Why’d you have to do it? Why couldn’t you just walk away? Walk away. What a complete tosser you are, Potter.
This ongoing verbal assault had been raging inside Harry’s beleaguered mind all the way down to the Quidditch pitch. Practice was due to start in an hour, but Harry needed time by himself, time flying, time alone, and time as far from Ginny Weasley’s tearful eyes as he could get.
What did you do to make her cry, you moron? He had analyzed the situation ad nauseum, only to come to the horrible realization late last night, sitting alone and miserable before the Common Room fire, that Ginny Weasley loathed the thought of being rescued. She probably had enough rescuing to last a lifetime. But what was he supposed to do? The slimy git was practically mauling her right there in broad daylight. Deserted corridors were one thing, but the creature in his chest rattled his chain mightily upon seeing that one damsel so distressed. Somebody had to defend her, and she wasn’t doing a great job. True, she had no wand, and she was kicking pretty fiercely, but she needed him to . . . No Potter, she didn’t need you to do anything; she just didn’t want him to do anything. Then. And visions of that deserted corridor, weeks ago, came flooding back into his mind: his lips, her lips, his hands, her hips.
Kicking off from the ground in a seething fury, he circled the pitch, diving and spinning, hoping the wind and the sunlight would somehow calm the fractious things he once called his brain and heart. Ever since the untimely shortcut he had taken with Ron, Harry had wrestled with a growing desire to be near her, to look at her, to protect her. Overnight she went from a sister to --what? Even he couldn’t find a word for it. The disastrous debacle of a relationship with Cho would normally have sent him fleeing like a snitch at the sight of a tear, but yesterday? Why, why did he have to make her cry? And why did the sight of tears in those brown eyes do this to him?
He whipped about, pulling up on his broomstick, and stared off at the distant castle as if it might answer him, but to no avail: the turrets and towers remained mute. Sighing, he lowered his eyes to his broom handle. Rubbing his thumb along the ashen wood, he thought about the first time he laid eyes on it. How (once returned to his safe keeping) he had polished it for hours, till the grain of the wood glowed. Ginny had admired it --that, he remembered. He remembered the reflection of the Firebolt in her eyes. Odd that he should recall that after all this time. How brown reflected in brown like that. Different shade though. Ginny’s eyes were cinnamon with flecks of amber around her pupils that he had seen narrow and widen at him countless times hence. Cho’s eyes had been . . . dark and wet--that’s all he could remember. Merlin, Potter, you’ve got to find a way to deal with this before you lose it completely.
Noticing the team making their way slowly across the field, he did one last dive, let the wind clear his mind, and landed inches from the grass, rolling easily off his Firebolt.
Ron was leading the pack; Jimmy and Ritchie were followed by Demelza and Ginny. He stole a quick look at Ginny who seemed to be laughing at something Demelza was relating, then smiled quickly at him, casting her eyes to the grass below. Dean was noticeably absent having left yesterday for break. Good thing that, Harry smirked, not happy with the thought of having to see the prat’s face after the Varmiticulous jinx he’d leveled on him. Serves him right, though; he’ll think twice about where he put his hands and lips in the future if he wants to keep his face from erupting in mole’s heads.
After the group settled in, Harry began, “O.K, everyone, this is our last practice before we leave for break. I don’t want everybody going soft on me over the holidays,” various moans erupted from the crowd, and Harry grinned, ducking a well-aimed Quaffle. “Seriously, we’ve got to stay focused if we’re going to flatten Hufflepuff.”
“Oh, they’re a punch of wusses, the lot of ‘em,” Jimmy cried, and the group chuckled along, nodding their heads in agreement.
“Yeah, but you never know what could hit you, wusses or not,” Harry answered, trying hard not to smirk. “So I want us to pair off and practice formation drills, especially passing and line defense. Ron, I’ll join up with you. O.K, let’s go.”
The team paired off and took to the air. Harry flew about the twosomes, offering advice where it seemed necessary. Ginny was flying remarkably well. In fact, his whole team was, and a sense of pride filled his chest. Hufflepuff didn’t stand a chance.
Just then Demelza flew over to him.
“Harry, we’ve been practicing this new combination, but we need the Bludgers up. Think you can do that for us?”
“Sure,” and he shouted out to everyone, giving them the heads up as the mad balls zoomed into air, terrorizing anything on a broom.
Harry watched as Ginny and Demelza flew in formation, extremely high over the pitch, moving like one being on two brooms until Demelza cut left sharply. He cringed slightly as a Bludger came inches from Ginny’s head, but she kept diving and diving…and diving. What the hell was she doing? She was going to crash right into the pitch! There was no possible way she could pull out from that angle of descent.
The rest of the team, aware of the shrill sound of insanely sliced air, pivoted on their brooms, and gazed on in horror as a blur of brown and red hurled like a comet toward the earth. Harry took off as fast as humanly possible, but he knew, he knew in the cold dark depths of his heart, that Ginny was going to crash, and nothing he could do would stop it. He spurred the Firebolt faster, the air cutting sharply against his skin, “No, Ginny, not Ginny,” he muttered hurdling at lightning speed, hunched over, gripping the handle fiercely.
His heart beating in his throat, he fought to keep the sounds of screaming out of his mind. Not another one, not another one. He tasted the rise of bile in his throat. No, he would not lose her; he could not lose her. He saved her once; he could do it again. Faster, faster, everything blurred like squinting through tears. Then he realized, the tears were real, burning and stinging his eyes in the biting wind. He could do this, just a few more--
Then, through some untold command of gravity and physics that only magic could create, Ginny wrenched herself level and buzzed the grass. Harry veered, losing control, and slammed into the earth. Rolling violently across the grass, his shoulder exploded in pain. Not looking back, Ginny snapped like some diminutive slingshot, rocketing the Quaffle clear through the center hoop.
The horrified crowd, mouths agape, were too transfixed to cheer.
Moments later, a lone broom came screeching from the far side of the pitch, the red-haired owner apoplectic. “Bloody hell!” Ron screamed, storming over to his sister’s broom as she smiled proudly, hovering feet from the ground. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?!”
“Hold on, Ron,” Harry cut in, staggering to his feet. He moved painfully, blocking Ron from getting anywhere nearer the smallest Weasley, convinced from the flaming look in his eyes, that he was set on finishing the job she had failed, “I’ll handle this; I’m the captain. Oh dammit,” he rubbed his shoulder and winced in agony.
“You O.K, mate?” Ron asked, still fuming, but casting his friend a genuine look of concern.
“Yeah, I’ll live,” Harry replied, and rolled his shoulder, cringing.
Ron nodded, then glared at his sister one last time, and stalked off, his face red to the roots of his hair; he mounted his broom, and zoomed across the field.
Ginny was bobbing before the hoop now, clearly proud of herself, and grinned down at Harry broadly.
Forgetting his speech to Ron, Harry raced up to her and shrieked, “What the bloody hell do you think you’re doing? You could have killed yourself with a stunt like that!”
“But I didn’t,” Ginny shot back, and jutted out her chin in defiance. “Ginny, you can’t go fly around like your bleeding James Bond--”
“Oh, forget it,” he muttered, pivoting his broom, and looked off down the field.
“I don’t need rescuing, Harry,” she said imperceptibly.
Enraged beyond what he thought possible, Harry swung back on her, “What?”
Sitting up straighter on her broom, and fixing him with a blazing stare, she spoke, enunciating each word, “I – don’t – need --”
“Oh, yeah. Sure. Absolutely!” Harry glared, cutting her off angrily. “And what good to the team is a Chaser with a broken neck? And a Seeker with a busted shoulder? That was a ridiculous stunt you pulled out there; you nearly got both of us killed!”
Harry noticed her eyes dart down, “What happened to your shoulder?”
Watching her face pale, he realized she hadn’t seen him crash. “Never mind,” he mumbled. “It was a stupid move, Ginny--don’t do it again.”
“That was a perfectly acceptable move,” her voice broke slightly, but quickly regained its steely edge. She clutched her broom handle tightly, and shoved her broom hard against Harry’s. Staring directly into his eyes, she said, “You’re just too damn proud to admit someone else could do it. Krum pulled the same exact feint in his last match against the Wasps, and you know it.”
Now nose-to-nose, they circled each other on their brooms, like two predatory lions, neither one intent on backing down. The team had gathered below, gazing up at their Captain and Chaser locked in near mortal combat.
“Fine!” Harry finally spat, “You and me, Weasley, together. We’ll see who can do that insane feint faster.”
Ginny blanched at the challenge, “What about your shoulder?”
“Since when did you care?” he shot back, more cutting than he wanted, but he was furious. Ginny reddened, and lunged forward, ripping past Harry towards the far end of the pitch; Harry twisted sideways and sped after her, cursing under his breath.
Pulling up flush to Ginny, his thigh rubbed against hers causing them both to wobble momentarily on their brooms. Ginny looked away.
“I’m not cleaning you up off the grass after this is over,” Harry grumbled, embarrassed that the mere touch of the girl could unbalance him so; Ginny, turned her face and smiled, batting her eyelashes, and tossing her fiery hair over her shoulders.
“O.K,” Harry said, eyeing Ginny suspiciously, “On the count of three, then. One, two, three!”
They took off like bats out of hell, both completely determined to kill themselves or die trying. The team was now screaming, convinced Harry and Ginny had joined in some untold suicide pact, and scattered madly like crazed ferrets as the two brooms began to plummet toward the earth.
Glancing over at Ginny, he could see those brown eyes for a split second. Fixed. Intense. Concentrating like mad on the tip of her broom handle. Fifty feet . . . forty . . . thirty . . . twenty. Seeker and Chaser turned, staring wildly at the other, faces terrified. Feet away from impact, each lunged out a free hand. Both wrenched back the other’s handles with every ounce of their being.
Two brooms exploded along the grass, gauging twenty odd feet of double striped scorched earth into the pitch. Screaming for dear life, they rocketed up the hoop, Ginny barely outstripping Harry. Bulleting through, they shot off into the sky.
Below, the crowd exploded in screams and shouts of amazement.
High over the stands, Harry’s broom slammed into Ginny’s. Gasping for breath, adrenaline skyrocketing through their veins, they wrenched their brooms steady. Eyes wide, robes disheveled, hair wind blown, and cheeks crimson, they stared in at each other utter amazement.
“That was--” shouted Harry, gulping air, and looking into the fiercely proud, beautiful eyes of Ginny Weasley.
“Bloody brilliant!” she cried, and grabbed Harry in a massive hug, laughing wildly, her heart hammering against his, and buried her euphoric face against his cheek. Harry spun her around and around, laughing, inhaling the scent of flowers as her hair whipped about, encircling his face and mouth.
Moments later, as their laughter quieted, Ginny eased back. They hovered there, staring, the wind whistling, their brooms shaking, their breathing labored.
In that moment that Harry saw it: he saw his eyes in hers. Framed in amber. But they weren’t his. He frowned slightly. They were…his father’s? Yes. They had to be. The eyes were too mature and much too intense. But where was he? Where had he gone?
And as if a tapestry panel had been lifted, he looked at the face of the girl before him, the long rich strands of red blowing free from her face. Where had Ginny gone? Ginny running alongside the train, Ginny tongue-tied at the Burrow, Ginny in braids and hand-me-down robes? Who was this, this woman, and why did he so terribly want to kiss her?
He took his gloved hand off his broom and raised it tentatively to her temple. Trailing down the side of her cheek, he brushed back a wisp of orange gold. The strand reflected in the afternoon sun, vibrant against his black glove. His fingers ran through it, like a Muggle magician rolling a coin between his fingers. Its silkiness surprised him. Even through the leather, her hair seemed to have a life of its own. Answering the wind, it blew reluctantly away from him, leaving his hand empty. Exposed, his palm was left cupping her jaw, his fingertips barely touching her cheekbones. Their eyes locked. The brown pair closed softly, and their owner turned her face into glove of the wide-eyed boy, her fiery hair hiding her. Yet he could feel her sigh, warm and heartfelt, blanketing the skin of his wrist.
“Ginny?” he whispered.
She started, and blinked in confusion, her face pale and eyes wide. Swallowing, she backed away, her mouth forming soundless words.
Suddenly, without warning, she whipped around, blushing furiously, and tore off with abandon down to the far end of the pitch, her glorious hair, billowing behind, racing to catch up.
Dazed, Harry reached up and curled his fingers, trying to trap the lingering warmth of her face, the gusting wind stealing the sensation clear down to his toes. He hovered, mouth slightly open and gazed down at the youngest Weasley being congratulated by her teammates.
Yes. She was bloody, unbelievably, gorgeously, brilliant.
And he closed his eyes, inhaling the smell of broom handles and flowers, overcome with the thought of lying down there in the green grass behind the stadium, staring down into those brown eyes: his mouth, her lips, his hands, her hips . . .
But Harry never finished his thought for out of the blue, a ferocious streak of brown collided against the side of his head, leaving his world very black indeed.
Credits: Of course Brown Eyed Girl belongs to the right honorable Van Morrison (I’m sorry, no cover will ever compare). The Varmiticulous curse is my own invention. And yes, Bludgers are made of iron; fortunately Harry’s head is made of much sterner stuff. Cheers
Everything contained herein belongs to J.K. Rowling. I just wish she’d stop by my house for dinner, and bring her notes. Now that would be something. Special thanks to my brilliant beta, Kelley, for her guidance and insight.