Chapter 7 : Boys Will Be Boys
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Rona was confused.
It had a lot to do with the evidence stacked up against Oliver from the previous week, and whatever that had occurred an hour ago. They conflicted with each other: one was a heartless bastard out to ruin her and the other sounded like he cared. To say the least, it threw her emotions a curveball.
What perturbed her was that she felt anything at all. She dealt with her problems in an unhealthy way, but it worked for her: ignoring them. That was her plan after their row in the corridor. Ignore. And it worked. The rumors didn't faze her anymore and the week flew by. But then it all began crumbling with a single offhand comment from Penny.
"Percy says Oliver's been hurling his clock against the wall for the past few days. I know he's been an arse, but at least before, he was functioning correctly."
And with that, the heartless bastard gained a heart. Still, second chances were complicated, and he wasn't worth the trouble. Penny and her Sleep Charm, however, had other ideas.
Rona was ready to ignore him all over again when they stood in that alley, but he wasn't going to ignore her. There lay the source of all her confusion: why did he care now? And why did it matter?
Faith in humanity was never Rona's strong point, but no one ever threw clocks at the wall for her. Heartless bastards weren't the type to figure out when she was really crying. Instinct told her to continue ignoring him. Yell at him. But she didn't want to.
And thus, Rona was confused.
She drummed her fingers on the table in front of her, still in this line of thought as Penny, Edie, and Hannah chattered about N.E.W.T.S. around her. They had yet to breach the topic of Oliver although she knew it was on everyone's mind. The pub was crowded that day, and they knew enough to not discuss anything that could lead to more gossip. Her friends were meddling, but they were smart about it.
It was ridiculous how interested they were about her and Oliver. All they shared was a meeting in a hallway, an exchange over breakfast, a vengeful kiss, some more heated exchanges, and a long-due apology. Business as usual.
Rona continued to try and drain her mug of butterbeer even though it had been empty for the past fifteen minutes. No, she reassured herself. My friends are not onto anything. They are delusional. Delusional.
As soon as they left the pub and began trudging back to school, the conversation took a noticeable turn. Hannah interrupted a short lull in the conversation with a "Sooo..." that had all sorts of insinuations behind it.
Rona decided that not hiding anything would probably be the most painless route for her. She sighed, defeated. "What do you want to know?"
"Everything, and don't skimp on the details."
"You all were spying on the whole thing. What have I got to tell you?" Rona didn't want to leak out anymore than necessary. The topic was the type that led to wildly inaccurate love accusations.
"We could only see so much," said Edie with a air of disappointment.
"And if it was a smokin' hot conversation from where we were watching, I can't imagine what it was like to be at eye level," Hannah added.
"Oh please. How was your date with Howie?"
"The meal was fine, but that boy has no idea how to handle a woman. Honestly, his arms went everywhere as if he wanted to be the next Whomping Willow. He didn't even offer me his coat."
Rona brushed off her insinuations. "You know as well as I do that Oliver was just trying to look nice so I wouldn't Bludger him."
"I don't know," said Hannah, singsong. "Seems too nice for a someone he should hate."
Penny, clearly impatient, swat her arm. "Will you just explain or shall we continue rattling off gush-worthy moments? There was a lot of work done by us — mostly me — to get this sequence of events and we'd like to reap the fruits of our labor."
"Work? Like telling him I think he's handsome?" Rona cringed internally when she remembered his question. She barely remembered when she said that, a mere passing comment during one game; she had no idea how Penny remembered.
"That, finding him, convincing him to see you, and putting you under a Sleep Charm. You're welcome."
"I convinced Penny to do it!" Hannah piped in, wanting her efforts known.
"I was actually against it in the beginning," said Edie. "But I realized you'd be too stubborn to give him a chance anyway."
Rona kicked at the snow. "I need new friends."
Hannah continued as if she never heard her. "Merlin, who knew you two were so cheeky? You both admitted you find the other attractive. There's hope for you yet."
"We were arguing half the time!"
"And the other half?"
Rona opened her mouth to respond but the confusion set in again. The other half was... interesting. "It was a fluke," she said, snippy. "He was just acting nice."
"Oh come off it," said Penny, rolling her eyes. "That was sweet. You know it."
It was. It really was. She was grasping at straws now. "Might we remember that I loathed his existence?"
The growing smiles on everyone's face told her that she wasn't convincing anyone.
"You never hate anyone," said Penny, "especially competitive people, because you know you can be just as much as a prick as they are if not more. If I recall a quote from last year, you said 'Competition is sexy.' Well, here you go." Her reasoning drew nods from the other girls and a mortified silence from Rona.
Damn Penny's good memory. Damn it to bits.
Rona couldn't deny any of it. She loved a good fight — they were her thrill. Some people went dragon taming, others played high-risk duels, but she loved nothing better than a bloke who talked back. But it never went this far before and they certainly weren't supposed to make her feel like this.
She wasn't aware she had began spacing out again when Hannah said with a sense of finality, "I knew it, she does like him."
"I do not!" she snapped instantly.
"The lady and protesting — it's a bit much, don't you think?"
"Because it's not true! I have a right to protest as much as I want," Rona groaned and surrendered to giving a satisfactory explanation. "Fine, he's... nice... in an entirely convoluted sort of way," she said with a slight wince, but after she said it, it was easier to continue. "And yeah, I guess it's sort of interesting talking to him. I mean, competition is kind of sexy. Even with the sort of weirdly stalker part. It's...he's...I don't know. There's more to him than I thought I guess. It just caught me off guard today ‘cause I wasn't expecting him to be serious and stuff, but I don't know if it was genuine or not — " Rona realized she was rambling and that her friends' steps have all slowed. "What?"
The three girls exchanged glances. Edie, trying not to laugh, mumbled, "We thought he'd be a good match for you, but we were only having fun. We didn't think anything would actually come of it."
"Don't get any ideas. I tolerate him."
With a tsk-tsk, Penny said, "So head over heels, you can't even see."
"I am not! I mean, are you lot seriously having fun at my expense — "
"I think you're right, Hannah. She does protest too much."
"Of course," Hannah said with a smirk, "She can't help it. Too many girls have got lost in his eyes and never found again. And now our little Rona, too."
Rona muttered, "I think your brains are all frozen from sitting in the snow too long. Did I mention that you all left really noticeable tracks when you were watching us?"
Edie frowned. "What are you talking about? We were on the roof the whole time."
"But I saw footsteps in the snow."
It took only a second for the realization to hit her.
Rona growled. She was going to kill Roger.
She started for the school with a renewed purpose in her steps. Her friends were keeping up as best as they could, not wanting to miss the carnage about to happen. They were already back on school grounds at that point, and she knew that there were only so many places he could be. She bet that he was chatting away with the rest of the team about what just happened, waiting to reprimand her as if she did something wrong.
She arrived in the Great Hall, flanked by Penny on her left and Hannah and Edie on her right. They made a beeline for the end of the Ravenclaw table where Roger sat. He noticed her at once and stood up and marched toward her with a similar ferocity with a few from the team backing him up. Before they even met face to face, the shouts were already going across the hall.
“Roger! The hell do you think you’re doing watching — ”
“This is not the time nor place for — ”
“ — bloody personal matters that you don’t even know the half of — ”
“ — talk about this later, everyone can hear — ”
“You’ve crossed the line!” Rona clenched her fists. It was one thing when her friends meddled, but Roger had no place in checking up on her. “Really, Roger, really? It's been years and you don’t trust me to take care of myself?"
"Well there's some proof otherwise with your little tete-a-tete."
Rona shook her head. "As if you know anything about that. Now that I think about it, you never listen to me. I'm starting to think this isn’t worth it anymore."
“So you’re going to abandon our team?” Roger said, crossing his arms. He gestured to Randolph, Jason, and Duncan, who were standing behind him as backup, the ones Rona expected to be most easily persuaded by Roger to stick up for him.
She was disappointed but hardly surprised. It was things like this that made her want to just leave and see how badly Roger would crash and burn without her. But she couldn't leave for the love of the game and the love of her House winning, and she hated that he knew that.
Penny pushed her aside, her own anger brimming as she pointed a finger at Roger. “You’re going to emotionally guilt with this spineless bunch? I don’t understand your bloody control freak problems, but deal with it!”
“You’re not a part of this — ” said Roger.
“Oh you bet your arse I’m a part of this. Stop pushing your nose where it doesn’t belong.”
Roger ignored her and turned back to Rona. “You may not think it, but I’m looking out for you. Oliver's nothing but trouble and you’re going to get your heart broken. I know how blokes like him really are and you know how Quidditch is really played. It’s all espionage and sabotage behind the scenes. Hufflepuff do it. Slytherin do it." He stared stonily past her. “And so does he.”
Rona turned to see Oliver advancing quickly on the group. No doubt with the amount of commotion they were causing that he would’ve heard sooner or later. She just hoped it would’ve been later.
“Davies.” His tone was void of his usual humor.
Rona, sensing the situation was about to get very ugly, hissed, “What the hell are you doing here?” Every time he showed up, things got worse.
“He’s come to protect his girl," said Roger, as if Oliver's presence validated his argument
A retort was out of her mouth before she could think twice. “I’m not anyone’s girl, stop being an arse.” But she didn't know why he was there either. The confusion sprung up again.
“She’s not my girl,” said Oliver, still icy. From the scene, one would've guessed otherwise. He stood in front of Rona protectively as the odd Gryffindor amongst the Ravenclaws.
Roger laughed as if he couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Didn't seem that way with you two snogging in the hallway.”
Oliver growled and took a step toward him, hand hovering by his wand. Rona jerked him back, now clearly on edge. “Uh, what do you think you’re doing?”
Surprisingly, he smiled when he turned to her, though the anger was still clear in his eyes. “Trying to be a gentleman.”
“By what, slugging him?" She knew Roger had an explosive temper underneath his exterior, and if flinging clocks was any indication, so did Oliver. She couldn't believe that she was trying to protect the both of them, but here she was, uttering sternly, "I can take care of myself."
“Since he’s still here,” said Oliver with a smirk, “no you can’t.”
“This isn’t your problem. And besides, what are you so pissed about? This is all your fault anyway.”
He tore his eyes away from hers to glare at Roger. “I’m pissed because a certain hypocrite was all over my reserve chaser last year during the holidays." Roger's expression hardened. "Yeah, Davies, I knew about that. And how you managed to find out about Katie’s blind spot. So Rona, he’s right. It is all espionage, as he puts it.”
He took a few more steps toward Roger. “I’m not going to let you drag my name in the mud when you're just as bad.”
“I liked her. I wasn’t playing some sick game like you,” Roger said through gritted teeth. He shoved Oliver back.
All at once, the action surged to a climax. Oliver lunged forward as Rona reached forward to stop him. Roger raised his fist and Jason and Duncan rushed to defend their captain. Rona ran forward to stop anyone she could, and all she could think was, How did it ever get to this?
“Whoa, people, people!” Jeremy, who had been silently observing from the side, leapt between the two captains, pushing Roger back as soon as Rona was able to grab Oliver by his robes. “This is not worth a month of scrubbing cauldrons! Oh for the love of Rowena, everything goes down the loo when there’s no mediation.”
Jason sniffed. “Oliver started it.”
“Stuff it, Jason, I’ve got no patience today,” said Jeremy. He looked around to make sure the cease fire remained. “Now, let's settle this. Roger — " The captain in question emitted a low growl. " — you have no authority over Rona. Do you forget she’s not on our team? She knows some information about a certain identity. If she wants to bloody tell somebody, she can.”
“But — ”
“No buts," Jeremy snapped. He turned to address the other captain, whose gaze was glued to the ground. "Oliver, I’m sorry that this bloke caused harm for your team, but we don't want harm coming to ours. I'll leave Rona to deal with you, but if you ever hurt her, I swear that you’ll be seeing me and the others again and I won’t be as peaceful as I am now. She might not be on our team, but we’re all brothers to her.”
And this was why Jeremy was amongst Rona's favorite people in the world.
He took one last glance at each of the grumbling faces. “So are we done here?”
There was a long pause, but two reluctantly nodded. Rona knew that sense finally came to the both of them and neither would risk jeopardizing their position on the team by getting into a fight. A captain's responsibility came first.
“Good, now let’s move on with our lives.”
The Ravenclaw boys slowly ambled back to their seats, glancing back more than once. Meanwhile, Rona and her friends considered crashing back in their rooms to avoid further confrontation. As headed toward the tower, Rona noticed Oliver slip into the space beside her. She tried not to pay attention to her friends attempting to sneak a look at their conversation.
“Sorry,” he mumbled.
The space between her and Oliver suddenly seemed so close and warmth flooded her side. “It’s... okay," she said, trying not to get distracted. "Just a long day. I'm sorry about Roger and your Chaser.”
He was pensive, a dark brooding she was not used to seeing in him. "It's not your fault."
She was actually the one who suggested the idea to Roger. There were a lot of things she had done in her tenure with the team, but she never had to the chance to be affected by them until now. She forgot that she too had helped in the manipulation of a poor girl's heart, which made her an utter hypocrite. The worst of the worst qualities.
His apology had surprised her. She didn't expect much when their meeting was machinated in the minds of three bored girls armed with a a Sleeping Charm. All he said was a stuttered sentence and it changed everything.
Someone called her name. An arm draped across her shoulders and tugged her away from him. Jeremy.
“I’ve got something to talk to you about,” he said in his usual drawl. He nodded to Oliver. “‘scuse me.”
Rona was about to protest — it was such an obvious attempt to get her away from Oliver — but this was Jeremy, the sensible one. As she entered the next hallway, she looked back and saw Oliver still looking at them.
“Sorry I had to do that,” Jeremy said, looking back as well, “Roger was going to send someone else to do something, and I’d rather not have you hugely embarrassed again for the millionth time today, so I volunteered. Think Ollie’s jealous yet?”
Rona snorted. “He’s just using me, and you know that.”
“But you wish he wasn’t.”
“Of course I wish he wasn’t.”
“Because that would mean he’s actually interested in you.”
“Because that — not you too, Jeremy!” She punched his arm, flush coming to her cheeks.
He laughed, as did Hannah and Edie, who moved back to join them while Penny took the lead to answer the knocker’s riddle ahead of them. Edie, Penny, and Hannah went through to the common room, but Jeremy asked Rona to stay behind. She knew where this was headed.
As the door swung closed again, Jeremy said, “I actually do have something to ask you.”
Rona threw up her hands. “I don’t know, okay, just don’t tell anyone else." It was the truth. She didn't know what to think about Oliver. She couldn't forget their initial confrontations, but she had the nagging feeling that perhaps it was all a front. It was a gut feeling, and she didn't like gut feelings, but she wanted to like this one.
That was the first alarm.
He noticed that she lied about her fake crying and that spoke volumes enough. And that was how her heart had started to race like crazy when she stood in front of him in that dingy alleyway of Hogsmeade, and it left her wondering what was wrong with herself. As the final straw, he had to barge in on her row with Roger. Even though she knew he must be defending his own name, but he defended hers just the same.
And that was how every preconception of Oliver was smashed to pieces, leaving her confused.
Jeremy stared at her. “What are you talking about?”
"If I fancy — " She stopped suddenly. He hadn't meant to ask her if she fancied Oliver. Oh hell.
His face broke out into a grin. “You don’t know,” he repeated. “You don’t know.”
At least she opened her mouth to the only one she would ever tell. “It’s stupid. I know it, don’t say it. The flirting... it’s kind of fun. I mean, I don’t even know anything about him." Merlin, she sounded like a ditz. "It doesn’t mean anything. It’s just a stupid crush. Not even like a crush, it’s like... like a dent — rub that stupid grin off your face before I punch it off!”
But he didn’t. “You have a crush on Oliver Wood,” he said, now chuckling.
It was so strange to hear those words out loud. “Look, I still don't know what to think. Today's been... weird. I'm sure this is just some passing infatuation. Just keep this from some certain girls I room with. This isn't anything serious and they look completely ready to make it so as soon as they catch wind of this. Now, didn’t you have something to ask me?”
“Okay, okay,” he said, the last vestige of his laugh fading away, “Looks like you're beating yourself over it enough, so I'll leave you be. I also have a... dent as you call it.”
It was her time to grin. She crossed her arms, ready for business and glad at having someone else's love life be the topic for once. “You want me to hook you up.”
“Well, it’s one of your roommates — ”
“Edie?" she said instantly. "Oh now that I think about it, you two would look nice together. She's a bit mousy, but once you get to know her, she really opens up — ”
“Actually it’s Hannah.”
Her eyes widened twice over. “What?”
“Er, yeah,” said Jeremy, suddenly shy, “She’s in my Charms class you see. I sit behind her and — ”
“Wait, wait, wait, let me get this straight. You like Hannah. The Hannah that crashes the other house’s parties and comes back drunk every other week. The Hannah that calls her dates ‘boy toys’ and goes through them like tissue. That Hannah.”
“You were the last sane person on the team.”
That only made his grin worse. “So can you?”
“Put in a good word or three for you? Of course.” She shook her head. “You have no idea what you’re getting into.”
He swung his arm back around her shoulders. “That makes two of us now, doesn’t it?”
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