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Chapter 10 : A Sugar-Induced Revelation
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Oliver didn’t seem to notice that she was awake, marveling the contours of his muscles while alarms were ringing inside her head. He ambled over to another bed with clothes draped on the edge. Rona tensed in panic when he began loosening his towel, and she realized that he was about to change and that involved getting naked. She may have been desensitized to the idea of naked blokes due to her habit of barging into locker rooms, but this was Oliver, and there was nothing desensitized about him.
“OI!” she screeched just as he tugged an end of the towel free. His head swung around to meet her wide eyes, hands still thankfully grasping the towel in place. “What are you doing?”
He held a finger to his lips and gestured toward a sleeping figure in another bed. “I’m putting clothes on. Unless you don’t want me to.”
She glowered at him before turning to face the other way. Everything was still whirling, and it hurt to pull her head up. “What happened?” she muttered into the pillow. She heard the rustle of fabric of him putting on shorts.
“You tell me. What kind of idiot gets piss drunk all alone?”
She furrowed her brows. A hangover would make sense for her symptoms, but she didn’t remember going to the party. She looked back up and pretended to not pay attention to his lack of a shirt. “What are you talking about? I don’t drink.”
He snorted as he pulled on his vest. “Says the girl twirling around the pitch laughing like a maniac.”
“You’re joking right?” she said, staring incredulously. “I only drink butter — ”
She quickly looked for her pockets but she didn’t have her coat on anymore. Sitting up, found it hanging on the side of the bed, dripping wet. “The hell?” she muttered. “Did you shower in my coat?” She reached inside her left pocket and took out the still-wrapped candy she had been saving.
“For your information, you suddenly decided you wanted to fly through the snow.” He strode over with his wand and muttered a Hot Air Charm that nearly frizzed up her hair. He took the candy from her hand to examine it. “I saw some fifth years with these. What are they?”
“Well I thought it was a Honeybug. Now I’m pretty sure it’s Edie’s brother’s experiment. He must’ve used concentrated butterbeer or something, because I only ate one, and apparently it’s enough to induce hallucinations.” She held a hand to her head, and the whirling stopped. “That still doesn’t explain why I’m in your bed right now.”
“Percy’s bed, actually. Figured he won’t mind. Now scoot over,” he said, sitting down on the bed. She obliged warily and wondered how many out-of-context stories Hannah would be able to think up from just the past two minutes. Rona was drunk with Oliver. Rona saw Oliver strip. Rona was in bed in Oliver...
He leaned back against the headboard. “Like I said, I found you dancing around the pitch. You’re lucky I went back to get stuff from my lockers, ‘else you’d be found frozen stiff. Then I had to coerce you to follow me — ”
“Coerce?” She felt a lump rise in her throat.
“Yeah, coerce,” he said with a nudge and a waggle of his eyebrows. “Unfortunately, it was far more innocent than you would’ve preferred, I’m sure. You were mumbling or something that you were trying to catch the Snitch, so I told you it was in the lake."
Her gaze flattened. "You told me to go jump in a lake?"
"No, I figured you wouldn’t listen to me," he corrected, holding up a finger. "And I was right. You put on that accusatory tone — ”
“I am not accusatory!”
He snickered. “...right. Anyway, you tell me that I’m a liar and that I just want the Snitch for myself and that I’m not the Seeker and that I’m cheating. And the rest of what you babble is just as nonsensical.”
Parts of her hallucination were coming back to her. They did not highlight her sanity in any way.
“And then you decide to wade through all the snow you possibly could." His brows furrowed together. "Do you know how hard it is to drag you out of the snow? Even when you’re completely out of it, you resist like a madwoman. And we barely get back before it’s curfew, and I’m trying to hide the fact that you were bloody wasted, which was no small effort when you took every opportunity to try and escape from me — ”
“Yes, escape. From my loving embrace. I couldn’t let go of you without you charging at the nearest portrait.”
"You're kidding," she squeaked, blush rising to cheeks.
“Oh, but I'm not," he said, drinking up every bit of embarrassment. "So I dragged you up here, trying to find someone who could take you back to your room, but I already saw some prefects out, and I didn’t want you to get caught for being drunk — nice aren’t I?" The corner of his mouth tilted up ever so smugly. "I care so much.”
“Yes, I do. Do you enjoy repeating everything I say?”
“Yes, I do,” she said, mimicking his tone.
He shook his head but his eyes lingered on hers. Her breath hitched and her only hope was that it wasn’t audible, all the while scolding herself, Do you want this dent to go away or not?
A thud from the other side of the room broke their gaze.
Oliver cleared his throat. “Finnegan,” he said, gesturing back to the sleeping figure who had turned over. He ran his other hand through his hair. “Almost as piss drunk as you were. He’ll be out all night. Just him, me, and Jules here for the holidays, and Jules is still at that Hufflepuff thing.”
“Oh hell!” Rona had forgotten about the party. “My friends must be worried sick. I was supposed to go to that.” She scrambled off the bed.
“Rona, it’s midnight.”
Although Oliver had already mentioned it, it didn't registered to her that it already was past curfew. It would be impossible to go back to her dorm until morning without risking detention. Falling back with a defeated thump, she could see the headlines already. Rona Switt found dead from fatal case of mortification after clandestine all-nighter with Oliver Wood. She sighed. “Why are you always the one who finds me? You’re not even a bloody... Seeker.” She hesitated at the last word. When had she used that phrase before?
The dream suddenly started coming back to her, but it was far more vivid, and this time she wasn’t flying — she was in the snow. He was calling her name and she was running like her life depended on it looking for the so-called Snitch. She could barely make out the voices, now muffled in her recollection.
“Shouldn’t you be making the plays, not doing them?”
Her head snapped up. “What’d you say?”
Oliver raised a brow. “I asked if you’re hungry.”
She heard his voice echo in her mind again accompanied by a hazy image of him in the courtyard, ruffling her hair and wrapping his jacket around her. How’d a silly girl like you become the Strategist? The image faded away, and her mouth went dry. She wasn’t seeing her dreams. She was remembering what actually happened.
She knew there was a likely possibility that he had known she was her team's strategist already. It was odd enough Roger was so protective of her. But Oliver never spoke up about it, so she assumed he didn’t make the connection. She had given him the benefit of the doubt after Hogsmeade and now, she fought every instinct that told her that she was being naive.
“Are you okay?” He waved a hand in front of her, furrowing his brows.
“Earlier... “ she said, lifting her eyes to meet his, “Did you call me... the Strategist?”
He froze, swallowing uneasily. “You remember that?”
The impact of his answer hit her immediately. He had known. There was only one reason why he would know and didn't tell her. She suddenly felt like crying, and it was only then that she had realized how much she had wanted to trust Oliver. She didn’t care if he knew she was the Strategist. She didn’t even hold any strong feelings for him. But she had given him a second chance.
Rona tried as hard as she could to keep her expression steady. “How long have you known?”
He stayed silent for what seemed like an eternity before bowing his head. “Seven months.”
It had been a sham from the beginning. She bit down hard on her lip as she felt her face flush in anger and with the anticipation of tears. “So that’s why you’re acting nice is it? Save me from Roger. Saved me tonight. Get up my skirts. Steal a few secrets.”
“It’s not — ” Oliver began.
“Then what? What is it?” Her voice had risen to an almost shrilly high. She was tired. Disoriented. And now came her eleventh hour plot twist which while she appreciated in the novels she read, she certainly did not when they occurred in real life.
“Things have changed,” was all Oliver could breathe out before she continued on her tirade.
“Is that what happened? Are you sure it wasn’t because your first plan failed? Oh, Rona doesn’t like ladykillers, let's try acting nice. You must’ve been so bloody happy when I told you I fancied you. Your plan’s a huge success.” Her eyes squeezed shut to stop the tears and she turned away. It was like the day she confronted him in the hallway. She wanted to run — everything told her to run — but this time, there was no place to go.
“You win, Oliver,” she said bitterly. “I can’t believe Roger’s right. I really am that naive.”
“He’s not right — Rona, don’t... don't cry.” He moved to kneel closer to her, grasping her shoulder.
“I’m not crying!” she said, letting out a sob for the first time. She jerked her shoulder away. “This isn’t... I — ” She wiped her eyes with a sleeve. “I don’t cry!” She huddled herself up with her back facing him, muffling her sobs by biting down on her arm. Once she began, she couldn’t stop. She wasn’t sure if she was more angry at him or the fact that she was having such a fit over it. She started muttering to herself, “This is ridiculous. This is not worth c-crying about. C-candy made me loony — ”
“Rona,” he said, clutching her arm.
“Go away.” She tried to pull away again, but he held fast.
“Rona,” he said, more insistently this time.
She flung her hand at him. “I’m trying to wallow here!”
Though she was bawling her face off, and he looked as panicked as ever, he somehow let out an amused snort. “Rona, you’re an idiot.”
His arms encircled her, and she tried to escape, but he was too strong and she gave up. His chest heaved against her back, warmth mingling. “Roger is not right,” he said softly. “He was, but not anymore. I know you don’t believe me, but I’ve really changed. I... actually like talking to you, even though you’re impossible... and... and always insist on having the last word. Even though you pretend that you don’t care. Even though I think you’re silly.”
The corners of her lips twitched. That was... sort of sweet. She had calmed down considerably now; the rush of emotions had its moment of catharsis. There were no more new tears, though she continued to breathe in shallow gulps of air. “You’re hic so cheesy.”
The teasing tone cautiously crept back into his words. “Yeah, but you like it, don’t you?”
“Shut up hic.” She did feel better.
“Take a deep breath.”
Rona did so and exhaled, continuing the pattern until her regular breathing returned. They were still in the same position with his arms around her, and though she would never admit it, she was thankful he was there and patient enough to deal with her. The ordeal had left her woozy with her head was still throbbing from the candy’s aftereffects. She finally looked up to face him. She said, voice still hoarse, “You’ve got a lot to explain, you know.”
“Yeah,” he said, tucking a strand of hair behind her ear. It wasn’t until then that Rona noticed his tense eyes as he watched her.
The bout of silence was broken by a loud grumble. She relinquished her gaze to glance embarrassingly at her complaining stomach. He chuckled, “I’ll get you a bite. Wait here.” He took his arms back and stood up. His feet were ready to walk, but he stopped suddenly and asked, “We’re okay right?”
She smirked weakly. “Until the next time you screw up."
“For a couple days then. I’ll take it.” He gave her his best broad smile as if to lighten to mood. It worked.
Oliver left, saying that he would be back soon. When the door closed behind him, she flopped back on the bed in exhaustion. She closed her eyes, trying to sort out the mess that exploded in her mind. What did it all mean? He sounded sincere. If that wasn't sincere, he might as well drop out of Hogwarts and become the best actor in all of Britain. Should she trust him now? What should she tell the team? Should she even tell the team? She didn’t want to face Roger’s I-told-you-so.
She let out a frustrated grunt and rolled over, wantonly spreading her hands over the cool bedding. Her eyes caught the glimpse of Oliver’s bed across the room and curiosity overtook her confusion.
Rona crept over, peeping at the open trunk at the foot of the bed. Beside it was his Cleansweep Six, ever polished to perfect condition. She turned her attention to the nightstand, glancing at the library copy of Quidditch Through the Ages on top. She opened the book to the second page and in the middle of the list of names, she spied R. Switt. 10-12-1993 — the last time she borrowed it before getting her own copy that year. She absently smiled at the thought of her and Oliver reading the same book. In the midst of all their troubles, she forgot that they shared such a significant interest.
Moving the book aside, she saw another underneath, this one bounded by a coarse leather. She gingerly lifted its cover and fanned through the pages. It was almost completely filled with scrawls and diagrams. Her eyes widened. This was Oliver’s Quidditch notebook. She caught glimpses of player names and notes on games before she lifted her eyes away from the page.
To read or not to read?
A voice piped up in her thoughts. It’s payback for making you cry twice.
Another, gentler voice spoke. But he’s nice now! And I think he meant it. You know he meant it. And I had that talk with McGonagall. I’m above this. She had faith in me and everything! I’m going to sacrifice that?
This is no time for a philosophical quandary!
I am not going to have a dialogue with myself.
Curiosity got the best of her. She decided on a compromise: read one page and stop. She scanned it quickly, looking for anything that popped out at her. At the top, there was a segment about the Turkish Dragon maneuver used in the Quidditch Cup of 1990. The rest seemed to be devoted to notes on a practice session. Her conscience felt somewhat better at the fact that she learned nothing important.
As she closed the book, she noticed a loose paper and caught it before it fell out. Her eyes locked dead center at the circled name in the middle, amongst a dozen others that were crossed out. Rona Switt. The only title to be found was the single underlined word: Revenge.
Before she could make any guesses to the meaning of the paper, she heard footsteps, her signal to return back to the bed. In her haste, she kept hold of the note. She looked around frantically for a place to hide it and quickly thrust it into her coat’s pocket as she saw the knob turn.
The door swung open, and Oliver entered holding something wrapped in a napkin. “Sorry, all I found is half a cauldron cake from the blokes downstairs,” he said, shutting the door behind him. “I hope it’s enough.” She nodded as she felt the hunger pangs return.
He sat down on the floor and beckoned her to join him. “Percy’ll kill me if I get crumbs on his sheets.”
She slid down onto the floor face-to-face with him and gladly accepted the cake. It didn't take long for everything to settle into awkwardness. She took bites in silence, their glances never quite meeting, their smiles not quite true. Finally, Rona brought herself to stop counting the crumbs on the palm of her hand and ask, “How’d you find out?”
Oliver rubbed the back of his neck. “I... had a couple leads. I haven't been completely sure it was you, but it seemed likely enough. You liked to visit my practices last year didn’t you?” She smiled sheepishly. “I’ll give you credit, love. I didn’t notice for a long time. I saw you hanging around your team a lot, too. I didn’t think anything of it at first because you didn’t seem the type, and I....” He glanced away. “...thoughtyouwerewithDavies.”
She blinked, not sure if she heard that correctly. “Did you say you thought I was with Roger Davies?”
“Yeah,” he said, still not looking at her. “I thought he might’ve convinced you to spy for him. And as I found out, clearly he didn’t.”
A smile began to grow on her face. Oliver looking all sorts of awkward answering questions amused her greatly. It was enough payback for her. “So why’d you approach me about the Strate — ” Oliver might have been able to call her that, but the name sounded a little too egocentric when it came out of her mouth. Even she had her limits. “Er, about my position on the team if you already knew about it?”
“Doubt,” he said. He paused for a second before continuing, “And... it was an excuse to get closer. Thought I could coerce something out of you. Mind you, I thought you had been with Davies at this point, so I figured, if you fell under his charms, I could definitely — ”
“If I ever fancy Roger, please send a dementor my way.”
“Point taken.” His amusement always reached his eyes, his most attractive trait. “That’s not even the most ridiculous thing. You remember what Weasley did?”
The memory of Oliver running down the hallway looking like a Christmas tree nearly made her choke.
“Yeah, well I let him do all that to me so I could...you know. If I hadn’t let him and he tried to pull that prank, I would’ve scheduled a dozen extra beater target practices, and he’d be the target." He paused, avoiding her gaze again. "I do regret it though, the...” He trailed off.
“It’s okay. I don’t even really remember it anymore, ” she lied. The memory scratched at the back of her mind where it had taken residence when all she wanted was for it to go away. How odd — A kiss, the long celebrated climax of a romance, had been their low point. “You apologized at Hogsmeade anyway,” she said with a finality, burying the topic.
Hogsmeade was a whole other subject. Every action, every word after that day exchanged between them raised questions. She wondered if it was too bold to ask, but her impetuous mouth spoke for her. “So do you fancy me or not, Oliver?”
“That was blunt,” he said, suppressing a laugh. “Do you still fancy me?”
She still felt the familiar thrum of the her heart whenever he got too close, but it was hardly an accurate indication of actual feelings. She delayed her thoughts by retorting, “I asked first.”
He leaned back on his arms, an answer hidden behind his lips. She wasn’t quite sure what she wanted him to say.
“I...” he began, “would like to get to know you better.”
She felt oddly let down at the anti-climax. “Fair enough,” she said. “I...the feeling’s mutual.” It was a safe answer. She cleared her throat. “I guess it’s settled. We get to know each other better.”
“Aren’t you afraid of leaking your Strategist secrets?”
She was. The last thing she wanted to do was screw up again and make Roger even more correct, but she found herself saying, “I’ll take a chance. After all, I could always spy on you.”
“Never really pegged you to be the type to spy, am I right? Is Davies the one who wants you to do all the dirty work?”
Oliver thought so well of her, Rona pondered with a slight blush. Unfortunately, he was also wrong. She had volunteered to watch practices. It might've even been her idea. Roger couldn't boss her around. “Yeah, you know how he is,” she lied.
His expression turned dark for the briefest of seconds. “I’ll never forgive him for what he did to Nat last year.”
She remembered how he accused Roger of it. Natalie Fairbourne was a reserve chaser for Gryffindor. Rona had been frustrated at the lack of progress her team was making, and the next game was closing in. She had suggested to Roger to take Natalie out on a date and see what he could find out from her, but she couldn’t find the will to tell Oliver the truth.
Strangely enough, feeling guilty was what tipped her in favor of thinking that Oliver deserved another chance after all. He had hurt her, but he apologized. She couldn't even do the same for him.
She blinked, realizing that had spaced out again. “Hmm?”
He was fiddling with his shirt hem. “You wouldn't mind if we talk about Quidditch, would you?”
“I... suppose we could.” She had gotten used to being extra cautious about the topic around him. There was a long pause, and she noticed that he hadn’t asked anything yet.
“Yes?” Was this it? Was this the leap? Her ‘follow your heart’ moment?
He raised an eyebrow. Perhaps she would have sounded more confident if she didn’t phrase it as a question. All right, Jeremy. I guess I am taking your sodding advice. She drew herself up. “We’ve got six hours to kill, and I’m not a lick tired. Try me.”
A slow-forming smile appeared on his lips, and for the first time during the whole night, they relaxed.
Rona never expected to whittle away the time as fast as they did, and she never expected to have so much to talk about either. They took detours to other topics. She learned about his secret Chocolate Frog card collection and his prized limited edition set. He learned that despite her skills at strategy, Wizard’s Chess completely boggled her. There was always something else to ask, as if they were making up for the lack of interaction during the past seven years, and the conversation always seemed to go back to Quidditch one way or another.
“Oh come on, have you seen Andrea Kovarik do the Porskoff Ploy?” She flung up a hand. “And if I may cite — ”
“The 1986 League playoffs,” they both said at the same time.
Her hand was still frozen in the air. “So if you know how brilliant they are, then what is it?”
“I still think you like the Harpies ‘cause it’s full of girls.” Oliver was laying back on the carpet with his arms behind his head and feet propped up on the bed.
“You’re just afraid of them because they can beat you up," she scoffed. "And it’s not like I have anything against Puddlemere. My uncle likes them.”
He prodded at her leg. “That’s ‘cause your uncle’s smart. I bet you’ll like the team more once I’m on it.”
“Please,” she said, rolling her eyes and trying to hold back the telltale smile creeping on her face. “The scouters haven’t even come yet. Why don’t you wait to get accepted first?”
“What team are you vying for after Hogwarts, anyway?”
“Oh,” she hesitated. “Er, I... haven’t actually...”
He pushed himself back up to a sitting position, frowning. “Switt. Tell me you plan on going into Quidditch.”
“I am! ...now,” she said, taken aback by his seriousness. “McGonagall talked to me about it. I was actually on my way to Madame Hooch’s today when you found me.” She scrunched up her eyebrows. “What is it with you lot and my future anyway? I would’ve been perfectly happy working as an archivist — ”
“An archivist?” Oliver looked almost offended. “You planned on wasting that crazy mind of yours on translating history books?”
Her body withdrew deeper into the side of the bed. “It’s a respectable job! And I think I’d like it.” She wondered why they were even arguing about the subject at all. “I mean, yes ideally, Quidditch. But do you really think that I’d be able to get a job? I know I have my talents, but that doesn’t change the fact that ‘strategist’ isn’t exactly an official position, and that I’ll need a lot more than what I know now to be a coach.”
Oliver continued to stare at her tight-lipped, quieted by her logic. Finally, he said, “I’d hire you.”
She wasn’t sure why she blushed. “Yeah, well, you’re a bit biased.”
“I’m serious. No offense to your team but they were bloody awful two years ago when half your team changed. And I don’t think Davies got the team he has now all by himself.” She was about to speak, but he interrupted her. “I remember your game against Hufflepuff. Your beater er — Samuels. Jason Samuels. One of the densest blokes I know. Made the cleverest moves I’ve seen in ages and practically cleared the field with a single Bludger. You look me in the eye and tell me he could’ve done that without something you told him. Being smart about the game is one thing, but being able to effect a team’s skills like that? Invaluable.”
Her ego was dancing on the inside and she couldn't hide the glee, smiling so much it nearly hurt. “Okay, okay, I get it.”
“Good,” he said. He leaned forward and ruffled her hair. “This may come as a surprise, but people do care about you. We just want what’s best for you.”
They continued talking for long after. She was fairly sure she hadn’t spilled any team secrets yet, but she did inform him all about the impossible task of putting up with a gaggle of boys, though she admitted defeat after he countered with the twins. Eventually, the lull of sleep defeated her. During a particularly long pause in the conversation, she closed her eyes for just a second. The next time she opened them, Oliver was crouching in front of her.
“Rona, wake up,” he said, nudging her.
She blinked, lids sticky with sleep. “Hrmm?”
“It’s getting bright. Jules just came back from the party. He’s in the loo, so if you want to escape one of his lewd jokes, I suggest you start heading back now.”
“Mmmmfh." She clung to the soft quilt that draped off the bed.
“Come on. Up you go, love,” he said, grabbing her hands and pulling her up.
Rona, still half-asleep, managed to stumble down the tower’s stairs with Oliver’s guidance. By the time they reached the portrait door, she was awake enough to think with some coherence. She stopped him from going out the door with her. “I’m okay now. Thanks, Oliver.” She took her coat from him and stepped out the portrait, but the night felt oddly inconclusive with such a simple departure.
“Er... Rona?” he said, leaning against the doorway. “You think... we can do this again some other time? Tonight was nice.”
“Yeah,” she said, smiling. “I’d like that.” Her heart started beating faster again, but this time it was different. She didn’t want it to go away. She only noticed then that he was staring at her intently with a curious smile and wondered if it would be too bold to think that maybe he returned her feelings after all. But it was too much for her to mull for the moment.
“Good night, Rona,” he said softly.
“Good night.” She lingered a second more before leaving down the stairs.
When she reached the bottom, she looked back up and gave a little wave, which he returned. Finally, the portrait door closed and the glow from the common room faded. On her walk back to the Ravenclaw tower, she only encountered Professor Flitwick, who commented on how early she must like to wake up.
Her dorm was empty; Hannah and Edie had yet to come back from the party. Rona draped her coat on the end of the bed and slipped under the covers. There were still so many things to consider — what to tell her friends, what to tell her team, what Roger was going to think once he found out. But for that moment, after remembering all the memories of that night, both good and bad, she didn’t care.
A/N And so we have progress! This was one tough chapter to write. It tied up a lot of strings, but there are still plenty left untied. How WILL everyone react? What about that note she found? How will Rona handle being in love? The fun's only just begun, dear readers!
Thanks to my friend for an awesome beta. She scolds me for the comma abuse. ^__^
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