Wow, you guys probably hate me now, huh? I apologize for making everyone wait for so long. I'm a terribly awful person, I know.
Little Things is not finished just yet, and I promise that no matter how long it takes me to update...:cough:...I will not abandon it. You all will just have to be...patient. O.o
Thanks to all my wonderful reviewers! I would leave you all individual messages like I usually do, but don't have the time to do that right now... I'm sorry! Definitely for the next chapter. ;)
Enjoy chapter ten!
"Katie!" Oliver ran to where she was sitting in the Great Hall with the rest of the team enjoying the welcome back feast. "Angelina, Alicia, Fred, George!"
They all looked up from their meal, startled by their captain's excited voice.
"What is it, Wood?" Fred asked. "It looks like someone put a smiling spell on you."
"Harry," he began slowly, taking a deep breath to keep his words even, "Harry got a Firebolt!"
The group instantly started talking. "A firebolt? A real one?" Alicia's voice rang out over the rest.
"Who gave it to him?"
"Why didn't he tell us sooner?"
"Isn't it amazing?" Wood said, his eyes shining. "McGonagall took it away -- some silly talk of Sirius Black -- but I'm going to talk to her tomorrow after class. Imagine...a Firebolt on our team!" With that he turned and walked out of the Hall, a mesmerized look on his face.
Katie glanced at Angelina. "Did that really just happen?"
"Yeah," George said in answer. "Harry has a Firebolt, and Wood could barely talk."
"I'd say we have a chance to win," Fred muttered.
"If McGonagall gives it back," Alicia pointed out.
"Yeah, she wants us to win just as much as we want it."
The younger girl shrugged. "I'm just pointing out the facts."
"Alicia's right," Angelina put in, "We have to keep that in mind. Wood obviously thinks he can talk McGonagall into letting Harry have it back, but she might refuse. Black could have done something to it."
"Like what?" George asked indigently.
"He could have jinxed it, you moron," Alicia said, glaring at him.
"You don't want Harry getting hurt, do you?" Katie asked, giving him her own glare.
George looked down at his plate. "No, I guess not."
The rest of the meal went on in a gloomy silence. While the team had utmost confidence in their captain, they were quite sure that Wood couldn't change the professor's mind. The outcome of the season once again looked bleak.
Katie crawled into bed and pulled the covers up around her chin to help ward off the cold. She could hear Angelina doing the same and pulled at the curtain by her head. "Hey, Ange?"
"Yeah?" the other girl asked, hitting at her pillow.
"Do you think we really have a chance at winning the Quidditch Cup this year?"
"I honestly don't know," Angelina looked over at her friend before getting comfortable. "I'd say there's a chance. Why the worry? We've got the best Keeper and the best Seeker."
Katie shrugged as best she could under the down comforter. "Wood was just so upset after we lost that game."
"Come on, girl! You've got to tell me what happened between you two!" the other Gryffindor said, abruptly changing the subject.
"Well, I don't know!" She glanced at the beds where the other girls were sleeping. "You know what happened, but I'm not sure what it means."
"What it means is that Oliver Wood is in love with Katie Bell, and soon everyone will know it...if they don't already. You two'll be an item." Angelina smiled, showing her white teeth in the dark. "And you'll probably get married."
"Oh, shut up!"
They both laughed, and were quickly shushed by the others in the room. Before Katie pulled the curtains closed around her four-poster, she whispered to her friend, "You'll be my maid of honor, right?"
Wood sat at the Gryffindor table with a thud a day or two later. Katie and Angelina looked up from their lunches, startled.
"Everything okay, Oliver?" Katie asked, concerned by the glum look on his face.
He glanced up at her and shook his head. "McGonagall won't give back the Firebolt until she's finished stripping it."
Angelina gasped. "Stripping it? That might destroy the broom!"
The other chaser blinked, trying to keep the sudden panic from her eyes. "Maybe...maybe it's for the best?" Her two companions started at her as though she were crazy. "No, what if Black really did jinx it, like Alicia said? Harry could be killed."
Angelina nodded in agreement. "You're right. Sorry, Wood, but she is right."
Wood pursed his lips. "How are we ever going to get him a new broom by the next game? The post is never reliable these days. He can't keep using school brooms, you know."
"I have an extra one, if you think Harry could use it," the black girl said, tugging at one of her braids thoughtfully.
"You're a chaser, Ange. Harry can't use a chaser's broom to play as seeker." The keeper rolled his eyes.
Angelina balked at his rudeness. "I was only trying to help!"
"Down, Oliver!" Katie snapped. "Your bad mood is getting the best of you!"
Wood swallowed. "Right, sorry." He stood from the table. "I'm...gonna go work out a new practice schedule. We need to get more time in."
Katie elbowed her friend in the side as Angelina opened her mouth to protest. "Of course. You're the captain," the blonde said, smiling.
As soon as he was out of earshot, Angelina pushed her plate away. "More practice time? He's got to be kidding!"
Katie's shoulders slumped. "He wants to win. Don't you, Ange? Don't you want to win this?"
"Of course I do!" the other girl exclaimed. "But think about what he's saying, for just a moment. More time out on that field, when we already spend more time on this sport than doing our schoolwork? His obsession isn't healthy, and he's close to pushing us too hard. I don't know about you, but I can't do it."
Katie was silent. She didn't really know what to say, but her friend was right. They were all under a lot of stress. Everyone on the team wanted that Cup, but at what price? "Come on," she said at long last. "Let's get to class."
The two girls left the Great Hall and headed toward the stairs. As they neared the top, Angelina put her hand on the blonde's arm, looking up at her on the next stair. "Do you think you could talk to him for us?" she asked, her eyes begging where her voice refused to. "He'll listen to you."
Katie adjusted the front of her robes, taking in what her friend was asking. "I'll...try."
The rest of the day passed without event. Still wary of the happenings before the break, Katie made sure to check the corridors for any menacing cohorts of Flint, but none were to be seen. That in and of itself was unnerving. A small part of her mind hoped that he had given up on torturing her, but the more rational side knew that wasn't true. He never just 'gave up' on something.
Maybe...maybe something had happened? Some event in his life over the past few weeks to throw into view a new perspective? Yeah, right. Her was probably just plotting some new way to get at her.
Katie shook her head. There was no use worrying over something she couldn't control. First things first. Find Wood and talk some sense into him. Then worry about Flint. She muttered the password to the new portrait and stumbled into the common room. It was the end of the day, so the room was crowded with students. She spotted Fred and George pestering Ron about something and made her way over to them.
"Don't you know that it's not nice to pick on your younger brother?" she mock-scolded.
Ron's ears turned red as he glared at the twins before turning and walking over to Harry, who was waiting by the stairs to their dormitory. "What do you have to ruin our fun for?" Fred whined.
Katie raised her eyebrows. "Why don't you bother Percy? He must be much more entertaining."
George snickered. "She's right, like usual." He stood and gave her a fake bow. "The amazing lady who knows everything!"
Fred snorted and kicked at his brother's knees. "Sit down, you idiot."
The other twin obeyed and flopped back into the chair where he had been sitting lazily. "What can we do for you, great princess?" he asked, a silly grin spreading across his face.
"Have you seen Wood?" Katie said, getting right to the point. "I need to talk to him, but I don't know where he is."
"So you don't know everything!" George gasped, pretending to be amazed.
"Of course she doesn't," Fred put in. "That's why she has come to us."
Katie smacked the back of his head. "Just tell me."
"Why?" George asked, tilting his head back defiantly.
"What do you need to talk to him about that's so important?" Fred followed his brother's gesture. They looked like little twin statues. It was creepy.
"Oh, forget it!" The girl rolled her eyes and turned around.
"He's in the library, love!" one of them called out to her retreating back.
Library. Right. The one place she hadn't checked. She hesitated at the door of the common room, thinking wildly of some way to get out of the looming conversation. After the revelation in her room after Wood left that night...she wanted so badly for something else to happen between them. Ached for it. But this... The one way to make Oliver mad was to defy the choices he made as captain. She was afraid of that anger, afraid of what it would make her do.
She took a deep breath and made her way slowly toward the library.
Wood was sitting at one of the tables in the back, papers spread all over the top. As she got closer, she noticed that they all had something to do with Quidditch. He looked up at her as she stopped at the end opposite him and smiled brightly at her. She felt her chest constrict at that smile, and wished not for the first time that she could just throw herself at him. That or turn and run.
"Hey, Katie," he said quietly. "You need something?"
"I...um, need to talk to you."
His eyebrows furrowed, confused, as he walked over to stand in front of her. "About what?"
"About Quidditch." She chose her words carefully. "The team a-and I think you may be...pushing us too hard." She braced herself for the explosion.
Wood was silent for a moment before asking, "Pushing too hard?" She heard the edge to his voice and suddenly noticed with alarm that they were still in the library. People were supposed to stay quiet in libraries, but he would soon forget about that. She cringed.
"Pushing too hard?" he repeated, incredulous. "But this is our last year! We have to win! Of course I'm pushing the team! Don't they understand that?"
"Calm down, Oliver," Katie whispered, trying to get him to quiet his words. "We do understand. But think about it...we hardly have time to keep up with school. Think about us, and Angelina. We need to study to pass exams at the end of the year, and we're already falling behind."
When his face didn't soften, she changed cards. "Think of me, then. You know I don't work well under stress. I'll crack, and you know it. I can't afford that. I need good marks, and I won't get them if I can't concentrate."
She hit a nerve with that and he finally broke the eye contact, looking at her feet. "I know that, Katie, I do. But if I cut back on practice time, the team as a whole will suffer."
"The team as a whole will suffer if you don't!" she retorted. This argument was going nowhere, but she had no way to really make him see the rest of the team's view on the matter. She shook her head. "Fine. Fine, then. So be it. But don't realize after the fact that you made a mistake."
Wood watched her walk away and felt his heart start pounding. He couldn't just...let her go. That would not be smart. Not at all. "Katie..."
She paused and glanced over her shoulder, waiting for what he had to say.
"I'm sorry." And that was it. He just met her eyes before looking away again.
"I know, Oliver." She gave him a tiny half-smile. "Come find me when you're feeling less stubborn."
He didn't watch her this time, but heard as the door closed as she left. They hardly ever fought, but when they did it was usually much more destructive than this little dispute. Still, though...she seemed quite hurt when she left. Thinking quickly, he ran after her.
He caught her in the hallway. She was standing at a window, watching the sun set. The red glow gave her skin a beautiful golden sheen. Wood's heart skipped a beat as he put his hand gently on her shoulder. "Katie --" he stuttered, shocked to find her face wet with tears. "What's wrong?"
She sniffed and rubbed the back of her hand roughly across her cheeks. "I'm just..." She shrugged. "I don't know. Confused, worried...afraid. That's it," she said, looking up at him for half a second. "I'm afraid."
Oliver put a hand on her cheek, his thumb catching a tear as it began to fall. "What are you afraid of?"
Katie shrugged again, her eyes focused on his chest instead of his face. "I...I don't know."
He could tell by the look on her face that she did know. He also knew that this wasn't about that conversation they just had, either. "You can tell me. Please, I want to know."
She finally met his eyes. The tears were gone, but he could still see the lingering effects of them. "Please..." he whispered.
"What is this, Oliver?" she asked. "This...something with us?"
Wood didn't know what to say. Well, actually he did know what to say...he just didn't know how to say it. Katie didn't take to his silence very well.
She went pale, her blue eyes widening in panic. "You...d-do feel something, right?" Without waiting for him to answer, she backed away. "Oh no...I've made such a fool of myself!" She turned and fled off down the hall, leaving a very stunned keeper behind.
"Katie!" he called, trying to get her to stop as he took off after her. He was faster than she and easily reached out to grab her arm, stopping her abruptly a few feet from where they had started. He pulled her into his arms and kissed her softly on the mouth before she could run again.
By the time he moved back, she couldn't feel her legs well enough to run. She stayed there in his embrace, eyes closed, and quite surprised. He pressed his forehead against hers for a moment. He could feel her breath on his face, and the sensation was thrilling.
"Katie..." he whispered, pressing one of his hands to the side of her face and sliding it to rest on the back of her neck. "Oh, Katie..." Say it, Wood, say it! "Katie..." He wanted to say it, so badly. But it seemed all he could get to come out was her name.
Her fingers spread across the front of his robes, pale against the black fabric. She didn't notice the contrast, too trapped by his dark brown eyes to look anywhere else. She couldn't even speak, afraid to break the moment.
Wood still couldn't get the words to form. He took a deep breath as he finally found a way to say what he wanted to. "I think I'm in love with you, Katie..."
Tears formed in her eyes again, sticking to her lashes as she blinked. Loud footsteps in the corridor made them jump apart. Professor Lupin appeared moments later. He gave the two students a warm smile.
"It's getting late," he said. "Perhaps you should go on back to the tower?"
"O-of course, Professor," Wood stuttered, trying to return the smile. Lupin nodded and said goodnight before continuing on his way. Oliver turned to Katie, who was still in a daze. "Wait for me to get my stuff?" he asked, gesturing behind him. The two Gryffindors returned to the library in a comfortable silence. Wood gathered his things and offered Katie his arm, which she took, as they made their way slowly back to their house tower.
The common room was empty when they got there, save a few first year girls sitting by the frosty window. The two sat on the large couch in front of the fire.
"Hey, Katie?" Wood whispered. "You haven't said anything in a while...you're making me nervous." He gave a tight chuckle.
"Were you serious when you said you...you love me?" she asked him quietly, not quite meeting his gaze.
He grinned and wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her closer. "Very serious. I've been wanting to tell you for such a long time...but I was afraid."
She didn't miss the way he used the same word she had used to describe herself earlier. She leaned her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes. "I'm glad you were serious, Oliver, because..." She didn't have the nerve to finish the sentence, and Wood didn't push her. Instead she asked, "Can we stay down here tonight? I want some company."
"Of course," was the reply. He kissed the top of her head, taking in the soft scent of her hair, before leaning his own head on hers.
Marcus Flint glared at a second year sitting in his usual spot. The child withered under those eyes and jumped up, scampering away. Flint sat where she had been and started filling his plate.
"Morning," Malfoy said around a full mouth. "Practice tonight, captain?"
The older boy shrugged his large shoulders in a very I-don't-care gesture. "Why bother? We just beat Ravenclaw."
The blonde grinned and went back to his food. Just as Flint had scooped a large serving of eggs onto the gold plate before him, his owl landed on his arm and dropped a letter on his lap. Flint shooed the animal away and ripped open the envelope.
It was his mother's handwriting. He recognized it immediately.
I'm sorry to tell you, but our maid, Flora, has passed away.
That was all it said. No 'with love, your mother'...no signature at all. He felt his face flush as the sudden urge to cry flared through him. "Excuse me," he said, standing quickly from the table and nearly running from the Great Hall. He passed Professor Snape on his way to the dungeons.
"Where are you going?" the professor asked.
"I'm feeling a bit ill," Flint replied, hardly pausing to meet the man's eyes. He mumbled the password and tripped into the dark common room, making his way to his dormitory and closing the door. The room was empty, and for the first time in years he let himself cry...this time for the loss of the only person he loved and loved him in return.