When I find Jasper he’s not studying…or, at least, he’s not studying academic subjects. He’s sitting at a table with Gabriel Daughteridge, the good–looking bloke he fancies, and he looks far too happy to disturb. They’re talking in low voices, perfectly acceptable as the library is mostly deserted anyway. There’s a book in front of each of them, but from the looks of it they haven’t been reading for quite some time. I smile, feeling the same bittersweet tug I’ve got used to over the last few weeks, watching Angie and Fred and the others. I’ll be thrilled for Jasper if he and Gabriel get together, of course, but at the same time… At the same time you’re a selfish cow who wants someone to have all their attention focused on your problems my sarcastic inner voice says caustically. Oh shut it, I reply mentally. I am not getting involved in another row with you. Even if you are right.
Luckily Gabriel chooses that moment to glance at his watch, jump slightly in surprise, and say something to Jasper as he stands. He’s smiling, quickly gathering up his book, and with a shy wave, heading for the doors. Jasper leans his chin on his hand and stares dreamily after him, a small smile hovering on his lips. For a moment I consider just slipping away and letting him bask in the glow of young love…or whatever this sickness going round is.
But as I turn to slip away the movement catches his eye and he glances at me, breaking into an even wider smile when he realises who it is. ‘Oi, what’re you doing here?’ he asks, sotto voce, motioning me over. ‘Aren’t you supposed to be in the midst of a group of adoring fans at a party thrown especially to celebrate you?’
I’ve arrived at the table by the time he’s finished speaking, and manage a small smile as I sink into the chair across from him. ‘Bit overwhelming, if you know what I mean,’ I shrug, mimicking his pose and balancing my chin in my hand, my elbow resting on the table. ‘I was going to leave you to dream about the lovely Gabriel,’ I add, smiling.
‘Ah yes,’ he sighs, his lips curving again. ‘I still can’t believe it – one minute he was just there, asking if he could have the seat. I must have looked a fright – I was actually chewing on my quill,’ he adds in disgust.
I have to grin. ‘I’m sure you looked adorable.’
‘Oh please,’ he sneers. ‘Adorable is not the look I’m going for.’
‘Well he asked if he could sit with you, didn’t he?’ I point out. ‘And it hardly looked as though he joined you for the studious solitude.’
Jasper smiles again, this time almost smugly. ‘Well, he did seem keen to talk…but I can’t read anything into it…’ he trails off. ‘He’s honestly so nice he’d talk to anyone.’
‘I doubt that,’ I say fondly. ‘I think he fancies you. And if he doesn’t, he’s a hopeless idiot and it’s his loss.’
‘That might be the most romantic thing I’ve ever heard you say,’ he teases, looking at me keenly for the first time. His smile immediately fades. ‘Pet, what’s wrong?’ I open my mouth to tell him nothing, and he shakes his head. ‘Don’t you dare try to tell me it’s nothing – what happened?’
I let out a huge sigh and glance around, suddenly feeling absolutely ridiculous. ‘It really is nothing – or, not nothing, but it’s hardly an emergency or – or something to be upset about its just so odd and I can’t understand –‘
‘All right, calm down,’ he soothes, reaching out and running a palm up and down my arm comfortingly. ‘Just slow down and explain.’
I take a deep breath and glance around, noticing that there are two people within hearing distance. Neither looks particularly interested in our presence, but I suddenly want to be somewhere no one else can hear. ‘Er, could we go somewhere…else?’ I ask, looking hopefully at Jasper. ‘Somewhere…’
‘Private?’ he suggests. ‘Of course,’ he nods, his eyes narrowed with concern as he stands, tucking his book into his satchel and motioning me towards the door. ‘I know just the place.’
He leads us through the corridors and finally up a narrow flight of stairs. ‘Where are we?’
‘One of the older parts of the castle,’ he shrugs. ‘I think it used to be a teacher’s rooms, but they’ve long since moved out. I found it during third year, when I needed a place to sit and think alone – it’s very nice.’ He’s stopped in front of a large wooded door at the top of the stairs, and taken his wand out. He waves it once and says, ‘Ipso Facto.’ There’s a snick as the lock disengages and he waves me through. ‘That’s the password, just in case you ever need to use it.’
I nod slowly, hearing the words but unable to respond. I’m busy taking in the surroundings, a large round room with windows spaced close together to give fabulous views of the lake and mountains. Even in the rain it’s breathtaking, and I wonder just why no one lives here anymore. There’s a table to one side with a lamp on it, and against the only part of the wall without windows is a large wrought iron daybed. With a flick of his wand Jasper lights the candles that float above our heads, and gestures me towards the daybed. ‘Go ahead and sit – it’s perfectly clean. I think the house elves still come here, even though I’ve never seen evidence that anyone else even knows this room exists.’
‘I wonder whose it was,’ I murmur, walking towards the daybed, unable to take my eyes off the view out the window.
‘Come back at sunset sometime,’ Jasper advises. ‘You’ll really see something then. But, we’re not here for views,’ he adds, sitting on the daybed and facing me, his eyes full of concern. ‘What’s going on?’
I fold my knees up and stare at my fidgeting fingers for a moment, trying to discover the best way to explain. ‘Something very strange happened after the match,’ I finally say.
‘Before you got back to the common room?’ he prompts when the pause stretches out.
‘Yes. Er, as I was leaving the changing rooms.’ He nods, encouraging me to go on. ‘Well,’ I begin uncertainly. ‘Um, Wood and I have been argueing a lot lately…’
‘Lately?’ he arches a brow. ‘I was under the impression you two argued most of the time.’
‘Well, we do, I just, well, you met him last weekend in Hogsmeade, and for whatever reason we were having a truce or something…’
‘He was very polite,’ Jasper comments lightly when I pause again.
‘Well, it didn’t last long, and then the whole fiasco with me going to hospital and then, you know…all that with me waking up with him and then saying that to Angie and the girls in the common room…’ I blush just thinking about the “huge knob” comment I made, and Jasper can’t suppress a chuckle. ‘It wasn’t funny,’ I say sternly, and he immediately squelches his grin, but it remains in his eyes. ‘And then I told you about him and the Muggle Studies game?’ Another nod, this one serious. ‘Well, we’ve been at one another again after that, and he was really snarky all through training yesterday and then today with the match he just – I dunno. I caught the snitch, and it all happened so fast, and I was in this really good mood – I mean, we’d won! It was brilliant, and I thought he’d be happy at least about that, but after the match…’ I trail off again, trying to think of a way to describe it.
‘After the match I went out into the corridor to wait for the others, and he was there. I said something about how it was great that we’d won, and he just said “Everyone gets lucky sometimes Verity – even you,” and went walking out into the rain. And it really got to me – he’s forever slagging me off, but for some reason that bit just, it was too much. So I went off after him, and we yelled a bit, and I asked him why he was always so shirty with me, and he said “maybe I just like to pick fights with you”.’ I glance up to see Jasper watching me intently. ‘”Maybe I just like to make you angry.” And then we were snogging.’
Jasper swallows once, his eyebrows arching. ‘Well,’ he finally says. ‘That’s interesting.’
‘It’s completely mad!’ I groan, dropping backwards to lie flat. ‘What was I thinking?’
‘So you kissed him?’ Jasper asks shrewdly.
I think for a moment. ‘No.’
‘So he kissed you?’
I sigh and sit up. ‘It was more like…’
‘Like you kissed each other?’ he suggests.
‘A bit, I suppose. It was more like we were either going to tear each other to shreds, or we were going to snog one another until we couldn’t breathe. I don’t actually remember who moved in first or if we both did – one minute I was balling a fist up to punch him, and the next my tongue was in his mouth.’
I’m staring into a middle distance, remembering. ‘Did you like it?’ Jasper asks gently.
‘Ye- No! I mean – no,’ I sigh, not even able to convince myself. ‘It’s just that I’ve never snogged anyone like that before. It wasn’t nice,’ I try to explain. ‘It wasn’t one of those sweet first kiss sorts.’
‘Passionate?’ he suggests, and I wince: I’m just not good at this. ‘Passionate,’ he decides with a little chuckle. ‘The look on your face says it all.’
‘It was an accident,’ I stress. ‘A moment of mental abstraction – completely unintentional.’
‘Well are you going to do it again?’
‘NO!’ The word is out before I can so much as blink, and the force of it leaves Jasper smirking slightly.
‘Mmm,’ he eyes me sceptically. ‘Now are you saying that because you honestly don’t want to do it again, or are you saying that because this is Wood we’re talking about and you think that’s what you should say?’
‘I’m saying it because I don’t want to snog him again, and even if I did, I couldn’t.’
‘Because that would be stupid,’ I reply, stating the obvious. When Jasper still looks confused I sigh. ‘Fooling around with someone on your quidditch side is just poor planning – sooner or later it has a negative effect on play and everyone suffers.’
‘But aren’t the rest of your team dating one another?’ Jasper asks in confusion.
‘Yes,’ I sigh. ‘And since it’s “just school sport” there are no regulations against it, but anyone will tell you it’s a bad idea.’
‘Especially Wood. If there’s one nice thing I can say about him, its that he puts his team above everything – he’d never be stupid enough to compromise quidditch just for a good snog.’
Jasper tilts his head. ‘So you think it was a good snog?’ I just stare at him. ‘Well, you just said as much. How did he react?’
Unbidden, the image of Wood just after we’d broken apart floats into my mind. I can see him, standing an arm’s length away, his mouth dark and slightly swollen, his eyes shadowy and hot above the hollows of his cheeks. Rain streaming over him, plastering his hair and clothes down, sluicing over his shoulders as his chest rose and fell rapidly. ‘He looked…shocked,’ I finally reply. He looked bloody fantastic, I want to add, but refrain. Even I don’t want to know that I find a freshly snogged Wood to be the most attractive thing I’ve ever seen. It’s just too…wrong.
‘Shocked,’ Jasper is murmuring. ‘Do you think it’s possible he fancies you?’ he asks shrewdly.
I snort, on solid ground for the first time since the conversation started. ‘Wood, fancy me? Not likely – we get on about as well as a pair of wet cats in a sack.’
‘I dunno,’ Jasper muses, eyeing me. ‘Last weekend I got the impression he was watching you with rather more than a friendly eye.’
‘You were seeing things then,’ I shrug. ‘Like I said before, Wood’s a good captain in that he puts quidditch above everything. He tries to keep his team unified and on good terms – its important that we be able to function together on the field, you know? He and I are the worst of it, of course, and last weekend he was just making sure my being in a strop wasn’t going to stuff things up for this weekend’s match. If he was giving me odd looks, that’s what it was about.’
Jasper stares at me for a long moment, and then he shrugs. ‘Suit yourself.’
‘So what do you make of it then?’ I ask desperately.
‘Make of what?’
‘The – the – you know,’ I sigh.
‘Of you and Wood snogging like mad?’ he asks with a wicked smile. ‘I think it’s good for you.’
‘This,’ I gesture to my face, to the frown that feels like its taken up permanent residence there, ‘is not good for me. If things are awkward between us it will affect play and that can’t happen – it just can’t.’
‘So that’s what all this is about then?’ he asks, nodding with almost – convincing acceptance. ‘You just don’t want the team to suffer because of anything that might happen between you and Oliver Wood?’
Not exactly… ‘Yes, of course.’
‘It has nothing to do with the fact that he snogged you senseless?’
‘No,’ I scoff brazenly. ‘I’ve almost completely forgotten about that part of it.’
‘Well,’ he says with obnoxiously good reasoning, ‘since you’re not going to do it again, what’s the problem?’
A/N - and the stage is set... all Yssy has to do is wait for the inevitable (i.e., losing her temper) and things should be just lovely...
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