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
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