Quaffles and Broomsticks, Chapter 8

"And Angelina Johnson scores!" roared Lee Jordan. "90 to 20 Gryffindor."

Harry smiled as Angelina soared by the stands, pumping her fist in salute to the cheering students. Gryffindor was going wild. Even Hermione was on her feet screaming.

"We're playing really well today, aren't we?" she said excitedly.

"Yes, we are."

Angelina had turned them into a well-oiled machine for the final match of the season. Ginny marked Cho Chang closely, cutting her off and not giving her the freedom to range. The new beaters, Sloper and Kirke, were actually doing their jobs, allowing the chasers to decimate the Ravenclaw line.

Ron had found the confidence he needed too. Every time he stopped a goal, the Gryffindors sang their version of 'Weasley Is Our King,' and he pretended to conduct them.

"I'm sorry you can't be out there."

"Not your fault."

She leaned over to whisper in his ear. "At least you get to watch her."

"Shush."

She smirked. "You are smitten, Harry Potter. Don't deny it."

"I am not—smitten," he said under his breath, "and don't say another word."

Hermione giggled, a sound he had never heard her make. He shook his head. Because he was smitten, or worse. And he knew it. The little box in his robes was testament to that.

He had been carrying it with him for a week now, seeking the right moment to give it to her. Two weeks ago, he had snuck out of the castle under his cloak, Dobby covering his tracks. He found the proper store in Hogsmeade without too much hassle. The woman who greeted him was probably older than Dumbledore, and didn't seem to recognize him. He had been prepared to beg for her discretion, but it proved unnecessary.

It had taken only a few minutes to explain what he wanted, and for her to show him the various options. He paid extra for it to be ready within a week. Now it rested in his pocket, and it felt like a heavy weight.

"And Johnson scores again!" Lee yelled into the microphone. "Gryffindor leads by a hundred! Merlin, they are putting on a show today."

Harry's eyes shined with satisfaction as he watched her zoom around the pitch. He could see her smiling even from this distance. Hermione kept taking annoying little peeks at him. He tried to ignore her grin.

Angelina deserved this moment so much. He glanced up at the VIP section that contained Professors and at least half a dozen pro scouts. They were there for one reason. Why they hadn't been watching her all along, he didn't know. But now it was clear to everyone that she was special.

She scored again. The crowd roared. Harry roared with them, but it didn't quell the dull ache that was growing in his chest. This was her last game at Hogwarts. Her next would be in a professional uniform, and he wouldn't be there. The thought was almost physically painful.

He couldn't find the will to tell her how much he already missed her. He prayed the little box in his pocket would say everything he couldn't.

Every time he looked at it, he felt anguish. At first, it had seemed like a symbol of hope. An invitation. A way to express not just what she meant to him, but what she could still mean after she was gone.

But the more he held it up to the light and watched it sparkle, the tinier and more fragile it seemed. More like a goodbye than an invitation. He could they possibly remain close if she weren't at Hogwarts? They weren't even properly together now.

No matter how often his mind wrestled with the problem, he couldn't find a solution. It might be cruel to both of them to pursue anything more. Especially for her. She didn't deserve to carry his burdens any further than the castle gates. Not when she had such a bright future waiting. He would only complicate it.

And yet he couldn't bear the thought of saying those words to her.

It took another half hour for the game to end. Ginny caught the snitch from underneath Cho's nose, finally putting Ravenclaw out of their misery. It was a blow out, the biggest victory they had ever had.

The students poured out of the stands and onto the pitch in jubilation. Umbridge tried and failed to stop them. Ron was hoisted on shoulders, as was Ginny, and everyone chanted 'Weasley Is Our King' at a volume that could be heard in Hogsmeade. He hugged Angelina fiercely when he reached her, hoping his whispered 'congratulations' somehow stood out from the others.

Her face was shining with sweat and happiness. Her shoulders no longer bore the weight they had carried all year. Part of him was jealous. Not at her victory or her joy, but that he couldn't fully share this moment with her.

The flash of a picture briefly blinded him. The Gryffindor players gathered around each other, and there were more flashes. He had never felt like such an outsider looking in.

His heart seized as he realized he didn't even own a picture of her, let alone the two of them together. The thought was piercing.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

She stood under the showerhead and let the hot water cascade down her body. Everyone else had departed the locker room long ago. The party in the tower had probably already begun.

It seemed as if half the magical world had wanted to talk to her after the match. Half-a-dozen scouts took turns pitching her on the merits of their teams, pausing only to compliment her performance. She had smiled and listened, wondering why the hell they hadn't contacted her six months ago.

She was in the boys' showers rather than the girls'. She had walked in here unconsciously, laughed, and decided to stay. No one was around to catch her. No one was around to join her either.

She looked at the slick, tiled floor. The roar of the water conjured images from what suddenly seemed like another life. She could almost feel its hardness as the weight of his body pressed against hers. If she closed her eyes, she could feel the caress of his fingers on her skin.

Today had been both an ending and a beginning. Her quidditch days here were finished. She couldn't have asked for a better final match. It had been perfect. Soon Hogwarts itself would be a memory. No more parchments or books or potions. Just the freedom to fly.

She should be happy. She was happy. And yet here she was, by herself in the boys' showers, trying to ignore a growing sense of desolation.

If only she were coming back next year. Or he were two years older. And not The-Boy-Who-Lived. Then things would be so much simpler.

They would have to talk soon. But she didn't know if she could endure it. She didn't know what to say, just as she hadn't known what to say after the shock of their first time together. She only knew it would probably hurt like hell.

How could this end in anything but heartache for the both of them?

He had sustained her through the darkest time of her life, even if he wasn't aware of it. What started off as a game had turned into something she never wanted to end. Today, when he hugged her on the pitch, she had almost kissed the life out of him, right there in front of all the cameras. It had been instinctive. As if they were a couple.

She tried to push the ache of her reflections away. It was best to put things off as long as possible. That way they could enjoy the last moments of the year together. They both deserved that much.

The steam rose around her, almost filling the room. She willed it to provide her some clarity. The more she stared at it, the more it seemed like the ethereal form of her patronus was staring back at her. She closed her eyes so she wouldn't have to meet its gaze.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Her eyes scanned the party. She had decided not to drink for this one. It was her last triumph at Hogwarts, and she wanted to remember it.

The Weasleys were in fine form, even without the presence of the twins. Ron clearly reveled in the attention, perhaps a bit too much. A constant flow of drinks was pressed into the hands of the players, but she passed them along to others. She had never been slapped on the back so many times. It was growing annoying.

Her eyes met his across the room and he smiled in a way that couldn't be misinterpreted.

They met twenty minutes later in the Room of Requirement. Dobby had distracted the elf who was watching the corridor and they snuck in.

"You're a badass," he said with a grin.

Her heart swelled with his praise. "Well, no shit. You just now figured that out?"

He laughed. "You scored 140 points by yourself. That's got to be some kind of record."

"Couldn't resist showing off a little."

"I think the scouts got the message."

She pulled him into a kiss that lasted until both were panting for breath. Her hands pawed at his robes, wanting them to go away. He stopped her.

"I've got something for you."

"I know you do. I've been needing it all week."

He laughed. "Not that. Although you're going to get that too. I mean this."

He pulled a little rectangular box from within his robes, and her breath caught. Surely he couldn't mean to—no. Definitely not. Nevertheless, she couldn't stop her hands from shaking as she accepted it.

"I know Alicia got you something. I wanted to get you something too."

"You didn't have to."

"Yes, I did. I want you to remember."

Remember. The word felt like a punch in the gut. She opened the little box with trepidation. It was stuffed with paper. It parted to reveal a thin golden bracelet, so thin that it was barely visible. She held it up to the light, and noticed the four tiny charms attached to it.

It was adorned by a stag, an eagle, a quaffle, and a broomstick. Little effigies so small they were barely distinguishable from the bracelet.

"Merlin," she whispered, her eyes watering instantly.

"I know it's thin, but it's enchanted for strength. Do you like it?"

"I love it," she said, and slipped it over her wrist. It immediately resized itself, hugging her skin.

"If you don't, you can get it replaced with—"

"Shut up, Harry," she said, and pulled him into another searing kiss.

They lost themselves in it for whole minutes. It went from lusty to so soft and gentle that her knees felt like they might give way. She finally pulled away and rested her forehead on his.

"Eagle and stag, huh?"

"Yeah," he said softly.

So he felt the same thing she was feeling. Fuck. It would be so much easier if he weren't. Or maybe that would have made it even harder. She looked deep in his eyes, and saw her reflection mirrored there. She didn't dare speak the words that threatened to spill out, lest it ruin everything. A profound ache built in her chest and tears welled in her eyes again.

"Harry…"

"I know," he said, and his smile was so sad and so happy at the same time that she couldn't stand it.

She felt the tear roll down her face. He wiped it away with his thumb.

"I just wanted something that said—that said—congratulations, I guess," he said thickly. "For everything. And to say thank you, for how much—and that I…"

He trailed off, unable to find the words, and her heart skipped a beat. Please don't say them. Please. Not yet.

And yet she wanted him to say them. To upend everything.

"Come here," she whispered, and pulled him to the bed, hoping to convey with her body everything she didn't know how to say, even if she found the courage.

They made love slowly and deliberately, so slowly that it was almost mournful. She wrapped her body around his, needing to feel every part of him touch her in a never-ending embrace.

They lay together afterwards in silence, enveloped in an intimacy that felt wrong to pierce with words. She intertwined her fingers with his, a tender gesture she had never done with anyone. She brought his hand to her lips and kissed it, and for the first time noticed the marks on his flesh.

"What's this?"

"What?"

"I must not tell lies?! What the fuck, Harry? What is this?"

"Umbridge," he said bitterly.

"That bitch. Why didn't you tell me?"

"What were you going to do? Some things can't be helped."

"Oh, Merlin."

She squeezed their hands together tighter and kissed the scar, willing it to go away. But it wasn't raw or red. It was already an old wound, too deep to heal.

"I'll kill her," she said.

"Not if I get there first."

She closed her eyes and rested her head on his chest. She had almost forgotten the horrors of this year in the joy of the last month. She had escaped her jail, but Harry remained in his.

She listened to his heart beat, felt the rise and fall of his chest, and tried to think of the words that would not come. How was it that she couldn't bear to leave Hogwarts now, even as she was elated to escape it?

And soon—

She didn't finish the thought. She couldn't look him in the eye right now, or she would cry. She'd never felt so weak in her life, and she hated weakness.

She held up her wrist and examined her new bracelet. It glittered against her dark skin, subtly reflecting the light of the room.

"I'll never take it off," she said, and hoped that he understood her meaning.

She felt him sigh, but he didn't speak for a long moment.

"We need a picture," he finally said.

"What?"

"We don't have one. Of us."

"Oh. Yes, we do."

She winced when she envisioned a photo of them together, smiling and laughing. But would they be smiling? She imagined looking at it months from now. Would she feel joy or sorrow?

She sniffled and couldn't hold back a tear, even though Angelina Johnson didn't cry. They wouldn't have a moment like this next year. Only a handful remained. There were only a few weeks left of school, and they would pass in a frenzy of revision. NEWTs for her. OWLs for him.

Maybe if she pretended to be busy or oblivious, he would pretend too. Maybe they wouldn't have to talk about it. Maybe it could be postponed forever. Something deep within her ached and threatened to burst free. She stubbornly pushed it away.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Harry's next two weeks passed in a daze. There was little time for him to see Angelina, not with so much work to be done. The stress of revision was grueling, and she couldn't avoid it either. Still they found time to steal away. Their time together grew more frenzied, more lustful, more desperate.

He still couldn't find the courage to say what needed to be said. He feared what she would say in return. She had the power to undo him. He had given her that power without realizing it. Did she know that?

Her feelings seemed to mirror his. Though she didn't speak them aloud, he knew how to read her now. The last time they were together, she had worshiped his body more thoroughly than he'd ever worshiped hers. He had no doubt whatsoever that she didn't want their holiday to end.

But did that even matter? He hadn't found a way forward that was fair to her. The age difference was nothing. But could the magic they had created together survive her absence? Could owls and floo calls substitute for lying naked in her arms? Talking and laughing together on the pitch? Defying the whole castle together?

Even if they could make it work, she couldn't share his affections without also sharing his burdens. Their secret would get out. She would no longer be free. She would suddenly find herself very interesting to people who wouldn't hesitate to torture her to death. Or to use her against him.

He couldn't bring himself to be that selfish. And yet he couldn't bear to let her go.

He could scarcely concentrate on studying, but he forced himself. His sleep suffered badly. He tossed and turned, and the visions of the long, dark hallway returned with a vengeance. Hermione shot him worried looks during the day, but didn't question him. He was grateful for that, at least.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

His first OWL examinations went well, even if he could barely concentrate. Angelina's absence loomed larger than any test. By the History of Magic exam, he was exhausted. He closed his eyes only for a moment, hoping to gather his thoughts and stop the words from swimming on the page.

He somehow fell asleep. Only briefly, but it was enough. A vision assaulted him, one with implications too terrible to contemplate. He jerked awake and shouted in panic. The entire class turned to stare at him. The confused examiner rose to his feet and Harry leapt to his. He sprinted out of the room, heedless of the exam and the astonished looks that followed him.

He reached his dorm room in minutes, panting and desperate. He threw open his trunk and grabbed for his mirror.

"Sirius! Sirius! Sirius Black!"

An agonizing twenty seconds followed. The silence was deafening. Harry threw the mirror onto his bed and grabbed his invisibility cloak when the mirror finally buzzed.

"Harry?"

He gasped and fumbled for it. A puzzled Sirius stared back at him. "That you, kid? Kreacher was throwing a wobbly about something. What's up?"

"Oh, thank God."

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

She rushed towards the Hospital Wing, dread threatening to overwhelm her. She had tried to gain entry three hours ago, going so far as to interrogate Madam Pomfrey. The witch had sternly turned her away, refusing even to confirm that Harry was there.

A familiar house elf had just popped into her room. Now she was sprinting through the hallways.

She hadn't heard the story until the evening meal. She had been holed up in the library all afternoon, cramming information for her final NEWT, unaware of the chaos unfolding in the History of Magic OWL. They said Harry had experienced some sort of breakdown. That he'd rushed out of the room in a hysterical state, with Ron and Hermione not far behind. No one had seen any of them since. There were rumors that he was in the Hospital Wing, or at St. Mungo's, or even in the morgue, and she'd been heartsick with worry ever since.

She threw open the doors to the Hospital Wing without knocking, ignoring Madam Pomfrey's objections. She rushed behind a screen at the back of the room. What she found there left her blinking in confusion.

Harry was leaning against a bed with a huge smile on his face, looking happy, if not downright ecstatic.

Ron and Hermione sat on the edge of another bed and seemed to be in equally good spirits.

"What happened? What's going on?" she asked hurriedly. "They said you went crazy during your OWLs and you lot have been missing for hours."

Hermione stood and pulled Ron away, clearly wanting to give them some privacy. "We'll see you in the common room, Harry," she said.

"Okay," he called after them.

He didn't answer her at first. He just smiled and pulled her into a tight embrace.

"Harry?" she asked, now more confused than alarmed.

He released her and looked into her eyes, an almost gleeful expression on his face.

"We set a trap," he said. "Voldemort tried to lay a trap for me, to lure me to the Ministry, but we turned it around on him."

"What?" she asked, failing to understand any part of those statements.

"You can't tell anyone about this, okay? No one. Only some of it will be in the papers tomorrow."

"I won't, but I have no idea what you're talking about."

She had expected to find him injured, sick, or worse—not euphoric.

"They know he's back now," he carried on, grinning madly. "The whole world will know soon. Dumbledore dueled Voldemort right in the Ministry atrium, and forced him to flee. They captured a bunch of Death Eaters, and three of them are dead."

"What?!"

"I can't wait to tell Neville. Both of the Lestrange brothers are dead. So is some guy named Dolohov. Sirius said Moody nearly sliced him in half. Only Bellatrix Lestrange escaped with Voldemort, and she was injured so badly she might be dead now too. They captured Lucius Malfoy and a bunch of others."

She tried to process the flood of information. She didn't know who 'they' were, or what Harry meant by a trap, but it was clear that the Death Eaters just got routed. "Holy shit. So—this is great news, right? Why are you hiding out in here?"

"It was part of the ruse. It had to seem like I wasn't even in Hogwarts, and Pomfrey had to keep watch over me, because my scar—well, I'll explain later. I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. We had to wait for everything to happen. But Dumbledore is already back in his office and he fired Umbridge the moment he set foot in it. That bitch is already gone."

She stared at him in shock. "Oh, my God!"

"Oh, and he removed by quidditch ban, not that it matters at this point."

She pulled him into a hug and couldn't resist laughing. "I don't understand what the hell is happening, but congratulations!"

'And thank fucking Merlin you're alright,' she added to herself, but didn't say it aloud. A small part of her blossomed with hope. Did this mean that the threat from the Death Eaters had been crushed? That her own place in the world was suddenly more secure? That Harry's was?

She couldn't decide whether to interrogate him further or rip off his robes right there in front of Madam Pomfrey and who else might be loitering in her office. She settled for pulling him further behind the screen and kissing him feverishly.

XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO

A/N: One to go. Thanks for reading.