Chapter 3 : Lunch At The Pitch
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Morning practice went well for the Harpies. Despite being tired they performed their drills, each searching the sky for signs of 'Mr. Harry'. Ginny may have been the least tired with the nap she got in the evening, but she was by far the most excited.
As they approached lunchtime she noticed someone in the box with Mr. Holyhead. Both were talking very animatedly, pointing out at the Pitch. Ginny realized they must be discussing specific players as their arms seemed to follow a play as it developed. In Harry's letter that morning he said it would be around noon he would be there, but it was too far away for her to be sure. Mr. Holyhead had his customary dark green blazer with a gold talon emblazoned on his left breast. The other person appeared to be dressed in khaki pants and an emerald green shirt.
"WEASLEY LOOK OUT !!" she heard Analise Gorgan scream. Her head snapped back from her staring at the owner's box to see a bludger bearing down on her. With no time to react she closed her eyes wishing to kiss Harry one final time.
* * *
Harry made a stop at his branch of Gringotts before coming to the Harpie's practice. He confirmed the transaction he made the day before and with a smile he took the floo back to his club. "Emile all is well. Step one is complete. How is lunch coming?"
"Fantastic Mr. James. The Coq au Vin will be ready shortly. What time do you wish me to bring it?"
Harry pulled out the pocket watch he received from the Weasleys for his 17th Birthday. "It is 9:30. Mr. Holyhead and I need to talk, and I want to watch them practice. Shall we say 1 O'clock? Will that give you enough time for that and the bread to rise?"
"We will make it work Mr. James" replied his head chef Jacques. He was kneading the dough for a third time to give it the signature lightness the club was known for.
"Mr. James an owl came from the Countess this morning. She is inviting you to come to her club this evening. What shall I tell her?" wondered Gaston who was standing in the doorway with the letter and the owl on his shoulder, which looked quite comical since the owl was bigger than he was.
"I have no patience for her tonight. I hope to bring Ginny back with me. I am hers for this evening and hopefully much longer. Please send my regrets, etc."
"Very well Mr. James" Gaston said. He began to pretend to write the response. "Dear Countess. I have better things to do than to sit in your smelly old club. When was the last time anyone cleaned in here? I have to wear black because any other color shows all the dirt I come home with. And the food, well I throw away better." He looked over to see Harry and all the Elves laughing hysterically.
"Gaston you should be a writer. You have an excellent imagination. Or you were very observant when you were there. Either way I am not going. Yes I have better things to do. And I am off to see her now. I shall see all of you later."
Harry used the visitors floo to enter the stadium. "I'm glad he doesn't own this. I might have to think twice if he did." He walked through the empty halls which had definitely seen better days. The signs pointed to a stairway and he climbed the 30 flights of stairs grateful for the walks or runs he took early in the morning when everyone was still asleep. "Ginny has fantastic legs. I bet she might want to come with me" he said as he saw the entrance to the owners suite ahead. Pausing to collect his thoughts he knocked on the door.
"Mr. James!! So happy you made it today!!! Please come in" Mr. Holyhead told him as he entered. "Tea?"
"Merci. Thank you" Harry replied silently casting a charm to detect anything else in the food. Not seeing anything he relaxed. "Thank you for asking me to come. I wished to see them before we talked more. I trust you received my note?"
"Yes Miss Weasley sent it to me. And that was an excellent idea to 'Inspect the merchandise first' I always say. And it is Evander please."
"I agree Evander. And it is Harry" he answered, furious he looked at them as objects to own not living, breathing people. 'This guy reminds me so much of Fudge. His attitude about people who he thinks are below him.' "Evander I think we can come to an agreement once I can see them practice. Miss Jones is legendary in her dedication to the sport, and you do have three excellent chasers. You were quite fortunate to get Miss Griffiths back from Puddlemere United after her contract expired."
"Timing is everything Harry. The 'Puds' had signed three other players and were low on cash so I got her back for less than I paid her before" he answered, holding his glass up for Harry to toast him.
'GOD I hate this man' Harry thought, wishing he had the money available to purchase them outright. Unfortunately his business was down a little, plus he had recently made a major purchase and was lower on cash than usual. Yes he had his vault in London, but that was for emergencies. And he would have to go there himself meaning it was back into the spotlight. "Shall we?" he asked to end the conversation before he hexed him. 'Ginny you were right he deserves it.'
Side by side they watched the team practice. Harry began to miss playing, feeling the excitement of the crowd as he searched for the snitch. Evander pointed out each player but it was unnecessary. Harry had attended every match Ginny had ever played in, disguised as a variety of people. Each time he changed his appearance. One time he was tall, overweight, and balding. Another time he had wavy blonde hair and was shorter. Consequently he knew them both by name and number, and his seeker's eyes gave him a close up of how happy or sad each were during Matches.
His reminiscing was broken by a scream. "WEASLEY LOOK OUT!!" His eyes found Ginny sitting still on her broom with a bludger bearing down on her. 'Arresto Momentum' he yelled, pointing his wand at the heavy ball.
* * *
Ginny felt a gust of wind and opened her eyes expecting the worst. The heavy metal ball, which seconds ago was about to crash into her skull was stopped two feet away, still vibrating from the speed it was moving. She saw it transform into a bouquet of roses and finish its path to her. Her teammates crowded around her, the beaters apologizing for almost injuring her. "You see what could of happened if we aren't paying attention!!" yelled Gwenogg both happy she wasn't hurt and mad that she almost was. She flew up to the box and found Harry sitting alone on the steps leading up to it.
"Harry where did you think you were going?" Ginny softly asked as she sat beside him.
"Nowhere. Anywhere. Here we go again. I tried so hard five years ago to keep you all safe. Hermione gets tortured, Dobby is killed, Remus and Tonks die, ... "
"And you saved us all. That's what happened in the forest wasn't it. You thought if Tom killed you it would all end. But a miracle happened and you lived. And now we are together. Is that what you want, for us to be together?" she asked, hoping she was not pushing him so hard he would leave her again just like he did six years ago when he did that to 'protect her' as he called it at the time.
"Yes it is Ginny. More than anything."
"And here you are saving me again, this time from myself. Just yesterday Gwenogg yelled at us saying the beaters needed to work harder because, and I quote, 'those aren't bouquets of roses flying around'. How's that for coincidence?"
"I guess it is pretty funny at that" he answered, his head on her shoulder for a change. "Shall we return to your team? I will inform your owner I am ready to meet you on the pitch" he replied, kissing her as passionately as she did last night when she was trying to convince him to let her stay.
Ginny flew back down to the pitch to meet with her team. They were clustered in the center awaiting her. "Is he all right? He looked pretty upset" asked their reserve seeker Camille Greenhill.
"Yes. He was worried he didn't react quickly enough. Gwenogg I am so sorry, and after you lectured us yesterday' replied Ginny.
"You should have seen how fast he moved Ginny! It was like 'the King' was in slow motion. His wand appeared in his hand out of nowhere and whatever spell he used made the bludger stop dead. Making it transform was very romantic" added a very jealous Belinda.
"Yes it was wasn't it" she said smelling the fresh flowers she was holding. "He and 'the King' are coming down here."
"I see them. With his tuxedo on you can't see what kind of shape he is in. I wonder if he was born that way?" wondered Analise.
"No he wasn't" she told the rest as she studied him too as he and 'the King' came up. Harry's body had matured making him several inches taller than when he left, putting him at about 5' 9" now. His shoulders had broadened and the muscle tone showed through the tight fitting emerald green shirt he was wearing. She couldn't help but notice the way her team was staring at him, and he did too blushing slightly.
"Good Afternoon Ladies" he said to them. "Mr. Holyhead and I were watching your practice and I was very impressed. Miss Jones you have a fine team."
"Thank you Harry" responded 'the King' before Gwenogg could answer, always possessive about it being 'his team'. "Ladies Harry has told me that we will have record heat today. Since we got an early start and things went so well maybe we can take the rest of the day off."
"Thank you Mr. Holyhead" replied Gwenogg still wanting to practice more.
The other members of the team were whispering behind her. "Ginny are you sure?" asked Valmai.
"Absolutely. He can use it right now" she answered.
One by one each woman gave Harry a hug to thank him. Last was Ginny, and Harry was facing away from the group when she did hers. "Are you OK? she asked her face full of concern. She used her sleeve to wipe away his tears as she held him.
"Yes. Sorry. It's just you care about each other so much, like you are a Family" he answered with his eyes still closed.
"Which you are now a part of too. They can see how much you care Harry. In a way this reminds me of the DA. How you inspired us to do better. I see good things happening from now on."
"So do I Ginny. Especially if we can be together. Do you want to stay with me tonight?"
"Not just tonight" she whispered as she kissed him for the first time in front of her team. Holding hands they turned around and went back to speak with their team.
"Ladies I am sorry I got so emotional. It is just that love has been missing for a long time in my life, and to see it so freely expressed brings tears to my eyes. But now I have a treat for you. My people wished to do something special for you today and prepared lunch for you. It will be here in" he pulled out his pocket watch to check "45 minutes. Is that enough time? I'm sure as beautiful as each of you are no more than five minutes is necessary if at all ... "
Ginny playfully punched him in the shoulder as she kissed him again. "I can't speak for everyone but this 'beautiful lady' can use the time. See you at 1." She kissed him again and left with her team, still whispering about her Harry as they went into the locker room. They peeled off their practice uniforms (it was already very warm outside) and went to enter the showers when they stopped.
"C'mon guys let's go" Ginny said from the back of the line.
"Someone was here while we were gone" Tracy said from the front.
Ginny slid past the other women to see that 'someone' had indeed been in there. Where once was a large tile floor with 12 shower heads and no privacy now stood 12 individual spaces. A small bench and several shelves containing luxurious towels in the Harpies colors was on one side and a robe in the same colors with their initials monogrammed with the Harpies logo under it was hanging on the other. An opaque glass door hid a separate shower area set up just like at Harry's home. Ginny explained how it worked as she waved her hand up and down showing how to adjust the speed of the water, and from side to side the adjust the temperature. Also inside were two shelves filled with an assortment of scented soaps and shampoos.
"And how do you know how this works?" Gwenogg teased Ginny..
"Never you mind how I know. We need to get moving because I know you won't want to get out after the water turns on and I don't want to keep him waiting."
"Ginny the way he looks at you I think he would wait forever. I know if he did things like this for me I absolutely would" added Wilda. Each woman stepped into their area and climbed in, understanding what Ginny meant.
Ginny cast a silencing charm over her space when she begin crying. "I don't deserve this. After the way I treated him, driving him away" she said as she slid down the wall in the corner. A tiny flash of light made her look up. Her heart shaped necklace, which she only took off when she took a shower or to sleep at night, was reflecting the soft lights overhead. She climbed back to her feet and felt it to be very warm even though the water was not hitting it. She held it against her heart, thanking GOD for bringing Harry back to her. Her mind went back to her 17th Birthday Party. Hermione had reluctantly brought this out, saying Harry had trusted her to hang on to this for him so it didn't get lost in Ron's room somewhere. "He found it in a small shop in Diagon Alley. It's goblin made and centuries old. A legend is associated with it. Something about 'As Time Goes By your love will become stronger'. I can't find out anything more. He's not here with us but I'm sure he would want you to have it today." Inside a rectangular black velvet box was a silver heart hanging on a silver chain. It was about an inch across and one half inch thick. She took it out to examine it more closely attempting unsuccessfully not to cry. "Go ahead. Kiss it" Hermione instructed.
Ginny looked at her then complied. When she did the necklace became warm and then opened. Inside it was a picture on the left hand side. She touched it and it expanded showing it to be their first kiss after she caught the snitch against Ravenclaw. In the opposite side was a note.
I love you. I hope you never get tired of hearing me say it because I will never get tired of telling you.
There are so many things I want to say I don't know where to start. The first one is that we should not have broke up. I was such an idiot to think doing that would protect you. We made no secret of being a couple last year so it wouldn't have made any difference. In retrospect I think it would have helped us both. I wanted you with me so badly, especially during the really difficult times. So much took place you missed but I am promising you to tell you everything. Ron and Hermione were there for most of it but not all, and I need to fill them in too. But first you deserve to hear it. Not an edited version but all of it. No lies, and no more secrets.
One thing that did help us was something my Dad, Sirius, and Remus made. It is called the Marauder's Map. It shows all of Hogwarts and where every student and teacher are. At night I would get it out and search for you. I would be so scared until I found you. I would tell you where we went each day, as if you had just gotten home and I was telling you about my day. Unfortunately I saw some of the dots disappear. I hope that doesn't mean what I think it did. When you are ready I want to hear all about it.
I hope I haven't pestered you too much this summer. I love you so much, and I know it hurt you being left out. As if I thought you were incapable or unwilling to help. I know that is not the case and would have gladly come if I asked. If we have talked about this by now then thank you. If we haven't I want you to know I am ready and willing to do so any time day or night.
One final thing about the necklace. I bought it at a small shop in Diagon Alley run by Griphook's cousin. He is the goblin we saved when we escaped Malfoy Manor. That won't make much sense if we haven't talked about that part yet. I bought it for you partially because of the 'G' on the front and partially because of the legend which came with it. This has a 'flesh memory' attached to it. Do you remember the snitch Dumbledore left me? The one from my first Match? It had something inside it that, well, made a difference. It hurts too much to think about it but I know I have to face it. I think once I tell you about it (and Hermione and Ron) maybe I can put it behind me.
Anyway the locket. Gornuk (Griphook's cousin) told me to kiss it and if it was meant to be mine it would open. I did and it did. Two compartments were inside. I placed in it a copy of the picture of our first kiss. The picture shrunk itself and changed shape to fit. The locket also became warm, like it was resting on my heart.
That is where you are Ginny is in my heart. No matter what happens, no matter where we are, we will forever be together. And if something terrible should happen the locket will bring us back together. That is what the legend says and I hope it's true.
I asked Hermione to see if she could find out anything else about it like who it was made for. I want to think it has something to do with Godric Gryffindor or one of his descendants.
The longer Ginny held the locket against her the warmer it became. Memories began to surface of places she had never been. With a start she realized she was seeing through Harry's eyes. He was walking through a forest. Two shadowy shapes were on either side but his face did not turn so she couldn't see who they were. As he approached a clearing they vanished. She felt him stuff his invisibility cloak and his wand inside his shirt and he stepped out. Facing him was Voldemort and a crowd of black clothed Death Eaters. They were laughing at Harry as he stood there. Voldemort was strutting back and forth in front of him, gesturing in his direction. Images began to appear in Harry's head of their school mates and her Family. She saw her younger self kiss him and realized it was their first kiss in the Gryffindor Common Room. A flash of green light happened and she felt a hand on her shoulder.
"Ginny are you all right? I kept calling you but you didn't answer" Tracy asked concern in her eyes. She found herself standing in the middle of the shower holding the wall with her left hand and pressing the necklace against her chest with her right. She was breathing hard and feeling light headed as Tracy wrapped her robe around her and guided her to the bench.
Valmai pressed a glass into her hand and she drank the cold water from it. "Thanks. I don't know what happened. I saw ... something ... I'm not sure what" she said beginning to forget like it was a dream. "What time is it? Oh my GOD we have to get moving!!" She and the rest of the team rushed to their lockers and were surprised again. Their practice robes were cleaned and hanging up ready for the next time. Hanging in front of them were spring dresses in pastel colors. Matching sandals and purses were on the seat in front. Ginny's was a rosy shade of pink. She avoided any version of pink at all costs thinking it clashed with her hair, but since Harry had obviously chosen this one especially for her she slipped it and the shoes on.
"Ginny you should wear pink more often" Analise told her. She had on a pale yellow dress which enhanced her short black hair.
"Thanks. You look good too. All of you" she replied.
"I feel like a Princess" Catherine Gibson added.
"Harry told me yesterday we are all Princesses and should be treated that way" she replied.
"I wonder if he gives lessons? My Stan can learn a thing or two from him" stated Tracy.
"Yes he does. Or at least he used to. But that was a long time ago" Ginny cryptically answered, again causing the whispering to start anew. "And I have no interest in making him wait ever again."
"Then you go first. He will only have eyes for you anyway" stated a jealous Melinda Gadwell.
* * *
Harry was putting the finishing touches on setting the conference table for 14. Normally this was used for strategy sessions or to repair uniforms. This time it was transformed into a table befitting royalty. Pearly white linens covered the top, and a napkin matching their dress color was set at each place. Crystal goblets to be used for water were there for each along with smaller glasses for wine. China plates with a picture of the bouquet of red roses and sterling silver rounded out each setting.
The roses Ginny caught were the centerpiece, and candles like those used at Hogwarts floated above them. In the corner an enchanted piano was playing softly. Another table was along the wall decorated the same functioning as a sideboard. The food was laid out on it, charmed to keep it warm.
Ginny hesitated before opening the door. "How do I look?" she asked Tracy.
"Stunning. Now get in there before we run you over to get him for ourselves" she replied as she hugged her. "We'll give you a couple of minutes."
The door swung silently open as Ginny touched it. In front of her was Harry back in his tuxedo, this time with his white shirt replaced by one matching her dress. She could hear the music playing and smell the incredible meal, but her senses were focused on him. Lightly she ran across the room and jumped into his arms, swept away by not only who he was but the man he had become.
"Harry I love you!! None of us deserve all this" she said after hungrily kissing him.
"Ginny you and all the rest of the ladies do, and it is high time you received it. I believe your friends will be joining us shortly?"
"Yes they wanted to give us a minute." A collective gasp was heard behind her as the Harpies entered. Harry greeted each, kissing their hand and guiding them to their designated seat. The last one was Ginny, and he knelt next to her to place her napkin on her lap. He smiled up at her whispering 'one day' before standing.
"Ladies thank you for allowing me to do this. It is because of all your hard work and determination we are together today. You should be proud of yourselves being League Champions two years in a row." Four bottles of sparkling white wine uncorked themselves making them jump and laugh at the same time.
"Harry we are grateful. I apologize for being detained. It seems the responsibilities of owning a team never ends" Evander stated as he entered, taking the empty seat at the end of the table opposite Gwenogg. She wanted Harry to take it but he refused, whispering 'I know who the real boss is' as he held her seat for her.
The Harpies rolled their eyes as Harry held out his hand and the centerpiece came to him. "Today we were very fortunate. Ginny might have been seriously injured. We all need to be more careful. Life is too short to take things for granted" he said looking at each. As he did this single roses broke away from the ones he was holding and drifted to them. It transformed to match their dress color and landed in a bud vase in front.
"Ginny I am so sorry. It seems my math is bad. It is a good thing I do not have the kind of job which requires me to count" he said to their laughter. The five roses left in his hands changed to match the color of her dress and settled into a larger vase in between them. "Perhaps we can share them?"
"Forever" she whispered as she kissed him, understanding his 'accidental' math problem. 'One rose for every year we have been apart' she knew he meant.
Baskets of warm fresh bread floated over accompanied by sweet butter. Two terrines followed, scooping out their meal into large bowls.
"Mr. Harry what is this?" asked Amanda the youngest member. In her case she disliked her first name choosing to use her middle one of Gail instead.
"Miss Peterson it is called Coq au Vin. Or chicken cooked in wine with mushrooms, onions, and garlic. My version is done with the white wine you are drinking to make it lighter with the intense heat outside."
"Harry I want to thank you for this and for your caring so much for my team" Gwenogg turned to tell him. In her locker he had a note outlining his idea, so she would not think he had any ulterior motives. She raised her glass to him "To Mr. Harry James. We cannot thank you enough."
"To Mr. Harry James" echoed the team, including Mr. Holyhead. 'What luck!! To have Gringotts want to become part owners too. And they settled on a small percentage, so I can breathe easier with Harry later'.
"Do you mind my asking a question?" asked Wilda Griffiths.
"Not at all Miss Wilda" Harry replied as he ate.
"You are an incredible chef. How did you learn this?"
"It is a long story. When I was young my Family 'encouraged' me to cook which I did from an early age."
Ginny shifted in her chair to position her leg against his. She knew he was forced to cook for the Dursleys, which were his Mother's Sister's Family. If his Aunt was not such a fanatic about cleaning he probably would have had that to do too.
"I spent a year researching recipes, and then travelled to America. It is a wonderful place ladies. The 'melting pot of the World' I believe it is called. I went from city to city oftentimes working at famous restaurants. But the best ones were the old fashioned kind run by Families. One in New Orleans inspired me to create this one. They have a large French community and are happy to share ideas."
'OK so 'researching recipes'? I doubt that Harry. No I bet this is when you left. The only researching I can see you doing is for your magic.'
"Mr. Harry can I ask you a personal question? You are in, well, really good shape" asked one of the reserve beaters Belinda Garson as she blushed.
"How do you do it, and are there any more like you?" wondered Amanda Peterson the youngest member.
Harry blushed himself before responding. He felt Ginny become more tense with each question. "Miss you flatter me!! Many of those who spend their time in the kitchen tasting their cooking forget it can add up. In my case I have been fortunate not to fall into this trap. I compensate by walking or running early each morning. It clears my head and puts things in perspective to start the day."
"No offense but it can't be just running" stated Valmai.
"True. I also do some minor exercises too. The year I spent doing my research was a difficult one. To help me I began to exercise regularly. One of the things I did was, believe it or not, chopping wood. A lifelong friend of the Family was with me and suggested I do this to get my mind off things and it helped. We were staying in a small place in Northern Scotland which was heavily wooded, some of which had been destroyed but the giants Voldemort brought with him.
But it did not help completely. I was at the Battle of Hogwarts and arrived late to the action. Many people around me were injured and I did what I could to help. Even though Voldemort was killed so many brave people died too. I became a lost soul and retreated into myself. I owned a small piece of property near the school and went there, blaming myself for so many things. In time I learned not to do this and focused on my research, striving to become a better person so that one day I might return to the ones I left behind."
"How sad Mr. Harry. Did you have Family in England? I know you mentioned the ones you grew up with" asked Melinda Gadwell the reserve seeker.
"And what about your magic? Mr. Holyhead told us he had never seen a talking Patronus before." wondered Bertha Glover.
"Most of the magic I have learned has been self taught or with the aid of my best friends." Harry felt Ginny's nails digging deeper into his hand under the table. "And in response to your other question I do. Most of them I lost during the confrontations with Voldemort. A wonderful Family took me in. Six brothers and two sisters. They are the kindest, most loving people I have ever known. I owe everything to them."
"Excuse me" Ginny said as she quickly got up and went into their locker area, holding her rose colored napkin tightly.
Harry got up to follow her but he stopped when Tracy spoke. "Let me please" she said as she went after Ginny.
"Ladies I realize I made a terrible mistake. Do any of you know what today is?"
"Yes. May second. Why?" asked Catherine.
"The second of May. It was five years ago today the Battle was fought. I know Ginny lost her brother that day, and she knows I also lost ... well ... my innocence. Nothing has been the same ever since. I am such a fool for speaking of those things in front of her on this day of all days. And to compound things my hand must have caught on something under the table. Ginny's hand was wrapped also, suggesting the same thing."
"Harry go ahead now. Ginny is asking for you" Tracy said when she came back in. He excused himself too and went into their changing area to find Ginny sitting on her trunk in front of her locker. In her hands were a cloth with a bottle of Dittany.
"Your hand" she said not looking up at him.
'This isn't good' he thought as he sat next to her. She examined the palm of his left hand first, turning it over to see the cuts caused by her nails digging into the top of his hand. She poured some of the brownish liquid on the cloth and began to gently dab the places he was bleeding. "I love you" he stated.
"I love you too Harry" she quietly said still not looking at him.
The awkward silence continued for several more moments. "Shall I ask if Moaning Myrtle is available?" he gently teased.
Ginny blushed a tiny bit and rested her head on his shoulder. "Talk to me" she whispered.
"About that year? When I left I went to Grimmauld Place. Kreacher was there. Somehow he knew I was coming. Hermione, Ron, and I spent some time there and cleaned it up quite a bit. He did even more but I didn't notice at the time. I went into the room Ron and I shared and locked myself away. For over a week I did this. What got me out was Kreacher. He asked me if I thought you would want me to do this. I knew he was right, and the next day we went to Gringotts. Through his contacts there he knew there were problems but we had a plan. We went there and met with Griphook and the Officers of the Bank. They didn't believe my story but we were prepared. Sirius had a pensieve which Kreacher brought. I extracted my memories of what we discussed at Shell Cottage, and what occurred in the Bank. The goblins understood why we misled them, and saw how we kept our word concerning the Lestrange Vault. Did Ron and Hermione explain this?"
"Yes Harry they did. But it was their point of view not yours" she replied. Harry saw she kept her eyes closed, holding the damp cloth over his hand to help him heal.
"Anyway they agreed under the circumstances we did the best we could. I had access to my Vault again, plus the one Sirius left me. It contained things belonging to him and my parents. One of them was the keys to an old farmhouse on the outskirts of Hogsmeade. It is disillusioned so no one can see it. That is where we went and lived for over a year."
"Can I see it?" Ginny wondered.
"Of course. When you want to we can go there. It is very small, almost like a cottage. Two bedrooms are upstairs, and downstairs is one big room that works as both a kitchen and a living area. One wall is lined with books. I discovered ones written by a distant ancestor of mine. Paulina Marie Potter. She wrote cookbooks and taught at Hogwarts. Times being different apparently the classes were too. So I read and tried all her recipes, and studied all the ones about magic."
"And the chopping wood part? Your hands are too smooth."
"All true. At least one hour a day, more if I had a really bad night. We used it to heat the house. As the Holidays approached I began to get lonely. Kreacher arranged a meeting at Hogwarts with Headmistress McGonagall and Minister Shacklebolt. Both were very concerned and as glad to see me as I was them. But I also had two other reasons. The wand Tom had was Professor Dumbledore's. He stole it and I wanted to put it back. That was part of why I wanted to go when the school was empty. The three of us went late at night and sealed the tomb afterwards. We used a charm I found, saying it simultaneously. It fused the stones into a solid block, preventing anyone from disturbing him ever again."
"Harry I'm surprised they let you leave knowing how everyone was looking for you."
"They could see how badly I was still hurting but that I was improving. And there was another reason. Remember before how Ron and I had talked about becoming Aurors?"
"I do. He is one right now and so was Neville. But Ron is thinking of quitting to work with George."
"Kingsley told me. I said yes I wanted to be one, and he gave me all the training manuals. And Professor McGonagall gave me the seventh year textbooks so I could finish."
"And did you? Ron and I didn't go back. Only Hermione did."
"Yes I did. Every day I studied and eventually took my NEWTS. I received an 'O' on every one, and eventually passed the Auror classes too."
"I'm glad you weren't alone. Was Kreacher a big help?"
"Yes he was Ginny. He helped me to understand how the spells worked. That's why you haven't seen me use my wand much. My magic is more focused now."
"We saw that with your patronus. It stunned everyone, especially 'the King' who insisted it was impossible."
"Nothing is impossible Ginny if you believe. I have learned that the hard way. But now we are together again, and nothing will keep us apart."
While he was talking Harry let his head rest against Ginny's. She had her right hand on his left, still covering it with the cloth. His right hand was now on top of her left, which was holding her necklace. She lifted the cloth off and gasped. Not a trace of the cuts were to be found.
"Ginny do you see what the power of love can do? The prophesy that was said about me, which was broken that night at the Ministry? Part of it was 'He Shall Have Power the Dark Lord Knows Not'. That is what saved me in the forest, and that is what healed my hand. Your love for me, and mine for you."
"This is amazing Harry. There is no evidence of how I hurt you."
"And that is because you didn't. Yes I was bleeding, but you did not do this on purpose. That means everything, the intent behind our actions. Because you felt badly, and wished it did not happen, it is like it never happened. That is how love works. It's how I survived that night. Your love for me, and the love another person had."
"Another person? Who? Was it Cho?"
"No Ginny. Cho is a part of my distant past. You are part of the present, and the only one I want in my life in the future. What I am talking about is someone else. She lied so that I would live, and her lie saved us all."
Ginny sat up straighter to look at him. "Harry I don't understand. Who is this that lied for you?"
"Narcissa Malfoy Ginny. Tom thought I was dead and made her check to see if it was true. She told him I was, and he forced Hagrid to carry me to show all of you. Her goal was to find her Son who she loves. That was the big reason why I came to Hogwarts. I wanted Kingsley to know what she did for me. I wrote out a statement and it was used for their trials."
"Harry even my Dad doesn't know that. The Prophet reported she was being released for time served, which turned out to be around 9 months. Draco too. They don't go out much."
"That was Kingsley's idea. Over time I hope they will. Maybe when I return to visit England I can go see her."
"I hope you can soon Harry. My parents miss you terribly."
"I miss them too, but I'm not ready yet. I need to do this one step at a time. The biggest and most important one has taken place. I love you Ginny."
"I love you too Harry. Should we go back in now?"
"You go ahead. I have to get this deal done with 'the King'. I'm sorry but I can't stand the man. Could you please ask him and Gwenogg to join me in his Office down the hall? I want us out of here as quickly as possible."
"Me too." Ginny kissed him again, thankful she did not hurt him. She went back into the conference room and found her team waiting to finish their lunch. She saw how none had eaten since she ran out, which moved her deeply. "Mr. Holyhead? Harry asked for you and Gwenogg to join him in your office. He wishes to finalize your agreement."
"Thank you Miss Weasley. Miss Jones it is not necessary for you to come" Evander said in a haughty manner.
"Mr. Holyhead Harry specifically said for her to. I think before he does talk there is something I forgot to mention to him. If you will wait a moment please" Ginny said as she got back up.
"Wait Miss Weasley" he answered holding up his hand. "Mr. James is an extremely busy man. Perhaps Miss Jones and I can discuss things with him first?"
"Of course Mr. Holyhead. What I wished to say can wait" she replied barely keeping from smiling at him.
They found Harry waiting in the Office, admiring the championship trophy. "Harry I am glad we can get this finished today" Evander told him as he and Gwenogg entered. He sat behind his massive desk which he brought everywhere they went. It made him feel superior sitting behind it. "Harry here are the financial papers you requested."
"Thank you Evander." He tapped them with his wand and they duplicated themselves. The second copy then transformed into a paper airplane and went into the floo where it vanished. He left the remaining copy untouched on his lap. "I asked my accountant to look at these so we can be discussing other things at the same time."
"Of course Harry. Excellent idea" Evander replied, now a little scared since the papers were being read by someone who can see the way he hid some additional expenses he charged the team for.
"Merci. I have many things to do which I have postponed so we can finalize things. Miss Jones thank you for coming. I do wish to ask you a number of things which are extremely important. Tell me, now that the season is officially over how do you rate your team? They do seem a little tired."
"Mr. James I am very proud of them. We overcame many obstacles with injuries earlier in the year."
"And you both should be. Can we discuss each player individually? Evander I'm sure you will be interested in this too since as you said earlier with all the responsibilities involved in running at team you are unable to spend the time with them you wish you could."
Gwenogg barely kept from grinning. Evander Holyhead was notorious for not attending practices. He made it to their matches, usually accompanied by people he was trying to impress. Especially this season since they had won the previous year. "Please call me Gwen. Each member has their own strengths and weaknesses." One by one she broke each one down, being as truthful as she could.
"And yourself? How do you rate your job as a player and coach?"
"I believe I am doing a good job. Sometimes it is difficult in the middle of a Match, but our chasers work well together. We rotate who is calling the plays, and can misdirect the other team since they do not know who is in charge each time."
"Brilliant strategy. I commend you for it. Don't you Evander?" Harry wondered, catching their coach yawning.
'What??? Oh yes Harry. Brilliant. Did you see your papers have returned?"
"Yes, but Gwen was talking and I wanted to give her my undivided attention" he replied, successfully spearing him again. He reached over and accepted the response from 'his accountant' which was Emile who looked at everything before Harry acted.
"Hmmm" he stated several times as he looked at the response.
As you guessed everything is not here. He is hiding how all the money is spent.
Harry closed his eyes for a moment, pretending to think. It was more so to help him with a headache which came on every time he had to talk to this pompous man. "A few things seem to be missing. Their salaries for example. Do you have those with you?"
Reluctantly Evander opened his desk and pulled out the list, plus a breakdown of other expenses. Harry copied and forwarded these, keeping the old copy open for him to see. "All right then. Player expenses 200,000 galleons last year. Most of which I see was salary. Additional ones, another 200,000. No papers explaining those."
"In my Office at home. I'm sorry I must have forgot them" Evander replied now sweating. "I promise to have them tomorrow."
"Good. We can sign things then. Here is what I propose. First I pledge not to take a salary for at least three years. Ginny made a guess of this being aprox. how long it will be until things improve, and to be honest it may take longer. Gwen what is your opinion?"
"You may be right Mr. James. If you two can afford not to the money can be used to benefit the fans. The happier they are the more likely they will attend future matches."
"Gwen please call me Harry. Evander I congratulate you. She has good insights, looking at this from a fan perspective. Are you willing to agree to my suggestion?"
Evander hesitated for a fraction of a second before agreeing. 'There goes my mistresses'. "Harry I do. In fact it can be publicized for the good of the team we are doing this."
"It will draw attention to the sport, especially with it being the off season. However, and I cannot stress this enough, I do not want my name or picture used in any way. My privacy is very important to me.
But back to business. Your initial proposal two years ago called for 100,000 galleons for a 10% interest. The second one was 150,000 and 25%. Both are unacceptable. My offer is for 250,000 and 50%."
Evander's face grew red. 'I just sold 10%! That would leave me with only 40%'. "Harry my friend I don't know. Can we discuss other things while I think on it?"
"Certainly. In the player's contracts when is it scheduled for practice to begin for the Fall Matches?"
"It says we can add them at any time ... " sputtered Evander.
"That is not what I asked. If the extra Matches were not happening when would they start?"
"Harry it is September first just like at Hogwarts. The first Match is October first against Kenmere."
"Thank you Gwen. Now these others. The first one is I believe on June 15th and the last one is August ninth. Am I correct?"
"Well actually Harry we might have more" stammered Evander.
"What do you mean we might have more?" Gwen asked, shooting daggers at him.
"More teams want to play us. So four more, the last being on August 31st."
"Evander that is unacceptable. Are you asking for a mutiny? How can you expect these ladies to perform under those conditions?"
"Their contract says ... "
"I don't give a damn what their contract says !! Do you want them to repeat as champions?"
"Of course I do Harry!"
"Then that cannot be. As it is you are asking them to sacrifice their time off just to make you more money. To play or practice for almost two years straight! Mr. Holyhead I am very close to walking out right now!!!" Harry began to get up.
"Harry maybe a compromise can be reached. Mr. Holyhead you said you were thinking about these extra Matches. Have you signed anything yet?" Gwen nervously wondered. She wanted to give them a way to make this work.
"No Miss Jones. Tomorrow I am Meeting with them in my Office in London."
"So you aren't going to be here tomorrow to watch us practice?" a frustrated Gwen asked.
"I'm sorry no Miss Jones. I have some personal business to attend to today. I will be back in three or four days."
Harry was livid listening to this hypocritical man. He was using Legilimency on him and discovered he was only headed back to meet up with his favorite Mistress. The Meeting was a cover in case his wife wondered where he was. Harry began swearing loudly in French. "IDIOTE!! STUPIDE!! MINUA!! FILS DE UNE ...
* * *
When Gwenogg and Mr. Holyhead left the Harpies began to discuss their Families and how much they missed them. "Hey at least we have a month off" said Camille.
"My Brother is getting married on my Birthday, two days after the last Match. Sometime I have to get home and try on dresses" Ginny told them.
"So Hermione is settling for Ron?" joked Tracy.
"Yes. I tried to talk her out of it but she says she loves him. They have lived together for 4 years and think it's about time. I'm the Maid of Honor."
"And who is going to be ... ". Wilda's question was interrupted by the room violently shaking, and Mr. Holyhead came back in.
"Miss Weasley Mr. James suggested I look at the shower area. Can you help me please?"
"Yes Sir" she consented, unsure of why Harry wanted her to do this. He was shaking he was so scared as she demonstrated how the new system worked. When finished he was sitting on one of the benches, so she guessed he wished to talk.
"Miss Weasley I have made a horrible mistake. Two actually. First I said I will be gone for several days on personal business. Miss Jones did not take kindly to that."
"I can see why. We are forced to stay but you can leave."
"Precisely. The other one is worse. More teams want to play us and I have tentatively agreed. This would fill the Month of August leading up to starting practices back at home."
"Mr. Holyhead you are lucky I don't have my wand right now!!!" she growled.
"I know. Mr. James is so upset he can only speak in French. Miss Jones suggested I leave while she tries to calm him down. Plus she wanted to look at his hand. Maybe that will distract him? I am afraid the deal is off."
"You better hope it is. International Quidditch rules state mandatory time off every 30 days. We shouldn't be here right now."
"I know. It's just that I'm desperate. Can you help? Please?"
"I will try, but I don't speak French. If he is that mad it might be too late" Ginny replied, thanking Harry for stopping what amounts to slavery (or stupidity) on his part.
* * *
Gwenogg Jones, Captain of the Holyhead Harpies, sat patiently while Harry yelled until he was out of breath. "Do you feel better now?" she asked.
"No. He is an idiot in any language. How can you work for him?"
"Because we have contracts. We can't go to another team until they are over. So we make the best of it."
"I am sorry. In my mind this mounts to slavery. And to make matters worse this 'your contract states' ... and I'm off to London to visit people while I leave you to push yourselves to the point of exhaustion. Look what almost happened to Ginny!"
"True. Her love for you affected her judgment."
"Touché. So changes begin now. Are you willing to accept what I am offering?"
"Only if you can tell me why you are doing it."
"Gwen you are an asset. One of the best examples in recent history of what a person can do if they work hard. I want you to have a stake in what happens from here on out. You have my word I expect nothing in return, other than you continuing to do the job to the best of your ability."
"Then Harry I accept. I have always dreamed of this. Maybe one day it will be my team."
"Gwen for all practical purposes it is. Now I hear Ginny coming. This is secret. No one must know."
"Yes Sir" she responded as the door opened.
Ginny was worried for Harry. In the past he had issues controlling his anger, sometimes letting unintentional magic happen. She felt the building shake, indicating this may have happened. "Are you OK?" she wondered as she came in.
"Magnifique now that you are here. Miss Jones and I were debating which was worse, a flobberworm or 'the King'."
"It's a tie" Ginny said relieved Harry was not still screaming mad. "He said you were upset."
"Upset? No upset is when I can't find the peppercorns for steak au poivre. I came close to leaving. The only thing which stopped me was it would mean that I was walking out on you which is something I promised myself I would not do ever again."
"Good. You promised me that, and I am going to hold you to it. What happens next? Do you want to wait and talk to him tomorrow?"
"No. That would just drag this out even longer. Despite what he thinks we all have lives outside of Quidditch. Ladies shall we return?"
Evander Holyhead was playing with what was left of his lunch. He looked up when he heard the door open and was relieved to see three people walk in. All were stone faced, which made him even more apprehensive. "So I take it out deal is off" he sighed.
"Not yet Mr. Holyhead. Ginny and I have convinced him you are a reasonable man and are willing to compromise" Gwenogg told them as all three sat. Their seats were directly facing him, but at the far end of the table.
"Mr. Holyhead let me be frank. In my opinion you are treating these ladies like a set of glasses. Use them until they break and then get another one out of the box. They are not objects. They are living, breathing people whose lives are in your hands. To act as you have shows contempt both for them and yourself. Yes we can do business but it will be on my terms. If you do not agree then not only am I leaving but I will see to it that I hire every one of them as they become available and start a new team. I shall put you out of business, and your team, or what is left of it, will become the laughing stock of the Quidditch World !!!"
Evander Holyhead was not used to being talked to like this. He, and the rest of the people in the room, felt the power radiating out of Harry. Plates and cups were rising off the table. He saw Ginny place her hand over Harry's and things returned to their proper places.
"Thank you" he replied, kissing her hand. He waved his wand and the roses transformed again, this time into envelopes. "Ladies these are for you, in lieu of dessert which I suspect none of us could keep down. Two things are inside. One is an invitation to come to my club with a guest at any time. You may enjoy whatever you like. The second is if this deal does not work out it is an invitation to a try out for my new team. I cannot guarantee you a starting position, only the chance to compete for one. And to be treated better than you have been."
"Mr. Harry thank you! But what about Ginny? She didn't get a letter" noticed Yvette.
"Do you see what I am talking about Mr. Holyhead? They look out for each other. These ladies have formed a Family, and love each other. No Ginny did not get one. She knows she may come at any time, and her date is waiting for her."
"That's so sweet" responded Gwenogg. All the ladies, Ginny included, turned to glare in the direction of 'the King'. He was so overwhelmed he did not know what to say.
"So here are my terms. I will adjust the percentage I am requesting to 41%. In return you will do two things. First you will not sign to play any more Matches, and will not sign any other documents without discussing them with me first. Do you agree?"
"Absolutely" he replied, doing the math that his 49% outweighed Harry's 41%.
"Second since you are leaving the team will too. Gwen based on what I saw yesterday they are in excellent condition. The only issues I see are that they are tired and miss their Families. We have six weeks before the first Match. Can you get them ready in two weeks for it?"
"I prefer three" she answered.
'Very well then. Three weeks, so this means the next three weeks off. I feel this is fair under the circumstances, especially since you yourself will not be Mr. Holyhead. Do you agree to this also?"
"Yes" he replied, beginning to get upset at Harry for telling him how to run 'his team'.
"Now to go back to the first point again. They will have the time off after the last Match which is on August ninth until September ninth. Gwen that gives you three weeks again. Can you make this work?"
"It will be rough but we can try" she smiled, seeing how happy her players were. Ginny was holding onto Harry's hand tightly, grateful for everything he was doing.
"Very well. Then if we can meet at my club at noon tomorrow? I believe you said you were returning to your home tonight. Can I reach you there if I need to floo you for anything else?"
"Of course" Evander replied, frustrated he had to go home instead of where he originally planned.
"Excellent. Then we can draw up the papers. Ladies I see all of you brought your trunks. I look forward to seeing each of you in three weeks." One by one each thanked Harry, shrunk their trunks, and left via the floo in Evander's Office. Only Ginny, Harry, and Evander remained.
"Can I have a moment Harry?" Evander asked looking at Ginny.
"Anything you wish to say you may do in front of her. Actually I insist" Harry stated, causing Ginny to kiss him again.
"Very well then. Mr. James I am beginning to not like you. You are throwing your weight around like you own the World. I want you to know that your share will be 41%, not 51%, so I can do what I want at any time without your permission" he told Harry, trying to intimidate him.
Ginny slowly stood, her hand still on Harry's. "Mr. Holyhead no one threatens my boyfriend or any other member of my Family. Yes you are a foot taller than I am, but I survived the Battle of Hogwarts, dueling Bellatrix Lestrange and living to tell the tale!!"
"Mr. Holyhead I agree. I do not like you either. We have a business relationship, not a personal one. Our mutual goal is the betterment of the team. If that is not your goal please say so and my other plan will be in effect."
"Harry I'm sure he feels that way too. Isn't that what we were discussing when we looked at the calendar?" Ginny asked.
Evander Holyhead knew he was outnumbered. Both had brains, and Harry had the money and power to back it up. He nodded to them and left, headed home to surprise his wife who did not expect him for weeks since that is what he told her yesterday.
"Harry let's go home."
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