Dean was leaning against the auditorium wall, his arms were crossed and he had a look on his face that dared his team to mess with him. He was making sure they didn’t try to leave the Quidditch Union for the Administration and Betterment of the British League and its Endeavors annual conference. Everyone in the industry was required to attend and Dean found himself on babysitting duty.
Aidan Lynch stood up and began to excuse himself down the row, “ahem,” Dean cleared his throat. Aidan looked up at him. Dean glared and pointed him back to his seat. He let his shoulders fall and returned to his seat.
“Wilford,” Dean stood up straight and shook his hand.
“I see you’re keeping your team in check.”
He sighed, “They can be quite the handful.”
“Where’s Mr. Flannery this evening,” Wilford asked accusingly.
“He’s up in the box,” Dean informed.
“At least he’s here. I may have some news that will be of interest to you.”
“What is it sir?”
“If you’re willing to come back to the office, there’s an opening in the league. We’ll have lunch during the week. I’ll have Penny send you an owl.” Wilford didn’t wait for Dean to respond and walked on to the front of the room.
Dean was beyond thrilled, he would love not having to go to Ireland every day and love not having to work with Toby Flannery. “Sit down,” he hissed at one of the players. He would love not to have to babysit grown men. The boring stuff was almost over. In about twenty minutes they would get to go have food and drinks and get photographed and do the glamorous part of their jobs.
Comet Rae had ten league cups under her belt, three British and Irish league player of the year awards, player of the year and two time winner of seeker of the year for the International Quidditch Association, she was voted Quidditch Daily’s Player to watch, Rookie of the year, and player of the year. She has never been a reserve player in her life. Comet was an enigma among players. She was a member of an elite group. No one could ever deny that Comet was one of the best.
However she hasn’t always been lucky. She’s never been selected for a world cup team. The last two seasons have been the first time she has ever been benched for another. She’s sat out due to injury and being punished for talking smack to the referee but never for the likes of Ginevra Weasley.
The season would be ending in a couple months and she knew her place wasn’t safe. She’s never shagged an international hero or national wealthy terrorist. Her skills have always kept her on the top. Ginny was good, she had the potential to be great but Comet knew she was better. It’s just Ginny was better at other stuff.
“Hey Gin look it’sTodd,” Ann whispered to her as she pointed down into the lower auditorium. They were sitting in the balcony of the auditorium like all the other reserve players in the league.
“Oh you know she’s not interested, after all her death eater boyfriend scared him off,” laughed Sara.
“I wouldn’t have been interested either way, he’s full of himself,” Ginny shrugged.
Ann snorted, “And Draco’s not?”
“Oh he completely is,” Ginny agreed, “but differently.” It was the truth, he was conceded and smug but he was always that way it wasn’t as if he made it off the bench and then changed his whole persona like Todd.
“Is he coming tonight?” Asked Sara, “I think you two are adorable”
Ginny looked at her, “I am too old to be adorable.”
“Oh sweetie you’re not,” Ann put her arm around her, “when you get to be my age we can talk. You’re still a teenager.”
“I’m a grown woman,” she pushed Ann’s arm off of her.
“Usually people who declare they’re grown aren’t,” Ann folded her arms.
That was arguable she has done some childish things like stage a completely fake relationship for personal gain. “Yes he’s coming.” Although she was only nineteen she didn’t feel that young.
“My favorite Weasley.”
“Oliver,” Ginny grinned as he joined her Ann and Sara into the large receiving hall at the auditorium. It had been decorated with glitzy Quidditch décor and a buffet and bar had been set up. “Did you enjoy today’s events?”
“No,” he smiled, “I’d rather have all my teeth pulled.”
“It wasn’t that bad, do you know Ann and Sara,” she introduced.
“Chaser and Keeper,” he shook their hands, “it’s nice to meet you ladies, Ginny talks about you two non-stop.”
“She doesn’t talk about you nearly enough,” Ann got into man hunt mode.
Oliver smirked, “I’m sad to hear it, I thought she adored me.”
“I do love it’s just Ann would eat you alive, let’s get a drink. If you’ll excuse us,” Ginny pulled Oliver away.
“There’s really no point, Wilford won’t allow them to serve alcohol at these things.”
“Mr. Wood, Ms. Weasley,” a young photographer came up to them. “I’m from Quidditch World, would you mind if I take a picture.”
“Not at all,” Oliver put his arm around Ginny and she leaned into him. Apparently this was an exciting moment because other photographers came over and began taking their photo as well. They kept posing and acting as if they were having the time of their lives. Ginny was sure it had something to do with Oliver’s standing as the man who broke her and Harry Potter up. Tomorrows headlines would probably say something about her cheating on Draco.
“You can’t live without the spotlight can you?” Comet smirked as she approached Ginny after the band of photographers disappeared.
“Jealous,” she smiled.
“Never, unlike you I’ve built my career myself not based on who I’m sleeping with,” Comet smirked.
“Well as I hear it you’re sleeping with no one,” Oliver chimed in.
“Shut it Wood, we all know you’re the biggest publicity whore of us all.”
“That explains why Wizards Fortune always names me highest paid player,” he took Ginny by the hand and walked off. “Best we not create a scene,” he whispered as they walked away.
“Isn’t that your general MO.”
“Yeah but the people who pay us are here. So we should be on our best behavior,” he explained.
The room began to fill with murmurs everyone was looking towards the door. Mary Ryan had entered the room. The mob of photographers surrounded her. She was wearing this fabulous white sparkling robe. She smiled and posed as if this was what she did for a living. When Barry came over to greet her, she received him as if he wasn’t a lying cheating husband.
“That’s going to be you one day except you’ll have a career,” Oliver said noticing how captivated Ginny was by her.
It was silly to want fame and fortune. They weren’t things she morally thought were important but being glamorous was so different than anything she’s ever been accustomed to. She liked moving on and changing into something else.
“Ginny,” Darren beamed coming over to her. “Someone is dying to meet you.”
Conrad Humphrey was the owner of the Holyhead Harpies. Ginny had never met him. She’s seen him in the top box during matches a couple of times. It was rare for a team member to get to meet him.
“I would love to but…”
“There is no but,” Darren cut her off. “You’re going to meet him!”
“I will but I’m waiting for my friend to arrive, when he’s here we’ll come say hello,” she turned her back to Darren. She didn’t know who that man thought he was. He belittles her hard working coach and decided to only learn Ginny’s name when she had something he wanted.
Darren bit his lip and walked away. Normally he would have threatened until he got his way but she was the star of the moment. And he had the distinct impression the friend she was waiting for was once on trial for his involvement with Lord Voldemort and had a notorious mean streak.
“Ginny he’s the team owner,” Oliver stressed, “have I taught you nothing?”
“I’ll meet him. I just don’t want to give Darren the satisfaction.”
“DRACO!” Ginny turned to look as her supposed boyfriend entered the room. He stopped and allowed his picture to be taken. It seemed as if he counted to five before he trudged through the mob and made his way over to Ginny and Oliver.
“All this for a conference,” he said looking around.
“Yup and we got the extreme pleasure of listening to the new league rules all day,” drawled Oliver.
“They mentioned no alcohol during active season after every other rule,” laughed Ginny. “Are you for a punch?”
“Is that your way of telling me they’re not serving alcohol,” if he knew that, he wouldn’t have bothered showing up.
“Yes,” he turned to leave she pulled him back, “stop being silly. Let’s go meet the owner of the Harpies.”
“I don’t want to meet the owner of the Harpies.”
“Neither do I, so I shouldn’t have to do it alone,” she took his hand, “Oliver if you’ll excuse us.”
“So is there something special I’m supposed to say?”
“No, I’ve never met him…” she pushed her way through the crowd looking for the husky man. She could have found Darren and asked her to introduce her but she felt it better to be bold and do it herself. She spotted him surrounded by a group of people laughing and smiling, probably just to kiss his ass. She straightened her shoulders a bit and approached, still pulling Draco with her. However…
“Ginevra Weasley,” Conrad Humphrey, exited his circle of admirers and approached her. He extended his hand.
“Hello Conrad Humphrey,” she shook his hand.
“Everyone calls me Mr. Humphrey,” he smiled at her, “but for some reason Conrad seems alright coming from you.”
She smirked, “I’m flattered. This is my friend Draco Malfoy.”
“Mr. Humphrey,” they shook hands.
“Well Ginevra, I have been quite excited to meet you. You are certainly something on a broom…”
“Mr. Humphrey, it’s so lovely to see you again,” Comet jumped right in front of Ginny.
“Yes Comet it’s lovely to see you too,” he smiled at her awkwardly, “but I was just speaking to your team mate Ms. Weasley and her friend.”
Comet stepped aside and pretended as if she hadn’t notice Ginny was there. “Oh I’m terribly sorry, I wasn’t aware you were there. Sharing tales of the bench?”
Ginny just smiled, she could play this a couple ways. Be taken by Comets ribbing or she could act far beyond her years and be mature in front of a man who could fire her.
“She wasn’t but now that you’re here, how about you share some since that’s where you’ve been sitting lately,” or she could allow Draco to do it for her.
“Draco, please,” Ginny scolded tenderly, “Constance was just teasing. Quidditch has a long history of good natured ribbing.”
“It also has a history of people pointing out when they are better players than others Ginevra,” Comet said with a sneer.
“Now, now ladies, that’s quite enough,” Conrad hushed them, “you’re both very skilled and I’m proud to have you as harpies; Ms. Weasley, Mr. Malfoy would you care to join me in private for a drink?”
“That would be lovely,” answered Ginny.
“Right this way,” he extended his arm, “Mr. Malfoy you seem like you’d enjoy a finely aged scotch?”
“That I do” they said walking off. Comet stayed behind red in the face for not being invited.
There was a private room off the main hall. It was dark and smoky from all the team owners’ cigars. The room was quiet, just soft chatter throughout. There was a single guy behind a small bar mixing real drinks and a couple of women servers walking from one small seated area to another.
Conrad chose a grouping of arm chairs in the center of the room. A server immediately came up to them.
“Good evening, what can I get you?”
Conrad indicated for Draco and Ginny to order first, “scotch rocks and a cranberry juice,” Draco ordered for both of them.
“I’ll have a scotch rocks as well,” Conrad told her before turning completely to Ginny. “So what made you decide to get into Quidditch?”
She shrugged, “that’s always the question isn’t it?” She didn’t really have an answer it wasn’t really a lifelong dream, “well I thought I was pretty good, I enjoy it and my mate was working for Wilford and got me into tryouts. I didn’t really have plans for the future.” When she was in her final year of school the only thing she knew for certain was she was going to marry Harry.
“Look how great it turned out. Who do you know in Wilford’s office,” he asked curiously.
“Dean,” Conrad raised a questioning eyebrow, “he was his assistant.”
Understanding appeared on his face, “you mean Thomas.”
“I probably should have said his full name. Dean Thomas.”
“He works for the Krestals now, rumor has it there’s a new position for him opening up in the league office,” Conrad said as the waitress sat their drinks down on the table in the center of them.
“Look at Dean moving up in the world,” drawled Draco sarcastically.
“You don’t like him,” asked Conrad, “he’s Wilford’s right hand man.”
“No I don’t,” is all Draco said disappearing into his glass.
“We all went to school together, they never got along,” explained Ginny. “But he’s my best friend and was nice enough to get me in.”
“You’re just amazing. Who knew there was all this raw talent sitting right on my bench,” Conrad was in complete awe of her. He would be in complete awe of anyone who finally sold out his reserve matches. “The way you work the broomstick…”
Draco choked on his scotch, Ginny shot him a look. He was trying not to laugh, he wasn’t sure if the man knew how suggestive he was being.
“It’s magnificent,” Conrad finished.
“Thank you,” Ginny handed Draco a napkin. “You’re dripping dear. Well I’m good with the tricks because I taught myself to play by moonlight. I had to steal my brother’s brooms when they were sleeping because they would never let me play with them. Let’s just say I’ve had to save myself quite a few times and I’ve gotten pretty good at it.”
“None of them wanted to play professionally?”
“We actually thought my older brother Charlie would, he’s a dream player but his heart was elsewhere.”
“Yeah with Dragons,” added Draco.
“Dragons,” Conrad’s eyes went wide!
“All of her brothers are a bit kooky,” informed Draco. Ginny reached over and punched him in the arm. “Ow love!”
“They are not,” she defended.
“They really are the only normal thing about them is their pure hatred of me,” he massaged his arm.
“You two are fun,” Conrad picked up his scotch.
“You think so,” wondered Ginny, “because most people can’t stand us.” Absolutely no one wanted to see them together. Those who weren’t aware of their past generally are confused by their bickering. Well everyone except for Dale who’s crazy enough to think its passion.
“No you’re great.”
“Oh Conrad,” Wilford approached, “I see you’re entertaining the star of the moment.”
“Yes I am,” Conrad stood to shake the man’s hand. “Do you know Ginevra?”
“Yes I do, how are you Ms. Weasley? I’m happy I haven’t had to call you on the carpet again,” Wilford smirked.
Ginny blushed, “I am too, I’m quite well and yourself?”
“I’m wonderful and happy that today’s festivities went on without a hitch.”
They were so boring Ginny didn’t think there was anything festive about them. “I’m being terribly rude. This is my friend Draco Malfoy.”
“How do you do,” Draco stood and shook the man’s hand.
“It’s nice to meet you…” he looked Draco up and down as if he was comparing the actual man to his known image. Draco was checking Wilford out as well, neither one of them thought the other was as scary as their reputation.
“Will you join us for a drink?” Conrad offered.
“No I can’t, I have some business to attend to. You enjoy your evening,” Wilford walked away.
“Why are people so scared of him,” Draco asked as he and Conrad sat down.
Conrad shrugged, “he’s rather large and notorious for ending people’s careers. I knew him in university as the king of keg stands so he doesn’t really frighten me.”
Both Draco and Ginny smiled, they traded looks and kept their laughter to themselves. Conrad had just destroyed Wilford’s image. Now every time Ginny saw him, she was going to imagine him dancing around his old eating house acting like a common frat boy.
Ginny excused herself from Draco and Conrad to run to the loo. She went back out into the lobby full of people. She stayed close to the wall hoping to not call attention to herself, she didn’t feel like smiling or having her picture taken. She climbed the stairs to where the balcony entrance was. She knew there was another bathroom up there and she was hoping it would be empty.
She opened the door to the ladies room, she stopped in her tracks. “Sorry I didn’t realize anyone was in here,” Ginny said to the reflection of Mary Ryan. She was standing at the sinks fixing her makeup in the mirror. The tall slender blonde woman always looks so glamorous and perfect in photos and when Ginny saw her from afar earlier in the evening she looked just as perfect. Now only standing a couple feet away she was exactly what she seemed. Mary Ryan’s got it going on.
“It’s alright…its Weasley isn’t it,” she said continuing to fix her lipstick.
“Yes,” Ginny was surprised she knew, she thought all the woman did was look pretty. She didn’t actually think Mary Ryan queen of Quidditch wives actually followed Quidditch.
“Surprised I know who you are?”
“Yes I am,” she answered honestly.
“Well you’re very good at what you do.”
“Well Dubuffet is a very good coach,” she said modestly.
Mary turned from the mirror to look at her. She raised an eyebrow, “that’s not what I meant. Dating Harry Potter, making out with Oliver Wood, publicity dates, pulling tricks on your broom, and romantically linking yourself to a wealthy man who’s famed for being on trial for terrorism; you’ve got this world wrapped around your finger.”
Ginny would normally pretend to have no idea what she was talking about but there was something about Mary Ryan. She had this presence that demanded truth and attitude that said she didn’t care if you were full of shit. She smiled slightly, “I didn’t realize I was that transparent.”
Mary smiled, “you aren’t, and you’ve got this genuine humbleness about you. It makes you seem shy and innocent and people like it. Like your boyfriend,” she said as if she didn’t believe they were really together. “He saw it in you, that’s why he needs you. You make him seem like a better man, make people look pass the little mess he got himself into a couple years ago.”
“People say you don’t leave Barry because you’ll be left with nothing but a twelve year old.”
She chuckled, “I’m the envy of every thirty something woman. I’m married to a wealthy man, I’ve had a child and my body shows no evidence of that. My life seems so perfect full of unimportant nail appointments and shopping trips in Paris… but Barry cheats on me left and right. Everyone knows it, yet I’m still the envy. I’ve been with the man since I was fifteen years old and I hate him but I love him too much to leave him.” She turned back to the mirror and put her lipstick back in her handbag. She kept her back to Ginny as she spoke, “Weasley this is a hard life, so before you go any further ask yourself what you’re willing to sacrifice. If I were you I would keep an eye on that Malfoy character,” she turned towards her and headed for the door. “He may turn out to be more than you bargained for.”
When Ginny came out of the bathroom, Draco was leaning on the banister looking down at the party guest. She walked over to him, “what are you doing up here?”
“Waiting for you?”
“How did you know I was up here,” she leaned on the banister next to him.
“Oliver said he saw you come up here. Conrad, had some business to attend to but he said have a great night and he’s sending an invitation for tea.”
“You must have charmed him when I was gone,” she said softly.
“I doubt it… I think he likes your legs.” Ginny lightly elbowed him. “What’s wrong with you Weasley?”
She turned to look at him, “we don’t quite fool everyone.”
He shrugged, “I suppose there’s hope for the world yet. There are still a few people who aren’t dense enough to buy our little charade.”
“That’s true but that leaves no hope for us. We’re quite ruthless going through all this.”
“Not ruthless but ambitious”
“Ambition can be bad”
“Without it you wouldn’t be where you are today. Look at this Ginny,” he gestured out over the crowd. “This wonderfully fake life is what people work tirelessly to achieve. They want to sparkle and have their photo taken, it’s a dream.”
“Mary Ryan thinks you may be more than I bargained for,” she fully turned to face him.
“Mary Ryan is a daft bint with nothing better to do with her life,” he stood up straight and faced her.
“You know, I don’t think she is… you’re not what I expected.”
He smiled and raised an eyebrow, “I’m better right?”
“I was thinking more like strange.”