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The Art of Small Talk by patronus_charm
Chapter 4 : An Interlude of Fame
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 7


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Chapter Four - An Interlude of Fame

I am lying in an unknown bed with a body breathing next to me. Well, it’s a good sign its breathing because hanging out with a corpse wouldn’t be that much fun, but it’s still a body, and I know this isn’t my bed. The sheets are crisp and clean, the linen is white and shows no traces of orange fur, and the fact that there are no remnants of food found in here is a big give away it belongs to someone else.

But who is the someone else?

I turn gently, trying not to wake the body, and a little more is let into my line of sight. The man has a bare chest (shit, what did I do? But the what is still less important than the who I did it to), and I can see his rib cage rise and fall every few seconds or so. It’s a very well defined chest, I have to say. I glance upwards cautiously and note his sandy coloured is neither straight nor curly, something in-between.

Ok I’m sure his hair colour will prove to be vital detail once I actually manage to figure how I ended up here with whatever his name is. I left the Prophet party thing with Oliver Wood, and after that I can’t make much from my memories. I remember drinking, and drinking a lot like I usually do. Then dancing, perhaps some mild flirting mingled in there, but nothing much else.

‘Ah,’ I cry out, jumping up because the person is Oliver Wood. Oliver Wood! Did I sleep with him? I mean, what other explanation can justify him being shirtless and me being in his bed. Glancing down at me, I am glad to see that I’m still wearing my dress robes. Though, it doesn’t mean much, it gives me a small smidgen of hope that nothing between us actually occurred. Fuck. I may have slept with an internationally renowned Quidditch star. What is happening to my life?

Oh Merlin, he’s stirring. I can see his eyelids begin to flutter and his head lifts slightly before sinking down again. What do I do? I can still run for it and not have to deal with it. If he drank as much as me last night then there is the hope that he doesn’t remember a thing and all will be safe. I like that idea a lot.

‘Morning Audrey,’ he murmurs cheerily. ‘Why are you staring at me?’

Oh dear, he remembers last night. He greeted me like nothing happened but he remembers. Plus, why am I staring at him? I thought I was meant to be inconspicuous.

‘Er, hi Oliver.’ My voice is so quiet that I’m surprised he can make out what I’m trying to say.

We sit there in silence, the unsaid weighing us down. Well, it’s weighing me down. Do I ask him? Do I want to know whether I slept with him or not? I don’t think I do, because if it’s a yes I am definitely swearing off alcohol for real this time because it opens me up a little too much for my liking.

‘Nothing happened last night,’ Oliver suddenly announces almost startling me. ‘If that’s what’s bothering you, as you’re oddly quiet compared to before.’

Relief sweeps over me. I do have some sort of control when consuming too much fire whiskey, hooray for that! Though I do have to appear not too happy about that or he might get offended or something.

‘No, I’m just not really a morning person. I need some coffee in me before anything can happen.’

The ominous sound of ticking appears again as we fall silent. I glance at my watch and want to cry when I see the time– eight o’clock. Eight o’clock on a Wednesday morning (why people insist on having parties on weekdays is beyond me). Eight thirty is when work starts.

I leap out of the bed causing Oliver to jump back. ‘I, er, have to go. Work. Nice to meet you,’ I yell as I attempt to scurry towards the door but as I kicked the duvet off in my leap I have to detangle myself from that first (note, must plan getaway routes beforehand).

‘It’s not just an excuse to get away from me, is it?’

Ooh, I didn’t have him down as someone mildly insecure.

‘No, not at all. I just need to get there because if I’m not there in thirty minutes, I’ll be forced to talk to my boss who is possibly the most irritating person around.’

I turn to him, as I brush my fingers through my hair (a terrible attempt at detangling as I know hair will be destined for beehive look all day), and see Oliver sitting there grinning at me as if the idea of work is an incomprehensible one.

‘Yes, yes, it’s alright for you as professional Quidditch player but I have to venture into the real world.’

‘I know, my life’s tough,’ Oliver sighs. ‘Have lunch with me. I’ll pick you up at the reception at St. Mungo’s and take you somewhere.’

What? Did he just say that? Is my life possibly on an upward trajectory after wallowing in a pit of metaphorical mud for so many years? Am I dreaming?

‘Er, sure, that would be great.’ (Cue deep breathing to calm explosive like party going on in my head.)

‘Good. See you later Audrey.’

I shuffle out of the door still basked in confusion. What in the name of Merlin’s saggy pants is happening to my life? And how can I squeeze in an emergency meeting with Jemima so to prep myself for this lunch which no doubt carries a lot of expectations?

*

Draco’s already sitting in my room (I have given up on naming it and simply opted for my room), eyes firmly fixed upon the ground as I walk in. Even if he does have these odd spouts of moodiness (current theory is that he’s secretly a woman and on his period) at least he knows to walk straight in now rather than wait outside as if he were still at Hogwarts.

‘What’s up with you? Got out of the wrong side of bed this morning?’ I ask, attempting to lighten the sober mood.

He lets out a small grunt something about Eileen, more forms, more questions, so I take a seat in my chair before speaking again. This is going to be a long task.

‘Yeah, yeah, a mixture of grunts and moans is really understandable, Draco.’ Another grunt shows recognition of this statement. ‘We all go through crap but blurting it out often helps me, as does a big bar of chocolate, mind, but as I don’t have that on me you’re going to have to go for the blurting out approach instead.’

The silence remains, forcing itself into every nook and cranny of the room so much that it almost begins to feel as if it’s suffocating all of us within it. I begin to drum my fingers along the desk, a tap, tap, tap. Perhaps the annoyance of this will force him into submission. Tap, tap, rat, a, tat.

‘Stop the tapping,’ he murmurs. Yes, a sign of life, and my ploy worked!

‘Once you begin spilling out why you looked as if someone slapped you round the face with a soggy fish.’ He looks at me weirdly. ‘It’s a Muggle saying. Rather a good one now I think about it. Anyhow, no offence to you, but I don’t know anyone who would really be interested in your problems so they’ll be safe with me.’

‘They’re threatening to kick me off the Potioneering cause,’ he finally stumbles out.

(Cue calm composure for the second time of the day when all I want to do is break out in panic on behalf of him.)

‘What? Why? You haven’t failed a test or something like that, have you?’

‘No. nothing like that. It’s because of what I was or still am in their eyes. The bloody mark follows me wherever I go, reminding of that bloody mistake every day, never allowing me to move on. Now it comes and tries to ruin everything yet again.’

‘Do they have any reason or evidence for trying to kick you off?’

‘No. It’s just someone in the Ministry kicking up a fuss about me being here. They’re saying how you can trust former Death Eaters in positions like this. That they could do anything.’

I suppose that person did have some sort of point, but they hadn’t see Draco. He wouldn’t hurt a fly. Ok, I lie, he did kill one once as it was annoying me and I was too much of a wuss to do it myself but you get the picture.

‘Can I do anything? I can show that you’ve changed, and that you’re not like that!’

‘No. Nothing will help.’ Draco pauses, before pulling up the sleeve of his robe to reveal a mark, the mark. A shiver creeps up my spine as I see it. The black ink coils up his arm, still so clear despite the original outline being a faded one. ‘As long as I have this thing imprinted upon me nothing will ever change. It will never go though, so this former part of my life is a permanent one.’

Right. I will not allow this to happen. Something must be done. I have no idea what but something will happen. I mean, how do I help a former Death Eater reintegrate himself into a society which is so firmly opposed to him and remove a mark which has been ingrained into his skin by the darkest wizard around?

Aha. I have the answer. By being a Hufflepuff, that’s how. The Sorting Hat always spouted stuff out like us not being afraid of toil and hard-work so I’ll make it proud of me by sorting out Draco’s life. Though I doubt a load of old brown material really cares what I do even if it can speak.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll try and help you sort it out.’

He gives me a small nod back, eyes still firmly on the floor. ‘It’s just hard not to worry when people keep on telling you to rot in Azkaban like the scum that I used to know.’

‘I’m sure not everyone says that.’

‘It feels like it. Aside from my mother and father, you’re about the only person who really talks to me.’

Oh dear, perhaps sorting out his life is going to be harder than I anticipated it to be, but I will carry on no matter what. Only talking to three people for your whole life is no way to live.

*

I stroll out of the Potions area of St. Mungo’s and into the main section of the hospital, making my way towards the ground floor where Oliver is meant to be meeting me. I love how I can just casually say Oliver’s going to be meeting me there. Who on earth ever thought that would be possible for someone like me? Oliver, Oliver, Oliver. Saying his name is surprisingly addictive. Though thank god I’m saying it my head so to avoid accusations of instable mental health.

As I approach the Welcome Witch desk, I can see that Oliver’s swarmed by people all clamouring to get his autograph or have their photo taken with him, and I can’t help but grin broadly. I would have been one of those people once but now I get to be with him and go out to lunch with him. It’s all so exciting.

‘Hi Oliver.’

My greeting him causes the crowd to give a little gasp and whispers spill out everywhere, the majority seem to be hinting at whether we’re dating or not. Yes, that’s right people, I am also wondering whether we’re dating or not.

‘Hi Audrey. Shall we be off?’

‘Yes, I’m starving.’

‘Good. I am too.’

With that, he grabs onto my arm and we apparate away. We’ve even made sure that our appetites are in synch, how wonderful.

*

We're sitting in some fancy restaurant in Diagon Alley, and Harry bloody Potter and his wife (Ginny, I think?) are hovering beside us talking to Oliver. What is happening? I can’t talk to them. What do I say? Thanks for saving our lives from an evil tyrant I really appreciate it. Lol. He’ll just laugh at me and think I’m crazy.

‘Ginny’s all raring for the match against you next Saturday. She reckons the Holyhead Harpies will thrash Puddlemere,’ Harry announces and Ginny (yes, name was correct) grins at him.

‘Harry, don’t say it like that. All I thought was that our chances of winning were very high, that’s all.’

Ginny gives him a light push into the side of his body before giving me a conspiratorial wink. What the bloody Merlin? What is happening to my life? Ok, I should have gotten used to it now and be as cool as a cucumber but I just want to have a major freak out and perhaps run around screaming. Lol (must stop saying it but so fitting), I really am immature at times.

Oliver smirks at her. ‘We’ll wait until we’re playing for that, Ginny. You should see some of our newest training strategies, they are reaping excellent results.’

The pair of them burst into a small argument about who will beat who which means I zone out.

‘Are you into Quidditch, Audrey?’ I hear Harry ask me from somewhere outside of my thoughts. Crap. Must speak about a subject I know very little about whilst surrounded by three massive fans.

‘A bit, like most people really. My dad was never really into it, and then my granny is a massive Muggle nut and made me more into Muggle sport such as football, so I don’t know too much about it.’

It’s rather strange to think of Granny Lucy liking football now, because she refuses to go to a pitch now for fear of breaking a nail (apparently they’re very fragile for elderly people).

‘I’ll have to show you how amazing the game is then,’ Oliver replies, briefly placing his hand on top of mine. Cue even more failing.

‘Well, if you ran into my father he would say the opposite,’ Ginny laughs. ‘He seems to think that Muggle sports are the best, and if I told him about you he would be charging over to your house right now and demanding that you to teach him the game.’

Wait a second. That sounds familiar. I glance up at Ginny and note her flaming red hair. So much like George and Percy Weasley’s, who also have a Muggle mad father and are from a big family. I can feel my brain ache from making connections. Crap. I am talking to Percy Weasley’s sister. And I thought I was meant to be distancing myself from him.

‘I can teach it to him if he wants, it’s not too hard to grasp.’

There goes my mouth, leaping ahead without thought.

‘I’ll let him know. We’d best be back to our table because I think our food has arrived. It was nice to meet you Audrey.’

‘And you.’

Harry smiles at me before following his wife back towards their table, crisscrossing across other pairs of dinners. I take this time to look around the restaurant; it’s the usual expensive affair. Far too many pieces of cutlery than what is necessary, bouquets of orchids on each table, a tablecloth so white I fear what will happen if I drop food onto it and then the candles which are floating around on their own accord creating a massive fire hazard. I really am romantic in these situations.

‘Do you miss playing on the Gryffindor team, Oliver?’ I ask, attempting something normal for once.

I always forget I know him from school, but then he is a year older, the same as Percy (should stop thinking about him), and in Gryffindor so that’s probably why.

‘Of course! That was one of the best teams I ever played, and I was captain of it too. I do like my team now, but it will never be the same as that one. We all still keep in touch though so it’s not so bad.’

‘Yes, I was never so sporty myself.’

The waiter comes along to take away our empty desert plates (Crème Brule, it was very good) and subtly places the bill beside Oliver. Oh dear, here goes my monthly wages now that I have to pay for this.

‘How much do you want me to pay?’

Oliver looks down at the bill and then smiles. ‘None of course, this was from me.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Well, if I made you pay for our first date, it wouldn’t be a good one, would it?’

What? Did he just call it a date? As in our first date? I think I might cry. Whether the tears will be of shock or happiness I don’t know but I will cry. Obviously not here because then he’ll take the whole date thing back, but at some time.

‘No, I guess it wouldn’t.’

Oliver slips several fat Galleons into the case holding the bill before standing up. I mimic him and begin to pull on my cloak; the weather seems to be only turning colder as it turns into February rather than warmer.

He wanders over to the table, smiling at me. Do not freak out Audrey, I repeat do not freak out.

‘I really enjoyed today,’ he murmurs to me.

‘Me too, it was fun.’

See, I can be as cool as a cucumber. Also, I need to come up with new sayings because that just made me cringe.

‘Perhaps we can see each other again soon?’

‘Definitely.’

The deal is sealed with him taking hold of my hand as we walk out. I’m becoming a pro at this dating thing.

*

A few days have passed since that date but unfortunately my interlude of fame was a very brief one, and it’s normalcy for me again.

I promptly step out of the black fireplace, escaping the green flames of the Floo Network (I feel so privileged being able to apparate straight into here, but as I visit Dad so often here he got some special pass so I can). I’m meant to be meeting Dad in his office (he’s an Obliviator) for lunch, so I begin to plod along the shiny, dark floor wishing that sock surfing is allowed here because it would be a prime spot given the length of these corridors.

Looking down at the floor, I note that my shoes aren’t in the best condition, scuffed at the end, mud splattered too. I really need to get round to cleaning them. My eyes sway towards other shoes plodding along beside me, and I’m relieved to note that most of the other ones aren’t in a good state either.

Well, most of them apart from the brown leather brogue styles which have stopped promptly in front of me, blocking my path. I glance up and when I note who the person is, it makes me want to run in the opposite direction far from him.

‘What do you want, Weasley?’

Percy’s face screws up a little when I speak. ‘No need for that manner, Tinley. I merely sought to give you a warning.’

‘A warning? What on earth could you possibly need to warn me about? To stay away from you? Because I already do that, given how you’ve never treated me with any pleasantries.’

He gives a small cough at that point. ‘I agree that my conduct with you has never been the best, but when there is a problem it is not only one person’s fault. You may want to look at your own faults before criticising me.’

I’m about to retort something (no idea what, but it would have been awesome), when Percy cuts me off.

‘Wood isn’t all that he seems. While he may appear charming and nice, I would watch out if I were you.’

‘And that’s coming from you?’

‘You don’t need to take my advice, as you may do as you choose, but perhaps remembering it might be advisable. That’s all I have to say on this matter. Good day.’

With a curt nod, Percy turns himself and his stupidly clean shoes away from me before heading towards the lifts a little way down the corridor. I refuse listen to his advice, because clearly, he’s not a good judge of character if he doesn’t want to be friends with me.

*

‘Hi Dad,’ I greet my father who’s still leaning over his desk, insisting on working every second that he’s here.

‘Hello daughter,’ he replies, pushing his paper away and smiling at me. ‘Are you sure those rumours about you and Percy aren’t true? I overheard him talking about how he was at some Prophet party with you.’

Why has my life suddenly turned into an open discussion about who I am and am not dating? First of all, since when did I ever have a love life? The luckiest I tend to be is perhaps a kiss for the New Year countdown and nothing much else. Now, I feel as if the Daily Owl will be knocking on my doorstep any minute wanting to know everything about my life.

‘No, they aren’t. I don’t have any inclination to date Percy and if he carries on in the way that he’s behaving, I will never have any inclination to do so.’

‘It’s your life, Audrey, don’t worry about dating him if you don’t want to,’ Dad chuckles. ‘I just thought that you two would get along given how he’s a major part of Hermione Granger’s House Elf reforms. Then his father Arthur, rather nice fellow you know, is a massive Muggle fan like you.’

‘Yes, but that doesn’t mean I want to date Hermione Granger because she instigated all of these reforms even if I do think they are a marvellous idea. Besides, Granny’s the big Muggle fan, I just go along with it all to make her happy.’

‘You’re so stubborn at times, Audrey,’ Dad jokes. He really needs to stop trying to be funny at my expense I have to say. ‘Like your mother. Once she decided to do something she never let anyone stop her.’

I flinch at the reference to her. We barely ever talk about her, for the better I say. Mother’s aren’t meant to go and walk out one day with no care in the world for who they leave behind and not saying where on earth they were going. I don’t want to be associated with her, because next thing you know I’ll be turning into her. That would be a horrible event.

‘Let’s not talk about her, Dad.’

‘Yes, you and Granny have a habit of not wanting to,’ he grumbles but gives a small nod to show his agreement. ‘How are things going in your potioneering then? Any interesting discoveries?’

‘No, nothing much of interest really. I have a trainee at the moment, but that’s about it.’

Delving into Draco’s past and what he did will only lead to trouble. Though as purebloods, we were never really affected by what the Death Eaters, but it didn’t stop us being against You-Know-Who and all he stood for, so just saying the word Death Eater would set Dad off and demand that I got a different intern straight away.

‘It’s a slow time, February.’

‘Yes, I guess it must be.’

We fall into silence after that, something I’m grateful for. Everything I seem to be sure of has now faded away. Am I doing the right thing with Draco? Should I be seeing Oliver? Is Percy the one for me? No, scratch the last one it will never happen. But still, I am confused.
Author's Note: Yay for a new chapter! I hope you all enjoyed it and the developments of her and Wood. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten that this is an Audrey/Percy but you just have to wait and see, that's all :P Also, what did you think of the CI I'm trying to make more graphics so here's an attempt at it!

Thanks for reading and if you want to be amazing, please leave your thoughts on this chapter! ♥


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