DISCLAIMER: This is JKR’s universe. All characters belong to her. I’m only visiting.
Chapter One: The Shock and Horror
By Mademoiselle LaCroix
Right before your eyes, see the laughter from the skies
And he laughs until he cries, then he dies, then he dies
Come inside the show’s about to start
Guaranteed to blow your head apart!
-- ELP, Karn Evil No. 9
With a hard kick, Ron slammed shut the door to his locker. Another match, another loss for the Cannons, insuring their perpetual position at the bottom of the league. Oliver was locked in his office, no doubt crying into a glass of Ogden’s. Not that Ron could blame him. They had been so close. The score was tied at 180 and one of their Chasers, Taylor, had been about to score when the Falcon’s Seeker appeared out of nowhere with the Snitch.
If only he had been able to stop that last Quaffle…
“DAMN!”he shouted as he kicked the locker one last time before grabbing his bag to leave. Ron knew the problem wasn’t him or his skills as Keeper. What the Cannons needed was a Seeker that could actually seek. Marshall couldn’t even find his broom most of the time let alone the Snitch. Oliver would have gone in himself if the team medi-wizard hadn’t given him strict instructions to keep his head no less than fifty feet away from large projectiles. Well, that and his players charming him to the bench.
As Ron walked out of the locker room, he was certain he heard Oliver curse “that bloody Potter,” and Ron couldn’t have agreed with him more. After Voldemort’s fall, Harry had turned down an offer to play for the Cannons and about eight other league teams, instead choosing to go completely mental, and taking off with little more than a goodbye. Harry called it “finding himself.” Ron called it crap. He figured that it was pretty obvious that Harry wasn’t going to find anything but girls and quite possibly a rash. But when you have just saved the world and you have a pile of gold waiting to be spent, you can pretty much call it whatever the bloody hell you want. Whatever Harry called it, it didn’t excuse the fact that Ron had received only a handful of letters from him over the past two years.
So Harry was off carousing, living the life of some international playwizard and Ron was here, the Keeper of a team with an unbreakable losing streak, and absolutely no female prospects in sight. He’d been in a rut since Hermione left, proclaiming they were “too young” and that the position in the embassy in France was a “once in a lifetime opportunity.” Ron tried not to imagine Hermione being pawed and groped by some guy with a cigarette, and beret. Just the slightest thought of some guy with a crap accent sticking his tongue down her throat was positively repulsive and Ron removed it from his head as quickly as he could.
What he needed right now was a barstool, a drink, and possibly someone that would let him stick his tongue down their throat. Figuring two out of three wasn’t bad, Ron left the stadium and Apparated to The Rusty Ring, a hole in the wall just off Diagon Alley where the team met after each match to drown the pain of losing in cheap pints and shots of Ogden’s.
He found his teammates there as well as the regular crowd – most of them Cannon diehards that had been at the match in the afternoon. The remaining patrons were your usual assortment of local drunks and men escaping their wives for the evening. The Rusty Ring was your typical pub with one thing lacking: women.
Ron found Taylor and sat down next to him, ordering a pint and a bottle of Ogden’s Old Firewhiskey. Looking around at the assortment of fanatics, deadbeats and losers, Ron sighed and threw back his first shot. Being a professional Quidditch Player on the losingest team in history, beloved by Ron as they were, was not living up to his fantasies.
He resigned himself to a night of drunken recaps of the match, which always included plenty of embellishment. By ten o’clock , he and Taylor had nearly put away the bottle of Ogden’s and Ron had told his personal version of the spectacular save he made while performing the Double Eight Loop seven times. When the crowd in the bar started singing something about a girl named Molly and her unmentionable folly that didn’t go unmentioned in the song, he and Taylor sat back down to finish off the Ogden’s.
“To next week’s match!” Taylor called out above the singing.
“To next week’s match!” Ron met his glass.
“So we can get some women in here for you!”
“Nice, mate. Real nice. Shouldn’t you be home with your wife?” Ron replied. Taylor rolled his eyes and ordered another pint. Ron was throwing back another shot of Firewhiskey when Taylor nudged his arm. “Oi! Look!”
“What?” Ron turned his head in the direction that Taylor was pointing. Through the crowd of men at the bar he could see a tall, slender figure. Their long, white-blonde hair, tied back with a green bow, stood out among the dark cloaks and orange Cannons robes. He looked back at Taylor who raised both his eyebrows and his glass to him. Taking another shot and straightening his robes, Ron set out toward the ponytail at the end of the bar.
He was nearly next to the person when he caught a glimpse of their profile – and there was no mistaking that profile. Sharp features, pointy nose, pale complexion, permanent look of disgust on their face…
It was Malfoy. Draco Malfoy.
“Fuck!” Ron spun around so quickly, he spilled his ale down the front of his shirt. He was fumbling with the glass, and dripping when he heard his name called in that unmistakable nasal drawl. When he looked up he could see Taylor and the rest of his teammates having a good laugh at his expense. They’d pay later. Was it his fault Malfoy looked like a girl from behind?
“Weasley,” Draco said again as he walked up to Ron. “Can I have a word?” And before Ron could answer, Draco was walking toward a booth in a corner. “Honestly, could you pick a filthier place? If you’re going to drown your sorrows, you would think you could do it in more sanitary surroundings.” Draco inspected the seat, made a sound of disgust, and sat down.
“Well, don’t just stand their with your mouth open, Weasley. Sit down.”
Ron was halfway to the table before he realized that he was following Malfoy. His head was spinning from the liquor and it had suddenly become unbearably hot.
When he finally found his voice, his tone was angry. “What do you want Malfoy? I’m busy.”
“Weasley, is that any way to treat an old friend?” Draco asked. Taking a sip of his drink, a look of revulsion spread across his face the moment the liquid touched his lips. “Ugh, I should have known,” he said, putting the glass down. “A decent scotch was too much to ask for.”
“What do you want, Malfoy?” Ron said again, still standing.
“Are you certain you won’t sit?” Ron didn’t move and Malfoy continued. “Well, I just wanted to inform you that you are to be at this address at eight o’clock sharp this Monday morning.” He handed Ron a business card. His head was still spinning and his vision blurred, but Ron was able to focus long enough to see a tiny broom race across the card chased by the name Quality Quidditch Supplies.
Malfoy had to have noticed the look of confusion on Ron’s face but if he did, he chose to ignore it, and instead of explaining himself, he simply stood up to leave. However, not before adding, “I almost forgot. They are insisting you wear that ridiculous uniform.” Draco took a step back and eyed Ron, top to bottom. “Yes, something will need to be done.” He stared at Ron for another few seconds. “Well, if you are clear about it, I’ll be going,” Malfoy said, taking a step forward.
But Ron, regaining a little of his senses held out his arm, blocking Malfoy’s way. “Wait one minute,” he started as he grabbed Draco by his forearm and pushed him back into the booth. “Since when do you tell me what to do?”
“Since nine o’clock last night when I officially became owner of the Chudley Cannons Quidditch Team.” The smirk on Draco’s face was like none Ron had ever seen before.
Suddenly the bar was spinning faster than a Billywig and Ron thought he would vomit. With his head in his hands, he sat in the booth mumbling, “This cannot be happening.”
“Oh, but it can. And it is.” Malfoy’s mouth was right near his ear. He had slid into the booth next to Ron. “And if you can’t start winning games so I can fill some seats and recoup my losses, then I’ll sell you out to anyone willing to give me a Sickle.” Draco was sitting uncomfortably close with his arm draped across the back of the seat, blocking Ron’s exit. Ron looked up at Draco, their faces only inches apart. The stare from the cold gray eyes was piercing.
“No way, Malfoy,” Ron said, clenching his fists. “Find someone else to whore out.”
“Sorry, Weasley, but I’m afraid you’re it,” he sneered. “As much as it pains me, there’s the name recognition and the fact that you are the least pathetic player on the team. My marketers tell me that you will appeal to a broad audience.” Draco continued to stare at Ron. “I tried to disagree with them but they think they’re the experts.”
“No,” Ron repeated. “I won’t do it.” He felt his face getting hotter and made to grab Malfoy by the collar, but Draco was quick and caught Ron’s arm, holding it down.
“I think that you will find that your contract states that you will.” Ron struggled to free his hand but couldn’t. For a scrawny git, Malfoy was strong. “I own you, Weasley.”
Draco dropped Ron’s arm and stood.
“Now, if you’re done whinging, Weasley, I’ll be going.” Draco said with an air of finality. He was almost to the door when he turned around, eyed Ron up and down again.
“Do try to clean yourself up a bit for Monday, Weasley.”
Ron just sat and stared as Draco left the bar in a swirl of cloak and ponytail.
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