On the last Saturday of January, Harry woke up early, grabbed his firebolt, and headed towards the quidditch pitch. As he expected, it was completely empty. There were still a couple of hours left before the members of the team would arrive, so he placed the broom between his legs, gave a hard kick on the floor, and was in the air within a second. Harry elevated himself up to the height of the keeper’s rings, and proceeded to circle the quidditch pitch. He placed himself in front of the three rings and pretended to be protecting these from an invisible quaffle.
After a while of practicing some flying techniques, Harry landed and went to Gryffindor’s locker room, and took out the trunk containing all of the quidditch balls that Madam Hooch had left for the team to use. Harry took the golden snitch, went outside and released it. He waited a few seconds to give the snitch time to disappear, then climbed on the firebolt and, once again, elevated himself in search for the golden ball.
Harry had caught and released the snitch about four times when he noticed that it was twenty minutes before the practice would begin. The team would be probably walking to the pitch right now. He landed and climbed off the broom, and then went to the boys’ locker rooms to take a shower and put on the team’s uniform. When he walked in the meeting room, he saw that some of the members of the Gryffindor quidditch team were already there: the beaters, Jimmy Peakes and Ritchie Coote were talking cheerfully with chaser Demelza Robins. A quiet but smiling Ron was standing in one corner of the room. The four of them looked up when Harry came in.
“Hello, Harry!” greeted Jimmy, to whom followed the greetings of Demelza and Ritchie. Ron smiled at him.
“Good morning to you all” answered Harry with a smile “How was your Christmas break?” All of their answers (except for Ron’s) came at the same time:
“It was good”
“The usual thing, you know” pointed a casual Ritchie. “What about you? How did you spend Christmas, Harry?”
“It was good as well. I spent it with the Weasleys”
In that moment, Ginny and Katie Bell came in from the girls’ locker room door, both ready for training. Harry couldn’t help noticing that Ginny looked quite attractive in her quidditch uniform, although he did his best in pretending not to care about this.
“Hello, everybody” Katie greeted cheerfully.
“We are not late, are we?” Ginny said, concerned, seeing that everyone was waiting for them. Harry looked at his watch.
“No, you are on time” he dedicated a smile to Katie and Ginny, which they returned. “Please, take a seat” After they did, Harry stood in front of them and began:
“First of all, I want to thank you for agreeing on training today so early. I know it is still very cold out there, and that the weather has not been very gentle these past days. Luckily, today seems like we will have a bit of sunlight, so I would like to take as much advantage of that as possible” he made a pause to gaze at each of them at the same time he began to pace; then he proceeded. “You may be wondering why I’ve decided to start training when the season is not even close to beginning. Well, as you all know, the team is still relatively new, and we need to learn about each other’s ways of playing. We need to familiarize ourselves with our teammates’ movements, their flying techniques, their roles. In short, we must understand and be able to work with each other’s skills in such a way that we can communicate during a match” he paused again. “So basically that will be our goal for the next few weeks. Once we achieved this goal, we will begin working on the game plans. Do you have any questions?” Everyone shook their heads. “Does everyone agree to this?” All of them nodded with excitement. “All right, then” Harry said. “Let’s get started”
The team headed to the pitch. When everyone was ready to launch, Harry released the bludgers and threw the quaffle in the air. He then climbed his own broom and followed the rest of the team. Everyone played in their original position for fifteen minutes, when Harry blew his whistle and called them to gather in.
“I see you all have been practicing” he told them with a proud smile “Good job, everyone. But now I would like you to change positions. Ron, you will play as beater with Demelza. Ginny, you’ll be the goalkeeper. Jimmy, Ritchie, and I will play as chasers, and Katie will be the seeker. We’ll play this way for about twenty minutes and then we’ll switch again. Everyone is ready?” There was a general nod and the team went to their respective places.
At the beginning they didn’t play that good. Ron would hit the bludgers in any direction with the intention of driving them away. He didn’t realize that sometimes he would hit the bludgers towards a teammate. Demelza, meanwhile, was having trouble hitting the bludgers with strength; more than being a beater, she would fly away from the bludgers as much as possible.
“Demelza, you are the one that’s supposed to chase the bludger, not the way around! Ron, we are playing on the same team, remember?” Harry reprimanded them. Ron blushed a little, and nodded.
Jimmy and Ritchie were good chasers, although Harry could tell that their role was definitely beaters, for they were not as confident when out of their comfort zone. But that would change later on. Harry observed Ginny playing as the keeper. Not surprisingly, she was very agile moving from one ring to another one to prevent the quaffle from going through these. Harry figured that by being a chaser, Ginny knew which were the common mistakes a keeper makes, and which were the key plays of the chasers. Katie wasn’t that bad either as seeker, although Harry could see the snitch appear and disappear several times before she would catch a glimpse of it and go after it.
Harry blew his whistle again.
“All right, this time Ron will be seeker, Ginny and Katie will play as beaters, Ritchie will be the keeper and Demelza, Jimmy, and I will play as chasers again. Let’s go!”
They practiced until everyone had played every position of the game. Harry learned that it would be a difficult task to take the entire team out of their comfort zone, and be comfortable with every position. But if they managed to achieve this, their confidence level would increase, and their techniques would definitely improve.
“You all did a good job” Harry said to his team, once they were on land again. “It may be difficult to play on a different position than yours. But I promise it’ll become easier as we keep practicing. Well done, everyone. We’ll meet again next Saturday” And with that everyone left to the locker rooms, took a shower and changed their clothes. As usual, Harry and Ron were the lasts in leaving the locker rooms.
“Are you ready to go?” Harry asked Ron, who looked hesitant.
“Could you check if Lavender is out there, mate?” Ron asked, avoiding his friend’s gaze.
“Um, sure” Harry went out the Gryffindor locker rooms and took a look around but no one was there.
“She’s not there, mate” he communicated to Ron, as he entered again the locker rooms. Ron looked relieved.
“All right, let’s go then” he said.
“She’s still mad with you because you didn’t sit with her on the train?” asked Harry, as they began their way towards the castle. Ron looked skeptically at Harry.
“I think she’s been mad at me ever since she woke up on Christmas’ day and saw that my gift to her was nothing”
Harry smiled at the memory of Lavender’s howler at the burrow.
“Why don’t you just break up with her?”
“Are you crazy, Harry? She sent me a howler because of a stupid Christmas present. Imagine what she would do to me if I broke up with her!” he shook his head as if trying to scare away an unpleasant thought.
“So you will just hide from her for the rest of your life?”
“No, of course not” he paused “She will eventually get tired of this”
Harry rolled his eyes but Ron didn’t see him.
“Oh, Ginny, you can’t be serious!” Hermione said, bursting out a laugh. “Harry? Interested in Cho?”
“I’m telling you, Hermione, he was staring at her” Ginny replied.
“Yeah, I saw him too, Ginny, but he only turned to see her because she was laughing very loud, and when he turned around his expression was nothing but annoyance”
“Of course it was! Besides, Cho was laughing with Michael Corner, so you don’t have to worry about anything”
They were both sitting in Gryffindor’s common room in front of the fireplace, for Ginny wanted to warm herself up after spending almost two hours outside. Ginny found Hermione reading a book when she came back from practice. She told her how the practice went, how good it felt to play quidditch again with the rest of the team…but overall, she told Hermione about how happy she felt every time she was near Harry.
Ginny felt ashamed of herself.
“I feel so stupid. I shouldn’t even be worrying about that”
“Worrying about what?”
Ginny’s heart jumped as soon as she heard Dean’s voice. She and Hermione looked up to see him standing in front of them.
“What are you so worried about?” he casually asked Ginny, who gave a nervous look to Hermione.
“Sh-she’s concerned…err…about…um… the team. Yes, that’s it! Today’s practice didn’t go very well, and she has some fears about the team not making it to the final. Isn’t that right, Ginny?”
“Yes! Absolutely” She looked up at Dean “Today we did something different from what we’re used to do. But that’s good, you know, trying new things”
Dean looked skeptic.
“Ginny, you are a great quidditch player; you have nothing to worry about! How is the rest of the team doing?” But before Ginny could answer, the portrait’s hole opened and in walked Harry and Ron. They were speaking in a low voice, but they stopped as soon as they saw Hermione, Ginny, and Dean staring at them. Ron blushed at the sight of Hermione, but he managed to smile a little at her. But Hermione did not answer the gesture; instead, she picked up her books and, without saying a word to anyone, headed to the girls’ dormitories. They all could hear the slum of a door.
“Hey, guys!” greeted Dean, but he wasn’t answered either by them, for Ron was gazing at the stairs that Hermione had just used, whereas Harry…was it Ginny’s impression, or was Harry all of a sudden mad about something? He seemed to be in a good humor when he walked in with Ron, but now his expression was completely different: he had a cold look in his eyes, and his lips were pursed.
“Are you all right, Harry” Dean asked “The practice went bad?”
“I’m fine” growled Harry, crossing the common room and heading towards the dormitory. He didn’t know if Ron had followed him, but he didn’t care. He went inside the dorm, changed his clothes, and went looking for Ron, but when he got downstairs he was nowhere to be seen. Harry figured that Lavender probably found him in the common room and took off with him.
Not even bothering in asking Ginny and Dean whether Hermione had come out of her dormitory, Harry crossed the room and went to the Great Hall to have lunch. He was half-way done with his meal, when Luna sat next to him.
“Hello, Harry” she said “you look very angry”
Harry looked up to face her. “What makes you say that?” he asked her.
She pointed at his plate. “You are stabbing your food”
Harry looked down and saw that his meal was a complete mess. Also, he was grabbing the fork and the knife so tightly, that his knuckles hurt. Harry relaxed his muscles and sighed.
“You are sad” Luna observed, as if she could see through Harry “Is someone causing you pain?”
Harry didn’t know whether to answer to her question or not. He did not need to do it, though, for at that moment the person who he’s been aching for the past months approached them.
“Hello, Ginny!” Luna replied, with a smile “Will you have lunch with us?”
“I’d love to, Luna, but I’m not very hungry. Thanks for the invitation, though” she smiled at Luna, and then turned to face Harry, whose heart had jumped when he saw her. “Harry, I wanted to apologize for what Dean said” Harry tried to look confused.
“What do you mean?” he asked. Ginny did not flinch in hiding a smile.
“You know; his comment about today’s practice. He wasn’t there, so he really had no idea about what he was saying. You don’t have to pretend with me, Harry; I know that that bothered you”
Is not that
what bothers me, thought Harry; and I do
have to pretend, for I have no other choice. He sighed and looked at Ginny in the eyes.
“It’s all right, Ginny” he said “I don’t really care about what Dean thinks or says” She smiled at him
“I’m glad to hear that” they held each other’s gaze for a very brief moment before Ginny said she would see them later and left. Harry was still holding his breath from watching Ginny’s beautiful chocolate eyes when Luna spoke. He had almost forgotten about her presence.
“Ginny is a good person, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, she is” Harry replied, unconsciously smiling to himself.
“Although she doesn’t seem very happy with Dean”
“What do you mean? Have they been fighting?”
“Almost all the time. She deserves someone better” replied Luna. Then she added, “You know, I’ve always thought that Ginny would be happy with someone she actually has fun with. Like you, for instance”
Harry looked at Luna, completely puzzled. She looked back at him and grinned.
“I pay a lot of attention to people, Harry, even though it doesn’t seem that way. And trust me; I’ve never seen Ginny more happy than when she spends some time with you, even if it is for a brief moment” Having said that, Luna stood up and left Harry alone with his happy thoughts.