Chapter 1 : Quidditch For Girls
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Quidditch For Girls
It started not with a desperate, whirlwind romance confined to a Hogwarts broom closet before a year filled with sexual tension and angry confrontations that somehow turned into passionate adoration (read: obsession).
In fact, it started when a random jumble of circumstances were thrown together and coincidentially arrived at that time and place, becoming a rather more average cliché of love that wasn’t found within the ancient and all-knowing walls of boarding school.
Penelope Clearwater was feeling rather out of her depth, confused, angry and worried when Oliver Wood first found her.
She was wandering up the corridor to the changing rooms and looking very lost. She looked very familiar to him, and he realised that though it was October and he had therefore been in a ‘real job’ for a six whole weeks, he had already forgotten the names of most of his year at Hogwarts.
This might be a good time for the memory to arrive back…
As she frowned, turned a full circle, and then headed towards a blank door that Oliver knew were the shower rooms, he quickly darted forwards to save this unknown comrade from total humiliation. “Whoa, you don’t want to go in there. What are you doing here?” he asked, not unkindly, but not exactly warmly either.
Turning around to see who had grabbed her shoulder, the leggy blonde with adorable thick-framed glasses perched on the end of her nose glared at his hand until he removed it, and opened her mouth with a scowl, before snapping it shut again and pursing her lips, a grimace flashing across her face.
“Sorry… I didn’t mean to be here, but I was meant to be watching the game and… I got lost. I don’t know my way around quidditch stadiums,” she replied apologetically, looking up for the first time.
“Why are you here, then?” he asked, torn between amusement and annoyance. “Hasn’t anyone shown you the way?”
She grimaced again, trying to walk towards the exit and talk, but he had to turn her around. “Well… no. I’m a journalist, you see, and I’m meant to be reporting on the game because…”
“Why?” he grinned, sensing her reluctance and determined to draw it out as they turned a corner and headed towards the open doors.
“…I told them I was a big quidditch fan so I could get a better story?” she muttered, wincing, and running her hand through her wavy blonde hair. “It was really stupid now I think about it… meant to be a Ravenclaw, but this trumps everything. I’m going to get demoted, if not fired, and…” she rambled on under her breath for a few minutes and he let her talk while they walked outside, to the benches where the Home team would mount their brooms before zooming out into the stands.
It was there where he sat her down, before cutting her off again with a reluctant chuckle. “What did you think was going to happen? You could just pick it up or something like that? ‘Cause it’s really not that easy.”
She paused, peeking up through her eyelashes at him. “…well, I hoped so. And if I couldn’t, then I could get an interview with someone.”
“Not happening, sorry,” Oliver said, shaking his head. “There’s not anything for me to talk about whether you want to or not, though you had a nice plan in getting an interview. Might have ruined your chances if you walked into the showers, though, and I hadn’t found you just in time.”
“You’re kidding me,” she gasped, “I was about to walk into the showers? Oh Merlin, this is even worse than I thought…”
“Nope, sorry.” Oliver couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl whose name he couldn’t remember, though he had done her a favour yet still couldn’t remember her name. He had a nagging feeling it wasn’t a normal one like Sarah which he could second-guess, either.
For a moment, he considered getting up to walk away again, but he was ready far too early anyway. First matches were like that, and it was his first professional one, so if he left he would only pace up and down for half an hour.
Plus, she was pretty.
“Can I ask you something?” She nodded. “How did you go to Hogwarts for seven years and never pick up quidditch?” he laughed.
She blushed, her cheeks colouring slightly. “I’m afraid of heights, so when my friends forced me into the stands, I’d only look up. And they didn’t manage that very often, you know – it was only when Percy forced me up to the Gryffindor stands that I went more often… even he liked quidditch! But I suppose I went because I was trying to be a good girlfriend…” she pondered before snorting.
“Clearwater!” Oliver shouted suddenly, making her jump. “You’re Percy Weasley’s girlfriend, Penelope Clearwater!” He had remembered, at last; the bookish and shy Ravenclaw who he had pretty much overlooked apparently went much deeper than he had previously thought.
She sniffed, however. “Yes, Wood. But I was Percy Weasley’s girlfriend, not so much anymore. Apparently, journalism isn’t a ‘proper’ job…”
“Percy said that?” Oliver had never really gotten on with his bookish and pompous room-mate, but he was taken aback even so.
“Well, during a fight about something else I can’t really remember. It was probably about moving in, which I didn’t want to do. I mean, who moves in with their boyfriend from Hogwarts straight away?”
There was silence for a few moments, while Penelope fiddled with a strand of her hair. It was comfortable silence, which confused Oliver; he normally couldn’t stand silence.
“When does the match start?” Penelope suddenly asked, looking up again. “I need to find the Press Stand.”
Oliver grinned. “Trying to pick it up, then? Look, it’s quite simple – there are seven players and four balls. The three chasers try to get the big red one – the quaffle – through the hoops at the end while the keeper blocks it. If they get it in…”
And so, he explained the entire game and scoring system of quidditch, including a couple of the most famous manoeuvres such as the Wronkskei Feint, the Sloth Grip Roll, and the Bludger Backbeat. Within ten minutes, Penelope Clearwater could officially classify herself as a quidditch expert, and she wore a grin the size of a Firebolt.
“You know, I might actually get to keep my job now,” she said happily, standing up and walking in the direction of the stands now that he had drawn a quick diagram in the grass for her, “so thanks, Wood.”
She gave a quick wave and started to walk off, before he called out, “You’re welcome. But Clearwater?”
“You’re still going to have problems if you don’t know who’s who on the teams. You’re awfully forgetful for a clever Claw.”
She turned back around. “Well, you’re awfully nice for a goofy and gullible Gryff… though I was assuming I could listen to the commentary.”
“You can try. But you’d probably get demoted. To report on a game you need to understand what happens and who does what, or I can guarantee that you’ll be extremely lost within thirty seconds.”
Penelope pulled a face. “Oh, dear… ok, who’s who then?”
Oliver raised his eyebrows. “You want me to name fourteen players and their positions that you can memorize?”
“Of course not. I only need another thirteen and I’m set,” she said, managing to keep a straight face.
“Why only thirteen?” Oliver was confused, and he didn’t like being so, particularly when it concerned quidditch.
Penelope rolled her eyes. “Well, I know the first-time Puddlemere Keeper, don’t I? I’ve heard that he was an absolutely amazing Keeper at Hogwarts and should have been winning for years. He was really rare to have been hired for main team, you know.”
About to reply, with no idea which words would spill from his mouth but going along with it, Oliver was called over by an angry, blue-and-gold-robed player. “WOOD!”
“…b – oh, God, what, Stokes?”
“You’re ten minutes late for the pep talk, that’s what!” the burly and Glaswegian captain hollered, storming across the small square of grass to point his finger in Oliver’s face. Oliver promptly stood up, pulling a face at the realisation.
“Too damn right you’ll be sorry! You’re a fellow Scotsman, you’re not meant to be letting me down like this! Get inside, now!”
Jogging back to the doors he and Penelope had exited from earlier, he turned around to grin at her before being shoved inside by Stokes, who was shaking his head and muttering something about ‘quidditch players and pretty girls… never a good combination…’ and good-naturedly poking Oliver between the shoulder blades with the end of his Nimbus 2005.
The last glimpse Oliver had of her was the wind blowing her golden curls over her face as she squinted into the sun and waved goodbye with a wry grin, pulling out a notebook from her bag.
It wasn’t so unusual that Penelope was reading when Wood surprised her for the second time. She was reading when most things happened.
Unfortunately, she was in full-on Book Nerd Mode, with her glasses shoved on, hair wild, empty mugs around her, and a book filled with notes in front of her. This was not the most attractive look for a girl when hot quidditch players walked into your parents’ bookshop and asked your Mum behind the counter if she had a quidditch section.
Pen felt almost indignant. Did they have a quidditch section! No wizarding bookshop could call itself one without it!
She nearly spoke up before realising that she may yet have a chance of escaping notice (she wasn’t feeling sociable), and so hunched further over the slim book which was set open on an old oak desk in the corner at the back of the shop, next to a window to provide good reading light, which was rather hard to find at the end of November.
However, much to her disappointment, it didn’t work. The footsteps got louder, got quieter again as they turned to the quidditch section which was unfortunately just across the main aisle from her, and stopped for a while.
Really, she wasn’t normally this grumpy, especially not where hot blokes were concerned, but she looked terrible and her owl – Athena – still hadn’t returned from delivering Audrey her letter. This did not bode well.
For a few moments, it looked as though she had got away with it. But then –
“Penelope?” Oliver sounded confused as he walked towards her. “What are you doing here?”
Hurriedly, she pushed her glasses to the top of her head before giving a smile and raising an eyebrow. “What do you think I’m doing here? It is my parents’ bookshop.”
“Really?” He seemed fascinated, and she resisted the strong temptation to roll her eyes.
“Yep. What was it you were looking for?”
“Oh, Dangerous Dai Llewellyn’s autobiography… apparently, it’s crazy. What are you reading so avidly? I’d bet my next paycheque it’s something huge that I’ve never even heard of,” he joked.
Nice word, ‘avidly’, Penelope approved silently. “I’m not so sure about that…” she said with humour colouring her voice, and lifting up the book so he could see the battered green cover with slim gold lettering across the front. Oliver’s eyebrows went up.
“Quidditch Through The Ages? Did your write-up go ok, then?”
“I won’t hold you to the bet,” she told him, “and yes, it was great thanks. The boss said it had ‘character’, which is good… I hope.”
“How did you manage it without knowing the players?” he asked, sitting down in the chair opposite, and turning the book over in his hands, whilst glancing up at her.
She smiled, remembering. “I just borrowed a booklet with every single player in it out of someone’s pocket in front of me, duplicated it, and returned it. Worked quite nicely, really. Great play, by the way – bit faster than Hogwarts league, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, very different. Been training for it, so it’s not too bad, but…” he shrugged. “There’s, you know, a lot of pressure on.”
“Yeah, it’s difficult to know if you’re getting the balance right, isn’t it?” Penelope said thoughtfully. “I mean, everyone’s expecting you to live up to the current standard but you don’t know if you’re doing it right.”
Oliver looked up, surprised. “Yeah, exactly. Is that what journalism’s like, then?”
“PENNY! There’s an owl for you!” her Mum suddenly hollered down the shop. Hestia never had been one for keeping her voice low, and Penelope rolled her eyes before heading down the shop. Her Mum may have been a muggle, but she had adapted all too happily to wizarding life.
“See you, then,” she called over her shoulder as she headed behind the counter, leaving Oliver to buy the biography from her Mum, who was eagerly chatting about all things quidditch.
“Are you going to be playing in Santa hats?”
Oliver jumped, sending his broom crashing to the ground from where he had been carefully polishing it for the thirteenth time, as the disembodied voice from beside him shocked him out of the pre-game reverie.
Spinning around, he saw a grinning Penelope. “Clearwater! It’s you!”
“Yep, it’s me. Scared you there, didn’t I?” she grinned.
He shook his head. “Of course not.”
“Pfft. I so did; you should have seen your face! But are you, then? Playing in Santa hats? It is one of the last games before Christmas.”
“Of course not, we’re quidditch players,” Oliver replied in a duh tone of voice.
“Oh, and what does that mean, then?” Penelope asked bemusedly. “That quidditch players are notably unfestive? Or that they’re unwilling to perform a highly amusing act they think will damage their manliness?- which, by the way, it wouldn’t.”
“No. We just don’t, Penle – Peln - ” Oliver sighed, frustrated. “Your name is quite the mouthful, isn’t it?”
“Yep… it’s a bit annoying, to be honest. My friends and family sometimes call me Penny – and far too many guys use my name as a ‘Lucky Penny’ pick-up line,” she scowled.
“Well then, Pen, I swear to never use a pick-up line involving pennies of any kind on you,” he grinned as she unconsciously smiled at the nickname. He wasn’t too sure about the whole guys and pick-up lines thing though – how many used it on her? Did any work?
Well, evidently not if they used a penny-related pick-up line, Oliver mused. Pen’s wit was sharp enough to force you into buying bandages if you weren’t careful.
“I didn’t know you were reporting this match,” Oliver commented.
“I didn’t know either, until yesterday. I think I’m a back-up writer for the sports section, because the normal guy who writes up away-games for his teams is off ill.”
“Now why would they want anyone other than you?” Oliver had read her articles from some archives, wanting to see how she had written it with his help.
It was good – really good. It made the whole boring review a lot more funny and interesting than when the normal bloke did it.
“It’s a sport that’s not specifically designed for girls. Therefore blokes like to have the upper hand,” she sighed, sitting down on the bench next to him. Oliver had to admit that he’s never thought about it like that – but it wasn’t really like that, was it?
Pen snorted. “Of course it is. Why d’you think the Harpies aren’t considered a ‘proper’ team though they’ve been playing league for a few hundred years and have topped it quite a few times?”
Oliver had nothing to say in reply to that. But then Stokes appeared in the doorway with some three other team members and strolled to the benches to nonchalantly, whistling the Puddlemere theme tune and shooting the two of them furtive looks.
Pen rolled her eyes and stood up, winking at him before strolling off to the stands.
Oliver was left with a lingering feeling that he was missing out.
Pen sat at her desk, twirling the fancy quill between her fingers while she waited for an answer from Oliver. She knew she shouldn’t be waiting so eagerly, but…
The note hadn’t been long; it simply read How about that interview now? But it had been sent quite a while ago, and Athena was a fast owl.
And, of course, the interview was purely for journalistic purposes.
There was a scratch and a screech at the window that brought Pen back out of her reverie. Athena flapped in, with a piece of parchment attached to her leg that she proudly proffered. It was a simple one-liner back, reading Leaky Cauldron, noon, tomorrow – don’t be late.
Pen grinned. He had accepted! She had only been half-concentrating when she threw her poor owl out the window, and had become extremely nervous once she realised what she’d done; she was Pen Clearwater, and she was a bookish nerd whose spare time consisted of writing rambling fiction. How could she possibly interest Oliver Wood, the brilliant Gryffindor quidditch captain who was already a rising star as he played for Puddlemere?
But it was ok, this interview was for journalistic purposes only.
Still, tomorrow came and Pen found herself sitting at the bar of the Leaky Cauldron, anxiously looking around for Oliver. She couldn’t stop fiddling with a strand of hair, and the waitresses would not stop asking her if she needed anything, and he was just not appearing; until a good thirty-five minutes after he had demanded she be there, he sauntered through the door with wet hair.
“Couldn’t keep away from me, Pen?” Oliver teased as he slipped onto the seat beside her. Pen grinned back, the tension slowly dropping away with his appearance, and turned to face him.
“Oh, you know it,” she teased back, “but aren’t you a little hypocritical to be making me panic you’d abandoned me here?”
Oliver grimaced in apology. “I’m sorry, I thought we had more training this afternoon… but Stokes crammed it in before lunch instead. It is Sunday, and he said he wanted to have lunch with his Mum or something,” he snorted, chuckling at the memory. “But I don’t know whether to believe him or think he’s off to an afternoon with his fiancée.”
Penelope laughed with him, loving the sound of his chuckle. It was a warm one that made you want to please him so you could hear it again, and she adored it.
“So, all set for the rigorous examination you’re about to go through?” she asked, changing the subject to get to the heart of the matter before she was carried away.
“I suppose so… it’s not going to be too personal, is it?” Oliver asked, a little alarmed. Pen just grinned wickedly in response, her curls already escaping from the soft plait that descended onto her simple fluffy jumper.
“Hmm… let’s start with some easy ones, then. What’s your opinion of how Puddlemere’s playing this season?”
Once she had started, she didn’t let up. In true journalistic style, Pen pounced on Oliver’s answers, asking him about rival teams, the new Hogwarts team – though he got angry at the thought that it was disbanded this year due to the Tri-Wizard Tournament – what it had been like coaching his previous team, his new regime, his new lifestyle, and then moved onto his love life.
“So, left anyone special back at the castle to languish until you return?” Her heart sped up a little as he looked down at the tabletop, grimacing a little.
“Not really... no, I haven’t.”
“So no girlfriend? Anyone ready to swoon at your feet upon reading this?” she teased.
“Uh, no. There might be someone, but I broke up not so long ago, though this other girl is helping me deal,” he replied awkwardly.
Right. The Mia Longing incident… byotch, Pen cursed in her head. Poor Oliver hadn’t even been with her that long, but it was easy to see she had been a fake from the beginning. They’d only lasted five weeks.
“ Prepared to divulge?” Oliver shook his head. “Ok, what do you look for in women, then?”
“Knowing quidditch,” he laughed, “which is why the girl I’ve got my eye on is great. She’s amazing with all the plays, and we get on really well, though I don’t know that I’m in a position to tell her so.”
Penelope felt cold inside and suddenly a bit angry, though she covered it up rather well. However, she couldn’t help wondering if the ending was a little abrupt when she said sweetly, “well, thankyou for your time, Oliver. It has been a great help to me today, and we shall hopefully see your article soon!”
He looked up, a little startled, at her sudden overly-bright tone and frantic bag-packing. “What, are you going already?”
She glanced up once then looked down to her bag before swinging it onto her shoulder. “Well, I have to get going, and I’ve got the interview I came for,” she announced with a smile to soften the harsh words.
“You won’t stay for just a bit longer? We’ve barely talked!” Oliver demanded. He sounded a bit gutted.
“We’ve been here for over an hour - ”
“And you’ve interviewed me!"
“- which is what I came for,” Pen ploughed on, regardless of his interruption, but feeling like an utter cow. “I’ll probably see you around sometime,” she added coolly, before walking out the door.
If she had looked back, she would have seen Oliver sitting with his jaw hanging, before angrily leaving the pub via the back route.
Oliver just didn’t understand what he had done wrong, and over a fortnight later as he sat on his broom angrily glaring at the snitch (though Grint didn’t seem to be getting the message), he couldn’t stop going over Pen’s reaction.
They really weren’t the signals you wanted to be getting if you’d just told a girl you liked her, were they? Suddenly packing up and walking out without a backwards glance.
Well, he had obviously misinterpreted what she wanted with him.
It was frustrating, though… he had thought they were going somewhere, and then she suddenly stormed off? He had been trying to hint, to build up to something!
“TEAM, COME IN!” Stokes bellowed, hurtling towards the ground at a crazy speed with Grint loop-de-looping with breakneck speed around him. Sighing, Oliver, quickly landed beside the rest of them and gathered in a loose circle around the captain.
“Great work today… chasers, you’re getting better at that looping formation. I need ya to keep it up, even when something breaks, ya need to adapt faster! Beaters, aim it more. You’re hard and fast and it’s flying out here! Ya need to keep it comin’. Grint… I have no idea what’s got into ya, if you need some fancy optical spell on ya will ya please just go and get it? And Wood… what the heck’s got into ya? You’re playing like a pile o’ crap. Can ya please just get off with that blondie who keeps hanging around and man up already?”
Oliver glared at the Glaswegian captain. “She’s gone off, doesn’t want anything to do with me.”
He snorted. “Oh please! In that case, why has she tried to get interviews with each one of us, and insisted on getting photos of everything, whilst trying to pretend she’s not interested every time you wander within half a mile o’ her?”
Oliver raised his eyebrows. Pen had been here? Taking photos? It was the last practice before Christmas, she had to be crazy to come out here!
While he frowned, mulling it over, Stokes shook his head and led the team into the showers, leaving Oliver standing in the middle of the pitch, his brain even more confused than before. Eventually, though, big fat raindrops began to fall out of the overcast and stuffy sky, and he was forced inside after the others.
It was long after all his team-mates had finished that Oliver stepped out of the showers, only trying to puzzle out Pen still. Grabbing a towel, he wrapped it around his waist before bundling up the dirty blue-and-gold practice kit.
He was turning around to stuff it in the all-encompassing laundry basket, when he hit someone heading in the wrong direction to him. Shocked, Oliver swerved backwards, but then as he realised that whoever he had clashed with was falling backwards, he leapt forwards to try and grab her.
Of course, he already knew by the blonde curls exactly who it was that he had crashed into; Pen, of course.
But even though he grabbed her just off the floor, her head still headed down and connected with the floor in a horrible smack.
“Oh God, are you ok?” he asked, trying to haul her up. It ended up being Pen pulling herself half-up, anyway, and glaring at him from under her mane of hair.
“Of course I’m not ok! I just got ran into by a stupid quidditch bloke, who smacked my head against the floor and… is only wearing a towel…” Her voice trailed off, and Oliver raised his eyebrows again.
“You’d probably already be unconscious if I hadn’t caught you,” he told the seemingly distracted Pen.
“Urm, really?” she asked, her voice an octave higher than usual and still not looking him in the face.
“Have you got concussion?” Oliver asked curiously, “because your voice has gone really weird, and you’re acting strange.”
“No!” Pen squeaked, looking him in the eyes then dropping her sight back down again.
Oliver decided that she had probably hit her head too hard, to be acting this strangely around him. They had had a weird conversation before, what with her storming out, but now – well, his previous confusion was nothing compared to this.
Definitely a head injury.
“Hey, d’you want me to look at your head? It didn’t sound good,” he asked, but Pen’s frantic head-shake only persuaded him to close the feet between them and knock away her warding hands to push aside her explosive curls and carefully move his fingers up her head until he found the offensive lump that he could feel swelling under his hand. It was a nasty one, and as he brushed it she gasped.
However, it was at that precise moment, as he bent down to say in her ear, “I really think you need some ice on that,” when one of the team-mates walked in, whistling. O’Hare, one of the chasers.
“Hey, W – whoa! Why are you guys doing that in here?”
Oliver turned around. “Pen’s hit her head pretty hard. Can you chuck us the ice? Non-melting.”
“Is that your excuse? ‘Cause it’s crap,” O’Hare stated, eyes still like saucers, and not moving. Oliver glared, pulling his hand away from Pen’s head, and turned to face him.
“Hey, what do you think we’re standing like this for? Shove it, O’Hare.”
To Oliver’s frustration, O’Hare still wouldn’t move. “Dude, you’re in a towel, and she looks like a tomato. She even has make-out hair.”
So that was why Pen was so distracted!
Oliver suddenly couldn’t stop grinning. He might have been confused about why she left him when he was clearly trying to ask her out, but she was attracted to him.
She groaned. “Oh shut up, you imbecile. It’s called smashing your head in, and if you don’t get the flipping ice RIGHT NOW, I’m going to show you what it feels like!”
Oliver caught the ice chucked through the air at him, and O’Hare’s scuttle towards the door, before pressing it to the back of Pen’s head and chuckling. “Nice one. That’s the Pen I know.”
“Well, where did you think I’d gone?” she asked, still slightly high-voiced but rapidly recovering.
“I don’t know, out the door of the Leaky Cauldron with no explanation for your odd behaviour?”
Pen pulled a face. “Sorry. I just didn’t really know what to say; but it’s ok, I’m fine with the whole thing now. I just hope it works out with whoever it is you’ve chosen. ‘Cause I am totally fine with whoever it is. Unless she’s a cow, like that Mia you were with before, I mean I’ve never seen such a fake Barbie before! Though actually - ”
“Puddlemere are having a New Years’ Eve party,” Oliver cut her off, putting a finger to her lips. He was impressed by her not going cross-eyed trying to watch him, too. “I’ll introduce you to her then, yeah? If you just come along, be my plus one.”
Pen pulled another face, before grabbing the ice pack off him and walking off.
He was left, again, watching her go and hoping that meant yes.
Pen tried to pinch herself, but at the sight of the raw skin at the top of her arm in the mirror, merely shook herself instead.
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
She couldn’t believe she was actually going along to meet the mystery girlfriend of Oliver Wood. Well, her excuse was that her head was still hurting, though St Mungo’s has fixed her minor concussion fine. Although that might have been from her falling over just outside the pitch, someone finding her groaning, and Apparating her there.
But though she was chanting, “Shouldn’t be doing this, you’re only making it worse,” over and over to herself, she was putting on a half-decent dress and twisting her hair half-up.
All for a guy who hated her. Well, ok, she was definitely exaggerating here – Oliver didn’t hate her. He just preferred whichever cow had slimed her way up to him, and he wanted to introduce her to.
But still Pen chanted her words, and put her make-up on, and poked herself in the eye with those stupid contact lenses, and she couldn’t stop herself from eventually Apparating to the party that was at some fancy venue that Stokes had hired for them.
When she landed amongst the crowd, she was not only surprised at how packed it was – it was a league club’s Christmas ‘do, for goodness’ sake! – but also the fanciness of the occasion, that she had barely risen to meet, however long she had taken over her looks.
Dammit, she had been saying she shouldn’t come, and though she could just leave now before Oliver spotted her, she just couldn’t. Pen was in denial that she wanted to see the cow Oliver had brought, but she did.
“Oi, blondie! You going to mope at the side there all day, or fancy dancing?” someone said loudly next to her.
Pen whirled, and frowned as she saw the idiot who’d come in when Oliver had ice on her head and he was in a towel. “Nope, moping all evening,” she retorted, as the bloke rolled his eyes.
“Wood’s looking for you, so if you’re going to pull him, you’d better wipe the scowl off your face.”
“I’m not trying to pull him,” she retorted again, pulling her hand from his grasping one, “’cause he has a cow – I mean, girlfriend he’s introducing me to.”
“Really?” O’Hare seemed really taken aback, but then started laughing. “Oh, good one. Y’know, Wood’s moping in the opposite corner from here. You should go talk to him, seriously.”
Debating it for a millisecond, Pen merely answered, “No. Now go get a life,” before turning on her heel and stamping off.
The next hour and a half were spent avoiding Oliver. He seemed to always be separated by only a few people, and talking to many different girls, each of whom seemed prettier than the last, and none of whom returned.
In fact, Pen was starting to think she might escape into the new year without having to meet the cow he’d brought to introduce her to and pretending she was happy for them, when at five minutes to midnight, Oliver grabbed her in the middle of the dancefloor.
“Oi. Done with avoiding me?” he asked, leaving one hand at her waist so she couldn’t escape. She glared at it instead, but it didn’t seem to faze him.
“Nope. But if you’re going to manhandle me, I suppose there’s not much I can do.”
“Nah, you’re stuck. Why so intent on leaving, though?”
“I’m having second thoughts. This party sucks, and where’s the girlfriend?” Pen asked, blatantly lying. The party was amazing; she just wasn’t in the mood to make anything of it, or get drunk, or in any way have a vaguely good time.
Oliver knew she was fibbing too, and he snorted. “Yeah, sure. Puddlemere really know how to throw one.”
Pen angrily narrowed her eyes at the ignoring of her own question, then forced herself to relax her muscles. It wasn’t his fault she was on hyper-alert.
“Alright, this is an ok bash.”
“Like you’ve been to better!”
“Are you intent on really pissing me off all of a sudden, Wood?” she asked angrily, “because it’s working! Oh, and for all your ‘meet me with my girlfriend talk’, I sure can’t see her anywhere – there’s nobody with ‘fake, blonde and easy’ written across their forehead!” she shouted in his face, as the music had suddenly turned up loudly.
Oliver looked taken aback. “Hey, I - ”
Pen tried to cut across him with a snapped, “Save it,” but at that moment the stupid countdown to midnight began. Almost not daring to believe her awful luck, she tried to stamp away to Disapparate, but Oliver just wouldn’t let go.
8, 7, 6…
“Let go!” she screamed, trying to be heard over the crowd, as he pulled her back to him.
5, 4, 3…
Suddenly, he was pressed right up against her, forcing her chin up with his other hand so that she was looking right into his face.
2, 1… Happy New Year!
Before Pen knew what was happening, his lips were on hers and he was kissing her. For some reason, the shock in her brain immediately dispelled, and was replaced by irrationality that made her sling her arms around his neck and kiss him back just as happily, while his hands ran through her snarled curls, making her whole body tingle.
But then, as the fireworks that were exploding around them started to die down all too fast, she suddenly found the grip on reality she had previously abandoned, and pulled back sharply, trying not to display her reluctance and confusion at the same time.
“What…? I mean… you have a girlfriend! You can’t go… kissing random girls!”
“I didn’t kiss a random girl. I’m hopefully-girlfriend is right in front of me, and I just kissed her.”
Pen opened her mouth, but then, as the cogs started turning in her head. The girl he recently met and liked… who knew quidditch… oh. Oh.
“But, I don’t know quidditch!” she cried, a little behind still and not enjoying the feeling.
Oliver just laughed. “You know it better than the other guy who writes in your department. You know, you’ve been acting pretty thick for a clever Claw.”
“You’ve been acting pretty on-the-ball – but still stupidly – for a gullible Gryff,” she replied a little grumpily, trying to turn on her heel and walk away before she embarrassed herself by crying or fainting or something awful.
But Oliver grabbed her hand, spinning her around as he had done that first day in the corridor outside the showers. “Nu-uh, don’t you leave. I have one more thing to say to you.” He paused, and Pen raised her eyebrow, but he leaned his forehead against hers. “Go out with me, Pen?”
She grinned, and kissed him for an answer.
Oliver was left to accept her kiss as a yes, and wonder how they had come to this point within four months or so. It was perhaps a bit or a twisting path with multiple confusions along the way, but then, the course of true love never did run smooth. It was realistic, and normal, and stable, and unending.
In fact, what they had may have started in a vaguely ordinary way. But it wasn’t going to end; it was going to carry on growing, in feelings and knowledge of the other, for the rest of their lives.