A/N: This 'missing moment' was written in honour of Katieay's birthday, after her comments on a post of mine about snow encouraged me to attempt 'snowy Quidditch'.
This takes place after Katie is attacked/poisoned/what you will and before Dean and Ginny are caught on the 'empty corridor'. This is one of those times Harry gets a Bludger injury for not keeping his eyes on the Snitch!
"Harry, laughing with the others, was glad to have an innocent reason to look at Ginny; he had received several more Bludger injuries during practice because he had not been keeping his eyes on the Snitch."
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. UK edn. Page 485
People always said snow fell.
People lacked imagination, in Harry's opinion.
You fell off a broomstick or out of bed.
You fell in love, or out of it, supposedly.
Snowflakes did not fall; they floated, or these did anyway.
Normally, when it snowed at Hogwarts, the swirling whiteness bore more resemblance to a blizzard; snow so thick and fast that you had enough trouble seeing the end of your broomstick, let alone your teammates, or the Snitch.
For today, 'normal conditions' appeared to have been suspended at Hogwarts and Harry watched the drifting flakes, entranced.
He had never seen snowflakes this large in his whole life; not that this was saying much. It had rarely snowed in Little Whinging and when it had, it had been seen as a freakish nuisance of nature to be scraped away as hastily and efficiently as possible. Preferably, in Uncle Vernon's view, by another freak of nature; Harry.
He recalled one particular incident… He must have been about five as he was in school clothes, listening to Uncle Vernon ranting at the postman for daring to walk across the frosty grass to the front door that morning. Apparently, it was bad for the grass if you 'trampled it' while frozen. Uncle Vernon had been inordinately proud of his lawn.
On the way home from school that day, it had started snowing. Harry had been sent back outside to clear the driveway and, somehow, he had found himself blamed for the broken passenger window on Uncle Vernon's company car.
He hadn't minded the forty-eight hours in his cupboard, at least it kept him out of the way of Piers and the others' snowballs; the ones aimed at him always had a stone in the middle.
Discarding this memory, Harry paused, a couple of steps beyond the warmth of the changing rooms with the frozen air prickling his cheeks and nose, face angled to the sky, watching the mesmerising monochromatic dance. Individual flakes caught his eye, turning and drifting in their helpless descent; each flake was huge and he estimated the largest at two inches across.
The surrounding sky was a soft pinkish grey and the flakes twirled in slow, graceful curls before settling in a cool, white muffler over every surface capable of supporting them.
Drawn forward into this seasonal rain, Harry shouldered his Firebolt, noticing that his footfalls were deadened, and the mutters of the remaining team members pulling on their Quidditch robes in the scant warmth of the changing room faded out more quickly than was usual.
Except for the snowfall, the air was completely still, but Harry, surveying the pristine surface of the pitch, knew that this was an illusion. Thirty or forty feet up in the air, there could be gusty air currents that would grab at you, that could use the hem of your robe to whip you in stinging rebuke for daring the elements. There could be vicious buffets of air that shoved at you, taking you unawares and threatening to unseat you.
Harry had no desire to be sent back to earth in another reminder that in the war between flying objects moving at speed and the ground, the ground had yet to lose.
Given that Quidditch took place no matter what the conditions, Harry had given shaky, heart-racing, sweaty-palmed thanks for the speed of his reflexes more than once.
The flakes were swirling more heavily now as Harry picked his way across the pitch. They brushed over him, delicate creations looking more like spun sugar as they drifted down, as though he could pluck one from the air and taste it. Feel it melt in his mouth, flooding his tastebuds with a sweetness so unexpected that he would smile in response.
Then Harry snorted and shook his head. Bloody hell, Potter! What's the matter with you this morning? Going poetic over a bit of snow! You'll be comparing Ginny to a sunset next, you twerp!
Resolutely not looking round to see if his favourite Chaser - best Chaser - erm, Ginny had left the changing room, Harry moved further out into the pitch, to where he judged the centre ought to be.
Reminding himself firmly that Ginny was going out with Dean and that it was nothing to do with him, Harry looked around, assessing the conditions. Diffused light and snow. They'd flown in worse.
He had crunched another dozen imprints across the hidden grass, with as many to go, when he heard a giggle at his back - right at his back - and twisted quickly.
It was Ginny, quite literally walking in his footsteps and wearing the kind of choked expression Harry had learned to associate with her trying hard not to laugh. He felt a smile sneak onto his mouth.
"What you doing?" he asked. Snowflakes were settling on her hair and shoulders briefly before melting in response to Ginny's body heat, their six arms relinquishing their frozen finery to become perfectly rounded drops of water beading her hair and robe.
"I would have thought it was obvious what I'm doing. Walking in your footsteps, which is a very neat trick when you've got a stride the length of yours and I'm such a 'short-arse', to quote the twins."
Harry snorted and what he'd intended to say next froze somewhere between his brain and mouth when Ginny reached up and brushed the snow off his shoulders before jiggling the front of his robe to dislodge the powdery flakes.
"You look like a plate of Mum's mince pies."
Harry jerked his head back questioningly, prompting Ginny to add, "she always dusts them with that fine sugar before serving them. You know - the kind that gets up your nose as soon as you get the mince pie near enough to take a bite so that you spend the next five minutes coughing."
Harry knew he was grinning idiotically at this mental image, which wasn't really that funny, and yet he couldn't seem to stop.
Ginny was humming a tune that tickled the fringes of his memory, a smile starting to rise up her face from her pink mouth. It touched something deep inside him, and Harry tried to place it, certain it would come to him more easily if only Ginny would stop humming.
The snow, easily six inches deep at this spot, encouraged the chill breaking through his Quidditch boots and Harry began to emulate Dumbledore in wishing he owned a decent pair of socks. Maybe Dobby would give him some for Christmas again.
A flake caught on the end of his nose, melting instantly, and Harry blinked, unable to decide whether his shiver was reaction to the weird tingle in his nose, or the sight of Ginny's shoulders shaking in a silent giggle.
"Come on, Rudolph, kick off and let's get this started!" Suiting action to words, Ginny swung her leg over her broom and sprang easily into the swirling snow.
Her robes soon disappeared into the wintry background as she completed a circuit of the pitch as rapidly as her broom would permit. Harry turned, trampling the snow flat as he followed her with his eyes, noticing the way she shifted her body weight to compensate for the broom's faults as she cornered and dived.
"Tell me again why we're out here before breakfast?"
"Because the Captain thought it was a good idea to get some practice in without a crowd of onlookers?" Harry replied without taking his eyes off Ginny.
"Besides, you'll have worked up an appetite for a bigger breakfast when we go back in." Still turning to watch Ginny, Harry discovered he had turned full circle and was facing her brother. "What?"
Ron gestured to the Beaters and roared down the pitch, "Oi! Don't stand there gaping! Free the balls!"
Harry ducked at the very last second as Ginny swooped over them and pulled up. "Yell a bit louder, why don't you, Ron. I think there's someone in Hogsmeade who might not have heard you!" Her face was pinched with the cold but she looked cheerful enough. "You want to be careful, bellowing that way or you'll be bringing the snow down from the mountains and engulf us all. Ask Hermione if you don't believe me. She's been skiing and that's how they keep the slopes safe."
"What?" Ron grumbled, looking as lost with this random information as Harry felt.
Ginny rose a few inches, her eyes now on the other side of the pitch. "Send men out to make loads of noise and bring the snow down. Weren't you listening? Are we practising, or what, Harry?"
Appealed to directly, Harry started, mounted his Firebolt and glided to release the Snitch. Peakes and Coote had released the Bludgers and were haring after them to protect Dean, Demelza and Ginny.
"Give them a good whack," Harry called across with a grin. "Keep the girls on their toes!"
Jimmy Peakes eyed Ritchie, his fellow Beater, and shrugged. "You're the Captain!"
Harry watched the Chasers from the ground. Dean flies well but he's not as good as Katie…And if he was a girl, he wouldn't be going out with Ginny… "Chase the Snitch, Potter!" He set it free and kicked off.
Within five minutes of flying through the snowfall, each Gryffindor was more white than red.
Although Harry had released the Snitch and had at first watched for it purposefully, he had discovered lapses in his attention span, which were resulting in dangerous close-quarter brushes from the Bludgers.
After the last one had parted his hair and Coote had flown over to stammer out an apology that Harry waved away, saying it was his own fault, Harry pulled up on his Firebolt and gave himself a talking to.
"Come on, Potter, you'll have to do better than this!" He followed the Chasers as they converged on the hoops. "You're the Captain and supposed to lead from the front -nice one!" he exclaimed, as Ginny performed a perfect Reverse Pass to Demelza and took up position for a Porskoff Ploy with Dean. "The opening game of the season is right round the corner and this is not the time to land yourself in the hospital wing with a Blud -Oooff!"
The vivid red of his dewy robe glistened in the snow in the same way that spilt blood does. Harry lay on his back, winded from the awkward landing, shoulder burning with fire and the length of his arm echoing the bump of his heartbeat in a painful throb.
You were watching the Chasers again, said that part of his conscience that spoke in very Hermione-ish tones. You weren't paying attention!
Harry was reluctantly forced to agree, although there was something about the assertion, 'watching the Chasers' that didn't quite strike him as the whole truth but he had no wish to examine it more closely.
As though the Bludger had shook it loose, Harry could suddenly identify the tune Ginny had been humming --it was something about angels. A woman's voice was singing, "O ye beneath life's crushing load, whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow; Look now, for glad and golden hours come swiftly on the wing..."
Harry thought he would be rather happy to have some 'glad and golden hours' in his life.
It was strange to lie here looking up into the whirling snow while it obliterated his vision, rendering it bright white as it speckled his lenses. He had never watched snow from this angle before; how the individual flakes twirled and spiralled, colliding and falling faster as a consequence.
It drew his eyes as he lay still, the hurt fading into the background as he concentrated elsewhere. He tried following a single flake and lost it because his attention was captured by another, twinkling as it turned. He tried following others but lost them too as the flakes drew his eyes. It made him feel slightly sick.
Or could that be the pain?
Two thuds, one heavier than the other, indicated that others had landed close by.
"Harry? You all right?"
Ron's questioning voice was followed by a feminine snort.
"He just took a Bludger hit, Ron, of course he's not all right!" Ginny tutted. The white brilliance dimmed as Ginny leaned over him and wiped his lenses with the side of her gloved hand. "Harry?"
He managed to grunt and focus on the pale oval of her face.
"Just because you're the Captain doesn't mean you get to play snow angels while the rest of us practice, you know."
There was a gentle note of something in the way Ginny spoke to him that had Harry's numb mouth lifting in a smile. "I'll keep it in mind."
With a muttered 'tuh', Ron dragged Harry upright. "Does that mean we can go in and eat now?" he asked hopefully. "My bloody hands have got frostbite, I swear. Stupid, useless gloves!" he grumbled, and Harry noticed that the Keeper gloves Ron was wearing were indeed useless, as they were about three sizes too small for his hands.
That solves the problem of what to get him for Christmas. Excellent!
Working his shoulder round, Harry decided they ought to go in. They had got in some useful flying in daylight, which had helped the Chasers accuracy, if not his own.
"Yeah, why not," he said aloud. More lights were appearing in the castle and his insides were aching, but whether this had more to do with hunger pangs or the fact that Dean had landed and was standing right at Ginny's back, hands on her shoulders, Harry couldn't be sure.
He turned away. "Let's pack up."
"What about the Snitch?" Dean asked with a grin and nudge for Ginny. "You go and get it, Gin, show the Captain how it's done." One hand was stroking her neck.
At that moment, Harry discovered that his insides contained more than digestive organs. There was a hard lump in there too; a hard lump containing Harry-had-no-idea-what, except it felt hot and savage.
He found Ginny was watching him and turned away, hoping she hadn't noticed anything.
"Ha! I may be quick but Harry's quicker," she said brightly. "He could catch it with one hand tied behind his back."
Ducking his head to hide the grin threatening to join his ears together, Harry mounted and kicked off high without warning.
"I thought we were going in?" Ron bellowed after him.
With his blood singing a happy tune through his ears and his memory replaying Ginny's warm praise, Harry completed two circuits of the pitch in no time and it felt as though only a few seconds had passed before he saw the Snitch, struggling through the huge snowflakes, dived gracefully to it and picked it out of the air in passing.
When he landed and handed the tiny ball to Peakes to put away, he saw the ground was littered with body prints.
"See! Told you so!" Ginny was saying pointedly to Dean, who was trying to tug her up out of her snowy impression. Ginny was resisting him, and trying to get up by herself. "Harry's the best we've had in years. Dean! Don't!" she snapped, when Dean persisted in trying to help her up. "You'll smudge my angel!"
Looking sulky at this public telling-off, Dean sloped off to help the two younger Beaters with the ball crate, leaving Harry watching Ginny climb to her feet.
She turned around, surveyed her work and then grinned at him. "That's how it's done, Harry," she said cheerfully, nodding her head at her 'snow angel'. She patted his aching shoulder before dashing to the changing room after the rest of the team.
Harry let his eyes wander over Ginny's small outline in the snow, noticing how she'd swept it aside with her arms to produce the appearance of wings, repeating the process to give her angel the characteristic long robe beloved of Christmas card artists.
He was about to turn away and head to get changed when another detail caught his eye.
Ginny's snow angel was right beside the undisturbed imprint he had made in falling from his broomstick.
They seemed to be holding hands.
Harry stared for several long minutes. That was pure coincidence.
Coincidence that she had chosen that particular patch of snow.
Continuing thanks to my Beta, Katieay, for the warmth of her friendship and fish-slaps. Thanks also to JKR for inventing a world through which I made such amazing friends.