If not anything else, Quidditch practice was definitely…eventful. Even though Ginny had introduced Draco to the rest of the Silver Stags as their new Seeker, only about half of the team seemed willing to accept it. Unfortunately, the half that was loath to cooperate happened to be the team’s two Beaters, Jimmy Peakes (bloody clodhopper) and Ritchie Coote (pipsqueak). Their way of making their opinion of Malfoy abundantly clear was to “accidentally” miss any Bludger that was flying in Draco’s direction. After the fourth time that Draco got clobbered in the back of the head (that one infuriated him in particular because he had just been about to grab the Snitch), he had very nearly fallen off of his broom. After righting himself, he angrily whipped off his shoe and hurled it at the nearest Beater with all his might. It hit Peakes squarely in the face and bloodied his nose.
“Malfoy! What in Merlin’s name do you think you’re doing?!” Ginny hollered at him, aghast.
“Giving that prat a taste of his own medicine, that’s what I’m doing!” He shot back. As Coote flew past, Draco fired a venomous glare at him and growled, “And I’ve got another shoe with your name on it if you don’t watch your step, shrimpy.”
Ginny reached him just as Coote flew away. “Malfoy,” Ginny warned him under her breath, “can you try being a little less…yourself and not provoke the team members so much?”
“Dammit, they started it! I have been hit four times already—”
“Yeah, but that could have been an accident.”
Draco was indignant. “Do I look like I was born yesterday, Weasley? Four times is no accident!”
“Well, it’s definitely not an accident to hit somebody in the face with your shoe!” Ginny’s face was strained. She had been trying her best to keep the practice running as smoothly as possible and it looked like the pressure was finally getting to her. She took a deep breath and looked at him beseechingly. “Can you please, please try to get through this practice without antagonizing and alienating the entire team?”
Draco wanted to press the matter further, but unfortunately, Ginny Weasley also happened to have brown eyes, and they were turned on him in full force. It reminded him of Hermione. Aw, man… He grimaced, then grunted a reluctant affirmative.
As Ginny flew away, Draco took a deep breath to clear his head and soared up high over the pitch, far out of any other player’s range. He decided that the best course of action would be to work on his own skill and basically pretend that the rest of the team didn’t exist. That might make it more tolerable…imagining that I’m not playing on any team, especially not one named afterPotter the Perfect. Before he knew it, he noticed the Snitch darting about nearby and with a quick dip and rotation over his broom, he had caught it in mere seconds.
As he descended to where the rest of the team was, he was surprised to see every player on the team staring at him in astonishment. The Beater bogeys seemed amazed that Draco was actually capable of making a successful play (Bloody gits, Draco thought bitterly), but he also noticed that the Chasers were beginning to look hopeful. “That was a pretty fancy move!” one of them exclaimed. He remembered that she had a funny name like Esmerelda or Demelza, or something like that.
Ginny was grinning. “We may have a chance at winning if we can just hold this team together.” She looked over at the Beaters pointedly. “Right, guys?”
The Beaters grunted and nodded their heads sullenly.
“Okay, then,” Ginny said, satisfied. “Everybody get to their positions and let’s try it one more time.”
Draco realized that the best way to get back at the Beaters was to outperform them as much as possible. Over the next hour he managed to catch the Snitch six times, a personal record for him. Interestingly, he was playing better than he had in quite a long time, probably since the last game he had played against Potter. The Boy Who Scored had been a decent Quidditch player, Draco had to admit grudgingly, and unless Slytherin had been playing Gryffindor, Draco found that he really didn’t have to try all that hard. Now, it was different. Now he was actively pushing himself to excel—something he rarely did—and the results were remarkable.
After his last Snitch catch, Draco sailed past Peakes and Coote on his broom, laying back with his head pillowed on the bristle end, the rest of his body balanced down the handle, feet crossed casually with one arm propped behind his head and the other holding up the Snitch as he mock-examined it. It was a trick he had come up with years ago to irk his team captain because from a distance it looked like he was actually sleeping on his broom. “Look at that,” he remarked offhandedly as he passed the Beaters. “Another quick catch. That was almost too easy.” The Beaters had glared at him in unison but held their tongues, especially since that last catch had been so spectacular that the Weaslette had actually cheered.
Quidditch practice finally came to a close and Draco had to admit to himself (but certainly not to anyone else) that he had almost enjoyed it. He was always happy when he got a chance to rile someone who annoyed him, and he had even begun to like the way some of the Gryffindors made a fuss every time he had executed something particularly impressive. The Slytherins had never had anything good to say, even when he had won the game for them by an excessively large margin. I might actually be able to pull this off without wanting to die of humiliation for associating with Gryffindorks, he found himself thinking hopefully as he touched down onto the field.
As the team disbanded and started to go their separate ways, Ginny approached Draco once more. “We’ll need to sneak in one more practice in the back field after classes tomorrow,” she told him. “Just to make sure we know what we’re doing.”
Draco nodded an affirmative as he pulled off his gloves. Ginny watched him for a moment, then finally asked, “So, are you off to tell Hermione about this momentous event?”
He looked up at her sharply. “No! And neither are you.”
Ginny looked confused. “Wait a minute, I thought the whole reason you were doing this was to get back in Hermione’s good graces.”
“Then why don’t you want Hermione to know?” Ginny wailed in exasperation.
Draco avoided making eye contact with her. “I’m not going to go running to her like a puppy wanting to be rewarded after doing one good thing, Weasley,” he muttered. “She has to see that I mean it, so I’m going to wait until the game.”
Ginny was astounded. “Merlin’s beard,” she exclaimed softly. “You really do lo—”
He shot her a severely warning look.
“I mean,” she corrected herself, “you really are serious about this.”
“Yeah, I am. So if you flap your lip to Hermione, I’m going to have to come after you and shove my bloody Quidditch magazine down your throat.”
Ginny smirked at him. “You don’t scare me, Malfoy. Now that I know what a softie you really are.” Draco shot her a look that was full of malice, but she merely grinned back at him cheekily, then turned and began to head up the path towards the castle.
“Where the hell is my magazine, anyway, Weasley?!” he shouted after her. The only answer he got was the bloody Weaselette’s laughter floating on the breeze in her wake.
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