It was times like this were Penelope Clearwater began to question whether she was actually one of The Silence and everyone had just neglected to tell her (although, the more she thought about the logistics the more it seemed obvious that no one would tell her if she was one of The Silence, because everyone one simply forget to tell her). She had to admit that part of the isolation she now found herself within was due to her own doing – after the brutality of the war she'd needed to have a little space and in having a little space she'd accidently ostracised all her old Hogwarts friends and ended up, well, quite lonely.
Still, she'd vaguely assumed that if she showed up to the party (someone's twenty second, she couldn't really remember) that someone would talk to her. It was supposed to be a sort of Hogwarts-Reunion – otherwise she wouldn't have received an invite, no doubt – and she'd thought that she must have made enough impact on someone that they'd want to reunitewith her. But, no, she'd spent the past half an hour hovering around on the fringes of the party clutching a glass of wine and feeling more and more obscure.
Every so often Percy Weasley would walk over and suggest that unless Penelope at least tried to talk to someone, then of course she was going to remain standing next to the bar until she eventually gave up and went home. This didn't particularly comfort her as, despite Percy's occasional self righteous attitude (and degree of pompousness), he was usually right about things – apart from when he was very, very wrong... but that was a period of Percy's life that they generally didn't discuss. Not that they discussed very much.
After all, she was a secret member of The Silenceso naturally Percy would forget that she wasn't really in contact with anyone anymore, and thus forget that some communication wouldn't be totally an unreasonable feet – they were friends, after all, particularly so after the war.
At least no one was trying to kill her on sight.
"Penny," Percy said, wandering back over for the third time in –Penelope checked her watch – forty five minutes, "you'd be much happier if you just talked to someone."
"You could just stay and talk to me." Penelope suggested, fingering the edge of her wine glass hopefully – although Percy was hardly the don of social interactions, she'd look less of a chump standing around talking to her exboyfriend than she would standing around on her own. Realistically, both of them new that she wasn't necessarily bothered about it being his company – because she definitely saw Percy enough as it was (one lunchtime a week, they'd meet in the Leaky Cauldron), but the fact remained that she'd now been here for nearly an hour and no one had talked to her butPercy.
Percy did stay for about another five minutes, before the old Head Girl beckoned him over and Percy disappeared to go talk about something – probably about the Ministry, or she might be enquiring how his family was. A lot of people had done that since the war. She'd done that plenty since the war and had continually felt the need to chastise herself for being so insensitive.
Penelope settled back in her leaning position, using the top of the radiator to support herself. No one would notice the lack of dignity, after all – everyone would forget whatever she did when they looked away.
When she began to feel like her bum was beginning to burn, Penelope had more or less decided to give up on the whole affair and go home and save the reunions for another five years, when all the scars of the war had become less angry and she was less scared of speaking to someone for fear of getting nervous and asking after a dead relative.
"Penny, Oliver doesn't like parties much either." Percy said, gesturing to the burly form of Oliver Wood that followed Percy's wake, then Percy had disappeared again to continue talking atvarious people about his life. Percy, at least, was not one to be forgotten.
Penelope considered that she could have counted the number of voluntary conversations she's had with Oliver Wood on one hand (on one finger, more like), but given he seemed almost as bored as she did she didn't really care about social etiquette – if only someone were to talk to her, she might be able to convince herself that she was not, as all the evidence seemed to suggest, one of The Silenceanymore than she was the life and soul of the party.
"Oliver Wood." Penelope said, assessing that his appearance hadn't changed much. He'd gotten, if it were possible, more muscley since she'd seen him last but given last she'd heard he been signed by Puddlemere, that didn't surprise her all that much. "Let me guess," Penelope said upon seeing Oliver's brow creasing slightly, "you don't remember me?"
"Hold your bludgers, Clearwater," Oliver said, "I was just thinking that I hadn't seen you for a while."
"Well you've probably been busy."
"Not enjoying the party?" Oliver asked, taking the other half of the radiator to lean against and clutching his beer between his hands.
"Not really," Penelope admitted, "I tend to just sip my way through them." She said, gesturing at her still full glass of wine.
"First mistake," Oliver grinned, "at least gulp your way through them."
"Well, it's not like you're out there dancing."
"No," Oliver said, "but at least I'm drinking properly."
"I've got work in the morning." Penelope said, taking another self conscious sip of her wine and rolling around her glass – she didn't even like wine, it was just the sort of drink that she couldn't bear to drink fast. And she certainly wasn't going to buy herself another.
"You haven't changed much," Oliver grinned, "you know, the first time I remember you talking to me, Clearwater -"
"- you can call me Penny, or Pen or... whatever."
"– you were telling me to shut up in the library."
"You were talking pretty loudly," Penelope smiled, feeling a fair amount of surprise that Oliver had such an accurate memory, it was true that she'd shared classes with him for a good seven years –but they'd never really talked, "you were disrupting the working environment."
"I was telling Katie off about missing practice."
"Figures," Penelope said, "it's all about the Quidditch."
"All about the silence." Oliver countered, and Penelope decided not to voice how ironic his comment was.
"The books." Penelope corrected.
"Typical claw." Oliver grinned.
"Typical jock." Penelope countered, nodding towards his muscled arms and raising her eyebrows slightly. Oliver sort-of-smiled, and Penelope smiled in return – she hadn't expected to enjoy the conversation quite so much. Usually, in this sort of situation she would just talk at the other member of the conversation to avoid an awkward silence (which was why, in hindsight, her and Percy had been a terrible match from the word go – they both justtalked), but Oliver Wood was turning out to be a much better conversationalist than she'd expected. They'd been to-and-fro banter and she'd evenoffered up her nickname.
"So, where do you work?" Oliver asked, leaning to the side so he could watch her reactions properly. "A library? It's got to be a library. You were born a Librarian, Penny."
"No," Penelope said primly, taking a defiant sip of her wine, "I am not a librarian."
"Ah... something radical and unexpected, then?"
"I work in a quill shop," Penelope admitted, feeling her lips pull into a smile as Oliver laughed at her, "Scrivenshaft's Quill shop."
"That is radical."
"Shut up," Penny grinned, "it's not like you're changing people's expectations of you."
"No," Oliver said, "not really."
"I spend my days testing out Quills and selling magical stationary," Penelope continued, "it's a wonderful existence."
"Fifteen percent," Penelope said, finishing her glass of wine, "I think I spend half my wages every week on quills. They're like a drug to me. Is it amazing then, playing Quidditch?"
"Yeah," Oliver said, a strange expression clouding over his eyes – Penelope would have called it dreamy, but she was entirely sure that Oliver had never had a dreamy expression in his life; more a passionate glint, or a memory, "yeah, I love it."
"I bet you're a mess when you lose. Percy always used to say that you were impossible after losses, something about an absurd obsession and, well, I don't remember the exact words."
"I forget you used to date Percy," Oliver said, his eyes narrowing slightly, "that's strange," Penelope pursed her lips slightly. "I mean," Oliver continued hastily, "I never really understood it... its Percy, you know? Well... do you want me to get you a drink, Penny?"
After a second and a third drink, Oliver had suggested getting some fresh air and now the two of them had found themselves in the smoking garden.
"I'd have thought you'd like parties." Penelope said. She was moderately relieved that they were no longer standing inside, because he heat of the place had been beginning to make her feel sweaty and uncomfortable, with the added unexpected side effect of spending over forty minutes talking to Oliver Wood being people were beginning to start paying attention to her again.
"One thing wrong with parties," Oliver returned, "a distinct lack of Quidditch."
"You went to parties at Hogwarts." Penelope said: she remembered going to some of them and not going to others (particularly when she was dating Percy, because he'd never quite approved of the whole thing) and spending some of the time feeling out of sorts and awkward and some of the time enjoying herself.
"Victory parties, mostly," Oliver flashed her a grin, "no, it's just - I haven't seen everyone for ages. Just, Quidditch people really."
"Not used to the lack of Quidditch talk?" Penelope suggested, putting her hands in the pocket of her coat and trying not to breath in the smoke in the air. "Don't worry; I'm the same with quills. If they're not brought up in a conversation for more than ten minutes, well – "
"Silence in the library," Oliver grinned, finishing his drink – forth, fifth – and shaking his head at her, "that's what you said – silence in the library."
"Well, you told Katie Bell that you didn't care if she had detention for every second of her existence, providing she didn't mess Quidditch practice."
"People listened to me then," Oliver smirked, "I keep getting told off for trying to give people advice."
"People like you should never be put in positions of power," Penelope grinned, "you were obsessed."
"I was a great captain."
"You only won once."
"Hey, don't bring that up."
"I lost ten galleons."
"We should have won," Oliver said, "I can't believe we didn'twin."
"Does that genuinely still upset you?" Penelope asked, setting down her empty glass (red current rum, this time) on one of the outside tables where the ash trays sat. "Oliver, seriously, are you still haunted by a Quidditch match from that long ago?"
"Who do you support, then?"
"Don't change the subject," Penelope smiled, seeing Percy Weasley glancing outside and seeing the two of them still together – she wondered if he was pleased, "are you honestly still bummed out?"
"You better support Puddlemere."
"I hear they have a good keeper." Penelope returned, leaning against the table and glancing that he other groups of people that lingered outside – she'd shared a dorm with one of the girls, and she hadn't know she'd taken up smoking. That bothered her slightly. Maybe she should have kept in touch.
"I could get you tickets." Oliver suggested, and for the first time it occurred to Penelope that, at some point, their conversation seemed to have turned to flirting.
"And go by myself? That'd be fun."
"Go with Percy." Oliver proposed forward, leaning on his elbow.
"Percy's the only person I see these days."
"Right." Oliver said, glancing at the group of people behind us and leaning away slightly. It crossed Penelope's mind that this might suggest, perhaps, that she and Percy were togetherin some way.
"No, I mean, I'm not very sociable. My social interactions just about stretch to my two work colleagues, my muggle flatmate Audrey and Percy. Coming here was like, well, a bit of a whim."
"And yet, you looked so talkative when you were brooding earlier."
"Hey," Penelope said, folding her arms and making a show of looking offended (now she'd realised they'd been very nearly flirting, it was difficult for her to get the idea out of her head), "I didn't think we were doing sobadly."
"Thank Quidditch for Penelope Clearwater," Oliver agreed, "who saved me from brooding moodily in my own corner of the room."
"We might as well brood together."
"At least that's what Percy seemed to think."
"He's worried about me," Penelope confessed, "too much of a social recluse, in his eyes."
"Well," Oliver grinned, "we're not doing so badly, right?"
The party had now become so concentrated that several people had branched out and had actually began talking to Penelope and asking about her life (and Penelope rather thought that her replies were a great disappointment, although not altogether surprising), which unfortunately meant that people kept interrupting Penelope and Oliver mid conversation.
"We've become a hot commodity." Penelope commented, after Eden Dobs had disappeared to the bar to replenish her glass.
"It's the alcohol," Oliver returned, watching as the person who's birthday it was (a Hufflepuff that Penelope couldn't quite remember the name of) slowly degraded into gallivanting about telling everyone how much she loved them, "it makes everyone feel the need to be friends forever."
"Hey Oliver, let's be friends forever." Penelope said, holding up her third glass of Red Currant Rum with a raise of hey eyebrows.
"I can't believe we weren't all ready," Oliver returned, clinking his glass of ale, as it turned out to be, against hers and downing it, "really though, I swear I only ever talked to you in... transfiguration, was it?"
"And in the library," Penelope pointed out, grinning, "we should have talked before."
"Yeah," Oliver said, "I mean, this has been...pretty fun."
"I haven't gone home yet, so you're doing well."
"Good to know I've kept your attention," Oliver said, "but then I am a charming, Quidditch player."
"Hey, Penelope!" The Hufflepuff girl who'd turned twenty two and probably had a name said, clutching hold of Penelope's arms and squeezing them tightly. "I'm so glad you could make it."
"Me too." Penelope said, sending a look at Oliver that she hoped indicated that he was the reason she was glad she'd turned up (social interactions!), but as she was now more than slightly tipsy she suspected she'd just frightened him slightly.
"Happy Birthday!" The Hufflepuff said, releasing Penelope's arm as her best friend appeared to drag her way.
"Didn't know it was your birthday, Pen." Oliver grinned.
"What were you saying about being a charming Quidditch player?"
"You should come to our next match."
"I bet that's what you say to all the girls."
"Maybe," Oliver said, "but they can't get fifteen percent of at Scrivenshaft's."
"Hey Oliver," Roger Davis said – she remembered hisname, Penelope would never forget her Quidditch Captain, after all – "Summers and I were gonna have a race. There's brooms round the back, fancy showing us how the professionals do it?"
Oliver glanced at her for a second, almost apologetically.
"Who am I to stand in the way of Oliver Wood's desire to fly," Penelope laughed, "you can buy me a victory drink when you've landed."
"Deal," Oliver said, pressing his empty glass into her hands before disappearing after Roger Davis, "five minutes – on my word."
Penelope waited for around forty five minutes, (twenty of those had been spent holding both hers and Oliver's glasses, before it occurred to her that she very much looked like an alcoholic and put both of them down), before she eventually gave up waiting. The Hufflepuff girl, whom Penelope had just remembered was called Emma Cadwaller, gave Penelope a sad little pat on the back as Penelope collected her coat.
Penelope re-concluded that she was indeed a member of The Silence, and that once again Oliver Wood had lost a perfectly good girl (well, maybe that was a little far – but she did have a staff discount as Scrivenshaft's and an impressive knowledge of Doctor Who) due to his love of Quidditch.
And, damn it, she'd wanted the free Quidditch tickets.
This is chapter 1/5. It was written for Ariellem's 'nerd challenge' over on HPFF. I'm casually uploading more things due to revision-induced boredom.