Summary: It's sixth year for the trio and Ginny's in her fifth year. What happens when she finds that not everyone is what they appear to be? D/G with H/HR and R/L on the side.

Disclaimer: The Characters, setting and props obviously aren't mine—just the angsty little plot.

Caught Off Balance

Chapter 1 - Not Quite the Hero

As Ginny Weasley made her way down the stone steps from the castle's wide oak doors she could see the Slytherin Quiditch Team walking toward the entrance of the stadium, their green and silver robes swirling around them in the breeze. The captain's voice carried faintly across the grounds, "If we're going to beat Ravenclaw, we need to shore up our defense! We're going to concentrate on keeper skills today. Chasers and beaters, you line up and try to score on Bletchley. Really have a go at it and give him a workout! Malfoy, I'm releasing the snitch and I want you to practice your seeking. Alright, let's get on with it, then!" And at that, the Slytherin team shot skyward.

All but one headed toward the end of the field. Ginny knew it was Draco Malfoy, the seeker, who flew high and solitary. His blond hair was streaming along with his robes as he scanned for the snitch. As she walked through the grass to the Forbidden Forest, a chill skittered up her spine. She turned and found Draco sitting high on his broom, gazing at her, his face inscrutable at that distance. Ginny returned his stare defiantly for a bit, then tossed her crimson hair and continued into the forest. It was an understatement to say that the Malfoy and Weasley families were not on good terms given that Lucius Malfoy was responsible for Ginny's near fatal dealings with Tom Riddle, now Lord Voldemort, in the Chamber of Secrets. "Bloody git!" Ginny said under her breath as she reached the edge of the trees.

She was in search of willow bark to complete a potion and hoped she could find it on the outskirts of the forest. Ginny squinted her eyes looking through the shadows for the needed tree, surprised to see how little sunlight penetrated the leaves above her. She shivered as the cool breeze weaved through her jumper and wrapped her arms around herself for warmth. As she scanned through the trees for a willow, Ginny enjoyed the vivid leaves and she began humming softly adding her melody to some of the forest sounds drifting around her. Suddenly, her skin prickled. The small trees and bushes ahead were swaying...and crunching. A nasty looking creature, deep purple with horns and strange feet, was lumbering about as it foraged. Ginny stood stock-still and her mind buzzed in panic as she quickly looked around realizing that she had come in too far and couldn't see the end of the trees anymore. She began backing up slowly keeping her eyes on the creature. Crack! Her foot had landed on a fallen branch. The creature raised its ugly head and, sighting Ginny, began to lope toward her. Ginny turned and ran with all her might. She felt like she had run forever when she finally burst out of the forest but she could still hear crashing behind her and knew the beast was still in pursuit. "Hagrid!" Ginny shrieked, but there was no smoke coming from Hagrid's chimney.

Terrified, Ginny could feel herself tiring and the thundering feet behind her sounded closer and closer. Her lungs were beginning to burn and her legs were slowly turning to rubber. She wondered with dread how long it would be before the beast caught up with her. Whoosh! She saw something flash by going in the opposite direction. 'What was—?' After a few seconds, "HANG ON!" rang from a powerful voice from her left. An arm came around Ginny, scooped her off the ground and lifted her onto his broom in front of him. She quickly threw her arms around the rider and twisted her body so that she was pressed against his front and hung on for dear life. The strong arm around Ginny's waist lifted her up a bit more to a less precarious sitting position on her rescuer's lap. She clung on even more tightly and buried her face in soft material, sobbing chokily. "You're all right—I've got you," a tense voice said into her ear. Ginny was pulled closer and she could feel the flyer's muscles clenching, fighting to control his broom and hold on to her as he forced them higher into the air and away from the beast. Ginny heard the animal roar in frustration from somewhere behind them. They flew for just a little while longer and began to descend then, "Get ready!" gasped the voice just seconds before they plowed into the ground.

They were thrown from the broom to land in a tangle on the soft grass. "Are you alright?" he demanded. Ginny threw her arms gratefully back around him and gave him a smacking kiss on the cheek as his arms came back around her. She hugged him even tighter and choked out into his ear, "Thanks so much! I thought I was done for!" Then, Ginny felt her rescuer recoil slightly in her arms, his hands sliding down and away from her. She became aware of sounds around them and looked up to see the Slytherin Team landing close to them. They had also apparently heard her screams and watched the whole scene play out. Some were standing with calculating looks on their faces and some were breaking into smirks and not so friendly grins. She slowly became aware that the robe her hands were clutching was green and silver. A creeping feeling of dread caused Ginny to loosen her hold and pull slowly back. She found herself staring into the enigmatic gray eyes of Draco Malfoy and heard herself take a sharp breath. "Get your filthy hands off me, Weasley," he snarled as he stood up and quickly stepped away from her. "Alright, you've had your nasty Gryffindor neck saved by a get out of here!"

The start of tears began to swell in Ginny's eyes as she looked up at Draco but she quickly blinked them away. She lifted her chin and picked herself up never letting her eyes leave his gaze. Ginny turned on her heel and hair flying, strode away toward the castle without a backwards glance and missed the fleeting look that passed over Draco's face. He turned his gaze back to his snickering teammates who were beginning to mount their brooms and fly back over the stadium wall to resume practice. Crabbe and Goyle looked at each other then glanced back at him with their eyebrows raised as they soared up. After they were out of sight, Draco chanced a look at Ginny's retreating form then turned slowly, mounted his broom, and returned to practice.

Ginny stalked to her thankfully empty dorm room and slammed the door before climbing on her bed and snapping shut the hangings. She pounded a fist into her pillow sending a few feathers into the air then bowed her head and let the tears come. When she was done with them, she opened the curtains and sat on the edge of her bed in the stillness. She could see the stadium out the window and observed the practice still in full swing. The lone seeker was flying in lazy circles above the pitch but then dove down below the stadium's rim. A few seconds later, Draco rose with his closed hand held high. He then opened his hand and Ginny saw a flicker of gold as the snitch sped away again. There was no denying that Draco was a good seeker although he usually had bad luck against Harry. Ginny had been Gryffindor's seeker in her fourth year after Harry was banned from playing. While she had been decent in the position, her current status as chaser this year was much more to her liking and she already had five goals under her belt.

Ginny sighed and turned away from the window as her friend Hermione walked in the room. "Luna told me that you looked pretty angry a little while ago. Everything alright?"

"You're not going to believe what happened," said Ginny rolling her eyes. She proceeded to tell Hermione a condensed version of her afternoon. As Ginny neared the end of her story, the tears welled up all over again to her consternation.

"I'm so sorry that happened," Hermione sighed reaching out a hand to Ginny's arm. "Of all the people...but I'm glad he did what he did. You could've been killed!"

"I know—I thought for sure I was going to be. I just feel so humiliated...that I actually kissed him before I knew it was HIM..." Ginny's voice trailed off. "I mean, we were sitting on the ground with our arms around each other and it seemed—"

"What?" interrupted Hermione. "Hang on, what do you mean 'arms around each other'?"

"Well, after our landing, I kind of threw my arms back around him," Ginny shook her head embarrassedly, "and I could swear he put his arms back around me, too. I think he even asked if I was all right—that's odd, isn't it?" Ginny's forehead creased but then she shook her head again and went on. "Then I kissed him on the cheek and thanked him. Right after that, I noticed the Slytherins and that it had been Draco who had rescued me."

"So he actually acted like a decent person for a moment?" Hermione asked in disbelief.

"Yeah, but then the rest of the team showed up and he was definitely himself again." Ginny's eyes cast down. "I just don't want to have to see him after all this..."

"Well, that's going to be pretty difficult—but maybe he'll avoid you, too. Look, its almost time for dinner. Come on and meet Harry and Ron with me."

"Thanks, but you go on—I'll be right there," Ginny said with a small smile and motioned with her hand.

"Are you sure?"

Ginny nodded. "I just need a second..."

"All right, then. See you in a bit." Hermione patted Ginny's arm softly and headed to the common room.

She turned to the mirror straightened her hair and cleaned her face from the evidence of her tears. As she looked in the mirror, an unbidden memory sprung up of Draco pulling her into his lap and holding her closer as they flew away from the graphorn. Ginny could still feel his muscles working to hold on to her and control the broom. She remembered his voice telling her she was safe in his arms and then demanding to know if she was all right. Ginny covered her eyes with her hands and then let them slide down her face and drop to her sides. She sighed and walked out the door to go to dinner.