Disclaimer: I own nothing and am making no profit. I also had no beta past myself on this.

A/N. Every so often when I'm failing at coming up with original ideas I revisit something I've already done. This evolved that way and is the closest thing to a Letters Cannon epilogue that will exist.

Please note too, the previous chapter, as stated in many author's notes, was an 'alterante' epilogue, more AU than anything. This one sticks more with the actual story that encompasses the 19 chapters before it, and as such, is labeled chapter 20.

Chapter 20

Life

It was still dark when Harry Potter blearily opened one of his eyes. Neither of their alarms were going off, but that didn't matter, he could tell simply by the darkness that it wasn't time to be awake. Still, she was wiggling against him, trying to slip out of bed unnoticed. He wasn't coherent enough to really do more than close his eyes and attempt to prevent her from moving, enjoying her flowery scent as he pulled her to him. But, moments later, she slipped away easily enough and he fell back asleep without really giving it a second thought.

When he did finally wake, whacking his alarm clock off the table, it was sunny. He rolled over, meaning to grab her, but instead just gathered up a bunch of blankets and his favorite flowery scent. He sighed and frowned a little bit. Harry absolutely hated waking up alone, but sometimes that was just what happened.

He crawled out of bed and wandered over to the window, meaning to enjoy the view of the water from his Ballycastle home. But he was greeted by busy streets and a bustling city. He couldn't help but laugh just a bit to himself as he wondered just how he could forget that he'd been at his London home almost exclusively for the last few weeks. It was strange to be in London during the Quidditch season, but they had a break for the World Cup, and he was going to enjoy every bit of it he could. At least until he had to go to Sweden to represent his country.

Harry moved to the bathroom to shower and prepare for the day. It wasn't until he finished that he noticed the neatly folded paper on his bedside table. He walked over to it, with a smile, and lifted it up before beginning to read the pretty script that lined the page.

Love,

Sorry, I could not sleep. I was only up a few minutes before I was supposed to be anyway. I hope I didn't wake you as you need all your rest for today's match!

I will try my best to make it. But you know how the director is with our rehearsal schedule. Perhaps I will just have to charm my way out early. But do not be nervous. You will win. It is your turn to be the best.

Anyway, good luck, not like you need it.

Yours.

He smiled more at the short note. He loved letters. The written would always have a special place in his heart. Harry walked into his study. He had very little use for it, but it stored one of his most important treasures.

He sat at the desk and opened the top drawer to his right. Inside was just a simple folder, but inside that folder was every letter they'd exchanged. He'd kept them all. Years and years of correspondence. He paged through them quickly, smiling at a few sentences on each of them, before sliding the newest little note onto the top of the pile and placing the folder back in the drawer.

Harry knew it was silly, but he loved the letters themselves almost as much as he loved her. They made him nearly as happy, and were a wonderful reminder of everything that the two of them had become.

He wandered back into the bedroom and pulled on some black jeans and a team shirt. He sat on the edge of the bed to pull on his shoes before looking in the mirror. If someone would have asked, the black and red shoes were a bit excessive, but they were comfortable and the team loved when the players wore team gear. He took a deep breath. She was right, of course, he did need his rest for the match he had today. And he'd gotten enough of it. He stood and took a deep breath, focusing on the stadium he was about to apparate to.

Ahead of him lay a match that really had no bearing on anything. It was just a simple exhibition to appease fans and create a buildup for the World Cup. But, Harry had been waiting years for this match. Almost a decade to have another shot. He smirked into the mirror just before he apparated away. He wasn't going to blow this one.

The music was too loud. The music was always too loud. It had bothered him tremendously his rookie year, but he'd gotten over it. Mostly. Although he still made his disdain known to his teammates on occasion. It didn't matter that they'd catch him tapping his foot along with the beat. And even on occasion humming along. Although he'd never admit to either. He wished his team would focus more. But, their methods had been proven. Perhaps the loud music helped his teammates review scouting reports before matches. It only made him think he was at a dance club with his fiancé. And he preferred not to think about his fiancé, especially dancing with his fiancé, before a match. It made focusing harder.

He pushed those thoughts from his head and thought about the task was ahead of them. He thought it was strange how much press this match had received, seeing as it didn't count for anything. But that certainly wouldn't prevent a sell-out, or massive reporter interest. It was one of those rare exhibition games that could garner such attention. He glanced around briefly to see his teammates going through their pre-match rituals. They were all as focused as if they were playing for the league cup in twenty minutes.

Still, Harry Potter knew, as he reflected on such rituals, that he didn't really hate the music as much as he pretended. He knew that he just hated everything he associated with the time between their warm-ups and the match. It was slightly less annoying when they were the road team. As they'd have the pitch last for their individual warm-ups, and as such spent less time waiting around in the locker room after warm-ups. But for this match, they were considered the home team, despite playing at a charmed stadium just outside of London. Of course, their actual home stadium was closer to London than their opponents. Harry had one of his fondest quidditch memories from the stadium. But that would be something better reminisced upon later.

To pass the time he simply sat at his locker and examined his broom. He did it before every match. As well as during every stoppage in play long enough to warrant it. Every time out. And after most matches. Very rarely was anything wrong with it. But he wouldn't take the chance of it casting him speed or maneuverability during any match. The twigs on his current edition were a bit more worn than he'd have liked. But it wasn't anything serious. He'd have requested a new broom from Lotus, but they'd promised an update for the upcoming World Cup.

Of course, the L10 Bat was the closest thing to perfect that he'd ever flown. But Harris had promised him something even better, and so far he'd not disappointed. Harry did have to admit to that he was surprised the car maker had thrown itself into brooms so much. But from what he gathered from his agent and others, simply having Harry Potter had created a huge demand for brooms, especially amongst youth quidditch players and the company had responded accordingly. It had taken a while to get all the Ballycastle Bats on board, but they hadn't been disappointed since the switch from Nimbus.

He was knocked out of his daze, or inspection of his broom, when a familiar voice spoke to his right.

"We have to be on the pitch in ten minutes and you've managed to take off your practice uniform and stare at your broom. For someone who hates this as much as you do, you certainly aren't every in a hurry to get back onto the pitch," the team captain said loudly. At least loud enough for his voice to carry over the music. Harry just laughed and stood up in his locker.

"Quiet you. I change when I'm ready," Harry responded as he turned toward his uniform. He pulled his quidditch pants on over the black and red athletic shorts he wore, affixing his black leg pads as he did as well. He sat for a moment and pulled on the black and red boots. The two-tone made them a bit gaudy for his tastes, but having everything else on the uniform black probably would have been a bit much. He pulled his chest pads on over his head, shaking a bit to make sure everything was in place.

"Well someone has to make sure you don't fly out onto the pitch half naked. Although that may be a good marketing tool. Witch Weekly would love it. Perhaps I should pitch it to them?" his captain asked, a teasing smirk on his face. Harry glared at him for a moment, but the captain had turned back to his locker by then, and all Harry saw was the red 18 emblazoned on his back, underneath his surname.

"If you do, make sure you mention how you'd just love to be the first one to pose," Harry responded as he pulled his jersey up over his head. He rolled his shoulders a bit after he had it on and turned his back to the rest of the locker room as he pulled on the black and red gloves almost at the exact same moment that the coach of the Bats walked into the room and told them to get to the pitch.

Harry, as the seeker, was used to being the last member of the team out, so it was a little surprising when the captain fell into place behind him. He swung his beater's bat in a casual circle with one hand, holding his broom in the other.

"What's up with this?" Harry asked, taking a step back so he was walking next to the beater.

"They're doing the introductions differently tonight," the beater responded.

"So I'm not last?" Harry laughed a bit. As the seeker he was typically the last player introduced. But the beaters were usually the second and third, right after the keeper.

"No. You're still last. They just want me second from the last. Some stupid media thing, you know how that crap goes," the beater said.

"Yes, I do," Harry responded as the two of them stood just inside of the tunnel that led out to the pitch. Harry looked up to see that their opponents had already been introduced. Their red robes were clearly visible flying around their hoops. Harry had the briefest thought that there would certainly be a lot of black and red in the air this evening. But the spectators would simply have to deal with that. He ran his opponents roster in his head. He'd played against them all in his professional career. Well, all of them except for their seeker. He'd never played professionally against their seeker.

But he knew them all well enough. Kubica in the hoops. It was his first time on their team. He'd improved quite a bit since the Hogwarts tournament. The beater pair of Volchanov and Volkov hadn't changed in the last two World Cups. Both were very solid players, and highly sought after commodities in the European leagues.

Levski and the Ivanova sisters made up the chaser line. He'd played with the younger one, Chloe, during the Hogwarts tournament. The elder sister, Clara, and Alexi Levski were both staples on the national team as well.

And then there was the seeker. The face of the Bulgarian national team. Really the face of International Quidditch. Harry hadn't played against him since he'd turned professional. In fact, he hadn't played in an organized match against him since the Hogwarts tournament. Sure, they'd flown around together on occasion. And even trained together during one off season. But that was mostly because Harry didn't want to spend the time in England, so they'd both decided the south of France was a better option.

Harry couldn't help but smirk up at his friend. Viktor Krum was just floating above the center of the pitch, staring down at the tunnel from which his opponents would shortly emerge.

"So going to beat him this time?" Titus asked. Harry just laughed a little bit.

"Don't know," he admitted. "I'd like to, but I'm not going to worry too much about that until Sweden."

"Bullshit," Titus said. "You want to beat him more than you want to sleep with your fiancé."

"Yes, but preferably when it counts," Harry countered quickly, shaking his head.

"Speaking of Sweden," Titus changed the topic quickly. "You're not going to order me around and such with your new found authority, are you?"

"No," Harry responded his head. He tapped the 'C' on the beater's chest with the end of his broom. "That should have been yours anyway."

"Yea, but I told them to give it to you. I didn't want the pressure," Titus smirked. "And this way, if we blow it miserably, you'll get all the blame." It wasn't true. Gwenog Jones had captained the English team forever, but this year, after two fabulously bad showings, they'd decided to go younger. They'd wanted Harry for the marketing. He'd insisted on Titus. The sponsors argued about it for a while, but eventually Titus just told Harry to deal with it, but that if he tried to take his 'C' at the Bats he'd kill him.

"Thanks," Harry responded dryly.

"Anytime," Titus smiled. "But looks like we're about to get introduced." He nodded toward the front of the tunnel. Sure enough, Harry heard Reginald Dickerson, the voice of English Quidditch, start the introductions.

Emily King, was first. The keeper flew up from the tunnel and weaved in and out through the hoops to a deafening roar. Harry just watched her fly.

The second beater, Finbar Quigley, was introduced next. He was an aging Irish beater. He'd been on the World Cup winning team before Harry's fourth year, but he hadn't made the Irish roster for the upcoming World Cup.

Their chasers flew out as a group, Dickerson introducing them in rapid succession. Jeremy Stretton and Marcus Green were centered by the youthful Eva Larson. They weren't the highest scoring line in the league, but they certainly got the job done. Larson had been their leading scorer. She'd been highly though of out of school. Harry vaguely remembered her as a young Ravenclaw that was always at the open practices during his fourth year. But she never did for Tutshill after she was drafted. The Bats had taken a flyer on her the season before and hadn't regretted it. Finally, as the crowd quieted a little bit Harry listened to Dickerson start announcing the next player. He put a bit more effort into it than the previous players.

"And next we have another beater. In his eight years with the team he's brought home four British and Irish league titles. He has won five Brutus Scrimgeour trophies for the top beater in the league. And he's even been voted the league Most Valuable Player once. After tonight, you'll see him beating for the English National Team. Ladies and Gentlemen, Captain of the Ballycastle Bats, number eighteen, Titus Button!" The announcer screamed. The roar from the largely British crowd was deafening.

"My crowd noise will win," Button laughed, smirking over his shoulder as he flipped onto his broom. Harry just shook his head and watched the team captain fly off toward the rest of his teammates, twirling his bat in one hand as he did.

"And finally," Dickerson continued after the noise settled just a bit. Harry took a deep breath and looked up from the tunnel around the stadium. "We have the seeker. The man who will try to stop Viktor Krum's dominance in International Quidditch. In his time as the seeker for the Ballycastle Bats he has won four league cups. He has won four Barberus Bragge awards for the top seeker in the British and Irish leagues. And he has won three Most Valuable Player awards. Tonight, I introduce him as the seeker for the Ballycastle Bats, in a few weeks time I will have the pleasure of introducing him as the seeker and team captain of the English National Team. I give you, number seventeen, Harry Potter!"

He took a few quick steps out of the tunnel before flipping his broom underneath him and shooting off, straight up, past his teammates and into the night sky. He kept climbing, almost until he couldn't hear the crowd, before flipping his broom around and shooting himself as quickly as he could back toward the stadium. He circled around behind the hoops and floated up toward the rest of his team, catching Button mid-speech. He wouldn't comment to the beater, but his crowd noise had been much louder.

"Alright, it's an exhibition, I know, but they're supposedly the best team in the world, so let's show them what we've got," Titus said, loudly, yelling over the fans. It wasn't his best effort, but Harry thought he summed it up rather nicely. There was nothing more at stake than their pride. And really, losing to a national team, filled with superstars, wasn't that big of a deal.

Harry just nodded at the team captain before floating up above the chaser lines, pitting himself parallel with Krum. He waited patiently. He hovered perfectly still on his broom as he tuned out all of his surroundings, waiting for the match to start. Harry wasn't sure exactly how he wanted to play it. He knew he should be conservative, and not show his hand too early, but he wanted to beat Viktor.

As soon as he saw the quaffle fly into the air he made his first move. Many seekers liked to fall back or away from the action immediately, to survey the entire pitch. Krum was one of them. Harry liked to be more active. He shot directly at his opposite, nearly knocking the Bulgarian off his broom. He couldn't be sure, but he thought Viktor may have been laughing as he flew by.

Eva Larson won the draw, and he figured Krum would be occupied for a moment so he flew up along the youngest Bat and blocked one of the Durmstrang chasers as she passed the quaffle to Marcus Green. Green relayed it quickly to Stretton, who darted around one of the Ivanovas and faked a shot on Kubica before leaving the quaffle for Larson who scored on the far side left hoop. The crowd went mad as the scoreboard changed to show the Bats leading.

Harry smirked and flew off toward the sidelines, flying quickly up the wall of the stands. He noticed a quick set of hand signals from Titus and just nodded. He darted across the pitch as Clara Ivanova tried to inbound the quaffle. He cut in front of Chole Ivanova and spun his broom sharply, nailing the quaffle with the end and knocking it upwards into the open air. Levski darted for it, but a well placed Bludger from one of the Bats beaters made him think better of it. Green plucked the red ball out of the air and quickly passed it to Stretton who buried it in the left side ring, just past a lunging Kubica.

He trailed away from the chasers then, keeping an eye on Krum as he did. Harry wasn't going to let Viktor get an easy snitch catch. Although he didn't expect their chaser line would be able to keep pace with the Bulgarians without some help. Krum was simply hovering over the center of the pitch. His eyes were watching the chasers emerge from the defensive zone and hurry down toward the oppositions' hoops. Harry saw him shift and dive quickly to join the rush, so he banked his broom hard and shot off in the same direction.

He cut in front of Krum shortly before the Bulgarian could join his teammates. Krum veered away, attempting to get around Harry and join the Bulgarian chasers. But Harry kept even with him, blocking his path. But when he heard the groan from the crowd that could only indicate the Bulgarians had scored he simply pressed past Krum, shooting upwards into the air before cutting down into a lazy feint. Krum followed him, but knew better than to assume Harry had seen the snitch. For now, both seekers knew they'd simply be matching each other.

And the match continued. Chaser play dominating the start of the match, interrupted only by Harry or Krum occasionally feinting or pretending to chase after the snitch. Harry broke away from Viktor momentarily to survey the pitch. He watched Krum immediately fly to join the chasers on the rush. Harry watched Ivanova pass the Quaffle to Levski. Emily saved the first shot, but allowed a rebound to Ivanova who scored on the center hoop. Harry listened for Dickerson's ringing announcement over the crowd.

"And that goal from Clara Ivanova, her third of the match, make it eighty to forty Bulgaria," Dickerson said. "Ballycastle has looked fairly hapless since their first two quick goals. Larson on the inbound now. She goes to Green. He swerves around Chole Ivanova and a bludger. He attempts a pass to Stretton, but he botches the catch. The Quaffle is loose! Potter gets there first, he knocks it high. Look at that ball fly! No one is near it! If it hits the ground and be Bulgaria possession! No! Potter again catches up to it and knocks it high into the air again. Larson has it! She's alone in the Bulgarian zone! The shot! Saved by Kubica!

"He tosses it to Ivanova. She pauses and tries a quick pass to her sister! Larson almost incercepts, but now her momentum takes her out of the play. Green and Stretton are both covering Levski! Ivanova is going to get a full pitch breakaway! She dodges a bludger from Quigley as she moves into the Ballycastle zone. Potter may have a shot at breaking up the play. But no! He shoots in front of her? Oh that's why, because Button places a perfect bludger. Quaffle up for grabs, Button takes a whack at it with his bat. It sails down the pitch where Levski picks it up. He relays it to Ivanova. Back to Levski, now to Ivanova. They're just moving slowly with the quaffle toward the Ballycastle zone. The Ballycastle chasers fall back to meet them. Potter joins the defensive formation. Ivanova crosses into the zone, she tosses it to her sister, who quickly gives it to Levski, back to Ivanova and Krum sees the snitch!"

Harry's heart stopped. He saw Viktor flying quickly toward the opposite end of the pitch and broke out of the defensive formation to chase down the Bulgarian. Viktor weaved expertly, flew through one of the Bulgarian hoops and climbed up over the crowd. Harry looked ahead of him, but saw no flash of gold as he pressed himself closer to his opposite. Krum corkscrewed back and went into a steep dive just as Harry caught up. He had no choice but to follow him, the Bulgarian's red robes filling his vision as the ground zoomed closer and closer. Krum pulled out of the dive inches from the ground. Harry almost didn't have time to react. He cursed himself for falling for the feint maneuver as he heard Bulgaria scored again.

The shrill whistle that followed could only mean one thing, though. He saw Krum slow down considerably and float slowly toward the Bulgarian hoops, where he's spend the time simply surveying the pitch. Harry turned and sped down to the Ballycastle hoops, where he'd join the team meeting.

"They're good," Button said dryly, eliciting a quiet laugh from most of his teammates.

"Indeed," Emily King responded, shaking her head.

"They're killing us," Eva Larson added, also shaking her head. She took the time to redo her pony tail, making sure no hair was in her face. The entire team knew she only meant the chasers.

"Defense, defense, defense?" Harry joked quietly.

"It's not working," Quigley said. The eldest Bat was usually very quiet during stoppages, so everyone just stared at him for a moment. They did know, though, that he had been a prominent member of the only team to ever beat Krum in international play.

"Well he's right," Titus said after a second. "It's not."

"So we're going to what?" Green asked.

"What we can," Quigley said. Titus looked at him for a moment and then nodded.

"Okay, Chasers keep the quaffle in their zone as much as you can. Don't worry about shots just slow the game down. We'll give you as much support as we can," he nodded toward Quigley as he spoke. "If they get possession, back on defense, no chances. They're at ninety now, we're going to hold them to one-fifty! Alright?" The team agreed quickly, and rather loudly, Harry just nodded along with them. Until Button looked back at him.

"And damn it Harry, but the first chance you get, end this thing," he ordered. Again Harry just nodded as the team broke apart to resume play. He watched Larson inbound the quaffle as he simply floated high above the pitch, looking down at everything happening before him.

Play resumed after another moment. Harry watched Eva inbound to Marcus. The Bulgarian chasers swarmed him, but he managed to get a pass off to Stretton nearby. A well placed bludger startled the chaser, though, and he dropped the quaffle. Larson swept in to pick it up and proceeded down the pitch. Harry grinned as the play developed. He knew Button and Quigley would have their hands full the rest of the match if he focused on the snitch. And he knew that meant it would be him against Krum and the Bulgarian beaters.

He spun his broom between the two Bulgarian beaters, distracting them for the briefest of moments before diving toward the field below. He skimmed the grass for a few moments before climbing up in a spiral behind the Bulgarian hoops. He took the quaffle flying past him as a good sign. Harry spun toward the scoreboard and saw the Ballycastle score change to fifty.

He waited a few moments for the Bulgarian rush to start before pushing himself in the opposite direction, hoping that he drew Krum and possibly one of the beaters away from the play. He didn't have time to look to see if his ploy had worked. Instead he listened to Dickerson's booming voice as he searched for the snitch.

"Ivanova back to Levski. Over to Ivanova again. Button tries to break it up but Ivanova dumps to her sister who takes the shot, but she's forced to dive out of the way from a bludger from Quigley. Regardless, an easy save for King. She gets the quaffle out to Larson behind the Ballycastle hoops. Larson relays it to Stretton. He fakes to Green and decides to move it himself into the Bulgarian zone.

"The Bats stall again. Stretton gives back to Larson. She pulls a nifty move to avoid Chloe Ivanova and tosses the quaffle to Green. He dodges a bludger and moves it back to Larson. She quickly relays it back to Green. Larson. Stretton. Green. Stretton. Larson. Stretton. Larson. Finally the Bulgarian chasers go for the quaffle. Larson takes the shot. Saved by Kubica.

"Kubica launches it down the pitch. Caught at midfield by Levski. He passes it to Clara Ivanova. They're in the Ballycastle zone with just Button and Stretton on defense. Quigley relays a bludger from about midfield toward Button. He hits it at Levski. Stretton gets a piece of the shot from Ivanova and King catches the rest of it."

Harry watched as Green turned the quaffle over. King failed to save that shot. He knew what the Bulgarian strategy must have been. They weren't going to wait around for Krum to catch the snitch. They saw the Bats as an opponent they could annihilate. And they were getting closer to making the seekers irrelevant.

It was actually a strategy Ballycastle used quite often. Both Harry and Titus would act as auxiliary chasers while Quigley and King would focus on defense. Often the opposition was down by seventy to one hundred points before they decided on how to counter. Most times, the opposing seeker would focus on the snitch and Harry would counter to that. He hated to be overly arrogant. But he could usually both help the Ballycastle chasers and still find the snitch faster than most seekers. There were some questions of legality in the hybrid positions that both Harry and Titus played, but that hadn't kept other teams from trying to find similar players.

Harry rolled over a bludger from one of the Bulgarian beaters. He never really saw the iron ball, but rather just sensed it and moved out of the way. It only took a few direct hits in professional play to develop a second sense for the location of the iron menaces. Titus still got him in practice every now and then, but it had been a very long time since he'd taken a bludger without knowing it was coming.

He idled for a moment above the center of the pitch with the goal of drawing the Bulgarian beaters away from the Ballycastle chasers. They took the bait to some extent. But really just decided to capture both bludgers and send them right at him. Harry swerved away and dove toward the grass as the Bludgers gave chase. They swerved around him for a moment as he rose to escape them. But the Bulgarian beaters gave chase as well and hit both the iron balls at him once more.

Harry rolled over one, knowing it would cut back toward him, but that he'd buy himself some time to evade the other. He dove again and brought one of the iron balls right past Quigley, who managed to whack it at a Bulgarian chaser.

Unfortunately, the second bludger caught up to Harry again. He skimmed the grass and prepared to corkscrew rise and evade. But, right as he attempted to maneuver a flash of red shot in front of him. He tried to swerve around it, but braced himself for the impact he knew was coming. And then there was a thud, a lot of pain, and everything went black.

"Harry, are you okay?" he heard a voice ask. He just groaned, opening his eyes to see Titus Button standing over him.

"I don't know," he asked. "Did we lose?"

"Not yet. I called a time out as soon as you got hit." He offered his hand. Harry took it and let Button pull him to his feet to a cheer from the crowd. "Surprised you fell off, honestly."

"Me too," Harry said. "But momentum going one way, bludger hitting the other. At least it was a short fall." He leaned over and picked up his broom. He inspected it as the official approached. Harry assumed it was to tell them they had to resume play in a moment.

"You good to go?" Button asked. Something about his tone surprised Harry. Titus didn't usually sound that serious. Of course, he was probably more worried about the upcoming World Cup than the exhibition they were playing now.

"Oh yea, hurts like hell, but you know," Harry said. "Just angry now. I hope one of our coaches recorded that play. We could do that in league play easily."

"Damn straight we could," Button responded with a smirk. He flipped back onto his own broom as Harry did the same before they rejoined their teammates in the air. Harry looked for Krum for a moment, but the Bulgarian wouldn't meet his eyes. So instead he just floated around a bit, darting left and right ever few moments, mostly to make sure his Lotus was still flying. It was fine.

He watched as Ivanova inbounded the quaffle to her sister. His fall must have looked more serious than it was if they'd allowed for a stoppage while Bulgaria had possession. Of course, the quaffle may have simply been in the air at the same time as the time out.

Harry ducked a bludger as he circled the pitch. Apparently the Bulgarian's decided that focusing the iron balls on him would be the best assistance for Krum. Harry let this once chase him, knowing that if it was behind him, no one was likely to hit it at him for a moment. Eventually he led it past Titus. The Beater decided that the bludger was better suited chasing after Levski than his seeker. Harry agreed.

He rose up above Larson and dove diagonally down toward Chloe Ivanova. He paused for a moment, near the bottom of the pitch and gazed up. The crowd was impressive, but the angle hindered his view of flashing golden objects so he climbed more, dicing through the Bulgarian chasers and attempting to be as distracting as he could while he completed the maneuver.

Harry leveled out just above the stands and flew toward Krum. The Bulgarian seeker wasn't paying attention to him, but he wasn't chasing anything either. Krum's eyes watched the quaffle as the Bulgarians moved into the Ballycastle zone. Harry liked his angle. He positioned himself to cut just in front of Krum and pushed his Lotus as fast as it would go, angling so he'd be able to pull into a feint just after he passed his opposing seeker.

Sure enough, he caught up just a few moments later and started the dive for the feint, but his plan changed almost immediately as a speck of gold shot past his face.

"Potter cuts in front of Krum and dives!" Dickerson announced. "He's pushing hard but no! He pulls up sharply, flipping up. There it is! He sees the snitch. Krum is right with him, they're both climbing, facing each other, moving toward the snitch! It cuts back! They're both on line, Potter is flying upside down after a fantastic turn!

"But Krum gains an edge with a beautiful cut in front of Potter. Potter tries to counter but Krum blocks him. The snitch swerves right. Potter gets the inside line and cuts back in front of Krum. No! Potter dodges a bludger but loses ground to Krum in the process. Button relays another bludger at Krum, he dodges and Potter catches up!"

Harry tuned Dickerson out as the golden ball drew closer. He rolled around another bludger, but didn't lose any speed this time. The snitch cut to the left and Krum tried to force his way inside. Harry cursed under his breath as the Bulgarian zoomed past him. But the snitch cut back almost immediately and he found himself again in front. He rolled from yet another bludger, the speed of it shaking his broom as it shot past. The extra vibration made his ribs hurt. He'd forgotten about the injury since he'd been in the air. He couldn't help but wonder how serious the injury was.

He almost missed the snitch diving, but pressed his broom downward just in time. He dove hard, pressing himself as close to his broom as he could, chasing the snitch down. Krum joined him in the dive. They pressed evenly, jostling for position as the golden ball grew progressively bigger in their eyes. The seekers pushed toward it, darting around each other, each hoping to find the best position to grab it.

But this snitch wasn't going to give up that easily. Just as Harry cut in front of Krum and thought he had a clean line on the ball it cut away again. And again. And again. Sometimes after a while in a chase the snitch would simply give up. Both seekers knew this one had a little more fight than that.

But they kept their pursuit, weaving around bludgers, darting past chasers, and pressing around each other as the snitch flew for its own freedom. The seekers closed. But, just when they each thought they had the snitch it darted away.

Harry caught up once more. He could see Krum out of the corner of his eye as they banked through the stadium. Each seeker closed in yet again as the snitch shot toward the center of the pitch. It slowed and they both thought it was making its final stand. Harry pushed himself against his broom, reaching out just a little bit, closing in and making sure he was ready to make the catch.

But as they passed over the center of the pitch the golden ball made yet another move. It shot backward immediately angling itself upwards above the seeker's heads, changing direction without the slightest of issue at full speed.

"And the snitch shoots back the other way! This one is being very feisty tonight!" Dickerson shouted. "Krum shoots past Potter and starts a perfect reverse turn. Potter lunges his whole body backwards toward the golden ball! He's diving toward it, corkscrewed around his broom in a way I can barely describe! No! Now he's falling, he's losing control ladies and gentleman. His desperation attempt at the snitch is backfiring!

"He's spinning around, I can only imagine what such a quick stop and turn must have felt like on his body! I'm amazed he's still conscious! This could be ugly in a few moments. Krum dives around him, no doubt still looking for the Snitch. Potter is still falling! No! He's hooked his legs back around his broom! He's leveling out slowly and appears to be okay!"

Harry took a deep breath and gazed around the stadium. His ribs hurt, his chest hurt, and his head hurt. He blinked a few times as the official approached. He thought back just a few moments. He'd lunged, and reached, and then he'd been falling. He'd caught himself and that's where he was now. He looked down toward his right hand, blinked once, and then held it up into the air, relishing at the shrill whistle that pierced the crowd noise.

"There's the whistle! Potter managed to catch the snitch with that backwards lunge! The Ballycastle Bats win! The Ballycastle Bats defeat the Bulgarian National Team 240-130! What a match! What a prelude to Sweden! The World Cup could be one for the ages!" Dickerson finished his announcing, but Harry wasn't paying attention to it. Instead he braced for impact.

Titus Button hit him first. Titus always hit him first. Every big win, every championship, it was always Titus, hugging and clasping, yelling in victory. Larson and King flew up next. Eva kissed him on the cheek and wished him luck in Sweden, Emily hugged him and did the same. Stretton, Quigley and Green joined the team moments later.

After a few moments of celebration they lined up to shake hands with the Bulgarians. Harry flew at the end of the line, complimenting each of the Bulgarian players as they went by. Krum met him last, his expression one that Harry knew well enough. It was never fun to lose, even in exhibition.

"You know," Harry said, hoping to ease the tension as he shook hands with Viktor Krum, "Titus and I were going to get some drinks after the game. You're more than welcome to join us." The transition from competitors to friends was never particularly easy. And they hadn't played against each other since the final match at Hogwarts during the Triwizard Tournament.

"I don't know," Krum responded slowly. "Loudmouthed English beater is a bit trying."

"He grows on you," Harry responded, shaking his head a bit at Viktor's way of summing up people in three words. "Bring bushy-haired English bookworm. We're probably going to just go to that pub around the corner from my London house."

"We'll see," Krum just shook his head. "I'll ask Hermione if she wants to." Harry knew the other seeker wouldn't join them. But figured it was better to ask than to not.

"Alright," Harry nodded, smiling a bit. "See you there then." He turned his broom and flew away, doing his best to ignore the pain in his side. It was growing worse with each minute. He suspected because he'd been more focused and better able to tune it out during the match. He wanted to simply go back to the locker room, change, and leave. But he had to give interviews first. He landed near the tunnel, near where the media gathered and braced himself for the questions. He suspected they didn't particularly appreciate his short, team-oriented answers, but those were all he was going to give at this point.

When he finally got back to the locker room after answering what felt like a hundred questions, the music was still too loud. He was immediately hugged by his teammates as he pressed through to his locker. The press wouldn't be allowed into the locker room until later. And most of the players probably wouldn't stick around too long. Harry was thankful that there wasn't a champagne shower. But while the Bats enjoyed the win, it was still just an exhibition game.

Harry moved to his locker and started to peel of his pads and uniform, disregarding them into the compartment without much of a care. He knew team elves would gather them up, clean what needed to be cleaned, and send them back to Ballycastle. Well, most of it anyway, some of his things would be moving on to Sweden.

When he turned to ask Titus if he was going to trust the elves with his broom for the World Cup, despite the promise of new brooms he always liked to have a spare. But he instead saw a pretty blonde sitting in his friend's locker. She stood and hugged him, pressing her lips to his cheek as she did.

"I'm going to make so much money off of you," Daphne Greengrass whispered into his ear. He just laughed a little bit and looked down at her.

"Good to see you too, Daph," he said quietly. She nodded a bit, with a quick smile, but after just a moment her face became instantly serious.

"How bad is it?" she asked.

"What?" He blinked, not expecting that question.

"That," she said, reaching out and pressing her hand into his ribs, rather hard.

"Ouch! Fuck Daphne!" he gasped. She nodded and just pointed to the trainer's room.

"Go," she ordered. "Chop chop, not going to have some stupid exhibition injury cost you a contract because you're too stupid to get it treated."

"I'm getting there!" He argued. She just pointed again. He sighed and turned to walk over to the team trainer. Titus slipped past him and Harry turned to see the beater slide his arms around their agent and greet her with a very deep kiss. Harry just smiled and slipped into the small medical room.

He sat on the medical table in the middle and looked into the mirror. There wasn't any blood on his undershirt so he figured it wouldn't be overly serious. He peeled off the shirt about the same time the trainer stepped into the room. Harry gazed in the mirror and shrugged, his side was rather black and blue, but nothing else appeared out of the ordinary.

"Ouch," The trainer said as he took out his wand and started a series of diagnostic spells.

"Doesn't hurt that badly," Harry admitted. The trainer just chuckled a bit.

"Yes, I suppose eventually you grow accustomed to being nailed in the ribs by an iron ball," he responded sarcastically.

"Well you know, workplace hazard," Harry laughed.

"Oh yea, I'm sure. We'll you're fine. No damage internally, but I'm sure you probably gathered that already. I can't do much for the bruising but apply some balm," he explained as he moved toward the drawers and began to shuffle through them.

"Alright," Harry responded. Leaning a bit on the table and positioning his arms so his side was clearly accessible. He closed his eyes and sighed a bit.

"I will take care of zat," a soft voice said from the door. Harry smiled at hearing it. The trainer just nodded and left the canister of balm on the table as he left the room.

"I didn't think you'd make it," Harry said quietly as she approached the table and unscrewed the lid on the jar and smeared some onto her hand.

"Me either," Fleur Delacour said softly. "It is very cold."

"What?" he asked, then gasped as she pressed the balm to his side.

"Zat," she responded as he relaxed against her touch.

"Yes, yes it is," he responded, feeling his body tense slightly at her touch. But he relaxed after a moment.

"How was practice?" he asked, sighing contently. He opened his eyes for the first time and looked at her.

"It was good," she said, focusing on applying the balm to his injured side. Fleur had her hair pulled back in a very loose pony tail. Harry reached up behind her and slid his fingers through it gently. She wore a short grey dress with a black belt. She had her leg warmers on still too. He half suspected that was simply because he'd commented that he rather liked how those looked on her.

Fleur hadn't lasted particularly long at Gringotts. Neither of them would ever admit it, but there certainly hadn't ever been a concern for money, and it made entry-level banking work somewhat tedious for her.

Harry hadn't been much of a help, either, as he was stuck at Hogwarts during that time. But in one of his many letters he'd suggested, mostly offhandedly after becoming rather annoyed at her complaints of having nothing to do but pine away most nights, that she take up some hobby to occupy herself on those evenings.

She'd decided to dance again. She often talked of how she'd done plenty of ballet before attending Beauxbatons and she picked it up rather quickly. Soon she was dancing almost as often as he practiced quidditch. Harry rather loved watching her dance. The ethereal beauty of her body in motion to music was quite possibly the best thing he'd ever seen. When she was practicing alone she wouldn't reign in her Veela heritage and it made the show that much better. One of his favorite memories was simply leaning against the wall of the room they'd turned into her studio in their London home and watching her flutter around, her eyes closed, her hair billowing behind her with every motion.

Not too long after he'd been drafted by Ballycastle she'd had her own audition. She'd used magic to falsify some documents claiming she'd spent most of her life training with a French dance company and she'd been accepted into an English company. Small roles gradually became larger ones, and after just a few years she was one of the premier dancers they had. Harry was infinitely proud of her. As she was of him.

"I can't wait for your next performance," he commented as she continued to rub the balm onto his skin. It was already starting to feel better, but he suspected that had more to do with who was applying it than anything else.

"Two weeks," she smiled, then shook her head a bit and frowned. "You will be in Sweden."

"I'll come back for at least one performance," He smiled. She nodded, knowing it was true. After a moment she finished applying the balm and placed the top back on the jar before walking to the small sink and washing off her hands. She took special care to make sure none of it was left on the ring on her left hand.

"I know," she said softly. "And 'opefully I will be able to see you beat ze Bulgarians once again to win ze world cup."

"If we get that far," Harry laughed. She just gave him an appraising look.

"You will win," she said, sternly.

"If you insist," he responded with a smile before opening his arms to her. She walked into them and hugged him tightly, careful to lean to the side where the bruise wasn't.

"You will win. You hate losing too much," She responded, philosophically. "And so far you are one and two against Krum. You must even zat up!"

"Good point," he said, raising a hand up to move a strand of hair from her face. She just nodded a bit before he kissed her, very softly, on the lips. She slipped her lips from his after a moment.

"You flew beautifully tonight," she said quietly, changing the topic with a smirk.

"Thanks," he said, going to kiss her again, but merely catching the corner of her mouth.

"You are welcome," she responded, sliding her hands up into his hair for a moment.

"Enough talking though," he smiled and leaned toward her again, she shook her head, giggling a bit and slipped away.

"No talking?" she teased, tilting her head to the side and looking at him with wide, faux confused eyes. "Then what?"

"This," he said, grabbing her by the waist and pulling her up onto the medical table with little difficulty. She gasped and he was on her in a moment. He kissed her, over and over, pressing to her. Her arms wrapped around his body and she kissed him back. But, after a few moments, she just giggled and slipped her lips from him.

"We are supposed to be going out wiz Titus and Daphne," she said, shifting under him in a half-hearted attempt to free herself. She accentuated her French accent a bit, he suspected because she knew he liked it.

"They can wait," he argued. She just shook her head.

"Perhaps, but it is rude to make ze stadium staff wait too. Zey want to get 'ome, you know.. We will 'ave plenty of fun later," she gave him one brief kiss on the lips before apparating out from underneath him with a loud pop. He landed rather hard on the table, but just laughed and hopped off of it.

"Alright, alright," he shook his head. "Let me finish changing. Titus probably dragged Daph to the bar already anyway."

"Non, zey were going to wait for us," Fleur smiled and led him out of the trainer's room and back into the locker room where both Titus and Daphne were still fielding questions from reporters about the match.

Harry changed back into his street clothing quickly, neglecting to answer any more questions. Fleur sat next to him, in Eva Larson's locker, and politely talked in French to a French reporter, so at least someone would get a quote for a story that evening. Once he'd finished changing he looked over toward Titus and said, over a couple reporters' heads.

"Well shall we?" The reporters groaned as Harry stood. Titus just nodded and stood in his own locker as Daphne slid up next to him.

"We shall," he said. Harry took Fleur's hand into his and the four of them walked out of the locker room. They chatted idly about which pub to go to for the evening, debating between magical and Muggle after the events of the day. Eventually they settled on an old standby just as they stepped out from the stadium.

Harry slid both his arms around Fleur as they did. He smiled at her and felt like the luckiest man in the world when she smiled back. He couldn't tell anyone just how many times he'd marveled at the fact that she was in his arms solely because of an innocent pen pal assignment all those years ago. Soon, she would be his spouse, his wife, his family, and he looked forward to spending every day of however long he would live with her.

He leaned over and kissed her once, softly, on the forehead before apparating them both to their next destination. Where they arrived didn't matter, although the pub would be the preferred destination as Harry was already looking forward to the club sandwich. Mostly, they were simply happy to be around each other. He held her close as they pressed through magic and to their destination and reminisced about the power of words and the affects they could have on people.

When they popped back into existence, though, he just smiled at her and took her hand once more, thinking about how lucky he was to have been assigned the best pen pal ever.

A/N #2. Well thanks for reading and thanks for all the reviews. I appreciate all of them. If anyone wishes to contact me a PM is likely the best route to do so.

The World Cup that follows this likely turns out much the same way the 2002 World Cup in my other story does.

I'm also vaguely interested in this new 'image manager' thing I have. Apparently I can create covers for books now. But I'm a terrible artist so if someone who wasn't terrible wanted to dabble with it for one of my stories I'd be honored. I'd even provide a mild form of compensation if that were the case. Feel free to contact me. (I didn't see anything in the ToS that indicated that would be illegal, but it probably violates it in some way...I do mean mild compensation, too..)

Also, please check out my newest story, The Masque of Chicago, it's a standard vampire romance type deal that I imagine would have more hits if I'd have said it was Twilight. Regardless, I feel it's my best work that's posted on this website (despite the corny topic) so if you're a fan of my writing and romance, you'll prolly like it. Don't be afraid by what it's categorized under. I merely took a few words and concepts from the game, and nothing that is remotely crucial to understanding the story.

Thanks again!