For anyone who squees at the end of this chap.
Also, thanks for the thesis love.
It ended up being 54 pages of gloriousness.
By Tuesday the umbrella was still sitting by the door. I stared at it between getting dressed and trying to forget it was there. At one point I covered it up with a skirt I didn’t let Amanda borrow. I had to give it back at one point, but why would I go out of my way to see Oliver Wood? He was a jerk.
Surely it wasn’t some irreplaceable umbrella anyway. He could spare it, the famous Quidditch bachelor. He could spare a hundred—why should I even care?
I kicked my legs back and forth under the kitchen table, willing myself to stop thinking about it. This was my summer vacation. I was free. I wasn’t going to do anything that seemed like work, including exercising my mind. I was going to be a vegetable.
“Jane?” Dad poked his head in the door. “I’m off to work—would you mind picking up owl food? We’ve nearly run out and the blasted bird is pecking holes in my hand when I cook.”
I groaned. So much for vegetable. “Sure. I need a shopping trip anyway.”
“Owl the girls and see if they’ll go with you.” He smiled.
“They’re all stupidly busy—even Katie. Don’t ask what they’re doing with their lives but it’s much more important than spending time with me.”
“That’s the spirit.” He grabbed an apple off the counter and vanished.
Truthfully, it didn’t bother me the girls were so busy. It was strange, especially after seeing them so much during the year, but it happens. I needed some Jane time anyway. There was truly nothing like an alone-shopping day where I could get my head around everything. I really needed to figure out what was happening with everything—however hard it was to think about.
I had to figure out this Liam rubbish.
Diagon Alley was beyond crowded when I arrived. I heard people talking about liquidation sales and I nearly kicked a wall. Why did I need owl food today?
People were pushing past on the streets and my arms ended up scratched from cages and the corners of shopping bags. Finally, I managed to squeeze into Quality Quidditch Supplies for a breath of air. That was a stupid idea since there was less air in there. Sale on game-worn merchandise.
I drooled over the Harpies’ robes.
For nearly five-hundred galleons I sucked my drool back in.
Next it was on to Flourish and Blotts. I thought about the restaurant on the top floor and suddenly wanted to be there—to twirl and get the heck away from these crazy witches in layers of robes trying to get the best deal on toad eyes.
I looked closer. My mistake, newt eyes.
I only bought one book from Blotts, an anthology of short memoirs. It looked good for light reading since the whole vegetable scene got boring after a while. There were only so many times I could watch the same replays on the Quidditch Network.
I shoved my way out of the store, squeezing back against the crowd and trying to make my way somewhere I didn’t have to use my elbows as a weapon.
I flew around, knocking an owl cage out of someone’s hands. They should have been watching for my reflexes. It was obviously their fault. The woman flipped me off, grabbed her now dented cage, and continued on her way with the crowd. Conforming wench.
George Weasley was behind me on a bench. His legs were up on the seat so people didn’t run into them and his eyes were puffy and red. I joined him, propping my legs up with his.
“Hey, you,” I said softly, not really sure exactly what to say. I touched his leg.
“Hey. You don’t have to give me that look, you know. I’m fine.” He fought for a smile.
“I know. I haven’t seen you. I miss you.”
“I miss all of you,” he mumbled. “Heard you went to the Quidditch fundraiser. Saw it in the paper.”
“Bollocks,” I said. “Yeah, I was there. It was a lot of fun.”
“With Liam Denters? I thought he fancied his other teammate.”
“Michelle?” I paused. “I didn’t get that, but maybe. Liam’s great, though. We had a great time and talking to the press is terrifying. I’m glad I’m going to be a press one day.”
“Something about Valerie Gig, eh?”
I gaped at him. “Why am I not reading the papers? What was said?”
“She just wrote about meeting you in the loo.” George chuckled. “It was tasteful, I promise. I’m happy for you. Bet Wood wasn’t too thrilled.”
“Why do you say that? He was there with Bridget.”
George rolled his eyes obviously. “Sometimes I can be dense, Jane, but you’re just being ridiculous.” He patted me gently on the shoulder. “Anyway, let’s change the subject.”
I stared. I was being ridiculous? Katie and George broke up over napkins. And I was…oh, what the beans, George? I took a deep breath. This was a distraught boy. Yes, my breakup with Oliver was stupid. It shouldn’t have happened, but it did and now I was going to fundraiser dinners with Liam. End of novel-esque story.
“How is Mr. Perry?”
“He’s doing great,” I said.
“And Angelina and Alicia?” His eyes went to the twisting hands in his lap.
“They’re fine too.” I paused, watching George open and close his mouth. “Katie is okay too.”
“What do you have planned for the day?” He jumped on that question quickly.
“Owl food,” I said, disgruntled. “I’m off to get it now and then maybe some ice cream before I get the heck out of this sale heaven.”
He smiled. “Good idea. I’m on my way out right now. Told Fred I’d be back to play chess in a few.”
I pulled George into a hug. “Things are going to be okay. You know that, right?”
He mumbled something inaudible and stood up against the grain of shoving people. “See you later, Jane. Owl me and update me.” Just as soon as he finished, he disappeared into the mass glob of consumers.
I kept my legs up on the bench for a while, thinking about him and Katie and me and Oliver and Liam, and just for shits, Roger too. I hated this. I wanted to go back to Hogwarts where everyone’s business was out in the open and I just had to ask a few people what he said and she said behind so-and-so’s back and I wouldn’t have to gather a hypothesis or anything. It was starting to become work.
After owl food and getting kicked in the leg by a pissy six-year-old with a lollipop stuck in her curls, I made my way back down the cobbled street to the ice cream shop. I ordered a vanilla sundae with cherries and chocolate syrup and managed to snag the only empty table as soon as someone left. The rest were completely full and I left the other seat open at mine in case someone needed a spot to eat.
All right, anthology, let’s see what lives other people have lived.
Bloke watching his friend get eaten by a fish. Pass.
Woman who was a furniture mover and found enlightenment. Pass.
Chef who made food with road kill. Eww, pass.
Famous Quidditch All-Star with a secret. Ooh, page two-hundred thirteen.
The ice cream was delicious and I devoured it along with the life of this old star. Came from poverty to be one of the wealthiest Quidditch players—victim of emotional abuse. Poor bloke. I leafed through more pages, spooning the vanilla into my mouth.
Someone sat across from me. I turned another page. I had to know how his first try-out went. It was so improbable. What a story!
“Nail-biter, Perry?” Oliver said.
I nearly choked. Why did everyone have to sneak up on me like that? Once I finished swallowing the ice cream, I looked up. He was eating a chocolate sundae with sprinkles and nuts and a bright green polo. Nearby people were staring.
Go back to your sales, people!
“It’s a good story,” I said simply. Suddenly, I felt awkward. I didn’t know how to eat my ice cream and of course I couldn’t read any more. My ex was sitting in front of my with that same pompous bleeding look I had grown so used to seeing. I thought about the umbrella in my bedroom. Nothing of Oliver’s should have been in my bedroom.
My face lit up.
“You okay?” he asked.
“Erm, sure. I’m fine actually. How is life?” I said this very fast and was not convincing at all.
“Life is fine,” he said with a chuckle. He picked at his ice cream.
“And Puddlemere?” I searched my head for something to talk about. Why did I need anything? We could sit there in complete silence. We should. I hated him anyway. Well, not really hated, he did give me that umbrella. Was that his ploy? Of course not, that was a stupid idea.
“The team is fine. Liam and ‘Shell had to do about sixty laps today for messing around.” He shrugged casually.
Was that jealousy I felt? No, of course not. I horsed around with Fred all the time and that didn’t mean I fancied him. Who cared if Liam did fancy Michelle? Not me. Not one bit.
My face was on fire. I ate ice cream to cool it down.
I could feel my stomach twisting. “That’s unfortunate,” I managed after a while. “Being subjected to constant laps isn’t a good time.”
“How did you end up at the dinner with him, anyway?” He looked curious, but wouldn’t meet my eyes. Not that I wanted to meet his anyway.
“He owled me for dinner and dancing and while we were out he asked me if I wanted to go with him.” Okay, someone slap me. Why did I just tell that to Oliver Wood? Like it was any of his sodding business. It wasn’t.
But he did look rather put out at the dinner.
Shut up, brain! No one asked you.
“I see,” he said. “I guess that makes sense. Everyone was shocked at the dinner. Caught me off guard.”
“Why?” I asked quickly.
“I didn’t expect to see you there.” He almost laughed. “I expected Liam to come alone like he always does and to be legitimately jealous of the Tornadoes as they flaunted their Cup—I heard the winning team always does it. Expected a good meal, some wine, no dancing because I wouldn’t dance with Bridget to save my life, and to pick up that free subscription to Quidditch Weekly.”
I colored again.
“Which someone else happened to get.” Oliver narrowed his eyes playfully. It annoyed me. “All in all, didn’t expect you there. The wounds are still fresh from the lipgloss incident.”
“Why are you being nice to me?” I said, suddenly angry. “You’re always a pompous git to me and suddenly you’re joking around about the Cup and dancing with Bridget. What gives, Wood?”
He didn’t answer right away, stirring the ice cream around in his dish. I watched his fingers wrap tightly around the spoon. “I wanted to know if everything’s okay.”
“What do you mean, everything? Everything is fine.”
“What about with Katie and George? I heard all about that rubbish.”
“It was napkins,” I mumbled, trying to delay finishing my ice cream off. I noticed the way he seemed genuinely concerned about not only me but the rest of the past Gryffindor team (okay, except Ellis). “I think they’ll be okay. If I can get them in the same bleeding room again.”
“Ah, I see.” Oliver looked nervous. I hadn’t seen him nervous in ages. There were girls eyeing him from the table over but he didn’t notice. I liked that, but I’d never tell. “They’re too good together. We have to fix this.”
He said we. We had to fix Katie and George. Us. Together. My fingers went numb at the tips and suddenly I realized they were in the ice cream. “How?” I managed to say. My throat was nearly clogged.
“Not sure. We’ll figure something out. It worked with Fred and Ang, didn’t it?”
“So you want to plan another retreat in the freezing rain?” To my surprise, I laughed just thinking about the absurdity of team builders and Libby screaming at the pitch door in the morning.
“Not quite, but something they can’t avoid. We’ll talk about it later.” He didn’t give me a moment to gape at him for the wording he used. “So how is that whole Lou Beckett situation going?”
I put my face in my palm. Ah, the conversation which sparked our breakup. “It’s going fine. She’s lovely and my dad is happy and I was a bitter, jealous idiot. Her daughter, though.”
“Let me guess, she’s lovely too and you just don’t want to compete for attention?” He surveyed me, licking the rest of the chocolate off the tip of his spoon. His brown eyes captivated me.
“The opposite in fact,” I replied. “She’s a horrible fourteen-year-old girl with no common sense or morals. Dunno how Lou is her mum, it’s insane. She practically threw herself at Roger.”
His head flew up. “Davies?”
“The very same.”
I saw his jaw twitch. I could nearly see the images going through his mind. But why would they? Why would they consist of Roger snogging me on my bed? It wasn’t like we were together or anything. No, of course we weren’t.
Two ex’s having ice cream in Hogsmeade. Just happened to be sitting at the same table. Coincidence is all it was.
“Oh. I see.”
“He went shopping with us when I needed a dress for the fundraiser.”
“Erm, how is he doing?” Oliver could barely get the phrase out. Apparently the wounds were not closed.
“Great, actually. He’s on the reserve team for the Magpies, helped me through a lot after—you know, we broke up. Put things into perspective. Oh, he has this lady he fancies that we all convinced him to talk to. I’m waiting to hear back about how it went. Very exciting stuff, apparently she’s quite the looker.”
Jane Perry. Earth to Jane Perry. You’re telling Oliver Wood things about your life. Remember when this happened before? About your father? With the team meeting?
But remember when you told him about your mum. Didn’t blab. And you told him all about your past and your dreams and everything else and he didn’t blab about that—didn’t tell the whole team about it.
“Good for him,” Oliver said. “Sorry about Lou’s daughter, though. She sounds like a disaster.”
“The very worst.” I laughed. I couldn’t think of anything else to talk about. Instead, my mind snapped back to Angelina asking me if Oliver and I had sex. I wondered about the lack of intimacy toward the end of our relationship—when things got tense around money and seeing each other.
It was over now, though. It was all speculation.
I couldn’t help but notice his teeth tugging on his lower lip, fighting back words. He blinked several times. The ice cream was gone, but he wasn’t.
I stopped breathing for a moment.
Oliver cleared his throat, knocking me from my temporary spout of insanity. He glanced around, finally noticing the perched girls with wide eyes and drool. His eyes flew back to me. “Okay, this might sound really weird and might be really stupid.”
“What? Those girls?” I said.
“Do you want to stop by the flat for some tea?”
I couldn’t stop my jaw from falling. It hung there for a moment as I stared, unsure. “Um. Sure.” I couldn’t think of a reason not to. Sure, I hated him. Right?
But tea couldn’t hurt anyone. Besides, he looked more grown up. More mature.
In a month? Get real.
I found myself gathering my bags while having these thoughts. None of them were powerful enough to get me to stop. Could they have a liquidation sale on common sense because apparently I had none.
I followed Oliver back toward the pub. Walking behind my ex. What would people say? When did I ever care about people? What would the girls say? I cared about them. About Fred and George—though George had probably disappeared into gardening or something by then. They would tell me I was crazy. Alicia would clap and tell me she told me so. She didn’t tell me anything.
It wasn’t like my feelings were back for Oliver. They weren’t. I didn’t have any.
Two people going for tea.
His shirt was tight against his back. I looked down. Bollocks. I looked back up.
“Ready?” he said, regaining my eye as we found an empty spot close to the entrance of Knockturn Alley. “Meet you at the flat.” With a crack, he was gone.
For a second, I debated not going at all. That would teach him. Throw jewelry at me, why don’t you. Break my heart, why don’t you. Not care that I was in love with you, why don’t you. Good thing I’m not anymore. What a load off my back.
Seconds later, I found myself just outside Oliver’s flat with the door ajar. I pushed it open, tossing my bags on the floor beside the entrance.
“How do you like what I’ve done with it?” Oliver was in the kitchen and I could hear the sink water running.
At first I was confused, but I realized quickly what he was talking about. The entire place looked different. It was clean, everything neatly stacked in piles and the Quidditch figures were lined across the top of the television (the Canons player was on a different shelf with a missing arm).
The dining room table was no longer cluttered and had a few thick candles in the center. There was even a white table cloth. Pans were hanging from a rack in the ceiling. I saw a loaf of bread on the counter. No dishes in the sink. I pushed past Oliver and opened the fridge.
It was full. There was no tuna in sight. Lettuce, pears, apple cider, thawing steak, a premade salad, and various other things I could actually stomach. He had more than I did at home. Ridiculous.
“What’s with the smile?” he asked, laughing.
I couldn’t hide it. “You’re practically an adult now,” I said. “Look at all this—it’s lovely.”
“Thanks. Took a while but I…well, I had some time on my hands is all.” He grabbed two wine glasses, ignoring the kettle on the counter.
“It looks great. Wish I could say the same but after I left my super-clean phase it sort of got dirty again.” I chuckled, leaning awkwardly on the fridge.
“You went through a super-clean phase? Who paid you?”
“Erm,” I mumbled. “Sort of how I dealt with….yeah. So yeah.” I flipped a few pieces of hair into my face. It was awkward thinking about scrubbing everything around the apartment clean. I actually hurt myself doing that. Absurdities.
It seemed like ages ago. Now here I was, watching Oliver pour wine into two glasses. The room was silent. It reminded me of the Astronomy Tower on Christmas.
“Shall we go sit?” He motioned toward the living room, handing me one of the glasses and grabbing the bottle.
I found a seat on the far side of the couch. Everything felt weird and strangely comfortable. I shifted, staring at the bottle of red wine. All I could think of is ordering white wine at the fundraiser. I hated it.
“Jane, we need to talk.” Oliver’s voice was gruff and hardened. He stared at his shoes, sipping at the drink in his hands. He didn’t seem to notice he didn’t refer to me as “Perry.”
“About what?” I asked.
“Okay, you know what?” He sounded panicked and hurried. “I’m going to just have my say. Do you remember when we first got together and you made me tell you that long story about how I’d fancied you since the mistletoe incident? Well, I’m going to talk now and you’re going to listen and when I’m done you can just leave if you want or throw something or whatever you think you need to do.” He was sweating.
“Sure thing.” I had no idea what was coming—if he was going to rant about his parents or tell me he was going to propose to Bridget even. Of course in the back of my mind…
“This past month has been miserable for me. There’s not just one reason for it either—all this publicity rubbish is taking its toll on me, though the good news is I made a fortune off those magazines. I knew I had to make the money. I was slowly going broke and, let’s face it, that was a huge reason we broke up. The stress was stupid. My parents were stupid. We’re both too stupidly stubborn for our own good.” He chanced a smile. I returned it. “It was okay not seeing you. I didn’t have to deal with it, you know? I knew you lot were at Katie’s so I could go off and concentrate on my career. Sure, it wasn’t ideal since all of my friends were at Katie’s, but I guess I convinced myself they were just my team from school. Then Ang came—dunno if you knew about that or not. She’s crazy. I told her to bugger off. None of her bleeding business. It was, though.
“Quidditch, fans, Bridget, all of it just made me crazy. I love it, though, but I hate it alone.” He sighed. “No, that sounds stupid. That sounds like I need something else to balance me out without really wanting it—that’s not it at all.”
“Okay,” I said calmly. Truthfully, that was all I could manage to say.
“I wanted to kill Liam at the dinner. I wanted to throw myself over the table and throttle him right there.” His voice was angry again. “I couldn’t believe it—still can’t. He’s my mate and brought my ex to the fundraiser dinner. Okay, not totally his fault. He knew you and he needed a date—needed to make—never mind. Neither here nor there. I just felt like it was the Dodger thing all over again.”
“I miss you, Jane.”
This time I really couldn’t speak. Nothing came out. I opened and closed my mouth several times.
Oliver’s wine was gone and I noticed mine was as well. His eyes were sad and wide, fingers clasped tight around the glass stem.
I stood up fast. “I don’t…what? What are you saying?” Sure, I knew there was a possibility he could be talking about us. It was in the back of my mind, but still caught me off guard.
Strangely, I didn’t feel awkward or uncomfortable. It was Oliver. The boy in the Astronomy Tower, the Quidditch pitch eating to-go orders from The Three Broomsticks, dunking me in the pond. His hair was tossed at the top. The only light came from the kitchen and tiny streaks through the curtains.
“Have lunch with me tomorrow,” he said.
“What makes you think I want to? What makes you think I even want to talk to you after everything?”
“Well, at least return my umbrella.” He chuckled.
The tension dropped. “All right. All right, we can do lunch tomorrow. Are we going out or staying here?”
“I’ll surprise you.” He poured himself another glass of wine.
“I should go then. Have to get the owl food back home.” I stumbled to get to the door. Oliver stood up. “I’ll be around tomorrow then.”
“Tell your dad I say hi.”
I made a face. “I’m not sure I should do that. Then again, maybe Amanda’s there and I can gush to her all about it.” I pulled open the door and stopped, facing the hallway. Oliver hadn’t moved. I turned. “Hey.”
I picked up the bags and they cut into my forearms. “I miss you too, Oliver.”
A/N: Any squees? They've been absent lately so I thought I'd ask :)
Thanks everyone for the amazing reviews. I really love to read them and a lot from the previous chapter gave me inspiration for this one and the next. I'm having so much fun writing them (darn semester has been way too demanding). I am now in the process of job hunting for June, which should be a blast, huh?
So tell me what you think! About George, about ice cream, about Oliver Wood.
What the HECK is going to go down at lunch?