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Chapter 49 : Year 5: The Holyhead Harpies
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In the Wizarding quarters of Holyhead, flags of green and gold hung from the windows, large banners with embroidered, golden talons had been put up on the fences, and people had had been out since early that morning to celebrate the special day. Little children dressed in Quidditch robes were throwing Quaffles in the garden, waiting impatiently for the afternoon to come – some were even dressed up as mythological harpies, with feathers all over their bodies, leaving only their faces bare and untouched. Adults were singing and sharing bottles of butterbeer or cherry wine with their neighbours over the hedges, and three hours before the match would start, the people all lined up along the main street to cheer loudly as the seven Holyhead Harpies marched down the road on their way to the arena.
As for Ginny, she walked on light feet, with a fluttering sensation spreading throughout her body, all the way from her toes to her fingertips. Nearly a month had passed since her weekend with the national team, but she had had little time to think back to it, as her undivided attention had been needed for the league and the Holyhead Harpies, who, if they could only hold it together against the Caerphilly Cataphult that afternoon, would finish the Quidditch season as British-Irish champions.
It seemed as though half of Britain had come to watch the finale and were standing by the sidewalks of the main street as Ginny and her teammates passed them. A couple of braves kids jumped out to sneak a high five from their favourite players, and a group of middleaged men raised their bottles of Firewhisky at the girls as they walked past, making rather suggestive comments that made Gwenog Jones shoot looks of thorns in their direction. Ginny smiled and waved at Keeper Heather Perrington’s new girlfriend before finally spotting her own family amongst the crowd. Her mum was crying and her dad waving enthusiastically, both of them dressed from top to toe in green and gold. George and Angelina, with her giant belly, sat on the grass in front of Bill and Fleur, who had come without the girls for once; Bill looked relaxed and slightly confused, as though he couldn’t quite believe that he wouldn’t have to worry about Victoire having a tantrum or Dominique getting lost or hurting herself for a whole afternoon. Percy and Audrey hadn’t dressed in Holyhead Harpies’ colours, but wore very proper outfits that, in Ginny’s opinon, made them look like they were going to an important business meeting rather than a Quidditch game. Finally, there were Harry, Hermione, and Ron, who smiled brilliantly as Ginny passed them.
As the team disappeared down the street, their supporters slowly started moving towards the arena, and Bill reached down his hand behind his father to pull another redheaded man, who had been crouching behind Mr and Mrs Weasley, to his feet.
“She’s gone now,” he said, and the oldest of his younger brothers grinned at him.
“I can’t believe she thinks I’m not coming to this game,” Charlie said. “Doesn’t she know what a dedicated fan I am?”
“Of the Chudley Cannons? Yes. As you may have noticed, though, this is the Holyhead Harpies versus the Caerphilly Catapults. Not that anyone would ever think that the Cannons would make it to the finale...”
As the two eldest of the Weasley siblings continued to bicker, their family started moving along with the crowd, heading for the Quidditch pitch and the premium seats that Ginny had managed to get for them. Ron purposely lingered behind, walking a tad slower than the rest of them, so that he and Hermione got a moment of privacy even surrounded by all those people.
“Are you sure you want to stay for the game?” he asked softly.
Hermione’s jaws clenched as she answered: “Yes, Ron, I’m sure. I know that my mother died, but I’ve been sitting at home for weeks just thinking about her. I can’t do that anymore.”
“I know, it’s just… you don’t even like Quidditch.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “Didn’t I go to see you and Harry play every single match at Hogwarts anyway? I do like Ginny, and this could be one of the biggest moments in her career so far.”
“Okay, okay,” Ron said, holding up his hands in front of him. Then, perhaps as he noticed the tense look on his wife’s face, and perhaps because his eyes had just flickered past Angelina, who was walking a few feet ahead of them, he leaned in closer to Hermione, and mumbled: “How huge is Angelina’s belly now? Looks like the baby could pop out any second.”
Hermione looked as though she wanted to roll her eyes again, but smiled instead as she linked her arm with his. “Don’t say that to her face, Ron. You do know she’s got months before the baby is due, right?”
As they climbed up the steps to their seats in the top row of the Harpies’ bleacher, a voice sounded out throughout the stadium:
“Welcome all, to the last Quidditch game of the season! Today, competing for the British-Irish leage title, leading team Holyhead Harpies welcome the Caerpilly Catapults in a fatal showdown, and by the end of the day, we shall know which team is truly the best this year. Remember – the Harpies only have to lose by less than 260 points to win the league, leaving the Catapults with quite a challenge ahead of them this beautiful spring day…”
Ron, Hermione and all the Weasleys had just found their seats when a formation of Quidditch players swished into the arena – Hermione counted seven, and they were all dressed in striped robes of light green and scarlet red.
“Without further ado – it’s the Caerpilly Catapults, ladies and gentlemen! Levering, Zollinger, Meller, Holzworth, Culbert, Northman… aaaaand Sinkfield! The fans will be happy to see that all three Chasers are back on their feet – or should I say broomsticks – after that nasty stomach bug that knocked them out for the past three games.”
One of the Chasers, a blonde with what looked like warrior facial paint under her goggles, pretended to throw up over the shoulder of the Beater flying right next to her, making the crowd laugh and cheer as the Beater, apperently believing it had been real, nearly fell off his broom in his attempt to get away from her.
“Come on people, let’s hear it for our own Holyhead Harpies! You know them, of course – Potter, Turkowski, Rosenberry, Jones, Beighley, Perrington… aaaaand Katzenberger!”
A mix of emotions rushed through Harry’s body as he watched the seven players in green and gold enter the stadium. Ginny was hard to miss, with her long, red ponytail fluttering as she sped up her broom, catching up with her teammates and waving as the crowd cheered loudly. Down on the ground, the referee got ready to release the Golden Snitch and the Bludgers, and Harry felt his fingers itch; even six years later, it was still strange for him to sit on the bleachers during a Quidditch game, instead of being up in the air on his Firebolt.
As much as he missed it though (and as thrilled as he had felt when Ron had suggested they’d start an interdepartmental amateur Quidditch league at work) he was, above all, so happy for Ginny. He knew the number of hours she had spent in Holyhead every day, the way she never missed her long Saturday morning runs, or how stubbornly she refused a second slice of her mother’s famous apple pie after Sunday roast at the Burrow.
“Referee Kurt Pearse throws the Quaffle into the air, and wow – did you see how quick she was? Rosenberry’s got the Quaffle and she’s flying straight towards Northman and Caerphilly’s goal hoops. She passes to Turkowski, who looks for Potter, but Potter’s being closely followed by two of the Caerphilly Catapults Chasers – they know who to look out for, that’s for sure! Turkowski finds Rosenberry instead, and she shoots… What a save from Northman, who instantly passes the Quaffle on to Zollinger, Meller, back to Zollinger… and, ouch, Zollinger gets hit by a Bludger! I’ll bet you Gwenog Jones is looking smug up there, she’s too far away for me to be able to tell though. And look at that; Potter has broken free from her opponents, Rosenberry is all alone to her left and signalling for the Quaffle, but Potter holds onto it… and she scores! 10-0 for the Holyhead Harpies!”
Harry, along with most of the crowd, jumped from his seat to cheer, and couldn’t help but grin at his mother-in-law’s enthusiasm as she punched the air and shouted:
“That’s right, sweetheart, you show them!”
The Quaffle was once again with the Caerphilly Chasers, and Harry lifted his head to watch the Seekers. They were both soaring around some feet higher than their teammates, their eyes roaming about in search for the Golden Snitch. He was too busy staring longingly at them to pay attention to the rest of the game, and realized only thanks to Ron’s cussing that Caerphilly Catapults had evened the score.
“Turkowski’s got the Quaffle again… and once again, Potter is surrounded by her opponents… The Quaffle goes to Rosenberry just as Potter breaks free, and Potter catches the Quaffle beautifully and – ouch! That’s got to be a free throw!”
Harry grimaced as he watched the Caerphilly Beater’s bat hit Ginny right in the back of her head, sending her and her broomstick spiralling down with dangerous speed. Somehow, though, before Harry’s heart had dropped down to the bottom of his stomach, she straightened her broom up, just before she hit the bottom of the bleachers opposite from where Harry and the Weasleys were sitting. Kurt Pearse blew his whistle furiously, and next to Harry, Mrs Weasley peeked out from her hands, behind which she had hidden her face the moment the wooden bat met Ginny’s head.
“Oh dear,” she wailed, “is she all right? Arthur?”
Mr Weasley squinted to see through his glasses, and although Harry noticed the look of concern on the older man’s face, he sounded very reassuring as he responded:
“She’s fine, Molly. She wouldn’t have continued flying if she was hurt.”
“Potter takes the free throw herself,” the speaker announced. “What a nightmare for Keeper Northman! Yes indeed, he stands no chance, and Ginny Potter gives the Holyhead Harpies the lead. 20-10, ladies and gentlemen!”
The crowd burst out cheering again, and Harry grinned as Charlie jumped up and down, shouting:
“There you go, Gin, that will teach them not to mess with you!”
“Blimey, Charlie, say that a little louder and you’ll ruin your surprise visit, because she’ll hear you from up there. And you'll ruin the ear I've got left,” said George in a playfully accusing voice while rubbing his one ear, as though his brother’s strong voice had nearly ruptured the eardrum.
“Meller passes to Levering, who passes on to – no, Potter sweeps in and steals the Quaffle right under Zollinger’s nose! Holzworth sends off a Bludger – that’s right, stick to the actual Bludger rather than the bat, Holzworth – but Holyhead’s Gabrielle Beighley stops it reaching its target and – SHE SCORES AGAIN! GINNY POTTER IS ON FIRE, AND I’M NOT TALKING ABOUT THE COLOUR OF HER HAIR!”
As the supporters started cheering again, Harry caught a glimpse of a striped figure suddenly diving towards the ground. Turning his head and stretching his neck, he realized that it was Sinkfield, Caerphilly Catapults’ Seeker, and that he must have spotted the Snitch. Holyhead’s Adriana Katzenberger instantly set off after him, but by all appearances, she wouldn’t catch up with Sinkfield before he reached that small, glittering ball at the foot of Heather Perrington’s goal posts. Harry furrowed his brows. What was Sinkfield thinking? If he caught the Snitch now, the Holyhead Harpies would still win! Perhaps Sinkfield realized the same thing, because he slowed down just as Gwenog Jones’ Bludger reached him, pushing him sideways and straight into Katzenberger, who fell right off her broom. Fortunately, they were only a few feet off the ground and it wasn’t a long fall, but Mrs Weasley still gasped in horror and her hands flew to her mouth.
“Ow,” said the speaker, “I’m quite sure that wasn’t what Jones intended to do with that Bludger – knocking her own Seeker off the broomstick, I mean! Luckily, no one appears to be hurt, but the Golden Snitch seems to have disappeared again…”
Meanwhile, the Caerphilly Catapults Chasers had successfully moved across the pitch with the Quaffle securely in their arms, avoiding both Bludgers and opponents until they reached Heather Perrington and the goal hoops. Heather nearly fell of her broomstick trying to block the left hand hoop, but still failed, and the speaker couldn’t quite mask his disappointment as he announced the new score: 30-20.
“And Potter’s got the Quaffle now; she passes it across the pitch to Turkowski, then Rosenberry… she scores! 40-20!” the speaker shouted, noticeably happier than before. “Northman passes to Meller, who sets off in the opposite direction.”
But Meller had only made it a few feet forwards when Ginny was there again, disrupting her opponent’s route and stealing back the Quaffle. She passed it to Gaylene Turkowksi, who passed it back, and Ginny was just aiming for the middle goal hoop when – bam! One of the Caerphilly Beaters, Culbert, had desperately wanted to stop her, and since neither Bludger was within reach, he had actually thrown his bat at her! The Quaffle slipped out of her hands as she was thrown into the goal post. A metallic thud echoed across the arena, and then she fell to the ground, seemingly lifeless.
Harry could have sworn his heart stopped. He stood up; he’d have to get to her… But someone put a hand on his arm and he noticed that his wife, who looked so little sprawled out on the grass like that, had started to move. Moments later, Oliver Wood and the team Healer had knelt down next to her, and as Hermione removed her hand from his arm, the sounds and sights around him started to come back to Harry.
“Foul!” shouted George furiously. “Ban him from playing again!”
“That’s disgusting!” Bill agreed. “He only attacked her because he knows she’s too good for them!”
“That’s got to violate a whole bunch of rule, don’t you reckon, Dad?” said Percy while adjusting his glasses.
Down on the grass, Oliver had pulled Ginny to her feet, and the Healer appeared to be wiping blood from her face. Although he knew that Ginny had no feelings whatsoever left for Oliver Wood, Harry couldn’t help but wish that he was the one down there, looking after her.
Oliver was now picking up Ginny’s broomstick, much to Mrs Weasley’s shock.
“He can’t expect her to get on that thing again, is he?”
“You know Ginny, Mum,” said Ron. “Unless she breaks every bone in her body, she’s going to finish the game.”
“And Ginny Potter appears to be all right, after all! What a relief! Referee Pearse signals for two free throws, and while Potter stomps off the ground to get back in the game, Gaylene Turkowski is ready with the Quaffle. She goes right – no, left – and she scores! Textbook feint, but flawlessly performed by Turkowski who catches the Quaffle for her second free throw… and she scores again! Amazing! 60-20, with Holyhead in the lead, and… wait! Has Sinkfield spotted the Golden Snitch again?”
It was as though everything else stopped, and every eye in the arena turned towards Sinkfield and Katzenberger, who had shot up in the air; Harry caught a glimpse of something glittering several feet above the bleachers on the short end of the pitch. Sinkfield seemed determined this time, even though catching the Snitch would mean that the opposing team would win the league. He was in the lead, but Adriana Katzenberger, with her long, black plait swishing like a thick tail behind her, was perhaps even more determined, and inch by inch, she was catching up with Sinkfield.
“Excellent flying by Katzenberger, but will it be enough? Shoulder to shoulder now; Sinkfield gives her a push, but Katzenberger is strong and steady. She leans forwards and – do I dare believe my eyes? She’s swept right past him, she reaches out her hand – SHE’S GOT THE SNITCH! Ladies and gentlemen, Adriana Katzenberger has ended the game – THE HOLYHEAD HARPIES WIN! LEAGUE CHAMPIONS, FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 174 YEARS!”
For the second time that afternoon, Adriana Katzenberger fell off her broom and landed on the soft grass. This time, instead of rushing to her feet to get back into the air, she rolled over and remained lying on her back, clutching the Golden Snitch in both hands and grinning from ear to ear as her teammates, one by one, landed next to her and threw themselves down next to (or on top of) her, forming a pile of green and gold, smiles and tears of joy.
It was one of those rare moments when total bliss lit up every darkened corner in Ginny’s mind; she truly had no worries just then, and would have sworn with her hand across her heart, that life simply could not get any better. Gwenog Jones accidentally elbowed her in the ribs as she tried to organize a group hug, but despite having fallen on her side mere minutes before, Ginny felt no pain. Heather was crying, Gaylene was kissing the Snitch in Adriana’s hand, and Gemma Rosenberry, quiet and sweet Gemma, was jumping up and down, screaming out her joy.
Somehow, despite the high number of security warlocks guarding the bleachers, people were soon rushing onto the pitch. A group of men grabbed Adriana and threw her into the air, and she laughed loudly, still clutching the Snitch to her chest. Now, little children were hugging Ginny’s legs, young men were kissing her cheeks, women squeezing her hands, all of them grinning, thanking her, praising her… And then she saw them; they were impossible to miss, of course, such a large bunch of people with such flaming red hair, and that one head covered in jet black.
She rushed into Harry’s open arms, and he lifted her off the ground, kissing her chin, her ears… And she grinned into his shoulder as he whispered:
“I knew it. I knew you’d win.”
“Wow,” said a familiar voice behind him. “Here I though she’d be happy to see me, and all she cares about is Harry…”
Ginny grinned over Harry’s shoulder as Ron patted Charlie’s shoulder and said:
“Yeah, I know what it’s like…”
Rolling her eyes and quickly kissing her husband once more, Ginny then let go of him and skipped over to hug her brother. “You’re here!” she said. “I thought you couldn’t make it.”
“I wouldn’t be able to call myself the most dedicated Quidditch fan in the family if I missed it, would I?” replied Charlie with a shrug. “Or the best brother in the family, for that matter.”
George snorted as he flung out a long arm that landed around their sister’s shoulder. “So, is it the best day of your life, Gin?” he asked, and Ginny looked over at Harry, smiling widely.
“It's at least top three,” she said, not breaking eye contact for a moment. Yes, she thought to herself, this, the way life was in that moment, would be a tough act to follow for whatever was to come next.
A/N: Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you've had a great start to the year. I'd like to start mine by telling you that the fact that you read and review and support and encourage me the way you all do, still amazes me on a daily basis, and as always, I know I can't thank you enough! It means so much, even though I can't quite put in in words.
As you may know, my year also started with a crazy sort of turn-life-upside-down move across the world, and although I'm back home where I grew up and where everything's familiar and comfortable, it was one of the most difficult things I've done. I've had to say goodbye for an indefinitive time to some incredible people who have become very dear to me, and I'm sure a lot of you know what that is like. As hard as it's been though, I had to come back here, I'm absolutely thrilled to see everyone back home again, and as life slowly becomes normal again, I should have much more time to write than in the past year. So, good news, after all! I know I'm excited for the future of this story, and hopefully you are too.
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