Chapter 12 : Chapter 11: In Her Eyes
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Chapter 11: In Her Eyes
Ginny winced, not for the first time that morning, as her hair was pulled into its elaborate style. Her eyes wandered over to the mirror in front of her. It was barely a mirror, the glass was discolored but it was, at least, something. Rebecca, her maid, was standing behind her, re-braiding her hair so that half of it formed a crown on top of her head. The rest fell in long waves down her back. She had been forced to sleep with her hair in many small braids to achieve this effect.
“Ow,” Ginny cried as Rebecca hit a knot.
“Sorry, Miss Marian!” Rebecca told her hastily but Ginny waved off the apology. Her head had always been sensitive to the pulls and most of her hairstyles had been managed with magic. She doubted that Rebecca was attempting to hurt her on purpose.
Ginny watched her reflection, saw the bags under her eyes from being up all night talking to Harry and the worry that was behind the facade of control that she always adopted when others were around. It had been impossible to maintain her calm when he’d thrown a rock up to her window and had poured his soul out to her. He had been so upset over Snape and Malfoy that his agitation had been palpable and she had, once again, felt that humbling awe at realizing that Harry had come to her. Of course as soon as he’d stopped ranting, she’d burst into tears like a ninny but he’d been wonderful; holding her while she cried.
“Finished!” Rebecca cried excitedly and Ginny dredged up a smile to show her how much she liked it.
“Thank you, I’ll just be-”
Knock, knock, Knock!
“Enter,” Ginny called and the door swung open to reveal one of the footmen dressed in his best; a royal blue tunic with a golden seal. “Yes?”
“Your box is ready for you Lady Marian,” he replied in a deep, resonating voice as he bowed to her.
“All right, I’ll be there in a minute.” Ginny stood and gathered her dress, a purple gown with silver ribbons for trim for the sleeves and hem, around her and took the fan from Rebecca. She walked over to the door and took the footman’s arm. Ginny hated doing this but she had found that she was less steady on her feet and prone to tripping over her hem if she wasn’t careful.
As soon as they were in the deserted corridor, the footman began to speak. “I have spied him practicing, my lady, and he is not going to be able to hit the target during the opening ceremony.” The footman’s voice was in a hushed whisper and Ginny was amused to note that he was barely moving his mouth.
She had easily swayed the castle’s inhabitants to her side but they still were wary about openly disobeying Prince John. Speaking of the git, “I thought he was to escort me to the contest?” She had not been happy when she had learned about this. In fact, her shouting at Hermione had reverberated all through the stone walls.
“He was sick when he heard that he had to escort you, my lady. I offered to stand in for him and he told me, ‘good luck and protect your bits.’ If I am not so bold, my lady, and I doubt I could be with you, I do believe you won’t have any problems with him today. He is determined to avoid you.” The footman pushed a heavy wooden door open and led her down a flight of steps and out of the main doors, towards the benches that ran along the side of the arena. The footman helped her up to her shaded box and bowed to her before leaving.
Ginny looked around and noticed that the contestants were already lined up, but she couldn’t immediately spot her friends among them. She sighed heavily and turned to see that Snape was walking purposefully towards her. Ginny glared as he took a knee in front of her and she had to fight the urge not to gasp in shock or smack his greasy head. “What do you want?” Ginny hissed through her clenched teeth.
Snape seemed to be struggling with himself over something. He took a deep breath and spoke. “You are to open the contest in a few minutes before Draco will join you. Please do not hurt him. He is thoroughly chastised about his treatment of you and will behave himself.”
“Stupid berk,” Ginny grumbled and then nodded at Snape. “Alright, I won’t hurt him right now. I don’t even have my sword with me!”
He raised an eyebrow and stared her down until she flushed with anger. “I only have the one small knife and it couldn’t do much damage!” It was hard not to yell at him. She’d wanted to kill the ruddy bastard more than once, and having him kneeling in front of her was throwing off her mental equilibrium.
“He proposes a truce for the day and has agreed not to say a word to him if you promise not to harm him physically.”
If she hadn’t known better, she would have sworn that the entire situation was amusing Snape. Ginny thought carefully about her options, also enjoying Snape uncomfortably shifting about on his knee. Serves him right, she thought spitefully. Her thoughts instantly took her back to the previous night, when Harry was holding her as she cried. He had whispered into her ear, as he stroked her hair, that she had the power to control everything and they would need her. Then he’d kissed her and it had been so magical that- Ginny halted her thoughts and shook her head. I’m getting off topic and reminiscing like a schoolgirl. Harry only kissed me twice last night, so there is no need to melt into a puddle. Or maybe it was since he poured out his feelings to me… in any case, she couldn’t really stall Snape any longer. “Fine, I’ll leave him alone as long as he doesn’t say anything to me or touch me or look at me or…” she took a deep breath and scowled at the thought of Malfoy. “And I don’t want him breathing too loudly. I hate to be reminded that he’s still alive.”
He nodded slowly and rose. “Done. Please stand and announce that the archery contest is about to begin.”
“Right,” Ginny mumbled and struggled to her feet and instantly, the crowd fell into a hush. She cleared her throat and said, “Let the contest begin.”
A roar of applause filled the stadium as she sat down. Malfoy walked up to the line and nocked an arrow. He pulled the string back but Ginny knew instantly that it wouldn’t go. He was unsure in his stance and the arrow quavered ominously. Sure enough the arrow only flew halfway to the target and a dead silence, except for a snort that Ginny was sure had come from her brother, filled the stadium.
Malfoy hung his head and walked off towards her as Snape, and a few others, clapped but it ended quickly. When he had seated himself in the box with her, although far enough away that she couldn’t lash out and stab him, the castle steward called for the contestants to line up in front of their targets.
Ginny noted that there were about twenty separate stacks of hay bales in a row and fixed to each was a target. The men lined up and instantly Ginny was able to spot her brother. He was easily a head taller than anyone else in the group except for the boy next to him. Wait, Ginny thought excitedly, that’s Harry! He’d dirtied his face to hide his scar but there was no hiding his amazing green eyes. He glanced at her briefly and winked before preparing to shoot with the others. She wanted to smile and wave but she was sure that Snape was on the lookout for him. Ginny wouldn’t be so stupid as to give him away.
“On my mark, set, fire!” The steward’s voice rang through the stands and everyone clapped as the first shots took off towards the targets. Several were very close to the center and one was dead center of the bulls eye. Ginny saw that the archer who made the best shot was a small boy that she did not recognize. The lad was looking up at the sky as if lost in his own world.
“We have eliminated four contestants who did not hit the target,” several jeers filled the crowd as the four walked out of the arena. The remaining contestants prepared to fire.
“You are reminded that you have to make it within the first of the five rings in order to remain in the competition. On my mark, set, fire!”
On and on it went, tedious round after tedious round. It was exciting when someone was eliminated but after the second round, when three other people were booed from the grounds, the thirteen remaining archers were unstoppable. They either made their required targets or beat it. Ginny should have been excited to see Harry and Ron doing well but being very honest with herself, she had to admit that it was not interesting and frankly hot. The only entertaining part of the afternoon was seeing Malfoy jump any time she shifted in her seat. He was awfully twitchy.
The crowd broke into an excited chatter and Ginny turned to see a shorter, round man slink out of the area. She squinted and gazed down at him, before groaning. Neville is now out! He had been doing well otherwise. The best was still the small boy who was now picking flowers from the grass. She had to stop herself from giggling. This had to be the strangest boy she had ever seen.
“We are now down to only those who make it into the bulls-eye.” The crowd cheered and stomped their feet. Ginny focused on the contestants again as they prepared to fire. “On my mark, set, fire!”
Six flew into the bulls-eye. The disqualified quietly left to a smattering of applause, and the remaining got ready for another go. The castle steward had moved them together, so they were all next to each other and had them go again. This time he took out the person who was farthest from the center. This was repeated until it was only three were left: Harry, Ron and the small boy.
Ginny could see that Harry was glancing around nervously and she frowned before scanning the crowd as well. Then she spotted what had Harry on edge. Snape was making his way slowly forward in the crowd. She almost stood to shout at him but the castle steward was lining Ron up to shoot at the bulls-eye and it momentarily distracted her. What was he doing? Then it made sense. They would shoot at the same target to see who was closest.
Ron took and aim and Ginny bit her lip, waiting for the verdict before letting out a sigh of relief. He was nearly perfect in the center.
The steward called to the boy and he moved forward, handing a string of flowers to the dumbfounded man and took aim. His went perfectly in the center of the target.
Harry lined up to take aim and pulled back the string back when it happened.
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