Chapter 23 : A Day at the Matches
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The older man wiped at a few beads of sweat on his forehead. “Almost there.” He gritted his teeth while pushing against the rune covered slab of smooth rock on the ground. “Just need to get this last one aligned and it’s always the last one that’s tricky.”
Harry watched on intently. Bill would strain his muscles to move the slab less than an inch, check some calculations, then move it again. The process seemed to be dragging on forever. Watching him work made Harry realise that he would never want Bill’s job.
“How’s the process going, boys?” Harry bit back a retort as the Minister of Sport strode into the small room housing the last of the warding stones.
“It’s almost done,” Bill growled. “Setting up the Harpies stadium was already a day’s work.”
Patrick laughed. “It’s all for a good cause, Bill.”
The older Weasley did not look up, instead continued to methodically work the stone into place. It took another ten minutes of hard labour before he sighed and sat back.
A distinct but soft vibration radiated from the stone. “I assume it’s working.”
“Yes.” Bill stood. “We should get to the control runes.”
“Excellent.” Patrick clapped eagerly. “I will be in charge of this one I assume.”
Bill did not look pleased. “That is the arrangement, yes. I will of course be at the Harpies game.”
“Very good. This will allow me to fully come to terms with this…” His hands waved about. “Magic.”
Harry followed behind the two, eager to see the ward in action. They climbed up the stadium to a room beside the commentator’s booth. It provided an unspoiled view of every corner of the stadium.
The Minister of Sport hurried across to the table where a small slab lay with numerous complex runes. “So you say I just have to place my hand over a certain rune to activate the desired intensity.”
Bill nodded stiffly. The other man grinned then placed a hand over a large rune to the right. “Wait!” Bill cried out. “Start with a lesser ward.”
“Why, don’t you trust your own work?”
“Of course I do, but with this kind of power you don’t fool around. You could kill people down there.”
The man laughed. “I’m sure you are exaggerating.” He turned to look out the window and placed his hand over the last rune again.
Bill’s lips moved, mimicking choice words he dared not utter aloud. The feeling of power in the air intensified, but as suddenly as it came it vanished. A sigh of relief escaped the Weasley’s lips.
“What happened?” Patrick shouted; a small vein along his neck began to pulse. “I don’t feel anything!”
Harry and Bill took a step backwards. “You’re not supposed to. When the required ward strength is reached the power is consumed by the stones. You won’t feel a thing until you try walking through it.”
The Minister of Sport stared at Bill for a few long seconds, then nodded. “Most ingenious.” Patrick turned away and placed his hand on the stone again; this time on the first rune. The power in the air intensified for a brief moment then vanished. “Is it off?”
“Yes,” Bill answered. “Only the basic stadium wards are active now.”
The Minister of Sport looked to be deep in thought. “Are you saying that no one outside of this room would know in what setting the stones are?”
The red haired man rolled his eyes. “That is the point of these wards.”
Patrick clapped his hand together in satisfaction. “I assume that will be all. You can go back to the Harpies stadium.” Bill stood motionless, unsure of what to do. “That will be all, Mr Weasley.” He faced Harry. “You can go as well. Nothing more for you to see.”
Harry turned and left the room alongside Bill. “Why do I have this bad feeling?”
“Because people shouldn’t be touching things they don’t understand,” Bill replied angrily. “The man’s a first class fool.”
Harry could only nod. “I just hope he doesn’t blow this stadium sky high.”
Bill did not laugh. “Don’t joke, Harry. Those stones can do more damage than even you can comprehend.”
“Then why allow him access?”
“Power gets in the way of wisdom.” Bill veered away angrily. “Good luck, Harry.”
“Bill,” Harry called out. The older man stopped.
“You know I want Ginny to win today.”
The man nodded. “But you’d rather she not be in the final.”
Harry ran a hand guiltily through his hair. “Is that wrong of me?”
Bill came to stand before Harry and placed a hand on his shoulder. “No. I think some part in all of us would prefer her to fail.”
Harry shook his head. “But she’s too bloody stubborn to lose.”
“Well.” Bill shrugged. “You wanted to marry a Weasley.”
Harry stared up into the man’s eyes. “I’ll look after her.”
Bill nodded, then walked away.
“It’s that day of the year again, Bobby!”
“Indeed it is, Peter. So if you were born yesterday or been stuck at Hogwarts reading notes then let us inform you.”
“Today is of course the important semi-finals. A day in which both games are played at the same time.”
“Just makes my mouth water thinking of all the great flying we get to commentate about today.”
“But there is a problem.”
“The same one as every year.”
“And that is that we only get to see half the action.”
“Indeed. Peter will be covering the Cannons and Arrows while I’ll be commentating on the Harpies and Kestrels.”
“A real shame, Bobby. I would have loved to see Weasley in her first elimination game.”
“A big thing for those of you who are new to the sport. The losing team goes home and in such pressure situations we get to witness the making or breaking of a player.”
“Those Kestrel fans will be hoping to see a star destroyed today, while the Harpies out there will be hopping on one leg, tying scarves to wrists, holding wands in wrong hands and every other laughable thing to ensure luck remains on their side.”
“Don’t be too surprised to see those Kestrel fans bobbing about as well.”
“The other question remains, Bobby. Will the Arrows be able to keep Potter at bay?”
“He is a true force to be reckoned with in these games. Pressure seems to forge him into something even more special. Tickets for the Cannon’s game were sold out in a matter of minutes with even the Arrow’s fans looking forward to seeing the master at work. What will their tactic be?”
“I think Cartwright, the Arrow’s Seeker, will want to block Potter. Keep him away from the Snitch until they can extend their lead by more than 150.”
“A tall order for Cartwright and the team, but the Arrows do have a strong set of Chasers and with Wood not playing that leaves a rookie Keeper for the Cannon’s.”
“The Cannon’s Chasers might have a mountain to Apparate up today, but with Potter in the mix they will be more comfortable than the Arrows keeping the scores similar.”
“That leaves us the Harpy Kestral game. What do you think, Peter?”
“Both teams have been stable this year. The only real unknown is Weasley.”
“That name is rolling off many tongues today, and for good reason. A surprising talent which Gwenog moulded into a real star. I just don’t know if the young woman has it in her to defy the odds and take a sixth consecutive Snitch.”
“With Potter about one might begin to think such a task reasonable, but only a handful of players in the history of the game have taken six in a row.”
“Indeed, Peter. Potter has this annoying habit of rewriting the History books. But what will the Kestrels be thinking?”
“Pressure, Bobby. Pressure is what breaks the inexperienced. They’ll be looking to extend their lead quickly and early. By keeping the Harpies behind on the scoreboard they will attempt to force the young Weasley into a mistake.”
“I can see the logic in that, Peter. The Harpies on the other hand, being led by the experienced Hughes, will be difficult to contain. Looking at current form, and the thrashing the Kestrel’s received from the Cannon’s, I feel it will be up to their Seeker, White, to win them the game and not their Chasers.”
“Merlin! Can’t the games begin? I need to know, as I am sure you do to.”
The wind blew briskly across the exposed pitch as Harry flew leisurely up to the match official and Cartwright. The blue and grey uniform of his opponent blended well with the pale cloudless sky.
Cartwright glared at Harry, who smiled back. “Still going for intimidation, Mark.”
“Are you, Potter?”
Harry yawned dramatically. “Pardon, some bug made noise, did you say something?”
The man’s scowl deepened, eyes narrowed. “Just keep your eyes open.”
“Come on, Mark. Even I need to see the Snitch before I can catch it.”
The man smirked. “Good, just keep your eyes on the little golden ball.”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Are you going to try Bludgers again?” He sighed. “You tried that two years ago.” Harry scratched his chin then tapped his nose; a wry smile in his lips. “I know.” He winked. “Don’t worry, you’re secret’s save with me, hey Mark.”
The man’s face grew red. “Just remember that I will be having the last laugh tonight.”
The whistle blew and the Snitch flew out into the broad expanse of the British countryside.
Cartwright flew off into the distance and Harry turned to begin his grid. A part of his mind remained focused on the other Seeker; something that pale uniform made unusually difficult.
“Welcome to the Harpies versus Kestrels semi-final. Unlike the brisk winds at the Cannon’s stadium the weather here is perfect for a game of Quidditch. The sky is clear and the air still.”
The radio grew silent for a brief moment. “Oh… um sorry listeners. I’m so use to having Peter by side with a remark that I completely forgot the man was a hundred miles away. Seems I’m growing nuttier by the day, but I’ll blame it on pre-game tension.”
“The two teams are getting into position. The two Seekers are glaring at one another. Weasley does seem to be in control of her emotions, but White appears eager and ready for anything.”
“I know it has been mentioned before, but Weasley remains small on the back of that broom of hers. You get the feeling that you could just push her off, but the five games already played this season have proved that she is one tough lady. She…”
“The whistle blows! The game begins, both Seekers dive toward the pitch. I can only assume the Snitch dropped like a stone. By Merlin’s unmentionable under things they are diving fast. I can barely watch…” The static grew loud in the anxious wait.
“They’ve pulled out of their dives, Weasley practically touching the grass with her feet. Wow! Those two are giving each other the evil eye, but Weasley definitely got one up on White with that dive.”
“This is going to be a great battle, listeners. Those Seekers are flying for more than just a win.”
“Dear me! So enthralled, mystified by the dive of certain death I’ve missed the first goal of the game. The Harpies have managed to sneak in an early shot to take the lead.”
“This is going to be a long game and my throat is already going dry, but by gosh it’s worth it!”
“Hughes’ got the Quaffle, she dodges a well-aimed Bludger only to pass to Bell…”
The minutes flew by slowly as Ginny flew along her grid. The ever elusive Snitch proved nearly impossible to sight today. Harry had warned her about the Snitch and that she should not lose faith in her abilities. According to him it always remained hidden during the first hour or so of an elimination game.
She took a brief moment to look across the pitch towards White. The man was searching aggressively; moving rapidly along his search pattern.
Ginny pulled up on her broom and slowly moved away from her grid. White immediately noticed the change in direction. His eyes would be narrowed behind those goggles, while dancing about in attempt to see what would have caused her to change path.
Her eyes moved away from him and began to roam around the stadium. The pre-game flight, as always, helped settle nerves and acclimatise senses to the mass of witches and wizards in their multi-coloured robes around the field.
The beating of her heart had settled over the past half-hour. The Harpies were doing well, the lead already nearing a hundred. The thought did not provide much comfort, anything below one hundred and fifty and they would still lose if Ginny failed.
White rocketed past the distracted Ginny. She dove down after him, hoping that she’d not missed the Snitch.
“A physical contest as I’ve never seen before. Cartwright is really trying to hammer Potter into the ground. But you know as well as I do that Potter does not flinch away from contact.”
The radio crackled. “The Cannon’s are slowly extending their lead, even though their rookie Keeper has let in a few easy goals. But a few calming words from the all experienced Potter seemed to have settled the lads anxiety and since then he has been performing admirably.”
Harry calmly circled around the pitch. Cartwright had been flying hard, his physical attitude had already seen the Snitch scarper away two times. Just as Harry was about to move onto a new pattern a small glint of gold caught his eye for the third time during the game.
Remaining calm, he gradually looped his way to the far side of the pitch where the Snitch tried to remain inconspicuous. He edged closer, careful to not make his intentions known. Harry bit down hard on his jaw, Cartwright had seen the Snitch.
Harry leaned down against the handle of his broom and dropped into a steep dive to gain momentum. The small Snitch, realising hiding was no longer an option, veered away. Harry kept his eyes on the ball, while trying to keep tabs of the near invisible pale blue uniform, but Cartwright had vanished.
The Snitch was coming closer. The Horizon jerked, then appeared upside down. A moment later pain coursed through his body. Harry blinked, trying to focus on something solid. The hoops came in and out of focus. The sound of the crowd shouting in protest barely registered. He looked up at his broom, now hovering, his right hand clutched the handle while his legs remained wrapped around. With a heave, he righted himself, but his left shoulder throbbed angrily.
The Snitch was gone. Glancing around, Harry saw no immediate threat. The Chasers and Beaters were still playing hard, but on the far side of the field. A shadow passed over him, Cartwright. Harry scowled, but there was nothing to be done about the foul play.
Ginny reached out and caught the golden ball moments before it could dodge to the side and away from her clutching fingers. The full impact of the very familiar and comforting feel of metal against her palm took a moment to register. Then the broad Weasley smile emerged. “We won!” The cry of elation left her mouth as she held the glittering Snitch in the air.
The stadium became alive with the shouts of the fans. They were shouting her name and those of all her fellow teammates. The Harpies were going to the final. As she landed there remained only one question; would they be playing against the Cannons?
Victoria was the first of the Harpies to land beside her. “Ginny!” The woman shouted even before her arms could wrap around the small form that was Ginny. “Never doubted you for a minute!” The rest of the players streamed in from all parts of the field. Soon even Gwenog found herself in the middle of a sea of dark green jerseys and shouting Harpies. Eventually the team’s celebrations began to die down, but the supporters kept on going. If anything they only seemed to be getting more excited.
A magically enhanced voice boomed over the stadium and field. Peter, the commentator spoke. “I’ve received news from the other semi-final. In a complete rout the Cannons devastated the Kestrels and took the game comfortably 510 to 210. The poor Kestrels were left scratching their heads. I’ll patch you through to Bobby, who is covering the game.”
Ginny almost leapt into the air, but a firm hand on her shoulder kept the ground in contact with her feet. “There’ll be time for celebrations later, Ginny. For now we must look mournful.”
“Right,” Ginny nodded, suddenly sombre. “We had a much better chance against the Kestrels. But beating the Cannons will be so much better!”
The enhanced voice crackled and then Bobby came through loud and clear. “Quite a remarkable game witnessed here today at the Cannons stadium. Potter, though battered and bruised by what many would call foul play from Cartwright, led a well-coordinated and motived team in a decisive victory that showed all the hallmarks of a team who knows what it means to win. This team has won their past 34 games and will look to add number 35 and a trophy in a few weeks’ time.”
Ginny wondered about the foul play, but it sounded like the sort of bruises Harry brought home after every game. The man was a flying disaster area really. Gwenog harrumphed, breaking Ginny’s thoughts. “They aren’t going to take that trophy from us!” Ginny surprised herself by saying loudly.
“Damn right those egotistical Cannons won’t take what is ours!” Victoria shouted.
Katie leaned back and shouted. “Harpies!”
The entire team joined her for a second shout. In a matter of moments the entire stadium began to chant the team’s name. With arms wrapped around her teammates, Ginny found herself having the time of her life. All she needed now to make the moment perfect was to have Harry beside her cheering along.
Those cheers lasted only a few minutes. A loud boom echoed around the stadium. Every voice went silent. Wands were being drawn as every Harpy had hers attached to a wrist as the new laws decreed for safety.
“What was that?” Katie asked.
It was the voice of Bobby who answered from the Cannon’s game. “Merlin! It sounded like the stadium wards had been blown to smithereens. I dare say what are those men doing? The stadium is off limits! Bloody hell a shock wave just smashed into the players. They’re down…”
Ginny’s blood froze. Beside her Gwenog had much the same reaction, but hers seemed better contained. “Harry!”
Ginny’s feet began moving even before her mind could register what it was that she wanted to do.
“Where are you going, Ginny?” Gwenog shouted from behind. “You’ll get yourself killed, girl!”
Ginny ignored the words. Instead she hurtled past security and spectators who were looking around in horror. There was no time for pleasantries; instead she shouldered her way through the thick mass of people. She had to reach the Apparition point. The moment she stepped into the ward free zone, she disappeared and emerged to the sound of thousands of people screaming. Feet pounded loudly as many tried to flee the scene.
Ginny had one destination in mind — Harry. She could only get so far before being thrown back violently by the wards. Had it not been for the firm arms of Victoria, Ginny would have had a painful connection with a stadium seat.
“Thanks,” Ginny muttered.
“No problem,” her captain replied, faced worried. “What are we to do?”
“Get to the ward stone. Bill mentioned it being near the commentator’s booth.”
“Lead the way.”
Harry had just begun to relax and beginning to wish that he was with Ginny celebrating their wins when he felt rather than saw something wrong. The stadium wards vibrated in the manner which indicated that the setting had changed. He casually turned around, wand already in hand, and studied the boisterous crowd of orange clad supporters. Peter’s voice still echoed around the stadium as he commented about the Harpies game, which sounded like it had gone well.
Nothing seemed out of place or amiss. Harry was about to re-join the team’s celebrations when a loud blast reverberated through his body and the stadium as a whole.
“Get down!” Harry shouted at his fellow Cannons players. They dropped to the floor, more from surprise than his command.
For a brief moment the ward around the field blurred and then winked out of existence. A few seconds later it snapped back up into place. A powerful surge of magical energy came rushing towards him. With wand in hand, Harry raised a shield. Behind him the Cannon’s and Arrow’s players were not so fortunate.
He turned, only to witness them being thrown backwards by the intense concentration of magical energy. When the wave hit the Goblin ward behind the players it dissipated, it left nothing behind but a pile of unconscious bodies. Harry bit down hard, drawing blood from a lip caught between teeth, hoping they were not dead.
Only then did he notice the men in robes of black. They wore masks bearing mocking grins, but there was nothing funny about the people behind them. Their wands were poised and each looked ready to kill. Harry counted a few times, there were six. Long blonde hair, peeked out from under a hood.
“Malfoy!” Harry screamed. “You dare come here!”
The first reply was a laugh. The second a blazing green spell that was cast for one reason only. Harry stepped aside, noticing how soft the ground was beneath his feet. His left shoulder remained numb.
The odds were not looking good as the men began to spread out. Harry took a deep, calming breath. It failed to settle his nerves. His skin already glistened with sweet making it difficult to get a firm grip on the wand. At least time would be on his side; only the first few minutes needed to be survived. Patrick would disable the ward.
“Why will you not die like a man, Potter? Stand still and face it like you deserve.”
Harry bent his knees, lowering his body and poising himself to react. “What do you wish to gain, Malfoy. Voldemort won’t return if you kill me, even though I ended his.”
“Don’t use that name!” Malfoy shouted in outrage. Then his voice softened. “No, but I can snuff out your miserable existence.”
A snarl could be heard coming from the group. Malfoy raised his hand. Spells flew towards Harry; six multi-coloured beams of light. Each one meant to injure, torture, but not kill. Harry flicked a firm shield into existence and the first barrage of spells blossomed against its outer edge; forming a soft blue glow around him. The force of the first five spells knocked Harry backwards and towards the soft grass. The sixth, a cutting hex, managed to slip through the weakened barrier.
The spell cut deeply into his upper left thigh. The leg went numb, then buckled. The ground came up slowly to meet Harry. The pain he knew would follow. Red blood began to pour from where the curse had sliced his skin. The burning, then ice cold sensation hit him like a blow to the stomach forcing a loud cry from his lips. Sweat beaded, then dropped from his forehead. His hands trembled.
There was no time to wrap or contain the loss of blood. Biting down hard, he managed to raise an unsteady arm. Red stunning spells blossomed out from the tip of his wand, which like before felt cold and alien unlike his own. The rays of light sought out the robed figures bearing down on what they had thought a defeated man.
Their minds, stuck on offensive spells, could not conjure shields. Three men dropped to the ground, motionless as the stunners hit them against the chest. Harry stood, blood flowing freely now, and hobbled backwards in attempt to keep a fair distance between the remaining three and himself.
The Death Eaters struck out with greater fervour, but with only three spells to block Harry’s survival became increasingly more likely. Malfoy raised a hand, the men stopped then steadied themselves.
Harry frowned before letting loose a few more spells. Malfoy and one of his henchmen were prepared. Their shields snapped into place with relative ease. The third, still blinded by some unseen hatred stood exposed, the red bar of light knocked him a few feet back. He lay unmoving, like his companions.
For the first time since the fight had begun Malfoy hesitated. The effective wand in Harry’s hand was no doubt unexpected. The Death Eater’s command faltered. The man to his right sent a quick questioning glance. It was the opportunity that Harry had been waiting for, but the stunner sent was blocked.
Harry, still staggering, edged away. Malfoy’s dark eyes glared back. The fight was far from over, there would be no escape for the loser. The two former Death Eaters grew determined and sent a barrage of killing curses. Through the searing pain of his leg, Harry managed to dance around each. The Avada Kedvra might be able to kill, but it was not the quickest spell to conjure; as such it made preparing for it easy in comparison to more basic hexes.
He danced about while building his magical reserve. When he struck, he struck hard and swiftly. In the time it took to blink, Harry fired off a volley of six stunners. The same he’d done earlier, this time however all six were aimed at the same man. Malfoy’s shield trembled as the first spell impacted against its surface. It warped inwards when the second hit. The third stretched it to near breaking allowing the fourth to tear it to shreds. The fifth slammed into Malfoy’s left shoulder, while the final spell bombarded into the man’s chest. For a brief moment shock registered in the eyes behind the mask, then they closed as the force of the impacts threw him off his feet.
Harry almost let his shoulders sag in relief, but one man remained. Patiently, Harry played a similar game with the man. A brief flurry of curses ended with the man collapsing to the floor.
For what felt like an eternity, Harry stood trying to comprehend the enormity of it all. The sounds of the screaming crowd registered briefly. His eyes remained focused on the Death Eaters, more precisely Malfoy. Could it really be over? There had to be more.
Ginny and Victoria bounded up the stairs towards the Commentator’s booth. A few wizards stepped backwards fearfully as the two witches ran past.
Breathing heavily, they reached the top. Tired, Ginny did not react to an ugly purple spell that came her way. A firm shove from behind pushed her into an empty room across from the stairs.
Spinning round, she saw Victoria standing with her back to the wall. Her face set with determination. “Keep your eyes open, Ginny.”
She nodded. Carefully, Ginny looked around the edge, a red spell came closer. Ducking back into the room the spell exploded against the door frame. Wood splintered and cut at exposed skin.
“Cover me,” Victoria whispered. Ginny gestured that she understood. Victoria gave a signal, Ginny exposed her body just enough to fire a few stunners down the hall. Victoria moved into the corridor, body perfectly aligned, then cast a powerful stunner. A loud grunt echoed from the far end of the corridor. The Harpies Captain moved back to the safety of the staircase. “Good work, Ginny.”
“Nice stunner,” Ginny complemented.
Another purple spell stopped their quick chat. “My turn,” Ginny said seriously. Victoria nodded. “Now.”
Victoria came round, and fired four wild stunners down the corridor. Ginny waited, two red spells flew back. One clipped Victoria’s left shoulder. The woman spun then rolled down the stairs.
Ginny moved into the corridor and sighted the Death Eater. An angry spell tore free from her wand. It hit the surprised man squarely in the chest. A second spell threw him against the far wall where he slumped to the ground.
The world grew silent. With care, Ginny began to make her way towards the room housing the runes. She moved past the two Death Eaters laying in the hallway then entered the room. The Minister of Sport lay sprawled across the floor, covered in blood, a nasty cut on the back of his head. “Fool,” Ginny muttered.
She stepped over his prone body and placed her hand on the first rune like Bill had shown her. The stadium hummed slightly then grew still again. She bolted from the room, stopping only to wake Victoria and to ensure that she was alright.
Witches and wizards stared on in wonder as the small Harpies Seeker came running towards them. She did not stop. Harry needed her help. Her feet touched the green grass as a blinding display of curses flew from Harry’s wand. A lone Death Eater stood, but his arms buckled under the onslaught. The lights vanished leaving nothing but a man lying on the floor motionless.
Harry only returned to his senses when a concerned pair of brown eyes stared up at him. Long red hair, tied in a ponytail, made him smile.
“Ginny,” he whispered.
“It’s over, Harry.”
He closed his eyes and wrapped her in his arms. “I know.” He tilted her chin upwards and brought his lips down towards hers. A kiss had never felt so wonderful before.
The world grew quiet with her in his arms. He chanced a glance towards the stadium. Witches and wizards were staring, mouths agape. Each and every one stunned. He let out a laugh. “Think they are more surprised about the fight or the kiss?”
Ginny could not help but laugh in relief. “Guess our secret’s out.”
Harry leaned on her shoulder, his leg growing very weak, and watched the six Death Eaters being rounded up by Order Members. “Let the world know how much I love you, Ginny.”
The players who’d dropped to the floor were only now getting to their feet. They all seemed to be fine, if a little shaken. The entire fight, Harry estimated had taken little over five minutes. It had ended before many people had even realised that it had begun.
The team Healers and Aurors had come onto the pitch. But it was not them that held Harry’s attention. The Kestrels players looked on with confusion. The Cannons merely watched knowingly. Perhaps the strangest of all was the high pitched squeals coming from Bobby, who was on the edge of the pitch, as he tried to explain the presence of the Harpies Seeker in Harry’s arms.
In the end none of it mattered. People could stare, they could gossip as much as they wanted. Harry did not mind. What he needed was with him. Hair, matted and wild from her game. Eyes, bright brown, filled with love. Freckles that marked her as unique and special.
He winced as his leg gave in slightly. “Healer!” Ginny shouted.
“I’m fine,” he tried to say.
She huffed. “As if I’m going to believe you.” She scowled at his leg. “You’ve lost a lot of blood, Harry.”
For a moment it looked like she was going to slap him, her eyes watered. “You get yourself fixed, Potter! I’m not having you die on me now. Not after what I had to witness a few minutes ago!”
He dropped his head. “I’m sorry.”
“Healer!” Ginny shouted again. He remained silent as the Cannon’s Healer came running towards them.
The man began to methodically patch Harry’s leg. In the distance Bobby’s voice rang out across the field and probably to every wizarding home in Britain. Ginny sat beside him on the damp ground, holding his hand in support. No one else dared to approach after Ginny had chased the first group of reporters away.
Harry let out a laugh, and Ginny grinned. “What?”
“The secret’s really out.” She laughed as her head came to rest against his shoulder. Her gaze went out to the crowd. “So, do you want to go out with me to Diagon Alley, Miss Weasley?”
“Are you asking me out on a date, Mr Potter?”
“I suppose I am, Miss Weasley.”
She made as if to think. “I’d like that very much, Harry.”
He leaned over, careful not to move his leg where the Healer was still working, and pulled her into another long kiss. The crowd roared somewhere in the distance and Bobby’s voice rose even higher.
They broke apart, panting. “I think the crowd approves.”
“Either that or they’re all jealous.”
“They have a right to be, because I’m the luckiest wizard alive to have you.” She blushed, bit her lip, but could do nothing but shake her head.
Aurors stood guard around the Death Eaters who were already bound, disarmed and unmasked. None had woken yet, and the Aurors were not about to let them wake. The Order Members among them were hardened veterans, men who’d fought in the war and lost family and friends. Their hard eyes glared at the men sprawled before them. Malfoy seemed the most hated. They had been over optimistic the first time Malfoy had been caught, but this time Harry felt sure that there would be no returning. The stay in Azkaban would be for life.
Near the edge of the pitch the Minister of Sport stood on unsteady legs, dried blood on face and clothes as he talked animatedly to Bobby.
“Looks like he had a rough time of it.”
Ginny could only nod. “Serves him right for doubting my brother.”
Patrick walked gingerly out onto the pitch. His head hurt from where he’d cursed himself to avoid being questioned about the runes. His eyes lingered on Potter. His line of vision was suddenly cut-off by a very annoying Bobby.
“Former Death Eaters trying to kill Potter then Weasley snogs him! Merlin what else have we been missing this season folks! But I’ve got the Minister of Sport here with me. Minister, it seems that you’ve been through the wars yourself today.”
Patrick put on the fake smile that had kept him at the Ministry over the years. Inside his hatred was beginning to boil. “Those ruddy Death Eaters took me from behind while I was personally overseeing the security of the stadium. New wards being tested and all so I wanted to make sure everything would be handled properly.”
“Why were new wards being tested?” the bubbly man asked eagerly. Patrick felt like strangling the small reporter.
“It has been part of our long term commitment to keeping the players safe. Since the attack on the young Weasley earlier this year we at the Ministry have been working hard to improve safety.”
“With good reason it would appear.”
“One more question, Minister. Is it true that Potter… um… you know… killed You-Know-Who.”
A hateful laugh escaped Patrick’s lips. He stared at Potter sitting on the grass with Aurors and Healers scurrying about. “I think that secret is finally out of the bag. Though, before you ask, I had no knowledge of this apparent relationship with the Harpies Seeker.”
His eyes snapped to Victoria, who seemed a bit unsteady, and a small group of Harpies who’d just arrived at the stadium. He hated that team, if only he could have gotten rid of them instead of Potter.
“The man does seem to be full of secrets. Thank you for your time Minister. We wish you a full and quick recovery from your injuries.”
Patrick pushed past the small commentator, the man practically falling, but his loud voice continued to make a noise. “Well that is it for today people. The Cannons and Harpies win and will meet each other in the final in little more than a month.”
Patrick strode away from the reporter. People ignored him as he walked, but he knew it would not take long for damning evidence to brought against him, but it would come. He snarled inwardly, his hateful glare focused on Potter and his little woman. He spat, another Harpy. He kept his face serene as he continued to march across towards them.
The Healer left and Ginny let go of Harry to stand as the Minister of Sport approached. “Afternoon, sir,” she greeted stiffly, not at all pleased with the way the man had managed the wards.
He pushed her roughly to the side with his large strong arms. She stumbled and fell, hearing only the man snarl, “Potter.”
A wand appeared in the man’s hand. Harry lay defenceless, skin suddenly pale and body weak from the rough game, duel and healing. Ginny jumped to her feet, only to realise no time remained to use a wand. In a foolish gambit she dove forwards, careful to aim for the man’s legs. Having brothers paid off for the first time.
Her shoulder slammed into Patrick’s knee, catching the man by surprise. A sickening crunch resounded from the region of the joint. The formidable man stumbled and then came crashing to the floor. Ginny followed, her face ploughing into ground beside him. She let go, face covered in mud, and moved as nimbly as her smaller form allowed.
The man, lying on the floor, looked up in surprise. He still held onto his wand. “What do you think you are doing!” she shouted out in rage.
Pure hatred showed on his face; lips were parted in a growl, showing a perfect set of white teeth. “You foolish child. I’ll kill you alongside your precious Potter.”
He tried to move his wand arm; she was not having any of it. Her foot moved in a blur. Another crunch echoed as it connected with the man’s nose. It broke, spraying blood onto the grass. The kick did not stop the large man from jumping to his feet.
It was too late; her wand remained in its holster as his large hands closed around her neck. She could feel the pressure being applied. Just as the pressure began to grow too much his eyes went blank and he slumped to the ground. Behind where the man had stood, Ginny saw Victoria wand arm outstretched.
“Thanks,” Ginny coughed out, while struggling to breath.
“We look after each other, Ginny,” the woman grinned. “And I can’t go lose my star Seeker before the final. Who else is going to kick Potter’s backside?”
Ginny managed a weak smile.
“Thanks, Victoria,” Harry said from the ground. “You really do have talent with a wand.”
The Harpies Captain came closer and pulled Ginny into an embrace. “You’re just lucky I check on my girls.” She eyed Patrick on the floor. “Besides, I always wanted to hex the bastard.”
Harry stood awkwardly. “At least we know what happened to the wards.” He encircled his arms around Ginny as Victoria let go. “Remind me to never play rugby with you.”
“Rugby?” Ginny asked.
He rolled his eyes. “Muggle sport where people tackle each other. There’s a ball involved. Very rough.”
Her eyes glimmered. “So when’s the game.”
He laughed. Victoria shook her head. “She’ll be the death of you yet, Potter.”
This was the longest chapter of the story so far and I really, really hope you enjoyed it. Please leave a comment. I know there are many more of you reading this than have commented. I’d love to know what you’re thinking.
With this part all wrapped up we can focus purely on the wedding and then the all-important final… the real reason for this story! I’m hoping to make the final something special… but we’ll see.
I said earlier that I shuffled some things around. What I changed was moving the attack from the final to the semi-final. At first I thought, yes, let’s make it one supper climactic final, but no.
When I began writing the wedding and the final I realised that Malfoy was taking too much away from what I intended. This story is about Harry and Ginny and the build-up to the final. With Malfoy out of the way I can write the final focusing only on the battle between our two main characters, thus making it much more enjoyable. I realised that instead of one massive climax, all you would be getting would be a complete mess of scenes during which nothing would be resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.
I also considered leaving Patrick’s reveal until the final. Again, I felt that this would steal the spotlight from the real show. Anyway, that’s my two cents, don’t know if you agree or not.
There might be a bit of a wait before I can post the next chapter as I’ve hardly written anything in it, but hopefully it won’t be too long. Some parts of the wedding have been written as well as some parts of the final. It’s just the two filler chapters that need to be written from the ground up.
I am pretty sure there will only be four more chapters in this tale and then maybe an epilogue.
Enough rambling... Now I sit looking up with my brown puppy dog eyes and beg of you to comment… please. (Yes, my eyes are brown and yes I can use them to good effect if need be.)
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