Chapter 2 : A Rona By Any Other Name
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This couldn't possibly be Jeremy's home.
The trip here had been quite boggling to begin with. With the floo at Jeremy's home being fixed, Oliver took the public one located three streets away. Each house he passed was grander than the last, surrounded by gardens large enough to play Quidditch in. The thought of rearranging trellises for goal posts did, in fact, cross his mind for a split second.
At the heart was 10 Fairweather Ave, the scribbled address in Oliver's hand, and home to the Stretton family: Jeremy, his dad, and his two visiting aunts—and, as Rona's excited letter had expressed with multiple exclamation marks, it now also included her and her mum.
Oliver could see why she was so eager to move in.
There were even little swan engravings on the gate. If they had money to put swan engravings on the gate, what else could they afford? A lawn large enough for Quidditch play? Actual goal posts? His heart went pitter-patter just thinking about it.
Said gate was cracked open for his arrival. Oliver squeezed through with his duffel and followed the flower-lined walkway up to the house. A pair of fairies were sunbathing in the vine leaves. He peered down the smaller path for potential goal post spots. No luck yet.
He was so busy looking around that he nearly stepped onto the cat sitting on the doorstep.
Despite having a boot nearly slam down on its face, it hadn't moved—not even a blink—and was such an even coat of grey that Oliver nearly mistook it for a statue. Until Oliver crouched down and saw its bright green eyes, he was considering that it was an expertly enchanted statue that had wandered too far from its perch.
Oliver scratched behind its ears. He remembered Rona mentioning a cat. "Claude, right?"
It looked up expectantly. Claude, it was.
When he lifted his hand, Claude meowed in protest, achingly adorable eyes gleaming at him. He smiled and crouched down, but in that wink of a moment, Claude disappeared and Oliver's head suddenly felt very heavy and very furry.
Like, perhaps, a cat had decided to sit on it.
He reached up and caught a swinging tail. His new hat meowed.
Oliver liked to believe he was a well-prepared bloke. He knew how to pass a Quaffle to heavily guarded players. He what to do if a Bludger was coming from his left or right, above or underneath (definitely from underneath). But feline-related assaults were beyond his comprehension. He had an inkling that all cats believed they were smarter than humans, and unfortunately, they most likely were.
Claude licked his ear and Oliver froze in his half-crouch. He tried to pull Claude off gently to no avail, but he also didn't want to risk the sabertooth claws coming out.
To make matters worse, the people in the house seemed to have noticed his arrival.
"I did hear someone!" called a voice, muffled by the walls.
The front door opened, and a tall middle-aged woman stood staring at him. Two of similar age, one who looked exactly the same except for her voluminous blond hair and another much shorter woman with greying brown hair, were behind her.
"There's a cat on his head," murmured the big-haired woman. "Why is there a cat on his head?"
"Er..." He'd like to know the answer as well.
"That's our cat," said the shortest woman, squinting. He guessed that she was Rona's mum. What a lovely first impression he was making.
"But why is it on his head?"
The woman who opened the door sighed exasperatedly. "Oh, forget about the cat, Margie. Isn't he that friend of Jeremy's that's coming today? Oliver?"
That snapped him to attention. "I am," he began, standing up as straight as he could, which was a slight tilt to the right as Claude shifted his weight. "Oliver, I mean. Oliver Wood." He stuck his hand out.
The woman in front shook it vigorously, tighter than any captain's grip he's had so far. "You can call me Caroline. I'm quite tired of his friends calling me 'Jeremy's Aunt' or 'Excuse me, Lady', so I do insist." She waved a hand behind her. "This is my sister and—oh, we're standing around like doddering old hens! Come in first!"
Caroline shooed them into the house, which gave Oliver some time to shake Claude off. The cat managed to cling to his shirt and then promptly leapt back to his head. With a sigh, Oliver gave up and lugged his duffel over his shoulder.
"Strapping fellow. Didn't think they made them like that anymore," Oliver heard one say as he entered the sitting room. He arrived during tea time, it seemed.
"Yes, though I don't understand why he's got the cat on his head."
Caroline set down a tray of cups. "Margie, you can't just go around asking that; what if he gets offended?"
"What if it's a religious thing? It might be a delicate subject."
Oliver was about to correct her when they spotted him and too-wide smiles spread across each face.
"Didn't see you there! You should sit and have some tea," said Margie, lifting a cup and patting the seat beside her.
Oh bother. The bad feeling had hit him earlier, but now doom was certain. Oliver was no stranger to aunts and mothers. They prattled endlessly, the quantity of which was scary enough—women could make a conversation out of Peruvian gnomes if they wanted to—but it had all the potential to be so much worse.
Like when he had stopped by the Weasley home to return textbooks he borrowed. It was one thing to hear a cute girl say he had a nice bum, but Percy's wrinkled Great-Aunt Muriel? 'I'd give that lad a spanking any day'?
He shuddered. Where was Rona to save him now? The longer he stayed down here with tea-drinking aunts, the more likely cheeks were going to be pinched.
Like cornered prey, the pack of women seemed to approach in slow motion. They set their traps. Tea. Biscuits. Smiles. Soon, it'd be guilt.
Stay, my dear. Chat. Tell us about yourself.
He swallowed. Think fast. "Er, I was wondering if I could put my things down. In my room."
The one he had guessed to be Rona's mum clapped her hands together. She didn't have scary painted brows like the other two, which was a small comfort. "Of course, you must want to get settled. Rona and Jeremy should be upstairs in Jeremy's room."
Oliver nodded, wobbling slightly as Claude kneaded his hair. "Thank you, er—"
Caroline interrupted first. "You can call her Mrs. Stretton."
She blushed. "Oh, not yet!"
The sitting room erupted in a cackle of laughter. Oliver reckoned he had stumbled onto some joke of theirs and wasted no time in rushing upstairs as attention shifted away from him.
"Might as well get used to it. I've wanted to be sisters since we were schoolgirls and you make me wait thirty years! Thirty years, Babs. You're a Stretton now, whether you like it or not."
At least there would be that wedding to occupy their summer.
Dragging his duffel off the last step, Oliver was safely out of their claws now. The cat, on the other hand, still refused to detach itself from his head. It even had the audacity to curl up and go to sleep.
He stumbled down the hallway, until he came upon a door with a large poster of retired Puddlemere Chaser Ferric Pirovich hanging on it. Brilliant player, scored seven goals in a row once, and had best overall record of 1968 with a eighty-six percent goal rate. Jeremy had good taste, far better than Rona who had her wall full of Harpies and and the Wimbourne men.
Oliver didn't understand what she saw in them. So they could pose with their shirts off. How talented—so could he!
He knocked on the door. When it opened, he certainly didn't expect Jeremy to welcome him in nothing but a towel and Rona reading on the bed in the shortest shorts he'd expect her not to wear. Could it look any worse?
"You're finally here!" Jeremy greeted him with a hearty pat on the shoulder. Flecks of water rained on Oliver's face. "Sorry," he said, turning back to his closet, "just got out of the shower."
Rona flashed a wide smile as she bounced off the bed and tossed her book down. "There you are!"
Now, Oliver had noticed Rona was quite pretty after he started dating her and it might have been the week of absence muddling his brain, but holy Quaffle on a crumpet—why did she not tell him she owned shorts that made her legs grow ten times longer? And why did she not wear them every day?
For the moment, he settled for staring at her walk over for a hello-kiss. He leaned down—
"Claude! I was looking for you everywhere!"
Oliver opened his eyes, lips still puckered. Claude had jumped into Rona's arms and was batting at her hair, capturing her full attention while Oliver stood a lonely foot away.
"Hey, there." She kissed him on the cheek when she finally noticed him, balancing the cat on her free arm. "This is the Claude that I keep telling you about."
"Er, yeah I know," Oliver mumbled, not at all jealous. He went for a proper kiss on the lips this time, now that the blasted cat couldn't ruin the moment anymore.
Claude chose that moment to pounce on his face.
Rona snickered, "He likes you."
She left Claude with him as she levitated his duffel out into the hallway, hips swaying more than usual. "Let me show you the guest room."
Claude stared in her direction and then up at him, purring. If Oliver didn't know any better, he would say that he was laughing at him.
Oliver poked the cat's nose and followed Rona out. "When she's not looking, you're going to get some free flying lessons..."
Crazy aunts and The Cat weren't enough to dampen his stay. That summer was quickly becoming Oliver's favorite.
Huge house, no Mum and Dad to bug him, Quidditch every day, a quarter-pitch set up in the back yard (cloaked against Muggles) was tiding him over until Puddlemere practices next week.
It still hadn't sunk in that he was going to actually going to play with the Puddlemere team, the team he watched since he was a wee bairn. He'd agree that Puddlemere hadn't been at top standing for the past decade, but they were on a comeback now, and that was all that mattered. Fresh players, promising coach, and he, as reserve Keeper, was determined to be a part of it.
But the best part of summer was that Rona was only one room over.
Of course, with her future father, her future brother, and three nosy women in the house, it was quite obvious that there would be no funny business whether Oliver wanted it or not. He was in no rush; really, he just wanted to spend time with her. Listen to her mumble nonsense and look all indignant every time he called her an idiot, and the occasional cuddle.
He'd never admit it, but cuddling had a undeserved bad rap. It was effortless and quite comfortable if you chose the right spot. Rona's hair sometimes tickled his cheek and nose and had that pretty flowery girly smell and, when she wasn't a furnace from hell, she was a nice sort of warm. Mostly, she being there made him happy somehow, and he supposed it was a normal process of schmoopy romance and wasn't one to question good things.
And sometimes they'd snog each other senseless. He was also all right with this.
On one particular afternoon, Oliver was stuck in a blizzard in Moscow with his trusty fur flapped hat, a bottle of vodka and a Quaffle until he yawned himself awake and the liquid cold began slipping from the air. He was quite sad to see his Quaffle and vodka fade away, and his hat was... moving?
Oliver shot up. Claude leapt down from his head. Oliver narrowed his gaze, pointing straight at the cat's nose.
"You're trying to off me in my sleep, aren't you?"
Someone knocked on his bedroom door right as Claude sprang onto his pyjama string. Blasted, blasted cat. Oliver hoped to fling him off when he jumped off the bed, but Claude still hung on, not willing to give up his prize even as Oliver shook his waistband.
Neither man nor cat were prepared for Claude tumbling into Oliver's pyjamas.
Rona opened the door. What was the point of knocking if she was just going to waltz in? She had a paperback in hand and head cocked to the side. "Is that a cat in your pants or are you just—hmm. That is a cat in your pants."
Oliver set Claude on the floor. "He is the dumbest cat I have ever seen."
"Maybe I trained him to annoy you."
"I've actually considered that as a legitimate explanation."
Claude promptly meowed to Rona for attention, attention that should be his, thought Oliver, as Rona pet Claude's head. He only padded away when Oliver snarled.
Rona laughed, finally circling her arms around Oliver's waist. "Are you jealous of a cat?"
"I think, when that blasted thing is trying to kill me in my sleep, that clearly he is jealous of me." He was cheered a great deal from the dose of affection though. "Speaking of not being jealous, are you going to take down that Wimbourne poster?"
"Are you going to give me a poster of yourself or seven fitter men with similar lack of shirts?"
"That'd be really weird."
"Then the answer's still no."
His eyes traveled downward as her leg rested against his.
Difficult woman wearing shorts again. She had been wearing shorts every day. He was surprised enough that she owned one pair of shorts. But five?
It wasn't the only change. She was distinctly livelier out of Hogwarts. Wore brighter shirts. Muttered under her breath less. Saw sunlight more often. As much as he knew he shouldn't question good things, he had to ask Jeremy about it later.
Jeremy readied the Quaffle for another throw as he and Oliver played catch in the backyard. "Penny or Edie or Hannah haven't told you?"
"Why would they tell me?"
He shrugged. "I figure the girls just tell everyone everything. Besides, they always get real excited in June, because they know it's coming."
Jeremy let go of the Quaffle and Oliver extended an arm to his right to catch it, cradling it neatly in his hand.
"Summer Rona?" Oliver repeated. "You mean like, a summer version of Rona?"
"Something like that. Those changes you see—happens every year. Whether it's the sun or 'cause she's just more comfortable out of Hogwarts, we don't know. We just call it Summer Rona. It's practically mythical. Hannah likes it 'cause she goes out shopping with them more instead of cooping herself up in her room."
Oliver imagined Rona in girly activities and wasn't sure whether he'd like it more or less. It mostly depended on one detail: were there skirts involved?
"But don't mention it to Rona," Jeremy added quickly. "She's the only one who doesn't know and we don't want to jinx it. She makes us smoothies."
Everyone had a stake in Summer Rona, it seemed, if it even existed.
Jeremy's words slipped from his mind until the weekend, when Oliver saw Rona fiddling with a strange glass cup with knobs in the kitchen.
"I couldn't get the Muggle blendy thing to work, but apparently there's something similar just for us wizard folks," she said, throwing a batch of fruit in and putting the lid on top. With a twist of a knob, it whirred awake, splattering the fruit against the glass enclosure.
The visceral part of Oliver was immediately enraptured by the curious smashing, and it wasn't until Rona brought out two cups that he realized what she was making.
She poured out the liquid. "You like smoothies, don't you?"
His mouth hung open for a moment and then he blinked, shaking his head. "Er, yeah. I didn't think you made them."
A tinge of pride lifted her lips. "What else would I be doing with this?"
A chunk of raspberries had stuck on the blade-mallet-crusher apparatus and oozed down in a trail of red juices. Torture?
Maybe he could throw Claude in it.
So there were shorts and smiles and smoothies. How much could that prove? Jeremy couldn't have been serious. Rona wasn't a tree; she wasn't seasonal.
It was all in his head and muddled up by feminine wiles. Nothing out of the ordinary.
"What are you staring at?"
Rona's voice brought Oliver out of his thoughts and back to the sitting room. "Huh?"
"You've been staring." She patted his cheek. "Agape like an ape."
He pulled her closer on the couch and said sweetly, "Can't stare at my girlfriend?" To figure out what the bloody deuce is going on in that head?
She rolled her eyes, but Oliver could tell she was preening. She was wiggling around to sit straighter and was trying to make her neck look longer.
A quick succession of knocks resounded from the door. Hannah's voice floated through the window. "We've come to kidnap Rona."
Rona lifted her legs off his lap and picked up her wand. With a flick, the door opened. Hannah and Edie pranced in.
"There's an outdoor market today," said Edie, swinging an empty basket. "Want to come?"
"I suppose." Rona looked up at Oliver. "Do you want to—"
"As much as I would love to carry all your bags, I think I'll decline." He chuckled. "'sides, the latest issue of Quaffle Quoter got delivered today, and I haven't read it yet, so I won't be too bored."
She kissed him on the cheek and then rolled off the sofa. "Just give me a minute to change." She was still in track pants.
When Rona was gone, Edie breathed a cheery sigh, "Merlin, Summer Rona already."
"I know; I love it." Hannah glanced at Oliver, twirling a red strand of hair. "You lucky duck."
Oliver shook his head. "I really don't know why you lot call it that."
"Can't you tell the difference?"
"No, I can, but I mean, not enough to call it 'Summer Rona'. Maybe she's just, I dunno, different 'cause I'm here." He wanted to someone to consider this possibility. "Ever thought of that?"
Hannah snorted. "You can believe whatever you want."
"Summer Rona is tried and true, Oliver," Edie agreed.
He would have continued arguing if not for Rona coming down the stairs in a skirt. Both girls lit up.
"That's new!" Hannah exclaimed. "Looks good."
Looks very good, Oliver gulped.
"Does it?" Rona twisted around and the skirt flared up just enough to tease. "I've had it for awhile, but I just never wore it."
Hannah and Edie both gave an affirming nod. "The color really works. You know, I've got a blouse I've been eying in that shade. Edie talked me out of it though."
Edie gave her a look. "It was like twenty galleons!"
"But it was sixty percent off! Think of the savings!"
"Argue on the way. Let's go already." Rona waved over her shoulder. "See you in a bit! Don't get lonely."
"Bye," Oliver croaked.
He sat staring at the door after it shut.
Shorts? Smoothies? Explainable. But it was hard enough to get Rona to wear a non-uniform skirt once and now she willingly wore one? These were powerful forces at work, forces beyond his comprehension.
Good glorious Merlin.
A/N Sorry for the lack of updates ;_; And if this chapter is exceedingly random. BUT HERE IT IS. And as I promised, A CAT, SMOOTHIES, LOTS OF FLUFF AND NOT MUCH ELSE~ I'll probably be speeding along with more short moments for the next chapters. Play does cover a couple of years, and I think it'll be a little more like a series of one-shots if anything.
And, and, guess what? I UPDATED ALL OF MY WIPS THIS MONTH :D -air punch-
Thanks for sticking around and bearing with me ♥
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