Chapter 18 : Dancing with Dishy Denters
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Jellyman, sorry about the spilling tea on yourself. I should give warnings.
Also, why did so many people pick mango? Does mango know it's that popular?
I thought for sure being a complete pain in the ass would deter Amanda from socializing with me, but instead ten minutes after I kicked her out she knocked on my bedroom door again. I opened it, thinking it was my dad to tell me Lou and Amanda left. Unfortunately, I stared right into her wide blue eyes.
“I’ve already eaten,” she said. “So I’m going to come hang out with you.”
“Didn’t I tell you I was going to sleep?” I said as she pushed her way into my bedroom. Who was this girl? Blimey, even Libby was a little more considerate of boundaries.
“At home I have a bottle of Jim and a hockey poster. Would you like to see?”
I nearly joked. “Jim—like whiskey? No, I wouldn’t like to see! And who cares about a hockey poster? I have Quid—I mean, no, I don’t.” She reopened the doors to my wardrobe and stared into it.
“I’m not sure this dress would fit me.” She held up one of the dresses I wore for Oliver to drive him wild. “It’s a little suggestive, which I like.”
“Okay, that’s it.” I grabbed it out of her hands and slammed the doors shut. “No more looking through my clothes! You seriously shouldn’t be in here. I’m going to sleep.”
“Touchy, aren’t you? What’s with this dress then, huh? Your attitude wasn’t there with the skirt. Did a bloke buy it for you? How is he? Devine in the looks department? I bet he is.”
“There’s no guy! I just can’t stand having people I don’t know look through my things!”
“But you do know me.” Amanda smiled big. “You know me because my mum is dating your dad so one day we’ll be sisters! Won’t that be lovely?”
“Thank Merlin I’ll be out of the house by then.” I rolled my eyes and pulled the door open for her.
“Merlin? You’re so weird, Jane.” Amanda ran a finger over my windowsill. “What school do you go to again?”
“I go to an American one,” I snapped. “I’m gone from September to June.”
“American, huh? I bet the boys there are wonderful. They’re all about the sex, aren’t they?”
I choked yet again. “How old are you?”
“Why do you even talk about sex?”
“My friends told me fifteen was the time to lose my virginity so I figured I should be educated before I do it.” She shrugged. Amanda looked so tiny, so young and naïve compared to my friends and me. She smiled big with one tiny snaggletooth and looked into my eyes. “I hear nearly everyone loses it at fifteen. Did you? Or were you ahead of the game?”
“Amanda,” I said seriously, “don’t listen to everything you hear. You have to be ready. Why am I talking to you about sex? This is rubbish—get out of my room.”
“So have you lost yours?”
“Yes, of course,” I snapped.
“Oh.” She went back to looking out the window.
Amanda was fourteen and impressionable and yet I flat out lied to her to make myself seem edgy and cool. What sort of role model was I? Lou Beckett was expecting me to give her child guidance and—she could give her own annoying child guidance because I just wanted her to stop picking on my phrases and looking through my school books.
“Look,” I said, this time with a serious tone instead of an annoyed one, “you need to be ready, all right? Do not take that step unless you know every since consequence to it. I’m not saying anything else because I’m not your mum and I’m not your sister—”
“You might be!”
I narrowed my eyes. “I’ll cross that bridge when it comes.”
I was about to order her straight out of my room to eat more food and I didn’t care if she got pudgier, but she pulled open the window fast. “Whoa!” Amanda cried. “What’s that?”
Fuck. I knew what it was before the burly snow owl landed with a soft thump on my quilt. It was an unfamiliar but very well cared for bird with an expensive expression and a piece of parchment tied around its leg.
I grabbed for it and Amanda watched in shock and horror.
“There’s a bird in your room!” she screamed. “Oh! I’ve read about this—Jane, it has rabies! Don’t touch it! You’ll get bird flu for certain. Jane—oh, God! You’ve got bird flu. You’re going to sprout wings in six to eight weeks. You’ll be a laughing stock! Your boyfriends in America won’t want anything to do with you.”
I wasn’t listening. Instead, I carefully peeled open the letter and was shocked to see the contents and signature at the bottom.
Miss Jane Perry,
This might seem a bit forward and completely out of the blue, but we met at the Quidditch World Cup in the Puddlmere box. We talked for a while about my rowdy antics as a Hufflepuff, I’m sure you remember. Anyway, I am terribly sorry to hear about you and Wood. He is a bit thick-headed and clearly was misguided when things ended with you.
From what I saw of you, you seemed completely lovely and wonderful.
That is why I wanted to write you and ask if you wanted to accompany me for drinks and dancing tonight in Diagon Alley. I know a few wonderful places and I never pay because I always give away free Puddlemere tickets when I come.
What do you think? My owl is very speedy so just send a reply back. If you’d honor me with the request, please meet me in The Horse Hoof cocktail bar down by Gringotts under the reservation Denters. If not, I am sorry to have troubled you and I hope the rest of your summer leading into your seventh year is wonderful.
I nearly had a heart attack. Liam Denters, Puddlemere United’s Beater, was owling me asking me to go out dancing. I loved talking to him, though I wasn’t sure dating a teammate of Oliver’s was such a good idea. After all, it might make him crazy. That might work, but his game could fall and therefore Liam would be in trouble as well.
Bollocks. Going out with Liam wasn’t a good idea. I knew that. I bit my lip. I had to say no. I couldn’t do that. I wasn’t that cold-hearted. It would be like Oliver dating someone else on the Gryffindor team—like Alicia! Well, perhaps Liam wasn’t best friends with Oliver, but I couldn’t say yes.
“I can’t believe you’re about to have bird flu.” For a fourteen year old girl obsessed with boys and puberty, she wasn’t very bright. “It’s really disgusting.”
I grabbed a pen to write with instead of a quill and paused before I was to write “no”.
“You said I could borrow that dress, right?”
I sent the owl away and Amanda screamed about it coming too near to her face. I didn’t think it was a good idea, but the possibility of spending the entire evening with Amanda while Dad was giggling over salad made me nauseous.
“Amanda, get out of my room quickly. I have to change. I’m leaving.”
“Where are you going? Are you running away?”
“Yes, of course I’m running away. I’ve made plans with the Russian circus. Would you like to be in a side show? No, you twit, I’m going out.” I pulled open the doors to my wardrobe and stared instead. What was I supposed to wear?
“On a date?”
“Yes, on a bleeding date!” I shouted. I shoved her out the door and into the hallway, watching her face fall with each step. “Dad! I’m going out!”
“With who?” Dad’s face came characteristically peeking around the corner. “I thought you were sick of the girls.”
He nearly dropped the pot holders. “Liam Denters? The Beater for Puddlemere United? Is it safe to say…”
“Oliver and I broke up? Yeah. That’s safe.”
Dad frowned. “Sorry, Pumpkin. I did like him, though, which is strange since you can’t date until you’re thirty-five.” He paused for a moment and Amanda walked past him with an extremely put-out expression on her face. “Unless it’s Liam Denters. You can date Liam Denters. Blimey, my daughter. I can’t believe how popular you are in the Quidditch world.”
I smiled. “I’ll be home early, Dad, don’t worry.”
“Have fun, love!”
I shut the bedroom door and locked that sucker so fast it wasn’t remotely humorous. Then I tore apart my room like I did just before I started dating Oli—who cared? I was going out for drinks and dancing with Liam Denters and Oliver Wood could just snack on that for lunch.
To my surprise, I wasn’t as nervous Apparating into Diagon Alley to meet Liam as I was previous times in situations I would not mention in my internal thoughts. I checked myself one final time in a public loo and smoothed out my hair. I reckoned I looked rather lovely, especially since I was wearing a dress I hadn’t worn before. It was pink with purple abstract floral accents and I loved it.
I confidently pulled open the bar’s door and told the hostess who I was meeting. She smiled warmly and just from her pristinely ironed clothes I knew I was in an expensive cocktail establishment. She led me through a few rooms full of wizards in ties and witches laughing over pink drinks and back into a private room shielded by frosted glass doors. There were plush sofas everywhere and the lighting was dimmed further. I spotted Liam toward the back away from most of the posh people, sipping on something. I still couldn’t identify rubbish with alcohol.
Liam stood immediately when he saw me coming and gave a little bow while kissing the back of my hand. Shivers ran down my spine. “Jane Perry, you look absolutely breathtaking.”
I smiled. “Thanks. You look quite well yourself. Fancy place.” I sat down on the velvet sofa next to him and placed an order for an Amaretto sour.
“I’m glad you like it. I don’t come here often but the service is lovely and the privacy is nice. This seemed like perfect occasion even if the name doesn’t quite scream elegance.” Liam was a very handsome man with light hair and light eyes. He matched most of the other wizards in suits and ties, though his tie was yellow with little white polka dots.
I put my drink on a cloth napkin and turned to him. What was I supposed to say? I dated your teammate, Liam. I dated him and fell in love with him and then I threw a lipgloss display at his head and nearly killed him. And I enjoyed every second of it. No, that didn’t seem like proper drink conversation.
“So tell me more about yourself,” Liam said daringly. “You found out all about my silly Hufflepuff antics at the World Cup. Tell me about you. All I know is that you dated Wood and he wouldn’t tell us a single thing about you because he’s such a protective bloke. Oh, and I know you’ll be a seventh year. End my misery, Jane, tell me what you’re like.”
I very nearly blushed. I had never been so courted in my entire life—he seemed to live on my every word as I told him about my three best mates and our insane Quidditch antics and how I made reserve after falling seemingly to my death, only to have Ellis hexed before the final.
“How horribly ironic,” he said with a laugh. Blimey, the bloke was attractive. I internally demanded to know why Quidditch men were so gorgeous. Was there something in their food? The air? Why didn’t all Quidditch blokes look like that, then? Why were the Slytherin Quidditch players just as ugly as the rest of their mucky house?
“It was terrible,” I breathed. “I threw up several times and even found myself in the hospital wing trying to shake the git awake.”
“And you had to play then?”
“Had to get out there on a broom and catch a Snitch.” I hadn’t laughed like that in a while. “Oh, it was horrible though. The crowd was just too much—most of the Gryffindors didn’t even support us because they didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t really blame them, I didn’t think I could either.”
“That was around the time Wood got the offer from Brazil, right?”
I nodded, my jaw twitching slightly. “Yeah, he got all the way there and then came back for the Final.”
“What a man of his word—I’m sure he came back for you though, am I right? You have quite an impact over the male population.” Liam beamed.
I flushed. “So I’ve heard.” I allowed the waitress to get me another drink. “But somehow I managed to catch the Snitch and lift the Cup all without falling flat on my face—I even managed an offer from the Tornadoes.”
“No way! Jane, that brilliant!” He reached out and put his hand on mine. It was warm and Liam smelled like cocoa and mint.
“Yeah, I mean I turned it down and all that, but it was nice to know I could get offers just like my mates.”
“I bet you deserved it.” His smile was damn near intoxicating. His bright eyes twinkled in the most fairy tale way and it could have been the alcohol but I was smiling as well. “So no pro Quidditch career as of yet, then? What are your plans for after old Hoggy Warts?”
I wondered what he looked like with his shirt off.
“I’m thinking about being a Quidditch writer or go into Quidditch management,” I said, suddenly sheepish as if a star of the game would look down on my sport-less future.
“Oh, that’s wonderful! I know a few of the best writers—heard of Ryan Miller? Man’s a genius. He always gets a different angle and he can down a firewhiskey faster than you can sip on a cocktail, that’s for sure. Great man. Oh, I just had lunch with Valerie Gig too. She’s starting up a magazine column about the Appleby Arrows. Fascinating things going on in the Quidditch World in terms of writing.”
“So am I just another dinner conversation?” I said playfully. Blimey, I was flirting! Look at me go! “Should I take a number and tell you what I’m working on before school. I actually have a bit of a journal…”
Liam chuckled. “There is a big difference between you and my other lunch functions. They seek me out, make appointments for interviews and chats to catch up, and they usually pay. I owled you completely out of the blue, I invited you to a fancy cocktail lounge, I am supplying all of the beverages which I can see you enjoy, and I am the one taking a wee bit of a fancy to you, Jane Perry.” He looked a bit flushed, but I could tell he was completely calm.
“I’m glad to know I’m not just another number in your evening.”
“You’re the only number in my evening,” Liam replied softly. His hair looked soft and his lips were just…well, they were lips anyway. “I don’t understand how Wood could let you get away like that.”
“Let’s not talk about him.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. I’ve mucked it up—sorry, Jane. Listen, let’s move on to the next segment of our evening and I can make it completely up to you. And before we leave, don’t let me forget to give you a bunch of names and numbers. Why have connections if they can’t be used, am I right?”
“You are very right.” I smiled and took his arm.
“Good. You’re going to absolutely love this.” Liam sounded so suave and debonair and he looked the part. I silently reminded myself I was out with Liam Denters and I was the luckiest girl in Diagon Alley.
I also took a private moment to mentally sneer at all those silly Quidditch daughters, including red-dress Bridget and even for a brief moment Libby. She just bugged me was all.
“I’m excited,” I said, taking the arm he offered as we left The Horse Hoof and made our way laughing down the cobbled street. I was a little drunk at that point, clutching to him to keep myself from stumbling and he snickered, placing another arm around my waist. It was warm and I did not move it.
I wasn’t even aware of the nightlife in Diagon Alley before that point. Why would I be, I supposed? There were people everywhere laughing and continuing on to their next destination and people perched on benches deep on conversation and a few people snogging up against buildings.
“Here we are!” Liam said cheerfully. Why wasn’t he more drunk? He should be.
He was dishy. I looked up.
“Flourish and Blotts?” I said, staring at the sign.
“No, dunderhead, not Flourish and Blotts.” He chuckled and led me into a door to the right. “It’s a dinner and dancing venue upstairs.”
“Dancing! Oh, lovely!” Usually I would have stuck my nose up at the first mention of dancing (to which Katie would have practically thrown herself on the dance floor in a waltz), but at the moment all I wanted to do was hear Liam’s voice.
“I’m glad you think so,” he said.
The upstairs was enormous and tables were filled everywhere. Most of them were large round tables, but we were seated toward the dance floor at a nice candle-lit table with white napkins (George should have just picked white) and crisp chair covers. There was an enormous crystal chandelier hovering in the center of the room, up toward the exposed wood beams and at the head of the room was a large orchestra.
“This is wonderful,” I whispered as Liam pulled out my chair. I couldn’t stop looking around. “I can’t believe I never knew this place was here.”
“It combines several of the downstairs units to have one second floor. Quite a good investment I think, especially for all the wealthy wizards living in London.”
“Do you live in London?” I asked.
“Actually, no. I live down south by the channel. It’s a bit more peaceful there, but I did live in London for a couple years. I wanted to live closer to Puddlemere. That, and I love the country life.”
“So do you have a little cottage and drink coffee on your back deck in the morning?”
“Throw in a Daily Prophet and you have my routine down to a pin.” Liam laughed warmly as a waiter showed up to my left.
“Mr. Denters, so good to see you! We haven’t seen you in here in quite a while. Ah, not with Nancy I see.”
I watched Liam’s jaw stiffen. “No, thank you, Ed. I’m glad to be back. I think we’ll start with a bottle of champagne. What do you think, Jane?”
“Sounds lovely.” I watched the waiter amble away to help another table and my attention turned back to my date. “Pardon my asking, but who’s Nancy?” I didn’t want to sound like I was sticking my nose too far into his business, but the waiter did seem to know him and he was obviously usually accompanied by this Nancy woman.
“She’s my ex,” he said, visibly pained by the explanation. “We were together for almost five years. She’s the reason I moved down by the channel—she hated the city. I wasn’t too fond either, but she had a passion for the English countryside. We moved there and six months later she was shagging the production manager of some reality television show who was vacationing down there. Caught them in the garden shed.”
I stared for a moment, unsure of quite what to do.
“Don’t feel bad, though. I found out later she never even wanted kids or a family and was on birth potion the entire time we were trying.” He shrugged a bit and fumbled with his napkin. “That’s good, though, I was too young for that. I’m still young, now, mind you. Only twenty-three.”
I reached over and touched his hand. “It’s for the best, then, huh?”
“It’s for the best. And you’re my lovely date now so order anything you want. I promise the champagne will be just as strong as your sour.”
I took a moment to glance over the menu and the choices looked exquisite and fancy, something I was not altogether used to, especially with Oliver taking me to diners and eating tuna in his living room. My eyes scanned down to the drinks since it was there and hovered over the four types of red wine imported from France.
I shook my head. No. I was not going to think about that smarmy git on my date with complete dish Liam Denters. He was a famous Quidditch Star, by the way, Oliver. People recognized him. He could afford things like fancy dinners and dancing and treating a woman to more than just tuna.
Not that I didn’t like tuna, I was just making an example.
“You okay, love?”
My head snapped up. “Oh, yes, of course. There are just so many choices.” While I was in the mysterious land inside my head, the champagne had been poured and the waiter was (strangely enough) waiting for me to place my order. I nearly blushed and looked back to the menu, quickly ordering a kind of risotto.
“The food will take a while—would you care to dance with me?” Liam extended his hand.
I beamed, setting my napkin down and taking a quick sip of champagne. Taking his hand, we made our way onto the dance floor which was littered with couples swaying to the beautiful orchestra music. He took my hand in his and slid another around my waist and I hadn’t danced like that before—so perfect. He led me in twirls around the floor and I could tell immediately Liam knew exactly what he was doing.
I was laughing and enjoying myself—something I hadn’t really done since the summer began and something I nearly forgot how to do. How could I let myself become so swept up in negative emotions? I was Jane Perry for Merlin’s sake. I was all about laughter and fun and taking life as it came.
I was all about winging it. Lately, I hadn’t been winging it at all. I was dwelling and focusing and doing things that were very unlike me.
I let Liam twirl me and dip me and I laughed, letting a bit of the champagne take over my balance. “I would like to see you in your country environment,” I said, chuckling.
“You would love it,” he replied, pulling me a bit closer. I could feel his tie against me. “It’s so peaceful and I’ve taken up painting recently which is a rather nice hobby to have when you have so much countryside to express.”
“Makes perfect sense.” The music slowed for a moment and I pressed my head to his shoulder. It reminded me of dancing in the Gryffindor common room, sweaty from searching for Roger and letting Oliver steer me around the floor. I remember how tight his grip was, how safe it was. I remember how he smelled and the darkness of his eyes I couldn’t figure out.
“Oh, our food was just put out—would you like to eat and soak up some of that alcohol?”
I smiled and we made our way back to the table. I stared down at the risotto, which looked amazing, but it was about a third of my usual serving size and it stared back at my tauntingly. “So is there bread to go with this?”
“Unfortunately not.” Liam made a face. “It’s a rather small portion, but that’s what you always get with these fairly ritzy places. I hope it’s enough—if it’s not we can stop by the pub on the way back and get a few things off the grill.”
“Now you’re talking.” I ate the risotto fairly quickly, feeling less wobbly, and finished off my drink. “I’m having a lovely time, you know.”
“It looks like you are.” Liam’s face was a little flushed and for the first time that night he looked a little nervous. “Can I ask you a question?”
I stretched out my fingers under the table. “Sure.”
“Okay, this might be completely out of the blue and I’ll totally understand if you say no,” Liam said. He was speaking faster now, which I found completely adorable and it reminded me of after the Quidditch Final when—no. No, it didn’t. I turned off my brain to listen. “I’m going to this fundraiser dinner in a couple days and it might just be painfully boring if I don’t have someone beautiful and funny to keep my company. So I was thinking you might be interested.”
“Fundraiser? For what?” I asked, taking another sip of my drink.
“It’s a charity thing to raise money for St. Mungos. A few of the teams in England are donating things and people can bid on them. Oh, there’s dancing and dinner too.” Liam smiled. “What do you say? Sound too boring for you?”
“Oh, it sounds boring but it also sounds lovely. I’d be honored.”
He kissed my hand. “You’re wonderful, thank you. It’ll be fun, I promise. And now.” He checked the tiny watch in his pocket. “Would you care for some real food in the pub?”
“I want something greasy I think.”
Liam paid, left a sizable tip, and we rushed back down the stairs. It was chilly in the alley and I held my dress down with my arms so the snoggers we passed wouldn’t get a free show. He pulled open the door to The Leaky Cauldron for me and ordered a platter while I picked a comfortable booth in the corner. It was warm and cozy behind beige candles and when Liam came back with an entire plate full of appetizer samples I nearly forgot to pick up my fork before digging in.
“I like a girl who can eat,” he said cheerfully, dipping tortilla chips into spinach artichoke dip. “And yet you can’t tell you eat anything—has anyone ever told you your legs are absolutely stunning?”
“A few people might have mentioned it.” I smiled into my food.
“I’m sorry, that must be the alcohol talking. I’m not usually this…well, perverted, during dinner.”
“It’s an appetizer so that makes it all right.” I laughed and he visibly relaxed. It was nice being with someone who appreciated me even though we barely knew each other. It seemed like he cared about what I thought and what I was like, which was a huge change. Okay, it wasn’t that huge of a change but I felt as if it was at that point so that’s what I was sticking with.
I was all smiles as Liam walked me up to the flat door telling me all about Puddlemere’s season last year and how much they lost but loved playing so they didn’t care. They planed barbeques at each other’s houses and played pranks in the locker rooms, something that sounded oddly like Fred and George.
We paused at my door. “This is me,” I said delicately. I found myself fumbling with the trim on my dress.
“I had a really great time,” Liam said softly. “Thanks for coming out with me.”
“I enjoyed it. Thanks for not judging me based on Wood.” I chanced a laugh. Where were my keys? Stupid bleeding purse.
“Sorry to bring it up, but he was an idiot to let you go. But I’m done talking about it.” His eyes were doing that sparkly thing again and I convinced myself it was just from the wall sconces behind me. No, they were definitely sparkling.
Keys, keys! Where the hell were you? Here keys!
Liam leaned closer.
Effin’ keys! I ruffled around in the purse only to come up with mints and a tampon. I stuffed that quickly back inside.
I was practically pinned against the door.
He smiled warmly. I liked the way he smelled.
Our lips were inches apart and his breath smelled like champagne and mints which was rather intoxicating. He closed his eyes.
My hand closed around my compass keychain.
I shifted my head to the side and made a dive for the door handle. “Can’t wait for the fundraiser dinner! Good night, Liam! Thanks!” I rushed inside and shut it the door before I could get a good look at his puzzled expression.
I sank against the wall and let my breath out. Blimey. Was I completely mad? Dishy delicious Liam Denters was about to plant a snog on me and I ran for it! What sort of girl was I?
After breathing for a few minutes I allowed myself a smile. I went on a fantastic date with Liam. With the Beater of Puddlemere United. I had an amazing time twirling on the dance floor and sampling chips in the pub, all while laughing with someone who enjoyed my company.
All in all, pretty incredible evening. It was an added bonus I would be going on a second date in only a couple days.
I waved a dazed good-night to Dad, who was washing up the empty kitchen, and snuggled into my blankets with a grin lighting up my face. That was until I saw a note taped to my pillow reading I’ll have the skirt back tomorrow afternoon. Thanks, Janey! from Amanda and I threw it across the room.
A/N: First comes first. Liam. Is gorgeous. Anyone agree? Break me off a piece of that.
I want to say thanks again for the truly amazing reviews. You lot make me so happy and give me so many extra completely random ideas, it's awesome. So what does everyone think is going to happen? Favorite quotes? Love Liam? Hate his sodding GUTS?
What do you want to throw Amanda off of? I'm thinking the Empire State Building since she seems so keen on American boys.
Next chapter: time to raise funds!
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