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Chapter 9: Chasing, Seeking, Keeping
After that morning, she didn’t run into Oliver again, and Roger finally left her alone. It took a lie for him to believe her, but Roger hardly ever uncomplicated her life.
Spying on Oliver almost wasn’t a lie, but McGonagall was right; she didn’t need to resort to that anymore. While Duncan and Grant did pester her about him, the matter was quickly dropped in favor of protesting Roger’s extra practices.
Jeremy and Hannah reappeared later that afternoon. Hannah said it was the first time in a long while that she got to snog a “sensible boy senseless” and Jeremy turned bright red. Rona immediately then checked and double-checked to assure herself that he was of a stable working mind. He seemed so, although his joy at securing a Hogsmeade date made her doubt herself. She finally decided that he was simply a masochist.
The girls' dorm was quieter than usual with Penny gone. She usually was the one to pull their conversations together. Rona began her latest book, one of many sent by owl from her family as an early Christmas gift. Hannah chatted on like usual while the other two listened, but even she got tired and began pestering Edie, who griped about tailing her brother.
“At least he’s not as bad as those Slytherin fifth years,” said Hannah.
“Flooding the tower isn’t bad?”
“What I mean is, he’s just growing up. Flooding the tower is a normal part of that." Hannah was an only child. It showed. "You can stop being the older sis for just a bit. He’ll turn out fine.”
“But — ”
“But nothing. Tomorrow night we’re going over to the Hufflepuffs and we’re all going to have fun. Bonnie tipped me off about their little holiday activities, and I hear there are wonderful perks to living near a kitchen. By the way, this includes you, Rona.”
Rona scowled. She never liked parties. Too often, it involved pretending she was interested in what other people were saying when she would much rather stick to her anti-social tendencies. Knowing Hannah’s persistence, however, she knew it was futile to refuse.
Hannah continued talking, though Rona stopped paying attention until she heard her sing-song voice say, “And what about your little date with Ollie this morning?”
Rona, prepared for the question, calmly answered, “Penny and I ran into him at the station. We had a civil conversation and that is that.”
“Such a drag,” she said with a sigh, clearly disappointed at Rona’s lack of storytelling skills. The conversation dwindled, but it was already getting late and sleep called.
Rona thought about Oliver only once more that night. Remember that he's just another good-looking bloke in Quidditch. If I were to fall for anyone who fit that description, I might as well have chosen some idiot in my own team. With that reassurance, she closed her eyes and drifted off.
Morning aside, it was the most normal day she had had in ages.
Rona jolted awake, book tumbling off her. She had fallen asleep reading on her bed that afternoon. “Wh... what? What’s going on?” She shook her head to get rid of the grogginess to look up at a panicked Edie grabbing at her shoulders.
“Where’s the jar?”
She blinked. “Jar? What jar?”
“The jar!” Edie wailed, as if it made perfect sense. “The one I took from my brother and gave you.”
It took a few moments before the scent of butterbeer wafted through her mind, forming the hazy image of said jar. “Oh, that thing. I must’ve... misplaced it. Sorry, was it important?”
Edie clutched at her cheeks. “It’s not mine, but if it’s gone, I’m afraid my brother’s going to use it for something and I didn’t see him this morning and... and...” She bit her lip and sat down on the edge of her bed, creases of worry still in her expression. “I’m sorry. Hannah’s right isn’t she?”
Rona couldn't help but laugh, knowing her friend lived to worry. “Just a little bit. Speaking of Hannah, where is she? She was here earlier.”
“She just went downstairs to meet with Jeremy. Who would’ve thought, hmm?” They were the latest gossip going around the common rooms. No one expected the wild child to pair up with the mild-mannered Chaser, but there had also been a recent string of surprise couplings. Prefect Wendy Hinks was seen snogging in the bushes with the resident joker of Slytherin. Meanwhile Ponch Redforth, the suave sixth year of every girl’s dreams, had chosen his official love: a newfangled motorcycle. And as Rona knew very well, the bookworm and the Quidditch captain was the first shocker that started it all.
After Rona picked a new book from the pile and tucked it under her arm, they went downstairs to find Hannah. By the time they reached the common room, they had somehow detoured to the topic of Professor Flitwick’s hair.
“No, I’m fairly sure that it's a wig,” Rona said. “One of those upper-tier magically enhanced ones, since it seems — OH DEAR MERLIN, THERE ARE FIRST YEARS IN THIS ROOM, HANNAH!”
Hannah quickly extracted herself from straddling Jeremy’s lap and stopped what seemed to be inhaling his face. She did not seem a hint embarrassed, while Jeremy was beet red but otherwise looked very happy. They were situated at the so-called blind spot of the room, a lesser used loveseat that hugged the corner of an alcove. Rona and Edie unfortunately, were at the very angle where they could see everything happening.
“No one was looking until you decided to roar that out,” said Hannah, scooting over on the sofa to make room for Rona. Rona wasn't sure she wanted to sit on a tainted sofa. “Did you find that thing you were looking for, Edie?”
Edie grumbled. “No. I think it’s time for me to just let him take all the blame he deserves.”
“Finally." Hannah's devious glint appeared. “Does that mean it’s a girl’s day in?”
Rona knew exactly what that entailed, and her feet were ready to bolt. “Oh no, Hannah. No you don’t. No, no, no, no, no.”
Hannah stood up, hands clasped together in anticipation. “When was the last time you put on makeup, Rona darling?”
Rona took a few steps back. “The last time you mentioned a girl’s day in. And if I ever will again, it’ll be too soon.” She mouthed to Jeremy, Save me now. He seemed content to let the scene play out.
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’ll be good for the party later. I’ll do both yours and Edie’s hair.” Hannah swatted at Rona's loose strands. “Break out of that ponytail and bun you always have this in. Some mascara will do wonders...” Rona shielded her face defensively.
Jeremy finally took the opportunity to interrupt. “Hannah, I do need to talk to Rona for a bit.” The default excuse. “Why don’t you and Edie get a head start?”
Hannah plunked back down on the sofa and snuggled up to her recent snogging partner with a pout. “You better not be helping her run off. She’s practically training for a marathon as we speak.”
“If she runs, I’ll...” He leaned in close to her ear and the rest was inaudible, thankfully.
A hand flew to Hannah's mouth to cover her giggle. “Oooh Mister Stretton, you’re a Keeper.”
“Actually, I’m a Chaser, but I get the idea.” He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek.
Rona wanted to gag. What did her roommate do to him? But Hannah already forgot Rona and began tugging at Edie to try everything from the latest issue of Witch Weekly. She couldn’t complain.
“I better see you in within the hour, Rona,” Hannah added before leaving.
She made a face in reply and dropped herself onto the seat next to Jeremy, who watched them until they disappeared up the stairs. He sighed happily and leaned back. “What a woman.”
“I didn’t think you fancied her that much," she said, giving him a sidelong glance. "And could you stop trying to make babies where everyone can see it? You’re getting a dozen first years to hit puberty early.”
“I get it.” He grinned. “I really do like her though. What can I say? She’s exciting.”
“What a loony reason.”
“Oh really?” he said, crossing his arms. “And why, might I ask, do you fancy Oliver?”
Rona scowled. “At least I don’t intend to make anything of it," she said, picking at the dark blue throw underneath her. “I swear, it’s just ‘cause I like the challenge of the moment. He’s a nice thought. But a stupid thought.”
He jabbed her in the side. “I think the fact that you consider him at all is quite telling.”
She remained tight-lipped, dissatisfied with how many things he was getting right, but Jeremy was one of two people whom she could tell anything. With the other being absent for the next two weeks, she had no one else to turn to for advice. Finally, she said, “He knows I like him.”
Jeremy leaned back with a look of interest before folding his hands and gesturing her to continue. He was one clipboard away from being her official psychiatrist.
"I accidentally told him yesterday. And I don’t know if the feeling’s mutual." Merlin, Merlin, Merlin, this sounded even stupider out loud. "Logically it isn't. But he makes me feel like it is. Ugh, he must be a bloody pro at this, laughing his arse off at what an easy target I am.”
He let out a low whistle. “That is a tough one. I don’t know... follow your heart?”
Rona nearly choked as she burst out laughing.
“What?" he said, pushing her head away playfully. "That’s all that the telly teaches you to do, ‘follow your heart’. We both watched those Muggle serials when we were younger, don’t deny it!”
She could indeed distinctly remember fond memories of cartoons, which were often interrupted by her Gram’s soaps. It didn’t make his statement any less corny.
When her laughter was at its end, she sunk back into the sofa. “Well, I guess the default plan is to sit it out. Six weeks ‘til our match and then we’ll see his true colors after.” She blew at her wayward strands of hair. “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. He’s not even worth my time. Scratch that, it's worse. I could be utterly betraying our team right now. And yet... yet!” She threw her hands up.
He grinned. “Thrill of the chase. Of course, there’s the matter of perhaps he’ll still lie to you afterward just to pretend that he was telling the truth all along — ”
“Well, I suppose — ” she began.
“ — or the fact that if you trust him so little now, it’s hardly a foundation for a relationship — ”
She raised a hand. “I’ve considered that — ”
" — or that if he was lying and using you all along, you’ll just look like a fool for waiting — ”
“Jeremy — ”
“ — but what I’m getting at is, I think you should take a chance.”
She blinked. “...What?” She wasn’t sure if she heard wrong or if Hannah did etch a dent in his logic.
“You said it yourself to Roger. It’s your last year here, and you wanted some fun. Wasn’t exactly what you were thinking of, but...” He shrugged again. “You’re not much of a risk-taker. We both aren’t. But I went in headfirst with Hannah and... corrupting first years aside, I’m happy. And even if hearts get broken later, I don’t think it’s something to regret. I’d regret not taking the chance in the first place.”
Rona stayed silent for a long moment, staring at him. “That’s the stupidest reason to get in a relationship I have ever heard of. Did the telly teach you this too?”
“Actually, yes. Those Muggles shows spend an inordinate amount of time on relationships.”
“Hannah’s a horrible influence on you.”
“I’d swear it’s all me, but you’d never believe it,” he said with a laugh. He glanced at the darkening afternoon outside the window and gestured a thumb toward the staircase. “I’m going to go ask my mates what they’re doing tonight. You can come up if you want, or are you going to go get dolled up?”
Rona cringed. She had almost forgotten about Hannah’s Witch Weekly session. “Nah, I’ve... got to talk to Madam Hooch. Have fun with whatever you promised her. Hopefully somewhere else this time.” She made another choking sound as she stood up after him. He laughed, bid her good luck, and left.
As Rona retrieved her book, wedged in the side of the cushion and nearly forgotten, the sweets bowl caught her eye. It glittered with gold and red wrappers ready for the holidays. Honeybugs were her favorite. She put one in her pocket and popped another one in her mouth. She frowned, sucking it in the side of her cheek some more. It definitely tasted like butterbeer, but Honeybugs usually only came in two flavors: honey and bug.
In any case, it was still delicious.
Rona set out to find Madam Hooch, as suggested by Professor McGonagall. Quidditch was just a glorified hobby, but Professor McGonagall had a point. She had to try.
She first checked her office in the castle, and after seeing she wasn't there, she headed toward her office by the pitch. The path was non-existent, completely covered in blinding snow that swam before her eyes. She could barely make out her destination, a set of double doors next to the main entrance to the pitch. It housed part of the locker rooms, equipment storage, and Madam Hooch’s office.
She noticed something odd about the building, but she couldn't quite place what until she realized it seemed to get farther from her the more she walked. She ran a few steps forward, and it retreated backwards. She tried again, but her feet stumbled.
There was a nagging voice in her mind that told her, You’re in trouble, but another voice drowned it out with But I need to go to Madam Hooch’s... how else am I going to get famous? She managed to pull herself back up, and squinted at the swirl of activity above the pitch.
There are no practices during the holidays...
She looked down and the snow turned into clouds, and she was flying over the Quidditch pitch without a broom. There’s something not right, there’s something not right about this.
A streak of gold suddenly flew past, grazing her ear. A voice was calling her from behind. Switt.... Rona... Her head whipped around and she could see Oliver flying toward her. What are you doing here, Wood? You aren’t the Seeker.
He cocked his head to the side. Neither are you, love. He dove after the Snitch and she followed behind him.
The faster she went, the harder the wind blew. It’s cold. It’s too cold. Fabric fluttered across her face and she realized that she was wearing Oliver’s jacket. She could hear his chuckle echoing. The Snitch flew past again, and she reached out for it at the same time as Oliver. She narrowed her eyes. You’re not a Seeker! You’re cheating!
He smirked. Speak for yourself. Shouldn’t you be making the plays, not doing them?
The Snitch disappeared from her sight as she was distracted by his words. She slowed, her eyes darting to find it. Suddenly a giant hand enclosed around her, and she struggled to break free. Oliver towered above her.
Gotcha. One hundred fifty points to Gryffindor.
She looked back down. Her clothes were all gold. I’m the Snitch? She had a sudden moment of lucidity. My mind makes the most ridiculous metaphors.
Oliver chuckled again and held her up to his face. Yes, you are ridiculous, but even in your dreams you can’t fly without a broomstick.
He released her, and she fell through the clouds, grasping at the broomstick that lay just out of reach. The ground was coming at her faster and faster, and his laugh grew louder and louder...
She woke up with a gasp.
For the next few seconds, she still trembled with terror and adrenaline. The room spun but she was definitely in a room. Her head ached like it had been just cracked on the ground. She felt in her grasp a ball of fabric. A bed. The spinning stopped and her vision began to adjust to the darkness.
The last thing she could remember was leaving the castle, and it was still light out. Was it just a strange dream? There was something different about the room. It didn't feel like her bed and it smelled like the boys’ dorm. The room gave off a distinct maroon hue —
It couldn't be.
She heard a doorknob rattle and turned her head for the first time. Her eyes darted madly, trying to figure out the shapes on the wall, but she knew they were Gryffindor banners. The door creaked open, letting out plumes of steam, and out stepped the Quidditch captain clad in nothing but a towel.