Hope you enjoy this chapter! I didn't get to write as much over the holidays so I'm sorry for the delays! Thanks for reading and reviewing!
Robbie and I eventually agree that Robbie Bellringer won't be able to attend the New Years Eve Gala the British League hosted every year. While attendance for players isn't mandatory, it is highly advised, and bonus checks are distributed to the players by most teams as an incentive to attend the highly publicized event. However, knowing that our parents, particularly one observant mum, will be in attendance, it would be best for them not to see me posing as Oliver Robert Wood, Rookie Falcon Chaser. So instead, Robbie is going as himself for once, which allows him to bring Char, and frees me to attend with Finn.
However, that means I have to go as myself, which means a new dress. Mum still has a framed photo of her and dad's first Gala, and to say that she hasn't spent a pretty galleon on dresses for these things would be a complete lie. I happen to know the bright gold dress she bought this summer for this year's gala cost more than the quarterly rent on my and Robbie's apartment… for the entire summer! That isn't even factoring in any tailoring or accessories, and I know dad always likes to get her some sort of fancy purse or bracelet. I have of course left the dress shopping to the last minute… and I do mean last minute, but luckily my misery has company.
"I can't believe Robbie would spring something like this on me this late in the game!" complains Char, holding up a bright red number that is very short.
"I'm sure it just slipped his mind," I protest, trying to be diplomatic. In reality, we only decided yesterday that we absolutely could not risk my attending as him. It's much too likely that mum or dad would want to come have a chat, and I would blow the whole charade.
"I can't believe you hadn't found a dress yet either though," she points out, unhelpfully. I happen to realize this reality, quite acutely. "It isn't as if you and Finn haven't been official for a while, now."
"You know me, never much of a shopper…" I hold up a shimmery black dress with rhinestones that seem to twinkle like stars woven into the fabric. It has higher neck in the front and multiple straps that fall over the shoulders, but it is completely backless. The length at least looks right, it was clearly made with a tall witch in mind.
"Perhaps green," says Char, holding up another short dress, this one with puffy sleeves that would probably reach her elbows. It's hideous, and I hide a laugh with a cough.
"Maybe… but you wouldn't want to deck yourself out in the colors of their rivals… I would steer clear of Harpy green."
"Uggh.. Purple it is!" she says, holding up a short, plum colored, velvet dress with a sweetheart neckline and a tight bodice. The black crinoline slip that goes under makes my legs itch thinking about it, but to each their own I suppose.
We head to the back to try them on, and thank Merlin, something fits for once. Each arm has three straps that meet at a rhinestone broach at the edge of my collarbone, the neckline of the gown a simple drape between them. My collarbone is on display, and from the front, the gown might be considered rather modest if it wasn't for how very tight the bodice it is until my hips where the skirt begins to softly flare and fall. The fabric is what makes it so very special, otherwise it might be considered a boring black gown. From the back is what makes it sexy though, completely exposing my entire back, which looks rather muscular and delicate at the same time. The fabric of the straps falls from the shoulders into a loose drape that leaves a delicate loop of fabric falling off the back of the dress, making me think of a Grecian painting. A delicate gold chain with a single glittering rhinestone decorated clasp holds the two sides together, dangling across my scapulas. The bottom edge of the back just barely covers my bum, making me wonder if I'll be able to manage wearing anything at all under this dress. And I will be buying it. Just looking at myself over my shoulder in the mirror makes me tingle in anticipation of Finn's reaction. I know he's going to love it.
"Wow, you look fab, Livvie… like a total supermodel," pouts Char when we step out of the changing rooms to consult. "I look like garden gnome in a dollbaby dress in comparison!"
The dress she's chosen isn't exactly something I can see anyone wearing at the Gala. I have the advantage of having looked over the papers every year with my mum to help plan future outfits. "Perhaps something with some sequins? That might photograph well?"
We scour two more shops before we stumble across a dress with gold, black, and white sequins in an art deco design that suits Char to a tee. We decide to deck her out in long pearls and a feathered hairpiece and go for a twenties look that looks irresistible with her shoulder length hair in dark curls. My look is rather twenties as well, and I am glad that we will seem perhaps a bit coordinated for any pictures the media gets of us. Neither of us will look out of place or outlandish.
The dress was rather expensive, and if I wasn't making such an ungodly amount on my contract with the Falcons, I might never have purchased it, but as it is, I'll have to explain how I managed such an extravagant purchase.
Ultimately, Robbie and I decide to drop with mum that it was a gift from Robbie, which isn't exactly untrue, consider my salary is basically a gift from Robbie considering I couldn't have gotten the position without him.
The evening of the Gala, New Years Eve, is a rush to get ready with Char in the tiny bathroom at the apartment. We sent Robbie to Woodview to get ready, considering there simply wasn't room here. Eventually, I've managed to charm my hair into a loose bun at the base of my neck, slightly to one side with a few curls brushing my cheeks and a curl in my side swept fringe softening the look from the font. I tuck a few pins with rhinestones on them into my hair to hold it all together and add a bit of glimmer. A bright gold Phoenix fits around my upper arm, each feather decorated with rhinestones, giving the look a finishing touch.
I pull on my black cloak and slip my wand in my purse just as Finn arrives.
"You look… wow…" he stumbles over his words when I answer the door.
"And you haven't even seen what's under the cloak," I laugh, gesturing to the fact he can only really see my face and hair.
"You know… if you decided not to wear anything under there, I wouldn't exactly be upset," he says quietly, his Irish brogue taking on a smokier than usual tone.
"Watch yourself Finnegan, or you just might not make it to the Gala…" snaps Robbie, arriving just behind him.
"Well… that would be the point…" agrees Finn as Robbie storms down the hall to collect Char, who I happen to know looks amazing in her black and gold and white dress.
"We had better get to the boats before you get any ideas," I laugh, slipping my arm in his and heading for the apparation point. The Gala is going to be at a castle in Southern Wales, and we are all to apparate to the boat house across the lake and take small boats to the gala, arriving in small groups so that the media can harass- I mean, interview- us on our way into the event.
Mum and dad are chatting with Davie and a devastatingly beautiful Noli when Finn and I arrive at the crowded boathouse. Noli's hair is a cascade of curls over her shoulders, and the low neckline of her bright red dress shows off curves I could only dream of. She looks amazing on Davie's arm, a smile on her red lips and her eyes bright. Mum's wearing a gold dress that makes one wonder how she managed to have six children, and is tucked into Dad's side, her still golden hair shining in the candle light.
While moments ago, I felt rather lovely, looking around the room, all the women seem to be brighter and bolder than me, their dresses flashes of color, that make me want to hide. Maybe black was a bad idea. Maybe I should have morphed myself a few inches shorter. Maybe I should have just gone as Robert Bellringer.
"Livvie!" exclaims Davie, bringing me to mum and dad's attention.
"Let me get your cloak, love," says Finn, reaching for my shoulders. I undo the clasp at the neck and allow him to shrink it into his pocket.
"Oh, Liv," gasps mum suddenly looking as if she wants to cry. "You look so beautiful!"
I wonder if maybe she's being a bit dramatic, and look over my shoulder to see Finn's eyes have somewhat glazed over. Perhaps I shouldn't have surprised him with the dress. He confessed he really has a thing for backless dresses after the team Mid-Season Break Party.
"Thanks, mum," I say with a smile, stepping forward and giving her a hug. "You look rather lovely yourself."
"I think you should go home and put some real clothes on!" exclaims dad, as I turn my back to him. "You're going to catch a cold running around like that!"
"You look rather dashing yourself, dad!" I laugh.
"I'm not fishing for compliments! I don't need a hundred perverted wizards mooning over pictures of my daughter!"
"DAD!" I protest with a laugh at his completely outraged look and the look of concern passing over my boyfriend's face.
"You could have at least made yourself a little bit homely," he protests weakly. "Maybe a big wart on your nose or something?"
"I wanted to be a hundred percent me tonight," I say, with a tone of finality, hoping he'll drop the subject of my metamorphmagus abilities.
"And you're ever so lovely!" inserts Davie. "You look like the most beautiful sister in the world!" He shoots a wink at mom, and we both smile at the longstanding joke. I do look rather a lot like mum, and so he tries to get away with complimenting us both at the same time. It works for him. He's always had an overabundance of charm.
"I have to agree!" exclaims Robbie, arriving with Char on his arm, spurting another round of greetings. Eventually, Robbie, Char, Finn, and I end up in a boat with Jackson Fawley from the Cannons and his date. We drift across a starlit lake, and arrive at the glittering castle where the Gala is being held. Photographers are snapping pictures with reporters calling out to us from the moment the boat arrives at the dock.
I manage to slip into Finnegan's side, smiling gently and generally trying not to be caught with a look of surprise. The reporters are particularly interested in Robbie, asking him if he thinks he'll be a contender for Rookie of the Year, and asking Finn what sort of shot he thinks the Falcons have in the playoffs. Luckily, they think I am a nobody, or at least uninteresting enough that no one asks me any questions. At this point, I'm just an anonymous blonde bimbo on Finnegan's arm.
We ditch the media at the door, and mingle with some champagne and appetizers, Finn being bold enough to take an entire tray from a passing waiter and sharing it with our teammates. I'm glad to be with them, because I feel comfortable, even if they don't realize how well they know me. Char has dragged Robbie over to talk with Davie and Noli a few tables away, but for the most part, everyone sticks to their teams. In no time, we're sitting through speeches, and then dancing, the most pleasant part of the night where I get to spend it entirely in Finn's arms except for a brief interlude where my brothers and dad decide to pass me around for a song.
By midnight, when everyone is shooting off fireworks from their wands and pulling their dates in for kisses, I'm more than a little intoxicated, and not just by the taste of Murphy Finnegan on my lips.
"Happy New Year, Finnegan," I say against his lips as he dips me back and snogs me while magic flashes around us and the clock chimes.
"Happy New Year, Liv," he replies as the Harpies start up a chorus of Auld Lang Syne.
It isn't until I'm staring at a picture of Finn and I snogging among the revelers on the front page of Witch Weekly the next morning that I'm struck with the fact that I'm no longer some anonymous blond bimbo. In fact, everyone wants to know how Oliver Robert Wood's sister got together with his teammate. And everyone wants to know if this is a sign that my dad is trying to woo Finnegan back to United with his daughter. The speculation in the papers is ridiculous and offensive, but Finn seems to shrug it off. I just can't help but worry this is all horrible for my secret. All it is going to take is some idiot at the Kestrels realizing that Robbie Bellringer doesn't have a twin brother, but instead a twin sister. I'm not exactly sure how much longer Robbie and I are going to be able to pull this off.
Shooting him an owl, I'm a bit dismayed when he answers that he's 'not concerned in the least, and wasn't the picture of him on page three of quidditch quarterly rather flattering?' Glancing at the picture of Finn and I in the society section of the prophet where there are multiple pictures highlighted from the Gala, I can't stop myself from pulling out my wand and cutting it out. Finnigan is looking at the camera with a relaxed half smirk before he looks down at me with a genuine smile. I'm facing him, tucked into his side and saying something before I turn and look at the photographer, a smile on my face, just as he turns to look at me. With my backless gown on display, the effect of me looking over my shoulder is really flattering, and the way Finn is smiling down on me when I turn and smile for the camera is so perfect. I think I'll mail the prophet requesting a full size print.
"What are you doing?" asks Finn, stepping into the sitting room, a pair of steaming mugs of tea in his hands.
"Look how handsome you are! I'm going to request the prophet send me a full size color photo of us!"
Finn squints at the picture, tilting his head. "Yeah, you look okay I guess," he finally says.
"OKAY!?" I squawk, grabbing the paper back and looking at the photo. I don't always feel good about how I look, but I know I looked good last night. "That dress cost me a fortune!" I blurt.
"Well… I'm just saying it looked better on my floor," Finnegan gives me a shit eating grin and I take my tea from him with a huff before stalking to the den where he keeps his owl.
"You aren't funny!" I call over my shoulder as I hear him snicker into his tea.
"I'm just saying, I rather like what you're wearing now!" he calls after me. Looking down at his worn practice jersey, I can't help but agree this is more comfortable. I know he rather likes that it has his name across the shoulders.
The Gala also signifies the end of the Mid-Season Break. Two days later, we return to practice, anticipating the announcement of the match ups for the second half of the season.
The second half of the season draw has taken place on January 7th at 7pm for the past ten years. The team has an official players meeting for it and we all crowd around the wireless in the training room listening as the commissioner announces the match ups. Somehow, my and Robbie's uncanny luck holds, and we don't draw Puddlemere, forcing another match up against dad and Davie. We also don't draw the Arrows, allowing for a sigh of relief, considering they are still ranked number one in the league.
We do draw the Kestrels for the first game back. I rub my hands together in anticipation. Robbie won't be getting one up on me again, and this is one rematch I'm excited to play. With all the scouting Finnegan and I did last season, we're sure to demolish them.
The first two weeks of practice back after the break are 'cold enough to freeze your balls off.' That's assuming I have balls, but thanks for the wonderful imagery, Rolland. I get home from practice, and just want to curl up with my blankets with Chinese take out. Unfortunately, I'm forced to pretend I'm not exhausted from six hours of practice on a broom in freezing cold Falmouth, and instead I have to deal with Char, my newest roommate.
She moved in just after New Years when her lease was up. I feel a little like I'm back at Hogwarts. She wants to stay up talking about the most recent gossip at the ministry, or the latest letter from Dom. She wants to paint our toenails after Robbie goes to bed early, claiming he needs rest before practice. I need my rest too! If I didn't know Robbie was completely oblivious, I would think Char was his latest tactic to getting one up on me for the upcoming game against the Kestrels. Maybe if she deprives me of enough sleep I'll fall off my broom at practice and land on the injured list before the game.
It isn't until Char pops back into the apartment three days before the game and catches me wearing my Falcon's uniform and looking a little too much like Robbie that I have to put my foot down.
"Oooh, don't you look sexy," she says, causing me to startle as I look up from lacing my boots. Realizing she's at the apartment at half eight, I look desperately down the hall and note that Robbie left ten minutes ago for Ireland.
"What are you doing here?" I ask, clearing my throat.
"I thought I would surprise you!" she exclaims. "I have that business meeting in France that I'll be going to in a few days, and since I'll be working the whole trip, Chang gave me the rest of today off after our conference floo. She wraps her arms around me, and I find I've back myself into a wall. "We have at least twenty minutes before you have to leave for practice," she murmurs in my ear before taking it between her teeth, causing me to break character and push her away.
"I can't do this anymore!" I exclaim, running a hand through my hair and stepping as far away as I can. I rub my ear with a cringe.
"What?" asks a bewildered Char, her eyes widening and filling with tears.
"Damn it Char! It wasn't supposed to be like this!" I exclaim.
"I'll… just… pack…" she's hysterically sobbing now. I want to scream in frustration. Where is my idiot brother when I need him? "I… thought… you… loved… me…"
"CHAR!" I shout, getting her attention. I quickly morph into myself, tangled hair and all, causing her to gasp mid-sob.
"Livvie!" she hiccups. "What are you doing?!"
"UGGH!" I exclaim, realizing that I'm going to have to tell all on this one. "Robbie signed two professional contracts…"
"Oh Merlin… you didn't!"
"I did! I mean… well what else was I going to do!?"
"Why did I ever agree to date him?" she asks herself aloud. I unfortunately don't have an answer for her considering I ask myself every day why Char finally gave in to my brother.
"He's sexy or something trite along those lines," I suggest. She nods and bites her lip guiltily.
"He is rather fit… Uggh! I'm sooo sorry Liv!" she suddenly seems to realize that five minutes ago she was coming onto me as my brother.
"Yeah… But… no one can know! Not only is this likely illegal, but we have to maintain this charade through the end of Robbie's contract with the Falcon's or he'll have to buy it out. The whole family will be laughed out of the league…"
"I just realized you've seen the Falcon's players starkers!" exclaims Char, the fangirl in her coming out again.
"MERLIN! Char! Focus! I just told you that I've been impersonating Robbie for the past six months and you can't tell anyone. This is important!" I'm starting to remember why I never confided things in Char back at Hogwarts. I tended to confide more in Dom… mostly because she's much less flighty and gossipy. I rub my temples.
"Okay… got it… Can't tell anyone that my bff has infiltrated the only all male quidditch team in the league… can you at least tell me if Jasper Hart has his nipples pierced?"
"He does not have his nipples pierced…" I sigh. "Now what we really need is Robbie so we can have an unbreakable vow that you will not reveal our secret!" I stumble upon the idea rather by accident, but it is a rather ingenious solution.
"Godric Liv! It's not like this is some 'Voldemort has returned from the dead and only Harry Potter can save the world'-type secret. This is just a regular secret between friends. I can keep it to myself." She huffs as if offended. I bite my tongue to prevent insulting her and questioning if she can keep it to herself.
"Look, Robbie's at practice with the Kenmare Kestrels, his real team right now. We'll have to talk it over when he gets home. You're the first person we've told."
"You mean you were forced to tell," she accuses, realizing suddenly that we've been keeping her out of the loop for months. "Robbie's been lying to me for months!"
"Look, we would tell you, but you know how hard it is to keep a secret when multiple people get involved? And it isn't as if I'm not lying to my family and my boyfriend daily. I'm the one living the double life here! Believe me, I didn't want to have to tell anyone, but I'm glad if someone found out it is you," I finally say trying to calm her.
"I guess I understand why you wanted to keep it a secret. And I guess I'm glad you told me, rather than break up with me as Robbie or something. Although Robbie will be doing some groveling tonight if he wants to keep his girlfriend." Her expression darkens.
"Thank you so much for understanding, but I really have to get to practice now!" I say taking Char in a tight hug before morphing into Robbie.
"It's creepy how good you are at that," she says looking me over.
"It's creepy how you're looking at me right now," I say in my normal voice.
"Ohh… right… uhhh sorry," she says making a face. "Can we just… yeah…"
"Later Char!" I say apparating to work. Rubbing my face, I wonder how much longer this charade can last. What's that saying? Two people can keep a secret… if one of them is dead. Well since Robbie and I are practically the same person, apparently Char is the second. Robbie and I are both so dead…
So I had to really feel this chapter out which is why it took so long! Hope you liked it! I've been distracted from this project with a stupid idea that won't leave my head, but I really wanted to focus and give you guys the chapter you deserved! Thanks for all the lovely reviews! I've got two more brain children in the works, but I promise I won't post any new stories until I finish this one. thanks again for reading! E.A.