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The Art of Small Talk by patronus_charm
Chapter 3 : An Exit with Oliver
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 14

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Chapter 3 - An Exit with Oliver

‘Audrey? You have a visitor.’

‘Who is it? Are they hurt? Do they need a potion? Are they dying?’ I accost Mary, the assistant to the Potions department. I am most definitely following Granny Lucy into the worrying front.

‘No, no, they simply have a message they want to tell you. Nothing more.’

I breathe a sigh of relief. Last time that happened it was Verity’s cat who had accidently swallowed some poison. I ended up having to consult various people on whether human potions were usable on animals while having her running around screaming Mandarin down my ear as she said some charm which apparently saves cats lives. Having met her mother though and seen what a tiger mum she can be at times, I suppose that was nothing in comparison.

‘Where is the visitor?’

‘She’s waiting for you in the lounge area, Audrey.’

Mary gives a little bob of her head before walking out of my room thing (still needs a name – urgently). I guess I should go and see what this ruckus is all about. Luckily, it’s some theoretical day for Draco so he’s at the school learning stuff, so I don’t have to worry about supervising him. Last time I walked out and left him on his own the potion boiled for too long and ended up exploding everywhere.

I trundle out of the room and down the Potions corridor, listening to the often explicit cries and shouts of my fellow potioneers, as their experiments are probably going wrong or something. And people dare to call potion work boring. They obviously haven’t visited here yet.

‘Hi Audrey,’ James greets me in the corridor, causing my insides to melt down into a pile of pink goo or something like that. Even if I have sworn off dating (apparently, still not sure on this idea because being confronted by Greek God like man causes my mind to change dramatically) if Verity tries to set me up with jaw-dropping James I won't say no.

‘Hi James.’ I give him a small nod as I pass him, walking by with inner poise and calm. Yes! I managed to look like someone who has a purpose and isn’t dying inside due to someone’s grey sparkling eyes. It’s safe to say that if James turns out to be gay, though the women will be disappointed some of the men will be very happy about it, given the way I hear them gossiping about him.

Don’t look back now Audrey. Don’t do it. Damn, I can feel my head already turning despite the internal voices yelling at me about how stupid I am. James has been watching me (he isn’t just looking in my direction) and gives me a small wink when I turn back. Mm, maybe us two can work out. Audrey Pewter-Tinley. Mrs Audrey Pewter-Tinley. It’s a bit of mouthful so maybe I won’t adopt his name. I can never get rid of Tinley; after all, it would be as if I lost some of my identity in doing so.

I smirk at him (Draco does it a lot, it’s rubbing off on me) before turning towards the chipped brown door with ‘Staff Room’ marked above, its sign being lopsided and dangling precariously. Pushing open the door, I am greeted by Jemima sprawled along the sofa, as if she’s starring in some photo shoot. With the way she’s dressed in what looks like couture robes, heels and inches of make-up on at ten in the bloody morning, I won’t be surprised if she thinks she is in one.

‘Who was that divine fellow I saw you just speaking with?’ Jemima drawls out. I see she’s opting for the whole sprawling model look today then. ‘I wouldn’t mind a bit of him.’

‘You wouldn’t mind a bit of anyone,’ I retort. ‘His name's James Pewter if you want to know, but he’s never been seen with anyone so don’t get your hopes up.’

‘Well, if you’re going to talk to me in that manner, Audrey, I shan’t invite you to the Daily Prophet party I’m attending this evening. We’re allowed to bring a plus one, and as Verity's already invited I thought it would be nice if you came too.’

There they were with their high flying jobs, one as the global manager of Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes and special advisor in the feminine products line, and then Jemima as the sometimes reporter for the Prophet. Well, I guess pretending to be someone high flying for a night could be fun. That's if I don't do something embarrassing like sneeze in front of the Minister of Magic.

‘Fine. I’ll come. But how did you manage to get into the Potions Department? They usually never allow anyone in unless they have their work card on them.’

‘Oh, you know, the usual tricks.’

Jemima throws her hair back and winks at me. It’s sort of disturbing having your best friend give you a come hither look. She then follows it up by arching her back before sitting up.

‘Well, I have people to see, things to do. I’ll see you at the headquarters tonight. It’s only a small do so it shouldn’t be hard to find me.’

She gives me one final wink before leaving. I sincerely hope she’s not the sprawling model again tonight. It's far too much to deal with.


The process of getting ready is far more complicated than people anticipate it to be.

Step one commences at five o’clock when I arrive at home.

This involves solving my basic needs such as eating (Granny sent me a massive box of Pumpkin Pasties this morning), going to the toilet (all those cups of tea have to disappear somehow) and flopping down on the sofa while my cat Athena rolls around trying to get my attention while I’m dozing off for a couple of minutes.

Step two unfortunately begins about twenty minutes after that.

This involves trying to remove the bright orange hairs Athena left all over my robes before throwing them into the laundry basket, leaving it for another day.

I then proceed to my bedroom (no need for a detailed description, just imagine my office but replaces the files, books and potions ingredients with make-up, clothes and random clutter and it’s pretty accurate), kick a pile of dirty laundry out of the way and stand in front of my mirror musing for about twenty minutes about everything which is wrong with me (a spot erupting on my nose, hair which refuses to do anything interesting, orange fur covering me) before flopping onto my bed and attempting to sleep.

Step three happens when Jemima’s owl begins tapping wildly at my window.

I pull up my blinds (I’m not a vampire, I just like the dark), and lift open the window encountering the first bit of fresh air in a long time. Her tawny owl promptly flies onto my window sill and begins tapping again. Responding to its call, I rip the letter off its leg, and it immediately flies off again.

Reading the letter, it’s the usual blabber about what am I wearing, what she’s wearing, what Verity’s wearing, who will be there, who won’t be there, then it ends promptly telling me to hurry up with getting ready as she knows I’m probably just standing around. The loud ticking of my watch acts as an ominous reminder of all the other times I’ve turned up late, and seeing that it’s six thirty now (where does time go?) I decide to begin step four.

Step four = attempt at getting ready.

Hurrying away from my mirror, I traipse around my bed, the only object in the room which doesn’t contain any clutter, and head towards my wardrobe. Sliding the door away, I’m greeted by the odd t-shirt half hanging up, and the rest of it either on the floor of my wardrobe or somewhere around my flat. Nothing unusual there.

Delving into the pile of clothes beneath me (it’s like digging in the hope of finding Australia), I pull out three possible sets of dress robes for tonight. The first being the purple pair I wore the other night, and as they are clean they are possible candidate though Jemima will have a fit if she finds out that I’m wearing something I wore a mere week ago.

Then there’s a dark blue pair which do make me look reasonably nice and they’re clean but they're also a size too small (I bought it in the hope of losing weight which sadly has never occurred) so unless I want to feel as if all of my insides are being sucked out, and I’ll faint all evening they’re probably not going to be worn.

The final pair, a burgundy coloured thing with the odd bit of trimming and fancy stitching, is probably going to the one. They’re reasonably posh for this do, and though they reveal a bit too much at times (seeing my sickly white legs in January is not nice), they’ll have to do. Plus, if Athena comes along again, her fur will sort of blend in with them.

Pulling them over my head, I do a twirl in the mirror and note that everything is fine. For once, nothing has appeared to have gone wrong, perhaps tonight is my night.

Step five is putting on make-up, meaning pretending that you’re good at art when you know that you fail miserably at it all.

A fine layer of foundation is applied, as is mascara, lipstick and all that jazz. Boring stuff really but unless I want to look like a washed out banshee it is rather necessary. Or perhaps I should just do some experimenting and see if I can come up with a potion which gives me the appearance of a super model right away. That would be nice.

Step five is closely followed by step six – dealing with the mass of brown which likes to reside upon my head.

Brushing reveals that birds must be inhabiting my head right now, because yanking it through causes me to steal some of Verity’s insults in Chinese while clumps of hair begin to fall onto the floor. I somehow manage to do something with it. It doesn’t look nice, but something is anything and I’ll take that as it’s usually nothing.

Step seven – falling asleep. Again.

Flopping onto my bed, I manage to doze off for about an hour without interruption. Don’t ask why I need to sleep so much, I have no idea. I did spend a lot of last night playing Potion Hangman which is a highly addictive game (it’s not nerdy), so that might be why. Oh well, I managed to win five games so it was worth it.

Step eight – waking up. Again.

Athena wakes me up again, yowling away like three month old baby (she’s four years old now). Checking my watch, I let out a small scream as the hands show it’s eight o’clock. The time I’m meant to be there.

Step nine – total chaos.

This is followed by a mixture of me feeding Athena, trying to find shoes to wear, removing cat hair, and then running out of my flat and to the alleyway (I really need to get rid of the anti-apparition charm – it’s too inconvenient) finally making it there, with sweat pouring down me and a set of lungs on the verge of collapsing. See what I mean about it being complicated?


When I enter the Daily Prophet headquarters, I can make out several groups of people. I’m now faced with the obviously vital decision of which group do I want to join.

There’s the typical group of networkers, holding five minute conversation with one another before swiftly moving onto the next person they can gleam information from. I can see Verity popping up among them, dressed to impress like the rest of them in their power heels, smart black robes and hair pulled back, ready to work. As a large amount of small talking is going on there, it doesn’t seem particularly appealing to me, because that just results in excessive hand sweating and shaking from me.

Then there are the ones who have come for the freebies. Whether it’s free drink, food or those horrible free quills I see dotted around on each table, these people go after them, hoovering whatever comes into their path and it’s then surreptitiously slipped into the pockets of their robes.

These are followed by the awkward people hovering in the background, not brave enough to steal, small talk or do pretty much anything other than hover. Even if I am wimp when it comes to a lot of things I think I can muster enough courage not to go and join those lot in their hovering as it doesn’t look all that appealing to me.

Then finally the group where I can hear Jemima crying loudly from. The people who are here to have fun, drink, meet people, and just generally go against the purpose of networking here. Given that it seems the most tolerable group for the next three to four hours I’ll spend it there.

I wade through the crowds of people, trying to get to Jemima who can be spotted by her sparkly red dress robes (she can never have a down day when it comes to clothes). She's holding a glass of Elfin Wine in one hand and the other's being waved around dramatically.

‘Audrey, do come over!’ she says, noting my appearance. ‘You have to meet these charming fellows around me.’

I scan the people (well, men really, I’m the only other woman in the vicinity), and I’m not surprised in the slightest when she begins to point out recognisable people.

‘Here is Lee Jordan, you do know Lee? He commentates for the Premier Quidditch League and World Cup. Then there’s Oliver Wood another famous Quidditch star, keeper for Puddlemere United, you know. Then Augustus Spratt, head of Gringotts foreign investments sector. George, of course you know, so need for an introduction, and then Percy Weasley, George’s brother. He’s very high up in the Ministry, he works with Hermione Granger. Very influential.’

Jemima gives Percy a small knowing nod and then winks at me. Here they go again with trying to pair me up with Percy. It is not happening, ok. Then there’s the fact that I have yet to speak or see him since those pictures alleging that we’re dating emerged. Crap. I don't want to have to discuss them with him. They can just be forgotten and hidden in the depths of time. That idea does sound very appealing to me.

Now, Percy is staring at me. Well, all of them are really given that I’m the newcomer to the group and have just been introduced to everyone, but he’s really staring and not in a nice way either. It can be likened to a glare if you want because that’s what it feels like to me.

Right. I will be brave. I will do my fellow Hufflepuffs proud (random moment of house pride is mildly confusing, but oh well) and I will talk to someone I have never spoken to before. Right. Here I go.

‘Hello Oliver, I’ve never spoken to a professional Quidditch player before.’

Oliver chuckles and grins at me.

‘I’m glad that I can be the first to covey that honour to you. What do you do?’

‘I’m a Potioneer at St. Mungo’s.’

‘Now, that is cool!’ he replies enthusiastically. ‘I was terrible at Potions, I only just scrapped an A in my O.W.L. so that's really impressive.’

‘Yes, but Wood, most things are impressive for you,’ Percy drawls out, eyes locked on Wood’s forehead. A strange place to be locked on now that I think about it, because there really isn’t much of interest on a person’s forehead unless Percy’s planning on beating it up or something.

‘Come on, Percy,’ Oliver says jovially, bashing into his arm a little. ‘No need to be grumpy. You need to lighten up a bit.’

Percy mumbles something to himself and promptly walks off. The rest of us stand here in silence until Jemima finally pipes up.

‘Well, he was proving to be a bit of a downer with his talk about the Ministry and trying to improve the equality of the workers in it and house elf rights and whatnot. It’s not too much of a shame he’s gone if I’m honest.’

What? Percy Weasley tries to improve other people’s lives and make equality happen? I never thought I would hear that about him. He seems like a conservative to me, stuck in his ways and wanting to be grumpy to everyone.

‘Yes, Percy does get passionate about things rather easily,’ George chuckles. ‘He can be a laugh at times, especially when he grasps what a joke is, but as that’s a rare occasion we just have to put up with that version of Percy for now.’

‘Well, I think it’s time for more drinks!’ Oliver announces cheerily. ‘Audrey, would you care to help me get them?’

‘Of course.’

I can feel my cheeks blush scarlet (a big downer of having pale skin), as I follow him through the crowds of people. Obviously this has nothing to do with the topless shoot he did in Witch Weekly last week, and nothing to do with the fact that Verity and I spent several minutes just staring at it in awe. Nothing to do with it at all.

A crowd has gathered around the bar, causing us to lean in next to one another to be able to reach it, arms are now touching and I can feel the heat seeping off of him. It’s not every day that I get to be so up close and personal with an international Quidditch star. I look up at him (he’s insanely tall, probably averaging in at 1.80m), and he smiles down at me. I think I may die of excitement.

‘I’m glad that I could meet you, Audrey,’ he says, my heart beat rapidly increases. ‘Jemima was just talking about you and saying what a really wonderful person you were and kept on raving about what a successful woman you were, I had to meet you myself.’

I snort, earning a slightly weird look from Oliver. What on earth has she been saying? Usually she talks about how I refuse to learn how to dress properly or how I am insistent potion making is cool and not nerdy. Not exactly great selling points I can tell you that. She was probably just doing it for Percy, given that Verity got her on board on the scheme as well.

‘Really? All good things I hope.’

Thank Merlin I got Draco as an intern because I get to put my smirking into action here.

‘Of course, then a certain something about you seeing Percy. I didn’t have Percy pegged as your type of boyfriend, he seems a little boring if I’m honest.’

‘Er.’ It makes its first appearance. ‘He’s not my boyfriend, I’ve only ever really met him once, not the most pleasant person around. He was rather short with me actually so I don’t intend to see much of him again. That thing in the Daily Owl is complete and utter rubbish!’

Phew, I hope that worked. I don’t want Oliver to go around thinking that I’m not single. You never know what could happen between us, so no need to lower the chances of anything happening already.

Oliver laughs, leaning in towards me. Mmm, he smells nice.

‘Tell me about it! The amount of times it states that I’m a prospective father or that I have a new girlfriend is ridiculous, they just jump onto anything that they think will make them a story. It’s rather sickening actually.’


The barman brings over our drinks, and Oliver thanks him. No, don’t let out little moment be ruined. It was all going so well, I hadn’t said anything too stupid, and I am having conversation with a famous Quidditch player who thinks I'm wonderful.

‘You don’t fancy heading off somewhere else, Audrey? This party’s a little dull, but I know a great bar near here, and it would be nice to talk some more.’

What? He did not just ask me that. Well, he must have as he’s standing there waiting for a reply, but gah, Oliver bloody Wood wants to head off somewhere else with me.

‘Er, sure, I would love to.’

I think something just died inside of me. I’m going somewhere with him. Cue squealing on an insane level and failing on the floor. Ok, don’t cue that as it would ruin the moment but if I could run around like a mad girl I would.

‘Great.’ He smiles at me. AT ME! ‘Let’s go.’

I feel his arm slink around my back, touching lightly against my arm causing little jitters to circulate around my body. Gah, I can’t think. This is just, just, insane.
Author's Note: Hello everyone! I hope you all had a great Christmas and Happy New Year to all you too! There was a bit more plot development in this chapter, so what did you think of Oliver and the brief cameo from Percy? Any other thoughts are very much welcome as I love to hear what you think! Thank you for reading! ♥

Perfect CI by lady.luck at TDA!

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