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Chapter 67 : Year 7: One
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It could not have been a year, because it was just yesterday that Harry had held James for the first time; that their tiny little baby had smiled for the first time; that he had learned to focus his eyes, or roll over, or sit up. But there it was, written in magical ink on the calendar taped onto the pantry door: February. And twenty-five days into the month, in Ginny’s untidy handwriting: James’ 1st birthday.
He had been born yesterday, Harry thought, and yet it was just the other week that the three of them had sat on the floor in the living room, and James had been showing Ginny one of his moving toy figures when she had said, “Show it to Dada, Jamie,” and James had reached out a chubby little hand towards Harry and said, “Dada.” Harry had nearly cried then too (Ginny definitely cried three days later when James finally said “Mama” as well, though she had made Harry swear to never tell).
At the kitchen table, James was giggling as he watched his mother reach up a hand and touch the sticky mess that was now covering her hair and dripping down onto her pale green dressing gown. Still standing in the doorway, Harry chuckled, grasping their attention and making James light up and exclaim, “Dada!” There was a strange, liquid-y sensation in Harry’s abdomen at the word. How long before they would be having real conversations? Before James’ little mouth would be going non-stop, and they would long back to this quiet (but probably much messier) time?
“Want to feed him?” said Ginny at the sight of her husband, holding out a little spoon with a pleading look on her face. Again, Harry chuckled and stepped forwards to take over for her, kissing her cheek as he stood up to give him her seat. Ginny raised an eyebrow, and he raised his in return.
“What? I think the look rather suits you.”
“Talk to this bloke,” Ginny grinned, pointing over her shoulder towards James, who was still smiling smugly in his high chair as Harry sat down next to him. “He might just be able to make it work for you too, if you ask nicely.”
She hurried off to get washed up, as if she was scared that her husband would change his mind and make her do the feeding after all, but Harry sat smiling at James as he filled the spoon with more porridge, not wanting for a second to trade places. He got a little messy too – that always seemed to happen when they let James anywhere near food – but perhaps more so than other mornings, Harry wanted to take in and memorize every feature in his son’s face, every expression or sound he made, for they would all change before they knew it. That tiny little nose would grow longer, the round cheeks thin out, and the jawline sharpen. James’ soft little hands would grow roughter as he played with his cousins and the siblings he might have one day, his still unsteady steps would get longer and more determined and he would walk further and further away from his parents. Harry knew all this, and so he didn’t mind having to wipe porridge of his glasses every other minute or having to put his new shirt in the wash though the day had but begun, because there would be a day when his shirt would no longer have stains all over and his mornings would be much quieter again, and when that time came, he was sure he would miss it all very much.
There was something else on the agenda for the 25th of February, also written on the calendar in the same handwriting and the same blue ink: England vs. Nigeria. When they had first decided to postpone the Quidditch match, Ginny had not minded much; that was, she had not minded until she had seen the new date on Avery Hawksworth’s notice board at the National Arena at practice one day on her way home.
She had decided before she made it back to the house to leave her spot in the team for someone else. There had been a time when she would have called anyone who would even suggest giving up the chance to play for her country absolutely crazy, but things had changed. There were more important things in Ginny’s life now, and she could not imagine not singing to James in the morning, not letting him open presents before breakfast, or not running around trying to keep him in shack while Harry prepared the cake for the party. She couldn’t imagine being apart from James for as much as a second on his birthday.
“Are you mad?” Harry exclaimed when she told him of her decision. “You’ll get to play with England – in England – in a crucial match with the best players in the country, and you’re going to turn down the offer?”
“I can’t miss James’ birthday,” Ginny sighed. “You know I’ll be gone all day if I play. I couldn’t do that to him.”
“So we’ll pretend his birthday is the day after!” said Harry furiously. “He will never know the difference! I promise I won’t give it away. And he and I will both be at the match, of course, and we will wait for you to come home with us, and the next morning we will give him a special breakfast and throw a party and-“
“But I’d be an awful mother,” Ginny interrupted him. “I would put my own wants before his.”
“If I so have to drag you there myself, you’re going to play,” Harry said. “Didn’t you tell me at Christmas that I was being silly, because he won’t remember it anyway? The same goes for this situation. And whether you play or not, you are a wonderful mother. After all, you have learned from one of the best.”
So there they were now, Harry carrying James, who was looking particularly cute in the fluffy earmuffs that were protecting him from the noise of the crowd, up the stairs of the bleachers to the top box where he had once sat with half the Weasley family at the Quidditch World Cup. How along ago it seemed, he thought as he lifted his eyes above Ron and Mr Weasley, who were walking ahead of him, to the very top seats where they were going to sit again now. Ron had even found the old Omnioculars that Harry had bought him then, and had already used them down at the bottom of the stairs to “make sure Malfoy isn’t up there with us, like he was last time.”
Everyone in the family had come to see Ginny, of course, except for Fleur and Louis. Even Charlie had planned a trip home to see his sister play, and it seemed Malfoy wouldn’t have fit in the top box even if he had wanted to – there were too many of them up there already.
Mrs Weasley had lit up like a child on Christmas when she had met Harry and James outside the arena; Harry had hushed her as soon as she started to utter the words “Happy birthday” though. He and Ginny had decided to keep all celebrations on hold until the next day, and Mrs Weasley had agreed to pretend like it was just another day, though Harry had seen her frown as she had pushed a wrapped gift back into the deep pocket of her maroon coat.
There was that special glow to the bleachers that Harry remembered from the first time he had been there; they looked as though they were made entirely of gold. Or perhaps the glow was just in the ambience of excitement and hopefulness that seemed to inhabit every single chest in the arena. Even James was clapping his hands with a big grin on his face when the players flew into the stadium; when Ginny’s face appeared on the large screen across from where they were sitting, he stood up on Mr Weasley’s lap and began bouncing up and down with enthusiasm, calling out for her. “Mama! Mama!”
Ginny was too far up to make out her family in the crowd, but as she followed her teammates around the pitch, she waved and grinned at the thought of Charlie, who, if she knew him right, was already yelling at the referee and the Nigerian players. She thought of her mother, who was probably digging her nails deep into her palms already, of Harry grinning, as if he already knew how the match would turn out, and of James, who was too little to understand anything but who would surely love every second of it anyway. Harry had tried hard to teach him the word “Quidditch” in the last week, but had admitted that Ginny had a point when she suggested he should try something easier, like, “fly,” or “ball.”
She had thought she would be shaking with nervousness by the time the whistle blew to start the match, but she met Avery Hawkwsworth’s eyes just then, and she knew he believed in her. She knew that she could do what he was expecting of her too; she had never been in better shape, not even before she had had James.
The Nigerian players caught the Quaffle first. Ginny set off towards the nearest one to block her off; the pass came anyway, and Ginny reached for it, but was too late. It was now in the hands of Adebayo, the star Nigerian Chaser, who sped up towards the English Keeper, Denison Frisby and the goal hoops he was trying to protect.
“Come on, Frisby,” Ginny mumbled, leaning forwards to make her broomstick move even faster, but it wasn’t enough. She didn’t reach Adebayo in time, and before she knew it, the Quaffle shot through the far left hoop with a cling, and the Nigerian supporters began singing on the bleachers below. Ginny muttered to herself, happy that her mother could not her just what she was saying, and turned her attention to her fellow Chaser, Callum Clarke, who was now in possession of the Quaffle.
“Let’s see if Clarke can make the most of this oppurtunity – Adebayo is still at the end of the pitch and it looks like the perfect time for a counterattack. Potter sets off to help out her teammates in front of the Nigerian goalposts – Hawksworth breaks free and Clark passes the Quaffle – now, where is Potter? Hawksworth turns towards the goal hoops and – he scores! And reminds us yet again of what a steady and skilful player he is up there. Remember – Hawkwsworth did his first match with England over a decade ago and has the most experience on the pitch today…”
The match continued going back and forth. After a first ten minutes or so of not quite keeping up with the others and and feeling very deficient, Ginny took a deep breath as Frisby, who had just saved a beautiful shot by another of the Nigerian Chasers, called her name and threw the Quaffle in her direction. For just the fraction of a moment, Ginny hesitated. She had been so sure that she was ready for this – that she was good enough – but what if she had been wrong?
And then she imagined her family down there on the spectator stands, singing her name, cheering for her with all of their hearts. She imagined Oliver Wood and her teammates from Holyhead, who had all come to support her. She thought of the young girls and boys who had waited outside the arena that morning and lined up to get her autograph when she arrived, and how they were probably watching her now too, crossing their fingers and hoping that she would not screw up…
And she caught the Quaffle and turned her broomstick around in an instant. Hawksworth was on her left, and Callum Clarke somewhere behind her. A Bludger was aimed in her direction, but she swerved to avoid it. She passed the large, red ball to Hawksworth, who sent it right back and then, somehow, she was already in front of the goalposts and Rayowa Chukwu, the one person standing in between her and her first goal for England.
“Potter pauses in front of Chukwu and the goal hoops – don’t hesitate now, Potter, or another Bludger may come join you over there…”
Ginny took a deep breath and threw the Quaffle as hard as she could.
Down below her, an ocean of people dressed in red and white jumped to their feet and began jumping up and down, shouting and singing from the top of their lungs. Ginny felt her heart take a small leap in her chest. She had scored; she was playing with the national team, and she had just scored a goal!
The match took a turn after that – that was, England got the upper hand, Ginny scored goal after goal until the English supporters started singing her name (Potter is a queen – the best we’ve ever seen…) and the Nigerian Chasers barely got a chance to touch the Quaffle. Not even Adebayo seemed to get much right anymore. It looked as though the result was already settled; that was, until the Nigerian Seeker spotted the Snitch before England’s Evelyn Cavendish.
“Yes, there it is, the Golden Snitch, just near the North-Eastern corner of the pitch! Emmanuel Okonkwo has quite the advantage on Cavendish, and the question is: will she be able to catch up with him? Watch closely, people, because Okonkwo might just be on the verge of knocking England out of playing in the World Cup next year!”
At first, Ginny, like every other person at the National Arena in that moment, did watch the two players closely; then someone yelled at her, and she noticed her captain had got hold of the Quaffle and was aiming for the left-hand goal hoop. Ginny glanced up at the score, which was written across the top of the Western bleachers in giant, shimmering letters and realised that England was up by 140 points.
“Come on, Avery,” she whispered. Hawksworth seemed to raise his arm in slow motion; if he made it, there would be a tie, which would probably not be enough for them to qualify, but no one had caught the Snitch yet…
“And Hawksworth scooores! Perhaps in the nick of time, because Okonkwo is letting go of his broomstick and reaching out his hand…”
But Ginny had stopped watching the Seekers, she had stopped listening to the Speaker; her full attention was on Rayowa Chukwu, the Nigerian Keeper, who was looking right at Adebayo and prepared to pass it to her…
And then Ginny was in between them, and the Quaffle was in her hands, and the Beaters were busy aiming the Bludgers at both Seekers, and the spectators were busy singing about Evelyn Cavendish – but Avery Hawkwsworth was screaming Ginny’s name, screaming at her to go. And so she went, at full speed, flying faster than she could remember ever doing, until she was eye to eye with Chukwu…
The Quaffle shot through the middle hoop like a red cannonball.
And just below the golden goalpost, Emmanuel Okonkwo’s fingers closed around the small Golden Snitch.
“It’s amazing! Are we really seeing this? Ginny Potter scores just seconds before Okonkwo catches the Snitch – AND ENGLAND WINS! BY 10 POINTS! Ladies and gentlemen – I believe we have just witnessed a historical showdown!”
Ginny hardly remembered anything after that moment. She knew that she had made it to the ground somehow, and that Avery Hawksworth and Denison Frisby had lifted her up and carried her into the dressing room, that someone had showered her in champagne and that her hair smelled of it all while she talked to the reporters. Unsure of whether anything she had said made any sense, she had somehow made in and out of the shower, danced around in victory alongside her teammates, and then rushed upstairs to meet her family in the hotel lobby. She had declined the invitation to party with the English team and cared only about James, whom Harry sat down on the floor as soon as Ginny stepped out of the lift, and who stumbled forwards on his unsteady legs and reached up his arms towards her. She scooped him up and kissed him all over his face, and when she looked up next, everyone she loved was right there next to her. Harry kissed her forehead, her parents were both tearyeyed as they hugged her tightly, her brothers were there, Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbot. There was Lee Jordan grinning so widely she could see every last one of his teeth, Heather Perrington, Gaylene Turkowski and Gwenog Jones… And Ginny could only think of a handful of times in her life that she had ever been so happy.
The day after James’ birthday should not be about Quidditch, Ginny decided the next morning, but quickly realised that her family wanted to talk about little else, no matter how many times she changed the subject. Mrs Weasley was humming the national anthem as she put the final touches on the large chocolate cake she had brought over, Mr Weasley had already cut all the articles about Ginny out of the Daily Prophet and brought them to the party to show her before he would frame them, and Harry had not shut up about it since waking up that morning. Not until Ginny slammed a door to one of the kitchen cabinets shut loudly enough to nearly make James cry, and exclaimed: “Don’t any of you care about James at all?” did Mr and Mrs Weasley remember that they had brought him a present each.
Mrs Weasley was nearly crying too; Ginny wasn’t sure if it was sentimental tears at realising how quickly her grandson was growing up, or if she felt ashamed about neglecting him. Either way, her mother was sniffing as Ginny sat down on the floor to help James open his first gifts; he tossed Mrs Weasley’s homeknitted socks aside, but was over the moon when he uncovered the rubber duck his granddad had given him. He squealed with excitement and proceeded to try and stick it in his mouth. The duck squeaked when he sank his two little teeth into it, and James squeaked in return, even more excited than before now that he knew it could also produce sound.
“You know, I’ve been keeping that thing in the garage for years,” said Mr Weasley to Harry (“I hope you washed it!” exclaimed Ginny as James stuck it into his mouth again.) “I can’t remember why I kept it for so long. I have some very interesting inventions out there, but this one is just a children’s toy, isn’t it? I figured James would use it more than me.”
And he would be right, it seemed, because even after Angelina, George and Freddie arrived with a bunch of products from the shop that Ginny approved of her one-year-old getting his hands on, James refused to let go of his rubber duck. Not even George’s self-bouncing, blinking ball could steal his attention away, though his cousins rather enjoyed the other toys instead. Dominique and Freddie got in a fight over whose turn it was to play with the ball, leaving all the rest of the pile of presents for Teddy and Victoire.
Ron and Hermione arrived late; Mrs Weasley gasped over how tired and pale they both looked before little Louis woke up and distracted her. She instantly volunteered to be the one to pick him up, and his parents did not seem to mind getting to just sit back and wait for tea to be served while Mrs Weasley took care of the nappy changing.
The party was, as always with the Weasleys, a loud affair. Dominique and Freddie made up before joining the others at the table, only to start up their fight again when Freddie decided it would be fun to tip his cake into his cousin’s lap. She shrieked, Angelina began scolding her son, and Victoire burst out laughing as Dominique stood up to reveal the now very messy front of her brand new dress. Meanwhile, Charlie, George and Teddy had begun singing another song after Happy Birthday to You was finished, and were certainly not holding back, completely ignoring Harry’s attempt to quiet everyone down so that he could take a group photo. Mrs Weasley and Andromeda were trying to hold a conversation from opposite sides of the table, and Mr Weasley was cutting cake and directing plates around the table with his wand, miraculously without dropping any more on anyone’s nice clothes. Harry managed to snap a photograph of James in his button-up shirt, his black hair sticking up just like Harry’s always did, just as Mr Weasley made a plastic bowl land on the table in front of him. James’ eyes were glowing with excitement as he stuck one small index finger into the chocolate sauce and licked it off, managing to smear half of it across his face. Ginny watched him from across the table, unable to keep from smiling; in fact, there were probably only two people around who weren’t smiling just then. They were not Dom and Freddie, who had made up once again, but Ron and Hermione, because there would not be a first birthday party for the son they had lost, and not even James, whom they loved so dearly, who looked more adorable than usual in his nice clothes and with chocolate all over his face, could make them feel better.
A/N: I know it probably doesn't mean as much when I've said it in every single author's note, but I just want to thank you again for reading this story, because that still means as much as it has ever done to me and I still don't know how to explain how happy you are making me. I would love to hear your thoughts on the chapter, if you've got the time! Xx
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