Author's Note: Due to time constraints and the assumption of new administrative responsibilities here at Phoenix Song, Minerva Weapotternger is no longer my beta. I take the opportunity to thank her now for her help in posting the first chapter of this story as well as my other works and wish her well in her new endeavors with the website.
The portrait slammed shut with such force that all within the Gryffindor common room heard the Fat Lady's squeal of surprise from the other side of the portrait hole. Ginny looked up from her rune translation to stare in surprise as Harry Potter stormed across the room, his face livid with rage, to where Ron and Hermione were playing wizard chess.
"McGonagall's taken me off the Quidditch team!" he shouted to no one in particular.
There was a perceptible gasp throughout the room. No one wanted to believe what they had just heard. The news was just too horrible.
Ron sputtered, "She...she can't do that, can she?"
"I think she can," Hermione said in a subdued voice. "You didn't get in trouble with Snape again, did you?"
"Did you have a fight with Malfoy again?" Ron asked at the same time.
"It's nothing like that," Harry said suddenly sagging.
"But McGonagall wouldn't take you off the Quidditch team unless something was seriously wrong," Hermione said.
Harry shook his head and said defeated, "It is serious, and I have no one to blame but myself."
"What happened?" Ron and Hermione asked together.
Harry leaned his bag against the wall and slumped wearily into the nearest chair. "It's my marks," he said running a frustrated hand through his hair. "I'm failing Charms, Transfiguration, Astronomy, and Herbology. The only subject I'm excelling in is Potions and that's only because I promised myself that I'd show old Snape I can handle his N.E.W.T. level class. I'm weeks behind in turning in my other assignments and McGonagall thinks I need to use the time I spend practicing to get everything turned in. I can't get back on the team until everything is done to her satisfaction."
"What about the match against Slytherin a week from Saturday?" Ron asked with a quiver in his voice. "We can't possibly play without a Seeker!"
Harry sighed heavily. "You're going to have to re-call Ginny. There's no other way around it. She did a good job last year when Umbridge banned me. I've blown it again and don't know if I can get all my work done in two week's time. I'm that far behind." He took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Maybe McGonagall's right. Maybe I don't have my priorities straight. I just don't know any more."
The common room seemed to quiver as the realization hit the other Gryffindors. Around her, Ginny heard a murmur that seemed electrically charged. Some were whispering about whether or not she would be ready to play Seeker in the Slytherin game while others bubbled over with righteous indignation at how unthinking Harry Potter was. Still others were voicing their concerns about Harry's marks: why hadn't anyone helped him get his assignments in on time? Ginny knew the answer to that: Harry was just too tired to do them and too proud to ask for help or deadline extensions. She could tell just by looking at the three seated around the chess board that Harry's sorrow over Sirius' death and his nightly nightmares were finally taking their toll on him. She added her worried thoughts to the stricken looks on Ron and Hermione's faces.
Pushing aside her translation, Ginny rummaged around her table for fresh parchment and began to write a letter home. She was about to sign it when a familiar voice broke into her thoughts and Colin Creevey plopped into a chair beside her.
"Hey, Ginny. What's going on? Why's everyone so upset?"
"McGonagall took Harry off the Quidditch team," she told him, folding the letter and searching around in her bag for an envelope.
Colin looked stricken. "That's terrible," he said. "What's going to happen with the team?"
"I don't really know. Harry said that if Gryffindor is to play Slytherin in two weeks, I'll have to be retrained as Seeker. I suppose there'll be a team meeting tomorrow to discuss it. If the captain insists on holding tryouts anyway, are you interested in being on the team?"
"Maybe. But I don't think I'd be as good as you," he said honestly. "Besides, I like photography better."
"You've taken some first-rate pictures of Harry and the team," Ginny said with a smile. She sobered, saying, "Colin, I'm really sorry, but I need to get to the owlery. It's important that I get my letter out right away. I'm hoping there'll still be a few school owls available...I don't want to use Pigwidgeon if I can help it. Ron's bound to want to write home soon. I just know it."
"May I come with you?"
"Sure, I'd like the company, Colin. Let's go."
Smiling happily, Colin stood and waited for Ginny to stack her books before they exited the common room through the portrait hole together.
Ginny was indeed recalled as Seeker, and she found it quite easy to slip back into the routine of practice every other day. She was glad that Harry had been at the initial team meeting; his vote of confidence, even if he couldn't actually vote, encouraged her to try several new moves which might just throw the Slytherin Seeker off the Snitch.
"Hey Ginny," Harry called as she left the girls changing room the afternoon before the Slytherin game. "Got a minute?"
"Well, I-I just want to wish you luck tomorrow. I'm glad you're taking my place."
"Thanks, Harry. I appreciate the vote of confidence."
"You'll do a fine job. You've got quicker reflexes than Malfoy and you just might trick him into playing badly with the Theopholis Lunge you were practicing today."
Harry's praise set Ginny's heart thumping. This was the first day in two weeks that Harry had not been in Professor McGonagall's office buried in homework. She was glad that the Deputy Headmistress had let Harry have some time off.
"How's the homework coming?"
"I'm getting through it. McGonagall had a meeting to go to this afternoon and wouldn't trust me to be on my own in her office. I have to make up the time tomorrow morning, though, if I want to go to the game."
"That shouldn't be too bad, should it?"
"No, it's just annoying. Well, see you tomorrow, Ginny."
"Bye, Harry. See you at dinner." Ginny watched him jog slowly down to the lake and wondered if he would be in the Great Hall when she came down herself.
The burst of sound which greeted Ginny from the Gryffindor common room nearly bowled her over as she climbed through the portrait hole. It seemed to her that every one of her housemates was celebrating their victory over Slytherin as though it was the last game of the season instead of the first. She smiled to herself as she searched the crowd for Ron; he had repelled all the Slytherin Chasers' attempts to score with practiced ease and had helped to bring upon that team their worst defeat in three hundred years. Ginny, too, was proud to have had a part in the 710 - 0 defeat of Gryffindor House's worst rival. After all, it was her catch of the Snitch, which pushed the score to an all-time high.
She finally located her brother-with Hermione sitting on the arm of his chair-near the fire, surrounded by a group of first and second years who were avidly listening to his account of the game. Ron paused and smiled at his sister.
"Great catch there, Gin," he said. "I loved how you snatched that Snitch right out from under Malfoy's nose. He was so oblivious to it, I was reminded of that game in second year where Harry did the same thing. The Slytherin team captain was so angry that day we could hear him cussing Malfoy out clear across the pitch. I suspect he got a good talking-to after today's game, too."
"I'll take that as a compliment, then," Ginny said grinning. "You didn't do too badly yourself."
Ron grinned back as Hermione murmured, "No Fred or George this year I'll wager..." and received a playful glare from both Ginny and Ron.
"Hey, congratulations, Ron, Ginny!" Colin Creevey had wandered over holding two butterbeers and offered one to Ginny. "Thought you'd like something to drink. The food's almost gone, so if you're hungry you'd better get over there." He indicated one of the study tables which was covered with the remnants of the Gryffindor feeding frenzy.
"Excuse me," Ginny said to Ron and Hermione. "I'll be back in a moment." She followed Colin over to the table, scanning the rest of the room for Harry. As she reached into the bowl of crisps she asked Colin, "Have you seen Harry? I thought he'd be celebrating with us."
Colin shook his head. "Sorry, Ginny. I haven't seen Harry since the beginning of the game." He elaborated as Ginny looked apprehensively at him. "Harry was sitting two rows in front of me on the aisle. He must have slipped out before the game was over."
Uh-oh. This isn't good, Ginny thought. Aloud she said, "I need your help, Colin." She quickly filled a plate from the various dishes in front of her. "Will you go up to Harry's room and see if he's up there, please."
She waited anxiously for Colin to return. "Not there, Ginny. Why is finding Harry so important?"
Ginny looked wistfully at her half-eaten plate. "I'll leave this with Hermione; hopefully she will be able to keep it out of Ron's reach. Anyway, someone needs to look for Harry. Mum got wind that he isn't being too social lately and wants us to keep tabs on him. I suppose I've been elected since Ron looks as if he's ensconced in that chair of his. Anyway, I'll be back soon...hopefully, with Harry in tow."
"Do you want company, Ginny?"
"Not this time, no. This is something I have to do alone."
Colin's face fell. "All right. See you around." He turned to leave.
Ginny caught his sleeve. "Wait. Thank you, Colin. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings," she told him with a sigh. "It's just that this thing with Harry is really frustrating and it's got my nerves on edge. I hope you understand."
"I'm not sure I do. But you should go."
Ginny smiled her thanks and went to get her cloak just in case she had to go out to the Quidditch pitch again. A bitterly cold snowstorm had blown in during the game. Consequently, the grounds were covered in a blanket of white when she had crossed the grass to the castle after changing out of her Quidditch robes. On her way out of the tower now, she waved at Ron and Hermione and mouthed "Harry" at them.
Ginny paused outside the portrait hole wondering if Harry would dare brave the elements tonight. She decided that he wasn't that stupid and settled on looking for him inside the castle. She remembered that he had once told her that Dobby used the Room of Requirement when he needed to sober Winky up. Would Harry go there to do some deep thinking or would he be back in Professor McGonagall's office doing more make-up work? She headed for the Professor's office first.
The door to Professor McGonagall's office was ajar and Ginny knocked before entering.
"What may I do for you Miss Weasley?" the Professor inquired.
"I'm looking for Harry, Professor. Have you seen him?"
"Not since this morning. I told him that if Gryffindor won I wouldn't need to see him until Monday afternoon. Is he missing?"
"He might be. He wasn't in his dorm and he wasn't at the party. I thought he might be here."
"Have you tried the library? I know for a fact that he has several current essays due which require Restricted Section books."
"I'll go there next. Thank you, Professor."
"Good night, Miss Weasley."
As the door closed behind her Ginny let out a frustrated sigh and then backtracked up to the seventh floor. There, a huge wooden door was set in the wall across from the tapestry of Barnabas the Barmy. Ginny opened it without knocking, knowing that the door couldn't be seen if someone with a similar purpose to hers didn't need it. She fervently hoped that Harry was inside.
The chamber before her was completely different from that of the Dumbledore's Army meeting room. The dimensions were much more intimate and somehow calming. The walls were lined with beautiful tapestries and a fire was burning in the fireplace to her left. A couch and two squashy armchairs were grouped on a thick rug in front of the fire and in the far corner stood a bed, a small table and a writing desk.
Harry was seated on the couch looking, to Ginny, as though the world was about to cave in. He had taken a quilt from the bed and was huddled under it; he appeared cold despite the warmth of the room. She shut the door quietly behind herself and walked over to sit next to him, laying her cloak on the back of the couch.
"We missed you at the party," she said softly, fishing for something to get him to talk to her about.
"Ginny?" Harry's voice was barely a croak.
"Harry, are you all right?"
"No. I'm not," he said quietly staring at the fire. He rubbed the back of his head and Ginny noticed he was shaking. "I don't feel very well."
"Can you tell me about it? I'd like to help if I can."
"In a minute. I...there's something I have to say."
Ginny waited as Harry seemed to steady himself. "I'm sorry, Ginny. I had to leave the game," he murmured. "I just couldn't watch. I missed your catch."
"That's all right, Harry. There will be others. What did you do after you left the game?"
"I walked around the lake for a while," he answered with a sniff. "I could hear the crowd sometimes when the wind blew the right direction and I knew we were winning, but... " He paused to sneeze several times and Ginny fished into her robes for her handkerchief.
"How long were you by the lake?" Ginny asked handing it to him.
"Until sunset. I was pretty cold and wet by then."
"Then you came up here?"
"Yeah, I didn't feel like joining the party."
Ginny glanced over her shoulder at the bed. "How come you didn't just go to bed?" As she plied him with questions Ginny was aware that she sounded very much like her mother. Mum would be proud of me.
"It was easier coming here. I wanted to be alone."
"It must have been hard on you not to participate in the game."
"That, and my head was hurting too much to take the noise of the party." He sneezed loudly into the hanky again, followed by a fit of ragged coughing. He clutched the quilt more tightly about himself with a wheezed, "Blimey, that hurts!"
A frown creased Ginny's forehead as she reached up to feel Harry's. He was hot to the touch and she could feel him trembling. As gently as she could she told him, "Let's get you into bed. You're burning up. I'm going for Madam Pomfrey."
She helped Harry over to the bed and pulled back the covers. He sank onto the pillows and let her take off his wet shoes and socks before she tucked him in. He turned onto his side and was swiftly wracked with another bout of rumbling coughs. They didn't sound good to Ginny and she knew he needed immediate attention.
"I'm going to go get Madam Pomfrey."
"Don't leave me, Ginny. I need you."
She leaned down and touched his shoulder. "What you need is some proper care. I'm going back to get Ron and Hermione. I'll send my brother for Madam Pomfrey, but he needs to know where we are. I won't be very long...I promise."
Harry shook his head "no". "Stay here. Please. I feel terrible. I don't want to be alone."
Ginny was becoming desperate. If only I had some Floo powder, she thought, looking around.
Almost instantly, a small bowl of Floo powder appeared on the bedside table. She took the bowl over to the hearth and was just about to throw some into the flames when she heard a thud behind her.
She whirled around and found Harry on the floor beside the bed. She sprinted over to him. He was unconscious. Had he thought she was leaving him in spite of his request? Without hesitating, Ginny rushed back to the fire, threw some powder into the flames and stuck her head into the fire calling, "Gryffindor Tower".
Ron and Hermione suddenly swam into view. Ginny called their names causing both to jump.
"What on earth, Ginny?" Ron exclaimed.
"Where are you?" Hermione inquired.
"The Room of Requirement," she answered. "Harry's here and he's passed out. Could one of you go get Madam Pomfrey for me, please?"
Ron was out of his chair instantly, taking charge. "Hermione'll go. I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Thanks. And hurry!"
Ginny pulled her head out of the flames. Going to the bed, she tried to lift Harry back into it. He was dead weight and too heavy for her to move even with a levitation charm. Anxiously, Ginny covered him with the quilt and went to open the door for Ron. Together they managed to lift him back onto the bed as Madam Pomfrey entered with Hermione.
"Oh, that boy!" Madam Pomfrey exclaimed coming to stand alongside Ron and Ginny. "He should have come straight to me when he started feeling bad."
Ron, Hermione and Ginny exchanged worried glances. Harry had given them no indication that he was feeling ill the last few days, but Ginny wasn't certain he would have done. "He didn't tell us he wasn't well," Ron said defensively. "Otherwise we'd have made him go to see you."
Madam Pomfrey shook her head as she inquired, "How was he feeling before he fainted?"
"He said he had a headache and he was sneezing and coughing a lot. He also has a fever," Ginny told her. "Can you help him here?"
"I'll see what I can do. Please give me some room."
The three housemates went over to the fire and Hermione put her arm around Ginny's shoulders. "We should have come with you," she said looking reproachfully at Ron.
"That's all right. You came when I needed you and that's what counts. Thanks for helping me." Ginny told them gratefully. "I suppose it's up to Madam Pomfrey now."
A few minutes later Madam Pomfrey conjured a stretcher for Harry and levitated him onto it. "I'm taking him to the hospital wing. He's one sick young man." She looked directly at Ginny. "Your observations were very accurate and helpful. I appreciate your assistance."
Ginny nodded. "How ill is he?"
"Pneumonia, most likely. He's probably had it for several days from what I can tell."
"How long will he be in hospital?"
"Three or four days. Now if one of you will open the door, we'll be on our way." With that, Madam Pomfrey aimed her wand at Harry's stretcher and guided it out into the hall, Ginny, Ron and Hermione following close behind her.
Harry stayed in the hospital wing for four days. When at last he was allowed to go back to lessons he was listless and easily worn-out. Ginny, Ron and Hermione did everything they could to support him, from keeping him awake in class to making him take naps after lessons to seeing that he went to all his meals. By the end of the week he seemed a little better.
He stopped Ginny on Friday evening as she came back from studying in the library. "Got a minute?"
"I haven't thanked you properly for what you did for me last Saturday."
"That's all right, Harry. I'd do that for any of my friends."
"I know you would, and I just wanted to let you know I'm grateful."
"Then, you're welcome. I hope you're feeling better."
"I am, thanks to you. Well, good night. I'm turning in early."
"Good night, Harry. Sleep well."
Over the next few weeks Ginny corresponded with her parents almost daily keeping them up-to-date on what she knew about Harry's situation. It didn't look good. His illness had put a stop to all school work for the four days he was in the hospital wing, and he had been forced to ask for several extensions on his current homework. Added to that, Professor McGonagall was still making him complete all his back assignments in her office for two hours each afternoon after lessons. He usually emerged just in time for dinner.
Most evenings, Harry hardly ate anything, toying with his food just long enough to be sociable and then disappearing for about an hour. Ginny watched him curiously, wondering if Harry was taking his Firebolt for solitary flights as he had earlier in the year, despite his weakened condition. On a frigid night almost as windy as the first, she bolted her own dinner, made her excuses, and followed him as closely as she dared out of the Great Hall. Sure enough, Harry headed first for Gryffindor Tower, then made his way down to the Quidditch pitch. Ginny retrieved her own broom from the broom shed but did not fly to her usual perch high in the stadium. Instead, she crept under the stands to the edge of the pitch and watched him dive and soar for a few minutes. Then, she headed back to Gryffindor Tower to write another letter.
Ron and Hermione entered the common room just as Ginny finished. She called them over as she slid her letter into an envelope.
"Hey, what's up, Gin?" Ron asked walking over to her table.
"Have a seat. We need to talk," she said indicating two chairs. "It's about Harry."
"What about him?" Hermione asked.
Ginny looked at her candidly. "You know I was concerned about him when I was at your house, right? Well, I think it's time we--you, me and Ron--acted like his family. Hermione, you said that my Mum asked you to make sure Harry eats, right? Have you looked at how thin he's become lately? If you haven't noticed, Harry's hands are just skin and bone, and his face just looks positively ghastly. And that's not just the result of spending four days in the hospital wing! Have you and Ron been so wrapped up in your Prefects duties not to notice how Harry just pushes his food around his plate each night?" Ron and Hermione exchanged guilty glances.
She rounded on her brother. "And you, Ron. How can you sleep at night knowing that your best friend has nightmares so bad that he spends half the night pacing the common room trying to get the gumption up to go back to bed for two or three hours? Don't look at me like that Ronald Weasley," she said harshly. "I've had a few bad nights this term and sometimes it's been almost a race to see whether Harry or I get down here first...he usually beats me to the comfy chair by the fireplace." Ron hung his head and said nothing; he just looked guilty.
"Anyway, I've made a decision," Ginny continued. "The last time we went to Hogsmeade I did two things. I bought a small bag of Floo Powder, and I asked Madam Rosmerta if I could use her fireplace if I ever needed to go home quickly and couldn't use the school fires. Well, I'm going home this weekend. Mum and Dad and I have been writing back and forth ever since Harry was kicked off the Quidditch team. I think it's time we talked in person. I don't know how long I'll be gone; I could be back Saturday evening or sometime Sunday. I just wanted you to know where I'm going."
Hermione looked pointedly at Ron who said, "Well, if you're going home, so am I. Shall I owl Mum and Dad that we're coming? Or would you rather we just showed up in the kitchen Saturday morning?"
Ginny smiled. "Send Pigwidgeon to Mum. She'll appreciate the notice."
Hermione asked, "How will you get to Hogsmeade?"
It was Ron's turn to look smug. "The same way Fred and George used to...through Honeydukes."
"Oh. But isn't that breaking a lot of school rules?"
Ron and Ginny looked at each other. "Loads!" they said together grinning.
A/N: A big thank you to my new beta, Aggiebell, for her patience and valuable suggestions. Her encouragement is helping me on to become the best writer I can be.