Derby Despair, England Ecstasy

Disclaimer: 'Any people, objects, places and so on that you recognise belong to JK Rowling. I'm just having fun playing in her sandbox for a while.

"Weasley is on the Quaffle, I hope the England scouts are watching this. The childhood Harpies fan is playing a blinder today. She's passed the Quaffle back to Varney. Varney exchanges a one two with Sodje before Varney drops the Quaffle into Weasley's hand who has flown behind her Harpies teammates. She carefully dodges a Bludger and is now closing in on goal. Feinting one way and then the next, and another Bludger is sent towards her. She's flipped on her broom, hanging upside down as she shoots, not that that has made any difference. It's gone sailing through the left hand hoop."

Harry found himself jumping into the air with the other Harpies fans and hugging George while still in midair, who was also screaming passionately into the air. Just like Harry, George had yet to miss a Harpies game since Ginny had signed for them and now the pair of them were just grinning at each other like a couple of idiots. Harry had once thought nothing would beat the buzz and adrenaline charge of playing Quidditch but watching Ginny play was coming very close especially when the atmosphere was as electric as it was today.

Ginny had tried to prepare him for what it would be like but it was nothing compared to what he was experiencing. Even the fierce rivalry in the derby matches played in Muggle sports that he had compared it to paled in comparison.

"That's Weasley's fourteenth goal of the match and takes the score to 310 to 160 to the Harpies. She really is having a great week especially after her engagement to the hero of the wizarding world was finally announced to the press on Tuesday. The Harpies are really playing some delightful Quidditch today, completely bossing their local rivals and surely it only has to be a matter of time before this teenage sensation gets her place in the full England squad. Weasley is the brightest prospect I've seen in years.

"So that's the throw out and we're off again. Weasley has intercepted the Caerphilly pass but been tackled, firmly but fair, and now they're closing in on goal, only for Sodje to make the interception this time and it's back to Varney. But wait—something is happening by the foot of the Harpies goalposts and that's Hughes diving. I think that he may well have seen the snitch. And Hinds is in quick pursuit, flat to her broom as she comes from the other end of the pitch. She's making good ground too but she's going to struggle to catch the Caerphilly player; surely she was too far away. They're both going closer—Hinds is getting ever nearer to her opponent and they are all but level now. But, but, yes—it's over! Just as Hinds has caught up with Hughes, the Caerphilly player is flying upwards, his arms in the air. He has the Snitch!"

Harry found himself groaning with the rest of the Harpies fans as the commentator announced, "It's the Caerphilly Catapults 360, Holyhead Harpies 310. Caerphilly win the game so that's the bragging rights to them and their fans until the match at Holyhead in March."

Harry found himself groaning even louder. Ginny never liked losing; she could be foul to live with after a defeat and this loss was going to be so much worse. After all, this was not just an ordinary game that she had lost. She would be unbearable to live with until she had worked through that level of frustration. He could only hope that she would be exhausted with angry rants sooner rather than later.

"Rather you meeting her tonight than me," George said with a small shrug. "She'd go into a foul mood for days as a fan, now she's a player it's going to be ten times worse, especially since they really didn't deserve that."

"Any advice?"

George smiled at him. "To the hero of the wizarding world? You dealt with Voldemort, you shouldn't need advice."

"Thanks, George."

"Good luck. See you at The Burrow, tomorrow, if you survive," George wisecracked with a small grin as he Disapparated.

Anyone in wizarding Britain who had opened the newspaper this week had known the importance of the match. It had even taken the front pages off some new laws that Kingsley had passed, much to Percy's displeasure as he downplayed the match at The Burrow last weekend. The derby matches between the three Welsh teams always had a real fierce rivalry, one that had only grown since Russian investment had taken over the Tutstill Tornados leaving the other two sets of fans to call themselves — the real Welsh team.

The sports pages of the Daily Prophet as well as other magazines had been hamming up the match for days, declaring that the winners would become instant heroes. Ginny, who had been part of the crowd and witnessed the partisan atmosphere on so many occasions previous to this season, had even confessed that she was nervous this morning. The atmosphere at the ground had been everything that she had described. It was twenty times more intense than any Gryffindor versus Slytherin game that he had been too. Players had been idolised or vilified in each of several songs, several of which had been very crude and had made him want to reach for his wand at some of the lyrics being sung about Ginny. For the Harpies who were the away team, the hostile environment had been like walking into a dragon enclosure only without their wands as their every move and touch of the Quaffle was booed and jeered.

Passion had overcome so many and built into so much more. Losing, especially by such a narrow margin in such a tight match, was going to be very hard to take and Ginny was already proving that down at pitch level. There was really no denying that the Harpies had deserved to win, this was going to hit their players and fans alike hard.

Harry glanced down and looked at her, very happy that he was up here and that it was Rachel Hinds and not him on the other side of her temper.

Ginny had landed her broomstick and thrown it as well as her gloves to the ground in frustration before swatting several winged cameras out of the way. She had already done enough to earn another fine if at least one of those cameras were broken. And now she was engaged in a fierce shouting match with Rachel Hinds, shouts that made their way up into the stands and that the Harpies Seeker seemed to be returning with just as much vigour. Gwenog Jones was now separating her two teammates and lecturing the pair of them. The Holyhead Harpies' captain, who had already declared this to be her last season, was no less passionate than her younger teammates, she had just learnt over seasons of experience about both time and place. This was an instruction that Ginny had told him had been given before, several times before actually.

He had seen Ginny and Rachel scream at each other for hours until their voices were hoarse and known that they had been fined wages by the Harpies for this behaviour but he also knew that they had also received just as many punishments for their friendship, as they went out drinking and celebrating together. Ginny had actually confessed to him that she was the first teammate that she could share all that with since Demelza and the five year age gap did not matter one bit. So all in all, he was glad that it was Rachel getting this level of treatment.

As the players left the pitch, Harry slowly started to make his way out of the stands. The Harpies end was all but deserted. It was amazing how quickly the losing set of fans could leave a ground. Glumly, he made his way down to the tunnel to meet Ginny, beating her, Rachel and Gwenog down there.

By the time Ginny entered the tunnel, Rachel had her arm wrapped around Ginny's shoulder and the angry exchange seemed to have disappeared. Both players now looked depressed. Depression, however, had moved back to anger when Ginny exited the changing rooms over an hour later.

"Rachel," he called as he watched the twenty-three year-old exiting, "where's Ginny?"

"Still being lectured; Johnson is furious," Hinds explained, "not that Ginny needs the lecture, she's utterly gutted at the moment."

"You were unlucky with that catch. The wind seemed to favour Hughes and he was at the right end of the pitch," Harry offered.

"I should have moved quicker," she replied glumly, "I'd already seen it, I reckon Ginny had as well by the look she sent up to me. Having a former Seeker as one of your Chasers is not always a good thing, but I was too far away. If I'd feinted, then Hughes might have gone for it but I paused and that was the match."

Harry paused, wondering what words he could offer in comfort, but couldn't think of any. He knew that she was hurting and did not know how to make that disappear, he never experienced that level of hurt over a Quidditch match and he'd never been the villain in one. Rachel was going to be really in for it in the press as the Seeker that had failed to get the Snitch and had been responsible the Harpies' defeat. Luckily he was saved from offering anything else by Ginny's appearance.

Her normal smile that came with the adrenaline of a Quidditch match was gone. There was no twinkle in her eyes. Her body was slumped and her head was downcast. She was utterly gutted.

"Harry," she murmured. "Rachel."

"Fancy a trip to the pub?" Rachel asked. "We deserve one after today."

"Better not," she glanced back at the changing rooms.

"Johnson's not going to drop you," Rachel explained softly, "no matter what she says. You scored fourteen goals today."

"Didn't help," she glanced down at the floor. "Ruddy Caerphilly as well, and we didn't deserve to lose either. Let's get out of here, Harry."

As Ginny headed to the exit Harry looked over to Rachel. "Cheer her up, Harry, the way only you can. She really doesn't need to be that gutted with her performance."

Harry hurried over to his girlfriend and slipped his hand in hers. He felt Ginny try to pull away but he kept a firm hold on her. He spun her around so he could look directly at her. Ginny instantly dropped her gaze but Harry had become well practiced in this tactic over time and tipped her head back up so she was forced to look at him.

"You played well."

"We lost and I've just been fined two weeks wages," she said bitterly as she let go his grip, pulled out her wand and Apparated out of there.

"Well, you kinda deserved that," Harry said as soon as he had appeared right after her at Grimmauld Place.

He knew he was very much playing with fire with those words; Ginny's temper was not one that was safe to test but he would rather see her temper and her frustration in that fashion than a depression. It was much much healthier for her to express her emotions than to bottle them up. If he had learnt anything over the last few years it was that Ginny needed to rant, to get this off her back and for that she needed to be angry not depressed.

And that had done it.

She had started to rant, screaming about fouls and disallowed goals and bemoaning Rachel's position and lack of foresight.

"If only she'd feinted! I knew she'd seen it and she can pull off a great Wronski Feint. I've seen her do it millions of times in training."

Maybe it was passion or maybe pure, undiluted energy that was radiating from every pore of her body but Harry couldn't keep his eyes off her.

He watched as she paced around the living room, trying to keep a smile from his face, he doubted very much she would like to see him smiling right now. Her vibrant hair was flaming almost as if it was on fire, crackling with energy. Her bright brown eyes were alive with a sense of danger issuing from them. Her movements became more wild with every step she took and red sparks of anger flicked from her wand as she moved. Passion was radiating from her body.

She was so beautiful, so full of life especially with her colourful use of language that was currently escaping from her mouth.

"Ginny," he finally started when she had stopped for breath after ten minutes of solid swearing, "it's not going—"

"I swear, Harry, don't! Just don't!" Ginny ranted, cutting him off mid-sentence. "That wasn't just any match. I had every right to get a bit passionate at the end."

"A bit?"

"I swear they want us just not to respond, not to show any spirit. They might as well just Imperius us before we go out there."

"Well, at least that would mean that you follow Johnson's tactics to the word and maybe Rachel would have got the Snitch," he smiled at her, "I'm sure that was part of the game plan!"

He watched as she lowered her wand and the corners of her mouth twitched into a smile. She was no longer furious, at least not with him, but she was not ready to let that drop quite yet. However, he was sure if he worked at her, she could be loosened up an on his bed within a matter of moments. The ranting had clearly done her the world of good.

He had been right; it really was just what she had needed. Not that he would be mentioning that as he did not want that wand raised and pointed at him.

"Harry, don't," she warned, her voice in a dangerously low hiss. "Don't even joke."

"Come on, Ginny," he said softly as he made his way closer to her.

She glared at him, her bright brown eyes interlocking with his green ones. Carefully she stepped backwards. "I'm not ready to joke yet. I'm furious. I'm gutted and not ready to give that up yet."

Even as she spoke, he could tell that the tension was starting to ease from her body. The pent-up energy had been taken out on the floor boards as she'd paced. Her anger had evaporated into the air as she ranted. She was far from furious now; she just wasn't ready to give up the ghost on frustrations at the match.

"Well if it's this bad…" he said, as he took her hand into his, moving closer to her again. The shaking fury had disappeared and he felt safe to broach a lighter, more fun and playful topic now, "…we'll just hide in here for a few days; we've always had a lot of fun doing that."

"Yeah, right! We both still have jobs to go to, lives to live outside this room. And you know as well as I do the press are going to be all over the aftermath of that match. You know they are going to be camped outside, waiting to following me, waiting for another slip to report on and tell the world I'm not good enough for the hero of Britain," Ginny said bitterly. "It will be impossible to disappear."

"The press will only be interested in getting you that call up," Harry insisted. "You played a blinder; you deserve to be called up to the squad now."

"Ha!" Ginny spat back at him, breaking from his arms but there was no doubt her anger had gone. "The press are positive that I'm going to corrupt you. That will put a stopper on any call ups."

Harry looked into her eyes and he couldn't keep a grin from his face. Along with her vibrant hair, her eyes were his favourite feature. They were bright brown with a hint of yellow, giving them an amber depth. Just like Ginny herself, the closer you looked the more hidden qualities you found. Her eyes always showed her range of emotions and there was a teasing glint in them now.

"It's too late for that." He caught her hand and twirled her back closer to him. Dropping kisses down her neck, he found her arm resting on his back. He paused allowing another smile as he spoke. "You've been corrupting me since a sunlit day by the lake."

She returned his smile; her eyes slightly glazing for a moment as if she was remembering the aftermath of that Quidditch match. "Well, don't let the press hear that or Mum will catch on and it won't just be the Professional Quidditch Association and the reporters making my life hell." Her hand left his back and filled his hands, giving them a small pull. "As far as she's concerned, I'm perfectly entitled to be wearing white on my wedding day." Leading him towards the bedroom, her smile grew. "And as I've always said, 'what she doesn't know won't hurt me'. Besides, if I remember rightly, you kissed me first, so surely it was the hero of Britain corrupting the innocent teenager."

Harry laughed. "I'm not sure you're too innocent, especially after some of the language you've used today."

"Oh shut up, Potter!" There was no doubt about it now, her eyes were twinkling with mischief. "Corrupt me, like you used to by the lake."

Harry was just about to lean in and kiss her when he heard an owl pecking at the window. Ginny was very much in a mood to give in to her frustrations now. Surely if it had been sent here, and this quickly, it could not be good news. He was half tempted to ignore it; he had just got Ginny back into a mood that was going to be very enjoyable but he had learnt from experience and several owls from the Professional Quidditch Association that it was never good to ignore them.

He opened the window and let the brown tawny owl hop in.

Ginny pulled the letter off the owl's leg and it took flight instantly. "Might as well know when they've called the hearing."

He watched as Ginny froze reading the letter, trying to detect any form of emotion. He could normally tell what Ginny was feeling in an instant as long as he looked into her eyes. He had learnt the secret to Ginny's rather exceptional acting talents ages ago: you just looked into her eyes.

But her eyes gave nothing away except maybe shock.

"Well?" he finally asked unable to wait any longer.

"There." She gave him the piece of parchment.


Dear Miss Weasley,

We are delighted to inform you, that you have been selected for the friendly match between England and Greece on the 12th December. Please report to join up with the squad on 9th December. Should you suffer any injuries in the meantime, we request that you owl in the details straight away.

A further owl will arrive with details on the 7th December.

Look forward to seeing you soon,

Mark Powell,
England team manager

"Ginny that's…" he started.

"Amazing."

"And deserved," he finished.

This time he did cross the space between them. He wrapped his arms tightly around her and kissed her, a kiss that she returned with as much if not more passion, energy and pure adrenaline as she had shown on the Quidditch pitch today. In fact it was several very long minutes later that the kiss ended and he led her upstairs to celebrate.

Fin