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The Runaway Returns by HPForevermore
Chapter 26 : The Runaway Returns
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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The locker room appeared as though she were looking though glass that had been smeared with some oily residue.  Being the first to arrive was a good idea, or so she thought.  This place brought her some small amount of distraction over the last few weeks, but this morning's solitude only impelled her thoughts to the events of three weeks prior.  

It had been this way for twenty-one days.  He had yet to return as Luna assured her he would.  She could not clear her mind; instead, some internal clock continued to tick loudly, reverberating through her skull.  She could not keep still, nor could she engage in some constructive thing.  Her daily routines and dietary habits were suffering as a result.  She needed him here with her.  She needed to see him, just once.  That would be enough.  Just that little bit of assurance that they still stood a chance.  But the assurance had yet to materialise.  It had yet to come and the anxiety was eating her alive.

Her practise sessions since the wedding were abysmal to the point that Gwenog Jones made strong overtures aboutthe possibility of replacing her with some unknown, untested, recent Hogwarts graduate.  Her teammates tried to encourage her and divert her from her ruminations as much as they were capable, even going so far as taking her to dinner, getting her drunk, and having her sleep over at their flats and houses for most of the last three weeks.  She fought their efforts, of course, informing them that she was perfectly fine, thank you very much.  But she, and they, knew she was mendacious.

Exacerbating her angst was that fact that today was Match Day.  It would be her first truly public performance on the national stage.  And to compound her humiliation, it would take place in front of her family; those who had stood by her and encouraged her to follow this dream.  More so than on any other day since her brother's wedding, her vacuous thoughts and the waves of nausea to which she had become accustomed were overpowering her.  She had visited the loo to empty the contents of her stomach twice already.

So wrapped up was she in her personal melodrama that Ginny was not even aware that her teammates had arrived.  The tone of the locker room was significantly more tense than it had been for the last three weeks.  This was not an exercise.  Today’s match was real.  Today's match mattered; this game counted for the table.  And, more importantly, the Harpies needed to win this game handily.  The veterans on the team understood this all too well.  They, the veterans individually, and the team as a whole, needed to send a message to the rest of the league.  They needed to prove that last year’s failure to make the playoffs was an aberration, that they could still play this game at its highest levels, that their skills were not slipping, and that they were still years away from the twilight of their careers.

However, to accomplish this feat they must rely on two rookies, only one of whom had been practising at a professional level.

Ginny’s nerves were jangled into reality with several growls that were hurled in her direction, as well as a few that were not.

“Hey, Ginger!  Are you awake over there?”
“We need you today, Red.”
“Don’t you dare let us down!”
“Merlin, she’d better not!”
“I’ll hex her and him into oblivion!
“If I ever see that git again…”

“Oi!  Listen up!” shouted Kadeisha.

“What do you want, rookie?” barked Henrietta.

“Don you worry ‘bout mah girl, Ginny!  She gonna play loud an long an proud an strong out dare t’day!  Aren’ you, girly?” she yelled with a punch to Ginny’s shoulder.

Ginny managed a small, sickly smile and a wavering nod.  “You tell them, Kadeisha.”

~~~

The Holyhead Harpies were out on the pitch, running through pre-match warm-ups.  It was an overcast sky, but the weather was slightly warmer than usual for this time of year.  It would be a difficult day for the seekers due to the cloudy backdrop, which meant it could very well be a long match for the beaters and chasers.  Ginny glided to a stop next to her fellow rookie.  They were floating on their brooms approximately fifty metres above the pitch.  

“Kadeisha, I understand that the adrenaline is pumping, but don’t overdo it out here.  Looks like we might be in for a awfully long day, given the weather.”

“Sorry, it’s just dat de trill of it’s got me movin’, Girl!” Kadeisha said excitedly as she took in her surroundings.  There were still forty-five minutes before the match was to begin and the stadium was already throbbing with excited fans.  More than a few were pointing in their direction in curiosity and speculation.

“I never played in front of so many…  God almighty!  It can’t be!” added Kadeisha with a shout as she took off toward the stands.

“What are…” Ginny turned to see her friend flying straight for the owners’ suite where Kadeisha leapt off her broom into the arms of three tall dark-skinned individuals dressed in green and gold.  ‘Good on her, they made it after all!’ Ginny thought.  She and Kadeisha had had a couple of long conversations recently, with Kadeisha bemoaning that her family couldn’t afford to come all the way from Jamaica to see her play in her first professional quidditch match.

“Momma, Poppa, you made it!  Dustin!” Kadeisha exclaimed as she wrapped her parents and brother in a tight hug.  “How did you get here?  I thought you weren’t able to make it?”

“A friend of youahs arranged foah us to come ovah!”  explained Mrs. Dixon.

“Really?  Who did dat?”

“A Mistah Harry Pottah.  He say… well, I’ll let heem tell you hisself, sweet’eaht,” suggested Mr. Dixon as everyone turned toward the entrance of the suite.  

Kingsley Shacklebolt, Sophinata Callandilly, and Harry, holding Teddy, entered the owners’ suite and interrupted Mr. Dixon’s explanation.  They, particularly Harry, were ambushed in the process by a tall Jamaican woman in quidditch robes.

Ginny watched Kadeisha dart up the aisle from the seats of the owners’ suite that overlooked the pitch and into the spacious lounge that was located behind them.  From her vantage point, Ginny could see legs from the knee down of three other people, one wearing silk stockings, who had just entered the lounge, but apparently Kadeisha was hugging one of them as she stood exceptionally close to that pair of legs.  Kadeisha’s right foot rose for a moment or two.  Ginny returned to her warm-up routine for several more minutes until Gwenog Jones blew her whistle, indicating to the team that it was to head back into the locker room for the pre-game prep and pep talk.  Kadeisha exited the owners’ suite and landed next to Ginny as they headed off the pitch.  Kadeisha wore a huge smile and she gave Ginny a nudge on the shoulder.

“So your parents made it?” asked Ginny.  “That’s wonderful!”

“Yes, it is!  An a mutual friend of ours made de arrangements an paid foah everyting,” Kadeisha said with a wink to her friend.

Ginny stopped mid-stride and glared at Kadeisha.  “Who?”

“Oh, jus some casaba melon smugglah we know,” Kadeisha said innocently.

“Oh, no.  Merlin, he’s… he’s here?  Your not putting me on, are you?”

“Uh huh!  ‘E’s ere to watch you play, Girl.  ‘E said ‘e can’t wait to see you…”

“He can’t wait to see me?” Ginny asked with a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

“Dat’s right, Girly!  So you bettah bring you ‘A-Game’ if you know what I mean!  You don wan to disappoint de ‘poster-boy’!”

~~~

The entrances to the Cauldron, as its faithful patrons called Holyhead Stadium, were crammed with fans trying to enter and find good seating for the first match of the season.  A knot of predominantly red-headed fans were pushing their way through the throng.  Occasionally, several of the redheads were recognised by other fans and impromptu discussions and speculation over Ginny’s performance would spring up as the entire mass crept along.  As time neared the start of the match, concern began to grow among certain of the Weasleys.

“I hope they didn’t oversell the match!  I haven’t seen this many fans at one match since the World Cup finals!” exclaimed Ron.

"That's because the only other matches you've been to were at Chudley!" teased Bill.

“Oh, I knew we should have left home earlier!  Arthur, what will we do if we can’t get in?” asked Molly.

“Mother, I’m sure the organisation would not make such a mistake.  They’ve been in this business for a few hundred years, haven’t they?” replied Percy in a rare showing of pompousness.

“Hey Mum!” George shouted over the din.  “Who’d have thought that with all your sons it would be your only daughter who became a professional quidditch player!”

“That’s not funny, George!  You could have been one too if you had an ounce of persistence yourself!”

“Not to worry, Mum.  George is just trying to deflect the fact that his little sister is better than him at sport!” chuckled Charlie.

The Weasleys eventually passed through the turnstiles guarding the entrance.  Once within the interior of the stadium, Arthur and Molly were approached by two security guards.   “Mr. and Mrs. Weasley?  Welcome to the Cauldron.  We’ve been asked to escort you to your assigned seats.”

“I wasn’t aware that our seats were assigned.  There’s no section or row or seat shown on the tickets,” noted Hermione. 

The older security guard cleared his throat.  “Yes, well, these are special seats you will be sitting in for today, given the, er, circumstances.”

Arthur and Molly smiled and nodded their heads.  They perfectly reasonably assumed that the assigned seating was the result of Ginny’s first match as a starting chaser.  The elder security guard led the Weasley entourage to a discrete door off to the side, where he pulled out his wand and unlocked the door.  The Weasleys followed him through the door and onto a large elevator.  The younger security guard followed everyone through the door and locked it behind him before joining the troupe on the elevator.

Moments later, everyone clambered off the elevator into a long corridor fluted with doors.  The elder security guard led them to a door on their left, simply labelled ‘Owners’ Suite’.

“Here we are.  Enjoy the match, folks!” he said as he opened the door and stood aside to allow the guests to enter.

“Hey Angie, check it out!  How cool is this?  ‘Owners’ Suite’, it says,” said George, pointing to the sign on the door as he wrapped his arm around his new fiancé.

Arthur and Molly entered the lounge and immediately saw Kingsley speaking with the Dixons.

“Kingsley!”

“Arthur, Molly!  I’m glad you made it!  I’d like to introduce you to Davish and Kenyata Dixon.  They’re daughter is Kadeisha, the beater who’s making her first start today also.”

“Of course, it’s so nice to meet you!” replied Arthur, shaking Davish’s hand.

“Oh, your daughter is a lovely girl!  She stayed at our home for a bit when she was looking for a flat,” said Molly to Kenyata.

“But Ginny told us you wouldn’t be able to come?  What changed?” Arthur asked Davish.  

“Dat young mon speakin’ wit my son, Dustin, he arranged everyting foah us,” replied Mr. Dixon, nodding in the direction of two young men standing in the front row of seats and looking out over the pitch as they spoke.  One was holding a small boy.  George and Ron dashed down the aisle, followed by the rest of the Weasley siblings and their significant others.

“Hey, Harry!” George shouted as he approached.

“Look, Unca Hawee!  It’s Unca George!  An Unca Wan an Auntie ‘Mione an Auntie Angie an Unca Chawie an…!” squealed Teddy.

Harry put the wiggling Teddy down.  “Go say hi to everyone, mate!”  Teddy ran through the crowd, and gave hugs and kisses to anyone whose attention he could garner, which was everyone in the Owners’ Suite, including the Dixon family, Mrs. Callandilly, and Minister Shacklebolt.

“Everyone, this is Dustin Dixon, Kadeisha’s brother.  Dustin, these are the Weasleys and soon-to-be-Weasleys.”

A harmonic chorus of ‘Hi, Dustin’ rose as one from the redheaded gathering.

George turned back to Harry, “So, Harry, did you arrange this little get-together?”

“Of course, George.  I am the Benefactor after all, aren’t I?”  Harry replied with a cheeky smile.

Ron spluttered, “But… But… How?”

“Use your words, Ronniekins!” shouted Bill.

“You shut it, Bill!” Ron retorted.

“It really wasn’t that difficult, Ron.  I can get as many tickets as I want, whenever I want them, right?” said Harry.

“No, that’s not what I meant, Harry.  Er, how did… how did you know that we knew that you were the Benefactor?”

“Well, did you check to see if I was within earshot when you, er, ‘discussed’ whether I was the Benefactor?”  Harry asked.

Always!” insisted George.  “We always checked to make sure you weren’t around when we talked about you behind your back!  Still do, as a matter of fact,” he added with a grin.

Harry sniggered and nodded before continuing.  “And did you happen to notice whether any of the elves were around when you talked about me behind my back?”  Harry asked.

Damn!” George exclaimed.  “I knew we overlooked something!  Ronniekins!  You’re the auror.  Why didn’t you think of that!” 

Ron turned brighter than his hair, but had to ask the question that was now boiling in his mind.  “So, Harry, does this mean you can get me Cannons tickets?”

“Er, yes, but why on earth would you want them?” asked Harry audaciously with a huge smile he failed to suppress.

If it were possible, Ron turned an even brighter shade of red and muttered something that was lost under the fits of laughter that erupted from the whole of the owners’ box.  Hermione availed herself of the opening and pushed forward through the brothers, wrapping Harry in a big hug.

“Alright, Harry?”

“How was the honeymoon, Hermione?”

“Oh, Harry, Greece was spectacular!  Thank you so much!  We’ll have to get together soon so we can tell you about our trip.”

Harry leaned closer and whispered, “It might have to wait a bit.  I have a several years worth of grovelling and making up to do with a certain redhead.”

Hermione leaned back and beamed at him, “Ron and I can wait.”  She crushed him in another hug, kissed him on the cheek, and stepped aside so he could greet the rest of the clan properly.  Ron pulled Hermione aside to save her from being run over by his mother, who had waited quite long enough to get her hands on her seventh son.  

“So, what was that about with you and Harry?” he asked.

“Oh, nothing,” Hermione said with a dreamy sing-along voice.

“No.  Really!  What was that about?”

“Harry has finally stopped running away, Ron.  He’s home now, and I think it’s for good this time,” Hermione said as she slipped her arm around her husband’s waist.  The reunion lingered for several more minutes, until the voice of public address announcer could be heard around the stadium.

“Witches and Wizards, welcome to the Cauldron for the opening match of 2001-2002 season between the Holyhead Harpies and the Kenmare Kestrels.  Please put your hands together for your Harpies starting day line-up.  Hannah Hooks, Alicia Spinnett, Ginny Weasley, Henrietta Bailey, Gesine Averthorpe, Kadeisha Dixon, and Captain Gwenog Jones!”  

The roar of the crowd was deafening.  Except for a small contingent of Kenmare fans, the crowd, as expected, was solidly for the home team.  Harry settled into a seat in the front row and was surrounded by a sea of redheads, save Dustin Dixon, who was seated next to him, and a little metamorphmagus, whose hair was now dark green with a gold stripe down the middle.  Teddy chose to sit on Harry’s lap because he ‘could see Auntie Ginny bestest dis way’.

“Please join us in welcoming the Harpies’ opponent for today’s match, the Kenmare Kestrels.  Brendan McGuiver, Beckett Callahan, Captain Eamon McGrenahan, Teagan Connaire, Melvina Knight, Nefen Stone, and Rafferty Broddeth.”

The Kenmare fans, though small in number, were a rowdy lot.  Boisterous cheers rang out from across the stadium as each Kestrel was introduced.  As Gwenog Jones and Eamon McGrenahan received instructions from the official, Harry felt a nudge on his right side.  Harry turned to see Dustin Dixon look at Harry and nod downward at the stadium seats in the section in front of the box.  

“Harry, what’s dat about?”

“It’s nothing, Dustin.  It’ll stop after awhile,” Harry replied.

Charlie leaned forward from his seat behind Dustin and whispered with a chortle, “Hold on to your hat, Dustin.  You’re sitting next to and talking with Harry Potter.  You’re about to become pretty famous!”

“Why?” he asked.

Dustin looked back at the others with a look of confusion and noticed everyone sniggering and grinning madly at him, including Harry.

“Hey, you lot!  Don’t tell him a thing!  I just want someone to know me as ‘Harry’ for once, alright?”

“Oh, come off it, Harry!  He’s gonna find out anyway!” Ron said with a slap on Harry’s back.

“Well, can you at least hold off until after the match, please?” 

The Weasley brothers shrugged their shoulders while Dustin Dixon sat there in confusion, wondering just exactly who was seated next to him. 

Ginny hovered above her teammates while the official doled out the standard instructions to the team captains.  She scanned the stands on the southern side of the pitch, where she saw an unusual site.  A few hundred people in the centre section of the stadium were standing with their backs to the pitch.  Occasionally, a flash from a camera lit up portions of those sections.  Some were pointing upward, others gesticulating wildly.  

Looking further up toward the deluxe suites that ringed the stadium, she noticed that the owners’ suite was packed with guests.  Some were dark-skinned with black hair, while the majority had shocks of red hair.  Sitting front and centre amidst her family and friends was a handsome young man with long, wavy black hair and a generous smile, holding a green-and-golden-haired boy on his lap.  Ginny could swear she could see his bright, emerald green eyes from where she sat astride her broom.  When his hand rose with a small tentative wave in her direction, an eerie calm flowed through her.  Her nervousness evaporated and everything within her field of vision stood in sharp relief.  Ginny returned his wave with a bright smile and one inconspicuous thumbs up.  Everything would be alright.

Her reverie was broken by the sound of a whistle.

Ginny had gotten to a slow start.  In the first five minutes of the match, the Kestrels scored twice.  However, her focus quickly returned to the match at hand and, with it, her playing improved dramatically.  After those initial five minutes of aimlessness, Ginerva Molly Weasley dominated the game.  She scored seven times over the next thirty minutes and forced the Kestrels to adapt a new game plan – shutting down the sleek rookie chaser.  But the Kestrels’ plan was for naught.  By focusing on Ginny, the Kestrel beaters and chasers left Alicia Spinnett and Hannah Hooks wide open.  Ginny was spectacular.  She shifted to feeding Alicia and Hannah with crisp, accurate passes, leading to their own scoring frenzy, which in turn devolved into feigned passes to Alicia and Hannah and open shots for Ginny.  Whenever the Kestrels’ defensive strategy focused on Ginny, Alicia and Hannah gorged themselves with scoring opportunities.  When the Kestrels struck a more balanced defensive strategy, Ginny made them pay dearly.  The few times the Kestrals’ did manage some offense, Gwenog and Kadeisha disrupted the flow of their plays so well that the Harpies goalie, Henrietta Bailey, appeared downright bored for lack of a challenge.

At one point, Sophinata Callandilly, standing in the middle of the redheaded contingent, muttered, “Ginerva Weasley, where have you been all my life?”

George couldn’t resist.  “Mrs. Callandilly!  Please!  You’re a married woman!”

“Ginny’s making the rest of us look like ‘Frankie First-Years’,” Ron said in amazement.  

“And to think she almost didn’t start,” muttered Sophinata offhandedly.

“What do you mean, she almost didn’t start today?” asked Arthur.

“Ginny’s been so disconcerted these last few weeks that Gwenog strongly considered pulling her from the line-up.  It’s astounding the effect two bound souls can have on one another,” replied Sophinata with a nod towards Harry. 

“Quite,” replied Arthur quietly.

“Hey, Ron?  What was that song the Slytherins used to sing to you during matches at Hogwarts?” Charlie asked.  With Charlie’s prompt, George began to bellow a new version of the song, 'Weasley is our Queen', in his loudest voice.

George’s bellowing was quickly mimicked by those in the owners’ suite.  Not long thereafter, surrounding sections began to follow on.  Within a matter of several minutes, the song reverberated through the stadium with the whole of the Holyhead fan base engrossed in the chant.

After six hours of play, the Harpies easily had the game in hand with a score of five hundred sixty to ninety.  It didn’t matter which team caught the snitch at this point, the players just wanted to end the match because both sides were tiring quickly.  However, each team’s seeker struggled mightily to find it and players on both squads were becoming cantankerous and aggressive.

The Kestrels were losing self-control, a direct result of their humiliation at the hands of the Harpies.  Fouls were being attempted, and in a few instances successfully committed, but fortunately with only minor injuries.  Ginny, Alicia, and Hannah were taking penalty shots in turn, which served only to pad the Harpies’ lead.  The Harpies’ offensive strategy also shifted from an all-out attack to a protectionist mode.  None of Ginny’s teammates wanted to risk serious injury, chiefly because two of the day’s starting seven were technically bench players.  The roster was thin at the moment until Valmai Morgan and Bertha Bustaman could return from suspension.

It wasn’t long after the late summer sun finally burst forth from behind the clouds when the seekers simultaneously plummeted toward the near left corner of the pitch in a spectacular dive.  The entirety of the stadium watched in anticipation and exuberance as the seekers battled shoulder to shoulder, hip to hip, and knee to knee.  The entirety unfortunately also included the two newest Harpies starters, who had played spectacularly to this point.  Kadeisha and Ginny made rookie mistakes by watching the seekers’ battle as well.  One of the two suffered the consequences of their inattention.

Harry, the Weasleys, and the Dixons were, like the rest of the fans, absorbed in the seekers’ confrontation.  Even as Harry’s head and body were turned toward the near left of the stadium, his right arm thrust sideward toward the opposite corner of the pitch, nearly punching Dustin’s nose in the process.  It took Harry a few moments to realize what he had done, but with his arm thrust from his side, palm up, it appeared as if he somehow caught Ginny in midair from across the pitch.  She hovered less than a metre from the ground and she wasn’t moving.  Only he and Dustin seemed to realize what he had done.

Harry slowly lowered his hand and Ginny gradually and gently settled into the grass.

“Harry, han’ Teddy-boy to me an go,” shouted Dustin.  

Harry handed Teddy to Dustin, turned, and started shoving his way through the Weasleys as the stadium erupted with joy.  Gesine Averthorpe had captured the snitch for the Harpies, but it was the farthest thing from his mind at the moment.  He continued to shove his way through the group until he reached Arthur.  

“Ginny’s been hurt,” he said as he dashed up the aisle and left the owners’ suite with Arthur in hot pursuit. 

By the time Harry and Arthur reached the pitch, several healers had stabilized Ginny on a stretcher and were levitating her toward them.  They stepped aside to allow Ginny and the healers pass and followed them through the bowels of the stadium to the medical ward set up next to the Harpies locker room.

Harry and Arthur were soon joined by the rest of the Weasleys, as well as the Dixons, Kingsley, and members of other teammates’ families.

“Oh, Arthur!  How’s Ginny?”  Molly asked fretfully.

“We don’t know yet.  She’s still inside the medical ward.  The healers had bandaged her head and placed a brace around her neck, but I think the neck brace was precautionary,” Arthur replied with a tone that radiated his own nervousness.

“How’d it happen?” asked Bill.

“I don’t know.  Harry told me about Ginny getting hurt.  Harry, did you see what happened?”

“I’m not sure what happened either, but I suspect she was hit in the head with a bludger.”

A few minutes later, Gwenog Jones and Kadeisha Dixon burst through the locker room doors.  Gwenog rushed past the crowd gathered in the hall and entered the medical ward, while Kadeisha stopped and embraced Charlie, raising the eyebrows of the Dixons.

“Kadeisha, do you know what happened to Ginny?” asked Bill.

“Gwenog says she was hit in de head wit a bludgah.  Gwenog was big-time angry wit bot Ginny an me – stupid rookie mistake!  We bot stopped to watch de seekahs an Ginny-girl musta been hit wid a bludgah.  Gwenog say she fell forty meetahs befoah someone stopped her from hittin de groun,” Kadeisha explained.

“Dat was Harry who did dat,” Dustin explained.

“Harry?  I thought you didn’t see what happened,” said Arthur.  

“Well, er, no.  I didn’t.  It was that, er, that whole ‘involuntary’ thing we talked about awhile back,” Harry explained.

Arthur merely nodded and gave Harry a small, knowing smile while the rest of the family looked perplexed.  Fortunately, Davish Dixon provided a diversion as the topic of Kadeisha’s relationship with Charlie started in earnest.  Arthur took the opportunity to approach Harry, put his arm around him, and separate him from the group to avoid eavesdropping by the rest of the family.

“So, the ‘involuntary’ thing applies to Ginny’s safety as well, then?  Is that right?” Arthur asked quietly.

“Apparently so,” Harry replied.

“I am glad to hear that Harry.  I really am.  I’m sure you are aware that your ‘involuntariness’ is an exceptionally rare gift, but do you know what I think?  I think the fact that these extraordinary abilities of yours extends to Ginny as well means that there is a bond, a connection, between the two of you that is stronger and deeper than any other known to magic.  It’s the same rare type of magic your mother emanated to protect you all those years ago – true, eternal love!  The two of you are meant to be together.  There can be no other explanation for it.”

Arthur gave Harry a wink and a fatherly pat on the shoulder before returned to Molly’s side and leaving Harry deep in thought.  Meanwhile, Gwenog Jones had exited the medical ward and approached the families.

“Well, that’s one rookie lesson learned.  Isn’t that right, Kadeisha?” asked Gwenog, giving Kadeisha a look that would wither the nastiest Death Eater.  Kadeisha merely nodded and allowed Gwenog to continue speaking.  “Ginny is in good shape, considering.  Her skull was cracked by the bludger while she was still on her broom, but, fortunately, someone stopped her fall before she hit the ground.  If she had hit the ground from forty metres up with a cracked skull, she’d be in a right state now, if she’d be with us at all.”

“Harry did it!  Harry did it!” George cried as if he were a six year old tattling on another child who broke a window.

Gwenog rolled her eyes at George’s comment, but gave a wry smile and a nod of thanks to Harry before continuing, “Her head will heal perfectly well, but she will have a headache for several hours.  We will be keeping her here overnight for observation and we will release her in the morning barring unforeseen complications.  She’s awake now, but only three visitors at a time, please.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to be at the post-match press conference.”

Arthur and Molly entered the ward first, accompanied by Percy.  The lights were dimmed somewhat to reduce Ginny’s eyestrain and headaches.  As they entered, they could see Ginny’s head wrapped in thick bandages, save her nose and mouth.  They made their way to Ginny’s bedside and spoke softly to her.

“Ginny, can you hear us?” Molly asked.

“Yes, just speak softly, please.”

“Sure, love.  How are you feeling?” asked Arthur.

“Embarrassed!  How stupid of me to stop and watch the seekers!  I could have been killed!  I was what?  Thirty metres up?” said Ginny

“Forty, according to Gwenog,” said Percy.

“So, why is it I’m not shattered in a million pieces?”

“You, er, you have Harry to thank for that.  He sort of ‘caught’ you, the ‘Arresto Momentum’ spell, I believe.  He wasn’t even aware he did it!  Someday, you will have to ask him about his ‘involuntary’ magic as he calls it,” said Arthur.

“Harry?  Is he still here?” she breathed wistfully.

“Yes, I’m sure he will be in to see you in a bit, er, if that’s okay with you,” said Percy.

Ginny nodded.

“So, anyway, the healers are keeping you here overnight and tomorrow you can come home with us.  Apparition and portkeys are okay, but no quidditch for a week.  After that, you’ll be good to go,” said Molly.

“Oh, and by the way, absolutely no need to be embarrassed!  Your performance was spectacular.  No, beyond spectacular!  It was… well, I don’t think there are words to describe it!  We’ve never been so proud of you!” said Arthur.

“Thanks, Dad!”

“Did you hear the entire stadium singing ‘Weasley is Our Queen’?”  Percy asked.

“Oh, yeah, I heard it.  I think that’s why that Teagan Connaire belted me with the bludger – a rookie showing up the veterans.”

“Well, you can blame George when he comes in here, then.  He started it.”  Percy said with a soft chuckle.

Molly, Arthur, and Percy turned to see a healer enter the room with a bottle of potion.  “I’m sorry folks, by Ms. Weasley must sleep now.  We need to prevent swelling on her brain.  Please apologise to the rest of your family for me.  No more visitors tonight.” 

“Rest up, dear, and we’ll see you in the morning,” said Molly.

Re-entering the hallway where the rest of the family was gathered, Arthur and Molly announced that no more visitors were permitted, but reassured everyone that Ginny was doing well and would be coming home to the Burrow tomorrow.  It was quickly agreed amongst the siblings that a party was in order for tomorrow to celebrate the outstanding performances of the newest members of the Harpies.  Charlie naturally invited the Dixons to join them at the Burrow.

As the others finalised plans for invading and upending their home, Molly and Arthur approached Harry holding a sleeping Teddy.  The news of his inability to speak with Ginny this evening seemed to have taken the edge off his heretofore buoyant manner.  He certainly looked melancholy.

“Harry, dear, why don’t you take Teddy home and come to the Burrow tomorrow.  Is that alright?  Ginny will be feeling much better.  She was so looking forward to seeing you.”  Harry nodded and gave hugs to Molly and Arthur.  The matriarch and patriarch applied a kiss to Teddy’s cheek before they said their good-byes to the rest of the family and friends.  Harry also took his leave of everyone and left for Andromeda’s house.

~~~

“When’s she getting here?” asked Percy.  He and Audrey had just arrived from their flat and entered the Burrow’s parlour where most of the family had already gathered.  Ron interrupted his game of exploding snap with George to respond.

“They were supposed to have been here by now.  I hope everything’s alright.”

“I’m zure everyting weel be fine,” replied Fleur.

“Where’s Harry?  Did he go with Mum and Dad to get Ginny?” asked Charlie as he and Kadeisha entered the room.

“No,” replied Hermione a bit dispondently.  “He left a letter for her on the kitchen table.  It was here when Ron and I arrived this morning.”

“And what did it say?” asked Bill.

“Dunno,” said Ron.  “Couldn’t open it.  I suppose he charmed it so only she could open it.”

“Leave it to me, Ronniekins,” grinned George as he entered the kitchen to retrieve the letter Harry left for Ginny.

“George!” shouted Angelina.  “Leave that letter alone!”

Of course, George ignored his fiancé, but it was for naught anyway.  A few minutes later, the rest of the family sniggered at the buzzing noises and foul language emanating from the kitchen as George tried to open Ginny’s letter.  And a few minutes thereafter, George re-emerged from the kitchen with smoke arising from the places where now-missing tufts of hair had once lain.

“When Potter doesn’t want you to read something, he really doesn’t want you to read it!” announced George in defeat.

“Angelina told you to leave the letter alone, George!  When are you ever going to listen,” replied Hermione.

“Never, my sweet sister-in-law!”

Shortly thereafter, the sound of an opening front door of the Burrow brought everyone to their feet.  Cheers echoed through the home as Ginny entered the room with her mother and father.  Several minutes of commotion ensued as Ginny was jovially congratulated and her performance in yesterday’s great match was recalled in detail.  However, Ginny only half-heartily partook in the celebration.  She was too busy taking mental stock of those present, and Hermione knew why.

“He left a letter for you in the kitchen,” whispered Hermione discretely.

Ginny graciously discussed the game with her brothers and their significant others for a few minutes more, though it was evident to all but the most dense among them that her mood had soured somewhat.  At the nearest opportunity, Ginny escaped for the kitchen dolefully.  He was not here to meet her and letters were usually not a good sign for a relationship.  She picked the letter from the table and began to read, acutely aware of her mother standing beside her and of the audience that had followed her into the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, but I have to go,” Ginny declared to the family.  Her tone was factual, almost Luna-like in its airiness, conveying no discernable emotion to the family.  She handed the letter to her mother and ran for the staircase that led to her room.

“Ginny?  Ginny!  What is it, dear?” called Molly, carrying the letter with her as she ran after her daughter.

“Wazzgoinon?  What did I miss?” asked Ron.

The rest of the clan shrugged their shoulders or murmured their confusion as they collectively stood still and stared at the ceiling as though they could see into Ginny’s room.

~~~

He rose from the tanning bed seated beside the lagoon and waded into the water.  The cool breeze flitted across his skin, making the water’s dampness all the more refreshing.  He closed his eyes and raised his face to the sunshine.

He could hear the disturbance in the water behind him, the gentle splashing as she strode through the crystal clear water.  The splashing suddenly stopped.

“Harry?” she called.  Her voice cracked in trepidation.

He knew she was there.  She was no more than a metre from him.  Yet, the sound of her voice caused him to stiffen in both apprehension and relief.

“Hey, Gin.”

Her arms wrapped around his waist from behind and he could feel the dampness of her skin, her moist bikini top pressing into the middle of his back, and her lips as they gently placed a kiss on his spine between his shoulder blades.  His entire body stiffened further before relenting and relaxing.   She held him for several moments, revelled in their closeness, before he turned in her arms, facing her.  He fell upon both knees, the water rising to his chest, and he grasped both of her hands in his.  He spoke in a barely-audible whisper, his breath cast upon her flat stomach, which caused ripples of excitement to spread across her torso and through her extremities.

“I’m sorry.  I am so, so sorry.  I will not run away from you any more, Gin.  I swear this on my life.  If you will have me, I would like for us to be together.”

“Yes, Harry James Potter.  I will have you, and thank you.  Thank you for never giving up on me… on us.”

Harry placed a gentile kiss on her stomach, just below her belly button, before rising and wrapping one arm around her.  With his free hand, he placed his index finger under her chin, lifting her head to look him in the eyes.

“Gin, you are my soul mate.  You are everything to me.  Without you, I am empty.  You are my reason for returning, my reason for living.”

He leaned forward and gave her a soft, lingering kiss.  Pulling back, he gazed lovingly into her chocolate brown eyes.  He could feel the soul-penetrating love being reciprocated, gripping his heart….

{Fin}
________________________________________________________________________

A/N
Well, there it is -- my very first novel!  I hope you enjoyed it.  I’m in the very early stages of drafting a sequel, and it will be some months before it’s ready for publishing, but I do hope to start something before the new year begins.

I want to thank everyone for their reviews.  They truly are helpful (and I apologise for my poor response rate to those reviews)!

Best of luck to you and yours!
 
 
 
 
 


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