"I don't believe it!" he cried a second later as he scanned the short note.
"What?" said Ron through a mouthful of toast.
"I've been elected the new captain of the Gryffindor Quidditch team!" said Harry disbelievingly as he handed the letter to Ron and Hermione for them to read. "I forgot we needed a new captain since Wood left!"
"Wow," was all Ron could think of saying.
"Well done, Harry," Hermione beamed at him.
"But-but I dunno how to be a captain!" said Harry.
"Easy, just do everything Wood did," grinned Ron. "You know, work the team to death, never shut up about winning the cup, make team practices eight days a week...basically, all you've got to do is be a fanatic and you'll be fine!"
"There's a PS," Hermione pointed out. "Have you read it, Harry?"
Harry took the note back and read the last bit he'd overlooked and groaned.
"As you know, Gryffindor are a player short. As captain it will be your job to find us a Keeper.
Prof. M. McGonagall."
* * *
"Any luck?" Ron asked Harry a week later as he and Hermione entered the Gryffindor changing rooms.
Harry, sitting on a bench, with his head hung from exhaustion, shook his head dejectedly.
"It's been a week since I put that notice up on the Gryffindor notice board and I've been getting auditions every single night, but no one's good enough." Harry sighed. "And we can't afford to take on rubbishy players because we've got to win that cup!"
"Wow, you really are starting to sound like Wood!" said Ron, half joking half impressed.
"I never really realised how good Wood was until he left," Harry sighed. "There's no one left who's half as good as he was."
"Look Harry, I think you've had enough auditioning for one day," said Hermione seriously. "Come on back up to the castle and get some supper. It's getting really late."
"I'll be up in a minute," Harry said, getting up. "I just need to change out of these Quidditch robes. I'll see you in the Great Hall..."
Ron and Hermione had only been gone a minute, when there was a knock on the changing room door. Harry, who was just pulling his Hogwarts robes out of his locker, groaned and pulled the door open, rather harder than he'd intended in his state of depression and exhaustion. Standing in the doorway was one of the last people he'd expected to see at this time of night on the edge of the Quidditch pitch.
Their face was hidden in the shadows of the stadium, but there was no mistaking the long folds of fiery orange hair that fell neatly over the shoulders and back.
"Ginny?" Harry exclaimed, squinting into the shadowy doorway.
"Good evening, Harry" she replied cheerfully, but with a touch of nervousness Harry could only just make out. "I, um, I know you're in charge of the try-outs for the new Keeper and Ron said you still had no luck and I was wondering if maybe you'd give me a chance...?"
"Come in," was all Harry could think of saying. As she stepped into the lantern-lit changing rooms, Harry gave a small inward marvelling gasp. It was definitely Ginny Weasley, but there was something very different about her. Perhaps it was because he'd been denied permission by Dumbledore to visit the Burrow this past summer and he hadn't seen any of the Weasleys until he boarded the Hogwarts Express, or perhaps because he'd never really paid too much attention to her in the past, but Harry had never noticed how Ginny had suddenly grown taller, how she's lost weight, how she moved rather gracefully, how her eyes were... Harry shook himself mentally. Everyone grows up, why should Ginny be any exception? That was no reason to go getting any ideas. Besides, Harry knew how wrong it was to judge people by their looks, he'd realised just what a bad move it was once he discovered the only feelings he had for Cho was admiration for her beauty. All the same, there was something about Ginny's eyes...
"So, you want to be our Keeper then?" Harry asked with a small smile. "I didn't know you were into flying."
"Well, I love watching people fly, an I'm dying to fly properly myself, but I just really can't get he hang of it. I mean I fly around on Ron's old Shooting Star during the summer, but well, I'm nowhere near as good as y- I mean as some people are," Ginny's eyes locked on Harry's for a moment before quickly looking away. "But I thought I'd try for Keeper anyway, just in case you were really desperate," she added with a laugh.
There was something about that laugh that Harry couldn't quite shake off. He had no idea Ginny could talk so much, he'd never heard her speak so freely and it was really nice seeing this whole new side of her, as opposed to the quiet, shy, blushing Ginny he'd always known.
"Well, we are desperate, the first match of the season's next week," said Harry. "But..." Just then he felt a yawn rising inside him, which had had to work very hard to try to stifle.
"Oh, I'm sorry Harry!" Ginny said quickly. "I know you've been at this all evening. I'm sorry, that was really selfish of me...you must be exhausted."
"Nah, I'm fine," said Harry, which was mostly true - he felt a lot more awake now that Ginny was with him, though he couldn't for the life of him explain why. "Look, you're a bit late for the try-outs, our Chasers have gone back up to the castle for the evening..."
Ginny's face fell. "Oh. Well, I'll come back tomorrow, then..." though it was pretty obvious from her tone that she didn't really intend to.
"No! Don't go!" Harry blurted before he could ever begin to speculate why he wanted her to stay so much. Ginny looked at him with an expression he found hard to read. One eyebrow was slightly raised in a look of suspicious surprise, yet the corners of her mouth were raised in a small smile. "I'll tell you what, I'll give a quick flying lesson if you like."
Ginny's eyes lit up. "Now?"
"If you like."
Harry grabbed his Firebolt and held the door open for Ginny, who flashed him a grateful smile as she walked past. Next moment, they were out in the inky-black shadows of the vast Quidditch stadium. Harry was about to light the floodlights surrounding the pitch with his wand, when they flickered on themselves. Glancing to his left, he saw Ginny pocketing her wand. When she spotted him staring at her, she gave him another smile; a rather mischievous one that said "beat you to it!"
There was something about Ginny's smiles that made Harry feel... oh, never mind, he thought quickly as he automatically tried defining the effect her smiles had on him.
"Right, let's see what you've got," said Harry, handing his Firebolt over to Ginny who took it with some apprehension. "Just fly around the nearest goal hoop and come back."
With a slightly nervous look on her beautif- (stop thinking that way! Harry snapped at himself) face, Ginny clambered onto the Firebolt and kicked off. As she flew, Harry could feel the love of flying he always had, radiating from Ginny as she flew slightly awkwardly, but determinedly around the nearest hoop and landed in a slightly ungainly manner. She looked up at Harry, still clutching the Firebolt between her legs, waiting for his opinion.
Harry walked over to her and heaved his leg over the broom behind her. He then reached around her and placed his hands on hers, moving them further up the broom handle.
"You gain more control over the broom if you hold it further up," Harry explained. "And when you're turning, it helps if you tilt yourself with the broom, then when you dive lean forward, it helps the broom to change direction, especially if you're going fast."
He directed her waist in various directions as he explained about accelerating and sudden braking. After a while, he got off the Firebolt and turned to face Ginny. "So, think you've got all of that?"
Ginny grinned. "When you teach it like that, it's hard not to."
Harry struggled to define whether there was sarcasm in her comment or not. She was smiling at least, and for some reason Harry felt this was a mark he'd done a good job. After all, smiles as gorgeous as those don't come free, you know, Harry told himself, then immediately wondered why he thought so.
"Can I try flying now?" Ginny asked Harry who felt he couldn't say no, until his watch beeped o'clock and Harry was shocked to find it was ten p.m. already.
"I don't believe it!" he cried. " We should have been up at the castle ages ago! I forgot that new rule, we've all got to be in our common rooms by eight."
"Oh, yeah," said Ginny with a small groan. She screwed up her face and quoted the sign that had appeared all over the school since the Start-of-Term banquet. "New necessary safety restrictions in light of Lord Voldemort's return to power" Honestly! It's like having the Chamber of Secrets open again!"
Harry grinned, glad that Ginny shared his view then more seriously added, "If McGonagall or someone's in the Entrance Hall when we walk in, they'll have us skinned alive!"
"Time to see how well I've listened to your words of wisdom, I think," said Ginny with another mischievous grin. "Hop on, Harry."
Amazed at Ginny's outgoingness, Harry grinned as he jumped onto the Firebolt behind Ginny, who extinguished the floodlights with her wand before kicking off the ground and soaring up towards the castle. She flew perfectly, radiating that passion for flight again, which Harry spotted and felt even closer to her. They rose up over the castle walls, weaving between the towers and eventually stopped outside the girls' dormitories of Gryffindor Tower.
"Alohomora," Harry whispered and the window flew open. Ginny quickly slid off Firebolt and into her room.
"Good night, Harry," she said with her most magnificent smile yet. "And thanks."
"Anytime, Ginny," Harry grinned at her. "Good night."
Ten minutes later, Harry climbed into bed, his mind still buzzing with the evening's events. What was it about Ginny that made him feel so...strange? Light-hearted, expectant, he couldn't describe the rest. He'd never known her to have such a sense of humour, to be so sociable, to smile so much, to be so graceful, funny and posses any other of the qualities he now admired so much. There was something about her laughs, something about her smiles, something about her voice, something about her eyes...
There was something about Ginny...