I'd be happy if J.K. Rowling reads this; she certainly did not write it.
Harry brushed the ash from his cloak before sending it to the hook on the wall by the door. "Ginny!" he called out, "I'm home!"
"In the kitchen, love," Harry's red-haired wife called back. "Did you get everything done?"
Harry walked into the kitchen, accio'd an apple lying on the table, and grabbed it with his left hand. "Finally! I swear if I'd known how much paperwork was involved with catching bad guys, I would have gone into professional Quidditch. The good news is I was able to get to the point where I can see my desk, so I'll be able to take off for Hogwarts first thing tomorrow morning. I can't wait to see the kids again! Your weekend is still free too, right?" he asked a bit anxiously.
Ginny floated dinner to the table and sat down. "Yes, I'll be free. I have just a few things to finish up tomorrow, and then I'll join you with the rest of the parents Saturday morning. My boss knows not to try to contact me over the weekend unless it's truly an emergency." She accio'd the pumpkin juice. "You know you make the same complaint about bureaucracy at least once a month." She gave her husband a mischievous grin. "I think you're more eager to play in the alumni-student Quidditch match than to see the kids."
Harry sat down. "Well, it's only been two months since school started," he teased. "But when was the last time I played Quidditch?" He sighed softly. "Of course, it would be better if I could play against James. I can't understand why he didn't play with the team this year."
Ginny frowned. "I think he was disappointed that he got too big to play seeker and just didn't want to learn another position."
"Well, it will give him more time to focus on NEWTS, I suppose," Harry responded as he began to eat. "You're sure Ron isn't jealous that he wasn't invited to be on the alumni team?"
Ginny shook her head. "Ron and I both recognize that we're not in your league as far as Quidditch skills go. Besides, Oliver was selected to captain the team because of his time in the professionals, and you know he wouldn't give up the chance to play himself. Oh, remind me after dinner to give you a couple of things for the kids."
The next morning, Harry apparated to the lawn outside of Hogwarts. He had only taken a few steps towards the gate when he heard the familiar voice of Oliver Wood.
"Harry! I'm glad you could make it a day early. As seeker, it's not as critical to practice with the rest of the team, but working together never hurts," Oliver said in one breath. He grabbed Harry's arm and pulled him through the gate. "Let's go to the Quidditch pitch. Did you bring your broom?" Pulling out his beloved Firebolt, Harry unshrank it. "Harry! Don't you keep up with the times? I know you love that broom, but it's at least four generations old by now. Even if you don't have a Mercury, you should at least have a Zephyr."
Harry felt slightly defensive. "It may be old, but this Firebolt can do tricks that need to be seen to be believed. You know how many games we won with me flying it. Besides, I'm not going to buy a new model just for this match."
"It's OK, Harry," Oliver said pacifyingly. "You're right – you're unbeatable on that beauty. Besides, it would take you too long to get used to a new broom to help us in tomorrow's game. Let me introduce you to the rest of the team. We'll have a practice game before lunch so we can learn each other's style. The match is scheduled for midmorning tomorrow, so we can get serious after lunch and get in some additional hours after tonight's feast as well."
"Whoa, Oliver! I do want to see my kids as well."
"Sure, Harry! I've blocked off an hour after lunch and dinner, and then of course after the game tomorrow you'll be free to celebrate with them."
Harry smiled. Oliver had lost none of his obsessiveness about the game. It was refreshing to see that some things never change.
"Hey, guys!" Oliver called out to the group gathered underneath one set of rings. "You all know Harry Potter, of course." He pointed out two burly men, one with long brown hair tied back behind his neck and the other with shorter blond hair. "Antares Redfield and Ned Sampson will be our beaters." He next pointed to a willowy brunette, a shorter woman with black hair and another blond man. "Alexandra Perks, Siobhan O'Ryan and Adley Middleshire are our chasers. Naturally, I'll be keeper."
Oliver then motioned to take in the whole group. "Everyone, listen up. Thank you all for agreeing to play in tomorrow's game. I searched the records to find who had the best record from any team, any house in your positions for the past thirty years. I played against Antares several years and can tell you first hand he's the best beater you can imagine even as the old man of the team. He was one of the reasons Slytherin won the cup seven years running. You all know Harry's reputation – he was the youngest seeker in a hundred years. Alexandra and Adley were teammates for three years and led Hufflepuff to the Quidditch cup for the first time in eighty-two years. Ned and Siobhan are our young blood. We are the crème de la crème. I know we'll wipe the field."
Antares smirked. "Thanks for the vote of confidence. I noticed you left out the part about also being available this weekend and having a child who is currently at the school as part of the qualifications."
"Well … that will make victory even sweeter." He grinned. "I taught my daughter Marian everything she knows about flying so that's one opponent we can plan strategy against. She's a chaser. Antares, isn't your son on the school team too? What are his weaknesses?" Without waiting for an answer, he continued, "Come on, guys, mount your brooms – we have a long day ahead of us!"
Three and half hours later, Harry found himself tired and sore but happy at the Gryffindor table with Lily on one side, Albus on the other and James across from him. Antares had gone to the Slytherin table, Alexandra and Adley to Hufflepuff, and Siobhan to Ravenclaw. Ned sat next to a boy who looked just like him further down the Gryffindor table and Oliver was next to his daughter. As Harry talked with his children, he remembered being in their place, planning adventures with Ron and Hermione. Lunch ended too soon when Oliver tapped Harry on the shoulder.
Harry was even more sore following the afternoon's practice session. It had been a long time since he'd spent so much time in the air. e He HH
After a soothing shower and getting dressed, he sat down for a few minutes to rest on a bench in the locker room before beginning the long trek up to castle for dinner. Most of the others had already headed back, but Antares paused at the door and walked over to him.
"I'd forgotten the tedium of the practice," Antares said as he sat down. "You look like you're aching. Do you want a potion for sore muscles? I have some extra. Professor Snape always made sure we had more than enough when we were students and as I've gotten older I've realized how wise that was." He held out a vial.
Harry's response was automatic. "No thank you, I'll be fine." He saw Antares' face become emotionless in a way that reminded him of his old potions professor. Puzzled, he searched for a topic of mutual conversation and asked, "Is your son Slytherin too?"
Antares gave him a sharp look, then shrugged and drank the vial himself. "Yes, we're both Slytherin," he replied with resignation. He shook his head slightly. "It's been almost twenty-five years and people still negatively stereotype us. You may not think so, but it's Britain's loss. Many of us have already moved across the pond or to Australia. My family will be moving as soon as my son graduates." He abruptly stood up and started to walk out.
Harry bit back a groan as he rose up too quickly. "Hey, wait a second! It's not what you're thinking. I've learned the hard way never to accept potions from an unknown source."
Antares stopped and turned around. "Then you don't have any problems with me being on the team?"
"Of course not." They headed out the door together. Harry turned curiously towards Antares. "How did you like Professor Snape as Head of House? He terrified those of us in other houses, especially me at the time. After I spoke up for him at his trial I saw him a few times, but have since lost touch with him. There was too much history between us for us to become friends, but I respect him a lot. Without his courage we couldn't have won the Death Eater Wars."
Antares relaxed. He nodded and the two started up the hill. "Even being a Snake, I can't say I really knew the man. He did watch out for us, though, at least as much as he could. I graduated the year before you started school. The years I was on the Quidditch team, I had a total of seventeen other teammates. Eight of those became Death Eaters and either died in the war or are still in Azkaban. All but two of those were from Death Eater families. Those of you fighting you-know-who sadly wouldn't accept our help because of our house even though we could have prevented some bloodshed, but at least we stayed neutral. Looking back on it I think it's because Professor Snape subtly encouraged us to really see what was going on before committing ourselves. I know now he couldn't have done anything more without betraying his position."
"Do you stay in touch with him?" Harry asked as the two entered the Great Hall.
"He was never particularly sociable. Thinking about it, he probably didn't want to be put in a position where he was supposed to recruit us for he-who-must-not-be-named." He pointed to a boy with short brown hair waving in their direction with a wicked grin. "There's my son over there. You'll get to know him well tomorrow as he's the seeker on the school team." He inclined his head in farewell as he added, "I'll see you after dinner." Later, Harry would realize Antares had never answered his question.
The next morning brought cool but sunny weather. Harry ran into Ginny, Ron and Hermione as he was heading out of the castle to go to the Quidditch pitch. Giving Ginny a loving hug, he turned to the others with a big grin. "Ready for a fun-filled alumni weekend?"
Four hours later he was not smiling. The alumni team had lost, 420 to 310. Oliver gathered the team around him. "Good try everyone. It's a disappointment, of course, but these youngsters have practiced together for over a month and we just had one day to get to know each other's styles. Next year I'll try to get the alumni team together more than a day in advance." Harry could hear the dejection in his voice even with the encouraging words. As Oliver turned and walked towards the locker rooms, Harry looked at the other alumni players. "Anyone else want to visit the hospital wing before we eat?"
For lunch, the tables had been magically extended to seat all the parents as well as the students. Harry found Ginny sitting across from Ron and Hermione, with an open seat next to her. Their children were already eating in the seats next to them.
"Sorry about the loss, Dad," said James. "You sure looked good out there despite flying on your old Firebolt."
"Well, it was fun in any case, but I'm glad I stopped by the infirmary before coming here or I would be paying the price tonight." He poured himself some pumpkin juice. "No one on the student team was wearing house colors." He motioned down the table towards one of the chasers from the student team. "I know Marian is a Gryffindor and Antares' son is from Slytherin. What houses are the others from?"
Hugo looked up as he was dishing some buttery potatoes onto his plate. He motioned down the table. "Two other players are Gryffindor as well – Will's one of the other chasers and Tyler's a beater." He pointed towards students at the other tables who were the center of attention of their classmates. "Two are Ravenclaw, the keeper and the third chaser. The second beater is a Hufflepuff."
Ron snorted. "I'm sure that student Snake seeker cheated somehow. And Harry, did you see how the Slytherin beater on your team clearly missed the quaffle twice? I think the two of them were working together to guarantee an alumni defeat."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Don't be ridiculous, Ron. For what purpose?"
"I don't know, but I know what I saw."
Harry took a sip of his pumpkin juice. "I don't think so, Ron. Sure, not all of Antares' moves were perfect, but neither were mine nor those of anyone else on the team. Even in our prime we weren't perfect, and it's been a long time since any of us played on a regular basis. But I thought Alexandra scored some exceptional goals for our team."
To Hermione's complete boredom, by the end of lunch each move had been thoroughly dissected with magical animated figures in the air. The students had not hesitated to offer their criticism about both teams.
As they were about to leave the table, James caught his father's eye. "Dad, I need to get a new telescope. Someone tried to hex me in the hall and I dropped it. I tried to fix it, but it's just not as good as it used to be."
Albus got up. "And I need a new number two pewter cauldron. I just can't get some dried goop of some sort out of my current one."
Lily spoke up then. "Can I get another set of dress robes? My roommates say they look really old-fashioned and they clash with my hair."
Harry and Ginny looked at each other. "You need to be more careful with your things," Ginny responded, speaking for both of them. "We will!" came a chorus back as the three left the table.
Harry shook his head. "Can you imagine either of us expecting new school supplies or robes because they weren't perfect?"
Ginny snorted. "Remember how Ron had to use a broken wand for a year?" They headed up to join the rest of the parents.