Thomas James could be called many things, but extravagant wasn’t one of them. Motivated, ruthless, unscrupulous; sure. Flamboyant, light-hearted…hell no. As a coach, some considered him loud and borderline crass. As a person, most referred to the most popular coach in Quidditch as reserved and disciplined.
Taking in the opulent ballroom draped in blues and yellows, the twinkling lights, and the open ceiling, Oliver was reconsidering his stance on Coach Thomas.
“Been enjoying yourself?” A current Puddy Keeper named Ravensdale asked the young Keeper next to him.
“Yeah. Learned a lot. The first couple days I was in awe of Coach and the guys, but it’s not so terrible anymore.” Oliver grinned. He looked around at the large, almost to the point of ostentatious, ballroom. Turning back to Ravensdale, he spoke again. “Can you believe that people actually live here?” He glanced around the opulent ballroom where the End of Training/New Year’s Eve party was in full swing.
Ravensdale agreed. “Actually, it is much quieter now than when Coach’s boys lived here. It was always wall–to-wall Puddy players and the guys’ mates.” He grabbed a beer from a passing platter. “Until the boys moved out and PJ got a little older and definitely hotter.” He glanced around at the groups of past and present Puddy players in the room. “Most definitely quieter nowadays.” He glanced quizzically at Oliver. “Don’t you go to school with PJ?”
Oliver nodded. “Yeah, except at school no one knows about this.” He waved a hand around. “Hell, I didn’t even know til I saw her the first day here.”
Ravensdale bristled and straightened, adding a half inch to his six feet. “You aren’t one of those pricks who pretends to be friends with PJ just so you can get a leg up on the competition, are you?” He hardened his glare and took a step towards Oliver.
Who shook his head quickly and backed up. “Nah. I respect her. I want to be judged on my own merits.” He frowned at how stupid he sounded. “Why are you so worried?”
Ravensdale smiled. “I love her like my own, mate. I remember the day she was born. I’ve never seen unflappable Coach so unprepared for something. Completely unaware of the specialness that is a baby girl.” He pulled out his wallet, flipping it to a picture. “I’ve got two little girls of my own.” Smiling widely, he shook his head. “I was about your age when PJ was born, maybe a couple years older. There was so much love in that hospital room. Wonderful time. I remember thinking, this girl is special. I’ve always thought of her as a little sister.” Giving Oliver an once-over, he smirked. “You’ve probably gotten warned off already, haven’t you? A pretty boy like yourself?”
Oliver chuckled. “Jens and Jas did. Coach actually asked me to ‘watch over’ PJ back at Hogwart’s.” Turning to grab a beer, Oliver missed the bemused look on Ravensdale’s face.
“You’re my new warden?” Piper stood behind Oliver holding onto the arm of Sampson Holmes, hip cocked and amused smirk firmly in place.
Oliver took a swig, then turned around to make a joke about his new ‘job’, but found himself at a lost for words. She’s gorgeous. He drank in her long muscular arms, the way her grey dress highlighted both her height and her curves. Coming to her face, he smiled. “You look…nice.” Bloody dumbass. Nice? Beautiful, stunning, perfect. No, you had to go and tell her she looked ‘nice’? What a sodding idiot.
Piper grinned. “Thanks.” Nodding in his direction, she spoke. “You clean up pretty well yourself.” ‘Clean up pretty nice’? How about you look bloody fantastic? Oliver’s muscular frame was encased in a sheet metal grey suit. He looked like a model. Orgasm on a stick. As she finished speaking, a band stared playing swing music, the cue for the Puddlemere players and family members to mingle with the press and smile for pictures. “Time to pretend like I’m important.” Sauntering towards the opposite corner where her family was holding court, Piper stopped and turned back to Oliver and Ravensdale. Tipping her head towards the other corner, Piper called out. “Come on Oliver, I need you to keep me company.” Pouting, she pleaded. “Please?”
Oliver grinned and cheekily saluted Ravensdale. “Have fun. I’ve got to go keep my charge in order.” Walking over to the throng of photographers and reporters surrounding the James’, Oliver took a place towards the back of the crowd and observed.
Piper smiled cheekily and mentally rolled her eyes for the fortieth time. Wrapping her arms around her mother, Piper groaned. “Mum. Honestly, do I have to talk to the reporters?” Turning her head away from the flash of the cameras, she grimaced. “They keep asking if I am Jas’ new girlfriend.”
Johanna tightened her arms and tsked. “Play nice, Pipey. Just go bat your eyelashes and giggle. They’ll figure out you’re a James sooner or later.” Patting her bottom, Johanna sent her towards her father with a kiss on her cheek.
“Coach! Coach! Turn this way!”
“What do you have to say about the off-season trade of Henri Bloudin to Reading?”
“Coach! Is there any truth to the rumors that you’ve expressed interest in the up-and-coming Victor Krum?”
Thomas tipped his head towards Piper’s. “Promise me you’ll never date a reporter.” He glanced out at the sea of bright lights and loud voices. “Damned annoying cretins.” Kissing her head, he chose a question to answer. Leaning towards Horace, the Sportswriter for the Daily Prophet, he spoke up gruffly. “Yeah, we’ve had an alright Training Camp. I think that Puddlemere’s future is looking bright, especially in the Keeper and Chaser positions.” Reaching back, he wrapped a strong arm around Piper’s shoulders. “Don’t you think so, PJ?
Horace pressed on. “So Coach, have you found a replacement for Dalton Monty?” Monty was the previous Offensive coordinator.
Coach smirked cheekily at Piper before answering. “Yes, I think we have. I’m really looking forward to working with our newest member of the Puddy family.”
“I saw that look. PJ, what do you have to do with this new O-line Coordinator?” He stuck his wand in her face to get her response.
Catching the glint in her father’s eye, Piper spoke up very quickly. “Wouldn’t you like to know?” Grinned cheekily, she winked. “I’m just joking. Actually I helped to bring the talents of the new O-line Corrdy to the attentions of my father. And the other Puddy coaching staff.” She turned to her father and glared. Whispering tersely, she leaned in close. “Don’t tell anyone.” At his quizzical look, she went on. “I don’t want anyone to think that I am getting ahead by my last name.” She broke off and found Oliver in the sea of faces. “And I don’t want for people to think that my new friendship with Oliver is helping him to get ahead either. Got it?” She widened her eyes, emphasizing her point.
Thomas gave her an odd look. Kind of a mixture of questioning, amusement, and…pride? “PJ, sometimes I wonder if that fall you took years ago mangled your brains a bit.” He patted her head and turned back towards the cameras, embracing his sons to take more photos.
Leaving Piper smiling alone. Awkward.
Well, this blows. Piper kept her fake smile plastered on her mouth as she scanned the crowd for Oliver. Not seeing him in the first glance around, she started to panic. Panic? Sound a little more like a desperate girl, Piper. Nobody would ever guess that a week ago you didn’t even like the prat. Piper wondered on the merits of that thought. Until said man popped into her line of vision.
Concern evident in his eyes, Oliver pulled her hand through the crook of his arm. “Are you alright, Piper?” He pressed a hand to her forehead. Not finding anything, he pulled her from the onslaught on the press. “You looked a little lonely, girl.”
She snorted, finally getting some life into her expression. “Big shocker there.”
Oliver stopped. Appalled, he asked, “Is it always like that?’
“You mean how I get shoved aside and ignored at public functions?” Piper blinked quick, trying not to tear up. “Yes…the photographers care for about ten minutes, then my dad starts talking to somebody, then my brothers get caught doing interviews, and I get pushed off to the side. Story of my freaking life.” Looking up, she sniffled.
“Here.” Oliver presented Piper with a handkerchief from his pocket. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t apologize. You didn’t do anything. I’m just being bloody emotional.” Dabbing at her eyes, she shook her head. “Sorry. I don’t usually cry.” Blowing out a breath, Piper looked around and grabbed a glass of champagne. “I don’t know why I let it bug me.”
Oliver scoffed. “PJ, they were ignoring you! It’s alright if that bugs you. It would bug the hell out of me.” Turning her toward the dance floor, he placed a hand on the small of her back. “Want to dance? It’ll take your mind off of it.”
Piper smiled and nodded, following him to the dance floor. Trying to ignore the warm feeling that spread through her when Oliver’s hand settled on the small of her back. Bloody hormones.
“Ha ha! Bottoms up, mate!” Piper laughed cheerfully as she watched Roderick Jenkins stumble after he took yet another shot of Firewhiskey. Nudging Oliver, she smirked. “Aren’t you glad I convinced your mum to let you come?”
Oliver shook his head in disbelief. Then grabbed the table on which they were playing Knuts and held on for dear life. “You, my dear girl, are a bloody liar.” He chuckled. “Didja hear how I said,” he pursed his lips and concentrated hard, “Bloody? Classic.” He dissolved into drunken guffaws.
Piper eyed him in the way that people who are less drunk than their mates have a habit of doing. “No wonder your mum didn’t want you to come.” She probably knew about his piss-poor tolerance. Smirking she nodded. It was true; Oliver was definitely a light-weight. Not like a James. Although, Piper had a wonderful aim, so her side had imbibed decidedly less than Jenkins’ side had. Watching Flanagan bounce a Knut into the shot glass in front of him, Piper grinned. Saluting him with her glass, she grinned. How nice it was to play against someone who obviously had experience playing the wizard’s version of Quarters. Plopping her glass back on the table, her glance sidled over to Oliver. Deciding that he had probably reached his limit as his glass jumped out of his hand and fell directly onto the table, she looped her arm through his. “Come on, Oliver the Over-Indulger, let’s get some grub.”
He scoffed. “I do not overindulge.” Scowling in pain, he spoke again. “Don’t use such big words. Makes my head pound.” He took his other hand and popped Piper’s bicep a couple of times. “Like this; pound. Pound. Pound.”
Piper grabbed his hand and, smiling at her frowning mother, hissed. “Knock it off. No bodily assaulting me today, you bloody moron!”
Oliver threw himself moodily, and admittedly, a little drunkenly, into his chair. “Oh come off it. Only you would use Percy-words around a drunken person.” He held up the fried food in front of him. “What the bloomin’ hell is this?”
“A chicken strip, Oliver.” Piper’s patient response had a snippy undertone to it. “Second only to Lemon cupcakes as my favorite food. Bompski makes them specially for me.”
Oliver bit into the chicken strip, as his eyes found Piper’s. “Well, isn’t that special?”
“Whatever you say.”
“You know, it is a damn good thing you’re pretty.” Oliver shook the chicken strip at her threateningly.
Raising a brow she asked, “Why’s that?”
He thought on it, considering his words. “Cause you’re kind of belligerent to those more drunk than you, ya know?”
Piper stifled the giggles that threatened to erupt over his pronunciation of ‘belligerent’. “That was a big word. Percy would be proud of you, Oliver.”
Having sobered up a little after ingesting some food, he chuckled. “Wonderful. Since that is my lifelong ambition. I can die a happy man.”
“You are such a weird guy.” Piper shook her head while laughing at his comment. “You will break up the monotony that is Hogwart’s for me, that’s for sure.”
He nodded. “And don’t forget. I make the landscape so much more appealing.” He flexed his bicep.
Piper laughed loudly and patted his raised arm. “You know, that would be so much more impressive if you didn’t have a shirt on.” She grabbed his hands, stopping his impromptu striptease. “No one is drunk enough for that yet.” Smirking, she told him, “Wait until after midnight. You and Sampson Holmes can put on a show.” At Oliver’s bewildered look, Piper explained. “Last year Sampson had a bit too much to drink, and let’s just say, he was so lucky there were no police officers from the village here. Lewd misconduct carries a pretty hefty fine.”
Oliver crooked a brow. “Seriously?”
“Yeah. For real. Funniest thing ever.” She cackled wildly. “Best Birthday present ever!”
Oliver looked worried as he squeaked out, “Birthday present?”
Piper smirked. “Yeah, he forgot to buy me something last year.” She bit into some chicken. Waving the rest of it at Oliver, she gave him some advice. “Never, ever forget to give your girlfriend a birthday present. Regular friends; it’s alright. But a girlfriend? Not smart.” She washed the chicken down with a swig of beer.
Oliver stared at her in shock. “You and Sampson Holmes?” He looked from Piper to Sampson multiple before deciding that the action made the room spin.
Piper was tall and blonde. Sampson was tall, but definitely not blonde. A veritable giant at six foot seven, Sampson Holmes was dark haired, dark eyed, and meaner than sin on the Pitch. Rumor had it that off the Pitch, he consorted with the ‘wrong’ sort of people and was an ass. Blinking at Piper, somehow, Oliver didn’t think that there was any sort of truth to that particular rumor. Piper wouldn’t go for someone like that, would she?
Slamming the rest of her beer, Piper eyed Oliver strangely. “You alright?”
“He’s not a mental case?”
“Sampson?” Piper laughed. “No, He’s the biggest damn softy you’ll every meet.” Pulling Oliver to his feet after helping him shuck his jacket, Piper went on. “All those crazy rumors are just rumors. Wouldn’t help the intimidation factor if everyone knew he was nice.” Looking over at Sampson, she shrugged. “His off-Pitch demeanor kind of contradicts his looks.”
Oliver led Piper to the dance floor with a hand on the small of her back, finding a spot near the middle. “How’d you and him get together?” He placed a hand at her waist and grabbed her right hand, starting to sway to the soft melody playing. “Aren’t you ‘off-limits’ to the players?”
Piper nodded. “Yeah. But Sampson is Jason’s oldest friend. He grew up a couple streets away. Since I was the only girl in our neighborhood, I always played with the boys.” She smiled. “I guess Dad figured Sammy was harmless because we were such good friends, so he didn’t really have anything to worry about.” Piper twirled out and back in, standing a little closer to Oliver. “Oh, and he had already made the team by the time we got together.” She paused, listening to the words of the song. “And since we’ve known him forever, my dad knows every naughty thing he’s ever done. The Daily Prophet Gossip Page would have had issues of just Sampson Holmes gossip for a year if he would have done anything wrong.”
Oliver pulled back a little. “Would have done anything wrong?”
“We broke up after school started this year. Nothing went wrong, we just didn’t have any spark. I think we are better off as friends.” Piper stepped closer, trying to get the warmth back that had been taken away when Oliver pulled away.
“How long were you guys together?” Oliver winced at the jealous undertones he heard in his question.
“Two years. We got together after Christmas of fifth year, and then broke up a couple months ago.” Piper hummed along to the song for a little bit. “Oliver?”
“Thanks for…being not who I thought you were.” Piper blushed and laid her forehead on his shoulder in embarrassment.
He cleared his throat. “You’re welcome? What do you mean?”
Piper squirmed. “Well, I’ve always been kind of mad at you. You had the spot on the Quidditch side I wanted; my family likes you…the list could go on all night. You’re really an alright guy. Thanks.” She spoke a little quieter. “It’s nice having a friend who isn’t doing it out of familial obligation or personal gain.”
He squeezed her hand. “Not a problem. I’m glad you really aren’t like Percy. When I first say who you were, I was a little worried. He’s alright in small doses, but I wouldn’t want to be his new warden.” He grinned cheekily.
Piper cuffed him on the arm. “Shut it. Be nice. Percy isn’t that bad.” At Oliver’s incredulous look she explained. “If you close one eye, wear earplugs, and recite that alphabet backwards in your head.” She laughed. “Cheeky bugger.”
Her comment was cut short by a floating tray of drinks, indicating the countdown to midnight would start in a couple seconds.
She pointed over Oliver’s shoulder. “Look.”
Oliver turned and watched rather fixedly as a blue and yellow shimmering ball appeared next to the large clock in the front of the ballroom. They joined in the countdown.
“10, 9, 8, 7.”
Piper grinned up at Oliver.
“6, 5, 4, 3.”
She clinked glasses with him.
“2…1! Happy New Year!”
Oliver looked at Piper as they celebrated. Deciding that in the morning he could chalk up his actions to being severely inebriated, he went for it. Wrapping a hand around the back of Piper’s neck, Oliver pulled her close and dipped his head to meet her lips.
AN: So…this one is longer. Thank the Almighty. Hopefully, I will update my stories a little more frequently. Life has cleared up a little bit. Between work, which since it is summer, is drastically reduced, and vacation being over, I have more free time. Well, thanks for reading! Remember to review! Much love!
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