Sorry for the delay. It’s been an interesting couple of weeks…
Chapter Twenty-Four: Quidditch and Kisses
The next morning every one was talking about the Harry-Malfoy incident. The news had traveled very fast. Apparently Moaning Myrtle had taken it upon herself to pop up in every bathroom in the castle to tell the story. Also, Pansy Parkinson had lost no time in vilifying Harry far and wide. Also, Snape had told the staff what had happened.
Harry was having a hard day as he had to endure taunts from Slytherins, not to mention much anger from fellow Gryffindors, who were most unhappy that their Captain had got himself banned from the final match of the season.
“It will be okay, Harry,” Ginny told him reassuringly during breakfast. “Once we win the Cup on Saturday, you’ll go back to just being the ‘Chosen One,’” she added, trying to make him feel better.
“Yes,” Harry chuckled. “I never fully appreciated how great it was to be the ‘Chosen One’ until I became a dark wizard who would use vicious curses against decent people,” his tone was airy, but Ginny recognized a hint of resentment. She understood him completely. It was amazing how easily people forgot everything Harry had done over the years.
“You can hardly count Malfoy as a decent person, mate,” said Ron, giving Harry a comforting pad on the back.
“This will blow over soon enough,” added Hermione. “You’ll see.”
After breakfast, Ginny said goodbye to Harry, Ron and Hermione and went to class. She had Transfiguration and Professor McGonagall was not in the best of moods. After an exhausting and complicated class, she sent them away with a ton of homework. Colin was grumbling about it on their way to Charms, until Ginny told him to go ahead because she had to make a detour to the bathroom. When she walked in, she heard a soft weeping. She knew very well who was in the bathroom, and it was someone she was not happy to see.
“What are you doing here?” Ginny asked Moaning Myrtle crossly. “Isn’t the second floor bathroom supposed to be your bathroom?”
“I can go wherever I want,” the ghost said, pouting her lips. She then looked at Ginny with interest. “Did you hear what that monster, Harry Potter, did to poor, defenseless Draco?”
“Oh! Shut up Myrtle!” Ginny snapped. “I know very well what Malfoy try to do to Harry and how he defended himself.”
“I was there,” cried Myrtle. “I saw the whole thing.”
“And then you went and told everyone a bunch of lies,” Ginny said outraged. “If you knew Harry you would know he’s incapable of hurting anyone… Not even a rat like Malfoy.”
Ginny stormed out of the bathroom, cursing under her breath because Myrtle was a ghost and therefore she couldn’t hex her. She was still fuming when she met Colin in the Charms classroom.
“What happened to you?” he asked her.
“I just can’t believe this people,” Ginny exclaimed. But she had to wait until after the class to explain him what had happened in the bathroom.
By Saturday morning, Ginny would have loved to hex a couple of people as well, but she thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to get herself banned from the Quidditch match too. After breakfast, Ginny and the rest of the team bade Harry goodbye before heading down to the pitch. It was heartbreaking to watch him stay behind. Ginny knew he would give anything to go with them.
She shook the image out of her head as she walked under the sunshine with the mass of students, all of them wearing rosettes and hats and brandishing banners and scarves in red or blue. She had to focus. Cho Chang might be a stupid, shallow girl, but Ginny had to admit she was a fair Seeker. Ginny had beaten her once the previous year, although, then she was not playing half as well as this year. However, Ginny knew she could do it again.
The atmosphere in the changing room was far from cheerful. Peakes and Coote were sitting quietly in a corner; Dean was polishing his broom almost with obsession; Katie was pacing anxiously; Demelza was leaning on her locker, her face was paper white, and Ron, who had just finished throwing up, looked like he was about to be sick again. Ginny pulled her Quidditch robes over her head and faced the rest of the team.
“Guys, you have to cheer up,” she said. She was not feeling very cheerful herself, but she thought that someone had to at least try to brighten up the mood. “We can win this.” All she got in response was doubtful looks. “I mean it,” Ginny went on with conviction now. “But if we want to win we have to step out on that pitch convinced that we’ll win.” She gazed at each one of her teammates in turn. “We know we are a very good team. We can’t second guess ourselves now.”
She could see how her words slowly started to sink in. The doubt was replaced by hope and suddenly, everyone was more receptive.
“Ginny is right,” said Katie. “We are better than Ravenclaw. We won the Cup last year against all odds.” She surveyed everyone attentively with a hint of a smile on her lips. “We can win.”
“But without Harry…” started Ron hesitantly, but was cut off by Ginny.
“Yes, Harry is the best Seeker Hogwarts has ever seen,” she said firmly. “But we don’t have him today and there’s nothing we can do to change that.”
“Besides,” Demelza added, “Ginny is very good too. And she has already proven herself against Ravenclaw.”
“What we really need today, Ron,” said Ginny cautiously, “is for you to keep your head on the game and not to panic.”
“Yes, Ron,” agreed Katie. “Just think we’re in practice and don’t think about the people watching the match.”
“Easy for you to say,” said Ron gloomily.
“You can do it,” said Ginny. “You have done it. Just relax.”
“And try to catch everything Ravenclaw throws at you,” Coote piped up.
It was maybe because of how anxious everyone was, but they all found Coote’s comment completely hilarious. After a good laugh, they were all feeling a lot better.
“What do you say?” Katie asked. “Are we ready?”
They all agreed and, grabbing their brooms, they marched into the pitch. Then both teams mounted their brooms and went up in the air while the crowd booed and cheered in equal measure. Katie –who had been temporarily appointed team captain- walked to the center of the pitch to shake hands with the Ravenclaw captain.
Ginny’s attention was momentarily caught by Cho Chang. The Ravenclaw seeker was hovering on her broom right in front of Ginny. They looked at each other for a moment from opposite sides of the pitch, as though weighting and measuring one another. Though grudgingly, Ginny couldn’t help admiring the way the sun shun on Cho’s long and silky hair, which she had tied on a ponytail.
“Dammed it!” Ginny breathed. Can she be any more beautiful? With that perfect skin and those stunning, exotic, black eyes… How am I supposed to compete with that?
At that moment, Cho gave her a little smile, as though wishing Ginny “good luck.”
What’s wrong with me? Ginny thought, feeling a bit ashamed. This is not about Harry. This is about Quidditch, and the only price the winner will get is the Quidditch Cup for her house.
Ginny nodded at Cho, thinking that even though she despised the girl, she should show at least some amount of sportsmanship.
She was startled by the sudden appearance of the Snitch. Ginny looked down at the center of the pitch as Madam Hooch released the Bludgers and then the Quaffle. There was a split second when Ginny almost lunged for the Quaffle, and she had to remind herself what her role in this game was.
“And the Quaffle has been released, ladies and gentlemen.”
Ginny turned around at the sound of Colin’s voice coming from the commentator’s podium. She smiled, looking at him so excited. He hadn’t talked about anything else since Professor McGonagall told him he had been chosen.
“… And Weasley blocks it!”
Colin squeal brought Ginny back to the game. Ron had just blocked Ravenclaw’s first attempt at scoring, and was now throwing the Quaffle to Dean.
“This is a very good start for Gryffindor,” Colin was saying. “And very good news for the red and gold fans. I have to admit we were all a bit concerned about the outcome of this match since Harry is not playing today.”
“Hem, hem,” Professor McGonagall cleared her throat pointedly.
“Well, Professor,” said Colin defensively, “it’s not like everyone doesn’t know I’m rooting for Gryffindor.”
“That is beside the point, Creevy,” said Professor McGonagall sternly. “I told you that if you wanted to be commentator you had to at least try to be objective.”
“Sure thing, Professor… Wow!” he exclaimed going back to the game. “Demelza scores! Fantastic play, if I may say so. I’m not going to say, however, that she happens to be my girlfriend and the prettiest girl in Hogwarts… Oops! I guess I already said it.” A roar of laughter filled the stadium. “Sorry Professor. It won’t happen again.”
Professor McGonagall didn’t say a word, but from a distance Ginny could have sworn she was about to smile.
The game continued with a great performance from all the players. Everyone new that this was all or nothing, and the Gryffindor team was playing superbly. Dean, Katie and Demelza were scoring goal after goal. Peakes and Coote were also playing their best game. One of the Ravenclaw chasers had to leave the game after being hit in the head by a well-aimed Bludger from Peakes. But Ginny was particularly impressed by Ron, who was doing a great job at defending Gryffindor’s goals. Ginny wished Harry could see them play. He would be extremely proud.
About an hour into the game, when the score was Gryffindor a hundred points and Ravenclaw sixty, Ginny saw the golden glint of the Snitch.
It’s too early, Ginny thought frantically. If I catch it now we’ll lose the Cup. Ginny weighted her options as she followed with her eyes the flight to the Snitch around the pitch. Everything will be okay if Cho doesn’t see it.
But everything was not going to be okay; Cho had just seen the Snitch and was already diving toward it. Ginny was close enough and soon was by her side; both girls flying neck and neck in pursue of the golden ball.
“It’s too early. It’s too early,” Ginny kept repeating under her breath, but she couldn’t let Cho catch the Snitch. She would catch it herself if she had to; second place was better than third any time.
Ginny stopped debating the subject when Cho reached for the ball. Ginny reached for it too, but at that moment, out of nowhere, a Bludger zoomed toward them. Ginny and Cho had to fly away on different directions to avoid being knocked off their brooms. When Ginny steadied herself, she realized that the Bludger had been hit by Coote, who was now looking at Ginny with apprehension, obviously waiting to see if she approved his action.
Not only she approved it, she could have kissed him. It had been a smart move. The Snitch was gone and Gryffindor still had a chance at wining the Cup. Her only regret was that the Bludger didn’t hit Cho. Ginny gave Coote a wide smile and a thumbs-up, and went back to flying around attentive to the next appearance of the Snitch.
“Good tactic by Coote,” said Colin. “He distracted Chang long enough for the Snitch to disappear, and gave Gryffindor a chance to score more points. And we need them if we want to win the Cup. I mean, they need the points if they want to win the Cup.”
When the Snitch appeared again, Gryffindor already had three hundred points and Ginny lunged after it without hesitation. She could hear Cho right behind her, but she didn’t turn around to see. This was it; she reached her hand, but she was still about an inch short and the Snitch had no intention of being an easy target. Ginny reached farther, and now her fingers could graze the ball. Cho had almost caught up with her; it was now or never. With a final push, Ginny’s fingers closed around the Snitch and her chest exploded with euphoria. Madam’s Hooch whistle was drowned by the enthusiastic cheers that were coming from the bleachers.
Ginny touched the ground and was immediately enveloped in a team embrace. She could barely hear Colin’s excited shouts.
“Gryffindor wins! Against all odds, and with an excellent performance, Gryffindor wins the Quidditch Cup!”
The next few minutes were a blur for Ginny. Madam Hooch presented them with the Quidditch Cup, which Ron appropriated at once. The crowd was till cheering when the Gryfifndor team marched hand in hand into the changing room.
“Come on Ginny!” Demelza urged her, walking toward the door of the changing room. The rest of the team had already left to the Gryffindor common room for the after-game party.
“You just go ahead,” Ginny said, putting her broomstick away. “I’ll be right there.”
“But everyone will want to see you,” Demelza insisted. “After all, you are the star today.”
“We all are,” Ginny smiled.
“Don’t be long,” said Demelza, walking toward the door.
Ginny turned to her locker and took out a little mirror. It was silly, really, but Harry might already be in the common room and she didn’t want to arrive looking like she had just survived a train wreck. She wanted to look at least presentable. She combed her hair and tied it back on a ponytail, and then she put some gloss on her lips. Looking at her reflection, she allowed herself a soft giggle. She felt a bit ashamed because she was usually not vain. But right now she felt like she could possibly conquer the world; it would be foolish if she didn’t at least try to take a step forward with Harry.
Ginny jumped startled when she saw a face in the mirror. It was Dean’s. He was standing behind her. She had no idea how long he’d been there.
“Dean,” she said, shoving the mirror inside the locker and closing it. “I thought you’d be in the common room with everybody else.”
“I was on my way there, but then Demelza told me you had stayed behind.” He got closer to her.
“Just wanted to…” she started, feeling -with frustration- her cheeks getting hot. “Oh! Never mind. Let’s go.” She put her wand in her pocket and was ready to leave, but all Dean did was take another step that brought him even closer to her.
“You were the absolute star today,” he grinned, tracing her arm from top to bottom with his index finger; he then played with her fingers for a second before holding her hand gently. Ginny, completely astonished, didn’t withdraw it. “The way you caught that Snitch…” Dean added softly. “You were perfect.” He smiled widely. “You are perfect, Ginny.”
He leaned in to kiss her, but Ginny put her hands on his chest to stop him.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“Well…” he frowned.
“Dean,” Ginny said. “We are over. Gryffindor winning the Quidditch Cup is not going to change that.”
“I just thought…” he said, taking a step back and looking completely abashed.
“I’m sorry Dean,” Ginny said firmly, “but nothing has changed between us.”
He let out a sigh and Ginny could tell there was some frustration in it. But no matter how sorry she felt for Dean, she was not about to get back together with him out of pity. Not after everything that had happened between them and especially not when she actually thought she might have a chance with Harry. She was indeed very sorry, but she had only one answer for Dean: NO.
When they arrived to the crowded common room, they were received with loud cheers. Dean, however, grabbed a butterbeer and went to sit sulkily in a corner where he was soon joined by Seamus. Ginny, on the other hand, was not about to let him ruin the evening for her.
“You made it!” Demelza greeted her cheerfully.
“Here you go,” said Colin, handing Ginny a butterbeer. “I propose a toast to the best Seeker Gryffindor has ever had.”
Ginny and Demelza laughed at his toast and drank happily.
“Don’t you mean the second-best Seeker?” Ginny teased Colin.
“Well, yes,” Colin snickered. “I just thought it wouldn’t be polite to say it to your face.” They all laughed again.
“I’ll talk to you later, guys,” Ginny said, spotting Hermione and Ron, who were sitting by the fireplace. Ron was still holding the Cup.
“Ginny! There you are!” exclaimed Hermione. “You were brilliant!”
“I was, wasn’t I?” Ginny laughed. “I don’t get tired of hearing it.”
“Now don’t get cocky,” said Ron with good humor. “I was also brilliant.”
In a sudden rush of inspiration, Ginny grabbed Ron’s head and kissed it. “You definitely were, you git!” she said and the two girls laughed even harder when his face turned bright pink.
“Where’s Harry?” Ginny asked then.
“Detention, remember?” said Ron.
“He’s not back yet?” Ginny asked with a hint of disappointment.
“He should be back any moment now,” said Hermione.
Hermione could very well have been a seer, because at that moment the people standing closest to the entrance started screaming and cheering loudly. Ginny looked in time to see how Harry was being pulled into the common room by several people. Ron was already running toward him, brandishing the silver Cup.
“We won!” he yelled. “We won! Four hundred and fifty to a hundred and forty! We won!”
Before she realized what she was doing, Ginny too was running in Harry’s direction. He looked around and his eyes met hers. Her mouth went dry and her heart started beating very fast as she had the most amazing realization: Colin was right! There was something different in Harry’s eyes. He liked her!
Without being able to restrain herself she threw her arms around him and a second later, he was kissing her. There was a fleeting moment while she thought about the fifty people watching them, but soon everything around her -everything that was not Harry- disappeared.
After several long moments — or it might have been half an hour — or possibly several sunlit days — they broke apart. Harry gazed at Ginny wide-eyed. She could tell the kiss had not been planned. The room had gone very quiet, but Ginny suddenly remembered they were surrounded by people when she heard several wolf-whistles and an outbreak of nervous giggling. Harry looked around, but Ginny couldn’t take her eyes off him. After a moment, he grinned down at her and gestured her wordlessly out of the portrait hole. She still didn’t meet anyone’s gaze as she let him lead her to the exit.
They climbed out through the portrait hole and Ginny could hear how the common room immediately exploded in excited conversation. But Ginny and Harry didn’t say a single word to each other. They were walking awkwardly side by side, but they might as well have been miles apart. Neither talked all the way to the courtyard. There were a million questions bubbling inside Ginny’s brain, but she thought she should let Harry talk first. However, he didn’t appear to be ready to talk. When they stepped outside, he would glance hastily at her every couple of steps, but he didn’t seem to find the words he wanted to say.
Once it was obvious he was not going to say a word anytime soon, Ginny thought it would be up to her. The problem was that she didn’t know what to say either. She wondered if she would dare ask him why he had kissed her; if that kiss meant something else… She knew she wouldn’t.
Instead, she said, as casually as she could, “That was nice.”
Nice? Did she just say nice? What was wrong with her? She had just been kissed by Harry Potter! He was the first boy she had ever thought about kissing, even before she completely understood what a kiss was. She had dreamt about this moment for years, and the only word she could come up with to describe the single most amazing moment in her life was nice? Come on!
“Really?” Harry asked, turning to look at her anxiously. He had obviously been wondering if she had liked it. He was so sweet! He definitely had no idea of the things he had made her feel. “You really liked it?”
“Oh yes Harry! It was a very nice kiss.”
She said nice again! Gee! Such witty conversation, Ginny! Are you brain-dead or something?
“I’m sorry it happened like that. I was really not thinking,” Harry said and Ginny could feel her heart breaking in a million pieces. Now he was going to say he had just gotten carried away with Gryffindor’s victory. It had been a mistake and he was sorry.
But instead, he added, “I’ve wanted to do that for a while.”
Ginny stared at him for a long moment, completely dumbstruck at this statement; scared to allow herself to feel any kind of hope.
“Really?” she asked, rather stupidly.
“Really. It’s all I’ve been thinking about for months,” he smiled widely. Harry had the most beautiful smile Ginny had ever seen. He didn’t smile very often, but when he did, it always took her breath away. “And right now, all I can think about is kissing you again,” he added, blushing slightly.
This time Ginny could feel her heart dancing the conga inside her chest. She wanted to say something clever and memorable. Heck! She would settle for simply screaming: “Yes Harry! Kiss me now!” But the truth was that she was not able to talk at all. She only managed to smile shyly at the time she felt –to her dismay- heat raising to her cheeks.
She looked at Harry timidly, and bit her lip nervously. He was looking at her expectantly, obviously waiting for her approval this time. She nodded almost imperceptibly, getting lost in his emerald-green eyes, and he smiled again.
His hands came up to frame her face and just before his lips touched hers, she closed her eyes. Her mind, which a second before had been bursting with questions, went blank, and she surrendered to the absolute pleasure of being kissed by Harry. She was still not sure if she was dreaming, but there would be enough time to figure it out later. For now she was only going to feel.