A bad feeling niggled the back of Harry Potter's mind. Everything seemed to be working against him today. He couldn't track Draco Malfoy to see what he was up to. Ron remained in the hospital wing after being poisoned on his birthday, and he had to resort to putting that plonker Cormac McLaggen in at Keeper.
Harry clenched his teeth as he walked up to the Hufflepuff captain to shake his hand. Bad omens surrounded him and the Gryffindor team. A dark cloud welled up inside him. He was not looking forward to this match.
Get over it. You'll do fine.
Harry mounted his broom and, on Madam Hooch's whistle, kicked off the ground. The rest of his team followed, as did the Hufflepuffs. He soared higher and higher into the air, scanning the clear sky for the little Golden Snitch. He wanted to find it and catch it as quickly as possible. Win the match, and go find out what Malfoy was up –
"And that's Smith of Hufflepuff with the Quaffle," said a dreamy voice, echoing over the grounds. "He did the commentary last time, of course, and Ginny Weasley flew into him, I think probably on purpose, it looked like. Smith was being quite rude about Gryffindor."
Harry's eyes widened. He swung his broom around and passed by the commentator's podium. He blinked a few times. Could his mind be playing tricks on him?
He closed his eyes tight and reopened them. The girl remained behind the magical megaphone, a girl with long, dirty-blond hair, big silvery eyes and a necklace of butterbeer corks.
Luna Lovegood, his girlfriend, was doing the Quidditch commentary.
"Oh. Hello, Harry." She waved to him. "You seem confused. Is there a wrackspurt in your brain?"
Laughter rolled through the stands surrounding the pitch.
"Oh. I imagine you're surprised to see me commentating on the match. I did mean to mention this to you last night, but as you were biting my neck and caressing my bottom, it sort of slipped my mind."
Harry felt his face redden. He tried to disappear within his red and gold Quidditch robes as whoops and whistles went up from the students.
"Miss Lovegood!" bellowed Professor McGonagall, who stood next to Luna. "That is not appropriate subject matter for Quidditch commentary."
"What? Oh. Sorry, Professor. But that is what happened last night. Oh. Harry? Shouldn't you be off looking for the Snitch?"
Harry groaned, laughter from the students still ringing in his ears. He turned away from the commentator's podium and shot through the air, orbiting high above the pitch. He cleared his mind of Malfoy, of Luna giving the Hogwarts student population intimate details of their love life. All that mattered was finding the Snitch.
Something flickered over the Ravenclaw stands. The Snitch? Had to be. He aimed his broom that direction.
"Oh look." Luna's voice floated over the pitch. "Ginny Weasley has the Quaffle. I do like her. She's very nice. She's tries to stop people from making fun of me and helps me with my homework. She also gives me very good advice, like telling me how I should roll my tongue when I kiss. I must say, Ginny, Harry so enjoys when I do that."
Harry choked on his own breath. Gaping, he looked back to Luna, who waved to him.
The laughter from the stands reached explosive proportions. Harry closed his eyes, wishing he could simply vanish to, say, the Gobi Desert . . . and never return.
Professor McGonagall scolded Luna again. Somehow Harry doubted that would stop his girlfriend from speaking her mind. Amazing how the quality that made Luna so special in his eyes could also drive him up the bloody wall.
He turned, and scrunched his face in anger.
A grinning Zacharias Smith pulled up alongside him.
Could this day get any worse?
"Oh, Harry." Smith did a horrible impersonation of Luna. "You're so dreamy. I'm so happy you took pity on a barking mad bird like me and -"
Harry shut him up with an elbow to the face.
"Penalty to Gryffindor!" Madam Hooch shouted.
Harry hovered over the pitch, his face twisted in a scowl, clutching his broomstick in a death grip.
"Well that's unfortunate," Luna said. "Harry Potter has committed a penalty, and now Hufflepuff will take a penalty shot. Oh, Harry. Haven't I told you before about controlling your temper? Perhaps tonight would be a good time for me to teach you those Tibetan breathing exercises. They do help to relax you."
Harry crushed his teeth together. His felt his ears and cheeks burn red. His eyes fell on the Gryffindor stands. Parvati Patil and Lavender Brown fell over one another in a fit of giggles. Neville Longbottom looked aghast. In the Ravenclaw stands, Terry Boot made like he was using a whip, while his friends Anthony Goldstein and Michael Corner doubled over in laughter. He dared not look at the Slytherin stands. Whatever they did would likely send him into a fury he'd be unable to control.
Smith took the penalty shot for Hufflepuff, and made it. Harry cursed under his breath. Bad enough Luna told the world what they did in the privacy of empty classrooms and broom closets, now she had to admonish him in front of the entire school.
The match resumed. Harry tried to concentrate on finding the Snitch. Instead all he could hear was laughter and hoots from the students. Nervousness gripped him every time he heard Luna's voice, wondering what other personal information she'd share with the world. He shivered at the thought she'd mention how he liked to wear red and gold boxers to bed the night before every Quidditch match.
Things did get better for Gryffindor. Ginny and Demelza Robbins scored a goal apiece. Smith, however, seemed to have trouble maintaining possession of the Quaffle for longer than a minute. Harry smiled at that, hoping the elbow to that prat's face contributed to that. Luna, thankfully, turned her attention to describing interesting cloud formations, including one that looked like a Crumpled-Horned Snorkack. He prayed she'd keep talking about clouds for the rest of the match.
Wait! To his left. A golden glint. Could that be the Snitch?
"Seventy-forty to Hufflepuff!" barked Professor McGonagall into Luna's megaphone.
"Is it already?" said Luna vaguely. "Oh, look! The Gryffindor Keeper's got hold of one of the Beater's bats."
Harry spun around in midair. Sure enough, McLaggen, for reasons best known to himself, had pulled Peakes' bat from him and appeared to be demonstrating how to hit a Bludger to an oncoming Cadwallader.
"Will you give him back his bat and get back to the goal posts!" roared Harry, pelting toward McLaggen just as McLaggen took a ferocious swipe at the Bludger and mis-hit it.
A blinding, sickening pain . . . a flash of light . . . distant screams . . . and the sensation of falling down a long tunnel.
Harry lay back in the hospital bed, staring up at the ceiling. Madam Pomfrey had healed his cracked skull, though his head still ached. The school nurse decreed that he stay the night in the hospital wing. Harry had argued the point, but to no avail. He didn't want to be here. He wanted to find out what Malfoy was up to. He wanted to get his hands on Cormac McLaggen and beat the stupid git senseless. 320-60 they'd lost to Hufflepuff. It had been, hands down, the worst match he'd ever been in since joining the Gryffindor Quidditch team.
Then there had been Luna. All that personal stuff she had said during the match. He could only imagine what the rest of the school was saying about it. What would it like when he walked into the Great Hall for breakfast tomorrow?
Harry pushed his head deeper into the pillow. He closed his eyes, but sleep wouldn't come. He couldn't help but relive the disaster that had been today's Quidditch match.
"Harry? Harry? Are you asleep?"
He opened his eyes and sat up, scanning the darkened hospital wing. He swore he heard Luna's voice, but she was nowhere in sight.
Wonderful. Now I'm hearing voices.
The air next to his bed shimmered. Suddenly there stood Luna.
"Luna? How . . .?"
"Hermione got your invisibility cloak for me." She held it up before him. "I did come and see you earlier today, but you were still unconscious, and then Madam Pomfrey chased me out. So I figured I'd come by and see you now." She took hold of his hand. "How are you doing?"
"Fine, I guess. I mean, my head's still a bit sore, but . . ."
"Oh yes. Gryffindor did lose the match. Rather badly, at that. Cormac McLaggen doesn't seem to be a very good Keeper."
"Tell me about it," he grumbled. "But, it's not that. It's just, um, well, your commentary out there . . ."
"Oh, that. Everyone said I was dreadful. I suppose you didn't enjoy it, either."
"No, it's not that. It's just . . . well, some of the things you were saying about us were, well, rather personal."
"But all true."
"Yes, but to say them in front of the entire school . . ."
Luna tilted her head, the skin between her thin eyebrows crinkled. "Are you embarrassed to be going out with me?"
"No. No, of course not. You mean the world to me, Luna. You really do. It's just, when you're talking about us kissing, and the stuff about your tongue . . ."
"Oh dear. Was I doing it wrong? I tried to do follow Ginny's instructions properly."
"Luna, it's just . . ."
"Perhaps I should try it again."
"No, Luna. What I'm trying to say is -"
Luna cut him off when her lips pressed against his. Her mouthed opened wider, as did his. Her tongue slid in his mouth. Up and down, side to side. Slowly, ever so slowly, caressing every inch of his mouth. Harry's heart slammed into his chest. An airy feeling consumed him. He drowned in a deep sea of ecstasy.
After an eternity, Luna slowly pulled back her mouth from his. Harry just stared at her in a blissful daze.
"So, was that better?" she asked.
"Uh-huh," he croaked out, the tingling sensation still rippling through his mouth.
Luna looked up at the ceiling for a moment, then back at him. "Was there something you wanted to say before I kissed you?"
Harry continued to gaze at her, studying every inch of her. Her hair, her clear face, her large, warm eyes. She looked so beautiful, more beautiful than the night he took her to Professor Slughorn's Christmas Party.
A smile spread across his face. How did he get so lucky to have a girlfriend so beautiful, so wise? A girlfriend who deeply cared about him, enough take his invisibility cloak and sneak out of her dorm past curfew to be with him.
"Harry?" Luna canted her head. "I asked if there was something you wanted to say to me before I kissed you."
"Um . . . oh, it was nothing important."
He snaked his arm around Luna's waist, pulled her toward him, and kissed her long and deep.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Some of the lines in this story came directly from Chapter 19 of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince."