Chapter 3 : Catch for a Lifetime
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When Harry had woken up, it had been raining heavily; now, it was only slightly raining but still cold for June. Not the weather he had wished for today, but he had wished for so much this day, and it couldn’t all happen. How much had he wished to see her in the stands? But although he tried to find her, against his better knowledge, he hadn’t seen her. Just to see her would give him what he needed to play a good game -- probably the best game of his life. But Harry knew she wouldn’t be there. She was still in the hospital wing, learning to walk again.
It was amazing to him that she hadn’t given up. Time and time again she had fallen to the floor, but every time she stood up and kept trying. Shortly after he had seen her on her own feet again for the first time, she had insisted that he had to help her to walk again. In his mind, Harry had accepted that he was in love. He had to be -- there was no denying the fact. It freaked him out to an extent, making him temperamental and confused.
“What am I going to do?” Harry heard Ginny mutter, in an eerie echo of his own thoughts. He raised his eyebrows at her inquiringly.
“Next year,” she clarified, in a whisper, and he nodded. True, the Gryffindor team wouldn’t be the same next year without its current Keeper and Seeker, and one of its Beaters. Neville had turned out to be a very good Beater at the tryouts in sixth year, surprising everyone. Also, who would have thought that the Weasley twins’ replacements would be Neville and Dennis? Absently, Harry touched his old Firebolt. He didn’t even notice as it suddenly went very silent around him, and only the singing from the stands was audible.
“Weasley is our King,
Weasley is our King,
He won’t let the Quaffle in,
Weasley is our King…”
“Harry!” Ron’s angry voice interrupted Harry’s thoughts. Surprised that he was being addressed, he lifted his eyes from his broom to meet Ron’s glare. “Did you hear anything I said?” Nobody else on the team dared to speak.
“All that I have to do is catch the Snitch while we are in the lead. I don’t foresee a problem,” Harry answered simply.
“The Slytherins won’t make it that easy for you. I expect that both Beaters will go after you and you know how unfair they play.”
“That’s why I don’t see any problems. Malfoy needs me to find the Snitch. He’ll always be right on my tail, and I doubt any Bludger will hunt me if he's nearly on my broom.”
A huge smile appeared on Ron’s face at this response. “You’re right. Come on, it's time.” He winked at them as they followed him onto the pitch. Harry mounted his broom at last, and kicked off.
“… Longbottom … Weasley … Creevy … and Potter,” Lee Jordan roared. Though he had left Hogwarts two years ago, he had insisted to Professor McGonagall that he needed to do the commentary for this match. It was the last match of the best Seeker who had ever flown at Hogwarts. She had had to give in. Harry landed right behind Ron, who faced a sneering Draco Malfoy, the captain of the Slytherin team. Ron was much taller than Malfoy, but they were both still glaring at each other.
“Weasley, Malfoy, shake hands,” Madam Hooch said briskly, and Ron shook hands with the Slytherin captain, a disgusted look at his face. The weather couldn’t have been more different than this morning. It was no longer raining, and there was the sun, lurking behind clouds. It was still a cool day, with a very light breeze. “Mount your brooms … on my whistle … three – two – one – “
Madam Hooch let the Bludgers free shortly after, and then the golden Snitch left her hands and flew straight past Malfoy's head. Harry kicked off into the air and took his Firebolt up to his usual cruising height. He soared around the stadium and began to look out for the Snitch while Malfoy tailed him closely. It was just as he had expected. All the while, Harry was listening to the commentary by Lee Jordan.
“They’re off, and the last match of Harry Potter at Hogwarts is on. For all Gryffindors this is a very happy but at the same time a sad day. It’s an open question if we will ever see him play Quidditch again. Still on his superb Firebolt and still --"
“Jordan, would you mind telling us what’s going on in the match?” interrupted Professor McGonagall’s voice.
“Right you are, Professor – just giving a bit of background information. Ginny Weasley of Gryffindor heading for goal …”
Harry soared higher and higher so he could overlook the stadium better. Behind him still was Malfoy, who tried to follow him on his old Nimbus 2001. Harry suspected that the Malfoys hadn’t had the money to keep buying expensive brooms anymore. Suddenly, Harry spotted a golden gleam by the stands.
Harry threw his broom into a sharp dive, the ground coming up fast. The wind was roaring in his ears and he held on tightly to his Firebolt. Behind him was Malfoy. He tried desperately to follow Harry but couldn't keep up. Harry stretched out his hand, but suddenly he caught sight of something unbelievable. His jaw dropped and his eyes were no longer fixed on the Snitch; instead, he stared incredulously towards the stands. There, right beside Lavender and Parvati, stood Hermione Granger. Without realising it, he slowed down and Malfoy closed up on him.
“Come on, Harry!” Hermione screamed. But he was no longer thinking of nor looking for the Snitch. Malfoy passed by with an outstretched hand and fixed stare. This time he would beat Scarhead. A Bludger soared right at Malfoy, who had to dive before it hit him on the head. The Snitch had vanished, but Harry didn't even notice. His stare was fixed at the stands, a huge, stupid grin on his face.
“Harry! Are you mental? What do you think you're doing?” Someone was yelling at him and shaking him. Ron's yelling gradually cut through his haze of joy, causing Harry to break his eyes away from Hermione and bring himself back to the game at hand. “Harry… damn it. You nearly let Malfoy get the Snitch.” Ron’s voice was full of anger.
Ron should've been at the rings, Harry thought, but instead Neville was there. Harry blinked as he snapped out of a daze. “Sorry,” he murmured absently.
“It’s our last game. Don’t mess it up!” Ron said, and turned around sharply without noticing Hermione. Harry was back to his senses, and he soared higher again, though it wasn't long before Malfoy was back by his side. Truth be told, Harry didn't care much about the game anymore. He had a difficult time concentrating on his surroundings, as there were too many questions floating in his mind. The image of Hermione just standing there, without crutches or other support, was burned into Harry's mind. She was just watching the game as if it were perfectly ordinary that she was there. As he absently glanced around, trying to sort his thoughts, he caught a glint of gold. The Snitch was flying around in one of the Gryffindor rings behind Ron’s back.
Hastily, Harry leaned forward and picked up the pace. Once again, the wind blew his hair out of his face, and he heard a roaring in his ears. He was moving fast, so fast that he needed to hold on tight to his Firebolt as it started to shake. Behind him, he could hear Malfoy cursing his broom, but Harry’s gaze was fixed upon the golden Snitch. A Bludger soared in his direction but missed his back. At full speed, Harry blew by Ron, missing him by only inches and forcing him into a dive to avoid being knocked aside. Harry reached out his hand once more and … “YES!” Harry pulled out of his dive, his hands in the air, and the stadium exploded. He soared above the pitch right to the stands. The tiny golden ball was held tightly in his fist, beating its wings hopelessly against his fingers.
Frantically, he looked around until he found those brown eyes in the stands. Everybody around her was screaming and yelling, but she was looking directly into his eyes. On her face was the broadest smile he’d ever seen, her eyes shining and full of emotion. It was as if the Firebolt had read his mind, because it was flying right at the stands. He slowed down as he reached her, a fresh breeze hitting his face. Getting closer and closer to Hermione, he felt his mind go blank as she bent over the stands to him. Her hands were framing his face and her eyes locked with his. Ever so slowly her lips touched his. His eyes closed, and he decided not to try to think anymore, just to feel.
“Oh, Merlin! Just look,” whispered Parvati to Lavender, who stared at the scene, too. She didn’t respond to that, rendered speechless.
A flash of light came from Colin Creevy's camera, as the moment was recorded for posterity. Harry opened his eyes again just to see once more that brown eyes were looking back at him. It hadn’t been a dream. Suddenly very aware of the golden Snitch in his fist and where he was, Harry felt a blush rise into his cheeks.
“This is for you, Hermione,” he whispered. She looked startled at that, her eyes going from his face to his left hand, which was now in front of him. Carefully, Harry took her right hand and placed it on the Snitch. With big eyes, Hermione watched his actions. She couldn’t believe her eyes or what she felt at that moment. Never before had she held a Snitch in her hands, and she found it was like holding Harry’s very heart. Once more, Hermione kissed him. “Come with me!” she heard him say. Though all the Gryffindors were singing and cheering, she could hear him very clearly, as if they were the only people there.
For a second she looked scared before she did the craziest thing of her life. Slightly shaking, she climbed over the railing and mounted the flying broom. Harry held her tightly until she was sitting safely in front of him. She was shaking violently as she saw how far away the ground was.
“I have you. I won't let you go, Hermione,” Harry said soothingly as he held her around her waist. "I won't ever let you go."
She turned around slightly to see him.
“I love you,” he continued, voice quivering. “I – I love you --”
Hermione interrupted him as she laid a finger on his mouth. “I know. I know, Harry,” she just said, with tears shining in her eyes. "I love you, too."
I need to hear that you’d die for me
Again and again and again
So tell me when you look in my eyes
Can you share all the pain and happy times
‘Cause I will love you for the rest of my life
love song by P!nk