Disclaimer: I still don't own anything. No surprise there.
Well, I was right about one thing. The next chapter wasn't three months away. Three years on the other hand… Life gets away from you sometimes, and I apologize to those who've been waiting a long time for this – particularly the 314 people who still have this story on alert, and the 217 who consider it one of their favorites. If I could, I'd list every one of your names here as a thank you. Interest in Finally seems to be never-ending, and there are now over 100,000 hits. It's unparalleled in my time on this site, and I felt you all deserved something for your loyalty.
That being said, I'm not going to lie and tell you that the story will continue on indefinitely until the 19 years are up. I've heard it said that if there's no conflict, there's no story. And I seem to have done a fine job at eliminating most of the conflict. So I can reasonably confirm that I will write the two weddings, and the birth of a child, but after that I'll probably have to call myself finished. I've loved my time with Harry Potter, but all good things must come to an end. However there are more chapters still to come, so no need to panic just yet. At least the finale of the film franchise inspired me enough to get off my duff and finish this. Ultimately, I'd say you have Alan Rickman to thank for that. Curse that man's ability to make me bawl like a two year old! :-P I love him, though.
Again, so sorry it took as long as it did. Now enough pre-amble! On with the show! This is on the longer side, so I hope you enjoy it! I even put in Quidditch as requested. :-)
For the first time in all of Harry's years at Hogwarts, he was in no hurry to leave the Hospital Wing. He got to spend every waking hour with Ginny – uninterrupted, save when Hermione and Ron came for visits (and in Hermione's case, to bring their backed up class work), and Malfoy's occasional injuries. The two resident patients generally stayed quiet when the Slytherin boy was around, and Draco certainly didn't make any attempts at conversation. Harry didn't think there was anything to be said in any event. Malfoy had been warned. But it didn't seem that the warning was doing any good. Nor would he tell Madame Pomfrey how each injury occurred. Harry was becoming frustrated. How could he help Malfoy if he had nothing to go on?
Thankfully, and sadly, their time in the Hospital wing was short. Six days later, both were released with a clean bill of health, though Ginny limped for another week or so, and Harry had to guard himself from congratulatory punches to the stomach from students who'd heard all about the latest downfall of Dolores Umbridge.
Thankfully, an announcement found on the board the next week helped Gryffindors forget all about Harry's latest adventure.
"Quidditch!" someone squealed.
"When are tryouts?" a different voice murmured.
"Oh, honestly," came Hermione's voice. "With all that's been going on, McGonagall wants to start up Quidditch again?"
"Why not?" Ginny countered. "The field's finally been cleared out. All the debris is gone, and the castle is officially repaired. What's wrong with a game of Quidditch to lift everyone's spirits?"
Harry could think of one thing. "Malfoy," he murmured. Ron clapped him on the back.
"Go on, Harry. Malfoy's never beaten you in a fair fight!"
"It's not that," Harry whispered, gesturing for the others to follow him to a quiet corner of the common room. "If Malfoy gets chosen for seeker again, and Goyle for beater…" He didn't need to finish his thought. They all pictured Malfoy being shipped home in a shiny black coffin.
"Blimey," Ron exhaled. "What're we gonna do?"
"Well, we can't stop him from trying out for the Slytherin team…" Ginny trailed off and her eyes lit up with the kind of sparkle Harry had often seen in the twins' eyes. "Or can we?" She rubbed her hands together, while Harry shook his head – fighting a smile.
"We don't even know for sure if he's going to try out," he said pointedly. They had all noticed how subdued the blond-headed boy had been since returning to school. Of course, they suspected that his rather consistent trips to the hospital wing had something to do with it.
"Hey!" Ron shouted, slapping his forehead. Hermione jumped at the suddenness of the gesture. "It's just occurred to me – why don't we just report him to the Ministry as having used one of the Unforgiveable Curses last year? That would get him out of Hogwarts quick!" But the moment the words left his mouth, he seemed to regret them. He clenched his jaw. Hermione pressed her lips together and looked away, a flush creeping over her face.
Harry shook his head and stared at the carpet, feeling just as embarrassed. "There was a lot of cursing going on last year."
Ginny looked at the three of them, her expression darkening.
"What are you going on about?" she queried, her voice a little too loud. Other Gryffindors began tuning into their conversation. Harry took that as a sign to move the discussion somewhere else.
"I'll tell you after lunch. I promise." He looked earnestly in her eyes, but her foreboding remained.
"I'm not going to like this, am I?"
"Probably not," Harry admitted. "But you should hear it anyway."
It was three days before Ginny spoke to him again, but Harry couldn't be angry. One of the things he loved about her was her tenacity. When she formed an opinion, she stuck to it. To her, using Unforgiveable Curses was, well… unforgiveable. Of course, it didn't help that she had been tortured by the Cruciatus curse last year, thanks to Crabbe and the Carrows. When Harry had told her of his own experience using Unforgiveable Curses, she ran to her room – the one place she knew he couldn't follow her.
She didn't come out for the rest of the day.
Hermione went in to see her, later passing on the message that Ginny needed time to process things, and Harry was only too willing to give it to her. In truth, he was lucky she hadn't hexed him or something. It seemed that the silent treatment was to be his punishment, and Harry resigned himself to waiting. But he was glad he didn't have to wait forever.
When Ginny sat next to him at breakfast three days later, nothing was said about their argument. Harry tried to bring up the subject, trying to ascertain her feelings – but she had whispered that they would discuss it later. He nodded, and started talking about the new Quidditch team instead. As upset as she had been with him at the time, there was nothing that could have stopped her from trying out, and her flying had been so fierce that she had been the first one chosen for Chaser. For once, no one else contested special treatment, either. It was easy to see that she was talented – Harry's girlfriend, and owner of a superior broom, or not. That morning, they discussed strategies as if nothing had happened – Ginny's elbow accidently brushing his. Harry had missed this kind of contact – any contact – with her. But it seemed the storm was over, for which all of them breathed a collective sigh of relief.
Harry's peace turned out to be short lived, however. They were on their way to Defense Against the Dark Arts when Ginny grabbed Harry's arm and shoved him into an empty classroom. The move was so unexpected that Harry crashed into one of the desks, nearly losing his balance. Ginny didn't give him time to recover. She marched over to him, grabbed him by the shoulders, and kissed him soundly. There was no trace of a smile as she pulled away from him, and Harry's grin quickly faded.
"Harry James Potter, what the hell were you thinking?" She pushed a finger into his chest, and Harry realized he still had his arms around her. He decided to ride out her rage, not letting go. "Using Unforgiveable Curses! Even if it was on scum like Amycus Crow…"
"Can't we consider it revenge for what they did to you?" he asked lamely.
She didn't bother responding. He couldn't blame her.
Her finger pushed harder into his sternum and he tried not to flinch, just glad it wasn't her wand. Harry really didn't feel like dealing with bat-bogeys today.
"Promise me you will never do anything that stupid ever again."
Instead of responding , he reached up and grasped a handful of her radiant hair, pulling her mouth to his. When they both broke for air, he rested his forehead against hers.
"I promise," he whispered breathlessly. "And for what it's worth, I am sorry. But in some cases, those curses saved my life – and Ron and Hermione's."
"I know," Ginny responded. "That's the only reason I'm talking to you." She smiled as brown eyes met green. There was a mischievous gleam in hers. "Now, where were we?"
Harry grinned in response and gladly kissed her again.
Taking a deep breath, Harry smoothed down his robes. It wasn't like him to be nervous, but there was nothing ordinary about what was about to happen. He had been here before, but couldn't help thinking that the stakes were higher this time. He was going out there to face someone who wanted to hurt him. And it wasn't one of the usual suspects. Goyle had grown bolder – something Harry hadn't thought the Slytherin's limited intellect was capable of. But if Harry had learned anything in the last few months, it was that their old nemesis had developed something of an imagination. His attacks against Malfoy had become so subtle that even Hermione couldn't think of much more they could do to protect their enemy, except for one thing.
Give him another target.
Looking over the trusting faces of his Quidditch team, Harry swallowed heavily. It was the last game of the year, and as usual, it had come down to Gryffindor and Slytherin. Harry was determined to win, but he wondered just how much damage he might end up sustaining on the way. He didn't want another stay in the hospital wing – of that he was certain. Especially since Malfoy was in there every other day. Considering the fact that someone else was playing seeker for Slytherin today, it didn't take many guesses to figure out where he was now.
Swallowing hard and adjusting his glasses, Harry spoke.
"You know what to do," was all he said to the team. "This is for everything." He needn't have added the reminder – they were all well aware of what was at stake. Ron and Ginny especially. He ended his pep talk there, giving everyone a chance to run through any pre-game rituals.
Ginny's eyes met his for a brief second, silently asking him if it was worth it. Harry thought of that night on the forest floor – Narcissa's cold voice calling out the lie, "He is dead!" He crossed the distance between himself and his fiancée, kissing her on the forehead. When she looked up at him, he nodded.
"How much longer?" she whispered. He knew how she felt. Working as hard as they were to save one of their worst enemies was trying everyone's patience.
"I don't know," was his reply. "Certainly not once we get off the Hogwarts Express. He'll be on his own after that."
"Good," Ginny murmured, returning his embrace with her own fire. "I can't wait." Harry relished the thought of spending every day with her – free from distraction.
"What am I going to do with all my spare time this summer?" He flashed an unconvincing frown at Ginny. She punched his shoulder.
"Get a job, buy me a ring, and get ready for your best friends' wedding!" she replied.
"Ouch," Harry whispered, rubbing his arm. "I'm gonna need to use that…"
"If you two are just about ready, the crowd's going wild out there." Harry was snapped back to attention by Ron's voice. Sure enough, their fellow students were yelling so loudly that Harry could barely make out the announcement of their names. He looked down at Ginny, taking one last deep breath.
"Let's do this," she said, answering for them both. Harry grinned wildly as he reached for his broom.
"I love you," he told her, not caring who heard. Then he turned again to the team. "Let's go kick some Slytherin butt!"
"Do snakes even have butts?" someone queried, making Harry laugh.
And then they were off – soaring onto the pitch.
Harry had predicted that the game to be rough, and found that his expectations had been rather soft. Goyle was ready for bear, and with no Malfoy, he easily picked a new target. But it wasn't at all who they had suspected. Harry's heart leapt into his throat for the fifteenth time as a bludger brushed close to Ginny's knee. Goyle was forcing her to fly an erratic pattern – having nearly unseated her three times in the first ten minutes of the game alone. Worried as he was about her, Harry kept an eye out for the snitch. He was sure this was Slytherin's strategy. Everyone in the school seemed to know about Harry and Ginny's secret engagement, and it was clear that the opposing team was trying to distract him by putting his fiancée in almost constant danger.
But they obviously didn't know Ginny. She streaked across the field, untouched by both the bludgers and Goyle himself – who had taken a few "accidental" swings at her. Harry fumed as Ginny had to swerve to avoid yet another shot at her head, but she flew past him with a wink and a smile, and Harry tried to refocus on the game. Ron, however, seemed to be getting more and more angry as the game progressed – having let more than one goal slip through as he screamed for penalties to be called on Slytherin. But his anger turned to shock and confusion as Ginny raced toward the Gryffindor end of the pitch – a hard hit bludger on her heels. At the exact same moment, one of the Slytherin Chasers hurled the Quaffle to the far hoop, hoping Ron would aim to save his sister, rather than the ball.
The crowd drew in a collective breath, and the field seemed to go silent as Harry watched. Ginny hurtled toward the goal posts as Ron hovered between them. Harry could almost hear his anguished thoughts. Dive to the right and save the quaffle, or dive to the left and help Ginny? He was going to have to decide soon, if he had any hope of accomplishing either. Harry saw Ginny's red hair shimmer in the sun as she shook her head. He could only imagine the look on her face, and suddenly pitied Ron. Apparently his sister's fire was enough to convince him, and he dove to the right, barely grasping the ball with his fingertips.
Ginny kept streaking toward the goal. The crowd gasped – she was going to hit it! But they underestimated her skills. And her new broom. In a move that made Harry's jaw drop, Ginny banked hard right at the last second, and the bludger slammed into the goal post, shattering it. The hoop made its long fall to the ground as the crowd began to scream. It was as if a thunderstorm had suddenly unleashed itself across the field, and Harry couldn't help but smile. In one move, she had spared herself serious injury, and cut the chances of Slytherin scoring. Ron's job had just gotten a whole lot easier.
Turning away from the sight of the broken goal post, Harry looked around for the snitch.
And was surprised to find it flying just behind Ginny's trail of auburn hair. He zoomed off in pursuit.
She must have heard him approach, and glanced quickly back. Goyle was on the other end of the pitch, but rapidly making his way to them. There was a dangerous glint in his eye, and Harry knew he only had seconds.
Just as Ginny started to yell that she was fine – thinking no doubt that Harry had come to check on her – Harry's hand reached out to her lower back, grasping the snitch just in time for both of them to turn away in opposite directions, Goyle's bludger screaming between them.
Madame Hooch blew the whistle, and the game ended amidst the shrieking of three quarters of the school.
When Harry held aloft the trophy, the students went mad. Shouts of Ginny's name could be heard amongst screams of, "Gryffindor," and it was soon decided to replace them both with the word, "Red," which was shortly followed by the phrase, "Challenge RED and you're dead!"
After handing off the Quidditch cup to Ron, Harry embraced the star of his team, sweeping her off her feet in the process. But as he spun her around, he caught sight of someone unfamiliar.
A strange wizard was weaving his way through the crowd to approach the celebrating pair. He was around 6'2" and had grey hair with a slightly greenish tint. He wore simple dark blue robes and walked with purpose – like he was used to getting, and keeping, people's attention. Harry put Ginny down as the newcomer reached out to shake both of their hands, while introducing himself.
"My name is Modoc Peltier, and I'm a scout for a few of the Quidditch teams in Britain." He turned to Harry. "That was some fancy flying you did today." Harry nodded his thanks, though he could feel the shock that emanated from Ginny upon hearing the man's name. Peltier looked to her next, clapping. "And you, young lady! Very well done."
Ginny blinked at the compliment. "I didn't really do much."
He ran a hand over his beard. "You may not have scored any points, but I don't think I've seen such skilled evasion techniques before. And that trick with the goal post… Have you considered becoming a professional Quidditch player?"
"Well, I…" Her mouth seemed to be stuck, but Peltier just smiled.
"That is an official offer, by the way." He turned back to Harry. "For both of you."
"Thank you," Harry replied, more used to the attention than Ginny. She still couldn't respond.
"You'll need time to consider, I'm sure, but feel free to floo anytime." He handed Ginny a card with the dark green emblem and golden talon of the Holyhead Harpies emblazoned on it. Harry received one with the navy blue symbol and crossed bulrushes of Puddlemere United – the oldest team in the league. "You are both very talented, and could have bright futures on the professional circuit." He shook their hands one final time before turning to leave.
"Th-thank you!" Ginny finally managed to say, her voice squeaking. The man just laughed, nodded, and went on his way. Harry looked at Ginny and placed a gentle finger under her chin. He tried to close her gaping mouth, but she beat him to it – her teeth snapping shut. "D-did you hear that?" she gasped. "He offered me a job with a professional team!" She looked quickly at Harry. "Us – I mean, us. He offered us jobs."
Harry nodded, bemused. "Yes, he did."
Ginny's eyes seemed to spin with possibility – her mind far away. So Harry did the only thing he could think of to bring her back down to reality. He kissed her soundly.
When she opened her eyes again, they were clearer. "Thanks," she said, holding tight to his arm with newly repressed excitement. "I needed that."
"Anytime," he murmured, as they followed the cheering Gryffindor crowd back to the common room to continue what was sure to be an epic celebration.
Whew! Writing Quidditch is NOT easy. I can see why Rowling didn't do too much of it in the books. And as a side note, thanks to Springhole-dot-net's name generator for helping me with Peltier's moniker. The Quidditch teams (and emblems) mentioned are all official. Lots of research went into the writing of this chapter!
Again, I apologize for taking so long to update this! I'm not even going to ask for any reviews. I'll just be happy if anyone reads the story after I abandoned it for so long. :-(