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Chapter 4: Well, That was Unexpected
Rona finally finished her book during the lulls of Professor Sprout's Herbology lecture. She was the first to rush out when the class was over; Roger was waiting, and he was more impatient than she was. A commendable feat, truly.
By the time she arrived on the pitch, practice was already midway. They were testing out different formations that day, and she could hear Roger yelling directions as he circled the field.
The numbers and visuals began turning gears. Randolph and Jeremy were too spread apart. Duncan needed to be closer to the chasers to protect them; he was the one with the quick eye. Grant was too far from the goals — had that boy ever heard of an attention span? A strong flyer like Jason should have been further out...
The seven players landed, her cue to get their attention. "Sorry I'm late! Sprout kept us in and — "
Before she could finish her sentence, Jason flung his broom on the ground and ran up to her, shaking her by the shoulders, eyes desperate. "Tell me you haven't been snogging Wood."
"What, no! Didn't Roger tell you nothing was going on and — stop that!" Rona tried to push him off her arm with no avail. She smacked him on the side of his head, and he finally stopped shaking her, though he clung like a possum. "I don't know what you've been telling people — in fact, you shouldn't be telling people anything of any sort at all — but I just have a... a game with Oliver you could say." She had no other name for what transpired the previous night.
"And this game," he said, eyes still full of desperation, "has nothing to do with snogging."
"Not unless I want it to."
His eyes widened, the white now visible all around his pupil.
She groaned. "I don't want it to and I don't plan to want it to. Is every girl in Hogwarts supposed to want to snog Wood?"
He simply blinked in response, fingers digging a little deeper into her coat sleeve. Finally, Jeremy strode over and pried him away and, with a wave of his hand, beckoned her to continue.
"Thanks," Rona muttered.
She scanned around at the team, who stood around blowing at their hair or staring at some thrilling scene beside their feet. Roger — no surprise — was fully attentive with squinting eyes that did not move away from her.
"Long story short," she began a sigh, "Oliver thinks I know the identity of whoever's feeding you lot strategies and in exchange for hints, just hints, of who it is, I’m making him do... favors," Glancing at Jason's eyes which were ready to pop out any moment, she added, "And not sexual favors. Look, it's good and bad news! Good news is, Oliver doesn't know it's me yet. Thrown off track, actually."
"Bad news?" Roger asked with his usual all-business mindset.
"So he'll find out it's me eventually, so what?" she said, challenging him with a glare. "He would've found out anyway and at least this way, we get a little fun tormenting him. How much can he learn about us anyhow? And besides — " She crossed her arms " — I came to help this team by my own accord. I can't keep spying forever. I haven't been to any of the other teams' practices this year, and we've done pretty well anyway. And maybe I want to go out with a bang and a little recognition for once. So I'll be responsible for this, thank you very much!"
There was a silence. When it became a little more than awkward, Randolph cleared his throat. "I agree."
Roger was in his thinking-stance: hands behind his back, eyebrows locked together, chin tilted ever so slightly. "Well, I don't particularly like it, but I can see your point. It is your last year, but I still advise you to be careful." Roger always sounded like he was in charge of everyone and their mothers; Rona chose to ignore this. "He's still the enemy, but I know you're smarter than that. Now — " he rubbed his hands together, seamlessly transitioning the conversation " — lets get some plays down."
Jason was still stuck in his own thinking-stance, however, except Rona knew there was never a worthwhile thought running through his head. He raised his hand. "But wait, Rona, when you say Oliver owes you favors, is it any sort of favor?"
"Er, I suppose." She scratched her head. She hadn't considered was going to make him do outside of the mundane. Penny was right that she was a big talker, unfortunately. Her form of torture was just the verbal kind. "Maybe I'd just make him run some errands or something."
"But that'd be such a waste!" Jason cried, thrusting his hands out for effect. "Think about it, you could make him do… anything!" That comment seemed to make nearly everyone else go into a thinking-stance. A murmur of agreement and nods followed.
"The things I'd like to see Wood do in public one day…"
After hearing something from Jason that sounded like 'pink knickers', Rona buried her head in her hands. "I don't know what's wrong with you lot, but I'm the only one who actually has a reason to be pissed at him and I'm the merciful one?"
"Laddies," said Roger, finally stepping in to restore some order. "And Cho." The diminutive fourth year smiled. "It's almost the holidays, and I'd like to get some good strategies down."
Rona was grateful for the subject change, even though she knew from the shuffling and restlessness from the others that their minds were elsewhere. "Six weeks until the Slytherin match, is it? We'll have some work to do. Last game... problems with the last game… Cho. Nice work on your speed, but high-speed dives. You're too hesitant. Be gutsier. And Roger, stop looking at everyone so much. Trust them to play well enough. Randolph — " She saw him shrink back an inch, and she grinned. " — you already got a good beating, but otherwise, good game. And Duncan, about your — crud is that the Gryffie team?"
Two redheads exited the castle's side entrance. Following them was a girl who unquestionably resembled one of the Gryffindor chasers.
"I didn't recall seeing them on the schedule," said Jeremy, glancing over at the same direction.
"Oliver's going to get suspicious if he sees me here with you guys," Rona reached inside her coat pocket and shoved the two sheets of folded paper from it into Roger's face. "Here. These are the notes I wrote after the game and yes — those are snide insults to your Chasing abilities in the margin."
"Ha-ha." Roger snatched it from her hand.
"Notes on Flint and Montague on the bottom, and I've got a couple suggestions for new plays, and — MerlinI-need-to-hide." Her words rushed together as the Gryffindor team approaching ever closer at the corner of her vision.
Rona gave up any chance of escape and decided to use the 'I was just reading' approach that Penny so belittled. She rushed up the stands, laid down on the bench, took out the first book she could find and shoved her face in between the pages.
Tilting her head, she could see the team take flight once more, a scrap of paper fluttering in Roger's grip. The group of Gryffindors were on the pitch below, chattering all the way to the locker rooms.
Rona glanced back at the page. Though she had already read the book, it was open to a particularly interesting passage — Lucretia had just been discovered by Horatio in the garden — and she quickly forgot all about the time and setting of the real world.
And so, she was wholly unprepared for the bit of deja vu when she heard her name.
Rona jolted upright, losing her balance. She slid off the bench, her arms waving about wildly, trying to find anything solid. After landing with a thump onto the next bench, her book followed, landing neatly onto her face.
Hearing Oliver's soft chuckle, she wasn't sure if she wanted to lift the cover of her book and face him. Rona Switt, she scolded herself, you are not going to lay here on the dirty ground and sulk. You are going to get up with all the dignity you have left, point a finger at him and curse him.
Grasping for a handhold, she pulled herself up, book sliding to her lap. She smoothed her hair, tucking the loose strands behind her ears. A hand appeared in front of her.
"Need help?" Oliver was leaning against his broom, one arm extended, and grinning, of course.
"Thanks, but no thanks." She stood, grabbing her book before it fell. Now what was the part before the cursing and after the dignity?
"So fess up, what are you doing here? I'm about to start practice." He gestured behind him toward the other players. A few waved.
"The next chapter of Two Wyverns waits for no one, Oliver. At least until you interrupted."
"Bollocks." He grabbed the aforementioned novel from her hands, flipping through the pages as if she hid something inside. "I'm not stupid, despite what you think of me, Switt. If you know the Strategist, you may be very well feeding him information."
She wrenched her book back from his grimy hands. "There are other people in the stands too."
He rolled his eyes, his stance more impatient by the second. "They're all in the corners snogging, of course I'm not paying attention to them."
She couldn't resist. "Is this where you insert one of your clever jokes about snogging me?"
"No, this is where I want you to get out of here!" He pointed his broom toward the castle.
"And what was with all that sneaky business before?" she continued, rapid-fire, "You can see through my act, love. You have another game on your hands, love. My act? What about your whole lady-killer act?"
"Hardly a lady-killer act..."
His teammates, who were now all clearly listening, offered a collection of disbelieving snorts.
"Like you don't lead them unsuspecting into dark hallways and suggest snogging them to death as a godsend to them?" Rona scoffed. "Check your facts, Oliver. Your story's full of holes larger than your ego."
"What about you?" He asked in the same tone. He stepped another pace closer. "The whole bit with Jason saying be careful and all that? You aren't so innocent either, missy."
Rona quirked an eyebrow. What did he mean?
"Give it up, Wood," George shouted. "It's just one girl. You can't expect a flawless record."
"You aren't helping, George," Oliver gritted through his teeth.
"I disagree. My mere presence brightens any day — "
"Shush." Katie held a finger to her lips. "Let them argue. I don't feel like practicing today."
"Bah, I can't bear to watch Wood struggle like this." George proceeded to hang upside down on his broom. "Rona, what's your deal with him, eh? He hit a nerve? You have to excuse him, he's not good 'round the ladies like I am. If necessary, Fred and I will provide our services to dispose of him."
Rona laughed, and in that one split second when she about to respond, an idea lit up.
If she didn't have the will to humiliate Oliver, there were others dying to do the job for her.
She switched her attention from Oliver to George. "Actually, I was wondering if you were interested in buying something."
George sat upright. "Buying something?"
Fred picked up the next question. "Like what?"
"Yea, like what?" echoed Oliver, who began eying her more suspiciously than ever.
"What if I said you could buy Oliver for ten minutes? Make him do whatever you want?"
"What?" everyone chorused, with an especially loud one from the victim.
It was the twins' chance to puppeteer the bloke who scheduled all their practices and made them fly all those laps. Whatever consequences threatened by Oliver would be worth it for them.
"I'd say I'd pay three galleons to see something like that!" shouted George, the first to recover from the disbelief.
Fred whipped around. "We've got three galleons?"
"We'll sell front row seats!"
"Now there's a business proposition!" Fred grinned. "But not to doubt a lady..." He scrutinized Rona. "I don't think you can deliver."
"It's a deal and trust me — " Rona dared to wink at Oliver, who stared back sourly. "— I can deliver. You can pay me after. The ten minutes are valid anytime, anywhere." She moved to leave the stands, but Oliver grabbed her arm.
"You can't do this!"
"I can and I will." She took her arm back roughly. "I'm not being unreasonable at all with this favor. I'm leaving you to the mercy of your own teammate. You're a gentleman who keeps his promises, right?" She threw a smile toward the twins' direction, who was completely unaware of her poisonous tone toward Oliver, before turning back to him. "Can't wait for the next question."
"What's this all about? Just because of yesterday, you're going to make my life hell?"
"Sums it up. Take it as a warning. If you mess with me, I bite back."
"Are you just trying to prove that you're better? Make everything into a competition?"
Rona couldn't believe what she was hearing. He was the one who was pushing her buttons all the time — last night, breakfast, now. "Like you don't do the same!"
"There's a big bleedin' difference!" He clenched his Cleansweep with a white-knuckled grip. "I'm not selling you!"
"Because trying to seduce information out of me is any better?" She could take all their previous interactions in good fun, but this was not going to get past her. "I'm just taking what you promised me in the first place. Anything, Oliver. I can ask for anything. You came to me. Those were the terms. That's competitive? No, I think that's fair."
Rona thought that perhaps she finally taught him a lesson as he stepped back, his brows knitted in confusion, but his next words proved otherwise. "Is this what all you Ravenclaws are like? You shouldn't be drilling me on what's fair or not."
"What the hell are you talking about?"
"If you don't already know, there's no point in telling you," he scoffed, turning away.
As much as Rona had wanted to leave, she wanted answers more. She grabbed his sleeve. "Don't you dare give some snide insinuation without reason."
Oliver lifted her hand from his arm and flung it away. His spun around, narrowed gaze steady on hers. "I have a reason," he spat. She was too stubborn to retreat even as his hot breath came close to hers. "You're a smart girl. Figure. It. Out."
Her heart thudded in her ears. She had never seen him so serious.
Oliver pulled back and stomped down onto the next level of benches with a surprising force. He was in position to take flight, but paused to address her again, head cocked to the side. "You know what, just to show you, I will keep my promise. Sell me to Fred and George. See if I care."
He took to the sky, leaving Rona still rooted to the floor with unanswered questions. But one urgent theory stuck to her mind.
She was no coincidental target.
As dinner wound down, students began returning to their respective common rooms. Rona was in the middle of explaining the Oliver situation fully to Penny, Edie, and Hannah, as promised. She had yet to fully divulge her confusing afternoon when they turned the corner and a mad, cackling laughter filled the hall. A red streak of hair shot out in front of her and the blur turned into George, who pressed galleons into her palm.
"Totally…worth it," was all he could breathe out. His eyes flicked back and he continued pushing through the crowd. In his wake, he shouted, "Oh blimey — so worth it!"
The four stood amidst the confusion as students slowed to watch what seemed to be another one of the twins' pranks in progress. All was explained when a shout of "WEASLEY!" roared through the hallway, followed by Oliver's entrance.
Disheveled didn't begin to explain him. He was in the process of removing a pink scrunchie that hung off one of his ears and wiping his lipstick-scrawled cheeks. A sign fluttered on his back, which upon closer inspection read 'I snog broomsticks'. Every step he took was accompanied by a squeak and a squick from his shoes. It was left to the imagination as to what else he had to endure.
"WEAS — " His voice dropped to a snarl. "Better yet, Switt."
Rona doubled over in laughter, never expecting her plan to be this successful. Whatever insinuations Oliver made of her were irrelevant; he was a bloody Christmas tree.
He was stopped in front of her, but the ability to form words still eluded her.
"George… ran down… the hall," Hannah said in her place, still gasping for breath.
"I'm not looking for George anymore." Oliver locked his eyes on Rona. He stepped closer, now barely a foot away. When she tried to draw back, he grabbed her by the shoulders. "I hear you like gossip, Switt."
And before she knew it, he kissed her.
In reality, there would be no time for Rona to dissect the anatomy of a kiss, but time slowed down enough for her to feel every sensation. His lips were the least important one, although he certainly knew what he was doing with them.
She felt the eyes of onlookers bore into her body, the shock from her friends, and the twitch in her stomach of a girl who had never been kissed before. She tried to draw back, but it was useless against his grip.
This wasn't romance. It was revenge in the works.
The worst feeling of all was the thought in the back of her mind, the 'stupid, girly part I keep locked away' as she called it. The part of her that knew she was pressed against him and thought Merlin, he must work out. It was followed by her common sense, which said He plays Quidditch, you idiot and then finally followed by reality, which tapped her on the shoulder and reminded her, He's, uh, still kissing you.
Just as she was about to shove him, he pulled away, flinging the scrunchie at her. "If there's anything I've learned about you, your worst nightmare's going to rear its ugly head by tomorrow morning. Try acting your way out of this one." He smirked and took his chance to dart past her, continuing his yell of "Weasley, get back here!"
The hubbub cleared and activity resumed as the spectacle disappeared around the corner. The whispers and chatter of girls took prominence and they were clearly about Rona, much to her dismay. The other three stood in silence, trying to process what just happened. Edie was the first to speak.
"Well, that was unexpected."
A/N Thoughts? Suspicious? I'd love a review! :)