To escape the pain and loss of war, Ginny goes somewhere no one will find her, only to find she isn’t the only one seeking such anonymous solace.
Categories: Long and Completed Characters:
HBP and belowEra:
Angst, Drama, RomanceWarnings:
Jan 08, 2007 Updated:
Jan 29, 2007
1. Prologue by Sunfire
2. Chapter 1 by Sunfire
3. Chapter 2 by Sunfire
4. Chapter 3 by Sunfire
5. Chapter 4 by Sunfire
6. Chapter 5 by Sunfire
7. Chapter 6 by Sunfire
8. Chapter 7 by Sunfire
9. Chapter 8 by Sunfire
10. Chapter 9 by Sunfire
This takes place after HBP so if there's anyone left who hasn't read it, be warned.
War affects everyone. That was a fact, a solid intellectual fact, but it was the kind that never really sank in until it cut you, deep and sharp and personal. It was that blade of reality that still dug into her chest, and Ginny wasn’t sure she could breathe past the blade much longer, at least not where she was.
It had come as a shock, when she’d decided to leave the world she had known, but everyone was still numb enough from their own cuts that not much fuss was made. Not when she made the announcement to the painfully near-empty table one night at the now-quiet Burrow. Not when she packed her bags the next morning, and not when she waved a silent farewell to her mother and brother and stepped into the green flames.
She half expected someone to come after her those first few nights as she drifted from one inn to the next as working her way out of Wizarding England, then Wizarding Europe all together. Then, as she sat alone in the small room she’d rented, she realized that there was no one left to come.
Her own numbness had worn off then, and everything she’d been running from rushed up from inside her, crashing over her in waves of hot pain and cold grief. Her two eldest brothers had somehow managed to survive it all, but they were off, trying to find a way to remove their own cuts, Bill with his wife in France, and Charlie with his dragons in Romania. Percy hadn’t been as lucky, the third eldest Weasley having died over two years before during an attack on the Ministry offices. Ron and the twins had made it to the final battle, but only Fred had made it off of the battlefield alive.
Shudders racked her slender form as she remembered the hollow glaze that had filled the eyes of the once lively jokester as he’d sat in the makeshift camp while so many around them celebrated their victory. Her mother had looked the same, and a stolen glance one night when the Weasley matriarch had thought herself alone told Ginny that she still did, though Molly buried it well underneath her determination to keep her youngest remaining son up and pranking. It was almost funny, mused the redheaded witch, how her mother had been pouring so much of herself into the shop she had been so against her sons starting. Yet she had been, for over a year now, since the end of the Dark War, she had been devoting nearly all her time to helping Fred keep Weasleys Wizard Wheezes running no matter what.
Everyone tried to find something to hold their attention after something like the Second Rise, Ginny supposed, if only so they wouldn’t have to think of what they had been through, what they had lost. Her father certainly had, the interest he’d had in Muggle artifacts before the War looking like nothing in comparison to the way he’d dove headfirst into the obsession after the Final Battle.
No one had paid too much attention to how anyone else coped at the time, too concerned with finding their own method, and Ginny, in her self imposed exile at the Burrow had been the only one there to hear the loud bang come from her father’s workshop where he’d been examining what Hermione had later explained to her was called a pistol.
Arthur Weasley’s funeral, barely a year and a half after the Final Battle, had been the first time Ginny had seen either Hermione or Harry, the two having gone into their own seclusion, taking comfort from each other as they dealt with everything. Seeing the two clinging to one another, never once releasing hands throughout the entire service and wake had not surprised the youngest remaining Weasley, but it had driven home her own loneliness and made the following weeks at the Burrow all the more unbearable. Molly had barely spent more than a few hours a day at the house, and even then, they were spent in Bill and Charlie’s old room, the only space in the house that didn’t remind her of someone now lost forever.
That was when Ginny had decided that any healing she might do would have to take place elsewhere. A once loving house was no more than walls and a roof now, the homey feel having faded away with the loss of each of its former inhabitants. She felt bad that she was causing that feeling to fade even more with her own departure, but her mother had just about moved into an empty flat a few shops down from WWW as it was, and her staying wasn’t doing anyone any good. So she left.
She left England, she left Europe, she even considering leaving the Wizarding World as well, but the last image of her father after she’d run to his workshop to investigate the strange noise was still ingrained too sharply in her mind’s eye for her to do so. Instead, she headed somewhere as foreign to her as the Muggle world. America.
For someone who had never been further outside of England than Hogwarts’ unmapable Scotland campus, Ginny Weasley had adjusted fairly well to Wizarding life in America, though her choice in final destinations probably had something to do with that. After several months of wandering, the redhead had ended up settling down in a little Wizarding town called Cactus River in the middle of the California desert so aptly named Death Valley. The town’s population was small, even for its size, and almost exclusively made up of the families of those that worked at the Redwood Racing Broom factory located a short distance from Cactus River.
It was perfect, as far as Ginny was concerned. No one came to the town unless they had to, and the only people that did, did so on factory business. There was basically no chance of running into anyone she knew and that fact came as a great comfort to the young witch. It was so much of a comfort in fact, that Ginny Weasley secured herself a job at the factory and took up permanent residence in little Cactus River soon after she’d arrived. She never once, in the little over two years she’d lived there, regretted the decision, and though her rather menial job casting safety spells on broomsticks was more than a little boring, she was content with the way her life had turned out.
Sure, it wasn’t the life she’d always dreamed of, but she had an apartment and a steady job that paid enough to keep her going. She also had some friends from the factory that she spent time with on occasion, but above all she had the privacy she had found herself needing in the years since the Second Rising and the painful fallout of the Final Battle. That anonymity, however, was shattered the night of her twenty-first birthday.
She’d taken a coworker’s advice and flown over to a small bar in Dune Hill, the largest Wizarding metropolis in the area, to celebrate the occasion. It was the first time she had been to the magical city, and she was finding the experience quite worth the hour-long flight, especially when one factored in the wonderful mixed drinks they served. Just as she was deciding to thank the older woman for the recommendation of the bar, however, her past walked through the door, in the last form she’d ever have imagined.
She’d known when she’d first settled in that things wouldn’t stay so perfect forever, that her past would catch up to her eventually. But she’d always assumed it would come in the form of one of her remaining brothers, or perhaps Harry or Hermione. Never, in all her fears or nightmares, however, had she pictured her past returning like this, in the form of Draco Malfoy.
She simply stared at him for several seconds as he walked through the door, part of her sure the surprisingly tanned white-blond figure was that of a ghost, even as she watched him enthusiastically – and dare she say cheerfully – interact with the group of wizards and witches entering with him. He wasn’t a ghost, that much was obvious, she decided after a few minutes of observation. No ghost talked and – Merlin’s Beard, was he actually laughing? – with people as lively as he was doing. Of course, from her past experiences with the Slytherin prince, neither did he. Yet he was now; and it was a struggle for her to finally grasp the full extent of what she was seeing.
The last she, or anyone else from their side of the war, had seen or heard of Draco Malfoy, he had fled Hogwarts with Severus Snape and the other Death Eaters after Dumbledore’s murder her fifth year. There had been rumors when the Dark Lord’s followers were broken up after the Final Battle, of course.
A pensieve had been sent anonymously to the Ministry, which only Harry and Mad Eye Moody had seen, but she’d never heard what exactly it contained, though whatever memory it had held had to have been monumental, as after seeing it, Harry had instructed that Draco’s name be removed from the wanted lists. As far as she knew, however, nothing had ever been proven definitively, though the former Slytherin prince had been one of only three suspected and proven Death Eaters who had not been captured or their bodies recovered.
Others had been found, of course, including Narcissa and Lucius Malfoy. She could still remember when that news had come. Ron had still been alive, it having happened shortly after the end of her brother’s sixth year, and he had been so happy to hear of it. She could still see his face in her mind, the satisfaction that had colored it when Tonks had announced that the elder Malfoys had been discovered in the remains of a Death Eater camp that the Order had found the day before. Apparently they had ended up on the wrong end of a killing curse, much like her former potions professor, whose body had been identified amongst the many corpses that had been left on the field after the Final Battle.
But Draco’s had never been found, and, she supposed, it never would. Disappointment and relief warred within her as she took a healthy sip of the bright blue drink the bartender had given her. For all that she had always seen the Malfoy heir as an inarguably evil git, the last five years had clouded that once clear and solid view. So much had changed for her since the first of her brothers had died what felt a lifetime ago, and Ginny could no longer see things, even Draco Malfoy, as clear-cut as she once had. There was no black and white to her anymore, the entire world having exploded in garish and painful colors after Percy’s death, the hues only growing brighter and harder to distinguish as Ron, George, and finally, her father, had joined the former head boy.
Shaking her head at the morose turn of her thoughts, the youngest Weasley tore her gaze from the smiling face of her childhood enemy and finished the drink in her hand. Her attention stayed focused on the empty glass for several minutes before she grabbed her broom and stood, making her way back to the bar for a refill, noting with a relieved sigh that the group Draco had come in with had retreated to a table towards the back. In the few moments that it took for the bartender to finish with another customer and come over to ask what he could get her, however, the one member of that boisterous group which she most hoped to avoid made his way back to the bar.
“What else can I get the birthday girl this evening?”
Ginny smiled at the bartender, the memory of a blush heating her cheeks as she recalled the spontaneous singing that had engulfed the bar when she’d tapped the identification globe with her wand upon her arrival, effectively informing the entire building that she was celebrating her first night as a twenty-one year old. The redhead opened her mouth to tell the older wizard she’d try another of his suggestions, but a familiar voice interrupted.
“A cosmo, on me.”
The former Gryffindor snapped her head around to face the blond for several seconds before turning back and nodding at the bartender. As soon as the wizard started making the requested drink, however, wide brown eyes returned to the young man who’d once made her school days anything but pleasant. Silence reigned between them for several moments until her drink was set before her, the sound of the glass hitting the wooden surface of the bar jarring them both from their thoughts.
“You’re Weasley, right?” She nodded silently, then swallowed the lump in her throat.
Draco asked the bartender for a drink of his own, then nodded towards the glass in her hand. “It’s a muggle drink, but all the witches I know swear by them.”
The redhead nodded again before raising the glass to her lips and sipping rather cautiously. “Not bad,” she said after a moment, then gestured at his order. “What about you?”
He smiled and took a long swallow. “I’m more an Ogden’s fan myself.”
She nodded for the third time in as many minutes, chocolate orbs darting around somewhat uncomfortably as she tried to think of something to say. The sudden arrival of a muscular brunette Ginny hadn’t seen enter the bar saved her from the task.
“You’re the lead chaser for the Death Valley Dragons aren’t you?” Draco smirked at the stranger with a cockiness that reminded Ginny of the boy she had known at Hogwarts, the witch’s eyes moving from his face to take in the blonde’s attire, realizing for the first time that he was wearing Quidditch robes.
“Yeah, that’s me.”
“Wow, dude, that was a hell of a game tonight. You’re awesome.”
The blond grinned wider and shook the brunette’s hand. “Thanks, man.”
Ginny let her gaze wander, noticing the exceptionally kept Firebolt 100 that was leaning against the bar next to the white-blonde wizard, her eyes widening. She worked on a lot of brooms, a lot of nice brooms, at Redwood, but nothing that nice, and a distantly familiar pang went through her as she pulled her attention away from the broom and watched the larger wizard grin back and tell the blonde again how great he was, before he ambled off to get himself a drink, leaving the former school mates alone again.
“Chaser?” Ginny finally asked in surprise, taking another sip of the drink he’d ordered her, not missing the look that drifted briefly over his face at the question, though the blond merely shrugged as he finished his drink and gestured for another. She watched him toss back the dark liquid almost as soon as it was handed to him and shook her head, thinking about what it had been like, all those years ago, to play against him at Hogwarts. “Somehow I’m not surprised.”
Grey eyes snapped up from their previous focus on the now-empty glass to land on her face, and she raised her still half-full glass to point at the black and silver robes he wore. “That you’re still playing, I mean. You always seemed to enjoy it.”
His eyes drifted back to his glass, losing the hard glint they’d gained at her first comment. “As did you, if I remember correctly.”
“I suppose I did,” Ginny said with a shrug, avoiding the steel orbs that raised to pin her.
“Don’t play anymore I take it?”
She shrugged again and took another drink. “Not really.”
His eyes were still on her when she looked back up. “Why not?”
“Not exactly all that many opportunities for a game in Cactus River.” His eyes narrowed at her mention of the little town but he didn’t say anything about it, just put his empty glass on the bar and asked for a beer before turning to study her for a few silent, nerve-racking moments.
“Do you have a broom?” She looked at him for a second before answering, not sure exactly where he was going with the question.
“Of course,” she said, holding up the carefully maintained Tinderblast she’d bought for herself when she’d gotten her promotion about a year before. “Why?”
Draco raised a single eyebrow as he looked from the broom to its owner. “That’s a flying broom, not a racing broom.”
The redhead set it back down, leaning it against the bar in front of her with a sigh of exasperation. “I told you, I don’t play. I haven’t played in over four years, not since…” she trailed off for a second, her eyes clouding momentarily as she thought about the last time she’d played quidditch. It had been a pick-up game behind the Burrow, a last ditch attempt at bolstering their spirits and keeping their minds off of things as the final confrontation with Voldemort grew so close. Harry, Ron and Charlie had teamed up against her and the twins. It had been a good game.
She shook her head in an attempt to discard the bitter-sweet memory. “I don’t really need a racing broom, Draco, not to get to and from work.”
The words hung in the air between them, Ginny not even becoming aware of the fact that she’d used his first name until she’d seen him start at the sound of it coming from her. The only people that had ever called him Draco at Hogwarts were the few Slytherins he considered friends, and hearing it from someone he still thought of as a Gryffindor was a bit of a shock to his system. He shrugged it off fairly quickly though, not wanting her to see the effect as he reached down and grasped the handle of his own precision racing broom, holding it out to her with a word.
She stared back at him, eyes wide in confusion. “What?”
“Every good player needs a good broom. Take it. The 201 just came out yesterday, I’m going to get one this weekend regardless.”
Ginny continued to stare at what was inarguably the second best broom on the market throughout the Wizarding world, not sure if she was more surprised by the offer he’d made, or the fact that he’d complimented her while doing it. Draco sighed, holding it a little closer to her.
“Just take it. I’d probably end up giving it to charity anyway.”
She instinctually bristled at the implication. “I don’t need charity, thanks.”
He rolled his eyes at her defensive tone. “Why not? You’re still a Weasley aren’t you?”
Ginny sucked in a breath at the words, then opened her mouth to shoot back a reply, but before the words formed, she stopped and took in the familiar sneer twisting his lips as he looked at her. It wasn’t as caustic as she remembered it being, but it was still there, and in some weird way it was almost comforting to see another aspect of the boy she’d known in the wizard before her.
Said wizard dropped the sneer and sighed again as he realized what he’d said, the blonde waiting silently for the ever-proud Weasley to come to her family’s defense. Instead of the angry tirade he’d anticipated however, the small redhead laughed, though the sound was a bit hard around the edges.
“I guess you haven’t changed quite so drastically as I’d thought.”
Draco regarded her silently in the wake of her unexpected reply, his voice wry and just a bit brittle as he set his broom next to hers with a shrug. “Don’t be too sure about that.”
Her forehead furrowed a bit at his words but she didn’t get a chance to respond as he straightened back up. “Come by the pitch sometime. It’s just outside of Death Drop, you can’t miss it. The League Finals will be over next week and we could always use an extra player for skirmishes in the off-season.”
He turned on his heel, tossing the last bit over his shoulder as he made his way back to the table his team had claimed for the night. She watched him go for a second, then called out, causing him to stop and turn to face her once more. They stood like that for a moment, about ten feet between them, him expecting her to make some final refusal and force the broom back into his hands, and her having every intention of doing so, at least until she got a good look at his face.
She wasn’t sure what it was, but there was something in the way he held every feature so carefully neutral as he looked at her that made her swallow the words that had risen in her throat. Another second passed as she watched him watch her so expectantly, before she finally spoke.
“How are you going to get home without a broom?”
A smirk made its way across his face, the expression different from the one he’d given the brunette, yet different still from the ones he’d worn so often at school. It wasn’t quite smug, but it was something else. Satisfied, she decided. It was satisfied, and almost happy in a way the smiles she’d seen him wear when he’d come in hadn’t been.
“I’m a wizard, I think I can handle it.”
Ginny couldn’t control the smile that tugged at her lips at the almost teasing tone to his voice. His smirk grew in response before he turned and continued on his way. She watched him take a seat with his teammates, then finished her drink and exited the bar, the smile still on her lips, and a broom in each hand.
End Part One
She’d ridden on Harry’s Nimbus 2000 once. The fact that he’d given her permission had made her eleven-year-old heart flutter in her chest, a veritable admission of caring if not love, making the flight itself float within a cloud of childhood infatuation in her mind. She had no such illusions regarding the blond’s gift, the feeling of flying on the incredible broom sharp and clear and not the least cloudy in her head. That, combined with the superior performance of it, made her every experience of flying on the Firebolt X beyond any dream she’d ever had.
It was by far the best ride she could imagine and even her worst mood seemed to be left behind in the wake of its amazing speed. That was why she was on it now, at barely sunrise on a Saturday morning- the hope that she could outpace her mood, and her memories.
It had been months since the last time she’d found herself with the inescapable urge to run even further from her past than she already had. Before, she’d had to take solace in the fact that she couldn’t go anywhere more different than her childhood home in England, simply having to push away her turbulent thoughts through a surge of physical labor that had left her apartment sparkling. Now though, she had another option, one that allowed her to almost literally out-run the thoughts and memories that had woken her panting and sweat-drenched from a deep sleep less than an hour before.
As the cool morning air whipped past her, sending her long hair streaking behind her, everything seemed to follow the red blur, though every time she’d slowed down and thought about going back home, the feelings had rushed back over her. So she’d kept going, flying as fast as she could over the desert and dunes of Death Valley, carefully skirting any muggle habitation she passed.
She’d been flying around for more than an hour when she realized she was approaching Death Drop and the blond’s words drifted through her mind. He’d said for her to come by the pitch, that the team could use an extra flier for off-season practice. She hadn’t been sure if he’d spoken seriously or not two weeks ago in the bar. Perhaps he’d been drunk; it would certainly help explain why he’d given her the second best broom in the Wizarding World. Even if he’d been serious, however, she doubted he’d meant for her to come at barely after five in the morning.
That was why she ended up steering herself towards the concealment wards she could feel in the distance. Surely neither Draco nor any of his teammates would be at the pitch so early during the off-season, surely she could stop by without fear of running into the former Slytherin. Why that would be a fear, she wasn’t quite sure.
He’d been perfectly nice at the bar, strange as it felt to admit, but a little piece of her was certain that if she were to run into him again there was a chance that he would be the same foul child she’d known from school. It wasn’t just that, though; another large part of the small redhead was afraid that in the two weeks since they’d happened upon one another he would have realized the mistake he’d made in giving her the broom and the minute he saw her, he would demand it be returned to him.
As much as the idea of playing Quidditch again had teased temptingly through her, she didn’t want to give up the best broom she had ever, and would ever, own. So, she’d ignored the suddenly revitalized love of the game that had dulled and deteriorated over the last few years, and forced herself to stay far from Death Drop and its renowned pitch. At least she had until this morning. This morning, she decided as she sped towards her destination, she was going to the Dragons’ pitch and see how many of her old skills were still intact. Whether it was that new determination, the rekindled love of Quidditch within her, or the speed and distance her broom had managed, she felt no encroaching memories as she slowed to a less neck-breaking pace as she reached the pitch.
The expanse of lawn and towering stands were all empty as the sun rose above the horizon behind her. A small smile, the first she’d had cause to make in too long, tugged at her lips and she dropped into a near vertical dive, allowing herself to race headlong towards the field below her before pulling up at almost the last moment. The now grinning redhead barely cut her speed as she flew parallel to the grass for several feet, then began to climb once more. She had a thought of another dive, but the memory of Harry helping her perfect that particular maneuver threatened to rise so she turned sharply mid-climb and went into a few dips and twists instead.
The evasive moves had once been second nature to the former Gryffindor chaser, but after so many years they had become somewhat rusty. Not too much so, however, the youngest Weasley noted with a feeling of pride that only increased as she transitioned from one move to the next, her movements becoming ever-more fluid as her skill and training flooded back into her. With every turn, twist, and flip it came back to her, the hours she’d spent on the pitch back at Hogwarts, the games she’d played at school and at home.
If asked when her feet stood on solid ground, she would have sworn that such remembrances would only have conjured the pain of her recent past and the losses therein, but high above the grass, with the wind in her eyes, and what she could only describe as pure speed beneath her, no such pain could catch up to her. One particular aspect of her past, however, seemed more than adept at doing just that as a tall, blond-haired form appeared below her on the grass. Having been in the tail-end of another vertical dive, Ginny was forced to pull up even more sharply than before to avoid hitting him as she came to an abrupt stop barely inches in front of him.
She stared at him in abject surprise for several seconds before he raised one pale brow in silent inquiry. The response that prompted from her was less than thoughtful as she blurted the words from a mouth still hanging open the slightest bit.
“What are you doing here?”
The other brow rose to join its twin. “This is my team’s pitch, I’m here to practice.”
His statement was made in a rather bemused tone and she bristled a little almost unconsciously as she pushed aside her surprise. “But, isn’t it a little early to-”
She cut herself off as she suddenly took in their sun soaked surroundings. “Wait, what time is it?”
He looked even more amused by the question, though his expression grew a little curious at the way her eyes widened when he informed her it was about eight o’clock in the morning. “Exactly what time did you get here?”
She stumbled over her words for a second before getting out her answer. “Before six, I didn’t think anyone would be here that early on an off-season Saturday. I would have left if I’d realized it was so late.”
All but his curiosity slowly drained away as he regarded the girl before him. “Why?”
She seemed at a loss for a moment as she shifted her feet and attempted to tuck a few strands of wind tangled hair behind her ears. Finally, she expressed her desire not to intrude on the Dragons’ pitch time. The nervous glances she tossed to the blond and the broom in her hand, however, gave him a good idea of why she’d really wanted to be gone before he or his teammates had arrived. Draco dismissed her worries, both spoken and unspoken, with a wave of his hand.
“Seeing as we managed to place second in the Finals last week, I think it’s safe to say we don’t need the pitch that badly, especially at eight on a Saturday morning. Though it would appear you might.” He cut a quick glance at his unexpected company as he spoke, watching the affronted look steal over her features, then freeze there as she noticed the teasing glint in his eyes. Laughter bubbled out of him as she shook her head at his amusement and attempted to look annoyed with him even as a smile crept across her lips.
“Well, more than four years of not flying will leave a bit of rust on a person,” she stated in a tone that would have been defensive if not for the smile that accompanied it.
His face grew serious and rather contemplative as he regarded the young woman before him. “You’d think so, wouldn’t you?”
Ginny didn’t seem to know quite how to take the questioning lilt to his statement, but he took no notice as he continued to look at her. She’d said that she’d gotten there before six, so she’d been flying for about two hours, yet she wasn’t breathing too heavily or acting as if she were all that sore. And of course, there were the moves he’d seen her executing just minutes before to consider.
He vaguely remembered being a little surprised by her ability when he’d played against her at Hogwarts, but what he’d seen today was more than that. Then he pictured her daring plummet in his mind and came up with an image of a dark-haired boy grabbing the snitch from in front of him and suddenly knew where she’d learned the trick, forming some idea of what she and her compatriots must have done to occupy themselves when they weren’t saving the Wizarding world from dark wizards.
Despite that revelation, his conclusions remained the same and grey rose to lock with brown as he finally broke the silence that was starting to grow a little uncomfortable between them. “You played chaser, yeah?”
The redhead started at his sudden words and the eye contact that accompanied them, distantly noting the deepening of his accent that had her noticing for the first time how much it had lightened in the time he’d spent in the States. The observation had her wondering exactly how long he had been here, but she pushed it aside, nodding in answer to his question.
He echoed her action, though his nod was more decisive as he mounted his broom with an almost challenging expression in the eyes still focused on her. “Well then, why don’t we see exactly how much you remember?”
It wasn’t until he’d mounted his broom and was floating there, a few feet away, waiting for her to follow suit that she realized what he’d meant. As soon as she figured it out, however, she was hard-pressed to keep the excited, determined, and competitive grin from overtaking her face as she hopped back onto her broom and kicked off the ground.
End Part Two
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
The sound of a heavy bag hitting the floor of the hallway woke her with a start, red hair flying as her head jerked up. Reaching up to rub at her now sore neck, Ginny attempted to send the blond a glare, but her exhausted state left the expression rather weak, a fact that did not escape his notice.
“Shouldn’t you have left by now?” Draco asked with the slightest hint of concern as he met brown eyes framed by an impressive set of blue-tinged bags.
She nodded her head slowly in response as she yawned, though that soon turned into a groan as she caught sight of the hand of her watch pointing to ‘time for bed’. Work was certainly going to be fun tomorrow, she thought as she pulled herself to her feet and reached wearily for her bag. “I just sat down for a breather after practice. Guess I fell asleep.”
A single blond brow rose in what she had come to recognize as his ‘no, really?’ look.
She shrugged half-heartedly before hoisting her bag of gear onto her shoulder with another groan, eliciting a heavy sigh and roll of the eyes from her teammate who cast a weightless charm on the bag with a pointed look at its owner.
“Oh, right. Thanks.”
Draco let out another sigh and fell into step with her as she walked from the locker room area out onto the field. “You’re not going to be any use to anyone if you keep this up, you know.”
“What exactly is that supposed to mean?” she questioned in a tired voice.
“It means,” he said, reaching out to pull her to a stop in front of him, “that you need to stop trying to do everything at once. You can’t work full time at the factory and still be a full member of the team. It may have worked in the off-season, but our first game is in less than a month. You need to be able to give your all to this now.”
This time it was Ginny who sighed. “I know, I was just hoping to work through at least most of the pre-season, get some more money saved up before I had to quit.”
If she hadn’t been so tired, she would have found the understanding expression on his face a little surprising, despite all she had learned about her former childhood enemy. “Well, I really don’t think that’s going to be possible, at least not without wearing yourself into the ground.”
“You’re right,” the redhead admitted resignedly. “I’ll talk to my boss in the morning, give him my notice.”
Draco nodded approvingly. “While you’re at it, you might want to give your landlord notice too.”
Her shoulders slumped at the reminder. “I know. I can’t very well stay in employee housing when I’m no longer an employee, and I certainly don’t want to move back into the public housing I was in when I first moved there. But how the hell am I supposed to find an apartment I can afford around here? I don’t even know where to start looking.”
The Malfoy heir chuckled. “How easily we forget.”
Ginny tossed him a glare, slightly more effective than her first attempt. “I’m too tired to play games, Drake, just get to the point.”
In the months she had spent training with him and the rest of her new team, Ginny Weasley had gotten to know the new and improved version of the blond, even adopting the shortened version of his that name the Dragons’ used, but she was still surprised by his next words.
“I do live around here, you know, it’s only logical that I help you find yourself a place.”
She stared with sleep-deprived eyes for several seconds. “You’re going to help me apartment hunt?”
“Sure,” he said with a shrug. “If I leave you to do it on your own you’ll end up in some slum and I’ll have to listen to you complain about it for the next year.” He ruined the selfish tone with a wink at her before mounting his broom.
“We’ll go after practice Saturday. Until then, get some sleep.”
Shaking her head at his parting words, she mounted and took off herself, heading back home, trying her best not to think of what was sure to be a very long search for her new housing.
That Saturday saw a much less extensive and much more enjoyable excursion than she’d expected, however, as the man she’d thought she’d gotten to know surprised her yet again with his knowledge of the Death Drop real estate market. Somehow anticipating everything she’d want in a residence, Draco steered her in all the right directions, until by only six o’clock that night, they had found a place that met their approval.
“How is it that you know all the right things to ask when inspecting a rental?” a bemused and more than slightly impressed redhead asked her companion as they left the apartment manager’s office after signing her brand new lease.
He tried to shrug off the question, but a pleading repeat of her inquiry and a playful punch in the arm had him glancing down with an almost embarrassed look on his face as he answered. “Guess I learned the hard way when I first got here.”
Brown eyes regarded him intently for several moments before she turned her attention back to the sidewalk in front of them and continued towards the restaurant they had already decided to try for dinner. Silence hung between them until he finally turned to her with a partly puzzled, partly expectant expression as they took their seats in a secluded booth.
“You’re really not going to ask?”
Not even pretending not to know what he was talking about, Ginny shrugged and began looking over her menu. “I’m not going to push. I figure if you want me to know how and when you got here, you’ll tell me.”
The response threw him for a minute, showing that he wasn’t the only one still capable of being surprised, even after the months they had spent training, and yes, even becoming friends. It took him the duration of the ordering process and salad course to absorb what she’d said and come to a decision.
“Dumbledore was my assignment.” The blunt words and their sudden delivery momentarily caught the former Gryffindor off guard and she flinched ever-so-slightly. Draco missed the reaction, his silver orbs focused firmly on the table in front of him, letting him continue undeterred. “And under threat of my family’s death, I tried to carry it out.”
Since the first time she’d seen him, in the bar the night of her twenty-first birthday, she had wondered what had happened after that fateful night at Hogwarts. Having been still trying to forget her own experiences in and after the war, however, she’d chosen not to dwell on what she didn’t know. It had been only too easy to continue on such a course after she’d started training with him, especially after she’d begun getting to know him.
The now tanned blond had seemed almost nothing like the boy she’d gone to school with, and she’d been content to separate the two in her mind. Not only had the distinction made it easier for her to become friends with her teammate, but it had also made it easier for her to forget all the things he could have done those years ago. She was half-tempted to stop him now, to leave it all unsaid and remain happy in her ignorance, but the same friendship that made her want to stop him, made her need to let him speak.
This was a part of his past, a part of the young man in front of her, who was she to force that part of him into hiding for her own comfort? He was her friend, and if he was going to remain so in the true sense of the word, she needed to hear what he had to say, so Ginny sat back, listened, and watched the struggle of old pain filter across his face as he spoke.
“Much to his,” the venom in that single word left no doubt who he was referring to, “disappointment, when it came right down to it, I couldn’t make myself say the words. I had him, right in front of me, weak and vulnerable, and I couldn’t say the two words that would have saved my parents.”
Stormy grey eyes snapped up to capture her brown orbs. “He killed them both, before Snape and I even got back to the hideout.”
The youngest Weasley swallowed hard at the memory of Ron’s reaction when they’d learned Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy had been found dead. He didn’t seem to notice, just continued in a monotone that nearly sent shivers down her spine, but still she sat there, letting him unload the past uninterrupted.
“I lost it when I found the bodies. I’m not sure how long I screamed, but by the time I stopped my voice was hoarse.” He held his features tightly neutral. “Pansy found me right after I got there. She helped me calm down.”
The blond shook his head, as if finding some perverse humor in the next words. “I think I might have actually gone after him in those first few minutes if she hadn’t talked me out of getting myself killed.”
The painfully amused light in his eyes changed then, the young man lost in the memory. “We talked for hours that night while I waited for him to send for me, talked about how it had all gone wrong, how we managed to let our fathers rope us in to such insanity. I guess it was a good thing he was insane too ‘cause we were left alone for the whole night. Probably some sick punishment for me, making me sit there, with my parents, just waiting.”
Steely grey darkened with something like regret as he met her eyes a second time. “I tried to get her to come with me when we realized I wouldn’t be summoned until the morning. I tried. But her mother was just as trapped as we were, and she wouldn’t leave her.”
He swallowed visibly, and fell silent as the waiter delivered their entrees. She was afraid he wouldn’t go on when he remained quite for several moments, needing now to hear the rest, but eventually, after an absent bite of his dinner, he continued.
“There was too much of a chance I’d be found in Europe, so I came to the States. Things hadn’t reached this far across the pond back then, but I wasn’t sure how long that would last so I made my way out here and holed up in the most discreet places I could find.” He found the energy to flash a bemused smile at that, reminding her of his earlier comment about making mistakes renting a place. She returned the smile with only slightly stiff lips before he took another bite of his food and kept talking.
“Eventually I got a little more confident and started looking for a job, since what funds I’d managed to take with me were getting pretty low. The first few places I worked just barely let me scrape by, but after a while I ended up at a second-rate apothecary’s. Snape’s lessons served me well, and by the end of my second year here I was doing pretty good for myself. Good enough that I could keep up on my training in my free time. That’s when I tried out for the Dragons. They pay a lot better than Virgilen, but I never would have gotten this far if he hadn’t given me a shot. I didn’t have any references, of course, couldn’t even put down where I went to school for fear of being tracked down, but he let me interview anyway and I owe him for that, though he’d never admit it. The stubborn old man still insists I bring in more business than he’s had in years. He even gives me the best hours.”
“You still work there?” she asked around a bite of stew, focusing on the part of his story that didn’t require time to digest.
Draco nodded and ate more of his fettuccini, relaxing almost imperceptivity at her casual tone. “In the off-season. Quidditch only allows me to put so much away, and quite frankly, my tastes are still a little too refined for that.”
The superior air he adopted with his last statement reminded her of the boy he’d been, but the teasing glint in his previously pain-filled eyes was proof of the man he’d become. She’d heard his secrets, the shadows of his past, but they hadn’t changed how she saw him, aside from perhaps fostering a subtle sense of camaraderie in their different, but similar losses. Shaking off the somber musings, she watched him wrinkle his nose dramatically.
“If it wasn’t for Virgilen I dare say I would forever be running out of hair products.” He flipped the shoulder-length white-blond strands over his shoulder in what she assumed was his attempt at a magnanimous manner.
Her laughter dispensed the last of the lingering tension and they finished the rest of their meal in comfortable silence. Beneath the quiet, however, there still lingered a detail she had often considered telling him but always felt too presumptuous in saying. Now, though, she knew he would want, or at least, need, to hear, so after leaving the restaurant, Ginny spoke up, placing one hand on his arm.
“A Pensieve arrived at the Ministry, I guess it would have been a month after you left England. Harry and Mad-Eye Moody were the only ones that ever saw it, but it convinced Harry to have you taken off the wanted lists.” He froze, turning slowly to face her as grey narrowed slightly in thought before meeting brown. The intensity of his gaze was intimidating at such close range, but she continued all the same. “From what you’ve said, the only memory it could have held that would have had that effect was-”
He cut her off with, the steely look falling away to be replaced by a sadly affectionate smile. “Pansy’s.”
She nodded silently and squeezed his arm lightly before matching his wistful tone with a soft declaration of her own. “She was a good friend.”
“Yeah,” he agreed, raising his free hand to cover hers on his arm, a strangely contemplative look in his eyes as he studied her face. “She was.”
The air around them hung heavily for several moments before lifting as the Draco Malfoy and Ginny Weasley smiled at each other and headed down the sidewalk; shifting their grip without thought, the two friends made their way through the city with hands linked tightly between them.
End Part Four
The former Slytherin Seeker and current lead Chaser of the Death Valley Dragons fell onto the bench with a quiet grunt, ignoring the similar sounds of pain from the other men in the locker room. No matter how much he practiced during the off-season, the first game always left him feeling as if he’d received ten too many hexes. He nearly shuddered at the thought of how his newest teammate felt, having never gone through what he referred to as start of season readjustment.
Being the one responsible for getting her onto the team, he should probably check on her, if for no other reason than to make sure she wasn’t too tired or sore to safely apparate home. Even with such noble intentions, it was several minutes before he was able to haul himself back to his feet, out of the locker room, and to the door of the room the sole female Dragon had been given to change in. It took another couple seconds for him to raise the stiff muscles of his arm in order to knock. She called out for him to enter, but as soon as he did his stilted movements halted. The laugh he gave at the sight before him didn’t sound nearly as exhausted as he felt.
“We won,” she intoned with a comical grin on her weary face.
Draco nodded slowly, the slightest grimace passing over his face at the way the motion pulled on over-used muscles. “Yes we did.”
“I’ve never won a professional game before. Hell, I’ve never played a professional game before.” Fatigue and excitement laced her voice in equal measure and the blond was too tired to even try and fight the smile covering his face in response.
“A win is a good way to start a career, that’s for sure.” If possible, her grin grew even larger. “But getting some sleep tonight would probably be a good start at prolonging that career.”
The exhaustion that tinged the edges of her grin took that moment to pull a jaw-popping yawn from the rookie. “I know I know. I just can’t stop thinking about the game. We were really great out there, weren’t we?”
The blond gave another smile as he stared down at the still grinning redhead, his voice coming out a little softer than even his tiredness could account for as he answered. “Yeah, we really were.”
She smiled back at him, the two simply remaining like that for several moments before he let out his own yawn. “And we both really need to get some sleep if we want to be that good again on Friday.”
The youngest Weasley nodded resignedly in agreement, but didn’t move from her chair, prompting the other Chaser to force his own aching limbs to help pull her to her feet. They both let out weary groans as he led them back into the hallway. He hadn’t made it far, however, before Ginny stopped, head falling forward with a whimper.
Her reminder drew a large sigh from the elder chaser. “We could always pick them up in the morning, when our arms are working,” he suggested in an almost pathetically hopeful voice.
The idea was tempting, but neither moved to continue walking. Instead, as if in unspoken agreement, they pulled out their wands and halfheartedly accio’d their gear from their respective looker rooms. Due to the weakness of the spell, the bags were slow in their arrivals, but that worked out fine as it took a little while for them to lower their arms back to their sides, having both thrown the Quaffle harder, faster, and more often, than would facilitate anything but screaming muscles.
Eventually they made it to the Dragons’ broom closet with their gear floating behind them and were able to get their Firebolts in the same manner as they had their bags. Once that task had been completed Draco and Ginny gratefully trudged outside the concealment charms surrounding the pitch and prepared to apparate to their welcoming beds in Death Drop. Before they left, one more smile for a game well played passed between them and they said goodnight.
They might as well have said good afternoon too, and saved themselves the trouble the next day when the younger Dragon’s head appeared in the blond’s fireplace less than two hours after he’d dragged himself out of bed.
“I don’t think I can move it all by myself,” she said for the third time in nearly as many minutes.
Draco repressed the urge to roll his eyes at his friend and teammate. “I thought the movers came yesterday?”
She sighed with a touch too much drama. “They did, everything’s already there, it just hasn’t been unpacked or arranged yet.”
“Really?” asked the former Slytherin. “And let me guess, you need some help to get it all done before practice tomorrow?”
The redhead nodded innocently, a slight pout causing her lower lip to stick out a tiny bit.
“You really are quite helpless, aren’t you, Gin?” What would have, in his youth, been a caustic statement was lightened by the friendly tone and teasing smirk that shone through the fake annoyance on his features.
“Completely,” she answered with a triumphant grin.
“Oh, all right, I’ll help, but I expect adequate compensation.”
“Really?” The way she raised one scarlet brow would have looked familiar to any of Draco’s old Slytherin classmates. “And what exactly would you consider adequate compensation?”
“Dinner. Specifically your five cheese lasagna.”
Ginny shook her head with a laugh. Ever since she’d made him lunch one day after practice about a month and a half before, he’d taken every possible opportunity to get her to cook for him again. “All right. It’s a deal.”
He nodded sharply just before she pulled her head from the green flames, already anticipating the culinary talents of Molly Weasley’s only daughter and sole cooking student. Moving a few boxes and a piece or two of furniture would be more than worth the reward. At least he thought it would until he’d arrived at her new apartment and moved the first piece of furniture, at which point he was reminded of just how hard he’d played the night before.
Ginny was in no better shape, and it took the both of them casting simultaneously to move the larger items. By the time they’d arranged the few pieces of furniture she’d acquired to her satisfaction, and moved on to unpacking the boxes of kitchen supplies, clothes, food, and assorted nick-knacks, their spells had done more harm than good, leaving them to resort to doing things the muggle way. This of course, left the two extremely glad that she had been unable to amass all that many possessions since arriving in America. It also left them very much in need of a rest.
And so, with one last look around the now completed, if not sparse, apartment, both fell onto her somewhat ratty couch. Owing as much to their soreness and lack of sleep the night before, as to everything they’d done that afternoon, neither judged all that accurately as to exactly where on the couch they were falling so bonelessly. The resulting pile of limbs was equal parts bruised and tangled.
Ginny, who had ended up mostly on the bottom of their pile, groaned at the blond weight on top of her, then laughed as she caught a look at his disgruntled expression. She received a silver glare in response as he attempted to get up. She simply laughed harder, causing him to roll his eyes while carefully forcing still stiff arms to raise at least the upper portion of his body from its position digging into his teammate’s rather boney shoulder. The redhead chose that moment to smile up at him through her giggles, and any progress he might have otherwise made suddenly came to a halt.
Her mirth froze on her lips as she became caught in the realization that was swiftly flooding Draco’s senses. The blonde found himself all too aware of the soft body beneath him. For her part, Ginny was equally conscious of the muscular weight pressing against her. Having been so comfortably, and solidly ensconced within each other’s mind as friend and teammate, and even old schoolyard enemies, it took a few long, lingering minutes for grey and brown to lock and exchange an understanding of just what was happening between them.
Then, one or the other shifted just enough and they were pressed fully together, mouths exploring the same new territory their minds had so suddenly begun to contemplate. However long it lasted, the kiss left both shaken, in more ways than one and his voice held the slightest tremble as he stared down at her.
“Gin? You all right?”
She nodded silently for several seconds, then, as her eyes finally focused, the redhead began to smile. “Definitely.”
In the time it took for that single word to penetrate his mind, preoccupied as it was on her possible reactions, the youngest Weasley rolled them away from the couch, and onto the rug they’d so recently spread over her living room floor. Silver eyes widened at the action, then began to close as he moved to capture her lips once more with his own.
“What about dinner?” Ginny asked slyly, just before his mouth touched hers. He drew back, rapidly darkening steel orbs catching her gaze.
“We’ll get to it later.”
Her grin grew larger at the soft snarl in his voice, her own tone becoming more than a little teasing. “How much later?”
Draco just smirked and lowered his head.
End Part Five
Having been interested in Quidditch since she was little, she’d long dreamed of becoming a professional player and winning trophies and awards for her outstanding skill in the sport. She’d thought about what team she would play for and what she would tell all the reporters when they interviewed her for the Daily Prophet. It was hard to believe that she had finally done exactly that.
Well, she hadn’t been interviewed by the Daily Prophet, and she wasn’t on the Chudley Cannons, or any of the other teams she’d originally dreamed of, but National American Magical Sport had ran a copy of the story California Quidditch had written about the Death Valley Dragons the month before. And she had won most valuable rookie her first year on the team, not to mention the two trophies she had at home from their previous American League titles.
There would be another trophy on that shelf by the end of the night, too, if she or any of the other Dragons had anything to say about it, the redhead though with a determined grin. They were heavily favored for the title again this year, and nothing would keep them from getting it. Before she had a chance to mentally list all the reasons that was, including a review of every tactic and play they’d learned and perfected for the all-important game, she was interrupted by a knock on the door of her locker room.
Calling out for the person to enter, she finished tying her dragon skin boots, her determined expression turning soft around the edges as she stood to greet her unexpected but welcome guest. “Hey you.”
“Hey yourself,” Draco returned, wrapping his arms around his fellow Chaser’s waist and drawing her to him for a kiss. Despite the vast number of times he had done exactly that over the three years of their relationship, she still had to catch her breath when he pulled away.
“What was that for?” she asked with a smile, absently tucking a wayward strand back into its messy ponytail. He shrugged a little too innocently as he turned her around and began redoing her hair in a tight braid that would keep it out of her face during the game.
“Do I need a reason to kiss my girlfriend?”
She sighed at the pout in his voice, but he went on before she had a chance to call him on it.
“Well, what about my fiancé, do I need a reason to kiss her?”
She froze at his words, barely feeling the slight tug he gave her braid as he tied off the end of it, too focused was she on the sudden fluttering in her stomach. “What-” she started to ask, only to choke on her own voice as she turned around to face him and saw instead the top of his white-blond head as he kneeled in front of her, one hand extending a small velvet box.
Both hands flew to her throat, as if trying to force out the voice that had fled her. He sent up a smirk at the action, but it wasn’t any smirk she had ever seen on him before. The expression held as much hope and love as she felt ricocheting through her chest, and a lot more nervousness. The raw emotion, so different even from the honest tenderness she had seen in him since they had become friends almost four years before, freed her voice as she reached shakily for the ring box.
“I imagine you could kiss your fiancé whenever you wanted, regardless of a reason.” He seemed to hold his breath as she opened the box, and she smiled even wider through the tears that blurred her vision of the small diamonds that shaped a little Quaffle on the white-gold band. “What about me, do I need a reason to kiss my fiancé?”
At her use of the word fiancé, he finally released his breath and stood, taking the box from her nerveless fingers, taking out the ring and gently slipping it onto her finger. “Not a single one,” he said rather seriously as a grin split across his tanned features.
“Glad to hear it.”
She grinned almost goofily back at him, the two staring at the ring on her finger for a moment before leaning forward and capturing each other’s lips, exchanging a kiss. The hallmark moment was interrupted by a knock on the door and the sound of their fellow Chaser, Nilo Helgat calling out to them.
“Hey, Drake, Gin, we’re meeting for last minute strategy in, like, two minutes.”
The teammates smiled at one another, silently agreeing to continue this later. Then, knowing that the sandy-haired man would only keep bugging them, they stepped apart, picked up their gear, and joined the rest of the Dragons in the hallway outside the two locker rooms. Something of what had just happened between them lingered in their silly grins, though, causing the other players to regard them curiously.
“Somethin’ up guys?” asked Bredan Smeeth, their shaggy-haired captain and Seeker, sounding the slightest bit annoyed that his best players looked off their stride.
The couple looked at each other, then back at their team. For his part, Draco couldn’t contain the smug expression as Ginny wordlessly held up her left hand and displayed its new glittering decoration.
Bredan practically dropped the scroll of parchment he was holding, completely forgetting his annoyance. “Hot damn, you finally did it.”
The Malfoy heir was still too happy to conjure up a proper glare in response, so he settled for rolling his eyes and turning to the other young men who had left their seats to congratulate them.
“You lucky bastard,” Evag Nillen, the Keeper, said, clapping the Englishman on the back. “Now I really hate you, you know.”
Draco smirked with self-satisfaction, unable to keep from glancing over at his wife-to-be. “Don’t blame ya, mate.”
Harrvis Chasen and Ozbore Roseberg, the Dragons’ Beaters, took turns shaking his hand. “Only you would pop the question right before the big game,” Harrvis stated with a smile and a shake of his nearly shaved head. “Pretty gutsy if you ask me,” intoned Ozbore.
The blond shrugged. “I didn’t feel like going for the overly dramatic proposal in the middle of the victory celebration. Besides,” he admitted, “I couldn’t wait, damn ring’s been burning a hole in my pocket since I picked it up yesterday.”
Bredan laughed as the four of them made their way to Ginny’s side, where Draco slipped an arm around her waist and the others shook her hand and admired the ring. After all had gotten a chance to express their good wishes to the happy couple, the team started to settle back down, even Draco and Ginny all too aware of the important game looming over them. Soon enough, they were all immersed in strategies and tactics and their pursuit of a third League title.
Before they knew it, however, it was time to head to the pitch and as they did before every match, the team rose as one, adjusted their brown and tan robes, picked up their brooms, and marched silently down the hallway to the pitch entrance. With scarcely a second’s pause the Death Valley Dragons mounted and took to the air, fanning out as they flew above their home pitch in an impressive series of twists and flips that had the crowd roaring its approval.
The roaring had only seemed to increase in volume nine hours later as Draco and Ginny dipped and weaved over, under, and around one another, exchanging the Quaffle at random intervals so that even if the opposing team’s chasers could break through the complicated pattern and intercept one of them, the player wouldn’t be sure which of them to go after at any given time. Not even the other beaters could follow them closely enough to land a shot, making it less than surprising when the blond and redhead managed to reach the opposing goal unmolested and land the Quaffle squarely within the tallest hoop.
Over the years, it had become their signature maneuver, even being called by some the Dragon Run. Both Chasers were especially proud of their creation, often tweaking it from time to time, adding ever more impressive tricks to its patterns, constantly keeping their opposition from developing a counter to it. The tactic proved as effective as ever that day, earning the home team four goals over the course of the game. Many other goals were made and prevented by the sheer talent and cohesiveness of the Dragons, however, as every member of its ranks sped through the air with the kind of precision only gained through years of playing and practicing together.
That experience made itself known yet again as Evag blocked yet another shot from the visiting Florida Flying Flamingos, knocking the Quaffle right into Nilo’s hands. The Chaser sped off with the ball, instinctively feeling Ginny behind him and tossing it back blindly as Ozbore darted in front of him and deflected a Bludger directly into Harrvis’s bat. The second beater sent it barreling into the Flamingos’ approaching Chaser line, giving the red-haired Dragon the chance to flip over the entire group of players and dive towards the ground at full speed.
Draco raced straight across the field, bisecting her intended path and taking the Quaffle from her as he did so, reaching the opposite goal and scoring while everyone was still busy watching his fiancé pull up at the absolute last second and skim along the grass for several feet before climbing into the air once more. Immediately, the witch joined her fellow Chasers in a defensive line that crossed and re-crossed the paths of Florida’s faltering offense. Just as Ginny and Nilo teamed up to put the other team in exactly the right position for Draco to snatch the Quaffle, the Snitch finally made an appearance.
Without even a glance in the direction of the Seekers currently racing each other past the VIP stands, the three closed their trap, leaving the former Slytherin Seeker with possession of the ball, and a clear shot. Before they could set up for yet another goal, however, Bredan swooped under his adversary and plucked the tiny gold ball from the air, sealing another championship for the Dragons.
End Part Six
They looked very nice, she decided, situated as they were with the four other trophies and all the assorted pictures, awards and memorabilia that they had accumulated over their respective careers. His, being several years longer than hers, added more to the display, but she didn’t particularly care, though she did take a small amount of pleasure in the fact that while she had a MVP rookie award and a League title to show for her first year with the Dragons, Draco didn’t have any actual awards from his freshman year.
Even considering his late start and her mere three years as a professional player, it was still an impressive collection of accolades including three consecutive sets of American League Championships, two second place titles and one third place trophy for his years leading up to the final three. The shelves also held four MVP awards, one for her rookie year, one for his third year, when he had been appointed lead Chaser, and one set for their second year playing together when the Dragons’ Chaser line had earned League wide recognition.
In addition, there were also several framed articles written about their team in the national and international press, and even a couple about their personal achievements in statewide magazines and papers. Amongst all these were scattered pictures of the Dragons, in and out of uniform, on and off the pitch, in practice, and at games. All in all, the five-tiered glass display shelf chronicled the years since they had met, so far from their old lives in England. To Ginny, however, it also held their future in the prominently placed photo of her and Draco leaping from their brooms and into each other’s arms the night of their third League victory, only two weeks before.
Her ring wasn’t visible in the picture, but she knew all too well that that was also the night Draco had asked her to become his wife. She could still remember that night. They had all been so excited over the victory, their third in a row, and had partied hard into the late evening hours. After the team party, though, she and her teammate, friend, and fiancé, had held their own celebration over a bottle of Golden Fleece champagne. It had been a great night, though it hadn’t exactly made the next morning all that productive.
After a hearty dose of hangover potion, courtesy of Draco’s account at Virgilen’s apothecary, however, they had easily gotten down to the business of post-season meetings and planning. They had spent hours planning the various events necessary for the so-called joyous occasion. Neither was all that sure joyous was the right word. Sure they were looking forward to the big day, they wanted to get married, they just weren’t all that fond of the things that seemed to lead up to it.
First there had been the surprise party that their teammates had thrown for them that had been a little more than they needed. Then there had been all the fuss involved in moving her belongings into his larger flat and canceling her lease. Next, they’d had to figure out how to schedule the wedding, reception, and honeymoon around the next year’s pre-season practices and training. Even with the surprising cooperation of the team’s owner and management, all the details of the ceremony had been overwhelming. Not to mention the craziness that had ensued in the local press and media following the wedding announcement.
That last had led to the current predicament that left her staring at their Quidditch shelves and contemplating their past, present, and future and telling herself that no matter what happened, it was all worth it. She was happy, and would continue to be so regardless of the content of the owl they were waiting to arrive any day now. Despite her sincerity, she almost wished that the issue had never been brought to her attention in the first place.
It was all because of that reporter, she was sure. If it hadn’t been for his article on the upcoming nuptials of two of America’s biggest Quidditch stars, she wouldn’t have been asked the question, never would have had to come up with an answer.
“And the wedding, were will it be?”
“On the Dragons’ pitch outside Death Drop, actually,” she and Draco had told him.
The reporter had raised an eyebrow at that new detail and continued. “Plenty of room there. Will there be many guests?”
Draco had shaken his head. “Not particularly. It’s mostly going to be close friends; the team and a few others. We want to keep it as simple as possible.” He’d refrained from mentioning the spells that would be cast on the area to keep out any unwanted guests, or media. The reporter had, no doubt, already been well aware of the fact that only a single, prearranged photographer would be allowed inside the ceremony.
“Just friends? What about family? Surely your families will be coming over from England to attend the celebrations?”
The man had been practically salivating at the possibility of finally getting some details on the past of the stars. Both of them had always been insistent about only discussing Quidditch related topics in interviews and had never discussed their experiences with the Dark War, despite the public’s interest in the topic.
Having bowed to popular demand and held this interview, however, they had already broken that unwritten rule and the reporter had obviously hoped that meant more details than normal would be given, considering the topic. He’d been right, as the blonde had tightened his hand the slightest bit around his fiancé’s and parted with more personal information on his past than he ever had before. After all, Ginny had told him he’d been taken off the wanted lists in England, and it was highly unlikely anyone back there would read California Quidditch Weekly.
“My family died in the War.”
The man’s eyes had dilated, probably picturing his by-line above that morsel of information. Although technically, that much had already been known, it was a first to get it directly from the source. But that hadn’t satisfied him as he’d turned to the redhead and posed the inquiry that had started it all.
“And your family, Miss Weasley? Will they be coming?”
She’d frozen in that moment, having never actually thought about it. She didn’t know, even now, how she had never considered whether or not what was left of her family would come. There were so many reasons why they wouldn’t. First there was the fact that she’d had no contact whatsoever with any of them since she’d left England almost five years before, and then there was the question of whether any of them would want to. Not only had they been in no state to do so the last time she had seen them, but she was also marrying someone they might still see as a Death Eating Slytherin despite Harry’s removal of his name from the lists.
As a result, she’d had no idea what to tell the reporter, and would have probably stuttered embarrassingly had Draco not jumped in and smoothly declared that they hadn’t as yet worked out all the details of the international guest list. With that, the elder Chaser had led the conversation back to more mundane topics for several minutes and then insisted they had a previous engagement they simply couldn’t miss.
She’d held together admirably through the tail end of the interview, answering questions on color schemes and flower arrangements without any noticeable oddities in her voice or manner. When they had returned to their flat, it had been a different story. She’d been an absolute wreck for days as they’d come to the decision to issue formal invitations through the post. Draco had been fantastically supportive through it all, even after he’d seen Harry and Hermione’s names on two of the envelopes.
Now they were just waiting for any possible response to their owls. It was nerve wracking for both of them, and the anxiety often left the redhead with a need of introspection and the reassurance that she had done the right thing in leaving back then, and in initiating contact now. The pictures, memorabilia, and awards sitting in front of her did just that as they reminded her of all the things she had done and accomplished over the last several years, all the happiness she had found that she may never have known if she hadn’t left the war and loss behind her.
Those thoughts were interrupted before they could go too far in the wrong direction, the feel of lips on her throat and his arms wrapping around her from behind pulling her from her contemplations.
The guarded look in his grey eyes as she turned to kiss him told her all she needed to know. “They’ve responded?”
He hugged her tighter, resting his chin on her shoulder. “Yeah. They’re on the table.”
She took a deep breath, part of her wanting to simply run away and hide until after the ceremony. She hadn’t been placed in Gryffindor for nothing, though, so she squared her shoulders, grasped Draco’s hand, and marched into their small kitchen. Her face remained blank as he watched her open the first of the letters, making his hands itch to take them all from her and spare his fiancé the pain if her family had refused the invitations.
Before he gave in and did exactly that, she looked up with a damp smile as she went from one letter to the next. “They’re coming.”
End Part Seven
When the happiness and relief of knowing her family would be coming to her wedding had dimmed, anxiety set in. How would they handle what she’d done with her life and who she had decided to spend the rest of it with? For his part, Draco was equally worried about their reactions and the effect it would have on the woman he loved. And there was also the little fact that he had now effectively announced to the whole of the English magical law enforcement community that he was in fact alive, and that he would be a sitting duck for them to capture if they so chose.
It didn’t make him all that comfortable, but it was inevitable if his future wife was to have any contact with her family. And she wanted contact. So now anyone the Weasleys, Potter, or Granger happened to inform, knew where he was. Granted, he hadn’t lived all that inconspicuous of a life since he’d joined the Dragons, but being well known in America was a whole lot different than sending the details of his continued existence and location to several prominent members of the illustrious Order of the Phoenix.
What was done, was done, though and now all he could do was hope it turned out all right, for both his sake, and hers. There was a lot her family could do to mess things up, but he was hoping that their Gryffindoric sense of morality would keep them from ruining too much of the lives he and Ginny had built for themselves, and each other.
Thinking too much about it, however, was not going to help that happen, so he tried his best to focus on his off-season training, the new maneuvers they’d been talking about trying, and the wedding plans. At least those plans he was being allowed to help with, anyway. There were many details he had, apparently not shown the proper, or appropriate interest in and had been forbade from being involved with. For the most part, he let her and the other women point him in whatever direction wouldn’t get him yelled at. There were, however, a few areas in which he refused to be left out of the planning process.
Ginny, Bredan’s wife Arabecka, Nilo’s sister Nema, and Virgilen’s daughter Cicera, could handle the flowers, decorations, place settings, and other ‘pretty’ details. They could even handle the menu for the reception, after all, who in their right mind wouldn’t let someone as amazing in the kitchen as his fiancé was, not be involved with the food? But while he had no problem toasting with a bottle of Golden Fleece champagne, he wanted a say in the additional drinks that would be available, namely Ogden’s. The second thing he would not be shut out of was, believe it or not, the color scheme. Color swatches weren’t his favorite thing to browse, by any means, but he would be damned if he ended up walking down the isle in lavender robes; Lockhart he was not.
In the end, he’d gotten his way in that particular matter without much argument, after all, white and silver were simple, classic, and would look lovely on his wife-to-be. It had taken him a while longer to convince Ginny that while the majority of the decorations and accents could be done in an iridescent silver, his robes should be more a charcoal shade. He had done it, however, and that had left him with only one more area in which to assert his rights as groom. The honeymoon plans.
As it turned out, that had been the easiest portion of the planning to commandeer. By the time his redhead had wadded her way through invitations, place settings, flowers, decorations, guest lists, and the all important robes, she’d been so tired that he’d only had to offer to take care of it for her and he’d been given full control. He’d immediately set about making arrangements for them to stay in a small Wizarding resort on the beaches of Australia. The resort was said to be a vacationer’s dream, with activities available for everyone’s taste.
The way things looked by the big day, the blond had a feeling they’d make good use of the resort’s masseuse, if nothing else. His neck felt as tense as if he’d just played a twelve hour game against the World Cup champions. The pounding in his head was not helping matters and he more than dreaded having to step out into the full glare of the California desert sun.
The Weasleys were here. As were Potter and Granger, though he would just as easily lump them all together into one obnoxious category. Sure, he hadn’t seen them himself, as he’d been shut up in the locker room-cum-dressing room, getting ready for the past twenty minutes. But seeing them himself wasn’t exactly necessary when two of his teammates had already stopped in as they’d arrived and informed him of everyone who was milling about the pitch, waiting for the ceremony to begin. The Gryffindors’ mere presence set his muscles to clenching. He could only imagine how Ginny must be feeling at the thought of seeing her family again after so long.
He knew she was excited to see them, but he also knew she was scared. So much had happened since she’d left her childhood home that it was difficult to say how her family and friends might react to the changes in her and her life. He was more than a little nervous himself. Even now, almost a decade after the Dark War, that group still held so much power. One word from the Boy Who Vanquished the Dark could have him in Azkaban. One tearful plea from Molly Weasley could very well have Ginny running back to England.
Only time would tell how it would all turn out, and time was something he apparently didn’t have any more of, as his employer, mentor, and friend was already sticking his bald head through the door.
“Time to go my boy,” Virgilen stated with a little too much enthusiasm.
The burly old apothecary really was just an old romantic, the younger wizard thought as he adjusted his dark grey robes one last time. Even as the sarcastic words floated through his head, though, Draco couldn’t help but smile and follow a little faster. His steps faltered moments later, however, as they reached the tunnel through which he had flown so many times as a Dragon. He wasn’t flying through as a Dragon today though, and this wasn’t a game. He was Draco Malfoy and this was his wedding day.
His realization ran into him with the force of an enthusiastic Bludger. It didn’t matter how many times he’d said or thought about it over the past weeks, it hadn’t truly sunk in until right then. He was getting married. To Ginevra Weasley. By that night Ginny would be his wife.
Virgilen placed a calloused hand on his shoulder after several silent minutes, causing glazed grey orbs to snap to his wrinkled face. “Drake, my boy, you all right?”
The blond nodded slowly. Ginny was going to be his wife. She was going to truly be his. The grey pools were sparkling as he mounted his Firebolt and flew towards the Dragon’s hoops several feet away, a smiling apothecary trailing behind him.
It had been a joking suggestion by their captain that had given them the idea to conduct the ceremony in the air in front of their home goal hoops, and the two Chasers had ran with it. The VIP stands made it possible for the small group of guest to have a perfect view of the couple where they’d be floating before the hoops currently draped with white cloth, silver ribbons, and bouquets of multi-hued flowers. He paid little attention to the stands, however, as he halted a couple feet from the American Ministry official that would be conducting the ceremony, turning to stare at the tunnel through which she would be appearing.
He didn’t have long to wait as Arabecka, Bredan’s wife, and Ginny’s closest female friend, soon flew out to join Virgilen beside him, a bouquet of irises setting off the silver robes that were a feminized version of the ones the apothecary was wearing. The blond didn’t even spare a thought to be thankful he’d talked himself out of the same color, steel pools a shade brighter than his charcoal dress robes fixed too unerringly on the tunnel as sweet strains of the traditional Witch’s March floated through the air.
Distantly, he heard everyone in the stands rise to their feet, heard the official cast a Sonorus charm on himself and the surrounding few feet, but nothing registered. All he saw were her scarlet curls streaming out behind her as she flew towards him, the strands a bright contrast to the flowing white robes, subtly accented in silver, that draped and hugged her petite figure in all the right places.
She was there, floating beside him a second later, and he had to fight not to brush a stray curl off her rosy cheek. She didn’t notice his struggle, or the way he was staring, transfixed at her, brown eyes too busy drinking in the way the dark grey robes made his blond hair look even whiter while still showing off the tan he’d acquired over his years flying in the Death Valley sun. She was well on her way to having a similar tan herself, but she hadn’t the faintest idea how her slightly darkened complexion captivated his attention as it appeared even more vibrant against her white robes.
The Ministry official was aware of the effect each was having on the other, though, and he tried to quietly clear his throat to gain their attention, but the Sonorus caused the sound to carry easily to the stands. The Dragons in attendance let out a stream of laughter at their star Chasers, all of the players and missing the annoyed, angry, and curious looks the bride and groom’s behavior was garnering from the English guests. The two women in the stands caught the strange reactions, but were forced to look out at the field as the noise had also managed to draw the couple’s gazes off one another, both finally turning to face the official, allowing the ceremony to start.
“We have been brought here today to see the joining together of Draco Malfoy and Ginevra Weasley in friendship and love. Who here stands witness to this joining?”
Virgilen extended his wand to touch the other man’s. “I stand witness for Draco.”
Arabecka followed suit. “I stand witness for Ginevra.”
As the three wand tips made contact, a light glowed for a moment, then died down. The witnesses both sheathed their wands while the official turned his to point straight ahead, directly between the bride and groom. “Before these witnesses, how do you enter this joining?”
Draco turned, grey locking with brown as his voice echoed through the pitch, strong, clear, and full of emotions only the woman before him could properly distinguish. “Ginny, there were a hundred different reasons why you should have walked away from me that night, four years ago, but you didn’t, and two weeks later, you came here and we flew together for the first time.” His eyes briefly flickered over the expanse of field they’d flown over so long ago before he redirected his gaze to meet hers once more.
“You gave me a chance I thought I would never get from anyone, and I owe you more than I can say. You became one of the best friends I’ve ever had, you looked past so much to see me, to know me, to love me. You make me happier than I thought I could be. I love you, and I enter this joining as friend, partner, and lover for the rest of my days.”
As he spoke the last few words, he touched his wand to the tip of the older man’s, his eyes never leaving her face. Ginny also blindly touched her wand to the other two as she answered softly, unwaveringly.
“Draco, you have given me so much over the last four years. The first night we met, you gave me the means and opportunity to do something I love, and taking you up on it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Coming here gave me the opportunity to not only become a Dragon, but to become your friend and get to know a man I am proud to call mine.” The two exchanged a smile at the possessive comment.
“You have shown me so much of yourself, so much of myself. You have given me the best friend I always needed, the love I always dreamed of and never thought possible. You have given me all of you, and I freely, happily, give you all of me as I enter this joining as friend, partner, and lover for the rest of my days.”
A light erupted from the three wands, almost blindingly bright from the sincerity of the magic traveling through the two wands that had once, many years before, been raised against each other. As the flash disappeared, however, no trace of the hostility that had characterized their school days lingered on their faces. Love shown there instead, and only shown clearer as the words rang across the pitch and the two leaned forward for a long kiss.
“In the name of the American Ministry of Magic I here declare this witch and wizard joined.”
End Part Eight
She was married. She was married to Draco Malfoy. She was Mrs. Malfoy, Mrs. Ginny Malfoy. It seemed unreal as they finally pulled back from the kiss, the weight of the moment like a heavy blanket wrapped securely around her. She could see a similar sensation shining from her husband’s eyes and squeezed his hand in a gesture meant to ground herself as much as him.
Grounding wasn’t what Draco had in mind, however, as his gaze began to clear and he used their clasped hands to pull her closer to him with a rather wicked grin forming on his lips. “Hey Gin, you know that combination we’ve been talking about?”
For a second, the redhead regarded him with a questioning, almost hesitant expression, then her face cleared and a smile started spreading across her lips. “You wanna give it a try?”
No sooner had his words echoed across the pitch, thanks to the still active Sonorus, then they were off, shooting up into the air on their twin Firebolt 400s. They spun, twisted, and turned with their wedding robes streaking behind them, then suddenly reversed direction and dove straight down, weaving and ducking as they fell. Just as suddenly they pulled up at exactly the same time with a loud whoop of joy as they began to spin, tight and fast around one another, the length of her robes actually ending up wrapped around them both by the time they came to a halt, inches from the lush grass of the pitch.
They were still holding hands as they landed.
The Chasers were met on the ground by their teammates who exclaimed their happiness at the couple’s marriage even as they praised their fellow Dragons’ amazing airborne display. The blond and redhead laughed with their friends, appearing nearly as pleased by the latter as they were by the former. After several minutes of this, however, the former Gryffindor became aware of the tightening grip of her husband’s hand on hers. Brown eyes glanced at his face in question to find his expression held tightly neutral as he looked past her. Ginny turned to follow his gaze, her stomach clenching at what she saw there.
“Mum,” she said, her voice equal parts excitement and pure nerves. “Fred, Charlie, Bill, Fleur.” She spoke each name as she glanced over the group, her mouth dry by the time her eyes landed on the last two of her international guests. “Harry, Hermione.”
The bride seemed momentarily at a loss for words as she stood, face to face with what remained of her family for the first time in five years. Then she squared her shoulders and put on a smile that looked only slightly forced. “Hi. I, uh, would like you guys to meet my friends.”
Ginny turned to point at each of the other guests in turn. “This is Bredan Smeeth, our captain and Seeker, and his wife Arabecka; Harrvis and Ozbore, our Beaters; Evag Nillen, our Keeper; Nilo Helgat our third Chaser, and his sister Nima. And this is Virgilen Histor and his daughter Cicera.” She stepped back further into her new husband’s side as she continued, one hand gripping his ever tighter while the other rose to lay on his free arm as he wrapped it around her waist.
“And, you all know who Draco is, of course.”
Her brothers seemed to stiffen at her last words while her mother and sister-in-law simply stared at the blond as if trying to place the tanned face before them. Harry narrowed green eyes as they locked with grey. Ginny held her breath and Hermione looked back and forth between the two schoolyard enemies nervously. The Dragons and their guests had only ever heard bits and pieces, usually uttered off hand, in regard to their chasers’ pasts in England and stood somewhat uncomfortably on the sidelines.
Virgilen was perhaps the only California native that knew the entire story. The older man had worked for many years to gain his young protégé’s trust before he’d been given that story, and had had to work even longer to get the blond to put it all behind him, and it had taken the new bride’s help to accomplish the task. He’d be damned if all their hard work went to waste now, especially since it would also mean the young woman’s injury as well if that were to happen. So, before the silence stretching between the two groups grew too heavy, Virgilen stepped forward.
“It’s great to finally meet you all, my name, as Ginny has said, is Virgilen. I have the honor of being my boy Draco’s lowly employer when he’s not off winning League Championships.” The boy in question rolled his eyes good-naturedly, choosing to ignore the tense atmosphere as the older man shook the hand of the Weasley matriarch.
“Right, so lowly you own the most popular apothecary in Death Drop.”
Virgilen shot his protégé a mock glare and shook Bill’s hand next. “Hush boy, the shop never did that well before you started there and you know it.”
Ginny slapped her husband’s shoulder lightly before he could respond, smiling at the often heard argument. “Both of you quiet, neither of you looks good in modesty.”
The blond stepped back, raising the arm that had been around her waist, holding his hand to his chest and adopting a look of injured surprise. “Are you calling me arrogant?”
“Of course not, sweetheart,” she responded as if appeasing a five year old, “you’re the picture of humility.”
Both managed to hold their expressions for another second before breaking into laughter, their teammates and friends joining in without noticing the disbelief on the faces of their international audience. Fred, Hermione, and Harry, having seen and interacted with the spoiled blond at Hogwarts, were the most shocked as they watched him laugh warmly with the others.
Genuine laughter was something none of them had ever actually seen from him as a child, and the fact that he was not only laughing, but laughing in part, at himself, made the sight all the more unbelievable. They didn’t have very long to contemplate the surprising sense of humor, however, as the strangeness continued with a shout from one of the Quidditch players they’d been introduced to.
“Drake’s plenty humble on the dance floor.” More laughter enveloped the group, prompting another Dragon to exclaim, “With two left feet, he’s got to be.”
“Hey,” the tanned blond yelled, turning to the second of his loud-mouthed teammates, a mock glare on his face that lasted barely a moment before it became a wide, almost embarrassed grin. “I’m not that bad.”
Everyone just laughed harder and he crossed his arms, careful not to crush the small hand still wrapped around one of his. “I can dance just fine to proper music, you all just insist on listening to that Muggle stuff.”
Those who hadn’t seen him since Hogwarts swallowed gasps at his use of the word ‘Muggle.’ They half expected a sneer to twist his lips as the teasing conversation continued but he kept smiling even as the other Dragons made fun of him, a third teammate raising an eyebrow and grinning.
“That high and mighty stuff isn’t music unless you’re in a starched robe and a marble ballroom. And don’t act like you don’t like the Muggle rock, ‘cause you so do, you just can’t dance to it.”
Draco harrumphed, pulling a giggle from his wife as he lowered his arms from his chest and draped one over her shoulders. “It’s okay Drake, you just need more practice is all.”
Ginny’s words elicited a cry from her California guests. “Practice!”
The groom shook his head and sighed. “You just had to say it.”
She laughed again and tugged on his arm, dragging him towards the middle of the pitch, where a make-shift dance floor was being spelled over the grass at that very moment. “Come on, Draco, please? One dance?”
Molly Weasley felt the hurt and anger that had begun to flare at the fact that she and the others had been completely forgotten, dissolve into nothing as her only daughter pouted up at her husband. She watched the blond’s look of amused annoyance become lost beneath the soft smile that spread across his face as he stared down at Ginny. He took the last few steps onto the dance floor without protest, his eyes never leaving his wife’s face as he pulled her against him.
The groom swished his wand, conjuring forth the sound of violins before sweeping his bride into a classic Wizarding dance that only the oldest families still taught their children. The matriarch was taken aback when her little girl easily fell into the steps, following him around the dance floor as if she’d done it a hundred times before, her gaze locked with his the entire time.
Molly wasn’t the only one to notice the way the couple moved together, as if they fit just right, nor was she the only one to feel a little more of the lingering unhappiness with the youngest Weasley’s choice fade away. Fred had been the only brother left that had gone to school with the Malfoy heir and had been one of the most vocal in their anger when the invitations had arrived. He had also been the first to say they needed to come, after Harry had taken them all to the Aurors’ vault and shown them the Pensieve he had received years before.
Pansy Parkinson’s memory had been a sobering and heart-wrenching glimpse into the blonde boy’s past. It had answered the questions about his disappearance and removal from the wanted lists. It had also shown them all the boy’s true feelings for many aspects of his life, which they would have never otherwise believed. What had happened to the senior Malfoys, and their son’s reaction to it had struck too close to the twin’s experience with George’s death for him to not at least come here and see for himself what his baby sister had managed to salvage of her life.
It had taken a bit of discussion for Charlie to agree, but Bill had been a little easier, having known what it was like to marry someone his family didn’t like much. Molly had been even easier, having wanted to see her only girl get married, whether she approved of the boy or not. Hermione had seemed uncomfortable with the idea, but had a lot longer to adjust to the concept of her old nemesis being a human with as many feelings as any other, since Harry had told her about the Pensieve several years after he’d received it.
Despite all that, none had been overjoyed to see the redheaded woman fly out to meet the former Slytherin. Many had in fact wanted to storm back and demand an explanation from her before the ceremony started, leaving Fred and, surprisingly enough, Harry, to keep them in their seats. The vows each had made and the strength of the wandlight had given even the littlest Weasley’s supporters something to think about, though.
Even so, it wasn’t until Draco came to a stop in the middle of the dance floor, his forehead resting against his wife’s for a moment before he closed the distance and kissed her slowly, that they all really began to see it all differently. It wasn’t until the violins silenced and unfamiliar music pounded through the pitch to the other guests’ laughter, causing the newlyweds to pull apart with large grins and mock glares for their friends that they looked at the blond without the past in their line of sight.
“Very funny guys,” the new Mrs. Malfoy yelled. “But I’d like to have cake and champagne first, if you don’t mind.”
This seemed to give everyone pause as they looked at each other, then back at the guests of honor.
The former Slytherin smiled at the pleading look on the ex-Gryffindor’s face, shook his head at his teammates and pointed his wand at the refreshment table several feet away. Once the bottles and glasses were floating in front of him, he began pouring while his mentor cleared his throat over the cheers.
“I believe that’s my cue,” Virgilen stated. More cheers exploded as the groom started passing out the drinks, pointedly ignoring the shock on the Weasleys’ faces at the fact that he had deigned to perform the task himself.
“I’ve known Draco for almost eight years now, and I was a bit surprised when he brought the young Miss Weasley to the shop after they started dating. I was even more surprised when I realized what a great girl he’d talked into going out with him.”
Draco smiled at his mentor over the resulting laughter. “Gee, thanks Virg.”
The apothecary grinned back, then gestured for everyone to quell their amusement. “I was glad he’d finally let himself find someone, though, and even more thrilled when it became obvious how perfect that find was for them both. I know you two will have a great life together,” the older wizard told them with a smile.
“To Draco and Ginny.” Arabecka raised her glass.
“Drake and Gin,” cried the small crowd before everyone drank.
Molly only took a sip of her champagne, watching her daughter clink glasses with Draco and swallow the sparkling beverage with a wide smile. Ginny caught her mother’s gaze as she set down her glass. The young woman promptly leaned over to whisper in her husband’s ear, then made her way slowly to the elder redhead’s side as loud music once more filled the pitch.
Both Weasley women stood silently for a minute before her brothers, Harry, and Hermione joined them. “What exactly is this stuff?”
The Chaser smiled at the way her youngest remaining brother began to bounce his head in time with the heavy beat. “Muggle rock music. I think this group is called Sevendust, but I’m not sure, I’d have to ask Draco.”
“Draco knows that much about Muggle music?”
Her smile turned almost wistful as she remembered the first time he’d taken her to hear his favorite Muggle band one night about a month after they started dating, ignoring the tone in which Bill had asked the question. “And then some. He got into rock shortly after he came here; Virg and Cic introduced him to it. He also likes what they call heavy metal music. He listens to it all the time at home.”
She didn’t miss her family’s reaction to her use of the word ‘home’ in reference to her and Draco’s place in Death Drop but she refrained from commenting on it, instead turning to watch the blond in question. He was grinning at something Bredan and Nilo were saying and waiting patiently for her to join him in cutting the cake.
“You really are happy here… with him, aren’t you?”
Ginny turned back, meeting Harry’s green eyes for a moment before she answered his question. “Yes, I am. Happier than I’ve ever been, actually.”
They held each other’s gaze for another few seconds, until Molly spoke up. “Well, then I guess congratulations are in order.”
She hadn’t allowed herself to hope for those words, but hearing them now, the youngest redhead felt the tell-tale burn of tears behind her eyes as she hugged her mother tightly. “Thank you,” she whispered into the older woman’s shoulder. “You don’t know what that means to us.”
Molly only held her daughter closer, all too aware of the fact that she had said ‘us’ and not ‘me.’ Perhaps it was time to consider getting to know her son-in-law a little. Those thoughts were interrupted by a light tap on her shoulder and the sound of her honorary son telling her not to hog to redhead.
“The rest of us want a turn,” Harry declared, his bushy-haired girlfriend nodding in agreement.
“Family first, mate,” interjected Charlie, only to have Bill push him gently aside and take his sister into his arms.
Ginny laughed as she was handed from one brother to the other, then to Harry, then Hermione, and finally to Fleur.
“It waz a lovely wedding.” The smallest member of the Death Valley Dragons smiled tearfully at her sister-in-law, then gestured for them all to follow her over to the table holding the large, three-tiered white and silver cake.
They followed readily and watched as she and her groom cut the artful confection into pieces and handed them out to all their guests, joking and laughing the entire time. That merriment turned to happy indignation from the blond minutes later however, causing the wedding party to explode in laughter once more at the sight of the Dragon’s lead Chaser wearing his slice of cake all over his face.
Draco turned amused grey eyes on his wife in a mock glare as she licked frosting from her fingers with an innocent smirk.
Grey eyes narrowed as he grabbed a plate and lunged playfully at the redhead, eliciting a squeal as she ran through the crowd and out onto the pitch where he soon caught her and swung her up into the air and around before setting her on her feet in front of him. As he did so, he dropped the plate and shoved the large piece of cake into her face, then promptly kissed her.
The sequence of events, caught on film by the wedding photographer, was featured in California Quidditch the next day. One copy of the picture, however, was printed early and soon found itself in a silver gilt frame on the mantle of one Molly Weasley, right next to a clock that proclaimed Ginny and Draco Malfoy ‘At Home’.
End Part Nine
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters and settings are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.