Author's note. I'm sorry but I CAN'T update quicker than I have been. I have other stories and real life to deal with plus, it takes TIME to write decent chapters. Some people are panicking when only a week passes since an update and start asking if this story is abandoned. Seriously, don't panic over a week passing or even a month. I'm not going to abandon this story but it takes time if you guys want good long chapters although I'm afraid this is a little short.

In case I don't update before the end of the month, Merry Christmas everyone.

Enjoy and please review.

Harry panted as he pounded around the pitch, his feet bouncing off the springy ground which crunched slightly underfoot. The weather was growing colder; frost was beginning to form in the early mornings. Harry didn't mind, he found the cold refreshing in some ways and it made working up a sweat more enjoyable.

To be part of a Quidditch team, you needed to be physically fit otherwise you could say hello to a lot of broken bones, torn ligaments and pulled muscles. For instance, Beaters suited being muscular and large in order to wield heavy clubs while riding broomsticks and then slam said clubs into powerful bludgers and actually aim them in a certain direction. Harry knew that he'd do worst at the position of beater, he'd be much better as Keeper or Chaser.

Funny, this was the part of Quidditch no one told you about, it wasn't just a case of flying around broomsticks all day, practising moves although that was still important. They had to train using gym like wooden bars where they'd do pull-ups. But these exercises weren't just for their arms, they needed to get used to situations where they were hanging onto the broom only by their legs.

There was also a set of monkey bars that had actually been very recent editions when Harry had come to Hogwarts. It helped to mimic the swinging you would experience in mid air if you tumbled off your broom and were hanging on with two or just one hand. He'd heard that a Half blood had suggested them after growing up playing on them and then getting onto their House Quidditch team. It did make a lot of sense to practise with them especially as they built up endurance to hanging onto broomsticks.

He planned to have a go on some of them once he'd completed a certain number of laps. A slight stinging pain was beginning to develop in his chest; he'd already gone round twenty times but was hoping to make twenty five. As he got fitter, he'd bring it up to thirty and probably stick with that for this year. With several years of experience behind him, he knew how to achieve the kind of physical fitness that he wanted.

"Alright Harry?" called a voice and he glanced up to see Fred hanging lazily from his broom, smirking at the sight of the young Seeker sweating.

Harry gave him the thumbs up, not wanting to speak in case he lost his momentum. He was the only one running, Fred and George were trading Bludgers up above while Katie bell was practising a few move. The other two girls and Olivers were at the bars although last time he'd checked, Oliver had been doing push ups on the cold ground. The older boy seemed determined to put on some serious muscles in his upper body, never let it be said that Gryffindor lost a game because their Keeper wasn't up to scratch.

"Just don't collapse on us," Fred advised, ignoring the Bludger that whizzed past him. "Oliver doesn't want his Seeker getting too heavy, muscles weigh you down."

Harry shook his head, Oliver had expressed concern but Harry had assured him he just wanted to build up his stamina and fitness. Originally when he'd come to Hogwarts, he hadn't weighed a great deal and this had probably given him an advantage on the field. However, he'd most certainly gained weight as he grew older and was able to eat more so he wasn't worried. He'd won matches in Sixth year when he was a lot bigger than his First year self and with his experience behind him, he was confident he could compensate for any added weight he might put on.

It was unlikely to matter for his upcoming match which was only two days away.

"Hey Fred," Fred's twin yelled. "You're gonna give Oliver a heart attack if he catches you lazing about."

Fred just waved an unconcerned hand but he started to raise his broom in case the Gryffindor captain was watching. However, he didn't appear finish with Harry.

"So your godfather's staying at our house," the red haired boy said casually, flicking something off the cuff of his Quidditch robe.

Harry nodded as Fred directed his broom to follow the running boy below him. He only briefly turned to smack a bludger away before focusing on Harry again.

"I heard he's the most dangerous criminal Azkaban has ever had," Fred told him seriously. "They say he's stayed sane because the Dementors couldn't suck out his soul...because he doesn't have one."

Harry just shrugged at him; he didn't have the energy to respond. Fred was breaking his concentration and he could feel himself slowing down as the stinging pain in his chest spiked sharply. His breathing started to become laboured and his heart thudded rapidly against his chest which heaved with exertion. Automatically, he started to slow his pace as he tried to judge the best time to simply start walking. Past experience told him coming to a complete stop was never a good idea, he'd be too achy and tired to move afterwards if he did that.

"The Black families one of the darkest there is," Fred continued in a mysterious tone. "They use their own blood in potions and wear werewolf skins as coats."

"Do they also use troll legs as stands?" Harry managed to ask wryly, sucking in a lungful of air.

"Wouldn't surprise me," Fred said airily. "You'll need to watch yourself."

"I'll try," Harry said mildly as he neared the others.

"Oi Fred," Oliver Wood roared as he spotted his Beater. "What are you doing, this is a training session. Get back to work."

Fred saluted and raised his broom high into the room although not before giving Harry a significant look. Harry paid it no mind; it was time for his warm down session after a good gulp of pumpkin juice and water.

While Harry continued with his training, Ron and Hermione were sitting in the courtyard, sheltered by a large tree. They were wrapped up with cloaks and scarves to protect against the chilly air. There was only a very light breeze so they were comfortable enough to remain outdoors for now. Hermione had convinced Ron to make a start on his homework so that he could enjoy himself once Harry was finished training.

"You alright?" Ron questioned as he glanced at Hermione and found her staring into space.

"Yes...I'm fine," she said, giving herself a little shake. "Just thinking."

"Oh," he said, a little unsure if he should ask what it was. When Hermione was distracted, she tended to keep things to herself even if it was something he and Harry should know about. "Okay."

He turned back to his History homework, debating how much effort he should put into it. Even after seven years, he wasn't a hundred percent sure that Binns was actually marking these essays, the man...ghost barely seemed interested in anything that wasn't his notes on goblin wars. At least this material wasn't hard, he already knew it, his dilemma was how much enthusiasm he'd put into it. Just as he was about to dip his quill into some ink, Hermione started, her attention on some figures that had just come out from an archway.

Ron looked over at them and saw that it was Malfoy with his ever present cronies. He grimaced at the sight of them before turning back to Hermione. Her expression was even more thoughtful and he couldn't help but say.

"Are you sure everything's okay?"

"Yes...well, sort of," she admitted, unconsciously giving her arm a rub. "I was just thinking about that Malfoy Manor."

Ron flinched as a multitude of memories assaulting him, Hermione's screams, Bellatrix's insane laughter, his own desperation; the dull pain of his fists as he pounded them on the dungeon's hard stone wall, the list went on. With an effort, he focused on the present and Hermione.

"You...," he began but he had no idea what to say. Hermione saved him by saying.

"I sometimes worry about her escaping...she's in Azkaban now but chances are she won't be forever. She's going to get out one day and hurt more people."

He didn't know what to say, she was right about the likelihood of Bellatrix getting out at some point. But he had to say something.

"It was a bad night," he managed to mumble.

"It was," she agreed softly before glancing back over at Malfoy who was heading for the grounds.

"It's funny," she murmured. "I know Draco Malfoy was there but I barely connect him to the event. It was hard to concentrate, but I seem to remember that he wouldn't look at me when it was happening."

Ron glanced at the distance figure of Draco Malfoy and grumbled.

"I can't stand the little bugger; he's still an obnoxious little snob. But you're right; I don't hate him like I hate Malfoy...older Malfoy. And I suppose he's not as bad as his bastard of a father."

"No," Hermione said grimly. "There are not many that are as bad as him. Did it never occur to him that he put his own son at risk by setting loose a Basilisk? I know he probably warned him not to wander about but so many of those attacks were probably pure chance. Riddle avoided any large crowds and aimed for single people. Obviously, he was trying to get Muggleborns and it may be that when he saw a Pureblood on their own, he held back but still. What if he'd decided to just go for it, kill whoever crossed the Basilisk's path? Or if he had been attacking a Muggleborn, what if a loyal Slytherin stumbled across him? It just seems so reckless and...stupid."

She paused for breath but Ron didn't interrupt her. He'd never really thought about it that way, they all knew Slytherin hated Muggleborns, thus Muggleborns were attacked. He just assumed that all the Slytherins were automatically protected, because they were in Slytherin.

"And what was it all for? So he could murder Ginny in order to hurt Mr Weasley? Just because he was trying to bring in a Muggle Protection Act that Lucius didn't like. He's utterly insane," she continued in exasperation.

Before she could continue, he caught her hand and pulled her closer before she attracted the attention of the other students in the courtyard. As she stared at him, he murmured.

"He's a fucking insane bastard who got what was coming. He didn't look so smart once Dumbledore put him in Azkaban and V-voldemort had to break him out. We know he's going to try some stunt sooner or later but we're going to be ready for him. You're not going to have to go through what he put you through during second year."

She stared at him, a little flushed over her own outburst. And then she leaned forward and gently kissed him on the lips. He responded and they stared there for a minutes, just lightly kissing. When they broke apart for a moment, she said quietly.

"As long as I've got you, I'll be fine."

He smiled goofily before kissing her again. Leaning closer to her ear, he said.

"Let's finish this later and find somewhere a bit more...private."

She giggled but to his delight nodded and started clearing up their things. Once everything was safely stored in their bags, Ron took Hermione's arm and lead her away, feeling very glad that his twin brothers were safely stored away in Quidditch training.

Author's note. By the way, I know whenever Quidditch practise was mentioned in the books they were just flying around practicing their moves but there surely must have been some exercise. Or at the very least training for their arms and legs in case they ever fell of their broom and ended up hanging from it. You could easily tear something or pop your arm out of joint if you just jump on a broom without any kind of warmup.