Wood and Wronski – together? Working together, as partners? What an incredulous, atrocious idea. The two stared each other down, each silently regarding the other. Oliver seemed resigned to the fact, almost contemplative. Cody’s heart was hammering away from between her rib cage at such a pace and volume that she secretly worried would be noticeable. This was definitely going to be very awkward, considering the frosty situation between them the past week – ever since after Oliver had left her apartment after that messy breakfast, really.
Hipshook snapped two thick, hairy fingers between them, barely able to raise his arm to their eye level, and then proceeded to wave said gnarly hand when the two failed to respond. “Cody?” he asked kindly. “Oliver.”
Simultaneously the two shook themselves out of their reveries, and immediately looked away, turning slightly red, and took in the sight of Hipshook, and the sprawling grass fields. The empty grass fields.
“Oh,” Cody breathed out lightly, finally realizing that her breathing had become quite shallow during the time which they had been simply standing there.
Oliver cleared his throat. “Erm – I – has everyone else – left, already?”
Hipshook had a knowing smirk on his face. “You two better get a move on; the rest of the groups basically charged off immediately after hearing their assignments.” His grin widened, stretching his leathery, wrinkled face taunt. “I can assure you, Wood, Wronski, that you guys do not want to be the last pair back. I’ll see you guys there.” And with that final warning, he departed.
Another awkward silence ensued.
“So...” began Cody, not sure whether to breach the topic of why, exactly, he had been acting so cold towards her recently, especially since they really seemed to be getting friendly just last weekend.
Oliver looked away from her determinedly, a hard look coming into his eyes. “So we should probably get going,” he ground out quickly. He glanced down at the crisp sheaf of parchment in his hands. “The Pink Pixie’s Puff?” Oliver read off incredulously.
Cody couldn’t help it and let out an unattractive snort. “Yeah. Right.” Annoyed, Oliver handed her the piece of parchment, confirming it. “Are you bloody – seriously? Wow. Someone must have been either inebriated or intoxicated, coming up with a name like that.”
Oliver frowned at her slightly. “So... any ideas on how we’re supposed to find this place?”
She shrugged in response. “Kind of a troll-brained team building activity, if you ask me,” she said, handing the parchment back to him. “I guess we just wander around until we find it? Hopefully we’ll meet someone from whom we can ask directions.”
Oliver nodded, his hand making a sporadic subconscious gesture. Cody noticed, and said a little haughtily, “Missing your wand already?”
He gave her a condescending look in response. “Not a chance.”
Oliver began walking, and Cody had no choice but to fall into step alongside him, grumbling a bit indignantly all the while. Suddenly the former stopped and turned to look at her. “Can you shut up already?” he asked harshly. “Your whining is really irritating.”
Cody gaped at him in shock for a good couple seconds, and then stomped off angrily, but Oliver soon caught up with his long strides. “So...” he began a little awkwardly. Did he feel repentful for his disrespectful words? He should; it would serve him right. “Er—I guess we should grab dinner along the way?”
Cody kept her lips pressed firmly shut, struggling against the inclination to say something scathing back.
“Erm... what’re your thoughts on this?” he asked, more hesitantly this time around.
Cody kept walking. Bloody wanker.
He grabbed her shoulder, forcing her to look at him. Cody wrenched her shoulder away; it stung a little, but pride kept her from reaching up to rub at it. She glared at the tall man venomously.
“So, what – you’re going to ignore me now?”
“You,” she jabbed a finger accusingly at his chest, “told me to shut up. So that’s what I’m –was –doing.”
A surprised look came over Oliver’s face, his eyebrows rising towards his shaggy brown hair. “No – I just meant—well, your constant complaints were kind of annoying, yeah?”
“So then I stopped.”
“Right. But now –well, if we’re going to get there at all, we’re going to have to at least talk.”
“Yeah, well, we’re talking now, aren’t we?”
He gave her a scorching look. “What,” he enunciated carefully, “is your problem?”
“What is my problem?” she repeated, her anger flaring dangerously. She could feel her cheeks grow blotchy with splotches of red. “What is your problem? I mean, ever since last weekend, you’ve been pretty much toeing the borderline of nearly being straight up rude. I mean, since last weekend, I’d honestly thought that maybe, just maybe, we were becoming friends.”
At the last word, Oliver started visibly, an indecipherable expression adorning his features. He seemed to be thinking hard, and trying to do it fast.
Scoffing and shaking her head, Cody turned and resumed walking, now at a furiously fast, clipping pace. Without her noticing, Oliver had somehow managed to overtake her and grab her wrist. Both their glances shot down immediately to their connected hands, and he released her suddenly.
“Look,” he began, and it was clear from the expression on Cody’s face that she wasn’t going to make this easy for him. “I – Wipe that look off your face, okay, it’s not very becoming, for one thing, and it’s not making this – well. I suppose I have been a bit brusque with you this past week, so for that, I apologize.” Receiving a small nod, he continued, “and I guess you probably want an explanation.”
Cody waited, trying to force her features into an expression of casual indifference.
“Well – you see, inter-team fraternizing – not exactly ... professional – and –well, what happened with the waffle fight – could’ve been heading – that direction, and...” Catching the broad grin on Cody’s lips he abruptly stopped. “What?”
She shook her head slightly. “Wood. It’s okay; I’m not one of those Quaffle bunnies with a pathetic infatuation for Quidditch players, desperate to misconstrue anything as an advance. Was that all you’ve been worrying about all week?”
Oliver coloured, looking sheepish. “You... didn’t feel a ... connection?” he asked slowly.
Cody thought it a little odd that he was going for further confirmation, but decided not to push it, and appease him instead. “Like you said; that wouldn’t be very professional.” She hooked an arm through his, bringing more surprise to his face. “I do think, however, that we would be awesome friends. Come on, we better get going – otherwise we’ll get the coveted spot of arriving last. I didn’t like those hints that Hipshook kept alluding to...”
Oliver was thoroughly bewildered by how quickly Cody’s mood had changed, but complied by following her, as a genuine smile spread slowly across his lips.
By half after eight, dusk was beginning to fall, casting a beautiful glow over everything. It wasn’t exactly conducive to searching for a hotel of which they knew neither hide nor hair of, other than the rather embarrassing name.
“Oh, this is hopeless,” said Cody dejectedly.
They stood on a small cobblestone walkway between two large brownstone buildings with crisply indicated signs broadcasting a furniture store and an electronics store selling television sets.
Oliver’s stomach let out a loud ferocious growl, and Cody let out a loud obnoxious laugh. “Somebody’s hungry.” Oliver grinned a bit.
Cody perked up, looking across the street. “Come on,” she said, spotting a Muggle hot dog vendor. She bounced up and quickly ordered two jumbos.
Oliver stood beside her a little awkwardly, never having had such an experience before.
Cody exchanged some Muggle pounds for the two hot dogs, and handed one to Oliver. “You’ll like it,” she promised, grabbing the mustard bottle and giving it a few good shakes, before attempting to squeeze some out. It was exceptionally resistant, and she squished and shook, and all of a sudden a large dollop squirted out with a rather nasty sound, hitting her ribbed tank top just below the moderately low neckline. “Argh!”
“Here, let me help you with that!” exclaimed the hot dog vendor, grabbing a bunch of napkins and reaching forward to dab at the mustard.
Cody froze momentarily, shocked by the awkwardness of the situation, but before she could regain her wits, Oliver had already firmly – almost bordering on forcibly – removed the man’s hands. “It’s okay, we’ve got it.” He grabbed another handful of napkins and led Cody away. “Here,” he said, handing them over once they were well out of range.
Cody looked at him with a puzzled expression, but accepted the proffered napkins with a brief, “Thanks,” and proceeded to dab at the mustard. She groaned; an oddly shaped blob of a yellow stain remained.
Sighing exasperatedly, Oliver stepped closer, much to Cody’s shock, covering her from view. He murmured a few quick words under his breath, and when Cody looked back down, the stain was gone. “Wandless magic!” she stage whispered in awe.
Oliver looked at her curiously, stepping back. “Did you not learn that in school?”
Cody coloured slightly. “Ah well – I never really fully managed to get the hang of... you know. Thanks, Wood.”
“Thanks for the food,” Oliver responded smoothly.
Each suddenly became aware of the situation, and for the next few minutes, ate in silence. Just as they were polishing off their food, a voice called out, “Oliver Wood!”
The two turned around sharply to see a woman with severely curled puffy blond hair in acid green robes and carrying a checked crocodile-skin handbag approaching them. “And the new Puddlemere Seeker – Wronski, was it?”
Oliver glared at her venomously. “Rita Skeeter.”
Cody looked back and forth between Oliver’s stony expression and the Skeeter woman’s rather gleeful smile puzzledly. She was... a witch?
“I was watching the game – say, I don’t suppose either of you would mind giving a quick impromptu interview, by any chance?”
“Well, that’s rather a shame,” she said, reaching into her hideous handbag and withdrawing a sheet of parchment and a vicious acid green Quick-Quotes Quill anyway.
Seeing an opportunity to reach their destination, Cody asked, “You wouldn’t happen to know where The Pink Pixies’ Puff is, would you?”
Rita snorted. “What is that, a hotel?” Receiving an affirmation, she said, “well it sounds exactly like the posh type of place where I would stay, but unfortunately, I don’t, dear.” She looked at them suspiciously, “Ah! And why would the two of you be heading off to a hotel together and alone?” she asked, her quill scratching furiously across the parchment beside her.
Oliver stepped up to her, towering dangerously over her. “Leave it the hell alone, Skeeter,” he said darkly, then turned and walked away quickly, leaving Cody to jog after him.
“Why the hell did you do that?” he thundered when Cody had caught up.
“What do you mean?” asked Cody innocently. “Well, I figured she might be able to help us...” she trailed off uncertainly, catching the murderous expression on Oliver’s face.
“That,” he said, “was Rita Skeeter. Just you wait – soon there’ll be articles popping up about our supposed love affair – maybe, if we’re lucky, we’ll get hounded by paparazzi. With bad publicity. Well done.”
“I’m sorry,” said Cody. “I didn’t realize—”
“Forget it.” They continued walking, going down a dark, shady alleyway. The fact that darkness had now fully fallen did not help matters much.
Suddenly, Cody stopped and looked up in shock. “No. Bloody. Way,” she whispered.
Oliver turned back. “What is it now?”
Wordlessly, Cody pointed up at the sign on the overhang, and both of them gaped at it in shock. The Pink Pixies’ Puff. The surroundings were rather hard to believe, definitely. The building was dark and cool, and seemed rather damp and rundown. Mould could’ve literally been climbing the walls like thick carpets of ivy. The name was utterly laughable in juxtaposition to the actual building.
Almost mesmerized by this revelation, Cody pulled open the dusty door and the two stepped in. Immediately, the smell of hard Firewhisky greeted them, as well as the boisterous roar of a crowd of thoroughly inebriated customers.
Out of the crowd came Hipshook, and he seemed rather worried, wringing his hands nervously. “Oh good, you guys have finally shown up – I was beginning to get quite worried there. Quite worried.”
“Hipshook—what the hell?”
Looking around at the less than condonable surroundings, he looked at them sheepishly. “Well, it’s an out of the way place – run down a bit in recent years, since I’ve last been here – friends with the owner. It’s out of the way, you see, and I figured it would be best to keep a low profile until tomorrow, the press conference, you see?”
Cody nodded, unable to give any other sort of reaction. “Okay... is everyone else here already?”
Hipshook nodded gravely.
Oliver groaned loudly. “Okay, so what are our repercussions, then?”
Here, Hipshook coloured even further, his ruddy cheeks burning. “Ah well, about that. Initially, I’d only meant it as an empty threat – all in good fun, yeah? Except,” he took a deep breath, “something really did come up. There’s... only one room left.”
Oliver and Cody stared at him, uncomprehending.
“Some factors came up,” Hipshook continued nervously, “so there’s only one room left,” he repeated. Still receiving not response from the two flabbergasted and tired Quidditch players, both of whom towered over him in pure physical size, he clarified relucatantly, “you two will have to share a room.” Seeing their horrified expressions, he continued, “but I’ve been assured that there is a large spacious king-sized bed up there, so I’m sure you’ll be fine. Your bags have already been brought up.” The rest of the words whooshed out in a rush. “Get a good rest!” he exclaimed, and quickly pressed a key into Cody’s hand, then disappeared into the crowd.
“Are you serious?” Cody asked after him incredously. And he hadn’t even given them back their wands. She looked down at the key in her hand; the room number was etched into it. Sighing heavily, she said, “well, I suppose we might as well go and... see the room.”
Giving a silent nodded assent, Oliver followed her up the rickety wood stairs to the second level, and down the damp hall with the hideous magenta carpet covered with cartoons of badly depicted pygmy puffs to a door at the very end of the corridor.
A little disgusted by the poor upkeep of the place, Cody inserted the key and swung the door open. The sight that greeted them was far from pleasant.
Low wood beams protruded from the ceiling, crossing the length of the rather small room. There was an antique wooden nightstand that looked like it was upon its last leg of life. A yellowed lamp with a peeling dust shade stood atop it, crooked. The floor, also wood, was darkened with age yet still seemed to hold a multitude of splinters. The window sill was caked in some dirty brown substance, and the blinds were rather crooked. Worst of all, however, was the sagging bed that stood limply in the middle of the room, at the most perhaps only a double-size. Oh. Shit. Note: This chapter was a bit different to write, because although I had a vague idea of what happened before and after, the contents of this chapter weren't really pre-planned in detail. Cody and Oliver led me where they wanted to go. :) Hopefully it turned out okay? It's been insanely busy, because I've been in the midst of exam period, but I figured you guys would enjoy an update, and it was a good break for me as well. You can show some love by popping your thoughts in that little grey box down there ;) Happy 2009!