Players Rites

Ginny paced nervously up and down the changing room.

Match day was finally here. In the visitors changing room, Ballycastle Bats were preparing. This was it, her first ever game as a professional Quidditch player. Eight weeks of training with the Harpies had paid off. She had been selected for the team's first game of the season but she would need to play extremely well to keep her place on the team. The Harpies had six Chasers to choose from.

There were still fifteen minutes to the start of the game, but she was ready. She nervously adjusted her new Harpies robes and rechecked her broom. The brand new Firebolt II had been provided by the club. It hung in the air, ready to take her into this new stage of her life.

Ginny looked around the green-painted changing room. Photographs of former Captains and players waved cheerily and made gestures of encouragement. However, none of her team mates were ready, and none of them seemed to be in any hurry to get ready.

The Seeker, Olivia 'Livy' Aitkenhead, was wearing nothing but lacy white underwear. She was energetically brushing her long dark hair with a very old and worn pink brush. This was Olivia's first game for the Harpies, but not her first professional game, she'd had two years experience as a professional in the Australasian League.

Olivia and Ginny were the newcomers, the club's only two closed season signings. The rest of the team had been together for two seasons. The Harpies management were still busy arranging local accommodation for Olivia and Ginny. The team liked their players to live on Ynys Môn, close to the Harpies ground.

One of Ginny's fellow Chasers, Gillian Gilfillan, was almost ready for the game. All she needed to do was put on her right sock and boot. For some reason, however, Gillian seemed disinclined to do so.

The third Chaser, Tegan Godolphin was sitting cross legged on the floor. She was completely naked and had her eyes closed. Her hands rested, palms upwards, on her knees and she appeared to be meditating. Other than Olivia and Ginny, no one else in the changing room was paying attention to her.

The team captain, Gwenog Jones, was sitting on the bench, her Beater's bat by her side. She, too, was in her underwear, though hers was rather more sensible than Livy's. Gwenog was holding the most threadbare, worn and holey pair of blue cotton knickers Ginny had ever seen. Fascinated, Ginny watched her captain from the corner of her eye. Gwenog carefully turned the knickers inside out. She then removed the pair she was wearing and deliberately put on the threadbare pair. She was wearing them back to front as well as inside out. As Ginny watched, Gwenog took them off and put them back on the right way round, but still inside out. Gwenog then began to pull on her Harpies strip.

Beater Blodwen James was also in her underwear. Her Harpies kit was hanging in front of her and she was gently prodding it with her beaters bat.

Rhiannon Johns, the keeper, had only just arrived. She'd peered through the changing room door and looked at her teammates before grinning at Ginny and dashing into the room. Rhiannon quickly began to change.

Suddenly nervous, Ginny turned her back on her team mates and walked into the shower and toilet area. She pushed open the door to the first toilet cubicle but was halted by an angry shout.

'No!' Rhiannon bellowed. 'That one is mine!'

'What? Why?' asked Ginny. 'For Merlin's sake, Rhiannon, it doesn't matter which toilet you use, does it?'

'It does, Ginny,' said Gwenog forcefully. 'In Quidditch, everything matters! I saw you watching me. I've worn these knickers in every professional game I've played, apart from one, the first game of my second season. At the end of my first season my Captain had told me that wearing lucky knickers was a stupid superstition, so I wore a new pair. The Cannons beat us!' Gwenog shook her head in disbelief.

'Luckily, I hadn't thrown them out,' she continued earnestly. I accidentally put them on inside out and back to front when we won the European cup final five years ago. They were so uncomfortable that before we got out onto the pitch I put them the right way round. But they were still inside out. Now, it's a pre-match ritual. Make sure that you always get here early, because Rhiannon is always the last player into the changing room, and she has sole use of the toilet cubicle nearest to the changing area in every ground we play. Here at home, it's that one.'

Ginny looked at her stern and humourless Captain curiously. Was she being wound up? The other players had played several tricks on her during practice sessions. But this was a match, this was serious. Ginny looked uncertainly around at her teammates.

Tegan Godolphin finally uncrossed her legs and stood. She looked curiously at Ginny.

'Every player I've ever known has a pre-match ritual, Ginny,' said Tegan. The lanky brunette stretched up on her tiptoes. 'Except me, of course,' she added.

'Yeah, apparently, if you're Cornish, sitting naked on the floor meditating for a quarter of an hour before the game doesn't count as a ritual,' Blodwen James observed sarcastically. Gillian Gilfillan snorted with laughter as she finally put on her sock.

'Don't you have a ritual, Ginny?' Tegan asked, ignoring the two Beaters.

'No,' Ginny shook her head emphatically.

'Really?' asked Tegan curiously. 'You won all four of the games you captained at Hogwarts last year. Wasn't there anything you did before every game?'

'Harry!' Ginny realised.

Her team burst out laughing.

'You did Harry Potter before every game? At Hogwarts?' asked Blodwen. 'Impressive.'

'Not really,' Tegan sniggered. 'He can't be much good if he left her capable of riding a broom afterwards.'

'Yeah, is his equipment defective? Is he all talk and no action? Does he suffer from premature Expelliarmus?' asked Gillian.

'Oh, sod off, the lot of you,' Ginny snapped, suddenly nervous. 'I need Harry. I need my pre-match warm up.'

Gwenog Jones swore. 'It's too late, Ginny. And besides, this isn't a mixed changing room with cubicles, unlike the ones at Hogwarts. Men are not allowed to set foot in here, not under any circumstances.'

'And you can't leave, Ginny,' Rhiannon said, suddenly looking worried. 'Because, when you come back, you will be the last person in the changing room! I'll…'

'But…' Ginny began.

Ginny's protests were interrupted by someone knocking on the locked changing room door. Scowling, Gwenog Jones walked across, unlocked it and opened it a fraction.

'Sorry, Gwenog,' the team's Healer, Joanna Swift, apologised. 'But Harry Potter's out here. He said…'

'Harry,' Ginny shouted, 'I need my warm-up!'

She pushed past her Captain and pulled the changing room door wide open.

'You can't come in Potter!' Gwenog snarled.

'And you can't step outside the door, Ginny. Please,' Rhiannon begged.

'You did say warm up?' asked Harry hopefully.

'Yes but you have to stay out there, and I can't leave,' said Ginny.

'Easy,' said Harry. He stood with his toes just outside the door and opened his arms. Ginny jumped and Harry caught her easily. As she wrapped her arms and legs around him and sat on his cradling hands, he kissed her.

Ginny and Harry ignored the jeers, catcalls and whistles of her team mates and simply kissed, and kissed.

They were finally interrupted by Gwenog Jones announcing, 'It's time to go, Ginny. Are we ready, team?'

'Yes,' Ginny's team mates chorused.

Harry carefully lowered Ginny back onto the floor, taking care to stay outside the door and making certain that she was inside the room. 'Fly well, Ginny, and win the game,' he said. 'Good luck, ladies.'

Gwenog slammed the door in Harry's face and locked it.

'Ladies!' snorted Blodwen. 'What an idiot! Are there any ladies in here?'

'No,' the team shouted.

'He's not an idiot! You're only jealous, all of you, because my pre-match ritual is so much better than yours,' Ginny smirked. 'I've never lost a game after a snog from Harry. Let's go and win.'