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Chapter 22: Brownies
This chapter is for magicalmess.
This is my first story to ever hit 1,000 reviews. Magicalmess was #1000
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What in Merlin’s name was I thinking?
I spent the rest of the evening rather numb, but once Wednesday morning dawned I realized what happened. I realized I agreed to meet Oliver Wood for lunch. I told him I missed him. He missed me.
What the hell was I thinking?
I rolled over in bed, quilt pulled tight against my neck in the semi-darkness. What about that giant argument over money and time spent not seeing him and how he was so insensitive and jerk-like? The “break” as Roger and the girls called it. Sobbing over a blasted Quidditch Weekly magazine, spilling all about how I could have been in love with the idiot. Pfft, I went out with Liam Denters.
It took me so long to stop thinking about it. Honestly, I never did. Even when out with Liam I thought about Oliver. I hated it.
And if I went over there for lunch—if something happened again…
Could I handle it?
I rolled again. This was ridiculous. He couldn’t still have feelings for me—he was probably just jealous of Liam because he didn’t expect to see me.
I thought about what George said—about me being just as thick as him.
Was I? It seemed ridiculous. It was over. Sure, we could go on and on about the past and how much fun we had and how much more grown up we were, but it was over.
Blast, this was too difficult. Frustrated, I pulled open my bedside drawer and grabbed the photo of Mum. She stared back, over her book, and laughed.
“So what am I supposed to do then?” I asked softly, switching so I leaned on my elbows and the frame sat on my pillow. “All I can think about is that Quidditch game—that last game. How he came back for me. The kiss. Why?”
She went back to reading.
“Should I even go over there? Ang said something about his eyes being puffy before. What do you think that means?”
Mum’s eyes stopped scanning and she turned the book toward me. It was Emma. Her slender fingers pointed to the line, “One half of the world cannot understand the pleasures of the other.” I stared.
“Oh what in blazes does that mean?” I rolled over again, thinking about it. “I can’t understand Oliver’s pleasures? That sounds dirty. Eugh, this is rubbish.”
“Pumpkin, are you awake in there? It’s nearly ten.” Dad knocked on the door.
“Do you need something?” I asked. It could mean my pleasures were insane, but half the world (like Oliver) could understand them and to the other half it meant I was daft for even considering it. I found myself on my feet, leafing through dresser drawers for something to wear.
Perhaps I was a little daft. No amount of daftness could disguise the twinge in my stomach.
“No, just wondering if you wanted breakfast. I made French toast.”
“Just leave it on the table. I’ll pick at it before I go off for lunch.”
“Lunch date? Liam again?”
I bit my lip. Eff. “Not exactly. Just going out for lunch. Nothing serious. Just hungry.”
“Is that a jab for me to buy more food?”
“Where did the food go anyway?” I asked, pulling open the door. “I thought since you got together with Lou we were supposed to look like we actually ate regular food.”
He made a face. “I got sick of the healthy stuff.” Dad chuckled. “She doesn’t seem to mind ordering out a lot though. Amanda loves it.”
“Can I ask you a question?” I went back to filing through clothes and found a nice tank top with professional ruffles. “Are you ever going to tell Lou you’re a wizard?”
“I don’t think it’s that serious yet, Jane.”
“When will it be? I don’t like this hiding rubbish. I’ll have to pretend I’m going back to America soon to flirt with the Yankee boys.”
“At least you’ll be out of here,” he said. “You won’t have to step around Quidditch all the time.”
“So tell her.”
“I can’t. Not yet.”
“Okay, okay.” I had a pile of skirts lying on my bed. Why was I so stuck about having a skirt?
Half of the world could not understand the pleasure of Oliver’s face when I walked in like that.
But who said he’d even notice? The last few times I wore skirts—nothing.
Why in Merlin’s hash-brown’s was I this bleeding nervous? I dated him already! This was just lunch. Just stupid sodding lunch to discuss why I loathed him with every fiber of my being. Or something like that.
“Can you explain the blush?” Dad was still there.
I covered my cheeks with my palms. “No, I can’t. At all.”
The small jean skirt with the tank top looked good. I shut the door on Dad so I could change, twirling about in front of the mirror as I finished. A comb through my hair made it wave on my shoulders and I wondered why I wanted to look so good—to show you what you missed out on, eh Oliver Wood?
I grabbed a matching bag, draped a necklace onto my collar bone, and headed out into the living room where Dad was flipping through the comics section of the paper. “Toast is on the table,” he said, eyeing me. “You’re definitely not going out just because you’re hungry.”
“Starved,” I said, skipping (why was I skipping?) into the kitchen and plopping down in front of the lukewarm toast.
He popped his head in the room. “Okay, I deserve to have secrets kept from me after that whole Lou fiasco, but I’m genuinely curious about this. What has you looking so dapper this early? Is it a professional lunch—no, skirt is a bit too short for that.”
I raised a brow, digging in to breakfast. “Just going over to a friend’s.”
“Roger?” he asked.
“No, though I’m wondering about the lack of mail from him.”
“A letter came this morning from him—that’s why I wondered if it was him.”
“A letter came and you didn’t tell me!” I leapt up, racing for the foyer table we kept mail on after owl delivery. Sure enough, the sealed letter was there with Roger’s scrawling handwriting across the middle.
First of all, to get this out of the way, I took your advice. I don’t know how well it’s going to pan out but I asked her a very stupid question (where the kitchens were) and she looked at me like I was insane, but then I thanked her later and she looked at me like I was less than insane. That’s a start, right? I’m going to see her at a Magpies fundraiser this coming weekend so maybe I’ll ask her to dance. Unless her date is a burly bloke, then no can do.
Second of all, Valerie Gig’s crup? How do you know anything about her at all? Did you read an article? Why so ambiguous? I hate that. I’m going to march over there and tell you where to stick your ambiguity—especially about snogging Liam Denters. Atta girl! You need a good snog in your life. I’m guessing you had fun then? I hope so. We should talk about it soon. I have something I need to tell you.
And Wood? He gave you his umbrella? And you think you hate him? Jane, cut to the chase here, what’s going on? You must have been on a sugar high when you wrote that letter. I got nothing out of it. Owl me back soon and tell me what in Dumbledore’s name is going on.
And I’ll owl you more about my lady!
I smiled. Leave it to him to crave as much information as possible. I folded it, glancing back at my father’s puzzled face, and stuck it in the pocket of the skirt. “He is such a gossip. Always wants to know everything.” What was I going to tell him?
Haha, like I had anything to tell.
Oi, Roger, Oliver and I are having lunch and I’m dressed in a tiny skirt because he’ll think it’s sexy. Oh, by the way I still have feelings for him and I’m going over there with the hopes that he’ll return them.
My face fell. Was that why I was doing this? I was going through all this trouble because I wanted things to go back to what they used to be? Fat chance, Jane Perry. Things have changed. You’re a different person now.
“Are you okay?” Dad raised a brow.
“Actually, no. But I will be. I’m going to take care of this. I will not be hurt again.” I pushed past him, downing a glass of orange juice, and returned to my room. I set Roger’s letter on my bedside stand for later.
“So you’ll be back in a few hours?”
I nodded. “I’ll be back. Just some lunch. Some conversation. Some frustration.” I slammed the door behind me, realizing I could have easily just apparated but a part of me wanted a nice brisk walk on a warm August morning. I pushed through the crowd causing several people to jump out of the way when they saw me coming. I even spilled a coffee.
Why was I going so fast? Why did my feet hurt after three blocks?
I was frustrated, that was why. I was so angry I got hurt—so bitter I was subjecting myself to stupidity again.
I knocked hard on his door. Oh, was I going to tell him off for even trying. Did he even realize how much I cried my eyes out on Katie’s floor? That was humiliating. I dealt with all the girls having their boyfriends there. I saw him in the Quidditch Weekly magazine as one of the most eligible bachelors and at the fundraiser with his bleeding red wine. Oh, no. Not this time.
Oliver opened the door and I stepped back. He was grinning wide, something I had forgotten about, and he wore a green striped collared shirt and corduroy pants. “Jane, you look amazing.”
I looked down. I had forgotten about the skirt/tank ensemble. I did look pretty good.
“I didn’t remember those legs. Blimey.” He opened the door wider so I could come in. “Sorry, don’t mean to sound like a twat. You just look great.” He bit his lip.
I made Oliver Wood bite his lip. Take that, Quidditch daughters.
No, no. That wasn’t why I was here.
“Now my mind is all over the place.” Oliver looked happy. “I was just pouring some tea—fancy a cup?”
“Sure.” I couldn’t exactly go off on him when he looked that happy, could I? No. Of course not. I hung my bag and took a seat on the sofa. A few scattered candles were lit, but didn’t need to be since the curtains were open and I could see the Londoners below. Most of them were hurrying from shop to shop.
I needed a new pair of shoes.
Oliver handed me a cup with a tea bag dangling inside and I swished it around, watching him sit awkwardly beside me. His brow was sweaty. It was adorable.
“Can we just talk?” he said suddenly, kicking his feet up onto the coffee table. “Can we just talk about random stuff for now. Catch up?”
“Catch up?” I asked, swishing the bag around some more. “Sure, we can do that.” Suddenly I was feeling strange in my own body again. This was the couch Oliver and I made out on. There was the pillow that made the plaid indent in my back. Shivers went up my spine. His lips looked wet and his hair was tossed again. For a second I saw that Quidditch player pompous smirk I was altogether too familiar with.
My stomach jolted.
“Tell me more about this Katie and George situation. Something isn’t right.”
I sat back and did exactly that. I told him all about going to Katie’s and the build-up of George not taking anything seriously and Katie taking everything too seriously—how both of them completely lost their own personalities. I went into detail about the breakup, the ring-throwing, and Katie’s absurd way of dealing with it. Cardio my arse.
“You got into a fight with her?” he asked after I told him about our row after I threw lipgloss at him.
“Yeah. I got so peeved about her ranting and raving—she was pissed at me because I got all the attention after we broke up.” I shrugged. “Her stupid bleeding breakup made me realize…well, yeah. And then we got into a row.”
“Made you realize what?” he said quietly.
“That our breakup was just as stupid. Might as well have been over napkins.”
He was silent for a moment. Then he cleared his throat. “So they still haven’t spoken?”
“Nope. George is going through mood swings and both of them obviously still love each other. Just have to get them into the same place at the same time—forcefully.” I shrugged. “I’ll figure something out I’m sure.”
“I might have an idea,” he said. “I’ll have to see how it pans out, though. I’ll keep you posted.” Oliver drained the rest of his tea. Mine was barely touched.
“So tell me about you,” I said, surprised at myself. “I don’t really want to know about all the Quidditch Weekly stuff because I’ve had enough of that to last me until I’m thirty, but what else has been going on?”
“I’m talking to my parents again,” he said somberly. “They were pretty thrilled after we broke up, but I told them to sod off anyway. Mum agreed to stop trying to fix me up. I made brownies with her last week. It was actually nice. Dad’s still a jerk, though. He always mentions the Tornadoes and the Finches and whichever other team I’m not playing for. Apparently he wants to call the Harpies again.”
“They’d give you a look,” I said playfully. He returned the smile.
“Puddlemere is going good, though. We’re practicing hard now. Really functioning just like the Gryffindor team was. We might scrape home-pitch advantage for the playoffs this year. Maybe. Not for sure, but it’s a goal.”
“I hope you do better.” I paused. “I’d definitely love to tag along to a couple games.” Was I out of my bleeding mind? I came to tell him off.
That was it, Jane. Take a deep breath and just do it.
Oliver set his cup down. “I can’t believe how far we’ve come in just a year, you know?”
Okay, well, you can wait a minute or two.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“We hated each other. The ammo, the fights, the throwing of things.” He chuckled. “The mistletoe, red wine, brownies, the retreat, kissing you.”
I flushed. “Money, fighting, break up,” I added.
Oliver shrugged. “Technicalities.”
“I do miss Hogwarts, though,” I said. “I can’t wait to go back. Not too long now. I’m excited.”
“We had some fun on those grounds. The Quidditch pitch, out by the lake.” Suddenly, Oliver leapt to his feet. He was laughing.
“What? Did you forget to take something off the stove?”
“Haven’t started cooking yet,” he said. He was staring off into space. “I think I put it…no, I couldn’t possibly. Maybe…” He thrust his index finger into the air. “I have to go for a minute. Excuse me.” With that, Oliver rushed into the back bedroom and slammed the door shut.
What in blazes? I finished off my tea and placed the cup beside his on the table. It was quiet now except for one or two laughs coming from the bedroom. I shifted uncomfortably.
So much for coming to tell him off. What an overrated and difficult idea. Easier thought than done, that was for sure. He was being charming, though. That smirk. That hair. The stomach that was under that shirt. Bollocks on that. I had to stay strong.
He hurt me. He said hurtful things to me.
I couldn’t remember what they were, but they were hurtful. I apparated wrong for Merlin’s sake. I didn’t exactly have to go off on him—I could just forcefully tell him that I couldn’t go any further today—couldn’t even think about feelings—because of how hurt I was. Because he wasn’t going to do that to me again.
“Okay. Are you ready?” The door shut.
“I guess,” I said, chuckling. “I really have no idea what I’m ready for, but I’m ready.”
Oliver leapt out from the hallway, standing in the light from the window, and I gasped. Literally, I nearly choked on nothing at all.
He stood there, flexing his muscles, in the gladiator costume from last Halloween. His stomach wasn’t dirty, like before, but I could have eaten off of it. My eyes fell down his neck to his collar bone and the line of hairs trickling down his stomach. There was a plastic sword on his belt.
I couldn’t help it, I stared. My jaw fell lopsided again. A conversation on the Quidditch pitch came briefly back to me. The things I would do to him if I saw him in that costume. There was a bit of drool. I could feel it. My face was hot.
So. Never mind about that whole telling him off situation.
“What are you thinking?” Oliver asked, doing a little dance in front of me. That smirk. Cocky, sexy smirk.
I shook my head fast. Bugger! “I have no idea. I don’t even have thoughts right now. You’re ridiculous.”
“I thought you’d get a kick out of it. Found it the other day when I was cleaning.”
“Kick out of it. Yes, that’s what I’m getting.” I looked over again and my stomach jolted. I felt almost nauseated.
“So how about that lunch? You game to cook? I was thinking we could cook it together and then eat. More of a charm, I think.”
I nodded. I had to have something to do, especially if he was going to traipse around the kitchen in that. I kept staring. Oh, this was absurd. Still, I stared. Oliver Wood without a shirt was…well, he was even more muscular before and I wondered how he felt.
No! I couldn’t wonder that.
But I did anyway.
“I was thinking pork with a mushroom sauce and potatoes. Want green beans? I’m feeling them tonight. What to drink?”
I looked at the counter, finally tearing my eyes from his torso. “Wine.”
“Red, I’m assuming.” He smiled.
I managed a nod.
“You’ve got it.” He put pans on the burners and I took over the task of boiling the fresh green beans. He flicked a mushroom at me half-way through and we laughed, talking about the right way to prepare pork and how Alicia would probably kick Lee in the shins one of these days for telling her what to do.
I hadn’t laughed so much in what felt like ages. Sure, with Liam I laughed. It was what I needed. But with Oliver I had stitches in my sides as he danced around the kitchen making faces at the plates and pouring more glasses of wine. Liam would have probably prepared the whole meal while I sat in the other room waiting to be served. The situation reminded me oddly of the situation with Alicia and Bastian.
Fame, fortune, being waited on. Is that what I wanted? I didn’t know Liam that well. Who was to say he was like Bastian? The moment he talked about sailing the Mediterranean I’d have to stop speaking to him.
My fingers were tingling by the time we finished and balanced our plates and glasses into the living room. Oliver made a spread on the coffee table, setting thick, white candles in the center and closing the curtains. He broke out red silk napkins and I placed on in my lap, making a joke about how if I spilled the red wine it wouldn’t matter.
Then I did spill it and I was right. It didn’t matter. My lap was wet though.
The pork was beyond amazing. I knew Oliver could cook brownies, but I never knew about real food. I devoured it, careful to keep my eyes on my plate and not his stomach. He was watching me. The green beans were pretty lovely as well, if I do say so myself.
“This is amazing,” I whispered, eyes still downcast. I took another bite. My left hand was being subjected to carpet burn since I was leaning on it. “I miss the brownies, though.”
“They’re on the dining table covered in foil.”
“Tell me you didn’t make brownies.”
“Can’t tell you that if I did,” he said. “Made them last night.”
“Because I hadn’t made brownies in a while. Hadn’t even had the mix for a while.”
I paused, thinking back. Those brownies were something else. “Why can’t you let me hate you in peace?” I said, smiling.
“Tell me if that stuff about you getting all those dating offers is true,” I said quickly. “Did you go on millions of dates with rich girls with jewelry worth more than Puddlmere’s stadium?”
Oliver was caught off guard. His fork dropped with a clang and fell onto his lap. “I got a lot of offers when word got out,” he said softly.
Suddenly I wanted to throw something.
“I went on one date with Bridget because I was so peeved about the whole situation—that was only a day or two after. Then it really hit me and I didn’t go on any more dates.” He paused. “Unless you count this.”
I ignored him and thought about when it hit me—that elaborate “break”.
“Why do you care so much, Jane Perry? What the hell does Liam Denters have that I don’t have?”
“I couldn’t stop thinking about that article.” I brought myself back to reality, anger subsiding. “I just couldn’t help but think it was just a good riddance to me. I guess it was. To Bridget.”
“She’s a tosser,” Oliver said. “You have to know, I’m sure you do, that I could never be interested in her. She thinks I have a pretty face. She wants the status she can’t get by being a Quidditch daughter.”
“I must sound ridiculous,” I mumbled. “Questioning you about some article when it’s none of my business. What right do I have? Then again, what am I doing sitting in your flat eating pork and thinking about those brownies on the table? I don’t know what I’m doing here.”
“What do you think I’ve been thinking about?” he said, his voice suddenly irritated and gruff. “Like I’ve been on the pitch thinking about kick saves and broom techniques.” He threw down his spoon. “I don’t even know what I’m doing here. I should have moved down by Puddlmere with the rest of the guys. Up until recently I couldn’t afford this place—I stayed here. Why? Why am I even here, Jane?” He took a breath. “Do you fancy Liam? What the hell does he even have?”
I choked. “What?”
“Do you bloody fancy him?” He was loud and I saw his fists ball the napkin into submission.
I was only just aware my jaw was lopsided staring at him in the semidarkness. I threw my own napkin at him. “No, I bleeding don’t! What business is it of yours who I fancy and who I don’t?”
That was when I threw my spoon and hit him on the collar bone. He gaped at me. “You never stop, do you? I told you yesterday Roger is interested in the Magpies girl but you can’t stop being paranoid. You’ve always been paranoid.”
“Rightfully so! He fancies you.”
“Does not!” I shouted. “He’s my friend now. If you don’t like it, well I don’t care what you like and what you don’t. I’m done taking your rubbish.” I folded my arms. “Why do you care so damn much?”
“I’m sorry, I thought it was obvious,” he said angrily. “Maybe you should make it a bit more obvious you don’t fancy Denters—I don’t think the whole fundraiser was convinced by your bleeding snog!”
“Fuck off, like you didn’t know that was to make you jealous!” I clasped my hands over my mouth. “Why do you care?”
Oliver stared. “Maybe you should fall off a broom and I could show you.”
“Don’t be stupid,” I said. “We’ve been done for nearly a month.”
“I know. And for nearly a month I couldn’t stop thinking about you.”
“Why?” I said. Breathing hurt.
“Because I regret it. I regret the whole thing, right through the World Cup, getting hammered and Bridget and Dodger and I regret the whole bleeding thing.”
I just stared. My throat was clogged.
“Do I have to spell it out? I didn’t leave because I couldn’t go—I just didn’t want to think that was the end. You make me crazy and sometimes I want to hex you into next week, but…oh, blimey, I don’t know.” He took a deep, calming breath, which allowed me to compose myself. “I don’t want to you kissing other blokes. Not my famous teammate. Not good-for-nothing Dodger. Not some bloke you met while on holiday to wherever.”
“Oh. Well, that’s nice. Aren’t you protective?”
“Jane, you’re trying to cover it up but I know.”
“You know what?” My face was hot. I wasn’t hiding anything.
That he didn’t already know.
“Tell me how you feel,” he said.
“I feel….how do you know this isn’t going to happen again?” I said loudly. “Do you have any idea what I went through? I cleaned my house for who knows how many days. Everything was spotless. I made eggs. I went crazy! Then I saw—and the magazine—and the crying like an idiot! I said—never mind what I said.” My lungs hurt and breathing was in short, rapid bursts. “I even quit Quidditch! Do you even know what you did to me? I am not going through that again.”
“Who says you even have to?” Oliver said. “Who says it will happen again?”
“But what if it does? What if it’s just as stupid—what if it’s napkins?”
“It’s not going to be napkins. It’s not. We’ve learned. I’ve grown up. I thought you’d be impressed with this place. I learned how stupid I was before. We can fix this.” He put his hand on mine across the coffee table. “Together.”
My stomach jolted again and I was surprised to feel pricks in my eyes. “How do you know it won’t happen again?”
“Because I let you go once,” he said, squeezing my fingers. “I’m not letting you go again.”
Oliver pulled my hand, knocking his wine to the floor and my plate went sailing after it. He grabbed my shoulders and our lips met over the candles, my jaw hot and my breathing gone. I remembered. Short bursts of air and my stomach knotted. Hands were in something squishy. Smelled like mint and mushrooms. Breathing. Warmth on my cheeks and ears.
His eyes were dark when I saw them at last and he smiled at the wine on the carpet. Then he looked at me. “What do you say?” he whispered.
I probably looked vulnerable and shocked. I was both. “I couldn’t give up Quidditch.”
“Should we make it official?”
I flushed. “What do you mean?”
“Brownies.” He cocked a brow.
Great, we were together for a minute and I was thinking about sex. I watched him jump to his feet, still in the Gladiator costume with back muscles exposed in the light. I heard foil crinkle in the dining room. When he returned I could smell the chocolate as he set the tray between us.
“I’m so excited. It’s been too long since I’ve had these.” I allowed myself a giggle.
“Wait.” He swatted my hand away and then grabbed it, kissing each knuckle. He pulled me closer and then kissed me again. I forgot all about brownies until he broke it and stared at me, pompous smirk playing at his lips. “I haven’t been able to do that for a month. I have to make up for lost time.”
This requires no author note.
SO WHAT DO YOU THINK!?!
(ps. thanks again for the reviews. They really mean so much to be and inspire me to get chapters out before the queue closure haha. I appreciate everything.
pss. Yes, I managed to get him shirtless as per request.
psss. Happy Holidays!)