Harry couldn't help but smile, for all that it still hurt a little,
watching his best friend bouncing excitedly around the parlour of the
Burrow. Tomorrow was the final day of the season. Yesterday had been
one week since Voldemort's final defeat. It was hard to know which
event had excited the wizarding population more.
for Ron's excitement, and that of the rest of the wizarding world, was
that for the first time in one-hundred-and-six years, the Chudley
Cannons stood a decent chance of winning the League. It all came down
to the Cannons match the following day, a home match against Pride of
Portree, who were only a point ahead of the Cannons in first place.
the Cannons won - "Which they bloody well will," Ron insisted, whenever
someone mentioned the match - then they would win the League. It was as
simple as that. And, given that Ron had recently played a key role in
the downfall of Voldemort, he had been granted exclusive use of one of
the boxes at the Cannons stadium in Chudley, which meant that the
Weasley family and their many guests were going to attend the deciding
match en masse the following day.
Which was why, with eighteen
hours to go until the Quaffle was chucked, Ron was bouncing excitedly
around the parlour of the Burrow. Harry, mindful of the slowly-healing
long cut along his jaw line, tried to keep the smile from his face, but
he found it difficult. Cannons fever had taken over the whole house, it
About the only people who didn’t seem swept up in it
all were Molly and Ginny. Mrs. Weasley was in the kitchen – Harry
wondered occasionally if she slept there – while he had barely seen
Ginny that day. On seeing Ron bouncing excitedly in his chair over
breakfast, she had declared that it was far too early in the day to get
worked up about the Cannons, and had vanished in the direction of the
orchard, where, as far as Harry could tell, she had remained ever since.
He frowned. It was nine o’clock. Surely someone’s wondered where she is? She wasn’t at lunch or dinner.
stood up, ducking under one of Ron’s exuberant lunges and leaving him
to sprawl over the arm of the sofa. As he reached for the doorhandle,
however, the door swung open and he avoided a set of bruised knuckles
only by jerking his hand out of the way.
"Hi," Ginny said,
peering past Harry to where Ron was trying to extricate himself from
Fred and Hermione, who had had the misfortune to be sitting on the sofa
when he fell over it. Harry glanced back, saw that Ron had somehow
managed to get his arm stuck down the back of Fred's jumper, and shook
"Hi," he replied, turning back to Ginny, who was clutching a thick tome to her chest. "Have you been reading all this time?"
She gestured wordlessly with the book, and Harry squinted at the title: Apparition for Beginners, or There and Back Again.
"You can Apparate, can't you?" he asked.
officially. Or legally," she said, with a sigh. "Mafalda Hopkirk caught
wind of my moving from Skegness to Scunthorpe last week. Minister
Scrimgeour's arranged for me and the other underage DA members to take
our tests early before she tries to have us thrown in Azkaban."
"Oh, well, that's good, isn't it?" Harry asked. Something about her tone - everything about her tone - made him suspect that it wasn't very good at all.
"I found out last night that my test is going to be tomorrow afternoon. At three o'clock."
"Yes. I'm going to miss the match."
Bugger, and... blast! And buggering, bollocking blasting bollocks!
Harry thought to himself as he lay in his bed in the twins' old room.
He stared at the ceiling, finding momentary mirth in speculation as to
what Hermione would have said if he'd peppered the parlour air with the
slew of curse words he'd learned from Sirius and the twins over the
The moment passed, and he stared at the ceiling, every
muscle in his body clenched and singing as he tried to force an idea to
form in his mind. He knew it was hopeless - the only thing more
immutable than the time of the chucking of a Quaffle at a Quidditch
match was the time given to anyone for any Ministry appointment.
forced himself to relax, sucking deep, shuddering breaths of warm
summer air into his lungs. He scowled at a burn mark on the ceiling, as
though it alone were responsible for his current predicament.
had had such high hopes for the following day. Hadn't it been a
Quidditch day when he'd first kissed Ginny, more than a year before?
The sight of her, eyes aflame, caught up in the moment, had just been
too much to resist. At his lowest ebb, he'd gambled what little he had
left and kissed her - and it had been worth the risk.
he was thinking, and therein lay the problem. Had she moved on? Had she
given up on him - for good this time? What if - and this was the
thought that had awoken Harry in cold sweats every night since
Voldemort's spent frame had collapsed to the ground - she laughed? Or
even worse - Harry shuddered, even his nightmares were never so dark -
what if she just smiled and then apologised and told him that she
didn’t feel the same way?
Harry groaned and rolled over,
thumping his pillow so hard that the ghoul in the attic awakened and
banged loudly on the pipes. Swearing just as loudly, one of the twins
staggered out of their bedroom and up into the attic. There followed a
short, but inevitably noisy, scuffle that ended when the twin crashed
through the ceiling of Harry's room and landed with a thump that shook
the whole house.
"And keep quiet!" the twin bellowed,
before stumbling blearily from the room without a single glance in
Harry's direction. Harry watched the particles of plaster dust floating
in the faint moonlight for some time before he succumbed to an
Harry stomped around the house
in a foul mood the following morning. It was quite bad enough, he
thought, that he had to dream of Ginny turning him down whenever he had
the courage to ask her out. For his thrice-cursed subconscious to add
to the scene a shirtless Oliver Wood that Ginny then proceeded to
enthusiastically wrap herself around...
Harry scowled. Scant
wonder that he was the only one awake at whatever ungodly hour it was.
He had checked the clock, of course, but all hands were pointing to
'Tucked up in bed' except for his own. His hand of the clock was
instead indicating that he was 'In need of chocolate'. He nodded in
agreement, and tapped the kettle with his wand. While it boiled, he
found a clean mug and spooned chocolate powder into it. Adding the hot
water, he made his way out into the garden, picking up the morning's Prophet
on the way. Three mugs later, he was halfway through the paper's
coverage of the day's big match, and the Burrow was starting to come to
"Are you done with the paper?" a gangling collection of
Cannons merchandise asked with Ron's voice. Harry held out the
Quidditch section, and the Cannons glove located at the end of the
sleeve of the Cannons robe took it from him. "Thanks," came a voice
from somewhere between the oversized novelty Cannons hat and the
extra-long, heating charm equipped, Cannons scarf. Harry shook his
head. If Ron still existed, somewhere inside the armour of lucky
paraphernalia that he'd accumulated over the season, then he was
probably melting. It was not yet seven, and it was already shaping up
to be a scorchingly hot day.
The Weasley family came
downstairs in ones and twos. Ron, with enough surplus energy for nearly
everyone, had already started on breakfast. Molly took over with a firm
hand - Ron's lack of ability with bacon was legendary among his family.
Ron contented himself with making coffee, and gulped down three mugs
before Mr. Weasley distracted him. Ron then proceeded to get under
almost everyone's feet before Charlie threatened to hex him unless he
sat down and kept quiet for at least five minutes.
retaliated by using a Sticking Charm on Charlie's breakfast, leaving
his brother unable to pick any of the food off his plate.
in turn used a Sticking Charm on Ron, and threatened to leave him fixed
to the chair when everyone else went to the match.
retorted, but Harry and Hermione exchanged a glance and escaped the
kitchen before the Weasley brothers - all of them - began exchanging
jinxes and hexes over the teapot.
"I must say, even after all
the time that I've spent around Ron and his family, I can still never
quite get used to the way they interact with one another," Hermione
said, as Mrs. Weasley bellowed at her sons for their reckless use of
magic at the breakfast table.
Harry nodded, his attention no
longer on his friend. Ginny was coming downstairs, yawning and
stretching as she did so. Harry tried, but couldn't move his focus from
the strip of skin appearing between the hem of her t-shirt and the
waist of her pyjama trousers. He swallowed tightly as Ginny rounded the
foot of the stairs and smiled sleepily at them.
"Good morning, Hermione, Harry," she said.
"Good morning," Hermione replied. Harry smiled and nodded, not entirely trusting his voice at that moment.
"Is that Mum I can hear?" Ginny asked, glancing at the kitchen door.
Hermione nodded. "Ron and Charlie were bickering, and I think Fred and George may have got involved."
Well, I think I'll try and grab some toast before it gets Vanished or
turned into a spider," Ginny said. She smiled at the two of them and
made her way into the kitchen. Harry watched her go, wincing at the
flash of light and loud snap as she opened the door and slipped through.
Turning back to Hermione, he found his friend looking at him with an exasperated expression on her face.
"Harry, this really can't go on," she said.
"I don't know what you're talking about," Harry said, and began to make his way upstairs.
she said. "Clearly you still have feelings for Ginny." She followed him
up the stairs, only stopping when Harry walked into his room.
Harry stood in the doorway and looked back at his friend.
he began, before shutting the door in her face. He heard her give an
infuriated snort before stamping off along the hallway to Ginny's room.
Harry sighed. Thinking about it, I could have probably done with her help.
peered uncertainly over the banister rail at the great, teeming mass of
orange in the hallway below. Ron was by far the most brilliant, covered
from head to toe in eye-wateringly bright Cannons clothing that had
seemingly multiplied as the day went on. With an hour to go, he had
forced his feet into an old pair of Cannons cleats, although five
minutes later he had taken them back off again, as they were at least
three sizes too small. Instead he had added a Cannons coat, and this
and his hat were festooned with badges. He had also found a spare
Cannons jumper, somehow, that was tied around his waist.
there had been a spare jumper was miraculous, for by some spell or
incantation Ron had apparently managed to convince his entire family to
follow his lead. Everyone from Mr. Weasley down to Ginny wore something
orange - and the twins had managed to die their own skin orange,
despite wearing their black-and-red Ballycastle Bats robes and the
green dragon-hide jackets. It was an eye-watering combination surpassed
only by Charlie's combination of Caerphilly's green-and-scarlet striped
robes with a Cannons hat and coat.
Harry, in his navy-blue Puddlemere shirt, felt rather underdressed with just a single Cannons rosette on his chest.
conquer!" Ron bellowed, as he spotted Harry. Hermione, standing beside
him, winced and looked as though she would happily Silence Ron at a
moment's notice. Harry wondered if Ron knew how much of a test he was
putting his family through. Ron may have been key to the defeat of
Voldemort, but his experience with the Weasleys had taught him that
they were not ones to stand on ceremony. Harry judged that Ron had
perhaps an hour more of chanting and incessant Quidditch talk before
the entire family revolted and hexed him seven ways from Sunday.
Ginny favoured him with a smile as he made his way down the stairs and into the great mass of Weasleys. He smiled back.
"Ready for your test?" he asked.
Ginny nodded. "I think so. It should be easy enough after last week."
"You'll be fine, I'm sure," he said. Hey, er..."
"Yes?" Ginny asked.
"Cannons conquer!" Ron bellowed, looping one arm around Harry's shoulders and pulling him away from Ginny.
Harry thought a rather rude word, and decided that he wasn't even prepared to allow his friend even one more hour.
town of Chudley was humming with nervous anticipation as the Weasleys,
Harry and Hermione Apparated outside the stadium. If Harry had thought
the sight of the others bedecked in vibrant orange was eye-watering, it
was as nothing to the sight of hundreds - thousands - of men, women and
children who were thronging the streets and clad almost solely in
orange. Here and there Harry thought that he caught sight of an
occasional splash of black as a daring supporter donned the rarely-worn
Cannons European away kit, but in general Harry couldn't help but
remember Mr. Weasley's comment at the World Cup four years before -
wizards couldn't help but show off to one another.
a long queue outside the stadium. A single witch, looking rather
harried, was trying to process the thousands of tickets for all the
spectators. Harry glanced up at the stadium, and noticed that it looked
"It's brand new, of course," Hermione said,
following his gaze. "The Cannons don't normally attract more than a few
hundred supporters. They've had to expand the stadium almost every week
all season long. There are two streets inside as well - but the spells
somehow keep it all separate.
"Somehow? You don't know how?" Harry asked.
arched an eyebrow at him. "I'm afraid that Quidditch architecture
hasn't been at the top of my priority list over the last year," she
They exchanged a smile. Harry was very glad that she
had survived the trials that he had dragged her - and Ron - through
over the previous year.
He glanced at Ron. He also thought that he was quite glad that Ron had survived as well - but another bellowing of-
-and he was prepared to reconsider.
Shaking his head with a smile, he fell into line behind Ron and Hermione.
ticket witch finally took their tickets, barely glancing at them. Harry
noticed that Mundungus Fletcher had managed to sneak past the poor
woman waving nothing more than summons to appear before the Wizengamot
on criminal charges. Inside the stadium several witches and wizards in
stained robes were waving their wands at the walls.
"Strengthening Charms and Engorgement Charms, that's the ticket," one called. "It's only got to last a few hours."
"What if it's a long match?" another called out, as he led several other wizards in making the stadium slightly larger.
"Good point. Cushioning Charms on the ground, too!"
Fred and George laughed as they made their way up the stairs to the top box.
"Come on!" Ron bellowed, from two flights above. "We're going to miss it!"
"Miss what?" Hermione asked.
"The referee checking that the hoops are still attached to the goalposts," Fred said.
"It's a very important part of the match," George added.
"It's normally a formality, though - well, except for when Appleby are playing," Fred continued.
"Some of their supporters get a bit worked up - shoot fiery arrows at the hoops, that sort of thing," George finished.
They showed identical innocent expressions to Harry and Hermione, who regarded them dubiously.
"All right," Fred cracked first. "Ron's just being obnoxious. But he's right, you know, we want to get the best seats."
"You just want to be there to see his face if the Cannons lose," Hermione said, shrewdly.
"Hermione," George said, clutching his hands to his heart. "You wound us!"
"Well, you would-"
"-if you weren't right."
"Up the Portree!" they yelled in unison, bringing a sudden halt to the hundreds of Cannons fans clustered around them.
"Er, Canary Cream?" Fred asked, offering a packet of biscuits to a surly, eighteen-stone wizard standing next to him.
match was fought at a blistering pace. The two Seekers had looped and
spun from the off, almost leaving trails of fire in the air as their
matching Nimbus 2003s powered them around the stadium. The Chasers, on
their slower, steadier brooms, dived and twirled and jerked and flipped
- anything, in fact, to try and fool the Keepers.
But at one
end was Oliver Wood, the bulky Scot holding back the tide of the
Cannons attack with efficiency and sparse movements. At the other end
was Jimmy Finn, in utter contrast to Wood a flailing acrobat who made
the simplest of saves look as though it took every inch of his lanky
frame to pull off.
The two teams could barely be separated.
Their records in the league were nearly identical. There defences were
rock-solid, their attacks as fluid as quicksilver, their movements as
fast as a stampeding unicorn.
After an hour the teams were
dead-level on forty points a piece. The Snitch had flashed briefly into
the clear air above the pitch, and the Seekers had provided a little
light relief by barrelling into one another as they reached for the
golden ball. Wood had bawled his Seeker out - his voice nearly audible
to Harry in the top box. He could well imagine what Wood had been
yelling. He'd heard it himself, years before.
minutes passed, and Portree gained a slight lead when the Cannons
Keeper let the Quaffle slip through his hands and Portree Chaser
Flatlock Campbell knocked it through the hoop.
"Get the Snitch... get the Snitch... get the Snitch..."
by one, the occupants of the top box became aware of the hissed mantra
escaping Ron's lips. He was clutching the arms of his chair, too tense
to stand and cheer. Hermione, whose arm was looped through Ron's,
looked at him with some concern.
Fifteen more minutes passed.
The Cannons Keeper, his nerve clearly shaken, let in two easy goals and
while his team's Chasers were able to pull one back, the momentum was
Portree's. Ron paled as the Quaffle stayed almost entirely in the
Cannon's half of the pitch. The crowd grew quiet, only the occasional,
hopeful, call of "Cannons conquer!" puncturing the still air. Harry
could hear Oliver Wood yelling at his players, although the stocky
Keeper was too far away for Harry to make out the precise words. As the
Portree Chasers squandered another clear chance, Harry decided that it
was probably just as well.
And then the Snitch appeared once more.
And, as the crowd erupted, Harry heard the very faintest of pops.
He spun in his seat, rising to his feet almost before he recognised the pop as the sound of someone Apparating nearby.
felt his expression settle into a familiar one. Hermione had told him
once that his face became hard, his eyes blazing when the time came for
him to take action.
He looked around. Ginny was there, staring
at him as she stood in the doorway. He crossed the box and threw his
arms around her. Without thinking, without planning it, without
worrying about the fact that thousands of people - and Ginny's family! He would think later - were watching, Harry kissed her.
After several long moments, he felt something club him over his head. His forehead clunked into Ginny's and they broke apart.
"We've won! We've won! Cannons conquer!"
capered away, crashing into Fred and George so hard that the three of
them nearly fell over the railings and into the crowd below.
Ginny asked. He turned back to her, suddenly very aware that he was
potentially on the verge of a very embarrassing situation.
"Hi," he said, somewhat belatedly, as he looked down at her.
she replied. She looked up at him, her arms - he realised suddenly -
still around his neck, where they had been since about two seconds
after he had kissed her. "I think I've failed my Apparition test."
"Well, I was supposed to be Apparating back to the starting point, but I think my mind may have been elsewhere."
"Here?" Harry asked, thinking, hoping that she would say yes.
She nodded, biting her lower lip in a way he found impossibly attractive.
"Good," he said, wondering if there were any other words that needed to be said.
couldn't help but grin, as Ginny smirked. Releasing her grip on his
neck, she took his hand in hers and led him over to the others.
He could probably manage to say that a few times, he decided.
I'm sure that I scarcely need point out that the last scene is wholly
inspired by the kiss scene in Half-Blood Prince. All characters,
Quidditch teams etc. are JKR's.)