Draco released the Bludger and the Snitch and then on the count of three they both kicked off the ground. Ginny sped after the Bludger while Draco began searching for the Snitch.
Ginny caught up with the Bludger quickly and sent it zooming in Draco’s direction. He barely dodged it before Ginny had repositioned herself on the other side of him ready to send the Bludger flying at him again.
Sweet Salazar, she’s quick! Draco thought with admiration. She had been a decent Seeker the year before, but she had obviously practiced a great deal over the summer. He took a dive avoiding the Bludger yet again. He had just started looking for the flicker of gold again when it came flying at him. He was spending all his time dodging the Bludger and wasn’t getting any seeking done. She was hitting them at him with pure determination. Both her speed and accuracy were amazing. Draco was going to need to outmaneuver both her and the Bludger for a time and wear her out.
He honestly hadn’t expected her to be this good. Losing his broom wouldn’t be a big deal, especially since he wouldn’t have to explain it to his father, but he was determined to win so she would go to Hogsmeade with him. If she wasn’t going to do so willingly then this would be the next best thing. She wasn’t exactly being forced into it as it had been her own decision to take the bet, though he had been just a little manipulative by offering her the broom if she won. But if he didn’t find the Snitch soon he was going to have to come up with another way to get her to spend some time with him.
She was able to redirect the Bludger in his direction no matter where it or he was located in the field and had actually managed to clip his foot once, which had disturbed his balance for a moment. She was at a bit of a disadvantage, however. She was intersecting the Bludger quickly each time she struck it and he could tell her arm was getting tired from the constant hitting she was doing. He had been keeping his eye out for the Snitch, but spent most of his energy avoiding the Bludger and getting distance between him and Ginny so she would have to spend even more energy striking the ball in his direction.
They had spent a good hour on the pitch before Ginny was showing signs that her arm was starting to tire. They hadn’t said a word to each other the entire time, both concentrating too hard on winning.
And then it happened all at once.
Draco caught sight of the Snitch for the fourth time during the match and Ginny was chasing down the Bludger again. He shot after it, but the Bludger was only a few feet further than the Snitch. He heard Ginny’s club connect with the jet-black ball just as he reach out for the golden ball. His hand closed around the sparkling globe. A split second later, Draco felt the Bludger plow into his stomach, effectively knocking the wind out of him. Instinctively, he wrapped both arms around his middle, still holding the Snitch in his hand, but losing balance on his broom. It was fortunate he was only a few feet above the ground when the Bludger struck him so when he hit the grassy turf he didn’t actually break any bones, though he was sure there would be some good bruises along his left side. He lay there unmoving as he waited for his breath to come back.
Ginny saw his hand close around the Snitch just before the Bludger knocked him off his broom. Despite being annoyed that he had beaten her, she couldn’t help feeling satisfied that she had managed to knock him off his broom. But it had been a direct hit to the stomach and Draco was still on the ground. The elation she felt only a moment before dissipated quickly as she realized that she might have seriously injured him.
She touched down and ran to his side. “Malfoy, are you all right?” she said with a small amount of concern. “Malfoy?”
She heard a groan of agony and a little bit of satisfaction returned. He was alive, but in pain. He rolled over and was still trying to catch his breath. After normalizing his breathing, he sat up revealing the Snitch still in his hand.
Ginny sighed heavily. “Yes. You win. Are you bloody happy now?” She had crossed her arms, but was now starting to feel the soreness from the repetitive beating she had done trying to dismount Malfoy from his broom. She started rubbing her shoulder.
“Yes, actually. I am happy now. I have a date and I still have my broom. But you play amazingly well, Weasley. I am impressed.”
Ginny stared at him in disbelief. Again, she was waiting for the insult. It never came. “Malfoy, I think you’d better go to see Madam Pomfrey. I think you must have hit your head when you hit the ground. Or maybe it was your arse. It’s hard to tell, you know.”
“Funny,” he said, and he actually did sound amused. He picked himself up off the ground and brushed himself off. She saw him wince in pain as he moved his left arm. “I think you probably ought to come with me. You should have her take a look at your shoulder.”
“I’m fine,” she replied stubbornly.
“I’m sure you are. But it would be a shame if you didn’t’ make the team because of an injury that might just get worse if you don’t have it looked at.”
She detested that he was right.
“Coming?” he asked after he commanded his broom to return to him. He opened the trunk of Quidditch balls and placed the Snitch back in its place. Ginny summoned the Bludger and locked it in. They walked back to the castle together.
Ginny decided there was something different about him. He hadn’t insulted her. In fact, he had actually admitted to being impressed at her ability as a Beater. She was thoroughly confused. It had to be some type of ruse. He had to be up to something. She just wished she knew what.
“Drink this up. Both of you. You’re pain will be gone in a matter of hours, but I suggest you stay off the Quidditch pitch for a few days. Allow it heal up properly. Let me go get you each a vial to take before bed and you’re dismissed.” Madam Pomfrey bustled off to prepare a mixture for them.
Ginny stared at Draco trying to figure him out. He’d been busy complaining about the stiffness in his arm and then he looked up meeting Ginny’s eyes. They looked at each other for a moment in complete silence. Ginny could feel her heart beating a little faster. She stopped breathing for a moment and then she felt warmth rising on her cheeks. His eyes were an unusually deep shade of grey. They were entrancing.
“If you like what you see so much, Weasley, why don’t you take a picture?” Draco said seemingly pleased that she had been gawking at him.
“If you recall, Malfoy, I already have a picture and I don’t believe it’s very flattering,” she retorted, instantly snapping back to her usual self. She was glaring at him now. Her comment about the photograph didn’t seem to faze him at all. His lips curled into a conniving smile.
“True enough,” he said leaning toward her. He slowly traced her jawline with his index finger. “However, I still have a rather flattering one of you.” He curled his finger under her chin, tilting her head up just slightly. He leaned closer still. Their lips were almost touching. Ginny could feel her heart racing again. Her mind kept screaming for her to stop this nonsense. Slap him. Punch him. Kick him. Do anything to stop it. But his lips were so inviting. And she really wanted to know -
“Here we are.” Madam Pomfrey had returned with two vials and handed one to each of them.
Ginny had pulled back as soon as she heard Madam Pomfrey. She was glad for the interruption. She couldn’t believe she was just about to allow Malfoy to kiss her. Again.
Thanking Madam Pomfrey, she left quickly.
Draco smirked. At least he still had some charm. He had almost kissed her again. He wanted to curse Madam Promfrey for returning so soon.
He returned to the Slytherin common room and found Blaise flipping through his book about photograph developing spells. Plopping down in one of the green armchairs across from Blaise, he began staring intently into the fire.
“Did you know that during the development of a photograph you can adjust the hues of the various colors by performing a brightening or dulling charm?” Blaise said without looking up from his book.
“No. I didn’t know that,” Draco returned, boredom apparent in his voice.
“Well, one particular color I have problems with adjusting is red,” Blaise continued. “I was wondering if you could help me decide exactly how brilliant the red in this one particular photograph I’m working on should be.”
Blaise had stopped looking at his book and was giving Draco a sly smirk. Draco had stopped staring in to the fire. He had picked up on Blaise's hint. “Perhaps we should go take a look at that photo of yours,” he said quickly before Blaise could say another word.
Blaise had, of course, discovered the photo of Ginny and him kissing while trying to develop the remainder of the roll. He told Draco that he had assumed that the photos he took had already been developed. He didn’t realize that Draco had only taken one photo.
“So what exactly is it about the redhead?” Blaise asked after explaining how he had discovered the photo.
“I’m blackmailing her,” Draco confided.
“You’re blackmailing her,” Blaise repeated hesitantly. “So that is why you can’t seem to tear your eyes off of her when she is anywhere in your line of sight?”
Draco was caught. He hadn’t realized he’d been that obvious. He was grateful that Crabbe and Goyle were so dense, not that he would need to answer to them if they had asked any questions.
He decided to tell Blaise everything that had transpired in the first week of school and how he had managed to defy Malfoy tradition by actually liking a Weasley.
“And yes, I realize she despises me. But I’m working on that. Malfoy charm and all,” he finished.
“Right,” Blaise replied skeptically.
“Well, she has agreed to come to Hogsmeade with me.”
“And how did you manage that? Did she lose a bet with you?” Blaise chortled until he realized that he had guessed right.
“You’re not being very helpful here, you know. After all I’ve done to get you and Creevey together.” Draco pouted.
“Alright. Not that you didn’t benefit from it, but I’ll help you if you need it.”
“I am a Slytherin. It is my job to use every situation to its full advantage.”
“Gods, I’m asking my gay friend advice on girls. How pathetic am I?”
“Very. And for your information your gay friends are the best people to go to for girl trouble.”
“Have I always been this pathetic?”
“No. I’ve never actually seen you this worked up over a girl. You must really like her.”
“I must be insane.”
“You are,” Blaise agreed. “But isn’t that why you’re seeing a Headhealer?”
Ginny was in the library trying to read. She didn’t want to talk Ron or Harry. Colin was currently out on his first date with Blaise and she was praying that Malfoy wouldn’t follow her here. She needed to talk to Colin. He would be the only one that would understand. Or maybe Hermione would be able to understand. Maybe Hermione could be the voice of reason. She was always the voice of reason.
“Ginny, you’re a prefect. You shouldn’t even be placing bets!” Maybe speaking to Hermione wasn’t a good idea. “Though I suppose at least there was no money involved.”
“That’s beside the point anyway. Why would he even ask me to Hogsmeade?”
“Maybe he fancies you,” Hermione said off-handedly.
Speaking to Hermione was definitely a bad idea.
“Hermione, this is Malfoy we’re talking about. Weasley plus Malfoy equals not-a-chance-in-hell. He’s plotting something.”
“Wait. Is this about the other day, when he was casting murderous looks at you and Colin? He’s still being civil to us, you know. What did you do to him? Not that I’m complaining, of course.”
Ginny sighed. “Let’s just say that I have a photograph that he doesn’t want me to share with the general public.”
“You’re blackmailing him!” She sounded horrified.
“No, I'm simply withholding information for personal gain."
Hermione gave her a stern look.
"Alright, I'm blackmailing him. But you have to admit, it’s effective.”
“That’s true. I’m not sure what to make of it, Gin. Though, honestly he’s been a bit odd since his father was taken to Azkaban. I hear he’s seeing a Headhealer about it.”
“Great. A mental case wants to take me to Hogsmeade and who knows what he or the voices in his head have in mind for revenge.”
“Lots of perfectly sane and respectable Wizards and Witches see Headhealers. What with the war and Voldemort and all, that’s a lot of stress. You’d think Harry would go see one with all that he’s gone through. At least Malfoy is taking responsibility for his own mental health.”
“What is with people defending Malfoy all the time!” Ginny said with exasperation.
“I wasn’t defending him. I was merely stating –”
“I know, Hermione. He’s got me paranoid, that’s all.”
“Seeing as how you’ve given him a reason to plot against you it’s not surprising.”
“You’re right. I got myself into this mess. I’ll get myself out of it. Don’t say anything to Ron or Harry about it though. Promise?”
“Gin, I didn’t mean that you should do anything on your own -”
“No. It’s okay. I can handle Malfoy. I just don’t need Harry or Ron getting into any trouble because of me. Swear you won’t mention anything?”
“Gin - ”
Hermione sighed in frustration. “Fine. You know I won’t tell them anything. But if he tries anything you’d better let us know.”
“Alright, I will.”
The conversation hadn’t gone at all the way she had hoped. She had wanted to talk about the almost kiss that didn’t happen, but Hermione had gotten her sidetracked about the bet. It was probably best that she hadn’t told her about it anyway. She was sure that if Malfoy did give her any trouble in Hogsmeade there would be people around who could help her deal with him. She seriously considered telling Ron and Harry to destroy Malfoy for her, but she really didn’t need them coming to her rescue. She was perfectly capable of dealing with this herself. She was determined not to allow herself to become mesmerized by his deep grey eyes or his kissable lips again.
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