Chapter 20 : Linked Umbrella
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This chapter is for everyone who corresponded with me during my absence.
Thank you for helping me keep it together.
Author note to follow <3 ENJOY!
Even though I had no idea if I was using the right fork, dinner was fantastic. I had to stop myself from shoving the entire prime rib in my mouth and I left the white wine sitting there awkwardly because it was disgusting. Liam talked about the different prizes being auctioned off and asked me if I wanted anything.
Well, since he mentioned it, a free subscription to Quidditch Weekly wasn’t exactly frowned upon. Just saying.
“It’s yours,” he said cheerfully, taking a sip of his wine. “Just for being my lovely date. Thanks again for coming.”
“I’m having a great time,” I said.
“Just wait until after dinner drinks. I have a surprise for you.”
“Is it a pony? A pony would just send this evening over the top.” I playfully jabbed him in the arm and he laughed. Someone struck him up in conversation on his other side.
I poked at my dinner, sitting there in all its leafy goodness on the plate in front of me. Music played gently in the background over the dull rumble of voices. It was nice to eat without the camera flashes.
“You do love Quidditch Weekly, don’t you?” Bridget said from across the table. She barely poked at any of her food. The amount of exposed collar bone I could see was making me ill.
“Since I like Quidditch, I like it by extension.” I forced the white wine down.
“I expect you’ve seen the articles lately—there have been quite a few about Oliver.”
“I’m sure he loves all the press attention.” I picked up a different fork just for the hell of it.
“He loves being famous. Only the truly talented can handle it.”
She baited me. I took it. It was Bridget after all, how could I pass it up? “Too bad you’re a no-name then. Famous by mummy and daddy. It’s a shame. You have my sympathies.”
Her face flushed and I swore I saw Oliver smirk out of the corner of my eye. He was a twat though and I didn’t care about his smirking capabilities. He was probably having a stroke or something.
“I always knew Wood liked the limelight,” I said, my voice dripping with sarcasm. “It’s the way he always puts himself first and pushes himself in front of the camera. Oh, and the way he has a flawless life. That makes him perfect, you know?”
“Too perfect for you,” she snapped.
Surprisingly, I felt the jab.
“Bridget, stop talking to Perry. Understand sarcasm before you go up against it,” Oliver muttered.
“Clearly perfect,” I said coolly. I leaned my head on Liam’s shoulder. “I’m going to excuse myself for a moment, okay, love?”
He smiled warmly. “Sure thing. When you get back we’re dancing though. I can’t let your loveliness go to waste without showing it off to everyone in the room. I can already feel the jealousy.”
I laughed, kissing him lightly on the cheek. Oliver’s gaze met mine, but I ignored it and weaved through tables. There were so many people I knew there—so many Quidditch stars I saw in magazines and read about. I saw a few players from the Tornadoes at the table to the left, only recognizing them by the World Cup they placed delicately on the table next to them. How modest.
The bathroom was as elaborately decorated as the rest of the hall. It had a separate powder room with a large sofa and matching chairs facing a wall of mirrors, another room with sinks and baskets filled with patterned cloth and things like safety pins and lotion, and then the actual bathroom itself. I faced a mirror, tugging at my eyes to adjust my mascara.
Another woman came in and excused herself into the sink room. I stared straight ahead. Why were my eyes brown? Who knew? Why was I sitting in the loo contemplating the color of my eyes? Because I was bored eating and shooting lines at Bridget. She was too dumb for her own good sometimes. I should have enrolled her in classes of some sort. She needed them.
I couldn’t believe Oliver was sitting in front of me. What was he playing at? Just sitting there all…Quidditchy and whatnot. He looked so angry at the thought of me coming with Liam. And then somber. I hated that look. He seemed so down. So stretched.
It was his own fault. He was the one who invited Bludgers for Brains Bridget.
The woman came back into the lounge room and positioned herself next to me at the mirror. She took out eyeliner and adjusted her own makeup.
Panicking, I tried to put on more mascara, only to make a line up the side of my cheek. “Bollocks,” I muttered, grabbing a tissue to wipe it off.
“You’re here with Liam Denters, aren’t you?” the woman asked softly. She was older, somewhere in her forties, and smiled with the corners of her green eyes. Her dress was simple and black, but for some reason she looked like she ran the place.
“Yes, I am.” I smiled. I was comfortable, but petrified. The thought of being cornered in the loo hadn’t struck me before.
“I’m so terribly rude—I’m Valerie Gig.” She reached out.
I shook her hand, now visibly numb. “Valerie Gig? As in…Valerie Gig?” I stammered a bit, but I didn’t care.
“The very same. Call me Valerie though, it’s far more pleasant than the two put together.” She chuckled.
Valerie Gig was standing next to me at a mirror. Famous Quidditch writer Valerie Gig. The woman who did so many of the articles I cut out and put into a manila folder. The woman who I wanted to be like after I graduated. She did her eyeliner like me. I felt the need to point that out. I did my eyeliner like a famous person. My stomach exploded.
“I’m sorry—I’m such a huge fan,” I said stupidly.
“Are you really? I’m glad to hear it.” Valerie smiled. “I’ve heard of you of course. Everyone had quite the opinion on you when the news broke about Mr. Wood’s breakup.”
“Oh, yeah.” I paused. “That was probably entertaining to write about. I’m sure Bridget gave everyone spectacular opinions of me.”
“Most of the writers hate her, to be honest,” Valerie said, turning back to the mirror. “She one of those over-privileged Quidditch daughters. Usually we don’t go near them, but she was the only one available for comment in the bachelor article so we went with it.”
“Good to know I’m not the only person who doesn’t like her.”
“Far from it. Most people enjoyed you from what I heard of the World Cup.”
I glanced over. “Really? I had a great time. It’s probably why Liam invited me here.”
“Probably.” Valerie had a twinkle in her eyes. “He tells me you’re the Seeker for Gryffindor. What a title. Do you want to go pro when you’re finished?”
“No, actually, though I had an offer to play for the Tornadoes reserve team.” I had to stick it in there. I was talking to Valerie Gig after all. She had to know I was pretty good at what I did.
Who was I kidding? I fell off my broom. Suddenly I was the actual Seeker getting legitimate offers to play for a professional team. What was I saying?
I cleared my throat. “I want to be a Quidditch writer.”
Her eyes lit up. “A player wanting to be a writer? Practically unheard of!” She looked positively elated. “Have you always wanted to?”
“Well,” I started and Valerie steered me over to the sofa, “I always wanted to do something related to Quidditch. I just love the game. I never thought I was good enough to go pro and I’m not quite sure I want all that attention.”
“Good enough? You had an offer from the Cup team!”
I chuckled. “I just like the thought of writing about it.”
“I think that’s a good thought. I’d like to see some of your stuff once the season starts up again. Will you get into contact with me? We should have lunch or something and discuss the world of publishing. It’s a fun, competitive world, but you already have a leg up.”
“A leg up? I’m still at Hogwarts.”
“You’re already known.”
“Because I dated Oliver Wood and now I’m at a dinner with Liam Denters?”
“Known is known in this world.” Valerie grinned. “I should get back to my husband, but here’s my card. Keep in touch.”
I watched her leave, my voice stuck inconveniently in my throat. I just met Valerie Gig. She gave me her card. She wanted to have lunch with me. My body was rigid even as I walked back into the hall.
I placed the card next to me since Liam was chatting away and stared at the desert before me. It was a creamy chocolate cake and I felt fantastic. Oliver’s eyes were on me since my giant smile was probably distracting. Bridget wasn’t there.
“Please tell me that card says Valerie Gig,” Oliver said quietly.
I nodded. “It does.”
“You have Valerie Gig’s card.”
I nodded again. “I do.”
“Ja—Perry, that’s great.” He couldn’t hide the excitement in his voice. “Did you just meet her?”
“Never underestimate the power of the loo.” I almost chuckled. “She wants to have lunch.”
“What, love?” Liam turned and put an arm around me. “Who wants to have lunch?”
“Valerie Gig,” I replied sweetly and his eyes widened.
“You’ve met her? Well, there goes my surprise.” He laughed. “You’re getting plenty of connections without my help.”
“I just have that sort of personality.” I finished off the cake with one final fork-full (the wrong fork judging by the rest of the table). “She wants to meet up and then see some of my work when the season starts back up.”
“You can write an expose on Puddlemere if you’d like.”
“Do you think you could hold my attention?” Yes, it was sly flirting. Yes, it was to annoy the crap out of Oliver. Yes, it was working.
He was practically fuming.
“I think I could find a few ways to hold your attention,” Liam said under his breath, just loud enough for me (and Oliver) to hear.
“You’d have to prove it.” I giggled and took another sip of the appalling white wine.
“Challenge accepted.” Liam held out his hand. “What do you say to a dance?”
The dance floor was on the far side of another table and there were already several couples tearing it up. Technically, it was slow and melodical so they weren’t really tearing anything up, but if it was faster they would have been. Liam took my hand in his and twirled me gracefully so my dress spun out around my legs. He led perfectly, the same as the night we went out dancing, and I found myself dizzy with affection.
The band was fantastic, flowing from one song to another through the night. More and more people made their way onto the dance floor and Valerie Gig gave me a slight wave as she passed with her husband. I laughed when Liam dipped me, sticking my leg out elegantly.
My mind swam with thoughts about Liam. He really was wonderful and seemed to fancy me quite a bit. I searched the room for things to keep my mind off snogging his face off because he was quite the dish, and found Oliver sitting with Bridget back at the table.
His arms were folded and she was looking at her teeth in a pocket mirror.
I allowed Liam to spin me again. He pulled me back to him and I felt a hand on my lower back. His chest was against mine. Just as quickly Liam’s lips were against mine and my breathing stopped. I went practically stiff, my knees locking and my arms finding their way around his neck.
I pulled away seconds later and my eyes darted over his shoulder.
Oliver was gone.
Finally after dancing I got my hands on something to drink other than white wine. I found some stronger drinks at the bar across the dance floor and found Liam in a group of players mixed with media. He smiled and put an arm around me.
“I see you found a drink,” he said quietly, smiling.
“I did. Now what’s this surprise?”
“It’s sort of ruined now,” Liam replied, “but I want to introduce you to a few other people.” He excused himself from the Arrows player describing a Quaffle save and led me away toward another larger group of people laughing. Most of them had press badges on their jackets.
“Liam Denters! How great to see you!” A man in a corduroy jacket reached out and shook his hand.
“I’m sure you know her already, but this is Jane Perry, everyone.”
I put on my best polite, gorgeous smile.
“Oh, I’ve heard loads about you,” said a woman with straight blond hair. “Liam mentioned you being the Seeker for Gryffindor. Are you thinking about going pro?”
I shook my head.
“Jane wants to be a Quidditch writer,” Liam said proudly.
Their eyes lit up like Valerie Gig’s. I left the circle with a clutch full of business cards and promised lunches. Next we found our way over to the other Puddlemere players, Maxwell in the middle of a loud joke at Johnson’s expense. Their Chasers reminded me of Gryffindor’s and I suddenly wished the girls were here to avert the attention off of me.
Alicia always seemed quite good at that.
“It’s nice to see you again,” Michelle Haur said. She seemed confident and agile, something I always assumed to be true since she was the only female on the team.
“You too.” I let Maxwell finish his joke. “Enjoying yourself?”
“There’s only so much I can enjoy of these things with the Tornadoes blokes flaunting their Cup around the room.” She smiled warmly and there were crinkles in the corners of her eyes from years of laughing. Michelle was young, I guessed barely twenty-seven or so, and the darker streaks in her hair showed a lot of rebellion.
“Where’s Wood?” James Vanter asked, peering around. “If that bugger is bidding on the signed broom I’m going to kick him halfway across the pitch Monday.”
“I think he went outside a few minutes ago,” said Maxwell. “He didn’t look like he was having a good time. It might have been the chicken. Didn’t really sit well with me.”
I glanced at my hands.
“Or maybe it was Bridget,” said Michelle with a snicker. “She’s enough to send anyone outside. Run, Oliver! Escape!”
The rest of the group laughed, all of them checking over their shoulders for pink, frilly Bridget. I felt comforted. Apparently the media weren’t the only people who weren’t particularly fond of Bludgers for Brains.
I enjoyed that silently.
The fundraiser lasted far into the night with people winning random items I would have given several limbs for (broom signed by the current Tornadoes, signed robes, box tickets, etc) and true to his word, Liam presented me with the form for a new subscription to Quidditch Weekly (with bonus posters). I saw Oliver on and off through the evening as he refused Bridget’s pleadings to dance. Most of the time I spent laughing with the rest of the Puddlemere team, talking to Liam at our table, or getting to know Valerie Gig so much I knew her crup’s name was Sharpie and she once had a goldfish called Rouge.
It was raining around one in the morning and I stood just inside the lobby watching the tired media pack up. Liam walked up beside me.
“What did you think?” he asked cheerfully, trying to stifle a yawn.
“I had a wonderful time. Really, it was great.” I kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Thanks for inviting me.”
“Thanks for coming,” he replied. “I can’t believe how late it is. We must have emptied the entire bar.”
“More than likely.” I paused for a moment. “Is it okay with you if I just Apparate home? It’s late and I’m really exhausted. Plus, these heels are killing me if I’m going to be honest.”
Liam chuckled. “I’m not going to keep you any longer. I have to go help clean up the auction table anyway. I’ve promised Michelle I would. She always tries to get everyone to do nice things even though I paid hefty money for these seats.” He put his hand in my own, lacing our fingers together delicately. “Can I owl you?”
I didn’t know what to say at first. I didn’t fancy him a whole lot, but I did like Liam Denters. He wasn’t too shabby. Plus, he was quite the dish that got me connections with every famous Quidditch writer plus all of the Puddlemere United team. I smiled. “I’d suggest it.”
“All right. Good night, Jane Perry.” Liam laid a tiny kiss on my lips and smiled into it. “Tell your friends I say hello.”
I watched him walk back into the dining hall and sighed. It was pouring. Not just raining hard, it was the sort of rain shield charms didn’t do much for because they were just pushed down on top of you. Stupid good for nothing shield charms. I didn’t know it was supposed to rain or I would have brought an umbrella.
There was an overhang in front of the building where a few people were milling and I stood there, wondering when the rain would let up so I could rush around the corner of the building to Apparate home. I was jostled a bit until I found a place near the front-most step, my toes getting wet from the droplets.
Bollocks. It wasn’t letting up. A few girls beside my groaned and their dates draped long coats over them as they got into cars. I pushed my foot out into the rain, soaking it in the heels, and pulled it back, letting out my own disgruntled noise.
Son of a bitch.
The roaring thunder of rain covered the sound of people slipping past me in the darkness. I felt fabric on my arm and glanced over, nearly jumping out of my skin as I saw Oliver there with a disgruntled look on his face.
“Hi,” I said slowly, my voice louder than usual because of the downpour.
He met my eyes and his lips twitched before he spoke. “Hi.” Oliver’s eyes fell to his feet. “Quite the heavy rain.”
I nodded. “I’m trying to see if it might let up before I run through it to Apparate home. I’m not a fan of being soaked.”
“Not that you couldn’t dry yourself with your wand.” He fought back a smirk.
“Sounds like work.” I allowed a brief chuckle. “Are you out here for more air?”
“I’m waiting for Bridget. She’s doing something in there. Probably adjusting something or another. I can never keep up with what she does.” He frowned. “So I’ll just wait.”
“Enjoying her company then?” I said this quietly.
“She’s a fine date for a fundraiser since everyone already knows her,” Oliver said somberly. “I’m sick of the limelight, if you believe that.”
“With all those photoshoots scheduled and dirt rubbed across your body I’m not sure I can.” For a moment I felt playful, glancing over at his flushed face and the droplets falling onto his damp hair.
“Fair.” Oliver chuckled briefly. “Are you cold?”
He swung a black umbrella back and forth in his hands. “Sometimes cold nights during the summer are nice.”
“Indeed they are,” I whispered.
I felt the umbrella being shoved into my hands. “Take this,” Oliver said gruffly. “Head home and get a few blankets.”
I eyed him curiously. “Don’t you need it?”
“Take it.” His brown eyes were fierce and lit, reflecting carefully off the street lamps and nearby cigarettes.
“Thank you,” I said, my hands gripping the umbrella too tight. “I suppose I’ll…well, have a good night with Bridget.” I tried a smile, but my mouth didn’t quite work. He just seemed so familiar and comfortable. It was inconvenient considering I’d basically sworn to hate him for all eternity. How unfortunate.
I wanted to say something else, but instead I popped open the umbrella and made my way out into the rain, listening to the drops thunder onto the dark fabric. Behind me I heard the sound of Bridget and her niceties, but I kept moving, kept tip-toeing on the sidewalk, over puddles and dodging cracks. I felt cold and numb, thinking of the night I walked away from.
Liam kissed me on the dance floor. We twirled and drank and laughed and kissed right there where Oliver was watching. And I talked to Oliver Wood. It was friendly, almost un-Jane-like. I should have thrown something at him just for good measure or socked him in the arm. It felt strange, but I didn’t regret it as I held the umbrella. It felt enlightening.
I held my breath and Apparated, stumbling backward in the living room. Dad jumped halfway out of the chair, trying to make it obvious he hadn’t fallen asleep while waiting up for me. The Daily Prophet fell off his lap onto the floor.
“You’re home early,” he said, yawning.
“It’s one-thirty.” I laughed a bit, kicking my heels onto the rug.
“Oh. Well then you’re home late.” Another yawn and he stretched. “Did you have fun?”
“Yes, actually. And guess who got the business cards of all the major Quidditch writers? Oh, that’s me. Yeah, Jane Perry.” I pulled the pile of cards out of my clutch and spread them onto the coffee table.
Dad gaped at them. “Oh my—Jane! Jane, this is amazing. How did you do it?”
“Not by telling one of my racy jokes, I’ll tell you that much.” I beamed. “I met Valerie Gig in the bathroom and Liam introduced me to the rest. He has so many connections it’s ridiculous. Oh, and I played I Spy with the Puddlemere Chasers. How ridiculous is that?” I was practically gushing about my night. I fell onto the sofa, spilling the details about how much I danced and what the prime rib tasted like and how I never wanted to drink white wine again because it tasted like cardboard and toothpaste.
“Wow. I’m actually jealous of your night.”
“Did you not have as much fun?” I beamed.
“Lou and Amanda left shortly after you did to see a movie and I’ve been watching television and reading most of the night. It was rather uneventful, especially with most of the Cup replays off.”
“The Cup was at the fundraiser,” I bragged.
He gaped at me. “What a daughter I have. I’ll have to boast to everyone I know. You just give me so much ammo against the neighbors.”
“Oh, you mean the Muggle neighbors that don’t know about Quidditch?”
“The very same.”
“I’m heading to bed and you can think about how to word it so it sounds like I went to a football fundraiser with goal scorers.” A snort followed and I retreated to my room, pulling off the dress.
I stared at myself in the mirror, wondering about the way the dress fit me and what the reporters said about how beautiful I was. I thought about my mum. I thought about Oliver and how I wanted him to see the picture of my mum. It was stupid. I felt stupid.
I took out a quill.
Tonight was amazing. I think. I’ll fill you in more later, but I want you to know I now know about Valerie Gig’s crup. I danced with Liam. I kissed Liam. Wood gave me his umbrella. I still hate him.
My stomach grumbled so I threw on a comfy white robe, padding my way into the kitchen so as to not wake my now snoring father. I pulled open the fridge. What the shit? Where was the food for Lou and Amanda? It looked emptier than usual with a head of lettuce in the bottom drawer and an empty container of orange juice on the door. The freezer had ice cubes.
My eyes surveyed the counter and I nearly fell right there. A bottle of opened red wine sat on the windowsill, half-empty glass beside it. Groaning, I tried to ignore it. Water was better anyway. Pulling open the cupboards, I hoped for something—anything. All I got was canned milk and brownie mix.
Son of—eugh. I slammed them shut, convinced this was a stupid foiled dream I wanted to wake up from. The pinch hurt so I ran my arm under cold water.
“I’ll go to bed hungry,” I muttered, making my way back into my room. At least I could get cleaning done before bed instead of fattening myself up with wine and brownies. I wasn’t that girl anymore.
I threw my clothes into the wardrobe, kicking aside books and tissues. I moved a few things on my desk, only to find the tiara from my seventeenth birthday at the Quidditch World Cup. Hesitating, I twisted it around my fingers. It glittered like London. Below it was a hidden stack of Quidditch Weekly magazines.
I needed to go to sleep. I left Oliver’s umbrella by the door.
A/N: First of all, I want to apologize for my lengthy absence. I had a few things happen in both my HPFF life and my regular (legit) life and thus I have been gone for a while. So I wanted to give you all some brief updates :) First of all, this story is now coming along again. I had to churn out this chapter, but the rest are right on track. I have good plans for the future, so don't worry. No more extremely long waits unless something MAJOR comes up again.
Those of you who follow BTQC. It is in an editing phase right now, but will be back as soon as possible :) The validators are being a wonderful help! :)
I want to say thank you for all the support. It was a real factor in my choices, so thank you. And for everyone who has been emailing me and checking up on me, thank you as well. I appreaciate it more than you know. And THANK YOU for all the reviews on the last couple chapters. I can't even believe it. You all are so amazing and dedicated, it makes me so happy! It's a breath of fresh air after writing a 45 page thesis. (AHHH!)
So please let me know what you think...especially about the umbrella. :) :)
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