-Cue training montage with Harry lobbing quaffles at Hermione.-
Angelina stared from the stands; her brows creased slightly as she watched the two. Harry was fast and reasonably unpredictable. In her opinion, he wouldn't make a bad backup chaser, but that was a thought for another time. By using a stationary levitation spell, he'd obviously charmed a dozen quaffles to float within easy reach. He was darting around from every angle and at high speed– it was obvious he'd done this before.
For Hermione's part, she was doing her best to protect the goal posts, but sometimes the ball went in despite her best efforts. Angelina continued watching for several minutes, mentally measuring her new reserve backup Keeper. It was probably too soon to really tell, and as team Captain, she should really be hedging her bets and preparing for any eventuality – but she really didn't like Ron Weasley. Talking to him—even being in the same room as him was wearying and often disgusting (did he ever bathe?). Add on top of that the fact that he needed massive numbers of pep talks and ego massages to function, and she really didn't feel like making the effort. She was taking a chance here, but Harry Potter had never lied to her. He'd said Granger could do this and despite never having seen her play, Angelina really wanted to believe him.
Something niggled at the back of Angelina's mind and her brow furrowed deeper. She wasn't sure why something about the way the way they were moving… no, stop it. There's nothing there, she mentally chided herself. Honestly, I'm getting to be as bad as Wood. Shaking her head wearily, and bemoaning the fact that if things kept up this way she'd have worry lines and gray hairs before her time, she turned and began walking to the castle.
-Cue secondary montage with Hermione racing Harry for the Snitch. Harry always catches it, but just barely due to Hermione grabbing hold of his robes.-
They'd booked the Pitch all day owing to the need to train their new Keeper. Katie Bell, Alicia Spinnet and the team Captain were all going through their warm ups.
Harry had said earlier that he and Hermione would be a little late getting to practice. Angelina had provisionally given him some leeway because he had spent so much time getting Granger up to speed. Whether she was so forgiving in the future would be entirely dependent on how well Granger performed today.
Apparently, Professor Binns was a much stricter Defense Against the Dark Arts Professor than he had been as Hogwarts' History Professor. The Twins were late owing to a detention by the aforementioned DADA Professor. So it was with some surprise that Angelina spotted another redhead arriving to their closed practice.
"All right, I'm here for practice." He proclaimed grandly.
"Ron?" inquired the Gryffindor Quidditch Captain as she touched down near the goals. "Wasn't expecting you to show up," she quirked up an eyebrow.
In a faintly mocking tone that grated at Angelina's nerves, Ron answered back, "Have to practice don't I? You can't play Quidditch withou' a Keeper, after all."
Smiling blithely, Angelina answered right back. "No, you can't play Quidditch without a Keeper. However, that doesn't explain why you're here."
Ron, apparently, took this as some sort of joke. "Be serious, Angie. I'm your reserve Keeper, and even if I wasn't, there isn't another bloke in Gryffindor that's even half as good as me. The closest we have is Cormac McLaggen and he's all talk. And between you and me," he leaned forward and lowered his voice a bit, "he's an arrogant prat."
The irony of that statement stunned all who were listening. Massaging her brow to summon the required infinite patience, Angelina began, "Quite right. Fortunately for us, Quidditch isn't restricted to just 'blokes'. And even if it were, which it isn't," you Neanderthal, "I might seriously consider fielding Cormac McLaggen." Provided he could get his head out of his arse. "And with her, she's not just skilled, but a hard worker as well." She leaned in closer and in a loud stage whisper she informed him, "And between you and me, the reserve keeper spot has been open for a while now."
All eyes were looking at the team Captain and her errant keeper.
"What?!—NO! I mean, you can't do that! I'm your keeper—ME! You can't let Herms have my spot! It's mine!"
A hush descended upon the field. Angelina Johnson, the Gryffindor Quidditch team captain quirked an eyebrow. "Did I mention Hermione Granger?"
"Think I don't know what's goin' on? Herms hasn't been around to—um—check my homework all week and Harry hasn't been around for chess, neither. The only two reasons I can think of that explain what's been keeping Harry busy is Quidditch or maybe Hermione. So I check and I was stunned to find out that Harry's teaching Herms Quidditch! Can you believe it, teaching a GIRL!"
"And that's against the rules now?" Angelina said icily.
Ron quickly backpedalled as he noticed the Katie and Alicia had beater bats in their hands.
Not that a girl can't play Quidditch. It's just that with her, I just don't see the point. She's useless on anything that flies." Ron noticed Angelina seemed ready to argue, so he held up both hands in a placating gesture. "I know you probably heard the rumor about Harry and Hermione riding a hippogriff two years ago, but I wouldn't put much stock in that if I were you. I mean, don't get me wrong, Harry's a great flyer -almost as good as me - which I why he's such an ace Seeker, but he'll listen to Hermione if I'm not around to keep him grounded. In my opinion, see, Harry was the one who flew the Hippogriff and she just asked Harry to include her in the retelling. That way she'd be able to get some of the fame."
Angelina's eye twitched at the load of pure Codswallop coming out of the tall gangly boy whose hair was so red that, if he stood a certain way and you squinted enough, you could be excused for mistaking him for a lit match. She wondered idly if he realized how his own perceptions were tainting his views, or how very obvious it was?
"So there's no good reason you would have Harry training Herms as a Keeper, unless there was a bad reason. That's it, isn't it! You're mad that I skipped a practice or two so you got Harry to give Herms a few lessons to teach me a lesson. Well, I get it. Never let it be said I couldn't learn something. It was a bluff, but it really made me think."
Angelina crossed her arms. This should be good, she thought.
"If you were willing to go so far as humiliate the team, then you must really want me back. I'll forgive you guys and come back to play. I won't even make everyone apologize for not supporting me with Herms." He held out a hand. "So, am I back on the team?" He said with a cheeky and insincere smile that made Angelina's hackles go up.
The captain just glared at the hand until it lowered back to his side. "First of all, it wasn't one or two practices. You missed every single practice session this week, and from what I can tell it wasn't for any particular reason except that you had your head lodged firmly up your backside. Second, the Gryffindor Team charter clearly states that any member may be let go should the player display continued unsportsmanlike behavior, miss practice for more than 4 consecutive occasions without cause, and third if the Team Captain, who is me, decides the player has personality conflicts with the other members. Considering all that, I am well within my rights to bounce you off this team so fast that your broom would spin."
"But you won't. There's no way Herms could fly a broom let alone play keeper against Slytherin. You need me."
Playing the previous Harry and Hermione's practices over again in her head in the time it took blink an eye, she smirked, cocked her hip, placed a hand on said hip and then said as cool as you please, "And once again, Ron, you are oh so very, very wrong." She heard the telltale sound that signaled Harry's Firebolt's approach. "Now, get off my pitch. We've booked the Pitch and you're not a on the team, so beat it."
Removing his leather cap and slamming it on the ground, he turned around on his heel, mounted his broom and flew away. "Well, we'll see what Professor McGonagall has to say about that!"
Angelina waited until he was out of sight before slumping slightly. She turned to the newly arrived Harry and Hermione. "Please, please tell me that she's ready for a full practice."
"Oh, absolutely." Harry reassured her.
"Good, because if she's not, then Professor McGonagall might turn me into a newt."
Angelina Johnson, Quidditch Captain, looked up from the stands, her broom held loosely in her hand.
"Miss Johnson," said a voice that most students had learned to fear but also respect.
Angelina Johnson turned to face her head of house. "Yes, professor?"
"Ronald Weasley has brought it to my attention that you've brought in a replacement to take his place as reserve keeper; a completely unknown player and a mid-season substitution as well. This is highly irregular. I would like to know your reason for it."
"Hermione will help us win." The captain tried first.
"I'm sorry that's not-wait—did you say Hermione, as in Hermione Granger?"
"He didn't tell you?"
"No, he only said that you had done something completely 'mental', as he put it, by replacing him." She paused a moment. "But Miss Granger is another matter... though her flight skills aren't particularly impressive…" She trailed off as she was aware Ms. Granger had always displayed distaste for heights.
"Harry's been teaching her." Angelina offered.
"Mister Potter?" McGonagall wondered aloud. He was one of the most naturally talented flyers she had ever seen. She well recalled Madame Hooch claiming Harry Potter was close to playing at professional Quidditch levels.
"Ron Weasley is misogynistic, crude, rude, and socially unacceptable... being, and no one on the team is sad to see him go. I am well within my rights as team captain to dismiss him and I am willing to provide statements with examples of his unacceptable behavior.
"Still, it's quite irregular, you understand." She began more as a formality before dropping the entire thing.
Angelina decided to go in for the kill. "She's practicing right now. Why not have a watch?"
Minutes ticked by and half an hour later, Minerva McGonagall was convinced. "I'll have a talk with Mister Weasley. If he refuses to let this go, then he may find himself serving detention during the game thereby rendering his arguments completely moot."
"I'm very relieved, Professor."
"As am I, Miss Johnson, as am I. I'm glad we could have this talk."
Both hands pushing up his glasses to cover his eyes, he paused at the entrance to the Witches' Lockers. "Wizard entering the Witches' side!" he called out.
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Just get over here, Harry."
"Nothing doing until I get an all clear from everyone in there. I learned my lesson back in first year. Do you have any idea how dangerous female Quidditch players can be?"
Hermione sniffed lightly. "And what am I, chopped liver?"
"Not at all. You're also a female Quidditch player, but you're also Hermione Granger, quite possibly the most dangerous witch in the school who isn't on staff."
This caused Hermione to chuckle lightly before taking up a bossy tone once more. "Well, if I'm so dangerous, then why aren't you scared of my wrath?"
Harry remained silent for a moment, as if trying to find the proper phrasing. "Respectfully decline to answer."
"BECAUSE…" he started. "Because, you're Hermione."
"And what is that supposed to mean?" a flicker of irritation edging her voice.
"Well, I mean, oh this is so hard to put into words… I guess," he started and then sighed. "I guess, it's because even though I know you can be scary to other people, I've never been afraid of you. I know you might hex me if I wind you up enough, but I trust you to never do anything that can't be fixed."
"So, what you're saying is… you trust me?"
"Yeah, I suppose I am."
Hermione had walked over from her locker to stand in front of the still sightless boy. "Thanks, Harry. I trust you too. I hope you know that I wouldn't have trusted anyone else to teach me how to handle a broom."
Harry could hear the smile in her voice and despite his lack of sight, he was sure she could clearly see his own very large smile.
Grabbing him by the arm, Hermione dragged him over to her locker. "Just so you know, I'm the only one here, so you can open your eyes."
He removed his hands and blinked in a rather owl-like manner. "You could have told me," he playfully groused.
A smug little smile adorned her lips. "True, but where's the fun in that? Besides, the Captain said your routine for entering the witches' locker room was quite amusing."
"Angelina put you up to this? Figures. You have no idea what she and the other girls are capable of." He shuddered involuntarily.
She tilted her head and brushed back her curls, exposing an ear. "Try me."
Leaning forward, Harry began to whisper…
Straightening up, Hermione had a cat-like grin. "Trust me, Harry. We're all capable of that. In fact, every girl in the castle has wanted to do that to you at some time or another."
Harry noticeably swallowed. "Y-you'd do that to me?" he stuttered.
Hermione had opened her locker and began to pull out pieces of her uniform. After hearing Harry's cute question, she answered off-handedly, "Depends."
"Depends on what?"
Goggles in one hand and Potter jersey in the other, she turned her head slightly and glanced at him. "Why, if you ask nicely, of course."
Harry cleared his throat loudly to try and steady his voice. He'd come down to the locker room to tell Hermione something, but he'd gotten off track. Looking embarrassed, he explained that apparently the team's regular Quidditch outfitter was backlogged and they wouldn't be able to get a personalized jersey for her until well after the first string Keeper was back on his feet.
"Oh, then I wouldn't worry about it," was Hermione's eminently practical response."
"No," Harry responded. "You deserve your own jersey. We're a team and every team member should have a personalized jersey."
"I've got a personalized jersey," Hermione remarked with unusual flippancy. "It's just not personalized to me."
"I suppose we could charm the name to say 'Granger'," Harry offered uncertainly.
"No, we can't," replied Hermione.
Harry looked confused. "We can't?"
"You should listen to her, Potter." Angelina advised from the doorway. "Apparently, she knows more about Quidditch than you do."
Harry looked a little chagrined. "Okay, I'll bite. Why can't we charm my old jersey to say Granger instead of Potter?"
Angelina flicked a look at Hermione to indicate that she had the stage. Hermione nodded in acceptance.
"Because, Harry, real Quidditch jerseys are charmed to prevent low level magic from affecting them."
Harry scoffed, "Fat lot of good that did me when Quirrel cursed my broom."
"Well, yes. The spellwork on the jersey didn't stop that, because he was focusing on your broom, not you."
"If he had, would my Jersey have helped? We're not talking about stunners here. Knowing Voldemort, he'd have tried to hit me with the killing curse again."
Angelina was dumbfounded at the way they talked about He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Granted, they had both be involved in his final defeat, but there were still teachers in the castle that couldn't bear to speak his name.
"No armor that we know of can stop the Killing Curse, so I think it's safe to assume your jersey wouldn't have been up to the task. However, I did specify it could only block low level magic."
"And how do you define low-level magic?"
Certain types of mind magic and minor hexes and jinxes. Basically, any spell you can't see won't affect a proper Quidditch jersey or the person it's protecting. Anything you can see wouldn't be blocked by the jersey, so, it's really only effective as a cheating preventative.
Harry's eyebrows shot up… "Wow. That's the first I've heard of that. I've been playing Quidditch for going on five years now and I'm only now learning that I'm wearing magic armor when I play."
Angelina looked amused. "Not our fault that you were sleepy when Wood was giving you the intro speech."
"He scheduled the first practice at five in the morning and my introductory lesson to Quidditch apparel was at four thirty. Did you stay awake for his intro speech?"
"Heck no. My dad gave it to me when I was six before my first pick-up game," Angelina replied without missing a beat.
Hermione gave Harry a bemused smile and decided he had suffered enough. She decided to move the conversation along. "I guess I'll just have to suffer the indignity of proudly wearing Potter in big, bold letters across my uniform. Oh, how EVER shall I live it down?"
Harry's cheeks colored red, a not too dissimilar shade to the Gryffindor team jerseys. Harry mumbled something that Hermione just barely couldn't make out.
Angelina smirked and excused herself with an admonition that the match would be starting soon. Heading from the room, she stopped just inside the doorway lifted her wand to her throat. Her amplified voice sent out a call throughout the locker room and through the partition wall. "In fifteen minutes, all brooms on the pitch. That's Fifteen minutes. One Five. I mean you, George. No excuses!
"What was that, Harry?"
"Ithkidloogsood,"answered in a rushed whisper.
"You'll have to speak slower and louder than that."
Glancing up and down the room and casting a privacy charm around them, he admitted, "I think it looks good on you."
Hermione stiffened very briefly and then turned around with a jerk. "The jersey or the name?"
But Harry had taken that momentary pause to make a dash for the door. He shouted back, "Sorry, but I've still got to finish getting ready!"
"Harry!" she called after the retreating form. Quirking her lips into an evil smile, she called over to the wizards' side, "I take it back. Order a jersey for me, but size it for you. It's only fair, after all."
Narrated by Dean Thomas
"And Granger makes another fantastic save."
"Uh Oh! Potter, and as previously stated, please ignore the keeper with the same name on her jersey, looks to be in trouble. The Slytherin seeker has just pulled an illegal Taiwan Tug Stop. Potter nearly flew off his broom as the other seeker tried to yank it out from under him. He looks to be holding on by his fingernails! Now that's tenacity folks – hanging on to his broom one-handed."
"Will the Referee catch it? No! The professor seems to have her hands full with a rogue bludger!"
"And the Slytherin seeker takes off chasing something. He must have spotted the snitch. Will Potter make it back into the game before the- Oh HELL! The rogue bludger has escaped the Referee and is streaking toward the Gryffindor Seeker! Does Harry Potter ever get a break!?"
"Wait—Granger is doing something… The hell!? Oh! Sorry wizards and witches, I couldn't believe my eyes for a second. For those who are listening from home or were unfortunate enough not to have seen this truly spectacular sight, allow me to explain. "
"Granger has intercepted the bludger as it flew past. Hands clutching tightly the speeding ball of iron, she's somehow managing to stay connected to her broom. The bludger is actually speeding up and it's causing Granger to spin around her broom like a whirling dervish. It's anyone's guess how long she'll be able to hold on—oh, and there it goes. Granger chucks it away, protecting Potter! Who would have thought she had it in her! Oh, it looks like the rogue bludger caught a flying spectator. Hold on a moment… I've just been asked to remind everyone that students are not allowed to watch Hogwarts Quidditch matches while on brooms. It is, as I've just been reminded, explicitly forbidden, I might add."
"The bludger is still moving and just made another bid for freedom and it is… apparently… HEADING RIGHT-THIS-WAY!"
The Bludger embedded itself in a support pillar right behind Dean's head. "Right folks. Just goes to prove that even rampaging bludgers won't stop me from sharing my unique insights about Quidditch with you. It looks like Professor McGongall has taken charge of the bludger. On behalf of myself and everyone here, thanks Professor."
One of the Gryffindor beaters flew up to the broadcast booth and whispered something to the announcer. "Not to worry ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, I've just been informed that it was Ron Weasley who got hit and it only impacted his head, so no harm done."
"Potter's recovered and he's resumed the chase and... and... He's caught the Snitch! Gryffindor WINS!"
As is customary, whenever Harry wasn't seriously injured, the chasers buzzed the field with a jubilant victory lap, the seeker lazily floated to the center of the pitch before landing with Snitch held high, and the keeper would fly into the center cheering.
Harry wasn't injured thanks to Hermione's timely intervention, but her legs felt so wobbly that she wondered if she could stand properly. But thoughts like that were secondary, and did not stop her from speeding toward the excited and happy Seeker.
She was excited – almost intoxicated with the thrill of victory and the smile on her face threatened to split her pretty face in half. One thing was on her mind as she flew…
Harry… her mind's razor sharp focus was completely on target.
Harry Potter. He was responsible. Everything that she was feeling was because of him. God… she was so full of energy, just so full of… well, EVERYTHING! In her excitement, her hands alternately opened and closed involuntarily while gripping her broom. She wanted to do something; do something … and whatever that was it should be with Harry, but for the life of her, she just couldn't figure out what. She settled for barreling toward him at a fast pace, planning to do a rapid dismount. It didn't quite work as her legs refused to lock and she nearly bowled her target over in a flying tackle.
Fortunately for her, better eyeglasses and a lifetime living under threat of imminent danger and death gave Harry truly superb situational awareness. In the split second that Hermione realized she was about to do a high speed flying tackle with optional faceplant, Harry had extended his arms, grabbed hold of her body and spun her around twice to dissipate the energy.
Three times might have been better, because it wasn't quite enough to stop her forward motion. The added weight from the Quidditch gear they were wearing and the rapid spins overbalanced Harry and the two fell over in a heap. Laughing but unhurt, the two got up, Harry's arm across Hermione's shoulders with her arm mirroring his, they laughed, pumped their arms up and down while yelling loudly to celebrate their victory. The Chasers landed in rapid dismounts and ran to the pair only to be joined by the beaters and reserve chaser. Harry and Hermione, hands now joined, were hoisted up on their teammates shoulders as conjured streamers and magic confetti rained down. They didn't let go of each other for a long time.
It was a good day.
Angelina was troubled. Not by the possibility that Professor McGonagall might discover Fred and George had snuck in a bottle of Firewhiskey to toast their win against Slytherin; her loyal minions (read: rabid Quidditch fans) had informed her that McGonagall was having her own victory celebration with Professor Flitwick. No, while her players and housemates were celebrating loud and hard in the Gryffindor Common Room, she sat off to the side, sipping her butterbeer looking for all the world like... dare I say it, Wood already planning their next match.
She'd long thought Wood's peculiar brand of fanticism was an inborn trait, but now she was beginning to suspect it was the Quidditch Captaincy that had done it to him. She shuddered at the thought even as she fiddled with her badge. Taking a pull on her bottle to let the smooth buttery warmth calm her thoughts, she focused on the problem as she saw it- Hermione Granger.
To Be Continued