Dawn lay awake in her bed for a long time after returning to her room. Something evil was coming after the Key again…coming after her. The only bright side of this situation was, at the moment, the bad guys had no idea that the Key was in human form…but if the Knights of Byzantium had tracked it to Hogwarts, maybe they did know she was the Key.
When Dawn finally dozed off, her sleep was troubled by dreams. Nightmares she hadn’t had for over a year. Nightmares about Glory, and watching helplessly as she had slaughtered twenty or so Knights outside the abandoned gas station in the desert, or being tied at the top of the tower, while Doc smiled at her as his knife made shallow cuts across her sides to let her blood pour free. She relived watching Buffy jump into the portal time and again, only in her nightmares Buffy’s sacrifice hadn’t been enough.
Dawn got out of bed after nine the next morning. Hermione was already up and gone, but Ginny was still in bed, and looking like her sleep was as troubled as Dawn’s had been. Dawn didn’t wonder at that. She had been reliving the experiences of years ago, but Ginny had witnessed a man being tortured to death last night. She couldn’t dismiss it as being just a dream. They were all sure that what Ginny and the others had dreamed had really happened. Dawn left Ginny tossing in her bed while she went to have her morning shower.
Ginny was awake when Dawn came out of the bathroom. Dawn saw that she was writing in her Dream Journal again. Dawn was tempted to ask what she was writing, but she kept herself from doing so. If it was something Ginny wanted to talk to her about, she would do so. Instead Dawn started to get dressed for the day.
Ginny closed her journal and put it on her desk beside her bed. Dawn finally spoke to her. “You look like shit.”
Ginny flashed a wan smile back at Dawn. “That’s good. I feel worse.”
“Go have your shower,” said Dawn. “It’ll help.”
“You think?” asked Ginny.
“I speak from experience here,” said Dawn. “A good shower, and a good breakfast work wonders at getting you feeling human again after a shitty night’s sleep. Hurry up, I’m hungry.”
Harry was coming out of the boys’ dorms at the same time Dawn and Ginny entered the common room. He was looking like his sleep hadn’t been any better than theirs, and he kept rubbing the scar on his forehead. They went down to the Great Hall together. When they got there they saw Ron and the rest of the Quidditch team sitting a little way off from the rest of the people at the Gryffindor table.
“Er…Ginny and I really should join them,” said Harry. He looked a little guilty.
“No! Go!” said Dawn. “It’ll do you good. Get your mind off Moldywart.” She gave him a quick kiss. “I’ll see you later.” She left Harry and Ginny to go join Willow, Kennedy and Hermione.
Dawn sat down beside Willow. “So, you hear from Buffy?”
“Yes,” said Willow, “and it’s good thing she couldn’t book a flight till this evening, or she’d be half way here by now.”
“She’s coming?” asked Dawn. She wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She wanted to see Buffy again, but she didn’t like the idea her dropping everything and coming running at the slightest hint of danger, like she felt Dawn couldn’t take care of herself.
“I think I talked her out of it,” said Willow. “If she starts travelling now, she’s going to be totally out of touch for at least two thirds of a day, and the threat doesn’t seem to be very immediate.” She smiled across the table at Kennedy. “And we already have a Slayer on the scene.”
“Um…the first part of that argument was kinda self contradictory,” said Hermione. “Either the threat isn’t imminent, in which case it doesn’t matter if Buffy takes herself out of contact, or it is imminent, and she should get here as quickly as possible.”
“Yeah, I know that,” Willow smiled. “But logical thought has never been one of Buffy’s strongest traits.” She went back to eating her breakfast. “She’s supposed to join us in a chat session at one, to talk about this some more. I also want to talk to Professor Dumbledore again, see if we can arrange some magical transportation for her. If we have a way of contacting her, and getting her here quickly if anything happens, it might be easier to convince her that she doesn’t have to come right away.”
“Signalling her is easy enough,” said Hermione. “We could use something like the Galleons I charmed for notifying the DA about meetings last year. I could charm a coin so it will get warm when we need her, and display a small message.”
“I think Buffy will want something that will work, even if she’s asleep,” said Dawn.
“Maybe charm her cell phone,” said Willow. “Make it so you can call and talk to her from here.”
“Can you do that?” asked Hermione.
“Willow can do anything,” said Kennedy.
“Thanks for the vote of confidence, baby, but I’m not so sure,” said Willow. “I think I’ll have to consult with Professors Flitwick and Dumbledore about it. Assuming that will work, next we have to be able to get her here.”
“Portkey,” said Hermione.
“What’s that?” asked Kennedy.
“Magical teleportation device,” said Hermione. “You can create them to transport someone anywhere when activated. We can get Professor Dumbledore to make one that can bring Buffy here.”
“Right into Hogwarts?” asked Dawn. “I thought you couldn’t teleport into Hogwarts.”
“You can’t apparate into Hogwarts,” said Hermione. “Professor Dumbledore can make Portkeys that will transport someone here.”
“Okay, so we can call Buffy, and have a way to get her here just as quickly as she could come if she were actually staying here, so I think we can probably talk her out of coming right now,” said Dawn. “And with the cell phone thing, I’ll be able to call her up, and just talk, which will be nice too.” Something suddenly occurred to Dawn. “Wait a minute…You said the chat was at one?” Willow nodded. “That’s right in the middle of the Quidditch game!”
“Come on Dawn,” said Willow. “What’s more important? Voldemort trying to get the Key, or some game?”
Dawn pointed her thumb down the table to where Harry and the rest of the team seemed to be engrossed in a strategy session for the upcoming game. “Well, I know what they’d say.” She looked at Hermione. “Quidditch!” they said together.
“And we’re probably going to want to have Harry and Ginny in on this,” said Dawn. “Buffy’s gonna want to hear from them about their dreams and stuff, and we can’t pull them out of the game without the whole school noticing something’s up.”
Willow sighed. “Good point. Alright, I’ll send Buffy another email, arrange a different time. Will the game be over by four?”
“Probably,” said Hermione. “Can’t say for sure though. Some Quidditch games have gone on for days. The record is six months. That game wasn’t actually won by anyone: both teams just got fed up with it and quit. School games are suspended at sunset, and resume at sunrise the next day, if no one has caught the Snitch, but that hasn’t happened for years.” She glanced up at the overcast sky. “Most often long games are the result of bad visibility from rain or snow. If the rain holds off, it should be over fairly quickly.”
“I’ll make it for five then,” said Willow. “That’ll be midnight, Shanghai time. Good thing Buffy’s a night person.”
Harry was looking up too. He was having mixed feelings about the overcast sky. While he definitely preferred playing in fair weather, he knew that Malfoy really hated playing in the rain. He could put up with a little discomfort, if it made Malfoy miserable.
He turned his attention back to his teammates. “Okay, the weather looks a little unsettled at the moment, but weather is neutral, it affects both teams the same. If it does start to rain though, it’s going to make it harder for Ginny to spot the Snitch…”
It still hadn’t started to rain when Dawn settled into her seat between Willow and Hermione in the stands, but the clouds were getting darker. There was a cold wind blowing, but this time Harry had loaned her one of his Weasley Jumpers, which she was wearing under her winter cloak. Kennedy had plenty of past experience with British weather, and had made sure that Willow packed warm clothes.
Dawn raised Harry’s omnioculars to her eyes, and scanned around the pitch with them. She twiddled a bit with the knobs, learning how to control the zoom, slow motion, and instant replay features. After a bit she decided to leave most of the knobs alone, and just use them as if they were a regular pair of binoculars. Willow had Ron’s omnioculars, and was looking around in a similar fashion.
Rob Harding’s voice boomed across the pitch. “Welcome everyone to the first game of the Hogwarts’ Quidditch season! We expect to see an exciting match today between two teams with a long standing rivalry: Slytherin and Gryffindor!” A wave of cheers and boos for both teams swept through the stands.
“Today’s match is being refereed by Madam Hootch, and your humble commentator is yours truly, Rob Harding!”
Rob introduced the players for each team as they came out onto the pitch. From the level of cheering Dawn could tell that the Gryffindor team was the favourite among the crowd. Most of Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw were cheering for them, as well as all the Gryffindor students in the stands. Hardly anyone outside the Slytherin section was cheering for their team.
Dawn scanned her omnioculars across the two teams. The most obvious difference between them was the size. She guessed that the average weight of the Slytherin players was almost twice that of the Gryffindor players. Most of the Gryffindors looked tiny next to the Slytherins. Jack and Andrew were the only two Gryffindor players who came close to being the same size as most of the Slytherins.
The last player to be introduced was Draco Malfoy. He came out onto the pitch waving his broom over his head. A gasp of surprise went through the stands. Hermione worked the zoom on her omnioculars. “He’s got a Firebolt! When did Malfoy get a Firebolt?”
“Is that a bad thing?” asked Willow.
“The Firebolt is the fastest broom there is,” said Dawn. “The only other one in the school is Harry’s.”
“So this could be a bad thing,” said Willow.
“I’m not worried,” said Dawn. “Ginny’s broom is almost as good, and she’s a lot better flier than he is.”
Madam Hootch blew her whistle, threw the Quaffle into the air, and the game was on. It quickly became apparent that this would be a match of skill versus brute force. The Slytherin players seemed to be more intent on knocking the Gryffindors off their brooms than they were on actually scoring. Fortunately for Gryffindor, their Chasers were a lot more manoeuvrable than their opponents’, but there was only so much dodging of Slytherin’s Chasers that they could do. Half an hour into the game the score was 50 to 20 in Gryffindor’s favour, but the physical beating they were getting was taking a toll on the Gryffindor team. The only unscathed Gryffindor was Ginny…and it wasn’t from a lack of trying by the Slytherins.
At first Ginny had deftly dodged all attempts by the Slytherin team to ram, elbow, kick, or otherwise maim her. That ended after she saw Harry take a particularly hard hit from Crabbe, who, with Goyle, was a Slytherin Beater.
The next time Crabbe tried to hit Ginny, instead of dodging the elbow he’d directed at her face she deflected it so forcefully that he was sent spinning out of control. He barely recovered before smashing into the ground, and was left with a very sore arm. To add insult to injury, Madam Hootch called a penalty on him for his attack on Ginny, and Harry scored another 10 points when he took the penalty shot.
Malfoy had spent the game shadowing Ginny around the pitch. She knew what he was doing. He was hoping that his faster broom would allow him to dart ahead of her if she spotted the Snitch before he did. For the most part Ginny let him follow her. Every once in a while she’d put on a brief burst of speed to try to get away from him, but he was sticking to her like glue. She was starting to get annoyed with him.
Ginny noticed that Montague, one of the Slytherin Chasers, and the team Captain, had managed to get his hands on the Quaffle, and had a break away toward the Gryffindor goal hoops. She decided it was time to kill two birds with one stone. She started into what looked like another attempt to shake Malfoy from her tail.
Ginny accelerated forward, as fast as her broom would carry her. She started to dodge and weave, left, right, up and down, as if trying to escape from Malfoy, but that was really the last thing she wanted right now. She wanted him right behind her, with all of his attention focused on staying there. Her brief glances back at him confirmed that she was succeeding.
Ginny suddenly plummeted toward the ground, and Malfoy followed, just the way she knew he would. He didn’t see Montague until after Ginny had cut barely five feet in front of him, and it was too late. Malfoy smashed into Montague at full speed.
They both came off their brooms, and fell to the ground. Madam Hootch blew her whistle, halting play while Madam Pomfrey and Professor Snape ran out onto the pitch to check on the two boys lying motionless on it.
A quick examination showed that both Montague and Malfoy had been knocked cold, and had a couple of broken bones. Nothing Madam Pomfrey wouldn’t be able to fix in time to get them back to classes on Monday, but they were out of the game for today. She waved her wand to summon a couple of stretchers to take them away to the hospital wing.
Play resumed with a couple of Slytherin’s reserve players filling in for Malfoy and Montague. The new Seeker didn’t try shadowing Ginny the way Malfoy had, and the rest of the team seemed to have learned its lesson from what had happened to Crabbe. None of them were coming within ten feet of her now, though Crabbe and Goyle still shot a Bludger her way from time to time.
The loss of Montague had also taken a lot of the aggression out of the team. The Slytherin Chasers were still playing a very physical game, but they weren’t going out of their way to hit the Gryffindor players for the sake of hitting them.
The score rose to 80 to 30 for Gryffindor, and it started to rain. It wasn’t a heavy rain but it was cold. Umbrellas and umbrella charms popped up in the stands to keep the spectators dry, but there was no protection for the players. Ginny was soon soaking wet, and getting numb from the cold.
A glimmer of gold flashed in the corner of her eye. Ginny looked toward it, but it was gone as quickly as it had appeared. She wondered if she was starting to see things. She had hardly slept at all last night. It flashed again, and this time when she looked she saw it. The Golden Snitch was hovering near the Slytherin goal posts. Ginny was near centre field at the time. She accelerated down the field toward the Snitch. The rain drops started to sting as they hit her face. She squinted her eyes, trying to keep the water out of them.
A quick glance showed that the Slytherin Seeker didn’t have a chance of reaching the Snitch ahead of her, but Ginny kept pressing, not letting up at all. She bore down on the Snitch.
Slytherin’s Keeper saw her coming, and tried to move to block her, even though that would be a foul if he succeeded. Ginny dodged him easily, and snatched the Snitch out of the air. Madam Hootch blew a long blast on her whistle, signalling the end of the game. The final score was 250 to 40.
Ginny forgot about how cold she was for a few minutes while she was hugged and kissed by all of her teammates. They all went back to the locker rooms together to get changed out of their wet robes.
Nearly everyone had gone when they got out of the locker rooms. Hardly anyone had wanted to hang around in the rain. Everyone agreed that they would hold the celebration inside. The only people waiting for them when they got out were the reserve team members, and most of their close friends. Ginny got a hug and a toe curling kiss from Dean. Dean wasn’t worried about Ron’s reaction to that, since Ron was too busy being kissed by Hermione to notice what his sister was doing.
|Chapter 37: The Key||Contents||Chapter 39: Magic and Quantum Mechanics|