The alarm clock rang noisily and Oliver slammed his hand down on top, silencing it, before turning to lie on his stomach. He pulled his bed sheets up over his head, blocked out the sounds of his room mates getting up, ready and dressed, and tried to go back to sleep.
Oliver groaned when his covers were pulled back, exposing his bare back. He shivered lightly, the morning breeze hitting him. "Get up, Ford! You're gonna be late!"
"Leave him, Tuck," he heard James call. His bed rocked slightly and he heard James' friend groan loudly; James had pushed him into the bed, he guessed.
"Watch it, Potter," Oliver growled. He ignored the breeze crawling across his skin and dug his hand into the fabric of his bed sheets, falling back asleep.
Just as he started to doze off, he heard someone enter the room again. "Your friend, Walsh, is just outside the door. She said she knows you hate potions, but if you don't get up now she'll come in and get you herself and after she's done, no one will be talking about our rumor for a while." Oliver jumped up and narrowed his eyes at the oldest Potter, who let out a soft chuckle. "She said that you'd understand. No offense, but I kind of hope you don't get out of bed. I really want to know what she means."
Oliver swung his legs to the side and stood up stiffly, glaring at the boy who had currently become the bane of his existance. He ignored James as he grabbed his uniform from the top of his trunk, which he had placed there the night before for days like this, and made his way to the bathroom for a quick wash and to get changed. He thanked God he remembered to get a shower the night before; he was later than usual, judging from Sarah's shouting.
He dressed quickly, fixed his collar and tie and made sure his shirt didn't stick out of his jumper before leaving the bathroom. He could no longer hear Sarah and he assumed she had just left for the Great Hall to get their class schedules, which didn't surprise him. What did surprise the boy was that Potter was still standing by the door. He kept his back to him as he put on his cloak, feeling the brunet's eyes on his back, studying him.
"You're not a morning person, are you?" he asked finally.
The awkwardness Oliver felt had lifted, the pressure of being stared at gone, and he turned around, his eye-brows raised. "It depends on the day," he answered. "Some days I'm up before anyone else. But we share a dorm for four years and only when we enter seventh year, you start to notice?"
"We rarely spoke to each other," James stated matter-of-factly. "Why would I care?" He shrugged casually, unaware of the effect of his words, and left the room, as if proving that point still stood; he didn't care.
Oliver swallowed the lump that began to form in his throat, shaking off the feeling of rejection he knew he shouldn't be feeling. Maybe he'd only imagined them getting to know each other yesterday, maybe he'd misunderstood the boy, maybe he didn't want to be friends after all. He grabbed his bag and camera and followed the direction James had taken, forgetting his insecurities.
What he had said was true; Potter had only been stating a fact, he had to remember that. Oliver made his way quickly down the stairs and into the common room, sidestepped a first year girl and left Gryffindor Tower, inwardly groaning when he saw that James and his friend was in front of him. Oliver continued to walk, hoping they'd ignore him, but the friend grabbed his arm and pulled him to his side, so he was between Oliver and James.
"So, Ford, what's it like being around a celebrity?"
Oliver raised an eye-brow. "Potter is hardly a celebrity, at least not in my eyes."
He grinned. "Please, I was talking about me."
"This is why no one else talks to you, Tucker," James told him, rolling his eyes. He pushed himself to the side, forcing Tucker to release his arm from James' shoulder. Oliver took that moment to do the same, stepping closer to the wall to put distance between them. "Just ignore him, Ford. Tuck's been saying that everyday since he could speak, just because his dad works in the Muggle film industry."
"I do listen to what people say around here," Oliver replied, rolling his eyes, too. "I'm neither deaf nor invisible."
He continued to walk away, ignoring the friends' confused looks. Maybe he had sounded a little too bitter, but nothing he had said had been wrong; he knew exactly what people said, was friends with a few of those people and more, so why were they telling him things now? As though he was the new kid and they were trying to include him and make him feel welcome at school. They hadn't done that in Third Year, Sarah had. What was going on with them? With James? Why did Sarah have to choose this morning to leave him to walk to the Great Hall alone?
Was he wrong to feel bitter about feeling as though he'd gone from being treated like nothing before, to now suddenly worthy of their attention?
Oliver shook his head once; it felt good, as though he was actually clearing his mind of negative thoughts, but he didn't want to seem like he was crazy if people saw him. James could do as he liked, he always had really, and he probably didn't even realize how Oliver was taking it. He could talk to Oliver one day and go back to ignoring him the next, that was just how James was and Oliver didn't hate him for it. Sometime he and Sarah joked that James had the attention span of a goldfish, and they debated if it was due to one too many bludgers to the head or if they should have listened to Lucy Weasley last year when she said he'd been like that since birth.
When Oliver and Sarah thought about it, they wondered why he liked the oldest Potter son to begin with. "The heart wants what the heart wants," his best friend would frequently tell him. "The saying is there for a reason."
He held back a scoff; students had started to make their way to the hall, too, with James and Tucker Matthews not far behind him. He entered quickly, pushing through a group of giggling girls who'd noticed his arrival, and found Sarah. She waited until he was sat down next to her before handing him his class schedule and a piece of toast. "Thank you," he said between mouthfuls and scanned through his timetable for the day. He groaned loud enough for people to look up; Sarah hadn't been lying, they had Potions first. How had she known that?
His head snapped up when his schedule was snatched from his hands and James sat beside him, looking over it. What the hell?
"You must really hate Potions. Why?"
"Because I suck at it," Oliver told him honestly. "I'm barely passing."
"It is difficult, you need to be absolutely exact, so you don't make an entirely different potion or make it explode," James said, looking serious, as though he'd given a lot of thought to his answer, but he was enthusiastic at the same time. He liked it. Oliver already knew that. "But once you've really got that down, you can pretty much make any potion."
He handed the parchment back and grabbed breakfast of his own, while Oliver sat and stared, part of him wondering if that was actually true or if he had just said that because he was naturally good at the subject and thought it was true. His eyes were narrowed slightly while he tried to figure the boy out, but nothing came to mind. He didn't ask until James wanted to know what was wrong. "You're in a better mood than yesterday," he pointed out, trying not to sound suspicious. He had no idea why he sounded suspicious really, being in a good mood was not a crime, but James hadn't taken the last few days very well. So, why now?
"I've decided not to let it get to me," he said brightly, once he'd swallowed a bit of egg. "It looked bad, but we know the truth and our friends do and that's all that matters. We can get past this, who cares about everyone else?"
"I'm pretty sure those were my words last night," Tucker jumped in.
James waved a hand. "Whatever. Just be thankful I've decided to take your advice; it's not something I do often." He turned back to Oliver, whose expression quickly changed from suspicious to surprised. What did this mean? "And I think we could be good friends."
"You do?" Oliver choked out, surprise now turning to shock. Sarah nudged him in the back and he swatted her hand away as discreetly as he could, not wanting to see her smug face now or later.
"Yeah. We practically hang out already, because of our shared friends, but now we can talk to each other. Don't you?" James asked slowly and for a moment, Oliver thought he saw disappointment in his eyes. His face, however, remained passive.
"Maybe," he shrugged. "Depends on how Quidditch obsessed you really are."
James laughed out loud, a long, throaty chuckle that made his chest move up and down noticeably and everyone want to join in. So Oliver did. "Well, my dream job is to play professionally. I'm sure that could give you an idea."
Oliver pretended to think about it, wishing James would laugh again, just because he loved to hear it. And he started to remember why he liked him, despite all of their differences and their first impression years ago. But he still hated the saying... "Our friendship will definitely have to stay in the maybe pile until I can get past that then," he finally said, though his responding smile told James he was only joking. Quidditch, though he'd never understand it, he could actually enjoy watching. It was flying that he hated. Just the thought made him nauseous. That put him off watching.
"I'll just have to find a way to get you past it," James grinned. "Until then, we have a Potions lesson to get through."
"We do," Oliver agreed, nodding and only slightly happy about this new friendship arrangement, he didn't want James to notice anything that could ruin it, and being able to spend at least the morning with him. Then he frowned. The morning? "We do?"
James laughed again, more at him this time, and it was quieter; Oliver wasn't sure he liked it as much. "We're in the same class this year," he smiled. "Maybe now your pass might not be a 'barely'."
He gave a quick good bye to his friend, who'd been watching in amusement, and started to walk away. Oliver was quickly reminded of his joke that James' concentration lacked; he was walking away as though his words about being friends had never been mentioned. But then he stopped at the door, pushed his dark hair back in a way that made Oliver want to sigh like a lovestruck fan-girl who'd just met her idol, and frowned. "Are you two coming or not?"
It took him longer than he would have liked to remember that Sarah was also in his class and that James had been speaking to both of them. She pushed him forwards and they walked the way to the dungeons together, Sarah asking James class-related questions while Oliver caught eyes with everyone who watched them walking, until he couldn't take it any more. "Maybe I should hang back a little," he muttered.
James finally noticed and shook his head, pulling on the boy's arm until they were side-by-side. "Maybe you still need to get over what happened?" he asked quietly. "I feel like I've made it worse by overreacting, I'm sorry for that. I really shouldn't have, Lily is always doing stuff like this. Last year, she told everyone that Al wore pink underwear just because someone accidentally put a red t-shirt in with the white washing. For weeks girls were trying to get a look, but they all forgot about it pretty quickly soon after." Oliver nodded once in agreement; he remembered that. "With us, all they can really see is that we hang out, which we technically did anyway. Now we will talk to each other when we'll be in our group, that's all. This will all blow other soon."
"If you knew all of this, then why did you freak out so much?" Sarah asked curiously.
James went a little pale, but swallowed and shrugged. "I had a bad relationship experience. My ex is a little bitter. Anyone talking about my relationships is a bit of a sore spot, that's all. No matter what it is about."
Oliver's eyes narrowed hearing his words. Melanie Randell had been James' only relationship in school and had lasted for a couple of years before their breakup at the beginning of summer. She was mental, in his opinion. Not clingy or possessive in an obvious way, but she'd had this way about her that told you to back off whenever she caught you within speaking distance of James. The rumor was that James had left her, though no one actually knew why. But she still gave people 'that look'; Oliver had felt her eyes burn into his back all through dinner, though he hadn't given her the satisfaction of her knowing he'd acknowledged her look or that it had gotten to him.
Once or twice, Oliver wondered why he'd finally dumped her. He'd even considered listening to the mass of rumors and try to figure out which would most likely be true. He always decided against it quickly; he didn't like rumors and it was none of his business.
Rumors; why where they always how trouble started in this school?
"Fair enough," Oliver heard Sarah answer him. But they left it there and found their way to class. Or 'Ollie's Personal Hell' as Sarah liked to call it. "Keep your jealousy in check," she whispered in his ear, letting him see her smirk and wink before she entered.
Crap, she'd noticed. Had James? That thought made him more nauseous than flying.
A/N: Oh, my... What is this? A new chapter for Stuck in the Middle? *pinches self* Nope, not dreaming, it's actually here, for y'all to enjoy. And I hope you do enjoy. Fingers crossed updates become more regular, although I have just started college again, so we'll have to see.
Please let me know what you think. :)
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