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Chapter 6 : Whispers and Touches
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Lunch was almost over when he dropped his fork onto his plate, not able to try to eat anymore. "Do these people have nothing better to do?" he demanded to know, loud enough for people around to hear.
At least they have the decency to look embarrassed, he thought to himself.
"You're just new information again," Rose Weasley shrugged. "You're a bigger piece of gossip because it adds to the drama they read about during the summer. It's drama they haven't seen a hundred times a day thanks to being stuck with the same people twenty-four/seven. They'll talk about it for a couple of weeks, then forget all about it."
"I agree," Roxanne nods along, stabbing her fork through her last bit of dessert, only for Aidan to grab her wrist and eat it. She dug her elbow into his ribs until he moaned, then pushed him away so that she could finish what she was saying. "Trust me, boys. I talk for a living, remember? I know these people and how they act better than they know themselves; they'll stop soon. It'll stop faster if they find something bigger to talk about."
"Maybe you should tell them about your agreement with Aidan, Rox. Or about the almost vicious fight you had with Bonnie Kennedy because she tried to take him," Rose suggested, a mischievous glint in her eye that made Oliver think that she'd spent a little too much time around Albus and his friends. "Gossip about you is rare for anyone to see; everyone will go 'Oliver who?' and 'Potter does a lot of things'."
Oliver broke off a piece of biscuit, still bypassing his main meal thanks to his bad mood, and waved it in front of James' face. "I may have got 'Oliver who?', but you got the last name. Now that's just disrespectful in a whole other level," he said sarcastically. Oliver who?
"And you are?" James asked, feigning confusion too well for Oliver's liking before smirking. Oliver's hand froze, his biscuit almost touching his lips, then crumbled it in his fingers, letting the crumbs fall into James' lap. "Oh, not cool, Ford! Are you crazy?"
"If I was, do you really think I'd admit it?" He frowned, starting to think about it. "Then again, do crazy people know that they're crazy? How would you know if I'm lying?"
James gave him a long, hard look, then took the rest of his biscuit. "Definitely crazy."
Oliver shared a look with Sarah; one nod confirmed that they were thinking the same thing - Did he just take my biscuit? He did just take my biscuit. He took my freaking biscuit!
"He's joining you in crazy town," Aidan said knowingly, speaking for the first time. He shook his head condescendingly, letting his shaggy dark hair fall into his eyes. "You don't take food off of other people's plate, James; that's stupid. You don't take biscuits off of Oliver's plate; that's insane."
"Says the guy who casually took Roxy's not five minutes ago," Rose countered, pointing at him.
Aidan shrugged. "No, that's not the same. You want to know why? Because it was on the fork and in midair, therefore not on the plate, that's why. Think about it."
Oliver laughed at Aidan's slightly odd logic, knowing he'd have made some sort of excuse at some point no matter what. He liked Aidan; he sometimes took things too seriously and he often tried to control the situation he was in - he guessed it was an alpha wolf thing - but he didn't let everything get to him, which made him fun to be around. He only really hung out with Roxanne, only sometimes joining her with James' group, and not many people were comfortable being around a werewolf, but it didn't stop him. Oliver respected Aidan for that, even wished he could follow that example with his secret.
"Plus, you know, they're sleeping together, so he probably thinks he can make Roxanne forget about it," Oliver added, pushing back his secrets and thoughts. Now was not the time. There was never going to be a time. "Now is that really a secret? Because not only do I know that it's true, I also have pictures of you two making out last Halloween. And not with other people."
"Given the situation, I will not put my arm around your shoulders, but you just became my new best friend," James said in awe and grinned; no one talked to Roxanne Weasley like that, not unless they wanted their secrets told to the world the next day. Oliver prayed she didn't know a thing about him. That she liked him enough to leave it wasn't something he liked thinking about, but could live with. James ignored Tucker's protests on the best friend comment. "Can we see these pictures? And by we I mean the school in general, because I don't want to. That would be weird."
"No," he answered, watching Roxanne for a reaction - she was shocked that he'd seen, but not angry that he had or nervous about it being known. And she didn't look like she knew anything about him. Oh, thank God.
"Spoilsport," James pouted, then nudged Oliver lightly to show that he was joking.
"So, Oliver, the pictures you have, that was just you happening to see us while taking pictures of the night?" Roxanne asked casually.
He shrugged. "Yeah. I don't look for specific people and use the pictures against them. That's mean."
"Awesome," she said with a nod. "I was just thinking that if you use those Halloween pictures in your scrapbook, feel free to add it."
They all knew that Roxanne had, in her own way, confirmed her relationship with Aidan. It was more than they thought they were ever going to get.
Their group conversation gradually broke apart, their friends moving away to speak to others, and as Oliver once again began to notice the onlookers gossiping about him and James, he felt the change in the air, the feeling of awkwardness between them closed around them like an uncomfortably thick blanket. From the corner of his eye, he saw James shift and fidget in his seat. Oliver knew it wasn't because of him, they'd been fine during their moments alone, it was because of everyone watching.
Got to fix it.
Oliver scanned the room for anything he could use, knowing he was likely to get in trouble for it, but not caring as long as people got the message. It was a long shot, people liked to talk whether it was true or not, but Oliver was going to try.
"You okay?" James asked cautiously.
He nodded once, sharp and quick, and continued to scan the hall. It was always the busy on a weekend, during the day; breakfast lasted from seven until lunch because everyone got up at different times, then at noon it would change and last until two. Then the hall would empty until dinner around seven. It was nearing two now, people were starting to move; he could see clearly enough.
"Then can I ask you a personal question?"
"Sure," Oliver muttered distractedly.
"What's with the really right t-shirt? Are you trying to impress someone?"
Yes. The sudden thought caused Oliver to pause and look down at his top; Sarah had said that James might notice, and he did, though for different reasons than what she suggested and he wanted. And he hadn't disagreed to wearing the top despite the weak protest. Was he trying to impress James? With what?
"No," he said instead. "Sarah grabbed the first things she could because she didn't want to wait for me and we could sort through the pictures," he half lied. She had picked his clothes for that reason, she'd just been looking for the t-shirt.
He ignored the wink she gave him, an 'I told you so' ready to part with her lips.
"Oh," was all James said and Oliver went back to looking around.
He stopped at the Hufflepuff table, finding a younger student with books all around her, probably finishing some homework, and aimlessly tapping the feather of her quill against the top of the parchment. Oliver got up and walked over, well aware that eyes were on him and James had followed him, keeping a bit of a distance - he was curious, not ready to stop him.
"Hey, kid," Oliver smiled, kneeling on the bench opposite her. He made his smile seem as charming as possible and knew from her blush and the stammered out 'hey' that he'd at least gotten something right. "Can I be annoying and ask for some of your parchment please?"
"S-Sure," she replied, her voice coming out as a whisper.
"And the quill, too?" he asked. She handed it over wordlessly. "Thanks, kid."
"Haley," she blurted out.
Oliver grinned. Obviously, not everyone believed the rumors. "Thank you, Haley."
He settled down at the table and started writing his message. He ignored Haley's stare, answered her few, very random questions and made himself sit still, so that he couldn't turn around and tell James to get lost. As soon as he was done, Oliver handed back the quill, thanked her again and turned the parchment over, so the writing couldn't be seen. He pulled out his wand and cast an enlargement charm, making the parchment grow bigger, checked to make sure the writing was still clear and cast a sticking charm along the edges.
Now for the main event...
Oliver levitated the parchment carefully, turned it around and pointed his wand upwards, then back, so that a large sign was now stuck to the wall above the doors of the Great Hall, in full view of the staff and students of Hogwarts.
Oliver Ford is not shagging James Potter - not now, not ever! Keep spreading these lies and the hospital wing will find themselves out of beds.
Yeah, I'm looking at you, Melanie.
There was a collection of gasps from around the room, more because he'd actually done what he did, he guessed. It was drastic, he knew, but he'd live with the consequences.
"Get the message!" Oliver called out to the room. "I know you all love the drama, so I thought I'd add a bit of my own."
"You've made your point, crazy boy," James said, his eyes on the sign. "Although the exclamation mark after the 'not ever' kind of hurts my feelings a little. At least give us all a little hope," he joked. He sobered quickly when they noticed their Transfiguration teacher coming their away and they knew the consequences were coming. "I'm sorry that this is driving you so crazy that you felt forced to do this."
"Really? I thought it was because I really wanted to stick something to the wall," Oliver grinned sarcastically, but without venom. He was playing, reassuring James that it wasn't his fault.
"Oliver, what an interesting way of having your opinions heard," Professor Burns chuckled. "The art of conversation is well and truly dead to this generation. Now, Headmaster Digby has given me the pleasure of giving you detention. He says defacing school property and threatening students are against the rules."
"In that order?" Oliver asked. "Wow, his priorities are - there are no words."
"Come on, Oliver. I know you're angry and upset that people are talking about you and making it very personal, but even I have to agree with the man; making threats is not okay, even fake ones, because I know you well enough to know you would never."
But she threatened me! Oliver wanted to yell out, but he kept it to himself. He didn't need anyone else interfering. "Yes. I would never act on it, and unfortunately she knows that as well, but she is the one spreading the rumors and that is not okay."
Professor Burns didn't seem phased in the slightest; he nodded. "And I'll deal with that. As for you: since this is your first offense, so to speak, Digby is not revoking your Hogsmeade privileges this time, but you do have detention with me during the week. We can do the extra reading."
"You mean the stuff I asked you for?" Oliver smiled a little.
"Yeah. But now you've got to read them with me; I have basically given myself detention, it's awful!"
"At least you have a student who knows what they're talking about," Oliver shrugged nonchalantly. "Maybe you won't have to repeat it ten times."
"My students are excellent," Burns scoffed. "You just happen to be an exceptionally good one." They ignored James' thank you.
"At least I'm getting Outstandings in something," Oliver muttered once Burns walked away to tell the head he'd given out the detention, pointing at Melanie and gesturing for her to follow him as he did so. She gave him one of her glares before she moved, one he'd seen many times recently, then her eyes moved to the sign and she laughed.
"She's going to make you pay," James told him regretfully.
"She can try, but I have something that she doesn't and it kills her. I will always have the upper hand."
"Oh, yeah? And what's that?"
Oliver looked James up and down, until it seemed as though minutes had passed and he finally understood.
Oliver ended up falling asleep on the common room's couch after spending the night looking through and removing pictures he didn't want other people to see. He knew exactly where he was when he woke, he expected the silence he'd wake to.
He did not expect to see Ryan staring down at him.
"Ah! What the hell, Ryan?" he shouted, jumping up. "What are you even doing in Gryffindor?" he demanded to know from his Slytherin friend.
"Some second year was leaving just as I got here, she let me in," Ryan shrugged, not caring that he'd just scared the crap out of a friend. "I am here because your Hogsmeade privileges haven't been revoked; we're going now, so get ready. You know, I love that as a seventh year, we can go any weekend we want, for as long as we want. I hear that they never used to do that."
"We could do that as sixth years, only it was a ten o'clock curfew rather than a midnight one," Oliver reminded him as he made his way to the stairs.
He washed and dressed quickly, thankful that, despite the couch not being as comfortable as the bed, he'd gotten decent nights sleep and didn't look like hell. He moved his pictures from his bed to the lock box in his trunk, grabbed his camera and put it around his neck and met Ryan downstairs.
"After you," Ryan bowed at the portrait, stepping out after him. "I also came because I wanted to congratulate you on your daring little message to the school; no one is talking about you and James. Well, not in public. Some of the whispers are interesting."
"How so?" Oliver asked, only mildly curious. He was just grateful it had been somewhat successful.
"Some are betting Melanie kills you, some are thinking it's just a ploy from James to make Melanie jealous," Ryan laughed, an 'as if' quickly following. "My favorite, though, is the whisper that you're better for James than her, that you're perfect for each other. I have no idea who started that one, but I like it."
"Great," he muttered, needing to talk to Sarah. No one knew about him, not even the great Roxanne Weasley; the only way people could even contemplate him being gay without the help from media photographs would be if she whispered. Because she'd never hurt him so much that she'd outright tell people.
Oliver hoped it was her, more than he hoped it wasn't. He knew how to stop it if it was, it was just another rumor to add to the mix and no one would know the truth (which was why she'd have done it), but if it wasn't, it would mean another person in school at least suspected something and that wouldn't do.
"That's all I've heard about you," Ryan continued speaking. "None are bad. Oh, and they think the banner was brilliant. Crazy, but brilliant. I think people are still laughing about it. They wish Melanie wasn't joining in, though. She's also got detention, you know? For starting the rumors yesterday. She's with Hernandez, so your paths won't cross."
"Anything else I need to know?" Oliver asked once Ryan had paused for breath.
"Yeah, one more. You're about to find out the biggest reason why people are no longer talking about you and James," he winked.
Ryan pointed to their group, waiting just outside the doors - James and Tucker stood by the castle wall; Sarah was with a Ravenclaw friend Emily; Jacob Wood, Gryffindor's keeper and next in line to be captain after James graduated, was jumping around with the few other teammates who'd whispered about him; Aidan pulled Roxanne closer to kiss her.
"Yep. She kissed him in front of the Great Hall no long after you left, made sure you were no longer talked about. Which you would have known if you'd come for dinner," Ryan said sternly.
"I ate in the kitchens. And I'm obviously not having breakfast," he added. "Is my sign still up?"
"No," Ryan chuckled. "It took a bloody long time, but Digby finally got it off the wall. You used a really strong sticking charm, Ol."
Ryan grabbed his sleeve and pulled him towards the group, calling to everyone that they could go. Sarah linked her arm through Oliver's and handed him a toasted bacon sandwich. He thanked her gratefully and held her back a little, making sure there was a bit of a distance between them and the rest of the group before speaking to her."
"There's a whisper that James and I are 'perfect for each other'. Was that you? Another one of your ways of getting him to notice without outright telling people that I'm gay and like him?"
"I wish," Sarah muttered back. "But I'm not brave enough to do that to you. I mean, I'll give hints to James himself, sure. But to spread it around the school? You'd hate that. So, no, it wasn't me. I heard it this morning."
"Wait, you wanted it to be me?" she asked in shock.
"If it wasn't you, then someone in this school suspects something about me," he whispered. "And that is worse."
"One; no, it isn't. Louis was openly gay, no one cares. You're just weird. Two; this didn't start until after the media photos, so it's probably just someone who thinks you two look good together. You've got to admit, Ollie-Pop, you two look pretty damn cute together in that picture."
Oliver shook his head, knowing rationally that Sarah's reasons made sense, and ignored the cute comment. He didn't want to be cute, he wanted to be... Hell, he had no idea what he wanted to be, but it wasn't cute; cute was what you called a child.
"Are you two coming or not?" Emily yelled at them.
Sarah assured Oliver that everything was fine, grabbed his hand and ran to reach the group. Oliver held onto his camera and prayed his breakfast wouldn't come back up.
They found themselves in the Three Broomsticks after an hour or so of wondering around. They found the biggest table and squeezed around it, Oliver conveniently finding himself between James and Ryan when he was usually near the end with Sarah. He gave her a look before sitting, giving his drink order to Dion Halfpenny, a Chaser on the Gryffindor team.
The conversation quickly turned to Quidditch talk, about the first game of the school year, the Gryffindor team playfully ganging up on Ryan, who was the only Slytherin to regularly hang out with them, more than Aidan, Albus and his friends. Oliver felt like more of an outsider than he usually was, pressing himself back into his seat and keeping quiet; at least when he was sat in the corner with Sarah and Emily, they could have their own conversation.
"Will you be taking pictures for your book, Ol?" Dion asked, pointing at James, Tucker and Ryan. "Since it's the last season for some of us."
"Of course he is," Sarah grinned. "When does Ollie-Pop not take pictures?"
"Ollie-Pop?" James questioned, amused by the name. Oliver put his hand on his chest. "Ollie? Yeah, I got that." Oliver put his finger into his mouth, pressed it to the inside of his cheek and pushed it out, making a popping sound. "Pop. Oh. Okay."
"She saw me do it on my first day; the name stuck," he explained quickly. "It's kind of a habit I have when I'm concentrating, it's very random and I don't realize I'm doing it. Ryan's seen it."
Ryan nodded. "I have. I'm going to stick with Ol, though. And Sleepers. And Sir Snores-A-Lot. Ouch."
He rubbed the spot where Oliver elbowed him, muttering about it not being his fault that Oliver always falls asleep in History. James patted Oliver's arm, looking both amused and apologetic, and promised that he'd stick to normal names.
Oliver wondered how long it would take before the place where James touched him would stop tingling.
A/N: New chapter for y'all. And I have a writing plan, which I hope to stick to, so updates should become more frequent. :)
I hope you enjoyed this chapter. Please let me know what you think. :D
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