“We have four weeks before the season starts,” Gwenog was really getting into her speech. Her eyes, lingering slightly longer on Ginny, drifted over all the players. “Harry Potter is not playing this year. But that only means the teams will be training harder and be even more eager to win. Like us they can already feel the cool touch of the trophy.” Her voice grew distant as she remembered holding it. “Each game will be tough. Are you girls tough enough!”
“Yes!” They all shouted in unison. Ginny felt her own throat burn from the numerous times she'd already shouted in reply.
“Well you’re not tough enough girls!” The woman glared at each in turn. Her eyes were fire. Ginny did not glance away, instead she tried hard to see the motherly side of her coach. It was not to be seen. “I’m going to push you harder than you’ve ever been pushed. This season you’ll be fitter, stronger and sharper in the air. I’m not leaving anything to chance this year. Are you girls ready to work hard? Are you ready to get those backsides into shape?” She shouted loudly, her face red with emotion.
“Yes!” all of them shouted together again.
Gwenog, like the predator she was, dropped her voice dangerously low. “I’ve seen all of you play. I trust in every one of you. Katie Bell, Samantha Evans, Ginny Weasley, Catherine Spinnet, Michelle Urquhart, Victoria Hughes and Angelina Johnson!” The room fell silent in anticipation as the last name rolled off Gwenog’s tongue. Ginny could not look away from her coach as she felt her own spirits rise. “Now get into those jerseys and show me why I’ve placed so much faith in you!” A fraction of a second after her teammates began to cheer, Ginny felt her own throat begin to burn as she joined them.
Unfortunately, that was where the fun ended for the day. Harry had prepared her well with all the jogging, swimming, exercises and light weights, but Gwenog still proved able to drill her, and the rest of the team, into the ground. The woman was a maniac. She could’ve cracked You-Know-Who’s skull if she’d wanted to. No wonder the man never came to these parts. Come to think of it, Harry held that same edge, but his was sharper and yet more refined in a sense.
At the end of the day Ginny dragged her exhausted body out of the stadium. Her contract, no longer a secret, allowed her the freedom to come and go as she pleased. Before she could reach the doors a voice called to her from behind.
A weary pivot allowed her to see the source. “Harry.” The name came out as a long tired breath as she tried to find the strength to be happy.
“That bad, huh?” Harry wrapped his arms around her and Ginny let herself sag into his hold.
“Feels good,” Ginny mumbled into his chest. “Do you mind holding on to me for a few days while I recover?”
Harry’s chest rumbled and his lips kissed the top of her head. “I’ll hold you for longer, but that might exhaust you more.”
“Probably.” There was no point in arguing. “You do bring out the worst in me, Harry Potter.”
“Well you don’t seem to be giving me much opportunity for being good.”
“You must’ve realized how wicked I am.”
“At least you’re my wicked witch.”
She scrunched up her nose at the worst comment ever, but then smiled. “Wouldn’t want it any other way.” She pushed her tired limbs up and kissed him. It proved a good balm for her spirits. Loving arms holding her, a tender kiss, what more could she want. “I need a good long bath,” she sighed discarding her own thoughts. She was allowed to be fickle at times.
“You could always come…”
She shook her head. “Mum has prepared a meal already. A celebration of sorts.”
He looked crestfallen and slowly stuffed his hands into his pockets. “Oh, yeah. They’ll want to be with you.” He put on a brave face.
“We can just tell them about us,” Ginny said hopefully. All this secrecy was beginning to wear her down.
His face paled and he looked panic stricken. “No, not yet. I…” he ruffled his hair. She couldn’t help but notice how frustrated he appeared. It wasn’t directed at her, but himself.
“It’s alright, we can wait a while longer. But, Harry.”
“Yes?” he urged her to continue.
“I really want to tell my family.”
“I know. I want them to know. I really want to meet them. It’s just…” Again he seemed so near to uttering words that he’d been holding back for weeks.
“Don’t fret, Harry. We’ll let things develop at its own pace.”
He leaned back against the wall, letting his head rest against the stone. “Thanks, Ginny. I’m sorry. I just need time to resolve a few things.”
“I know.” She slipped under his arm and let him hold her. "I wish I knew what I know, but I understand." They stood in silence a while longer.
“I need to let you get home then.” He eventually broke the moment. “Perhaps, Gwenog wants a drink.”
Her heart went out to him, like it had so many times before. “We’ll spend more time together soon, Harry.”
He nodded. "As soon as I..."
"Sort a few things out," Ginny finished for him, while hoping it did not result in another bloodied Harry. "I get it, Harry."
She stood on tiptoes and kissed him goodbye. A very lonely Harry waved goodbye as the stadium vanished and the Burrow came into view.
The pace did not let up for the whole of the week and by Friday every last one of the Harpies practically crawled to the changing room. Ginny had not seen Harry since Monday and tonight they’d finally have some time together. Perhaps the lack of contact with him was what bugged her the most as she violently stuffed some of her things into a bag after taking a shower.
“Hey, Ginny,” Katie called. Ginny’s hand stopped trying to cram her jumper into the small bag. “We’re all going to Diagon Alley tonight to celebrate surviving the first week. And by the looks of things.” Katie glanced down at the mistreated item in Ginny’s hands. “You need a little break.”
“That obvious?” Ginny laughed. She’d promised the evening to Harry and honestly she’d rather be with him, but he’ll understand that she needed to spend time with her teammates. Or she hoped he’d understand. “I just need to send an owl to say that I’ll be going out.”
“Great,” Katie smiled. “We really would like to get to know you a little better.”
“This week hasn’t really been designed to build friendships.” Ginny laughed and the women around her joined in.
“We don’t call this Gwenog’s Week of Hell for nothing,” Victoria, the team captain and oldest player, joked. She was also one of the finest Chasers in the league and had led the Harpies to the final four years ago. She would’ve been Ginny’s favourite player if not for Harry.
“All Harpies go to hell. I’m just warming them up,” Gwenog laughed from her office door and everyone cheered. Ginny felt herself relax. She’d become worried over the week, but for the first time the team acted like a group of friends and not just teammates.
“Joining us, Gwenog?” Samantha asked and Ginny was struck again at how small the woman was for a Beater. Not that she was small, but Beater’s tended to be bulky. The other Beater, Catherine, was only slightly bigger. Catherine’s second cousin Alicia had played with Fred and George for Gryffindor and her brother, Mitchum Spinnet, plays for the Cannon’s.
The coach shook her head. “You go ahead, Ladies. I’m seeing someone dear to my heart tonight.” Her eyes shone with amusement and the entire team cheered as she disappeared.
“I really wonder about this mystery guy.” Katie spoke to Ginny as they made their way out of the stadium to the Apparation point. “She’s always going off to meet some wizard we’ve never seen.” Katie stopped her. “Didn’t you have an owl to send?”
“It’s fine.” Ginny worried a bit, but Harry was an understanding guy that understood the world of Quidditch. She worried for a moment about her parents, but then shrugged it off.
The entire team appeared in Diagon Alley before making a beeline for the Windswept Broom, a favourite hangout for the team apparently. Music blared rhythmically into the evening air even before they opened the door. Through the lit windows Ginny could make out the forms of people pressed together inside.
The team quickly found, or rather evicted a group of drunken wizards from a table in the one corner and settled down around it. A waiter, who appeared both frazzled by the mass of people and star struck by the witches at the table, barely managed to take their orders.
“What you get up to now that you are free from old Hogwarts?” Katie asked Ginny. The older girl seemed to really like her. It probably came from Katie having flown with her brothers at Hogwarts, though she never said anything about it. Ginny suspected, but could never really tell if Katie had dated either Fred or George.
“I’ve been busy,” Ginny shouted in reply to get over the noise. “Gwenog had me training for a whole month already.”
“She didn’t!” Michelle, the lanky team Keeper, slammed her hand on the table in mock outrage. “She’ll have you knackered before the season starts.”
“Wasn’t that bad.” Ginny shrugged. Her throat was not going to last the evening’s shouting. “I learned a lot.”
They all nodded knowingly. The step up from school to professional had never been small. Most had a year or two of playing for a local club or in a second division team before being scouted by one of the major clubs. Even then few survived long.
Their drinks arrived and the girls fell into different conversations. It didn’t take long for the question to come along. “Seeing anyone, Ginny?” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The music faded just enough for the question to be heard by every Harpy around the table. It also did not help that she’d just taken a sip of her exotic cocktail. She choked and her cheeks reddened.
“I’ll take that as a yes!” Angelina proclaimed gleefully. “So who is the lucky bastard?”
“Or unlucky,” Samantha retorted.
“Is he a friend from your school days, or are you into older more world wise men?” This time it had been Victoria who’d spoken in a low voice.
Ginny tried to hide behind her drink. “Maybe he is just some pimple faced geek that she is too shy to talk about.” Katie made as if she swooned. “But who can stand in the way of true love.”
“He is not pimple faced nor from school!” Ginny said heatedly in defence of Harry.
“Oohhh,” Catherine laughed. “So he is Mr. Mysterious. Some guy your parents wouldn’t approve of I bet.”
“No!” Ginny protested to the whole team’s delight. “We’re…” She calmed herself enough to reply with some dignity. “We’re just keeping things quiet for now.”
“A real mystery. I love this.” Catherine continued. “So is he tall and devilishly handsome?” Ginny choked on her drink again. “He’s a looker girls! The little minx in our team has bagged her a real man and she’s not even famous yet.”
“To Ginny,” Katie lifted her glass. Her voice loud. “To bedding a man.”
Ginny felt her entire body burn. “Oh she’s really into this guy,” Catherine roared with laughter. “So tell us, Gin. What’s he do?”
“If I say then it might reveal the big secret,” Ginny evaded, while being careful to not take any sips from her drink. She’d need to keep her wits about her tonight.
All the Harpies eyes were on her. “Come on Gin. Tell us the name of the guy you’re dating!” Katie shouted, she was already tipsy.
A hand touched Ginny’s shoulder causing her to jump. Her wand was in hand and pointed at the offending person. “Ron!” She glared at him. “Don’t just sneak up on me like that.”
“You’re dating someone?” he asked with narrowed eyes. “How long were you planning on keeping this secret?”
“Until the time was right,” Ginny huffed angrily as she crossed her arms beneath her breasts. Her wand still held tightly in her fist and in clear view.
“I’ll leave you alone then,” Ron said so only she could hear. “But, Ginny.” He seemed slightly unsure of what to do now as he shifted his weigh between his feet. “Hermione asked if you could join us for dinner. I said that you would rather want to stay here, but she hasn’t spoken to you in ages.”
She bit down on her lip, but nodded. “It’ll be good to talk to her again.”
Ron made a stiff acknowledgement and turned to leave. Her whole team stared at her expectantly. “Brothers!” Ginny growled. “I’m sorry, ladies. Mystery guy will have to wait. I’ve been ordered by my future sister-in-law, I hope, to join them for dinner.”
The Harpies frowned in frustration, but soon they were all cheering drunkenly again. She hugged each goodnight before leaving to find Ron and Hermione who stood waiting by the door. Together they found a much quieter restaurant and sat down.
“So how has training been going?” Hermione asked in rapid excitement. “Ron’s been telling me how tough it’s been for you this past month.”
“Very,” Ginny agreed. “I’ve barely had a moment to myself.”
“Not busy enough if you ask me,” Ron said bitterly as he scowled at the menu.
“Ron!” Hermione admonished. “She’s allowed a boyfriend. Merlin knows she’s been alone her whole life.”
“Hey, she kissed that one bloke in sixth year,” Ron protested. “That was enough contact.”
“It was a stupid kiss because someone tricked us with some mistletoe.” Ginny shivered at the memory. “This is different, Ron. He cares for me.”
Hermione’s eyebrow rose and Ginny could see the considering look in her friend’s gaze. “So this is serious.”
“I think so.” Ginny nodded.
Ron muttered something under his breath again. “So when do we get to meet him?” Hermione asked hopefully. “I would love to see the man who’s wormed his way past your defences.” The unspoken past hung in the air briefly.
Ginny bit her lip nervously again. “It’s a bit complicated at the moment.” She searched for the most believable lie or partial truth. “We’re trying to keep things quiet.”
“Why?” Ron asked angrily and Ginny could see that Hermione was just as put out by the answer as him. “What you hiding?”
“We’re not hiding anything, Ron!” Ginny replied heatedly. “Like I said it’s just complicated at the moment.”
“I know Gwenog doesn’t like her players dating, but surely you can tell us.”
Ginny shook her head. “I’m sorry, but I’m sure I’ll be able to talk about it in a few weeks or a month.”
Hermione, trusting as always, accepted the answer. Ron appeared a bit more torn. “Promise you won’t tell mum.” Ginny pleaded. “The two of us need time to sort things out. We need the time, Ron.”
His face contorted, grew red then purple. “If you tell them then it might destroy everything we’ve built. Please, Ron, promise.”
He fidgeted with the napkin on the table. Every part of his being appeared in conflict, but eventually the tension vanished slightly and he nodded. “I don’t like this, but I trust you, Ginny. Just remember if this guy ends up hurting or shaming you...” He let the threat hang in the air.
Ginny laughed, letting all her fears go, and hugged her brother. “Thanks, Ron.”
“Just don’t expect me to like the idea.”
“So, moving along from me,” Ginny continued on a much happier note. “How are things developing between the pair of you?”
Ron’s ears turned red like any good Weasleys. “He’s just being modest in front of you,” Hermione whispered conspiratorially to Ginny. “Things are going well.”
“Very well,” Ron managed to say. It surprised Ginny when he reached across the table to take hold of his girlfriend’s hand.
“I’m glad for the two of you.” Ginny said raising her glass.
“And for you and your new guy,” Hermione replied as she clinked her glass with Ginny’s.
“So do I know him?” Ron mumbled as he too clinked his glass with Hermione’s and Ginny’s.
Ginny made as if she were deep in thought. “You know who he is and you have seen him.”
Her brother frowned. “Hmmm, I’ll have to do some thinking.”
“Stop trying to figure everything out. Your sister’s private life is not some case for you to solve.”
Ron looked gobsmacked. “Did you just tell me to not solve something?” His eyes were wide with disbelief. He even looked at his half empty glass. “The waiter better bring more of this stuff.”
Hermione narrowed her lips, but her amusement was plain to see. Ron continued to mumble until the sound of a foot connecting a shin came from beneath the table. He pouted like only her brother could. “Oh, alright. I’m just looking out for her you know.” He bent down to rub his leg. “That was bloody sore, Hermione.”
Ginny wanted to laugh, but her brother’s love and devotion made her stop. “I know, Ron. But you can believe me when I say that he is a decent bloke.”
“You didn’t meet him in some club with your girl buddies from earlier, did you?”
Ginny laughed. “No, I did not meet him at some random club. In fact, we had been floating around one another for a while before dating. So I knew him to be different.”
“Alright,” he said throwing his arms up in the air. “I believe you. This guy is half decent and might be sort of worthy, by a hair I say, of you.”
Ginny glanced across at Hermione. “He’ll be for and against the bloke until after the wedding,” Hermione joked.
“Merlin, Ginny! You’re not seriously considering marrying the guy already?”
Ginny stroked her ring finger slowly. “You never know. Bells might be ringing soon.”
“Bloody hell, let me at this tosser now,” Ron mock scowled. “How will he know how to throw a decent bachelors without Fred and George.” He paled slightly. “Merlin forbid Percy organizing it.”
“That would be perfect.” Both Hermione and Ginny agreed in unison.
“Just imagine, Ginny, a bachelors where the groom sat reading laws on marriage.”
“If only such a perfect event existed,” Ginny sighed blissfully.
Hermione gave Ron a dangerous stare. “You weren’t thinking of anything your mother wouldn’t approve of.”
Ron fiddled with his napkin again. “No, of course not. Just a good wizards night with a pint or two. You know, a manly bonding session, nothing funny. What do you think of me, Hermione?”
“I know enough to keep Fred and George as guests only.” Ginny said with a raised eyebrow.
"And that's dangerous enough," Hermione added.
After the first round of drinks, Ron excused himself to get another drink.
“So,” Hermione leaned closer to Ginny. “Is there anything you’ll be willing to tell me.”
Ginny shook her head regretfully. “Not really. He’s older than me, four or five years I think. I haven’t really asked his exact age. Hermione,” Ginny’s voice became deadly serious. “There is something really different about him. I think he really understands me.”
“How so?” Her friend asked.
Ginny chewed her lip, wondering how much she should say. “He fought in the war. I know that he was tortured by Death Eaters.”
“Really?” Hermione sounded surprised.
“I can see it in his eyes. He has been through some tough things. I’m still not sure of what exactly, but I think he might be the first person who can truly begin to understand what I went through in my first year.”
“If he really is a decent guy and if he really can relate to what you went through, then I think you’ve found yourself a keeper.”
Ginny smiled. “We have a way to go, but I really think I might have found the guy.”
Ginny went home with Ron. Rather she dragged her brother’s tired and drunken body towards the Burrow.
Both her parents sat outside waiting. “You’ve decided to come home,” her mother said with slight agitation.
“So…rr…y,” Ron hiccupped. "My... fau... lt."
“I’ll just put him inside,” Ginny managed to say as she heaved her brother up the porch steps and into the living room. When he was asleep she went back outside to sit beside her parents. “Sorry, the team wanted to have a little get together. It was such a rush I forgot to let you know that I'd be very late.”
“Oh, that’s okay,” her father said from beside her mother. His arm was wrapped tightly around her. “Your mother is just having a hard time adjusting to you being a grown woman.”
“I’m sorry, mum,” Ginny said to her mother. “It’s just been so hectic these past few weeks. So much has happened and I’ve learned so much. And with the season only three weeks away we need to become a team.”
“I know, dear,” her mother replied. She sniffed and wiped at her moist cheeks. “I’ve just been edgy these past few days. I think I better go up to bed.”
“Night, mum.” Ginny hugged her mother and watched as she disappeared into the house.
“She is just a bit confused,” he said once they were alone. “After having raised seven children it’s a bit hard to stop mothering them.”
Ginny could only nod in agreement. “I’ll really try to be more open about my whereabouts.”
“No need for that, Ginny.” He patted her knee and smiled. “You are eighteen and a witch that can come and go as she pleases. Your mother, and even I at times, just need to remember that you’re not our little princess anymore.”
“Thanks, dad.” She hugged him tightly. It always felt good to be held by him. There was something strong and comforting about having a father’s protection. She always felt safe and comfortable near him. It felt similar with Harry, she realized. When he held her, or when her head rested on his chest, she felt this same comfort and protection. Then again with Harry there was also so much more. Her father pulled away.
“What your mother would also like is for you to bring your boyfriend over for dinner.”
“What?” Ginny said in alarm. “What makes you think there’s a guy in my life.”
He chuckled. “We’re not idiots, Ginny. We may be old and senile, but we can still see the signs of love. It was the same with Bill just after he met Fleur, Fred with his new girlfriend, Ron with Hermione. And you, my little girl, are the most obvious of the lot.”
“Really?” she moaned, not wanting to believe.
“It radiates from you. Your eyes are alive and you have an extra bounce in your step. Honestly, I would like to meet the man who makes my little girl so happy.”
Ginny rested her head against her father’s shoulder. “I hope you get to meet him soon too, dad. To quote Hermione. ‘I think you’ve found yourself a keeper.’”
“Then bring him here.” He pushed slightly. “We won’t bite.”
She sat up straighter. “Not just yet. We need to talk a few things through before we reach that stage.”
He looked slightly unhappy, but nodded. “I understand. But can you at least tell me who he is?”
She moved slightly closer to him and he wrapped an arm around her shoulder. Somehow he always made her feel small, but in a good way. “Do you know of any young men who fought in the Order? I know he was tortured or at least badly hurt by Death Eaters during the war.”
“Ginny, the war ended over four years ago. No men your age fought.”
“He’s about four years older than me,” Ginny explained. Her father’s arm tensed slightly then relaxed again.
“There were a few, yes.”
“He fought in the war. He’s good man, dad.” She urged and was rewarded with a warm smile. “I’ll bring him as soon as I can, but I need your trust and mum’s.”
“We’ve always trusted and believed in you, Ginny.” He held her tight.
They sat in silence for another few minutes watching the moon and stars until Ginny bid goodnight and made to go inside. Ginny turned to study him, but he remained sitting outside, his mind somewhere far away.
Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed the chapter, even though it was slightly more of a transition chapter with a look at the Harpies.
The next few chapters promise to have more romance, angst, action, heroism, Quidditch, love, kisses, shock, annoying commentators, interviews, stars, evil wizards, confusion, surprises, confessions, questions, tears, laughs, Weasleys in all forms, fights, flying, rolls, dives, stunners and healers, and umm might have missed some.
Sorry, I just had to get you all excited. And yes, I can be evil when I want to be.
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