Ginny Weasley paced the confines of the Harpies locker room. Her team mates were all avoiding her; they knew it was best to let her work out her feelings on her own. It was the first game of her third season with the team and she was abnormally nervous. The previous season had been a nightmare for her; plagued by injuries and playing so bad that she was surprised the team had offered her another contract. Now a new season was about to begin, and she was nervous. Scratch that – she was scared shitless.
Ginny started at the shout but hurried to respond to it. Gwenog Jones, captain of the Holyhead Harpies, was not known for her patience; especially with the younger players. She knocked on the doorframe of the captain's office.
Jones didn't even look up from the paperwork that was spread across her desk. "Shut the door." Ginny shut it. "Sit." Ginny sat. Jones scrawled a quick signature on two of the papers before looking up and meeting Ginny's eyes.
"I'm sure you can guess what I want to talk to you about," Jones said.
Ginny swallowed hard. "I'm not starting the match, am I?"
Jones smiled, but it had a tinge of sadness. "Sorry, Weasley, but I can't just drop Hammond like a hot cauldron. You haven't had a 100 practice yet and in every pre-season scrimmage your play has hardly been up to your usual standard." Ginny drew breath to speak, but Jones held up a hand. "I know you're flying as well as ever, but that shoulder injury has had a definite impact. Your strength and accuracy have both fallen off, and I need that accuracy if we're going to contend for the league championship this year."
Ginny sighed, nodded, and stood to leave. She knew that Jones was doing what was best for the team, but for herself she felt a surge of anger. She wasn't playing that bad, after all. Certainly no worse than Evelyn Hammond.
She left the locker room, ignoring her team mates that called out her name. She definitely was not in the mood to talk to anyone now. If anything her mood was worse than it was before her conversation with the captain. She pulled off her Chaser's gloves and threw them against the wall of the tunnel to the pitch.
"That bad?" a voice asked behind her.
Ginny spun around, ready to inflict a tongue lashing on whomever it was that interrupted her minor tantrum.
"Harry!" she exclaimed, her face flaming. She hated to be caught by anyone behaving like a spoiled child, but with Harry it was that much worse. It was worse because she knew that he loved her despite all of her faults.
He grinned and leaned forward, pressing a swift kiss to her cheek. "So, what brought this on?" he asked, gesturing to where her gloves lay on the floor.
Ginny crossed her arms over her chest and slouched against the wall behind her. "Gwenog pulled me from the starting line-up," she said. "Apparently I'm not playing to my usual standard." It wasn't possible to keep the disappointment out of her voice.
Harry leaned against the wall beside and assumed a posture identical to hers. "Well, Gin, she may have a point. That dislocated shoulder has affected your throwing ability. If you were still Seeking it wouldn't be an issue, but. . ." His voice trailed off, leaving her to come to the obvious conclusion.
Ginny sighed, and blew her fringe away from here eyes. "You're right. Gwenog is right, and I know it." She gave a rueful grin. "I don't have to like it, though." She pushed away from the wall and moved to face Harry, putting her arms around his neck. "Why is bad news so easy to take when it comes from you mouth?"
Harry straightened and put his hands on her waist. "Because I'm dead sexy and you can't resist my mouth," he said, before moving in to kiss her. It started out soft and gentle, but it didn't stay that way for long. Ginny parted her lips and teased Harry's tongue with her own. When he tugged on her lower lip with his teeth she moaned, sank her fingers into his thick hair and pressed her hips against his. Harry slid his hands from Ginny's waist to the sides of her breasts. As usually happened between the two of them the rest of the world faded away and they felt nothing but each other.
A bright flash of light and a burst of foul-smelling smoke brought the two of them back to their senses. Harry broke the kiss and looked over Ginny's shoulder to see his former Hogwarts classmate Justin Finch-Fletchley with camera in hand and a broad grin on his face.
"Sorry, Harry," he said, not sounding apologetic in the least. "You two are just so photogenic together!"
Ginny sighed and rested her forehead on Harry's shoulder. Luckily for Justin the rest of the Harpies came out of the locker room at that moment, distracting both Ginny and Harry from the desire to inflict grievous bodily harm on him. Ginny quickly grabbed her gloves from where they had fallen, dashed into the locker room for her broomstick and followed her team mates. She gave Harry a quick kiss on the cheek and cuffed Justin on the head with her broomstick as she passed.
Justin grinned ruefully and rubbed the back of his head. "She's got quite a temper, doesn't she?"
"You're lucky she didn't go for your groin," Harry said as he watched Ginny run down the tunnel. Once the entire team had entered the pitch to loud cheering he turned back to Justin. "Do you plan on hanging around till the end of the match? Because I think I might have a job for you, if you can get control of the scoreboard. . ."
"And right off the bat, even before the start of the first match of the season, the Harpies have given us one hell of a surprise," said Oliver Wood, his magically magnified voice echoing across the pitch. "Gwenog Jones has decided to not start Ginny Weasley, the sixth pick overall in the 2000 Quidditch Draft."
Ginny growled low in her throat; she had always been rather fond of Oliver, and enjoyed his enthusiasm for Quidditch, but at that moment she would have been happy if the earth had opened up and swallowed him whole. It was nice to know that all of the fans knew she had been benched before the team even took to the air.
"Well Oliver, I have to say I agree with Jones' decision." Lee Jordan's voice joined the conversation. "Weasley had a rough season last year, and that dislocated shoulder in the Harpie's semi-final loss was one of the ugliest injuries I've seen. And sources inside the Harpy organization say that her play has been abysmal in the pre-season scrimmaging."
"ABYSMAL?!?!" Ginny couldn't keep the shout contained as she surged to her feet, fists clenched and ready to take on all comers. The rest of the reserve team glanced at her in surprise and she subsided back onto the bench, chagrined. "Bad, maybe," she said. "But I think abysmal is a bit strong."
Darlene Huntsford, one of the reserve Beaters, put a companionable arm around Ginny's shoulders. "You're right, Gin, your playing hasn't been abysmal." She waited a beat as Ginny turned and met her eyes. "It's been absolutely appalling."
Ginny laughed; it was impossible not to. Darlene was one of her closest friends on the team, and always knew how to cheer her out of her black moods. It didn't take long for all of the reserves to join in the laughter.
"Well, she doesn't look too broken up about her benching," said Lee. "And I'm sure it's a temporary thing. I've know Ginny Weasley since she was 11 years old, and if that lady is anything she's a fighter."
"I don't doubt that for a minute," commented Oliver. "But the Quaffle is in the air and the new Quidditch season is underway!"
Ginny wanted to crawl underneath the bench. She was mainly mortified for her team mates, but reserved just a bit for herself. She had been benched in favour of this? Evelyn Hammond had had five shots blocked by the Keeper and as many passes intercepted. And the passes that had not been intercepted had flown wild, causing the other Chasers no end of trouble. The Harpies were behind 110 to 40.
And the Snitch had been in hiding since the start of the match.
She could hear the commentary of the match, the voices switching back and forth between Lee and Oliver. It made her feel like she was back in her second year at Hogwarts. It was the only thing keeping her from being swallowed by her embarrassment.
"And with that goal the Kestrals have enlarged their lead to 80 points." A loud groan sounded from the Harpy's fans, and it was echoed by the reserve players on the bench.
"This is really surprising, Lee," said Oliver. "The Kestrals were beaten, and beaten soundly, in the first round of the play-offs last year, and have gone through substantial personnel changes in the pre-season. There was even a re-organization of the front office. Everyone expected it would take some time for the team to fix itself, but it looks like they've gelled in record time."
"I agree, Oliver, and it's showing on the pitch tonight. In fact –"
"And the Holyhead Seeker is down!" Oliver shouted. "A Bludger shot to the head!"
Ginny and her team mates on the bench all surged to their feet, their eyes trained on the Seeker's broom. The Beaters closed in and got hold of the broom, brining it safely to the ground. A team of Mediwizards raced on to the pitch to evaluate the situation as Gwenog Jones landed nearby.
"That's Charlotte Maclean, Seeker for the Holyhead Harpies, and she is in bad shape," Lee announced.
Ginny could only agree with that assessment. Charlotte was clearly unconscious, and the left side of her face was streaked with blood. A member of the medical staff cast a quick levitation charm and began floating her to the locker room as Gwenog called for a time-out. Ginny sat, nervously fidgeting, as Gwenog, the Kestrals captain, and the referee conferred in the center circle. If they allowed a substitution she knew she'd have a chance to play; no one else on the team had any experience as Seeker.
Ginny sprang to her feet as if catapulted and ran on the pitch, her Nimbus 5.0 clenched in one hand. Gwenog didn't even speak; she shoved Charlotte's gloves into Ginny's hands and took to the air again. Ginny quickly yanked the gloves on, turned and winked at Darlene, then kicked off from the ground.
"And it appears that the official is going to allow a substitution, as Ginny Weasley takes to the sky alongside her team mates," said Lee.
"Indeed," Oliver agreed. "This couldn't happen without the agreement of the Kestral's captain. Apparently he has enough faith in both his Seeker and the team's 80 point lead."
Ginny laughed out loud as she rose above the rest of the players. She immediately felt better once she was in the air. Her confidence, which, despite her bravado, had been damaged by her benching, came flooding back. She felt all the exhilaration that always came with a Quidditch match, and surprisingly no nervousness, despite the lack of practice Seeking in recent years.
"I wouldn't be so confident if I was him," said Lee. "I know she has a reputation as a great Chaser, but Ginny does have a history of awesome Seeking. Back at Hogwarts she was rivaled only by the great Harry Potter himself."
Ginny grinned to herself, imagining Harry's reaction to his mention. A lot of Quidditch fans had been disappointed when Harry chose magical law enforcement over the game, and she knew he hated being reminded of that. Never mind the continual talk of the "great Harry Potter".
"And the Quaffle is back up and this match is on again."
Ginny easily blocked out the commentary; it was a skill she had developed as a rookie when all anyone wanted to talk about was her relationship with Harry. It had rankled. Badly. The implication that she had only earned a place on the team because she was Harry Potter's girlfriend had always been implied, but never said out loud. It had affected her play in the beginning of the season, until she had learned to shut everything out except the Quaffle and the goalposts.
Now she fell into her old Seeking pattern; zigzagging across the pitch from at least twenty feet above the main action, eyes constantly moving in search of the slightest hint of gold. Every word of advice she had ever heard from Harry kept running through her brain - always be on the move, pay attention to what your opposing Seeker does, stay out of the rest of the match.
She could see the Kestral's Seeker below. He was involving himself in the match as a distraction and a convenient target for the Beaters. Ginny nodded to herself; that was all to the good. Offering himself as a distraction increased the chances that he himself would be distracted. And since she was rather rusty as a Seeker any help was a welcome thing.
She heard a groan rise up from the crowd and gave the scoreboard a quick glance. KESTRALS: 120 HARPIES: 50. One of her team mates had just scored a goal, narrowing the gap back to 70 points. Now would be a perfect time for the Snitch to appear.
No sooner had that thought crossed her mind than she caught a flash of gold out of the corner of her eyes. She jerked her broom in a quick, 180 degree turn and focused on the spot, only to be disappointed. It was the referee's watch. She turned the broom back around and resumed her hunting, pleased to note that Kenmare's Seeker hadn't noticed a thing.
But he noticed it now; a bright burst of gold, flashing brightly and moving about, near the center goal on the Harpy end of the field. The Kenmare Seeker had already pushed his broom in that direction, flat over the handle. Ginny took off in pursuit, but she was almost 20 feet behind. She knew she could count on her lighter weight to make up most of that, but would it be enough? She flattened her body to the broom's handle and hooked her ankles together immediately behind her backside, improving her aerodynamics and speeding up.
She was running out of time; the opposing Seeker was almost on the Snitch. Ginny was so close she could see the hair on the back of his hand, but she wasn't close enough. But just as his fingers closed the tiny golden ball danced away from his grasp and moved further away from the both of them. The odds have definitely evened up.
Ginny was so focused on the Snitch that everything else in faded in to the background. She would have been pleased at Harry's shouted encouragement if she had heard it. She also didn't see or hear the Bludger that was pelting towards both Seekers. It was sheer luck that she swerved to follow the Snitch just as it hit home.
She did hear the sickening crunch as the Bludger broke the hand of Kenmare's Seeker, but it wasn't as loud as the cheers that erupted from her team mates and the Harpies' fans as she grabbed the Snitch. Once it was secure in her hand she accelerated and rose into the air, her fist raised so that the shine of the silver wings was clearly visible. Her team mates quickly closed around her, shouting in celebration, hugging, and thumping each other on the back. Gewnog didn't say a word, but the expression on her face was telling; Ginny would be starting as Seeker in the next match.
The entire team descended back to the grass of the pitch and was met by close friends and family who had been allowed through the security barriers. Ginny, however, was only interested in one person; the gleam of his emerald green eyes was unmistakable.
"Fantastic capture, Gin!" Harry said, catching her up against his chest and kissing her cheek. "I take it you're not so upset about not starting as Chaser now?"
Ginny swatted Harry on the shoulder. "Stuff it, you!"
"I can't, though," Harry replied. "Not yet, anyway." He guided Ginny away from the mob in the center of the pitch. "Think you can handle one more surprise tonight?" He turned her around to face the scoreboard.
"Harry, what. . .?" As she watched the scoreboard changed from it's regular white letters on black background. The background gleamed gold and dark green letters started to blossom on the surface, in what she recognized as Harry's handwriting.
You can stop Chasing – what you have been Seeking is right in front of and always has been. It's yours for the asking.
All my love, HJP
Ginny stood completely still for a moment, too surprised to move. The message couldn't mean what she thought; that was just crazy. She turned around and faced Harry. "Harry?"
Harry took Ginny's left hand in both of his and knelt before her. "I think you know what this is about," he said as tears sprang to Ginny's eyes.
The next morning the front page of the Daily Prophet sports section was dominated by a large photograph of Harry Potter and Ginny Weasley. They were embracing and kissing passionately. If the reader looked at the photo long enough Ginny's left hand came into view as she twined her fingers in Harry's hair. A large emerald and diamond ring was clearly visible on the third finger.
The caption read:
Harpy Chaser Ginevra Weasley enjoys her finest catch ever – Harry Potter. Wedding date to be announced.
The photo was credited to Justin Finch-Fletchly.