Chapter 12: Beaters do it with a BIG stick!

"Malfoy." Steel against a scabbard, a bullet being pumped into a rifle's firing chamber, a gauntlet crashing to the ground.

"Mudblood." The word was offensive, but the tone was bland, more polite interest than an urge to infuriate.

Hermione smirked. "I dare you to call me that in front of Ginny."

Draco arched an eyebrow. "What, and suffer the fate of Tarvit the tosser? I think not."

"Hmm." She looked him over, trying to decide what approach to use. He wouldn't respect bluntness, but she wasn't in his league for subtlety. After the seconds stretched out with nothing to fill them, she said, seemingly at random, "You did very well in the last match against Gryffindor. It seems luck was on your side."

If she had been asked beforehand, she would have put good money on a bet against the remotest possibility of a Malfoy blushing. It was faint, but it was there. Before he could open his mouth, Hermione went for another attack of the seeming non sequiturs. "You know, it's amazing sometimes how clever Ginny is. She dropped a fortune at Madame Malkin's, but the new anonymous valentines she invented should more than make up the money she spent. It took her forever to work out how to include a kiss."

"So the little Weasley is an inventor, is she?" His fašade remained mostly impassive, as befitted a Malfoy. Hermione had been watching very closely, though, and she saw the tiny reactions that gave him away.

She nodded and casually flipped her hair back, adjusting her hold on her ever present textbooks. "Yes, she's fantastic, isn't she?" And now it was time to go in for the kill. "A bit impulsive sometimes, though. She's upset because she doesn't think the boy she likes wants her for anything except the physical, so she's planning to kiss every boy she can at the masquerade."

Draco had stiffened, but the only other sign of emotion was the fact that his fists were bunched at his sides, the knuckles almost white. "I've always thought that Gryffindors come up with the stupidest possible plans."

"Perhaps. Still, with her being dressed as Persephone, she should be able to get enough kisses to find someone to make her forget the git she's in love with." Hermione smiled brightly. "Anyway, I'm sure you've got better things to do than stand around talking to a mudblood about a Weasley. I just wanted to remind you about the prefect meeting tonight, and that, despite any impressions you or Ron might have gotten, they don't normally involve whiskey."

Hermione had already walked several yards away when he said, "Not a mudblood, Granger, the mudblood. And I'll be sure to bring the vodka."

He walked away and Hermione grinned. The ball was quite firmly in his court now. If she didn't overestimate him, Ginny's kisses on Halloween night would be monopolized quite firmly.


Ginny was determined to miss the prefect's meeting and avoid Malfoy just a little bit longer. Unfortunately, she misjudged the amount of Fake'mOut fever inducing potion she'd taken in order to fool Hermione into believing she was actually sick. Three days later, a very shaky Ginny finally crawled out from under a nest of blankets to write out a careful note on the dosage and effects and owl it to the twins. She snarled at Hermione's smug I-told-you-so look and splashed herself with cold water before sitting down to tackle the accumulated homework.

"Ginny! Ginny, we've got practice." Harry's voice interrupted her in the middle of an explanation of the properties of asphodel when ground, chopped, minced, or bruised. "Come on, no rest for the wicked. Next week is the match with Hufflepuff."

"Go away, Harry. I'm still feeling a bit weak, and this essay isn't going to finish itself." Ginny scowled fiercely and considered tracking down Madame Pomfrey and begging for a potion to do something about the soreness in her muscles and joints from three days of lying in bed.

Harry reached over and closed the book. "There is no weakness in quidditch. We need to beat Hufflepuff by a good margin to make up for losing to Slytherin."

Ginny looked at him assessingly. "When did you turn into Oliver Wood?"

"Right about when the rest of the team refused to believe that I didn't want to be captain." Harry made a face and Ginny giggled. "Come on, then. Here, I'll get--" Harry had opened a drawer, presumably to get her some clothes, when he came up with a handful of satin. Dropping the underwear as if it would turn into a cobra and bite him, he turned bright red and shuffled towards the door. "On second thought, why don't I let you get your own clothes? I'll just, ah, go get the rest of the team."

Ginny laughed as the door shut behind him and decided that maybe some time on a broom would help her more than a potion. She stretched and reached into her closet, pulling on some ancient sweatpants and the first t-shirt that came to hand. She pulled her hair into a ponytail and grabbed her broom and club, not bothering to look into the mirror since she was just going to the pitch and back. Why bother to dress up if no one was going to see her?

Thinking something like that is akin to waving a red flag in front of a bull, a bottle in front of an alcoholic, a pair of killer shoes in front of a confirmed fashionista. It is a gilded, engraved invitation to the universe to have a good laugh. She was almost to the pitch when an all too familiar voice said, "Fascinating shirt, Weasel. Where would tryouts be held for this league?"

Ginny jumped and lifted a hand to her chest. "Malfoy, if you're going to stalk me, wear a bell so that I know you're coming. And what league?"

"Read your shirt, Weasel. And it doesn't count as stalking if I was here first. My pitch time just ended." Draco pulled one of Ginny's curls and started to walk away, leaving her to look down at her shirt. It was two sizes too big and emblazoned with the phrase, "Beaters do it with a BIG stick!" on the front and "Coed Naked Quidditch League: Rough, Tough, and In the Buff" on the back. Ginny closed her eyes and swore never to accept hand-me-downs from Fred again, or to get dressed without triple checking what she was putting on.

She had the shirt halfway off, with the intention of turning it inside out, when she felt his hand on her bare waist. "Do you always strip without checking if anyone's watching?"

"Weren't you going back to the castle?" Ginny's skin prickled, but she continued what she was doing. She wasn't showing off anything particularly exciting, or that Draco hadn't seen, but if Harry or Dean or any of the other team members made a joke about her shirt, Ron might just burst a blood vessel.

"No, I find the view here vastly entertaining, and there was one more thing I needed to discuss with you." One of his fingers was tracing a circle near the base of her spine and she slapped his hand away as she finished pulling the shirt back on.

Ginny wanted to howl. Hair that hadn't been washed in three days, itchy with dried sweat. Baggy, faded pants with a hole in one knee. The dreaded t-shirt. Scuffed trainers that had seen much better days several years before. A complexion that had to show the effects of three days of miserable illness. So much for impressing Draco the next time she saw him. She should've just belted up and gone to the damn prefects' meeting. Irritated beyond belief by being seen at her worst, she said, "If I say in advance that I look terrible, will it shorten the amount of time you spend being supercilious and mean? Because I've got practice to get to sometime within the next century, so despite temptation, you'll have to restrain yourself to just a few bon mots on the subject of my appearance."

His eyes roamed over her entire body, taking in every flaw. "You do look like hell, Weasel." He took a step forward and she lost her breath again. What was it about Draco Malfoy that made her lungs unable to process oxygen properly? He was whispering in her ear, again, damn it, and that needed to be made illegal for the way it went straight down her spine. His actual words took a moment to register. "And if what I was interested in with you was purely physical, it might even matter."

"Huh, you, wha--" Ginny's best attempt at coherency was beyond pathetic, even to her own ears. It didn't help that he had pushed aside some random strands of hair to kiss her cheek.

"You've got practice to get to." He swatted her backside and her eyes widened. "Work on your backspin, Ginger-snap. Your wrist is too limp and it throws off your aim."

She stared after his retreating back, all kinds of thoughts tumbling in her brain. In the confusion, two foolish thoughts kept fighting for dominance. One was that he looked damn good in his quidditch robes. The other was that a world in which Draco Malfoy whistled jauntily, if off key, was a very odd world indeed.

(A/N: Yes, I realize that the skiving snackboxes do about what the Fake'mOut potion does, but this was written before OotP came out, and I didn't want to mess with it too much. Y'all will forgive me, right?)
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