A/N: This fic is set in Harry's seventh year and plays fast and loose with canon. It's seriously AU so if I have Amelia Bones as both Minister of Magic and Susan's mum, then it's not a typo. I've never written a school-based fic, so this has been a chance to play around with some of the things that others have had fun around with for years.
There are various nods to influences in this chapter including The Beatles and Jeconais' This Means War! Looking forward to that final chapter, Tim ;-)
It hadn't been an easy match. In fact, at one point, Harry thought that Gryffindor were going to lose as the Slytherin Chasers peppered Ron's goal. But as he and Malfoy finally raced towards the Snitch, a big grin spread across his face. Although he didn't like to be pushed so far, the smug feeling of satisfaction engendered by a close win was one to be savoured.
As a brief summer shower splattered across his glasses, he heard the now-familiar expletives from Malfoy as he tried to stop Harry from winning the game. His fingers closing around the fluttering Snitch, Harry soared upwards, raising his fist in triumph.
"And Gryffindor wins! Three hundred and fifty points to two hundred and ninety."
The long-delayed, final Quidditch match of the season was over and Gryffindor had retained the Quidditch Cup. Harry returned to the ground, the tightly-gripped Snitch fluttering away in his hand. The rest of the team gathered around him, hugging him and celebrating their win.
"Well done, mate!" beamed Ron, slapping Harry on the back. "I was beginning to think the Snitch would never appear and I was starting to worry; I've never made so may saves and yet conceded so many points."
"You were brilliant, Ron, especially that last save. How did you ever get across to it?"
"I dunno, I just flung myself at it and managed to get my fingertips to it. That catch of yours though… the absolute dog's bollocks. And the look on Malfoy's face!"
No sooner had Ron finished praising Harry than Hermione arrived. She wrapped her arms around Harry, kissing him on the cheek before turning her attention to Ron.
"Ron!" she squealed as she threw herself into his embrace. "You were wonderful." Any reply from the Gryffindor Keeper was lost as her lips closed on his and they carried on with their own very private celebration.
Leaving his friends to their embrace, Harry turned his attention to the row that centred on the Slytherin's best Chaser and a wet, woebegone Draco Malfoy.
"What the bloody hell were you playing at, Draco? Potter got you hook, line, and sinker. How many times did you want the Snitch to appear before you chased after it? If you spent more time watching the game than abusing the opposition, you might beat him for once. What is it, five games and five defeats?"
"That's right, Weasley, blame it on me. If it wasn't for my father's brooms—"
Ron's sister cut him short. "If it wasn't for your father's brooms, Draco, I'd be playing Seeker and we might have won. Besides, they're three years old now; not exactly cutting-edge when compared to Potter's Nimbus twenty- fifty, are they?"
"Potter got lucky, that's all."
"Got lucky? Got lucky? The Snitch appeared three times before he chose to go after it."
"You're wrong, Weasley. And anyway, why would Potter wait that long before trying to win?"
"Because he had an eye on winning the Cup, and not just the game. You could never see the bigger picture, could you, Draco? All he had to do was goad you into an argument and wait until the Snitch had gone."
Harry watched the youngest Weasley march off towards the changing rooms, dragging her Nimbus Twenty-Ten behind her. Malfoy chased after her, struggling to keep up with her angry strides.
"What about the end-of-year celebration, Ginny? We are going together, aren't we?"
She halted by the door to the girls' changing rooms.
"Draco, I did not agree to go to anywhere with you. Just because I've stopped hexing you every time you've asked me does not equate with a 'yes'. I'd rather go with Potter than you." And with that she disappeared inside, leaving the deflated seventh-year to receive a few angry stares from Demelza Robins who had to barge past him to escape the continuing rain.
Harry tried hard not to laugh out loud. Malfoy's money might have bought his way onto the team, but the brooms were unable to make up for the loss of Ginny Weasley as the Slytherin Seeker. She was a good Chaser, but Harry knew from the matches she'd played when Malfoy was injured that she was an even better Seeker. He was sure that, if they went head to head, she could match him move for move. He often wondered why she hadn't joined in the family games of Quidditch at The Burrow, apart from the fact that it was well known that she hated him only slightly less than she hated Hermione.
Malfoy spotted him laughing at his predicament and strode towards him, looking like he was anxious to pick a fight.
"What are you looking at, Scarhead?" sneered Malfoy, pushing his face so close that Harry could tell he'd spent his time before the match throwing up.
"Someone who's discovered that money can't buy them love?"
"Shut it, Potty, or I'll shut it for you."
"I'll buy you a brand new broom, my friend, if it makes you feel alright,
I'll get you anything, my friend, if it makes you feel all right…"
"I said 'shut it!'" screamed the Slytherin, as Harry continued to laugh.
"You, Malfoy," said Harry, finally controlling his laughter, "would have difficulty shutting a door, never mind anything else."
Having failed to shake Harry out of his good mood, Malfoy obviously decided that he would go for the lowest of all blows.
"At least both my parents are still alive."
A few years ago, Harry would have pulled his wand on Malfoy for such a remark, but now he saw him as a rather pathetic figure, trying to use what wealth his lawyers hadn't yet spent and had managed to hide from the Wizengamot to impress a girl who clearly wanted nothing to do with him. His response was slow and measured. Just because he wasn't going hex the boy didn't mean that the remark didn't hurt.
"If you can call being imprisoned in Azkaban surrounded by Dementors 'alive', then yes, I suppose they are."
Malfoy stepped back and looked like he was about to pull his wand, but stopped. Looking over his shoulder, Harry saw the Transfiguration professor and Head of Slytherin house, Sirius Black, coming to join them.
"So, Harry," said the professor, slapping Harry across the shoulder in a friendly greeting, "come to gloat over your victory?"
What Harry wanted to say was that just because Black had been a friend of his father's, it didn't mean that he was happy for him to be so familiar with him. Bitter experience during the war had taught him that Black had done his best to play both sides. That had destroyed any goodwill Harry might have had toward the man for being one of his dad's friends at school.
"No, sir," he said calmly, "I was just admiring Draco's skills in dealing with members of the opposite sex." Harry shifted slightly, hoping that the professor would get the message and remove his arm.
Black looked over at Malfoy, whose anger at being unable to provoke Harry was beginning to rise again.
"Still chasing after Weasley then, Draco? Don't think you'll have much luck there, I think Zabini is more her type."
Blaise Zabini was a tall blond Slytherin girl whose reputation was only slightly less fearsome than Ginny Weasley's. The main differences were that Harry could hold a civil conversation with Blaise and that she had been known to go out with another student once in a while.
"Or perhaps our friend, Potter, here?" Black pulled Harry closer, seemingly oblivious to his attempts to escape the professor's clutches. "What do you think, Harry, another Potter, another red head?"
"I don't know, sir," he said coldly. "Miss Weasley doesn't seem to be that interested in having a boyfriend."
"That seems rather strange doesn't it, Potter?" The older man finally let go of Harry and stepped closer to Malfoy. "How could any female resist the lure of Mr Malfoy?"
Harry knew that there was no love lost between Sirius Black and the Malfoy family. Although sorted into Slytherin, Black had no time for any of the pureblood nonsense that seemed to preoccupy the rest of his house. He would have liked to have stayed and watch Black belittle his student, but he could see that Susan Bones was waiting for him and so made his excuses.
"I wouldn't know, sir; the female mind is a mystery to me, sir."
Black looked back over his shoulder to see what Harry was looking at.
"Ah, but not all of the time, eh, Potter?" he said with a wink. "Well, off you go and enjoy your victory celebrations whilst I sort out Mr Malfoy."
As Harry walked over to where Susan was standing, Black began to harangue Malfoy for losing yet another game.
"Nice game, Harry, but isn't it about time that you got changed?" His girlfriend greeted him with a kiss but refrained from hugging him. "We've got so much to do with the end of the year celebrations."
He went to hug her but she ducked under his arms to avoid his sweaty embrace.
"We've got so much to do?" He was looking forward to the victory celebrations and hadn't planned on doing anything else except eat until he felt sick and then listen to Dean and Seamus's dirty jokes.
As they walked back towards the castle, he slipped his hand in hers.
"Yes, I volunteered us both to help put up some of the decorations. It would be good to get some practise in." She let go of his hand and wiped it on her skirt.
"I thought it was the prefects that were doing all that. I've got other things planned. And besides, what do you mean – practise?"
She looked at him and smiled shyly.
"When we set up home, we will need to…"
He tuned her out as she once again launched into her 'when we're married' speech. He had given up trying to disabuse his girlfriend of her dreams of them getting married as soon as they had left Hogwarts. It didn't help that her mother, Amelia Bones, the Minster of Magic, was as keen on the match as it appeared her daughter was. The-Boy-Who-Lived and The- Minister's- Daughter was obviously the sort of match up a politician couldn't resist. Certainly the press wasn't complaining, and devoted more pages than was sensible to the young couple.
He'd settled instead for the comfort of having a pretty girlfriend who seemed as keen to explore the physical side of their relationship as he did. He felt a few pangs of guilt that he was using her, but he had never forced himself on her and had never given her the impression that he was looking for anything more serious than a teenage romance.
As they wandered back to the castle, she regaled him with the great lengths that everyone was going to do to make this the best party in the school's history, even outstripping the Yule Ball that had been held in their fourth year.
"After all, Harry, we still haven't celebrated the end of Voldemort at school, have we?"
The school had decided to leave their official celebration of the end of the war until the end of the school year. Harry's Horcrux hunt had ended in May. With his Horcruxes destroyed, Voldemort had aged rapidly and the wizened old man had been no match for Harry. Tom Riddle had died in Azkaban whilst awaiting trial with the remaining Death Eaters.
Harry's enthusiasm for the celebration was limited, to say the least. He didn't blame the school for wanting to celebrate the end of the war. He only wished that they had been a bit more supportive of him whilst he was winning it. The professors were either Death Eaters, such as Professor Sinistra, or members of the Order, like Tonks and McGonagall, who wanted him to tell them all he knew whilst keeping their own secrets from him. Even Ron and Hermione had had their doubts, although they stuck with him right until the end. He did have to face Riddle on his own; not because they'd abandoned him, but because they were creating a distraction that took most of the Death Eaters away from Voldemort.
But as Susan talked, Harry decided that it was easier to agree to help rather than have a prolonged fight over it. So he resigned himself to helping out, and gave up on the idea of days spent lounging by the lake with her, doing what hormonal teenagers did best. When he mentioned what he had planned on doing instead, she smiled at him sweetly.
"Don't worry, Harry; we'll have plenty of time for that when we're married. Now run and get changed. There's a planning meeting at seven and I don't want you to be late."
He kissed her and they went their separate ways; he to Gryffindor Tower to shower and change and she to the Hufflepuff common room. As he allowed the hot jets of water to cleanse his body, his thoughts returned to the problem of how he was going to convince her that marriage wasn't a good idea or how, if she couldn't be convinced, he was going to end their relationship without upsetting her too much.
The planning meeting was as dull as Harry had feared it would be. History of Magic was a thrill-a-minute fairground-ride compared to the banalities of the planning meeting.
Susan, however, was in her element and, along with Hermione, earnestly discussed every detail with a seriousness that their roles in the event didn't warrant.
The only entertainment came from the acerbic comments made by Ron's sister, who obviously thought that she had better things to do and more intelligent people to do them with.
Why did Dumbledore ever make her a prefect? he wondered. It was a question that the whole school asked, including the girl herself.
"Why don't we just let Potter decide?" the Slytherin proposed, as an interminable discussion on the colour of the decorations rambled on into its second hour.
"It's important that everyone has their say, and not just one or two individuals," replied Susan, her normally placid expression replaced by a scowl.
"But no one else can get a word in edgeways with you and that windbag Granger pumping out all that hot air."
"Ginny!" shouted Ron, "That's no way to talk to Hermione."
"I'll talk to her any way I want," Ginny retorted with a sneer. "Just because you're too scared to upset her in case she won't let you play with that huge chest she tries to hide under her baggy robes."
Hermione sprang to her feet to defend herself, but before she could open her mouth, Michael Corner, one of the few students either brave enough or stupid enough to have asked Ginny Weasley out, started to talk in a very loud voice.
"I would ask people to remember that it was agreed that all discussions would go through the chair and that people would not shout out. Although we may not agree with what Ginny, I mean, Miss Weasley, has said, I would ask that people raise their hands and—"
Zacharias Smith, a rather blunt-mannered wizard of northern extraction, was on his feet to challenge him. "Who made you chairman, Corner?"
The meeting then descended into the free for all that Harry suspected was Ginny's intention all along. As the insults began to fly, he found himself watching the youngest Weasley as she moved around the room, picking fights with the other students. She seemed to know exactly what needed to be said to start an argument, and then how to draw others into it. Once she'd got the others involved, she moved on. Soon he was the only one not involved in a stand-up row with anyone. He knew that he should do something to calm everyone down, but he had become so bored with the meeting that he was rather enjoying the colourful language that was now flowing thick and fast.
He sensed, rather than saw, Ginny as she appeared at his shoulder. Turning in his seat, he waited for the cutting remark that was supposed to get him to join in with the rest.
"Don't you want to stand up for your girlfriend, Potter? It looks like Justin has only just started on the insults."
He shook his head slowly as he watched Justin Finch-Fletchley in animated debate with Susan.
"Justin's fancied Susan for months now," he said with a laugh, "I think he's working out all his frustration on her." It surprised him how little jealousy their proximity aroused.
"And what about your friend Granger?" she asked, pointing at Hermione, who was nose to nose with Ron. "No act of gallantry there either?"
"Hermione can look after herself," he replied, "and besides, she's now arguing with your brother."
"So, no rumpy pumpy for Ronniekins tonight then?" She wiggled her eyebrows at him and gave him her best Slytherin smile, which he met with one of his own.
"Oh, I wouldn't be so sure," he said smugly, happy to contradict her. "Seems to be part of their mating ritual. I just wish Hermione would stop being such a prude and go all the way with him."
Ginny narrowed her eyes and regarded him curiously.
"You've grown up a bit, Potter, I'll give you that."
"One tends to do that when one is fighting for one's life."
She sat on the arm of his chair and joined him in watching the rest of the students argue.
"No Draco?" he asked, feeling annoyed at her invasion of his space. "Has the lovesick puppy finally given up?"
"Chance would be a fine thing. No, I'm only here because I know it's the last place he would want to be. However boring things get here, it's not as bad as having to rebuff that dumb blond time after time."
Whatever Malfoy was — spineless, deceitful, selfish — he wasn't as stupid as some liked to think, so Harry suspected that it was an attempt to draw him into conversation with her.
"So you're not going with him to the dance then?"
"No, Draco will hide in his room and pretend that his family weren't on the losing side and that all the participants are secretly wishing that he was there."
"And so who are you going with?"
She turned and looked at him.
"Why are you so interested?" She crossed and uncrossed her legs, causing her skirt to ruck up. "Got bored with goodie-two-shoes Bones, have we? From what I've heard, she's a bit more forthcoming with her favours than most; I'd have thought you wouldn't want to jeopardize that privilege."
Harry laughed. Yes, it was good to be the seventh-year Gryffindor who spent the least time in the boys' showers, but he was discovering that it wasn't the be all and end all in a relationship.
"Who says I'm interested?" he asked, pointedly not looking at the now-exposed tops of her stockings. "Perhaps I was just making polite conversation."
"The one thing I've noticed about you, Potter, is that small talk isn't your thing. When you ask a question, there's a reason behind it, so come on, out with it. Why so interested?"
"What's the matter, Weasley, touched a raw nerve, have I? No one brave enough to risk your temper by asking you out?"
Despite her obvious good looks and a figure that was the envy of many a witch, the youngest Weasley had been without a boyfriend for the whole of her time at Hogwarts. After the first few boys had asked her to go to Hogsmeade with them and received a tongue lashing to be remembered, no one else had dared try. Rumours then started that boys weren't her thing and that had prompted a few witches to try their luck, all to no avail. Ginny Weasley remained single and had earned herself a reputation as a bitch of a witch who didn't suffer fools gladly. And from her point of view, the whole world was full of fools.
He was surprised to see a blush cover her face and she looked away hurriedly. In all the time he'd known her, including summers spent at The Burrow, he'd rarely seen her give so much away. He decided to press home his advantage.
"I'll take that as a yes, then."
By now, she'd recovered her poise and returned to the attack.
"Well, at least I haven't ended up with some Hufflepuff sap."
"Oh bravo, Ginevra!" He smiled inwardly as she cringed at the use of her proper name. "Such witty repartee. Did Malfoy teach you all you know?"
Whilst she rolled her eyes at him, he leaned towards her and whispered conspiratorially.
"If I didn't know better, I would say that you are more like your brother than you would like to think. But at least at the end of his arguments he gets some relief, but your sexual frustration just builds and builds, doesn't it?"
His observation earned him a sharp slap on the face, a sound that made everyone else in the room stop arguing and look over towards them.
"Bastard!" she shouted and fled from the room, leaving Harry to deal with a sore cheek and everyone's questions. Susan was pleased that Ron's sister had departed, but less so as to the cause.
"I know she's not the easiest person in the world to get on with, Harry, but you must have said something pretty rotten to her to make her slap your face like that."
Seeing that Harry was less than pleased by his girlfriend's response, Hermione led her away and distracted her by talking about the decorations. Justin hovered close to the two witches as if itching to rush in and comfort her.
"Still getting on well with my sister, I see," observed Ron, taking the seat next to Harry's.
"Yeah, we're still the best of enemies." He flopped down in his chair, still holding his face.
"So, what did you say to her to get a slap like that?" Harry looked up, surprised to hear Hermione's voice. He looked past her and saw that Susan was talking to Hannah Abbot with Justin still keeping a respectful distance. "Normally she settles for an icy stare and most men wilt."
"Not Harry, Hermione," smiled Ron, "he's made of sterner stuff, aren't you ,dear?"
Harry winked at Ron before replying. "Yes, dear."
He and Ron spent the next five minutes chatting about the game before Susan came over to join them.
"It's getting late, Harry," she said apologetically, "and we've still got a lot to discuss."
Unable to think of a good reason why he should be allowed to leave, Harry stayed for the rest of the debate. Unable to bear any more prevaricating, he had taken a more active part in the discussions, and as a result, decisions had been made a lot quicker. It appeared that everyone was waiting for him to tell them what to do, and the earlier debate had been nothing more than window dressing.
"Why didn't they just come out and ask me, Ron?" he asked as they made their way back to the common room.
"They like to talk, Harry, and besides, they get to spend time in your company; no one but Susan seems to get that these days."
"You and Hermione do when you're not fulfilling your prefect duties."
"Not like we used to, mate."
"Yes, but you don't offer what Susan does," he laughed.
Ron gave Harry a playful shove.
"Is that all you think about, you randy git? Getting your end away?"
"Jealousy will get you nowhere."
"How do you know that me and Hermione haven't …"
"Because, Ron, the first thing you do, when you get back from your prefect duties, is take a shower."