Author's Note: I'm putting this at the beginning of the chapter this time because I wanted to warn you that this chapter is long! I didn't want to cut anything, but i also couldn't find a good place to split the chapter.
I hope you stick with it, and thanks for reading! I hope you are enjoying the story so far. There aren't too many more chapters in the plan, so keep reading and most importantly, enjoying!
On the morning of the masquerade I woke up with my stomach tied in knots. This was the biggest event I had ever put together in my entire career, and a lot was riding on it. I had to make sure the press saw that Oliver was trying his best to cope with his injury in a positive way. I had to show my boss that I could handle such a big client with such enormous events. I had to be a presentable date to Eric McCoy, my clients personal Healer. On top of all of this I had to deal with a blistering cold, overcast day, seemingly untamable frizzy hair and red splotchy skin that had developed over night. Needless to say, I was a mess, and I needed to find a way to calm down.
I decided now was not the time to worry about the rats nest on my head and looked into the mirror at the redness on my neck. Was it just me, or did that splotch sort of look like Australia?
“Oh this is ridiculous.” I mumbled to myself, throwing my hair in to a half hearted pony tail.
“What’s ridiculous?” Oliver said, leaning against the bathroom doorframe and taking a rather large chunk out of the apple he was holding.
“Oh, don’t worry about it.” I said waving him off, after having settled down from being scared half to death. How long had he been standing there?
“You know we are friends. You can talk to me.” He prodded.
“Really, it’s nothing. Ellie went out to the venue. She said she would meet you here around six so that you can get there early for the press. I’m going to go for a run, I think.”
Oliver laughed and raised his eyebrows in response before shaking his head and walking back in to the dining room. I shrugged and went to my bedroom to change. After putting on my clothes, I moved to the sitting area to tie my shoes. Oliver came and sat down across from me.
“You were serious? I didn’t know you could run.”
“Of course I can. I go out every day, you just don’t know that because you aren’t very well acquainted with an hour earlier than 10 am.” I said, looking up at him as I bent to tie my shoe. “You gawk at me enough. You should be able to recognize someone who works out.”
“Hey, sorry, I thought you were just naturally fit.” He said, smirking that all too familiar smirk, but when I looked up at him, his face became serious, even a little sad before he continued, “Can I go with you?”
It was a loaded question. He wasn’t just asking if I minded him coming with me. He honestly wasn’t sure if he was able to run and not risk his upcoming surgery. I realized that I hadn’t seen Oliver do any of his normal workout routine in the last three weeks. He was instructed not to do anything involving his upper body, but he had been avoiding all workouts in general. How had I not noticed that? We had been to busy getting this party ready, I suppose, but working out was usually such a major part of his day. I looked at his face. His eyes were pleading with me to give him permission to do something physical, but his jaw was clenched, as if he was preparing for disappointment.
“Well, Eric said to avoid upper body exercise, so I suppose if you take it easy, it would be alright. Let me send him an owl to make sure while you get changed. It wont take too long.”
Oliver’s eye’s brightened immediately as he went to his room to change. I scrawled out a messy note asking for permission to Eric, and luckily, today was his day off. His flat wasn’t terribly far off from my own and my tawny owl returned quickly with his permission, and a small note for me telling me that he was excited about tonight.
Oliver and I ran for about an hour. He was much faster than me, but the fact that he had avoided any and all exercise for the last three weeks meant that I had a bit better endurance than him. We made a game out of the running, having races between different lampposts, or shops. Oliver had a nice laugh at my victory dance, and I had an even better one over the fact that he came to a dead stop when he spotted a kitten down one of the alleyways. If a little girl hadn’t run out behind the cat just a few moments after he stopped, I’m positive we would have had a new pet in the flat. Who would’ve guessed that Oliver Wood was a sucker for kittens?
By the time we were on our way back, it had started raining lightly, and by the time we had actually reached the flat both of us were thoroughly drenched. Oliver tossed me a towel and I glanced in the side mirror at my stringy hair.
“At least I’ll be able to blow dry my hair in to submission.”
“Is that what you were upset about this morning? You’re hair looked fine. Women are strange.”
I laughed, “Not only my hair and skin. I’ve just got a lot riding on tonight. This is a huge moment in my career. Sort of a make or break moment, like when you were called up from the Reserves to fill in for that bloke who walked out on the team because he didn’t like that Alex was named captain over him. You had a lot to prove and only one shot. I’ve never organized an event by myself, I was always part of a team. If this goes wrong, the men in my profession will eat up my failure, and the women will never let me forget it. I’ll be lucky to ever earn what little bit of respect back that I have managed to get.”
“Well, first off, it seems like the run has calmed your nerves. All those splotches are gone. Even the one that looked like Australia! Second, I’ve been sitting through three weeks of torture with you and Ellie; nothing is going to go wrong. And if it does, well, then you have me and I’ll help you through it like you’ve been helping me. If I’m your friend, like you keep saying, then that’s what I’m here for.”
I could feel my mouth turn up in to a smile as I hugged Oliver. He hesitated for a second and then hugged me back. The hug felt like we were silently agreeing to rescue each other if anything went wrong tonight, and it was definitely what I needed. When we let go, our shirts clung to our bodies and I realized it was time to get out of the freezing wet workout clothes and in to something that wouldn’t give us pneumonia. Although, I wasn’t entirely sure my ability to breathe would be better in the dress I had for the evening. Damn corsets.
At 5:45 I heard Ellie pop in to the living room and tap her heel impatiently while she yelled for Oliver to hurry up. He came out and complimented her gown and mask with a simple “wow.” That really was an appropriate sentiment for the way she looked. I had been with her when she’d tried on the fitted dress and mask. It was a trumpet style gown in teal silk that she had paired with a delicate royal blue lace mask. The tie backs of the mask were cleverly hidden behind blue and green feathers that wrapped around her head. She had based her costume on a peacock costume that she had seen the previous Halloween, but the short skirted, sky-high heeled novelty costume had nothing on the elegance of the ensemble Ellie had put together. She would be a knock out at the masquerade, and that was exactly what Oliver needed on his arm when he arrived.
I heard Ellie mutter something about quidditch players never knowing how to tie a damn tie straight. If this was all she had to say about someone’s outfit, it may as well be taken as the highest compliment. After a few more moments I heard two simultaneous pops and I knew I was here alone for the next half hour. I was to meet Oliver and Ellie at 6:30 for the open forum with the media and then meet back up with Eric after the interview. Luckily, I was almost ready.
I blinked through the last bit of my eyeliner application and allowed it to dry before slipping my mask on. I had decided that I would use the night sky as my inspiration and I had found the perfect mask to go with that theme. The mask was made of an ivory silk. The right side was shaped the way a mask usually is, but the top of the left side curved up into a crescent point on the top of my head. The half crescent lay against my head and the color made it look exactly like a moon. I’d be lying if I said this mask wasn’t the reason I had chosen the night sky theme to my costume in the first place. I loved how unique it was, not to mention how mysterious the color made my smokey eyes look. It made me feel strong and confident, which I would definitely need tonight.
I had put off tightening the corset on the dress as long as I possibly could, but unfortunately the drop waisted ball gown would not stay up without me losing my ability to inhale properly. It was a beautiful dress though, with a bodice of black silk covered by black lace that had little crystals spread all over it (I imagined those to be the stars.) The taffeta ball gown had the same crystals but there were layers of dark blues and purples mixed in with the black to create a full ball gown that had every shade of the night sky. All in all, my outfit was a success in my mind. Now the event just needed to be one as well.
I heard the familiar pop of apparition once again and then a firm knock on the door. Using my wand I cinched the corset and, after a quick glance to make sure my loose curls were not going haywire, I stepped out of the bathroom and opened the front door.
Eric was wearing a simple black suit, tie and mask. He also wore a smile and offered me his arm so that we could be on our way. When we arrived, I dropped him off at the refreshment table with Ellie while I joined Oliver at the press conference. They exchanged pleasantries, but there was an unmistakable familiar twinkle in Ellie’s eyes. This was going to be a good night.
The questions that were angled at Oliver were almost exclusively about how he was coping with his injury. If they had asked him these questions when I first met him, I would have been terrified of his answers, but I trusted him to form the appropriate answers. I zoned out until I heard a question that neither of us had expected or prepared for.
“We’ve been hearing that Adelynn Lavoie has been considered by several other teams for the next season. After her contract ends, do you have any idea where she will be heading? Or is she planning on staying with you and Puddlemere United?” A reporter from the Prophet ventured.
Oliver reached for the back of his neck and glanced over to where I was standing behind the curtain. I shrugged and signaled for him to pass the question to me.
“Well, since I can’t really speak for anyone but myself, I’ll let Adelynn answer that one. He moved aside as I walked out.
“If you have been hearing rumblings about where I’m heading next year, I would love your sources, because I wasn’t aware that anyone other than Puddlemere was interested in me.”
There were a few chuckles, but then I saw a hand shoot up. I called on them wearily.
It was a reporter from Quidditch Today. That was Gwen’s magazine; they shouldn’t be here. It was Gwen’s assistant in fact. I sighed, but took the question anyways.
“So if you receive an offer, are you considering leaving?”
“I don’t really like to play the ‘what if’ game, but I’ll tell you what, if I receive an offer, I’ll hold my own press conference so that none of you need to go around guessing or taking information from any source that isn’t myself. That will conclude our question portion of the evening and you may all now proceed to the ballroom for the party. Enjoy!”
There was a definite grumbling in the crowd, but I guided Oliver off stage to wait in the wings while the reporters dispersed. Eventually the stragglers that were hoping to get in one last question made their way out to the main ballroom. I began walking and was half way to the door before I realized that Oliver was not following me. I turned around and was stunned to see that Oliver was looking directly at me as if he had been waiting for me to turn the entire time.
“Have you received offers from another team.” Oliver asked quietly, holding my gaze.
“Of course not. Those rumors come up every season to try and keep our otherwise boring job more exciting.”
“But last year you did receive an offer. From Puddlemere.”
“I promise, if it is within my power, you will be the first to know of any offer I receive. It directly affects you, and it’s my job to make your life run as smoothly as possible.” I had closed the distance between us and placed my hand on his bicep, clutching his arm gently, “Now can we please go enjoy the party that we slaved over for the last three weeks.”
I could tell by his halfhearted smile that he wasn’t convinced, but also that he wasn’t going to put up a fight tonight. He needed a party just as much, if not more, than the rest of us.
It took me a solid two hours to track down Eric and Ellie, and once I had, I wasn’t too keen on interrupting. They had made their way to a balcony that had been charmed so that it would stay warm without a covering. It was clear by the way her hand never left Eric’s thigh or upper arm, that Ellie was enjoying my date far more than I would have. Eric was laughing and exchanging jokes with her, so I wasn’t too worried that he was missing me either. I was glad they had found each other though; I wasn’t in the mood to entertain a date or a best friend tonight. Something about the prospect of an offer from another team had put me in a strange mood.
I returned to mingling, and then personally found and informed the winners of the silent auction. The final winner shocked me though, and as I scanned the crowd I found the silver haired gentleman chatting with a gaggle of young ladies that he had no business talking to and nursing what appeared to be far from his first gin and tonic.
“ Mr. Wright, how are you.”
He spun on his heels, wobbling slightly. Gwen’s father was standing before me, in all of his drunken glory, wiping the alcohol he had just spilled from his sleeve.
“I just wanted to let you know that you were our winner for the Puddlemere United jersey signed by the entire team. Congratulations.”
“Ah, yes. Adelynn is it? It’s a shame I had to bid at all, after the donation to secure a spot in the interview. That planner, Ellis, I think, she’s quite charming.”
Ah, so that’s how he got invited. Note to self: Chastise and then mercilessly tease Ellie for not double-checking her media list. Oh, wait, Mr. Wright was still rambling.
“My daughter pleaded with me to purchase this silly thing so that her little chihuahua of a fiancé could brag about it in the office. She is still trying to find ways to make him look more manly like that Wood bloke she stupidly broke up with a few months back.”
“She thought a signed Puddlemere jersey would make Reginald seem more manly?”
“Oh hell, I don’t know anymore. She arranged for all of those paparazzi to meet her in that dirty pub to snap pictures of them and all they got was her without her bloomers. Made me so mad. I suspended her from the magazine for a month.”
“So that’s why she was there!”
“Mhm. Damn shame, it is, that Wood fellow would have given me good solid grandsons.”
I heard a spray of liquid and a bit of coughing behind me and I had to throw my hand over my mouth to prevent myself from laughing in Mr. Wright’s face.
Oliver, who I assume was the sprayer from behind me grabbed my elbow and quickly threw out an, “Excuse us, sir,” before pulling me out of the front doorway to the ballroom.
I tried to catch my breath, but as soon as the door closed fully, both Oliver and I burst out laughing. Our laughs echoed in the hallway for several minutes before we finally quieted down. Oliver sat down on the bench and patted the seat next to him.
“So is everything unraveling at the seams, or is it okay if we calm down now?” Oliver asked, catching his breath from laughing so hard.
“Seems to be going well to me. Ellie has this thing running like a well-oiled machine. I don’t even think I need to be here anymore, now that all of the silent auction prizes have been doled out.”
“Speaking of Ellie…”
“Lets just say that she and Eric were very pleased to make each other’s acquaintance.”
Oliver nodded and looked up at the dark wood ceilings above him.
“Well, I think everyone in there is thoroughly trashed by now, and I can’t bloody breathe in this contraption. I think I’m going to duck out early. We’ve got plenty of staff to get the guests to their rooms or homes without me being in the way.”
“But it’s only ten thirty. You’ll miss midnight.”
“Oliver, dear, it will strike midnight at our flat you know.”
“But you wont get your New Year’s kiss. Not that you would anyways now that Ellie nabbed your Healer.”
“Eh, I wasn’t really planning that far ahead anyways.” I carefully stood smoothing out my dress and pushing my mask off of my head. “I’m going to head home.”
“Do you think it’s okay if I come with you. All of my mates are completely gone, and with me not being able to drink, I’ve found out they aren’t really as funny as I thought they were.”
I laughed lightly, and nodded, holding his arm and apparating back to our flat.
“Bugger! I can’t breathe!” I said searching the apartment for my wand so I could loosen the ties on my dress.
Although, I’m not sure how I lost a wand in a modest two bedroom flat, I eventually gave up, resigning myself to knock on Oliver’s door.
He opened the door and for the second time, I was able to bask in the wonder that was Oliver Wood’s abdominal muscles. Trust me, a few weeks without exercise hadn’t fazed him at all.
“My eyes are up here, Ady.” Oliver said in a teasing tone.
“Sod off, Oliver.” I said rolling my eyes. “Hey, wait, you’ve never called me Ady before.”
“Eh, I just thought I’d try it out. Not sure how I feel about it yet. Why are you still in that dress?”
“That’s sort of why I’m here. I can’t find my wand, and I can’t get out of this dress by myself with out it. Could you untie and loosen the corset?” I mumbled the last bit.
“I’ll help you, but I want you to know that I’m only helping because you can’t breathe.” He grinned as he spoke, “ If you could function in this, I don’t know if I’d ever let you take it off. You look fantastic.”
I blushed and pulled at the top of the dress, hoping to hide at least a little bit of the overwhelming cleavage that I only had because of the tightened corset. I whisked around, trying, in vain, to smack Oliver with my hair as I spun. He chuckled and began working at the bow of the corset.
He struggled for several minutes. Between his quidditch callouses and the fact that the corset was charmed, he was definitely fighting a losing battle with the knots. Eventually, and not before he threatened to “just cut the damn thing” several times, the knot began to give. He quickly untied the bow and then loosened the crossed laces all the way to the top. His hands brushed my shoulders when he reached the top and I shivered. I was certain it was because I was taking in oxygen at a rate that hadn’t been available in a long time, but when I turned around, I saw that Oliver’s face was a soft shade of red, and I wondered what he was thinking.
I was clutching the top of the dress, trying to prevent Oliver from getting the view he had been missing when I was covered in a towel a few weeks ago. I thanked him and then made my way to my room. I tossed the dress in to a crumpled pile in the corner of my room, vowing to deal with it in the morning, but knowing I wouldn’t touch it until at least tomorrow evening. After taking off my make-up, I quickly changed into a tank top and a pair of pajama shorts before pulling my barely there curls in to a ponytail.
I walked out to see Oliver chewing on a piece of chocolate from one of the gift baskets. He looked up at me and sighed loudly.
“What did I do?”
“Damn it woman! Are you trying to kill me?” He grumbled.
“I haven’t been with anyone in half a year and you are always parading around in tiny shorts and shirts and dresses that couldn’t possibly fit you any better. Ugh!” He stormed in to his room as I stood in the living room completely stunned.
I wasn’t expecting him to stomp back out of his room and hold out a Puddlemere shirt in my direction, but that’s exactly what he did. I took it, still slightly dumbfounded, and unfolded it to reveal a long sleeve shirt that would definitely be baggy on me. I started laughing and put the shirt one. Once I looked back at him, his arms were folded, but I could see that he was fighting back laughter of his own.
“Do you feel better now?” I asked and he nodded, “You know Ellie wears the same type of clothing as I do, but I don’t see you modifying her wardrobe. What makes me so special? Not that I don’t love your fashion input.”
“Honestly, I don’t really notice Ellie all that much.”
“Uh-huh.” I mumbled, smiling up at Oliver, before stealing a piece of chocolate and heading back to my room.
I had just propped myself up on my pillows, ready to read away the last forty-five minutes of the year in my new Puddlemere United shirt that smelled vaguely of cologne (had this not been washed since he wore it last?) when I heard a knock on my door frame. Oliver was standing there holding up two mugs of tea.
“I’d like to cash in my rain check.”
I raised my eyebrow in confusion.
“Before, at the bar, you offered a rain check on your life story. I’m cashing it in.” He held out the cup to me and sat down on my bed expectantly.
It took me a second to realize he was serious, but I closed my book and accepted the tea. I started with my parents split when I was little, my schooling at Beauxbaton (namely, my adventures with Ellie) and even a few of my old boyfriends. I was just finishing up one of my stories about my first few months with the Harpies when my clock and the subsequent firework explosions signaled that it was midnight.
I looked over, and Oliver was stretched out next to me on the bed, propping himself up on his arm with his body angled toward me. He smiled warmly and my cheeks started to heat up.
“Happy New Year, Oliver.”
“Happy New Year, Adelynn.”
And then he kissed me. Not hard, or for very long. He just leaned over and gently laid his lips on mine before returning to his spot on the bed.
“I just wanted to make sure you didn’t miss out on your kiss.”
I nodded, touching my lips absently, and laying back on my pillows.
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