Sore Loser Syndrome
Disclaimer: The following is not purely original fiction, but rather characters, settings, and situations as created by J.K. Rowling. No money is being made of this piece of fanfiction and can not be reproduced for any purposes but strictly private entertainment.
A/N: Of course I'm not a Slytherin basher. Great House, really. I quite like it. But good grief, I'm writing a Gryffindor fic, what can you expect? If a little prejudice is beyond your level of endurance, fellow Slyths, then I suggest you move on (see my fics To Kneel and From the Bottom of the North Sea). In fact, North Sea provides the background for one of the incidents mentioned in this fic in passing.
Beware that this is PG-13 for Ginny's mouth. What it says and what it does.
Snape's comment about Harry and his broom (in a brief flashback sentence) is from the most excellent and lovely Miss Jacy, 'Occulus', found under 'auroraziazan', an account you should visit.
It looked for all the world like an absolutely normal day. Perhaps even a happy one, and if not happy, very pleasantly melancholy.
The evening sunset was everything the best of sunsets should be. Hot, sweaty players were treated to a cooling evening breeze, one that danced through the air and made the Forbidden Forest sway in a strangely unthreatening way. As celebratory Slytherins made their unusually merry way to their dungeons, with a dejected three-quarters of the school in their wake, quietness settled over the previously loud field.
Outdoors reigned supreme no matter who won or lost the Cup, unmoved to humans' joyful victory or horrified defeat.
Ginny Weasley had taken quite enough of the indoors and had thus gone back outside, although she was indifferent to the majestic sunset bit. The Gryffindor common room was very quiet, with all the brave souls (quite a few, considering the House in question) who dared to speak discussing The Event in hushed voices that befitted a funeral better than Gryffindor House. Ginny thought everyone could do without the melodrama.
Unfortunately, the missing-without-leave Captain Harry James Potter did not seem to agree, if his highly conspicuous absence meant anything. Ginny had decided that Harry was sulking; what's more, Ginny loathed sulking. In her opinion, slamming a few doors and scaring a few chickens (if handy) and then having it over with was far better than brooding, which was both highly boring and dreadfully time-consuming.
She was known to have sulked herself, once upon a time, but that was when she had been a child, of course. Now she was a fifth-year, hadn't sulked for four (actually, it was only two) years now, and with Harry's even one more set of three hundred and sixty-five days worth of breathing, he should know even better.
Finding her captain didn't take very long. Harry was too horror-stricken to be innovative in his private brooding place. He was in the broom shed. She had checked the boys' locker rooms first, very glad to find them devoid, because the boys' locker room always smelled terrible, more so right after a game, and holding her nose might detract from the lecture that Ginny, with the responsibility of bearing a woman's common sense, felt she would have to give.
So, the broom shed. Harry was sitting in a corner of the dirt-floored shed, in what was not only a very uncomfortable position, right enough - but what that slouch must be doing to his posture was beyond Ginny's scope of comprehension.
She gave a rather Snape-like sneer (really, if one was going to sneer, as Ginny had decided would be a useful talent, then one might as well learn from the best, particularly when having to endure the best - otherwise known as 'that slimeball git', 'poison incarnate', or, most commonly, 'the teacher from hell' - on a regular basis). Even while showing her disgust at this picture of dejection in general, however, she couldn't help but notice Harry's pale hands in contrast to the tufts of dark hair they gripped. It made his hands seem all the more white and his hair all the more black, which was oddly compelling.
'Harry,' she said coolly.
'Ginny,' he replied, without looking up.
'Ah, identifying me by my enchanting, unforgettable voice. What a lot of talents you have, Captain.'
'Oh shut up,' retorted Harry.
'Hmph.' Ginny snorted. 'I'll just pull up a piece of floor, shall I?' She did exactly that. It didn't seem to arouse any response in him. Finally, irritated impatience won over sympathetic patience. 'Oh, snap out of it, Harry, so we lost, it's not the end of the world.'
'Yeah, considering the end of the world would probably mean we're not sitting around chatting about Quidditch stats.'
Ginny was quite pleased that he had regained sarcasm, which, in her opinion, was one of the most highly valuable tools mortals had at their disposal.
'That's right, Harry,' she said cheerfully. 'Get all that frustration out - I'm a good target. Go on, it won't hurt me and it's helping you!'
'Ginny, go away.'
Her brown eyes - the ones that said 'sweet girl here' - narrowed. Ginny, go away. If there were three words she would like to ban, it was those three. Well, eliminating her own name put everyone at a bit of a loss… and go away was a useful term… so she'd simply ask that the two phrases not be used in conjunction.
She hated to hear that.
'I think you're being pathetic, Harry,' she said, deliberately and distinctly. 'One little loss - '
'We just lost a match to Hufflepuff,' he interjected.
Ginny scowled. 'So what? What's the difference to losing to anyone else? They had a good team this year. Why,' she continued, gathering steam enough to put a full-grown dragon to shame, 'does everyone assume the Hufflepuffs can't do anything? I was almost a Hufflepuff, thanks.'
He looked up, curiosity in his eyes, which was even another step past sarcasm. 'You were almost put into Hufflepuff?'
'Yes,' she replied testily, or perhaps she merely sounded testy because her teeth were clenched. 'Have a problem with that?'
Instead of answering right away - the clever thing to do, when Ginny Weasley took on that tone - he leaned back against the wall, breaking up his previous position of curling into a little ball of angsting misery, and stared off at the other end of the darkening shed.
'Nah,' he said, at long last. 'Not unless you have a problem with me almost being in Slytherin.'
If Harry had expected her to be at least a little shocked, perhaps even repulsed, he was sorely disappointed.
'Makes sense,' she said thoughtfully.
He took offence. 'How's it make sense?' he asked testily, or maybe it wasn't testily and his scowl only made it seem that way.
'How's it make sense?' repeated Ginny, exchanging thoughtfulness for being withering. 'Because you're in the broom shed crying because you lost a Quidditch Cup! If that isn't ambition - !'
She cut off, and there was a long silence. Harry finally broke it, sullenly.
'I was not crying.'
'That isn't the point - '
'The point is that we haven't lost the Cup in years. When I become captain, we lose it.'
'Might I remind you that our winning streak started when you joined the team,' Ginny said, deadpan and still dismissive and sarcastic.
'Oh, I know, I know, I'm a good flyer, all right? I've been told it often enough to have no doubts.' He rolled his eyes. 'If it's not the scar it's the Snitch. Someone'd think that there wasn't a real person in here.'
'Is there?' she asked unsympathetically.
Harry bounded to his feet. 'Yes, there is! I'm more than just the Boy Who Lived, I'm more than an idiotic Quidditch player - '
'You're right,' Ginny said, in tones of maddening disinterest. 'You can also throw some great tantrums after wallowing in self-pity long enough.'
Silence again. Harry almost collapsed back to the floor, causing a little patch of loose dirt to rise. The shed smelled interesting, Ginny had decided; it was musty, a bit mildewy, combined with the scents of old broom and polish.
'Why'd you come down here?' he asked at last, dully.
''Cause Ron and Hermione are on patrol duty and didn't have the time to snap you out of it,' responded Ginny with brutalness.
'Oh,' was the laconic reply.
Suddenly Ginny turned sweet and sympathetic. 'I know what's wrong, Harry,' she said gently.
He looked hopeful. 'Do you?'
'Yeah,' she said, with an empathetic sigh. 'It's rotten, isn't it?'
'Yeah,' he agreed.
'And - I don't know, you just feel strangely ashamed.'
'Well, right, of course.' Harry was hanging onto her words.
'I mean, do I ever understand where you're coming from.'
'How?' he asked curiously.
'Not from personal experience. Observation. Lots of it.' She shook her head. 'Mm-hm, worst case of sore loser syndrome I've ever seen.'
Harry almost went ballistic, and 'almost' is not a big word, not quite as long as the proverbial 'if'.
'IT'S NOT BEING A SORE LOSER!'
'Keep your voice down. A celebration has never stopped Snape's sick need to take points from Gryffindor. And I'm sure defeat only makes McGonagall more of a dragon.'
'I hope you're having fun, doing this to me,' Harry muttered. He attempted to growl it, but Harry lacked the ability to growl things.
Ginny sighed. 'Psychiatry is definitely more Hermione's field than mine, but I suppose you might as well get on with it. Enlighten me as to what it is beyond sore loser syndrome.'
'What?' He received an impatient glare and translated the above quickly into his own language. 'It's - It's just, well, I failed. At Captaincy.'
'Half of it was a new team built from scratch,' she said impatiently.
'Yeah, well, still.' He paused. 'It's - I can't coach. We were good. Maybe we should've lost a match earlier in the year, but by this point, things were good. No reason to have lost. There was talent. Ergo something was wrong with the way I coached.'
She rolled her eyes. 'Things happen, Harry.'
'What happened here except that - ' He broke off. Ginny was apt to do potentially harmful things when angered.
'Except that the Chasers couldn't communicate and work together?' she finished coolly.
'That wasn't it,' Harry muttered wretchedly.
'Get a grip, Harry. There's no point in trying to show you how you're wrong, so I'll just say this - this whole "but I just wanted to be a good captain" thing is the most horseshit form of rationalization I have ever seen.' She paused. 'Sore loser syndrome. Again. Just over Captaincy.' And then, after he opened his mouth, before words come out, 'don't go commenting on my language, Mum.'
For his mouth was agape, either in admiration or horror. Ginny wasn't quite certain which she'd rather it be. She liked having his complete -
Oh, damn. She didn't care about his attention. She was so over that crush on him. Hadn't she dated boys? Bloody enjoyed it, too, the boys and dating and all it involved physically. And Harry, now, of all people, acting like the world's biggest, royalest, spoiled-rottenest prat.
Anyway, Harry's apparently virgin ears recovered quickly. Maybe she had imagined more horror and admiration than there'd really been; he looked fine and pouty as ever now.
'I'm not trying to play for pity here,' he grumbled. 'I went off here so I could be alone, not have anyone trying to be nice and sympathetic.'
'Wallowing in self-pity,' Ginny repeated airily.
'It's not,' snapped Harry. 'I'm disappointed, all right? It was important for me to see if I could be a good captain. Obviously I'm not. I'm trying to come to terms with that, and your clever remarks aren't helping any.'
She smiled sunnily at him. 'Au contraire, I think I've helped amazingly.'
'Yeah, well, you think.'
Satisfied with her victory, Ginny hugged her knees and leaned back against the wall. 'Yeah, thinking. Useful thing to do. Admittedly I do it rarely, but it's still more than some people I know.'
And suddenly he chuckled. It was a somewhat hollow and pained one, but it was something.
'You did well though,' he said at last.
'No, really. Seriously. You're a good player.'
'I know that. But you can quit the polite bit.'
'What bit should I do, then?'
'Compliment all you want. I like it. Very nice for the ego. Just find something a bit better than well and good.' She was scathing.
'Picky,' Harry muttered, but his face had lightened somewhat after this. 'All right. Let me think.'
Ginny checked her imaginary watch. Imaginary because the Weasleys just couldn't buy watches for all of the members of their ranks - especially considering how often they lost or broke them to begin with. She checked said imaginary watch for the purely sarcastic note.
'Well, you survived your whole life with your brothers, congratulations,' he started.
'Hey, I think they had to work just as hard to survive.' But she was pleased.
'Probably. All right, I'm still thinking. Well, you voluntarily came to meet Voldemort, knowing it wasn't a tea session.'
'And then there's you, comparing it to a tea session,' Ginny said generously.
Suddenly Harry groaned. 'Why'd so many members of the Order come today? To see that?'
''Cause,' Ginny said, matching him for laconicy.
'Everyone's always so bloody sure I'll pull it off,' he muttered.
'What about my compliments?' she deterred him.
He chuckled. 'You threw a jar smash-shatter-bang in the middle of Snape's class. Under his very nose. Taking the jar from his hands. Nothing more needs to be said.'
Ginny was pleased. 'You heard about that?'
'Highlight of my day.' Harry started laughing. 'I wish I had seen it.'
'Sure, you would,' she replied ominously. 'My life was flashing before my eyes.'
'He must've been so livid.' Harry still sounded amused.
'Foremost and most importantly, you play an excellent game of Quidditch.'
'Most important, eh.'
'You're obsessed, Potter,' she said disdainfully. 'And, come on, is excellent the best you can do?'
Harry sighed. 'Touche. All right. Skillful. Canny. Levelheaded. Some bloody brilliant insults to the Slytherins, too.'
'That's better,' Ginny said in a decided voice.
'You still compared me to a Slytherin and said I was wallowing in self-pity.'
'Don't hold a grudge, Harry. It's not attractive.'
'Did you mean it?'
'Didn't it snap you out of it?'
'Don't you have anything better to do?'
'Oh, don't you like it?' Ginny grinned. Usually people tended to drop the Quaffle when a good spontaneous game of Questions came up. Who would've thought Harry would play along?
'Aren't you a regular ego-maniac?'
'Are we talking about old Roy Lockhart now?'
Harry groaned. 'Do you have to spoil a good moment?'
'Would I be half so wonderful if I didn't?'
'Who ever told you that you were wonderful?'
'Haven't you heard?' Ginny smiled angelically.
Harry hesitated. He was too much of a nice fellow to play too mean and dirty in this, despite the great opening he had for questioning said people's sanity, especially considering he was playing with a girl.
'Should I have?'
'Now, isn't that unfair to play that way?'
'We were playing a game?'
'Haven't you ever heard of Questions?'
'You didn't know that my cousin would never have the mental capacity for a game of wits?'
'Who said it was a game of wits?'
'Why would I play an opponent who doesn't have the necessary equipment?' Trite, Ginny knew, but she was tired and sore and it was growing late - not that it was a very good excuse.
'Equipment? And didn't you just call me obsessed?'
'Can't equipment refer to anything?'
'Even History of Magic?'
'I win,' Harry grinned.
'No you don't.'
'You didn't ask a question. You said "ouhn".'
'That was a noise, not a word! And you said "I win", so I win.'
'Is it important?'
Harry laughed. 'Sore loser syndrome?'
Ouch. Caught - hook, line, and sinker. Time to save face.
'But I recovered quickly, unlike you, all sulks and pouts.'
He sighs. 'I wish I didn't have a temper.'
'And I wish I didn't have to crane my neck up when I talk to everyone. A bit more height. Even you're taller than me.'
'Well, just goes to show you, can't always get what you want.'
'You probably think I'm a total prat,' Harry said dejectedly.
'Yeah, but that's okay, you're sixteen and male, so if you weren't a total prat I don't think you'd be quite human.' Ginny was very calm and factual about it. After all, she had witnessed most of her brothers pass through that particular, dangerous age. Usually not the prettiest of pictures.
'Are you feminist or something?' Harry asked, and then reddened. It didn't really improve his looks, but it was awfully adorable.
Ginny shrugged. 'All I know is that there's differences between witches and wizards, and I won't stand for witches being bashed. You boys can stand up for yourself - and if you don't you deserve it. Really, I know a lot of sixteen year old girls who are gits.'
'You're not.' It was dark, but Harry was probably going even darker and more interesting shades of red.
'Yeah, I know, I'm not sixteen,' she said, trying to sound cool and indifferent. But what could she do? Couldn't deny that there had been a pull of attraction since this whole episode had begun.
'Argh!' He buried his head in his hands again. 'You know what I mean.'
'Yeah, I do, but you shouldn't assume things.'
Minutes passed by, with something heavy hanging in the air. At least Harry's head was still indisposed. Before, he had been staring at her, and Ginny didn't want to admit that she'd liked it.
She had a boyfriend, for heavens' sakes. Even if she kept temporarily forgetting that, she did. And Dean was a very nice sort.
He was too even-tempered, though. Very middle-of-the-road. He didn't get passionate and yelling about things. Didn't sulk.
Damnit. This train of thought couldn't go on.
'We should get going,' she said abruptly, standing up and making a show of brushing off her robes, which really didn't need it. 'Curfew and all. I'm a prefect.'
'All that means is that you have an excuse.' Harry was dismissive.
She frowned. 'I don't mean to sound like Hermione, but if you keep sounding so much like Ron…'
'Creepy,' he agreed, and obediently stood, retrieving his neglected Firebolt. Ginny couldn't help but giggle, remembering the time when Harry had shown up for a detention with Snape, Firebolt in hand. Oh, was your broom lonely, Potter?
Say what you want, but Ginny dared anyone to out-and-out say that sometimes Snape wasn't really, really funny.
Or perhaps she was still biased since he hadn't killed her over the jar incident.
Harry didn't inquire what was so amusing. It wasn't his way; he was too shy. That made Ginny's giggling increase. She was going mad. She had never giggled around a boy. But for some reason, his reserve suddenly struck her as extremely comical.
'Gin?' he asked, a little nervously.
'S - Sorry,' she gasped. 'Tired,' she added, by way of explanation.
'No, nah, it's okay,' he said hurriedly. Courteously. A little desperately.
And that settled it and doomed her. She sighed heavily. Why must he be so sweet? Really endearingly so? It wasn't fair. But she simply couldn't resist. Anyway, she had the opportunity, and after this she could put those old demons and desires to rest. They might have been a little girl's, but that little girl was still inside her. Buried by a couple of years maturity, but still there, and rather curious and excited.
'All right, all right,' Ginny said, impatiently, reached over, and kissed him.
Before, Ginny would have said that she liked kissing well enough. But liking, especially when limited by a word like enough, fell tragically short of describing this.
She had been so deprived before she'd met this mouth.
And it wasn't enough, the mouth wasn't enough; for once she wanted more intimacy. Certainly she wasn't about to let a little shagging go on right then - although for the first time in her life she really honestly wanted it - but she moved in against him. She liked the feel of his body against hers. Sweaty. Smelling of typical weird boy smells. Warm. Nice.
They broke apart out of sheer shock and nervousness. Harry was wide-eyed, glasses askew. Adorably so.
Will you stop thinking of him as adorable? Ginny demanded, seething and reeling.
'I - erm - Ginny - I, I wasn't - forcing - '
'Of course not, you great prat, I started it,' she said, trying to sound matter-of-fact and almost succeeding.
'I mean, what I mean to say, you didn't have to.'
'No, I didn't have to.' She shook her head, hard. 'Shouldn't've, I know. I mean, Harry, I, erm, have a boyfriend and all…' Another shake of her head. 'Bad. Bad me.'
Was she ever the articulate one.
'Oh. Erm. Right.'
What a mess. So this was why she was supposed to learn to think before she acted. All of her mother's lectures and gruesome scenarios hadn't driven that point home like this, not at all.
'Get back up to the castle?' she suggested weakly.
'Right,' he said hurriedly.
They walked side by side, but avoided eye contact. It was dark now, past twilight. They could see fire's light from the castle's windows. The Great Hall was dimmed. Ginny could never make up her mind as to whether the walk had taken a long or short time to complete.
'Weasley - hey, Weasley!' It was one of the Hufflepuff prefects, What's-His-Name Copperstone, the down-to-earth one. 'Your turn for patrol duty, I'm done with this!'
'All right, Cops, I'll be right there!' she called, and turned awkwardly to Harry.
Ginny couldn't help but smile. What an idiot she was. After doing something that thick and stupid, and could barely get a word out afterwards, although Weasleys in general and Ginny in particular weren't known for not knowing what to say… she was left smiling. Idiotically.
But - well, if she was being an idiot, so was he, he was smiling back, equally ill at ease, but it was a smile.
'Weasley!' Copperstone was impatient. He'd missed the end of the Quidditch game and was hungry, and Potter wasn't too popular after giving Slytherin the Quidditch Cup just now.
'All right!' Ginny snapped. 'Damnit, Cops, I'll be there!'
'Ooh, someone's sore!' Copperstone returned, hurrying off to his common room and hoping a friend had saved him some dinner.
The awkwardness was terrible.
'Erm - H-Harry, are we, we're still friends, right?'
'Yeah. Hope so, anyway.'
'Good,' she said fervently.
'All right. Yeah.'
They burst into a fit of nervous laughter. Ginny forced herself not to giggle.
'Don't sulk, all right?' she persisted.
'You trying,' she muttered.
'Well, I will.' Harry paused. 'Got to go, I suppose.'
'Oh - erm, right, yeah. Well, 'night.'
'G'night.' He scurried away with rather more speed than strictly necessary, leaving Ginny at the foot of an empty, dim Great Hall, feeling more alone than she had ever felt before.
But they were friends still.