Chapter 1 : Prologue - A Final
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"Thanks, dad!" Ginny had to scream up at her father. "I can't believe I'm at my first game. And a cup final!"
Mr Weasley beamed down at her. "You deserve it." He let his hand settle on her shoulder. She knew why he'd gone through all this trouble to get them tickets. He'd need to work overtime to pay for them, let alone the two shirts he'd bought, but that was her father. He'd sacrifice everything he had to make his children smile. "Fourth year for you, Ginny." He smiled. "And Ron with his OWLS."
"Love you, dad," she hugged him tightly. Those were not the reasons for him spoiling them, but it made for a good excuse.
They were early, though the number fans in the stadium would have a person thinking themselves late. She'd begged her father to bring them early even though it meant an extra hour at the stadium. He'd obliged of course.
She stared up into the air and straight towards the reason for her desire to be here now. High above sat a lonely Potter on his broom. He flew around in the most amazing, yet lazy, arcs through the sky. He always did it, a mystery almost as great as the man himself. His pale orange practise jersey billowed about behind him. His goggles pressed up against his forehead.
He dove down low and circled the pitch. For a few brief moments he'd barely been a few feet from her. "Blimey," Ron said in amazement. "That's class."
"And incredibly handsome," Ginny whispered to herself with a blush. Despite all her fears, he'd always drawn her in. All too soon his display came to an end and then he disappeared into the stadium. She sighed regretfully, but it had been worth the effort.
The seats around them began to fill rapidly.
"Ginny!" A boy’s voice called out. She felt her insides twist. Why couldn't boys just ignore her? Briefly images of a dark chamber became vivid in her mind. Her knees buckled and she fell into her seat.
"Leave her alone you gits!" Ron shouted at the two passing boys. They were her brother’s friends. Dean and Seamus, nice boys really. She shivered slightly, Tom's touch on her mind felt so fresh. Would she ever be able to let another man near her?
"Thanks, Ron," she whispered after the other two were gone. She'd heard Ron speaking to them for a minute or two. Luckily her father had gone to get some refreshments and missed the encounter. She tried hard to be brave before he parents.
Ron seemed unsure of what to do. His hand awkwardly patted her shoulder. "Ah, no problem, Ginny. They're just trying to be nice."
"I know." She sighed.
"Me too," Ron replied. "You're strong, you'll get through this."
"Thanks," she said with surprising strength. "One day."
Their father returned. "Here's your drinks." He winked at Ginny and slipped a packet of chocolate frogs into her pocket. They were expensive, but her father knew she was on the lookout for a special card.
The Harpies flew out first and the stadium erupted with wild cheers and screams. "They look incredible!" Ginny shouted as she clambered up onto her seat to see over the wizard before her. She ticked off the names of every witch. They were all her favourite.
The Cannon's supporters, including Ron to her shame, roared as the bright Orange clad players followed her team onto the pitch. There lead Chaser flew at out of the stadium recklessly. They cheered him on.
Potter came out slowly. He'd never been one for show. She admired him for that. Finding the Snitch was his duty and he took it seriously, just like Ginny did when flying against her brothers or for the Gryffindor team. She'd won all four games this year allowing her House to win the Cup.
The game got underway. It was breath-taking. Chasers and Beaters competed at blinding speeds. Both Seekers jostled each other in the sky. Harry led the woman into at least three faints that she saw. There might have been more. The game was just so much faster than at Hogwarts that she had a hard time keeping track.
And then Harry dove for the pitch. He was barely a speck in the distance and a moment later he was pulling up before her. His hand raised high and the Snitch sat neatly in it. She felt her heart beating wildly and her cheeks flush. "Merlin. That was incredible!" Ginny shouted. The scoreboard stood on 410 to 390. The Cannon's had won.
Beside her Ron was euphoric. He was jumping up and down while shouting at the top of his lungs. It was their first trophy in centuries practically.
"A pity, they only needed to score a few more times," her father consoled Ginny.
"With a catch like that it would've been a shame if they lost." Ginny managed to say, but she did feel crestfallen.
Her father smiled. "Perhaps when you play for the Harpies, they'll take the cup again."
Ginny snorted. "Like that'll ever happen."
They decided to not follow the crowd out. Mainly because Ginny began to feel claustrophobic around all the wizards. Ron and her father made sure to keep some space around her while the people moved passed.
"Dad," Ron's eyes were pleading. "The team. They're down there. Can I go see them... please!"
"If Ginny doesn't mind going down with us." He looked worried, but Ron was bouncing up and down excitedly.
Ginny eyed the crowd by the entrance. "I'll just go sit down by the pitch," she said. "I'm not going to ruin Ron's chance."
"You sure?" her father asked.
"There's security down there," Ginny said. "And I've always wanted to see the Pitch up close."
It took a bit more to convince her father, but eventually she was sitting all alone on the last row of benches. The grass stretched out before her and the hoops towered above. The gentle breeze blowing over her face had her almost believing. Her hand ducked into her pocket and pulled out the last chocolate frog her father had bought.
"Those taste better in your mouth than in the wrapping." A gentle voice spoke from behind. She fiddled with it a while longer and then pulled off the wrapping and took a bite. The small card inside the frog stuck out.
"Which one?" the voice asked. His shadow hung over her.
She pulled it out slowly and her breath caught. "Potter," she said with a happy sigh. "My father will be pleased."
"So you wanted someone else?" he asked. She stared down at the moving picture of Harry as he flew around on the card.
"No, I wanted him," she said slowly. "But my dad spent a lot to get us here today and he really wanted me to get this card." She stared back up at the sky. "What I really want is to fly up there one day."
"Perhaps one day you will."
She looked up to see a black haired man walking away. His head hung. When she turned she found a Harpies scarf draped across her seat.
"Mister," she called out. The man stopped and turned to face her. He had tears in his eyes. "You... um... scarf."
Potter smiled and for a moment she saw a similarity in his gaze. "Keep it," he smiled. "The colour suits you." He gave a small wave and walked out onto the pitch and Apparated away.
3 Years Later
Ginny Weasley stood in her room staring up at a poster of Harry Potter. The scarf he'd her given hung over the bed. The man on the broom looked determined and in his hand he held a golden snitch. It was an old poster, but it remained Ginny's favourite. The picture had been taken four seasons ago when Harry caught the Snitch at the end of a nail biting final against the Harpies. It had been the first championship the Chudley Canons had won in over a century. She still wrinkled her nose at the colour.
She had a thing for him, a crush of sorts, before that final. The scarf, however, had allowed her to grow up in a strange sort of way. She had used it to drive her passion for Quidditch. Always in the back of her mind his words repeated themselves.
She let her mind forget about the scarf and began to dress. She struggled with the buttons on her new green blouse as her hands trembled slightly. "Get a grip," she said angrily to herself. "What will she think if I can't even dress myself?" The words vented some tension and soon the her clothes sat properly.
Ginny scowled when she caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror. A tangle of garish red hair framed a freckled face. Ugly brown eyes stared back. She stuck her tongue out at herself, but quickly sucked it back in. There was something in the reflection to be proud of. Stitched just above the bottom left hem of her shirt was a Harpies emblem, a golden talon. She felt her giddiness return and laughed. It felt good to let her emotions go a little.
Downstairs the kitchen was quiet except for her mother who busied herself cleaning.
"Morning, mum," Ginny greeted as she slipped into one of the wooden chairs by the kitchen table. A plate of food, magically warmed, lay waiting like so many breakfasts before.
"Big day," her mother smiled. Mrs Weasley stopped cleaning the enormous pile of dirty plates, left by Ron and her father, to sit across from her daughter.
Ginny took a nervous bite of toast. The effects of the laugh faded quickly in the quiet of the house. "A big day," she repeated.
"Kind of early in the year for teams to start practising," her mother said.
"I know, but being my first year on the team, Gwenog thought that I would need a few extra weeks. We talked about this all last month, mum."
Her mother sighed. "I know, dear. It's just…" her eyes grew moist, "My little girl is growing up and about to start her own life."
"I'll still be staying here," Ginny soothed. "I just need to get through this training, which Gwenog said was going to be hell on earth." Her coach’s words made her shiver. Ginny's nerves were on tenterhooks already and she'd not even left the house.
"It'll be alright, Ginny," her mother spoke with the same knowing as always.
"How can you be sure? She'll probably burn my contract before the end of the day. Look!" she said angrily while trying to point at her hand holding the toast. It trembled visibly. "I can't even keep my hand still. How am I going to fly a broom?"
"That is not the young woman I raised," Mrs Weasley said with passion. "You are a strong girl who can do whatever she sets her sights on." Ginny ducked her head and took another bite. How she coordinated the shaking hand and her mouth remained as much of a mystery as Harry Potter. "You were the star Seeker for Gryffindor. You won every game, never once unable to catch the Snitch. You are the girl who holds nearly every record in Hogwarts."
"Still going to get the sack in a day or two." This time there had been no conviction in her voice. Her mother always knew what to say. She glanced up at the clock and winced. "I better get going. I have to be there in a few minutes." She wolfed down the last of the toast and some eggs before rushing out of the door.
Just before she could Apparate away, her mother enveloped Ginny in a tight hug. "You've made us proud, dear. Whatever happens, know we've always been proud of you."
Ginny had to wipe away at the dampness on her cheeks. "I know, mum. Tell dad and Ron that I love them and I'll see them tonight."
Ginny untangled herself from her mother's firm hold and Apparated.
She materialised on the Harpies Quidditch pitch. The grass felt thick and soft beneath her feet. The green seemed to travel forever. Gwenog had told her that under no circumstances would she be allowed to walk into the grounds. This training was secret. The public still did not know about Gwenog's new Seeker.
"Good," the stern voice of her new coach said from behind Ginny. She jumped slightly.
"Morning, Miss Jones," Ginny said awkwardly. This had not been the entrance she'd wanted on the first day. Being skittish was not her and she did not want to leave that impression.
"At least I know you can follow a simple instruction." She eyed Ginny critically, then the woman snorted and slapped Ginny on the shoulder. "Relax, girl. You're a Harpie now. We take care of each other."
"Umm, thank you, Miss Jones."
"None of that, girl. To the public I'm the bitch called Coach Jones, to you I'm Gwenog. We Harpies try to keep things informal between us. Remember we're like family."
Ginny barely managed to form the words. "I'll try my best, but years of idolising is not easy to get over, G… Gwenog," Ginny managed with a stutter and a slur.
The woman roared with laughter. "I like you, girl. You've got something." She patted her cheek in a way Ginny always imagined an older sister would. "Sweet and innocent."
"Not on a broom I'm not," Ginny replied with fierce determination.
Gwenog laughed even louder than before. "I bet you aren't."
Ginny frowned slightly as she waited for her coach to stop enjoying herself at Ginny's expense. "But I hope you can get past idols, girl. In this world everyone is famous. And after your first game you'll be as famous as the next." The woman smiled knowingly. "Posters. Wizards, and witches come to think of it, trying to get you in bed."
She nodded dumbly while waiting for something to do. "Now go get changed girl. Your new broom, ordered and sized to fit, and kit are waiting in the changing room."
Ginny said something that she could not remember and soon found herself inside the Harpies changing room. It was empty now. All except for the one corner where a new broom stood upright and a pale green practise jersey hung. 'Weasley' was emblazoned on the back.
With an eagerness she'd not felt since learning her father had bought tickets to the Quidditch final, she undressed and slipped into her new kit. Shin guards and all other manner of bodily protection items were neatly piled beneath her jersey. Not knowing what to expect, she put them all on. "It's always easier to just take them off," she muttered to herself.
It felt like floating as she walked down the corridor back to the pitch. She could only hold her breath as she emerged onto the field again. It felt different. For the first time she walked onto the ground, not as a girl, nor even a recruit, but a Harpie. Glancing down at the broom in her hand, she could see her name etched in gold on the handle.
Gwenog still stood in the middle of the pitch, so Ginny walked up to her. "I'm ready for anything you can throw at me," Ginny said with an air of arrogance.
"I hope you are, girl," the woman replied. "But I am afraid I have meetings to attend today. Arrangements and sponsorship deals need to be finalised before the season begins."
"But, I thought this month was for training."
"It is, dear," Gwenog smiled. "I'm just not the coach you need right now."
"I didn't know the Harpies had another coach," Ginny frowned.
"We don't," the woman grinned insufferably. "Not to the public or any of the other players that is."
"So who is she?" Ginny asked with trepidation. She'd mentally prepared herself all month for working with the legendary Gwenog Jones. Now she was being handed off to some second rate amateur. Some old hag who didn't know a handle from a twig.
Gwenog peered over Ginny's head and smiled. "Here he is now."
Ginny turned round to see a tallish man, with a very athletic build, walking towards them. Her eyes narrowed then widened.
"Bloody hell." Her jaw dropped open. "How'd you get him?" It came out all wrong she was sure.
"Long story," Gwenog laughed. Somehow she must have understood.
And so ends the introduction to this story.
Comments appreciated. I hope you enjoyed the start.