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Chapter 1: Next Stop, Summer
A/N I'm terrible! This is arriving so late D: But here it is: the sequel to Game! If you haven't read that yet, I suggest you mosey on over there before reading this. This is actually lighter and fluffier than Game, if that were even possible, but... well, it is.
There isn't really an overarching plot. It's a bit like a series of one-shots if anything. But I hope you enjoy it just the same!
Thank you to everyone for your support and nagging :D
Dear Ms. Switt,
"Stop reading it."
Rona jumped up with a start, bunching the paper in her fist as if it would help hide it. She peered up at Oliver. She was certain it was his voice; he was the only other person in the train compartment. Edie and Hannah had gone on their quest to find the food trolley. But his eyes were closed in sleep, as it had been for the past hour.
Waving a hand in front of his face, Rona received no response sans a snore so loud that it could have been mistaken for the engine.
Her attention dropped back to the letter in her hand. Nine applications to nine teams, nine rejections, nine attempts to squash all her sulking into a crumpled wad of paper. She had smoothed each letter out after every fit, only to read them again — every single word.
The one from Holyhead Harpies was the last she received and the worst blow. It was her favorite team and what did she get? A carbon copy response! They probably said the same to her as some drooling buffoon who thought that attending every Quidditch Cup was enough to apply for the job. Bah!
Well, the very last line sounded hopeful, didn't it? What did it say? We may have openings in other something something... Rona uncrinkled one fold of the paper.
Crumple. "I'm not — " She met Oliver's one open eye. Git was awake the whole time.
He pinched the paper from her hands and creased it in half, tucking it into the inside pocket of his jacket. "When I can hear you demoralize yourself while I'm asleep, that's when I intervene."
"Mind-reader now, are you?"
"One of my many lesser-known talents." Oliver wriggled into a more comfortable position, one where his left arm was not crushed between them. He swung said arm around her shoulder. "Well, that and you were talking to yourself."
"Again." He wiped the fatigue from his eyes, though to little success. He was quite the bear when it came to waking up; nudge him to the floor and he was as good as a rug. "Haven't I told you enough that these rejections don't mean anything? Or does your ego need more upkeep?"
Says the future Puddlemere reserve Keeper. Both he and Jeremy were scouted by Puddlemere; it wasn't fair! Rona's hand crept toward where her letter disappeared. "If they don't mean anything, then why'd they all reject me?"
Oliver pushed her fingers away, holding them down firmly as they wriggled in a forlorn attempt at freedom. "They're probably just looking for someone with more experience."
She scrabbled for his pocket. The arm that had been around her shoulders pulled her back and he was too strong for her to even struggle. Bloody cheat. "How do they expect me to get experience if they don't hire me?" she muttered, slacking.
"I don't have all the answers." He let her go and pressed a kiss to a side of her head. "But you have the chops. Luck will show."
The boyfriend rising to his duty. "Of course you'd say that."
"I have no qualms telling you that you stink worse than Flint's robes, but thankfully you don't. We'd have a problem if they do."
She squinted, appraising. "You wouldn't date me if I were stupid?"
"Love, you are stupid. But hopefully, not that stupid."
The door slid open, and Rona and Oliver sat back, limbs to themselves. Hannah and Edie shuffled in, both balancing a tower of every sweet imaginable. They plunked down on the opposite seat and their haul scattered around them in a confetti of chocolate and sugar.
Hannah swat at Rona before she bent down to pick up a lolly. "Oh no, go back to whatever you were doing." She nudged Edie, grinning and bobbing side to side like a hen. "They are so adorable when they think they're alone."
Edie smiled sympathetically. "We're not intruding, are we?"
Oliver shook his head; he was rather more excited at the fact that the whole floor was covered in candy. Rona searched for a package of Honeybugs, which she found at her feet. Bug-flavored. Bugger. "You two didn't have to bring the whole sweet shop in here," she said. "It's not like you can't get these elsewhere."
"The ones from the trolley taste better," Hannah insisted.
Rona juggled a box of sugar mice and jelly slugs, blinking at the wrappers. "They're exactly the same as — I mean, it even says so on the tag: handmade by Bertie Botts & Co." She tossed the mice to Oliver, who had been dangling the package of honey-flavored Honeybugs for quite some time. She snatched it.
Hannah stuck the lolly in her mouth. "It's the sentimentalism of it all that adds taste. End-of-the-year candy. No Mum or Dad telling you that you're eating too much."
"Only your thighs, hmm?"
Edie giggled. Hannah stuck out her tongue.
"Curves are a good thing," said Hannah. "After all, this cost zilch. Jeremy's a darling. All I had to do was — " She pressed her arms close to her side and her chest popped out an extra cup-size. She winked at Oliver, who was decidedly unruffled, and it was times like these that reminded Rona how lucky she was to have found a bloke so immune to her friends' eccentricities.
"I wish I had known he was rich earlier,” Hannah sighed wistfully.
Rona grumbled. "And I regret letting that slip." Poor Jeremy; six months out of a relationship with Hannah and she still had the upper hand on him.
"It's okay. I'll keep her leashed when we visit," said Edie.
Jeremy had extended an open invite to his house at Alderley Edge. Rona spent her most of her summers there anyhow, with their families as close as cousins ever since they were children. Oliver was staying for a few weeks for Puddlemere training, too. Jeremy had said a few more people would hardly make a difference, though that was questionable wisdom.
The door scraped open again. This time, it was Penny and her eyes were firmly glued to the wrapper-covered floor. "I really shouldn't be surprised."
"Sit, sit!" Edie pat the seat next her. "We got peppermint toads just for you."
She shook her head. "Percy's expecting me to return. I just wanted to mention that there is rioting in the other carriages because the trolley sold out." She arched a brow at Hannah.
The accused girl blithely unwrapped a stick of chocolate licorice. "It'll restock."
"In ten minutes. Which is not soon enough," Penny huffed. She not-so-subtly pocketed a box of toads before she left, wand out, to stun a pair of second years mashing each other’s faces in over pumpkin pasties.
Hannah shrugged. "I'm giving her opportunities to boss people around. It'll be too late soon."
"So very charitable," said Rona.
But the thought did strike her — it was Penny's last hour as a prefect. Soon, her dear friend would be just another journalist starting from the bottom rung of The Daily Prophet. Everything was changing so quickly.
The rest of the train ride was plagued with the crinkle of plastic as they traded jelly bean flavors. The Quidditch boys, headed by Randolph and Jason, stopped by to plunder some sweets in full pirate persona. They were successful on the condition that Jason would, under no circumstances, say 'We're here to pillage yer booty!' ever, ever again.
When the train rolled to a stop, the gang scattered to gather their luggage. There were brief mentions of meeting up the next weekend, though invariably the planning would end up on Penny's shoulders.
Jeremy beckoned at Rona from down the platform; his dad was there to pick them both up. She stood on her tiptoes for a goodbye kiss from Oliver, who ruffled her hair and slipped the letter back into her hand. "Don't fret too much about it," he said.
"I'll try to channel my energy into finding a batty librarian job," she mumbled with dry cheer.
"That's not so bad. That's what you wanted to do before."
Rona stared past him to where Jason was swinging around Roger in some odd ritual man-hug of his. "I think I already miss working with these loonies. Books might not even cut it anymore."
"There's plenty of time to see what happens. And if you become a batty librarian, I am perfectly okay with that." Pause. "As long as you do that letting-your-hair-down thing."
She punched his arm. He grinned and bent to kiss her again, only to be interrupted by Jason, who tackled the both of them in a hug.
"Farewell fair maiden, and fair winds!" he hollered, grasping both of them around the shoulders. He cleared his throat as he stared up at Oliver and nodded. "Oliver."
Some things never changed.
Rona stumbled out of the fireplace, throat dry from soot. It had been awhile since she last used the Floo network and she didn't remember it being so whirling. Wizard transport was never friendly with the uncoordinated. Apparition, portkeys, especially the Knight bus (which she took once when she and the girls got lost looking for an ice cream parlor open at midnight. It was Hannah's idea and no surprise, a terrible one).
When the dust finally cleared out of her eyes, she frowned. Except for a stack of cardboard boxes, the room was completely cleared out. The first wave of panic struck: did she Floo to the wrong house?
No, she had to be home; she recognized the ivory wallpaper of her living room. The missing furniture was replaced with a dustless outline where they once stood.
"Mum?" she called.
"I'm in here!"
Her mum bustled in, feather duster aimed at her. She had on her awful floral apron, a relic of the disco era. "You're early! I thought you would eat before coming back. Sorry I couldn't meet you. Terribly busy, as you can see." She pulled Rona into a tight squeeze.
"Late spring cleaning?"
"No, no, it's a... it's a long story. But let's get you settled, first." Mum smiled and pat her cheek. "Where's your luggage?"
On cue, the fireplace filled up with green smoke, and Jeremy emerged pulling a trunk. "'lo!"
"Jeremy!" Her mum gave him the same tight embrace. "You've grown!"
He grinned. "Not since the last four times you've said that, but I appreciate it."
There was another whoosh from the Floo and Jeremy's dad appeared, brushing off the soot from his neatly-layered tweed.
"Thomas!" Mum clucked her tongue and shuffled about, trying to decide between bringing tea or chairs first. "I forgot to prepare..."
He held up a hand, strong and firm like a born gentleman, and it was clear how Jeremy took after him. "No need, just stopping by. But I thought we should..."
Her voice hushed. "Now?"
They stared at each other and then at Rona and Jeremy, both of whom blinked in confusion.
There was no trace of worry or panic in the adults’ faces — more embarrassment if anything — so it couldn't have been anything too terrible. In the awkward stillness, Rona tried to make some leeway into the mystery. "Are we... moving, Mum?"
Her mum lit up a bit too much, eyes crinkling like crescents. "Yes! Yes we are, actually! To Alderley Edge."
"Alder — to where the Strettons live?" That explained the boxes, but Alderley Edge was expensive. She winced at the very thought of the numbers. Mum liked to be extravagant sometimes, but moving there was a worse idea Jason's suggestion to practice with a greased Quaffle. The butter stank for weeks.
"To exactly where the Strettons live." Mum nodded with the same overeagerness. "We're... moving in."
The words hadn't quite settled in. Rona had the nagging feeling that she was missing a very obvious piece of information.
Thomas ran a hand through his silver hair. "Ah, how shall we explain this?" he chuckled, drawing his hands behind his back in a sheepish shrug. "Over the past few years, while you two were at Hogwarts, we — Barbara and I — have had a lot of time to talk..."
The answer flashed through Rona's mind, too daft and yet too perfect — a widower and a divorcee — and her jaw dropped before Mum's next words confirmed her hunch.
"We're getting married."
The room went still for a beat. Most of it was spent figuring out what was the proper reaction to news such as this. Too surprised and it would look like fake excitement. Not eager enough and she would look like she was unhappy with it, when it was all sorts of thrilling.
Oi, what was she doing thinking? Holy Harpies! This was bleedin' brilliant! Grinning, she turned to Jeremy, who was still processing the shock and beaming like mad, and gave him a shove, not quite able to say the word 'step-brother' out loud.
In truth, it was not particularly surprising; the pieces fit, after all: a widower and a divorcee, ones who have known each other for too long. Rona had even considered the possibility before in the briefest of thoughts. Dad had remarried long ago and encouraged Mum to do the same, and Rona couldn't remember a time when she didn't know the Strettons. Heck, she thought she and Jeremy were related up until her adolescent years (no one had bothered to correct her).
"That's the big news." Mum shuffled forward, sweeping everyone into a tight hug. "Surprise!"
"You can say that again." Rona tried to get a little more breathing room, although she was at high risk of grabbing something she shouldn't have. "You know Mum, last year, you still wanted me and Jeremy to get married. We should be finding this uncomfortably incestuous."
Mum pinched her cheeks. "Dear, only because I thought you'd end up a spinster."
"But now I'm very excited to meet this Oliver fellow you mentioned in your last letter."
The tingle of apprehension for the forthcoming weeks wrapped around her stomach, not that she had anything to fear. Mum would like Oliver. Probably. He was a tad messy but what boy wasn't? Percy was an exception; anyone who Penny dated was an exception. Mum would also probably scold Oliver for his eating habits. He liked his protein — meat with a side of more meat, if he had it his way. But those were little things.
And besides, there was a marriage at hand!
"So should I be calling you Mum too now?" asked Jeremy, looking ever the part of a bashful son.
"Oh it's not a big deal. Call me Barbara, Mum, Mrs. Green-Switt-Stretton. I think we've all known each other too long to change now. We're so old, no one would even notice if we married or not." She and Thomas chuckled. "But... we want to make it official anyway."
"Any excuse to have a celebration," Thomas added, clasping her hand where a new wink of gold gleamed from her finger.
The cuckoo clock, the only ornament left on the wall, rang out three chirps. Mum stood up straighter. "Look how I've stalled! I should have brought the tea like I said." She hustled to the kitchen quick as a blur before any protests could be made. "Rona, why don't you go to your room; you'll need to start packing soon," she called over her shoulder. "And a letter arrived yesterday for you. It's on your bed."
Hauling her luggage behind her, Rona jumped up the steps, still animated by the lingering buzz. Jeremy followed behind her, lifting up most of the trunk's weight.
"I can't believe it, it's just..." she said, breathlessly excited. "We thought we were insane that one time we thought there was something going on."
"All that wedding talk," Jeremy said with a nod.
"All that wedding talk about us. Thank Merlin they'll stop that now, at least."
"I agree. I'm much better than a last resort."
"If you stop being allergic to commitment, then maybe."
His shoulders sagged down, which was the extent of sulking that Jeremy did. "Oi. You're just lucky you found Oliver."
"I'm lucky? You're lucky I found Oliver. Bloody inseparable, you two. I'm jealous. You'll be seeing him more often than I will."
He snickered. "I'll try not to steal him from you."
Already, they had such a head start on sibling bickering. Rona's head spun imagining what would happen once the competitiveness kicked in. Mum probably already had Jeremy as her favorite already; he actually made his bed and knew how to wash the dishes properly. On the other hand, Rona... made smoothies.
At least he'd never be Mum's favorite daughter.
When they reached the top of the stairs, the door to her room was open to be aired. It was exactly like how Rona left it — exactly plus Mum's meddling. Overly scrubbed and organized, she had moved around things just enough to make Rona twitch. She only hoped that all her belongings were still there, with Mum's habit of making them disappear when she cleaned.
Rona flopped back on her bed, spreading her hands across the linen until her hands found the cream envelope camouflaging against the fabric. When she turned it over to break the seal, she caught a glimpse of Jeremy's thoughtful brow.
"That's Puddlemere's seal," he said.
She took a second glance. So it was.
Puddlemere had already rejected her — rejection number five, if she remembered correctly. There was no reason for any further owls from them. A bubble of hope bloomed in her throat that she quickly tried to squash. High expectations were Bad, with a capital B. Pessimism was the road to pleasant surprises.
She stood up so Jeremy could read over her shoulder. With shaking hands, she opened the parchment. Her eyes darted down the paper, wanting to skim it all at once, but she finally settled her attention at the beginning:
Dear Ms. Switt,
The shock had rooted her to the ground and stopped her mouth shut until she was finally able to squeak, "Holy Harpies."
"Holy Harpies, who cares about the Harpies?” Jeremy exclaimed, knocking her on the shoulder. “You're coming to Puddlemere with us!"
"Holy Puddlemere! I can't believe — I'm not a failure after all! Train with you lot and this summer and I — I can't even form sentences!"
Her mouth and her thoughts couldn't both operate at such lightning speeds at once, and her mind was undergoing emergency organization. "I've got to tell Oliver." She wheeled toward her desk for a quill and parchment. "Wait no, no, I've got to tell Mum. Mum, right! Mum! MUM!"
She dashed down the stairs, a laughing Jeremy in tow. "Oh, I've got to tell everyone!"
A/N AND THERE IT IS. Omg it's been so long since I wrote rom-com x___x I'm sorry if this reads terribly rushed, eep! I have a million muses right now! D: This is what I get for starting multiple WIPs.
If all goes as planned, next chapter should be in Oliver's PoV and shall introduce many of the crack-ery involving cats and smoothies I may have mentioned at some point :D