The sun was in its mid afternoon glory and the home crowd was loving every moment of Madrid’s record breaking heat wave. The atmosphere was intimidating, the air thick with the sort of fervor only national pride could bring.
“¡España! ... ¡España! ... ¡ESPAÑA!”
England was getting a solid thumping, and the home supporters were reveling in the stands, the wine was flowing, the women were dancing vigorously to the Latin beat of the drums. Most of the male wizards had abandoned any sense of decorum, and were arm in arm around the shoulders, jumping in time to the chanting of the capacity filled stadium. The youngest player on the losing side didn’t need one of Trelawny’s cryptic premonitions to realize that things were not looking good. Oliver Wood was crumbling under the constant pressure. Amy and Cho weren’t even getting close to the Spanish Goalkeeper and what in bloody hell were those beaters doing anyway? Where was the defense? Damn! And here he thought playing for Lionheart was fast paced. This was unbelievable!
“Goddamit Potter! You better save our asses, and better do it soon, YOU HEAR ME!? We’re getting creamed- WATCH OUT!” Oliver Wood- their captain; and inspirational ‘keeper- screamed, pointing behind him.
Harry didn’t need to be told twice. Without hesitation he let himself fall over to his right, releasing his grip on the broom handle. Locking his legs at the ankles, he went into the ‘Daredevil Sloth Roll’ as not one, but two bludgers zipped past him, one from eleven o’clock and the other from nine o’clock,one taking a big chunk out of his cape as it narrowly missed his back. Harry could feel the tug on his English Quidditch Robes, and was extremely happy they were top drawer; any other uniform would have dragged him along with that bludger. As he heard the English faithful whoop at his little bit of acrobatics, the Spanish commentator babbled away in high speed gibberish:
..Enrique pasa el quaffel a Ramon, Ramon tira muy rapido- regresalo a Enrique- Enrique pasa a Chavez- Chavez carrerarse debajo de los beaters de la Inglaterra- ¡Torce a la derecha! ¡ Ingleses lo perseguin !!
As the quaffle jumped from one red-and gold clad player to another, the Spaniards began to sing as their home team sliced and diced through the comparatively poor English defense.
..¡OLÉ, OLÉ~ OLÉ~ OLÉ ~!
Harry was hard enough time seeing the snitch as it was, a bludger had gotten him a bit earlier, and his right cheekbone was swollen almost double in size. The numbing pain would be insignificant compared to what he would feel if they lost this game, against this opponent, on especially this day. They were so close! Today had started off so well….
‘Wake up mate! You’ve got a huge day today. C’mon- c’mon, grab your gear, we’ve got to hurry!’
‘Ron! Could you be any more immature? It’s barely eight o’clock, and they had practice all of yesterday! He’s tired!’
‘Hermione, that was yesterday. This is today. He has to be there for two, and a match to play at four! Which means- he has only six hours to floo over to the stadium and –“
‘Which means,’ Hermione cut in, ‘ He has more than enough time. Now if you’ll excuse me, I think my boyfriend deserves a kiss.’
‘Aw come off it!’ Ron lamented, watching Hermione step into the bedroom. Harry was seemingly still sound asleep, buried beneath thick blankets. Hermione crawled on top of the bed. ‘Quidditch is more important! And at least wait until I leave for crying out loud!’ Ron added as he grumbled out of the room, a reluctant grin on his face. After all that his mate has been through, a little pampering was probably the best thing for him right now. But damn, today was the semi-finals! And the two top seeds were going at it! Ron took out the squad list. He frowned at the almost perfect statistics the opposition had. Hah! No one was better than Harry. Not even Vicky. So this Spaniard- Enrique Vasquez- humph. He had nothing on England’s Lions. He’ll see. When he overheard a mixture of girlish laughter and a deeper chuckle of a masculine voice he almost retched in disgust. It was still strange to see – or hear them- make out. Putting that aside; he smiled- today’s your day Harry, make the most of it.
Hermione knew he was awake, and just pretending to be sleeping. With a flourish Hermione pounced on the figure underneath the covers. She couldn’t have wished for a better response when Harry “The Boy Who Lived” Potter screamed like a little girl.
‘Ow! It’s a leg y’know? And you’re knee is right on it!’
‘I know.’ Hermione giggled. She crawled on top of him, the thick blankets still between them. Harry pulled it high up over his head, making it difficult for Hermione to see him. Hermione smacked his bottom with a solid right palm, and Harry had no choice but to retaliate. Whipping off the cover, he wrapped her up in it, hugging her close. He pinned her against his bed in Sirius’ old room, and smiled into her eyes.
‘Is that the sort of treatment I get on my birthday?’ he joked, rubbing his backside. ‘ I thought that was for when I was being naughty.’
Hermione blushed. She had remembered the one and only time she hit him like that before, and at that moment they were being very naughty indeed. ‘Maybe you were. But I wanted to wake you. It’s a very important matter.’ Harry’s happy face fell a bit, it was evident that he was very nervous. Spain is the toughest under twenty-one squad on paper, and so far, they demolished Scotland, Russia, and even Bulgaria by whopping margins. And he knew personally that Victor Krum couldn’t make the difference on the day. They were dominant, and seemingly, unstoppable. His teammates were to meet and depart for the Spanish Quidditch stadium this afternoon. Playing against them would be their biggest game, and the toughest. They were nigh invincible.
And it was rumored when they were on home turf- utterly merciless.
‘Yeah- the game-“ Harry said softly. He had to admit, he was kind of afraid.
‘No, it’s nothing about quidditch,’ she said softly. She smiled softly, and wrapped her hands around his neck. With a tut-tut, she tenderly brushed aside the lock of hair that always managed to obscure his left eye. Pulling his head low to hers, she gave him a sweet kiss- giving him her all in that intimate gesture.
‘Happy Birthday, Harry.’
At that moment, Harry didn’t think he could have wished for a better gift than being loved by the girl in his arms.
That was earlier. At this present moment, he wished he could have like maybe one hundred and fifty more points for his team, and maybe some sort of repellant charm on Oliver’s hoops because it felt that every time Spain got the quaffle, it was an automatic goal. And the “new and improved” international Snitches were a ‘tad’ bit faster, and his coach just so happened to remember ‘that minor detail’- just before their first game against Iceland, also; Harry himself realized only after nearly two hours of searching -that the new Golden Snitch had the ability to hide from their pursuers- a.k.a. the ‘Sneaky Snitch’ as the EQA* affectionately named their experimental prototype. *European Quidditch Association
“ ‘Encourages more team effort’ my ass!” Harry swore aloud as he remembered the explanation given to the players on such short notice. He had to admit a lot of the work now centered around the chasers keeping a high scoring rate, and not depending on star seekers to finish the game too early. ‘Please the crowds’ they said. Make some more money for the confectionary stands and vendors.
Harry hauled himself right side up on his broom. He harrumphed loudly as he resumed his hunting. In the corner of his eye he saw a huge Gryffindor flag in the crowd amongst the England supporters in the guests’ half of the stands, and a very energetic red haired boy thumping the drums in time to the chanting. Ron Weasley had his face painted white, with a huge red cross coming down the center of his nose and across his cheeks, screaming as he led the chorus:
“ LI- ONS!! … LI- ONS!! … LIONS!! … LIONS!!”
Harry grinned, but as he zoomed past something caught his eye- it was Hermione, and she had on Luna’s Lion Hat. That was unexpected at least, but what was more alarming was what she was wearing. It was international quidditch gear- And not just any ‘quidditch gear’. He had seen her wear that once before- after all it belonged to him- it was the same uniform she fought in at the battle of King’s Crown. And with that realization -another flashback raced through his memory, and once again he felt that strange feeling of looking through someone else’s eyes. But this time, he was looking at the proud looming figure of Lord Voldemort:
You are powerful indeed, my dear. If I had only known your abilities were so great… Potter seems worthless in comparison. That fool Dumbledore never knew what he had right under his nose. A pity. Next time I encounter a Divine Summoner, I would be prepared. Farewell… young one….
The bright green light of the killing curse flashed behind his eyes, and Harry immediately snapped out of that intense dream- only to realize he was going to crash directly into the seventh row of the stands. FUCK! He was going so fast- he had to be quick- Yanking back as hard as possible, he taxed the braking charm for all its worth as he braced for the upcoming impact. The people had scattered away from the crash point- most of them trampling over each other to get out of the way – but it was a tough break for him. He wasn’t going to stop in time! Thinking lightning fast, he decided he would just have to burst through the wooden bleachers. With a muttered curse under his breath, his eyes blazed afire and he summoned the Infernus
The benches exploded into shards of wood and Harry braced himself as he crashed headfirst into the flames.
“¡CHOQUE!” The spaniard commentator screamed. The Spaniards were the first to react, they heard ‘collision’ and usually at these high speeds, a collision was pretty nasty. “¡ POTTER – no no no no, no -¡Urgente- Los Medicos!!” he cried. The crowd had gone silent after a loud “oooh”, waiting to see what had really happened. The referee blasted his whistle, and the game suddenly came to a halt, everyone was looking in the direction of the crowd disturbance…
“Hermione!! Holy ssshii-“ Ron screamed, pointing at the smoldering hole in the bleachers. “Did you see that?” He asked frantically. Hermione did not answer him- she was stuck in some sort of trance. The outrageous lion hat had fallen off when she sprung to her feet- Harry was too good of a flier to crash. But as she said it- she realized that the reason why he crashed because he had seen her- and something about her had distracted him. And feeling a darker presence in her mind, she knew exactly what made him lose concentration.
Voldemort. Out of nowhere, she had felt it, the distinct memory of him using the Avada Kedavra curse on her- during their occlumency battle. And if that’s what Harry had felt-
“Hermione? Hermione! Did you just see that? Harry exploded into the stands! We’ve got to see if he’s okay!” Ron screamed. Colin Creevey and his brother were also nearby, but only Dennis was not at all worried about it. He threw some more popcorn into his mouth.
“Calm down. He’s tough. Probably the most powerful wizard ever.” He said nonchalantly, a faint smile on his lips. Ron shot a sideways glance at him.
“Quit the hero worship, Dennis- can’t you see he’s hurt?” Ron said offhandedly. “Blimey, sometimes I think you young ‘uns believe he’s superman or something…”
Dennis said nothing, but simply leaned back in his chair, slurping noisily on his drink. No need to get all worked up. He saw what he did to those guards on his last day at Hogwarts. And he saw him take out a dude strong enough to challenge Dumbledore. Harry was the man. “Granger’s not worried- so why are you?” he countered. “Look-“ he pointed at her.
Ron looked over to his best friend: Dennis was right. There was a strange expression on her face, but it wasn’t worry. It was more like- confusion. “ Hermione? You okay?”
“He knows,” She said simply. Ron was now even more confused.
Harry was thrown off the broomstick as he crashed through framing of the rafters. He fell hard- rolling numerous times before he finally extinguished himself of the fire. His body was unscathed from his own Infernus flames, but his uniform was burnt black. As he lay there in a heap, coughing up ash and dirt; Harry swore loudly- Christ that hurt. Trying to figure out what was causing that piercing sensation in his left arm Harry looked down at himself. UGH- that’s not a pretty sight. Pulling out a particularly sharp piece of wood out of his forearm was definitely something in his ‘don’t do this at home’ books. It needed attention, but right now, he couldn’t abandon his team. Taking a second to catch himself- he took hold and bit down hard on his padded glove- then yanked hard. Some teeth-marks and a brand-new wound later- Harry spent a second to thank the higher power that was manipulating the tides of chance and writing his personal diary of fate- even though they really couldn’t give him a break. Having a horrible vision during his biggest quidditch match ever was bad. Crashing into those benches at full speed was also very bad. Surviving that crash with only a nasty cut was good. His broomstick was also perfectly fine- that was also good.
Harry grinned in his classic triumphant smile. He coughed again, hard.
Sometimes, he believed that the curse scar on his forehead was something more than just a killing spell gone horribly wrong, it really was some sort of bad luck/ good luck talisman. All of these years, the ridiculous risks he took, the scandalous escapades he embarked on, the numerous battles he fought through and lived to tell the tale- if a quidditch accident had killed him, he would never rest peacefully. Laughing at the weirdness of it all; he had one thing to thank whoever was looking out for him for- at least he could still play. Harry got up quickly, brushed off the ash and dust of his uniform, and grabbed his broomstick. In a fluid movement he mounted and darted back out unto the pitch.
“ ‘He knows’? Knows what?” Ron asked, completely baffled. Did she really go mental this time?
“About me. About Voldemort- about- arhg- forget about it!” She grumbled, shaking her head. Ron was the last person to understand anything sometimes…. But even so, if there was one thing he could be, it was persistent.
“V-Voldemort?” Ron began to panic now. “ You- Volde- Volde-..?” he couldn’t finish, his tongue was tied.
“Yes, Voldemort. We dueled- and… and...”
“Dueled? WHEN? WHERE? HOW? HE’S DEAD!” Ron’s face was turning a deathly white.
“That night…we dueled on the psychic plane…you see...it was the Occlumency-“ she began to explain to him. At the same time, something was happening down at the other end of the stadium. The referee was going to investigate the situation when a blur of red, white and brown zipped out of the hole like a bee out of a hive. Harry zoomed back out into the field, only to realize that everyone else was down at the crash site- obviously checking to see what happened to him. When the English faithful saw Harry emerge, a loud cheer went up and Dennis Creevey gave a relieved Ron a smug look.
“I told you he would-“ he began. Ron cut him off.
“Keep it, junior. I’m watching the game.” He replied, dismissing any further conversation on how worried he was for Harry. But Dennis had a point- he chuckled to himself, even though it was highly embarrassing to show such concern. Argh! His mother was rubbing off on him. He should’ve known Harry wouldn’t let something as trivial as a high- speed, head-on crash into the burning stands at the biggest quidditch match for the summer stop him. For Harry, it was just another day at the office. Ron sat back down, and folded his arms- completely forgetting that Hermione was in a state, sitting numbly in the chair on his right. Ron forgot about the previous topic of conversation and was now re-absorbed into the game.
“Come on lads! Get a move on- we’ve got a game to win!”
Kenna Rossilini was sitting quietly in the stands, looking affectionately upwards at England’s seeker. She hardly knew anything about quidditch, except that it looked very dangerous. In fact, she really did not want to come, but she had missed seeing him, so she eventually came along. It was interesting, at least, and very fast paced. But- all these men, sweaty men, were assaulting her senses. She turned up her nose at the pot-bellied streaker who just ran past the lowest tier, holding Spain’s flag as a cape around his shoulders. She did laugh when a woman (who she assumed was his wife) chased him down and transfigured him into a huge bullfrog.
“Did you see that? Very funny- it was!” she nudged the person sitting next to her.
“I’m watching the game,” came the short reply, direct, and with an air of hateful arrogance.
“Oh lighten it, you are so serious now of these days…” Kenna said offhandedly. He appeared not to have even heard her.
It’s ‘lighten up’ – and maybe you’ll be serious too if you were locked up in Azkaban and left to rot ...
“Draco? Is something wrong?” She asked. Draco was the only person wearing black today, and in full mage’s cloak as well. Kenna thought he might be really insane. It was unbearably hot. She was wearing shorts and a daring red top, a top- she noticed- had the desired effect on most of the male specimens around, and maybe one or two of the women as well. But to be in a thick hood and cloak in this heat was a bit overboard. When he suddenly leaned forward with rapt interest she looked to see what had gotten his attention.
“What- what is it?’ she asked. Looking in the sky, she noticed the players had stopped.
“Potter has gone and crashed himself into the stands.” He smirked, but it was not that which captured his fancy. Something else had bothered him. It was the mudblood….it felt as if she was reaching out and trying to contact him-
“Wow! Is that where he crashed? I hope he is OK !” she pointed at where the fire that had erupted. Draco cursed under his breath. So much for ‘blood is thicker than water’. “You’ve got strange look- you feeling okay?” she enquired. Ever since the incident with the train he was somehow feeling a strange presence sometimes peep in his head at random intervals. He was sure it had something to do with Hermione. Draco had a very serious expression under that hood for a fraction of a section, and Kenna had spotted it. In a flash it was gone and Draco laughed as he saw the referee use a water spell to douse the flames.
“Using the fire to weaken the stands was a good idea.” Draco mused to himself. Once again he turned serious. “But he was distracted by something else. I’ve seen this sort of thing happen before- “
“What sort of thing?” she probed. Draco leaned back and laced his fingers behind his head, talking indirectly to her.
“When he crashes during a quidditch game- it’s either one of two things. Dementors are tickling in his knickers, or something serious just happened.… C’mon,” he said to her, grabbing her by the elbow as he got up.
“What is this about?’ she said, reluctantly allowing herself to be dragged along.
“Something happened to Granger.”
“Her? That bitch! How do you know that?! What do you have to do with her?!” she demanded. Draco did not even bother answering. Sometimes Kenna thought she could control him like all the other blokes. Her little tricks would not work on him. He looked down at his leg. The last time he saw her, his leg was broken in many places. The last time he saw her, she had delved into his mind, and with a few words had healed him right up. Now that was some scary as hell shit. Who was to say she wouldn’t have went inside his skull and damned him to hell instead? Potter had lost control at the same instant he felt her presence reaching out to his mind. And if it had something to do with Voldemort….
“Don’t you want to see the end of the game?” she said, trying to stall him from leaving.
“The golden boy is going to ‘play the hero’ and win the game,” he sighed. “ It’s so predictable- and I refuse to watch him do it again, and again, and again. It’s frustrating.” He grumbled.
“You’re jealous!” she squealed. Draco thought about it for a moment.
“I was. A long time ago. We are above such matters now,” he said calmly.
“So what changed ? Aren’t you two rivals anymore?”
“We’ve got an unsaid contest going on, actually, but he doesn’t know it yet.”
Kenna eyes sparkled at that comment. “ Really? What?”
“A body count.” Draco smiled evilly. “And he’s in the lead. Twenty five to eleven. But have no fear, it’s only now started, and this is one contest I’m going to win.”
“What’s a ‘body count’?”
Draco laughed. Some things were better left unsaid. His mirth was short lived though. Over the chanting of the Spanish supporters came a tremendous roar, immediately followed by the commentator’s frantic shouting:
“¡ Qué golazo! ¡Potter coge el Snitch! ¡Inglaterra gana el jeugo!¡ POTTER LO HA HECHO¡” the commentator screamed.
Draco grumbled. For once, could he not be the fucking hero?