A week later, she'd only had one encounter with Draco, where she had chased him down to thank him for his timely interruption on her first day. He'd simply looked at her as if she was completely mad.
During that first week, she'd only made one friend, and that was Harry Potter. It was rather odd, him being her brother's friend and her childhood crush, but, nevertheless, she appreciated having someone who helped her learn her way around her new environment and it was helpful to know that he definitely only saw her as a boy, alleviating her fears that her disguise might not be adequate. To her dismay, however, on the few occasions that she brought up Draco, hoping to learn more about him, Harry quickly changed the subject.
Fortunately, she and Harry were able to practice a bit, to at least hone her Quidditch skills to be the best they could be prior to the upcoming challenge, but she still felt woefully inadequate, having lacked any formal competition experience. She could only hope for a bit of luck on the day of the match.
When that day arrived, she was once again nervous and worried. Walking over from the dormitories to the steep cliff overlooking the valley, she once again was taken by the overwhelming beauty of the location.
"You alright, mate?" Harry asked, noticing her paleness.
"I'm fine, really," she replied looking gratefully at her new friend.
Just at that time, Draco walked by. "I always knew you were a poufter, Potter. I wonder if the dragons have a preference for the two of you," he said, giving Ginny a bit of a smirk.
She rolled her eyes in annoyance at him, and once again chastised herself for having started things with him so badly.
"Just ignore him, Jon. He hates everybody."
"Why is that?" she asked.
"Not sure, exactly. I think he just thinks he's above the rest of us. Had everything as a child and it was all taken away because of his family's dealings with the wrong sort. He's a bit bitter, I suppose."
She nodded, feeling an overwhelming feeling of sympathy for Draco, wishing that she could find a way to help him somehow.
As they made their way to the starting location, Ginny found herself looking forward to the day. She was going to get to see her beautiful Seeker fly again, and that was thrilling enough for her to cast aside some of her worries about her personal performance.
The game they would play only vaguely represented Quidditch. The commonalities being that the wizards flew brooms in an attempt to capture a golden Snitch, beyond that, there were no rules. There was, however, one rather drastic complication, most notably that dragons ruled the skies over this wild glen, and dragons loved to collect hordes of shiny things.
In this particular game, once the Snitch was released, the dragons would also be quickly drawn to capturing the fluttering golden object, as well as several wizard-sized meals, making the task of a Seeker not only difficult but extraordinarily dangerous. Only the best Seekers could even attempt such a stunt and, apparently, Draco Malfoy was one who not only regularly attempted it, he excelled at it.
Half a dozen among the small group of trainees were taking the dare this particular morning, while the others remained behind, placing various bets among themselves. Ginny, unfortunately, was being pushed to be one of the former by her alter-ego's reputation as an amazing Seeker.
"I'm counting on you, Wilson!" she heard a shout from the crowd as she nervously mounted her broom.
With no preamble, the Snitch was released, and the six athletes took off in hot pursuit, Ginny madly hoping that the thing would be caught before the dragons joined them in the activity.
Unfortunately, dragons seemed to be incredibly astute creatures, because they appeared less than a minute after she'd taken to the air. That was when the game became outright deadly. Not only was she looking for a Snitch, but had to avoid becoming a potential meal while attempting to capture the very thing that the dragons wanted.
Shouts came from all around her as the other Seekers pushed their skills to the limit in an attempt to win the game. Harry, who had also been among them, was taken out of the competition quickly when the tail of his broom brushed through a dragon's breath, catching fire. Two of the others quit shortly after that, tiring and becoming too dangerously slow to remain in the air. Ginny found herself tiring as well, but refused to give up. She'd had a terrible first week, obviously failing to fit in. If she could at least succeed in this, she felt she'd gain some respect.
She ignored the others, bringing her broom close to the ground, buzzing along the riverbed with Snitch in sight. There were two dragons circling, but she didn't think they'd caught sight of the elusive Snitch just yet. She also found that her low position made her a more difficult target for the dragon.
Then, she was distracted for just a moment. Draco was flying in from her left, also with the Snitch in sight, and she took a moment away from her focus on the dragons to watch him in all his elegant glory. He always carried himself with a particular grace, probably from his aristocratic upbringing, but whether he was walking to class, or flying, he was simply a thing of beauty to behold.
She smiled when he seemed to shout at her, pulling her from her daydream. It took her a full second to realize that his shout was not a greeting, but a warning. She looked up to catch a glimpse of brilliant crimson-colored scales as one of the dragons swooped down towards her. She tried to evade the beast by spinning to the side, but her second of hesitation had cost her dearly, allowing one of the talons to graze along her side and back.
Stunned from the sudden pain, she did her best to fly up along the cliff walls toward safety, pursuit of the Snitch gone from her mind. The dragon had moved to circle back for a second attack and she knew that, injured, there was no way she could out-fly him.
The dragon swept in for another pass, apparently losing interest in the golden prize now that it had drawn blood and found a greater interest in lunch. She drew her wand, hoping to have the patience to wait until the ideal moment to send a hex at the beast, but she was unsure of what hex to cast.
In mere moments, it was on top of her, and she was in the process of contemplating the fact that she was likely going to die, when she saw a flash of green light. A moment after, the dragon gave a frustrated growl and flew off. Her attention once again not on her flying, she looked forward just in time to brace herself before her broom harshly impacted the ground.
She was grateful that, if she was going to fall, that it was along the sloping banks near the river where the ground was soft, covered in grass and newly fallen leaves. She gave a groan in pain as she tried to push herself up, realizing that she had broken something in her wrist during the crash. Knowing that she would need to move quickly before the dragon returned, she once again struggled to get up but the gash in her side and the newly formed bruises from her crash made the effort difficult.
"Get up!" she heard a voice command. Looking up, she saw ihim/i, as he dismounted his broom and came running to her side. Seeing the blood on her shirt, he quickly checked her for other serious damage before hauling her to her feet.
Still stunned from the fall, she could only comply when he ordered, "Run!" and half dragged her along with him to a cave in the side of the hill.
The cave was large, and Ginny worried that it might be a dragon den, but Draco hauled her along to a smaller section, indicating for her to sit.
He began to move the material away to clean the wound and she impulsively stopped him from moving the ragged remains of her shirt. The rip in her clothing had torn through the wrap that she'd used to hold her breasts down and, despite her injuries, she was unwilling to to forego her modesty. She looked away from him, blushing furiously.
"I think it's the wrong time to be keeping up with the pretenses, don't you?"
"Huh?" was all she could say.
"We don't have time to play your games today. I have to get you fixed up and out of here before Mathilde comes back from her chase."
"Mathilde?" she repeated stupidly.
He gave an impatient sigh and raised his wand to her. She stared at it in fear, wondering if he was planning to attack her in some way, when she heard, "Finite Incantum."
At once, her hair returned to its long, flowing red color as the glamour spells lifted from her features.
He returned to her side, moving away the material from the bleeding gash. He worked quickly, casting healing charms to stop the bleeding and seal the gouges in her flesh. She winced as the magic stitched her back together, but forced herself to remain quiet through the somewhat painful process. He moved the material back into place, averting his eyes as she adjusted her shirt.
At that point, she heard a voice come from the hall, "Is that you, Draco?"
Draco groaned, his expression looking pained. "Yes, it's me, Goku" he said, looking for all the world that he wished he hadn't been discovered.
A man came out of the shadows, and Ginny tried to look past Draco to get a good look at him but all she saw was his outline in the shadows. "I didn't expect you back so soon," he said, directing his words to Draco.
Draco replied without turning to look at him, "I didn't expect to be back. I only need to be here for a few minutes."
"Ahh... I see..." the man said, smiling knowingly at the injured girl.
"Not what you think, Goku," Draco said irritably, continuing to cast the necessary healing spells.
The man laughed, and Ginny looked at him curiously. "I take it you haven't found the item yet," he said, as if Ginny wasn't there.
"I'll find it. It's only a matter of time," Draco grumbled, as he turned to mutter another charm that healed the gash on Ginny's side. "You better go, Mathilde will be back soon, and I won't be able to defend the both of you if she finds us here."
Goku nodded, leaving silently, an unusual grace about him. His departure causing Draco to become rather serious and silent.
"How did you know I was a witch?" she questioned, hoping to bring his attention back to her.
He gave a small smile at her question. "I figured it out the first day, actually. After you came to thank me and I first thought you were a pouf," he said. He spoke while working to repair her injured arm. "Then, I started watching you more closely, the way you spoke, the way you walked, your build, your unusual transfer. It all added up quickly enough."
"But you're the only one at the Academy who's caught on," she said, quite certain that none of the others paid her enough attention to care.
"I guess I'm just smarter than the lot of them," he said, giving her a slightly superior smirk.
"I guess so," she said, feeling a bit tired and woozy from the loss of blood.
"Hey, no sleeping. We have to get back to the brooms and get out of here. Do you feel well enough to walk?"
"I think so," she said, as he helped her rise to her feet.
They moved out of the tunnel and into the main portion of the cave, but Draco didn't move toward the exit. Instead, he moved in deeper.
"What are you doing?"
"You kept me from winning. I had to make a choice to save you or get the Snitch. I reckon I still deserve my prize."
They walked into the depths of the cavern to find a rather significant heap of dragon treasure. Ginny's eyes lit with surprise. Dragons truly did manage to gather quite impressive hoards of the stuff. The amount of gold and jewels alone would make any wizard wealthy for life, but she also recognized quite a bit of shiny junk, such as buttons, broken glass and Muggle cookware.
Draco quickly located a Snitch sitting on the top of the pile, stuffing it into his pocket. Then produced a small bag and filled it with a variety of items, some valuable, some not.
"What..." she started to say.
"No time," he responded, grabbing her hand and pulling her out of the chamber toward the exit. She felt her heart drop as the light at the end of the tunnel was suddenly blocked by an enormous bulk.
He grabbed her at that moment, shoving her into a narrow crevice in one of the cavern walls, cramming himself into the small space with her. The two remained pressed up against each other, hardly daring to breathe as they caught a glimpse of the crimson dragon moving past.
Then, it stopped and moved back, as if to inspect the opening. Likely it smelled the blood on Ginny's torn uniform, she thought. She clung to Draco in fear, knowing that a single breath from the beast would incinerate them both.
Draco sighed, almost calmly pulling out the bag that he'd filled with items from the treasure pile as Ginny watched, mostly frightened, but also intensely aware of how closely she was pressed against him. He cast a quiet spell, causing the little bag to float out of the crevice and back down the tunnel they'd just left, after a few meters, she heard the sound of the items crash against the cave wall and sprinkle around on the ground.
The dragon stopped its investigation of their hiding place, turning its attention to the sparkling items now scattered around the tunnel. As it moved to collect them, Draco once again grabbed her hand as he ran to the exit of the cave.
Glancing up at the skies for more predators, they ran back to their brooms, mounting quickly and flying back toward where the others awaited the outcome of the match.
"You aren't going to claim you caught that, are you?" she said, as they flew along, motioning to the Snitch he had just stolen from "Mathilde".
He appeared unaffected by her accusing tone. "I most certainly am. I would have easily caught it, but I decided to rescue you instead. Now we each have a bit of a secret, don't we," he said, looking at her rather seriously.
"But what if someone else caught the real one first?" she asked.
"We were the only ones left. The others dropped out. They always do," he said shortly. "By the way, you might want to put those glamor charms back, we'll be there soon. I'll watch the skies while you do it."
She agreed, casting the glamors that made her once again look decidedly boy-ish.
"By the way," he continued, as they arrived at the cliff near the school, "If you are going to play with dragons, it might be in your best interest to research proper charms to fend them off. I might not be around to save your sorry arse next time."
She hunched her shoulders in disappointment as he walked confidently back toward the crowd, now ignoring her, and held the Snitch in the air in triumph.