Chapter 1 : Cushions, Quaffles and Unwanted Revelations
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The proverbial bomb dropped right in her living room. The culprit: her husband. The victim: her sanity. And all the while he continued as though he hadn't just ruined all chance of happiness for the foreseeable future.
"Actually, she'll be here tomorrow."
Katie stared at him long and hard, completely certain that he was joking.
He had to be joking.
But judging by the very still man before her and the slightly apprehensive expression he failed to hide, she had little choice but to process the horrifying fact that he was not.
Katie drew in a slow and steady breath. "Your mother is coming to visit and you didn't think it necessary to tell your wife?!"
Oliver Wood, her husband and bringer of the bad news, heaved a sigh fraught with resignation. That he had anticipated her reaction was clear, that he had not sought to avoid it was irritating. "Look, Katie, it's just for a couple of days. You don't have to put yourself out."
Didn't have to put herself out? Who was he kidding?
She let out an indelicate snort as she reached subconsciously for one of the bone coloured cushions on the living room sofa. She fluffed it instinctively. Mrs Virginia Wood had the eyes of a hawk. She could detect an un-fluffed cushion from a mile away. Maybe two in good weather. And Katie knew first hand that to be the owner of any such cushions directly reflected upon one's wifely suitability. In Mrs Wood's estimation, Katie's was lamentably low.
She was from the old school of marital expectation, back when wives did not have careers, or opinions, if they could be completely discouraged. Their purpose in life was, apparently, to propagate the species and to fluff cushions and straighten photographs in the interim.
Katie pulled her hands away to fold them across her chest. "I just think that I deserved to be told of this with, say, more than 24 hours notice. You know perfectly well how she hates me."
She was a sticking point in their relationship, was Oliver's mother.
The woman had made little effort to conceal her disdain for her son's wife in spite of Katie's best efforts.
She and Oliver had gone to school together at Hogwarts. Both had been Gryffindor students and Quidditch players, albeit he was three years ahead of her and Captain. Given that here they were 10 years later and married, one might think that they had been dating in school or that at the very least she'd had a crush on him. It couldn't be further from the truth.
Although he had been quite good-looking, Katie had to confess that in her youth narrow-minded obsession to the point of psychosis hadn't really been what she considered an appealing quality in a prospective boyfriend. Though there was much to be said for the brooding male stereotype from her, now more experienced, view point.
Regardless, Oliver had always been about the game. A conversation that made no reference to seekers, quaffles or a trophy with his name on it could scarcely hope to garner his attention. Fortunately in the following years he managed to broaden the scope of his conversation starters.
Not all that extensively, mind you.
Granted, Katie had never been overly concerned by that particular character flaw as she too was rather fanatical about the sport. In fact it was precisely what had brought them together four years after she had last seen him. Most fortuitously Katie had been offered a place at Puddlemere United, his team, and whilst it hadn't been a starting spot on the squad she was hardly fool enough to turn her nose up at the opportunity.
Seeing Oliver in his keeper's gear had done to her then what his 17 year old self had not.
He had taken her under his wing immediately, probably because he credited much of her skill to his own prowess at teaching. His ego with regards to the sport certainly hadn't changed. Katie let it slip without much comment though because, frankly, she was more than open to teachings of a different kind.
That Oliver Wood was slow on the up-take was, lamentably, still true. She noticed on occasion when the team would go for celebratory drinks that girls tended to get trapped in his orbit. They would hover and flirt, all dainty hands and fluttering lashes, and he would respond politely but with utter obliviousness.
He was a 21 year old, hot-blooded male turning down Quidditch groupies. It was completely unprecedented. Katie had, of course, been secretly and smugly delighted. But mostly she had become increasingly aware over the year that followed that she was quite smitten with the Keeper herself.
It was highly unfortunate as he hadn't the slightest clue about that either. Indeed, it was clear to Katie that any girl hoping to get Oliver Wood's attention had to stop just short of clobbering him over the head with a beater's bat.
Katie had never really been what one might call assertive but she wasn't shy either. She was a fairly pragmatic girl in most regards but truth be told something about his, at times indecipherable, Scottish burr made her want to leap from her broom mid-air and pounce on him. In retrospect she imagined the pheromones held some portion of the blame for that.
It had become quite clear to her during that first year that although he thought of her as a friend, a close friend at that, something of his attitude to her made her wonder if he'd processed her transition from the trying age of 14 to where, and one might say who, she was now.
To remedy the fact, she did what any astute and romantically-deprived girl should do and accepted a date from someone she wasn't remotely attracted to. It was on page one of the girl's guide to securing ignorant boys handbook they'd given out in the first stages of puberty.
The person in question was good-looking, if one was into the whole pretty boy sort of handsome, which, incidentally, Katie was not. Oliver, however, was a man's man, whatever that meant. All she knew was that he stirred her blood.
The only thing Adrian Pucey stirred was her desire for a visit to the hairdressers. His locks were unnaturally shiny.
She supposed it was all that flying which gave him the windswept look he was so known for. Sadly, the same process generally resulted in a snarl of unmanageable knots for her. Some people had all the luck.
Pucey had been a chaser back at Hogwarts too; he simply had the misfortune of being a Slytherin and was as such the perfect choice. Oliver's firm belief in the continuation of school rivalries made him very much an enemy. Those days, however, he played for the Appleby Arrows and was in great form. A point she waxed lyrical about one night when inebriated.
In any case, she had run into him at the Quidditch World Cup only months before and they'd embarked on a surprisingly animated conversation about Williby Rottingwall, the Captain of the English side at the time. Bloody useless, he was.
Pucey had asked her if she fancied a drink sometime. She got the distinct impression that his idea of an attractive partner was very much in line with her own and so she accepted without the slightest hesitation. As it happened they did end up going for a drink at the Leaky Cauldron and although it had been quite surreal, she certainly enjoyed herself.
About a month later, by sheer providence - in the form of a discrete invitation from Katie herself - he happened to wander into the exact pub that Katie, Oliver and some of the team were occupying. Oliver's gaze had narrowed and his hackles rose almost immediately. Pucey had given her a surprisingly warm kiss on the cheek and plopped down next to her on the bench.
Oliver's sullenness had thrilled her to no end. His reaction when Pucey mentioned their night out hadn't gone unnoticed by her either. Of course whether his reaction stemmed from his clear dislike of Pucey or some heretofore unknown attraction to her she hadn't been sure.
The conversation later that evening had been amusing though not quite as illuminating as she'd hoped.
"So. Pucey?" His tone had reeked of ill-concealed disgust at the thought. "Bit of a git, really." He had walked her home because she always insisted on it when the rain wasn't pouring. She liked walking in the clear, cold air.
"I think he's nice," she'd responded, which was entirely true.
Reflecting upon her behaviour at the time, Katie could see how it might have appeared manipulative. Indeed, that was a constant accusation from his mother.
But she knew his attention would never have been gained without some effort. And she had thought him worth that effort.
"You're dating him then?" His tone and been gruff and disappointed, though not at all like the sort of gut-wrenching disappointment a romantic hero might feel when he has discovered that the woman he loves is with someone else. It seemed more on par with the distress one might feel at misplacing a much beloved pair of socks.
Her disappointment had been acute.
She had given him a quick kiss on the cheek then and left him with his thoughts. As it turned out he had been paying attention, even when she wasn't wholly aware of it. After they had been dating for a while she had questioned him about it. His poker face was far better than she'd credited him with. In any case, much to her delight, he found another point of interest on which to focus his attention and energy: her.
And she had been a most willing recipient.
The first time Oliver kissed her though, it had been completely unexpected. It was right after the team Christmas Party and he had leaned down to give her an obligatory kiss on the cheek between friends. Or so she'd thought. His lips had found hers so quickly and with only the slightest brush of his own that she had thought at first she was hallucinating.
Her expression must had been akin to horror, though it was merely shock she felt. He'd sworn and muttered something inane about timing and stupidity. She hadn't stopped staring at him.
"Merlin's beard, Bell..." He only ever called her that when he was flustered or irritable. "It was just a kiss. You're looking at me like I clobbered your grandmother!"
She found her voice, "I was just surprised."
He'd looked at her as though she had three heads and his response was gruff. "Don't know how you could be, it was pretty bloody obvious I wanted to..."
His surliness had caused her heart to swoop, and she couldn't help but laugh. He had looked rather appalled at that.
"Obvious?! Oliver you have a one-track mind and it's all about quidditch! All the time." She paused, "Obvious..." She laughed again and he cut her off by brushing his mouth more firmly against hers. She had the good sense to act accordingly that time.
He pulled away again. "That's true... but I'm not thinking about Quidditch now..." A declaration of love yelled from the rooftops could not have made her happier; although a night of pure, unadulterated sex - proof to his earlier comments about minds and their tracks - had.
They had been fairly inseparable since then, dating for two years and then married for three. In spite of her relative youth and her mother's constant suggestions of ‘spreading her oats' whilst she was young, Katie had never wanted anyone else. She didn't even mind sharing him with legions of adoring fans.
His enthusiasm and competitive streak had always been a part of the attraction, and there were certainly few other men who could have appreciated her own love of the game. This was especially true after she had accepted a lucrative offer from the Hollyhead Harpies to take a starting position on their squad in the new season.
Oliver's loyalty to Puddlemere was unending though, and so he had stayed on there as Keeper. She couldn't deny that the thrill of a match between the two teams left tensions running high between them. Truth be told, in the early days they'd gone at it like rabid bunnies when they got home.
It had been some time since that had last occurred though. For most of the last season Oliver had been out because of injury. It happened to the best of them, but Oliver never really coped well when things like that were beyond his control. He had a tendency to mope around their house and could be, at times, frustratingly quick to annoy.
Katie supposed that was where his mother had come into it all. She fancied that her Mother-in Law was arriving to see to it that her beloved son was being properly cared for.
Her nostrils flared in pre-emptive irritation. Practice for the coming week, she figured.
Oliver was looking at her now with clear frustration marring his attractive face. "For Merlin's sake, Katie, she's my mother! And she's got no one else."
"She's got your brother and sisters! Why isn't she staying with any of them?" The unspoken answer was that Mrs Wood, the first edition, was in no way concerned about her eldest children, all of whom had married appropriately and borne her many grandchildren. It was Oliver, her youngest and most beloved son, who had stupidly married a girl with too many original thoughts of her own and a career that saw her flying about the country whilst her husband was home injured.
The concept of equality was not one with which the woman was familiar.
Oliver grunted and knocked one of the strategically placed cushions off the sofa. "Four days, Katie. You'll just have to cope."
He left the room and she glared after him. It was the same argument they had been having ever since the death of his father and the subsequent increase in the number of his mother's visits since the year before. He never listened and she was sick of the discussion.
Katie blew out a sigh and told herself that she would, somehow, get through the four days and then she would deal with Oliver about a much needed reprieve from such delights in the future.
In the meantime, she had much to do. She eyed the errant cushion, almost tempted to leave it there just to vex the old hag.