when you’re older,” said Harry, remembering how he had once stared in admiration at the first Firebolt model – the one that Sirius had got him, and that he now kept in the woodshed in the garden to get out whenever he and Ginny felt like a one-on-one Quidditch match.
When they sat in the early spring sun a while later, licking an ice cream each and shivering each time the wind blew, Harry thought of Sirius, and wondered if the two of them would have done the same, had Sirius not been wrongly put in Azkaban after Harry’s parents’ deaths. Perhaps five-year-old Harry would have begged Sirius for a broomstick and pouted his lower lip until his godfather agreed to let him have two scoops of ice cream, even when they had initially agreed on one. Harry glanced over at Teddy, thinking of Hermione, who was sitting by a hospital bed, just waiting for her mother to die. He thought back to the conversation he and Ron had had a few weeks earlier, and how Ron had wished he had had a warning that Fred was going to die. If Harry had known that Sirius was going to be killed, what would he have done differently? Would he have asked him more questions about his parents while he had the chance? Told him how much he meant to him? Or maybe, Harry thought as a drop of Teddy’s chocolate icecream landed on the white collar of his jacket, he would have just sat on a bench with him in the late February sun, knowing how blessed he would have been to have him there for just one more day.
A/N: Thank you, if you're reading this; if you've stuck with me this far. I can't explain how much it means to me (not for lack of trying, though, I've done that at the end of every chapter so far). I just truly think you are all amazing for sharing your thoughts and supporting me, for coming back to read even when I take a while to upload, and just for reading at all. I never used to show anyone my writing - this story was one of the first times I did. So thank you, for making me feel very, very happy with that decision, and for all of your support.