The Quidditch game is dedicated to my brother, Draco Verde, for all of his love and support, despite the fact that I write "sappy romance". Therefore, the action in this chapter is dedicated to you. The rest of the chapter, without question, is dedicated to Patrick and Caitlin, who have me to blame for their interest in Harry Potter fanfiction.
A special thanks to Paula for keeping me on track grammatically and in canon, for the most part.
"How bout a game of Quidditch, Harry?" George shouted out merrily to the boy who was stretched out in the living room floor with his copy of ‘Quidditch Through the Ages.'
"All right, let me go get my Firebolt," Harry said as he bounded up the stairs towards his room.
When he reached the backyard, everyone was there waiting for him. "I don't quite know how we're going to do this, we don't have an even number of people," Ron was saying.
"Wait a minute. It's a Saturday, isn't it?" Everyone turned to look at Ginny.
"Yes, it is. Why is that so important?" Charlie asked and raised his eyebrows at his youngest sibling.
"Percy's home." Ginny's smile was mischievous.
"You'll never convince Percy to play with us," Bill said flatly.
"Yes, I will," with that, Ginny dashed off inside.
"There goes another player," Ron said. "She'll never get him to play, I don't know why she's even bothering."
"I don't know about that. Would you care to make a bet?" Fred asked.
"What do you know that I don't?" Ron countered.
"We don't know anything in particular," George said.
"We do know a small number of things that lead us to believe that she will be able to get him to play, however," Fred finished.
"Consider the following," George began. "One: Penelope and Ginny had a nice long talk when she went up to visit him at the Ministry two weeks ago."
"Two: Percy and Penelope broke up six months ago. Why were Ginny and Penelope talking? Or, to be exact, who were they talking about? Could it be our dear dense brother Percy?"
"Three: Ginny has Percy's sock supply for the next two weeks." George said and winked.
"Would anyone like to take us up on our offer then?" When no one did, Fred nodded sagely. "I figured that would be the way it would go."
A few minutes later, Ginny came downstairs with Percy in tow. "I don't believe it. I don't bloody believe it," Ron said, his eyes wide.
"All right then. Harry will captain one team, and Charlie will captain the other," Bill said. "Ron, why don't you be the Keeper for Charlie, and I'll be the Keeper for Harry. Fred, why don't you go with Harry and George with Charlie? You're going to be Beaters, obviously. Ginny, you get to be Chaser for Harry and Percy will be the Chaser for Charlie. Harry and Charlie will be the Seekers." Everyone around the circle grinned. These showdowns between two of the best Seekers Gryffindor, let alone Hogwarts, had ever seen were always great entertainment. "Right then. Captains, shake hands."
Harry and Charlie smirked as they enclosed their hands around each other's. While Charlie rarely got the chance to play Quidditch these days, he still flew on a regular basis, because of his job. Harry, however, would argue (when they got in these discussions) that there was nothing like playing Quidditch, and if you didn't play regularly, you were simply out of shape. Fred and George winked at each other, and everyone knew that they would spend most of the day hitting Bludgers at each other and probably wouldn't bother anyone else. Ron and Bill, at opposite sides of the Weasley spectrum didn't have the friendly sibling rivalry that the others shared. They just watched them with amusement. Ginny and Percy were each focusing on a distant point off in space, lost in their own little worlds.
"Ready?" Charlie asked, on one side of the case that held the Quidditch balls that Harry had gotten when Gryffindor had won the House Cup last year. The Death Eaters still hadn't found a way to penetrate Hogwarts at that point.
"Ready as we'll ever be," Fred said, club in hand. Charlie tossed the Quaffle in the air, let loose the Bludgers, and then grinned one last time at Harry before he let loose the Snitch.
The older Weasleys had transfigured six garden rocks into goals for the Chasers, and they stood at opposite ends of the yard. It was really going to be a match of the Seekers, which meant that it was going to be a sight to see. "ONE," Bill shouted, "TWO- THREE!" They kicked off from the ground and took off at high speed.
Ginny caught the Quaffle that Percy had dropped when he kicked off and raced towards Ron, with Percy in hot pursuit. She rolled over on her broom and heaved the ball through the ring the furthest on the left with all her might. Ron, however, was right there and caught it in his chest. He gave a grunt and then threw the Quaffle back to Percy. Ginny cursed softly and then turned to follow Percy.
Fred and George, meanwhile, were busy hitting the Bludgers at each other as hard as they possible could. One of them accidentally grazed Harry's ear. "Oi, sorry mate!"
Fred shouted apologetically. "Damn!" he exclaimed as one of them hit his foot when he wasn't paying attention.
"Pay attention to the match, then," George said snootily.
"I'll be sure to keep that in mind," Fred said, with a mischievous grin.
Harry and Charlie exchanged looks up in the air and returned to their desperate search for the Snitch. Charlie was on a Shooting Star, and Harry was on a Firebolt, and Harry thought absently that it probably wasn't the fairest match in the history of the game, but then again, they weren't really playing a full match, either. Harry gave a sudden cheer as Ginny managed to put a shot through Ron's defense.
Charlie grinned and took off. He saw the Snitch. He had it in his sights, and if Harry would only stay distracted for one moment longer- but no. Harry saw it as well, and just before they both began to execute the dive to get the Snitch, Harry winked. ‘Damn. Harry knew where the Snitch was the whole time!' Charlie thought resentfully. But the more he thought about it…suddenly he chuckled in mid-dive and pulled up. Harry's attention was diverted for just a second, but the second he looked to find the Snitch, he realized that the ground was a lot closer than it had been a moment ago, and the Snitch was nowhere in sight. Charlie watched as Harry desperately pulled up, making sure that the boy didn't hurt himself. No, he was smiling like a maniac.
‘Okay,' Harry thought, ‘If he wants to play dirty like that, here we go.'
Charlie saw Harry's face light up like it did when he saw the Snitch, and decided that the best course of action would be to follow Harry and hope to cut him off. Suddenly Harry began a terrific, almost vertical dive. Straight down. Charlie grimaced, set his teeth and then took off. ‘Charlie, old boy,' he thought to himself as the ground got closer and closer, ‘You're too old for this sort of thing. Who am I kidding? I love this…' The ground was just inches away, and he realized what Harry was up to. ‘The Wronski Feint. Brilliant. Bloody brilliant.'
Harry watched as Charlie pulled his broom horizontal and ran it inches from the ground, so that his knees almost drug in the dirt. ‘There is a reason,' Harry reflected as he resumed searching for the Snitch, ‘Why they say Charlie Weasley was one of the best Seekers Gryffindor has ever seen.'
The game went on for quite some time. Eventually everyone else was tired and hungry, but Charlie and Harry were zoned, intent on battling it out until one of them found and caught the Golden Snitch. Fred and George had given up on killing each other and were pointing out every time they saw a golden flash.
"There it is, right over there! Come on, Charlie, I'm hungry," George whined.
"Harry! To your left, mate. Faster, faster! Darn." Fred's face was genuinely crestfallen when Harry shook his head no.
"I thought Oliver Wood was bad when it came to Quidditch," George murmured, "But this beats all. They're obsessed."
"Come on, let's take a break and watch for a moment," suggested Percy. "This isn't a sight you get to see every day."
"I just thought of something," Fred said. "Oh, I'm an idiot! Why, dear brother o'mine, didn't we think of this earlier?"
"Perhaps if you told the rest of us what you are thinking of, we would be able to tell you why," Ginny snapped.
"Tickets. We should have sold tickets! Can you imagine how many people would have paid money to come see the two best Seekers in all of Gryffindor's recent history battle it out on the Quidditch pitch. We'd be rich!"
"Look! They see the Snitch!" Ron shouted.
Arthur, who had just returned home from work, ran outside to see what all the commotion was about. "Bloody ‘ell," he whispered. Unfortunately, Molly heard him.
"Arthur Weasley! What on earth…" She gasped. "My goodness! Minerva! Come see this!"
Professor McGonagall ran out from the kitchen. "Well, I'll be. I can finally route for both teams. GO GRYFFINDOR!"
Harry and Charlie caught up in a steep dive, heading for the Snitch, which was flittering about some of Molly's rose bushes.
"Mum, aren't those the rose bushes that bite?" Ginny asked innocently.
"I-I think they are."
Fred and George whooped.
"Stay on your brooms!" Bill shouted.
"Watch out, Harry!" Ron exclaimed.
Ginny gave an amused chuckle and covered her eyes.
The prefect in Percy took over and he yelled, "Be careful!"
There was a very large "CRASH" and when Ginny looked up from her hands, she saw that both boys and landed in the biting rose bushes.
"Oh my," Molly stammered and ran to see if they were all right.
"Who's got the Snitch?" Ron asked. "Who's got the Snitch?"
"I don't know, I can't see," George said.
"Well, WHO'S GOT THE SNITCH?" Percy yelled. Once again, he surprised everyone.
Ginny personally thought that the break-up with Penelope had taught him to loosen up a little. Even the uptight Ravenclaw couldn't stand to be around someone who was as tightly wound and controlled as Percy tended to be. It was nice to see him relax a bit, even if he was doing to get Penelope back. Ginny just shook her head at him.
"I've got it," Harry mumbled from underneath of Mrs. Weasley's arm.
"Only," Charlie said from the other arm, "Because you've got a ruddy Firebolt."
"One of these days, we'll do it on the same broom, and I assure you, Mr. Weasley, I will still win," even as he said this, Harry was grinning like mad.
"You're on. It would be great fun."
"Spectacular," Professor McGonagall said. "I don't believe I've ever seen anything quite like it. I'm certainly proud to be a Gryffindor. I shall have to write Albus. Gryffindor had a very sad loosing streak under him. I, of course, have had my ups and downs, but really. Charlie Weasley and Harry Potter. Who, I wonder, can ever say they were head of house over two such talents besides me? I mean, we really have some brilliant students and all that, but…"
"I think it will certainly cheer Professor Dumbledore up to hear every detail," Mrs. Weasley said.
"Certainly," said Professor McGonagall, who went off with sort of a sadistic glee to write Professor Dumbledore a letter.
Fred and George looked at each other in surprise. They hadn't known about this friendly rivalry before this, and apparently, neither did anyone except Mr. and Mrs. Weasley.
"Really," said Mrs. Weasley, "I can't believe they're still going with that. Still," she said chuckling, "I guess we all have ways of preserving our sanity, huh?"
Harry and Ron glanced at each other. Ron rolled his eyes but Harry laughed, his cheeks still glowing red from the compliment she had paid him. Charlie was apparently having the same trouble.
"I wonder," Ron mused, "If she's going to be this nice next term."
"I don't know, and I don't really care. The only thing I know is," and here Ginny smiled triumphantly and ran towards the door, "I get the bathroom first!"
As Ginny lay soaking in the tub, a random thought entered her head. July 31st, Harry's birthday, was two weeks away. Normally, Harry didn't like to have a huge fuss made over him…he had enough of that every day, but Ginny had a feeling that Harry wouldn't mind if she planned a surprise party.
Hermione had explained the concept to her ages ago, for her Muggle Studies class. A party without Harry knowing about it. The more she thought about it, the better it sounded. That way, he didn't have a chance to protest, or insist it was too dangerous.
Jumping out of the tub and drying herself quickly, she dressed in her pajamas: a green "Norwegian Ridgeback Taming Crew" t-shirt (an old one of Charlie's, obviously), and a pair of tartan boxers. Someone had left the boxers at the Burrow last summer. Ginny had found them and liked them, so naturally she kept them.
She ran down the stairs past the living room, where Ron and Harry were making a castle out of a deck of Exploding Snap cards. Waving to everyone in the kitchen, she ran to her room and shut her door. In the corner of her room sat her desk, which was Ginny's ultimate destination. She had to find just the right quill for the important job it was about to do. She popped open her trunk and carefully she selected her favorite quill. Ron had let her borrow it in her second year when she had lost all of hers, and she had yet to return it.
‘First things first,' she thought. ‘Hermione.' She needed to get a hold of her best friend to ask her about decorations and the guest list and all sorts of things. With a very happy hum she scratched out a greeting to Hermione and began plotting. If she could only remember where on Earth Hermione was vacationing this year…
Hermione herself was very surprised when she saw little Pig flapping his way desperately towards her while she was sunbathing on the coast of France. This was her second summer to take a holiday here, but both her parents and Hermione loved it.
"Who could this possibly be from? Has Ron finally decided to write me, then, or is he still up in arms about that boy I mentioned in my last letter?" She mused aloud. "Ginny!" With more energy than was absolutely necessary, she tore open the seal and began to read.
I wish, for the life of me, that I could remember just where it was you are taking your holiday this year. Ron is decidedly closed mouthed about it. I wonder what he was done to deserve your wrath. (Or perhaps it was the other way around…) What I'm trying to say is I hope Pig finds you well, wherever you are.
I have a favor to ask you. You do remember that it is Harry's birthday in two weeks, right? Of course you do. You're one of his best friends. Well, I was wondering if perhaps we should throw a surprise birthday party. You know he doesn't like any sort of fuss over his birthday, but he really does deserve something special. Just a few of his friends, all right, his closest friends. Owl me back.
Hermione ran back to her hotel room to pen her answer.
"Honey? What are you doing? What did you have to eat down at the beach? Was it something sugary? Perhaps you should brush your teeth…"
"No Mum, it's okay. One of my friends from school owled me. I really should reply right away. I know it's in here somewhere…" She had stuck her head into her trunk, rummaging around for something. "I knew I should have paid more attention when I packed. Ah! Here it is."
"What were you doing when you were supposed to be packing, my dear?"
"I was in the hospital wing." Hermione had been uncharacteristically short about her year at Hogwarts this summer and it was really starting to worry her parents.
"Were you injured? We never got an owl…"
"No Mum. Harry was."
"Is there something you need to talk about?"
Hermione just shook her head. "Someday."
"Well, I'll just leave you alone then."
Hermione really hated to hurt her parents, but she just couldn't bring herself to remember, to tell anyone who couldn't possibly understand what she and the rest of Hogwarts had gone through last year.
That's a brilliant idea. However, you're going to have to be in charge as I'm on holiday in South France. I will be there for the party though, as long as it's the 31st. See you then. Oh, be sure to invite Remus and Sirius.
P.S. Don't you DARE not show up to this party. If you arrange it, you get to come, regardless of how "close" you are to Harry.
Hermione sighed. Harry Potter was going to have an unique birthday, that was for sure.