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Stuck in the Middle by TheHeirOfSlytherin
Chapter 4: Threats and Payback Plans
Oliver snapped his head up quickly, hearing students around him move about the classroom, and he sat up straighter. He'd feared he'd fall asleep again, and while the idea sounded appealing now, he knew it would come back to bite him on the ass when he took his NEWTs at the end of the year. If he kept this up, he'd never pass History of Magic, never mind Potions. Oliver checked the corners of his mouth distcreetly, a habit he'd picked up after Sarah had joked about him drooling (she'd been talking about him watching James in lessons, but what if he was ever caught while sleeping? That would be embarrassing, too).
Oliver stood up, packed his school bag and walked out of the classroom, ignoring Ryan's snickering completely. Ryan Marsh was a Slytherin Chaser and a part of the 'group', friends with both Oliver and James. He was always afraid that Ryan knew something when they caught each other's eye; he'd give him sly wink, like he'd been watching him and knew, and then he'd turn away. It made Oliver uncomfortable, but neither one ever said anything, which comforted him a little - wouldn't Ryan speak to him if he knew? - and he was a good friend. Until he laughed at Oliver after History of Magic. It was a class they shared, and the only one he had with neither James nor Sarah.
...Maybe they had the right idea.
But Oliver was interested in History of Magic, it was as close to a Muggle lesson as a subject in this school was ever going to get, and part of him missed that life. History had been one of his favorite subjects. He wondered more than once what it would have been like if he'd not accepted being a wizard or never been one at all, but those thoughts disappeared just as quickly. Despite a few bumps in the road, he loved his life, both in Salem and in Hogwarts, learning magic with his friends and having his family's support in everything. Although, he knew there would always be a part he'd loathe more than anything; he hated Potions just as much as he had hated Chemistry.
History of Magic would be better if their ghost teacher wasn't so dull, the dead man's voice put him to sleep, or if Ryan would stop laughing at the end of every lesson. Why do I sit next to this boy again?
"Good first day, Oliver?" Ryan asked pleasantly, a hint of a chuckle still on his lips. In a moment of childishness, Oliver rolled his eyes and continued to walk, ignoring him completely. It wouldn't last, he knew, but it would annoy Ryan enough to be satisfactory revenge. "Oh, come on, Ol," he whined. "I have to ask; you went back to Florida for summer, I've hardly seen you till now."
"Potions mainly consisted of going through what we'd be studying first and the homework is researching the potion for next lesson." He answered his friend's question as though neither his friend's whining nor his childish pretense had ever happened, and ignored Ryan mutter that he was there in Potions and he knew all of that. "Since I didn't have to make anything and I'm not failing my other classes which makes me enjoy them, it's been a good first day. How was yours?"
"Good. And your summer?"
Oh. He knew what Ryan was trying to talk about now. And he also knew how to distract him, if only for a few minutes. James may have found a way to accept it and Oliver was able to ignore completely in public, but alone, when he only had his thoughts and those stupid feelings for the boy, he didn't think he was ready to talk about it yet. "Summer was great, Ry, you should have come. We went to Orlando, to the theme parks."
"That sounds like so much fun," he replied, feigning sadness. Very well, he had to add silently. "And, er, how are you and James? You seemed okay this morning at breakfast."
Damn, that didn't last long.
Oliver shrugged as they continued to walk along the corridor, they would reach the stairs soon enough and Oliver would go up to Gryffindor, while Ryan went downstairs to Slytherin. This conversation wouldn't last long. "We're okay," he answered finally. "He's found a way to ignore it, he said Lily does this all the time."
There it was again, that look. Oliver hated it. "I'm fine," he said as nonchalantly as he could, not wanting Ryan to notice anything wrong. "It's just a stupid rumor and it'll all blow over soon enough."
Ryan nodded and smiled, nudging Oliver with his elbow. "Okay then."
"Aren't you Slytherins supposed to be all mean and tough?" he joked. "Why are you being all nice and supportive?"
"Because you're my friend. And no one is around to see me be nice and supportive," Ryan added, smirking. "But if you tell anyone, you might just find yourself in the hospital wing," he winked.
Oliver nudged him back until it became a sort of game to see who could push the other further. It lasted until they got to the stairs. "America!"
Oliver turned to the new voice and glared; he hated the nickname some people still called him. Then he saw who it was and froze. "Randell," he muttered eventually.
Melanie stepped forward, like a lioness stalking her prey, and stopped in front of him. She turned her icy gaze to Ryan. "You good here, Ol? Yeah? Great. I have to go."
"Ryan, get back here," Oliver called out to his friend's retreating back, not caring that the crazy girl in front of him knew that he didn't want to be alone with her. "Coward! We are no longer friends! What do you want, Melanie?"
"What game are you trying to play with James?"
Despite his hatred for the girl in front of him, both for known and unknown reasons, Oliver couldn't help but laugh at her question, which seemed to be the most idiotic thing he'd ever heard her say. That she could actually think he'd risk his secrets to get to James, that he'd play some game with a guy who had a psycho for an ex-girlfriend? It was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. He could love Janes for the rest of his life, and he'd never do anything to act on those feelings.
Because he knew that James would never feel the same. And he was okay with that.
"What's so funny?" Melanie demanded to know, glaring. Her eyes darkened and she looked as cold as he had imagined her to be.
But he already suspected that of her, so it didn't stop his smile, even though it did falter slightly. "You. Are you so obsessed with Potter that you actually believe those rumors?"
Melanie leaned in, almost menacingly. Oliver had to force himself not to step back and keep looking her in the eye, his smile gone completely now. "I've seen the way you look at him. I'm not stupid, Ford. I wonder how James would take that."
Oliver tutted, shaking his head despite his growing fear; is she telling the truth? Does she really know? He hid his thoughts and swallowed his emotions, all but one; hate. It was enough to make anyone do crazy things."I really don't respond well to threats, Melanie. Makes me a little mad, if I'm honest. Who knows what I might do."
"What do you mean?" Oliver shrugged his shoulders, feigning innocence easily. She lost her calm, cold demeanor for a moment, but it was long enough for him to realize that she didn't know him as much as she thought she did; she had no idea what he could do. The revelation made his bluff easier to follow through with.
This could be fun.
"What are you going to do, Ford?"
It was Oliver's turn to lean forward, his lips pressed as close to her ear as he could stomach without touching her. "I'm going to see your ex." He moved back, his smile returning. "He wants to be friends, you know."
Then he walked away, leaving her alone in the corridor, more angry than he'd ever seen a person. He knew she'd most likely keep a closer eye on him now than she would have before, but Oliver decided he would just cross that bridge when he came to it. Maybe he'd even tell James what had happened, once he knew for sure that messing with her wouldn't cause any consequences for him and James since he knew the boy wanted nothing to do with her. If James didn't completely hate the idea of getting back at Melanie Randell, he might even play along to an extent.
That thought had Oliver walking away, a new spring in his previously exhausted step. Getting to be with James Potter while bringing Hogwarts enemy number one down a peg or two; what could be better than that?
Nothing could bring my good mood down now...
Oliver's good mood didn't last.
After his run-in with Melanie, he went straight to Gryffindor without hassle from anyone. Once inside, he stopped. The common room went quiet the moment they'd seen him, and they had seen him quickly, like they'd been watching the door specifically for him. He took hesitant steps forward, his eyes each meeting each student; they looked away, not returning his gaze.
Something was very wrong.
"What's up?" he asked nervously.
"It was an accident," one of his roommates answered softly.
That was all he needed to say. Oliver pushed past the remaining students and darted up the stairs, taking them two at a time, until he reached his dorm room. He froze mid-step once he reached the open door, unable to believe his eyes; on his bed was his camera from last year, which hasn't been there when he'd left that morning. He was almost afraid to look, the feeling of dread burning in the pit of his stomach a clear indication that something really was very wrong. He took a step forward, then another, until finally he was at his bedside.
Oliver took his new camera out of his pocket and placed it gently onto his bedside table, then he picked up his one from last year. The lens was cracked, practically gone, the front and back was covered in scratches and the string that was meant to wrap around his wrist had come off, was put on the bed.
Someone had dropped his camera.
Oliver sat down slowly, not quite able to believe that this could have happened. His cameras were always locked away in his trunk, no one should have been able to get in except for Sarah and she knew to be careful. He felt like someone had come over, surprised him and punched him in the gut. His camera was close to being ruined.
Oliver's head snapped up to find James standing by the doorway. "Hey," he muttered back.
James slowly moved across to sit next to him. "Roxy said that Brian asked around for a Charms textbook to copy up notes he'd missed," he explained gently. "Sarah couldn't find hers, but said you'd be okay with him lending yours as long as you were told as soon as you got back. She unlocked your trunk for him. He found the book, but your camera came with it when he pulled it out and it fell onto the floor. He's really sorry, he's hiding right now apparently."
"It's just a camera," Oliver whispered.
"No, it's not," James replied gently. "You carry your cameras everywhere, you're always taking pictures talking about photography. We all how much you love your cameras." He took it from Oliver's hands and Oliver let him without a word. James wondered if he was in shock, but chose not to comment on it. "It's a few scratches, maybe we can repair it, like when my aunt repairs my dad's glasses because he can never remember the stupidly simple spell. Should we try?"
Oliver finally turned to look at him, the eye roll a clear message to stop talking to him as though he were a child. James knew that was the message, only because he knew Oliver would never say no to fixing his camera. He knew that much about his new friend at least. Eventually, he nodded. His frown was his only indication that he didn't have much hope.
James removed his wand from his inside pocket, ignoring Oliver's doubt, and pointed at the camera, muttering the 'Reparo' spell. One by one, the scratches disappeared and James held it out to him with a triumphant grin.
"Take a picture," Oliver said quietly. "Not of me."
Confused, James held up the camera to see the dorm's door through the screen and pressed the button. Even James could tell that the noise it made was not one it was supposed to and the image on the screen looked distorted. The look on Oliver's face confirmed it. "You fixed the outside, but the inside is still damaged. I'll take it to the shop when we finish for Christmas," he said, taking the camera back and putting it safely away in his trunk. "Brain doesn't have to hide, I'm not mad. Even I've had accidents and dropped my cameras. It's just -"
"Just what?" James prompted.
"It's stupid, but I feel like this wouldn't have happened if I hadn't spoken to Melanie Randell. It's like every time I do something, bad luck seems to follow."
"You spoke to Melanie?" James asked. He knew that would be the thing Potter would pick up on.
He nodded. "She doesn't like the articles about us, she wanted to know what game I was playing. She threatened me. I didn't like that. I left her in the corridor after I told her I was leaving to see you, which is kind of true," he said, gesturing to the boy. They were talking and therefore seeing each other.
"You're messing with her head, aren't you?"
Oliver held up his thumb and forefinger, putting them close together so only a small gap was between them. "maybe a little."
He watches James for his reaction. "Strangely, I'm okay with that. As long as I don't have to play a key role."
"It'll mostly be sly comments and the occasional dig over the fact that you dumped her and would rather be my friend than hers. I know she wants more, but I'm going to go with friend," he assured, changing his mind now that he'd had to think through his earlier plan. Getting back at her was definitely not worth risking his secrets. "You did dumb her, right?" James promised he did. "Then you don't have to be involved; she threatened me, not you."
"I can't believe I'm actually going to say this, but have fun," James said, grinning. Then he turned serious. "Be careful. She's not always worth it."
"Knocking the bitch of her broom will definitely be worth it," Oliver said with such confidence that James almost believed him. "I know you're only letting me because you don't know how to deal with people when they're sad and you'll probably try to stop me tomorrow, but thank you. I feel better now."
"I'm glad," James said sincerely. "I'll see you at dinner, yeah?"
James left him alone, closing the door behind him, and Oliver fell backwards and crawled upwards to lie on his bed. Sleep was catching up with him again and it seemed like the perfect way to end a bad afternoon. He closed his eyes, intending on taking a quick nap till dinner.
He never went to dinner; James found him still asleep on his stomach, his hand curled underneath his head. His mouth was parted into a small 'O' shape and every so often a light snore escaped him.
James couldn't help but think that Oliver looked kind of adorable.
Not that he'd ever tell him that.
A/N: New chapter. Sorry for the long wait. I'm on the verge of planning the chapters for this story, so hopefully the next wait won't be so long. Let me know what you think. :)