Title: Playing To Win
Summary: It's a different game to play, but winning is just as important.
Prompt: Wind for 100quills
Deathly Hallows: Compliant to the book, not the epilogue.
A/N: Post Hogwarts. I should be doing many other things right now, but it persisted.
Just as the murderous thought crossed his mind for the umpteenth time, someone flew up beside him, and moved a hand across their throat in a slicing motion. Harry nodded his head in agreement, taking one hand off his broom, he wiped his goggles again. Their coach, the genius that he was, had had a brainwave. While it was nowhere near as big as the World Cup, it was going to make news around the world. As they were one of the best teams in the world, so all eyes would be on his team. Most teams took Portkeys, or Apparated in, but their coach was a showman.
Hence, flying in across the desert. Which could have been a lot of fun. There were little hazards, so much free space open in front of them. As far as he could see, there was nothing, just open sky and freedom. It would have been great, if not for the dust that surrounded them periodically. It was suffocating, covering their goggles, and swallowing it was a very unpleasant experience. So while his team struggled with the elements through the air, their coach rode in comfort below them. He had hired a flying motorbike. Without a broom between this thighs, or dust creeping onto every inch of exposed skin, he was comfortable. He was oblivious to the discomfort, and the murderous thoughts of his charges.
Spotting the long awaited blip on the horizon, he pointed it out to Gareth who grinned widely. Before coughing widely as they passed through another pocket of dust. Harry laughed to himself, keeping his mouth closed. The whole team seemed to fly faster as the end neared, it had been a good idea in theory, but it ending was a marvelous thing. It looked like a campsite, except the tents were the size of houses. The pitches loomed large beyond them, as they got closer they could see what from the distance looked like flies, were teams taking the opportunity to practice before the tournament officially began.
They flew low over the crowds as they got closer to the welcoming area. Following their coaches instructions they slowed, allowing the showman to move ahead of them. The press could be seen, interviewing a newly arrived team, but their attention quickly moved as the roar of the bike reached their ears. The bike landed smoothly in the middle of the field, and was quickly surrounded by the media. All of them flashing their cameras, and questions at the coach, who lapped it up. A performer through and through.
Harry stopped his broom, and hovered above them.
"We couldn't do it like everyone else, could we?" Keane said from behind him. A burly beater, he didn't do much off the field, preferring to play, and then stay out of the spotlight.
"Ah, but he wouldn't be Guus then would he?" Laughed Keane, who was the complete opposite. Their star chaser on the pitch, and a chaser of a different sort off it.
He tuned out their mindless bickering, watching their coach below. The press were hanging on his every word, and he ate all the attention. Waving his hands wildly, gesturing everywhere, the odd word reaching their ears. He was no doubt talking them up, not that they needed it, they were raging favourites.
"Here we go gents, and lady," Gareth laughed, as the coach gave the preordained signal. "It's show time."
They hadn't rehearsed it, but they had been told what to do, many times. So one by one they flew down, landing behind their coach, Harry landing towards the back of the pack, and stayed there. He didn't like the spotlight, and there were others that did. At times he would give them what they wanted, but thankfully for the most part he wasn't needed. Every move he made wasn't front page news anymore, and that was wonderful in Harry's opinion.
Of course the gossip pages still survived with him as their regular feature, his photo appearing in them frequently. Since the last, definite break-up with Ginny, if he so much as looked at a witch (or wizard), they were dating, and if he was seen in their company more than once? Well it must be getting serious. It was pure madness, which was why he liked playing Quidditch outside of England. He was just another player here, who he was had nothing to do with the game of Quidditch.
"Now my team is very tired after their long flight," Guus said, holding up both of his hands. "There will be a practice session in the morning, which will be followed with a press conference. If you would be so kind as to hold all your questions till that time."
The reporters faces fell, not wanting to upset the flamboyant, and somewhat temperamental coach, they didn't push anything. A wizard, wearing official robes and a harried expression, dashed towards them, and ushered the press away from them.
Turning back to them, "You are here, at last. Now there is an official reception being held in twenty minutes, in the hotel," he said, rapidly flicking pages attached to his clipboard. "You are of course, invited, your presence is not mandatory however, but we do encourage all teams to attend. All your equipment, and luggage has been transported to your accommodation. You are all housed in T3, everything you could need is there, of course, House Elves are at your beck and call twenty four hours a day."
Their coach pushed his way to the front of the team, "I don't think we need to hear anymore at this point. My players are tired, therefore they will not be attending the reception this evening. It's very poor scheduling, they need rest ahead of the tournament. On that topic, we reserved the pitch for seven o'clock tomorrow morning?"
"Yes," he answered quickly, turning to a new page. "The pitch will be yours from seven till eight tomorrow, I am sure you can find your straps in that time."
Guus sighed deeply, "It is better than nothing. We shall go to our rooms now, and see you at the junket tomorrow."
Pulling a time piece out of his pocket, he gasped, "Yes, I will see you then. If you will excuse me, a delegation from China is due at any moment, and I must greet them. If you need anything, assistance will be given straightaway." He nodded to himself, pushing his spectacles up his nose. Before dashing away, disappearing into the crowd entering the hotel.
"What an odd little man," Guus said, shaking his head. "Well then, let's head to our rooms."
House Elves appeared automatically as he said that, taking a wizards hand in one of their own, they transported them using their magic. Harry landed unsteadily on his feet, he was luckier than some, with his coach pulling himself off the floor. It was an impressive space, they had been moved into what he assumed to be the living area for the team, with doors leading off it into what must be bedrooms. Empty picture frames lined the walls, with a group of former Quidditch stars huddled in one frame, staring with great interest at the new arrivals.
"Not bad," he muttered to himself, heading into one of the rooms.
It contained two beds, which Keane following him in, dumped a bag on top of. Harry had no objections to his roommate, he was quiet, didn't spend all his time off the pitch partying and after girls. It suited Harry just fine, especially when he considered the alternative.
"Hey Potter," Gareth said, sticking his head inside the door. "Oh, you set then?"
"Yeah mate," he smiled at him. "All beds taken."
"Shame. Oh well, might see if Sandy wants to be roomies."
Harry laughed loudly, "Good luck with that, I'm sure she'd be right keen on the idea."
"She's softening mate, it's gonna happen."
"Yeah keep dreaming," he grinned, laying back on the other bed. "Least you know it'll happen there."
"Least I get a girl every now and then," he countered. "I can't remember the last time I saw you get some..."
"Not like I'd invite you when I did."
"Okay man, you going to this party thing or what?"
"Dunno," he shrugged, "You?"
"Of course, you seen some of the birds on those American teams? Not bad, not bad at all."
"I might, probably won't stay the whole time tomorrow is going to be crazy, with practice, and then press. Plus the friendly the next day with New Zealand, I need sleep."
"Sleep my four-eyed friend, is highly over-rated."
Harry stuck to the edges of the room, keeping a drink in hand, he avoided any and all attempts at conversation. Female Quidditch players walked by, he gave them no attention, so they barely spared him a second glance. He liked his anonymity, he was just another Quidditch player. It hadn't always been that way, after the battle at Hogwarts, he had very much been in the public eye. While he understood it, and did his best to respect it; after everything that had happened, all that he had done and seen, he wanted to be free of it all. Everyone wanted a piece of him, leaving very little of himself, for himself. As a result he took himself away, from everyone. Keeping in contact with a select few, he holed himself up in Grimmauld Place. After a few months of letting the hysteria die down, he was finally able to live, freely.
While part of him still wanted to be an Auror, it wasn't what he wanted right now. His life had been filled with responsibilities, things that he must do, for the time being he wanted a careless existence. To go to work and have no-ones life reliant on him being able to help them. He had freedom, and it was liberating, as it should be. The time would come to be a grown-up, but right now he was happy.
He got to play the game he loved, which he was good at, for a job. He was paid to fly around with blokes that became his friends everyday, it hardly seemed like work. There were parts that weren't as much fun, getting up at five o'clock in the morning to train, was never going to appeal to him. Harry played though, purely because he loved to. The moment it stopped being fun, would be the moment he stopped, he would walk away without a seconds thought. For the moment he was having fun, playing Quidditch at least, the official side of the game wasn't as much fun.
Coming to these tournaments, traveling to exotic locales, and playing the best teams in the world. It was definitely enjoyable, he just didn't enjoy the commercial side of it all. Putting himself out there like a product, selling himself, selling cereal amongst things. It wasn't something he particularly liked, but it was part of the game, the industry. To play the game he loved, he would have to put up with it. Right now, he didn't have to be in this room, but he had chosen to be here. Partly because Keane from previous experience, was a snorer, a very loud snorer. The less time he exposed himself to it, the better. With any luck he'd be so tired, there would be no snoring. Harry would give it another twenty minutes, and he'd be out of here.
Another group of female players passed him by, not wasting a second glance at him, but one did. She looked at him several times, before stopping and waving the others one. Harry looked the other way, willing her to keep on moving. Not looking at her, she came and stood right in front of him.
"Well," she said quietly. "I didn't expect to see you here."
Recognising the soft accent, he looked up at her, "Cho? What are you doing here?"
She laughed softly, her face lightening up, "Quidditch of course."
"Oh," Harry hoped he didn't look like a fool, "I forgot you played."
Cho shook her hand, the motion causing her hair to swing, a gentle fragrance wafting towards him, "It's fine Harry. How have you been? Feels like forever since I last saw you."
"Yeah, been awhile," he smiled at her. "Just playing Quidditch, being lazy, I don't do much."
"Well, you look happy," she laughed again. "Being lazy certainly agrees with you."
"You play for the Hornets don't you?" Cho nodded, "Are we scheduled to play?"
"I don't think so," she said slowly. "Different group, I haven't seen you play since Hogwarts, feels like another lifetime."
Harry nodded, "Yeah, we are all grown-up now."
He didn't know whether to acknowledge the look she had when he said that, but he recognised it. She had been sizing him up, "Yes we are."
"Potter my good friend," Gareth said coming up beside him, wrapping an arm around his shoulder. "What on earth are you doing hiding yourself away in the corner? I've found some friends who would love to meet you, but now who have you met?"
Harry shrugged the arm off, "Cho this Gareth Jones, he's on my team. Gareth, this is Cho Chang, we went to Hogwarts together."
"Oh! Now I wish I'd gone to Hogwarts," he grinned at her. "Pleasure to meet you Ms. Chang, it's not Mrs. is it?"
She shook her head, "No," she said politely, before turning her attention back to Harry. "I should get going, it was good to see you again Harry, see you soon?"
"Yeah, definitely," he smiled.
"Bye," she returned his smile, and not looking at Gareth again she moved away quickly.
Taking a deep breath, "Harry, please tell me you nailed her?"
Harry spluttered beside him, "Why?"
"Because, I would severely question your sanity if you didn't."
He shrugged, "We went out once, it didn't work out."
"Shame, was she always so..."
"Yeah," Harry sighed.
"Damn," he laughed. "Then you best do your best now my friend."
"At what?" Harry looked up at him, noticing the glazed expression.
"What do you think?"
He shook his head, "We are here to play Quidditch, not to chase girls."
"What do you always tell me Potter? You play because it's fun, so don't be so bloody serious about it all. You let fun just walk away from you, frankly, I'm disappointed."
"I feel so bad that I've disappointed you," he deadpanned, watching Cho out of the corner of his eye, accepting a drink from someone.
"And so you should," he said seriously. "Before, I was right man, I can't remember the last time you had a girl around. Now that girl is gorgeous, she likes you, and I guess you like her, or you did at some point..."
"Stuff happened," Harry interrupted.
"It always does, but there is none of that stuff right now. You are far from home, as is she judging by her cute little accent, and you are nobody here. If you wanted to shag her in the middle of the Quidditch pitch tomorrow, you could."
Harry snorted, "Really?"
"Well, I'd advise you not to. At least wait till it's dark," he chuckled. "My point is, no-one cares if you are Harry Potter here, but she does. Take the gifts from the Quidditch gods, they want you to have some fun."
"Well, I shouldn't deny the gods now should I?" As Cho looked over at him, seeing him watching her, she gave him a brilliant smile.