This story is a direct sequel to "Grave Days", which is set in the days and weeks immediately after the Battle of Hogwarts. You don't have to read Grave Days first, as this story stands alone.
1: Quidditch: Rejection, Selection
Quidditch Captain Ginny Weasley looked around the pitch in dismay. There were about sixty students sitting on the benches, watching her, waiting. At least twenty were first years. It didn't take a genius to realise that this was many more than the number of students in Gryffindor House. She was glad that she'd taken the Head Girl's advice and put up a notice in the Gryffindor common room.
Hermione claimed to know very little about Quidditch – Ron claimed that his girlfriend knew less than nothing about the sport of wizards, and, for once, Ginny agreed with her brother. But, whatever else she was, Hermione was certainly a good organiser. Ginny pulled the list from her pocket, looked at the names, and then at the assembled students: Demelza, Ritchie, Jimmy and, unfortunately, Dean and Jack, were all there. She recognised a few of the others, too.
'Right, you lot,' she shouted. 'When I call out your name, come here and bring your broom with you! If I don't call out your name, the Head Girl will want to speak to you to find out why you're here. This is a closed try-out for the Gryffindor team. If you're not in Gryffindor or you didn't put your name on this list, I advise you to get out of here, now!'
Almost half of the students immediately stood and left; Ginny smiled and began to read out the names. When she'd finished, there were still three girls left on the benches. She sighed.
'Who are you, and why are you still here?' she shouted.
'We want to try out for the team,' the tallest of the girls yelled.
'That's my sister, Veronica, and her friends Kate and Alice,' a boy said dismissively. 'They're all second years, and they're rubbish.'
Ginny looked at the boy; he'd tried out last year when he'd been a second year. She searched her memory for his name—John Bulcock. He hadn't been much good, but she'd put him on the reserve list anyway. There hadn't been much option. At the start of last year, being a member of the Gryffindor Quidditch team had been like having a target painted on your back. Every member of the team had been on the receiving end of some very unpleasant hexes.
There had only been one game, Slytherin versus Gryffindor, which Amycus Carrow had refereed. Slytherin had won, of course, after the dirtiest game – and the most biased refereeing – that Ginny had ever seen. She had been crying in frustration by the time Slytherin finally caught the Snitch. Three members of her team had been injured during the match, two with broken bones. Carrow had refused to halt the game to allow them to be treated. Astonishingly, a Slytherin parent had walked onto the pitch and treated their injuries, much to Carrow's disgust.
Even some of the Slytherins had been embarrassed by their violent, bloody and unjust victory. When Snape cancelled all subsequent matches, no one had complained.
'Hermione,' Ginny called. The Head Girl looked up from her studies.
'If you wanted to try out, you should have put your names on the list,' called Hermione. 'I made the announcement in the common room on the first day of term.' She waved her copy of the notice. 'No exceptions!'
For a moment, it looked like Veronica would argue, but after a whispered discussion, the three second-year girls stood and left dejectedly. Ginny was tempted to call them back and let them try out. It was always possible that one of them had talent. But Hermione was correct – if they'd wanted to try out, they should have signed the list. She watched them leave and turned to the twenty-five remaining students.
'Everyone, mount your brooms, fly round the hoops at each end of the pitch, then land back here.'
That simple test allowed her to dismiss eleven more students – a lot more than she'd expected to lose. She looked at the remaining fourteen. Somewhere in this lot were her team. She'd hoped that she would have more choice.
'Beaters,' she ordered. Four boys stepped forwards. 'Names, please,' she requested.
'Euan Abercrombie,' a tall boy said.
'Hi, Ginny.' Burly fifth-year Jimmy Peakes smiled. 'Me'n Ritchie are back.'
Ritchie Coote grinned. Now in his fourth year, Ritchie had grown over the summer; he was Harry's height, still skinny, and half a head taller than the older Peakes.
'Stanley Cresswell,' the other boy announced his name sadly.
Ginny nodded. Cresswell's father had been a Muggleborn, one of many who had been murdered last year.
She sent the four boys up for flight and target practice. Abercrombie she dismissed within minutes, but there was little difference between the other three. Cresswell wasn't as accurate as Ritchie or as hard a hitter as Jimmy, but he was a good all-rounder. After twenty minutes, she finally made her decision. Ritchie and Jimmy knew each other, and had worked well together in the past, while Cresswell was the outsider.
'Sorry, Stanley,' she said, 'I'm sticking with Ritchie and Jimmy, but I'd like to keep you in reserve, just in case of injuries. If you three can all wait on the benches until I've finished looking at the rest, please.'
Cresswell shrugged disconsolately.
'Keepers,' requested Ginny. Jack Sloper stepped forwards and smiled. He was the only one to do so. Ginny tried not to look desperate when she turned to the remaining nine students.
'No one else?' she asked. No one moved. Ginny cursed; she wanted a good team, a strong team, and Sloper was really keen, but terrible. Typical! She had three decent Beaters, but only one poor Keeper.
'It looks like you're on the team, Jack,' she said, trying to hide her disappointment.
'Seekers,' she tried, hoping that she'd have a choice. Two girls and a boy stepped forwards. All were small, first or second years. Not necessarily a bad thing for a Seeker, she hoped.
'We'd like to try for Chasers, too,' the boy said.
'Me and my twin,' the taller of the two girls continued seamlessly. 'I'm Alizon Devine.'
'And I'm James,' the boy finished. Ginny looked at the other girl, a tiny, dark-haired, white-faced first year who hadn't spoken.
'Maisie Cattermole, Miss,' the girl said. She'd actually started to put up her hand before she spoke. Ginny looked at her curiously. Maisie looked terrified, but determined.
Ginny's heart sank as she looked at the three. If they were no good, she'd have to take the position herself. She didn't want that. She wanted to be a Chaser. She wanted to impress the scouts. She and her brothers, and Harry, had spent hours flying over the summer. Harry and Charlie both thought that she could make it as a professional. She knew that Oliver Wood had been signed up after he'd been noticed at school.
If she wanted to be a professional Chaser, she needed to work hard and do well. Plus, she needed a decent Seeker. Watching the youngsters carefully, Ginny pulled a catapult from her pocket and picked up a golf ball from the bucket at her feet. She had enchanted the balls to swerve randomly and she fitted one into the catapult.
'Mount up.' She waited for them to obey before pulling back the elastic. 'Now, catch this.'
The speed at which the golf ball left the catapult caught them by surprise.
The Weasley Slingshot Supreme was guaranteed to launch a Weasley Dungblaster Missile accurately over at least a quarter of a mile. It was both fast and accurate, Ginny knew - she'd tested it. Standing under a Disillusionment Spell at the far end of the dungeon corridor, she had managed to launch three Dungblasters into the Slytherin common room on the second day of term. She'd been ready and waiting when a couple of first years opened their portrait. She could have made it four, but she'd taken her time with the third shot and had managed to hit the Slytherin Quidditch Captain, Aaron Wylde, in the chest, finally getting payback for last year's defeat.
She'd written a glowing report about the catapult/missile combination to George, but ordered him to tell no one. The Headmistress, the Head Girl and the Head Boy had all spoken out against "the dungbomb incident" at breakfast the following morning. Professor McGonagall had told the entire school that hexing or attacking students would not be tolerated. The Headmistress also announced that any Quidditch player caught attacking another player off the field would receive a year-long ban. That announcement had initially resulted in Ginny angrily resolving not to get caught. Later, after an exchange of letters with Harry, she'd found herself promising her boyfriend that she wouldn't hex anyone, not even a Slytherin Quidditch Captain whose father was an identified Death Eater and on the "Wanted by the Auror Office" list.
When they had left the Great Hall after breakfast, Hermione had asked her if she'd thrown dungbombs into the Slytherin common room. Ginny had been outraged at the suggestion.
'I did not!' she replied honestly. I fired Dungblaster missiles using a catapult, she thought smugly, which is not the same thing. 'But, even if I had, I'd be stupid to confess to the Head Girl, wouldn't I?' continued Ginny. Hermione had frowned and protested, and then realised that Ginny had indeed been responsible.
When Hermione had started a lecture about honesty and responsibility, Ginny had stormed off. Head Girl Hermione was proving to be extremely dull and serious. It was astonishing how much difference the absence of Ron and Harry made to Hermione's behaviour. It had taken Ginny several days to make up with Hermione. It was her admission to the Head Girl, late one evening, that she'd promised Harry that she would not hex anyone which had finally resolved their argument.
James Devine landed in front of her and handed her the golf ball. Ginny had been daydreaming; she hadn't been watching the Seekers. She brought herself back to the job at hand. She was Quidditch Captain, after all.
'Again,' she ordered, re-launching the golf ball. This time, Maisie caught it.
She didn't wait for them to return; she simply launched ball after ball and carefully watched the three youngsters. James was fairly good – certainly not as good as Harry, but better than his sister, and certainly good enough to play in that position. Maisie was – mad – or stupid – or at least completely, foolishly, fearless.
Maisie managed to beat Alizon for the number of catches made and was only one catch behind James when Ginny fitted the last ball into the catapult. The tiny first-year girl crashed into the ground and broke her arm in a desperate attempt to reach the final ball before it hit the ground. Neither James nor Alizon were even close. Maisie was carried, crying, from the pitch to the hospital wing by Hermione. Had Maisie caught the ball despite breaking her arm, Ginny would have chosen her over James.
'James, you're our Seeker,' Ginny told the curly-haired boy. She looked at the remaining seven students.
Demelza Robins grinned. 'One to keep an eye on, that Maisie. If you'd selected her, she'd have taken Harry's record as youngest Seeker ever.' Demelza, it seemed, had been doing some research on the students who'd put their names down.
'Checking out potential rivals?' Ginny asked Demelza, smiling.
'Checking out to see who was likely to be any good,' Demelza corrected. 'Didn't you ask around?'
Ginny shook her head. 'I like to see them flying.' She turned to the remaining students.
'Chasers, let's fly,' she ordered, kicking her broom skyward to join the remaining seven students. She made her selection within minutes. Demelza and Alizon Devine easily outflew all of the others. She offered a reserve place to Demelza's fellow fourth-year and close friend Enid Plews. She wasn't great, but she was as good as Dean, and if she had to chose between the two…
'What about me?' Dean asked, as they dropped to the ground. He sounded hurt.
'I think that Enid's better, sorry,' Ginny lied. 'But if I lose two Chasers, you're next on the list,' she told him carefully.
'Thanks, gorgeous.' Dean winked at her. He is going out with Luna, so he should not be calling me 'gorgeous', she thought.
'Ginny!' she snapped. 'My name is Ginny.' When they'd been going out, he'd called her "gorgeous," she remembered, and "darlin'," and sometimes "red." At first, she'd thought it was wonderful; later she'd wondered if he could remember her name.
'Sorry, Ginny.' Dean smiled – he had a nice smile. That and his curly black hair were his best features. Quidditch Captains need to inspire their team, not annoy them, she reminded herself.
'Right, team,' Ginny told them, 'first practice is tomorrow morning. I want you all here, including the reserves. Remember this. We are this year's cup winning team. See you tomorrow.'
Her team cheered, turned and left.
'I hope,' she muttered under her breath.
Just over a week later, Ginny walked into the Great Hall with her team. Their second practice session had gone pretty well, and there had been no spies from the other teams. She was grateful for that. As she walked over to greet Hermione, Ginny felt a warm glow in her pocket. Harry had sent the message she'd been expecting. She stopped and pulled her DA galleon from her pocket.
The message read: 12:00 – 3 Oct – 54 gallons of ale.
Ginny grinned. She wondered who would be able to figure it out and who would need help. She looked around the Great Hall, searching for the five other DA members still at school. Three sat at the Gryffindor table. Hermione was examining her Galleon, a puzzled expression on her face, and so was Dennis Creevey. Dean Thomas was already eating his dinner. Typical Dean, Ginny thought, he never carries his galleon. If he had, he might have been spirited into hiding last year instead of having to go on the run. At the Ravenclaw table, Luna was putting hers back inside her robes and smiling. At the Hufflepuff table, Head Boy Justin Finch-Fletchley looked puzzled for a moment, then his eyes lit up as he saw her watching him. He grinned and winked.
On October the third, during the first Hogsmeade visit, Ginny would see Harry for the first time since he'd taken her to Kings Cross and the Hogwarts Express. She had three more weeks without Harry, and no opportunity to have fun without him.
Making mischief was, unfortunately, not an option. The new regime had made sure of that. Justin and Hermione, the Head Boy and Head Girl, were both members of Dumbledore's Army and heroes of Hogwarts. Both were Muggle-born, and both had missed school last year. Headmistress McGonagall had made a political statement with her choice. Ginny, however, rather wished that someone else had got the jobs. Dean and Luna would have been better. Luna would have made a very interesting Head Girl, and Ginny knew that she could still get around Dean provided she didn't lose her temper with him. With no opportunity to make mischief, she would concentrate on Quidditch, on her team.
They had the makings of a good team, but they would need to improve, especially Jack Sloper. After their first game against Slytherin, it would be obvious to the other two houses that their Keeper was their weakest link. Ginny could think of only one solution. They had to score a lot more goals than the opposition and catch the Snitch first. But, she smiled ruefully, that was the whole point of the game.