~ In which the loser gets the prize ~
Severus stretched out on the short grass, propping his head against the ancient stone bench. The early morning sun shone through the winding branches above him and glinted off his closely cropped hair. A black kitten lay purring in his lap and Severus sighed as he stroked it.
Although it was only a month since their first Quidditch game, the days seemed to drag when he wasn’t with Draco. They were sort of ‘fighting’, he supposed, because he’d finally lost his temper when he’d heard that Draco hadn’t made up with Ginny yet, and that they still weren’t talking to each other. He’d been so angry… and yet it angered him so much more that he couldn’t just straight out and say it. He wasn’t going to be around forever. He wasn’t always going to be there to make the peace. The two of them needed to make up, and needed to stay friends. As soon as he got his old body back…
Yet again the question of exactly how he was going to do that started buzzing in the back of his mind. And yet again he pushed it away.
It annoyed him how much he worried about Draco now, in fact, most things had been annoying him lately, and, with their garden all spick and span, there was hardly anything for him to take it out on any more. Not even beating the hell out of Potter and friends during the Duelling Club practises seemed fun any more, and not even his extra conversations with the DADA Professor!
“Stupid, bloody sod,” he cursed himself. “You’re getting soft.”
Oreo mewed in agreement and started to wash herself. Severus frowned and got to his feet, scooping up a few loose pebbles and making his way to the pond.
OWLs were starting to loom on the horizon, and all the fifth years around him were studying like mad. Of course, he didn’t need to study, fifth year standard spells were common knowledge to him now.
He wondered, idly, if this was how it felt to not have to work for anything, to just have everything come easy to him like James Potter and Co. had. It was the same on the Quidditch pitch; thanks to his cat-like abilities and workouts in Hagrid’s garden, stopping Quaffles was simpler than signing his name.
Severus shrugged, finding it dull to dwell on the past for once. He thought instead back to his current predicament, and his brow furrowed. Well, since he couldn’t knock sense into Draco, it was about time he tackled Ginny.
Dropping the loose pebbles into the murky pond he turned to leave, when his sharp eyes noticed a strange marking near his feet. Carefully stepping to one side, he gave a low exclamation. There was a faint outline of a footprint in the soft earth, and when he looked closer at it, he noted the surface to be strangely smooth, as if someone had carelessly directed water over the footprints to clear them.
Severus narrowed his eyes. There was no way it was his or Draco’s footprint; the sole was too worn… It had a somewhat cheap look to it, not like the expensive shoes he and Draco donned. It was reasonably large, as large as Draco’s foot…so it couldn’t possibly be Ginny’s…and she didn’t even know this place existed…
So whose was it? Who the hell had been in his garden?
Severus calmed down, feeling slightly foolish for somewhat over-reacting. As usual, he blamed it on his bloody overcharged teenage hormones. Well, he would just have to keep a better eye on it in future, and look for further clues as to who was the intruder…
Hearing an ever so faint breakfast gong, Severus left the garden through the hole in the hedge.
“In a world made of steel, made of stone…”
A pretty Hufflepuff girl jumped upon the collapsible stage and started dancing in time to the music. “Well, I hear the music. Close my eyes, feel the rhythm…”
At the side of the stage, Ginny Weasley shook her head. “You’re twirling too much!” she shouted over the music. “Remember you’ll be wearing tight Muggle trousers; you’ll hardly be able to move.”
It was a
Sunday morning, and most of the fourth and fifth years doing Muggle Studies had
gathered together for play rehearsals. Ginny was standing by the stage trying
to convince the lead,
“It’s not my fault!” exclaimed
“We’ve still got three months,” said Ginny, shrugging her shoulders. “And there hasn’t been a Hogsmeade weekend for ages. If you like I’ll ask Professor McGonagall for permission to go specially.”
“These trousers,” said Terry Boot dubiously, walking over from across the stage, “they’re not anything like tights are they?”
Ginny shot him a serious look. “Definitely not. They’re much more shiny.” She glanced over at Woodley. “Pip’s might even have sequins.”
There was a universal groan from the rest of the students. “We have to be authentic!” exclaimed Ginny. “Apparently that’s what Muggles wear.”
“We should’ve picked the other one,” complained a fourth year Ravenclaw, “the one about the Matrix.”
“Well, we can’t change now!” said another.
“Yes we can! We’ll change the ending!”
“At least the Matrix tale had duelling…”
Woodley shook his head. “Muggles don’t duel.”
“What about their gun things?” said the Ravenclaw. “We should drop a song and have a Muggle duel in the middle of it!”
“We can’t get guns,” exclaimed Ginny.
“Well, another Muggle weapon then,” argued her classmate. “Pointed sticks.”
“Pointed sticks!” cheered another.
“How about,” began Woodley, holding his hand up for silence and raising his eyebrows, “swords.”
There was a buzz of excitement at Woodley’s words and Ginny gave him a betrayed look. Woodley shrugged at her. “You know it might spice things up a bit when the hero confronts the villain.” Ginny continued to look disgruntled. “I’ve seen Snape and Malfoy walking around with two shiny-looking swords,” he added. “So the idea is not only exciting, it’s thrifty.”
Ginny felt a smile tug at the corners of her mouth. “Idiot,” she said. She looked at Lane. “Are you OK with this?”
“Right,” said Woodley, clapping his hands. “Let’s write this new scene then!”
The rest of the students cheered and Ginny frowned. “Wait, where’s Severus?”
As if answering her question, the door to the old classroom swung open and Severus Snape stood in the doorway, his arms crossed.
“Ginny,” he said firmly. “We need to talk.”
Ginny gave an exasperated sigh. “Practise started half an hour ago, Severus!”
Severus waved a hand. “I don’t care. Look, we need to talk about—”
“Not now,” she interrupted. “You’d better listen to Philip. We’ve changed a scene.”
Scowling, Severus wandered reluctantly forward, jumping upon the small stage. In a matter of minutes he retreated to the window seat, the shouts and arguments giving him a headache. The rest of the rehearsal seemed to drag, and it was lunchtime when the actors broke up and he managed to get Ginny alone.
“Finally,” he grumbled. “Now, we need to talk.”
Ginny eyed him distrustfully, putting the newly-revised scripts back in the cabinet. “Why were you late?” she asked.
Severus scowled slightly, knowing she was trying to change the topic. “That stupid idiot, Terence Higgs, was following me about trying to shove some giggly girl onto me. Told him I wasn’t interested and he got all worked up about picking up soap.”
“You weren’t interested?” exclaimed Ginny. “Oh…does that mean…er…I mean, don’t you…er…did you not like her? Or was it because she was a gir–er…I mean, don’t you…”
“What are you trying to say?” demanded Snape, glaring at her.
“Nothing,” squeaked Ginny, looking thoroughly embarrassed. “Um…what did you want to speak to me about?”
Severus calmed down and surveyed her thoughtfully. “Draco,” he said shortly. “As you well know.”
Ginny’s expression automatically closed. “Yes,” she said with a non-committing grunt.
“He was at the Quidditch match you played,” continued Severus, giving her a piercing look. “Did you see him?”
“I saw him,” said Ginny guardedly.
“And you didn’t say anything?” he pressed, feeling annoyed at the shortness of her answers.
“What was I supposed to say?” said Ginny. “He should have come up and congratulated me.”
“You went to all his Slytherin games, why didn’t you congratulate him, then?”
Ginny squirmed as she reached to open the door. “He wouldn’t care,” she mumbled.
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Ginny,” snapped Severus. “He does care! He–”
“Well, why—I mean—what—who—” Ginny stuttered, before getting interrupted by an angry exclamation.
“Talk to the boy!” ordered Severus coldly. “Here, it’s lunchtime now. Don’t put it off any longer.”
“Severus!” protested Ginny, but Severus pushed past her, descending down the steps and giving her a black look when she opened her mouth once more.
Ginny sighed as she went down the stairs, not noticing Severus smirk to himself in front of her.
He should have done this a long time ago. Obviously, reasoning never got them anywhere; it was only strict words that shook students to their senses. He had been right all along.
Terence Higgs looked up from his sandwich and eyed Ginny Weasley with slight apprehension. “Wot-is-it?” he grumbled, his mouth full of ham. “Jeez, Weasley, you’re ruinin’ my reputation.”
“I’m looking for Draco,” said Ginny quickly, noticing his face brighten considerably.
“He’s taken his lunch to the Quidditch pitch,” choked Higgs, trying to swallow his mouthful extra quickly. “Quick, he went ten minutes ago. I followed him but he told me to piss off.”
“Thanks,” she said, and left the Great Hall, making her way towards the Entrance Hall.
Ginny’s pace slowed as she exited the huge oak doors. Just why had she listened to Severus, anyway? Why should she be the one to make up with the Slytherin prat? Why couldn’t he apologise to her?
Ginny frowned. And just why were they fighting in the first place?
“WHY?!” she exclaimed, feeling ridiculous as she couldn’t even remember the reason. “I have no idea why!”
But Ginny’s expression started to sober, as she realised her legs had automatically taken her close to the broom shed. Unwillingly, the resolve took her once more, as she observed the person she was seeking, sitting in the shadows with his back to her.
Merlin, I feel terrified, she thought incredulously to herself. It was just Draco! What was she scared of? Nothing he could say could hurt her…
But nevertheless, when Draco Malfoy stiffened and turned around, Ginny’s chest gave an odd sort of clench and she froze in mid step. Realising how stupid she must look, she quickly resumed her pace and walked forcefully up.
“Draco,” she began, forcing her voice not to waver and looking him directly in the eyes. “D’you mind if I join you?”
Draco stared straight back at her, though still sitting down. “If you like,” he answered, waving a hand at a few untouched sandwiches on a napkin.
Ginny sat firmly down opposite him, but suddenly didn’t feel very hungry. She opened her mouth to say something, but the young Slytherin had crossed his arms and was leaning against the cool timber wall of the broom shed, his eyes upward to the sky. Ginny’s mouth slowly closed, and Draco’s gaze flicked back to her, but then back to the sky once more. Ginny sighed deeply, but Draco made no acknowledgment of having heard.
At least we’re not arguing, she thought wryly. But then again, we’re not really talking either.
“So,” she said weakly, after a long pause. “I saw your game against Hufflepuff…”
“I didn’t see you,” said Draco flatly. “You weren’t sitting with Severus.”
“Well, Severus saw me,” said Ginny in a rather high voice. Shut up! Don’t start another argument – try to make peace!
Draco uncrossed his arms and put his hands in his pockets.
“Gryffindor versus Slytherin is coming up soon,” Ginny continued, in what she hoped was a pleasant voice. “I can’t wait to see that match.”
“Why’s that?” asked Draco idly, giving her a slight scowl. “So you can cheer for—”
Ginny jerked, and Draco left his sentence cut off.
“I should go,” he muttered, getting up and leaving the sandwiches untouched.
“Draco, wait – we need to talk.”
Draco shoved his hands back in his pockets, and looked at her still sitting on the ground. Ginny felt surprised herself; the words had just fallen out automatically.
“About what?” he said quietly.
Ginny hesitated. “Where we both stand now…and because…” Ginny averted her eyes from his and blushed slightly. “Friends don’t… friends don’t just walk away from each other.”
Draco looked as if he was restraining an ugly scowl from appearing on his face. “Friends?” he spat out suddenly, clenching his fists in his pockets. “Is that what you’re saying we are, friends?”
Ginny felt her face grow even hotter as a pang of hurt embarrassment seemed to stab her in the chest.
“I’ve got enough friends thank you very much,” continued Draco, his face screwed up furiously, “ –without adding you of all people to them. Don’t you fucking get it? I don’t want to be your fucking friend!”
Ginny stared up at him, horribly stung and for a split second, speechless. “Well, I’m sorry for being so fucking presumptuous!” she yelled back, her eyes blazing as she struggled to her feet. “D’you think it’s fun for me trying to stick up for you when you’re constantly insulting my real friends? D’you think I enjoy all the rubbish I have to put up with from my brothers when I even say ‘hello’ to you?”
Draco’s expression of scorn had skyrocketed. “Your brothers are the most pathetic bunch of ill-bred misfits in the entire school!” he yelled back. “Do you think I care at all what they think? Do you have any idea of what I’ve had to go through with all the Slytherins? And now I don’t even know why I’ve been wasting my time as it’s obvious–”
“It’s not just them!” Ginny screamed in response, her chest erupting with hurt and fury. “The whole of Hogwarts says it, and probably your precious Slytherins! You’re this spoilt, snotty little bigot obsessed with beating Harry Potter – and you’re never going to do it! You’re never going to beat him and you’ll ALWAYS BE BELOW HIM – no matter how hard you PATHETICALLY TRY!”
“Congratulations,” spat Draco through gritted teeth, as he took a step backwards and glared at her through cold, grey eyes. “You wanted to know where I stand? Well, now I can tell you with complete conviction that I do not stand with you.” Ginny’s eyes continued to flash angrily as Draco shook his head with a sneer. “I will never,” he continued, “ –stand with you. I’ll be standing as far away as possible from you and your mundane, pitiable, worthless life.”
And Draco turned away and left, leaving Ginny in an angry red haze. The argument played again and again in her mind, each word cutting her anew. She staggered backwards and hit the side of the broom shed, sliding down the wall until she hit the grass with a thump. The anger began to fade, leaving a chilling numbness in its place.
She didn’t know how long she sat there, staring into space, when she heard the familiar whoosh of a landing broom and soft footfalls making their way towards her.
“Hullo, Harry,” she murmured wearily.
Harry said nothing, but sat down beside her and put an arm around her shoulders. She laid her head on Harry Potter’s shoulder, and felt some of the tension leave her body.
Harry’s breath was warm against her hair and Ginny clung onto this element of comfort to prevent herself from sinking even further into the growing hole Draco had made when he’d walked away.
“A bit, yeah,” she mumbled.
“Then come flying with me,” suggested Harry, pushing himself to his feet and offering her his hand with a smile. “It’ll make all your troubles disappear.”
“Will it now?” muttered Ginny, but her face softening as she took his hand and he pulled her towards him.
“Well, at least for a little while,” promised Harry, and, with Ginny’s hand in his, they mounted his new Firebolt and took off into the sky.
“Well?” demanded Severus, as Ginny entered the common room. “How’d it go?”
Ginny’s cheeks were flushed and her hair was sticking up wildly. She’d had a particularly amiable expression on her face when she’d entered the portrait hole that evening, but now, as soon as Severus had spoken, she flared up.
“How did what go?” she said angrily. “Look, I can’t talk, everyone’s expecting me at dinner.”
“Your conversation with Draco!” snapped Severus, annoyed at her angry tone. “And here, I’ve already got dinner things; eat with me.”
Ginny sent him an ugly look but sat down opposite him anyway. “Everyone’s expecting me,” she repeated, with an odd closed expression on her face.
“Who cares?” said Severus. “You’ll see them in an hour anyway. Now, tell me what happened with Draco.”
“You sound just like your uncle,” snapped Ginny back. “You know that?”
Severus scowled at her, trying hurriedly to change his expression into something more pleasant. “Will you please, tell me,” he grimaced.
Ginny’s closed expression wavered slightly as she surveyed him curiously. “Well, what d’you care?” she replied offhandedly. “It’s not like—”
“Oh, shut up,” snapped Severus, unable to bear his strained smile any longer. “You didn’t even try, did you? It’s ripping our friendship apart!”
“Friendship, is it?” said Ginny in a low voice, unable to hide the bitterness in her voice as she looked at the boy opposite.
“What else would you call this mixed-up relationship?” Severus spat, feeling horrified at what he was saying. You are getting soft!
“I don’t know, Severus!” replied Ginny angrily, pushing aside her dinner with a clatter. “But I do know that whatever we had – it’s over. You can ask Draco yourself if you want. I never want to speak to him again.”
Severus gaped at her. “What on earth did you say? I bet you insulted him or mentioned Potter or something like that!”
“You always take his side!” flared Ginny back. “You always think it’s my fault when we have a fight! The insults were going both ways, Severus – Stop rolling your fucking eyes at me!”
Severus went from angry to furious, bringing down his butter knife so hard it stuck into the table. “OF ALL THE – You are the most stupid, idiotic –”
“I’ve been called enough names today!” cut in Ginny angrily, getting up from her chair. “And I’m sick of taking all your crap, Severus! Being friends is not something you should have to work at and I’m sick of working at it anyway. I’m going to dinner.”
Severus glared at her retreating back, feeling a wave of betrayed fury sweeping through his veins. “Working at it? WORKING – You’ve done squat, Ginny!” he roared, angry sparks flying from the wand on his belt. “Why can’t you just grow up and realise that if it wasn’t for me holding you two together–”
“Nobody asked you to, Severus!” she interrupted with a bellow, whirling to glare at him bitterly just before she reached the portrait hole. “GET OVER YOURSELF!”
And Ginny slammed her way out of the common room, leaving an enraged Severus in her wake.
Bright, yellow sunshine filtered through the stained-glass windows of the Great Hall onto a tousled mop of red hair. Ron Weasley groaned and tried to position his sleeping form more comfortably at the sound of the breakfast gong. After trying unsuccessfully to find his pillow to cover his head, he realised he was already at the breakfast table and groaned even louder. Harry yawned in agreement and even Hermione was eating her porridge with a slightly glazed look upon her face.
With the OWLs only two months away, the teachers had been piling on the essays and assignments in belief that the less sleep they got, the better the results – well, that was according to the students anyway. There wasn’t a single class that they could slack off in. Even Hagrid was piling on the extra readings.
Harry yawned again and waved at Ginny across the hall. Ginny waved back and made her way through the tables to sit sleepily down next to him.
“Why’re you so tired?” he asked with a slight grin, as she started to butter her toast with a spoon.
Ginny blinked at him and shrugged. “No reason,” she said vaguely.
Harry nodded in acquiescence but his gaze lingered briefly on the unusual dullness in her eyes before he pointed upwards at a tawny brown owl.
“Watch out, Ron,” he called cheerfully.
Ron groaned in protest and continued dozing next to his porridge. A second later his groan turned into a shout as a brown parcel dropped into a bowl of muesli opposite, showering him in cold milk and sultanas.
“It’s for you!” he muttered in disgust, lobbing the sodden package towards Ginny and shaking bits of breakfast from his hair. “Stupid owl should be roasted…”
“Don’t be horrid, Ron,” snapped Hermione irritably, waving her wand to clear the mess. “And don’t just chuck around people’s things like that. It might be valuable.”
“It’s all right, it’s just chocolate eggs,” interjected Ginny at Ron’s disbelieving snort. “Mum and Dad are trying to bribe me back home for the Easter hols.”
Harry and Ron’s faces immediately brightened at the mention of the Easter break but Hermione’s look of irritation just intensified.
“Now, you two, if you go to the Burrow you’ll just end up slacking away those precious few days before OWLs –”
“Excellent thinking.” Ron grinned through a mouthful of Ginny’s chocolate. “Another brilliant plan from Hermione.”
“Such genius,” agreed Harry, ignoring Hermione’s weak protests and winking at Ginny. “How about it, eh?”
Ginny smiled at him in response and looked down at the letter from her parents. They really did want to see her and she realised that she missed them both and her old room terribly. She looked back up at Harry but he was busy with Ron trying to coax Hermione into eating one of the homemade chocolates. Her gaze wavered over to the Slytherin table and she didn’t know whether she was relieved or depressed when she didn’t see Draco there. It was so painful to see him look straight through her in the corridors, and Severus really wasn’t much better. She hadn’t seen him in the common room since their fight but whenever she did manage to catch his eye between classes, he treated her with the same cold disdain he reserved for everyone but Draco. It was tearing her apart and, although she’d tried to thrust it aside and put all of her concentration on the Muggle Studies play, every so often she cracked and she was horribly afraid that someone would find out just how hard she’d been taking it.
Ginny continued watching Hermione try to irritably bat handfuls of chocolate away from her lecturing mouth. It seemed as if everyone had best friends to fall back on except for her. Even Philip Woodley seemed to be avoiding her lately, and although being with Harry should constitute as having someone there for her, it just seemed that whatever burning emotion she’d felt for him before was now being taken up by her pain and jealousy of Severus and Draco’s continuing friendship.
“You know, I think I will go back home for Easter,” said Ginny abruptly, managing a strained grin as Harry and Ron gave triumphant cheers. “I think I could use a break from Hogwarts for a while.”
Hermione’s look softened as she took in Ginny’s tired expression. “Well, I know you’ve earned it,” she said kindly. “It’s these other two that I’m worried – mmf!”
Ron had taken this opportunity to shove the last of the chocolate eggs into Hermione’s mouth and he grinned as he leapt to his feet.
“Gin, you’re a lifesaver! Let’s go pack, eh?”
Ginny looked back at her brother and a laughing Harry. “All right.” She smiled. “But I think you three owe me some chocolate.”
The clash of steel blades broke the early morning silence. Hot sun beat down upon a pair of dishevelled heads, and Draco took a moment to step backwards and catch his breath as the far-off breakfast gong sounded. It was the first day of the Easter holidays and both boys were working off their restlessness by sword fighting in the hidden garden by the lake. Severus straightened but didn’t lower his sword as he continued to face Draco steadily.
“I’m not hungry anyway,” responded Draco to the other boy’s unspoken challenge.
“Neither am I,” said Severus, and met Draco’s heavy blow with the edge of his blade.
Draco grimaced as the hit rang through his clenched palms. Ignoring the slight pain he swung his sword again, taking comfort in the way he didn’t have time to think when they duelled. There was only time to react and strike, over and over again. The strained silence that was growing so awkward between them was non-existent at the moment, and Draco meant to keep it that way. The topic that they kept avoiding was no longer an issue, Ginny was no longer an –
Draco stumbled backward, the other boy’s blade just grazing his left shoulder.
“What are you doing?!” exploded Severus, glaring in horror at the slight tear in Draco’s clothing. “Why aren’t you using the protective charm?”
Draco shrugged, hiding his angriness for getting distracted. “I fight better when I’ve got more to lose,” he muttered, resenting the way Severus was looking at him as if he were mad. “Look, are we going to continue or not?”
“The way you fight, Draco,” said Severus, ignoring Draco’s question and narrowing his eyes at the tear, “–is as if you have nothing to lose.”
Draco’s lips pursed and he raised his sword up challengingly. “Are we going to continue,” he repeated loudly, “ –or not?”
“Not,” said Severus angrily, “ –until you use the protective charm. Another stunt like that and there’ll be a lot more blood. I can’t believe you didn’t put it on in the first place!”
“You sound like a bloody Professor.” Draco scowled, lowering his sword and waving his wand over himself. “And you barely nicked me – I just wasn’t concentrating at that split second.”
“Well, it was really stupid of you!” snapped Severus irritably, lowering his sword with a slice to the ground. “I’ve had enough anyway.”
“Oh, come on,” scoffed Draco with a sneer. “You’re always the first to back out – why can’t you just let it go?”
Severus’s grip on his sword tightened and he swung it upwards to slam away Draco’s raised blade.
“I back out when I get sick of putting up with your self-deprecating rubbish.” He glared back, stepping quickly sideways to avoid an answering swing whistle past his ear. “Stop it. I’m leaving.”
“Well, I’m in your way,” replied Draco smoothly, raising his sword once more.
Severus’s jaw clenched, the unusual anger simmering in Draco’s eyes pooling in his own. Well, you’ve been in my way since first term! he wanted to scream. Instead of trying to change back I’ve been stuck pretending to be friends with a pathetic boy too stupid to realise I’m his own Professor!
“GET OUT OF MY WAY!” he yelled angrily, his sword slicing through the air and clashing with Draco’s counter strike.
But how pathetic is that Professor, continued the poisonous voice in the back of his mind, when he actually starts to enjoy their company… when he actually started to believe that they cared for him… the way he so desperately cared for them –
“I SAID –MOVE!” Severus roared, swinging his sword again and again as Draco met each strike with his own just as furiously. “I’M SICK OF ALL THIS! I’M SICK OF YOU!”
There was a split second where the world seemed to slow down to Severus, before he felt a colossal blow to the side of his head. He fell to his knees, dropping his sword and clutching his ringing head in his palms. He’d felt the protection charm shatter as Draco’s sword hit him, but it was not with relief that he felt no wound on the side of his face.
“Get away from me,” he spat through curled fingers, reaching painfully for his wand on his belt.
Bringing his wand to his temple, Severus muttered something to ease the pain, and finally looked up at the boy standing opposite. Draco was breathing heavily, his back against the sun and his face contorted in the glare.
“Sorry for being an inconvenience,” he muttered with a sneer, before hoisting his sword over his shoulder and walking jerkily off.
Albus Dumbledore glanced up from his desk to the sound of sharp knocking. “Come in,” he replied.
The door opened immediately and a tense-looking Severus Snape entered the room, his hands fiddling restlessly with his wand.
“To what do I owe the pleasure?” Dumbledore smiled, waving at a cushiony armchair.
Snape continued to stand, not returning Dumbledore’s smile. “Headmaster,” he began, not bothering to hide the anger in his voice, “–I am sick of remaining a child and it is completely impossible for me to continue. There is no reason for me to attend classes, no reason to sleep in the student dormitories – it’s ridiculous enough that I’ve spent this long doing so.”
Dumbledore continued to gaze at him silently through his half moon spectacles. “So, what is it you wish to do exactly?”
“I want to work on my cure in private,” said Snape immediately. “I want to stay in my workroom until I finish, I don’t want to see anyone – I don’t want to speak to anyone until I am back to normal. I’ve done nothing of use this year, my continuing to live like this is meaningless.”
“And a life without meaning,” interjected Dumbledore, quietly, “—is a terrible burden.”
Severus narrowed his eyes at Dumbledore’s comment, but when he opened his mouth to speak Dumbledore was already continuing.
“I asked you sixteen years ago why you wanted to spy for me, and you replied ‘to destroy the Dark Lord’. I am asking you this question again once more; for I have reason to believe your answer may have–”
“What, you think I don’t want him dead?” interrupted Snape angrily. “After all I’ve done –”
“That is not what I said, Severus,” said Dumbledore seriously. “Why must you always assume the negative?”
“Why must you never give me what I want?” burst out Snape in response. “You’re not my teacher anymore, and yet you continue to lecture me! This isn’t just another Defence Against the Dark Arts application – you cannot refuse me the right to my old life!”
“You are not my student anymore,” replied Dumbledore sharply. “But if you were, I would try to give you what you need. You are not a teacher anymore, but if you were I would give you that which did not detriment the school in any way. You are not a spy for me anymore, but if you were I would give you that which would benefit our cause. I am treating you as I would a friend, Severus, and I am instead giving you what you want.”
“You’re giving me my workroom and privacy then?”
“No,” replied Dumbledore crisply. “I am giving you the chance to give your life meaning, and to put meaning into the life of others.”
“What?” spat Snape, turning red as he tried to vocalise his fury. “That’s not what I – I don’t care – I – my life’s meaning is my work, my teaching–”
“Then perhaps it’s the teacher within you that understands the importance of giving their students’ lives meaning. And perhaps, in the case of Draco Malfoy: salvation.”
“What are you saying?” burst out Snape once more, clenching his fists in frustration. “You’re keeping me like this to help one student? Because it sure as hell isn’t worth it!”
“Not one student,” replied Dumbledore, his gaze softening at the furious boy before him. “You, Severus. Young Malfoy is just a bonus.”
“Malfoy is a child!” ground out Snape, ignoring Dumbledore’s reply. “He doesn’t listen to a thing I say! He’s so wrapped up in himself he doesn’t see what’s right in front of him, he’s unhinged!”
“I’m sure you’ll both have a lot to talk about then,” murmured Dumbledore, but then sighing at Snape’s sudden grinding of teeth. “I’m sorry, Severus, but surely you, of all people, can see how people turn out this way. Blood, money, and good marks are not enough to secure happiness –”
“He’s not my problem!” interrupted Snape furiously. “And he’s not going to stop me from changing back – and neither are you.”
Dumbledore rose to his feet but Snape had already started backing towards the door, shaking his head at the troubled Headmaster before him. “He’s not my problem,” he repeated in a low, bitter voice, before wrenching open the door and slamming it behind him.
Despite the flickering torchlight, the air was cold in the third floor corridor. The muffled sound of merry chatter could be heard indistinctly through the stone walls, but it was away from this that Draco Malfoy was walking. Dinner had started a half hour ago but, like many times in the last two months, he wasn’t feeling at all hungry. He rarely seemed to be without an unpleasant feeling in the pit of his stomach now, and whenever he’d seen Madam Pomfrey about it, she’d unfeelingly provided him with a heavy dose of something nasty. He’d forced himself to eat and take sleeping draughts during his OWLs week, but felt as though he’d performed horribly anyway.
He hoped, with a sudden burst of vindictiveness, that Severus had done just as badly. Although they hadn’t spoken since Easter, he’d noticed a definite lack of attendance on Severus’s behalf during classes… hopefully the stupid Gryffindor had failed and wouldn’t be allowed to go on to sixth year. Although knowing his luck, his odds of doing fifth year over seemed highly likely also.
Draco’s face tightened and he kicked a puddle of water viciously. No! Definitely not. He’d rather leave Hogwarts than have classes with not only Severus, but her…
The puddle was deeper than he’d thought and Draco found himself walking through ankle-deep water, soaking his shoes right through. He glanced angrily around for the source, his hand itching to pull out his wand and hex the culprit. His grey eyes rested on a wooden door he’d never noticed before, turning out to be the door to a girl’s bathroom. Glaring at the water still seeping out from beneath it he turned to leave, when a burst of cold blew through him, making him jolt in shock.
Moaning Myrtle tore away from him with her hands over her tear-stained face, her translucent body streaming after her. Draco turned at the sound of rushing footsteps from inside the bathroom. The door jerked open, and a blonde-haired boy stopped mere inches from Draco’s glowering face.
“You,” Draco sneered, lifting his chin and sidestepping to take up the entire doorway. “What’re you doing here?”
Philip Woodley narrowed his eyes in return, his pupils like tiny black specks in pools of green. “Get out of my way.”
Draco felt all of his bottled up anger and frustration roar at Woodley’s reply, and it was with this that Draco welcomed the dangerous gleam in Woodley’s eye as he glared back at him, choosing instead to stand his ground and tilt his chin higher. “Answer my question, mudblood,” he spat.
Woodley’s eyes flashed and he pulled out a peeling and worn-out-looking wand. “Get out of my way!” he snarled, jabbing his wand tip at the base of Draco’s throat.
Draco jerked his neck away and brought his hands up to Woodley’s shoulders, striking them with such force Woodley staggered, falling backwards into the bathroom and landing in a puddle of water.
“You think you’re a match for me,” sneered Draco, advancing on the sodden Woodley with his own wand drawn now, “–with your obvious lack of talent and your hand-me-down wand?”
Woodley struggled to his feet, his wet robes weighing him down and his jaw and fists clenched. “You don’t know me,” he said through gritted teeth. “You have no idea who I am.”
“What’s there to know?” Draco looked him up and down coolly. “A pathetic nobody who skulks around girls’ bathrooms at night, getting off on making them cry–”
Woodley lunged at Draco who pointed his wand at the other boy’s furious face. “Locomotor Mortis!”
The seething fourth year fell against the wall with his legs locked together, his wand falling to the ground with a clatter. “You’re one to talk!” he snarled in response, gripping the stone wall with white fingers. “After what you did to Ginny!”
Draco glared at the other boy for a split second before grabbing the front of Woodley’s robes and shaking him. “I haven’t spoken to her,” spat Draco, his voice bitter and low as he spoke right in Woodley’s face, “ –for three months.”
“You’re a liar,” spat Woodley back, his usually twinkling eyes narrowed in loathing. “If it’d been three months, she wouldn’t still be crying over scum like you.”
Draco released the front of Woodley’s robes with a shove, ignoring the fourth year’s snarl of pain as he fell backwards and hit his head on one of the sinks.
“Uncurse me you stupid git!” glowered Woodley, as Draco turned on his heel and headed for the door.
Draco paused, tilting his chin upwards once more as he sneered at the boy behind him. “Your excuse for a wand is over there,” he said over his shoulder. “Be thankful I’m not deducting house points for cheek.”
Draco slammed the door behind him, scowling at the scattering of students trickling down the corridor before him. He strode past them quickly, turning into a larger hallway that overlooked the courtyard below. He paused in an alcove, muttering a drying charm on his soggy shoes when the sound of familiar chatter drifted upwards to his sharp ears.
Glancing over the open ledge, Draco scowled as Harry Potter and co. walked leisurely through the courtyard, moonlight glinting off their grinning faces. Where normally Draco would’ve taken one look at the cheerful Gryffindors and left, something seemed to make him hesitate this time, enough for his scowl to quickly flick over the three bobbing heads, to finally rest on the smallest figure, her red hair obscured by an oversized beanie.
Unbidden, and completely unwelcome, Woodley’s earlier words swept into his mind. Draco’s scowl intensified at the echoing words, which he could clearly see were untrue. Ginny was laughing as the other three joked with her, not looking at all as if she wanted to run off and cry her eyes out.
But that something that’d made him hesitate the first time tugged at him once more, causing Draco to hesitate a second time, allowing his gaze to linger just a while longer on the red-haired figure now halfway across the courtyard. And that’s when he saw, for the very first time, the way she seemed just half a step behind the other three, and the way her smile never lingered after she laughed, and the way Potter seemed to put his arm around her so gingerly, and the way she leaned so heavily against him in return. He saw the slight droop in her shoulders, the way her arms barely swung on her sides, and then…nothing… for the four Gryffindors had passed through the courtyard and out of Draco’s line of vision.
Draco continued to stare downwards, his mind as blank as the mossy ground below.
The Sunday of the last Quidditch match of the year dawned perfectly clear. Anticipation could be tasted in the air, the question of whether Gryffindor would beat Slytherin the source of many bets and conversation. Straight after breakfast, nearly all of Hogwarts poured out of the castle doors and over to the Quidditch stands to anxiously await the beginning of the match.
Among the crowd were two hurrying Gryffindors, each making their way to the very top row and brandishing scarlet and gold banners.
“This is it, Ginny,” breathed Hermione. “The last game, the one that really counts…”
“Hermione!” mocked Ginny. “Don’t tell me you’re actually getting into Quidditch?”
Hermione responded with a fierce roar as the Gryffindor team flew out, before smiling apologetically at an alarmed Ginny.
“I’ve just been worried about Ron, that’s all,” explained Hermione. “Well, at least you’ve managed to keep Harry under wing; he’s been smiling so much lately. Now I just hope they both do something spectacular to end it all.”
“Yes, me too,” agreed Ginny, smiling back.
Something flickered across Hermione’s face as she looked at the other girl. “So…” she hesitated. “It doesn’t bother you that Harry’s playing against—”
“Please don’t talk to me about him,” murmured Ginny, but her face breaking out into a beam as a familiar Gryffindor started to fly towards her. “Harry! You’re supposed to be lining up!”
Harry flew up close and gave them a quick grin. “Wish me luck?”
“Of course!” declared Hermione. “And tell Ron also.”
Harry grinned at Hermione and looked to the girl beside her. “I bet you’re glad you’re not playing this time…”
Harry’s voice trailed away as he caught sight of the expression on Ginny’s face. She wasn’t looking at him at all, but was staring straight past him. She hadn’t even seemed to have realised he was talking to her.
“My cloak,” she mumbled. “He’s… wearing it…”
Harry narrowed his eyes and swivelled his head, taking a guess at who was behind him.
Hovering only yards away was Draco Malfoy, but if he had seen Harry looking at him he made no sign. His eyes were transfixed on Ginny’s, his blonde hair becoming unstuck in the wind as he drifted closer.
Harry looked back at Ginny and had to stop himself from jerking back in surprise. Gone was the shy smile she’d always worn when she’d looked at him, and although she didn’t look in the least bit happy, Harry was struck by the depth of the feeling written across her face.
Hermione too had noticed this, and caught Harry’s eye. Harry gave her a wry grimace and turned to fly away. As he started to accelerate, he turned his head and caught a glimpse of the back of his archrival’s deep green cloak.
That wasn’t the usual Slytherin uniform, he thought puzzled. And what was with the flashing, silver letters?
“I can’t believe he’s wearing it…” mumbled Ginny to herself once more.
“What?” said Hermione sharply. “What do you mean? Who?”
But Ginny wasn’t listening. The background noise had levelled out into a slight roaring in her ears, and all she could do was stare at Draco Malfoy, drifting closer to her with his deep green cloak strewn behind him.
“PLAYERS, LINE UP!”
And in a blink of an eye he was gone, racing towards the centre of the pitch with only a silver blur on his back to distinguish him from the rest of his team.
“AND QUAFFLE’S IN THE AIR! CAUGHT, JOHNSON! WHAT A SWERVE! AND SHE
PASSES—NO—YES! A BACKWARD PASS TO WEASLEY! A FUMBLE—NO! IT WAS ON PURPOSE,
A huge cheer came from the crowd, backed up by a big bout of booing from the Slytherin stands.
At the Gryffindor goal posts, Severus Snape gritted his teeth at the cheering crowd, feeling a huge urge to boo also. He was gripping his broomstick so tightly his hands and forearms were flushed red. Professor McGonagall had threatened to reveal his identity if he didn’t play today, and he was furious at Dumbledore for allowing such a thing to pass. He had such an itching temptation to throw the match anyway…
But something flickered on Snape’s livid face, as a green figure streaked with silver swooped overhead. “What the hell is he wearing?” he muttered, only to be deafened by a sudden triumphant roar from the Slytherin crowd.
“—SLYTHERIN CHASER IN POSSESSION! AN EXCHANGE STUDENT FROM
DURMSTRANG—FELIX—HIS NAME IS—PASSES IT TO ICARUS—FELIX—ICARUS—
“It’s true!” cried Seamus, who was sitting in front of Hermione and Ginny. “They’ve replaced their Beaters as well! Just because some of those exchange students play Quidditch for summer teams…”
Dean got up to boo loudly when Hermione’s scarlet and gold banner accidentally hit him in the back of the head.
“Ron’s got the Quaffle!” she squealed.
“AT ‘EM, WEASLEY!” roared the Gryffindor fifth years, their roar turning into a howl as a Bludger connected with the side of his head.
“I’m fine!” they heard him yell in a rather strangled voice, as Harry swooped down to see him. “Watch out for the Snitch!”
The game soon became more of a Beater and Bludgers competition after that. Fred and George were determined to get revenge on the Slytherin Beaters who had targeted their brother, and the Slytherin Beaters were just as determined to take out the Gryffindor Keeper who kept stopping all of their goals. The Chasers on both teams could barely inch forward from the continuous stream of Bludgers flying in their road, and the sudden Beater who flung themselves in their paths to ward them off.
“GET OUT OF THE WAY!” screamed Katie Bell, as Fred Weasley careered into her.
There was a loud OOOOH from the crowd as both Chaser and Beater hit each other with such force that their brooms flailed wildly and they crashed into a tangled heap on the pitch.
“Fred, you dolt!” yelled Angelina, being backed up despairingly by George. “Katie, what are you doing?!”
But neither Katie nor Fred could answer properly; Fred just gave an unintelligible groan and it seemed as if Katie had been knocked out cold.
“Harry!” roared Ron, narrowly missing another Bludger and looking upwards at his best friend. “We need that Snitch!”
While the Gryffindor team was distracted by the loss of two of their players, the Slytherin Chasers took this time to score a few illegal goals.
“That’s stooging!” shouted Severus, getting the wind knocked out of him as all three Chasers crashed into him simultaneously from different angles.
“Nothin’ personal, Snape,” said the biggest one rather apologetically. “Your uncle would understand.”
“Oof,” gasped Snape, feeling slightly dizzy and trying to glare and hang onto his broom at the same time. “I’ll…I’ll kill you!”
“FOUL!” screamed the Gryffindors, pulling their eyes away from their fallen team and looking up to the goal posts.
But in the confusion of Fred and Katie’s collision, Madam Hooch hadn’t seen the way in which Slytherin had scored their nine goals, and the game continued with no penalties.
“That was such a foul!” screamed Hermione and Ginny, being backed up by a roar from their housemates.
Lee Jordan was unusually silent, but probably because he had rushed down to the pitch as soon as Fred and Katie had collided and was jumping up and down in rage, shaking his fist with Professor McGonagall at the suddenly noticed Slytherin Chasers.
“RON! ANGELINA!” bellowed Harry. “GET BACK INTO THE GAME! YOU TOO, GEORGE!”
The two Chasers nodded quickly to each other, and swooped back into the sky. Harry let out a deep breath and continued scanning the skies. If he caught the Snitch now they would win the game, but tie for the Quidditch cup. He cast a sidelong glance at Malfoy and saw him smirking at the Slytherin crowd.
Harry felt a sudden burst of anger as he looked down at Fred and Katie, and even at a disoriented Severus Snape. No one messed with his Quidditch team. And especially not bleeding Malfoy and shoe-ins.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT! WEASLEY HAS THE QUAFFLE AND IS HEADED TOWARD THE GOALS!”
Harry felt his breath hitch along with the rest of the crowd as he heard Lee Jordan’s voice echo once more across the Quidditch pitch.
“YOU CAN DO IT, RON!” he cried hoarsely, along with about five hundred other variations coming from the crowd.
Harry gripped his handle extra hard as he watched his best friend zoom forward, all thoughts of the Snitch wiped from his mind. Draco Malfoy too, watched, a flicker of hope on his face evaporating into a glare, as Weasley dropped the Quaffle only to have Johnson catch it instead. His glare intensified as Johnson passed it back to Weasley, who spun his broom around with a sudden burst of speed and hurled the Quaffle straight at the centre goal hoop. The Slytherin Keeper screamed as the red ball hit him in the face, knocking him backwards through the hoop with the Quaffle bouncing miraculously after.
“YES!” shrieked the crowd along with the commentator, scarlet and gold banners flying. “SNITCH TO WIN FOR GRYFFINDOR!”
“COME ON, ICARUS!” yelled Draco, punching his broom in
Down in the stands, Hermione and Ginny turned and slowly faced each other.
“Ron scored!” they screamed simultaneously, setting off the whole of Gryffindor once more.
But Gryffindor’s cheer soon turned into an angry buzz as two well-aimed Bludgers savagely attacked both Angelina and Ron, making the Quaffle fall into the hands of a gleeful Slytherin seventh year.
“SCORE, DAMN YOU!” bellowed Draco again, but all thoughts of the red Quaffle vanished from his mind when he saw the only ball he truly wanted to be his, dart past him.
A quick glance at Potter showed that he miraculously hadn’t noticed it yet. Not only that, but that familiar glint of gold and those tiny, fluttering wings were a lot closer to him than it was to Potter himself. Draco couldn’t believe it. He was finally going to beat him. He was finally going to prove that he was the better wizard.
“It’s mine,” he breathed, and shot forward.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!” yelled
“Oh, God,” whispered Ginny.
“No,” gritted Harry, and shot forward.
“MALFOY GETS A BLUDGER TO THE SHOULDER! WELL DONE, WEASLEY!”
Fred Weasley grinned as his carefully-aimed Bludger struck Draco with such force that his hands closed upon empty air instead of the Snitch. Harry pushed all thoughts of giving Fred an especially big Christmas present when the tiny golden ball took a sudden spin upwards, along with a furious Malfoy streaking after it once more.
“OH, NO! IT LOOKS AS THOUGH—WHAT’S THIS?! HOLY—LOOK AT POTTER GO! HE’S CATCHING UP TO MALFOY LIKE A—A—I DON’T BELIEVE IT! THEY’RE BOTH NECK IN NECK FOR THE SNITCH!”
Lee Jordan’s words were a faint buzzing in the ears of Draco Malfoy. In those split seconds of time, the only thing he was aware of was the Snitch right in front of him, and Potter’s determined hand stretched out unwillingly next to his. He didn’t hear the crowd’s roar, or even his team mates random bellowing, and he didn’t even care that he was hurtling higher than he’d ever been before. All he wanted was to get that Snitch, that tiny golden ball that represented all that Potter had, and all that Draco wanted.
It was usually taken for granted that when two Seekers are neck in neck for the Snitch, the rest of the game is halted and everyone, both Chasers, Keepers, and sometimes Beaters, were to freeze in mid-play and watch the battle for the Snitch in awe. However, much to the shock of Ron as he tried to watch his best friend’s dive get steeper and steeper, the Slytherin Chasers bashed into him full force and stole the Quaffle, streaking off to the Gryffindor goals.
Severus’s faint mutterings of ‘Die Potter’ were interrupted as a bright red ball hit him full force in the shoulder. Momentarily stunned, his glare took a while to distinguish all three Chasers stationed around him. They caught the ball on the rebound and prepared to heft it towards the goals once more.
Gritting his teeth and swinging around like a cat, Severus stopped the
Quaffle this time with his palm, slamming it straight back at
The bellow of pain seemed to come as a wake up call for the absorbed crowd. It was here that they were torn; they desperately wanted to see the outcome of the two seekers getting closer and closer to the Snitch, but they also wanted to see whether one Keeper had a chance against three Chasers. Especially if that ten points could decide who won or lost the Quidditch Cup.
Lee Jordan was having just as much difficulty in commentating.
“AND IT’S POTTER IN FRONT! THEN MALFOY—POTTER—MALFOY—AND SNAPE STOPS THE
GOAL, OOH FOUL! BUT NO! THEY’RE CONTINUING, POTTER’S NOW IN FRONT, SNAPE IS
BATTING THE QUAFFLE AWAY LIKE A PUFFSKEIN, FELIX IS DOWN AND OUT—WEASLEY AND
JOHNSON ARE MAKING A COMEBACK—POTTER’S STILL IN FRONT—OH, NO!
It was then that the half of Hogwarts who were watching Harry and Draco drew in a sharp gasp.
Draco was becoming increasingly frustrated by how Harry was inching closer towards the Snitch than he was. He’d been so certain it was his, and now everything was going wrong! It couldn’t end like this! It couldn’t–
As if reading his mind, the Snitch seemed to hang for a split second in the air, before plunging directly vertical towards the earth below. The two Seekers swore, flipping their brooms around almost instantaneously and diving straight after it. But something went wrong for Draco in that instant, for the string from his cloak flapped viciously into his eye, causing him to swerve ever so slightly off course as he batted it away. This then resulted in a number of things, the first one being a sharp gasp from the crowd, followed by everything going black.
“MERLIN! IT SEEMS AS IF MALFOY’S CLOAK HAS SOMEHOW COME UNDONE, AND NOW HE’S BEING SMOTHERED IN IT!”
Snape dizzily looked up through the mob of Slytherins and Bludgers to see a green streaked blur flailing downwards at breakneck speed.
“No…” he breathed, his blood running cold. “I knew he shouldn’t have –ARGH!”
Snape clutched at his head in agony as the Quaffle dropped from his forehead, the Chasers from both houses continuing to fight over it.
Ginny Weasley gripped her banner so hard she could feel the wooden splinters digging into her palms, her gaze darting from her brother and Severus fighting the Slytherins at the goal posts, to Harry and Draco plummeting to the ground as if in slow motion.
“Just tear it off!” she started mumbling desperately to herself. “Why won’t you just tear it off?”
But suddenly the whole Quidditch crowd seemed to explode into nothing to her when she realised he wasn’t going to take it off – he was so close to the ground now and he still wasn’t taking it off – and then there was nothing but Draco, Draco falling to his doom, falling because of that stupid cloak, falling because of her; and all of a sudden she found herself running down the stairs, not caring that she was knocking people over in the process, not caring that she was tripping over her own feet, and not willing herself to tear her eyes away from that struggling, falling figure.
She finally reached the edge of the pitch and pulled out her wand, but it was too late. Draco’s body hit the ground with what would have been a sickening thud, but was instead met with a terrific roar, for at exactly that same moment, Harry Potter had caught the Snitch and earned one hundred and fifty points for Gryffindor.
“I DON’T BELIEVE IT!” screamed Lee Jordan. “WHAT A CATCH, WHAT A SAVE! IT’S HARD TO SAY WHICH ONE WAS THE BETTER WATCH; SNAPE IMPOSSIBLY SAVING THAT LAST GOAL OR POTTER CATCHING THAT SNITCH JUST IN TIME! WHAT A GAME! SAVED, SNAPE! CAUGHT, POTTER!”
“SAVED, SNAPE! CAUGHT, POTTER!” the crowd chanted wildly, pouring down from the stands to meet the scarlet-clad team. “SAVED, SNAPE—”
It took a while for Gryffindor’s Keeper to realise that it was over, but when he did, the first thing he did was pull out his wand and hex the two remaining Slytherin Chasers and Beaters.
“Bloody bunch of cheaters!” he roared dizzily, going back to clutching his head. “Fouled me about twenty times…”
It was then that Snape suddenly remembered his last glimpse of Draco, and his stomach lurched in a horrible way that had nothing to do with his bruises. He started to zoom rapidly towards the ground, only to hastily retreat to the air once more at all the students in red running towards him.
“DRACO!” he shouted, as if trying to drown out the rest of the crowd. “DRACO!”
As if in defiance, the cry of ‘SAVED, SNAPE! CAUGHT, POTTER!’ bellowed even louder than before, with Professor McGonagall jumping up and down in glee.
Alighting on the Quidditch stands’ roof, Severus glared at the Gryffindors still pouring from the stands and obstructing his vision. He kicked off from the roof to fly towards the Hospital Wing, cursing at himself for even caring whether Draco was all right. Because it wasn’t his problem and he didn’t care. Not at all.
The late afternoon sun glinted off his glasses, as Harry Potter came to a very gradual stop and was tackled to the ground by Fred, George, Katie and Angelina. Harry just beamed, his grin widening even more as he saw Hermione sprinting ahead of the crowd.
“Harry!” she screamed, enveloping him in a huge hug, but then beating him with her fists. “You prat! Are you trying to get killed?”
“Great catch, Harry,” came a hoarse voice from behind him.
“Ron!” Harry and Hermione’s voices yelled in unison, but it was Hermione who threw her arms around him like she had done to Harry.
“You even bigger prat!” she sobbed. “I hate you both!”
Ron gave her a sort of awkward pat on the back and raised his eyebrows at Harry.
“You’ve said it yourself, Ron.” Harry smiled back. “They’re all mental.”
“How could I forget,” said Ron feelingly, getting his turn of being pummelled by Hermione’s fists.
But Harry had turned away from his two best friends, and, while being hugged and shaken and clapped on the back by practically the whole of Gryffindor, his eyes searched the crowd for a familiar sight of long, red hair, pulled back into a messy ponytail. But when finally he caught sight of it, its owner was not running towards him like she usually did. Her arms weren’t spread wide and she didn’t even have a huge devoted smile on her face.
Ginny Weasley was quite a few yards away crouched over something on the ground, all the while throwing a fist at whoever came near. Curiously, Harry fought his way closer, trying to get a better view at what she was doing.
“On yeh, Harry!”
Harry gave Hagrid a distracted smile, which slowly faded into surprise as he saw that Ginny was huddled over a person, namely Draco Malfoy. He frowned and was just about to call out to her when he saw Malfoy stir, and Ginny suddenly fling her arms around him.
“Draco!” she sobbed. “You pr-prat! What were you thinking? Why’d you wear the s-stupid clunky thing?”
Harry jerked back as he took in the expression on her face, remembering the way she had looked at Malfoy at the beginning of the match also. In the back of his mind he found it slightly funny that girls would insist on calling them prats, instead of congratulating them or complimenting them on what they’d done. The more active part of his mind felt a dull throb of depression settle over him, making him keep his silence and just watch her for a while, wondering, hoping, wishing that she would look up and notice him, the Boy Who sodding Lived.
“Harry!” exclaimed the voice of Ron Weasley. “Where’d you go? C’mon, party!”
At the mention of Harry’s name, Ginny looked up, and Harry’s silent will was carried out.
“Harry,” she croaked, giving him a sincere smile. “Brilliant catch, as usual.”
Harry noticed Malfoy stiffen against Ginny when she’d said this, but during that three seconds of which Ginny’s eyes were locked with his own, the famous boy-wizard felt as though he didn’t know Ginny at all.
He’d thought he had, Harry mused, getting hoisted up by the rest of the Gryffindors alongside the rest of their team, but now…now he realised that there was something about her, some side of her that he had never known about, a part that she hadn’t ever exposed to him… and it left him feeling incredibly empty.
And as all his laughing housemates carried Harry away, he cast one last look back in the direction of the crouching Ginny, now conjuring up a stretcher. It was then that the Boy Who Lived gave a sort of ironic grimace to himself as he realised that he, Harry Potter, may have won the match and secured the Quidditch Cup. But it seemed as if Malfoy, the sneaking, pointed-face Slytherin, had ended up with the prize.
A/N. “In a world made of steel, made of stone…” lyrics from the Muggle
‘Flashdance – What a Feeling’ written by Keith Forsey and Irene Cara.