Chapter 11 : Happenstance Happens Entirely Too Often
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"...I need to take you to more parties. You were a hit!"
Rona had nearly fallen back asleep when she had heard the voices through the the door. Her eyes flew open, but she didn't move. Hannah and Edie stumbled the room, kicking off their. Edie was strikingly pretty; it was clear that with Rona's absence, Hannah used the extra time during the afternoon to make her over twice.
"What is with that dejection? I am a good influence." Hannah stood behind Edie as she rummaged through her trunk. "Just wait until the special issue of Witch Weekly comes out. Then we'll fix you up again, and this time we're gonna go join the big players at a Gryffie bash, and Rona who's not doing a very good job of pretending to sleep will come along, too." Hannah threw her a disapproving glance.
Rona huffed, throwing the covers back. "Fine, you caught me." But she had yet to figure out a way to introduce her night's activities properly and was caught at a loss of words.
Thankfully, Hannah was just as talkative in the dead hours of the morning as any other time of the day. "Honestly, it wasn't even that bad. You have no excuse for avoiding the party. We just stuffed ourselves and went up to crash in the girls' dorm, although Edie here got a proposition before that didn't she?"
Edie shook her head. "It was such a silly spur of the moment thing. I only accepted the date to be nice."
"Just consider it a learning experience," said Hannah. She followed up with an exaggerated sigh directed at Rona. "Did you enjoy the library?"
Rona stared at her blankly.
Hannah rolled her eyes. "Don't give me that. Jeremy told me you were there. We went looking for you, but of course you of all people would know all the hiding spots of that place."
"Oh," she said, barely able to sound natural. She quickly resumed to her usual mannerisms. "Yeah, well, when you go looking for snog spots, you'll be running back to me. Alcove by the G-H Reference section." She crossed her arms as an afterthought.
"You think you can — huh, that is a good snog spot." Hannah said, stopping halfway into her hell-hath-no-fury pose. Her attention seemed to drift to more scandalous thoughts before drawing her mouth up into sour smile at Rona. "I still haven't completely forgiven you. You owe me. The Gryffie party, you're going." She rubbed her hands together. "And Ollie will be there. Even better."
Rona was so relieved that her friends had no suspicions of her night that she didn't bother with a retort. She planned to tell them what happened eventually, but she hadn't even told them that she fancied him yet — not that they weren't off making their own assumptions. But she had gotten tired of her love life going on the table for everyone else to see. The change of pace was nice.
"By the way, watch out for any candy you see, Rona," said Edie, while heading over to the shower, arms full with clothes. "You know the jar? Apparently my brother teamed up with the twins to concoct some butterbeer candy and they were passing them out earlier. He's been hiding from me ever since."
Rona sighed to herself. "...I'll keep it in mind."
During that morning's breakfast, Rona brought down yet another book, having lost the one she had yesterday outside. Even if she could Accio it, it was a Muggle paperback, and she did not expect it to survive the snow nor a drying charm.
The Great Hall was festive but empty, due to the holidays and post-party syndrome. Rona looked for Oliver, but couldn't find him amongst the Gryffindors. They joined Jeremy and Roger, the only two who woke up early habitually, at the end of their table.
"Is anyone else particularly disturbed at the sudden drop of brain cells in Stretton?" Roger said, raising a brow at Jeremy, who was cuddling with Hannah on the other side of the table while his elbow rested on his scrambled eggs.
"You don't even know," said Rona, picking up her pumpkin juice, "It's a matter of what will win: Jeremy's sense or Hannah's estrogen."
"Hannah," everyone except Roger chorused.
Roger frowned. "I don't believe that none of you have faith in him, especially you, Switt."
"Mate, I don't have faith in me," said Jeremy distractedly as Hannah's slender hand caressed his cheek.
After putting down her glass, Rona turned to the first page of her book. Her glance flitted to her left momentarily, and it was all that it took for her to completely forget about reading. Oliver had finally come down to breakfast. What she also noticed was that he was looking back straight at her. She suddenly became aware of the stupid smirk she had on her face. 'What?' she mouthed at him.
He said something that looked like, 'Are you doing anything later?'
She lifted her book up. 'Reading.'
He smiled wider before turning back around. She was confused at the quick end to their silent conversation until she turned her attention back on her own table. Everyone was staring at her.
Hannah's jaw performed the slow drop and her arms flailed about. "You're — that was flirting! Are you two official?!" she squealed, stopping suddenly to shoot a glare over to Roger. "Don't you dare ruin this."
Roger shrugged, not the least bit fazed. "Already ruined. Switt here is playing the player."
"No!" she cried with an indignant breath. She and Edie turned to Rona for a definitive answer.
"Er..." The web of lies was getting absurd, but Rona was forced to follow it. "Sorry, but Roger's right. I figured that if he's going to keep talking to me, I might as well make the most of it."
"But I thought you actually..." Hannah trailed off, dropping her hands as her joy deflated.
"Your imagination should stop running so wild," said Roger. "I would think Rona is capable of taking care of herself."
Rona wanted to strangle something. Roger finally learned his lesson and was back to his old tolerably overprotective self, but it meant that she would have to keep lying. She knew that if he found out that she really did fancy Oliver or that Oliver knew she was the team's strategist, he would never let her live it down, not to mention he wouldn't ever trust any opinion of hers ever again. He would just spout some nonsense about her feelings getting in the way.
Roger then began rambling about the Slytherin game even though Rona had her nose in her book and clearly wasn't listening. Edie left early to decline the date from the bloke Hannah set her up with. Hannah was clearly displeased, but she did not try to stop her. Instead, she insisted Jeremy follow her back to the common room, and he gladly obeyed. Not wanting to be left alone with Roger, Rona decided to try to find Madam Hooch again. She peeked at the Gryffindor table before leaving the hall. Oliver was not there.
Madam Hooch was in her office at the castle that day. Of course, only after she nearly died in the snow, Rona thought, sighing inwardly. She knocked and Madam Hooch called her into the room. Rona pushed the door open, gazing around at the plaque-filled walls, stacks of boxes, and in the middle, a pepper-haired woman sitting behind a tiny desk. She fought the urge to sneeze as the smell of leather and cleaning potion tickled her nose.
Rona quickly sat herself down at the single seat and explained her situation like she did with Professor McGonagall, although hopefully avoiding the gaping stupidity that plagued that meeting. Midway through, Madame Hooch interrupted her by dropping a stack of parchments onto her desk.
"I know full well of your qualifications, Miss Switt. Don't worry. I've seen you on the pitch. I'm glad you came. We do need more ladies in the league, playing or not. Now," she said, handing her the papers, "you better owl these soon so you can ensure an interview when the scouters come by. Which team are you aiming for?"
Rona was yet again left surprised that she had been noticed at all. She named her favorite team. "Harpies."
"I don't think they're hiring much this year, but you never know. Who else?"
She was unprepared to think of a backup, but the word that came out of her mouth sounded a lot like "Puddlemere."
Madame Hooch nodded. "Mr. Wood's trying for that team, too. Maybe you should have a chat with him."
Rona briefly imagined what it would be like working together with Oliver. Did she get to barge into locker rooms in professional Quidditch, too? Before getting any further into her imagination, however, she pulled herself out of her thoughts. Merlin, she did not just go there. Rona cleared her throat. "Er, I'll try to find him then."
They talked for a few more minutes, but when Madam Hooch degenerated into waxing lyrical about brooms, Rona excused herself at the first opportunity. On her way back to the Ravenclaw tower, she flipped through the events of the night before for the dozenth time that day. She knew she couldn't keep it to herself much longer, and she soon found herself outside Jeremy's dorm.
Rona rapped on the door twice. "Are you two decent?" she called.
"Hannah already left," replied a muffled voice. The door swung open to reveal a mussed-haired Jeremy.
"Recently, from what I see," she said, inviting herself into the room. "Where's Roger?"
He shrugged. "Never came up here. Are you here to girl talk again? I'm just Penny's replacement, aren't I?"
"You know it," she said with a grin, throwing her papers on the floor and flopping down on the extra bed. "It's a long story really..." She suddenly became self-conscious of how the matter might portray her. She didn't want to sound gullible if she was completely wrong about Oliver, or worse — ditzy.
She resigned to the risks and was about to open her mouth when she heard a slight crinkle. She then recalled that the note that she swiped from his notebook was still in her pocket. It was a good enough launching point for her.
"I... er, found this yesterday. It's Oliver's." She reached inside her pocket and drew it out. Even before smoothing it, she could see the contents clearly. Her own circled name and the triple-underlined 'Revenge' still stood out, but she could also make out all the other crossed out names scrawled around hers. Amongst them were Penny's and Jeremy's. The others belonged to Ravenclaw alumni.
Jeremy took the paper from her hand and scanned the names. "Do you think this means he knows that — "
"That's the long story actually..." she said, looking away.
He glanced between the note and her. "Rona... where'd you get this?"
As she was about to reply, she heard someone running up the stairs before abruptly stopping. "Are you two decent?" The voice belonged to Edie.
A reprieve. Rona let out a thankful breath. "I would hope so. Hannah would kill me if we weren't," she called back.
Edie peeked through the open door. "Oh good, you're both here. I... um... wanted to ask, where were you yesterday, Rona? While we were at the party."
Rona froze. Maybe she thought too soon.
Jeremy held up a hand. "Sorry, Edie. It's my fault. I was just covering for her while she was at Madam Hooch's." He ended less confidently as he saw that it was not the reply Edie was seeking.
"See that's the problem," she said, walking over to them. "She never came back from Madam Hooch's — " Her eyes flicked to Rona. " — did you?"
Rona looked away guiltily. She wasn't sure how she was going to explain how she never even reached Madam Hooch's.
Seeing Jeremy confused, Edie explained, "Jules, Oliver's roommate. Hannah set me up with him, and when I met him today, he mentioned that he saw Rona all cozy with Oliver in their room when he got back from the party — "
"I wouldn't call it cozy — " She froze as both of their jaws dropped. She sighed, "So maybe I should get started on my long story..."
The three of them made themselves comfortable as Rona recounted the previous night, from the candy — Edie vowed to hex her brother off the tower — to when she left in the morning, careful to skim over the private bits of their conversation. She couldn't help but let a few things slip, and her feelings quickly became apparent.
"Did you really think you'd be able to hide it for long? I've lived with you for seven years for Merlin's sake," Edie said, grinning. "You should've just told me you fancied him this much."
"Like you all didn't already assume?" Rona stuck out her tongue. "I didn't want to like him, I just do — "
"You were practically gushing."
"It's not my fault he knows his Quidditch, and I find it mildly attractive..." she stopped before she embarrassed herself any further. "And I was going to tell you eventually, but I still don't think I should tell Hannah."
"We're awful friends," she muttered. Hannah was, unfortunately, a tad too overeager about love lives to be trusted to keep quiet.
Jeremy leaned back on his arms. "So let's get down to business. If you think that he's telling the truth, no more tricks up his sleeve, we'll take it for truth, too."
"We are?" Edie said, blinking. "I assume she's told you more stuff than me, but still. The fact that he's known all this time? It's a bit shifty. And what if he gets tempted? Rona, you leave your notes everywhere. And what if you blurt something out?"
"I'm smart enough to not talk about our team," said Rona defensively.
Edie patted her friend's hand. "You can yell at Roger as much as you want, but he's right to be worried. If you haven't noticed, you aren't exactly the best at keeping your mouth shut." She sighed. "But then again, maybe I'm just thinking too much. Personally, I think it's fairly clear he fancies you back — "
"You really think so?" Rona then mentally slapped herself for her all-too-hopeful tone.
"Just hold your hormones for a few weeks so the team doesn't freak out, yeah?" Jeremy snickered. "Though if you're sure you've convinced Roger that you're 'playing the player' then you'll probably be able to get away with stuff — just make sure he doesn't finds out that Oliver already knows you're the team's strategist."
Edie nodded in agreement. "The only worry I have is the note."
"You think it still means something?" Jeremy's gaze flicked to the parchment laying in front of him. "I think it's just him finding out who the Strategist is. Explains why it's only people in our House here. And he obviously got the answer right eventually."
"But that doesn't explain why it says 'Revenge'," Edie countered. "Why not title this 'Strategist'?"
"I don't know. But why are the other names here?"
The trouble with having Ravenclaws discuss the issue was that they debated.
Edie shook her head. "I still think the fact that she's circled and that he's been looking for the Strategist is too much of a coincidence."
"The two are probably connected. He wants to take revenge by finding out the Strategist. I mean, he hates Roger, doesn't he?"
Suddenly, the answer clicked in Rona's mind. "Oh bloody karma," she groaned. "You're right." It was the problem that started it all. The problem she caused. She glanced at her friend's expectant faces and reluctantly explained how Oliver reacted to the Natalie fiasco last year.
"So you're saying," Edie said slowly, "he's taking revenge... on Roger taking secrets from his team... by taking secrets from our team via you."
"But the whole thing was your fault."
Rona buried her head in her hands. "...kind of."
"And you're going to do the right thing?" Edie had acquired an excellent McGonagall-thin-lipped-glare after years of dealing with her brother. "You're going to tell him the truth, right?"
Rona winced. "...soon?"
Soon didn't come soon. Rona wanted to put it off until she would be sure Oliver wouldn't be too mad at her. If he wanted revenge so long after the incident occurred, it was obviously still on his mind. It didn't help that later that night, she developed a fever. Madame Pompfrey gave her a a few doses of Pepperup Potion, and chided her for being careless in the snow.
Rona ended up stuck in the Ravenclaw tower for the next few days. "Sick over Christmas! Honestly, it's just my luck," she grumbled at Jeremy as he entered the common room. She was seated in her favorite chair accompanied by her stack of books, but she already read most of them.
"Oliver asked me where you've been," he said, waltzing past her to the staircase. "If I didn't know any better, I thought he had the impression that there was something between us. Fancy that. Seemed happy to hear about me and Hannah."
"Oh really?" she said, doing her best to look disinterested. She still turned pink.
"Really. You're such a blusher." He reached to pinch her cheeks, ignoring her threatening glower.
Rona knew her friends would tease to no end. It had been a few years since her last crush and none ever went so far as the Gryffindor captain. The most she had was the occasional Hogsmeade date.
Stranger still, she went through the entire process backwards with Oliver. She got kissed, met him at Hogsmeade, realized her crush, and then got acquainted. He was different, and she wasn't sure if that made her scared or just fancy him more.
Rona ran into Oliver two days later as she was walking back to the tower. He was with a friend, but he waved goodbye to him. "Hey," he said, ambling over. "Missed seeing you around. Not sick anymore?"
She wondered if he knew how lethal his charm was when he wasn't trying to seduce someone. All he had to do was exchange pleasantries. "Much better," she said, returning a smile.
They caught up with each other over a long walk across the castle. She complained about filling out three dozen forms for job applications, while he went on and on about how McGonagall confiscated his seeker's Firebolt. The conversation came easy, just like their last meeting. It was amazing how little he resembled the Oliver she first met. She could talk to the one beside her all day.
He kept teasing her, but she could return the favor now. While he fervently explained why stripping down a brand-new Firebolt should be a crime, she couldn't help but laugh. "And I'm the silly one? You just compared de-hexing a broom to robbing Gringotts."
"Oi, you can't put a price on those brooms," he said, emphasizing the fact with a solid shake of his hand. "That's how valuable they are."
She snickered again. He really was quite endearing at times. "Last time I checked, you can. It's about five hundred galleons."
"Bah, you know what I mean," he muttered, flicking her on the side of her head.
And for all their ease, she couldn't help but be aware of what a crush did to her either. It didn't stop at the beating heart and butterflies. She noticed every expression and every brush of their fingers as they walked closer and closer, and she did not fancy the idea of turning into a pile of goo.
They had no real direction, but Oliver seemed to be leading her somewhere, nudging her toward certain paths. Eventually, they ended up sitting on the floor of an often-ignored hallway in the fourth floor. A snog spot, was the first thought on her mind. She hastily pushed it away. When the conversation stopped, they sat watching the light reflect off the window panes, as if both were waiting for the other to say something. The Natalie topic was on the tip of her tongue but she could not bring herself to say it out loud.
Oliver spoke up first. "We should talk about... this."
This. It implied that there was a this between them. It was full of possibilities, and she didn't want to gamble it all away. Rona drew in a breath, replying in an equally vague manner, "This is... complicated." She fought the urge to face him, keeping her eyes glued to the clouds outside instead. He didn't need to know how nervous she looked.
"I... don't want to cause any more trouble for you," he said, smoothing his trousers with a hand. "So if you want to give it a go, then... maybe after our match..."
The silliest of smiles broke out on her face. "That sounds good." She never realized that requited feelings felt like this. She could barely believe it wasn't some butterbeer-induced hallucination.
But even as they continued to sit in silence like two grinning fools, her joy did not last long. Though she never heard anything but sincerity in his voice, doubt encroached. Her thoughts had nagged her when she was sick. Too much time spent alone with her mind had fostered pessimism. As much as she knew she was over-thinking, she couldn't deny that Oliver seemed too good to be true at times. What if he was still tricking her — no. No. That was definitely paranoia. Still, it was going to be impossible to keep Quidditch out of their conversations...
"Rona?" Oliver had noticed that she was fidgeting.
She turned to him, but did not reply, her thoughts still running on overdrive. Merlin, she was losing all sensibilities over this! There's the matter of principle, too. If she waited five weeks for their match to come, it was like giving in to Roger. As if she'd stand for the prat controlling her love life.
"Rona, you all right?" he said, waving a hand in front of her eyes.
"Yeah, just thinking," she said absently. Waiting was safe. Hell, not getting involved at all was safe.
Oliver peered into her face. His breath brushed by her nose. "About what?"
It sent her stomach in a tailspin. "Just Quidditch," she said in a higher voice than usual. Safe was nice, but when was the last time she felt like this?
"I thought you were a better liar than this," he said, tipping his head toward hers. His gaze traveled up and down her face. "So what is it, love?"
The slight decrease in proximity was enough to for Rona to catch a scent of fresh laundry and rain. Oliver looked nice. Smelled nice. Tasted — oh dear Merlin, she was going down that path again. She forgave Jeremy for going loony. There was no doubt in her mind that she was going to make her do something stupid soon.
And that was how the next words spilled from her lips. "I... convinced Roger.... that this... this is me spying on you."
She watched Oliver take in the implications — a squint of confusion that opened to realization, and then a smile that returned wider than ever. "So we don't have to wait after all. As far as he's concerned..."
"...this is purely my job," she finished for him. She thought he was leaning closer but then realized that she was the one moving.
They were barely a nose apart. "And when he sees me with you..." he said, eyes twinkling.
"...I'm just chatting you up for your latest play," she said, swallowing nervously.
"And also when I take you to Hogsmeade this weekend right?" he said, voice dropping to a murmur, every syllable tickling her lips that were so close to meeting his.
"Mmhmm..." Her thoughts had lost coherency long ago and barely digested the fact that he just asked her out.
"Aren't you scared?" His voice was so low, she barely heard it.
There were a million 'what ifs' in the air badgering her, but she was tired of being held back by them. "Terrified," she whispered, before closing the gap between them,
But she fell into air as Oliver drew back suddenly. She shot back up, her wide and surprised eyes meeting his own, her mind racing to figure out what was wrong.
Despite the smile on his face, he seemed stuck in disbelief. "You actually tried to kiss me."
"I thought you were giving signs!" she sputtered, a dam of embarrassment ready to burst. There was no way even someone as relationship-dense as her would misinterpret where things were headed.
He chuckled, pressing his forehead against hers. "Signs like these?" His fingers brushed by her cheek, tracing her jaw softly, causing her breath to catch in her throat.
"Now you're just sending mixed messages," she muttered. She tried to wiggle away, though it was with a slight reluctance. "Tch, you just like teasing me aren't you? I was being spontaneous for once. You had to go ruin it and — " Her focus switched to his hand roaming behind her neck. " — stop that." She swatted at him and tried to cool the heat on her face.
Oliver laughed again. "I can't help it. I like it when you're flustered." He sighed, mussing her hair as he leaned back against the wall. "You're still worried, aren't you? That something'll go wrong."
His genuine concern shook her once again. Not wanting to give the answer 'yes', she tried to brush it off with a retort. "Did you listen to what I just said? I threw caution into the damn wind. Maybe... maybe you're the scared one."
He mouth twitched upwards. "Is that so?"
"You're the one who backed away from the kiss," she sniffed, flicking her hair back. "I understand. A Ravenclaw girl's a lot to handle. Smarter than your typical catch. Must be intimidating."
His grin spread wider. "Really, now? Are you sure this isn't your way of telling me to kiss you right now?"
She wouldn't doubt that it was her subconscious's thinly veiled attempt. "Are... are you sure this isn't your way of sneaking in a kiss?" she shot back weakly. She crossed her arms. "I don't get it. You fancy me. I fancy you. Roger's taken care of and I clearly don't worry enough to not try and kiss you. We've been in each other's faces for like an hour. You're teasing me, and you want to kiss me, but you haven't kissed me. If that isn't scared, I don't know what is." She smirked and gave herself a mental pat on the back for her quick recovery. There was not going to be any puddle of Rona goo on the floor that day.
Oliver looked nothing short of amused, but silent, as if trying to figure out a response. Then suddenly, his hands reached up, cupping her cheek and pulling her forward.
It was that moment that Rona's instinct to freeze up decided to finally overpower her boldness and before she knew it, his lips met hers. There were still no fireworks, no swelling music, but she felt something as her senses were filled with Oliver, and whatever that something was, she didn't want it to stop.
What seemed like a matter of seconds... was a matter of seconds. Oliver broke off the kiss quickly, his hand still on her cheek, waiting for an answer.
Rona could've complained that he kissed her despite not letting her kiss him. That he kissed her even though he knew she was worried. That he kissed her to essentially shut her up. But she chose instead to pull his mouth back onto hers and she wanted this one to last. Their lips didn't fit together exactly, but it was rough and exciting and made her want to pull him closer. His arm lay half-wrapped around her waist while her hand trailed down from his jaw to his neck to the collar of his shirt, and all the while, she wondered what was with the fuss over first kisses when third kisses were like this.
She stopped first this time, the wooziness finally nagging her to get some air in her lungs.
Oliver was still close enough so that their lips brushed with every word. "You talk too much," he whispered.
She prodded at his chest with a finger, a giddy stupid smile refusing to leave her face. "You... are one frustrating git," she breathed.
"It's a deal," he grinned.
Rona laughed and wondered when the last time she had felt like how she felt then, like her whole body was humming, and she knew the answer was never. The worries that plagued her earlier had yet to return. She mused that it was because of the supreme force of Oliver's distracting charm, which was good for something after all.
"So... bloody... frustrating," she muttered and kissed him again.
A/N Two chapters of fluff in a row? Augh, I know! I hope this didn't seem too rushed. I actually skip over kiss scenes when I read fic because it feels like I'm intruding on an awfully private moment — so one can only imagine how awkward it was to write this! xD Never wrote anything like this before, so I hope it's okay! I made some changes recently, I dunno if this is now more cliched, but I did want to make it a bit cuter, ehehe. That's what watching K-dramas does to you.
And sadly, it can't be sunshine and rainbows forever. Silly girl's gone and done a silly thing. We can't have that without some consequences.
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