Clever Mischief, Chapter 20: Gossip CentralDate: Monday, October 3, 2005Location: Three BroomsticksCharacter: Oliver, Madam Rosmerta, George, FredRating: Any AgeThe nip in the air suggested that winter was on its way, but Oliver Wood didn't mind. After all, winter was what separated the worms from the wizards, the students who could handle themselves on a broom all right from the real Quidditch players who could continue on through a blizzard. He smiled fondly as he remembered the Gryffindor team he'd captained while at school, perhaps the tightest group he'd ever been with. Maybe after he saw Penny today, he'd swing by to visit the Weasley twins. They didn't see nearly enough of those lads, which was disgraceful considering how close they lived now.But for now his mind drifted onto other matters, such as the lovely young woman awaiting him at the Three Broomsticks for a clandestine breakfast. It had surprised the world when he and Penelope Clearwater had become engaged, but Oliver couldn't imagine anyone else he would rather be with. Penny was sweet and wickedly intelligent, and she knew how to keep him in line. Oliver needed that. Their rendezvous this past weekend had been cancelled because she'd had a departmental meeting she couldn't get out of, and he was itching to see her. Strictly speaking, walking off Hogwarts grounds on a sunny Monday morning was enough to have him dragged before McGonagall and reprimanded most severely, and that added to the fun of it. A tryst was so much better when it had to be kept secret. Besides, it was good to get away to Hogsmeade when none of his colleagues or students would be loitering about.Pushing open the pub door, Oliver inhaled the always welcoming scent of ale and cedar. Madam Rosmerta swished up to him almost immediately, dropping a hand onto his shoulder."Rosie," he said with a grin, taking her hand and pressing a quick kiss against her knuckles."Fancy seeing a nice bloke like you in a place like this," she teased, her eyes sparkling mischievously."Do you never stop working, woman?" Oliver asked, taking in the rest of the room to see if Penny had arrived yet. He didn't see any sign of her, but he did see one particular redhead he'd just been ruminating about. Whichever twin it was, he didn't notice Oliver. He was too intent on his porridge."Some customers are more pleasurable to serve than others," she said with a lascivious smile."Ease up, dear lady, I’m meeting my fiancée today!""Pity," she said with a pout that was ended by a wink. "Haven't seen her in here yet. Can I get you anything while you wait?"Oliver considered. What he most wanted before Penny arrived wasn't at all liquid. "Just the latest dirt, lovie. You always have the best gossip. And I suppose it's too early for a pint?""Too early by half," she said, summoning a foaming stein over anyway. They leaned against the bar. "Any so-called dirt in particular you're interested in?"Oliver gulped some of the brew down, wiping the foam away with his sleeve. "There's one bit of something...""Is there, now? What'll you give me if I tell you?" She was clearly enjoying herself, and Oliver had to laugh."The password to Flitwick's private chambers?""Out," Rosie laughed, pointing at the door."Fine, fine, how about Kingsley Shacklebolt, then?"She considered. "Well, go on. Ask.""I'm curious about one of your usual patrons. Has Hermione Granger been down lately?"Rosie frowned, one hand on her hip. "Matter of fact, she missed her usual breakfast here on Saturday. She's never done that before- I had half a mind to owl Hogwarts and ask if she was still alive and well.""Alive, sure, though I don't know about 'well'," Oliver said, his voice dropping conspiratorially.Something shattered behind him, and he turned to see the Weasley twin he'd noticed earlier, wiping his hands off on his jeans. He'd knocked his glass to the floor, smashing it and spilling orange juice all over himself in the process."Spectacular way of saying hello," Oliver called, and he and Rosmerta wandered over to the redhead's table. He looked paler than usual, though Oliver couldn't tell which of his old Beaters he was teasing. They'd always been so hard to tell apart."What's wrong with Hermione?" Oliver was surprised at how sharp the other man's tone was, but before he could answer, another, identical voice cut in. "Oh, bugger."The twin at the table scowled as his doppelganger hovered ten feet away. "What the hell are you doing here?""Last I checked, George, it's a free country. 'S'why we fought in the war."George frowned. Oliver had never seen anything so extraordinary in his life. The Weasley twins were feuding? "I meant in this pub, you twit. Storming off in a huff wasn't enough for you?""I came back for the stellar company. Rosie's, that is.""I'll thank you to leave me out of this," Rosmerta scolded. "Are you eating anything, Fred?""I lost my appetite, thank you," Fred snapped. "I'm going back to the shop."You're not usually in here so late," George said quietly, glaring at his own breakfast. "I thought you'd been and gone by this time.""You've been deliberately avoiding me?" Fred said incredulously. "What do you do, sit in the room and wait until I've eaten before emerging?""Like you'd welcome me to breakfast with you, arms open wide?" George sneered.Fred ran a hand through his already messy hair. He had dark circles below his eyes as if he hadn't slept well in days. "Look, I need to start the Elbow Itching potion brewing," he said at last. "That is, assuming you still want the Grand Opening this Saturday...""Of course I do!" A dizzying array of emotions splashed across George's expressive face."I'd better get going, then.""Fred!"The twins stared at each other, both looking utterly miserable. "Yeah?""I haven't... I can't-""After what you did-""Oh, piss off," George snarled. "I’m trying to save you some heartache is all. It isn't my fault she-""Don't you dare-!""ENOUGH!" Rosmerta shouted, watching irritably as several patrons left. "You'll take your quarrel outside or you won't be welcomed back again, lads. I mean it."The twins lapsed into sullen silence, and Rosie nodded grimly. "That's better.""I'm going," Fred muttered."There's something wrong with Hermione," George said. His brother froze."What?""Ask Ollie."Both twins turned to their former captain, and Oliver, having been remembered once more, sat down at George's table uninvited. Fred did not."Not anything serious," Oliver said. "At least, I don't think it is. Just, she isn't herself.""What do you mean?" they demanded in unison, then glowered at each other.Oliver shook his head. They usually delighted in the fact that they knew what the other was about to say. "The kids are afraid to go near the library. She never leaves it anymore, not even for meals. I hear Kingsley and Neville have been taking food to her. I don't even know if she's been leaving it to sleep. They're calling her the Dragon Lady these days."The twins exchanged another darkly significant look. "Clearly she's not just a happy-go-lucky little trollop," Fred hissed."I never called her a-""You as good as-""Boys!" Rosie shouted again.Fred grabbed George by the lapel. "Come on. We've got to talk."George wrested himself away from his brother's grip but nodded. "Yeah. Yeah we do."They trooped out of the pub without bothering to say goodbye to either Oliver or Rosmerta. Oliver looked at her, bewildered. "What the bleeding hell was that about, then?""No idea," Rosmerta said. "Oh, look. Here's Ms Clearwater."Oliver waved his fiancée over, a smile blooming across his features in spite of his confusion. This was certainly an interesting morning. Maybe he'd needle Neville a bit for more information when he got back to the school.
That chapter reeks of awesomeness. I love how you bring in a third party perspective to both clarify and muddle the issue. *rubs hands together* and I can't wait for what is next!
Thanks so much! Oliver and Rosie are such fun to write ;)