I watched the morning post expectantly for the next week, waiting eagerly for my uncle’s reply. I received my most recent issue of Witch Weekly
, a pile of junk mail (“Congratulations! You qualify to be rewarded the new, state-of-the-art iron wand!”), and a batch of chocolate chip cookies from Alicia’s mum, but Gwenog’s red-tipped wings failed to soar through the Great Hall.
Percy and I were, in all senses of the word, awkward
. We skirted around each other, addressing the other only when necessary and even then doing so in curt and distantly polite tones. Both Alicia and Oliver had cornered me in the corridors after Double Potions one day and demanded to know what was going on, but I had just shook my head and said shortly, “Ask Percy” before ducking under Oliver’s arm and sprinting through the dungeons before they even had time to register my escape plan. Judging by the confused looks they exchanged when Percy had stiffly asked me to pass the marmalade this morning, I assumed he had told them something of the same sort.
After a rather grueling Quidditch practice—the rain had started to pour down in buckets, making it difficult to see the tip of my Cleansweep, let alone a Quaffle zooming straight towards me—Oliver and I hung around the common room, chatting amiably and ignoring the pile of homework sat in front of us. Alicia had gone to the library to help her younger sister with Charms and Percy was off at some Prefects meeting or other, leaving just the two of us. We were lounging on a cushy loveseat, relaxing our sore muscles and arguing about which two countries would be going head-to-head at this summer’s World Cup.
“You’re mental, Luce. Australia stands no chance against Ireland. The Woollongong Warriors are having their shittiest season ever, and were you living under a rock during the Kestrels’ last match? Their Seeker caught the Snitch in less than four minutes! He’s a shoe-in for the national team, and with him on it Ireland’s going to be unstoppable.”
“If I’m mental, then you must be absolutely bonkers! Alright, maybe it wasn’t smart of me to pin Australia against Ireland, but What’s-His-Face has got nothing against Krum. Nothing
“His name’s Aidan Kiely, Luce. Merlin. And you call yourself a Quidditch fan.”
“Whatever.” I waved my hand in the air to dismiss his insult. “Krum could still beat his arse any day, regardless of what his name is. Krum’s so graceful on a broom...” I let out a pleasant sigh.
“You’re joking. You don’t actually think he’s fit, do you?”
I stopped staring dreamily out the window, ceasing my fantasy of marrying the famous Victor Krum in the center of the Bulgarian National Quidditch Team’s pitch and turning to look at Oliver instead. He was staring at me with a raised eyebrow, a slight scowl plastered on his face. “I don’t see anything wrong with thinking he’s fit,” I sniffed.
“He’s got big ears,” he said flatly.
“He’s a year younger than you.”
“Still don’t see where this is going...”
“Well now, Oliver. No need to be racist. I reckon your maman raised you better than that.”
He shook his head at me. “Off her bloody rocker,” I heard him mutter under his breath. I shoved him. “Oi!”
“That’s what you get,” I said primly, turning up my nose at him in what I thought was a very Percy-like manner.
“Stop acting like Percy. One of him is enough.” Huh. Guess he thought so also.
My nose instantly went back to normal height and I stuck out my tongue at him. He tweaked my nose in response, and I swatted his hand away.
He laughed before settling back into the cushions and slinging his arm around the back of the seat. His fingers tapped lightly on my shoulders.
“Speaking of,” he started, sending a not-so-sly sidelong glance my way, “mind telling me what happened between you two?”
I let out a noisy breath. Just when I thought Oliver and I were having a pleasant conversation. “Kind of, yeah.”
He tweaked my nose again. “Luce...”
“We just got into a little spat, is all. You know Percy. Always blows everything out of proportion.” I turned away from him to stare at a gleeful Ron whooping a disgruntled Harry in a game of Wizard’s Chess by the fireplace. I hadn’t wanted to broach this subject.
Oliver sighed but understood my message. “He’ll come around eventually,” he said before switching topics. I smiled at him gratefully.
We talked about everything, from classes to our favorite foods to how many meters Dumbledore’s beard was. I had forgotten how much fun it was to chat with Oliver; usually, all our conversations were Quidditch-centered. But to hear him explain his wacky theory on why he thought Dumbledore only charmed his beard to be that long instead of naturally growing it, I was able to remember how much I loved spending time with the bloke.
“So how’s your uncle, love?” he asked, breaking the comfortable silence we had fallen into after trying to guess where in the bloody hell the Hufflepuff common room could possibly be. (I guessed it was somewhere by Moaning Myrtle’s loo while he insisted that it didn’t actually exist and the Hufflepuffs camped out on the grounds.)
“Oh, you know,” I said, mustering a small smile. It felt fake. “He’s probably out of Switzerland by now. Leading a business meeting in some other random foreign country, most likely.” I tried my best to keep my tone light, but I knew Oliver could hear the trace of bitterness laced in my voice.
“Luce, maybe you should tell him how much you hate it when he’s not around.”
“He already knows, Oliver.”
“Yeah, but does he know because he guesses it so or because you actually sat down and talked with him about it?”
I bit my lip. “It doesn’t matter anyway,” I said in a small voice. “It’s not like he can just stop doing his job for me.”
“But he could at least try to be a part of your life!” Oliver exclaimed, and I was surprised to see the fire in his eyes. This was my problem; why was he the one getting all worked up? “You’re his niece, Luce. He’s the only family you’ve got left. The least he can do is show up for Christmas, for Merlin’s sake!”
“He doesn’t mean it,” I whispered, and I felt myself about to cry. “He doesn’t mean to not be there. Sometimes he just can’t come home. He just can’t sometimes.” I blinked, trying to get rid of the tears building in the corners of my eyes. Instead, I caused one to fall.
“Oh Luce, I’m sorry,” Oliver breathed. “I’m sorry, Luce. I shouldn’t have said that. Of course he doesn’t mean it. He loves you. Don’t cry, Luce. Please don’t cry.” He hugged me to him as I wiped hastily at my cheeks. I felt his lips brush my forehead and his shocked face when I pecked him on the cheek after the Quidditch match flashed through my mind.
“I’m fine, Oliver,” I said as I pulled out of his embrace. I smiled up at him to show him I really was okay.
“Good because I don’t like seeing you cry.” He tweaked my nose. Again.
“Oi! Stop that, you prick!” I smacked him on the chest. He laughed a hearty, contagious laugh, and I found myself laughing with him.
We spent the rest of the evening on the loveseat, his arm still around me, our textbooks and parchment still untouched, and our bodies shaking with laughter as we joked and teased and generally had a good time. I forgot about Percy being cross with me, my uncle continuing to be absent from my life, and the N.E.W.T.s already looming over my seventh year. I just laughed and let my worries fade away in Oliver’s warming company.
“I still think Krum’s got big ears—Oi! Why must you always smack me, woman?!”
Congratulations! Merlin knows you lot deserved to win. Hopefully this is a sign for the rest of the season! And don’t worry, I’ll be writing Oliver as soon as I send this one off. As if he didn’t have all the professional teams eating out of the palm of his hand! Tosh!
I noticed you didn’t mention your studies in the last letter. That better mean you’re having no problems with your subjects, missy! Don’t let those smarts you inherited from your papa’s side of the family—namely, from me—go to waste. I know how badly you want to be a Healer, and now’s the time to make it happen.
Whatever is going on between you and Percy, you need to talk to him about it. Find out why he’s angry with you and see how you two can work together to fix it. He’s your best friend, Lucie. You don’t want to lose him.
I’ve sent along some maple syrup from Canada, eh! I’ve also sent along a Stonewall Stormers jumper; I know they’re your favorite team after the Harpies. Miss you, Lucie my dear, and I hope you’re enjoying your last year!
I groaned after reading the letter. I had known my uncle’s answer but hoped for a different one, dreading the inevitable confrontation. But he was right. If I wanted things to go back to normal, I was going to have to talk to Percy. Bollocks.
I pulled on the purple Stormers jumper my uncle had sent me, admiring the soft warmth that enveloped me in spite of the cold, musty castle. I padded through the empty corridors, watching the rain fall through the windows I passed. My free period before lunch had just started, one that I shared with Percy. I made my way to the library, knowing he would be there. Sure enough, he was seated at a table in the corner. At our table.
I took a deep breath, gathered myself together, and walked purposely towards him. Stopping across from him, I gripped the back of the chair in front of me.
He paid me no mind, instead inking his quill and scratching a few words onto a fresh piece of parchment.
“Oh c’mon, Percy.”
I saw him flinch, but he still didn’t look up from flipping through the pages of his Charms textbook.
“Can you stop being such a prat for five seconds and just talk to me?” I spat out, annoyed.
He finally raised his head and cocked an eyebrow at me pointedly. “What.”
I struggled to suppress a groan. This conversation was going to be just bloody delightful
I know I've been AWOL for a bit. Sorry! I've just got a lot on my mind lately, what with my relationship ending and me about to go study in a different country for a year and all. I've been a tad depressed lately and haven't been in the mood for writing, but I'm starting to get back on track. So my next update shouldn't take as long!
Anyway, sorry for only throwing Percy in at the end. But Oliver had a starring role in this chapter! And trust me, there's plenty of ol' Perce coming up. While you're waiting for that, though, please leave me a review and tell me what you think! Favorite lines? Favorite characters? Constructive criticism? A quick one-word comment? Every review I get brightens my day. And you don't want me to have a gloomy day, now do you? ;)
13/4/13 edits: title, grammatical errors