Chapter 1 : reasonable as
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So. Here we go!
You know, when you think about it, it was kind of weird that of all the girls in our year–not that there were many, mind, but out of all the nineteen or so–Oliver chose Gemma. I didn’t have anything against Gemma. She was lovely. Really. Except, she was also fairly insane.
When I say insane, I don’t actually mean certifiably insane. I didn’t fear for my life sleeping in the same dormitory as her. But she wasn’t insane in the adorable sense of the word. Gemma was not endearing. What she was, was insane. She was legitimately mad.
Which was why I didn’t understand why anyone as legitimately sane as Oliver would be stupid enough to dump her. You see, while I didn’t fear for my life, I did fear for his. Because, as I’d been told about a thousand times before, “No one just leaves Gemma Matheson like that.”
“No one except him.”
Gladly, I did so.
This went on for a few months in seventh year. (These things always happened in seventh year. Or so I’ve gathered. It’s a very volatile time for magical folk.) Then, during the winter break of that year, Gemma announced, at three in the morning on Boxing Day, that she was going to (and I quote) “break Oliver fucking Wood.”
Cata, the somewhat reasonable one, asked what she meant. For being the reasonable one, she never functioned on more than five hours asleep. I didn’t understand that. And that is why I qualify “reasonable” with “somewhat.”
Gemma said, “I mean exactly what it sounds like I mean. I’m going to break Oliver like he broke me.”
“But he didn’t break you.”
“Shut up, Corinna. Anyway. That’s what I’m going to do next term, girls. I’m going to kill him.”
Piper, awoken by our spirited whispers, muttered to the dark, “Y… you’re killing Wood?”
“No she’s not,” I said. “Go back to sleep.”
Piper acquiesced, evidently unconcerned with us plotting cold-blooded murder.
“I’m serious,” said Gemma. I could almost see her narrowing her eyes as if to focus her purpose. However, it was three in the morning, it was dark, and I was pretty sure I was staring at the underside of Cata’s bed, so I can’t be too sure. “After everything we’ve been through. After an entire summer–”
“–of sitting through practices–”
“–waiting while he was at Quidditch camp–”
“–not even complaining about how he didn’t take you to his cousin’s wedding in Edinburgh–”
I could almost feel the power of Gemma’s steely blue gaze penetrating the still-drawn curtains of our beds. I could definitely feel Cata writhing on her bed with restrained laughter. And Piper was definitely awake, if groggy, because she slurred out the words of the speech we all knew so well.
“Gemma,” I said, “there’s no point in trying to kill him. You’ll just fall for him all over again.”
Her silence told me that she knew I was right.
“Never knew what you saw in him,” Cata sighed. “He’s not the only bloke at this school with muscles and a smartass mouth.”
“Not all of us are as shallow as you, Piper,” snorted Gemma. “And you know very well, Catalina, that Oliver and I had a connection,” she added, snarling, before any of us could interrupt. “And he just… walked out on it. On me. On us.”
“What part of I don’t know if we have anything real escapes you?” I asked.
“The part where it’s a lie.”
“Here’s a thought,” said Cata. “Have you actually talked to Oliver about any of this?”
The cogs in her supremely weird head turned. Then she answered, a little sulkily, “Not… really.”
“Excelente!” Cata even trilled the word in the Spanish accent that so delighted us. “Breakfast. You. Me. Go talk. To Oliver. Got it? Good. Go to sleep, Gemma.”
She tried to counter the entirely reasonable proposition, half-words floating into the air, but failed, nestled back into bed, and was silent. Above me, Cata was motionless, although she was breathing kind of loudly. That was what she got for completely insensibly starting a snowball fight with the third- and fourth-years. Piper, as always, was in and out of consciousness. It really was a wonder that she didn’t sleepwalk or sleeptalk or anything, with how often she straddled the line between wakefulness and sleep.
And me? Naturally I lie awake, wondering if I really wanted to get out of bed in the morning.
Seeing as we hadn’t got much sleep that night, Piper and I shuffled out of bed like the zombies we were just after eleven, at which point we were hoping we would walk straight into lunch. Piper wasn’t much of a conversationalist that early, so we walked down in silence. When we were about to go in the Great Hall, I asked her, to break up the silence, what she thought would have happened with Gemma and Oliver.
“What’re you talking about?”
“You don’t remember last night, do you?”
Piper shook her head. “I do remember something about you-know–”
I made a shushing motion with my hand. Because it was really stupid to say the words know, you, and who in a certain order when his right hand wizard was out on the loose and had already been inside the castle. “It wasn’t a dream.”
She gave me a funny look as if to say I wish it weren’t a dream.
“You have problems,” I said. “You have serious problems.”
“You’re a hypocrite,” she sniffed. “If the others knew–”
“Oh, morning, Cata!” I gestured towards Cata, who was sulking at the Hufflepuff table. Gemma and her erstwhile boyfriend were nowhere to be found. “Look, Piper, there’s Cata. Let’s go eat with her.”
“I see,” she said, quite dryly for having been up for half an hour. But she trooped along with me to the table and sat across from me, next to Cata, when we arrived. She barely acknowledged our arrival, and kept staring at the table as if food was about to come out of it. Which it would, at some point, hopefully soon, but Cata wasn’t the sort of person to do that. That was me, and even I wasn’t that desperate. Yet.
“Something wrong?” Piper asked her. “You look like you stepped on hippogriff poo.”
Cata wrinkled her nose as if she smelled it.
“Where’s Gemma? Hiding Oliver’s body?”
Piper looked mildly distressed at my questions, but let it slide. As always, she didn’t care to get mixed up in the stranger side of our associations. She liked being the one to judge the rest of us from her cozy bed.
Cata, meanwhile, liked getting in the thick of it. She thought that if she got involved, whatever it was wouldn’t turn out so bad. It was amazing that she still thought that. “I doubt it,” she answered.
“How’d Oliver take her crazy?” I pressed on. If there wasn’t food to distract me, at least I had questions. I never ran out of questions. People say it’s my most charming quality. “He probably hit her with a Beater bat or something. Put her in her place.”
Cata snorted to herself. Then Piper and I stared her down until she absolutely had to answer. Which didn’t take very long, because Cata crumbles under pressure like you wouldn’t believe.
“Well, it wasn’t a Beater bat.”
“I don’t get it.”
Piper, for all of her naughty dreams about Cedric Diggory, was a bit of a prude.
“Darling,” said Cata, finally looking up at us, “Gemma’s back with her Wood again.”
I, for one, put my head down on the table, because I couldn’t look at anyone. The idea that after all of her whining, Gemma would actually get him back was too much to bear.
I had always thought Oliver was legitimately sane. A maniac, sure, but a sane one. One who, even though he was stupid enough to choose Gemma Matheson and then leave her, would not actually cave in to her. Again.
Then again, he liked crazy witches.