Unofficial Portkey Archive

Highrollers by InTheStars



A/N: Here it is! Hermione's in it! I've hardly mentioned her, but I'm glad she's made her first appearance. I kind of love Hermione Granger so I'm a bit surprised at myself for excluding her for ten chapters.

Also, the scene I was planning is not in this chapter. It will definitely be in the next. That's the thing about writing. It takes you to unplanned places. I felt like the chapter really ended here and so that's where I stopped. So unfortunately, there's not much D/G interaction in this one. But trust me. There is plenty to come.

It seemed to Ginny that Saturday's Quidditch game was upon her before she could blink twice. She took breakfast that morning with Harry, Ron, and Hermione, the last of whom looked cheerful. Ginny knew Hermione enjoyed watching Harry and Ron play but would never admit it. She didn't blame the bookworm for keeping that from them - neither would let her live it down if she said so.

Harry and Ron on the other hand were both wired and nervous. Ron was muttering under his breath and shoveling food into his mouth at Hermione's urging. Harry looked pale and kept asking Ginny to recite some of their game plans to him.

"Harry!" she finally exclaimed after the fourth time. She gave him an amused, sympathetic smile. "We've practiced for a month! I remember the plays! You're a brilliant captain and we have a brilliant team. Don't worry about it."

He choked out a laugh and tried to look optimistic. If Ron were in any state to do it, he might have told Harry he was worse than Wood.

Soon enough it was time to head down to the pitch and suit up. Ginny barely had time to smile and wave at Luna when she came down to eat. Her best friend was wearing the oddest red and gold headband that projected the words 'GO GRYFFINDOR!' in matching, sparkling colors over her yellow hair.

"Now just remember what I told you about Crabbe and Goyle," Harry was warning her as they walked across the lawn. Crabbe and Goyle were the Slytherin beaters; last year they had targeted Ginny with vicious glee because she was so quick to score and probably because she was a Weasley. The thought made her a little sick now; since when did Crabbe and Goyle do anything without Draco Malfoy telling them to? "Stay out of their crosshairs if you can-"

"Harry, if I can score I'm going for it, Bludger or no-"

"You think I can't protect our star Chaser, Harry?" Seamus piped up, sidling up to her. He flashed a charming grin and swung an arm around her shoulders. He was one of the new Beaters this year and furthermore couldn't help but act like a shameless flirt. Ginny laughed at his antics and rolled her eyes, accustomed to the friendly behavior after suffering through it for so many practices.

"I didn't say that," Harry retorted. "I just meant-"

"We know and don't worry about it, mate. Me 'n Dean have Ginny's back. You worry about Malfoy and the Snitch."

"That's right, Harry," Ron grumbled. "Just keep that slimy git from winning."

"He's been a bit absent this year, hasn't he?" Hermione said conversationally from alongside Ron, her brow furrowing curiously. "I mean, when was the last time he bothered us? It seems odd."

"Doesn't matter, he's still a bastard," Ron argued. "He hasn't been bothering you anymore, has he, Gin?"

She felt all of their eyes converge on her; she resisted the urge to reach back and give Ron a nice punch on the arm. "Uh," she responded with a flush, "no."

"I didn't know he was bothering you, Ginny." Hermione sounded concerned. "And he told you to give me those prefect rounds the other night, didn't he?"

"What did he do?" Ron roared, as if asking to pass along an envelope were the equivalent of an awful hex.

"Shut up, Ron," Ginny snapped, turning to glare at her scandalized brother. "He asked me to give the prefect schedule to Hermione, that's all. Now can we please just get to the pitch and play the game?"

She punctuated this suggestion by speeding up and leaving them all behind her, heading to the locker rooms alone. It wasn't even Ron being the idiot he routinely was or that anything they were saying wasn't true - Malfoy was a bastard and a slimy git, and it was odd he hadn't been bothering the trio. Or at least it would seem odd if they didn't know Draco had been spending an inordinate amount of time concentrating on her.

It was quite simply the overall reminder of Draco that grated on her. It was the thought of Malfoy and their fragile, crumbling game, remembering Thursday night and all the things he said - all the things she felt for him.

It wasn't pity. It would be easier if she pitied him, but she didn't. She understood the pain in his eyes, the frustration and shame. He could pass as a mirror reflecting her turmoil. The mere fact that she could understand Malfoy, relate to him in some way - that kept her up at night more than wondering about his motives ever could.

Stop it, Ginny, she told herself, dropping her things on a bench and reaching in her duffel to gear up. She heard the talking and laughter of her teammates nearing soon after; she willed herself to set her attitude right. Months ago this wouldn't have got to you. Just play the game and win. She hated to admit that might be easier said than done, not thinking about the blond Slytherin for a day, especially when they would be on the same field and playing the same game. All the same, she managed to smile tightly at the two other Chasers (Katie Bell and Demelza Robins) when they came in to suit up and go over their plays. The sound from the pitch was getting louder, the time was getting later, and soon enough she found herself walking alongside her teammates onto the field.

Even after a year, the magnitude and volume of a Quidditch game never failed to invoke passion in her; the only thing that dampened it now was Harry giving her a concerned look under the cheers and boos of the crowd. "Ron can be... well, you know, Ron. Don't let it get to you, Gin?"

She sighed and nodded with a smile, wanting to comfort him. He wanted to win the Cup this year and she couldn't blame him. She shouldn't be so selfish, especially over Draco Malfoy's tendency to distract her. Harry deserved it; Quidditch brought him happiness and who knew where he would be after seventh year?

Probably facing Voldemort. Ginny shivered, not wanting to think too long and hard about that. But now that the thought occurred to her, it nestled into the back of her mind, nagging at her.

"I'm fine, Harry. I've had a lifetime of practice ignoring Ron. My head's on straight," she fibbed. Hopefully promising it to Harry would give her more incentive to follow through.

He nodded at her, thankfully assuaged. They were halfway across the pitch now. Ginny could make out the approaching Slytherin team, Draco at their head. She had been avoiding looking at the group and she wished she could avoid it a little longer. Now all she saw was Draco, tall and regal and looking as unpleasant as ever, his eyes hard with the promise of competition and his lips in a grim line. She sucked in a fortifying breath and realized with some degree of disappointment that he was glaring at Harry. He wasn't looking at her at all - as if she were just Ron's little sister and below his radar yet again. It shouldn't surprise her - why would he stare at her so openly? He couldn't; furthermore he didn't want to have soft thoughts about her to begin with. Her disappointment was over just that - an unmet expectation she shouldn't have in the first place.

She wondered now, looking at his cruel expression, where he would be after this year. Wasn't it assumed by all - even her - that he would take the Mark? She hadn't really thought of it too much, hadn't really thought of Draco's prospects at all. But with Harry and Voldemort at the forefront of her mind, she paled with dread at the conclusion under new light. Draco had practically been bred to become a Death Eater, hadn't he? And here she was sympathizing with him, wanting him in ways that should make her physically sick. Ginny would have liked nothing more than to fade into the background, become just as invisible as Draco was treating her at that moment.

They slowed to a stop and Ginny forced her eyes on Madame Hooch, glad for any reason to keep them off Draco. "I want a good, clean game," the older witch declared.

In the wake of the last few months, Ginny couldn't help but feel like there was no such thing.

"And Weasley's got the Quaffle! She dodges Bulstrode - look at that dive! Will she get past Nott? She does! She does! Gryffindor leads one-hundred to seventy!"

Draco gripped the handle of his broom tighter, letting out a soft growl as three-fourths of the stands erupted in cheers and hollers. Only the Slytherins yelled and booed against Gryffindor's bloody charm of a Chaser. He was currently circling the pitch high above the grounds, keeping Potter in his periphery. He was discontent to admit it, but the bespeckled git had dumb luck in finding the Snitch, not to mention oodles of the same luck when it came to catching the thing.

He clenched his jaw. Truthfully he was having trouble keeping his attention on looking for the winged golden prize. He was much more concerned with Nott's awful stint as Keeper. Even Ronald Weasley was besting him in keeping goals out. He should never have given the idiot the chance to play - even if Ginny Weasley happened to be something else with a Quaffle under her arm.

Which brought him to the true reason of his inattention: Ginny in all her glory. She was merely a red and gold streak below him, dodging Bludgers and players with single-minded determination. Yet every time that Hufflepuff pounce of an announcer said her name something inside of him curled pleasantly and painfully. Then his eyes sought her out, as if just to check on her.

It was irritating. Frankly not a distraction he could afford. He was Seeker and Captain now, and if he didn't win the Cup this year his father would scold and belittle him for Merlin knows how long. Plus the idea of Gryffindor winning yet again set Draco's teeth on edge.

In all honesty Draco's teeth had been on edge all month. He felt tense and more irritable than usual, all over the growing soft spot expanding from the center of him. His chest ached with it; he found his thoughts wandering too often where they shouldn't go. And her with her crimson hair and those sweet brown eyes always brushing over him in the halls and at meals, giving him foolish and despicable hope he had to squash. He felt weak. He had been grateful to speak to her the other night, as if it were some masochistic treat for him to brood about the rest of the evening. He shouldn't want anything to do with her, especially now. He couldn't want anything to do with her. He hated her.

It's over, he told himself again, impatiently and with a note of resignation. He decided it was over that day in the library, that no amount of ambition or pride would push him along the course he contemplated. He would not go after Ginny Weasley when he would be nothing but a besotted arse doing it. She could hardly stand the sight of him and he had sincere doubts that would change. He would not make a fool of himself at any cost. Although Thursday he had; remembering that flash of pity in her eyes still made him bristle. He didn't want nor need her Gryffindor righteousness forcing her to take pity on his feelings. He didn't need pity from anyone - he was a Malfoy. There was nothing to pity.

He let out another growl and tore his eyes away from her, leaning down and putting some speed into his lazy flying. He circled one of the towers quickly, for a moment enjoying the cool November air graze through his hair. He saw Potter watching him intently; Draco took a moment to sneer at the disfigured moron before dipping a little closer to the game below them.

Slytherin had a good start - and then Ginny had gotten a hold of the Quaffle and things were rapidly heading south. She was a threat - in more ways than one. Crabbe and Goyle had been trying to catch his eye for the last several plays; he knew what they wanted. Approval to hit a brutal Bludger at her. For reasons Draco abhorred he had managed to blithely ignore the brainless duo, pretending to concentrate solely on finding the Snitch.

It was risky anyway, he told himself. They could be fouled and suffer a penalty. Knowing Crabbe and Goyle's penchant for being the least cunning of anyone Draco knew, they'd probably bloody it up and then what would they have? An injured Weasley and potential points to Gryffindor. For the first time in his life both of those things filled Draco with dread.

He swallowed thickly. The very ridiculousness of all these thoughts and all these completely counterintuitive feelings were driving him a bit mad. Up here, above everyone, only the wind whipping at him, he felt the truth of it all. Terrifyingly enough, he was beginning to accept it. He was fucking hopeless for the Gryffindor minx.

Not that it changed anything. On the contrary, it made him determined as ever to forget about her.

Pansy seemed pleased about it anyhow. He had even taken to sitting with her in the common room after dinners again. The first time he'd done it last week she practically beamed like the shameless tart she was. Blaise had merely looked at him from across his own seat in bemusement and with that irritatingly knowing speculation glinting in his blue eyes. Draco had let Pansy ramble about nothing for an hour to make her happy.

He figured he might as well find the path he had abandoned this year: the path that led him back to what his parents wished for him. Pansy and everything the union of their houses stood for. Pride, purity, and power.

Not this. Not this gaping, hungry hole in his chest.

"And Weasley's got the Quaffle again!" Instantly he slowed and his head turned just barely to catch sight of her. It was much too easy to discreetly watch her here; in the castle there was only so much he could do to steal a glimpse. Not that he had.


Luckily Ginny seemed too unaware to notice his attention. Now, on the pitch, she didn't have a spare moment to even check, not like he had. And there she was zooming meters below him, the red ball tucked tight at her side. She dodged a rogue Bludger with ease and dipped down under Vaisey gracefully. It was especially graceful considering her broom was nothing but a charmed heap of twigs and branches.

His lip curled up just barely in a sneer that lacked its usual disdain for her poverty. Draco let out an impatient breath and then felt it catch in his throat.

Crabbe was in her path. He was hitting the second Bludger towards her head with all his might. Draco tensed, felt some awful sickening horror contract his throat. There was nothing he could do - he couldn't tell Crabbe to stop; it was too late. How could he anyway; how could he tell his teammate not to hurt a Weasley? His stomach lurched and his broom moved against the wind - Potter passed him by a hair, diving down with furious speed. He saw what Draco saw; saw what was about to happen.

The Bludger collided hard and fast with Ginny's up-turned head, knocking her violently back. He saw blood splattering the air, caught a glimpse of her gaping mouth. The crowd screamed and rose in their seats; the announcer's words seemed muffled against the uproar.

She fell. Draco heard nothing.

His broom fell with her; the drop he took seemed out of his control. He instinctively gripped the smooth wood and leaned forward, felt himself glide towards her. He wouldn't make it. He wasn't even trying to; he was still numb with shock, eyes wide and stricken on the sight of her sliding off her broom, free-falling several meters.

She never hit the ground - Finnegan, her closest teammate, was there to catch her limp body. Quite suddenly he heard the crowd again; they responded with collective gasps of relief and shouts of concern.

Potter was by her side in an instant, her brother not far behind. Everyone hushed and a murmur went threw the stands. Her team was gathering around her, making it difficult for Draco to see anything.

Like a flock, they descended to the ground a moment later, only Dean Thomas lingering to retrieve Ginny's hovering broom. Madame Hooch and Professor McGonagall's small figures walked briskly across the field to join them.

That's when he saw Crabbe off to the side with Goyle, both boys smiling and snickering at their handywork. Draco felt something like white-hot rage boiling in his gut; his teeth gritted together so hard beneath his sneering lips that his temples throbbed.

"Attention!" Madame Hooch's booming, spell-enhanced voice startled him from thoughts of turning his broom their way and strangling their thick necks until they turned purple. "Miss Weasley is suffering a head injury, but we believe she will be fine soon. I'm ordering a time-out to discuss the possibility of a penalty to Slytherin!"

In the background, Draco could hear Ron yelling to McGonagall, "He was aiming for her head! He meant to knock her off! I'll rip him to shreds, that fu-"

Harry placed a warning hand on his friend's shoulder. That was when the stands erupted again, viciously calling for a foul. His team started to descend to the ground now too; Draco swished down and hit the grass last, being the furthest in the sky.

He spared the Gryffindors a glance; he just caught a glimpse of Ginny sitting on the ground, her fiery red hair matted with blood, her cinnamon eyes hazy and unfocused. It infused in him emotions powerful and consuming: both determination and fury, grabbing and drowning him in their reckless clutches. The shock was gone now, fully and completely. All he heard was the blood rushing into his head, the deafening sounds of the pitch's audience flooding his mind. All he understood was how Ginny's body went boneless for those few terrifying moments.

His nostrils flared and he walked faster, harder towards his team. They were crowded together near the goals; Nott was leaning against one, his yellow eyes watching the Gryffindors with some measure of interest and muted concern. Bulstrode, Vaisey, and Hendricks were looking irritated; he could barely make out the words their voices spat. Probably something about how the team shouldn't be penalized.

The only people Draco truly saw were Crabbe and Goyle standing to the side, laughing as if they just made some hilarious joke.

"Who the bloody hell told you to do that?!" he bellowed as he approached them. They instantly whipped their heads around, their guffaws dying and their smiles slackening when they caught sight of him.

"Dra-" Crabbe started, nonplussed.

"You insipid piece of shite." Draco cut him off, heedless of how the rest of the team quieted and stared.

Crabbe trembled, his dumb face full of shock and fear. Draco felt a kind of dark pleasure at the sight; he should be scared. He'd been rash before, thinking of strangling the dolt. His father had taught him plenty of dark curses better befitting the tub of lard.

"You think that was funny, do you?" he hollered. "Look at the scoreboard, you idiot! Do you want a fucking penalty?"

"N-no," he stuttered.

"And you, Nott." He turned towards Theo, his chest heaving. The other man's yellow eyes seemed to pierce through Draco, narrowing and lighting with curiosity. In fact, all the Slytherins were looking at him with masks of shock, confusion, and calculation. "Maybe you should ask to borrow Potter's glasses if you're having trouble seeing the Quaffle zooming past your thick skull."

"We're sorry," Goyle pleaded, fumbling through the words. They meant nothing to Draco, less than nothing. Theodore simply stared at him for a long, quiet moment, his golden eyes studying him with blank appraisal. Draco nearly bristled, suddenly feeling the unbearable tightness in his chest constricting his breath, suddenly hearing the harsh thudding of his heart, the uneasy nausea churning his stomach.

Then Theo's gaze travelled past Draco's shoulder, down the field and to the horde of Gryffindors and professors surrounding Ginny. Draco's fingers clutched his broom handle tighter at the silent suspicion Theo was posing.

How transparent could he be acting if even Nott saw right through him? In retrospect he had already given the fellow Slytherin enough clues - flirting with her at the poker game, claiming her as his own conquest, even paying the idiot off for it with his position as Keeper. That had been unforgivably reckless, he realized.

"Fucking worthless," he spat, "all of you."

He turned around then, stalked away a few paces to escape the pressure of Nott's scrutiny. He threw his broom to the ground and looked up to the booing and shouting teeming mass of students, reaching with shaking fingers to adjust to ties of his robe, knowing he had to wait to check on Ginny. Theo's eyes were still on him. Everyone's eyes were on him.

He turned his head just so, let his gaze drift casually to the other side of the pitch.

Ginny Weasley's pupils looked wide and black as they watched him. The swarm of people around her moved and fluttered and argued, but she sat still on a conjured stretcher, heavily leaning against her brother's shoulder. She looked lost and dazed and yet utterly intent on him, her cinnamon eyes struggling to stay open.

A breath left him, trembling from his lips, and with it took the brunt of his outrage and the coiled tension of muscles. She was fine. Banged up but fine.

He realized with a degree of horror that was all that mattered to him. Not the game or the possibility of being penalized. He couldn't care less about Nott blocking her brilliant attempts to score or making Crabbe pay for what he had done.

He looked away, running a hand through his messy, windswept hair, trying to put it back in place. Trying to compose himself.

He cared. That was what the panic and rage filling him to the brim was about. He actually cared. Draco couldn't remember the last time he could say that and mean it.