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          Ellie Ventrillo had been my best friend since our room assignments had been divvied out at Beauxbaton in our first year. She was tall, like me, but that was where our similarities ended. Her light hair and gray eyes played perfect contrast to my dark hair and blue eyes, and she was by far the most organized person I ever met. It didn’t surprise me when she became a party planner, because there was absolutely no party in all of France that could compete when an Ellie original was being thrown at Beauxbaton. I know how to handle people pretty well, but Ellie knew how to handle details perfectly.

            We hadn’t seen each other since I moved for my new job with Puddlemere, and there was never a better opportunity than this to call her in for reinforcement. I would need her expertise and patience if I was going to pull this off. This New Years Eve, less than three weeks from today, Puddlemere United would be hosting the biggest publicity party the team had ever organized. It was also my intention to announce Oliver Wood as one of the organizers of the party. See the reason I’m going to need a bit of extra patience? The press would eat up the fact that Oliver was taking point on a project so large after all of his misbehavior, but Oliver was more likely to see it as a torture worse than the fact that he wasn’t allowed to even think of exercise for the next four weeks. That was why I hadn’t told him yet.

            Ellie sat cross legged on the couch with her portfolio open in her lap. I could see about a hundred brightly colored tabs indicating where lists, receipts, confirmations, and ideas for every aspect of the upcoming party. We were waiting for Oliver to get back from his family’s house, and although Ellie was comfortable and relaxed flipping through her notes, I was running a path in to the floor and giving my nails hell.

            “Would you please just sit down! I can’t handle all the back and forth. You’re giving me motion sickness and I’m not even moving!” Ellie finally erupted.

            “What if he hates the idea. What if it makes him do something stupid that goes against the Healer’s instruction. What if he decides he really hates me.”

            “Would you listen to yourself? You’ve got me, and between the both of us, I think we can stop one man from escaping the evil clutches of party planning.” She paused, raising an eyebrow and grinning at me, “Besides, what does it matter if he hates you? He’s just a client after all.”

            I huffed at her and very maturely stuck my tongue out in her direction. She was referring to the several letters I had sent her. She is under the impression that I am smitten with Oliver after a few comments on the fact that he had impressive abdominal muscles and what, I guess, is a nice face. I denied this as often as possible, but Ellie is stubborn. That, and she is certain that I have been single for far too long and a little action would do me a world of good.

            She laughed and moved her portfolio off of her lap and patted the seat next to her. I sat down and leaned my body into hers before laying my head on her shoulder. She put her arm around my shoulders.

            “You’ll be fine. I very strategically chose your outfit this morning. You currently have on a dress that makes your cleavage look great, your waist look tiny, your arse look lovely and your legs look miles long. If Oliver can say no to anything you have to say, I will question both his sanity and sexuality.”

            “I just really like having a clean apartment.” I muttered before pulling a fleece throw over my legs.

            “You do know you possess a wand right?”

            Before I could say anything, a disheveled looking Oliver Wood popped out of the fireplace. He straightened his jacket and brushed off his jeans, but the moment he looked up at me, a devilish grin spread across his face.

            “If I had known I would be missing this kind of party, I would have stuck around instead of being tortured by a constant string of requests to play pick up quidditch games with my nieces and nephews.” Oliver commented, tossing his bags to the base of his door before plopping on to the chair across from Ellie and I.

            “Don’t worry, you only missed the preliminary activities. We’ve got lots of plans for the three of us over the next few weeks.” Ellie winked at Oliver and then kissed my head for emphasis.

            Oliver covered a very unattractive choking noise with a fake cough and wide eyes. Ellie and I erupted in laughter and I sat up. It took us a while, and several throw pillows tossed from the chair, to calm down and regain composure. That was my Ellie.

            I stood, straightened out my dress and cleared my throat lightly before speaking, “Oliver, this is Ellie. She is a wonderful party planner, and also happens to be my best mate from school.”

            “Right, Ellie, nice to meet you. I’m…er…Oliver. I play..um…quidditch.”

            I was used to blokes tripping over their words when I introduced them to Ellie. I was not, however, used to them surveying me with a slack jaw while they stumbled to introduce themselves. I’m not usually the one worth staring at; Ellie was gorgeous.

            “Yes, I know who you are, and I agree, Ady looks positively bangable.”

            It was my turn to gawk. Both Oliver and I turned to stare wide-eyed at my extremely blunt best friend. My cheeks were scalding and I‘m sure Oliver and I had very complimentary shades of scarlet on our faces. Unfortunately, that was also my Ellie.

            She just smiled and turned her head towards me. I tugged and the hem of the dress.

            “Trust me, you don’t have to do that.” Oliver’s blushing cheeks were replaced by a sly grin. Great, I was outnumbered two to one now.

            “Oliver Wood, you are going to help us throw Puddlemere United’s New Years Eve Masquerade.” There, that would show him.

            His smile turned down slightly at the corners of his mouth, but it didn’t disappear completely. He looked from me, to Ellie, and back to me. Finally, he busted out laughing.

            “This is what you were so nervous about when I got here.” He said, still laughing between sentences, “ You thought I was going to rebel, didn’t you? Hell, this is better than what I had planned for the next few weeks. I just have one condition.”

            I raised my eyebrow skeptically and Oliver continued, “You definitely need to get more dresses like that.”

            I decided now was a fantastic time to introduce his face to the new throw pillows I had bought for the couch.

 

-------------

            Ellie had everything about the actual running of the masquerade down to a science, so Oliver and I were exiled to the press and guest lists. Oliver had to go around to all of his teammates and collect lists, addresses, and dietary needs for all of their friends and families from each of them. It was hard for him to go to the team flats, but at least he didn’t have time to even think about a broom or a quaffle. While Oliver was doing that, I was dealing with the press.

            Word had gotten out that Oliver had not received the best news when he last visited with the Healers. Every single magazine was anxious to get an interview in with him or the team and every single one (well except for one) was going to get what they wanted. It took a while to get Oliver to agree to this, but we promised a 1 hour interview segment to be held the day before the masquerade for any source that donated a minimum amount of gold to our silent auctions.

            Those had been Oliver’s idea. He really wanted to have the party be more than just a bunch of drunks kissing people they didn’t know at midnight. He chose a foundation that donated money to help struggling families buy the items on the Hogwarts supplies list each year. He told me that he had some friends who really struggled with that sort of thing every year and that this was the least he could do. If he was going to attract so many people because his dream was on the line, he was determined to make it worthwhile. It was all a wonderful idea, until he realized how much work he was actually doing.

            “I don’t care that Alex’s sister is on a low carb diet!” Oliver huffed as we were sitting at the dining room table approving one of Ellie’s menus, “I thought I was just going to have sit on the couch watching old quidditch matches and occasionally nod like I was listening!”

            “So that’s why you agreed so easily to this party planning business. Oliver, you’ve lived with me for long enough to know that I will never, ever, make your life that easy.”

            “I just don’t care about all of this sodding stuff. I’m a bloke! We know to choose one of the colors randomly when you give us choices on napkin colors. We know to nod when you say something is pretty, and to agree when you think something is ugly. The only thing we enjoy when planning any event is when we get to try all of the food!”

            “Oh, Oliver, it isn’t that bad.”

            “Yes, it is! It’s torture”

            “I could go get you a puzzle.”

            He opened his mouth, and then closed it. I win.

            An owl flapped on to the windowsill and began pecking ferociously. As I opened the window, a letter was dropped in and I had to back up quickly as the large bird took off. As I was about to open the letter, Ellie came bursting in, with her arms full of bags and boxes of every shape and size.

            Oliver and I rushed to help her, but we looked more frazzled than she did. She just let us take all of her things and set them on the table while she opened her binder to a bright orange tab labeled “guest lists.”

            “Who is your date Adelynn?” She spewed through half of her mouth as she clutched a pen cap in her teeth.

            “Well hello to you too.”

            She looked up at me, and finally realized that she was no longer talking to a random client and that Oliver and I were people she was actually supposed to have conversations with before asking us a billion technical questions.

            “I’m sorry, I’m just trying to finalize the guest list for the caterers.”

            “Well, I’m pretty sure I’m going alone.” I replied. “If that helps any.”

            “Me too.” Oliver announced.

            I looked at him and bite my lip a bit as I thought. Oliver Wood could not show up to this party alone. I could, because, well, everyone was expecting me to monitoring him at every second and a date would just distract me, but he had to have a date if the press was actually going to buy that he was doing okay. Oliver Wood had not ever been seen without one lady or another on his arm.

            Then, as if I had planned it subconsciously, I had a plan.

            “No, Oliver, you have a date, but El, you don’t need to add a plus one.”

            Oliver’s eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “Who am I going with then, you?”

            “Of course not. Oliver Wood, meet your date for the evening, Ellie Ventrillo.”

            Oliver sputtered at me and Ellie actually dropped the binder she was holding. A flood of arguments began to come at me from both directions. I think I heard Ellie say something about being offended that I thought she didn’t already have a date, and Oliver throw out a comment that he’d really rather go alone, no offense Ellie. It was all a jumbled mess that I allowed to continue for a few minutes as a smile grew on my face. Finally I stood up straight and held up a hand to silence both of them. I knew how to work a room when I needed to get what I want. That was my job after all.

            I turned to Oliver. “You don’t have a choice. This is necessary. If he shows up with me, it will obviously look staged, but I need you to go with someone and with someone who I can trust. She’s a pretty blonde, who will look stunning in anything she wears and there is no better way to show that you are over a previous relationship than to show up with someone who is much prettier than your ex.”

            “While it is true that I’m gorgeous, are you sure this is a good idea. What if Oliver and I fall in love and run away together.” Ellie smiled, clearly accepting the plan because it was important to me.

            “The good riddance to you both.”

            We laughed, but Oliver was still standing there with his arms folded, leaning against the wall.

            “Why do I get no say in this?” he muttered.

            “Oliver, you aren’t going to do better than Ellie, and the publicity and excitement of you actually showing up with a date will probably make more media outlets donate to the silent auction so hat they can get an interview. Try and think of it that way.” I replied.

            “What do I tell them when I get asked about her? I’m not going to lie and say that she is my girlfriend. I won’t lie.”

            “You don’t have to lie. We just need them to get to the interview, and then you can tell them the truth. Ellie is your friend and you wanted to be sure you spent the night with the people who are closest to you.”

            He rolled his eyes, but I could tell I wasn’t going to get any more fight out of him. I took that time to explain that I would leak the news of his date in a few days, just a week before the actual masquerade. He still wasn’t happy with the idea, but at least he accepted it for the benefit of the charity.

            Ellie, on the other hand, wasn’t listening to me at all. How do I know? Because, at the very moment I finished my spiel to Oliver she tapped me on the shoulder and held out my opened and unfolded letter from earlier.

            “It looks like I’m going to have to make room at our table for one more, but at least I don’t have to add a plus one..”

She had the largest smile I had ever seen. I’m pretty sure I could see all of her teeth. When I read the letter, I groaned and knew exactly why she was smiling.

Eric McCoy had asked me to accompany him to the party. As his date.




Author's note: This is sort of a filler chapter, but the next one will be up shortly. I'm working on it now.  :) What do you think of Ellie and Oliver attending the masq together? How about Adelynn and Eric?

I wanted to give a big shot out to bester_jester. Who took the time to review every chapter so far! I definitely took her notes and used them!

Also want to say thank you to everyone who is reading this! I hope you are enjoying it :)

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