He shot past her, so fast and so close that she had to steady her broom against the rush of air, but the correction took her barely a second as she sped after him, red hair streaming behind like a banner. He let out a chuckle at her approach, feigning a turn before dipping down and racing off in the opposite direction, tossing her the Quaffle over his shoulder. Ginny echoed his laughter, not even bothering with a repeat of his moves as she caught the ball, instead spinning around ninety degrees, only barely reducing her speed enough to raise above him in the air, positioning herself perfectly in front of the hoops as she let the Quaffle fly.
He pulled to a stop, giving her a moment to drop into the air beside him before tossing her a grin. She readily returned the expression, adrenaline still pumping steadily through her system as Draco swished his wand almost absently to summon the Quaffle back to him. It didn’t take very long for them to regain their breath and return to their aerial acrobatics; they had only been flying for half an hour at that point, and after nearly three weeks of early morning meetings, she was nearly as in shape as she had been when she’d played in school.
It had taken more than just their weekend sessions, however, for her to reach that point. After that first Saturday, despite the lack of pain she had felt while flying, the aching exhaustion in her body before she went to bed had clearly stated her need to get back into shape. And she had, working out every night after work, not to mention flying all the way to Death Drop and back every Saturday and Sunday to fly with the blonde next to her.
The youngest Weasley snuck a peak at her flying companion as they both sped off to the other end of the pitch, falling into one of the complicated patterns of dips and weaves he’d begun teaching her the second Saturday they’d met. It had surprised her, shocked her as a matter of fact, when he had first extended the invitation for her to meet him for his weekend practices, but she had accepted nonetheless. Perhaps it had been her reawakened interest in Quidditch, or even her newly developed interest in the young man who had invited her, she wasn’t sure. What ever it was, however, it had kept her coming back twice a week for three weeks, and led her to not only polish skills that had dulled over the last four years, but to acquire new ones.
These new skills had come as somewhat of a surprise to the redhead, not because she thought over-much of the abilities she had already possessed, but because they had been learned courtesy of a man she had only ever known as a selfish and egotistical little brat. The Draco Malfoy she had known at Hogwarts would never have taken the time to do more than insult her, let alone help her with her Quidditch skills on a regular basis. But then again, the boy she had known would never have spoken to her in a bar, bought her a birthday drink, or given her a broom worth more than she made in a year.
The changes that had been wrought on the Malfoy heir were nothing short of unbelievable. Of course, the fact that the Malfoy name had been worth more ridicule than riches since the war might have something to do with that. Now that she came to think of it, though, that fact didn’t seem to have cramped his lifestyle much. He’d given her the Firebolt 100 and bought himself a brand new 201, after all, something that would probably have been difficult without a bank account like the one he would have had before the ministry confiscated the Malfoy millions. If he had somehow managed to acquire access to said account at any point, however, the Ministry would have tracked him down long ago. So how exactly had he come into so much money the last five years?
The question festered in her mind as they ran through various passing combinations, the challenge eventually consuming her concentration until another hour had passed and they dropped down to the stands to get a drink. As they caught their breath and stretched a few tight muscles, brown eyes discretely flickered over the blond’s attire, noticing for the first time that while impeccably maintained, the clothing wasn’t, by any means, high-end. It was nice, fashionable, even flattering, but not worth much more than the few dress robes she’d seen the more socially inclined of her coworkers at the factory slip on after work. Which meant he could conceivably have little more money than said coworkers.
He obviously saved the majority of his income for Quidditch related purchases, like his broom, but being on a professional team, that hardly came as a surprise. In fact, it would make sense that the team ownership chipped in on such expenditures, over and above whatever salary they paid their players. That would certainly explain how he was able to afford the brooms without access to his ancestral money.
The matter of his finances was far from the only thing about the new Draco Malfoy that she couldn’t quite understand, however. There was another aspect of the tanned blond that she’d been wondering about since the first night in the bar, something that she simply could not leave unexamined.
“How did you learn so much about chaser strategy so quickly?”
He shrugged noncommittally, as though the inquiry needed no interest or response. Not to be satisfied, Ginny prompted him a little more. “I grew up with an older brother some considered the best chaser Gryffindor had in the last hundred years, and studied the position myself as well, and I’ve never heard of some of the things you’ve shown me. How is it that you, who was a seeker for over half of your career thus far, know so much?”
“Better books,” he said with a partly dismissive, partly questioning tone. The youngest Weasley remained silent, regarding him with plain and untainted curiosity, and after several moments of subtle observation on his part, the blond sighed and turned his gaze to the field below them.
“I’ve been studying chaser techniques since I was about seven. As soon as I saw my first game, I knew I wanted to play, and I knew I wanted to be a chaser. Beater is mainly a defensive position and looked to me more reactive than active. Keeper was much the same, and seeker seemed a little too boring to me, just floating around looking for the snitch while the rest of the team played without you. Chaser was so much more involved in the game, defensively, and offensively speaking. And it looked challenging, and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge, so I studied the pictures and diagrams until I could read the strategic texts. I was bound and determined, even back then, to be the best damn chaser in England.”
Finally turning his attention back to his companion, he paused, then answered her unspoken question with a shrug. “Father thought seeker was more prestigious, and made it clear I was to become one when had me put on the team second year. It was never my best position,” he admitted wryly, a smirk crossing his lips as he continued, “I’m much more impressive as a chaser.”
She let out a laugh at the smug expression he adopted so easily, shaking her head at the sight, putting down her bottle of water and reaching for her broom to try the maneuver they’d discussed. Before she had the chance to mount, however, she was stopped by the sound of his voice, suddenly serious and almost contemplative as he indulged his own curiosity.
“Why are you here?”
Red hair bounced across her shoulders as she turned back to him with a questioning look. He stopped her words before they made it out, clarifying his inquiry. “Not here,” he said, with a sweeping gesture that took in the large pitch, “in America. Why’d you leave England?”
This time it was her turn to avoid his eyes, focusing instead on the three golden hoops on the closest end of the field. It took several seconds of silence, and a few hard swallows in order for her to answer.
“There wasn’t anything to keep me, I guess. Mum spent all her time trying to keep Fred and the shop going, and Charlie and Bill were getting back to their lives. Maybe I was just running away from it all, maybe I thought being alone somewhere new would be easier than being alone somewhere I’d only ever been surrounded by people I’ll never see again. I don’t really know, but this was the newest place I could think of, so I came here.”
Malfoy cracked a small, half-hearted smile when she glanced at him. “Well, it certainly is newer; no real history here, much younger on this side of the pond you know.”
She couldn’t hold back the chuckle his British arrogance inspired, and though the sound was a little damp with unshed tears, it prompted her to mount her broom as he reached for his own. Even so, it was a minute until they finally took to the air again, one in which Draco filled the silence with an impulsive, almost rushed question.
“Was it… easier, here? Do you think you’d have dealt with… things… better there?”
Brown eyes narrowed ever so slightly as she examined his face, which somehow managed to be closed off and openly expectant at the same time.
“Yeah, I think it is easier.”
A miniscule nod of his white-blond head closed the conversation and soon enough they were both high above the ground, determined to put their last half hour to good use. Minutes later, they were well-towards that goal as Ginny sped from one end of the pitch to the other while Draco spun, twisted, and wove around her at a matching speed. The intention was, of course, for the inside player, having possession of the Quaffle, to be flying towards the opposite rings while the outside player created shield that would prevent the other team from intercepting the Quaffle.
After several attempts they had managed to also incorporate a so-called ‘changing of the guard’ in which Ginny would suddenly weave in and out of his existing pattern and slip him the Quaffle, at which point he would straighten his course and she would take over as defensive line.
It was after such a switch that an unexpected sound broke through their concentration, pulling both fliers’ attention to the pitch entrance below them. The sight that greeted them made the redhead’s eyes widen. Either their discussion during break had taken them longer than she’d thought, or they’d gotten entirely wrapped up in their latest ‘lesson’, because what looked like the entirety of the Death Valley Dragons had arrived at the pitch and was currently watching them. And clapping.
Ginny was only slightly comforted by the fact that Draco looked surprised by their appearance too, but even knowing she wasn’t the only one to have lost track of time, she felt her cheeks heat as they descended to the lowest row of stands where their waters were sitting, right next to the blond’s teammates.
“Drake, man, what’s up?”
The Malfoy heir gave a smooth shrug as he reached past the shaggy-haired brunette that had spoken and reached for his water. After a healthy drag on the bottle, he used it to gesture towards a still blushing redhead. “Hey guys, this is Ginny, the girl I told you about before.”
At his words, wide brown eyes snapped to his face, only to return to the brunette as he responded with a nod.
“I guess you really weren’t exaggerating, then. That was freakin’ cool, man. Was that the new move you’ve been working on?”
Again, Ginny stared at Draco in surprised confusion. When he’d mentioned it to her, he’d made it sound like it was a move he did all the time with the other chasers on the Dragons, but now, it seemed that wasn’t quite the case. She almost forgot the first comment that had grabbed her attention as she narrowed her eyes in thought, trying to remember where it was Draco had said he’d learned about that move. Another dark-haired Dragon brought her focus back to the original statement, however, as he tilted his head in her direction.
“She’s better than Crowel, that’s for sure. He never coulda’ kept flyin’ straight while you did that, or switched with you either.”
A sandy-headed young man with dark blue eyes shook his head at the second brunette. “He mighta’ gotten it, he usually picked things up after, like, a couple days,” blue flickered over her for a moment before darting to the shaggy-haired man and then to Draco. “How long you two been workin’ on that one?”
The Englishman shrugged again, and if she were asked, she’d have sworn he avoided her gaze as he spoke with the other guys. “About an hour, I’d guess.”
That seemed to give the team members pause and Ginny took the opportunity to look over the assembled Dragons and notice that her first count had been off, there were only five players there, six including Draco. The current conversation and the blond’s offer for her to scrimmage with the team that first night in the bar took on a whole other meaning. Before she had a chance to decide if what she was feeling was closer to excitement or fear, another team member, this one sporting a hair-cut so short he might as well have been bald, let out a whistle.
“Hell, she’s definitely better than Crowel.”
The others nodded as the first guy, who Ginny was starting to get the impression might be the captain, chimed in. “You said you played together at school, right?”
At that, the redhead had to raise an eyebrow at the once-pale blond. For his part, Draco let out a little chuckle as he replied with a smirk. “Not so much together as against one another.”
“Well, you certainly seem to work well on the same side. I’d bet you’d clean the field, if what we just saw is any indication.” At that point, Ginny found six pairs of eyes focused on her. “What do you say, care to help a poor second-place team take the Finals next year?”
She’d started getting an idea of where this was going, but to hear it was still a shock to her system, and she found herself looking almost helplessly at her old school-yard nemesis. Draco just kept smirking.
“Come on, Ginny, if nothing else, brown and tan look much better on you than orange ever would have.”
At the mention of the Chudley Cannons’ signature color, she suddenly recalled a conversation he had once overheard between herself and Ron right after she’d gotten on the Gryffindor team in which she and her brother had daydreamed about playing for the older boy’s favorite team after they graduated. She started to glare at him in memory of the biting comment he’d made at the time, then began to smile at the laughter in his grey eyes as he remembered the same thing and apparently expected her to get angry.
The smile grew as she finally began to think about what was actually happening. She was being offered a spot on a team, a professional Quidditch team, and one of the best in the country at that. As if there was all that much to say.
Besides, brown and tan really would look a lot better with her hair than orange.
End Part Three
Leave a Review