Author's Notes: I've had this idea since I left secondary school but never finished it till now; the last milestone in the HP era seemed an appropriate time to finish and post it. Hope you like.
End of an Era
Term had ended the day before. The sun was creeping up, casting shadows around the sleeping quarters of Albus Dumbledore. In the light, the Gryffindor scarlet and gold looked more like russet and dirty yellow. Aforementioned headmaster was oblivious to this, as he was currently asleep, unaware of anything going on around him. But not for long.
A loud hammering jerked him out of a pleasant dream in which he'd been on a broomstick, hunting for sherbet lemons. He groaned and pulled the covers up over his head.
"Albus, are you awake yet?"
"Yes you are. What day is it today?"
"Wrong answer, Albus. Get up!"
He remained silent. There was a groan from outside and the door opened, revealing a stern-looking black-haired witch already dressed in Muggle clothes with her arms crossed and a frown on her face.
No response. Minerva McGonagall moved towards the bed and sat down, very deliberately, on Albus' legs.
"Ouch! Get off!"
"Have you ever got up early in your life?" Minerva asked conversationally as she stood up again. Albus sat up, a glare on his face, which quickly turned to one of startled embarrassment as he tugged the covers up round his neck.
"Did you have to do that?"
"I wouldn't have had to if you'd just got up like you were supposed to!"
"What? Is something happening today?"
"Oh, for heaven's sake, Albus! Do the words 'Leaver's Match' ring a bell?"
"Wha – oh!"
"Just get up and get dressed. And Muggle clothes, if you don't mind!"
Albus waited until Minerva was out of the room and had shut the door behind her before scrambling out of bed.
Harry Potter was woken by the usual rapping on the cupboard door. He was still confined to it outside of school after the boa constrictor incident. He still couldn't work out what exactly had happened there, but there was no arguing with the Dursleys. You did what you were told or else.
It happened to be his last day at primary school today. He was quite looking forward to the end of term, as it meant after the holidays he would be starting afresh at Stonewall High, for once without Dudley. He wasn't, however, particularly looking forward to today. As it was the official Leaver's Day, there were no usual lessons for the year group: instead, a barbeque, and a rounders match – the Leavers against the teachers and parents. The Dursleys hadn't volunteered to take part, but they would be there to watch, along with the rest of the parents and the school. Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia would be cheering for Dudley. There would be no-one cheering for him.
The day started out normal. His aunt and uncle completely ignored him, fussing over 'Duddy-kins' worse than ever. Harry tried his best not to think about the match later. He wasn't bad at sports – in fact he excelled in most because he could run very fast – but he wouldn't be playing for anyone. None of the teachers held him in a special light, the Dursleys hated his guts, and he had no friends in the student population.
He wished there would be someone there to watch and cheer for him. Someone he could play for.
"Now remember, keep your head down and don't draw attention to yourself. Albus? Are you listening to me?"
Minerva hit him over the head. "Merlin knows you attract enough attention in the Muggle world without trying; please don't ."
Albus rubbed his head. "I'll try. I mean, I'll try not to try," he hastily corrected himself at her glare.
The charms were cast; as far as any parents or teachers were concerned, Albus and Minerva were an ordinary Muggle couple in their seventies, presumably cheering on a grandchild. As an added precaution, a notice-me-not charm, to prevent anybody from starting a conversation with them.
"It's a shame Harry won't know we're here for him," Minerva murmured as they took their seats, Albus donning a pair of sunglasses.
"We can't let him know," he replied. "It's risky enough us being here."
"I know. I was only making an observation, not a suggestion." She smiled. "Don't we have this conversation every sports day?"
"And Christmas play," Albus added. "And end-of-year exhibition."
"Still, today is special. It's his last day ever."
"And come September, we will no longer have to sneak into his school events and avoid talking to anyone."
"Personally I welcome that. Although it won't be as personal, us being his teachers, will it?"
"No, I suppose not—oh, they're starting."
The sun was streaming down and sweat was running down Harry's face and into his eyes. As the Head prepared to bowl, Harry blinked furiously. There was no way he could hit the thing like this.
Something came flying towards him, and he took a wild swing with the bat. Amazingly, it hit its target and sent the ball flying out of sight; Harry took off like a rocket, racing towards where he could just make out the first stump.
He hesitated, his glasses fogged up, unable to see properly what was going on. His teammates yelled at him to run, so he continued to the second stump, and then the third.
Harry stopped; or rather, he skidded straight into the third post and fell flat on his face, his glasses snapping in two again. He scrambled to his feet just as someone came running up to him, and before he could react, the ball was stabbed onto the post. "Out!"
"I already hit the stump!"
"With your feet, not your bat," the fielder replied, and threw the ball back to the bowler. Harry pocketed his glasses and stumbled in the general direction of his teammates.
"His peers don't look that happy, Albus," Minerva said, peering over at a glaring Dudley Dursley.
"I'm sure he's fine. It's only a game, my dear."
"So is Quidditch, but you couldn't say people don't take it seriously."
"Quidditch is in a different league to rounders."
"Well, look at football fans then. They're worse than Quidditch fans, and that's saying something when you think about some of the people we've had through the school. Besides, you know Harry isn't the most popular with his classmates anyway."
"I highly doubt Harry's teammates are going to do anything to him in front of all these adults. Relax, Minerva, enjoy the game."
Harry braced himself for the worst as he was called out to bat a second time. Unable to see properly, his knees scratched and sore, and his left hand feeling like it was broken after Dudley had slammed it into the ground, he knew he was due for much worse when he got home. His cousin had made it perfectly clear that if he did not earn them a point this round, his gang would be all over him the moment there were no adults around.
How could he earn any points when he couldn't see a thing? Harry raised the bat and squinted at the bowler. After a moment something small came whizzing towards him and he swung. He got lucky again; the ball soared off sideways, coming to land a few feet from the second post.
Not needing the yells of "STAY!" from his teammates to know not to go past the first post, Harry waited for the fielder to throw the ball back to the bowler. The fielder took aim and threw; but the ball did something very strange, and seemed to almost turn direction in mid-air, heading straight for the audience.
Harry ignored the shrieks and ran, egged on by his classmates. From the second post past the third post, and triumphantly hit the fourth. A miracle!
Only some of his classmates cheered, the rest looked less hostile at least. Harry glanced over at the audience. Most of them were out of their seats, with the fielders searching for the ball. Only an elderly couple at the back were still watching the game; both were on their feet and cheering him. He had a sudden strange feeling of déjà vu, as if he had seen them before, but something had prevented him from remembering.
"Minerva McGonagall." Albus folded his arms and looked at her over the top of his glasses. "You have got to be the biggest hypocrite I have ever known."
"What do you mean, a hypocrite?"
"Are you telling me that, after your frequent reminders not to draw attention to myself, you did not Summon a rounders ball mid-game, turn it invisible until Harry had earned his team a point, and then make it reappear under the hedge?"
"Of course not!"
"Subsequently, I might add, breaking the notice-me-not charm?"
Minerva hesitated. "Is that why Harry looked at us?"
"Of course. He's seen us before, he's just never taken any notice of us. You took a big risk, Minerva."
"All right, all right. I'm sorry. It won't happen again. But honestly, Albus, it was worth it for the look on his face."
"Uh, Mrs Mills?"
The Head looked up. "Yes, Harry? Well done on the score, by the way."
"Thanks, Miss. I was wondering about that couple who were watching."
"The old couple in the back row. Were they someone's grandparents?"
Mrs Mills looked at Harry curiously. "There was no-one in the back row, Harry, and all the audience were either pupils or parents. I'm afraid I don't know the couple you mean."
Left confused, Harry was quiet the rest of the day, only vaguely thankful that he had avoided Dudley's wrath. His mind were full of the people who had cheered for him; for the brief moment he had seen them, he had felt not only confidence in himself, but also a strange familiarity. He had seen them before.
As peculiar as it was, Harry was neither worried not upset that he hadn't been able to talk to them before they had disappeared. He had a strong suspicion he would see them again one day.