Chapter Thirty Four

Author's Note: Sorry again about the delay; bunch going on right now and really tough to find time to sit down and write. Thanks so much for reading and to everyone who's been following and commenting. It's so lovely to know that people have been reading and enjoying my story! This was going the last "Chapter," but I've actually split the last chapter into two because I felt so bad about not updating. So this is part 1 of the last chapter. Part 2 will hopefully be posted shortly and then there will be a couple of "epilogues"! So if you have any requests or anything, message me. I love hearing from people about the story and do my best to incorporate suggestions [and often there's things I'll miss that my readers will point out to me – very important]. Once again, not mine and sorry again for the significant delay.

"Are you alright? Am I going to have to find a team healer to watch with us?" Hermione laughed as she entered the room where the wives and girlfriends of the Puddlemore United Quidditch team watched the matches. Holly was already in the room, looking more nervous and more stressed out than Hermione was accustomed to seeing her generally easy-going coworker and friend.

"Ugh, that might be necessary…very necessary indeed," Holly's jaw slackened momentarily as she spoke, but her hands remained clasped directly over her heart. Holly had on one of Oliver's practice jerseys. The top was too large for her and so she had cinched it at the waist with a haphazard knot. Her entire face was caked in red paint – the colour worn by Puddlemore United – and her short blond hair boasted streaks of the same colour. She had drawn Oliver Wood's number "1" on the skin of her legs that was exposed by her short, black skirt and her earrings were emblazed with the logo. Hermione fought the temptation to poke fun at her friend over her appearance. After all, she too was clad in a Puddlemore United tee shirt and had enchanted a paintbrush to sketch the team's logo on one side of her face and George's number "6" on the other. While she knew she and her friend created quite the pair, they hardly stood out as odd in the least; a quick glance out of the large window that faced the stadium told Hermione that almost all of those in attendance were equally decked out in support of their side: either Puddlemore United or their opponents, the Montrose Magpies. The nervousness and the anticipation within the stadium were palpable. Even though thousands of supporters crowded into the building, the silence was deafening; everyone seemed on edge. Hermione could tell it was an important game because even the other wives and girlfriends in the room with her and Holly – who normally acted as if they couldn't care less about the outcome of the match – seemed uneasy.

"I've never seen this place like this before," Hermione muttered as she and Holly stood at the window and stared out over the empty pitch.

"Nothing compares to the championship game," Holly replied definitively. Based on the atmosphere, Hermione had no reason to doubt her friend. Everyone in the crowded stadium certainly seemed steeped in anticipation over watching their team play for the right to call themselves first in the league. "Oh my, sweet Merlin…We're starting," Holly shrieked as the teams took the pitch to begin their warm-ups. "Here we go, Mione," She added, grapping hold of Hermione's shoulders and shaking her forcefully as the stadium of supporters erupted into cheers of anticipation at the sight of their teams entering the pitch.

-o-O-o-

"I have no idea it would be like this," Hermione rasped with what little was left of her voice. "I can barely take this," She said, noticing that her hands trembled as she spoke.

"I told you it would be intense," Holly responded without ungluing her glittering grey-blue eyes from the pitch. Even though the teams were in the midst of a much-needed timeout, Hermione's heart rate didn't relax. The match had already lasted four and a half hours and showed no signs of stopping anytime soon. Puddlemore United and the Montrose Magpies continued to trade goals and the tight lead oscillated between the two sides. Both Reid Johnson and the Magpies' Seeker continued to drift around the pitch, neither seeming to have a beat on the allusive Golden Snitch. Hermione had to wonder if the league was using a faster moving, sneakier Snitch for the championship game because both Seekers seemed completely befuddled as to its whereabouts. Based on the way the two teams were playing, it was obvious that the eventual winner would be the one whose Seeker claimed the Snitch; there was simply no way that either team would score a sufficient amount of goals to allow for otherwise.

"I just didn't realize it would be like this," Hermione reiterated, taking a deep and purposeful breath.

"I told you!" Holly stated. "Oh merlin, they're back," She yelled, pointing at the pitch where the miniature looking players were reemerging from their respective sidelines to resume the game. "Oh Puddlemore, oh Puddlemore, you got this," Holly murmured, mostly to herself.

"Ok boys…I know you can do this," Hermione contributed, also speaking more to herself than her companion. Hermione braced her knees and stared intently at the pitch, fervently willing George's side to succeed.

Fortunately for the two girls, their nerves didn't have to take much more of a beating as the game took a sudden and pleasant turn once the players returned to the pitch. Shortly after the referee whistled play back into action, Reid darted quickly to his left before initiating a free fall towards the grass. As he shot downwards with his hand stretched out in front of him, the Puddlemore supporters broke out into joyous cheers and yells, evidently aware of the direction the game was taking. Hermione and Holly made no effort to contain their excitement, as both lost all sense of decorum: jumping in place, clapping their hands, and cheering feverously for Reid to succeed in his quest for the Snitch. Hermione's voice was raw as she yelled, but that didn't matter, because, in that moment, she really only cared about the outcome of the match. It was a far cry, she knew, from her former self, who couldn't care less about Quidditch, but in the midst of the fever of the game she didn't bother to analyze her recent change of heart.

Just before hitting the ground, Reid pulled up on his broom and shot into the air, his hand held triumphantly above his head. It was a remarkably uncomplicated play and just like that the match was over; Puddlemore United had won. From their lofty vantage point, Hermione couldn't see the tiny, golden Snitch contained in his first as the Puddlemore Seeker took a well-deserved victory lap, but knew that it had to be there. Half the stadium exploded into rapture as the Puddlemore United supporters celebrated their victory. Hermione only had an iota of a moment to appreciate what had happened before Holly tackled her out of excitement. Holly's loud shrieks filled Hermione's ears, but Hermione wasn't perturbed by the volume; she was far too joyful to mind. Hermione was vaguely aware that her feet had left the ground as Holly lifted her into a victorious hug. When Holly finally placed her back on her feet, Hermione was aware that the stadium was quickly emptying: the Magpie supporters were eager to leave the grounds and the Puddlemore fans were apparating from their spots in the bleachers onto the pitch in order to surround the team in their frenzied celebration. The situation was pandemonium, as Puddlemore fans were apparating into too small of spots and bumping into each other and falling over. Hermione sensed that no one was complaining though, as all were lost in the celebration. The pitch soon crowded up with gleeful revelers.

"Let's get down there," Holly exclaimed. She grabbed onto Hermione's hand and Hermione felt the surge of apparating before she and Holly suddenly rematerialized on the soft grass of the Quidditch pitch. People were everywhere. Noise surrounded Hermione as the sounds of cheers and the songs of the supporters filled her ears.

"What is happening?" She asked joyously, maintaining a firm grasp of Holly's hand.

"Isn't this madness?" Holly yelled back in an excited response.

"Yup," Hermione had to shout even though Holly was standing right next to her as she hesitantly returned the hug of a complete stranger.

"Let's go find the boys," Holly exclaimed as she high fived frenzied fans with her free hand.

"If that's possible," Hermione replied even though she was certain her friend couldn't hear her. Hand in hand, Hermione and Holly pushed through the sea of red-clad celebratory people towards the centre of the pitch where they were sure they would find the team. Fortunately, everyone was in high spirits and no one protested to their maneuvers. Surprisingly it didn't take long to reach mid-field. Staring through the crowd, Hermione was certain that she could see the top of George's head; the red of his hair was unmistakable.

"Come on," Hermione shouted, suddenly aware that she was leading Holly. A few metres more and they had found the team.

"Hermione!" George shouted gleefully. Extracting himself from an embrace from several teammates, he scooped Hermione into an energetic bear hug. He was covered in sweat, but that didn't deter Hermione and she happily entwined her arms around his neck and her legs around his waist. His smile was as wide as Hermione had ever seen in at she felt even more joy than she had previously now that she was able to share in the excitement with George.

"George! I'm so happy for you…what a game," Hermione yelled, hoping that George could hear her over the wall of noise. Ignoring that it was drenched in sweat, Hermione gently ran her hand through his hair as he held her off the ground in a secure embrace.

"Let's get out of here," George shouted to Hermione's surprise. Although she thought he would have wanted to celebrate with his team, she nodded in response to his suggestion. For the second time since the game ended Hermione was pulled away by the force of apparating. She had no idea where George was taking her, but held on tightly to his torso, excited to find out what he had in store.

Author's Note: So sorry again for how poorly I've been doing on my updates. Hopefully I'll get part 2 of this chapter written and posted in a decent amount of time.